New Recruits in the Battle
New Recruits in the Battle
Series: Invading Enemy Territory—Ephesians
April 10, 2011
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
When I read that passage, I can guarantee that there are parents who are thinking, “Boy, am I glad we didn’t miss today’s message! Finally a message that is targeted at my kids instead of me! It’s about time the pastor laid it heavy on my kids!”
Then there are kids who are thinking, “Boy, am I glad we didn’t miss church today. Finally, the pastor is going to talk turkey with my parents about what they do that really ticks me off!”
Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, you’re both right. The bad news is, you’re both right! J If I do my job here this morning, we’ll all go out of here with a renewed heart and passion to grow up, whether we’re kids or parents and grandparents.
This passage divides neatly into 2 distinct audiences: children and parents.
- Raise your hand if you have never been a child? J
Kids, contrary to what you may think, everyone in this room was in your shoes at one time or another. Every adult here went through diapers, got potty-trained, was raised by imperfect parents, went through grade school feeling the same things you feel, were embarrassed to be seen with their parents in junior high, had to face peer pressure in the teen years, argued with their parents, thought their parents didn’t understand them very well or at all, were disciplined in one way or another by their parents and then grew up to be an adult who now is trying to do the best they know how in raising you! In short, we really DO understand the challenges of obeying parents because we’ve ALL been in your place at one time or another.
The first two verses here give two very straightforward and simple commands to everyone who is and has ever been a child: obey your parents…and honor your parents.
Before we talk about those two commands, let me just point out a couple of things in this text.
1.) This whole discussion falls under the opening command that Paul gives to the whole church in Eph. 5:21 when he says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Kids and young people, obedience to parents and honoring them in word, attitude and action IS what your submission to Christ is to look like. God has placed parents in your life from the earliest age so that you can learn about submission, something you and every one of us has to practice for the rest of our lives if we want to be God’s children, at least.
You don’t have to worry about submission in marriage yet. You don’t have to worry about submission to a boss or manager yet. You don’t have to worry about submission to government or to church leaders yet. You’ve got ONE relationship on this earth that you are responsible to learn to obey: your parents. Pretty simple, right? Yup…so why does every generation buck and fight and wrestle against their parents?
Because both kids and parents are sinners and we both have a tendency to fight against God’s lordship in our lives.
God (and Paul) gives us 3 reasons why we should obey parents. Here they are.
1.) “…for this is right.” It’s just plain “right” in the order of things for children to follow the instructions of their parents. God is appealing to natural law—something written on the heart of every human being. This is not a command confined to Christians alone. Every culture and society understand that children must be taught how to live, what to do and not do, if they are to survive. Go into any culture in the world and you will find that parents are trying to discipline their children. The way they discipline may vary from culture to culture, but the fact that they ARE disciplining and demanding obedience of some sort does not. EVERY culture understands that children must be taught to obey.
So kids, don’t think that your mom or dad are picking on you unfairly. Billions of parents all over the world are doing the same things to their kids that your parents are doing to you…and their kids feel like they’re getting picked on just like you do. J
Reason #2: Kids are called to obey parents because it’s God’s command to you. Pastor John Stott from England points out that in the traditional Christian handling of the 10 Commandments this 5th commandment of 10 is placed in the 2nd table of the law which deals with human relationships, while in the Jewish handling of the 10 Commandments it is placed in the 1st table, which deals with our relationship to God.
“So what?” you may ask. Well, if you see this command just as something God gave you to help you order relationships with other people in this world with, that’s one thing. But if you see it as foundational to your relationship with God himself, then at the heart of any un-called-for disobedience to parents is spiritual rebellion against God.
I say “un-called-for disobedience” because, obviously, if your parents are telling you to do something God says you shouldn’t (like worship Satan or some false god…or stealing from your neighbor), then that is the only time you are free to disobey…but you must still be ready to accept whatever punishment they may still hand out. The same goes for if they tell you not to do something God said to do (like stop loving God or believing in Jesus). In my 54 years of life, I have seen very few cases where disobedience of parents was ever justified. Usually 99.9% of disobedience to parents is because we just don’t want to obey.
APP: So kids, just like adults, you need to take a good look inside your heart when you are fighting against your parents. As far as God is concerned, your disobedience isn’t about your parents; it’s about your relationship with God! To disobey your parents is to look God in the face and say, “I will NOT listen to or obey YOU, God!” Which is probably what most kid’s rebellion and disobedience is really all about—not wanting God in your life and thinking that you know better how to run your life than the One who made you and is giving you the very life and breath you have this very instant.
That’s also why disobedience to parents was punishable in the O.T. Law by the extreme penalty—death. (Lev. 20:9; Deut. 21:18-21) Cursing your parents is tantamount to cursing God. Defying your parents is the same as defying God. And God has a right to end the life of every one of his creatures who defies him. Thank God we don’t live under the punishments of the O.T.! Amen?
Then there is the 3rd reason…and this one has to do with your relationship to life itself. Vs. 2--“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Believe it or not, obeying parents almost always leads to a BETTER life and a LONGER life…even if your parents aren’t followers of Christ.
ILL: Story of David Keith. David was a year older than I am. He was the son of one of my father’s first law partners here in Spokane, Lyle Keith. David grew up not far from where we lived on the South Hill. His parents certainly had some of their priorities messed up. They drank too much and cared too much about being in the socialite crowd. But David decided pretty early on that he wasn’t going to do what his parents asked him to do. He started getting in trouble in high school. He got in trouble with the law before he graduated in 1994. He went on to get involved with drugs and in his 20’s he started robbing pharmacies to get drugs. He was in Missoula, MT on Jan. 11, 1984, robbing a pharmacy when things went bad. The police were called and David took some pharmacy employees hostage. He then demanded a vehicle and an airplane. He drove 60 miles to Polson, MT where the plane was waiting. Once aboard the plane, he let the hostages go but held his gun to the head of the pilot.
The police sharp-shooter at the airport thought he had a clean shot at David through the open door…so he fired. The shot hit David in the shoulder. David immediately shot the pilot in the head, killing him. The police sharp-shooters then shot David several more times.
I visited David in the Montana State Penitentiary in 1989. He had been scheduled to die by injection the year before. Through a series of events, the governor had commuted his sentence to “life in prison without the possibility of parole.” I met David in the maximum security section of the prison where all the death row inmates are housed. He was blind in one eye because of the bullet that struck him in the head and he walked dragging one leg because of another bullet that hit him in the back. He will never leave that prison until the day he dies.
The only redeeming part of this story is that David claims to have come to faith in Christ in prison. But he cannot turn back the clock for the family whose father and husband he killed. He cannot do over the series of choices that led him away from his parents’ advice, commands and care and into a life of crime, drugs and eventually murder. His life would have ended at age 28 if a police sharp-shooter had been an inch or two more on-target. I can tell you for certain that life has not “gone well” for David since those teenage days when he decided to disobey his parents.
3 reasons why every child should obey their parents: natural law written in the hearts of every one of us, God’s law written in his word and God’s promise of a better life when we do obey.
But we don’t have to go to Montana to find examples of the disasters that await children and youth when they disobey parents. Everyone sitting in this room can give reasons why. Many of US disobeyed our parents…and suffered for it. Some are still paying.
ILL: yesterday being at Dad’s Bootcamp at Riverview. During a Q & A session, one younger dad who has just recently come to faith in Christ and who came from a background where he had had a child out of wedlock asked a question about whether he had a right to require of his children what he had failed to do, namely remain a virgin, sexually abstinent, until marriage. “How can I require that of my children when I didn’t live up to that?” he said.
There was an almost universal unison answer from the panel and many of the older men in the audience, “You not only have a right; you have a responsibility to tell your kids to guard their sexual integrity…AND you have all the MORE REASON to tell your kids the truth. You can tell them first hand about the problems and trials failing to obey you and God in sexual purity will have for them.”
APP?: Invite adults to share how obeying their parents could have saved them some real pain, problems, difficulties and disasters in their lives.
At least encourage parents to share honestly and humbly with their own children some of the problems they have experience in failing to obey parents when they were kids.
A word to ALL about HONORING parents:
- Almost every parent has something good they DO or ARE for which their children should honor them. You may have had an abusive mom or dad. They may have been alcoholics or workaholics or just “holics”. But did they try and feed you? Did they try and clothe you? Did they keep a roof over your head and get you to school? Did they work to take care of you in some way? Honor them for what they did right.
- While obedience is critical in the early stages of life, honor is critical at every stage of life. No matter how old we are, we must always live and act and speak in an honorable fashion towards and of our parents.
Jesus, when getting on the case of supposedly very religious people in Mark 7, called people to task for doing what looked very spiritual but really dishonored their parents. Mark 7:9ff reads…
9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
Volunteering at church or with some charity while your own parents are neglected does not warm the heart of God. Ignoring Granny or Granddad because we’re too busy “doing God’s will” in something is putting our own traditions and judgment above God’s clear command.
O.K. Parents’ turn, right? 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
One prohibition and two commands:
- DON’T exasperate your kids! Don’t do what leads them to seething anger and resentment.
- DO raise them up to be godly adults by training them.
- DO raise them up to be godly adults by instructing them.
O.K., let’s get honest. Everyone can potentially weigh in on this one. What did/do your parents do that made/makes you want to give up, blow up or throw up rather than grow up? (Open sharing.)
Here is my “Top 10” list of how I see parents most often failing in ways that provoke anger and resentment in their kids:
- Over-controlling: parenting is not an excuse for becoming a control-freak. If we will do the hard work of discipline in the early years, we will hopefully be free to do less controlling and more enjoying in the teen years. The older our kids become, the less controlling we should become.
- Under-involved: there is no substitute for TIME spent with our children. Never promise what you cannot or will not deliver on in terms of being at an event or being there for your kids. Make games, concerts, plays, anything your kids is involved in a priority. Make “face-time” a priority. Spend individual time with each kid doing something you both enjoy…and LISTEN! (Dad’s morning out/Mom’s night out.)
- Over-reacting: Parents, we’re really good at this. Our kids know how to push our buttons…and they do it sometimes just to watch the fireworks. But too often we let our emotions drive our interactions with them rather than the Holy Spirit. We get way too intense, too angry and too up-tight. We need to figure out how to defuse the buttons that they’ve figured out how to push! If we will defuse, they can push all they want but our head and heart will be driving our responses, not our emotions. Modeling anger or rage or depression or hopelessness isn’t leading well. It’s over-reacting.
- 4. Under-protecting: Parents, do we really know what the dangers are that our kids are facing? Every age has different dangers. What are the ones that are particularly menacing at whatever age our kids are at right now? They aren’t just physical, though we certainly must step up to the plate on those. (Dads, we must particularly do this with our daughters.)
- a. What about the educational dangers we need to protect them from? (Reading: only 30% of 4-8th graders read at grade level…but poor reading is directly linked with a host of teenage problems like teen pregnancy, poor academic performance, criminal activity, dropping-out before graduation)
- b. What about sexual dangers? (3 million teens get an STI each year in America! Teens, who are 10% of the population, contract 25% of the STDs. 1 in 10 have sex before age 13, 47% before they graduate from high school.) We better be talking about it at home a whole lot because our kids certainly are at school whether we like it or not.
- c. Moral? Are we modeling the morality we want our future adults to live? What are we doing to combat the moral relativism of our day?
- d. Emotionally? 35% of all high school girls have experienced clinical depression.
Rate of youth suicide up 1600%. In 3 decades. Life isn’t harder now. No way. Why? Like a movie with no plot—great actors, special effects, etc. Hollywood sometimes forgets to put a plot in a story; it’s all about special effects.
This is what happens to young people when they endure their own lives as stories that are going nowhere. Why suffer, endure, why do what’s hard, why take the ‘high road’ if my life has no meaning? Why not turn off the movie or close the book? People who contemplate suicide do so because they have lost the narrative thread of their lives. They are a story without a plot >> loss of purpose.
Modernity: the world has lost its story. = postmodernism = there is no story true for the whole world. If someone says there is, they are just trying to subject and oppress you. The best way to have peace is to tolerate everyone having their own story…as long as it is a small story that doesn’t conflict with anyone else’s. Make your own story.
If Bob wants to marry Bill, fine. Abortion is your choice.
Postmodernism = everyone having their own story…but no true, big, real, freeing story.
When we say this, we are telling kids that we haven’t a clue about what the story of life is supposed to be. It’s terribly hard to write a story from nothing. We’re telling them there is nothing bigger than “me”.
- f. Technology? The internet, addiction to video games vs. really living and experiencing life
- g. Peers?
- h. Spiritual? (Summit Ministries for college students; PRAYING for all, every day at every stage!
- 5. Over-critical: what if we were limited to 1 criticism of our kids for every 5 compliments? We can push our kids to excellence without being critical. Praise always motivates more than criticism. We ALL know what it feels like to be under a critical boss. Parents, criticalness kills children.
- 6. Under-appreciative: find 1-3 things a day to appreciate about each kid. Verbalize it. Don’t be phony; genuinely appreciate what your kids are and do…from painting their toenails to picking up their coat.
- 7. Over-achieving: when we push our kids to achieve rather than enjoy, we put way too much pressure on them. In doing so we are subtly telling them what really matters in life—not being faithful to God or moral character but doing things that make us look and feel good rather than doing things that make others look and feel good. It is really very selfish and produces selfish kids. SPORTS are running too many families today!
- 8. Under-whelming: emotionally disengaged parents leave kids looking for affection elsewhere. There is no substitute for TIME and emotional connection with our kids.
- 9. Hypocritical: nothing exasperates kids like parents who demand more of them than they demand of themselves. Model what you want done and then do it together with your kids. Children are not little servants. They are future men and women who learn 10-to-1 by modeling rather than words.
10. Favoritism: don’t misunderstand this. This doesn’t mean we must treat every kid equally. We must treat every kid individually and fairly, but the same rules do not apply to different kids all the time at the same time/age/situation. God our Father doesn’t play favorites in His family; neither should we. If you’ve got a favorite, keep it to yourself…and live out as much love as you can find for every child God has given.
So what is the positive side of the commands?
“bring them up” literally means to “nourish” or “feed” (as in 5:29—talks about a man who “feeds and cares” for his own body). Calvin commented that the overall idea of this phrase is gentleness and friendliness.
- What tone of voice is most frequently heard around our homes? Do we talk to people on the phone like we talk to our kids? Do we allow them to talk to each other in less than gentle and friendly manners? Determine that you will not let your kids become your enemies.
- Our presence in our kids’ lives should be the most nourishing relationship they have. Joe W. reminded us all yesterday that we need to learn to let our default answer to our kids be “yes” rather than “later” or “not now” or “no.” (Story of his son, Jeff, the night he died, asked Joe to go to a movie with him. He was uncharacteristically behind on his Sunday message and said he couldn’t. Those were the last words he said to Jeff. Not beating himself up about it because his son had already taken the meds that sent him into a coma and cardiac arrest later. He never preached that message.) We can’t say “yes” to everything, but we can say “yes” to more, particularly that which feeds their hearts—a quick game together, an ice cream sundae stop, an impromptu game of basketball, etc.
This spirit of gentleness and nourishing friendliness is balanced with the next two commands:
Training = a strong word meaning “discipline, even by punishment.” Discipline builds fences around an otherwise out-of-control life.
ILL: School that was built near a busy street. When it was first constructed, the kids all preferred to play close to the building and as far away from the busy, noisy street as possible. But when the fence was finally erected next to the street, the kids immediately began to play right up to it and the whole schoolyard was used for recess.
We must not be afraid of letting kids know where the boundaries are and of holding fast to those we’ve set. But our kids need to see us “training” too.
- If we expect them to take care of their bodies, so must we…through regular exercise, good nutrition (only 25% of kids…and 6% of teens…have a consistently healthy diet), good weight management, sufficient sleep, etc.
- We must discipline our minds: how much time do we spend in front of the TV? Computer? Games? (Talk about problems with un restricted video games and teen-college boys/young men.)
- Spirits/souls: what spiritual disciplines are we modeling and teaching to our kids. PBJ time? Involvement in church/ministry? Tithing? Volunteering?
Finally, INSTRUCTION. This refers to verbal instruction and verbal warnings. The word “instruction” literally means “to place before the mind.” Often it means to confront.
- The only kids I will answer to God about are my own. You will answer for yours.
- When and how can we instruct our kids? Deut. 6:5-9 tell us we are to teach our kids to “love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our strength.” We’re to “talk about [these commands] when we sit at home (meals???) and when we walk along the road (drive-time???), when we lie down (bedtime???) and when we get up (breakfast/morning devotions???).
- ILL: Friday breakfast discussion about our rose bed & women. Was speaking to dads this weekend about building masculinity into our boys and femininity into our girls so was talking it over with God while running Friday morning. Got to thinking about the rose bed I needed to clean out before leaving Friday and began to wonder how I might use that experience to raise my boys that day to be men. (I’m not just raising roses; I’m raising men!) Asked, “How are roses like women?” (Beautiful, fragile, seasonal, fragrant, needs tending with care, needs fertilizing, needs trimming, thorny, tough, can snag you and draw bloodJ.) ALL of life is an opportunity to teach what it means in everyday life to LOVE GOD totally and people as myself.
Parents, we are raising the next generation of adults. If we won’t fight for them, who or what are we fighting for? If we won’t put down the remote and pick up the …or our kids homework…or the Bible for family devotions…nobody else will. for? Their calling is to follow. Ours is to lead. Let’s give the next generation something to follow. Let’s show them how to scale the wall first. Let’s live large enough to give them a clear cause, a clear purpose and a clear vision BIG ENOUGH to give their lives to and BIG ENOUGH to sacrifice and endure for.
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