The world now seems to operate according to the motto: ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ All sinners proceed on the assumption that there is no God whom men must fear and no judgment in which man must give an account. People make no secret of their sins; they even boast about them. As at the time of the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, sinners regard themselves as secure and carefree. They seek money, bigger houses, and other worldly pleasures. They dismiss as laughable those who witness to the truth of God’s anger and punishment. New movements continue to arise for the purpose of overturning Christian discipline and order, and for stirring up children against their parents, citizens against their government, students against their teachers, and the poor against the rich (God Grant It, by C.F.W. Walther, page 25-26).
Any phrases ringing in your ears? [Maybe:] People act as though there is no God? …Many chase after bigger and better? …Secretly shameful sins are now openly praised? …Christians mocked? …Rebels rage against government? …Christian discipline crumbles? (Something else?)
Believe it or not, these words come from a devotion written in 1850. It almost sounds as though this Pastor lives in our world today! Yet, Jesus warns you that this would happen. There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:1-5). As this world races to its end and as eternity marches another day closer, the devil, in his frenzied fits of rage, will fight to detract many from God forever.
That means there is still work to do. Understand, God is not telling you to go out and solve society’s troubles. Neither does he want you to point a smug, self-righteous finger at your neighbor or the stranger in the grocery store. Words like these strike home first. Reflect on your calling in life and consider the people God has placed in your life. Remember, Training Preserves Life. Remove what is harmful. Learn what is good. Follow what is right.
And she said that to me. A middle-aged woman, standing in my driveway, facing the parsonage garage-door. (The Ten Commandments are painted on it). Her eyes locked onto the Fourth Commandment: “Honor your father and mother.” She turned to me, “My kids need to pay attention to that.”
She’s right— but I wonder, has she removed what is harmful?
You see, children are not born with this innate sense of right and wrong. They are not these “blank slates” that can choose to love God or choose to disobey him. Scripture plainly says: Surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).
God’s Word shatters this idea that babies are born innocent, or that toddlers do not really understand the reason for their tirade, and that “kids will just be kids.” The sinful heart reveals itself with tirades and tantrums, with sass-back and disrespect. Toddlers understand the word: “No.” They cry because they do not want to hear it. Teenagers know drugs and drunkenness are wrong. So, they try to hide it from their parents. Even adults manipulate one another because they are selfish. God looks down on the world, sees every living soul, and concludes: All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one (Psalm 14:3). Not one elderly person. Not one kind parent. Not one newborn baby. Not even one.
That means someone must teach God’s ‘right’ and God’s ‘wrong.’ That means someone must teach when an action is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ That is reason for God’s command: Fathers… (and we could include father-figures, mothers and mother-figures) [bring up your child] in the training and instruction of the Lord. The purpose is to remove the sin that harmful. Sometimes that means you (and I) have to start with yourself first. Remove the faulty thoughts that are harmful.
God lists one: Fathers, do not exasperate your children… ‘Exasperating’ means to behave in a way that brings out anger from your child. To make your child resentful because of your actions.
If you wonder why a child is disobedient, a good question to ask is: Are they learning from me? Your child will believe God’s commandments are optional if you do not chastise them for disrespect or cursing or fighting or losing self-control. Your child will think faith in Jesus as Savior is unnecessary if he sees you in worship, but you do not urge him to also worship. Your child might know you worship, but hurt when you insult them and berate behavior. Instead of looking around at others, pointing a finger at their wild lifestyle, you (and I) have to examine our hearts first because your heart turns aside. It can become corrupt. It does not do the good God demands. Left unchecked, it can lead the child in your life to resent God.
So, God sends Jesus to remove what is harmful, to remove the ravaging effects of sin in you (and me). Jesus removes what is harmful by remaining without sin. When his disciples panic on a stormy sea, he rescues them. Not just that, but he even corrects their doubting faith. When James and John foolishly ask Jesus to destroy nonbelievers, he does not insult: “You idiots!” Rather, he teaches them that God’s love demands patience. When the Eleven cower for their lives Easter evening, Jesus does not appear with, “Cursed are you! See my hands and feet? I’m alive and you will suffer!” Instead he breathes out, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).
Look at Jesus. See God treat him harshly on the cross. See Jesus carry your (and my) parental failures to the cross. See him rise and raise you forgiven. Jesus has removed harmful attitudes about parenting.
Jesus shows you how serious sin is. As you remember his work for you, you will remove harmful thinking. In its place, you will learn what is good.
What is good? To bring up [your child] in the training and instruction of the Lord. Who does this? You. Fathers and father-figures, God wants you to continually teach your child about Jesus. Parent-figures, God uses your roles and your relationships as ways to bring his Word to the ears and hearts of others.
He even tells you what to say. Instruct [them] in the Lord. That means, teach them what God teaches. Sometimes that learning includes, well, learning. The only way you will know what God calls ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is to read what God calls ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ As a [grand]parent, make time for family devotions; make this part of your routine. Spend a few minutes after dinner or right before shutting off the lights at night. Read a chapter in one of the gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Summarize the one simple truth Jesus (1) teaches or (2) reveals about himself. Then say a short prayer together. God has placed you in the life of a child so that this child may know their Savior.
Not only do you instruct, but you also train in the Lord. When a child veers away from what God calls ‘right,’ call them back.
Some of you have adult children. You brought them to catechism class to learn the teachings of the Bible. Yet, it can happen that catechism class appears as a classroom lecture that does not touch the heart. Point out the catechism is not mindless information. Instead, it brings out key teachings of Scripture. The best way to drive this home is to share how something you learned from the catechism still comforts you. Speak of God’s promises when issues arise. “God’s in control over governments” (Psalm 2:1-6). “We need to pray for guidance in conflict” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). “God has given us our money, our home, and our food. He gets the credit” (Psalm 145:15-16). By doing this, you are connecting everyday life to the promises God has laid out in the Bible.
Perhaps teenagers live at home. It’s an exciting time to watch them mature and form decisions for their own personal future. Yet, remember: teenagers tend to feel a sense of freedom to do the things they did not experience with you. So, if God is a part of your life, you can be sure the devil will tempt them to try life without God. (That is part of the reason why 30% of those under age 30 no longer have a home church.) As a Christian father, share your faith with your teen. Open yourself up, expressing how God fills you with comfort, when you needed him most, and the confidence you hold now with him.
Training Preserves Life. Physical exercise increases physical health. In the same way, time in the Word and opportunities to connect faith to everyday life increases spiritual health. You learn what is good. As a result, you follow what is right.
Do you see the role you have, fathers and father-figures, [grand]parents and parent-figures? When you train a child, you are laying a groundwork for the child to follow.
That proves to be a blessing for all involved. God commands: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Understand, God is not saying, “Obey because I will be sad if you are not.” What makes this command “right” is that it comes from God and is beneficial. Obey your parents because they share the Word of God Almighty. Obey your parents because you belong to God. Obey your parents because out of love for God, you want to do what he commands.
Those who Honor your father and mother…[have] that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” If you respect your authorities, they will not arrest you, throw you into prison or execute you. If you obey your spiritual leaders, you will not bring spiritual harm upon your soul. If you obey your parents you will not be stressed out when talking. You may receive financial help. You will receive advice and guidance. You will enjoy ease of communication. Training Preserves Life. Follow what is right.
As this world races to its end and as eternity marches another day closer, the devil, in his frenzied fits of rage, will fight to detract many from God forever. That happens when the family unit breaks down. When parents fail to teach the next generation of their God. When parents do not discipline their child as God expects. When children disobey God and reject his leaders. You do not have to look far to see proof of this happening today.
Remember, God does not tell you to go out and solve the world’s troubles. He tells you to start at home. Take a good look at your family. Is there somewhere you can grow? … Somewhere you can spend time with the Word of life? … Somewhere discipline is needed? …Is there a place to spend more time in devotion?
The purpose of that Christian family is to have all those parts work together so that all may reach their heavenly home. The way to do that is through the Word. He give us parents (and parent-figures) to speak and children to hear. Reflect on your calling in life and consider the people God has placed in your life. Training Preserves Life. Remove what is harmful. Learn what is good. Follow what is right.