Give Them Grace

In a couple weeks the best parenting book ever (IMHO) will be available. Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter Jessica Thompson co-wrote a gospel-drenched book for parents entitled Give Them Grace that I had the privilege of writing the foreword to. If you are a parent (as I am) there is no better book to read than this one. Seriously. As I say in the foreword, it’s nothing short of revolutionary.

You can read my foreword below to get a sense of what the book is all about and how much I think of it.


In preparation for writing this foreword, I re-read the opening lines of Michael Horton’s book Christless Christianity. He writes:

What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastored), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday…where Christ is not preached.

This is scary—mainly because what Barnhouse describes is what most of us want for our children. Jesus or no Jesus we just want them to obey, be polite, not curse or look at pornography, get good jobs, marry a nice person, and not get caught up in the really bad stuff.

It may come as a surprise to you, but God wants much more for your children…and you should to. God wants them to get the gospel. And this means that we’re responsible to teach them about the drastic, uncontrollable nature of amazing grace.

The biggest lie about grace that Satan wants Christian parents to buy is the idea that grace is dangerous and therefore needs to be “kept it in check.” By believing this we not only prove we don’t understand grace, but we violate gospel advancement in the lives of our children. A “yes, grace…but” disposition is the kind of fearful posture that keeps moralism swirling around in their hearts. And if there’s anything God hates, it’s moralism!

I understand the fear of grace. As a parent of three children (Gabe is 16, Nate is 14, and Genna is 9), one of my responsibilities is to disciple them into a deeper understanding of obedience—teaching them to say “no” to the things God hates and “yes” to the things God loves. But all too often I have (wrongly) concluded that the only way to keep licentious hearts in line is to give more rules. The fact is, however, that the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical unconditional acceptance of sinners.

The irony of gospel-based sanctification is that those who end up obeying more are those who increasingly realize that their standing with God is not based on their obedience, but Christ’s. In other words, the children who actually end up performing better are those who understand that their relationship with God doesn’t depend on their performance for Jesus, but Jesus’ performance for them.

With the right mixture of fear and guilt I can get my three children to obey in the short term. But my desire is not that they obey for five minutes or even five days. My desire is that they obey for fifty years! And that will take something bigger and brighter than fear and guilt. The primary reason our children fail in their doing is because they fail to grasp at a deep, heart level what Jesus has already done. They often give up in their efforts to obey because we’ve unconsciously trained them to obsess more over their feats for Jesus than Jesus’ feats for them.

When the Apostle John (or Jesus) talks about keeping God’s commands as a way to know whether or not you love Jesus, he’s not using the law as a way to motivate. He’s simply stating a fact. Those who love God will keep on keeping his commands. The question is how do we keep God’s commands? What sustains a long obedience in the same direction? Where does the power come from to do what God commands? As every parent knows, behavioral compliance to rules without heart change will be shallow and short-lived. But shallow and short-lived is not what God wants. God wants a persistent obedience from the heart. How is that possible? Long-term, sustained, gospel-motivated obedience can only come from faith in what Jesus has already done, not fear of what we must do. Any obedience not grounded in or motivated by the gospel is unsustainable. No matter how hard you try, how “radical” you get, any engine smaller than the gospel that you’re depending on for power to obey will conk out in due time.

The law of God shows us what God commands (which of course is good) but the law does not possess the power to enable us to do what it says. You could put it this way: the law guides but it does not give. The law shows us what a sanctified life looks like, but it does not have sanctifying power. It’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey, in other words, comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus for us. So, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.

My dear friend Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter Jessica understand this. Elyse has taught me a ton about the gospel. Through her many excellent books, she has taken me to gospel depths that have changed my life. During the most difficult year of my life (2009) Elyse provided gospel-drenched counsel and insight that, in a very real sense, saved me.

The book you now hold in your hands is more of the same. It’s the best parenting book I’ve ever read because it takes the radical, untamable, outrageous nature of the gospel seriously and applies it to parenting. It’s nothing short of revolutionary—not because the gospel theology in it is so new but because the gospel theology in it is so old.

This book simply, but profoundly, restates the fact that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, and that God sanctifies us by constantly bringing us back to the reality of our justification. This glorious truth should radically impact the way we parent.

Please read it carefully and let it change you… the way it’s changed me!

  • This is one of the best written posts I have ever read on the concept of grace and the rearing of our children. Powerful truth! Thank you!

  • I am really looking forward to reading this book (I have it pre ordered!). With all the hype about it and everyone talking about how it is “revolutionary” I am wondering how it compares to Shepherding a Child’s Heart, which up to this point has been THE book on parenting within the Reformed community. Is it a completely different take or a different application of the same principles? I am just curious as I have always loved Tripp’s book and feel like it is gospel driven as well.

  • Mike says:

    Hey, I am His Beloved is here!

    IAHB, I see that you read the same blogs that I do.

    Tullian, I will definitely check out this book thanks to your recommendation.

    God bless.

  • Brent Patterson says:

    I love the way Tullian articulates the gospel message! It’s been powerful in my life lately. As the father of three boys, I desperately want to lavish them with the Father’s grace. I just purchased the book and I subscribe to Tullian’s tweets via phone…daily, Tullian rocks my world with the TRUTH of the gospel! A lifeline for this ragamuffin!

  • OH I can’ wait to read this!

    Ps. If you need a reviewer of this book – I would be happy to read, review, share it with my blog readers at http:/ , my facebook followers and twitter. Just email me at

  • […] offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastored), all o… This entry was posted in Church. Bookmark the permalink. ← LeechBlock Changed […]

  • Kimm says:

    I’m so glad that Elyse and Jessica are putting this out there. I’m giving away a signed copy at my blog if anyone is interested.

    I have always loved and reccomended Shephering a Child’s Heart but Give Them Grace has taken a new place in my heart.

    Sheperheding a Child’s Heart is more of a play book for parents. It gives it’s readers a method to follow and suggests that if we do it well than we will be pleased with our results.

    Give Them Grace is a simple, straight forward, biblical presentation of how the gospel is for parents and children as well. It’s not another list of rules for parents to follow. It speaks to parents in a different way. It speaks the gospel to us. Tells us it’s ok when we fail. There is only one perfect parent(God) and one perfect child(Jesus). There is no good parenting in, good kids out promise. We are simply encouraged that our children’s hearts belong to Him and we can’t do anything to mess with that. It encourages us to speak the gospel truths to our children and not to put so much emphases on their performance. To give them Christ more then a list of rules that prove them “good” or “bad”. Most of all for me it has freed me as a parent and given me a new love and enjoyment for my children.
    Sorry I went on. I just love the book. I hope this helps.

  • Mark Shaeffer says:

    Pastor Tullian,
    As always, thank you for your posts. My greatest fear as a parent, above and beyond uncontrollable grace, is raising compliant children who then slip into dead orthodoxy as adults. May God help us all to bask in his grace!

  • Pam says:


    I have a 14-year-old son who has several emotional and learning special needs. I have found in the past that he does so well with a more structured environment, with to-do lists, etc., but I find that it seems I am micromanaging his life, which becomes quite exhausting for me. And I also believe that a huge piece is missing—the “coming from the heart” part. We seem to have moved into a “consequences-centric” mindset, which I don’t think is healthy or appropriate, especially based on my experience with God’s grace. I’m wondering how you personally feel about whether this book could be used by parents of children with special needs—with emotional, neurological and behavioral issues. Thank you.

  • amy aldrich says:

    Thanks for the recommendation, Tullian! I will definitely be checking it out…Elyse K. does it again… :)
    I would also recommend Dan Allender’s book, How Children Raise Parents. It is another book along the same lines, turning our “good” parenting on its head…
    Thanks for allowing God to use you, T. Your preaching feeds me… as wife of another PCA pastor, mother and child of God.

  • Tambra says:

    In answer to how this book might differ from other parenting books, I would only say it is distinct in at least two ways: in helping the reader distinguish between the purposes of both law and gospel in the context of parenting, and in helping to identify what we are leaning on as our hope in parenting- discernment is needed in both categories. There are major questions to consider when discussing grace in parenting- what do we do with the law? Does grace mean throwing it out? Are grace and law mutually exclusive? To our great benefit, GTG equips us to better understand the role law plays in our lives, while freshly motivating us to cast ourselves fully on the finished work of our dear Lord and Savior- what could be more advantageous for us as parents?! Oh, to better know the riches found in Christ Jesus, and to effectively display those riches to our children! You will be equipped to do both through this wonderful resource, to the praise of His glorious grace!

  • Laurie H says:

    Sign me up. When is the book available ? Can’t wait to get a group together to study together!

  • Elyse Fitzpatrick says:

    In case you’re interested in hearing what one of the authors have to say about the book, here’s a link to an interview on Desiring God Live:

  • Michael Snow says:

    In a world of many dull stones, this sounds like a true gem. Though my key ‘parenting’ years have passed, I am just getting started in the ‘grandparenting’ stretch and we need this in that role as well.

  • Mike says:

    Pastor Tullian, I am continuously stunned at the way you present the Gospel for some reason you are able to communicate it in such a way that I say “no! this is to good to be true!” but when you say it I believe it! The way you present it, it truly is good news. When I get the time Im going listen to tour series on James. Thanx Mike

  • […] Tullian Tchividjian shares his Foreword to Elyse Fitzpatrick new book Give Them Grace. Elyse co-authored the book with her daughter—that’s awesome. I’ve read the book and concur […]

  • Susan says:

    Hi Tullian,

    Based on your recommendation, I downloaded this book to my Kindle and immediately began reading. I can already tell this is going to be one of those rare life-changing books. Thank you for sharing it with your readers! God bless!

  • […] Over at the Gospel Coalition, Tullian Tchividjian reflects on a forthcoming parenting book that sounds highly relevant, Give Them Grace. Almost sounds like […]

  • […] wife and I are reading Give Them Grace together, and so far it is the best parenting book I’ve read to […]

  • […] Tullian’s forward here: Give Them Grace – Tullian Tchividjian. […]

  • […] Tullian Tchividjian “It’s the best parenting book I’ve ever read because it takes the radical, untamable, outrageous nature of the gospel seriously and applies it to parenting. It’s nothing short of revolutionary—not because the gospel theology in it is so new but because the gospel theology in it is so old.” […]

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