Redeeming Parenting

July 20, 2008 Series: Redemption

Topic: Gospel Passage: Joshua 4:1–4:7

Redeeming Parenting

July 20, 2008

Sam Ford


2Corinthians 13.5-6   5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.


Paul tells us we must ourselves-we must ask hard questions-to make sure that you are truly living a life like Jesus.  I believe that this is evidenced out much more in our actions (BIG and SMALL) than it is what we say. I pray that this redemption series has challenged your faith or perhaps what you think it means to be a Christian.  This series was birthed out of my desire to address what I can only describe as a plague of spiritual apathy that has fallen over men, women, and children.  It feels like many of us live two different lives-God's Kingdom on Sunday mornings and for our own the rest of the days.  


The greek word for gospel is "evangelion".  An ‘ev-angel' was news of a great historical event that changed the listeners' condition and required response (such as a victory in war or the ascension of a new king) [1].  So the gospel then is what God has done through Jesus in history to accomplish salvation.  It is not "ADVICE" about what we must do to reach God.  We do not achieve it.  We ACCEPT it. 


When we accept it, we realize that we're living in God's kingdom 24/7 and we must examine the whole of our lives, ALL that we do, to see whether or not ALL that we do is in fact magnifying God.  My prayer is not that you hear this series and leave with a list of "new" behaviors to replace the "old" behaviors.  This series is less about behavior and more about your approach all of life, about glorifying the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, magnificent, beautiful, all-forgiving, perfectly just, faithful and loving God in every moment, about not allowing our experiences and emotions to dictate what is right, but submitted to Jesus (out of desire not fear) in the smallest minutia of life-such as eating, drinking, or whatever you do, because he cares about that stuff (1Cor 10.31).


And today we're going to consider what the Bible has to say about parenting.  I know a lot of people probably saw or heard about this sermon topic and thought one of a few things:

  • I'm a parent. I want to know about how to parent my kid without killing them - Unfortunately, I won't be providing a 12 step program to better parenting today.
  • I'm done parenting. When did that stop? Titus speaks about older men and women parenting the people of the flock. We need you.
  • I'm not a parent, I'm single, I have no kids: My guess is that you have influence into someone's life who is either a child or acts like one.
  • I'm a kid. I'm also a high school teacher. In other words, I spend a lot of time with kids and you have a lot that you can teach your parents too. So, I'm going to address you today also, you're not off the hook.


Truth about Parenting

As we begin, I do want to make a few things clear.  There is no perfect parent and there is certainly no perfect kid.  There is no world's greatest Mom or world's greatest Dad-even if you have a mug or T-shirt to prove it.  The Bible says that there is ONE perfect Father, ONE who is "good", and the rest of us are imperfect and "bad".  I don't care how many books you read, classes you take, or advice you get, parenting is tough.  The Old Testament Scripture will reveal that sometimes "Good Parents have Bad Kids" and "Bad Parents have Great Kids".


  • Adam and Eve - Cain murders brother Abel
  • Noah - had sons who mocked him
  • Abraham - Sons who picked on each other
  • His cousin Lot - had daughters who slept with him to make sure they had sons
  • Issac - Sons who deceived Him


  • Jacob - Sons who sold their brother into slavery
  • Priest Eli - sons stole from the temple
  • Prophet Samuel - Sons were judges who took bribes and perverted Justice
  • David - Son who raped a Sister, Son who murdered that brother, only to have sex with his father's own wives on the roof



These stories should encourage us in our discouragement.  There are bad fathers and bad mother's whose sin results in long-lasting consequences.  There are, however, a lot of parents trying to do their best, thinking they are doing it perfect, and all things still fall into chaos.  The Bible makes it clear that a "perfect" environment is not necessarily a guarantee of godly children and we need no more obvious example of this than the Garden of Eden. 


Truth about Children (and Adults)

The Bible says that even though parenting is tough, even though kids sometimes do the dumbest and even vilest of things, God loves them.  The truth about any child that comes into this world is that they are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.  Psalm 127-3-5

3      Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,

          the fruit of the womb a reward.

4      Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

          are the children of one's youth.

5      Blessed is the man

          who fills his quiver with them!

     He shall not be put to shame

          when he speaks with his enemies in the gate


The Bible also explains, however, why these little "rewards" often feel less like a blessing and more like a curse of the devil. It's sin. Children are rebellious and because of sin, parenting is hard work that is not always fruitful.  Psalm 58.3   The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.  Wouldn't it be easy if you could just flip out Colossians 3.20  20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord...and you would see their eyes light up and ask you how they can better obey. 


And for you kids, I know you're thinking about how many ways your parents fail to keep up their end of the bargain...Ephesians 6.4 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Conflict exists because of sin. 


Truth about Culture's view of the Role of a Parent

As a parent then we have an important and hard role.  And our culture doesn't really help us deal with our role in a godly way.  Much of the world believes that children are born with a clean slate, that their issues are only a result of their environment.  And while I do believe there are external influences that can cause damage, I'm more convinced of the internal problem of sin.


Our culture evidences the fact that ‘parenting' is all about an external problems, for the most part, our culture has reduced the role of the parent to a "provider".  In the view of our world today, the primary task of a parent has been narrowed to one responsible to provide food, clothes, a bed, and some quality time.[2]  For many of us, we get so focused on the next stage of development-crawling, walking, talking, writing, playing sports---our only real goal is to seem them as "accomplished adults", "responsible citizens", and "self-reliant individuals." 


Truth about God's view of the Role of a Parent

Lost in all of this is God's view of the role of a parent.  In sharp contrast to such a weak view, God has called you to a more profound task than being a care-provider.  Parents are to shepherd a child on God's behalf.  After retelling the Law of God to the people of Israel, Moses declares:  Deut. 6.4-7 4 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.   6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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.


As parents we must view ourselves as AGENTS of God, entrusted with His gift to steward.  When the Bible says Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Prov. 22.6).  Our default is to make training this formal arrangement where they sign up for kid-boot camp and at the day they say "NO" they're enrolled.  We spend the next 15 years telling them what not to do, say, think, or look at and they spend the next 15 years counting the days until they can move OUT of the house, AWAY from the CHURCH, and start to learn for themselves. 


Training is about teaching as you TALK, as you SIT, as you WALK, as you RISE, as you LIE down as you LIVE!  We are charged to help turn our children's hearts and minds toward God by exhibiting a heart turned toward him ourselves; what we believe is lived out in how we act. 


Truth about HOW we are to LIVE so that we teach our children - WHAT WE SAY

And many parents will say, "I was a bad kid" and I had "bad parents" so my actions right now are really bad.  The key is to remember that you are commanded by God to turn their hearts to God not to you...Joshua 4.1-7  When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2  "Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.' " 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5 And Joshua said to them, "Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?' 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever."


  • As parents or adults, we have the responsibility to take our children back to the river Jordan and remind them of who are God is.  This is about revealing to children who God is by how he has interacted with you.  Where are the monuments in your life? 


  • As older men & women, you have the responsibility to take those who could be considered your children, whether they are married or single, and be parents to them. Romans 16.13 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.  They, we, need your wisdom, we need to hear of your experiences, and most importantly, we need to hear about the monuments that God has placed in your life.

What we need to teach children...and ourselves.-the gospel



At the core of training, mentoring, or influencing the next generation we must decide if we are going to focus on one of two things, either BEHAVIOR or the HEART.  


What not to do - FOCUS PRIMARILY on the WHAT of their SIN

It is my belief that if we only focus on behavior we will fail.  Anyone can make lists of right and wrongs, anyone can punish or reward to control behavior, but only God can change the heart.  As agents of God we are called to protect but we are not called to do that primarily by attacking the SINS people indulge.    Our deepest concerns must be to unmask a child's or and adults SIN, by helping them understand how it reflects a heart that has strayed from God.


What to do - FOCUS PRIMARILY on the WHY of their SIN

We need to show them not just the "what" they did to fail or sin, but the "why" they did it.  Luke 6.45  45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  The heart is used some 960 times in scripture and is a dominant theme.  We understand the heart to be the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual center of a person's life.  Our hearts are always busily worshipping either God or creation.  If we spend our parenting and mentoring focusing on changing behavior vs. the heart, we will end up with well-behaved children or adults who live out of fear of being punished, or pride of being good-neither of which lead to Jesus.  


How to Gospel People - Enter, Incarnate, Identify, Accept[3]

How do you train without leading children to PRIDE or DESPAIR.  How do you shepherd this child as a creature who worships, pointing him to the ONE who alone is worthy of his worship?  I believe that our parenting for our children will define (for better or worse) who God the Father is.  And, if we're honest, much of our relationships with people mirror how we understand our own relationship with God and our understanding of the gospel. 

  • We don't listen because we don't believe God hears us
  • We don't love because we don't believe God is loving
  • We don't punish because we don't believe God is just/wrathful
  • We don't discipline because we believe God is just a friend
  • We don't show grace because we don't believe we're sinful and in need
  • We don't forgive because we don't believe God has forgiven us
  • We don't confess our sins because we don't believe God is merciful


  • 1) Enter the other person's (your child's world)

John 1.14 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.   The Gospel tells us that Jesus entered our world,  as the "Word became flesh (Jn. 1:14)."   Loving another person well means entering their life in order, taking the time to know the other person well,  and to find out what is going on in the real "control center" of their lives: their heart.*   This is less about understanding or knowing about the particular circumstances, and more about how they are responding TO those circumstances.  We live in a different world.


  • 2) Incarnate the love of Christ

Loving a person well means more than asking good questions and knowing where they're at.  Sometimes we can make the mistake of listening then unleashing a quick-fix solution usually in the form of a verbal tirade. Christ became flesh in order to meet us personally, meaning, he did not simply say "I hear you" from a distance, he came in the person to say, "God hears you." Peter calls us a priesthood of believers.  All believers share in this priestly aspect of ministering by Christ's Spirit to one another and the world.  In other words, it must be more than words.  Paul reminds us in 1Cor 13.1 that if have all kinds of words and no action, we have nothing.  Telling your child your loved, it's ok, does less than holding them or serving them especially when they don't deserve it. Sometimes a hug says more than a 1,000 words ever could


3)  Identify with suffering

Hebrews 4.14-16  14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.   Ecclesiastes teaches that there is nothing new under the sun. In other words, we deal with the same idols in different forms every generation.  The gospel tells us that Jesus is able to sympathize with us because in his humanness he was tempted and struggled with the same kinds of things we struggle with.  Being Christ to "one another", including your children, means mourning with those who mourn, rejoicing with those who rejoice, and helping to carry one another's burdens just as Christ carried ours.   Showing empathy means sharing your story.


  • 4) Accept with a love-agenda for change

A proper understanding of the Gospel means that we who are trusting in Christ are righteous by virtue of Christ's perfect law-keeping for us, his sacrificial death on our behalf, and his victorious resurrection for our rightness before God.   Our acceptance of the gospel includes accepting that Christ is committed to our change.  By His grace, he enables us to say "YES" to godliness and "NO" to ungodliness.  Titus 2.11 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.  This process is not overnight.  Children don't grow, young and old people don't change immediately.  People struggle, doubt, and sin, we are not called to be self-righteous or critical, but we are reminded of the grace we have received. 



As we raise our children, as we shepherd those younger than us, as we lead our families, we are ever aware of our own sinfulness believing that, as Paul wrote in Philippians   1.6 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. ...sure because he is doing that in our children, in our young marrieds, in our parents, even in our grandparents...all of us..




[1] Keller, Tim Gospel Christianity, Study 1

[2] Paraphrased from Tripp, Ted Shepherding a Child's Heart

[3] How to Gospel peopled adapted from a guide written by Stephen Trout, Counselor at Kaleo Church.  It includes material from "The Fellowship Group Handbook - A Manual for Leaders and Coordinators,"  Version 2.0,  by Redeemer Presbyterian Church,  1997, and also "Helping Others Change," a resource of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane, 2000.

More in Redemption

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August 3, 2008

Redeeming Your Past

July 27, 2008

Redeeming Music