What do parents need to parent well? What do children need from their parents? How parents answer the question, “What do I need?” helps them answer the question “What does my child need from me?” And the answer to the later, by default, must be the goal of their parenting.
The answer to both these questions is simple – to know God. John 17:3 says “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ.” What anyone needs for this world and the next is to know God. If a parent wants their child (or themselves) to be full of life, purpose-driven, obedient, responsible, joyful, wise, humble, loving, satisfied, creative, faithful, and more, then they need to know God.
Knowledge of God is two-fold. First, knowing God is intellectual. By His Word and the life of Christ, we can see and understand the truth of who God is; His character traits, His works, His purposes, and His promises. But, knowing God isn’t just amassing theo-data (or experiencing an emotional reaction, tingles down the spine, exhilaration, or peace)… Second, knowing God is personal. A true knowledge of God is personal, stirring up repentance and faith. Faith is knowing God, believing His Word, depending on Him for all things, and committing to follow His ways. To be sure, an intellectual grasp of God is not effective for eternal life, but what we know about God serve as the necessary building blocks for a personal, faithful, and saving relationship with God.
How can parents help their kids know God? First and foremost, parents must grow in their own personal knowledge of God. A worshipless heart cannot lead another heart to worship God. Second, parents must teach their children about God and help them engage with the truth of God. Then, third, parents must call their children to repentance and faith while modeling their own repentance and faith. Parents can minister well to their children by modeling what worship and love toward a holy God looks like (and doesn’t look like, or, at the very least, looks like even after we fail).
This is daunting, no doubt, but God provides encouragement. Any relationship is a two way street. We can’t personally know anyone until they let you know him or her. So, God has done the relational work necessary for us to have a personal relationship with Him! He has made Himself known to us through Christ and His Word. He knows you particularly, even before the world was formed. And best of all, He purposefully cares for you. We can personally know God because He personally knows us! And parents, responding in faith to God’s care for them through Christ, can lead their children toward God. Praise God indeed. Let us diligently work to know God better and make Him known.
(Whether you are a parent or not, I encourage you to read through Knowing God by J. I. Packer.)