The key to teaching your child how to obey

Obedience is a great privilege, honor, and joy. Obedience is not something to use to gain a reward. Obedience is the reward! 

No one can make himself more acceptable to God by obedience. This means that your children must not think that you will be more accepting of them if they obey you. I know this seems awkward. So much of your life is about training and teaching God’s truth. But the truth is that one’s own obedience does not make him acceptable to God. The last thing that I want is to stand before God at the end of the day and ask God to accept me based on how well I obeyed! My only hope for acceptance is the sacrificial obedience of Christ.

Yet, our children are often evaluated and accepted, at least at the moment, based on how well they obeyed our direction. Parent, you can’t have it both ways. If your obedience cannot secure your acceptance with God, then neither can your children’s obedience be the basis of your acceptance of them.

This is why the gospel must be the cornerstone of your parenting. When children disobey, the solution should not be to do better next time. The solution is to trust Christ to do what cannot be done in their own strength. Training your children to be obedient is not about getting them to do what you want them to do. It is about teaching them to honor God from their hearts.

Biblical obedience acknowledges the absolute necessity of having a heart transformed by the power of the cross. The gospel must be the foundation and the never-ending theme of your parenting. Neither you nor your children can use obedience to plea bargain with God, to appease him, or to make yourself worthy in his eyes.

Only the work of Christ can make things right with God. So obedience is a response of love and worship to God. With the psalmist you can say:

The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. (Psalm 19:8)

Model this kind of obedience before your children. You both will be blessed!

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This post originally appeared on the Shepherd Press and was republished with permission. 

Jay Younts is the author of Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, and he is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is a ruling elder at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.


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