Lesson 2: Foundations for Disciple-making
Good evening! And welcome back for week two! It’s good to see some new faces of people who weren’t able to be here last week! I also know that we also have some people missing this week who were here last week. So I thought this would be a good time to remind you that the notes are available online, and I will also email them to you, in case you miss a lesson.
Alright, before we get into this week’s lesson, let’s take some time to review the homework from last week. First off, did anyone have any questions on it? How many of you were able to do the homework? How many of you were able to get your spouse to join you? How many of you were able to get away on a date night in order to have this discussion? How many of you remembered to bring your lists here to class? Who had the longest list? (Ours had twenty-eight items.) Did anyone keep it to just ten? Great! Well then, let’s discuss that. What were some of the things that made it onto your list? What Scripture references did you use to back up those points? Did any of you think through where your kids are at in relation to your list?
Great! I hope that exercise was a help to you. My goal in that exercise was just to get you thinking about parenting as disciple-making and to help you get a vision for where you want your kids to be when they leave the home. That way, you can work prayerfully toward that goal.
Alright, let’s go ahead and get into our new lesson. Last week, we saw that parenting is really just a form of disciple-making. We said that the goal of parenting is to evangelize my kids and disciple them to walk with God on the path to spiritual maturity. This week, I want to take a look at a pre-requisite to disciple-making, which is that you yourself are saved and walking with God on the path to spiritual maturity! Also, I want to talk about the importance of the husband-wife relationship. Let’s start by talking about your own personal relationship with God.
In Order to Disciple Your Children, You Must Walk with God.
In Matthew 15:14, Jesus is talking to His disciples about the Pharisees. And He says this. He says, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” So what we see there is a principle. You cannot help others find their way 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 tells Timothy to “take heed to himself,” he is talking about Timothy keeping his heart and persevering in the faith. As Jude 1:21 puts it, we are to keep ourselves in the love of God. We are to stay close to Jesus. We are to walk in the Spirit. We are to guard our hearts. And what is the result of all this, according to 1 Timothy 4:16? Not only are we saved, but our hearers are saved. In the context of pastoral ministry, that means that the eternal destiny of people hangs (at least from a human perspective) on me as a pastor keeping my heart. Now, from God’s perspective, their eternal destiny is settled. He already has that all planned out. But that does not in any way diminish the cause-and-effect relationship between me keeping my heart and them getting saved or continuing in the faith, nor does it diminish my own personal responsibility to obey this command! Does that make sense? I want to make sure we are all clear on that.
What does that mean for parents? It means, parents, that the salvation and spiritual growth of your children is dependent, at least from a human perspective, on your own salvation and spiritual growth. Why? Because your ability to disciple them is rooted in your own discipleship. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 6. This is one of the most important passages in Scripture when it comes to parenting. We’ll be here often in our study. But for today, I just want you to see the hinge between verses six and seven. What has to happen before you can teach these words diligently to your children? They have to be in your own heart! And by the way, this is not just about head knowledge, because v. 5 says that we are to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength. Loving God with all of our strength implies obedience to His commands. Of course, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” So if we are going to effectively disciple our children, we must first give diligent attention to our own spiritual lives.
So let me ask you a question. Parents, how many items on the lists that you made last week are true of you? Do you see where I’m going with this? How can you expect to take your children there if you have not been there yourself? You say, “Oh no! My kids are in trouble!” Don’t fret. Just start doing the things on your list. Start by reading your Bible, praying, and attending church regularly. These are three simple things that many Christians miss. Guard your heart from worldly influences. Also, stay close to Jesus. Turn with me to John 15. I spent a long time in John 15 when we were studying through John in Sunday school, and I also did a Sunday night message on it recently. The primary command in John 15:1-11 is “abide in Christ.” In other words, “Stay very close to Jesus.” Jesus tells His disciples, “I am going away, but you will not ‘move on’ from your relationship with Me.” In fact, He tells them that their relationship with Him is and will continue to be the source of their spiritual vitality (vv. 4-5). So here it is: “If you stay close to Me, you will produce lots of fruit. If you don’t stay close to Me, you won’t produce any ” And what is this fruit? Well, according to v. 16, Jesus is talking about spiritual reproduction, because He talks about going and producing fruit. You don’t have to go anywhere to produce the fruit of the Spirit. So the principle here is that in the Christian life, being takes precedence over doing. You will not successfully make disciples unless you are first giving attention to your own discipleship.
I think this also makes sense if we just think of the fruit of the Spirit. 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? I mean, imagine that a dad makes a rule for his family, “You’re all going to be happy, or else!” Or maybe you’ve seen a mom who is trying to calm down her children. “Stay calm, honey!” Meanwhile, she’s freaking out! It just doesn’t work! It’s also very difficult to produce self-control in others without being self-controlled yourself! Our school administrator in Glendale said, “Undisciplined parents raise undisciplined children.” Why? Because they’re not disciplined enough to discipline their children, so their children turn out undisciplined!
So I hope that I’ve convinced that in order to disciple your children, you must consistently walk with God. Now, let’s talk about what this looks like, practically speaking. There’s a common phrase that is used in parenting; you fill in the blanks: “Do as I _______, not as I ________.” Does that ever work? Why not? It doesn’t work because kids are smarter than that. They know instinctively that actions speak louder than words. You can tell your kids until you are blue in the face that they should be kind to their siblings, but if you are unkind to them or to your spouse, what are they going to conclude? That kindness must not be very important. Dad’s you can tell your children to obey, but if you blatantly disobey the government, you children probably aren’t going to listen. Why? Because you’ve given them a mixed message. With your mouth, you said, “Obedience is important.” But with your actions, you’ve said, “Obedience doesn’t matter.” The same thing happens when moms refuse to submit to their husbands.
So in order to disciple your children, you must walk with God. But now I’d like to take just a minute to talk about the importance of the husband-wife relationship.
In Order to Most Effectively Disciple Your Children, You Must Be Unified with Your Spouse.
Mom and Dad Need to Be Unified in Their Own Relationship by Prioritizing Each Other above the Kids.
I think there is a reason why in both Colossians and Ephesians, Paul talks about the roles of husbands and wives before he talks about the roles of parents and children. It’s because the husband-wife relationship is primary. Biblically speaking, you are not “one flesh” with your children, but you are “one flesh” with your spouse. Paul told husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Obviously, dads are supposed to love their children as well, but not in the same way. The way God designed the family, you can have marriage without children. But you don’t have children without marriage. The marriage comes first.
If you put your spouse before your child your children, who benefits? Everyone! Including the children. Kids feel safe and secure when their parents’ relationship is strong. On the flip side, one of the worst things you can do to rock your children’s world is to get a divorce. So husbands and wives, despite the busy demands of parenting, you need to fight for time to work on your own relationship with each other. What are some ways that we as couples can invest in our relationship, despite the busy demands of life and parenting?
Mom and Dad Need to Be Unified in the Task of Parenting.
Kids are really good at playing one parent against the other, aren’t they? We as kids probably learned which parent to ask for which thing. In my family, if you want to go out with your friends and do something, ask Dad. But if you want your shirt ironed, ask Mom. But of course, kids take this to the next level, don’t they? They ask Mom for something, but then if she says “no,” they go ask Dad. And if he says, “yes,” then they go back to Mom and say, “But Dad said it was okay!” In my house growing up, doing that that was one way to get into big trouble! Because that is the child working against the fundamental unity we just talked about in order to get what he or she wants in the moment. It’s not good for Mom and Dad’s relationship, and it’s ultimately not good for the children, either!
Here’s a practical piece of advice. Let me encourage you not to contradict one another in front of the children. If you need to discuss something, go in the other room or wait till they are in bed and have the discussion. Then, come back and tell them what the two of you have decided.
Also, get alone from time to time like you hopefully did last week and strategize about how to best disciple your kids through the issues they are facing.
Of course, if the two of you disagree about how an issue is to be handled, who gets the final say? (the husband) Any questions or comments?
Now let’s take some time to answer some objections.
Objection #1: “It’s Too Late. I’ve Already Blown It, and My Kids Know It.”
Some people may feel discouraged because they think that it’s too late for them to be this kind of a parent. If that’s you, please don’t be discouraged! Instead, take the steps that God wants you to take. Of course, that starts with confessing your sins, both to God and to the person you sinned against. Sometimes, that will mean confession our sins to our children. Have you done that before? It feels a little strange for me to ask Anaya to forgive me. But I need to do that from time to time! Be humble. Admit when you were wrong. And then recommit yourself to obeying God’s commands.
It’s good for us to remember that our children already know we’re not perfect. That’s not going to come as a shock to them. It’s also good for us to remember that we’re more like our children than unlike them. We’re sinners in need of a Savior, just like they are. We aren’t here to show them how to be perfect. We are here to show them how to be growing and what to do when we fail.
What your children need to see in you is a person who is humble enough to admit his failures, confess his sins, and rise up again. I often think to myself that the different between David and Saul was not how bad each of them messed up. David sinned in some pretty horrific ways! The difference between David and Saul was that when David was confronted over his sins, he repented of them, whereas Saul argued and made excuses.
So that’s objection #1. Objection #2 has more to do with the husband-wife relationship.
Objection #2: “But My Spouse Isn’t on the Same Page.”
This is a tough one. What if my spouse isn’t saved, or what if I’m divorced? What if my husband or wife has died?” Those are all very difficult situations, and certainly your children will be affected by those circumstances, but that does not mean that they need to be victims of those circumstances. God’s grace is bigger than your circumstances.
Turn with me to 2 Timothy. Paul is once again writing to Timothy, his son in the faith, or “beloved son,” as he calls him in v. 2 (2 Tim 1:3-5). What advantages did Timothy have growing up, according to v. 5? His mother and grandmother had genuine faith. They didn’t tell Timothy, “Do as I say, not as I do.” They lived out heir beliefs. And that must have made a profound impression on Timothy, or else Paul would not have referred to it here. But then let me ask you this: what disadvantages did Timothy have growing up? Where was his father? Turn over to Acts 16:1. So Timothy’s mother was a believing Jew, but his father was a Gentile. The implication based upon this verse and 2 Timothy 1:5 was that Timothy’s father was an unbeliever, and we have no indication that he ever got saved.
The apostle Paul refers to the impact that just one believing parent can have on his or her children when he says in 1 Corinthians 7:14, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.” Now, we won’t get into detail as far as what it means for the children to be holy; but suffice to it to say that the word “holy” has the idea of “set apart” and that the children of even one believing spouse are set apart in a way that is different than children of unsaved parents. That doesn’t mean that they are automatically saved, but they are certainly better off.
All that to say that if your spouse isn’t saved or isn’t on the same page with you, don’t fret and don’t give up! What you need to do is just focus on yourself. You do your best to love God, love your spouse, and disciple, and then leave the rest to God.
Also, it is probably worth saying that in a situation like that, the church is especially important. Godly men and women in the church can help to compensate for what your children may or may not be getting at home. So make a point to involve yourself in the local church. Are there any questions or comments on that?
- In what ways did your parents’ modeling shape you as an individual?
- How can a busy parent make time for devotions?
- What mixed signals do you send to your children? For instance, “Church is our priority” (but you stay up late every Saturday night having fun) or “Don’t lay up treasure on earth”/”Look what I bought you!”
- What happens when a couple prioritizes their children above their marriage?
- What is one thing you’ve had to confess to your children?
- What is your primary take-away from lesson 1?