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Okay, so today’s title is” Experiential Families Versus Transformational Families,” and I think it will piggy-back our last series really well.
Unless you take some time to really consider anthropology or philosophy, I think sometimes we don’t think about why we as people do what we do.
We have a series all about that. If you’ve never heard it before, it will definitely be a blessing to you and your parenting. I’ll link that series in the description of this episode as well.
So, let’s take a moment to really think about human relationships within the westernized world.
Now, I know we have a lot of listeners from South American and Africa and the Middle East . . . my intention is not to exclude you in any way in this discussion, but my personal study has all taken place within an American context. And westernized culture even in Europe and Australia and Canada has evolved along similar lines.
After listening to my experiences, perhaps you’ll discover your culture is identical to mine. I’d love to hear from you if you live in a different country but our relational experiences are similar. You can reach me at TeamTLP@TruthLoveParent.com.
But here in America in particular I’ve found that relationships that are non-romantic and non-spiritual come about in two main ways — there is a third, but we’ll talk about that in a minute:
1. At least one of the individuals views the other as someone who will benefit them.
2. The individuals form a bond over shared experiences.
I know it sounds cynical, and I’m not one to do that, but even when you toss romantic relationships in there, often they grow from one or both of those roots.
Now, I know that makes it sound like there isn’t an even remotely pure relationship out there, but we have to find our moorings in Christ, and — according to the Bible — anyone not living and loving with God as their center — is living for self, which makes everything they do — including relationships — selfish . . . no matter how otherwise noble or sweet they may seem.
And we have a ton episodes that study the biblical understanding of sin and the effect it has on us: some of my favorites are “What is Your Child’s Sin?, “Parenting a Zombie,” and “Your Child's Bungee | the nature of sin and parenting.”
But that’s how sin works. It cheapens and ruins everything.
So, if we take that natural human instinct, and if we detach it from the natural affection with which we’re born, all you have is people relating based off of personal gain.
Even the shared-experiences crowd is fundamentally motivated by how the other person makes them feel. So, we’re back to having relationships because of how it benefits us.
If we’re being honest, many of us are married for those reasons. Sure, by God’s grace, we’ve stayed married for many different and far better reasons, but that’s how it started.
“Well, Aaron, I can think of another reason people relate to each other.”
Yes, there is another. If we’re discussing secular relationships, there is a third category: 3. One of the individuals believes he can influence the other to change for the better.
I believe this is a significant reason people decide to be teachers. They have an altruistic drive to better another’s life by giving them the information they need to succeed.
Now, we can’t be naive enough to think that an unbeliever is going to do this for purely selfless reasons. The carnal man is nothing but a self-worshipping machine, and even believers will struggle with that until the day they die.
But I will say that this third category of relating to people is likely the most inadvertently biblical version we’ve discussed thus far.
Is it wrong to form relationships based off shared experiences? No, not necessarily, but we don’t see that positively illustrated in Scripture. However, we do see tons of examples of people who related with others because they wanted to see the other people in the relationship change.
We’re going to look at some examples shortly, but I want to switch tracks.
I want to ditch the secular look at relationships and make it really personal. Let’s talk about the relationship you’re trying to engender with your children, and let’s assume that you’re born again.
Why do you feel for them the way you feel? Why do you do for them? Really, why do you love them? Why did you like to hang out with them?
I think there are a lot of a priori assumptions we bring to parenting. When they’re babies, we’ve already convinced ourselves that it would be immoral not to be desperately in love with them (and we secretly battle within ourselves when we don’t). We also acknowledge that — as the parent — you’re responsible for their everything. And most of us are looking forward to hanging out with the young person into whom we’re hoping this infant is going to grow.
I know; I know what you’re thinking. Aaron, the cynicism is really overwhelming right now.
That’s not my intention. What I’m trying to do is get us to be honest with ourselves. Why do we do what we do? Most of us have probably never really thought about what our relationship with our kids is. That’s why it’s so easy to view them as something that will benefit us.
“As long as I have them, they may as well make me look good.”
“They can give me grandchildren.”
“They can get a good job and care for me in my old age.”
And often we’re tempted to relate to them based off shared experiences. First, we do this because parenting books tell us to, but second we do it because it’s fun . . . and that’s how human nature functions.
We see this too often as well. Why do parents play favorites? Often their “favorite kid” is the one that is the most like them.
By the way, we have an episode called “A Parenting Game You Absolutely Must Not Play.” If you have a “favorite child,” please listen to that episode.
It’s the child that is nothing like us and doesn’t like our hobbies and doesn’t think like us with whom we have a hard time relating.
So, let me just come out and say that instead of continuing the insanity of trying to build relationships with our kids based off of shared hobbies, likes, activities, and fads, we need to find a better paradigm.
Now, before I’m misunderstood, please hear me. I love doing fun things with my kids. They both just got parts in a play at our community theater. Their mom and I are total theater bums; we love it. So, yes, we encourage our kids to enjoy the things we love.
It’s also great to go on vacation and have dates with your kids and play games and all of that. That’s fantastic!
But, we’re not talking about the fun that two people who love each other have. We’re talking about grounding and rooting our relationships in something that matters more than a shared love for theater.
Do you really want the strongest bond of your relationship with your kid to be your music preferences or love of dance or favorite sports team?
No, I’m pretty sure most of you want something far more substantial to be at the core of your relationship with your kids.
So, let’s take the time we have remaining and talk about how Jesus related to people.
I’m going to suggest — and here’s the premise of today’s show — instead of building relationships with our kids based off of shared hobbies, likes, activities, and fads, our relationships should be built on discipleship, sharpening, modeling, learning, growing, and transparency.
Do you remember that third relational model? One of the individuals believes he can influence the other to change for the better? If we redeem that concept, stripping it of the world’s paltry goals, we will see that this is how God intended parents to relate to their kids.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Hebrews 12:7, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”
God’s plan is that we and our children not simply be older, more mature version of ourselves. No, Romans 12:2 reads, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
And II Corinthians 3:18 tells us what that transformation looks like, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Romans 8:28-29 tells the same thing when it says: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
God desires our conformity to the image of Christ so much that He is at work in this world to use absolutely every single thing we will ever encounter to play a part in that transformation process.
Let’s finish off today by considering Jesus’ earthly relationships and seeing how we can pattern our parenting after His in an attempt to be less experiential and more transformational.
First, we have to acknowledge that Jesus had a lot of experiences with His disciples. They did and witnessed many amazing, miraculous things.
But those experiences were not an end in themselves. They were for a greater purpose . . . that they would better know Him and become like Him. Consider Matthew 4:18-19: Jesus sees Peter and his brother Andrew and what does He say to them? “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
It wasn’t just a call to do something: “Follow me and fish for men.”
It was a call to become something: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” That one statement has the entire Gospel wrapped up in it.
First, we need to submit to God’s call.
Second, we need to deny ourselves, take up His cross, and follow Him through obedience.
Third, we need to submit to Him as He changes us into His own image.
And fourth we need to continue that process as we bring others to Him so they can become fishers of men.
Jesus is calling us into a transformational relationship with Him so that — in part — we can help our children have a transformational relationship with Him. And we’ll never do that well if our relationships with our kids are merely experiential.
So, let’s finish by considering an account that’s found in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9:28. We’re going to use the Luke passage because it provides the most detail, but we’re going to finish the account by reading the last verse of the Matthew passage because it includes a beautiful detail we need to consider.
And as we work through the passage, we’re going to pull out practical applications for our parenting.
Let’s start: Luke 9:28-35 . . .
“Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.”
Okay, so Jesus is taking His three closest disciples, His inner circle, to have an experience — they’re going to pray. This was a common experience for Jesus and the disciples, and we’re going to see they struggled during this exercise just like you might imagine your children would struggle.
Now, I’m not saying that to have a transformation relationship with your kids that you need to take them up on a mountain to pray, but I will say that if prayer is not a regular part of your family’s relationships then it’s not going to be transformational.
“Wait a minute, Aaron. Listen, you’ve said a lot of cutting things today, but this is it. I teach my kids the Bible . . . how can you suggest that relationship isn’t transformational just because we don’t pray together?”
I understand your feelings, I do, but we need to be honest. If I taught you everything I knew about my wife, but you never saw me talking to her, I never introduced you to her so you could have a conversation with her, how strong do you think your relationship with her would be, and do you really think our Johanna-classes would be a sufficient foundation for yours and my transformational relationship?
How will our children believe that God is presently relational if we only ever talk about Him like we talk about George Washington or Gandhi? But if our kids see that God is real to us, and we talk with Him, and we invite our kids to interact with Him, that’s the beginning of a transformational relationship.
1. Genuinely Transformational Relationships happen within the context of a relationship with God.
Here we see Jesus, God Himself, starting this extremely transformational endeavor by talking to God the Father.
Moving on . . . “And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.”
Okay, what’s going on here? Well, the disciples have since fallen asleep (as they are want to do during important times in Jesus’ life) and Jesus gives them a glimpse into His Godhood.
They awake and see Jesus’ glory shining through His mortal flesh and with Him are the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament: Moses and Elijah. Now, there is so much here we could unpack. Why Moses and Elijah?
Suffice it to say that the Father’s purpose here was to root this transformational relationship on something far greater that a mere experience. He was going to root it in a person.
Jesus Christ was showing Himself in as much divine grandeur as a mortal eye could bear to see, and Moses and Elijah are heard having a conversation with Jesus about His impending death, burial, and resurrection . .. the very consummation of His salvific act.
If you want to have a transformational relationship with your kids, then the first and most important thing to do is help them enter into a saving relationship with God. Become a fisher of your children.
We have a lot of episodes about Evangelism Parenting, so I won’t take any more time with that. Please check out the description for a bunch of those episodes.
2. Genuinely Transformational Relationships happen within the context of an accurate knowledge of Christ.
No transformation can occur outside of an accurate understanding of Who Jesus is.
II Peter 1:3-4, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.”
Your kids will never transform into the men and women God created them to be outside of an intimate knowledge of Christ.
I think the application here is pretty predictable. We need to take seriously our parenting responsibility to teach our kids God’s Word.
And there are so many ways to do this: family devotions, talks on the bed, small groups, Bible studies. Let’s be honest, we don’t need to be creative, we just need to be intentional.
But let’s grapple with the fact that just relating within a context of a relationship with God and the knowledge of Christ isn’t always going to magically mature our kids.
Let’s listen to what happened on that mountain so long ago.
“And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.”
Here we have Peter doing two things at which he was very practiced: 1. He’s jumping to a conclusion that completely misses the point, and 2. He’s preparing to put his foot in his mouth.
3. Expect your children to desire experiential relationships over the transformational relationships.
Peter wanted to build three tents so he and the other guys could meet some of their greatest heroes . . . and Jesus too.
Peter wanted the celebrities. He wanted the conversations. He had the questions. He wanted the sleepover.
Not only that, but don’t forget that these guys had already fallen asleep. They weren’t too thrilled about the experience so far, but they were prepared to go all out when the light show and celebrities get involved.
Our kids are immature. Fishing and soccer and roller coasters and food and crafts and music and watching movies are low investment and really fun as long as they have the desire. But transformation requires deep spiritual intimacy and transparency and teaching and reproof and counseling and training.
“Can’t we just get some ice cream?”
But God the Father has something more important going on, and He doesn’t even let Peter finish his statement. He needed to reprove Peter and reinterpret this situation for Him. The passage goes on to say . . .
“As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
4. When your children miss the transformational for the experiential, patiently and lovingly point them back to Christ.
You’ll have to do this when your elementary schooler asks “Why do we have to go to church every week?” or “Why do we always have those people over to our house?” Or when your teen asks “Why do we have to do family devotions all the time? My friends’ parents never do that.”
And there are all the cute answers. “Well, they’re not the Brewsters,” or “They’re not my kid,” or “Their parents must not love Jesus as much as we do,” or our favorite when we really have no idea why we do what we do, “Because I said so.”
And all of those reasons are garbage.
What we need to do is point them back to Christ. And that’s going to look and sound different in nearly every situation, but it’s going to involve wrapping back around to the knowledge of Christ that gives us everything we need for life and godliness so we can become partakers of His divine nature.
And when the disciples heard the voice of God the Father, they finally had a correct response. Matthew 17:6-8 ends this account with, “When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”
5. Genuinely Transformational Relationships start and end with Jesus, and they result in people being transformed into the image of Jesus.
Did these disciples get it? I don’t know. But I love how Jesus leans over, lifts their chins so-to-say, beckons them to fearlessly accompany Him, and there was nothing else in their view. It was only Jesus.
I don’t know about James and John, but I do believe that Peter was not yet even born again at this time. That would come later, but each of these men matured quite a bit over the years as they better understood their Lord. And God used them in powerful ways to bring many other to Him.
That is the joy and crown of Transformational Relationships.
Let’s close by listening to what Paul has to say about such relationships
Of the Romans he writes, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world . . . . Without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.”
Of Philemon he writes, “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”
And of the Philippians he writes, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ . . . . For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
That is the fruit and joy of a Transformational Relationship!
By all means, play family games, go on vacation, watch your movies, eat your meals, attend your sporting events . . . but don’t be distracted from the most glorious relationship God wants you to have with your kids.
Do you want to be a huge blessing to your friends? Share this episode with them, and then encourage them to join us next time for a unique episode called “Sun Tzu’s 5 Dangerous Faults of a General.” I think you’re all going to like it.
My friends, we have a deep and significant and glorious calling. I hope we’re learning a lot in our time together about how to realize that awesome parental calling, so I hope to see you next time.
Have a great day!
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