Masa and Chie are right at the start of parenthood. If the age of 20 marks the age of adulthood and independence then it’s 100 days down and 7000 days to go! But that only assumes parenting stops at 20 (which it doesn’t) and doesn’t allow for additional children. As parents, we will spend over 10,000 days of our lives actively parenting our kids – arguably the most important job in the whole world. What a responsibility! What a joy! What a challenge!
We need all the help we can get! So today I would like to share with you three key scriptures (and teachings) for parenting children. Parents, listen carefully. Kids, listen even more carefully!
1. Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov 22:6
There are two key parts to this command. The first is to “train up” a child. What does this mean and how are we to do it?
I think it’s interesting that this teaching does not say:
X “Let your child be trained up (by someone more qualified) in the way he should go” or
X “Get your child trained up in Sunday School…” or
X “Encourage your child to train themselves independently in the way they should go”.
It says: Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
This is a very active command and while there is great benefit and a need for the whole community to support parents and participate in the process of raising a child, the greatest onus is on the parents themselves to actively, diligently, daily, train up their children, not to defer the responsibility to someone else and hope that they can get through.
Some great practical advice is given to this end in Deut 6:6-7:
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Teaching our kids in the way of the Lord is not something to be done once a week as follow up questions to Sunday School or youth group. When you sit down to eat together, godly instruction should be commonplace and natural. When you walk – or drive in the car – from place to place, include godly morals and ethics in your conversations. When you put your kids to bed each night, read to them from the Bible and talk about what you’ve read and pray with them about it. In so doing we train up our children in the way they should go.
This leads us to the second part of this teaching: the way they should go.
What is the way they should go? What is the final goal, the bottom line of all this teaching?
To be moral? To be have godly values? To live righteously? These are all important but two things stand out as ultimate goals in training up our children.
a. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself.
b. To know Christ.
These teachings are ultimately about relationships: Knowing and loving God, and then loving others as a flow-on.
2. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. 1 John 5:4
Our kids need to learn how to overcome the world. Not how to withdraw from the world, not how to avoid the world, as such. But how to overcome the world and all it’s temptations and distractions and lies.
Overcoming the world is a key theme in Jesus’ letters to the churches in the book of Revelation.
To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. 2:7
He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”’2:11
To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. 2:17
And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations. 2:26
He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 3:5
Overcoming the world is a high and primary calling.
In broad terms, we overcome the world by being born again in Christ and living by the power of the Holy Spirit.
That’s the truth but our kids are going to need specifics to help them overcome the influences and challenges of the world. Here are a few.
3. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5
We need to train our children to have their minds set not on what the flesh desires – and they will have to face plenty of fleshly desires over their forming years – but on what the Spirit desires.
In his newsletter this week Daniel Henderson touched on this very topic. He looked at famous ‘role models’ – people like Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber – who were raised in Christian homes and at one point professed to have Christian faith. To varying degrees they seem to have taken their minds off what the Spirit desires and been swallowed up by the desires of the flesh, not unlike the second and third seeds in the parable of the sower. The three that I’ve mentioned are certainly not the only ones.
Henderson suggests several strategies for avoiding and returning from these wayward desires:
a. Avoid destructive associations. 有害な交友関係を避ける Be aware of who our kids are mixing with (in person and online) and who in the media is influencing our kids. (Kids, you need to be honest and realistic about the power of these influences, too.) [The fisherman in the parable of the lost son]
b. Avoid worldly creep. この世のゆっくりと忍び寄ってくるものを避ける It’s a slow and subtle process. The world rarely bursts into our lives, it usually creeps in. A slight lowering of one standard here, the acceptance of the inevitable there. As one poet said, “The enemy is subtle; how be it we’re deceived when the Truth’s in our hearts and we still don’t believe.” Be aware of the slow choke of the world and cut off whatever is choking. Conversely, remain in the vine of Christ.
c. Watch your fruit. 自分の実をよく見る Jesus said we would know his followers by their fruit. This is vital. Many young people make a confession of Christ. They feel that they are immune to worldly creep (and I’m sure believe they are) but their spiritual fruit stops growing. That is often the an early sign. Don’t only look for the bad fruit, look for the absence of the fruit of the Spirit.
d. Watch your input. 自分が取り入れる情報をよく見る The junior youth group has been studying this. “Garbage in, garbage out”. ”Too many Christians spend countless hours in front of the television and minimal time in the Scriptures. It’s no surprise that they are spiritually shallow, are fleshly in their behavior, and show little evidence of the things of the Gospel” (Henderson) and cannot refute criticism of the Bible.
e. Keep your eyes on Jesus. イエスに目を向ける He is the author and perfecter of our faith. No-one else can perfect our faith. We must train our kids to keep their eyes on Jesus.
Let me recap:
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov 22:6
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. 1 John 5:4
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5
Applying these scriptures to the raising of our children will put them – and us – in a strong position to live good, strong Christian lives, knowing God and walking with Him and producing all sorts of fruit in the Spirit.
Prayer for kids.
Prayer for parents.