Well, it happened again.

I received a call from a church leader I know fairly well that lives in another part of the country. During a routine update of filtering software, he and wife discovered his 16 year-old son had disabled it. In addition, his son had been lying about other things including his schoolwork. Now this was all out in the open and the family was in tatters.

Since I could visualize his situation with my friend, I expanded on some similar things I had said in this article to the mother of a younger son.

1. See this as an opportunity to pray fervently for his walk. The first question my friend asked was, “How can you tell if someone growing up in a Christian home is saved?” I am not sure we can know for sure. A fleshly believing teen and a slightly religious unconverted teen doesn’t look too different. He may not even know. As parents we keep preaching the gospel and urging them to pursue Christ. Time will show whether the law truly is written on their heart (Heb 8:10). For greater depth, read The Disciple-Making Parent – Chapter 3 and Chapter 27 Seeking God, Not Checking a Box.

2. See this as a great chance to shake up his walk. This is a great opportunity to ask him if he thinks he is truly a Christian. Say what Paul said, “Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5). “Not everyone who says , ‘Lord. Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 7:21).  He needs to seek God for himself. True Christians can mess up badly in the area of sexuality (see 1 Cor 5). But they also really repent when confronted (2 Cor 2). This is a good truth to remind yourself and your wife.

3. Related to both these is remember that you can control the environment but you cannot control the heart. There definitely should be some behavioral consequences that are a result of the deception and loss of trust. In addition, I will appeal pastorally to the heart. As a father/pastor I can do both at the same time. One without the other is not sufficient. Sometimes it is helpful to give yourself some room. “Son, this is a big, big deal. Mom and I need to pray about the appropriate consequences. We will get back to you.”

4. Remind yourself, your wife, and him that God’s grace has caused his sin to be exposed. Even though homeschoolers believe that the greatest enemy is within (the heart) not without (the environment), sometimes functionally we live with those reversed. And we are shocked to discover a wicked heart in our precious child. But it would be worse if our sin was not discovered until adulthood…. Or the judgment seat. Exposing sin is an indication of God’s grace.

5. Related to #4, you and your wife should regularly pray that secret sin will be exposed (see page 191 in The Disciple-Making Parent). In addition, tell your children you are praying that prayer. And then pray for God’s strength in your life when he answer that prayer!

6. Remind yourself and your wife that in God’s sovereignty he has allowed this to cause you to be a better shepherd. This does not mess up God’s plan. It is God’s plan. Managing your household well does not mean you have no problems, but that you handle problems well that do arise. You should be able to look back at this event and point to specific things God is doing in your life.

7. Use this to help you grow in your pastoral skills of asking good questions. Take him out to breakfast and set a goal that 70% of your conversation will be questions to help you and him understand himself, the Scriptures, and this issue better.  We preacher/pastors often resort to talking and telling. We assume that communication has taken place. But someone has said, “The biggest communication problem is the illusion that it has taken place.” Proverbs 20:5 commands us to draw out the other person. Chapter 11 will give you some examples of good questions. Select a resource and go through it together.

8. Cast a positive vision of being on his side. Sexuality is a powerful force – for good or evil. God created our sexuality and yet sinful humanity misuses this gift. You can read what I wrote here. Chapter 23 of The Disciple-Making Parent addresses doubts about the goodness of Christianity.  That’s what this temptation is really about. Do I believe God is good when he commands certain hard things of me?

In addition, I like the book, Get Out of My Face. The main idea of the author is that with even the most rebellious teen, you can affirm some of what he wants, just not the way he is going about it. Trevin Wax quotes C. S. Lewis with the same idea. You are on his side. He is not the problem. Sin is.

9. Involve others. At 16 he is old enough to sit down with one of the elders in the church. Let him choose which one. Tell him you are not going to check on all the details of what was said to the elder man-to-man but only that he confessed the sexual sin, deception, and lying.

10. Finally, give him time and space to process the repentance. Jesus gave time to repent (see Rev 2:21).  Sometimes as homeschoolers we can be all in each others lives even in the teen years. Everyone needs space to process. Although he is the oldest, you don’t have to let this affect the whole atmosphere of the family. You and your wife can choose to have a joyful home even knowing that one child is “out of sorts” with you at the moment. That’s just like church, isn’t it?

Shepherding a family is like shepherding a flock. We care for the whole and the individual. Sometimes, God pulls back the cesspool cover to give us a clear view of what is in the heart and the fact that we have some work to do. This crisis actually presents an opportunity of grace and growth.

Praying with you!

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If you are a parent, God has given you eternal souls to influence. In today’s culture, you need a strategy.

The Disciple-Making Parent will give you confidence in your parenting.