Throughout the Old Testament, God made it very clear: As parents, we are called to train the next generation to serve and love God. This was made evident in the fact that the Israelites were commanded to share the stories of all God had done for them in the past. They were told to re-read the Law so that the new generation would know exactly what was in it and why it was important to honor it. Parents were instructed to teach their children all they could about God and His love for them. The same is true today. It is up to us to make sure the next generation knows how much God loves them and desires to be in relationship with them.
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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. – Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)
We live in an interesting American culture. As a parent, I am constantly being told how to train up my children. From the moment I announced my first pregnancy, it seemed as if everyone around me wanted to tell me what to do and how to do it. Now, there is nothing wrong with sound advice and wisdom from others. After all, that is entirely what this post is about… giving the next generation wisdom to live by based on what we have learned in our own lives. But I’ll be honest… some of the parenting debates we have going on today are downright ridiculous!
Our culture is training a generation of parents who are afraid to discipline their children. We are even nervous about teaching our children to follow God. Let kids be who they want to be. Let them choose their own path in life. Give them lots of choices when it comes to their spirituality so that they are free to be “themselves.” While I am all for allowing my daughters to be themselves, I am not okay with teaching them that there is no such thing as absolute truth. There are many areas of life where they are free to make their own choices. But when it comes to God and His Word, what kind of parent would I be to not teach them what I know to be true?
So how do we train the next generation?
Perhaps it comes down to how we share the truth. Am I preaching at them or sharing my story? Am I forcing them to attend church without sharing why I have made that choice in my own life? Do I practice what I preach? Do they see the power of God’s love evident in my own life?
The truth is that God commanded His people in the Old Testament to speak of His power and all He had done for them. He wanted them to share their history… their amazing stories describing their own personal experiences with God. He rescued them out of slavery, parted the Red Sea, went before them into battle, and gave them victory and rest.
We often underestimate the power of our personal stories and experiences. But the truth is that these stories are what often lead us to turn our hearts towards God, understanding fully why we should.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “I’m not a parent” or “My kids are full grown and long gone.” But the truth is that God’s desire is for the older men and women to train up and build up the next generation in the Body of Christ. (Titus 2:1-8) The mature in Him all have a role to play in raising others up. In other words, you get to parent the next generation even if the “children” are not your biological descendants. This was God’s design from the beginning.
So what does this have to do with identity? In a word… everything. When it comes to my own children, it is my job as a parent to help them discover who God created them to be. The process of training them to understand their identity in Jesus is a part of my identity as a mother.
Part of YOUR identity in the body of Christ is to help train others to discover THEIR identity in Him. We all play an active role in helping people discover the truth about who they are in Christ.
For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments. – Psalm 78:5-7
When we strive to train the next generation for Christ, we are fulfilling a God-given mandate to teach others about who they are in Him.
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*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.
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