January 26, 2020

Spirit Filled Parenting Part Two

Passage: Ephesians 6:4
Service Type:
As I said last week, your responsibility as a Christian parent is to raise your children, which are God's gift to you, in such a way that they are drawn to Christ and not driven from Christ. Your responsibility is to live so that your life makes Christianity attractive. If you read or listen to Martyn Lloyd Jones very much, you will frequently hear him say that he believes that one of the greatest hindrances on the human level to people believing in Christ or giving the Christian faith a fair hearing, was the poor attitude and the sour, joyless disposition of many professing Christians. I mention that because I want to say to mom and dad, that if you give the impression to your children that being a Christian is sheer drudgery if you lack joy in your life, then don't be surprised that when your children grow older they want nothing to do with the Christian faith. They want nothing to do with Christ. A Christian home, of all homes-- and I realize this is not always the case but it should be-- a Christian home should be a place of joy. It should be a place of happiness. It should be a place of laughter. And you can express all of those emotions and still hold a reverent attitude towards God. The two are not mutually exclusive. And mom and dad, you can't claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit and never demonstrate joy. The fruit of the Spirit is what? Joy. Not anger, not gloom, not negativity, none of that. The fruit of the Spirit is joy.

Well, having begun chapter 6 by instructing children to obey their parents, Paul now turns his attention specifically to the father. And the instruction that follows here in verse 4 applies to both mom and dad. But know this dad, it is your responsibility to make sure that the raising of the children, that the instruction of the children is carried out according to the Scriptures. You can't pawn it off on your wife. It is your responsibility to make sure that the raising of your children, the instruction of your children, is carried out according to the Scriptures. You won't be able to stand before God someday and say I thought she would take care of it. He would say no. Ephesians 6:4: "Fathers". Okay?

So let's begin by acknowledging some bad news. If Paul says "Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath", what does that mean? It means that is a very real possibility that fathers do indeed provoke their children to anger. And if you're not-- I know some of you're going to think this guy is a one-trick pony but that's okay-- if you are not parenting in the power of the Holy Spirit it is more than likely that you will provoke your children to anger. Why? Because it's a work of the flesh. If you're parenting in the flesh, you will provoke your children to anger. Keep in mind as I quoted Brian Chapel I think the very first week we started these messages. Brian Chapel said “it is a truism that many times children turn out to be like their parents. Therefore, if you are an angry parent the possibility exists that you will raise an angry child. Angry parents can raise angry children.” Therefore it makes it so imperative for us as parents to follow and pay close attention to Paul's instruction here. If your children are angry, the place to begin to examine the cause of their anger is not them. It's you. You need to examine your own heart. To make sure that you are not living in anger, displaying anger, and therefore raising angry children.

Well, what does it mean to provoke your children to anger? Well, you provoke your children to anger by your actions. When a parent provokes their child to anger, that means that the parent is the source, the parent is the cause, the parent is the trigger of the anger in the child. Now, before you all think, well, you're out of touch with reality, I understand that there are times because of what is going on inside of your child, that regardless of what you say or you do, they're just going to be hacked off. I understand that. But that's not what Paul's addressing here. In that instance, you are not provoking your child to anger. You are not the cause, you are not the source of their anger. And a parent provokes their child to anger when either through their words or through their actions they are the trigger that causes their children to become angry. And I emphasize again, because of the condition of your child's heart, there will be times when you can say "I love you" and they are going to be angry over it. Every parent has either faced it or they will face it. Why? Because sometimes our children do have anger issues that stem from the conditions of their heart. But again, I want to emphasize, it starts with mom and dad. You want to make sure that you are not the cause of the anger in your children.

And Paul, I think it's obvious from the text, he squarely places the responsibility on the parents. And mom and dad you are to be the mature one in this relationship. And you are to be the one to hit the pause button and to examine and evaluate what's going on here. And to make sure that you are not the cause of their anger. You want to make sure that you realize that if you're not the cause of their anger, then you have some work to do by the aid of and in the power of the Holy Spirit to help your child understand why they are angry. This issue of their own heart. Okay. So, here's gonna be the fun part of the message. How are some ways that we provoke our children to anger? I want to say going in these are not divinely inspired. All right. These, in preacher speak, these are application statements. These are applications of the text. You may agree you may not agree. But this is what I've discovered in my own parenting. And with all justice, my children can say, now wait a minute, you didn't live up to that. I confess. But I've learned from it. Okay? And I want to give you the benefit of my mistakes and what I've learned as a parent. All right?

Number one. This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it'll help you. And I have nine of them so everybody's gonna get a chance to get mad. Number one, you provoke your children to anger when you treat them as property. When you treat them as property, you provoke your children's anger when you treat them as your own personal servants. You know in ancient Rome the father had absolute authority over his children. Meaning if he wanted them to be slaves and work in the field, he could make them do that. If he wanted to put his children to death, he could do that. He held absolute sway over his children. In other words, they were considered his property and he could dispose of that property, he could use that property in any way that he wanted to. That is not the case for any parent realistically, and certainly not the case for any Christian parent. Your children are not your property. They are gifts from God of which you are to be a good steward of. You are not to dominate your children.

There is a vast difference between teaching Your children a work ethic, in teaching your children the value of hard work, of the necessity of having a servant's heart and making them your personal servant. If you can do something for yourself, do it. Now I know all of my kids think that Sherry and I are tremendous softies when it comes to our grandchildren, and to a degree we are. But there is another aspect of it. I want to teach my grandchildren by serving them what it means to serve others. And mom and dad, if you want to teach your children to have a servant's heart, serve them. Don't make them serve you. Okay?

Two. You provoke your children to anger by your treatment of them. Now, hear me out here because this may seem almost contradictory. But I believe you can and probably should have different standards for your different children. But your treatment of all of your children should be consistent. And what I'm talking about here is age-appropriate standards. As your children grow older, you're standards-- and what I mean by standards would be the freedom they have and the expectations that you have for them-- as they grow older, those standards for them will be different from when they were younger and even different from the younger children in the house. Standards change as your child grows and matures. You wouldn't have the same standard for your 2-year-old as you would for your 16-year-old would you? If you do, you're going to provoke your child to anger.

Has any of your children ever said you quit treating me like a child? What they're saying is listen, I'm not two years old anymore. I'm not 10 years old anymore. I'm not 12 years old anymore. I'm 16, I'm 14, I'm 18, I'm whatever. So as our children grow the standards have to adjust along the way. But again, I want to emphasize you can and should treat children the same, treat them all consistently while at the same time you can have different standards for your children. Every child is unique and what will work for one will not work for all of them. You cannot have a blanket parenting policy that's going to work for every one of your children. And if you fail to recognize that you're setting up an unneeded war zone in your own home. You have to adapt to how you parent to that unique individual. That is your child. You have to recognize the individuality of each child. If we fail to do so. We will provoke our children to anger. I have four wonderful children. Each one of them were different. We could discipline each one of them differently.

Three. Anybody want to leave yet? No, I'm just kidding. Number three. You provoke your children to anger by not offering explanations. You provoke your children to anger by not offering explanations. And I think this is especially true as your children grow older. And as your children grow older you need to be prepared to offer explanations of your reasoning. When your children are little you can get away with "because I said so". Right? That's every parent's fallback position. Because I said so. And you can get away with that for a few years. But there's going to become a point in time where that's just not going to wash. You can continue to say it, but they're not going to buy it. And mom and dad-- this is hard for us to understand I think-- it is not an act of rebellion for your child to ask you why. I'm afraid too many Christian parents, particularly if you grew up in fundamentalism, you need to exercise the demon of thinking that when they say why they're rebelling. They're not. They're not. As your children grow older you need to give them an answer that will satisfy them and not provoke them to anger.

Give your children the benefit of the doubt. Let me ask you a very probing question. Do you automatically assume that your children want to obey or do you automatically assume that they don't want to obey? And your assumption, your answer that question will determine how you relate to your children if you think they're always trying to get one over on you. Are there times when they will try that? Sure. But I don't think that's always the case. Why not assume that your children want to obey you? Why not assume that your children want to honor you? Help them do that. And one of the ways that you and I can help them do that is by explaining our reasoning to them. Now, listen, listen, listen, listen. A child grows into reasoning. They don't come out of the womb, ready to have a reasoned argument. You're just frustrating yourself. But they will grow in their reasoning skills and their reasoning ability. And as they grow and that you need to be ready to help them with that. So again assume that they want to obey. And one of the ways that you can help them to obey and to honor you is by explaining the reasons of your thought methodology behind your decision-making.

Can I say this as well? This isn't the main point this is just a freebie I guess. Do not project the failures of your youth on to your children. Especially your teenage children. Just because you made a mistake in a particular area in your youth do not automatically think that your child's going to make the same mistake. You know, I think that's really parenting in fear. I don't think you can be the kind of parent you need to be if you're parenting in fear. Just because you made mistake x, whatever it is, don't automatically assume that your child is going to make mistake x. Now that may be in the back of your mind, and that may be something that does affect your parenting and how you train them and how you discipline them. But don't think that they're automatically going to make the same mistake that you did. And that's part of the reasoning when you talk to your children about why you don't want them to do something.

Do you ever share your failures with your children? Again I know you come out of fundamentalism you don't share any mistakes. You don't share any failure you don't do any of that nonsense. You're “super dad”, you're “super mom”, you're “super pop”, you're super full of it. There's nothing wrong with letting your children know that you made these mistakes when you were young and this is part of the reason why you are raising them the way that you are raising them.

Number four. You can provoke your child to anger by being too severe in your punishment. You provoke your child to anger by being too severe in your punishment. Children must be taught that there are consequences to their actions. But mom and dad please make the punishment fit the crime. We all know as parents how easy it is to overreact in the heat of the moment. But if you do that you run the risk of being so severe in your punishment that you'll provoke your child anger. Also-- again, this is my opinion, feel free to disagree if you choose to-- but think about this: I'm not so sure that open-ended punishments are acceptable or reasonable. Say what do you mean by open-ended punishment?

Well, let's say you have to take something away from your child, which is a legitimate form of punishment. A big thing today is screentime, tablet time, I think Carson and Nora call it, tablet time. And let's say that you have to take screentime away from them. That's legitimate. That's a legitimate punishment. But when you do that, let them know the timeframe and the conditions under which they will get that back. Or what they need to do in order to get that privilege back, to earn that privilege back. I guess what I'm saying here is practice some grace. How many times do we say as parents "You'll never watch that again!" We know that's not true.

Even our court system has sentencing guidelines. Right? Various levels of offenses carry various levels of and terms of judgment. A man or woman gets convicted of a crime and they come back and they stand before the judge and the judge says something like you've been found guilty of the crime and you are to serve a sentence of three to five years or whatever it may be. You know what that does, even for a convicted felon? Gives him hope. And when you issue an open-ended punishment to your child, you're robbing them of hope. And when you take away their hope, you're going to provoke them to anger. Spell out the terms of the punishment. This is what's going to happen. This is how long is going to take place. This is how and when you get the right back to watch your tablet or TV or talk on the phone or go to the mall whatever. You can tell my age-- malls. Who goes to the mall anymore?

Number five. You provoke your children to anger by failing to recognize their progress. You provoke your children's anger by failing to recognize their progress. What I mean by that is, let's say that you point out an area of your child's life that they need to make some change. It could be an attitude, it could be a behavior. And you point that out to them. Look, you need to work on this, I need to see some change in this area. So they go to work on changing that. They're hard at work, they're putting in the effort of changing that attitude, of changing that behavior. Do you know what the worst thing that you can do is? Nothing. Never acknowledge that. Never say, you know what, I see how hard you've been working on this, I appreciate that. The worst thing that you can do is just ignore it. They're doing that mom and dad to please you. They're doing that mom and dad to obey you. They're doing that mom and dad to honor you. Therefore, you ought to acknowledge their effort. You have to acknowledge their growth in that area.

If you fail to praise them, you're going to provoke them to anger. And I think this is especially true if you're dealing with teenagers. Believe it or not, they may not act like it, they may not say it, but I believe they want your feedback. And more importantly, they need your feedback. I was thinking about this week. Why is this so easy for us to do as parents when our children are young but it's so much more difficult for us to do as they grow older? When a child is young. We praise them, we reward them for the smallest things, right? Oh, you didn't pick your nose today, here's a piece of candy. Right? How many times in raising your kids, they do something small, something great, really something very insignificant in the grand scheme of life and you just praise them. Oh, you clap for them and look at you, hey. But as they get older, we don't do that. Now, I'm not saying you gotta clap for them, you know when they're a teenager or anything. But the point is do you ever recognize their achievements? Do you ever recognize their growth? Do you ever recognize their obedience? Do you ever recognize their effort?

Just think of it, have you ever worked a job with an ungrateful boss? It can be miserable, isn't it? This guy doesn't appreciate me. She doesn't appreciate anything that I do. In chapter one of Ephesians, Paul right here in this very letter, he told the church that he had heard of their faith. He acknowledged their faith. Chapter 1:15 Paul writes to them "For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you." Then in Colossians 1:4 he said "Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints." He goes on saying verse 9 "And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you."

You know what he's doing here? He's openly acknowledging the fact that he's heard something good about them. Their growth in grace, their growth in faith. He says, hey, that's great I'm praying for you because of that. Well, let me ask you, do you think that that could have motivated them to keep on growing in grace and faith and love? Of course. He acknowledged what was going on in their lives. Why do we fail to do that in the lives of our children? I'm not talking about false praise. I'm not talking about this nonsense that you can do anything if you just set your mind to it. That's not true. That's fake praise. That's faux praise. That's nonsense praise. But when they make legitimate changes, legitimate growth, give them legitimate praise. It will motivate them to keep them moving forward. Listen, if your child's stuck check yourself.

Six. You provoke your children's anger by your silence or through a lack of communication. You provoke your children to anger by your silence or through a lack of communication. I heard a guy say years ago-- strangely enough, his name was Lance Witt, I've never forgotten that-- Lance Witt said you can never over-communicate. And there's a lot of truth to that. Mom and dad, ask yourself this question: are you really communicating with your children? Are you having meaningful conversations with your children or is it all small talk and chit chat? Please listen carefully. If you've tuned me out, tune me back in for this next sentence. Do you realize, mom and dad, that everything at some point in your child's life is the first time they've ever encountered it? Do you realize that?

They don't come into this world knowing what to do. They come into this world with no experience. For whatever reason, we just kind of take it for granted and forget that. But everything that happens in their lives, it's a first for them. They are not the grizzled veteran of life that you are. Your children change in some way every day. They're continually being confronted with new changes in their bodies, new problems, new experiences, new feelings, and yes, new desires. And they need your help to help guide them through the maze and the haze of life, especially in their teenage years. And believe it or not mom and dad, not only do they need to talk about these things, they want to talk about these things. Mom and dad, I'm here to tell you, if you don't talk to them about it they will find somebody to talk to. And it may not be the person you want them to talk to and they probably won't get the wise counsel that you could give them. So don't be afraid to have these conversations.

You know, sometimes a boss will say, I've got an open-door policy. Mom and dad, do you have an open-door policy? Mom and dad, can your kids come to you and talk to you about everything and anything? I can clearly, distinctly remember each one of my children coming into me in my home office and wanting to talk about this guy or this girl. Conversations I frankly I did not want to have. But we had them. And I'm glad that we had them. And they understood that they could have them. Still to this day, the girls will talk to Sherry and the boys will talk to me. That's the way it should be. That's the one thing about, that's probably one of the hardest things about losing your own parents, they're not there to talk to anymore.

Number seven. You provoke your children to anger, you provoke your children to anger by not recognizing that testing boundaries is a legitimate part of growing up. You provoke your children to anger when you do not or when you fail to recognize that testing boundaries is a part of growing up. Every parent knows this to be true. They know that the testing of boundaries begins when that child begins to crawl, if not sooner. And this testing begins early and it continues throughout life. And if your child tested the boundaries when they were small and you didn't overreact to it then, why do you overreact to it now? I understand why you could or would, because perhaps now the boundaries they're testing could bring them greater harm. May expose them to things that you don't want them to be exposed to. I understand that. Boundaries exist for a reason.

So here's the key I believe, mom and dad. You need to make it crystal clear what the boundaries are. You need to make it crystal clear why they exist and you need to make it crystal clear what the consequences will be if your clearly defined boundaries are breached. You've set the boundaries, you've given the guidelines, you've told what the consequences are going to be. If they go ahead and if they test the boundary, they push the boundary, they cross the boundary, boom. They're not caught off guard by the punishment that comes their way. See, I think a lot of times we cause ourselves problems as parents because we simply do not tell our children what the boundaries are. We do not set the limits for them, but then they go ahead and cross the limit that they didn't know existed and we lower the boom on them. You know what, we provoke them to anger.

That kind of ties in with number eight here. You provoke your children to anger by parenting after the fact. You provoke your children to anger by parenting after the fact. What I mean by this is that you as parents, need to be proactive. What changes are going to take place in your child's life or children's lives in the next few months and years? And you ought to be preparing for those things now. Now is the time for you to decide how you're going to deal with those changes. If you wait until after the fact and if you wait until after something has happened, you stand a pretty good chance that you're going to provoke your child to anger. Why? Because now, after the fact, you're telling the child what they can't do, after they've already done it, and they were completely unaware that they were engaging in something you didn't approve of but they had no idea that you didn't approve of it.

Now we can say to them you should have known better, you should have known I wouldn't approve of that. If you've never told them that you didn't approve of that or you can't give clear Scriptural guidelines that you've taught them, then that argument doesn't wash. Our children are not mind-readers. But how many times do we act like they are? You should have known that. How? How should I have known that, mom? How should I have known that, dad? You never taught me that, you never showed me that, you never set the boundary for me. Many times what happens is after they've been emotionally impacted after they've become emotionally involved, parents swoop in and they lay down the law. And how do you think they're going to react if you're now holding them to a standard that they were completely unaware of? How would you react?

Let's go back to the workplace. How would you react if you were held to a standard that you were completely unaware of, you didn't even know that it existed. And all of a sudden you get an email or a phone call or a text from your boss that said why did you do that? You know, you shouldn't have done that. That's against the rules. But you didn't know. How are you going to feel? What do you want to cry? Unjust! Unfair! Say it seems like you're taking the kids’ side in a lot of this stuff. I'm not really. But I do think we as parents make a whole lot more mistakes than we want to admit. Why? Because we parent kind of by the seat of our pants, don't we? We parent kind of like the way that we were raised. And we may have been raised properly, we may have been raised very poorly.

But there is a better way. So in order to raise your children so if they are drawn to Christ, not driven from Christ, you must parent in the power of the Holy Spirit. You must not provoke your children to anger. And thirdly, you must bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. So that's how Paul in this section here. Paul instructs parents that they are to raise their children to maturity by providing for both their physical as well as their psychological needs. Now, a key word here in verse 4 is the word "bring". Now why it's so important is because the underlying word that is translated here, "bring", is translated as "nourishes" in Ephesians 5:29. Look at Ephesians 5:29 if you have your Bibles still open, "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes"--that's the word--"and cherishes it."

So what God is saying through this text is that the father, the parents, must care for their children as much as they care for their own flesh, for their own bodies. That's what Paul's saying here. And we talk a lot and rightly so about nourishing our own bodies. Meaning that we provide for our body everything that our bodies need. Everything that a body needs to be healthy, including our physical, our emotional, our mental needs. We make sure we have the right food, we have proper sleep, a healthy environment. And Paul doesn't leave you as a parent wondering what the right kind of environment is. Say well what is it? Parents are to bring their children up in an environment of discipline and instruction of the Lord. That's the atmosphere that you are to bring your children up in. John Calvin translated this as "let children be fondly cherished".

The word discipline here means to train, to model, to teach, and to encourage godly patterns of life. So that places a heavy responsibility on you as a parent doesn't it? See, raising a child is more than giving them something to eat, clothes to wear, a roof over their head, and a decent education. Lots of unbelieving parents do that and when they've done that they think that they fulfill their obligation to their children. But not so for the Christian parent. The Christian parent has this added dimension there to provide for both the physical needs of their children as well as the spiritual needs of their children. They are to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Mom and dad, the text says you are to bring them up. You know what that implies? Effort. Effort.

When I was a wee lad, as the Scots like to say, my grandparents owned a farm and we would go up there and play on the farm. And particularly in the hot summer months, we'd get thirsty. And if we wanted something to drink, we could go to the well that was located in the front yard of their house and get us a drink. And the water that came up was crystal clear and it was so cool. But you know what happened when we went to the well? We didn't open a door and pull out a bottle of water. It had a crank. If you wanted to water you started cranking. And that water was a far piece down there. And you cranked and you cranked, and you cranked, and you cranked, and you cranked. And when just about time you thought you were going to die of thirst, guess what? All this water would come up and guess what? It was worth the bringing up of the water. See, in a similar way, that's what it's like to raise children you crank and crank and crank and you labor and you labor and you pray and you pray. You discipline. You discipline. And you think it's never going to end, you think they're never going to arrive. You think they're never going to get there. Then one day. I have to bring them up implies efforts.

By the way, just couple quick comments and I'm done. Scripture is the, in all caps, Scripture is THE manual on parenting. And because Scripture is the manual on parenting you should constantly expose your children to the Scriptures. Hang it on your walls. Read it to them. The girls were showing us their tablets they got for Christmas and it's got some kind of Bible app on it, which was absolutely fascinating. I thought a lot of adults could use this thing to their benefit. That's a great use of that technology, exposing them, their little hearts and minds to the Scriptures, time and time and time again. So you read it to them. When they're old, teach them to read it for themselves. Bring them to church on a regular basis. Hear the Scriptures preached and explained and applied.

God told the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 6 "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart." And just leave it there is good enough. No. "You shall teach them diligently to your children. You shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house on your gates. And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob to give you-- with great and good cities that you did build."

And he goes on to say in verse 20 "When your son asks you in time to come, 'What is the meaning of the testimonies and statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?'" You're not to say go away, don't bother me I'm watching ESPN or I'm watching this show, I'm watching that show. No, you know what follows verse 20? That they are to go back and rehearse what God had done for them all the way through bringing them out of Egypt and into the promised land. That is to say, answer your children's questions with Scripture. Say where's the beginning point for me to answer my children's questions? Scripture. Every question that they ask is an opportunity for you to bring the Gospel to bear on their little lives. Okay? Never forget that.

Let me finish where I started. Mom and dad, you are to make Christianity attractive. I can tell you of family members who didn't make Christianity attractive to their children and their children are not Christians. See, I think we underestimate the role that we play sometimes in drawing others to Christ. As the good doctor said if we're sour and dour and joyless and lifeless, why would that be appealing to anybody? So you are to raise your children in such a way that you draw them to Christ and not drive them away from Christ. Keep in mind that God is sovereign over all. You can do everything wrong and your children can still turn out right?. That's comforting for me as a parent. It should be comforting for you as a parent.