Bring Your Children Up in the Lord (Ephesians Sermon 42 of 54)
June 05, 2016 | Andrew Davis
Sanctification, Grace, Life in the Spirit, Glory of God, Holiness, Marriage and Parenting
So just a couple of things before I get into the sermon. This will be the last time that I preach to you for a while. I'm going to be taking a writing sabbatical this summer for six or seven weeks. I have a five-year deadline on my Isaiah commentary, and I've been endlessly ribbed by others that have written in that series, saying I'm bringing up the rear, so it's due in August, and I'm grateful to the elders for an opportunity to concentrate and work on it and also looking forward to hearing the ministry of the Word from the elders. So I'll be here, our family will be here those weeks and we'll be ministering in all other ways but just I won't be preaching. So pray for me that I would be able to just have the gift of brevity. The commentary is done. It's just 30% too long and well, you know that problem, you have to endure it just about every week, but that's what I'm doing. Also, I'm delighted to see our China team back. I'm looking especially at the team that came back at 4:45 this morning. You guys are still awake. I'm going to be looking at you throughout the sermon and seeing if those eyes are open. I see that you've got your coffee there, so keep going but we're glad to have all of you here.
This morning, I get to preach on parenting. And so, you know how in Ephesians 5 for a section of the time, the husbands get to elbow the wives, and then the next week the wives get to elbow the husband. So I guess this morning, I suppose the children get to elbow the parents. Mom and dad, pay attention now, listen carefully. But I want you to know, I'm not sure who exasperates who more, in parenting, the parent-child relationship because I have been thoroughly exasperated by my children from time to time. And I know that I have also exasperated them, but we turn to the word of God this morning to be blessed, and we really yearn to hear from Scripture what Godly parenting is all about. And I want to resume a theme that I began last week, because it's been much on my mind, especially with the China team coming back and with the heart that all of us should have for the global expanse of the Gospel.
A Vision of the Future
A Glorious Assembly of the Redeemed
I often think in my mind that the vision that the Apostle John had, of the finish line, of this election that we have talked about in Ephesians Chapter 1 before the foundation of the world, God chose His children, His people that He would adopt them at the right time and he had all of human history in his mind, Ephesians 1, teaches this very plainly.
But then you get in Revelation 7:9-10, it says, "After that I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language." “Nation, tribe, people and language. Standing before the throne and in front of the lamb, and they were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands, and they cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.’” These are the redeemed. Now, what a sight that's going to be. They were elect from before the foundation of the world, they were chosen in Christ and they will be there in Heaven with clear emblems of their purity, clothed in white, holding palm branches of victory, and they're waving and they're giving all credit and glory to Jesus, the Lamb who died for them.
How Did They Get There?
But then in the text, in Revelation 7:13, it says, "One of the elders asked me, these in white robes, who are they? And where did they come from?" And as I did last week, I want to upload in your mind again, another question, how did they get there? What is the story that will be told in Heaven of how those elect actually came to saving faith in Christ? Now, I love thrilling conversion stories. Of course, we all love the story of Saul of Tarsus, and how breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples, the very morning of the day he was converted gives us incredible courage and boldness in evangelism, thinking if that man in that mental state can be converted on that day, anyone can. When I think about all others that have been converted, we're going to have the chance to hear their stories and to rejoice in them.
I read a story, a book once called Death of a Guru and it was an extended testimony of a Brahmin caste Hindu. He comes from a long line of Brahmin priests, his name was Rabi Maharaj. He was trained as a yogi, and he meditated for many hours each day, but he became disillusioned and depressed by Hinduism, heard the Gospel and was radically, permanently transformed by it, and became a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. I look forward to meeting him and hearing his testimony. I love those kind of testimonies.
Or you know Lee Strobel, who wrote The Case for Easter, The Case for Christ and a number of other books, he was Yale educated in law, he was a journalist for the Chicago Tribune, he was an avowed Atheist but he was converted to Christ when he began investigating Christianity to debunk it. You know how many people there will be like that in Heaven? I think Josh McDowell was the same way. These apologists, they go after Christianity to debunk it, and the more they get into it, the more powerful and compelling it seems, and they end up being converted.
CS Lewis was similar. He was an Atheist, an intellectual enemy of the Gospel, he eventually became what he called, "The most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England."He'd been fighting Christ and the overwhelming truth of the scripture until he could fight no longer and was saved, wonderfully.
And so I want to hear all of those stories or I think about bold missionary endeavors and these courageous missionaries like William Carey, and Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, John Paton, Elisabeth Elliot and all of these great brothers and sisters in Christ and I was reading the story about the first convert in India under William Carey, he was a man named Krishna Pal. He came to faith in Christ when he slipped on a river bed, a muddy river bed and dislocated his shoulder. He had already become disillusioned with Hinduism and was starting to focus on Theism through Islam, but he heard about this, this missionary compound, this community, and they had some medical knowledge there, his shoulder was dislocated, and he was brought to the missionary compound and a doctor there working with William Carey named John Thomas took care of his shoulder and spoke to this man Krishna about Christ. And he began coming regularly and hearing the gospels, this was after Carey had been there for seven years with no fruit, and Carey and his team led him to Christ, and when this news emerged, all of this man's Indian friends began to mock him and attack him, and persecute him, but he eventually ended up leading dozens and dozens of them to Christ. And in Heaven, we're going to hear stories about brothers and sisters like this.
Or I think about heroic traveling Evangelists like George Whitefield or Billy Graham that have led so many people to Christ. I love reading the stories of Arnold Dallimore wrote a biography of Whitefield and how he crossed the Atlantic Ocean 13 times and all of the detailed stories of people up and down the colonies, the coasts before the American Revolution, just clamoring to hear the Gospel through George Whitefield and being converted. Or in 1957, I read the story of Billy Graham's New York City crusade and you really should Google the photo of Billy Graham preaching in Times Square in New York. I think that will never be repeated again.
Several hundred thousand people crammed in to Time Square, black and white photo, and Billy Graham about to preach the Gospel, and the fruit of that 110-day crusade there, 2 million people heard the gospel and over 50,000 claimed to have come to faith in Christ. And we're going to want to hear all of those stories. But as I said last week, by far the most productive means by which the elect are converted, soundly converted is Christian parenting.
The Great Commission Starts at Home
Now, I don't know the percentages, I guessed it, 60%, 55%, 60%, 70% who knows who can tell? But I want to focus all of you parents on the incredibly high calling that the Lord gives you when he brings a baby into your life. When he brings a child into your home. The high calling that you have to bring those children to a saving faith in Christ. I believe that God uses the Christian family generations down the line from when William Carey or Adoniram Judson or John Paton come to an area, to establish a multi-generational testimony to Christ and bring many, many to faith in Christ. Missionaries in that case, build the bridge, but the parents are the key to that multi-generational structure that gets built-up. Everyone that I've talked to has said that this is true. By far the most effective kind of evangelism there is in the world is parent-child evangelism, nothing is even close. Far more effective than workplace evangelism, contact evangelism or anything else. And so, we want to embrace this concept that the Great Commission starts at home.
The Great Commission that Jesus gave to us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” the most effective disciple-making all around the world is done at home, making disciples of your own children, and teaching them to obey everything, that comprehensive obedience that parents get to teach their children.
So this morning, as I did last week, I'm advocating that you embrace, you who are parents of growing children, embrace this pattern that's given us in 2 Timothy 3:14-15. “As for you,” Paul says to Timothy, “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of because you know those from whom you learned it.” You hear that? The people who taught it to you and how from infancy, you have known the Holy Scriptures which were able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. You see the beautiful combination of the in-depth close relationship of the evangelizers and this word that you've known from infancy how beautifully that comes together in Christian parenting.
Understanding the Role of Home Evangelism
Now I need to give a few caveats. I was talking to a dear brother, this week and I want to say a few things what I do not mean in saying all of this. First of all, I do not mean that we don't need evangelism and missions outside the home. I do hope you know that. When I say 55% to 60% maybe get converted at home, you know that leaves 40% to 45% that don't, if those numbers are true. They need Evangelists and missionaries. So we absolutely have to be faithful. I was not brought to an evangelical understanding of the Gospel by my parents. I was led to faith in Christ by a fraternity brother at age 19 in Boston, at Sigma Chi at MIT. That's who led me to Christ. And so I absolutely believe in evangelism and I believe in missions.
So we're not saying that, nor do we say that every child who is raised in a godly Christian home will themselves become godly followers of Christ. We know the heartbreaking reality of how many break away from what their parents taught and exemplified and do not walk with Christ. We know that that's true, and Jesus Himself said it was going to happen. In Matthew 10:34-37, he said these words, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I've come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man's enemies will be the members of his own household," and then he said this, "anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me. And anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me." So our top loyalty is always going to be to Christ.
We know sadly, that many children do rebel and do not follow their Godly parents. That's how whole movements like the Moravians and the Puritans, the New England Puritans, fall apart after a few generations, because the children don't follow in the godly footsteps of their parents. That's how in a country like the Czech Republic and all that is 99% Atheist. Whereas in generations before there were far more Christians because the younger generations did not follow in the Gospel. So we know that. But there are many, many things that we parents can and should be doing to enrich our children's lives with the Gospel and that's what I'm going to preach about today.
The Eternal Accountability of Parenting
Primary Responsibility Goes to Fathers
So we've got before us, in this text, I'm zeroing in on verse 4 alone, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." So here we have the eternal accountability of parents. Now, the word, the text says, “fathers,” we stick with that word, it's a good translation. And so the primary responsibility for bringing up the children goes to the fathers. But we know that the Greek word used here can be extended to include mothers as well. So we can think of this in terms of parents, but we continue to embrace the headship and submission pattern of marriage in Ephesians 5 and say that the father is the one primarily responsible for this ministry in the home. But mothers are in view, are too, definitely biblically. Think about the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 6:20-21, says, "My son, keep your Father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching." So you got the Father's command, the Mother's teaching they're working together, the father and the mother, in the godly nurturing of the children. “Bind them upon your heart,” he says, “forever and fasten them around your neck.”
Godly Mothers in Church History
So we think about godly mothers in the Bible, and godly mothers throughout church history. You think of Timothy with his mother, Eunice and how she, with her mother Lois brought Timothy up in the faith. We think about heroic mothers in church history like Felicitas in Ancient Rome, who had seven sons, who with her, all of them on the same day were martyred by Marcus Aurelius. And how she had raised them up to be Christians and they all maintained their Christian confession even at the price of their own lives. Or Monica, you know the story of Monica with her son Augustine, one of the most famous conversion stories in all of church history, but it was his godly mother who wept and prayed for him as he was wandering so badly in paganism and philosophy and sexual immorality, and she was just heart broken and would continue to pray and he mentions her quite prominently in his Confessions.
When I think about Susanna Wesley, and her children John and Charles Wesley the most famous of her children, she gave birth, I think, 19 times the records are a little sketchy, 10 of them survived into childhood, think about that, nine not surviving into childhood but that's just how it was back then. With infant mortality and other things that would take children. But Susanna Wesley was a beautiful mixture of piety and practical godliness in her home. I picture a home of high energy, high-powered, intelligent kids. And it said that she would sit in the center of the living room on a chair with her apron over her head that was her prayer closet, kids were to leave her alone for that time while she was praying. I don't know how well that worked, but at any rate, that's what she did. But she made it a point to spend one hour a week evangelizing and discipling each of her children pouring into each one as they were growing.
And then there's Charles Spurgeon with his mother. Spurgeon gives this testimony, he said, "I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother. I remember on one occasion her praying thus, now Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the Day of Judgment if they lay not hold of Christ." She was praying that out loud. Spurgeon said “That thought of my mother's bearing a swift witness against me pierced my conscience. How can I ever forget when she bowed her knee and with her arms about my neck prayed these words, ‘Oh, that my son might live before thee, Oh Lord.’”
So we have in view I think godly parenting both fathers and mothers, but we're going to zero in, especially in the responsibility of the fathers to evangelize and disciple their own children. And we start in this text, in verse 4 with the negative. There's a prohibition here. “It says Fathers do not provoke your children to anger,” and then the positive, “but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” We've seen this throughout this practical section of Ephesians from Ephesians 4 through 5 and now into 6. The negatives do not do this, “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth. But only what is helpful for building others up.” We get the same pattern here.
The Negative: Do Not Provoke Your Children to Anger
Limitations to Parental Authority
So we have this prohibition. “Do not provoke your children to anger.” So what this means is that fathers are limited in their authority over their children, they're limited by the word of God. The Father is the highest human authority over the child, with the mother second in command. But parental authority is not absolute. There are limits to parental authority, and there are also limits of parental responsibility. So fundamentally, we just need to get across, your children are not yours, ultimately. They belong to God, they belong to God. For He alone made them, He alone sustains them, He alone can save them and He alone will judge them. They belong to God.
I think about what Job said in Job 10:10-12, he said, "Did... ", speaking to God, "Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese, clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews. You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence you watched over my spirit." So he's saying God you knit me together in my mother's womb. So, fathers are restrained in their authority by the higher authority of God, our children belong to God.
God’s Ownership Even During Tragedy
Now, let me say a tender word to any of you who might have the extreme tragedy of burying a child, if that should ever happen. It's been a time of tremendous temptation to parents, grieving parents to find fault with God at times like that. To rage in accusation against God, for “taking my child from me." This is where I want to say to you again what I've been saying to you. They are not yours, they belong to God. They belong to God. And we can never rail against God if you should choose in His providence to take one. I don't think there are any trials that we could face in life, that is poignant and wrenching as burying a child. I think that's one of the hardest things that can ever happen. So, I'm not minimizing the pain that one feels, but if you're not in any way helped by yielding to Satan at that moment and turning away from the God who alone can minister to you, and bring you comfort, and sustaining grace at that time. And Job knew this. Job lost 10 children in one day. Think about it. It's just staggering to me. Seven sons and three daughters in one day, and he said about that, “the Lord gave and the Lord took away, may the name of the Lord be praised.” And in all this, he did not find any fault with God or charge God with wrongdoing. So all of our parenting should be done in light of God's greater ownership and greater responsibility over our children. That's vital, they belong to God.
The Prohibition: Do Not Provoke Your Children to Anger
So what is the prohibition. Let's look at it. It says, "Do not provoke your children to anger," The NIV has “Do not exasperate your children.” I know well when some of my children learned the word exasperate because then I heard it often. We'll get to all that, because I'm going to couch the terms here so that parents are not hindered by the sermon I'm preaching today I'm hoping to help. Alright, but exasperate, I think it's a potent word, but more literally, “provoke your children to wrath.” Don't give them a reason for reasonable anger. There is righteous indignation don't give them a reason for that. And don't tempt them to unrighteous anger either. That's what we're looking at here. Don't be a cause for your children to rebel and run from Christ and from the Gospel because of your bad example and your bad parenting.
So the focus here is the tender hearts of your children. Children can become discouraged, they can become dismayed, they can become beaten down, repressed and ultimately enraged by bad parenting. We desire instead to cherish and nurture and love our children. The child must be brought to broken-hearted repentance over sin, to faith in Christ to a deep love for God and for the Word of God in a pattern of obedience to it. That's what we're trying to do.
Now, let me say a cautionary word here. Just because a child is angry at his parents, especially at moments of discipline, doesn't mean their parents are to blame. You know that, don't you? Parents You definitely know that. Kids tend to get provoked to anger easily whenever any consequences of a sin are brought to them. So it's not necessarily the case that when your kids are angry that you've sinned or done anything wrong. They may just need to get quiet and go pray and see that they are the ones that have sinned and their parents are just trying to be faithful parents. But we need to look at what Paul is prohibiting because there is something that he is prohibiting here. So, I want to get into specifics, What provokes children to wrath? What exasperates children?
13 Points: What Provokes Children to Wrath?
Well, number one, I'm going to go kind of the opposite direction cause all the rest are going to lean on the other side, but number one, just lack of discipline at all. Lack of discipline at all, just letting them roam free and never challenging or crossing their wills that, ironically, in the end will provoke them to wrath. Most of the injunctions I'm about to give seek to restrain from doing discipline too harshly or too abundantly or in a way that will provoke them to wrath, but it's ironically true that no discipline at all will end up feeding their fleshly nature, their fleshly pride, and their rebellious hearts and make them children of wrath, serving the devil.
So you definitely want to cross their sinful wills, and discipline them when they sin, you definitely want to do that. As it says in Proverbs 13:24, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." As a matter of fact, the author of the Hebrews picks up various Proverbs on discipline. In Hebrews 12 when he says that's how our Heavenly Father treats us, he disciplines us when we need it for our sins. And as a matter of fact, if He doesn't discipline you, you're an illegitimate child, you're not a true son or daughter of God. He will not allow you to just go off into sin, He's going to pull you back, and as someone called it, take you to the divine woodshed. He will do hard things in your life. Hebrews 12. And in that he's quoting the book of Proverbs. So to not discipline at all is to provoke them to wrath. However, beyond this, there's an array of wrong ways to discipline and train a child, ways that will provoke them to anger.
Secondly, on the other hand, excessive strictness will provoke a child to wrath. Some parents see the overall laxness of parental discipline in our culture and they overreact in the opposite direction. They feel the more strictness the better. I don't know why, but I was reminded of the old woman and the shoe. You remember her? Mother goose? I read this with new eyes this week. “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children she didn't know what to do. She gave them some broth without any bread, whipped them all soundly, and sent them to bed.” I'm thinking that's not good parenting. And it says right in the rhyme she doesn't know what to do. So, be saturated in the Word of God, you will know what to do, and it's not that.
So excessive strictness, the great danger here, of course, all humor aside, is abuse. That can become abusive, even corporal punishment and we know can become abusive because there have been those extremes, some would seek to eliminate corporal punishment as even being legal at all. Some nations have done that. Made it illegal. I think that's obviously going too far, but it is possible that some of it can become abusive.
Thirdly, a lack of love for the children provokes them to wrath. A cold, emotionally, distant, loveless parent never holding the children never cherishing them, never telling them how much you love them. Or perhaps, let's just say not enough. So stern, so angry with them, failing to find your joy in their blessing. Just like I asked between husbands and wives, I said husbands ask your wives, “Do you feel loved by me like Christ loved the Church?” Well, maybe you need to do that with your children. “Do you feel that I delight in you, that I'm glad that you're in our home. I'm glad you're in my life. Do you feel that?” Sorry, there was a wedding yesterday, I get like this, anyway. Do you tell them regularly, how much you love them? You know time goes by like the wind, the days just go by and you won't have that chance anymore to hold them and to tell them. So, loveless parenting.
Fourthly, hypocrisy in the parents can provoke them to wrath. Christianity, not being genuinely lived out before them in the home. Children are observing you constantly, no matter what you're doing, good or ill They see it all, they are astute observers, and imitators. That's how they grow. They can smell out the inconsistencies. “If you say you love God,” quoting 1 John, "If you say you love God and do not keep His commandments, you're a liar," your children will see that lie. So it provokes them to wrath when you are hypocritical when you're acting pious, and godly at church, and then at home you're not living it out, that will provoke them to wrath.
Fifthly, parenting in anger, sinful anger. Remember I spoke a number of weeks ago about carnal anger? “Be angry but do not sin.” So I made a distinction between righteous anger and unrighteous anger. I said that unrighteous anger is frequently motivated by pride or inconvenience, by pride or inconvenience. That really comes to roost in parenting. Your kid embarrasses you out in public, and they get it at home. Why? Because you have their best interest at heart, you're trying to train their character, shape their souls? No, you were ashamed, you were embarrassed. That's why. So you parent at that moment in anger or discipline in anger.
I believe that parents, especially if you're administering the rod, you're administering corporal punishment, you must make certain you're not angry at all. You go get yourself under control, you go be Spirit-filled, you make sure you remember what this is all about. It's their souls you're trying to see them come to faith in Christ. They're not yours, they're going to stand before God, and not you on judgment day. And so, you're not their Savior, you're not their king, you're their parent. And so calm yourself down. The thing they broke through childishness is not worth all of that. And so calm yourself down and then go back and do the discipline as needed and do it wisely and consistently.
Sixth, injustice. Injustice. Injustice provokes a child to wrath. Sometimes the parental discipline, the parents discipline mechanically with no opportunity for the child to be heard. No opportunity to express his or her side of the story, the parent may feel that the child has no right to speech. Children should be seen and not heard that kind of thing, especially at moments like that. “All they must do is listen and submit.” However, we celebrate in our legal system, the writ of habeas corpus, and the fact that no one accused of a crime and can be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. What that means is that their case has to be heard. And we celebrate that out in public. And so I would just urge parents to give your child an opportunity to make his or her case, within reason, I've noticed they'll make it as long as it takes. They'll filibuster. I've seen all kinds of things going on. Alright, but if they have never had a chance to tell their side of the story, that is frustrating. It can provoke a child to wrath. Now again, a child may feel that any discipline is unjust. We hear often about our injustices at home. Alright, but some of it can be. And if you are parenting or disciplining unjustly, it can provoke a child to wrath.
Seventh, excessive protection. Excessive protection. It is a dangerous world you brought children into. It's physically dangerous and it's spiritually dangerous and you know it. And it's right for you to want to protect your children, but there is a pattern of excessive protection. Some parents seek to remove their children in every way from all the dangers of the world. They're extremely protective they keep them close at all times and so the operative word is, “No.” No to everything. So as they grow and develop and they experience things in life, they're going to get hurt, and we want to protect them, but ultimately only God can do that.
Number eight, excessive control. Some parents expect absolute obedience to parental commands throughout every moment of the child's life at home. Well, this is in one sense a biblical standard as we said “all the way, right away, with a happy spirit, that is the biblical standard.” The problem comes when the parent covers the growing child's life thick with commands and it's inevitable that almost anything that happens at that point is going to be some pattern of disobedience. And so that's difficult. That's a challenge. Parents have to be sure not to become control freaks, especially as the child grows and rightly needs to make more and more decisions for him or herself. There's like, as I've said, a dimmer switch. And so more and more they're going to need to be able to make their own decisions, then they're going to need to be able to fail, to make bad decisions, they need to be permitted to mess up and still be loved.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was speaking in his context in England of adult men and women that he knew never got married because it would displease their parents. I mean, that's unbelievably selfish on the part of the parents as though the children were born exclusively for them. You can, especially think of women growing and the father keeps them close and they just, dad just never lets go. And so, she misses her opportunity, and goes on through and never gets married. But there are actually just many examples of the temptation we parents have to become control freaks. And just absolutely down to the smallest detail, controlling things of our children's lives.
Nine, failure of parents to encourage children. If the parents hardly ever encourage, but instead always pointing out failures, ways it could have been done better, the child's going to feel about his father or mother, “I just can never make him happy. It's never enough. No matter how well I do every day, it's just never enough to make him happy or her happy.”
Number 10, Unreasonable expectations of achievement. Some parents put extreme pressure on their children to achieve. They're really, in some ways, just living out their ego through their children, pushing them to excel. This could be in academics, it could be in athletics, music, could be in Christianity and just living out the Christian faith, pushing hard. The children then become little performing monkeys and often the last issue comes up as well. The parents rarely encourage the child because they're pushing them on to even higher and higher levels of achievement. And so, that can be very provoking to wrath.
Eleventh, inconsistency in discipline. Sometimes the parent is strict, sometimes they're lenient. Sometimes they espouse a family value, and other times they ignore it, back and forth. The standards become murky. The child really doesn't know what the parents want or expect, and so it's hard to know. Now, if you can just pause and see now the incredible difficulty and humbling of parenting. Alright, so which is it? Alright, are we supposed to be extremely consistent but not overly strict in discipline? Pastor, how do you put it all together? My answer, I don't know. I know this, it says, "Our fathers disciplined us for a short time as they thought best." So I say, frequently, my kids, they know that I'm saying “I'm doing as I think best. God is better than me. Okay, trust in your father. But this is what I think right now, I am not lowering the standard on that thing that you've done, but I'm giving you grace right now.” Oh they get, they love grace, that kind of grace. Alright, give me grace, I want grace. Yeah, I understand, well, there's other kinds of grace, there's the grace that teaches you to say no to ungodliness. We're going to work on that one today. That's the grace you'll get today. But it's hard, this is humbling. Come to God and bring him this list and say, Oh God, teach me to parent because I don't know what to do and I need your help.
Twelve, favoritism. Favoritism, showing preference to one child over the rest or over others. Clear example of this in the Bible, Jacob with Joseph. It says it straight in the text. Genesis 37:3. Look it up, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his sons.” Your eyebrows go up at that point. He's setting Joseph up to be murdered. Now, I'm not in anyway condoning the murderous jealousy that was in the hearts of his brothers, but I think the pattern of the royal, the rich coat.
Do you remember when Esau showed up with 400 armed men to greet his brother after he'd been away for a long time? Remember that? Hey we're going to have a family reunion. I just happened to bring along 400 soldiers to help us celebrate. It was a very tough night. And Jacob, spent the night wrestling with an angel, and then the next night, next day he got ready to meet Esau and he put his children in concentric circles almost of preference. The slave women and their children were outer circle, then Leah and her children next, and then Rachel and Joseph on the inner circle. What does that say to you if you're one of the other kids? Favoritism can be provocative to children.
And finally, failure of parents to sacrifice cheerfully for their children. “Oh, what a burden you are to me.” That's the message. It's like, no, that's not the message. The message is what a blessing you are. Do you know how blessed I am to have you in my life? And so, there's a Bible verse in the 2 Corinthians 12:14-15, “Children should not have to save up for parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.” Now that's Paul the apostle speaking to the Corinthian church, but He's speaking in the idea of parenting. I am very gladly spending everything that I have to give it to you. Alright, so that's the negative. This is a good time, I think for fathers and mothers to just reflect, and as needed repent and ask God to forgive you, and if you feel like you've been parenting in a way that's not been helpful, then just ask God to give you grace.
The Positives: Nourish, Train, Admonish
Now, in the short time I have left, now I'm going to resume preaching on parenting when I get back. I did not want to do this, but there are lots of things I want to say about marks of regeneration, how to parent your children toward conversion and how to know they are converted. I want to talk about child baptism and all that. That will be after I return to the pulpit. But let me talk about the positives here briefly. And we'll get into them a little more next time.
All Parenting to Be Done “In the Lord”
The positives, the three words given us here are “nourish, train and admonish,” all in the Lord. “But instead nourish them or bring them up in the nurture [or training] and admonition, [I think is the best translation of that word] in the Lord.” Alright, so first of all, all parenting is to be done in the Lord, as a subset of the Spirit-filled life, as a subset, it's done as Christians. “As a prisoner for the Lord,” he said, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you've received." So your parenting should be worthy of your calling. You should be Christian parents and then again, Ephesians 5:18, "Be filled with the Spirit." So, Spirit-filled parenting that's what we're looking for. Spirit-filled parenting. So we're not looking for just mere morality. We're bringing them up in the Lord. We know there are all kinds of moral instructions we can give them.
Have you ever looked online George Washington's rules of civility? Okay, look that up. He teaches you not to spit into the fire. Okay, I guess that's really important. It was important back then. Don't spit in the fire. Or all kinds of things, how to eat in a mannerly way. How to not turn your back on someone speaking to you, how to deal with bodily fluids, frankly, George Washington was very detailed about these rules of civility.
Well, look, we Christian parents, we're going to embrace that basic level of philosophical morality too. We're going to teach people how to be good citizens, good students, good people, holding the doors for people, mannered at the table, we're going to teach them all that, but this goes so far beyond that. We're going to bring them up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” So all things pointed toward the Lord Jesus Christ focused on Jesus with a constant reference to Christ and his shed blood. And we're going to nourish them.
Nourish Your Children
It says "nourish your children", it's translated “bring them up,” but rear them raise them. But it's that feeding image here. Ephesians 5:29 speaks about what the husband does, or what Christ does for the Church. No one ever hated his own flesh but He nourishes it and cherishes it just as Christ does the Church, same word. So there's the sense of nourishing your children, feeding them.
Now, of course, a godly father will see to it that his children don't go to bed hungry. So, you're going to physically feed them. But especially, you're going to feed them in the word. Jesus said “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” You're going to feed them the Word of God, and fundamentally you're going to feed them the bread of life who is Jesus. Jesus said, "I am the bread of life." You're going to feed them. So nourish them, feed their souls. We're going to talk more about this next time, but I'm just giving you an overview. Nourish them.
Train Your Children
Secondly, train them, train them. The Greek word here is “paideía.” It's a concept of systematic preparation of the child for adult life. Shape their minds, get them ready for everything they're going to do in life, especially spiritually. Begins with language, the mother tongue, this is where the invaluable assistance of a godly mother who teaches the mother tongue comes in. The infant learns how to speak and then beyond that, full education. Just getting them ready. Jesus grew in wisdom, and stature and favor with God and man, Luke 2:52. You're getting them ready for every phase of their lives.
Now, next time I'm going to say some things about education, there's a lot to be said about education. We homeschool our kids. I think the divide between government school and homeschool has never been wider. I think it's getting even wider. There's also private school. Those are the three basic options. There's a hybrid as well, but you're going to have some weighty decisions to make, especially as government gets more and more aggressive in its worldview, you're going to have some weighty decisions to make. There's some godly brothers and sisters in public school, some of our own church members have given their lives to pouring out good education in the government school setting, but things are getting harder and harder for them to do what they would really like to do and for parents to make wise decisions. So we'll talk more about that next time, but we're going to discuss the “paideía,” the training of a child, and then finally the instruction of the child will talk more about this again. But the idea here is, correction in the face of sin.
Admonish Your Children
You're going to be admonishing them, showing them their sins, and especially what will happen if they continue in patterns of sin. So, Fathers raising their teenage sons, mothers raising the daughters. Parents raising their children getting ready for the heavy things that they're going to face in life and dealing all along with their sins. So as I said, we're going to stop there. I'm going to talk next time more about these three words. I'm going to talk more about marks of regeneration, and we'll talk also about child baptism and just the difficulties, challenges, and interesting aspects of that for a church, but be praying for us as we do that. So that'll be about in, maybe about seven weeks after my writing sabbatical is done. So, let's close in prayer.
Father, we thank you for all the things that we have been learning through Ephesians. We thank you for these very clear instructions that come from your Word, and Lord I pray that You would be strengthening right now fathers and mothers in the sometimes seemingly overwhelming challenges of parenting. I pray that you would be raising up before our very eyes, a generation of godly children, of sons and daughters who will embrace Christ at a very early age and begin living out patterns of obedience in their lives because their parents are raising them up in obeying this pattern. Father, I pray right now for any that are here that do not know Christ as their Lord and Savior. Maybe they didn't have a godly mother and father to teach them the Gospel, or maybe they did and they've been straying. Thank you for bringing them here today. I pray that you would reach out to them now through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that they might know the salvation that He alone can work. Father, we thank you for this time to assemble, to worship, and for the ministry of the word, in Jesus's name, amen.