Counsel from the Cross
- Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Applying All of Scripture To Life
Madeline is a hardworking, homeschooling mother of five who has faithfully worked to educate her children and train them for the Lord.3 She loves God, loves serving in the church, and loves her husband and children and their home. But the unthinkable has just happened: her eldest daughter, who is seventeen, is pregnant. Madeline is crushed when she discovers that Hannah has been living a double life. While Hannah openly professed faith and appeared to acquiesce to all her parents’ demands, she had actually schemed to arrange trysts with a Christian boy down the street.
To say that Madeline is devastated and disillusioned would be a momentous understatement. Every day she vacillates between giving up in defeat and humiliation or giving full vent to her fury at Hannah’s betrayal and lack of appreciation for all Madeline’s years of sacrifice for her daughter. Madeline is also wondering why God hasn’t upheld his part of the bargain. After all, she trained her daughter up in “the way she should go.” Why didn’t God keep her from departing from it, as he contracted to do in Proverbs 22:6? She feels betrayed, deserted, confused, disappointed, angry, and ashamed.
How would you help Madeline? What does she need to remember? Madeline needs a healthy dose of gospel truth. The gospel tells Madeline about the Lord, about herself, and about Hannah, and it also tells her about the methods and motivations of obedience.
First, the gospel informs Madeline about God’s nature. He isn’t surprised by either her own sin or her daughter’s; in fact, God is more aware of it than she ever will be. His plan to overcome evil with good was set in place long before Hannah was born, long before this world was born. Because of the gospel, Madeline can be assured that God will overcome all evil, even Hannah’s sin, with good.
But overcoming sin cost God dearly. He sent his Son from heaven to be born as a baby, to be wrapped in rough cloth, to suffer cold and hunger, to be schemed against and betrayed, and finally to be hung in humiliation on a tree, defiled by our sin (despite his own flawless innocence) and drinking down the cup of his Father’s wrath. Although Madeline feels overwhelmed by her daughter’s sins against her, she needs to remember that Jesus had to suffer for her sin, too. At the same time, Madeline needs to remember that full atonement has been made. God no longer holds Madeline’s sin against her, and if Hannah is truly his, he doesn’t hold her sin against her, either.
Madeline also needs to remember what the gospel tells her about herself. God’s love for her isn’t based on her performance or on her children’s performance. His love is based solely on the performance of his Son. She can rejoice that God doesn’t operate on a quid pro quo basis, like a cosmic vending machine that spits out treats for those who perform flawlessly. By grace alone she has been given the complete righteousness of the Son. She is his beloved child because she is in the Beloved One. The gospel tells her that her Savior, who took on flesh like hers in order to redeem her, is ruling sovereignly from heaven, never forgetting about her for one moment, never neglecting to cause all things—even her sin—to work for good. He will sanctify and keep her, even though it feels like she has been set adrift on a dark and stormy sea.
The gospel reminds Madeline that she is more sinful and flawed than she ever dared believe. She is to remember that because of indwelling sin, all people, even children who live in a perfect home, like the prodigal’s home in Jesus’ famous parable, can and do rebel. Our children are more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe. They are just like us: willful creatures with souls that resist humble submission. No amount of external training, protection from worldly influences, or classical education will change that fact.5 Only the Spirit of God can change a human heart. Only God’s love in Christ can make us grow in love and delight in him.
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