In order to disciple your children, you must walk with God.
When talking to His disciples about the Pharisees in Matthew 15:14, Jesus says, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” This verse contains a simple principle: you cannot lead others if you yourself are lost.
The positive side of this principle is found in the Pastoral Epistles. 1 Timothy 4:16 says, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” When Paul says, “Take heed to yourself,” he is telling Timothy to give attention to his own spiritual health. What’s the result? Timothy will save both himself and also his hearers. As a pastor, that means that the spiritual wellbeing of my congregation depends at least in part on me keeping my heart.
What does 1 Timothy 4:16 mean for dads? It means that the salvation and spiritual growth of our children depends at least in part on us keeping our hearts.
This concept makes sense if you think of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. Have you ever tried to make someone happy if you yourself are not happy? Imagine the dad who makes the family rule, “You’re all going to be happy, or else!” Or maybe you’ve seen the mom who is trying to quiet her children (“Stay calm, honey!”) while simultaneously freaking out! It’s difficult to cultivate self-control in others when you are a lazy slob.1 In order to disciple your children, you must walk with God.
Deuteronomy 6 is one of the most important passages in Scripture as it relates to parenting. Look for the invisible hinge between verse 6 and verse 7.
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children….”
Did you see it? Before you can teach God’s word to your children, it must be in your own heart! 2 In other words, in order to disciple your children, you must walk with God.
What should you do if you are not currently walking with God? Does this mean your children are doomed to failure? No! Don’t fret or worry. God is gracious. Confess your sins to Him and ask for His help. If you are unsure of your salvation, talk to your pastor or a trusted spiritual advisor. Then, start doing the things you wish your children would do!
- A good place to start is with Bible reading, prayer, and church attendance. If you stick with these three simple disciplines over time, God will use them to transform your life!
- As much as possible, stay away from worldly influences, and stay close to Jesus. According to Christ in John 15:5, if you stay close to Him, you will bear much fruit–in other words, you will produce disciples! That’s encouraging!
A common phrase used in parenting is, “Do as I say, not as I do.” The only problem with that phrase is that it never works! You can tell your kids to be kind to their siblings until you are blue in the face, but if you make fun of them or yell at your wife, your kids will conclude you don’t mean what you say. You can tell your children to respect their teachers at school, but if you don’t honor your boss or the government, your children most likely won’t listen.
Dad’s, we must be people of integrity. You cannot lead others if you yourself are lost. In order to disciple your children, you must walk with God.
I had a mentor who said, “Undisciplined parents raise undisciplined children.” Why is this? Because if the parents are not disciplined enough to discipline their children, their children will be undisciplined! ↩︎
It is worth noting that when Moses refers to the word present in a person’s heart, he means more than just head knowledge, because v. 5 says that we are to love the LORD with all our heart, soul, and strength. Loving God implies obedience to His commands. (Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”) ↩︎