July 2, 2023
It Starts at Home – Part 2
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Ephesians 6: 4

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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 6:4. We’re coming back to a passage I started to look at last week and actually we’ll look at it again next week. We are in a study of the book of Ephesians life together, and since we’re in that section about marriage and parenting, which is so critical, we’ve decided just to slow down. In fact, given what I’ve just stated about the importance of family, even in the life of a nation, I want you to understand that it’s a good thing we’re in an Ephesians 6:4, as we think about the birth of our nation and we desired its prosperity and its strengthening. Well, no better path to that than a whole company of godly fathers doing their job.
Now listen to what Tony Evans says. “If the saga of a nation is the saga of its family’s written large, then the saga of a family is the saga of its man written large.” And so just as families strengthen nations, its fathers, it strengthened families, and here we are. It starts at home part two.
Ephesians 6:4, you can remain seated. I’m reading from the New King James Version of God’s word. “And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
Some years ago, I was up ministering in the northwest. In fact, I was there for a couple of days this week, and June and I were heading home back through Seattle. We had a few hours to spur before our flight and so we decided to go down to Pike’s Market. Anybody that’s gone to Seattle, that’s the place to go. It’s a place loaded down with shops and fresh flowers and succulent fruit and fishmongers, and you get to witness the fun of fishmongers throwing fish from one counter to another.
Well, when we had seen enough red apples and lobster, we decided to go up to the second floor to a bazaar of shops that sold everything you wouldn’t want. And so we went kind of around these kind of fun little shops and one attracted us was the curiosity shop, and as we kind of looked around it, we decided to fork out 50 cents so that we could see the biggest shoe in the world. Wow. It was a little set of curtains and if you get 50 cents, they would come back and you see the biggest shoe in the world, and we did. In fact, this was an exhibition that belonged to the society for the preservation of oversized feet. Who ever knew?
Now, the shoe that was in front of us belonged, seriously, to a gentle giant at one time, the tallest man in the world, an American by the name of Robert Wadlow. Sadly, because of his height and just his abnormality physically, he died at 22. He was close to nine feet high. His arm span was nine feet and six inches, and his shoe size was 36. According to the details I read and wrote down, his shoe weighed four pounds. That’s a workout in itself, isn’t it? But what a curiosity, what a fascination. There’s some big feat and there’s some big shoes.
Now, as we come into Ephesians 6:4, “You fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” I would suggest to you that God in this text is setting before every man and father in this service, a pair of big shoes, and he wants us to fill them. Fatherhood is a big pair of shoes to fill because fathers will set the direction for their home.
In fact, if you’ve read any of Steve Farrar’s material; Point Man, Anchorman, Standing Tall, which I have, he would remind us that fatherhood is indeed a big pair of shoes to fill, for fathers will set the direction of their family for the next 100 years. If a father does his job right, he will make an imprint in the life of his family for three generations. That’s how big those shoes are.
If you go to Deuteronomy 6:1-2, you’ll see what Steve Farrar is driving at. I’ll go there for you and you’ll pick up this language of generational imprint and generational impact. “Now, this is the commandment and these are the statutes and judgments with the Lord your God has commanded he teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged, you, your son, and your grandson.” Three generations. You get similar language in Psalm 78:5-7. You’ve also got Psalm 128:6 that God may bless you and your children’s children.
In the book, the Anchorman, Steve Farrar says this, “God doesn’t expect us to just take care of our families today. He wants your leadership as a father to be so noble that it will carry your family for a solid generation.” That’s challenging that what we do as fathers can set our family in a trajectory that could impact them for a solid century. Such is the imprint and the impact of fatherhood.
I know we’re celebrating the birth of this nation and I love it deeply, but if I’m going to ding the United States, I’ll say this, it’s chocolate stinks. You can have Hershey’s all you want. You might get me to buy a pound of See’s chocolate. I might go there, but British chocolate outshines American chocolate.
In fact, I have empirical proof of that. I’m a big KitKat kind of guy, and I like it in the fridge for a while with a cold glass of milk. And when I came to the states going through the Master’s Seminary, I was pretty disappointed because somehow when I had my first KitKat, it didn’t sound right. It didn’t taste right, and one day I ended up talking to a brother at Grace Community Church who was high up in Nestle, and I said, “Hey, what’s up with KitKat? Oh, he says, “Philip, you won’t enjoy them because they’ve got wax in the chocolate.” He says, “American chocolate has injected with wax to give it a greater shelf life.” And so I realized, my theory wasn’t wrong. The chocolate’s different. The taste is not good. And so what we try and do in the De Courcy home is some kind friends here at Kindred when they’re traveling abroad, they bring us back some of our favorite British candy bars.
When I was turning 60, my oldest daughter, Angela, gave me several bars of candy from Britain. One was the Galaxy milk chocolate bar, one was a Bounty bar, one was a Flake, and the other one’s a Ripple. Now, I don’t need to explain those. They’re all chocolate bars, all candy bars. And then alongside it, she wrote these little notes. “Dad, I hope that the Galaxy bar reminds you to continue to set your affections on things above.” And then she said, “The Bounty bar I hope reminds you to revel in the bounty of God’s goodness and mercy across your life.” And when she gave me the Flake bar, she says, “Dad, don’t be a flake. Meet your obligations.” And in the final Bar, Ripple was, “Let your influence be far-reaching. Guys, that’s what God wants of us as men. He wants our imprint and impact and influence to ripple across three generations.
So with that said, let’s come back to our text of Ephesians 6:4, “You fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Fatherhood are big shoes to fill and none of us feel adequate, and we’re flawed men and we’re sinners, see it by God’s grace. But while they’re big shoes to fill, by God’s grace, we can fill them through the filling of the Holy Spirit.
I do want to remind you that these verses we’re looking at in Ephesians 6 are tied back to Ephesians 5:15. “See then that you walk circumspectly not as fools, but as wise redeeming the time because the days are evil. Don’t be unwise, understand what God’s will is.” And then he goes on to tell us what God’s will is, and it’s to be filled with the Spirit. And if we’re filled, controlled under the influence of the Holy Spirit, then we will submit to one another in the fear of God. And then he goes on to talk about those authority relationships. The wife will submit to her husband, the children will submit to their father and the slave will submit to his master.
But since he’s talked in verses 1-3 of Ephesians 6 about the need for children to submit and honor their mother and father all the days of their life, he doesn’t let the parents off and he certainly doesn’t let the fathers off for having told the child to give honor to the father. He then tells the father not to provoke the child. Basically, “Hey, children, obey your parents,” and, “Hey, parents, live an honorable life. Make it easy for the children to honor you.”
So let’s jump back in and we’re trying to look at this text and we’ll look at it again next week. A father’s danger; don’t provoke your children. A father’s devotion; bring them up, nurture them in the Lord. A father’s discipline; train them or admonish them. Can even mean punish them and then admonish them in the Lord, that’s a father’s discipleship.
I want to pick up where I left off, a father’s danger, a father’s danger. We saw, given the cultural context, that a father in the Roman culture and the Greek culture almost had unlimited power, talked about the fact that when a child was born, it was set between the legs of the father and that father, if he lifted the child, it was being accepted into the home, if he didn’t lift the child, the child was at best given away for adoption or indeed sold into slavery. Abusive absolute power. But you see, these men who maybe once lived like that are now in Christ and that means they live differently. And Paul says, “Hey, novice Christian fathers, we’re going to limit your power.” You don’t have a right to provoke your child, hurt your child, be insensitive to your child, be overbearing or harsh towards your child.
So we started to look at that whole thought and got practical and pastoral. In what way could a father hurt a daughter or hurt a son or cause them, in the words of this text, to be agitated or provoked? If you go to Colossians 3:21, it talks about don’t discourage your children. We looked at inconsistency, favoritism, lack of praise, overprotection, neglect and lack of discipline, and a poor example.
Well, there’s a few more. If you’re taking notes, here’s the next one, unhealthy focus on achievement. Unhealthy focus on achievement. That’s excessively pushing your child to excel in sports, academics, music and other disciplines in a manner that doesn’t fit their natural bent. Or you’re pushing them to achieve that which they’re incapable of achieving. That’s dangerous and frustrates children, paralyzes them, breeds a fear of failure and the displeasure of a parent.
Now, we’re going to clarify that. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 says that Christians ought to excel more and more. Christianity doesn’t embrace the status quo. Christianity doesn’t muddle in the middle of mediocrity. Christianity encourages us to excel. Made in the image of a creative God, we are to create, we’re to reach a certain potential given our natural bents and our spiritual gifts and the opportunities that providence provides. Or Ecclesiastes 9:10, and we teach this to our children. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” So we encourage excellence. We encourage attainment, achievement.
But I came across a quote on excellence I find very helpful and I think this is the balance. “Excellence is not being the best, it’s being your best.” I want my three daughters and my two granddaughters to be their best. They may not the best, they may not be the top scholar in the class. They might not be a five star soccer player. We could go down the things that we engaged with our girls in, but I just want them to be their best. I’ll call them to excellence but not to a point where it’s excessive. Not to a point where it’s frustrating. Not to a point where I’m asking them to be something they’re not.
Look at 1 Thessalonians 2:11 where we read, “Fathers exhort and comfort.” Paul says, “I exhorted you and comforted you like a father.” Notice the balance. On the one hand, I am to exhort, I am to demand, I am to push, but I’m also to comfort in the midst of failure or adjustment or challenges. An unrelenting push to achievement is very discouraging for a child and it breeds failure and paralysis.
I coached the girls’ soccer team for a while. My three daughters played soccer, got some girls from our church at [inaudible 00:14:15], and we were the shooting stars. Woo. And you know what? We won a couple of seasons. It’s a seven aside, indoor-outdoor. We hardly ever practiced, and as soon as the game was done, we went to a Wendy’s right by the soccer pitch and got ourselves one of those chocolate ice creams. And if it was a good game, then it was good. If it wasn’t, we just had fun. It’s soccer for goodness sake. Their lives are not going to be defined by if they win on a Friday at a silly little seven aside girl’s soccer game. It’s there for fun. Yeah, we’ll do our best, but in the middle of all of that, that’s how I approached my coaching. I watched other coaches or other fathers treat it like it was the World Cup, and you could tell that the child of that parent, they lived in abject fear of failure. It produced paralysis and nervousness. That’s what we’re talking about.
If a parent is not careful, such pursuits can devolve into a parent living vicariously through their children. Sometimes they get the impression it’s a parent living through their child and getting like a second chance on life. That’s dangerous. You don’t want to be like the two ladies who were talking about their grandchildren and they were kind of boasting about them and bragging about them, and one of the ladies was quite impressed by the other lady and she said, “How old are your grandsons?” And she replied, “Well, the doctor is two and the lawyer is four.” But you’ve met parents like that. They’ve already made their mind up what the child’s going to be before the child has given any inclination of giftedness, bent or had any say in the thing themselves.
It can devolve into materialism, worldly success where we’re unwillingly teaching our children to gain the world when Jesus says, that’s not what we want them to do at the forfeiture of their souls. It can cause a child to deny a natural bent and cause them, as a square peg, to try and fit into a round hole that you’ve created for them. Bring a child up in the way it should go. I take that to be according to its natural bent, its giftedness and so on and so forth. If we’re not careful, we can turn our children into performing monkeys and we’ll provoke them to wrath. Such a pursuit can frustrate and bitter and rob them of a sense of their own uniqueness and self-fulfillment. Again, there’s a balance, push, but don’t excessively push the child in a wrong direction or against its natural bent. Or don’t push them so hard they don’t have time to develop and grow into a possible role.
Another one; absence and being unavailable. Children crave a father’s attention and affection and affirmation, and a child will be exasperated if the father is unduly absent. Underscore unduly absent. Fathers will be absent. Life will take us all in different directions, but we don’t want to be unduly absent. Love is spelled T-I-M-E, time. The absence can be physical, they’re just not there, or it can be emotional, they’re there but still detached. Think about that. This is a double whammy. The kind of father that’s away all day at work, maybe doing an 8, 10 hour day. And we here in California, we run hard and we get stuck on freeways on the way home and then you come in tired, and you know what, you pat the kids on the head or you get into a two minute conversation and that’s it, and then you kind of vegetate and you’re detached and emotionally withdrawn. And then when you add those two things together, a day goes by where there’s not any tactile touch or connection with the child.
I love 1st Thessalonians 2:17-18. Paul was absent from the church in Thessalonica, but he says, “I’m there in spirit,” and he says, “But I want to see you face to face.” Absent but present, always desiring to be present. It’s imperative that a parent spends quality time with the child, listening, playing, and engaging.
If you read Deuteronomy 6:1-9, which will maybe look out in a deeper fashion next week, you’ll see, “Hey, teach your child when you’re sitting down, when you’re rising up.” It’s just a metaphor for all kinds of environments and circumstances across the day. Look for those opportunities, and it’s far more challenging today than it’s ever been because of modern life.
I’m starting to read a very good book by Nancy Pearcey, who’s a well-known theologian and cultural observer from an evangelical point of view. It’s a book called The Toxic War on Masculinity. It’s excellent so far, at least what I’ve read. And in the book she talks about… Many other writers talk about this, the change that happened in the industrial revolution and how it took the father out of the home to the factory, to the office or whatever, and that’s when women become responsible for the civilizing of boys into men, and that’s not a good thing. But if you go prior to that point in a more rural agricultural context, fathers and daughters were in the company of their parents all day, you know, Little House on the Prairie, that kind of thing.
Go back to some of those period dramas and you’ll see the family all pulled together and chores were done by everybody and there was plenty of time for family dinner around the table, and then the industrial revolution comes and blows that all up. And the son, who would apprentice mostly with his father and spent loads of time in his father’s company, now they’re separated and the mother becomes the primary shaper of the boy. None of that’s good.
Now, you can’t reverse history, progression comes, and then maybe even the whole debate right now, Martha Stewart and Elon Musk are telling us all to get back into our offices and get into our cubicles and work away like little ant slaves. And others are saying, “No, maybe COVID showed us something that, you know what, it’s good to work from home.” Can we still be productive? Well, that’s the debate. I’m not getting into that. Maybe Elon is right, but what’s happening because people have spent more time at home, at least, we’re not talking about the ne’er-do-wells and the lazy, fathers especially are enjoying being home and connecting more with their wife and their children, and they’re looking for that flexibility. Maybe that’s because of what the Industrial Revolution did.
That’s another debate for another day, but here’s the point and we’ll move on, modern life and the Industrial Revolution has created a distance between fathers and children, and fathers need to work hard at narrowing that gap and bridging what that did because absenteeism is a reality and it breeds frustration.
Here’s another thought, condescension. It’s another way to provoke your child; condescension. This is the exasperation that comes through failing to let your children grow up at a steady peace. This is the deadly pattern where you’re constantly putting your child down by exposing their immaturity while they’re in a season of immaturity and laughing at their perceived naivety when that’s unfair. That might be fair when they’re 16, that’s not fair when they’re six. This is the style of parenting that fails to distinguish between childish behavior and sinful, disobedient behavior. There is a difference. This is the style of parenting that hammers mistakes and leaves no room for failing forward. This is a style of parenting that harshly puts down childish things in a child rather than patiently help the child, over time, to put away childish things. It’s a complete difference.
What did Paul say in 1 Corinthians 13:11? “When I was a child, I acted like a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” So there’s a period in which our children will do childish things. They’ll be marked by a certain naivety and immaturity. They’ll lack motor skills. It’ll take them a while to learn certain traits, but over time, you move them from that to putting away those childish things. But condescension doesn’t let that happen at a natural peace where you’re down on the child, we’re expecting adult behavior from a child. Children will grope and stumble along the path of maturity. Take the journey with them, be patient. Give them encouragement along the way. Give them some rope to feel. Let them think for themselves. Be realistic. Don’t be condescending. It can be a bit of a challenge and a bit of a mess along the way, but parents work through the mess and the muddle.
I love Proverbs 14:4. “If you want a clean stable, don’t put an ox in it.” Okay? And if you want a tidy home, don’t have children. If you want peace and quiet, don’t have children. It just comes with the territory mess, muddle. But if you got eyes to see, you’ll see the glory of this moving them from childishness to putting away childish things, and you’ll watch them grow into adulthood and become productive adults for the glory of God and there’s no greater joy. Keep your gold medal at the Olympics. Keep your FA Cup. Keep your Lombardi trophy. I’ll take that any day of the week.
One last thing; withdrawal of love. It’s another way to provoke your child, the withdrawal of love. This is the provocation of using love as a bargaining chip when it ought to be a grace given freely. This is the communication that love is to be won or lost based on behavior. It’s the vibe if not the words, daddy will like you if you do this, but daddy will not like you if you do that. It’s apparent huffing when displeased or going dark emotionally when they don’t find the child obeying.
Now, I’m not discarding the need for displeasure, rebuke, punishment. We’ll get into that next week, but it is deeply wrong when it’s done on the basis of the giving or the withdrawal of love. Love should never be questioned by a child, even in the midst of a spanking or a withdrawal of rewards or privileges. Gospel centered cross ship, love is not conditional. God demonstrated his love toward us in that while we were still sinning, Christ died for us. You got to love your child when they’re still sinning because that’s gospel love. That’s cross ship love.
Romans 8:31-39, “Aren’t you glad for it where God wants us to know as his children from his fatherly heart, nothing will separate you from my love.” Nothing. Nothing you do, nowhere you go.
John MacArthur says this, “Parents must model the same kind of love you find in God and the gospel for their children.” Threatening to withdraw our love when they misbehave, undermines love itself and it provokes a child’s wrath.
Let me tell you this story and move on. I’ve enjoyed the books of Bryan Chapell. He’s a Presbyterian pastor in Illinois. I had the privilege of being taught by him at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago when I was doing my doctorate and got to have dinner with him. And in his comedy and Ephesians, he tells the story of him moving out of the home and going to college, and his father drove him to the college to a town he had never been to, to a school he had never visited. And along the way, his father could sense a certain trepidation, okay, of course, anxiety, and he pulls the car over to the side of the road and he asks him, “Are you frightened, Bryan?” Do he replies, “Yeah, I’m anxious. This is a big leap.”
And then he said this, his father said to him, “I do not know if things will go well or poorly for you. I do not know if you will succeed or fail, but I want you to know always to remember that you are my son and nothing will ever change that. No matter what happens, I love you and there is a place for you in my home.” That good? That’s an Ephesians 6:4 father. Bryan Chapell says in response to that, “The words did not take away all the challenges of college or remove all the darkness of my events, but my father’s words were a beacon of light and hope through it all, that they were strength to me as his willingness to submit his heart and home to the assurance of my welfare became Christ’s own witness to the curve for me.”
All right, let’s go on to the second thought. We’ll cover this and we’ll pick it up next week. A father’s danger; don’t provoke your child. A father’s devotion, notice verse 4, “And you father’s, do not provoke your children to wrath.” Here’s we’re at, “But bring them up.” Just that, bring them up in the Lord. What’s Paul driving out? This is devotion. This is what a man gives his heart to… The word bring them up is found in chapter 5:29, “For no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes it.” That’s our word, nourishes. “And cherishes it just as the Lord does the church.” Paul there is saying, look, just as you take care of your own body, you nourish it, you lovingly care for it, you wash it, you clothe it, you feed it, you rest it, you pleasure it, you got to do that to your wife who’s now one body with you in sexual union. That’s our word, to nourish. It means to rear, develop, take care of, feed. In fact, it especially means to bring to maturity.
In fact, let’s read that, “And you fathers do not provoke your children but bring them to a point of maturity in Christ.” Fathers here are being directed to oversee the protracted and crucial process of a child’s physical, intellectual, social, and especially spiritual development.
Remember Jesus, 12, temple, his parents lose him, they find him. No doubt, there’s a little bit of a finger wagging episode there in Jesus’ life and it says there that he went home and was subject to them, and he grew in stature; physical development, in wisdom; intellectual and moral development, in favor with man; social development, in favor with God; spiritual development.
One young man from a broken home remorseful looked back over his life and upbringing and he said this, “I wasn’t brung up, I just come up.” Too many kids are just coming up in America. They’re not being brought up with intentional fathers who love them, don’t provoke them, want to disciple them in the gospel.
Now, there’s a few things here we’ll go through reasonably quickly, just drilling down on this idea of bringing them up, a father’s devotion. This is his passion and his priority. I want you to see the tenderness involved, tenderness involved. Rather than provoke them, exasperate them and discourage them, the father is to bring them up, to develop them through the different stages of life in a tender, loving manner. That’s what’s in our word, bring them up. That’s what we see in Ephesians 5:29.
John Calvin paraphrase this phrase, nourish as fondly cherish them. Isn’t that nice? Hey fathers, don’t irritate your children, fondly cherish them. Hendrickson, the great Presbyterian commentator; rear them tenderly.
So what I love about this thought tenderness involved is that parenting isn’t just a job, a task, an achievement, it’s a tone, it’s an emotion, it’s an atmosphere, it’s a temperature. The atmosphere in which and the attitude with which a father parents his son or daughter is essential. Have you ever heard this phrase? Children cry with their mothers and play with their fathers. I don’t like that particularly well. Why don’t they cry with their fathers and play with their fathers, and cry with their mothers and play with their mothers, the father’s to be tender, approachable, sensible, sensitive?
Psalm 128, children are likened to olive plants and so that’s a horticultural picture. Children are like little plants. The godly man is blessed when he sits around his table, his wife is the fruitful vine and his children are all plants. Now, what plants need, at least I’m told, because I don’t have a green thumb anywhere in my two hands. Flowers need nourishment, nutrients, that’s the feeding, but they also need climate or they’ll welt and weather and die. And if our children are like olive plants, they’re like fragile flowers, we must give them nutrients and feed them and take care of them, but we’ve got to do it in the right climate. We’ve got to create the right temperature for that so they don’t welt, over being, overbearing and sensitive and harsh.
Ephesians 4:15, we’re to tell them the truth in love. Tell them the truth, give them the gospel but do it in love with tenderness. Modern psychology emphasizes the importance of those early years and the fragile nature of children and their need for a tender touch in the security of love. Guys, men are never more true men than when they handle children and their young adults with care.
Some years ago, I read Voddie Baucham’s books, very good, What He Must Be. Like Me, he has daughters and so he wrote a book on what the guy ought to be, and it’s very interesting. He says this to his daughters and then he says this to other girls who are reading the book, look at how guys handle children and you’ll get an idea of what kind of husband they will be. Very simple little insight, but it’s a good one. Take a look. If you’re sizing a guy up, do I like him? Do I like him? Do I not? Is he a bozo or a Boaz? I don’t know. At least one of the measurements, look at how he plays or interacts with little children. Is he tender? Is he fun? Can he connect with children? Because it’ll give you a measure of what kind of a man he would be in your home when God blesses you with your offspring.
I like the story of a woman was in a supermarket and she was going up and down the aisle, she noticed a particular man standing behind a shopping cart, wrestling with a three-year-old boy who was screaming his head off and she was rather taken by the man’s approach. “Now easy, Albert. Settled down, Albert. Take it easy. Well, this’ll be over soon enough. We’re almost done.” She was so impressed by the father’s tenderness and patience that she stopped and she engaged him and says, “Sir, I want to commend you on the gentle way in which you are dealing with this rather difficult situation, speaking to Albert,” to which he replied, “He’s Sam. I’m Albert.”
Well, I think we get that. All right, I’m Albert. I got to control myself so that I can be tender. Do you see the tenderness involved? Notice the time involved? Kind of touched on this, but I’ll make it its own separate thought. The Greek and the grammar here is this is a present tense, bring them up. That means bring them up. It’s an ongoing process. It’s a never ending thing in that sense. It’s an imperative mood, which means it’s a command. You don’t get out of this. These are shoes God wants you to fill and it’s in the middle voice, which means it’s up to you to bring them up. It’s on you. It’s your responsibility.
But you notice the time involved, present tense, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year as you move them from doing childish things to putting away childish things, as you watch them grow in stature, wisdom, favor with man, favor with God. There are seasons to your family; infancy, childhood, youth adulthood. Now given that, that requires different skills for different seasons in the house, and what it requires most is patience. Patience. I think we’ll be influencing our children a whole lifetime, but you’ve got about 16 to 18 years to get it done and it will take that because there are different seasons and you’ll be developing them in different directions along that timeline.
Richard Coekin in his comment in Ephesians says this… This is very good. This implies, bring them up in present tense, keep bringing them up. “This implies long-term relational care.” I just think that’s a brilliant statement. Parenting requires long-term relational care and not rapid mechanistic results. Throw away the books. There’s five steps to this and 10 steps to this. Parenting 40 minutes. What? No, it’s going to take long-term relational care. There are no rapid results. There’s no easy path.
And then he says this, “It’s amazing how a monstrous four-year-old who is consistently loved and disciplined can become a charming young adult.” So look at the time, bring them up. There are stages and there are challenges to each of those stages. Some stages require more physical stamina than intellectual and emotional and spiritual stamina. Parenting is a cumulative. It’s a bit like a football game. There’s four quarters to it; infancy, childhood, youth and then into adulthood. Like every good coach, you play four quarters and you’ve got a game plan for each quarter. You tend to play the game a little bit different in the fourth quarter than you do the first. You get it.
The time involved, the tenderness involved, thirdly, the trust involved. We are to bring them up in the Lord for the Lord, right? Bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. We’re to bring them up in the Lord for the Lord because they are from the Lord. They’re yours but they’re not really, because remember according to Colossians 1:16-7, “Jesus created all things and in him all things consist, and all things are of him and to him.” You get the same thought in Romans 11:33. “So if our children are of him, we’ve got to direct them to being to him or for him.”
The best antidote to not exasperating your child is to resolve to enjoy them as a precious gift from God. We covered this some years ago in our series on the Psalms. If you’re new to the church, you might want to look that up. I think it was a sermon called Heaven Help the Home. But notice verse 3 of Psalm 127, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb, mother and father is a reward.” But God is the one who gives that reward and God is the one who gives that heritage. This is a word that means property or possession. Now, we don’t mean that in some cold sense that our children are our property. It just means they’re in your possession, they’re your stewardship, they’re your responsibility and trust. But remember this, in many ways, they are on loan from the Lord who give you them and it’s your job to shepherd and steward them to live for the one who gave you them.
Our children are a sacred trust. If you’ve got little ones, look at that little one today and remind yourself that boy or girl, they’re a gift from God and they’ve been given on loan to me by the creator of all things to do something for his glory in them with God’s help. They’ve been given to us by God that we might raise them to love the God who created them, loves them and who desires their eternal happiness in knowing them. They need to know that God loves them more than you ever can and God can bless them eternally.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer; “It is from God that parents receive their children and it is to him, they should lead them.”
Implication, as we move to the last thought, it means you can’t outsource your parenting. Middle voice, you are to bring up your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. They’re from him and they are to him, and the one who gives you them expects you to lead them back to him. As disciplers parents are irreplaceable. It is fathers and mothers who are primarily to bring their children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Churches can help, schools can help, youth groups can help, children’s ministry departments can help, friends and overnighters can help, but that is always secondary. That is always supplementary. You never get to outsource your parenting to anybody else. It’s on you.
There’s a sad example of what I’m talking about in 2 Kings 4:19, write it down, read it, lead it. It’s the story of a family that God blesses with a little boy. The father’s out working in the field. I don’t know if the little boy slips away from the mother or he’s sent, but he goes out to find his father and along the way, he gets sun stroke it would seem because he gets to his father and he’s not well, and the Bible says, “And the little boy says to his dad, ‘My head, my head, my head.'” We assume that’s sun stroke.
The boy is faint, and instead of the father picking the boy up and taking him back to the house and making sure he is okay, the father hardly takes his hand off the plow wherever he is working at, and he says to the servant, “Take him to his mother.” And the little boy is taken to the mother and led down and the little one dies. Take him to his mother, carry him. I think the old King James is to his mother. And one biblical writer says, “Isn’t that often the case, say, carry him to the scout master, carry him to the youth pastor, carry them to the pastor, carry them to the public school,” whatever the case might be. And in the best of circumstances, there’s nothing wrong with those things as supplementary, as helpful, but if you’re outsourcing your parenting to them, that’s not good because your child is a trust from you.
In fact, that same writer I’m quoting said this, and with this, we get to the last point quickly. The Protestant reformers spoken, wrote much about the priesthood of all believers and about the father being a priest in his own household. The function of a priest, as you know, is to lead people to God. So it’s a father’s responsibility, as a priest in his home, to lead his children to God.
Did you realize that for the first 250 years of Protestantism, there were no Sunday schools as we know them today, no children department in the churches? The reformation was completed in 1530, but the first Sunday school was founded in 1780 in Gloucester, England, by Robert Raikes who had a deep concern for the children in slums who received no instruction in the gospel. So the genesis of, in many ways, our children’s departments or our Sunday schools, the genesis really was we’ve got to go and find the children who have no Christian parents and give them the Christian faith. They were not started to disciple Christian parents’ children because that’s their job. And in much of Protestant tradition, the children from almost the earliest years, which was my upbringing, you just sat beside your parents.
Now, am I arguing for the abolition of the children’s departments? No, Charles’ job is safe. But I would remind you that that’s supplementary, it always should be supplementary. In fact, I’d remind you that was started for the discipling of children in the community, not Christian children. So just keep that in mind. Historically, theologically, we are being reminded, you don’t get to outsource your parent.
It brings this to the last thought as time has gone. The target, the tenderness involved, the time involved, the trust involved. The target, it’s the spiritual welfare of your child. That’s the bullseye. I thought you said pastor, we’re to develop them physically and intellectually and so so. Yes, we are. Jesus’ parents did it and I’m to do that. I’m to help my children go from childish things into adulthood and the put in away of childish things. I’m to school them in life. But my first passion, my first love is to school them in the Lord. Because look at our text, fathers bring your children up in the training and admonition of the Lord. That’s a genitive of quality. It means in the sphere of the things of Christ.
If you go back to chapter 4:20-21, Paul talks about the Ephesians being taught by Christ and in Christ. So as we close, this is the word to parents, is your focus right? Are all your energies being directed to the right end, which is the spiritual welfare of your children?
Oh, they may be doing good in sports. They may be getting a good grades at school. Great, love that. You should be doing some of that, but how are you doing on the spiritual front? How’s the family altar? Do you read with your children every day and pray with them as they go to bed? Do you, father, lead your wife and children in the study of God’s word? Do you lead your wife and children and bringing them the church on a regular basis? Because that’s your first passion. For too many parents, their focus and energies are on helping their child make the success of their life in this life. That is shortsighted, it’s flawed and it’s damaging. Yes, help them in physical health. Yes, intellectual attainment, yes, material prosperity. But don’t miss what Jesus said, “Let them come to me for such is the kingdom of heaven.” Children belong in God’s kingdom. That’s the best interest we can have as parents for them, we want them in God’s kingdom. Good parents provide for the physical, mental, and social and emotional wellbeing of their children, but the best parents care for their child’s souls.
You want to see something of that balance or kind of imbalance in terms of the spiritual over against the physical. I love 3 John 2. “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health just as your souls prosper.” Did you notice the priority there? The soul is prospering and John is saying, “Hey, I hope that you enjoy other stuff beyond salvation, but the soul’s prosperity, that’s number one.”
Father’s is your first passion to see your children saved, and then secondly, to see them sanctified, and then thirdly, to see them serving the Lord? A Christian man should never be heard saying, “I just want her to be happy and healthy.” That’s worldly, that’s not biblical, that’s shortsighted. That’s the American Dream, that’s not the kingdom of God. And yet I hear it all the time when people are describing their children, “Well, God’s been good. They’re healthy and they’re happy.” Not enough. It can never be enough. I would rather have a child that’s physically challenged living in poverty, but he loves Jesus, and some kid off in some Ivy League school, five star, making their way in this world without a thought for their eternal souls. In fact, Jesus warned us, “Better to go heaven maimed and lame than to go in to hell full-bodied.” Wow, that’s what I’m talking about.
My dad worked hard. We didn’t have everything, but we had enough, we had treats along the way and we scraped together enough to get me my first pair of DM boots when I was about 14. I lived in a tough area. My mom and dad guarded the family as best as they could from the troubles in Northern Ireland, let alone the troubles of just living in a blue collar area. Yeah, they sent us to school and got us a decent education and we’ve all thrived. I was an engineer as a police officer, I’m a pastor. My sister was the head of a children’s department in emergency room. My brother was involved in aerospace design, but I speak for Ian and Lisa and Philip. The one impression and the lasting impression I got from William and Elizabeth De Courcy was, “Son, you need to get saved. What will it profit you if you gain the world and lose your soul?”
I don’t remember that many conversations with my mother about politics and life and school, but I remember hundreds about the Bible, the gospel. For a time in my life, if you’re here as a young person, I used to dream of getting out of that house, not rebelling. I’d buy my time, do my jail sentence and get out and go and enjoy the world because there were limits into De Courcy home. The Bible was into De Courcy home. But I thank God I never exercised that thought, and in God’s goodness, I came to faith in Christ before I left the home, to their joy. I’m glad I’ve been a blessing to my father’s heart and I reflect my mother’s faith, and what I have enjoyed and what my parents have enjoyed, I wish on you and your children.
Children, obey your mother and father, receive the gospel that it might be well with you, not only in the land in which you’re living, but in the life to come. And fathers and mothers alongside those fathers, ask for an extra measure of grace not to provoke your children, but bring them up with tenderness, investing the time, understanding the trust that they are and the stewardship that God has given you, with this target that by the grace of God, your children walk in the truth for there is no greater joy.
Father, thank you for our time in the word. Time is gone, but there’s something about this message we need to linger upon. We’re celebrating our nation’s birth, but as we look out on our nation, our greatness is slipping, our health is deteriorating. We’re in trouble, and no amount of money will fix it. No amount of government programs will compensate for the breakdown of the home, for a lack of morality and theology in the life of our nation. Lord, Tony Evans is right, the nation is the family written large, and the family is fatherhood written large. Lord, help us as men, as fathers and grandfathers to be the watchmen on the wall watching over the development of our children and our grandchildren, physically, yes, materially yes, academically, yes, socially yes, but help us to focus most on their spiritual welfare. Help us to long to see them saved and sanctified and serving the Lord. That’s what it’s about. And we pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.