Intentional Discipleship

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

The primary discipler of your child is you. God has called you to be the biggest spiritual influence in your child’s life. We’ve looked in previous posts about parenting, about being a grace filled parent, but this one I want us to look at that discipleship with children is to be intentional.

Train up a child. To train someone is to be intentional about what you teach them. In the work place this is coming up with a plan to make sure to produce the best employee that you can produce. In children this is being strategic in teaching your child what it means to follow Jesus. You are helping your child be trained in the way that they should go, to follow Jesus in their lives.

Even when he is old he will not depart from it. This promise is something that is difficult. For several parents out there they feel like they have done all they could to help their child follow Jesus and it seems like they have not continued down this path. In a later post we are going to deal with this issue, but for our purpose today, we are looking at the influence that you have on your children. That when you teach your children what it means to follow Jesus, they follow your influence.

As parents we have to make sure that we are intentional about how we teach and spend time with our children. We have to be intentional on what we teach. They are listening, they are watching, what are you teaching?

The Ideal Family

Currently, our church is going through a series called “The Ideal Family”. At the start of this series we looked at the only perfect family to ever exist, Adam and Eve. We find in Genesis their story, of how they lived and also their fall from being the ideal family.

In Genesis 1, we see the creation of man, his mandate, and his job to fill. Genesis 1:28-30 “28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.”

God created man and gave him the “cultural mandate”, the mandate to first, be fruitful and multiply. To have children and lots of children. For mankind to fill the earth and to subdue it. In culture today we see a lot of leaders claiming that we are to stop having children. One politician is even stated that because of climate change we are to seriously question if we should have children. Christians should respond to this with understanding our mandate as Christians. Scripture speaks of children as a blessing and a responsibility that we are to have. For the couple that is biologically unable to have children and for those that can, adoption is something else as Christians that we should prayerfully consider (more to come later). God has called families to have children, it’s a good and godly thing to have children.

Mankind is to also exercise dominion and to take care of the earth. As stewards of God’s earth, we have a responsibility to take care of it. This means that we are responsible for the resources that are available to us, that we make sure that we are doing all that we can to preserve it. This in and of itself is not a religion that we must take upon ourselves as many in our culture do, but rather a responsibility of good stewardship. This was the calling that was given to mankind, for Adam and Eve to do, but it didn’t take long for it all to go wrong as we will look at in our next post.

As Christians, we must take seriously our mandate, to fill the earth, to subdue it. We should also take seriously the mandate that was given to us by Christ in Matthew 28:18-20 “28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.” We are commanded to make disciples, this means to make disciples of those children that we have under our care. I know that this goes completely contradictory of our culture, but as Christians, we are not called to live completely in sync with the culture, rather, we are called to live under the guidance of God’s Word and His Commands. 

Gospel Conversations with your children

“Dad, why is the sky blue? Does chocolate milk come from brown cows? Why do I have to clean my room?” These are ordinary questions from both my six-year-old and my three-year-old. These questions are a young mind trying to wrestle with the reality around them. To make sense of a very complicated world in which we live in. These questions though are opportunities for parents to turn to the Gospel.

 

In Acts 17 we see a conversation with the Apostle Paul and the people of Athens. In this conversation he points out to them observations that he had made about their culture, one of which that they were very religious and that they worshiped multiple gods. One of those gods was a god that was unknown. Paul seizing the opportunity began to explain to them the God they sought to know but didn’t know. He reasoned with them through their understanding how Jesus was the one who brought redemption, that He was the creator of all things.

 

As parents it is our opportunity to take those opportunities to share with our children the story of Jesus. When speaking of creation, when you notice a beautiful flower, tie that conversation to the majesty and creation of the Lord. When you are doing the hard side of parenting and discipling your child, point them to the Cross of Jesus Christ, how He took our punishment of sin. These may seem like they will have no impact, but constant Gospel conversations will help your child seek to understand the true God. How He loves them and took their sin upon the cross. That He alone is God, He is Creator, they are creation made to worship Him.

 

I do not do this enough as a parent, nor any parent. This post is simply an encouragement to seek out these opportunities to have these Gospel conversations with your children. Point them to Jesus. Let them see the wonder and beauty of God’s creation.

Parental Ambassadors

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

 

We continue looking at the subject of Christian Parenting. For so many parents the plea is to get their children to listen and obey. Our concern is focused on the outward behavior of our children. This is especially true when you are at the grocery store or heaven forbid you took your child to Walmart. In these places something comes out of your child that can only be described in the movie, The Exorcism. At that moment something is being revealed about your child. They are a worshiper. You read that right. Your child is a worshiper. Every human being is a worshiper, we worship something in our hearts. For our children and for many of us, we worship the god of self. We long to be our own god and to dictate how we are to live our own lives. This is true when your child is screaming at the top of their lungs in the checkout line for that toy that will break, or for that candy bar, your child is participating in an act of worship.

 

Paul, writing to the church in Corinth says that he is an ambassador for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. As parents, you must see yourself in a very similar role. That first you have experienced the grace of God. That your heart has been reconciled to God. Parent’s will not be able to properly show grace to their children if they have not experienced grace themselves. So, mom, dad, be reconciled to God. Go to Him and confess your sins, believe in Him and find rest for your soul.

 

Your child is part of your mission from God. They are in your care to be raised in the knowledge of the Lord. The first part of this is helping them to see their own false worship, their own sin. This is a rather difficult conversation to have with a two-year-old, but one that we will constantly have as parents. You will lead them to begin to see their selfishness, their worship of self and idol of self. Your responsibility is not to give them the feelings of conviction, that is the Lord’s job. You will help them see their sin, and when God begins to do a work in them, you help them to see where they can run to with their sin. That God wants them to repent of their idol of self and be reconciled to Him through the cross of Christ. God has placed you in their lives to be that ambassador. To help them see their need for a savior, we are to be faithful to that calling, and to model repentance to our children.

Parental Calling

Often the term “calling” doesn’t come alongside parenting. We don’t view being a parent as a calling from God. For many parents the goal is to simply make it to the next day, to keep the kids fed, and to hopefully be alive at the end of the day. My proposal is that we should look at our parenting with a different set of lenses. To be a parent is to be called by God. A mission has been given to you as a parent.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV “4“Hear, O Israel: The Lord 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. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

In this scripture there are a few action responses that must be taken into consideration when it comes to parenting.

  1. The Lord our God is One. As parents and as Christians, we must have a proper understanding of who God is. To understand proper Christian Doctrine of the Lord. God is One, yet He exists in Three Persons. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity is one that is complex, yet vital to the Christian Faith. As parents we must have a proper understanding of Christian teachings.
  2. Love the Lord your God. The writer tells us to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might. Conveying to the reader to love God with all of your being. That your life should be in complete submission to God. No part of your heart, your life, your being does God not lay claim too. Christians are called to live in full submission to the Lord. That every aspect of their lives is in full obedience to God. We can not claim part of our lives for our own, we have been purchased fully with a price.
  3. Know the Word of God. Take time to spend time in God’s Word. Know His laws, His commands, His revealed redemptive history. Christians and Christian Parents must take the time to spend in God’s Word. Through God’s Word it is revealed to us who God is, His Character, and the redemptive work of Christ.
  4. Teach them diligently to your children. God commands parents to teach the Word of God to our children. The role of the parent is to convey the Word to their children, to point them to the Lord. For many parents this comes at a great struggle. I’ve heard so often, I’m not a seminary student, I’m not a pastor, I’m not a Bible scholar, I’m not able. God doesn’t call the able, He calls you. In a later blog we will talk about having Gospel conversations with your children, but for now, teach them what you know. Read scripture with them, help them to see God’s Word.As parents, this is never easy. It takes effort, it takes work, it takes being intentional. This is our calling as parents from God. He has tasked you with the discipleship of your children. You are the biggest influence on your children’s spiritual journey, it is not meant to be taken lightly.

Parental Identity

Who am I? Where do I find value? These are two questions that we must ask ourselves. Especially true when it comes to being a parent. For many parents, their identity is wrapped up completely in the performance, behavior, and success of their child. Go to any ball field or any after school club and you are bound to see the parents that find their identity in the child’s performance. When they score a goal, the parent’s erupt in cheer, when the ref makes a bad call, the parent has to be held back from trying to physically harm the referee. This identity is one that is bound to crumble and fall.

First, your children are not capable of bearing that type of weight. Their shoulders were not meant to carry around with them your identity crisis and unrealistic expectations of performance, no one is for that matter. Children are trying to work out their own understanding of God, the world, and just getting good grades for that matter. To try and add, live up to parents’ unrealistic expectations for their personal identity crisis should not be high on their priority list.

The place that parents, and everyone for that matter, need to find their identity is in the One who gave them identity in the first place. When we find our identity in creation rather than the Creator, we are bound to have an identity crisis. Creation was never meant to give identity, rather to point to the one that does. Look at 2 Peter 1:3-4 “3His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, 4by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

We have been called by God and given power to participate in Him. That through His promises you can be partakers of his divine nature, and I love the last part, escape the corruption of the world, in other words, escape the identity in the world. Mom, Dad, Grandparent, caretaker, your identity can only be found in Christ alone. He is the one that gives you the identity as child of God. He says come to Him in Matthew 11:28-30, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,]by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 

This is where we find our identity as parents. When Little Johnny strikes out or the referee makes a bad call, your identity is not found in the performance of Little Johnny. Little Johnny gets to wrestle with failure without the weight of your identity on him. He learns to trust in his own identity and not try to perform and carry yours.