I practically tackled my husband when he walked through the door. Earlier in the evening I had almost finished Bible time with my kids when my then four-year old son told me he wanted to ask Jesus to take away his sins and come into his heart. We waited until my husband got home from working late and then the three of us prayed together. What a dear memory we had together that night, as my son accepted Jesus as his Savior.
But even as we finished praying, I knew we couldn’t stop there. There is so much more for him to learn and understand, and even when he is able to grasp every beautiful detail of the plan of salvation, he will need us to show him how to follow Jesus.
If we believe that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and rose again to save us, that knowledge should affect how we live. But, it’s not always easy to follow Jesus in our everyday lives when there are so many influences pulling us opposite directions.
My son doesn’t know any of these struggles now; he just knows He loves Jesus. There is a beauty in that simplicity, but as his parent, I am also looking ahead to prepare him to follow Jesus when it is hard, in those moments when it might be easier to take a different road. The Bible compares the Christian life to taking the narrow path, and that is such an appropriate analogy, because following Jesus is not easy. In fact, we are promised it will be hard. Here are a few things that have helped me as I have tried (and sometimes failed) to follow Jesus well.
1. Remember That Following Jesus Requires a Change In Behavior.
When we are saved we must repent, which quite literally means to turn a different way. When we understand what Jesus has done for us and that change settles into our hearts, we turn away from the world, from our sinful desires, and follow Jesus. After we make the decision to do that, we have to continually re-make the decision to “deny ourselves and follow [Jesus]”. It is so much easier to go with the flow and do whatever we (or others) want, but out of love for our Savior we should think about what He would want us to do first. As my son grows, I want to emphasize that following Jesus will mean taking the harder road and narrower path because we love Him!
2. When In Doubt, Read Your Bible
I can’t see the future and teach my kids the correct decision for every situation they will face, but I do know that God’s Word is truth! Teaching my son Scripture is a priority. I want him to realize that all the help he will need can be found there.
In addition to our Bible reading, at this stage we are also enjoying picture storybooks about Jesus. One of our new favorites is I Will Follow Jesus Bible Storybook, and I love how between the stories there are little section with practical applications for young children on how to follow Jesus in their daily lives. This is a great Bible for starting those conversations with younger children on how to follow Jesus well!
3. The Devil Can’t Make You Do It, But He Can Sure Try
Spiritual warfare is a reality I want my kids to be aware of, but ironically I don’t even always recognize my own struggles as spiritual warfare! It has taken me a while, but I am realizing how active the spiritual world is, and how often that spiritual warfare is a factor in the situations I face. There is nothing our kids can do to fight this spiritual battle if they do not know how to pray. When they find themselves struggling and making mistakes, I want them to attack it with prayer, because we need God’s help to truly overcome our enemy.
4. There Is No Such Thing as a Perfect Christian
Though I accepted Christ at a young age, I have not always followed Jesus perfectly. There are times I have been distracted by everything the world chases after, times when I have ignored that gentle tug in my spirit, Jesus nudging me to get back on track, and times when I have flat-out disobeyed God and kicked myself afterward. It is so easy to get caught up in past failures, but the most beautiful thing about following Jesus is that there is grace. There is grace when we mess up, and we can come right back to Him and ask Him to forgive us and help us choose the better path. When my kids fail, and they will, I want them to know deep in their hearts that they can always rely upon the wonderful grace and forgiveness of Jesus.
The world likes to tell us that if we follow our heart, we can’t go wrong, but that is just not true. Our hearts are deceitful, and feelings change all the time. There will be times in my kids’ lives when it will be hard to make the right decisions, when it will be tempting to follow what everyone else is doing.
As parents, when our kids face tough decisions, we want to have already equipped them with the tools they need to choose to follow Jesus no matter what.
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