The Final Challenge: Teaching Children to Live More Like Jesus

The Final Challenge: Teaching Our Children to Live More Like Jesus - Parenting Like Hannah

To 99% of the world, our homes look like Versailles!

If you and your family have been following our plan this year to live more like Jesus, you and your children may have established some new godly habits. Hopefully, they will be practiced by your children for their entire lives. There is only one more godly attribute to teach your children in the challenge.

This attribute is perhaps the toughest challenge of all. You see, Jesus was willing to sacrifice everything the world values for God and God’s plan. Think about it for a moment. Jesus (as far as we know) never owned his own home and set down roots. He never married or had children. He never had a career where he made enough money to buy anything he wanted. Although many disciples followed him for a time, when things seemed to take a turn for the worse, only a handful of people supported him as he died on the Cross.

Have you taught your children they need to be willing to give up everything for Christ? Are you willing to sacrifice worldly pleasures for God? Christianity is interesting. Although the Bible and God’s words never change, the people who interpret them do. They bring their own cultural biases into how they read the scriptures. They may even mix their own personal desires in with God’s teachings to come up with some sort of strange hybrid.

When I was little, much of the religious world was trying hard to keep Christians on the narrow road. As the world around them erupted in the turmoil of the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the answer seemed to be a very strict and narrow interpretation that basically dissolved into a list of things Christians were not supposed to do.

As a generation grew up under rules so strict, they seemed impossible to keep, the pendulum swung the other way. For the last twenty or so years, any and all “to don’t” lists were swept aside for grace. If our works couldn’t save us, then what else we did didn’t matter – grace would cover it.

The problem is neither pendulum swing was totally biblical. Paul, Peter, James and John made it abundantly clear in their letters to the early Christians that God wants us to understand and live out both grace and works. Only God’s grace can save us through baptism. Yet, the letters in the New Testament make it abundantly clear Christians are called to the highest standards of behavior. We are even to make our bodies a living sacrifice to God. (Romans 12:1-2)

So how do we teach our children to be willing to sacrifice everything for God? Here are some things you can do to begin to help your children understand the call of every Christian:

  • Teach them about forgiveness and grace on a daily basis. Kids make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes they are innocent, often they are made out of ignorance and sometimes they are because of outright rebellion. Teach your children the difference between mistakes and sins. Show them forgiveness and grace (this does not mean there are no consequences!). Tell them how God’s grace and forgiveness have blessed your life.
  • Introduce them to God’s principles and help them practice living them. Go through the New Testament and make a list of godly attributes and a list of behaviors God wants us to avoid. What are the principles behind them? How is your life richer and fuller when you obey God? What consequences have you suffered or seen others suffer when they disobey God? Share your observations with your children.
  • Take a short sacrificial challenge. Jeff Shinabarger recently wrote an interesting book, More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity. In it, he details the results of some challenges he and his wife took to understand how wealthy and blessed they really are. His research showed that if your family income is $50,000 or more a year, you are in the top 1% of the world. The challenges he undertook helped him decide how much “stuff” is really enough. Beyond that, much of what he had could be shared with those in need. Many of the challenges actually sounded fun – from seeing how many meals you could eat with just the food in your house to seeing how many days you could go without wearing the same outfit twice. Try some with your kids or make up some of your own. What excesses have you allowed to become routine? What excess is sitting in your house unused that would be gratefully used by someone else?
  • If you really want to see the big picture of how grace and works intertwine, read the New Testament as a “regular” book. How many days would it normally take you to read a book that long? How many pages of a book do you normally read at a time? Instead of breaking it down to a few verses or a few chapters a day, read the New Testament as if it were the latest book by your favorite author. Devour everything God has to say to us in those pages. I think you will find you have a new perspective when you read the Bible that way. Slower reading can help us better understand the nuances of scripture, but a quicker reading gives us a better picture of how everything fits together.

So how has your family done on the challenge this year? Don’t feel bound to a schedule or even a certain order. Go back and re-visit the challenges for the other eleven months. Work on the ones which are the hardest for you and your children. Speed up the schedule or slow it down. The important thing is that you are making a conscious effort to intentionally parent your children towards God. I would love to hear your questions or stories about the challenge this year. Did your children pick up new habits? Did you find a great activity that helped your family meet a challenge one month? Please share your experiences with us in a comment below.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)