I vividly remember the first time I laid my eyes on each of my four children, and the joy that rushed over me. Each time that joy was followed quickly by the humbling weight of responsibility. If you’re a parent, you’ve no doubt experienced the same mix of emotions. Children are beautiful gifts from God. The Lord also blesses us as parents with a charge—a stewardship—to care for them and train them up in a way that honors Him.
Over the past few days, we’ve looked at the hermeneutics of parenting—the process by which we take the truth of God from the pages of Scripture, understand it, obey it, and teach it to our children. Today, we turn our attention to that fourth step: teaching the Word. Let me encourage you not to skip the first three steps. You cannot successfully teach your children the Scripture if your heart isn’t set on the task, if you’re not rightly understanding its meaning, and if you’re not first obeying it yourself.
However, if you’re committed to those three steps, then here are a few helpful tips for teaching your children God’s Word.
Focus on Faithfulness
Teaching your kids the Word of God in a way that honors Christ means beginning with the right goal: faithfulness. Your success or failure as a parent is not determined by the behavior or results you see in your children. It is determined by your faithfulness to God’s commands for you. In his book What the Bible Says About Parenting, John MacArthur writes:
If we measure our success as parents solely by what our children become, there is no inviolable guarantee in Scripture that we will experience absolute success on those terms. Sometimes children raised in fine Christian families grow up to abandon the faith. On the other hand, the Lord graciously redeems many children whose parents are utter failures. The outcome of the child, as a factor taken by itself, is no reliable gauge of the parents’ success.
However, the true measure of success for Christian parents is the parents’ own character. To the degree that we have followed God’s design for parenting, we have succeeded as parents before God.  John MacArthur, What the Bible Says About Parenting (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 2000), 17.
Your main goal must be to teach God’s Word faithfully, not achieve certain results in your children. You cannot wield God’s Word as a behavior-control device or guilt-trip tool. You can’t measure your success by how many verses your children can quote, or how many of the commandments they obeyed today. Our chief aim should be steadfast faithfulness to what God has called us to as parents.
Evangelize Your Children
As Christians, we should always desire the salvation of the lost. This is especially true for Christian parents. We must desire that our children come to faith in Christ. Think of all the time and effort parents spend trying to make their children happy—through academic achievement, career success, financial stability, or any other good thing. Oh that we would devote that time and effort to evangelizing them!
We must be faithful to proclaim the gospel to our children. We must teach them about God’s holiness, show how their sin has violated His standards, proclaim the exclusivity of Christ as the means of salvation, and call them to repentance and faith. As John MacArthur says:
Your top-priority job as a parent, then, is to be an evangelist in your home. You need to teach your children the law of God; teach them the gospel of divine grace; show them their need for a savior; and point them to Jesus Christ as the only One who can save them. If they grow up without a keen awareness of their need for salvation, you as a parent will have failed in your primary task as their spiritual leader. What the Bible Says About Parenting, 42–43.
There is nothing more important to teach your children than the truth of the gospel.
Take All Opportunities
In order to teach your children faithfully the truth of Scripture, teach them consistently and constantly. God’s Word can’t be something your children only hear from the pastors, elders, and leaders at your church. They must hear it from you—repeatedly. Look for opportunities to teach at all times, and be diligent to take those opportunities. God calls us as parents to teach His commands diligently to our children in all circumstances (Deuteronomy 6:7).
When your child is being disrespectful, don’t settle for telling them not to talk to you “that way.” Teach them that God commands them to honor their parents and promises a blessing for obedience (Ephesians 6:1-3). When you’re watching the news, take the time to explain to your child how what they’re seeing is part of living in a fallen world. Look for opportunities to point out examples of evil and righteousness, and show your children how God’s Word can help them discern between good and evil. When time permits, don’t just give them the answer to their questions, take them into Scripture and show them God’s answer. Be diligent to look for and take opportunities to teach your children the truths of the Bible.
Emphasize the Heart
One of the greatest errors parents commonly make in teaching their children is using Scripture to simply change behavior and not their hearts. Using the Bible as a means of making your children behave only teaches them legalism. It creates little Pharisees. That kind of teaching is an utter dereliction of your duty as a parent.
Instead of trying to achieve a certain behavioral result, speak to the heart of your child’s conduct. Don’t simply tell them not to lie. Teach them why lying is a sin, help them understand why they are prone to lying, and show them how speaking the truth honors God. Don’t just teach them what the Bible says they should and shouldn’t do. Teach them what the Bible says about God, their sinful nature, and how God can transform their hearts.
Parenting is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. You will have times of great success when you’re tempted to think you have the most perfect child since Christ. There will be times when you’re discouraged and concerned the same child might just be demon possessed. Let me encourage you: God has declared the effectiveness of His Word; it will accomplish what He intends it to (Isaiah 55:11).
Do not give up. Keep teaching your children the Word, and trust the Lord with the results. As John MacArthur says, “Think of leading your children to Christ as a long-tem, full-time assignment—the most important duty God has given you as a parent.” What the Bible Says About Parenting, 48. Keep teaching your children—or anyone else you’re discipling—God’s Word. Keep pointing them to Christ. And trust Him with the results.