Understanding a theology of grace is a very small thing compared to your son or daughter understanding the reality in their personal life and their emotions and relationship with you and God, that failure is never final.
So what I want to do in our remaining time is I want to give you four specific ways to begin, I mean, this is just a beginning. All of these messages are, these are core things that you spend your entire life teaching your children or someone in your small group.
But let me give you four specific ways where they can learn that failure is never final. Number one, encourage them to meditate on the lives of David and Peter. Of all the Bible stories, focus on David. Focus on Peter. A murderer, adulterer, and betrayer among God’s most beloved and mightily used servants.
You want them, some of their heroes, you want some of their heroes to be people that have really blown it big time and not only got forgiven, not only got restored, but I mean, David was used by God. Peter was used by God.
Now, I’m going to ask you to do something with me and just actually, literally, you need to open your Bible to Psalm 51. Because when your son or daughter, especially as they get older, when they blow it big time, it’s going to be very painful.
And I didn’t grow up in the church, I couldn’t tell you a Psalm from Proverbs or anything so I never opened the Bible. When I blew it big time, even as a new Christian, I didn’t know where to go. And in my house, no one ever read the Bible.
Here’s what I want you to get. Can you imagine what a privilege and a gift it would be… See, a year after David sins with Bathsheba, a year after he covers it up, he’s playing a game, he’s living a double life.
And at Psalm 32, David shares a Psalm and basically he’s clinically depressed, his emotions are going bad, his health is going bad, he’s falling apart at the seams. He feels like God is hemming in, like, this velvet vice, it’s above him and below him, and his whole life is falling apart. That’s what guilt does, that’s what shame does over time.
And so God sends a prophet. His name is Nathan. And Nathan tells him this story. It’s a word picture to get the heart of a shepherd. And he tells him this story and at the end of this story, David is mad because someone is being treated unfairly. And it’s the story of this person that has all these sheep and steals the one, little lamb that this one person had.
And David said, “That man should die!” And the prophet says, “You’re the man.” And he’s crushed. And he gets real. And he owns his stuff. You actually have in your hands the very prayer that David prayed when he experienced grace.
You want your kids to know where Psalm 51 is and when they blow it you need to be able to open it up, just follow along, just for a minute. Now, he’s committed murder, he’s committed adultery, and he’s lived a phony double life for over a year.
And when he finally gets real, here’s what he says, “Have mercy on me, O God,” why? “according to Your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” That’s what he’s living with.
“Against You, and You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are proved right when You speak and justified when You judge.”
You can study this on your own but do you really get this guy? He’s broken. There’s no denial, there’s no, “Well, it was, you know, a lot of men do this,” or, “I’m the king, I should have whatever I want.”
The denial, the blaming, the stuff, this is a broken spirit guy who realizes, “Your love that is totally unconditional and Your compassion on people that are totally messed up and broken, that’s what I need.”
And then, you notice how honest he is? “It’s against You that I have sinned. It’s before me.” He says, “Surely You desire truth in the innermost parts,” verse 6, “You teach me wisdom in the innermost place.”
David didn’t say, “Okay, now, let’s see now, I’ll make up for it. I’ll sacrifice a thousand bulls and then thousand sheep and I’ll go to the temple every day and I’ll try really hard to be a good king from here on out.”
He gets to the heart of it. God pierces through all your junk, all my junk, all of David’s junk, and he says, “You desire truth in the innermost being.” And then notice his plea, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I’ll be clean; wash me, and I’ll be whiter than snow.”
He actually believes God has the power to forgive. He doesn’t whine in this, “Well, I know God forgives me but I could never forgive myself.” As though you are more powerful than God and so arrogant that you can’t forgive yourself after the Creator of the universe has declared, because of what Christ has done, if you confess, He forgives.
And then he shifts gears. He’s not going to live with the past marking the rest of his life. He’s going to ask for something. Notice the positive, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that You have crushed rejoice. Hide me and hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God,” I can’t do this, “sustain me with a steadfast spirit. Do not take me away from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.”
In the Old Covenant, that could happen. And he’s just realizing, you know, “I did something, I’ve covered it up, I’ve lived with this, O God.”
“I don’t,” are you ready, you know what he’s really praying? “I don’t just want You to solve the consequences. I don’t just want to get back on top. I don’t just want to figure out how to get through this. I want You. I want You, God.”
And then he shifts gears. Because some of your biggest, biggest mistakes you’ll ever make will be the platform God will use for you to love people in ways you never dreamed.
It’s amazing to have a man sit with another man, and I’ve been in this setting, who had an affair, who lived in the high top world, and sit down with another man I know, trying to figure out, “What do I do? Because I have really messed up.” And have a man who has owned it and done the work and had a wife forgive him and watch it put back together and now they have a counseling ministry.
David says, “Then I’ll teach transgressors Your ways,” other people who have blown it, “and sinners will turn back to You.” And then the plea, “Save me from bloodguilt,” from the murder, “O God, and the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.” God, I’m going to give You all the credit. “You don’t delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You don’t take pleasure in burnt offerings.”
There’s no external religiosity; I can’t make it up. Notice the next verse, “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
That’s what your kids have got to learn. Your kids have got to learn that they can’t make it up, they can’t make up for it, but the millisecond they come before God and own their stuff, realize what they’ve done, and come to God, and say, “A broken and contrite spirit, O God, I’m sorry. I did this. I can’t turn back the clock. Here’s the consequences. Be merciful to me. But I want to be close to You and I will do whatever. I want to walk in Your way.”
That’s the sacrifice God’s looking for. And can I tell you something? For some of you, this message isn’t for your kids, it’s for you. And part of your drivenness and part of your workaholism and part of your materialism, like mine, is because you feel the shame and you know the things that you’ve done and you’re going to prove you’re an okay person, even in your religiosity.
And so it’s really important that your kid makes the traveling team, and it’s really important that they get good grades, and it’s really important they do good on their SATs and ACTs, and it’s really important they go to a certain college, and it’s really important…do, do, do, do, do…
And they’re going to have some mistakes. And unconsciously because we are saved by grace and yet live out of this false theology of works, a lot of our kids have thought that their life with God is a lot like their life with mom and dad, “When I’m a really good boy or girl, mom and dad really love me. And when I’m not, they even say the words, ‘It’s okay,’ but their body language and their voice and their eyes tell me there’s shame and I’m a disappointment.”
And that’s why, in our parenting journey, boy, you never, ever, ever condone the things they do wrong and you say, “I don’t accept that behavior. I want you to know that that behavior is unacceptable but you, my son or my daughter, can never do anything to make me stop loving you.”
That’s you. That’s blood. That’s identity. “I’m your father. I’m your mother.” Do you see the difference? And part of the reason we can’t give that away is we don’t get that. Jesus said, “As you freely received, freely give.” We gotta freely receive!
The second thing to teach your kids that failure is never final is teach them to remove the power of secret and condemnation by practicing repentance, James 4:7 through 10, and confession, James 5:16, with some mature believers you can trust.
You want to remove the power of secret. When they blow it, they’ll hide it, they’ll cover it up. David did, Adam and Eve did, you do, I do. You’ve gotta help them understand, the sooner you bring it into the light, the better.
And the way you bring it into the light is twofold: You remove the secret by repentance and confession. It’s just like I remember in a biology class I had and we would take some bacteria and put it in the little petri dish. And then we would put it in the dark. And then what would happen? The thing grows like crazy. What would happen the moment you bring it out of the petri dish and put it in the sunlight and the sunlight hits bacteria? Kills it.
You want your kids early and often to know there’s a mom, there’s a dad, or someone in your small group that, when they share something where they’ve blown it, the immediate response is not, “I thought we talked about that. Why did you do that? How could you do…?” That, believe me, that will not help.
It doesn’t mean there’s no consequences but they need a safe place where, with tears rolling down their face, they say, “Mom, Dad, you know, you always told me not to and I’m really…I did.” And they need to greet a parent whose tears are coming down their face because instead of getting angry, they see sadness and disappointment because of the breach of trust and because of the consequences they’re going to have.
But they need to see a mom or dad that loves them deeply. You have to get secrets out.
Many of you saw my son last time, filled in and led worship. And I shared and when he was a junior, you know, he, Pamela Anderson, some of you men will probably remember her, popped up on his computer screen and he clicked. And a yearlong pornography addiction occurred.
And I’ll never forget as he wept and a year later it was discovered and we went through that together. And then we ended up at the Billy Graham Center, he was teaching parents about, you know, putting some filters in computers and creating a safe environment.
And, you know, I really messed up a lot as a dad, up and down, and I didn’t know how to be a dad and, you know, I kept reading the Bible and reading good books and getting around people that were doing it better. But now and then you do something as a parent and you don’t even remember but it was good. And you think, “That must have been God’s grace.”
Because I heard my son say to all these parents, he said, “You know something? When I was little, my dad had tucked me in bed and he would read me stories and when I would mess up and he would discipline me, he always said something that went like this: ‘You know something? What you did is not acceptable in our house and it makes God sad and it makes me sad. But you can never do anything that will keep me from loving you.’”
He said, “Then we would play basketball and we’d be sweaty and we’d be talking and he would share those same kind of things.” And he said, “The reason I made it through my addiction was I realized it was safe to come clean and tell my mom and dad what I did.” Don’t you want that for your kids?
Then I had to walk him through the process of repentance and in James 4 verses 7 through 10, it’s the clearest picture. If you don’t know how to repent, and I’m thinking in this day, people don’t know how.
Everyone goes, “Oh, well, I’m sorry, God, and I’ll try harder.” That’s not repentance and, A, it doesn’t work and, B, it’s not biblical. There’s some key verbs. Repentance in James 4:7 through 10 goes something like that, “Submit therefore to God.” So your life was over…repent means “metanoia,” a changing of the mind that changes the direction of your life.
Repent simply means you’re on a path that you know is wrong, how do you stop? A, “Submit therefore to God.” So whatever God’s word says, I’m going to get realigned with God. “Resist the devil,” it goes on to say, “and he will flee from you.” Why? He’s the father of lies.
Most of us, most of us are just deceived when we do really bad things. And then, “Draw near to God,” the promise, “He’ll draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners,” that means the practical things you’re doing that are wrong, stop it! “Purify your heart, you double-minded.”
See, repentance is a submission to God, a resisting of the enemy. It’s a taking steps toward God and His Word and people and getting honest and then it’s looking at the actual behavior and saying, “I’m going to stop that.”
And then it’s realizing it’s issues of the heart and you can’t play games, can’t be double-minded. And then it has this, very interesting, it says, “Turn your laughter to mourning and your joy to weeping.” And it’s not laughter, like a genuine laughing. It’s the laughter that comes when people are hanging out and carousing and that kind of, that laughter when you’re carousing in sin.
And he says, “You need to actually get emotional and realize you broke your heavenly Father’s heart.” And then that whole process, he sums, he says, “Humble yourselves before the mighty hand of God,” that’s what repentance is.
And then I love this, you know what the next line is? Some translations says, “And He will exalt you,” literally meaning, is He, your heavenly Father, when you repent, He will lift you up.
God’s not down on you. God’s not down on your kids. His goal isn’t to punish you. He took the sin of punishment and placed it on Christ. Of course there’s some consequences and there’s some things you need to do but your heavenly Father is a God of grace and a God of holiness and a God of compassion and a God of love.
And your kids need to learn how to repent. But they also need confession. James 5:16 says what? “Confess your sins to one another that you might be,” anybody know the last word? “Healed.”
You know, when you hold it inside it just gets bigger and bigger, bigger, there’s more guilt, there’s more shame, you don’t know what to do so you cover it up. And so there’s more bad things that happen so you don’t know what to do and so you don’t tell anybody so you cover it up and it gets worse and it gets worse.
It’s just like, it’s like putting a needle in the balloon, the air goes out of it, you confess your sins to someone safe. And whether it’s a small group leader or a youth worker and hopefully it’s you.
And you know what? Healing occurs. Everybody messes up. The one thing that just blows my mind in the whole church is this façade that you get from people, like, someone somewhere has it together. Believe me! Pastors don’t have it together. I know a lot of them. And I are one.
Elders don’t have it together! Christian leaders don’t have it together! Christian businessmen don’t have it together! Women don’t have it together. No one’s got it together. It’s a fallen world.
This is a journey of the Spirit of God living and walking in grace where He gives you the power and the “want to.” And when you blow it, you know what a real Christian does when they blow it? They don’t deny it. They just own it. And they take it to God. And they confess their sin.
And they get in a group of people where the real them can show up and they do life together and you know something? And then you grow and you make progress and you’re pleasing to God.
Third, not only do you meditate on the lives of David and Peter, teach them to remove the power of secret, teach them to refuse to continue living with a performance orientation in their relationship with God. It always was and always will be a grace orientation.
Colossians 2:6 is a very simple, short verse. It says, “As you received the Lord Jesus Christ, so walk in Him.” You might in your notes, write the book, just write “Galatians.” The whole book of Galatians, I’ll summarize all six chapters.
However you come to know Christ personally and forgiven for your sins, is exactly how you walk with Him and overcome the power of sins in your life. So, in other words, however you get saved is exactly the same way that you get sanctified, in biblical terminology.
Well, how did you get saved? By grace through faith. How do you walk in the power of the Spirit? By grace through faith. Most Christians I know, there’s this moment, there’s this day, “God could forgive me! I experienced His grace! I still remember where I was! And I went to camp or it was after a service or my mom or my dad and I prayed to receive Christ and He came in! Oh, thank you, Lord!”
And then all of a sudden, “They read the Bible so much, I gotta pray so long, I go on a mission’s trip, I need to give x percent of my money, I need to…” They get this second hand job.
Now, all those things, the disciplines, all those disciplines, if they’re done with the right heart, are conduits of grace. But disciplines or external behavior doesn’t make you right with God.
And so we have a whole generation of people that, “When I read the Bible, God loves me. When I don’t read the Bible, He doesn’t love me. When I pray for a long time, He loves me. When I don’t pray for a long time…” You know what that produces? That produces performance-oriented people who never measure up, who think God is far away, they don’t experience His supernatural joy or His peace or His love. And they pass that on to their kids. And it breaks God’s heart.
I had one son that when he got a B we were all very happy. And it meant that he learned this amazing lesson that if you actually do your homework and turn your homework in, and look at it before the test, you can get a B instead of a D.
And we had a six-year run of that. By contrast, I had another one of my children who is my daughter who, when she got a B, I took her out for dinner for the exact opposite reason.
She was so performance oriented and I have no idea where she got this, being the youngest child in an over-octane, wacko family called the Ingrams with a father who is working through these issues.
Well, her personality was more like mine and it’s like, you know, “Annie, you want to go shoot outside? Or, you know, why don’t we go get a coke…” “I can’t, Dad.” “Well, why?” “Well, I got a big paper.” “Well, when is it due?” “In two months.” “Would you lighten up?” “No, no, I can’t. I’ve gotta…” Why? Because she felt like unless she got an A or an A+ on everything… Well, I mean, I think she was, I can’t remember, it was either college or late high school, she finally got a B instead of all As. “Yes! Awesome! Way to go!”
I took her out for dinner, “Let’s go shopping!” I mean, I wanted her to finally understand, “Annie, As don’t make you good or better. God loves you, I love you, your mom loves you because of you.” Are your kids getting that?
All those things done out of grace and understanding it has nothing to do with my value is a good thing. All those things done to prove that you’re worth something will destroy your children, just like it has destroyed many of your lives.
Fourth and finally, help them discover God’s heart towards the humble, the broken, and the distraught. You know, isn’t it interesting, I’ll never, and maybe if you’ve never read the Bible, can I encourage you?
Just maybe for Christmas, read the gospels. I mean, just read about this Jesus. There’s this very religious people and, I mean, He just, He abuses them. Doesn’t He? I mean, how many people have you said, “You whitewashed tomb! You viper! You son of hell!” I mean, I don’t know about you but that could be offensive. Right?
And yet He finds a prostitute; a tax collector; a woman that has been shacking up, had five marriages. And what they all have in common is not their sin. What they all had in common was they came to a point at some time in their life where they realized nothing they could do could measure up.
You might circle the verse in your notes. It’s Psalm 34:18. It’s one of my favorite in all the Bible. Your kids should learn this. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit.” He saves those that are crushed in spirit. Jesus finds people that are honest and say, “I can’t do it. I’m in a hundred foot hole and I’ve messed up my life and my relationships and my body and my future and my parents and I can’t do anything and I need You.”
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and He saves those. The rope goes down.
I’d like to say, I’m really glad I got to go to a seminary, three years of Greek and two years of Hebrew and every other seminary it was three years. Not ours. We had to go four. And I’d like to say that all that learning was helpful and that’s how I understand grace.
You know how I learned to understand grace? When I have failed miserably and deeply. I understood grace when I realized that I’m trying really hard and I can’t communicate with my wife. I’m trying really hard and I don’t know how to resolve anger. I’m trying really hard but everything I’m doing with my kids is going backwards. I’m trying really hard and I failed at that job.
And I have sat in my basement in tears and said, “God, I can’t.” And I had the most powerful, most wonderful experiences of God’s grace and forgiveness.
And sometimes it was direct from the Holy Spirit and sometimes it was from a friend who looked at me and goes, “Chip, I still love you. You know, what’s all this pressure you put on yourself to always do well, to always perform, to always…you know, I’ve seen that in you. I’m not surprised. I like you anyway.”
See, God’s grace comes through His Word and His Spirit but sometimes it just comes from a person who just accepts you for you.
And that is what your kids need more than anything in all the world. Consequences? Yeah. Holiness, right. Boundaries at the right time. Goals? Strategy? Certainly. But all done with this attitude of grace because here is the message. It’s in the box. It’s very simple but it’s very powerful. It’s a priceless gift. Grace means your past does not have to define your future.