God's Pattern for Parents

Bible Book: Ephesians  6 : 4
Subject: Family; Marriage; Husbands; Wives; Children; Parenting
Series: Fixing the Family

Sermon Series - Fixing the Family - 5 of 6

Ephesians 6:4

Today we will conclude our study on "Fixing the Family" by looking at a single verse of scripture found in Ephesians 6:4. You will immediately notice the verse contains both a negative and a positive. On the negative side, “Do not provoke your children to anger” obviously means treat them with love. Affirm your affection to them so they understand the discipline they need is not from anger or hostility. And on the positive, Bring them up in the training and admonition or instruction of the Lord.”

I find it extremely intriguing that, in one verse of two phrases, we have God's instruction for parents. According to God's definition given here, parenting is simply loving your children so that they're not angry with you and bringing them up to know the Lord.

When you consider all the books and volumes that have been written in recent years about parenting, you would think God would at least give us a chapter or maybe a whole book in the Bible dedicated to the subject. Instead, we have a single verse of Scripture. And the reason for that, I think, is because the responsibility is so highly defined. Therefore, for parents who take seriously their responsibility before God to be good parents, it is absolutely necessary that we come to understand and employ the dictates of this verse. And we'll be attempting to do that today. But isn't it amazing that the whole responsibility of parenting can be refined down to one statement? And yet, in spite of the simplicity of the instruction, parents today appear to me to be somewhat frightened about the whole prospect. They are challenged by the times in which we live, the issues at hand, and some of them look at parenting as a frightening responsibility. And I don't want to minimize the task. It is both serious and challenging, but not for the reasons that most people might suggest.

If you just surveyed people about having children, they might tell you that they are reluctant to have children because it's expensive. You have to have a bigger house, and a bigger car. Children require more groceries and food. You have to pay for all their medical needs and education costs. Compounding that fear are those simple-minded sages that will tell young couples considering marriage that two can live as cheap as one. No they can't! And three can't live as cheap as two and so forth and so on.

When we were expecting TJ, I didn't know anything about babies. I just knew we were going to have some expenses that we hadn't been having. So I went to the baby aisle at the store to check the price of diapers and things like that. Good night! Do you know how expensive diapers are? At that time, they were 8 or 9 dollars a box! And as many of you know, all babies know how to do for a while is just eat and empty! And you get to multiplying that out over weeks and years and it is an amazing amount of money. But then, I noticed a little line on the box that said 7-9 lbs. And I realized that 's a lot, so you don't have to change 'em very often! But from experience, I can tell you, children are expensive.

Others say they're time consuming and if you have any personal goals or desires such as traveling, all of that will have to take a back seat to the kids. After all, children are highly demanding little creatures and even though they take a lot of time when they're little, they older they get, the worse it becomes.

Some people would say parenting is challenging because there are so many things that they're supposed to be involved in that you wind up spending time and energy running an endless taxi service to meet all their needs, and the more of them you have, the more complicated it gets.

And I suppose there are those superficial things which make parenting, to some degree, challenging and I would concur. But the real reason raising children is so difficult for Christian parents who take the responsibility seriously is the two components found in the verse I read to you a moment ago. We are to love our children so that they're not angry with us and bring them up to know the Lord.

Now, the challenge to accomplishing that task comes in two forms. There is an external challenge and there is an internal challenge. The external simply means the pressure of the society and culture around us; the internal is the sinful nature of the child that is within him or her.

Now I want you to understand something: Parenting is not difficult because it is so expensive or time consuming or it impinges on your personal goals. It is difficult primarily because of the influence from the society around us and from the nature of children within them. And until we accept that, we're not going to understand what parenting is really all about, and we will not be successful at doing what this verse tells us to do.

So what I'd like to try to do today is help us understand and address these two great challenges, then offer you a solution. First, let's talk about

1. The External: The Culture Around Us

I don't know if you've noticed it or not, but life is no longer centered in the home. Unfortunately, the family, on average is no longer a close-knit entity that is only marginally influenced by the outside world. That's simply not true anymore.

There was a time when that was true. There was a time when you grew up on a farm or small community and you basically lived your whole life there. You ate breakfast with the family. You went to a little school down the road with all your friends and were taught by a teacher or two from the local area.

And when school was out, you went back home, worked on the farm, sat around the house at night and basically were instructed in life by that family relationship, and that home experienced very little influence from the outside world.

Even the life of families living in more urban areas predominantly revolved around the home and family. Parents, churches, and schools had community standards which were established for childhood education and they determined at what age certain information was appropriate for children.

That meant there were secrets the children didn't know, and it was very important in raising children to unfold those secrets at the proper times so they were not blasted with things for which they were neither intellectually or emotionally able to make a proper response. In other words, children had limited exposure to information. And the family and the church and the school and thus the local community was in charge of that.

That is gone now. Back in the 70's, a writer and professor at New York University in the area of communication named Neil Postman, wrote a book called The Disappearance of Childhood. It was updated and republished in 1994, and I tell you that only to point out that the info it contains is now almost 25 years old, yet amazingly up-to-date.

The thesis that Postman sets forth is that childhood, as a unique period of human development, is disappearing. And he believes that for a number of reasons that I think you will find very insightful.

First of all, clothing used to be different for children. Now, children's fashion is as much like adults as possible, and while that isn't the issue itself, that is reflective of the issue. Children now demand to be dressed as closely to the dress of adults as they possibly can be.

Now that was true for me also. But my dress as a young boy was just like my mother because mom made her own clothes and with the material she had left, she made clothes for me also. But today, the styles and fashions for children are designer brands and the latest trends.

Childhood games are different. When I was a child we played outside and if need be, we invented games and made up the rules as we went along. I remember my dad telling about nailing a Pet milk can lid to a board and using it as a push toy. We played with anything and everything we could find and filled our days with childhood games.

Today, children play copies of adult games, like Little League baseball. We have five and six-year-olds standing out there at all the appropriate positions trying to play a game that is impossible for them to play. We have peewee football and basketball and soccer and it is all supervised by adults.

In fact, there are adults all over the place, basically getting in the way and causing fights. We even have the coaches pitching the ball to the kids. And everyone has to have all the sophisticated equipment and special fields and umpires and referees and business sponsors printed on the uniforms.

The stands are filled with fans watching kids who could care less about the game. When it's over, they don't even know who's won! And for the most part, the game is not for the fun of the kids and the expression of childhood imagination. It is for the bragging rights and reputations of gloating parents who have drained all the fun out of it for the kids.

And then, there's behavior and language and attitudes and desires, and all of these things now are basically indistinguishable between children and adults. Children don't talk like children. They talk like adults. Their attitudes are adult like. Their vocabulary is very adult like.

In the past, children sequentially developed as they matured, and we assessed that development in schools and assigned grades to the development. Remember those? And what those grades revealed to parents was how your capabilities and maturity was keeping up.

And if you weren't keeping up, they kept you around for a while to make sure you were mature enough to move on to the next level. And the design was for information to distributed out to you in very carefully prepared amounts as the child was being shaped into an independent-thinking individual.

In his book, Postman says, “The maintenance of childhood depended on the principles of managed information and sequential learning.” That's how a child really was a child because a child only knew certain things, and there were secrets about life that a child didn't know yet.

I remember when I was in third grade, my best friend came to school and told us his mother was pregnant. I had no idea what that word meant.

But sophisticated third grader that I was, I didn't let on like I didn't know. Instead, I went to the dictionary at recess and looked up the word. And that's how I came to know what it meant to be pregnant. Later on, I would learn about that in a whole other way!

But that was typical in a child's life 45 years ago. I was protected from that information and had very limited exposure to things that I didn't need to know. And all that was true until one great invention changed everything and that invention was electronics.

Before that, parents and teachers could decide what children heard, what they saw, and when, in their development, they heard it and saw it, but then came electronics, and for the first time in human history there was radio and television, followed by albums and tapes and CDs and DVDs, and eventually the internet and computers and iPhones and with the advent of the information age, everything changed in the family, to the point, that now we can't even go a few minutes of life without our electronic gadgets. We can't even conceive of life without it!

And a few years ago, we began to put these devices in the hands of children who were 6, 7 and 8 years old, (which by the way, they don't need. Children don't need phones) and one of the unexpected and unintended results is a population of children who are overexposed to everything in the world without filters or controls or any regard for their age or development or maturity.

All of a sudden, children in your home are no longer limited to only what you tell them and their teacher tells them. They can turn on the television and be blitzed with any information about anything at any time at any level.

Through computers and the internet and cell phones, they can access the best and the worst that it has to offer, and the whole educational sequence has collapsed. Listen: your television and computer make no distinctions between an adult and a child and they are having a massive influence on children.

Neil Postman says this, and remember, he was writing 25 years ago, “We may conclude that television erodes the dividing line between childhood and adulthood in three ways, all having to do with its undifferentiated accessibility: first, because it requires no instruction to grasp its form.” It's easy! Just turn it on and look at it. “...secondly, because it does not make complex demands on either the mind or behavior; and thirdly, because it does not segregate its audience.”

“Television,” says Postman, “is without any secrets, and therefore there can be no such thing as childhood.” Childhood is all about secrets. It's all about not knowing. Therefore, innocence has been completely lost in this environment.

I don't know if you've ever thought about it this way, but any group is largely defined by the exclusivity of the information its members share. Think about it this way: if everybody knew what doctors know, there wouldn't be any doctors. If everybody knew what lawyers knew, there wouldn't be any lawyers.

And if children know what adults know, there aren't any children. We have allowed children to access adult information, therefore they're overexposed to things their minds and emotions cannot handle.

Consequently, they are exposed to massive temptations, which they are unable to deal with. And under the onslaught of this corrupt world with

its wrong ideas, desires, words, deeds, and attitudes, children can develop tremendous problems and become tremendous problems to parents and society.

They are consistently exposed to what they are not able to handle emotionally, morally, socially or spiritually. And what happens is they do not have the self-control nor the self-restraint to deal with the issues that arise because of this information. And sadly, the result is tragic and is evidenced everyday in the severe social problems we see in the home, the school and in society. Consider this: In 1950, adults committed serious crimes at a rate 215 times the rate of children's serious crimes. When I'm talking about children, I'm talking about 14 and under according to this study. Serious crimes are classified as murder, rape, aggravated assault, and armed robbery. So in 1950 adults committed those kinds of serious crimes at a rate 215 times the rate of children's crimes. By the way, you might want to know that in 1950, in the United States of America, there were 170 children arrested for serious crimes the entire year. As a percentage of the total number of crimes, that is 0.0004. Children didn't commit crimes. Obviously, that's changed. How are you going to restrain a child in a world of unrestrained adults when the children know everything the adults know?

Between '50 and '60, television made its entrance, and by 1960, adult serious crimes were committed at a rate of 8 to 1 times that of children's crimes. It went from 215 to 1 to 8 to 1 in 10 years. By 1980, the rate was 5 to 1, and the latest statistics show that a juvenile offender is involved in 25 percent of all serious violent crime. Crime is no longer an adult activity, but neither is anything else. It has become a child's activity. Almost daily, the newspapers tell us of arrests being made of children who are getting younger and younger all the time. And without looking at individual examples, you know as well as I, we have an immense problem on our hands. We have an overexposed generation of children who have to be treated like adults because they have all the adult information. And instead of parents being encouraged to bring them under control, parents have been discouraged from using discipline. In fact, they'll put you in jail for spanking little Throckmorton! At the same time, we've removed discipline from the schools, so that the two primary sources of authority in a child's life, parents and teachers, have no recourse to avert bad behavior. Instead, we've been told we need to do is encourage and build them up. In other words, the problem isn't sin, it's a lack of self-esteem. But that ignores one of the root issues of life, which brings me to the second challenge to Bible parenting.

The tremendous challenge placed before parents from the outside is compounded by an even more immense challenge put on parenting from the inside so let's look at that one.

2. The Internal: The Sin Within Us

While children may be ignorant and naïve and inexperienced when they come into the world, they are not innocent. They may be cute, but they are not innocent with regard to evil.

The seed of every known sin is planted deep in the heart of every child, and the truth is not that if things somehow turn out badly, our children might get messed up. Our children are severely messed up when they arrive.

It's not that if things don't work out the way we would like, our children may drift spiritually and they may wander morally. The drive to drift spiritually and morally, the drive to sin is embedded in their natures, and it is the compelling drive.

Listen, children do not come into the world seeking God and righteousness. They come into the world seeking the fulfillment of their sinful desires. And all that is required for the harvest to be tragic is that children be allowed to give expression to their most evil desires without restraint or correction.

Occasionally, someone will commit a graphic, unbelievable crime, and invariably, someone will ask, "What went wrong in their childhood?"

“What happened to them when they were young? What did their parents do to them? They must have been in an abusive environment. They must have been in some kind of a situation where they were mistreated.” The question is always asked, “What did their parents do to them?”

Let me tell you something - mass murderers, pedophiles, rapists, perverts, lifelong criminals are not the products of what their parents did to them. They're the products of what their parents didn't do to them. If you're running around trying to find some traumatic event to explain why people are so messed up, you need to look elsewhere.

Consider from recent American experience a man Jeffrey Dahmer. He committed the rape, murder, and dismemberment of 17 men and boys from 1978 to 1991. Many of his later murders involved cannibalism and the permanent preservation of body parts.

So how do you explain a homosexual, murdering cannibal? “What did they do to him?” That's not the question. The question is, “What didn't they do to him? The Bible says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of righteousness will drive it from him.” You see, what happened was he was just allowed to follow the natural course of his sinful nature.

And that pattern is repeated over and over again as people bring these little reprobates, as adorable as they are, into the world. They are being raised by parents who have absolutely no commitment to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and no commitment to use the rod.

They are simply allowing the children to give full expression to their depravity, and we are experiencing the results of that both in childhood disasters as well as adult disasters.

It isn't that mass murderers and pedophilic child killers were made that way by their parents. The truth is many of them had no parental influence. They were shuffled around like a worn-out race horse. And the problem is they became what they were potentially at birth because they were never instructed and restrained. And even more, they were never converted.

It is imperative, if we will take seriously the instruction to train and admonish our children, that we understand that a sin nature lives and dwells in the heart of our children.

And while that child is growing and maturing and reaching the age at which they are accountable to God for their sin, they must be brought under control. And the way to bring sinful behavior under control is by teaching them morality and punishing them in a proper, loving and firm way.

You can bring your children under control. But, ultimately, what you want to do is see them pass from darkness to light. You want to see their heart transformed so that instead of loving sin they love righteousness.

All this psychological junk that analyzes criminals trying to figure out what somebody else did to them misses the point. It's not what somebody did to them. It's what somebody didn't do to them. Nobody would deal with them.

Nobody would confront their misbehavior. Nobody would show them the divine standard. Nobody would bring them to conform with the law of God under the threat of corporeal punishment in a loving and affirming way. And most of all, no one led them to the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ so that they would have a supernatural restrainer.

Listen: God has not given us holy, little angels to be delicately handled so that they don't go astray. They're not holy, little angels. They're corrupt little sinners who have to be led to become saints. If you have trouble accepting that, just recognize that your children are nothing other than a miniature version of you.

So what's the answer? Well, let's get to the text in Ephesians 6. Here's God's answer: Ephesians 6:4

So what do we do to address the issue of parenting our children? After all, we've got this external world coming at them and this internal corruption being allowed to run its course, both colliding in tragic consequences. So what is our responsibility as parents? Our responsibility is to surround them with

3. The Eternal: The Word Around Us

Remember, the primary responsibility we have as parents is to love our children so that they're not angry with us and bring them up to know the Lord.

We do that by surrounding them with the Word of God. Notice, verse 4 tells us to bring them up "in" the training and admonition of the Lord.

So how do we created that environment? Let me share with you three simple truths the Holy Spirit gave to the Apostle Paul that help us to develop that atmosphere. First of all, we must

A. Teach Children The Right Message

Notice up in verse 1, Paul says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord." (V.1a)

The first lesson in the school of life every child must be taught by his parents is the lesson of obedience. If you are a young parent take heed. As we've already observed, children do not tend to obey. They must be trained to obey.

And children must be made to understand from the time that they are born that obedience is not an option, it is an obligation. Quite frankly, if you will teach your child to obey you, he may not always like you, but if it is properly handled, they will respect you.

And please notice, it is not just for the sake of the parents that children are to obey, it is for God's sake. He said, "Children obey your parents IN THE LORD." What does that mean?

A companion thought given by Paul to the Colossians helps us understand what that means. Colossians 3:20 says, "Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord."

That means the real motivation for all obedience., whether it is a child in your home or your response to your boss or any other environment, is to please the Lord.

Citizens should obey police officers because it pleases the Lord. Employees should obey their boss because it pleases the Lord. Students should obey their teachers because it pleases the Lord. And children should obey their parents because it pleases the Lord.

Notice what else Paul says about obedience. He not only says children should obey their parents in the Lord, but they are to do it because it is "right." And in this day and age of outcome-based education and political correctness, somebody needs to help children understand there are some things we do simply because they are the right thing to do.

It is right for children to obey the Lord, whether they are Christian children or non-Christian children; whether they go to church or don't go to church; whether they believe in God or don't believe in God. It is right for children to obey their parents.

And by the way, the "somebody" that is primarily responsible for teaching that truth is parents. Mom, dad, the primary responsibility of teaching right and wrong to kids belong not to the school teachers, but to the parents. In fact, let me give you three things you should be teaching your children from the time they are born until the time they leave home:

They need to know there is a difference between right and wrong, and God tells us which is which. Furthermore, you are expected to do right and not wrong. And if you do wrong and not right you will suffer the consequences.

Children are to obey their parents. But equally important, children are to honor their parents.

in verse 2, Paul zeroes in on one of the Ten Commandments to remind us of that responsibility.

So what's the difference between obeying your parents and honoring your parents? Think about it this way: Obedience is outward, honor is inward. Obedience is an action, honor is an attitude. It is possible to obey your parents without honoring your parents.

There will come a time when my children are no longer to obey me. But there will never come a time when they are no longer to honor me. And if they know what is good for them, Scripturally speaking, they will learn to do that. Notice what we read in verse 3.

You see, when you teach your children to obey and honor you, you are teaching them not only what is right and what is required, but rewarding. God honors the children who honor their parents.

Why is this true? There is a practical reason. If a child will listen to godly parents he will escape a lot of trouble in life. He won't be running with the wrong crowd, doing the wrong thing, being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, if he will listen to godly parents.

So remember, when you teach your children to obey you and honor you, you teach them what is required, what is right, but what is rewarding. You are doing the best for your children.

Teach your children the right message! Also,

B. Teach Children In The Right Manner

verse 4 - What does it mean to not provoke your children to wrath? Again, the companion passage in Colossians 3 helps us clarify that.

verse 21 - Now even though this is addressed to fathers, it is good counsel for both fathers and mothers. You can either beat your kids down by staying on their case twenty-four hours a day, or you can build your kids up. You can either discourage them or you can encourage them.

And if we are not careful in the way we instruct and discipline our children, we can aggravate, frustrate, and provoke our children. We need to understand that the way we teach is just as important as what we teach. If you want to be a successful teacher to your children, model what you teach and teach it in a positive manner.

You can teach your kids by being negative all the time, screaming and fussing and griping, or you can teach them by trying to be positive. Learn to look for the good and not for the bad. Look for the right and not for the wrong. Try to build them up and not tear them down. Third,

C. Teach Children The Right Master

The instruction of verse 4 is to "bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" What does that mean? There are two tools that God wants to use in rearing children. The first one is …

i. Discipline

We are to discipline our children when they are wrong. The word training literally means "discipline." Discipline is a mark of love. If you don't exercise discipline in the lives of your children; make them obey you and honor you, and treat other people with respect, you don't love your children.

In fact, a little discipline early in life can save a lot of heartache later in life. I heard about a young mother who went to her pastor and said, "I'm having trouble with my son." The pastor said, "What's wrong?"

She said, "Yesterday I warmed his soup and called him for lunch, but he didn't come. The soup got cold so I warmed it again, called him again, but he didn't come. I warmed the soup a third time and called him again, and he still didn't come.

Finally, after I warmed the soup the tenth time I lost it and screamed at him, and he came." She said, "What do you think my problem is?" The pastor said, "I think you're warming the wrong thing. If you had warmed the right thing he would have come the first time you called him."

Not only do children need discipline, they need …

ii. Direction

The verse says "bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord". The word admonition literally means "to place before the mind." It means instruction or direction.

The greatest thing any parent can ever do for their child is to teach them to love and honor and study and apply the Bibles. I don't believe there is a single more important thing a parent can leave his child with than a desire to study the word of God, and the discipline to do it.

Do you know why that is true? If you teach your children to love their Bible, learn their Bible, and live their Bible, you will have an influence on them long after you have left this planet.

Let them see how important the Bible is to you. Let them see it by the way you come to Sunday School and church, by the way you study privately, by the way you live and apply its teaching in your everyday life and by the way you respond and react to them.

I want to close with something I read not too long ago called "A Parent's Prayer." I cannot think of a better prayer we can pray for ourselves and each other as we do our best to fix our families.

"Oh Heavenly Father, make me a better parent. Teach me to understand my children, to listen patiently to what they have to say, and to answer all their questions kindly.

Keep me from interrupting them or criticizing them. Make me as courteous to them as I would have them be to me.

Forbid that I should ever laugh at their mistakes or resort to shame or ridicule when they displease me.

May I never punish them for my own selfish satisfaction or to show my power. Let me not tempt my child to lie or steal, but guide me, hour by hour, that I might demonstrate in everything that I say or do, that honesty produces happiness.

May I ever be mindful that my children are children, and that I should not expect of them the judgment of adults. Let me not rob them of the opportunity to wait on themselves and to make decisions.

Bless me with the bigness to grant them their reasonable requests and the courage to deny them the privileges I know could do them harm.

Make me fair, just and kind, and fit me, O Lord, to be loved, respected, and imitated by my children, and help me always remember that better parents raise better children."

I know none of us are what we ought to be as parents. In fact, your family may be like the family that attended a special worship service that included a parent-child dedication.

On the way home from church the little boy of the family was crying in the backseat of the car. His dad said, ''What's wrong son?'' After wiping his tears and clearing his throat, the little boy said, ''Well, the preacher said we ought to be reared in a good Christian home, but I'd rather stay with you and mom.''

No parents are perfect parents, and no matter how hard we may try, no parents can ever guarantee how their child will turn out. But I will tell you this. The parents who have the best chance of fixing their family will see to it that they have made a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in turn will help their children make the best decision they can ever make which is to surrender their life to Jesus Christ.

The best gift you can ever give your children is the opportunity to go to heaven and the privilege of seeing God at work in their home. May God help us to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Let's pray.