Selfishness, lies, anger, self-pity, cruelty, come naturally to your children. On the surface these sins appear out-of-character for the infant in your arms who just wants to be warm, fed and held close. So, when the ugly indicators of a dark heart emerge, it is easy to be surprised and taken aback. Too often the response to dark hearts is to increase creature comforts, to focus on the external issues as if children were still infants needing to be warm with full tummies and a clean diaper. Thus a nasty reaction to a sibling is often attributed to being tired or hungry. While it is important to be sure physical needs are cared for, dark hearts have a much deeper cause.
Sin is not simply a response to an uncomfortable or unpleasant circumstance. Sin flows from the dark heart that your children were born with. So focusing on the physical issues misses the mark in understanding why a child clings so tightly to sinful behavior. In Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul says that the evil one is at work in our children from birth and is actively involved in stirring the passions of the flesh to continue to war against God. There is more to be done than just addressing creature comforts and physical needs. Your children are literally at war with God!
This is why the gospel MUST be part of your daily focus in disciplining and training your children. Only the power of the God’s Spirit working through the practical message of the gospel can turn your children from their natural, fatal attraction to sin.
When children argue over a toy, when a teenager thinks he is being treated unfairly there is more that must be addressed that just making physical matters right. The heart of darkness wants more than a toy to play with or to be treated fairly. Sin is at work pleading its case for injustice and personal mistreatment to a heart that craves to be appeased. Only the grace of the gospel can truly speak to dark hearts.
Sin is appealing to your children because they are born into its web of deceit and their hearts are attuned to the voice of darkness. Nothing else but the power of God’s word can free them the darkness. This is why you must be concerned with more than changing behavior and circumstances. It is about bringing the truth of the light of the gospel to shine directly into the heart of darkness.
This is why God calls you to discipline faithfully, be gentle and to speak the truth with pleasant words about the power of Christ. Only a true change of heart, from the kingdom of darkness to kingdom of light will break the dark and fatal attraction of sin.
This reality is not the end of the story, but if you are going to be effective in turning your kids from sin, you must first understand to power of the heart of darkness.