Parenting is hard work that entails much sacrifice. Anyone with children can attest to the truth of such a statement. For the first several years of a child’s life, they are completely dependent upon their parents for their survival. They cannot feed themselves, clothe themselves, or bathe themselves. And even as they grow to more independence throughout the years, they still need mom and dad’s help (although the stubborn teenager may not acknowledge this that often). The sleepless nights don’t go away after the child has progressed from the newborn stage but continue for different reasons as one lies awake concerned over their adult children at times.
Yet the greatest responsibility of parenting is not found solely with taking care of our children’s physical needs, as important as that is, but in addressing their spiritual one. God’s ultimate purpose for parenting is for Him and His Word to be introduced to the next generation. “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). He even states that His desire is for godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). It has been rightly pointed out that Jesus’ Great Commission for the Church to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20) really serves as an expansion of God’s original creation mandate for mankind “to be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). A parent’s concern should not be just to produce physical children but to disciple the children that God has given them in hopes that they will become His spiritual children by grace through faith in Christ. If we are successful in every area of our children’s lives but this one, what good is that for eternity? We could wind up having upstanding moral well-behaved kids but if they do not know about Jesus and the salvation that He has accomplished, we have ultimately failed where it matters most.
To properly parent as God would have us to requires us to be continually teaching our kids the things of Christ and the gospel. Moses told the people in relation to God’s commandments that “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9). In everything we do, we should seek to connect it to the gospel and the teaching of Scripture. To be on the lookout for opportunities to give our children good gospel lessons. (And if we have our eyes open, they really are not that hard to find.) Work to apply Scripture to what they are both witnessing going on around them and experiencing in their own life. Be intentional about discussing how we are to understand in light of Scripture the current headlines and hot topics. I remember a number of years back seeing a commercial of a man going around basically giving a walking commentary of everything that he saw. As he went past a store, he explained what kind of store it was and what it sold. He mentioned that he was eating a hot dog as he put it into his mouth and began chewing. It appeared as if he was just speaking to himself this whole time but when the camera zoomed out, you could see a toddler in the stroller that he was pushing. He was seeking to educate his child about the world around him as they encountered it together. Exactly what we are called to do as parents in regards to God’s Word and the gospel as we go through the experiences of life together with our kids.
Of course, much of parenting is caught more than it is taught. You know this well when you witness your young son or daughter doing something that you had never told them to do but that they evidently picked up from observing you do it yourself. (Often times this can be that bad habit of ours that we didn’t want them to do as us!) Knowing this, one of the best things that we can do for our kids is to continue to nurture our own relationship with Christ through regular time in the Word and in prayer. Oh, what a powerful example it sets for our kids when they witness mom and dad on their knees with their Bibles open!
And a practical way to teach our kids the Lord and His Word is to incorporate into your daily and weekly routine a time of family worship. It can be simple and doesn’t have to take a lot of time, especially if your kids are really little. Just read a passage of Scripture together, discuss what it says, and pray. It’s kind of like having a small worship service with your family. Perhaps sing a hymn together as well. (Don’t worry about your ability to sing. The point is not to perform but to worship God and encourage each other in song.) I have friends who make it their goal to teach a different hymn to their children each month. It is a great way of helping them learn the deep rich truths about God and his great salvation that He has accomplished. And as many of you know, kids learn well by singing.
Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day in doing this or struggle to get a routine started. We’ve been trying to begin such but I must confess that it is unfortunately more sporadic than as regularly as we would like it to be at the moment. Yet, we will strive to still do so as we would like to have this a normal part of our week that John and any other children that the Lord might give us will become accustomed to. The rewards are too great not to work to establish such in our own family. I encourage you to try it and see what the Lord might do through it, not only in your children’s lives but in yours as well. It is a wonderful way to ensure that we are teaching the next generation about the Lord and the salvation that can only be found in Christ.
None of this will guarantee salvation for our kids of course. We know that God is sovereign and ultimately responsible for the conversation of any sinner. Yet, it is also true that the Lord does not save in a vacuum. Oftentimes, He uses the means of faithful Christian parents teaching their children the Word of God and the gospel to draw them to Him. And if you are a grandparent now whose time has passed to do this with your children, don’t neglect the important influence that the Lord has given you with your grandkids. They are part of the newest generation who need to become familiar with the Lord, His work, and His Word. May He bless our efforts to commend Him to the next generation!
Love in Christ,