Friday, September 21, 2007

transforming america, step 7--teach your kids to follow Christ

Do you have children in your home? Are you a parent? It is your God-given responsibility to lead your children to Christ. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says;

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Those words, spoken by Moses 3400 years ago, are just as relevant today. Now more than ever our children need the power of God’s amazing love to shield them from the forces of evil. You had better believe that Satan is waging a savage battle for the hearts and minds of our children.

God had a reason for issuing that declaration (through Moses) telling the Israelites to teach the Word of God to their children.

When children learn to love God at an early age, they stand a better chance of retaining their faith throughout their lives. They in turn will be better at passing that faith on to their children and even to other people they come in contact with. Being an effective spiritual leader in your own home is crucial in accomplishing our goal of sparking a rebirth of our nation.

If we all agree that we must lead our households to Christ, the next obvious question is—How? The Bible gives us the answer. If you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, you will see a picture of the perfect parent. Jesus taught, molded, and "parented" His followers so that they would better understand the New Covenant of God’s saving grace. The greatest illustration of Jesus’ instruction comes from His Sermon on the Mount, and, specifically, from the Beatitudes. I believe that these seemingly contradictory words hold the key to successful parenting. In a nutshell, we must continually work to make each one of these values a part of our own character. If we strive to become living examples of these characteristics, and we demonstrate to our children how to emulate these character traits, our households will be blessed. Let’s read the Beatitudes together and we’ll look at them individually in detail. Matthew 5:1-12:

Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The theme running through the Beatitudes is that if we conduct ourselves in a certain way, God will bless us. In other words, we don’t do these things for ourselves or for worldly approval; it’s all about God. Don’t misunderstand, however, and think that this means we can earn our way into heaven by being good. It’s clear, if you read everything that Jesus said, that the only way to have all of these characteristics is through the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling in your heart. To be truthful, we will never completely embody these character traits until that day when our Lord makes us perfect. Additionally, you will find that one Beatitude leads to the next. They don’t stand alone. You can’t pick and choose which ones you will follow. Let’s look at them one at a time.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. It all starts here. Nothing happens until we come to the realization that we are so bankrupt in our own spirituality that we must depend on an outside/external source—our Heavenly Father. John Wesley said, "It is a recognition of personal, moral, and spiritual unworthiness. Spiritually, morally, personally, socially, in every single realm that you can think of in the human life, that you’re showing you are in need of God." Our good works won’t get us to heaven. We have nothing within ourselves that is worthy of presenting to God. We need God to bless us, to save us, to make us worthy of being in His presence.

How do we teach by example this valuable lesson to our children? We teach that by giving God credit and being profoundly thankful for all that is good in our lives. If you get a promotion at work, come home, hold hands with your family and thank God for blessing you. Admit to God that you’re not worthy, but pray to Him that He will give you wisdom so that you may become worthy of that promotion. As your children begin to achieve success in sports, or music, or academics, or whatever, continually remind them that it is God who gave them the ability to succeed and that we would be nothing without a wonderful and loving God. Teach your child to pray in thanksgiving. Read with your child Psalm 118 to show them what thankfulness sounds like. If you do something wrong, use that as a teaching moment. For example, if you yell at your child unjustly, confess your mistake to that child. Tell him that you were wrong, that you have sinned, and what God’s attitude is towards sin. With your child there, pray to God for His forgiveness. You will be demonstrating that we all are sinners, we all fall short of God’s perfect standard, and we must rely on God’s wonderful grace and mercy to be saved. Read with your children the story of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50). You can tie this in with Romans 3:9-20 to show that no one is righteous. Tell your children that the sinful woman is us. You will be providing a wonderful illustration of how we are all poor in spirit.

Blessed are those that mourn. Once we realize that we are morally and spiritually empty without the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and that we are sinners by nature, the natural emotional response is to mourn over our bankrupt souls. This doesn’t mean that we should be sad sacks, constantly depressed, morose, or brooding. We are not commanded to sink into a never-ending depression because of the fact that we have a sinful nature. When Jesus tells us to be mournful, He is simply referring to spiritual sorrow. We are to recognize our sinfulness for what it is and we are to refrain from rationalizing it. We are to humbly beg God to wash our sins away because we are powerless to defeat sin alone.

Think about your own experiences. Do you know when you are the most vulnerable to sin? It’s when you are satisfied and forgetful of your own limitations. It’s when you say, "I’ve got it covered God. I can handle things myself." When we forget we are poor in spirit we cease to mourn over our spiritual deficiencies and we become prime targets for Satan’s grasp.

Mournfulness is a hard trait to master because it certainly goes against everything the world teaches. Self-esteem, self-gratification, do what it takes to feel good—that’s what the world teaches. How in this world do we make this trait part of our own character, let alone teach it to our children? Regular prayer time is the key. Pray by yourself and pray as a family, and make confession/repentance a normal part of that prayer time. As you pray, each member of the family should confess their sins for that day, repent, ask for God’s forgiveness, and ask for the strength and wisdom to do better. A regular prayer routine will ingrain these first two Beatitudes into all of your personalities. You can incorporate Bible reading into this routine as well. Psalm 51 is an excellent chapter to read to experience mournfulness.

We'll continue with this theme tomorrow.


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