Obedience is not the pathway to acceptance. Do your children believe this?
Biblical obedience is first and foremost an act of worship. As sinners in need of the grace of God we know that we can do nothing to earn our standing with God. Biblically, obedience flows from a heart of love for God. This love is in response to the love of God, who first loved us. Worship is the only attitude of the human heart that is a fitting context for obedience.
I cannot use my obedience to plea bargain with God, to appease him, or to make myself worthy in his eyes. Only the work of Christ on my behalf can make things right with God. So obedience is simply a response of love and worship to God. With the psalmist I can say:
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. Psalm 19:8
Understood in this light, obedience is not something I use to gain a reward – obedience itself is my reward, my great privilege, honor and joy. If that is true for you, then that is also the attitude you want to convey to your children.
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. When children disobey, the solution should not be to do better next time. The solution is to trust Christ for the strength to do what cannot be done in one’s own strength.
Training your children to be obedient should not be about getting them to do what you want them to do. It is about teaching them to honor God from their hearts. Manipulation is about controlling behavior. Biblical obedience acknowledges the weakness of our flesh and the absolute necessity of having a heart transformed by the power of the cross.
This is the goal of biblical obedience. It doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t settle for behavior that pleases you. Point your children to Christ. Help them to see that obedience is not about gaining acceptance. Obedience is a response to being loved. Teach that to your children.