In response to a suggestion from a colleague to reutilize some of my sermons as articles, here’s a précis of a message titled Parenting God’s Way from the Family Matters series preached at Muskoka Bible Centre.
Parenting God’s Way
What’s the most significant parenting passage in the Bible?
Is it the fifth commandment in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12). Is it the familiar Proverbs 22:6. Or is it another excellent text? There are, after all, more than 1,900 references in the Bible that mention parents, fathers, or mothers.
The passage I have in mind is very well-known. Yet it doesn’t mention parents or families, and I’ve never heard anyone preach a parenting sermon from it. So, what is it? It’s the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.
The Great Commission is arguably the Bible’s most significant Christian parenting directive because it identifies and addresses three essential questions every parent must ask and answer. Here are the three questions:
1. Who’s in charge?
Who’s in charge of your home? Is it you or your spouse? Both of you? Your children? Or is it someone else?
Note Jesus’ opening statement: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” Matthew 28:18. There is never a situation, in any place or at any time, where you and your children are not under the wise, watchful, and prevailing control of Jesus. He’s in charge. Not you.
The ultimate power or right to direct or control our children rests with Jesus, not with us. To use business language: Jesus is the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Information Officer in the family. He’s the Managing Director and President of the family – the Boss. You may think you’re the big kahuna in your family. But you’re not.
If you’re a parent, you must resist the inclination to take the lead. Yes, there’ll be a daily battle in your heart and mind about who is in charge. All parents are torn between what they want for themselves and their children and what God wants. Don’t be tempted toward your desires. Fight against the tendency to favour inwardness and insularity.God wants you to parent your children following His plans and purposes. Don’t assume you have authority you don’t have; it produces all kinds of parenting difficulties. Click To Tweet
At a practical level, God wants you to parent your children following His plans and purposes. Don’t assume you have authority you don’t have; it produces all kinds of parenting difficulties. Pastor and author Paul Tripp says, “At the core of what God designed human beings to be is the acknowledgement of His existence and surrender to His authority. These things are meant to rule the heart of everyone who ever lived.”
Christian parenting isn’t an end in itself but a means for fulfilling Christ’s will. It’s submitting to God’s expectations and fulfilling His goals for your child’s physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual development. So, invite Christ to work through you because it’s the best parenting thing you can do.
2. What must parents do?
Across all cultures in every part of the world, parents support, love and care for their families. They provide security and a sense of belonging, facilitate communications, cultivate values, set boundaries, and more.
According to the Arbor Research Group, parents’ main concern today is their children’s mental health, access to opportunities, and character development. All these things are good. But more than a social contract, convention or convenience, the Christian family is a close community committed to God’s mission.
And what is God’s mission? Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing 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 28:19-20a. The key phrase is “make disciples.” The mission field starts in your home. Jesus draws you to Himself, so you’ll draw your children to Him. Every parent’s paramount role is to prioritize their children’s faith formation.The mission field starts in your home. Every parent's paramount role is to prioritize their children's faith formation. Click To Tweet
Think of the home as a discipleship center. God gave you children to discover Christ together, grow in Him together, and make a difference in the world for Him. Parenting God’s way is seeing your home as the primary environment where faith and character are formed and shaped.
You’re God’s ambassador in the home. God appointed you as a parent to teach your children how He’s all-mighty, all-powerful, all-sufficient, all-knowing, unchanging, always everywhere, infinitely faithful, right and perfect, compassionate and kind, forgiving and full of grace.
What you say and do should reflect the character of God. From beginning to end, your personal interests, needs or cultural perspectives should never shape your parenting. God extends grace, so you’ll be a daily instrument of that grace in the lives of everyone He’s placed in your family. With empowerment from the Holy Spirit, aim to be the visible representative of the invisible God.
3. Where do parents get help?
Who helps you with your parenting? Does your mother or father? Do you get help from parenting books? Do you watch parenting podcasts? Or do you get help elsewhere?
Note Jesus’ closing statement in this passage: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Matthew 28:20b. The key phrase is, “I am with you always.” There is never a second when Jesus isn’t with you. In every moment when you’re called to give grace, Jesus gives you grace. When you’re shielding or sheltering your children, Jesus is shielding and sheltering you. And in every moment when your children look to you for help, Jesus looks to help you. You don’t parent alone.
I must confess I’m not very good at this. I’m self-assured and capable. It’s rare for me to ask for help. I like doing things my way. Now and again, I forget that God’s in charge. And sometimes, I don’t do what Jesus wants me to do.In every moment when your children look to you for help, Jesus looks to help you. You don’t parent alone. Click To Tweet
If you’re honest, you’ll admit you’re just like me. You occasionally forget who you are in Christ. Amid tiresome parenting tasks, every so often, you lose it. And that’s when you say and do things you didn’t want to say or do.
Parents, you won’t find what you need in your strengths, smarts, or skills. But here’s the good news. When parenting God’s way, your capacity is greater than your natural abilities. Because Jesus is with you always, you have a supernatural ability to parent. Your weaknesses become strengths because the One with no weakness is with you. When you admit this and call on Jesus to help you, He answers your call. Praise the Lord!
Your responsibility is to do everything in your power, under God’s direction, to equip, engage and encourage your children to eagerly and gladly live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. This calling is more important than how your children do in school, how they contribute to the family, prepare for a future career, perform on the sports field or stage, or how well they’re liked. These things aren’t unimportant, but they’re never as important as our children being Jesus’ disciples.This is Christian parenting 101 - God gave us children to draw them to Him. Click To Tweet
This is Christian parenting 101 – God gave us children to draw them to Him. As I said in another article, “If we’re not doing this, all the mother-daughter outings, dad-son quests, sports, clubs, recitals, parties, and family adventures are just a waste of time.”
Don’t miss out on the beautiful gift of giving yourself for the good of others. Parenting God’s way keeps the end in mind. So. share everything with your children about loving and living for Jesus.
© Scripture Union, 2023