PARENTING: Bringing up children in the Lord

Date Preached: August 11, 2019
From the Series: Family Life
Topics: parenting
Scripture: Ephesians 6:1-4
Notes: Download PDF
Speaker: Gary Combs


Parents today are worried. They’re worried about their child’s health: obesity, drug abuse, bullying, internet safety, stress, teen pregnancy, depression, and teen suicide. They’re worried about their education: public, private or home school? College? So, a lot of parenting today is worry-driven, or fear driven. Parents today feel overwhelmed and underprepared. Either because they came from a dysfunctional family themselves or because they have no foundational biblical understanding, they feel lost in their role. So, many are just winging it.

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he told them how to bring their children up in the Lord. We can follow God’s Word in bringing up our children in the Lord.


Below is an automated transcript of this message:

All right, good morning, church. It’s good to see all of you here. We’re concluding our series called Family Life, and today we’ll be talking about parenting, how to raise their children up in the Lord. That’s our conversation today.

I thank Bonnie for offering her testimony earlier about how her plan for her and her husband was they didn’t plan on having children. But when they opened themselves up to following the Lord’s plan, He had other things in mind, and it became quite a blessing to them.

Here’s what we believe; here’s what the basis of this sermon series has been. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Here’s what we’re convinced of; if we try to build our own family according to the world’s designs, even according to our own plans, we will come up empty. We will labor in vain. So why not lay the foundation of the Lord? Why not let the Lord be the builder of your house ? For the past few weeks, that’s what we’ve been talking about.

Today, we’re talking about parenting. Parents today are worried about so many things they’re worried about their child’s health, obesity, drug abuse, bullying, internet use, stress, teen pregnancy, suicide, depression, cutting; so many issues. I could go on and on. Our parents today are often described as worry driven. Another way would be to say, fear driven. They’re just afraid about being parents. Parents today feel overwhelmed and underprepared, sometimes because they came from a dysfunctional family themselves. And by the way, there’s a little bit of dysfunction in all of our families, Amen? I mean, all of us have some dysfunction, but maybe it’s because we came to Christ later in life as adults, and we have very little biblical understanding about how to parent. Maybe our parents weren’t great models. But yet when we started having kids, we just kind of default to what we knew.

How about you? What’s your parenting approach? Are you just winging it and just doing the best you can, hanging on by your fingernails? What is your parenting style?

In Chip Ingram’s book, Effective Parenting in a Defective World, he relates the research of sociologist Reuben Hill, who did a study of several thousands of families, and he asked the question about what type of parenting style they had and then he tracked them over a period of years to see how their children turned out. In his book, Chip Ingram offers this grid (grid on Vimeo.) (Pastor Gary describes this grid on Vimeo.) This grid has the four quadrants that he placed parents and their style as he studied them.

The first quadrant was permissive parents who are fearful about everything, and so they’re really, really high in love. But they have no discipline in their family parenting approach. This parent is afraid to be a mommy or a daddy. Instead, they want to be their child’s buddy. They want to be their friend; they are very permissive. The child grows up knowing they are loved but never knowing their limits. You would think the child would grow up with high self esteem, but instead the opposite happens. They grow up with low self esteem and uncertain of boundaries

Here’s the second category; the neglectful parent. This situation is the most difficult for a child to grow up in because you’ll notice it’s low in discipline and also low in love. This is a rare occurrence, but often happens because there’s chaos in the family, probably due to divorce or a death of one of the spouses. Maybe there’s addiction in the family or abuse. As a result, there are issues that the parents are counting more important than parenting. And so the children come in last. These children grow up neglected. Now parents don’t purposely do this. They don’t say, “I want to ruin my kids.” It’s just that life is already out of control for this mom and dad. And so they’re not prepared.

Here’s the third quadrant, the authoritarian parent. You’ll see that they’re very high in discipline and control, but low in love. This mom, this dad rules the roost with an iron fist and their children salute when told to do so. Here’s the problem. These children can’t wait to get out of the house, and the minute they can get out of “prison,” they feel set free and never want to come home again. There was plenty of rules and regulations, but not enough relationship. And so the authoritarian parent probably acts out of a lot of fear, and is afraid of everything that’s going on. And so they over protect and over regulate. One day, the child just says, “I’ve got to get out of here.”

Here’s the fourth quadrant, the authoritative (not authoritarian) but the authoritative parent or fellowshipping parent. You’ll notice this is the quadrant has the highest amount of love, and this parent has equal proportions of both love and discipline. This parent teaches the child their boundaries but also makes the child understand that they are loved. And so the relationship is never put at risk and that the parent will often be saying, “Honey, I love you, but we need to correct this behavior.” So, they will build the bridge of trust that will bear the weight of truth. And so they do both at the same time. Incidentally, this fourth quadrant ended up being the quadrant that the Bible teaches. It is high in love and high in discipline.

We’re going to the book of Ephesians. That’s where we were last week as we talked about marriage in Ephesians, chapter five. Now, we’re going to chapter six, where we are talking about children and parents. Let’s look and see. The Apostle Paul told the church at Ephesus; he taught the Christians there how that they could have their house built by the Lord. And as it regarded parenting, he says, ‘Your job, parents, is to bring them up in the Lord.’ How can we do this?

As we look at the text today, I think we’ll see four steps on how to raise ou children up in the Lord. Let’s dig in. Let’s look at it. We will start at verse 1- 4 from chapter six. Ephesians 6:1-4 (ESV) “1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This is God’s word. Amen.

We’re looking for four steps on how to bring up our children in the Lord. Hears the first: (1) Give them a biblical standard to obey. First, notice how it starts. Paul is starting with the lesser to the greater, if you will, in terms of the way the world normally looks at the family. Last week, he said wives. Then he addressed husbands. Now he’s addressing children first, and then he will address parents. If you keep reading in chapter 6 of Ephesians, he addresses servants and then he addresses masters. Here’s what Christianity does. It turns the world upside down. It makes life better.

He starts with children. And so the way I’m going to unpack this, we do have children in the room, and when I say children, the Greek word here for children could be translated as a “dependent child of either sex.” In American society, we would say, a child under the age of 18 is a dependent child. In other words, the word that we have here for children the word that they’re commanded to do is obey. It has a time stamp on it. You are to obey your parents as long as you’re under their care, as long as you’re dependent.

Now there’s a later word we will hit in a verse; the word honor, because these were the two words given to the child in Paul’s teaching. Obey and honor. Obey and honor. Obey has a time stamp on it. We owe our parents obedience as long as we’re dependent. Honor has no time stamp on it; honor is for life.

First, let’s just deal with this word obey, obedience. It is an interesting Greek word; it means to come under hearing. So children are to obey that which they hear from their parents. The assumption here is that you’re going to give them something to obey. The assumption is parents give them something to obey. Now what do you want him to obey? Well, it says here , children, obey your parent in the Lord, for this is right. Well, first of all, in the Lord; you want to give them something to obey that comes from the Lord, and you want to tell them the truth about right and wrong so that they know what’s right and what’s wrong. We live in a world today that says there is no right or wrong; everything’s relative. It’s whatever you feel. But we’re not like that because we believe in the absolute truth of the word of God. So we say, ‘No, that’s not true’. There is a right there is a wrong we’re going to teach our children. We’re not going to teach them this fuzzy relativism. We’re going to teach them about absolute truth. We’re going to teach them about the Lord. We’re going to teach him about right and wrong so they could come under the hearing of this biblical standard of truth.

I want to give you some images. One image is something I’ve used through the years; it’s helpful to me. I hope you’ll find it helpful to you. First of all, when you become a parent, many of us show up at church again. Maybe we left when we went off to college or whatever. We were single. Then we got married. We are still kind of trying to do life. And then you have a child. You go, ‘I need help.’ And so a lot of you came back because of your kids. If you will be honest with yourself, a lot of you came back and said, ‘I need to start working on my spiritual life again. I need to get back to God because of my children.’

Here’s what I would say. First of all, we must open our hand to God; open our hand and open our heart, and stop shaking our fist at God. We need to say, “God, I need help.” So that’s the first step. Then here’s the other thing. As you have a child, you take the child’s hand. And so here’s the divine stewardship of parenting. Our job is to raise them up. So you’ve got God’s hand and here’s the child hand to raise them up in the Lord, for this is right, so that someday they go from being sons and daughters to brothers and sisters in Christ. Our job is we have a divine stewardship. Our children belong to the Lord. They are entrusted to us for our care. And our job is to raise them up in the Lord. That’s our job.So give of something to obey. Give them a standard that is true that they can come under the hearing.

Colossians is kind of the mirror passage. Colossians, chapter three, mirrors what Paul talks about in Ephesians, He says, Colossians 3:20 (ESV) “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” It has His stamp of approval. Give your children something to obey.

Deuteronomy gives you the style of parenting of how to teach them obedience. You don’t sit them in a classroom with a desk and stand up in front with a ruler. It’s more like this. It’s more of a way of life. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NKJV) “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. “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.” In, Deuteronomy, these words which I command you, speaking to fathers and mothers, today shall be in your heart. So that’s important. Make sure it’s in you first. Get it from the Lord. Then it says you shall teach them diligently. Teach what? What God taught you from His Word. Teach what the word of God says as your standard, you shall teach them the standard of God’s word diligently to your children. You 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. In other words, as you go along the way, as you’re driving your car, as you’re going to work because you’re living life. This is what affects your children deeply. Not when you bring them to church only; the only place Christianity shows up in your life is that brief hour or hour and 1/2 that you’re a church. Your kids are kind of looking at you like you are kind of different when you are there, but the rest of the week, that’s the real mom and dad, right?

But no, it’s more like this; it permeates your life, and so they begin to see a holy consistency in your life that speaks loudly, and they come under that hearing. They see your life, and as you’re just eating breakfast or as you’re eating dinner as you’re taking them to school or whatever you’re doing, they begin to see, this is the pattern, this is the standard that I want to follow when I grow up.

Chip Ingram, in his book, Effective Parenting in a Defective World, offers a parenting myth. This is a myth that many of us tell ourselves, that my child’s primary responsibility is to juggle their schoolwork and their extracurricular activities so that they can grow up to be a well rounded, successful adult; you know , an adult that has a house with a two-car garage and maybe two and 1/2 kids with a golden retriever in the backyard. That’s the kind of child we wanna have grow up now. Is there something wrong with that? Absolutely not. That’s the American dream, but it’s a myth that it is your job. Do we want to raise good kids or great and godly kids? And so I would say, stop trying to raise good kids and start trying to raise godly kids.

Here’s the reality; my responsibility as a parent is to teach them obedience so that they are able to follow God themselves. The truth is, the reason some of us have trouble with the father, with the Lord, is because of our own fathers and our own mothers. Don’t be in the way of your child coming to Jesus.

Listen to some of these worldly methods that parents use to teach obedience. And I would say to you that these are all worldly methods and not biblical. If any of these sound familiar , consider yourself slapped on the wrist a little bit here and go ahead and repent of it and say, ‘I’m going to stop using worldly methods and I’m going to use more biblical methods in raising my children.’

Here’s one; it is called Bribing. How many of you are using bribing? ‘Come to Mommy and I’ll give you a sucker.’ Here’s another one; it is Threatening. ‘If you don’t pick up your toys, I’m throwing them all in the garbage.’ Emotional appeal, ‘After all I’ve done for you and this is the way you repay me.’ My mom was really good at this one; she used to quote scripture, she’d say, “ I walked through the valley of the shadow of death just to have you and you treat me this way?” Environment; if you can reach it, it’s yours. But then you move everything in the house up above their reach and then they learn to climb. Reasoning; ‘Sweetie, your hot dog will get cold if you don’t eat it.’ Try reasoning with a toddler; they’re born as lawyers. They will defeat you. Yelling; ‘How many times do I have to scream at you to get you to obey?’ Countdown; ‘ I’m gonna count to three…’ You can count to ten; whatever you say, they’re waiting to the last number. They’re not moving. Teapot; ‘I’ve had all I can take and I can’t take anymore,’ and then you explode. These all worldly methods of parenting that all of us, I’m sure, would have to confess we have done at different times.

Stop using worldly methods because they really are based on our own fatigue. Most of the time, we’re just too tired to parent. There’s this brief window that we have our kids and may I say to you the 0 to 8 window is the most intense. Because if you put a lot of investment in the 0 to 8 season, then that season of 9-18 goes a lot better. If you reverse that and try to be an intensive parent after eight, you’ll find it doesn’t go as well. It’s a lot of hard work; I’ll give you that. That’s why we need the Lord. And that’s why we need a biblical standard to obey.

My wife and I love tomatoes; if you were to see our kitchen window over the sink now, it’s lined up with tomatoes in various levels of green turning red. We’ll pick them and then watch them turned completely red. I love a fresh tomato. I don’t like one after it’s been refrigerated. I like it when it’s just like room temperature, don’t you? I love tomatoes. Anyway, we’ve got two tomato vines that my neighbor across the street gave me; one is a Cherokee Purple, which actually grows almost a purple colored tomato.

If you just put the plants in the ground, they’ll just flop. They’ll get unhealthy; insects will get on them, so you have to train them up. You have to train them up so they will be healthy. So you’d stake them or put them in a cage. We’re putting them in cages; I’ve got him tied to my fence because they outgrew the cages. In every couple of days, I go out and have to tie them off again. Everytime they grow, I have to tie them off to something. That’s how we’re to train up our children as they’re coming up. Give them a stake, something firm, something that will stand. Give him the word of God that points to God and tie them off. That’s what we’re asking ourselves to do. Give them something that will last.

Here’s number two. Did you get that step? That’s step one; give them something to obey. Give them a biblical standard to obey. Number two is (2) Show them the way of honor. That’s the second imperative word given to children. Obey and honor. Paul quotes the fifth commandment. He just goes ahead and grabs it from Deuteronomy 5:16 (ESV) “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” So Paul takes the fifth commandment, and he kind of impacts it a little bit here for children. The word honor could be translated to prize, to revere or to pay what is due. It has an overtone of financial support. The idea of, in the days prior to social security, the idea was, parents would have children, raise them up and then when they got older, the roles would reverse and the children would honor their parents by caring for them in their old age.

You remember what I said about the obey word and the honor word. The obey word seems to have a time stamp on it, whereas the honor word doesn’t. You might say, ‘you don’t know what my father did and how abusive he was or my mother was a horrible mother. How in the world..’

The Bible has an unconditional command that you are to honor the idea of motherhood and fatherhood and to find out a way that you can honor them, even though they haven’t earned it because you’re honoring them as you honor God. Someone here has a broken relationship. It doesn’t have to be anymore. Listen, you can decide to start honoring them and do it for the Lord. So that applies to all of us; we are to honor.

We’re also, as parents I think, to teach our children to honor because they don’t naturally do it. They don’t come out honoring anybody but themselves. They don’t come out obedient. They don’t come out honoring. What is the problem? Well, it’s called the sin gene. We’re all born with it. We’re all born with Adam and Eve’s sin nature. We have to teach them to honor.

How do you do that? Well, you don’t allow them to disrespect you. You teach them to respect you, teach them to honor you because you love them. It’s the first commandment with a promise. It’s a two-fold promise. What are the two parts? One is a blessed life. Your life will go well. When you honor your parents, you come under the umbrella of God’s blessing. The second part of that is we find in the verse that you may live long in the land. And so it has something to do with longevity, right? If you honor God’s word and you honor your parents as He commanded , then you have this two-part blessing or two-part promise that Paul says the first commitment is a promise.

What’s the opposite? To come under the curse rather than the promise? If we decide to disobey God’s word, we open ourselves up. We step out from under the umbrella of protection, which is blessing and protection, and we step out under the curse and we end up with verses like this that we encounter in Proverbs 30:17 (ESV) “The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.” The Bible doesn’t play, does it? It basically says that dishonoring and disobedient children come under a curse.

Parents, you have a serious job. Teach your children to obey and teach them to honor. Romans 12:10 (ESV) “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

What does it look like to honor? Some years ago, we had a family attending our church that had taught their children to respond with a certain phrase. I can remember the mother saying, “Susie, how do you obey?” She would say, “immediately, sweetly and completely.” That’s great. I don’t know if she’s doing it, but she has memorized the phrase. Immediately because slow obedience is no obedience. Don’t teach your child, ‘I’m gonna count to three.’ Teach them that you are not going to count. You will tell them something and they had better move. Why would you be like that? Well, because you’re trying to teach them obedience, which is what God’s word asked you to do.

Sweetly; they have to do it with a good attitude. ‘What’s that stink eye you’re giving me right now?’ ‘I’m not giving you…’ ‘Yes, you are.

Completely. They don’t get to do half the job. You asked them to make their bed and they did the worst job. They didn’t do as good as you know they can, like when they first thought it was fun to do it. I can still remember when I first son, Stephen, used to follow me with this little plastic lawn mower. I’d be mowing in the backyard and he would be following me. Robin would be concerned that he would get hurt. I would tell her that he is staying behind me. He’s having fun. Then, I taught him to mow; the first couple of times, he would he would hold onto the handle and I would push. He started mowing by himself; he hadn’t been mowing maybe once or two times and he says, “Oh, no…” But when I first taught him, he was great at it. Then I had to teach him to do it completely. Honor immediately, sweetly and completely; it’s a step beyond obedience.

It respects parents. It addresses parents with appropriate titles like daddy and mommy. Not old man. Not old lady. Teach them to obey you and to address you. Teach them to use honorifics. Do you know what an honorific is? It’s Mr., Mrs., yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir and no sir. Some of you may so, ‘I’m from the north. We didn’t do that.’ Well, get over it. You live in the south now, okay? Teach your children to respect.

We moved here from Roanoke, Virginia. There, a child would refer to me as Mr. Combs, and that’s what we were used to. Then we moved here, and I would be at church, and little children would would call me Mr. Gary. I thought, well, that’s new, but I kind of like that, because it’s both honorable and relational. So I kind of like that kind of eastern North Carolina habit. And then when I became a pastor, people start calling me Pastor Gary, which is also respecting and honoring, right? And so let’s put that back in the culture. Let’s not let the culture roughen our children up. Let’s teach them to say Yes, sir, No, sir, Yes, ma’am, No, ma’am. Teach our children to honor because it makes sense. Put it back. Put it back. It’s been getting out of the culture and so children are not born with it naturally. If you teach them to honor you now, they’ll honor you later.

Number three. So we talked about obedience. We talked about honoring. We’re getting down into verse four now, where it begins talking to fathers, which is really representative of parents. Here’s the step. (3) Encourage them with sensitivity and consistency. Encourage them with sensitivity and consistency. Consistency. Why does it say fathers? Why doesn’t it just say parents? Why fathers? Because there’s a natural bent in humanity that fathers tend not to do their job as parents and then it falls on the mother. Now our mothers are absolutely mission critical. You better believe it, because we can’t really get babies without them first of all, right? But beyond that, they have the nurturing and so forth. And so we need motherhood absolutely; we need motherhood. But what’s missing in our culture today, would you say, is the sin of the culture today that we have absentee mothers? Maybe occasionally but rarely.

The epidemic in America today is fatherless homes, we see the corrective right away from Old Testament to New Testament. You’ll always hear that fathering is the leadership of parenting; that fathers are to be equally and intimately involved in raising children with mothers. And so it’s not enough for fathers to be like the older generation, where they just work, earn and that’s it. You know, the wife does everything. No, it’s to be a partnership.

I think that’s one of the reasons that it says fathers. Another is, let’s just face it, they’re the first ones to get a negative command, obey, honor and then the fathers get “do not provoke. Why’s that? We have big bodies, loud voices, baritone sounding voices and here’s the child. So we scare the children, right? We forget how big we are; we tend to provoke them because we discipline out of anger and so we often lackthe sensitivity. So, fathers do not provoke your children to anger because you reap what you sow. You sow anger so you will get it back, right? Paul is being realistic; the Holy Spirit is just kind of its corrective. You could say this segment of Ephesians is prescriptive, that it’s a prescription for the family. When he says fathers, it applies to fathers and mothers. I think because father is representative of parenting. Hear that word provoked; it means to rouse to wrath, to exasperate and to frustrate. What is something that could cause a child to feel provoked? Fault finding; that would cause it. Just being picky, like they can’t do anything right. Not spending enough face to face time to build the relationship if it’s always corrective. There’s never any fun. There’s never any relationship.

Remember what I said earlier? You build the bridge of trust that will bears the weight of truth. These things will cause the child to feel provoked. Labeling, calling your child lazy because they didn’t do a certain job, calling them stupid or calling them a loser. We don’t get angry at them; we label them with labels. By the way, fathers. What was Adam’s job? His first job, even before he met Eve, was to name the animals. The power of naming.

Do you realize there’s power in the tongue; that fathers and mothers have the power to name? And those names stick. Those names stick. It’s not just the name you gave to put on the birth certificate for your child, but it’s all those other names along the way that can exasperate and provoke your child.

Inconsistency and lack of sensitivity will provoke your child. For example, today, you’re friendly and you’re happy. The child’s thinks, ‘okay, it looks like I can get away with a few more things today. It looks like Mommy’s happy today.’ But then there’s the next day. She’s…..and the child thinks, ‘ok, what do I do now?’ That inconsistency will cause the child to feel provoked. Colossians 3:21 (ESV) “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

How do we act with more sensitivity and consistency? How do we do it? Make sure they know they are unconditionally loved. Make sure they know that no matter what they do, you love them and that we’re working on the behavior and on the attitude. The fact that your son or daughter is never at risk. Schedule time with them, especially if you have more than one child, where you are eyeball to eyeball with that one child. Speaking of eyeballs, make eye contact when you’re talking to your children.

Robin and I have two sons and a daughter. Our daughter, the youngest, used to climb up in my lap. I’d come home from work. I used to run drug stores. I was a district manager for a drug store chain and I was working 65-70 hours a week. I’d come home from work and my wife would try to protect me a little bit. She would tell the kids, “leave Daddy alone.” She was just letting me become “human” again, you know, because I’d be kind of ragged. I used to like to read the newspaper and watch the news. That’s not going to make anybody feel better, But that’s what I used to do. I would come home from work, read the newspaper and watch the news at the same time. Then, I would see a little head come up under the newspaper and it would be my daughter. And she would put her hands on both sides of my face and say, “Daddy, look at me.” Well, apparently she had been talking to me, but I had zoned her out. Men can do that. Can I get a witness? Ladies, men can do that. We compartmentalize; we are linear in our thinking. I’m doing the news right now.

But she knew how to handle it. There she is. “Daddy, look at me.” She wanted me to treat her like I was more important; like she was more important than whatever I was doing. It wasn’t enough just to even say I heard her. She wanted to see my eyes looking back at her eyes.

This is how we provoke our children. We don’t give them eye contact. We don’t give the meaningful touch. We don’t have enough fun with them. We don’t pray with them and we call ourselves Christians. We never get down on our knees next to their little beds at night and hold hands with them, teaching them to not just pray “poetry” prayers, but real prayers that we also pray in front of them so they learn how to pray. We’re not teaching them; no wonder they get exasperated by our inconsistency, not just in our discipline, but in our spiritual lives.

You know, speaking of of touch, what is it that happens to girls? I’ve only got the one little girl I got to raise up. But from 0 to 11 ½, it was the game that my daughter and I would play every night. She would say, “I love you, Daddy. Goodnight, Daddy. I love you.” And then she would start walking towards the stairs to go up to her bedroom. And I would say, “I love you, more.” And then she’d say, “I love you the most.” As she’s running up the steps and I go, “I love you the mostest!” The last thing echoing down the steps would be, “I love you to infinity!” And so we played that game every night; it was the thing we did. Robin usually did the “night night” prayers. And then I would do the boys. And then we’d switch. We had all these traditions.

Somewhere around 12, she would just disappear and I would go, “Where, where’s Erin?” I go upstairs. The door is shut. She’s in bed. She’s already cut the lights out. I walk in there, I’m standing at the door. “Where’s the love? Where, where’s the love infinity game?” “Oh, Daddy, I’m 12 years old, you know.” “Well, goodness gracious , you know, I mean, what’s happened to you?”

I just didn’t put up with that so I did the usual thing. I took this sheet and put it over her head, and I put the covers over her head. Then I pulled the covers back and the sheet back, and then I would “karate chop” them all in. Right? So she’s like a mummy. This is what I always did with her; I’m this little girl’s daddy. And then I said, “Kiss me right here.” She goes. “I know what you’re going to do.” “ Kiss me right here.” So she could start to kiss me here and I would switch cheeks so she has to kiss me on the lips. And I said, “I love you.” She said back to me, “I love you too.” And that went on from 12 to 16. It was so aggravating. Then the season after 16 came; she became so rebellious; Robin would go up a night when she was asleep because that was the safest time to deal with her. And she would get down at the foot of the bed and put her hands on her feet and say, “God soften my daughter’s heart.”

What’s going on here? You have to fight for your kids spiritually. You have to go after it all. Now, she’s got two boys of her own and she just about drives me crazy sending love to me. She’s on Facebook sending love to me. We’re back to, “Daddy, look at me.” But you know what? You know how you get there when they go through that difficult space? You keep on loving them, even when they’re not very lovable. She comments on that sometimes. She’s like “Mama and Daddy, thhanks for loving me when I know I was pretty hard.” Love, right? That’s how we get through a phase like that.

Be sensitive . Be consistent. Here’s another book for you parents that are trying to build your parenting library. This is one of my “go to” books, “Shepherding Your Child’s Heart,” by Dr. Tedd Tripp. Aim at the heart go past the behavior to the heart. Find out what makes your child tick. Take the time. Don’t just ask for good kids. Look for godly kids. Aim at the heart and encourage them with sensitivity and consistency.

Here’s the fourth step. This could have been a four part sermon series, but we’re doing it in one sermon. (4) Raise them with appropriate discipline and instruction. We are in the latter part of verse four. “Now, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This is where we’re at now; the latter part of these four verses about parenting. Bring them up. It’s the idea of training and nourishing, remember, train the vine to grow up towards the sunlight. You train it by tying it off every time it grows. You tie off to the standard again to something straight, something that points up and you tie it off.

Remember what proverbs says in Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” That’s our job; to bring them up, to train them up in the Lord. And we do it with these two tools, discipline and instruction. The word discipline has the overtone of physical in effect. When we’re teaching a child to tie their shoes, we first show them. This is how you tie your shoes. Make the bunny go through the bunny ears or whatever you taught your kids. You know, of course, a lot of parents today. Just use Velcro. But somewhere along the line you have to teach him to tie their shoes because they’ll finally get those shoes that tie, right? And so we we teach them this. This has the idea of physical hands on teaching, which includes the idea of physical correction. So that’s the first word discipline that has a physical component.

And then the second word is instruction, which points to the mind. In fact, the root in the Greek is the word mind. So it points towards training the mind. The first word discipline is training the body. The second word is training the mind. So this is the two part that Paul is teaching here, from the word of God to the church in Ephesus.

Now I’ve got a chart for you here about how you do that over time as your child grows. This is about spiritual and mental formation and development. From 0 to 5, the child is very concrete in their thinking and basically you’re inputting data. At this point, you’re teaching them right and wrong. You’re giving them something to obey. Not gray. Because you said so. Remember how much you loved that when you were a kid? I told my mom when I was somewhere around 14 or 15, “When I have kids, I’m not going to say to them ‘because I said so.’” The first time Stephen questioned something I said, “because I said so.” It just came out of my mouth. I needed to call Mom and tell her I’m saying the same thing she said to me.

But right here, you’re teaching them the rules. Don’t wait to start teaching them rules. It doesn’t work as well here. High in discipline. Lower in instruction. It’s high in discipline. This is how you walk. This is how you tie your shoes. No, don’t touch that. No. I think one of the first words most of our kids learn is “no,” because we say it so much to them when they’re young. Then they’re growing in relationship. They’re becoming more abstract, and we’re thinking somewhere around here they start questioning everything. But out here is where you want them to get, where they’re self actualized, they are becoming an adult. They can think on their own.

It’s kind of like this. They start out riding a tricycle, then they get a bicycle with training wheels, and then, while they’re still home and they can practice in your backyard, you take the training wheels off. But we get it backwards, we are permissive back here, we let them get away with things because they are just a kid and they can’t help it. Somewhere in here they start to get scary and we become prison wardens, and it just doesn’t work. Teach them to obey when they’re two and they’ll do better at 12. Teach him to obey then and at 14 all you have to do is give them the look.

I remember when we were going to a previous church some years ago, and Robin and I were both in the choir and at this particular church we wore choir robes and you stayed in the choir for the whole service. You didn’t go down and sit you to sat behind the pastor. And so we’re sitting back there. We had assigned one of our neighbors that was sitting in the second row to watch Stephen because he was too old to go to the nursery. So he was sitting with them. I would be sitting there and I would see him start messing around with a little boy next to him. I’m sitting in the choir and I would see him, and he would be poking and giggling. And they’re sitting in the second row and the preachers trying to preach. I’m sitting in the bass section. I would lean over and I would give him this (facial expression). That whole segment of the church would straighten up. I got a guy in the choir sitting up there like looking on. And so afterwards the fellow’s name is Steve who was taking care of my son. He comes up and asks me if I was mad at him about something. I told him “the look” was meant for my son Stephen. I couldn’t get Stephen to look at me, but, boy, when he would finally did. He immediately knew he was in trouble.

Here’s a chart that gives you the difference between punishment and discipline because we get confused and we think that physical discipline is punishment. But it only is if you have the wrong understanding. First of all, if you think that discipline its purpose is to inflict penalty then you’ll think it’s punishment. But the purpose of discipline is to train for the future. Correction. Your training; you’re tying them off. You’re correcting. So discipline is about that. If your focus is you’re punishing them for what they just did, then it’s based on past misdeeds. No discipline is so that in the future they’ll behave correctly. You’re disciplining them for the future, and your attitude should not be hostile and frustrated. In other words, you shouldn’t be angry when you’re disciplining. Sometimes you need to send the child to their room and say, “Wait for me,” so that you can get straightened out, you can pray a little bit and get yourself calmed down so that when you go to to discipline them, it’ll be out of love and concern because you don’t want to fall into sin. You’re trying to obey God’s word in this one. But if you’re sinning, then the result, if you punish, will be fear and guilt. They’ll think gods that way because fathers and mothers, the way you parent prepares their heart, what would we say? It’s preparing their heart for the Lord. Boy. That’s scary, isn’t it? That’s why you need to pray more. That’s why you need to follow God’s word more. That’s why we need to depend on the Lord to help us. But if you will raise them up and discipline them with the right purpose, focus and attitude, they’ll feel more secure. They’ll know what the boundaries are, and they’ll know that you’re not trying to hurt them, that your discipline is an act of love.

Proverbs 23:13-14 (NLT) “Don’t fail to correct your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.” . Dr. Dobson has commented in some of his books that that’s the reason there’s extra padding on the backside. Hebrews 12:11 (ESV) “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Listen, friends, I know I’ll probably get letters again this time . Every time I do parenting, somebody gets upset about me saying something about spanking or something like that. I’m trying to teach you what God’s word says. Every child is unique. Find that which will not do harm to the child. But you have to recognize the scripture says there’s a physical component and a mental component to raising them up. You need to use both in order to do it well.

Here’s a parenting myth rom Chip Ingram’s book, Effective Parenting In A Defective World) Parenting Myth: Your goal is to make your kids happy. Parenting Reality: Your goal is to make your kids holy— set set apart for God. Your goal to check yourself on this. My goal is to raise happy kids. That’s my goal. My goal is that, honey, I don’t know what you’re gonna be when you grow up. I don’t care what I just want you to be happy. That’s not your goal, Christian friend. Your goal is not to raise happy kids. Your goal is to raise holy kids. Kids that are set apart under the Lord. Remember what we’ve been saying to raise up? It’s so that they are raised up in the Lord . If you will raise them up to be holy, they’ll be happy. You raise them up to be happy. They’ll probably be unhappy because it’s not a sufficient goal. It’s not enough just to go to the place with the clown and the the two big hoops in yellow and get yourself a happy meal. That’s not enough. The world says, Get him a happy meal. But the book says to raise him up in the Lord. And by the way, if it weren’t for happy meals and chicken nuggets, I don’t think my grandkids would survive. I don’t know how they’re going to make it another day as they’re getting older. I don’t know how I made it. There was no such thing when I was coming up, and my mother used to make me eat things that would kill my grandkids today. I was told that you need to eat your spinach, because remember the cartoon you older people, about Popey, Olive Oil and Brutus? You had to eat spinach because it’ll make you strong. And I used to tell my mom (because you don’t reason with a little kid) that I didn’t want to look like Popeye.

Anyway, make your kids holy. Raise them up in the Lord. Children are a gift from the Lord. Raise them up. Raising them up in the Lord is a divine stewardship. They’re only yours for a season. Trust the Lord. Now listen, we’re closing now, Here’s what I want you to think about some of you are here today and you’re a single mom, because the vast majority of families in America today have as the head of the household the mother. I was raised by a single mom. My father died when I was eight years old. She raised four kids by herself other than those first 8 years. We had wonderful father, but he died of cancer, and the way my mom parented she couldn’t be both, but she would always brag on my dad and she would elevate manhood to this little boy so that he didn’t grow up to think of his self image. Anyway, she wanted me to be masculine, so she didn’t put down masculinity. She said, You look like your dad. You’re growing up just like your dad. She would encourage me to go work with my papa or go out with my uncle Basil. She was always trying to put me with other men in the family or men at the church that were going on some sort of men’s retreat or something like that, so that she wanted me to be a man. And she recognized that she was a mother, and so she did all she could. If you’re a single mom here, don’t don’t feel beat up by this sermon. I was raised by a single mom, and so all four of her kids came to Jesus and all four of her kids went to college, and we were like the first ones in the whole extended family to do that. She used to pray that prayer from the scripture “God, you said in Your Word that you would be a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow. So you be their father. You be my husband. You get me through this.” And he did, and I’m an example. So, single moms, you’re loved. I love you. The Lord loves you.

Maybe you’re a head of household, daddy. We have got some of that in the house, too. Whoever you are, it doesn’t matter. You need the Lord. That’s the most important thing. So let’s do this. First of all , let’s pray that we get this hand right. First, get that hand right. Got to stop shaking it at God and get it open and open it up to go get that right. And then we start this, Then we start getting this right.

Let’s pray, Lord, thank you for Your Word. Because of the gospel, Lord, we’re forgiven in Jesus. And so whatever’s happened in the past, we can put that aside. We get a do over. And Jesus Lord, starting now. I’m just praying for people in the room. Is that you, my friend? Starting now, open your hand and open your heart to Jesus. Would you do it right where you are? Mom, would you do it? Single mom trying to do life on your own. Would you do it? So I need you, Lord. I need you. Dads, would you do it? Here’s what you pray to get right with God. God forgive me of my sin. Lord Jesus. I believe you died on the cross for my sins. I believe you have raised from the grave and that you live to day. Come and live in me. I surrender my life to you. I want to be a child of God. And Lord, would you save me and make me a child of God? If you are praying that prayer right now, believing, He will save you and make you a child of God. You can be the mom or dad that He wants you to be. You’ve asked the Lord Jesus to be your lord and savior, but hearing this message you just have been so tired, and I’ve been putting other things ahead of the work He has called you to do as a mom or a dad just repent of it right now. That’s a great thing about the cross . He took all of our sin and all of our shame. He just offers forgiveness and grace. Just give it to him right now and say, Lord, now empower me. Just wash me with your cleansing forgiveness and grace right now. Empower me to start over today, raising my children in the way you’d have them be raised. Lord, make me the mom, make me the dad You want me to be. In Jesus name. Amen.