A number of years ago, to my wife’s great delight, her father gave her the family heirloom photo albums. We’re not talking snapshots of Disney World held in vinyl pages. These hundred-year-old photos were carefully bound in two deeply embossed gilded leather albums. Even guests who had parted the pages of these regal books had stood in awe of the history represented in the sepia tone portraits of her great- grandfathers, aunts, and uncles. Some family heirlooms are quite valuable, like a fine antique piece of furniture, yet families wouldn’t think of selling them. They safeguard them to be passed to the next generation.
In the same way, every Christian parent holds another treasure to pass along. It is the most important treasure we steward, one of surpassing value: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul spoke of the treasure of the gospel when he told the Ephesians:
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6–7 NIV)
“Incomparable riches” is the way Paul described the gospel of grace. Is there anything of greater value we have to pass along?
Like our family treasures, we can’t take the gospel for granted, but need to safeguard it and deliver it unaltered to the next generation. Just think: God has entrusted us parents with the privilege of passing this most valuable truth to the next generation! The message of salvation through faith alone, in Christ’s atoning sacrifice alone, by sovereign grace alone, cannot be assumed.
A man-centered gospel is always threatening to supplant the cross-centered gospel we read in the Bible. But if we trade Jesus, who bore our sins and received the wrath of God, for a Jesus who is merely a good example, we don’t have the same gospel. If we remove a call to repentance and replace it with an invitation to be God’s friend, we’re not passing on the treasure of the gospel in accordance with the Scriptures.
So we, as parents, must ensure that the gospel we pass on is the authentic diamond we were handed, not a pretty glass imitation. We don’t want to pass on merely the worldly knowledge that will inform their lives; we want to pass on the biblical truth that can transform their lives. Though teachers in school or church can help us, passing on the truth of God’s Word is our unique responsibility as parents.
Few Christian parents would disagree with the importance of passing on the truth of the gospel to their children, yet we live in a busy world where our lives are filled with distractions. Just getting all the tasks of the day checked off our list can leave any parent exhausted. It is easy to see how, though we have a desire to pass on the truth of the gospel, we can’t find the time. Schedules collide, there is homework and yard work and dishes and laundry, the car’s oil should be changed, there are phone calls to make…and before you know it, everyone is getting to bed late again. On top of that, our sinful natures can think of a hundred reasons why any given time is not a good time for family Bible study.
That is where I hope my devotionals for familieswill help. Take Long Story Short and Old Story New, for example. The Bible can seem like a long story, but when you break it down into short devotions, teaching the Bible to your family is easy to do. The goal is to, day by day, pass on a clear gospel message showing our children how every story in the Bible points forward or back to the gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s story of salvation.
You won’t find a more important focus for a family devotional than a daily highlighting of the gospel of grace. Why? Simply put, the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Clever stories and good moral lessons may entertain and even help our children, but the gospel will transform our children. The gospel is deep enough to keep the oldest and wisest parents learning and growing all their lives, yet simple enough to transform the heart of your first grader who has just begun to read.
All You Need Is Ten Minutes a Day!
If you can find ten minutes a day, you can use time to this pass on the most valuable treasure the world has ever known. Contrary to what many believe, daily family Bible study need not take a lot of time. God can use a short, simple family devotion, consistently practiced over time, to yield more fruit in the lives of our children than we realize; and a quick daily devotion is not as easily derailed by our busy schedules. Each day, as the gospel is presented, God is at work.
Our hope in God is to see our children reading their Bibles and having devotions on their own, not because they have to, but because they want to. The truth of God’s Word brings us to Christ and is effective to sustain us and help us to grow all of our days. is simply no greater delight for Christian parents than watching the Spirit of God guiding their children through faith-filled study of God’s Word. No earthly treasure compares.
God’s Word, when hidden in our hearts as children, is used again and again in our lives later on. The Spirit of God will bring it back to our minds to help us in our walk with God and to enable us to encourage others we meet along the way.
Every family can find a few minutes in the daily routine. Some families gather for their devotional at the start of their day; others try the dinnertime approach. Lay the devotional book and your Bible(s) beside your plate on the dinner table. As soon as everyone is finished eating, take ten minutes for family devotions.
Reaping the Harvest
One day my wife, Lois, and I will hand the family photo albums we received from her father down to one of our children and, with them, pass along a portion of our family legacy. That day will be sweeter indeed if the life of the child we pass them to has been transformed by the gospel. Though we know we can’t save our children, we can keep them soaking in the gospel. And as we do, we have this confidence: God is able and willing to save them.
As you faithfully lead your children through devotions based on stories from the Bible, don’t just read it as history. It is history, but it is so much more! Lead with expectation that the God of history will visit with your family. Wait and watch to see what God will do! Cling with faith to this hope, that through the gospel proclamation in your home, the Holy Spirit will regenerate the hearts of your children and lead them to faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone!
Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God
Family Bible study doesn’t have to be complicated. Best-selling author Marty Machowski helps busy parents share the gospel story with their kids through Long Story Short, an outstanding devotional book full of stories, illustrations, and applicable learning suggestions. Long Story Short is designed to explain God’s plan of salvation through the Old Testament, focusing on the hero of Scripture and important biblical truths.