As a pastor, I run across people who want their children to be spiritually-minded, loving toward their neighbors, and in love with God. These are great and noble goals for a parent to have. They are better than wanting your child to be smart, a great athlete, or the most popular. But when it comes down to it, we, as parents, invest in the lesser goals rather than the more important ones. Unwittingly, due to the pressure of society, we do this to the detriment of our children’s souls. We must remember that the most dangerous distractions are usually not the most obvious actions. Danger waits in the good things, for when we focus on them, at the exclusion of the great things, we stray off course.
We have been steered off course into thinking that the spirituality that was passed on to us will automatically transfer to our children without the investment that our parents, grandparents, neighbors, and teachers made in us. On the other hand, maybe we didn’t have a spiritual life growing up, but we want our children to. The harsh truth is that they will not be spiritually-minded unless we make the investment and model it ourselves.
God has no grandchildren. He only has children.
John wrote, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:9-13 (ESV)].
To be born of God. This is what must happen to our children for them to be called “children of God.” Total rebirth, dying to their old self, is the investment that it takes. And it starts with us. We must die to our old selves, the one where we believe that our intelligence, our sports, our cars, our house, our money, our job, and our popularity are the most important aspects to our life. We must be born of God.
Throughout history, churches have argued and fought over exactly what it takes to be born of God. I am not going to go into that here. What I want to briefly show is what your life will look like after you have been born of God.
Jesus tells a story of the final judgment in Matthew 25. In the story he talks about people who thought they were in with God. I can imagine the dire face that many scornful churchgoers will face some day. They will be like those people in Matthew 25 who are told that they do not know God because they have not fed the hungry, given water to the thirsty, helped the immigrant, given clothes to the naked, nourished the sick, and visited prisoners. On the other hand are those who do know God and done those things.
So if you want your children to be God’s children, take time out and invest in them spiritually. Take them to church with you. Study the Bible with them. Pray with them. Feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, help immigrants, give clothes away, nourish the sick, and visit prisoners with them. They won’t just learn to be God’s child through wishful thinking. It’s going to take hard work on your part. Invest in your children spiritually more than you invest in their sports, their careers, or their education. All of those things will fall in their proper place in a life that has its highest priority properly aligned.
A Swiss government study published in 2000 showed that if a mother and father go to church regularly, 74% of their children will attend church as adults, with 33% of them regularly attending. But if the mother goes without the father, only 39% of their children will attend church as adults, with only 2% of them regularly attending. Where neither father nor mother attend church, only 19% of their children will attend church, with only 4% of them regularly attending. What that tells me is that we, fathers, must step up. (from “The demographic characteristics of the linguistic and religious groups in Switzerland” by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner of the Federal Statistical Office, Neuchatel. It appears in Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31, a book titled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others, published by the Council of Europe Directorate General III, Social Cohesion, Strasbourg, January 2000.)
Now some will be thinking church attendance is irrelevant to spiritual growth. That might be true at an unhealthy church. But the writer of Hebrews wrote that the purpose of gathering together is to spur one another on toward love and good works. If that is what happens at church, which is what should be happening at church, then the church gathering together is an irreplaceable tool to encourage one another on to be who God destined for us to be.
God has no grandchildren, but he does want your grandchildren and children to be His children. This happens through parents and grandparents stepping up and being the people God wants them to be. I pray that you will find the strength to do that.