By guest author Norm Wakefield
In the past months, I have received the troubling news of four young people who have left their homes without the blessing of their parents. I wish this were an isolated incident; however, such occurrences seem to be on the rise. We might expect children of parents who are unbelievers, wrapped up in furthering their own selfish agendas, to make a bolt into premature independence.
But these young people I know have bolted from parents that have a sincere love for their children and a commitment to train them in God’s ways. One of the most disturbing trends today among church-going families is the revolt of their teenage children against the values and lifestyles taught them.
Surely I’m not alone in my concern. Perhaps you also know of friends who are suffering the blow of a teen gone AWOL.
It’s a Matter of the Heart
When we hear of a young person behaving in such a way that they are asked to leave home, questions leap into our minds. What caused this behavior? Could the parents have done anything to prevent it? Could this happen to us? If our own teenage son or daughter is discontent, contentious, and disrespectful, then even bringing up the subject may evoke fears that can almost be tasted.
Although I don’t think I have all the answers to the questions above, I believe God’s Word provides helpful insight and hope that may be encouraging and directive. If we wish to prevent teenage mutiny, the hearts of our children must be our primary concern. Who has the heart of your child? What does this have to do with the problem?
The Dynamics of the Heart
Learn the dynamics of the heart. What is your understanding of the relationship between the heart and the will? My observation is that many evangelical parents have an erroneous idea of how the heart and will relate to each other.
Biblically speaking, the heart refers to that central governing aspect of our souls involving our thinking, understanding, conscience, and spirit. Proverbs 23:7 indicates that the thinking in our heart determines who we are. So our mind, our thinking, and our understanding are one function of the heart.
The apostle John implied that our conscience is another aspect of our heart when he wrote, “We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him, in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our hearts, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3:19-21).
Another word used synonymously with heart is the term spirit. God prophesied through Ezekiel, “And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).
Some theologians consider the spirit to be that aspect of our heart which relates to God. That may be so, but in all three — the mind, the conscience, and the spirit — we relate to God. Whatever function it plays, the spirit is an influential, powerful, motivating force in our lives.
A False Notion About the Heart
Beware of a false notion about the heart. If we aren’t careful, we may base our relationships with our children on a false notion regarding the nature of man. That false notion is that the will dictates the condition of the heart. When we operate out of this false presupposition, we think that if we can just convince our children of what is right and wrong, they will act accordingly.
Parents who think this way also tend to think their children can become Christians by simply exercising their “free-will” to choose to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. That makes sense if one thinks the action of the will dictates the condition of the heart.
The problem with that kind of thinking is that it is untrue. If parents teach their children that one particular action is the right thing to do and another action is unrighteous, will their children then exercise their will accordingly? Not always. The apostle Paul, in Romans 7, stressed the helplessness of a man who knows what is right but doesn’t have the power of the Holy Spirit at work in his heart and life. “Wretched man that I am!”
The problem isn’t the will, but the heart. Paul wrote, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Romans 7:18). Therefore, it is important that we …
Learn the Truth About the Dynamics of the Heart and Will
The truth about the will of the natural man is that it is not free to act righteously. The Bible teaches that the natural man’s will is in bondage to the spirit condition of the heart. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he,” goes the proverb. When choices are made, yes, the will is acting. However, the will always chooses according to the inclination of the heart. That prevailing inclination is based on the person’s understanding and thinking within his heart. No person will ever choose to do anything contrary to the condition of his heart.
Watch for Part 2 of this article to discover three insights into keeping the heart of your child. Don’t forget to register for the 2017 Rocky Mountain Homeschool Conference, June 15-17, 2017, where Norm Wakefield will be sharing along with many other motivating speakers.