Discussion with Elyse Fitzpatrick

Good evening and welcome to Desiring God Live. My name is Scott Anderson, the executive director here at Desiring God. We’re coming to you live from our studios in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thank you for watching the broadcast tonight. It really is a joy to have you with us.

In our studio tonight we have author and speaker Elyse Fitzpatrick. Elyse has been a counselor for women since 1989, and she received her Masters in biblical counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary in Indiana. She also has a certificate in biblical counseling from the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, and she’s also a member of the National Association of Nouthetic Counseling. She is a prolific author, having written more than a dozen books, including Comforts from the Cross, Counsel from the Cross, and another wonderful book entitled, Because He Loves Me. Her latest book, co-authored with her daughter Jessica Thompson, is called Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. It is newly released from Crossway Books just this month. And we are very thankful that Crossway Books is our ministry sponsor for the broadcast tonight.

Elyse and her husband Phil live in Southern California. They’ve been married for over 30 years, and they have three grown children and six grandchildren. Elyse, it is just a joy to have you on the broadcast tonight.

Thank you, Scott.

Thanks for being with us. We want to talk a little bit, just so the viewing audience can get to know you, about just your life story, where you’re from. Talk to us about growing up a little bit. And really, talk to us through how you came to know the Lord. I think it was a summer evening in 1971. Get us to that point.

I was born in Southern California, and I was there my whole life. My mother was a not-practicing Catholic, and my father is Jewish. They eventually divorced, but I grew up in a home really without much religious emphasis at all. From time to time my mother would take me to church. My grandmother was a Lutheran, so she would take me from time to time. I was baptized as a Lutheran, and actually confirmed as a Lutheran. But I’ll just be honest with you, my entire life, really up until the time I was 20 and came to Christ, was pretty secular. I didn’t really attend church. Sometimes my mother would send my brother and I to church. But we lived in Southern California, and my brother was driving, so we went to the beach. Deciding between church and the beach, we took the beach.

There was really not much of a home life there. My mother was a single mom. She had to work two jobs a lot of times. My older brother and I really pretty much raised ourselves. By the time I was 13 or 14, I was beginning to ask questions about life, like, “What is the purpose of life?” and that sort of thing. I wasn’t really getting any answers that I thought were worth anything. So I thought, well, I guess the purpose of life is to have fun. And I was living there in southern California, which is one of the Meccas of fun, and I began to live my life like that. I can tell you, Scott, that there were any number of times in my life where I would go to bed at night just riddled with guilt for the way I was living my life, even as a young teenager, and then as I grew older. I was hoping that someday I would wake up and be good. I was just filled with guilt. I never could wake up and be good. I never could get it together.

At age 20, I had a little baby. I had moved in next door to a gal named Julie, and I was living a complete party lifestyle. And Julie was a believer, and she used to come over and take care of my baby and talk to me about Christ. I remember it was the summer of 1971, right in the middle of that southern-California Jesus movement thing that was going on. And I remember, we lived in some very small little apartments. Right across the way from where I was there were some folks, and they were having a really heated argument, a big fight, and I was terrified about what was going on. And I remember I just got down on my knees and prayed. I said, “I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what this is, but I know what I’m doing here now. This isn’t good, so please help me.”

Then within three months of that I was in Bible college. I went to a local church. My friend Julie took me to a local church and they were starting a Bible college. The young people at the Bible college said, “Well, you’re going to come to the Bible College, aren’t you?” And I thought, well, that must be what you do when you become a Christian. And so I said, “I guess so.” So I was immediately then immersed in Scripture in the Bible college. And it was at Bible college then that I met my husband, Phil. And yeah, we eventually were married.

Have you stayed in contact with Julie through the years?

Oh, yes, yes. She’s a very good friend, a very sweet friend.

That’s wonderful.

It’s such a blessing that she gave me those little funny tracts that people used to. She gave me tracts and talked to me about coming to know Jesus. And I thought she was crazy, honestly. But I knew my life wasn’t working, so it was wonderful actually.

I love that testimony of faithfulness. And sounds like she just met material needs that you had in your life.

Yes, she did.

Wonderful, wonderful. You went the counseling route at some point. Where did that desire come from to counsel? Many of your books are dealing with that. How did that come alive in your life?

I would say about the mid 1980s, I was teaching in a Christian school. And I frequently had women come to me and ask me for help with different personal problems that they were having. They were having problems with their kids or in their marriage, or whatever. I didn’t feel like I had any answers. It’s so interesting, Scott, because I really did believe the Bible was true, and I wanted very much to give people biblical answers, but I didn’t know what that was.

So I ended up taking courses at Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation in San Diego, and that training in biblical counseling, which I completed in 1989, really transformed the way that I was thinking just about the Bible, about how practical the Bible was. I knew the Bible was good for salvation, but I didn’t really see so much how it would really minister to someone who was struggling in a marriage, or with a teenager or something. And that’s what the training and biblical counseling did for me. It was at that point, 1989 or so, that I then began to really give myself to counseling women and trying to produce resources for women to help them as they walked the Christian life.

When did the writer side begin to emerge? Was it concurrent with that, so to speak, or was it something that came after that? And had you always been a writer, or did you just find that you had something to say and wanted to say it? Talk to us about that.

Yeah, it was more like that. I never looked at my trajectory thinking I was going to grow up and be a writer. It was never anything like that. It was that I was doing counseling for women and I wanted resources to give them, but I couldn’t find any that were biblical and that I really wanted to give them. I actually started out, and the first book that we produced was Women Helping Women, which was a book for women who wanted to do counseling. It was about just helping women find their way, and we had something like 22 different topics. How can you find your way in Scripture if you’re talking to someone who’s just had an abortion, for instance? So it was really out of my counseling. I never really set out to be a writer. It was out of the counseling I was doing and the fact that I wanted to have resources to give to women when I was counseling with them that the books then began to come.

You’ve got quite a varied range of topics. Was that something that developed over time, or again, was it somewhat in response to how God was using you in the lives of the women that you were teaching and counseling and such?

A lot of the issues that I write on were issues that I was personally struggling with. The Lord so frequently uses our own weaknesses to bless other people. So a lot of what I wrote about was really work I was doing in Scripture, and it came out of that. And then, as I began to write, I wrote Because He Loves Me, and there was a real shift in my thinking again. There are biblical counseling books that are really meant to help women as they struggle with fear or as they struggle with eating disorders, or in their marriage. And then when I got to writing Because He Loves Me, that was a paradigm shift for me.

Well, talk about that a little bit. There seems to be, in the last three or four volumes especially — and then just knowing you personally in conversations we’ve had — some kind of a gospel-driven awakening in your own life and your ministry to women, and in your books. Talk to us about when that started to crystallize for you, when was that and how has that developed and evolved over the past several years?

I would say about seven years ago I started visiting with certain people who were very gospel-driven. And then a friend of mine said, “You need to go through Tim Keller’s study on Galatians.” That was really where I would say I began to have a shift. I’ll just be honest with you, Scott. I read Tim Keller’s study on Galatians and I wasn’t really happy, simply because I misunderstood what he was saying. I thought that what he was saying was don’t give people any of the imperatives, just give them all indicatives or declarations. I didn’t like it when I first read it.

And then I read it again, and then I was beginning to shift. And then I began work on Because He Loves Me. And I had to answer a question in my own heart, because I didn’t want to play fast and loose with the Scriptures. I wanted to rightly divide them. I began a study then through the entire New Testament. And I didn’t even know what I was looking for at that point, I didn’t know what an indicative or an imperative was. I had no idea that those were actually the categories I was wrestling with. And actually, I still have the notebook. I went through the whole New Testament and I said, “All right, what is this that I’m reading? Is this gospel?” I was actually using the categories of past grace and present grace and future grace. I was using those categories.

Then also, at that same time, I was beginning to read a lot about the love of God in Christ. And I will be honest with you again here. I used to think that if you thought too much about the love of God in Christ, it would make you cavalier and lazy. I thought it was dangerous and you shouldn’t do it. Yes, you should know God loves you and that’s good, but don’t really go down that road. If you really go down that road, who knows what you might end up doing? And so it was at that point that I was reading about the love of God in Christ. I was going through this study. And then the Holy Spirit, I believe, really opened my eyes to see that indicative-imperative, declaration-obligation, gospel-law distinction in Scripture.

And I began to see something that I had been really blind to, that almost every command in the Scripture is couched in what God has already done for us in Christ. When I began to see that, it was like white noise. Where I used to live was right next to I-15 in Southern California, and that freeway, as you know, is a very busy freeway. We lived within a quarter of a mile of I-15.

It was droning on and on and on, day and night.

Continually, day and night. I will tell you, after we had lived there really not that long, a couple of weeks maybe, I never heard it. Seriously. And you hear stories about men who live on battleships and they’re shooting whatever it is you shoot on battleships, cannons or something, and they don’t even hear them. And that’s how it was with us with the I-15. That’s how it was with me and the indicatives of Scripture, the declarations. I would take a passage, let’s say like Colossians 3:1. And what I would see in that passage, Colossians, let’s say 3:1–3, was “Seek the things that are above.” And I glossed over or missed everything in that passage about being raised with Christ and how Paul says, “You’ve died with Christ,” and, “When Christ who is your life appears, you will appear with him.” I glossed over all of that stuff, because I would say, “Well, that’s all the gospel, and I get the gospel. Check. What I need to do now is make a list of the things I need to do.”

So what happened to me then, in my thinking, was that I began to see how every imperative in Scripture, every command, every obligation, is couched in the work Christ has already done. So instead of asking, what would Jesus do? I began to ask, what did Jesus do? And then I would consider, okay well because he did this, then that is the motivation, that’s the power. That’s the motivation then for me to say, what does he want me to do now? And we begin to do it, because we know what he’s already done. And I wanted then, about that time as well, to try to understand how our justification — which I love what Jerry Bridges does when he talks about not simply just as if I’d never sinned, but also just as if I had always obeyed — impacts our sanctification, that slow process of change. How does what Christ has already done for me impact what I need to do, how I’m to live today?

Now, I’ll just be honest with you. I was 45 or 50 years in Christianity at that time. I had taken the gospel and relegated it to the back of the bus. It wasn’t really important. Yeah, sure it’s there. Yes, of course you give the gospel to your unbelieving friends. But where the real action is, is what you need to do. When that shift happened, I went kicking and screaming. I really didn’t run towards it. Because again, I wanted to be very serious about what God wanted me to do. All the time I was missing the fact that those gospel declarations are meant to be the very power, the motivation. They furnish the ability. Just knowing that I’m completely forgiven for sin transforms the way I fight sin today. So it was then, in that, that I then wrote Because He Loves Me and everything else after that. As I say, I have one song now and I just sing it in different keys. It’s all the same song.

Have you found then, as you maybe folks picking up some of your older books, that people are coming to you saying, “I noticed a difference in tone here”? That would give you, no doubt, an opportunity to rehearse these things again with them. What’s been the impact as you’ve been writing now and have had this shift? Are you finding that this is particularly resonating with godly mothers and wives and single ladies and such? This is geared for parents, but your ministry is much broader to women than simply talking to moms or dads through this type of book. How has that been helping you in recent years? How are the folks responding to it that you speak to regularly?

Here is something that’s so amazing to me, Scott. I get asked to speak at serious churches. They’re not going to have me come and speak at some church that all they want to do is have skits.

You have doctrinal edges.

I do. I have those edges. So I am in the middle of churches that are really very serious. And I cannot tell you the number of times women who are godly, who love the Lord, love Scripture, and are part of wonderful Bible churches that love the Word, will come to me after I talk about the gospel, and I talk about the incarnation, and the sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, and ascension and reign of Jesus Christ, and say to me, “I’ve never heard this before.”

Now, if I was talking about those things in churches where it was all about skits, then I would say, okay, I understand that. But that’s not where I’m speaking. I’m speaking at churches where the women are very serious and they love the Word. We’re not giving people the gospel. So for so many people, it is that the gospel is assumed. We assume that we know the gospel. We assume that the people to whom we’re speaking live in the light of their justification every day. When I come into a situation like that and they say, “Why have I never heard this?” in some ways it’s disheartening, but in other ways, I’m just thrilled to be part of what God I think is doing in the land right now.

Amen. Amen. Well, let’s talk about the book then a little bit. I don’t even have mine, I’m borrowing her copy. I worked off a manuscript to prepare for tonight. Why did you write this book? Tell me how this book came about.

The genesis of this book was after we had done Because He Loves Me and Comforts from the Cross. Then I wanted to say, all right, how do these gospel truths that I’m rediscovering, after being a believer for 40 years, play out in counseling? So then I wrote Counsel from the Cross, along with Dennis Johnson. And then, in conversations with my daughter and some mutual friends, we began to say, all right, if all of this is true about us and how justification should impact us in the way we deal with one another, in the way we even think about ourselves, then how should it play out in our parenting? And I will just tell you, it was one of those times where we spent hours and hours and hours talking and bringing situations. We thought, “Well, if my child does this, what am I supposed to do here? Are you just supposed to give him the gospel? I don’t understand.”

My daughter is a homeschooling mom of three, and our friend that we met with frequently has six kids, and she is also homeschooling mom. And we’re trying to figure out, how do you do what we’re talking about here with the gospel with children? And both my daughter and her friend, this one friend in particular, are not women who weren’t reading any parenting books. They were reading parenting books, and they kept saying to me, “We’re not seeing the gospel here anywhere. Sometimes you talk about having your child pray or those kinds of things, but we’re not seeing this gospel message in these books at all.” So we really didn’t set out thinking we were going to write a book about it. We set out trying to figure out how Luther’s work on Galatians had anything to do with parenting. That’s really where we were.

Not many parenting books have that as their launching pad. Well, talk a little bit about your co-author. Talk about writing this with your daughter.

Well, that was an interesting exercise. We had a good time. Jessica and I have a really great relationship. And basically, the way it went was that we had a lot of discussions and we would meet from time to time, and then I was writing. I would send her portions of the manuscript and I would say, “All right, now you have to take this truth,” whatever it was we were working on, “and you have to tell me how this would work out with your children.” Because I’m an empty nester, and so I don’t have those feet-on-the-ground, concrete understanding of how right now the kids are fighting over Transformers. How does the gospel speak to that? I didn’t have that going on. So she then began — and really she had begun before we even started writing — to ask the Lord to help her to transform her parenting from being law driven, obligation driven, imperative driven — which is really how I raised her — to being gospel driven. I’ll give you one example, and this was actually several years before we even started writing.

Her little boy, Wesley, who at that point was four years old, loved his Thomas trains. And he, being the first child, loved to have them all lined up perfectly and run them along the perfect little track. Well, God blessed Wesley with a little brother who’s favorite thing was to mess up the Thomas trains. One day Jessica was out of the room and heard a blood-curdling scream and came in, and she found Wesley straddled on top of his little brother, Hayden, who at that point was two. And really he was just pummeling him. And you can imagine that.

Yes, absolutely.

So Jessica picked up Wesley, picked him up off of Hayden, and she said, “Wesley, you must love your brother.” And Wesley said, through tears, crying, anger, and hopelessness — he was just beside himself with fury over his Thomas trains — “I can’t!” Right then I would’ve said, “Oh, yes you can, and you will.” See, that’s how I parented. And she would say yes and amen to that. That’s how I parented. But what she said — and this really marks the shift — was, “You’re right. You are right, Wesley. You can’t love your brother. You need a rescuer. Let’s pray that God helps you and brings you the rescuer, because you can’t do it.” That’s the switch.

It began there with her kids. And she was talking to me all along about the kinds of things she was doing as she was walking through my transformation as well into the gospel. And then we began to say, all right, let’s be more specific about how we do this.

Who was the book for? Who did you have on your heart as you wrote this book? Was there a type of parent or a type of person, or is it just buckshot for anybody that wanted to pick it up that was struggling in their parenting?

I think that the book is really written for parents. There is a survey, and I think it was done by Focus On The Family. It says that most mothers, and I would assume fathers as well, believe that they’re failures in their parenting. They carry this load, this burden of guilt, if you will. Or they even just think, “I’ve got to do this perfectly. If I don’t do this perfectly, I’m going to mess my kids up.” And they look at their parenting, and sure they love their children, and that’s what’s driving this. They really love their children and want their children to serve the Lord, but they somehow feel this weight upon them that if they don’t do it right, they’re going to mess their kids up. So we turn our parenting, as gospel-loving parents, into a covenant of works, which basically says, “If I do what’s right and parent my children properly, then my children will turn out the way I want them to turn out.”

Now, obviously any parent can use it. But those are the parents I’m writing to, those serious parents who hear me talking about the incarnation and they’ve never ever talked about the incarnation in a time of discipline with their children. Because, what do you want? You’re a godly father of wonderful children. What you want is for your children to serve Christ. And how much of a burden do you carry? I think that our problem is, again, that we’ve made parenting into this formula. And so many of the parenting books that are out there are a formula. If you do this and this and this and this, then you’re going to get this.

Faithful parenting in, good kids coming out. Right.

Exactly. And again, it’s that moralistic therapeutic deism, which is that you tell your children, “Do the right thing and then you’ll feel right, and then God will bless you.” It’s the same thing for parents as well. They think, “If I do the right thing, I’ll feel good about my parenting, and then my children will be wonderful.” And that’s really not the gospel at all.

Well, your friend Tullian Tchividjian, who’s been on our broadcast here in the past, in his preface to the book, he calls it nothing short of revolutionary in terms of a book on parenting. That sounds dangerous — revolutionary. But really, right off the bat you raised this issue in your opening introductory comments, saying, “What does it mean to parent in a distinctly Christian way?” You say, “You are a Christian parent, but is your parenting Christian?” That grabs our attention right away. What do you mean by that? How does grace radically reshape us and cause us to be distinctly Christian parents? What do you mean by that?

See, our concern is that you could take children from many Christian homes and put them, let’s say in a Mormon home, or even in a very moral atheistic home, and there wouldn’t be that much difference in the parenting. If our parenting isn’t any different from what a Mormon would do, then our parenting isn’t Christian. My parenting needs to be distinctly of the Lord. And that’s why I think Paul, in one of only two commands about parenting in the New Testament, talks about our parenting being of the Lord. So the gospel has to come in and impact that. So our question is, if I took your boys and transferred them into a Mormon home, would they see much difference? These are moral people. They want their kids to obey, to be good citizens, to be polite and say “please” and “thank you”. Would there be that much difference? And if there’s not, then what’s missing?

You see, what’s missing is that gospel message which transforms everything we say, so that when a little child comes and they don’t want to share, well, how are you going to handle that? Well, a Mormon wants their children to share, so they say, “You have to share your toys.” Well, what does the gospel say about sharing? See, what’s different is that the gospel talks about Christ sharing. What did he share? Of course he shared his life. But Jesus is not just our example of sharing; Jesus is also our righteousness if we will believe it. And so for a child who doesn’t want to share, we can come to that child and instead of it being “I’m good and you’re bad,” we say, “I’m just like you. I don’t want to share either. When I get on an airplane, I don’t want to give up the aisle seat.”

Right? Who wants to do that? Get a bad seat on the airplane. I don’t want to share. So I can say to a child, “I’m a sinner just like you. There’s no difference between us. I’m just a bigger one, and you’re little. We are both radically sinful. Here we are with Keller again. We’re both radically sinful, but we’re also radically loved. And honey, if you will believe it, you will have the perfect record of Jesus Christ who always shared his toys. See, he grew up in a home with children. It’s a really beautiful thing about the incarnation. It’s the wonderful thing about the incarnation and Jesus growing up as a child.

You can say to children, “Jesus grew up in a home and he had brothers and sisters, and you can bet that they bonked him over the head with a piece of wood.” Of course they did. And how did he respond? He responded righteously. He didn’t sin against them. And you say to your child, “If you believe it, if you’re truly a believer, that’s the record you have, even though right now you’ve sinned and been angry with your sister or not sharing,” or whatever.

It comes through over and over in the book, not just in the early portions where there is this aspect of gospel intentionality, of rehearsing and remembering and bringing these truths to bear time and time again. It’s a significant part of the book. You also mentioned something else that I thought just really leapt off the page at me. You talk about, do we recite rules more than declaring a story? And I immediately thought, “Well, I pretty much recite rules. That’s what it feels like a lot.” Talk to us a little bit about what you’re getting at there in the difference between spending the majority of your time reciting rules versus declaring the gospel story.

Right. With little children, two-year-old children, one-and-a-half-year-old children, three-year-old children, you’re reciting a lot of rules with those kids. Because little teeny children can’t get into a big discussion. You just have to say, “When I say stop, I mean stop, and that’s the rule,” because you have to protect the child. But as the child grows, that should be shifting so that you’re talking less about what all the rules are and you’re giving them the appropriate motivation for the rule that they’ve probably already heard from you 500 times. So talking about sharing. They both want to play with Optimus Prime, and they’re going to fight over Optimus Prime. You can say to them, “I know what you want. You both want the same toy.” Now I can give them the rule, which is, “You need to share.” By the way, we don’t make our kids share at all anymore. We leave that to them, which is another one of those kinds of places.


Yes, scary. And we’ll say, “You understand that you could have every Transformer in the whole world and it wouldn’t make you ultimately happy, because only Jesus Christ can satisfy your soul. You understand that.” Now they’re rolling their eyes, doing that typical thing. And then you say, “And you understand that he shared his life with you. He left his Father’s home, which was beautiful, complete joy. He came here, lived as a child, had to share his toys, and he died for you. He shared his life for you. Do you understand that?” They say, “Yes.” And I think a lot of us maybe will even go there, but then we want to push it even farther and say, “And sweetheart, here’s the deal. If you will believe that this is true, that God would love you like this, you have Christ’s perfect record even right now you don’t want to share.” See, what does that do for you? It transforms your heart. It changes you from feeling like you have to obey a rule to responding in love. You think, “Really? He did that?”

And then, we’re doing a lot more praying now than we ever did before. See, rules are a way to avoid doing business with God. I can make a rule, I can make a chart, and I can have stickers, and that makes life tidy and easy. When I’m depending on the Holy Spirit to transform a child’s heart, and not saying to them, “Okay, you get Optimus Prime for five minutes and then you get him for the next five minutes.” We don’t say that anymore. We say, “You know what you should do, and you know what Christ has done for you. And you say that you believe it. So I’m going to leave you and just pray for you and ask the Lord to help you.” I’ll tell you the shocking thing. And it’s scary. Boy, I know it’s scary. The shocking thing is how it transforms them. Because now they’re wanting to obey in response to what Christ has done for them.

I’ll give you another just really brief example. The little girl in Jessica’s home was the wild, out-there little one. She always just says whatever she thinks. We just love her. And we made a rule that you didn’t have to say you’re sorry unless you were. Now I know that what a lot of parents will do, and what I did with my three kids, was that if they would fight they would have to say, “Please forgive me,” and then go hug each other. And in their mind, what they’re doing is stabbing each other, but I’m all about looking good. And we decided God’s not impressed with their hypocrisy. So we said, “You don’t have to say you’re sorry if you’re not. You know you should. I’m just going to pray for you that the Lord will help you do that.” Now, obviously we don’t do that with everything, but there are some things where it’s really a heart issue where we say, “I’m not going to make you do this.”

So the little girl, for probably a year, was saying, “I’m not going to say I’m sorry, because I’m not.” I would say, “Okay, we’ll just keep praying for you.” She’s saying she’s sorry now. She’s saying, “I’m sorry.” Okay, so what’s going on there? I don’t know if that’s true repentance or not. But what I don’t want to do, what Jessica doesn’t want to do, and what I did with my children, was make them pray and make them say they’re sorry — all of those sorts of things — when in fact their heart was hard. My daughter Jessica won Ms. Christian Character when she was in kindergarten.

Are you a proud mother?

Oh yes, very much so. Because you see, that was my good parenting. Good parenting in, good kids out.

That’s right.

You just can’t imagine the shock that I felt when she went to Bible college and came home and told me that she had gotten saved. Outwardly, she was compliant. And that’s another thing. You have these outwardly compliant kids who are really in more danger in some ways because they look so good outwardly. They really seem like they’ve got their Christian act together. They’re outwardly compliant, and you say, “Say you’re sorry,” and they’ll say, “I’m sorry.” But their heart is as hard as nails.

We think the Lord is not impressed with hypocrisy, so we don’t make them share and we don’t make them pray. They have to sit quietly while we do and they have to respect the family. We don’t make them sing. If we’re at church and everybody stands up, they have to stand up, but we’re not going to make them do those things. I don’t want to teach my children that God is impressed by outward conformity that has nothing to do with their heart.

That’s good.

That’s scary, isn’t it?

Oh, very much so.

Again, we’ve watched the children change, and it’s very different from what I did when I was raising my kids.

Sure. Well, I like how in the book you speak, even as you have tonight, in terms of us being on this path, as it were, but we don’t have it all together. We’re not coming off the mountain with the new method to make everything okay and manipulate your kid’s behavior and such. And I really appreciate that aspect of the book. I felt like you’re with us in all of this.


But you have experimented, as it were, with some things. You’ve really tried to dazzle the kids with grace, and you’re seeing that it is this kindness of God that leads the children to repentance. In some cases getting saved, but also in just saying they’re sorry. And I love how this emphasis really gives, as it were, space for the Holy Spirit to do the work. At the same time, the parents are being made desperate to pray in ways that maybe they wouldn’t have if it was just telling their kids, “Obey the rule, and here’s the sticker.”

Before we take a brief break here, let me ask you about this issue of obedience, because you have a really helpful section where you lay this out. I don’t know if you’ve coined these, but you speak about the idea of initial obedience, social obedience, and civic obedience. Maybe you can just briefly touch on what you meant by those. But you also talk about religious obedience, and that is not necessarily the fruit of saving grace. Elaborate on that before we take a break.

I have to say that we plagiarized a lot of that from Luther. Those were Luther’s categories.

So you were serious that we’re going to get Luther on Galatians from your book?

Yeah, because we were just gobbling up Luther.


Luther was very helpful to us, because we knew that there were ways in which we needed to train children that didn’t have anything to do with Christian righteousness. They were just ways you’re supposed to train children. So we started out with just this initial obedience, and these are things that any family and any parent, believing or not, gospel driven or not, has to do. So you have this initial obedience, which is that you teach the child that when you say, “No, stop,” the child must stop. You don’t need a conversation on the atonement then. What you need is for the child to stop. Then we have what we call social obedience, which is different, of course, depending on whatever culture you’re in. If you grew up in China, it would be considered good form to burp at the end of a meal, because that’s saying thank you, basically.

Well, not here. So you teach your child the social mores of whatever culture they happen to be in, and to say please and thank you and those sorts of things. And that’s good and right. And you also teach a child civic obedience, which is that you obey the magistrate, you obey the laws of the land, you don’t cheat on tests, and those kinds of things. You teach them civic obedience. And those are things that a moralistic atheist will teach his child. It has nothing to do with the gospel really. It’s just that these are the steps of training children to respond properly in society. We’re not saying don’t do that. We’re just saying don’t be confused about what that is.

Where the confusion really happens for Christian parents is in this whole area of religious obedience. Because we teach children. When you go to church, this is when you stand and this is when you sit down. When we pray, you sit quietly and you fold your hands. Sometimes, unfortunately, we tell children that they’re supposed to pray. I don’t want to ever tell a child he is supposed to pray unless he wants to pray. So we do this religious obedience thing, and what happens is that we have little Johnny and he’s a people pleaser. He loves to please mommy and daddy, and he just loves it when they say, “You’re a good boy.” So he feigns prayer, and maybe he even thinks he’s praying, but he’s not really. His heart is far from Christ. What he really wants is your good opinion.

We get confused because we see Johnny praying and we think that means he’s a believer. And then we don’t talk to him about the gospel anymore, because he’s a believer. He doesn’t need it. And what we do then is we pile on the rules.

We kick into law.

Yeah, we kick into the law so that Johnny then becomes the elder brother. He becomes the Pharisee. And he lives to impress his mom and dad, or try to get the benediction. And what we want to be very careful of is, yes, of course we train our children in religious obedience, but that’s not Christian righteousness. It may be the fruit of salvation. It may. Or it may just be his desire to please you.

Talk a little bit about how we praise our children for their obedience or for their goodness. Is that dangerous? And if so, why? You even give somewhat of a warning about raising kids who “idolize the benediction.” You even have a section in the book called “Kids, Go Put Your Goodness Away.” What’s up with that?

Yeah, that’s a little provocative, isn’t it?

I like it. What do you mean by that? How should we praise our children?

First of all, we live in a culture that is very much focused on building a child’s self-esteem. You can’t go to a park with moms and have them interact with their children without hearing them say something like, “You are such a good girl,” or, “You’re such a good boy. You’re so good. You did that so good.” You hear that over and over again. So what’s the problem with that?

Yeah, what’s wrong with, “I’m proud of you. Great job. You’re so good. Thank you for being nice”?

The issue, first of all, is that the Bible says that we’re not good. There is none righteous, no not one. And that includes our children. That really flies in the face of what we think. So many times we think that if we tell a child he’s good, then he will be good. We were actually talking to some moms the other night, and one said, “My mother always said to me, if you tell a child that he’s being bratty, he will be a brat.” You see, we think that we create our children’s souls by the words we use. So if we tell them that they’re good, then they will be good. Of course, that’s not at all what the Bible has to say. The Bible says that our children are lost. And that outside of the saving work of Jesus Christ, they will be eternally lost. So what’s the problem with telling them that they’re good? Well, we’re lying to them. They’re not good. Now, what does that mean? That we go around all day long saying, “Oh, you’re such a sinner. You’re so bad."”

No, that’s not what we say to our children at all. What we do instead is that we see Johnny sharing his Transformer, and he never shares. And we say to him, “I’m so thankful that God is working in your heart right now and giving you grace to share.” See, so what I want to do is I want to transform our child’s heart. Because you see, our hearts, all of our hearts are addicted to wanting to hear somebody say something good about us. I want to transfer that. I don’t don’t want to build that. I don’t want to feed it. I want to transfer that so that when I’m saying something good to the child — and I want to say good things to the child and to encourage the child — they can see that the good that’s going on in their heart is the work of God.

Now, it may just be God’s common grace. It may be God’s saving grace. We don’t know what it is. But I love this phrase. We want to be “grace detectives”. So instead of just making a list of the rules and talking about how they’re failing the rules, we don’t want to do that. And instead of talking about, “Oh, you’re really so good. You’re such a good boy. Thank you for being so good,” what I want to do is I want to say specifically, “You shared your Transformer, and I know that’s hard for you to do, but I also know that that’s God working in you.” Now see, what that will do in a child’s heart is it will help the child to believe that God can work in even him. I think that most kids in Christian homes, kids who are not outwardly conforming all the time to the rules, are the kind of kid who would be the prodigal. I think that those kids — and I’ve talked to a number of them in counseling — will say to me something like, “Well, Christianity works for my parents, but it doesn’t really work for me.”

As I’ve tried to understand what they mean by that, I think that what they mean is, “I can’t be good and can, so Christianity works for you, but it doesn’t really reach me.” I want to say to every little child, including our little girl who likes to have a lot of fun — she’s the kind of child that loves to just dive off of furniture and stuff like that — “You should be in the circus.” And she said, “I don’t want to be in the circus because I have to do what people tell me.” Okay, good. That’s right. So what do we say to her? We say, “Yeah, we’re just like you. I don’t want anybody telling me what to do either.” But then when we see her changing, we don’t say, “Oh, you see you’re really good.” What we say to her instead is, “Sweetheart, can you see how God is working in your heart right now? That’s the work of God.”

So then what she’s doing now is she’s no longer looking for the benediction. Well, perhaps she is. But she’s not getting that benediction, the “you are good”. What she’s doing instead is saying, “God is good. God is helping me.” And that’s where we want to go. We want to teach our children all of the time to see that the good that they have is God working in them. And that will build their faith. When they get to be 15, 16, or 17 years old and they’re really struggling, it will build their faith that God can work in their life too. And it’s not just mom or dad, or the good child in the home, and they’re the bad one.

On that point, you talked in the book about how there’s two types of children — there’s prodigals and Pharisees — and then in many children there’s both. But both must be taught the deep truths of the welcoming Father, namely, that mercy trumps law. Talk about that a little bit, about rehearsing that to your children. Why is that so important that we lodge in their brains? If we leave them with anything, we leave them with this sense of mercy trumping law, whether the prodigal or Pharisee.

Let me backtrack off of that for just one second. You see, the law will address the heart of the prodigal. Rules will not necessarily transform but speak into that prodigal’s life who never wants to obey any rules. So what he hears from you is rules. Rules, on the other hand, what they do is they feed the heart of the Pharisee, the elder brother. He loves rules. The more the better. Why? Because he does them well. It’s a way for him to feel proud. And then everybody says, “Oh, aren’t you good.” And then they say to the prodigal, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

See, it’s devastating to the truth of the gospel. Because what the Bible says is that both the good child and the bad child need a savior. When you think about the New Testament and the people that Jesus really confronted, it wasn’t the prostitutes, it was the outwardly religious people. Those were the people that Jesus hammered at, and what’s so interesting is they were the ones that were most resistant. So if we want to know who’s most resistant in the family to the gospel, a lot of times it’s that child that’s going to make you proud. Because they do all the things right, and quite frankly, they don’t really need a savior. They think, “Oh yes. Well, mom and dad like to go to church.” And those outwardly good children leave home, and then they’re exposed to all kinds of people who they looked at as bad people. And then he finds out they’re really nice after all. And then he leaves his faith.

Here’s the really terrible statistic and it’s not mine. There are numbers of studies about how many children leave the faith who have been brought up in a Christian home. The very best number is 60 percent. Over half leave. The worst number is 88 percent. See, the deal is if what we’re giving to children is law, we’re going to lose the prodigal right away. But then we’ll also lose the Pharisee, because the Pharisee thinks she doesn’t need it. She’s pretty good on her own, thank you very much. That’s why I never want to encourage a child to think that their religious obedience is what counts for something before God. That’s not Christian righteousness. I’ll give you an example of mercy trumping law.


Let’s say that we have two kids and they’re in the pool, Susan and David. Susan is older, and she always wins at every game. She just wins. She’s the elder sister and she knows how to work the rules and she knows how to make everything work for her, and she always wins. David, on the other hand, is the younger brother, and he never wins at anything. So in order for him to win, he has to cheat. And if cheating doesn’t work, he quits when he sees he’s going to lose. So you have them both playing Marco Polo in the pool. And they both come out of the water and they’re furious. Susan is furious because David is cheating again, and now he’s quitting. And David is furious because he always loses and she’s always telling on him. It’s normal. What do we have here?

We have two children who need the gospel. See, it’s very easy for us to see how David needs the gospel. He needs to stop cheating, and he needs to continue to play the game. And Christ was humbled for you, so you should embrace this role and whatever, all of that. And by the way, he’s also the kid that knows how to say, “Well, I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again.” And he jumps back in the pool. Susan, on the other hand, she’s the problem. Because her heart is that she says, “I’m a law keeper and you should be too. When I play Marco Polo, I don’t open my eyes. I always do what’s right when I play Marco Polo.” You hear that little Pharisee heart there. You don’t give her law. She loves the law. You give her the gospel. That’s what breaks her heart.

You say, “Sweetheart, there’s something that’s more important here than obeying the rules of Marco Polo. And what’s more important than the rules is mercy. And here’s how you have broken God’s laws, but he’s given you mercy, and that’s what we’re asking you to give your brother — mercy.” See, the only thing that will address both the heart of the prodigal and the Pharisee is the gospel. The law will address the heart of the prodigal, and will make the Pharisee happy. Because she loves the law. She always wins, so she doesn’t need to cheat. So it’s the gospel, and that’s what we have to give them. And instead of saying that the most important thing is that you learn these rules and obey them. What’s more important than all the rules is that Jesus Christ lived as a child perfectly, obeyed every single one of the rules, always loved his brothers and sisters, always loved his parents, always did what was right, and then he went to Calvary’s hill on your behalf. That’s mercy triumphing over the law.

Amen. Well, the book is divided into a couple of sections. You have section one, which I think is the first four chapters or so. Section one really sets the second section up a little bit. There are five chapters there that really get down to some of the nuts and bolts. It starts to take the theology of the book and map that onto actual scenarios where grace is needed. It’s connecting grace and gospel with the really mundane day-in, day-out frustrations that every parent comes up against. And it’s a wonderful section of the book. It’s just sweeping in its scope, and it’s breathtaking. You really dazzle the reader with grace, even as you’re encouraging the reader to go out and dazzle their children with grace.

But some of the handles that I came away with in reading this book was your section where you talk about training and discipline. And you lay out five words. You have a little acronym in there, but you talk about managing children, nurturing children by grace, training them, correcting them, and using promises. I wonder if you could just take a moment to just talk us through those five aspects of the grace that disciplines.

What we wanted to do then was develop a way of dealing with children that was distinctly driven by Scripture. As we went to Scripture, of course there are only two places in the New Testament where we have direct instruction on this, which is pretty shocking considering the number of books and methods that you see. We took that aspect of instruction, training, and the discipline of the Lord. We took that and then we said, all right, there’s also Scripture that talks about a mother bringing up her children. That’s nurturing. And the Old Testament is very interesting. Whenever you’ve got a scenario where a son comes to his father and says, “Why do we do this? Why do we have the Passover? Why do we do this?” The way the father is always supposed to answer is really the gospel. He says, “Because God has done this for you, then we do this.” It’s just the gospel there in the Old Testament.

What we did then was we developed those words out of primarily the New Testament, but also the Old Testament. So it’s basically management. Sometimes it’s just, “Go get in the car. I’m not going to discuss Jesus with you right now. Basically, I don’t have time. We’re late for church. Go get in the car.” So it’s that kind of management. It’s also this nurturing. Sometimes the child makes the last out at the little league game, and it’s their fault the team loses. What do you say to your child then? You nurture their soul with gospel truths. Yes, we know you’re feeling really badly right now about this, but let me tell you what Christ lost for you. Maybe a parent is listening right now and they’re saying, “Okay, there’s no way in the world I’m ever going to be able to think of all this.” You can’t think of it all of the time. It’s not a method that you’re going to memorize. But maybe you’ll have an opportunity to really nurture that child’s soul and talk about what the gospel means about him. You can say, “Well, yeah, you’ve lost this, but let me tell you that because of Jesus Christ, you’re never really going to lose anything.” So it’s nurturing.

And then we want to train them, teach them what the gospel has to say about this particular situation that they’re in. We’re training them and we’re correcting them. We have to correct them. If he makes the last out and he throws his bat, we have to correct that. But we want to do it, again, in the context of the gospel. I’m going to bring correction to you, but I’m always going to do it in the light of what Christ has already done. So that correction is not something that’s going to devastate the child. And then always give them the promises of what the gospel says. You can say, “You may have lost this game right now, but the truth is, because of what Christ has already done for you, you’re never really going to lose anything that means anything.”

That’s right. Well, there’s probably a few dozen parents watching right now who have this $60 million question. They might think, “This is all great, Elyse, but what about corporal punishment? What about physical discipline? Is that gospel? How do you do gospel-driven punishment?” And you talk about that in the book a little bit.

Again, we’re aware of the fact that there’s lots of perspectives on this. We believe in corporal punishment. We believe that children should be spanked. Quite frankly, we believe that if you spank or discipline children physically when they’re little, you have to do it less and less as they get older, of course. But anyway, we do believe that. But in the middle of that, you can even bring the gospel. And you can say, “This is what I want you to understand. Sin always causes pain. Disobedience always causes pain.” And again, this is going to be much more than maybe what you would say, but this is how you would go about it. You can say, “Sin always causes pain. Now, if you believe in Jesus Christ, really this is the only pain. You won’t feel any eternal pain for your wrong choices. Why? Because Jesus was punished for you. He bore in his body the lash for you. Right now I’m going to discipline you because I want you to understand that disobedience always brings pain, but this is just temporal. If you believe in Jesus Christ, you’re not going to suffer this way eternally because he bore all of it for you.”

So even in the middle of that, even in the middle of discipline, you’re just encouraging them again to see their Savior who suffered for them. Jesus understands all about what it is to be disciplined, because he bore all of that physical suffering. And then, of course, he bore the suffering of his Father pouring out his wrath on him. Jesus understands what that child is going through, and you can say that to a child. You can say, “Jesus understands this, honey, because he went through it for you. And if you believe that about him, this punishment is all you’ll ever have to go through. You’ll never have to go through the eternal punishment that Jesus bore on the cross.”

I liked how the backdrop for that is within this context of manage, nurture, train, correct, and promise. If one finds themselves constantly correcting — and maybe it’s lots and lots of spanks, and their seasons very much like that, I’m sure — you give them a suite, as it were, of other things that they can remember to go and do. You talk about how then maybe we just need to pour out an extra dose of nurturing love on this child for a while. Or there’s this training aspect, bringing them along, helping them to start to see. That’s a really, really helpful section.

You actually do us a great service in the appendix here of the book. This section, and the appendix that you both put in there, is worth the price of the book for that chapter and for that appendix. I’ve asked Elyse if she would just walk us through one of these scenarios of what it looks like to bring gracious training in the areas of management, nurturing, training, correcting, and promising to a very typical childish, sinful tendency. Why don’t you walk us through one of these scenarios. And there’s a whole appendix full of these.

Let me just say, I would imagine that moms or dads who may be listening now would say, “Oh, that’s overwhelming. I couldn’t possibly memorize all that.” No, don’t.

It’s not a script.

It’s not a script. We’re giving you a paradigm in which to think. And you don’t even have to do all these things. Maybe at this time all you’re going to do is just manage. You might say, “You have five minutes, go get in the car.” Maybe this time you do have a few moments you can nurture. You start to nurture them and you notice that their heart’s hard and they’re not really listening, and you can just say, “Okay, not doing that.” This isn’t some method, again, of good parenting in, good children out. That’s not what this is.

Well, we’ve taken the topic of talking back, and just walk us through how one might handle this.

For management or oversight with the child who’s talking back, you just say to the child, “I’m going to ask you to stop talking back to me. You need to hear what I’m going to say to you now without interrupting.” And sometimes that’s all you have time for, and sometimes that’s all you have the patience for. And that’s fine. Other times you might have time for gospel nurturing, so you want to feed his soul with grace. You could say something like this, “I can see that what you think you’re trying to tell me is important. I need you to hear me when I say to you that you need to trust God to take care of you. He understands and knows what you want to say. He knows your heart. He hears every cry of his children, and he cares deeply about all that you think you need. I need you to be quiet now and just listen.” That’s just a couple of little sentences. Feed his soul so that he doesn’t think that he’s alone and he has to present his case.

That’s the nurturing aspect.

That’s nurturing, and this would be gospel training. If a child is talking back you can say, “This is what Jesus has done. When Jesus Christ was before his accusers, before the people that hated him, he was quiet. The Bible says that he was like a lamb that was led to the slaughter. He didn’t fight to have his opinion heard, even though his opinion was the only one that really mattered. If you are in Christ, that record is yours. Because he went silently to the cross to bear your sin, you can trust him and listen quietly to what I’m going to say now.” So see, what I’m going to do is I’m going to take that desire of the child to speak and connect it to what Christ has already done. You say, “This is what Jesus did for you.”

Then there is gospel correction, which is correcting him when he doubts or forgets. You might say, “I understand that you want to get your point across to me, but I’m asking you to be quiet. I know I don’t see the situation perfectly, but God does. I’m going to pray for wisdom and I would like you to pray that you would trust God instead of your own opinion. Please don’t talk back to me anymore, but just listen and then do what I’m asking. Our heavenly Father will give us both exactly what we need right now.” See? Sometimes a parent can say, “Maybe I don’t really understand what you’re trying to say, honey. But what you need to do right now is be quiet because there is a God and he knows what you’re trying to say, and I’m going to pray that he’s going to help me understand.” So you correct him.

And then of course, rehearsing the promises is another aspect. This to me, Scott, as we were putting this together, was the most sobering part of what we did because how you would talk to a child who is a Christian and how you would talk to a child who is blatantly not a Christian are entirely two different things. If a child is not a Christian, you could say to him, “Trying to convince people that you are right and they are wrong is going to be a difficult way for you to live your life. Almost everyone out there tries to do the same thing. You will get better at arguing, but that won’t bring you the justification you’re looking for. The justification you’re looking for is only found in Christ. If you spend your life attempting to get it by your own effort, you’ll stand before a holy God with nothing but your sin and your mouth will be closed then, but you can turn to Christ today.”

See, the problem is we don’t give our kids the gospel, so they’re not hearing that strong of a message. They’re hearing, “Do these laws, be nice, be moral.” We’re not telling children the truth. Or if he is a Christian, you might say, “Please trust your heavenly Father’s ability to take care of you in this situation. He’s put me in your life to help you right now, and you must listen to what I have to say without interrupting. His care for you is so immense that he died to make you his son. Don’t trust in your ability to talk your way out of this situation. You don’t need to fight the situation. Please just trust that he will help us both as we try to work this out. God has given us both these circumstances so that we can learn not to rely on our own wisdom or ability to see everything clearly, but that we would rely on him to lead us. Let’s pray together that we may learn to be quiet and wait for him.”

Again, this isn’t a script. You don’t need to do all these things every single time you come to an intersection with your children. Sometimes you just don’t know what to say. And Jessica has said to me a number of times, “The kids were fighting and I didn’t know what to say. I prayed, I asked the Lord for wisdom. Sometimes I have wisdom, sometimes I don’t. And when I don’t, I don’t try to cram the gospel into places where it doesn’t fit.” It’s like witnessing when there’s not really an open door. We don’t have to do this every single time. But we do, I believe, want to ask the Lord to help us to think in these categories so that I’m not always just managing, but I’m doing these other things as well.

Well, it’s a super helpful section, again. And just so viewers know, in the book, in these charts that are in the appendix, there are multiple examples of the common issues that many children and teenagers have. And there are these gospel responses of ways you can train them in grace and in righteousness by giving an intentional word. There are Scripture references listed in the columns next to it. That is just a real gift to the reader. And I thank you for that. It was tremendously helpful.

Let’s talk a little bit about chapter nine. It really spoke to my own heart in some powerful ways. It’s entitled “Weak Parents and Their Strong Savior”. In this chapter you talk about what it means to parent to the glory of God, and you took it in a direction I wasn’t expecting. Really, the chapter is about being sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, boasting in weakness. You mention the strange ways of God where so often, maybe even especially in parenting, he gets glory over and over again through our messing up in our parenting. Why’d you put that chapter in there? Talk about that a little bit.

One of our primary goals in writing the book is to free parents. And one of the things I think we need to be freed from is our addiction to success and our desire that our children turn out exactly the way we want them to. Scott, the number of parents that I’ve talked to in counseling who come to me and are weeping because they did all the things right, whatever it is. They homeschooled their kids, and they thought that was the right thing to do. They homeschooled their kids, they lived in the country, and they did all of these things to try to protect their children. Or they sent them to these special Christian camps and all of this stuff.

And what we wanted to do was come back and say, is there a possibility — and are you willing to understand — that sometimes God is more glorified in our failure than he is in our successes. Now, of course, I want to say we can look at a lot of failures, particularly someone like John Newton, who had a godly mother and was just such a wicked young man until he came to Christ. Or you can think of Augustine. So many of these really great believers were really terrible and brought great shame to their parents.

What we wanted to say was that we’re not giving you a method that if you do this it is guaranteed to produce perfect children, because salvation is of the Lord. And we never know what God will do or how God might use a John Newton, a slave trader and terrible adulterer. The things that he did were terrible until he came to Christ. How God even used his sin is an encouragement for us. I’ll tell you what, I love the fact that the New Testament is filled with men and women who are pretty much failures, like Peter. Right? It’s so encouraging to me that his sin is written so blatantly, because then I can see how God has used Peter’s denying of Christ. Let’s just use that. God has used his sin to encourage me that Jesus loved Peter even after the denial. And what does that mean about me?

So again, we don’t know what God is doing with our children. We don’t know how God may use our failure. Here’s another example. I didn’t raise my children in the gospel. I took them to church, but I gave them the law. I was not raised in the gospel at all. I never in my life had family devotions when I was growing up. Not once. I went down a terrible road of sin, and yet God used that in my life to produce the fruit he wants to produce and glorify himself. See, we think that the only way God glorifies himself is when our children are all lined up and look like the von Trapp Family singers. But God is bigger than that.

Think of Tullian and his testimony of how God uses our rebellion to glorify himself. For parents, Dave Harvey, I think is how we start out the book. Dave Harvey said, “I thought that God would use parenting as a way to show what a good dad I was, when in fact God used my parenting to show how weak I was.” See what parenting does for us, when we look in the eyes of those little sinners, is that we see that we have reproduced after our own kind. And this is good. This is good for us. When our little girl says, “I don’t want to join the circus because I don’t want to do what anybody tells me to do." Okay, yeah, that’s me. It reminds me of who I am. I’m her Mimi. I’m her grandma. Of course she’s going to be like that.

Every parenting book, practically, that you’ll pick up will say that if you do this and this and this and this and this, then your children will be this, whatever their method may be. So whether it’s Little House on the Prairie, or raise your children in an urban society and everybody gets tatted up. Whatever that method may be, everybody’s looking for a law, for a rule, so that we can make sure that our children turn out the way we want them to turn out. And God is much bigger than that. The Old Testament really should speak to us. We have kings in the Old Testament who were wicked terrible men and they had godly children, and vice versa. And you have got Timothy in the New Testament, whose mother and grandmother were godly, but his dad wouldn’t even let him take the sign of the covenant. His dad was an unbeliever and stopped him. That very sin of the dad made Timothy become the person that Paul would adopt and take as his son. And it was because the dad was a sinner. See, we don’t know what God is doing. We think we know what God’s end game is, and we don’t. Now, I’m not saying, okay, so in that case, just do whatever you want.

Yeah, go be a mediocre parent.

I’m not saying that at all. We have God’s revealed will. And God’s revealed will is that we need to seek to parent our children in the gospel. We never know what God’s secret will is. His secret will may be for you to struggle with a rebellious child for the next 20 years. God will use it for his glory.

Amen. Well, that chapter was particularly encouraging, and I think it would be encouraging for many, many of your readers. You bring the book to a close, and I thought, again, it was a very helpful way in causing us to focus on this idea of just resting in grace. In other words, I felt that you and Jessica, in the writing of this, even perceived that the readers were going to be hardwired to get this, and the have this become the new methodology, the new standard by which someone could think, “Oh, if I could get those appendices down, my kids would turn out okay.”

So you ended the chapter just thinking you’d yank the carpet out from the reader saying, “What in the world did we do before 30 years ago with all of the parenting? What did they do 150 years ago when there were no books on parenting, or 200 years ago, or 500 years ago?” You make the point here that all folks had was the Bible. Rest in the fact that you can do something very simple like love your kids, discipline them, and tell them about Jesus. I appreciated the way you ended this book. Did you do that on purpose?

Again, what we see in so many parents is this great burden, this covenant of works. This thought of, “If I can just get this right, if I could just memorize these scripts, if I could just do this new method, then everything will be right.” And what we want to say is, rest in the work of God’s salvation. And I don’t even know how many times we said this — salvation is of the Lord, so rest in his work. What we wanted to do was give grace to the parents so that they could enjoy their children and come alongside them. Rather than it being that they’re trying to get them to be something, both of them together are saying, “How are we responding to the gospel?” I really appreciate just those three things. Teach them about the Bible, discipline them, tell them about Jesus, and then relax and enjoy your children. Love them, do what you can, and leave it in the hands of God who loves your children more than you do. Leave it there.

Yes. Well, that’s where we’ll leave it tonight. Elyse, thank you. And thanks to Jessica for this book. Thank you for writing this and following the call of God on your life and putting this in print. And of course, we’re thankful to Crossway Books for putting this one out. I hope you’ve been encouraged as we’ve just bantered about these things a little bit tonight. And if you’ve been provoked, if there are things you’d like to follow up on, we encourage you to pick up a copy of Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus.

If you’d like to learn more from Elyse, you can find her blog and her speaking schedule and more at elysefitzpatrick.com. I’m Scott Anderson, and on behalf of all of the staff and the crew here tonight, we thank you for watching this broadcast of Desiring God Live, and we hope that you can join us again in the future. And until that time, may Christ remain your treasure and your joy.