Paul David Tripp on Law and Grace with Children

We loved this entry from Paul David Tripp’s book of daily devotionals, New Morning Mercies, and thought we’d share:

Why do we say we place our hope in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and yet practically ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish?

It’s done every day in Christian homes around the world. Well-meaning parents, zealous to see their children doing what is right, ask the law to do in the lives of their children what only grace can accomplish. They think that if they have the right set of rules, the right threat of punishment, and consistent enforcement, their children will be okay. In ways these parents fail to understand, they have reduced parenting to being a law-giver, a prosecutor, a jury, and a jailer. They think that their job is to do anything they can to shape, control, and regulate the behavior of their children. And in their zeal to control behavior, they look to the tools of threat (“I’ll make you afraid enough that you’ll never do this again.”), manipulation (“I’ll find something you really want and tell you that I’ll give it to you if you obey.”), and guilt (“I’ll make you feel so bad, so ashamed, that you’ll decide not to do this again.”).

This way of thinking denies two significant things that the Bible tells us. The first is that before sin is a matter of behavior, it is always a matter of the heart. We sin because we are sinners. For example, anger is always an issue of the heart before it is an act of aggression. This is important to recognize because no human being has the power to change the heart of another human being. The second is that if threats, manipulation, and guilt could create lasting change in the life of another person, Jesus would not have had to come. So this way of thinking denies the gospel that we say we hold dear. It really does ask the law to do what only God in amazing grace is able to accomplish. If you deny the gospel at street level, you will attempt to create by human means what only God can create by powerful grace, and it will never lead you anywhere good.

Thankfully, God hasn’t left us to our own power to change. He meets us with transforming grace and calls us to be tools of that grace in his redemptive hands. He lifts the burden of change off our shoulders and never calls us to do what only he can do. So we expose our children to God’s law and faithfully exercise authority while we seek to be tools of heart change in the hands of a God whose grace is greater than all of the sin we’re grappling with.


Advancing Grace-Driven Youth Ministry

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