Teenagers Tend to be Legalists
Goal is Godliness
While the Bible is filled with instruction and commandments for righteous living, we need to be careful that all our focus as parents is not on behavior and outward actions. Godliness cannot be reduced to a set of rules. “Godliness is humble, thankful worship that causes us to desire what God says is valuable and to do what God says will bring Him glory.” – Paul David Tripp. Our goal in Christian parenting is not to raise kids who act the right way, but rather to raise up a generation that seeks to please God with their lives.
“And the Lord said: ‘Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,'” Isaiah 29:13 (ESV)
The Letter of the Law
Legalism is the strict adherence to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. This is particularly dangerous in our faith because God wants our hearts not merely our actions. Our teenagers tend to be dyed-in-the-wool legalists. They usually emphasize the letter of the law rather than the spirit. The tend to push for boundary discussions to determine “how far can I go”, rather than why should I do this. Instead of being frustrated by their immaturity and falling into endless debates and arguments, we need to see their legalism as an opportunity to discuss what it means to have a heart for God and how we can glorify Him while we obey His Word.
Need for Grace
Underlying legalism is a lie from Satan that says a person can be righteous by merely keeping the law. Our teenagers, and most people, would rather work at keeping a list than giving their hearts over to God and admitting that they can’t do it on their own. We should humbly point out that they cannot keep the law, just as we cannot keep it. As we show our children that God’s glory is the goal, not simply obeying rules, we can help them appreciate their need for Jesus and His saving grace. Lovingly guide them to see their rebellious hearts and take them to Christ, our righteousness.
I’m praying for you. Let me know how I can help or better serve you and your family.
in HIS service,
P.S. The themes and main ideas come from Paul David Tripp’s book “Age of Opportunity”. I’m summarizing what I read, adding my own thoughts and Scripture too.
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