Gospel Parenting by Josh Cooley

One recent Friday evening, my wife, Kelly, and I were discussing our weekend plans. Surprisingly, we were chatting by ourselves on the couch uninterrupted. Our four kids—ages four to ten—were quietly playing and reading in various rooms. No one was fussing or fighting. Nary a bump, thump, or explosion could be heard from anywhere in the house. It was a blissfully serene moment.

parenting-1Still, at the end of a long week, Kelly and I found ourselves counting down to 8:30, which in our family initiates that blessed yet fleeting 90-minute oasis between the kids’ bedtime and ours. It’s funny how situations alter perception, no? Ninety minutes at the dentist’s office is an eternity, like you’re trapped inside one of Salvador Dali’s melting clocks in The Persistence of Memory. But 90 minutes with your spouse after the kids doze off? That flies by like a fighter jet at Mach 2.

All moms and dads need those oasis moments. Parenting is hard, consuming work. It produces plenty of Hallmark moments, but certainly not every time. Yet children are God’s greatest blessing to a husband and wife. Psalm 127:3 says it best: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

Sometimes, during those “the days are long but the years are short” moments, parents need a reminder of what their main objective is. Psalm 78:4 leads the way: “Tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” In my work as a vocational children’s minister, this is my theme verse for ministry. But if I had to pick a single verse to be my personal parenting motto, too, this would be it. Why? Because viewed through a proper redemptive lens, this ancient psalm is packed with gospel meaning.

Throughout history, the Lord has done innumerable glorious deeds. His most glorious, of course, is providing his Son, Jesus Christ, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. For parents, our chief responsibility—and privilege—is to share this gospel truth with our kids in everything we do. The apostle Paul calls the gospel a message of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). It’s the cornerstone of biblical parenting—the foundation on which all other building blocks should be laid. Nothing else should take a higher priority in child rearing . . . not even “eat your veggies.”

parenting-2Have you shared the Good News of salvation through Christ with your children recently? Do it again! Have you told them about Jesus’ great sacrifice on the cross and his glorious resurrection? Create another opportunity to do so! It’s a message that kids (and adults) can’t hear enough or rejoice in too much.

The gospel contains endless riches to explore. Sin, wrath, justice, mercy, grace, atonement, election, propitiation, regeneration, justification, redemption, adoption, sanctification, eternity, and more—these topics don’t take days to discuss with your children; they take years. Obviously, kids aren’t going to grasp all these important concepts right away. And therein lies the beauty of parenting! We get the great honor of shepherding their hearts throughout this long spiritual journey.

God’s love toward us through Christ is a treasure that exceeds value. It’s simple enough to understand, yet deep enough to continually provoke worship and awe. It’s a mystery we will never completely comprehend, a mountain we will never truly summit, an ocean we will never fully plumb. As Paul exclaimed in Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

josh-cooley-1-year-devoSo proclaim the glorious gospel of Jesus to your children. Tell them about God’s might and the wonders that he has done through the Cross and empty tomb. Open the Word with them. Pray long and hard for them.

There are many great resources to help you along the way. May I suggest one? I wrote The One Year Devotions with Jesus, a 365-day devotional, to give tweens and teens a broad picture of the person and work of Christ and help them explore God’s redemptive plan through his Son. With the holidays approaching, it could make a great gift for someone you know.

Yes, parenting is difficult work. Quiet moments, disposable income, and sleep suddenly become prime commodities. And honestly, the “Pre-Minivan Era” memories of my old Mustang GT still cause a little heartache. But I wouldn’t trade my present circumstances for anything. The chance to tell the coming generation—four of whom are my own—about the glorious gospel message is beyond words.

It even beats that nightly 90-minute oasis.


cooley_josh_01Joshua Cooley is the children’s minister at Chapel Hill Bible Church (NC). His The One Year Devotions with Jesus, Heroes of the Bible Devotional, and The One Year Sports Devotions for Kids are all available through Tyndale. You can learn more about Joshua on his website, www.joshuacooleyauthor.com, or visit him on Facebook and Twitter.