The life classroom is constant, compelling and comprehensive. The same is true of our homes as well. They are environments where our children are constantly learning. Not only that, but we are always teaching our children. Our every response, whether it is instruction or silence, teaches. Our behavior and our love teach. But in addition to that natural process, God calls us to instruct our children about what to believe, how to think from the Scriptures, and how to live. In this book we will call that deliberate teaching “formative instruction.” Formative instruction “forms” or “shapes” our children. It is not a single event, but a lifetime of interaction that is based on God’s revelation. We are promised that our teaching will bear fruit in our children’s lives (Prov. 22:6).
We must actively teach our children, and live the reality, that God defines life. He tells and shows us the truth about what is valuable, what is worth living and dying for, what is worth doing and being, and what gives our lives significance. Rather than simply fixing short-term problems, we parents must have a vision for formative instruction from infancy to adulthood. These realities are summed up in Matthew 22:37–39: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . Love your neighbor as yourself.” What does that love for God and others look and sound like? Where do I find wisdom, direction, stamina and the ability to overcome my sinful nature, and to love God and others? The answer is in God’s revelation—his instruction to man. The Bible is our curriculum for formative instruction. Christ is our example of how to live the Bible.
God’s Word teaches us how to understand all human knowledge and experience in the light of his existence and his involvement in our world. This sets biblical instruction apart from both the immoral perversion of the modern day and the humanistic worldview that is traditional, time-honored and well-heeled. Our objective when we teach our children is not simply to ensure, by some venerable or socially accepted child rearing method, that our children are not criminals, or that they “do well.” Rather, our desire is that they should love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and mind. Therefore, formative instruction must be rooted in Scripture, not in what Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura advise, or what Parents magazine recommends or even what the pediatrician tells us to do.
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