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Teach Your Children Well (Part 1 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 10, 2023 4:00 am

Teach Your Children Well (Part 1 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 10, 2023 4:00 am

First-time parents may lament that newborns don’t come with instruction manuals. Scripture, though, actually teaches us how to love children wisely and give them confidence regarding life’s deepest questions. Hear more on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Almost all of us, when we became first-time parents, lamented the fact that newborns don't come with an instruction manual. But in the Bible, God does teach us what matters most in parenting. And today on Truth for Life Weekend, we're going to learn how to love our sons and daughters wisely, and discover four questions every Christian child should be able to answer with confidence.

Alistair Begg is continuing a series he's titled, Wise Words. And I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to Proverbs chapter 22, and we read from verse 1. A good name is more desirable than great riches. To be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Rich and poor have this in common.

The LORD is the Maker of them all. A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge. But the simple keep going and suffer for it. Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life. In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them.

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Verse 12. The eyes of the LORD keep watch over knowledge, but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful.

The sluggard says, There's a lion outside, or I will be murdered in the streets. The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit. He who is under the LORD's wrath will fall into it. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.

He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth, and he who gives gifts to the rich, both come to poverty. Father, we pray that with our Bibles open before us that you will be our teacher, that you will perform the mysterious work of making your voice to be truly heard when your word is faithfully taught. Grant that our preoccupation may be with your word and the one to whom we are introduced in your word.

For his name's sake we ask it. Amen. We've noted that the book of Proverbs, as Kidner says, calls to us in the street rather than ushers us into a church building. It calls out to us about the everyday matters of life.

It scratches us in the areas of home life and tells us that here is godliness, if you like, in working clothes. There are a number of factors, as some of you will know, along with me, that are noticeable with advancing years. First of all, we feel older—there's no question of that. We look older—there's no doubt about that.

But also, we sound older. And I think the latter is the worst of all, realizing that we've started to trot out the same old clichés that we used to curl up our noses at when we heard it coming from our own fathers. If our children and our grandchildren, then, are to be spared from listening to a succession of homespun yarns which just get more far-fetched with the telling, if we are to prevent them from simply being the recipient of horribly dreadful clichés, then it is important that we pass on to them wisdom. Wisdom.

Not simply information but wisdom. And here in Proverbs we've been discovering that the crux question, as he lays out the issues of life, is essentially this. Is this a wise thing or a foolish thing? Is this a wise choice or a foolish choice? Is this the wise road or the stupid road? And most of the time he is addressing folly, not in terms of intellectual impoverishment but rather in terms of moral perversity or of spiritual perversion.

Are you going to go God's way, or are you planning on going your own way? And he urges upon his son and upon his daughters, as it were, through his son, picking this individual to be the recipient of it, the importance of understanding that the fear of the Lord, as he says in chapter 9, is the beginning of wisdom and that knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. We recognize that we need wisdom if we are to live our lives in a way that is honoring to God. And which of us would deny the need for wisdom in the matter of raising children? Surely there can be no greater privilege and no larger challenge in all of life than being entrusted with the custody of these little bundles that hold so much potential, both for good and for ill. You take that child into your arms, and you look at it, and it has the potential to become Hitler, or it has the potential to become Dr. David Livingston, the missionary explorer. It has the potential to help immensely in the course of life.

It has within it the potential to harm, dreadfully, in the unfolding of his or her journey. And as we stand on the brink of the twenty-first century and look at our Bibles and look at our culture, there can be little doubt that one of the ways in which the Christian worldview impinges on an increasingly confused and dispirited culture is in the realm of child rearing and child training and nurturing. Is it simply that I'm getting old, or is there an increasing absence of civility and respect amongst children as we move among them? Does everyone feel this way? Am I just becoming now like my grandfather?

Is that what it is? Or is it possible to assume that when you greet a child, they flat-out ignore you, gazing at you straight in the eye? That when you say good afternoon to them, they may choose to pass you by? That you may move amongst university students and find that they pay you the scantest of attentions? You may address them in the public arena and find them overlaiden with their baseball hats as they sit in the context of worship with a complete disregard for anything that is going on. The fact that they would not sit like that if they were at an interview with IBM or if they were attending a hearing of the Supreme Court doesn't seem to make any difference to them at all. After all, it's their hat, it's their hair, it's their day, it's their life.

What's it to you, old guy? And is it just me, or are young moms now completely tyrannized by these children in the grocery carts? Witness the inability of parents to say no to their children or to say stop to their children. Have you flown on a plane recently with a toddler behind you? I'll know.

If we go swimming together, I will know. Because you will have a mark, a bruise, on your back from having been kicked for four and a half hours by the little foot that just goes like this—dink, dink, dink, dink. And you hear the person behind explaining in pseudo-philosophical terms about the benefits of keeping your knees in the downward position rather than the upward position, and you want to just say, if you ever heard the word stop, total confusion.

Endless discussions. Now, it's no surprise to me that people talk to their children like this, because I've noticed they talk to their animals like this. They're the same dumb talk that they do to dogs.

Now, Rover, that's not a very nice way to treat the people in the neighborhood, is it? What do you expect a dog to say in response to that? Now, why do they speak that way to dogs? Because of their view of theology. Because of their view of the world. They may not understand it, but they believe themselves, and as humanity, to simply be a turbocharged monkey with as much right to be on the planet as their dog. Therefore, it would definitely be wrong for them to roll up a newspaper and hit the dog on the snout. Because, after all, Rover is his own little person.

As, of course, is this fiendish little creature in the grocery cart? So we're going to have a little discussion here and another little discussion over here. Time magazine, August 6, last year, 2001, had a cover, Do Kids Have Too Much Power?

Do Kids Have Too Much Power? That's the question they were asking. The article was fascinating. I can't read it to you all, but it describes the attempt of one family managing their four-year-old Lucian and their seventeen-month-old Elliot. It begins by pointing out that this couple who live in the suburbs of Chicago, they know that no book can tell them exactly the best way to raise their kids.

So there's a lot of stuff out there, but there's no book that can tell you what to do. So they engage in rearing little Lucian and little Elliot. And the little lawyer, Lucian, tries to cajole his mom and dad to accompany him outside to play. Mom said, I said, no, that should be the final answer.

Dad said, I said, yes. So we got a problem. And little Lucian, the lawyer, is presently negotiating with his parents. Bathtime, of course, leads to more negotiations. Never enthusiastic about getting into the tub, Lucian can usually be talked into it, you see? So we gotta waste half an hour of our lives explaining to Lucian the benefits of washing yourself. Says Natalie, his mom, we planned for him to take a bath every night, but sometimes it's not worth the fight.

He was so dirty that night that we just didn't want to give in. Well, good for little Lucian. And tussling over the telephone, he shouldn't have the power to prevent me from talking to my mother. This phase just started, and I'm afraid I'll never get to talk on the phone again. Who's in charge here?

Seventeen-month-old Elliot is now in charge of telephone calls in and out of the home. I'll spare you the dressing sequence but end with a comment, no ham, no whey. Trying to broaden the picky eater's palate is usually futile. Says his dad, I know he likes it, he's had it before, but I'm disappointed when he doesn't expand his food horizons.

Come along now, Lucian. Time to expand your food horizons. Am I just getting older?

What's happening here? I mean, was my mother nuts when she said, Eat that, or I'll… Says the mother, I'm not really sure he needs to eat that cancer-causing protein. Nighty-night, bedtime, the last hurdle of the day is also the most exhausting. I'm hoping for some time to relax before I pass out, but I let him get away with one more stalling tactic. He has to look at one more thing, and I don't say no. Well, there you have it.

I mean, out of the contemporary literature of our day. Now, this is no surprise to anyone, but here's the thing. The Christian knows that there is a book that has the answer. The Christian has a worldview that starts from a totally different premise. But let me tell you something.

In my experience of young Christian couples, we're not exactly blazing a trail of such qualitative parenting that folks are asking if they can come over to our homes to learn from us the principles whereby, in resisting confusion and in submitting to the clarity of this book, we have found that the Maker's instructions really, really work. Some years ago now, I can only recall the scene in my mind. I can't recall the movie. It was Cher that was in it. I never thought much of her as an actress, but she was good in this movie. She played the part of a mother. She was a kind of a hip mother who wanted to be hip with her teenagers, and the teenagers were driving her nuts. And in one classic scene, there is a royal argument that ensues, and they are going hammer and tongs at one another.

And eventually, both of them dissolve into tears. And Cher, as the mother, grabs this teenage girl in her arms, and looking across her shoulder into the camera, she says, How do I know what to do with you? You didn't come with instructions. And Proverbs says, Yes, you did.

You came with instructions. Now, the fact that the instructions exist is not necessarily synonymous with the fact that the instructions are being understood. And the fact that they are understood is not necessarily correlative with the fact that they're being applied. And the challenge, I suggest to you, is a real one. Now, in introducing this subject this morning, I want to say just a number of things. I hope that it doesn't appear completely disjointed. I hope there is enough structure to it to make sense. First of all, let us notice that wisdom begins at home. That wisdom begins at home.

If we're looking for it to begin any other place, we're looking in the wrong place. Listen, my son, verse 8 of chapter 1. Listen, my son, to your father's instruction, and do not forsake your mother's teaching. So the father is to bring instruction, the mother is to be a teacher. Who are they to teach? They're to teach their pupils. Who are their pupils? Their children.

In what context? Deuteronomy 6 tells us. We read it routinely when we're sharing in the dedication of little ones.

They're to do it when they walk along the road, when they lie down, and when they get up. When they see the events of a starlit sky, they're able to speak concerning the Creator. When they're confronted by difficulty and by pain, they're able to speak concerning how God enters into our suffering and how God has made himself known to us, not on a deck chair but on a cross. When their tiny lives are buffeted by the pain of the absence of friendship, they're able to speak to them concerning the fact that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. And when they're frightened to go to sleep at night, they're able to speak to them concerning the fact that God knows their tiny lives and is a strong tower to them and will protect them in the same way that they may put all kinds of pillows around themselves, and they may put all kinds of teddy bears all around them. And the mother says, with absolute authority on the Scriptures, in a far more precious way than your bear is snuggled up to you, the Lord Jesus looks after you in the watches of the night. And pagan parents can say no such thing.

They have nothing to say. And since wisdom begins in the home, we need to realize that children come with a stamp on them. They come with a number of stamps on them, but one is certainly this. Yours for a limited time only. Yours for a limited time only.

The window of opportunity is very small. Oh, I know in those early days when you first get them, it seems like forever. When old people like me meet you in the mall and say, oh, well, enjoy them when they're young, because it goes past very, very quickly, and you're straggling through the mall like this, you'd give them away to a stranger if you could, just to get five minutes' peace. You'd send them to their grandmother for seven months if you just get them out of the house. And some well-meaning says, well, do enjoy them while they're young. You say, like, you know, what do you know? You have forgotten you have. And since wisdom begins at home, and since we have them only for a little time, you can begin your work too late, but you can never begin your work too soon.

You can start too late in the project, but you can't start too soon in the project. And by nature, we love our children dearly, but we need the Scriptures to learn how to love them wisely. And the only way that we can love them wisely is by a right understanding of what we've been given here in this child. The verse, which is before us as a sort of launching pad for our study, is train a child in the way he should go, or the way she should go. A child.

What do we have here? We have a child. Oh, we know what that is, don't we?

No, in measure we do. I mean, I've told you before that when our son was born, we took him for a period of a few months to a fairly well-respected pediatrician in the west of Scotland who examined him for a kind of postnatal checkup deal. And we would arrive, Sue would have him all wrapped up beautifully, put together, and then we would hand him to the nurse. The nurse would take off all his stuff, reduce him to his birthy suit, and when she had him down to the basics, then along would come Dr. White.

He was a big man. He used to pick him up like he was picking up a pound and a half of sausages. He'd just pick this child up, and he would poke and prod and go, mm-hmm, the way that you learn how to do that at medical school, apparently. He'd say, mm-hmm, mm-hmm. And then, with a flourish, pass the little pound and a half of sausages back into the custody of the nurse and say to the amazement of Sue and I, she looks fine to me.

Which did not encourage us in terms of his abilities. I mean, this guy has missed the point completely, and he's a pediatrician. So, in raising our children, it is important that when we ask the question, What do we have here?

What are we dealing with? that we answer that question on the basis of a faithful consideration of that with which we're presented. We are given a child. What is a child? Well, a child is not the product of time plus matter plus chance. But a child is the product of the faithful work of a Creator God who intricately wrought them together in their mother's womb, establishing their DNA, the unique factors of personality, their traits and their abilities, their colorings and their codes, all put there by the express purpose of a loving God. And this loving God, who has stamped this child in his image, also recognizes that this child's image of God is marred by the imprint of sin.

Now, in the course of my studies for a writing project that I have at the moment, I've been spending a lot of time in the catechism, the shorter catechism. And in going through this, I've recognized again just how crucial it is for us as parents to be instilling in our children, either in an obvious way or in an oblique way, but instilling in our children the basic essential truths concerning who they are in order that they might understand their identity. Because a worldview that can't answer for our children who they are and where they came from is an insufficient worldview. And our friends and neighbors do not have answers to the question, Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?

And does it matter? And a Christian parent's responsibility is so to instruct their children that they'll be able to answer those four questions. They'll be able to give the answers to them before they fully appreciate the significance of the answers, but it is important that we give them the answers. Now, the reason that many of us as parents are not giving this to our kids is because we don't understand it ourselves. And when we think in terms of children, our minds are flavored by a lot of sentimental nonsense that flushes through the literature and airwaves of our time. And our minds are influenced also by an emotional instinct which obviously clearly wants to believe the best about our children. But what the Bible actually says when we take this bundle in our hands and ask the question, What do I have here? A child.

And what is a child? The Bible says that the intentions of the heart of a man are evil from their youth, from their inception. Genesis 8 21. You're listening to Truth for Life weekend. That is Alistair Begg reminding us that so much of wisdom begins at home and the earlier the better.

We'll hear more next weekend. It's every parent's responsibility to teach their children the truths of the Bible by first understanding it and obeying it and living it out. And that's why at Truth for Life, we're committed to teaching the Bible in a way that is clear and relevant.

We trust that God will graciously help you and your children believe, obey and live according to the Bible. If today's message made you think of a friend you'd like to encourage, you can download and share this message or any of the messages in this study for free. Today's message is called Teach Your Children Well. It's part of a series titled Wise Words.

You can re-listen as often as you want whenever it's convenient or share Alistair's teaching with friends. You'll find these messages and thousands more on our website at truthforlife.org. While you're on the website, check out our current book recommendation. It's a book titled Before You Share Your Faith. Author Matt Smethurst wrote this book to help you get ready to talk to others about Jesus. He says, my hope is that the Holy Spirit would use these pages to ready your mind and energize your heart so that you will joyfully and expectantly brag about the one who has changed your life. Once again, find out more about the book titled Before You Share Your Faith on the Truth for Life app or in our website at truthforlife.org. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for making us a part of your weekend. Next weekend, we'll learn why a lack of effective parenting doesn't free our children. Instead, it renders them helpless. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-10 04:28:25 / 2023-06-10 04:37:24 / 9

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