Influencing Our Children Toward Godly Living
By Albert James Dager
The most influential environment in which your child will grow up during the most formative years of his life is, or should be, your own home.
You must ask yourself what influences there are in your home that might contribute to ungodly attitudes in your child. What television programs do you allow your children to watch? Are they violent, sexually explicit, or do they promote attitudes of disrespect and rebellion? What kind of music do you allow them to listen to? To a great extent, today’s most popular music instills aberrant attitudes toward sex, drugs and rebellion.
Some say that it is better that the kids listen and watch evil in their home than that they do it apart from the watchfulness of their parents. This is an ungodly, humanistic belief that has permeated society and has even encroached upon the church. For Christians to believe such an idea demonstrates a lack of faith. True faith in God allows that, if parents will control the environment of their home, and do all that is in their power to keep their children from evil influence, God will take care of them outside the home.
This is not to say that they may not succumb to the world’s evils, but if God’s Word is true, then Proverbs 22:6 is a promise that only those who obey can count on: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart form it.”
Prepare Yourself for Battle
You would not think of engaging in physical combat without proper training. Likewise, in the realm of spiritual warfare you must be prepared to engage the enemy – whether men, demons or Satan himself. If you expect to instill attitudes of godliness in your child, you must first recognize your own sins and failings, and take the steps necessary to correct them.
As much as in your power, you must divorce yourself from the world’s influences in your own life. How can you hope to separate your child from them if you will not separate yourself from them?
What examples do you set before your child? Do you sanction evil in your life while insisting that your child not do certain things contrary to your desires?
Do you require your child to obey the laws you lay down for his life while disobeying the laws of the land? Do you hedge on your income tax return; do you disobey traffic laws; do you neglect to tell the store clerk that he gave you back too much change? Do you denigrate authorities in your life – your boss, government, etc. – and expect your child to respect your authority? If you pursue lawless attitudes, how can you rightfully expect your child to obey you?
It is not unusual to hear Christians denigrate government authorities or candidates with whom they disagree on issues. This is an evil practice that hinders our walk with the Lord. If we believe that all authority is ordained by God, we will respect that authority regardless of how ungodly or contrary to our perception of righteousness they may be. If you denigrate any authority you undermine your own authority. We must guard our speech and speak only that which edifies. Even the most ungodly in authority must not be spoken evil of, although we are permitted to address issues in a humble spirit.
In what other areas may your child perceive hypocrisy? Is the secular music you listen to perhaps a little mellower, but no more godly in its messages than those your child listens to?
A parent may insist that the only music allowed in the home is country-western, some mild rock, or even classical. But their child perceives that that has nothing to do with godliness. Why should their parents listen to country-western or rock music that is just as ungodly in its messages and deny the child the opportunity to listen to his own music? Are the television programs you watch conducive to godliness in your own life? After shooing the kids off to bed, do you watch programming designed for more “mature” audiences?
Do you believe that movies rated “R” or “PG-13” are all right for you, but your children must not see anything worse than “PG”?
You may be trying to do what is right for your children, but they are very capable of perceiving hypocrisy.
Did Jesus not say that if we would enter into the Kingdom of Heaven we must become as little children? The world has convinced Christians that certain evils are all right for their entertainment if they have reached a certain age, but must be withheld if they are too young. The reason for this paradox is that evil is equated with “maturity” and innocence is equated with “immaturity.” As a result, children are striving to attain what they have been told are the evidences of maturity.
In point of fact, however, God’s standard is just the opposite. Those who are mature in Christ shun the evil of the world. Parents who expect their children to refrain from evil must keep themselves from that evil as well.
David said, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me” (Psa. 101:3).
How many wicked things come before our eyes, not because they catch us unaware, but because we purposefully set them there? If we enjoy the evil portrayed on the television or movie screen, we are guilty of that evil in our hearts. How then can parents expect God to honor their prayers for their children if they cleave to that evil?
Breastplate of Righteousness
It is not enough that we clothe ourselves with the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth and gospel of peace. We may have salvation; we may know the truth to the fullest extent; we may proclaim the Gospel wherever we go, and be engaged in a mighty ministry to the lost. But Paul exhorts us to put on the whole armor of God, which includes the breastplate of righteousness. The first ministry of every parent is to his children.
It may be argued that we have the righteousness of Christ; our own righteousness counts for nothing. This is only partly true. Our own righteousness counts for nothing in terms of our salvation; but in terms of our warfare, our righteousness is an important element. It is our own righteousness in obeying God’s Word that makes up that element of our armor, and demonstrates that we truly are in the Faith.
What is the purpose of the armor? To enable us to wage successful warfare “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).
This has nothing to do with what is lawful for us as Christians. It may be that something we hold dear is completely lawful for us. But it may be a stumbling block to others. Parents may be holding to things that are not necessarily sinful, but may be stumbling blocks to their children.
It may be difficult for some to swallow, but if they will examine their own lives and the examples they set for their children, they will discover that they are one of their children’s worst enemies. Yet harping on righteousness has little effect without examples. It is wisdom to present for children positive examples of godliness that they can emulate. Proverbs 13:20 states that “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”
If parents will establish a righteous standard for themselves as well as for their children, at least the children will not perceive hypocrisy on the part of their parents.
Yes, this may mean sacrifices. It may mean giving up your favorite music, or movie star; it may mean giving up any number of things your child should not see you embracing. But that is an essence of spiritual warfare that cannot be avoided: sacrifice for the sake of those we love.
I suggest that parents discuss this with their children and let them know that they themselves are going to give up certain things in order to establish a pattern of godliness in the home. Their demands upon their children will carry far more weight if they do this. Certainly no one will be deprived of anything essential if the television set is gone, or at least tightly controlled.
Break the Habit
Christians no less than unbelievers, are addicted to today’s lifestyles. They can no more relate on a personal level with their children than they can with a stranger because, for years, the television set has been the great divider. Rather than forsake one’s favorite programming, the family is further divided by every member having his own personal set so he can watch his own thing apart from the others.
Many parents have become little more than supervisors of a way station called “home” to kids who pass through between school, club activities, youth groups and personal social outings. Those supervisors are expected to have ready for them clean beds, meals and enough financial resources to provide for whatever is required by the activities in which they are engaged.
But it is not the child’s fault as much as it is the parents’ fault. We can expect the world to treat family life with contempt; self-determination regards any attempt at discipline and control as detrimental to one’s self-esteem. But Christian parents must throw off the world’s belief system and return to God’s Word for direction on how to raise their children.
We must realize that spiritual warfare is not between two equals, but is the result of rebellion on the part of one who would like to be the equal of another. But just as God has the edge over Satan, parents, by virtue of their anointing as parents, have the edge over rebellious children, provided they act in accordance with God’s will.
Know God’s Will
In order to engage in spiritual warfare for your child, you must know God’s will – His “battle plans,” so to speak. This you will only learn by studying His Word.
Study does not consist of daily reading. It consists of diligent and consistent reading and applying of the Word. Study requires sacrifice. It requires hours of work. It requires love of the subject. But without it, you cannot hope to know what God expects of you.
This does not mean that we must read the Scriptures twenty-four hours a day. But it does mean that we must demonstrate to God our desire to know His will in order to implement it in our lives.
For example, in order to know how to raise your child, you must not only know the Scriptures that apply to that specific area, you must know the Scriptures that apply to your own life and the other relationships you have at home, work, in the church, etc. If you are not living according to His will in one area, you are hampering the other areas in which you are trying to live according to His will.
– Reprinted with permission from Media Spotlight, P.O. Box 290, Redmond, WA 98073-0290.