Today brings us to the thesis of William Farley's book:
Paul tells us that the gospel "is the power of God for salvation" (Rom. 1:16). But its power does not end there. The gospel is the power of God for parenting. We argued in the first chapter that our children's hearts are the issue. Effective application of the gospel empowers parents to reach their children's hearts. (pg. 40)
Effective application of the gospel.... I'm looking forward to learning what that looks like, aren't you?
Parenting DefinedIn this section, the author points out the weight of the parenting responsibility. Rather than understand parenting as a responsibility that lasts from birth until adulthood, Farley wants us to understand that we should parent with eternity in mind. It is the goal of Christian parenting to transfer our worldview (which includes beliefs, values and purposes) to the next generation.
Not MoralityAfter discussing the ultimate goal of Christian parenting, the author gives us an important clarification of what the goal of parenting should NOT be. He asserts that well-behaved, moral children should not be the end goal. "Morality is important, but it follows faith. It does not produce it." (pg. 42) He defines moralism this way:
Moralism trusts in its own goodness, virtue, and principled intentions to get a "not guilty" verdict from God on the day of judgment. It is deceptive. A cloak of morality over a unregenerate heart can make it difficult to discern the child's true spiritual condition. (pg. 42)Farley explains that it is heart change, not moral transformation that we should be after.
Yikes! It's that "cloak of morality" that sounds so familiar to me as a kid who grew up in a Christian home. It's pretty easy to put on that cloak, isn't it? Have you ever used a "cloak of morality" to cover up what you knew was pretty dark motives and unrepentant heart attitiudes? Ouch. I have.
It was at this point that I was feeling pretty despairing over the task ahead of me. Who can change their children's hearts? As soon as I asked the question, I realized that was exactly where the author was leading me. This impossible goal of parenting will drive us to reliance on Christ, because it is impossible with us, but with God all things are possible. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!
Seven Ways in Which the Gospel Affects ParentsNext, the author laid out these 7 points, which he will discuss further in the rest of the chapters of the book:
- The gospel teaches Christian parents to fear God. (chpt 3,4 and 5)
- The gospel motivates parents to lead by example. (chpt 6)
- The gospel centers families in their male servant leaders. (chpt 7)
- The gospel teaches and motivates parents to discipline their children. (chpt 8, 9)
- The gospel motivates parents to teach their children. (chpt 10)
- The gospel motivates parents to lavish their children with love and affection. (chpt 11)
- The gospel is the solution for inadequate parents. (chpt 12)
The final section focuses on defining the gospel. He emphasizes two important points here. First, if the word gospel means "good news", we need to understand what the "bad news" is regarding sin and judgement. The bad news makes the good news good. Second, he focuses on the cross as the center of the gospel.
Thoughts?I was most affected by the idea that parenting suddenly got harder for me, as I realized the serious, eternal reality that is before me and by the fact that it will take nothing less than heart transformation to accomplish the task. At the same time, I became aware of how inadequate our usual parenting strategies of emphasizing moralism or other gospel substitutes are for the goal of turning a child's heart toward God. When I started my parenting journey with the birth of my children, I read as many books as I could find on ways to manage and train my children - from sleep habits, to nutrition, to discipline, to school choices, to love languages, to character formation and more. This chapter has made me look at all of those things as really scratching the surface of what my children really need, which is the miracle of the new birth.
What struck you the most in this chapter? I would love to hear your thoughts...
We will read chapter three for next week - "Gospel Fear", the post will be up by Friday morning. Remember, you can read along at your own pace and comment on the chapters as you go - it's the no guilt book club!
Thanks for reading along with me,