Beloved Brothers – Benefits Of Being Faithful And Having A Servants Heart

Grace For The Journey

 

The technological changes that have occurred in less than 200 years are mind boggling.  Prior to the invention of the telegraph in 1844, if you wanted to get a message to someone in another location out of hearing range or line of sight, you had to physically send the message.  Whether it was written or spoken, someone had to physically take the message from you and deliver it.  The telegraph allowed for electronic signals to transmit code for written messages over long distances.  The first transcontinental line was completed in the United States in 1861.  The International Telegraph Union was formed in 1865 and the first transatlantic cable was laid in 1866. These were amazing developments, but even with the continuing expansion of telegraph lines, communication was limited to one message at a time which had to be coded, sent, then decoded and then physically given to the intended recipient.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876.  For the first time a voice could be transmitted electronically. There were 3,000 phones in 1877 and 10,000 in 1878. Improvements in circuitry, components, and transmission allowed for rapid expansion with 1.4 million phones in service by 1900.  A transcontinental phone line was completed in 1915 and the push was to develop “universal service” which would enable anyone that wanted a telephone to get one.  There would be 15 million phones in the U.S. by 1940, 30 million in 1948, and over 100 million by 1971.

Long distance technologies continued to advance as well with microwave transmitters being introduced in 1946 and the first mobile phones were made available in St. Louis that same year.  Telecommunications satellites began to be launched in the 1960’s and long-distance communication made another huge leap forward.  What was once an impossible dream, which then became an expensive reality, is now so inexpensive little thought is given to it.

Experimental cell phone service began in Chicago in 1977.  There are now hundreds of millions of cell phone users around the world with cell phones dominating in some countries.  The blending of computer technologies into the cell phone now allows not only voice, but text, pictures, video, and connection to the internet.

All of this simply to say that what we now think as routine is so radically different from even a relatively short time ago that the people back then could not have even imagined it.  Families separated by thousands of miles can communicate in a wide variety of ways.  Sometimes they might send physical items by mail which can take one to two weeks or longer, but most of the time they can now use methods that allow them to communicate in or near real time.  They can email, send instant messages, send files of pictures, video, and documents that need to be signed and sent back.  We they have talked on the phone and by computer now can both talk and see their loved ones in real time. All with just the punching of some buttons on the phone, tablet, or computer.

All of that to make these two simple points: 1) It is important for people to communicate to one another.  Our technological changes have made that easy, in fact, perhaps too easy since we have also had to devise ways from being overwhelmed by all of it; and 2) Communication has not always been so easy and the importance of it is seen in all that one has to go through in order to accomplish it.

Paul is in prison in Rome and he is informed by Ephaphras about a concerning situation that was developing in Colossae.  Paul wants to respond to the dangers that were rising and help them by giving them instruction, encouragement, and warnings.  He is also aware that they will want to know about him and what is happening in Rome, but Paul cannot pick up a phone and call them.  He cannot email them or send a telegram.  He cannot even write a letter and have it put into the Roman mail system.  None of those things existed.  If he wants to communicate with them, he will have to compose a letter and find someone who will hand carry it to them.  That is exactly what Paul does which we learn about in Colossians 4:7-9 in his recommendation to them of the men that carried his letters, “As to all my affairs, Tychicus, [our] beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. 8 For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know [about] our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts; 9 and with him Onesimus, [our] faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your [number.] They will inform you about the whole situation here.”

In these three verses are three statements concerning Tychicus and Onesimus telling the Colossians the news from Paul and Rome.  Paul did not write those matters down for they were not as critical as his instructions, encouragements, and warnings to them about the heresies that were arising in Colossae.  Tychicus and Onesimus could verbally tell them the news when they arrived.  The major responsibility for this fell on Tychicus for he is specifically mentioned as the one that would tell them about Paul and his affairs.  Both men together would inform them about the situation in Rome.

There are several aspects to what these men would be telling the Colossians.  First, verse 7 tells us that Tychicus would make known to them Paul’s affairs.  This would be the personal news about Paul and his situation. Paul emphasizes this in verse 8 by stating that part of the reason he had sent Tychicus to them was so that they might know his circumstances. That in itself says something about Paul’s own sensitivity toward others.

It is not uncommon to find men who seem to want to remain reclusive and hidden even from those that care about them.  Paul was not that way.  He was not a braggart or in any way fixated on himself as so many media stars are in our own time, but neither did he hide himself away.  Remember from yesterday’s blog that Paul desired for them to pray for him.  Paul desired God to open a door for him to proclaim the gospel and be clear in the way he ought to speak in his preaching.  He wanted the Colossians to be part of that by prayer.  Making sure they knew about his situation and circumstances would make those prayers possible and more effective since they could pray specifically for them.

There is a balance that all Christians need to maintain in their ministries . . .  

You need to be vulnerable and open enough

So that others can join into that ministry

Through effective and specific prayers

And then also join in praise to God for His answers.  

At the same time, you must be

Careful not to say so much that you

Become self-centered and self-serving.

Paul maintained that balance.

Paul’s emphasis was actually on the Colossians since that is the second but more important reason that he had sent Tychicus to them.  Paul wanted them to be encouraged by the letter and the personal ministry Tychicus would have among them. Certainly they would be encouraged when Tychicus would tell them personally about how God was using Paul among the Praetorian guard and among Caesar’s household as is mentioned in Philippians; but more importantly, Paul wanted them to be encouraged by what he had written in his letter to them.  Tychicus would be able to personally minister to them in regards to all that was written in the letter.  He could both explain what they might not understand and help them make personal application of its truths.

In verse 9 we find that both Tychicus and Onesimus would be able to make known to them everything about what was taking place in the ministry that was occurring in Rome.  This would certainly include a lot more than just matters concerning Paul since five more specific people are mentioned in Colossians 4:10-14 as sending their personal greetings to those in Colossae.  The two men would be able to inform them about all of these people and more.

It is important that believers keep each other informed, but not for the purpose of just curiosity and gossip.  You must avoid bragging and self-centeredness and yet reveal enough about yourself so that other believers can pray for you properly, specifically, and effectively.  In that way they can enter into your life and what God is doing through you. This increases the praise to God as He performs that work.  This also makes you properly vulnerable so that you can be encouraged where you are weak or struggling and corrected where you are wrong.  The goal is for all of us to become conformed to the image of Christ.  Keeping each other informed about our lives is part of that.

An Arduous Journey

Now before we go on to examine the character of these two men, I want to explain what they would have gone through to physically deliver Paul’s message to the Colossians. Paul was in prison in Rome and Colossae is in what is now western Turkey.  They could not get on a plane and fly there.  They could not get in a car and drive there.  They would have to walk and take ships.  It would be a major undertaking.  Because of that, Paul would make the most of the effort that would be put forth.

Paul is also concerned about the other churches with which he has had contact.  We know that Tychicus also carried the letter to the Ephesians (Ephesus 6:21) and that either he or Onesiums carried the letter to Philemon.  It is also possible if not probable that the letter to the Philippians was sent at the same time.  It appears that Epaphroditus carried that letter (Philippians 2:25-30) and he may have traveled with the others as far as Philippi.  There may have even been additional letters.  In Colossians 4:16 Paul refers to a letter to Laodicea that he wanted read among the Colossians and they in turn were to have their letter read in the church of the Laodiceans.  Some of these circular letters to various churches became part of the New Testament.

There were three major ways possible for someone to travel from Rome to Colossae with some variation in each: 1) The easiest way physically would be to take a ship from Rome to Ephesus and then walk to Colossae.  However, that would have been expensive and dangerous due to storms and pirates on the Mediterranean Sea.  The danger of this is seen in Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 11;25 that three times he had been shipwrecked and having to spend a night and a day in the deep in one of them; 2)  A variation of this would be to have walked via Appia to Brundisium (348 miles) and then taken a ship.  If Paul’s letter to Philippians was also being carried, which is highly probable, then they would have had to also go north in the Aegean Sea to Neapolis and Philippi and then returned south to Ephesus; and 3) The most difficult way physically would be to walk via Flaminia to Ariminium (204 miles), then via Gemina to Aquileia (205 miles), then via Flavia to Dalmatia & Dyrrachium (392 miles), then via Egnatia to Philippi and on to Byzantium (430 miles), and then to Colossae (407 miles).  A journey of over 1,600 miles by foot and then they still had to go Ephesus an additional 120 miles.

The most probable route from Rome for this journey was to walk via Appia to Brundisium (348 miles) and then take a ship across the Adriatic Sea to Dyrrachium (100 miles), then walk the via Egnatia to Phillipi (410 miles) and deliver the letter there, and then to Neapolis (36 miles) to take a ship to Ephesus (260 miles) and deliver the letter there, then overland to Colossae (120 miles).  A total of just over a 1,000 miles by foot and about 360 miles by sea.

No matter which route was taken, it would have been an arduous journey that would have been accompanied by many dangers – weather, supplies, injury, robbers.  The importance of communication between Paul and these churches is seen in all that it took to deliver the letters.  It also makes us realize that these letters would have been crafted with great thoughtfulness.  They would not have been just his immediate reaction to news or thoughts for the moment as are so many of the blogs and posting on social network sites today.  

Easy and instant communication has driven down careful thought in communication so that the vast majority of it – even in the news media – is a waste of time being thoughtless, inaccurate, incongruent, and sometimes just plain incomprehensible.  We need to take to heart the warning in Proverbs 10:19-20, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.  The tongue of the righteous is [as] choice silver, The heart of the wicked is [worth] little.”  Take the time to think through things before you speak or post something you write and do not be like the foolish or wicked.

Tychicus

Paul’s commendation of Tychicus is not just in the words he says about him in this passage, but perhaps even more so in the responsibilities he entrusts to this man.  The name “Tychicus” comes from a word that means “to hit the mark” or to “happen / obtain by chance” and so “fortunate.”  He proved by God’s providence to be a fortunate find as a co-worker with Paul.  By the time this letter was written about 61 AD, these men had already known each other several years and experienced quite a few things together.

We first meet Tychicus in Acts 20:4. He is included in the list of those that were traveling with Paul toward the end of his third missionary journey from Greece back to Jerusalem. Tychicus and Trophimus are specifically noted in that text as being from Asia. Trophimus is later specifically identified as being an Ephesian (Acts 21:29), so Tychicus may have been from another place in Asia.

While we tend to think of Asia as the oriental countries of the Far East or even of Turkey as “Asia Minor,” the term in Roman times referred to Proconsular Asia which is what is now western Turkey.  There were various regions of Proconsular Asia and Luke’s usage of Asia is distinguished from the lands of Phrygia (Acts 2:9), Mysia (Acts 16:6), and Caria since he states that Miletus was not in Asia (Acts 20:16-17).  Luke’s usage then of Asia was more in keeping with a reference to the area of Lydia with Ephesus being its major city.

Now it is possible that Paul could have met Tychicus in any number of places that he had traveled or even during Paul’s very brief visit to Ephesus at the end of his second missionary journey.  It is more likely they met when Paul spent three years in Ephesus during his third missionary journey.  Paul was preaching and teaching both Jews and Gentiles with Acts 19:10 recording that from Ephesus that, “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord.”  There was very good communication up the Lycus valley to Laodicea, Hieropolis, and Colossae since a major trade road extended east from Ephesus through that area.  It is possible that some of those in Colossae may have previously met Tychicus.

When Paul left Ephesus to go to Macedonian and Greece, it appears that Tychicus went with him, or at least he joined Paul somewhere in Greece for that is where he is in the first reference to him in Acts 20:4.  He then goes with Paul to Jerusalem.  Paul’s desire was to help build and strengthen the relationship between the Jewish and Gentile churches.  Paul had even taken up a collection from among the Gentile churches to take with him to Jerusalem for the poor Jewish believers there.  Tychicus & Trophimus came as representatives of the Gentile church in Asia.  It was Trophimus that was seen by “certain Jews from Asia” that became their excuse to cause the riot in the temple that led to Paul being arrested (Acts 21:28-29; 24:18).

Acts does not tell us what Tychicus did after Paul was arrested.  Paul was in jail for two years before being sent to Rome (Acts 24:27ff).  Tychicus may have returned to Asia for all or part of that period, or he may have traveled with Paul to Rome as well.  It is apparent in Acts 27-28 that Paul has one or more people traveling with him (at minimum, Luke is with Paul).  After Paul arrives in Rome he is there at least two years (Acts 28:30).  Whether Tychicus was with Paul during this entire period or only a portion of it, he is in Rome while Paul is in prison.  Paul learned to trust Tychicus over the time and travels they spent together, so he sends him as his messenger to Ephesus and Colossae to bring them the letters and make known to them his affairs and the situation in Rome.  He is accompanied by Onesimus who is going back to Colossae and possibly Epaphroditus as well who is carrying Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Paul commends Tychicus with three different but related descriptions in verse 7, “Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord.”

Beloved Brother – This description reveals that Tychicus was not only a believer and therefore a member of the family of God and a brother in the Lord, but that his character was such that he had also gained the designation of beloved.  This is a term of deep friendship.  If you are part of God’s family, then you have many brothers and sisters in the Lord, but the reality is that only a few of them will become beloved to you.  That will be due to both character and proximity in time and place.

There are many mature and wonderful Christians in the world, but we are finite creatures and only have the time and capacity to know and become true friends with a few of them.  In fact, it will only be a very small portion of them that we will even meet this side of heaven, for the paths of our lives will not cross either physically or in time period.  I have read about so many people I would have loved to have known, but they lived in a different time period or place.  I find that one of the frustrations of this life is that there are also many people who are in proximity that I would like to spend more time with and know and serve better, but there simply is not enough time to do so. There are other obligations, responsibilities, and priorities that must be kept first.  I suspect that many of you feel the same way.  By God’s gracious providence, Tychicus and Paul met and became friends.

There is also an issue of maturity in becoming a beloved friend.  There are a lot of immature Christians, and though we love them in the Lord, at present they can still be difficult to be around.  Tychicus had demonstrated enough of a mature character that he became beloved to Paul.  I think that puts us on safe ground in surmising that Tychicus was a living example of the character qualities Paul told the Colossians that he wanted them to put on – compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, and loving. When these qualities characterize your life then it is easy for others to consider you beloved to them.

Faithful Servant – This description commends his character trait of being faithful and his commitment to minister.  The term “servant” is the common term for a person who serves another.  The stress is on the work being done and not the condition of relationship to the one being served.  It could be voluntary service or forced service as that of a slave.  It was a common term for table waiters and came to be used for anyone who ministers to others.  This term has been applied to many specific people mentioned in the New Testament including Phoebe (Romans 16:1), Apollos (1 Corinthian 3:5), Paul (Ephesians 3:7), Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21), Epaphras (Colossiasn 1:7), and Timothy (2 Corinthians 1:1; cf 6:4).  It became a title for those meeting particular qualifications and holding responsibility in local churches (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-10).  However, God equips every Christian to serve Him in ministry (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) and your part is to be faithful in fulfilling it.

In the case of Tychicus, he was faithful in giving voluntary service to Paul and others. The word “faithful” here is referring to his reliability, not his belief or trust, though certainly the two elements are always connected.  Tychicus was reliable because he believed the gospel and trusted the Lord for his life.  Paul knew that he could count on Tychicus to not only safely deliver the letters, but also properly speak on his behalf. This is another element demonstrating both Tychicus’ maturity and value to Paul.

Fellow Bond-Servant – Paul only uses this particular term for two men – Epaphras and Tychicus – both of which are mentioned in Colossians.  The term itself is used to refer to those who are also slaves.  Jesus uses it four times in Matthew 18 that way and it is used three times in Revelation for those who are slaves of God.

The root term here, “doulo” / “doulos,” is often translated as “servant,” but it is better translated as “slave” because it refers to those who are in a servile relationship to their master, that is, the master owns them.  Such is the actual case for all true Christians. We are not our own, but have been bought with price of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross so that we are transferred out of the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20; Colossians 1:13.)

It was common for the apostles to refer to themselves as a “doulo” / “doulos”“slave.” Paul did (Titus 1:1) as also did James (James 1:1), Peter (2 Peter 1:1) and Jude (Jude 1:1).  In 2 Timothy 2:24 Paul referred to all who serve the Lord as slaves, and Peter challenged all Christians to make sure they did not use their freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as slaves of God (1 Peter 2:16).  The book of Revelation was given to the Lord’s “doulo” / “doulos”“slaves.”

While there is usage of the term in a general sense for all Christians, Paul used it rarely for other specific people.  Paul referred to Timothy along with himself as slaves of Christ Jesus, but Paul only used the term “fellow-slave” of Epaphras and Tychicus.  This may be because both were willing to minister to Paul while he was being held prisoner. There is always some risk in identifying yourself with someone in jail, but perhaps more so in ancient Rome.  Guilt by association could get you thrown in jail or killed, yet both of these men did so without hesitation.

The term throws one more additional light upon Tychicus’ character and why he was such a good choice to take the letter to the Colossians.  For Paul to call him “a fellow slave in the Lord,” Tychicus would have had to have understood and believed the preeminence of Jesus Christ just as Paul explains in Colossians 2 and 3.  Therefore, he made a good choice to help them understand and put into practice Paul’s instructions, encouragements, and warnings.

Tychicus’ character continued to be proved after he delivered the letter to the Colossians and ministered to them.  He is mentioned two more times after this and both times it as Paul’s emissary.  In 2 Timothy 4:12 we find that Paul sent him to Ephesus to help with the ministry there, and in Titus 3:12 we find that Paul may send him to Crete to help with the work there and allow Titus to meet Paul in Nicopolis.  Tychicus continued to be a fellow slave of Christ.

Onesimus

Paul also commends Onesiums.  He is a very interesting man.  He is a run-away slave who is going back to Colossae to make things right with his master, Philemon.  Onesimus had run away and made it to Rome where in God’s providence he met Paul and was converted to become a Christian.  He could not have been with Paul for a very long period – two years at the extreme maximum – yet he had already become close enough to Paul for him to call him a “beloved brother.”  He also had demonstrated enough character for Paul to describe him as “faithful.”  The greatest proof of his character was that he was going back to his master by his own will in striving to do what is right.  Onesimus, though young in the faith, had already proven to be a man raised up with Christ with a mind set on the things above instead of the things of this earth.  He was living for Christ and was actively setting aside the old man and putting on the new man.  He was already an example of the kind of man that Paul wanted the Colossians to be.

The commendations that Paul makes of these two men are characteristics I want to be known by as well – a beloved brother, a faithful servant, and a fellow slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I trust you also desire the same, and together, as we minister to one another with the gifts God has given to each of us, we will help one another become the mature people in Christ that God wants us to be (Ephesians 4:11-16).

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

 Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What It Looks Like To Give All To Christ, Part 2.

Grace For The Journey

In our previous post we began a study of Colossians 4:1-6, a passage where the Apostle Paul provides some of the basics of Christian living.    Let’s read there verses again to remind us of the focus of the passage, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”  

Yesterday we looked at the first fruit of giving our all to Christ – Grateful Praying.  In today’s blog we come to the apostle Paul’s final instruction about the Christian life in this letter.  In this passage he gives the believers at Colossae direction on how to prays properly in order to be a good witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is an important lesson for us as well because the lack of evangelism is directly tied to the lack of proper prayer, and proper prayer is directly related to living in a manner in keeping with being someone who has been raised up with Christ.  I want to stress this point from the beginning not only because it is the proper context for what Paul says here, but it is the only way in which Paul’s instructions can be carried out with faithfulness.

Praying properly in order to be a good witness for the Lord Jesus Christ is dependent on having the motivations and following the instructions Paul has given in Chapter 3.  As Paul began that chapter, he pointed out that every true Christian has been raised up with Christ and therefore there should be certain changes in that person’s life.  This includes . . .

  • Having a mind set on the things above to seek them instead of the things of this earth.  The importance of what is eternal replaces what is temporal.  
  • The manner of life is changed as sinful habits and attitudes are set aside and put to death and replaced by new habits and attitudes that are righteous and holy.  
  • Love for God and others replaces the sinful selfishness that resulted in all manners of hatred toward and exploitation of others.  
  • At the heart of this change in the manner of life is the change in the purpose of life. Life is no longer about you, your comforts, desires and glory. It is now about God and His glory.

That is why Paul summarizes in Colossians 3:17 that “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to the Father.”

This change in the purpose and manner of life should have a positive effect on every relationship.  We spent quite a bit of time examining the roles God has given within the family and the work environment (Colossians 3:18-4:1). These are our closest relationships.  They are the people we will spend the greatest amount of time with and with whom we will have the greatest influence – and they on us as well.  But there is another group of people that we as Christians must be concerned about and those are the unsaved.

If our general habits and attitudes are in keeping with those who have been chosen by God, holy and beloved (Colossians 3:12) and our purpose in life is to glorify the Lord, then we will be concerned about those who are not believers and how we interact with them.  We will desire to be good witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ that we might be used of God in their lives.  Our ability to be good witnesses begins with prayer.  It incudes three other key elements . . .

Gospel Sharing. 

In verse 3, Paul next gives specific direction about what he wants the Colossians to be praying about – “praying at the same time for us, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I am imprisoned.”

This is the connection between prayer and evangelism.  Paul understood this clearly and it was common for him to make a request like this one to those to whom he was writing (Ephesians 6:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:1).

His desire was to be able to preach the gospel

Wherever he might be and he was concerned

That he would be clear in what he said

And bold in its proclamation.

If Paul understood his need for prayer for opportunity, boldness and clarity, then how much more do we need others praying for us!  If you want to tell others about the Lord Jesus, then begin by praying yourself and then getting others to join you in praying for such opportunities.  Ask them also to pray that you will be clear in presenting the message of salvation from sin through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is easy to get side-tracked or tongue tied when talking to someone about their sin and need for the Lord.  It is also easy to be intimidated so that even obvious opportunities are lost.  Certainly you must look for opportunities and engaging people in conversation will create them, but if you are praying and having others pray for you, I can guarantee you will have more than enough opportunity.

Consider where Paul was at when he wrote this letter.  Paul was in Rome sitting in prison, or more likely a house arrest situation in which people could come see him, but he could not go see them.  That was the situation Paul was in at the close of the book of Acts and what is described in his letter to the Philippians.  Paul could not go out, yet the Lord brought him all sorts of people to whom he proclaimed the gospel.  This included Jews and Gentiles. Philippians 1 records that Paul had even had an impact upon the Praetorian guard, Caesar’s elite personal guard, and Caesar’s household.  Yet . . .

Paul wanted the doors opened

So that he could preach

To even more people.  

Paul did not like

Being in prison,

But he rejoiced over

What God was doing

Through him while

He was in prison

(Philippians 1:12-18).

Such is and should be the heart of the one raised up with Christ, for the things that are eternal in nature, the souls of men and women, are more important than current living needs and comforts.

But consider this as well.  Paul himself was devoted to prayer and he had many people who were also devoted to prayer that were praying for him, and Paul was in prison because he did boldly proclaim the mystery of Christ, which is the fact that God has made available to Jew and Gentile alike salvation from sin through faith in the Lord Jesus.  Paul was in prison precisely because the Jews were upset and could not accept the message that Gentiles did not have to become proselytes of Judaism and keep the Mosaic Law in order to be accepted by God.  The Roman guard had first arrested Paul in order to protect him from the efforts of the Jews to kill him in the Temple (Acts 21).  He remained in prison because they continued to intimidate the Roman Governors (Acts 22-26).

There is this tendency in American Christianity to think that if you do well at keeping God’s moral commands and have a good prayer and devotional life, then God is only going to allow good things to come into your life.  That is why professing Christians here so quickly become discouraged or even mad at God if things do not happen the way they would like.  That includes even small things such as your car or appliances breaking down, getting a cold at an inopportune time or not having enough money to buy the things your friends or neighbors are purchasing.  The truth is the opposite.

Jesus said in John 15:20 that if they persecuted Him, then they will also persecute you.  Paul told Timothy that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).  Jesus added in John 16:33 that in this world we would have tribulation, but we could be of good cheer because He has overcome the world.  Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that you would be blessed if men cast insults, persecute and say all manner of evil against you falsely on account of Him.  He added that you should rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

If you are devoted to prayer and have others diligently praying on your behalf, then don’t be surprised if God gives you opportunities beyond your expectations and uses you in ways beyond what you thought was possible. But also don’t be surprised if our adversary and those of this world that are under his control will hate you for it and do all they can to make your life miserable.  If you want a quite life far removed from any possibility of trouble and turmoil, then you do not want to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.  His peace is always present and does surpass all comprehension, but it exists in the midst of the turmoil of this world.

God-directed Speech – Verse 4.

Paul was already suffering because of His witness for Christ, and though He mentions this is the reason he was in prison, his concern was to speak, act, and respond properly.  Notice what he says in verse 4 – “in order that I may make it clear in the way in ought to speak.”  Paul wanted them to pray that he would speak properly – the way he ought to speak – and might proclaim the gospel clearly making it evident to others.

The good news of Jesus Christ is a precious message and one that we need to treat properly.  We should never be flippant with it, for it is a serious message of eternal life and death.  It is not a product that is being marketed so its truths cannot be compromised in order to make it acceptable to the masses.  It is not a club to be wielded by the self-righteous in the futile effort of trying to prove their superiority, for that dishonors the message and results in self-condemnation.  The gospel is a message of light and darkness; righteousness and sin; life and death; hope and condemnation.  It is a message of light, life, and hope for those that will believe and be made righteous by faith in Christ.  It is a message of sin, death, and condemnation to those who remain blinded to walk in the darkness of unbelief.  We want to be sure that we present the gospel clearly without distortion lest we proclaim a false gospel.

The prayer request here covers

Both the message delivered

And the manner in

Which it is delivered.

Evangelism is not an effort to prove your intellectual superiority, gain spiritual scalps for your belt, or get more converts than someone else.  

It is a heart-felt matter of humbly

Caring for the lost and pleading

With them as ambassadors of Christ

To be reconciled with God

(2 Corinthians 5:20).

What is the gospel message?  

That man by his own sin

In breaking God’s commandments

Has separated himself

From his holy and just

Creator and therefore abides

Under God’s condemnation.

However, God out of His great

Love, mercy, and grace provided

A means by which man

Could be forgiven his sins

And reconciled to Him

By sending His son

To become a man.

Jesus was born

Of the virgin Mary,

Then lived a sinless life,

Then willingly died

On the cross of Calvary

As the payment for man’s sin.

Jesus was buried, but

Then rose from the dead

On the third day,

After which He ascended

To heaven to prepare a place

For His followers and

Sit at the Father’s right hand.

He will return one day

For His disciples and

To set up His millennial reign

Upon the earth in

Fulfillment of God’s promises.

All those that turn from their sin

And place their faith in the

Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ

Are regenerated by the Holy Spirit,

Cleansed from their sins,

And granted eternal life

Being adopted into God’s family.

While Jesus’ disciples may have tribulation in this world, they have a sure promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the present and of being in heaven with Jesus for eternity.  Our plea is for all men everywhere to turn from their sin and self-righteousness and cast themselves by faith on the mercy of the Lord as demonstrated in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Godly Living – Verse 5.

In verse 5 Paul changes his focus from his prayer request to final instructions to them on their conduct in keeping with those who are raised up with Christ. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”

The word translated as “conduct” here, (peripatevw / peripateô), is a compound word meaning “around to walk” or “walk about” and hence “conduct and manner of life.”

The believer must be careful

To live in a manner

In keeping with godly wisdom

If they are going to have

A positive impact on those

Who are not yet believers.

Remember that wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge.  It is not enough to know a lot about the Bible and theology, in fact, that can be detrimental if it is not accompanied by wisdom, for knowledge puffs up and such pride would harm the message of the gospel. Knowledge of the truth must be applied in the actions of life.  Christians are to conduct themselves among non-Christians in similar manner to how they behave among believers except lacking the openness and intimacy that can only come with the common fellowship we have in Christ.  

The believer has one

Standard of conduct – holiness.

That means the compassion,

Kindness, humility, gentleness,

Patience, forbearing, forgiveness

And love Paul spoke about

In Colossians 3:12-14 is also

Extended to non-believers.

It is by wisdom in living in this manner that you will be able to “make the most of the opportunity” or “redeem the time.”  

Time is precious for

It is the measure of life

And every man has a

Very limited amount of it

On this earth, so wisdom demands

That what we have it and

It is used to its fullest extent.

Time presents us opportunity, the question is how will we use it?  Every one of us has 1,440 minutes per day, 10,080 per week, 3,679,200 per year, yet at the end of each day, each week, and with the passing of each year, can we say we have used them wisely?  

Only if our priorities match those

That God has given to us,

For it is not a matter of

How much you get done,

For that criteria would only

Lead to frenzied activity.  

It is a matter of accomplishing

What God wants you to accomplish,

And only He is the final judge of that.  

We can only strive to use godly wisdom

To make the best use of our time

As it unfolds before us.

If you are living as one raised up with Christ with your mind set on the things above rather than the things here, then you will do this.

Gracious Speaking – Verse 6.

The effort to be wise and have proper conduct will also result in having a proper response, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, [as it were,] with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each other.”  Salt was a precious commodity in the ancient world.  It is so inexpensive for us that we spread it on winter roads just to keep things from being icy, but back then great effort was made to get it and it was even used as a method of payment.  In the Hebrew Scriptures it is described as being required as part of the grain offering in reflection of the covenant God had made with them (Leviticus 2:13).

Salt has several properties but the most important ones were being a food preservative and a seasoning to make food taste better.  The reference in this passage is specifically as a metaphor of its seasoning properties.  Gracious speech is always more palatable than speech which lacks it.  As Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Proverbs 15:18 adds, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger pacifies contention,” and Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.”

Grace is extending a benefit that is not deserved.

We live in a contentious society that seems to have lost its manners.  It seems that people now prize pointed quips, sarcasm, and put downs.

While those things may be effective

In making a point and gaining

Acclaim from friends, they do nothing

To help turn an enemy into a friend,

And that is what Christians are striving

To do with non-Christians.

They may be acting as our enemy because they are being controlled by Satan, but the truth is that they are the mission field and our striving is to get them to defect and change sides. That is done with gracious speech that reflects godliness even when they may be indifferent, harsh, or even cruel to us.  To go back to 1 Peter 3:15, we respond to each person that asks with a defense and account of the hope that lies within us with gentleness and fear.

As you live as someone raised up with Christ, your purpose of life changes and so with it your manner of life. These changes in living for God’s glory and walking in holiness enable you to be devoted to prayer even when the circumstances turn bad, and to keep a focus on seeking open doors to reach the lost with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with proper speech, conduct and response.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What It Looks Like To Give All To Christ, Part 1.

Grace For The Journey


  Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century French mathematician and Christian philosopher, once wrote these words when writing to a friend: “I’ve written you a long letter because I didn’t have time to write a short one.”  This statement reminds us of the difficult task of editing!

One of the more challenging tasks of a preacher or writer it to learn the ability to cut down the number of written words in a sermon or article.  Public communication is not all about getting as many words spoken or onto a page as possible.  The economy of words and crafting of words, or “word-smithing,” is an important part of the speaking and writing process.  You write a draft, then you write another draft, and still another, all the while trying to say the same thing each time in as few words as possible.  

What the Apostle Paul communicates here in Colossians 4:2-6 strikes me as a very succinct, yet thorough, statement about Christian living.  Paul could have written much more – and indeed he has elsewhere! – but here in these five verses Paul provides a short, concise, yet relatively comprehensive statement on what we could call “Living the Christian Life and What It Looks Like.”

We are framing our study of this passage around four participles—praying, sharing, living, and speaking.

**Four Basics of Christian Living: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ. for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.  Let you speak always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one”  (Colossians 4:2-6).

Paul begins with . . .

Grateful Praying

The verb translated here as “devote,” (proskarterevw / proskartereô) means “to give unremitting attention, continue steadfastly, persevere.”  It is not the idea that it is the only thing that occupies your mind and time, for that would not only be physically impossible but also would then demand the neglect of all of God’s other commands.  It is the idea that “you keep coming back to it.”  You do not give up on it. You will give your attention to other things, but you will return once again to diligent prayer. That was part of the point of Jesus’ parable in Luke 18 about the widow that keep petitioning the judge.  We need to persevere in prayer.

There are many errors that can mess up our prayer life, and as in most cases, the two most common ones are the opposite extremes.  When Jesus taught His disciples about prayer in Matthew 6:5-15, He corrected some of the wrong practices common at that time and which continue to this day: 1) Jesus first pointed out that the religious hypocrites prayed to be seen by men and so gained their reward from men. God does not pay heed to such supposed prayers.  Prayer is about talking with God and it is from Him you will receive so make sure He is the one to whom you are actually talking.  Do not be like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 who prayed “thus to himself,” nor like the religious hypocrites who prayed to impress other people.  When you pray, you talk with God and make Him the focus of your attention even if other people are around; 2) Jesus pointed out the practice of the Gentiles who prayed with meaningless repetition and with many words thinking that was the way to get God to pay attention and answer them.  Many religions including some that claim to be Christian actually teach this practice.  Jesus corrected this by pointing out the practice was contrary to God’s character.  The Father knows what you need before you even ask, so meaningless repetition and long, wordy prayers are a waste of time.  Prayer is not about making God aware, for He already knows everything, nor is it about swaying Him to your point of view, for His point of view is far superior.

The opposite extreme of this is just as deadly to a healthy prayer life.  Those who think they have to wear God down will spend a lot of time in prayer trying to do so in order to get what they want.  Those who emphasize God’s sovereignty can fall into the danger of a practical fatalism.  Prayer becomes a duty which diminishes over time because if God is going to do what He is going to do, then why spend a lot of time trying to change His mind?  Underlying this is a false understanding of God, His nature, and the purpose of prayer.

We often refer to Matthew 6:9-11 as “The Lord’s Prayer,” but it is actually a pattern of prayer for the disciples.  The pattern of prayer Jesus gave to us focuses on the position and nature of God and acknowledgment of our dependence upon Him.  All the petitions within it match promises God has already made, so our requests are not so much to gain them, but to acknowledge that we are dependent on receiving them from His hand.

That then brings us to the purpose of prayer.  

It is not about us getting our way

Or convincing God to change His mind.

It is about glorifying Him through

Declaration of His position and nature,

Acknowledging our dependence upon Him

And aligning our will with His will

So that we might be used by Him.

Now in saying this I must make the disclaimer that from the human perspective it appears that God is swayed by prayer and so it will be described in those terms.  There are many examples of answered prayer throughout the Scriptures including Moses’ entreaty in Exodus 32:11-13 to which the Lord “changed His mind” about the harm He was going to bring.  James 5:16 gives Elijah as an example and then states that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  Many people also point out verses such as John 14:13, 14:16, or 16:24, where Jesus states that if we ask anything in His name He will do it or God will give it.  

However, it must always be pointed out that there are qualifiers to those promises concerning prayer.  It must be in His name which means according to what Jesus’ desires or as stated clearly in 1 John5:14-15,
“And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us [in] whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

All prayer is dependent upon God and His will.

The good thing is that the Lord God

Is not arbitrary, but is always consistent

With Himself and takes into

Account all of His promises.

This includes relenting from judgment, for as Joel 2:13 states, “He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, And relenting of evil.”  We do not know what He is planning to do, but He does, and through prayer we enter into His will so that we can praise Him as that will unfolds over time.

Being devoted to prayer means being persistent to continue to pray about a matter over however long we might need to wait for the Lord’s answer.  I recall reading that George Mueller, who was a great man of prayer, petitioned the Lord concerning the salvation of some of three of his friends for well over 20 years. All did eventually become Christians, with one of them repenting after Mueller’s death.

Paul also states we are to keep “alert’ in prayer “with thanksgiving.”  To be alert is “to be watchful, vigilant in prayer.”   It comes from a word (grhgorevw / grgoreô) which has a root meaning of “being awake.”  So, don’t be like Jesus’ disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane who kept falling asleep.  The spirit may be willing, but the body gets tired, so set aside time to pray when you will not be as prone to fall asleep.  Do whatever you may need to do so that you can be alert in prayer.  I find it is helpful to pray out loud and not to sit in a comfortable chair otherwise I may interrupt my effort to pray silently with snoring – which even charismatics will deny is a prayer language.

Thanksgiving describes

The proper attitude of prayer.  

Thankfulness requires us

To be humble and recognize

Our dependence on God.

Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of lights (James 1:17).  We must learn to see life through God’s eternal perspective.  We must set aside our natural selfishness which would quickly result in demanding from God and being disappointed or even angry when we did not get from Him what we wanted – an all too common response of non-Christians and immature believers.

Note that praying  and thanksgiving go hand-in-hand.  They go together.  There is no meaningful prayer apart from thanksgiving – and thanksgiving itself inspires us to talk to God, to thank Him for what He has done.

Paul states that Christians are to continue “earnestly” in prayer, “being vigilant” in it.  This is a call for consistency and urgency.  Someone has said, “the easiest thing about praying is quitting.”  Many of us, when we come to passages like this, begin to feel guilt and shame because we feel we do not pray enough.  Of course, prayer is given for our good.  We must remember that our Lord said to the disciples in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (cf Mark 14:38; Luke 22:40, 46).”

So, one of the benefits of prayer is that we avoid falling into temptation.   And there are other benefits, like just the whole idea of spending time with the Father!  Spending time in communion with the One, True God!

I love when I make time for prayer.  I really do.  I have to make time, to be sure, but I love when I do!  I love when I make time for prayer because I feel and sense the Father’s presence when I pray to Him.

This is one answer to the question, “Why pray if God knows what we need before we speak?”  Sometimes even Christians ask this.  “What’s the point of praying if God already knows what we’re going to say?”  Well, first of all, God loves to be asked!  Proverbs 15:8 says, “The prayer of the upright is His delight.”  He loves to hear His children talk to Him.  

But again, what about our experience in prayer?  Prayer is a two-way communal time of sharing.  We are in His presence.  We fellowship with Him in prayer.  This to me is the most important aspect of Grateful Praying: The presence of God.  

Communing in God’s presence also helps us to think about so-called “unanswered prayer.”  Why does God seem unwilling to answer every prayer?  Steadfast endurance in coming again and again to the throne of grace is God’s way of cultivating in us a sense of absolute and utter dependence upon Him.  We are by nature self-reliant, self-sufficient folk.  If God were instantly and at all times to answer our every prayer we would gradually lose our sense of urgency.  Truth be told, most of us would soon lose sight of the fact that it is God alone who is the source of all good.  By suspending His response, God is saying to each of us: Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; Grateful praying.  And Paul tells the Colossian Christians specifically how they can pray for him.  He writes: “Meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (verses 3-4).

Paul is saying, “Pray for us, pray for me, pray that God would give us receptive hearts – an open door to share the Word of God, to share the Gospel,” which Paul refers to as, “the mystery of Christ,” the unveiling, disclosing of the glorious plan of God to save sinners through Jesus Christ.

Paul says in verse 4, “Pray that I will make it manifest – or make it clear – as I ought to speak.”  In other words, “Pray that I say the right thing when I share the Gospel.”  It is always wise to ask someone to pray for you specifically when you are sharing the Gospel!  Call or text a friend something like: “Hey, pray for me at 3:30. I’m going to be speaking to John about Jesus Christ.  Pray, ‘that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.’”

This brings us to the next action: Gospel Sharing.  We’ll talk more about that in the next post.  For now . . .

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

 

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Walking With Christ In Social Relationships, Part 2 – Employers & Employees.

Grace For The Journey

We have been concentrating on God’s design for relationships in life.  In Colossians 3:18-21 we saw the biblical truths and conduct that should guide us in our family relationships.  Yesterday and today we are dealing with walking with Christ in our social relationships – servants and masters.  This type of relationship is separate in that these are not direct family relationships, but related in that the ability to carry out the responsibilities as either as slave or a master will be dependent on walking with Christ. 

As those who have been raised up with Christ and therefore seeking the things which are above, Christians are to set aside their old sinful ways such as immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed as well as anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, and lying (Colossians 3:1-11).  Believers are instead to walk according to the new man and put on the characteristics and practices of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, endurance, forgiveness, love and thankfulness (Colossians 3:12-17).

Paul specifically speaks about slaves and masters in this passage (which we briefly covered in yesterday’s blog), but since those are not the relationships that exist in our society today, I am going to apply the principles he makes here to our equivalent – employers and employees.  I understand that sometimes you might feel like a slave at work since your boss may act like a master.  However, there are some huge differences between being a slave and an employee which is why in 1 Corinthians 7:21 Paul encourages slaves who were able to become free to do so. 

What principles do we find in this passage that can be applied to the attitude and behavior a Christian should have toward their job – whether the employee or the employer?

Let’s read Colossians 3:22-4:1 to get the context for our study, “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who [merely] please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.   Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.  Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.”

God’s Word To Employees.

Paul begins with a direct statement to slaves and the proper attitude they were to have toward their masters on this earth.  The KJV translates this verse as “servants,” but the word here is “douloi” which means “common slave” or “bond servant.”  The principle Paul makes here does apply to employees, and perhaps even more so since employees do have the freedom to chose their employment.  If you find your job intolerable or even just don’t like your employment situation, you can quit that one and find another job.  You are not in bondage but can make choices about the work you want to pursue.

Slavery was common in the Roman world and it did not allow any such choices.  It was a cruel system that reflected the immorality of its society.  The slave’s only distinction above animals or tools was that the slave could talk. The Roman statesmen Cato advocated “throwing out old slaves like trash” and to not feed a sick slave because it was “not worth the expense.”  He equated such slaves with “broken tools.”

What principles are there in the text for employees to follow?

1) Be Obedient.

Verse 22 says, “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who [merely] please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:5 adds to be obedient “with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.”  Employees are to obey their employers in everything at all times.  The only exception would be if they are told to do something immoral which would be in disobedience to God.  Notice that Paul says “your masters on earth.”  It is a reminder that . . .

While obeying the boss here on earth is important,

There is another obedience that takes higher priority.  

We also have a master that is not of this world,

That is not according to the flesh.  

Our allegiance is to the Lord God first and foremost.  

We cannot violate His commands

Regardless of what earthly authority figures

Including our employer’s demand from us.

In fact, as those raised up with Christ, every believer is to set his mind on and seek the things that are above and not those that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2).

You are to be obedient to your employer, but you obey the Lord first.  This means that as long as you are not asked to violate any of God’s commands, you obey your boss.  How your employer treats you or how you feel about what you are asked to do is not at issue.  1 Peter 2:18-20 makes it clear that this is to be true even if they are unreasonable – “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.  For this [finds] favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

2) Obey Respectfully.

Notice here again that . . .

Since the purpose of the Christian’s life

Is different from other people,

The true believer can behave differently.

Regardless of whom your employer is or what they are like, you as the employee are to respectfully submit to their orders except in issues of immorality or breaking the law.  Respect is part of this, for as has already pointed out, Ephesians 6:5 states this is to be done “with fear and trembling.”  This is not the idea of being scared and cowering before them, but of “honor and respect given by someone you are anxious to please.”  Paul used the same phrase this way in 1 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 7:15; and Philippians 2:12.  This is to be more like a dog that is so anxious to do what his master says that his wagging tail is being shaken all around.

If your boss wants you to do something that you do not think is best, then certainly appeal to them and ask them if they would consider something different, but leave the matter in their hands and make sure they know you will do it whatever way they decide.  Don’t argue, don’t get mad, don’t sulk, don’t talk behind their back, don’t be disrespectful in anyway.  Titus 2:9-10 commands, “bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”  Simply submit and follow your employer’s instructions.  

Our need is to demonstrate Christ honoring behavior

Regardless of any short-term consequences to ourselves.  

This brings up the third principle for employees.

3) Obey with Sincerity.

The behavior of our lives

Is to bring glory to God

By living according

To His standards

In every area of life.

We are to have a singleness of mind about this, or as Paul puts it at the end of verse 22, ‘with sincerity of heart . . .”  There is to be nothing false in our submission to our employers.  We serve them with true hearts.  It has become common for employees to “give external service as those who merely please men” or give “eye-service as men pleasers.” These are people that give the appearance of being a good worker, but the truth is that they shirk their work.  They are the mice that play when the cat is away.  The minimal work they do is a facade giving a false impression.  You know the type –   They use their company computer for personal purposes and to play games.  I have noticed in the past that some computer games have a key that will quickly kill the game screen in an emergency such as if the supervisor comes in.  Interestingly this is often called the “boss key.”

There are some that are experts at taking credit for what other people do while flattering the boss and so climb the corporate ladder.  They can be very irritating to work with, and even more so if the boss is blind to it.  There are many other situations that can make work irritating.  The irresponsible and lazy co-workers is just one of them.  A boss with any of the following characteristics or combination of them is another – unreasonable, egotistical, proud, ignorant, foolish, irresponsible, lazy.  How would you respond to such a boss?

Be honest with yourself.  If you cannot perform your work the same way whether your boss is present or absent, good or bad, then your work is merely external and eye-service.  You are a man-pleaser giving the illusion of being a great worker while in truth you are delinquent worker awaiting opportunity.

Christians are to approach their work differently.  

They are to be gracious even to an irritating employer

And give the same diligence in following the boss’ directions

And toward the work whether the boss is present or absent, good or bad.  

Why?  

Because the Christian works “with sincerity of heart in fear the Lord.”

This not the crippling fear of fright, dread, and panic.  This is the motivating fear of respect that strives to honor and please.

The next verse explains further . . .

Christians Are Always To Do Their Best Because Everything We Do Is To Be Service To The Lord.  

Paul gives instruction concerning work in verse 23, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”  I realize that there are those that think that certain professions, especially those in religious ministry, are more sacred than others, resulting in thinking those that do them are therefore superior.  This fosters pride and is detrimental to the church.  We see in studies of Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 that every spiritual gift and ministry is needed in the body of Christ and that those often considered weaker and less honorable are of even greater necessity.  While I do consider my position as pastor to be very special because of what I am privileged to do with my time, it is in reality no more important in the body of Christ than you serving the Lord with your spiritual gifts and talents.

The same is true when it comes to whatever it is that you do to earn your living.  While I believe that God has called me to minister as the pastor-teacher, I also believe that God has called you to the job that you are doing.  It is God that instills in you your temperament, gives you spiritual gifts, allows you to be trained and equipped, and by His sovereign providence places you where you are working and serving Him.  The truth that you need to understand is that regardless of whatever you do to earn your paycheck, it is just as sacred and just as much serving the Lord as what I do as the pastor of the church God’s has me at.

Have you considered that if you

Are out working in the world,

That you are working on the

Front lines of the mission field?

That is where the unchurched interact with Christians on a daily basis.  That is why we have the sign posted in our Worship Bulletin every Sunday, “Departing To Enter Our Mission Field.”  

It is out there that the unsaved

Gain an understanding of Jesus Christ

By seeing His life lived out through

You and your verbal testimony.

That is why it is so important that what you say and the way in which you live must match for a positive testimony, and that needs to be true regardless of how others treat you including your co-workers and your boss.  

What impression does your conduct and character make on unbelievers concerning Jesus Christ?  Sadly, there are many professing Christians that bring shame upon the name of Christ because they act like everyone else and are men-pleasers.

Consider as well that because it is the Lord that we serve, then He is our true boss and therefore we should do all our work “heartily.”  What kind of job would you do if the product you were making was to going to be given to God?  How would you treat your customer if it was Jesus Himself?”  What kind of work would you do if it would be the Lord that would sit down with you for your performance review?  How would you use your time on the job if Christ was your company’s efficiency expert or production supervisor?  If your labor would change in anyway in answer to these questions, then you need to change it now because the Lord is all those things to you.

The Christian is to be

A God pleaser,

Not a man-pleaser.

We are to strive

To do the will of God

Heartily, that is, from

Your inner most being –

Your heart, your soul.

 Everything you do

Is to be done as if

It were unto the Lord

For the reality is

That you work for Him

Regardless of who

Signs the paycheck.

Every Christian is a slave of God and righteousness (Romans 6:18-22) for we have been bought with the price of Jesus’ blood (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18).  

The standard of what other people do

Is never good enough for the Christian

For other people are neither our

Benchmark nor our motivation.

We go beyond the common

To do the extraordinary because

We are the Lord’s and He is

Our benchmark and motivation.

We work for Him, not just mere men.  That is a truth you must keep in mind when you are discouraged or oppressed by the sinfulness that surrounds you in the world and the ill-treatment you will receive at their hands.  You work for the Lord Jesus Christ, not them.

Verse 24 goes on to speak of the consequences of our faithful service to the Lord . . .

The Lord Promises To Reward Our Work.

The Lord is a better boss in all respects which includes His faithfulness to reward us for our work, “Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”  Ephesians 6:8 adds, “Knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.”

The Christian is to work heartily as for the Lord because he knows that he will receive a proper reward from the Lord at the proper time.  It was very seldom that slaves would receive compensation for their labors much less just compensation, and it would seem that workers have always found something to complain about regarding their pay.  In general, workers seldom think they are paid enough and employers often think they are paying too much.  But for the Christian, while the rate of pay may determine whether a job is taken or kept, ultimately the rate of compensation is a “so what?” question for two reasons.

1) The Lord has already promised to meet the needs of His followers.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained to His disciples that they were not to worry about what they eat or drink or how they could clothe themselves for God would care for them just as He did the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:25-34).  Jesus said in Matthew 6:3e, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things will be added to you.”  We do not need to fret about the things we need for life.  As Paul pointed out in 1 Timothy 6:8, “if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.”  Contentment removes us from the temptations and snares that come with the greedy quest to become rich, and we already saw in our earlier study of Colossians 3:5, greed amounts to idolatry.  Compensation for labor is not a primary motivating factor for Christians because we are content with God’s promise to take care of us.

2) The Christian lives with an eternal purpose in view, not just a temporal one.  

We are working toward and living for eternity’s reward, not just what occurs in the here and now.  According to Jesus’ teaching, we are seeking to lay up incorruptible treasures in heaven, not on earth where they can be destroyed or stolen (Matthew 6:19-21).  We understand that there is no profit in gaining even the whole world at the cost of your soul (Matthew 16:26).  We do all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) including our work, knowing that is the Lord that we serve and at the proper time we shall receive from Him the promised inheritance.

So we not only have the Lord taking care of us in the present, and His care is more than sufficient, but we also have the promise of reward of salvation and eternal life in the presence of the glory of God (Matthew 19:19; Hebrews 1:14; 1 Peter 1:4, etc.).  We may feel at times like Asaph did in Psalm 73 and become envious of the wicked who have greater prosperity and comfort in this life than us, and even more so if we are suffering, but we must also remember their end and our eternal goal.  Like Asaph, we must learn to desire nothing on earth but the Lord who is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26).

The story of an elderly missionary couple that returned to the U.S. from Africa is a good example for us.  They returned on the same ship as Theodore Roosevelt who was greeted by a great crowd.  The missionary was quite discouraged at first as he thought about the great welcome Roosevelt received for shooting game animals, while there was no one to welcome him after a lifetime of gospel work among Africa’s people.  Then he was reminded that all was as it should be in this world.  They had received no acclaim or reward yet because they had not yet reached their home in heaven.

Paul also gives a warning in verse 25, “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”

Paul’s warning here is not in reference to our salvation in Jesus Christ, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).  Jesus suffered the consequences of all the sins the Christian has committed when He died on the cross of Calvary as the price of our redemption that delivered us from the domain of darkness and reconciled us with God.  We studied these truths in detail in our earlier study of Colossians 1.

This is a warning to workers who would do wrong about the natural consequences of such actions.  Eliphaz observed this general truth and as he stated in Job 4:8, “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity, and those who sow trouble harvest it.”  Solomon also made this observation stating in Proverbs 22:8, “He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, and the rod of his fury will perish,” and as a more general principle in Proverbs 11:18 ,”The wicked earns deceptive wages, But he who sows righteousness [gets] a true reward.”  Paul stated the same principle in Galatians 6:7 that, “whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.”

Do not allow yourself to be tempted to do your work the same way everyone else does it.  They may compromise moral, ethical, and spiritual practices in order to gain short term profit and advantage.  They will eventually reap the consequences of the wrong they do both here on earth and in eternity.  We are to work for the Lord from whom we will receive a better reward of an eternal inheritance.

Those are the commands and principles that slaves and workers are to follow, but what about masters and employers?

God’s Word To Employers.

Colossians 4:1 says, “Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.”  Paul says almost the same thing in Ephesians 6:9, “And, masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.”

Paul addresses masters here, but we will apply the principles to employers which are the equivalent in our society.  These commands apply to everyone, Christian or not, but again, it will be the Christian who is walking with Christ that will most easily be able to fulfill them.  In short . . .

Employers are to be just and fair,

Do good and give up the threatening.

Their attitude toward their work is to be the same as we have already seen for employees. They are to be respectful and run their business and direct their employees according to God’s standards of righteousness, truth, and honesty.  

Their first priority is also to be

Doing everything as unto the Lord,

Seeking His will above their own.

The employer is not to let his authority go to his head and feed his pride.  That may be common in the world, but it is wrong.  He is not a superior of such nature that he cannot associate with his laborers.  He is not someone who is set apart and unreachable.  His leadership will be demonstrated in his own example.  He is to care personally about his employees and their welfare understanding that the business is for their benefit as much as it is for his own.  A wise employer will be humble and openly receive suggestions from his workers.

The employer is to lead his workers without threatening them.  Threats are bluffs designed to scare a person into working – “If you don’t do this and that then I am going to do this to you.”  The employer is to be just, fair, equitable, patient, and truthful.  He makes no threats because he is just and fair and makes it clear from the beginning what work is expected and the rules of behavior for the business along with the consequences of not fulfilling and keeping them.  Because he is just and fair, he is not to be arbitrary in his decisions nor treat employees with favoritism.  He should listen carefully when there are complaints or disputes and then make a just decision.  The employer is to do all this because he too has a master in heaven.

The employer may own the business, sign the checks, and have the responsibilities, power and authority over what happens in the business, but he is also accountable to one who holds all power and authority – the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is why this applies to Christian and non-Christian alike.

There is no partiality with the Lord. He plays no favorites.  

Whatever position you have in life

Has more to do with His grace

And mercy to you than anything else.

There is no room for pride before Him, and He will judge all with righteousness and justice.  The non-Christian employer should obey God’s commands out of fear of that.

The Christian employer has additional and better reasons for obeying the Lord’s commands.

1) All believers have an equal standing before the Lord Jesus Christ because in Him there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 2:28).  There is no room in Christ for an employer to become proud and condescending to his employees.

2) Because Christian employers recognize that they too are slaves of Christ, they should oversee their employees accordingly.  Their purpose and goal is to please the Lord Jesus Christ in all that they do including their business.

A Christian employer should be the best employer for whom to work because they are fair and just and run their business according to God’s commands and for His glory.  A Christian employee should be the best employee to hire for their work is as unto the Lord for His glory.  But let me close with a special warning concerning the situation in which the employer and the employee are both Christians.

When this situation occurs, there is sometimes a presumption that leads to abuse on both sides.  Paul warned about this in 1 Timothy 6:1-2, “Let all who are under the yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and [our] doctrine may not be spoken against.  And let those who have believers as their masters not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but let them serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved.”

When Christians work with unbelievers the need for a good testimony in how you treat them is obvious, but sometimes Christians will not treat one another with the same decency they will a non-Christian.  The basic reason is the same as why husbands and wives will sometimes say things and do unkind things to each other they would never do to anyone else.  There is a presumption that they will be kind, understanding, and forgiving.  They will accept me as I am so I don’t have to be as careful in striving for righteousness with them.

The thought also comes up that since you are one in Christ, then your employer is not superior, so you don’t have to be as formal or respectful as everyone else.  You might even get the idea that you should be treated as more of a partner than an employee, so you take advantage of your boss expecting them to overlook what you do or don’t do.

These things ought not to be.  You are to work as unto the Lord – period.  No matter who your boss may be, they deserve the best work you can do.  Within the church, employers and employees can worship alongside each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.  You can even have the situations where the employee is more spiritually mature and so disciples his boss or is even a church leader with spiritual authority over his boss within the church.  But be careful, for on the job, the employer is still the boss and the employee is to freely and respectfully submit because that is a witness to his submission to the higher authority of God’s Word.

We all have the same Master.  Let us be sure that we do all our work for Him, whether employer or employee, so that He is glorified

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

God’s Idea Of Marriage And The Family: Part 6 – The Role of Parents – Transitioning Teens

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

2Sept  Over the last couple of blogs in our study of Colossians 3, we have been concentrating on what Paul says about the family and the role that each member within it has before God.

Every member needs to fulfill their role

If the family is going to be successful

At its God ordained purpose of glorifying Him

And raising up the next generation to be responsible adults.

It is much easier for Christians to fulfill these roles when they are living as those who have been raised up with Christ.  Putting aside the previous, sinful ways of life and developing the characteristics of being a new creation in Jesus Christ allow a person to live in godliness and fulfill their purpose in life.  Non-Christians and those still walking in immaturity of the faith will find it difficult at best to do what God requires of them within the family.

Wives are to be “be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18).  A wife is to follow the lead of her husband as a suitable helpmeet who shows him respects and thereby enables him to be successful in life. Proverbs 14:1, “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”

Husbands have the responsibility to “love your wives, and do not be embittered against them” (Colossians 3:19).  This is the love that sacrifices itself for the best interest of the other.  A husband that will do that and not be selfish will enable his wife to fulfill her role. A husband has the additional roles of leading, providing and protecting the family, and God will hold Him accountable for what he does.

Children are to “be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20).  Paul adds in Ephesians 6:2-3 that this is from the 5th commandment in Exodus 20 and is the first command with a promise that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.  Children who are in rebellion against their parents are also in rebellion against God and will reap the consequences of their sin.  Obedience is foundational for learning all other skills.

We have already spent three blogs on the role of parents pointing out general principles as well as specific commands.  I will probably repeat several of those in this blog, but I want to specifically deal with the last part of active parenting in this sermon.

It is helpful to see parenting as a three-fold process . . .

1) When your children were very young, your goal was to train them to obey.

If that is done correctly, most children should be obedient the first time and right away by the time they are 5 or 6 years old.  This is the easiest part of parenting.

2) The second period of parenting is characterized by training their hearts to follow God.

This is the pre-adolescent stage.  You are establishing in them moral reasoning by which they will be able to discern for themselves what is right before God and follow Him.  If that is done correctly, a child of 12 or 13 should be primarily motivated by their own walk with God.  Their obedience will have turned into submission because of their desire to please God rather than fear you.

3) The last part of parenting is helping youths become responsible adults.

It is the period of transition from childhood to adulthood, from dependence upon you as the parent to independence as adults who can stand on their own and establish their own family.  In many ways this can be the most challenging, but also the most enjoyable and satisfying period of parenting.

Modern conventional wisdom in America expects teen rebellion.  Teen rebellion is a phenomenon of modern western society that has developed as it has abandoned the Biblical guidelines of parenting and even the common sense of ancient parenting practices.

For the rest of this blog I want to point you to this Biblical way so that you can make the most of the teen years and establish your youths as responsible, young adults.

Youth Culture

If you want to understand what the Bible says about teenagers, you will have to look for the word, “youth.”  There are several Hebrew words and one Greek word that are translated that way, and they cover quite a range of ages.  Context will give you the clues to how old a youth might be.  For example, Genesis 37:2 specifically states Joseph is 17 years old and calls him a “youth” (naar) when he was pasturing his father’s flocks.  He is still called a “youth” (naar) several years later when Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembers him as one who could interpret dreams.  King Josiah was a “youth” (naar) of 16 years when he began to seek God (1 Chronicles 34:1-3).  However, the same word (naar) is used for Samuel when he was only a few years old (1 Samuel 1:22).  At the other extreme, the same word is used in reference to young adults that are married (Proverbs 5:18), though it must be remembered that in that culture people generally married at a much younger age, often in their teens.

But this brings up the next point about youth in the Bible compared to youth culture in the United State.  In our society there are some extreme assumptions that have become too common that are contrary to what the Scriptures state.

The first is that teens are wise enough to make their own decisions without parental involvement.  This extreme lets teens do what they want with little to no accountability.  It will vary with each parent, but the mindset is that because they are 14, 16, 18 years old, they can do what they want.

The Weakness of Youth.

In the case of children who have been trained well in godliness, they may be able to handle such independence and do well even from an early age, but several scriptures point out that there is a weakness in youth that they must be very careful about.  One of the purposes of the book of Proverbs is to “give prudence to the naive, and to the youth knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:4).  Even a very intelligent youth lacks the years of experience needed to have the needed knowledge and discretion.  That is a why a wise youth will seek out counsel from those who are older and have wisdom.  That begins with the parents (Proverbs 1:8; 4:1) and extends to others for, the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to counsel (Proverbs 1:5).

The tragedy is that there is a strong tendency, especially in American youth culture, to follow the foolishness of Rehoboam who rejected the counsel of his older and wiser counselors in favor of the counsel of his peers who told him what he wanted to hear (1 Kings 12:6-11).

No teen has gained enough knowledge to make all their own decisions without the counsel of those who are older and wiser.  It is interesting to note that Luke 2:52 records that even Jesus, after he was 12, “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  Parents need to be very involved with your teens as they continue to grow in knowledge and wisdom.  They are in need of your counsel and guidance.

Another indicator of the weakness of youth are the many passages that refer to the “sins of my youth” showing the indiscretion that can easily mark that period of life because the character of the person is still developing to overcome both temptations and trying to please other people.  Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1), yet he also remembered the iniquities of his youth (Job 13:26).  David cried out to the Lord in Psalm 25:7 that He would not “remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions.”  Timothy had already proven himself as a man of God, but Paul still warned him to “flee from youthful lusts” (1 Timothy 6:11; 21 Timothy 2:22).

The tragedy in our own culture is that so many in the entertainment and advertising fields are evil and specifically target teens to entice them toward sin.  The very adults that should be helping to protect them are instead exploiting them.  For some, it is simply a way to make a quick profit.  Others are more sinister and want to entrap them in a sinful life-style that will allow them to continue to be more easily exploited.  Parents, are you protecting your teens from such influences and teaching them how to deal with them including the guilt that comes after falling to them?

Another weakness of youth is lack of proper confidence.  Jeremiah freely acknowledge his fear of the Lord’s commission because he was a youth (Jeremiah 1:6).  Paul had to encourage Timothy because he was timid because of his youth (1 Timothy 4:12; cf 1 Corinthians 16:10).  Both young men were called to serve the Lord, but it would take time to walk with the Lord enough to overcome the natural fear of the unknown.  Youth needs to be encouraged and put in situations in which they learn to trust the Lord.

The Strength of Youth.

There is also the opposite extreme in which parents refuse to let their children grow up. There is a high and thick wall of protection that is built which prevents them from making decisions for themselves and learning to trust the Lord.  They continue in perpetual childhood because they do not learn to take on adult responsibilities.

Consider some of the things that Scriptures record that were accomplished by various “youths.” As already pointed out, Joseph was only 17 or so when he was sold into slavery in Egypt.  Yet, his character was such that his master developed trust in him so that he quickly rose to the position of being in charge of all that was Potiphar’s household.  After being wrongly accused and thrown in jail, he still had the character to rise up to the point that the chief jailer put him in charge of all the other prisoners.  He would have been in his early 20’s when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and became second in command of all of Egypt (Genesis 39-41).

David had kept his father’s sheep as a youth and his encounters with lions and bears prepared him to face Goliath (1 Samuel 17).  More important than his ability was David’s confidence that came from the trust he had in the Lord that had developed over that time.  He was outraged that the army of Israel was letting “this uncircumcised Philistine” taunt them.  He told King Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  David told Goliath, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts,” and that “This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you”  David’s confidence was in the Lord, and that trust marked the rest of his life.  We should want our sons and daughters to learn such a deep trust of the Lord

Daniel and his three friends were all youths when they were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C.  All of them stepped out in faith to do what they knew was right before God and leave the results in His hands.  God honored them and they became important officials in Nebuchadnezzar’s administration (Daniel 1, 2).  This prepared them for remaining firm for the severe trials that came upon them later because of their faith.  They did not waver and God honored them for it (Daniel 3, 6).

While parents of youths do need to be protective in many respects as already noted, they also have to teach their teens how to stand firm for God despite the dangers they may face.  If we want them to grow up to be like these great heroes of the faith, we will need to help them walk with God grounded in their own faith in Him.  It is your responsibility to challenge and enable them to take on increasing responsibilities by which they will learn to walk in trust of God.  Youth are capable of doing a lot more difficult things than most adults think possible.  They are no longer children and they need your help to become adults.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy, and one that occurs much too often even among professing Christians, is when both of these extremes meet.  The youth is given freedom to make choices as he or she desires, but then they are protected from the negative consequences that result from those decisions.  This teaches them to be irresponsible and selfish.  This can be something as simple as letting them waste their time to the neglect of their chores, then doing their chores for them when they run out of time.  This occurs when they don’t do their homework and get a low grade in a class, but you excuse it and blame the teacher instead.  This becomes very serious when they break the law and get arrested, but you bail them out and hire a lawyer to get them off the hook.

Giving freedom without responsibility is a sure way to destroy them and make them burdens on society instead of blessings.  Proverbs warns that parents that will not discipline their children hate them (Proverbs 13:24; 19:19).  How much worse is it when the parent also intervenes to diminish God’s chastening of them, and I have seen parents do just that.  Negative consequence is the teacher of the naive, the proud, and the sinful.  Don’t remove the lessons of this teacher of last resorts.  All of us have learned some lessons by this teacher, and they are usually learned very well indeed.

The Importance of Purpose

What is the reason for such poor parenting and the tragic results at the expense of our youth?

Primarily it comes back down to purpose and philosophy.

Those who do not understand their own purpose in life

Cannot help their children find theirs.

Those who refuse to follow Biblical principles

In their own life will not be able to help their children do so.

Those who think themselves to be wiser than God will prove their foolishness at their children’s expense.  Those who will not overcome their innate selfishness to love their children and seek their good, will ensure their children’s suffering.

As I have mentioned before, you cannot ensure that your children will become genuine Christians, for that is a matter for the Holy Spirit.  However, you can ensure that they will know all about God, His character, what He has done and His commandments (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) and have been trained to keep those commandments.  You can also ensure you are an example of how to live a godly life.  These figure directly into your purpose and goals in this stage of parenting.

Since the goal is to produce a wise adult, then you need to be one yourself.  Again, your example will teach your children much more than your words.  In fact, if you give wise words that you will not follow yourself, your teens will consider you to be a hypocrite and generally will not listen to you.  This does not mean that you have to have lived a perfect life.  Do not fall into that trap.  I have run into parents who didn’t think they could correct their teen about things even as bad as drug use or premarital sex because they had done that when they were young.  If anything . . .

The regrets you have for your past sins

Should be the strongest warning possible.

Don’t excuse the behavior or your teens saying you did the same thing at their age, instead, rebuke and warn them because of it.  While it may be true that you overcame those things and eventually did well, do not assume the same will be true for your children.  First, they may succumb to even worse sins instead of overcoming them.  Second, do not presume on God withholding His judgment on them, for His patience and longsuffering varies from person to person.  That was part of Jesus’ warning in Luke 13:4 about those killed by Tower of Siloam – that all need to repent immediately for they are in likewise danger of perishing.  In addition, I hope you love your children enough to want them to do better than you, so warn them about the things that have been detrimental in your own life.

Also be careful of falling into the trap of thinking you have to have it all together to either correct or give wisdom to teens.  That mindset would lead you to either become a hypocrite or neglect their training.

All you need to do is live

An honest and humble life.

Some of the best examples you will give them will be in your own pursuit of overcoming sin and walking in holiness.  Those are lessons they want to learn in their own lives. You will also find that as they get older, they will become helpful to you in your own walk with the Lord.  Wisdom and encouragement can flow in both directions.

Since the goal is to raise a wise adult, then your parenting practices must reflect the continued pursuit of that goal.  I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping the focus on your purpose.  In raising your children, you will have to decide whether it will be according to the wisdom of this world or according to the wisdom of God.  If your goal for your children is worldly success – material wealth, fame, power and pleasure – then you will raise them accordingly and reject what the Word of God teaches; for its definition of success is the opposite – contentment, being humble, meekness, and servant-hood.

The goal of worldly wisdom is

Man’s glory and fulfilling human desire.

The goal of godly wisdom is

God’s glory and fulfilling His will.

A pastor friend made this very insightful comment concerning this, “I think for most non-Christians and many Christians, the goal they have for their children is to make sure they can ‘fit in’ or be able to comfortably live in today’s society – be good citizens, know how to handle situations, work with everyone, do well (and be recognized by the world for it) and just ‘be nice.’”  These parents care about making sure their kids can live as “stress-free” in the culture today as possible.  That would be considered their blessing and their teaching.  Of course, that necessitates compromise of godly values, character and wisdom.  This kind of thinking is most unfortunate and unhealthy.

My friend’s insight is tragically true and so makes even stronger the emphasis on keeping the proper purpose of parenting in mind.   Will you raise them to be wise by God’s standards or the world’s?  Raising godly kids takes a lot of effort and it is not for the faint of heart in an increasingly ungodly society.  You will have conflicts with your children since they come into this world as sinners.  You will have very challenging conversations with your teens as they come to grips with what they really believe and what you have taught them is being challenged by every worldly influence that is brought to bear upon them – school, peers, entertainment, government, employers, etc. You will also find yourself in conflict with other professing Christians who are not at the same place in their walk with the Lord – this will be good when it is done by those who challenge you to think more deeply about your walk with the Lord, and it will be frustrating when it is by those who are in reality just trying to defend their own immaturity and continued bent toward sin.

This brings it back once again to this point . . . What is your purpose?  What is your goal?  What do you want your children to be like when they are grown?  It is the responsibility of the parents to train their children to become wise, responsible adults who can stand on their own convictions even when the world turns against them.

I recently read the book, Lady Jane Grey, Nine Day Queen of England by Faith Cook. She is a good role model for youth.  By the time she was 16, she had already developed such a deep understanding and strong walk with God that she was able to stand firm on her convictions though it meant her death.  If she would convert to Roman Catholicism, her life would be spared.  Instead, in a debate forced upon her by the Queen Mary’s personal chaplain, Dr. Feckenham, a leading Roman Catholic apologist, she not only held her own, but caused him to confess that despite all his learning, it would have been more appropriate if he had been the disciple and Jane the teacher that day.  She died the next day under the headsman’s axe bearing witness that she would die as a true Christian woman who looked “to be saved by no other means, but only the mercy of God, in the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ.”

O that such would be the faith

And strong conviction of all our children

That by the time they reach their mid-teens

They would stand firm against all

The pressures the world can bring upon them.

We need to be raising our children in such a way that they will be those who will influence others instead of the world influencing them.

Becoming Responsible

How then do you transition them from childhood to become such wise and responsible adults?  Prayer, hard work, patience, and diligence in living and teaching God’s Word.

  • Prayer, because ultimately their lives are in God’s hands.
  • A persistent surrendered walk because it takes that to fulfill the responsibilities God has entrusted to you.
  • Patience, because kids never learn as fast as you would like.
  • Diligence because there is always another lesson to teach and an earlier lesson to repeat.

These are also character qualities you want to instill into your children.

There is no magical age when you are done with all of your parenting responsibilities. They learn over time as your child becomes a youth and then becomes a young adult. As they take on more responsibilities, they become more independent of you eventually setting up their own household, and even then, there will still be things to teach them as their most trusted counselors.  The age and rate at which children mature will vary by family and by individual child.

You be the responsible parent who trains your children to become mature and responsible adults themselves.

Proverbs 8:32, “Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, For blessed are they who keep my ways.”

Proverbs 23:24, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise son will be glad in him.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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God’s Idea Of Marriage, Part 5: The Role of Parents In Raising Children – Proverbs on Parenting

Grace For The Journey

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2Sept  This morning I want to continue on the subject of parenting.  The importance of this issue is obvious to those who are busy rearing their children, but is also important for everyone else too.  Why?  Primarily because . . .

If we can understand what the Lord

Wants us to teach our children,

We will also understand what

The Lord wants in our own lives.

And to remind us that everyone

Has some affect upon children.

That may be through either direct involvement

Or the indirect involvement of your example.

How you live does have an affect upon other people,

And children are the ones who are most easily influenced by that.

Over the past two blogs I have sought to lay out some foundational principles concerning parenting.  Two days ago I stressed parental responsibility.  We live in a society that tries to shift responsibility for the care and the outcome of raising children. However, God’s commands concerning bringing up children are given to the parents, not the government, school district, counselors, doctors, or church workers.  Other people can help, but the responsibility belongs to the parents to direct their care and to make sure the Lord’s commands concerning them are carried out.  While Ezekiel 18:20 makes it clear that parents cannot be responsible for the sins of their children, nor the children for the sins of the parents, it also makes it clear that each is responsible for their own sins.  The child will be affected by the sins of the parents, but each bears the responsibility of their own sins.  The solution for the guilt that comes with sin and failure is repentance, confession, and forgiveness, not shifting the blame.

Godly people will diligently strive to carry out the Lord’s commandments while being humble to seek godly counsel and freely admitting failures and seeking forgiveness and reconciliation.  They are also careful of their example knowing that it will influence others and especially children.  Since God requires children to obey their parents, godly parents will teach their children to obey the first time, right away and without complaint or agruing lest they teach their children to sin in behavior or attitude.

Yesterday, we examined some additional general principles of parenting arising out of Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4. There are both prohibitions and prescriptions for parents.  Parents are to avoid provoking their children to anger or exasperating them and causing them to lose heart.  There are quite a few things parents need to be careful about or they will affect their children in those ways.  These would include such practices as physical or verbal abuse, being inconsistent, selfishness, favoritism, excessive expectations, discouragement, and using affection to manipulate.

On the positive side, parents are to be careful to bring up their children in the nurture and instruction of the Lord.  As described in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, parents are to love the Lord God with all their heart, soul and might and then diligently teach their children the ways of the Lord by talking about Him and His commands in all the various situations of life – when you sit in your house, walk by the way, lie down and rise up.  Parents are to set into the minds of their children how to walk with God and other people.  Wise parents will use the Scriptures extensively to accomplish this because according to 2 Timothy 2:7 the Scriptures are “profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Use the Word of God to teach your children the path of life, to reprove them when they get off that path, to correct them back to the path and instruct them on how to stay on the path.

That is what I want to concentrate on this morning . . .

Using the Word of God to help

Your children walk the path of life.

Before I get to those specific Bible passages, let me quickly remind you of the two primary goals in parenting . . .

As much as I would like to say that it is to raise Christian sons and daughters, the reality is that you cannot save your children.  That must be the work of the Holy Spirit convicting them of sin, righteousness, and judgment so that they may personally repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  However . . .

You can and are to lay the foundation

For this work of the Holy Spirit,

And you will do so if you follow

God’s commands concerning them.

As we have already seen from Deuteronomy 6, it is your first goal is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might and to diligently teach your children the commandments of the Lord by talking about them in all the various situations of life. When you “sit in your house and when you walk by the way” encompass the daily activities of life.  What are you doing when you “sit in your house” – having a meal, reading, playing a game, being entertained?  When you “walk by the way” encompasses all the activities when you are away from home since you have to travel to them.  When you “lie down” refers to this being the last thing you are doing before you fall asleep.  When you “rise up” refers to this being done from when you first get up in the morning.  In all your activities and in all your waking hours you are to be looking for, creating, and taking advantage of opportunities to teach your children about God and what He desires and requires in all the subjects that come up in the course of life.

So then . . .

While the first and foremost desire of Christian parents

Is that their children will also become genuine Christians,

Your actual primary goal can only be to teach them

All about God, what He is like, what He has done

And what He commands while modeling this

Supreme love for God in your own life.

That goal can only be accomplished by being diligent to teach them throughout the course of daily life. Then by praying fervently that the Lord will draw your children to Himself and save them.

The next great goal of parenting should be true for all parents, Christian and non-Christian alike, and it is complimentary to the primary goal of Christian parents.  That is that your children will grow up to be wise adults.  This is the purpose of the book of Proverbs and why we will spend the rest of our time there this morning.

Proverbs 1:2-6 states its purpose, “To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles.

Wisdom, Its Origins & Attainment

The first questions that arise are what is wisdom, its origin, and how can it be attained? The answer to those two later questions results in very different understandings of what is wise.

The Hebrew word for “wisdom” (chokmah) has a root meaning “of skill” and refers to the ability to skillfully apply knowledge.”  The Greek word for “wisdom” (sofiva / sophia) is similar in meaning.  A wise craftsman such as a carpenter knows all about his craft and can skillful apply that knowledge to create and build something useful and of high quality.

A man who is wise about life

Skillfully applies his knowledge

Of it to make choices that

Will result in fulfilling the

Purpose and meaning of life.

It is the differences in what is thought about the purpose and meaning in life that separate godly wisdom from worldly wisdom.  This point is crucial to understand in parenting, for it takes you back to your goal in parenting.  Too many Christian parents have raised or are raising foolish children because they are following the wisdom of the world to fulfill the wrong goal.

Paul brings out the contrast between the worldly wise and the godly wise in 1 Corinthians 1. The Corinthians, being Greeks, were of course enamored with Greek philosophy which by its very human nature is contrary to God’s revelation.  Paul had run into this much earlier on his second missionary journey when he was asked to speak to the philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens.  They listened until he brought up the major emphasis of the gospel that God had raised Jesus from the dead.  At that point most of them began to sneer at Paul and only a few followed Paul to find out more and came to believe.  For the most part the Corinthian people responded in a similar manner considering the word of the cross to be foolishness, but to those being saved it is the wisdom and power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24).  Paul quotes from Isaiah 29:14 in verse 19 that God would destroy the wisdom of the wise and the cleverness of the clever.  Paul then begins to contrast worldly wisdom and godly wisdom in verses 20-31, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not [come to] know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.  But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

In raising your children,

You will have to decide

Whether it will be according

To the wisdom of this world

Or

According to the wisdom of God.

If your goal for your children is worldly success – material wealth, fame, power and pleasure – then you will raise them accordingly and reject what the Word of God teaches for its definition of success is the opposite – contentment, being humble, meekness and servant-hood.

The goal of worldly wisdom

Is man’s glory and

Fulfilling human desire.

The goal of godly wisdom

Is God’s glory

And fulfilling His will.

With that in mind, what is the origin of wisdom?  The answer is giving in Proverbs … Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  And Proverbs 15:33 declares, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor [comes] humility.”

It all begins with a proper and healthy fear of the Lord.  Your children must learn about God, His character, His works, His authority, as well as His commandments.  They need to know that God created them and will hold them accountable to keep His commandments, and it is this fear of the Lord (a reverence and respect toward that leads us to respond to Him as we should) that will keep them away from evil (Proverbs 16:6) and in fact cause them to hate evil (Proverbs 8:13).  The fear of the Lord also prolongs life (Proverbs 10:27) and gives a strong confidence (Proverbs 14:26).

How then can wisdom be attained?  Proverbs 2:1-8 answers that question, “My son, if you will receive my sayings, And treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the Lord, And discover the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth [come] knowledge and understanding.  He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; [He is] a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones.”

You must seek wisdom like you would silver, but it is the Lord that gives it.  And though you are to search for wisdom as for hidden treasure, that only describes the strength of desire you are to have to gain wisdom for wisdom is not hidden.  Proverbs 1:20; 8:1, and 9:3 all personify wisdom and portray her as shouting in the streets and calling out to the naive to turn aside and learn from her.  Wisdom is available and attainable to all that will hear and heed, but few are those that will.  Most men think they can get by just fine or even better by their own intelligence.  They refuse wisdom’s call, neglect her counsel, and reject her reproof because they do not choose the fear of the Lord and so hate knowledge (Proverbs 1:24-30).  Parents . . .

Be diligent to

Teach your children

The fear of the Lord

And

To seek after the wisdom

That comes from Him.

If they grow up to walk in foolishness, you can be sure it is because they have rejected wisdom and not because teaching it to them was neglected.

It is important that we consider three traits of immaturity that children need to trained to overcome . . .

Childishness, Foolishness, and Correction.

Since we all come into this world as sinners (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12), the major task of parenting is dealing with the foolishness that is bound up in the heart of a child while directing them toward wisdom.  Keep in mind that foolishness and childishness are very different from each other.

Childishness is inability due to ignorance and lack of physical ability.  A toddler spills his cup because it is difficult for him to hold it.  A child strikes out because it takes practice to develop hand – eye coordination to hit the ball.  A young child that reaches for a hot pan is curious and does not yet know it is dangerous.  A math student gets the problem wrong the first time because he does not understand the concepts yet. Childishness is overcome by teaching them knowledge and helping them gain the necessary physical strength and coordination.  It is never appropriate to punish for childishness.  You continue to teach and warn as well as encourage and help them gain the knowledge, strength and skills needed.

Foolishness is the rebellion that is in the heart that prods him/her to do things his own way regardless of instructions and warnings received.  A toddler that is told to stop playing with his cup, but then continues to do so and spills it is foolish.  A child that strikes out because he refuses to hold the bat as instructed by the coach is foolish.  A child that is warned about the danger of a hot pan and still tries to grab it is foolish.  A student that fails the math test because they refused to do the homework that would have enabled them to master the needed concepts is foolish.  The consequences for foolishness will include correction and some form of punishment.

Correction.  For young children, the foolishness is generally going to be exhibited by outward actions.  The major task is to bring their behavior into obedience to the parents or other authorities.  This is largely done through verbal correction and physical chastisement.  Proverbs has a lot to say on this issue starting with Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”  I am well aware that many psychologists reject such physical discipline, but that is precisely the point at which you have to decide if you will follow God’s wisdom or worldly wisdom.  Proverbs 13:24 states, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”  Proverbs 19:18 adds, “Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death.”  To withhold the proper discipline is to hate your child for it leaves him on the path that leads to death.  Proverbs 20:20 states, “He who curses his father or his mother, His lamp will go out in time of darkness.”  Proverbs 20:17 declares, “The eye that mocks a father, And scorns a mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it.”

I want to remind you that you are never to discipline your children in anger for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:19).  Calm down and make sure of your reasons for chastening and that you do it properly.  The discipline also needs to be related to and appropriate to the offense considering factors such as the child’s age, general behavior, frequency of the offense, and the particular circumstances.  It is appropriate to slap their hand if it is a hand offense – common among very young children.  It progresses to a slap on the thigh and then chastisement on the buttocks with an appropriate instrument – something firm, but flexible and not something rigid like a wooden spoon or paddle.  Why?  Simply because the goal is to cause a sting painful enough to deter the behavior without physically damaging the child. If you are causing bruising, your hitting too hard or with the wrong thing; but at the same time, if there is not enough pain from the sting, it will not deter the foolishness.

It is important to take heed to Proverbs 229:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”  It takes both verbal and physical correction to bring about wisdom because . . .

The long-term goal is to train the heart,

Not just gain outward obedience.

Behavior is the easy part. The heart must be trained in wisdom through moral instruction as part of daily life in teaching them about God and His commands, and it is further trained when the moral reason is reemphasized when giving correction. As the child gets older and outward behavior is gained, physical chastisement is replaced with more talking and other types of correction depending on the particular type of foolishness, its frequency and the child’s general character. This could range from just a warning, to a gentle swat as a reminder, to isolation so they can think about their actions, to loss of privileges related to the offense. If there were natural consequences to their foolishness such as a broken toy, skinned knee or loss of a friend, there is no other correction needed except explaining the correlation between their foolishness and the consequences experienced.

If you want wise children that will bring you and others joy and not foolish children that will cause you grief and shame, then you must train them in God’s ways. Though we just talked about the correction of their foolishness, the major work in training your children is to be through positive instruction, reinforcement and warnings and not negative correction after they have sinned. If a child is trained properly, they will generally have their behavior under control by around 5 or 6 years old, and by the time they are 12 or 13 they should be controlled internally by their own heart for the Lord and keeping His commandments. Such children can become friends and peers by their late teens or early twenties.

You will want to teach them the breadth of Scriptures about God and His commands, but Proverbs is a great place to find pithy statements about the moral lessons you want to instill into their hearts. These will be in both positive statements about what they are to do as well as warnings about what to avoid.

Let me go over a few of them as a framework on which you can build.

There is nothing more important than

Teaching your children about God.

We have already seen that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but Proverbs also says much about a lot of other things concerning the Lord.

We are to trust the Lord.  

Proverbs 3:5-8, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your body, And refreshment to your bones.”

Proverbs29:25, “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.”

Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.”

The Lord is in control.

Proverbs 26:9, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”

Proverbs 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.”

Proverbs 21:2, “The king’s heart is [like] channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

The Lord cares for the righteous.

Proverbs 10:3, “The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, But He will thrust [aside] the craving of the wicked.”

Proverbs 10:29-30, “The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the upright, But ruin to the workers of iniquity.  The righteous will never be shaken, But the wicked will not dwell in the land.”

Proverbs 15:29, “The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

The Lord knows your heart.

Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Watching the evil and the good.”

Proverbs 17:3, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the Lord tests hearts.”

Proverbs 21:2, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.”

The Lord’s desire for you.

Proverbs 21:3, “To do righteousness and justice Is desired by the Lord rather than sacrifice.”

There are things the Lord especially hates.

Proverbs 6:16-19 “There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness [who] utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.”

Proverbs 16:5, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished.”

The discipline of the Lord is a good thing.

Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord , Or loathe His reproof, For whom the Lord loves He reproves, Even as a father, the son in whom he delights.”

Family

Proverbs address issues of the family – marriage, husband, wife, parenting, and children.

Encourage your daughters to be wise like the woman described in Proverbs 31:1–31 and your sons to find such a woman for a wife.

Proverbs 31:10 “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. . .”

Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord.”  And girls, find a man of integrity.

Proverbs 20:7, “A righteous man who walks in his integrity – How blessed are his sons after him.”

But warn them about being foolish or finding one.

Proverbs 14:1, “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”

Proverbs 12:4, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames [him] is as rottenness in his bones.”

Proverbs 21:19, “It is better to live in a desert land, Than with a contentious and vexing woman.” That includes foolish men.

Proverbs 12:15a, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.”

Proverbs 14:17, “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of evil devices is hated.”

Proverbs 19:3, “The foolishness of man subverts his way, And his heart rages against the Lord.”

Proverbs 29:11a, “A fool always loses his temper.”

Proverbs 21:20, “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man swallows it up.”

There is blessing when parents and children are wise, but tragedy when either is foolish.

Proverbs 10:1, “A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish son is a grief to his mother.”

Proverbs 13:1, “A wise son [accepts his] father’s discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”

Proverbs 17:25, “A foolish son is a grief to his father, And bitterness to her who bore him.”

Friends & Neighbors

Use Proverbs to explain some of the characteristics of true friends.

Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”

Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” It also warns,

Proverbs 27:14, “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, It will be reckoned a curse to him.”

Proverbs 28:5, “A man who flatters his neighbor Is spreading a net for his steps.”

Proverbs gives a lot of counsel on relationships with neighbors.

Proverbs 12:26, “The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, But the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

Proverbs 25:17, “Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor’s house, Lest he become weary of you and hate you.”

Proverbs 26:18-19, “Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death, So is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, ‘Was I not joking?’”

The Tongue

James 4:2 tells us that a man that can keep from stumbling in what he says is a perfect man. Proverbs tells us a lot on the use of our tongue. Here are a few of its statements to teach your children.

Proverbs 21:23, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.”

Proverbs 18:10, “He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.”

Proverbs 10:31-32, “The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out.  The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked, what is perverted.

Proverbs 15:2, “The tongue of the wie makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly.”

Proverbs 20:19, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip.”

Proverbs 17:4, “An evildoer listens to wicked lips, A liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.”

Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”  Wouldn’t all of us be better off if we were all careful to heed this wisdom?

Wealth & Work

Our society places a premium on wealth, but Proverbs gives a better perspective on the source of wealth and what is important in life.

Proverbs 3:9-10, “Honor the Lord from your wealth, And from the first of all your produce; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.”

Proverbs 10:22, “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, And He adds no sorrow to it.”

Proverbs 13:22, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, And the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.”

Proverbs 15:16, “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, Than great treasure and turmoil with it.”

There is also much warning about it too.

Proverbs 23:4-5, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration [of it.] When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For [wealth] certainly makes itself wings, Like an eagle that flies [toward] the heavens.”

Proverbs 28:22, “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth, And does not know that want will come upon him.”

Proverbs 13:11, “Wealth [obtained] by fraud dwindles, But the one who gathers by labor increases [it.]”

Proverbs 24:33-34, “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest,” then your poverty will come [as] a robber, And your want like an armed man.”

There is of course much, much more in Proverbs concerning these issues and many more topics.  It is a good book to teach your children that they might have wisdom in many areas, and a good book to continually review yourself for the same reason.

The bottom line of godly parenting is teaching your children about God, His ways and works, and His commands.  As they learn to see the world from the Lord’s perspective, they will be able to discern what to do in any situation that comes upon them.  Teach them to obey and have proper respect for the Lord, for you as your parents, and for other authorities in the lives.  In addition, teach them to have respect for others because people are precious to the Lord.  He created them and Jesus died to redeem them, and so we are to also treat them as being precious and that includes treating their property with respect too.  Finally, teach them to treat nature with respect too.  God has given man dominion over the earth, but He created it all and will hold man responsible for the stewardship entrusted to him.

It all does boil down to the two great commandments – to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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God’s Idea Of Marriage, Part 4: The Role of Parents In Raising Children

Grace For The Journey

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2Sept  Today’s blog will be the fourth in this section of Colossians 3:18-4:1.  This passage deals with family relationships and arises as the direct application of all that Paul has talked about in Colossians 3:1-17.  These verses are Paul’s commands to the immediate family, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them.  Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.  Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.”

Your ability to fulfill your role

Is directly related to how well

You are walking with the Lord

As one who has been

“Raised up with Christ”

(verse 1).

While it is possible for a non-Christian wife to willingly submit to and respect her husband, that is difficult.  While it is possible for a non-Christian husband to sacrificially love his wife, that is difficult and it is impossible for him to actually love her as Christ loves the church.  It is required that all children obey their parents; but for wife, husband, and children it is a lot easier to fulfill these roles when they have the Holy Spirit within them to direct and empower.

As you set aside the habits and attitudes

That characterized your life prior to salvation

And put on the habits and attitudes

That belong to the new creature

You have become in Christ,

Then it is no longer difficult to fulfill these roles.

The same is true for parents which is the subject we will address this morning.

The Colossian Command.

Paul’s command here is interesting from the standpoint that it is only from the negative, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  Parenting would be a lot easier, if all we had to do was avoid this one danger zone, but Paul and the rest of the Scriptures have a lot more to say both positive and negative about the responsibilities of parents. The parallel passage in Ephesians 6:4 includes this negative “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,” but it also adds the positive, “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Paul’s command here is only an additional specific instruction to parents that compliments all the other commands he has given to believers in verses 1-17.

Godly parenting requires that

You put off the evil and put on good

In both your own practice and

In what you require of your children.

Your own example has to match the instructions you give your children, or they will see the hypocrisy and reject your teaching.  In fact, your example will have a greater effect upon them than anything else you do.  When a disciple (student) is fully trained, he will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40).  If you are characterized by walking in the flesh with attitudes and actions of anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech (Colossians 3:8), then don’t be surprised when your children exhibit the same characteristics.  The same is true of immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (Colossians 3:5).  If the evil practices of the old self characterize your life, then they will also characterize the lives of your children unless the Lord intervenes to save them despite your negative influence.  At the same time, if your life is characterized as walking in the new self with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing one another’s burdens, forgiving each other, being loving with the Word of God richly dwelling in you, then your children will take on a lot of those characteristics even if they are not saved.

In recognition of the importance of parenting and that there is so much more in the Scriptures concerning it than this one passage, I want to look at the more general principles of parenting, and then tomorrow we will concentrate on some of the more specific commands including this one in Colossians 3:21.

Before I do though, I want to point out that most of the Biblical commands, including this one here in Colossians, are directed specifically to the “fathers,” but the command is to be followed by both parents, not just the dad.  The reason these commands are addressed to the father is because God has placed the husband as the head of the household, so he is also the one that is going to be held responsible for making sure the family carries out God’s commands.  The practical reality is that a large portion, if not the majority, of the teaching of children will be done by the mother since she spends the most time with them in their daily care.  The father has the responsibility, but the mother fulfills a large portion of it.  Another reason for the importance of the wife submitting to the husband’s leadership and the husband actively leading.

The Importance of Biblical Instruction

God has given us plenty of instructions on how to raise our children, but as American society continues its flight away from Biblical values and to the vain philosophies and wisdom of men, then the family continues to disintegrate.  When people reject the Creator and His design, they prove the Scriptures true that they have been blinded by Satan (2 Corinthian 4:4) and that in professing to be wise they have become fools (Romans 1:22).  As society has paid more attention to supposed experts than the Bible, the problems with children and youth have only escalated.  Hard to believe, but among the top ten problems among High School students in the 1950’s was chewing gum in class and boys not tucking in their shirts.  Compare that to today’s High School environment with metal detectors, undercover narcotics officers, and sexually transmitted diseases being common.

To take this one step further, a supposed expert on parenting whose own children are out of control is not qualified, yet that is the common situation.  If your wisdom and advice does not work for your own children, why would it be expected for it to work on the children of other people.  We need to both know and follow God’s instructions concerning the family, and the instructions for parenting children begins with the role of the husband and wife.  You cannot be a better parent than you are a spouse.

The Importance of the Marriage

As we saw in our study of Colossians 3:18, the wife is to be in submission to the husband.  Ephesians 5:15-33 explains that this submission is first to the Holy Spirit and then to her husband and that she is also to show him respect.  If she does not do this, she will resent her role and risk having her husband rule over her from a negative standpoint as part of the curse of sin (Genesis 3:16).  In any case, she will not be the woman she could be and should be.

The role of the husband is to lead his family in godliness through a sacrificial, servant-minded, and sanctifying love.  This also arises out of his own walk with the Holy Spirit, for it is impossible for a man to love someone else as “Christ loves the church” without the work of the Spirit of God.  This sacrificial love includes leading her, protecting her, providing for her, and helping her to become holy and blameless.

Parents, let me stress again that your ability to properly raise your children is in direct relationship to your ability to be a godly spouse and that is dependent on your walk with the Lord.  If you are unwilling to submit to the Holy Spirit and follow the Scriptures in your role as a spouse, you will not do so in your role as a parent.  You have already decided that you know better than God and that same basic belief will control your parenting.  If you want to raise good and godly kids, then you need to work at having a good and godly marriage.

But, you say, your spouse is not a believer or you are divorced and raising the kids by yourself.  Again, submission to the Holy Spirit is primary.  How do you treat your unsaved spouse or ex-spouse?  Does your example and attitude toward them reflect godliness and the love of Jesus Christ?  If it does, you will be a positive influence for Christ on your children despite your spouse.  1 Corinthians 7:14 explains that the believing spouse sanctifies the unbelieving spouse and the children.  If your example is ungodly, then you will fill your children with that ungodliness that is in your heart – whether that be resentment, bitterness, pride, revenge, or anything else ungodly.

The Importance of Obedience

When we studied Colossians 3:20 yesterday we saw that God requires children to obey.  This is the first principle of parenting.  We are to require our children to obey us in the Lord.  You are teaching your children to sin if you do not require them to obey.  Obedience is to be the first time, right away, and without complaining and arguing.  Anything less than that is disobedience for obedience encompasses both actions and attitude.

Why is it important that the child obey the first time you tell them?  Let me give you two reasons.  The first will be theological and the second will be practical.

First, failure to obey the first time is delayed obedience and that is disobedience.  

The tragedy is that this is totally controlled by the parent.  Why do I say that?  Because a child will obey you when they know you are finally serious.  That can be either the first time or at whatever point you finally mean it.  That may be after you have said it three or more times depending on your normal practices.  It may be when your voice reaches a certain pitch or tone.  It may not be until the arteries in your neck stand out as your blood pressure skyrockets.  You, not your child, have determined the point of obedience by what you actually require of them and when you require it.

Perhaps this scenario will sound uncomfortably familiar. You tell your child, “Junior, please put your toys away and get ready for bed.” Five minutes later you say, “Junior, I thought I told you to put those toys away and get ready for bed.” Five more minutes go by and you say, “Junior, I know I told you to put those toys away and get ready for bed, now please do it!” Another five minutes goes by before you say, “Look, I am not telling you again. Put those toys away and get ready for bed or your going to get it.”  More time passes and now with your face read and your volume hitting 100 decibels, “This is the last time. Do what I said or I am going to spank you!”  At this, Junior finally obeys for now he knows you’re serious.

This may not seem very important, but it is very important.  When you do not require a child to obey right away the first time, then you have put them in the position of being the judge of what is and what is not important.  That right does not belong to them – it belongs to you.   You have actually trained them to disobey.  Your children need to obey you the first time and right away otherwise you teach them to sin.

At the same time parents must also consider what the child is doing and be sensitive to that while giving their commands properly and clearly.  It borders on being cruel to tell children to stop their game and go get ready for bed when they are only a couple of moves from the end.  Neither is it very nice to tell them to wash up and come to dinner five minutes before the end of a program they have been watching.  A loving parent will be sensitive to what the child is doing and take that into consideration when giving instructions.  This is part of what Colossians 3:21 is talking about.  We are not to exasperate or frustrate them with such things because it causes them to lose heart.

The second reason to require first time obedience is simply safety.

There are too many situations in which the safety of your child is dependent on them doing what you say immediately.  Only their immediate obedience will prevent them from injury or even death.  No one wants to go through the grief of saying, “if they had only listened.”  Teach them to listen and obey the first time.

We also need to require our children to obey without complaint or argument.

Children that grumble, complain, or whine may be outwardly obedient to your commands, but they are rebellious in heart.  Do not allow or accept it.

I cannot stress enough that in parenting

It is the heart that you are

Trying to train, not just behavior.

Remember that God’s punishment of the children of Israel in the wilderness was because of their continued grumbling.  They would grumble and complain and God would chastise them – plagues, poisonous snakes, the ground opening up and swallowing Korah and his followers, and then forty years of wandering until that whole generation had died off.  I am not saying that if your child whines you should put a snake in their bed, but I am saying that you should not accept or tolerate grumbling because it is a form of rebellion.

Obedience is the schoolmaster

That gives the child the skills

To pursue both Godliness and success,

But do not stop with outward behavior.

Frankly, outward behavior is the easy part and that should be largely accomplished by the time they are between 4-6 years old.

Go beyond that to also instill

Within them the principles of God’s Word

And train their hearts so that they

Will be internally guided rather

Than outwardly conformed.

The real goal is that by the time

They are 12 or 13 years old that

They understand and are following

The principles and precepts of God’s Word

So well that their primary submission is to the Lord.

When that point is reached, the obedience to parents becomes secondary to submission to the Lord.  They should have a willingness and desire to follow the parent’s guidance because it is right and best before the Lord and not because it is forced.

The Responsibility of Parents

Ephesians 6:4 describes the responsibility of parents very succinctly, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  As I said in yesterday’s blog, our children arrive in our homes as sinners and we have a responsibility to teach them discipline so that the bent toward sin does not overwhelm them.  I also said that it was the job of children to learn and the job of parents to teach them.  The most important lessons we can teach our children are those related to teaching them about the Lord and how He wants them to live.  But that is no easy task.

When Harry Truman was president, he had a sign on his desk that said, “The buck stops here.”  It seems there are few that have that mindset.  Most people will follow the example of our ancestors Adam and Eve and just pass the buck along.  Adam told God that it was the woman’s fault.  Eve told God it was the serpent’s fault.  People are always trying to figure out where to shift the blame.

Moms and dads, you need to understand that there is a dual responsibility in how your children turn out.  Both you and your child bear a responsibility in what kind of adults they become.  This does not mean the child can blame you for the sins they commit, for regardless of how good or bad were the child’s parents, the individual bears full responsibility for himself.  Why?  Because God’s call to everyone is to repent from their sins and follow Him.  God’s grace is sufficient to change anyone that will do so. Remember, all of us were dead in trespasses and sin, but it was God who made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2).  The effect of sin may have people in different stages of decay and corruption, but dead is dead.  However, when we were made alive in Christ we became new creatures.  The old passed away and the new was put on (2 Corinthians 5:17).

No one will ever be able to stand before God and blame their parents or anyone else for the sins they have committed.  Ezekiel 18:20 states this truth very clearly “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.

Don’t ever let yourself get caught in the trap so prevalent in modern psychology that passes the blame along to someone else or to “society” in general for all the problems you have. Throughout the scriptures we find this truth that God holds each of us individually accountable for our own sins. God’s judgment of us will be impartial and will be based on each man’s deeds – (1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 20:12-13).

Parents, understand that God is not going to hold you responsible for you children’s sins, but He is going to hold you responsible for your failures to raise them according to His instructions.  How your children turn out is a reflection on how you parented them. What you do in raising your child will greatly affect what they believe to be true, what they believe to be important, what life is all about, what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable, and how they feel about themselves and others.  How you raise them will reflect in how they turn out.

This does not mean that you are responsible for their salvation.  That could never be because no man can save another.  Salvation is the work of God Himself as the Holy Spirit brings the individual to conviction of sin, repentance, and regeneration that they will believe and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving from Him pardon for their sin.

No parent can guarantee the salvation of their children, but the parent is to . . .

Set the stage for the Holy Spirit’s work.

They are to teach their children God’s laws,

That sin is failure to keep God’s laws,

That sin’s punishment is eternal death.

Parents are to teach their children

About God’s love and especially as

Demonstrated in Jesus Christ and

His substitutionary death and resurrection.

We are to teach our children about the life

That God can give to us through

Forgiveness of sins through

Christ and following after Him.

The reality is that no parent can really say they have done everything they could have done for that would require perfection and no parent is perfect.  The solution for guilt of failure is not in trying to pass the buck, but rather in confession and receiving God’s forgiveness.  Don’t let your pride get in the way.  If your children are grown and are not following Christ, then there are two key things you need to do in further ministry with them – confess and intercede.

1) Confess.  As the Lord brings your past failures with your children to your attention, confess and ask God’s forgiveness.  His promise is that He will forgive (1 John 1:9).  You may need to do this with your children as well.  Such humility and repentance can go a long way in restoring or maintaining a relationship with a prodigal child as well as point to them the way they need to deal with their own guilt and failures.

2) Intercede.  Plead for God’s mercy upon them that the Holy Spirit will yet bring them under conviction of sin and draw them to Himself.

For those who still have your children at home, your confessions of failure need to be as they happen and that may include setting your pride aside and asking your kids for forgiveness too.  It also sets a wonderful example for them about how they should respond when they do wrong.  There are no perfect parents, but all parents are responsible for their children since the Scriptures declare it to be so.

Children are a gift from the Lord and they are to be a blessing (Psalm 127), and they will be if we follow God’s instructions concerning them.  There is no responsibility or privilege you will ever have greater than raising your children, but no parent has it all together.

The major points of this morning’s sermon. 1) Children will generally become like their parents, so your example is crucial including your marriage. 2) The proof of good parenting will be the child, and good children are the result of following God’s commands. 3) God requires children to obey their parents, so parents need to require it or they teach their children to sin. Obedience needs to be the first time, right away and with a good attitude. 4) There is a dual responsibility for how a child turns out as an adult. The child is fully responsible for his own actions and attitudes. The parents are fully responsible for carrying out the Lord’s commands with the child being a reflection of how well they have done at that. 5) The solution for guilt is confession and forgiveness.

Tomorrow we will continue on this subject and expand on what the Bible says about both the positive and negatives of parenting.  There are things parents are to do and things they are to avoid.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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God’s Idea Of Marriage, Part 3: The Role of Children

Grace For The Journey

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27Aug  Over the past couple of blog posts we have examined the roles that God has given to the wife and to the husband.  As I have pointed out in each of those studies, . . .

The ability of the husband and wife

To fulfill their roles will be

Dependent upon their

Walk with the Lord.

What Paul commands in Colossians 3:18-19 is dependent on what he has said in the previous seventeen verses.

If we live as those who have been raised up with Christ,

Which includes putting off the practices

And attitudes we had prior to salvation

And putting on the new practices and attitudes

That are in keeping with walking with Christ,

We can fulfill our roles in marriage

And so bring glory to God.

Colossians 3:18-4:1 is the context of our current studies.  A rereading of these verses is helpful, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them.  Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.  Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.  Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who [merely] please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.”

The wife has the supporting role.  This is by no means an inferior position for she has equal value before God.  It is only a recognition that God has given her different gifts, abilities and responsibilities.  A woman needs to be careful about whom she marries for she will need to willingly submit to her husband’s leadership while demonstrating chaste and respectful behavior to him even when he does not lead as he should (1 Peter 3:1-6).  Submission is an act of her will and not something coerced or forced.  Her submission demonstrates her love and trust of God through her service to her husband.  Her submission is first to God and then because of that she secondarily submits to her husband.

God has placed the husband as the head of the family which means he has the responsibility of leadership.  He is commanded to love His wife in the sacrificial manner that Christ loves the church and cherish her the same way he cherishes his own body.  This love includes being her provider and protector.  The husband is also commanded to lead his family into sanctification that they may be holy and blameless.  God will hold the husband accountable for how well he fulfills his role and responsibilities.  He is also responsible to make her his life’s study as he seeks to know and understand her while giving her honor as a joint heir of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).  This is true even though she is extremely different from him in her emotions and the way she thinks, but that is part of the challenge, so be a man and rise up to the challenge.

Today we come to the role of the children.  It is easier for children to fulfill their role if they know the Lord and are walking with Him by the Holy Spirit, but Paul does not place that expectation upon them since even the children born to Christian parents come into the world as unsaved sinners.  Until the child comes to personal faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus, they cannot live as one who has been raised up with Christ, for that has not yet happened.

The role given to the children is actually very simple.  The Bible says here, “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.”  In Ephesians 6:1-3 he adds a similar statement the Old Testament command and promise that goes with it, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.

Children are to obey their parents, yet, in view of actual practices within our society, and those practices exist within the church as well, we must conclude that this scriptural directive has been either forgotten or confused by most parents.  There are two extremes within our society, and we do not want to fall into either one.  We want everyone in the family to follow the Lord’s commands and fulfill the role God has given to each – wife, husband, children and parents.

1) Open Fields

The first extreme I want to mention is the one now most prevalent in our society.  I call this open fields because while there may be boundaries somewhere, they are so distant they are hard to see. This is the result of a basic change within our society in its understanding of children.

When Americans were a Biblically literate people, it was commonly understood that people did evil things because everyone is sinful by nature.  Evil actions are the result of a sinful heart.  Evil was held in check by holding each individual responsible for what they did and then dispensing the appropriate punishment for the sin committed.  It was understood that children were born as sinners and discipline would be needed to hold that sin in check.  The only real cure for the sin problem is the gospel of Jesus Christ because through faith in Jesus and His atonement, sin could be forgiven and the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration could change the heart.

As America has slid from its moorings in a Biblical world view, the philosophy behind secular psychology has made a fundamental change in how people understanding themselves.  Society now views people – and especially children – as naturally good instead of sinful.  This is accomplished by a couple of methods.  The first is to redefine what is good and what is evil.  This allows people to do whatever they want and not feel guilty about it.  The second is to blame something else when evil does occur.  Responsibility is always shifted to something else.  It could be environmental factors, societal failure, or psychological trauma caused by someone else.  People, and again, especially children, are no longer seen by a large portion of society as being responsible for their own actions.

Consider some of the following erroneous excuses prevalent in society.

  • Crime is caused by poverty – a surprise to the generation that suffered through the Great Depression.
  • Alcoholism is a disease – if so, it is the only one that must be continually self-induced to keep it going.
  • Aggression is caused by spanking and is a reason that some people become serial killers – yet it is the children without discipline that are the most aggressive and studies of violent criminals keep showing a stronger link with a childhood that was without discipline rather than one having too much.
  • Freud said that improper potty training leads to “possessiveness, retentiveness, aggressiveness, pronounced messiness or tidiness, punctuality and shame . . .”, or as another simply described it, “bad potty training results in emotional constipation.”

Sounds more like just another way to blame it on your mother and refuse to grow up and take responsibility for yourself.

The basic philosophical premise in society now concerning children is that kids are innately good and will grow up to be good adults as long as the parents don’t mess them up.  The so-called experts warn us that we must provide children with the right environment, give them freedom to explore, and do not inhibit their efforts to express themselves.  We are told that if the parent does not satisfy every whim of the child, the child will turn out psychologically damaged.  This is the philosophy behind Dr. Benjamin Spock’s famous quote, “You can’t spoil a baby.  His wants are his needs,” which has resulted in the baby becoming the center of the family, and for everything focuses on meeting the baby’s desires.  That mindset and practice then continues into childhood. The truth is that you can spoil a baby and children, and children arrive messed up and it is the parent’s responsibility to rear them to be good.

What is the result of this liberal philosophy?  Children who are out of control in private and in public.  I think most of us have seen parents chasing children up and down store aisles because the kid refuses to stay with the parent.  We have all seen children who defiantly refuse to do what their parents tell them.  I have also seen children who call their parents names and tell them to shut up.  The word that described such children when I was growing up was “brat.” I have been in homes where the walls were heavily marked with crayon as high as the child could reach.

If this mindset continues the problems increase as the child gets older resulting in teens that remain immature and self-centered.  Cheating, stealing, lying, and hurting other people does not bother them as long as they get or do what they want.  You see them and know that they are on the path to jail or worse.  In the worst cases they become sociopaths with no concern at all for others.  The Proverbs prove true:

Proverbs 30:11, There is a kind of man who curses his father, and does not bless his mother.” Proverbs 20:20,“He who curses his father or his mother, His lamp will go out in time of darkness.”

Proverbs 19:26, “He who assaults his father and drives his mother away Is a shameful and disgraceful son.”

Proverbs 29:15 “The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

Proverbs 30:17, “The eye that mocks a father, And scorns a mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it.”

2 ) Restricted Stall.

The other extreme is not as common anymore, but it can still be found.  The child is not in an open field, but is confined to a restricted stall.  In this view children are not the center of the family, but somewhere on the outer edges.  The dad views himself not as the head, but the king. The mom may or may not be the reigning queen, but in either case the child is more of an object than a person.  Loving care and nurture take a back seat to keeping family law.  Punishment is swift, but does not always match the crime.  Scripture might even be quoted a lot in such a home, but that does not mean it is quoted completely in context or applied correctly.  Other Scriptures dealing with the parents’ responsibilities are usually left out.

In this type of home the child exists for the benefit of the parent, so when the child intrudes on the parents’ life through childishness or misbehavior, there are severe consequences.  The child’s main motivation is fear.  Fear of the parents, fear of God, fear of all authority figures.  Children of such homes develop what is called a prohibitive conscience.  Life is viewed in terms of what is restricted – You shalt not do this, You shalt not do that.  Guilt and the fear of potential guilt controls them.  The freedom and motivation to do good is stilted or crushed by fear of violating some rule.

The child’s outward behavior is everything, and while they may exhibit exemplary discipline and manners, the heart of the child may be very far away or completely lost.  These children learn a very distorted view of God which is why the Bible warn parents to “not exasperate [them] that they may not lose heart” (Colossians 3:21) and to “not to provoke their children to anger” (Ephesians 6:4).

Some who grow up in such a home end up rejecting what they had been taught.  This is a common reason “good kids” go “wild” in college.  The restrictions have been removed and they go to the opposite extreme.  Others live lives controlled by fear and guilt.  They do what they believe is expected of them, but there is no joy in doing it.  If this was a Christian home, they become legalists.  Spirituality is defined in a list do’s and don’ts and mostly don’ts.  They do not understand grace, forgiveness, or freedom in Christ.  Serving Christ to them is more of a responsibility and duty than a privilege and opportunity.

The Balance.

How then do we keep it balanced?  We must understand the purpose and role of children in the family.  Let me start with several purposes . . .

1) Continuation of mankind.  In Genesis 1:28 God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth . . . .”  Mankind is always just one generation away from extinction.

2) Continuation of the knowledge of God.  Israel was to pass their knowledge of God from one generation unto the next – Deuteronomy 6:4-7, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

Psalm 78:5, “For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should teach them to their children, 6 That the generation to come might know, [even] the children [yet] to be born, [That] they may arise and tell [them] to their children, 7 That they should put their confidence in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandment.”,

Ephesians 6:4 – “. . . bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Certainly people can come to know the Lord regardless of the beliefs of their parents just as have many of you.  That is what the Great Commission is all about.  We are to proclaim the gospel message to everyone, and the Lord in His graciousness saves people.  But I hope you parents realize that your first priority in evangelism and discipleship is to be your own children.

One of the great tragedies I have seen are pastors who think that if they take care of the church that Christ will take care of their family.  The children turn away from Christ because dad has not been around long enough to model Christ to them.  Such men are actually unqualified to be pastors according to 1 Timothy 3 & Titus 1.  Jesus said He would build His church.  While He uses people to accomplish that goal, the priority He has placed upon all of us including pastors in raising our children in His nurture and admonition.  We will talk more about that in tomorrow’s blog, but understand at this point that one of the reasons that God has given you children is so that you can pass on your knowledge and understanding of God to them to build upon.

3) A third purpose of children is to be a blessing.   The Bible says in Psalm 127:3-5, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies in the gate.”

Children are a blessing from God.  They bring so much into our lives.  Certainly there are the heartaches and tough parts of raising kids, but they also bring such joy.  Their love for life, wonder at the world around them, and happiness over simple pleasures.  But more importantly from the eternal perspective, they teach us a lot about trusting the Lord and walking with Him. They prod us to think less of ourselves and learn to love sacrificially.  They reflect us and we see both the good and bad in ourselves which prods us on to greater holiness.  Their very presence causes us to be more careful how we act, what we say, and even how we think.  Children are a great blessing from God to us.

The Role of Children

What then is the role of children within the family?

To put it simply,

They are there to learn.

The parents’ responsibility is to teach them and theirs is to learn.  Children are not the center of the family and neither are they somewhere on the outskirts.  They are part of the family.  You and your spouse became a family when you married.  A family of just two people, but a family. When your first child came along your family simply expanded to three and with each child your family circle simply got larger.  Each new life added to your family is another precious soul for you to guide and direct to know Jesus and live for His glory and honor.

Husbands, remember, Paul has already commanded you to lead your wife in sanctification so that she might be holy and blameless.  The same is true for your children.

Their role is to learn

From both of you

Who God is,

What He is like

And how to have

A personal relationship

With Him.

Your role is to teach

And their role is to learn

And learning begins with obedience.

Obedience is the schoolmaster needed to help shape the child’s behavior, character, and belief system.  Proper obedience leads to the freedom of living positively out of a love for righteousness instead of fear of doing wrong.

A child’s first and foremost responsibility in the family is to obey and honor your parents.  God’s commandment to all children is “obey your parents” … “honor your father and mother” and our text adds that this is to be “in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:1 says, “for this is right.” Children, it is right and it is pleasing to the Lord for you to obey and honor your parents in all things.

The word “obey” here literally means, “to hear under,” and so includes the idea of hearing and responding positively.  Attitude as well as action is important in obedience.  If you grumble or whine about what you are asked to do, you are not obeying or honoring even if you do what you were told.  As the Proverbs 6:20 states it; “My son, observe the commandment of your father, And do not forsake the teaching of your mother.”  This is not some conspiracy against you so that your life will be miserable, but rather this is God’s commandment so that there will be order in the home and your life will be filled with blessings.  Learning obedience to your parents is the first step toward learning obedience to the Lord and toward gaining self-control and being considerate of the interests of others.

Self-control and considering the interests of other people are both vital to your getting along with others and becoming successful as adults.  Self-control is the foundational skill for all learning. This is both mental and physical.  Without mental self-control you will not be able to focus your attention to read, study, or analyze, and solve problems.  Every subject you will ever study takes concentration – math, history, language, art, science, and understanding your Bible.  The better your mental self-control, the better you will do in all your studies regardless of your IQ.  Without physical self-control you will never gain the skills needed to perform any kind of job.  It takes a lot of practice to learn to control your fingers so that you can color between the lines or nimbly use a keyboard to operate a computer.  If you cannot control your hands you cannot drive a nail and you would be dangerous with a power saw.  Even the ability to speak requires precise control of your vocal cords, tongue and lips.  Clear communication requires the addition of a controlled mind otherwise what you say will not make sense.

Obedience is also the foundation to being considerate of other people.  Obedience combats selfishness because it requires placing your will under the authority of someone else.  It demands you to place yourself in a secondary position.  If you continue in selfishness and do not consider other people you will have relationship problems all your life.  Let me show you the importance of this by a simple question.  Do you like being around someone who is self-centered and gives no consideration to your thoughts or feelings?  What is your response when you run into someone whose only interest is in what you have and getting it for themselves.  For a child that may be a toy – other children that come over to play only because they want to play with your toys.  In the business world it is the fake friendliness of the salesman who is only after your money.

Obedience to your parents is also the place where you start to learn obedience to God Himself.  It is from your parents that you learn your first lessons in consequences.  Children, when you disobey your parents you have also broken God’s commandment to you and that is sin.  Parents, when you let your child get away with disobedience to you, then you are training that child to sin.  That means you are also in sin.  Disobedience brings punishment while obedience brings blessings.  A child that will not learn to obey simple instructions from a parent who is physically present will not later obey more complex commands from a God they cannot physically see and touch.  It is better to learn this lesson when the consequences are at worst a spanking or removal of privileges rather than the wrath of a holy and just God.  The eternal consequence of disobedience is separation from God and eternity in Hell.

The vast majority of all parents love their children and want what is best for them.  Parents are also wiser.  That is why children need to obey them.  God uses them not only to protect and provide for them, but also to guide them in how to live life.  However, the statement here to obey them in “all things” is not without qualification.

As with all authority there is a hierarchy that starts with God and then descends from there.  For children, as with all people, God is to be obeyed first and above anyone else.  After God, children are to obey their parents next, and then any other sources of authority as is fitting to the particular situation – government officials, teachers, coaches, etc.  Children, you cannot violate any of God’s commandments in trying to obey your parents or others.  You cannot lie for them. You cannot steal for them.  You cannot assist them in committing sin.  You respectfully decline to obey in those circumstances and willingly suffer any punishment they give you, and in doing so you are like the apostles and prophets who also suffered for righteousness sake (Matthew 5:10-12).

The tragedy is that parents do ask children to lie and steal for them sometimes without really even thinking about what they are doing.  Rare are the cases of parents purposely sending their child into a store to steal something, but how often do parents tell children to lie about their age so that they can get a discount?  That is stealing.  How often do parents tell children to lie when they answer the phone and tell the caller they are not at home?  Don’t ask your children to do that, and children don’t do it.  Say they do not want to be disturbed at the moment and ask them to call back.  Children you are to obey your parents, but you obey them in the Lord.  You have to obey God first, and then your parents.  This is what God declares is right and just before Him.

Honoring Parents

I want to conclude by looking at the other biblical teaching of “honoring your parents.”  The command to obey your parents arises out of the commandment in Exodus 20:12.  Paul expresses that in Ephesians 6:3-4 and adds that honoring your father and mother brings the promise that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.  There are blessings in obeying the Lord.

This particular promise is both general and specific.  It is general in the sense that a person who has learned obedience has also learned the skills needed to have a good life.  For example, self-control and consideration of others are the keys to good relationships with others and decent jobs.  In general, the natural consequence of honoring your parents and the skills learned from doing so lead to a good life, and a good life is also generally a long life.  Sin characteristically shortens life while virtue extends it.  Similar promises are also made to those who are just in their business dealings (Deuteronomy 25:15), who are wise (Proverbs 3:16) and who generally keeps God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 4:40; 32:47).

This promise is also specific in that it is a direct promise of God to extend a blessing to those who honor their father and mother.  This does not mean that God cannot have a different plan for specific individuals even if they do honor their father and mother.  For example, believers who are persecuted for their faith in Christ.  But this is the general case of the specific promise. Obedience to God in honoring your parents brings His blessings.

What then does it mean to honor your parents?  Primarily it means “to place value upon” them. It is demonstrated in respect and consideration.  This is something that all of us are to do regardless of age.  Young children honor their parents through their obedience to them.  Older children honor through submission which is willingly following the instruction and advice of their parents.

When you become an adult and live independently of your parents you are no longer under their authority.  The obedience and submission are no longer required because the authority structure has changed.  Men, you are to leave your father and mother and cleave to your wife (Ephesians 5:31).  Ladies, your husband is now your head and not your father (Ephesians 5:23).  But even so, as adults we are still to give honor to our parents.  This is done by showing them respect.  If the parents have done their job properly and the children are walking with the Lord, this arises out of the love of devotion.  It will be joyful to show respect and appreciation, ask advice, and care for them as needed.

But some parents have been bad.  Their children suffered at their hands.  The past is full of pain, trust has been broken, and the current relationship is strained at best.  But regardless of the past, you are still responsible before God to honor them.  At minimum this means not speaking evil of them, slandering them, letting them go hungry, or ignoring them in time of need, for at worst they are still your neighbor which we have been commanded to love as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  What will be missing will be the joy.  Honoring them will be a difficult duty instead of a joyful devotion.  Even so, you can still honor them out of your love for Jesus Christ and desire to be obedient to Him.

Parents, will your children honor you out of love or duty?

Children, obey and honor your parents now and learn those lessons that will bestow on you God’s blessings throughout your life.

When Christ is our life (Colossians 3:4), wives submit to their husbands, husbands love their wives, and children obey their parents.  But that comes from our verses today.  When Christ is our life, fathers will encourage their children.  In verse 21, the Bible says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  The word “fathers” here can be understood to include both parents.  Both moms and dads are often guilty of “provoking” their children.  What does this mean?  The parallel passage in Ephesians 6:4 helpful, “Do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”  The idea seems to be that parents should not discourage their children to the point of exasperation.  When we fail to encourage our children, they may feel they will never live up to our standards, never make us proud,  never please mom or dad.  Pparents may also be guilty of exasperating their children by passive parenting.  They may not “be there” for their children or may fail to discipline them.

Often children rebel and push back in an effort to determine whether they are truly loved by their parents.  They may even behave this way unconsciously, rebelling and pushing boundaries because deep down they yearn for the correction that a loving parent provides.

Verse 21 goes on to caution fathers to not “provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  The primary idea seems to be the ongoing criticism of children that leads to their frustration.  Fathers, your sons and daughters may not choose the path you think they should choose.  They may make mistakes.  Lots of them!

You can raise your children according to the latest book on godly parenting, dotting all the “i”s and crossing all the “t”s, but your children will still grow to make their own decisions.  You may well “train your child up in the way he should go.”  If so, you have done well.  Your child grows and makes his or her own decisions and may even stray from the faith for a season.  If he or she strays, it is not a judgment upon your parenting abilities.  If that were so, there’d be a lot of godly Christian teachers and preachers who have failed: Billy Graham and John Piper chief among them.  John Piper held family devotions and wrote beautiful poetry for his wife, but even Piper had a rebellious grown child.  To quote the headline from an article in Christianity Today a few years ago: If It Can Happen To John Piper, It Can Happen To You,” “I don’t mean to alarm, but rather to remind that you and I have no control over anyone or anything.  We trust a sovereign God, who always does what is right.”  So heed the warning of the opposite error: just as the bad behavior of straying children raised in godly homes is not a condemnation of your “inferior” parenting skills, so the good behavior of non-straying children is not a commendation of your “superior” parenting skills.

If you’ve got kids who have never strayed, never pushed the envelope, and always did the right thing, you’d better get on your knees and thank God above that He saw fit in His grace to give you – undeservedly – a low-maintenance bundle of joy!  And if God in His grace has given you a child that challenges you at every turn, then praise God for that child as well.  God is good and He knows what He is doing.  He has entrusted your child to you that you may raise that child well.  So do it.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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God’s Idea Of Marriage, Part 2.

Grace For The Journey

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27Aug  In my post I noted that marriage is an institution created by God.  It is His idea.  We also noted that marriage takes more than two people.  It takes three: Husband, Wife, and the Lord.  We pick up today in our verse-by-verse study of the third chapter of Colossians, reading again in Colossians 3:18-19, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.”

The text consists of two main teaching points, the first for Christian wives and the second for Christian husbands.  We are looking at “God’s Plan For Marriage” which consist of a wife, who is to demonstrate biblical submission to her husband and a husband who is to demonstrate faithful adoration to his wife.

Yesterday we addressed the role of the Christian wife in; we turn now to the role of the Christian husband from verse 19, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.”  That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it?   Love your wife and do not be bitter toward her.  In Roman society it was not uncommon for men to rage against their wives and demonstrate remarkable anger and bitterness; always ready to explode, like a can of soda that has been shaken and suddenly opened.

Men may become bitter towards their wives when they fail to understand them.   Sometimes a man’s wife is merely offering help, caution, or warning, but men may be too self-engrossed or too self-focused to appreciate their loving counsel.

Paul says, “Love your wives.”  In the parallel text of Ephesians 5, he elaborates on the kind of love a husband is to show his wife.  He says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).  Jesus Christ demonstrated a sacrificial love.  He loved the church and gave Himself for the church.  He died for the church.  Christian husbands are to love their wives sacrificially – to the point they are even willing to die for their wives.  That’s a deep, real love.  And it is a love made possible by the new life we have in Christ.

It is so important to recall the greater context

Of Paul’s teaching here in Chapter 3.

These two commands for wives and husbands

Are commands couched in the context of the new life in Christ.

Paul is addressing those who have already dealt with their most basic, fundamental problem: the problem of sin.  He is writing to those who have “put off” the old self and “put on” the new.  He is writing to people who have been converted; people being renewed daily in the image of the One who created them.

When Paul is writing here about the matter of marriage, he is not writing to just anyone.  He is writing to Christians.  He is writing to Christian wives and Christian husbands; those who are “seeking those things which are above” and “setting their minds on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

He is writing to those who have “died” to their old selves (Colossians 3:3), those for whom “Christ is their life” (Colossians 3:4).  He is writing to those who are regularly “putting to death” (Colossians 3:5) sins such as, “fornication, uncleanness, lust, evil desire,” and “putting off” sins cut as anger, wrath, malice and filthy language” (Colossians 3:8).

Paul is writing to Christian husbands and wives who are putting on, or “dressing” themselves with “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering” (Colossians 3:12); “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another even as they have been forgiven in Christ” (Colossians 3:13).

He is writing to Christian couples who, “above all things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection” or completeness in marriage (Colossians 3:14).  And he is writing to Christian husbands and wives who “let the Word of God dwell in them richly” (Colossians 3:16).

The context of all those preceding verses are vitally important to understanding what Paul says about marriage in verses 18 and 19.  I found it curious how many commentators wanted to make this section of this letter independent from what Paul had written in the prior verses, but it is not.

Our relationships with one another

Are dependent upon living as those

Who have been raised up with Christ.

Having minds that are set on the things above

Instead of the things that are on earth

Is not about neglecting the things here on earth.

That would result in people that are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.  It is rather having a proper view of life in the present because of having heaven as our destination (2 Peter 3:14).

Proper relationships in the family and in the workplace are dependent upon us putting off the old man and putting on the new.  Each of us are to “consider the members of [our] earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed” and put aside “anger wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech.”  The old self is dead, so we should quit dragging around its corpse with its lying and evil practices.  Instead, we are to put on the new man and “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.”  We are to follow the example.  We are to let the Word of God richly dwell within us and encourage and teach one another accordingly.  Paul summed up his general exhortations in living the Christian life in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”  That command includes everything we communicate and all our actions and behaviors.

It is on the basis of these general commands to all Christians that He now gives instruction to the various members of a family and in the work force starting with the most intimate relationship and working his way outward in three sets: wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters.

The Importance of Marriage

Paul begins with the marriage relationship . . .

For it is not only the foundation for the family,

But it is also the foundation of all of society.

If marriages decline so does the rest of society,

And tragically we are seeing that happen

In our own time in our own society.

As America continues its flight from God and godliness, it increasingly promotes sinful perversions and abominations.

The so-called sexual revolution of the 1960’s is the direct precursor to the homosexual revolution of our current times.  Both are predicated on the false basic premise that the “pursuit of happiness” enshrined in the preamble of our Constitution means that there should not be restrictions on the hedonistic fulfillment of one’s desires.  That those desires are sinful before God and detrimental to themselves and to society are irrelevant to the mind entrapped by sin. As hedonistic selfishness gains a greater influence on society, its demands progress from tolerance, to acceptance, to equality, to superiority.  Constitutional freedoms of religion and speech are trumped by rights made up by legislation to allow the practice of sexual perversion with impunity.

We have already seen from our previous study that God established marriage in Genesis 3 so only He can define it.  We also saw from Ephesians 5 that marriage is to be a picture of Christ and the church, so any advocation for marriage to be between anything other than a man and a woman is a perverse evil.  Those promoting such perversions need to repent and turn from their sin and receive forgiveness and freedom from sin that is in the Lord Jesus Christ.  They are in serious danger of the Lord turning away and leaving them condemned in their sin for eternity as explained in Romans 1:18-32..

God is also the only one

That can define the role

Of the husband and the wife.

Those advocating roles different from what He has declared are also promoting perversion and evil and need to repent.  Sadly, there are many professing Christians that do not fulfill the role God has given them within marriage either due to ignorance, immaturity, or selfishness.  It is time for them to become wise, walk in maturity, and become selfless in serving their spouse according to God’s design.  While that will appear to be scary to some, it is the only way to glorify God and have a truly fulfilling marriage.

I already talked about the role of the wife in last Thursday’s post, so I will not repeat that here expect to encourage wives to fulfill that role of being submissive to and respecting your husbands as is fitting in the Lord.  Ladies, do not fall for or continue in the mindset of feminism that has had such a negative effect on our society.  You can have a much better life and marriage by living it God’s way than their way.

Today I am going to address the specific role of the husband in marriage, however everyone else reading this post also needs to pay attention.

  • Wives need to know how to encourage their husbands to fulfill his role.
  • Unmarried men need to know God’s expectations if they do get married.
  • Unmarried women need to know what qualities they should be looking for in a husband if they get married.

The Role of Husbands

Paul makes two commands concerning husbands in verse 19. “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them.”  There are additional instructions in other passages, some of which we will look at, but these two are contrasting and all encompassing.  If the husband will do these two things, then the commands to the wife will be easy for her to fulfill.  It has been generally observed, and I think accurately, that what women desire the most is to be truly loved and what men want the most it to be genuinely respected.  It is not hard for a woman to genuinely respect a man that truly loves her, and neither is it hard for a man to truly love a woman that genuinely respects him.  Those are the very commands God gives to each to fulfill.

However . . .

Fighting against this happening

In the marriage is the curse of sin.

Men and women are both innately selfish so instead of giving of themselves freely, they seek to get from the other want they want.  But . . .

True love cannot be gained by manipulation

And neither can genuine respect

Be gained through oppression.

Like two leeches they seek to gain life from the other but only manage to suck the life out of the marriage leaving a shell of what could and should have been.  However, when a husband and wife set aside their old sinful ways and walk in the newness of life that comes with following Christ, then there is a basis for each to fulfill their God given roles within the marriage and God can be glorified in and through them.

I cannot stress enough to you husbands

That you must walk with Christ if

You are to fulfill your role in your marriage.

The first of Paul’s commands here is that you are to love your wife.

This is not a reference to either being physically attracted to her or a fond feeling of affection, though both of those should also be part of a healthy marriage.  The love commanded here is agapaô . . .

The love that arises from the will

And sacrifices itself for the

Best interest of the one loved.

This is the love Jesus has for us.  This is the love that we are to have for one another. This is the love a man is to have for his wife.  This love is contrary to the sinful bent of mankind because it seeks to give instead of get.

Ephesians 5:25-33 gives further description to this love.  In that passage the husband is commanded three separate times to love his wife.  Verse 25 commands, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”  That is complete sacrifice. And that is the kind of love we are to have for our wives – a sacrificial love.  Until you have died in the place of your wife, you have not loved her to this extent.  That means that every husband still has room to grow in his love for his wife.

Verses 28-29 commands and explains, “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one every hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.”  Here there are two examples given: 1) The first is to love her with the same consideration you give to yourself. Treat her with the same kind of care you give to your own body, and lets face it, everyone seeks to treat their body with the utmost care.  Even when we vigorously exercise it is for the good purpose of keeping out body fit.  It takes time, money, and thoughtful planning to do all the things that are part of caring for our bodies – feeding it, cleaning it, exercising it, making it look good, health care for it and pampering it to make it comfortable.  Husband, do you give that kind of consideration to your wife?  2) The second example is harder for Christ is the example and His care for the church is complete and sacrificial.  His care for the church is actually better than our care for our own bodies because He does know what is best while we guess at that.  Yet that is still the example set for a husband to follow in loving his wife.

Paul also points out the pragmatic aspect of this too – this kind of love is not only a sacrificial love, it is a serving love.  A husband is to care for his wife because she is part of him.  We may not understand all of what it means in the quote from Genesis 2:24 repeated here in verse 31, but there is definitely some aspect in which the two individuals have become one flesh in marriage.  In marriage the husband is part of the wife and the wife is part of the husband.  So even from a more selfish point of view, for the man to love his wife is really to love himself – as Paul states at the end of verse 28.

Think about that a moment men.  Is there anything that you could do for your wife that would not ultimately come back to you for your benefit?  Certainly there are some exceptions in women that are so self-centered that they are not fit to live with, but in general, is it not true that if you treat your wife well, she will also treat you well?  If you give consideration to her, she will also do the same for you.  If you lead her in all godliness, she will be a more godly woman. If you love her as the scripture says here, she will be much more easily able to fulfill her role in submitting to your leadership and showing you respect. If you demonstrate sacrificial love to her, she is much more apt to sacrificially love you too.

Love your wife as Christ loved the church – have sacrificial love.  Cherish her as you cherish your own body – have serving love.

Paul’s third command to love your wife is in verse 33 – “Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself.”  The arguments here are really the same.  Everyone loves themselves.  We do what we can to build ourselves up in the eyes of others.  There is no lack and has never been a lack of self-esteem in the human race.  Instead it is just the opposite.  Humans are by nature self-centered and proud.  We love ourselves.

The Bible uses that fact as a prod to get us to understand that we need to love others. The general command given by Jesus in several different passages is that you are to love your neighbor as yourself.  Here Paul applies that directly to every husband.  You are to love your wife as you do yourself.  The type of love that the Bible is teaching here is a sanctifying love.  Instead of focusing on ourselves and seeking to build ourselves up, husbands are to have the kind of love that will lead them to do all they can to build up their wives and help her become all that God wants and needs her to become.

Let me now give you a couple of examples to prod your thinking about applying these commands in practical ways.

1) Your wife calls you to dinner and you find that she is actually serious about making the family diet more healthy, and if it tastes like it looks you will be losing a lot of weight very quickly.  What is your reaction?  A) Grateful for her service to you and care about your health, B) Irritated you didn’t get something you like C) Making plans to go out and get a burger later

2) You have been planning an event with your friends for sometime – fishing, hunting, watching an important game, etc. and when the day arrives your wife has the flu.  She looks and feels like death warmed over.  How do you feel about the prospect of staying home and taking care of her and the kids? A) What an opportunity to prove how much I love her. B) Why is God punishing me? C) Maybe her mother can come watch her and the kids?

3) Your busy reading the paper or watching your favorite sporting competition and your wife sits down and says, “honey, I have a problem.”  Do you A) Get excited that she thinks so highly of you that she wants your help, B) Want her to go away and come again some other day, or C) Get a chill running down your spine that you could be in trouble?

4) You have listened to your wife’s problem and given her a very intelligent and logical solution, but she keeps talking about it.  Do you think: A) Why doesn’t she just thank me and leave me alone now, B) Uh oh, she’s a bit dense today or C) Wow, this problem has really affected her.  I wonder how else I can encourage her and let her know that I care?

Gentlemen, to love your wife the way Christ loved the church, to love her as your own body, to love her as you love yourself will require you to sacrifice yourself for her.  Let me quickly add here that this includes the idea of protection.  You place yourself in harm’s way in order to keep her safe.  There is a price you will have to pay in order to love her in the manner God commands.  You will have to be humble and learn to put her best interests over your own, but isn’t that what we are called to be as Christians anyway?  Philippians 2:3-4 commands us to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Back in Colossians 3:19 we also find that Paul commands husbands to not be embittered against their wives.

The word embittered is pikrainô.  The root of the word means “to cut, prick due to being sharp, pointed.”  In reference to smell or taste it is disagreeably pungent.  The word is used in Revelation 8:11 in reference to the waters being made bitter.  It can also refer to a sour stomach as it does in Revelation 10 when John’s stomach was made bitter from the little scroll he ate.  The noun form is used in James 3:11 as a contrast to sweet water, but more often the cognate forms are used metaphorically in reference to attitudes that are bitter, sharp, harsh, angry, jealous. Peter wept bitterly after denying the Lord (Matthew 26:75).  Those lacking wisdom have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in their hearts (James 3:14).  The unrighteous have mouths full of cursing and bitterness (Romans 3:14) and a root of bitterness causes trouble and defiles many (Hebrews 12:15).

Why would Paul have to warn husbands to not let such bitterness rise up in their lives against their wives?  This command is the contrast to the command to love.  If the husband and wife are properly fulfilling their roles he will not become bitter against her, but if either fail to do so, then bitterness could rise quickly.  Paul’s command is to keep that from happening.

Even a man that generally does walk properly with the Lord can respond sharply to the wife he claims to love if he is caught off guard, over stressed, or momentarily selfish.  A man who is not diligent to walk with the Lord can easily turn against his wife and become harsh or even respond in anger if he is not getting what he wants.  That can happen even when she is trying to do the right thing but is misunderstood, but it is nearly a given if she is disrespectful or he senses she is trying to manipulate him for her own advantage.

Bitterness may be sharp, but it does not have to expend itself all at once like anger.  It can also burn slowly over a long period which is why a root of bitterness can cause so much damage.  It continues to fester and smolder for longer periods causing damage long after the initial spark that set the fire going has faded away.  Such behavior ought not to be and so Paul warns against it.  Love should and will prevent it, but at those points when love is lacking or he finds his wife especially irritating for whatever reason, he is to heed the caution and not allow bitterness into his life.

Paul contrasts wrong and right behavior and attitudes in Ephesians 4:31-32 saying, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”  Bitterness is an attitude and action of the old man and so it should be put away from you as you walk in the new man.  It should not even show up in your speech much less your actions.  You are not even to let an unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such words as are good for edification according to the need of the moment that it might give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:31).  There is no room in the Christian husband’s life for jokes and comments that disparage his wife.

Peter’s command to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7 is helpful in preventing any bitterness from arising. “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman’ and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”  An “understanding way” is literally, “according to knowledge.”  Your wife is to be your life study.  Yes, she is very different from you because she thinks very differently than you.  You both should praise God for that.  It is your responsibility to study her and learn how she thinks, reasons, and why she feels the way she feels.  Her reasoning and emotions do not have to make sense to you, but you do need to strive to recognize them and respond accordingly.  Too often men make it a one-way street demanding their wives figure them out and change accordingly, but it is actually a two-way street with the greater responsibility placed upon the man.  Older women are to teach the younger women how to love their husbands (Titus 2:3-5), so they do have a responsibility to learn about you, but the greater responsibility still lies on you men to do this.  Why?  Because you are the man and she is the woman who is a weaker vessel.

Feminists recoil at Peter’s statement here that women are weaker vessels and there is much debate about exactly what Peter means by the statement.  However, Peter points this out as a reality and why men need to take on this responsibility.  I do not think this is a reference to women being weaker physically.  While women generally lack the upper body strength of a man, they often show much greater physical stamina.  Hence the old adage that a man works from rising to setting sun, but a woman’s work is never done.  Like the Eveready Battery Bunny she keeps going, and going, and going.

Nor do I think that this refers to general intellectual ability since women often prove themselves to be equal to and sometimes even superior to men in various fields of study.  My personal opinion, for which I think I can make a scriptural case, is that this refers to her emotional makeup which can lead her astray.  Paul states in 1 Timothy 2:14 the reasons he did not allow women to teach or exercise authority over a man was the order of creation and that it was Eve that was deceived, not Adam.

The husband then needs to take on the responsibility to strive to understand his wife and live with her accordingly, granting her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.  She is in no way his inferior.  The husband and wife simply have different gifts and God given roles.

 There are a couple of other roles that husbands have in the marriage that I want to mention briefly.

The first is leadership.

The Bible states in Ephesians 5:23, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself [being] the Savior of the body.”  It adds in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.”  The man has a responsibility to lead his wife as her head.  This is not license for him to do anything he wants at her expense, but rather to take the responsibility to direct his family in the ways of the Lord, for Christ is his head.  Men, you are under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and that is regardless of whether you even profess faith in Him or not.  Notice in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that the statement that “Christ is the head of every man” is without qualification.  The Lord Jesus is your creator and He will hold you accountable and judge you for how well you have followed His commands in leading your family.  An additional sobering truth is that a leader has the responsibility for the decisions made in the family including those made by his wife or children.

That leadership will encompass many areas of life, but a primary one is leading in holiness.  In Ephesians 5 the example of the love of Christ is that He sacrificed Himself for the church so that He might sanctify her.  He wanted her to be all that she could and should be, without spot or wrinkle, being holy and blameless.  Husbands are responsible to love their wives with the same goal in view.  He is to lead her into holiness.  Husband, what are you doing in lead your wife into holiness?  The priorities and example of your life will answer that question – your own church involvement, personal Bible study, family devotions, personal integrity.  All of these are part of it plus your encouragement for her to take the time and be involved in her own personal devotions and in ministry for the Lord.

Your example is even more important if your wife is not a Christian.  Your walk with the Lord and how you treat her should do one of three things: 1) Attract her to salvation in Christ; 2) Drive her away because of her rejection of Christ – again be sure it is Christ in you that drives her away and not you; 3) She thinks you are a fanatic but she stays with you anyway because she knows no other man would treat her as well as you do.

Leadership also encompasses an element of protection from the physical danger and moral evils that exist all around us.  Decisions regarding even things such as where you live, the jobs you do, the friends you keep, the activities you participate in, and even entertainment choices will have major influence on the way in which you live.  If you do not lead your wife into holiness then you will be leading her away from it, and that will wear even on a godly woman.  Protect her from evil influences by your godly leadership.

The last responsibility I want to mention this morning is being a provider.

The Bible states in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household , he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever”  The context of this verse encompasses not just your wife and children, but also widows in the extended family when necessary.

Providing is not about how much money you make,

But rather about your own trust in the Lord

To do things His way knowing that

He is the one that actually provides.

Jesus’ promise in Matthew 6:33 is crucial to being a godly provider – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”  God will provide the food, shelter and clothing you need and by which you should be content if you put Him first.  And remember that 1 Timothy 6:8 makes it clear that we can be content in just having food and covering.  If these truths do not direct your efforts to provide, then you will be caught in the trap of materialism and coveting will lead you into all sorts of evils.

There are couples that live together but remain unmarried because it gives them a financial advantage in taxes or income.  There are many more that purposely disobey God’s commandments and compromise their moral convictions in order to take or keep a job.  There are even more that fail to keep the priorities God has set for the family in order to pursue gaining lots of stuff in the false belief that is what it means to be a man and provide.  Many men who work 60-70-80 hours per week consistently and unnecessarily and often have their wife working too in order to have a big home, luxury cars, fancy meals, exotic vacations, and lots of toys and gadgets.

What your wife and children need is you,

Not the abundance of stuff you can provide.

Live in a smaller home with less stuff, drive an older car, eat simply, and provide your wife and family with what they really need – your sacrificial, servant-minded, and sanctifying love, time, and godly leadership.  That is the true role of a husband.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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