What can you do to raise godly children in a society that rejects standards, morals, and ethics?
I've appreciated the very warm welcome. In fact, if I could speak on behalf of all the gentlemen who are here for the pastoral training program, and we have certainly appreciated being warmly welcomed by not just the Home Office staff and the people who work here, but also the brethren here today. I'd very much like to express my gratitude for that.
I would like to say that, obviously, I'm Australian. For those of you who do have difficulty with understanding my accent, the last couple of rows on this side have earphones for translations. That's why Larry Roybal and Manuel are sitting back there. If any of you look confused while I'm speaking I'm going to assume it's not because of what I'm saying, but simply how I'm saying it.
I did want to mention, actually, we just came back from – just before I came over here for the ministerial training program – we had the Australian summer camp down just south of Sydney. We had, for the first time, 67 young campers. The reason I mention it is because we were able to welcome three young Americans who made the journey all the way to Australia for summer camp, which – go figure, you know. I mean, they made a wonderful contribution. I do say that sincerely. They did a very good job. I believe they enjoyed themselves. I believe they benefited from summer camp, but we also had one young lady who is currently spending an extended stay in Brisbane. I believe she is from – I might not get this right – I believe she is from the Seattle congregation. I'm not 100% sure on that, but she's on a full year work visa to Australia. She's a structural engineer and working in Brisbane at the moment, but she also was able to come to summer camp as staff and did a very, very good job as well – a very positive contribution. She is still trying to get over our sense of humor and the fact that we give each other a hard time all the time, but she did a very good job as well.
I'd like to tell you just a short – well, I think it's funny anyway – an interesting story. Unfortunately this is not about any of the Americans who came over, this is giving one of my people a hard time. A young fellow was at camp for the first time. We have young people come to camp from ages 11 through 20 as campers. We don't have a great population so we kind of extend the boundaries a little bit, allow more people to come in to summer camp. This was on the Thursday of camp. We started the previous Friday so this is like day six. I had given the opening Bible study and orientation on Friday night; I had given the sermon on the Sabbath; I had given five Christian living classes; I had given a discussion on alcohol – responsible use of alcohol; I had facilitated the hike over two days; I had done a number of other activities. And was sitting at breakfast on Thursday morning and this young man says, “So, what do you do?” Okay. I felt validated. I felt really validated.
I appreciate - oh, two glasses of ice water. Thank you. Back home just recently I spoke in the Brisbane congregation and people get to know you after a while, of course, and that particular Sabbath there were four glasses of water under the lectern, under the podium and I appreciate that because I usually drink quite a bit of water when I speak. And so I made the comment that I appreciated very much that there were four glasses of water under there because they obviously realized that I like to drink a lot of water. Well, two weeks later I went back to Brisbane and it was evident that the previous visit I had spoken too long because there was only one glass of water under the lectern. Now, you can take that as a warning if you want to today. I'm supposed to be limited to 40 to 45 minutes so I've taken a 75 minute sermon and I'm trying to cram it into 45 minutes so nobody's hungry today, are they? You had a late brunch? Everybody's comfortable?
Now, I was asked to give a split sermon here in Cincinnati while we were here for the ministerial training program and I wondered what I would speak on. Now there are some subject areas that you kind of approach with a certain fear and trepidation. Two that readily come to mind are marriage and the other one is child rearing. So why would I come to Cincinnati and decide to give a split sermon on child rearing? Well, I can think of three reasons. One, I did not bring my family with me so you can't tell me that I'm not living and practicing what it is I preach. I did, actually, bring a photograph just so you could verify that I do have a family. Okay? Secondly, and maybe just slightly more importantly, I believe very strongly in family. I believe very strongly in family. My wife, Cathie and I have been able to facilitate the Growing Kids God's Way program in Australia twice now. We have been very encouraged by that program and we are being very encouraged not just for the benefit it has given us, which it has certainly done so, but for the benefit and the growth that has resulted in the families that have participated in that program. The third reason why I think this is a very important subject to speak on and it doesn't matter where I go, I'm happy to give this particular message, and that is because God is very focused on family. He is very focused on family. To Him family is very, very important. In the modern, fast paced world that we live in, family and parents face great challenges. They face great challenges because we live in a society - and it doesn't matter whether we live in Australia or in the United States or Zaire or Peru or wherever - today's society largely rejects God's standards, His values, His morals, His ethics and especially in the context of family – in relation to family – the result is that we have and I will say especially in Western civilization – we have succeeding generations of children with little respect for authority, little respect for others, little respect for law and little respect for God. And God intended that it be something different. He expected there to be something different. So, what can you and I do as parents to raise Godly children in such a society? What can we do to raise Godly children in such a society?
Today I want to look at just three areas of focus. This is not going to be comprehensive, this is not going to be overly specific. I've been a parent for thirteen years. I have thirteen years of experience in parenting. I'm still learning. I'm on the cusp of that period of time that some parents - indeed, many parents – view with a certain trepidation, the teenage years. I've not yet had that experience, but from scripture, from God's Word, we can garnish some principles that help us to make that journey a much more joyful, profitable journey in raising Godly children. You see, we live in such a fast paced world, everything is fast. Fast food, fast cars, fast Internet. Whatever. Everything is fast. But there are some things that we can't do fast. And raising Godly children is something we can't do fast. You know, we can't stick them in a microwave, press it on 30 seconds and BOOM, there comes an adult. You know, we don't add water and stir. Children don't automatically become mature and honest, they don't automatically become people of character and integrity. It takes work. Parenting – Godly parenting – requires a committed investment by dads and moms, by you and me. A committed investment by dads and moms.
Now, if we are going to talk about the subject of parenting and family, I think we need to establish a context and I think it's important to understand the intended outcome of this process. Let's go to Malachi chapter 2. (Tales a sip of water) I'm very disappointed in Mr. Larry Roybal. He told me that would be tequila. Mal. 2, let's begin in verse 13. He says:
Malachi 2:13 Malachi 2:13And this have you done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, so that he regards not the offering any more, or receives it with good will at your hand.
American King James Version× - And this is the second thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with good will from your hands.
You see, God is very concerned about authenticity in our worship of Him and He's very concerned about authenticity in how we raise our children. Authenticity in our family environment. He's very concerned about that. He goes on in verse 14 to say:
Verse 14 - You say, "For what reason?" because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously... You know, Malachi wrote to the people who had returned from Jerusalem and this was a period of time when Nehemiah, himself, had returned to Shushan, the capitol for a period of, I think, of about 13 years years or so and the people who remained in Jerusalem who had completed the rebuilding project and everything had fallen into rebellion once again. And Malachi is writing during that period to bring them back to the standard. He says ...with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
You see, many of the men left their wives and by consequence left their families and went and joined themselves with the women who were from the areas around, from the nations and peoples around.
Verse 15 - But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring...
God seeks Godly offspring. Do we see family and the raising of these precious little ones – you know Mr. Hendren's comment about the family on the plane - they are very precious when they are newborns and then they grow up and things change. But they are precious. And they are precious in God's eyes as well. And what He wants from family, what He wants from our involvement as parents with our children – the children that He has blessed us with – is He is seeking His own offspring. He is seeking Godly offspring. The reason God made them one, put man and woman together from the beginning, was that the husband and wife relationship would produce shining, young bearers of God's image. That's a pretty high call. When I consider the magnitude of that, the depth of that, it places a certain importance and a certain value on my role as a parent and, as we will see, on my role as a father. A very important value. When we understand what the intended outcome is, why God did it this way, it's very, very important. It is a very high call.
Where do we start? Well, as the song say, let's start at the very beginning. Let's go back to Genesis, chapter 1. Let's pick it up in verse 26
Gen. 126 - Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
Verse 27 - So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Verse 28 - And then God blessed them, and said, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it...
You see, ultimately God created man and woman to become the image of God, not just made in the appearance, but to be made in the very image of God – to ultimately have His glory, His character, His law, His values. And that process began here, right at the very beginning, Day 6. You go on to Gen. chapter 2, which I won't take time because I'm trying to shorten this, Gen. chapter 2 expands on what happened on Day 6. But God began with a marriage and He blessed that union at the very beginning. That tells us something about how important it is to God and how valuable family, how valuable marriage is, how important it is to Him. It was a union blessed by God and they were given the charge to have children – to have lots of children to fill the earth – to replenish the earth and they were given the charge to raise Godly offspring bearing the image of God. As I said, that's a very high calling.
So the very first and most important step, then, in raising Godly offspring is to have a Godly marriage. The most important – most important step in raising Godly offspring is to have a genuine, Godly marriage. The best gift that we, as parents, can provide our children – the best gift that we can provide our children with is a stable, secure, loving husband and wife relationship. That's where it has to start. We need to invest first in our relationship as husbands and wives. That's the best gift that we can give our children. The best gift is a loving, stable and secure relationship. God ordained marriage. He blessed it before children. He placed a special sanctification in that sense on it. God intended for marriage to be established first which then lays the foundation for the building of family, for the raising of Godly children. This sermon today isn't about how to have a happy marriage, but it is very much about how a happy, stable, secure marriage is critical in this process of raising Godly children and fulfilling the very high call of raising Godly children. The marriage is first priority. God created Eve and He brought her to Adam and He blessed their union. He blessed their union. He did that first and they became the first family.
I'd like to turn to Ephesians chapter 5. There are a number of other passages I would normally like to turn to, but I would like to turn to Ephesians chapter 5. I find this a very deeply significant, a very deeply meaningful passage of scripture for me as a husband, for me as a parent to understand - as Paul reveals it here under inspiration of God's Spirit - the importance, the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of family and revealing, I think, in a very profound way how God views it. A very, very important passage of scripture. I do want to begin in verse 21. It says:
You know, that is the basis of relationship in general. We submit to one another. But in family and marriage there is that willing submission to one another. He then goes on in verse 22 to say:
Verse 22 - Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Verse 23 - For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Verse 24 - Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
And then he goes on to say:
Verse 25 - Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
Verse 26 - that He might sanctify... just take note of these next two verses – the outcome, the purpose that Christ did what He did for the church ...that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
Verse 27 - that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Verse 28 - So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
Paul compares marriage to the relationship between Christ and the church which should give us some insight into the significance and the importance that God places on that relationship. I can only touch on a few things in this particular passage. I have, indeed, ventured into that other area and spoken on marriage – which is another area that we tread very carefully in - but speak on this particular passage in greater detail because it's very, very important to understand this. But he places marriage on a higher plane. He gives it even a spiritual content.
For the purpose of today, I think to understand what Paul is saying here, I'd like us to consider two questions. To understand what Paul is saying, I'd like us to consider two questions. Firstly, how did Christ love the church? How did Christ love the church? And secondly, how does the church submit to Christ? Because if we understand those two questions, if we can provide answers to those two questions, then we understand – we have a deeper understanding I think of how the marriage relationship works and how it can be according to the Godly model because there are all sorts of variations out in society. We have an ad on TV in Australia - I'm not sure if you have the same one or something similar – it's a vehicle ad, an ad for a particular people-mover type car and constantly the vehicle is stopping and people are getting out and other people are getting in. And this happens about four or five times. And the ad is focusing, obviously, of the versatility of this particular vehicle, how it can handle different capacities. You can put different things in the car, you can carry more or less people and the conclusion is – this is a paraphrase, I don't remember it exactly – “A vehicle for the Australian family -- whatever that is.” Whatever that is. Well, brethren, we know what the family is. We know what the family should be. We have, I believe, very clear indication through scripture of what God intended in the family and we know what the outcome of family should be.
Now we know that in our personal lives as human beings we do not always live up to the standard. We do not always have the kind of success with our family that God would want us to have, maybe, that certainly we have a desire as parents. As someone who is a parent of three children, the oldest being thirteen, I have great hope for my children, but I also know that we live in a world that does not value family the same way that I value family. It does not love my children the same way I love my children. And I know that they are going to be all sorts of pulls, all sorts of temptation, all sorts of things out there that are going to pull at my children and my prayer certainly is that I have the wisdom and the capacity and the love to be able to provide the very best that I can for them that they will make a right decision when they get older. Because I know that when they get older they have that choice, they have that freedom. But we know what family is all about. We know what is intended.
You know, in this passage the word 'submit' here means 'a voluntary willingness to come under the loving authority of another'. That's what the church does with Jesus Christ. We know what Jesus Christ did for the church. The wife willingly submits to her husband. The husband doesn't assert his authority. He doesn't exercise power and control over his wife. No, according to the model that we have in scripture, he sacrifices himself willingly as a husband and as a father. You see, in the Godly model, in the Biblical model, there is no question over who God placed in charge of the family. He gave that responsibility to us men. And I think, speaking as a man and as a husband and as a father, we approach that with great fear and trepidation because that's not natural for us to assume that role. But God placed that responsibility there. And I'd like to review it as a responsibility as opposed to necessarily an authority position. And yet, in society we have models where men – especially in the Australian culture and I'll speak from that perspective – you know, as long as a man brings home the money then he's done his job. It's the wife's responsibility to raise the children. He can go off to the pub, he can go play golf, he can do whatever he wants to. He's done his job. That's not this model. That's not this model and we can't be fooled by that. We need to be very much aware of that influence. The responsibility for this rests on our shoulders, gentlemen, as husbands. It rests on our shoulders. It must begin with us. It was Christ who gave Himself first for His bride. It was Christ who gave Himself first. And in that sense, He submitted Himself to us. He submitted Himself to us. As our head we submit ourselves to Christ – speaking to husbands – and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice for our bride.
Husbands, we also need to love our wife in front of the children. You see, it's too easy for us to relate to our wives as simply the mother of our children. That's why I focused on the relationship first because that's important and that we take our wives out of their role as mother and put them back in the role of our wife. That's important. It's important that that relationship is nurtured even after the children come. Very, very important.
I'd like to give a brief example from Dr. Phil, yes, that phenomenon has reached Australia. We watch Dr. Phil at 12 o'clock on Channel10 Monday through Friday. He tells a story apparently, I must confess, I didn't actually see this one. He tells the story about a time when they were traveling in their vehicle and his son was sassing, as he says, his Mom. He stopped the car, he turned around and he said to his son, “Don't you ever talk to my wife like that again.” A very subtle change of focus because normally what we would say as husbands is, “Don't you ever talk to your mother like that again.” No, don't you ever talk to my wife like that again. Very important that we, as husbands, actively take our wife out of their role as mother and clearly, and in front of the children, place them in their role as our wife. It's also important that the wife exhibit that willing submission and respect for her husband. Children need to see, need to experience the Biblical model, the Godly model in the family. Effective child rearingproducing Godly offspring, begins before there are any children. It begins with the marriage relationship.
Second area that I would like to look at this afternoon and this, quite obviously I believe, is based upon the first principle being in place. Let's read on in Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 1. It says:
Verse 2 - Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise:
Verse 3 - "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."
The Biblical model says children are supposed to obey. Children are supposed to obey. Parents, do our children listen and obey us as their parents, because the problem is not usually with the child in that relationship. Children don't automatically grow to love and respect and obey, but they do have an intrinsic need for guidance and direction – loving guidance and direction. Parents need to give instruction and discipline that provides the moral guidance for children to obey, that provides the environment that encourages and promotes that obedience.
Now, when we talk about children obeying, one of the obvious questions that does come to mind is, okay, what about discipline? Teach me about discipline because that's what I need. How do I control this child? How do I get him to obey me? How can I receive first time obedience? Tell me about discipline. I'd like to go to Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 11 and 12.
Proverbs 3:11 Proverbs 3:11My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:
American King James Version× - My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction;
Verse 12 - for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.
Because we are about producing Godly offspring, we parent like God parents. We do it in love. And we do it with love. And that's the focus, that's the underpinning of any discipline and teaching that we have. We discipline, we chasten, we correct in love and that must be the foundation of discipling our children. Why? Because of the purpose of producing Godly offspring. Now, the word 'discipline' itself means to teach. It involves training and education. Now, correction and punishment, chastisement are a part of discipline, but they are not synonymous. They are not synonymous. Raising our children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord is what discipline is about. We're about making disciples. We're about making disciples.
I've been able to share with the men in the training program that in about the past 12 to 15 months I've been able to counsel and baptize six second-generation young people in the Church – four of whom came through Summer Camp as well, who have been baptized and are now members of the body of Christ. That's very encouraging that they have come to that point, they've made that decision, they've committed their lives to Jesus Christ and to God, the Father, in that way. But it's also very encouraging for their families as well to be able to experience that. We are about making disciples.
Now, please note in this context these three things. Firstly, parenting our children is directive. That is, it moves a child in a specific direction. Parenting is proactive. That is, parents have to be fully invested in the process. And parenting is moral. Parents must instill within the heart of the child Godly values. It is directive, it is proactive and it is moral.
Let's go back to Deuteronomy, chapter 6. I think it's a passage that is very familiar and some of the principles that are espoused here especially in the first few verses are not just well known, but very important, as well. Let's go to verse 4. It says:
Verse 5 - "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Verse 6 - "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart;
Here he is speaking to the parents, and maybe more specifically even to the fathers of the people of Israel and he's saying to them, these things need to be in your heart. And, as we're going to see over the next couple of verses or passages, that is a very critical thing to understand. It is to be in our heart. God's law and His standards were never intended to be simply an outward show, some kind of form of righteousness, but rather they are an act stemming from a heart sincere – the heart upon which we have allowed God's Spirit to write His law that it be a part of who we are. It makes sense that we can't share with our children what we do not possess ourselves. We can't instill into the hearts of our children what doesn't reside in ours. Very important principle.
Verse 7 - "you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
This doesn't just speak to formal education. As parents we certainly need that kind of sit-down instruction, formal Bible study, formal modes and means of instruction and certainly the church supports that and facilitates some of that itself. But this is more about how we live our daily life. If God expects it to be in our heart then this is every bit about how we live our daily life, the very example that we set for our children because we know the contrast and we know the conflict that can occur in a child's mind between seeing and hearing an example. And if those two things do not marry, if those two things are not congruent, then a child becomes conflicted and discouraged and confused. This is very much about how we live our daily life.
Now I would like us to consider this in the context of verse 7 as well. Proactive parenting means that we teach in times of non-conflict. That's what this verse is actually describing. When is conflict in a family when there's some kind of upheaval? Maybe there's some really bad behavior of some form. That's not a good time to actually reach the heart of a child. What this is saying is we prepare for those times. We prepare by teaching in the times of peace when you walk by the way, when you sit down, when you rise up. We take those opportunities to teach our children the values and the ethics and the principles of God's way.
Let's go to Psalms 78 as well. At this recent summer camp in Australia, we had a question and answer with the older teens – 15 through 20 – and Mr. Bruce Dean and I were asked what's our favorite scripture and I said, “Well, that depends on what subject you are talking about.” But this to me, Psalms 78 is one of my most favorite passages because to me it conveys an understanding of a very important aspect of family. Let's pick it up in verse 1.
Psalms 78:1 Psalms 78:1Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
American King James Version× - Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
Verse 2 - I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,
Verse 3 - Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us.
Verse 4 - We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.
Verse 5 - For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel ... We just read that in Deuteronomy 6, verse 4. He established a law and a testimony that from generation to generation His law, His works, His way of life will be passed on. He says,...Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children;
Verse 6 - That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children,
Verse 7 - That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments;
Instruction in the values and principles and ethics of God's law and His way of life from generation to generation, teaching our children to keep His commandments in their heart from generation to generation. God established a law and a testimony that we would place within the hearts of our children His law, His wonderful works, His commandments and that they would, then, tell each successive generation the wonderful works of God that they, too, would choose to keep His commandments. We know the difficulty in the world in which we live today, but I would like us to consider this particular passage in the context of the millennium because when that comes, when the society that we live in supports family, then we will start to see the fruit of this process in a very profound way. And almost like a river, it will spread from generation to generation through the millennium and it's a wonderful picture, but it's a wonderful calling as well. It's a wonderful instruction in a law that we do seek to uphold.
Let's go to Proverbs chapter 2 as well. Proverbs chapter 2, verse 1. He says:
Proverbs 2:1 Proverbs 2:1My son, if you will receive my words, and hide my commandments with you;
American King James Version× - My son,... I'd just like you to stop and think about that statement for a minute. My son. It's not, “Son, now you listen here!” It is, “My son, I want to share with you something that's very important, something that I want you to take with you. Something that I want you to be able to teach your children.” He says, My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you...
I just want to stop there because I need to ask a question. It's something I've already referred to anyway. But do we, as parents, own our beliefs? Do we, as parents, own our beliefs because how can I expect my son or my two daughters to receive my words and to treasure my commands if I don't have them, if they're not a part of my heart, if they're not a part of my daily life? Do we own God's values and His law as a part of our daily life? What is our heart and our conscience filled with? Do you and I, as parents, know what the correct moral response is to all the various circumstances that our children are going to be confronted with? Do we know? Is that residing in our heart? Can we, as a parent, explain the moral reason why for a particular action or behavior? Can we explain that? Because if we can't, how can we place those values in the hearts of our children?
In our heart – what we might call our moral warehouse – there is a moral mechanism. It's like our conscious. We're confronted with a situation or a circumstance and in our moral warehouse there are rows and rows and stacks of shelving and all those shelves are all the values that we have picked up in our life whether good or bad. Hopefully and obviously, we desire them to be God's values, and when we are confronted with situations, we have a mechanism that runs up and down those rows searching for a value that speaks to this particular circumstance and then it brings it to our attention and we have a decision to make. We have a choice to make. If I've not stacked those shelves with God's values, with His morals, and with His ethics, how will I know? And if I don't know, how can I teach my children?
Let me give you a very simple example. I'm sitting on a bus and the bus is full and a senior person or maybe a mother with a young baby comes on the bus. What do I do? What do I do? If I don't have – if my moral warehouse does not have a value that speaks to this particular situation - then I'll be oblivious as to what to do. But again, if I don't have that value, how can I instill it in the heart of my children?
Let's drop down to verse 10 of Proverbs, chapter 2. It says,
Proverbs 2:10 Proverbs 2:10When wisdom enters into your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul;
American King James Version× - When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
Verse 11 - discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you,
Verse 12 - to deliver you from the way of evil...
You know, as a parent, and especially as a parent of young children whose minds are being framed, whose hearts are being filled, we desire for them to grow up and mature and have the character and the integrity and the courage to stand up against the evil way because they will be confronted by it. They will be confronted by it and this is what we want them to be able to do. I desire for my children to have that discretion and discernment and to have that understanding that they, too, may choose to resist the evil way. There is a purpose and an outcome that we desire as parents for our children. How genuine are we in teaching our children the morality of God's way of life in the midst of a society that completely rejects it or uphold it in name only, but certainly not in practice? We're talking about discipling our children that they may pass the legacy on from generation to generation.
The third area I wanted to focus on today is this: the father's mandate to be genuine fathers. Will we rise to the father's mandate? Let's go to Malachi chapter 4. I began in Malachi and I want to go back there because if we understand the context of what Malachi was writing to the people who were in Jerusalem at that time, and we understand the problems and difficulties that they were being confronted with – just as an aside, it is always interesting to note that even in Malachi, Malachi notes that there is always a remnant who are faithful. Always a remnant who are faithful which is very encouraging. That here in the context of Malachi's writing to them – chastising them, correcting them for leaving their families, for leaving their wives and going off and chasing other women, we read Malachi 4, verse 4. He says,
Malachi 4:4 Malachi 4:4Remember you the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
American King James Version× - "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
Verse 5 – He says, Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
Verse 6 - And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse."
I referred to this before, but we live in a materialistic world that continues to entice us and tempt us, to satisfy our own fleshly desires, our own needs, our own wants. We're enticed to sacrifice everything else in the mindless, futile pursuit - to use the terminology of Solomon - the mindless, futile pursuit of personal fulfillment, whatever that looks like. Those temptations are constantly there and they're there especially for fathers - especially for fathers. It's no coincidence that one of the things we are tempted to compromise in that pursuit is family. Is family. And we have to consider the effect that our society has on family and how fathers are being continually drawn further and further away. Again, it's not the Biblical model. It's not the Biblical model. It's not the way God intended it to be.
Will we stand and resist Satan? He seeks to destroy everything that God holds sacred. Parenting is proactive. Fathering is proactive. We have to be fully invested in the process. Scripture has much to say that is focused directly at fathers. I don't know how many of you have seen the movie 'Parenthood'. I'm not advocating the movie. I'm not necessarily promoting it, but there's an interesting line in that movie that Keanu Reeves, that his character says. He says, “You know, today you have to have a license to drive a car. You have to have a license to to fish. You even have to have a license to own a dog. But they will let any (expletive deleted) be a father.” Do we see the value that our society places on fathers? And we have to stand against that because if we are going to promote the wonderful works of God from generation to generation, we have to make a stand. And if we understand Malachi 4 verse 6, this is telling us that in the end time that responsibility rests on our shoulders as fathers. Will we turn our hearts to our children because that is what has to happen first. Malachi says hearts must be turned. I think we understand in the dynamic of family that mothers are more naturally given to the care and nurture of the children, they are more naturally connected. Our relationship of trust automatically develops in normal circumstances. So trust more naturally exists between a mother and a child, but you and I, as fathers, have to work much harder. We really have to work much harder at establishing trust. The quantity and quality of trust that children have in their father is the only legitimate benchmark of our relationship with them. Time is important. Time is important as long as that time establishes, strengthens, grows trust. Fathers, do our children trust us? Do they open up their hearts to us? Because the challenge for fathers is to build trust. Let's go to Ephesians chapter 6 again.
Ephesians 6:4 Ephesians 6:4And, you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
American King James Version× says - And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and the admonition of the Lord.
The Amplified Version says, Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger, do not exasperate them to resentment, but rear them tenderly in the training and discipline and counsel and admonition of the Lord. That requires that we value our children as God values them. That's what it requires that we value our children as God values them.
We could have turned to Psalm 127, verse 3 to reinforce that. Are we, then, consistent in our training and our nurturing of our children – in our discipling of our children? Turning hearts involves establishing trust, accepting our God-given responsibilities as fathers, establishing relationships built on trust heart to heart, accepting our father's mandate will only happen when we proactively turn our heart to our children. Raising Godly offspring must begin with the husband and wife relationship that expands, then, to include children made in the image and the likeness of God. They are born with a clean heart and that heart must be filled with the moral imperatives that define God, that define His love, that then becomes the moral guide for their life – and then their responsibility is to pass it on to their children, raising image-bearers from generation to generation.
Fathers must also accept the father's mandate to be genuine fathers whose hearts are proactively turned to their children developing relationships that are established on trust from heart to heart because the challenges for parenting today are enormous. The pressure to compromise and become pseudo parents is everywhere. Brethren, this world model is flawed and we cannot afford to be misled and influenced by it. Raising Godly offspring requires parents – dads and moms – you and me. In fact, it requires a whole church, it requires a whole congregation because one of the things that I value as a part of being in the church, being a part of a group of people who all value the same thing, who all value God's law, who all seek to uphold God's law within the limitations that each of us bring to them, is that when I bring my children to church, you share the same values. You can demonstrate for my children those same values and I really appreciate it when you do and when you do it for other people's children. It is very important that we do that as a whole congregation. You are all involved in it. You know the expression, 'It takes a village to raise a child'. We are all involved in the process. We all uphold the same values. You set a positive example for my children and I thank you for it.
So, raising Godly offspring requires parents who view parenting as the opportunity to invest themselves fully in the life of the child who will someday become an irresistible manifestation of God's grace – Godly offspring. That's our motivation for bearing and raising children. It's also our challenge.