Keeping the Gospel Central in Parenting {Part Two}

How do we reach our child's hearts for eternity when giving instruction and discipline? In part two of gospel centered parenting, we're digging beyond questions to open little hearts and now focusing on what to pour in. May the light of God's word soak deep!

In part one we learned about how to approach difficult parenting situations and talked about four great questions we can ask to help our kids see the problem at a heart level. Now we will focus on the way to apply Scripture in keeping the gospel central as we teach and disciple our kids.

Step 2 – Address Heart Issues with Scripture (Hebrews 4:12)

Notice the Scriptures judge the thoughts and intentions or motives of the heart. After helping your child see his/her motives and heart, we want to give them God’s perspective from the Scriptures. The Scriptures are useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Use the mirror of Scripture (James 1:23-24), by showing them that God’s commands are clear and that He wants us to keep them so we don’t get hurt or hurt others. Trying to rationalize our behavior means we focus not on the gospel but on comparing ourselves to others, or blaming others. One of the biggest problems in parenting today is the lack of teaching our children responsibility for their actions. That is a trap we have to help our kids avoid! Helping our kids by showing them what God thinks and how He wants us to repent by taking responsibility, sets our children up to have a healthy and God-fearing future.

For instance, if a toy is taken form a sibling as a young child or a teen takes money from a parent saying they were just borrowing it, we could take them to Matt 6:21 and ask them what that verse is saying. Help them to see how God treasured them enough to die for them and wants them to treasure what He treasures. You might take them to a Proverb that cautions against selfishness or dishonesty. You will be preaching the gospel many times a day in different ways but make sure that you address the heart issues with God’s Word so your kids can learn what God thinks about our thoughts and actions and we can get the right perspective on what’s going on in our lives.

Step 3 – Move to Themes of Redemption (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Our children have a high priest, Jesus, who is able to sympathize with their weaknesses, but we as parents some times are unable to sympathize. The ground is truly level at the foot of the cross. Any sin my child has committed, I have probably already committed previously too, and even if I haven’t, BUT for the grace of God, I would have!

To say to our children, “How could you be so selfish?” is very prideful because we are acting like we don’t have any idea what it is like to be selfish. In moments of our children’s sin, we need to consistently and continually take them back to the only place where there is hope—and that is the cross. Christ died for that selfishness and they have a choice to embrace Him for forgiveness again and to become more like Him as they learn from this incident.

Again, the gospel changes everything and it should color all your discipline interactions with your children. As our children hear the gospel presented to them over and over again, it will often either draw them to faith or soften them to our correction if they have a relationship with Christ. The gospel is our only hope of real heart change, if they profess Christ, remind them God gives them a new heart and made them a new creation in Christ (Ezekiel 36:26, 2 Corinthians 5:17). If they have not yet professed Christ, remind them that God is waiting to forgive them but repentance for sin is the first step.

Next time you engage your kids in a difficult situation, think about your own sinfulness and your own need for the cross before you jump to conclusions in self-righteous judgment. Instead, lead them to the cross and show them God’s love and compassion that should lead to repentance and redemption through Jesus.

Step 4 – Pray (Romans 12:11-12)

Parenting our children biblically is hard work and takes a lot of perseverance. However, all of our best efforts will be of no eternal value unless the Lord intervenes, opens their eyes to their need for a Savior, and draws them to Himself (Ephesians 2:4-5, 1 John 4:19). The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous “Mom and Dad” avails much (James 5:16)! If we don’t pray and just teach, we may end up practicing biblical behaviorism. We reduce Scripture to “categories” that are lifeless and only work because we “keep doing things right.”

Instead, teach dependence on Christ through prayer. Scripture is life-giving not because we say it is or because we keep practicing its principles but because God himself meets us in our time of need! Cry out for your kids in your alone time but also in front of them. Teach them to pray out loud as well. Don’t shame them by listing all their sins; encourage them with God’s grace in prayer.

So next time that your kids need correction and teaching, take the time to go through these 4 steps, and then do it again and again. This will help you to keep the gospel central in your parenting and this will transform your heart and the heart of your children for the glory of God!

Garrett Higbee

* The content of this blog was created in partnership with Scott O’Malley who is on staff at Twelve Stones Ministry, (www.twelvestones.org) in Brown County, IN.

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