Susanna Wesley (1669-1742), mother of 19 children, including John and Charles Wesley of the Methodist revival in early eighteenth-century England, was said to have made a habit of setting aside an hour each day of the week for a particular child to “inquire after the state of their soul on its journey as well as their progress, fears, expectations, and goals in other endeavors,” as an online article puts it.
In a child-rearing advice book once popular with young mothers, called Susanna Wesley’s Six Rules for Raising Children, she is quoted giving as a top precept, “Subdue self-will in a child, and thus work together with God to save the child’s soul.”
Of course, self-will has been at the crux of man’s rebellion since Adam and Eve in the Garden. It’s also the origination point of the conflict between God and Satan and who’s to be head ruler of the government of the universe.
As my pastor, Richard Jordan, says, “The issue of authority and who’s going to run things has always been the issue in the universe and in the Bible, and it’s the issue in your home.
“I’ll tell you a rule you ought to have in your home: ‘Children don’t make demands on grown-ups.’ Period! And if you can’t make that stick, you need to go back and learn how to be an adult again. Because if you can’t make that stick when they’re two, forget doing it when they’re 15. If you haven’t built that conscience in a kid when he’s young, and let him understand what it is to live in submission to authority, well . . .
“Christ told Paul, ‘It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks,’ and he meant, ‘It’s hard to kick against the way life is.’ You learn that. When (Susanna) Wesley said
you need to break a child’s will, she didn’t mean in a mean, nasty, break-their-spirit kind of way; she meant civilize them; teach them there are times when you don’t get your way and you must live in discipline and self-control.
“They call it the Terrible Twos because that’s when kids are trying to get a little independence—between two and 13. At two, they’re trying to get physical independence, and when they get around 12-13, they begin to want to have some psychological independence.
“All that has to do with learning to submit to authority. That’s always going to be the issue. It’s been the issue since Gen. 1 and it is such an issue because it’s where sin came from—rebellion against authority. And the Bible deals with that from one end to the other. It’s the great underlying theme of what’s going on in Scripture; it’s the great issue in sin. It’s that middle letter ‘I.’ That autonomous spirit. That, ‘I will do it my way and NOT submit to God’s authority.’
“And just as with raising your kids, there’s a spiritual battle involved. Paul writes in Romans 8:14, ‘For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,’ and there’s an issue of sonship Paul’s talking about in Romans 8; the ability to live in an understanding of your identity in Christ.
“Sonship in Scripture is not just, ‘I’ve got three sons and they’re my sons no matter what age they are.’ In the Bible, sonship is a reference to adulthood. It’s to be an adult and that’s the issue of adoption. That’s why he says in verse 15, ‘For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.’
“What is that works bondage? The law. The spirit of bondage is the spirit that comes with the law system. Paul tells us in II Cor. 3:17 that where God’s Spirit is there’s liberty from the law.
“There are two verses of Paul’s where he talks about being led by the Spirit and in neither one of them is he talking about God giving you guidance in what you ought to be doing with yourself tomorrow afternoon, which is what most people talk about when they talk of ‘being led of the spirit.’
“What both those verse have to do with is understanding the adult status that God gives us in grace. Gal. 5:18 says, ‘But if ye be led of the spirit, ye are not under the law,’ and that’s a verse you need to really contemplate. That’s the issue of freedom.
“The (term) ‘sons of God’ is an issue of competence. When you’re led of the Spirit of God, you’re led to be competent; to function completely and confidently as a full-grown son in the family.
“I say to you all the time there are two issues: you’re complete in Christ and you have complete revelation in the Word. You’re completely competent because of that, and if you’re led of the Spirit, that’s where you’re led.
“Now, when you find yourself in any other mindset, you know objectively that’s not the Spirit of God taking you into that. Freedom is the opposite of bondage and where the Spirit of God is, there’s liberty, because if you’re led of the Spirit, you will not be under the law.
“Anytime you find yourself living under a performance-based acceptance program, that’s not the Spirit of God, that’s your flesh. That’s a great truth that can help you. And this isn’t just you to God, this is you to one another.
“Our conversation is to be with grace, seasoned with salt. We’re not to converse with one another on the basis of law. How many times have you seen people. . . somebody comes to understand something in Scripture and then they want their spouse or their friends to see it with them, and they begin to pound on them. And what happens? Well, it’s easy to resist your wrath so people go the other way. But it’s hard to resist your love. It’s hard to resist the grace attitude.
“If it’s, ‘You believe this, and you accept that, or I won’t. . .’ that’s the law and that isn’t what God the Spirit leads you in. Now, by the way, that doesn’t mean you’re excusing anything. It just means that the acceptance, and the way you’re dealing with it, is you’re not using that person to get your needs met; you’re secure in Christ. As the Ray Stevens song goes, ‘I’m okay with who I am.’ I can now minister to your needs.”