Do your kids think that God or you will only be pleased with them if they obey him and obey you? Do your kids think that the gospel means that they must be good so God will love them? Do your kids think that they must be good for you to like them, for you to love and delight in them?
Listen to your children talk about their understanding of the gospel. You may be thinking that children seldom, if ever, sit around and talk about the gospel. Actually, they do. Listen to your children talk. Listen to what makes them happy or sad. Listen to what they say about how you love them.
“Mommy, I’m sorry I make you angry.”
“Daddy, I won’t do it again.”
“Why is everybody mad at me?”
“Do you think God is mad at me?”
“He hurt me, so I hit him back.”
“I am sorry that I am not good enough to make you happy.”
“I’ll be good, I promise. Please don’t be mad at me.”
“I try and try and try but I just can’t do what you want me to.”
“I guess I am just not good enough.”
“Mommy, I just can’t do it. I try but I just can’t.”
Have you ever heard words like these from your children? These statements indicate what your children think about the gospel. These kinds of statements show that performance (not grace) forms the basis of how your children are attempting to relate to you and to God.
Are you able to delight in your children simply because God gave them to you and you love them? Or must your children behave in a way that pleases you before you can delight in them? Do you forget that God loves you because you belong to him and not because you obey?
You must show the power of gospel grace in the way you live with your children. When your children complain that they can’t do what God wants, you must seize the opportunity to respond with the powerful gospel of grace. This is your opportunity to say, “Sweetheart, I know that you can’t obey by yourself. This is why Jesus died. He did what you cannot do. He can help you to trust Him. Let’s ask Jesus to forgive you and help you love Him by the power of His gospel.”
5 thoughts on “Must your children obey before you can delight in them?”
Thank you for this reminder and balanced perspective. As parents of young children we are often so consumed with the daily demands and the mammoth task of teaching them how to obey that we sometimes forget just to delight in them and show them God’s heart of compassion, love and grace.
The most difficult task I seem to have with my children is balancing the discipline with proper teaching of grace. I’m disciplining them for not obeying and of course pointing to Christ for the ability to obey. How do you explain this to a 5, and 4 year old? Regardless, I keep doing so besides my inability to make it clear to them. I trust Christ and it means I trust here as well.
Thank you for your articles and books.
Guy, your concern is well founded. In addition to Shepherding a Child’s Heart, I would look at Get Wisdom! for the practical application you are talking about. Check out both the teaching chapter and the corresponding application in the back of the book.
Thanks for your interest and concern.
Which part of Get Wisdom? I don’t see a teaching chapter.
Guy, each topic in the first part of the book has a corresponding teaching section in the back.