Here at Project Inspired, we are passionate about discussing today’s culture and the effect it has on us as believers. It’s not always easy, though, and sometimes it’s challenging to find the good news in all the mess. Whether we try to fight it or not, the ways of the world can all-too-quickly begin to seep in and impact our thoughts and our behavior.
This isn’t news for all the parents out there seeking to raise godly teens in 2019. It’s hard! Especially when you begin to notice your teen drifting away from the principles you have taught them all their lives. As worldly influences begin to infiltrate the minds and hearts of your teens, one of the first things that typically happens is that lying comes on the scene. Your teens begin to walk away from the standards you sought to raise them with, and they lie to you in order to cover their tracks. “If you didn’t try to control me so much, I wouldn’t have to lie”, they may say.
So, what is a parent to do? What we have to remember is this: while we may want to change our kids’ outward behavior, what we really need to be doing is reaching their hearts. And that takes time and effort. Someone once said, “Behavior is simply what alerts you to your child’s need for correction. But don’t make the mistake that so many parents make and allow your desire for changed behavior to replace your desire for a changed heart.” Here is why it is important to make the distinction between behavioral modification and heart transformation, and why you want to pursue the latter!
Mere Behavioral Modification Will Turn You into a Pharisee
The proverbial thorns in Jesus’ side were the religious, self-righteous Pharisees. Of them He said in Matthew 23:27, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity.” Your child can look great on the outside and follow all your rules, but fool you as to the true condition of their hearts. And that is the last thing you want as a parent. If behavioral issues never rise to the surface, the root of the problem in the heart can never be remedied.
If You Change the Heart, You Change the Behavior in the Process
Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” If you want your child to exhibit true God-honoring behavior, you don’t have to (nor should you!) force it. Instead, focus on reaching their hearts, and everything else will flow from there.
Changed Behavior is Temporary, While a Changed Heart is Lasting
You can force a child to obey you, but that doesn’t mean you have won the war or are practicing good parenting skills. You don’t want to produce a child who just follows God’s commands. You want a child that wants to follow God’s commands. And that comes from a heart that has been reached and transformed by God’s truth.
Seeking a Changed Heart Rather than Mere Changed Behavior Requires You to Lean on God More
If you think behavioral modification is your ultimate goal as a parent, you can strive to make that happen on your own. If, however, you realize that heart transformation is the ultimate goal, then you need God for that! He says in Ezekiel 36:26, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
Seeking Heart Transformation Deepens the Familial Bond
Enforcing rigid standards and man-made rules with an iron fist will drive your children away faster than anything else. But coming alongside them, sharing with them how much you can relate to their need for the Lord’s grace and work in their lives, and how you are their advocate in this walk seeking to encourage and support them as they grow and mature can not only lead to heart change in their lives, but will also make your relationship so much closer and more sweet.
It’s so easy to jump to correcting outward behavior and thinking that is good enough. But God calls us to something deeper and far more impactful. The good news? He’s with us every step of the way as the help and hope we need for the journey!