19 Now the works of the flesh are evident:
sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry,
sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions,
divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like
these… Galatians 5:19-21

1 And you were dead in
the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of
this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is
now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the
passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and
were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3

Let’s consider one basic question regarding the issue of
protecting our children from the entrapment of the world: Why?
As in Why do they want to sin? Why can’t they see that it is more blessed
to give than to receive? Why can’t they see that they don’t always have to be
first? Why can’t teenagers see that sexual sin is wrong, always wrong? Why
can’t they see that parents must be obeyed? The answer, of course, should not really
be a mystery.

How did children begin their lives? Many would have us think
that our children begin life neutrally with regard to obedience. It is easy to
think that if I, as a parent, would be more patient and kind my children would
respond more quickly to my instructions. While it is true that parents should
be patient and kind, that by itself will not help children to be more obedient.
The problem goes much deeper than that. The two passages quoted at the top of
this post state the problem powerfully.

These two passages describe both the actions and the motivation
of children. Children sin because it is what they deeply desire from birth. It
takes faith to look at an infant and then believe that Galatians 5 describes
the things that he wants to do naturally. It takes trust in God’s word to
believe that your child’s natural motivation is to indulge his fleshly passions
and follow the ways of the Evil One. Yet this is precisely what these two
passages teach. No amount of kindness, gentleness and evenness on the part of
parents will dislodge the natural passion in children to live for themselves
and gratify their flesh. Only a new heart can make that difference.

Tim Challies has a helpful and insightful post on his
thoughts about his children’s sin. He rightly compares his own battle with sin
to his children’s:

But I’m like a kid. I like that sin and I hate the authority that
places itself over me and tells me to let that sin go. I roll my eyes, I grind
my teeth, and I feel my heart rebel. In my heart I tell God that I’d rather sin
than obey Him; I effectively tell Him that right now I’d rather have my sin
than have Him. This sin is more important to me than my relationship with the
Creator of the universe. Oh, I love that sin so much.

Tim’s honest assessment of his own affection for sin puts
the cards on the table. I believe that
he provides an accurate picture of what goes into a child’s thinking when he
refuses to obey. I am humbled by Tim’s
honesty and transparency. I am also grateful because I believe his words give
you a glimpse into the heart of children struggling with obedience and wanting
what they want.

You see, being even and kind to a child dominated by these thoughts
will not make a dent in the real issue. That is why your focus in parenting
must be directed at the heart. As a
Christian parent trying to lead your child to Christ you are, in effect,
interrupting a love affair between a child and his natural passions. Children
are by nature focused on what they want. What they naturally want is not pretty! Look at Galatians 5:19-21
again. When you tell your child he
should share his toys, you are challenging a deep, passionate desire for
self-gratification. As parents we think,
it is just a toy truck, what’s the big
The big deal is that your
child is naturally controlled by the desire to please himself. That toy truck is his connection with
happiness and you want to take it from him! No wonder there is such a negative reaction when you tell him to give it

This is why only the gospel and the word of Christ can help
your children. The word of God must be
deeply valued in the hearts of our children. Tim’s comments provide some background
to the truth of Proverbs 6:20-24 that we have been examining in the last
several posts. Tim also demonstrates a parent’s
biblical response to his child’s natural love for sin when he recognizes the similarity
between himself and his child:

So I guess I’m not too different from my children. The remedy they need
is the same one I need. Like me, they need to see that authority is given to us
as a gracious gift from God. They need to learn to honor authority and to see
it as something given to restrain us rather than annoy us. And they need to
honor that authority and to obey it joyfully, willingly, immediately and with a
joyful heart. This is what I need to do with my sin—I need to hear and heed
God’s Word. And this is what they need to do with their sin—hear and heed my
words as I seek to teach them what God would have them do.

This is the point of Proverbs 6:22 when it speaks of how the
word of God is to live within us.

When you walk, they will guide you;
When you sleep, they will watch over you;
When you awake, they will speak to

You and your children have the
same issues. The answers to those issues
are the same for each of you. Hearts must be directed to Christ and his
word. Sin needs to be seen for what it
is. The next time you wonder why your children don’t respond well to
your direction, think about what is really going on inside. Consider the battles of the heart. Consider
the hope that Christ alone offers. Urge your children, as Solomon did, to bind
the words of Christ upon their hearts forever.

A special word of thanks to Tim
Challies for his openness; I pray that his words will help spur God’s people on
to love and good works. As always, your
comments and thoughts are welcome.


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