“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up.”
Discipleship is inseparable from the word of God. Though he doesn’t use the term “discipleship” in Deuteronomy 6, Moses describes the process of discipleship within a family. It starts with the parents, with the word of God on their hearts. The simple fact is that you cannot pass on to your children’s hearts what is not already on your own heart.
In light of New Testament teaching, discipleship is the process through which one person influences another person to become like Christ. It is a spiritual relationship in which the student (your child) becomes like the teacher (you) (Luke 6:40). In the same way that Paul told others to “imitate me” as he modeled Christ, you are giving your child an example to follow as you “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Just as it was with Moses, the word of God is wisdom and instruction for that relationship
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), that it is not just words on a page. It pierces your child’s life physically and spiritually. More than that, though, it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Without the word of God intersecting every area of your life at home and your relationship with your children, you cannot really say that you are discipling your children. Home discipleship is the work of God’s Word in your home in and through your family. To be sure the living and active word of God is defining discipleship in your home, do these:
It is certainly good if you are committed to a family devotional time. God wants you to set aside time for him every day to read his word, talk, and pray. You need that input to be a living representative of Gods life to your children, and your children need it to be fed spiritually so they can grow into a strong relationship with God. A family devotional time is great, but even better is a family devotional life. If the only real exposure to God’s truth your child receives during the day is the few minutes you spend in a devotional time as a family, then there is very little discipleship going on. God’s model for families is a devotional life in which God’s word is discussed and applied, and God’s help is sought, at every point throughout the day and night.
In God’s design, if you are devoted to Him, then all time is devotional time. And, as a parent, you are called by God to infect your children with that devotion. That is what He meant in Deuteronomy 6:4-6, that His word is first on your heart, and then passed on to your children’s hearts. And God didn’t mean that should happen only four times a day–when you sit, walk, lie down, and rise (6:7). That phrase is a Hebrew idiom that means there is no time or place when it shouldn’t be happening! It means to do it all the time. Devotion is not just a time, it’s a life.
Most parents start off with the right desire for Bible study (“I want my children to know God’s Word”), but they inadvertently set the wrong goal (“I need to be sure my children know all about the Bible”). While Bible knowledge is a good thing, the primary purpose of Bible study for your children is not simply to pour knowledge about the Bible into their brains. Spiritual maturity is not measured by how much a person knows about the Bible, but by how well one lives out what he knows. Facts alone will never make a person mature, not even facts about the Bible. When Paul said, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1), he was affirming that knowledge, apart from maturity, can even lead to pride.
God’s truth is found primarily in ideas that change lives, such as the law of love, not in bare facts divorced from the ideas that give them meaning. That’s why Jesus spoke so often in parables; he wanted his hearers to get the “idea.” Your real purpose in teaching your children to study the Bible is to show them that they can acquire wisdom and understanding from God’s Word for living a godly life. They need to know that God can speak to them through the words of Scripture. They need to see that God’s truth is consistent, reliable, trustworthy, effective, and makes sense. Children can learn the Bible but not love it; but they cannot love the Bible and not learn it!
Because our goal is to instill in our children a heart-deep and lasting love for the word of God, we avoid materials that would turn the “living and active” Bible into a spirit-deadening workbook exercise or academic assignment. We look for the kinds of resources that let us naturally integrate God’s Word into every part of our daily lives: family devotions, Bible reading and study, Bible memory, discussions about life and current events, disciplinary instruction, prayers, Scripture songs, history studies, doctrinal discussions, and so on. Just as we try to create a “devotional lifestyle,” we also create a “biblical lifestyle” in which the Bible is central to everything we do, everyone we meet, and every decision we make. We want our children see a Bible that intersects and brings meaning to every facet of their young lives.
Finally, we help our children take the step of taking the Bible truths they are hearing, learning and seeing and integrating them into real life … their life. If we give them a love for God’s Word but fail to show them that it makes sense and gives true meaning to their lives, then all we have done is given them a good Bible education. Until it is “living and active” in them, the goal of discipleship is not complete. We help them to see how God’s Word has changed history for the better through those who have believed it and lived by its truths and wisdom. We want them to know and understand the great ideas of life from the Bible that have given mankind freedom and dignity. We want them to know the lives of great men and women who have followed the Word. We want them to see the logic and reasonableness of a Christian worldview.
If you start with Bible devotions, Bible study, and a biblical worldview, you will be laying the foundations for a strong Christian life. Walking by faith is difficult enough; trying to walk by faith without a strong biblical foundation is just a recipe for stumbling and struggling. Prepare your children to walk by faith as disciples of Jesus–make sure the Word of God is “living and active” in your home.