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Point #1 – Before you begin, refresh your understanding regarding primary and secondary causes. Primary cause speaks to God’s unique role in the salvation and sanctification of your child. Secondary cause speaks to your role in your child’s life.
Point #2 – Be sure you mortify any legalistic parental worldview tendencies. Good parents do not make good children and bad parents do not make bad children. If a child is good or bad, it will be because he chose to accept or reject God as his Ruler.
You will know if you have “legalistic tendencies” if your child is not doing well and you say, “If I had only done [fill in the blank].” That kind of statement makes you the primary change agent in his life rather than the LORD.
While there are no excuses for parental irresponsibility, it is wrong to think your actions is what made a child good or bad. God makes children good. You can cooperate with the LORD but, ultimately, if your child loves God, it is because the LORD has brought about transformation.
1 – Praying – While this is an expected answer, it is put at the top of the list because God is the only person in the universe who can change anyone (2 Timothy 2:24-25; Proverbs 21:1). If you want your child to change, then you must ask the LORD to change him.
If your child does change, then God did it. If he does not change, then the LORD has not (at this point) granted repentance. There is a mystery here that you must fully engage. On your best day, all you can do is water and plant. God is the one who brings growth in a person’s life (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Guard your heart from the temptation to penalize yourself for the mistakes you’ve made in your child’s life. There is a proper response to your mistakes: repent to God and others and seek to repair your relationships.
Legalistic heart check questions:
Secondary causes are the things you’re supposed to do while guarding your heart against crossing a legalistic boundary, thinking your actions are what brings change to your child. The wise and humble parent lives comfortably in the mystery of this tension: A parent (1) cannot change his child and (2) must not be irresponsible in his parental duties.
2 – Being – Your life must always be striving to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1). Your child needs to know what an authentic Christlike life looks like. You are “Exhibit A” to that life. Take Galatians 5:22-23 and examine how your life aligns to the nine elements of the Spirit of God. Find a friend to help you with this assessment.
The best secondary role you can play in your child’s life is to give him an authentic life, which includes all your mistakes. It’s your mistakes that may be the most instructive to what the Christ-life is all about. After you fail, you have an amazing opportunity to model how to respond to failure.
3 – Relating – The second best gift you can give your child is an authentic relationship with another person. That other person is your spouse. You have nearly two decades to present to your child how to live the Christ-life with a fallen human being.
Think of your marriage like a TV reality show that your children get to watch every day. What a spectacular opportunity. Your children will be relating with fallen people all their lives, and you get to show them how to do it.
4 – Repenting – Failing is a daily occurrence in our (Rick and Lucia’s) reality TV show. This truth is not the end of the world but the beginning of something amazing. God has given you the world’s greatest secret weapon: You have the power in you to change.
Your mistakes are not showstoppers but opportunities to change so you don’t keep doing what you have been doing. The added benefit to your personal transformation through repentance is you can teach your children how to change too.
5 – Loving – Secure children are the by-product of loving parents. Insecure children are the by-product of fussy parents. Fussy parents will push their children into the culture to find love (security).
The “Adamic deficit” will grow inside your child if you complicate his fallenness by your fallenness. Your imitation of Christ will close the gap that separates your child from Christ.
6 – Exporting – Christianity is an exportable religion. You are in the import/export business. What is being poured into you will be poured out to your children, good or bad. If Christ is authentically and practically in you, then He will be exported to your children.
There is an intentionality to the Gospel. Living it is not a passive exercise. Your job is to go into all the world with the Gospel, and the first step in that process is to take the Gospel to your children. All that I’ve said is how to do it–praying, being, relating, repenting, and loving.
7 – Releasing – The parent’s responsibility is not to get children saved. God does the saving. The parent’s job is to not complicate what only God can do. Be assured, God can and will save any child in spite of the parents, but hurdles don’t have to be created that hinder them from getting to God.
You want to cooperate with the LORD so your children can be released into the world as men and women who know how to submit to God while fulfilling the capacities and gifting that God has given to them.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).