Parents and Children: Living to Please the Lord (Colossians Sermon 17 of 21)
January 27, 2008 | Andy Davis
Worship, Marriage and Parenting
Childhood is full of wonders and mysteries. I think it's a problem of adulthood that we lose that sense of wonder and awe. And when I listen to that song, that's the song based on Psalm 8, I just close my eyes and think of the majesty and glory that God has put in physical creation. And for a moment again, I am a child, I think about the wonder of the new creation, the new Heaven, the new Earth when we get to see it with new eyes. When we get to walk on the new Earth in resurrection bodies and we'll be like children again, so childhood is a time of mysteries and wonders. Now recently I was reading part of the autobiography of Charles Spurgeon and he was talking about a mystery he saw in his grandparents' home. And I'm going to read this quote, I think it's so marvelous.
He said, "I remember well, in my early days seeing upon my grandmother's mantel shelf an apple contained in a bottle. This was a great wonder and mystery to me, and I tried to investigate it. My question was, ‘How came the apple to get inside so small a bottle?’ The apple was quite as big around as the bottle, by what means it was placed within it? That was the mystery. Though it was treason to touch anything on the mantelpiece at my grandparents' home, yet I took down the bottle and convinced my youthful mind that the apple could never have passed through the narrow neck. And by means of attempting to unscrew the bottom, I became equally certain the apple did not enter from below. What was the answer, then? I held to the notion that by occult means, magical means, somehow the bottle had been made in two pieces, the apple inserted and afterwards, somehow the bottle had been mysteriously joined in such a way, in so careful a manner that no trace of the joint remained. I was hardly satisfied with the theory, but as no philosopher was at hand to suggest any other hypothesis, I let the matter rest. Yet another mystery of childhood."
Now, it wasn't until the next summer, a year later, that he finally solved the mystery. He was walking through his grandparents' orchards, and there, he came to a tree on which was a bottle just like that one, and inside the narrow neck of the bottle was the branch and a little bud, where it was forming a new apple. And at last, the mystery was solved. He knew how the apple got inside the bottle. It was raised there, it grew up inside the bottle, and then at the right time they just pulled the bottle off the branch and set it up on the mantelpiece to stupefy and amaze young boys as they walked by, trying to wonder how in the world that apple got inside the bottle.
Setting Families in Context
Another step toward adulthood, one more mystery solved for Charles Spurgeon. But being the preacher that he was, he sought to apply it spiritually, and he applied it to the parent-child relationship. The application was plain. Bring children into a healthy, loving relationship with the Savior early in life. So saturate their lives with Christ that they never know a time that they didn't know the Savior, they never know a time that they didn't love the Savior, that they were amazed with Him, that they loved Him and cherished Him. Saturate their lives from an early beginning in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is the awesome and joyful responsibility of parenting, isn't it? Of Christian parenting. To take a tiny, helpless baby that comes home from the hospital, and begin saturating that child's life and experience with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that they come into a vibrant living faith with Jesus at an early age. And then lead fruitful, healthy, productive lives for the Savior until at last, Jesus takes them home and they live in eternity in the presence of their Father, their God and Father. That's a responsibility. That's the centerpiece of parenting for a Christian. And that's what we're going to talk about today.
Describing the Fruitful New Life
We come to just two verses in Colossians 2, and I want to set parenting in context in light of Colossians. We've already talked about the new life in the Lord, that the Lord is giving us a new life. It's a life that only He can shape and craft. And He talked about taking out the heart of stone and giving you the heart of flesh, and with that comes a whole new way of living, a whole new life in Christ. And we described that life a number of times, in Colossians 1:10 for example, it says "We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God." The life is again described in the early part of Colossians 2 in similar manner, a life pleasing to the Lord, bearing good fruit, rooted and grounded in the truth. Colossians 3, the life gets far more full treatment, far fuller treatment, and we've seen it richly developed there in Colossians 3. For example, in 1-4 it talks about “setting your hearts on things above since Christ is our life, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.” We should be setting our hearts on things above, not on things below. And then the connection to that in the second section was mortification, or the putting to death sin by the power of the Spirit, we are to “put to death the deeds of the flesh,” we're to be holy and be at warfare with our own sinfulness. And then thirdly, we are going to clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,” and we're going to live at harmony with the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church of incredible variety where we lose our ultimate identity as “Barbarian, Scythian, slave or free,” but we come into an incredible new union with one another, the Church of Jesus Christ. And then finally saturating our hearts with Jesus Christ, “the peace of God ruling in your heart,” “the word of Christ richly dwelling in your heart,” the name of Christ motivating everything that you do and thankfulness given to Jesus Christ for everything.
That is the new life. Now, the most critical arena in which that new life is to be lived is the Christian family, the home. And it began two weeks ago, we looked at the relationship between husbands and wives. “Wives submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord,” and “husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” We have this teaching of the new life of Jesus Christ, applied to marriage. But then we go to what I consider the second most important relationship, human relationship, on Earth, and that is the parent-child relationship. It is second to the husband-wife relationship, it's contingent upon it of course, but it is absolutely vital to our future, so we focus on it today.
Now, there are two basic commands given to children here first. Children are dealt with first. Now, only one of the two commands is given here in Colossians. Both commands are given in the parallel text in Ephesians. Take a minute, and keep your finger here on Colossians 3, and go over to Ephesians 6:1-3. And these two are parallel texts but Ephesians is a little fuller, as it was also in marriage. And the two basic commands are given. In Colossian 3:20 it says, "Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord." Ephesians 6:1 picks up on the same command, "Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right." And then Ephesian 6:2, "Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the Earth." And so these are the two commandments given to children.
Two Basic Commands to Children: Honor and Obey
Straight From the Mouth of God: Honor Your Parents
Children, it's very simple, honor your parents and obey them. It's that simple. And I believe the two are intimately related. In other words I think 'honor' is the basic commandment and 'obey' flowers up from that. I think the obedience is a subset of the honoring. We'll talk more about that in a minute. Now the first command, “honor your father and mother,” which is quoted directly by Paul in Ephesian 6 comes straight from the mouth of Almighty God. See, I believe that good preaching comes from a kind of a community conviction that this book is in fact the Word of God written, and the preacher realizes his job is to say, "This is what the text says." Right? We all see it, and then get out of the way and say, "Thus says the Lord. Now do it." And so that it is for children, you're hearing the mouth of God now, not the mouth of a preacher. There could be another preacher up here telling you the same thing. Picture yourselves at the foot of Mount Sinai and God descending in fire to the top of the mountain, and the ground beneath your feet shaking, and a voice such as you have never heard in history and has never been heard like that again, in history. The voice of Almighty God saying, "I am the Lord, your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." And then He gives those first four commandments which describe that vertical relationship of human beings with Almighty God. But then comes the horizontal relationship, the final six commands of the 10 commandments.
And the first of that second table of the law, of the horizontal commands human to human is, children obey your parents. “Honor your father and mother in the Lord.” In Exodus 20 verse 12, God is speaking this word to you. And therefore, no matter how many flaws you see in your parents, and there are many. I never realized how many there were. I'm not talking about my own parents. I'm talking about me. But as many flaws as there are in your parents, you are still to honor them, for thus says the Lord. And Paul connects it to promises of long life and prosperity. “That it may go well with you and you may enjoy long life on the Earth.” The first commandment he says, with a promise. And so there is a rich life promised you if you'll simply obey this command to honor your father and mother. On the negative side, there are all kinds of threats connected with disobeying this commandment. Very next chapter, in Exodus 21:15 it says, "Anyone who attacks his father or mother must be put to death." Two verses later, Exodus 21:17 says, "Anyone who curses his father or mother must be to death." The death penalty is connected with dishonoring a parent, which Jesus upholds in Matthew 15, you can read it. Our gentle Saviour, meek and mild, saying, "Anyone who dishonors his father must be put to death," Matthew 15. Or in Deuteronomy 21:18-21, it says more fully, "If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders of the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.' Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid." Or, I think in a very picturesque way, Proverbs 30:17 says, "The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley and will be eaten by vultures." Therefore, this must be a very serious sin if so many warnings are connected with it, even capital punishment.
And I believe this issue is so significant that Paul, in his list of sins in Romans 1, puts it right there in the list, along with murder and other serious sins. Dishonoring a parent, listen what it says. In Romans 1:29-32 this is talking about the effect of sin and how it just pollutes all of human life. He says, "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful. They invent ways of doing evil, they disobey their parents." A few verses later he says, "Those who do such things deserve death." That's in the New Testament, friends. It's a very serious thing then to dishonor and to disobey your parents. Therefore, one of the most important things a Jewish father or mother could do is to train up their children in the fear and the nurture of the Lord to capture Paul's expression. To bring their children up diligently so that they would not at some point have to experience capital punishment for sin. It says in Proverbs 23:13-14, "Do not withhold discipline from a child. If you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death." Or again, Proverbs 13:24, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." We come to this first commandment. The commandment for children. It's the first of the second table of the law, the horizontal relationship. Honor your father and mother. What does it mean then to honor? That's a very, very important question.
Now, honor, I believe, starts in the heart. It's a heart disposition. It's an attitude. You know how it says, “sanctify in your hearts Jesus as Lord, and always be prepared to give a defense for the hope you have.” You've set Jesus apart in your heart as Lord. He has a special place in your heart. At a much lower level, so it is I think with parents. Your parents are set apart in your heart as worthy of honor simply because they are your parents. I think that's what it talks about. It's a heart attitude and there's many different commands in the Bible about who we are to honor. There's different levels of honor, it depends on the person you're talking about. It says, "We are to fear God and honor the King" in 1 Peter. We are to honor church leaders who govern well. We are to honor employers even if they are unbelievers. Honor them with our good service. We are to honor the elderly and to rise up in their presence. We are to honor widows and care for their needs. We are to honor people who risk their lives for the spread of the gospel. Philippians chapter 2. Above all, we are to honor Almighty God. We are to honor God in our hearts.
It says in 1 Timothy 1:17, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible. To the only God be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." I believe then that children have to be taught that there's a connection between honoring their parents and honoring God. They're to be trained to know that honoring your father and mother is a way of honoring Almighty God. Now outward displays of honor, remember I said it starts in the heart. There's a heart disposition toward honoring, but then it flows out toward actions. There are certain physical actions that denote honor. For example, a husband speaking words of praise for his faithful and fruitful wife as Leah supposed that Jacob would now that she had borne him six sons, "Now my husband will honor me because I have borne him six sons." Or this, bowing low before a mighty governor who holds in his hand your lives as Joseph's brothers did, not knowing it was Joseph. But they bowed down and paid him honor as the ruler under Pharaoh of all of Egypt. Or a richly ornamented robe given to Aaron, to set him apart and give him honor in the eyes of the Israelites as the high priest. Or seats of honor at the banquet which some people grab inappropriately, selfishly. But Jesus said it's better if the master of the banquet invites you from the lower seat up to a seat of honor and you sit there and you are honored in the eyes of all there at the wedding banquet. Or being clothed in a kingly robe and seated on a horse the King has ridden, and having one of the King's princes lead you through the streets of the city and say this is what is “done for the man whom the King delights to honor.” As was done for Mordecai at the order of Xerxes when Xerxes wanted to honor him for rescuing him from the assassins. Or public recognition of honor given to David's mighty men for their deeds of valor on the battlefield. They are held in honor by the people because of public recognition of David and that they were his mighty men.
All of these things are physical actions. Robes and places of honor at the banquet, and five times as much food for Benjamin that Joseph gave. He was honored in the eyes of his brothers. All of these physical things should flow from a heart attitude of setting apart parents. Now you might say, I don't want to do that list. I don't think my parents want to be seated on any horse and ridden through downtown Durham saying, "This is what is done for parents whom I'm delighting to honor." I don't think that would do it. There's no need to do that kind of thing, however, there are physical actions that do communicate honor now. For example, both of you comes to the door, speaking now to you children, step back and let your father or your mother go through first. Hold the chair for your mom. Hold your chair for your mom and push it in at the dinner table. Wait at the dinner table until your parents begin eating. Or if there is a buffet line, you're going to step back and you're going to let your parents go ahead of you and also elderly people as well. Let your father lead spiritually in your family devotion times. We'll talk more about that in a few minutes, but follow his leadership, support it. Be glad that you have a father that's leading spiritually. When you answer your parents, answer with respectful titles, like “yes dad,” “yes mom,” “yes daddy,” “yes mommy,” “yes sir,” “yes ma'am.” Whatever your parents set up, there should be a title of honor there, not just “yeah” or “whatever,” or anything like that. But titles of honor. Words spoken of honor. Don't murmur against decisions that your parents make. But speak respectfully to them and about them behind their backs. Don't slander your parents. And when they tell you to do something, don't roll your eyes. Don't roll your eyes. I don't know if there's like a teen school, where you go to learn how to do that. I think it's best not to learn how to do that. But with your eyes, show respect and honor. Facial expressions matter. Don't you remember what Almighty God said to Cain before he killed Abel? "Why are you angry and why is your face downcast?" Facial expressions matter, so therefore put your honor of your parents on your face. Show them that you honor them.
A Culture of Dishonor
Now we live in a culture of dishonor, sadly. Post '60s, our culture delights in stripping people, God-ordained authority, stripping them of the trappings of honor, and it's a sad commentary. It's the natural connection of “question authority.” It goes beyond that. Now strip authority of all honor, and you can go to websites and blogs and look at YouTube videos that are designed to strip God-ordained authorities of honor. Let's not be part of that, let's not be part of the culture of dishonor, but rather, let us honor our parents.
Now, a subset of honor, as I've said, is comprehensive obedience. Honor comes first in the heart, and out of that flows comprehensive obedience. So it says, "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." Submission to God-ordained authority begins with this parent-child relationship. Starts there. If the child is not trained to submit gladly to parental authority, that child will struggle with that relationship the rest of their lives. Rest of their lives, especially they will struggle with submitting to God. So, there's comprehensive obedience. Now obviously, when it says, "in everything", this does not extend to an unbelieving father being able to forbid his children from coming to faith in Christ. There is no relationship more significant than that of the individual soul with Almighty God through Jesus Christ. And so Jesus Himself said, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." So we've got to put Jesus first. But in all other commands that are not contrary to scripture, the children are to obey completely.
Reasons for Obedience
Disobedience, I think, is the sin we inherited from our first father, Adam. He disobeyed the command concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And so therefore, we are saved from rebellion back into a life of honor and obedience. And Jesus said, "If you love Me you will obey what I command." Those two are not contradictory. We can love our parents and obey them. And so therefore there's that sweet relationship of recognizing, "This one is in authority over me and I love them. And I'm going to obey them because the Lord told me to." So children who are trained in comprehensive obedience to their parents will then later readily submit to the difficult commands that Jesus will give them in their lives. They are being trained to obey Jesus ultimately. So there are practical aspects of this, practical daily life issues. Like daily chores, cleaning your bedroom. And if there is a standard set by the parents for the bedroom, it entails the following ten things: a bed made, all the pillows on the bed, all the books on the bookshelf, nothing under the bed, none of those secret hiding places or any of that kind of stuff. This is what a clean room is, then you are to clean the room completely.
So, we have learned the standard of obedience, we learned it early on in our parenting. It's down in the hall, down the children's hall, a godly woman put it up there. Obedience equals all the way, right away with a happy spirit. Those three aspects are what we look for from our children. “All the way” means you do all 10 things that equals cleaning the room. Not 4 of the 10 or 2 ½ of the 10, but all 10, that's what 'all the way' means. “Right away” is prompt obedience. As the slogan says, "To delay is to disobey." I will obey immediately whatever you say to do. And with a happy spirit, joyfully as unto the Lord saying, "I am glad I have a mom and dad. I'm glad there is a God who sits on His throne. It delights me to do this." As it says in 1 John, "His commands are not burdensome.” They actually bring health and delight to my life. I'm happy to do it. I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free. This is one of the commands that God has given to the children, they should run in it and be happy.
Now, how can you tell if they're happy? Well, by what they say when you tell them what to do. And so we listen very carefully to the answer that's given. Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." So there should be a respectful, happy response and if there is not, then parents, you have some work to do. And if there is not, children, you have some work to do. Say, "Yes, Dad, I'd be happy to do that." That's the delight. Now, the reasons given for this obedience in Ephesians 6:1 it says, "Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right." Like two plus two equals four. Like the sun comes up in the east, it's just right in God's universe to do it. It's just right. Or in Colossians 3:20 it says, "Children obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord." The implication is, this is the only kind of life that God will bless. The only kind of life pleasing to Him.
Fuller Instructions to Parents
Now, fuller instructions are given to parents, as usual. We bear the heavy burden and responsibility. And it's not reading your children's mail to read Colossians 3:20 and say, "I need to help them obey me." I mean, it's their command, but I need to help them to be obedient to me. But the fuller instructions are given here. Colossians 3:21 says, "Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged." And in Ephesians 6:4 it says, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Now both Ephesians and Colossians begin with negative commands, in other words, what not to do. Now, the Greek word "fathers" I think does focus on the husband and father and his role of leading the family. But it is sometimes translated in such a way that it could mean parents. And so I think both father and mother can get some instruction from these commands, while the father still knows that he's the head of the house and responsible ultimately to see it done in his house.
So what are the negative commands? Well it says, "Do not exasperate your children." The Greek word literally means to provoke them or to fan them into a flame, implying to fan their sin natures into a flame. It's used of a bellows blowing on a spark and the spark becomes a fire. And so we all have in-dwelling sin nature. Don't blow on the spark of the sin nature, getting it to rise up. Don't do that. Don't provoke them. The word sometimes is used of a minor irritation, too, like a rock in your shoe, or a burr under your saddle. Don't be a rock in your son or daughter's shoe or a burr under their saddle. Don't irritate them and annoy them. Ephesians 6, the negative command focuses on anger. "Don't provoke them to anger." Don't get them enraged or bitter. Now the reason given in Colossians is they will become discouraged. Now, this is a very powerful Greek word, this word, discouraged. I believe that Satan almost more than anything else, tries to give the people of God depression or discouragement, to suck the life out of them, to feel a burden of God's commands. And so you're just crushed and you can't move.
Have you ever seen pictures of the people in the Great Depression, like the Oklahoma farmers during the Dust Bowl? Or you look at somebody in the streets of a major city, and they're just sitting there. These black and white photos of people whose spirit has been sucked from them by economic disaster. They're just devastated by it, and they have no life in their face. They have no energy, no hope. That can happen to children. Their parents can suck the hope out, the spirit is gone from them. Or that movie, I don't know if some of you saw it, "Amazing Grace," about William Wilberforce. I don't know if you remember at the beginning of the movie, Wilberforce is riding with a friend in a downpour, and he's in a horse-drawn carriage. They come around the bend, and there is a horse, a beast of burden, laying in the mud in front of an overloaded cart. And the masters of the horse are just beating on that horse, but it's not even twitching. It's not defending itself in any way. It's just beaten down. And Wilberforce gets out, and talks to the master, and then begins to talk to the horse. And before you know it, the horse is back up on its feet. There's a sense in which parents can do that to children, just beat them down, so that there's just no spark, no life left in them. That's what this word means. Do not exasperate your children, or they will become discouraged.
10 Ways Parents Can Cause Children to Lose Heart
Now, there are different ways we can do that. John MacArthur lists a number of ways. And I was reading this. First of all, by overprotection. You set the boundaries so narrowly in their lives that they have no freedom. They feel that you do not trust them in any way, and they're trying to break free from a noose they feel is around their neck. That's one way. Secondly, there's favoritism. Choosing one child and elevating that child above all the others, like Jacob did with Joseph. I think there's that sense of, "He's my favorite. Everybody like him please. I'm giving him a coat." It's difficult. Jacob played favorites with Joseph. That's dangerous. Thirdly, depreciating their worth. Saying things to tear them down with your words saying, "You'll never amount to anything.” “Look at that, you failed again." And the words just suck the life out of the heart of a child. They feel they can never please you. Fourthly, setting unrealistic goals. Never rewarding or praising your children, making them feel as though they have to be perfect to gain your approval. (Fifth) Failing to show affection, not hugging them, not holding their hand or putting an arm around them. And this needs to be done even through the teen years. Fathers need to do that with their teen daughters. Hug them, love them, show them physical affection in godly ways.
Sixthly, not providing for their needs. They need food, clothing, and shelter of course, but they need more than that. They need, above all things, a healthy relationship with their Creator, through faith in Christ. They need that, but they also need privacy. They need respect, they need encouragement. There are other psychological needs, depriving them of their needs. Seventh, lack of standards. This is the other side of overprotection. Lack of standards, being too loose, never interfering. As Eli didn't do with his sons, he never interfered with them, just let them run wild. Having no moral guidelines, tolerating sin. Or criticism. Some parents are just so harsh with their children. They use their words like a kind of an acid bath that's going to do them good, clean them up. But that's not the case. Children can get beaten down and discouraged by a constant stream of criticism. A feeling that it's inconceivable that they would receive just nothing but praise from their parents. Is God that way with us? Is He looking for perfect service to be able to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant"? No. He cleans up even our best good works, and then praises those good works on Judgement Day. So should parents also, find ways to praise their children. Or neglect, just neglecting children. Classic example is David with Absalom. After Absalom had murdered his half-brother Amnon, David eventually brought him back to the city, but he wouldn't see him. Remember? And Absalom had to burn Joab's field to get his father's attention. That's bad when you've got to burn somebody's field to get your dad's attention. I mean, he's a rebel in the making at that point. His rebellion was already set in his heart. It's not going to be long, frankly, before he's going to try to kill his father because his father neglected him, and because he was a sinner. And then finally, excessive discipline. A parent who abuses his or her children either verbally, emotionally or physically can suck the life right out of them. These are 10 ways John MacArthur gives us that we can discourage our children.
But what about positive? What are a father and a mother supposed to do positively for their children? Well, we have to look to Ephesians for that, but there's some positive instructions here. Look at verse four. Ephesians 6:4, "Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." The first phrase is, "bring them up." This is a rich word in the original language. It means to nourish them. Fathers should be setting a feast for their children. Now the context, bring them up in the training and nurture the Lord is spiritual. So the father should be like a chef of the Word of God every day for their children, just spreading a rich banquet of the Word of God before them, so that they grow to learn to love the Word of God, and love Jesus because they are being nourished by their fathers. Nourished in the Word of God. A delicious meal of Christ every day. It says in 2 Timothy 3:15, "How from infancy, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." So from infancy God has richly blessed this church with lots of babies. Amen. All you have to do is come on Mother's Day when we dedicate the babies and we're in the 20's just about every year. That's fantastic. What an evangelistic opportunity, friends. They need to be brought to a living faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, let me say a word to you, if you're here today as a visitor and you were not raised in that kind of home, and you never knew that much about the Savior, and you've never come to faith in Christ, or even if you were raised in that kind of home, but you have never given your life to Christ, and I say the same thing now to parents who have not parented well up to this point. To all of you, I say the same thing, it's not too late. It's not too late. To the lost person I say come to Christ. All you have to do is just look to the Savior. Think of Jesus, shedding His blood on the cross. He died on the cross for sinners like you and me. But not only that, God raised Him from the dead on the third day so that if we just simply trust in Him, all of our sins can be forgiven. Put your trust in the Savior. It's not too late. And I say the same thing to fathers and mothers, if you have not put Christ at the center of your home up to this point, it is not too late. Start today, make Christ the aroma of your home. Make the Word of God the aroma of your home. Nurture them in Christ. “Bring them up,” it says, “in the discipline of the Lord.” The Greek word is paideia. It's a full, complete life training. That's a very rich word in Greek culture. And it's just this whole life training in the Lord. And, “in the admonition of the Lord,” nouthesia, from which we get Nouthetic counseling, we saw it before when we talked about counseling. It's more of a negative admonishment or warning about the things in this world that can cause sin. You want to see some good examples of some admonishment that a father gives to a son? Look at Proverbs 1 through 6. How many times does it say, "My son, hear my instruction and do not hang out with bad people who are lying in wait to murder people and take their goods." Proverbs 1. Don't do that. Don't fall in with the wrong crowd. Or he says, "Watch out for the adulteress, with her smooth talk and the young men go into her house and they don't realize that her house is a highway to Hell." So there's this warning given from a father to the son. Or he says, "Look if you've gotten involved in a bad business arrangement, you've made an agreement with your neighbor, don't allow sleep to your eyelids. Get out of it as soon as possible. It's a bad business arrangement." "Just go get your cloak back," he says. Get out of it as soon as you can. Or he says in Proverbs 4, "Above all, guard your heart, for from it flow the well-springs of life." These are warnings and admonishments given from a father to a son. That's what I think it means, bring them up in the admonishment of the Lord.
Practical Exhortations for Parents
See Your Family as a Little Church
Now, what are some practical exhortations for parents? Well, just let me begin by saying, see your family as a little church. Parents, see your family as a little church. George Whitefield said this, "Every house is as it were a little parish, and every father a priest, every family a flock; and if any of them perish through the priest's neglect, their blood will be required from God at their hands." Jonathan Edwards said this, "Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ and wholly influenced and governed by His rules. If these fail, all other means are likely to prove ineffectual. If these are duly maintained, then all the means of grace will be likely to prosper and be successful." Jonathan Edwards. See your family as a little church. And so, I think you ought to lead in family devotions, it's very practical.
Now, recently I was at a conference that talked about making family and church ministry relate, uniting church and home. And it was the end of a long weekend and I enjoyed the conference, but I was a bit weary. And a good friend of mine, Scott Brown, who preached here at this pulpit this summer, got up and just gave a series of convicting quotes from these great giants of church history about the need that fathers have to lead their family spiritually. And I was convicted because he picked up on this image of the family being a little church. And Matthew Henry said this, "Some of you perhaps have a church in your house, but it's not a flourishing church; 'tis like the church of Laodicea, neither cold nor hot; or like the church at Sardis, in which the things that remain are ready to die; so it hath little more than a name or a reputation."
I started saying, "Is my reputation equal to my actual performance?" And I had to say honestly that I was not having family devotions as frequently as we should have. I was letting the busyness of life, even of church life, crowd out some of those devotions. I wasn't being faithful. And I was convicted, tired as I was, and I was convicted by Matthew Henry in particular. What Scott said was that Matthew Henry's commentary... Have you ever seen it? A one-volume commentary on the whole Bible. It's incredible. Those came from notes that he took while his father taught them the Bible at family devotion time, as he was growing up. He just took notes as his father went through every book of the Bible. And he transferred it over into his commentary. Incredible. And Matthew Henry said they used to meet morning and evening, that's twice a day. I was averaging less than that, no doubt about that. Less than that. And I said, "We have got to make a change. I've got to make a change.” So I went home and told my family, and I said, "We're going to make changes, we're definitely have... ". We had a family altar that Saturday night, “we're going to make changes.” Alright. Someone said, "Well, Dad, are we going to have a family devotion tomorrow morning?" I said, "Well, no we can't." They said, "Why not?", "It's Sunday morning. I've got to practice my sermon, get ready to preach." “Oh, okay,” and then, bing! The light went on. I had just made an excuse. And I said, "We have got to make some changes." I said, "Yes, we're going to have family devotion on Sunday morning. So we're going to sit at a certain time and we're going to do it, etcetera. Someone said "But Dad, we're usually... " I shouldn't even say this but, "We're usually a little late to church. How are we going to do it?" I said "You know what I believe? I believe if we do this tomorrow morning, we will actually be early to church." And we were. We were. God blessed it.
Now I would urge you, fathers, simply to do this. Just gather your families around on a daily basis, I mean daily. That equals to every day, okay? Daily basis unless there's just some physical reason you cannot do it. And even then, cell phones these days, they have like the speaker kind of thing, just put the cell phone on the chair and there's Dad on his business trip, leading the family devotion. Just be overcomers, brothers. Be overcomers. Make this a priority and it doesn't need to be long and as a matter of fact, I would urge that it not be long, lest your children become discouraged. Alright, doesn't it say that? Brief, you sing together, you pray together, you read the Bible together and you stop at an appropriate time. I think fathers need to do this.
And I want to say one more thing before we prepare for the Lord's Supper. Some time ago, I preached a sermon on Deuteronomy 6, on saturating your children's lives with the Word of God. And Deuteronomy 6 says, "Impress them,” the words of Moses, the Law of God, “impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." I think it was about two months ago that it occurred to me, "Wait a minute, he's talking about saturating Jewish kids' minds in the law of Moses, the Old Covenant." We are Christians, we're in the New Covenant. We can do better than that. The book of Hebrews says it is a superior covenant. We have Christ, plus all the laws of the Old Testament. We have even better reason to saturate our children's lives. So, what we’ve done is, we put this sermon together in a booklet and you can get it at the door and if they're out of them, we'll try to make them available next week as well, on how to saturate your children's lives with the Word of God. Saturate their lives with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Talk about Jesus when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Let's close in prayer and then prepare for the Lord's Supper.