I love my kids, and I think I know what’s best for them, just like I think I know what’s best for me. I think I know the decisions that they should make, and the things they should value, and the sins and temptations that are coming for them down the road.
So I sometimes tell them what they should do, and what I would do, and how to prepare for what lies ahead. And it’s good that I do this. We’re supposed to be having these discussions. This is parenting.
But in the midst of all this instruction and teaching, there is a danger for them. And the danger is that they’ll hear my counsel and my wisdom and my experiences, and what they’ll take away from all of that knowledge is, “I should do my best to be like Daddy.”
And there’s something heartwarming about that, isn’t there? There’s something loving and respectful and utterly innocent about the little boy who looks up at his dad and says, “I want to be just like you, Dad.” Or the little girl who sees her mom trying to hold things together and completely stuns her with the words, “Mommy, I want to be just like you someday.”
Kids don’t realize how fragile we are. They see us as confident decision-makers. They see us with control and command of a situation. They have no idea what’s really going on in our heads and our hearts.
What if, with all of our counsel and wisdom that we give them, the message I end up mistakenly communicating is, “Just be like me”? That’s not the right message.
The message they need is, “Just be like Jesus.”
So, officially and for the record, here are three ways that I hope my kids will model Jesus instead of Reggie. (And yes, I realize the potential for such a list is infinite.)
1. Don’t look for joy in games and sports like Dad did. Experience real joy in seeking God’s kingdom.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Mat. 13:44)
Jesus gave all that He had for the kingdom of heaven, and He did it for joy – real joy, not the kind of fake joy that ends when the video game’s over or the sports are done. The joy of God’s kingdom is eternally satisfying. It is genuine and fulfilling. It doesn’t leave you empty, looking for another game or another league. It doesn’t disappoint. It’s not ruined by pulled hamstrings or computer crashes.
It’s real! That’s the joy I want for them.
2. Don’t look for peace or power or satisfaction in money like Dad did. Find all of those things (and so much more) in God.
“Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (1 Tim. 6:9)
Money will not protect you from catastrophe. It will not immunize you to cancer. Insurance for your house, car, life, and health may be wise and prudent, but if your peace rests in your bank accounts and insurance policies, then you’ve built your life on sand. And when the tide comes in, and when it strikes at the foundation of your life, you will crumble.
The power and satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that money affords will not be worth the cost when you stand before the Lord and give an account of all that you’ve done.
So make money. Make as much money as you honorably can. But don’t keep it. Don’t horde it. And, for the sake of your own soul, don’t trust in it. It will fail you. It will fail you every time in the end.
Use your money with a vision of eternity in Heaven. You will be glad that you did.
3. Don’t lie to yourself about your own sinfulness like your Daddy did. Humble yourself, confess your sins, and see Jesus for the Savior that He is.
Jesus has always been honest about my sin, even when I wasn’t willing to be.
I understand that you hate your sin. But denying that it’s there won’t help you. Turning a blind eye to it, or (worse) trying to justify it, will only hurt you and those you love. Ignoring or justifying sin rips a hole into the heart of the gospel.
If you can’t see your sin for what it is, then you won’t see your Savior for who He is.
Paul wrote, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim. 1:15)
You cannot fight an enemy until you admit that he’s there. You cannot fight against the power of sin in your life until you recognize its presence (confession), assess your own strength (salvation by grace alone), and attack it at its core – those evil desires that have tricked you into thinking they’ll give you something good.
Jesus will never lie to you about your sin. He’s given His life to save you from it and all its ugly consequences.
So Halle, Ashlynne, Jocelyn, Reggie, and Evelyn – don’t be like Mommy or Daddy when you grow up. Don’t set your sights so low. Be like Jesus, and never see me or your mother for more than what we are: chief sinners, saved only by the blood of our cross-carrying King of kings.