What is a good kid, and is your kid one of them? Today AMBrewster answers those question with the Word of God so you can be a vibrant Christian parent.
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Welcome back friends!
Today we plan to shed some biblical light on a gigantic cultural misconception.
But more on that in a minute.
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Okay, not back to the topic at hand.
Before moving to Victory Academy for boys I was the Dean of Students at a Christian school with over twelve hundred students. Of those students, every year I taught over 25% of them in my various classes. I also ran a summer day camp program with over six hundred campers in attendance. In addition, I directed various drama camps, taught the martial arts to over 100 students a year, and counseled multiple families.
I say all of this merely to give credence to the fact that I’ve interacted with a lot of families. And I can’t tell you how many times I heard a parent tell me their child was a “good child.”
Now, what’s very interesting to note is that the only parents who ever told me theirs was a “good child” were the parents who’s kids were in some sort of trouble. Whether at home or at school or at camp or all of the above, mom and dad found it very important to convince me that their child was really “good at heart.”
Now, I understand what they were doing. They meant well. But ideas have consequences, and we’re going to explore the idea of a “good kid” as well as discuss the consequences that come from inappropriate ideas about goodness.
Hang on. Here we go.
First, what is good?
Philosophers have battled over this for millennia, and I don’t intend to spend too much time on this point.
Suffice it to say, the concept of good and right and just cannot exist without God. Atheist professors would scoff at my claim; they would argue that “right” is merely cultural construct. But if goodness is simply whatever the masses believe, then it’s changeable, inconsistent, and therefore — by definition — not good.
Merriam-Webster defines “good” as “virtuous, right, commendable.” And it defines “right” as “being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper: conforming to facts or truth.”
If something is factual or true, it’s unchanging. The world struggles with this claim as well. Which is why they reduce facts and truth and a righteous standard to a subjective notion.
In Mark 10:18 Jesus tells us, “No one is good except God alone.”
This is why good is — in fact — an objective and consistent standard.
So, it’s true, if God didn’t exist, the definition of goodness would be up to every individual on the planet. Likely, people who agreed on what goodness is would band together, but the moment they were scattered or perished form the earth, the accepted ideas concerning good and evil would change. Therefore, the whole structure of the concept of good would cease to exist and everyone would do what was right in their own eyes.
Alright, so we understand that good can’t really even exist without God. But does merely Christian-religious-spiritual-moral-biblical-looking behavior mean we’re actually being good?
Let’s take a little trip down flashback lane. If you haven’t listened to the following episodes, you really should as all our content on TLP is evergreen and they’re important pieces to this issue.
First, in episode 9 we talked about the fact that it only takes a generation to die. We pass on our sin nature to our kids, but they don’t inherit our relationship with God.
Second, in episode 45 we discussed the second most important question you need to ask your kids. It’s not enough to ask, “Do you have a relationship with God?” We need to take it a step further and ask, “How do you know you have a relationship with God?”
Third, in the short emotions and parenting series in episodes 32-34 we observed that following your heart is dangerous because our hearts are wicked and deceitful. They lie to us. We feel one thing while the reality is often the exact opposite.
And this is so vital to understand because of what we talked about in The Four Children series starting in episode 55. During that study we learned that the Rocky-Hearted Child and the Thorny-Hearted Child both look like they have spiritual life, but they don’t. And we discovered that a Rocky-Hearted Child can go years living in the delusion that they have a relationship with God simply because they do “good things.” And why shouldn’t they think that? Even when they’ve fallen into habitual sin, they’re parents keep reminding them and everyone else that they prayed a prayer and that deep inside they have a “good heart.”
Then in episode 92, “Christian Parenting 101,” we saw that God wants us to do more than simply train our children’s minds with biblical jargon. We need to parent their actual hearts.
And most recently in our Merest Christianity series, we learned that we do what we do because we believe what we believe. When we sin it’s because we’ve chosen to attack God’s character and call Him a liar. And the same goes for our kids.
If good is defined as conformity to the light of Christ, but we’re living in the darkness of sin and rebellion, we cannot be considered good. Even if our outward actions seem moral, if our inward motivation betray sinful intentions, we’re not being good.
And now that we’ve come to the end of our extended flashback, this is where I want to spend the rest of our time.
God is good. Righteousness is genuine goodness in line with the character of God. But righteous-looking behavior that’s not motivated by truly righteous intentions cannot be considered good.
And this is the limitation of secular parenting.
I Samuel 16:7 says, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” All our human eyes can perceive are these little kids who are cute and cuddly and wonderful. And even though they’re little pagans, we so often mine such abundant joy from their lives we can’t help but think of them as innocent and good and pure.
But when they get older it’s hard for some of us to allow ourselves to think of our children as being “bad.” They rarely doing bad things all the time, and when they are being sensitive and caring, it looks so good.
But our frailty blinds us the realities of the heart.
That’s why we need to be the Ambassador Parents from episode 26. We’re not supposed to parent for our own purposes and in our own power. And in order to be good Ambassadors for God, He’s given us a divine tool that supercharges our parenting with His purposes and power.
And that tool is the Bible. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” When we use the Bible faithfully and accurately, it helps us guide our children into an honest understanding of the thoughts and intentions of their hearts. We can help them truly realize why they did what they did. We can unveil their deceptive beliefs, their broken worldview, and their Failure Philosophies that bred their actions.
Now, we’ve talked a lot about this, but let me give you one example. Frequently at Victory Academy for Boys, we’ll have guys experience these seemingly spiritual events in their lives. They appear to turn a spiritual corner and their behavior is renovated. This typically will last anywhere from a week to a month, and then — before your eyes — they’re right back to all the old vitriol and hatred and rebellion.
Why does this happen?
Because there’s this thing called Common Grace that enables us to exhibit certain amounts of self-control. We can often do spiritual looking things even though we’re completely incapable of doing it for the right reasons. Most of the time, guys like this try to renovate their lives in their own power because they’re tired of getting in trouble. Sometimes they have warm and mushy feelings when they do “good things” and they attribute it to some sort of experiential spirituality. Sometimes the whole thing is an act to manipulate everyone into thinking they’re reformed.
So, when guys have these sudden and miraculous changes of heart — almost always after earning some consequences because of their sinful actions — I admonish them. I tell them that I’m not God, and that I can’t see their heart, but I also basically tell them what I just told you. I explain that some people try to do the right things for the wrong reasons. I then tell them that because I love them, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they have the right motivation, but that the proof will be in the pudding. Time will tell if they were genuine, or if they were just looking good on the outside. And I make sure to use God’s Word like a giant search light in their lives. I try to keep the high biblical expectations so that if they’re just faking it in their own power, they will be exposed due to the testing that comes from the Word.
So, to finish up, we need to answer the questions, “What is a good kid?” and “Is your child a good kid?”
First, a good kid is a child who genuinely, biblically obeys God. We have an upcoming episode all about what true obedience is and how to teach it to your children. But, for now, obedience is doing the right things for the right reasons.
Moral behavior does not make a child good. Christ-honoring character makes a child good. But this goodness is not their own. It’s a gift of God and product of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. It’s not just what your child does, it’s why they do it.
So, is your child a good kid?
That’s a question I can’t answer. But the Bible can. You need to use the perfect Scriptures to draw out the purposes of your child’s heart. If we mix Proverbs 20:5 with Hebrews 4:12 and give it a parenting twist, we get something like this: “The purpose in a [child’s] heart is like deep water, but a [parent] of understanding will draw it out using the word of God which is a [discerner of] the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Let me be painfully honest with you right now. I don’t much care about the secular fool’s gold called self-esteem. That’s a bigger topic for a later time, but I can tell you this: I don’t mislead my children by pandering to the delusion that they need to believe the best of themselves. I want my children to have a biblically accurate view of their hearts.
Listen, without the grace of God actively at work in my life I am a wicked, sinful, selfish, vile, disgusting, awful, putrid, detestable, depraved, and idolatrous man. Anything good in me is a work of the Trinity, and all the rest is me — plain and sinful.
Romans 3:10-12 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” This is not a very pleasant or pretty view of ourselves.
But it is true of me and it is true of my children. For this reason, I’m not cavalier with the word good in my house. I want my children to understand what true goodness is. They shouldn’t be puffed up with their own false concept of moral superiority. That attitude is wicked in the eyes of God. Men have historically done what was right in their own eyes and earned God’s wrath because of such attitudes.
But this accurate view of our sinfulness allows the beauty of the Gospel to shine. We need to be honest with ourselves and our kids. We need to parent them to know the One Who is eternally good, to have a relationship with Him, and to grow in His goodness.
Listen, if your kids are inherently good, they don’t need God.
But the reality is that none of us are good unless we’re glorifying our God in His strength. And then our goodness is all about Him anyway.
Now, our next episode is not a continuation of this episode, but it explains why episodes like this are so necessary. Your kids have information entering their minds all day long, and — like the rest of us — they rarely interpret it correctly in the light of God’s revealed Truth. That’s why they need an interpreter.
Our next show is called “Your Kids Need an Interpreter | helping your children navigate the world’s delusion.”
We don’t want our children thinking they’re good enough without God. And the world is peaching that to them even now. So, they’re going to need you, mom and dad, to understand the Truth of God so they can believe it and reject the world’s lies.
See you next time.
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