Jack Graham - Generation Next
It's been the same for every generation, from biblical times to this day, through all the great generations, to us Baby Boomers, to Busters, to Millennials and Digitals and whatever generation you may be a part of. From generation to generation the Bible says in Psalm 112 and verse 2, "The upright will be blessed" from generation to generation. And we are blessed when we raise a godly generation. Verse 4 of chapter 6 of Ephesians gives us very simple and direct advice, counsel, Word of God truth as to how we accomplish this goal of disciplining, launching our kids to the next generation. For it says: "Fathers (and this includes mothers, so you can substitute parents), do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord". What is parenting? What is it? It is bringing up your children to know and love and serve Jesus Christ. That's what it is! So how do we do that? I want to give you three principles, you may call them, right out of this text that will help us all. Because even though I'm a grandparent now, I'm still a parent. You never stop being a parent. Your role changes and your responsibilities change, but it's all about the family.
The first principle is what I'm going to call "the principle of devotion"; meaning that our homes should be filled with devotion to God and the love of Christ should be the atmosphere in which we live. No wonder verse 4 gives us a command at the outset as parents: "Do not provoke your children to wrath". This is right on the heels of the first verses which teach children to "obey their parents, for this is right in the Lord. Honor your father and mother,(this is a commandment with promise) that it may be well with you". And so children are to honor and obey their parents. You are under the authority of your parents. But with that command to children comes also this command, not to "provoke our children to wrath", or to anger. The word provoke here actually means to exasperate; it means to anger your children. And it's clear instruction that we are not to nag, provoke, pressure or push our children with perpetual fault finding, so that they want to quit.
Colossians 3:21: "Don't provoke your children lest they be discouraged", which actually means broken in spirit. Every child's will should be broken and under the authority of God and the authority of parents and family. The will should be broken, and we'll get to that in just a moment. But the spirit of a child should never be broken! Not in a Christian home. They are not to be discouraged by unreasonable demands or unrealistic expectations. This only exasperates them and agitates them. And many have grown up with emotional scars, not just physical scars, but emotional scars from parents who did not understand this principle.
Some of you, perhaps, grew up in a home where the expectations were very unrealistic and the demands and the pressures and the stresses. We have to watch this in our generation. We want our children to succeed and advance in life, but not at the expense of their soul, not at the expense of their spirits. If we are breaking their spirits down, we are failing. We're building them up. So love is about giving of yourself; it's sacrificial, agape love. It's the love that, you know, you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. And so a parent provides this devoted atmosphere and you give yourself.
Someone said, "Love can spelled with another four-letter word: T-I-M-E". Because it takes time to know your child and to bless your children. I think often we end up giving kids things instead of ourselves. If God blesses you, it's good to bless your children, but frankly, and this is a pastoral opinion, I think we give our children too many things and not enough time. And especially as the time pressures in our own lives are on us. Don't give your child material things because you're on a guilt trip because you're not there. Your children need you more than anything. Before you can instruct that child, you must know the child. And the number one ingredient in knowing and understanding your child is sensitivity, and the Holy Spirit, if you will ask Him, will help you understand your child.
Dr. James Dobson, great Christian man and brother, well known author regarding especially parenthood, he says, "Parental insensitivity is the number one cause of a child's failure to experience self-esteem". The number one cause is the insensitivity of parents. And to what degree? Well, Proverbs 22 and verse 6, this is a well known, well worn verse, and if you are a believer you probably have known this verse for a while. If you're a parent, you certainly rely on this promise. It says: "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it". What is this proverb? And what is this promise? To train up a child is more than even teaching a child. To train up a child is to teach them with practical wisdom. To train them up actually means to build them up and to bring them under submission to authority. One of the most important lessons that any of us learn in life is submission to authority and obedience and respect for authority. And so we "train up a child in the way that he should go".
Now that's key: in the way the child should go. It means manner or characteristics. It's the same word used in describing, in the Old Testament, the bent of a bow. Every baby, every child has a certain bent and we're born with this bent. The child that God places in your home has a set of characteristics, and even chemistry that is established! And it is our responsibility to know that child, to hold that child close enough, to peer into their eyes and to look, if possible, into their very souls, to know the way that child should go. Not the way that I think the child should go, but the way God made that child to go. Are your children all alike? Of course not. They have similarities but they're very different.
And the unwise parent, the foolish parent says, "You know, children, you line up; everybody around here is going to stand in line. You're gonna shape up or ship out"! And you know what happens? If that happens the children ship out as soon as possible. That's not loving and understanding the child. You can't force a child to be something he or she is not. Your child is a unique, God-created individual from the mother's womb, and yes, life begins in the womb. And your inward parts are woven there, and your life is prepared for life there. So watch and listen and pay attention and study your child. This takes time and this takes commitment, and it takes a decision on your part to be engaged and involved in the life of your child.
Point number two, discipline. Bring them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. The word nurture or admonition there means to chastise or discipline. When we talk about discipline, discipling the next generation to change the world, the very word discipline is in that word disciple. Children are to be raised on devotion and discipline. Unconditional love but love enough to correct a child, chastise a child. Why? Well, love for the child is the first reason to disciple a child. The Bible says, "Whom the Father loves", speaking of God, "Whom the Father in heaven loves He chastens". So if God loves you and you're rebelling against God, you will be disciplined. If you love your child, you will be involved enough and engaged enough to direct and discipline your child.
Again, let me quote Dr. Dobson: "The basic problem I encounter in dealing with parents is the idea that abundant love makes discipline unnecessary. Quite to the contrary. Abundant love makes discipline necessary". There was an English observer that came over to America, in fact, was part of the royalty and he was reported to have said, "I'm amazed in America how parents obey their children". No, children are to obey their parents, and when they do not obey, there should be consequences, if you love the child. You say, "Well, I love my child too much to discipline that child. I would never, I could never lay a hand on the little darling". No, you don't love that child enough to risk displeasure of your child in order to discipline them in the things of the Lord.
If you love your child... I'm not talking about abuse, that's criminal. To abuse a child is criminal. Not talking about that. But I've said before, you know, God has given every child a spanking place, where you can apply the board of knowledge to the seat of understanding. You know, every child ought to be raised with two pats: one high enough to encourage them, a pat on the back when they do the right thing; and low enough, on the buttocks when you need to discourage them. But the Bible teaches this. Why? Because of the nature of a child.
You say, "Well, my child's too precious, too perfect". No, as a matter of fact the book of Ephesians tells us that "among also we once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath"! Outside of Christ we are the children of wrath! Judgment awaits us! Psalm 51:5: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me". 58:3 of the Psalms: "The wicked are estranged from the womb. They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies". This is why you don't have to teach a child to lie; you have to teach a child not to lie. You don't have to teach a child to steal; you have to teach a child not to steal. Why? Because every person is born with an inclination to sin! And you know why? You know why your child, even your beautiful, wonder grandchild is inclined to sin? They inherited it from you! "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God". The wicked wonder from the womb to the tomb.
Years ago I clipped out a study that was done and a result of the Minnesota Crime Commission. And after studying crime among teenagers and young adults, here's what someone concluded who wrote this agreement. He says: "Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is 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. Deny these and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is, in fact, dirty. He has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his own infancy, given free rein to his impulsive action to satisfy his want, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist".
Strong words! But we live in a culture now that says, "Oh, every little child, every person has this spark of divinity within them. People are just basically good". Wrong according to the Scripture! At the core we are bad to the bone. We have sinned against God. We are sinners by nature and we are sinners by choice. And that includes you, it includes me, and it includes your children. This is why your first role as a parent is as an evangelist to bring your child to faith in Jesus Christ. To lead them to a personal knowledge of God who will save them from their sin. Proverbs 22:15 says, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him".
Proverbs 29:15, just the Bible, that's all we're talking about right here. "The rod and reproof gives wisdom but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother". Of course, a child needs discipline! Godly discipline. Because it will ultimately deliver his soul from hell. And that's on us, parents. When I was a young parent and a young preacher I heard Dr. Adrian Rogers, a mentor to me, give some principles for discipline. I wrote them down, endeavored to practice these. I want to share them very briefly with you this morning: Principles for Discipline.
Number one, start early when they are very small. Proverbs 13:24: "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly". Proverbs 19:18: "Chasten your son while there is hope and do not set your heart on his destruction". You say, "How old should a child be before you start disciplining a child"? As soon as the child is old enough to willing and knowingly disobey you, it's time. So if you start early enough and do it the right way, it will end sooner than later in the life of your child, the discipline.
Number two, always talk first. Give reason for the rebuke and the reproof, just as God does us in His Word. There are warnings attached. And when warnings are broken then the reproof comes. Correction before chastening. Words before whipping. Speaking before spanking. Don't just beat a child because you're angry, as a substitute for teaching and training that child.
Number three, keep your word and be consistent. I hear parents sometimes say, "If you do that again, if you do that again, if you do that again, if you do that again, if you do that again, if you do that again", and it goes on and on and on and nothing ever happens! Be consistent! If you say "Don't do that again", mean it, and teach the child that obedience is to be prompt. And therefore, administer punishment as soon as possible. Punishment and discipline and correction should come surely and swiftly. Parents should present a united front. Have you ever experienced your child pitting you against your husband or your wife in a problem? Sure you have.
So what are you to do? Parents, leave the room, talk about it, and come back as a united front and take care of business. Next, do it firmly but do it right. You know in raising our children, spankings in particular truly were few and far between. But when they happen, they were major events. It was a big thing. If you do a good job disciplining your children, your spanking days, discipline days will be over sooner than you can imagine, because a good disciplinary program last a long time.
You know, some of your kids, all of your kids are smart enough to figure it out that it's worth a spanking if I get to do what I want. You ought to abolish that theory immediately. It should never be worth it to do what I want. Seven, discipline in love, never in anger. Never discipline because you're angry or to get even. Because anger produces anger and bitterness produces bitterness. It exasperates a child, it doesn't equip a child. The child understands the severity of real love. The child knows if you love them. Now most of us heard our parents says, "I only spank you because I love you". Well, my mom must have loved me more than my brother because...
And finally, work for repentance. The purpose in discipline, including spanking, is to get the child ready and responsive to be repentant. The goal is not just punishment, the goal is not just to spew your anger because you're upset; the goal is to help your child become a godly man or woman. The goal is to discipline and disciple your child. So after the child is disciplined, pray with him, hold him; help him to seek not just your forgiveness, but God's forgiveness when they've been disobedient.
Well, I close with one final word and that's direction. Give your children direction. And that direction comes from the Word of God in the nurture and in the training, the teaching, the instruction of the Lord. Too many unfortunately moms and dads say, "You know, I got this. I got this parenting thing. I'm gonna parent my way. I'm gonna do it my way. I'll figure it out. I don't know what to do. I'm lost. I can't find my way but I'll get there somehow". That's no way to raise your children. Go to the directions and the instructions. Teach your children to love God, to love their family by loving God's Word and loving people. And the way we change the world is to raise up a generation of young men and women who take your faith like a baton into the future.