Fist Published: July 2, 2002
A number of you have responded positively to the Sunday evening message on “the Family Altar” and so I offer something of a synopsis here. We said, to begin with, that our goal at First Presbyterian is for every family unit to become a discipleship group; for every husband and father to become an active, self-denying, spiritual leader in his home; for there to exist fifteen hundred family-based growth groups in our church family; and for family religion to be the fountain of healthy, robust, corporate worship, as well as worship in all of life.
I argued that There are significant things that we can do as Christian parents to promote the spiritual health and growth of our covenant children based on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Though salvation is of God, and though the Spirit works when and how and with whom He wishes, Christian parents have covenantal responsibilities toward their children which God is pleased to use as means of those covenant children’s spiritual birth and growth. Among those means are the following:
1. Consider the spiritual condition and needs of your children. Do you care more for their bodies than their souls?
2. Use the covenant baptism of your children as an occasion to call them to faith.
3. Instruct your children in the great issues of salvation. Talk with them about the content of sermons. Ask them about Scriptures that they have memorized in SS. See how far they understand. Know their souls.
4. Correct and restrain your children from that which is prejudicial to their spiritual vitality. Display sweet but firm parental authority. Do not indulge them or allow them to trample you. They should “fear you with delight.” Challenge straying teenagers. Don’t be cute with them about their sin.
5. Challenge your children to embrace the covenant. Exhort them in the things of the Lord. See 1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 John 3:23. Plunder the Scriptures for charges and challenges, exhortations and spiritual commands for your children.
6. Be a disciple yourself. Love God. “You have to be a disciple to disciple.” See Psalm 34:1, 4, 11. Along with this, Be an example in your life, priorities and choices. Your children will see what is important to you. Is God important to you?, his worship?, the Lord’s Day?, the Bible?, the Christian life? Or is your life taken up with trivialities, secular labor, and the pursuit of pleasure or just escape from pain? Your children will see what is really important to you and it will either definitively contradict or confirm your words (and to a certain extent, my words) to them.
7. Pray for your children. For their salvation, for their spiritual growth, for their future spouses. Pray with them, as well as for them.
Then we suggested five simple and practical ways to promote family religion in your household.
1. Sit together at church. Go to church every week (even vacation), fifty-two weeks a year, year after year, and sit together. The family ought to be together in the worship of the Lord. Kids can get with their friends after the services, but in church, the family ought to be prime. The power of the ordinary means of grace should not be underestimated.
2. Work to have a Lord’s Day. Live as if Sunday is the Lord’s not yours. View it as the “market day of the soul.”
3. Attend evening worship. If we believe the whole day is the Lord’s day, then it ought to be framed with worship. I have never known a family that was faithful in Sunday evening attendance, that, when the great crises of life came, did not weather the storm and walk in faith and persevere.
4. Memorize the catechisms. It is a proven method. It is simple. It is content rich. It teaches the language of Zion. It increases memory ability and capacity for conceptual thinking.
5. Worship together as a family at home. Praise, pray and read the Bible together as a family at home. If you are looking for resources for family worship, take a look at Jerry Marcellino’s Rediscovering the Lost Treasure of Family Worship; Terry Johnson’s The Family Worship Book; and Cotton Mather’s A Family Well-Ordered.