When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, parenting became a monumental challenge. It's not easy to be a parent. But parents, please remember it's not easy to be a child. Okay? The relationship with children and parents is a dynamic relationship. It's a relationship of constant change. Parents are presented with this child called "a little bundle of joy." And really what it is is a blank slate. It's a blank canvas. It's a lump of clay and parents are given the responsibility of molding it and shaping it in a God-honoring, in a God-pleasing, in a God-glorifying way. But there are several important factors that we need to take stock of and recognize, that complicates and impact the relationship between parents and their children. First, is the reality that all parents, even Christian parents, have to deal with their fallen flesh. Even Christian parents have control issues, control problems. I have to admit a Christian who professes to believe in the sovereignty of God yet wants to control every detail of life and perhaps every detail of their children's lives, to me, appears to be an oxymoron; appears to be a contradiction. It appears to me that you believe one way with your words but your life demonstrates a totally different belief. You have to ask yourself: do you trust God or don't you? Christian parents have anger problems, problems with their temper. They have problems with anxiety. All parents have self-control issues. Their flesh frequently gets the better of them. The reality is parents' sin. And some parents are sitting there right now thinking "Oh, wait a minute. I thought there's all about the kids." Well...
I want you to know this. Our children are not the source of our sin. Our children are not the source of our sin. Children do not cause their parents to sin. God uses the actions of our children to reveal our sinful hearts. I believe that children are one of the means that God gives to us, especially to parents, as a means or a vehicle of our sanctification. Why? Because the way we respond to our children reveals the conditions of our own hearts. And many times we don't like what we see. And because we don't like what we see, we are tempted to blame our children. When the reality is God is using the actions of our children to reveal the areas of our life that we need to work on, as it pertains to our sanctification.
By the way, can I just say this: two powerful phrases that I believe that every parent needs to learn to say frequently are these two: "I love you" and "I'm sorry." Parents, take it from somebody who's raised, four children. There will be plenty of opportunity for you to say I'm sorry, take it. Don't be so prideful, that you can't admit that you were wrong. You're not fooling anybody. You're not fooling your children. So frequently say "I love you." At the risk of embarrassing Ben, he'll text me or email me and he always says, "I love you, dad." And I respond. "Love you too."
Parents cannot escape the influence of their own parents. Now, don't shut me down at this point, because this can plunge some into despair, but hear me out. Notice that I said "they cannot escape the influence of their own parents" but I do believe with all my heart backed by scripture, that they can overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit, the influence of their parents, especially in those areas, where their parents acted negatively or in sinful ways. Admittedly, it will take effort, it will take reflection on how you were raised in order to make the necessary corrections. It is, let's be honest, it is incredibly hard work to raise a child for the glory of God. And sadly because it is such hard work and because it does require such intense effort. Many times our fallback position, our default setting, is to simply mimic what our parents did with little or no reflection on how they raised their children. But if you choose to follow that path, you run the risk of having history repeat itself and not in a positive way.
Pastor Brian Chapell he said this, "It is more than a truism..." A truism is something that is sometimes true but not always true and not guaranteed to be true. "It is more than a truism that we tend to become our parents. For good or ill, we tend to follow our parental models, abusers raise abusers, alcoholics, raise alcoholics, adequate parents raise well-adjusted children." Now, please understand, I include those words as words of warning, not as words of despair, not as words of absolute, hardcore, hard and fast rule that that always happens because I don't believe that it does. But I do think as parents, we need to be aware of the influence that our parents have had on us for good or ill. So what should you do if you were raised in a destructive, unhealthy environment, here's what you do. As a child of God, you look past your earthly parents, to your heavenly Father. You must fix your mind on your Heavenly Father's love, realizing that His love can be more real and more powerful than your family history and your biology.
What is it that will do more to establish the kind of parent you will be? Or maybe a better way of saying it: what is it that will shape you into being the kind of parent you want to be? Mark this down, folks, you don't need to go to the bookstore or Amazon and get a parenting book. Here's what you need to know. It is your relationship to your heavenly Father. It is the knowledge of the love of the Father is the depth of the intimacy that you share with your heavenly Father. A correct biblical understanding of your heavenly Father is vital to you as a parent. Your understanding of God the Father will shape the kind of parent that you will be. You may have noticed, the Bible is very scant on parenting techniques. It doesn't make a list. It doesn't have a formula. Say, "Well, why is that?" Well, you know why? Because it provides a wealth of information about the love of the Father. Scripture is a vast treasure house of knowledge of your Heavenly Father's character. Therefore, to be a good parent, you must develop your relationship to the Father. And never forget that the Holy Spirit is given to help you as a parent, raise your child for the glory of God.
Now, let me address a little side issue here. I realize that because of abusive parents, parents who treated their children in sinful ways, there are believers who asked a legitimate question and that is this: "Should I have children? If I was raised in that environment, and there is a danger that I will pick that up from my parents. Should I have children?" Legitimate question, you're wise and asking that question. Keep this in mind: It is God's will for most, not all, but it is God's will for most, to marry and have children. Okay? That's God's plan. And by the grace of God, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will be enabled to break the cycle of the past and raise healthy, well-adjusted children for the glory of God. Do not let your past convince you that your past is stronger than the Holy Spirit. It's not. It's not.
Well, of course, children complicate parenting. Say, "no kidding Sherlock." No two children are alike. Therefore, as a parent, you have to learn the uniqueness of each one of your children and you have to adjust your parenting accordingly. As your children grow and mature, guess what? so too does your parenting. You must grow and mature right along with them. Now, we all know these things to be true, but I'll remind you of them. If you treat your children let's say, your 10-year-old, if you treat your 10-year-old, like a two-year-old, you're making a mistake. If you treat your 15-year-old, like a 10-year-old, you're making a mistake. If you treat your 18-year-old, like a 10-year-old, you're making a mistake. If you treat your young adult children, like they're kids, you're making a mistake. If you do that, you're going to have problems. And just as children grow, learn and develop, so to must we as parents follow the same trajectory. We must grow and learn and develop as well.
So that's kind of all background and introduction. So as we begin to study Paul's instruction here to parents and children, we must keep in mind that Paul's words are a continuation of the application illustration of spirit-filled Christianity. Way back in Ephesians chapter five, verse 18, Paul gave the command to not be drunk with wine but to be filled with the Spirit. He then goes on to describe those characteristics of spirit-filled Christians. A spirit-filled Christian, he begins by saying relates to the brothers and sisters in Christ, by addressing them with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. A spirit-filled Christian is characterized by thankfulness. A spirit-filled Christian is a submitting Christian, they submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Next from that point forward, Paul begins to flesh out the relationship between husbands and wives, children and parents, and then slaves and masters, which today, of course, would apply to employees and employers.
So we have already examined what a spirit-filled marriage looks like and now it's time to see what a spirit filled family with children looks like. So in verses one through four, again, Paul addresses children and their fathers. And by the way, in case you're wondering, and we'll see this in a week or two, that the instruction to the Father applies equally to the mother as well. Just to put your mind at ease. Mom, you're not off the hook. And Dad, you're not on it all by yourself. Amen?
So, let's again, let's read our text again, together, verses one through three "Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is for right. Honor your father and mother, this is the first commandment with a promise that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." Now, thankfully, there's a very clear structure here. There's no complicated argument. There's no convoluted argument, there's, you know, Paul can be very difficult to follow at times but here he's very straightforward. So we can just go boom, boom, boom and work our way through this text. And Paul has some wonderful things for us to understand.
So Paul begins with instruction to children I want to take another little excurses here. And that is this: Notice that Paul directly addresses the children. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord." Now, I know that we are different from many churches in this respect. By biblical design, we want the children to be a part of the service. okay? Now we have the nursery available for the little ones until three or four or so, and that's fine. Don't feel bad about using it. Use it, if you need it. But by biblical design, we feel that children need to be a part of the worship service. By design, we don't separate the kids from mom and dad and the rest of the church family. Paul didn't say "Now listen, Mom and Dad. Once you've read this letter in "big" church, in the big church service, you need to go down to "junior" church and have it read to the kids." No, Paul directly addresses the children, which I take to mean that he expected them to be right there beside mom and dad as his instruction was given to the church. I know that flies in the face of everything that we hear today.
I'm reading another short biography of a Scottish pastor named Kenneth Macrae. And he believed that children would be a part of the worship service with their parents and Iain Murray, who was writing the biography he writes this, he said, "He was totally" meaning McCrae "was totally against the modern idea" And now keep in mind this was back in the 1800s. The "modern" idea "that children are best taken out of a warship service for separate classes in a Sunday school. Behind that practice was the supposition that children cannot profit from sermons and if made to listen are put off the practice of church attendance in later life." By the way, you hear the same argument today. "Not so the Bible knows nothing of congregations being divided by age groups. Little children can also be fed and prepared for life by preaching. The habit of church attendance springs from childhood." I've said this before, I kind of get tickled, mostly tickled sometimes irritated. When when you know, our parents think they're... let me be careful here, I'll stick my foot in... Monday through Saturday, parents believe their children are geniuses but on Sunday? No, "they got to go downstairs, and got to be away from everybody, they can't listen to that guy." You're doing your childhood disservice. You're doing the Word of God a disservice. You're doing the Holy Spirit a disservice. Listen, if you would go out and survey church websites and look at their children's ministry page. I would almost bet you, the one Bengals win that they may get next year, that you will find the word "fun" on that page someplace: "fun". "Our children's ministry is fun. Come here and have some fun." Fun, fun, fun. It's all about the fun. But what I find interesting is study after study after study has consistently demonstrated that young adults, as soon as they are able, they are leaving the church in droves. What happened to all that fun? See? Could there be a connection between the two? I don't know. But certainly, something to think about.
In the Gospel of John chapter six, we have the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. Why were all these people together? Well, Jesus was preaching. And after Jesus had taught them, he wanted to feed them. The problem was, [He] didn't have anything to give them. So do you remember where the five barley loaves and the two fish came from that Jesus blessed and used to feed the crowd? Wasn't Long John Silver's. John 6:9 "there is a boy here, who has five barley loaves and two fish." So what's the point? Apparently this boy was part of the crowd listening to Jesus preach. Jesus didn't call Peter, James, and John and say: "look, you've got to do some of these kids. There's a big rock over there. Hide them behind it and you know, get a puzzle out or whatever. And don't bother me with the kids." No. Wasn't it Jesus who rebuked the disciples because they tried to turn the kids away. In Matthew 19, "then children were brought to him" that's to Jesus "that he might lay his hands on them and pray." The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." See?
See, having your children with you in church is an opportunity for you to teach them to obey, to sit still, and let the Word of God be poured into their little hearts at an early age. Say, "should I really try and get my child to obey during church? Yes, and I'll show you why here in a moment. The very first church I pastored, it was a nightmare experience from start to finish. And one of the things that just absolutely drove me bonkers was they would just let their kids run back and forth across the back auditorium when I'm preaching. Now, you know, I'm a warm and fuzzy fella. But I had a little bit of trouble with that. You're discounting your own children. So again, having your children in church is an opportunity for them to have God's word poured into them.
Alright back to Paul's instruction. Children are to obey. "Children, obey your parents." Now, notice the instruction is twofold here. First, he says children are to obey their parents which relates to their actions, and children how to honor their parents which relates to their attitude towards their parents. Now the term "children" here can be applied to a child of any age but in this context, Paul issues this instruction to children to obey those whom God has placed in authority over them. These children are old enough to make choices, while still young enough to be under mom and dad's roof. So we're not talking about kids out of the home. In Jewish society, a male child was considered to be a man at age 13. And at 13 he was sent out to learn a trade. In other words, he was sent out to make his mark on the world. Now, of course here in our culture, a young person is not considered an adult until they reach the age of 18. Well, while the children are in the home, while the children are under the authority of their parents, they are to obey their parents.
Now, I think what gets lost in this a lot of times is, that the focus is solely on the children. "Children obey. Children obey. Children obey." Don't you know you're supposed to obey, obey, obey, obey. Listen, Mom and Dad implied in this is your responsibility to train them to obey. They come into the world a blank slate. They have... listen, they have to be trained to do everything, right? At the same time you're training them to obey, as they get older, I believe this starts early on, you have to train them, teach them to make godly decisions. You have to let them... Now the only way they can make godly decisions, you have to let them make some godly decisions. You have to involve them in the decision making process. If you don't help them make godly decisions, and godly choices while they are under your care and your authority, you are doing your child a great disservice. I would much rather, when my kids were at home, I would much rather have them make a mistake while they were still under my roof, as they say, so that together, we can pick up the pieces and learn from that experience. If I were to wait until my children, if I made every decision for my child, up until the day that they left my house, I'd be doing them a great disservice. They would be totally unprepared to go out there and face the world and make some right choices on their own. And I believe one of the hardest things for parents to do so let their children make their own decisions. But again, I will say if you continually make all the decisions for your child, you're setting them up for failure later in life.
Mom and Dad please know this: a poor decision, a bad decision is not necessarily a sinful decision. And you would handle each one completely different. You must divest yourself of this notion that if they make a poor decision is by necessity going to be a sinful decision. It may be, but it doesn't have to be. Okay? Decision making, making choices is all a part of growing up. And part of our responsibility as parents is to prepare them for the change in the relationship that they will one day experience when they are no longer under "my roof." As painful as this sounds, and as painful as this is, Mom and Dad, there is coming a day when your child will find God's mate for them and that person will become the focus of their lives. Rightly so. If you live under the illusion that the way things are with your child now is the way things will always be, you're going to be setting yourself up for unnecessary heartache. Just go back to the book of Genesis. You leave mom and dad, you cleave to your wife. That becomes the primary relationship on a human level. Okay? Difficult? Certainly. Painful? Certainly. Trying at times? Absolutely. But it's God's way, it's God's Will. Okay? Why would you want to fight against God's will in this way? Okay.
So once the child's out of the house once they become adult age, the relationship with mom and dad changes and it's wise parents that understand this and treat their children appropriately. But, while the child is in the home, it is the responsibility of the child to obey. Now, let's flip this around. It is the parent's responsibility to make the child obey. It is just as wrong for mom and dad to not require their children to obey as it is for the child to not obey. Did you get that? You can't make your kids "the fall guy." If your children are not obeying, that's a problem. But it's also a problem, the fact that you're not making them obey. Okay?
Part of parenting, according to God's standard, is for you as a parent to understand your responsibility. You are responsible... I don't want to take this too far, but you are responsible for your child's obedience, particularly when they are younger. Okay? As a parent, your responsibility to teach your children to not obey is not an option. Does that make sense? In other words, you can't say "oh, well, you know, hope they do it." No, there's no hoping about it. It's our responsibility as parents. As a parent, you have to teach your children that they are to obey. And having raised four children, I know what a battle of wills this can be. It's so easy to want to throw up your hands and let your children have their own way. You know, when they drop to the floor in the grocery store and throw that tantrum. "Not my kid." Right? No. It may be the easy thing to do now, but you'll pay for it later. Okay? Your life as a parent may be easier now. But it will become much harder in the future when you have a rebellious teenager on your hands.
So it's the child's responsibility to obey their parents in the Lord, which means as long mom and dad do not instruct their children to do anything that violates God's word, that violates scripture, the child has a responsibility to obey. Now, mom and dad, if the child has been saved, do you realize, do you acknowledge that they possess the Holy Spirit? Teach your children to look to the power of the Holy Spirit to help them to obey. The very fact that Paul has to instruct us to teach our children to obey means that it's not natural for children to obey. Just like it's not natural for us to toe the line when it comes to God's law. So, therefore, if your child has professed faith in Christ, they possess the Holy Spirit. Teach them what it means to be filled with the spirit, how they can be filled with the spirit and teach them to look to the power of the Holy Spirit to help them obey. You say I've never heard that before. Well, you heard it here first. I really do, I really wonder why the Holy Spirit is seemingly is left out of the parenting process far too often. Again, survey 10 books on parenting. How many times is the Holy Spirit mentioned? I don't know I don't read parenting books, never did.
Let me apply this to older kids, teenagers, young adults. If you're a believer, you possess the Holy Spirit. Mom and Dad, trust the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The Holy Spirit knows better than you do. Give your child some credit. More than that, give the Holy Spirit some credit. You have to give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to work in their lives. Do not smother the work of the Holy Spirit in your child's lives. Let them make spirit-filled spirit-guided decisions.
Now Paul gives two reasons here for children to obey their parents. First, kids, I'm speaking directly to you. If you're 18 and under or you're still at home, I'm speaking directly to you. First, your obedience pleases the Lord. Your obedience pleases the Lord. Paul wrote and Colossians 3:20 "Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord." Kids if you pay attention to what the Bible says, It will also change your motivation for obedience. You obey your parents, not simply because they are your parents, but because your obedience pleases the Lord. Okay? Even if you feel that your parents are being unfair, unjust, unreasonable, and guess what? They will be at times, you still obey. Why? Because it pleases the Lord. God will reward your obedience.
Second thing, kids this will help you with your attitude towards obedience. Because God cares about your attitude as well as your actions. And when you obey with the right attitude you please, Lord. Okay? How many times do we approach the raising of our children, specifically their attitudes by saying, "Listen, this is displeasing to the Lord, the attitude that you're displaying is not a godly attitude." Instead of just hammering it over their head. You know, I look, I'll really tell you some of the mistakes I made. I'll tell you all of them if I remember them in my age, I can't. But anyway, I had one child that had attitude problems all the time. Well, my solution was to go get this little book written by a guy named John Maxwell said, "You can't be a smart cookie if you got a crummy attitude" or something like that. I thought it was a stroke of genius, but it apparently wasn't, you know? See, was that enough motivation to change the attitude? No, no, no. To change the attitude say: "this is pleasing to the Lord. This is why you do it."
Second kids, you are to obey your parents because Paul says this is right. It's right. You're to obey mom and dad because it is right. It is just, it is righteous, it is a just action. It's a righteous action.
Now back to mom and dad. Why should you make your children obey? Because it pleases the Lord. And as Christians, we should never want to be a part of any activity that is not pleasing to the Lord. To not make your children obey is to sin against God. Say, "I'm not sure I'm liking this." I'm not sure I like preaching it but it is what it is. Okay? God has entrusted you with those precious little children, and he and by the way, God loves them far more than you do. Your children are a gift from the Lord, you have a responsibility to be a good steward of those gifts. Do you realize that the book of Proverbs says, I'm paraphrasing here, that parents who will not discipline their children actually hate their children?
Back to the kids, kids are not only to obey, you are to honor your parents. Now, mom and dad, "finally some relief." So obedience has to do with a children's actions, honor has to do with the children's attitude towards their parents, to honor your parents is to respect them. And as an adult child, to honor your parents is to take care of them. To honor your parents is to provide whatever care they may need as they grow older. Sherry shared this post with me this week from a lady that we used to attend church with back in Milford. And we've moved on and she's since moved on. But her father is suffering with Alzheimer's. And she wrote this.
"As I watched my dad slip away. I'm reflecting on these last years that I've cared for him with his Alzheimer's. It has been hard. Not everyone could do it, so I hear, but it was my calling. It was my duty. It was my privilege. And most of all, it was my blessing.
That is honoring your parents. Okay? That's what it means as an adult child to honor your parents.
But there's a big "what if" question out there. The what-if question is: What if my parents are less than honorable? Does that let me off the hook? Does Paul's command not apply to me? What if my parents are the kind of parents that Paul describes in verse four? Say, "what are the parents of Paul describes in verse four?" Well, they're parents that provoke their children to anger. They're parents who don't bring their children up in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. Well, remember this: you are to honor and obey regardless of whether or not they are honorable or not. Why? Because you're doing it to please the Lord, you're doing it in the Lord.
Now, if I can be so bold, what about adopted children? Does the change in your legal status relieve you of your responsibility to honor your biological parents? No, it doesn't. You may be thinking "but yeah, you don't know them like I do." You're right. I don't. You may be thinking now surely this can apply in this situation. It does. It does. And if you honor your biological parents, it will be a powerful testimony to them of the power of the gospel. It may be the greatest witness they are ever exposed to.
Now when children honor their father and mother their obedience brings God's blessing. I want you to know that God speaks here in a general sense, it doesn't mean that every child who honors their mom and dad will have a problem-free life, a trouble-free life, it means that they'll never be sick, they'll be healthy, wealthy and wise. No, that's not what it means. It does mean that life in a physical sense, perhaps, may be better, but it will certainly be better in a spiritual sense.
And when we don't teach our children to obey, we don't teach our children to honor us as their parents. We are setting them up for failure later in life. And teaching your child to honor you as a parent is taught with both actions and words. Raising children is a tough job, complicated by the fall, complicated by your own sinfulness. But it is not an impossible job. Children are not a burden from the Lord, they're a blessing from the Lord. Say, "well how can I get through this?" Well, how does God equip parents to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, in a fallen world? By giving us the Holy Spirit. The best parenting is spirit-filled parenting.