In our culture we are constantly looking for something to make life easier. We are looking for a communication device that makes communication easier. We are looking for a car that makes transportation easier. We are looking for a self-help book that gives counsel and advice that makes life—in a particular area—easier. And so when it comes to parenting or the functionality of family, there are people that are looking for a way to make it easier. In fact, a book that comes to mind is Kevin Leman’s book, Have a New Kid by Friday. Wow, any book whose title promises to give you a new child by Friday (especially when it’s already Tuesday afternoon) must have some principles that can be easily applied to make parenting easier J.
This past Sunday at Springdale we addressed gospel-centered parenting (or families) from Deuteronomy 6. (You can view the message here). Now I admit, the title of this blog is a little bit confusing and misleading because gospel-centered parenting, as we learned this past Sunday, is anything but easy. In fact, in our own power it is impossible. Studying for the message on gospel-centered parenting made it quite clear that I often fail miserably.
Although it is impossible to be a gospel-centered person, parent, or family without daily surrendering to King Jesus and asking the Spirt of God to fill us, there are some things we can practically do that can make the pursuit of gospel centrality easier.
- Give yourselves grace, because God does. I think many parents put so much pressure on themselves to be a perfect parent that when they fail they beat themselves up. Maybe they let their anger get the best of them and go off on their child, and then for the rest of the day (or week) they constantly tell themselves that they’re such a horrible parent. Joannie and I call these times, Parent-Fail—times where we just blow it. And here’s the truth parents—and this goes for those who aren’t even parents—we will blow it! It’s a given. Although “positionally” in Christ, God sees us as perfect, practically (in practice) we are in the sanctification process of being conformed in the image of Christ. Also, I want to give a quick word to those parents who may have grown children. I know there are many parents with grown children who may not have known Christ when their child(ren) were under their roof, or who may not have been the gospel-centered parent they should have been. If that’s you, please know that God loves you and that His grace is sufficient for not only you, but your children. No matter how bad you blow it, or think you blow it, God loves you! He loves you despite your faults, failures, and imperfections. So, don’t beat yourself up over something that it is in the past. As Paul shares with believers in Philippians, “[forget] what lies behind and [strain] forward to what lies ahead…” (Phil 3:13). You cannot go back in time and change what is done. Thus, allow God’s grace to cover you.
- Give Him your worry or concern. The Bible teaches us not to worry (Matt 6:25). Obviously that’s easier said than done—especially with regards to our children. We constantly worry. Parents worry about their child’s health; their friends; their academics; bullies (or them being a bully); their future; the [chaotic] world and them living in it; and their safety and security. In short, parents can be the quintessential worry wort. And I get it since I am a parent of three. However, here is a freeing truth: Jesus loves your children even more than you do! I know there are difficult situations, circumstances, issues, and tragedies that parents and children go through. But in all things, God loves you extravagantly and He is in the process of recreating and renewing the world and your life. And one day God will wipe away every tear from your eyes for He will finally and completely make all things new (Rev 21:5). Thus, in the meantime you can trust God supremely—even with your children—for He loves you extravagantly; and not only because He loves you, but because He is the sovereign King over the universe.
- Give yourselves to making Jesus the hero of the home. James 1:16–17 states, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” The Bible teaches that every good thing that you have—your family, your spouse, your children, your health, your energy, your talents and abilities, your job, your paycheck, your house, your clothes, your food, your friends, your day offs, the vacations you take, creation, etc.—are gifts from God. As such, its important to be very quick to ingrain into your children that all the blessings of life that they enjoy have been gifted to them from their heavenly Father, their gracious King. For instance, Joannie and I have some pretty smart children. They do very well in school. I joke around and say they get their smarts from me. But, truthfully and biblically, their academic and intellectually abilities do not come from me (or even their mom who is wicked smart), they come from God. Thus, I constantly remind Caleb and Ellie that it is God who gives them the ability to do well in school. In addition, I make it a daily prayer with them that they turn around and use the gifts that God has given them to glorify and reflect His goodness and grace in their lives to those around them. Why? Because I want Jesus to be their hero! To make Jesus the hero of the home, is to (1) make much of him throughout the day and in all things, and (2) make sure your world lovingly revolves around His glory, His mission, and His word.
- Give yourselves to living out an alternative reality of what it means to be human, to be a family, and to be a parent. In other words, constantly ask Christ, is this how You want us to live? Is this how You want us to respond? React? Do we need to say no to this? Say yes to that? Am I pleasing You with how I’m leading my family? Am I trusting You in this area? Are there any idols (smaller gods) I’m struggling with? What gospel-centered community (i.e., church) do You want us to be devoted and committed to? The truth is that gospel centrality is countercultural to the ways of the world—it’s a life that’s an alternative reality to that of the world. Gospel-centered parenting will be, according to those who do not know Christ, a whole different reality. As the world looks at the way you lead and shepherd your family, God desires that you become a window by which they get a glimpse of the kingdom of God. By asking yourselves these questions and more, you’ll keep God in the forefront of your lives and live in a manner where He takes up the preeminent place in your life, thereby allowing people to see what it means to live life centered around King Jesus.
In conclusion, gospel-centered living and parenting is impossible! Once again, the only way to be a gospel-centered person (and parent) is to love Jesus with all your heart, soul, and might. When you love Jesus as such, Jesus takes up residence as the centerpiece of your life by which all facets and areas of your life revolve. When this happens, through the power of the Spirit, Jesus lives both in you and through you. The four thoughts above—giving yourself to God’s grace, being worry-free because of your trust in Christ, making Jesus the hero of your home, and living an alternative reality—are meant to be reminders and aids for how you can surrender your life to King Jesus and allow him to do through you what He wants to do and what He alone can do.