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April 17, 2011
Keeping Dennis From Becoming A Menace – Part 1
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Proverbs 22:6

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


The series That Makes Good Sense teaches from the book of Proverbs on the essential nature of godly wisdom to live life well. The series reminds believers that wisdom is about choosing to live rightly, righteously, and timely so that God is honored in all areas of life.

More From This Series


Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Verse 15, “Foolishness is bind up in the heart of a child. The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Trust that God will bless his word and by his spirit cause us to be equipped onto every good work. Number of years ago, a member of the British royal family, Edward Duke of Windsor, visited America for the first time. Upon returning to London after a lengthy visit, an English reporter asked him to name him the most amazing thing he saw in America. Without hesitation, Edward Duke of Windsor said, quote, “The way the parents obey the children. That’s the most amazing thing I saw in America.” As I reflected on that story, I think that statement uttered about a generation ago was probably more of a generalization than a fact then.
But further a fraction brings me to conclude that sadly today it’s more like the truth and nothing but the truth. If you’ve traveled on a plane recently and little Johnny has kicked you the whole way from Detroit to KA, then you know what I’m talking about. If you stood in a checkout line in one of the local Kroger’s stores here and had to dance because little Billy is pulling the canned goods off the counter on the floor and his mom is pulling her hair out because she doesn’t know what to do with him, then you know what I’m talking about. And sadly, increasingly, those who work with children and youth in church and find those young people to be unruly and unmannerly, being so rude as not to listen or set a peace, then they know what I’m talking about for. The sad fact is this, that children are out of control because children are in control.
Children in greater numbers today in our culture are not listening. Their consciences seem to be asleep. They have no respect for their elders. They show no manners towards others. In fact, just a week or two ago, Jen and I and the girls were up at the Birch Run shopping at lats and we were getting into one of the girls’ favorite shops, Aeropostale, and I saw a young man about 12 years of age coming in behind us and so I decided to stop. My family got in before me and I held the door open for him and he walked through without even saying thank you. I felt like just kicking him in the pants. This kid thought he was going to be the next governor. Why should he respect me? He doesn’t respect his parents and he doesn’t respect them. Why should he respect anybody else?
Felt like can run a store by tripping them up behind some pile of clothes, but I can restrain myself and basically prayed for the kid, probably prayed more for myself. Children are out of control because children are in control. You see, if we want to be honest, disobedient, delinquent kids are the result of permissive, pushover parents. That’s the bottom line. Parents who have surrendered their will to the will of the child, parents who have lost their nerve to exercise any kind of authority or physical discipline. Children are acting like devils today. Do you want to know why? Because a generation of parents in America have made the huge mistake of treating them like gods from the day they were born.
In fact, I came across an article in my study. It was a 2004 cover piece of Newsweek magazine. It was entitled The Power of No and the story bemoaned the effects of permissive parenting. They cited a survey that showed that children could expect to ask their parents nine times for something new and then the parents would give in. Parents are spending more and more for non-essential items for their children. That kind of spending in 1997 amounted to $17.6 billion in 2004, $53.8 billion. There’s an old statement, spare the rod, spoil the child.
In America today, we’re sparing the rod and we’re spoiling the child. That’s just the bottom line. If you don’t see it, you’re blind or you don’t go to the mall or shop at Kroger’s or whatever. You probably are not a school teacher to boot. In fact, we can identify with the teacher who resigned from the school with this letter and these words, quote, “The teachers are afraid of the principals, the principals are afraid of the school board, the school board is afraid of the parents, the parents are afraid of the children. But the whole trouble is that children are afraid of nobody.”
A truer word never said. That’s why I want to come to the book of Proverbs, because in an upside down world, this side of the fall, we need to be careful and prayerful as Christians lest we get things back to front in an upside down world. It may be true of the culture that parents obey the children, but God says it ought not to be true of the church. In the church, the children ought to obey the parents. The church, the culture, our children desperately need parents to step up and stand over their children, to exercise tough love, to set limits and keep them despite the moaning and the groaning. In fact, don’t let the moaning and the groaning go on. To take responsibility for their behavior to train up the kids in the way that they should go, not the way they would go or could go.
Proverbs 22:6, we read it, “Train up, dedicate your child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Over in Ephesians 6:4, we’re told to, “Bring up our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.” It’s time for parents to direct, develop and discipline their children for the holiness of the church, for the good of society, for the wellbeing of the child and for the glory of God. It’s that time because if we don’t do it soon it’s going to be too late. Remember, the family preceded the nation, the government and the church. The strength of a nation, the health of a church depends upon the sanctity and the spirituality of the home. That’s why the book of Proverbs is so good. I know you’re enjoying it because many of you’ve told me. And this book’s going to help us in our homes. Turn with me to Proverbs 24:3-4. Listen to these words. “Through wisdom, a house is built, and by understanding it is established. By knowledge, the rooms are filled with all precious and unpleasant riches.”
I’m not going to get instructed about my home and that which I ought to do from the television or from secular psychologists or sociologists. No, I’m going to build my home through the wisdom shared on the pages of God’s word and especially here in the book of Proverbs. This is a book addressed to families. Remember in our introduction so many weeks ago, we saw that the motif, my son or my sons is mentioned over 27 times in this book? This book probably was written by Solomon and a multiplicity of authors to the young emerging leaders in Israel. And they’re writing to them in the court and telling them how they ought to behave at home and abroad and it had a wider application. This is a book that gives insight in how to praise and raise your child for your good and for God’s glory. And so, it’s going to answer for us this morning and next Sunday morning, how to keep Dennis from becoming a menace.
So I’m going to slow down, take my time and we’ll look at this very important subject of how to keep Dennis from becoming a menace and the book of Proverbs is going to help us greatly. Now, let me give you a warning. This message and its application is not for the fainthearted. Because if you hear God this morning from his word and you leave this auditorium to live it out, I’ll guarantee you you’re on a collision course with society. You may be even on a collision court with your parents or your relatives because this book will have you swimming upstream. When I talk today and next week about physical discipline, corporal punishment, the society will conclude that you and I are either archaic or barbaric. But remember, the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world.
Remember not to allow yourself to be pressed into the mold of our society when you set out to shape the soul of your child. Don’t be conformed to this world. Let the book of Proverbs renew your mind and help you, especially as a young parent or as a grandparent to parents. Let this book instruct you and guide you. It will and you’ll be glad for listening to it. In fact, our society is challenging Christians to think differently. In fact, some of us may have even come out of a background where we were physically abused by an angry father. And I want you to know that when I talk about physical discipline or corporal punishment, I am in no way endorsing child abuse and I am in no way endorsing unnecessary discipline out of an angry heart.
And I would say to you, if that was your background, you’re going to be tempted out of fear not to do what God tells you to do. Don’t make that mistake. Don’t look to your earthly father. Look to your heavenly Father. He will help you be a good father and be fair and firm with your children. Because ultimately, this issue will be an issue of authority and trust. Whose authority are you going to listen to? God’s or man’s? The word of God or Oprah, Dr. Phil, secular psychology. And it’s ultimately an issue of trust.
Are you going to trust God to go against the culture, not to float like a dead fish on the current, but to swim upstream and do what he’s called you to do and trust him that in the end it’s good for your children and to his glory? Well, let’s get going then. One thing, there’s actually four. I’ll outline it. We’re only going to get as far as the first one. We’re going to look at the basis of discipline. Then next week we’ll look at the beginning of discipline, the balance of discipline and the blessing of discipline. But I want to spend my time here this morning on the basis of discipline. The book of Proverbs is very clear about the fact that both parents need to exercise, listen, their God-given responsibility to get involved in the correcting and the directing of their children.
Go back to Proverbs 1:8-9. Proverbs 1:8-9, we’ll see a reference to both parents. This is just one of many verses, I’m just giving you this one, instructing both parents to get involved in the discipline and the development of the child. Mom and dad need to work together aggressively and actively. “My son, hear the instruction of your father and do not forsake the law of your mother for they will be a graceful ornament on your head and chains about your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood, let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause. Let us swallow them alive like Sheol and the hole like those who go down to the pit. My son, do not walk in the way of them.” Here’s one example of many reinforced in the New Testament in a passage like Ephesians 6:1-4 where parents need to work together aggressively and actively in the disciplining and in the correcting and in the shaping of their children.
That is their God-given responsibility. It is their God-given duty. It is their privilege and it is their burden. On the other side, children need to exercise their God-given duty to take responsibility for accepting that God directed discipline from the parent. And they’ve got to accept it outwardly and they’ve got to accept it inwardly. Proverbs 10:1 is just one verse I’ll refer to on this addressed to children. “The proverbs of Solomon, a wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” When a mom and dad set out to develop and discipline their child, that child has got to listen to mom and dad, not bring grief but gladness, through their acceptance of what their parents are doing in God’s name. And I want to underscore that what their parents are doing in God’s name. Because who gives the parent the right to discipline?
This is a question that’s being asked in our society and the answer to it biblically is God does, the word of God does, the spirit of God does. God has placed the parents over the children and under their care. The state or government does not endow this responsibility to the parent. And likewise, it cannot remove the right of that responsibility from the parent for it comes from God himself. Therefore, no state should allow a child to divorce his parents. Therefore, no state has the right to ban forms of just loving and fair discipline within the home. Just as God established the authority of the government, he established the authority of the home. In fact, remember what we said by way of introduction, the home preceded government by implication. The government is there for the home to provide liberty and life, security of property and person, and to protect those inalienable rights that God has endowed to His creation. That’s the role of the government. Nothing more, nothing less. And God has empowered the government to do that.
But he has also empowered the home and put the mantle of responsibility upon the shoulders of mum and dad to discipline little Johnny and little Julie. And just as there is a proper separation of powers between church and state, there ought to be a proper separation of powers between home and state. A few years back, Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote a book entitled, It Takes a Village to Raise a Child. No, it doesn’t. That’s a sociological perspective on our homes. It is not the government’s role or society’s role. It is mom and dad’s role. Grandma and grandpa’s role. It is the family together that bear the responsibility to raise the child, not the village.
A loving neighbor is a great asset to a family and sometimes the government can lend aid to the development of the home. But fundamentally, the basis of discipline lies with mom and dad exercising their God-given responsibility to discipline their children. The children recognizing that that right has been given to their parents by God and they need to submit to their parents because they’re submitting to God and submitting to their parents. That’s where the authority lies. And as an extrapolation of this thought, I would remind you then that the parent is the primary caretaker, teacher, pastor, and disciplinarian to the children. The role of bringing up our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord is not to be outsourced to Christian schools, to youth ministries, to Boy Scout clubs. Those are great. We thank God for them. They aid and abet what the parent is doing, but they should never substitute, only supplement what the parent is doing, because the parent is the primary teacher and disciplinarian.
It is vastly important that we grasp that fact. No one, listen, no one should be more dedicated to raising your child than you. And I want to make an application, you can apply whatever way you want. That means there’s something wrong with the picture that when your child is in the custody or the company of other people for a longer part of the day than they are in yours. If your child is receiving more biblical instruction from somebody at a school, from somebody in a youth department than you’re giving at home, there’s something wrong with that picture. Because I thank God for youth pastors and Christian school teachers and Boy Scout clubs. Those things are good, they’re healthy and the two Christian ones are holy. But if we’re not careful, lazy Christians can drop their kids off. Instead of being general contractors subcontracting, they become subcontractors giving their children over to someone else.
In fact, I don’t have time to turn to this. Read 2 Kings 4, and I’ll go somewhere with this later on today. It’s the story of the Shunammite woman and Elisha. It’s a great story. Let me tell you it. Elisha comes to this area, he boards in this woman’s home. She shows him great kindness as a prophet of God. She perceives that a man of God is passing by her every day. And so she sets the table every day. She spreads the table for Elisha and his servant Gehazi. And they enjoy this woman’s hospitality and warmth of hearth. And there comes a point, 2 King 4, where Elisha says, you know what? You’ve done a lot for us. What can we do for you? You’ve served us. How might we serve you? And the lady’s kind of hesitant. She really doesn’t know what to say in reply.
So Gehazi speaks up and he says, you know what, Elisha. She had actually loved a child and her and husband haven’t had a child so far. They’ve had some difficulty. So that would be great. And so Elisha as a prophet of God prays and he gives this prophetic word to this woman and says, you know what? A year from now, you’re going to have a child. The woman says, Elisha, don’t play with me, because that touches a raw nerve with me. That’s a deep emotion in my heart. I long for a child and you’ll only disappoint me. Don’t do that. And he says, a year from now, you’re going to have a child. And a year from then, a little boy is born. Can you imagine the joy, the exhilaration, the excitement in that home? A party was thrown, the word went out to all the neighbors.
It was a great day. The little child grows up according to 2 King’s 4, and one day he toddles out to his father. And the Bible says in 2 Kings 4:19, he says to his father, my head, my head, my head. Something was going on in the child. The father, instead of dropping his till and seeing to the child, he says to the servant, carry the child to his mother. And the child is carried to his mother. She nurses him and the little kid dies. But Elisha comes and you know this story perhaps from Sunday school, lies on the child up in the upper chamber, nose to nose, mouth to mouth, face to face, and the kid revives, returns to life. As I’ve reflected on that story, I’ve reflected on that statement, carry him to his mother. And many men have said that. Of course, our wives are the primary homemakers and caregivers, but we’ve got to raise our sons and daughters just as much as our wives. Carry him to his mother.
And then if I’ve extrapolated and go on beyond the text, there are many mothers have said, well, take him to the youth leader, take him to the Awana Club, take him down to the Boy Scouts hall and we subcontract our children out to others. And there’s something wrong with that picture. I thank God for what others can do, but they cannot do until I have done. Do you know that the Protestant reformers spoke and wrote much about the priesthood of all believers because they wanted to remind every Protestant mother and every Protestant father that they had a God-given responsibility to be priests in their homes, to raise their children, to pray over their children, to speak the word of God to their children. And in the light of that, did you know that for the first 250 years of Protestantism, there was no Sunday schools as we know them today? The reformation ended in 1530, the gospel swept across Europe.
There was a domino effect that moved eventually into North America over succeeding centuries. But the first Sunday school was founded in 1780 in Rochester, England by a man by the name of Robert Reichs who had a deep concern for children living in slums with delinquent parents who neither cared for their bodies or were concerned for their souls. And Robert Reichs looked upon these little ones and said, you know what? I’m going to be a parent to them in that sense. He wasn’t usurping the parents’ role because they were negligent in their role. And so the first Sunday school was started, not for Christian children, but for the children of non-Christians who had no care for the welfare of the child’s soul. I’m not saying by saying that that there’s not a place for Sunday school for Christian children. There is a place to train up our children in the church and impact the next generation for Christ.
But the spiritual training of children was not neglected for 250 years between 1530 and 1780. It was carried out by faithful parents who understood their God-given role and responsibility to train up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I want to remind you this morning as a parent that you have the primary responsibility to tutor and to train your child for God’s glory. And if someone is doing that more than you are doing it, there’s something wrong with that picture. And then as a footnote to this before we move into a couple of thoughts regarding the basis of discipline, I want to remind you that as the primary trainer and teacher, that good parenting starts with good parents. Since the mandate is God-given, I conclude that the manner in which it ought to be carried out ought to be God-Like. What I’m saying is this. God has given us a responsibility.
The government didn’t give us it. This is given by God. He said that every mom and dad should train up their children to love the God of their father and the savior of their mother. That’s their responsibility. It is God given. And if we’re going to do something for God, we better do something through God. If we’re going to invoke his name when we discipline our children, it better be true that our lives are being lived in accordance with his word. That it’s not the case of do what I say, don’t do what I do to our children. That was the action of Pharisees and that breeds Pharisees. That breeds children in Christian homes who conform outwardly but they do not conform inwardly because they do not have a heart for God because their parents do not have a heart for God. There is an outward conformed, there’s a form of godliness.
Look at Proverbs 20:7, you’ll see what I’m saying here. Proverbs 20:7, “The righteous man walks in his integrity. His children are blessed after him.” Children are blessed when they are developed and disciplined and led by a mother or a father who is walking with integrity in the home. That there’s a consistency, a wholeness of word and action, thought and deed. Go back to Deuteronomy 6 and you have that portion where the fathers and mothers of Israel are encouraged in the Shema to love God with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their strength. And then in verse six of Deuteronomy 6, we read, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart and you shall teach them diligently to your children. When you get up, when you get down, when you go out, when you’re in.”
Don’t teach them from your mouth. Teach them from your heart. If you’re going to call them to obedience, let them see that you’re obedient. If you’re going to teach them repentance, let them see your repentance. If you’re going to teach them prayer, let them see you praying. If you’re going to teach them a concern for souls, let them see you leading people to Jesus Christ. We’re going to teach our children. We’ve got to teach them from our hearts. We’ve got to walk in integrity in our homes. They’ve got to see the real deal spiritually.
Someone has said this, “Train up your child in the way it should go and go there yourself once in a while,” because one of the great gifts of a parent to a child is a good example. Not a perfect example. I know the flaws of my father, but over the decades that I’ve watched him, he’s a man that loves Jesus Christ. I come down in the mornings to go to school, there his Bible was beside the couch. I knew he had been there earlier that morning before he had headed off to the factory. He has been a deacon in the local church for decades. Come rain, come shine, come snow. He has opened up the doors of Rothko Baptist Church across his life because he loves that city and he loves those people.
He’s not a perfect man but I love him because he’s a Christian man. The top of our stairs, he has shelves of books about Protestant reformers in Christian history because he wanted to remind us of the great privileges we had in our home and the liberties of our country. I love my dad for that. I never liked it when he took me upstairs and said, “Right, take them off.” I knew what was coming. No padding. Leather to skin. It wasn’t pleasant at the time, says Hebrews 12. I agree with that. But I never bristled and became bitter. Why? Because I knew the heart that stood behind the hand. And our kids need to see that. Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes telling of his rough upbringing in the city of Dublin as a boy.
He said this, “I think my father is like the holy Trinity with three people in him. The one in the morning with the paper, the one at night with the stories and the prayers, and then the one who does the bad thing and comes home with the smell of whisky and wants to die for Ireland.” As much as possible, our kids need to see one dad. Not three. One dad who humbly, repentantly, joyfully, biblically walks before God and seeks by God’s grace alone to raise his family. That’ll work and the kids will buy into it. Because they won’t see an austere father exercising a God-given duty without a God-given love and devotion. Now, all of that said, we’re going to say two things about the basis of discipline, but only look at one. Why should we discipline and what is the basis of our discipline? One, the depravity on the part of the child, and devotion on the part of the parent.
Fundamentally, here’s where we are. The poverty of the child. Fundamentally the necessity of discipline finds its reason in the nature of the child. Listen to me, folks, this is important. Unlike modern behavioral sciences taught by man like Skinner propagated on the campus of most universities in America, unlike modern behavioral sciences that teach the moral innocence of our children, that our children are born as a blank slate tending toward neither good nor evil and which way they go will be determined upon your behavior towards them, their behavior towards you, and the environment that affects them. They’re a blank slate, they’re morally innocent. What you do, what they do and what the society does will determine whether they’re good or bad. That is the popular perspective on children today and that’s what our society teaches. But in contrast, the Bible is clear about the fact that our children are born with a nature that is absolutely antithetical to God and is deeply opposed to what is righteous.
Our children are not innocent. They are not good. Romans 3 tells us, “There is none good. No, not one.” And you weren’t here in the first service this morning, but there was bundles of little joys held by doting parents before our congregation this morning and God blessed them. But I reminded them that behind that face that looks like an angel, beneath it lies a heart that will act like a devil. Didn’t get many amens for that. Tells you how much our society is affecting the church. Our children are born morally and spiritually biased, not neutral. They are born with a curvature of the heart. Their heart curves inward. They love themselves and they will give expression to the fact that they are the little god in your universe. You better stand up to that notion from the earliest day.
They are like an English lawn bowl. They are bent towards sin and the transgression of God’s law. I don’t know if you’ve ever played grass bowls. We used to play it in Ireland and Britain, and if you ever played grass bowls, there’s a little white bowl that you roll down the lawn and then you try and get your bowl nearest to the white ball. The interesting thing about a lawn bowl, a bowl, is it fits in your hand but there’s a weight on one side of it. And so you throw the bull out at an angle with skills seeking to see it curve in towards the white ball. That’s what our children’s hearts are like. They’re weighted to turn away from God. Or to use another analogy, they’re like those carts down at Walmart with a wheel stuck. No matter what way you push it, it just goes its own way, right?
That’s the inclination of a child’s heart. I want to say it. This is not the teaching of sociology, this is the teaching of biblical theology. Our children have an inclination towards evil from the day they are born. Psalm 51:5 tells us that they are born in shame and iniquity. But we are in Proverbs. So for a moment turn to Proverbs 22:15. If you don’t believe me, then look at Proverbs 22:15. “Foolishness is bind up in the heart of a child. The rod of correction will drive it from him.” Did you read that verse? “Foolishness is bind up in the heart of a child.”
Now, when the Bible here talks about foolishness, it’s not talking about your kid knocking over the milk jug. It’s not talking about little Billy coming in with a hole in his jeans because he fell playing street. You know, baseball or whatever. Boys will fall, boys will bounce, boys won’t break. That’s just the deal. Now, unless little Johnny was playing something he shouldn’t have been playing, don’t discipline the kid. Boys will be boys and those kind of boys will become men. They’ll fall, they’ll get up, they’ll risk, they’ll try. That’s not an issue of discipline unless he climbed the tree you told him not to.
Kids are awkward, they’ll knock over stuff from the table. Unless they’re totally out of control and they’re flailing like the blades of a helicopter because you haven’t dealt with them early enough. Now, when we talk about foolishness in the book of Proverbs, that’s not what we’re talking about. Don’t discipline your kid over those issues. Discipline your kid over disobedience to what the kid knows they shouldn’t have done. Not foibles or basic human faults. Now, the book of Proverbs, foolishness is a moral issue. The fool has said in his heart there is no God. The fool is right in his own eyes, says the book of Proverbs. The fool is disobedient. The fool does not obey the law of God. And so when this verse says that that kind of foolishness is bind up in the heart of a child, it’s talking about actually adult behavior where the word of God is violated.
And what it’s saying is that kind of behavior expressed in adults is bind up in the heart of your child. Apart from correction, apart from discipline, apart from the grace of God and the love of Jesus Christ, your child will grow up to be an atheist, a delinquent, a law breaker. Someone who’s full of themselves. They may not be stealing cars, they may have a PhD teaching at the university, but they will not give God the glory. They’re full of themselves. Such foolishness is bind up in the heart of our children.
And the Bible says, you better take a rod early on and start to drive it out. Start to curtail and restrain that kind of thinking and living on the part of your child. Listen, our children’s greatest problem is not pure environment. It is not a lack of education. It is that they were born a son of Adam where Adam’s sin was imputed to them. They have inherited a nature from their great, great, great, great grandfather Adam that has them inclined towards evil. And they’re not only born a son of Adam, they are born by nature a child of wrath. Ephesians 2:3. Our children are born hell bent and hell bound.
That’s what makes what Mrs. Snyder was talking about this morning all the more important. Help them in the nursery, get involved in the children’s ministry, because our children are hell bent and hell bound, and their little hearts need to be subdued by the grace of God and taught the love of Jesus Christ. We need to stand in their way and say that there is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end they’re off is the way of death. If you don’t understand this, you will implement a training program on your child that is flawed from the inception. Beneath that disarming smile lies a monster. You say, pastor, that’s too strong. No, it’s not. A moral Frankenstein, that if unrestrained and unredeemed, will be as ugly in the end as the demons of hell themselves. Every child is potentially a juvenile delinquent. Look at Proverbs 29:15, you parents better listen up. We’ll come back to this next week. “The rod and rebuke give wisdom.” Proverbs 29:15. “But a child left to himself brings his mother shame.”
Oh, it’s not my place, pastor, to tell little Johnny what to do. He’s got to choose his own faith. Bologna. You leave that child to himself and his evil heart inclined towards all kind of wickedness will take him far beyond the Christian faith. Get it done. A child left to himself brings shame to his mother. We’ll come back to that next week. But the point is this, you cannot charm the sin nature in your child. It’s too ferocious. It must be subdued, initially by the rod, supplemented by reproof, ultimately waiting for God’s redemption. Go back with me to Psalm 58 for a moment. This is a powerful verse. I’ve never really seen it this way before. I’ve always read verse three, never went much beyond it. Here’s what Psalms 58:3-5 says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb. The wicked are estranged from the womb. They go astray as soon as they’re born.”
Our children go astray as soon as they’re born. When should you start correction? As soon as you can, because they’re going to go astray from the womb. Here’s what the verse goes on to say. “Speaking lies, they’re poison.” That is, their nature that speaks lies and lives in opposition to God, their poison is like the poison of a serpent. They’re like the deaf cobra that stops its ears, which will not heed the voice of charmers charming ever so skillfully. You know the puritans called their children innocent vipers. You not get that in many modern child rearing books, that your child is an innocent viper. And I want to tell you something about your child. It’s the same with these deaf cobras. You can charm it but it won’t listen, which tells me, you know what this verse is saying? And you listen. Every parent in this auditorium and every grandparent, talking to your child is not enough.
You’ve got to smack, you’ve got to scold, you’ve got to spank. I’ve watched them in Kroger’s charming their kid. Don’t do that, Johnny. We’ll get home and we’ll get you some milk and cookies. Don’t do that, Johnny, dude. Oh, I’ll give you this and I’ll do that. And they’re charming little Johnny and little Johnny is not listening because vipers don’t listen. They can’t be charmed. It’s a facade. They bite with poison. Talking is never enough. Our children are rebels. And unless the grace of God cuts the umbilical cord to the rebellious hearts, they will live out whatever they are in increasing ugliness and that is sinners.
When you see your grandchild and you hold them, you’re going to have two emotions as a Christian or you should have. Joy, thankfulness, and a holy anxiety that this little one can grow up not to know Christ and be damned forever apart from the love of God. That’s what this theology is teaching us. That’s why the Puritans said better whipped than damned. It’s not that disciplining our kids physically, and we’ll get into it next week more specifically, saves our children. That’s not what we’re saying, but it does send a message that disobedience will not be tolerated. And as a parent is acting for God, the parent’s actions is reminding the child of God that sin must be stopped, sin will be punished. There is a price to pay for disobedience.
Children are not fit to govern themselves. And empty minded, weak kneed parents need to get hold of that and start taking charge of your children. They’re out of control because they’re in control. They neither fear you nor God. And you should be concerned for their souls in that kind of state. Two applications here quickly. We’ll just look at one of them. This thought, that depravity of the child’s heart and the need to begin to drive that wickedness and waywardness, stubbornness and recalcitrance inside of a child’s heart with the rod, that needs to be done because that’s the goal of discipline. What is the goal of discipline? The goal of discipline is not for you and I to feel better. The kids have been under our feet, now we’re all upset, and so we feel better. It’s kind of cathartic to give the kid a good smacking. Okay, I feel better for that.
Don’t know how Johnny feels, but I feel better. That is not biblical. It’s not the point of discipline. It has nothing to do with you and I feeling better. The end of discipline is this. And it’s not even to modify our kids’ behavior. That will be a byproduct. It is the confronting of the child’s autonomy. Why have I and why do I discipline my girls in different ways at different times? Because my children are born with a sinful nature and they will act naturally autonomous from God and from me. They will balk at authority. They will want their own way because they’re like sheep going astray. They’re like the wheel at the Walmart cart. They just bent that way. Hell bent, hell bind. They have a heart that has an inclination towards evil. And therefore I’ve got to confront that from the earliest opportunity because I’m confronting my child’s autonomy.
Because when I remind them that they must live under my authority, I am reminding them that they must live under God’s authority because my authority comes from him. And if I led them away with things, I’m sending them a message that they can live autonomously. And so the end of discipline is to remind the child that they must come under God’s authority through coming under the parents’ authority. Proverbs 29:15 says that the rod brings wisdom. 29:15, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom.” What is wisdom? Biblically? It begins with the fear of God. What is the purpose of the rod? Why do we discipline our children? To create the fear of God.
Not in a cowing, nightmarish way, but to remind them there is an ultimate reality. There is a God to whom we are all accountable. And when I apply the rod in the light of the depravity of their hearts, I’m reminding them that they are born out of relationship with God and they need to come under his leadership and authority. And finally, in it, I’m awaking my child through the pain of discipline. And if you’re going to discipline physically, it must be painful. That’s why the book of Proverbs tells you not to listen to their crying. Discipline them anyway, we’ll get into this next week. Some of them are crying just as the hand comes down, they haven’t even been touched. You don’t worry about that. You’re not going to kill your child. God’s given you a great part of the body, well padded, just for the purpose.
Pat them on the back often and low. It’s a great way to raise your children. And the Bible says, do that. Inflict pain. Why? Because you’re sadistic? Why? Because you’re following some kind of archaic philosophy of parenting? No. No, I disagree with Mr. Skinner and the behavioral scientists of our culture. Here’s what the book of Proverbs tells me. Proverbs 23:13. “Do not withhold correction from a child for if you beat him with a rod.” What’s the rod? A rod. It’s a stick. It’s an implement. If you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
And there’s a little bit of humor and irony in that. This verse isn’t encouraging child abuse to any degree. Just saying, you know what? Measured discipline never kills a child. Applied to the right places, there will be pain but no lasting harm. The Board of Education said Billy Graham applied to the seat of learning. That’s a good thing. And this verse says, “Do not withhold correction from a child for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod and look, deliver his soul from hell.” Wow. There is the purpose of discipline, at least one of the purposes. The word hell there is the word Sheol. It’s the abode of the dead. It speaks of the life to come. You need to start early because we’re all headed to a destiny. Our children are born going the wrong way.
They’ve got foolishness bind up in their heart. You got to take the rod and begin to drive it from them. Remind them that there is an authority that’s being enacted through their parents’ authority to which they will give an account someday for their life and rejection of Jesus Christ or acceptance of Him, how they heard or didn’t hear the word of God. And so I’ve got to discipline my children. And when I inflict pain, I’m reminding them that there’s a price to pay for disobedience. And you know what? Listen to this statement. I would rather my girls sob for a night than cry for all eternity. That’s what that verse is telling me. I must be courageous as a father. And you must be persistent as a mother and discipline them because they’ve got depraved hearts. They must be saved. And it begins in the home with a father and mother’s love, with a father and mother’s discipline, with a father and mother’s teaching. Going to leave it there. Going to leave it there.
We’ll come back to this next week. Don’t buy into the thought that I love my child too much not to discipline them. That’s a lie. If you’ll love them, you will discipline them. Hatred is not the opposite of love. Apathy is. If you don’t discipline your child, you don’t care for their soul. You don’t take the word of God seriously. You don’t take sin and its consequences seriously. You take it too lightly. Don’t give into their crying. By God’s grace, what you’re doing will be part of their glorious salvation that will protect them from crying forever.