In the thick of the holiday season, I am gazing upon the beauty of the incarnation through new lenses this year. As I write this, my son could be born at any moment. This year, my wife and I will celebrate our first Christmas as parents. We have fervently prayed throughout the term of this pregnancy that the incarnation of Christ will be real to our son, that one day he will embrace the truth about Christ by faith and passionately follow the Lord from a young age. In prayer, we ask God to do what only He has the power to do—save the souls of our children.
With these new lenses, I fearfully (reverently) see more clearly my responsibility as a parent—to raise my son “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4). This is something I know I cannot do without the help of God. This charge evokes awe and desperation in me. Awe at God’s grace in granting me the responsibility to train my child, and desperation in realizing it is God alone who changes hearts.
This morning, I was reading an article about a new social app designed exclusively for teens, which is built on the premise of anonymity. The purpose of the app, called “After School,” is that high school students (and high school students alone) would be able to anonymously “vent” about the pressures of life through various expressions—at least this is what the developers would have us believe. Yet what has happened with this app (and countless others) is that anonymity has bred all manner of darkness. Bullying, sexual material, threats, and much more have left teens who use this app with a wake of emotional and physical destruction. You can read more information about this app here.
For the first time, I read an article like this not through the lenses of a semi-technological, largely cynical, millennial student pastor trying to shout about its dangers from the rooftops. I read it as a parent. I read it in your shoes. I thought of my son, 15 years from now, trying to navigate the dangers of a world of anonymity and darkness. I thought about his self-expression on the future equivalent of Facebook or Instagram. I thought about the two worlds he will inevitably grow up in—one in which he will be the “pastor’s kid,” and one in which he will be just Henry. In the former, he’ll be expected to maintain some level of holiness over against the “normal” or “secular” kids. In the latter, he will express his individualism through music or art or sport, or some other discipline. He will make friends from families I don’t know. He will interact on some level with the Internet and deal with temptations of anonymity and sexual expression in a virtual world. Underneath all of that, he will be accountable to God for his sins. He needs the repentance and faith only God can grant. Ephesians 2:1-10 makes clear the truth that all are born dead in sin, and only God can effect heart change by granting regeneration.
With this theological foundation—that my son needs a heart change only God can grant—the Bible also puts forth the truth that it is my job to discipline and teach him. I am not passive here. We have a role. In God’s grace, He has given us—parents; you and me—to our children for their training in righteousness. So, here are two biblical truths. 1). God alone can save sinners, and 2). God has entrusted us with the raising of sinners in the instruction and discipline we find in the Bible. Two glorious truths that ought to humble us and encourage us. Here’s why. If God alone saves sinners, yet at the same time invites me into the process of nurturing and raising my son so that he might grow to know Christ by faith, then the efficacy of this process depends not on myself, but on God and His institution. In other words, God is sovereign over the end and the means.
Far from fatalistic despair, this should evoke great confidence in God. I can’t save my children; only God can do that. And in His sovereignty, He invites me to participate in His divinely ordained means for doing just that—teaching my children His Word.
This concept is seen throughout the Bible. God commanded parents in Israel to teach their children His ways in all of life (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). He calls children a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3), placing on parents the responsibility of stewardship of that which He has entrusted to us. Paul commends gospel engagement in parenting throughout his letters to the churches (Ephesians 6, Colossians 3). And in each of these passages, it is the Word of God which is the measure, content, and means for Christian parenting.
In light of these truths, may I encourage you in three ways of application.
- Read the Bible
As parents, we must be committed to reading the Bible personally. It is not merely a prescription which, taken once daily, will give us a better life. It is our lifeline. We must read it, cherish it, and seek to grow in the understanding of it. The Protestant Reformation saw a restoration of the biblical principal of the priesthood of all believers. The reformers also heralded Sola Scriptura—that Scripture alone is the only infallible authority for life and practice, not only for church leaders, but for individual Christians and Christian families.
If you do not have a Bible reading plan, I’d recommend beginning with this one on our church website: https://hbclakeland.com/resources/. I am available to provide any additional resources as needed.
- Read the Bible with your children.
Read it out loud. Read it often. Every day. Read it passionately. Read it humbly. Read it comprehensively, not skipping difficult texts or genealogies. The entirety of the Word of God is given for our edification (2 Timothy 3:16). How valuable it is for your children to see you valuing the Word of God together as a family.
- Hear the Word of God preached together.
In our culture, it has gone out of vogue to herald faithful, expositional, week-in, week-out preaching and hearing of God’s Word as an effective means of family discipleship. However, God’s Word thinks otherwise. Romans 10:4 tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. Faith is initiated and strengthened by God through the means of hearing His Word preached. It is vital that your children see this as a value for you family.
I understand that schedules are busy. Baseball, soccer, school performances, etc. But at the end of the day, none of these good things can edify your children like the hearing of God’s Word preached. This is why the church gathers each Lord’s Day—to worship God through the reading, preaching, praying, and singing of His Word. I beg you to make this a value each week in your family.
In the end, I have no power to effect the change I want to see in my child. I talk to parents all the time who have followed the instruction of God’s Word for raising their children and still see them stray. My heart breaks, knowing this was my own path for a time, and that it could be the path of my son. In this, my encouragement is to rest in the grace of God extended to you, and trust in His sovereignty over the salvation of your children. This will inevitably drive us to our knees in prayer and to the Word of God in devotion. And that is not a bad place to be.
Soli Deo Gloria