I mentioned to you last week, at the beginning of our time in the Word of God, that among all of the disastrous things that are going on in our country and in our world, the thing that disturbed me most was the war on children. It has reached epic proportions in our country; it’s nothing new, I might say. There has always been, on the part of Satan and the kingdom of darkness, an effort to destroy children, to bring them so close to the darkness that they could never see the light. They are the most defenseless of all humans, and the enemy of our souls is against them. They already have sin built in, and are more easily attracted to him than they are to their Creator, more easily deceived than taught the truth. This then raises, to massive proportions, the responsibility that the people of God have with regard to children.
The creation mandate in Genesis chapter 1, verse 27, reads this way: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’” God created a man and a woman to produce children. In the third chapter of Genesis came the Fall of man and the human race. And God says to the woman, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth”—the creation mandate wasn’t ended; it would continue, but painfully so—“in pain you will bring forth children.” Adam called his wife Eve “because she was the mother of all the living.”
Creation mandate was not canceled, but it was severely wounded by sin—so much so that one chapter after the Fall in Genesis 3, you come into chapter 4, the first family, and you find a brother murdering his own brother. This is as dysfunctional and disruptive as relationships can be—when you kill your sibling.
Obviously it didn’t take long for the Curse to take root in the human heart. From then on, the book of Genesis becomes a chronicle of dysfunctional families and unfaithful marriages and victimized children: from Cain the killer; to Lamech the first polygamist, who was so proud about his polygamy that he wrote a poem to celebrate it; to the days of Noah, when the corruption of life, marriage, and the family was so severe that God drowned the human race, with the exception of eight people. Again, just a few chapters after the Fall, God destroys the entire human race because of its corruption. Eight were left, and so life started all over again.
It didn’t last long before God had to judge again, at the Tower of Babel. After that comes the story of the dysfunctional marriage between Abraham and Sarah—no model family, by the way: adultery, illegitimate son. Then comes Jacob and Esau, constantly in sibling conflict. Then Jacob’s sons sell their brother, out of jealousy, as a slave into Egypt. And the book of Genesis ends in a coffin in Egypt.
War in and on the family is pervasive and unmistakable. Family life is hard enough, due to human sinfulness and due to the presence of the kingdom of darkness and the prince of the power of the air, Satan himself. It’s made even harder because of the collective culture amassing with great force its wickedness, and driving it right at marriage and the family. All the forces of sin, internally and externally, are driven at destroying the family; and obviously that destructive effort is most devastating to the children.
As we learned last week from a look at Deuteronomy and the book of Ezekiel, the pagans actually offered their children as human sacrifices to their gods. Shockingly, the children of Abraham followed their idolatrous neighbors and did the same, sacrificing their children to false gods. What comes to my mind is that one statement that I gave you last week from Ezekiel 16:21, when God says, “My children you slaughtered, My children.” He goes so far as to say, “They are children born to Me. They belong to Me.”
God is the Creator of every child, and as they come into the world they belong to Him in such a remarkable way, that we saw in Mark chapter 10 that Jesus received the little ones, even babies, and said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” “They’re Mine.” They don’t know right from wrong. They don’t know truth from lies. They don’t know God from Satan. They don’t know faith from rejection. And until they do, they are His. And should they die, as millions do in that condition, the proof that they are His is that He takes them to heaven. I wrote a book on it called Safe in the Arms of God.
Best illustration of that is in 2 Samuel 12, David’s little baby son, born illegitimately out of his adultery with Bathsheba, died. The baby died. And David did not mourn; he washed his face, went on with life; no mourning. And he said this: “He cannot come to me, but I will go to him.” He knew that little one was safe in the arms of the God to whom he belonged. A few chapters later in chapter 18, his adult rebel son Absalom died, and the thirty-third verse of that eighteenth chapter says David was so sorrowful, so sad, so tortured, that he couldn’t get over the emotional breakdown. He knew he would see the little son; he knew he would never see Absalom.
The sacrifice of children, again I say, is nothing new. They are the victims of all the evil that’s going on in the world. My grandson Tommy was telling me this morning that he came back from a trip to Haiti; and he was in an orphanage just last week, and he said there were about 150 children in that orphanage. They weren’t put there by their parents; he said they are the children that are sold by their parents into slavery, and rescued by the government and put in an orphanage for their own protection. Today, in our world, people are still selling their children into slavery. We see it at the southern border: parents sending their defenseless children for some coyote to drop over a wall, without any knowledge of what may happen, sacrificing their children to some hope of a future economic benefit.
People are still sacrificing their children today, though the idols are different. The dominant idol is self. We’re seeing in our own culture and our own country the stripping away of all religions, because religions are authoritative, religions are external; and we now are living with the internalization of all power, all truth. And consequently, everyone is happy to be his own god. And so children are sacrificed to the gods of self: Parents offer their unborn children to the deadly abortionist as a sacrifice to their freedom and lust, a sacrifice to their desire for pleasure, a sacrifice to their selfishness. Parents sacrifice their born children to the fires of secular education and the god of human knowledge and foolishness, so their children can profess to be wise while they’re ungodly fools, just like their teachers. Parents sacrifice their children to the priests of immoral entertainment, to the gods of perversion who are seducing defenseless youth into the darkness and death of homosexuality, transgenderism, pornography. Parents offer their children to the liars who control and abuse them through the media, who are the agents, the high priests, of soul corruption. Parents offer up their children to the feminists, the beta males, the woke, the liars, the racists, the deceivers, as a sacrifice to the gods of popular acceptance. And the religious idolatry of our day is destructive particularly to children, but also necessarily to marriages, to fathers and mothers. And their siren calls are everywhere in the ether, like some chemical killer, which then poses the question, “How can children be protected?”
The politicians are on the side of Satan, busy making laws to protect the very realities that destroy children and families. The politicians are criminalizing truth as hate speech to be punished; and actually advocating for marriage between a man and a woman could get you fired. The culture is propagating lies incessantly, and censoring and canceling the truth. I’ve told you this before, and I’ll remind you of it: Whatever they don’t want you to know is very likely the truth.
So let’s go back and re-pose the question, how do we protect the children? Now let’s start at the very beginning. Number one, marriage is life’s primary blessing. Peter calls it “the grace of life.” Marriage is life’s primary blessing. If you’re still in Genesis, you remember what I just read: that the gift of life is given, and then immediately God declares—chapter 2, verse 18—“It’s not good for the man to be alone. I’ll make him a helper suitable for him.” Down in verse 21, “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” This is the grace of life. Jesus performed His first miracle at a wedding. It’s not good for us to be alone; we need a partner.
In Ephesians chapter 5, the partnership between a husband and a wife is a picture of Christ’s relation to His church. Marriage is life’s primary blessing. And I say that—it should be obvious, but to remind some of you who continue to push marriage off into some nebulous tomorrow: You are missing the grace of life. Marriage is life’s primary blessing.
Second thing to say: Children are a blessing. Children are a blessing—not dogs. Please. No canine is a substitute for a child. Genesis 29, verse 31: “The Lord saw that Leah,” Jacob’s wife, “was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, ‘Because the Lord has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.’ She conceived again and bore a son and said, ‘Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.’ So she named him Simeon. She conceived again and bore a son and said, ‘Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ Therefore he was named” Levy, or “Levi. She conceived again and bore a son and said, ‘This time I will praise the Lord.’” You think she was blessed by those boys? She felt like it was critical for her husband’s love, that it was a blessing from heaven.
In Deuteronomy chapter 7, just to emphasize this point, verse 12, promises of God here: “It’ll come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.” Listen to this: “He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your womb.” It’s a blessing, a blessing from heaven, to have children.
In Ruth chapter 4, verse 13, “Boaz took Ruth”—you remember the story—“she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.” Every conception, every child is a creation of God. “Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today.’” That child was a redeemer, redeeming the mother from barrenness. “May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age.” That is particularly becoming important to me, to have children who are about to have to take care of me. What a blessing children are; it’s in incomprehensible. There are no words to describe how much I love my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They are my life.
In Psalm 113 the psalmist says, “Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised. The Lord is high above all nations.” This is just pouring out praise. And then at the end of Psalm 113 and verse 9, he says, “He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!” Children are not an intrusion, they are a blessing from heaven.
Psalm 115, verse 14, this is calling for blessing: “May the Lord give you increase, you and your children. May you be blessed of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” May the Lord pour out generational blessing on you and your children. And Psalm 127, verses 3 through 5: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.” Children are a gift from the Lord.
Look at the next psalm, Psalm 128: “How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy and it will be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” This culture seems to think children are interfering with the plans of adults. But from God’s perspective, they are a heavenly blessing.
So marriage is life’s primary blessing, children are a blessing. Third thing I want to establish as a foundation is that parenting is a blessing, parenting is a blessing. It is a blessing to parent because if children are not properly parented, they are a problem, and nobody is particularly blessed. Parenting is a blessing—not just producing children, but producing children who become responsible adults.
Proverbs 10:1 says, “A wise son makes a father glad.” Proverbs 29:17, “Correct your son, and he will give you rest.” Did you get that? “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul.” Parenting is the process of instructing with consequences. Look to the book of Proverbs chapter 13 and verse 24: “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” So you’ve got a little reprobate—that’s a beautiful, adorable, little reprobate—in your house, who is not going to be a blessing to anybody unless parenting is done according to God’s design. And the instrument is a rod. What that means is that God intends you to inflict pain as a consequence immediately on misconduct. That’s how you train.
Chapter 19 of Proverbs in verse 18, “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.” Are those the alternatives: Either discipline your son, or you’re going to send him on a pathway to death? Yes—because remember, he’s fallen, he’s deceitful above all things, his heart is desperately wicked. And as a child and as a young person, he is defenseless, immature, lacking judgment, discretion, wisdom. Uncorrected, he’s on the fast track to death.
Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” It’s just natural. I can remember my grandmother saying to me, “Why would you do a stupid thing like that?” Now if I’d have known at the time, I would say, “To fulfill biblical theology. Why else would I do it? I’m trying to demonstrate the Bible is true. You doubt the truth of the Bible? Look at my stupidity; that ought to be evidence enough.” At the time I didn’t really think about that. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” What a great promise, isn’t it? It’ll remove it far from him; it’ll send foolishness away, when misbehavior of any kind has painful consequences.
Proverbs 23, verse 13: “Do not hold back the discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol.” Again the alternative is discipline or death, because an unruly child, a child out of control, is on the short path to dying. That’s why back in the book of Exodus, the Word of God says if you obey and honor your parents, you’ll live a long life. It’s axiomatic.
In chapter 24 of Proverbs and verse 15, “Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; do not destroy his resting place.” That’s such an interesting thing. The home is like a castle to be conquered by the wicked. Your protection of that domain is critical.
One more text—over in chapter 29 and verse 15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” Did you get that? That’s really not difficult to understand. “A child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother” because the way of a child is what?—foolish, ignorant, naïve.
As a parent, you have to understand you are a dominating force, and God intended you to be the dominating force and the dominating influence. And you have to minimize all other competing influences—influences from the world, friends, school, media. And in this culture you have to fight for the dominance of your influence.
As we saw back in Deuteronomy 6 last week, you are to teach your children diligently to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is your calling. And parenting is a blessing. Good parenting is not only a blessing to a mother, eliminating shame, not only a blessing to a father, making his heart glad, but a blessing to everybody else who has to deal with your children. And it is, most importantly, a blessing to the child because it puts him on a path of life and not a path of death.
Now the New Testament adds some richness to this. Look at Ephesians chapter 6, Ephesians chapter 6. I’m just going to read the opening four verses, and we’ll begin to make some comments about this: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” This is for the children to acknowledge the dominating power of the parents in the home over their foolishness—and their desperate need for wisdom. “Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Do it because it’s right. That’s the only explanation you need to tell your children: “Obey me because it’s right.”
“Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise)”—back in Exodus chapter 20, verse 12—“so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” And there we are again, with that same reality that parenting produces a long life. That’s axiomatic. It doesn’t mean that in every single case, if you’re a good parent your child’s going to live to old age. But as a general reality, your children who are well-disciplined and who follow the path of wisdom—who honor you and obey you—are able to live a full life, and they avoid the path of death.
And then in verse 4: “Fathers”—or parents; pateres could be a reference to parents as well—“do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The New Testament sums up everything about parenting in one verse, one verse. First of all, in the first three verses, you have the submission of children: Obey and honor. So what do you want to teach your children to do? Obey and—what?—and honor you. If you want honor from them, deserve it by your character. If you want obedience from them, make it sensible and reasonable, and enforce it with consequences that they want to avoid. It is essential to train a child with instruction and discipline so that the child can enjoy the promise of a blessed life. That’s why I’m saying parenting is a blessing to the child and everybody who comes around that child.
I’m drawn one more time to the book of Proverbs. Chapter 4: “Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, give attention that you may gain understanding, for I give you sound teaching; and do not abandon my instruction. When I was a son to my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, then he taught me and he said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments and live’”—this is a father commanding a son. “Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding!” Get that in place of your natural foolishness. “Do not forget or turn away from the words of my mouth.” That is the role of the parent.
Over in chapter 4, verse 10, “Hear, my son, and accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many.” Again, this is not a guarantee of a certain amount of decades of life, this is simply saying a child who learns wisdom is on the path of life rather than the direct route to death. “I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; turn away from it, pass on. For they cannot sleep until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” You know, when you have the privilege of watching your children who are in Christ bring into the world that next generation, your grandchildren, and you see how bright the pathway becomes with each new generation—Patricia and I are now seeing great-grandchildren who are being raised in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. The joy is incomprehensible.
Children have the potential to create the greatest heartbreak and the greatest joy. We all know that, don’t we. It’s not to say that you have the power to save your child; that’s not yours to do, that’s God’s. This is not some kind of determinism; Proverbs 22:6, “Bring up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s old he won’t depart from it,” isn’t a guarantee of salvation. It’s an axiom that says children become what you raise them to become.
You can’t determine their salvation; you don’t have that much responsibility. But neither can you fatalistically ignore your responsibility and say, “Oh well, God’s going to do what He’s going to do.” Because God does His work through instruments, and parents are those instruments. Train your child to honor you and obey you.
Look, life is deadly dangerous to children, deadly dangerous; and if they get to the age where they become accountable to God, and they haven’t been parented in the instruction and discipline of the things of the Lord, then life becomes even more dangerous because there’s a shift in their eternal destiny.
In Carthage, which was conquered by Rome in about the second century AD—Carthage was a major city from about 800 BC to the second century AD. Some research has been done through the years by people at Oxford University, who have discovered that the Carthaginians were big on child sacrifice. Male and female children were tortured first, and then consumed in fires called tophets. Artifacts of these kinds of fires have been found in places like Sicily, Malta, Sardinia—the islands around Italy. It’s interesting to read some of the ancient Greek literature at that time and to find out that there is no evidence that the Greeks or the Romans were ever critical of that kind of behavior, which means, then, that in Paul’s day there was indifference toward what happened to children.
There was a law in Rome called patria potestas. Patria potestas means “the father’s power.” Father by Roman law had absolute power over his children. He could sell them into slavery—and that was very common. He could make them workers in the fields, even in chains. He could take the law into his own hands and punish them. There was no law against child abuse. He even had the right to kill his children, and he had that right as long as he was alive, no matter how old they were. When a child was born, we have evidence that a child just being born would be brought to the father. If the father stooped and lifted up the child, it meant he acknowledged the child, and he wished the child to live; if the father turned and walked away, it meant that he rejected the child, and the child was killed or sold. Unwanted children were just taken into the Roman Forum and turned loose, and would be collected at night by people who made them into slaves, or stocked the prostitute brothels with them in Rome. Seneca, the famous Roman writer, said, I quote, “We slaughter a fierce ox; we strangle a mad dog; we plunge the knife into the sick cattle . . . children who are born weak and deformed we drown.”
Again, a very dangerous place for children. And what the Lord asks of us as parents is summed up in that one verse, the verse that I left you a moment ago: verse 4, Ephesians 6, “Do not provoke your children to anger, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” There’s a lot to that, and I want to be careful to help you to understand what that means. So that’s going to be the subject of our discussion next week; we’ll get a little advance on this chapter. But let me maybe give you some hints to think about.
One father sums it up like this: “If I were starting my parenting again, this is what I would do: I would love my wife more in front of my children. I would laugh at my children more, at our mistakes. I would listen more, even to the littlest child. I would be more honest about my own weaknesses, never pretending perfection. I would pray differently for my family: rather than focusing on them, I’d focus on me. I would do more things together with my children. I would do more encouraging. I would do more instruction from the Word of God. I would pay more attention to little things, deeds and words. I would share the gospel more intensely, out of every possible opportunity, every day that God gave me.” There’s some wisdom in that, isn’t there?
They’re little sinners when they arrive; adorable, but sinful. You don’t spend your time constantly saying to a child, “Yes, yes, yes.” I don’t think so. You say, “No, no, no.” That’s a hint. But in spite of that, they are God’s, right? And you’re the steward. They belong to the kingdom of heaven. Don’t allow them to be exposed to the dangers of this world.
It’s not easy in this culture, because as I said earlier, the murderous influences are in the ether; they’re everywhere, accessible and deadly to children. Grace Church understands this, I understand this, and Grace Church is committed with all our hearts to helping you make parenting a blessing. It’s why we’re here. And our prayer is that those precious little ones will grow up so that when they do understand the difference between right and wrong, truth and lies, God and Satan, they can understand the gospel—they will embrace Christ. We’re here to help you with that. But you have to be committed as well.
The highest joy in life: marriage, children, parenting; and at the end of the parenting, a mother with no shame, and a father with a glad heart. This is the promise of the Word of God to those who are faithful.
This culture is not going to protect your children. This society is going to do everything they can to destroy your children. You don’t need to do this alone; we’re here. And the Lord will give you grace, and we’ll provide resources.
And I believe somebody said to me, watching my little great-grandson run across, take his first little jaunt across the church campus; I think he was 14 months old—somebody said, “It’s too bad he was born for this hour.” And I said, “No, this is his hour, this is his hour. He came to the kingdom for such an hour as this.” This is his time. God knows, right? This wretched culture needs the next generation to be virtuous, godly, and wise. And it’s in our hands to make that investment together.
Father, we thank You for the promise that You’ve given us: that if children are taught wisdom and righteousness and virtue, and if they learn to obey and honor their parents, they will find the path of life; and then if they come to Christ, they will find the path of eternal life. Lord, help us to have the consistency, the strength, the love of You and our children, to bring them up in the instruction and discipline that is provided for us in the divine revelation of Holy Scripture. Save the children, Lord. Save them from the deadly dangers of this time.
Thank You for rescuing them when they die before they are even aware of spiritual realities. Thank You for taking them to glory with You. But we know, Lord, that those who live will have so many influences. May they be programmed, from the earliest years, in divine truth and wisdom, and may they see the joy of gospel transformation in their parents and grandparents and families. We ask, Lord, that You would raise up this generation of children that You have given to us to be instruments of gospel change in the world. This is Your time, this is our time, and this is their time. May we steward well the precious lives we hold in our hands, for Your glory we pray. Amen.
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