These Words In Thine Heart
In Deuteronomy chapter six, God gives explicit instructions to parents regarding the teaching of their children. It is evident that teaching children is not to be a once a week event but to be done on a daily basis. It is not to be done just when the family has come together for devotions but when sitting in the house and when walking by the way.
In this day when everyone seems to be in a hurry and few ever catch up, it may seem like an impossible task to be so deeply involved in the teaching of children. But the key to both diligence and effectiveness in this effort is found in verse six, “these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart.”
For parents to teach their children the truths of God Word, the words must first be in their own heart.
When it comes to raising our children, as it is in any other Christian duty, there must be a recognition of need and an acknowledgement of the source of help. Jesus said, “without me, ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). How often we may undertake a project, become discouraged, fail in the effort… all because we have forgotten these words of our Savior. We all say we know we are weak, that we have great need of help; but after saying that, we often move on as though it is all left to our planning and ingenuity.
Next Jesus tells us that we can only bring forth fruit as we are in Him. Unless we are having fellowship with Christ, communing with Him, depending on Him; we will not bear fruit. So the place where parents must start in the teaching of their children is with a closer personal walk with the Lord. The Apostle Paul said, “be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Parents must teach not only by word but by example.
As a parent can you say with Paul, “follow me, as I follow Christ”?
Children are very perceptive and pick up quickly on inconsistencies. If the father brags about his resistance to obeying the rules at work or the mother seldom submits to her husband, it is doubtful the parents will be successful in teaching their children the principle of submission. “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” (Luke 6:40). Jesus tells us that the whole idea of discipleship is that the student will not just believe what the teacher teaches but will be like the teacher. Can you as a father say, “I want my son to be like I am?” Can you as a mother say, “I want my daughter to be like I am?”
Surely most of us will have to admit that some improvements can be made in our walk as we set an example for our children or grandchildren. Every believer ought to be able to teach someone about the things of God. Only some are called to fill the role of pastor/teacher, but there is a sense in which all Christians should be teachers. Sad to say, some are like those described in Hebrews 5:12, “when…ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” Here are people who have had time to grow and mature but they still require a diet of milk.
This lack of spiritual growth is sometimes caused by the distractions of worldly interests, but sometimes it is simply the lack of commitment to faithfully study the Word. Paul was concerned that those at Colosse “might be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” If parents have grown in their knowledge of the scriptures, grown in spiritual understanding, grown in their zeal to serve the Lord because of their close walk with Him, then teaching their children will not be a drudgery, but a joy. Paul also writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly in all wisdom…” (Colossians 3:16a). He is saying, “Let the word of Christ be at home in you.”
The Word is to be such an important part of our life that we think biblically. When a decision must be made or a crisis faced—rather than responding like the rest of the world would respond—we think in harmony with God’s Word. Our choices and plans will then be based on what God has made known to us, not by some mystical impression, but through His inspired Word. If, then, parents have the Word hidden in their own heart, are endeavoring to live by it on a daily basis, and are finding comfort in its message; they will be excited about sharing it with their children. On the other hand, if parents have not prepared themselves to teach, their attempt will prove to be awkward and probably do little to influence their children. Someone may say, “I am convicted because I realize I have not been teaching my children as I should, but the thought of trying to do better is overwhelming.”
Remember you can’t compensate for past failures and get where you need to be in one day, but you can start. Don’t forget the encouraging words of the Apostle, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” You can confess to the Lord that you have failed in your duty and ask His forgiveness. You can acknowledge to Him that you feel incapable of being an effective teacher and ask for His help. And even at the present, though you feel to be lacking in Bible knowledge, you could start by telling your children about your experience of grace.
As you express to them what the Lord has done for you and what He means to you, you have laid a good foundation for the teaching which should follow.
Depending on the age of your children, you may want to start with some of the exciting stories from the Old Testament about God delivering His people from great troubles — or, if they are older, start with some New Testament passages that give a guide for godly living. There are many materials available to help parents prepare themselves for teaching their children and no doubt any pastor would be delighted to spend time providing some guidance.
The important thing is not to make excuses or postpone the effort, but to start now.
If you have already been making the effort, but feel the need to do a better job, remember the place to start is with your own spiritual growth . “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:2-3). Meditating on the Word (Psalm 119:15), delighting in the Word (verse 16), using the Word (verse 105) all are a part of growing and being prepared to instruct your children in the Word.
When you consider that, after the death of Joshua, in just one generation the true knowledge of God was lost and the people turned to the worship of idols, you are made aware of how serious a matter this is. I have actually had parents say to me that they did not try to influence their children about religion because they felt it was a personal matter. But God commands parents to teach them; it is not an issue which is left to one’s personal inclination. We read that Timothy had known the scripture from childhood and what a blessing that knowledge was to him. We recognize that God must open the heart and that only by His Spirit can there be spiritual understanding; but parents are to teach and then pray that God will use His word in the lives of their children.