I have a friend who works in the banking industry, and as he was training I was fascinated by a particular story that he shared with me. He was sitting in the training room and his manager began to lay twenty-dollar bills on the table. As he laid them down he looked up and asked, “Which one is a counterfeit?” My friend carefully examined the bills and chose one. He chose the wrong one. The manager picked the bills up and began to teach him how to spot the counterfeit bill. This happened everyday until he could spot the counterfeit within seconds. Likewise, we must train our children so well that they can spot the counterfeit gods that our society invites them to serve within seconds. These brazen invitations to serve counterfeit gods are the reason our children need to be trained just like my friend who works in the bank.
Teach Them Diligently
These are the words of God in Deuteronomy 6:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. –Deuteronomy 6:4-9
When we think about raising children, these words from God come quickly to mind. God commands believing parents to raise their children diligently.
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
This training is a lifestyle and you must teach it to your children.
We must answer the question, “Why?” Why do we need to be teaching this to our children? It is quite simple—because as believing parents, we are the primary means of discipleship in our family. God tells us to teach our children diligently and that is exactly what we must do. Besides, as you may have figured out, this command has many practical implications for your life and your children.
God is very clear in why he commands his people to train their children up in the way they should go; because when they go into the land that he has promised them, there will be counterfeit gods and they will be tempted to go and worship them! Well, we know that the only God that must be worshipped is the Lord and he is a jealous God for his people (Deut. 6:15). He demands we worship him and him alone (Exod. 20:1-6).
My mind immediately goes to Galatians as Paul warns those believers not to turn to a “different gospel” (Gal. 1:6). Well as frankly as I can put it, believers are finding their children turning to a different gospel and falling into the temptations from its counterfeit gods because we have not followed the command from Deuteronomy 6 to diligently teach our children.
More times than not I hear parents say, “I’m just going to let my child be a child. They don’t need to worry about things like homosexuality or abortion until they’re out of college.”
This response is oblivious at best because everything that surrounds them in life pushes them to counterfeit gods and their “gospels.” Our children are pushed by the media to care more about Brady’s deflated footballs than the devaluation of human life. Their schools teach them that it’s foolish to believe in God and that only science should be trusted . I could go on and on about how our world is telling our kids to run far away from God and into a different gospel of false love and acceptance—where anything goes and God does not exist.
Three Common Counterfeit Gods
As a youth director, I regularly encounter these three counterfeit gods: the counterfeit god of choice, the counterfeit god of sex, and the counterfeit god of acceptance.
First, our children are being proselytized by the god of choice. This is the idea that they are entitled to live life the way they see fit. This counterfeit god’s gospel proclaims that how they and others choose to live their lives is no one’s business. There is no absolute truth; there are no rules for life only whatever they see as right. Jesus rebukes this counterfeit god by saying, “Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). The Word of God is the only absolute truth. The Word of God tells us what is right and points us to Jesus. Many today see the Word of God as binding them, but the Psalmist David exclaims that the Word of God makes the believer’s paths wide (Ps. 119). The Word of God is where our children will find their perfect joy and peace in this life, and ultimately, Christ prays that his people will be sanctified by it.
Second, our children are being proselytized by the god of sex. We live in a culture that glorifies sex without consequence. The television shows, the movies, and the music that surrounds our children shove a sexual lifestyle that carries no future weight in their lives. Our children see this bogus glorified lifestyle and they begin to desire to live their lives this way. This counterfeit gods gospels proclaims that they know what true love is and a rampant pornography industry says they know what sex is designed to be. Our children fall into this trap time and time again. The gospel counters this counterfeit god by reminding believers that their bodies are temples of God and that sexual immorality should not be named among believers (Eph. 5:3). Jesus is clear in his definition of marriage and beyond that definition is against the will of God (Mark 10:6-9).
Last, our children are being proselytized by the god of acceptance. As our children fall into the lies of counterfeit gods, so do their friends. As their friends begin to believe a different gospel, they proclaim the gospel of acceptance and urge our children to follow suit in esteeming the opinion and acceptance of man above the one true God. What does the true gospel proclaim? Our reward for faithfulness is in heaven (Matt. 5:12). Our children must live a life that is always ready for eternal life and able to say, “Come Lord Jesus, Come quickly, Amen” (Rev. 22).
So, as parent’s, how do we disciple our children, and stop this constant sliding into a lifestyle that is led astray by these counterfeit gods? We must teach our children that the only way to discern what is important in our world is to look at what is important to Jesus. We must teach our children how to spot counterfeit gods and different gospels.
And this must start at the home! Parents must diligently disciple their children in the faith once delivered. Parents, you spend the most time with your children and you must be intentional about raising them up in the faith so that they will not be like the house built upon the sand that falls when faced with the great storms of life (Matt. 7:24-27).
Two Means to Recognize the Counterfeits
I think we have two primary means to disciple our children:
1. Go to Church Regularly as a Family
I do not know of a better place to have your children other than in the church—where we are called to worship in the very presence of God. They will be accustomed to hearing the Word preached, the sacraments being practiced, and prayers being made. These aspects of worship are the primary ways by which our God pours out grace upon his people. Parents, why would we not want our children in church? For children to see their parents worshipping God, to see them fellowship with other believers, and to see them serve the church faithfully—there is no greater training that you can give!
If you worship God together in the church fifty times every year over the course of your child’s life, they will have heard and seen the gospel over 600 times. Don’t miss these opportunities. Families who worship in the church together help to counter the current trend in our culture because when you know what true worship looks like on Sunday, you can truly worship rightly on Monday through Saturday.
2. Worship with Your Family at Home.
Because family worship is often neglected in the church, it is a practice I’m intentional about promoting to the children and families I help shepherd. How can we obey Deuteronomy 6 without setting aside time for family worship? If your children see God being glorified in the home, if they see their parents living out their worship that takes place on Sunday morning through the rest of the week, and if they feel encouraged to live their life for Christ, they will be more prepared to boldly stand for their faith outside of the home when the time comes.
Parents, it is not good enough to live for Christ on Sunday morning and not the rest of the week because your child will grow up and do exactly the same thing. These two practices go hand-in-hand. Our worship on Sunday flows into our family worship throughout the week. We worship in our churches, the benediction is proclaimed and the service ends, and now we are sent out into the world. However, discipleship cannot end there. We must worship in our homes so that as the counterfeit gods of our culture assault our children they instinctually recall what we have diligently taught them in our churches and in our homes.
Through worshipping together on Sunday mornings and worshipping throughout the week in the home, our children will have been in the presence of God so much that they know exactly how these counterfeit gods look and their response will be to flee from them. Parents, disciple your children. Make going to church a habit and worship regularly together, in your church and in your home. Teach your children diligently. It’s vital for your family and our culture. Now the time to take Deuteronomy 6 seriously.
Matthew D. Adams is the Director of Youth and Family Ministries at First Presbyterian Church, PCA in Dillon, SC. He is currently a Master’s of Divinity student at Erskine Theological Seminary in Columbia, SC. He lives in a small town by the name of Hamer, SC and is married to Beth. Follow him on twitter @Matt_Adams90.