Friday, October 15, 2010
Growing Sons & Daughters Of God
The way to invigorate your life, including your home life, is not to have better strategies for getting more stuff done, to be more organized or to have less clutter, as tempting as those things are. The way to life for Christians is Jesus and life by the Spirit. "Life" is what He is, so it's always what He has for you.
Life for the Christian is all about receiving.
The intention of our lives is not to live well, to work hard and to be nice—let’s teach each other how. Our goal is to grow in the grace and life of Christ. If, in fact we’ve been crucified and no longer live, but Christ lives in us, and the life we live is by faith in Him (Galatians 2:20), then that’s what will work, that’s what is normal for us now, and that’s what will work in our homes. Particularly with our kids.
The primary struggle my kids have is the same as mine—to believe what God thinks about them and to live from it.
As I have written in my book (“Better Off Than You Think”), our Christian children are as foreign to this world as Jesus was (John 17:14-16). They are new creations (2 Cor 5:17), they are in union with God (John 14:20), the very dwelling places of God Himself (Colossians 1:27), and no one—not anyone—can take that away from them (John 10:29). As challenging as that is for you to believe, think how difficult it is for them.
Our Christian children are aliens. If they don’t know it, or if we teach them only techniques to be successful in this life, as though that were Christian, we’ve set them up for frustration. Let me put it this way: when I see a trained monkey wearing children’s clothing and playing with children’s toys, I think it’s cute but I’m not confused. It’s not natural. I don’t leap and exclaim, “Wow! The monkey has become a kid! What shall we name him?” In the same way, as I train my children to function in this world, what must remain clear to them and to me, is that they are not of this world. They’re from another. If they don’t know it, their deluded attempt to fit with this world will make monkeys out of them.
Our Christian children are lights in this world, holy and blameless sons of God in whom lives the Holy Spirit Himself. They’re not on a long and winding path at the end of which (if successfully negotiated) they will arrive—they’ve arrived already.
Do you see them? Not if you’re looking at them only with the eyes in your head and not the eyes in your heart. Oswald Chambers wrote, “It is the unseen and the spiritual in people that determines the outward and the actual.”
What do I do? First, my wife, Sarah, and I believe that Ellen and Emma were chosen by God, and that makes all the difference. Because we believe it, we work with the Holy Spirit to help us maintain that belief, concerning ourselves and concerning our daughters. In our conversations and in prayer (together and apart), we regularly bring up the fact of our security because God chose us before He made anything or set any of it in motion (see Ephesians 1). We were His idea and we frequently return to awe, thankfulness and rest because of that. It sets us right.
Often we work so hard to get our children to make good choices that I don’t think we’re much impressed by God’s choice of them. So we don’t marvel. We don’t wonder at our kids because we’re not convinced that He is convinced they’re so wonderful. We need to be.
Second, surface activity gets our attention, but it doesn’t always reveal what’s below.
Our Christian children are not what they do, they’re not how they behave, and they’re not what they say—they’re who God says they are. Without excusing poor, fleshly behavior, we must not allow it to sell the lie that our kids are how they look. When our kids’ surface looks particularly stormy, we know that under the waves there is something amiss, something out of line, and we go there. If our children’s flesh is on display, in all of its ugly glory, we rescue them! We revive them! If their behavior is stinky, it’s usually because their thinking is too. Building them up in Christ, reminding them of how Christ has made them and that He is in them and has not one moment of condemnation for them is really fun. Really.
Third, Sarah and I work to believe Ellen and Emma are in Christ, no matter what happens. That keeps us sane!
Every difficulty Ellen and Emma go through (or put us through), each triumph they achieve or failure they endure, they are still at all times in Christ and have everything because of it. Jesus is their strength. Jesus is their righteousness. Jesus is their life. Jesus is their hope. Sarah and I work to keep that foremost in our thinking and approach. We work to keep that secure foundation in Ellen’s and Emma’s thinking as well. And we’re careful to not send them a confusing, false message that they don’t already have everything in Christ—they do! We want to be so positive about God’s grace to us, that earning God’s favor and blessing remain something Jesus already did for them and not something they have to do for themselves.
It’s the good news about God’s grace to my girls that teaches and enables them to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live as the godly young women they are in this world (Titus 2:11-14). It makes them eager to do well.
Fourth, Sarah and I regularly talk with God about our girls, asking what He thinks of them. He shows us that Ellen and Emma are godly already—right on course and right on time. When their behavior or experiences or thoughts expressed to us say something to the contrary, we believe nothing has changed. You may assume correctly that we talk with Him a lot!
Ellen and Emma aren’t just on their way to heaven, they’re already from it (see Ephesians 2:6). God is far more active with His children than we are! Because we don’t always see it, we ask.
Further, we ask ourselves questions such as whether or not our girls are learning and getting Jesus from us, or if, because we just want them to be good and to get things done, they’re getting a heavy dose of the Ten Commandments. Are they getting shepherds who enjoy walking with them or Pharisees who walk with them only to keep them in line? One enjoys intimacy while the other sacrifices it for a proper performance. Are we truly enjoying our girls and are they truly enjoying us? If we get stung by these and other questions, we head into some focused time with God, who has the grace and love to set us aright.
But what if it doesn’t work? What if our little aliens don’t live by faith? What if they don’t make the right choices and follow God—what then? Then we’ll be living by faith in God—we’ve no other plan.