Click the link below to download the PDF.
Also, if you’re new to the show, another great place to start would be our Family United in God online course. You can access that from TruthLoveParent.com in the Evermind Store. I also have a link in the description of today’s episode. That series will walk your family through the requirements of true unity as well as provide valuable LifeWork that will help knit your family together as they submit to God’s plan for their lives.
And—of course—check us out on social media. Just search Truth.Love.Family. on your favorite social media outlets, and—for maximum benefit—like, follow, comment, interact, and share.
And then when you get back around to listening to this episode, be sure to check out TruthLoveParent.com for today’s free episode notes, transcript, and related correction resources.
And now let’s talk about how to apply Phase 3 of Biblical Parenting.
But, no doubt, at one point or another, they will disobey, and—when that time comes—you biblically reprove them by persuasively showing them that the choice they made to disobey was sin. You have reproved them, you’ve used consequences to reinforce the reproof, and you’ve called them to respond to the reproof.
And—by the grace of God—your children have genuinely confessed their sins, asked for forgiveness, and committed to true repentance—aka: real life change.
That step right there, the reconciliation that comes from a correct response to reproof, is absolutely necessary to move into the Correction Phase of Biblical Parenting. No one can be corrected who is not moving in the direction of the correction.
So, now your child who has committed to real, spiritual change, wants to do better. They want to fight the temptation to disobey their authority; they genuinely want to do right.
Well, so many parents who were doing such a great job up until this point cease being helpful at this key moment. The best they can offer is “Instead of disobeying the next time you’re told to do something, obey.”
And that advice is accurate. In a way, it is that simple. But all I mean when I say simple, is that it’s “not complex.” However, “simple” is not to be confused or conflated with easy. Something can be methodologically simple, and yet not be easy to overcome.
It doesn’t really matter what the sin is, when the temptation comes, any person can give in to any temptation. Let’s illustrate this by making it really personal, why do you sin? You sin because you give in to temptation to sin. And did you really not know that what you were doing was wrong? Did you really not know the biblical alternative? Did you really not know how to say “No” to the temptation, lean on the Holy Spirit, and do right? Of course you knew most—if not all—of that, but you still sinned anyway. And why did you sin? You sinned because doing right is not only hard, it’s impossible in your own power. Living a holy life is not just difficult, it’s unachievable without God’s help.
However, there are plenty of other believers who do not sin in the way that you sin. Does that mean that not giving into that temptation shouldn’t be hard for you? No, it is hard for you, and the lesson to be learned here is that your children’s temptation is hard for them.
That’s why your kids need better correction than simply, “Do right.” Yeah, in theory, that’s all they have to do, but what does it look like to do right? How do I do right when I’m not even thinking about the fact that there’s a choice? How do I do right when I’m not sure what the right is? How do I do right when I really don’t want to? How do I do right when the person demanding I do right is a jerk? How do I do right when they say this or that, do this or that?
When the temptation to disobey reenters your child’s life, they’re going to need a plan of attack because saying “No” to that temptation is going to be hard.
Now, if you participate in our Family United in God online course, you’re going to learn that unity requires war. And the same is true about spiritual growth and change. True sanctification requires war, and the Bible is full of wartime imagery to describe our spiritual lives.
By the way, I strongly recommend you and your family listen to our free series called The Spiritual Warfare in Your Home. That study was so instrumental in my life and the life of my family.
And that’s what you and your child are entering at this point in your relationship. Early on your kids were—to one degree or another—like civilian bystanders. Your teaching invited them to join God’s Army and warned them against the Army of Satan. But then they chose to fight on the devil’s side by sinning, and so you reproved them, and they—by the grace of God—have said they want to get back to the right side.
And now you’re helping them to stop following the Devil, the World system, and the Flesh, and fight for truth.
And this step is not easy.
I’ve always said that this Phase of Biblical Parenting is one of the most joyful phases. It’s a phase where we get to see real change and maturity in our kids. But as joyful as this phase is, it’s super hard. It’s way harder than the Training Phase. It’s way harder than the Teaching or Reproving Phases.
When done correctly, this Phase is the most challenging; which should explain why it’s so hard to do well and why many parents struggle with this Phase even when their kids are ideologically on board.
So, today we’re going to talk about how to counsel/disciple/one-another/correct your kids in the best way possible.
However, before I move on, I need to address a serious misconception.
1. Biblical Correction requires salvation.
In the biblical counseling field, we often hear, “You cannot counsel an unbeliever.” What that means is that you can biblically teach an unbeliever and biblically reprove an unbeliever, but you can’t biblically correct them because true participation in the Biblical Correction Phase requires new life in Christ.
Why is that so? An unbeliever can only ever change their behavior and reinvent their personalities in their own strength and for their own glory. They can’t truly mature spiritually in the power of God if they aren’t born again. Since biblical counseling is synonymous with discipleship and one-anothering (activities that can only take place between believers), you can’t really guide an unbeliever through that process.
That means that correcting unbelieving children is going to be limited by the fact that they can only achieve superficial, self-motivated change that won’t result in glorifying God or in spiritual life.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you don’t correct a child who’s interested in being corrected. There’s still value to this phase of parenting. Even before my children professed salvation, they still needed to learn to brush their teeth correctly, they still needed to not set the house on fire. It was appropriate for me to help the unbelieving, at-risk teens at Victory Academy to be the most decent they could be so that the house could continue to function. And it’s appropriate for governments to help criminals who want to reform their lives. But that doesn’t mean any of those people are achieving any level of spiritual growth in the process. They’re not being discipled in Christ. We could put it into Ephesians 6 terms, they’re not being brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
So, the point is not that you don’t correct a child who’s willing to change their behavior. The point is that you recognize that the biggest change—the biggest correction—they need is submission to Christ in salvation. That means that your teaching and reproving all have one bigger and more important focus in mind beyond the need of the moment—evangelism.
Please check out our Evangelism Parenting Series. I’ve included that link in the description of today’s show.
If your children have not been born again, there is no focus or goal that should be more important in your parenting than introducing them to Christ in salvation.
But if your kids do have a saving relationship with God, then they can participate in true, genuine, biblical change, which is called sanctification—growth in the image and conformity to Jesus—true discipleship.
Now, all of the following points apply to correction—even if you’re superficially correcting an unbeliever. Just don’t allow yourself to believe that your unsaved child’s behavioral reformation is anything more than it is. One of the most damning positions for any child is to be a noble, decent unbeliever. When a child is superficially obedience and sweet and hard-working, it’s easy for that child’s authorities to focus on the squeakier wheels under their care because this other child is “doing well.” But in reality the child is nothing more than a noble idolater who’s destined for an eternity separated from God.
Outward change that does not submit to God is change for which we can be thankful, but it’s never enough. We need to teach and reprove and correct our children in that which matters most—submission to God in love and trust.
Alright, with that foundation laid . . .
2. Quality Correction requires application.
If you’re not applying God’s Word to your child’s life, you’re not correcting. You may be teaching, and you may be reproving, but you’re not correcting.
And—if we’re being honest—teaching and reproof without application are substandard at best. If your child is lost at sea and all you do is tell them that they should have stayed in the harbor when they saw the clouds or that they were wrong not to turn around earlier, you’re not helping them get back to safety.
However, as important as application is, valuable application is one of the most difficult parts of any of the Biblical Parenting Phases. In reality, I could have dedicated a whole series just to the topic of biblical, valuable application. But even though we don’t have time for that right now, the information I’m about to share with you can and will revolutionize your parenting if you start putting it into practice.
So, let’s start by really defining what I mean by application.
I really love Merriam-Webster’s first definition of application: “the act of putting something to use.”
Now, in a tangible, physical sense, this is not extremely difficult for us depending on what we’re discussing. If I hand you a hammer, you will know how it needs to be applied to the task at hand. The same us true with a screwdriver.
But what are you going to do with a hive tool? A hive tool is a beekeeper’s main tool for inspecting a beehive. It has multiple functions, and is desperately important for a smooth and valuable hive inspection. Now, likely many of you can’t even imagine what such a tool would look like, and you’re potentially wondering what it would do. If I showed you the tool, that would only partially help. Some of you who work with other tools may look at it and be able to imagine some of its uses. But even those conclusions are the result of previous teaching, reproving, correcting, and application you received with other tools.
My point is that your kids aren’t equipped to accurately and valuably apply the truth you’re giving them. Did you catch that? Most likely, your kids are simply not equipped to take theological truth and make sense of it in their lives.
It’s not like you’re handing them a tool they may be able to figure out on their own. I’m sure you could use a screwdriver like a hammer and accomplish something. But we’re talking about spiritual truth, intangible ideas, and existential imperatives. To rightly apply such truth will require help—help from you, the parent.
What biblical truth needs to be applied to your child’s life concerning true obedience?
3. Quality Application requires a Godward focus.
Not to beat a dead horse, but the best application will be focused on God, come from God’s Word, and point back to God.
We obey because God deserves it and demands it. We can only obey in the power of God. To obey we must do what the Scriptures say, and we do these things because we want to please the Lord.
Even if your child is unsaved, it’s imperative to start and end with God. Now, we never want to lead our kids to believe that external submission to any rules will earn them favor with God or standing with God or anything else with God, but we do need to keep pointing them back to their need for God.
When I’m correcting unbelievers of any age, I’m always honest with them. I tell them that if they take my counsel, they can achieve change in their own power, but I remind them constantly that until they truly submit to God and desire to please Him in His power and for His glory, the change in their lives will only be partial and—ultimately—pointless.
So, don’t be pragmatic in your application. Even if you know your child is an unbeliever, you need to apply God’s truth in God’s ways for God’s reasons. That’s the best application.
Now, that’s not to say that there won’t be specific application that doesn’t come as a direct quote from the Bible, but your kids must be able to easily recognize that the specific application is rooted in God’s character, deeds, and will.
But before we get to our most important point for the day, let me point you toward a resource called Applying God’s Truth to Our Children’s Lives. That episode builds out much of what we’re observing today, but it also presents additional content we can’t cover today.
And the most important point of the day is . . .
4. Quality Application requires unique specificity.
This, my friends, is the absolute golden, secret, power key of Biblical Correction. If you want to apply truth in any meaningful way, you absolutely need to be as specific as possible.
If you’ve listened to the show for any length of time, you may have heard me bemoan poor application by using applications from church services I’ve attended.
For example, too many youth pastors say things like, “Remember, you need to love God this week. He is so awesome, and so deserving of your love. Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”
And all of that is true, but what does it mean in my life? What does that look like for my friend? How do I do that when I’m being tempted to sin?
Another example of bad application came from a church in the Chicagoland area. In a challenge to men to love their wives, the pastor admonished all of us to show our love for our wives by opening her car door. Now, even though that was a more specific application than our well-intentioned youth pastor, it still had one key flaw. My wife would hate that. In her mind, that’s a terrible waste of time. That wouldn’t communicate love for my wife; that would accomplish the exact opposite.
The first application wasn’t specific enough to truly put that truth to use in real-life scenarios, and the the second was too specific in that it wasn’t a correct application for me—and a bunch of other guys in the room.
Now, I want to illustrate this point with a piece of comedy, but I have to preface what I’m about to show you.
I’m a student of culture because I’m a follower of Christ who wants to be used in this world to draw people to Him. Therefore, I absolutely need to know God, but I also need to know my audience. And so I sample key pop-culture moments in an attempt to better understand the lies the world is believing.
Well, one such pop-culture study occurred in 2007. I had been hearing more and more about this up and coming young comedian by the name of Daniel Tosh. And it was true—the man came in like a firestorm and had a huge effect on the culture.
So, I watched one of his comedy specials. Now, there was so much bad about that special. Not that the man wasn’t incredibly funny, but the topics of this jokes were wicked and often blasphemous. What’s really interesting is that I would bet money this guy had a nominal Christian experience as a young person. His insights into nominal Christian concepts are painfully spot-on.
However, while watching the show, Daniel Tosh told a joke that beautifully illustrates the point I’m trying to make right now, and—yes—I’m going to share it with you. However—no—there is nothing inappropriate in this part of his routine.
So, to set it up, he had just been discussing weird things people say, and he transitioned into . . . “‘Money doesn’t buy happiness.’ Do you live in America? Because it buys a waverunner. You ever seen a sad person on a waverunner? Have you? Seriously, have you? Seriously, have you? Try to frown on a waverunner. They’re so awesome. It’s just throttle. People smile as they hit the pier. Because you forget you need gas to turn. It goes against your natural instincts. Some of you aren’t laughing. We all miss your cousin. But not not laughing is not gonna bring him back. I don’t think that’s right. He’s dead for a reason. He’s was a show-off and he tried to spray us. ‘I didn’t wanna to get wet!’ I yelled at his mother at the funeral. Do you like how I start jokes with mass appeal and continue till only six people have a clue what I’m talking about? That’s not a good style.”
“Do you like how I start jokes with mass appeal and continue till only six people have a clue what I’m talking about?”
Though that may not be the best form of comedy (though I think Daniel definitely made it work for him), it is absolutely the best form of application.
In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say that application that can only apply to one person is the best kind of application.
That means that if while you’re correcting your child—counseling them in how they can stop doing wrong and start doing right—if your application of the biblical truth can be meaningfully applied to more than one person, it’s probably not as helpful as it could be.
Allow me to illustrate this in concrete terms.
Let’s say that two children tend to get into sinful arguments while deciding what to watch on TV. It’s always the same thing—they can never agree, and then that tempts them to get mad at the other who is “so unreasonable” or who is “wasting time by saying no to everything” the other wants or who “only wants to watch stupid stuff,” and—before long—the conversation has nothing to do with what to watch and everything to with bitterness, anger, clamor, slander, and maybe even a little malice.
So, you reprove them, they submit and reconcile and show a desire to change. Now is the time to shine with your biblical correction. Now is your chance to lay out for them God’s plan for how they can glorify Him in situations like they just experienced.
So, let’s work our way through the Application Onion. By the way, all of these applications are going to be accurate in that they are biblically truthful. None of them are going to be unbiblical or man-centered, and I’d like you to listen carefully for which layer best describes the depth of your application.
Layer 1: “You two need to figure out how to make this work.”
This is the “You Need a New Destination” Layer. It reveals only that change is necessary, but sets no destination or trajectory for said change.
Layer 2: “You need to be nicer to each other.”
This is the “You Need This General Destination” Layer. This approach provides a destination, but no path is laid out for reaching that destination. Also, the idea of “nice” is extremely nebulous and lacks real concrete definition. In addition, this truth can be applied to literally every single interaction they have with each other, so we have to wonder how easy will it be to implement in this scenario.
By the way, if you ever hear application from the pulpit or in a lecture, this is often the generally applicable information that anyone can take and implement in their lives. The problem is that the “how to implement into their lives” isn’t always clear.
Layer 3: “The next time you can’t seem to agree on what to watch, each of you choose one thing to watch, write it on a piece of paper, put it into a hat, ask someone else to choose one from the hat, and then watch that.”
I call this layer the “You Need to Do This in Order to Arrive at This Less Important Destination” of application. It’s often very detailed and sounds really good and even accomplishes things in the long run, but it misses the spiritual needs.
If I can call it this, it’s the pop-psychology, Pinterest-mom approach. It’s original, unique, very specific, and not necessarily wrong, but it doesn’t deal with the real heart issues. The problem is not that the kids can’t agree on what to watch. The problem is that they don’t love each other enough to prefer the other over themself and to respond correctly to a show they dislike. They’re idolaters who want what they want.
Such a heart issue is not going to be corrected with a piece of paper and a hat. Even if this approach seems “successful” in the short term, I promise you that genuine spiritual maturity is likely not taking place, and that truth will be revealed before long—either in this same scenario or in a different one.
Layer 4: “The real problem is not what you’re going to watch. The real problem is that you don’t love each other enough to prefer your sibling over yourself. So, what you need to do is decide that you’re going to serve your sibling by watching whatever they want.”
Okay, so we’re doing better. This application is more specific and Bible-centered, but I hope you’re one step ahead of me and can already see the problems.
Whereas the previous layer was the “You Need to Do This in Order to Arrive at This Less Important Destination,” this is the “You Need to Do This in Order to Move toward the More Important Destination.” It’s focused on the more important direction, but it still lacks specificity in how to arrive. But we don’t just want out kids to move toward obedience without achieving it. We want them to actually arrive at obedience.
Your children have no idea how to pivot from loving themselves to loving their sibling. That’s the actual correction that’s needed in the moment. If the child were more mature and were thinking ahead, they may ask, “Yeah, but how do I choose to prefer my sibling over myself when I’m already annoyed by them?” “How do I make myself serve them when the only thing in my mind is to shout down his dumb idea?”
What your child needs is not merely the destination, and not just part of the path, they need the full path that is guaranteed to lead them to the destination.
Now, which Layer is your go-to Layer? Are you the “You Need a New Destination” applier? Or are you the “You Need This General Destination” applier?
If you’re like a lot of parents who have been influenced more by the world than by the Scriptures, you may be a “You Need to Do This in Order to Arrive at This Less Important Destination” applier.
Or perhaps you’re the “You Need to Do This in Order to Move toward the More Important Destination” applier.
Either way, there’s room for growth. To be honest, I’m a consistent Level 4 applier.
Now, to continue in my honesty, I can’t provide the perfect illustration of Layer 5 Application because I’m not dealing with two real people involved in a real spiritual struggle.
But we would call this the “You Need to Do This in Order to Arrive at the Most Important Destination” layer.
It provides clear instruction about how to actually live the most important biblical lesson necessary at the moment.
Allow me to illustrate Level 5 Application in a different scenario. I’m going to use myself.
As I record this episode, I am in the middle of a fast. I have been and will continue to not eat any food of 40 days. However, each Sunday I will consume one healthy meal as a mini-celebration of the Resurrection. On top of that, in an attempt to provide for my family, I’ve been doing a food-delivery service.
Now, you can imagine—no doubt—the plethora of temptations I will face during this process. But allow me to pull out just one such temptation and provide some specific application for my life.
If I want to be spiritually successful, what do I, Aaron Michael Brewster, have to do to glorify God during this fast? What do I need to do to please the Lord while delivering food and being subjected to the intoxicating smells from the restaurant to the delivery destination, while experiencing the gnawing hunger from days without nourishment, and while battling my fleshy desire to stress eat—which I experience even when I’m not hungry?
First, I need to start my day with God in prayer, studying His Word, and writing in my fasting journal.
Second, in the moment I need to meditate on the specific purposes of my fast which I can’t enumerate here but are especially personal to me. I need to pray without ceasing about those purposes. Depending on the distance to the delivery, I need to listen to Scripture—I’m currently studying Ecclesiastes. I also often need to play some of my most convicting Christ-honoring songs. I really benefit from “I Need Thee Every Hour.”
Practically speaking, I sometimes need to call my wife to focus my mind on serving her instead of serving myself. I need to pour myself into delivering to my customers the best I can. It’s also a good idea to have a tasty, no calorie, no sugar beverage on hand in case the temptation becomes unbearable.
And I could—and do—get far more specific than that in my personal application. I know what the content of my prayers need to be, I know what’s best for me to drink, I know how long is good for me to deliver, I know how careful I need to pay attention to the Scriptures or the music lest they become background noise.
And what about that moment where I’m telling every lie to myself about how ordering a small fry or a salad or a sugary beverage would be okay? How does Aaron Brewster need to face those temptations? Well, I personally benefit from visual reminders. Sometimes I write on my hand, and sometimes I write on a 3×5 card, and sometimes I put that reminder on the home screen of my phone, and those reminders are always very specific to me. In fact, some people may not even recognize them for what they are because of their unique specificity.
“But, Aaron, so much of what you’ve said could be applicable to other people. Does that mean, it’s not applicable enough?”
Good question. Again, we’re short on time, and the whole point I’m making today is that specific application unique to the individual and the situation is absolutely necessary to set them up for success, and the more specific we’re going to be the more we need to know about God’s Word, ourselves, and our situation.
To help a child do that is going to take even more time.
A surgeon is going to know the fine details required to do brain surgery, but they’re also going to study their patient, and they’re going to have to have back up plans for what they may find or experience while performing surgery, and many of their choices are likely going to be specific to that one case, that one surgery, that one brain.
And that’s what you want from a surgeon. And that’s what our kids need from us.
So, when it comes to applying truth to your kids’ lives, work toward razor sharp application. Make it biblical, practical, personal, and precise.
And often you won’t have all of these answers right up front, so you need to ask questions in order to better understand their heart and their struggles. But since your child wants to participate in the Correction Phase, coming up with valuable application won’t be a drudgery.
Of course, if the child fights the conversations and questions needed to come up with precise application that will guide them to spiritual success . . . you’re clearly not in the Correction Phase.
And finally . . .
5. Quality Application requires unique specificity.
I wish we hadn’t gone so long; I don’t want to rush through this part.
Here’s the thing. The Correction Phase is often the breaking-a-bad-habit-and-replacing-it-with-a-good-habit-phase.
In 2009, researchers from University College London examined the new habits of 96 people over the course of 12 weeks and found that the average time it took for a new habit to stick was 66 days. Some people did it in 18 days, and others took 254 days, but most averaged out around 66 days.
For those of you who are counting, 66 days is a little over two months. How many times has your Correction Phase intentionally and consistently lasted 2 months?
And, no . . . I’m not asking how many times in those two months did you teach and reprove, teach and reprove, and teach and reprove for the same sinful behavior. How much of that time were you and your child working together toward correction? How many preemptive conversations, how many questions, how much role-playing, how much equipping, how much applying, how much refining, and how much walking hand-in-hand through the next temptations were there?
But not being consistent is not the only danger.
Spiritually speaking, I’ve witnessed another dangerous phenomenon. I’ve seen over and over that people generally have the ability to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and make self-empowered decisions for self-worshipping reasons that results in positive change that can easily last over a month . . . and sometimes much longer.
This means that 66 days of right choices doesn’t always mean that the child has made a Godward shift that’s resulting in real spiritual maturity. I mean, seriously, how many of you have had a child that appeared to have really changed on the outside only to have it revealed later that the sin issue wasn’t just there, it had gotten much worse?
This is why consistent, God-focused, careful, specific, Bible application to the need of the moment is so important, and why it’s even more important that your child actually, genuinely be participating in the correction.