What I want to talk about in this hour is the principle of “not whether, but how” should we be training our children to be godly? We want godly children, not well behaved children or nice kids. On one hand what we do with them will often look similar, but when we really get into it we’ll realize there is a world of difference. It is important to know that we are training our children, no matter what we do. So it is not a matter of whether we are training them, but how are we training them and what are we training them be?
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Pro 22:6)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:4)
Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death. (Pro 19:18)
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. (Pro 29:17)
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:5-11)
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Rev 3:19)
Like Our Teachers:
I’ll talk some more about the context of raising our children tomorrow morning, but for now I want you to remember that Jesus told us that “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Lk. 6:40). A disciple is a student, one who essentially lives with his teacher, spending vast amounts of time with the teacher. When you spend time with someone you admire, you naturally become like them. What this means, as I pointed out in the last hour, is that your children will become like you. It almost doesn’t matter what else you do, they will still be just like you. There is a chance they will be exactly opposite you, but naturally they will be like you. Your children are your first disciples, they will become like you.
That said, the Bible still tells parent to discipline their children. The ESV often says train, instead of discipline, but it essentially means the same thing. We are to train, nurture, discipline our children so that they turn out in a certain way. Remember, God desires godly offspring (Mal. 2:15). So we are to train them to be godly. The first way we do this is to set good examples for them. The second way is comes in two directions at the same time: proactive and responsive.
What I mean by ‘proactive’ is that discipline which encourages specific kinds of thinking and behavior that comes before the opportunity for action. Paul said of himself, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27). This kind of discipline is similar to the kind of training a boxer goes through just before a big fight. It comes before the event and is in preparation for the event. It is proactive, not responsive. It studies, plans, anticipates, and prepares in advance for possible situations and circumstances. It In the same way that it encourages and anticipates certain thought patterns and behavior, it does it through specific patterns of discipline. These practices include, teaching your children how to pray, share their faith, study the Bible, praise, worship, fast, giving gifts, hospitality, etc. It includes mundane things like cleaning the house, ironing a dress shirt, cooking with a wok, loving to work with wood, hunting, drawing with chalk, don’t forget to have fun in the process, etc. A Classical Christian education at every level should be included in this kind of training.
The way we train our children, with regard to this kind of living, should be to teach them about God, God’s law, Grace, faith, every aspect of the world and the way God and the world work. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Dt. 6:6-7). Everything is in the context of the world God made and this means that God must be present in everything.
In addition the way things are in the world, we need to warn them of the dangers they will encounter when they leave home; teach them how to live in a world that is hostile to the things of God, how to change culture, that they can change culture; how to bring their own family into conformity and growth in Christ. This kind of discipline produces fruit in keeping with God’s world.
To add the difficulty, I need to say something about age appropriate discipline. The Bible says, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psa 103:14). The context is telling us that God remembers where we are in our abilities and our gifts. He brings us from where we are, not where he wants us to be. So we don’t give our toddlers long philosophical discourses about the dangers of antinomian postmodernists. We take them out in the yard and let them play with small bugs and rocks. On the other hand, teenagers can understand explanations about things and it would be good to set down with them and explain why they can’t watch particular movies or hang with particular people. It all depends.
Responsive Discipline is that training which follows events. When the activity that follows temptation is godly submission and obedience, your discipline will be characterized by praise, rejoicing, dancing, hugs, and exulting in what God has done. On the other hand, when the result of temptation is disobedience, rebellion, and ugly consequences this requires what I’m calling responsive discipline. It is still positive in its aim, but it can appear to be harsher because it is retributive. This responsive discipline is characterized by confrontation, corporal punishment, explanations, confession, grief, repentance, restored fellowship, new plans and proactive discipline. This discipline comes because of sin and is a response, by God or you, the parents, to sin. Spanking is the more popular verbiage for what we’re talking about here. The Bible mentions the use of a rod, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24). Similar passages appear in Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 23:13,14; and Proverbs 29:15–17. Corporal discipline.
The Bible’s Word on the Need For This Kind of Discipline:
We live in a world where rebellion against God’s way of doing things is rampant. No one wants to do things God’s way, but at the same time everyone wants God’s results. We want joy filled, obedient, kind, and faithful children, but we want it without being obedient to doing it the way God exemplifies and tells us to do (Heb. 12:5-11). Notice five things about what this Hebrews text says,
1) God disciplines those he loves (v. 6).
2) It is assumed that parents discipline because they love their children (9).
3) If you aren’t being disciplined, you aren’t a son at all (v. 8).
4) Discipline produces righteousness and holiness (v. 10, 11).
5) Chastisement and discipline is painful (11).
Once the parents are living godly lives, they are qualified to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I began this hour talking about training/disciplining our children. I asserted that we training them whether we know it or not. “Not whether, but how.” We are raising their children either way, but things won’t normally go well if the parents aren’t living godly lives. God can do miraculous things with children distinct from what we do with them. But he normally uses means to accomplish his goals. God has given us our children because he desires godly offspring. We are therefore responsible to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Raising children has to do with training. Training comes in two ways: proactive/anticipatory, or reactive. Proactive means teaching, training, practice, etc. Reactive means consistent corporal discipline; spanking or some other discipline that meets the requirements God exemplifies. Next hour we will talk about the nuts and bolts of corporal discipline. Let me leave you with something to begin thinking about. If you are angry, you are probably not qualified to discipline your child. You are probably in sin yourself.