If we want to communicate the glories of the gospel to our children, we have to be shaped by the gospel ourselves, which means, among other things, regularly dying to our own desires.


Intro
The “Gospel Shaped Home” podcast is a family discipleship resource from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, that aims to equip you and your family to be on mission with God, to the end of the street and the ends of the earth.

Andy Owens
Welcome back to another episode of “Gospel Shaped Home.” I’m Andy Owens, pastor of family discipleship. After this episode, we’re actually going to take a break on the Monday episodes. We’re going to continue on Wednesdays discussing a chapter a week of Paul Tripp’s book “Parenting.”

But today I have the joy and privilege of introducing you, our listeners, to some dear friends of mine, Robert and Ronna Cline. Robert, Rhona, welcome.

Robert Cline
Thank you.

Ronna Cline
Thank you.

Andy
You may be able to tell by the sound of their voice, they’re actually not here physically, they’re calling in on the phone. But Robert and Ronna are friends of ours from our time in Central Asia. You’ve heard me on this podcast mention several times a brother and sister in Turkey who said and who counseled us too, and that brother and sister are Robert and Ronna Cline. They have had really significant influence in Erica and I’s understanding of our role as parents and the opportunities we have in our children’s lives, have been a regular source of encouragement and counsel to us. I’m just really thankful to get to have them on here to talk with you guys about deadly parenting.

Before we jump into the topic, Robert, Ronna, tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, where you’ve lived, where you’re at now, what you’re doing, stuff like that.

Robert
Sure. Ronna and I have been married 30 plus years. We have four daughters, and we are currently living just outside of Richmond. We’ve lived in our married lives up and down the coast, the East coast, New England 10 years, and then 10 years in Central Asia. We’ve been back here about four years.

I currently work in training and we developed some training for marketplace Christians as they seek to go overseas. I’m working on a variety of things just related to training and the task of getting the gospel to the nations and cross cultural stuff. Even things like careful conversations, how to give effective feedback from a biblical perspective, all kinds of things like that.

Andy
Great. Okay. How about this? Just to kind of personalize, most of our listeners don’t know you guys, something you could share about yourselves that would just help our folks get to know you a little bit.

Robert
Well, you want to talk about different places we’ve lived, Ronna?

Ronna
Yeah. We were talking earlier today. We got the opportunity to live in a lot of different types of places. We were both in Central America before we got married, living in Honduras in very rustic conditions. Then during seminary, we got the opportunity to live in a multimillion dollar mansion by the Bay. We were caretakers of a man’s estate.

Robert
We’ve experienced kind of lots of different extremes from sleeping on a hammock when I was in Honduras and, I think Ronna, tell us about your living arrangement there.

Ronna
Yeah. There are a lot of large bugs in Central America, which aren’t my favorites. My roommate and I actually papered the walls with newspaper to keep the bugs off of us that used to appear at night.

Robert
Then we lived in New England in a man named Gabby’s estate, which was on the water in Manchester by the Sea. We’d have a fireplace going as we looked over at the ocean, and he had a boat house. We were free to go sail boarding anytime we want in the summer. Hey, we’ve seen lots of different ways of living and it’s been fun for us to just kind of adjust to whatever God has for us.

Andy
Yeah. I’m guessing when you lived in Central Asia, it was more like the house on the sea than the place in Honduras. Is that correct?

Robert
Yeah, exactly. We moved from living on the coast to a doubly landlocked country.

Andy
A doubly landlocked country. Yes. A former Soviet, primarily Muslim country in Central Asia. It was probably not very much like that mansion on the sea in New England I’m guessing.

Ronna
No.

Robert
But the fruits and vegetables were amazing.

Andy
Yes. Yes.

Ronna
That’s true. There’s not much infrastructure, but the fruit and vegetables were great.

Andy
Yeah, yeah. Well, again thankful for you guys. One other question, how old are your daughters? You mentioned you have four daughters. How old are they?

Ronna
The youngest is going to be 25, and the oldest I think is 30 or 31.

Robert
31.

Andy
Okay, so you have four grown children. You’ve done most of the hard work of raising them through those early years, and the tumultuous teen years and all that stuff, and you’ve got them off into adulthood. I know that you’re still regularly engaged with them and stuff, but just to give our listeners a little bit of perspective, you guys have been through kind of all the seasons of parenting now.

Robert
I think, yeah, this is an interesting season as well. The virus has affected all of our daughters in terms of their employment, so we’re still relating to them, but not so much … I mean, we’re still parents, but we relate to them more as friends or brothers and sisters in Christ now, which it’s just different.

Ronna
Yeah.

Andy
Sure.

Ronna
It’s still hard but different.

Andy
Yeah. Well, when Erica and I had first moved to Turkey, we were at a conference and Robert and Ronna were leading a breakout session on parenting. This was my first experience of gleaning some wisdom from them. But during this really helpful session on parenting, they used the phrase deadly parenting, and it stuck in my heart and mind. It’s given a lot of shape to the way I’ve thought about my role and task as a parent. Robert, Ronna, would you guys explain, what do you mean by that phrase, deadly parenting?

Robert
Yeah. I mean, I’m trying to remember exactly how we came up with it. I think we were just trying to think of something that’d be memorable and apparently we succeeded.

Andy
It was memorable, yeah.

Robert
We just look at scripture and what it means to be a follower of Christ if you have repented and believed the gospel. For Baptists, really clearly demonstrating every time we have baptism that we died with Christ and we’ve had been raised with him or united with him in death. Just trying to think through what is there in scripture that applies to parenting where the word parent doesn’t appear or father or mother, and there’s an awful lot about what it means to die to our own sinful or self-centered desires. Parenting, particularly young children, there’s a lot of that that it seemed to fit.

Ronna
Yeah. As you think about it, I mean the Christian life itself calls you to die to yourself in a lot of ways. Anger or frustration you feel, you have to die to that and try to respond with forgiveness and love. Parenting does the same thing. It shows us a lot of our wrong responses and idols. I think to parent well as a Christian, you have to die to those things and try to respond in a way that’s loving and kind, or intentionally training your children. Deadly parenting means willing to die to your responses that might not be right and idols in your heart that you have for your children. We can’t change our children’s hearts. We can work on our own. Deadly parenting is about working on your own heart and trying to die to those idols so that you can parent your children well.

Andy
Yeah.

Robert
Another way to think about it is sometimes you think of marriage and in marriage how God uses our spouses both to bring us great joy, but also to be his instruments and agents in our sanctification. In similar ways, parenting will reveal to us ways we need to die to sin and live to righteousness as Peter says. That’s kind of where the name came from or the title.

Andy
Yeah, yeah. I mean, in a sense, if we’re going to follow Jesus, we have to take up our cross daily. We have to die to ourselves. There’s all sorts of putting to death the old nature with its sinful practices. I feel like you guys really, it was just a great mindset to impart to us who were, all of us were in a cross-cultural context, trying to learn a new language and learn a new culture for the sake of sharing the gospel, and we’re trying to raise our kids in this stressful context. You guys just reminding us that it’s going to take, if we’re going to love our kids well and if we’re going to point them to the savior, it’s going to mean we have to die to a lot and often to love them like Christ has loved us.

Ronna
Yes.

Andy
Yeah.

Robert
There’s also, I mean just real quickly, this also just, it should be a regular reminder when you think of parenting being deadly just how wonderful the gospel is, because the only way we can die to sins is because Christ has bore our sins in his body on the tree.

Andy
He’s died for us, yeah.

Robert
Because we can live this new life, we can face what it would feel like to die to self because Christ has already accomplished everything needful for our salvation. There’s both hope and challenge in that phrase.

Andy
That’s good, yeah. Practically, what does this look like? Could you guys give any illustrations from your family life of how following Christ, dying to self, shaped your parenting?

Robert
Well, there’s ways in which I think I was constantly having to repent, and confess, and ask forgiveness of my wife and my children at times, because I wasn’t willing to do that in the moment. In the Lord’s goodness and kindness sometimes I was, so maybe a better way to answer it would be like situations where there’s an opportunity to die to self.

One of those would be, it starts early when your children are learning to sleep at night. The temptation for me often was I’d love to solve problems with them. Get out there, a can-do person. I’ll get this child back to sleep. Well, is that really the goal here, or is there something else going on? Dying to my desire to solve a problem quickly and get back in bed would mean I approach a child who was struggling with staying in bed very differently. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Ronna
Yeah. I think of a practical example, kind of embarrassing, but when my kids were young I used to think I had a right to just sit down sometimes and maybe just put them down for a nap. I was entitled to a few minutes of quiet to sit and read a book. Sure enough, if that was my attitude, the kids would wake up from the nap and have a question or a problem or whatever. My response showed me a lot about my heart. If I became very frustrated, I think that showed me that I had actually made that desire for a few minutes of quiet into some kind of idol in my heart. If I could put the book down quickly and respond to them with love, well then I was essentially denying that and serving my child when they needed it. That’s kind of a practical example.

Andy
Yeah.

Robert
There’s lots of examples. Another one is when your children quote, unquote “embarrass” you in public by behaving in ways that they know they shouldn’t and you’ve trained them not to. You die to yourself, it’s going to happen anyway, and then what do you do? How do you manage that, those feelings of embarrassment or shame? You need to recognize again that you have a higher goal than your reputation. That’s not really what this is about. It’s about loving our children well. It’s about trying to model to our children what it means to follow Christ. It’s much more than the idols of our heart, which is what the dying is really getting at is, what am I demanding here that I have no right to demand, and I need to die to that.

We want to know and love Jesus more and more deeply, and really that’s what we want for our children. It’s not about a behavioral modification project, though there’s clear guidance and proverbs and we do have behavioral expectations. There’s so much more going on in parenting than that.

Andy
Yeah. That’s so helpful. Another question, kind of a follow up to that though is, you’re talking about…You said there’s lots of examples. Really, you could look throughout the years of parenting and there’s really a never-ending need to die to self, to die to comfort, to die to your own interests, desires, plans for the sake of shepherding your kids, taking the time to go deeper, to help with heart issues. What encouragement would you guys give to parents when they don’t feel like dying to themselves, when they just, they want peace and quiet, they would like to be able to sit and read for a few minutes? Yeah. How would you counsel parents who are struggling to die to self?

Ronna
One thing we often say, I often talk about even just in terms of evangelism, but if your heart doesn’t want to do something, then you pray to the one who can change your heart. Pray for God to change your heart and to want you to want to die to yourself in those ways, and to be able to let go of that thing that you’re clinging to, whether it’s quiet, or your own bedtime, or your aspirations for your children when they grow up or go to college. To let those things go and lay them before Jesus. My first response is say pray and ask God to help change your heart.

Robert
Yeah. Similar to that, I think is just try to have people that you can talk to, including the Lord, about what is the story that I’m telling myself here? Is this accurate? What are my goals here in this situation? Why is this so hard? What’s going on in my heart that I’m wanting these things that really aren’t what God wants for me as a parent? And being willing to be open and confessing those things and asking for his help.

But I would say too, as your children reach appropriate ages, you will probably want regularly to appropriately confess your sins to your children. You’re going to sin against them, and they need to understand that there’s a savior, and his name is Jesus, and he is wonderful, and we get a fresh start. We’re not characterized by our failures, we are new creations in Christ. That’s also a part of it as well, I think.

Andy
Yeah, that’s great. I think even when you say, what story are you telling yourself? Like we have to be, if we’re going to have a gospel-shaped mindset, if we’re going to like Jesus be quickly giving of ourselves to serve our kids and pursue their everlasting joy, then we’re going to have to be telling ourselves the story of Jesus. We have to remember his cross, his resurrection, remember his faithfulness, and ultimately in those moments of discouragement, weakness, remind ourselves of the cross. Like you said, it’s a challenging call, but it’s also such a hope-giving call.

Anything else? Any last encouragements to parents at Providence on how to cultivate this mindset of gospel parenting is deadly parenting?

Robert
Well, I think, like you said, brother, it comes back to the gospel, and really that’s what…I think I’ll just be frank about myself. I know I didn’t succeed often at that. I tried, but that our children would really catch the gospel from the way we approach everything. I think if I understand the gospel correctly, if we seek to find our lives, we will lose them. It’s all just kind of wrapped up in, am I trying to find my life in this parenting thing or am I secure enough in Christ that I’m willing to give myself appropriately to my children and serving and loving them well and believe that that is life, that that is what I was made for, not something that the culture of the world would say parenting is all about. It’s all kind of wrapped up together.

Andy
Yeah. That’s great.

Ronna
Yeah. I think just praying also for the humility that parenting brings. You have children. You know the humility it brings when they embarrass you in public or don’t respond the way you want them to. Take that opportunity and pray for the Lord to help you see your heart and how you can grow through those situations.

Andy
That’s great. Well, thank you guys so much for joining today. I’m super grateful to the Lord for your friendship and the ways he’s used you guys to help us think about parenting. To you, our listeners, I hope it’s been an encouragement to you to get to hear from Robert and Ronna a little bit today. Robert, Ronna, thanks guys.

Robert
Thank you, brother. Blessings

Andy
Yeah. Okay, see you next time.

Outro
Thanks for listening to this episode of the “Gospel Shaped Home” podcast, produced by Providence Baptist Church of Raleigh, North Carolina. For more information and resources from Providence, visit us online at pray.org. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please consider subscribing and leaving a review on Apple Podcasts.