Yesterday I finished a book called Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. As I read it I kept tripping over things that I didn't particularly agree with, and sometimes I think Pastor Tripp contradicts himself in trivial ways, but by the end of the book I think I understood what he was driving at. Basically, by "shepherding" your children, you train them, over the course of their childhood, not just to "do what is right" but to do it the right way... to do it from their hearts, by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by willpower or whatever. Children are fallen beings, the book reminds us, like we all are, and cannot obey "the law" (Moses' law or Mommy & Daddy's law, it doesn't matter) by works of the flesh.
It's that "like we all are" part that sort of stuck with me. What about me? How often do I do the right thing because of my own willpower, or the knowledge that I'll get in trouble or get arrested or get fired if I do the wrong things, or because someone will get mad and yell at me, or...? Do we forgive others because God's nature rises up in us, or so that the fight will be over and we can go back to normal life? Do we resist chewing out that rude stranger in the grocery store because God helps us to have self-control, or because we don't want to make a scene or because we are afraid of reprisals by that stranger? I've begun to think that most well-adjusted, law-abiding adults act that way because they know that they have to or else there will be unwanted consequences. I want to train both my children and myself to live and act by the Spirit of God inside us as often as possible, and to do the right thing by fleshly means as seldom as possible.