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TEXT: Proverbs 4:1-13
SUBJECT: Proverbs #22: Family Worship
A couple of weeks ago, I urged you to pray for your children, saying that it is the most important thing you can possibly do for them. But "most important" suggests other important things as well. And of these "other things", none is more significant than "teaching your children".
This, of course, is the subject of our text, and my sermon for tonight. "Teaching your children".
The first thing you should notice is the primacy of the father in teaching his children. "Hear my children the instruction of a father". The mother, to be sure, has her role to play. But it is always subservient to that of a father. You men, therefore, are chiefly responsible for the instruction of your children. Not the school. Not the pastor. Not the mother. But you. This is what Solomon did. This is what his father, David, did as well. And this is what you must do, if you would discharge your duty.
But here the objection may be raised that both Solomon and David were kings. As a consequence--it is thought--they had plenty of leisure to do this. But you are an ordinary working man. Indeed, more than that. You have to put in overtime just to keep a roof over your children's heads and food in their bellies. This law, therefore, though good in the abstract, cannot be practically applied.
I would concede this point--if this Scripture was the only place this duty was enjoined. But it is not. There is another Scripture, addressed to a broader audience, where the same counsel is given. It is Ephesians 6:4: "And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord".
Now, think about it for a moment. What kind of people were these "fathers" to whom Paul urged this duty? Well, if you study the rest of the Epistle you will find that they were "all kinds of people" including slaves. Now it seems doubtful to me that slaves worked a forty hour week. Their masters (some of whom were wicked) got as much out of their servants as possible. These enslaved fathers, therefore, worked long and hard hours, often under the threat of beatings or worse--yet they too were responsible to "bring up their children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord".
If its not out of line, I would present my father as a worthy example. He worked long hours. He worked hard hours. He sometimes even worked "double hours". Yet he always found time--usually bedtime--to take his son aside and teach him "the way of the Lord more perfectly".
And he did this--not because he was a superman, incapable of getting tired. But because he was concerned for his son--and his Savior. These concerns took precedence over chores, hobbies, television, or even an extra hour of sleep. I don't think he regrets his decision.
Therefore, I would urge you men to take your responsibilities seriously. You are not called to "delegate" the teaching of your children to anyone else. You are called to teach them. "My son, hear the instruction of a father!"
From here we ought to move on to see the context in which this teaching should occur. This is implied by the father's address: "My children". "My children" presents a relationship, and a very specific one at that. It suggests two things: respect on the part of the child and affection on the part of the father.
Thus, if you're to effectively teach your children, you must command their respect. Not their love. But their respect. A child may love a drunken father. But he can never respect him. And will not listen to him. But how is respect gained? It seems to me that it is gotten--chiefly--by integrity or conisistency. Or, to put it another way, "by practicing what you preach".
Thus, if you're always nagging your children to hold their temper--while you're losing yours at the drop of a hat--you're not commanding their respect. If you spank your children for "tattling", but gossip yourself, you're not going to have their respect. If you get on your children to "bring home good grades from school", but all you ever do is sit around watching t.v., you will not get the respect you need to teach them.
In sum, if you want to teach your children well, you must become "a doer of the word and not just a hearer". For if you remain a "hearer", you may "deceive yourself", but not your kids! At least not for long.
This "respect" is implied in the relationship "My children".
But more than respect is needed if you are to teach well. Affection is just as vital. And here, the onus is on the teacher. By saying, "My children", the father is assuring the students of his love and pity.
Thus our efforts to instruct ought to be "loving". And "love", of course, is inconsistent with impatience, temper tantrums, nagging, name-calling, sniping, ridiculing, and so on.
"You son of a rebellious woman!" was not the instruction of a father, but the shout of a demoniac!
If you would teach your children well, dear fathers, you must command their respect and show your love. One or the other simply won't do.
From here we must look at the substance of our teaching. If we are to faithfully discharge our duty, we must begin where this Scripture begins: doctrine. "Hear my children the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine..."
At this point, many Christian fathers, are lacking. They teach moralism. "Don't lie, don't steal, don't cheat, don't fight, don't curse, and so on". These commandments have their place to be sure. But when taught alone, they become a sort of legalism. And--whether you intend it or not--your children start thinking that if they're good little boys and girls--they'll please God and go to heaven.
But "be good" is not the plan of salvation, is it? The plan of salvation is, in short this: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures..."
In order to make any sense out of this gospel, you must know at least the following things:
1.The inspiration and authority of Scripture. He died, after all, "according to the Scriptures".
2.Our transgression of God's law. He died "for our sins".
3.The substitutionary death of Christ. "Christ died for our sins..." This includes things like atonement, reconciliation, imputation, and expiation.
4.The exaltation of Christ. "He rose...and was seen".
All these "things" are doctrines. They should not be kept from your children till they enter Bible college, but ought to be given to them with their mother's milk,
If we father's are to teach our children "good doctrine", we must know "good doctrine". And this knowledge is not acquired through a casual reading of the Bible, but through intense and prolonged study. And if you're not willing to pay this price, you are failing your children and endangering your soul.
But "good doctrine" is not the only thing to be taught to our children. We must also address the more directly practical. "Get wisdom". "Wisdom" can be roughly defined as "doctrine in action".
This wisdom is to encompass the whole of your children's lives. Things like work and marriage. Talking and listening. Eating and drinking. And everything else you can think of.
You should note also the urgency of this teaching. Doctrine and practice must not be just "transmitted". They must be urged upon our children. "Get wisdom! Get understanding! Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom, and in all your getting, get understanding".
Intense feeling is involved. Your children know that you want them--above everything else--to embrace your religion and live for the glory of God. "Know the God of your father, and serve Him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind".
Plead with your children to keep the Law and believe the Gospel. Let them never say (with justice), "You never cared". Paul would plead with strong tears. John found nothing more joyous than to see his children walking in the truth.
Be generous, therefore, in your affections. Let your children know that you want them to be saved and that you are pleased when they do what's right. Don't be indifferent or withdrawn. Don't be harsh or overbearing. Be like God to His children. Hosea 11:8, "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboim? My heart churns within me, my sympathy is stirred."
Finally, make much of the blessings and dangers attached to your teaching. The greatest blessings come to the obedient: "Keep my commands and live...do not forsake her and she will preserve you...love her and she will keep you...exalt her and she will promote you...a crown of glory she will deliver to you...Hear my son and receive my saying, and the years of your lives will be many...Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life".
But to each blessing attached to obedeience, there is a curse corresponding to rebellion. "Do not depart from the words of my mouth, lest you give your honor to others...lest aliens be filled with your wealth...lest your flesh and body are consumed...lest you say `How I have hated instruction and despised reproof!'"
Therefore, without compromising the sovereignty of God, without presenting a "works righteousness", let your children know what the issues truly are: In His Word, God "Has set before them life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore, choose life, that both you and your seed may live".
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