The following sermon transcript does not match the video version of the sermon—it matches only the audio version. Here's a brief explanation why.
John MacArthur routinely preaches a sermon more than once on the same date, during different worship services at Grace Community Church. Normally, for a given sermon title, our website features the audio and video that were recorded during the same worship service. Very occasionally, though, we will post the audio from one service and the video from another. Such was the case for the sermon titled "I and the Father Are One, Part 2," the transcript of which follows below. The transcript is of the audio version.
For now, we will continue our Bible study really on the issue of “Shade for the Children.” We’re talking about parenting, talking about what is essential, what is critical for parents to provide a future for their children in a very hostile world. I want us to look in particular into the book of Proverbs.
So I want you to get your Bible open to Proverbs, and I want you to be ready to move through it with me, because we’re going to be looking at and reading a lot of Scripture. There is not a lot to explain in the book of Proverbs; it is self-evident in almost every case, and this is instruction that is critical for parenting. We are examining what God has commanded parents to do in raising their children. We started out in Ephesians, chapter 6. Children are to obey their parents and honor their parents. They’re to do it in the Lord, and it’s the first commandment with a promise, and that promise was a long and full life. That’s the responsibility of children. Parents are not to frustrate or exasperate their children, but to bring them up in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. So we looked at those things over the last couple of weeks.
Tonight I want to move into the whole process of how parents instruct their children a little bit and look at some specifics in the Word of God. Now remember, the basic principle that we’ve sort of been operating on was given to us back in the book of Deuteronomy when the children of Israel were ready to go into the Promised Land, and God said this to them: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” Deuteronomy 6, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and your gates.” In other words, your whole life is to basically be lived in the realm of divine truth so that you lead your children to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Now, included in our message last week was a discussion about how important it is to start by teaching your children the gospel, the gospel; and I gave you some biblical stories, starting in Genesis, that you can use to teach your children. I suggested some New Testament passages as well to use in that instruction.
Tonight as we begin, I want to go back to that whole idea of instructing your children in the gospel and the matter of salvation. But rather than looking at specific passages, I want to talk about some doctrine. So let me just give you a little bit of a doctrinal rundown on what you need to teach your children. All right? This is very, very important. Here are the principles that relate to the salvation of your children.
Number one: you teach your children that God is holy and that He demands perfect holiness. If anyone is to have a relationship with God, certainly an eternal relationship with God, that person must be holy, because God is holy. And because He is holy, secondly, He hates sin; and because He hates sin, He always punishes sin. So your children need to know God is holy, His law demands perfect holiness. Perfect holiness is required for anyone to have a relationship with Him. He hates sin. He always punishes sin.
The next thing you want to make sure your children know is that sinners we are, and therefore we cannot stand before God on the basis of our own holiness, on the basis of our own righteousness. We have violated God’s law. We have offended God. We have scandalized God. We have no basis on our own to enter into His presence and have a relationship with Him. You need to tell your children that sin makes peace with God impossible; it even destroys peace with others – as obviously we see in a world without peace.
Your children also need to know that everyone is in this condition. Everyone is under judgment because we are all unholy. Everyone lives in a situation of alienation from God. Peace with God is impossible, and peace with other people is nearly impossible as well. All of us are worthy of death. We’re worthy of physical death and we’re worthy of eternal death. Children need to understand that. There are severe and everlasting consequences to sin.
And then they need to know that sinners can do nothing to change that, nothing – nothing to earn a different future, nothing to win reconciliation with God. We can do nothing. That’s a critical message, because every false religion in the world says we can do something, and you will insulate your children from false religion if they understand their alienation from God and that there is no way that they can do anything to reconcile.
Furthermore, we can’t change our nature. We can’t fix ourselves. We can’t become any different than we are. We are helpless. We are headed for eternal judgment. We’re headed for hell. That’s our condition. And it’s all because God is holy and we are not.
And then comes the good news; there is a remedy for this terrible condition, and the remedy comes through the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then your children need to know who He is. He is eternally God and Lord of all. He is everlasting God. But He became man, born of a virgin, lived a pure and sinless life, and God had identified Him to be the one who would die in our place, take the divine judgment for us. He was the only one who would be an acceptable sacrifice for our sins. So Jesus died, not under the judgment of Pilate, not under the judgment of Herod, not under the judgment of Annas and Caiaphas, not under the judgment of the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. He died under the judgment of God. God punished Him in our place, and then He rose from the dead in triumphant victory.
So Jesus paid the price for our sins and conquered death for us. Your children need to know that to escape the horrors of the condition that all sinners are in, we have to put our faith in Him. And if we just believe in Jesus as Lord, confess Him as our Lord and Savior, we are forgiven, we are saved, we are reconciled, we are adopted into God’s family, and we are promised eternal heaven. Those are the things that children need to understand and they need to be continually reminded of those things.
Then your next task is to speak to your children about a response. Tell your children they need to repent of their sin. They need to turn from all that dishonors God, and they need to turn to Christ, trust in Him as Savior and Lord, and follow Him in obedience no matter what the cost. So that would be what you would teach your children.
Now Deuteronomy 6, as we read, says, “Teach your children diligently.” That is to say it’s a full-time job, it’s a full-time job. It’s a life calling, a life calling, and one really important reason why in a Christian family, a mother in the home with the children in all those early years is so critical and so vital. And that is why Paul writes and says, “Women are literally saved from the stigma of the Fall when they raise a generation of godly children.” That influence of a Christian mother in those early years – diligently, full-time, 24/7, always teaching these truths to the children; calling them to repent, to turn from all that dishonors God, to put their trust in Jesus Christ, the Savior and Lord, the one who gave His life for them; and to follow Him in obedience no matter what the cost. That needs to be continually, continually taught to children. This is how you raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. You “teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” That’s the Great Commission. That’s for everybody, including your children.
But that’s just the start. You teach them about salvation, that’s the beginning. Beyond that, you also have the responsibility to teach them all things whatsoever Christ has commanded, God has commanded. You teach them all the wisdom of God. Beyond the gospel, there are all kinds of things that they need to know, vital truths about character, about integrity, about justice, about virtue, about discernment, about relationships, about work, about everything – all matters of practical wisdom that shape their lives to honor God.
Now Proverbs is the inspired book that collects all of this life wisdom, so let’s look at the book of Proverbs. Your children should know well what is in the book of Proverbs. They should know well what is in the book of Proverbs.
They’re living in a corrupt world. The tragedy of corruption and evil leadership pollutes subsequent generations. We read in Exodus, Deuteronomy, Numbers the same thing: “The sins of the fathers are visited on the third and the fourth generation.” When you have a corrupt fatherhood, spiritually speaking, when you have a corrupt leadership, it gets deep into the lives of the people so that it could take three or four generations to turn it around. We have to work against the grain of that corruption. So at all costs, we as parents, and in particular fathers, are to lead this instruction regarding divine wisdom for holy living for the purpose of being blessed and honoring God.
Proverbs 29:15 says, “Children who get their own way are a shame to their mother.” Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in them and must be driven out.” So you have a foolish child. Foolishness must be driven out. You cannot let them have their own way or they end up shaming their parents. The duty flows down through the mother, but from the father.
Let’s look at Proverbs 1:8, and notice how the father is emphasized: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction. Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Yes, of course, they both are involved, but the father has a leading responsibility.
Chapter 2, “My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding.”
Chapter 3, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments.”
Chapter 4, “Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding; for I give you sound teaching.” Down in chapter 4, verse 10, “Hear, my son, accept my sayings, and the years of your life will be many.” Down in verse 20, “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.”
Chapter 5, again: “My son, give attention to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding.”
Chapter 6, “My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor and have given a pledge for a stranger,” et cetera, again, verse 3, “do this then, my son, and deliver yourself.” This is instruction from parents, and in particular, a father to sons. Chapter 6, verse 20, “My son, observe the commandment of your father,” and again it says, “do not forsake the teaching of your mother.” They’re both involved. It’s the father, however, who has the leadership in this.
Chapter 7 starts the same way, “My son, keep my words, treasure my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live.” And down in verse 24 of chapter 7, “Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, and pay attention to the words of my mouth.”
Chapter 8, verse 32, “Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways.”
Now, can I say something that’s really obvious here? There is no greater way to place the truth of God in the life of a child than to speak the Word of God to that child. You don’t need clever mechanisms; you don’t need video; you don’t need kind of subtle impressions. You directly speak the Word of God; that’s by God’s design. Fathers do it and mothers do it. And as fathers go and as mothers go, so goes society. But the father will take the lead and the father will speak to the sons who will in the next generation take the lead, and that is why, by the way, that there is a constant feminist attempt as Satan tries to destroy the leadership of men in a society. This goes on all the time. It started in the Garden when Satan isolated Eve out from under the headship of Adam, twisted things to her, led her astray, and then Adam literally succumbed to the leadership of his wife, and the conflict was on.
You’re living in a society that is literally at a massive assault on the part of women endeavoring to emasculate men and rob them of their leadership, and it’s been very, very successful. That has to be maintained in the family that honors Christ. The man is the head. He is the instructor at the top. “He is the head of the woman as Christ is the head of the man and God is the head of Christ,” as Paul says in 1 Corinthians. There is a profound need for strong fathers to teach their sons. This is the only hope for shade for the children in the next generation. So God gave us as fathers and mothers, of course, a basic book, the truths that we are to teach, and they’re all sort of summed up in this incredible book of Proverbs, a book of wisdom, how to live life to please God.
Now, it assumes that you know God, so there’s a sense in which salvation is assumed here. This is written for the people who belong to God. All of the spiritual living principles are compiled into this one book on life, and it’s simplified. It’s drawn down to pithy, simple, concise rules and statements. It would be fair to say they are concise in form and they are wise in content. If we are to raise a generation of godly sons and daughters who can lead the next generation into the knowledge of Christ, the knowledge of God and godliness, then these are the truths that must be taught.
And by the way, much of contemporary instruction for fathers is hopelessly trivial: be a friend to your son, listen to your son, go places together with your children, have fun, follow their interests. Very superficial. Not wrong; but if you’re going to do all that, make sure that you use all that time you’re with them to embed in them divine principles. Get your conversation at that level. What Proverbs says is much deeper than talking about children’s activities, children’s games. The primary duty then of fathers and of parents is not to take out the trash, as one little boy said, not to bring home the bacon and not to fix what’s broken. The primary responsibility of fathers and mothers is to teach holy living principles to their children.
Now, there’s one overarching, consummate, summary lesson, so let’s go back to chapter 2 for a moment. You want to teach them that spiritual wisdom is the noblest pursuit of life. Spiritual wisdom is the noblest pursuit of life. More than anything, they need wisdom. Just that alone is contrary to all the things that are dangled in front of this generation of young people. Whatever you’re going to go after, whatever you’re going to get, get wisdom, get divine wisdom.
Look at chapter 2, and just follow the flow. “My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding. If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright. He’s a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course.”
Would there by anything more than that that you would want for your child: an understanding heart, discernment, knowledge, wisdom, sound wisdom, integrity, justice, righteousness, equity, every good course? That’s what you want for your child. “For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things.”
It’s not just the positive effect of wisdom bringing about blessing, it’s the negative impact of wisdom, protecting you from lies and deception and errors, from those who leave the paths of uprightness and walk in the ways of darkness, from those who do delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. You need wisdom. You need divine wisdom. You need the wisdom of God. You need discernment. You need knowledge. You need understanding. All those words are repeated throughout the book of Proverbs.
Look at chapter 8 for a minute, and here there’s a kind of a personification of wisdom itself as if wisdom actually speaks. This happens a few places in the early part of Proverbs. “Does not wisdom call, and understanding lift up her voice? On the top of the heights beside the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand. Beside the gates, at the opening to the city, at the entrance of the doors, she cries out: ‘To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men. O naïve ones, understand prudence; and, O fools, understand wisdom. Listen, for I will speak noble things, and the opening of my lips will reveal right things. For my mouth will utter truth, and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; there’s nothing crooked or perverted in them. They’re all straightforward to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold. For wisdom is better than jewels, and all desirable things cannot compare with her. I, wisdom, dwell with prudence; I find knowledge and discretion.’”
This is what every person should seek: wisdom. Wisdom produces prudence, knowledge, discretion, the fear of the Lord, humility, a pure mouth, wise counsel, justice, right judgment, love. And verse 18 says, “Riches and honor are with me, wisdom. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold; my yield better than choicest silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, to endow those who love me with wealth, that I may fill their treasures.” It’s not just spiritually beneficial to be wise, it’s beneficial every way in life, every way.
Verse 32, the 8th chapter closes, “Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction and be wise, do not neglect it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me, wisdom, injures himself. All those who hate me love death.” “All those who hate me love death.”
So what is the responsibility that parents have? First of all, to know wisdom, and then to pass it on. If there is any shade for the children of the future, this is what we must do. It’s not going to come from the world; they’re going to counter it. It’s not going to come in any educational system operating in the world at whatever level, from elementary school all the way through graduate school. The wisdom of God is not on their curriculum. That’s going to be your responsibility, accompanied by other believers and the church of Jesus Christ. We all come together to help you, as parents, to learn wisdom and to teach wisdom.
And I need to say this; it’s very obvious. But I just need to say it because I want to make sure you get it fixed in your mind. The wisdom of God is not complicated. The Proverbs, as you read them, are simple, straightforward, almost exclusively two lines. They’re not esoteric. There isn’t hidden truth here. This isn’t mystical. This is just straightforward, divine wisdom.
Now, there are many things that are said in Proverbs, but I want to sum them up, and I want to give you ten crucial lessons that parents have to teach their children. You might say it another way: ten crucial lessons that parents have to know so they can teach their children.
You have already heard me say it’s important to evangelize your children. That’s essential because they’re not going to be able to embrace the wisdom of God and live out the wisdom of God unless they’re in Christ and know God, unless they’re empowered by the Spirit of God. So we kind of have to start this with the first and primary principle of wisdom. Number one: teach your children, “Fear your God. Fear your God.” It all starts there.
In Proverbs 1:7 it says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” That’s repeated in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This is the first, this is the priority, this is the primary controlling principle.
Proverbs 9:10 adds this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” The first thing to teach your children is to fear your God, to fear your God, to know your God. And that brings up, again, the relationship, the salvation that is the starting point.
What do we mean by “fear your God”? We don’t mean to be afraid of God; although if you reject the gospel, you’d better be afraid of God. But when we talk about fear, we’re talking about respect, we’re talking about reverential awe. Fathers are to teach their children to respect God, to reverence God for who He is: respect Him, respect His Word, respect His law, respect His power, respect His authority; respect His judgment, discipline, displeasure. In other words, you have respect for the character and attributes of God.
Teach your children to worship God, that’s what that’s saying. Teach your children to worship God, to understand who God is, and that He alone is God and there is no other God. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is one, the Lord is one!” Teach your children about that God, all His attributes, all His characteristics, all that He is, all that He has done. Your children need to know the character of God.
And then in the words of Proverbs 3:5, “Teach your children to trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce.” It’s all about the Lord, the Lord, honoring the Lord. That’s where everything begins.
Verse 5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” The Hebrew word for “trust” originally meant “lying prone on the ground with your face down.” Literally, go down as low as you can go in respect to how glorious God is.
“Do not lean on your own understanding.” That is an interesting word. It doesn’t mean to incline just at an angle. It means to support yourself like you were leaning on something to hold you up. Put all your weight on God. Fall down on your face before Him. Put all your weight on Him and acknowledge Him, know Him, be aware of Him. A true fear of God produces a true fear of sin. A true fear of God produces a true fear of judgment.
Proverbs expands on this initial lesson, “Fear your God.” Proverbs says, “Fearing the Lord prolongs life,” chapter 10. “Fearing the Lord is more profitable than wealth,” chapter 15. “Fearing the Lord brings abundant life,” chapter 19, chapter 14. “Fearing the Lord keeps one from evil,” chapter 16. “Fearing the Lord results in riches and honor,” chapter 22. “Fearing the Lord,” and this it says several times, “produces humility, humility.” Proverbs also says that “those who fear God sleep satisfied.” Those who fear God are untouched by evil. Those who fear God have confidence. Those who fear God will be praised by others. Those who fear God have their prayers answered. Everything starts with fearing God, being a worshiper of the true God.
Now, obviously, we can’t be a true worshiper until we’ve come to Christ. That’s John 4, isn’t it, in the New Testament: “The Father seeks true worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth.” And the only way that you can become a true worshiper is through faith in Christ. So Philippians 3:3 says, “We are those who worship in the Spirit. We worship in the Spirit. We worship in the Spirit the Lord Jesus Christ, and through Him, God, and put no confidence in the flesh.”
So teach your children, “Fear your God.” Fear His judgment, fear His wrath, fear sin, fear its consequences, but more importantly, fear in the sense of worship and reverence toward God. Fear Him in the sense that you honor Him, that you respect Him, that you love Him. Be a worshiper. Teach your children to be worshipers of God. And the best way to teach them, of course, is to open up the Word of God; and the best way to support that is to be a worshiper yourself.
The second lesson: teach your children, “Fear your God.” Number two: teach your children, “Guard your mind.” “Guard your mind.” This is repeated all through this entire section, the opening ten chapters. I can’t even go to all the places that it calls us to instruct people in knowledge, and discretion, and wisdom, and discernment, and understanding. But look at chapter 3, verse 3. He has been talking about teaching commandments. “Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Don’t let truth leave you. Bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart, kindness and truth.” Inscribing on your heart means your mind, it means your mind. Inscribe the truth on your mind.
More directly, chapter 4, a familiar verse, verse 23: “Watch over your heart with all diligence.” Again, heart is the Hebrew way of expressing the mind. “Watch over your mind. Guard your mind with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Guard your mind, because out of what you think, you live. Your life literally flows out of your thoughts. Guard your mind. Out of it comes your conduct.
This is reiterated many places in Scripture. Paul talks about, “If anything is pure and good, think on these things.” Paul talks about “having a renewed mind.” Jesus said this in Matthew 12:34, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart, or the mind. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good. The evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.” People who think well, think good, behave that way. They dip into the treasure of goodness. Those who are evil dip into the treasure of evil, and they disperse it. And now this is everywhere.
Back in chapter 1, verse 8, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction; do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments around your neck.” This is literally saying surround your head and your neck with wisdom, with truth. It’s just what should control your life.
We saw in chapter 2, for just a moment, verse 10, “Wisdom will enter your heart, and discretion will guard you. Understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the ways of those who are evil and crooked.”
Again, in chapter 3, verse 1, “Don’t forget my teaching. Let your mind keep my commandments” – your heart or mind – “hold onto these.”
Chapter 4, the same thing: “I give you,” verse 2, “sound teaching. Don’t 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 said to me, ‘Let your heart’ - or mind – ‘hold fast my words. Keep my commandments and live. Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding!’” Verse 6, “Do not forsake her, she’ll guard you. Love her; she’ll watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is acquire wisdom. With all your acquiring, get understanding. Prize her. She will exalt you. She will honor you if you embrace her.” This is just repeated again and again.
Chapter 4, verse 10, “Hear my sayings, accept them. The years of your life will be many. 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; and if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.”
Down in verse 20, the same thing: “Give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Don’t let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart, your mind. They are life to those who find them.” And then verse 23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Again, repeated in chapter 6, verse 20, “Observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother. Bind them continually on your heart.” Again, “Tie them around your neck.” Literally, “surround your thinking with divine wisdom.”
Same thing at the beginning of chapter 7, “Treasure my commandments; keep them and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.” Teach your children to, “Guard your mind.”
We have the task of assuring a child that the mind is the fountainhead of all that is good and all that is wicked. Program your children with chesed, “loving-kindness”: love, loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity. That’s what it’s saying in chapter 4 and verse 23.
Teach your children truth. These are the graces that are to be inscribed on their hearts. That is a lifetime responsibility; and here we are reminded again that you teach them this. And the Lord Himself quickens that instruction from His Word, because His Word is alive and powerful.
A third and obvious thing – and we talked about it, but I want to include it in this list. Teach your children, “Obey your parents.” “Obey your parents.” It’s going to be very hard for them to receive any instruction from you if they don’t feel the responsibility to obey what you say. “Hear, my son. Hear your father’s instruction. Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Your children need to be taught parental authority. Reinforce that first commandment with a promise. You must submit to the authority of your parents. That is critical. It is critical, because when that shifts over from not knocking things off the table or scribbling on the wall, it shifts over to the spiritual dimension. You have that same submissive attitude ready to hear and listen.
In the tenth chapter and verse 13, we read about something that will aid us in this. “On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found; but a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.” You speak to your children the truth of God. When they violate that, you are aided and helped in the discipline that brings pain when they do not respond. And you have a model for that in chapter 3, verse 11: “My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” And that, of course, is quoted, isn’t it, in the book of Hebrews.
So teach your children to obey their parents, and reinforce the requirement of obedience with necessary pain. Not abuse, not injury, but a reasonable reminder that there are consequences to disobedience that will instruct children in doing right as a way to escape punishment. You would like to think that they would be motivated by the sheer fact that something is right, but they won’t. Foolishness is bound up in their hearts, as with all of us.
Now, Proverbs is very careful about this discipline. Chapter 19, verse 18 says, “Discipline is not to be done in anger.” It is not to be done in anger. It is to be done in love. We just read that in chapter 3, verses 11-12. “Whom the Lord lives He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” It’s a loving act. It’s a delightful thing for a father to do because he knows the end of it is for the benefit of the child. So you do not discipline in anger, you discipline in love.
You discipline, not because you’re frustrated with your child, not because you simply want to control that child, but because you want that child to do things that are wise. “The rod is for the back of the one who lacks understanding.” You’re leading him in the path of understanding. So the purpose of discipline is to demand conformity to wisdom.
Now, it’s not easy to do this because every heart is rebellious. So we know that there must be a breaking of that rebellion. Proverbs 19:18, “Discipline your son while there’s hope, and do not desire his death.” If you don’t discipline him and break his self-will, he’ll go down the path to death.
“Discipline,” according to chapter 22, verse 15, “is to remove foolishness and replace it with wisdom.” It even goes beyond that. “Discipline has a lasting impact on a child.” Extremely significant. Listen to this. Proverbs 29:17, “Correct your son, and he’ll give you comfort. He will also delight your soul.”
Nobody wants an undisciplined child. So we discipline, but not in anger, always in love. We discipline because the delightful outcome of that is that we have a child who brings us comfort and joy. We discipline to break self-will. We discipline to remove foolishness. We discipline to deliver the child from spiritual death. We teach our children to obey. We use a rod to reinforce that instruction since physical punishment done in love is a strong corrective. “You will,” Proverbs says, “drive that foolishness far from him.” He must learn obedience to his parents so that he can learn obedience to the law of God, and he can submit himself to authority in life so that he can live in the world and not become antisocial and a criminal.
A disobedient child often ends up as a criminal adult. A disobedient child nowadays, whose disobedience is given some psychological identity, is then given drugs. The drugs create kind of a stupor. The child lives through that stupor; and eventually when the drugs stop, you have a completely antisocial child. You have the responsibility not to drug your children, but to instruct your children and discipline them. So the task of parents: teach your child – fear your God, guard your mind, obey your parents.
Fourth: select your companions. Select your companions. This is something Patricia and I talked a lot about when our children were little. Very, very important. We didn’t let our children be selected; we let our children do the selecting of who they would be with, and we helped them with that. Go back to chapter 1.
“My son,” verse 10, “if sinners entice you” - and they will – “don’t consent, don’t do it.” “If sinners entice you, don’t do it.”
I have a vivid memory of that when I was very small. Some kids got ahold of me, I think I was about nine. We went down to a Sears store and they dared me to steal something off a shelf, and they enticed me; and in my foolishness, I grabbed something, somebody else grabbed something, and we stuffed things in our pocket; and going out the door, the store detective grabbed our necks; and the next thing I knew, I was at the police station. My father was called and he came to take me home; and when I got home, I received the rod of correction. It was a very important lesson for me, not to let sinners entice me. Teach your children to choose the people who elevate them, choose the people who lift them up.
“My son,” go back to chapter 1 and verse 10, “if sinners entice you” - this comes right at the beginning of Proverbs – “don’t consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood. Let’s ambush the innocent without cause. Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, even whole, as those who go down to the pit. We will all find all kinds of precious wealth. We’ll fill our houses with spoil. Throw in your lot with us, we’ll all have one purse.’ My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, for their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed blood. Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net in the sight of any bird; but they lie in wait for their own blood; they ambush their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; it takes away the life of its possessors.” That is a path to death. You select your companions; don’t let them select you. Don’t let them say, “Join us. Join us.” If you have wisdom, it will protect you.
Go to chapter 2 again, verse 11: “Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the ways of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.” “So,” in verse 20, “you’ll walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land and the treacherous will be uprooted from it.”
Listen, let me tell you something, very simple: do not let your children make friends with people who drag them down. “Bad company,” says the New Testament, “corrupts good morals.” You make sure you aid your children in choosing their companions.
Chapter 4, verse 14, “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 unless they do evil, and they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. 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. The way of the wicked is like darkness, they don’t know over what they stumble.”
Look, have your children in this church in every possible opportunity to make friends with people who love Christ, who love the Word of God. That’s what parents teach their children, to select their companions.
Over in the eighteenth chapter of Proverbs, another comment on this, verse 24, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin. But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Now on the surface, that might be a little bit strange. But the first word “friends” and the second word “friend” are two different words in Hebrew.
A man who has too many rea. “A man who has too many connections, too many acquaintances, comes to ruin.” You’re spread too thin; you’re connected to too many. “But there is” - and here’s a different word – “there is an aheb.” This is a loving companion who sticks closer than a brother; that’s what you want to pursue. You want to pursue friendships of commonality, brothers and sisters who are your friend out of love, out of affection. A few close, loving friends, who are loyal and honest and uplifting are precious. Superficial, shallow acquaintances can be deadly.
We live in a very pathetic world when it comes to friendship. Whatever the Internet means, it certainly doesn’t mean Proverbs 18:24, “There’s a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” You need loving friends, not Facebook friends. Spread yourself thin all over everywhere, and you’re connecting yourself with acquaintances who drag you into evil. Maybe not crime, but self-promotion, self-exaltation, pride, frivolity, foolishness.
So this is the parents’ duty, not just to tell their children how to make a living, how to get along in life on a simple level, but to teach your children to “fear your God, guard your mind, obey your parents, select your companions.”
Now, that leads us to a fifth one that is really important: control your body. Control your body. And this is so extensive in the early chapters of Proverbs that I’m going to keep it for next week. It opens up the entire matter of morality. And I know when we think about raising children in this culture, the thing that hits us hardest is the immorality of the culture; the pervasive, dominant, ubiquitous immorality. So next time, we’re going to begin there and go to the end of the ten.
Now, you can see from this that parenting is a full-time job. Here’s the good news: you have the manual right here. And if you’re willing to take the time and make the effort, you can provide shade for your children; and we can, by the grace of God, raise a generation who will do the same for the next and the next. That should be our commitment.
Now, some of you are single and you’re saying, “I’m not ready to have children. Again, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. I think what you need to say is, “Lord Jesus,” if you’re a man, “Lord Jesus, I want to give my life to a young lady that I can love as Christ loves the church, that I can protect, that I can provide for, that I can enjoy, and that you can allow to be a wife so that we can raise children to your glory and your honor.”
And ladies, you just need to say, “I want a man who will love me in the direction of the way Christ loves the church, and together, we can honor Christ, as a couple and as parents.” You’ve got to get past all the superficial criteria, because this is the grace of life, marriage; and children are a blessing from the Lord. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank You that we have been given both internally the power of the Holy Spirit to help us in this challenging task of raising children in a hostile world, and we’ve been given the external Word, the revelation that we hold in our hands and that we read and that takes over our thoughts and, therefore, rules our lives. We have your power in us and we have your Word outside of us. And with the Word and the Spirit, we can accomplish this task; and not only accomplish it, not as if it is some painful exercise, but that we can do it with joy and blessing, so that children become a comfort and a delight to our souls. We pray to that end, and we pray that from folks here at Grace Church, you will raise up a godly generation who will then do the same. We commit this truth to your Spirit to work its effect in our hearts for Your glory. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.