Craig Groeschel - How to Help Your Children Love God
How many of you would agree that parenting has always been difficult? Raise your hands right now. Raise 'em up. Raise 'em up. Raise 'em up. Don't point at your own child. But raise them up in the air. Online you can type in the comment section. Parenting has always been difficult. Let me ask you another question. How many of you would agree that parenting today may be more difficult than it ever has been? If you agree, raise two hands to surrender. I need help, God. You can type it in the comment section. Parenting is very, very difficult today. We have six children and we raised our kids kinda back in the good old days, literally a couple of decades ago when our kids were little, I think it was easier to raise kids back then. We home educated our kids and so they were pretty sheltered.
The biggest controversy we had two decades ago when our kids were little, maybe six and four, my two oldest daughters, my oldest daughter came running in the room and said, "Sissy said a bad word"! She was tattling on her sister for saying a bad word. I said, "What did your sister say"? And she said, "I'm not gonna tell you what the bad word was. It's too bad. You can't make me say it". "So just tell me what did the bad word, what letter did it start with"? She said, "Sissy said BS". So wow, four years old. Like, where'd she learn that? And then I thought, I better go ahead and make sure that BS means what I think it means. And so I said, why don't you go ahead and just tell me what bad word is the BS word? She said, "I'll never say it out loud". I said, just whisper it in my ear. You won't get in trouble, I promise. And so my oldest daughter whispered and said, "She said, Brittany Spears". Woo. True story.
Like I said, we parented back in the good old days when things were much simpler than they are today. We do have six grown children, four of them are married, and by the grace of God to the glory of God, all six of them and their spouses are serving Jesus faithfully in his church, worshiping God and living for Jesus. In fact, every year we do what I call a legacy trip. We bring them all, including the grandkids now on a trip. This was our trip a week ago. It was amazing. It was perfect in every way. We had spiritual time, devotional time, we had worship time. It was all centered around Jesus. It was perfect because we are the perfect Christian family. Except we're not! It was pretty amazing. And I actually was feeling rather proud of our parenting until I realized that all week long there were silos behind the scenes. And there was kinda gorilla warfare going between these two and these three and these two.
And on the last night a fight broke out that was so horrible. There were tears and there were crying, there's crying and on and on and on and on and on. And I went from thinking, we're a pretty good Christian family to wondering if any of us are really saved at all. Parenting's always been difficult, and I would argue that perhaps it's more difficult to be a child or a teenager today. And it's more difficult to parent today with the mental health issues that are impacting our children at an alarming rate. We've got nine year olds and 11 year olds that are overwhelmed with anxiety and battling depression and victims of bullying. And we've got them facing all sorts of issues years and years earlier today. At a ridiculously young age we give our children one of these devices, their own little cell phone, access to everything that they've never wanted to see and say, "Here you go. You're nine years old. Take this and have fun".
Essentially, we are giving them porn in their pocket, right? We are hurling them into the world of TikTok and Snapchat where they can learn all about gender confusion and sexual perversion and ungodly influences, on and on. And even away from those things, they have unlimited access to so much information that it stresses them almost beyond recovery. While I was a kid, I watched a documentary on killer bees, just a documentary on killer bees. I've never seen a killer bee, but I was afraid to go outside. I didn't have the emotional intelligence to decipher that they weren't in my backyard. And now we've got little kids that watch the horror of the war in the Middle East in real time on social media. And because as Christ-centered parents, we want our children to know God and to love him, we're starting a message series today. I'm calling it "Parenting on Purpose". And the title of today's message is "How to Help Your Children Love God".
So Father, we pray and we ask for the power of your Holy Spirit and the truth of your word, to empower us, not just as parents, but as a church, to disciple and nurture our children toward you. Draw us close to you first. And God, help us to show your love and share your love with all those around us. We pray in Jesus' name. And everybody said. Amen.
What we're gonna do today is we're gonna start, and I'm gonna read to you what's known as the Shema, which is found in Deuteronomy six. We're gonna look at it this week. We're gonna look at it in more detail next week. The Shema is considered the most recited, most essential prayer in Judaism that was traditionally prayed in the Old Testament by a Jewish person with their hands over their eyes. They pray it in the morning and in the evening. And it goes like this from Deuteronomy chapter six. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give to you today are to be on your hearts.
Now, how do we disciple our children? Well, we are to impress these truths on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up, Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. In other words, as parents, if we're going to parent on purpose, I would suggest to you that we won't be just what culture calls a Christian parent. Because many people today would call themselves Christians. Just because you call yourself a Christian today doesn't mean that you're truly following Jesus. I wouldn't just put an adjective on it and say, I'm just a Christian parent. 'Cause obviously, you know, I was born in the United States and I'm not a Muslim and I'm not a Hindu. So I guess I'm kind of a Christian parent.
What I would say, instead of being just a Christian parent, I want us to think of ourselves as Christ centered families. Christ centered in our parenting. You say, what's the difference? There's a lotta people that I would call casual Christians or kinda cultural Christians. You know, if things get bad, we might say a prayer. We might say a prayer over Thanksgiving. We'll go to church on Christmas and Easter and maybe if there's a family fall fest, free candy, we might be there then. And so we're kind of a Christian family. There's a difference though if you're Christ-centered. When you're Christ-centered, loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, this is your highest calling.
And it's incredibly important, indescribably important because as parents, especially in the early years of raising our kids, no one has greater influence on your children in the early years than you do. So what we want is we want God's truth on our hearts. And then we want to impress those spiritual truths on our children. How do we do it? Just kinda like the text said. We're gonna talk about these things over breakfast and we're gonna talk about them on the drive to school and we're gonna talk about them at the dinner table and we're gonna talk about them before we go to bed. When we are a Christ-centered family, God is not a part of our lives. He's not an add-on to our lives. He's not an optional feature or someone that we call whenever we're in trouble.
God is our life. And that's a big difference than being a cultural Christian. So what's gone wrong? I mean, you look at teenagers all over and they're hurting, they're afraid, they're desperate, they're depressed, they're suicidal, they're cutting, they're confused about who they are. What are we doing wrong? Well, probably a lotta things. We're gonna keep it simple this week and then add on to it next week. But I'm gonna show you three things that I think we're doing wrong and then a couple things I think we can do better. What are we doing wrong? Few things. Number one is we risk too little. Number two, we rescue too quickly. And number three, we model two weakly. Let's break these down one by one.
Number one, we risk too little. I think you would probably agree that for many families today, risk adversity and pain avoidance would be top values in parenting. We don't want our children to hurt. We don't want to have a difficult time. So we're gonna keep them as safe as possible. Now, I want you to hear my heart when I tell you, I do not wanna sound like the guy who says we walked uphill barefoot in the snow both ways. But the truth of the matter is, we did, we did. I'm kinda not joking. When I was a kid and some of you are my age, you remember on Saturday, what would your parents do? They would kick you outta the house early and they would say, "Come home when it's dark". That was it. How'd you eat? I don't know. You had to find somewhere to eat something, anything.
When you were thirsty, what did you do to get a drink? Some of you remember. You would go to your neighbor's water hose and you'd just get something to drink. Some people wouldn't even be allowed to do that. You would say, you're gonna die. You gotta have bottled water. We thought bottled water was a hoax. I'm still not sure why we pay for it. Just get a hose, right? That's how we were raised. Just be home by dark. There were rules like, don't die, don't kill anybody. Those were kinda the rules. And it's not that our parents didn't love us, they really did, but their top values weren't risk avoidance and pain avoidance. They would let us literally walk to school by yourself. That's crazy.
You would take a whole sixth grade baseball team, all of 'em, put 'em in the back of Bubba's pickup truck and drive down the highway at 75 miles an hour. No one thought anything of it. That's just what we did. There were no seat belts at the time. And I'm not telling you this is good. I'm just telling you the way it was. There were no seat belts. You'd sit in the front seat with your mom. You didn't wear a seatbelt. She didn't wear a seatbelt. Because you didn't need a seatbelt. Why? 'Cause your mama was your seatbelt. If she had to stop real fast, mama woo boom! And you weren't going nowhere 'cause no seatbelt loves you like mama loves ya. You didn't wear seat belts.
And that's how they came up with the airbag is a kid was actually riding with his grandma. And... you know how after a while these things like, the air bag. Come on, work with me. It's family fun weekend. And I'm not telling you for a minute we should go back to that. But what I will tell you is that we need to let our kids actually grow up, make 'em wear seat belts, make 'em wear helmets, but they probably don't need a helmet and knee pads to walk down the driveway to check the mail. Be careful, don't kill anybody, just check the mail. The challenge is this, in our effort to protect them from pain, we've robbed them from confidence.
You've got 20 year olds today that don't really want to drive because it seems too risky. Or 22 year olds that struggle to fill out a job application form 'cause they literally don't have the confidence to do it. I've got a friend in business that said it's not uncommon for parents to show up to interviews when a 20 something year old is trying to interview. 'cause mom and dad need to be there with them. See, not only have we robbed them from believing in themselves, but by taking away all risk, we've robbed them from putting their faith in God. And Hebrews 11:6 tells us that it is impossible to please God. Without faith you cannot please God.
We risk too little. Secondly, and I know I've been guilty of this, we rescue too quickly, right? Little Emma forgets to do her science project. And so mom stays up 'til two in the morning doing the project and then celebrates big when they win at the state fair, right? Or little Aiden forgets his jacket at school. He's all cold. So dad leaves work, goes home, gets his jacket and takes it to little Aiden. You know what our dads would do, right? "You forgot your jacket, walk home in the cold. You're not gonna forget your jacket the next time".
We actually had, I hate to tell you this, we had a staff member that's 29 years old that had a problem being late to work all the time. So we actually wrote him up. And his mom called the office to explain why he had a hard time getting to work on time. True story. He doesn't work here anymore. Neither does his mom, just so you'll know, okay? But, but what I want you to understand is that consequences make for a great teacher. If we rob them from consequences, were robbing them from great lessons. The scripture says this in Galatians 6:7, do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
When we rob our children of God's natural consequences, it's no wonder that they don't fear God. If you take away all the consequences, it's no wonder, you reap what you sow. I liken the parable of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15. You know the story. Jesus told it. There was a son who said, "Hey, forget you dad, I want my stuff now". And what did the son do? He went out and he partied hard and his life fell apart. He fell into sin. He was totally broken. And what did the loving father do? Do you remember? The loving father welcomed him back with all the love and grace possible, but the father never rescued his son. There's a big difference. Sometimes I think we get it wrong.
We risk too little. We rescue too quickly and we model too weakly. We model too weakly. And I just wanna say to the parents here, if we are not serious about our faith in Jesus, if we're not modeling a sincere pursuit of living our lives for the glory of Jesus, how can we ever expect our children to do that? If the truth isn't in our heart, how can we impress that truth on our children? Because remember when it comes to parenting again, especially in the early years, more is caught than is taught. They're watching what we do. In fact, I would remind you that your children don't just become what you say, they become what they see. They don't just become what you tell them, but they become so often what they see you doing.
And that's why as parents, one of the fastest ways to drive our children away from God is honestly just to say one thing and do something else, is to be a hypocrite. The moment we proclaim faith in Jesus and say, we're a Christian family and we don't pray and we don't tithe and we don't forgive and we don't serve anywhere in our church and we don't serve in our life, it's all about us. We say one thing and we do something else. It's no wonder our kids run from God. The fastest way to drive them away is to be hypocritical. In fact, it was Jesus who said this in Mark chapter seven, verse six. He said, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you. Don't be a hypocrite. As it's written, these people, they honor me," With what? "They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me".
Now we'll never be perfect, but if we consistently claim one thing and consistently live something else, our children will run from the things of God. We risk too little and we rescue too quickly and we model too weakly. So what can we do better to help our children love God? I'll give you a couple things today and we'll look at more in depth next week. I wanna start with what sociologists call the law of exposure. And you know what that is, the more you're around something, the more you become like it. And parenting, I would describe it this way, the law of exposure. Who and what you expose your children to will shape who they become and what they believe. Lemme say this again because this is really, really important. Who and what you expose your children to will shape who they become and what they believe.
Next week we'll talk about the who, this week I wanna talk a little bit about the what. If we consistently allow our children to be exposed to whatever it is, bad attitudes or oversexualized images or hardcore materialism or perverted thinking or prejudices or ungodly values. If we continually let them be exposed to those things or people who believe those things, it's no question why they would drift from God. You guys are being quiet. Stick with me. If we're going to parent on purpose, what do we know? What can we do? This is so important. We can't force our children to love God, but we can't expose them to the people and experiences that increase the likelihood of spiritual growth. That's good preaching. You won't say it, but I will.
I'm gonna say it again. I want you to let this sink in. We can't force them, we can't control them. We can't make them do anything at all. We can never make them love God. But we can be selective in the environments we place them in. We can expose them to the right people and the spiritual experiences that increase the likelihood of them growing in their faith in Jesus. So what experiences do we wanna expose our children to? Two today, more next week. Number one, we wanna expose our children to the joy of knowing God personally. We want them to see us know God and worship God and need God and be convicted by God and be changed by God and experience his power and experience his purpose and experience his peace in our lives.
We want them to see it so they'll also want it. We wanna expose them to the joy of being transformed by an intimate relationship with God. In fact, this is how Jesus described eternal life. It wasn't behavior, it was relationship. Jesus said, "Now this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God". So how do we do that? How do we expose them to this? I was, years ago my kids were actually on a panel and Mandy, who's my second daughter, who's married to James, who's on staff here and has one child and one on the way. Mandy was 17 at the time and they asked her, what did your parents do? What do you need to do to really know God in a personal way?
This is what Mandy said when she was 17. This was a photo from that time. She said, "You should create an environment where your kids wanna have discussions about God. So it's not something they feel they have to do, but something they want to do". I thought that was really, really powerful. You wanna create an environment where they actually want to talk about the things of God. It's not like my parents are forcing me to do this, but it's just a natural part of what we do in a Christ-centered home. So what we wanna do as a Christ-centered family is we wanna make talk about God and Jesus and faith and serving and being Christ like, we wanna make that the most normal and most common subject in our home. It's just what we talk about.
And so Amy and I intentionally tried to do this when our kids were young and it was like ridiculously small things. Stephen, we'd go out and get pizza and Amy would say, "Can you believe how the Lord has blessed us? We get pepperoni and we get extra cheese". And so they sort literally tie the blessings of God to just a family night out. A kid may get an A on a grade and instead of saying great job, we say, "Oh my gosh, you honored God in the way that you studied". And you just connect the natural part of God. They lose the big game and they're devastated. Oh, I'm so sad. But you know what? You are a great witness out there. I mean you shook hands and you played your best and you really honored God by bringing your best. You take any type of normal activity and you create an environment where it's just natural to talk about God.
And you know why this is so important? Because one day they may have some questions about God and because you're already talking about God, they're gonna come to you, want to be so comfortable talking about it that when they do have a doubt and they will, the safest place they can come to you to process their doubts. Because we just talk about the things of God in our homes. What do we know about a relationship if we wanna expose 'em to the joy of knowing God? You know that you can't have a relationship with God if you don't talk to God and hear from God. So as parents, we want to model that we're people of prayer. We talk to God and we listen to God and we seek God in his word.
Again, by the grace of God, all six of my children, all my kid in-laws all see God daily in the Word. And years ago someone asked one of my sons, "Well how'd your parents get you to do that"? And they said, "Did they bribe you? Did they threaten you? Did they force you? Is it because you're pastor's kids"? And my son said, "Oh no, no, no, no. Mom and Dad never told us to read the Bible". And the guy was really confused. "What, they never told you to"? They said, "No, Katie just watched mom and dad do it. And so she started doing it and then Mandy saw Mom and Dad and Katie doing it. So she started doing it, then Anna saw Mom and Dad reading the Bible and Katie reading the Bible and Mandy. So Anna started doing it".
And so Sam said, well, "Everybody in the family just did it. So I thought I would do it". No one told them to. It was just a part of the family culture. And what'll happen is when they start talking to God and then God is a normal part of your family conversation and we live with a God awareness, then one day they're gonna come in and say, "Let me tell you what God showed me today". Or "Let me tell you what God spoke to me today". And you know you're on the right track because at this point they don't have what I call a second hand faith. They're not going to church because you go to church, they have a first hand faith because you're doing what number one said, you're doing the right thing so that your child will experience the joy of knowing God personally.
The second thing you can expose them to is you can expose them to, as you're doing this right now, and you can do even more of it, you can expose them to the presence and power of God in his church. You can expose him to what God is doing through his people in the body of Christ. In fact, Psalm 92 verse 13 says, those who are what? Let's say this aloud, those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of the Lord. Those who are planted. If you're just a casual, cultural Christian family, you'll go to church every now and then whenever fits into your schedule. But if you are a Christ-centered family, you will be planted in the house of the Lord and those who are planted will flourish in the courts of the Lord. In fact, let me just kinda, I've been kinda nice now.
Now I'm gonna get up into your business just a little bit. Those of you online, I'm getting up into your business just a little bit. What isn't optional in your family? What's not optional? For most of you going to school's not optional. Get outta bed, kid, you're going to school. Homework's not optional. Going to the dentist for most of you is not optional. If it is, it shouldn't be. Make 'em go to the dentist, okay? Whatever activities are they in. They're in dance, we paid for dance, you're going. Soccer practice, football practice, violin, whatever it is. Activities generally are not optional. What happens when the weekend comes around?
Someone almost always asks, "Do y'all wanna go to church this weekend"? Everything else during the week that's important is not up for discussion. And the very thing that should be at the heart of our faith and expression of love for God is debatable week after week. And I'll tell you right now, and not to brag and not because I'm a pastor's family, no one ever asked in our family "Are we're gonna go to church"? And it's not because we're a pastor's family, it's because we're followers of Jesus. We did this on vacation, I'm telling you, we went for 23 some odd years to the same place, Steamboat Springs. And we just went to church because that's what we did.
In fact, I told you this, but I'm wanna go ahead and show you. Stephen and Aslin are here. They got married a couple weeks ago. This is him kissing her. I had to call him off. He tried to kiss her three times before we got to this part. And then on the first morning of their honeymoon, they went to the place we always go. And Stephen texted me, "What church do we go"? First morning. Who does that on their honeymoon? Someone who is Christ-centered and wants to be Christ centered. So I told him, here's where they go. And then they sent us a picture of the church they went to on the very first morning of their honeymoon. Why? Because the church isn't something their parents do. They are Christ-centered in their relationship. And that's what we do. We go to church. And you wonder like how can that happen?
The moment your kids start serving, the church becomes their own. When they're helping Mom drive the golf cart or when they're serving with Dad in LifeKids or they're with their Switch leader cutting up donuts and they start serving, then it's no longer your church. Then it becomes their church. And then let me warn you what happens is you're gonna want to go on vacation and they're not gonna wanna miss church. That's when it gets annoying. And that's what they've done for me. "We can't miss Switch". "Yes you can. We're going to the beach. Shut up kid. We're not gonna be spiritual this Wednesday". Okay?
But let just say this right now, if you often prioritize something over church, "We're not going to church this weekend 'cause we're going the big game". "We're not not going to church this weekend 'cause we're going to the lake". "We're not going to church this weekend 'cause we're gonna sleep in, we had a busy week". "We're not going to church this weekend 'cause the weather's too bad". "We're not going to church this weekend. 'cause the weather's too good". Yeah. Right? Absolutely. If you often prioritize something over church and never prioritize church over something else, you are clearly demonstrating what you value to your family.
So what if we wake up and realize we're more of a cultural Christian family than we're Christ centered? The answer is we just start becoming Christ-centered right now. Jesus, I want you to be first. We start in our own heart. We call on him in our own heart. We seek him in his Word. We seek him daily. We pray and then we might even apologize to our kids and say like, I got it wrong. I told you about the big family fight on our vacation. It was such a deal that I called everybody in for a family meeting. I mean, we're talking, they're all grown. What am I gonna do? They're 28 years old. I'm gonna take your phone away, okay? They're grown. They're all grown. And I called 'em in for a family meeting and I talked about who we are as disciples of Jesus and what I want this to be. I want this to be a place where your children come and see a big family legacy that's Christ-centered.
And then I did my little deal, and I don't know if they cared or not, went to bed, and we came home the next day and two or three days later, I started hearing the stories. that so and so went and apologized to so and so and asked for forgiveness. And they prayed and they forgave each other. And this couple went to this couple and said we were wrong and we want to be better. And I heard the stories of how Christ centered people work through conflict. And I went from feeling like a good dad because they were good to a bad dad when they were bad, back to a humble dad that knows I can't do any of this without the help of a God who loves them even more than I love them and is working even when I can't see 'em.
So what do you do? You gradually transfer dependence off of you onto God. They need you when they're a baby. And you start to say, no, you don't need me, but you need God. You expose them to the joy of knowing him personally and you expose them to the family of God who can support them forever. Because we can't force our children to love God, but we can't expose them to the people and experiences that increase the likelihood that they would know and serve him. So God, do a work in our families today. As you're praying, nobody looking around, those of you who say, I want to be Christ-centered in all I do, would you lift your hands right now? I wanna be Christ-centered. I hope this is everybody. I hope this is everybody.
Jesus, we wanna seek you first. Seek your kingdom first. Seek your heart first. And as you say in Matthew 6:33, as we seek you first and all your righteousness, you would add everything unto us. Help us to be Christ centered in all that we do.
As you keep praying today, I wanna talk directly to some of you. Growing up, my family, we were cultural Christians. We called ourselves Christians, but we weren't Christ-centered. This is some of you. Others of you, you wouldn't even call yourself a Christian. But you find yourself in this really unusual place. You're being drawn to God right now. What is that? That's God drawing you to him. His Holy Spirit is working in you because he wants you to know him personally. What is eternal life? It's not being good enough. It's not being perfect. It's knowing God.
How do we know him? God loved us. He's a relational God. So much that he sent Jesus who was without sin. Jesus died on a cross and God raised him from the dead so that our sins could be forgiven. And now it doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter what you've done. When you call on him, Jesus, he'll hear your prayer and he'll forgive your sins. Some of you, you're a cultural Christian, and today you're gonna become Christ-centered. Others of you, you may feel far from God. In one moment, as you call out to him, he'll hear your prayer, forgive your sins, he'll make you brand new, and you can immediately be in a relationship with him.
Wherever you're watching from those who say, "I need him, I want him today, I give my life to him, forgive my sins, I need him, I want a relationship with you, Jesus. Today I give my life to you". That's your prayer, lift your hands high right now all over the place and say, yes, that's my prayer. Praise God for you. Others, today we say yes, God bless you. Jesus, I call on you, be the Savior and the Lord of my life. Lift your hands and say I surrender to you. Those of you online, just type in the comment section. I am giving my life to Jesus today. I'm surrendering my life to him. Would you pray aloud wherever you are?
Heavenly Father, I wanna be Christ centered. Jesus, be first, my Savior, the Lord of my life. Forgive all of my sins. Fill me with your spirit so I could know you, and serve you, and follow you For the rest of my life. Thank you for new life. You have all of mine. I pray this in Jesus' name.