What Christian parent doesn’t want their children to follow Jesus? Tragically, it is possible to appear to follow him—without really knowing him. What can parents do?
We Are Not Saviors
Let’s start with the comforting truth that we are not our children’s saviors. We can influence, but we ultimately cannot change their hearts to embrace Christ. Although we know this, it doesn’t stop us from parenting as if we could. In matters this important, we want a guarantee.
In effort to do all that we can, we can become very legalistic and rule-oriented. Rules allow us to feel in control of outcomes. Rules are not in themselves bad but they have no power to change a child’s heart. Further, rules can easily lead children to conclude that their parents’—and chiefly God’s—acceptance, approval, and love is at the mercy of their ability to perform to standard. Such an understanding is like climbing a steep mountain but never getting to the top. It is exhausting, frustrating, and alienates us from God.
Salvation By Faith Or By Family?
That we are Christian families is no guarantee our children will know God. Salvation is not “by family” but by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. God’s redemptive plan centers squarely on faith in Jesus Christ. This is very good news! Imagine if a child’s salvation were dependent on us parents. Holy cow, no child would walk with Jesus. We are nowhere near good enough.
That God is in control through sovereign grace removes a burden from us that would otherwise crush us to smithereens. This gives us tremendous peace, rest, and frankly—joy—that compels us to do all we can to help our children follow Jesus—or return to him.
Parents Have Covenant Promises
For example, we have precious covenant promises that guide us and give us great hope. In Psalm 145, David writes that God’s faithfulness is to all generations. In other places such as Ephesians 6:4, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Psalm 78:1-8, we see that God clearly expects us to raise our children to know him and to walk in his ways.
In effect, we raise our children as Christians, trusting that they will make a profession of faith, owning as their own, that which we have carefully shown them. So, we have an important role to play that mysteriously works in concert with God’s sovereign choice. But how do we do this?
What’s A Parent To Do?
First, families—must—be in healthy churches. We (both parents and our children) need the teaching and multi-faceted support that can only be found in the local church. Church membership—and regular, active participation—is absolutely vital to survival and health. A lot more can be said about the church. But that is not the point of this article.
Second, there is a strategy we can employ at home. It is a strategy that is helping our children grow up knowing God, and by that, I mean knowing him as he most wants to be known: as loving, gracious, and merciful. This is the overwhelming understanding we come away with about him as we see his wondrous works of grace, love and mercy over and over and over again from Genesis to Revelation. These works describe God’s character and ultimately point to the fulfilling work of Jesus Christ for us. We are new creations in him. We are defined by him, and not by our poor performance. This overwhelming focus does not leave out nor minimize God’s holiness, righteousness, and justice as you will see in a minute.
Is God Our Joy?
When we read the Word not just paying lip service to these truths, but actually making a big deal of them because we as parents really do rejoice in God ourselves, we give the Holy Spirit tremendous tools to work in our children’s hearts.
Years of a steady diet of these awesome truths presented regularly and with joyful conviction paint an enthusiastic portrait of God that is so beautiful and attractive. The ways we can deliver this message are limitless. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says it this way, we are to teach our children as we rise up, as we lay down, as we walk by the way.
That is a picture of complete gospel saturation that still is hard to do especially in these fragmented and distracted times. But again, is God a joy for us? Do we really love him? Is being in his Word a privilege that we look forward to? We need this just as much as our children! When we have this heart, it can be contagious. Further, it actually compels us to love God’s holiness, righteousness, and justice and to pursue obedience out of a heart of praise and worship which most glorifies God and also increases our joy in him. This is the Christian life as God means for it to be lived.
Family Devotions is a Great Way to Share God’s Love
One very effective way that parents can deliver on this precious strategy is through regularly sharing these truths through regular time as a family in the Bible. Reading the Bible together doesn’t have to look like Ferris Bueller’s Science Class or the breakfast scene in Cheaper By The Dozen. It can be as creative as Deut. 6 indicates.
When our strategy is showing our kids who God is and what he has done for us, family devotions can be quite simple, fun, and effective. It is a powerful way for parents to influence their children to know God and to walk with him.
I have developed a special presentation for men’s groups to encourage and equip fathers in having family devotions that are built on this strategy. Please click here to learn more.
Check out our recent podcast series “Welcome Home, Hospitality vs Entertainment”
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