Famed 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon was known for saying that mother’s will give a sad account on the last day if all they can say is, “Lord, here are my children. I raised them as gentlemen and left them wealthy.” He felt it was a mocking witness to people’s “foolishness” that they would leave children with what rusts on earth and nothing which lasts in heaven.
An Obedient Home
The apostle Paul wrote, “Children, obey your parents…” (Ephesians 6:1). This is an imperative command in the original Greek text, “Children, you must be obeying mom and dad!” A study of the New Testament reveals seven significant things about the word “obedience,” hup-ak-oo-o in the Greek.
- Obedience means to cease evil behavior (Mark 1:25-27)
- Obedience means to respond immediately to instruction (Acts 12:13)
- Obedience means an internal change (Romans 6:12-16)
- Obedience is a basis for judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8)
- Obedience requires trust (Hebrews 11:8)
- Obedience determines friendships (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)
- Obedience offers peaceful security (1 Peter 3:5-6)
These seven statements help us build a more comprehensive definition of biblical obedience:
“Biblical obedience heeds counsel, making an internal decision, for external change, in order to avoid consequence and live in spiritual peace with appropriate people.”
In Ted Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart (the book I recommend more than any other outside the Bible) he writes, “The law of God is not easy for natural man. Its standard is high and cannot be achieved apart from God’s supernatural grace. God’s law teaches us our need of grace. When you fail to hold out God’s standard, you rob your children of the mercy of the Gospel.”
What a powerful truth! When a mom (or dad) rob children of God’s law, they rob them of the grace in Christ allowing they satisfy that law. This is what the Puritan’s used to call “law work” where a child was early and often presented with his wickedness before God. Based on these truths, a true Christian home should consist of much more than surface level obedience. What must moms (and dads) teach their children?
- Immediate consequences for disobedience. Based on our biblical definition it is perfectly acceptable to expect that children obey their parents after the first instruction, without delay or back talk. Friends, if your children won’t obey you to eat their veggies when they’re little why will they suddenly listen at sixteen when you tell them to not sleep around? Every home front will have multiple battlefields – bedtime, eating vegetables, schoolwork, etc. Regardless of the battlefield, it is unacceptable for a parent to retreat.
- God’s full judgment and full solution. Most modern parents have never told their children about hell. This is sad because who will desire good news unless he is aware of the bad news? All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, including your child, and unless they come to know Christ they will suffer eternity in burning blackness apart from all hope. It is stunning that parents will avoid the topic of “hell” with their children (feeling it too graphic) but allow they watch Marvel comic movies full of fake gloom and death. Why allow they observe fake death while keeping them from real death?
- Choose friends with ultimate care. Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future! Christians are called out from the world to be set apart for God’s usefulness (2 Cor 6). Young people must be highly selective of their friendships and parents must be highly involved. Technology has allowed the world of sin to rush directly at the eyes of your child through various portals. The depravity that only a generation ago existed on the “other side of the tracks” now rushes into your living room, or child’s bedroom, or all day at school via their phone. You must begin developing their own conscience early so that they have defenses against the world of evil lurking one swipe away.
In his book Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, Dr. James Dobson explains the vital nature of teaching these lessons while your child is young:
“A child can be brought into submission later in life… but the cost becomes much higher every year that goes by. Perhaps we can explain the process this way: Have you ever wondered why young children can learn to speak perfect Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Hebrew or any other language to which they are exposed? No trace of an accent will be manifested. But twenty or more years later, most individuals will only be able to approximate the sounds made by natives of the particular region. Researchers now know why this is true. It is explained by a process known as “phoneme contraction” (sound dropout). The larynx of a young child assumes a shape necessary to make the sounds he is learning to use at the time. It then solidifies or hardens in those positions, making it impossible or very difficult to make other sounds later in life. Thus, there is a brief window of opportunity when anything is possible, linguistically. A child’s attitude toward parental authority is also like that. He passes through a brief window of opportunity during late infancy and toddlerhood when respect and “awe” can be instilled. But that pliability will not last long. If his early reach for power is successful, he will not willingly give it up – ever.”
A Worshipful Home
In Ephesians 6:1 Paul writes that children are to submit to their parent’s authority, “Children obey your parents in the Lord…” The prepositional phrase “in the Lord” is used multiple times in Ephesians and emphasizes the ultimate obedience as unto Christ. This is a grave reminder that teaching children to obey parents is ultimately teaching them to obey God.
In the Wood home, our children discuss this concept with us almost weekly… After we’ve made a decision that they don’t like or don’t understand, we sit and discuss what they’ll do in that same situation someday when on their own in college or when rearing their own children. Present-real-world challenges for your children. (i.e. When your friends mention staying out past curfew to attend a party, what will you say?) Invariably we’ll end the conversation reminding them that once they leave our home, they stand accountable before the Heavenly Father who sees all.
If you’ve ever wondered why your family always seems to be under the assault of confusion, distraction, frustration, or separation, this is one major reason. The family is God’s base institution for order and worship in the world, therefore Satan works very hard to topple it. From the very beginning we see that Satan goes after the family. In the book of Genesis, the wheels fall off as Noah’s sons abused him (Gen. 9:25), Abraham sleeps with the help (Gen. 16:4), Sodom and Gomorrah celebrate homosexuality (Gen. 19:24-25), Shechem rapes a girl (Gen. 34:3), Tamar feigns prostitution to get pregnant (Gen. 38:15-18). The very first peek at human history is full of polygamy, adultery, fratricide, fornication, rape, incest, prostitution, seduction, and murder.
Sadly one of the things entirely lost in modern culture is family worship. A hundred years ago many families would gather on certain nights to read from the Scriptures and sing songs together. With the advent of the radio, then the television, and now all forms of private media devices the family has slowly disintegrated into members stuffed away in private rooms, coming out of the cave only for meals. Mom and dad, it is your responsibility to bring worship back into the home! At first, it may feel odd (especially if the children are older) but you must elevate Christ in the home:
- Are your family values clearly presented on living room walls?
- Do you have daily family devotions?
- Do you pray openly?
- Do you sing together?
- Do you play worship songs around the home?
- Do you have times where all phones are turned off?
- Do you share prayer requests?
There is one last element about a worshipful home that I must touch on and it may be the most convicting portion of this entire book. It’s best described by an old proverb, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Yes, the greatest image of God your children will see is by observing your relationship with Him. Therefore, if you do not worship God don’t expect it of them. A Swiss study stated that if a father is not spiritual, there is a 98% chance his children will not be spiritual either. Dr. Dobson writes:
“I must remind you that children miss nothing in sizing up their parents. If you are only half convinced of your beliefs, they will quickly discern that fact. Any ethical weak spot – any indecision on your part – will be incorporated and then magnified in your sons and daughters. Like it or not, we are on the hook. Their faith or their faithfulness, will be a reflection of our own. As I’ve said, our children will eventually make their own choices and set the course of their lives, but those decisions will be influenced by the foundations we have laid. Someone once said, “The footsteps a boy follows are the ones his father thought he covered up.”
A Blessed Home
When a home is obedient and worshipping what flows out of it? To explain what comes of doing right, Paul urges us back to the Old Testament Decalogue and attaches a relative clause, “Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise)…” (Ephesians 6:2). The point he’s making is that one of the Ten Commandments comes with a specific promise, based on a specific act. Paul goes on to share the promise of this blessing, “…So that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” The promise is that life for the obedient will be more “stable” and “longer” than for those who are disobedient. So, what comes from an obedient and worshipful home? Blessings!
Paul has taken an Old Testament command and turned it into a New Testament principle, basically saying that those who are obedient will most likely have better stability, better work ethic, less crime, better health, and longer life. Whereas those who don’t obey, normally end up in rebellion, gangs, debt, drugs, and disease.
This is huge! According to Paul, the first ten years of your parenting will dictate the last 60 years of your child’s life! Every parent leaves a HUGE legacy. For 18 years day-in and day-out a family unit discusses things, reads things, laughs at things, and yells at things; what ultimately leaves that home is either a legacy of holiness or a legacy of hurt and hatred.
Years ago a clinical psychologist named Richard Dugdale noticed one New York crime family kept ending up in prison. He took the time to trace back their family heritage some 300 years to a man named Max Jukes. Of the 1200 ancestors studied, it turns out 310 were vagrants, 130 had been in prison, 100 had become alcoholics, 7 had committed murder, 190 had been prostitutes, and the family cost New York 1.5 million dollars. Conversely, for the same study, Dugdale observed the family tree of famed preacher Jonathan Edwards, also from the New York area. Of his ancestors: 300 went into church work, 100 became college professors, 100 became attorneys, 60 became physicians, 60 became authors, 30 were appointed as judges, 14 presided over a university, 3 became U.S. congressmen, and one became Vice President of the United States.
Every mother (and father) leaves a legacy.