Monday, October 24, 2016

10 Reasons to Intentionally Disciple Your Children

leisure, playground, recess

We wrapped up our sermon series on Discipleship  by discussing a crucial aspect of discipleship sometimes overlooked: Parenting. You can listen to the sermon in its entirety here, but what I hope to convince you of in this post is 10 reasons we must be intentionally discipling our children. 

  • Intentional as in thought out and focused. Not merely taking your children to church, but in addition to that, having focused times throughout the week to teach the truths of Scripture.

  • Discipling as in having the goal of rearing our children as the Lord's. That our focus, goal, and priority of raising our children is that we would see them come to follow Christ and to live with Him as their Savior and King. 

So, Ten Reasons to intentionally disciple our children:

1. God Commands it 

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).  This is a command. We could just stop here couldn’t we?

God commands us to raise our children up in the discipline and instruction of Him. Dads, you are the pastor of your home. Moms, if you are single or have a husband who is not a Believer, this responsibility falls on you. I don't mean to imply that a single parent home is easy, but this command applies even in that situation. 

We could look at other passages like Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Psalm 78:4, Joshua 24:15, Proverbs 22:6, 2 Timothy 3:15, and see that God's plan for children has always been that parents would be the primary disciple makers.

Church programs can certainly be helpful and beneficial. But they can't take the place of parenting. If a child spends 4 hours at church a week, that still pales in comparison to the amount of time they spend with their parents.

2. Christians throughout history have practiced it

As Christians, we have 2,000 years of Christian history to look to. Did everyone get everything right? No. But, there is still much to learn and we can hear the voices from Christian past call out to us and encourage us to do family worship.

We could go through a long list of names and quotes – Men like John Newton, who wrote the song Amazing Grace, like Jonathan Edwards, the greatest American Theologian in history, Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, have all advocated family worship and being intentional in the discipleship of our children

Almost 300 years ago George Whitefield had this to say: “visit our churches, and you may perhaps see something of the form of godliness still subsisting among us; but even that is scarcely to be met with in private houses.” So, he’s saying “look even in our churches godliness is but a form. But in the homes! Not even that is met in the homes!” Year by year it seems the standard of godliness is lowered by so called Christian culture. How fitting to see that as we look at this 2016 election cycle, we are simply reaping what we've sown! Let us take heed from those who've gone before us!

We are both prideful and foolish if we fail to listen to and learn from those who have gone on before us.

3. Grace compels it

In Christ, we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Let me encourage you: Don’t let society dictate to you how you should raise your children and grandchildren. Don’t let society shape your thinking on what’s important in life. We are a new creation! All that we are has been affected by the gospel, including how we parent.

Let God’s grace compel you to put His principles to work in rearing kids.

4. There is a war on the family

You might be tempted to think this is new. No, it began in the Garden. The serpent took God’s order for the family and turned it on its head. And we continue to see this war rage throughout the Bible. Cain killing Abel, Joseph’s brothers attempting to kill him, Pharaoh ordering the death of male Hebrews, Herod killing children 2 and under, and on and on and on. There is a war on the family because God instituted the family and Satan hates God.

This war continues on today. The Obergefell decision. Abortion. Divorce. Pornography. Child Predators. Sex outside of marriage. All of this is part of the ongoing on the family. 

If I told you today that there was someone coming to break into your home, you'd do all you could to prevent it. The truth is, the Evil One is trying to break into your home. How are you protecting it? The reality is, no one is on the sidelines in this war. We are all engaged in this battle. How are you contributing? A lack of contribution is contribution toward the Enemy.

5. Your children need it

Prom Dresses, baseball, and college. All those things are great. But one day our children will stand before the throne of the God of the Universe. And they will give an account of their life. And we have the opportunity right now to instill in them the truths of God’s Word. They need it.

Their little hearts are so malleable. Press the truths of God on them! Let us strive them the gospel regularly, and intentionally! "Oh, but I don't want to sway my child one way or the other. I just want them to make their own choices." I promise you that if you don't intentionally seek to shape your child, the world will. "But I don't want to shelter my child." Well, sheltering your child, along with feeding and clothing him, is the sign of a good parent! No, I don't mean be a 'helicopter' parent. But I do mean take a focused and thoughtful approach to rearing your children in the Lord.

· This will manifest itself in daily conversations you have with your kids. Talk to them about the Bible, the gospel, God, sin, forgiveness.

· And it will manifest itself in intentional times of family devotions and prayer

Family worship is something we must recover in our homes. Resolve that at least 2-3 nights a week you will take 10-15 minutes with your children memorizing Scripture, talking about the Bible, singing songs of the faith, and explaining the gospel and its ramifications. 

6. You love your children

Read the type of person that Scripture calls blessed. Look at Psalm 1:1-3 for example. And so, because we love our children we instruct them in these truths. We want our children to live a blessed life don't we? We don’t just want them to escape hell. We want them to see life for what it was intended: To enjoy God and glorify Him forever! Because we love them we want them to live a life that matters.

7. Your soul needs it

It’s been said that our hearts are idol factories. Meaning, we are constantly reaching out to other things to worship. Whether it’s our self-esteem, or self-image, or even our children’s popularity, or money, or sports, or a certain size of clothes, or whatever.

You weren’t made to worship these things. You were made to worship the God who made you! You will find as you intentionally instruct your children in the ways of Christ that your own soul will find refreshment in the truths of Scripture.

As you teach you learn. As you teach your children to worship, you worship. As they grow, you grow. And your soul needs this.

8. The church needs it 

Psalm 127:3-4 says "Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth."

I love this imagery. The bible says children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior. That’s a manly image. Arrows. In the hands of a warrior.

So, in a sense, God has given the church this mighty weapon in children, whom we can rear and then shoot out at the forces of darkness and press them back as the Kingdom of God advances.

The local church should have a big picture focus on this. We can ever strive to equip and encourage parents in this. You remember Braveheart? Or any movie that depicts a battle scene like that. Here come the archers first and they just let loose a barrage of arrows. Wave after wave after wave! So, get your arrows ready. Get them ready to be of use to the church. Don’t let your children actually be tools in the hand of the Enemy. The church needs us to pour into our children now so that when they come of age, they can serve, and love, and assist in winning souls to Jesus, instead of needing to be won.

Do not bow to cultural expectations for rearing your children. The Bible Belt can be the toughest place to raise a Chrisitan child sometimes only because what passes as 'Christian' is too often contrary to Scripture. Do not be a parent that wants your child to have worldly success at the expense of a total commitment to following Christ in all areas. 

In Southern Baptist life, many adults have their names on a church roll but don't actually attend or at based attend occasionally. Do all in your power to not let your children grow up with that sort of commitment or mentality. Many professing Southern Baptists don't actually love the church and we know that any person who doesn't love the church doesn't love Christ and is, therefore, unregenerate. Don't settle for this in rearing your children.

Yes, we know that it is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit that regenerates hearts. But do all in your power to set your children an example of what a true Believer really is and then teach them intentionally the truths of God's Word. Teach them that the church isn't an add on to our week but what we schedule our week around. Show them tangible examples of generosity, grace, and sharing the gospel.

Our children need to be on this side of the mission carrying the banner of Christ to places still unreached instead of on the other side of the mission needing to be reached…

9. The world needs it

As Christian parents, we should be light to this world (cf. Matt. 5:16). Rearing your children with the primary goal of God’s glory isn’t common. The world needs to see that you’re different. When your children’s friends come over they need to see you engage in this behavior. Let your friends see you engage in this behavior.

The world needs to see that you don’t have a Sunday faith only but you desire to worship God with every aspect of your life. They need to see a recovery of biblical Christianity, and that is going to begin in the home. 

Yup. You will definitely have a high chance here of being looked at as 'weird' or 'counter-cultural.' But that's exactly what the gospel is to the world isn't it? Foolishness. I'm not saying strive to be weird by any means. I don't think that's a spiritual gift! But the world needs to see what it's like for parents who love Christ supremely. More than your kids’ popularity. More than gymnastics. More than sports. You’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good and this has changed everything about you….

No, the world won't be saved through your Christian parenting. But your Christian parenting does give testimony to the gospel and how Christ saves to the uttermost.

10. We have no excuses

What I am talking about is being intentional in pouring God’s truth into our children.

Setting time aside a few nights a week to read the Bible together. To pray together. To ask questions. To sing. To talk about God’s Truth. To have a big picture view of raising your kids to the glory of God by intentionally proclaiming God’s Word to them. To talk of God's truth "when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (Deut. 6:7).

I think the 2 biggest excuses for people are these:

        1. I don’t have time

It is certainly true that we are all busy. But, this is a priority isn’t it? It’s ok to give up other things, in order to do this thing. Unplug the satellite if necessary. Cancel your child's basketball season if that's what it takes. This is important enough to make time for.

        2. I don’t know how

Just start with this: Open up the bible and read it with your kids, and pray, and then maybe sing a simple song that is age appropriate. God has equipped you in this! You can do this! 

Will you?

Let me close with this: There are no perfect parents. We've all failed, and we've all fallen short. Our salvation isn't based on our parenting skills but on the finished work of Christ. Jesus bore the wrath of God on our behalf, including the wrath that we deserve for our failures as parents. So, God accepts us in Christ! We don't parent so that God will love us. God has already proven His love for us in the finished work of His Son. So, the gospel has freed us to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Yes, we fall short, but we are free now to strive for holiness in our families in such a way that God is pleased and that our families, churches, and communities will be affected positively for our good and His glory. 

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