When the gospel is the center of our parenting we are then equipped to point our children to the cross rather than at a man-made formula that aims at works rather than Christ. Try as we might there is no magical formula to make our kids awesome. Each and every child is created in the image of God and is unique, therefore there is not a check list of do’s and don’t’s that we can proudly check off as we conquer each character issue.
When we seek to raise our children according to a formula and not the gospel we are not raising up disciples of Christ as we are called to do. No, what we are raising up are moralistic Pharisees that are only presentable on the outside (Mark 7:6-7). When the law is all we teach our children we are doing a disservice to them by not pointing them to the gospel and what was accomplished for them on the cross. Children who are well dressed and well mannered are not a shoe-in to heaven, in fact many are lost and likely to rebel once they are let out from under the law that tightly constrained them and is impossible to live up to apart from Christ.
Not only is there an ill effect on our kids when we parent apart from the gospel but we as parents are affected as well. Fathers often feel a false guilt when they are not measuring up to what the latest and greatest parenting book lays out as the easy how to be a perfect dad. Mothers struggle not only with false guilt but also with competing with other mothers and the peer pressure that comes with all of the fad formulas that promise to solve most of your parenting woes.
These man-made formulas suggest that we can save our kids if we can just get them to behave properly. That is not the gospel! While the rules that man creates may seem as though they are brimming with wisdom they surely will not produce holiness (Colossians 2:23). The law does not offer us sanctification, nor does it provide our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10).
While there are some outstanding parenting books, methods, and strategies at our fingertips it is imperative that we remember they are merely tools and suggestions. Each and every family is different and each child needs to be parented according to their uniqueness. If the gospel isn’t at that core of these methods and strategies then we are simply applying a momentary fix and not reaching the heart of our children. The root of our sin is in our hearts and if we do not all have heart changes we are missing the gospel.
We all desperately need the gospel. Parents need the gospel. Children need the gospel. We need grace, we need Jesus. We can’t do it apart from Christ. We need to show our kids that we need the gospel just as much as they do and that scripture goes far beyond moralistic stories that point to good works rather than to being Christlike.
We need to stop viewing parenting as a means to make us look good or show our strength and capabilities. Our kids are not a product that we produce so we can stand and shout with pride about what we did. We did not do it, God did. Our focus needs to be directed at pointing our children to the gospel and fulfilling God’s purposes and not our own agendas (Matthew 22:37). When we let go of putting ourselves first we are then free to better love our children. The only formula we should be looking at to raise our kids and make them into disciples is the gospel. We need gospel-centered parenting.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37
Questions for Consideration:
1. In what ways are you already parenting with the gospel as the center?
2. In what ways are you not parenting with the gospel as the center?
3. Can you identify some of the man-made formulas that you are using in your parenting?
4. What sin tendencies of your own do you bring into parenting?
5. In what ways do you provoke your children (Proverbs 17:22)? I suggest making a list if needed and then going to your children and repenting to them. They need to see this example and that you are not perfect.
1. Encourage your children (1 Thessalonians 5:11), Play with your children (Proverbs 17:22), Pray for and with your children (James 5:16), Teach your children (Ephesians 6:4), Be an example of Christ (Philippians 2:1-11).
2. Complete service projects in your home, church, and community with your children and discuss what it is to be a servant and how Jesus was a servant while here on earth.
3. Have family worship/study time on a regular basis.
4. When teaching your children, go to scripture first and show them the text.
5. Work on character training for your kids and yourself but understand that it is not a fix all.