Gospel Powered Parenting
Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
1) Personal Gospel living
The principle of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 shows that the prerequisite to teaching our children about God, and by implication then sharing the gospel with them, is to live the gospel ourselves. Sharing the gospel with our children must be preceded by a love for the Lord our God. This is the first step. If we do not truly worship God as the only God and love Him more than anything else with all that we have, our children will simply see us as hypocrites and this will cast doubt in their mind over the Gospel. They need to see us, their parents worship God daily, not only in our quiet times or family worship, but daily in every task that we undertake, our love for the one true God should be evident. It is true that with children many things are caught rather than taught.
Children learn well by observation. Therefore our example of Gospel living or our devoted love for God is a nonnegotiable in imparting the truth of the Gospel to our children. We are aware that our example cannot be perfect, even though we are saved, we still sin. But this also provides the perfect opportunity for the Gospel as we point them to the only perfect example, Jesus in whom we have forgiveness when we fail. As parents we need to ask forgiveness from our children when we have wronged them, when we lack compassion or when we exasperate them. They should see that we have a very deep and real need for forgiveness from our heavenly Father.
2) Personal teaching of the Gospel
In our endeavour to share the gospel with our children, it is of utmost importance that the gospel is evident in every aspect of our daily lives, because it is so relevant for every circumstance that we find ourselves in. There are countless opportunities every day to share the gospel: when we discipline our children, when we share a meal, when we experience nature and when we take them to church. As parents we need to be on the lookout for every opportunity to teach the gospel to our children. Nowhere in Scripture is it mentioned that we must start engaging in this process from a particular age, nor is it mentioned that we must ever stop engaging in this process at any given time.
The Lord’s commandments are to be the continual subject of daily conversation, it doesn’t require a special occasion, but should be linked to every aspect of daily life. As a parent of young ones, I am constantly aware of their depraved nature (and mine) and therefore I cannot reason any other way that they have a need for the gospel from the very first breath that they take. From that very moment they are little sinners that are in need of a Saviour. They need to hear the gospel proclaimed to them throughout each day, for without hearing how will they believe? (Rom 10:17)
I was blessed as my boys and I read through parts of Daniel, Ester, Jonah and Ezra as was discussed during Sunday School lessons. I was able to show them that these were not mere stories, but that Scripture has a golden thread throughout and that the memory verses that we have been learning could be seen as tangible evidence in some of these characters’ lives.
For example, we were able to see that Daniel was a living example of Proverbs 1:7a and therefore he did not fear or refrained from praying to God when orders were given to do so, he also had wisdom as given by God to interpret various dreams. Another fitting and challenging verse (to both children and parents) that we recently encountered in our home is Galatians 5:22 “The fruit of the Spirit”. Again it fitted a Sunday School preparation. In Esther 6, we were able to see that Mordecai did what was right in the eyes of the Lord as he demonstrated love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We do not teach the Word of the Lord to our children so that they can become Pharisees who are able to recite Scripture and catechisms in vain conceit, yet inwardly remain unchanged.
We do not teach Scripture to our children so that they can become outwardly obedient and pleasant children. We also do not teach the Word of the Lord to our children in order to save them ourselves. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 says “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” God is the one who saves, not by our works of wonderful parenting, but by grace through faith, salvation is a gift from the Lord. Yet, we do acknowledge the stewardship we have from God in this regard. If the law appeals to our conscience and makes us aware of our sin (Romans 7) then knowing the Word of God would become a compass for the conscience of our children that should drive them from the folly that is bound up in their hearts, safely into the arms of Christ.
3) Corporate worship
Our children need to see that we have a desire to worship God along with other believers and for this reason they should from a young age learn to be part of a corporate worship service so that they can see how to praise God appropriately in a corporate setting through singing, prayer and preaching. This gives them the opportunity to see God worshipped by other Gospel transformed believers. We should not underestimate the impact a Gospel believing, Gospel preaching church has on our children. Therefore, we ought to make the most of corporate worship gatherings.
Robbie Castleman describes in her book “Parenting in the pew”, that our goal in church is not to teach our children merely to behave and sit quietly so that they are not a hindrance to other worshippers. She explains that many adults still do just that, sit quietly in a service while they are unmoved by the Word of God. Worshipping God in spirit and in truth does not come easily or naturally, it is hard work. We want to teach our children to be attentive during worship as we come into the presence of the Holy God. It’s a matter of training the heart to hear and respond to the Gospel, not just the outward result of sitting still without disturbing anyone. In this corporate setting children see much of the Gospel lived out. Every aspect of the worship service is a proclamation of and response to the Gospel. At church children are confronted with the Gospel through the Gospel prayers, the Gospel singing, the Gospel read out loud form the Scriptures, the Gospel expounded upon through the preaching, the Gospel administered through the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. As our children watch us worship God corporately at church they should see that we come before the Lord with alert minds and our hearts that are open to worship the King who save us from our sin.
I am convinced that Deuteronomy 6:7 uses the word diligently to encourage us as parents because this is no easy task. Yet two things drive us to this tenacious devotion to gospel ministry to our children: a passion for God’s glory, and a compassion for our children.
a) A passion for God’s Glory Our task of living and sharing the gospel with our children primarily is a matter of obedience, obedience because we are commanded to do this just like Israel was commanded in Deuteronomy 6. And our obedience glorifies God.
Furthermore, until our children submit to the One True and Living God by turning away from their sin to trust in the cross of Christ, they are not glorifying God. We should be grieved by their sin because they are committing it against the Holy God and not because it is making our lives difficult.
b) A compassion for our children The task demands patience and endurance as well as compassion that flow from a heart that has been forgiven by our Master and Maker. Jesus had compassion on His children and therefore endured pain, suffering and separation from God on the cross. Because Jesus had compassion on us, we ought to have compassion on our children also. Grace has been demonstrated to us, we too should be gracious onto our children, and teach them the Word of the Lord so that they will glorify God through their lives.
In my own life I have seen that parenting is still a joy even when it is hard to discipline and disciple our children, but it’s only when I look to my Saviour for grace and to give me the compassion that I need for my little ones.
May we be encouraged by the sufficiency of Scripture and it’s relevancy in every situation of our daily lives however mundane the situation might seem. There is peace and comfort in the daunting task of sharing the gospel with our children as we find our rest and assurance in our great God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.