This week we continued our study of family discipleship (I'm not even calling it "parenting" anymore) by considering God's command (or blessing) in Genesis 1.28, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it...." Most notably we identified the importance of bearing children not simply to populate the world, but to populate the world with worshipers of God.
And since marriage is designed by God to teach what God is like, and (think back to Ephesians 5) the nature of the relationship between Christ and the church, no marriage--no matter how many physical children it produces--is excused from making spiritual children. The Apostle Paul uses the language of motherhood and fatherhood in his letters to teach us the importance of investing in the next generation of disciples--though he, himself, had no physical children.
So since we have a spiritual responsibility to make disciples of the next generation--and that with our own children first--it's important to understand the family as God's primary learning community. No other institution can replace the family as the first place children learn about God--no, not even the church!
"And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work he had done for Israel." Judges 2.10
In Judges 2.6-15 we have a grim description of what happened to the Israelites within one generation (one generation!) of entering the promised land. One group of people entered a land of blessing, by God's miraculous work--and their children grew up and turned away from the Lord, worshiping the idols of the peoples around them.
They failed to adequately teach and remind their children of the Lord's commands, and train them to remember what He had done for them. They failed at living out Deuteronomy 6.4-12.
But how does Deuteronomy 6 help us parent?
It's one-size-fits-all, but it's not the same for everyone
The command for parents to make disciples at home first, is universal. In Deuteronomy 6 we find the call to parents to teach, train, and raise children to worship God--and to do it by way of immersing them in talk and recognition of the Lord, His teaching, and His works. The mandate is for everyone, but it looks very different from family to family.
It happens slowly, and the parents change first
This is not an overnight fix. There are no six-steps to follow. Without giving us a list of do's and don'ts for good parenting, Deuteronomy 6 tells us how to target our children's hearts, minds, and souls--where their actions really come from. If we talk all the time about God's goodness and how He's blessed us, it's hard for our children to learn bitterness. When we have a problem, if we always first turn to God in prayer, it's hard for our children to come to believe that God can't be trusted. When God hears those prayers and answers, if we celebrate His goodness, it's hard for our children to come to believe that God is not intimately involved in our lives. And finally, when we act, react, think, and talk in godly and intentional ways, our children will begin to imitate us. It's what they do; it's the way God designed it to work!
Next we'll look at a serious, rubber-meets-the-road method families can employ to intentionally seek the heart transformation and head knowledge that equip children for lifelong discipleship!