(Image courtesy of http://kidsministryresources.com.)
Until three or four years ago, I questioned my salvation.  How could God love me? I would often think to myself.  I am no good at keeping His laws.  If I was truly a child of God, I would be able to do all the things He commands of me.

I used to doubt that I was even saved until a few years ago, when I encountered the Word of God head-on and was left feeling eternally joyful and grateful because of Christ Jesus my Savior.  After further reflection on my life, I have come to believe that I, indeed, submitted to Christ early in life, but I failed to receive the proper, doctrinal teaching to help me walk in newness of life.

Reflecting on my own life leads me to address two concerns I call parents to be aware of today, that we may avoid the unintentional errors of those before us.

#1: Beware of inadequate Bible teaching
I do not blame or harbor feelings of hostility or bitterness toward either my parents or my Bible teachers growing up.  I know that they were doing the best they could in teaching us the Bible.  However, when the truths of Scripture are not properly and intricately interpreted to children, the results can be heretical and damning.

I have often said, along with many others, that moralism - the need to keep a list of rules in order to keep God's love and favor - was the foundation of my faith as a child.  This is due to an incorrect interpretation of the Bible.  I often read the Scriptures, and was taught (though perhaps inadvertently) to read Scripture as if was written to us today.  This kind of interpretation is not only wrong, it is illogical.  The apostle Paul had no knowledge of me, or any other Christian for that matter, when he was alive.  Paul was mortal, finite, and limited; he wrote letters to encourage other believers in their mortal, finite, and limited human existences as well - that they might be reminded of the glory of Christ!

Scripture ought to be read as if they are written for us, but to a specific, historical group, complete with contextual and cultural understanding.  There are certainly, then, principles to apply for us from truths written to them, but only can they be properly understood through the proper historical lens and understanding of the author's purpose.

I remember as a young boy reading my Bible quite frequently.  I used reading plans to keep track of how often I read the Bible.  But what I also remember doing quite frequently was applying and seeking to apply what I read directly to myself.  I was always puzzled when I read things like "And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day."  I wondered, How in the world did this author know those stones would still be there today?

Parents and teachers: please teach your children how to interpret the Bible.  Be careful of teaching only what to think, and failing to teach how to correctly interpret and understand the truth of Scripture.  (For more help on this, visit this link to browse Beyond Mediocrity's recommended list of resources for parents and children.)

#2: Beware of inappropriate peer groups
By inappropriate, I do not mean the groups who only do inappropriate things, such as smoking or drinking or having premarital sex.  An inappropriate peer group for your child may also include groups of mixed genders, ages, or even levels of maturity.  As parents, it is our job to be intentional about protecting and training our children in all righteousness.

I read an article once about the dangers of parents sending their Christian children to public school to be "little missionaries."  The author explained that this is lunacy.  The majority of Christian children are not prepared to be little missionaries in an educational system that is seeking to indoctrinate children with anti-God propaganda.  For one, children are still under the authority and protection of their parents, and are not qualified yet to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).  (Note: My siblings and I went to public school, but my parents were both teachers and they knew the community was fairly conservative.  I was fine going to public school and was not easily influenced.  The point is, then, that parents must be intentional and discerning in deciding how to handle schooling for each child.)

Furthermore, in church circles, nothing is more troubling than when parents expect that just because they are at church, the friends their children meet will be good influences on them.  Parents, you must know this: all humans are sinful and do not seek God, but rebel against Him at every turn (Romans 3:10-12).  Your children need help in finding friends that are indwelt with the Holy Spirit.  For starters, get to know some other families, and have your children be friends with their children.  Your children are not completely autonomous; you have a high and demanding responsibility to care for their spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, and social needs!

One of the foundational errors of humanity throughout the ages is that people think they and others are mostly good.  This is a complete lie.  No one is good, the Scripture teaches us.  We have all rebelled and gone our own way (Romans 3:10-12).  Our children must understand this, both about themselves and about their peers.  Even those who are in Christ still battle with the reality that we are already saved - "as saved as we ever will be," as Martin Lloyd Jones puts it - but that we are not yet glorified, meaning that we still struggle against the sin in our flesh.  This is a more technical way of saying that Christians still sin and hurt each other.

A good way to combat the evil that lurks in the hearts of men is to be intentional.  Have your son or daughter invite their friends - or acquaintances - over for supper or to go with your family to a park.  Question their friends, being painfully and embarrassingly intentional for the sake of righteousness.  Teach and pray (both for and with) your children and their friends, that they might repent, and then walk in newness of life and to make war against the sin-nature.  Certainly, if there is any hesitation you have about one of your children's friends, do not be afraid to lovingly and gently explain to your child that the friendship is prohibited.  And don't buy into the whole "forbidden love" garbage.  If you have the trust of your child, they will submit to you because they know you have their best interest at heart.

As your child grows up and reaches adolescence, some autonomy is expected; however, your children are still your responsibility.  The goal is to have successfully trained them before this point so that they are able to correctly discern between friends who are living under Christ and those who are living outside of Christ.  Even so, parents must be lovingly and painstakingly intentional in the adolescent years as well, as hormones begin drawing different genders together.  (For more information on this topic, visit this link.)

I prayerfully hope to be a balanced father, measuring a careful amount of discipline with a careful amount of liberty.  With God's help, I will teach my children how to correctly interpret the Bible (i.e. how to conduct personal Bible study) and also how to discern right from wrong when it comes to choosing friends and influences.

May God teach you, parents, as you teach your children; for it is with sound teaching that our children's minds will be changed.

"Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me" (Colossians 1:28-29).