Is it good enough for your children to do what they’re told to do the way they’re told to do it? Nope. It’s not. Join AMBrewster as he shows Christian parents what God has to say about our motivation.
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Welcome back to our “Teach Your Children to Obey” series. So far we’ve talked about what they should do and how they should do it. If you missed those episodes, you should repent in sackcloth and ashes.
Okay, that was a little too extreme, but I would suggest listening to them.
And if this is your first time with us, the answer is, “Yes.” You never know what you’re going to get from me, but thankfully, we always know what we’re going to get from God. His Word is eternally relevant, needs no updating, is powerful, and effective.
God has everything we need for our parenting, and today’s topic is no different.
But before we dive into that, I wanted to share with you two new 5-star iTunes reviews.
The first is from Lisapaule who very succinctly says, “Great teaching. A must for parents!” Thank you so much! I pray we’ll continue being a must for parents, but — like I said — there’s only one way to do that, and that’s being honest and loving about God’s expectations. Please pray for me and TeamTLP that we remain submissive to His Truth.
And the second review comes from Same Page Parenting. And she writes, “My husband and I started listening a few months ago and adore so many things about this podcast. We are constantly learning and trying to do better in parenting and TLP helps SO much. One of our favorite things is how it keeps us on the same page. We will challenge each other to listen to a specific episode, we talk about it briefly after we both have (during our pillow talk at the end of super busy days — raising 6 kids in a blended family), and then we will work on it IN OUR PARENTING, WHILE WE ARE PARENTING. We both know the other is trying to work on what we listened to that week in TLP so we can support each other. We rarely get time to sit down together and plot and plan our parenting approaches but doing this keeps us in sync in our home! THANK YOU, TEAMTLP!”
And that my friends is the awesomeness of God! A guy working at a boarding home in the NorthWoods of Wisconsin learns something amazing from God’s Word that helps him fulfill the Lord’s will with his kids and the boys to whom he ministers. Then God burdens that man to publish a podcast to share those lessons. And then God connects families all over the world so they can learn the same things, be challenged in the same ways, and do it all to His honor and glory!
Thank you, Lord for the opportunities this show affords and how you’re using it in my life and in the lives of countless other families.
And if God has used Truth.Love.Parent. to be a blessing in you family, will you please leave us an iTunes review. I can’t tell you how encouraging they are to read, and I have no idea how God will use your review to connect us to other parents, but I look forward to watching it happen.
Alright, have you ever had your child ask why she needed to obey? Well, that’s a fantastic question, and we’d better be sure we give them the right answer because if we get it wrong, we may damn our kids.
Man — I know — that took a hardcore turn real quick. Well, that’s the importance of today’s topic. And no, I’m not over-exaggerating.
The past episodes of this series — admittedly — have been lightweights. The first two parts of our definition of biblical obedience were pretty simple and straightforward. Obedience is doing the right thing in the right way.
But today’s topic has significance far beyond the previous two.
So let’s discuss why our children should obey, how we can teach them this concept, and why it matters so much more than the previous two points.
Here’s the third part of our definition of biblical obedience:
3. Obedience is doing the right thing in the right way . . . for the right reason.
Last time I asked, “If your children only do the right thing in the right way, are they truly obeying? What if they do what you say the way you say it just so they can manipulate you into giving them what they want?”
I don’t think anyone is okay with that possibility, but I also know that we parents rarely address motivation because behavior seems to be our main focus.
And it makes sense for behavior to be the focus. We can see behavior. We can hear behavior. We can feel behavior. And sometimes we can even taste and smell it.
But motivation — they “why” behind the “what” — is far more difficult to sense. And, like I mentioned last time, sometimes just getting our kids to do the first part of the definition takes all our time and energy.
“Just do the right thing!”
But why your kids do what they do is the single most important issue in your parenting. It’s the very root of your children’s existence.
Now, those of you who’ve heard The Merest Christianity series know why your kids do what they do. And those of you who haven’t heard that series, please make a note to do so.
To be honest, I go back multiple times a year to refresh that material in my own mind. I use it all the time. There’s nothing more important for me, for my wife, for my kids, for the boys at Victory Academy, for their families, and for you and your family than the biblical truths we discuss in The Merest Christianity.
Why we do what we do will either damn us or save us.
It’s the hinge on which true salvation swings.
You see; it’s like this: As long as we’ve done a good job communicating God’s high biblical expectations, and as long as we’ve been consistent in that communication, our kids know when they disobey.
They know when they’re doing the wrong thing or not doing the right thing. They know when they’re doing it the wrong way or not doing it the right way.
But when it comes to motivation, even adults don’t understand why they do what they do! And children rarely have a clue!
And if we parents aren’t discussing it and teaching it and reminding of it and applying it to our kids’ lives, your kids may likely never truly obey even if they’re doing the right things in the right ways.
Let’s now turn to the Scriptures to understated the importance of motivation.
I want to start first with Mark 7:6 (the same truth is also quoted in Matthew 15:8). Jesus said to the crowd, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;”
It’s easy to see that when the Jews said the right things in the right way, God wasn’t glorified unless they did it with the right motivation of the heart.
Another bad example is King Saul in I Samuel 15. We keep coming back to this one because it’s such a wonderful terrible example of disobedience. We’ve already discussed his sin when we talked about obeying in the right way. He was told to wipe out the Amalekites. He kept the king alive and the best of the livestock. So he didn’t obey completely. But when he was confronted by Samuel — and after a whole lot of excuses — he said in verse 24, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”
Now, a simple but important observation is that if you don’t do the right thing or you don’t do it in the right way, you can know for certain it was done for the wrong reasons. Of course, Saul didn’t have the right motivation or he would have done exactly what God commanded the way He commanded it.
But this is a really hard issue. It took Saul awhile to figure why he did what he did. The harder issue for parents is discovering when our children have the wrong motivation even when they do the right thing in the right way.
We’ll get to that in a minute, but for now let’s look to Philippians 3:12 for the best possible motivation we could have for our obedience. Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
Paul’s motivation for obedience to God was God. Jesus had redeemed him! How could he not press on to maturity?
Hebrews gives us a second correct motivations for our behavior. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
This motivation can only grow out of the first. We should obedience because we love our authority. When we realize that our authority loves us and is doing what’s best for us because they’re keeping watch over our souls and will eventually have to give an account to God, it’s far easier to want to obey.
The third motivation is — in fact — very secondary, but the end of the verse points out plainly that all of this is beneficial for us.
We should obey first because of Jesus Christ, second because we love our authority, and third because we know that submission to God will be the best thing for us.
And I love Colossians 3:18-25 because it makes the first motivation super practical. “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.”
This list encapsulates all of our family relationships and lays the foundation for the basic things we should be doing within the family and how we should be doing it.
Husbands, love in a gentle way.
Parents, don’t provoke your children in a discouraging way.
And then he gives us the motivation.
“23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
We see the same two motivations we saw in Hebrews:
Now, I need to clarify that the secondary motivation in both of these passages is the benefit our obedience affords us. This motivation is only holy as it submits to the first. Christians can and should take joy in the reality that we will receive the desires of our hearts, but the reason this brings us joy is not that we’ll get everything we can selfishly imagine. We rejoice in it because we’re ultimately delighting ourselves in the Lord, and He is the desire of our hearts.
Our eternal inheritance is not about mansions and gold streets and the Tree of Life. The glory of our eternal Sabbath is that we will be with our Lord until the end of eternity!
My point is if the motivation of personal benefit is the sole motivation for obedience, then it’s not a good motivation. It can only function as a Christ-honoring motivation as we submit to God simply because we love Him and He’s worth it.
And I think this picture is most perfectly illustrated in Christ. In John 5:30 He proclaims what could sound like an impotent groan: “‘I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.’”
Of course, this humility was anything but weak, it was all-powerful. Yes, it takes great strength to pick up a piano, but it takes even more strength to gently set it down. Jesus had the greatest strength because — as God — He still set down His own will and submitted to the Father.
His motivation was as pure and perfect as it could possibly be, and He set the example for us.
In John 14:21 He tells us, “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”
Believe it or not, that’s the only motivation for true obedience.
Your children need to stay pure so that the world may know that they love the Father, not simply so they can enter marriage as a virgin. Atheists can do that.
Your kids need to eat their vegetables so that the world may know that they love the Father, not simply so they’ll grow up big and strong. Pagans can do that.
Your son needs to clean up his toys so that the world may know that he loves the Father, not merely because he needs a good work ethic. Even agnostics can do that.
Your children need to do their best in school so that the world may know that they love the Father, not simply so they can get into a good college. Godless academics can do that.
Your daughter needs to invite the “uncool” girls to her party so that the world may know that she loves the Father, not so that she can impress anyone. Unsaved people can do that.
“Okay, Aaron, I get what you mean, but they’re just kids. Isn’t that asking a lot?”
Um, no. That’s how life is supposed to work. If your children are born again, then they have access to the same Holy Spirit that you and I do. Sure, they don’t have as much experience and maturity, but — again — that’s why they have us.
And now I think it’s a good time to discuss why I started this episode in such an intense way. Do you remember when I said, “We’d better be sure we [correctly explain why motivation is so important] because if we get it wrong, we may damn our kids.”
Let me illustrate how: I work at a boarding home for at-risk teen boys. Every year I work with a wide array of needy guys. Some are defiant rebels. Some are blasphemous scorners. Some are ignorant fools. And some are really nice, obedient guys.
Now, I hope that last one surprised you.
But here’s the reality, it’s really easy to show a guy who’s entrenched in deep sin that he’s a sinner doing sinful things for sinful reasons. And when God works in his heart and he starts trying to prove to the world that he loves the Father, nearly everything changes.
But the guys who are generally obedient, put together, and good students, but who do all of those things out of self-worship, they have two giant roadblocks:
Do you have any idea how hard that is?
Imagine this — I’m assuming all of you eat — okay, so I’m going to do some magic here. Here I am waving my hands around and saying the magic word, “Substitutionary Dietum.” Now, think of the most overweight person you’ve ever heard of. Okay, the spell I’ve put on you will take the food you eat and will magically nourish them . . . not you. You’ll still taste the food, but it won’t affect you at all.
And this is important because your self-control is going to be what helps them lose weight. Alright. Are you with me?
I’m also assuming you’ve all been on diets before. Has that ever been easy?
Well, now you just have to do the same thing you did before. You need to show extreme self-control and only eat when you need to. You need to ignore those cravings and empty feelings at night. And even though the food you eat will have no affect on you — it won’t make you fat or sick — you still have to be on a diet so that the other person can lose weight.
Do you think that might be hard?
Oh, and don’t forget, you’ll still be able to taste the food.
So, there you are, and you know you could eat whatever you want and it will taste so good, and you don’t have to worry about the calories or anything. You could eat your favorite foods all day. You could open and close a buffet with no side effects.
I’d say — for most of us — that task would be impossible, and because I love you, I’m going to remove the magical curse.
But here’s the thing, so your child has gotten used to doing the right things in the right ways because that’s life. That’s what they know. It’s what they like. It makes them feel good. Whatever. But now they need to keep doing the same things in the same ways for different reasons.
They need to fight the nearly subconscious, habitual motivations. Every time they used to make their beds they did it because they liked the praise they received from you and they loved it when their siblings’ poor jobs were compared to theirs. So now when they make their bed — this nearly brainless act — they must consciously and decidedly break the habits of the past and choose to make their bed to the glory of God.
I’m not sure if you’re following me on this or if you’ve ever experienced this in your own life, but this has been my life-long struggle.
I was a really good, well-behaved, intelligent, hard-working rebel. I was proud of my “goodness.” It didn’t do it to please the Lord, I did it because I liked being in control.
Well, now I have to be a good, well-behaved, intelligent, hard-working servant of God who doesn’t do any of those things because of what I’ll get out of it. I need to do them so the world will see how much I love the Father.
So, how does our parenting on this matter damn our kids?
If I teach my children, or allow them to develop the misconception that obedience is merely doing the right things in the right ways, then I’ve lied to them — not only about how life works, but about how salvation works.
A child who does the right things for the wrong reasons is a child who may easily pray a sinners prayer because it’s the right thing to do, but not because they love God and want to submit to Him.
A child who does the right things in the right ways for the wrong reasons is a child who may devote his life to full-time Christian service because he likes doing good or because of the popularity. And when he stands before Christ and tells the God of Heaven about the miracles he performed and the prophecies he told, Jesus may look at him and say, “Depart from me, you worker of iniquity. I never knew you.”
We cannot afford to lie to our children about obedience. Our children’s lives hang in the balance.
How many pharisees are in hell after living a life of devotion to the Talmud? How many legalists are in Hell because they thought they needed to work their way to Heaven? How many men and women and children will go screaming into the Lake of Fire because they thought all they had to do was dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s”?
My friends, my dear friends, we need to help our children understand why they need to obey.
So, let’s finish with the most important question of the day: how can you teach your children to obey for the right reasons?
Well, 1. We need to teach them that why they do what they do is more important than what they do. They’re not going to get it on their own, and the world and Satan are going to lie to them at every turn.
Your children need to know that, “Obedience is doing the right things in the right way for the right reasons.” Don’t let there be any doubt.
2. We need to help them understand why they did what they did.
Now, we’ve talked about this quite a bit on various episodes. Again, we discussed it in The Merest Christianity. We talked about it in our Anti-Terrorism series that started in episode 37. We also applied it quite extensively in episode 45, “The Second Most Important Question You Need to Ask Your Kids.”
Helping our children understand why they do what they do is quite possibly one of the greatest responsibilities and greatest difficulties we parents will ever face.
“I don’t know,” has become the anthem of this generation. And for those who can put a finer point on their actions, most of them are happy to announce that they did it because it felt right.
No conscious effort.
It just felt like the right thing to do.
But if we can help them really see why they do what they do, we can open their eyes to the very fibers of their life. Everything will make sense. Cause and effect will be easy to predict.
If we don’t help them, they may easily become Rocky-Hearted or Thorny-Hearted. If you’re not familiar with these responses to Truth, you can listen to episodes 57 and 58 from “The Four Children” series.
But let me sum it up for you, a Rocky-Hearted child or a Thorny-Hearted child is excessively worse than having a Hard-Hearted child because at least the Hard-Hearted kid knows they’re rejecting God’s Truth.
But the Rocky and Thorny Hearts are deluded into thinking they’re okay. They believe they’re submitting to God’s Truth when there’s no fruit of repentance.
I don’t want that for my kids, and I don’t think you want that for yours.
So, the last question is, how do I help them figure out why they did what they did?
Well, it’s not a short answer, so once again I want to point you to The Merest Christianity. That series should be able to answer the majority of your questions.
Of course, you may always feel free to email us at counselor@TruthLoveParent.com.
But I think that if you ask the right questions you should be able to help your child determine their motivation. Generally speaking, the temptation is to make the least important thing preeminent. Their own comfort and pleasure motivates nearly all of what the average child does. Your children are no different. We’re no different.
And sometimes we’ve deluded ourselves into think our motivations are noble. For example, a child may “obey” because of how they feel for you. Again, that’s a great motivation if it’s secondary, because we learned in The Three Family Loves series that True Love is rooted in God. Too often, when we obey simply because we “love” the other person, there’s almost always a selfish, ulterior motive.
Now, listen, I don’t want to sound all fatalistic. I’ve simply seen the other side. I was that kid. I work with those kids. I counsel parents who didn’t realize their kids were obeying for those reasons until the damage had ravaged their families.
I don’t want that for you.
If your children are disobeying, it should be very easy to help them realize that they didn’t do what they did because they love the Lord and want everyone to know it. Their selfishness will come out.
Parent carefully, and they’ll see it.
And please share this episode with all your friends.
You can check out our episode notes linked below.
You can learn more about our listener supported podcast by clicking the “5 Ways to Support TLP” link.
And you can answer this one last question: Do you think your children, in and of themselves, are equipped to do the right things in the right ways for the right reasons?
The answer should be easy, but the correction is going to take some work, so please join us for our next episode called “How Can They Do It? | Teach Your Children to Obey, Part 4.”
There is hope for your child, but they’ll need a lot of help.
And we want to equip you to give them that help.
See you next time.
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