The Christian Man and His Children, Part 2
Posted in The Faith of Us Fathers
The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? — Jeremiah 17:9
Last time we established that the Lord our God is going to hold us fathers responsible for how we raise, shepherd and disciple His children who have been given to us by Him that we might steward them on His behalf. And the Lord has so ordered things that in fact we willingly co-operate with Him in their conception; that is, we cannot say to God, “I never asked for these children. Why did You give them to me?” The Lord has delivered our children into our hands, we are responsible for them, and He will call us to account for how we rear them.
We need to have a clear understanding about the inner nature of these our children. Yes, they are little chips off the old block in many ways. But don’t think for a moment they are little bundles of innocence. In a solely human respect they are lovely to behold and speak to us of human innocence like nothing else apart from the person of Christ. And they appear to do nothing intentionally bad or evil for a while anyway from their birth. Yet “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Our children arrive in our arms as little bundles of depravity and it’s all downhill from there….unless we train them and shepherd them to higher ground.
The Lord tells us through Jeremiah (see above NKJV) that our hearts are more deceitful than anything else……that is, we are prone to self-deception! We see lovely little babies and think, “How sweet!” We receive kisses and cards from our youngsters and think, “My, but they have little hearts of gold.” Be careful: their hearts are the worst parts of them: deceitful and desperately wicked, says the Scripture; so wicked one is hard pressed to understand the degree of wickedness found there. We have all very recently witnessed the incomprehensible nature of this evil in human hearts as passenger aircraft ploughed into the twin towers of New York City. While our children do not manifest evil as much as they could, as much as they are apparently capable of, to the praise of God’s mercy and grace toward us, we must not underestimate the capacity for evil that could develop within them if separated too much from His Word and His people. Charles Manson, Idi Amin, Osama bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot were all lovely little innocent-looking babies at one stage.
Although there is that fallen nature within them which gives them a downhill tendency, this is not the natural state of affairs. Neither our children nor ourselves exist in a state of normalcy: we are cursed with a sickness called sin, which will eventually bring us to the grave. Unregenerate folks and unbelievers either think we are all basically good and morally healthy (I’m Ok, You’re Ok) or that we’re evolving in that direction and with Polyanna discount the notion of evil and put it down to misunderstandings (….or religious bigotry, a malady secular folks reckon they never catch!) So we need to carefully take our medication and follow the Great Physician’s orders, for both ourselves and our children. This is why our lifestyles do and must differ from the unbelievers: we are sick and we know it. They are just as sick, but refuse to acknowledge it. As Christians we are taking measures to counter sickness: we live and train our children to live godly, disciplined lives, obedient to the Scriptures. Unbelievers reckon life is just the way it is, so make the best of it and hope for the best. Christians, even aware as we are of our sickness and frailty, are called to a much higher objective than that….to show forth His glorious light out of these earthen vessels, demonstrating that the transcendant power belongs to God and not to us (II Corinthians 4:7).
By virtue of the children being created after the likeness of God, by virture of His grace and mercy toward them and us, by virtue of the sanctifying work of His Holy Spirit and the living word read and preached to them, by virtue of the positive effects of our prayers and examples and instructions and corrections our children do develop godly characters and sweet personalities. This is how it should be. But do note: it doesn’t happen all by itself. We recall that we are fatally infected by sin. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction drives it far from him.” We are told to use the rod of correction, generally taken to mean corporal chastisement, to drive the sin and rebellion (foolishness) out of our children when it manifests itself, lest it be allowed to settle in and become a permanent fixture of their personalities. In addition, and just as importantly, we are to instruct in good behaviour, model good behaviour and pray the Lord will regenerate their hearts so they’ll desire good behaviour and loathe the bad.
This two-pronged approach to godly training (to love the good and loathe the bad) is sensible and logical….. but far from easy to perform. First and foremost again, men, we must be stirling examples of this. Trifling with sin is asking for trouble. If you flirt with questionable TV shows, videos and publications, your children may do more than flirt: and being young will be far more deeply, and negatively, influenced by it. Being slack in performing our duties is all the excuse a youngster needs to himself procrastinate when he should act decisively. Instead let our children see us rub our hands in anticipation of each new day, a new set of 24 hours the Lord has graciously granted that we may serve Him all the more, strive to become more like Him, give of our selves to others, struggle to understand the issues of the day from the Biblical perspective and to then order our ways accordingly. Apart from being ourselves consistent, we also need to spend time with our children shaping their tastes by our enthusiasm in loving righteousness and by our example in hating sin.
I Thessalonians 2:11-12 (RSV) says, “…for you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to lead a life worthy of God, Who calls you into His own kindgom and glory.” We’re talking high standards here. And fathers are specifically alluded to as doing three things to build their children’s lives to be worthy of God. Exhort is what a more experienced man does to one much younger, what a superior does to an inferior, to bring him up to the higher level: it is mostly a one-way flow. It is drawing the immature into experiences that will try and test them but that will also be fun, exciting, challenging. Yes, there is a sense of duty about them, but that doesn’t mean they have to be dull and boring. Impart vision, men, while doing routine chores: “Mowing these lawns is tending to this property the Lord has entrusted to us, so our work is for the Lord, and He tells me all labour for Him is not in vain!!” (Colossians 3:23-24, I Corinthians 15:58). Fathers, we are to exhort our children to come up to where we (hopefully) are, occupying a place of godly character, respected in the church and community, fulfilling responsibilities to our wives and bosses.
Encourage is what men do to one another, how peers sharpen each other up: the flow is two ways. By the time our children are young adults, we should get a lot of encouragement from their fellowship, their insights into Scripture, their respect for elders, their pure relationships with their peers. There is a mutual respect, for your children know you are fair and wise and they have seen your hunger and thirst for righteousness. Though they no longer think you can do no wrong, they know you will not rest until you’ve tried to right your wrongs, no matter how difficult it is to apologise, no matter how expensive and inconvenient it is to make restitution. And your gnarled old heart almost melts as you watch them react in the same godly way to the wrongs they commit! At this time we are not ashamed (a real understatement!) as we stand shoulder to shoulder with them in the gate (Psalm 127:5). Your children don’t have to go job hunting: because of your reputation and standards of excellence and because of what people can see in your childen’s behaviour, job offers are coming in all the time.
Charge is what one does who is not going along, it is passing the responsibility on to another. Even home educated children leave home. They will take jobs away from home for a few hours at first, then maybe a couple of days a week. Then it will be full time. Each time you will remind them that their future reputations are being formed, that your own name and reputation which you have painstakingly built up over decades is also riding on their shoulders. The Name of Christ will also be adorned…or muddied….by the way they act and fulfil their responsibilities toward others. These are important concepts, and we need to charge our children to remember who they are and Who they represent. They may do a big OE or study in another city. You will charge them to keep the faith, to defend the faith, to correct their opponents with gentleness.
Training our children is a full-time job. And it is to carry on into their adulthood. How on earth can the task be done when our children are separated from us for a big chunk of time each day at school? Well, the Lord is merciful, and He appears to have ordered things so that the caring home and loving mum and concerned dad are the major influences even when a school is interposed. How much more effective can our commitment be by removing the interposed school and educating at home!
From Keystone Magazine
November 2001 , Vol. VII No. 6
P O Box 9064
Phone: (06) 357-4399
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