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Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus

af Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

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615428,362 (4.37)Ingen
A guide to help Christians parent their children with grace and an emphasis on the cross. How are parents to raise children so they don't become Pharisees (legalists) or prodigals (rebels)? It's all about grace-filled, gospel-driven parenting, says the mother/daughter team of Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. Christian parents, in their desire to raise godly children, can tend toward rule-centered discipline. There is, however, a far more effective method--a grace-motivated approach that begins with the glorious truth of God's love for sinners. In Give Them Grace, parents will learn how to connect the benefits of the cross--especially regeneration, adoption, and justification--to their children's daily lives. Chapters address topics such as our inability to follow the law perfectly, God's forgiveness and love displayed at the cross, and what true heart obedience looks like. Fitzpatrick and Thompson also discuss discipline, dealing with popular culture, and evangelism as a way of life. Parents will find this book a great resource for raising grace-filled, Jesus-loving kids.… (mere)
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Despite reading a lot of books, I'm often deeply influenced by them. This book is exceptionally influential. While I have read John Piper, J.I. Packer, John MacArthur and others, I don't believe I have seen the Gospel laid out in such a way as the authors of this book bluntly lay it out. I'm left thinking "Do I really believe the Gospel? Does anyone, really?"

The authors are clearly writing from the Reformed tradition. I'm reading this from a (personally) Reformed-leaning Southern Baptist perspective, and I found that the Gospel they lay out shatters much of the rules and doctrines our churches have erected as well as parenting techniques we've championed. But this book is applicable in any relationship, not just parenting. I've been thinking about it in terms of marriage and dealing with my coworkers. The book also has implications for what we want taught in Sunday school and children's church curriculum. I can better understand why many churches are using The Gospel Project over, say, Orange's children's curriculum. One emphasizes Christ throughout the Bible while the other is basically teaching moral lessons using the Bible as a source.

This is not a how-to book other than the challenge to alter your thinking. There is much good in this book, but a few points that I will quibble with the authors (below).

The authors begin with a critique of stereotypical Christian parenting attitudes and their perceived consequences. Parents (and Sunday schools) typically teach moral lessons. "God is pleased when you're honest," "God is sad when you steal," "God wants you to show gratitude and humility," etc. The danger is that everything that is not Gospel is law:

"the primary reason the majority of kids from Christian homes stray from the faith is that they never really heard (the gospel) or had it to begin with. They were taught that God wants them to be good, that poor Jesus is sad when they disobey, and that asking Jesus into their heart is the breadth and depth of the gospel message...Good manners have been elevated to the level of Christian righteousness" (loc. 185, 219).

"(A)sk yourself what percentage of your time is spent declaring the rules and what percentage in reciting the Story...Yes, we are commanded to teach the Word, prayer, and worship to our children, but their acquiescence to these things won’t save them. Only the righteous life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ saves them" (loc. 308, 390).

By teaching kids to make moral or polite choices, in absence of an understanding that their good choices are still like "filthy rags" to God, we give kids a false sense of pride and invite them to judge others based on their behaviors. Telling a child he is "good" is false as none are good but God.

"if we persist in seeking to build our children’s self-esteem by praising them, we make them into our own image, boys and girls who idolize the benediction, adults who are enslaved to the opinions of others, and parents who pass on the lie to the next generation—even though it hasn’t worked to make them good either...Christian righteousness is that level of goodness that can withstand the scrutiny of a perfectly holy God and earn the benediction, “You are good!” It is perfect obedience in both outward conformity and inward desire. It is goodness for the sake of God’s great glory motivated by a pure and zealous love for God and neighbor."(loc. 563).

This is the money quote:
"The obvious difference between Paul and us is that Paul bragged about his weakness, and we try to hide it" (loc. 2279).

We all need to understand that we are sinners who earn no favor with God by obedience and works. None of us could do that perfectly, and it is only by God's grace through Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection that we can have peace with God and become His dearly loved children. Obeying your parents, taking turns on the playground, telling the truth gets us nowhere in the eyes of God.

This is also very soul-freeing for the parent. If we believe that it is up to God who is saved, then we should pray for our childrens' salvation but not behave like it all hinges on us. Some children will not be obedient to our teachings, and maybe that's how God wants it:

"a strong, successful family may not be the way he has chosen for us to glorify him...Our modern worship of personal success stories is clearly seen in the number of books that outline the methods for producing spiritual giants...What if he’s going to use our failure and our children’s rebellion to make us humble comforters of other sufferers for his glory?"

The above definitely convicted me of my judgmental nature toward parents and their children. It also reminded me not to be fearful of my child's outcome. Training up a child "in the way he should go" is not a promise or guarantee of successful outcomes. Plenty of apparently godly parents in the Bible produced evil children and vice versa. It's all grace.

The authors give some examples of how to work these ideas of the Gospel into your conversations with your child, especially during times of discipline. (There is an explanation of how discipline/training is useful in its own right.) Some of these examples sound really campy and artificial:

"Rather than telling Rebekah that she’s a good girl, we could say, 'I noticed you shared your swing. Do you know what that reminds me of? How Christ shared his life with us. I’m so thankful for God’s working in your life that way. I know that neither of us would ever do anything kind if God wasn’t helping us. I’m so thankful.'" (loc. 5483).

The authors warn parents to avoid a "carrot-and-stick" mentality of rewarding children for obedience.
"Remember, their obedience does not make them righteous, but if they are righteous, if they’ve tasted how good he is, then they will begin to desire to obey out of a heart of gratitude" (loc. 656).

I disagree with the authors here, as should anyone familiar with John Piper's work. Piper's great book Future Grace would say that doing everything out of gratitude for God's past grace will leave your tank running on empty. Our obedience should come with an expectation and gratefulness for God's future grace and provision. Hebrews tells us that Jesus went to the cross "for the joy set before him," and so should we (Hebrews 12:2). The Bible tells us repeatedly that God rewards the faithfulness of His people and Jesus himself promises blessings (ex: Matthew 5-6). Obedience to the wisdom laid out in Proverbs tends to lead to the best results for our lives, and we can be thankful that God gives us such wisdom. Even studies done by non-Christians in multiple fields show the socioeconomic benefits of two-parent homes, forgiving others who have wronged you, etc.

The authors write that at the judgment we are all winners, which is true. "Will will have rewards in heaven, but these are not earned by us through our merit." John MacArthur is very much in the authors' theological camp but seems to disagree with him on this point. He writes that everyone will be awarded in terms of stewardship and obedience, and some will be quite sad at the judgment for not having made the most of what God gave them and being obedient in all areas. To quote MacArthur:

"Some of you are going to be there and you're going to suffer loss. You're not going to receive the full reward that you could have received. Why? Because you haven't lived the kind of life you should have lived. You haven't ordered your priorities. Listen. Listen to this statement: II John 8, "Look to yourselves, listen, look to yourselves that you loose not the things, which you have wrought that you receive a full reward." You know you can actually earn things and you can actually do the things that please God and then like Paul had such a fear of you can become a cast away. You can forfeit your crowns by some sin in your life. Remember Revelation 3:11, remember this: "Hold that fast which thou hast that no man," what? "Take your crown." Paul said in Colossians 2:18, "Don't let anybody rob you of your prize."
With some people, I hate to say it, it's going to be a day of shame. But you say, "I thought there was no judgment." No, but there'll be shame there. Say, how do you know that? I John 2:28, "Little children, abide in Him that when He shall appear we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming." You know it's possible that a Christian is going to be at that judgment seat and down deep in his heart there's going to be maybe just a little, and I don't think the right word because I don't think we can understand heaven and there's no sorrow there, but there's going to be a loss. The Bible clearly says, "suffer loss." And the Bible does indicate the possibility of shame. And there will be some works very definitely worthless."

As such (and because I'm an economist by vocation), I'll continue to incentivize my son's behavior while reminding him that none of us are perfect and all of us rely solely on God's grace through Jesus. But I will also remind him of heavenly rewards and future grace (see the MacArthur and Piper quotes above). I will also enforce habits that I think are helpful to adulthood and self-sufficiency. It's beneficial to health, safety, and easier to find things if your room is organized. I struggle with being organized myself and have to develop the habit of tidiness. Hence, I help instill that in my son by requiring he pick up his toys every night.

The book ends somewhat awkwardly (before the appendix and references, which make up about 20% of the actual text). There is a fairly weak critique of modern parenting methods and the number of books being produced. The authors want to argue that the Bible is enough and was sufficient for centuries after the founding of the church for parents to raise children properly. Parents are always bringing their contexts and cultures into their parenting, and the vast majority over the centuries were neither functionally literate nor had ready access to the Bible in a language they could easily understand. Even so, as the authors write, there is a misunderstanding and misapplication of the Gospel today. I was raised in a Christian home and Bible-teaching church but did not have a proper understanding of the Gospel as laid out in this book.

In all, I give this book 3.5 stars. Were it not for the above errors by the authors (in my judgment) I would rate it much higher. In any case, I recommend it. It has definitely set the tone for how I think about life and relationships in 2015. ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
As a parent I have no greater responsibility than the spiritual health of my child. Period. That is my greatest role in life, to fulfill the Great Commission in the life of each of my children. That is not to say that they come before my relationship with God, but that they are the immediate recipients of the overflow of my relationship with God(aside from my spouse). This is true for any parent. Whether you stay at home with them all day, or pastor a church of 50,000 people, the spiritual health of your children is your primary mission field.
I have known this and have tried to raise them accordingly. This is why we do family worship time, because it is imperative that they know that worshiping God is not “part” of our life, but it is our life. This is why we memorize Scripture and do catechism, because it is my responsibility to teach them the grammar of the Christian faith. This is why we homeschool, because it is my responsibility to maintain their relative purity and to protect them from evil until they are equipped to be an influence, rather than be influenced.
But in all my effort, I had spent much well intentioned time turning my children into legalistic rule keepers, “good kids”, instead of children ready to receive the Gospel of grace in Jesus Christ. All because my focus was “law” rather than “grace”, what I could do rather than what Christ has done. This book by Elisye Fitzpatrick, Give Them Grace, was an eye opener, an encouragement, and a kick in the pants. After learning so much in this book, I can safely say that I am going to do nothing to change the heart of my children...and I would have it no other way.
The first question I had to deal with was the question of “Is my parenting distinctly 'Christian'?” Would my parenting be easily distinguished from that of a good Mormon parent or Jewish parent or Muslim parent? If I were going to be honest, most of the aspects of my parenting would not be that different and this is a problem. What a Christian understands that those of other faiths do not is grace, and every aspect of my parenting(and really my life)should be saturated with grace. Sadly it was not. Not to oversimplify what I learned, but it is pretty simple. Jesus did it all. I can not, and should not try, to add anything to His finished work. My job as a parent is to love my child, discipline them, and tell them about Jesus. God will do the work on their heart and only God can...and that is a great thing!
The other thing that God convicted me on is dealt with in a later chapter but God began working on me from the very beginning. I was strongly convicted on the neccessity of ceaseless prayer in parenting, not through points made in the book but through the examples given. Constantly it is speaking of praying and prayers and I felt God move in my heart to reveal my independence and pride—two things our culture applauds but the Father abhors. I was reminded that prayer is really a declaration of dependence on God and in my parenting, realizing that my child's eternity rests on the mercy and grace of God, I am completely dependent.
This book may not convict you in the same way it did me, but it is a great reminder of the need of grace in parenting and a beautiful refresher of God's grace in every aspect of everything! This is a great book and is well worth a read. ( )
  joshrskinner | Jul 30, 2014 |
Absolutely the best book I've read on parenting. It focuses on the heart, rather than the behavior itself. It isn't a list of "how to's" but encourages us to impart what we ourselves have experienced in God's grace on our children. The resounding message is not to just tell the child to stop misbehaving but that without the Holy Spirit he cannot do it and the freedom that comes with being a child of God and fully forgiven. ( )
  mommamegan | Nov 8, 2013 |
Grace - the one thing most of us struggle with. After all what does this word actually entail? How do we show grace? Have we really accepted fully the grace God has bestowed on us - or do we understand the depth of that grace in its fullness?

This is a radical approach on parenting as it presents the idea to parent with the gospel of grace of legalistic rules. A home dominated by the telling of "the Story" instead of the implementing of rules and regulations.

The over-arching view is that as parents each of us is imperfect however we can live and parent with extreme grace. I am a big believer in "teachable moments". In fact our home has scripture posted on the walls (thanks to the new vinyl cling lettering that looks hand-painted), we have scriptural art work on the walls and shelves - all constant reminders of whom we serve. In fact above the archway in the living room our family theme verse (Joshua 24:15) is posted. My children even memorize a verse for every letter of the alphabet along with other theme verses for their schoolwork. I also love to use moments of life to teach a life lesson based on scripture. However, I found some of the sample conversation in this book to lesson the effect of the gospel and Christ and to even diminish the power of certain scriptures.

For instance I do not apologize when have to discipline my children with spankings by saying "I am sorry to cause you pain...." This quote goes on to diminish the suffering and power of the cross. A more applicable scriptural reference to use is that like God punishes His children out of love so too must we as parents, for if we love our children we will not spare the rod but will chasten them when they are disobedient.

All in all the book is an excellent parenting book in that it is not a list of rules for christian parents to take not of and apply. The danger though is that the sample conversations will become a list of conversation and instead of prayerfully asking that God reveal "teachable moments" the parent might try overly hard to apply scripture everywhere and by default becoming a pharisee of sorts.

Parenting must be done in grace - for this there is no argument. But it must also be approached prayerfully. It must never diminish the gospel or power of the Word of God. And we must all be careful not to use scripture to beat up our children - for in this they will become bitter and revel against the very thing you are trying to teach them to embrace.

My advice: parent with grace by living grace. All the scripted conversations in the world - all the scripture memory that can be done in a life time is null and void if it is not demonstrated in your daily walk. After all what makes God's grace so appealing to us? It is the fact that Jesus Christ demonstrated grace daily - not by repeating the scripture of the day, but by living and walking it.

This is worth the read and may inspire you to live with grace.

I received this review copy from Crossway in exchange for an honest review of the book. ( )
  Adayriddle | Jul 16, 2011 |
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A guide to help Christians parent their children with grace and an emphasis on the cross. How are parents to raise children so they don't become Pharisees (legalists) or prodigals (rebels)? It's all about grace-filled, gospel-driven parenting, says the mother/daughter team of Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. Christian parents, in their desire to raise godly children, can tend toward rule-centered discipline. There is, however, a far more effective method--a grace-motivated approach that begins with the glorious truth of God's love for sinners. In Give Them Grace, parents will learn how to connect the benefits of the cross--especially regeneration, adoption, and justification--to their children's daily lives. Chapters address topics such as our inability to follow the law perfectly, God's forgiveness and love displayed at the cross, and what true heart obedience looks like. Fitzpatrick and Thompson also discuss discipline, dealing with popular culture, and evangelism as a way of life. Parents will find this book a great resource for raising grace-filled, Jesus-loving kids.

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