Raising Children Who Love God

Trey Garner October 22, 2016 Ephesians 6:4

Today, we’re talking about raising godly children.

This topic has implications for all of us. There are some of us who are in the throes or in the trenches of parenting right here, right now and so this is applicable like today.

Others among us are grandparents—some may even be striving to help their own children to do what we’re talking about this morning.

There's others who have friends and relatives who are currently in the parenting trenches…and you’ve observed that it doesn’t always go so well… For you, this morning provides you the chance to learn so that you might be able to help your friends and family members when the Lord presents opportunities for you to do so.

Then, of course, some of in this room aren’t today… but a day may be coming when you will be a parent.  Just think about this as an opportunity for advanced preparation. 

Now, before we go on, I want to say a couple of sword about our time together… there are a lot of godly men in this room.  Many of you have raised some very godly kids…and you have a lot of wisdom to share…

I’m looking for our time together to be highly practical and highly interactive…so I want to ask you… especially those of you who have raised godly children to please be generous in sharing that wisdom with the rest of us…

INPUT:  Why would we even have to discuss a subject like this?

  • Godliness doesn’t just happen.  Children—like all people—are inherently sinful.  If they’re going to become godly individuals, they’re going to have to be trained.
     
  • Our children are precious to us, and we want them to experience the very best that God has to offer them. 
     
  • Our kids are going to influence the lives of others—and if they’re going to have that opportunity, then we want to help them make the most significant impact for the Lord that they can.

We’ve considered this topic in our Sunday morning services on a couple of different occasions… I particularly appreciated a message on June 26 by Pastor Green where he invited the Joe and Susan Blake, Scott and Debbie Grass, and Jerry and Amy Jefson to share their insights as parents that have raised… OR are raising… some pretty terrific kids.  If your weren’t able to be with us that morning, I would encourage you to check out that message on our website

That message centered on a single command of Scripture.  And it’s that command which is also going to serve as the springboard for our discussions this morning.

Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Now, based on what that verse says...I want to ask what may seem like a rather obvious question…but humor me…

INPUT:  Why would that be a particularly important verse for us to discuss at a men’s breakfast?

  • The primary responsibility for the parenting of children fall to fathers.
     
  • That’s certainly not to say that mothers don’t also bear responsibility in the raising of children…or that the work of mothers is somehow less important than that of fathers...  Titus 2:4 makes it clear that the Lord has expectations for mothers as well…
     
  • But if we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God… then we have to believe that God could have chosen any word He wanted to begin the command we just read… He could have said “Parents”…He could have said “Mothers”…He could have said, “Grandparents”… But he didn’t say any of that… He said, “Fathers”…
     
  • Scripture makes it clear that God expects men to lead their homes… And that expectation of leadership extends to the task of parenting… God wants us to know that He holds men chiefly responsible for raising children…

Now, that alone is a heavy responsibility…but that’s not all God calls us to do, is it?  No, we’re called to be loving husbands, good providers, godly employers or employees, faithful servants at Church…and we’re to be developing our relationship with Him.

There’s a lot on a father’s plate. 

So, my question to you…especially those of you have raised or are raising godly children is this…

INPUT:  What kinds of things do you need to balance these various priorities?

So, what instruction does this verse provide fathers? 

This verse follows a pattern that we see throughout Scripture:  a negative command, followed by a positive one.  Don’t do that…Instead, do this.  Put that off…And put this on.

So, let’s begin with the negative command…

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger”…

John MacArthur has said about this verse…

To provoke to anger suggests a repeated, ongoing pattern of treatment that gradually build up a deep-seated anger and resentment that boils over in outward hostility – John MacArthur, The New Testament Commentary: Ephesians, p. 317.

INPUT:  What are some things a father needs to avoid that could potentially provoke his children to anger?

List of examples provided by MacArthur

So that’s the negative command.  Let’s talk about the positive command.

Fathers are told to…

“…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

In the original Greek, that phrase “bring them up” carries with it the idea of nourishment. 

When your kids are first born, what is your top priority?  Keeping them alive.

They’re so fragile… so helpless… They depend on you for their very survival.  You’ve got to make sure that they eat at regular intervals… that they gain weight… that they go to the bathroom at regular intervals…

Before I had kids…nobody told me how much I would need to care about my child’s poop…

And when our kids were first born—both of them had this issue—we very concerned because each of them struggled to take in nutrition… We knew that if they didn’t do that…they wouldn’t survive.

Now, thankfully, they turned the corner on that issue… but that was a big concern in their first few days.

We would all say that the nourishment food and drink provide are pretty essential for our physical health.

Well, this verse is telling us that God-centered discipline and instruction are essential nourishment for the spiritual health of our children.

Let’s talk about some of the nuts and bolts of what it means to nourish our children… To bring them up bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord…

I want to begin by talking about the kind of instruction that kids need… And as we do this… I want us to try to identify those things that are especially important for us to teach kids in their younger years and in their teenage years

Now, I’ve got a six and an eight-year-old at home right now… And as the pastor children’s ministries I work with kids on a weekly basis ages eleven and down… So, I’m pretty comfortable talking about what kids need during their younger years…

But when it comes to the teenage years… That’s where I’m gonna rely really heavily upon those of you who currently have teens and those of you that already raised teens…

But let’s start with the younger years… Interact with me on this…

INPUT: What are some of the most important biblical concepts that we need to emphasize with younger children? And if you can… tell me why those concepts would be especially important to emphasize when kids are young?

God’s existence
Kids need to understand that there is a God… And they’re not him.  That begins in places like Genesis.

God’s character

  • Power
  • Love
  • Goodness
  • Holiness

God’s truth
-        Kids need to learn to value the Word.

  • Help them distinguish between Scripture and other literature or programming

2 Timothy 3:16-17All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

-    Children’s Bibles

God’s goal for our lives

     2 Corinthians 5:9 – Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

Our goal in life is to please God… And we do that by becoming like Jesus…

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son

God’s view of authority

Romans 13:1-2Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Everything we’re talking about is an essential part of bringing kids up in the instruction of the Lord.  But maybe the most essential task for parents of young children is to bring kids under the authority of God by bringing them under parental authority.

One of the very first verses parents need to teach their children is Ephesians 6:1

Ephesians 6:1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

INPUT:  Why would teaching this concept be such an essential part of a parent’s task?

God’s use of consequences

Now, we’re going to talk about the discipline side of bringing children up in a few minutes… But helping our kids understand the fact that choices have consequences is essential way of preparing your children for discipline when it’s necessary

     Proverbs 13:15 – the way of the transgressor is hard. (KJV)

John 13:17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (NIV)

Rebellion brings hardship…but obedience brings blessing…

God’s answer for sin

When you teach kids about the character of God…

When you teach kids to value his word…

When you teach kids that they need to please him…

When you teach kids that God is in charge and that we need to submit to the authority he places over us…

When you teach kids that their choices have consequences… That ought to raise one huge question in their minds…

“What happens when I fail?… What happens when I sin?”

And that’s when we get to talk to them about Jesus.

We need to teach them… That all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… That the wages of sin is death… But that the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

All of those concepts are absolutely vital for children to understand. 

And you say, “Pastor Trey, these concepts sound don’t sound the kinds of things that only kids need to understand… They sound like the kinds of things that everybody needs to understand.”

Exactly.

You know… I’ve found that some people get absolutely freaked out by the idea of working with kids… As if kids were some kind of different species for which they have no frame of reference…

Kids are not all that different from adults… We all need to know and live out the same biblical principles…

But there are some differences… The three major differences I have found between kids and adults are that…

1) Kids are more honest… Meaning that they are less adept at hiding their sin than adults…

2) Kids are more open… They are much more willing to tell you what they’re thinking… And they are much more effusive in the way they express their enjoyment of life…

But when it comes to teaching… Major difference between kids and adults is that…

3) Kids need more explanation… Adults are able to take bigger logical jumps then kids are able to take…

Think of it like a connect-the-dots worksheet… With adults… The logic dots can be spaced farther apart… There able to understand things with less explanation…

With kids… The logic dots have to be moved a little closer together… And doing that requires patience… But if patience is an area where you need to grow… Then I would highly recommend working with children…

Now you may say, “Wait a minute, Pastor Trey… I listened to that list of concepts… And you left some important ones out… What about concepts like kindness… sharing… working hard… And stuff like that… ”

And you are absolutely right… What I just gave you was by no means an exhaustive list of the concepts kids need to understand…

But the concepts we just discussed are the big heading concepts… the gateway concepts… That open the door to discussion about the specific qualities of character that they need to be developing…

So… That covers the content of our instruction… But we haven’t talked about how you get that instruction into the heart of a child…

And I want you to interact with me on this question… How do you do that?

INPUT:  What are some effective ways of helping younger kids develop their understanding of these important concepts?

Deuteronomy 6:4-9“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Sunday School/Children’s Church/Wednesday Night Kids of Faith v. sports

So far we’ve talked about instructing younger kids… Now, let’s talk for a moment about older kids…

There’s no question that older kids need to understand and embrace the same concepts that younger kids need… And if you haven’t established that foundation… Then you need to do some work on those principles…

But once that foundation is established… You’re able to go deeper… You’re able to get more specific

So, for those of you that have discipled teens… I want to ask the same two questions…

1) What are some of the most important biblical concepts that we need to emphasize with teens?

And then…

2) What are some effective ways of helping teens to embrace/live out those principles?

So, let’s start with the first question… But as you answer that question… If you find that you need to talk about the way you go about teaching a particular concept… Please don’t feel like you can also answer question two

INPUT:  What are some of the most important biblical concepts that we need to emphasize with teens? 

INPUT:  What are some effective ways of helping teens to embrace/live out those principles?

___

All right… So we talked about the instruction aspect of bringing children up… Now we need to talk about discipline…

We’ve already talked about the fact that choices have consequences… Obedience brings blessing… But rebellion brings hardship…

And as we get into this discussion… I want to share with you a definition of parenting that I particularly like by James McDonald…

“Parental training is the artificial application and amplification of the consequences of a child’s choices.” – James MacDonald

INPUT:  Why would it be important for a parent to artificially apply and amplify the consequences of wrong choices for their kids?
 

-    Consequences for a child’s choices are typically small… But as the child gets older the consequences for his choices become more significant… And if he gets in the habit of making rebellious choices while he’s young… That habit is likely to continue as he gets older… Leaving the consequences that could potentially wreck… Or even end to his life.
 

-    And a parent’s job when that child is young is to amplify consequences… So that when that child makes a bad choice… He says, “whoa… I didn’t like what happened to me when I did that… I don’t ever want to do that again…
 

-    Conversely… when that child makes a good choice… The amplified consequences of that good choice ought to cause that child to say, “Wow… Pleasing God with my choices is really cool… Good things happening when I please him… My life is blessed… I want to do more of that…”

Dads… One of the dangers from any of us will be to focus on one of the dangers for many of us will be to focus on the wrong things that our children do… But if we do that exclusively… We neglect a very powerful tool for encouraging godly choices… I’m talking about rewards…

We need to be on the lookout for the right choices our children make… Particularly when making right choices is difficult…

And when our children choose to do what’s right… we need to praise them up one side and down the other… We need to be ready to bless them with something special… Something that they would find really enjoyable… It could be a treat… It could be a toy… It could be an experience… It could be any number of things…

I want to find out from you…

INPUT:  What are some ideas for rewarding children when they make right choices?

So, we want to reward kids for right choices… But when they make wrong choices… When they choose to sin… That’s when discipline becomes necessary…

Now, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room… Discipline is one of those words that sets off alarms in our cultures… And I think the reasons for that is because discipline is frequently misapplied… and therefore misunderstood.

But when biblically understood and applied… Discipline is intended for the good of the child… The child is the intended beneficiary of discipline…

The purpose of discipline is not punishment… If discipline were about punishment… then the beneficiary of the discipline would not be the child… but rather the one that was wronged by the child…

Discipline would be about retribution…balancing the scales…That’s not what discipline is intended to be…

Rather, a parent’s discipline is to follow the pattern of God’s discipline…

Hebrews 12:10 - God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.

Discipline is intended to produce holiness… which comes as a result of repentance…

So, the goal of a parent’s discipline should be repentance… A turning away from sin… Toward righteousness…

And discipline can take a variety of forms… We’re all familiar with some of them…

I want to say a brief word about corporal punishment…or as Scripture would call it… “the rod.”

Now, I think it’s important that we understand what the rod is to be used for… It’s used only for rebellion. 

Never for mistakes.  Never for immaturity.  Only for deliberate disobedience, for lying, for refusing to follow a parent’s instructions.

And how do you use the rod? 

Never in anger. 

Everyone say, "Never." 

Never in anger. 

INPUT:  Why is it important that we never discipline in anger?

Remember…discipline is intended for the child’s good…to bring about repentance…

And once repentance occurs, then you immediately restore your to fellowship. No leaving the room and coming back in an hour. 

When kids are young, you use the rod as needed, but as they get older its use typically diminishes.

When used lovingly and biblically… The rod is a very important and effective tool in training up children to love and live for the Lord.

Now, let me say one more word about this…

As a pastor of our children’s ministries… I interact with a lot of families… And vast majority of families with which I’ve had the privilege of working… Have been an absolute delight.

But would it surprise you to know… that in my position… I frequently have the opportunity to interact with parents whose children need help making better choices?…

And over the years… I’ve encountered a few children that have been particularly challenging… Children who really struggle to obey… who don’t participate well in class… who don’t listen to their teachers… who put up a big stink about being there… Like I said… There particularly challenging…

And if there like that here at church… I can only imagine what they’re like at home…

But when I interact with their parents… One of the questions I frequently ask them is… “What are you doing to discipline your child when he disobeys?”…

Would it surprise you to know… that in conversations like these… the parents almost always tell me almost all of these parents tell me… “We don’t believe in corporal punishment.”

And I suspect the reason for that is because they lack an understanding of how God intends for the rod to be used… And that its use is actually intended for a child’s good.

I’ll repeat what I said earlier…  When used lovingly and biblically… The rod is a very important and effective tool in training up children to love and live for the Lord.

Now, I’m sure some of you have questions about this.  I’m not going to take time to get in this session to get into the specific process of conducting corporal punishment.

If you need help in understanding how to lovingly, biblically carry out corporal punishment, I would  recommend an excellent resource to you… It’s a book by Tedd Tripp called Shepherding a Child’s Heart… And in that book, chapter 15 is dedicated to a discussion on the appropriate application of corporal punishment.

And if you need further assistance… I’d be happy to meet with you on an individual basis…as I’m sure would any one of our pastors, deacons, or ABF teachers.

With that said… the rod isn’t the only form that discipline takes…

I want to ask you to interact with me on this…

INPUT:  What are some other forms of correction that you’ve found effective in encouraging repentance in your children?
 

  • Natural consequences
    • If you tell your children not to leave their toys in the hallway but they do and one of those toys gets broken…teach them about consequence…and don’t replace that toy…
       
  • Allow them to experience the fruit of their sin
    • If a child lies, they must humble themselves by owning their sin, confessing it to God and to the person they lied to
    • If a child takes something from a store, they must confess their sin to the store owner and then pay back double the price of the item.
       
  • Additional work
     
    • Psalm 107:12 talks about the Lord humbling the hearts of the wicked with labor.
    • Randy Patten suggests that parents have a list of 20-25 chores that a child would take a child roughly 15 minutes to do.
       
    • When a child sins, put them to work.
  • Loss of privileges and rewards
     
    • Sometimes you can tell when your child is considering doing something wrong…you can just see that glint in their eyes…
       
    • I would encourage you to tell them… “We’re in the habit of blessing righteousness and punishing sin. Which do you want today?”

Proverbs 13:24he who loves [his son] disciplines him diligently.

Hebrews 12:11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

INPUT:  How should the discipline and instruction of a child change as that child gets older? 

INPUT:  What are some effective ways that grandparents can support parents in bringing up their children?

INPUT:  What are some things a parent can do to help their children take personal ownership of their spiritual development?

INPUT:  What are some things those without children should do now to prepare for that day?

Recommended Resources

  1. Children’s Bible Recommendations:  blogs.faithlafayette.org/church/childrens-bible-recommendations
  2. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
  3. Age of Opportunity by Paul Tripp
  4. The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo
  5. Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Trey Garner

B.F.A. - Musical Theatre, Texas State University
M.F.A. - Acting, Purdue University
M.Min. - Grace Theological Seminary

Pastor Trey Garner joined our staff in 2001. He and his wife Deb were married that year, and they have two children. Trey oversees our Children’s Ministries, which serves infants, toddlers, and K-5th grade students. He also provides pastoral care for our 8:00 a.m. worship service.

Read Trey Garner's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Garner to Faith Church.