We can and should give our kids practical principles and wise strategies, but it is Holy Spirit who changes them.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Does your child have any attitudes or behaviors that you’d like to see changed? How about in yourself? Whether your mental list has one thing or one hundred, we all agree that positive changes are good things
A Changed Man
I became a follower of Jesus after my Freshman year in college. I didn’t fully understand what that meant, especially in terms of how my life needed to be different.
I made some immediate changes, based on things I had picked up from other people that I knew were Christ followers. I started reading my Bible every day almost every day. I wrote a Bible verse on a notecard and kept it on my dashboard, because I saw my brother do that. (The verse above was the first verse I memorized after becoming a Christian.) Within a year, I joined a local church.
But some changes in my life were unexpected and unintentional. Throughout my adolescent and teen years, I would say that I was characterized by two attitudes: a lack of joy about life, and a bottled up anger that occasionally spilled out when things didn’t go my way.
Though I didn’t tell many people about my newfound faith, they could see the effects. During my sophomore year, a friend told me about a conversation they heard among some other mutual friends. It went something like this:
“Have you guys noticed that Joey seems different?”
“Yeah, he seems to be enjoying life more this year.”
“I don’t know what it is, but he’s more fun to be around.”
And a couple of years later, when I was a graduate student, I had some undergraduates working under me. One day, after spending a week making something in the chemistry lab, one of the students knocked over a flask containing the material, spilling it all over the table.
His face went ashen, probably expecting my usual anger-filled lashing, and began stammering an apology. But without hesitation, I calmly said, “That’s ok. Don’t worry about it. Accidents happen.” The look on his face went from fear to shock to relief.
In both of these cases, I never tried to change those attitudes. I didn’t force myself to be more joyful, and I didn’t have to remind myself to not get angry. The joy and peace flowed out of me, and I know that it was a result of being a new creature in Christ.
As best we can discern, one of our children is a follower of Jesus and two are not (yet!). All of them are created in God’s image, but as fallen sinners, they don’t always reflect His glory and attributes. Just like I don’t always reflect Him.
I see some of their attitudes and actions that I want to change. I want them to love God and love others more in their everyday life. And I know you want the same for your child.
But how do you change them? The answer: you don’t.
As parents, we need to remember that it is not, but the Holy Spirit, that changes our kids. Sure, we can (and should) give them practical principles and wise strategies. But all the strategies and efforts will be futile without the gracious work of the Holy Spirit.
Keep teaching your children. With God’s word as your foundation, keep teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training them, so that they can be equipped for good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
But above all, lead them to Jesus. Hold out the grace offered by Jesus at His cross and His resurrection. If you want to see the biggest change in your child, you need to know that it will come by him being in Christ, not just in your family.
“There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, . . . In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” Romans 3:30-31
-Written by Joey Espinosa