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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
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Take your Bible and turn to Ephesians chapter six and verse four. I want to begin a two-part, possibly a three-part sermon, on the need for fathers to disciple their children. We have kind of slowed down a little bit. Hopefully, it’s not in any way tedious. We have slowed down in Ephesians five and Ephesians six regarding marriage and family because that’s such a core issue. We looked last week at verses one, two, and three and the responsibility of children to obey their parents when they live under the roof, but to honor their parents across a lifetime. A message I called House Rules. And then we’ve got a sermon this morning, I’ve entitled, It Starts at Home. Discipleship and evangelism starts at home. And I want to reinforce that this morning and next week and possibly even beyond that. So, take your copy of God’s word, follow along.
Ephesians chapter six and verse four. And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. No one disputes the greatness of Tiger Woods as a golfer. But what must not be forgotten is that Woods became the prolific golfer that he did because he started the disciplines of golf at a very young age under the intentional guidance of his father. And I want to remind you in a similar manner, spiritual formation at home under the leadership of a godly father is the most natural and productive context for Christian faith and character development.
I’m going to argue this morning, when it comes to the fulfillment of the great commission that is the discipling of the nations, it all starts at home. Now look, when we think of the great commission, we tend to think of men like George Whitefield, who God used as a catalyst for a great awakening both in Great Britain and here in the colonies, a man who crossed the Atlantic Ocean 13 times in a sailing-vessel in the years leading up to the American Revolution. It’s staggering. In his lifetime, he preached 18,000 times to as many as 10 million people, and tens of thousands of souls owe their faith in Jesus Christ to his tireless proclamation. When we think of the great commission, we think of George Whitefield. Or we might think to bring it up to date a little bit, of a man like Billy Graham who hailed a monumental crusade in New York City. It lasted 16 weeks in 1957. That’s 110 days. It comprised of a hundred services attended by 2 million people. That’s staggering. And there were 56,000 professions of faith.
But you know what? I want to recalibrate our thinking a little bit. I’m not going to discount the heroes of the faith that God has used in monumental, magnificent ways. But that’s the exception. That’s not the rule. I want to talk about the rule. When it comes to the great commission, we need to think more strategically of fathers and mothers, of parents and grandparents, leading their offspring to faith in Jesus Christ. God desires godly offspring from your marriage. Read about it in Malachi 2, verse 15. Here, in a New Testament letter, Paul directly addresses fathers and he tells them it’s their responsibility to disciple their children, bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
The more common, the more effective avenue of grace within the plan and purposes of God is personal evangelism and discipleship at home. It all starts at home. In fact, think about this, the years we spend bringing our children up, attending church together, gathering around a family altar, taking moments of strategic conversation as life unfolds, it is those years that afford us the longest opportunity to do the deepest work in the next generation. I hear a lot about the next generation, on how to reach them. Why don’t we begin at home? It all starts at home. It affords us the longest opportunity to do the deepest work in the next generation.
The home is, I think this text, another text will show, the home always has been the front line of world missions. Evangelism and discipleship start in the home. The family unit consisting of father, mother, and child is the greatest educational agency God has ordained for the reaching of mankind with the gospel. As dedicated Christian parents, we need to do whatever we can, whenever we can, to help our family become friends and followers of Jesus Christ. Write down Deuteronomy four, verse nine. Write down Deuteronomy six, verses four to nine. In Deuteronomy six, the families of Israel are encouraged to teach their children the law of God when they’re sitting down, when they’re out and about doing life together.
Listen to these words from CH Spurgeon. We deeply want a revival of domestic religion. The Christian family was the bulwark of godliness in the days of the Puritans. But in these evil times, hundreds of families of so-called Christians have no family worship and no wholesome instruction or discipline. How can we hope to see the kingdom of the Lord advance when his own disciples are not discipling their own sons and daughter? I hope that’s not true of us. We need a revival of domestic religion. We need to rebuild the broken altars of family worship. We need fathers and mothers, and especially fathers, intentionally discipling their children toward becoming disciples of Christ and spiritual warriors.
I just finished a book I’d commend to you, Family Discipleship by Matt Chandler and another author. In the book, Matt Chandler says this. Making disciples at home is not one more thing to add to your list of parental tasks. It’s the thing, the primary mission and calling that should undergird every single interaction your family is fortunate enough to have. That may seem like hyperbole, but we are trying our best not to do you the disservice of understanding just how significant family discipleship is in the home.
To quote Jonathan Edwards, every Christian family ought to be as it were, a little church. I agree with all of those statements. And I want us to feel the urgency and I want us to carry the burden. We need a revival of domestic religion. As we think about our nation and all that it faces in the wrong direction it’s going in and we cry for revival and we cry for reformation, let’s draw a circle around ourselves. Let’s draw a circle around our families and say, “Lord, let it begin here. Let it begin here.” With a marriage that preaches the gospel, with children that obey, with fathers that disciple.
With that in mind, let’s come to chapter six and verse four. Because here, the domestic missional perspective is reinforced. Fathers do not provoke your children to wrath but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Here, Paul instructs fathers to disciple their children in the favor and fear of God. Here, Paul instructs fathers to give their children a decidedly and distinctly Christian upbringing. That will be your greatest legacy, giving them the gospel, giving them a hunger and a thirst for righteousness. Here, Paul instructs fathers to give spiritual oversight to their homes and to exercise diligent guardianship of their children’s souls.
Now, before we get going, got a question. Why does Paul address fathers? Well, there’s several reasons why. Certainly, the reason of our children does not exclude the mother. That’s a given. We don’t need to argue that. That’s been implied. In fact, Paul addresses both mother and father in verse one of chapter six, children obey your parents. Go back to the book of Proverbs and you’ll hear about the instruction of mother and father. But Paul doesn’t use the same word in verse four, although he uses a word that can be stretched to include a mother. It can be used to communicate parents, and some translations have gone there. But it’s not the same word. And I think Paul distinctly uses a different word because he wants to make a distinction.
He wants to particularly address fathers. Why? Well, fathers in particular are the head of the home. Write down 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and verse 12, where Paul gives us a description of a Christian leader, the qualifications regarding an elder or a deacon. And in those verses, here’s one of the qualifications, that that man rules his home well. In the case of an elder, he’s got to do that. If he doesn’t take care of his own little church, how will he take care of the big church? But I want you to understand, it’s the father that rules the family. He’s the spiritual thermostat that sets the spiritual temperature in the home. It is the husband that is the tip of the spear when it comes to domestic discipleship. Of course his wife will come alongside him and be with him in that pursuit, but he’s the tip of the spear. Husbands work with their wives in the raising of the children, but they do it from the front, not from the center and never from the back.
Can I reinforce that? What about the book of Proverbs? 23 times you’ll get this little phrase, my son. Now, that’s an interpretive key. Whatever the book of Proverbs is, it is in many ways a letter from a father to his son. And he teaches them the fear of God and he teaches them the treasure of the word of God, and he warns him about his fallen nature and he warns him about the seduction of the world and the temptation of the flesh, and he teaches them about work ethic and he teaches them about honesty, and he goes through different aspects of what a man ought to be. Proverbs is a letter from a father to his son because the father is the tip of the spear when it comes to domestic discipleship.
And what we need in the United States is a revival of godly fathers and fatherhood. I don’t know if you have noticed, but absentee fatherhood is a plague on our country. And it’s becoming a strong contributor to cultural, moral and spiritual meltdown. James Merit in his helpful book on the book of Proverbs says, “The most endangered species in America is not the spotted owl nor the snail darter, but the responsible father.” They’re becoming an endangered species. Good man, godly man, responsible fathers. I’m in the beginnings of it so far. I love it, and at this point I can commend it. Hopefully, not to be disappointed the further I get into it.
I’m reading Josh Hawley’s new book on manhood. Josh Hawley is a Christian senator from the state of Missouri. And in his book he talks about these sad indicators showing that boys and men are failing in our society. It’s not that girls need to catch up, boys need to catch up. Here’s what he says concerning fathers. “The percentage of children living with only their mother, no father present has doubled since 1968. Today, the majority of children born to women under 30 are born into fatherless homes. And that’s being subsidized by our government purposefully. A new ignominious milestone in America’s history. The epidemic of absent fathers is a social solvent dissolving the future.” That’s a great statement. I want to say that again. The epidemic of absent fathers is a social solvent dissolving the future.
“Boys raised,” he says, “in fatherless homes face increased odds that they will use drugs, commit crimes, perform poorly in school and live in poverty and then become absent fathers themselves.” We are pouring billions into the inner city and it’s all going down the toilet because it’s never going to work when you’ve got absentee fatherhood. In fact, I read a helpful little book by Tony Evans this week on the family, and he says this. “In the inner city, the breakdown of the family is greatest. Nearly 7 out of 10 Black children are growing up without a father. 70%. Two parent families are now the exception in the inner city and nearing the exception in three major culture and ethnic groups in our nation, white, Hispanic and Black. An average of 44% belong to single parent families.” Just with that as a kind of cultural context, high strategic, and it gives a reason to me slowing down for at least another week, maybe two, to say, “Fathers, fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath. Nurture them in the Christian faith, train them and instruct them in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now, four things. We’re only going to cover one this morning. We’re not even going to cover it. If you want an outline of this text, what we’re going to work through at least this week and next week and maybe beyond. I want you to see a father’s danger. Here’s the danger. Don’t provoke your children. Don’t be overly strict. Don’t be harsh. Don’t raise your children to a place where you discourage them more than you encourage them. A father’s danger. A father’s devotion? Bring them up, nurture them, nourish them. Give them a hunger for righteousness and a thirst for God. Help them to taste and see that the Lord is good.
We’ve got a father’s discipline. The word training can mean discipline. It’s the job of a father to set boundaries. It’s the job of a father to build fences. It’s the job of a father to apply physical punishment. It’s the job of a father to rebuke verbally. It’s the job of a father to withhold privileges, whatever is necessary, to set boundaries and to train and discipline a child. The father must be the leading edge of that. In far too many homes, discipline is left to the mother. Fathers, discipline, train your children. We’ll get into that.
And then, a father’s discipleship. Instruct them in the Lord. That would imply, sir, you need to know your Bible so that you can open your Bible and teach your Bible to your children, disciple your wife. That means you’re going to have, at least especially in those early years, you’re going to have a family altar. There’s going to be family worship in your home. I don’t know if that’s daily, but it’s regular across the week, that at some point the family is sitting down, reading, praying, maybe singing together to the glory of God. So that you imprint on the soul of your child, the reality of knowing and loving God and being loved and known by him.
All right. Let’s get into the first thought a little bit. A father’s danger. And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath. There’s a father’s danger, provoking his children, creating unnecessary animosity in the home through the use or abuse of his leadership. What a tragedy, what a travesty. Paul wants fathers to guard against being insensitive, overbearing and harsh. He says a similar thing, I’ve paraphrased it, in Colossians 3:21. Here’s what Paul says. “Fathers do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Who wants their legacy to be that you discouraged your child from the faith, you tampered their potential, you sawed their soul?
Listen, given what Paul just stated in the previous verses about honoring mother and father, he goes on to challenge fathers to make it easy for the child to honor. It’s not easy to honor your mother or father when they’re provoking you to wrath. Anger is an issue that Paul addressed, didn’t he? Back in chapter four, verse 25. Therefore, put away line. Let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor for we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down in your wrath nor give place to the devil. The devil can use anger to undermine the gospel, to torpedo a work of God in the life of a child. Verse 31, chapter four. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, be put away. And especially fathers. Put it away. You can be angry, yes. Make sure it’s not sinful anger. And there’s the real possibility that your anger is sinful or Paul wouldn’t be encouraging, don’t provoke your children to anger.
Now, let me do a little bit of background here because I think this just helps light up the text. Culturally, Paul is limiting the exercise of a father’s authority. You’ve got to understand how this would land in the life of this church. And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath. Now, you need to understand the authority these men had before Christ. In the Roman culture, the father had absolute authority. The father could arrange a marriage, the father could force a divorce, the father could sell his children into slavery. In some cases, the father could kill the child without any legal recourse. In some cases, when a child was born, the child was brought and sat between the feet of a Roman father. And if the father lifted the child, the child was accepted into the family. If the father got up and walked away, either the child was to be discarded or given away. That’s the kind of authority, chilling, cruel, that the Roman father exercise.
But now, these men are in Christ. These men are now under the lordship of Jesus Christ. These men are now governed by gospel ethics, empowered by the indwelling spirit. And Paul wants to reverse the norm. He wants to remind these men to rule lovingly, to love their wives and to love their children, and don’t become a means of discouraging or disparaging your child. We’ve talked about this in this cultural kind of context. Paul is acknowledging the right of the wife and the dignity of the woman. He’s acknowledging the right and dignity of a child. And he will do the same for slaves.
In fact, Paul wants to remind them, as he did in the opening chapters, that they have a father in heaven who can guide them about being a father on earth. Look at chapter three, verse 14. As Paul prays, for this reason, I bind my need to the father of our Lord Jesus, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. Chapter four verse six. One God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in you all. The gospel will bring about a transformation, and that transmission regarding fatherhood will be brought about by a new understanding of God’s fatherhood toward us.
All right. The father’s danger. Paul is limiting the father’s authority. Paul is reversing cultural norms and applying gospel ethics.
For the time that remains, and we’ll pick this up next Sunday morning, let’s get practical, let’s get pastoral. What would be some of the attitudes and some of the actions that might provoke, enrage or agitate a child to anger? Now, let me say this by way of qualification. Clearly, there are times of course that your children become sinfully angry by themselves. You didn’t do it, they did it. Their fallenness, their selfishness, their insolence. That’s baked into this. Not every time a child is angry, the father is the cause. But we can be the cause. And here’s some things I think will provoke frustration, exasperation. Let’s start to take notes.
Here’s the first one, inconsistency. Few things exasperate a child more than arbitrary rules and changing demands. It’s okay for a restaurant to change its menu on a daily basis, but that’s not okay in the home. Too many children have been brought up in a context where they don’t know what to expect. What was wrong yesterday is okay today because the application of discipline or expectation rises and falls on a parent’s mood or an emotion or the circumstances they’re in, and the child doesn’t know which way to look. That’s frustrating.
Let’s all agree, a child deserves clear, consistent expectations. Husbands and wives, fathers and mothers need to get together, come up with some house rules that are clear and consistent. You know what God did for his children? He wrote 10 clear, consistent commandments that have served as an expression of his morality and holiness across history. If you go to Deuteronomy 28, as God speaks into the life of the nation of Israel and the family of believers that made up the nation of Israel, you have promises and you have curses. Blessings and curses. The blessings come from Mount Gerizim and curses come from Mount Ebal. And they’re very clear and they’re very consistent and God has applied them with faithfulness.
Parenting that blows hot and cold is bad. Takes work to be consistent, no doubt. Takes energy sometimes to address that issue or apply that discipline, and you just feel like giving them a pass. But be careful about the message you’re sending. Because one day it’s this and the next day it’s that, and the child doesn’t know how to behave in a way that pleases the parent. Kent Hughes says this. “Pity the horse that has a rider who gives its mixed signals digging his heels into the horse’s side and pulling the rims at the same time. Come back, go forward. Which one is it? Pity the child even more, who has the rules changed by a precious father.” And the child is always exasperated because of the conflicting message he receives.
Number two, favoritism. This is a disaster. Another provocation is when you and I consciously or unconsciously favor one child against another. And that’s a real reality. There can be an affinity between a parent and a child. But you and I need to be very careful about playing favorites. The negative consequences are detailed in God’s word for all to see. Do I need to talk about Joseph and his brothers and their jealousy? Now, they own their jealousy. But you know what? I’m not sure that Jacob helped with his really nice coat to the younger favored son from his most beloved wife. I’m not sure the results of that were good. Just warning us, don’t play favorites.
Maybe a better example, and I’ll give you a text, Genesis 25:27-28. In fact, talk about Jacob and his favoritism. He kind of learned it from his father Isaac. Because in Genesis 25:27 we read, “So, the boys grew.” That’s Esau and Jacob. But notice this. “So, the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter and a man of the field, but Jacob was a mild man dwelling in tents.” So, you got the one boy. He loves to be outside. He’s rolling in the mud. He loves to go down to Cabela’s. That’s the kind of kid that Esau was. Well, you know what? Jacob was all together different. You’d find him curled up in the corner of a bedroom or a living room with a book or just happy to go shopping with his mother. Is there anything wrong with that? No. The boys are different. Here’s what happens but. Isaac loved Esau because he had of his game, but Rebecca loved Jacob. Talk about playing favorites. And it was demonstrably so. And then you’ve got Jacob stealing his brother Esau’s inheritance and all kinds of mischief results.
Listen to me, favoritism produces uneven discipline. Favoritism produces rivalry and unhealthy competition among siblings. Favoritism is a denial of the individual uniqueness of your child that ought to be celebrated. Some will be outdoors, some will be indoors, some will be academic, some will be practical. Accept them for who they are with their natural bends.
Number three, lack of praise. Paul warns about discouraging a child through not giving them the encouragement they need. That would be the Colossians 3:21 passage, where we’re told don’t provoke your child or don’t lead them to discouragement. One of the ways we discourage them is by discouraging them rather than encouraging them. Criticism, displeasure, nagging, unjustified fault-finding, poking out their physical features, lack of motor skills per performance in a certain area. That kills a child’s spirit and it kills a child’s sparkle. We need to be encouragers.
Oh, there’s a place to condemn, rebuke, discipline. For sure. But I’d say this, make sure that you equally encourage as well as rebuke. In fact, I thought about this. I remember when we did the letters in Revelation two and three, and you see that pattern in Jesus. Take the letter to Ephesus. Yes, he’ll get to rebuke. I have this against you. That’s verse four, by the way. I think four or five. Before he gets there, but he says, “You know what? I know your works, I know your endurance, your steadfastness and patience. And I know that you test those who say they’re apostles and who are not apostles. I love your spiritual authenticity and I love your theological accuracy. But, I got this against you.” I like the balance. There was discouragement and there was encouragement.
I like what Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson say in their One Minute Manager. “Catch them doing something right and praise them.” See, as parents, we like to be spiritual sleuths, and we go looking to try and find them in an act of criminality. “Oh, I got you.” And then we criticize them and condemn them. Hey, keep your eye out for bad behavior for sure. But why don’t you go and try and catch them doing something right and say, “You know what? Mom is proud. Dad is proud. You did that so well.” It’s important that you and I do that. A lack of praise can be very debilitating.
I’m a big fan of Winston Churchill and I’ve read enough of his life to know that he had a father hunger, most of it. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a bitter man, an aloof man, a cold man, a callous man. He criticized Churchill’s voice. Can you imagine that? He criticized his lack of accomplishments or other accomplishments other than what the father desired. He didn’t like to be in the same room as him. Rarely complimented him. Always seemed to criticize him. And it comes through. In one of the biographies of Churchill, one of the writers takes an excerpt from a letter Winston Churchill writes to his parents when he’s young. And he’s crying out for his father’s attention. Quote, “I would rather have been apprenticed as a bricklayer’s mate. It would’ve been natural. I should have got to know my father.” Lack of praise, that was Churchill’s experience.
Here’s another issue, overprotection. Overprotection. This is the helicopter parent who just kind of hovers over the child whether they’re five months, five years, or 15. And I was aside a while ago with the LAPD. I did a helicopter ride with them for about five hours. And that’s what helicopters do. We hovered over several homes with the spotlight. There was some barricade situations going in, so there we hovered for about an hour. Shining the spotlight on that scene for the policemen below. And you know what? There are parents like that, that just hover over their children shining the spotlight of their concerns and their measuring of the child’s behavior. You know what? Over time, that becomes rather provocative, overbearing, frustrating in the part of a child where you keep such a tight leash that the child feels no freedom, senses no trust, that the parent doesn’t believe they’re responsible enough yet.
Now, let me say this, it is our calling as parents to be watchful, but it’s another thing to be overprotective. Those are two different things. In those early years, parents need to build fences against the world. But as our children grow up and they become teenagers and young adults, we need to lower the fences and begin to build bridges into the world and prepare them for their encounter with that society, get them ready for life. I remember June’s father telling me this. There was one morning he woke up, he was about to start his job in Glasgow. And his mother said, “Gordon, get up. You’ve got to meet the big bad world.” Well, there comes that moment in the life of all of our children, and it’s our job to get them ready for that moment. And you won’t get them ready for that moment if you overprotect.
It’s frustrating, especially for young adults when they are sheltered and smothered by overprotective parents. That communicates a lack of trust. It reinforces a perception of immaturity on the part of the parent towards the son or the daughter. And if you really think about it, if you’re still treating your 15-year-old like you treated your five-year-old, I’m going to say something to you. That’s a self-condemnation of your parenting. Because your parenting is about getting them ready to meet the big bad world and your parenting is about helping them get ready to fly the coop. And when you don’t begin to allow that process to happen, that’s a self condemnation on you. That says more about you in not trusting the child than the child and its lack of responsibility.
I’m so thankful for my parents. I think they struck a balance. I lived in a tough area, blue collar area, a lot of crime, a lot of shenanigans going on. And for a good part of my life, there was those fences and those walls. But I think my mom and dad knew they couldn’t protect me for too long. I wasn’t a Christian at the time, which was a double jeopardy. And there had to come a point where they let me go to the youth center and let me go out onto the street and go to the soccer games with my friends. And frankly, I did get into some trouble, but I thank God my conscience was always soft and the word of God was always real and my love for my parents was a bit of a leash even when I was away from them. I’m thankful for that.
When it comes to leashes, let’s have one of those retractable leashes. Don’t have a six-foot leash that doesn’t stretch and doesn’t change. Have one of those retractable leashes where you keep feeding your child a little bit more leash. And if you need to, you can retract it. But make sure you’re feeding it, getting them ready. Overprotection can be a bad thing.
As a little bit of a footnote on that, by the way, maybe a word to mothers rather than to fathers. Don’t overprotect your children, especially your boys. “The worst thing,” says Steve Ferrara, “you can do for a little boy is to overprotect him.” Little boys do foolish things. Anybody notice that? They’re aggressive. Anybody notice that? I mean, I’ve got three girls, so I cannot forget this. They have not developed the wisdom that matures their divine orientation to aggression. They jump off the top of slides rather than sliding down them. They climb the rafters in the garage. They hang a rope up and swing between the rafters like Tarzan. When they slip and fall to the concrete, they split open their heads. That’s part of being a little boy. It’s a miracle of God that any boy lives long enough to become a man. I could go on, but he’s basically saying we damage our boys when we overprotect them.
It’s true. It’s the rite of passage to break your head, break your arms, have a living scar somewhere you can show your mates. “Look at that one. Have you a better one than that one?” I’ve got them. I did the Tarzan thing one day down at a place in near our home and the rope broke and I went flying through the air and broke my shoulder. Me and my mates used to jump onto the back of public buses and get a ride down to the town center. It was crazy stuff. It’s what boys do. And it is surprising, apart from God’s grace, that we are still alive.
And there’s a balance there, okay? There’s a craziness that can be very dangerous. But on the other hand, especially with boys, God has made them to be adventurous, aggressive. Because ultimately, they’ll be protectors and providers. You don’t want to bring up a boy who’s a scaredy bat because you protected him so much and wrapped him in bubble wrap. Don’t do it.
Okay, how did I get onto that? I don’t know. But here we go. Time’s gone, but I’ll try and fit two in quickly. Here’s the opposite, right? Neglect and lack of discipline. So, I don’t want you to be overprotective. On the other hand, I don’t want you to neglect or be lacking in your oversight and discipline of your children. See, on the one hand, you’ve got the heavy-handed approach. That’s a danger. That’s a trap some of us will fall into. On the other hand, equally you’ve got the danger of a hands-off approach and a light touch.
Although children will not readily admit it, it’s a secret among children, ultimately, they don’t respect the promiscuous and passive parent. They respect the parent who’s got love enough and courage enough to confront them and discipline them. Indifference to their bad behavior, indifference to their questionable behavior doesn’t communicate love, it communicates a lack of love. It’s the opposite. According to Proverbs 13:24, it communicates hatred. That’s pretty strong, isn’t it? But write it down, Proverbs 13:24. We’ll come back to it maybe next week. “He who spares the rod.” That’s discipline, corporal punishment. “He who spares the rod, hates his son.” I mean, how much hatred do you have for your child to let their bad behavior go by, their criminality go unpunished?
Write down Proverbs 29, verse 15. Here’s an interesting little verse. “A child left to himself will become a shame to his mother.” Neglect and lack of discipline is not a good thing. Write down, 1 Samuel 3:13 and write down 1 Kings 1:5-6. And there you have the tragic failure of Eli to restrain his wicked sons and the tragic failure of David to restrict Adonijah in terms of his bad behavior.
Richard Phillips says this. “Negligent parents think they will win their children’s heart, but instead they more often win their child’s contempt.” And that’s true. Just watch the next time you’re standing in line and some kid’s losing it. Look at the contempt they have for their parent who won’t discipline them. A child-centered home or they’re bought into the silly psychology stuff of physical punishment is brutality and violence against your child. Child shows contempt for a parent who doesn’t act like a parent.
Finally, poor example. We’ll pick up the rest. Get this one in. Poor example. That’s frustrating, that’s exasperating. When the parent says one thing and does another, when the parent expects one thing from the child but does not expect it from themselves. Children smell hypocrisy five miles away and it leaves them with a bad taste towards the things of God.
Now, we’re not talking about imperfections on the part of the parent. Which one of us hasn’t failed, which one of us doesn’t blush before God when we look back at some moments, encounters with our children that we handled badly. No one’s batting a hundred when it comes to parenting. But what I’m talking about here is glaring inconsistencies, just flat out double standards, rank hypocrisy, empty religion. No parent is perfect, but the thing they must guard against is a gaping hole between what they say to their children and what they do before their children. Narrow that gap.
Write down Matthew 23, verse three as we wrap up. The biggest hypocrites in Jesus’ day were the Pharisees. You know how Jesus describes them in Matthew 23, verse three. “They say and do not what they say.” That’s hypocrisy. And children mustn’t encounter that in you and me.
I love Psalm 101, verse two. As you leave today, maybe reflect on this message and go home and pray. David says that he desires to walk with integrity before God in his home. Sad thing was, for a season in David’s life, he didn’t do that. And the consequences were bitter. We all know that Watergate was not the first government coverup. David’s most notable sin was his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. Here’s the tragedy. If you read the subsequent family history of King David, those sexual sins reappear. They crop up in the life of David’s children. Amnon seduced his half sister. Absalom slept with one of David’s concubines. And what was one of the downfalls of King Solomon? He loved many strange wives. They’re culpable, don’t get me wrong, for their sin. But they saw a pattern of sin in their father that seems to crop up in their lives. Let’s narrow the gap between what we say and what we do.
His father was a successful merchant and the family practiced their Jewish faith. But then, they moved to a town in Germany. The boy’s father began to fail to attend synagogue and starts worshiping in the Lutheran church. And when the boy saw this and was surprised by it, he asked his father to explain his turning back on his Jewish heritage. And the father explained that it was for business reasons. There were much more Lutherans in the time than there were Jews, and it was just good business. The boy, who for a season in his life had a deep interest in religion, was disillusioned and discouraged by what his father had done. He concluded that my father has no real convictions. And it actually turned him in the wrong direction and turned him against religion with a vengeance. The young boy later moved to England and began to write. His name was Karl Marx, and he was the father of communism. And in the Communistic manifesto, he said this, “Religion, it’s the opium of the masses.” One wonders, in seeing his father’s inconsistency and his father’s duplicity, if that didn’t lead him to conclude that religion is vacuous. Faith is a cultural thing, not a real thing. It’s an opioid of the people that must be rejected.
By the way, if you failed, go and apologize. If you’ve been inconsistent, and for a period of your profession of faith, you’ve been a flat out hypocrite, does that not require you to go back to your children and repent and apologize for being a bad example? If we don’t do that, we’re saying to our children, we have no sin. And if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and we discourage them.
Father, thank you for this text. Timely, contemporary. A reminder given what we’re witnessing, the implosion of our culture, that it is God’s purposes, that at the helm of the family ship is a responsible father, a Christian father, the man who understands his calling to give his children a deliberate and distinct Christian upbringing, to provide for them, to love them, and to show them the way when it comes to life and to show them the way when it comes to heaven. Make us such men, make us such fathers. We thank you that you have been that father to us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.