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How to Raise Godly Kids in an Ungodly World, Part 1

From the series How to Raise a Healthy Family in a Modern World

Chip delves deep into the Principle of Focus and the Principle of Modeling, when it comes to raising a healthy family in a culture that doesn’t value the nuclear family of the Bible.

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Message Transcript

The question I have been given is: what counsel would you and Theresa pass on to parents and grandparents? And we don’t have fifty years together, but what I can tell you is this, is that if there was one passage I would go to, and this isn’t the passage like Deuteronomy 6 about what and how to do it. And it’s not even in Ephesians 6 about specific action items.

But I think there’s something about how we think about being parents and I put it on the front of your notes: Psalm 127, of all the things in Scripture that have framed my thinking and Theresa’s thinking because there are some values here.

I want you to follow along as I read. It says, “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless to work so hard from early morning and late at night, anxiously working for food to eat for God gives rest to His loved ones.”

So, all I want you to know, those first three verses, you get this idea that your activity, your activity to build something, your activity to protect, to protect your children, your activity to work and all your energy and make something happen – the first three verses are: unless God is in it, it’s to no avail.

Of all the things, I didn’t grow up as a believer, Theresa didn’t grow up as a believer, we came from parents who really did love us, but pretty dysfunctional in terms of the alcohol and the background.

And what we knew, and I think it was a blessing, we knew that we didn’t know how to be the kind of parents that God wanted us to. We knew we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

And hear, dependency. Just realizing no matter what you learn, how many books, how many videos, what schools your kids go to, at the end of the day the most important principle in all parenting is that you need God. Your kids need the hand of God and the favor of God.

And I have watched, I have watched my wife for, now, forty years on her knees before God. And us together before we go to bed at night, asking God, begging God. And, by the way, I will tell you that all four of my grown children walk with God, they all have married well, they are all raising their kids in a way that is far better than we did.

And Theresa and I can’t take credit. I want you to hear, this is not from a couple of experts that have it all together. This is from a couple people that didn’t know what they were doing, that begged God for help. But I will tell you this though, we believed that God’s Word, this is how you become a mom or a dad or a grandparent.

And we got around people that would help us. But what we understood was God builds the family. God protects the family.

The second three verses are maybe the biggest value point. “Children are a gift from the Lord. They are a reward from Him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them. He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers in the city gates.”

In our day, children are not seen as a gift. Sometimes they are seen as a liability or a nuisance or we don’t want them to interfere with our lives or we want someone to babysit them or take care of them. And this is the other big value.

First is, only God can work in their heart and as a mom or a dad or as a grandparent raising kids, all that we can do is create the kind of environment that the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, through great relationships and other people could help our kids become what we long for them to become. In fact, better, what God longs for them to become.

The second though is that there is this sense of: it’s a stewardship. Our kids are a gift. They are precious. This is the most precious gift God will ever give you. And He says that there is this process that they are not just a gift for your enjoyment, but it’s like a young warrior.

Notice there, it’s a picture of these arrows. In other words, these children, our goal is to launch them into the world. Our goal is to help them discover: why did God make them and what did He make them to do and how do we help them discover their gifts and how do we give them a passion for the things of God that, in the world and all the problems, that our children would go out and our children would make a difference?

And then I love this at the end. It says, “When he is old, he won’t be put to shame.”

I had a special little thing here at the church and I bumped into one of my sons. And I got to talk with him about his family and a couple of his little ones who were around. And I just, I was asking him a few questions about this message. And I just was listening to him and he was telling me, “Dad, I think it’s harder now to raise kids than any other time.” And he said, “I don’t think parents, I don’t think they are aware of the exposure of what is happening to some of their kids and the level of intensity and the level of energy it takes in our day to really be a great parent.”

And what I realize is is that I am now, I am now learning from my kids about how to parent and better how to be a grandparent.

Well, as you turn the page, if we only had, say, twenty or twenty-five minutes to have coffee and you said, “There are a lot of books, there’s a lot of techniques, there’s a lot of great things I can learn about parenting, but if you had to boil it down, something very easy to remember, Chip, what would you and Theresa say to us?” …about being an effective, about being a godly parent or grandparent?” See, my goal, I want my kids to be positive and I want them to be “successful” in a certain sense. But I titled this message “How to Raise Godly Kids in an Ungodly World.” And so, here are the three questions that have shaped our parenting. These are the ones that now, with my grandkids, I am asking these same questions.

But question number one is this: what is my number one goal? As a parent, ask yourself, what is your number one goal? What do you want to see happen more than anything else? What really matters? You only get one goal. What does success look like? If you’re a parent, you’re asking yourself: What is my number one goal? What, as far as it depends on me, what am I asking the God of the universe, the God of the Bible to do? In my child’s heart and life, what is my goal?

And the answer is in Ephesians chapter 6, verse 4. I have put it in your notes. The Phillips Translation says, “Fathers, do not overcorrect your children or make it difficult for them to obey the commandment. Bring them up with Christian teaching and Christian discipline.”

I want you to put a line under don’t overcorrect them, put a line under bring them up, and then I want you to put a box around the word teaching and a box around the word discipline. And let me just say, this isn’t an accident. Notice, it says “fathers.”

Fathers, you have an instrumental role. You are the point person in your family. You are the person that is morally responsible for the outcomes and you do it together with your wife. And those of you that are single parents, you need us, as the Church.

But, fathers, here’s the temptation: “Don’t exasperate,” or, “don’t overcorrect.” Don’t be a picky dad. Believe me, my kids understand what that looks like. But the second is the positive, “But bring them up.” It’s a very interesting Greek word. It means to rear; to nurture. In the ancient Greek language, it meant the physical development. Later, it came to be known, the full development emotionally and spiritually of a child.

So, in other words, my number one goal is not to overcorrect, but I want to bring them up so that they spiritually, emotionally, and physically become all that God designed them to be. And first and foremost, what that means is: you don’t parent out of fear. You parent out of focus. You say, You know something? What is my number one goal?

I put it this way: my number one goal is for my kids and my grandkids to be holy, to be Christ-like.

In other words, it’s character. I want my kids and my grandkids, regardless of what school they go to, regardless of how much money they make or don’t make, regardless of anything else, what I know is they will be happy, they will be successful if they are godly, if they walk with God.

And that takes incredible intentionality and incredible hard work. I call it the principle of focus. And here’s the question all of us have to ask. And no one is immune in this room. Do you want God’s dream for your child or do you want the American Dream?

What matters most? When you begin to think about what school they go to, what college they attend, what sports they play, what opportunities they have, who are their friends? Is the filter in all those decisions: what will help them spiritually and morally develop and become a man or a woman of God? Or is it about prestige? You know what? It’s fine if your kid makes the traveling team unless the environment on the traveling team is moving the whole family and your child away from God.

It’s fine to be a great musician, it’s fine to get into a great school, but if the focus of a child is: I am only accepted, I am only valued…

And where your real goal is that they be successful, that they be happy – here’s what I am going to tell you. I can’t tell you the number of parents, grandparents, single moms, single dads that I have wept with and talked with who, their kids are successful and they went to great schools and they are very musically talented and often very athletic and they are far from God and they are far from their folks.

So, let me ask you, what is your goal? What is your goal? And then, if that’s really the goal, if your goal is to help your child, at whatever age. Whether they are two, whether they are twelve, if they are twenty-two, if they are forty-one they are still your child. What is your goal? You still have a relationship. My goal with each of my grandkids, my goal with all of my adult children is: how can I help them really walk with God and know Him?

And notice, I am given two things: Christian teaching and Christian discipline. Basically, there are two things we have to offer. Our words, teaching; and discipline, our actions. And it looks different.

But when they are two years old, there are certain things you say and there are certain actions. When they are little – eight, nine – there are certain words and certain actions. When they are teenagers, when they are young adults, when they get married.

But God wants us to know that He has given us instruction as parents, as grandparents. And so, you start off as telling them what to do, and you are the teacher. And then, pretty soon, you realize that they are going to get their own values, you start asking more questions. And then, pretty soon, you transfer more and more responsibility as they are teenagers.

Then they are young adults and they are making their own decisions, then you go from the teacher to the coach to the counselor and then you get to where I am, and I’m just a consultant now. Seriously. I don’t give advice most of the time unless I am asked. And I pray for those opportunities. And you build a relationship and you stay connected because this is the number one goal.

The second is not just: what is my goal? But what is my number one role? Of all the things you can do for your kids, of all the things I can do for my children and my grandchildren, what is my number one role?

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 4, verses 14 to 16, “I am writing this not to shame you, but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” Now, notice this command. “Therefore, I urge you to imitate me.”

I call this the principle of modeling. Are you ready for this? It’s really, it’s simple to say; it’s really hard to do. I want to be the kind of example that my kids would say, “I want to live the kind of life that I see my dad living, that I see my mom living.”

Now, by the way, don’t hear perfection. But I want to model what it means to be dependent. I want to model what it looks like to drive your car with the Holy Spirit living inside of you. I want to model: what do I do when I blow up in anger? I want to model: what does it look like to care for the poor? I want to model: what does it look like to honor God with my money, to become a generous person? I want to model: what do I do under pressure? I want to model: what does it look like when the future is uncertain? I want to model: what does it look like to trust God when your mate gets cancer? I want to model: what does a step of faith look like when God whispers in your ear and He calls you to move across country or change locations or change jobs?

I want to model what it looks like when there is a relational problem in the family and you don’t want to have one of those hard, hard conversations. And I want to model this sense of: Oh, God, will You give me the grace? And then calmly and lovingly say some very hard things.

In fact, I want to model what it looks like to have someone say some very hard things to me that I don’t want to hear and all my defenses flare up and then just by God’s grace put them down and look into the eyes of one of my kids or my wife and receive the reproof that I need. Imitate me.

See, all the research is telling this, you read the reports like I do, sixty-eight percent of children from Bible-believing, evangelical homes, five years after they leave your house, out of high school, almost seventy percent of them don’t walk with God.

Let me give you the three reasons why people lose their kids.

Number one, the most fundamental one is this: their kids don’t see the reality of Christ being the center and the passion and the core of their family life. They can bring them to church, they can send them to a Christian school, they could even write a check, but what they don’t see is a mom and dad whose life is centered around the Word of God. They don’t see people that sit around the table and talk and share hearts. They don’t see people that are saying, “I don’t know what we are going to do. This is a big problem. Let’s all get together and sit on the living room floor and let’s pray about this together.”

They don’t hear their mom or their dad talking about: “You know what? There was someone at work and they are going through a difficult time. And I think we need to take some of our money and we need to help them.”

Faith is more caught than taught. They pick it up. But it’s not just your positives. They also need to see modeled: what do you do when you mess up?

It was a very foreign concept to me as I read a lot of books and I wrote my thesis, actually, at Dallas Theological Seminary, on the role and responsibility of the father in transmitting values in the family.

But what I knew is that I didn’t know how to be a dad and I thought, If I have to write this big, long paper, I should tackle the most important thing as a dad.

And what I learned in that is the role of the man and the role of a parent and what we are called to do, when we mess up, we need to own it. And it was a foreign, a foreign idea that, let’s just say, just hypothetically of course, that when my kids were small or when they weren’t so small and they did something that really bothered me and I told them, “Don’t do that,” and actually, it was kind of crazy, but they did it again and did it again and did it again.

And then in my effort to really help them understand, “I don’t want you to do that,” I came out and said, “If you do that one more time, I’m going to…” right? And then their little eyes get this big and they are scared to death. And then I had this overwhelming guilt. I’m sure none of you ever struggle with that but…

And what I realized was what they did was wrong, but how I disciplined them was just as wrong or more wrong. What do you do with that? What do you do when you blow it, as a parent? What do you do when you blow it as a grandparent?

Here’s what I can tell you: I had to learn over the years to, when they were small, to get down on one knee and look in their eye; really get their attention. Sometimes grab their head, you know? And I would say their name and then I would say, “When you did this, I want you to know that you disobeyed me and it made me very upset,” or, “I chose to respond that way. And what you did was wrong. And I forgive you. But I want you to know that the way I talked to you, in fact, the way I yelled at you, God spoke to my heart.

And then, normally, I would sit down when they were small like this and I would have them climb into my lap and we would pray together. Some of the times where I disciplined my children or I confessed my sin to my children, were some of the precious times.

And you know what they learned? They didn’t learn their dad or their mom was perfect. What they learned was: my heart’s desire is I want to be holy and loving before my God. I want the life of Christ lived out in me. And so, that’s my number one goal for me, my number one goal for them.