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Gospel Implications for Parenting

April 14, 2011

Part of my sermon from last week was very challenging for me to preach and I don’t think its done with me yet.

Ephesians 6:1-9 was the text, but, as a dad, the most challenging bit for me was verse 4:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In my study as well as on Sunday, I asked the question, “How does God discipline and instruct his children?” And sometimes its helpful to describe something by what it is not…which in this case became very very very convicting for me. Let me explain…

God does not punish his children.

How does God discipline his children? Well, he doesn’t punish us. He doesn’t take the payment for our crimes out of our own skin. He doesn’t point his finger at us and with angry eyes threaten, “You’ll pay for that!”

Now, all sin is an affront to God. And since God is just, a payment must be made for each and every sin. And the Gospel says that through faith in Jesus, he’s taken our sins on himself paying for them completely on the cross.

God does not punish his children. The payment was made and we are offered grace.

Discipline from God may sometimes feel like punishment, but the truth of the Gospel says that it is not. Discipline is God’s grace to us.


Our children’s sins were paid for by Jesus too.

The Gospel equation here is: since God offers grace to us by taking the payment for our sins on himself through Jesus, in our parenting, we too ought to offer the same gospel grace to our children.

This means that since the gospel has changed our hearts, we want to show that same love and grace to people in our lives…how much more our children!

When one of my children sins against me and breaks something in my home or causes damage, my gospel response ought not to be to demand the payment out of their own skin. If I did, I would not be pointing them to the gospel of grace that has been revealed to me, I would be ignoring the gospel and demanding them pay for their own sins. (This is ringing a bell in my head now about the parable of the Unmerciful Servant from Matthew 18:21-35. How about you?)

You may argue that this teaches them a virtue, responsibility (which it very well may), but it is also teaching them that our children can pay for their own sins and it sadly misses the opportunity to show them first hand what God did in sending Jesus.

God showed us the cost of his forgiveness.

When God sent Jesus, he did so in a way that the whole world would know the pain it cost him. Taking your sins and my sins and our children’s sins upon himself and paying the price of death for it cost God his only Son. In great love, Jesus he gave of himself willingly to pay for our sins, and the full payment of God’s justice was met in that sacrifice.

And it was displayed in a way that we would see the pain, yes, and also see Jesus and be transformed by his love for us.

We have the opportunity to reflect God’s grace.

When we discipline our children, we have an opportunity to reflect to our children the same grace God has shown us. Rather than forcing our children to pay for their own sins, we can take payment for it out of our own skin, out of our own bank accounts, out of our own pride, etc.

When we show the pain it costs us, they see our love for them the same way we see the love of God in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

This is not a call to shirk the responsibilities we have as parents to raise our children properly. No, the verse says to discipline and instruct our children. Discipline them. Instruct them.

But discipline them and instruct them in the same way that the Lord has shown us. When he disciplines us, he comes alongside us. When he instructs us, he points us to the cross.


This is mind-blowing and heart-warming for me knowing that I’ve been entrusted with 3 beautiful children. I’m being called and extremely challenged to discipline and instruct my children in ways that God disciplines and instructs me…not by punishment, but by grace.

Join me in that?

Small disclaimer: I’m not talking about the punishment that God will deliver to those who reject his love…I’m talking about how he treats his children, and therefore how you should treat yours.

Sermons from Converge Church can be found here.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2011 5:05 pm

    “Small disclaimer: I’m not talking about the punishment that God will deliver to those who reject his love…I’m talking about how he treats his children, and therefore how you should treat yours.”

    I have always wondered, if we are called upon to love those who hate us(Lk. 6:27, 28), why does God not bless those who hate him, or are ambivalent towards him? Or is this one of those pot and potter scenarios that Paul(Rm. 9:21) alludes to, or as in when God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind(Jb. 38)?

    • April 14, 2011 5:26 pm

      God doesn’t offer his love to people who are basically “good.” He sent his Son Jesus to die in our place while we still hated him.

      Romans 5:6-8 – 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

      Likewise in Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus tells us that when we love those who hate us, we are being like God. – 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

      • April 15, 2011 8:26 am

        “. . . Christ died for us.”

        Us, as in the elect, I take it?

        This is then the question: why? Why not everyone? If all are dead in their sins, then why choose to save only a portion if salvation is irrespective of a person’s deeds or states? If the power of God to call us to salvation is irresistible, and all are born hating the things of God, then why is the call and the choosing extended to so few sinners?

        I realize that there may not be an answer to this kind of question, which is perhaps why Paul wrote as he did in Rm. 9:21. However I would happily take informed conjecture, as this is something that has always seemed contradictory within reformed epistemology; that is, unless you would be willing to suggest Richard Nixon’s answer to Frost as acceptable. Nixon to David Frost: I’m saying that when the President[Godhead] does it, it’s *not* illegal!

        (I am working off the assumption that you’re soteriologically of the reformed tradition, from your affiliation with Acts29. If that is not so, then what is written above is out the window.)

  2. domfisher permalink
    April 15, 2011 12:27 pm

    Interesting thoughts Mark. Thanks for posting this you have some really good ideas.

    How’s everything going at Converge?

    Hypatia – I hope this may answer some of your questions

    • April 15, 2011 1:17 pm

      Thanks Dom…great work on your post. I think it is helpful.

      Things at Converge are going excellent. God is good, great, glorious and gracious!

      When are you coming for a visit? We’d love to have you (bring your wife) join us for a week, month, year! 😉

      • domfisher permalink
        April 16, 2011 12:52 am

        That’s cool, sounds very exciting.

        Would absolutely love to come and visit, just as soon as we have the dollars we will have to do it!

    • April 15, 2011 1:35 pm

      Thanks, Domfisher. That’s a well thought-out article, and I can see the distinction between believer and unbeliever. That much is apparent.

      What is not clear to me is why. We seem to agree that scripture states that only some people are saved, in the eternal spiritual sense, via grace/faith, but the why is still out there; or, more accurately, why not all, if the choice is God’s. It would appear that divine sovereignty entails divine autonomy, wherein God’s choice is, at least in many parts of scripture, not predicated on human abilities or attributes. E.g., Jacob I loved, Esau I hated. Still more, Paul, in nearly explicit terms, asks the same question: “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” The answer Paul gives is, paraphrased, “God saved some vessels of wrath from destruction, chosen beforehand, so that he could demonstrate his glory.”

      Again, this leaves me feeling uneasy. The thought that runs though my head is, “God could have saved everyone, but chose not to?” Jn. 6:37 ostensibly grants that God has the power to irresistibly call anyone. How can mercy potent enough for all be so then constrained only to a select few? I’m having a hard time squaring the idea of omnibenevolence with omnipotence, I suppose. Perhaps I should re-evaluate the premises of both those terms? I’m not sure.


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