For their Latin class, my middle school students were tasked with memorizing the Apostles’ Creed. What was a chore for them was pure joy for me. I listened to them repeat over and over the systematic presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That’s when I discovered it. I realized some of the students, most of whom have spent their entire school-aged lives in a Christian school, did not know the gospel. And not only did they not know it; they appeared utterly bored by it. The enormity and beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ were lost on them as they trudged through the task of memorizing the most profound truth in the universe.
Ours is an epoch in which the rains of competing worldviews are falling, the floods of untruth are rising quickly, and great may be the fall of the house we long to build for our children. Can it be that we Christian parents and teachers are failing, however unwittingly, to build our children’s faith on the solid foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:24–27)?
Three Essentials for Christian Parenting
The contest for the hearts of our children is real, literal and perpetually raging. The enemy does not sleep. He operates with Machiavellian brilliance. We must be intentional, relentless and confident in our pursuit of Deuteronomy 11:19, “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Failing to indoctrinate our children in the truth of the gospel is antithetical to loving them.
Our adversary has a canny way of wrapping sin in pretty packages. What can be done, then, to convince children that God is more attractive than anything the world has to offer?
1. Immerse yourself in sound doctrine.
Before we parents and teachers teach the truth, we’d better be sure we have it ourselves. Ligonier Ministries conducted a poll in which self-professed evangelicals were asked to rate on a Likert Scale their agreement or disagreement with fundamental Christian doctrines. The sobering results led the Ligonier pollsters to conclude,
Many self-professing evangelicals reject foundational evangelical beliefs. The survey results reveal that the biblical worldview of professing evangelicals is fragmenting. Though American evangelicalism arose in the twentieth century around strongly held theological convictions, many of today’s self-identified evangelicals no longer hold those beliefs.
In her book, Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean challenged, “If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation.” That stings, but the truth remains.
This generation is woefully ignorant of sound doctrine. How, then, can “spinelessness” be avoided? Assess your time management when it comes to prioritizing Christ. Make daily Bible reading a habit. Follow faithful teachers. Your phone can be an instrument of wasted time or a tool for learning sound doctrine! Read edifying works, and study alongside other strong believers. Heed Ephesians 5:15–17 and Psalm 90:12. If you want Christ to be your child’s first love, you must make him your own.
2. Make your joy in Christ visible to your children.
When my children were small, I made it a point to show them the resplendent and dazzling creativity of God. From a magnificent sunset to a lovely vista to a fascinating animal at the zoo, or simply a towering tree or pretty flower in our yard, I would quiz joyfully, “What is God?”, to which they’d shout the blithe reply, “A good artist!”
I wanted to make sure they recognized God’s handiwork and glorified him in his marvelous creativity, genius and beauty. When God gives you reason to exult, share it with your kids! And don’t just do it from the mountaintop. Be sure to remind your children of God’s grace and glorify his goodness from the depth of the valleys, as well. Don’t waste a moment in showcasing our benevolent God in all circumstances. Your enthusiasm and love for Christ will make an impression on your children.
3. Present the gospel every day and in different ways.
In her talk at this year’s Gospel Coalition women’s conference, Kristie Anyabwile spoke of her grandmother, who faithfully took every opportunity to teach her about God — not through formal devotion times, or a curriculum or formula, but by simply and unwaveringly living out her convictions before her granddaughter and speaking the truth to her.
Children will not learn the gospel without hearing it. Not just on Sundays, but every day. Paul asks, in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
Don’t become complacent or succumb to the lie that your schedule is too tight to regularly share the gospel with your kids. When you’re driving them to soccer, tucking them into bed, walking through the mall, waiting in line at Chick-fil-A, be intentional in taking every opportunity to teach your children sound doctrine through the regular hearing of Scripture, catechisms, creeds and doctrinally sound music. Take every moment with them captive to the teaching of Christ.
Children in the Christian Bubble
Some accuse Christians of keeping their children in a bubble, hidden away from reality and the world. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the so-called “Christian Bubble” is exactly where some children need to be. Not to keep them from the world, but to teach them to live as Christ-followers in the context of it. The bubble should be a strong community of believers who live and teach the absolute truth of their faith.
Only Jesus Christ has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Only Jesus Christ can fulfill what we all long for. Only Jesus Christ can save our children from an eternity of separation from God. These are desperate times. We must never waver in our effort to teach our children that Christ is worth following, despite the lure and enticement of the world. It must begin and end with the gospel.
A version of this article previously appeared on the Desiring God website under the headline,”Three Essentials for Christian Parenting.”
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