Parenting is one of the greatest responsibilities in this life. Having godly children is a tremendously blessed experience that fills our hearts with great joy and praise to God. The apostle John’s words in 3 John 4 capture the sheer delight of parents with godly children - “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
I am very glad and grateful that God has blessed my wife and me with three children. As much as I enjoy their presence in our life, I am also overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy and fear of failure. But all thanks and praise to God for the infallible counsels of His Word, which have been our source of wisdom, help and strength in parenting our children. As I continue to co-labour with my wife in our home in nurturing our children, I would like to share with you lessons that we have learned which form the bedrock of Christian parenting.
Worthy Christian parenthood can be possible only when we live with a total commitment to the glory of our God. We must guard against our predisposition to love our children and their future more than our Lord. Our great Saviour cautions us, “he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). If we love our children more than the Lord, we will be miserable examples and guides for our children in genuinely and passionately loving God. Christian parents who live without a wholehearted love for God will surely mislead their children into being lovers of themselves and this world more than God. It is significant that we do not let them be the ultimate focus of our love. By loving God more than everyone, our hearts shall be sanctified by His glory and, hence our children will have the greatest pleasure of growing up in the shadow of His glory which fills our hearts. They, being sinful like us, will display their streak of unhappy rebellion against our insistence to live for the Lord. But we, as parents, cannot follow our children; instead, we are to love the Lord and command our children in the way of the Lord. The shepherding of our children’s souls requires the highest and noblest of motive of heart, even the love for the Lord. This is best established by Christ who commanded Peter to feed “my lambs” when he affirmed that he loved Christ more than all else. To love our children, who are His lambs in our households, with pure, sanctifying love, we must first love our Lord unswervingly.
Our chief concern ought to be the salvation of the souls of our children. We must not settle for mere external religiosity that is nothing more than a general discipline of life. We must not be fooled to think of their participation in children’s activities of the church as a sure mark of their salvation. We shall not exchange the Christian faith for mere moralism in our children. Our children’s good manners and social etiquette do not mean that they have genuinely trusted God. Hence, we must labour and pray to see that their lives reflect a heart renewed by the love of Christ. Be earnest in plainly telling our children of the need to repent from their sins and believe in Christ. Moreover, warn them of God’s wrath against unrepentant sinners. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:11, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” From time to time, we must probe them for some token of assurance of salvation that comes by faith in the atoning death of Christ. Let us say to our children that without Christ they shall perish, but if they put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, they shall be saved to the uttermost. What an invitation Scripture gives us to declare to our children – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31)!
We and our children are sinners who are in need of grace. Even though everyone in the family has trusted the Lord, there is a need for us to correct ourselves and grow each day in faith, wisdom and service of the Lord. Thus, we must examine ourselves regularly in the light of God’s Word and with the help of the Holy Spirit. We must be quick to repent from all sins, and be diligent to grow in faith and obedience. We must not assume we are perfect. Neither should we be complacent about our need to grow in the Lord. We should also, like Job who prayed for the sanctification of his children, be concerned about our children’s salvation and sanctification (cf. Job 1:5).
The Scriptures make it plain that parents are to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of God’s Word. We cannot take this responsibility lightly. Christian parenting is impossible without the teaching of God’s Word. “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). Providing Biblical knowledge is more important than preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner. We cannot afford not to teach our children God’s Word daily. Instruction of God’s Word should not be just a matter of Sunday school, but a daily affair of our home. If we would not daily feed our children God’s Word, they will be spiritually impoverished. Let us neither ignore nor despise the importance of daily teaching God’s truth to our children.
For all those who love God, nothing is more enjoyable on earth than serving their God. Joshua said it best – “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). Our homes itself must be a place of service to God and His people. Hospitality is one of the best ways we can serve God. Together with our children, we can serve others in Christ’s name. We can welcome unbelieving friends (even our teenage children’s friends) and tell them of the Gospel. We can entertain, comfort, counsel and strengthen believers and servants of God. We can be loving hosts of the fellowship meetings of our church and visiting missionaries. We can be compassionate and zealous in praying together as a family for fellow brethren, leaders of the church, missionaries, missions and the church. As a family, our major family activities can be participating in church activities, serving in various ministries and cheerfully giving for the Lord. Whenever possible, use the family car to fetch those who have difficulty in getting to church or fellowship meetings. When Christian parents make serving the Lord their main preoccupation, their children will have a compelling pattern to emulate.