During swimming lessons, my young daughter jumped off the side and went down into the pool, her whole body immersed under water before she bobbled back up, giggling. While under water, she had been fully enveloped in the wet coolness. These were the thoughts I had recently when someone said to me that she, my daughter, has been “immersed” in the Christian faith.
“There’s no wonder why she loves Jesus,” I was told. “She’s been immersed in the faith.”
We’re told in Scripture to immerse our children in the doctrine and faith of God. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 states, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” These two verses carry everything we need as Christians to parent lifelong followers of Jesus Christ.
On Your Heart
Parenting lifelong Christians begins with being a Christian yourself. It’s never too late to get that nailed down, and never too late to start being a witness with the closest mission field that you will ever be in: your own children. It doesn’t mean, though, that one has a token faith belief in God and only graces a pew on Easter and Christmas. It means the teachings of God will be on your heart. You must live it to preach it.
Teach Them Diligently
The word “diligently,” from dictionary.com, means “constant in effort to accomplish something; attentive and persistent in doing anything” and “done or pursued with persevering attention; painstaking.” It is not easy. It is constant.
It means allowing your child to see you read the Bible. Bible apps don’t count, for all your kids know, you could be playing a game or on social media. When your kids see you holding the actual Book of the Bible, studying it, highlighting passages, they will see that you are engrossed in it. It means that when you see a police car, fire truck or ambulance go down the road, sirens blaring, pray out loud for those emergency crews and the people they’re going to help. Involve your children in Sunday worship and Vacation Bible School. Ask them what they learned in Sunday School.
Pray together as a family. Have your child see you kneeling in prayer. Be the example, Christian. Teach them, purposely, about Who God is – or the world will teach them who He isn’t.
Talk About Them
Talk about the things of God. Show the children appropriate television shows if you allow TV. Philippians 4:8 states, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”
Listen: young children do not have the developmental fortitude to understand fact from fiction, commercials or television shows, fake blood or real. There are simply television programs that are not for young eyes. We as Christians must protect our children from things they are not ready to see.
The world is scary enough for us. Why share it with our kids?
Teaching them diligently means you purposely talk with them about Jesus and what is in the Bible. If you participate in Operation Shoebox through Samaritan’s Purse, talk with the children and explain why you’re doing it and who will get the shoeboxes. If you foster children, explain to your biological kids and foster children why you choose to do that. Point the way to Christ.
Sharing the faith
I’ve heard before that some parents don’t want to share their faith (whatever that may consist in or of) because they want their kids to choose for themselves. This mindset never works, and it’s unbiblical. Matthew 19:13-15 shares Jesus’ thoughts on the subject: “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away.”
This is a long process. In Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it,” the word “train” is less about teaching and more like the word used for veggies. In my garden, I have tied tomato plants to stakes to get them to go up, instead of falling over. This is called “training.” It is intentionally guiding along a certain path.
Without training, my tomato plants would grow all over the ground, becoming food for insects and even more food for squirrels. Is this what we want for our children, to not be taught a moral center, but instead allowing them to just do whatever they wish, becoming fodder for people who will lead them astray? If we as parents don’t train up our children in the narrow-path faith of Jesus Christ, they will choose the wide path that leads to destruction.
Paul wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” [Ephesians 6:4].
There have been many parents who, while nobly serving in many roles within the church, become so wrapped up in the business of the church that they neglected their family. This leads to children who see the church, and therefore God, as competition for their parents’ attention. This is counter-productive for bringing children up who love Jesus, and makes it ripe for those children to turn their backs on the church when they become adults.
Paul, in 1 Timothy 3:4-5, wrote about the qualifications of church deacons, but it also applies to serving in any capacity within the church: “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)”
Therefore, one must make family a priority above the church, but a personal relationship with God comes before the family. Listen: serving on a church committee does not equal having a personal relationship with Christ.
Begin with the End in Mind
The end result of teaching children faith in Jesus Christ is two-fold: their personal profession of Jesus Christ, and a life completely surrendered to Him, through relationship in Him and service to Him by serving others.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:14-15. Timothy’s mother and grandmother taught him from an early age about knowing God through salvation in Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote of Timothy’s mother and grandmother in 2 Timothy 1:5. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” Eunice and Lois purposely shared the Gospel, scriptures, and everyday faith with young Timothy. From childhood, they instilled in him the Word of God, obviously prayed with him, and shared along in Paul’s missionary journey by sending Timothy with him.
Young Timothy grew from a child in Lystra, a city that is located in present-day Turkey, into a formidable preacher, traveling with Paul and serving as pastor in the church at Ephesus, with the instruction by Paul to “…command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer…” [1 Timothy 1:3]. It is to Timothy’s credit then, and certainly to the credit of Eunice and Lois, that when Jesus was transcribing His letter to the Seven Churches to old John, that the church at Ephesus, while chided for having lost its “first love,” was commended by Christ for this: “ I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false,” [Revelation 2:2].
Timothy was immersed in the Christian faith from a young age, and he grew to love Jesus. We have a calling, friends, and that is to immerse our own children in the faith of Jesus Christ, so they will love Him, serve Him, and lead a life worthy of the gospel, as Paul wrote in Philippians 1:27 – “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”
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