Session 2: A Child’s Calling - To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Question 1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Question 1. What is your only comfort in life and death?
Answer. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
Three basic sources that the catechisms draw on: The Apostles Creed, the Ten commandments, and the Lord’s prayer.
What does your child need?
I. Our Children need God’s Law.
Our children are born with a desperate need for God’s law. Because they come into the world as fools, not knowing what is true or what is false, what is good or what is bad, what is right or what is wrong, they need the grace of wisdom that God’s law alone can give.
God’s law gives the grace of wisdom.
Apart from God’s law human beings wouldn’t have a clue how they are supposed to think, what they are supposed to desire, how they are supposed to speak, or how they were designed to behave. Like all human beings, children were not made to be self-governing, that is, to be guided by independent thoughts and desires. Children need to be given tracks to run on and boundaries to stay inside of. So God in his wonderful mercy gives us his law so that our behavior would be guided by a clear knowledge of what is right and wrong.
God’s law provides the grace of conviction.
Your children would have no idea that they are sinners in need of protection, wisdom, forgiveness, and rescue without the standard of God’s law. You know how it works: it’s only when you apply a standard of measurement to a board that you realize you have cut it too short. One of the most dangerous things in your child’s life is his blindness to the depth of his spiritual need. A child who does not see himself clearly will resist his parents’ wisdom, guidance, discipline, and correction. Why? Because he doesn’t think he needs it. The law is very good at exposing not only our behavior, but our hearts as well. God’s law is the ultimate human measuring system, and because it is, it’s good for your children to be regularly exposed to it and exposed by it.
II. Our Children need to understand the Law’s limitations.
Yes, your children need the law of God in their lives, but it is very dangerous as parents to daily ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish. I am afraid that many, many Christian parents do exactly that without knowing it. They have reduced Christian parenting down to being a really faithful lawgiver, arresting officer, prosecutor, judge, and jailer. So their parenting is basically a body of rules followed by threats of punishment. Yes, children need rules and they need faithful correction, but that simply is not enough. Think with me. If all that your children needed was the knowledge and enforcement of rules, as I wrote earlier, then the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus would not have been necessary. Jesus came because the law was good, but definitely not enough to solve the great human dilemma of sin. Remember, the greatest danger to your child is not the evil outside them; it’s the sin inside them that is the greatest of all threats to their well-being.
Parent’s we are vulnerable to legalism in our child rearing.
This is what every parent and every child needs to understand: the law does a very good job of exposing our sin, but it has no power whatsoever to deliver us from it. The law has no ability to rescue our child from the power of sin’s grip. The law has no ability to give us a new heart. The law has no ability to create the lasting change in us that we long for. The law cannot and will not rescue, redeem, and restore us, but that’s exactly what we and our children need. So if you are going to be a tool of change in God’s hands in the lives of your children, you need more than God’s law in your personal parenting toolbox.
Parent’s we are vulnerable to idiomatic (individual)-legalism.
It’s not just that as parents we tend to put all the eggs of our hope for our children in the basket of the law, but we also tend to replace God’s perfect law with a sorry human second best. Somehow, someway God’s law gets replaced by our law—a law that’s sadly driven by our craving for affirmation, control, peace, success, and reputation. So we make selfish, impatient, and angry demands on our children, treating them as indentured servants who exist to lessen our load of daily chores and to make our lives more comfortable. The fact is that our children weren’t created and given to us for our sake, but for God’s sake and their good.
So we get mad at our kids, not first because they’re breaking God’s law but because they’re in the way of our law (something that we want). Think of how little of your anger as a parent in the last few months had anything at all to do with God’s law. It’s not just law dependency that keeps us from doing all we should do as God’s representatives in the lives of our children, but it’s law replacement that causes us to do all kinds of things we shouldn’t do toward them. The good news is that there really is a new and better way for us and for our children.
Parent’s we want our children to understand that Grace is Essential.
I think we would be shocked if we knew how many homes of parents who love to sing of God’s grace on Sunday completely forget that grace as they parent their children the rest of the week. But without the intervention of God’s grace, your children will not be who they are supposed to be or do what they are supposed to do. Remember, it’s the sin inside them that messes everything up. It’s sin that makes your children resist your guidance and authority. It’s sin that causes children to constantly be in conflict with their siblings. It’s sin that gets in the way of your child’s learning in school. It’s sin that causes children to be attracted to what is hurtful or destructive. It’s sin that causes your children to be entitled, demanding, materialistic, and complaining. It’s sin that causes your children to act as if they are the center of the universe and that life should do their bidding. It’s sin that causes children to say hurtful things to their parents, siblings, and peers. And it’s sin that makes parenting difficult, demanding, and exhausting.
The law has no ability to deliver your children from this mess—the very mess that you have to deal with every day as a parent. So your children came into the world in desperate need of God’s rescuing, forgiving, transforming, and delivering grace. You could argue that it’s God’s grace that is the only hope for parents and children alike. As a parent, you are not called to just enforce God’s law in the lives of your children, but also to constantly exhibit and teach God’s grace to them as well.
If you are ever going to function as God’s ambassador, you need to be rescued by powerful grace from your bondage to you. As parents we need to be rescued from our addiction to the law of our comfort, pleasure, success, and control.
It’s not our children’s sin that is in the way of good parenting; it’s our tendency to make parenting about our little kingdom of wants, needs, and desires, and our tendency to want our children to serve the purposes of our kingdom rather than submit to the purposes of God’s kingdom. - Paul Tripp Tripp, P. D. (2016). Parenting: The 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change Your Family (p. 53). Crossway.
Parent’s we need to proclaim the gospel of Grace to our Children
Parents, we all need to have an “everything I do, I do to point my children to the presence and promises of God’s grace” way of parenting our children. Every conversation is an opportunity. Pointing them to the beauty of nature is an opportunity, every moment of correction and discipline is an opportunity, every sibling battle is an opportunity, success or failure at school is an opportunity, family worship is an opportunity, birthdays and holidays provide an opportunity, teenage identity angst is an opportunity, bedtime conversations provide an opportunity, discussions after watching something on Netflix provide an opportunity.
There will be no want of opportunities to talk to your children about their inescapable need for God’s grace. There will be no lack of opportunity for telling the story of how Jesus meets those needs. Because, by God’s plan, every good thing, every beautiful thing, every hard thing, every sad thing, and everything to celebrate gives us an opportunity to point to the God who, in grace, rules it all. The question is: will you see those opportunities in the mundane moments of parenting and capture them again and again and again?
What do you want for your children? Do you just want them to buck up and obey? Do you just want to be able to control their behavior until they’re out of your care? Do you want little more than children who do what they’re told and don’t embarrass you in public? Or do you long for more—much, much more? Do you want children who live every day as God designed them to live, whose hearts are ruled by worship of him and who gladly live inside his boundaries? You know, in your heart of hearts, you can’t produce children like this on your own. If you’ve paid attention, you’ve begun to realize that you can’t control the hearts of your children even with the best lectures, the best correction, and the most faithful discipline.
So it’s time to give up trying to do in the hearts and lives of your children what only God can do. It’s time for you to surrender your heart to his grace and lead the hearts of your children to trust in his grace. You say, “Paul, I get it, but I just don’t know practically what that looks like.”
Parents, we need to model the gospel of grace to our children.
I know what raising children was like for me, and I suspect it is this way for you as well. If as parents we really are called to be visible ambassadors of the presence, character, and plan of God in the lives of our children, then I often did a very poor job. In the way I often reacted to my children, I presented God as an irritable, impatient, judgmental, loud, and accusatory father. There were themes of daily contradiction between the message of grace that I talked to my kids about and the lack of grace that shaped my responses to them. I often failed to model the stunning patience and beauty of that grace. I was committed to what was right for my children, but I went at it in the wrong way. “I can’t believe that you would do such a thing!” “I do and do for you, and this is the thanks I get!” “You don’t want to know what’s going to happen if I have to come up those stairs one more time!” “Would you just be quiet for one meal so I can for once eat in peace?”
No child hears that kind of talk and says to himself, “What a wise and loving parent! I know I can share my heart with this person. I just wish he would say more of these things to me! I am so thankful that this person is my parent! I think I’m beginning to see my heart.” No one, adult or child, has ever had someone get up into their face and yell at them and has walked away feeling helped by it. All we just want is to escape, to have it end.
If God’s plan really is to make his invisible grace visible by sending parents of grace to give grace to children who desperately need grace, then I am called not just to preach that grace but to live and model it for my children every day. Writing this makes me weak in my knees, because I know this is counterintuitive to me and to you. As parents we lose our way, and we want our ow n way; we forget God’s plan and follow our own plan. If we are ever to represent the great Father well, we need to fathered by him as well. If we are going to give grace to our children, we need to confess that we are but children in daily need of the Father’s care. If we are going to be patient, we need to confess our need for patience. If we are going to be forgiving, we need to admit our need for forgiveness. If we are going to persevere, we need to humbly admit that our only hope is that our heavenly Father will never give up on us. And if we are going to teach our children to run to Jesus daily, we must run to Jesus daily as well. If we want our children to be sad in the face of the sin of their hearts and hands, we must mourn our sin as parents as well.
You see, it is only as we are willing to confess that we are more like than unlike our children, that we ourselves need parenting every day, that we will be parents in need of a father’s grace who will again and again lead our children to the grace of the Father.
1. Do you catechize your children?
2. How does the law of God factor into your parenting?
3. Do you find that you lean toward mere rule keeping? Are you prone to neglect rule keeping?