(Editor's Note: This blog was co-written by Wil and his wife Meeke)
One of the final directives Jesus gave to His eleven disciples is called “The Great Commission.” He said to them,
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).
We read this and at once envision a call to go to the ends of the earth and reach the lost. Unfortunately, in our zeal, we are ready to go to Africa or China while our own homes are overlooked. Is this what Jesus intended?
The Apostle Peter gives us insight into how we are to practically view our call to evangelize and disciple. At Pentecost, Peter preached a sermon. He brought understanding to what had just happened with the coming of the Holy Spirit. He preached that the promise of Christ, a mystery for millennia, had now been revealed. Considering this, those who were gathered wondered, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter told them to repent and be baptized and he reassured them that the promise is, "to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38, 39).
Somewhere along the way, we as parents began to overlook the second expected recipients of the promise – our children. God expects that we will make disciples of our children. The proliferation of the gospel calculates faithful followers of Christ, made first in our own homes. We must reclaim this as an indispensable part of The Great Commission!
Obstacles to parental discipleship abound. Among them are lack of time investment and lack of discipleship in our life. Remember, Jesus was with His disciples. He lived life with them and there arose organic opportunities for lessons about the kingdom of God. The disciples routinely asked questions of Jesus to help them understand this new life to which they were called. With this in view, living with our children must include active discipleship. We are not merely waiting for our kids to get out of line to then step in with correction. Living life with our children means they see and experience us living out authentic Christianity. As we all walk together, just as Jesus did with His disciples, we explain to them our “other” way of living. Of course, this presupposes we live peculiar or different lives from those around us.
We are not just teaching them to be good people we are teaching them to see the value of the scriptures applied to their lives. Again, this requires time and the consistent application of the scriptures to our own lives. The Bible must be the straightedge for how we live. The Word of God then becomes our first mentor. We then begin to automatically point our kids to the Word of God as sufficient. We train them to trust the reliability of the scriptures when we demonstrate relying on them. When our children display selfishness or show their natural inclination toward sin, we correct with the Word. We try to show that the Bible is confirmed true because it accurately pegs our human condition.
When one of our little image-bearers is found to constantly insert himself into the arguments of others, we don’t just tell him to mind his business or stay out of it. Rather, upon allowing him to experience how his unsolicited involvement leads to alienation, we point to the scriptures to underscore the self-evident principle: "He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears" (Proverbs 26:17). This young disciple must admit, yes this is true. Before he knew the Bible spoke about this, he experienced it. His life now bears witness that God knows us. When this becomes a pattern in discipleship, we teach our children to trust and depend on the wisdom of the Word of God. Since the Bible is true in my daily experiences shouldn’t I also trust the eternal promises contained therein?
Some parents have forsaken discipleship, believing they are ill-equipped for the job. On the contrary, it is our strong conviction that God has given parents talents and abilities that are customized for our children’s needs. Be confident in the Lord. We often see ourselves in our children and can identify their strengths and understand their flaws. This is an advantage in training! And while we mold our kids to the best of our ability, it’s important to remember that the goal is not clones of ourselves. Rather we seek to make disciples of Christ.
As Christ pointed His followers to the Father, so we point our little followers to Christ. We want our children to reach maturity in Christ whereby they are not seeking our opinion on everything. We want them to know the Son and feel confident that they can one day live apart from us and glorify God.
Reliance on the Holy Spirit is indispensable. The Spirit of God teaches us all things and brings to our remembrance the scriptures to help us in the discipleship process. Because discipleship requires time, the Holy Spirit even aids in our weariness. The Spirit enables us to bear with our children when their humanity is on full display. He reminds us that we have received grace and even stumble at times. When we stumble, we display humility, even repenting to them or in front of them. The Spirit guides us, and these moments become lessons for our children. Discipleship of our children is a massive opportunity for sanctification in our life. We can easily portray godliness to those outside of our home, but our families know if this is true. Children are the most accurate hypocrisy detectors on the market.
Love fuels our discipleship. Love of God, our children, and those with whom our children will dwell in the future drives our discipleship. Psalm 127 gives a great word picture of our role in discipling and dispatching our children. We are told that “children are a gift of the Lord.” The Psalmist continues, “the fruit of the womb is a reward.” These are good things. Who doesn’t want gifts and rewards? Many of us desire these. However, many of us want gifts and rewards without the responsibility they carry. The Psalmist includes the responsibility, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” Here, we are compared to a skilled archer and our children are our arrows. What a picture! We stand as God’s warriors equipped to battle against darkness with the children God graciously gives packed in our arsenal. Just as one would never enter a battle with dull weapons, so we must never send our kids out ill-equipped to face the culture. Discipleship sharpens them for battle. Discipleship begins at home.