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What's a Parent to Do?, Part 1

From the series House or Home - Parenting Edition

You want your kids to turn out well. You want to have a great relationship with them when they’re grown. You want them to love God and others. So how do you get there? In this message, Chip looks at God’s design for successful parenting.

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Message Transcript

What does it take to raise kids that love God and love you when they are grown?

And the answer there, in terms of overview, is Ephesians chapter 6. We just touched on it and read it as an overview, but there are four key words that I want to go a little bit deeper.

Four key words that give us the answer to: how do you raise kids? What are you to do as a parent?

We talked about what we are to be. What are you to do? That first word in Ephesians chapter 6 where it says, “Don’t overcorrect,” and addresses to fathers, which really is important in our day.

And isn’t it interesting, when you go back to Scripture, it’s not: “Parents, don’t exasperate your children.” What does it say? “Fathers.” The moral responsibility for what is happening in the home isn’t to mom. The moral responsibility. She may be more available, she may spend more time, but, “Fathers, don’t exasperate,” or, “provoke.”

The way we do that is by overcorrection or being harsh or finding fault or perfectionism.

Sometimes, you can literally provoke your children by being overprotective. You don’t want anything bad to happen to them, so they don’t learn the skills.

You can show favoritism. Some parents just, they have a little bit of a negative, “You’ll never amount to anything. Don’t go out for that. You’ll never make that.” You can produce an – literally, the word here means: to develop an angry mood in the heart of your child. And some people do it just by neglect.

Parents provoke their children to anger because they work so much to “provide” for their kids that they neglect them. Because time is the greatest commodity you ever give your child.

Second thing that we looked at a little bit: bring up. Nurture, rear, tenderly develop the sphere of. It’s the idea of the all that goes in. The positive command: all that we do to develop our children.

And then the word discipline here. I want you to get as you hear this word discipline. I need to get is reoriented in your mind, because when we think discipline, I think of, my first thought is getting spanked in junior high for throwing snowballs at a bus. The word discipline has a lot of negative connotations. Where you discipline your child.

When the Bible uses the word discipline, it’s really speaking about the actions that you have or what is done to the child. So, notice in your notes, this word: bring up or discipline. It is translated in the King James: nurture. It’s translated in the Revised version as chastise. And the exact same word in 2 Timothy 3:16 is translated: training. So, you get the idea. The word discipline isn’t like you’re angry at your kids and try and get them to do something. It has the whole spectrum of nurturing, training. In a word, it’s what is done to the child.

Then, instruction here. Also, it is translated: warn, admonish, correct, reprove, and implore. And that’s what is said to the child.

So, in summary, if you want kids that someday, by the grace of God, would say, “I want to be just like my mom. I want to be just like my dad.” In summary, we are to parent with love and with limits. With love and with limits.

And it’s interesting that this ancient text is verified by a sociological study. I developed this a lot more significantly in this book Effective Parenting. And we spend a lot of time talking about these four parenting styles.

But they did a study, Reuben Hill in Minnesota. And if you can imagine a y axis in geometry and an x axis, okay? And that produces four quadrants.

And over here is, this would be, from your perspective, this would be a hundred points of love, or a hundred points in control or discipline. This would be a hundred points in love. And so, you have how strict a parents is and disciplined and how loving he is. And these four quadrants, I put them in your notes.

Quadrant number one is a parent that is high in love and low in discipline. It results in low self-esteem and inferiority. This is parents that have a fearful style. “I don’t want to hurt his feelings. I don’t want to hurt her little psyche. I didn’t ever get to do anything when I grew up,” so, this is the permissive parent. Lots and lots of love, but not a lot of limits.

The second style is the neglectful family. This is the one that is low in love and low in discipline. This is no intimacy, no bonding, no respect. This is just a forsaking style. The kid just feels like, “Nobody gives a rip about me.”

The third style is high in discipline, but low in love. And this is the authoritarian. The result is a child is provoked to rebellion, anger, and depression. This is the mini-Hitler parent. Every – there are no small issues. Big issues. “Don’t you look at me that way! You need to eat all of that right now. What is wrong with you. I’ll tell you, don’t you ever.” It’s just on and on and on. Rules, rules, rules, rules, hyper, hyper, hyper. We have got to win the big wars, but you’ve got to understand, there are a lot of small battles. And if we don’t balance the love with the discipline, as soon as kids can check out, they do.

It’s interesting that this study, the authoritative, parents that were high in love, high in discipline resulted in kids that had high self-esteem, good coping skills, positive relationships and respect for their parents, and tended to prosper in other relationships.

What I want you to hear here is that God’s Word says we need to parent our kids with love and limits.

Now, if you turn to the page, the next notes, what I want you to see is this: God gives us a picture of exactly how He parents. And I think anytime we get something from God saying: This is how I parent you, then we have a great model.

Because at the end of the day, the problem in my heart and the problem with your kids’ heart is they sin, right? They are selfish. And when you’re selfish, it always brings death. The Bible is really clear: sin produces separation or death. When there is sin with kids beating up one another, when they are disrespectful, when they don’t obey God, it produces separation and death.

And so, Hebrews chapter 12, verses 4 through 11, he introduces it with this sense of: you have not struggled with sin to the point of shedding blood. Jesus, fully God, fully man, yet without sin. And, yet, being fully human, He wrestled with temptation and in every way, like us, yet without sin.

And it’s in this context of what Jesus has done for us, who blazed the trail, and then he shifts gears in verse 4 and 5 and begins to talk about how your heavenly Father parents you and then he provides a model of love and limits.

Now, I’m going to read this. I’ll read it kind of slowly. And as I read it, I want you to listen for the word discipline, but when you hear discipline, don’t hear your American view of the word. Think of nurture, what is done, development – okay? And then I want you to listen for words that communicate love, words like son, words like love, words like concern – are you ready?

Follow along as I read. “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” Reference to Christ. “And have you forgotten the word of encouragement that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you,’” notice: discipline: what God does; rebukes: what God says, “because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and he punishes everyone He accepts as His son.”

In your notes, put a line through punishes – this is not the best translation – and write “forcefully corrects.” Because in our world, the word punishment is paying someone back for doing something wrong. This is forcefully correcting to bring about a positive result.

He goes on to say, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” And then he goes on to even make the point: “If you’re not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.”

In other words, if you weren’t disciplined, it means someone didn’t even really care. Illustration, in case you didn’t get the point. Verse 9, “Moreover, we all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers, our human fathers, disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good,” and then underline this phrase, “that we may share in His holiness.”

Do you see how it comes back to that target? How it comes back to that ultimate desire, the goal? So, God disciplines us for our good, our good in relationship with Him, our good in relationship with others, and ultimately it’s that we might share in His holiness.

And then, now, notice the summary, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Notice those last words: “a harvest of righteousness.” He now uses an agricultural term. What do you know about harvest? When you, if a farmer goes and plants some seed, he doesn’t say, “Okay, I went to bed, I come back in two days, it doesn’t work! What’s going on? What’s going on? I planted them two days ago!”

What do you know about harvesting? You never reap in the same season that you sow. See, the tough part about being a really good parent, a godly parent, is you keep sowing the seeds of what is right, of doing discipline: limits. Love, for significance. Concern.

You do that, you do that, you do that, you do that and there are times where it seems like nothing is happening. But you sow; later you reap a harvest of righteousness. Notice, what is the goal? What is the harvest? It doesn’t say a harvest of success; it doesn’t say a harvest of upward mobility. It doesn’t say a harvest of super sports star; it doesn’t say a harvest of high SAT scores.

Now, if those things come, praise God. But those are byproducts; those are secondary. It’s a harvest of righteousness. You have a young man or a young woman who loves God, walks with God, and obeys Him, not because they ought or should; because they want to, because they are sharing in His holiness.

And then notice the other part. A harvest of righteousness and peace. How many young people have zero peace? They are just hooked to electronic or a something or a someone or a pressing or they are on the performance trap that many of us have been on.

And then at the very end of the passage, did you notice? That little word, “who have been trained by it.” Not “taught” by it. Training involves time, a process, and repetition. See, the problem with parenting is that is a sowing in one season, a reaping in another, and it takes time, it takes repletion, and it takes a very specific process.

If you have ever met anyone who is great in music or art or athletics, I will tell you this: they went into training. They went into training. They were up early swimming laps when everyone else was sleeping.

See, there is training. You go into training.

And that’s what we are doing. We are helping our kids go into training. This is who God is, this is how life works, here’s where the boundaries are, I love you no matter what. No, you can’t have your way. I am sorry everyone else and everyone else’s parents lets them do that. I love you more than they love their kids, so, this is the way it’s going to be in our house.

And you know what? They don’t like you and they slam the door and, “You don’t love me,” and, “you’re so strict,” and, “you’re so…” But your house is where the fun is, your house is where the love is, your house is where there is limited media, your house is where there are two parents focused toward, “This is the goal, here’s the journey, and here’s the process.”

Now, for some of you, there’s not another parent. And whether that’s they are over fighting a war or you’re a widow or you’re divorced and we’ll talk about that later. But that’s the journey.

Notice the summary here: “Discipline is teaching obedience to God and His Word through consistent consequences” – that’s discipline, actions – “and clear instructions” – words – “in an atmosphere of love.” And circle the word discipline there, after summary, and then put an arrow and write, “the root word is disciple.” Right? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do is make disciples? Well, a disciple is disciplined. A disciple is learning. A disciple goes into a process.

“Go into all the world,” well, I’ll tell you what, before you go into all the world, just look right inside your home. The number one disciples on the face of the earth that you have responsibility for are your own kids.

Reminder: they will be your source of the greatest joys on this planet. They will be the source of the greatest sorrows you’ll ever have on this planet. They are the greatest and most precious gift ever entrusted to you and they are the most overwhelming responsibility. And so, you disciple them. You go into training.

Now, notice what discipline does. The necessity of discipline is – why? To deter destruction.

Remember the Old Testament. And David is a great warrior, he is a great musician, he is a great man after God’s own heart, but he’s a passive dad. He doesn’t discipline when Absalom does stuff. He doesn’t discipline with one of his other sons. And I’ll tell you what, his life becomes a train wreck at the personal level because he won’t step up and do what he needs to do. And, therefore, it brings destruction.

The whole point of discipline is, yes, you’re going to be the bad guy for a while, but you’re going to prevent your kids from destruction.

Notice it goes on. The means of discipline is action and words. It’s done in an atmosphere of love, but it’s things you do, things you say.

The motive in discipline is to express love. Remember it said, “God’s discipline is evidence that you’re a legitimate child.”

It takes extraordinary focus and urgency and discipline to raise great kids. And that means you’ve got to turn the thing off, you’ve got to have structured time, and you go into training to set limits in a loving way that produce kids that learn to understand who God is and love Him.

The goal is to teach them obedience. Obedience is that inward hearing of God’s voice and responding to it immediately. We want to help them learn to be free of the bondage of selfishness and self-centered living.

The result of discipline is short-term pain and long-term gain. Short-term pain and long-term gain. And so, all I want you to know is everything I have shared, we can agree, mentally in here, or not agree and think, Oh, wow, boy.

So much of what we are doing right now as parents is an unconscious following after it. Well, this is what everyone else is doing. And I don’t mean everyone else out there. I mean this is what other Christian parents are doing. All the other Christian parents I know are living insane lives in their little minivans and traveling here and there and they don’t eat together and they don’t have much time together and their nine-year-old has a phone, so shouldn’t ours?

Well, stop and think about: what do you want to produce? Where are you headed? Especially some of you that, you work in construction or you work in business or you work and you start with the end in mind. Ask yourself: what do you want to build? And then ask yourself: what are you doing today? You have strategic plans in your work, don’t you? You have strategic plans about projects that you do. Well, ask yourself: if sharing in God’s holiness and producing this kind of a child is the goal and you back it up and you say, “This is where we’re at right now. What are we doing and what are we saying to produce that as the goal?”

And here’s what I’ll tell you: when that is the goal, because as ranting and raving as I was, on the side, my kids ended up very successful in sports and in music and in scholarship and doing good things. But that was not my goal. That they made first team or became great at this or that – praise God! I’m really thankful.

But that’s a nice by-product if God so allows it. It’s a really lousy goal. It’s a really lousy goal, because they can hit that one and lose all the things that count.