Let me preface the following post with the fact that I’m desperately trying to be the Christian, husband and father that God wants me to be and I fall short daily. God’s ideal should always be my ideal. I’ve only been a parent for a short time, but in that short time I’ve realized overwhelmingly that I have a tremendous amount to learn. So the following words are a prescription to myself. You may already be doing many of these things. If that’s the case, then we need to get together (if you’re close – ha!) so you can share your wisdom!
In William Farley’s book Gospel Powered Parenting he spends several pages talking about five “intellectual submarines.” Farley notes that these assumptions are “unseen” and act as “intellectual submarines cruising beneath the surface of our consciousness. We presume them. We seldom think about them. Yet all our consciousness about life flow from these assumptions” (pp. 19). In this post I want to share briefly about two of the five assumptions that Farley lists in his book. These are (1) “effective parents assume that a good offense is better than defense,” and (2) “effective parents understand the new birth” (pp. 26).
A Good Offense: Farley opens up his explanation of a “good offense” by looking at the analogy of a football game. Too many times a team that has a big lead on the opposing team opts to play more defensively rather than offensively. And what happens a lot of times (not all the time mind you) is that the defensive mindset causes “team members” to shift “from scoring themselves to preventing their opponent from scoring” and this approach “forfeits huge leads to an opponent with an aggressive offensive, attacking mentality” (pp. 22-23). Parents mimic this same mentality a lot of times. One illustration of a pastor friend of his is telling and sobering. His friend had five children and to this day only one of them is walking with Christ. Farley asks the question, as would you and I, “what happened?” A friend summarized his pastor’s parenting philosophy in this way: “no TV, no movies, no public education, no non-Christian friends. In other words, his focus was defensive, protecting his children” (pp. 24). Now Farley makes it unequivocally clear that his book assumes that your children and mine are not Christians. Now some of your children may actually be Christians. And consequently, he would point to the power of the new birth to which I’ll talk more later. But, before your child experiences the new birth they don’t have the power to say no to ungodliness because though Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33) they have not themselves overcome the world because they’ve not yet trusted in Christ and that new birth is the crux of the issue in Gospel Powered Parenting. With the new birth in mind and the power that it brings, Farley says that “either we can focus on preparing our children to enter the world and conquer it, or we can concentrate on protecting our children from the world” (pp. 23). Likewise, Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), a Scoth Presbyterian wrote a famous essay entitled The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. “In it Chalmers proposes that the best way to overcome the world is not with morality or self-discipline. Christians overcome the world by seeing the beauty and excellence of Christ. They overcome the world by seeing something more attractive than the world: Christ, ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Col 3:23)” (pp. 24). Hence, the title of this post: “a man who owns an Acura is not interested in a Geo Metro. In the same way, Christian parents try to make Christ and his kingdom glorious. Their children conquer the lusts of this world with a higher passion: the moral beauty of Christ.”
Understand the New Birth: Farley writes that the biggest mistake that parents can make is assuming their children are Christians. Most teens today have a religion summarized in the phrase moralistic, therapeutic, deism or what is commonly referred to as MTD. “These teens believe in a combination of works-righteousness, religion as psychological well-being, and a distant, noninterfering god” (pp. 27). “Most religious teenagers either do not really comprehend what their own religious traditions say they are supposed to beleive”…”or they do not understand it and simply do not care to believe it” (pp. 27). Bottom-line, children must own their faith. Tom Bisset in his book Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith says that teens are abandoning the faith because they don’t own it for themselves. “In other words, they were never born again” (pp. 29). A. W. Pink observes that, “the new birth is very much more than simply shedding a few tears due to a temporary remorse over sin. it is far more than changing our course of life, the leaving off of bad habits and the substituting of good ones. It is something different from the mere cherishing and practicing of noble ideals. It goes infinitely deeper than coming forward to take some popular evangelist by the hand, signing a pledgecard or ‘joining the church.’ The new birth is no more turning over a new leaf, but is the inception and reception of a new life. It is mere reformation but a complete transformation. In short, the new birth is a miracle, the result of the supernatural operation of God. It is radical revolutionary, lasting” (pp. 29).
What gives me the ability to say no to ungodliness and temptation? It isn’t morality. It isn’t self-discipline. It’s the fact that God has transformed my heart; He’s given me new life; He’s given me a new nature; He’s transferred me from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son; He’s reconciled me to Himself. In short, He’s saved me from my sin and hell. As a parent I want to train my children to be warriors of light and truth and I pray daily that God would do to my children what He did to me 19 years ago when I experienced the new birth via His love, mercy and grace.
God please give me your grace. Without it I’m utterly helpless.