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How do I convert Fahrenheit to Celsius? Let’s see. The formula I learned in science class was pretty simple—first subtract 32, then multiply by 5, and finally divide by 9. But wait, I need to go the other way. How do I do that? Well, first I add . . . no, multiply. . . . It’s confusing. This would be easier if I knew the concept behind the formula!
Formulas—standard procedures—are necessary in almost every endeavor. We often hear helpful “formulas” in church, and the Bible itself gives many summary principles to direct our thoughts and behavior, such as the Ten Commandments, Proverbs, and the Golden Rule. But if we teach our children lists of dos and don’ts without the bigger picture—“the whole counsel of God” behind them (Acts 20:27)—they can get off track like the Pharisees did.
For example, sometimes people use the Golden Rule, Jesus’s summary of the Law in Matthew 7:12, to argue that we should never judge others. But God says we are to “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Clearly, God wants us to judge according to His standard and not according to our own sinful nature.
It is vital to teach our children how to build all their thinking on God’s Word.
So it is vital to teach our children how to build all their thinking on God’s Word. When they see how all the so-called rules and formulas fit together within the bigger picture of the Creator and His saving work through Jesus Christ, the “living” Word really does come to life (Hebrews 4:12). Then they will be “ready to give a defense to everyone who asks a reason for the hope” they have (1 Peter 3:15).
The history revealed in Scripture, from creation in six literal days to Adam’s sin, the whole sweep of God’s dealings with sinners up until Christ’s death and Resurrection, and the spread of His church, is at the core of that defense. Helping them understand this history of God’s work will equip them to defend their faith, even to their own inner doubts.
But even if we’ve done all the right things—teaching our children the key verses and doctrines and explaining the big picture behind them, that doesn’t guarantee they will trust God. There is a third step in the “formula” of child rearing: we can do all the planting and watering, but we must remember the results are up to God.
The biblical “formula” for raising children includes constant prayer for them, patience, and love, but every person is responsible for his own response. We cannot force our children to accept the Savior (John 6:44); we can bring them to the door of the Ark of salvation, but we can’t push anyone through it.
As we follow God’s child-rearing “formulas” for helping our children see their need of salvation and defend their faith, we need a big measure of humility. That’s why Peter commands us to defend our faith “with meekness and fear” as we “sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts,” recognizing that we depend on God, who alone can draw others—including our children—to Himself.