(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click here)
Faith Bible Church, NY
December 29, 1996
God’s Design for the Family, Part 4:
The Role of Parents, Part 1
This morning is the fourth message in our series on God’s design for the family. We have examined the role of the wife, the husband and the children. This morning we will begin examining the role of the parents. Turn to Eph. 6.
We must remember that Paul’s discussion of these God given roles within the family are all within the context of walking in wisdom (5:15f). God has done marvelous things for the Christian. We were once dead in our trespasses and sin, but God has made the true believer alive through Jesus Christ. We have been given a new nature and the Holy Spirit now dwells within us. One of the many benefits of this is a quickened mind and the ability to understand spiritual things. The true Christian has the ability to walk in Godly wisdom, and Paul is calling on us to do just that – to “be careful how [we] walk, not as unwise, but as wise” (5:15). It is wisdom to follow God’s design for the family.
The great tragedy is that as families continue to disintegrate in our nation, people continue to turn to the vain philosophies and wisdom of men rather than to the one who designed both mankind and the family. When people reject the creator and His design, they prove the scriptures true that they have been blinded by Satan, (2 Cor 4:4) and that in professing to be wise they have become fools (Rom. 1:22).
But is not enough to just know the creator’s blueprint for the family, you also have to follow His instructions for construction and operation, and that is impossible unless you are filled with the Spirit. The Christian life is impossible without the acting of the Holy Spirit in your life to give you both understanding needed and empowering you to live according to God’s design.
The role of the wife in submission to her husband is contingent on her first being in submission to the Holy Spirit. If she is not, she will either resent her role or be so trodden down that she at best will only be the shell of the woman God created her to be.
The role of the husband is to lead his family in godliness through a sacrificial, committed love. This is impossible unless he is first in submission to the Holy Spirit. It is impossible for him to generate within himself this type of love. It must be the love of Jesus Christ flowing through him.
Parents, let me stress that your ability to properly raise your children is in direct relationship to your ability to be a godly spouse. You will never be a better parent than you are a wife or husband because the starting point for both is submission to the Holy Spirit. If you are unwilling to submit to the Spirit in your role as a spouse, you will not do so in your role as a parent. You have already decided that you know better than God what is best for your life, and that same basic belief will carry over into your parenting too. You cannot be a better parent than you are a spouse.
But, you say, your partner is not a believer or you are divorced and raising the kids by yourself. Again, submission to the Holy Spirit in primary. How do you treat your unsaved spouse or ex-spouse? Does your example toward them reflect godliness and the love of Jesus Christ? If it does, you will be a positive influence for Christ on your children. If it does not, you will fill your children with what is in your heart – whether that be resentment, pride, bitterness or anything else that is ungodly.
THE IMPORTANCE OF OBEDIENCE
Coming down to chapter 6 we find that God requires Children to obey their parents. We covered this two weeks ago. This is the first principle of parenting. We are to require our children to obey us in the Lord. In fact, if you do not require obedience from your Children then you are teaching them to sin. Obedience is to be the first time, right away with a happy face. Anything less than that is really disobedience.
If a child does not obey the first time you ask them, then they are disobedient. If they will not obey until you tell them 3 or 4 times, or until your voice reaches a certain pitch then you have trained them that they do not need to obey until you reach that level of agitation with them. I would venture that most of you know what I am talking about either from observation or actual experience.
“Junior, please put your toys away and get ready for bed.”
5 minutes later, “Junior, I thought I told you to put those toys away and get ready for bed.”
5 minutes later, “Junior, I know I told you to put those toys away and get ready for bed.”
5 minutes later, “Junior, I am not telling you again, put those toys away and get ready for bed or your going to get it.”
5 minutes later, with your face read and your volume hitting a 100 decibels, “Junior, this is the last time, do what I said or I am going to spank you.” At this, Junior finally obeys. You have actually trained junior to ignore you.
What if in the scenario above Junior answered, “yes sir,” each time, but still did not do it until he was done playing. That may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but when you do not require a child to obey right away then you have put them in the position of being judge of what is and what is not important. That right does not belong to them, it belongs to you. Again, you have actually trained them to disobey. Our children need to obey us the first time and right away. We must remember that we as parents must also consider what the child is doing and give our commands properly – who likes to be a couple of moves from the end of a game and then be told they have to put it up right now and go to bed, or five minutes before the end of a TV program be told to turn it off and come to dinner. We also have to set up a system where the child can respectfully appeal our commands to them. Otherwise we can really frustrate them. We also need to require our children to obey with what I call a “happy face.” A child that is grumbling, complaining or whining may be conforming their outward behavior to our commands, but they are not being obedient from the heart. I cannot stress enough that it is the heart that we are trying to train, not just behavior. Do not allow or accept grumbling, complaining or whining from your children, otherwise you are training them to sin against you and against God. Those things demonstrate that there is rebellion in their hearts. Remember what God did to the children of Israel in the wilderness for their much grumbling? As they grumbled God would chastise them with plagues, poisonous snakes, the ground opening up and swallowing Korah and his followers in one instance and forty years of wandering until a whole generation had died off. I am not saying that if your child whines you should put a snake in their bed, but I am saying that you should not accept or tolerate grumbling because it is a form of rebellion.
Children can be forced to give behavioral obedience, but we have to make sure we go beyond that. Remember, obedience is the school master that gives the child the skills to pursue both Godliness and success. We want to also instill within them the principles of God’s Word and train their hearts so that they will be internally guided rather than outwardly conformed. Our real goal should be that by the time they are 12 or 13, their obedience to us has turned into submission – with a willingness and desire to follow our guidance, and that such submission is actually secondary to their submission to the Lord. This will not be accomplished without hard work and the help of the Holy Spirit.
Remember as well it is only through submission to the Holy Spirit that our children will not be able to honor their parents as God demands.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS
Here in Verse 4, our text for this morning we find the rest of the basic principles for parents to follow. “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
For the most part, our society no longer has the mindset of Harry Truman, who when he was president, had a sign on his desk that said, “The buck stops here.” We are more prone to follow the example of our ancestors Adam and Eve and just pass the buck along. Adam told God that it was the woman’s fault. Eve told God it was the serpent’s fault. We tell ourselves it has got to be somebody else’s fault – let’s figure out who so we can sue!
It is no different when it comes to parenting, and this is true even in Christian circles. If a child turns out pretty good, the parents do not hesitate to acknowledge them as their children – usually with a bit of pride showing. But if the child turns out rebellious and problematic for society, then the parents are quick to claim that it was not their fault. They did everything they could, they bear no responsibility.
Moms and dads, you need to understand that there is a dual responsibility in how your children turn out. Both you and your child bear a responsibility in what kind of adults they become. This does not mean the child can blame you for the sins they commit, because regardless of how good or bad the child’s parents were, the individual bears full responsibility for himself. Why? Because God’s call to everyone is to repent from their sins and follow Him. God’s grace is sufficient to change anyone that will do so. Remember, all of us were dead in sin, but God made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2). The effect of sin may have had us in different stages of decay and corruption, but dead is dead, and when we were made alive in Christ we became new creatures. The old passed away and the new was put on (2 Cor. 5:17f).
No one will ever be able to stand before God and blame their parents or anyone else for the sins they have committed. Ezekiel 18:20 states this truth very clearly “The person who sins will die . The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.“
Don’t ever let yourself get caught in the trap so prevalent in modern psychology that passes the blame along to someone else or to “society” in general for all the problems you have. Throughout the scriptures we find this truth that God holds each of us individually accountable for our own sins. God’s judgment of us will be impartial and will be based on each man’s deeds – (1 Peter 1:17; Rev. 20:12,13)
Parents, understand that God is not going to hold you responsible for you children’s sins, but He is going to hold you responsible for you failures to raise them according to His directions. How our children turn out is a reflection on how you parented them. What you do in raising your child will greatly affect what they believe to be true, what they believe to be important, what life is all about, what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable, how they feel about themselves and others. How you raise them will reflect in how they turn out.
This does not mean that you are responsible for their salvation, that could never be because no man can save another. Salvation is the work of God Himself as the Holy Spirit brings the individual to conviction of sin, repentance and regeneration that they will believe and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving from Him pardon for their sin. No parent can guarantee the salvation of their children, but the parent is to set the stage for the Holy Spirit’s work. They are to teach their children God’s laws, that sin is failure to keep God’s laws, that sin’s punishment is eternal death. Parents are to teach their children about God’s love as especially as demonstrated in Jesus Christ and His substitutionary death. We are to teach our children about God’s life that can be given to us through forgiveness of sins through Christ and a following after Him.
But you say, “We did everything we could. Our child rebelled against us and followed the Adam’s sin nature within him.” God’s answer is, “Did you do everything you could? Did you follow all my commands to you as individuals and as parents? Did you demonstrate a perfect walk with me? Did you really bring your child up in my nurture and admonition without provoking him to anger or exasperating him causing him to lose heart?”
Let’s be honest with each other. No one in this room walks perfectly with Christ. The solution for guilt is not trying to pass the buck, but confession and receiving God’s forgiveness. Don’t let your pride get in the way. If your children are grown and are not following Christ, then the key to further ministry with them is 1) As the Lord brings your past failures with your children to your attention, confess and ask God’s forgiveness. His promise is that He will forgive (1 John 1:9). You may need to do this with your children as well. 2) Pleading for God’s mercy upon them that the Holy Spirit will yet bring them under conviction of sin and draw them to Himself.
For those of us who still have our children at home, our confessions of failure need to be as they happen and that may include setting our pride aside and asking our kids for forgiveness too. It sets a wonderful example for them. None of us are going to be perfect parents, but we are responsible for the scriptures say so.
Here in Eph. 6:4, Paul addresses his command to “fathers.” The term “fathers” here does not mean that only dad is responsible for raising the kids. It should be immediately obvious that both parents are responsible for in the context of verse 1 children are to obey their “parents.” In addition this same term for “fathers” is translated in Heb. 11:23 as “parents” because it refers to both of Moses’ parents. The father is emphasized here because he is the head of the home and therefore the one responsible to set the tenor and direction of the home including how the children are raised. The same idea can be seen in the Old Testament.
Psalm 78:5 “For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should teach them to their children, 6 That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, 7 That they should put their confidence in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, 8 And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.” The dad is specifically mentioned, yet the responsibility falls on both dad and mom. The generation of “fathers” that were rebellious included all the women that died in the wilderness too.
So, dads, while the responsibility is primarily on your shoulders that does not mean in anyway that the moms are not responsible. Dads and moms are both accountable for how the children are raised. Proverbs gives many statements concerning this. Let me give you a few.
Prov. 1:8,9 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, And do not forsake your mother’s teaching; 9 Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head, And ornaments about your neck. Prov. 6:20-23 add, 20 “My son, observe the commandment of your father, And do not forsake the teaching of your mother; 21 Bind them continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck. 22 When you walk about, they will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; And when you awake, they will talk to you. 23 For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life,” Both mom and dad are involved in the training of the child.
How the child turns – whether bad or good – reflects on both of them. Prov. 10:1, “A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” Prov. 17:25, “A foolish son is a grief to his father, And bitterness to her who bore him.” Prov. 23:22-25, “Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old. 23 Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding. 24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. 25 Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her rejoice who gave birth to you.” Prov. 29:3, “3 A man who loves wisdom makes his father glad, But he who keeps company with harlots wastes [his] wealth.” Prov. 17:21, “He who begets a fool [does so] to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy.” Prov. 29:15, “5 The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”
Children are a gift from the Lord and they are to be a blessing (Psalm 127), but if we parents do not fulfill our God given responsibilities properly, those children will not be a blessing to us or anyone else.
For comments, please e-mail Church office