A friend of mind recently asked me how she could more effectively teach her children who God is, while reinforcing the importance of really knowing Him. A more important question could hardly be asked! So, here’s my response to her, which I pray will prove useful to others raising and teaching children:
Let’s begin by acknowledging how critical knowing God really is. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the One true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). So, nothing matters more than knowing God!
- Every single time you read a Bible verse or passage, you ask them what it teaches about God. This builds an expectation in them that the Bible is mostly about God and that they should seek to know Him in every passage.
- Do not soften the “hard” attributes or actions of God. If you read that “God hardened Pharoah’s heart” then do not soften it. Explain to them that God is God and He does whatever He pleases (Ps 115:3) and what He pleases is always right and good even if we do not understand it. This is building a trust in God, rather than a leaning to our own understanding or ideas.
- Help your children see the amazing, totally unmerited grace and mercy of God that oozes from nearly every passage. For example, we are reading and studying through Exodus right now in our family. And we find ourselves repeatedly asking the girls, “What should God have done to these people?” And the answer is “Kill them on the spot!” Yet, He feeds them, gives them water from rocks, protects them from enemy armies, in spite of their whining and railing against God and Moses. Continually build into your children’s minds and hearts the truth that we deserve wrath, but we must cry out for mercy and rejoice every time we receive mercy or see it given! This is, BTW, why we must also live as people of mercy among our neighbors and friends.
- While I never advocate dumbing the Bible down, you will have to tailor your instruction for the ages of your children. Do not expect your kids to grasp God’s absolute sovereignty in one sitting, but rather feed them a spoonful at a time and show them that learning who God is and enjoying Him is a lifetime adventure! Show them how you are also learning more of Him. Tell them what you’re learning about God and who He is and how He works and why He works in the ways He does. God is not a God we can fully grasp! Therefore, we must rely totally on what He says of Himself in the Bible, realizing even then we’re going to struggle. Remember, God called His people “Israel,” which means “Struggles or wrestles with God.”
- Saturate your children in the Person and Work of Christ. Spend massive amounts of time in the Gospels to build foundational understanding of who God is, because Jesus is God in the flesh! Jesus most clearly shows us who God is and how He acts.
- Help your children guard against making God like themselves or like humanity. Our sinful tendency is to try to pull God down to our level, but the Bible says exactly the opposite (Isaiah 55). Let your kids wonder at His bigness. But also wow them with His humility to come as one of us to take the punishment due us to save us! Heb 12:1-3; 1 Peter 2:21-25
- Bring every good character trait or quality you want in your children’s lives back to God in Christ. Ultimately, we don’t want our kids desiring to be like Mary or David. We want them to yearn to be made like Jesus. Every good worth imitating is seen in Him. Every sin we commit is exactly the opposite of Him and shows an actual lack of love for Him, whatever we may claim (John 14:15).
- Finally, pray God’s attributes with your kids and teach them to ask God to make them like Jesus. For example, you might pray, “Thank You God for being kind. You made us in Your image to reflect who You are. But I have not been kind all the time today. Please forgive Me and make Me kind like Jesus who died for people like me who are not always kind like You are. Amen.”