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Redeemer Bible Church
Unreserved Accountability to Christ. Undeserved Acceptance from Christ.
The Christian Home, Lecture Twenty: Discipline of the Heart, Part Two Selected Scriptures Introduction & Review Last time we were together we began a discussion on the discipline of our children. If God’s requirement for children is that they obey their parents in all things (Eph 6:1; Col 3:20), and if God’s requirement for parents is to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4), it is important that we understand how to engage in parenting practically. How can we bring children to the point of obedience? What strategies and methodologies ought we to employ for the good of our kids and to the glory of the Lord? Well, as always it is important that we start with the Bible. The Bible teaches that our children are born sinners, that they are estranged from God and hostile to his rule from birth. And it is these that the Lord commands parents to lead into the worship of the true and living God. Although ultimately this is a humanly impossible task, God has nevertheless ordained godly parents as the means by which he will bring our sinful little ones into a relationship with himself. Earlier lectures have touched on some of the ways of accomplishing this. Most recently, we spent some time in the book of Proverbs in order to unearth God’s own wisdom for childrearing. Our task is nicely summarized in Prov 29:15. Turn there with me: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” Our children are born fools. Left to themselves they will bring shame upon us. We must enlighten their hearts and minds with the wisdom of the fear of the Lord. We do this by employing God’s means of the rod and reproof. So far we have learned that the rod refers to the corporal punishment of children applied to their backside by something flexible like a switch. In this connection, several other texts are noteworthy cf. Prov 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14:
He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently (Prov 13:24). Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him (Prov 22:15).

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Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Sheol (Prov 23:13-14).

Perhaps the most amazing of these texts is 22:15, which tells us that the rod of correction drives foolishness far away from the hearts of our children. You will remember that the aim in our child-rearing is getting to the heart of our children’s behavior. It is out of the heart that the mouth speaks (Matt 12:34). This passage is telling us that by God’s wisdom and grace, the proper application of the rod of correction to our children’s bottoms will work to address the hardness of heart that leads to the foolish and disobedient behavior we observe. This is quite remarkable. It seems counter-intuitive. You would not think that something as physical, as visceral as the rod of correction would work to drive foolishness from our kids’ hearts. Nevertheless, biblically speaking, the rule of thumb is that the Lord uses the appropriate exercise of the rod of correction to do just that! It might not seem like our kids’ bottoms and their hearts are at all connected, but they are! God’s “foolishness” again prevails over the “wisdom” of men! What this means is that the use of the rod is a matter of faith. We need to believe that it will accomplish what God has intended. We need to believe that if we fail to act wisely in this area, we will reap a harvest of misery for ourselves and our children. The use of the rod is an act of faith exercised by parents committed to cultivating the hearts of their children in the ways of the Lord. Now then, let’s briefly review the seven principles for the use of the rod of correction that we developed in our last lecture. 1. We must select an appropriate instrument for delivering the chastisement. What you need is something flexible enough not to injure the child, but strong enough to cause pain. Test it on yourself to be sure you’ve made the right choice. 2. Our application of the rod of correction to the seat of wisdom must be what I call “sufficiently painful.” That is, the sensation of the rod applied to their bottoms must be sufficiently painful to outweigh the pleasure of their foolishness. If it is less painful, they will reason that it is worth it to continue in disobedience since your chastisement represents only a minor annoyance. If it is equally painful, you will reduce obedience and disobedience to a flip of a coin. But if it is more painful, you will teach your children that their sinful behavior, though pleasurable, brings with it misery that far outweighs the pleasure of the sinful indulgence. Along with consistency below, this is an area to examine if you are finding that the rod of correction “doesn’t work” for you. I have met many parents (especially mothers) whose idea of a chastisement is nothing more than a single swat of the hand on a diapered backside. Do not be afraid to make it hurt cf. Prov 23:13-14 (“He will not die”).

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3. We must exercise self-control. a. Never discipline in anger; for not only do we run the risk of abusing our kids, but we will ourselves be violating the Lord’s mandate for us to perform every act of obedience manifesting the fruit of the Spirit called self-control. b. Bring discipline swiftly; do not settle for less than biblical obedience. If you do, you will likely lose control of your faculties. c. Establish a controlled environment for administering the rod. 4. We must discipline our children in love. It must be clear in your own heart and mind that you are bringing discipline to your children for their own good, for their progress and joy. In addition, you need to remember that although it is possible to discipline in unloving ways, dispensing with the rod altogether is itself tantamount to hatred.1 5. We must use discretion. a. Most people do not understand biblical corporal discipline; they only know spanking children out of utter frustration. b. We must make every effort to preserve the dignity of our children. It is a humbling experience to receive the rod of correction, but it should never be humiliating. Do it in a private setting and keep it between them and you. Never administer any form of corporal discipline in public like the grocery store or the mall. 6. We must require the child to confess his or her sin to us; i.e. to give us the reason he or she is receiving a chastisement. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” 7. Finally, we must be consistent. Most parents who report that using the rod brings little or no success are nearly always falling short in the area of their consistency. And what I mean by consistency is that they are giving the rod with appropriate regularity (not one day on and one day off), and with justice. In other words, we cannot give the rod one day for being slow to obey our commands and the next day fail to do so for the same infraction. We must be regular and we must be just. We must be consistent. Now then, as we were quick to point out in the last lecture, the rod of correction is not enough to bring about the heart change that our children so desperately need. God has appointed equally important additional means to work in tandem with corporeal discipline;
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See Prov 13:24; 19:18.

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namely, our words. This is why Prov 29:15 couples the rod and reproof as the necessary ingredients for inculcating wisdom in the hearts of our children and driving their foolishness far from them. Learning to Listen Reproof refers to words that condemn or strongly censure behavior. Yet reproof or rebuke is actually just one kind of many rich forms of communication found throughout the book of Proverbs and should be in the parent’s arsenal. First Thessalonians 5 tells us that not every person is in need of a rebuke. Turn with me to 1 Thess 5:14: “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” As you can see, unruly people need admonishment; fainthearted people need encouragement; weak people need help; and everyone needs patience. The point is that differing conditions in the hearer require different forms of communication from the speaker. Clearly, our children are no different. They will certainly not always require rebukes from us. So then, how will we as parents know what kind of communication our children will need at any given moment? Well, it is important to keep in mind that communication is more than speaking. If we are going to communicate effectively with our kids, then we need to be excellent listeners. When James tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen, he means for us to apply his command to all occasions (Jas 1:19). And when Paul commands us not to let any unwholesome word proceed from our mouths, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, it is clear that he means us to do this in every circumstance (Eph 4:29). Our parenting must be marked by biblical communication. This means that while it is appropriate to render sharp reproof for a child’s unruly behavior, it is not always appropriate. And the only way to know when to use which form of communication is to become better listeners cf. Prov 18:2, 13; 20:5:
A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind (Prov 18:2). 18:13). A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out (Prov 20:5). He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him (Prov

So we need to focus on understanding our children. It is very easy for us to dismiss our children in favor of a quick resolution. If two of our kids are fighting over a toy, we are much more inclined to say, “Give that back to your brother! And stop arguing; it’s wrong!” and move along, rather than to talk with the children in order to ascertain why they are arguing and fighting over a particular toy. “Stop arguing; it’s wrong!” is a completely appropriate form of communication in certain situations. But not always. And we will not

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be training our children if we stop short of the biblical mandate to communicate with understanding. One common occurrence with my daughter Zoë is that she sometimes balks at my wife’s clothing selections. But being the kind of girl she is, she does not often make a fuss; even so, Gayle can tell when Zoë is displeased with her outfit. Now, of course, in a situation like this my wife simply could say, “I can tell you’re upset, but your wearing what I picked out regardless of how you’re feeling. I’m the mommy and you are not wearing a short sleeve shirt in the middle of February. You’ll wear the sweater.” But this would likely fail to focus on understanding her. What Gayle needs to do is to find out why Zoë is upset about a particular outfit. It may be that she’s afraid other kids will make fun of her, or that she has a certain standard of prettiness that she must meet in order to feel good about herself, or simply that it’s dirty and smells like a hamburger! The type of communication she needs depends upon the heart issue giving birth to her behavior. I hope you see the relationship here between listening and what we have addressed in some depth in earlier lectures when we explored the heart and goal of parenting. I cannot overemphasize that our children’s behavior is an issue of the heart. Remember, then, that their behavior is incidental to their true problem. Behavior is a symptom of a deeper malady. This kind of parenting is obviously more time-consuming than a kind of “shut-upand-do-what-I-say-cuz-I’m-your-father” approach. It requires patience, practice, and sacrifice. Parenting like this may occasionally result in later bedtimes; it may result in having to forego a family event; it may result in being tardy for an engagement. But the fruit you will yield if you take the time genuinely to listen to your kids—really to communicate with them rather than at them—the fruit will be delightful. Proverbs 10:1 says, “A wise son makes his father glad, But a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” And Prov 23:24 says, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who sires a wise son will be glad in him.” In an effort to become listening parents (read: wise parents), we ought to begin by making sure we take time to engage in daily communication with our kids. Take time each day, perhaps at bedtime, simply to talk with your children about their day. Now even though a simple question like “How was your day?” isn’t a bad start, it will be much more productive for us if we learn to ask better questions—questions that work to draw out the deep waters of our children’s hearts. Here are some examples: 1. The circumstances: Did you have any conversations with anyone today that didn’t go so well? That went very well? Did you have any problems with anyone today? Did anyone have a problem with you? We must remember that life is lived predominantly in a pattern of conflict and resolution. And by this I do not mean to speak of periods of conflict followed by periods of resolution, but the conflict and resolution of small moments of

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every day. School is a virtual incubator for conflict. Ask questions assuming that there is a high possibility that your child was somehow involved in conflict. 2. The feelings: When that happened, how did you feel? For our younger children, this may require giving them some specific options. Some of our kids are more naturally adept at articulating their feelings than others. Nevertheless, as you engage them in real communication, you will find them growing in this ability. The point here is that when we ask them how they feel, they might say, “I don’t know.” So ask them if they felt angry, sad, hurt, irritated, provoked, or embarrassed. Give them a smorgasbord of feelings from which to choose. 3. The behavior: What did you do in response? Get your kids to tell you how they behaved. Questions in this area are generally easier for our children to answer than #2 above. In fact, you will find that they are able almost literally to assault you with the details of their interactions. As you ask your children questions about their behavior, you need to reassure them that whatever they tell you will be alright. In other words, you want your kids (if applicable) to confess even their sinful behavior to you. And in the case that we do learn of their ungodly behavior, we will need to go further to apply the appropriate biblical labels for their sinful acts (e.g., disobedience to their authorities, repaying evil for evil, rejoicing in unrighteousness, etc.). Now in order to solicit this from our children, at our home we structure the consequences for foolish behavior at school differently from foolish behavior at home. Our rule is that there is nothing they do at school for which they will receive the rod of correction unless we find out from a third party. That is, as long as they are telling us the truth with no deception, we will not administer the rod; rather, we will only employ the communicative side of discipline. 4. The motive: Why did you behave that way? What did you want that you thought you should have received? This is a critical step in learning to understand our children. What we want is a window on the idols of their hearts. Knowing what they want from others very often helps us to see what is really motivating their response in a given situation. Do they want respect, approval, acclaim, affirmation, acceptance, or security? I hasten to add that in the same way that questions about feelings are difficult for our children to answer without help, so is ascertaining their own motives. We need to give our kids concrete examples that apply directly to the circumstances and behaviors and emotions they have relayed to us. 5. The God-ward angle: How does the Lord feel about your behavior? Your feelings? Your motives? How would Jesus have acted in similar circumstances? Why would he have acted differently? We must not forget that our children are always relating to God. There is never a time in their lives when God is not at the center of what they do or neglect to

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do. By this I do not mean that he is at the center in their experience, but since God is God, since they are absolutely dependent upon him for every aspect of their lives, God is the center of their existence notwithstanding. In the process of communication, it is essential that we do not forget the Lord. As our duty is to bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, we must be sure always to point our kids to him in our every interaction. Once genuine communication takes place between us and our children, we are in a better position to discern precisely what type of communicative discipline will be most effective in helping them to realize change in their lives. Additional Forms of Communication While we’re here in Proverbs, let me provide you with five additional (additional to reproof, that is) forms of communication.2 1. Encouragement: Words that inspire and fill with hope and courage. There are times when our kids will feel like utter failures in the face of what they know to be foolish acts. They see themselves falling again and again into the same sins and can even become despairing. We must help them to understand the promises of God. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.” 2. Correction: Words that remedy something wrong. It is not simply the ability to point out a problem, which is fairly easy. But correction takes the observation of a problem to the next level. It not only gives insight into what is wrong, but it also explains what may be done to remedy the problem. Proverbs 29:17 says, “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.” 3. Entreaty: Words that plead, urge, solicit, and even beg. This kind of language is ubiquitous in Proverbs. Turn to Ch 23 and read vv 15-19, 22, & 26 with me:
My son, if your heart is wise, My own heart also will be glad; 16 And my inmost being will rejoice When your lips speak what is right. 17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, But live in the fear of the LORD always. 18 Surely there is a future, And your hope will not be cut off. 19 Listen, my son, and be wise, And direct your heart in the way….Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old….Give me your heart, my son, And let your eyes delight in my ways.

4. Instruction: Words that provide a lesson, a precept, or information designed to help understand our world. Psalm 119 addresses what we mean by instruction. Look with me at vv 98-104.

This list of types of communication has been adapted from Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 1995), 83-92.

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Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Your precepts. 101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word. 102 I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, For You Yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.

And Prov 10:17 says, “He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, But he who ignores reproof goes astray.” 5. Warning: Words that put us on guard in the face of probable danger. We tell our children of the adverse consequences of adopting foolish behaviors. We caution them that if they continue on their present course, it will be fraught with misery. As you are no doubt aware, Proverbs is rife with this kind of speech as well.3 So there you have it: the rod and reproof; corporal discipline and communicative discipline. These are the features of godly child-rearing and should be present the moment the Lord delivers them to our care. At this point I should add, however, that these two features should not be present to the same degree throughout every stage of child-rearing. We might say that at the beginning of the parenting process both command and counsel are at our disposal, but over time, command decreases as counsel increases. In the same way, we might also say that corporal discipline and communicative discipline are art our disposal from the beginning, but that over time, the corporal decreases as the communicative increases. I mention this because I believe that by the time our children enter into adulthood—around age 13—by that time, though the parenting task is not complete, command and corporal discipline should be, while counsel and communicative discipline should not.4 Conclusion Now then, before we end our lectures on discipline, I’d like to remind you that the glue that holds together both the rod and reproof is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). Indeed, Jesus is himself the wisdom of God incarnate. Therefore to fail to be gospel-driven in the discipline of our children ultimately works to turn biblical parenting on its head. All of our discipline,

See Prov 12:24; 13:18; 14:23; 15:1; 16:18; 17:19; 19:15; etc. Being the father of children from ages 4 to 8, I do not speak from experience on this subject. Biblically, however, corporal discipline is for the actual child, not for the adult child. There is nothing to indicate that adults continued to receive the rod from their parents. I would add to this that the books on parenting from men that I most respect never include anything on the corporal discipline of teenagers. Finally, for those of you with kids moving into the teen years or with kids already there, I would recommend a wonderful resource in addition to the principles I’ve covered in these lectures: Paul David Tripp’s Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide for Parenting Teens (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1997, 2001).
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no matter how effective, is just smoke and mirrors if it is not pressed into service of the gospel. We need to see our discipline as an opportunity to convey to our kids (1) their total inability to keep the Law of God and (2) God’s abundant compassion in pardoning sinners. We need to show them that God demands unreserved accountability to Christ, but at the same time he extends to us undeserved acceptance from Christ. This is why we must be sure not to fudge on the principles we have outlined in these last lectures. We must require genuine obedience from our children and discipline swiftly in its absence. Otherwise they will get the impression either that God is not serious about sin or that they are able to comply with the demands of God’s Law. Do you remember this example from our second lecture?
“Junior, I know that you have disobeyed me again. It is hard to do what the Lord wants, isn’t it? You know what? The Bible says that it is impossible to do what God says all the time, without ever sinning, without ever disobeying. Your mom and dad sin all the time. That’s why we are Christians. That’s why we love Jesus so much. Jesus lived a perfect life for us, doing for us what we could never do ourselves, being obedient all the time.”

In addition, focusing on understanding and appealing to our children’s consciences with the variety of communicative forms sanctioned in Scripture will go a long way to showing our children the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ. He entered our world. He is the perfectly empathetic high priest, tempted in all ways as we are. Communicating with our kids—really communicating with them—allows us to enter their world. It expresses empathy. It shows them that we will always love them in spite of their many shortcomings.

Redeemer Bible Church 16205 Highway 7 Minnetonka, MN 55345 Office: 952.935.2425 Fax: 952.938.8299 info@redeemerbiblechurch.com www.redeemerbiblechurch.com www.solidfood.net

The Christian Home, Lecture 20: Discipline of the Heart, Pt 2

© 2004 by R W Glenn

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