I distinctly remember the first time the weight of parenting struck me: my daughter, Talitha, was barely a week old and I was singing to her before putting her to bed for the night. As I started singing the children’s song Have you heard about Jesus by Sovereign Grace Music, the words “Have you heard about Jesus” had barely rolled off my tongue when the realization hit me like a ton of bricks: No, Talitha hadn’t heard about Jesus. In fact, she had barely even heard His name being uttered within her hearing since she’d been born. And no, she had not even begun to comprehend what His name is all about!
A lump formed in my throat as I sat there holding my newborn daughter, trying to grasp the magnitude of the fact that Isaac and I would be the primary people in her life that God would use to teach her about Jesus and show her the way to the cross.
I believe many, if not all, parents who have trusted in Christ as their Savior, would agree with me when I say that we long for our children to come to know Christ as their personal Savior, for Scripture clearly tells us that all have sinned and are in need of rescuing.
In light of this, what is our responsibility as parents?
We are to train our child.
One of Scripture’s specific instructions to parents is that parents are to “[t]rain up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6).
So what is “the way he should go”?
While the principle concerning training a child “in the way he should go” can be applied to many areas of parenting, Hebrews 11:6 clearly states that “without faith it is impossible to please him….” For this reason, outside of a saving faith, no matter what else a child does that may appear to be pleasing to God, a child cannot do anything to please God. Thus, we can conclude that pointing our child towards the saving power of the cross is the primary direction we should point our child.
We can pray for the salvation of our child.
A comprehensive understanding of salvation reveals that it is ultimately God, through the Holy Spirit, who does the convicting work in the heart of the unbeliever (see John 6:44). Consequently then, it is God, through the Holy Spirit, who leads the sinner to the cross.
We can present to our child the truth of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the payment of sins, but the child is the one who has to make the personal decision to believe on Jesus Christ as his Savior, trusting Him for the forgiveness of sins. We cannot make the decision for him.
And so we pray that the Spirit will reveal the truths of the Gospel to the heart of our child.
We pray that the Spirit will convict our child of his sin before a holy God.
We pray that God will extend mercy and grace to our child.
We pray that God will draw our child to Himself and redeem him through Christ’s atoning blood.
We can model the Gospel and Christ’s love to our child.
As we’ve already discussed, we understand that it is God who ultimately draws a sinner to Himself. However, we also understand that God uses very practical means to do this. Romans very plainly lays it out: “…And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14) Yes, one does not simply, out of the blue, with zero outside influences, come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Rather, as the Apostle Paul has explained here in Romans, God uses the preaching of His Word to convict and draw a sinner to Himself.
In the context of “preaching the gospel” to a child, a very tangible way of doing this is to model it before them in real life.
Deuteronomy 6:7-9 gives us an example to follow, for we find Moses instructing Israelite parents on how to train their children:
“You shall teach them [the the words Moses had previously commanded them] diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit down in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
We see here that in every area of life–even in the most ordinary, mundane routines of the day–we have opportunities to teach our child about the Lord and to model before him what the Lord has instructed.
So what are some practical ways that this can look?
- We can preach the gospel to our child by intentionally reading Scripture to him. The Word of God is living and active, powerful to convict (Hebrews 4:12).
- Regular church attendance is another way for our child to be directly confronted with Scripture through the intentional preaching and teaching of the Word.
- Discipline also provides unplanned opportunities to lovingly point our child to the cross and his need for the Savior.
- Humbling ourselves and asking for forgiveness when we have wronged our child is another way to point towards the transforming power of the Gospel. A child often learns more from our actions than from our words.
These are just a few of the many ways that we can live out the message of the gospel and Christ’s love in front of our child, and in turn “preach the gospel” to him. As parents, it is imperative that we be attentive to the many gospel opportunities that arise out of the ordinary events of life.
And so, even though Talitha is not even quite two years old, I realize I cannot take lightly my role as a parent to point her towards the Savior and her need of Him.
(All Scripture is quoted from the ESV)