June 25, 2017

The Christian Man and His Children, Part 1

The Christian Man and His Children, Part 1

Posted in The Faith of Us Fathers

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” — Luke 10:27

We are to engage our minds, our intellect, our understanding in order to love, serve and worship God properly. That is, we are to think. Think about this: from whence did your children come, men? Yes, from the Lord; yes, from your wife. But those children were not even conceived until you first consciously, purposefully and with much energy and anticipation, perform an act which was obviously designed to conceive that child. (Please forgive me if this sounds crude: it is not meant to be vulgar but instead to emphasise that your wife did not “fall” pregnant, nor did it happen by accident.) Maybe you didn’t have any child in mind at the time, but the child wouldn’t be around if not for your active and wilful participation in his or her conception. You are responsible, mate. And just as the Lord has forever held Adam (and through him all mankind) responsible when Eve ate the forbidden fruit, so He holds us fathers responsible when our wives bear our children. The Lord holds us responsible for our children, for providing for their physical, spiritual, character and academic development and security. “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” — Proverb 13:22a. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” — Ephesians 6:4. “…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.” — Hebrews 12:7b-8.

Being responsible for Jimmy or Sue is not the same as saying the child belongs to you. Our children, just like everything else in the universe, both visible and invisible, are owned totally by the Creator of the universe. It is the Lord, this Almighty God, Creator and Sustainer of the heavens, the earth, the seas and all that is in them, even thrones, dominions, principalities and authorities (see Colossians 1:15-20), Who is not only the owner of our children but is also He Who has appointed you and me as stewards over His property. That is to say, one Day He will call you and call me to account for how we have stewarded, cared for, safeguarded, improved upon, nurtured, fed, clothed, housed and educated His property of whom He will be coming to take possession. I suspect He will inquire most keenly into how well we have taught our sons to fear His Holy Name so as to always respond with awe and respect at every thought of Him, to hate sin so as to flee from even the appearance of it and to so hunger and thirst for righteousness as to actively seek out ways to more consistently conform his entire life to the pattern of Christ in His Word. Will He not also examine the attitudes we built into our daughters, or allowed to grow there unhindered, if they do not positively demonstrate a most godly reverence, respect, modesty, humility and all those Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 virtues?

I may detect a voice asking, “What virtues are in Titus 2? And where is this Titus anyway?” A dead give-away that we are in trouble men, and have some serious studying to do just to get ourselves in the running for the task ahead: making disciples for the Lord of lords and King of kings. And just in case we may be tempted to think we are fairly up with Christian things and are doing a reasonable job, remember the counsel of Paul in I Corinthians 3:12-15. Near enough is not good enough….not for King Jesus. We need to work at changing our “She’ll be right” attitude to a “She must be right” attitude, for He is worthy….and what’s more, that’s what He requires. “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

We, then, are to be making disciples for Christ, fulfilling the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 right here in our family, a microcosm of those “nations” mentioned in the verse, as a first step toward reaching “all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). (We should be far more competent, able and willing to tackle the nations once our children are firmly converted and discipled. And besides, our by-then-grey hair will automatically impart a lot more mana and respect to us in other parts of the world than if we went over as missionaries while still waiting for our beards to fill in properly.)

The methodology of fathers being responsible for diligently instructing their children in the context of everyday life as the Lord so graciously reveals it to us in Deuteronomy 6:5-7 has been described often. But verses 8 & 9 have perhaps not so often been described. We do not wrap or write verses on our hands or foreheads, although we do sometimes have a Scripture hanging on a wall or two in our homes. It would seem that these verses 8 & 9 of Deuteronomy 6 are surely references to something more substantial.

Verse 8 could refer to such things as ownership, leaving a seal or mark, a type of identification. After all, we have heard a lot about the mark of the beast from references in Revelation, a book full of figurative language. I am suggesting that this Deuteronomy 6:8 could also be figurative, but because it lies within a Book intimately concerned with heart and soul rather than outward appearances, these figures stand for something quite definite. One may have a mark of God or of the beast on his hand and on his forehead. That is, one’s mind and thought patterns are Biblical, set on the Spirit (Romans 8:5-6), thinking God’s thoughts after Him and taking every thought captive to obey Christ (II Corinthians 10:5), or they are set on the flesh, hostile to God and used to invent evil (Romans 1:30, 8:5-7). Likewise one’s hands, symbolising one’s entire catalogue of works; one’s works can be identified as Christian works of ministry or identified as works characteristic of the fallen angel who is the father of all lies and master of deceit.

So our very beings, what we think, say and do, even when we aren’t thinking about it (see Matthew 12:36-37), are preaching sermons to our children. They can tell the difference between a faith that is consistent inside out from one that only extends to outward appearances….and they will soon learn the different set of rules applying to each. Do not be surprised, then, oh hypocrite, when your own son can appear so angelic by organising a weekly Bible study for the church youth group while seducing the girl at a meeting of the two-member planning committee. (Yes, it does too happen. Not only can I name names, but I can say that the youths involved hardly see much wrong with it.)

Deuteronomy 6:9 talks about writing God’s commandments on your doorposts and on your gates. Again, we are talking about a lot more than those cute little silver Jewish verse holders one can fasten to the door and touch reverently each time you pass through. (That is about as efficacious as touching the car roof and lifting your feet while crossing railway tracks in order to have your wish granted.) The idea is that the Word of God reigns supreme in your home (the doorposts being the entrance or most obvious place to control the influences to your home). So what are your “gates” as mentioned in the verse? Perhaps just another word for doorposts. Perhaps as in the term “city gates” it means any place where you make decisions: your wider property, your fields, your rental flats, the business you run, the employees who work for you, the classroom in which you teach or lecture, the office team you manage, the work gang you supervise, the truck or machines you operate and whatever contracts you may consider entering into……all these things are to have the Word of God stamped over them. They are to be run by the commands, precepts, statutes and ordinances of the Lord God Almighty. And when you think about it, since He is omniscient, doing things His way simply has to be the best recipe for success….and sure enough the Bible’s been saying just that for thousands of years already: Psalm 1:1-3, Proverbs 3:1-2.

Right, men. Once we have sorted out our own lives so that they reflect the love and standards of our gracious God, we are ready to be proper stewards of our children, who are, as we said earlier, God’s children over whom He has set us as His stewards. Galatians 4:1-2 specifically addresses this issue of holding a child back until the proper time: “I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father.” So our children are in a holding pattern until they come of age at a date set by our Father God.

Now, there is a two-tier system operating here: our offspring will inherit that which we have laid up for them on this earth, and they will inherit that which the Lord has laid up for them not only on this earth but also later in heaven. What kinds of things do they inherit from us? They are both physical and metaphysical: houses, chattels, land, money, eye colour, a name/reputation, family heritage, culture, most of their character qualities, etc. Now do realise that while we like to say our children inherit such things from us, ultimately they get all of these things from the Lord, although filtered — and corrupted somewhat — through us parents.

What kinds of things do they get exclusively from the Lord? Those items often referred to as Providential: their talents, abilities, disabilities, giftings, ministries, callings, responsibilities, spouses, children, lifespan, etc., plus those things of which we know so little that will be enjoyed in heaven: crowns, mansions, life and ministry at the foot of the throne.

Men, listen carefully: it is our job to equip and ready and enable our children to themselves faithfully steward all these things they will be inheriting. We must be horrified at the idea of letting all these things fall into their laps when they are simply unprepared and incompetent…..due to lack of instruction and guidance on our part…….to handle them. Why should we be horrified at the thought? Because we know our children will be called to account for how they stewarded them, just as we are to be called to account. How callous to allow our children to appear before God and watch them have to fumble for an explanation. Our task as stewards of God’s children is not only to be striving to successfully manage these inherited blessings, roles and responsibilities ourselves but also to prepare these children so that they themselves, by God’s grace, may successfully manage them as well.

We want our children to grow up to be men and women of vision. Well, we’d better want that, for this is what God’s children are meant to be, those children the Lord has entrusted to us to steward on His behalf. They are to be ambassadors for Christ, ministers and messengers of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18-20) in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom they shine as lights in the world, offering them the Word of life (Philippians 2:15-16). Our vision is not just to rear children who will be able to cope with a degenerate world, but to rear soldiers of the Cross who expertly wield weapons of divine power to destroy strongholds, arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (II Corinthians 10:4-5). Men, we are first of all to be — and second we are to raise up — conquerors for Christ.

From Keystone Magazine
September 2001 , Vol. VII No. 5
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
email: craig
@hef.org.nz

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