Do you ever fear that you are raising a Pharisee? For me, it's a fear that I have to take to the Lord all the time. Why? Because, I know my own heart...I know how prone I am to wander down the path of Pharisaical living. It appeals to my flesh.
I love lists. They help me remember things and maintain order in the home. When I see a list with a bunch of check marks, I can't help but smile! But list-making in my Christian walk can be very dangerous. When I mentally make "lists" of all the good things I am doing...I am prone to glory in those things, to boast in my accomplishments, and see myself as "good" based on my own merit. I am living like a Pharisee. I am forgetting that there is NOTHING good in me apart from Christ. Isaiah 64:6 says that all my righteous deeds are like filthy rags. The literal definition for "filthy rags" is menstrual cloths...does that make you grossed out just thinking about it or what?! Paul says that every "good thing" he did apart from Christ was rubbish, or, in other translations "dung" or "waste". How's that for another picture image?
Menstrual cloths and poop. That's how I should see everything that I seek to do apart from Christ. That is what those "deeds" look like to God when I am doing them in my own strength, for my own satisfaction and glory. It's a pretty grim picture...and it's a picture I want my kids to clearly see, too.
Growing up in a Christian home can be amazingly beautiful...but it can also be dangerous depending on how we parent. As we seek to "train up our children in the way they should go" if our focus is primarily on outward behavior without a balance of their desperate need for Jesus' transforming work in their hearts, they may be quick to live a life of legalism instead of dependence on Christ. As they outwardly obey, they will grow more and more puffed up in their "righteousness" and less and less aware that their heart is deathly sick and wicked and in need of the saving work of Jesus. And, the more they see themselves as "righteous", the more they will look down on others and the lives they lead.
And that is why, while we cannot change their heart, we need to seek to "get at their hearts" in our training and discipline so that they might see their sinful heart for what it is and realize that they cannot do enough good things to make God happy (because it all looks like poop to Him). Only then will they understand why Jesus had to die. Only then will they see what it truly means to be saved by Jesus...what it means to be loved by Him and forgiven. Verses like 2 Corinthians 5:21 will begin to mean something to them: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." And Paul's words in Philippians 3:8-9 will make sense to them: "For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith...".
We cannot save our children. We cannot make them love Jesus...only God can give them eternal life. Only the Holy Spirit can move them from legalism to grace, from self-sufficiency and pride to dependence on Christ and humility. But, as parents, may we continue to sow seeds in our children's hearts. Let them see us repent of our sins and daily show them, in word and deed, why we are so in love with Jesus and so thankful for His amazing grace. And, in doing those things, may we do all we can to make the "path of a Pharisee" a path less traveled in our homes.