Over the last two years, my wife and I have been navigating some of the richest seasons of parenting when our children began grasping spiritual truths. Our daughter, who is the oldest of three, will be five years old this summer, and it has been such a joy to watch her blossom from a toddler to a maturing little girl. But as cute and oftentimes sweet as she can be, she is not unlike the rest of us.
She too was born sinful, with a heart like every human who has preceded her. Jeremiah 17:9 describes her heart as deceitful and desperately wicked. Her heart is “desperately wicked” not because she has sinned, but because she was born that way as a result of the sin of Adam (Romans 5:12-19). Though she may have the innocence of a child, she, like the rest of us, is not good. She is not righteous. She has a bad heart. She is a sinner, and she is under the condemnation of God’s wrath.
Some of you may be thinking, how can you say such about your own daughter? Well, it’s not an easy thing to say, but it is the truth according to the Word of God. Our thinking must conform to what the Bible says about us, and the Bible says that we are radically depraved sinners who have no hope apart from the saving grace of the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. As Christian parents, we must be honest in not only how we view ourselves (imperfect saints totally dependent upon God’s grace), but we must also be honest in how we view our children. Their souls depend on it.
If you are a Christian parent, your greatest mission field is in your home. You are an evangelist to your children. Your home should be a beacon of truth, and a refuge of Gospel grace modeling the implications of the Gospel in your own life. Your home must be a never-ending training ground, not forsaking opportunities to teach your children spiritual truths that they might be converted and mature into faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the worst things we can do for our children is keep from them the reality of their fallen, sinful condition, and the evil of their sin. Charles Spurgeon noted on teaching children the evil of sin:
If the child does not learn that, he will never learn the way to heaven. None of us ever knew what a Savior Christ was till we knew what an evil thing sin was. If the Holy Spirit does not teach us “the exceeding sinfulness of sin,” we shall never know the blessedness of salvation. Let us ask for His grace, then, we may forever be able to fight against the abominable nature of sin. “The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.” Don’t spare your child; let him know what sin leads to; don’t, like some people, be afraid of speaking the consequences of sin clearly and unbiased (source).
We must not sugarcoat our children’s plight before a thrice-holy God. We must not tell them only of the love of Jesus, but we must tell them of their own personal offenses against God and their deserving of eternal punishment in hell. Without this knowledge and sensing the weight of their personal guilt, they will not biblically understand the need of their personal Savior Jesus Christ.
Lying seems to be one of the first sins children come to master, second only to mastering rebellion and disobedience. It is one of the sins that has taken root in our daughter’s heart, so it is the one we most often discuss in our home and the most common act of rebellion for which she is disciplined. In most cases, the things she lies about are stupid. Seriously. Stupid. However stupid, they are the overflow of the wickedness that is in her heart.
Just last night, as we were getting her ready for bed, I asked her why her nightstand light was not working. She and Number Two are always hauling the lamp around the house, frequently resulting in a burned out light bulb. I notice the lamp was unplugged. I asked her who unplugged the lamp, and her immediate response was to blame it on her younger brother (she knows she’s not supposed to unplug the lamp). When I confronted her that God knows whether she is lying or telling the truth, she curled up knowing she was caught, and said, I did.
This act of disobedience normally would have ended up with a spanking, but I proceeded to tuck her into bed, then laid down beside her. In a calm, gentle, but serious manner, I commenced the following discussion:
Daddy: While Mommy and Daddy may not always know when you lie to us, God always knows. Every single time you lie, every single time you do something wrong, every time you do something bad, every time you sin – God sees it. You cannot hide anything from Him. He sees your every bad thought, every bad word, and every bad thing you do. Do you understand that, N?
N: Yes, Daddy.
Daddy: God says He will cast all liars into the lake of fire, N.
N: I know, Daddy.
Daddy: You have sinned against God, N. He is a good Judge, and He will punish all who sin against Him if they continue in their sin, like lying.
What if someone did something bad to Mommy, should they be punished?
Daddy: If somebody did something bad to Daddy, or J, or C, should they be punished?
Daddy: That’s right. A good judge would punish the person who did something bad to Mommy.
God is a good judge, and that’s why He must punish you if you continue sinning against Him.
And N, you have sinned against God who has been so good to you. Do you know there are some children who do not have food to eat every day like you? They are so hungry that you can see their bones. And do you know that there are children who do not have a soft pillow to lay their head at night? Some even have to sleep outside in the cold and rain. They don’t have a house to protect them from the weather.
N: And they don’t have pajamies?
Daddy: No, they don’t even have warm pajamies to wear.
So think about how good God has been to you, yet you sin against against Him.
Because there are consequences for your sins, N, you need Jesus. There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to be punished for our sins. Jesus shed His own blood to pay for our sins and suffered under the wrath of God, so those who believe in Him would not be punished in hell forever.
At this point, N was fading, so I needed to wrap things up. I then told her,
the Bible says if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). You can call upon the name of the Lord at any time, N, and God will save you. He is faithful and He keeps all of His promises. He will forgive your sins just like He said.
After I kissed her and told her I love her, I left her room. I then rejoiced for what had just occurred. We’ve had many conversations like this, often surrounding times of discipline. The fact is, she nor any of my children can hear the Gospel too often. None of us can hear the Gospel too often. But it is during these times of discipline I find myself rejoicing in a unique way.
As much as we hate sin, I thank the Lord for these conversations that result from our children’s sin. It’s as if I am thankful she lied because without the lie we would not have had the discussion about her sin and the Gospel, at least not at that moment. How many of us can say the same about our own experiences? Consider the depths of sin some of us have experienced, yet these darkest of times in our lives are merely the backdrop for the light of God that has shone in our hearts revealing the beauty and majesty of our wonderful, merciful Savior.
In God’s providence, He allows us to follow the course of our sinful nature to sin against Him. While God hates every sin committed against Him by the sinner, it is this very sin that necessitated our need of salvation. Without sin, of which we alone are responsible for committing, there would be no plan of redemption. Without sin, God could not display the riches of His grace and the kindness of His mercy. Without sin, God could not demonstrate the depths of His love, that He would pay the ultimate sacrifice in giving Himself for the ransoming of wicked sinners, to the praise of His glorious grace.
So do not waste your child’s lie, or any other sin, that they might not waste God’s offer of mercy to come to Him and be saved. Do not rob your children of hearing what they need to hear most – that they are sinners who sin, and there is an eternal punishment awaiting them if they die in their sins. Robbing them of understanding this reality may rob them of knowing the eternal weight of glory awaiting them if they would repent from their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our continual prayer is these seeds of truth being sown into the lives of our children would mature into saving faith by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. May this also be your desire and prayer for your children.
Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 19:14