Training a Child’s Heart for God

By: Karen M. Abercrombie, M.S.Mom and daughter

King Solomon wrote:

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psa. 127:3).

Training a Child’s Heart for God

This is one of my most cherished verses, which is somewhat of an anomaly, since my beloved child was adopted and was not received from my womb. She however is a gift from the Lord, nonetheless. And with any heavenly gift, we bear a great and glorious burden to honor God through our care and nurturance of this.

Recently, I was studying God’s precious Word with two young mothers. Each began to share their overwhelming concern for proper discipline and correction of their children. Both were confused, and like many others, did not understand God’s emphasis upon the heart and character development over behavioral control and compliance.

God does require parents to discipline our children both as an expression of our obedience to His structure for the home, and as an expression of our love for His creations. But as we discipline our children we must not only deal with the outward behavior through the administration of rules and expectations but we must also address the heart condition that ultimately is the source of the problem behavior.

All humans, even our precious children, are born with a sinful nature. And while this nature is expressed though behavior (disobedience, angry outburst, lying, etc.), the behavior is simply an expression of what is natural to the human heart which will require training and godly transformation if the behavior is to modify.

Jesus taught:

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man”
(Mark 7:21-23).

While Scripture instructs children to “honor and obey” their parents (Ex 20:12, Eph 6:1), honor, and obedience comes with an expiration date unless the child sees his/her compliance in godly terms. Put another way, children are to follow these mandates because they are required by the Lord and are pleasing in His sight. Paul wrote:

“Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Col 3:20).

Obedience to parents and obedience to God are synonymous. And while young children may not yet have awareness of God, parents must teach the line of accountability begins with Him first. We must teach our children that God desires and commands us to love Him first and a way we express our love for God is through our obedience to His Word.

So how do children come to understand this? Before there can be conviction, there must be knowledge. Knowledge is taught through the activity and life of the parent and the Lord’s instruction is clear:

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up”
(Deut 6:6-7).

We must help our children learn Scripture. It isn’t enough just to let our churches through Sunday school or other programs teach our children. God clearly states it is primarily the father’s responsibility to train up the child:

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

But mothers also have a requirement:

“My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck”
(Prov. 1:8-9)

We need to teach our children how the Holy Spirit works through Scripture to lives for Him.

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

A simple way to begin teaching children at home is to individualize a Scripture Box. This should be a fun activity you can do as a family. Each child should have his/her own box. The box should be large enough to hold many small or large index cards. Allow each child to decorate the outside of the box to his/her pleasing.

Then explain to the children that this is a very special box that is going to help them learn about God and how to please God. Each time a child is disobedient a parent will go to the child’s box and take out a blank index card. Then if the child is old enough, have them write what happened, and what God thinks of it according to Scripture on the index card. Be sure to put the date on each entry. They can see their progress or lack of progress.

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil…” (1 Cor. 13:4-5).

You may have to take the child to the Bible, and look up what God has to say about the offense (sin) before they can write it on the index card. But be sure to let them see what you are doing so they can eventually look it up on their own.

Remember also, preschool children can learn. The parent will have to write and teach the Scripture to him/her. Have the child repeat what you write down. You should go slowly and help the child understand without being inpatient or angry. Ask the child to tell you what God’s Word is saying. If he/she does not understand then simply repeat the Scripture very slowly. Only this time ask after each sentence if he/she understands. This will be a time of processing the disobedience (sin) and God’s reaction to sin.

Children need to be taught the consequences for disobediences (sin) and that all sin is first against God. They need to understand how sin separates them from God:

“Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear”
(Isa. 59:1-2).

Now we definitely will have repeat offenders. Don’t we all continue to sin after knowing the TRUTH. Each act of disobedience can become another opportunity to teach your child God’s requirements of him/her. This should be done very lovingly but with a tenacious attitude. Be sure to mark the index card as a repeat, so they can watch their progress or lack of progress.

Don’t forget to remind your child of God’s love for them and how Jesus gave His life for each of us so we could have ever lasting life with Him. And most importantly is that we as parents are that example God calls us to be in our own life, demonstrating our love and obedience to GOD. Let the children see the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Our children need to see a Spirit-filled life lived out right before their very eyes. Parents are a child’s first representation of Christ. We must never forget the commission we are given to protect, train, and motivate our children toward a relationship with the Eternal Savior.

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