Manners and sanctification


July 5, 2023




What does it mean to be a faithful parent? Is it making sure our kids are clothed and fed? Is it dropping them off—on-time—to everything? Maybe it is remembering to tell them we love them every day? Much could be said in answer to this question. However, I will limit my comments to two answers I think are most foundational.

Our Faithfulness as Parents is God’s Faithfulness First

God is faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to him. God does not withdraw his love, grace, and mercy when we sin. We might withdraw from him, but he does not withdraw from us. 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”

Another way of looking at it is this. Our eternal state and that of our children is not ultimately left up to us. We are nowhere near good enough. We cannot force our children to walk with Jesus. We need the confidence and rest that this glorious truth provides.

What does this mean for us as parents in the trenches?

Before we need to know what to do, we need to know what’s been done. We need good memories. I don’t mean the recall of our failures (which we are proficient at doing) but of God’s faithfulness. He alone is faithful when we are not. He is faithful to us and he is faithful to our children. The Bible is the story of God’s faithfulness to his children. He is faithful to complete the work he has begun in us (Phil. 1:6).

In 1 Samuel 7, Samuel raised an ebenezer (a stone of remembrance) to commemorate God’s victory over the Philistines. What are the ebenezers we share in our homes?

We remember God’s faithfulness when we talk about what he has done for us as husband and wife and as a family. The many daily, often perfunctory prayers for health, safety, and provision whether they be in the form of a good grade on a test, resolution to conflict, a replacement car, or even a needed vacation are reminders that God is faithful that we do well to remember.

When we acknowledge God’s answers to our prayers it glorifies him and provides another small opportunity to remember that he is faithful. The more we pay attention to the details of our lives, the more we will see how God has demonstrated his faithfulness in minute-by-minute meaningful ways.

Over time, these remembrances form a path of faithfulness that testifies to God’s utter kindness, grace, and mercy upon which we and our children want to walk. God’s past faithfulness paves the way for our faithful response to future challenges.

Why is God faithful even when we are unfaithful?

This is an important question to answer. Thankfully, it is not because of what we do right or wrong. Paul tells us, “for he cannot deny himself.” How blessed that is! We are new creations in Christ. We are in him. When God sees us, he sees his son first. The merits of his perfect life, lived for us who royally blew it in Adam, are now ours. We are now and always will be—his. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39). So united are we to him and he will not deny us because to do so would be deny his son.

That God is forever faithful, and that his forever faithfulness is based on the completed work of Christ for us provides priceless confidence to us struggling, flailing, weak parents that compels our pursuit of faithfulness in training our children.

To conclude, the first definition of what it means to be a faithful parent is to rest in the fact that God is faithful even when we are unfaithful.

God’s faithfulness is our message

Second, God’s faithfulness is our message. It is easy to make manners, academic excellence, character, etc. the main focus. Certainly, those are wise aspects to our overall parenting work. All of those and many more are easy to pursue because they can be easily defined; there are clear boundaries to them such as age, grades; there’s a beginning and an end, and accolades for success for the child (and let’s not forget, the parent, too. We love talking about our kids’ accomplishments because it makes us look good, too.)

Certainly, God is at work in these pursuits and we can pursue them to his glory. But they easily become “gods” to us when they are disconnected from the real goal of all education: to know God, his faithful demonstration of his character as a loving, gracious, and merciful God throughout history. God’s love for us compels us to love him in return.

If we love God, we will obey him

Jesus said, if we love him, we will keep his commands (John 14:15). Often, however, we feel the opposite: that we earn his love through our good manners and good grades. When we fail, we think that we fail God and worry that difficulty is God’s retribution for our poor performance in some other area of life. This is not a god anyone wants to know or serve. I think this is the reason some people walk away from the God. They don’t really know him to begin with.

Teaching our children God’s utter faithfulness through all he has done for us, not just saving us from our sins, but as important, ensuring our growing relationship with him through our union with Christ, is the curriculum our children must learn.

God can become their genuine love and passion for the rest of their lives. This is not a parental guarantee, but it is what God has clearly said in his word about our purpose. Jesus said in John 17:3, “this is eternal life that you know the father and the son whom he has sent.” We might teach our children a lot about God. But are we teaching them to know God?

The second definition of faithful parenting is teaching our children about God’s faithfulness beginning with his teaching them about his love and provision in Jesus Christ and then, the many ways God demonstrates his faithfulness in real life.

Let’s be faithful in the most important things… the things that will carry them through the upheaval of life in a fallen world and the things that will matter in eternity. Knowing God is utterly faithful—even in the face of our unfaithfulness—matters. And he has made it possible by virtue of his own faithfulness to us. He cannot deny himself.

A beautiful expression of this is found in the hymn Living Waters, by Keith and Kristyn Getty. “Lead our children to the shoreline of the Living Waters”. I will share the first verse here:

Are you thirsty, Are you emptyCome and drink these Living WatersTime unbroken, Peace unspokenRest beside these Living WatersChrist is calling, Find refreshingAt the cross of Living WatersLay your life down, On Thee, all comeRise up in these Living Waters
There’s a river that flowsWith mercy and loveBringing joy to the city of our GodThere our hope is secureDo not fear anymorePraise the Lord of Living Waters
Spirit movingMercy washingHealing in these living watersLead your children to the shore lineLife is in these Living Waters

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