In order to model godliness you must be reliable. You are called to be trustworthy, righteous, and repentant. In other words, you are to be a person of integrity. It is joy to the believer to obey the commands and instructions of God as laid out in his word and demonstrated in Christ’s life. That is why we operate according to God’s moral guidelines, mission, and commands. Reliable parents are honest about their strengths and weaknesses. They are role models of holiness and sincerity in motivation, thought, and action.
If there is something that you would like to see formed in your children, pray that it would be formed in you to model for them. Be a reliable source of living knowledge concerning godliness. For example, if you want your kids to speak kindly, then seek to be the epitome of kindness. If you would like to see your kids grow in patience, then make every effort to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). All parents want to see their kids grow in self-control. Self-control is the emancipating fruit of the Spirit. It’s the strength and resolve to swim upstream against the current of temptation. In a moment of temptation, you want your child to be able to recognize and resist sin. If you want self-control for your family, find ways to share with your children how you personally are growing in self-control.
The standard for your integrity, where you find your moral guide, must be the word of God. If it is not, you are likely to excuse or minimize failings that you should be battling. Reliable parents follow God even when they don’t want to, believing that obedience is for their good and their joy. If left to your own moral devices, you will deem yourself innocent in situations where, according to God’s word, you need conviction. You know all of your explanations and justifications, so instead of excusing your sin based on your feelings or personal philosophies, measure yourself against God’s standards for holiness.
At other times, if you stray from God’s moral standards, you may find yourself Pharisaically rigid about issues that the Lord has given you great freedom in. You don’t have to draw a line in the sand where the Lord has given you the whole beach. God’s laws are good. They serve to give you the fullest life and protect you from the damage of sin, and they are sufficient in every way just as they are.
As easy as it is to minimize sin or be unnecessarily rigid, you may be even more susceptible to magnify sin’s dominance in your life. Do not fall prey to undue self-condemnation. Yes, sin separates you from God, but remember who your God is—he is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6). When faced with your sin, you will often need to remind yourself of your sainthood earned for you through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus who reconciled you to your God. Who are we to think that Jesus’s death was not enough to cover our failings as a person or a parent? Do we think so little of all Christ did for us that we think our sins are greater than his grace? Take great comfort in being a chosen, forgiven, and adopted child of God. Sin will be part of your life, but it will not define who you are in God. Conviction to be sanctified is a holy pursuit, but wallowing in self-condemnation is not Christian.
A major factor of your integrity will be your ability to repent quickly, easily, and thoroughly. You will see in yourself, and others will point out to you, where you have fallen short of being the reliable disciple-maker you are called to be. None of us will walk in perfection before God or before our kids, but you can be reliable in the way you confess and repent of your sin where and when you should. That means you will repent always to God, always to who you sinned against, and often in the witness of your family. You who follow Jesus will repent often, and you will experience profound grace and forgiveness for each other and from God since none of you are perfect. It is all part of your ongoing mission to deny yourself and put sin to death in your life. Though the race for your salvation has already been won in Christ, we run the race of this life fixated on Christlikeness, fighting sin as if to win. We dash with every ounce of effort we can muster to arrive at the finish line to cheers from our heavenly Father crying out with roaring approval, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Modeling Requires You to Be Relatable
In order to be a model for your kids you must follow Christ in proximity to your children. Modeling requires a close, loving relationship with those you hope to lead and influence. Be relatable enough to let those close to you see who you really are. Be vulnerable enough to let someone see your life—how you make your choices, how you handle failure, and how you turn to God’s word to determine who you are and what you’re called to.
Be ready to share with your children not only the gospel of God but also your own self.
Live your life with your kids purposely nearby. Quality proximity is paramount to your effectiveness as a discipling parent. Don’t just be in the same room or the same car as your children; be an active participant in their lives. Don’t just be a lecturer for your children; help them become your colaboring apprentice. Invite them to observe and participate in your life. Be ready to share with your children not only the gospel of God but also your own self, because they are so very dear to you (1 Thess. 2:8).
Yes, sharing your life with your kids will mean they will get exposed to your shortcomings, but there is a good chance that your greatest failures might be your most relatable and profound lessons. Your kids will be far from perfect too so they need you to demonstrate how a man or woman of God handles pursuing godliness repentantly without wallowing in failure or seeking worldly affirmation to cope. Your kids don’t need perfect parents; they need to know how their imperfect family can know and follow their perfect heavenly Father. Don’t be afraid to let your kids see you make mistakes, but always glorify God that where we are weak he is strong, and even in the struggles we wish would be behind us, his grace is sufficient for us. Likewise, don’t be afraid to let your kids make mistakes themselves. We don’t advise letting sin go unchecked, but let them put effort into tasks they may not be able to achieve on their own yet and make decisions they think are wise even if you can already see the consequences they’ll soon be facing and learning from. Being relatable means sharing your honest, insufficient life and loving them enough to delight in theirs too.
In order to know their life you have to be in their life. If you are like most parents, you probably see your kids almost every day, but how often do you actually look at your kids? You probably hear your kids every day, but do you actually listen to them? You should regularly get face-to-face with them and give them the all too rare gift of your full attention. Ask for the same in return. Two people can be in the same room, but if their backs are to one another they are twenty-five thousand miles away from looking each other in the eye. Family discipleship modeling requires more than passive proximity. It takes turning toward one another. It takes listening and asking loving follow-up questions that you genuinely want the answers to. It asks you to give your earnest representation of Christian adulthood taught through a sincerely loving relationship. Looking and listening take a great degree of time and care, and that’s why they express a genuine love. Let them know you are watching them. Encourage them in the godly traits you see in them.
Your kids probably see you every day, but do they watch you? They hear you talk every day, but are you inviting them to listen to what you say and how you say it? Encourage them to regurgitate the godly language you use and imitate the godly characteristics they witness in your life. Go before them in living out what you want them to catch from you. If you want your kids to be repentant over their sin, first share where you are experiencing godly grief in your heart and invite them into that vulnerable and honest space with you. You love them. Let them see it manifested in how you spend time with them. Usher your kids into a relationship with you that will help them understand why God asked us to call him Father in the way we relate to him and called us to be imitators of him as dearly loved children (Eph. 5:1).
Christ is the model for your life as well as your kid’s life. Remember, you are not Christ. Your imperfect presence is not enough for your kids. Family discipleship is not just “being a Christian near your children.” Don’t assume your model is enough for children to grasp the gospel. Be tenacious at pointing out how and why you are choosing to follow Christ. Use your words to intentionally instruct your family in all of the gospel’s ramifications in your daily life as well as versing them in the story of God’s plan to rescue the world from the problem of sin through Jesus Christ.
Chandler and Griffin