ESSAY
Parenting in the Spirit
POSTED
August 13, 2014

The Spirit is God’s agent for renewing the creation, for restoring bonds between nations, for knitting together people into the body of Christ.  The Spirit is the renewer of the world, and the bond of all relations.  That means that if you want your family to be knit together, if you want your family to be a little outpost of new creation, a little Eden, then you need to be filled with and following the Spirit.  If you want your family to flourish, you need to make sure that your family is a Pentecostal family.

This means that parents need to be diligent in prayer.  Ask and it will be given; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened; Jesus says.  In Luke, Jesus follows this by saying that no human father will give a snake if he son asks for fish, and won’t give a scorpion when we ask for egg, and then says: “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Spirit to those who ask.”  Jesus promises that the Father will answer prayer, and specifically that the Father will answer prayers for the Spirit.

Pentecostal parenting means prayerful parenting.  We have to be diligent in prayer that the Spirit to indwell each member of your family, prayer that the Spirit would be working to conform every member of your family to the image of Christ, prayer that the Spirit would be making your home a garden, your wife a fruitful vine and your children like olive trees.  You should be praying for the Spirit’s work not only in each member of the family, but between members, that the Spirit would bind you to your wife, you to your children, your children to one another.  That the Spirit would be working within your house to form a bond of peace.  Pray that the Spirit will make your home a garden where the fruits of the Spirit are abundant.

-Pray in faith. Pray believing that the Father is kind and good, and knows how to give good gifts to his children.  Don’t pray for the Spirit to work, while having in your mind the thought that God won’t give you such a gift.  That is unbelief.  If you’re praying in unbelief, stop your prayer, ask forgiveness, and then ask again, believing.  Trust that the Spirit will come to dwell in your house.

Prayer for the Spirit is crucial, but it’s not the only way of accessing the Spirit.  If we want our families to flourish, our families must be Pentecostal.  And if we want our families to be Pentecostal, we need to be seeking the Spirit where He’s promised to be.  Where is the Spirit?

The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, the weapon of the Spirit, that turns us into living sacrifices.  Don’t think you can succeed as a parent, or that your family will be filled with the Spirit, without being in the Word.  Read and study the word yourself, listen and consider what you’re taught at church, teach the Word to your children.

Christ gives Himself by the Spirit at the Lord’s table.  We can be faithful, Pentecostal parents only if we are children at the table of our heavenly Father. Christ communicates His Spirit to you through Christian friends.  As I said, the Spirit’s doesn’t just work “with” but “between.”  Jesus said that those who are born of the Spirit will be like wells of living water.  We mediate the Spirit to one another, and we do it by speaking the truth in love, by reproof and correction, by encouragement, by being agents of the word to one another.

Negatively, parents must kill any behavior that grieves the Spirit. As Paul puts it in Ephesians 4, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

What kinds of words do you say to your children?  Do you seek to edify them or tear them down?  Are you bitter toward your husband or wife?  Do you get angry at every slight mistake your kids make?  Do you discipline out of love, or out of malice? There are many problems with bitterness, anger, malice, unwholesome or rotten speech, but the main problem is that this behavior offends the Spirit.  He will leave, and if He leaves, your family will not prosper.  If you want to be successful in parenting, you must walk by the Spirit in your parenting (Galatians 5:16, 25).

The virtues of good parenting are the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  If you want to be a good parent, be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Good parenting looks like this: acting out of love, rejoicing in your children, showing patience with your children’s follies, speaking gently to them, keeping yourself under control as you deal with the inevitable frustrations of raising kids.

When Christians look for help with parenting, they often look for some kind of magic bullet, some kind of potion that will make their kids obedient, some technique that will solve everything, and solve it fairly effortlessly.  There are no special tricks.  We become good parents to the extent that we become more like our Father, who has revealed Himself in Jesus.  And we become more like Jesus by following and keeping in step with the Spirit of Jesus.

Peter J. Leithart is President of Theopolis.

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