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Parenting For Life

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 6:4

  • 2010-07-18 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons

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This morning we continue our study of Ephesians 6 and I invite you to turn there with me. For those of you who are visiting with us for a couple of years, we've been working our way through this letter of Paul's to the church in Ephesus and we're in chapter 6 as he deals with the issue of the home. Last week we looked at the responsibility of children to their parents in the first three verses. Today we come to the responsibility of parents to their children.

As I thought about that this week, I came across the property laws of a toddler. Now if you've had a toddler or have seen one, which would be most of us here, then you understand that there are certain rules by which things work in the toddler world, and here are the property laws of a toddler. Rule number one: If I like it, it's mine. Rule number two: If it's in my hand, it's mine. If I can take it away from you, it's mine. If I had it a little while ago, it's still mine. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way. If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are mine. If it looks just like mine, it's mine. If I saw it first, it's mine. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine. And the tenth property law of a toddler law is: If it's broken, it's yours.

Now that's funny, but as I thought about that little list, it's also profound because it's a perfect picture of the depravity that every child is born with. And it's that depravity in all of its expressions, not merely its rules of property, that make parenting so difficult. Now when it comes to Christians and parenting there are really two very common extremes that parents take, and I give the extremes not because everyone is at these extremes but because we tend to move one direction or the other. So, you can find yourself somewhere on this continuum.

The first common extreme is the parent who thinks something like this: "If I am diligent to teach my children, if I live out the truth before them, if I continually expose them to the truth then God has guaranteed me that my child will turn out to be a committed Christian. If I have my daily Bible time, I make sure they do, I make sure my kids are in all the services, they're in Awana, if they learn and memorize the Bible and if I try to shield them as much as I can from all the world's influence then I will get Christian kids." Now there are programs that sell these ideas to Christian parents. You're probably familiar with some of them. A couple of the more popular ones are Bill Gothard's parenting materials, or Gary Ezzo's Growing Kids God's Way, or the secular versions of them. There are some helpful ideas in these materials but beware of any program or any idea that seems to promise a particular outcome or product if you put A in, you'll get A out. It's that simple they say. That's not what the Scriptures teach at all.

Unfortunately, most Christian parents who have bought into this extreme idea have not hung their hopes on those materials, but have hung their hopes on one biblical verse, Proverbs 22:6 which says, "Train up a child in the way in which he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." They believe that proverb is a kind of guarantee that if they do the right thing if they pour the right things into that life then they'll get the right product in the end. That is a misunderstanding of what that verse teaches. Proverbs 22:6 is not teaching, as I learned in my Hebrew classes early on, is not teaching about moral or biblical training at all; literally, it's saying that we should train a child according to his own way. In other words, do your training commensurate with that child's bent and gifts and when he's old he'll continue in that path. Proverbs really aren't talking about moral or spiritual choices, it has more to do with a career path. You train that child according to those natural dispositions and natural gifts and that career will stay with him throughout his life.

So, the duty of parents has not to do with the product that we produce, but with our faithfulness to the mission, our faithfulness to the assignment, the commands that God has given us. There are no perfect parents. They don't exist. But if you and I will be faithful to the Lord and in good conscience, seek to do what Paul lays down for us here in Ephesians 6, we will be good parents by God's standard regardless of the outcome, regardless of the product.

You know when I think about this view that sort of promises a certain outcome, the problem with that view is that it assumes all of the pitfalls that will come for our children are out there somewhere. They're out in the world and if I can just somehow protect them from those things then they'll be okay. That perspective forgets that our kids have fallen, sinful hearts inside, just like their parents do, and they respond to what input they're given, and they make decisions about that input, and apart from divine grace, they will always side with their fallenness.

The other extreme that Christian parents can embrace is a much more laissez-faire approach. These parents and this is the extreme, but you'll get the idea, they kind of think like this - if I give them enough church to inoculate them then I really don't have to worry about all the influences around them. I'll just make sure they're pretty regularly in church and we talk about God occasionally, maybe we pray before our meals. And then I won't need to regulate their internet usage and I won't need to worry about who their friends are, and I don't need to lay down clear directives about the kind of music they listen to and the kind of movies they watch and when and whom they will date. They'll work it all out, I mean, after all, I did. In this household, there's no, usually no intense teaching, no warning, no disciplining, but there's a good time. Sometimes this approach happens not because parents believe it, but because frankly, they are just too busy with their own lives to do anything else. Or frankly, it's just too hard. They want their kids to like them more than they want to do what honors God by their kids.

Now both of those views of parenting are very common. Both of them are represented here this morning and both of them are equally wrong. The truth is as parents we are to be extremely diligent in teaching and disciplining our kids. Not because we believe it assures us of some certain result or product, but because God commands us to do it. God's going to evaluate our parenting not on the outcome; He's going to evaluate our parenting on our faithfulness in following the divine plan for parenting. We can't control the outcome, but we can control our own faithfulness to do what God has commanded us to do. And He has a plan for parenting. And that plan is laid down concisely in just one verse in Ephesians chapter 6.

Now let me back up and just to give you the flow of the context. I'll back up to verse 1, we dealt with the first three verses last week; if you weren't here, I encourage you to go online and listen to that, so you sort of have the full context of these family commands. Verse 1 begins:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Verse 4 tells us how to parent for life. Not only to set them on a good course for life here but how to shepherd their hearts toward God. It doesn't guarantee that outcome, but it is our part in directing them toward God their Creator and Redeemer.

The stress here you'll notice is not on the outcome or the product, but on the parents, especially the father's responsibility before God. "Fathers," Paul says. He speaks directly to the fathers who were listening to this letter read in the church in Ephesus and he speaks to every father here. Now, why does he single out fathers? Because as we discovered back in Ephesians chapter 5, men are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in their homes. God has placed fathers in the place of authority and therefore the place of responsibility. Men, God addresses us, this verse is directed to us as fathers. But it does apply to mothers, also. In fact, the Greek word translated "fathers" here is translated accurately "parents" in Hebrews 11:23. So, God is talking to fathers and to all parents.

Now let me just say at the outset that while this is addressed to fathers and parents, it's applicable to all of us because either you are or were a parent or you may someday be and if none of those are true, you had parents, you have people around you who have kids and we're all admonished to help one another and so this is important for all of us to understand, in every life we touch.

Now, as we begin, men notice that God doesn't talk about our authority in verse 4 at all. It's assumed back in the first three verses. He told our kids about our authority, but here He tells us about our responsibility. And He breaks down His command to us into two parts. There is a negative command in the first half of the verse and there is a positive command in the second half of the verse. Let's start obviously with the first part and a negative command: "Do not provoke your children to anger."

Now if you had been sitting in the church in Ephesus in probably a large home of a wealthy member in the first century on that Sunday morning and Paul's letter was brought and it was read; when Paul said that, when the pastor or whomever was reading that letter that morning got to this line: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger" it was revolutionary because they lived in a much different culture than ours. They lived under Roman law and under the law of Rome, called patria potestas, the Romans gave virtually full power to the father over his children. A father by law could imprison his child. He could scourge his son. He could put his son in chains. He could force him to work in the fields. He could sell him as a slave; by law, he could even execute his son. In fact, a father in Roman law had more power over his sons than he did over his slaves.

It's in that context Paul says, "Fathers, be careful how you treat your children." Why? Because unlike what Roman law taught, children are not our property. They belong to God; we are merely stewards of their little lives for a short time. We call them our kids, and in one sense that's true but in a much more real sense, they are not. They are not our property; they belong to God. More than that, they are little people, made in the image of God like every other person, and therefore they must be treated with respect and with dignity.

You know it troubles me, it disturbs me greatly when I go into a public place, and first of all, it disturbs me to see kids misbehaving, they haven't been taught or trained. But what disturbs me, even more, is when in that public setting some parent ridicules his child, humiliates his child, yells at his child, or disciplines that child publicly. I always want to ask that parent: "So tell me, is that how you would want to be treated? Would you want to be corrected in front of everyone?" We are to treat our kids with dignity and respect because they are made in the image of God. Paul says don't make it a pattern to anger or provoke to anger your children.

Now he explains that I think, in a little different way in the parallel passage over in Colossians chapter 3. As I've told you before Colossians was written at the same time as Ephesians, from the same jail cell and there's a lot of parallels and so we get some insight into what he means from the book of Colossians. Colossians 3:21, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children."

Now the Greek word translated exasperate here is a very picturesque word. It literally means to stir up. It's used of a billow fanning a little dying ember into full flame. Don't stir up, don't be the source of the stirring into flame of your child's heart. Avoid attitudes, and words, and actions that drive a child to angry exasperation or resentment. Why? Why are we to avoid provoking them to anger? Look at verse 21, he tells us here: "So that they will not lose heart."

They will eventually become discouraged, and they'll just give up. Eventually, they won't care what you think anymore if they can do nothing to please you. So how do we most often produce anger and resentment in our children? How do we do it? Let me give you a little list; this list is not original with me; it's drawn from a number of different resources. But here are just a few thoughts.

Number one and I think this is the number one cause of anger and resentment in our children: inconsistent discipline. They don't know what to expect from one day to the next. They can do the same things on two consecutive days or perhaps in two consecutive hours and one time they get something that's close to the death penalty and the next time they don't even get a reprimand. How can a child live in that inconsistency? How could you live in that inconsistency? If when you got pulled over for a traffic ticket, you didn't know if you were going to get a fine or put to death? It stirs up anger.

Secondly: unreasonable, arbitrary commands. Just wielding your authority for the fun of it - unreasonable, arbitrary commands.

Number three: constant nagging and criticizing. You want to provoke anger in your children? Just nag them all the time about what they don't do right.

And along with that, number four: never compliment or encourage them. Don't ever tell them what they do well, don't ever praise them. You know Martin Luther was raised in a very difficult home with a fairly harsh father and he said this, "Spare the rod and spoil the child - that is true. But besides the rod, keep an apple to give him when he has done well." You wouldn't believe how many kids grow up thinking or saying something like this: "Nothing I ever do pleases my parents, they're never happy." Do your kids know that you're pleased with them, that you're happy with them when they do well? Are you as vocal and verbal with that, your praise more so than you are with your criticism?

Number five: overprotection. Just smother your kids in a desire to protect them from physical and spiritual harm and you'll produce anger.

Number six: favoritism. This is a common problem back in the Old Testament. It was a problem in Isaac toward Esau and Rebekah toward Jacob and Jacob toward Joseph, and you read those stories and you see the havoc that that favoritism caused. Just treat one of your kids with more favoritism than another.

Number seven: a failure to distinguish between childish behavior and sinful behavior. Kids are immature, they do immature things. That isn't necessarily sinful. They need to be taught. They need to be instructed. They need to be encouraged. There's a big difference between something that is immature and something that is rebellion. And a failure to distinguish between the two can wreak havoc with a child.

Benjamin West was a great 18th-century artist. In fact, Sheila and I celebrated our 24th anniversary this week and we were watching our video from our wedding, and we were married in a chapel that was filled with these huge Benjamin West paintings and they're just magnificent. Benjamin West often told the story of how he became a painter. One day when he was young, he was left with his sister, who was only slightly older than he was, at home alone while his mother went out for just a few minutes and while she was gone, he got into some bottles - discovered some bottles of colored ink that he had not seen before. Never heard anything about them, never seen them. He got into them and began to paint his sister's portrait. When his mother got home, she saw the huge mess that he had created, but she didn't comment on it at all. She went over and picked up his drawing and she said, "That's a portrait of your sister, Sally." And then she bent over and kissed him. Benjamin West often said that it was his mother's kiss that made him a painter. She understood the difference between childish immature behavior and sinful acts of rebellion.

Number eight: if you want to provoke your children to anger have an unhealthy focus on achievement rather than faithfulness and character. There are many fathers who push their sons to excel in sports, sort of trying to live out vicariously their own sports fantasies. We've all stood in horror on the sidelines and watched as some dad yells at his kid as if this was the last game in the World Series. Mothers push their daughters to excel in academics or to become the head cheerleader or homecoming queen or to be some professional. Instead of focusing on faithfulness and character, we focus on achievement and it often provokes anger.

Number nine: neglect, just neglect your children and you'll make them angry. This is what happened with Absalom. Read the story of Absalom. It was David's absentee fatherism that was ultimately at the root of Absalom's anger and rebellion toward his dad. There are many kids today who are daycare and latch key kids. And they often feel like they are an unwelcome intrusion into the busy lives of their parents' careers. A parent's attitudes and actions unwittingly but essentially communicate that the children are really not wanted. And eventually, the children will begin to treat their parents in the same way. It's like that old famous song, "The Cat's in the Cradle." The hen eventually comes home to roost.

A tenth and final way that we can stir up anger in our children is by verbal and physical abuse, verbal, and physical abuse. Verbal abuse, parents often stoop when they're frustrated to using the two most vindictive and hurtful tools at their disposal – sarcasm and ridicule. And you will tear your children down and you will provoke them to anger. This happened with Saul toward Jonathan, you remember when Saul discovered that Jonathan was more committed to David than he was to him. He says to him, "You son of a perverse, rebellious woman." Which was a pretty hefty slur in those days. And then he tried to physically harm him. He actually threw a spear at his own son. For Christian parents maybe it isn't that we say, maybe instead parents are tempted to say, "You are an idiot, you can't do anything right, you'll never amount to anything, you're a loser."

By the way, while I'm commenting on physical abuse, let me say sadly that there are extreme cases where parents are sinning against their children physically by beating them or hitting them. Or sexually. Kids, what do you do if you find yourself in a home where you're being physically or sexually abused? Well, let me just tell you that God has put other authorities over your parents, in that case, to deal with them. In the issues of sin, He's put the elders of the church. In legal issues, He's put the government. Tragically if you find yourself here today in a situation where there is physical or sexual abuse in your home, the first step that you should take is come speak to one of the elders of this church. Your parents have no authority in that situation.

Now those are just a few of the ways we provoke our children to anger. If you want to discover others, let me recommend a book to you - Lou Priolo's book, The Heart of Anger. The subtitle is Practical Help for the Prevention and Cure of Anger in Children. Very helpful little book but be prepared to be convicted yourself. The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo.

Parents, Paul says don't do those things that provoke your children to anger. And those are a few of them. That's the negative side of parenting. That brings us to the positive command in the second half of verse 4: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." The positive command here is "bring them up." The word means to raise them with tender care, to rear them from childhood, to nourish them, to nurture them. Children can't rear themselves; they have to be reared; they have to be raised.

By the way parents, this makes a very important point. In your home, be the parent. Don't try to be their little friends. Oh, you can have fun, do fun things with them. Be kind. But whatever you're doing, always be their parent. My kids will tell you that from time to time they hear something like this from me: "Listen, I need to remind you that you are not a peer of mine. I'm not one of your little friends. I'm your parent. That's not because I'm smarter, that's not because I'm bigger. That's because God has made it that way. He has placed me in this home in that role. And so therefore you must speak to me with respect." Be the parent. Our responsibility is to raise them, to bring them up. The proverb says, "A child left to himself will bring his mother to shame."

More than fifty years ago now the government initiated a study of delinquency. The Minnesota Crime Commission was formed and, in their writings, they put it like this, and I've shared this with you a number of years ago, but I have to share it with you again. Listen carefully, this is what they wrote, fifty years ago: "Every baby starts life as a little savage. He's completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants, when he wants it - his bottle, his mother's attention, his playmate's toys, his uncle's watch, or whatever. Deny him these and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He's dirty, and he has no morals, no knowledge, no developed skills. This means that all children, not just certain children but all children are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in their self-centered world of infancy, given free rein to their impulsive actions to satisfy every want, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist." That's exactly right. If you want to raise a rebel, then just do nothing. Don't raise them, let them happen. We are to raise our children.

And God has given us two primary tools to accomplish that. Notice verse 4, the first tool is discipline: "Bring them up [or raise them] in the discipline . . . of the Lord." Second Timothy 3:16 translates the word discipline as training. We are to bring up our children by systematically training them. William Hendriksen describes it like this: "This is training by means of rules and regulations, rewards and whenever necessary punishments."

You want a picture of training; go back to the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. There's a clear picture. God lays down very clear laws, He teaches His people what He expects of them, and then He lays down corresponding rewards if they're kept and punishments if they're broken. And then He actually carried through on either the reward or the punishment – that's discipline. That means parents that you and I must expect and demand that our children do what the first three verses of this chapter command them to do, as we studied it last week. We must expect and demand that our children do what we tell them to do without delay, without arguing and excuses, and without any sort of half-heartedness. They must do it whole-heartedly, without delay, without arguing or excuses, and with a whole heart. And they are to honor or respect us in their hearts and in their tone and in their body language while they're doing it. And if they don't there should be consequences. That's discipline.

Now an important part of this discipline is physical discipline or corporal punishment. And I know that's not popular in our culture and I'm not talking about anger, I'm not talking about letting out your anger on your child, I'm talking about a loving, controlled, physical discipline. This is what the Bible teaches. Let me show it to you because it is so popular. Let's start with God. God, Himself does this, turn to Deuteronomy 8:5. Moses is talking to the children of Israel gathered on the plains outside of Jordan, ready to go in after forty years of wilderness wanderings. And he says this to them, in Deuteronomy 8:5: "Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was [here's our word] disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son." God says, "I discipline," and just as it should happen with every father, disciplining his children. God, Himself does it.

If you want to see another example of that turn over to 2 Samuel chapter 7 and in the middle of the Davidic covenant, the great promises to David that one of his descendants would always sit on the throne, of course ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Second Samuel 7:14, God says this about Solomon:

I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me [what does that mean]; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him.

There's the balance – love and discipline. God, Himself does this.

And so, it shouldn't be a surprise to us when we come to the rest of Scripture that we are commanded to do the same thing. Let me just give you a brief overview. Go to Proverbs 13:24, "He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently." You see you might truly love your child, but if you don't discipline them, you're going to get the same outcome as the man who hates his son. If you really love him, you will discipline him diligently.

And obviously, in the context we're talking about physical discipline; controlled, loving administering of physical discipline. Look at Proverbs 22:15, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, [By the way, in Proverbs, in its context, foolishness is not immaturity. Foolishness is a moral choice. Moral depravity, bad moral choices are bound up in the heart of a child] the rod of discipline will remove it far from him."

Regardless of what our society says, God says it's effective. Proverbs 29:15, "The rod and reproof give wisdom, [so physical discipline and verbal instruction, verbal correction give wisdom] but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother." Look down in verse 17 of the same chapter: "Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; he will also delight your soul." We are to discipline our children. That is a command from God, even God Himself disciplines and it's part of teaching them to obey.

By the way, can I say, you have trained your kids to obey. Every parent here has trained his or her kids to obey you. It may be when you say it the first time in a normal voice. You may have trained them to respond then. Or, you may have trained them to wait until you raise your voice. Or you may have trained them to wait until you issue a threat: "If you don't do that, I'm going to" – whatever your favorite is. Or, you may have trained your kids not even to do it then, but to wait until you actually physically start toward them: "Uh oh, now she's serious, she's moving my direction." Or you might even have trained your kids to obey when you get to two counting to three. In fact, one of my favorite children's titles, it's a pretty good book too, but the title I love, it's Don't Make Me Count to Three. There are parents who have trained their kids to wait until two before they do what they're taught to obey. We've all trained our kids to obey us - the question is when. The Bible says you must teach them what they are to do, what's expected, then you must expect it of them, and then you must discipline them when they don't and reward them when they do.

Now some parents may be sitting here thinking, you know what happens if you've never really insisted on first-time obedience and respect? What if this really is kind of out-of-hand honestly in my household? Is it too late? No, there's always hope, especially with younger kids. You say well how do I start? Start by asking God's forgiveness for disobeying His clear commands about parenting. Your first issue is not with your kids. Your first issue is with God. He's the Creator. He put you in that home and He told you what you ought to do, and you haven't done it. So, start by seeking His forgiveness.

Secondly, and this may surprise you, but ask your kids to forgive you. Seriously. And by the way, we all find ourselves adjusting in life. You know correcting our course. We get busy and realize "Oh my goodness, you know my kids are not responding the way they ought to respond." I have found myself doing this. You ask my kids, they'll tell you there have been times when Sheila and I've said to them, "Listen I need to seek your forgiveness. I've realized I have allowed over the last few weeks you not to obey with your whole heart, you not to do what you're supposed to do. And so, I'm asking you to forgive me, but starting today things are going to be different. Since this is my problem and not your problem, for a few days I'm going to give you just warnings. I'm going to point out when you're not obeying right away, without arguing or excuses and with your whole heart and when you're not respecting me. So, for a few days, you get warnings just to remind you of what it looks like, and then there will be consequences, there'll be discipline if you don't after that." Discipline is a tool God has given us.

There's a second tool we have to raise our children and it's also in verse 4, it's instruction. Paul says, "Bring them up in the instruction of the Lord." The Greek for instruction is literally to place in the mind, to exert an influence on the mind. William Hendriksen writes, "This is training by means of the spoken word whether teaching, warning, or encouragement." So, there's discipline and there's verbal instruction. This word by the way presupposes a problem that needs to be taught to, that needs to be corrected. It seeks to correct the thinking of the child as well as to appeal to their will to make that change. If you want a clear picture of this word, read Proverbs – that's instruction. It's teaching. It's warning. It's encouraging. It's pleading with. It's verbal instruction. By the way, Scripture is your best resource for both discipline and instruction. The only other place in the New Testament where these two words occur together is in 2 Timothy 3:16 where they describe the Scripture: discipline and instruction.

Now if you been sitting there, that morning you'd said to yourself as this was read in the church in Ephesus, you'd have said, "Look, any good Greek or Roman, any pagan in the first century would have agreed so far." Both of these words, discipline and instruction were part of the vocabulary of all first century education of children. That's why Paul adds the crucial phrase at the end of verse 4, "of the Lord." A reference to Christ. Our training, our instruction must always have the Lord Jesus Christ as its reference point. All of our discipline and all of our instruction must be Christ-centered.

Now there are two very practical implications of this. The first is as we teach and as we discipline, as we correct, as we lay down the household rules – listen closely parents, we must never appeal solely to our own authority. Now I know we can be tempted to do this. You know, we're telling our kids to do something, they're asking too many questions, and what do we sort of default to as parents? Do it because I said to do it. That makes it all about my authority. Listen we have a temporary borrowed authority over our kids. It's not going to last forever, they're going to grow up and it's not ours, it's God's authority in their lives. So, a better way to say that would be to say, "You must do what I say because Christ has placed me in authority over you and He has commanded you to obey, that's why. I merely act on His behalf in this family. So, when you disobey me, you're not disobeying me, you're disobeying God." It puts their disobedience in perspective. It is not against you, it is against the One who placed you in that role of authority, it's against Christ Himself.

A second implication of this little phrase "of the Lord" is absolutely huge. It establishes the ultimate goal of parenting and of our families. Our goal in everything we do as parents is not primarily to build loyalty to us or to our family, although those are wonderful by-products and often do happen. In fact, can I say there is a serious danger of making family more important than Christ, or more important than the church, or more important than the kingdom? This happens. Today, there are movements like the patriarchal movement or organizations like Vision Forum that tend to make family the end-all. Now there are good things, good ideas in both of those things, but they tend to make the family the end, the family the goal. Having a godly family is important, that's why Paul addresses it here. But the Christian's first priority is where? To his family? No, to Christ and to the kingdom. Jesus said your love for Him should be so strong that it should make your love for your family look like what? Hate.

In Ephesians, we've been seeing the priority of being a part of God's household or God's family and our human families must fit within that context. Our primary goal as parents is to direct our children to God, through Jesus Christ. To encourage them to be God-centered, Christ-centered, Bible-centered, kingdom-centered, not family-centered. God doesn't want you to focus on the family. He wants you to focus on Christ and on His church and on His kingdom. But we get our goals all messed up. Ted Tripp in his excellent book on parenting, Shepherding a Child's Heart, lists some of the unbiblical goals that Christian parents tend to pursue. And I won't go through all of them, but I want to mention two of them to you which are very common in the city in which we live, the culture in which we live.

Wrong goals for parenting. Number one I'll mention to you is developing special skills in your kids' lives. By that, I mean things like sports, football, soccer, baseball, gymnastics, swimming, dance, or other things like piano. Some special skill. Now those have a place in our kids' lives. I'm not saying you shouldn't do those things. The question is how much emphasis do you give it? How much of your family's time do you spend on those things? Will those activities truly produce more Christ-centered, God-centered children? When you stand before God someday and give an account for your parenting, do you think God's going to care how well your kid can kick a soccer ball? Is that going to matter to God?

Another wrong goal that parents have that's very common is good education, a good education for their kids. For many parents, this takes precedence over everything else including their kid's activity and service in the church. In a George Barna poll the highest percentage of Christian parents, some 39% of Christian parents, ranked the most critical outcome of their parenting to be that their children get a good education. And many sacrifice everything on that altar and by the way it comes in all schooling shapes and sizes – public, private, homeschooling. This preoccupation can come in any of those forms. Again, there's nothing wrong with providing a good education for your children. But if the primary goal of your parenting is your child's academic success, you are failing as a Christian parent.

If you want to know if your goals are flawed, then just look at how your family spends most of its time, most of its energy, and most of its money. Many well-intentioned Christian parents build their lives around their children and their children's activities, and they unwittingly teach them not to be Christ-centered, but to be self-centered. You want a God-centered family? Here's how, "Fathers, parents, bring up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

Now, that's one verse. That's a very brief summary of parenting. Let me recommend some resources that will help flesh out what this looks like in real life. Here's a list, number one and if you don't buy anything else, you don't read another book I recommend, I would recommend this one, Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp. Very biblical, very biblical approach to parenting - Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp. Secondly, Age of Opportunity, by Paul David Tripp. This is a book for parenting teenagers - Age of Opportunity. A third sort of general work on parenting, Successful Christian Parenting by John MacArthur. Or if you have a troubled teenager there's a book, I would recommend to you called Get Out of My Face! How to Reach Angry, Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel. Get Out of My Face! by Rick Horne. And then I recommended earlier, the book the Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo. Those are all great resources, and I would encourage you to pursue your parenting.

I think it was William Penn who said, "Some parents give more thought to how they treat their animals than they do their children." Don't be like that. Pour yourself into this role and responsibility. Our goals should be to have our children Christ-centered and to do that we have to spend our time, our energy, and our resources in ways that show our children that Christ really matters to us. First, we have to be Christ-centered, then we can teach our children to be Christ-centered. Don't focus on the family. Instead, make it your ambition to focus your family on Christ. Let's pray together.

Our Father, we thank You for the cup. We thank You for the powerful reminder in it of our sinfulness and of Your grace and love to us in Christ that He poured out His life in violent death for those who deserved it. Lord, we thank You for the promise not only looking back but the promise looking forward to the day when we will see Him as He is and be like Him and sit down with Him and feast on a real meal in His presence. Lord, we thank You and we look forward to that day until then keep us faithful. Keep us faithful as parents, keep us faithful in our families to focus our families on Christ and on the kingdom. And Father, keep us faithful and growing in our love and devotion to Jesus Christ who makes all of this possible for it's in His name we pray. Amen.

Ephesians