The God-Fearing Family
Scripture Reading: Psalm 128 Sermon Title: The God-Fearing Family Sermon Text: Ephesians 6:1-4 Memory Verse: Psalm 128:1 NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The audio message will differ because the manuscript is not followed word for word. Thanks for understanding.
Agents of SanctificationIn the Covenant of Moses, before entering the temple, the priests had to wash their robes, body, and utensils. Everything had to be made clean and useful. Things which are dirty may not be used in the temple. The process of cleansing is called sanctification. Sanctification is to take something ordinary, clean it and to set it apart so God can use it. The cleansing of the Old Covenant is a cleaning of the outside. In the New Covenant, Jesus talks about cleaning the inside. He told the scribes and Pharisees, clean the inside of the cup and the dish, so that the outside may become clean also. He described the scribes and Pharisees as being like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Jesus warns against having an outward appearance of looking righteous before men, but being inwardly full of sin (Mt. 23:26-28). For our joy and personal well-being, God is transforming us on the inside, so we are changing into the image of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The Bible’s word for our transformation into Christ’s image, sanctification, is the same word used in the Old Covenant. We may not be used by God if we keep our old, impure, disobedient nature. God makes us new creatures in Christ, and we are to put off the dirty old self and put on the new clean self; made in the image of Christ. The process of sanctification makes us holy just as our Father in Heaven is holy. God’s Holy Spirit reveals to us areas of our life needing His cleansing. We are to scrub ourselves clean of filth, so we become useful for God’s purposes. We are being made holy and pure in preparation for our wedding day when we join with Christ, our Bridegroom, and celebrate our union with Him at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We all are dirty on the inside. When we are all alone, and there is nobody to poke and stir our pot with a stick, we sit quietly, and we fool ourselves into thinking that we are quite holy. But, as soon as we are around other people, our selfish, prideful, covetous, self-righteous person finds a way of standing up and saying, “Here I am! You thought I was dead, but I’ve just been waiting for an opportunity to show myself strong.” Left on our own, we will not eagerly be made holy. Nobody gets holier by living in solitary confinement in a monastery. In a monastery, there is a minimal number of outside influences which help reveal our sin. God is helping us change by using three cleansing processes. The first process is the cleansing of His word. The truth washes over us and renews our mind so we may know what is good and evil. The Bible is a light onto our path leading us to heaven. Second, God is leading us with His Spirit. The Holy Spirit of Truth opens our eyes and convicts us of sin. He is working in us to help us be like Jesus. The third process is what I like to call, God’s agents of sanctification. God uses ordinary people to help us see our sin. When left alone, we think we are pretty good Christians. Before we begin to think too highly of ourselves; God sends an agent of sanctification to poke us with a stick. As we are poked, our sin jumps out, and traces of our old nature wonderfully appear. When this takes place, God’s Holy Spirit tells us, “There! Did you see that what you did there? That sin is waiting to jump out. When you are alone, it sits dormant. But, as soon as the agent of sanctification comes along and walks through the door of your life, that sin jumps out.” Agents of Sanctification are people specifically chosen by God to make us more like Christ. The best agents of sanctification are the ones we are closest to in our life. They know what buttons to push. The people closest to us are our spouse, parents, children, and the people we work with. God puts these people in our lives to help us transform into the image of Christ. We should not resist God’s agents of sanctification, but rather, we are to welcome them into our lives. These are the people we are to subject ourselves to in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:22-33 teaches us how we are to subject ourselves in the fear of Christ to our spouse. Now, we move on to the family. Chapter 6:1-4 speaks of how to have a godly family. The main idea of these four verses is: Glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by being a God-fearing family. We begin by looking at verses 1-3 which speaks of the God-fearing child.
The God-Fearing ChildBoys and girls,. I want you all to look up here at me for a few minutes. Listen. Most Sundays, I am speaking to your parents. This morning, I am speaking directly to you. God writes to the children in the church. God loves you and wants the best for you. God is good. Do you enjoy the outdoors? God made the outdoors good, so you may enjoy playing in the snow, sunshine, water, and dirt. Do you have a pet? God made animals so you may enjoy them. Do you like food? God made food taste good, so you will enjoy eating. God loves you and wants what is best for you, so He has these words in the Bible just for you. Listen to what God says: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Eph. 6:1) Obeying your parents is right.
It is rightBoys and girls, you may think it is only in your home you must obey. You may think if you go to the neighbor’s house or your friend’s house or to China or Brazil, that the boys and girls there don’t have to obey their parents. Guess what? Everywhere you go, you will find that people believe it is right for children to obey their parents. All over the world, in every country, every government, and every culture, people believe children obeying parents is right. The Bible says children who do not obey are fools (Pr. 12:1; 16:22). Children who don’t obey their parents are not as smart as they might think. Parents are older, smarter, and understand more about what is going on in the world. Believe it or not, every parent used to be a child. Every parent understands what you are going experiencing. Believe me, when you get older and have children of your own someday, you will also believe that children should obey their parents because it is right.
It is the LawHonor your father and mother which is the first commandment … (Eph. 6:2) God gives a second reason why you should obey your parents. Obeying your parents is a command. God gave His people, the Israelites, the Ten Commandments, and the fifth commandment is that God wants children to honor their father and mother. Children, listen carefully. Notice the fifth commandment is not to obey your parents, but to honor your parents. Honoring our parents is doing more than obeying. If we disobey our parents, we do not honor them. We are to obey our parents cheerfully. Do you want to obey God’s laws? If you do, then listen to how we are to honor our parents:
- We honor our parents when we obey the first time they ask instead of the third or fourth time.
- Obey right away, not three hours later.
- Obey without talking back and complaining.
- Do not talk badly about your parents to your friends.
- We honor our parents when we help them without being asked. Volunteer to help.
- We honor our parents when we obey them even if they are not looking.
- Ask your parents to help choose who is a good friend.
- We honor our parents when we say please and thank you.
It is goodThe third reason boys and girls need to obey their parents is because God promises that if you do, He will bless you. Are you still listening boys and girls? Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. (Eph. 6:2-3) Do you know the Ten Commandments? Listen to the first four:
- No other Gods.
- No graven image.
- Don’t use God’s name as a curse
- Keep the Sabbath holy
- Honor your father and your mother, that your days may longer in the land which the Lord your God gives you
The God-Fearing FatherWe now turn our attention from the child to the parent. The Bible reads: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4) The Scripture gives the responsibility of raising children to the father. Wives are to subject themselves to their husbands; therefore, they will support and help the father in his role as head of the household. Even though the father has the responsibility, he is a fool if he does not look for help and guidance from his wife. The father is responsible, and the mother is to be a helpmate. A child who is disobedient reflects upon the father. Proverbs 19:13 says a foolish son is destruction to his father. To be an elder or deacon requires that the father has his children in control. Raising children in the time this letter is written is much different than today. In the days of Jesus, children have no rights. Matthew tells us of what happened when people brought children to Jesus. Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray, and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” After laying His hands on them, He departed from there. (Mt. 18:13-15) Jesus’ treatment of children is radical. In the First Century, especially in the Gentile Roman culture of Ephesus, fathers could do anything they wanted with their children. The Ephesian father had the right to sell his child as a slave. If a child is born deformed, he could leave the child on the garbage heap. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, the Apostle does not allow the father freedom to raise his children according to the culture. Instead, he gives instruction to raise his children according to the will of God. We are to be the same way. We are not to raise our children according to our culture, but according to God’s Word.
Most Important – love GodFirst, let’s make sure we focus on that which is most important. Listen to God’s instruction for the family: Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 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. (Deut. 6:4-7) The most important instruction we may teach our children is the Lord is our God and we are to love the LORD God with all our heart, soul, and might. Too often, as men, we focus on tasks and not character and attitudes. The Bible is concerned about the heart. As fathers, we need to be concerned for the heart. We need to help instruct our children, so they fall in love with God. We are to diligently teach our children all day long why they are to love God. We may not be hypocrites. Fathers must love God with all their heart, soul and might. A man who does not love God is unable to teach his children the importance of loving God. We can’t love God on Sunday and live like we hate God on Monday through Saturday. Our children will see through our hypocrisy. A genuine love for God cultivates by getting to know God. The way we help our children to love God is to help them to know God. We can teach our children how to hunt, be a good worker, do well in school, how to vote, do well in sports, or whatever we think is good. But, if we fail to teach our children to love God, we fail our children. Teaching to love from the heart is to teach that our affections, the things we love, are to be centered on God. We are to love what God loves and hate what God hates. God loves mercy and justice, and we are to teach our children to love mercy and justice. We are to love God with all our soul. When we love God with our soul, the way we talk and live shows our love for God. When we love God with all our might, it means we use all our talents, muscles, and influence, everything in our power, to love God. Our entire lives are focused on loving God. We are commanded to love God, and we are to strive to know God more so we will love Him more. We need to take our children by the hand and show them what God has made. We need to guide our children to the cross and explain God’s hatred for sin. We need to help our children to see the love of God poured out in the blood of Jesus. We teach our children to love God from the Scripture and by our example.
No ProvocationEphesians 6:4 tells fathers to not provoke their child to become angry. We find a similar command in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Fathers, do not exasperate your children so that they will not lose heart. (Col. 3:21) What does it mean for a father not to provoke their child to anger? Here are five ways to not provoke your child to anger. (These are a few examples to help us to understand.)
- Do not demand from your child what they are unable to deliver. God does not demand from us what we are unable to achieve. God is patient with us as His children. In the same way, Fathers need not place on their children unreasonable demands. Fathers often desire for their children to be successful and pressure them to achieve. A father needs to consider the physical, mental, and emotional development of the child. He shouldn’t expect the child to achieve what their mind or body is unable to accomplish. Children desire to please their father, and their inability to achieve will only frustrate the child.
- Be encouraging. God encourages us when we do what is right. Fathers need to provide a great deal of encouragement. Often, men are too critical. For example, when asking a child to sweep a floor, they may only criticize them for the 5% they miss and not encourage them for getting the 95% right. Recognize the achievements of your children. Fathers especially need to encourage their children when they display character attributes like Jesus. When children tell the truth, share their belongings, are thankful, or show forgiveness, the father needs to recognize and praise godly behavior. Putting to death the flesh is difficult at any age. When our child displays a willingness to die to self, we need to recognize the act is special and pleasing to God.
- Do not withhold your love. God does not withhold His love because of our sin. God loves us even though we are sinners. Fathers should not withhold love from their children because of their sin. Children will sin against their parents. Fathers need to respond with grace and mercy. We are to demonstrate unconditional love. We might communicate we are not pleased, or we are disappointed, but fathers may not withhold their love from a child.
- Allow your child to make mistakes. God allows us to make mistakes. He doesn’t keep us locked up in church, but He sends us out so we may apply what we learn in the world around us. God doesn’t smother us nor does He place on us unreasonable restrictions. When God does restrict us, He explains why and helps us understand how His commands are for our good. When they do make mistakes, don’t say, “I told you so” or make fun of them for their failures. Imagine if God treated us that way! Fathers need to provide guidelines for their children and allow them to venture out. Allow our children to fail so they may learn. Trust them to the sovereign care of God.
- Fathers need to avoid being legalistic and performance driven. Fathers need to focus on the attitudes and character attributes which will help their children be successful. For example, imagine helping your child be ready for employment. How much time do we spend on teaching them to look good and to be on time in comparison to teaching them to display godly character traits, such as being trustworthy, faithful, servant-minded, compassionate, and thankful? If they are on time and look sharp, but they lack kindness and manners, they will not do well. The best employees and citizens are those who are skilled and pleasant to be around.
Discipline and instruction – aiming for holinessThe word but provides a contrast. The loving father does not lead a child to anger, but instead, the loving father leads the child to the Lord. The loving father is to: bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4) The Greek wording for “bring them up” means to nourish them and help them be fed. It is the responsibility of the Father to nourish the child in the ways of Lord. Feed your child the milk and meat of the Word of God. By referring to Jesus as Lord, Paul is implying that the father is to teach the child obedience to their Master. Jesus is the Lord of the child. Teach them what God requires of them. The phrase discipline is to meant to provide habits of behavior. We are to discipline ourselves in our pursuit of godliness by developing habits of Bible reading, prayer, fasting, and so forth. The discipline of this verse is about developing the right habits. Think of it as the discipline of an athlete who gets up early to exercise. An athlete disciplines themselves with what they eat and drink. An athlete is disciplined to form good habits. This verse is telling us to help our children develop good habits and instruction in the ways of God. Fathers are to help their children read their Bible and to pray regularly. Fathers are to cultivate and mold the moral character of their children. Discipline in the form of punishment is also involved. Proverbs 13:24 teaches if we withhold the rod, we hate our children. The book of Hebrews talks of God’s discipline of His children. God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. (Hebrews 12:7-8) Scripture teaches that fathers who do not provide discipline for their children are not loving fathers. But, recognize we are to discipline with a purpose in mind. …He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Heb. 12:10-11) Our goal of disciplining our children is that the discipline will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness. We need to help our children find peace in obeying God. We need to help our children to see obeying God is going to bring them joy and satisfaction in life. Help our children see obedience brings blessing. Children are not born as God-fearing babies. Fathers need to help their children to see the joy of fearing God. The verse says fathers are to nourish their child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The instruction is quite simple. Teach the child two commandments. Love God and love others. If the child fulfills these commands, they fulfill the entire law of God. We are to help children to see how everything relates to either loving God or loving others. For example:
- To obey God is to love God.
- Love is patient and kind and not rude. Instructing our children in good manners is teaching them to love others by being considerate.
- Love is not self-seeking. Therefore, instructing our children to do well in school teaches them to be a functional member of society who will contribute to others rather than sponge off other people’s money.