Successful Parenting 101
Any thinking parent cannot help but be intimidated by the daunting task of building a godly home and raising up children who will bring glory to God. We are constantly looking for “how to’s” that will give us an advantage in the task: only something that will guarantee success. And it is understandable that we would all want to be successful parents.
But is successful parenting achieved by following certain steps of action, or is there something more important, more basic to it? It is not my desire to encourage you to ignore good biblical wisdom with regards to Christian parenting. But there are some things that are first things, and if they are not in place, successful parenting is no more than an illusion. What are those first things?
Simply stated, successful parenting begins and ends with the Gospel. But in what sense is the Gospel essential to successful parenting? In what sense is it indispensable?
I. You Must Know the Gospel Intellectually
The Apostle John was concerned with his spiritual children’s understanding of the Gospel. Assurance, spiritual growth, and even salvation itself are dependent on this. That is why you, as a parent, must have a biblical understanding of the Gospel, not a humanistic one. The Gospel is not “ask Jesus into your heart” or “God has a wonderful plan for your life”. It is not about getting someone to raise a hand in a meeting or repeating a prayer of salvation. To know the Gospel is to know the reality of sin, redemption, and faith. And no one can be a successful parent in any sense without a biblical understanding of the Gospel nor without communicating that Gospel to his or her children.
II. You Must Know the Gospel Spiritually
It is certainly not enough to have a mental understanding of the Gospel, as important as that is. There must be application to the heart. John said, “These things I am writing to you that you may believe on the name of the Son of God and believing you may have life through His name.” Spiritual life, eternal life comes from an application of the Gospel to the heart, and that only comes with a work of the Holy Spirit. For that we are helpless as parents. And that should drive us to our knees. For while we are responsible to communicate a biblical understanding of the Gospel to our children and to challenge them to look to the Christ of the Gospel, only the Spirit of God can change your child’s heart. So as a parent, this makes your personal, spiritual knowledge of the Gospel all the more important, for your child must see the reality of Christ in you.
III. You Must Know the Gospel Experientially
Assurance of eternity in heaven is not the only and perhaps the most important result of the Gospel, as good and important as that is. The easy believism of the 20th century has led many to grasp after a false Gospel in hopes of a free ticket to heaven. Many have therefore come into the church under false pretenses with the assumption that the Gospel is not about a changed life. The Apostle John makes it clear to his spiritual children that knowing the Christ he preached resulted in a life of consistent obedience, love for Christ, and love for the brethren. Although sin is not fully eradicated in the believer, it is recognized, repented of, and genuinely confessed. It is something the believer hates rather than embraces. As a parent you are called to Gospel living. We are not moralists with a set of rules nor are we therapists with psychological remedies. We are sons of God working out our salvation with fear and trembling. We are fallen men and women living a life of grace by faith. We are growing ever so slowly yet ever so certainly into the likeness of Christ. And this demonstration of Gospel reality must be seen by our children if we are to be successful parents
These are the basics of successful Christian parenting. They are non-optional, for what we need and what our children need in the end is Christ.