You must be an authentic example to your children. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1690s, John Tillotson wrote, “To give children good instruction and a bad example is but beckoning to them with the head to show them the way to heaven while taking them by the hand and lead them in the way to hell.”
The first place to be an authentic example for your children is in your marriage for it is one of the main instruments that God designed to preach the gospel. Ephesians 5 lays out the elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the roles of the husband and wife. How unattractive the gospel is when a husband will not love his wife like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her and then turns around and demands his children not to be so selfish and self-centered. Or the wife who does not biblically submit to her husband nor respect his position and them demands that her children respect and honor her.
Hypocrisy has a crippling effect upon a family and it is usually pride that is behind the hypocrisy. Such pride leads to a blindness of our faults and sins. We see the sin in our children’s hearts and not the same sin in our own. It leads to being uncorrectable and the impression that you are right because you are the parent. It leads to discouragement and disobedience to the only direct command in the New Testament for parents that is given in two of the Epistles in that fathers are not to provoke or exasperate their children to anger.
Humility to the gospel leads to living out Ephesians 5:1,2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Humility leads to living out the gospel as your failings are exposed to your children. Confession and quick resolution of wrong doings is accomplished. The home turns into a redemptive community where sin is dealt with but with grace. Discipline is happening and can be handled with gentleness.
When a home is guided by gospel-centered humility, it guards and protects the gospel and it will be continued from one generation to another as described by Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14,15, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
So that we as fathers can carry out the orders given to us from God in Ephesians 6:4, let’s begin with understanding the fundamentals that lead us to joyfully fulfill the command to not provoke our children but rather to instruct them.
First of all Psalm 127 states that children are a gift from the Lord, a reward. How so? One way they are a gift is that God has given you children for your own personal holiness and growth. Being married has been a growing experience in my sanctification but being a father put me over the top. Every crack in my spiritual armor was blown wide open. Pride, selfishness, lack of patience, and many others, were all exposed. Therefore, my children were a gift to show me my sin and daily need of the gospel. We as fathers are sinners, who have been given sinners as gifts from God with the task that together, we as a family can grow toward God. The privilege of the gift is to teach the gospel to them so that they might be saved and one day when we all stand before the throne, they will not be known as my children, but as my brother and sister in Christ.
So Ephesians 6:4 begins with we fathers looking at ourselves. 2 Corinthians 7:1 states, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of the Lord.” In other words, my first priority before addressing my children is to purify myself. If I am addressing my children, they need me to be able to think clearly, effectively, and biblically. Men, if you are neglecting your own spiritual growth and your walk with God, it will have a profound impact on your motivation and your ability to carry out God’s command to you in regards to your children.
Tomorrow: Ways we typically provoke our children.
The following is a portion from Charles Spurgeon’s autobiography
I was privileged with godly parents, watched with jealous eyes, scarcely ever permitted to mingle with questionable associates, warned not to listen to anything profane or licentious, and taught the way of God from my youth up. There came a time when the solemnities of eternity pressed upon me for a decision, and when a mother’s tears and a father’s supplications were offered to Heaven on my behalf. At such a time, had I not been helped by the grace of God, but had I been left alone to do violence to conscience, and to struggle against conviction, I might perhaps have been at this moment dead, buried, and doomed, having through a course of vice brought myself to my grave, or I might have been as earnest a ringleader amongst the ungodly as I now desire to be an eager champion for Christ and His truth.
I do speak of myself with many deep regrets of heart. I hid as it were my face from Him, and I let the years run round,—not without twinges of conscience, not without rebukes, when I knew how much I needed a Saviour; not without the warnings which came from others whom I saw happy and rejoicing in Christ, while I had no share in His salvation. Still, I put it off, as others are doing, from day to day, and month to month, and thought that Christ might come in some odd hour, and when I had nothing else to do, I might think of Him whose blood could cleanse me. O my soul, I could fain smite thee now! Truly, I could lay this rod about my own heart to think that weeks and months should have rolled over my head, and I should have hid as it were my face from Christ in wilful neglect of my dear Lord whose heart had bled for me.
Children are often very reticent to their parents. Often and often have spoken I with young lads about their souls, and they have told me they could not talk to fathers upon such matters. I know it was so with me. When I was under concern of soul, the last persons I should have elected to speak to upon religion would been my parents,—not through want of love to them, nor absence of love on their part; but so it was. A strange feeling of diffidence pervades a seeking soul, and drives it from its friends. Yet I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother. It was the custom, on Sunday evenings, while we were yet little children, for her to stay at home with us, and then we sat round the table, and read verse by verse, and she explained the Scripture to us. After that was done, then came the time of pleading; there was a little piece of Alleine’s Alarm, or of Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted, and this was read with pointed observations made to each of us as we sat round the table; and the question was asked, how long it would be before we would think about our state, how long before we would seek the Lord. Then came a mother’s prayer, and some of the words of that prayer we shall never forget, even when our hair is grey. I remember, on one occasion, her praying thus: “Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.” That thought of a mother’s bearing swift witness against me, pierced my conscience, and stirred my heart. When I was a child, if I had done anything wrong, I did not need anybody to tell me of it; I told myself of it, and I have cried myself to sleep many a time with the consciousness that I had done wrong; and when I came to know the Lord, I felt very grateful to Him because He had given me a tender conscience.
Fathers and mothers are the most natural agents for God to use in the salvation of their children. I am sure that, in my early youth, no teaching ever made such an impression upon my mind as the instruction of my mother; neither can I conceive that, to any child, there can be one who will have such influence over the heart as the mother who has so tenderly cared for her offspring. A man with a soul so dead as not to be moved by the sacred name of “mother” is creation’s blot. Never could it be possible for any man to estimate what he owes to a godly mother. Certainly I have not the powers of speech with which to set forth my valuation of the choice blessing which the Lord bestowed on me in making me the son of one who prayed for me, and prayed with me. How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come? I thought her lips right eloquent; others might not think so, but they certainly were eloquent to me. How can I ever forget when she bowed her knee, and with her arms about my neck, prayed, “Oh, that my son might live before Thee!” Nor can her frown be effaced from my memory,—that solemn, loving frown, when she rebuked my budding iniquities; and her smiles have never faded from my recollection,—the beaming of her countenance when she rejoiced to see some good thing in me towards the Lord God of Israel.
Well do I remember hearing my father speak of an incident that greatly impressed him. He used to be frequently away from home preaching, and at one time, as he was on his way to a service, he feared that he was neglecting his own family while caring for the souls of others. He therefore turned back, and went to his home. On arriving there, he was surprised to find no one in the lower rooms of the house; but, on ascending the stairs, he heard a sound as of someone engaged in prayer. On listening at the bedroom door, he discovered that it was my mother, pleading most earnestly for the salvation of all her children, and specially praying for Charles, her first-born and strong-willed son. My father felt that he might safely go about his Master’s business while his dear wife was caring so well for the spiritual interests of the boys and girls at home, so he did not disturb her, but proceeded at once to fulfil his preaching engagement.
My mother said to me, one day, “Ah, Charles! I often prayed the Lord to make you a Christian, but I never asked that you might become a Baptist.” I could not resist the temptation to reply, “Ah, mother! the Lord has answered your prayer with His usual bounty, and given you exceeding abundantly above what you asked or thought.”
In Pastor Tom’s sermon this last Sunday (“Show Me His Glory,” 1 Corinthians 6:12-20), he stated, “dads need to show up!” The context was in teaching our children the principle that there is an organic union between Christ and the believer and you cannot divorce what you do in the flesh with what is done in the Spirit.
So where are the fathers? They are physically around but when it comes to the subject of teaching our children about virtue, manhood or womanhood, relationships and sex, we fathers often bring a knife to a gunfight.
We fathers are tempted to set aside our responsibility to equip our children for the rigors of manhood and womanhood through laziness, looking for a way out, and then we lie to ourselves thinking our children already know these things. We tell ourselves “they are good kids and will make good choices most of the time. Besides they are at ______ School and they are teaching them aspects of this that are good things. Maybe I will just leave a book on the table and they will read it.”
The truth is your children do not know as they ought to know. They may understand a few things but incomplete or inaccurate information is often times more harmful than no information at all.
There is much to be said about this but there are two outstanding resources for dads to consider in inspiring and equipping them for such training of their children. Both these books will help in formulating a biblical plan of bringing your children into maturity as both are rich with Scripture and gospel-centered.
The first resource is titled “What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him” by Bryon Forrest Yawn. This book challenges you as a father to step up as a dad to guide and model maturity to your children. I found this book inspiring to me as a father even with my children long married and lots of grandchildren.
The second resource is a book long overdue and on the topic that I get asked often if there are resources for…it is titled “Time for the Talk” by Steve Zollos. The talk is about “the talk,” but the talk is so much more than a biological talk. This book gives elements of the biological information but focuses on virtue, character and biblical values that must be embraced.
Pick up both books in the near future and you men who read this, seek a few other fathers to join you in a conversation about the chapters in these books over coffee. Call me and I would love to join in on the conversation.