“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
We have heard it preached from the pulpit for years.
“If you are a good parent and train up your kids in the Christian faith they will not leave the faith.”
I’ve preached it from the pulpit and chances are that you have too. The problem is this doesn’t work.
Many children of good Christian parents choose to leave the Christian faith every year. When this happens parents tend to blame themselves.
“What did I do wrong?”
Sometimes parents blame the church and sometimes parents get really mad at God.
Here is the problem. We have taken this scripture out of context. We have misused it to say something that it does not say.
Proverbs 22:6 is a parenting scripture.
It’s not a scripture about salvation.
The scripture is simply saying that through consistent discipline you can train your children to behave.
Herein lies the problem. Salvation does not come through obeying the rules. It comes by grace through faith.
If your good works cannot save you, then your good parenting cannot save your kids.
You can be the best parent in the world and make all the right choices, but you cannot save your child from hell.
Only Christ can do that.
One problem is that we mix the scriptures on evangelism and parenting and we tend to think they are the same when it comes to children. You can make your child clean her room or do her homework, but you cannot make her have a relationship with Christ.
That is something she has to choose to do because she loves Jesus.
Please don’t misunderstand me.
You have a lot of influence over your children and God wants you to influence your kids for Christ just like He wants you to influence your neighbors for Christ. You cannot make your kids love Jesus, but there are things you can do as a parent that will cause your kids to run to God and there are things you can do that will cause your kids to run from God.
If you are a hypocrite – you act one way at church and another way at home, your kids won’t believe you when your talk to them about Jesus.
Another reason that kids leave the church is legalism. Many church kids grow up thinking that they can never measure up. Their parents are inflexible. They live by a list of do’s and don’ts.
These parents tend to freak out when their kids sin as if they have never sinned.
The concept of grace never seems to enter the conversation.
So, are there things I can do to lead my child to Christ? Absolutely.
Take a look at what God said to the Israelites concerning the Passover lamb in Exodus, Chapter 12. I am choosing this story because it has nothing to do with a child’s behavior and everything to do with salvation.
“Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of thehouses where they eat the lambs… Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ Then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.”
I hadn’t seen this before, but recently I noticed that God instructed the children of Israel to select a lamb four days ahead of the Passover and to bring the lamb into their home. I believe God did this so the family and the children would become attached to the lamb before the slaughter.
He wanted them to feel the emotion when they sacrificed the lamb. Just a little bit of the pain that it cost the Father to sacrifice His Son.
This was not a pretty picture. I’m sure the kids were crying when the lambs were slaughtered.
Then they had to take the blood of their lamb and smear it on the doorpost of their house. The children of Israel could not save their own kids. They needed the power of God to save their children. The powerful Egyptian armies were the ones that were crying in the morning as the Israelites were saved by the blood of the Lamb.
Here are six things we can learn from Exodus, Chapter 12.
1. God did not intend to protect the kids from the emotion of this event.In fact, He wanted them to experience the pain of loss.
2. For kids to have an understanding of the grace of God, they need to have an understanding of the price that Jesus paid for their sin.
3. The Lord wants us to preach the deep things of the Word to our kids. Don’t hold anything back.
4. Parenting and discipleship are two different things.
5. When God does supernatural stuff it makes a powerful impact on our kids.
6. As parents we are very dependent on the Holy Spirit to lead our kids to Christ. It’s hard, because we are not in control.
The good news is that we don’t have to do it by ourselves.
Not only has Mark served in the local church as pastor, associate pastor, and family ministry pastor but he is also a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team.