A Charge to Parents

As a pastor it is often my delightful duty to charge parents presenting their children for baptism. But whether you’re bringing a child for baptism or just need an fresh exhortation not to grow weary in doing good, I offer these words to you.

The Lord has poured out His rich mercy upon you in giving you your children, but with this gift comes great responsibility to raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. For our children have eternal souls that will live forever in resurrected bodies, either in heaven or in hell. And therefore if we are negligent in our duty there can be grave consequences. Ultimately your child’s salvation is not dependent upon your parenting, but upon the grace of God. But God has ordained the means as well as the end, and as we search the Scriptures we see that godly parenting is one of the chief means to the end of godly children. Because parenting is such a serious affair, in the Presbyterian church we have our parents make a vow; in the presence of God they solemnly promise, in humble reliance upon God’s grace, to set before their children an example of piety and godliness, to pray with and for them, to teach them to read the word of God, and to teach them the doctrines of our holy religion as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

Asaph’s words in Psalm 78 are one great snapshot of what it is we need to be teaching our children. In verse 4 we read, “…tell to the generations to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.” That’s the first thing we need to be teaching them: the character and the works of God. We don’t want them to forget who God is and what He has done for His people in history, particularly in the person and work of Jesus Christ His Son. Then we read in verse 5, “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children…” That’s the second thing we need to be teaching them: the commandments of God, how we are to live to walk in a manner pleasing to God. We must teach them not only what they are to believe concerning God, but what duty God requires of them in light of His grace. We do this, says Psalm 78:7-8, “that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” Looking back on the past generations of Israel, Asaph reminds us that ultimately what we’re looking for is not mere outward behavior modification, but inner heart transformation – a heart that rests confidently in God, that doesn’t forget God’s goodness, that submits faithfully to God’s law.

Only God can give this, and yet He deigns to use our feeble efforts to bring it about. He strikes straight blows with crooked sticks. So don’t grow weary in doing good, but believe the promise that in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary (Gal. 6:9). God is sovereign and good, and His covenant mercies are upon us and our children. Believe His promises and parent in light of them!

 

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