Starting last week, I said that we were going to talk a little bit about family, and we’ve titled this brief series “Shade for the Children.” We started with an old Chinese proverb that says “one generation plants the trees, and the next generation enjoys the shade.” The question we ask is, “Is this generation planting any trees to shade the next generation?” We might be convinced that it is not.
In reality, this is a long-term, serious problem. The Old Testament says, “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children to the third and fourth generation.” That doesn’t mean that if a father sins, three or four generations of his children will be punished; that’s plural. The sins of the fathers, the collective leaders of any period of time: any culture, any nation, any society. The sins of those leaders will take three or four generations to overturn, even in the best of circumstances.
We have had now a couple of generations of leaders who have been endeavoring to assault the family. Always, of course, the society is against God, and against Christ, and against Holy Scripture, and to one degree or another, against the true church. But we have had generations of leadership – educators, psychologists, even politicians – who have been assaulting the family. And now we are beginning to reap into the third and fourth generations the result of this assault. Family is in a survival mode in our society. The assault has continued to blast away at what is the foundation of civilization of civilization, the family, what is the foundation of a sensible, safe society; and, certainly, what is the foundation of passing Christianity on through the church.
A recent survey posed a question, and I’ll just sum up what’s going on with just a couple of comments from this survey, because we’re all aware of this; you don’t need statistical evidence. But I thought this was interesting. The question on this national survey is this: “Is the ideal home a marriage where the husband provides and the wife cares for the children?” The answer was yes by thirty percent of the people. That same survey posed another question to unmarried people: “Do you want to get married?” Forty percent said yes. Sixty percent don’t want to get married. Seventy percent don’t think an ideal home is a marriage where a husband provides and a wife cares for the children. Because of this, we are looking down the barrel of an apocalyptic cannon that is going to devastate this culture. Marriage and children in stable homes with providing fathers and caring mothers is fast disappearing. And I’m not here to discourage you about this, I’m just here to tell you that this is reality.
But it is not new, it is not new. After the fall, in the book of Genesis – Genesis, chapter 3 – the curse of sin was unleashed on human society. The man was cursed, the woman was cursed, the land was cursed, the universe was cursed, and therefore, society was cursed. Sin was unleashed in every imaginable form, and in the early chapters of Genesis you see it all. When you arrive at the 6th chapter of Genesis, you’re about 1,600 years into human history, and the race is so entirely corrupt that we read in Genesis 6 of God’s assessment and action.
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I made them.’ Now, the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Noah found favor in the eyes of God, and God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them along with the earth.’” Then came the flood. The entire population of the planet – some assume by then numbering in the millions – was drowned, with the exception of eight people: Noah, his wife, three sons and their wives.
Corruption in the world is not new, not new. In fact, it is to be expected in every culture, in every period of time. There is a cycle that works in the human world. It’s described for us in one way in the 14th chapter of the book of Acts, where in verse 16 it says of God, “In the generations gone by, He permitted all the nations to go their own ways.” God has permitted the curse to have its effect, and all the nations go their own ways.” They follow the path of the curse, down into sin and hell.
“He didn’t leave Himself without witness in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” In other words, God demonstrated what we call “common grace.” But, still, every nation in human history has been in a downward spiral.
Roman 1 describes it in these terms: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” That’s what all countries do; that’s what all societies do; that’s what all nations do. “That which is evident about God is within them, for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds, four-footed animals and crawling creatures” — they worshiped idols, they worshiped the creation — “so God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, because they had exchanged the truth of God for a lie. And then He gave them over to degrading passions; women exchanging the natural function for that which is unnatural,” lesbianism as it’s called.
“In the same way, also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they didn’t see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things that are improper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and thought they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” That’s the history of the world. That’s the way all the nations have gone. They have followed that terrible path.
You say, “What about religious people? Don’t religious people sort of staunch the tide of corruption?” They do on the surface. But the most powerful form of corruption is religion. False religion is so powerful that when the Son of God came into the world and spent three years in one small country ministering across that country day after day after day, when it was all said and done, there were 500 believers gathered in Galilee and 120 in Jerusalem. He had come unto His own and His own received Him not, and it was their religion that caused them to reject Him.
For Israel, who was given the law of God, given the revelation of God, they followed a path of sin, the kingdom split, as you know. The northern kingdom was taken into captivity and never returned. The southern kingdom was taken into Babylon and returned 70 years later. Devastating judgment came on Israel. Of all the religious people on the earth in ancient times, they were the only ones that had the revelation of God. To them was given the Scripture – the covenants, the promises.
But in the midst of their religion, they compromised. They became self-righteous. They were judged – the northern kingdom was judged, the southern kingdom was judged. God brought them back and that lasted a little while; and the Son of God came and they rejected Him. And before He left, He stood and looked at the temple and said, “It’s going to be destroyed, and not one stone will be left on another.” It’s all going to come crashing down. God is going to destroy this system.
In 70 A.D., the Romans came, and they literally massacred hundreds of thousands of Jews. Josephus the historian says, “There’s an uncounted number of Jewish bodies that the Romans threw over the wall in desecration.”
Look, it’s always been a struggle in a fallen world. The struggle may be because the society is pagan in its corruption. It may be because it’s religious in its corruption. And to be honest with you, religion is no safeguard. Religion is a more powerful corruption than any other corruption because it carries with it this deception that all is well with God. It has always been a struggle to raise up strong, loyal, loving marriages, and stable, obedient, respectful children to say nothing of godly marriages and godly children. Still, the pattern of God has not changed – one man, one woman, from Genesis in one union for life, raising children to know God and to pass righteous on from generation to generation. The early history of Genesis tells us that from the very beginning, corruption was massive so that God literally drowned the entire world except eight people.
So you think you live in tough times, huh? This is how it always is. False religion dominating in some places. Paganism dominating in other places. Nations going their own way, spinning down through the cycle of immorality, homosexuality, and a reprobate mind. But still, the Word of God hasn’t changed, and God’s design for family hasn’t changed.
Let me remind you of what I said last Sunday as kind of a foundation. Marriage is a blessing. The Bible calls it “the grace of life.” You want the best of life? Marriage is the grace of life. That is God’s intention for it; that is His design. Marriage is a blessing.
Second thing I told you last time is that children are a blessing, children are a blessing. They are where two become one. Children are a heritage from the Lord to enrich us, to bless us, to encourage us, and when we get old, to support us, care for us.
So marriage is a blessing; God designed it so. Children are a blessing; God declared it so. Parenting is to be joyful and fulfilling. Parenting is to be joyful and fulfilling. God doesn’t allow everyone to have children. That’s certainly within His purpose for most people, but not all; most believers, but not all. But when God does allow believers to have children, parenting is to be joyful and fulfilling.
The fourth principle that I gave you – and I want you to think about it again – is that parents have the responsibility to shape the character of their children. Parents have the responsibility to shape the character of their children for the sake of society, for the sake of civilization, and for the sake of the kingdom of God. The focus in the home is not on the children, it’s on the parents shaping the children.
We looked at Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s old, he will not depart from it.” Your children are defined by your parenting. Parenting is to be joyful, it is to be fulfilling, but it is the responsibility that dominates the home as you endeavor to raise children with character.
I told you also last week that parents have the most powerful influence, they have the most powerful influence. Why? Because you have them 24/7, because they arrive in this world in your arms, and much of what is going to determine their lives will happen in those first five years when the world doesn’t even have a great influence on them. Your intimacy, your love, your devotion, your discipline, your instruction so very, very important. That is why the children of Israel were told, as you remember in Deuteronomy 6 when they went into the Promised Land, how to parent: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”
That’s the first lesson to teach children. “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons, shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand – ” in other words, they affect what you do, “ – they shall be as frontals on your forehead – ” they determine what you think. “You write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates – ” so that they literally are dominating your life and you come and go. “And if you do this, when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – to give you great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself that you do not forget the Lord. You shall fear only the Lord your God, and shall worship Him.”
That’s the first lesson we teach children. Marriage is a blessing, children are a blessing, parenting is intended to be joyful and fulfilling. Parents have the responsibility to shape the character of their children, and parents have the most powerful influence.
And finally I told you that parenting is God’s plan, parenting is God’s plan. Genesis 1, “Have children, fill the earth.” And after the flood, chapter 9, flood subsides, Noah and his family are told by God to do the same thing that Adam and Eve were told in Genesis 1, “Have children. Have families.”
First Corinthians, chapter 7, you remember also affirms marriage, and it affirms marriage for, perhaps, a different reason. “Because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except for agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this by way of concession, not of command.” Paul means Jesus didn’t give this command, but “I’m giving this as from the Holy Spirit – get married, get married.”
Singleness is not the norm. Later in the chapter, he says, for some who have the gift, it is. And there are some that the Lord decides not to have children; that’s within His purpose as well. But for most, it’s marriage and a family.
How can we do what God has called us to do? We can’t do it in our own strength. That is why – let’s go to Ephesians, chapter 5, and we could actually start with verse 15, “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”
The recognition, you live in a pagan world. Certainly believers in Ephesus did. “So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And so not get drunk with wine, that is dissipation – ” here it comes “ – be filled with the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us into worship to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, sing, make melody in hearts to the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to give thanks for everything that has come to us in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we offer thanks to God for it. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to submit to one another in the fear of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who causes wives to be subject to their own husbands, as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church. It is the Holy Spirit who causes husbands – ” verse 25 “ – to love their wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. It is the Holy Spirit who is behind all of this.”
We’re not surprised when family is a difficult challenge in the world because they’re trying to pull it off minus the Holy Spirit. Society will fail at that, although there may be some vestiges of it here and there. But within the framework of the kingdom of God, among those who belong to Christ and who possess the Holy Spirit, this should be the pattern: “Wives who submit to their own husbands as to the Lord.” Wives who understand that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church and the Savior of the body. As the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
“Husbands, under the power of the Holy Spirit, by the grace of salvation, who loves their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husband ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourish and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother. He shall be joined to his wife, the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I’m speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”
We all know this, right? This is the necessary environment for parenting to be effective and successful – a wife who submits to her husband as to the Lord, a husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church; a husband who is in a temporal sense, as well as in a spiritual sense, her sanctifier, the one who keeps her pure, the one who allows her to show her glory, the one who works to see her holy and blameless.
Obviously, it’s very difficult for people without the Holy Spirit who don’t know Christ to raise significant families. It does happen. There are disciplined people. There are certainly vestiges of God’s purposes and God’s law written in the human heart, even the unredeemed human heart. And there are forms of religion that have captured those ideals and forced them on people and so it happens, at least in an external way.
But among Christians, this should be the norm. It all starts with a submissive wife who understands that spiritually she is equal, because in Christ, “there is neither male nor female,” Galatians 3:28. We’re not talking about spiritual inferiority, we’re talking about roles by divine design. But where the wife sees herself as the keeper at home, the one who cares for the children, the one who supports lovingly her husband; and the husband sees himself as the savior, the provider, and the lover of his wife; you have a chance to raise children that honor the Lord.
So we come then to chapter 6, and let’s look at verses 1-4, I’ll just read it again. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers – ” we can extend that to parents, “ – do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
That’s a very short verse, that 4th verse, isn’t it? Very, very brief. There’s a negative aspect to it and a positive aspect. The negative aspect is, in a sense, the opposite of the positive aspect, and it demonstrates for us the fine line that has to be walked between a loving discipline and instruction, and provoking children to anger.
Now, last time, we looked at the submission of children, verse 1. They are to obey their parents because it’s right. There are some things that are right because God deemed them right. But not just obey them, verse 2, “Honor your father and mother.” This is an attitude: obey in everything, no limits. Honor – the spirit of respect. You obey as children. You honor because it’s right, because the Lord commands it, and even adds a promise. The promise is in Exodus 20, verse 12. It is in the Ten Commandments. It is the first commandment with a promise, and the promise is “long life so that it may be well with you – ” that’s quality “ – that you may live long on the earth,” that’s quantity. Obedient children live out their lives in fullness both in terms of priviledge and blessing and time.
Now, children don’t come into the world knowing this, right? They don’t come into the world obeying, right? They don’t come in the world with a reverent, honorable attitude toward their parents. It’s essential to teach children these responsibilities because you’re trying to overpower their fallenness. That precious little baby came into this world as a sinner, a frightening sinner, and potentially a deadly sinner.
One writer put it this way: “Every baby starts life as a savage, completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it – his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmates, his toys. Deny him these once and he seizes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He’s dirty, he has no morals, no knowledge, no developed skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, all children are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in their self-centered world of infancy, given free reign to their impulsive action to satisfy every want, every child would grow up potentially a criminal, a thief, a murderer, and a rapist.”
Now, there are actually people who believe in what is called “presumptive regeneration.” There are people who believe that if you take that little savage and sprinkle water on him, he all of a sudden becomes some kind of saint, and you can now presume he’s regenerate because of this baptism. If you’re presuming that your little savage is regenerate, you’re wrong. You have a great task as a parent. It’s an incomparable task. Your task is to walk that very thin line between infuriating your child and disciplining your child.
Proverbs says that the instrument that you use for this is a rod; that’s right, a rod. And if you don’t use the rod, as we saw last time, your children will grow up to grieve you, to sadden you, to humiliate you, to disgrace you. They will become, Proverbs says, disasters. It is essential to raise a disciplined child in order to see the promise of a blessed and full life.
Proverbs 4:10 supports this promise. It says, “Hear, my son, and accept my words, and the years of your life will be many.” Read Proverbs 4; I won’t take the time to do it. Read Proverbs 4. Read Proverbs 5. Read the first part of Proverbs 7. It just keeps saying the same thing: “Listen to instruction. Listen to instruction. My son, listen to instruction.”
When you raise obedient and respectful children, they have the promise of a blessed life and a full life. The tragedy of our society is that parents are concerned about what their children look like. They’re concerned about fashion, physical appearance. They’re concerned about academic achievement. They’re concerned about athletic accomplishment. And, seemingly, they have very little interest in character.
But the command of verse 4 to parents is very straightforward: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” It’s not a command that has anything to do with what they wear, what they achieve academically, athletically, economically. It’s all about the discipline and the instruction regarding things of the Lord.
So let’s look at that verse 4 tonight for a little bit. This is how parents are to submit; you are to submit to this duty. This is the top side of the authority submission standard that upholds the family. Parents lead and rule, but also submit to a God-ordained, loving, spiritual, disciplined authority that does not abuse the children.
In Paul’s day, there existed certain attitudes that made life for children perilous – as they are in the world in many places today. There was, what was called, the Roman patria potestas. That’s Latin for “the father’s power.” A Roman father, in the time that Paul wrote this, had absolute power over his family. He could sell his children as slaves. He could make them work in his field. He could put them in chains. He could take the law into his own hands. He could punish, even inflict death on his child, as long as that child lived. There was no age limit for patria potestas.
Historians tell us that when a child was born, it was placed before its father’s feet, and if the father stooped to lift the child, it meant that he acknowledged the child and wished it to live. If he turned and walked away, the child could literally be thrown out.
There has been discovered a letter from 1 B.C. from a man named Hilarion to his wife Alis. Hilarion to Alis, his wife, “Heartiest greetings.” When you get that as a salutation in a letter from your husband, you’re in trouble.
This is the letter: “Know that we are still even now in Alexandria.” He was away. “Do not worry if when all others return I remain in Alexandria. I beg and beseech you to take care of the little child, and as soon as we receive wages I will send them to you. If – good luck to you – you have a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.”
Unwanted children were commonly left in the forum. They were collected at night by people who nourished them to become slaves and stock the prostitute houses in brothels of Rome. Seneca said, “We slaughter a fierce ox; we strangle a mad dog; we plunge the knife into the sickliest cattle. Children who are born weakly and deformed, we drown.” So you think you live in a tough world, huh? Paul was speaking to a world where children were severely abused; and they always are in paganism.
The Bible says, “You fathers, you fathers, do not provoke your children to anger – ” don’t do anything that makes them angry, “ – bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” That’s contrary to the culture – that culture, this culture. Fathers is the term pateres, Greek word patēr, usually used for the male of the families. But sometimes it is used to include the mother. In Hebrews 11, I think it’s verse 23, where it’s referring to Moses’ parents, this is the word that is used. So it is a word that can mean father, or it can even stretch to include parents.
Certainly, it includes the idea of the headship of the father because that’s been discussed in chapter 5. He is the lead parent. He is given the primary place of leadership. But it also includes the mother. That’s why in Proverbs 4:3 it says listen to the instruction of your father and your mother. Both need to be involved in bringing up a child mentally, physically, socially, spiritually.
There have been all kinds of study of child development and they have basically come to the same conclusions. I collected some of these over the years and the sum of it is this. Most psychologists and child behaviorists identify four necessary factors to prevent delinquent children, criminal children, one, the father’s discipline – firm, fair, consistent, and sensible. Two, the mother’s supervision – with them in the home, caring for them. Three, the father and mother’s love for each other – love demonstrated. Four, the family’s cohesiveness – being together in the house, in the home, around the table, time spent to talk about life, to love and laugh and cry and do it all together.
Another form of the same list came from a Christian psychologist some years ago who said, “The key to raising good children lies in the following five things. One, love – parents with genuine love for each other that flows down to the children. Discipline – regular, consistent. Third, consistency – both parents stick together, use the same rules, consistently enforcing those rules so that the child is very clear on what is right and what is not acceptable. There’s not a capriciousness and there’s not a conflict. Four, example in healthy families, the parents don’t expect the children to live up to standards they don’t maintain. And, five – ” and I thought this was interesting “ – a man at the head of the house.”
He writes, “The vast majority of neurotics and delinquents grew up in homes where there was no father, or the father was absent or weak and the mother was domineering.” You can see that even psychology understands, just by observation, that what the Bible says about parenting is right.
Now, specifically, what is the parent’s responsibility? Two fold. Let’s look at verse 4. “Do not provoke your children to anger.” That’s very simple; don’t make your kids mad. Colossians 3:21 puts it this way: “Fathers, parents, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” You can literally suck the life out of them. You can cause them to be angry and frustrated.
“Do not provoke your children,” by the way, is used only here and in Romans 10:19. The noun form means “irritation, an intense form of irritation that infuriates the children.” Don’t do what angers your children and causes them to become embittered and exasperated and they lose heart, they give up trying to please, trying to figure out life. Our authority must never be abusive, never irritating, never embittering.
How do you do that? How would you provoke your children to wrath? Let me give you a few illustrations. There are a lot of ways to exasperate your children. There are a lot of ways to provoke your children.
One, you can do it by overprotection; and people do – fence them in, never trust them, never give them an opportunity to develop independence, don’t allow them to think for themselves; when they make a suggestion, tell them it’s stupid; deprive them of any contribution; make them feel second-class. Look, if you want to develop a healthy child, that child needs to feel loved and listened to and heard. He needs to be able, or she needs to be able to express himself or herself. Little by little, that’s how they become refined. Hear them, take some risks, give them a little rope, grant them some independence, don’t be overprotective.
Another way that parents make their children angry is by favoritism, by favoring one child over another. “I wish you were like your brother; he never gives us any trouble.” This is a kind of an Esau/Jacob story, isn’t it? Rebecca preferred Jacob over Esau. Sad results are well-known. Don’t compare them against each other. Don’t make one feel inferior to the other.
There’s a third way that you can exasperate your children or provoke them to anger, and that is by pushing achievement, which, in my experience, is usually to make a parent look good. Really never about the children. Some parents literally crush their children with pressure to excel in school, in sports. So the child becomes literally bitter because there’s never a satisfactory level of achievement. It’s one of the reasons I hate organized sports for young children, and I hate academic competition for young children. Let them be children. Let them fail. Let them do something not as well as most others do it, and affirm them.
Pushing achievement can be a terrible, terrible thing for children; lead them to discouragement and anger. And then when you reinforce the failure by saying, “You’ll never amount to anything. Why don’t you ever win? Why aren’t you ever at the top of your class? Why don’t get the grades everybody else gets?” You destroy incentive and you destroy the sense of well-being and love. Look for ways to reward them. They’re not all capable of achieving what you would like them to achieve so you look good.
Another way to make your children angry is to fail to sacrifice for them, to make them feel like they’re an intrusion into your life: “I’m busy, I’m busy. Could you please go away, you’re bothering me.” Or, you let them go off in a corner and do their work and struggle, and you’re too busy to pay attention to it, make them fend for themselves; don’t ever do things with them that they want to do.
I remember having a conversation with a couple of young boys years ago, and one of the boys was talking to his friend about his father liked to play with him, and I remember this pensive statement from the other kid, talking about his father who was a youth pastor, and he said, “Oh, my father never has time for me; he’s too busy with other people’s children.” Crushing. You have to make them feel like they’re the most important person in your world. Take them places they want to go. Do things with them they want to do.
Another way that you can cause your children to be bitter and angry is by failing to allow them to grow. Let them make mistakes, let them good up. Laugh when they’re offering ridiculous ideas. Don’t condemn them. Don’t expect perfection, just progress.
Another way that you can exasperate your children is by neglect, obviously. I always think about the story of David and Absalom. Don’t neglect your children. We talked a little about that in the previous point.
Let me ramp it up a bit. Here’s a way that you can really wound your children, a form of abuse – by bitter words, by bitter words. You have the most powerful vocabulary in the house. Far more words are at your disposal to crush your child than your child could ever match. You throw your vocabulary around and you say things to your children that you will never get back – crushing words, devastating words that break their hearts. And do I need also to add physical cruelty? Sometimes I think sarcasm and ridicule is worse than physical cruelty.
Now, all of this is a challenge for us, isn’t it? It’s a challenge. But this is how it works. If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn. If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight. If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy and afraid. If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty. If a child lives with intolerance, he learns to be angry.
On the other hand, if a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient. If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence. If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate. If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice. If a child lives with secure love, he learns to trust. If a child lives with approval, he learns to enjoy himself. If a child lives with love and friendship, he looks to find love in the world. So we don’t want to provoke our children.
Now the positive side. On the other hand, “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Bring them up assumes they’re not going to get there by themselves, you have to do it. It doesn’t happen by accident. You could actually start by recognizing that bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord involves two things. It involves evangelizing them, then it involves edifying them.
The word there for discipline is actually paideia. It is the word for training, learning, instruction, discipline, chastening as applied to a child. It really means rearing a child, training by rule and regulation, enforced by love and rewards, and discipline and punishment. You do all of that.
Susanna Wesley, the mother of 17 children, including John and Charles, once wrote, “The parent who studies to subdue self-will in his child, works together with God in the renewing and saving of a soul. The parent who indulges self-will does the devil’s work, make religion impractical, salvation unattainable, and does all that is in him to drown his child’s soul and body in hell forever.”
So we want to nurture these children; we want to discipline them, rear them in the instruction of the Lord, nouthesia, meaning “verbal instruction – ” listen “ – with a view toward judgment, verbal instruction with a view toward judgment.”
Let me make it very simple. The worst problem your children have, the worst problem your children have, the worst matter that they face, the most devastating reality in front of them in the world is the wrath of God, it’s the wrath of God. That’s way beyond anything else, way beyond anything else. Your first responsibility is to show them how they can escape the wrath of God. That is they’re greatest problem; that’s your greatest problem, mine. You can’t just tell your children that Jesus wants to fix your problems, Jesus wants to give you purpose, Jesus wants to calm your troubled heart, Jesus wants to make your life full. You have to start with the wrath of God. The worst problem your children have is the final, terminal, everlasting wrath of God. The best promise your children will ever hear is the salvation of God, right?
So what are you going to do to instruct your children like this? You’re going to get your Bible out and you’re going to have your children in front of you, and maybe you’re going to start in Genesis and you’re going to talk about creation and the wonder of creation, and then you’re going to get into chapter 3 and you’re going to say that a terrible thing happened. Satan came in the form of a serpent; and Eve sinned and Adam sinned, and the whole human race fell into sin; and Adam was cursed and Eve was cursed. Horrible. And that’s why we’re all evil and that’s why we’re all sinful.
And then you’re going to say – and you come to chapter 5 of Genesis, “Let me tell you about a man – ” it’s over here in verse 17 of Genesis 5, “ – it’s a man named Enoch. Enoch lived a long, long, long time ago, way back in the early part of Genesis. But Enoch was a preacher. In fact, he’s the first preacher. And you know what his sermon was?” We have it in the book of Jude. Here is his sermon: “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” Whoa. That’s the first preacher, and that’s the first sermon.
Another preacher, a powerful preacher by the name of Paul, said this: “This is plain indication of God’s righteous judgment, so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God for which you are suffering. For after all, it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted, and to us as well, when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels and flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power.” The first preacher in the Bible, Enoch, and kind of the final preacher in the Bible in a sense – one of the final – Paul, had the same message.
Then you might want to go back to Genesis, chapter 3 and say, you know, “The people knew they were sinful, and they knew they were sinful, and they wanted to somehow cover up their sin, so they got some fig leaves and they tried to clothe themselves with fig leaves. It was inadequate.
But let me tell you some good news. God came along and God killed an animal. First time death ever existed. First time death ever existed in the world, and God killed an animal and took the skin and covered them.
God wants to cover our sin. How is He going to do that? Well, back in Genesis 3 and verse 15, He said there’s going to come a man born of a woman, and someday He’ll crush the serpent’s head; and with the crushing of the serpent’s head, He’ll end the domination of sin. Who is that man? Who is that man? How’s He going to do that? Well, there’s going to be a man; He’s going to do that. He’s going to be born of a woman. He’s going to become that covering. Maybe He’ll have to die.
Then you can go to Genesis 22 and you can tell your children the story of Isaac. Abraham and Isaac go to Mount Moriah – that’s Jerusalem – and “God’s going to provide a lamb,” Abraham says, “God’s going to provide a lamb.” God’s not going to let this happen. God’s either going to raise this son from the dead or He’s going to provide a lamb. And they get up there and Isaac is carrying the wood and laid on the wood – a picture of Christ – and Isaac is going to die as a substitute for Abraham’s sin. It’s kind of what it appears. And there’s no lamb, but there is a ram, and the ram is the substitute. In a sense, Isaac is the substitute for Abraham and the ram is the substitute for Isaac.
And, again, you can tell your children there’s going to be a lamb, but the lamb didn’t come then, the lamb didn’t come then. But there’s a picture of the lamb. And you can go to Exodus 12, and you can go to the Passover, and you can tell the wonderful story of when the lamb was slain and the blood was on the doorposts. At night, the angel of death passed by, and nobody could see the blood because it was in the night; they put it on at night. But nobody needed to see the blood, only God needed to see the blood.
And you can tell them about Leviticus 1, and you can tell them that there were two animals, and one was sacrificed and the second animal demonstrated the effect of the sacrifice because the atonement was made by the one animal; the sins were placed on the other animal and carried away. And then you could tell them that when Jesus came, John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And then you can go to the cross and tell them that He died and He rose again.
Everything I’ve just said to you, a child could understand, right? And then you could tell them someday when you go to heaven, Revelation 5, you’re going to be gathered around the throne of God and you’re going to be singing “worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb.”
So this is such a great responsibility. But we have a great God and a great message. Give them the gospel in as rich a way as you can, and then continue to edify them with the Word of God.
Father, we thank You for the wonderful time that we’ve enjoyed in fellowship throughout this day. Thank You for Your truth, Your Word; Your Word is truth. Thank You, Lord, for these precious people. I pray for all of us who parent and grandparent, and all of us who are married, and husbands and wives.
And pray for the single folks, Lord. Lead them to the right life partner. Continue to cause Your church, Your redeemed people, to raise up godly children, to pass righteousness from one generation to the next, to pass the gospel, the baton of gospel truth to the next generation. Help us to plant trees, trees, for the shade of the next generation.
Thank You for the priviledge, thank You for the power and the spirit to do this, and thank You for Your Word, which gives us the instruction and the truth we need. These things we bring before You, hopefully and thankfully in Christ’s name. Amen.
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