KIDS IN THE MODERN FAMILY
These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, February 9, 2020.
Bible Passage: Deuteronomy 6:6-9.
At one time, I was a "parenting expert" and then I had kids of my own. Parenthood is the most difficult assignment God has ever given me. Why? Because so much is at stake. We're molding, guiding, protecting and providing for little people who are precious to God. It's a big ask and it can feel a bit overwhelming. Parenthood is both a huge blessing and a heavy burden, especially if you want to be a good parent.
THE PARENTING PRIORITY
One of the heaviest burdens of parenthood is the responsibility to pass our faith on to our kids. We want them to find and follow Jesus and grow up to be mighty heroes of faith. In fact, a study of the Bible's insights on parenting makes it clear: the parenting priority is to pass our faith on to the next generation.
I've included a select survey of Bible passages on parenthood in the appendix to this booklet. It reveals how seriously the Lord takes our responsibility to pass our faith on to our children. He wants them to experience what we have experienced; to know God as our Father in heaven, to receive his love and grace and salvation, to follow Jesus and to be progressively conformed to his will and ways, and so on.
Since passing our faith on is the parenting priority, let's take a closer look at how to get it done. One Bible passage, in particular, gives us a very practical method:
HOW TO PASS YOUR FAITH ON TO YOUR KIDS
After the Lord rescued Israel from bondage in Egypt, he gave his people a method for teaching their faith to their kids. This method still works today.
(Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NLT) Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Live your faith consistently - verse 6.
Verse 6: You must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands ...
This is a mind-blowing concept: God trusts us to shape our kids into disciples of Jesus. That is a staggering opportunity.
God gives us children so they can see our faith in action, so it's very important to be wholeheartedly committed to Jesus and live by faith consistently. That will imprint your kids with a good foundation for their own faith. M. O. is an old friend of mine and he told me about his dad who was a barber in a small town. Every morning when M. O. got up for school, he heard his dad in the dark living room praying out loud for his family and church and world. He said his dad prayed for an hour every morning and it had a deep impact on M. O.'s faith.
One way to include your kids in your life of faith is to have "Family Worship" every day. Pick a good time and place, such as right before dinner, and take 10-15 minutes to sing a worship song, to read a brief Bible passage, and to pray. There is a family prayer book on our book table today that can help you with this. What will happen is this: your children will learn that Jesus is real and worship is awesome. They'll see the value of reading the Bible. They'll talk to God and their faith will grow as they will see answers to prayer.
The Lord wants to use your life of faith to shape your kids into followers of Jesus. That's your mission and you really should choose to accept it.
Live your faith conversationally - verse 7.
Verse 7: Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.
If we translate verse 7 into our time and place, it would go something like this: Spend as much time as possible with your kids and use that time to discuss and apply your faith in real life.
How you do that will change as your kids grow older. For example:
Young children need lots of concrete examples. So, if you're in the car together, stream some worship music and sing along. Teach them a simple good night prayer and pray it with them every night. Make a thank you God list together and put it on the fridge and talk about it every day. Read them the Jesus Storybook Bible stories every day at supper time.
Teenagers need the support and friendships found in a church youth group. So, even if it costs you time and money and some gentle "persuasion," do all you can to get them to youth group meetings and events and mission trips. My experience is the kids who make youth group a big part of their lives now, keep following Jesus through college and beyond.
Coincidentally, the Barna Research Group has just released a study on passing faith on to the next generation (Barna.com). Three of their findings fit right into today's teaching and here's how I put them into my non-technical words:
If you spend lots of time with your kids and use that time to talk about Jesus and to show them how faith fits into your life, your kids will likely claim a faith of their own. And ...
If you bring your family to church every week, your kids will likely have a vibrant faith.
The biggest predictor of your child's spiritual development is their engagement with the Bible. Kids who interact with the Bible several times a week find and follow Jesus.
WHEN FAITH DOESN'T PASS ON TO OUR KIDS
Sadly, not every child responds to our faith with a faith of their own. Some just don't care and some reject it altogether. There are many reasons for this. For example:
Our kids have freedom to say no to God. He doesn't force anyone to believe.
Satan binds to sin and blinds to Jesus.
Peers, or teachers, or YouTube stars may influence them away from Jesus.
What should we do when we've done all the right things and our kids choose not to find and follow Jesus. Pray like crazy and ask others to pray. Be patient with them and with God. Keep on loving them. Don't condemn. Keep including them. Keep living your faith at home and talking about Jesus. Listen and be open to conversations and provide respectful, helpful, honest answers. And did I mention, keep on loving them?
THE SPIRITUAL POWER OF HONESTY AND HYPOCRISY
The overarching message of our Deuteronomy 6 passage is this: There is great spiritual power in both the honesty and the hypocrisy of parents. Either way, we have huge influence over the faith of our kids.
If you are faking faith or you have a Sunday-only commitment to Jesus and a Monday through Saturday commitment to self and sin, that is called religious hypocrisy and it will confuse your younger children and your teenagers will call you out. You cannot pass on a faith that you, yourself, do not have and cannot live out. If that's your life story, then the good news is you can change all that starting right now. Turn from your self and sin and absolutely reject them. Give them up so that you can turn to Jesus to forgive you and restore you to God. He'll give you a new life; he'll make you a new self. He'll fill you with the power to live by faith every day. That's what your kids need to see.
If you are honestly living out your faith, stay with it even when you can't see the impact in your kids' lives. Don't worry if your life isn't perfect. Your kids need to see your honest faith with all your shortfalls and mistakes because they need to know how much you depend on God's grace and forgiveness at the cross of Jesus Christ. If you hide this reality, what are you teaching your children? You are teaching them that we find our own way to God by our own good works. That's not helpful at all. Living an honest faith means, if you sin against your child, be quick to confess and ask for their forgiveness. In fact, this may be the most powerful spiritual influence on your prodigals. If you have sinned against them, admit it and ask for their forgiveness. That kind of honesty may be enough to bring them home to Jesus.
As I wrote this teaching, I felt its weight. It really matters. Our parental priority is to pass on our faith to our kids and this should compel us to pray and pray because there is a battle for our children's hearts. Satan and the unseen evil powers are aligned in great spiritual opposition against the faith and wellbeing of our children. The next generation is under siege. We must go to (spiritual) war for our kids right now with urgency.
THE BIBLE ON PASSING OUR FAITH ON
The Bible is not a parenting manual. It does, however, contain some important insights into the necessity and methods for passing on our faith to the next generation. I've listed several below. Note: all the following passages are in the New Living Translation.
(Deuteronomy 4:9-10) “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. 10 Never forget the day when you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai ...
(Psalms 78:4-7) We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders. 5 For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, 6 so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children. 7 So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.
(Joshua 4:21-23) Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes ...
(Proverbs 1:8-9) My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. 9 What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.
(2 Timothy 3:14-15) But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.
(Ephesians 6:4) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
Check out these helpful online articles on parenting: