One of the most important verses in the Bible about how to use the Bible is 2 Timothy 3:16. This verse says that the Bible is profitable not only for doctrine and training but also for reproof and correction. According to one Bible dictionary, reproof means “to show people their sins and summon them to repentance.” Another word for that is “convict.”
Many Christians assume that it’s not their job to convict other people. “Conviction is the Holy Spirit’s ministry!” they protest. However, just because the Holy Spirit convicts doesn’t mean that we don’t have to. In fact, God commands us to convict other people!
Conviction is an important part of preaching. 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Preachers should not “go to meddling” as the old saying goes, but they should step on toes sometimes! Biblical preaching includes convicting application.
Personal ministry also includes conviction. Proverbs 25:6 says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” How many of us would love to have a friend like Nathan the prophet, who confronted King David in 2 Samuel 12 over his sin with Bathsheba? Or what about Paul, who, according to Galatians 2:11–13, confronted Peter to his face for compromising the gospel?
In order to obey Scripture, we must learn to convict our children. But this is easier said than done. One reason conviction is hard is because we don’t like confrontation.
Take me, for example. I’m a diplomat by nature. The last thing I want to do is to make my children feel bad. And yet, I must learn to convict for God’s glory and the good of my children.
Note: Remember, by ‘convict’ I mean we should be a part of God’s process to bring about real change in our children’s lives. We should take God’s Word and apply it, calling our children to repentance. The Spirit of God uses this proclaimed word to convict our children and change them.
Why is Conviction Important?
But perhaps you’re not convinced. Here are two additional reasons why convicting is very important.
Conviction leads to repentance and confession, which leads to forgiveness and grace. Psalm 32:1 says, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” If we want our children to experience that blessing, we must convict them.
Correction without conviction is simply behavior modification. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with replacing bad behaviors with good ones. However, if you try to change your child’s behavior without addressing his sin problem and relationship with God, you will turn him into a Pharisee.
Think of conviction as plowing the heart. I live in the desert. When planting seed, you must break up the ground. Similarly, before the word can take root in your child’s life, he must first be convinced of his sin and feel bad about it.
How Do You Convict Biblically?
So, how do you convict your children biblically?
1. Use the Bible.
Biblical conviction is not emotional manipulation! It’s not lecturing your kids and sending them on a guilt trip. It’s helping them see their sin. Use Scripture to expose your child’s behavior as sin.
2. Get to know the passages you will use to convict them.
Let’s say your daughter struggles with anger. Step #1 says to compile a list of verses. What do you do next? March into her bedroom and read off the list? No! You’ve got to study those verses to see what they mean! You don’t want to use Scripture out of context when dealing with your children.
3. Learn to explain the Bible well.
The next step is to communicate the fruit of your study to your children in a simple, memorable way. You’ll want to simplify your vocabulary and use illustrations. Use the word “like” a lot! Getting good at this step will take time and work, but it’s worth it!
4. Focus on the vertical relationship.
When confessing his sin with Bathsheba, David said, “Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” What’s that supposed to mean? Didn’t David sin against Bathsheba? He certainly sinned against Uriah–and Joab! And he sinned against the whole nation by failing to lead them well. Frankly, it’s hard to think of anyone David didn’t sin against! However, David understood that his sin against God was what mattered most.
Sometimes we parents rebuke without reference to God. “I can’t believe you would treat your mother that way! How could you be so insensitive?” But that is not where our focus should be. Horizontal relationships matter, but it’s more important that your child feels the weight of his sin against God.
5. Appeal to the conscience.
Thankfully, when convicting your children, you have an ally–their conscience.1 When talking to your children, appeal to their own sense of right and wrong. The more Scripture you have taught them, the more sensitive their consciences will be, and the easier it will be to appeal to them.
Christ was a master at appealing to the conscience. Whether responding to the men in the story of the woman taken in adultery, the rich young ruler, or His disciples, Christ could gently pierce the heart with His words. We should attempt to do likewise.
6. Be humble.
We must be very careful that in seeking to convict our children, we do not become arrogant or self-righteous. (Jesus was never arrogant!) Instead, we must approach our kids with humility. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness….” If you try to convict your children in pride or sinful anger, you will exasperate them.
One of the ways to convict with humility is to be open about your own sins. When was the last time you asked your kids to forgive you or used yourself as a negative example? This was something my father did well, and it made a big difference. Humble yourself, and your kids will respond.
7. Choose your words and timing carefully.
This becomes more important the older your children get. If you need to have a difficult conversation with one of your teens, you would be wise to pray over it and think through what you will say. You’ll usually find that the extra prep time was worth it.
8. Don’t convict when you should be encouraging.
Also, encourage more than you convict. There are many times your child does not need to be convicted. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” We’ve got to discern what type of communication is appropriate for the moment. If you try to reprove the fainthearted or weak, you are going to crush them.
In his book, Teach Them Diligently, Lou Priolo says that his personal goal is to compliment his daughter seven times for every time he corrects her. In order to encourage that much, you must work hard to catch your children doing what’s right.
9. Ask questions.
One of the quickest ways to shut down conversation with your kids is to start by accusing them. By asking questions instead, you demonstrate that you are not going to answer a matter before you hear it (see Prov 18:13). Questions allow your child to expose his own heart in his own words. They are a great way to begin a profitable conversation.
In a culture that celebrates personal autonomy as the greatest good and scorns absolute truth, conviction seems out of place. However, parents who fail to correct their children using God’s Word do their kids a grave disservice. Are you convicting your kids?
If your children are saved, the Holy Spirit is also an ally. ↩︎