Your children need God’s law, but you cannot ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish.

Paul D. Tripp

I have had the opportunity of teaching the Bible to teenagers for over twenty years.  

Each time I get to the book of Exodus there are always questions about the law of God, and specifically the Ten Commandments. In the process of this dialogue throughout the years, one truth of the human heart is always revealed: We think we can achieve right standing with God by our ability to keep His law. 

Much like the rich young ruler in the Gospels, we often seek to earn our way to God. 

This approach only shows how we misunderstand the true purpose of God’s law, which is given to show us the sinfulness of our hearts and our need for Jesus. 

You see, the law has the ability to show us our sin, but it cannot rescue us from it.

If rules and regulations had the power to change the heart and life of your child, rescuing your child from himself and giving him a heart of submission and faith, Jesus would have never needed to come!

Paul D. Tripp

As parents we often unintentionally seek to have the law accomplish what only Jesus can accomplish in the lives of our children.  Take a moment to consider all of the rules and guidelines that you have placed in front of your children. 

In our home we have rules for cell phones, screen time, curfews, chores, and the list goes on.  All of these rules are good and have a purpose, but none of them can change our children’s hearts.   

When our children fail to live up to all of the standards we set, we are often quick to become frustrated and angry. I fear we miss the most teachable moments in our children’s hearts because we are too focused on their obedience to our rules. 

In this chapter on Law from his book Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that can radically change your family, Tripp rightly challenges parents to “remember the greatest danger to your child is not the evil outside them; it’s the sin inside them that is the greatest of all threats to their well-being.” 

Rules and regulations from parents are certainly meant to train our children about what is right and wrong.  However, an equally important role is to show our children the depth of their sinful hearts.

In order to show them their hearts’ reality we must be willing to see our own hearts’ reality.  Until we truly begin to model this type of relationship with God, our parenting will be incomplete and focus solely on behavior modification.

I love the challenge Tripp lays out for parents at the end of this chapter:

  • If we are ever to represent the great Father well, we need to be fathered by Him as well. 
  • If we are going to give grace to our children, we need to confess that we are children in daily need of the Father’s care. 
  • If we are going to be patient, we need to confess our need for patience. 
  • If we are going to be forgiving, we need to admit our need for forgiveness. 
  • If we are going to persevere, we need to humbly admit that our only hope is that our Heavenly Father will never give up on us. 
  • If we are going to teach our children to run to Jesus daily, we must run to Jesus as well. 
  • If we want our children to be sad in the face of the sin in their hearts and hands, we must mourn our sin as parents as well.

May God give us grace to continue to give our children boundaries and guidelines to live within, and may He also give us grace to use those rules to show our children their consistent need for the grace of Jesus Christ in their lives. 

May we not be so focused on external obedience that we miss the most teachable moments to get to our children’s hearts. 

Hilton Head Christian Academy‘s Life+ blog was created to equip today’s Christian parents with practical tools, thought provoking content, and honest conversation.

This fall, we look forward to parenting alongside all of you through a new series based on a life-giving book by Pastor Paul Tripp: Parenting: 14 Gospel principles that can radically change your family.

Each week we will unpack them chapter by chapter right here on the Life+ blog. We hope you’ll grab a copy and dive in with us, taking time to discuss each principle with your own family and the people God has placed in your life.

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