How to Teach Our Kids to be Discerning

December 21, 2023

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Today's question says, "How can I explain to my children how to discern what is of the Lord? Particularly if the negative aspects of certain things are not clear. Satan cleverly hides in cute, fun and attractive things that don't seem like they go against God at all."


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "How can I explain to my children how to discern what is of the Lord? Particularly if the negative aspects of certain things are not clear. Satan cleverly hides in cute, fun and attractive things that don't seem like they go against God at all." Really important question about how do we teach our kids to be discerning, discerning of the things that align with God's word and those things that don't.

Now as we think about training our children to be discerning, those of you who have followed the Foundation Worldview ministry for a while know that that's something we're very passionate about at Foundation Worldview. And at Foundation Worldview, we specifically recommend two things. One, that we make sure that we are helping our children understand big worldview questions and how different worldviews answer those questions. Questions such as, what is truth? What should I worship? How did life begin? What does it mean to be human? How can I tell right from wrong? That these questions are questions any worldview has to answer? And we want our children to always be on the lookout for the answers to these questions and what Scripture says versus what other worldviews say.

I saw this when I first started teaching Foundation Comparative Worldview curriculum at the school where I taught. I saw that my students were able to understand the question beneath information just in the world around them as they learned what different worldviews teach. For example, two of the boys that were in the afterschool worldview class that I taught, they were in fourth grade. And in fourth grade, their class was reading through a novel that took place in Germany in the 1930s and forties. During that time, they were going through the novel the class was talking about Hitler's final solution and his hatred for the Jewish people. And because the boys in that class had already learned about different worldview questions, they entered into the discussion and one said, I wonder if it wasn't so much Hitler's hatred for Jewish people, but his view of what a human is. And then another one of the boys chimed in and said, yeah, because if Hitler thought that we were just bodies, there was no soul, no immaterial part of us, and that we had just gotten here accidentally by unguided evolution, wouldn't it make sense to kill off the weaker people? And the teacher was shocked because she had never thought through this before. But as we begin to teach children different worldview questions and what different worldviews believe as they're exposed to ideas that come from different worldviews, they're naturally going to be able to unmask those ideas and see what's really going on.

And then another thing we recommend at Foundation Worldview is making sure that we're giving our children the skills that they need to soundly read, interpret, and apply Scripture so that they can have a thorough understanding of who God is, what he's revealed in his Word, and they can continue to see him through that Word all the days of their lives. And in our Studying the Bible curriculum, we seek to give children the skills that they need to soundly read, interpret, and apply Scripture so that they are not always dependent on us to do that work for them. So those are the two main things that we recommend at Foundation Worldview, teaching our kids big worldview questions and how different worldviews answer those questions and making sure that our kids have the skills that they need to soundly read, interpret, and apply Scripture.

And when they have these two different things understanding of worldview and understanding of Scripture, what we can then do is we can then help our children discern when things that they encounter blatantly go against God and his commands versus those things in our culture that are a matter of conscience.

Those of you who are familiar with the book of Romans, you'll know that Romans chapter 14 really outlines how different Christians are going to have different convictions about things that are a matter of conscience. Not things that clearly go against God and his law, but things that some people are going to say, well, this could go along with God's law because of this, where other people are going to say, no, I really think this goes against God and his law because of this. So we needed to help our children discern the difference. What are things that blatantly go against God and his Word versus those things that are a matter of conscience?

So I'll just give a few examples. Things in our culture that are popular or are gaining popularity that directly go against God and his Word. Some of those things are pornography. Very clear that pornography, which shows an intimate act that was meant only for a husband and a wife, and pornography which turns people who are image bearers of God, is simply into objects for someone else's pleasure. This is something that directly goes against God's character and nature and what he's commanded us to do and not to do in his word. So pornography, there is no question. Pornography is not a gray area over which people can have different convictions. It is sin. It is sin to participate in pornography in any way.

Another thing that's very clearly goes against God and his word is Satan worship. Our culture laughs at this. Earlier this year, target, they pulled the line of clothing from their clothing line that was promoting a group that does flat out Satan worship. And our culture just laughs at this because a lot of our culture doesn't even believe in the supernatural, but we know that we are commanded to worship the Lord our God and serve Him only. And we know that Satan is a liar and the father of lies and that we are not to worship him or engage with him in any way. So Satan worship, that's something that blatantly goes against God and his word.

Other things in our culture that are viewed as kind of innocent or not bad disobedience to parents. The Bible is clear that God has set up a certain authority structure and that children are to obey their parents so long as their parents are commanding them to do things that honor the Lord, not if their parents are commanding them to sin, but disobedience to parents is something that our culture just kind of laughs at. But that blatantly goes against God and his commands and his Word.

Something else is gossip. We are commanded very clearly in the Scripture not to gossip that the sins of the tongue are grave offenses to God, but that's something our culture just kind of laughs at. Something else is drunkenness. Movies and other media just kind of laughs at drunkenness where we are commanded in Scripture multiple times not to get drunk with wine. So these are things that are not matters of conscience. They just blatantly go against God's character and his Word.

Now, things in our culture that are a matter of conscience, where Christians can have different convictions over these things and they can make good arguments on both sides of the fence. Something is reading books and watching movies that contain an element of magic or some form of wizardry. These are things over which Christians divide that some do not have their conscience is not convicted against this, where others feel very strongly that this is not something that they are to engage in. Now, while wit is clear in Scripture that we are ourselves are not to engage in witchcraft, that we are not to cast spells, we are not to go to those who are mediums or necromancers who tell the future. If we are watching the Chronicles of Narnia and they have an element of magic in it, is that okay, Christians feel differently about that? Or if our kids are reading Harry Potter, is that something we should allow or shouldn't allow?

Another thing that's a matter of conscience is participating in activities that stem from alternate worldviews that ultimately find their roots in alternate worldviews. Activities such as yoga. Yoga stems from Hinduism from Eastern meditation. Now some do yoga and claim that they don't do anything that still has to do with the roots of yoga where other Christians feel convicted against it and say, no, those positions are actually positions that are used to yoke yourself with false gods. So I cannot participate in this. Something else like this would be Pokemon that stems from a more Eastern religion. Should we watch that or allow our kids to watch it or participate in it, or should we stay away? Those are things different Christians are going to have different convictions about.

Another thing is drinking alcohol without getting intoxicated or letting it affect you, your reasoning faculties in any way. Some Christians are convicted that yes, drinking alcohol without getting intoxicated, that this is something that I'm okay with and that is still within biblical limits where other Christians think, no, this might harm my witness, so I'm going to stay away from alcohol.

Something else is kissing. When dating, is it okay to kiss somebody that you're dating or should all physical affection be reserved solely for the marriage covenant? This is something that different Christians have different convictions about.

And so we want to make sure that we're training our kids to discern, okay, what is the difference between something that blatantly contradicts God and his Word versus something that different Christians can have different convictions about? And we want to be able to tell the difference between those two things. And so I think that in this, we want to make sure that we are training our kids to ask certain questions.

So we want to train them to ask, is this something that blatantly goes against God in his Word? And that's the first thing we need to ask ourselves. And so we need to search the Scriptures. Has God anywhere commanded that we not do this? And if not, then we ask, okay, so is this a matter of conscience? Is this a matter of conscience where it's something that I can choose in Christian liberty to participate in or I can choose not to participate in? And then to ask, okay, if if this is a matter of conscience, have I actually sought direction from the Lord on this or am I just going with whatever immediately pops into my mind? Because we want to be able to discern the difference between those two things.

Now, if something is a matter of conscience, when our children are still under our authority, they're going to follow what our conscience has said. If we have a conviction that any book that contains any kind of magic or wizardry is something that we feel convicted should not be in our home, then our children are going to follow that while they're living under our roof. And what we should do is we should explain to them this is a matter of conscience. This is why your dad and I or your mother and I, or just I think that this is something that would be wrong for our family to do. And you should explain that and then explain when you are an adult, you're going to get to make your own decision on this, and you're going to have to seek God and make the decision of what he leads you to do because Romans 14 explains it In these matters of conscience, whatever is not of faith is sin. So we need to be convinced in our own mind of why we're making this decision.

And we want to do this. We want to explain our children why our conviction is what our conviction is, but then explain to them that they might have a different conviction so that they really clearly understand what are the things that God has very clearly commanded us to do and not to do versus the things that might be a little bit more of a gray area and we have to make a decision based off of seeking the Lord.

And so I think of a very clear example of this. When I was growing up, my parents were very clear with myself and my brother and my sister that premarital sex was a sin. That any sexual activity outside of the marriage covenant was a sin against God. And so while we were living in our parents' house and if we had any dating relationships that my parents set up very strict boundaries so that we would not have a lot of temptation towards premarital sex. But they also made clear that once we left their house, once we went to college, once we got a job, if we chose to engage in premarital sex, it would flat out be a sin against the Lord that it would be sinful.

Another thing, another thing that my parents did in our house is there was never any alcohol in our house. That my parents have a very strong conviction against Christians using any alcohol where they understand that some Christians have different convictions over that. So my parents made clear to us that there was going to be no alcohol in our house when we were growing up, that we might make a different decision when we were an adult, but that while we were in their house, we would not be partaking in any form of alcohol.

The same thing with Harry Potter books. My mom felt very strongly that we were not to engage in any sort of wizardry in the media that we consumed. And so we would not have the Harry Potter series in our house where when we grew up, we could make different decisions about that. And that's something I didn't invest the time reading the books, but once I was an adult, I decided like, "Hey, I want to find out what this is all about." And so one summer I watched through all, what is it, all eight or nine, however many movies there are, I watched through the movies and was then able to make a decision. And for me, I decided, you know what? I think in this series, the line between good and evil is a little bit too gray for me to want to engage in this anymore. And so I've decided for myself, I'm not going to read the Harry Potter series, however, I have friends who I love and respect, who love the Lord, who have entire books of the Bible memorized, have a very robust Christian Worldview that have been able to pull out really good and true and beautiful themes in that book and say, "you know what? I think these things are worth engaging in because they are good and true and beautiful, and I don't think this is encouraging me towards witchcraft." So they've made a different decision than I have.

But we want our children to understand that in these matters of conscience, we're convicted one way, and we might hope that they would be convicted in that same way once they leave our household. But those are things they're going to have to make a decision for on their own. Where things that are blatantly told are either right or wrong in those are things our children might choose not to follow those commands when they leave our home, but they are going to be blatantly sinning against the God of the universe if they choose to engage in those things. So we just want to help our children understand the difference between those two things.

Also, just as an encouragement or just to be discerning in media, I think something that we need to train our kids to ask is as they're presented with different ideas in media, we need to evaluate, okay, is what's going on in this media, is it a character's action that the producers of this media are actually encouraging us to engage in? Or is this character doing something that we know is wrong? But the producers of this media are actually portraying it as wrong? Because there might be a form of media that presents a teenager getting involved in drugs and alcohol. Now there's a difference between a producer of a movie portraying that and showing the negative consequences and showing that this is wrong and helping children avoid that versus a movie that just glorifies that and is really leading us to be encouraged to engage in that kind of behavior.

So that's something we need to help our kids discern as well if we see things that are blatantly wrong that go against God and his Word in the media is the person who is producing this media. Are they trying to show us the harmful effects of this and it's encouraging us to live differently or are they actually glorifying this thing?

I think of it's kind of similar when we watch a film that contains violence in it, is this showing graphic violence because it's portraying what happened in a war and it's portraying the horrors of war and how difficult this was? Or is this just glorifying gang violence and making it look like it's a good thing? And those who are really, for lack of a better term, really cool that they engage. Those are two separate things. So we want to equip our kids to ask this question, is this form of media glorifying this thing that's sinful? Or is it showing me the natural consequences of this thing that is sinful?

So I hope that those are just a few helpful tools to teach our kids different worldviews and different worldview perspectives, and also make sure that they're equipped to sound, they read, interpret, and apply Scripture. Then help them discern the difference of things that blatantly go against God and his word versus things that are a matter of conscience. And then to ask themselves when they're watching media, is this form of sin glorified or is the producer showing the negative consequences that are led to because of this sin?

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, my prayer for you as we leave this time together is it, no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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