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1. Children, Obey Your Parents (verse 20).
2. Fathers, Encourage Your Children (verse 21).

In our exposition of the book of Colossians, we have come to Paul’s words in chapter 3. These words, found in verses 20-21, focus our attention upon the role of children and their parents. Before we start examining the text, I want to tell you of a conversation that I had this past week with Steve Leston. Steve is one of the pastors at Kishwaukee Bible Church, in DeKalb. In the course of our conversation, he was telling me of how he was converted to Christ. It all started when his 11- year old brother was invited to attend a week-long Vacation Bible School class at a local church. Through the course of that week, Steve’s brother heard the gospel proclaimed and was genuinely converted to Christ. He saw his sin before a holy God, and he responded in the only way possible to have his sins washed away: he repented and believed upon the Lord Jesus.

As is always the case in a truly converted Christian, Steve’s brother begun to have a great desire to love God and make Him known. In talking with his parents, he was given permission to attend this local church, where he began to learn about the ways of God. After a few weeks, he had a conversation with his Sunday school teacher at this church. He told his teacher of his desperate desire to share the gospel with his parents and to see them come to faith as well. The teacher gave him this advice: 1. Obey your parents. 2. Keep your room clean. And so, Steve’s brother dutifully did this at home. Whatever his parents asked of him, he obeyed, without question. His begun to keep his room neat and tidy. After a few months of doing these things, his parents asked him, "What got into you? Why have you become such an obedient child?" At that point, Steve’s brother preached Jesus to his parents. They were so impressed were they by his changed behavior, that they began attending this church and were soon converted as well. Soon afterwards, Steve also surrendered his life to the Lord.

I tell you that story, because it’s a perfect illustration of a child applying the text that we have before us in Colossians 3, verses 20-21. In so doing, he had the privilege of witnessing the Lord move his parents in a marvelous way. Consider with me the two verses we will examine this morning:

Colossians 3:20-21
Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.

When Paul wrote this letter, he addressed it to "the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae" (Col. 1:2). He wrote this letter to the entire church. His intent was that it would be read publicly to the entire church when they assembled together. We know this because of his instructions in Colossians 4:16. Paul writes, "When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea" (Col. 4:16). The leaders in Colossae were to read this letter to the church, and then send it also to those in Laodicea, which was about 12 miles away from Colossae. Those in Laodicea were to do the same thing. They had received a letter from Paul, which was to be read in the church there and then sent on to Colossae for reading. Before they had the entire canon of Scripture, this is the way things were done. The apostles helped to lead other congregations by instructing them in the teachings of Christ through their letters.

Notice in verse 20, that Paul addresses this portion of his epistle directly to the children of the congregation. Obviously, the expectation was that the children in the church in Colossae would be present for the public reading of this letter. Everything that Paul has written in this letter has been suitable for the children to hear. Everything that Paul has written has been profitable for children to hear. But, verse 20, above all others, is especially appropriate for children.

This morning, I want to particularly address the children. These words ought to be a great encouragement to you. There may be times when things are spoken from this pulpit that you, as a child, don’t quite understand. That’s OK, there will be a day when many of the things I say will actually come to mind and you will understand. There may be times when you think that things really don’t apply to you so much. That’s OK as well, for there will be a day when these things will apply to you, and the things I am saying now will come to help you. But, today is different! You will be able to understand these words today. You will be able to apply these words today. In fact, you are going to have an opportunity to apply these words as soon as I finish my message and you have your first conversation with your parents at the end of our service this morning. See, primarily, verse 20 isn’t directed toward the adults in this room. Primarily, verse 20 is directed each and every one of you children among us. Isn’t this exciting? You can know exactly what pleases the Lord.

Children, are you ready to listen up? Are you ready to hear God’s words to you and immediately apply them today? Do you really want to know what the Lord would want of you? Do you really want to know what God’s will is for your life? Then listen to these words. They are as direct as can be: "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord." My first point this morning comes directly from verse 20, ...

1. Children, Obey Your Parents (verse 20).

As I seek to dissect these words, I want to first define exactly who Paul is targeting with these words. Paul uses the word, "Children." Obviously, these words are applicable to younger children, who are entirely dependent upon their parents for everything. Young children are to be obedient to their parents in all things. As I say this, I can hear some of you older "children" not liking this too much, as you fully understand what is being said here. You may not like to hear that you are to obey your parents in all things. You might be thinking, "How can I get out of this? Hm, ... I know! I’m old enough now, that I shouldn’t be considered a child any longer. Surely, these words don’t apply to me." I say, "Not so fast." I believe that these words are applicable to older children as well. If you are living in the same home with your parents, these words are applicable directly to you. If this describes your situation, the call of God upon your life is to obey your parents.

Perhaps you might be thinking, "OK, here I am in the home. But, if only I can get out of the house, then I’ll be free from my parents authority and I won’t have to do what they tell me to do." First of all, your heart is indicating that you don’t have a heart of submission to your parents right now. If you move out of your house and begin renting an apartment, you may be relieved of the day to day subjection of your parent’s authority, but I still believe these words to be applicable to you. There is only one Scripture verse in all the Bible that I see that ever reduces the authority of a parent over a child. It comes in Genesis 2:24, "for this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." The idea here is that when you marry, you leave the formal authority structure of your parents’ home to form your own home. But, in forming your own home, you may be relieved of one aspect of these words, and yet, please understand that the 5th commandment is still applicable to you: "Honor your father and your mother" (Ex. 20:12). This is a higher call than obedience. Obedience can come on the outside only. You can obey, while continuing in rebellion on the inside. But, honor must come on the outside as well as on the inside. You don’t honor your parents when you disobey them. Furthermore, you don’t honor them when you obey with a frown upon your face. Honoring your parents takes place when you cheerfully show your appreciation for your parents. It happens when you say good things about them. It happens when you do good things for them. It happens when you do what they tell you to do. So, there certainly is a sense throughout Scripture that children ought always to respect and honor and obey their parents, I don’t care what their age.

But, in the context of Colossians 3, Paul’s words here are probably directed to those children who are living in the home, under the constant watch and supervision of their parents. And so, children, are you ready to hear God’s word and follow it? These things are directed toward you. "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord." Do you want to follow in the ways of God? Then do what your parents ask you to do.

When your parents tell you to do something, it might fall into one of two categories. It may be a command from God. It may be a preference of your parents. For instance, here is a command of God: "Do not lie to one another" (Ex. 20:16). When you parents tell you to be truthful, they have the backing of the command of God. They can show you a chapter and a verse behind their instruction to you. The will of God is for you to obey it. The other category is illustrated when your parents tell you, "Please clear the dinner table." There is nothing in the Bible that commands a child to clear the dinner table. But, as your parents have been given responsibility in the home, they have determined that it is appropriate for you to clear the dinner table. It is the will of your parents that you do this.

Listen to this, dear children, both the command of God and the preference of your parents are to be obeyed. The command is to be obeyed, because God has spoken it. The preference of your parents is to be obeyed, because your parents have spoken it. For you, the word of your parents is a direct application of the word of God to be followed. Please notice that there is no wiggle room here. Paul doesn’t say, "Children, be obedient in some things." Paul doesn’t say, "Children, be obedient in most things." Paul doesn’t say, "Children, be obedient in almost every thing." No, Paul says, "Children, be obedient in .... all things." Obviously, if your parents tell you to do something that is illegal or harmful to yourself or against what the Lord commands, you "must obey God, rather than man" (Acts 5:29), and thereby, disobey your parents. But, in all other instances, there is not a command that your parents give you that you are to disobey. Now, that’s not to say that you need to blindly do everything they say. There may be times in which they speak foolishly.

There may be times in which you question their wisdom. I do believe that there is room for children to ask their parents to re-evaluate what they have just told a child to do. Suppose your father tells you to go and mow the lawn, but unknown to him, it just started raining outside. You don’t want to mow the law when it’s raining. And so, you children may rightly say to your dad, "Dad, it’s raining outside. Do your really think that it is necessary for me to mow the lawn right now?" Suppose your mother tells you to take a shower, but unknown to her, you took a shower already this morning. You can rightfully ask her, "Mom, I took a shower this morning. Do you really think that I should take a shower right now?" Suppose your parents inform you of a particular friend you have that should no longer be your friend, because of some bad influences that this person is having on your life. You can ask for them to reconsider these things. You can have an extended conversation about these things.

But, listen, dear children, when your parents have re-evaluated what they have told you and have remained unchanged in their instruction for you, you are called to obey. Perhaps they may have some extra wisdom that you don’t have. Perhaps your father knows that you are going on vacation tomorrow and will be gone for 10 days, in that case, you need to mow the lawn in the rain, lest you come home to a jungle. Perhaps your mother realizes that you spent the day playing in the mud, some of which is even still on your face. Although you took a shower in the morning, you are filthy and need another shower. Perhaps they really do have some long-term insight on your friend and the effects that it is having (and will have) upon your character. When your parents remain firm in their instruction to you, you are called upon by God to obey them every single time. As you do this, you demonstrate your love for your parents. 1 John 3:18 - "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. Your love is shown far better by obedience than it is by a kiss at night or a word of love.

Now, is this hard to do? Of course, it’s hard to do. All of us like to do what we want to do. We don’t like to do what others tell us what to do. And there are plenty of times that we simply don’t obey, do we. It’s at this point that I want for you children to see that you are sinners in need of a savior. Whenever you don’t obey your parents, whether that’s a command of God, or their preference that they have asked of you, it’s a demonstration of your sin. If you are anything like me when I was young, you disobey your parents often.

You might be encouraged to know a little something about me when I was little. Before I was a pastor, I had the opportunity to work at Kishwaukee Community Hospital in the computer department. This is the same hospital where my father had been a surgeon for about 30 years. As I mixed and mingled with nurses and doctors, many of them had stories for them to tell of my father. But, one nurse in particular, had been working at the hospital for a long time. Her name was Eunice. Eunice said that she remembered when I was a little boy and my father brought me to the hospital when he was doing rounds. As my father was off seeing patients, I was left at the nurses station. Eunice told me of how I was one of the most snotty little children that she had ever seen. On several occasions, she told me of how I would sit at the chair doing my own thing. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the nurses. She told me how I would stick my tongue out at the nurses, showing my disgust for them. She told me that story at least a half a dozen times over the years that I worked at the hospital. I can only imagine what I was like as a little boy if that’s the sort of behavior that I exhibited.

And so, if you are anything like me when I was young, you surely disobey your parents often. If you are anything like my wife when she was young, you disobey your parents often. If you are anything like your parents were when they were boys and girls, you disobey your parents often. To realize this is grace for you. If you are like most children, you are quite aware of the manifold ways in which you have disobeyed your parents. Romans 3:20 says, "Through the law comes the knowledge of sin." In your particular situation, you might well say, "Through my disobedience of my parent’s instruction, I come to know my sin." And if you know your sin, you are half-way there to knowing the Savior.

Children, hear it again, Jesus Christ died for sinners. Listen here, children, young adults, all who hear my words, "Christ Jesus came into the world to die for sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). There is only one way for you to be made right with God. It’s believing in Jesus to wash away all your sin and to satisfy the wrath of God and to bring you into glory. Now, some of you children have a great heart that wants to obey your parents. You want to make them happy. You see that they have your best interest in mind. You want to obey them. Sometimes, however, your flesh and your laziness and your interests in other things hinder you from obeying them. When you disobey, you feel bad because you desperately want to obey. If this is you this morning, be encouraged, because the Lord is working in your heart to conform you into the image of His Son. That’s exactly where the Lord likes for us to be. When God looks down from heaven, He looks favorable upon those who have a humble heart, who fundamentally, want to obey, but find that the flesh is working against their heart.

Now, there are other children here who may not really want to obey your parents. Perhaps as you have become older, you have discovered that your parents aren’t quite as smart as you thought they once were. Perhaps as you have become older, you have begun to disagree with them. Perhaps you think that the something that they are requiring of you simply isn’t fair. And so, you have begun to disregard what your parents have told you to do. You have begun to disobey your parents and to rebel against their authority. I beg you, to come to the realization of what you are doing. I beg for you to realize that you are transgressing this clear command of God. I beg you to repent of your sin and trust in Jesus Christ. In rebelling against your parents, you are rebelling against the will of God, Himself. You don’t want to be found in rebellion against the Lord.

The Lord does not look favorably upon children who are disobedient. There are several lists of sins in the New Testament that identify exactly how ugly the sin of disobedient children actually is. In Romans, chapter 1, Paul lists out for us some sins which God hates. He says that these people are "filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents" (Romans 1:29-30). Being disobedient to parents is placed alongside of those who are greedy, murderous, haters of God, and inventors of evil. The sin of a child disobeying his (or her) parents is detestable in the sight of God.

In 2 Timothy 3, we see a similar list of the sins of men that will take place in the last days. Paul writes that "men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Tim. 3:2-4). This sin of being disobedient to parents is thrown right into a list of some of the most evil of sins, like being a lover of your self, or like being a reviler, or being unloving, brutal, and hating what is good. The implications of these passages is simply that those who have so rebelled against their parents will face the consequences of rebelling against the Lord. But, the good news is that a Savior is waiting to receive you back. I trust you remember the story of the prodigal son. He demanded half of his father’s inheritance and left town, only to waste it all in sinful living. And yet, when he came to his senses (Luke 15:17), he came to realize how great was his rebellion against the Lord. He repented of his sin and returned home. The father received him with open arms. There was no chastening. There was no rebuking. Only rejoicing! I tell you, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:9). In the same way, God is willing to receive all who will repent of their sins!

God hates it when children disobey their parents. Children, please know that God hates it when you disobey. But, God is pleased when you obey. Look at how verse 20 ends. "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord." Do you really want to please the Lord? Do you? One way to do that is to submit yourselves completely to the authority of your parents and obey them in all things. Do you want to place a smile upon the face of God? Then, obey your parents in everything! Think about the benefits of obeying your parents. God is well-pleased. Your parents are well-pleased. And then, funny thing, you are happy as well.

See, the things that please God are always the things that are good for us. In other words, when you obey your parents, you are ultimately doing what is best for you. Your parents love you. They only want what is best for you. They would never want to lead you astray. They rejoice when you walk on the right path. The Bible is full of promises of blessing to children who are obedient to their parents. When God gave the fifth commandment, it included a promise of long life: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you" (Ex. 20:12). To honor and obey your parents will lengthen your days. This is what Solomon (a parent) told his son, "My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you" (Proverbs 3:1-2). Obeying your parents will allow you to live longer.

Listen to Proverbs 4:10-13. It continues on the same theme and adds a few more benefits of obeying your parents.

Hear, my son, and accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many.
I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have lead you in upright paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble.
Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life. (Prov. 4:10-13)

When you obey your parents, it will help you walk in the way of wisdom, which will help you to avoid the pitfalls of life that you can so easily fall into. Your parents have walked through life longer than you have. They have obtained a perspective that you might not appreciate at the present time. Trust their counsel. Trust their advice. It will be well with you if you do. Proverbs 4:20-22 express much of the same sentiment.

My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart.
For they are life to those who find them And health to all their body. (Prov 4:20-22)

Life and health and protection from danger are all the result of obeying your parents. Now, which of you children want life and health and safety in the future? Then obey your parents. Tedd Tripp, in his excellent book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, speaks very clearly about what takes place when a child disobeys his parents. He draws a circle. He defines the circle as "honoring and obeying" a parent. He draws a stick figure of a person in the circle. In the circle, he also writes the words, "go well, ... long life." He then draws a child moving out of the circle, by disobeying or by dishonoring the parents. He shows an arrow representing the child moving out of the circle and on the arrow writes, "disobey, dishonor." Above the child outside of the circle, he writes the words, "DANGER." Obviously, this state isn’t good for a child. When a child disobeys, he needs to be brought back into the circle of safety. The way to do this is through discipline and correction. So, there is an arrow that is drawn from the child outside the circle to the child inside the circle. On that arrow is written, "discipline, correction." [1] In recent days, we have used this concept for our youngest daughter, Stephanie. Even at age three, she clearly understands this concept. She knows that when she obeys mommy and daddy, she will be "happy and safe." She knows that when she disobeys mommy and daddy, she won’t be "happy and safe."

What is true for a young child is also true for an older child as well. For those of you children who are older, please realize that honoring and obeying will place you within the circle of "happiness and safety." When you trace through the promises of blessing and protection in Proverbs 1-9, many of the dangers that you are protected from are sexual temptations, which, of course, are more applicable to older children. Please know that the Bible is full of curses for those children who refuse to submit themselves to their parents. Proverbs 30:17 tells us, "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." This verse is talking about the one who rolls his eyes at the instruction of a father or a mother. You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the son or daughter who hears their father’s instruction, "Yeah, right." The picture here is of the bird that come and eats at the corpse. It will eat the eye that mocked.

We also read in Proverbs 20:20 that, "He who curses his father or his mother, ... his lamp will go out in time of darkness." When this proverb was written, the only source of light that people had was a lamp that would guide them. There weren’t any street lights. There weren’t any cars that would pass by with bright lights. When it was dark, it was pitch black. The last thing you wanted to do is lose your light. You’re in trouble. I was down in DeKalb this past week, and ran into a friend of mine who told me of an adventure that he had last week. He was taking a few days off in a remote cabin in Wisconsin. He and his wife went out at in the evening for a walk in the woods. Soon, they found that they were lost. Soon, the sun went down. They said that it was pitch black. They didn’t know which way was which. There weren’t any lights around. Finally, they happened upon a remote road and flagged down a semi-truck driver to ask for some help. It’s scary in the dark. The one who refuses to honor his father or his mother will find himself alone in the dark, in danger of exposure. It’s a picturesque way of saying that it will be hard for him. I exhort all of you children to learn well the lesson that my three year old daughter knows: "When I obey, I am happy and safe."

My second point his morning ...
2. Fathers, Encourage Your Children (verse 21).

First of all, I want you to notice who Paul is instructing in this verse. Of the two parents in the home, he clearly picks out the fathers, not the mothers. Now, some might take this to mean, "parents." In Hebrews 11:23, this word is used to describe "parents," including both mother and father. But, in this context, Paul has made a clear choice to address fathers in particular. He could have used the word, "parents." He used it that word in verse 20, "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things." But, he chose to use the word "fathers." I believe that this was intentional. I believe that it demonstrates how the father in the home is the final authority in the home. It is the fathers who are ultimately responsible for training their children. But, in no way think that this excludes the mothers. Verse 20 shows of how involved the mothers are. Children are to be obedient to their "parents." That is, "both mom and dad" are to be instructing their children.

The point here is simply this: Fathers, you need to be involved in the training of your children. You need to be involved in the discipline of your children. You are the one ultimately responsible in the home. And don’t delegate all of this to your wife. Be involved in the training of your children. And in your involvement, you are to make sure that you "do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart" as verse 21 says. The word "exasperate" might be not be very familiar to some of us. Other translations say, "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged" (NIV). It is also translated, "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged" (ESV, NKJV).

Paul’s instructions here indicated a constant provoking or bothering or irritating of your children, to such a point where your children can be disheartened and give up, because they can never please mom and dad. And so, fathers, you need to be those who encourage your children. This is why I have given my second point this morning these words: (2) Fathers, Encourage Your Children (verse 21). I have merely sought to take the negative command of Paul and put a positive spin on it.

There is a way, dads, that you can provoke your child to the point of discouragement. Most of this has to do with our temperament. For the most part, we are very task driven. We want results. When we encounter a problem, it’s our goal to fix it. That’s why men are good in the work force. They are project driven. They find their fulfillment in the project that is done. Mothers, on the other hand, tend to be more nurturing. They find fulfillment when the relationship between them and their children is right. Mothers will go to great lengths to ensure that the relationship is good. But fathers want results. When our children don’t obey, we can come in and lay down the law so hard that our kids literally give up trying because they think that it’s impossible to do everything that dad says. Perhaps you remember the movie, "The Sound of Music." It’s been years since I have seen the movie, but one scene has been etched in my mind. After Mrs. Von Trapp passed away, it was Mr. Von Trapp’s time to run the family. As a military man, he had his children trained according to his little pitch whistle. His children were dressed impeccably. His children marched in cadence. They obeyed his every word. We didn’t see it, but certainly, there was discipline applied when children didn’t keep in step exactly as told.

The problem with such a method of parenting is that it reduces your child to a dog in obedience school. One of the qualifications of an elder in the church is that he "keep his children under control with all dignity" (1 Tim. 3:4). Reducing your children to dogs may well keep your children under control, but will not be with dignity. In fact, this style of parenting can be exasperating for children. I have seen this take place. I have seen parents who have wielded such a heavy-handed approach in their child-rearing that their children are gloom in the face, because they know that they will never please dad. They are so discouraged in the home that when they have opportunity, I have seen some bolt and run from the home in search for some sort of encouragement elsewhere. I have counseled with adults, who have grown up in homes where the father was authoritarian and impossible to please. Their outlook on life is dark and grim. They have a very difficult time getting over the oppression of their fathers. And so, please hear it again, "Do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart."

And so, how do you do this? Notice here that Paul is assuming that you fathers will actually be involved in the training of your children, that their discouragement in your correction of them is a possibility. Let me give you a few guiding principles about parenting from this text that will help you.

1. Don’t Reduce the Standard

The call for children is for them to obey first time, every time. This comes clearly from verse 20, which says, "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things." I pressed the children a bit ago into thinking about what this means from their end. And now, I press it from the parenting end. If children are to be obedient to their parents in all things, it means that they must never be disobedient to what is spoken. I remember listening to a tape of Douglas Wilson, who made a most interesting observations. He said that when teaching discipline to their children, parents often teach arithmatic. By this, he meant that often, parents employ a method of counting to inform their children of upcoming discipline. A father tells his child to come. When the child is disobedient, the father begins counting, "1 .... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 4 1/2 ... 4 3/4" and surprisingly, the child comes just before the father reaches five. This is because the child knows that number five is where discipline begins. In so doing, parents often teach their children not to obey on the first numbers, but only on the latter numbers. In this way, they have reduced the standard.

I’m sure that you are familiar with the following scenario in which this takes place in another way. You have brought your children to a play ground. There are masses of children there. They are sliding down the slides. They are swinging on the swings. They are jumping from the tower. They are going up the ladder and down the fireman’s pole. They are hiding in the fort. Some of them are playing tag. Others are having a contest to see how far they can jump. All in all, it’s mass pandemonium and total fun for the children. The adults are all seated around on the benches, watching their children. They are remembering the days when they had that sort of energy. After a bit of time, a mother or a father calls out, "Billy, it’s time to go. Let’s go." As you look upon the playground, you try to identify "Billy," but are having a difficult time, because it appears as if there was no "Billy" to hear the cry of the parent. A few minutes later, the same parent cries out, "Billy, it’s time to go. Let’s go Billy." This time, you can actually identify "Billy." He turned his head to check out the situation and then continued on playing as he had done before. A few minutes later, again you see the cry, "Billy, it’s time to go. C’mon Billy. Let’s go." This time, Billy shouts back to his parent, "Just a minute. I’m coming." But then he proceeds to play on as before. A few minutes later, it’s "Billy, c’mon! Let’s go!" This time, you detect a bit of anger coming from the voice. Again, Billy shouts back, "Hang on, let me slide down the slide one more time." As you watch, you observe Billy sliding down the slide about five more times. Finally, there’s some genuine anger in the voice and the parent actually steps onto the playground area to grab Billy and drag him home. When Billy realizes that his father really means business, he comes running with a big smile on his face, happy that he was able to secure a few more minutes of pure fun.

Now, let me ask you, did "Billy" obey his parents in all things? Obviously not. In order for "Billy" to obey in all things, he had to come the first time that he was called. This is what I’m talking about with first time obedience. When you call, your child should come. When you ask them to empty the dishwasher, they should empty the dishwasher. When you ask them to fold their clothes, they should fold their clothes. When you ask them to come for dinner, they should come to dinner. When you ask them to do their homework, they should do their homework. When you ask them to be home at 11pm, they should be home at 11pm, or call if they have encountered some problem.

If you find that your child doesn’t come when you call, or needs reminders to do the things that they are asked to do, or only obeys when you raise your voice or threaten them, they haven’t obeyed in all things. If they haven’t obeyed first time, they haven’t obeyed in all things.

Use the means that God has given to you to train them to obey the first time, every time. He has given you the authority to use physical discipline. He has given you the authority to use verbal reproof. They both are effective means in which you can culture an atmosphere in your home that brings your children to obey the first time. Proverbs 29:15, "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way bring shame to his mother." This is the same thing that Paul said in our parallel passage in Ephesians 6:4, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." The discipline is the physical portion of training (often called "the rod"). The instruction is the verbal portion of training your children in obedience (often called "reproof"). We don’t have time this morning to talk about how exactly to apply physical discipline. I simply say that you should discipline your child, calmly and under control, without rage, in an atmosphere of love. After you discipline your child, it’s often a good idea to pray with them, tell them that you love them and give them hugs and kisses when it’s over.

When your child is young, you are going to spend most of your time on physical discipline and very little time on verbal discipline. But, as they get older, the verbal discipline will increase, and the physical discipline will decrease. Eventually, all of your discipline will come in the form of verbal reproof. But, the goal is first time obedience from your children.

2. Be Careful in what You Command

This second guiding principle is an implication of the first one. The standard is first-time obedience, but, you can raise the bar of what is expected from your children, that it is impossible for them to attain it. You can be so loose with your words, telling your children to do all sorts of things, that they will never be able to accomplish it is. Perhaps you have become so used to their disobedience that you have come to ask them to do many things, because you know that many of them won't be done. But, if you come to expect them to do everything you say, it will be practically impossible. You don’t tell your five year old to mow the lawn. You don’t tell your ten year old to change the oil in the car. You don’t expect straight A’s on every report card. If you do, you are setting up your child for certain disaster. They are going to fail in these things. Their hearts will be discouraged.

Children have a certain capacity. You know it as well as anybody knows it (as you are around them from day to day). Certainly, you should expect them to be servants around the house. At first their "help" is actually a hindrance. But teach them to keep their room clean. Teach them to gather the garbage. As they get older, they will pick up more and more responsibility. And as they do, help them in these things. Help them to succeed. Show them how to do what is required of them. Model for them how you, yourself, are willing to do these things. Slowly work with them, so that they aren’t discouraged, feeling like a household slave. They aren’t in the home to serve you, hand and foot. God has given them to you as a stewardship to raise to know the Lord. They are children! Let them have some fun! Bring their responsibility along appropriately, so that they will be overwhelmed with all of the things that you are requiring of them. Be very careful in what you command of them, lest they become discouraged, as you are demanding too much of them.

3. Smother your Parenting in the Gospel

Earlier, when speaking with the children, I mentioned this. I mention this now for you parents as well. As you are around your children, their disobedience will become obvious. Our children come forth from the womb as selfish sinners, who need to be taught in the ways of God. Psalm 51:5, "I was brought forth in iniquitiy and in sin my mother conceived me."

In order to run a happy and harmonious household, you will need to come to your children with your household rules and regulations, otherwise, your home will be anarchy, which isn’t good. And I simply say this, have plenty of household grace as well. Certainly, let your children see that they are transgressors of the law. Let them see their sin. Point it out to them in their attitudes. Point it out to them in their actions. But, in all of this, speak highly of the One who died to take care of our transgressions.

You see, a Christian household isn’t a perfect household. Rather, a Christian home is a place where grace is freely extended. The constant reminder of the sacrifice of Christ for all our sins should permeate the air of our homes. As often as you identify the sin of your children, so also remind them of the glories of the gospel. Give your children hope! Don't discourage them!

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on November 12, 2006 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see

[1] Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child's Heart, pp. 157, 170.