Why Your Children Need the Gospel (Instead of Another Lecture)

At some point every day, I can count on hearing, “Mom! Look what she’s doing!”

Now that Hosanna is mobile, there are almost constant opportunities for friction between her and three-and-a-half-year-old Isaiah. As soon as she crawls toward something, he wants it. And if he’s building a tower out of Duplos, all she wants to do is knock it down and try to eat it.


Isaiah often begs me to keep her from touching his toys. It’s tempting to get frustrated and want him to just share, but then I realize how I can get in the same mindset, wanting my kids to stop dropping food on my floor, taking dishes out of my cupboards, or squishing play-doh into my carpet.

Recently, Isaiah was trying to convince me that other people disobey, but he doesn’t disobey. He is more than happy to let me know when Hosanna is doing something I have forbidden him to do, like throwing food on the floor or chewing on a library book.

If my ultimate goal becomes outward obedience, my son may continue his Pharisaical thinking, that if he follows Mom and Dad’s rules closely enough, he will be a good boy. He would fit right in with children whose parents follow other religions and have excellent behavior management apart from Christ (as long as his sister didn’t bother him too much). Maybe I’d become so convinced by his uprightness that I’d recoil in horror when I caught him hitting his sister or speaking unkind words to a friend.

Maybe he doesn’t need to be told he’s a good boy as much as he needs to be taught the gospel.


All About Jesus

In a recent panel discussion on Teaching Our Children About Jesus, Elyse Fitzpatrick, author of Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, shared that Jesus had little brothers and sisters and treated them perfectly. Jesus knows that my son struggles to share with his sister, and that I struggle to share my time, energy, and picked-up home.

My son is not called to love his sister most of the time, he is called to love her all of the time, just as I am called to love them and my husband in a thousand opportunities for self-sacrifice each day.

When unconditional love is the standard, it’s not something that can be faked.

When I name sins for what they are, I can point my children to the One who never sinned, and the forgiveness He freely offers. I can tell my son, “That wasn’t kind when you pushed your sister out of the way. Jesus probably didn’t like it when His sister got in His way, but He never pushed her. Even though He was never unkind, He died to pay for all the unkind things we have ever done.”

I can also confess when I sin against him. “I’m sorry for yelling at you to come brush your teeth, rather than simply asking you and disciplining you when you didn’t obey.” or “I’m sorry I acted angry when you spilled your rice on the carpet. Will you forgive me?”

A couple weeks ago, I saw my son rip a toy out of his sister’s hand. When I asked him to apologize to her for taking it, he said he didn’t want to. I felt led to put my hands on his shoulders and pray for Jesus to give him a soft heart that would want to apologize to his sister, thanking Jesus for loving his brothers and sisters perfectly.

Another time, we did work on what it sounded like to apologize using a kind voice, saying specifically what he did that was wrong and trying to look his perpetually-active sister in the eyes. After a couple silly-voice attempts, I thought he had done an okay job and asked if he wanted to go outside. He said, “Yes, but first I need to do something.” He turned to his sister. “Hosanna, I’m sorry for pushing you over.” Then he smiled up at me, “Okay, I’m ready to go.”

Though I don’t have school-age children, Elyse gave some great principles about what it looks like to place the conviction with the child when they sin against someone, rather than forcing them to mimic apologetic words they don’t mean.

Nurturing And Evangelism

God has placed a desire in our hearts as women to nurture. We don’t want to see our children skin their knees. We wish we could take their sickness away. We enjoy fulfilling desires for cups of milk or another helping of the supper we cooked. But do we really believe that Jesus loves them more? Do we tell them? Will we ask God to use whatever is necessary to draw them to repentance, or would we rather make sure they always feel good about themselves?


If you are the mother of little ones, you are guaranteed an opportunity for evangelism. Day in and day out, you love and serve hearts that are not surrendered to Christ, souls that do not have the indwelling Spirit guiding them in love, patience, kindness or self-control. If you’ve surrendered your life to Christ, you reflect Him as a priest, interceding daily on behalf of the souls in the next bedroom, and practicing life-on-life discipleship.

If you’re feeling discouraged about your children’s heart behavior, look to Jesus. He has the power to turn stone hearts into flesh. To replace selfishness with His Spirit’s love.


Jen Wilkin, in her newest book, None Like Him, said that “Jesus demonstrated power over the physical realm to point us to his power over the spiritual realm. Every visible miracle Jesus performed during his earthly ministry was a whisper. . . pointing to the most dumbfounding miracle of all: the display of his power to transform the human heart from stone to flesh.” (134)
Loving Father, thank you for loving our children more than we ever could. Would you show us how to point them to you, even as we look to you for the strength to do it? We surrender our children to you again today.

Why Our Children (And Others) Need to See Us as a Work-In-Progress

“Please go to your room so Mommy can change your diaper.”

He looks at me and then hurries in the opposite direction. “Let me get my legos first. And bear. And. . .”

I hear plinking on the piano, which he happened to see on his quest for diaper-changing buddies.


It’s easy to get offended, “How dare he disobey his mother. His own mother!” rather than see the behavior as part of his sin nature.

It’s easy to get angry and respond in a demanding tone, rather than take the time to instruct and discipline. (Especially in his moments of desperation when he shouts, “No. I won’t,” to my face.)

And then I realize how often I do the same in my relationship with God. Sometimes, it’s a direct “no” when I sense His conviction. Often, it’s a fake obedience of excuses.

I know I need to give the worry and stress over my broken washing machine to God, but I just can’t let it go. I think I’ll feel better if I worry about it a little longer, talk to other people about how stressed it’s making me, and then I can surrender it to God and feel free to accept His peace…

But what if it was my fault that the washer broke? Maybe I’d better worry about it a while more, so I can feel as bad as I should…

Hiding From Grace

It’s hard to give grace to our children and others in our lives when we choose to ignore the root of sin buried deep in all of us, (or at least try to cover it up so that people will think we have it all together).

It’s easy to take on an I’m-your-mother-so-you’ll-do-what-I-say attitude or to be proud when I don’t fall into sins I see others commit…

And then a second later feel like a complete failure after responding in harshness and anger to my son in Food Lion and other people have the chance to judge me.


Sometimes the energy it takes to “bring our children up in the training and instruction of the Lord” feels too tiring to be worth it.

Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson in their book, Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus, remind us to, “embrace your weakness and the difficulties of parenting because they are the means that the Lord will use to acquaint you with the realities of his gracious power.” (p. 155)

God never commanded us to be perfect parents. And He never asked us to pretend for our children or anyone else that we are.

For me, daily discipline often feels like I’m walking through a dark sewer tunnel, feeling my way around the slime as I make decisions and not always being sure that I’m going the right way.

Sometimes I’ve wished for specifics from God like, “This is the way he should be punished if he doesn’t obey by the count of three.”

Like following step-by-step directions on the back of a brownie box.

But then I realize how I’d still struggle with consistency, trying to find my worth in my ability to keep to the standards given.

In Give Them Grace, the author quotes author Paul Miller who wrote, “I came to realize that I did my best parenting by prayer. I began to speak less to the kids and more to God.” (p. 135)

Melissa Kruger, in her Biblestudy on Motherhood shares that, “When impatience, anger or discontent well up in our hearts, these are signs that we are mothering in our own strength. Rather than dealing only with our outward behavior, we need the Lord to renew and recharge our hearts. Just as a cell phone loses power and needs to be recharged, our souls find renewed energy only by abiding in Jesus.” (p. 33)

Beautiful Discipline

We have the gift of being parented by the perfect Parent. In Hebrews 12:10, the author reminds us that, “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.” The training God does in us produces a “harvest of righteousness.”


As we enjoy the benefits of sharing in God’s holiness and righteousness, we can invite our children into the peace of that as well, experiencing glimpses of life as it was created to be.

And when we feel like we’ll never get it right, Melissa reminds us in her Biblestudy chapter on “PMS—Perfect Mom Syndrome” that, “Any failure that I fear is covered by His sacrifice. In Jesus, the performance pendulum stops—both the pride of success and the despair of failure are absorbed by grace (p.208).

As we admit our mistakes and accept the forgiveness Christ has earned on our behalf, we can show our children their inability to obey perfectly, so that they too, can see their need for Jesus.

We can pray with our children for God to help us obey His commands, just as God has asked them to obey ours as His agents.

When we live our lives in a rhythm of grace—failing and accepting forgiveness, we are free to rest in His satisfaction and security, no matter who is watching.

Maybe observing our mistake is just what someone needs to learn what God wants to teach them.

Maybe our children need to see us vulnerably embracing God’s grace to know that they can do the same.

Will you allow your parenting insufficiencies and failures to guide you into a deeper dependence on Jesus?

Will you let Him use your mistakes as a way to point others to His glory and perfection?