Go After Their Hearts — Part 2

This is a follow-up post, so make sure you read this first.

I really enjoyed reading the comments you made. Houkhouse has some great practical ideas and Revka said what I’ve been thinking lately — our focus cannot be soley on behavior. God desires relationship with us. That’s what Christianity is really all about — relationship. When Jesus named the greatest command, the thing that He desired most from us, He told us to love God with everything we’ve got and to love other people. He zeroed in on our relationship with God and our relationship with other people.

Though there are certainly passages of scripture explaining how we should behave, the focus is on our relationship with God. When we abide in Christ, we act like Christ. When we’re firmly grafted to Him, we bear His fruit. Apart from Him, we can do nothing good.

As Revka mentioned, the Pharisees focused on outward appearance and behavior. They wanted to appear good. The Pharisees obeyed rules for the sake of the rules and thought they could please God with their goodness. This is what we hope to avoid with our children. I do not want my children to obey and behave only because they want to stay out of trouble or because they want us to think they are good. I do not want my children to be good in public only to avoid embarrassment. I know that avoiding punishment and embarrassment is going to be the motivation sometimes. Sometimes that’s my motivation for doing the right thing — it would be terribly embarrassing for a grown woman with six small children to throw a full-blown temper tantrum in Wal-Mart. 🙂 But I don’t want that to be our true motivation all the time. I want my children to know God and love Him and live in Him so that they cannot help but bear His fruit.

I think the tendency to focus on our children’s behavior rather than their heart stems from the tendency we have to focus on our own behavior rather than our heart and our relationship with Christ. Often, I try to pull myself up by my bootstraps and make myself do what’s right. I try to turn over a new leaf, make a resolution, follow a 5-step plan — all the while forgetting that the Bible doesn’t tell me to make my own good fruits. The Bible tells me to abide in Christ and bear His fruit. The Bible tells me to be in Christ and the fruits of HIS Spirit will become evident in my life.

My focus should not be on my actions or behaviors. I can’t work up enough goodness in myself to ever amount to anything that will please God. My focus should be on my heart, on my relationship with Christ. As I draw close to Him, read the Bible, pray, worship Him, meditate on Him, I will begin to look like Him. As I purpose in my heart to decrease myself so that He might increase in me, He will increase. As I shift my focus to my relationship with Christ, my behaviors will fall into line.

And so it is with our children. As we spend time with them, pour ourselves into them, as we selflessly give our time and attention to our children, as we love them and laugh with them and play with them and work with them, we are building a relationship with them and winning their hearts. As we fill them up with scripture stories and verses, as we feed them principles of God’s Word, as we show them and tell them about God’s love for them and plans for them, they will begin their own relationship with God (we pray). And producing good fruit in our children isn’t really up to us. It’s up to the Holy Spirit as our children abide in Christ.

If I can’t work good in myself, I certainly can’t work good in my children. But if I spend time with Jesus and ask Him to fill me up with Himself, He will overflow from me. Then I will teach my children Jesus because I won’t be able to help it. And as my children love Him and abide in Him, He will also overflow from them.

There are other thoughts floating through my head, but I think I’ve said enough for now. I’d love to see your comments.

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5 Comments

Filed under Bible, faith, Family, motherhood, parenting

5 responses to “Go After Their Hearts — Part 2

  1. Thank you for bringing up this topic. I think it goes far beyond parenting, but to the core of our lives and how we walk them out. This discussion is helping me a great deal as I wrestle with the fact that my church has brought up the idea of sharing a covenant together (instead of membership). The covenant includes “commit to” statements that are about behavior and I can’t bring myself to agree to those. It isn’t because I see anything wrong with them, but instead because I know I am a selfish, sinful person who will fail at being in covenant with the other person’s best interest in mind. Rather than the behavior, I know it is my heart that needs to change. I need to have a heart that pursues God’s values before I will ever reach a point of being selfless enough to really love others, whether those others are my co-worker, neighbor, friend at church, or my own family.

    I really appreciate you sharing your heart here and allowing complete strangers who stumble by to pop in and glean from your knowledge and experience. Your posts challenge me and I am thankful for that!

  2. This is a great topic. My daughter entered my home through the gift of adoption. She was exposed prenatally to alcohol and drugs and has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I simply cannot focus on behavior. She learns rules but is too impulsive to think to follow them. She can’t predict or imagine consequences so she never thinks she might get in trouble for any activity. She doesn’t live past the moment she is in right now. What spills out in her behavior is what is in her heart. Discipling her, teaching her to know and love God, is the most important thing I do as a parent.

  3. Julie and Theoutlet, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    Theoutlet, I would share your concerns about the covenant. That idea is totally new to me.

    Julie, thank you for bringing up children with special considerations. We have a daugther with Tourette Syndrome, and it can be challenging to know which behaviors she can control and which she cannot. As we focus on her heart and our relationship with her, we discuss with her more and react to her behavior less.

    Now, lest any of you mistakenly think I am perfect at focusing on the heart rather than the behavior, I want to confess that I revert too often and react to behavior. This is especially true when I’m tired or hungry or when I have a headache. I’m discussing this because this is my goal, the ideal — not because I’m really great at it. I’m learning.

  4. Once again, yes!!! I, too, wrestle with bettering myself through my own strength. It NEVER works! What is inside will come out, and only my relationship with Christ can make what is inside any better. Does that make sense? As for capturing your children’s heart, I recommend Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. EXCELLENT book on this exact subject.

  5. Tammy

    Ahhh – isn’t it wonderful that God doesn’t focus on our behavior? I’d be sunk for sure! I recently heard the testimony of a man that related to these ideas (but not to children, really).
    As a high school student, he commited himself to the Lord, and so wanted to love the Lord with all of his heart, strength, soul and mind (the greatest commandment). He figured he could be much more effective as a single man, so he commited himself to remain single. He continued in his desire to love the Lord and chose to do things like get up early to spend more time in prayer and study of God’s word. He figured out the cheapest way to eat and survive so he could give the rest of his available money away. After college, he became a missionary in Calcutta, among the poorest of poor, living among them, like they lived, but sharing Jesus with them. He got up even earlier to pray more and more (eventually 3 or 4 am). He fasted for a week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, and then 40 days.
    However, he began to feel irritated, tired, angry and depressed. He prayed about this for a long time (4 or 5 years) and realized that his depression meant he needed to leave the ministry in Calcutta.
    He stood before hundreds, crying, over the struggle he had years before. He said, “The greatest commandment is not the greatest truth.” He said, “What is the greatest truth? . . . The greatest truth is that God loves us.” He said that when he goes before the Father to confess a sin that has recurred in his life again and again, and he expects to see God, with arms crossed in displeasure over this recurrent sin – instead of seeing displeasure, he sees and knows the God who yearns for his presence, who longs to forgive, even the recurrent sins – and who stands with arms open in acceptance, with eyes full of tears at our struggle and a heart full of love for us.
    Sometimes I forget that I don’t have to “do things” to please God or get Him to like me. So I “do things” – I try and try and fail and fail. Then I remember – ‘Oh yeah – I try to behave rightly because of His love for me! He loves me! Regardless of ________, He loves me! I can’t help but want to try to please Him!’

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