Since I wrote about how to treat older generations last week, I thought I would take this week to talk about the next generations… I have seen a lot of Christian families with one or more child who either does not live a godly life or has even turned away from the faith altogether. This is regrettable and seems to be almost inevitable, but I don’t think it has to be. I do know a few families in which all the children are ardent followers of Christ.
Let me make the distinction, first, that going to church every Sunday does not equal being a devoted follower of Christ, nor does it even mean that a person is truly a (saved) Christian. A saved Christian is someone who has repented of their sins, accepted Jesus Christ as Savior from their sinful life, and has submitted their life to Him. This life is denoted by change and transformation, it may be slow but there should be a difference. Going to church every Sunday does not make a person a Christian any more than sitting in a garden makes you a vegetable. There are also many people (nominal Christians) who may be saved, but are not living lives devoted to God. They may not do anything really bad, but they live for themselves rather than focusing their whole life on living to please God. Here I am trying to point out the difference between families that produce mediocre/nominal Christians and ones that produce true disciples of Christ, people who genuinely and passionately seek Christ and live for Him.
There is one major difference that I have noticed between these two groups of Christian families; that is in the way the parents treat their own faith. Most Christian parents think that it is enough to take their kids to church (maybe even Sunday school) and teach them to be good people. They do not teach or model true devotion to Christ. They teach obedience without love, virtue without resolve, sacrifice without broken heartedness (see Psalm 51:16-17). Many also teach that you can not be perfect so just be “good enough.” The problem with all of this is that it is self-focused rather than God-centered. It produces outward obedience without inward change or relationship. After all, Christianity is about having a relationship with God and everything else stems from that. If you have everything else but lack that relationship it is all meaningless. I think that often times the reason why one or more of the children from these families turn completely away from God is because the parents are not wholly committed to God. This leads the kids to believe that if He is not important enough for the parents to be committed to, then why should they have anything to do with Him. This lax thinking results in a lax view of sin. Sin becomes something that is just a good idea to avoid rather than blatant rebellion against God. This leads to compromise and stagnant, self-centered faith, and sometimes rejection of faith altogether. That is why kids from “good Christian” families commit terrible sins like sex outside of marriage and theft, etc.
One example of this is teaching children to be obedient, but not being entirely obedient yourself; occasionally speeding, fudging on your taxes, cheating at cards, addiction, talking bad about any authority figure, etc. Any time you are slack in obedience in any way, to any authority, without owning your fault, it teaches your kids that obedience is optional and self is more important. Disobedience to any authority is ultimately disobedience to God because He has placed that authority over you. Anything less than whole-hearted obedience is hypocrisy and kids are quick to see that. That hypocrisy in itself will teach them to disrespect you and not listen to what you teach.
The parents of the families I know in which every child is living a godly life are people who themselves live lives wholly devoted to God and it is obvious to everyone around them. I am not referring to obnoxious people who shove their beliefs in your face, but rather people who are genuine, authentic believers, who focus more on living as God would have them, who live for God’s approval and don’t care what people think of them one way or the other. This pours over into their parenting. These parents are active in developing their children's spiritual maturity by helping their children to see God in everything, to analyze their attitudes and actions so that they can see what is godly and what needs to be dealt with, and ultimately to focus all of their motives on serving and pleasing God rather than themselves or others. (By not pleasing others I mean not living for man’s approval.) They focus on training their children's hearts rather than just their outward actions. And they teach their children to make God their first priority, to truly love God with their whole being. The parents’ devotion to God shows their children that God really is the most important part of their lives, the children take that seriously, and as a result take their parents’ teaching and training more seriously than children of nominal Christian parents would.
We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
If you watch trends or habits over several generations, unless they are specifically, rigorously addressed the bad aspects get worse and the good aspects fade from generation to generation. Our passivity toward our faith and teaching and training our children will lead to a decline in our children's lives progressively through the generations. We can not afford to do that. We have to be active and obedient to God in raising our children. Most importantly, we should do all of this out of an overwhelming love of God. That is genuine faith. There is so much more to being a Christian than being good and going to church. It should be a lifestyle and obsession, something that permeates every aspect of our lives. We have to be active and passionate about our faith because a lazy life and faith will breed more lazy lives and faiths. There are exceptions to this but they are few. Our children will pay for our weakness. Don’t multiply the sins of this generation by not taking care of them in the next. Deal with your sin, be honest about it with your kids, and teach them to have a mature relationship with their Creator by modeling a life wholly devoted to Him.
Israel! The Lord is 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. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your
heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they
shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the
doorposts of your house and on your gates.”