Part of raising our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” means proactively equipping them with skills they’ll need to grow as disciples of Jesus.
The “Gospel Shaped Home” podcast is a family discipleship resource from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina that aims to equip you and your family to be on mission with God, to the end of the street and the ends of the earth.
Welcome back to another episode of “Gospel Shaped Home.” I’m Andy Owens, pastor of family discipleship here at Providence. Glad to have you join us again today. I say us, really it’s just me after a few weeks off for finishing up our series through the family discipleship pathway. Got this week and one more episode and today we’re talking about five key skills, five key skills.
But before we dive into these five key skills, I want to read a verse that you probably are all familiar with from Ephesians chapter six. “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Now there’s a lot that we could talk about in this verse. I think obviously there’s some relevance for mothers as well as fathers and talked a good bit about gentleness and tenderheartedness and guarding against this provocation to anger. But I want to focus on the second half, these two words discipline and instruction.
Now, if you are familiar with the King James you might remember it as the nurture and admonition of the Lord and discipline equates to nurture, instruction equates to admonition. When we hear the word discipline we often think corrective discipline, negative connotations, but the word nurture is much more positive in its connotations. Likewise, instruction we think of as positive, admonition has a little bit of a corrective element to it. Now, why do I point that out? Because both words in the Greek, the word that’s translated discipline and instruction, have both positive and negative connotations. They have both corrective aspects as well as training, proactive aspects. And I say all of that just to emphasize that parental discipline without instruction and training is incomplete. We don’t just tell our kids not to do things, we seek actually much more with greater frequency to try to train them and show them proactively what they should do.
So, today we’re talking about five key skills. Now this is over the course of 18, 20 years, things you want to be proactively training your children to do both by example and instruction. You want to equip them with tools and train them to be a certain type of maturing disciple of Jesus. So I’ve got five adjectives to describe these five skills. Bible-saturated, praying, singing, serving, and sharing. First off we want our kids to be Bible-saturated people and that’s because we cannot overstate the significance, the importance of the Bible for our kids. You can’t overstate the importance of the Bible and of scripture and of God’s voice for the whole world. It was created, the universe was created by the word of God and all its hosts by the breath of his mouth. He sustains all things by the word of his power.
Hebrews one says, “Spiritual life begins and is sustained through God’s voice, through the scriptures.” So we want to cultivate a fond familiarity with the Bible for our kids. We want to cultivate a sense of reverence and awe that the eternal creator, redeemer, God would speak to us and be so committed to us hearing his voice that he would cause it to be written down and preserved from generation to generation and humble that we have it in our own language, that we can hear from our maker through the Bible.
So, practically it means when your kids are really young, you read the Bible to them, you read storybook Bibles, you help them memorize passages. Before they can read, your kids can memorize a lot of scripture. We can also use catechisms to teach them, in a sense, summary truths from God’s word and help them see how they flow out of God’s word. As soon as our kids are able to read, we want to begin encouraging them and helping them establish rhythms and patterns of reading the Bible on their own, asking good questions of it, seeking to live by faith in every word that comes from the mouth of God, living in obedience to it, living in dependence on it.
When they get a little bit older, maybe late elementary years, certainly by middle school, we want to be training them how to study the Bible, how to go deeper, how to think about it. We want to train them to be good listeners both when others read the Bible but especially when we gather as a church on Sundays and we’re fed from the scriptures. When the scriptures are opened up, and proclaimed, and taught and preached we want to help our kids be ready to listen.
We want to train our kids, what kind of heart posture should you have as you come to this living and active word of God. So throughout each season, however you do it we want to help our kids grow in their ability to meditate on and delight in God’s word. We want them to be Bible-saturated people.
Second, we want them to be praying people. Prayer is like breathing. Without breath there’s no physical life and without prayer there’s no spiritual life. And the way that we cultivate this is not by guilt and requirements but by helping them see what an indescribably great privilege it is that this sovereign, almighty God promises his ear to us. He promises his strength to those who wait for him, who call upon him. He promises to be near. He invites us to come to his throne of grace and he never gets tired of hearing our voice and hearing us express our need for him and our dependence on him.
I mean think about this, this is amazing that God has eternal, global purposes to magnify his name, to establish his kingdom, but he wants to do that in response to our prayers. He tells us to ask him to do what he is committed to doing. Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done. So this is a wonderful privilege. We want to help our kids see that. We want them to ultimately see that prayer is enjoying fellowship with God, is enjoying communion with God. Really it’s we’re being invited to enjoy what Jesus has enjoyed with his father forever. He’s inviting us into this inner fellowship and communion of God himself, father, son, and Holy Spirit.
So practically, do it by praying for your kids. Prayer is caught more than it’s taught and so pray for them a lot when they’re not there but pray for them when they are there. Pray over them. Lead them to pray. As soon as they’re able to speak you can lead them to say simple prayers but they can also hear you pray big prayers. And they’re going to learn that prayer matters, that God is real and that this is what Christians do by watching you do it. But you can also teach them about prayer. Nancy Guthrie has a great book, “What Every Child Needs to Know About Prayer,” that’s really good for toddlers and preschoolers and early elementary kids. It’s just a wonderful look at this multifaceted gem of prayer. We get to look and see all the different ways God invites us to come and commune with him and talk to him and praise him and thank him and express our need for him.
But also you get to give your kids a God-sized vision of the world when you pray with them. Pray for the nations, pray for unreached people groups, pray for missionaries and church planters and pray for the church’s ministry to the poor, pray for God to establish justice in the earth, pray for rulers and leaders and authority and pray for pastors, pray for friends at church, pray for lost family members, pray for neighbors. You can help your kids see that the world is so much bigger than them and to help free them from selfishness actually by the way you lead them to pray.
So, Bible-saturated people, praying people, singing people. We want to train our kids to sing. Psalm 96:2 says, “Sing to the Lord, bless his name. Tell of his salvation from day to day.” Some people don’t like to sing but we will be doing it forever and ever and you can’t read the Bible and escape the reality that singing is a really big deal and I think it’s because when we sing it’s in a sense the way we consummate the joy that we feel. We express it powerfully in song. And it also stirs up that joy and affection in God.
But so there’s this vertical dimension of how we relate to God and will forever. I mean the exodus, Moses leads the people of Israel. God leads them, he uses Moses but he leads him through the Red Sea in Exodus 14. And then what they do in the next chapter is they sing, they sing praise to God. And then in Revelation, we see that actually we’re going to keep singing that song, the song of Moses and the song of the lamb forever and that’s really because they’re different stanzas to the same song, the song of redemption, the song that God saved us by his grace and we will sing forever his praise.
So how do you do it? Well, I didn’t finish the thought actually that prayer, that singing also has a horizontal dimension. Psalm 47:8 I think says, “Sing a psalm or sing a skillful song.” It’s the word “maskil.” You see it in some of the titles to several Psalms but it’s a wisdom song, it’s an instruction song, it’s a song that teaches. And we see that in Colossians three and Ephesians five. Colossians three Paul says to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” But then he says how, “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” So you’re like, “We sing to one another?” Then he says, “Singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” So we sing to God but we also sing to one another. There is a horizontal dimension to our singing, it teaches, it instructs. And the same thing in Ephesians five where it says, “Be filled with the spirit.” The very next thing he says is, “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”
So one of the ways that we are filled by the spirit with his power and that he brings us towards this maturity in Christ that he’s doing in our lives is by singing praise to God and training one another. And practically, it’s not hard to guess why God would use song and encourage song as a way to train, to teach, it’s because music sticks. When you learn a song and you learn it well and you sing it over and over and over it’s hard to forget it. It goes deep the truth goes deep when we sing it. So sing fun, silly kids songs, sing theologically-rich songs, sing simple songs, “Jesus Loves Me,” “B-I-B-L-E,” “Wise Man Built His House on the Rock,” these sorts of things.
Sing hymns, great hymns of the faith, a few just recommendations things that we really enjoy, Randall Goodgame and Andrew Peterson, they have these Slugs, Bugs, and Lullabies CDs which are so fun. I mean, they sing about cheese dip, Mexican rhapsody, all about Mexican food. They sing about helping, playing together, serving. There’s Bible truth in there. There’s some that are just ridiculously funny. Shai Linne has a kids album, Jesus Kids. He’s a hip hop artist. It is phenomenal. It’s so rich with truth. It’s so fun. It’s so well done. The Gettys have several kids hymnals which I love. They sing a lot of classic hymns and some of their newer really theologically rich songs in really fun ways. Sovereign Grace Kids, they have several out.
Some of the old ones that I still listen to a lot, “Awesome God,” “To Be Like Jesus.” I say I, my family listened to them a lot but I liked them so much just before we moved to Turkey, I would actually, and before we used to stream music back when you listened mainly through CDs, I would take these CDs to work, pop them in the CD rom drive on the computer, put earbuds in and do accounting, listening to Sovereign Grace Kids albums. I liked them that much they were so good. Just sweet meditations on the gospel and the greatness of God and the glory of Christ. So sing, sing, sing with your kids.
Next serving, we want them to learn from the youngest years as soon as possible to serve others. So often we make the mistake and we think about training and teaching our kids. We think almost exclusively about all the things we want to protect them from, we don’t want them to get involved in drugs, we don’t want to have these negative relational influences, we don’t want them to be addicted to technology, all these things. Which obviously those things are right to focus on and prioritize. But we don’t want to forget the positive aspects of discipleship. Jesus and Titus 2:14, Paul says that, “Jesus gave himself to redeem us from all lawlessness and,” here’s the positive, “to create for himself a people zealous for good works.” We want to train them to be zealous, to do good, to serve others through love.
Now, this is inconvenient, it’s hard because naturally we’re all inclined to serve ourselves and to self-interest and before you train your kids how to help, how to do certain things in the home, it’s honestly just a lot easier for you to do it. I mean, we’re still having some laundry issues right now. We’ve had to rewash a few loads because one of our kids who is having to do their own laundry saw our clothes in the dryer and just pulled them out, shoved them in a really small basket and they got indelibly, is that the right way to say it, wrinkled, like perma-wrinkle. These clothes we had to wash them again and stuff but it’s okay. It’s better to be inconvenienced and for chores in the kitchen, cleaning up the home, serving neighbors to be a little less efficient and to be training your kids to have a heart, to do good to others, to love others and to serve them.
So as far as when it comes to serving though, we’ve got to connect it to the gospel. The only way our kids are ever going to be free from the inclination to serve themselves and actually have a desire and ability to serve others is by helping them to see that the son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. So we want to help him from the earliest years look to Christ and aspire to true greatness in God’s eyes by serving others.
And then finally sharing, we want to train our kids to share the gospel. When the gospel comes to us, it’s always on its way to someone else. It never terminates on any one person. God doesn’t entrust the greatest treasure in the universe to us so that we would hide it from others but so that we would hold it forth to others, so that we would share it with others, and the same is true for our kids. An essential aspect of them learning to follow Jesus is learning to invite others to follow Jesus. We want to help them see that Christ is the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of greatest price, for their joy and for them to offer to others.
We want them to see God’s call on their life to be fishers of men, and early on we do it by example mostly. We’ve got to be careful that we don’t divorce our ministry to our kids from our ministry to others. One of the greatest ways we can minister to our kids is by letting them see us minister to others. When your kid sees you sharing the gospel with a lost family member or a neighbor it’s going to in a unique and powerful way affirm to them, “Man, mom and dad really believe this. Man, this really matters. Man, this is what Christians do, they tell others about Jesus. This is a way we can love others.” When your kids see that happen in your life it’s a powerful thing.
So think of ways, creative ways to involve your kids in family outreach. When they’re really young, even just praying. If you’re on the way to visit someone or have someone coming over just sit down and pray or in the car pray for a few minutes for God to open a door for the word, for God to help you point to Jesus and commend Jesus in the way you spend time with the family or the people you’re about to see. Or that he would open their hearts to give heed to the gospel, to believe the truth, that he would rescue them. And then help your kids think, “How can I be a blessing to this family? How can I be a part of our family’s ministry to this person?” And obviously as they grow older and grow in their faith we want to help them, equip them with tools like sharing their testimony and sharing the gospel through things like Three Circles or other evangelistic tools.
So in each season, we want to be thinking about these things, Bible saturation, prayer, singing, serving, and sharing. How can we equip? How can we train our kids so that one day there’ll be maturing disciples who make disciples? So may the Lord give wisdom, may he mature and grow us in all these areas and may he use us to bless our kids. We’re going to fail but he loves to use our dependence on him, our childlike reliance on his grace and what he’s going to do is if you pray and you ask him, “Lord, how can I help my kids grow?” And just pick one for the next quarter, “How can I help my child grow in loving to sing your praise or being devoted to prayer?” He’s going to in our weakness show the sufficiency and power of his grace and he’s going to use it for good. So keep these things before your mind’s eye and be planning and praying, “How can I cultivate these skills in my kids’ lives in this season?”
And may the Lord be honored in those efforts and in those plans and prayers and may he really make our kids these sorts of people. So thank you for joining. I hope that you’re encouraged and spurred on and I look forward to catching you on the next episode.
Thanks for listening to this episode of the “Gospel Shaped Home” podcast produced by Providence Baptist Church of Raleigh, North Carolina. For more information and resources from Providence, visit us online at pray.org. If you enjoyed today’s episode please consider subscribing and leaving a review on Apple Podcasts.