How do you use The Merest Christianity in your parenting? Today AMBrewster shows us how God’s character is a better starting place then your child’s sin.
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Welcome to today’s bonus episode. I didn’t originally plan to do this show because I thought we could cover the information in the other episodes . . . silly me.
So, today I plan to illustrate for you what parenting with The Merest Christianity looks like and provide you another very valuable resource.
But more on that in a minute.
Well, it finally happened. We received a new rating on iTunes, and — that’s right, you guessed it — it was a 1-star rating.
Now, I don’t want to be cavalier about this. This isn’t a joke, and I’m not making light of it. I knew it was going to happen.
My wife has a business that has nothing to do with the Bible, and it’s an amazing, wonderful business that brings joy and delight into the lives of thousands of people every year, but she has people who hate how she runs her business and from time to time a couple of them have made it a point to slander her. And I can say as a point of fact that the negative reviews my wife’s business has received were slanderous and foundation-less.
But, I believe this is a different story. Now, I can’t know at all why this person decided to give Truth.Love.Parent. a one star rating because they didn’t leave a review. I wish they had, but they didn’t. And I would ask that everyone leave a review along with their rating. Whether 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5-star rating, please rate, rate honestly, and leave a review — all of you. Let us know what we’re doing well and let us know what you think needs work.
But here’s the thing I need to say. I completely understand if you’re going to give us a low rating because you don’t like the sound of my voice or our show topics aren’t relevant to you or you think the episodes are too long or too short or our intro music is lame. You know, I get it and that’s great. I’m very opinionated about the podcasts I listen to as well.
So, we promise to listen to all criticism because we know we’re not perfect and we know we have plenty of room to grow. So, thank you to all who’ve written us at TeamTLP@TruthLoveParent.com to give us constructive criticism.
But in all fairness, I have to say that if we receive a low rating and/or poor review because we claim that parents need to submit to the Truths of Scripture and share those Truth with the love of Christ . . . I will not apologize. I can’t. I love you, and I value your opinion because it’s yours, but if hearing Bible isn’t what you want, then you’re going to want to find a new podcast . . . because that’s what we want to do all the time. My opinions and experiences and anecdotes and ideas and Brewsterisms are worthless unless they conform to God’s revealed Word. That’s it.
And here’s the last thing I’m going to say about this, and I want it to be understood, if I ever misrepresent the Truths of Scripture, I would highly expect all of you to point it out to me in love. We may disagree on some applications and such, but if I ever purposely or accidentally add to or subtract from God’s Word, I expect all you premeditated parents out there to correct me in love. Will you do that for me please? I don’t want lies on this show. I must be true to the Bible in all things. And I’m human, so I will definitely leave the door open — God forbid — that I might say something someday that goes too far. Please let me know.
And that means you’re going to have to send an email or actually leave a review . . . just like Tiffany did.
That’s right, I’d like to thank Tiffany for the review she left a few days ago. She said, “Excellent [with two exclamation marks] Love the truth shared. Real life examples of ways to improve godly parenting. Thank you [with three exclamation marks].”
Well, Tiffany, Lord willing today’s real life examples will be just as excellent . . . maybe with four exclamation marks! Who knows?
Okay, so what does parenting with The Merest Christianity look like?
Before I give my first example, I want to remind you of the “The Indispensable Parenting Tool Called Revolving Priorities” from episode 39.
Please listen to that show when you get a chance, but for now know that Revolving Priorities means that we change our goal as our children reveal their root issues.
So, let’s start with a tame example. And I’m going to try to use real life examples from my home. This includes my own children who are elementary aged as well as the teen boys who live at Victory Academy. But, don’t worry, I’ll change the names to protect the guilty. :-)
Okay, so while at Walmart a few days ago, my kids and I went into the self-checkout line to purchase only one item. Ivy offered to scan the item. I told her she could, but Micah chimed in with the following: “Ivy, you scanned the items the last time and the time before. I want to do it this time.”
Both Ivy and Micah’s fruit were showing. But, what was the problem? At first, I didn’t recognize Ivy’s fruit for what it was, but Micah’s fruit helped me understand the context. Already, I know that they’re saying and doing what they’re saying and doing because they want something.
Like I said, Ivy was hard to read. It was clear she wanted to scan the item, but why she wanted to scan it was uncertain. Was she trying to be helpful — like I hopefully assumed? She may have been being selfish, and she may even have been trying cut her bother out of the process . . . again. Unfortunately for me, none of her subsequent words or actions gave me any clarity. She also didn’t seem too emotional about the offer or Micah’s accusation.
Now, I could have addressed Ivy differently, but instead I turned my attention to Micah after I told Ivy she could scan the item. His words definitely betrayed that he wanted to be the one to scan the item, but the emotion in his voice showed me his motivation wasn’t pure. So, instead of focusing on Ivy, I told my son he needed to love his sister.
Why did I do this? Honestly, it was one of those Speed Parenting moments. I plan to do a whole episode all about Speed Parenting, but to sum it up, it’s trying to do your full parenting duty as quickly as possible without skipping any important steps or spouting Failure Philosophies.
Now, for you to fully understand why I said what I said, you’d have to know that Micah and I have had numerous discussions about what it means to love his sister, the fact that he repeatedly defaults to loving himself over his sister, what that means about his relationship with God, and how he can work to prefer her above himself.
If will also help you to realize that whereas many of my daughter’s sinful choices are impulsive and emotional, my son tends to respond with calculated angst. Not only that, but he’s older, and his struggles in this area have been getting worse as of late instead of better like Ivy’s attempts to prefer her brother above herself.
So, I brought my son’s mind back to the fact that he wasn’t loving his sister by trying to scan the item. This truth, of course, lead us to a quick reminder about how we cannot be loving God if we’re not loving our neighbor.
Now, that was an example of a lightweight issue handled with Speed Parenting. But, one of the things that makes Speed Parenting work is that you must have laid a foundation previously that your shortened admonishment can rest upon.
Had I not previously laid that foundation, I would have had another conversation altogether.
But before I give you that example, please understand that this is merely an abbreviated illustration. I tend to ask a lot of questions when working with people. Jesus did it, God the Father did it, and it’s so valuable. But the examples I’m going to give you are the kernel ideas I would try to help my child understand. By asking the right questions, presenting the right passages, and sharing the right Truth, my goal is for my child to understand the things I’m about to explain to you.
Here goes. In the illustration I just gave, assuming my observations about his fruit were accurate — which I would verify by asking appropriate questions — I would want my son to understand the following:
Micah, what you said and how you were feeling showed me that you wanted to scan the item more than you wanted your sister to scan it. And the fact that you wanted what you wanted says something about what you believe about God.
Now, I need to stop again for a second. I’ve mentioned this on the show a number of times, but it’s so important it bears repeating. Be VERY careful the moment you’re about to tell your child what they believe or why they did something. Yes, there are a number of sinful behaviors in Scripture that God tells us why we did what we did. The best example is in James 4 where God tells us that we fight because we’re selfish, spiritual idolaters. But, beyond the biblical examples, we must delicately use the Bible to walk through the possibilities with our child. There are many bad reasons for which he may have done what he did, and — to be honest — there were a couple possible quasi-good reasons too.
As an example, he may have been told by his mom last time that he would be able to scan the item this time. Though that doesn’t dismiss any selfish motivation on his part, it partially justifies his concern. However, that wasn’t the case in this scenario, so I’m going to move on.
He may have wanted to scan the item because he had an inaccurate understanding of fairness. It could have been because he wanted to unkindly take the opportunity to one-up his sister. It may have been that he hates it when his little sister gets to do grownup things when he doesn’t get to do them. He may have even seen a little girl at the next checkout station and subconsciously thought it'd be cool if she saw him checking out like a cool kid.
The point is, I probably don’t know. Now, as Micah’s father, I have a reaaaalllly good guess based off a ton of previous examples and experiences, but I’m never going to say, “Thus saith Dad” without at least verifying that my assumption is correct. And if my son were to genuinely tell me that my assumption was off-based, I would do my best to reevaluate.
So, let’s say that based off his modus operandi I suggest that he wanted what he wanted because he forgot the real definition of fairness. If God were fair and gave us what we deserve, we’d all be in hell. In fact, to quote Reliant K, “The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.”
Now, why am I reminding him of this? Well, he already knows that he wants what he wants because he believes what he believes. He already understands the correlation. We’ve covered it. So, when I remind him that God is infinitely good to us, and that anything we experience that’s better than hell is praiseworthy and should have us thanking Him, then I’m reminding him that he needs to believe what God says. I then also remind him that by thinking he deserved to scan the item and his sister didn’t, he was putting his desires above his sisters. As a loving brother, he should be trying to do whatever is in his sister’s best interest. He should be preferring her and trying to outdo her in honor. I could also remind him that humility is not thinking of ourselves at all, but instead looking to serve others for the glory of God.
And assuming we have the time and are some place I can use my Bible app, I would show him the passages that deal with the Truths we discussed.
Let me give you another one. This one is fresh. Just tonight my daughter went through her normal evening routine of not doing her evening routine the way she’s been taught. In addition to a number of various forms of disobedience, the straw that broke the camel’s back that she somehow managed to get toothpaste all over the bathroom drawer.
My wife confronted her and she melted into this flood of tears and — after being admonished by my wife to apologize for the disobedience that resulted in the toothpaste debacle — my eight year old proclaimed, “I’m not fit for this life!”
And then she unraveled all the reasons she’s a failure and how she’ll never be able to do right because she’s already tried it and fails every time.
The first thing I did was ask her to settle down and look at me. I then told her that in situations like this we have a choice to believe a lie or to believe the Truth. I asked her if she was an accident. She said “No.” I asked her if she believed God has a plan for her life. She said, “Yes.” Then I told her that Satan, the world, and her sinful flesh want her to believe that she’s “not fit for this life.” But to believe that would be to accept a lie.
Then she said, “But I can’t do it!” And there I agreed with her because that was the first honest thing she’s said. I told her, “You’re right, you can’t do it in your own power. You need to submit to the Holy Spirit and strive to obey in His power.” And we talked a little bit about the role the Spirit plays in her life.
I then finished up talking about the fact that her deepest issues are two-fold. One, she too often doesn’t think about what’s right until after she’s already done what’s wrong, and Two, she does this because she’s too used to living for her own comfort and pleasure. She’s unkind when she feels like it, but she’s quite often good just because she feels like it too. And when she sins, and it no longer feels good, she laments that she isn’t better. But instead of living for her own satisfaction, she needs to start deliberately living to please the Lord. That means she needs to know what God commands, believe it, and consciously work in the power of the Spirit to accomplish it. I reminded her that she can’t accidentally glorify God. If she’s not intentionally living to please Him, she’s living to please herself.
Alright, now let’s finish off with a beefier example. A few years back I had a young man in my house who was a Proverbs scoffer. He not only rejected Truth, but he frequently attacked and mocked it.
In situations like that, there’s a fine line between answering a fool accordion to his folly and not answering a fool according to his folly. Jesus Himself warns us not to cast our pearls before swine lest they trample the pearls, turn on us, and rend us to pieces.
But, the example I’m about to give is one of those times I believed it was wise to draw out the purposes of his heart. We’re going to call the boy Steve.
Steve had gotten himself in trouble for directly disobeying an order from my RA. That earned him demerits and a cardinal, and he was anticipating having to work through the consequences of his actions. Of course, he refused to accept responsibility because “The RA was just being stupid.” And he shared a whole litany of reasons that supposedly justified his disobedience — all of which were an attack on the character of my RA.
By the way, this was not only a good example of the Hypocritical Failure Philosophy, but also an example of terror tactics. You can learn more about those in episodes 61 and 37 respectively.
So, I started by trying to correct his Failure Philosophy by revealing the truth about his actions. “Steve, let’s just say that the RA really had done all of those things. Does that make it okay for you to disobey him.” Of course, Steve answered, “Yes.”
“Okay, Steve, so what do I get to do to you because of what you did to the RA?” He looked at me blankly, and I continue. “If you a student under the authority of the house staff get to disobey that authority because the authority is a jerk, what do I get to do to the student who’s being disrespectful? You can’t tell me that your punishing the RA because of his inconsistency is okay if you’re not going to be okay with me punishing you for your inconsistency.”
Generally, though they hate the reality, they can’t argue the logic.
Now, remember, I’m dealing with an unsaved boy. He doesn’t believe the truths of Scripture. So, there’s little I can do to counsel him.
I said, “Steve, you think you can live your life however you want, but God created this reality to conform to the plan He has for it. And just like for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction in science, the same is true for our choices. You react against the RA because of his actions, but the RA rightfully is reacting to your actions because what you did was wrong. There’s no place in this universe where physical bodies aren’t acting on each other the way God commanded them to. And the idea that you can do whatever you want is a delusion that doesn’t exist anywhere in the universe either.
“And this should be obvious to you because you’ve been trying to live your life for yourself this whole time and your life is filled with negative consequences from your parents, the authorities, your teachers, and now the people at Victory. God is trying to show you that His Word is true and that you need to believe it, because the ultimate consequence for trying to live your life your own way is eternal death in Hell.
“I love you too much to let that happen without trying to intervene. God has given us a way to have victory over our sinful, self-destructive choices. But it starts with believing His Word.”
Okay, so quick recap, when you parent using The Merest Christianity, you want to help your child see the connection between their fruit and their roots. They need to realize that the sinful choices they’re making stem from the fact that somewhere in their lives they’re calling God a liar. Each time we refuse to believe Him we’re attacking His character.
Now, there’s this tool I use almost on a daily basis in my counseling and job at Victory Academy for Boys. However, I don’t have permission to share it with you, and it’s not out there to purchase. It was created by the staff at The Wilds Christian Camp and Conference Center — it’s an absolutely amazing tool — but I want to get permission before I share it with you.
However, there are some other things you can do. The great thing about the tool is that it presents bad fruit and ties it directly to the character traits of God that your bad fruit attacks. It then presents a large number of Bible passages that explain and expand our understanding of that particular trait of God.
Here’s why this is so important. Too often we want our child to stop doing wrong and start doing right. In the same way that they’d change their clothes, we want them change their behavior. And the concept of putting off and putting on is biblical. In Ephesians 4 we’re introduced to that truth.
But what if your kids religiously took off their dirty clothes and put on clean clothes every day, but they never took a bath or shower?
Yeah, you see the problem. Now let’s listen to Ephesians 4:17-24
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!—
Now, there are a lot of familiar concepts in there. Paul is telling these people to stop doing things that are empty and mindless and that alienate us from God. He also talks about the fact that Hard Hearted people live this way. And then he continues . . .
“20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Then verses 25 through 32 illustrate this principle for us. I’ll give you an example: verse 25 says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Basically, you need to put off lying and put on Truth telling.
But we mustn’t rush past the “and . . . be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” That’s the bathing part before we put on the new clothes.
How do we do this? How do we guide our children in this? That’s the whole point of our Merest Christianity study. The goal is not merely to remove the bad fruit. If that were the only goal, you could forcibly remove the bad fruit every time you see. Every dictator and terrorist can use fear and force to scare people into submission.
But we want real heart change. So, we have to attend to the roots of this bad tree in front of us. Yes, I will share with my children how their sin was wicked and talk about the consequences, but I want to spend the majority of my time dealing with the character of God.
Recently I spoke with a young man who admitted to me that he believes in God and wants to go to heaven, but he doesn’t want God to control his life because he thinks he can do that fine by himself. The problem with those statements is not that he wants to run his own life. The problem is that he thinks he believes in God. However, if he actually believed in the God of the Bible, he would have no problem submitting to God’s control.
So, what I plan to do is collect a number of passages that speak to God’s sovereignty, love, power, and wisdom. I’m going to share these passages with him and simply call him to renew his mind. He will renew his mind by choosing to believe what the Bible says, or he can reject it. If he rejects it, calls God a liar, and continues attacking God’s sovereignty, there will be nothing I can do to help him put off his wicked fruit and put on Christ-honoring fruit. Even his “good deeds” will be rotten on the inside because he’ll be doing them only for himself.
So, in the end, I’m not only trying to help my child put off his sinful behavior, I’m helping him renew his mind by agreeing with God and believing what He says. I can only present my child with the Truth of the Bible; he will have to believe it.
So, whether it’s the tool from The Wilds or it’s your own study and knowledge of the Bible or it’s one of the systematic theology books we discussed last time, our goal should be to introduce them to a biblical understanding of God.
Now, there’s another tool you can use, and it’s helpful, but I think we’re missing an important step if we only utilize these tools. You can find books that categorize verses by topic. So, if my child is lying, I can find verses that talk about lying. That’s helpful, unless my kid doesn’t accept the Bible as an authority in his life.
She first needs to believe that God is Who He says He is before she will believe that she needs to live for Him by not lying. Because, worst case scenario — as I mentioned before — a child who doesn’t lie out of self-preservation or to impress someone is in a worse place than a liar. The liar will be caught, but it’s hard to parent the Rocky Hearted child who tells the Truth just because that’s what he’s always done. It’s hard for us parents to see that our child isn’t obeying to please the Lord, he’s obeying to save his hide.
I have to admit, I’m really sad this study if coming to a close. If I receive permission to share the tool from The Wilds, I’ll definitely do a whole episode teaching you how to use it. It’ll be nice to review this material.
I hope you go back and listen to these talks again. Every year I teach this material at least twice, and every time I’m reminded and challenged in my own life and parenting.
Also, please share these episodes with your friends. There isn’t a Christian in the world — parent or not — who doesn’t need this.
I’d like to thank Ray and Carolyn for being faithful supporters of TLP, and I’d like to encourage some of you to follow their example by clicking on the “5 Ways to Support TLP” link in the description.
And don’t forget about our episode notes at Taking Back the Family.
Well, we’re significantly into autumn, and Walmart’s been decorating for Halloween since the first of the month. And every year, for about as many candy-corn flavored pumpkins you find, you’ll read an article about whether or not Christians should allow their kids to Trick-or-Treat. Well, I’d like to chime in on this discussion, but — as you can imagine — I’d like to come at it from a slightly different angle. So join us next time for “Should My Kids Go Trick-Or-Treating? Is Not the Best Question.”
And we’d love to answer your question or tackle your topic on the air, so feel free to ask us anything at TeamTLP@TruthLoveParent.com
I know, parenting’s more challenging that you imagined. And — for most of us — we weren’t equipped to parent the way we should have been. But God is good, and we want to give you as much help as we can.
We hope this series on The Merest Christianity was a blessing, and — again — we pray you’ll share it with your friends so they too can found their parenting on the unchanging and ever sufficient Word of God.
Have a great week.
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