As we are a congregation of fruitful families, we will spend the next five Sundays reviewing what the Bible says about raising children. This week we begin with the big picture goals of Faith, Fellowship, and Fruitfulness, and from there we will proceed to parenting young children, teenagers, courtship and marriage, and finally grandparents and grandchildren.
I want to frame this series not merely as common sense and biblical principles (although that’s true), I also want to frame this in terms of our cultural and political moment. When Moses preached the sermon series of Deuteronomy, he was giving Joshua and the elders their marching orders for conquest. While our culture self-immolates, many thoughtful Christians ask themselves, “What can we do?” There are many things we can and should do, but one of them is gather ammo. And by that I mean, have children and train them well (Ps. 127).
Training them well begins with a firm faith in God the Rewarder. There is an enormous difference between parenting in faith and parenting in fear. One fills a home with tension, stress, and constant anxiety; the other fills a home with relief, peace, and joy.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen … But without faithit is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:1, 6).
FAITH VS. FEAR
Faith means trusting that God is there, and that He is for you and for your children. The center of this faith is salvation in Jesus Christ: “If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32) All things – like what? How about our children? And this is precisely what was promised by the Prophet Malachi: “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to their children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6). And Luke says this was John the Baptist (Lk. 1:17). Jesus came to remove the curse of sin, particularly in how it tends to flow through generations.
But the Old Testament promises of the New Covenant go even further: “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and forever” (Is. 59:21). Isaiah says that the New Covenant includes the promise of God’s Spirit and words being with us and with our children and our grandchildren forever.
“And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jer. 32:38-40).
What good thing does God promise those who trust in Him? He promises to turn the hearts of our children toward us and toward Him, so that His Word will remain in their mouths and the mouths of our grandchildren forever, so that they may fear Him for their good. This means that the dominant tone in a Christian family must be relief, joy, gratitude, laughter, delight, and freedom because of the gospel promises of God.
STAYING IN JOYFUL FELLOWSHIP
In regeneration, we are made alive by faith in Christ, and we are brought into fellowship with the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit and given a joy that can never be taken away (Jn. 16:22). This fellowship with God is the fullness of joy, and we share that fellowship with one another, with everyone who is in fellowship with the Father (1 Jn. 1:3-4). When a new child is born into a Christian home, they are sovereignly placed by God into that Christian fellowship. This is why the Bible calls the children of at least one believing parent “saints” (1 Cor. 7:14). But this holy fellowship must be maintained by walking in the Light and the blood of Jesus Christ cleansing us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:7). This cleansing takes place either through the joyful covering of sin in love (1 Pet. 4:8, Prov. 10:12) or the gracious confronting of sin in love (Gal. 6:1). This is why love is called the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14).
When covering sin in must be completely put away and forgotten under the blood; when confronting sin, the goal is confession, forgiveness, reconciliation, and winning your brother (Mt. 18:15). The Hippocratic Oath applies here also: first do no harm. There’s no situation so bad that you can’t make it worse. Sometimes invasive surgery is necessary, but often not and risks infection. Remember a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city (Prov. 18:19). Bitterness is resentment, grudges, past offenses that spring up defiling many with all kinds of trouble (Heb. 12:15). But love keeps no record of wrongs and does not let the sun go down on anger; therefore sin must be dealt with right away, as soon as possible (1 Cor. 13:5, Eph. 4:26).
Faith means believing that God is there, and that He is for you and for your children because of what He has done in Jesus Christ. This is the seed of the gospel from which proceeds all Christian fruitfulness. And this means that a Christian home is marked by this joy and relief.
Christian love guards this joy and the resulting fellowship by dealing with sin as quickly as possible, either covering the sin in love or confronting the sin in love, remembering to take the log out of your own eye first. This includes parents confessing their own sins to their children.
Finally, Christian faith believes God that children and joyful families are central to the mission of the earth being filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. God is our Father and we have a great inheritance in Him, including our children, they are the inheritance of the Lord and reinforcements as we receive them in faith.