As parents and teachers, we invest a lot of time into the lives of our children. As Christian parents and teachers our hearts desire is to see our children walk in truth even as John tells us was his delight, 2 John 1:4 “I rejoiced greatly because I have found some of your children living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” One of our goals in the classroom and at home is to have our children learn obedience. The question we must ask ourselves is how the two intersect. If we really want out children to walk in the truth of the commands God has given us, i.e. obey God’s Word, then we also need to help them to obey out of the right motivation. Just obeying will never be good enough, Galatians 2:16.
It is not enough to obey some of God’s commands and then ask for forgiveness when we fail to obey others. No, the good news of the Gospel is that when we admit that we cannot keep all the commands, then we can receive forgiveness and grace from God who has redeemed us and paid the penalty for our sins.
Too often we teach our children the rules that they need to obey. We motivate them to obey in a desire to avoid punishment or to gain rewards. I don’t want to suggest that these are necessarily bad motivations to help our children navigate this earthly life. There are some very serious consequences to not obeying and there are some definite rewards when we do obey.
My point is that in the Christian walk we have a higher motivation that will give us power and perseverance over the sinful desires of our flesh. That higher motivation is love. The entire book of 1 John is all about loving God and loving others. Galatians is a book that is based on the need to be careful not to change the gospel message from one of grace to one of law keeping.
James teaches us that the law is good and that others will recognize our faith when they see us keeping the law. However, in the context of the other New Testament books the message is the same. Why we keep the laws, what we hope to gain by keeping the laws, makes a difference in whether our actions further the Gospel and our growth in Christ or hinder it.
If our children think that Jesus is only happy with us when we obey the commands of the Bible, they may try to obey for a while but will soon become discouraged when they often fail. It is necessary for us to teach our children that we have this natural bent toward misbehaving and that only Jesus living for us, in us, and through us is acceptable to God. We can’t do it. They can’t do it. It is Christ in me the hope of glory, Colossians 1:27, that makes all the difference.
Jesus came to be our deliver from: the punishment of sin, Colossians 1:13; the power of sin, Romans 13:11-14; and the presence of sin, Revelation 22:10-27. He died to take our punishment 2 Corinthians 5:21. He rose again and sent His Holy Spirit to dwell inside us to give us strength over sin, John 14:16-19. He will come again and take us to Heaven where we will finally be delivered from the presence of sin, John 14:1-3.
So helping our children develop an intimate relationship with Jesus where they come to that place where they just love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, is the only way that they will ever live the life of faith that we are called to live. We can’t love others or even ourselves until first we experience the love of God to us, for us, and in us. Helping our little ones be intimate with God is the first step in building that relationship that will motivate a true life of godliness. Our goal is to example loving God and loving others well. Our hope is that we will foster that same love in the hearts of our children.