TLP 98: Why Do Your Children Want What They Want? | The Merest Christianity, Part 4
Is it possible there’s something spiritually revealing behind why your children want what they want? Join AMBrewster today as he unwraps the Truth behind why we want what we want.
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Welcome back to our Merest Christianity study. I’m so glad you’re sticking with me. I know we’ve been discussing hard concepts, but the Truth of God sets us free.
Living in a delusion doesn’t actually make life easier, it simply requires us to lie to ourselves about the reality of life. That’s why we feel like we need to blame everything else in our lives for the difficulties we face.
I’m responsible for my sinful actions, words, and feelings because I want to do them. That makes me culpable. The same goes for you, your spouse, and your kids. We must not blame our sinful choices on anyone or anything else.
So, with that said, I’m really excited about today. Today we’re going to discover The Merest Christianity, and then we’re going to apply that Truth in the last two episodes — which will culminate on our 100th episode.
I know — it’s all so exciting. So, let’s begin
The question we’re tackling today is “Why do you want what you want?” and by extension, “Why do you children what what they want?”
Why does she want to tattle on her brother? Why does he want to take things that don’t belong to him? Why does she want to refuse to eat? Why does he want to text inappropriate pictures? Why does she want to throw her toys? Why does he not want to use the potty but instead want to hide in a corner? Why do your children want to keep you at arms length?
Why do you want what you want?
I hope you’ve thought about it? Remember, we want this study to be as inductive as possible.
So, since you can’t give me verbal feedback, let me see if I can answer some of your conclusions.
Some people believe that desires are related to our emotions. Many dictionaries define “desires” as something “wished for.” But does that make them an emotion. I don’t believe so. Last time we discussed that emotions are chemical reactions physical stimuli. However, I believe desires are a reactions to mental stimuli.
At the end of our last show I made the observation that there’s a unique relationship between our desires and thoughts. Consider this: Your daughter sees a twenty dollar bill sticking out of someone’s wallet. She thinks, “Wow, I could use some extra money.” That thought turns into, “I really wish I had that money.” Those thoughts quickly spawn various ways she could take the money without being caught and countless other ways she can excuse her actions. In hind sight, those thoughts will even turn themselves into ways of covering her tracks if someone were to point a finger at her. In the end she chose to steal the money because she wanted to. She wanted to steal the money because of her thought process. And — as we’ve already seen — it’s just like Eve in Genesis 3. She contemplated all the qualities of the fruit, she considered the perceived benefits and she chose to take the fruit. The more we think about something the more we want it.
Here’s an interesting example I encounter often at Victory Academy for Boys. I meet kids all the time who don’t want to act like their parents. But these young people end up thinking about not wanting to be like their parents so much that they inevitably become exactly what they didn’t want to be in the first place. Despite the fact that they didn’t want to become like their parents, the simple process of dwelling on the things in their parents they didn’t like became a formative part of their development.
So, I think that if we want to define desires, I believe a better definition than “something wished for” is “desires are thoughts that have moved from contemplation to longing.”
But I don’t think we can rightfully say that we want what we want because we think what we think. Honestly, I believe desires are themselves thoughts. Though they may be a different kind of thought, they’re still just mental machinations.
So, why do we do what we do?
Let’s ponder this a little more. Consider these questions:
If you lived in the 1400’s would you have chosen to sail with Columbus to the New World? What would your thoughts be on daily bathing if you lived a few hundred years ago? If you were an unsaved high schooler in the public schools would you think that Darwinian Evolution is accurate science? If you were born into a Muslim family, what religion would you likely subscribe to? Now, why would you think those things?
Do you have an answer yet?
Allow me to unfold my favorite object lesson. Now, I wish you could see this, but you’re going to have to do your best to picture this in your mind. If you’re doing something else right now like working out or cooking, I suggest you pause it just for a moment.
I done this illustration for a new group of people at least once a year every year since 2007. But one of my favorite times was in 2013. At the time I was teaching Bible at Schaumburg Christian School to a group of about one hundred junior highers. For the illustration I asked for two volunteers, and I chose George and Kelly from the sea of hands. I also had a lady from our school health office there.
On a table at the front of the class I stuck a wad of silly putty onto the table and then took a knife with a five inch blade and stuck the bottom into the silly putty so that it was facing straight up. I then covered it with a brown paper bag. I also set out two other brown paper bags. Had you not known where the knife was, you wouldn’t have been able to figure it out.
I then explained that under cover of a blanket I brought, Mrs. Lewis from the health office was going to decide where we wanted to put the knife. She could put it under the left bag, the middle bag, or the right bad. She was free to put it where she wants, and she would be the only one who knew where the knife was.
So, when she finished, took her seat, and the blanket was removed, all any of us could see were the three brown paper bags sitting upside down on the table.
I then explained that for the illustration George was going to represent God and Kelly would represent mankind. I then reviewed with them many of the things we studied that year. We knew that God was all knowing. He was also all loving, all holy, and all wise. Therefore, not only did God know where the knife was, but He would never ask us to do anything that would be bad for us because He promises to work out all things for our greatest good if we love Him and are participating in His plan to conform us to the image of Christ.
And we know all that, but often times God asks us to do things that are uncomfortable because they go against our natural inclinations. I asked the kids to give me examples of this from their lives, but for us parents, God wants us to be patient with our kids. He wants us to make the Bible the cornerstone of our family interactions. He wants us to communicate kindly at all times. Needless to say, these aren’t always easy or comfortable.
So, I turned to George and said, “Alright, since you’re God, you obviously know where the knife is, but I’d like to tell me one place the knife isn’t.” You can imagine George’s expression. Eventually he told me with a significant amount go concern in his voice that he though the knife wasn’t under the far right bag. I reminded him that of course he knew. I then instructed Kelly that because God is Who He says He is, we must obey Him. So I instructed George to tell Kelly she needed to extend her arm, open her hand, and as strong as she could, she needed to smash the far right bag with the palm of her hand.
Kelly wasn't too pleased with the idea.
So I told her I’d help. I told her she could imagine I was the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t going to force her, but I would help her do her best. So, she flattened her palm, and with my hand around her wrist, she pulled back and smashed the bag . . . which of course was empty. The whole room heaved a collective sigh.
But then I explained there are things God commands us to do that go beyond uncomfortable. For the sake of today’s audience, let me name a few. How about disciplining our children? It’s not only uncomfortable, but in some situations it’s really, really hard. What about evangelizing your unsaved kids? Then there’s submitting to your spouse when he or she wants to be intimate and you’re exhausted.
Of course, the students didn’t name things like that, but after I heard their list I turned to George and asked him where the knife was not. I told him that most people would have a 50/50 chance, but since he’s God, he knows exactly where the knife isn’t. Strangely enough, George was very hesitant to commit to an answer, but eventually I pulled from him that he thought the knife wasn’t under the middle bag. And then I told Kelly, as before, she needed to obey God’s commands, and I instructed George to give Kelly the same command as before.
Amazingly enough, Kelly did a great job all by herself this time. Perhaps it was the first attempt worked out so well. But she smashed the bag revealing that George was right again. The whole room erupted in applause. I gave George a high-five and found that his palms were soaking wet. The kid was seriously afraid for what might have happened to Kelly.
I then sent the kids back to their seats and did my best to calm the room down. Then I went back and reviewed how God does ask us to do a lot of uncomfortable things, and He commands us to do many very hard things, but sometimes in our lives He asks us to do impossible things.
This time I didn’t ask the kids to share the impossible things God’s asked them to do. Those things tend to be the most personal, but for us perhaps I can name a couple. God wants us to forgive our unfaithful spouse. He calls us to contentment in the face of a miscarriage. He tells us to have peace when our child is diagnosed with cancer. He even demands that believing wives submit to unsaved husbands.
I then shared with the class the example of Abraham. After finally receiving his son of promise, the son from whom Abraham’s decedents would pour like the sands of the sea and from whom the Savior of the world would come . . . God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son.
So, Abraham and Isaac made their way to the mountain. You know, we often focus completely on Abraham, but I think Isaac deserves some credit too. Isaac — likely a strapping young man — allowed his father to bind him on the altar. We’re actually able to see Abraham’s mind in this situation because later in the Bible we’re told that Abraham believed that God would raise his son from the dead once he sacrificed him. And just as Abraham and Isaac were about to do the impossible, God stayed Abraham’s hand and provided a ram for the sacrifice.
I then turned my gaze to Kelly. I called her back to the front of the class and had her take her place behind the table. I then looked her in the eyes and said, “What I’m about to ask you to do won’t make any sense. In fact, it may sound like a terrible idea, and you’re going to be tempted to not want to obey. But, Kelly, I need you to smash the bag that has the knife under it.
I remember with HD clarity how her eyes immediately welled up with tears and she involuntarily took a half-step backward from the table.
Then I looked at her again and said, “Kelly, you know me. You know that I care for you and wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you. You need to smash the bag.”
That was the quietest any of you have ever heard a room of one hundred junior highers.
Kelly looked me deep in the eyes, took a step toward the table, and with all her might she smashed the bag.
I don’t know what mental gymnastics the average seventh and eighth grade mind had to do to make sense of what they saw, but there Kelly was with her hand smashed over an empty brown paper bag.
There was an uproar of left-over screams of terror, groans of relief, and the awkward laughter that bursts out when people are under too much stress. So I tried as hard I could to silence them, and I asked just one question.
And I want you to know that every time I’ve done this illustration, every time I’ve asked this question, the first person to raise their hand gets the answer right.
I asked, “Why did Kelly smash the bag?”
What do you think? Why did she do what she did?
Leeza was the first to raise her hand, and the room went silent as she said simply, “Kelly trusted you.”
And that was it. Kelly trusted me just like Abraham and Isaac trusted God.
And I think it’s important to note that the biblical words trust, belief, and faith are almost universally interchangeable synonyms.
Let’s deconstruct this with the time we have remaining. If God says live with your wife according to understanding, and I believe that I need to do that in order to please God and have a successful marriage, then I’m going to want to do it. And if I want to do it, then I’m going to do it.
If you tell your kids to clean they room, and they believe they should obey, then they’re going to want to obey, and they will obey.
However, if God tells me to live in an understanding way with my wife, but I believe it’s more important for her to submit no matter what I say, then I’m not going to want to do the work required to understand my wife.
If your children don’t believe that obedience is always necessary, they’re not going to want to do what you say, and subsequently they’re not going to do it.
One of the best verses that teaches this truth is James 2:14-26. Listen carefully, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
Now, my intention is not to open a can of worms. These verses do not teach a work salvation, but they do teach that salvation that comes by faith will necessarily require good works. You cannot be saved and not bear good fruit to one degree or another.
The reason I shared that passage was this — yours and your family’s fruit grows from what you believe about life.
You do what you do, say what you say, and feel what you feel because you want what you want. And you want what you want because you believe what you believe.
And the same goes for your kids.
Now, there’s a lot more that needs to be said, and another question that needs to be asked. The question is, “Why do we believe what we believe?” Oh, man, is that an important question.
For now, though, in our study we’re starting to understand why we really do what we do. It’s not an accident, it’s not a foundation-less whim. There’s a reason we do what we do, even when we don’t know the reason.
Allow me to finish with one more example before we finish. As I counsel the boys in my home I find myself repeating this quite often. If I genuinely believe that the all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God of the Universe wants me to obey for my greatest good and His greatest glory, then I will want to obey, and I will work to do my best. And it’s also true that a person who doesn’t care about God isn’t going to believe what He says, and won’t necessarily want to obey (at least for the same reasons), and likely will only obey when he sees fit. But what about the Christian kids who disobey? They believe God, right?
Well, not technically. We may disobey brainlessly, but we don’t disobey without purpose. A child may feel angry and refuse to wash the dishes, but we know their anger over the situation and subsequent refusal grew from the fact that they didn’t want to do the dishes. But why didn’t they want to do the dishes? Well, at that moment, even without formulating a thought, they had a reason. In their heart of hearts that didn’t believe that submitting to authority was the best thing to do. At that moment, they believed that refusing was the best course of action.
But you say, “Yeah, but Aaron they know what God says about obedience.” Sure, but knowing and believing are not the same thing.
And that’s what we’re going to talk about next time. So join us for that very important discussion as we answer the question, “Why do your children believe what they believe?”
Before then I encourage you to check out our free episode notes on our blog, Taking Back the Family which you can find at TruthLoveParent.com.
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As I’ve observed a number of times during this study, this material is hard because it exposes the dirtiness of our souls. Hopefully we now can understand why Paul considered himself the chief of sinners.
Let that realization impress you, not depress you. Let it impress on your heart the need we all have for Christ. Let it motivate you to trust Him more and teach your children to do the same.
Have a great week!
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