Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children!

sfdsPrinciple: If we want our children to learn how to obey God when they are older, we must require them to obey us as parents now. I have four children, the oldest of whom is 7. This is not mere philosphizing for me, it is real life.

It is inevitable there will be conflict. Conflict between siblings and conflict between child and parent. This season in life is hard. Any parent can attest to this. Deciding which battles to fight is an ongoing state of being. While this state of being is not fun, it is worth doing right. My wife and I are seeking to raise Godly kids. That is no easy task in today’s culture. So I repeat: If we want our children to learn how to obey God when they are older, we must require them to obey us as parents now.

As a parent I am not perfect. I get things wrong. But the principle remains true that if my children learn to respect and obey me now, they will be better suited to obey future authority figures in life, and ultimately God as the final authority figure. Unfortunately most parents are not requiring obedience from their children. It is easier to pacify their children in the moment than deal with the long term commitment of building obedience.

John Piper writes an excellent article addressing believing parents and how they need to require obedience.

“The defiance and laziness of unbelieving parents I can understand. I have biblical categories of the behavior of the spiritually blind. But the neglect of Christian parents perplexes me. What is behind the failure to require and receive obedience? I’m not sure. But it may be that these nine observations will help rescue some parents from the folly of laissez-faire parenting.”

Please read the full article as Piper unpacks each of these nine points with biblical passages and practical application. If you are a parent, or hope to be one in the future, it is worth your 5+ minutes!  Click it here: Parent, Require Obedience of Your Children.

1. Requiring obedience of children is implicit in the biblical requirement that children obey their parents.

2. Obedience is a new-covenant, gospel category.

3. Requiring obedience of children is possible.

4. Requiring obedience should be practiced at home on inconsequential things so that it is possible in public on consequential things.

5. It takes effort to require obedience, and it is worth it.

6. You can break the multi-generational dysfunction.

7. Gracious parenting leads children from external compliance to joyful willingness.

8. Children whose parents require obedience are happier.

9. Requiring obedience is not the same as requiring perfection.

“Parents, you can do this. It is a hard season. I’ve spent more than sixty percent of my life in it. But there is divine grace for this, and you will be richly rewarded.” – John Piper


Subtlety is Overrated – John Bunyan Addresses Legalism

Sometimes we need to hear the truth in an upfront obvious way. We can be thick. We can be dense. We deceive ourselves into believing some things. Where is our standard? What is our guide? How do we discern the Truth?

The Word of God.

Romans 3:19-20 is a smacking reminder we cannot earn our way to heaven. “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

We cannot be good enough in our own power to please God. When we focus on the rules, we don’t become better, we only see how bad we are. We see how desperate we are for a Savior.

Even if you’ve never read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the (not-so-subtle) names of the characters tell you quite a bit. Christian, Evangelist, Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, and Mr. Legality are exactly what you would expect; nevertheless, Bunyan’s point cuts to the heart.

In his journey from the City of Destruction to Mt. Zion, Christian takes some bad advice from Mr. Worldly-Wiseman. In this snippet, Bunyan powerfully illustrates the truths of Romans 3:19-20 and Galatians 4:21-27:

“Christian left his path to go to Mr. Legality’s house for help. As Christian neared the hill, he was struck by how high and foreboding the hill appeared. One side of the hill hung precariously over the path that wound its way around it, and Christian feared that the overhanging hill would fall on him.

Filled with fear, Christian stopped his journey and stood still, wondering what he should do. His burden now seemed heavier to him than it was just moments before he had taken this detour off the path that Evangelist had instructed him to follow.

Flashes of lightning came out of the hill, and Christian was afraid that he would be burned. Christian began to sweat and quake with fear. He was sorry that he had taken Mr. Worldly-Wiseman’s counsel.”

After meeting back up with Evangelist, Christian’s error is explained to him:

“The person to whom you were sent for relief, whose name is Legality, is the son of the slave woman who, with all her children, is still in bondage. The mountain that you feared would fall on your head is Mount Sinai. Now if the slave woman and all her children are in bondage, how can you expect them to set you free from your burden?”

Lets learn a lesson from Christian on his journey. Legalism will only crush you, not save you. We must trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ for grace and forgiveness. We must lean fully on Him and live each day in His power.
Go out and trust in Him today!
Your fellow worker in the field.  Adam

Legalism: a tendency in Student Ministry

The full article (linked Here which you should check out), written by Cameron Cole, is the third of four articles addressing the State of Youth Ministry today.  Backed by the Rooted Blog and Gospel Coalition, you can be sure these articles are hard hitting and biblically rooted.  Here we have another great resource that I will encourage all church leadership to read, not just my fellow student pastors. There are great insights into the nuts and bolts behind why things are the way they are.

The first great quote warns youth pastors wanting to see immediate results. We are (generally) products of a culture that inclines us to desire instant gratification.  We want the same from the gas station burrito as from our students spiritual lives; perfection in two minutes or less.  But sanctification does not work that way.

Mark Upton, a former youth worker and current pastor at Hope Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, offered these wise words to me when I started youth ministry: “If anyone asks you about your ministry, tell them you will let them know in ten years.”

In an effort to see results faster, the temptation is to focus on the actions rather that the heart.

Wanting validation for their tireless labor, youth ministers occasionally focus on behavior modification as a means of providing tangible proof of the efficacy of their ministry. A kid carrying his or her Bible to school, signing a chastity pledge, or sporting a WWJD bracelet may appear like signs of spiritual progress—the fruit of ministry labor for a youth pastor—but if these actions come out of a student misunderstanding Christianity as a code of behavior rather than heart transformation through the Holy Spirit, then they do not necessarily reflect lasting life change.

I have to call for some clarification to the section entitled “kids are as destructive as nuclear warheads.” While I agree that moralism plus increased pressure to perform results in rebellion, I do not agree that this is a “teenage” issue.  This is a human issue.  You can say the same thing for my 3 year old, whom I am trying to teach not to hit his brother!  You can see this issue rampant among adults in the work place. While adults may learn to be more subtle or crafty, the heart issues are the same.

Very few youth pastors go through a year without the death of a teenager in the community where they serve. Many youth pastors preach moralism over the gospel in order to protect students from self-destruction.

I think that section is simply highlighting that teenagers are acting on their sinful nature just like anyone does apart from the grace of God through the work of Jesus in their heart.  So let’s not just call out the teens on this one, OK?

Cameron Cole follows up right on track when parents are indicted with the moralization of their children, rather than focus of Gospel transformation.

Parents rightly want moral children, as do youth pastors. Sometimes, families view the church exclusively as a vehicle for moral education, rather than spiritually forming them in Christ, and put pressure on youth and senior pastors to moralize their children.

Lastly, I encouraged church leaders to read this article because many student pastors are in great need of mentoring.  As I have experienced and continue to experience, mistakes stink.  I have learned from my mistakes in the past, but have much to learn still.

Many youth ministers are young, both in age and in their faith. Given all of the other responsibilities that adult pastors must juggle, nurturing the theological and spiritual development of the youth pastor can be overlooked. Furthermore, churches often view the youth department as entertainment and relationships but not a serious teaching ministry.

If student ministry can resist the temptation to being simply an entertainment driven, behavior modification system, we may see a generation connect with the life changing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Your fellow worker in the field,   Adam