I’m surprised, although I shouldn’t be, how pride shows up in my parenting. How about you? We’ve looked at six aspects of humility through the past six Chariot of Fire articles. With each aspect, we must fight pride within that militates against our living humbly before the Lord and our children. Let’s review them briefly and how pride works against humility.
- Aspect #1: Living in a manner worthy of Jesus Christ and the gospel. Pride makes us think of ourselves before Christ.
- Aspect #2: Empty yourself. Pride fills us with ourselves.
- Aspect #3: Be concerned about other’s interests above our own. Pride places our own interests in first place to the neglect of other’s interests.
- Aspect #4: Have a servant attitude. Pride demands that others serve us.
- Aspect #5: Willingly bear the burden of other’s sins and fleshliness. Pride expects others to bear our sins and fleshliness and considers it an offense to have to forgive and bear the weight of another’s sin.
- Aspect #6: Provides an example for others to follow. Pride doesn’t want others to evaluate the way they live their lives, much less take on the responsibility of submitting themselves to others.
- Aspect #7: Trust God to reveal Himself and do the work in other’s lives. Pride doesn’t wait on God and makes us think that if others would listen to us and do what we say, they would be okay. It also makes us feel important and significant.
I want to draw our attention to the last aspect of humility in parenting from my study of Philippians: trusting God to reveal Himself and do the work in our children’s lives. Let’s look at the Scriptural basis for this characteristic of humility. “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you” (Philippians 3:15).
The All-Consuming Purpose: Live in a manner worthy of Christ and the gospel.
After explaining his reason for joy in the midst of the trials of imprisonment in Rome, the apostle Paul gave his readers the over-arching purpose for life as a believer in Jesus Christ and recipients of the gospel. “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). He further stated in 2:2, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” The one purpose the Holy Spirit gave for the Christian life is that of intentionally conducting yourself in such a way that the gospel of Christ is advanced.
Living to make much of Jesus Christ or seeking to know Him in everything are other ways of describing the all- inclusive purpose of Christians. Paul wanted the Philippians to imitate Christ – His attitude of humility so they could know Him and gain Him. There were some in the church who were united and intent on pleasing Jesus Christ in everything. He referred to them as perfect. The word Paul used conveyed the idea of one having reached an end or completed a goal. Perhaps it is easier to understand these people as mature. Mature Christians aim to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel in everything they do. How does one become mature according to the apostle Paul? Paul knew that having the same humble purpose as Jesus was the way to maturity.
The reason I describe this purpose as humble is that it takes humility to set aside your own self-ambition and desires. Many parents think the all-encompassing purpose of parenting is to gain a good reputation by making their children honor and obey everything they say and demand without question. Some parents think they have fulfilled their parenting responsibilities if they provide financially for their children. Others don’t seem to care at all about their children, leaving them to fend for themselves from an early age. In each of the cases above, pride and selfishness is the common denominator which reveals spiritual immaturity.
Do you have an attitude of parenting in a manner worthy of the Lord Jesus and the gospel in your relationship with your children? Does this goal encompass all of your teaching, disciplining, educating, and preparing your children for life? If not, then I want to encourage you to grow in maturity and adopt that humble purpose, namely, parenting in a manner worthy of the gospel.
The All-Pervasive Attitude: The humility of Jesus Christ.
In the previous articles, I’ve explained the humility of Christ and what it looks like. If you’ve forgotten, please review the articles in the Chariot archive on the Spirit of Elijah Ministries website. I think it is the attitude of humility which Paul had in mind when he wrote, “as many as are perfect, have this attitude.” If you remember, he wrote earlier in his letter, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:5-8).
Those who are mature maintain a humble attitude as they parent. It is in humbling ourselves that we know Christ intimately and experientially. Mature parents know they need help and cannot do anything without God’s power.
Flesh strength fails to bring God glory. Understanding that all things come from God so He gets the glory is a sign of maturity. Jesus understood this truth, so He never thought He could do anything apart from His Father. He lived His life trusting His Father to provide everything He needed and trusting in His Father’s wisdom, timing, and power. It is this aspect of humility embedded in Paul’s heart which is revealed in Paul’s comment, “And if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you.” Trusting God’s desire and power to work exemplifies Jesus’ humility.
The All-Encompassing Application: In everything and with everyone.
Paul maintained this humble attitude of trusting God’s desire and power to reveal Himself to bring about changes in every situation as well as with everyone. It’s one thing to theoretically have the right purpose and know one is supposed to maintain a humble attitude, but maturity applies the purpose of the gospel and the attitude of Christ consistently.
As parents, this means we trust God to reveal Himself through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, teach our children, and give them the same attitude of humility. Certainly we want our children to also believe in Jesus Christ, but we can’t make that happen. In fact, we shouldn’t want to! If our children simply adopt our beliefs because they want our acceptance or want to do the right thing, they will eventually fall away. Why? First because the focus of their so-called faith is pleasing themselves, which is a form of pride. Humility cannot grow out of man-centered efforts to believe. Second, because there’s no revelation from God there will be no power in their lives. They will try to live what they think is a Christian life, but will feel empty and passionless about Jesus.
Paul understood this truth. It is one’s experiential encounter with Jesus Christ that changes his or her life and shapes one’s values. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who wonders why my children don't share the exact same values my wife and I have or the same passion for Jesus Christ. My answer to that question is this. They didn’t have the same experiences God has given us. They haven’t read the same books under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit as we. They haven’t experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people like we did in our early young adult years. It isn’t reasonable to expect them to “only conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel” without their having a transformational experience with Jesus Christ that produces His humility in them. To the degree that God has revealed Himself, to the same degree they will share the same faith, conduct, and values. That’s why Paul wrote, “And if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you.”
Dr. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones in his book on Philippians, gave great insight when he explained how to tell if someone has really had an encounter with Jesus Christ. They are passionate about Jesus and He is their one purpose in everything in life. Others may talk about their God or gods. For instance, Muslims talk about Allah and Jews about Yahweh, God. Hindus boast of many gods. People are passionate about sports or business or entertainment or even ministry. True Christians, however, talk about Jesus Christ. Paul called these people “the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). They know Him and find their lives in Him (Col. 3:2). People to whom God has revealed Christ count “all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8). They intentionally apply their relationship with Jesus to everything and everyone.
The Absolute Confidence: God reveals Himself and changes lives.
It takes humility to wait on God to reveal Himself to those we love. The immature don’t wait on God to work – they apply pressure to get others to conform to their positions on things, their thoughts, their values, and lifestyle. When our children are young, we should teach them God’s Law, His ways, wise principles by which to live, and most of all the good news of Jesus as our substitute, righteousness, and life. More than likely, our children will embrace them temporarily as long as they are in our home. However, there will come a time when they get older that those things will be tested. They will face both the blatant and subtle attacks from the flesh, sin, and the world. The true work of God or lack thereof will become apparent. For many, they heard the truth growing up, but they didn’t hear it with their hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. When they face making value decisions, they will either buckle to the pressure or they will humble themselves before God and seek an experience of their own with Him. Paul understood he couldn’t determine when someone was going to encounter Christ in a life-changing way. He trusted God to reveal the truth after he taught them and bring about a change in people’s attitudes and values.
It is so important when parenting teens that you not control your children. They must see that you trust God to work in them. I’m not suggesting that you don’t teach them to serve others, to value what God values, have rules of operation in your own home, and train them to have character and display Christ-like attitudes. Nor am I recommending that you don’t discipline or correct them. God has called us as parents to do these things. However, if you love God and want them to do what they do because of their relationship with Jesus Christ, rather than you, then you pray and trust God to reveal Himself to them. It may not happen while they are in your home under your watch.
God usually uses life’s pressures and storms to reveal our need for Him and parents tend to protect their children from difficult situations.
One of the greatest hindrances in parent/teen relationships is the lack of trust in God expressed by parents. Many parents don’t realize they are trying to play the role of the Holy Spirit to their young adult. When their teen doesn’t hear what they want them to hear or do what they want them to do, they resort to threats, manipulation, and shame. When a teen detects these methods employed by their parents, they put up walls to protect themselves. Once this becomes a pattern of relating, the spiritual and relational divide becomes almost insurmountable.
When your child or teen disagrees with you, are you able to trust God to speak to them? Do you lead them to Him and trust Him to work in their hearts after you’ve taught them and counseled them? If they can’t or don’t want to listen to you and what you believe, do you trust God’s desire, timing, and power to do with them as He wishes for His glory? When parents trust God with their children’s attitudes it is a powerful testimony of love for God and them. That’s parenting with humility.
What a gracious, humble attitude Paul had with the Philippians. Apparently there were some who didn’t have the same all-consuming purpose, all-pervasive attitude, all-encompassing application of the gospel, and absolute confidence in Jesus Christ. Perhaps he felt they weren’t ready for what he wrote to them. He patiently bore with them and trusted God to reveal the truth of what he had written in His time.
Before leaving this point about trusting God to work, I think it is important to apply this kind of humility and faith to church leaders. Spiritual leaders can also fall into the same lack of trust in God and use manipulation and shame to move people around them to stay in line and advance their agendas. Cults are built on these dynamics. The understanding of the apostle Paul about God’s desire and power to reveal Himself and change lives protected the churches he planted from becoming churches of St. Paul. He wanted them to identify with Jesus Christ alone and make much of Him in everything they did with everyone they met.
The Ever-Present Enemy: Living for earthly glory.
In our season of parenting, we have an ever-present enemy. There are forces at work in the hearts of people and in the world that militate against people being united in the spirit of Jesus Christ, intent on one purpose, and applying the humility of Christ in every situation and relationship. When Paul described their purpose, it was living for earthly glory. He warned his readers. “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (3:18-19). The apostle John described these people in a similar way. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).
In the terms of which we have been speaking, those who are enemies of the cross live to fulfill the desires of the flesh, which is really shameful, but to them it is glorious. There are people in the church who bring shame to the name of Christ as they make more of earthly things and experiences than they do of knowing and living for the glory of Jesus Christ and the gospel. We often think of the enemies of the cross being outside the church, but it appears that he may be referring to people inside the community of believers in Philippi. Watch out! They are probably in your church and community, and maybe even in your family.
Parent with humility.
It takes humility to take a stand against the enemies of Christ, but Paul did. Boldness takes both courage and humility. Our lives should stand out from those who value the things of this world. We should look different, act different, and talk different because “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). As parents, we must humble ourselves like Christ because we are looking forward to the gain of knowing Him and being united with Him forever. We know this world is passing away, with its lusts, so instead of proudly trying to establish ourselves here in this world, we want to give our children examples of humility as we only conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of Jesus Christ and the gospel. Let’s trust God to reveal Himself – through us – to our children in His timing for His glory.