Deuteronomy 6:5-7, 20-25 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 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…
20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
In the past year and a half, I have made several posts here at Voices concerning the need and the nature of discipleship. Recently, through teaching and example, I have moved some in my church to embrace spiritual mentoring as described in Titus 2—that the older men should train the younger men in life and godliness and the older women should do the same with the younger women. We have a group of about twelve people who signed up to be mentors and/or mentees (I must confess I didn’t even realize “mentee” was a word until I read Dr. Chuck Lawless’ recently release Mentor—How Along-the-Way Discipleship Will Change Your Life, a book which I will happily plug for LifeWay; oh, and until I saw it in the dictionary I thought he made up the word! J ).
The title of this post is one thing in my initial training materials I didn’t include, but would certainly add if I had it to do again. If we’re going to talk about discipleship, absolutely we must have older men and women training younger men and women who are not in their “homes.” Discipleship is about growing the spiritual family and building a community of faith.
Yet, Christian homes are also the seedbed for discipleship.
If I mention the word “Deuteronomy” some people respond, “Oh, that’s one of those boring Old Testament books that really doesn’t have much to do with my life.” Wrong! Deuteronomy is one of those 39 exciting Old Testament books that are very relevant to our lives as Christians. In Ephesians 6:4 Paul tells fathers to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. And in my personal opinion, Deuteronomy (especially chapter 6) provides us one of the best explanations of what this looks like.
The Greatest Commandment, Jesus tells us, begins with Deuteronomy 6:5—love God with the whole of our beings, and then immediately after that, “These words I command you will be on your heart and you will teach them diligently/faithfully to your children.” In part, we show our love to God by teaching his word to our progeny.
And notice what Moses says—talk about God’s words and commands when you sit in your house, walk by the way, lie down, and rise. In case you missed it, that pretty much covers every avenue of life in the time that you spend as a family. Moses later says, when your kids ask you, “What does all this stuff we do mean” (which in our context would include church, Bible study, prayer, fellowship, giving, etc.) you tell them “God saved us and commanded us to obey”—it’s the Gospel story…
But what does home discipleship require?
First, intentionality. You must be intentional. In talking with one father recently, he told me that he’s always open and available for his kids to talk to him about anything. “Well that’s good,” I said. “But, how proactive are you in talking to them about different aspects of life and faith?” “Not very,” came the reply. It’s great to be open and available rather than closed and unavailable, but teenagers especially don’t tend to be all that open about talking to you unless you go at them with a crowbar (metaphorically speaking, that is!). To disciple your children you have to put the effort forward.
Second, sacrifice of time. We have a plague in America. It’s called sports and school activities, and for some of us church activities. We are so busy doing doing doing, even what seems like helpful and useful things that we miss the “good part.” Read Luke 10:38-42… we’re a bunch of Marthas when we should be Marys instead. (Or for you dudes who don’t want to be compared to a Martha or Mary, call them Marty and Mark…)
If your children want to play sports or do scouts or be a part of the glee club or whatever—great. But if all you ever do is run your scouts between basketball practice and choir rehearsal then you need to rethink your priorities. Maybe it means your children don’t get to do everything they want to do—so be it. Maybe it means you don’t get to live out your dreams of being a High School sports star through your children—great, that’s kind of deluded anyway. Maybe it means your little boy doesn’t grow up to be the next Michael Jordan—well, what’s more important: the eternal state of his soul or having a line of Nike shoes named after him?
Time is a necessity, but time can also be a killer when we misuse it. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time because the days are evil.”
Are you making the most of your time?
And we can fall into the church trap as well. Yes, we must gather together regularly for worship, fellowship, and encouragement. Yes, we must find out which part of the body we are (which gifts we have) and put those gifts to use in serving others. But if your days are spent running from church activity to activity and serving on committee after committee and not actually living out the word, especially in front of your children, then you are doing too much and need to step back.
Life is but a vapor, time is precious, don’t waste it, but instead make sacrificial efforts to spend time with your spouse and children.
Third, prayer. Pray for your spouse, pray for your kids…and, pray with them! When the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, we know that we can never pray enough. And most of us don’t pray anywhere near the amount that we could. When the Twelve were with Jesus, they reached a point (Luke 11:1) where they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.” What better way to teach your children how to pray than to pray with them? And let’s move beyond the “Good food, good meat, good God, let’s eat” prayers of the dinner table, if we even still have dinner at a table. Say a prayer with them before you send them off to school. Say a prayer with them after they return and you ask them about their day. Say a prayer with them before bed…before you go to worship as a part of church…before you go on a trip…before they go out with their friends, etc.
The same father I mentioned earlier also has a job that keeps him on the road and out of the house at least three days a week. One of my recommendations to him was to call or text his kids to let them know he’s praying for them and to ask them if they have any prayer needs.
These prayers don’t have to be hour long contemplative moments where everyone has their heads bowed and eyes closed. They can be quick prayers of thanksgiving, prayers for safety and wisdom, or prayers of confession as needed. And really, isn’t that a practical part of pray without ceasing?
Fourth, Bible devotion. Spend time each day as a family where you sit down and read the Bible together. Rotate each day who reads, and then spend a few moments talking about what it means. These don’t have to all be deep exegetical studies about the use of the word “holy” in Leviticus either.
Use it as a devotional time. Read a passage or a chapter, and ask some questions of it, like: What does this say about God? His nature? His character? What does this say to us?
In finding out ways to apply it, I like an acrostic I learned from someone in the Navigators ministry a decade or so ago… Is there a/an:
Sin I need to confess?
Promise I can keep?
Attitude I need to change?
Command I need to obey?
Error I need to avoid?
SPACE out with your kids.
Finally, worship. Yes, Bible study and prayers are a part of worship, but what are some other things you can do? You can sing hymns and praise songs. You or your children can share poems about God they have written. You can talk about giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering and what it goes for, then use this time to set aside money from the family to give at church worship on Sunday. You can recite catechisms, or read a good Christian book together, or plan a service project, or…there’s a lot of possibilities. But worship together as a family as well.
Discipleship begins at home—disciple your children and grandchildren in the hopes of leaving a lasting legacy of godliness.