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Practical Discipline and the Grace of the Gospel

by Dave Bondeson

Associated Media:

Discipline is a necessary part of every parenting journey, and Scripture says that God’s discipline is a sign of His love for His children (Heb 12:6). Pat Quinn, during the 2018 Parent’s Summit, shared practical steps for behavior adjustment and discipline. We all benefit from advice like this!

During the talk, Pat encourages parents to do three things when children are misbehaving: share what they did wrong, why it’s wrong, and suggest a substitute behavior. Our Heavenly Father uses this same framework for us in Colossians 3:

1. What They Did Wrong:

Scripture in no way shies away from our shortcomings as His children. Colossians 3:5-11 lists a number of different wrongdoings. The list includes actions, like lying, using filthy language and sexual immorality. But it also lists attitudes, like lust, evil desires and anger. These are things contrary to God’s heart, and we must identify what they are!

2. Why It’s Wrong:

God also explains why these things are wrong. Through the gospel, our lives have been changed – we’ve been raised with Christ! We’re new creations, and in Christ, our “lives are hidden with Christ in God” (v 3). God has made a change in us through the gospel.

But there’s a second reason our sinful actions are wrong, tucked in verse 6: “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” Our sinful behavior is wrong not just because it’s contrary to our new nature, but also because God hates sin. As we come to understand and love our heavenly Father, we’ll want to avoid all things that displease him.

3. Suggest a Substitute Behavior

And finally, just as Pat Quinn encouraged parents to offer substitute behaviors to kids that are better than the disruptive behaviors, so too God gives us a substitute list of behaviors and attitudes in verses 12-17. And what a list! Peace, thankfulness, love and joy - compassion and kindness! Who would rather be angry than compassionate, or filled with evil desires than filled with peace? Focusing on the alternative – the life Christ offers – should fill us with excitement and hope.

A Surprising Twist

It shouldn’t be surprising that God parents wisely. However, there’s one surprising twist. Near the end of his talk, Pat gave wonderful advice: when disciplining kids, be wise! Make sure you punish their behavior, but not your ability to parent. Make sure you discipline the children – and not yourself!

But of course, the gospel is the exact opposite. In a moment of divine compassion, Jesus rescued his people, punishing what they did wrong and opening up the way for glorious substitute behaviors. And he did this not by punishing his children, but by Himself being punished. His perfect parenting provided the way for our perfect rescue.

We have a wise heavenly Father, and as we seek to parent wisely and well, we can rejoice in our perfect Father and His perfect parenting.


This article is an excerpt from The Parent’s Summit Simulcast. For more information on the 2019 Parent’s Summit Simulcast and how to bring it to your church, visit

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