Starting at a young age, our children are taught to celebrate their hearts. Our culture is full of references to the specialness of this part of us. It’s everywhere. And, I’m not just talking about things like the Valentine’s holiday, but the more subtle, “Do what makes you feel happy” expressions of our times.
So, in the midst of this, how do we teach our children to be weary of their own hearts? To understand that the heart is both the resting place of sin and the center of relationship with Christ?
Like a lot of things, it would be helpful to go back to the Garden and teach them the story of what happened there.
Eve was easily deceived by the enemy. She knew the truth of what God said, yet she was persuaded by the inner desire to be like God and experience all things, both the good and the bad. She feasted her eyes on the beautiful tree—which became her desire when she saw that it was “pleasing to the eyes”—and she gave in. (Genesis 3:6). She allowed physical and emotional impulses of the flesh to determine her steps. And so it all began.
From that moment on, the hearts of mankind have been problematic. They’ve been the breeding ground for all things evil and holy. Left unto itself, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). From within, evil proceeds and defiles us. (Mark 7:20-23).
However, when we accept Christ’s role as Lord in our lives, we receive a new heart. With “new birth” in Jesus (John 3:3, 2 Corinthians 5:17), we become capable of purity. And the same is true of our children.
That’s not to say that they won’t battle the flesh. Certainly they will. However, we should disciple our children to guard their hearts above all else, “for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23).
As our children accept Christ and profess Him as Lord, we should teach them the difference in the old versus new heart. We can use Paul’s words to the early Christians: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God…. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:1-3, 15).
What are some ways you plan to show this to your child? How might we model and teach this to toddlers and teenagers alike?