PARENTS AND CHILDREN (14-15): NOW YOU TELL ME
A young guy who knows nothing about golf decides to take lessons. The pro shows him the basics, and then says, “Okay, now hit the ball toward the flag on the first green.” The guy drives the ball 300 yards onto the green, just inches from the hole. “Now what?” he says. “Uh,” stammers the pro, “you’re supposed to hit the ball into the cup.” The beginner says, “Now you tell me.” Those are words we never want to hear from our children, right? Now you tell me – now when it is too late. Continuing Eph 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
III. The Right Way A.Bring Up – Nurture
Bring up – nurture. Bring them to maturity. Now, the verse gives two ways to achieve nurture – discipline and instruction. “Instruction” is the milder of the two, emphasizing training by the spoken word. Discipline” can also be verbal, but is a stronger word which includes active strategies to enforce instruction. “Instruction” logically comes first and so in studying these terms we are reversing the order and starting today – instruction!
“Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So, what exactly does “instruction” mean? The Greek word is νουθεσια (nouthesia) composed of two words, νους = mind and τιθημι = to place or put. Thus, to put “someone in mind”, literally. Imparting information. Note that this is not to be your instruction or my instruction or the instruction of the school board – but the instruction of the Lord.” That’s our job. To instruct our children in the Lord. Now, there are multiple ways to instruct, so we are going to look over the next few weeks at 6 ways we instruct our children in God’s ways – 1. Enlightenment (or teaching) 2. Everyday communication 3. Experience 4. Empowerment 5. Example and 6. Entreaty (prayer).
1.By Enlightenment (teaching)
Paul prayed in Eph 1:18 that the Ephesians would have “the eyes of your hearts enlightened.” We should make this our daily prayer for children. We want enlightenment – of hearts! Prov 9:10 sets the agenda for every life: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Everything starts with the fear of the Lord. We gravitate to the love of God. The love of God can never be overemphasized. It is outlandish in its breadth of expression. But we drastically underplay the fear of the Lord -- which makes the love of God even more brilliant. You really can’t appreciate the love of God without knowing the demands of His holiness. Wisdom starts with knowing we fall short of His glory. Wisdom does not start in kindergarten, or in pre-school or on Seasame Street. No way. Wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord, learned from His Word. Instruction -- Nouthesia – putting in mind. Putting the Scripture in mind. The more of the Book that gets inside of them, the more they are going to be right-minded, knowing both the fear and the love of the Lord. Now – let me give you some reasons your children need the Word.
a.Leads to salvation
What is your greatest ambition for your child? Is it that he become a star for the Eaton Reds in some sport? Become a professional ballplayer? To win a volleyball scholarship or become valedictorian of the class? Perhaps your ambition is a little more down to earth – that they marry well and live a happy productive life? What is your greatest ambition for your children? I hope that your greatest ambition for them is that they come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The highest worldly ambitions pale beside that. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “In the forefront of the minds of Christian parents must ever be the thought that the children are to be brought up in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and as Lord. That is the peculiar task to which Christian parents alone are called.”
Do you want to see your children in heaven some day? Then you must get them into the Word and the Word into them. Romans 10:17 is crystal clear on this point: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Exposing our children to the Word of God is every bit as important as getting them to eat physical food. We worry if our child misses one meal, right? What’s wrong with Johnny; he won’t eat? Somehow we must bring that same urgency to the Word. Jesus says in John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.” You can’t get from A to B without the Word. The reason is easy. In Eph 6:17 Paul refers to, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Only the Spirit of God can change hearts. And the tool He uses, His sword, is the Word. Kids need the Word. Paul reminds Timothy in II Tim 3:15 that “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” It was his mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, who made sure that Timothy knew the Scriptures. That led to his salvation. Do our children know the Scriptures? Teaching them the Word is Job One. Nothing is more important.
Why has the Bible been the most popular book in history despite constant attempts to disparage and wipe it out? Why? Max Lucado answers, “The purpose of the Bible is to proclaim God’s plan and passion to save his children. That is the reason this book has endured through the centuries.
… It is the treasure map that leads us to God’s highest treasure, eternal life.” This book is the eternal salvation of your children.
Now, there is one caution. Lloyd-Jones whom I just quoted that this is our most important job as parents also cautions, “Do not bring pressure to bear upon your children. Do not force them to a decision. I know the anxiety felt by a parent. It is very natural; but if we are spiritual, if we are ‘filled with the Spirit’, we shall never violate a personality, never bring any unfair pressure to bear upon a child. . . . It must never be done in such a manner that the children are made to feel disloyal to us if they do not profess belief. That is unforgiveable.” Simple point. Bring them to the Word and let it do its work. Heb 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” Trust the Word in their lives.
Want to get sin out of your child’s life? The Word is your answer. Psalm 119:9-11 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10) With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” This is so much better than haranguing kids! Get them to know the Word. How much of it is stored up in their hearts right now? How much? That is what will keep them from sin. My mom was great at this. You had a sin; she had a verse. You lost your temper and you knew what was coming next. “Dave, do you remember, Prov 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Do you see the beauty of this? Not only is the Word getting into your children, but how do you argue with God’s Word? You might argue with Mom and Dad, but how do you argue with God? And over time, it sinks in. Pretty soon, you’re quoting it to yourself before Mom gets to you – and pretty soon, you’re quoting it to yourself before you let fly with a piece of your mind that you can’t afford to lose. Beloved, it works.
Want to be the voice in the back of your teen-ager’s minds? Make sure they memorize places in the Word that will help them. I Thess 4:3: “This is the will of God for you, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality.” Read, teach and memorize portions of the book of Proverbs in their youth. Get it into their minds before the situations develop. Then it becomes the next best thing to actually being at their side at all times.
You’re the voice inside their head, quoting the Word. Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Why did he store up the Word in his mind? To keep him from sin.
Failure in this area can be catastrophic. Turn to I Sam 2. Samuel was raised by the priest, Eli who had sons of his own, Hophni and Phinehas. They were now grown men, married and minding the temple on their own. But I Sam 2:12 says, “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.” No foundation; no fear of the Lord. What an indictment! They were taking the best part of the meat from sacrifices rather than giving that to the Lord. These boys wanted the prime rib – didn’t see why that should go to waste on God. God’s verdict in I Sam 2:17, “Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.” In fact, it was even worse for we find in I Sam 2:22, “Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” These guys were robbing the men and seducing the women – all in the name of the Lord. But the really interesting thing is why. How did things get to this point in one generation? In case you think your children will automatically be believers because you are, take careful note.
God delivered a message to Eli through young Samuel. It was so devastating that Samuel did not want to deliver it, though Eli coaxed it out of him. The message is found in I Sam 3:11-14, “Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12) On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13) And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14) He did not restrain them. God condemns a good man for his failure to restrain his children. That word “restrain” in the Greek translation of the OT, is the same word that is translated “instruction” in Ephesians 6:4. Same word. Eli failed to instruct his boys beyond a slap on the wrist and scolding when they were long past listening to Dad. Eli’s failure to instruct led directly to these boys blaspheming God by their words and actions; which in turn led to their death and to Eli’s death as well. He failed to defeat sin by building the Word into their hearts early; he paid a dear price. Beloved, don’t let it be u!
Want to see your children grow into confident, stand-up, wise men and women? Then you must feed them the Word. Spiritual growth requires the food of the Word of God. Peter challenges us in I Pet 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” The Word brings salvation, and then continues to produce spiritual grown and maturity thereafter. Without the Word we produce spiritual dwarves. Don’t stunt your child’s growth. Feed them the Word.
Paul says in I Cor 3:1-3, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2) I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3) for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” What is the most basic element required for spiritual and emotional maturity? The meat of the Word. One lady loved her birthday because her aunt always sent her a beautiful scarf or a hat or a sweater knit by hand. One year the aunt surprised her. The present came all right, but it consisted of a ball of yarn, some knitting needles and a how-to-knit book. The card read, “Scarf enclosed. Some assembly required.” That’s what we have from the Lord. Unfinished products. Some assembly required. But, Beloved – we have the Book! We have Book! The only question is, will we use it?
2.By Everyday Communication
God gives a very challenging command to parents in Deut 6:7, “You shall teach them (God’s commands – God’s Word) diligently to your children, and 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.” This is just another way of saying – you gotta live it. It’s not enough to take the kids to church and hope they absorb their “religion” there. This is not about religion, folks. It’s about a vital, living relationship with a living God – it’s a way of life that we are to be living in front of our children and talking about constantly so that they get that it’s real! This isn’t fairytales; it’s real. Assumed is it’s real to us!
Parents are to be looking for ways to re-enforce the message of the Gospel in daily life. Kids disobey. How do we react? Yes, they disappointed us, but more importantly, they violated the character of the God who sees everything. So, we seek reconciliation with Mom and Dad, but more importantly, they need to confess to God and ask His forgiveness forgiveness available for the one and only reason that Jesus died for our sins.
When our children are fighting over toys, it’s not a question of who had it first, but it is a question of both children being selfish. So they may need a time-out to think about that and contemplate how they could demonstrate an unselfish attitude toward brother or sister, like Jesus did. When I lose control and yell at them, I must apologize and acknowledge my failure to exercise self-control – the fruit of the Spirit. Thousands of opportunities every day, and God is saying, know your faith, live your faith and then talk your faith to your children from morning to night. Make it real!
Now – let me really challenge us. Do you know that every time we speak to our children (or grandchildren) we are sending a message. Every time! And that message either enhances their view of the Christian faith or it discourages it. Every word! That is a challenging reality, isn’t it? This is why Jesus said in Matt 12:36-37, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Every careless word, Beloved. That’s heavy, isn’t it? Jesus knew that every “throw-away” comment sends a message, and it’s our kids who pay for those careless words and comments. They are taking them to heart, and getting a message – often one we don’t intend.
A few examples. We say, “What are you doing that for?” All we mean to do is point out that there is a better, more efficient way to do something. But what our children hear is, “You’re not very competent.” Better to say, “Hey, I may be able to show you an even better way to do that.” Carol Dweck, a social psychologist at Columbia University tested the effects of over praise on 400 fourth graders. She notes that sometimes even comments meant to communicate approval send a different message. For example, you tell your child, “You are the best!” Sounds innocuous, right? Parents have been carefully taught to make such comments for the past 30-40 years. But Dweck points out that what your child hears is, “Your job in life is to make me happy!” Yes, they are glad to get the praise, but now the pressure is on to make sure it continues. What if I don’t do so well next time? Their life begins to revolve around getting approval. Tell your child that she is the prettiest girl in class, and you’ve sent a message. That’s what gives you value. That’s why you’re important. Kids who get that message often enough become praiseaholics; they learn to crave approval and who seek it wherever -- from friends when offered a drink or a joint or a session in the backseat of a car. Dweck found that kids praised for "trying hard" (praise for effort) did better on tests and were more likely to take on difficult assignments then those lauded for being "smart” (praise for an attribute which they had no control over). Praising attributes or abilities makes a false promise that success will come to you because you have that trait; it devalues effort. Kids figure their attributes will get them by. Praise effort, not traits.
How about one more? A throw-away line. “We can’t afford that.” Intended to put an end to the argument about buying the latest video game. How can you argue with, “We don’t have the money for that.” Now, that may be true, but more often it’s a throw-away line intended to stop the badgering. Say it enough times and the message the kids get? “Money is everything. Money is the answer to everything. If you don’t have money, you are really limited.” You are inadvertently creating a first-class materialist! So, what do you do, give in? Of course not. You appeal to the heart. Remember past purchases that brought only temporary joy. Remember, God did not give us money only to satisfy our selfishness, but also to help others. That’s how we lay up treasure in heaven. So you can save for that, but give something to others less fortunate as well. Remember, Jesus says that we should “seek first his kingdom”; God says we should be “doing honest work with [our] own hands, (so we can buy everything we want? No,) so that [we] may have something to share with anyone in need.” Do you see the point, Beloved. We are always sending messages; it’s just a question of what they are. We need to evaluate closely every single thing that comes out of our mouth and every action we take for what it is saying to our children.
Conclusion – What we really need is both parents and kids to have bibline thinking – every thought and observation filtered through the lens of Scripture. The list of positive influences that the Bible has on kids is endless. Want your kids to have a superior worldview to their secular teachers? Psalm 119:99, “ I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” Do you desire that they have answers for those who mock their faith? Psalm 119:42, “then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.” Where can they find guidance when you are not there or when they outgrow you? Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” What will bring unending blessing and happiness into their lives? Psalm 1:1-2, “Blessed (happy) is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2) but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” What can you give your children that has eternal value? Psalm 119:89, “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” Matt 24:35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” The benefits go on and on. So, how? How do we get the Word into their hearts?
Our goal is not behavior modification. It is heart modification -- applying the Word to every circumstance of life – more understanding than all their teachers. Tedd Tripp, in Shepherding a Child’s Heart, tells of a time when his son Aaron was doing a “values clarification exercise”, which usually means “values confusion” (!) in a high school English class. An ethical dilemma was posed aimed at demonstrating the relativity of values and the brittle nature of values the students thought were solid. The teacher presented the dilemma and then opened for discussion. The class soon became hopelessly skewed on the horns of the dilemma -- that is until Aaron offered his suggestion. He offered a biblical solution that left the teacher speechless. She said, “Aaron, that’s an excellent solution. You solution was better than the ones offered in the book.” It can happen, Beloved, but it takes time, work and God’s Word in young hearts. That’s what we want, isn’t it? So we don’t hear from our kids one day – Now you tell me. Let’s tell them NOW. Let’s pray.
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