How do you differentiate your child from their sin nature? Today AMBrewster teaches Christian parents how to attack the sinful thoughts without attacking the person.
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Flesh and blood is not our enemy, and yet the Flesh is our greatest enemy? But how are we to fight “the Flesh” without making “the flesh and blood” our enemy?
My friends, this question has been weighing heavily on me for weeks and weeks now, and I pray that our discussion today — the result of much study — will revolutionize the way you parent and interact with your spouse.
But before we dive in, I want to invite you to hang out with me on social media. You can find me on Twitter @AMBrewster, on Instagram @TheBrewsterHome, and on LinkedIn. In fact, you can also play chess with me at chess.com. Just look for someone named “Enigmatic Ninja,” and you’ve found me.
I know . . . it’s a silly name. What can I say?
And don’t forget about our free episode notes and transcripts on our blog, TakingBackTheFamily.com.
Let’s get into our discussion.
By way of review . . .
1. Your children and your spouse are not your enemy. They may be sinning. They may be screaming at you or threatening you or refusing to eat their broccoli . . . but they are not the enemy, and if you make them the enemy, you’re sinning just as much as they are.
2. On the other hand, your family member’s sinful Flesh is the enemy. But how do we distinguish the two? How do we attack the enemy without attacking the ally?
3. We don’t use physical weapons against a spiritual enemy. We must use the spiritual weapon God has given us. It’s the only weapon that can differentiate our child or our spouse from the real problem.
4. Your family member’s sin nature is going to attack them on the fronts of the Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life. That’s where we need to meet the enemy.
So, how do we fight the flesh.
This discussion is a huge one, so I’m going to cover it over three episodes. It involves everything from attacking my own Flesh to targeting the Flesh of my children and spouse.
But I want to start this discussion by trying to — once and for all — helping us truly understand how we can target our child’s sinful flesh without targeting them as a person?
I mentioned earlier that I struggled finding a good physical metaphor for this physio-spiritual reality.
An image that people often use is cancer. You don’t attack the person who has cancer, you attack the mutated cells living inside them.
That right there is a good image. That communicates the right message. Everyone can picture loving on and serving and uniting with the patient as the cancerous cells are viscously and mercilessly attacked. It’s literally love and war being waged in the same person. And if the illustration stopped right there, I think it would be perfect.
Unfortunately, people take the metaphor too far. They start talking as if sin were a disease and they adopt a victim mentality where they’re not responsible for their poor choices. I’m a victim to my sin, and — like a cancer patient — there’s nothing I can do about it.
But that’s not biblical.
This next illustration is for all you sci-fi lovers out there. I think a good Star Trek illustration is the Borg. The Borg is a species that captures people and assimilates them into the Borg collective, a hive mind that removes all individuality from everyone and turns them into an all-too willing Borg drone.
But, when the individual is released from the Borg collective consciousness and allowed to experience individuality, they eventually appreciate not being part of the heartless, murderous species even though they struggle with the insecurity of no longer being part of the collective.
So, you’re traveling through space and this huge cube-shaped spacecraft puts a tractor beam on your ship and some Borg teleport over and start trying to assimilate your crew. You want to stop the Borg and protect yourself, but — at the same time — you realize that the person you’re about to blast with your phaser wouldn’t actually be trying to hurt you if they weren’t under the control of the hive mind. You don’t want to hurt the individual, you want to stop the hive mind. But how do you stop the mind without stopping the drone’s attached to the mind?
It’s the same thing I introduced earlier. Which is the worst enemy, the terrorist or the terrorist ideology? Every terrorist we kill removes one more terrorist from the equation. But if the terrorist ideology were able to be destroyed, no terrorists would ever exist. But can you attack the ideology without destroying the individuals?
But even this imagery fails to encapsulate the reality that is attacking the Sin Nature and not the person.
I think the struggle we face is multi-faceted. It’s affected by the fact that we’re so easily consumed by our physical reality that we forget about our spiritual reality. It’s affected by our abysmal lack of knowledge concerning the things of God. And those two points together show why this whole Spiritual War is so counter-intuitive. Anything we learn about it just feels backward.
For example: normally, when you shoot a firearm, you’re almost 100% certain of your target before ever raising the sights to your eye. You may be hunting small game or shooting skeet or plinking at cans or even defending yourself against an armed assailant, but never do you pick up a gun and say, “I’ll figure out what I’m shooting right before I pull the trigger.”
But I think we need that approach for this topic. I know, it sounds strange (and maybe even a little dangerous). But I believe we need this approach because — in the case of spiritual warfare — being intimately familiar with the nature of the weapon is the only thing that allows us to be able to see the target.
Imagine having a futuristic weapon that — when you pointed it at your spouse — you were able to see the 4th dimensional alien species which has taken up residence in your spouse’s chest cavity. Your human eye would never have been able to see it. You would never have known what the real problem was, but once you pick up the weapon, everything becomes clear.
The Weapon we’ve been discussing since Episode 361 is not some science fiction cannon. It’s the one and only spiritual weapon. We know it’s only given to born again believers. Christians receive access to it through prayer, and they find it in the pages of the Scriptures. In addition, the weapon is fashioned in righteousness, sighted through the Gospel, and fires Truth as we squeeze the trigger in faith.
So let me a create a scenario and explain how we won’t be able to attack the right enemy if we don’t pick up the weapon first.
I’ve told my child to finish eating his vegetables. The child, who’s been having a bad attitude all evening, tears up and starts throwing a fit. In this scenario, it’s very easy for me to be annoyed. You’re a five year old whose life is a cake walk. You have everything your heart could desire, you’re been spared the atrocities that are meted out on billions of children across the world. All I’ve asked is that you finish two and a half bites of green beans, and you’re acting like it’s the end of the world. You’re disobeying and dishonoring me — rolling up our relationship and throwing it the trash — because you can’t bring yourself to eat ten green beans? Not only that, but I still have to get your siblings in bed and hopefully spend a sniff of quality time with my spouse before I collapse in bed and repeat this madness again tomorrow.
That’s what my human, physical eyes can see when they look on this situation. Those are the conclusions to which my mind will come when it focuses merely on the physical problem. No doubt other people might come to different conclusions than I. Of course I hope I would have the self-control not to verbalize those conclusions, but I don’t want you to be too smug. I believe you’ve experienced similar sentiments in similar situations.
So once I’ve identified the target as my child — all I have to do is force their square peg into the round hole of my expectations — I must choose which weapon I’m going to use. And there are countless physical weapons I can bring to bear on the situation. But though each of them would target a facet of my child, none of them will target the right facet.
A violent parent with no self-control may smack the child across the face, attacking the body.
A sharp tongue may be used to whittle down the emotions.
A ridiculous over-consequence could be hurled out to overwhelm the child’s thinking so they know who’s boss.
Perhaps some promises of tasty treats may be employed to manipulate his immature desires.
An anger-competition could commence to duel it out in a battle of wills.
And yet absolutely none of those weapons targets the real problem . . . the spirit.
Okay, so same situation, only this time, as I watch my child begin to meltdown over his 2.5 helpings of green beans, I remember why I’m here. God put me into this child’s life to introduce him to God. Every parenting opportunity — no matter how hard it may be — is a beautiful opportunity to magnify Christ and glorify the Father.
I pray. “Dear God, give me wisdom and patience. Help me point my child to you.”
In my mind I open my parenting Bible — the passages I’ve committed to memory for situations just like this — and I remember the various biblical lessons I’ve taught my child concerning this very situation.
So I lift the spiritual weapon to my eye because I don’t yet know at what I’m really supposed to be aiming. As I stare at my child through the Gospel I see him for what he is. In this illustration he’s unsaved. His own comfort and satisfaction is the only thing he’s capable of worshipping.
It actually makes sense for him to act the way he does. He’s immature, foolish, and prone to zombie behavior. He can’t begin to understand the joy that comes from submitting to God. Of course, if I’m being honest, I too often fail to appreciate the joy of sacrificing my selfish desires for God’s will.
Using God’s Word, I can clearly see how my child has been tempted on the battleground of the Pride of Life and has lost. And though I may have missed that split-second battle as it was waging, I can clearly see the carnage left by the attack on his Lust of the Flesh. In fact, if my child is an unbeliever, I know that he didn’t even put up a fight. His behavior — coupled with God’s Word — makes it perfectly clear what’s happened. My son was “carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust . . . conceived, it [gave] birth to sin.” And — if left unchecked — that sin will eventually bring forth death: relational death and potentially eternal death.
As I continue to stare at the situation through the lens of the Gospel, I’m reminded of the lethal nature of sin and the fact that only Christ can give us life. I’m reminded of the fact that — even now — I’m impotent to do the right thing without the power of the Holy Spirit. I have nothing but worthless, destructive physical weapons outside of God’s grace. And it’s here and now that God wants to mature me as I point my child to his greatest need.
And it’s at that moment that I can see the enemy.
I see the foolish, sinful beliefs my child is trusting. I see how those beliefs have subconsciously lied to him and told him that whatever he gains from this behavior is better than having to choke down those green beans. I see how his desires have been tainted and how they have motivated his behavior, I see the self worship, and I see that — without God — he will never be able to live for anything more than his own perceived comfort.
And that’s it.
The real enemy can be traced back to the fact that — in that moment — my son sacrificed God’s Truth for his own puny little delusion. He leaned on his own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 both say “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” According to Proverbs 28:26, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” That’s what happened. He misplaced his trust.
That’s what I need to target: the speculation, the lofty opinion, the thought that raised itself up against the knowledge of God. That’s the enemy. That’s the fortress that needs to be destroyed by God’s spiritual weapon.
I’m not going to try to brow beat or nag my son. I’m not trying to use bad shame to make him feel worthless. I’m not trying to “show him who’s boss.” I’m not trying to scare him or manipulate him into submission.
I’m moving through the first three of the Parents 5 Jobs. As an Ambassador of God, I’ve taught my child the truth — he knows what’s right and what’s wrong — and now I have to help him see that he’s wrong. I need to help him understand his sin. I need to reinterpret the situation for him so that he understands how he’s rebelled against God. I need to lead him in confessing his sin, apologizing, and repenting.
I can see it so clearly through the lens of the Gospel.
All that’s left to do is righteously deliver the life-saving Truth to the situation . . . the divinely powerful knowledge of God that destroys fleshly delusions and Failure Philosophies and misplaced beliefs and takes every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
I pull the trigger in faith, trusting God to guide my words as I use His Word, and believing that His Word will not return void.
That conversation, my friends, is going to sound and look very different.
Can you see it now? Can you see how we shouldn’t be attacking our children, but — instead — how we do need to attack the sinful beliefs they have?
Next time we’re going to discuss Biblical Conflict Resolution. That’s the very heart of Spiritual Warfare that involves two or more people.
But for now I want to bring Galatians 5:13-25 to bear on this illustration. I’ll unpack it in reverse order and then read the passage.
We’re commanded not to make each other the enemy by being boastful, challenging each other, and envying each other.
And how can we do that? We belong to Christ and have therefore crucified the Flesh.
That means we can live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control instead of living in impurity, idolatry, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, and things like these.
But the life I just described is only accomplished by living in the Spirit so as not to carry out the deeds of the Flesh. Living in the Spirit allows me to truly love others and serve them because the alternative is nothing more than a physical war against my spiritual ally where we end up accomplishing nothing more than devouring each other.
And this plane of spiritual maturity makes us truly free.
Galatians 5:13-25, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.”
I hope the reality of the Spiritual War that your family is fighting right now is becoming clearer to you. I pray you’re seeing it how the Scriptures describe it.
However, there’s one more very important observation we need to discuss before we finish today’s episode.
At the beginning of my illustration I mentioned how a violent parent my strike out at their child. I also talked about inappropriate consequences. Then I talked about how the right approach is to address the child’s beliefs.
And, if we’re not careful, those comments may lead us to accept a very wrong understanding of how God wants us waging the Spiritual War. It all boils down to the fact that we are not purely physical or spiritual beings. We were created by God to exist in both dimensions.
So, the question we have to ask is “What if the spiritual weapon requires physical consequences?”
Too many parents believe that all physical consequences are sinful. They refer to this kind of parenting as “Peaceful Parenting.”
But as well-intentioned as they may be, even the most spiritual of these approaches misses the very important reality that God created physical consequences and commands authorities to use those physical consequences as part of the broader spiritual war.
Swinging in either extreme is wrong. All physical consequences without spiritual admonition is sin, but all spiritual admonition without any physical consequences may be lying to our children by leading them to believe that sin doesn’t have physical consequences.
Of course, we don’t have time to dive into a discussion about the Primary Consequences of sin and the Secondary Consequences of sin like groundings, spankings, and the like. However, we do have other episodes that address those topics.
I encourage you to listen to them for more detail concerning how God would have us use physical consequences as we rightly engage in spiritual warfare.
I know it can sound confusing, but it’s not.
Remember from where we derive our spiritual weapon. It comes from God’s Word. The spiritual weapon fires Truth designed to make things righteous. Therefore, if God’s Truth from His Word prescribes that physical consequence are something we’re to use to help our children become righteous . . . then that has to be included in the process.
Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom.”
Proverbs 23:13-14, “Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Sheol.”
Proverbs 20:30, “Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts.”
Now, some people like to argue, “All of those commands are from Proverbs.” And they say that it somehow excuses their need to obey them.
Anyway, so consider Hebrews 12:5-11, “‘MY son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves HE disciplines, And HE scourges every son whom HE receives.’ 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
We’ll discuss all of this in more detail on our next episode. We’ll talk about Biblical Conflict Resolution, how consequences play into that plan, and how all of this is part of a much larger biblical discussion.
If you or a family member needs specific help in fighting their spiritual war, please email us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or call us at (828) 423-0894.
If we want our children to grow up into Christ, we must parent in truth and love.
To that end, join us next time as we look at Biblical Conflict Resolution.
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