Does Gospel-Centered Parenting Guarantee Gospel-Centered Children?


We'd like the answer to be yes, but in reality, we can't control another person's heart, mind or will—only God can...and does.

It's easier to parent our children with the euphoric expectation that if we follow all the rules and train them up "right" that we are guaranteed perfect results...or at least the results we always hoped and dreamed for. While this nice and neat image of a family does happens to some, it doesn't happen to all.

I wasn't raised in a Christian home, but was saved when I was four, and remained the only Christian in my household throughout my entire childhood. I rode the bus to church every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. I held tightly to God's Word and His standard of living. Were there challenges? Yes. Did I behave perfectly? No. But no matter the persecution from others or my own personal failings, I always ran back to my Lord, who alone could then (and now) provide me with the greatest peace, comfort and hope.

My husband wasn't raised in a Christian home either. Well, he was raised in a professing Christian home, but there was no evidence of Christ in the home. Just like me, there were many challenges and temptations to sin in the environment he was raised in, but he too chose to consistently run towards God's truth and His Word rather than live by the lies he was told about God, i.e., "God just wants us to be matter what."

Since neither my husband nor I had a good, strong Christ-centered (and certainly not Gospel-centered) home, that's what we wanted most for our children.

Often when people say "I want to give my kids what I never had." the first thing that comes to mind are tangible things like: fancy clothes, big houses, lots of toys, vacations, cars, college educations, etc. Not that any of these are bad in themselves, but rarely are we referring to intangible matters of the heart that are far more valuable.

When Jim and I set out to give our sons what we never had growing up, our thoughts went to: the Gospel, biblical marriage, peace, a stable and orderly environment, discipline and discipleship in accordance with God's Word, God's love, God's grace, God's mercy and well, you get the picture. We wanted a peaceful and loving Gospel-centered home with the hopes that our children would have what we never did...Christian parents who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt 6:33).

Our greatest desire is for our children to be safe. And the only place they are safe, is in Christ.

Both our sons are now grown, 21 and almost 19. Both sons were raised in the same home with the same Gospel-centered parenting. No favoritism was shown, although they would've liked for us to do that from time to time. Jim and I spent hours upon hours each day discipling our own children from the moment they rose in the morning to the moment they peacefully slept in their warm and comfy beds all night (Deut 6:5-9). So it's a logical conclusion they would both grow up to love, honor and cherish the Lord, His Word and His precepts. But this isn't a Disney movie with a script that everyone follows.

Our oldest son has walked closely (not perfectly) with the Lord and has continued to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. He's taught Sunday School classes, led Bible study clubs in hostile environments, preached the Gospel to many, and for the most part, obeys and honors us in all he does. Of course he struggles with many temptations like we all do and he suffers failures, but he also enjoys many victories in Christ.

However, our youngest son has had lots of trouble with his walk with Christ. He made a profession of faith at age four, like I did, and we thought it "took" until he was six years old. That's when we first noticed his pattern and almost obsessive desire to manipulate, lie and immerse himself in worldly pursuits.

Nonetheless, Jim and I continued our daily discipleship of both our sons, while slowly letting go and allowing them to learn how to live out their own faith. Beginning at age 10, we no longer chose their friends for them, but would remind them of the Scriptures they've been taught all their lives and encouraged them to have their own convictions based on God's Word. We allowed them to err in the friends and activities they chose, as well as allowed them to experience the natural, often embarrassing, and sometimes painful consequences that accompanied their self-gratifying decisions. We were (and still are) always glad to restore them with the balm of God's rich forgiveness, grace and peace.

While holding steadfastly to God's charge to all Christian parents to train up our children in the loving discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4), we continued to encourage our sons to own their faith and work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12-13).

We didn't want our children to grow up and do the "right" things or abstain from the "wrong" things simply because we said so. We wanted our children, when asked for the reason for their participation or abstinence in an activity to say, "Because God said so."

Our youngest son continues to traverse between God's precepts, and all the glitter, ideologies and deceitful promises of autonomy this world offers. Though his questionable salvation breaks our hearts, keeps us crying out to the Lord day and night, and grieves us sometimes beyond what we think we can bear, our hope is in God and not  in our son's behavior.

Jim and I never set out to train up our children in the Way they ought to go (Prov 22:6) so that we could have a happy home, children to brag about, or for any other reason than this: That God would be well pleased and the name of Christ honored and exalted above all (Ps 19:14, Eph 2:10, Phil 1:20-21).

If today, you're reading this with a broken and grieved heart because you too have a child (or two) who is living outside of God's will, then take heart and be of good cheer whether or not you've raised your child(ren) with Gospel-centered parenting. Why can you still be cheerful? Because you still have the opportunity to repent to the Lord and to your children. And that is most certainly something to be cheerful and grateful for.

Resolve today to fully trust God's sovereignty, His love and His promised goodness to all who call upon His name. Love and cherish your wayward child in the beautiful and powerful light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And do it, not for your joy (though you will have it), but do it for the fullness of joy found only in keeping the Lord's commandments.

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that MY JOY may be in you, and that YOUR JOY may be FULL."
~John 15:7-11