Reflecting God’s Attributes
By Norman Street
The highest purpose in all we do in raising our children is that they might know the true and living God. We want them to know that God is exactly as He has portrayed Himself in the Bible, while being infinitely beyond that revelation because He is beyond all human thought. Our children must learn that we are all accountable to God, and that the only pathway of blessing for anyone, whether child or adult, is to listen to God when He speaks, and to obey Him there and then.
This is a tremendous responsibility which lies upon us as parents to teach our children the fear of the Lord and to teach them the necessity of obedience.
In church and Sunday school, workers try to tell children who God is, how He has revealed Himself to us all in the person of His dear Son, and all that God has wrought in Christ for us. At home it is the parents’ task to show them who God is, to live it out. That is what godliness is – God-likeness.
You say, "How am I, a poor, stumbling, failing man or woman (though a Christian) so aware of my failings and many sins, how am I to reflect the attributes of God to my children? How are they to learn what God is like through me?"
That is a great question indeed, and one that we might well ask. Nevertheless it is so. God ordained the family so that growing up in the home, the children might learn from their father certain aspects of what it means to have a Father in heaven. They are to learn from their mother certain things concerning the tenderness of God and the gracious sweetness of His love.
How may we parents be expected to reflect the attributes of God to our children?
God Is Not Changeable
The God of the Bible is immutable. He is not capricious. He acts and works, not according to whims and notions, but according to a settled purpose. As parents we can be like that. Admittedly it would be in our poor, limited way.
Our children can learn as they grow from infancy that they can count on father and mother, that we will act according to certain purposes too, purposes which are fixed and settled. They will learn that we do not act on whims and notions so that our children might pretty well predict what we would say in a given instance or how we would react. In this way they learn something about the nature of God from their parents.
God Is Predictable
God has told us what He will do under certain circumstances in His Word, and He does it. When the children discover that in a smaller way the same is true of a mother and dad, they are learning something about the immutability of God.
Job 23:13-14 says, of the Lord God Almighty, "But He is one mind and who can turn Him? What His soul desireth, that He doeth." I remember many a time that is how it was with my father. When he had made up his mind that I had gone far enough and needed some correction, nobody could turn him, and I knew it. That is how it is with God, and our children can learn that when we parents believe that what we are about to do is pleasing God, we are going to do it.
God Keeps His Word
"The Lord of hosts hath sworn saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand" (Isa. 14:24). Here we are looking at the decrees of God which are from all eternity. But there is a sense in which our children can learn from us as their parents that we do what we have said we will do, whether it is to have a happy outcome for them or whether it is a warning of discipline which now has to be carried out.
In Malachi 3:6 we read, "For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." This is the unchangingness of God. The more godly and God-like we become, the more our children will see that we too are not changeable or moody, but even-tempered and consistent in the way we live. We mean what we say.
The Goodness and Severity of God
One of the worst mistakes we can make as parents is to let our children off far more than they are ever corrected and disciplined. "I’m sorry, Daddy, I’m sorry. I won’t do it any more, I promise!" We answer, "Are you sure? Okay then, I will let you off this time."
Certainly there is a place for leniency, demonstrating the mercy of God, but we have to be careful.
So many children have been excused so often that now we have a generation on our hands which understands neither justice nor mercy. When your children have been warned, and they deliberately defy and disobey you, they need to know that it is now too late to be sorry. You must discipline them with discipline suited to the offence.
I do not mean by this that as parents we are to see and hear every last little thing. You can badger your children to death that way. That is a part of what is meant by provoking your children to wrath. They reach a point of utter exasperation and they say, "There is no way to please those impossible parents of mine." Some children may say that with real justification.
As Christian parents we sometimes find that other Christian parents are not strict enough, and that puts us in an awkward position. Our children know how much other children get away with, even in Christian homes. They argue, "Mary’s mother says it’s okay so why can’t I do it?" "John’s parents trust him, but you won’t trust me."
You have all those things thrown at you. When young people reach high school age, it is shocking to see how much liberty they are given. It seems as though parents just have to give in or else subject themselves to the wrath of their teenage tyrants!
Let me ask those who still have smaller children: when they are teenagers, will they rebel against you? Will they be in control or will you be? No doubt you will answer, "Well, I hope it will not be that way." But it will be unless your children learn from an early age that there will never be any exceptions, that you are going to be in charge of your family, and in charge of them until they have left you.
It is very hard to do it right by our children every time. They can become difficult, badgering us about this and the other. It can be a real problem, but that is where we must be strong in the Lord. That is where our love must be strong and tough. Our children must learn from their parents clear, consistent, unforgettable lessons on the authority of God. They need to know that certain things are not debatable.
The Immeasurable, Eternal Love of God
Then they need to learn also that God is patient; that He is kind; that He endures; that He finishes what He begins; that He is not a quitter. Neither will we give up on them and neither will we quit. In our enduring love they will see a reflection of the immeasurable, eternal love of God.
That love is to be reflected in all our dealings with them. It is not a soft, sentimental kind of love, but a love that is so deep and so strong and so true that it will discipline and correct. It will be watchful and prayerful. It will take time to sit down and talk things over and explain, instead of saying, "I’m too busy, I can’t be bothered with that now."
God is love and therefore He cares about us and He grieves over us. Our children should be aware of God’s love because we love them, we care about everything they do, and everything they are becoming. We grieve over those things that are sinful and wrong. Our hearts are hurt. It was love, divine love, that planned and then wrought out our redemption in the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus. Our children are prepared by the experience of that measure of love wrought in our hearts as the fruit of the Spirit, to understand more and more of the amazing love of God.
The Justice of God
One reason there is so little conscience of sin is because there is virtually no understanding of the justice of God in our society today. Do you realize that all the courts of the land were meant to reflect the justice of God? Every wrongdoer should be brought to justice, but this does not happen. Every crime should be punished. This does not happen either.
Can you imagine how different our society would be today if there were swift, exacting justice? But as you see, it takes force to get a case into court. It gets tossed out for this, or thrown out for that – interminably. The sense of justice and punishment for criminal activity and for the breaking of the law is too often gone.
The attitude is so pervasive that this kind of thinking has seeped into our homes and churches. The result is that there has been a most serious loss of former concepts of law and order, crime and punishment.
It should be the rule that every offence of every breach of the law of God or the rules of the household is dealt with. When that is the rule, then when the offender is shown mercy he understands that it is mercy – not something he is entitled to.
We have taught our children to believe that being let off is their inalienable right. They suppose that mercy is their right instead of understanding that what they really deserve is discipline.
As our children grow older they should be able to see something of the justice of God on the one hand from our dealings with them, and also something of His mercy. "With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove" we sing in that great hymn. Our children should be able to see mercy and judgment in their parents and learn from them the grace of God.
Too many young people do not understand and appreciate how the law of God was satisfied through the suffering and the death of the Lord Jesus. They think that because their parents excuse them so often, that God excuses our sin. They do not understand that our sins were not excused. Rather, they were all punished and paid for in the Person of our Substitute. It is not that God let us off. Rather, that all His wrath and all of His indignation against sin and all that the law demanded as penalty, was fully met and satisfied in the sufferings of our Lord.
God did not save us from hell at the expense of His justice and His holiness just because He loved us. All was satisfied in the death of our glorious Lord. His body was broken and His blood was shed that every demand might be met. Not one attribute of God, not one of His glories was tarnished or violated through something that was not righteous or just. What a great salvation!
Thank God for His great provision for our children growing up in this wicked world, assailed by the temptations of the devil. They can have God’s precious Word stored away in their minds and hearts. They can have the example of a father and mother who themselves are so aware of their failings and their sins that they pray and sometimes weep. The children can see in father and mother some reflection of what God is like. Might it be the deepest ambition of parents that the children might see in them a little more each day of the character of God.
This is possible by the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit. Without His presence and indwelling, what hope could parents have?
God help that in our homes, the children might sense that the Lord is with us and He lives in our hearts. He is exalted in our midst. We fear the Lord. We walk in His ways. We love Him and therefore we love one another and we serve Him.
– From The Gospel Witness.