The Father

6.3 Turn Their Hearts to God

From the book Biblical Manhood
By Joel Hilliker

If you have children living under your roof, then you are a minister. You pastor a little congregation, responsible before God for the spiritual education of those little lambs. This duty comes with the opportunity to instruct from Scripture.

Early in my marriage, I heard a sermon that admonished men to conduct family Bible studies. Though my wife and I had no children, I was moved to apply the instruction. I prayed that God would inspire the subjects to cover. I began thinking about what we really needed in order to grow as a couple. Then I looked into the Bible to search out God’s mind in these areas.

Then—and this was the crux of it—I sat down with my wife and taught her what God had taught me. We had specific studies on preparing for the holy days, improving our Sabbath observance, deepening our fellowship. When we received some inheritance money after my grandfather died, I gave a study on managing wealth and avoiding materialism. When we started to talk about having children, I gave a study on counting the cost and recognizing the responsibility involved.

This was a life-changing experience. It put God at the center of our family. It forced me to be more attentive to my family’s spiritual needs. It developed my mindset as a leader. It improved my study habits and showed me just how practical God’s Word really is. It encouraged my wife to view me as her spiritual head. It unified our thinking and drew us closer together.

A man is responsible for leading his wife spiritually. Once children enter the picture, that duty increases. God commands us to instruct those children from His Word. Through us, God wants to bring those children up in His truth and usher them into His eternal Family. He also wants to use this opportunity to prepare us to better fulfill the job we will be doing for all eternity.

Moses’s Urgent Plea

Moses felt a deep responsibility to build the families of Israel. In Deuteronomy—his final instruction to God’s people just before he died—this great man repeatedly emphasized parents’ duty to pass on spiritual wisdom to their children and grandchildren.

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; nkjv). The phrase “teach them diligently” means to repeat intensively, to do something again and again—like sharpening a blade through repeated grinding or friction. Moses had witnessed a lot of failure among Israel’s families. You can sense his urgency: Commit these words to heart—then teach them diligently to your children, and discuss them at every opportunity. This is how to survive as a nation!

Moses did more than command family Bible studies: He emphasized reinforcing those biblical lessons throughout the day, both at home (“in your house”) and away (“by the way”). He expected parents and children to be interacting often, and for the Bible to be a regular topic of discussion. He stressed the need for instructing each night before bedtime (“when you lie down”) and again each morning (“when you rise up”).

Moses followed up with a very practical instruction: He advocated writing scriptures and principles down and posting them in the home to help internalize them (verse 9; see also Deuteronomy 11:18-20).

Life can be a jungle of duties and distractions. We may agree with Moses’s statements in principle but then struggle to implement them. We may make an effort but lack the consistency these scriptures demand. The mention of diligence and repetition are aimed directly at countering our tendency to let this duty slip.

Generation to Generation

Consider the rewards of making family Bible instruction the priority God intends. Moses himself described the rich blessings these studies and discussions would bring, including a better relationship with God, stronger families and longer, more abundant life for ourselves and our children and grandchildren (Deuteronomy 11:21; 4:9-10; 6:2).

Every parent desires a close bond with his children. Quality family Bible study and discussion is a key to achieving that. Parent-to-child and grandparent-to-child spiritual instruction is the glue that binds generation to generation. “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). This is a powerful antidote to the poisonous worldly influences that tear children away from their parents.

Even more: Obedience to this command welds individual families into a single nation under God. Moses showed that it ensures long-lasting national stability and guarantees a future as a godly nation! Meditate on these promises in conjunction with Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Consider the principle, and the incredible promise, in these scriptures. If parents in Israel had diligently followed the command to teach their children, the nation never would have departed from God’s way!

The same is true of the Church, spiritual Israel. Family instruction guarantees spiritual stability through the generations. Failure to do so causes catastrophe. We must make sure we are rearing our children to know and love the Bible. Parents, with fathers taking the lead, must do the lion’s share of instructing and teaching by personal example and positive instruction. The child’s main influence during the formative years must be Dad—and, by extension, God the Father. Develop lifelong bonds with your child, early in life, through education.

God is calling His very elect today to marry His Son and participate in the child rearing and spiritual instruction of the rest of the world! There is probably no better training for these duties than bringing up the children God has entrusted to our care “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). If we ignore this responsibility to our children today, how could God consider us fit to look after His own children as the Bride of Christ? This is a priority we must not let slip.

How to Go About It

The idea of expounding on the Scriptures for your family may seem daunting. Here are a few simple points that will help you move from agreeing in principle with this biblical command to actually making it a part of your family’s regular routine.

First, you yourself must be excited about the Bible. Look again at Deuteronomy 6. The two verses that precede the main instruction on teaching your children read, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart” (verses 5-6). You have to love God and love His Word to be stirred and excited about your own Bible study. If you struggle with your own studies, you won’t be motivated to teach; naturally, your children will struggle as well.

How much do you know about the Bible? Are you accustomed to searching the Scriptures for answers to your problems? Can you read a passage and expound on it? Can you relate Bible verses to real-life situations? Are you comfortable using Bible helps like concordances, lexicons and alternate translations? These are skills we should continually develop and refine throughout life (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17; read also Hebrews 5:12-14). Commit yourself to it, and you will find yourself drawing closer to God, the Author, in exhilarating fellowship!

As you build excitement in your personal Bible study, your eagerness to pass it on to your children will increase. Cultivate that enthusiasm by acting upon it.

Your aim is to build a regular habit of instructing your children from God’s Word and talking about the things of God. Until you are in the habit, it may feel awkward and forced—but keep at it. Over time, it will become easier for you, and your children will grow more receptive and accustomed to it. Have a set time each morning and each evening before bedtime to at least talk about God, His truth and way of life.

At least a few times a week, this time should include reading straight from the Bible. It is fine to read high-quality youth Bible-based books and articles to your children. But your main habit in family Bible study should involve the Bible itself. You may want to go somewhat methodically through a portion of the Bible such as Proverbs or the Gospels. It would be wise to adapt your study at times according to your family’s specific needs at that time. You may want to choose a particular theme each week and give several related studies hitting that topic from various angles—law, history, proverbs, examples, prophecy.

Try to make God real to your children. Talk about His qualities of character. Show them what He looks like and what His throne room is like. Give them a sense of His might and power. Describe His miracles; read to them about His mighty acts.

Also have your children read aloud from the Bible. However slow and awkward it may be at first, they will learn. Consider giving different family members different translations and having each one read the verse in turn from the various translations. Good-quality translations include the New King James, Revised Standard Version and Moffatt translation.

Each specific study may only involve a single verse, or perhaps two to three related verses. Read the scripture, then rephrase it in plain terms and explain it. Make it practical; link it to real-life examples. Teach the how and why so they will thoroughly understand the instruction. Be creative in getting the concepts across. Make it fun, exciting. Be sure the children understand. In a two-parent household, your wife should also add to the discussion. Ask questions; have them think of examples of their own; encourage them to link the principles to their own lives. The more practical and understandable the teaching is, the easier it will be to reinforce it in discussion during the day.

Don’t go on too long. Depending on your children’s age and attention span, you might go for 5 to 20 minutes. Work to hold their interest and keep it a positive experience. Praise your children as they progress. Don’t discourage them about things they forget—praise them for what they remember. Take advantage of the fact that they want to please you. Ensure the overall feeling is that studying the Bible is enjoyable, and that God’s way is great!

What a positive command it is that we share our spiritual riches with our children! Deuteronomy 6:7 and related scriptures embody a way of life. A way pulsating with robust interactions between generations. A way where God’s government is firmly in place, with God at the top and every member of the household experiencing the joy and stability that result.

Family Bible studies require diligent effort—but the blessings they produce are well worth it. And the way they prepare both our children and ourselves for our future in God’s Family make them an invaluable treasure!

What to Teach

Excellent, righteous character is the goal every parent ought to aim for in our children. We need to rear them so they will embrace God’s way of life as they grow older. This takes diligent effort from both parents. In addition to spiritual truths and aspects of strong character, teaching your children should also include physical and intellectual components. Here is a short list of things to focus on in your children’s education:

Provide opportunities to expand their world. Travel, visits to museums and historical sites, a trip to the local fire station—these can truly build children’s appreciation for the scope of the world they inhabit.

Teach good sportsmanship. Sports are invaluable in a child’s education. Aside from health benefits, they can develop many aspects of character: heeding instructions, following rules, respecting officials, learning teamwork, applying themselves and more. Use games to teach resilience and perspective in defeat, and graciousness in victory. Teach your children always to do their best, and with a good attitude, win or lose. Sports bring challenges and setbacks; teach them to take those problems to God. God will help your children if they are praying and getting Him involved. These are invaluable life lessons.

Teach honesty and accountability. Even when quite young, children will naturally begin to lie in order to cover up wrongdoing or to inflate personal accomplishments. Teach the importance of admitting mistakes and accepting responsibility.

Teach them a solid work ethic from an early age. Assign chores and responsibilities around the house. Show by your example that you actually enjoy working. Teach them to focus on what they are doing, whether it be a chore or homework. Ingrain habits of avoiding distractions and finishing the task at hand.

Hold them to high academic standards. Children respond remarkably to their parents’ expectations. If you permit sloppiness and carelessness, they will oblige. But if you expect good grades and excellence, they will rise to the challenge.

Help build good time-management habits. Teach them to work efficiently rather than needlessly stretching things out. Show how to complete the harder, less desirable tasks first so they can truly enjoy the more pleasant tasks and play afterward.

Teach good manners and social graces. Help them see the effects of their actions on others. Teach them to think of others first. During meals, help them make good manners a habit.

Teach respect for the elderly and those in authority. Ensure they spend time with older people and are comfortable talking with them, with proper respect (Leviticus 19:32).

Know and control what goes into their minds. Be actively involved in what they consume through reading, listening and watching. Teach them to recognize right and wrong forms of entertainment, exercising their senses to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). As they grow older, let them start to make their own choices—and guide them to make wise ones—or you can’t expect them to make right choices once they come of age.

Show the importance of family unity. Pray, communicate, eat, work and play together as a family. This will help weld you together as a cohesive, harmonious and peaceful unit.

Prepare them to have a happy marriage. The most effective way to do this is to set a good example. Do not argue with your spouse in front of your children. Strive to not be at cross-purposes with each other. Uphold God’s family government in your marriage, even if your mate is an unbeliever.

Teach them to pray. Pray regularly with them so they can hear you pray and you can hear them. Show how to properly praise God, thank God, ask for forgiveness and help in overcoming weaknesses, and pray for others.

Teach your children to believe and obey God. Don’t assume that simply because they attend weekly Church services they are learning the true values in life. God’s law, the Ten Commandments, sums up His way of life. That way must be taught. Use everyday examples of God’s intervention, protection and other miracles to reinforce living faith—faith with works.

Give them a vision of their future. Teach them to look forward to God’s soon-coming Kingdom and the marvelous opportunities awaiting them as princes and princesses in God’s royal Family (Psalm 45:16). Teach them about God’s incredible plan for them!

Continue Reading: The Father: Abraham—Teach Your Household