Let's face it: One of the greatest obstacles to living the life of a faithful, committed Christian is that Christianity is challenging – and today's X-rated culture doesn't make it any easier.
The Bible clearly commands us to live out our faith and resist the temptations of the world. Romans 12:2 reads, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
As Christian parents, we try to teach our children to love the Lord, obey His word, and serve Him faithfully. However, these principles fly in the face of what culture tells our children to value.
While Jesus encourages us to store up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21, Ecclesiastes 5:10, Luke 12:15, 1 Timothy 6:10), the world promotes greed and the idolization of money and material wealth. The Bible instructs us to live pure lives (1 Corinthians 6:13, Matthew 5:8); secular culture advocates sexual freedom. Scripture tells us that death is not our final destination (Matthew 25:46, John 3:16, John 14:2); society tells us to live lives of frivolity and self-pleasure – because death is the end. The Bible is clear about the difference in how men and women are designed (Genesis 1:26,27); society touts the idea of "gender fluidity" and denounces healthy gender roles.
The bottom line: God calls us to be holy (1 Peter 1:16, Acts 22:16); the world tells us to do whatever makes us happy – no matter how selfish or damaging.
How, then, do we live faithfully in a fallen and increasingly complex society? Here are a few tips to help your family develop a lasting, genuine faith.
1. Read the Bible and Pray Together
This may seem like an obvious and over-simplistic idea, but the Bible is clear about the importance of immersing oneself in the Word. 1 Timothy 4:13 reads, "Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching," and Hebrews 4:12 points out that God's Word is "living and active" and "sharper than any double-edged sword." Simply put: the Bible is the greatest weapon against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:11).
If you don't know where to begin, try a Bible reading plan, daily devotional, or work through one book of the Bible at a time. Famed evangelist Billy Graham encourages those seeking to read through the Bible to begin in the middle with one of the New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).
"Instead of starting at the beginning (as we do with other books), I suggest you start at the center – that is, with one of the Gospels that tell us about Jesus Christ (I often suggest John)," says Graham. "He is the Bible's center; the Old Testament points forward to Him, and the New Testament tells us about Him. You can discover other parts of the Bible later."
For older children, ask a question about a passage you've read, listen, and engage with their answers. For younger children, include toys, picture books, or illustrated Bible stories to allow them to participate in a way they can understand.
Spending time in prayer together as a family is also a great way to encourage spiritual growth, as prayer is the foundation of the Christian home. Ask for prayer requests and encourage your children to pray for one another. 1 John 5:14 reads, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us."
It can be difficult to set time aside for prayer and Bible reading, as busy schedules and technology distractions make carving out even the smallest of family time a challenge.
However, reading the Bible together, having discussions about your readings and praying together will help foster a love for God and His Word.
2. Set Media Boundaries
We live in a world inundated with noise and distractions. Every day, we are barraged with media in various forms: television, radio, talk shows, music, the Internet, smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and more.
According to statistics, children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared with around three hours in 1995. Estimates are that by the age of 17, the average child will have consumed 65,000 hours of media, whether it's watching TV, playing games consoles, using a mobile, computer or tablet.
Unfortunately, much of this media is filled with content unsuitable for Christian families, from violence and inappropriate language to the glorification of sexually deviant behaviors and children disrespecting their parents.
The influence of media on the psychosocial development of children and teens is profound. It's estimated that by age 18, a U.S. youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence. Additionally, the more sexual content that kids see on television, the earlier they initiate sexual activity.
Christian parents must be aware of what is coming at our children and learn how to protect and defend them against disturbing cultural trends promoted in the media.
There are a number of great tools and websites that allow parents to screen and review popular movies and films. Some options include Dove.org, screenit.com, and pluggedin.com. Select movies to watch with your children, discuss them together, and make spiritual applications for life.
Online activity can be difficult to monitor, as children often have 24/7 access to the internet thanks to personal computers, smartphones and tablets. Communication is key: Spend time with your children, talk to them, and find out what they are doing online and what sites they visit.
What we watch and read impacts our thoughts, behavior, and worldview; Colossians 2:8 warns about secular philosophies that can captivate your mind: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ."
The Bible is clear about avoiding exposing oneself to negative or damaging content: Psalm 101:3 reads,"I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me." Similarly, Phillipians 4:8 reads, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Admittedly, it's not always easy, but monitoring your child's media consumption will be worth the time, prayer, and patience needed to succeed in raising godly teens and adults.
3. Spend Time Together as a Family and Get to Know Your Children
Spending time together as a family strengthens bonds, builds self-esteem, and nurtures positive behaviors. Unfortunately, American Demographics reported that parents today spend roughly 40 percent less time with their children than did parents a generation ago, and modern families enjoy just 38 minutes of quality time together on the average weekday.
In today's chaotic culture, carving out family time is essential. In order to raise godly children, parents must model godliness, and spending time together gives children an opportunity to model their parent's behavior.
Family time also gives parents the opportunity to observe and learn about the child's strengths and weaknesses in order to better guide them. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Ask questions and spark important discussions with your child to get to know them.
Our Father God knows us inside and out (Psalm 139:13), similarly, we are called to know our children to help lead them into God's plan for their lives.
Malachi 2:15 reads, "Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth."
4. Be Intentional About Attending Church and Faith-Building Events
In today's fast-paced culture, it can be difficult to round everyone up for Saturday evening or Sunday morning church, Wednesday night Bible Study, or Thursday night youth group. It's easy to find excuses to stay home and live-stream the sermon from the comfort of your couch, but even on the most stressful mornings it is important that Christian parents bring families to church or other faith-building events.
Watching our determination to worship, hear the Word of God, and fellowship with other believers even when it's difficult reinforces to our children that church is a priority. Church is an important part of the spiritual life of a believer; Matthew 18:20 reads, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."
By taking your children to church and other events, you are including them in the body of Christ. Through church, your children will hopefully meet like-minded friends and godly adults who are praying for them, teaching them, and guiding them. It's important to surround your family with positive influences; 1 Corinthians 15:33 puts it bluntly: "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character."
Attending church also strengthens your marriage; according to Better Together: Religious Attendance, Gender and Relationship Quality, released by the Institute for Family Studies, 78 percent of couples who attend church together reported being "very happy" or "extremely happy" with their relationship.
5. Love Your Children Deeply - Even When It's Difficult
God is love (1 John 4:8) and we should strive mirror this unconditional love to our children. Loving your children well will give your child a proper, healthy view of God since our love is based on His.
Inevitably, your child may make choices and decisions with which you disagree. When such situations arise, show them grace, just as God continually forgives us for our sins.
Still, a key component to loving your children well -- even when it's difficult -- is disciplining them. Hebrews 12:11 reads, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
Discipline takes on various forms, and parents should wisely decide which form of discipline is best for their child for the sake of instruction and character development. When it comes to discipline, parents should strive to implement a healthy balance between corrective communication and punishment.
The Bible tells us God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, loving, kind, patient, and always available. When relating to your children, follow God's example.
Romans 8:38-39 reads, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Raising a faithful, godly family in today's X-rated culture can sometimes feel like a losing battle. Take heart, pray, and ask God to give you the patience, strength, and faith you need to raise godly children in a culture that seems to constantly push back. Remember: God promises to hear our prayers. 1 John 5:14 reads, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us."