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GROWING UP TOGETHER
Intro: For the past couple of months, we have been in a series of sermons I have entitles Home Improvement. Some may wonder why we would spend our time together studying a subject like this, but I think the reasons are clear. In the beginning, God established the family as the first of all human relationships. From that family, God built society. Nothing has changed! The family is still the foundational unit of society. In fact, no church, no community, or no nation is any stronger than the families that make it up.
If that is true, then each of us should redouble our efforts to ensure that our families are all that they should be. Husbands and wives have a God-given obligation to love one another and to submit to one another for the glory of God. Parents have a God-given obligation to create a home that allows their children to become all they have been designed by the Lord to be.
We have looked at what the Bible teaches concerning the marriage relationship, the respective roles of men and women, and last week we looked at the problem of prodigal children. Today, by the help of the Lord, I want to consider the verses we have read and learn from them the lessons God has for our families. Allow me to point out the two groups in our homes that God is speaking to today. I want to preach for a few minutes on the subject: Growing Up Together.
That may seem like a strange title for a message on the home and family, but there is a lot of truth in it. We all know that our children grow. They enter our homes as infants and leave as something resembling adults. We need to also understand that parents also grow up during this process.
When children come into the home they do not come with an instruction manual. Parenting is literally on the job training. One day you are waiting for a baby, the next day, and for the rest of your life, you become a parent. No one knows how to do it instinctively; it is learned moment by moment and mistake by mistake. So, there is a sense in which parents and children grow up together.
I believe the passage before us offers us some help in the matters of parenting and of growing from childhood into adulthood. Let’s consider the dual messages God offers in these verses as I preach about Growing Up Together.
I. v. 1-3 THERE IS A MESSAGE
FOR THE LEARNERS
A. There Is A Clear Word – Up to this point, our series has pretty much neglected the role of children in the family. This passage, however, has a very clear word for children and young people
1. He Speaks About Your Actions – Children are told to “obey” their parents. This word means “to submit to, to comply with, to heed, to follow directions and instructions.” It can literally mean to “hear under.” It is a command and not a suggestion!
This means that a child is to listen to the voice of his or her parents attentively and they are to respond to what they hear with perfect submission. They are to do as they are told.
Obedience in the home lays the foundation for obedience throughout life. You see, everything in God’s universe can be boiled down to obedience. The planets and stars; the seas and the animal kingdom all operate in strict obedience to the commands of the Lord. Humanity is the only part of God’s creation that walks in rebellion to the revealed Word of God.
As children learn to obey their parents; they are setting the stage for obedience throughout their lives. They are learning respect for authority. And, they are learning to obey the other voices of authority, school, government, etc, that will become part of their lives later on. Young people, you will always walk under someone’s authority! Ultimately, children are learning to walk in obedience to the Lord when they walk in obedience to their parents.
2. He Speaks About Your Attitudes – Children are also told to “honor” their parents. The word “honor” means “to respect, to revere, to hold in high regard, to fix the value.” This speaks about a child’s attitude toward what his parents tell him to do. A wicked child may obey the voice of his parents; but secretly despise them in his heart. He may obey outwardly; but while he is carrying out their orders, he may be talking about them, cursing them or talking back under his breath. That is the wrong attitude!
Children should have great respect for their parents! They should be careful not to back talk their parents. They should never run their parents down to their friends. They should respect their parents, just as they would the Lord; even after they have grown up and married.
Again, when children learn to respect their parents in the home; they grow up with a natural respect for other people. Children who honor their parents have little trouble honoring the Lord, other authority figures, or other people. A child, however, who will disrespect his parents, will usually have little respect for others. This fact is plain to see as our world has become increasingly filled with rude, insensitive, self-centered people.
(Note: We are living in a day when many children are displaying clear disrespect for their parents. How? Back talking, grumbling, disregarding instruction, speaking disrespectfully, acting like a “know it all”, refusing to listen, etc. Others do it through delinquency, crime, drugs, alcohol, sexual activity, abuse of parental and family property, etc.
Adult children are often guilty of ignoring their aging parents and failing to minister to their needs. Nearly all children fail when it comes to gleaning from the years of wisdom and life experience contained in the minds of the parents. Listen to these verses: 1 Tim. 5:4, 8; Pro. 20:20; Pro. 30:17; Ex. 20:12; Lev. 19:3, 32; Deut. 27:16.)
B. There Is A Conditional Word – Notice the phrase “in the Lord.” While a child is told to obey his parents; that obedience is conditioned by the behavior of the parents. When the commands of a parent contradict the clear teachings of the Bible; the child, just like anyone else, has an obligation to put the Lord and His will first. Of course, this truth runs through every area of life. No parent, no spouse, no authority figure in our lives has the right to command us to do something illegal, immoral or that contradicts the Word of God. We are to always place God and His will ahead of the will of others. We have a higher allegiance!
C. There Is A Clarifying Word – We are told in verses 2b & 3 that obeying one’s parents brings God’s promise of blessing upon the child. When a child honors his parents; he is honoring God. And, God always blesses those who honor and obey Him!
God’s promise to obedient children is that they will enjoy improved Quality of life (“That it may be well with thee”) and improved Quantity of life (“and thou mayest live long on the earth”.) The Bible is clear in this verse: The Lord will bless that child who honors his parents! (Ill. I want that blessing! That is why I still try to obey and honor my mom and dad. How about you?)
D. There Is A Challenging Word – Notice verse 1 again: “...in the Lord: for this is right.” The word “right” speaks of “righteousness”.
That statement reveals to the child why he should obey and honor his parents. When a child honor and obeys his parents, he is doing that which is right in the sight of the Lord. In other words, it tends toward righteousness!
You see, children are not told to obey and honor so that they might please their parents; they are told to do so, because it pleases the Lord! You are to do this, not in an effort to please “the folks”; but in an effort to please your Heavenly Father.
When your first thought is living a life that is pleasing and honoring to the Lord; your obedience to and honor of your parents will be an automatic outflow. When God is your first parent, and you obey and honor Him, you will have no trouble obeying and honoring mom and dad in the home!
I. There Is A Message For The
II. v. 4 THERE IS A WORD
FOR THE LEADERS
(Ill. The word “fathers” can refer to both parents in this context. Paul now turns his attention from the children to the parents.
Paul’s words were very necessary for the society in which he lived. In Paul’s era, families were even more dysfunctional than they are today. It was not uncommon in some Greek and Roman cultures for men and women to have twenty marriages in a life time. Mutual love among the members of a family was almost nonexistent. In fact, most fathers ruled the home with an iron fist. History tells us that in that day, the father held the power of life and death over his family.
· A father could force his children out of the home at any time, at any age.
· He could sell them as slaves.
· He could enslave them, chain them and force them to work in the fields.
· He could take the law into his own hands and declare any sentence he pleased.
· He could even have them put to death and answer to no one for his actions.
· Infants were placed at their father’s feet for him to inspect. If he picked up the child, it was accepted into the family and cared for. If he walked away, the child was simply disposed of. Babies like these, who were healthy, we picked up, taken to the forum and sold to be raised as slaves and prostitutes.
· The Roman statesman Seneca, who lived in Rome while Paul was imprisoned there wrote, “We slaughter a fierce ox, we strangle a mad dog, we plunge a knife into a sick cow. Children born weak or deformed, we drown.”
· Such was the backdrop against which Paul was writing. He is telling His readers, and us, that there is a new and better way to be a parent.
· Of course, in our day, wicked parents still abound. A recent study found that the primary reason most children end up in foster care is not divorce, death, or finances; but simple disinterest on the part of the parents. They simply do not care about the welfare of the child!
A. There Is A Cautioning Word – We are told to “provoke not your children to wrath.” This phrase refers to a pattern of treatment that builds up resentment in the child. Parents are to avoid causing their children to “brood with anger.” When children are “provoked to wrath,” they may even act this anger out in open hostility to parents and other authority figures. The words translated “provoke” and “wrath” come from the same word. Paul is saying, “Don’t cause them to give just like they get.” In other words, if we instill in them our negative traits, they will give the same things back to us!
So, how does a parent “provoke a child to wrath?” There are many ways, I will name just a few.
· Speaking to your children in a harsh, degrading or disrespectful way. You are to speak to your children in a manner that would build them up, not tear them down. You can’t call your children stupid, dumb, slob, or klutz, without reaping a detrimental effect in their lives. This action will cause them to harbor resentment in their hearts toward you for being spoken to in this manner. Your children will listen to how you speak to others and will know that you don't speak this way to other people (Prov. 15:1; Eph. 4:31; Prov. 12:18; Col. 4:6). In addition, it may not be what you say, but the way you speak that hurts them. If you want your children to respect you, then you must speak respectfully to them.
· Refusing to listen to your children. When you don't give your undivided attention, interrupt your children, put them off continually, you are demonstrating that you aren’t interested in really hearing what they have to say. Eventually they will give up trying to talk with you which automatically creates further distance in your relationship. (James 1:19; Prov. 18:13; Prov. 18:15).
· Inconsistent discipline. When your rules change with each new day or simply because of the mood your in, children become resentful because they never know what you will will do. One day a certain action is wrong and the next day you could care less. Children need the stability of your consistent and faithful word. God wants you to be faithful just as He is (Mal. 3:6; Matt. 5:37; Matt. 23:3). Give clear limits and boundaries. Then be consistent to discipline their rebellion (Prov. 13:24).
· Overdiscipline. When you give your children restriction for a month for some small infraction or a spanking when they only needed a verbal reproof, this causes your children to become angry with you because they consider these actions as unfair. Ultimately, they will give up trying to please you because they become hardened toward you. Example: David totally rejected his son Absalom and would have nothing to do with him for killing his brother Amnon. Then David allowed Absalom to come back to Jerusalem but refused to see him for 2 years. Absalom later rebelled against David and tried to take the kingdom from his father (2 Sam. 14:28-29).
· Lack of discipline. When you rarely reprove your children verbally, restrict them for rebellion, or spank them when necessary, they will wonder if you even care about what they do (Prov. 13:24; Prov. 22:15; Prov. 29:15). In addition, your children will not make the connection between sin and consequences in life. Example: David never disciplined or punished Amnon for raping his sister which resulted in Absalom’s murder of his brother. All David did was get angry (2 Sam. 13:21-39). Neither did David ever rebuke or disciple Adonijah, the brother of Absalom, which also caused him to rebel against David (1 Kings 1:5-6).
· Constant fault-finding and punishment without praise and reward. When discipline is needed in your child’s life you must deliver it in a fair and controlled manner. However, praise and reward are equally important if you are to be fair with your child. When you give your child a “well done,” sometimes this is all the reward they need. God uses reward as a motivation for His children to obey (Prov. 12:25; Ps. 72:15; Matt. 6:4).
· Physical abuse. If you punch, kick, shove, slap, or beat your children, you are actually break their spirit and provoking them to resentment and wrath toward you. These actions are not what the Bible calls discipline. In fact, this is physical abuse due to your lack of self-control. You cannot justify your actions with the proverb that commands you to “Beat with the rod” (Prov. 23:13). The Hebrew word for beat means, “to lightly strike.” Discipline should always be motivated by love, done in a respectful manner, and always when you are controlled. This is how God corrects you (Heb. 12:6; Prov. 3:11-12; Rev. 3:19).
8. Refusing to humble yourself and ask your child’s forgiveness. If you fail to do any of the items above, you are not exempt from the responsibility of seeking reconciliation with your child just because you are the parent. Your child must be viewed as any other Christian, and therefore, if you sin against them, you must repent and ask their forgiveness. Refusing to ask their forgiveness when you have failed only causes them to lose respect for you. When you do ask their forgiveness you are teaching them, by example, the importance of reconciliation and how they should act in their future family (Matt. 18:15; Luke 17:1-4; Matt. 5:23,24).[i]
B. There Is A Counseling Word – We have just considered the negative side of the equation; now let’s consider the positive side.
1. Parents Are To Enrich Their Children – We are to “bring them up.” This praise has the idea of “nourishing them to maturity”. We are to tend to them like we would a tender plant. We are to help them reach their fullest potential in the Lord. We are to help them “be all they can be.”
If we are to do this, then we are going to have to invest the one thing that most parents are not willing to give up: time. According to a recent study, the average father in America spends a whopping 3.7 seconds with his children every day! What a tragedy. Is it any wonder that we are raising a generation of juvenile delinquents?
(Ill. If I could live my life over again, there are at least three things I would do differently. First, I would slow down and be less busy. Second, I would take more vacations. Third, and most importantly, I would spend more time with my wife and children. I would throw more footballs, go to more tea parties, play with more baby dolls and build more roads in the dirt that go nowhere. If your children are still young, take it from me, give them the greatest gift of all: give them you, give them your time.)
2. Parents Are To Educate Their Children – The word “nurture” has the idea of “the whole education of the child.” It refers to the daily discipline of verbal instruction in the ways of life and the ways of the Lord. We are to see to it that our children learn all that they need while they are under our care. Then, when they leave the nest and enter the word; they will be prepared for the things they will face.
3. Parents Are To Encourage Their Children – The word “admonition” means “counsel, encouragement, and discipline.” It refers to the act of guiding children toward maturity. There are times when we must give them direction in life. There are times when we must give them encouragement. And, there are times when we must give them discipline. All of these things are used by the wise parents; in the right measure to help their children become the men and women God designed them to be!
4. Parents Are To Evangelize Their Children – All of this nurture and admonition is to be “of the Lord.” We are to steep them in the Word of God, not our opinions, our preferences or our prejudices. When we teach our children to believe like we do, they will be as messed up as we are. When we train them in the things of the Lord, they will grow up and live lives that glorify and honor God. In all we do for our children, we give them no greater gift than when we point them toward Jesus Christ. If our love, our discipline, our encouragement and our instruction are centered in the Word of God; we will more likely than not raise children that are in the will of God. Keep God in the center of all you do as a parent!
Conc: Now, that is one of those “Oh me!” sermons. We hear that kind of preaching and it hits us right where we live. But, that’s good! That means that the Lord is speaking to your heart and helping you to grow. So, what are we to do with this sermon?
First, to the children: Kids, God loves you and He has a plan for your life. In his time, He will make that plan known to you. In the meantime, let me encourage you to obey and honor your parents. They love you and simply want the best for you. Get in line with them and do as they tell you. If you haven’t been as obedient and respectful as you should have been; you might want to come to the altar and ask God for forgiveness and then go back and ask mom and dad for forgiveness too.
Second, if you are a parent who has made some mistakes, and who hasn’t, you might need to come and make that right. You might even need to go to your children and apologize. Howard Hendricks said, “Children are not looking for perfect parents, but they are looking for honest parents. An honest progressing parent is a highly infectious person.”
Third, there are some parents here who tried your best, but your children are out of the Lord’s will today. Why not bring them up before the Lord once more and trust Him to bring them home. Remember that Pro. 22:6 is a principle and not a promise. Stop beating yourself up over your children!
Fourth, there may be some here today that have never been saved. Jesus loves you and died on the cross to provide a way of salvation. If you will come to Him, He will save your soul.