I recently read a book by William Farley called "Gospel-Powered Parenting." Although I highly recommend the entire book, this one section was an eye opener to me. I want to share a few excerpts from his chapter entitled "Intellectual Submarines." He points out that we often engage in fear based parenting. "Either we can focus on preparing our children to enter the world and conquer it, or we concentrate on protecting our children from the world. A defensive mind-set worries about the evil influences of Halloween, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or non-Christians on the Little League team. Although parenting always involves some protection, this should not be the main focus for biblical parents." This often is seen in a long list of rules and regulations- parents who try to protect their children from all of the influences of the world. In contrast, offensive parenting assumes our children are not yet believers and "that they need the overwhelming, all-conquering power of new birth... once they get it, its power will protect them from the world. "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). First John 5: 4 reads, "Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world." And according to 1 John 3:9, "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." In other words... effective parents equip their children to overcome the world-not by changing and controlling their environment (things external to their children), but by going after their children's hearts. We change their hearts by teaching the gospel, modeling the gospel, and centering our homes on the gospel. The gospel rightly understood and modeled, makes Christianity attractive. Effective parents make the gospel so attractive that the world cannot get a foothold in their children's hearts." Parents that use the defensive method of parenting "have little confidence in the attractiveness of the gospel. They think the world is more powerful. Fundamentally, they are not confident in the gospel's power to transform their children from the inside out. They do not believe Jesus' words, "Take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Farley points out that once our children's hearts have been changed the rest is just "mop up." They will want to follow God and His Word because their hearts are already in God's kingdom. (William P. Farley, Gospel Powered Parenting (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing Company, 2009), 23-25.
I confess that so often I have been guilty of wanting my children to follow my external rules and regulations, instead of focusing on the power of the gospel to change their hearts. By God's grace we will strive to be more offensive in our parenting in the coming year and seek to go after our children's hearts with the power of the gospel that saves sinners.