Parenting is much more than controlling the behavior of your children. Parenting is actually about heart exposure and heart change. We know only Jesus Christ can create the kind of lasting change in the human heart that will transform behavior. In this workshop, Paul Tripp (author of Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family) speaks on how to let the gospel shapes what you say and do with the children who have been entrusted to your care.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Paul Tripp: Let’s pray together. Thank you, Lord, for the stunning reality that we have been chosen to be your children. And we are the bomber by moment recipients of your forgiving, rescuing and transforming grace. We pray in this moment because we know how fickle our hearts can be, how easily distracted we can be, how defensive we can be. And pray that you would open our hearts. And my prayer is that this just wouldn’t be a time where we receive parenting information. But I am so bold as to pray that by your grace, this would lead to heart and life transformation. That we would look back on this moment and say that God has been with us, and he has done a good thing. Thank you that you never turn a deaf ear to cries of your people. Thank you that you hear us, and you answer. In Jesus name, amen.
Parenting, good gospel driven, God honoring, fruit producing parenting doesn’t begin with theology. It doesn’t begin with strategies. It begins with confession. And what you need to confess is that parenting is impossible. Now, you think I’m being facetious, but I’m being quite accurate. There’s nothing natural for me in parenting. I don’t naturally think about the welfare of other human beings. I’m not naturally patient. I’m not a natural servant. I don’t naturally look for places to sacrifice my time and energy for the good of someone else. I’m easily irritated, easily self-focused. There’s a way in which everything that God calls me to in parenting is utterly unnatural for me. Don’t look at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Now I’m going to ask you this afternoon, if you would, right now, fire your inner lawyer. I can do that because I have an inner law firm. And open your heart. What God calls you to as a parent is utterly impossible for you to do in and of yourself. You do not have inside of you the ingredients that are necessary for you to be God’s tool for the forming of a human soul. Think about that. Think about what God has called you to do. Think of the significance, the life-long significance of what God has called you to do. Think of the demandingness of parenting moment after moment, day after day, morning after morning, afternoon, afternoon, night after night. For not one year, not two years, not three years, not four years, but 20, 25 years.
You start with confession. You can start with confession that if you’re ever going to parent in the way that God has called you to parent, you must be rescued from you. Because apart from that rescue, you will not be what you’re supposed to do, and you will not do what you’re supposed to do.
I sat on my bed one night in a dark room, utterly discouraged, frustrated, overwhelmed, because I had gone into my teenage son’s bedroom to have a conversation that I wanted to be a good conversation. And he pushed back at me. And I tried again, and he pushed back at me. And I got angry, and I said things that I should never have said, that he should never have heard. I sat on my bed, facing the reality that I’d blown it once again. Crying out, God, I can’t do this. I can’t do this.
Listen, there aren’t seven strategies to producing noble children. They don’t exist. Do you hear me? They don’t exist. They don’t exist. Enough of the heresy that makes us think if we learn 10 things, everything will go well with our parenting. If all you needed was 10 insights to be able to be what you’re supposed to be and to do what you’re supposed to do with your children, Jesus would have never had to come. The Gospel that we embrace blows that away.
This material is out of my latest book. I had really no desire to write a parenting book. And when I was approached to writing a parenting book, it wasn’t really attractive to me. But the more I listened to couples, the more I listened on weekends to what people are doing, and what they’re thinking, and their frustrations and their view of their successes, I became more and more concerned that the gospel that we celebrate on Sunday, the gospel that has formed our theology somehow isn’t forming our parenting. That it looks different. In fact, I think if there’s one place in our lives where we tend to ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish, it’s in our parenting. And so often, Christian parenting, well meaning, loving parents have reduced parenting down to a neat set of rules with accompanying set of enforcement’s. And parenting gets reduced down to being a law giver, a prosecutor, a judge and a jailer. And it’s an alien world to what the Bible describes as the process of the radical reforming of a human being.
What theology forms your parenting? You see, that’s why it’s important to start with this confession, as a parent, you are not a grace graduate. Can I say this? Well, I can say it because I get to leave. There are no grace graduates in this room, none. I’m concerned, that shocking self righteousness forms our parenting, where we fail to confess that we are more like our children than unlike them. That we are desperate, we are rebellious children, we are self-oriented children. We don’t like to obey, we push against boundaries. We are everything our children are with our Heavenly Father.
If you think about this, if you’re a husband and you’re now in your wife’s face, and you’re saying things that you shouldn’t say to her, you’re not doing that because you’re ignorant of the fact that, that’s wrong. Are you? You know that’s wrong. You’re doing that because at that moment, you don’t give a rip what is wrong. You want something, and you will do what’s necessary to get it. Welcome to your children, why are you shocked when your children do the same?
Listen, I’ll tell you why you’re shocked, because you preach to yourself the gospel of your arrival. And to the degree that you fail to confess your struggle to that degree, you will be intolerant of the struggle of your children. Did you hear what I said? To the degree that you fail, to humbly confess the degree of your own struggle, the prevalence of your own struggle, the daily war for your own heart, the fact that you need forgiveness every day, you need empowerment every day, you need wisdom every day because you are a danger to yourself. If you forget that, you will not be ready to deal with the same in your children in a way that depicts grace. Nobody gives grace better than a person who is desperately convinced he needs it himself. That’s why good, godly parenting always begins with confession. It doesn’t begin with strategies. It begins with a humble admission that everything my children need, I need. That all of their struggles are my struggles.
I used this illustration earlier today, your teenager comes to you on a Thursday night and says, “I have a science project due tomorrow.” You know that science project was assigned six years ago. So going where you don’t want to go you say, “What do you need?” The child says, “Well I…” They start easy. They say, “I need some poster board.” “Well, you got enough cardboard and duct tape around the house.” You’re not too upset at that point. You say, “What else do you need?” They say, “I need some markers.” Well, we’ve learned very early in our parenting to always buy water-based markers. You know why? Because when they dry out, you can cut the blunt end off of those. You can pour more water down there, you can get more ink out of there. I’m a Christian, I believe in the principle of resurrection.
Then you say, “What else do you need?” And this teenager mumbles, “12 baby chickens.” You can’t believe it. You can feel the emotional temperature changing inside of you and you say, “Well, then go upstairs and lay them.” And then you go off, and say, “In my day, I would have never thought of coming to my parents the night before a science project and telling that I need 12 baby chickens. Well, in my day, we didn’t even have science projects. I made them up myself. I was such a noble student, and I sat on those eggs myself.” Now, what do you think your child is doing at that point? Saying, this is a wise, patient and loving person, I should listen to the wisdom of this human being.
Now, what’s wrong with that encounter? What is that encounter pushed by? Shocking self righteousness? What is the issue in that moment? How has that child gotten himself into that situation? Can you tell me in one word?
Procrastination. Now, you’re actually willing to say there is no procrastination anywhere in your life? Anybody have a garage you can’t drive into anymore? It’s now bulging, it may explode and take out the whole neighborhood? You keep telling yourself you’re going to clean it up but you never do? Anybody do your taxes the night of? You know the post offices stays open till midnight. You know all the other procrastinators, it’s like a fan reunion every year. This year, you’re going to bring the brownies.
You see, if you approach that conversation from the position of a rival, from the position of one who doesn’t need grace. In fact, you’re telling the story says you didn’t even need grace when you were a teenager, you were so noble and righteous, there’s no way you’re going to be a tool of grace in that child’s life at that moment. There’s no way you’re going to capture that God-given moment of grace. In fact, you will be irritated that you have to do it. Listen, if you’re not naming your own need, you will have moments when you’re ripping angry that you actually have children in your house who need parenting. And you say things, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that you would wait till the night before. I can’t believe you’re telling me this now.
Why not? You have the same stuff in other areas in your life you just don’t happen to be doing science projects. Other places where the same issue is in your life. How about standing next to that young man and saying, “I know exactly how you’ve gotten yourself in this mess because I’m like you.” I tend to prioritize what I find comfortable, I tend to put off what I find uncomfortable, and I do that till I’ve gotten myself in trouble. But there’s hope for you and me, and there’s help for you and me. Because God sent His Son not only to forgive us, but to rescue us from us, and empower us to do what we could not do apart for him. How about reaching out for that help tonight?
No, I’m not going to take you to the all night chicken farm, and I’m not going to write that magic note to your teacher. But I love you, and your struggles in life are my struggles in life. How could I turn my back on you when I need every grace that you need? I love you. Who wouldn’t want that person as their father? You see, where does that conversation… What causes it to be healthy is the humble confession of that parent of his or her own need for rescuing grace. It really is true that good, godly parenting begins with confession. Heartfelt, repeated confession that like my children, I need to be rescued from me because that confronts you with this reality. God hasn’t chosen for you to be a parent because you’re able. He chose you to be a parent because he’s able.
Moses wasn’t able to lead Israel out of the promise… Out of Egypt into the promised land. David wasn’t able to defeat Goliath. The disciples weren’t able to carry the gospel along, around the world. God chose people who were unable, who were desperately needy, weak and broken because he’s that glorious, and that powerful and that generous in his grace. It’s when I’m willing to confess the depth of my need that I become a tool of God’s grace.
Let me give four things that will happen if you don’t carry that confession with you as a parent all the time. Here’s the first one. You will turn God-given moments of ministry into moments of anger. You will turn God-given moments of ministry into moments of anger. Here’s how it works. If your eyes ever see and your ears ever hear the sin, weakness and failure of your children, it’s never an accident, it’s never an interruption, it’s never a hassle. It’s always grace. God loves those children. He’s put them in a family of faith, and He will reveal their need to you, so you can be a tool of his rescuing mercy. Do you hear what I said? And he won’t ask when you have an available moment in your schedule.
If your eyes ever see and your ears ever hear the sin, weakness and failure of your children, it’s never an accident. It’s never a hassle. It’s never an interruption. It’s always grace. God loves those children. By his magnificent grace, he has chosen to put them in a family of faith. And he will again, and again, and again reveal their need to you, so you can be a tool of his rescue and redemption. It’s grace. What a gorgeous plan?
Now, it’s Tuesday night, and the children you’ve put to bed, it’s now 10:30. You put them to bed at nine o’clock. They’re now fighting in their beds, an hour and a half later. And you march down the hallway, feed heavy on the floorboards. You’re probably not saying thank you, God for this wonderful moment to represent your grace in the life of my children how much I love redemption, even at this late hour. That’s probably not what you’re saying. You’re probably saying, they’re dead, they’re dead. And bust in to the room, and you say, “Do you know what my day has been like? But do you have a clue what I do? I do and do for you, and this is the thanks I get? I don’t need a mansion or a Rolls Royce. Just children who are from Earth. I bought every shred of clothes I put on that back of yours. I bought every morsel of food you put in that big mouth of yours. I made your Christmases happy.”
Now, again, do you think your children are saying, “My, this is helpful? This is a wise human being. I think I’m seeing my heart.” No, your child is thinking, this person is a lunatic. I mean, think about this parents. This is heartbreaking to think about, have you ever had a moment where a person got up into your face with flashing eyes, and bulging veins and red skin, pointed finger, inflammatory words. And as it was happening, you said to yourself, I’m so thankful this is happening? Never. Why would you think that, that would be an effective strategy with your children?
Now, let’s visit this. At 10:30 at night, why are you angry? I would propose to you that you’re not angry at that moment because your children have broken God’s law, because that would be the righteous anger, that would be righteous anger. It would be the anger of a proper, patient confrontation, the anger of wisdom, the anger of instruction, the anger of correction, the anger of grace. No, no, no, that’s not why you’re angry. No, you’re angry because your children have broken your law. And in your system of law, there shall be no parenting after 10 o’clock.
I understand why you laugh, because I tell these stories in a humorous way. But perhaps, it’s not funny. You see, there’s a wonderful God-given moment. I’m hearing the rebellion of my children, because God wants me to hear it because God has chosen to place his love on my children. And he wants this person who is near, who has been chosen to be his representative to walk down the hallway and to capture this beautiful moment in the lives of these children. A moment of ministry turned into a moment of anger.
Second, you will do that because you personalize what is not personal. You make it all about you. When I go in, and I say, “Do you know what my day’s been like? Do you know what I do for you?” I’m making this whole thing horizontal. Listen, it’s not horizontal. It’s vertical. This is something terribly broken vertically between these children and God that’s being played out in a horizontal situation. Does that make sense? It’s not about you. Your children probably haven’t gotten together and say, about 7:30, they said, “Let’s do it tonight. Let’s fake sleep. And about 10:30, let’s fake fighting. It will drive her crazy. Yeahhh.” It’s probably not what’s going on. What’s going on is you’re parenting, self-appointed self sovereigns who want to rule themselves, who live for their own pleasure. Who have no ability to stay inside of God’s boundaries, apart from dramatic rescuing, transforming grace. You are parenting people like you. This is not about you.
Moments of ministry turned into moments of anger because you personalize what is not personal, and so you’re adversarial in your response. By the time you get to the room, it’s not you for your children. It’s you against your children, because they are in the way of something that you want. And so rather than wisdom coming out of you, parents, these moments of rage comes out of you. You’re angry. You’re at the edge of losing control.
Listen, Christian parents haul off and slap their children. They do. They yank them down a hallway, they shove them into a chair, they push them around physically. None of that is proper biblical discipline. That’s acts of violence against the body of your children, because you have personalized this stuff. And they’re now your adversaries instead of your objects of love. Brothers and sisters, I have to say this, as we talk about the abuse that goes on out there, I think there’s a whole lot of parental abuse going on in the house of God. You slapped your child when their mouthing off to you. That’s not proper restraint, godly parental discipline. That’s an act of rage meted out against the body of your child.
If you grab a child by the arm and yank them down the hallway, you’re out of control. And you don’t see at that moment, that object of love. You see an adversary to something that you want, and you’re striking back. If you say ugly, condemning words that a child should never hear, that’s adversarial stuff. When what is wrong gone on is the Lord of Glory, in his sovereignty, has lovingly set up a moment where the hearts of your children are being revealed, because he loves those children, though blood of his son was shed for people like these children. And he’s given you a moment to do something that is magnificent and eternal, to help their eyes be open to their need for grace. But I don’t see it that way. I don’t feel it that way. A moment of ministry turned into a moment of anger. Because I personalized what it is not personal, and I’m adversarial in my response. Here’s the response, and here’s the fourth thing.
So, I settle for quick situational solutions that don’t get at the heart of the matter. I settle for quick situational solutions that don’t get at the heart of the matter. I bark a critique, I announce a punishment and I walk away. And my children are utterly, utterly unchanged in that moment. There’s been no insight of heart. There’s been no confession. There’s no even a seed of desire to live a different way. There’s absolutely no change. Listen, what I’ve done in that room, sadly, is neither Christian nor parenting. My children haven’t been parented.
Now, that confronts us with the grandeur of what we’ve been called to. If you’re a parent, you have been given ambassadorial calling, an ambassadorial calling. It means everything you do is representative. That your calling is to represent the message, and the methods and the character of the king again, and again and again.
I would ask you to consider that there are really only two models of parenting. There’s ownership parenting and ambassadorial parenting. The owner parent basically says, these children belong to me and it is my right and responsibility to get from those children what I want from them, and to produce in them what I want in them. That is contrasted with ambassadorial children that say, these children do not belong to me. They belong to the Lord, and my calling… Here this… Is to make the invisible presence, the invisible grace, the invisible power, authority of God visible in the lives of my children.
Parents, look at me, being an ambassador means you’re the look on God’s face. You’re the tone of his voice. You’re the touch of his hand. God is so beautifully gracious and condescending of His love that he makes his presence, he makes his authority, he makes his love, he makes his faithfulness visible for children through the vehicle of the parents that he has given them. Isn’t that beautiful? So, it’s not some weird distant theory. It’s meant to live, and in front of me now. Now, who would say yeah, I can do that?
Let’s take the example of authority, you know that one of the most significant heart issues for a child is the issue of authority. It’s very important that very early in your child’s life they realize that they were born into a world of authority, and they’re not it. And you probably know this but I’ll remind you of this, that every child brought into the world believes two lies. Let me give you the lies. The first is the lie of autonomy. Autonomy says, I’m an independent human being, and I have the right to live my life anyway I want to live it. Autonomy says, I am able, and it’s my right to rule myself.
Parents, those fights about what to eat are not about diet. Your three-year-old child has not signed up for a monthly delivery from Nutrisystem. This child knows nothing about diet. They would eat nails. They know nothing. Listen, that argument is not about diet, it’s about authority. It’s just child rearing up and saying, you will not tell me what to put in my mouth. Thank you. Try me. My daughter, for reasons we don’t, to this day understand, had a negative reaction to little green orbs called peas. She had never tasted a pea in her life. But she determined that little, round, green thing will never go in my mouth. She would put your teeth together like a hydraulic vise.
Now, if you interpret that as being about you, you forget your ambassadorial calling, that this is not first rebellion against you. It’s rebellion against God, it’s buying into the disaster of self rule. Self rule will destroy your life because we weren’t created for independence. We were created for dependence. Even Adam and Eve, perfect people in a perfect world with perfect relationship with God were still dependent on God. The first thing God did upon creating them was talk to them, was parent them if you would, because they didn’t have a clue what life was about.
Just as a side, the growth of Christian maturity is not a growth from dependence to independence. The growth of Christian maturity is a growth from independence to dependence. This child is in a spiritual war. They’re lost. They’re believing lies. It’s not about you. And they’re believing that they’ve been… They have capabilities that they don’t have, they’re believing that self rule is okay. That it’s safe. They’ve announced themselves capabilities that they don’t have. It’s a moral [inaudible] disaster. Don’t look at that child as being mean to you. Look at them as lost, they’re lost. They’re lost. They’re lost. They don’t have a clue what they’re doing.
If you’d ask the child, “Why don’t you eat your peas?” They wouldn’t say to you, “Well, I’m a self-appointed self sovereign who wants to rule my own world. You should expect worse for me.” Because they don’t have a clue what they’re doing. Your children don’t know why they’re doing the things they’re doing, that’s why they need the explanatory message of the gospel, so that they begin to understand, why do I get mad when my parents ask me to do something? Why do I fight with them when I know they’re right? Why do I resist doing my responsibilities? Your children don’t know themselves. And because they don’t know themselves, they don’t know their need of a Savior. Don’t get mad at that moment. Autonomy is a horrible lie.
What about the second lie, the lie of self sufficiency? Self sufficiency says, I have everything I need in myself to be what I’m supposed to be and to do what I’m supposed to do. Let me say that again, I have everything I need in myself to be what I’m supposed to be and to do what I’m supposed to do. It’s just not true. It’ll never be true. There will never be a moment in this child’s life where he’ll be self sufficient, never. And so, little Jimmy has noticed that his shoes have laces. And that they get tied into a bow, and he decides he wants to tie his shoe. He has no understanding whatsoever of the technology of a bow. None. And so, he begins to fumble with his laces. Some of you have seen this. And you reach down to help remove, and what does he do? He slaps away your hand because he wants to believe that he’s self sufficient.
Parents, that’s not about you. Yes, your hand has been pushed away, but that’s a child who’s lost, who preaches to himself lies and he’s done it since birth. Don’t get mad at that moment. The child needs help because being what you’re meant to be and doing what you’re meant to do, always requires surrender to authority greater than yourself. And know that you can’t produce that surrender in your child. You have no ability to produce in him or her a surrendering heart. Only Jesus can do that, but you’re called to be his tool. And you don’t want to at that moment, reduce this moment down to rules, and offenses and punishments.
I use these examples all the time. Let’s just say that there are children in a room, and they’re fighting over a toy. And a parental person walks in the room. What’s the quintessential question that’s asked? Some of you said it in your mumbling. It’s the Gospel Coalition Workshop mumbling, it’s a tradition. A parent says, “Who had it first?” Now, that’s a wonderful standard. It’s trying to fix deep idolatries of heart with a rule. Prior possession absolves you of all responsibility to [inaudible] to share. By all means, get it first. See, the problem with that is that’s a doable human standard, but it’s grossly selfish.
Sadly, when our children were young, I used that standard. And one Saturday morning, I heard rattling noise downstairs. We were parenting a little boy, who if there was a crack in our parenting, he could drive an 18-wheeler through it. And I walked down the steps, and our steps turned. And there was a seat box in the notch of the steps, and that’s where we kept mostly kids toys, and he had taken all the toys out… This is a true story… And he was sitting on the floor with his arms and legs around them.
I said, “Justin, what in the world are you doing?” And with a look of utter victory he said to me, “I had them all first, today, Daddy.” There won’t be any sharing for me today. I beat the system. No wonder when you parent that way, at 16 or 17, your children have no interest in the Gospel. Because you have set up a system to produce self righteous little Pharisees who think that they can keep the law, and think that they’re okay because you’ve told them that. Or Johnny’s walking down the hallway and his sister Susie gets in his sovereign way. And he shoves her and she bumps her head against the wall. You get the scene. She begins to cry. Mom walks into the room and she says these words, “Say you’re sorry.” He’s not. So he says, “Sorry.”
She says, “Say it like you mean it.” He doesn’t. So he says, “Sorry.” She says, “Well, at least say some words to your sister. Look that she’s crying.” He says, “I’m sorry.” There’s nothing sorry about this boy. Let me finish. And mom says, “Jesus is so pleased when you say you’re sorry.” Jesus isn’t pleased by anything that’s happening in that moment. Now, you all to look up here. And mom turns her back and walks away. Little Johnny does this to a sister. There’s nothing that’s good at that moment in the heart of that boy. There’s nothing that should be praised. There’s nothing that should be congratulated. Because this moment of grace has been become a moment of externalism, of keepable laws; you mumble something you don’t mean, and Jesus is happy with you. The message of the king has been lost, the character of the king hasn’t been depicted, and the methods of the king have been forsaken. I’m not following my ambassadorial calling.
Let me say one final thing. If you’re going to be a tool of God’s rescuing, restoring grace, you not only have to confess your need for that grace, you not only have to understand the nature of your ambassadorial calling. You have to get your identity right. You have to preach to yourself again and again the Gospel of your identity in Christ, because human beings made in the image of God are always searching for identity. We’re searching for meaning and purpose. We’re searching for an inner sense of well being. We’re searching for identity. And there’s only two places to look. You will either look horizontally or you will look vertically. And if you’re a parent, it’s very tempting to place the burden of your identity on your children.
If you have placed the burden of identity on your children, you’re all too focused on momentary success. You’re all too focused on reputation; how your children are depicting your reputation to others. You’re all too focused on control. You’re way more focused on doing than you’re focused on being because you’re asking your children to give you something that they were never intended to give you. Your children are not on earth to make you feel good about yourself. Your children are not on earth to make you happy. Your children are not on earth to give you reason to get up in the morning. They’re not on earth to make other people respect you. They’re not on earth to be your personal Savior. There is a savior. It’s a horrible burden to lay on children.
And know this parents, there’s a level of insanity to that. Your children don’t get up in the morning and say, “How today can I give my mom meaning and purpose? What can I do today to give this dear lady self worth?” No children… No child asked that question. And very often, the irritation and the patience that we feel is rooted in the fact that we’ve asked these children to do for us what only the Savior is able to do.
I was on one of my seemingly rare weekends home, and I was actually sitting down in the family room to watch Saturday afternoon college football, something I never get to see. As I sat down with my favorite soft drink and my favorite snack, I was saying to myself, there must be a god. And maybe in fact, he does love me. And out of the bathroom, at that moment came my then 16-year-old son. And he had outrageous, fluorescent green hair. No, you don’t yet know what I’m talking about. It wasn’t those kinds of temporary dyes that are popular today. What he had done is he had used a product that stripped his hair of all color, so that his hair had the translucency of the… Like the hair of a polar bear. And then he affixed this dye to it you think that the name of the dye would have been a clue. It was called Manic Panic. And the result was, his head looked like it was covered in shredded saran wrap green, translucent, weird looking plastic. It’s hard to describe it.
He stood before me like this and said, “Well, what do you think?” I’m thinking, get the ornaments Christmas tree boy. He looked like one of those cheap plastic Christmas trees. I thought, if you’re decorating, do some lights, and he stand in the corner, he wouldn’t look so bad. And then it hit me that the reason I was home that weekend was I was the final speaker at a marriage and family emphasis weekend at a prominent church in our region, and they were so excited that my whole family could come with me. And I’m thinking, we’re going to walk in the church, Louella, my wife, Ethan, Nicola, and Darnay and Christmas tree boy. Now in that moment, you will know where you’re getting your identity.
He woke up Sunday morning and had this, oh God, what have I done moment? And proceeded to shave his head, completely only to discover his scalp was green, even the tips of his ears. And he wore a hat for two months. You see why this stuff will get under your skin if you’re asking that child to be what he’ll never be, and to deliver to you what he’ll never deliver? See, why put Manic Panic on my head? Because foolishness is bound up in the heart of the child. You see, it’s when you’re resting in your identity in Christ, when you believe that he has already delivered for you everything you need for life and Godliness. That… Hear what I’m about to say… You don’t get… In human relationships, you don’t get your capacity to love from the person that you’ve been called to love. Did you hear what I said? You don’t get your capacity to love from the person that you’ve been called to love.
You’ve been given everything you need in the person and the work, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to be what you’re supposed to be, and to do what you’re supposed to do in the life of that child. You will not get what you need from that child. He’ll never be able to deliver that from you. I sat with a mom, who was fully living her identity from her child. He was 15 years old, he was breaking under the load. The day would start out with three hours of violin practice, seriously, a school day. Then college preparatory classes after school, and then home for a couple hours of homework. He had no life, no free time. He began just to crumble. And I said to the mother, “Maybe you’re asking something from this child that he cannot deliver because you need something from him you should not need.”
She stood up and she said, “I didn’t come to be counseled by you. I came for you to counsel my son.” She walked out, and never came back. Sad. You see, it really is true that good gospel, forgiving, rescuing, transforming parenting begins with your confession of how counterintuitive this whole process is. And a plea for the rescuing grace of Jesus, because no one gives grace better than a parent who is deeply persuaded they need it themselves.
I’m mad because I have named myself more righteous than you. I’m mad because I’ve personalized your lostness. I’m mad because I’m asking of you things I should not ask. And in all that impatience and in all that irritation, I’ve forgotten who I am, I’ve forgotten who Jesus is, and I’ve forgotten the glorious promises of His grace. What we need as parents is not another Christian book with 17 strategies. What we need as parents is to believe the gospel in such a way that it reforms our parenting, that’s why I’ve given myself to this new material.
Oh, I love to say more to you but I would ask you this question, if I would watch six weeks of your parenting, would I walk away… Watching the video, would I walk away and say, this is parenting that’s driven by the humility, and the expectancy of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Or would I say this, this parent seems to love the gospel, but this system of parenting is alien to the gospel; it’s driven by something else? May we believe that the confrontation and the comforts of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the best model ever for parenting.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank you for the comforting, encouraging, rescuing message of the gospel [inaudible] we would confess that it’s only when we’re willing to embrace the bad news of the gospel that the good news of the gospel excites us. Help us not to forget that we are more like our children than unlike them. Help us to not forget that we have no ability to produce in the hearts of our children what they need none. Help us not to forget that we have been placed not as the owners of our children, but as ambassadors of you. And help us to rest in the sufficiency and the glory of our identity in Christ, so we’re freed from asking our children to be for us and to give to us what they will never give.
And thank you that we do not have to, as we look at our weakness in our failure, wallow in shame, hide in guilt. Because on the cross, you took every ounce of our punishment and every piece of our rejection so we can run into your presence, and find mercy and grace form fit for a moment of need.