Colossal images of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln tower above tourists in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Known as Mount Rushmore, it was shaped by 400 men and women over 14 long years. Their work was treacherous; they often risked their lives. But by using chisels and dynamite, they transformed granite into something far bigger than life.

In a sense, parents today are chisels in the hand of God, shaping their children into the likeness of Jesus Christ. The Bible is filled with God’s expectations for parents, beginning in Genesis 18:19, “… that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD …”

And Deuteronomy 6:4-7 tells parents to diligently teach their children the ways of God. “You shall talk of them when you sit in your house,” it says, “and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

In other words, intentional discipleship—deliberately pouring God’s truth into our children—is a vital aspect of parenting. Here are four reasons why this is important:

1. God commands it. Ephesians 6:4 tells us, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Also look at passages like Psalm 78:4, Joshua 24:15, Proverbs 22:6, and 2 Timothy 3:15, and see that God’s plan for children has always been that parents would be the primary disciple makers.

Church programs can certainly be helpful and beneficial. But they can’t take the place of parenting. If a child spends four hours at church a week, that still pales in comparison to the amount of time they spend with their parents.

Psalm 1:1-3 says that those who delight in the law of God and meditate on it will be blessed. But in order for your children to know the truths of Scripture, and follow its teachings, they need instruction.

So help your children understand what should be the purpose of their lives: to enjoy God and glorify Him forever. When they understand this, they can live lives that truly matter.

“Let no Christian parents fall into the delusion that Sunday school is intended to ease them of their personal duties,” said Charles Spurgeon, one of the most influential preachers of the 19th century. “The first and most natural condition of things,” he said, “is for Christian parents to train up their own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

2. If you don’t disciple your children, the world will. Each day your children are exposed to messages from our culture about how they should look, think, and act.  As they grow older, this exposure will increase. That’s why it’s important for us to be intentional in our discipleship—to help our children learn how to walk with Christ in an immoral world.

When you became a follower of Christ, God’s Word says you were transformed into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). And the gospel affects all that you are, including how you parent.

One day your children will stand before the throne of the God of the universe and give an account of their lives. So let Christ compel you to be the parent you were designed to be. Train your children in God’s ways.

Please don’t let the culture dictate to you how you should raise your children and grandchildren. A friend of mine said, “The removal of God from schools began with the removal of God from homes.”

3. Your soul needs instruction, too. Too often, instead of seeking God, we reach out to other things to worship. We look to our career, our possessions, sports, our children’s popularity and accomplishments. You weren’t made to worship these things. Instead, you were made to worship the God who created you.

As you intentionally instruct your children in the ways of Christ, your own soul will find refreshment in the truths of Scripture. As you teach, you learn. As you teach your children to worship, you worship. As they grow, you grow. And your soul needs this.

4. True followers of Jesus Christ need to fill our churches and world. People living around you need to see that you desire to worship God with every aspect of your life. And your children need to understand that the church isn’t an add-on to your family’s week, but what you schedule your week around.

Show your children tangible examples of generosity, grace, and sharing the gospel. Get them ready to be of use to the church. Pray that they will be on this side of the mission carrying the banner of Christ to places still unreached, not on the other side of the mission needing to be reached.

Rearing your children with the goal of God’s glory isn’t common. When your children’s friends come over, they need to see that your family is different. They need to see that you love Christ more than your kids’ popularity. More than gymnastics. More than sports.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,” Psalm 127:3-4 says, “the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” I love this imagery. The Bible says children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior.

That’s a manly image. Arrows. In the hands of a warrior. In a sense, God has given us this mighty weapon in children, whom we can rear and then shoot out at the forces of darkness and press them back as the kingdom of God advances.

In the classic war movie Braveheart, there is a battle scene that I’ll long remember. First, the archers let loose a barrage of arrows. And the arrows continue to come … wave after wave.

Our children are like arrows that we send into the world. So get your arrows ready.

A top priority

No matter how busy you are, make the spiritual discipleship of your children a top priority. This might mean giving up some good things for God’s best.

And know that you don’t have to be a spiritual “expert” to train your children. Just open your Bible and read it with your kids. If they have questions, point them to God’s Word and search out His truths together.

Also, lead intentional times of family devotions and prayer. Spend time two or three nights a week helping your children memorize Scripture, talking about the Bible, singing songs of the faith, and explaining the gospel and its ramifications.

May you and I strive for holiness in our families by intentionally discipling our children. By doing this, our families, churches, and communities will be affected positively for our good and for God’s glory.

Copyright © 2017 Allen S. Nelson IV. Used with permission.