Hearts for Jesus

“My question is this . . . with four children ages 14, 12, 10 and 8, how do I get them to enjoy Christ and seek to know and serve Him? My children love to play, play, play. It sounds as though you let your kids have video entertainment when they were younger. How did you remove those things without generating resentment and envy of other families? They are very geared toward where their next fun is going to come from.” Concerned Mom

This Corner’s request was written to me from a homeschooling mom. Praise the Lord for the desire of her heart. Sadly, though, it is usually the moms who are concerned about their children’s spiritual growth as opposed to the dads (as evidenced by the fact that the moms are generally the ones asking us questions in this area). But why am I responding to a mom’s question here in a Dad’s Corner? It is because Dad is the one who was given the overall responsibility in Ephesians 6:4 for how the children are raised. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

In addition to the responsibility God has given Dad, Dad often holds the keys as to where the hearts of the children are directed. If Dad’s heart is worldly and fun-focused, then that is the likely direction the children’s hearts will be turned as well. However, if Dad’s heart is set on things above not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2), then that is where the children’s hearts will be pulled. Frankly, it is an extremely difficult battle to help the children choose the Lord over fun, but there is hope.

Let’s briefly look at Colossians 3:1-2. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). The first phrase is important to this discussion. It is a condition that if true, then the rest of verses 1 and 2 apply. Paul is saying that if a person is saved, then he is to seek things which are above. To seek means just that. It is a willful choice—a decision to desire and seek after those things that are of the Lord Jesus. They will be important to us, what we think about and pursue. Paul is not saying, if you are saved, it would be nice if you had a heart for spiritual things instead of the fun things of this world. He is saying, if we are saved, we are to seek after the things of the Lord Jesus.

What sort of things might that be? First and foremost it will be Jesus Himself. Dads, do we delight in Jesus? Do we think about Him as a bride longs to be with her new husband? Do we talk to Him in our hearts throughout the day? Do our hearts yearn to spend eternity with Jesus?

Further evidence of being risen with Christ will be a desire to be in the Word individually and as a family. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus and the Word are inseparable. We can’t love Jesus and not love His Word. Do we want to read the Bible? Do we think about the Word and how we can apply it to our lives? “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). A sign of life and health with a newborn is the appetite to drink milk. Peter is saying that just as a newborn craves milk so a believer will earnestly long for God’s Word. Those who are saved will feed on the Bible.

In raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, Romans 6:16 is important to consider. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). It is not only important to set our affections on things above but also to obey. Who are we yielding to in obedience—the flesh and the world or the Lord Jesus Christ? It isn’t enough to have warm, fuzzy thoughts of the Lord; we are to obey Him.

When we obey the Lord, He will manifest Himself to us. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). The love of Christ in our lives—Jesus’ love for us and our love for Jesus—is a result in the believer’s life when we obey Him. It is something obvious to others when they are around a person who is abiding in Christ. It is a further “Amen” to the children that Dad is walking in fellowship with his Savior. It demonstrates to the children that Dad has a real relationship with the God of creation and that the things of this world are merely chaff. When Christ is alive in Dad’s life, the family will desire Christ and things above as well.

Obeying Jesus means we won’t have time for the activities that our world is in love with and is a further demonstration of real faith in Christ. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). James is using incredibly strong language to tell us that born again believers’ lives will be different from those of the world.

Now with that groundwork validating the need to remove unprofitable, fun things, and the need for Dad to lead, let’s turn back to the question. “How did you remove those things without generating resentment and envying of other families?” The changes need to begin with Dad. It isn’t just an activity change but a heart change. About twenty years ago, our family of five was like most “normal” Christian families in how we spent our time. One thing we allowed our children to do was to play some carefully selected video games. (Those video games were so tame and boring compared to today’s video games that they would hardly be called video games anymore.)

As we spent more time in God’s Word, we became uncomfortable with the “beast” (TV), video games, and sports, and we realized they had to go. We spoke with the children and explained that the video games were addicting and unprofitable. We shared with them that we wanted to have family Bible time every night and for them to be productive with their time. If you have your children’s hearts, they will receive the direction change and not rebel against it. If you don’t have their hearts, then that is one more thing that needs to be addressed (For more information on keeping children’s hearts see our book called Keeping Our Children’s Hearts).

One thing that helped our children with their time usage was scheduling their time with productive activities. In addition to their school, they had chores. After they finished with their chores, there were projects and other learning activities on which they were to work. Projects are wonderful tools to teach our children worthwhile skills and are a profitable use of time. Back then, we had the boys beginning to learn both computer and building skills.

I have written several Corners on the subject of practical projects that would be helpful for learning how to use projects with your children. Here is the link to those articles.

In addition the Preparing Sons book is a good resource on productive use of time and working with your sons to instill in them a work ethic, skills, and the ability to provide for their future families.

Getting rid of the “beast” is also very helpful in weaning children off of the entertainment, “got to have fun,” addiction. With Dad leading the way, spend time together doing constructive things around the home and helping others. Often, I hear that dads feel they deserve some time to relax in front of the beast after a hard day of work, but would the Lord Jesus agree? In our society we have it easier than probably any other nation or time in history. How could we ever attempt to justify before the Lord that we dads deserve to relax? Certainly, no one could give the Lord a good reason for sitting in front of the vile programming that is broadcast these days.

If we deserve to relax, what about our wives? Isn’t it likely that many of them are working as hard or harder than we do during the day? May we dads have right thoughts and lead by being good examples. One way might be that everyone pitches in with the dinner cleanup. Then I can’t think of a better way to rest a bit and spend time profitably than to move into the living room and spend an hour or so reading the Bible and singing together. In addition to spiritual growth, over time you will find the family actually beginning to enjoy just sitting and fellowshipping amongst themselves. Then if there is still time left before bed, tackle some projects.

The Corner’s request didn’t say whether the children had made professions of faith. If they have, then what I shared is essential for their being raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If they haven’t, there is no better setting for them to be brought to a point of seeing their need of a Savior. Think about it, if they aren’t saved, what is likely better for them spiritually, the continued pursuit of fun, or being in God’s Word every night? The answer is obvious.

Is it possible the children might envy other children? I suppose so, but if Dad’s heart is turned toward the children, if he has his children’s hearts and is spending time together as a family, it is more likely others will envy his children.

May we be fathers who are leading our children in paths that will help them learn to seek what is above. We teach first and foremost by our example. I encourage you to consider well what that example is in your family. Eliminate the trivial, empty time pursuits in your home and help your children become productive. Your children will bless you for these choices in years to come.