In the closing chapter of Stand: A Call for the Endurance of Saints, Justing Taylor conducts an interview with John Piper and John MacArthur. The sixth interview question and John Piper’s response is as follows…
“If you could go back now to when you started pastoral ministry and talk to the thirty-four-year-old John Piper and te twenty-nine-year-old John MacArthur, knowing what you know now, what do you think would be the most important thing to tell them on the front end of their ministries?”
“It’s clear to me that the most important things would have to do with my children and my wife, and not the church. I don’t think I would do anything basically differently at Bethlehem. If I thought real hard about it, I might think of some tactical changes. But I think we work out of a pastoral model that’s so simple, it’s hard to change it. You open the Bible, and you tell people what it means with all your heart, and you try to live it out before the people and figure out the other stuff as you go along.”
“But I could do better on my family. I could really do better as a dad, I think, if I started over again. Nobody was talking in terms of “shepherding a child’s heart” in those days. Here’s an illustration: Rick Gamache is a pastor of a Sovereign Grace church here in Minneapolis. Rick taught my class for me last Thursday and told these guys about questions that he asks his children to draw out their heart. I read those ten questions or so, and I copied them down and sent them to all four of my sons. They all have kids, and I don’t want them to do as poorly as I did. I think I was faithful to my kids. I went to all the soccer games. I tucked them in at night. But rarely drew out their affectional life at age thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen. And that has not set them up to be as effective in their lives as they might have been I think.”
“So I would go to John Piper at age thirty-four, and I would say, Do better at supplementing your truth commitments with drawing out your wifes’ heart and drawing out your child’s heart, so that they find ways to express what’s in the heart, not just what’s in the mind.”
John Piper’s response prompted the following thoughts…
1. Every parent deals with feelings of guilt, including good and faithful parents (this also includes parents with grown children).
- Very rarely if ever will we feel like we are doing enough
- Very rarely if ever will we feel like a good parent
- Very rarely if ever will we feel like we are measuring up
- Very rarely if ever will we feel like we have what it takes
As a parent I must learn to rest in Christ’s perfection
2. In this generation people are talking about “shepherding a child’s heart.”
- It is important to consider the hearts of our children.
- We must make sure that head and heart knowledge is leading to affection for Christ.
- We need to be helping our children identify and flee from the deceit found within their hearts.
Books, resources, and sermons on this subject abound. Praise God! Parents are gobbling up resources and are more knowledgable than ever (maybe). Today’s dads and moms understand better than ever what it means to be a good parent (another generous generalization). And as a result we are more aware than ever just how far short we fall and the guilt is piling up.
(I’m going to review a new parent book next week. You will love it. It is going to make you feel so guilty.)
Friends, sanctification is a long, slow, life-long process.
- Why didn’t your spiritually euphoric camp high stick as a youth?
- Why wasn’t your life really changed after the foreign mission trip you went on?
- Why aren’t you better at shepherding your child’s heart?
Sanctification is long and slow. Trust in Christ’s perfection.
3. Keep parenting.
John Piper is a 64-year-old man scribbling down Sunday School notes in hopes that they will help his sons be better men. He is engaged in the parenting process at 64. You never stop being a parent.
- Keep trying new things
- Keep studying God’s word
- Keep reading books
- Keep listening to sermons
- Keep probing the hearts of your children
- Keep repenting – Sanctification is long and slow. Trust in Christ’s perfection.
Keep believing that He who began a good work in you will continue it to the day of its completion.
Grace to you