by Luke Wayne
The Bible consistently warns us to be vigilant and on guard against false prophets, false teachers, and deceitful doctrine. This world is filled with lies that distort the scriptures, diminish the gospel, promote sins of indulgence on the one hand and of self-righteous legalism on the other. It is difficult to be a people of truth in a world of falsehood, and it is right for a man to be concerned not only for himself but also for his wife and children. The Bible does not leave us to wander in the dark, however. There are some basic steps that we can take to guard our children in their youth and to prepare them to stand firm in maturity as they grow up and leave our homes.
- Know the word. Deeply. Read it regularly. Study it thoroughly. Listen to sermons and lectures by mature Christians and read their writings to help you understand it more (though never to the neglect of reading the Scriptures themselves). Be zealously devoted to biblical truth. You can't guard your family against false teaching if you can't even guard yourself against it. Know the truth, and be able to refute error, (2 Timothy 3:13-17, Psalm 119:104-105).
- Teach your family daily from the word. Daily family devotions not only instill truth in your family by the teachings themselves, they also model the priority of the word in a visible, tangible way that children pick up on. If they see you reading the Word and if you read to them from the word regularly, they are FAR more likely to spend time reading the word themselves. Not only does research confirm this, it's also just plain common sense. And just as you cannot guard yourself or your family if you are not mature in the word, your family will never learn to defend themselves against such errors if they are not immersed in the word. Immerse them in it, (Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs 22:6, Deuteronomy 4:10, Deuteronomy 6:20-25).
- As your children get old enough to understand, make them aware of some of the major false teachings that are out there, and show them how those teachings fall short of the true, biblical gospel. Not only will this help prepare them to deal with these false teachings, it will also clarify what the true gospel IS by comparing it to what it is NOT, (2 Peter 2:1-3, Jude 3-4, Matthew 7:15-23)
- Make sure your family is actively involved in a church community. Don't just "go to church", but be a vital part of that church and let that church be a central part of your family's life. Often false teachings are appealing because the people who believe them SEEM to live in meaningful community while Christians all too often appear individualistic and self-focused. If we give our children nothing more than a slightly cleaned up and "Jesusy" version of the typical materialistic, self-centered American life, we should not be surprised when they find this empty and start looking to false religions or even cults trying to find what our watered down American Christianity is missing. Give them a community and an example of a selfless life that is truly different from the world and they are far less likely to be tempted by a counterfeit. Plus, it will surround them with other mature Christians who can help them with their struggles and questions. The influence of mature Christian leaders and the unity of the local church are biblical means of protecting us and our families from the changing winds of false doctrine, (Ephesians 4:11-16).
- Don't voluntarily turn your children over to false teachers. This seems like a no-brainer, but somehow we often allow false teachers into our families lives without even thinking about it. When it comes to choosing our children's schooling, for example, we ignore this common sense principle and often allow our children to be subject to curriculum that is outright hostile to the gospel for eight hours a day, five days a week. We can't dream of countering that level of influence on our children. Take very seriously what your children are being taught and who is teaching them, and take responsibility. A "good education", from an eternal standpoint, is one that is first and foremost concerned with faith and godliness. We have to guard our children from false teachings in ALL areas of life, not just on Sunday mornings or when certain kinds of people knock on the door. Jesus Himself taught that a student becomes like their teacher, (Luke 6:40).
This is not a magic formula that guarantees that every child will grow up to be a faithful Christian. We cannot ultimately force our children to choose Christ or to hold fast to truth. It is God who saves, not our efforts. That applies both to our own salvation and to the salvation of our children. Pray for your children constantly. Cry out to our sovereign God on their behalf and trust Him to do what we cannot and to make up for our failings in His infinite strength. Nevertheless, we do have a responsibility before God to teach our families the truth and to prepare them to recognize and avoid the lies and temptations of the world and the evil one.
"You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen," (2 Peter 3:16-18).