As an average Christian parent, with more screw ups than I dare mention, the words “Who am I kidding?” quickly swirl around in my mind when I consider the task of passing a Christ centered theological heritage on to my kids. Then once I start remembering how many family devotions I’ve skipped or forgotten, it doesn’t take long for a cloud of self-pity to form and discouragement to set in. The lies of the enemy quickly follow:
You’re no theologian.
You don’t know what to say.
You don’t know where to begin.
When you try to talk about God, it all sounds so boring.
You can’t even remember what the Sunday sermon was about.
But, through the years, as my children have grown older, I’ve come to learn that God has worked through my weakest efforts, in spite of my failures. Passing the truth of Christ and his redemptive work on to our kids doesn’t require a super-parent, just a powerful God. The Holy Spirit is with us on the job to empower the feeblest attempts at passing on gospel truth. The work of opening blinded eyes, unstopping the ears of the deaf, and proclaiming the good news to the poor doesn’t depend on a catchy phrase or presentation, it depends on God’s power. It was that way when Christ walked the earth and it is still so today. Remember our role in passing on the truth of Christ to our children is like that of the farmer, we plant, we water, but only God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7). When God open’s our children’s eyes to the truth of his Word, they become hungry for more. Until that moment we keep sharing truth; planting the seeds of faith.
Remember when Peter and John (both average guys) defended themselves before the High Priest in Acts chapter 4? The religious rulers could tell they were common uneducated men (Acts 4:13), but God worked through them nonetheless. Similarly, Paul said that he did not come with eloquent speech or wisdom.
So what did Peter and Paul share that made the difference? —They shared the fundamental truth of the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:1-2) and the Spirit of God made it come alive. As parents, if we simply remember the power is in the message and not in the messenger, we wouldn’t get so discouraged when we look in the mirror.
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul is seeking to encourage Timothy regarding this power of the Scriptures to affect and transform lives. He said,
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV)
But there is a subtle connection to Timothy’s past in the preceding verses that carries with it a tremendous encouragement for parents. Paul says,
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14–15 ESV)
How does Paul illustrate his point in order to prove his case to Timothy? The answer is found in these words: “And how from childhood you’ve been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise.” What is exciting about Paul’s exhortation is that the transformative effect upon Timothy’s life did not come from his parent’s skill (likely his mother Eunice, 2 Timothy 1:5) but from the powerful message that she shared. Notice in Paul’s exhortation that it is the “sacred writings” that are able to make him “wise for salvation through faith,” not the effectiveness of their presentation.
So, mom and dad, you do not need to become a trained theologian to pass on your faith. It is not about how powerfully you share, but about the powerful message that you share. Pick up a good study Bible and read through one of the four gospels with your family. Drop down and read the footnotes that help explain the verses you read and then sit back and watch God work. Our simple efforts in passing on our faith are like the trickle of a mountain stream; while it is pretty unimpressive, it can wear a hole in the toughest rock over time.
Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he’s served on the pastoral staff for 28 years. Marty also serves as the Executive Editor for Children’s Resources for New Growth Press, and is the author of many titles, including The Ology, a systematic theology for grade school children. He will be leading “Teaching Theology in the Family” at the 2017 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders (January 30-February 1, 2016).