“Be good, make wise choices!”
How many of us have said this to our kids? I would assume in one way or another we all have.
A reminder or even a plea to do the right thing is not wrong, but if the pursuit of being “good” is primary, then discouragement and failure will follow. Failure is inevitable. Our sin nature makes sure of this. Our kids will fail tomorrow, and they will fail the next day and the next. We have only to look at our own efforts to see this to be true.
I hiked two 14ers in Colorado this year and let me tell you, it was hard. There were moments when placing one foot in front of the other seemed overwhelming. My goal was to reach the summit. Well, and to not die.
We need to teach our kids that as Christians, being good and making wise choices is not our summit. We do not arrive at good. Our summit is delighting in knowing God and having intimacy with God. Any desire to be good should be propelled by this main pursuit.
In 1 Peter we read, “You shall be holy, for I (God) am holy” (1:16). We are commanded to be holy, to be set apart from what is sinful. This seems like an impossible command to obey and well, it is. Being good and making right choices is impossible and beset with failure. We can wallow in failure or be encouraged as we remember our motivation: love. We strive because he made the first move. He created us in his image, gave us purpose, and saved us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Any effort to know and be like our maker is fueled by love and it becomes our joyful ambition.
When we encourage the action of being good without reminding our kids of the motivation, then they may redefine goodness based on their experience and feelings instead of on God’s character. Any effort toward holiness will most assuredly be in their own strength and power. We need to remind our kids that when God sees us, he sees Christ’s finished work on the cross and his perfect holiness in us. We are in a new position in relation to God. As one redeemed by Christ with the presence and power of God’s Spirit is in us, we are declared not guilty. This positional holiness doesn’t go anywhere, no matter how badly we mess things up, even as we continue to think and live apart from our new position.
So yes, be good, make wise choices. Be holy as God is holy… because through Christ God has made us a new creation and we have his Spirit to live in that freedom. And every day through the process of sanctification, we can learn more about God’s attributes and how he calls us into this holiness through the pages of Scripture.
Peter calls us to “prepare our minds for action”(1:13), to literally gird up the loins of our minds in preparation. We don’t pull and tuck fabric in preparation for battle like they did back in Biblical times, but like them, we prepare. They couldn’t fight effectively while tripping in folds of extra fabric. We sometimes don’t pull and tuck the distracting “fabric” of our lives because we don’t want to. We like to live our own way. Beautiful folds of taffeta can swish our attention to splendor and riches. Layers of wool promise comfort and we become complacent. We like our phones, our schedules, our rhythms. Peter says to “not be conformed by the passions of your former ignorance” (v. 14), which means that we should not be conformed to a false reality. The passions and habits derived from our “old self” are things that will trip us up.
We need to encourage our kids to intentionally prepare their minds for action. Peter gives us further direction on how to prepare: “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v.13). We prepare by first remembering God’s grace and promise of eternal redemption, and then we respond with gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise. The truth of how God made us clean and holy through the great grace of His sacrifice should form how we act. It starts first in our minds, and then our feelings and actions can follow. Our kids will not feel or act rightly if they do not think rightly. We must teach our kids to prepare their minds by setting them on truth.
And when our kids fail to do good, we encourage them bar the door to guilt and shame, which tend to slip in like unwelcome guests intent on a long visit. Our kids do not need to let them in. Instead, we teach our children to confess their sin and shortcomings to God, who out of His great love will forgive and cleanse them from all unrighteousness.
God’s goodness is good enough.