July 9, 2023
It Starts at Home – Part 3
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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Well take your Bible and turn to Ephesians six, verse four. This is our third message and my wife would advocate it should be the last message on verse four, but we’re going to go one more week. I am the head of my home and it’s my pulpit, and we’re going to do one more next week on discipling your children. But here’s the reason. She’s partly right. We’re now three weeks on one text and there’s a whole Bible to preach. I get it, some practical reality to that. But given the pressure on the family in America, given the attack on masculinity by the left and the liberals and just a feminized culture, I’ve decided to slow down. And so we’ll do one more study next week and next week we’ll talk about how a father should disciple his child in the gospel.
But this morning we’re looking at how a father should discipline his children. And so let’s get back to it starts at home part three. Ephesians six, verse four, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” The second grade class was asked to write about their personal heroes and the father of one of the young pupils was rather tickled and chuffed and flattered that his son had chosen to write about him. So later in the day after hearing about this and they were at home, the father took a moment and he asked his son why he had chosen him as his personal hero to which the son replied, “Because I couldn’t spell Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Now that’s funny, but what’s not so funny and what’s tragic is the reality that fewer and fewer children see their fathers as their personal hero, as the primary actor and leading man in their lives. The man who’s going to school them, the man who’s going to shape them, the man who’s going to show them the way in life. At best, fathers are turning out to be a supporting actor. They play a minor role compared to the mother. They play a minor role compared to other elements in society, peer groups and schools and social media. The average father plays a minor role in the schooling, shaping of sons and daughters. I think there’s several reasons for that.
Number one, fathers are taking themselves out of the picture because of negligence, absence, abandonment. We went over some of these figures, but I think it’s worth going back over the fact that 43% of American children live in a home without their biological father. Now just stop and let that sink in. Let’s just round that number up. Almost half the families in America have no man about the house. That does not bode well for our nation. I’m not saying forget about China and it’s threat. I’m not saying forget about terrorism and it’s threat, but we are well on our way to dying on the inside, committing societal suicide. Children with absent fathers account for 63% of youth suicides, 90% of homeless and runaway children, 71% of high school dropouts and 85% of youths sitting in prison. That’s the fallout of failure in fatherhood. One writer said this, “We are not going to raise a better class of men until we have a better class of fathers, fathers who don’t run out on their job.”
Here’s the second reason why we have this failure in fatherhood. Not only because men are taking themselves out of the picture through abandonment and absence, but fathers are being pushed out of the picture by a feminized culture that hates patriarchy. Listen to these. Just let these words fall on your ears with a certain freshness and shock. A Huffington Post blog had this title to it, Fathers Are Not Needed. Well, clearly they are given the statistics. There’s another article in the left-leaning magazine, Atlantic, “The bad news for dad is that despite common perceptions, there’s nothing objectively essential about his contribution.” A New York Times article fumes, “One of the most persistent and frustrating problems in the evolutionary biology is the male. Specifically, why doesn’t he just go away?” That’s the waters we’re swimming in culturally. A hatred for men, an attack on patriarchy and masculinity.
And then maybe I would argue fathers are taking themselves out of the picture. Fathers are being pushed out of the picture, and fathers are being replaced by government, which is rooted in a socialist worldview that wants to replace the role of the father through state programs. The state will provide childcare. The state will provide medical benefits. The state will subsidize your wages. The state will educate your children while you and your wife go to work for the state. The state will tell you what is right and wrong through its laws.
So given all of that, let’s return to our text and that’s reason enough why I’m going through this text at a snail’s pace. “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Paul encourages fathers to act as the spiritual thermostat in the home, creating an environment of white-hot love for God. Fathers are to cherish their children and correct their children and counsel their children. It’s all here. In fact, we’ve put it under four headings: a father’s danger, a father’s devotion, a father’s discipline, a father’s discipleship.
We looked at a father’s danger. Don’t provoke your children to wrath. If we’re not careful guys, we can be a negative influence on our children rather than a positive one. Then we looked last week at a father’s devotion. He’s to bring up his children in the Lord. We saw that that word bring up is the same word in Ephesians five, 29, “For nourishing your own body, lovingly caring for your own body.” So a husband is to take care of his wife the way he takes care of his body and a father is to love on his children like he takes care of himself. Fatherhood is an act of devotion. You love God and you love your children and you want your children to love God. That’s your greatest passion.
Let’s come to the third thought and this will occupy us today and we’ll pick up the fourth one next Sunday. A father’s discipline. And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up. Notice, in the training. That’s our word, training. It can be translated discipline. It embraces the idea of education in general, but it speaks more specifically to training through discipline or to training through punishment or training through enforcement of standards. This word is used in Hebrews 12, five to 11, several times of how the Lord chastens us, disciplines us, enforces his will and his standards upon our conduct.
Here we’re speaking about the kind of wisdom that is imparted when the board of education is applied to the seat of learning. Now, if you need that translated, that’s just a good old spanking. The board of education to the seat of learning. That’s what Paul’s talking about here. Now I know it’s old school and it’s under scrutiny. Today it’s banned in 60 countries around the world. Spanking, corporal punishment at home. Thankfully not yet in the United States. This is old school. It’s controversial, but it’s true. I’m going to show you this morning that corporal punishment, spanking, the physical discipline of our children is something God expects us to do, wills us to do and recommends us to do. And I’m not exaggerating when I say, you know what? Let God be true and every man a liar.
When it comes to spanking your child and discipline your child, there’s a variety of methods which we’ll get to. This is a matter of authority. This is actually a matter of belief. Do you believe God and do you submit to the authority and wisdom of his word or are you going to submit to psychology and the prevailing thought of man? Our kids are not good at first-time obedience. A duck takes to water naturally, but not children to obedience. You don’t have to train a duck to swim, but you do have to train a child to obey. We need to heed the abiding wisdom of this text and the abiding wisdom of other texts.
Here’s Paul in the New Testament following the teaching and example of the Lord Jesus Christ as his apostle, and he’s picking up a thread that’s sown throughout the Bible. Fathers train your children through the use of punishment. And he’s picking up several verses back in Proverbs. I’ll read them to you. You can write them down. And the question is, as I read these, do you truly believe this? Because it seems in many Christian homes, secular psychology is replacing biblical theology. This is a question of trusting the wisdom of God expressed in the Bible. Here’s the wisdom of God. Paul is picking up this thread, Proverbs 13, verse 24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”
Let’s go to Proverbs 22, verse 15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” The word foolishness there has got a moral tone to it. Whenever you read the word fool or foolishness in the Book of Proverbs, we’re not talking about childish pranks or childish failures. We’re talking about a bent against God. The fool has said in his heart there is no God. This is a foolishness that’s bound up in the heart of our child. It’s rebellion. It’s an unwillingness to submit to God’s will, and your child is born with that bias. Your child is born with that bent. We’ll get to that. And the Bible says this, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. The rod of correction will drive it far from him.”
Proverbs 23, verse 13, “Do not withhold correction from a child for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.” And then finally, Proverbs 29, verse 15. There are other verses. This is just a selection. “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself shall shame his mother.” 60 nations don’t believe that. Even Israel today bans spanking, but we believe it and we would rather obey God than man. So with that said, let’s look at the issue of discipline, training up our children through enforcement and punishment. Let’s look at the issue of corporal punishment. We’re going to look at its theology, its techniques and its timing along the way. And what I’ve done, I’ve just come up with a list of things I want you to think through and I’ll root them in the word of God. Let’s begin our thinking about discipline.
Number one, this is key, foundational. You’ve got to believe it’s necessary. You’ve got to convince yourself that spanking has a place along with other methods of punishment in your child’s life. See, spanking is rooted in a theology and the theology is the fallenness of man, the depravity of the human heart. Your children are not good, they’re bad. They have a bias and a bent that given time and opportunity will mushroom and express itself in really bad behavior unless curbed and eventually subdued by the love of Jesus Christ. There are people that they don’t believe that. You know why they don’t believe in spanking? Because they don’t believe their children are falling. They don’t believe their children have a sin nature. They don’t believe their children have a bent towards evil, and that’s because that kind of thinking has been eradicated by modern psychology.
Even in the culture, psychology has trumped theology in so many levels. Go back many years ago. If there’s a national tragedy 20, 30 years ago, they call ministers of the gospel, they call rabbis, they call religious leaders. Today when there’s a tragedy they call who? Therapists, psychologists. Now I’m not saying all aspects of psychology are wrong. There can be some helpful studies. Sometimes the children of darkness can be wiser than the children of light. There’s common grace. I get that. But just as a baseline, psychology has superseded theology in the culture and I fear even in the church. And especially in this area of parenting and spanking.
Now I’m painting with broad strokes. Psychology teaches a high view of man and that salvation is found through love of self. Theology has a low view of man and teaches that salvation is found in self-denial. Salvation is found in faith, in the self-emptying, Christ who died on the cross for our sins. I hope you understand this. Our children do not come to us as a clean slate or a blank canvas. They are not innocents who may be corrupted. No, they come with the seeds of sin and the seeds of self-destruction within. They’re born with a sin nature transmitted through Adam across the human race. Your child is a natural-born sinner. Your child sins because he’s a sinner. He’s not a sinner because he was born innocent and then sins.
You want a couple of verses? Psalm 51, verse five, David says, reflecting on his own sin of adultery, “I was born in sin and I was shapen in iniquity.” That’s not a verse about pregnancies outside of wedlock. That’s a verse that says as man is put together, a woman is put together in the womb, they inherit, there is imputed to them Adam’s sin nature. They come out of the womb backwards against God. I remember reading a quote by Denzel Washington and he used that image and it stuck with me, “We come out of the womb backwards.”
Psalm 58, verse three, “From the womb we go astray.” Just get this down and add it into your parenting. Romans five, verse 12, “By one man, Adam, sin came into the world, and death by sin, and death passed on to all men for all have sin.” We need to grasp that your child is born a sinner. Your child is born in a state of opposition towards God. They look cute and pink and they look cute and blue. But you’ve got to look beyond that and you’ve got to understand in loving this child, you’ve got to curb their sin nature. They are moral delinquents and they will show themselves to be that without restraint. You and I we’re not sinners because we sin. We sin because we’re sinners. That’s why our sin nature needs curbing, needs restraining until it is cleansed in regeneration and racking dead in union with Jesus Christ.
Listen to these verses again, back to this idea. You have got to believe in the necessity of training your child through enforcement because your child is born with a nature that needs curbing. They’re not innocent and can be corrupted. They’re corrupted, they’re not innocent. Listen to Proverbs 19, verse 18. Listen to this language of parenting, “Chasten your son while there is hope, do not set your heart on his destruction.” What’s the inference of that text? If you don’t curb their sin nature, you are setting them up for destruction. You’re failing to see that they have inherited a sin nature that is in rebellion against God, that’s in love with itself, that will do damage to others unless it is curbed.
Again Proverbs 22, verse 15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” Your child comes laden with foolishness, moral corruption. It’s in their heart and the rod will drive it far from them. Maybe one more. Proverbs 29, verse 15, “The rod and the rebuke give wisdom,” but notice, “A child left to himself bring shame to his mother.” Are we not seeing that played out? I saw it on an airplane from Portland. You’ll see it in the checkout at Target or wherever. You’re watching children who are being left to themselves. You’re watching parents that are frightened to lay their hands on their children. I watched a mother exhaustively entertain a precocious and sinful little three-year-old girl who yapped the whole way from Portland to Orange County. And she had a bag of tricks in her purse and she tried this and she tried that. It was candy at one point, it was an iPod at another point. I watched the father restrain the child for a bit, a split second and then let the child run up and down the aisle. Sad. It’s like the child was left to itself. There’s no fear of God, no fear of authority.
Listen to this statement by Andreas Kostenberger in his book Essential Parenting, “Don’t base your parenting on utopia.” It’s a good statement because that’s where psychology has taken us, utopia. Your child has got so much potential, they don’t have enough self-esteem. Let them alone. And then you know what? Before long, you’ll have a Mozart at the piano and you’ll have a Ronaldo on the soccer pitch. No, don’t parent out of utopia, parent out of realism. Certainly wish the best for your child. Give them every opportunity that providence that God presents. But you need to remember, your child has an endemic nature that will destroy them and damn them unless confronted, curbed, and eventually conquered in Jesus Christ.
Okay, let’s move on. Number two, start early. So you’ve got to believe in the necessity of corporal punishment and number two, you’ve got to start early. Here we’ve got Proverbs 13, verse 24, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly or early.” In fact, the Hebrew here is early dawn. What an interesting concept. Now, Solomon doesn’t mean that if you’re going to spank your child, do it before breakfast. That’s not the point of the text. It just means promptly, early. Get down to the business. As soon as you see your child able to recognize right from wrong and choosing wrong, as soon as you see your child willfully disobeying you, it’s time to start enforcing punishment. And there’ll be different methods to do that. We’ll get to that. But don’t wait as Adrian Rogers said, for most parenting is 20 years and 200 pounds too late. Start early. Do it even though your child is a sinner and the seeds of destruction lie within. Nevertheless, when they’re young, their characters and their wills are more pliable. It’s the time to work hard. It’s exhausting, mother, I know. It’s challenging, father, when you come home from work, I know, but it’s worth it. Those early years are tough, but if you sow, you’ll reap a harvest from that.
Let me give you an example of what we’re talking about here. Start early. First Samuel two, verse 12. We’ve got the tragic story of Eli and his sons. And Eli’s sons were priests in the tabernacle and they were worthless, they were wicked. They had sex with women who came to worship God and then they took parts of the sacrifice that belonged to God. These were wicked evil men and God judges them. God punishes them. God disciplines them. First Samuel three, verse 13. And here’s what God says to Eli, “For I told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the inequity which he knew because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.” He knew but didn’t do anything about it.
But hold on a minute. What about First Samuel two, verse 25? Eli does challenge his sons. He does warn them of the dangers of flaunting God’s law. Here’s what that text says. “If one man sins against another,” says Eli to his sons, “God will mediate for him. But if he sins against the Lord, who can intercede? But they would not listen to the voice of their father.” Is God being hard on Eli? Lord, what is it? You said he didn’t rebuke them, but according to that text he did. Here’s our assumption and I think the text burns it out. He rebuked them way too late, by this stage they were a young men. Rebellious, worthless, godless, profaning, the worship of God. And you’ve got this token rebuke from a man who didn’t rebuke early enough and often enough.
Okay, number three, be clear, convincing and consistent. It’s a simple thought, but when it comes to the rules you want enforced mean what you say. Say what you mean. And if you threaten punishment, deliver on the promise. That’s the only way you’re going to get consistent effect from this biblical pattern of parenting. And let me ask you this, is God’s commandments clear, convincing and consistent? When you read the 10 Commandments, are you in any doubt of what they mean? They’re pretty simple, pretty clear. And in God actually in giving the commandments in Deuteronomy 28, he has enforcement of the commands. He says, hey, if you’ll do it, I’ll bless you if you don’t do it, I’ll curse you. And here’s all the curses. And if you read your Old Testament, God kept his promise. So the simple point is this, at home with your children, state the guidelines. So frustrating for children if they don’t know what’s up and what’s down, what’s wrong and what’s right, where the rule book goes through many different revisions and additions.
Don’t do that to them at a certain age and stage. Make your guidelines clear. Let the children know what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable and then let them know what the consequences are for failing. And when you draw a red line, make sure you follow through when they cross it. Don’t lead your home like President Obama led the country because if you study his presidency and even what’s going on today in the Ukraine, Obama did red lines in Crimea and in famously in Syria and each red line was transgressed without punishment. And military strategists and political observers would argue today, we have got Russia and Ukraine because we did nothing when Russia went into Crimea. So those are the famous red lines of Obama, but there was no teeth, no punishment, no penalty. And what’s true politically is true parentally. You let that happen and more will happen in a negative sense.
Although, this is probably more to do with civil punishment than corporal punishment. Nevertheless, the principle abides, and we’re watching it today in LA and we’re watching it in so many cities where DAs are not punishing. What does Ecclesiastes eight, verse 11 say? Maybe a wider context, but we can narrow it to parenting, “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily. The heart of the sons of man is fully set on doing evil.” You let a criminal go with a slap on the wrist, nine times out of 10, he’ll go and do it again and he’ll do something worse. Now, punishment must be speedy and real, and that ought to be true in our parenting. A lady seen a little boy struggling to reach a doorbell, lifted him up and he pushed it several times. And then the lady said, “Well, what now?” To which he replied, “Let’s run like crazy.” And many parents go about their business with the what now approach, what now?
Now, think it through as husband and wife, father and mother, what are the standards you want? What does the Bible ask? What is the behavior? How do you want your children to address their mother? What kind of behavior will be unacceptable? Make that all clear. Draw some red lines and then be clear, convincing and consistent with regards to those. Let’s keep going. Use various methods, and I’m talking a lot about corporal punishment. We’re going to come back to that, but I want to be very clear and be very balanced. The Bible encourages various methods. Discipline is not a one string fiddle, it’s not a one size fits all. And I think there was a day, and some of us bristle a little bit when we addressed this issue because we were on the wrong end of very strict fathers who overused corporal punishment. I get it, but two wrongs, don’t make a right.
That father may have been wrong, but your rejection of corporal punishment is wrong also. Two wrongs, don’t make a right, don’t overreact. And the Bible’s very balanced. It gives you several methods of discipline. I’ll go through some of these. Steve Lawson and others have helped me with this. Number one, verbal correction, rebuke. Just a good tongue wagging with some authority in the voice. And the child knows from past experience dad is not messing, what he says he means and what he means he says. That would be Proverbs 29, verse 15, “The rod and rebuke.” Rebuking a child, scolding a child verbally has got its place. In fact, God’s word is God speaking to us. And according to Second Timothy three, verse 18, part of God’s words prophet is it corrects us, it rebukes us. Number two, withholding privileges. I think this especially works later on when maybe spanking isn’t as appropriate, but you know what? The removal of driving privileges or not going to the ball game or whatever, that all has its place.
Moses in Numbers 20, verses one to 12, he messes up and God withholds a privilege. He doesn’t get to enter into the promised land. Number three, natural consequences. Galatians six, verse seven, what a man sows that shall he reap. What a child sows that shall he reap. Let them stew in their own juices, let them deal with the consequences of their own bad behavior. Number four, isolation. And there’s a place for that, can’t be overdone. But we see that in church discipline where a person doesn’t respond to the loving correction of a church and its pastors, then they are to be treated like a public and they’re to be disfellowshiped. And certainly if there’s any sense of repentance, you bring them back in unless we add sorrow to sorrow.
But if the NFL have some sin bins, you need to have a sin bin where you confine your child in the room. And that doesn’t mean by the way you let them kick the door and bang the walls. You’re looking good behavior even in the bedroom that’s become the sin bin. Number five, added work. Make them pay for their misbehavior through added work. That would be Hebrews four, verse three where Israel disobeyed God in the wilderness and they ended up in the wilderness. And it says in Hebrews four, verse three, they did not enter into the rest. And in number six, spanking. That would be Proverbs 13, 24. But you see the various methods. I do want to be balanced. When I was with Freddie McLaughlin in Northern Ireland, that was a phrase he often used to say to me, Philip, “blessed are the balanced”. And blessed is the child and blessed is the parent who’s balanced.
Where these various methods are used at different times in different ways for different children given the different circumstances, use all these means at your disposal. Henry Ford famously said of the model T that you can have it in any color so long as it was black. Well, when it comes to discipline, God offers a variety of options. Stop choosing black. I’d even say that to a father, stop going quickly to corporal punishment. And here’s a thought tied to this. Here’s another thought. New heading. Let your discipline be age appropriate and child specific, age appropriate and child specific. It’s not a one size fits all. You’ve got a variety of methods. Let’s look at Proverbs 29, verse 15, “The rod and the rebuke give wisdom.” Now look at the combination. It’s not the rod without rebuke and it’s not rebuke without the rod. It’s using these different methods at different ages and even tailored to certain children.
I think you know that we ought to apply various punishments for various degrees of disobedience in various stages in a child’s development. Just as you would not use a cannon to kill a mosquito, don’t overdo your discipline. Use what’s available to you, the options you have, use them wisely. Be child specific. I think all of our children are sinners. They’ve all got a fallen nature. They’re all totally depraved. But remember totally depraved doesn’t mean that we will live out all the aspects of our sinful potential. It just means that all of our faculties and everything about us is being tainted and scarred and polluted by sin. And so different children will express their sin nature in a different way. Some are a little bit more sensitive to mom and dad’s leadership and law and some are not. You’ve got a child maybe in the family and all you need to do is look at them or give them a little bit of a verbal scolding and they melt like snow in the spring and then you got that other child.
You’ve got the boy who was up in bed and shouted down to his father, “Dad”, and the father shouted, “What?” And he said, “I’m thirsty. Can you bring me a drink of water?” And the father shouted, “No, you had your chance. Get to sleep. Turn the light out.” Five minutes later, “Dad”. “What?”, “I’m thirsty, can I have a drink?” “Now I told you no, and if you ask again, I’m going to discipline you.” Five minutes later, “Dad”. “What?” “When you come up to discipline me, would you bring me a drink?” We’ve all got that child. And so hey, you’re going to as a wise parent, given the various methods, you’re going to look at your children and just you know them and what works best with them. Your discipline should be child specific and it should be age appropriate.
In a very good book called Essential Parenting by Andreas Kostenberger on this issue of age appropriate, he says this, “It may seem obvious, but while discipline should be consistent, the form of discipline will likely change depending on the age of the child or young person. Well, you may choose to physically discipline a small child in love, not anger or use timeout or loss of privilege for children a little older yet still young. Parenting older children will typically involve more reasoning and interaction, maybe the use of the loss of privilege, no basketball shoes or no family car use. The important lesson here is that while we need to encourage a mindset of consistent accountability and discipline, the way we exercise these will need adaptation and appreciation.” That’s good. Look, I’m not a big baseball fan at all. It’s the one American sport I haven’t got into, sorry, but I think I’ve learned this much having watched the boring Five O’s down at the Angel Stadium.
I’ve learned this much that the pitcher, I was almost going to say bowler, but that’s another sport. The pitcher, he uses different throws. He mixes them up, he’s got a fast ball, he’s got to change up, he’s got a slider, a curve ball, a knuckle ball. It’s pretty good, isn’t it? For a guy that doesn’t know the game. Actually you can find anything on the internet. So he’ll use all these different throws because it depends on who’s up at the plate or who’s next up at the plate, or the swing of the batter. They’ve done all their research, they’ve done all their homework. And you know what? When it comes to parenting, there needs to be a change up. You need to use all these various methods and you need to use them age appropriate and child specific. And probably a little footnote to that, maybe a separate heading, distinguish between immaturity and defiance.
If you’re going to get into the weeds of age appropriate and child specific, make sure also that you’re distinguishing between immaturity and defiance. You’ll need to be discerning in what method to apply and you need to be discerning as to whether the act was worthy of punishment. We touched on this about provoking children. Paul said, “When I was a child, I acted like a child and then I grew up and put away that childish nonsense.” Well, that’s maturity, it takes time. It’s different stages. In the early years, your child will do childish things and those are not necessarily punishable. It’s just them being a child or being ignorant or being underdeveloped. What we are talking about is recognizing the difference between childish foolishness, which should just be dealt with patience and [inaudible 00:37:56] instruction, with moral foolishness. Defiance, the foolishness we talked about in Proverbs 22, verse 15, foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.
Merrill Unger of Dallas Theological Assembly says, “That is the willful ignorance ingrained in the fallen nature.” That’s your child willfully not listening. Willfully defying your orders. We need to know the difference. On the one hand, immaturity, childishness. That’s what Steve Farrar in his book, the Anchorman calls the law of juice. I’ll not get into the depths of it, but he basically says this is a natural law that every parent realizes at some point. And so every father or mother goes down to the grocery store and wants to buy a pint of orange juice or apple juice. Just buy two because the law of juice tells you you’re going to lose one of them at the dining room table as the kid reaches for the ketchup. That’s not a punishable offense, that’s just a child learning motor skills. It’s childishness. It’s just part of their development.
It’s not what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about is a child that defies, the child that deliberately won’t eat their food, defies the behavior you’d like to see around the table. Susanna Wesley, John Wesley’s mother, she raised 17 children. Give that woman a prize. Two of her children, John and Charles, famous Methodist leader and a songwriter. John asked his mother later in life, “Mom, given what you’ve done and I see the fruit of your parenting in my life, you need to write about it.” And here’s what she said about this issue, and she distinguishes between immaturity and defiance and she comes down really heavy on defiance. Listen to her. “Whenever a child is corrected, it must be conquered, and this will be no hard matter to do if it be not growing headstrong by too much indulgence.” Basically the earlier you start and the earlier you conquer the will, the better. Becomes easier.
She goes on. “And if the will of a child is totally subdued, and if it is brought to revere and stand in awe of the parent in a great many childish follies and advertence may be passed by, some should be overlooked and taken no notice of and others mildly rebuked, but…” Big, but… “No willful transgressions ought to be ever forgiven without chastisement, more or less as the nature and circumstances of the offense shall be required.” It’s good stuff and I think you know it. If you’re alert and you’re not a sleepy parent, you’ll know when they’re really being defiant and at that point, you know what? It’s a gun fight at the O.K. Corral. That’s the moment to draw the red line and deal with it. Don’t crush the child, but conquer the child, conquer their self will, the little fallen Adam on the inside trying to get out of John.
Let’s move on. Young people, you’ll love this one. Inflict pain, inflict suffering, inflict hurt. Do I need to qualify? I’ll qualify it anyway. We’re not talking about child abuse. We’re not talking about uncontrolled anger and violence inflicted upon a child in an unloving manner. That’s wrong, that’s criminal. Ban that, deal with that. But what we are talking about is a level of punishment that is hurtful and painful. Listen to these words and I’ll root my thinking here in Proverbs 23, 13 to 14, “Do not withhold correction from a child and if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.” Now they give you the impression they’re going to die. When you start to apply corporal punishment, your child will turn into an A-grade Hollywood actor and you’ve got to work your way through that. And you can’t afford to become weak at the knees. Again, with that qualification. The beating, the spanking, the enforcement through physical punishment needs to take place in a manner that hurts.
Hebrews 12, verse 11 says that “God’s chastening is not enjoyable at the moment but painful, but it does bring about a harvest of righteousness.” Maybe one other verse, and I think this is probably more to do with criminal punishment than corporal punishment, but there’s a principle, “Blows that hurt, cleanse away evil.” A slight slap on the wrist won’t do it. A swat on the rear end with two pairs of pants on won’t do it. Modern child psychology with its bloated self-esteem and denial of a fallen sinful nature has made Christian parents squeamish about inflicting pain and punishment. But while we are told that spanking is harmful, the Bible will tell us the neglect of it is even more harmful. Proverbs 19, 18 warns us as parents, “Chasing your son while there’s hope.” Start early. Don’t be 200 pounds, 20 years late. But notice also, “And do not set your heart on their destruction.”
The Bible’s warning us as parents, you don’t believe this, you don’t do this, you don’t implement this. You’re setting your heart on your child’s destruction. Temporal pain for the curbing of their sin nature and their drive in them and they’re understanding to the holiness of God. And then the reconciliation between a child and the parent that models the gospel, that temporal pain is better than eternal pain in their rejection of God because you didn’t teach them and train them. Better the parent inflicts hurt than the government. In fact, in Israel, in a theocracy, the child that wasn’t disciplined and the child that didn’t submit to the discipline ultimately was stoned to death because they became little delinquents and criminals. Better the parent inflict pain than the state. Better the parent inflict pain than God do it. Temporarily or eternally. I like what Steve Farrar likens discipline to. He calls it soul inoculation.
My daughter Angela took my precious little two and a half year old granddaughter, Lily, to the doctor. We inflicted pain, allowed the doctor to stick this big needle in that little girl’s arm and she cried a little and we’re told that it could hurt for a while. But do we grimace at that? Is that wrong that a parent would take a child for a painful inoculation? No, it’s better than the measles and the mumps or whatever they’re being inoculated against, but that’s what discipline is. It’s soul inoculation. It’s protecting the child against further harm. Self-inflicted or the evil one who runs rampant in their lives. The puritans had a statement, better whipped and damned. That doesn’t fall nicely on our ears today. Maybe the word whipped, better spanked than damned, better punished temporally than punished eternally.
But that’s what’s at stake. Foolishness is in your child’s heart and it needs to be driven away. You don’t discipline your child, then you’re setting up their destruction. Richard Mather, one of the New England Puritans challenged parents in his day to envision the day of judgment. And imagine a child without Christ being banished from the presence of God and he imagines on the day of judgment, parents being addressed by children who are not disciplined or loved or corrected. Here’s what these children might say about the fact that they’re about to be driven from the presence of God. All this that we here suffer is through you. You should have taught us the things of God and did not. You should have restrained us from our sin and correct us and you did not. You were the means of our original corruption and guiltiness, and yet you never showed any competent care that we might be delivered from it. Woe unto us that we had such carnal and careless parents and woe unto you that you had no more compassion and pity to prevent the everlasting misery of your own children.
You say pastor, is that what’s at stake in disciplining your children? Yes, to a degree that’s what’s at stake as you teach them right from wrong, as you become a servant of God and administering punishment for sin because that’s what God does and God will do. And as you do it in an act of love and later on reconcile to that child and embrace them, you’re teaching them the gospel. Let me finish with this thought, picking up that little thought. We must be forward-looking. This is a good thought to finish on. We must be forward-looking in our discipline. We must discipline in faith believing God’s word to be true. We must discipline in love because we love our child enough to discipline them, understanding what’s at stake, and we discipline and hope. We may not see immediate results, but we discipline in the hope that there will be an accumulation of a fact. And God will even take our fallen and weak efforts to discipline and disciple our children and then in his power and his grace, bring about a spiritual transformation. Listen to the words of Hebrews 12, verse 11 as we close. This is where I got this thought. Hebrews 12, 11, “Now I know chastening seems to be joyful for the present.” The child doesn’t enjoy it and the parent doesn’t enjoy it.
That ought to be true. I know children don’t believe it when we say this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. In fact, as a parent said that to a little boy he said, “Yeah, but it’s just in different places”. But it’s true and it’s not joyful in the moment it’s taking place, it’s painful. Nevertheless, notice this word, afterward. Beyond that moment, looking forward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness in those who are being trained by it. I quoted Andreas Kostenberger, “In administering discipline we don’t want to be past oriented what just happened because we can’t change the past. We don’t want to be stuck in the present. Will our child ever learn? What have I done wrong as a parent? Rather, we should adopt the forward-looking point of view which focuses on our children’s growth in character and in God’s work in their lives and learning the parent according to this end.” I like that.
And if you’re in the trenches and you’re doing the hard work of parenting and something of the bitter and blessed work of discipline, look forward to a harvest. Maybe that’s even a word to a parent today who’s got a prodigal child and you did the hard work and you loved them and you disciplined them and they’re being wayward. Maybe there’s still a harvest to be reaped from all that good and hard work you did. The fruit of respect and honor, that’s what we’re looking for. The fruit of temporal deliverance as we protect our child from self-destruction, that’s what we’re looking for. And the fruit of gospel appreciation and acceptance, that’s what we’re looking for because as you and I discipline our children, we’re teaching our children that they have sinned against us and sin must be confronted. And for the sake of God’s glory and their good, it must be punished.
But when we do that and we do it well and we represent God well in the process, we also cause them to think that they have sinned against God. And hopefully they’ll be thinking about, well, what is God’s punishment? And that gives us opportunity to remind them that God wants to reconcile with them and God has loved them in Jesus Christ and he will not deal with them according to their sin or reward them according to their iniquity. As the team comes up, I remember a few years back, pastor Doyle and myself were addressing our young mothers on a Friday morning on this very issue of disciplining and dealing with bad behavior. And I remember Dave went through a list of things to do regarding discipline. It was excellent, it was biblical. And then he shocked the room, or he caused a moment when he said, “And one of the other things to do is not to do it.”
And we go, “What?” One of the things to do is not to do it. And he shared how once in a while when his boys have acted badly and they deserve the punishment and they’re expecting the punishment based on past behavior, David forgoes the punishment. And he uses that as a moment to teach the gospel that the God whose wrath we deserve has withheld it in Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ has taken our spanking, our punishment, that which we deserved. And God offers us forgiveness and reconciliation. That’s a good little word. Don’t be over generous in that principle, but maybe once in a while, once in a moment, pick a moment and remove the punishment and teach the child that the God who deserves to punish us in an act of grace, punished his son and removed the offense. How glorious is that God and how wonderful is his gospel?
Father, thank you for our time in the word. I especially pray for the men before me this morning and listening to this message or broadcast that this will challenge us. Lord, help us not to take ourselves out of the picture through absence and abandonment and laziness and neglect. Help us not to yield or surrender in the war against men in our culture. Lord, we thank you for the role of the government, but the role of the government is never to replace the home. So help us to exercise government in our own home, take charge of our children and watch over their souls. On the one hand, they are made in your image and they’re beautiful and they have value. On the other hand, they’re in the likeness of Adam and they’re born in sin. And unless that sin is curbed and eventually cleansed in Christ and subdued in the work of the spirit, destruction will be their end, and hell will be their destiny.
Lord, help us to be gospel-centered in our parenting. Help us to be balanced. Help us to be loving. Help us to be fiercely firm. Lord, we’re someone’s child this morning and we thank you for loving parents, not abusive parents, but loving parents that disciplined us, curbed our behavior, set boundaries. We thank you we’re better for it and we’re more successful for it. And we thank you that even that that became a model of why we needed to reconcile ourselves to a God we had offended. So Lord, we thank you for your word. We’ve gone a little long this morning, but eternity is long, parenting is long. Help us to take this message to heart for Jesus’ sake. Amen.