It’s Sunday morning, and the pastor is on week one of a new parenting series. When the service is over, what are the first words that come to mind when you reflect on your parenting? Is it joy, success, contentment, excitement and thanksgiving? Or, maybe you walk out thinking, “Well, I’ve got this parenting thing down”?
More likely, the words that come to mind are discouragement, failure, dissatisfaction, shame, condemnation and you probably walk out thinking, “This whole parenting thing, especially discipling my kids, is just too overwhelming.”
And often, Genesis 3 rears its ugly head in conversations when the mother will tend to blame their lack of intentional family discipleship on the father and the father blames his parents for how he was (or how he was not) raised.
The fact remains that discipling our children, raising them to know Jesus Christ, is the responsibility of the parents and primarily of the father (Deut. 6:4-9; 11:18-21; Ps. 78:1-8; Eph. 6:4). Fathers, we know this, it doesn’t take long for us to be in the Christian community before we hear this call.
As is often the case in the Christian life, there is a disconnect between what we believe and how we live. It’s this disconnect that has often led to dozens of conversations with fathers that say, “I just feel like it’s too late to disciple my kids.”
If you dig deeper into that statement, what’s being said is, “It’s going to be too hard to start now, and I don’t know how to do this.”
- Yes, it is hard.
- Yes, it is going to take some work.
- Yes, there may be some lifestyle changes that need to happen.
- Yes, it will all be worth it in the end when you can stand before God knowing you gave everything you could to teach your child, no matter their age, about Jesus Christ, the gospel, and how to live a life worthy of that calling.
So, for the fathers who have teenagers, young adults or adult children and are convinced it is too late, I want to offer three reasons why it is never too late to disciple your children (and then in my next post, I'll offer three things you can start doing immediately to intentionally disciple your children).
3 reasons why it's never too late to disciple your child
#1 God’s grace can overcome years of bad habits.
When the Apostle Paul experienced the grace of God, he became a new man. In Acts 9, Paul begins to preach in the synagogue that Jesus is the Son of God and the people asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? [Jesus]” (v. 21), and it says that Paul “baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah” (v. 22).
What does that have to do with discipling your kids? Just like the Jews were baffled by the change in Paul and the teaching of Paul, your kids might be equally baffled by the changes you make to disciple them.
- What will your kids say if instead of turning on the TV after dinner you say we are going to open the Bible together and read a passage and talk about it? Baffled.
- What if instead of weighing the pros and cons of a decision based on what the world views as important—you seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance through prayer? Baffled.
- What if instead of small talk you pursued the heart of your child and asked them about how they would like to grow in their faith? Baffled.
Eventually, your children will see someone so transformed by the gospel that this will then become what they expect of you. What a testimony of God’s grace in your life that your children will get to witness as they see you take your call to disciple seriously.
#2 Someone will disciple your child. Make sure it's you.
There is always going to be someone who is willing to take up the responsibility to disciple your son or daughter at any point, and they will do it because they don't think that it’s too late. In fact, for some, it will be a welcomed challenge.
There’s always someone or something vying for our children’s attention and is more than willing to make every effort to remold and retrain their thinking. The world, the flesh, and the devil are all after our children (1 John 2:15-17).
Here’s a couple of differences that your discipleship will include versus allowing it to fall on someone or something else:
- you know the gospel is of first importance (1 Cor. 15:1-4) and that it is the power of God that brings salvation (Rom. 1:16) and
- no one else is going to love your child as you do.
The most consistent, the most loving and the most intentional voice must be yours—above and beyond all the other voices surrounding them—because your voice will be the one pointing them to Jesus over and over again.
#3 Your kids are always your kids.
As your children get older, your relationship will change, but that never changes the fact that they are your children. Our children will carry on the legacy we leave behind. Many of us we will be grandfathers, and great grandfathers (I know some of us can’t wrap our minds around that yet) and the truth is much of what we say and model—will transfer to the next generation—to our grandkids.
So what kind of legacy do we want to leave? Maybe there were years in the past where we could have done more, but now, take the years ahead and help shape your children—heart and mind—with God’s Word and see this pattern continue in the coming generations. We need to believe that God will redeem our past parenting mistakes and sins, and trust that our children will be more influenced by what we are currently doing.
Think about some of the ways you can disciple your kids now. Maybe your kids are young adults out on their own in the work world. Have you discipled them on the stewardship of their time, talent, and treasure? Maybe they have a big life decision to make like what career path to choose. Have you sat down and prayed with them for wisdom and offered insights from Scripture to help them in their decision? Are they newly married? Do you love your wife as Christ loved the church, sacrificing everything for her in front of them?
We'll explore more ways to start immediately discipling our children in the next post. But for today, know God's grace is there for the taking, you can disciple your child and your child doesn't outgrow being your child. So, it's never too late.
This is a guest post from Kyle Bjerga. Kyle serves as the Pastor of Discipleship and Family Ministries at Cityview Community Church in Elmhurst, IL. Kyle is married to Jackie and they have three boys. He is a lifelong resident of the Chicago suburbs and enjoys everything Chicago, including his beloved Cubs. He blogs regularly at More Than a Catch where he encourages fathers to be intentional in pursuing the hearts of their sons.
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