Beware of Compliant Children

What parent does not rejoice in a compliant child?  Yet Christian parents need to always concern themselves with their child’s heart.  The life of Robert Murray M’Cheyne is an evidence of the inner ungodliness that may reside in the heart of an outwardly compliant child.  Andrew Bonar writes,

Some would have been apt to regard [Robert Murray M’Cheyne] as exhibiting many traits of a Christian character; but his susceptible mind had not, at that time, a relish for any higher joy than the refined gaieties of society, and for such pleasures as the song and the dance could yield.  He himself regarded these as days of ungodliness–days wherein he cherished a pure morality, but lived in heart a Pharisee.  I have heard him say that there was a correctness and propriety in his demeanor at times of devotion, and in public worship, which some, who knew not his heart, were ready to put to the account of real feeling.  And this experience of his own heart made him look with jealousy on the mere outward signs of devotion in dealing with souls.  He had learnt in his own case how much a soul, unawakened to a sense of guilt may have satisfaction in performing, from the proud consciousness of integrity towards man, and a sentimental devotedness of mind that chastens the feelings without changing the heart (Andrew Bonar, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, 4).

As Bonar mentioned, M’Cheyne himself admits the outward complicity was not sourced in a converted heart but in pride.  In other words, he wanted his self-righteousness displayed, rather than the righteousness of God in Christ.  In a journal entry dated May 6, 1832, a 19-year-old M’Cheyne laments,

What a mass of corruption have I been!  How great a portion of my life have I spent wholly without God in the world, given up to sense and the perishing things around me!  Naturally of a feeling and sentimental disposition, how much of my religion has been, and to this day is, tinged with these colours of earth!  Restrained from open vice by educational views and the fear of man, how much ungodliness has reigned within me (Andrew Bonar, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, 16)!

So parents, especially Christian parents, shepherd the heart not behaviors.  Let us not delight in any compliance we might be able to command from our children.  Rather, let us delight in a genuine work of God’s grace that results from heart-focused, gospel-centered parenting.

The Impact of Prayer and Instruction on a Young James Montgomery Boice

The associate pastor of our church, James Anderson, and I just finished reading and interacting with Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship.  The book is a Festschrift commemorating the life and work of the late James Montgomery Boice (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000).  It contains a collection of essays exploring the topic of worship, which was one of Boice’s passionate pursuits.  The book is divided into four parts which explore the biblical foundations for worship, the elements of worship, personal worship, and practical considerations on worship.  In the introduction, Philip Graham Ryken recounts two special influences on “young Jimmy”: prayer and instruction.

The Boice’s ended up worshipping at Tenth Presbyterian Church for about two years.  It was there that young Jimmy learned his first Bible verses, which are still preserved in a family album.  It was also there that a famous encounter took place.  One night shortly before Christmas, Newton [James Boice’s father] dropped his wife, Jean, and son at the door of the church and went to look for parking.  Once inside, they were met by the imposing figure of Dr. Barnhouse, who said, ‘What, may I ask, are you doing here tonight?’
                Jean responded, ‘Isn’t this the night for the Christmas party for the children?’
                ‘No, it’s next Sunday—you come back next Sunday.’
                ‘Suddenly,’ Jean remembers, ‘he picked Jim up, put his hand on Jim’s head, and prayed silently.  I didn’t hear the prayer, but I always felt that the Lord used that prayer in a special way in Jim’s life.’
                Dr. G. Newton Boice eventually took up his medical practice in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, where the family made lifelong friends at the First Evangelical Church Free Church.  The minister there, Philip Hanson, preached clear, biblical sermons, and the Boice children were nourished by the church’s Bible-based Sunday school curriculum. 
(Philip Graham Ryken, “Introduction” in Give Praise to God [eds. Ryken, Thomas, Duncan III; Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003], 2).

His pastor’s prayer and his church’s Bible-saturated, age-appropriate instruction would prove to be a part of what God used to mold “young Jimmy” into Pastor Boice.