As Christian parents, we want our children to know and love Jesus. We also know that when it comes to the issues of the heart – our children are in “control” of their own hearts the same as we are of ours. We can’t make our children turn to Jesus but our job, as parents is to show Jesus to our children and to keep their hearts soft towards God, His Word, and His Ways. This week’s Heart Focus Parenting is looking at the influence we have on our children’s journey towards Jesus.
As Christians we talk about the need for salvation; salvation is being rescued, forgiven, and relieved of my sins. We know that only Jesus can bring salvation and each person needs to respond to Him individually. We need to pray that God will speak to our children and that He will prompt their hearts to turn to Him. In all the things that we do as parents, we have to give our children a correct understanding that they are a sinner, and that they need Jesus.
This whole issue of sin and being a sinner started right back with Adam and Eve. And when we have a look at what happened back then it will shape how we teach these things to our kids.
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
In the very beginning, Adam and Eve walked with God, daily in the Garden. They had a deep and personal relationship with Him, knowing Him, and sharing their lives with Him. That is until they chose the path of knowledge of good and evil that the serpent tempted Eve with.(Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-24) Though they thought they were choosing life they ultimately chose death.
Every day we have a choice between the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil too. What does that even mean?!
To live our life out of the tree of knowledge of good and evil means that we know what is right and what is wrong and that is what we base our actions on. This attitude leads us to condemn everyone who doesn’t do the right thing. Choosing the tree of knowledge makes you filter everything through a value system of judging what is good and what is evil. Adam and Eve knew right and wrong when they are of that tree. They knew they were guilty – and they were ashamed and hid from God.
Jesus came to release us from this type of thinking – to put a stop to it.
Living in the Old Testament – it was there for all to see what was good and what was evil. People became experts on what was good – ironically they didn’t find life; they became critical and bitter and hard of heart always striving to be good enough. Other people become experts on evil and lived by corruption – and surely their hearts were hardened too. Knowledge of good and evil always has the same result: death. We see it in legalism, controlling relationships and authoritarian parenting.
God’s purpose with the tree of life was to bring Salvation to His creation. When we choose to live from the tree of life we choose to bring salvation (life, Jesus) to our lives, to the lives of people around us. Choosing to respond to situations around us out of the tree of life means that we focus on the need for Jesus, rather than pointing the finger and saying “You were wrong!”
We need to direct people to see their need for Jesus. My purpose, as a Christian parent, is to point my child to Christ, to help them see that Jesus can restore them to life – not to pronounce harsh judgment on their actions.
I believe that if we focused on Jesus and on our relationship with Him more, we would sin less. Instead, we tend to focus on the sin and the need for it to be gone, and hope people see Jesus. It is the wrong way around.
We are called to Discipleship
When it comes to our children’s hearts towards God there are four parts to our role:
- We have to be an example – our children are watching how we relate to God and how we live out our faith.
- We create an environment in our family life that honours God and God’s ways – This is in part because we ourselves are a Christian and that is how we want to live, but it also creates an environment where our children get to know God.
- We are ready to help them respond to Jesus
- We help them grow as a follower of Christ.
A Bible verse that was central to my thinking when it came to discipling my children was what we know as the Great Commission:
Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
This Bible verse is not often seen as a parenting encouragement – but our children are people God has given us to disciple: to teach them all that Jesus taught.
What did Jesus teach?
–He taught who God was and who He (Jesus) was.
–He taught that following the rules didn’t connect you with God nor did it make you holy.
–He taught that He had the power to forgive sins, and connect us to God.
-He taught us how to live life in a way that brought God’s purposes to earth.
–He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us (teach, prompt, guide etc)so we could to live in the ways that He taught
Since our kids live with us 24/7 we have the opportunity to show them Jesus, teach them His words, be an example of what He meant, answer questions, and prompt them to think about what they believe.
Don’t abdicate this privilege – dig into God yourself so you have the words and understanding ready to share with your kids.
One of the trickiest things about raising a child as Christian parents is that we want to give them right theology – we want them to know what God says – about Himself, his creation, and even their own heart. God says they are sinners – while they do life without Him, they are sinners. We can teach them how to live well, how to live with wisdom, how to make character-based choices, but until they accept that they are doing life without God, they are a sinner, and their good works are as filthy rags – not acceptable to God. And yet God loves them.
This balance between
- Teaching our children need God, need a saviour
- Teaching them to live with wisdom
- Teaching from the tree of life, not the tree of knowledge of good and evil
- Teaching them God’s love, mercy and grace
It is a tricky balance but we have to find that place. Actually coming to an understanding of those three words helped me immensely. Love, Mercy, Grace.
Unconditional Love which accepts me
Never Ending Mercy which forgives me
Empowering Grace which is always helping
God has shown me his love, mercy and grace and I need to show that to the people I interact with – and my children (and husband) are the people I interact with the most.
Jesus showed me love, unconditional love – while I was pushing him away, while I was still a sinner. I am to love my children like Jesus loved me, with the same love that Jesus loves me.
Jesus showed me mercy – he forgave me, and that forgiveness has restored our relationship. I need to forgive my children, and let that forgiveness restore our relationship. Jesus forgave me even though I didn’t deserve it – He did that because He loved me. This can be a hard one to live out – can I forgive my child even if they don’t deserve it?
Jesus gives me grace. Grace is the empowering presence of God enabling me to be who he created me to be, and to do what he has called me to do. Grace empowers us to follow Jesus, to be obedient, to be loving, to be forgiving, to be helpful. When I saw that God’s Grace was the Holy Spirit helping me to live life as a Christ follower – that changed my role as a parent. Giving grace to my kids -it is about giving them the help they need to do the things they need to do.
Love, mercy and grace – when we operate, or parent with those three things in our heart, then our relationship with our kids will be so different. How we parent will be different. How we engage with them before and after they accept Jesus will be different.
How we present Jesus, how we talk about the gospel message will look different if we talk about it from a place of love, mercy and grace. This comes back to the tree of life – introducing our kids to Jesus isn’t about them doing wrong stuff, about them sinning – it is about their need for Jesus, for HIS love, mercy and grace.
And he has given us the task of teaching our kids all that that means.
Heart Focused Action Step:
The heart-focused action step for this week is to reflect on how you share the gospel message. How do you share Jesus to your kids? Are you fire and brimstone? Or do you share His love, mercy, and grace?
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How to Teach Kids who live in a Christian Home about Jesus: For kids who grow up in a Christian home they need to know that being a Christian is relationship with Jesus – it isn’t about doing good.
Christian Parenting is about Discipleship in the Family: Christian Parenting is about discipleship in the family. As Christians, we are called to make disciples and our children are the first people we are to teach.
Are your Children Growing Spiritually? Parents want to know that their children are growing spiritually but we have to be careful not to make it a checklist of things they should be doing.
Reviews of Heart-focused Parenting Podcast
Great wisdom and practical strategies to reach the heart of our children as we teach and lead them to Christ. ~Christmas Fun2
Great podcast for Christian mamas
Mamas run don’t walk to be encouraged in raising your kiddos with a Christian foundation. ❤️ ~Kim Stew Inspired