A wonderful and challenging gift God gives to parents is raising a child. When a Christian parent seeks to raise that child well, he or she needs to consult the Book. When we look into God's Word we get more than great advice; we receive divine instruction!
The first foundational truth we must sear into own minds and hearts is this: God has entrusted Christian parents with the job of raising children that belong to Him. Don't miss this simple truth that will profoundly impact how you see your task of parenting and how you actually do it. When you know that God created each person, including your children, for Himself, then you raise them with God always in view. And when God is the object of our vision, then we remember that the greatest commandment for all people is to love God. Therefore, your stewardship as a Christian parent is to raise children to love God more than anything else in this world, including themselves.
With these truths in mind, I believe Scripture points us to four basic areas of spiritual responsibilities in regards to raising children who will love God the most.
1. Christian parents have the responsibility to protect them for God. We are told that children are gift from God to be treasured and protected. Without a doubt, we have much to protect children from in our world. First, they must be protected from us from conception to birth. The first protective decision parents make, particularly the mom, is to not kill her unborn child. Abortion is a moral issue that Christians and the church must carefully consider, not dismiss or ignore. We cannot relegate it to merely a political issue or a women's health issue. It's inconceivable to me how a Christian woman can have a clear conscience about killing the developing human life that God has created within her. Remember, that child belongs to God, not even the mother, not even while in the womb. Our culture has become inhumanely callous toward the unborn; Christian people are a contradiction to themselves who support this murderous, albeit legal practice.
We also must protect children from the darkness of this world. We bring children into a spiritual war zone where the enemy prowls around and seeks to destroy. Christian parents must be sensitive to all the forms of darkness that seek to enter our homes and into the lives of young, impressionable minds. We have to see ourselves as the one standing in the gap for our kids and the first line of defense for them. You wouldn't let your ten-year-old play with a poisonous snake; why would you let him play with forms of entertainment, images and ideas that are straight from the enemy?
Children also need protection from their own immaturity. The Proverbs tell us that the heart of a child is bound up in foolishness! (i.e. immaturity). They can't know what they know before they know it, but they can be given too much independence before they're ready. Children need more guidance than they think or often want. Why don't they think they need it? Because they are immature! We all were. A Christian parent should be equipped with more experience, more maturity and better insight that will help protect a child from his own foolishness at times. He will thank you later even if he despises it now.
Even with children growing up in the church, we must protect their minds from false gospels. The New Testament warns repeatedly of the danger of perverting false gospels and the damage perpetrated by false teachings. Christian parents have to be intimately knowledgeable of the Gospel themselves, so they have the ability to spot the counterfeits - for themselves and for their children.
2. Christian parents have the responsibility to point them to God. If protecting children is our defensive plan, then pointing them to God is our offensive strategy. Both are really important. Something will be informing our children what to believe and how to live. Christian parents have to be fully devoted to loving God's Word and making it the standard for belief and living. Our heart should beat like the Psalmist in Psalm 119, and we should want our children's to beat likewise. From early on we have to be investing into them the Word of God correctly understood and faithfully applied.
Parents also point their child to God by administering correction when it's needed. The Proverbs give us much encouragement not to spare the rod of discipline because when properly used we love our children by reinforcing God's standards. It's not really a matter of whether you think spanking is an appropriate form of discipline. The point is that correction must be used to help a child learn between right and wrong and to help her mature. Whatever button you have to push in a child to make the punishment effectively sting, we must remember that such discipline should always be fair, consistent and loving.
Children by far lean the most about how to live their lives through their parents' examples. We are told in Scripture not to frustrate and provoke our children by our own bad behavior, but to bring them up with consistent instruction and correction. Kids will learn some by what you say and teach them; they will learn more by how you live it out (or don't) in front of them.
3. Christian parents have the responsibility to prioritize God for them. Certainly a great challenge for the modern family is time management. It's easy to get overwhelmed with busy schedules. The more kids you have and the older they get the bigger this challenge becomes. But here is the bottom line: You are the parent and if God is going to be the priority for them (for real), then you have to do this for them in the right way. You have to lead them to worship God alone and you have to show them what actually putting God first in a family looks like. You have to be committed to consistent corporate worship and involvement in meaningful discipleship. They have to see mom and dad giving their money to support the church and their time to serve God through the church. They have to see parents that worship God with their whole lives and love Christ's church and place great value on it. Faith has to be more than merely sentiment and going to worship whenever other stuff doesn't take you away from it. Faith is faith that is always in action. The reason kids grow up and leave the church is not because they typically hate the church. They leave it because they were never led truly to prioritize it in their lives and love it. They were taught to love other stuff more.
4. Christian parents have the responsibility to pray to God for them. Lastly, but certainly not less importantly, parents must saturate all the above with a vibrant prayer life. We must pray for the wisdom concerning how to protect children from a spiritually dark world. We must pray for insight as we strive to know God's Word, correctly understand it and faithfully apply it for our kids. And we must pray for guidance and moral courage in regards to prioritizing our busy lives to put God first and above all.
Children are a wonderful gift from God. We should be grateful for such a gift and the joy it brings, but we should fear the Lord in regards to the responsibility He puts on us. It doesn't matter what lies behind you in regards to striving toward these responsibilities; what matters is what will you do with the time remaining. You'll never regret effectively helping them to love God the most.
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