We have an unquestioned responsibility to stand up and condemn error that is contrary to God’s Word. This is very important in a world that has adopted a mindset that goes against truth and interferes with three additional aspects of building a legacy and raising godly children: submission, discipline, and nutrition. The biblical model for submission, discipline, and nutrition is our fundamental defense against the culture of this world. That is important, because the Christian family is also under attack by a crafty and powerful philosophy that has permeated the very fabric of our society.
The Post-modern Mind
There have been so many definitions for the term post-modern. One of the common themes is the abolition of absolutes. Post-modern thinking does not really recognize one “truth.” Truth is whatever the post-modern mind chooses to make it. If it is right for you, it must be right. If it is not right for others, let them find their own truth without imposing yours on them. That’s the creed.
Tolerance is the buzzword that continually emerges out of postmodernism—and tolerance is a key theme taught to our children by the secular media, schools, colleges, peers, the community as a whole, and even in many Christian churches. Our society has embraced this concept of tolerance and has replaced absolute truth with an individual acceptance of what “feels right.” In modern society, it is no longer acceptable to say something is “right”—now they say that it has to be “right for me.” Adhering to the authority of one teaching (like the Bible), is seen as arrogant. I have certainly heard statements such as, “How can you be so pompous to think that you have the truth while I do not?”
The modern secular understanding of tolerance
has not only replaced absolute truth, it has also
replaced discipline and submission.
The kind of tolerance that is embraced by the modern world is really lawlessness. Everyone does what is right in his or her own eyes. All through the Scriptures we see how this breaks down relationships. If we reject absolute authority, tolerance of lawlessness results. The family unit does not go unaffected by this.
In the suburb we live in in Brisbane, a large Islamic residency is taking place. New mosques and Islamic schools are being built and it is now a very regular occurrence to walk in any local shopping center alongside long-bearded Muslim men, as well as ladies wearing head and even face coverings. This migration of Muslims to our local area has given Trish and me the precise opportunity to teach our children about tolerance. To first do this, however, we needed to help our children understand some of the very different teachings of Islam and why the teachings cannot be tolerated.
We had to ensure they understood how the Qu’ran teaches that Christ did not die on the Cross. Fundamentally, our children needed to understand that if Christ did not deal with our sin in this way, we would have no hope of salvation, and by denying the death and resurrection and deity of Jesus, Muslims are sadly without hope. Tolerating the false teachings of a religion like Islam instead of teaching the truth of its error, does not help people to discern between the truth of God’s Word that leads to salvation and the lies of false teaching that lead to eternal punishment. Tolerating people living in a cult religion does not mean accepting their false teaching. It does however mean tolerating them as people and loving and respecting them as fellow humans and neighbors so we can get the opportunity of telling them why it is impossible for us to tolerate their teaching and offering them the only truth that leads to salvation. This is true tolerance. We have consistently taught both Sarah and David that we are to love our Muslim neighbors not only in spite of their rejection of Christ but because of their rejection of Christ.
As we (with another family in our church) made friends and had picnics with a local Muslim family, our children have been able to see a genuine love and tolerance for our Muslim friends alongside a total intolerance of their belief in the Qu’ran and a true desire in tolerant love to help them understand the truth of Jesus. Our family has prayed together for these people, asking God to save them. This is the type of tolerance that needs to be extended by every Christian family but is very rarely returned.
In the realm of American talk shows, Phil Donahue dominated our television sets in the eighties and nineties. His show (and many others like it since) preached the core value of modern, secular tolerance (which is really moral relativism). The definition of tolerance on such programs is basically to accept any behavior, lifestyle, or any philosophy, as long as it gives happiness to the owner, and as long as it is not harmful (however they define harmful) to the community.
The talk shows that propagate the post-modern philosophy of “if it is right for you, do it,” have not fully grasped the devastation this causes a community. Lawlessness is damaging to the collective individuals that cause it, those that act on it, and those that tolerate moral relativism.
The loss of absolute authority, coupled with an incorrect definition of tolerance, has brought about a culture whereby it is incorrect to impose truth on others and offensive to do so. This shouldn’t surprise the Bible-believing Christian. Time and time again in the gospels we see that the message of Jesus was offensive to rejecting ears. When Jesus first sent the disciples out in Matthew 10, He warned them of such rejection and offense.
Mankind’s tolerance of lawlessness has had devastating effects on culture and family. In Romans 1:18–32, Paul explains how “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. . . .” As you read through this passage you will see the following themes:
- Though we know God, our hearts have been darkened, and we willingly live in lawless rebellion (1:21).
- We have put ourselves above God as the authority (1:22–23).
- We have exchanged God’s glory for our own sinful lifestyles, and therefore God has given us over to this wickedness (1:24, 26, 28).
- One of the attributes of this authority rejecting wickedness is “disobedience to parents” (1:30).
Tolerance of wickedness is far from what God expects in the family unit. According to these passages, disobedience to parents is not only part of wickedness, but part of God’s judgment as He gives the lawless over to wickedness.
Our children must understand the true definition of tolerance. Tolerance is only necessary where there is disagreement. If we agree that someone else’s behavior is not acceptable for us, but is right for them because it makes them happy, we are essentially agreeing with them. We are saying, “This is the right behavior for you. We agree with what you are doing.” There is no need for tolerance where there is agreement.
Tolerance is much better defined where there is already intolerance. As Christians, we should be absolutely intolerant of the anti-God teachings of Islam, but our tolerance for Muslims as people should result in our love for them (based on the admonition from Scripture concerning our neighbor), and therefore our willingness to share the gospel with them so they can find true salvation in Jesus Christ. We should be absolutely intolerant of atheistic, evolutionist beliefs. At the same time, however, we need to be willing (out of loving tolerance for people indoctrinated in this anti-God philosophy of naturalism) to sincerely help those lost in this lie, so they can come to a knowledge of our Creator and Savior.
The fact that Paul explains that a child’s disobedience is a product of wickedness and lawlessness means that it is obviously a parent’s responsibility to train our children in the opposite direction to that of the lawless world.
This means our homes are to be environments
of loving discipline, and God-honoring
submission that lead our children toward a
Holy God who is intolerant of sinful rebellion.
It is normal for a Christian home to be opposed by the world for being intolerant of ungodly living and behavior. (Interesting, isn’t it, that those with the post-modern mindset are tolerant of everything . . . except intolerance!) Yet we have no choice but to take a stand according to the Word of God. A Christian home is to be an environment for godly submission, discipline, and nurturing for the purpose of giving glory to the Almighty Creator. Our purpose as parents is to pursue these principles even in the face of the post-modernists’ objections.
The Command with a Promise
In Deuteronomy, we read of the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses for the people of Israel. One of these commandments (5:16) stands out in a unique way:
Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
In Ephesians 6:1–4, Paul makes direct reference to this command, and mentions it as “the first command with a promise.” God is ensuring that we not only know the command (“Honor your father and mother . . .”) but that we also understand why it is important (“. . . so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.”) This is a great picture of God’s parenting. He gives instruction with explanation of logical reason.
In Deuteronomy 5 the people of Israel were moving into the Promised Land. They moved as one people consisting of many, many families. Living in harmony would require mutual respect, love, and honor as they were to submit to each other under the authority of God. These things had to emerge from the family unit. If they didn’t, the nation would crumble. Can you imagine a community where parents honor God by being consistent godly parents? Can you imagine a community where children honor God by honoring parents? God promised that if they lived this way, their time in the Promised Land would be long and fulfilled.
The promise stated is the effect of a cause. Godliness displayed in submission and obedience brings about a blessed and fulfilled life in the Lord. In relation to us and this promise, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (the great expositional preacher of the 20th century) stated the following:
Does that mean that if I am a dutiful son or daughter, I am of necessity going to live to great age? No, that does not follow. But the promise certainly means this, that if you want to live a blessed life, a full life under the benediction of God, observe this commandment. He may choose to keep you for a long time on this earth as an example and illustration. But however old you may be when you leave this world, you will know that you are under the blessing and good hand of God.1
A self-centered, individual-rights based approach to life is not taught in Scripture, and should never be taught or tolerated in our homes. A godly community is based on selfless submission and honor for everyone whom God loves and desires to be in His family. To this kind of family and community, God promises fulfillment and blessedness of enduring life, with a view to eternal reward in the Lord Jesus Christ. Adhering to this promise is what makes the Christian family salt and light in a selfish and unfulfilled world.
As we study these passages, it would be tempting to first focus on our children, emphasizing above all things their need to obey us. However, we would be both wise and humble to focus first on ourselves as parents by emphasizing our need to submit to our Heavenly Father. Each of these three aspects of training (submission, discipline, and nutrition) should be true in our own lives, that we might be authentic models to our children. So let’s first look at our responsibilities as adults and as parents in regard to these three critical areas.
Parents are a link in a great legacy of submission that actually begins with the relationship Jesus has with the Father. The family unit is to be a reflection of our Heavenly Father’s relationship with His own Son, for we see honor acted out in the obedience of Jesus as He glorifies the Father in everything He says and does, even unto death on the Cross.
God commands our children to submit to us, but such a command to children places a massive responsibility on us as parents.
If children are asked to obey and honor parents
in the Lord, as parents, we need to be giving them
a godly example to honor and obey.
This has been a very intimidating and life-changing concept for me; and it should be for you, too. How can we expect our children to listen and act under authority, if we are not listening and acting under God’s authority?
Furthermore, we are not to submit to Christ for the sole purpose of being an example to our children. Our submission to God is to be absolutely sincere and genuine, an extension of our personal relationship with Him. We don’t pretend to submit, or give the appearance of submission for the sake of our kids. We bend the knee to the sovereign and omnipotent God of the universe because it is the only right and appropriate thing to do. Sure, it will be beneficial for our children to observe our submission, but this is a result and not the primary reason for our heartfelt submission to Christ. We bow because He is the Creator, and we are the creature.
Accepting the discipline of God must be a reality in our own lives as parents; even as we desire to see our children accept our discipline. We are God’s adult “children,” and He has much to say to us about discipline. I’ll let the Word of God speak for itself in Hebrews 12:5–11:
And you have forgotten that 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, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have 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 disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 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 (NIV).
That is as clear as it can be. God’s chastening is a restraining influence, in order that we might conform to that which is good. As God chastens us, so earthly fathers are to discipline and train their own children. For this to be authentic discipline, parents need to “endure hardship as discipline.” We never outgrow our position as His children!
While there could be many examples of discipline that I could share, (yes my children are definitely not perfect) in an attempt not to embarrass Sarah or Dave, I will let the precise descriptions pass. There is one thing, however, that I can safely share that will help you to understand something of the discipline process in the Ham family. I have never yet had a time when we have disciplined one of our children (even by spanking with a wooden spoon) where the hug and crying on a shoulder hasn’t been immediately initiated by them. Every time this has happened it confirms to me that we are doing the right thing. The process is normally straightforward.
- Take them aside privately and tell them that what they have done is wrong and that they will be disciplined.
- Privately carry out discipline with self-control, explaining first to the child what will happen (e.g., how many smacks, etc.).
- Hug the child and tell them that you love them.
- Explain why the discipline had to happen and why their actions were wrong.
- Talk WITH them about how they can correct this in the future and suggest alternative actions.
- Always ensure understandings are God’s expectations and not our own.
Every time this has happened in our home, step three has never been evaded by either child or parent. In fact, step three in the Ham discipline process has often been some of the more special times in our relationship with our children. It says that we love you unconditionally and that our children know that sincerely. When a child can tell you that they love you after they have received a spanking from you, it means they can sense your sincerity and self control.
I am not saying that as parents we have done this faultlessly every time. I certainly have made mistakes along the way (e.g., not admonishing in private or even allowing anger to rule instead of Christ) but even with a few sinful mistakes here and there, God has been gracious to us in the discipline of our much-loved children.
To grow and be sustained as followers of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:2 gives us this instruction:
Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.
Again we see the reality that we, too, are children—children of God; and like newborns, we are to continually be nurtured by the pure Word of God.
The Bible alone must be a regular focus of our diet.
Again, this is both a necessary reality for our own spiritual strength and a necessary model to our children. As we create an environment conducive to spiritual growth in the home, we should create our own environment for personal sanctification. As God’s kids, we must make sure we are being fed the Word by others and passionately making Scripture the concerted focus of our own personal study and contemplation.
The importance of this cannot be over-emphasized. God’s Word is sufficient, fully authoritative, and immensely powerful when it is accepted as our axiom and interpreted exegetically. We have already established that Scripture is the foundation of Christian parenting and the building of a godly legacy, but is the Bible established in our life as the sole source of instruction and truth? Do our priorities reflect this? In relation to our other interests, how much of our time do we give to focused Bible study? How does it compare, for example, to TV, sports, friends, and hobbies?
Turning to Our Children
With submission, discipline, and nutrition intact in our own lives, we are much better positioned to train our children in these same important areas of the Christian life. When it comes to godly submission and discipline, it is important to note that the responsibilities lie with both the child and the parent. Before we consider the specifics of a child’s responsibility, one more parental essential must be considered: the command to train children in a way that won’t exasperate them. Consider carefully Ephesians 6:1–4:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (NIV).
Within this passage, Paul is directing fathers regarding discipline, but the message is true for fathers and mothers alike. As the God-ordained head of the home, fathers should take great responsibility for what Paul is saying, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children. . . .” Paul is telling us not to confuse, abuse, aggravate, or isolate our children and thus give them reason to disrespect or dishonor us.
No matter what we do, we should be asking ourselves if our actions or behavior could lead to long-term animosity in our children. This is very difficult in practice, and even while writing this book, I have learned a valuable and practical lesson. I have been guilty of disciplining our children without giving them any opportunity to express themselves or seeking to understand their point of view. Having a discerning wife who is willing to speak the truth to me in love has been an invaluable asset as I seek to lead our family. She has helped me to take the time to listen carefully to my children and greatly value whatever it is that they want to express to me, even in moments of discipline.
The last thing I want is for my children to grow up and say that they had a father who never listened, particularly when God’s Word commands me to do otherwise. Galatians 5:22–23 describes the characteristics of one under the control of God:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
A godly parent is a picture of the fruit of the Spirit. We are to be living in peace with God, and seeking His peace in our homes. We are to be longsuffering and patient in the instruction and discipline of our children. We are to be kind in every action . . . even in discipline. We are to be a picture of God’s goodness to us. We are to be trustworthy and true to our word. We are to display gentleness with open arms and approachability. We are to be controlled and not given to temper, and certainly not to discipline out of temper or anger.
This is what Paul is saying when he is telling us not to exasperate our children. A life controlled in the Spirit does not discipline out of loss of control, but out of great control mixed with the other attributes listed as the fruit of the Spirit. Paul is not telling us in any way to be weak in our discipline, but to be reasonable. We are not to be unjust in anger or out of control in temper—because this is where discipline stops and abuse begins. Consistency and control is the key. We can be consistent and controlled by the Spirit, so that we can love in the same spirit in which we discipline—and discipline in the same spirit in which we teach and nurture.
In the context of Ephesians 5 and 6, where Paul is telling us to be Spirit-filled and controlled, we can have a great understanding of how not to exasperate our children. Ephesians 5:18 says, “Don’t get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (NIV). Paul is expressing the importance of not losing a Spirit-filled control. In the power of the Spirit, we can have a controlled and consistent life. This is a Spirit-filled life, the great key to understanding how a parent should train effectively so as not to exasperate their children.
Having established that godly submission, discipline, and nutrition begins with the parent who is led by the Spirit in each of these areas themselves, we are finally ready to consider training our children in each of these vital areas.
Submission: Children Are Commanded to Obey.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right (Eph. 6:1).
Children are required to listen and act under the authority of their parents. This submission, however, is not obedience under oppression (which is a restriction of freedom). It is also not a command simply to maintain the chain of authority.
Ephesians makes it clear that children are to obey “in the Lord, for this is right.” This verse is directed to children; our children have a responsibility and they need to know what it means. God is giving them a command that they have the responsibility to implement.
The choice is the child’s, and they are responsible to obey, but again, we need not make this more difficult than it has to be. No parent is perfect, but the more Christ-like the parent behaves, the fewer difficulties children will have in obeying. A parent who exasperates their child makes it more difficult for them to be willing to submit. Childhood obedience comes out of a great respect and love for a father and mother, and their obedience, like ours, is to reflect Christ and His obedience to the Father.
However, it is easy to look at this passage and start thinking about the impossible. How can we expect our children to be like Jesus in obedience? How can we train our children to imitate the obedience of our Savior God? Doesn’t this place an unreachable standard on children?
Remember, God always calls us to the highest possible calling. For example, we are called to be “Holy, for I am Holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). While we live in this world, we will never attain perfect holiness in our life. However, we are called to live in such holiness, and we can only rely on the perfect Holy Spirit to assist us in this calling. In fact, the only way God sees us as holy while on earth is through our perfect substitute, Jesus Christ. Our children are called to be obedient in the Lord. With the assistance of our mighty God, we must help our children understand this calling in relation to Jesus and His life of honor to the Father.
As parents we should not, and cannot, expect our children to be perfect—but we can teach them carefully what their responsibility is to their Heavenly Father in relation to their earthly parents. Obedience to parents should be born out of a spirit of revering honor that is truly glorifying to God—and our children need to know this. Paul also says that obedience to parents is necessary because “it is right.” Essentially he is saying that part of our God’s righteousness displayed in our children comes visibly through obedience.
Discipline: Because Actions Have Consequences
When our first-born (Sarah) was about six months old, we were talking with my parents-in-law, Bill and Lyndell. I asked Bill (or “Pop,” as I like to call him), “When should we start disciplining Sarah?” He gave me a great answer. Pop told me we were about six months too late in starting! Certainly, all discipline should be age appropriate, but he meant that we should take our responsibility of discipline seriously, so that our children can take on their responsibility of obedience and submission, and that we should begin right from the beginning. Bill is a great example to me as a loving and gentle Spirit-led father. Even though I am an in-law in the Forrest family, I find it a great privilege to join with my wife in submitting to Mum and Pop as great mentors in our life!
Discipline is an important factor in parenthood. It is impossible to teach your children the responsibility of godly honor and obedience without it. From the very first time disrespect, talking back, and general dishonor occur (and such behavior will, of course, occur), it is a parental duty to teach our children that such behaviors are not acceptable to us or God.
Parents have a great responsibility in carrying out discipline, and this should not be treated lightly.
Discipline is a tool of love that helps parents
develop honor and respect in the household.
All of my brothers and sisters can definitely testify to the fact that our father’s expectations in relation to respect and honor were very clearly defined. We were very clearly disciplined when we were out of line. While none of us were brimming with happiness to receive Dad’s discipline, we would all testify that Dad loved us because he taught us well, even through discipline.
Some of you reading this book who know me well may be thinking back to my youth. You remember when my respect for Mum and Dad was almost thrown out the window. It was in those times that my father’s discipline and teaching kicked in and impacted my life, reinforcing the teaching and discipline that I had consistently received my whole life. I love him, miss him, and regret the times I ever caused him strife—but I also know there is forgiveness from both him and my loving Jesus. Each of our kids must know this same love and forgiveness from us and from God as part of the process of godly discipline.
Corporal punishment is another biblical means of discipline that we are commanded to use—particularly as we understand the sin-nature of our children. Any parent knows that when a restraining influence is taken from children, it doesn’t take long for them to start doing things which are not right, thus expressing their sinful natures. Most people have heard of the verse in Proverbs 13:24:
He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him (NIV).
In Proverbs 22:15 we read:
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him (NIV).
Many other verses say similar things. Proverbs 29:15 states, “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” (See also Prov. 13:24; 19:18; 29:17.) The Hebrew word for “rod” describes what we might call a cane, stick, switch, or paddle. When it’s necessary to use the “rod,” the child must not be physically injured or punished unjustly. The purpose of discipline is loving correction, not parental bullying.
My mother’s parents lived up in North Queensland at the base of Mt. Bartle Frere. While visiting them each summer (winter in the Northern Hemisphere), our family would take a walk up to the pools where Mum used to swim . . . and each year my father would look for his new “cane” to use for the next school year. His favorite came from Laywer vine. He would cut several, testing them on his own hand. (His typical student discipline involved three swats of the stick, so he always tested them on himself first.) When he had cut several that he liked, we knew he was ready for school!
Dad was known as a strict disciplinarian, and even though he was never harsh or brutal, sometimes parents didn’t care for it much. One time a mother became so mad at him for disciplining her son that she grabbed my father’s shirt and ripped it off his back! One of the women who cleaned the school saw what was happening and chased the mother out of the school with a broom. And you thought that America was the only place with such antics!
Our father used corporal punishment at home as well as school. He always explained why I was getting disciplined, and I always appreciated that Dad would always tell us not only what we did wrong but why it was wrong. When we would get caught doing something, and we already knew why it was wrong, he would still tell us again anyway, just to reinforce the reason. We were never confused about discipline; Dad’s explanations made it clear. (Yet for some children, discipline is confusing—and when they don’t understand, it can easily lead to accusations of fatherly exasperation.) Dad’s consistency and approach didn’t cause me to want to reject him one little bit. On the contrary, I realized he loved me and was only doing what God had instructed so I would be trained for my future roles on this earth. I believe that most of the children who were disciplined by my Dad at school felt the same way.
Nutrition: Feeding on the Word of God
At the end of Ephesians 6:1–4, Paul tells us to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” This concept has already been dealt with at length in earlier chapters, but here we are again receiving a reminder that the teaching and instruction for our children does not come from us, a parenting manual, or a psychologist, but from God and His Word. I hope that this has soaked in throughout the pages of this book. The content and authority of the Word of God are indispensable components for building a godly legacy and raising godly children in an ungodly world.
The belief systems we have as parents have great influence on our children. These things show up not only in issues that are clearly biblical, but also in the standards that emerge from our own preferences and dislikes. As an old-school educator, my dad hated chewing gum, and told us horror stories about how evil it was. In our home, chewing gum was like the unforgivable sin. I know that in the United States, chewing gum is one of the four main food groups, but Ken won’t touch the stuff, fearing that he will lose his inheritance, feeling as if he would be stomping on Dad’s grave or something. Ken’s kids are American enough to be able to chew without guilt, but my siblings won’t touch the stuff.
Dad also found it hard to physically express emotion in the way of cuddling or kissing us as his children, and he usually addressed us with our formal names. I was “Steven,” Ken was “Kenneth,” but my father’s consistent authoritative stand on the Word of God made up for any lack of ability to be an emotional person, and he displayed emotion in lots of other ways. I often saw him display great joy and deep compassion, and I even saw him cry once—in heartbreak because of a very bad mistake I made as a teenager. So while he did not often show his love physically, we all had no doubt as to his great and uncompromising affection for us. Even this has rubbed off on us. When Ken’s staff at Answers in Genesis give him a hug, they say it’s like “hugging a log!”
This is just to show that you, as a parent, have great influence on your children. The things you train them in will stay with them, making it all the more important to train them in the principles in the infallible Word of God.
From a human perspective, however, there is no guarantee that children will become “godly offspring” even if you are the most consistent Christian parents in the world. Each of us (our children included) has to ultimately answer for their own sin and make their own decisions to obey. Even though there are exceptions, as a general rule, the parents who don’t train their children with a Christian worldview reap the consequences in producing a generation who is not godly. As a general rule, the parents who do their best to train up a godly generation (even if not all are committed Christians) reap the rewards of such training, because the morals and examples of their parents, by and large, stay with them.
Deuteronomy 8:3 says that “Man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (NKJV). As we seek to give our children spiritual nourishment, we must again and again remember that true spiritual food comes only from “the pure milk of the Word” (1 Pet. 2:2).
Our Dad not only took it upon himself to
teach us from the Word, but he also kept a close
eye on others who were teaching us as well.
While my father would keep those teaching God’s Word accountable to its authority, we would also see him overflowing with joy when God’s Word was taught in truth with authority. When God’s Word was compromised, however, he never hesitated to take necessary measures to protect us.
In my teenage years, the church I had attended most of my life obtained a new pastor and youth leadership. The youth leadership of the church consisted of fun, “cool” people whom I respected and looked up to. They were also teaching us to stand on our rights; telling us to not let our parents dictate our beliefs and values. (Post-modern thought was creeping in and causing increasing compromise.) A great chasm began forming between my father’s teaching and that of the youth leaders I loved so much.
Unfortunately, while I knew in my mind and my heart that my dad was right, I chose to follow my youth leaders. This led me to actions that I have always regretted. Because of this, my father faced a hard decision. Should our family stay committed to the church where I was being led astray by false teaching, or should Dad find better mentors for his son? A pastor from another church (a man that my father and mother really respected) heard about what had happened and invited them to come to his church. As a result of my father’s passion for me to be mentored correctly, and his passion for strong biblical exposition, we moved.
As you can imagine, I was really upset, but the result of this move had me sitting under some of the best teaching and mentoring I have ever received. My relationship with my dad changed as well. Instead of arguing with him about my right to believe what I wanted to, we would discuss what we had both learned from God’s Word under the teaching of Pastor Norm.
Dad was passionate about every avenue of teaching I sat under. I’m eternally grateful for his relentless application of “nurturing and instruction of the Lord.” Dad ensured that the spiritual food for his family was full of nutrition, enabling us to also understand the consequences from the junk food of false teaching. Many people today are choosing churches by the style of their music (sometimes mistakenly called “worship”), facilities, sporting programs, or some similar type of criterion. Trish and I have followed in the footsteps of my father to ensure that our children are sitting under consistent Bible-focused instruction in the Lord. We never forget, however, that the teaching starts by opening the Word of God in our own home.
A parent can and must do the things that Scripture commands. We are to be Spirit-filled, humble in submission, controlled in discipline, and faithful in receiving the nourishment of the Word. Beyond that, we must pray like there’s no tomorrow! Because some day, as my father now fully knows, there will be “no tomorrow”—only an eternity that will reflect the way you allowed Christ to build a godly legacy through you.
Key thoughts from this chapter:
- “Post-modernism” has abolished absolutes, resulting in a culture that values tolerance above truth.
- Obeying and honoring parents promises a full and blessed life.
- The essential commands of submission, discipline, and nutrition are part of a God-created plan that involves Christ’s submission to the Father, our submission to Christ, and our children’s submission to us.
- Parents have the added responsibility to not exasperate their children and to be “Spirit-filled.”
- Corporal punishment is a God-given means of child discipline when applied with love and control.
- Submit fully to God in Christ. Make a definitive decision, before Him, to be committed to doing all that He commands in His Holy Word.
- Review Hebrews 12:5–11 regarding accepting the discipline of God. Pray through this passage with God, asking Him to reveal its specific application in your circumstances, thanking Him for the provision of His Spirit that will lead you into truth and empower to obey.
- Develop a flexible plan to receive long-term nourishment from the perfect Word of God.
- Plan a special time with your spouse to discuss the principles in this chapter. Determine how you can best, as a team, fulfill the commands of Scripture to train, discipline, and nourish your children according to the Bible.
Questions to consider:
- In what ways has post-modernism infiltrated your family, your church, and your personal beliefs?
- Are you aware of situations where parents have exasperated their children? What attitudes and actions by the parents may have led to this situation?
- What was your parents’ attitude toward submission, discipline, and nourishment? How has this affected your thoughts toward the training of your children?
- If you were to make one change to your approach to raising your children as a result of the principles in this chapter, what would that change be?