Jim Newheiser and Elyse Fitzpatrick have contributed a significant resource to the wealth of literature currently available to Christian parents. In their excellent book, You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship with Your Adult Children, they provide sound, mature counsel to all parents whose goal is simply to be God’s instrument of directing their children to know the Lord and to live for His glory. This is a really wise book! In the first chapter, “Before You Walk Out that Door,” they write:
Christian parents understand that our job isn’t merely to get our kids through the educational process. A high school or college diploma is not the goal. We’ve been entrusted with something far greater than being sure Susie passes calculus or Johnny stays out of trouble. We know that we are preparing them for the day when they will ultimately leave our home and our daily influence; the day when they’ll be mature adults rather than grown dependents.
Here’s how the apostle Paul summarized his goal for those he was discipling, his children in the faith: “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5, NASB). We’re working toward a higher goal than producing offspring that will make us proud (or at least not embarrass us). We’re hoping that our children will come “to know and to believe the love that God has for us” (1 John 4:16) and will respond to this astonishing love with a life that is marked by a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. These are our goals and they are as different from the goals of our secular neighbors as day is from night. We’re planning for the future but it’s not simply a future here in modern suburbia. It’s an eternal future in the presence of the living God, rejoicing in the beauties of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. Here are some of the means that God may use to help us achieve these goals.
Teach your children the love of God in Christ Jesus. “Aside from the gospel, nothing else matters. Don’t skim over that statement and assume that we’re using hyperbole. We’re not. No charts, stickers, earned privileges, 4.0’s, or astronomical SAT scores will matter when our children stand before the Father and are asked one simple question: Who will pay for your sin? At that final moment, nothing else will matter. And the answer to that question has only two possibilities. Either our children will pay for their own sin in excruciating pain and suffering away from the presence of the Lord for eternity, or someone else will have paid for it for them. And even though, as a loving parent, you might be willing to pay it for them, you won’t be able to because you’ll have your own debt to reckon with. Only a completely righteous person is able to pay for the sins of another. Only Jesus Christ is able to bear both the responsibility of perfect obedience and the weight of God’s just wrath against us….If our children walk out that door without knowing that there is a love of incalculable worth being offered them, we have not said what must be said. We’ve missed the most important truth in the entire universe: Jesus Christ is preeminent and head over all things, but he died for sinners!
Teach your children to fear God and live for His glory (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37). Even if our kids know plenty of facts about the physical world, even if they are fluent in three languages, unless they love and worship the Lord, they don’t know anything.
Show your children how to put others ahead of themselves. In contrast to this world’s self-centered, instantly-gratified, entitled frame of mind, the Lord Jesus delayed his experience of full joy until after the work he had come to do was accomplished (Heb 12:2).
Help your children learn how to communicate with wisdom and humility. We can teach our kids to say please and thank you in twelve different languages, but if their hearts are unfazed by the gracious life and words of Jesus Christ, their life and words will not be grace-filled. The Bible teaches that our words reveal deeper truths about us.
Teach your children God’s design for sex and marriage. Godly young people often marry at a younger age than most when compared to the culture at large, mostly due to a commitment to moral purity. Another reason may be that they are more mature than others their age. We should do our part to encourage this, teaching them not only sexual purity, but also biblical perspectives on manhood and womanhood, so that they can know the kind of person they need to become and the kind of spouse to choose.
Teach your children to choose their friends carefully (1 Cor 15:33). After the prologue, the book of Proverbs begins with an appeal to a young person to avoid foolish companions and not give in to peer pressure (Prov. 1:10–19; 29:25). “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20, NASB).
Let your children practice making the choices of adulthood. In light of our life and counseling experience, one of the biggest mistakes we have seen Christian parents make is overly sheltering their kids from the world. While we think that a certain amount of protection from evil influences is appropriate, especially when children are smaller, many young people from Christian families enter adulthood totally unprepared for the temptations they will face. Some, at the first breath of freedom, will run headlong into the world, yielding to the allurement of the forbidden. Parents should give their children increasing responsibility and freedom as they get older, including the freedom to make some choices contrary to the ideals of the parents.
Teach your children the true value of hard work and money. If our children are to be prepared for independence, they must learn to take care of their own material needs. The formula taught in Proverbs is hard work times skill produces wealth (Prov. 10:4, 12:24, 22:29). Those who are diligent in their work will prosper. Those who are lazy will go without (or they will try to return to their parents’ home). Skill is also an important factor. An unskilled laborer will make less in a week than a highly skilled worker will probably make in a day. We should encourage our children to develop a godly work ethic and to acquire marketable skills so that their labor will be in high demand—so that they can “stand before kings” (Prov. 22:29). On the other hand, some become so consumed with making money that they go to the other extreme. Our culture is filled with materialistic, self-aggrandizing schemes for achieving personal success. These self-destructive goals and the desires that motivate them amount to spiritual suicide according to the apostle Paul (1 Tim 6:9-10).
If you are a parent who desires God’s best for your children then you are also a parent who is regularly seeking to apply biblical wisdom regardless of your season of life. If this describes you then you will not be disappointed with You Never Stop Being a Parent. I highly recommend it.
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