Four Truths for Your Family

Formative Instruction

I recently had the opportunity to do a radio interview with Tedd Tripp. I asked Tedd what four truths he considers most vital for Christian families to embrace in their parenting. Given that Tedd has become a recognized and trusted authority on the subject of training children, his insights are worth thinking about. In today’s post we will consider the first of these four truths–the importance of formative instruction.

Children are impacted by everything you do as a parent. Sometimes this is good and sometimes this is not so good. This fact is important for parents to grasp. Every moment is a teachable moment. The question, then, must be what is it that you, as a parent, are teaching? Your responses to the daily events of life are formative for your children. God designed us to learn by example (Philippians 4:9), and your children learn by your example.

Your goal, of course, is to have the examples that your children follow be ones that lead them to Christ and his ways. This is where Tedd’s emphasis comes in. To honor God in your parenting you must be conscious of the importance of formative instruction. Your children live in a culture that sees God (if he exists at all) as the servant of man’s psychological needs. This cultural perspective is one powerful formative influence in the lives of your children. To counter this influence, you must consciously oppose the culture of the world with your own formative instruction. Tedd turns to Deuteronomy 6 to explain this, but the portion of the chapter he turns to is, perhaps, unfamiliar to many parents. Look at verses 20-25 of this chapter with me:

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the
stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?”  21
tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out
of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous
signs and wonders–great and terrible–upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole
household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and
give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. 24 The
LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so
that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25
And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has
commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

Essentially the child is asking what is the point of obeying God? This question is natural. It is also a question that every child has, whether he articulates it or not. Why? Because children are born with hearts that question God’s ways. Our children are born in rebellion to God (Eph. 2:1-3). Like Eve, they question the goodness and intentions of God and his word. Moses instructs parents to tell their children the reasons for following God, but the commands and directives of God do not exist in a vacuum. They fly in the face of the culture that you and your children inhabit–just as much as they did in the Canaanite culture that Israel was facing. Therefore, Tedd urges you to grasp the significance of giving your children formative instruction. God has reasons for his laws and ways. Ultimately, following in the way of God will result in good for children. That is the point of their obedience to your instruction. The apostle Paul echoes these very words in Ephesians 6:3. Are Moses and Paul advocating salvation by works? Not at all. But what Tedd wants parents to see is that they must be consciously aggressive in presenting God’s truth to children. This does not mean just enforcing a set of rules. Rather, as Moses indicates, this instruction is to be from the heart, not just rote commands (Isaiah 29:13). Deep appreciation for God’s commands motivates the teaching in Deuteronomy 6:20-25. There is deep spiritual concern for the wellbeing of the child receiving the formative instruction.

In the busyness of life it is vital to remember that your words are formative. Your words do teach about your view of God and your opinions of how God runs his world. So, this first truth that Tedd desires for parents to embrace is one that recognizes the awesome formative impact that parents have in teaching their children. It also recognizes that this instruction is given in a cultural environment that is hostile to the gospel. So, formative instruction that depends on the words of Scripture, penned by the Holy Spirit, is an essential component of parenting for the glory of God.

In the next post we will look at some practical examples of what this formative instruction looks like. In the meantime give this some thought. This blog is the perfect  opportunity to ask questions and clarify any issues come to mind as you consider these things.

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