Parents: God’s Ambassadors
About the Guest
Best-selling author Paul David Tripp understands parents' desire to get their kids to behave. Tripp encourages parents to see themselves as God's ambassadors. Children are created to live under God's authority. So next time those little fights crop up about what to eat or when to go to bed, remember that it's not really about food or bed time, but about rescuing a child from himself.
Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write 17 books on Christian living, produce 14 teaching series and travel aroun...more
Best-selling author Paul David Tripp understands parents’ desire to get their kids to behave. Tripp encourages parents to see themselves as God’s ambassadors.
Parents: God’s Ambassadors
Bob: As a parent, how many times a week or how many times a day—for that matter—are you using your authority to direct or correct your children? Paul David Tripp says, when you’re using authority, there’s something you have to keep in mind.
Paul: I want to be able to walk down the hallway, after an authority encounter, and my children say: “That man loves me. That man would never turn his back on me. That man has actually forgiven me, even though there are consequences to what I’ve done,” because I’m now representing the authority of the One that that child actually needs, at some point, to submit to.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 24th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How would your parenting of your children look different if it was modeled after the way God parents you?
We’ll explore that with our guest, Paul David Tripp, today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, I have a question for you.
Bob: Yes? [Laughter]
Dennis: I have a question for you.
Dennis: How many broadcasts do you think we’ve done, here, together? We’re coming up on our 25th year of broadcasting on behalf of God’s design for marriage and family.
Dennis: How many you think we’ve done?
Bob: [muttering] Twenty-five times—
Dennis: Six thousand or so?
Bob: Yes; more than that, maybe.
Dennis: And a bunch of them have been on marriage and a number of them have been on raising children.
Dennis: How many have we ever had—that have been a guest—who named their book, Parenting?
Bob: I think this is the first book called just Parenting that we’ve ever come across. [Laughter] That’s all it’s called—is Parenting.
Dennis: —thousands. [Laughter] It’s not clear what this book is all about. [Laughter]
Paul David Tripp joins us, again, on FamilyLife Today—welcome back.
In spite of our insults, you keep coming back! [Laughter]
Paul: I don’t know—masochism lives.
Dennis: I think it does. [Laughter]
It’s [the book] subtitled 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Life. I do love simplicity, Paul David.
In fact, you and your wife Luella raised four children together, and you’ve pastored for a number of years. You’ve spoken all over the world—you’ve interacted with tens of thousands of people in various settings. What do you see happening today with parents—this next generation of parents? As you look in their faces, what do you think is happening?
Paul: Well, a couple things—one is—I think that we have a culture that is very pervasive and very influential that doesn’t see authority in any way as a good thing.
I just read an article where the mom was suggesting that what we would normally have thought of as discipline moments are moments of negotiation: “Teach your children how to negotiate,—
Paul: “—how to compromise, how to arrive at mutual solutions.” How is that ever going to work in the world out there? I can’t negotiate traffic laws. I can’t negotiate when my boss has told me to do something. My teacher’s not going to negotiate how to run the classroom with me—it’s just craziness. I think that creates lots of confusion.
There’s another thing going on. I think there’s a greater awareness of the gospel—not salvation past and salvation future / but the present benefits of Christ’s work in the here and now and how that changes the way I think about family—that a lot of young people are buying into that I didn’t know until 40. That really encourages me.
I wrote the book because I think, often, young families are looking for “the key”—they’re reading books, looking for “What are the three or four things that I can do that are going to forever change my children?” What you end up with is asking the law to do what only grace can accomplish.
I want to use a metaphor with you that is a little bit gross, but it’s really what this book is about. Sigmund Freud had a disciple, whose name was Alford Adler; and he was a therapist. Someone once asked Adler, when he’s dealing with dysfunctional people, what was he trying to do? He said without hesitation, “I try to spit in their soup.” Now, that’s a gross metaphor. What he means is—if someone spits in your soup, you can’t go back to it again. He said, “I want people to see what’s going on; and they look at it and say, ‘I don’t want to do that anymore.’”
In a positive way, what I want to do with this book is hold up such a compelling vision of what parenting is, in the hands of God, that parents say: “I don’t want to do what I’ve been doing before. This is what I want to do. This is what I want to be part of.”
Dennis: And it’s too bad that Barbara’s not here to set up this next question; because this is something she has been pounding the table about, here recently, with our listeners around 2 Corinthians, Chapter 5, about how we are called to be ambassadors. What she is all about—she wants to help moms and dads recapture the concept that, not only are they ambassadors, but that their home is to be an embassy—it’s to be a spot on the planet that is to represent heaven, where you’re training the next generation of ambassadors to go forward.
I couldn’t help but smile when I read your book. Bob, he begins by talking about one of the problems with parents today is that they have the wrong picture of what it means to be a parent. They need the big picture. You went to the concept immediately, Paul David, of being an ambassador. Unpack what you mean by that.
Paul: There can only be two models of parenting. One is the ownership model—whether you’re conscious or not—that is: “I own my life, and I own my children. My job is to get those children to do the things that I want them to do.” Ultimately, that’s about my happiness, my success, my reputation, my control.
Dennis: And before you leave that—that’s because that’s the identity of the parent.
Paul: Oh, absolutely; absolutely.
Dennis: We’re talking about identity and authority here. If you don’t know who you are and whose you are, you’re going to be approaching your children in the wrong way.
Paul: Yes; we all should understand that, if you’re not getting your identity, vertically, you’re going to shop for it, horizontally. For a parent, the easiest place to get that is from your children. I just want to say, for a moment, that’s a horrible burden to lay on a child. I child has no capacity to carry the burden of my identity, my sense of well-being, my reason for getting up in the morning. So, you have this ownership view of parenting.
The contrast to that is parenting as an ambassador—it’s a beautiful word picture. The only thing an ambassador ever does is represent. If I’m an ambassador of the United States in a foreign country, my job is to represent the purpose, the plan, the will of the leader who has sent me—that’s parenting!
Now, let me give you an example of that.
That means—I want to just take one area—that I don’t have any independent authority at all—none. These children belong to God / they were created to live under the authority of God. I don’t have the right to exercise authority any way I want to exercise it. If I’m called to be an ambassador—this makes me weak in the knees when I say this—every time I exercise authority in the life of my children, it must be a beautiful picture of the authority of God.
Why is that important?—because my children come into the world not loving authority—what they love is self-rule. I want, by the way that I exercise authority, to show them that authority doesn’t end freedom—authority gives freedom—authority is a wisdom thing; it’s a protective thing; it’s a gracious thing; it’s a loving thing; it’s a faithful thing.
So, growingly, they come to love authority, rather than hate authority.
Let me say one other thing. Those little fights that you have with a four-year-old or a three-year-old about what to eat or when to go to bed have nothing to do with the topic. Little Georgie hasn’t read an Atkins diet book and has decided there’s a certain way he likes to eat / Susie hasn’t done a sleep study—it has nothing to do with the issue! [Laughter]
Parents, you have to understand this: “This is about authority.” This child is saying to you, “You will not rule me.” Now, when that happens, you can respond to that as an owner and say: “Oh yes? Look at the size of me! Look at the size of you!” [Laughter] You right away make it a horizontal thing, and you say, “I’ll do personal war with you to bring you under my rule.” Parents do that all the time / Christian parents do that, not knowing what they’re doing.
Or you can say, with a broken heart: “Here’s another demonstration that this one that I love is a rebel against the authority of God. That rebellion inside of them— that desire to only be ruled by themselves—is their doom. How can I be part of the [King’s] desire to rescue that child from himself? That’s what he needs, because this child can run from me, can run from this location / can run from the situation; but this child can’t run from himself. The problem is that quest inside of his little sinful heart that ‘I will be ruled by no one but me.’”
Dennis: And your assignment, as an ambassador, is to represent the King—
Dennis: —who, in my life, the way He got through to me—He used the law to convince me that I was a sinner and that I need a Savior, but His love was what turned my life around after I realized I was lost.
Paul: Exactly; what the Bible says—it’s the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. There it is. I want to be able to walk down the hallway, after an authority encounter, and my children say: “That man loves me. That man would never turn his back on me. That man has actually forgiven me, even though there are consequences to what I’ve done,” because I’m now representing the authority of the One that that child actually needs, at some point, to submit to.
Bob: You talk in your book about the fact that a lot of parents think the greatest threat to their children are the threats from outside of the child. I was thinking back to the time when we were raising our kids and the cultural threats, and there are many of them that our kids are facing.
We did our best, as parents, to try to diligently protect our kids from those cultural threats invading their worldview, their thinking, their behavior.
But you say what we have to be alert to is that their biggest threat is actually inside of them. One of those threats is that they have foolishness bound up in their heart; and a part of our job, as parents, is to drive it from them.
Paul: Yes; you know, it would be just stupid to say that there aren’t cultural toxins out there that can destroy a child’s life—of course, there are. But here’s what’s important to remember: “It’s only ever the evil inside of me that connects me to the evil outside of me.” Why are children attracted to those things? Why is there, in our children, a love of the world, distaste for authority, occasionally mocking the things of God that we hold dear?—why?
That’s not just cultural influence, but there’s something inside of me that connects me to that.
Parental monasticism doesn’t work. Think of the medieval monastery. What was the problem with the monastery? Well, it was the theology: “There’s an evil world out there, and the way to be pure is to separate yourself from the evil world.” Well, we know from history that monasteries replicated every evil of the outside world.
Paul: What was the big mistake of the monastery? You know my answer: “They let people in them!” [Laughter] And people brought—
Bob: —brought evil with them; yes.
Paul: Yes; see, if you don’t have that—“The greatest danger of my child is inside of him, not outside of him,”—then you’re not interested in being a parent of grace, because you don’t think that’s what he needs: “What he needs is control. What he needs is protection. What he needs is behavior modification.
“He doesn’t need that grace of insight, and that grace of conviction, and that grace of forgiveness, and that grace of transformation; because he’s not his problem.”
I think it is a beautiful moment when a child begins to get that and says, “Dad, it’s me.” Parents, when you hear me say that, fight the cynicism that’s in your heart right now. Fight thinking, “My ten-year-old will never say that.” Believe in the power of the Spirit of God to turn the heart of a child, and determine you want to be part of that turning.
Dennis: I know what Barbara would be saying right now—she’d be going to the Gospels. She’s be quoting various passages that talk about nothing is impossible with God. I couldn’t agree with you more, but it takes God to put it in the heart of a ten-year-old to ultimately admit what you’re talking about and what I want you to just comment on; because you said this earlier:
“A parent’s assignment is filled with”—has to be thousands of—“encounters with children, from birth all the way through adolescence, where they don’t get it.” It is over and over and over again—and the repetition of teaching. I mean, it used to so wear on us around sibling rivalry—that’s just one little piece of the broken human heart. We’re tired of talking about: “You need to ask for forgiveness. You need to admit you’re wrong. You need to…”—you know, on and on and on it goes—you wear out, as a parent!
So I’m glad you spoke to the cynicism in the heart of a parent; because I do think the enemy wants them to give up and take their hands off the plow, so to speak, and stop plowing the ground of the human heart, attempting to put the seeds of the Scripture in the child’s heart so the child can finally get it.
Paul: Absolutely; and I don’t ever know when the winds of the Spirit are going to blow in the life of my child. I want to look at those unplanned moments—moments that are in the way of what I want accomplished, in the way of my schedule, in the way of my personal plans—not as another hassle to be survived—but the operation of grace: “What is God doing? God is revealing the hearts of my children to me, because He loves them and He’s in the process of redeeming them.”
Dennis: And as you said earlier, He may be revealing your own heart to you by the interruption. It may be the whole interruption is more for your own sake—of you processing God’s forgiveness and grace.
Paul: Absolutely; because, again, everybody in the room is being parented. If you’re parenting, you will see the heart of your children. Of course, you will—the question is: “When that happens, what will you do? Get angry? Get discouraged?
“Say, ‘Why bother?’ Read the law to them one more time? Put on your self-righteous robes and say, ‘In my day, I never would have thought of doing what you do’?”
Or would you affirm that you’re an ambassador and you need God’s help?—and you, right now, don’t feel like an ambassador—your heart isn’t filled with an ambassadorial spirit. You just want it to end. How about saying that to your heavenly Father? How about crying out?—saying, “God, I don’t have what it takes right now; but I want to represent You well.”
Paul: “Meet me, by Your grace, so I can have one more conversation with this child that gives him some insight—that helps him to begin to own what’s inside of him, that helps him to begin to seek help—to cry out for Your forgiveness / to cry out for Your power.
“Help me to do that.”
Dennis: And then get in the Book—
Paul: That’s right.
Dennis: —get in the Bible. I’m not talking about your book, here, although they need to get in your book, Parenting; but they need to get in the Bible and feed their own soul. There’s something about a parent whose life is being enriched and being brought near to who God is and being reminded of whom they are that stands a better chance in this incredible assignment. It is both a phenomenal privilege to be a parent, but it is a tough assignment! I mean, if you love much, your heart will be broken much too.
Paul: And again, it means affirming that what’s in the way of this process is not the heart of my child—it’s my heart. I have to nurture my heart with—the promises of Scripture, the knowledge of the presence of God, the realization that God never sends me on a task without giving me what I need to do it / He never sends me without going with me.
All those things—that build the courage and the perseverance of your heart—I need that, because—I want to say this: “I think that there are moments in my life, as a parent of grown children, when I’m still capable of being a gospel amnesiac—a moment of anger / a moment of panic. When I do that, what I’m going to say and do next is not going to be helpful for me or helpful for my child. I need constant reminders of who I am and what I’ve been given so that my heart will be in the right place when God gives me one of those opportunities of grace.
Dennis: Everything about the Bible is about God’s parenting of us; therefore, as we see how He’s parenting us, we should parent our kids.
I just want to read to you one of the ways God parents us.
He commands us in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 5, verse 20—listen to this command, and this is a parenting passage—listen to this: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Isn’t that what a parent is trying to do? He’s an ambassador on assignment, operating in an embassy of the King of kings—compelling his children, imploring his children, inviting his children, begging his children to be reconciled to God / be made right with God: “Deal with what’s taking place in your heart, my son/my daughter.”
I have to tell you what FamilyLife Today wants to do—we want to be here to help you not lose heart in well-doing. This is a tough assignment, but it’s the right assignment. It is the assignment of the day, because we have to be raising the next generation of ambassadors.
Paul: Amen; and pray that your heart of anger would be replaced with a heart of remorse—that you’d be broken by the struggle of your children—that you’d walk into that room—rather than saying, “How dare you do this to me?”—walk in that room, thinking: “My children are lost. They’re rebels against God. They’re blind to their own hearts. They need help. They need rescue that only God can give. I want to be part of that,”—that’s remorse.
Bob: Well, and here’s how you describe ambassadorial parents in your book—you say: “They have come to accept the humbling messiness of the job God has called them to do; and they understand that, if their children grow and mature in life and godliness, they become, not so much their trophies, but trophies of the Savior that they have sought to serve. For them, it’s God who does the work and God who gets the glory. The parents are just gratified that they were able to be the tools that God used.”
That’s at the heart of the principles that you share in the book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. You can go on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy of Paul’s new book on parenting. Again, the website is FamilyLifetoday.com; and the title of the book is Parenting. You can also call to order—our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Ask for the book, Parenting, by Paul David Tripp when you get in touch with us.
I think it is likely that we’ve had some of our listeners tuned in today where, as we’ve been in this conversation about parenting, they have been nodding their head or saying, “Yes!” or just resonating with what we’ve been talking about; because I think there are parents who recognize that the conversation we’ve been having here today really does get to what is at the center of God’s design for us, as moms and dads, raising the next generation.
Can I just say a word? If you are one of those people, who was nodding your head and agreeing with what you’ve heard on today’s program, we want to ask you to become a Legacy Partner; a regular supporter of the work that is happening, here at FamilyLife. When you support this ministry, you help us cover the cost of producing and syndicating this program and getting it distributed in more and more places.
We appreciate those of you who are monthly Legacy Partners, praying for this ministry and supporting us with a donation each month. You can become a Legacy Partner, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to become a Legacy Partner. When you do get in touch with us, either to become a Legacy Partner or to make a one-time donation, we’d love to send you, as a thank-you gift, a brand-new resource Barbara Rainey has created.
It’s a part of her Ever Thine Home® collection of resources. This is a heart-shaped chalkboard. Again, you can give online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about what you find when you get to the core of a child’s heart. You know what it is? Well, tune in tomorrow; and you’ll hear us talk about it; alright? Paul David Tripp’s going to be back with us. We hope you will be as well.
Thanks to our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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