Sunday 11th of July 2021

Hindering our Children Pt. 2

Elder Wesley



Grab your Bible and turn to 1 Corinthians 11. This morning, continuing on in our teaching on masculinity, femininity, marriage, and family, we come to our second week on family, or more specifically child-rearing. Last week we considered our Lord's warning to those who tempt or hinder children and noted that while those warnings are general in their scope, they have particular application to parents because of our enormous opportunity to fail in heeding the warning. Last week, we considered what I believe to be the most prolific expression of parental hindrance and temptation, that being Christian parents denying their children a Christian education.

Today we shift our focus away from the formal education of our children to their informal education. As I'm sure you know, we are always teaching our children. The environment, atmosphere, culture, norms, patterns of speech, entertainment choices, wardrobe permissions, on and on and on, is all instructive to our children. How we've shaped our homes and our lives will shape our children. What we tolerate in the home will teach them what to tolerate outside the home. How we conduct ourselves inside the home will teach them how to conduct themselves outside the home. So, your family rhythms, what you prioritize, how you speak, how you discipline, how you don't discipline, all of it roles into what may be considered the curriculum for your children's informal education. That's what we'll be considering this morning, common parental missteps in our children's informal education that may tempt or hinder them.

We'll consider four pitfalls in this informal education:

  1. Our own example
  2. Our entertainment selections
  3. Our dating protocols
  4. Our waffling between outbursts of stringency and leniency


1 Corinthians 11:1

[1] Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Paul tells the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitates Christ. He is identifying himself as a reliable example that brings Christian theology and biblical principles out of the esoteric and academic atmosphere and into the world that we actually inhabit. Paul's life connected the dots between word and deed, proclamation and application, abstraction and action. To follow Paul's example was to faithfully walk out Christian theology. We all need these examples as supplements to our biblical study, because places and times vary. The principles of Scripture are unchanging, but the circumstances in which Christians are applying those principles vary greatly, so we are tremendously helped by exemplars in our day, time, and culture who take theological propositions and exegeted doctrines and translate them into faithful lives that glorify Christ in our shared context. Parents are to do this for their children.

Your child will observe and understand your behavior far before he understands the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, but if you've sacrificed for him, given your life for him and his mommy, then when he comes to that doctrine intellectually, he'll have a helpful existential ground for it, that being his father's faithfulness to live consistently with that doctrine. Our parental faithfulness pulls these doctrines down from the clouds, to the kitchen table.

Our children have two great disadvantages in their lives, 1) they are sinners born into rebellion against God, and 2) we're their examples. We often want our children to understand and obey that which they have never seen. So to begin, we must establish the fact that you can't be a godly parent if you aren't a godly person. Often this is the root of our parenting woes and challeneges. We're too quick to move to strategies and tactics to employ on our kids, and too slow to consider the example that we're setting for them.

Do your children struggle to take responsibility for what they've done? Do you? Do they regularly hear and see you take responsibility or do they observe a great deal of reciprocity in your relationship with your spouse as you just give back to them whatever they gave to you rather than taking responsibility to obey God even if the other person isn't?

Are your children lazy, frequently walking past messes or delaying the completion of the tasks you've assigned them? How about you? Are you a picture of diligence to your children or are you frustrated because they're following your example instead of your rules?

Do they struggle to forgive their siblings? Well, do you forgive them, or do you routinely remind them of their failures, quickly shifting from constructive discipline to monologuing recitations of all of the ways they've inconvenienced or wronged you throughout the day in such a way as to be unhelpfully demoralizing to them, but cathartic for you? It's been well said, "we should correct our children their sake, not for ours."

Are your children unrepentant and obstinate or do they quickly acknowledge their sins and seek forgiveness? Do they regularly hear you repent and seek forgivness?

Our children will increasingly understand what we tell them, but they'll do what we show them. So it is paramount that we be imitators of Christ, because our children are going to imitate us.

Now, don't hear me excusing your children's bad behavior or blaming it on you. You'll remember from the marriage sermon that blame and responsibility are not the same thing. This is just an initial point of assessment for your household. You identifying sin in your life does not mean that you pause parental responses to your children's sin until you've got your act together.

No, if you find that you have persistent sins in your life that have bled over and become familial sins, you repent together. You take responsibility, you confess, you repent, and you chart a new course that is consistent with God's word. I have had to do this with my family more times than I can count and I'm only 12 years in. Go ahead and get comfortable with humility because acknowledging our sin and turning from it is the Christian life, there's no graduation until glory.

So, the first way that we may tempt or hinder our children in their informal education is by requiring something of them that they've not seen from us, but only heard us talk about. Now they're still required to obey you even if you live inconsistently with your own standards, but your doing so tempts them not to, and as you'll recall, our Lord has sober warnings for those who tempt children. Next we'll consider the power of entertainment in our children's informal education.

Psalm 119:37

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

"Worthless" here carries the idea of emptiness, superfluousness, unhelpfulness, a lack of productivity, something that is a waste of time and has no edifying quality to speak of. We want our eyes and children's eyes tuned away from these things, not fixed on them. We're called to do everything to the glory of God, that means that everything we do should be aimed at magnifying or beholding God's glory, but it also means that we should be choosing to do things, watch things, and entertain ourselves in ways that either magnify God's glory, or help us to behold it. Meaning, we ought not engage in things that we cannot really connect to the magnification or beholding of God's glory. We'd do well not to make a habit of doing worthless things and then trying to figure out how to spin it in such a way as to count toward the glory of God. It is difficult to make a case that you're watching a fourth episode of __ to the glory of God.

That isn't intended to downplay the importance of rest and recreation, but we should be teaching our children that rest and recreation follow productive work, done to the glory of God at which point, we can then rest to His glory, in keeping with His commandment. But rest enjoyed when work should be done, does not bring God glory. And that is one of biggest and most overlooked ways in which Christian parents hinder and tempt our children. Simply put, we do not give our children enough work for their rest and recreation to be meaningful, biblical, or obedient. In the modern age, work has become a means to the end of entertainment, rather than rest and recreation being a means to the end of more productive work. Meaningful work should predominate, and restful entertainment should be a wonderfully anticipated and gratefully received blessing that prepares us for more meaningful work. An over emphasis on or over indulgence in entertainment will tempt our children to be sluggards who do not view work as the blessing that it is or rest as the means to more productive work that it is.

Moms, if you got 3 year olds and up in the house, you shouldn't be swamped with house work, you should be swamped with teaching, overseeing, and managing the housework your children are doing. And trust me, I know, that is it's own job. Too many of our mothers place their children in front of the television so that they can get the house in order when they should be working alongside their little ones teaching them about and showing them fruitful labor. Ever wonder why we have such entitled kids? This certainly isn't the only reason, but you doing everything for them while they watch television, play on the iPad, or even entertain themselves through less objectionable means, isn't exactly a remedy to the problem we're all aware of. Entertainment, rest, and recreation, are intended by God to follow meaningful work, not precede or supplant it.

Many Christian parents tempt their children to laziness, and hinder them from maturity because they give them access to worthless entertainment in place of meaningful work.

Psalm 101:2-3

"I will ponder the way that is blameless...I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away..."

The word translated "worthless" here is a different Hebrew word than the one translated worthless in Psalm 119:37. It generally connotes wickedness and immorality, such that the verse means, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is wicked or immoral." So a question to ask is this: "do my entertainment choices, personally, or those that I make for my children, or allow them to make, set wickedness and immorality before my children's eyes?"

Make sure that you're thoughtful in applying this text. It may be easy enough to say, "I don't let my kids watch things with crude language or sexual innuendo." That's not all God regards as wicked and immoral. Perhaps the most overlooked category of immoral entertainment is disobedience to parents. God regards this as wicked and immoral all through Scripture, but how frequently is the rebellion or disrespect of children toward their parents depicted favorably in television and movies? In fact, in most, "family" movies, since they are catered to children, the children's rebellious disregard for their parents instruction is usually vindicated and the parents end up apologizing for their narrow minded provincialism.

You've seen this plot before, right? It isn't new. Even Romeo and Juliet features youthful virtue contrasted with aged vice, as if wisdom comes with shortness of days rather than in the length of them. There is a, "kids know best," motif that is quite dominate generally, but certainly in children's programming. But this thought leads us to the next text on entertainment.

Psalm 1:1

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

Modern entertainment is, by in large, the counsel of the wicked. We mustn't fool ourselves into dismissing the educational force of entertainment, almost all of which is created by the wicked as they seek to normalize and instantiate their wickedness in our homes.

Sociologists have gone on record saying that the most powerful forces for moving the progressive sexual agenda forward in America was the television shows Friends and Will and Grace. They said, "the popularity of Will and Grace did more for the cause of [so-called] gay rights than any activist did."

We have to understand that the fake world of modern entertainment shapes the way that we assess and interact with the real world. And most of us clock far more hours in front of secularly curated programming than we do in front of our Bibles. Who the protagonist is and how they live is training us. Who in the show is likeable and who isn't is training us. The laugh track is training us. It is all shaping our sensitivities and sensibilities. If you'll allow the reuse of a recently employed illustration, take for example, again, the Christian response to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Supposed stalwart Christian conservatives celebrated her appointment without objection.

No one asked, "why is a women with 7 children at home taking on the demanding schedule of a Supreme Court justice and leaving the calling that God has placed on the life of a mother?" Why have we unquestionably celebrated that which is unquestionably unbiblical? Because we have unquestionably walked in the counsel of the wicked. You see, once you've had a steady diet of Jasmine becoming the sultan at the end of the new Aladdin movie, Mulan beating up the men, and Moana demonstrating more maturity and foresight than the centuries old demigod, you don't think twice about it when it happens in real life.

You'll likely even begin to read your Bible through the lens provided to you by your secular entertainment. So in response to sermons like the ones we gave on femininity, you'll say, "what about Deborah in Judges 4? She was a strong powerful woman, leading God's people," and you'll miss the fact that God's word has already told us what it means when He allows women to be placed as rulers over a people. In Isaiah 3:12, He very clearly says that it is a sign of His judgement on the nation of Israel that women would rule over them. But how many sermons have been preached about the goodness and blessing of female leadership from a text that God's word tells us is an index of His curse, not His blessing? So the world of entertainment shapes our assessment of the real world; that is its potency. Satan knows that and he uses it to make war against us.

Psalm 1:1 tells us not to "Sit in the seat of scoffers..." you can sit in the seat of scoffers from your living room. Modern entertainment teaches us to scoff at biblical truth does it not? Think about if I were to walk into a supposedly conservative evangelical church and give a message about the place of a woman being in her home serving her family. Think there'd be scoffers? Here's the real question: Did they learn to repudiate that idea because of how much they read their Bibles? Or have they let Hollywood cast their spell, enchanting them with the images and norms of this fake world which causes them to scoff at biblical truth when they encounter it in the real world?

The norms and values that come through in secular entertainment are almost all averse to biblical truth, which, working in tandem with the public school system has helped to reshape American society in accordance with secular, rather than Christian standards. The danger for our children is this: if they encounter God's word after being well entertained in Satan's world, the likelihood that they'll scoff at the former is very high. Let us not tempt and hinder our children by allowing their sensitivities and sensibilities to be shaped by pagan entertainment which is curated with a goal in mind and worldview to propagate.

And before you start to think something like, "this sounds like fundamentalist isolationism," you'd do well to remember that everything is religious and all that we have are competing faith claims and different standards by which we determine who the heretics are. Our secular society has already begun work to start removing children from those whom they deem heretical. There is work being done to limit homeschooling freedoms and there is work being done to remove children from homes that are not sympathetic to sexual deviance. These are secular fundamentalists, and they are also dominionists, or, if you will, these are secular fundamentalists with a postmillennial eschatology and they are working tireless to bring about their eschaton. All of that to say, that everyone is currently working to control who and what is going to influence our children. Now, and not unrelated, we come to dating protocols that tempt and hinder our children.

Because Christians have, by and large, clocked more hours in front of secularly curated entertainment than we have in front of the pages of our Bibles, we don't know how much the Bible speaks to our daily lives. We don't know that the Bible is not silent about virtually anything in the human experience because we've not diligently searched its pages. But we have been diligent disciples of secular culture as we've sat at the feet of it's most engaging rabbi, that being the entertainment of which I've just spoken.

What that's led to is unthinking Christian's, haphazardly following the course of this world, because we are steeped in its traditions rather than in God's. G.K. Chesterton said, "If you don't have a well thought out philosophy on a particular matter, then one has you." So it is with Christians and our thinking about dating. We have thought that since we have not seen the word in Scripture, that Scripture must not speak to it therefore we are free to do what makes good sense to us. And what make good sense to us? Blindly allowing our children to do whatever everyone else is allowing their children to do.

But let's start here regarding our understanding of Christian dating: Christians shouldn't date. I know what you're thinking, "I knew this guy had turned into a crazy legalist! It's worse every week!" Hear me, Christian families ought to take no part in the cultural practice of dating that has been normalized in our society because it has no room for parental authority. Christian parents have unthinkingly relinquished their authority to their children in this area because they didn't realize that they had any authority in this area! Remember, when you don't have a carefully thought out philosophy, one has you. In lieu of a carefully constructed biblical understanding of how young people move from singleness to marriage, we have simply, by default, submitted to our culture's philosophy on the matter.

And our culture's philosophy puts the authority into the hands of the prospective couple, rather than in the hands of the father and the mother. Dating has become a self-directed, self-governed, self-regulated enterprise wherein the parents are involved in little more than affirming their children's autonomy and perhaps offering some "take it or leave it" advice. The question that we must ask as Christians, is this, "is that philosophy consistent with God's revelation?" The answer is, "no."

I'm going ask you to turn to three Old Testament texts with me, the first of which is Exodus chapter 22. I am indebted to Pastor Doug Wilson for the application of these passages to the topic before us and I would commend his work on courtship and the family in general to you.

Exodus 22:16-17

[16] "If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. [17] If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.

Now remember, this is God's law, meaning that these laws reveal God's operating principles, and here we undeniably see paternal authority as the operative principle in the law. "If the father utterly refuses to give her to him..." Who does God regard as responsible for giving a young woman in marriage? Her father. This is not autonomous, self-governed, self-directed- it is directed by a father.

Numbers 30:3-5

[3] "If a woman vows a vow to the LORD and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father's house in her youth, [4] and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself and says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. [5] But if her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. And the LORD will forgive her, because her father opposed her.

Again this is God's law which reveals His principles. What principle is enshrined in this law except paternal authority? God is here, graciously, allowing a daughter to be unbound to a rash decision by the covering and protection of her father who will know better than she, if she ought to have obligated herself in the vow that she made. Stated differently, God has given father's veto power over their daughters decisions, even over their vows.

Deuteronomy 22:13-19

[13] "If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her [14] and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,' [15] then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. [16] And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; [17] and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, "I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity." And yet this is the evidence of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. [18] Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him, [19] and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days.

As modern people who have subscribed to the cultural philosophy of autonomy, we may wonder why the father is on the scene here at all. What's he got to do with her virginity? Well, quite clearly, according to God's law, he is responsible for it. It is he who vouches for her propriety when he gives her away in marriage because he is the one commissioned by God to protect her propriety.

With that foundation laid, lets return to our rejection of the modern practice of dating. We reject it because it is entirely out of step with the authority structure that God established in His Word. The defining characteristic of dating relationships is their lack of commitment and oversight. Which is also precisely what makes them so dangerous for our children. I've had dating couples ask me before what the big deal with marriage is anyway. It's just a piece of paper...what's the difference?

How foolish. It is the difference between having security and having none. It is the difference between having accountability and having none. It is the difference between a teenage boy whispering I love you to a teenage girl in the back of his daddy's car as he takes her virginity and then breaks up with her three weeks later without any practical repercussions, versus standing up in front of that young woman's father and mother, and family and friends, and church community, and God, and promising to love and cherish her, and then signing his name on the legal document that binds him not only spiritually, not only publicly, but legally, to do what he said he'd do. Now there's accountability. Now there's cost associated with failure to uphold the promise made. Now there's legality. Now there is a practical weight to attend the weighty rhetoric.

A father is commissioned to protect his daughters and to make men of his sons. Dating as currently understood, walks our daughters into danger and requires nothing manly from our sons. So what is the alternative to dating? An older term, fallen out of favor until recently as it is making its comeback, courtship. The material difference between dating and courtship is parental oversight, authority, and involvement. Dating puts the hormonal teenagers with the undeveloped frontal lobes in the drivers seat. Courtship keeps the authority where God has actually placed it, with dad and mom.

In the dating paradigm, often the only parental oversight is dad saying, "have her home by 10." And the foolishness of this is that he prides himself on the fact that the boy actually brings his daughter back at 10, "that boy ain't gonna break my rules, he knows whose boss..." Apparently dad didn't consider all of the vacant parking lots between the restaurant and his home. It isn't, "have her home by 10," it's, "you want to take her out? Sounds good, where are we going? My wife and I love double dates!" I realize that sounds funny in 2021, but I'm not kidding in the slightest.

How horribly do we tempt our children to sexual immorality when we let them engage in self-directed dating rather than overseeing biblically thoughtful courtships? In cultures where virginity was yet a virtue, our practice of dating would have been absolutely unthinkable! They'd look at us and say, "what did you think they would do if you left them alone for 2 hours?" I once heard pastor Voddie Bauchman, talk about dads who have nice sports cars. You know the guys, they wash and wax every weekend- they're car is their profile picture on facebook, etc... and pastor Bauchman says, you think that dad would hand a 16 year old boy the keys to his sports car? That father wouldn't dare to hand over his prized luxury vehicle to a teenage boy he hardly knows and say, "just have it home by 10." But he will hand his sweet little girl over to that 16 year old boy won't he?

And of course he'll hem and haw about the guns he owns and how when he picks her up he'll be cleaning them and all of that. But you know what's way more manly than knowing how to disassemble a firearm? Making sure that you don't put your daughter in a situation where some unauthorized boy disassembles her outfit. We're after actually masculinity that takes real responsibility, not bravado. Then you've also got the guy who threatens, "if you touch her in any way that you wouldn't touch her while I'm in the room, I've got a very specific set of skills. I will find you. I will kill you." And hey, let's give that dad the benefit of the doubt, maybe he really would rough up the kid who ruins his daughters wedding night. But it's been well said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In your children's informal education, don't teach them that they are autonomous, independent agents. They aren't, you have charge over them, and it is a gracious gift that you give to them when you exercise it. Children, teenagers, young adults yet unmarried, receive it as the gift that it is and humble yourselves under your parents care. Ephesians 6:1 [1] Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Proverbs 1:8-9 [8] Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, [9] for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.

Now, to the last pitfall for this morning, our waffling between outbursts of stringency and stints of leniency because of how tired the stringency made us. Proverbs 22:6 says, "train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." The Hebrew word translated "train" carries the idea of inauguration. To inaugurate is to induct into an office or station. It is the point at which an individual steps into a new role or station or position. So this text means that parents are to inaugurate their children into the role of godly adults. That is to say that you begin requiring of them now (inauguration) the things that you want to see in them later.

Once the president is inaugurated he walks into the fullness of his new position and all of the expectations associated with it. His inauguration is the moment at which he receives the full imposition of the standards bound up in the presidency. To inaugurate or train your children is to begin imposing the standard to which you want to see them ascend, or more importantly that God gave them to you to shepherd them into.

Here is the principle more practically stated: If you want a child who responds rightly to authority as an adult, impose that standard upon them today, i.e. require that they respond rightly to your authority. That is inaugural. The imposition of the standard to which you want them to ascend. Requiring of them now what you want to see in them later.

Now this teaching generally exposes two kinds of leanings that exist among Christian parents. One is a leaning toward stringency and the other is a leaning toward leniency. Some of you hear language like, "the imposition of the standard," and think, "That sounds ridged and harsh. Where's the grace?" Others of you hear those words and think, "Finally, a real preacher! Don't mess it up by qualifying anything!"

Let's begin with the leaning toward stringency, because I actually believe that it is undue stringency that ends up leading to undue leniency. Ecclesiastes 7:16 says [16] Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Some of you can't imagine a biblical category such as, "overly righteous," and yet, here it is. Some believers, upon coming to take their faith seriously, are inclined to destroy themselves and their children because they equate faithfulness with strictness; fidelity is, in their minds, stringency. It is often one of two things, or a combination of these two things, that create this kind of person (if we're just speaking about external causal forces).

One is becoming a serious follower of Christ in the midst of a particularly wicked generation, which understandably creates a violent reaction against said wicked generation, such that any overlap in thought or practice with that wicked generation may be viewed as compromise, worldliness, or the like. The other is having had a particularly sinful past, that, upon conversion you rightly want to distance yourself from. So if you had a bad bout with alcohol and sinfully abused that substance, then perhaps our practice of offering wine offends you because you want to distance yourself from anything that reminds you of your sinful past. Or, if you had a sexually promiscuous past you may have an acute sensitivity on the issue of modest dress. Whatever it is, the external forces or background story, that drive someone into the, "overly righteous" category are often defended as prudent and faithful without regard for or real consideration of it's potential to destroy.

In fact, I used to argue that stringency was much to be preferred to leniency because I'd rather be accused of going too far than of not going far enough. I've told people that in a wicked licentious generation like ours, we're likely not even in danger of going too far, so let's not use the fear of going to far as an excuse for staying where we are. The problem with that argument is that it fails to consider the fact that Scripture says that both of these errors carries the same consequence. It doesn't give us any warrant for saying, "being wrong in stringency is better than being wrong in leniency..." In fact, apparently, the result of not going far enough and the result of going too far is identical. What does Solomon say being overly righteous will do to you? He says it'll destroy you. What is the stringent person afraid leniency will do? Destroy him. That is to say that we should be equally concerned with both ditches rather than pretending that one ditch is preferable to the other, because there is destruction waiting at the bottom of both them.

The overly righteous person is the person who requires more of himself and his family than God does, seeing the application of a law even in areas where God leaves liberty. The overly righteous person often confuses their moral preferences with God's moral principles such that, even where there is agreement in principle, they struggle to abide diversity in the application of that principle from household to household.
So, how do you know if you're flirting with being overly righteous in the way that you run your home and parent your children? Here are some clues:

-Do you pray for your children as often as you correct them?

-Do you forgive them as diligently as you indict them?

-Do your "no's" outnumber your "yes's"?

-What do you do more of, rejoicing over them or critiquing them?

If you do more correcting than praying, more indicting than forgiving, more prohibiting than allowing, and more critiquing than rejoicing then you're probably an overly righteous parent on the road to destroying yourself and your children. The fatal flaw of the overly righteous person is that they misunderstand and therefore misapply God's law. The overly righteous person is the person who believes that clearer expectations, that is more laws, is the key to spiritual maturity and holiness. The Apostle Paul speaks to this in Colossians chapter 2:20-23

[20] If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—[21] "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" [22] (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? [23] These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

"What the kids need is more clear boundaries. Don't handle this, don't taste that, don't touch these things!" Paul says that this has the appearance of wisdom, but that it is actually self-made religion and asceticism that is useless in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. That's because the law reveals our sinfulness, it doesn't correct it. Or as Paul says elsewhere, "the letter (speaking of the law) kills, but the Spirit brings life."

So there is an overly righteous approach to the Christian life that is little more than an endless regress of rules and regulations and standards to be followed in hopes that clarifying and enforcing those standards will bring about life, but both Paul and Solomon tell us, that sounds wise, even holy upfront, but it'll kill you. I wish I had time to develop those themes more fully, but if you're interested in more I'd recommended a reading of Genesis 3, Mark 7, Romans 14, as well as a book called, "The Whole Christ," by Sinclair Ferguson.

Over-righteousness, or undue stringency doesn't usually last a very long time, after all, it destroys, meaning the person or people engaged in or under it are getting weaker and weaker, not stronger and stronger so they can only maintain it for so long before something breaks. Some times thats their faith, some times it's their relationships with other believers, and some times it's just their commitment to anything that seems interested in holiness because they'll naturally associated it with what was destroying them.

This often leads to another household approach that is sometimes referred to as "grace-based" or "Gospel-centered," parenting. But there is little grace and Gospel in it and much negligence dressed up in the language of grace. Either for fear of being too stringent or for lack energy due to a recent stringency stint, some parents enter into this "Gospel-centered" parental approach that is practically void of sanctions and consequences, because...grace. The logic goes something like this: "because Jesus died for me taking the penalty for my sin, I shouldn't impose penalties on my children when they sin, that's hypocritical and out of step with the Gospel."

Of course you have to ignore all kinds of biblical texts to substantiate such a notion:

Proverbs 13:24

[24] Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Hebrews 12:6-10

[6] For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." [7] It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? [8] If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. [9] Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? [10] For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

God has called Christian parents to no less and no more than godly discipline, affectionately dispensed to the end of training in righteousness. Christian households are neither called to stringency nor leniency. We have been given liberty. Galatians 5:1, "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free." The faithful home will follow God even more closely than the most stringent among us, because they don't move further to the right than God's Word, and the faithful home will experience more joy and freedom than the lenient home because they do not they regard themselves as free to be slaves to sin. We need never ask if we are stringent enough or lenient enough because again, we're called to neither.

We are called to be biblical, so search God's word, discern His ways and walk in them. They will lead your family to life, but stringency, or leniency will destroy you.


Let me end with a quote from a book that I commend to you. It's called the Duty of Parents by J.C. Ryle. He says this,

"Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls. No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interests. No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills shall melt; the heavens shall be wrapped together as a scroll; the sun shall cease to shine. but the spirit which dwells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall out live them all, and whether in happiness or misery (to speak as a man) will depend on you. This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind in all you do for your children. In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, ‘how will this affect their souls?'"