Obedience: a response to grace

Posted on May 8, 2017 · Posted in Gospel, Parenting

Obedience is not something that can be used to obtain grace. Rather, obedience is a response to grace. Just as I cannot make myself more acceptable to God by my obedience, neither do I want my children to think that I will be more accepting of them because of their obedience. Your children must not think that you will be more accepting of them just because they obey you.

I know, saying it like this seems awkward. So much of your life is about training and teaching God’s truth.  But the truth is that your obedience does not make you acceptable to God. The last thing that I want is to stand before God at the end of the day and ask God to accept me based on how well I obeyed that day! My only hope of acceptance is the sacrificial obedience of Christ on my behalf.

However, children are often evaluated and accepted, at least in the moment, based on how well they obeyed direction.  Parent, you can’t have it both ways. If your obedience cannot secure your acceptance with God, then neither should your children’s obedience be the basis of your acceptance of them. Your children must know that their disobedience does not lessen your acceptance of them but rather strengthens it.

This is why the gospel must be the cornerstone of your parenting. When children disobey, the focus should not simply be to do better next time. The goal is for children to trust Christ for the strength to do what cannot be done in their own strength. Withholding acceptance or appearing to, is counterproductive to learning to trust Christ.

Training your children to be obedient is not about getting them to do what you want them to do. It is about teaching them to honor God from their hearts. Biblical obedience acknowledges the weakness of the flesh and the absolute necessity of having a heart transformed by the power of the cross. The gospel must be the foundation and the never-ending theme of your parenting.

Neither you nor your children can use obedience to plea bargain with God, to appease him, or to make yourself worthy in his eyes. Only the work of Christ can make things right with God. So obedience is a response of love and worship to God.

Model this kind of obedience before your children. You and they will be blessed!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.