Covenant Succession
Transferring Godly Convictions to Our Children

"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." Deuteronomy 6:6

There are few greater joys for a Christian parent than to see a child respond to God's saving grace and to watch the child begin the walk of God's calling in his life. As a father, this joy is mixed with a serious sense of responsibility. A responsibility that is charged to every one of us as parents by God. A responsibility to effectually transfer the convictions God has planted in us to our children such that those convictions become an inheritance, the property, of our children. This is the essence of covenant succession.

The alternative to covenant succession is all too well known in Christian circles. How many times must it be told of a minister's child who left home and "sowed wild oats" away from the "oppressively Christian home" he was raised in? Such behavior seems just as often to occur while the child lives in the home of the minister. The fact is, though, that this type of behavior is far from the exclusive right of preacher kids. I suspect that many of you reading this article can identify with this type of behavior whether personally as a young person growing up yourself or, perhaps, even with your own children.

Then, after time, after many mistakes, after many hard lessons, as if God says, "Enough of this foolishness!", He breaks us, calling us back to submission to Him. I was one of those people. Some repent and submit to God's call; others go on in their life of rebellion. I pray that you are determined to change this trend within the generation you are now raising. That we would be determined to raise a generation that walks holy and blameless with our God ALL the days of their life. That is the purpose of this article.

SUCCESSIONAL BUILDING BLOCKS

Each generation of Christians face two basic alternatives as they seek to glorify God in this life. They will respond to the calling of God and implement the practical applications of walking with God 1) while either ignoring or without the benefit of an immediate Christian family heritage, or 2) that are learned and supported from an immediate Christian family heritage. To say it another way, one could say there are three kinds of Christians: 1) One who has no previous or immediate Christian family heritage (1st generation Christian by design), 2) One who ignores a Christian family heritage (1st generation Christian by choice), and 3) One who acknowledges and builds upon a Christian family heritage (multi-generation Christian). None of the choices above are particularly bad in of themselves, but if you had your choice of any of them for your children, which would you choose?

It is not my intention to overlook or subordinate the empowering of the Holy Spirit in the Christian's walk or God's willingness to act sovereignly in our lives or the lives of our children. I praise God that He was gracious to me in that way. While acknowledging the supernatural ability of God to intervene regardless of one's upbringing, let us examine closely the importance of effectually transferring our Christian heritage to our children as evidenced in the Bible.

It was the multi-generation kind of Christian that Paul encouraged Timothy to be, "when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and you mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also." (1 Timothy 1:5). The writer of Hebrews instills in each of us the sense of heritage that is inherent to every Christian when, after recounting the faith of the patriarchs, Moses, and others, he says, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, ... and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,..." (Hebrews 12:1). I submit to you that it is the multi-generational Christian walk that God desires for all of us. It is the multi-generational Christian walk that is to be the desire for our children and our children's children.

THE TRANSFER OF CONVICTIONS REQUIRE CONVICTIONS TO TRANSFER

The second charge by Moses to the children of Israel found in the opening passage is to "teach them [to the children]...." By necessity, one must first have something to teach before one can teach. To have something to teach requires one to first be a student. Therefore, we as parents are to be continuously teachable. We are to be good, active students of the faith. We are to avail ourselves to the many outstanding resources available to us that broaden and strengthen a Biblically based world view and Christian faith.

But it is not just intellectual knowledge that we are to accumulate and pass on to our children. The first charge by Moses is "...these words which I command you today shall be in your heart." The very first transfer of convictions must occur within ourselves; the transfer of convictions from our mind to our heart. It is within our hearts where true, unaltering, conviction lives. It is within our hearts where the passion of what we believe to be worth dying for dwells and encompasses our whole being. Moses said it this way, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." (Deut 6:5). Mark records Jesus quoting Moses, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30). There is every reason be believe that God's intent is for each of us to be wholly and totally consumed in devotion and allegiance to Him.

In spite of these commands, whole and total devotion to God finds competition from a host of other duties and pleasures that pressure each of us (and our children) for allegiance. Whole and total devotion to God doesn't mean 24 hour prayer and fasting vigils at the church alter with time between for evangelistic crusades while providing room and board for the poor of the world. Whole and total devotion to Him does mean following Him into the market place, into the judicial system, into the political "city gates", into the hospitals, orphanages, and universities. Whole and total devotion to Him means being a part of God's work in every sphere of influence He leads us to. Whole and total devotion to Him means uncompromising ethics based on God's word and the application of those ethics in the spheres of influence God has placed us in. While there, we are to teach those we find to obey everything that Jesus commanded us to obey (Matt 28:16). Whole and total devotion to Him means leading and discipling people to walk in uncompromising Biblical ethics regardless of their position or lack thereof in the kingdom of God. In short, whole and total devotion to God means having an attitude toward discipling nations in every place that God puts us.

Moreover, we are not do be wholly and totally devoted to Him by ourselves. For our children to realize the practical implications of our convictions, and therefore our faith, they must be by our side. To be an intern, you must do it with the one who is interning you, the one you are apprenticing under, the one who God has assigned as your mentor. We fathers commit a major blunder when we leave our sons at home to go to the hardware store, the gas station, the parts store, and the grocery store. It's great that we take them to mission trips to minister and witness for Jesus. That is important. But the other trips are just as important. That is where our children see us apply God's law in the everyday circumstances of life. Oh, they see it for sure; they just may not recognize it for what it is. As a matter of fact, many of us may not recognize it either. We understand the intellectual aspects of obeying civil law; we even know the practical consequences of not obeying. Yet, it is our duty to bridge the gap between the finite applications of civil law and the infinite transcendental law of God; between man's wisdom and God's omniscience; between man's fairness and God's justice. We must bridge the gap for ourselves first if we are to bridge the gap for our children.

Yet, it is just at this very spot that we parents stumble in our attempt to train our children. You see, it is very easy to train a child's intellect; it is quite a different thing to train a child's heart. Moses said, "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart." There are a lot of things we can, and we do, put in our heart. Not all of it is very good. God commands us to be passionate towards Him and His ways; His commandment, statutes, and judgements (Deut 6:1); His ethics; not our way or the way of someone else. Jesus said, "...for where your treasure is, so will be your heart." (Matt 6:21). The treasure of our heart is very evident in the way we live out our lives. What we truly love most in life will resound into the depths of our children's heart louder than any intellectual Bible teaching we might have with them. Our children know what is important to us. If it is important to us, it must be of importance. If it is not important to us the child wonders, "Why bother with it?"

THE TRANSFER OF CONVICTIONS IS NOT AUTOMATIC

The effective transfer of convictions is not likely to happen unless the parent engages the child with the specific purpose of transferring knowledge and conviction. If you don't engage the child, you can rest assured that someone else will. In fact, there is a vast array of media who will go to any length to engage your child. Parents must understand that the mediums who are engaging their children not only have an agenda, most have an agenda so radically subversive to Biblical truth and ethics so as to destroy the foundations of the family itself, were it so possible.

Therefore, time must be completely stripped away from the ungodly and anti-Christian influences that have so easily invaded our families. The time must be reallocated to the active pursuit of teaching our children Biblical academics and Biblical ethics. This is a conscious decision the parents make; not an accident; not even an alternative life style. It is the only life style option for the Christian parent. There is no room for double standards, no room for compromises, no room for split loyalties. Our children will have someone's convictions. As parents, each of us will give an account as to whose they are.

As a family begins engaging one another in reading, recreation, community projects, church care, and work, real life applications of Biblical truths materialize into training opportunities that beg the parent's attention. This is when the Bible comes to life as it is worked out in the real life situations that confront our nation, us and our children.

When the father is driving to the grocery store with Johnny, he must determine to capture the opportunities as they come to teach Johnny God's laws and God's ways. The father must converse with the child, point out events that are happening on the highway, in the store, at the check out stand, at the magazine rack, in the parking lot. Social issues of substance addictions and pornography are crying out to the Godly father to teach his child Biblically based ethics and solutions. Economic issues of taxation, inflation, scarcity of product and labor cry out as examples in need of Biblical solutions. Health issues of product identification, ingredients, pesticides, truth in labeling laws; Crime issues of theft, extortion; foreign policies regarding product safety and importing. Need I go on? These are things that the challenging parent can talk with their child as they walk the isles of the grocery store shopping.

THE TRANSFER OF CONVICTIONS REQUIRES PERSEVERANCE

Talks like the one suggested above obviously take many trips to the store over a period of many years. A single example will not sink in at one setting. They have to be repeated many times and expounded on as the child matures in wisdom. Accordingly, the parent must have a comprehensive Biblically ethical world view, a plan in effect to transfer their world view, and the determination to implement the plan at every opportunity.

Moses' instructions to the congregation was to "teach them diligently." This implies somewhat more than a casual, evening devotional time around the fireplace with the Bible. The implications are more like an absolute determination to get the job done and get it done right. It is an attitude of vigilance; one that will allow nothing to stand in the way of training our children and transferring Biblical convictions to them.

Diligence also implies longevity. The transfer of convictions, like a Godly heritage, is a continuing pursuit by the parent with the child. There is no vacation; better yet, there is no retirement. For you see,"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children." (Prov 13:22). That is not a suggestion that we are responsible to do the training of our grandchildren instead of their own parents. I am proposing that we, as future grandparents, have no business entertaining the idea that the work is done once our children are grown and out of the house. Rather, we are to see that the work has only begun.

Moses instructed the congregation to learn and teach their children,"... the commandment, ... the statutes, and judgements..." of the Lord (Deut 6:1). This is an all encompassing charge of instruction. Diligence in teaching our children therefore includes scope; we are to teach them "...ALL things that I have commanded you..." (Matt 28:20) and how His law-word applies to all of society. There is no segment of society that is immune to God's law and no segment of God's law that is not applicable to His created order. To suggest that parts of God's word is irrelevant to today's culture or circumstances, that some parts have no practical application to the ethical decisions of today is to deny the ever and always presence of God before, during, and after His creation.

CONCLUSION

The world looks at us and scoffs, "They're cute now, but just wait until they're teenagers. Maybe you'll be able to weather the storm until they're old enough to leave home." To the world, time is an enemy. In time their children grow into teenagers, in time they leave home, in time death sends them to the judgement bench of God. To the Christian, time is an ally, not an enemy. God uses time to mature His people, to mature His Church, to ready His people into His Kingdom. Resourcefully used, time will distinguish the children of covenant-keeping parents from the children of covenant-breaking parents. Be assured though, time is NEVER neutral.

If it is our desire to see our children walk holy and blameless with God ALL the days of their life, the time to start is now. If it is our desire to see our children be used of God in spheres of influence beyond what we ever imagined, the time to start is now. If it is our desire to leave a Godly heritage not only to our children, but to our children's children, the time to start is now. I pray that these are the desires of your heart for your children and your children's children. They are for my children and their children.

 

Fortifying
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Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas
PHurdWford@AOL.com

EST. 01/01/01