Growing in Christ-like Character

9360310-close-up-of-red-wooden-heart-in-child-s-hands-showing-it.jpg

9360310-close-up-of-red-wooden-heart-in-child-s-hands-showing-itIf you read my story you already know a bit about my own journey in teaching our kids about Christ-like character, and how I came to the realization that I was focusing on all the wrong things. If you’ll recall, grace was the last thing on my mind! I was focused on perfecting their behavior but I was not paying any attention to the condition of their heart.  It was pure behavior modification, and it was a fast moving train-wreck! It was only when God began His good work in my heart and I began to enjoy the sweetness of His grace that I realized we can’t “make” our kids grow in Christ-like character any more than we can make ourselves grow in Christ-like character.  Honestly, think about the last time you decided to “make” yourself more kind, or more thankful, or Lord help us, more patient. How long did it last? How much joy was in it?  This stuff has to be the fruit of His spirit at work in our lives, not the result of guilt, force, or fear.  We are powerless to “make” our kids desire to love what He loves and do what He’d do. It is only His radical grace being poured into their hearts that will inspire wholehearted devotion and a desire to live in His likeness.   It is only when grace captivates our hearts that Christ-like character will be the natural overflow.

 

Proverbs 4:23

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

 

Luke 6:45 

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

 

Through Proverbs 4:23 and Luke 6:45 we are wisely reminded that what we do and what we say flows from what is in our heart. The heart is the “wellspring of life.” In fact, Biblical commentary on this topic states, “the heart is the center of the human spirit, from which springs emotions, thoughts, motivation, courage, and action.”

Reaching our kids hearts with His grace and His truth is the Biblical approach to teaching our kids to “Grow in Christ-like character.”  What this means is that we must pour His grace and His truth into their hearts and trust that His love and His life will be what “flows from it.” This is how we must lead our children if our desire is to protect them from the condemning voices of moralism and behaviorism which ever so discreetly whisper, “The burden is on your shoulders child-  do more and try harder to become more Christ-like and win His approval.”  Said differently, if we want to raise little Pharisees, then we should focus all of our effort on what our kids should do to become more like Christ.   But if we want to raise kids who love Jesus, we must start by putting our focus on what Jesus has already done- and the power of His grace in their lives.

The purpose for teaching our kids to grow in His likeness in this way is 3-fold.

1. This approach serves as an opportunity for us to encourage our children in God’s grace. Let us not forget that in God’s economy of grace,  “rules” are not prohibitions of the “God the law giver” but they are “invitations” from “God the Lover of our souls.” Therefore, Christ-like character is ultimately “the fruit” of His grace.

Romans 6:17-18

At one time you were held by the power of sin. But now you obey with all your heart the teaching that was given to you. Thank God for this! You were made free from the power of sin. Being right with God has power over you now.

 

2.  This approach serves as a constant reminder of our need for His Spirit- the Holy Spirit- to help us conform our will to His, because it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that the seeds we plant now will produce the “fruit” we will see later, the manifestation of their friendship with God. (John 15:5-8)

1 Thessalonians 4:7

God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

 

3.  This approach entails instructing our children in His truth -  the promises and commandments of Christ. This is an essential piece to growing a heart like His so that we may more fully enjoy the freedom and fullness of life that He offers us.Remember, when our heart is aligned with His, the result is a life that brings glory to our Father in heaven.

Ephesians 3:16-19

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  

 

This is how we help our kids grow in Christ-like character! We teach our kids about the promises and commandments of Christ, remembering that the only thing that will actually cause Christ-like character to be the overflow of their heart is His grace and the power of His Spirit.

And in the next post we will talk specifics - What does the Bible say is the overflow of a life in Christ?  And where do we begin in deciding which promises and commandments to focus on with our kids?