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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
May 1, 2011
The Role of Parents, Part 4 – Transitioning Teens
Over the last couple of months in our study of Colossians 3, we have been concentrating on what Paul says about the family and the role that each member within it has before God. Every member needs to fulfill their role if the family is going to be successful at its God ordained purpose of glorifying Him and raising up the next generation to be responsible adults. It is much easier for Christians to fulfill these roles when they are living as those who have been raised up with Christ. Putting aside the previous, sinful ways of life and developing the characteristics of being a new creation in Jesus Christ allow a person to live in godliness and fulfill their purpose in life. Non-Christians and those still walking in immaturity will find it difficult at best to do what God requires of them within the family.
Wives are to be “be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18). A wife is to follow the lead of her husband as a suitable helpmeet who shows him respects and thereby enables him to be successful in life. “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1). (See: The Role of the Wife)
Husbands have the responsibility to “love your wives, and do not be embittered against them” (Colossians 3:19). This is the love that sacrifices itself for the best interest of the other. A husband that will do that and not be selfish will enable his wife to fulfill her role. A husband has the additional roles of leading, providing and protecting the family, and God will hold Him accountable for what he does. (See: The Role of the Husband)
Children are to “be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). Paul adds in Ephesians 6:2-3 that this is from the 5th commandment in Exodus 20 and is the first command with a promise that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the Earth. Children who are in rebellion against their parents are also in rebellion against God and will reap the consequences of their sin. Obedience is foundational for learning all other skills. (See: The Role of Children)
We have already spent three sermons on the role of parents pointing out general principles as well as specific commands. I will probably repeat several of those this morning, but I want to specifically deal with the last part of active parenting in this sermon. (See: The Role of Parents, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 – Proverbs on Parenting)
When your children were very young, your goal was to train them to obey. If that is done correctly, most children should be obedient the first time and right away by the time they are 5 or 6 years old. This is the easiest part of parenting. The second period of parenting is characterized by training their hearts to follow God. This is the pre-adolescent stage. You are establishing in them moral reasoning by which they will be able to discern for themselves what is right before God and follow Him. If that is done correctly, a child of 12 or 13 should be primarily motivated by their own walk with God. Their obedience will have turned into submission because of their desire to please God rather than fear you.
The last part of parenting is helping youths become responsible adults. It is the period of transition from childhood to adulthood, from dependence upon you as the parent to independence as adults who can stand on their own and establish their own family. In many ways this can be the most challenging, but also the most enjoyable and satisfying period of parenting.
I recall when I was young my own parents being perplexed by the complaints of their peers about what a terrible time they were having with their teenagers. My brothers and I thoroughly enjoyed our family life in the teen years, and my mom will tell you to this day that it was her favorite period of family life. When Jonathan was born, I recall someone telling me to enjoy him now for he would rebel and cause great heartache when he reached his teens. Modern conventional wisdom in America expects teen rebellion, but I was looking forward to those years expecting them to be wonderful years in the family – and my expectations have been met. Teen rebellion is a phenomenon of modern western society that has developed as it has abandoned the Biblical guidelines of parenting and even the common sense of ancient parenting practices.
For the rest of this morning I want to point you to this Biblical way so that you can also make the most of the teen years and establish your youths as responsible, young adults.
If you want to understand what the Bible says about teenagers, you will have to look for the word, youth. There are several Hebrew words and one Greek word that are translated that way, and they cover quite a range of ages. Context will give you the clues to how old a youth might be. For example, Genesis 37:2 specifically states Joseph is 17 years old and calls him a youth (naar) when he was pasturing his father’s flocks. He is still called a youth (naar) several years later when Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembers him as one who could interpret dreams. King Josiah was a youth (naar) of 16 years when he began to seek God (1 Chronicles 34:1-3). However, the same word (naar) is used for Samuel when he was only a few years old (1 Samuel 1:22). At the other extreme, the same word is used in reference to young adults that are married (Proverbs 5:18), though it must be remembered that in that culture people generally married at a much younger age, often in their teens.
But this brings up the next point about youth in the Bible compared to youth culture in the United State. In our society there are some extreme assumptions that have become too common that are contrary to what the Scriptures state. The first is that teens are wise enough to make their own decisions without parental involvement. This extreme lets teens do what they want with little to no accountability. It will vary with each parent, but the mindset is that because they are 14, 16, 18 years old, they can do what they want.
The Weakness of Youth. In the case of children who have been trained well in godliness, they may be able to handle such independence and do well even from an early age, but several scriptures point out that there is a weakness in youth that they must be very careful about. One of the purposes of the book of Proverbs is to “give prudence to the naive, and to the youth knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:4). Even a very intelligent youth lacks the years of experience needed to have the needed knowledge and discretion. That is a why a wise youth will seek out counsel from those who are older and have wisdom. That begins with the parents (Proverbs 1:8, 4:1) and extends to others fo
r the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to counsel (Proverbs 1:5).
The tragedy is that there is a strong tendency, especially in American youth culture, to follow the foolishness of Rehoboam who rejected the counsel of his older and wiser counselors in favor of the counsel of his peers who told him what he wanted to hear (1 Kings 12:6 – 11).
No teen has gained enough knowledge to make all their own decisions without the counsel of those who are older and wiser. It is interesting to note that Luke 2:52 records that even Jesus, after he was 12, “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” You need to be very involved with your teens as they continue to grow in knowledge and wisdom. They are in need of your counsel and guidance.
Another indicator of the weakness of youth are the many passages that refer to the “sins of my youth” showing the indiscretion that can easily mark that period of life because the character of the person is still developing to overcome both temptations and trying to please other people. Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1), yet he also remembered the iniquities of his youth (Job 13:26). David cried out to the Lord in Psalm 25:7 that He would not “remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions.” Timothy had already proven himself as a man of God, but Paul still warned him to “flee from youthful lusts” (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22).
The tragedy in our own culture is that so many in the entertainment and advertising fields are evil and specifically target teens to entice them toward sin. The very adults that should be helping to protect them are instead exploiting them. For some, it is simply a way to make a quick profit. Others are more sinister and want to entrap them in a sinful life style that will allow them to continue to be more easily exploited. Parents, are you protecting your teens from such influences and teaching them how to deal with them including the guilt that comes after falling to them?
Another weakness of youth is lack of proper confidence. Jeremiah freely acknowledge his fear of the Lord’s commission because he was a youth (Jeremiah 1:6). Paul had to encourage Timothy because he was timid because of his youth (1 Timothy 4:12 cf 1 Corinthians 16:10). Both young men were called to serve the Lord, but it would take time to experience the Lord enough to overcome the natural fear of the unknown. Youth needs to be encouraged and put in situations in which they learn to trust the Lord.
The Strength of Youth. There is also the opposite extreme in which parents refuse to let their children grow up. There is a high and thick wall of protection that is built which prevents them from making decisions for themselves and learning to trust the Lord. They continue in perpetual childhood because they do not learn to take on adult responsibilities.
Consider some of the things that scriptures record that were accomplished by various “youths.” As already pointed out, Joseph was only 17 or so when he was sold into slavery in Egypt. Yet, his character was such that his master developed trust in him so that he quickly rose to the position of being in charge of all that was Potiphar’s household. After being wrongly accused and thrown in jail, he still had the character to rise up to the point that the chief jailer put him in charge of all the other prisoners. He would have been in his early 20’s when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and became second in command of all of Egypt (Genesis 39-41).
David had kept his father’s sheep as a youth and his encounters with lions and bears prepared him to face Goliath (1 Samuel 17). More important than his ability was David’s confidence that came from the trust he had in the Lord that had developed over that time. He was outraged that the army of Israel was letting “this uncircumcised Philistine” taunt them. He told King Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” David told Goliath, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts,” and that “This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you” David’s confidence was in the Lord, and that trust marked the rest of his life. We should want our sons and daughters to learn such a deep trust of the Lord
Daniel and his three friends were all youths when they were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. All of them stepped out in faith to do what they knew was right before God and leave the results in His hands. God honored them and they became important officials in Nebuchadnezzar’s administration (Daniel 1, 2). This prepared them for remaining firm for the severe trials that came upon them later because of their faith. They did not waver and God honored them for it (Daniel 3, 6).
While parents of youths do need to be protective in many respects as already noted, they also have to teach their teens how to stand firm for God despite the dangers they may face. If we want them to grow up to be like these great heroes of the faith of old, we will need to help them walk with God grounded in their own faith in Him. It is your responsibility to challenge and enable them to take on increasing responsibilities by which they will learn to walk in trust of God. Youth are capable of doing a lot more difficult things than most adults think possible. They are no longer children and they need your help to become adults.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy, and one that occurs much too often even among professing Christians, is when both of these extremes meet. The youth is given freedom to make choices as he or she desires, but then they are protected from the negative consequences that result from those decisions. This teaches them to be irresponsible and selfish. This can be something as simple as letting them waste their time to the neglect of their chores, then doing their chores for them when they run out of time. This occurs when they don’t do their homework and get a low grade in a class, but you excuse it and blame the teacher instead. This becomes very serious when they break the law and get arrested, but you bail them out and hire a lawyer to get them off the hook. Giving freedom without responsibility is a sure way to destroy them and make them burdens on society instead of blessings. Proverbs warns that parents that will not discipline their children hate them (Proverbs 13:24; 19:19). How much worse is it when the parent also intervenes to diminish God’s chastening of them, and I have seen parents do just that. Negative consequence is the teacher of the naive, the proud and the sinful. Don’t remove the lessons of this teacher of last resorts. All of us have learned some lessons by this teacher, and they are usually learned very well indeed.
The Importance of Purpose
What is the reason for such poor parenting and the tragic results at the expense of our youth? Primarily it comes back down to purpose and philosophy. Those who do not understand their own purpose in life cannot help their children find theirs. Those who refuse to follow Biblical principles in their own life will not be able to help their children do so. Those who think themselves to be wiser than God will prove their foolishness at their children’s expense. Those who will not overcome their innate selfishness to love their children and seek their good, will ensure their children’s suffering.
I have commented in previous sermons on Ephesians 6:4 and its command for parents to “bring [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The sermon on Proverbs was expressly to make the point that goal of parenting is to raise up wise offspring. I want to expand on how that is to work out when it comes to teens.
As I have mentioned before, you cannot ensure that your children will become genuine Christians, for that is a matter for t
he Holy Spirit. However, you can ensure that they will know all about God, His character, what He has done and His commandments (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) and have been trained to keep those commandments. You can also ensure you are an example of how to live a godly life. These figure directly into your purpose and goals in this stage of parenting.
Since the goal is to produce a wise adult, then you need to be one yourself. Again, your example will teach your children much more than your words. In fact, if you give wise words that you will not follow yourself, your teens will consider you to be a hypocrite and generally will not listen to you. This does not mean that you have to have lived a perfect life. Do not fall into that trap. I have run into parents who didn’t think they could correct their teen about things even as bad as drug use or premarital sex because they had done that when they were young. If anything, the regrets you have for your past sins should be the strongest warning possible. It is the fool that despises wisdom and instruction, hates knowledge, is right in their own eyes, mocks at sin, is arrogant, rejects a father’s discipline and will not listen to rebuke (Proverbs 1:7, 22; 12:15; 14:9,16; 15:2,5). The wise do the opposite and gladly hear and heed reproof knowing that in doing so they are acquiring understanding for life (Proverbs 15:32, 25:12).
Don’t excuse the behavior or your teens saying you did the same thing at their age, instead, rebuke and warn them because of it. While it may be true that you overcame those things and eventually did well, do not assume the same will be true for your children. First, they may succumb to even worse instead of overcome. Second, do not presume on God withholding His judgment on them for His patience and longsuffering varies from person to person. That was part of Jesus’ warning in Luke 13:4 about those killed by Tower of Siloam that all need to repent immediately for they are in likewise danger of perishing. In addition, I hope you love your children enough to want them to do better than you, so warn them about the things that have been detrimental in your own life.
Also be careful of falling into the trap of thinking you have to have it all together to either correct or give wisdom to teens. That mindset would lead you to either become a hypocrite or neglect their training. All you need to do is live an honest and humble life. Some of the best examples you will give them will be in your own pursuit of overcoming sin and walking in holiness. Those are lessons they want to learn in their own lives. You will also find that as they get older, they will become helpful to you in your own walk with the Lord. Wisdom and encouragement can flow in both directions.
Since the goal is to raise a wise adult, then your parenting practices must reflect the continued pursuit of that goal. I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping the focus on your purpose. A couple of weeks ago I said, “In raising your children, you will have to decide whether it will be according to the wisdom of this world or according to the wisdom of God. If your goal for your children is worldly success – material wealth, fame, power and pleasure – then you will raise them accordingly and reject what the word of God teaches for its definition of success is the opposite – contentment, being humble, meekness and servant-hood. The goal of worldly wisdom is man’s glory and fulfilling human desire. The goal of godly wisdom is God’s glory and fulfilling His will.”
My friend Warren Lamb added this very insightful comment concerning this. “I think for most non-Christians and many Christians, the goal they have for their children is to make sure they can “fit in” or be able to comfortably live in today’s society – be good citizens, know how to handle situations, work with everyone, do well (and be recognized by the world for it) and just “be nice.” Most don’t care much about wealth, fame and power for their children. The parents care about making sure their kids can live as “stress-free” in the culture today as possible. That would be considered their blessing and their teaching. Of course, that necessitates compromise of godly values, character and wisdom. Most unfortunate. I’ve seen it in my own extended family as well as friends.”
Warren’s insight is tragically true and so makes even the stronger the emphasis on keeping the proper purpose of parenting in mind. Will you raise them to be wise by God’s standards or the world’s? Raising godly kids takes a lot of effort and it is not for the faint of heart in an increasingly ungodly society. You will have conflicts with your children since they come into this world as sinners. You will have very challenging conversations with your teens as they come to grips with what they really believe and what you have taught them is being challenged by every worldly influence that is brought to bear upon them – school, entertainment, government, peers, employers, etc. You will also find yourself in conflict with other professing Christians who are not at the same place in their walk with the Lord – this will be good when it is by those who challenge you to think more deeply about your walk with the Lord, and it will be frustrating when it is by those who are in reality just trying to defend their own immaturity and continued bent toward sin.
This brings it back once again to this point. What is your purpose? What is your goal? What do you want your children to be like when they are grown? It is the responsibility of the parents to train their children to become wise, responsible adults who can stand on their own convictions even when the world turns against them.
I recently read the book, Lady Jane Grey, Nine Day Queen of England by Faith Cook. She is a good role model for youth. By the time she was 16, she had already developed such a deep understanding and strong walk with God that she was able to stand firm on her convictions though it meant her death. If she would convert to Roman Catholicism, her life would be spared. Instead, in a debate forced upon her by the Queen Mary’s personal chaplain, Dr. Feckenham, a leading Roman Catholic apologist, she not only held her own, but caused him to confess that despite all his learning, it would have been more appropriate if he had been the disciple and Jane the teacher that day. She died the next day under the headsman’s axe bearing witness that she would die as a true Christian woman who looked “to be saved by no other means, but only the mercy of God, in the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ.”
O that such would be the faith and strong conviction of all our children that by the time they reach their mid-teens they likewise would stand firm against all the pressures the world can bring upon them. We need to be raising our children in such a way that they will be those who will influence others instead of the world influencing them.
How then do you transition them from childhood to become such wise and responsible adults? Prayer, hard work, patience and diligence. Prayer, because ultimately their lives are in God’s hands. Hard work because it takes that to fulfill the responsibilities God has entrusted to you. Patience, because kids never learn as fast as you would like. Diligence because there is always another lesson to teach and an earlier lesson to repeat. These are also character qualities you want to instill into your children.
There is no magical age when you are done with all of your parenting responsibilities. They learn over time as your child becomes a youth and then becomes a young adult. As they take on more responsibilities, they become more independent of you eventually setting up their own household, and even then, there will still be things to teach them as their most trusted counselors. The age and rate at which children mature will vary by family and by individual child.
Let me explain this in practical terms by using the funnel illustration I picked up from the Growing
Kids God’s Way classes I have taught over the years. The width of the funnel illustrates increasing freedom and responsibility. When your children are very young, their world is very restricted and they have few responsibilities. They start out confined to crib or a play pen because you can’t trust them. As you teach them to obey the first time and right away, the walls come down. Our boys went from the crib to playing on an area rug and then sitting in a chair looking at books. As they increased in their obedience, their world expanded to their room, the house and the backyard. When we knew they would follow our rules even when we were not present, they could play at their friends houses.
This expanded freedom also meant that we had to be training their hearts. Our rules were not arbitrary – and a copy of them are in the back of the church – but were based in solid Biblically moral reasoning. We taught them the moral reasons we did or not do things and trained them to think for themselves in applying the moral principles. As their hearts were trained, their world expanded to match their ability to be responsible for themselves. They could ride their bikes to see friends in the neighborhood and participate in sleep overs.
As the boys entered their teens we gave them more responsibilities and were more diligent to teach them life skills. Riding a bike meant learning how to repair a bike. The variety of household chores increased. They learned to clean everything, do their own laundry, cook and make minor household repairs. Small businesses were started so they could learn how to handle finances. Eventually it was teaching them to drive – and do the maintenance on a car. In each of these areas, freedom and responsibility were tied together. Sometimes it was responsibility first and then freedom, sometimes it was the other way around to test how they could handle it. Who they could be friends with, where they could go, how late they could stay out, how they used their money. If they couldn’t handle it yet, the restrictions were put back in place until they could fulfill their responsibilities. If they could handle it, we went farther up the funnel. The goal has to be to train them to be wise and responsible adults that will be able to make it on their own and be a blessing to others. As our boys grew to become young men, the restrictions of childhood were steadily removed until all that was left were the common courtesies that are part of sharing a household. They would tell us where they were going, when they planned to be back, if they would be home for dinner, and help with the household chores. Of course, we also still talked about everything – often from a theological perspective and challenge each others thinking – and we still do.
The point is simply this. You transition your sons and daughters from childhood into pre-adolescence, then adolescence, youth and finally adulthood by moving up and down the funnel incrementally as that child can handle the responsibilities. Don’t keep them so restricted that they do not learn what is needed to be a mature adult, and neither give them freedoms they cannot handle and so set them up to fail. You be the responsible parent who trains your children to become mature and responsible adults themselves.
“Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, For blessed are they who keep my ways. – Proverbs 8:32
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. – Proverbs 23:24
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times “youth” is mentioned 2) Talk with your parents about how you are doing in becoming responsible and wise
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What are the roles God has given to the various members of the family? Explain them. What should be the goal in parenting young children? What should be the goal in parenting pre-adolescent children? What should be the goal in parenting youth? When did teen rebellion become common in society? Why has it become normal? What is the age range for the term “youth” in the Bible? What are some of the weaknesses of youth? How are those weaknesses overcome? List out what the following “youths” were able to accomplish – Joseph, David, Daniel. Should the youth of today be expected to also do hard things? Why or why not? What will be the result in a youth if negative consequences are consistently removed? What is the primary reason for poor parenting? What should be the purpose of parenting? Can you ensure your child becomes a Christian? Why or why not? What does God want you to ensure will happen in raising your children? How are you doing in fulfilling God’s commands? How should you respond if your children commit the same or a similar sin as your own at that age? Why must parents avoid hypocrisy and how do they avoid it since they are not perfect? What is the goal of raising a child in godly wisdom? What is the goal of raising a child in worldly wisdom? What is the danger of raising a child to “fit in” with society so that they can live “stress-free”? What kind of conflicts can you expect if you strive to raise your children to become godly adults? How can you help your child become someone who will influence others instead of being influenced by them? Why does it take prayer, hard work, patience and diligence to be a successful parent? What should be the relationship between freedom and responsibility? How will you know when to allow your child more freedom? How will you know when you have accomplished your God given purpose as a parent?
Sermon Notes – 5/1/2011
The Role of Parents, Part 4 – Transitioning Teens – Selected Scriptures
Every member of the family needs to fulfill their God given ____________
Wives – follow the leadership of the husband, show him ____________, be a suitable helpmeet
Husbands – __________your wives, lead, provide and protect
Children – __________your parents – obedience is the foundation for learning all other skills
There are three major periods of parenting: 1) Train them to ________. 2) Train their ___________.
3) Transition them to _______________.
Teen _____________is a phenomenon of modern western society that has abandoned Biblical principles
______________ of a Scripture passage tells you the approximate age of a “youth”
False assumption 1 – Teens are ______enough to make their own decisions without parental involvement
The Weakness of Youth
Proverbs is written to give “youth knowledge and discretion” – even intelligent youth lack ___________
Teens need _____________ from those older and wiser – starting with parents (Proverbs 1:8; 4:1; 1:5)
Even ____________ had to increase in wisdom and stature – Luke 2:52
Evil people in the entertainment and advertising industries target teens to __________
them to sin
The Strength of Youth
False assumption 2) Youth are not able to do anything very _________ or of great importance
___________ as a “youth” in his early 20’s became second in command of all of Egypt (Genesis 39-41)
David as a “youth” kept his father’s sheep, learned to trust God and so defeated _________(1 Samuel 17)
___________ & his three friends were “youths” who obeyed God and were exalted (Daniel 1,2, 3, 6)
Youths need some protection, but they also need to learn how to ______________ in trust of God
False assumption 3) Youth should have freedom, and should be protected from negative _____________
Negative consequence is the ___________of the naive, the proud and the sinful – and we all learn from it
The Importance of Purpose
Poor parenting and its tragic results on youth is primarily due to ___________ purposes and philosophy
We are to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the _________(Eph. 6:4) and to be wise
Salvation is in God’s hands, but parents are to teach ________ commandments & train obedience to them
To produce a __________ adult, you must set a wise example. Don’t be hypocritical
______________ them for their sin, and even more if you were guilty of the same or similar sins
You don’t have to be a perfect parent, only an honest and _____________ one
Will you raise your children according to the wisdom of ____________ or the wisdom of the world?
Raising godly children will result in ________with them, the world and even other professing Christians
Godly parents train their children to become wise, ____________adults who stand firm against the world
Raise your children so that they are those who ______________ others, not those influenced by others
It takes prayer, hard work, patience and _____________to raise a child to be a wise and responsible adult
There is no magical age when you finish all of your parenting responsibilities – it _______with each child
____________ children have very restricted worlds and few responsibilities
As children learn to __________, their world is enlarged and they take on responsibilities
As children’s ________are trained, their world expands even more and they take on more responsibilities
We teach __________ the responsibilities and skills needed to live life and establish their own homes
Freedom and responsibility must be tied _______________
You transition from childhood to pre-adolescence to adolescence & youth to adulthood ______________
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