My wife Sanjung and I have three girls aged between 7 and 11. As parents, we are constantly aware of the messages they are constantly receiving from a world that, in many ways, is opposed to the ways of God—whether it’s in the areas of marriage, sex, gender, money, or justice. This makes it even more crucial for us to adopt God’s plan for the family and instil His commandments in our children (Deuteronomy 6:4–8).
The apostle Paul teaches us in Romans 12:2:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
With God’s grace and wisdom, we can prepare our kids to engage with the world—without conforming to its ways. Here are five biblical principles that my wife and I draw on when we talk to our kids, which we hope can help to renew their minds. I’ve included Bible references in case you’d like to use them to help guide your conversations with your own children.
1. Don’t Follow Your Heart
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
The world tells us to “follow your heart” and “you do you.” These slogans encourage people to decide what’s best for them, and to do whatever feels right to them. Underlying these messages, however, is the false belief that all our desires are good and meant to be celebrated.
The Bible teaches the opposite when it comes to our hearts. And so we remind our kids about Jeremiah’s warning that the human heart is deceitful. We point out David’s prayer for a clean and pure heart, knowing that his own was unclean and impure (Psalm 51:10). And we show them Paul’s teaching that our natural inclination is to desire what is contrary to the Spirit (Galatians 5:17).
We remind our kids that just because something feels right, doesn’t mean it is. We encourage them to distrust their feelings and trust Scripture.
For example, when someone in the house (myself included!) has an inclination to do something selfish or vengeful, it becomes a teaching moment for us: it gives us an opportunity to confess, repent, and ask the Lord to give us a new heart.
We remind our kids that just because something feels right, doesn’t mean it is. We encourage them to distrust their feelings and trust Scripture. While the world teaches that we should embrace our feelings, we teach our kids not to follow them.
2. Following Jesus Is Hard
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
We hope to teach our children to follow Jesus. Yet, we know that the way to life will be narrow and hard (Matthew 7:13–14). This is a difficult concept to swallow, especially in a world that teaches us to pursue comfort and riches, and to avoid difficulty and pain.
While this might seem discouraging and even depressing to our kids, we remind them that our Saviour puts us on a path that He took first.
As we shepherd our children, we show them Jesus’ words that we must deny ourselves and our worldly desires in order to follow Him. We teach them that those who follow Jesus are hated by the world (1 John 3:13). Not only that, we should expect to face persecution, affliction, and slander (Matthew 5:10–12). Our default mindset and disposition shouldn’t be one that embraces an easy and enjoyable life, but one that is ready to face difficulties and even death (Luke 9:24–25).
While this might seem discouraging and even depressing to our kids, we remind them that our Saviour puts us on a path that He took first. He denied himself, took up the cross, and faced persecution and slander. He was hated by the very world He came to save. And He died a shameful and painful death on our behalf.
While the world teaches us to follow what is easy and comfortable, we are teaching our kids the cost of discipleship. It can be a hard teaching for our kids (and us!) to internalise, but this is the way of our King.
3. Don’t Be Like the World, but Be with the World
[Jesus said] “You are the light of the world . . . let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
—Matthew 5:14, 16
Here’s a sobering thought: Jesus teaches that most people aren’t on the path to life, but are on the path to destruction (Matthew 7:13–14). In fact, friendship with the world is “enmity against God” (James 4:4). We must resist the ways of the world.
At the same time, we don’t withdraw from the world. Rather, we teach our kids that Jesus sends His disciples into the world to point people towards the Father. This could look like . . .
- Serving the less fortunate (James 1:27). Our family regularly looks for opportunities to serve in ministry together. For example, last year we served at a women’s and children’s shelter.
- Loving our neighbours in practical ways (Matthew 5:44–48). We are to serve others, even those who do evil to us. When others are unkind to us or our daughters, we remind each other to do good to them and pray for them.
As we do so, we are teaching our kids that while we are different from the world, we seek to bless the world for Christ.
4. It’s Impossible without God
[Jesus said] “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
While we teach our kids high standards of following Jesus, they may all seem entirely unattainable. After all, even the early disciples lamented that entering the kingdom of God seemed impossible (Mark 10:24–26). Our children may wonder: “If people who do things for Jesus are denied His presence (Matthew 7:22–23), then what hope do we have?”
Fellow parents, here’s the difference: Jesus himself gives us hope. We can assure our children that what is impossible for people is made possible with God. Jesus teaches that those who remain in Him will bear fruit (John 15:4–5). Also, we are not alone: Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in His followers It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin (John 16:8), enables us to submit to Jesus as Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3), and empowers us to live godly lives as we obey His leading (Galatians 5:22–25).
Jesus himself gives us hope. We can assure our children that what is impossible for people is made possible with God.
We can assure our kids that we can meet the standard of discipleship because of God’s enablement.
5. But . . . It Will Be Worth It
Make no mistake: Followers of Jesus must deny ourselves, be different from the world, go against our desires, and give up our lives. We remind our kids that the world rejects, hates, and persecutes us. This is why Jesus and His apostles constantly taught about perseverance and endurance.
But we also need to assure our kids that all this hardship is worth it. Jesus promises great rewards for those who are persecuted and slandered for His sake: those of us who sacrifice for Him will receive in return a hundredfold, both in this life and eternal life (Mark 10:29–31). Paul, too, notes that our present sufferings cannot be compared with the glory we will receive in the end (Romans 8:17–18). We are teaching our kids that the reward for following Jesus far outweighs the cost.
We need to assure our kids that all this hardship is worth it. Jesus promises great rewards for those who sacrifice for Him.
Fellow parents, let us pray every day that our children will follow Jesus, especially when it’s difficult. Let us build a solid foundation on the Bible’s message in our home, so that they can think critically about the world’s messages. Let us ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to shepherd them, so that they can engage with the world for Christ. And let us constantly pray for the Spirit to work in their lives, to start them and keep them on the narrow path to life.
This article was originally published on SOLA Network. Adapted with permission.
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