June 2009

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach from Colossians 1:21-23. Paul describes who we were before Christ (v. 21) and what God has done for us through the death and resurrection of Christ (v. 22). He then offers a warning in verse 23 – a warning to stay grounded in the hope of the gospel, not moved away into finding security or salvation in anything but Christ. It being Father’s Day, I sought to make a special application of verse 23 to dads, calling us as fathers to not simply look at our own sanctification and rootedness but to ask how we are striving to keep our families rooted and grounded in the truth, not moved away from the hope of the gospel. I tried to be blunt and forthright, because I think we as men like things to be as straightforward as possible, and so I said something like, “Just having children doesn’t make you a father; grounding our children in the truth of the gospel and making sure they do not drift does.”

As we sang the closing song at the end of the first service, I found myself thinking, “I gave the problem, but I offered no solutions.” Granted, we did talk about the role of faith and the active work of God in keeping us holy, blameless, and grounded, but to beat dads over the head with a rebuke and offer no concrete solutions seemed, at the very least, incomplete. With those thoughts and some feedback from my wife, I moved on to the second service and strived to keep the force of the application, but to be a little more encouraging and to offer some practical solutions.

If you, like me, feel called to be a father who grounds his children in the hope of the gospel but aren’t sure where to start, here are some ideas for both fathers and mothers. I don’t claim to be an authority on the subject, nor do I want to communicate legalism (i.e. you and your children should never watch television or listen to non-Christian music, the only book you are allowed to enjoy is the Bible, etc.), but I just want us to be proactive. If we don’t ground the next generation, they will drift. Taking Paul’s warning in Colossians 1:23 seriously means we will do something; here are my thoughts:

  1. Read God’s Word together as a family

    Maybe at the dinner table, maybe in the morning, maybe before bed – whatever works for your family’s schedule, but everyone should be present. Yes, easier said than done, but worth the effort. And this isn’t an in-depth Bible study – just read!

  2. Pray together

    At meals, before bed, before leaving for work, before going on any car trip. Make it a routine to praise God and seek his help and guidance. Pray for your kids, pray for others, pray for the church.

  3. Listen to gospel-centered music

    Some of this is surely preference, but I love Passion and Sovereign Grace. I’ve heard great stuff about Seeds as well – that’s more kid-focused.

  4. Memorize Scripture

    (Simply imagine me looking guilty – I don’t do this like I should!)

  5. Read God-centered books to your kids

    I’ll take suggestions!

  6. Be the driving force behind your family’s church attendance

    Make it your goal, barring extreme circumstances, to never send your family to church while you stay at home – consider the message it sends

  7. Follow up on their Sunday School lesson

    Ask them what they learned. Look at their take-home paper, and take some of the suggestions for parents if they are offered on the paper.

  8. Have them serve others with you

    In the church, outside of the church, and in every area of life. Show them how being a Christian is something that takes over every aspect of life.

  9. Monitor what they watch and listen to and how much media they take in

    We are to ground our kids in the truth, and also keep them from being drawn away from the truth. What is shaking the foundation of God’s truth in your child’s life? What contrary messages are they hearing? What are you doing to correct false messages or guard them from them? Surely there is a tension between sheltering them and allowing them too much freedom… still learning!

  10. Model

    Surely this is the key, and probably the backdrop to everything listed above. If I let my children see how the hope of the gospel has changed me, how it influences everything I do, how I am striving to be grounded in it, then they will see its value and hold to it. What do our kids see us doing? Are we in God’s Word? Are we devoted to prayer? What’s on the radio and in the stereo? What do our kids find us watching on TV? What books are on our shelves? How do we respond to the stresses of life? What is our attitude towards church? Do we love others as a result of our love for God, or is it just legalism.

These are far from earth-shattering suggestions, and doing them without modeling a heart transformed by such practices will have the opposite effect. Kids will sniff out our hypocrisy. But are we as parents doing these things and others? Are we being transformed by the gospel? If not, how can we be sure our children are being grounded in the truth and not drawn away?

So, what are your ideas? These are from the perspective of a father of a toddler and an infant – the list is far from exhaustive or creative!


Here’s a very instructive quote from Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, in the chapter “Science Has Disproved Christianity.” He is applying Matthew 28:17 (where after the resurrection the disciples worshipped Jesus, though some doubted) to the modern rejection of God intervening in the natural order through miracles.

The most instructive thing about this text is, however, what it says about the purpose of Biblical miracles. They lead not simply to cognitive belief, but to worship, to awe and wonder. Jesus’s miracles in particular were never magic tricks, designed only to impress and coerce. You never see him say something like: “See that tree over there? Watch me make it burst into flames!” Instead, he used miraculous power to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. Why? We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus’s miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.

I have often pigeon-holed Jesus’s miracles simply as proofs of his deity, which they surely are. However, Keller seems to take this a step further – they are proofs of His deity that (1) point to the coming restoration of all things should and (2) should lead us to worship Him.