What does discipleship in the home look like, what are practical ways of accomplishing this feat, and what are the fruits of such an endeavor. Discipling our children is not just a necessity, it is a command from God. Jesus, when He was 12 was constantly at the temple studying about God and increasing His knowledge of His heavenly Father. We increase our head knowledge as the Holy Spirit works in our heart to bring about change or heart knowledge.
Our children face what are now considered cultural norms; but are unprecedented ways of sinning against a Holy God. Paul faced similar circumstances in his day. He explains the reasons behind this behavior in Romans 1:21-23.
21 "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures."
There is the crux of the issue. Even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. The world is a tough place to be in. Ask anyone that has a day job and they will tell you the same. Ask some of your non-Christian friends or co-workers and even they will agree with you. Kids are pulled in every direction by every person they meet. Society at large tells them they can be anything they want as long as what they want is not Christianity. Society tells them to engage in sexual activity and to try new things so long as that new thing is not Christianity. There is a culture war fought in the spiritual realm and the enemy has his ballistic missile cross-hairs on your children.
Consider that your children spend an average of 35 hours a week in the public sphere of influence. 35 hours translates to 140 a month, and 1260 hours a year in a traditional school year. They spend hours with their friends and consume copious amounts of media, often unchecked and unsupervised. How can we compete with the world and without provoking them; “bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). What follows is not a comprehensive list; however, it is a list of 5 things I have implemented in my life over the years and has proved fruitful.
I need to offer a disclaimer here; none of these are possible without being wholly submitted to the Lord Jesus, which is #5. What I mean is, if you desire lasting change, if you desire to bring glory to God and Jesus to other people then one must be submitted to the Lord and committed to an eternal perspective. You must be wholly committed to the discipleship of your children and Biblically speaking it is our job as parents but most importantly it is a fathers God ordained role.
Shut off Auto-Pilot and Fly Right
Fathers, we have got to stop going through life with the auto-pilot engaged. Let me say, I understand. As a full time employee, husband, father, student, church member and more importantly disciple of Christ I know that life can be weighty at times. We should not allow the demands of life to get in the way of discipling our children. If you can give up something that falls into the category of “my desires” then do it. You may not “crash the plane” so to speak but you will have no influence on your child’s spiritual condition.
They need a leader and the Bible makes very clear it is the role of the Father to spiritually lead his family. This cannot be done on auto-pilot. It does take time and involves heart change but change is good. We need to first understand our role: spiritual leaders. If we are called to be spiritual leaders, we need to ensure we are fed spiritually and “dressed like a man ready for action.” This is only accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit in fervent prayer, Bible study, and being discipled. Here are a few practical things I do to accomplish this.
Give up on yourself
We were not meant to go about life apart from the power of God that is in Christ Jesus so quit trying. The very foundation of man is a complete dependence to his Creator. Life apart is meaningless and full of anxiety. Therefore, understand who you are in Christ, you are a son of God. Galatians 4:6-7 says
"And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." A son inherits all that the Father has and we are joint heirs in Christ.
Plead with God to change your heart.
Pray to the God of Heaven to give you a new heart. If you need to see this in action read Ezekiel 37. See yourself lying dead there in the valley. Dry bones, no life and see what the Lord does. God is in the business of changing hearts and He will change yours.
See your child as God intended
A heritage unto the Lord. They belong to God most High and He has entrusted you with them for such a time as this. God never gets an address wrong, He never makes a mistake and He did not with you nor your children.
Instruct Your Children with Family Devotionals
As joint heirs in Christ we must instruct our children in the very same. Family devotionals sounds tough but it is not. This can simply involve:
If children are old enough I encourage them to offer a prayer request. Sometimes a little guidance is all they need. You would be surprised at what is going on in their little hearts when they share their requests. It is also a perfect opportunity for you to work through John 14:13 “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.”
This can involve a lesson, a book or a book of the Bible dependent on the appropriateness of age.
Aim to Change the Heart, not the Surface Level Behavior
This concept is so important and it is Biblical. The Bible is very clear that our behavior, (e.g. what we say, do, think and act) is a result of a sinful heart. We must aim to change the heart of both our children and ourselves. Without a changed heart you get what I call “circumstantial behavior” that is behavior that only lasts when there is an authority around to enforce it. The Bible likens man to a tree many times, and this tell-tale analogy shows the heart is the problem. In Matthew 7:18 Jesus says
“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.”
If the fruit is rotting, hanging good fruit on the branches will just be a waste of time, spraying perfume on a dead body doesn’t help. Jesus says in Matthew 23:25-26
“… wash the inside of the cup and the outside will be clean.”
The bad root that is causing the fruit to rot is the heart and it must be addressed. A good book to read on this is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, and Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul Tripp. Each addresses the importance of heart change, not mere surface level behavior. Tedd Tripp’s book is specific to children but is beneficial to adults. Paul Tripp’s book is more geared toward everyday people who engage in personal ministry.
Lead Your Children
Leading by example is no small feat. It takes a man focused on God as he goes, to lead with grace, mercy, humility and continually get back up after every fall. Your children need to know that it is okay to fail, it is okay to struggle, and it is okay to ask questions. Let’s face it, in life there will be failures; we are not perfect, and sin still remains.
However, when you fail your children need to see repentance and growth. In the life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ Jesus God forgave our sins, but we still need to repent of sin and seek God’s forgiveness. We need to teach our little ones that sin is not just a tiny wrong committed against another individual; rather it is a great offense to the God of the universe first and foremost.
Second it is an offense to the person whom we/they have wronged. Therefore, when we sin we should seek forgiveness from a Holy God and ensure our heart is submitted to Him. Then and only then can we seek forgiveness from the person we have wronged. Emulate Christ for your children and help them understand that daddies mess up too. It is okay, every mess up is an opportunity to see the changing power of Christ in the heart of fallen sinners.
Crucify Your Flesh and Follow Christ
This is by far the most important step in seeking to live like Christ, lead and love our children. When you became a daddy, God is saying, “take care of this child, teaching him/her all that I have commanded you, and lead them spiritually. For you will give an account of how your lead them.” He knows our failures, fears, responses, and still gave us children to rear for His glory.
As a daddy our desires should be crucified daily and we should seek to follow Christ no matter what. The most ridiculous thing I can do after an “abundant” day at work, and 1 1/2 hours of traffic, is to rely on myself in leading my family. My sinful desires of comfort, “peace and quiet” and whatever else my wicked heart can dream up will overtake me every time unless I am resting in the power of Christ and seeking to follow Him.
I pray when I cross the threshold of my driveway for more grace, mercy, wisdom and a gentle heart as I head to the door. Was my day busy, stressful, cumbersome, agitating, and long, you bet; but God called me to lead my family for His Glory not fulfill my lusts of the flesh. Luke 9:23 — Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”