We always have a collie around. We are hiking with three of our five grandchildren. It is times like these that some little points about creation, or even the Beatitudes, can be talked about as you go along the path. Of course, be ready for anything to interrupt. Right after this was taken, they all decided it would be fun to run along the trail. Take advantage of each moment you are given! I restrict comments most of the time in order to keep our focus on the Bible passage and its application from a warm-hearted Calvinist’s perspective. Now that we have completed The Lord’s Prayer and The Beatitudes, we might all profit from listening to each other. Please tell us how you have been helped by these studies on the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes. Has the introduction to Thomas Watson and Martyn Lloyd-Jones and warm-hearted Calvinism been beneficial to you? Have you read from any of the other books from the main menu? Any questions?
True happiness for your children or grandchildren is found in their becoming more and more like the Beatitudes. They must first learn the meaning of each, and then be encouraged to rely on the Holy Spirit to make them meek, merciful, peaceable. Of course, they must take actions to show mercy or to put aside their own desires or to stop their repeated sins. Do you believe this? If so, that should impact how you train and discipline them.
These Beatitudes are also for their comfort and assurance of their salvation. Children need to be equipped to look for these traits in themselves, and then the promise going along with each trait can be made real to them by the Holy Spirit. It is comforting to have hope that you will inherit the earth—or are sons of God—or are in the kingdom of God!
How can you train and discipline them along these lines? I have found it to be largely by talking to them as you go through your daily life (Deut. 6), and by seeing that they are exposed to the right teaching/preaching and experiences. I never lived near my Grandmother, but I still remember talking to her about the Bible and life. The Holy Spirit uses the words and actions of grandparents! Your words as loving parents, and the experiences you insist they have, are also of vital importance. And it is a lot more important than how many sports they participate in!
SEVEN TEACHING TECHNIQUES
1. Train them to look at our Lord Jesus Christ and think about what He is like. Ask the right questions. One way I do this with my grandchildren is to talk to them often about what they see in nature. Children love to explore their world up close. What did you find today that reminds you of how great, how creative our God is? Ingrain in them from their earliest days that God is the Creator of them and all things. “Who made you?” “What else did God make?” It is out of this they will begin to become poor in spirit as they see themselves as nothing in comparison with God. Then later, as they are confronted with the Ten Commandments and learn through experience about their own sin, true poverty of spirit will result if the LORD blesses it. Next, you should make sure they hear the truth about biblical assurance: that as they see this fruit of the Spirit developing in their lives, they can rest in the promise of “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
2. Talk to them when the need for discipline arises. Tell them it is offending God that matters most and that should be the cause of their sorrow and mourning. Show them the difference in this and being sorrowful for the mess they are in because of their sinful behavior. Holding children accountable can be done in an age approperate manner and with a gentle and quiet spirit. Remember, “And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath… (Ephesians 6:4).
3. Teach them that true meekness comes from their being sad about their sin. Meekness is about how they look at themselves in relation to others. Check their pride by explaining that their talents and advantages come from God.
For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (I Corinthians 4:7)
It is good to praise them for their accomplishments, but too much praise leads to self-absorbed teens.
Do not put up with angry retorts to you or their siblings! Usually, these conflicts are over competing desires. Work at getting them to learn to quiet themselves–to settle emotions before striking out at others. It is all about learning self-control. It is not about the feelings of anger, but about its control; not letting the sun go down without quieting oneself.
The promise that the meek will get it all in the end is the sugar. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Here is that blessed assurance again. Never growing in the ability to control your own anger when things don’t go your way, especially with your sister, robs the child of enjoying that sugar in the promise. None of us, regardless of our age, can sustain our assurance of salvation if we are not growing in meekness. (If it is all about us and our agenda now, we will find a need to redefine this blessing if we are to maintain our assurance of heaven. Maybe, we will decide that these blessings are reserved for another age, another dispensation, but leaving us and our children okay in this age to be all about ourselves! Of course, that flies in the face of what Jesus taught in these Beatitudes.)
4. Work at getting them to watch themselves closely. Ask the right questions. Are they wanting to do what is right? Are they wanting to be free of sin? Catch them seeking after happiness or becoming absorbed with themselves and their desires. A child can love his world and that can blunt his hunger and thirst for righteousness. (Thomas Watson has a long list of ways this occurs in his book on The Beatitudes.) Redirect them to look at Jesus. Sing “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His wonderful grace.” Ask “What is sin?” “Sin is a want of conformity or a transgression of the law of God.” Explain how to use the Ten Commandments as a standard of righteousness–how to love God and others. Are you lying? Are you coveting something? Are you loving God more than soccer? These are hard questions because they pierce the soul. Be sure your tone is one of loving concern. Your objective is for them to remember to ask the questions of themselves. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is to desire to be rid of sin. The other side of the coin is to catch them doing what is right and praise and reward them for it. Lots of that is a good thing.
5. Arrange opportunities for them to show mercy. Set an example before them. This is not about talking but about doing! These can become fun summer activities, especially for the elementary years. Write notes, visit the sick and old, make crafts or cookies for someone, etc. Visit the orphans and widows. Take them with you. Make sure they know these deeds are not earning any points with God, but are more assurance that they are seeking to please Him, if indeed, that is their heart’s desire.
6. What better place to learn peacemaking than with your brothers, sisters, and cousins? You can’t claim to be “saved” if you stir up strife and discord. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). “Agree with your adversary quickly…Love your enemies” (Matthew 6:25;44). This is a hard row to hoe. Of course, being a peacemaker does not mean you have to be a doormat or not protect yourself. These are vital life lessons. Maintaining balance amid biblical tensions is learned over time and with practice. It is best learned in the home, backed up by the school, and encouraged in the church. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:26).
7. Unfortunately, a child or teen who lives like this will find herself excluded and often overlooked by their peers. Children and teens are mean to each other. There is always another bully. Of course, the church community is not immune from people like this as well. Instead of wringing your hands when this happens, encourage rejoicing that the fruit of the Spirit has been noticed. Of course, also ask the right questions to make sure the persecution is not for being a jerk, or having too much zeal, or not being peaceable. My mother was great at asking the right questions, but we were deficient in the rejoicing part. I learned to duck the persecution, but missed the comfort of “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Balance the two.
Do not be overwhelmed by your parental responsibilities. The crown of old age is grandchildren! Parents, you have that to look forward to.
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).