Don’t Forget What You Look Like!
(Teaching Children to Obey the Word of God)
By Kim Butts
This month, as we study what God says about His own Word, we will accomplish several purposes:
1. You will understand why it is important
to do the Word rather than just hear it or read it, and to teach this
principle to your children.
2. You (parents/adults) must realize that you must take the lead and be an example to children in doing the Word of God.
3. You will learn to teach your children that when they do not do the Word of God, they can be deceived, and there may be consequences for their disobedience.
4. You will learn how to help children understand that when they DO the Word, they will be blessed.
5. You will learn to help children to be aware of what they look like – teaching them to ask, "Do I DO what God’s Word says so that I look like Jesus to others?"
6. You will learn how to pray the Word of God into your children, and how to teach them to pray for themselves – that they would DO the Word of God!
James 1:22-25 says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does."
The Scripture says two things very clearly:
1. If we do not do what the Word of God says, we run the risk of being deceived by the enemy, and forgetting what we look like. We are made in the image of God – and we are to look like Him. What do your children look like to others? Do they reflect the culture in which they live, or do they look like Jesus Christ? Have they learned to do the Word of God or are they being deceived? Parents – are you actively doing the Word of God so that your children can follow your example?
Others are always watching to see what Christians look like. It is important that we look like Jesus, because He is the Word of God made flesh. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14)
If we intentionally and willfully disobey the Word of God, we are not only running the risk of being deceived, but there are consequences attached to our disobedience. Read with your children about Jonah (Jonah 1-2:10), who was swallowed by a big fish when he disobeyed God. Fortunately, Jonah learned his lesson, and prayed to the Lord to repent of what he had done. God gave Jonah a second chance to be obedient to His Word, and Jonah was. Because of his obedience, many evil people in the city of Nineveh turned from their sins. There are many examples in Scripture of people who foolishly disobeyed God on purpose. One who didn’t learn from his mistakes was King Saul: "But Samuel said to him, ‘I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel’" (1 Samuel 15:26)! Because Saul turned his back on God’s Word, the Lord removed His blessing from Saul and gave it to David: "Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse" (1 Chronicles 10:13-14).
2. If we do not forget what we have heard, and do what it says, we will be blessed. "If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God" (Deuteronomy 28:1-2). In Deuteronomy 28:1-14, God shares with us what His blessings will be for those who fully obey Him and carefully follow all his commands. Some of them are:
•You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
Clearly God wishes to bless those who are faithful to do what He asks. It doesn’t make much sense to read instructions and not follow them. Yet, many of us do this every day. Do you want your children to see the face of Jesus when they look in the mirror of God’s Word? If that is who they see, they will never forget what they look like! If everything we do and say is a reflection of the Word of God (Jesus Christ), we will look good to others. If, however, we do not reflect Christ, we cannot expect others to be interested in who Jesus is.
Help children to see the blessings of God as they are obedient to His Word. Remind them that being obedient to God doesn’t always mean that they will receive blessings from other people. Sometimes it means they will be made fun of or persecuted for doing the right thing. So, they must look to God’s blessings rather than man’s. Teach them Luke 11:28: "...Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it."
Another way the Lord blesses when we are obedient to His Word, is through His promises. A good example is John 15:7-8, which says, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
Jesus prayed for God’s blessings on behalf of His disciples, who had been obedient to the Word. "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word" (John 17:6). Read John 17:6-19 with your children. Jesus asked that God would protect them from the evil one, give them joy, and sanctify them (set them apart) by the truth of His Word.
Children should always be reassured that God is in perfect control all of the time, no matter what the circumstances of our lives may bring our way. They need to know that God is faithful to keep His promises and that nothing is impossible for Him to do. Share these two Scriptures with them:
"For the word of the LORD
is right and true; he is faithful in all he does" (Psalm 33:4).
"Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: ‘I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me’" (Jeremiah 32:26-27)?
You may need to reinforce these truths when life doesn’t make sense to them.
Teach your children to "self-monitor" their behavior. Help them to quickly assess everything they do and say by asking the question: "Did I just say what Jesus would have said?" or, "Did I just do what Jesus would have done?" If they cannot answer, "Yes" to these questions, you may need to help them decide how they should have responded instead, and how they can correct the situation. A good passage for this teaching is Matthew 7:24-27 about the wise and foolish men: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." After reading this story with your children, ask them if they want to be like the wise man or the foolish man. Help them to carefully decide if what they are about to do or say is wise or foolish.
Remember, this is very difficult for children to do, and it will not be easy. Young children, especially, will make many foolish decisions, thinking they are wise ones. However, continually and patiently helping them to become aware of wise decisions, and knowing the importance of what they look like to others, will gradually result in better awareness of who they are in Jesus, and who Jesus is in them! Be sure that you apply Colossians 3:16 to yourself as you teach young ones: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." Never forget that your children are watching you to see if you are doing what you are asking them to do.
It is very important to pray for our children to be obedient to God’s Word. It is also vital to teach our children to pray for themselves that the Word of God will dwell richly in them. Here are some powerful Scriptures to use in prayer. Adapt the words to focus on the children you are praying for:
"I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word" (Psalm 119:101). Example: (Child’s prayer): "Lord, help me to keep my feet from every evil thing so that I may obey your word." (Parent’s prayer): "Lord, help my child to keep his feet from every evil path so that he may obey your word." You can do this with every Scripture to personalize it to or for your child’s use. Teach your children to pray Scripture declarations into their own lives! It is always God’s will for them, because it is HIS Word! (Declaration): "Lord, I WILL keep my feet from every evil path so that I might obey Your Word!" These statements help a child to keep focused on God’s purposes for him or her. Many of the following Scriptures are declarations already, including the example above.
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word" (Psalm 119:9). Father, help me to live according to Your Word, so that I can keep myself pure.
"I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands" (Psalm 119:10). Lord, because I seek You with all my heart, help me to always keep Your commands.
"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11). Gracious Heavenly Father, help me to hide Your Word in my heart so that I will know how to keep from sinning against You.
"I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word" (Psalm 119:16). Help me, Lord, to delight in Your decrees (commands) and to never neglect Your Word!
"You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees" (Psalm 119:68). Awesome Father, You are good, and everything You do is good. Help me to be like You and teach me Your Word.
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105). "Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me" (Psalm 119:133). Holy God, I want to obey Your Word, so would You cause Your Word to be a light to my feet and a light for my path as I walk through each day? Direct my footsteps according to Your Word and don’t let sin get the best of me!
On a regular basis, at least once a week, gather your family together around a mirror. Read the passage from James 1:22-25 and ask, "What do we look like?" Have each child and parent quietly discern whether or not he or she looks like Jesus by examining how obedient each has been to God’s Word since the last time they looked in the mirror. Give some opportunity for quiet prayer, and then pray for one another to be faithful do-ers of the Word. You will need to continually reinforce what has been learned, and be an encourager. Continue to pray that you will all follow the Word that is a lamp for your feet and a light for your paths.