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Teach Them Failure is Never Final, Part 1

From the series Priceless Christmas

Have you ever messed up big time? I mean major failure - the kind that even years later you cringe when you think about it. Chip shares how you can begin again - how you can be restored and rediscover the joy you once knew.

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Message Transcript

It happened in the spring of the year, it was the time when kings go out to battle, but David remained in Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that as David arose from his bed and he walked out on the roof, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing. She was very beautiful. And David inquired, “Who is this woman?” And he was told, “Her name is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”

“Then David sent messengers and he took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. And later the woman conceived. And she sent a note to David, and she said, ‘I’m with child.’”

The writer of the Psalms, the spiritual leader, the warrior, the poet of Israel, the man that God would say, “This is a man after My own heart.” He’s got misplaced priorities. He’s done a major turnaround. Finally, there’s stability. The kingdom is set. He’s tired, he’s vulnerable, he’s not where he’s supposed to be, he can’t sleep. In a moment of vulnerability, he walks out on the terrace and he is very attracted and he makes a decision that would cause a ripple effect that he would regret the rest of his life.

Like most of us, when you mess up, phase one is how do you cover it up? So, he invites Uriah to come back from the battle and tries to figure out how he can get him to sleep with his wife so the baby, they’ll think, is his – as though Uriah can’t do math.

That doesn’t work so he invites him to a kingly banquet, gets him drunk, and thinks, “You know, a drunk guy who has been away from his wife for months, this will work.” And he finds him sleeping out on the steps. He has too much integrity. He says, “How could I go be with my wife when my comrades are out in battle, sleeping out in tents, in the cold?”
So, cover up number one doesn’t work. Cover up number two doesn’t work. This isn’t a guy that makes just a bad mistake. This is now very premeditated. And his fear of being exposed is now greater than the sin itself.

And so, he writes a note to his commander Joab, and he says, “Put Uriah up toward the front of the lines where the battle is fierce, and when it gets very fierce, withdraw from him so he’s killed.”

And a report later is that’s exactly what happens. He dies. Bathsheba mourns. And after the time of mourning, David sends for her and makes her his wife. And then in 2 Samuel chapter 11, there’s one very short, brief verse. It said, “And the Lord God was very displeased with David.”

Now, as you look on the front of your notes, I want you to see something. Because when people mess up, we’re fascinated. When celebrities mess up, we’re really fascinated. In fact, we got a whole group of reality shows that just, we look at their mess-ups.

Well, David didn’t go into recovery. But I want you to notice that he’s a good man at a weak moment. Our temptation is when people mess up, especially when it’s someone else, see, they were a terrible person. I could never believe anything about them. But he was a good man. And big, big mistakes happen sometimes, not because they’re really bad people, but they’re really good people in a weak moment.

Notice, on the front of your notes, he was described as a mighty warrior, a righteous king, and a man after God’s own heart. Those are pretty high marks. And then added to his biography the words “murderer” and “adulterer” were added.

And what I want you to do is I want you to look at the bottom, parents, whether your kids are two or three or twelve or twenty-two or thirty-two. Your children will all make some big mistakes sometime in their life. The question is how will they recover? How will they recover?
Now, this is hard for some of you. Some of us who have grown kids get this a little bit better. But some of you, I’m just going to mess with you just a little bit, just so that you get your heart and mind around where we’re going here. Some of you, those cute little two and three or four-year-olds, they’re going to get somebody pregnant or they’re going to get pregnant out of wedlock and you’re going to have a real disaster on your hands in about fifteen years.

For others, they’re going to go out and do something really, really stupid and come home either drunk or telling you about what they did that you’re going to think, “You’ve got to be kidding me. How could this ever happen in our home?” For some of you, fifteen or twenty years from now or ten years from now, if you have a pre-teen, you’re going to be going down to jail because your kid is going to be in jail or juvie hall.

For others, you’re going to discover as they’ve come back from school or from trade school or they have been out of the house two or three years, they have an addiction that they have had longer than you ever dreamed.

And here’s what I want to tell you. This may be the most priceless gift of all. Teach them that failure isn’t final. Some of us that, at least, have messed up pretty good, you think your kids are immune to that? You think they’re just going to turn out wonderful?

And by the way, please don’t hear, “I think you’re going to have bad kids.” Really good kids, really obedient kids, really moral kids, kids that love you, kids that love God, in a weak moment some of them are going to do some really big, stupid, sinful things.

I mean, if it happened to David, a man after God’s own heart, who wrote the majority of the Psalms, you don’t think it can happen to one of your kids? In fact, let’s step back a little bit. Hasn’t it happened to most of us in this room?

You can’t teach your kids that failure is never final until you get a grip on that yourself and the only way to get a grip on that is you need to understand grace. You need to understand what the Bible teaches when it talks about grace, what it is and how it works.

And so, as you open your notes, here’s where I want to go. I want to do a little Bible study with you, but I want to give you a theology of grace. I’ll go through it rather quickly. And these verses are ones that I would encourage you to go back and read and think and ponder. I just want to build a case so that you understand, when the Bible says “grace,” this is what it means.

And then I want to shift gears, because it’s one thing to say, “Oh, this is grace, and this is how God feels and this is how He thinks about our kids when they have blown it really big time.” Well, what you really need, you need them to learn how to operate in a way and have a view of God and a view that when they fail, they realize it doesn’t have to shape the rest of their life. They don’t have to live as a second-class citizen. They don’t have to feel like, I’ve blown it. And the future can never be any good.

In fact, some of you, if the truth be told, you may find that this actually is going to help you more than it helps your kids, because you can’t impart what you don’t possess.

And so, let’s go over a theology of grace. Definition: Grace is the free, unmerited, unconditional love of God toward us. I mean, it’s radical, it’s crazy, it’s free, it’s unmerited so you don’t deserve it. It’s the love of God toward you.

There is something that happens in the human heart when you are given what you so clearly know you do not deserve, and it’s lavished upon you, that the change is from the inside out instead of some external morality.

It’s called grace. It’s what separates Christianity from any worldview, from any religion. It’s just unheard of. So, let’s look at it biblically. Grace is free to us but costly to God.

It’s absolutely free to us. You can’t earn it, you can’t merit it, you can’t get it on your own. But 1 Corinthians 6 verses 19 and 20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God? And that you’re not your own, you’ve been bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”

You were purchased. It’s free to us but the grace that you receive, I receive, and God wants your kids to get from you, it was purchased and the price tag was the blood and the death of Christ.

Third, you’ll notice that the cross is God’s greatest act of grace. When you want to understand grace, there needs to be a picture, there’s an act, how did it work? And Romans chapter 5 verse 8 says, “But God demonstrates,” in other words, He proves, “He demonstrates what His love is like toward us, in that while we were still,” or, “yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

And the little word “for” is an interesting word in Greek. It means “as a substitute or in the place of.” God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were not trying to be better people, not trying to get on board, not living nice little lives, but while we were yet sinners, Christ died in our place. So, the cross is the picture of grace.

Fourth, salvation is a free gift from God. I mean, you can’t earn it. Unlike how most of us grew up, at least. You know, I didn’t grow up in the Church, I didn’t grow up reading the Bible. But if you were American or if you’re just human, you sort of have this idea that if there is a God, that was my theory, if there is a God, He must have this big blackboard in heaven.

And then He puts a line down the middle of the blackboard. And on the left side of the blackboard it says, “Bad Deeds,” and on the right side of the blackboard it says, “Good Deeds.” And there are these angels that track everybody. You know, like, cosmic video cameras.

And bad thoughts or bad motives or bad deeds, you know, mark, mark, mark. “Oh! There’s five.” Mark, mark, mark, “There’s another five.” And somehow, we get in this mindset that all these bad deeds versus all these good deeds… And you’re thinking, “You know what? I just hope I have, like, a hundred and one good deeds to a hundred bad deeds so I’m…”

I want you to know that that mindset about God, about life, about acceptance, about eternity, about heaven is completely, completely wrong and unbiblical.

Do you know how many bad deeds or even bad thoughts or bad motives it takes to be separated from an absolutely pure and holy God? Not a hundred. Not ninety. Not five. Are you ready? One. God can tolerate zero sin.

So, whether you’re in a sin that is, like, five feet deep or twenty feet deep or a hundred feet deep, you’re separated forever. But Romans 6 says this, “The wages of sin,” what you get for sin, crossing the barrier, missing the mark, doing your own thing, neglecting God, hurting others, “the wages of sin is death,” separation forever, “but the free gift, the free gift of God, is eternal life,” how? “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Salvation is an absolutely free gift, but it has to be received. I mean, if this morning, if this was, just pretend, let’s see, let’s just say you have, like, a seventeen-year-old. By seventeen, they like money. Have you noticed that? Like, for Christmas, you can give them a lot of stuff, but money really works.

So let’s just imagine this is stacked, I mean, just with those, really, I like the hundred dollar bills that you can kind of smell them and they stack close together. Let’s pretend this is stacked with that.

And you say to your son or daughter who is seventeen years old, “I have a present for you.” And it’s filled with hundred dollar bills. “And it’s not because you’ve done anything, it is grace, I love you, I care for you, here it is.” And you put it at the bottom of their bed. I’m going to go on record to say unless they receive it and open the box, it does them no good.

You gave it, it’s available. See, grace is a gift but it’s a gift that has to be opened and received by faith. Ephesians 2:8 and 9 says this, “For by grace you are saved,” but notice the instrumental, our part, “For by grace you are saved through faith. And that’s not of yourselves, it’s not a result of your good works; it’s the gift of God, lest any man should boast.” So, it’s free.

Next, grace produces self-control, upright, and godly living. Now some people get nervous when you start talking about grace and you quote the Bible and it’s free and you don’t have to do anything. People start getting nervous like, “Well, if it’s just all this grace, can’t you just take the grace and live any old way, and people won’t obey all these things, and they won’t live holy lives.” That’s not what the Bible teaches.

In fact, on this one, are you ready?

I’m going to put you to work. In your Bible, open to Titus. I want you to feel it and see it because verse 11 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It,” this grace, “it teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.”

And notice then it’s hooked on to this eager expectation. It’s, “While we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us,” why? “to buy us back,” literally that’s what the word “redeem” means. “To buy us back and redeem us from all wickedness, to purify for Himself a people,” it’s about relationship, “that are His very own, that are eager to do what is good.”

And what I want to do now is I want to live in such a way that lives up to being that loved. I’m a debtor to grace. I want to care. I want to love. I want to be that kind of person.

When you experience biblical grace, it teaches you to say no to ungodliness and to selfishness and to “me-ism.”

It says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” and then it gives us the reason in Philippians 2, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work unto His good pleasure.” Grace creates this desire to live in love for Him and love for others.

Notice there are biblical roots in the Old Testament – Genesis 3:21 – the very first time after our original parents sinned, turned away from God. It says that God shed blood of some animals and He clothed them. It was a picture of the blood that would be shed for you and for me later, and that just as they are covered, we are covered by the blood of Christ.

When the world got crazy and violent in chapter 6 it says Noah found – what? – in the eyes of the Lord? Grace. Favor. The Old Testament pictures, I mean, if you just want someone in the Old Testament and someone in the New that you say, “I’ve got to get my arms around this. What’s this really look like?”

It looks like David, who was an adulterer and a murderer, greatly used of God, and he’s the gold standard of kings. And I don’t know about you, when I read that, I’m thinking, His ways didn’t sound so good to me. I mean, this guy murdered someone.

See, we tend to think of God looking at us always through the lens of history instead of through trajectory and through the issues of our heart.

When God forgives, as far as the east is from the west, He removes your sin from you. Grace is He not only forgives and takes away, but then He justifies you and reckons you as righteous and He looks at you as a new son or daughter through the lens of the blood of Christ and you are valued.
He’s not always looking at what you did and how you did it and that you don’t measure up. Grace gives a whole new beginning.

In the New Testament you have Peter. I mean, he denies Christ. He swears, “Everyone else may go down, but Jesus, it’s You and me, baby. I got the sword.” Three different times, he’s, literally the word is “he swore.” This wasn’t like an oath.

There was a little servant girl that says to Peter, Mr. Macho Man, with the big mouth that, “I’ll never deny You,” “Did you know Him?” You know what Peter said? “I don’t even know the blankety-blank guy.” That’s what it’s saying. He said, he totally denied Him and swore! He abandoned Him. Remember? And he went out and he wept bitter tears.

And Peter thought, “I’m done. I’m going back to fishing. I’ve betrayed. Everything I’ve said, everything I’ve purposed to do…” He’s covered with shame. And in John 21 he gets restored.

And he’s not just forgiven, but David is probably used by God more than anyone in the Old Testament and Peter is used by God more than anyone in the New Testament, save Paul. Oh, that’s right, he’s a murderer. He doesn’t qualify. Are you starting to get that your kids are going to make some big mistakes and the issue in their life is how they’re restored.

And the issue of how they are restored is how you deal with it. And the issue of how you deal with it is going to be how you deal with your big mistakes. And if you deal with them by performance orientation, and I’ll try harder and I’ll earn my favor. You’ll pass that on to your kids. Or you can experience grace.

In fact, the New Testament command is one that we read but we usually just read verse 16 of John 3, right? Listen to the grace in this. This is a command, “For God so loved the world that He gave,” that’s grace, what? “His one and only Son,” why? “that whoever believes in Him shouldn’t perish or die, but have eternal life.”

By the way, eternal life, some people, you listen to them, you’d think eternal life happens after you die. The Bible doesn’t teach that at all. Eternal life isn’t a life of longevity. It includes that. Eternal life is a quality of life. The Bible says, “He that has the Son has life; he that does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

The moment you turn from your sin and in the empty hands of faith receive the forgiveness and the grace of God, the Spirit of God enters your mortal body, you have eternal life. You have the same power that raised Christ from the dead living in you.

And this Spirit produces love and joy and peace and patience and goodness and kindness and gentleness and self-control. And it gives you a new set of eyes and a new set of wants and a new set of powers.

Eternal life is what happens the moment you meet Christ and receive Him in your life. And He says what? It’s a gift. But I love the next line, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world.” God’s not down on people. But notice what it goes on to say, “…but to save the world through Him.”

And then there’s commentary, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

Now, at this point, there’s some theological concepts, candidly, that are hard to get your arms around, aren’t they? It’s like grasping for oil or water and, “Grace, okay, grace. It’s free, it’s unmerited, it’s the cross.”

And there’s sort of, like, this ooey-gooey theological language and part of you, it’s sort of like it pops up in your mind. It’s like, “I think I get it, I think I get it, oh, it’s gone. I think I get it, I think I get it,” right? How do you live with grace? I mean, we’re just so rooted in, “You get what you deserve.”

Well, most of you probably know that Tozer is my favorite author and in his little book, The Knowledge of the Holy, on the attributes of God, it’s in a chapter on grace. And I love just the little twist he, he gives us a very practical way to get our arms around it.

He says, “Instead of straining to comprehend grace as a theological truth, it would be better and simpler to compare God’s grace with our need. We can never know the enormity of our sin, neither is it necessary that we should. What we can know is that ‘where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’” He’s quoting Romans chapter, end of chapter 5.

And what he’s saying is if you really want to grasp what grace is all about, look at the level of your need and realize whatever the level of need, then grace covers it. And God forgives and He restores.

Let me give you a word picture. Early this morning I was thinking about, “God, I want people to get this,” and I so struggle. I want you to imagine, and this is private. Never share this or you don’t have to share this with anyone.

I want you to think of, just for a moment, I’m not trying to bring guilt or shame. I want you to think of the worst thing you’ve ever done ever in your life that you hope no one ever, ever would ever find out about. Maybe some people already know.

But, I mean, the thing that you just, when you think about, “Oh, if that was, like, put on a screen and the video of it,” you’re ashamed and it might be an abortion in your past or, you know, it might be you stole some money from some people, it might be the affair that you had on a business trip, it might be you blowing up in this outrage of anger, a moment of violence, I don’t know what it is.

But here’s what I can tell you, we all got that stuff. And I want you to imagine, if you will, that this is a cylinder and it’s aluminum, okay? And it’s, like, six foot in diameter. And then I want you to imagine that, you know how aluminum is? It’s real shiny and real smooth.

And let’s just say for, like, a medium sized sin you dropped into this shaft and you’re twenty feet down and there’s no way to climb out. I mean, it’s aluminum. It’s six by six. You’re in this cylinder.

And, I mean, you can try hard, you can’t get out of this. That’s your need. Here’s what the Bible teaches: God, the moment you say, “I need Your help,” He’ll drop a rope that’s twenty-one feet long and He’ll pull you out.”

Now, for some of you, you’re thinking, “You don’t know what came to my mind. Twenty feet doesn’t even get you started. I’m at least a hundred, I may be a thousand feet if you knew what I did.”

And you know what grace is? If you’re in an aluminum shaft with no way out that’s a hundred feet down, you get a hundred- and one-foot rope. If it’s a thousand feet down, you get a rope that’s one thousand and one feet because where sin abounds, the little word in Greek is, “grace superabounds.”

You can’t earn it, you can’t get it, it’s been provided, it’s the cross, it’s His resurrection, it’s not because of anything in you. It’s something about the very heart and the nature of the Triune God that He longs to give and to restore and to love and let your kids know that failure is never final.

He’s the God of second chances, fourth chances, fifty-second chances and He transforms people from the inside out.

Let me encourage you to look up those verses, and go on a personal journey to say, “God, I want to begin to think biblically and accurately about You and about grace.

Because left to yourself, left to myself, we are so performance oriented. We’re all about justice and what’s fair. You don’t want justice and you don’t want fair, believe me.

But here’s the deal. 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. Because that’s what grace looks like.

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.

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 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 vise, 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 ten 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, but 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’ve got to 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 got to 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, a year-long pornography addiction occurred. And I’ll never forget as he wept 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 are 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 say, “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, “You’ve got to read the Bible so much, I’ve got to pray so long, I go on a mission’s trip, I need to give x percent of my money, I need to…” They’ve got this secondhand 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 got to…” 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 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 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.

Isn’t that awesome? Grace means your past and their past doesn’t have to define their future.

Lord, I want to pray right now for those that You brought in this room on this day and their past is going to be put behind them. And on this day, at this moment, as I have been talking, Your Spirit has been whispering or shouting in their heart that they need to receive grace. That You didn’t just so love the world, but You so loved them that You gave Your one and only Son that they wouldn’t perish, but have eternal life.

And if that’s you right now in your chair, I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand, come forward, do anything anywhere. You and God, right now, moment of truth. Cry out. Tell Him you’re sorry. Just: Dear Jesus, I admit today I need You. I have blown it. I have sinned. I am not perfect. And today, I trust that Your death on the cross paid for my sin. Today, I believe that You rose from the dead to prove it’s true. And right now, will You come into my life and make me Your son, make me Your daughter. Pray something like that in your own words and you’ll be transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, into His beloved son.

And I’m sure there’s a great majority of the people that on a certain day, at a certain time, you made that step and, yet, as you listen you realize your lifestyle is not one of grace. Could you just tell God you need Him? You’re going to stop performing. That you just need help today. Let Him love you. Okay? Just let down the guard and all that has got to get done and how perfect you need to be and what everyone else thinks, and just flush all of that and just say, “Oh, God, would You help me experience how much You love me? And let me walk in Your way.”

And, finally, as we close, around Christmastime, there’s some people that you’re not very looking forward to seeing, maybe. And they need grace. You receive it. Jesus says, “Freely you receive it; freely give it.” Just let them off the hook. Just forgive them. It happened years ago. They are never going to change, probably. It’s not your deal. Just let it go.

Give them grace. Set boundaries where appropriate, but just give them grace. Quit expecting or longing or hoping that it’s going to be different this Christmas. Just give them grace.

Lord, we thank You that you gave grace to us and we thank You that it teaches us to say no to all ungodliness and worldliness and live self-disciplined lives under Your Spirit’s control. In Christ’s name.