What should our priorities be as we try to raise faithful children? Family worship? Christian education? Our example? Praying for them? Spanking?
You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)
The Westminster Shorter Catechism says this about the 2nd Commandment
Q50: What is required in the Second Commandment?
A50: The Second Commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in His Word.
Here is the Heidelberg Catechism:
Q: 96. What does God require in the second commandment?
A: That we in no wise represent God by images, nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his word.
149. Now to what end shall we refer this commandment?
With the first commandment, God declared that He alone, and no one beside Him, should be worshiped: so now He shows us the correct form of worship, in order that He may draw us away from all superstitions, and carnal ceremonies.
The second commandment is not just about building golden calves. It is about the right worship of God. But what is the promise attached to this commandment? We often separate “visiting the iniquity of the fathers…” from the 2nd commandment. While the curse in verse 5 and the blessing in 6 apply to all the commandments, we must not forget the immediate context. Here is my own paraphrase based on context:
I am a jealous God, therefore I will not give my glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). I must be worshiped as I have commanded. Fathers who refuse to worship me rightly will find that I curse their children. But fathers who worship me rightly will find I bless their children to a thousand generations.
There are many questions that follow these verses. However, I want to focus on one fact; when fathers worship God according to his Word their children are blessed by the Lord. There are long books written on what God requires in worship. I can only briefly touch on what that means here. All that I list below is not equally serious nor does failure in one area make a church not a church or a person not a Christian. Everything below is not a direct violation of the 2nd Commandment. However, over time failure in these areas can have significant impact on a child’s faith.
Right worship requires weekly gathering with the saints. Worshiping at home or by video is usually a mistake. This also means that if our children are going to learn to worship rightly then they should be in worship. Leaving them out of worship is not a grievous sin, but it is hard to see how children will mature in worship if they are in a separate room.
Right worship requires living in community outside of worship. Showing up for one hour on Sunday and then not seeing a fellow church member for seven days will leave you anemic.
Right worship requires confession of sin and pleading the shed blood of Christ to cover our sins. If worship is primarily about moral improvement then it cannot rightly be called worship. If worship requires something more than the shed blood of Christ to forgive sins then it is not true worship. We do not have to confess our sins every worship service. But it must be clear that the only reason we can worship God the Father is because we have repented of our sins by the power of the Spirit and rest upon Christ’s sacrifice and his sacrifice alone to cleanse us.
Right worship requires the giving of tithes and offerings. If we do not give on Sundays then we are probably not giving Monday through Saturday.
Right worship requires congregational singing, which should include singing the Psalms.
Right worship requires the faithful preaching of God’s Word. Faithful preaching means that God’s Word is considered the only infallible and authoritative source of faith and practice. The magisterium, the celebrity pastor, the legalistic traditions of the elders, and the local pastor’s good ideas will not suffice. Also the pastor must be competent to unfold the meaning of God’s Word and to apply that meaning to his congregation.
Right worship requires faithful men to lead in worship and in preaching. There are two components to this. They must be faithful in life and doctrine. Second, they must be men.
Right worship requires that there be no images set up that Christians pray to.
Right worship requires prayer. These prayers must be offered to God through the blood of Christ by the power of the Spirit and not to anyone else.
Right worship requires a joyful awe when we enter his presence. Sloppy worship that downplays the serious joy of entering God’s throne room weakens the church. It might be true worship, but it is not strong worship. Parents, we need to model and teach a Biblical view of worship. That means joy mingled with fear as we enter God’s house.
Right worship requires the proper administration of the sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There is much I could say here, but I will postpone that for another blog post.
Right worship requires regenerate hearts. Having all your body parts does not make you alive. You must be breathing. A church with all the right pieces can still be dead. A man who takes his family to a church with all the right pieces can still be dead. We must have the Holy Spirit.
Do we want faithful children? Do we want children who are blessed by Father, Son, and Spirit? Do we want children who love God and love their neighbor? Do we want children who love the Scriptures and love God’s people? Then there may be nothing more important than attending a church where the Lord is worshiped with reverence and awe. No church is perfect. We all have blind spots and flaws. But that does not mean all churches are equal. If the preaching is weak, the pastor is unfaithful, women lead, legalistic traditions trump Scripture, prayers are offered to Mary, sermons are moral improvement lessons, the Lord’s Supper is absent, images are set up, or it is hard to tell the difference between your worship service and a movie then you may want to move on.