Biblical instruction is not about changing behavior, it is about heart change.
Proverbs 6:22 defines the purpose of biblical parental instruction.
When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
This passage in Proverbs is the goal of what is commanded in Deuteronomy 6:4-7. Truth is to be passed on from one heart to another heart. The goal of biblical instruction is to have your children own the truth of Scripture for themselves!
Solomon tells children that this instruction is so precious they must make it part of their inner life. Solomon is saying this truth will adorn those who hear it and live it. The end goal occurs as this instruction begins to protect those who hear it.
Yes, commands must be taught. Yes, they must be obeyed. But things must not stop here. The process is not complete until what has been taught begins to work itself back into the lives of your children. The process is complete when the truth that is learned begins to protect those who hear it. For example:
You teach your child not to lie. You help him to see that lying damages relationships and displeases God. But you will know that your teaching has taken hold when your child realizes how easy and destructive it is to lie to himself.
This is the truth that God wants you to give to your children. Your goal is to see your instruction protect your children when you are not there to observe.
Your middle-schooler will be tempted with drugs. She will be tempted with pornography on a classmate’s cell phone. These temptations can occur anywhere: at school, at church, at a home school coop group.
Your teenager will be offered sexual favors. He or she will gain peer acceptance if they will mock the rule and law of God.
The full measure of the value of your instruction will not be seen for immediately. Behavior change is only for the convenience of the moment. Heart change is for life. Anger, frustration and manipulation characterize attempts to control behavior. Pleasant words, consistent loving discipline, investing the time necessary to really know your children, loving God’s word for yourself, humility; these are the things that distinguish biblical instruction.
May your words, your instruction guide, protect and speak into the hearts of your children for decades to come!