The phrase learning Christ appears only once in the New Testament. Paul uses this phrase when he contrasts the church and the world. In Ephesians 4:17-19, he describes the thinking of the world. Then, in Ephesians 4:20, he says that the Ephesians did not come learn Christ that way. Those who think and live like the world are dominated by darkness, futility and sensuality. So Paul says that this is not the way they learned Christ.
Let’s be clear. Paul says there are only two ways of living or thinking. One way is to follow the natural path of darkness that all men were born with (Ephesians 2:1-3). The other way is to learn Christ. This is the point that must not be missed. Paul wants the Ephesians to put off the dark ways of their birth and to put on the way of light, that is, the person of Christ.
Raising children to avoid things that are distasteful to parents is futile; it will only encourage sensuality to take deep root in their hearts. Your goals may seem noble. You may earnestly desire that your children will avoid the pitfalls of this world. You can structure your lifestyle to keep your children from evil things. But, if that is all you have done, and you have not taught them Christ, you have taught them futility and darkness. Avoiding evil is not the same as learning Christ.
Someone might be thinking – but I am not sure that my child knows Christ, so I have to rely on punishment and consequences. I understand your concern, but that thinking will also lead to more problems. What your children need is the gospel – they must learn Christ! That is the point. Severe consequences may yield a change in behavior, but darkness will still rule in the heart. You must bring the person of Christ to your parenting.
Depending upon consequences and restrictions to keep your teenagers from the power of lust and sensuality will only encourage these sins (Colossians 2:23). Christ alone must be the answer that you give them. This is scary for us as parents. We are uncomfortable leaving things in God’s hands this way. But as long as you cling to rules and consequences as the means to control your children, you cannot offer Christ. I am not saying that you allow your children to view pornography, nor that you do nothing in response to their sin. Rather, I am saying that if you yourself are not gripped by the power of the gospel, and if you do not bring the person of Christ into this situation, you are not teaching Christ – unwittingly, you are teaching darkness.
Ultimately, you must humbly offer Christ to your children. You cannot save your children’s lives anymore than you can save your own. Live Christ before your children.