Feeding Our Kids A Law-Based Faith

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Pouring In; Instilling a Personal, Powerful, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in The Next Generation.


Sam Williamson, who writes for The Noble Heart, said, “It’s virtually one hundred percent predictable that we are converted by one message and then preach another. We are converted by the unbelievable hope of God’s love for the undeserving, but we lecture on behavior.”

I am so glad there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Praise God! There would be no hope for me if it weren’t for grace. I would be hopelessly heading to Hell. And so would you. And, so would our kids. We can’t save ourselves from our humanity. We all need a Savior.

The story of Jesus’ life is about a love so great that we can hardly fathom and a pardon so outrageous that none of us deserve.

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14

Robin Roberts from the morning show, Good Morning America, recently quoted her mother as saying, “God does not love us because of who we are, God loves us because of who He is.” Wow! Right on Robin’s Mom!

There isn’t anything greater in this world than God’s love and grace we have been freely given in Jesus Christ. The gospel is about God’s love and grace. Grace is everything. Let’s celebrate that in our homes and in our churches.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12

It is the foolishness and simplicity of the gospel that makes it irresistible. A man died in my place, and therefore, I live. It’s lunacy! It’s the crazy, radical love that God has for us.

As Christian parents, we seem to focus on what our kids should or shouldn’t do when it comes to the faith. I have fallen into this trap myself. Why? Do we focus on the law in our own relationship with God? I certainly don’t.

It’s natural for parents to lay down the law. That is what we do. We keep our kids from breaking the law, eating themselves to death, and flunking out of school. They have to follow rules, eat in moderation, and study, study, study!

We do this out of love. And we do it because we know what’s best for them. However, when it comes to teaching our kids faith, we have to take a different approach.

A couple years ago, Emily and I were fighting about what she was allowed to wear to school. Yoga pants and leggings have been the bane of my existence since my girls were in middle school! We have struggled and fought with our girls for years about dressing modestly. Modesty is not a popular concept.

Emily was really into hair, makeup, and fashion then. She put a lot of time and energy into her beauty regimen and it concerned me. I didn’t want her to mistakenly think that she was in any way defined by her beauty. Or that her beauty brought her power.

During our devotions one Saturday, I decided to have us study Isaiah 3:16–17.

The Lord says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore, the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.”

The passage goes on to talk about how vain and seductive women can be. It talks about how women use their beauty as a source of power.

You can imagine how well that went over. It was clear to whom I was directing this teaching. Dumb!! I should have known better.

A couple weeks later, I realized that I was teaching her a law-based faith. I went up to her room and I apologized for focusing on what she was doing wrong.

It’s so hard as parents not to make this mistake. What is parenting for the first decade of our kids’ lives if not teaching them right from wrong?

Obedience to Christ must be taught within the context of extreme love and grace.

Kara Powell, coauthor of Growing Young, discusses a helpful method for teaching kids faith that avoids the behavior-based model. She takes the basic “Guilt—Grace—Gratitude” model of the Heidelberg Catechism from Reformed theology, and adds the topics, God’s Goodness, God’s People and God’s Vision, to make it a complete picture of the gospel. She calls it “grounding moral obedience in the invitation of grace.”

Guilt is only one small part of the gospel story. We must overwhelm our kids with the message of God’s love and grace through the blood of Jesus. And teach them all aspects of the gospel story.

Powell’s method is a great way to teach the gospel to our kids. If we try to keep this progression in mind, they might have a better chance of understanding the true gospel.

All aspects of the faith are important. We must not get stuck on guilt and obedience.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:9

We must demonstrate the beauty of grace in our parenting. This is crucial. Just as the king forgave the debt of his servant who owed him money in Matthew 18, we must extend grace to our kids.

Young people won’t be won to Christ by pounding the rules into their heads. Or, by shaming them. It’s our job to teach them about God’s abundant love and grace. We must show them the beauty of the gospel.

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