Raising Your Kids to Love Jesus and Impact Their World
What follows is a transcript of Bobby Scott’s talk from Legacy Conference 2015. You can learn more about the movement of Legacy here.
I can think of no more urgent need in our urban context than to raise up a generation of children who love God and hate evil (). The world and the dark side of the hip hop culture stands against our children. (As I write this, gangs in LA have vowed to kill 100 people in 100 days just 2 miles from my house). Our children’s very own flesh wars against them. And Satan himself seeks to devour them. And what, do you ask, is God’s appointed means of grace to help your children? That answer is simple. It is you, God fearing parents. Yet the final outcome of childrearing is more complicated than what you do or fail to do for your children. The final outcome of our childrearing is the combined result of four influences.
- God—The Ultimate Influence
- Parents—The Ordained Means of Influence
- The World—The Unavoidable Influence
- The Child’s Heart—The Overlooked Influence
Below is a summary explanation of each of these influences from my 2015 Legacy workshop on parenting.
First, the Ultimate Influence in a Child’s Life is God: God’s Grace is Sovereign
At the end of the day, what happens to your child is the outworking of God’s sovereign will. God doesn’t decide what He will do when a person is born. God’s will was decreed before everything was created. God’s will was set before Isaac’s sons, Esau or Jacob, did anything good or bad (). Although Saul was one of the greatest failures in the OT, his son Jonathan was one of the godliest men born of Israel. Conversely, godly men like Samuel and Eli had grossly wicked sons. There are no guaranteed formulas to follow to ensure that your child will be saved at a young age and live a godly life for Jesus. is a general principle, not a promise. And conversely, your failures as a parent are not ultimately determinative of your child’s success ().
- Parents can’t convict; the Holy Spirit does ().
- Parents can’t save their children; God does ().
- Parents can’t sanctify their children either; God does ( 3:3).
- But parents aren’t abandoned by God in parenting. They are themselves a means of grace and they are given means of grace to minister to their children.
God ordained to use His Word and prayer. So faithfully teach your children the Word () and believe that praying expectantly is not presuming upon God’s grace. Conversely know that parenting according to God’s means of grace is what it means to hope in God’s grace.
Second, the Ordained Means of Influence in a Child’s Life is Parenting
“There should be one will in a Christian home and that is to be the will of God. God’s will is to be mediated through the father who is submissive to God as he applies the principles of God’s Word in its totality to the totality of his family’s life. Where a father is absent then the mother or grandparents or guardians must assume this role, because there is to be one will in the Christian home and not two. This is the ultimate responsibility of the father to ensure this is the case in his family,” Pastor Al Martin.
Conceptually, parenting is easy. It’s executing effectual parenting that’s so hard. Parenting is simply calling your children to follow you as you follow Christ. You know where the landmines are (because you have either learned where they are from God’s Word, or by God’s grace you have miraculously survived stepping on them)! So lead your children to follow carefully behind you step by step as you follow Christ on His narrow path. As you do, teach your children what you do for Christ and why you do it. The Bible is your curriculum. You are the illustration. Life is the classroom. And your child is your student. And what’s at stake isn’t a college degree or a job with a certain income. What’s at stake is eternity in heaven or hell.
Parenting is first and foremost evangelism and discipleship. Our Lord is the best example to follow.
- Jesus kept the disciples near him to teach them what they should be and do ().
- Likewise Paul discipled Timothy like an apprentice (; ).
- This pattern of parenting is as old as the OT. Parents pleaded with their children to listen to them and follow their examples ().
Parents must prayerfully and lovingly use their God-given authority to raise their children up to follow the Lord. The parent’s biblical voice, when heeded by their children, is the voice God promised to bless ().
If a child does not obey, then the parents must discipline because the child is disobeying God. To not discipline is to fail to teach your children the vital lesson that leads humbled sinners to seek God’s grace in repentance. That lesson is that there is a wage earned when we sin, and that wage is death. “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently,” .
Discipline is not punishment. It is painful though. The word discipline means training (in this case to fear God). It should take whatever lovingly mediated form is necessary to teach the child that the temporal pleasures of sin never outweigh its eternal cost. Biblical discipline includes using the rod but not exclusively (). Follow a careful pattern whenever you discipline:
- Teach before you discipline.
- Always discipline in love and in privacy.
- Discipline in the context of sharing the Gospel.
- Instruct your child to confess, to seek repentance and forgiveness, then pray with your son or daughter.
- Finally, be consistent. If you are, prayerfully most of your disciplining with the rod will be done while your child is still young. Discipline teaches your child to think wisely. “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” ().
Teaching your child God’s ways and how to live them out in the world is a twofold process. Think of your task like that of a basketball coach. You first have to teach your players how to shoot and then teach them how to score against a wide array of defenses their opponents will throw at them.
Our English word “method” comes from the Greek word translated in the NASB strategy. The word is plural which suggest Satan has methods and the context argues that his methods are purely to accomplish his evil intents. As a parent you must teach your child to follow God’s ways while overcoming Satan’s methods with which he attacks our children. Here are but a few:
- His method is to attack our purity, yours and your child’s ().
- His method is to capitalize on our anger in order to ruin our relationships (). We leave our children vulnerable to Satan’s attacks when we parent in anger. Be wise, therefore, and deal with your anger before you deal with your child, and parent in love (). And embrace the truth that “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God,” .
- His method is to lead our hearts away from sound doctrine, which produces “purity and devotion to Christ” (). Teach your children the Bible and sound theology. Teaching means more than you talking. Your child has to understand and apply the Bible.
- His method is to tempt us to not trust God’s will for our lives but to do things our way (; ; ; ).Steven Lawson says, “Every casting doubt upon the truthfulness of the Word of God has in it the hiss of the serpent,” ().
Parents therefore need to spiritually protect their children, yet do so without smothering them. You goal is to teach your child to make wise Christ-honoring decisions and then to let them make them.
As you teach your children God’s Word, hold them accountable to obey, and trust that God will do what He does—convict, convert, and sanctify. God will hold your child responsible for his/her response to His means of grace. Therefore, hold your child responsible to:
- Obey quickly or the first time you charge them, . Do not train your children to wait until you yell to get them to obey. Teach them to obey even when you whisper.
- Obey even when you aren’t there (; ).
- Obey without whining, complaining, arguing, resisting, getting an attitude ().
Deal with Their Hearts:
Think of their heart as the root of a tree and their behavior as the fruit it produces. Removing the fruit from a bad tree won’t change a bad tree into a good tree. This would be like merely controlling your child’s external behavior which at best will produce a Pharisee. Instead, when you teach or discipline your child always connect the fruit of their lives, their actions and attitudes to their hearts, their thoughts, motives, and desires. From the Word of God consistently, lovingly, firmly, and compassionately show them that their actions, attitudes and choices are sinful because their heart is deceitfully wicked above all else (). And then share with them the Gospel, explaining to them how Christ and Christ alone paid the price for sin and rose with power to grant a new heart to repentant sinners.
To expose the root of your child’s heart problem, ask probing questions. When they sin, ask them questions that will expose their idols, fears, true passions, insecurities, moral weaknesses, their trigger points, evil desires they are hiding, etc.
When you sin against your children, make it your habit to humbly confess, repent, and ask them for forgiveness. In doing so, you will teach and model to them how they should deal with their sin.
Be encouraged. God is very patient. Keep applying God’s means of grace first to your own heart and then to your children, and hope in God. What He calls us to do, He grants the grace for us to do it.
Helpful parenting resources:
- The entire Bible, the Gospel, and especially the book of Proverbs J
- Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Ted Tripp (for parenting younger children)
- Age of Opportunity, Paul Tripp (for parenting teens)
10 O you who love the Lord, hate evil!
He preserves the lives of his saints;
he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. (ESV)
10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (ESV)
6 Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (ESV)
14 But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. (ESV)
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: (ESV)
5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, (ESV)
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (ESV)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (ESV)
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (ESV)
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach (ESV)
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (ESV)
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (ESV)
26 My son, give me your heart,
and let your eyes observe my ways. (ESV)
6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (ESV)
24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (ESV)
13 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
14 If you strike him with the rod,
you will save his soul from Sheol.
15 The rod and reproof give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (ESV)
3 The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it. (ESV)
2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (ESV)
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (ESV)
5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (ESV)
26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. (ESV)
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. (ESV)
20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (ESV)
3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. (ESV)
3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (ESV)
21:1 Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. (ESV)
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (ESV)
5:1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? (ESV)
3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (ESV)
18:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? 3 As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.
5 “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— 6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8 does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, 9 walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.
10 “If he fathers a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things 11 (though he himself did none of these things), who even eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.
14 “Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: 15 he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, 16 does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.
19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? 24 But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.
25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 26 When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (ESV)
6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, (ESV)
3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good. (ESV)
14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, (ESV)
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (ESV)
14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (ESV)