Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long in the land. (Ephesians 6:1-3)
Children are a blessing given by God. They are an evidence of His love. They are an evidence of His goodness. Although they belong to Him, they are sent to enrich us. They are sent to make our life full and to be raised by us to godliness in order that they, too, might be a witness to the true God and the gospel of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. What a great opportunity to disciple future witnesses.
Now, in bringing God’s special gifts to maturity, godliness, virtue, and usefulness, there are two things we must teach them: to obey and honor their parents.
That is simple but very comprehensive. But admittedly, it is not easy, and it’s difficult for the very same reasons that it’s difficult for a wife to submit and it’s difficult for a husband to express loving leadership.
Children are cursed when they arrive. They are self-centered, rebellious reprobates — cute and cuddly, but reprobate. You don’t spend the early childhood years saying to them, “Yes, yes, yes.” You continually say to them, “No, no, no,” because they are bent toward what is counterproductive. Nobody ever had to teach a child how to disobey. They have to be taught to obey; they have disobedience down very well.
They’re utterly self-consumed. They want their will whenever they want it. They don’t want to wait for anything. They’re utterly impatient. They have no regard for anything that you’re concerned about. The whole world revolves around them.
David summed it up in Psalm 51:5: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” He doesn’t mean that he was an illegitimate child. He simply means, “From the very time of my conception, I was sinful.”
Not only do children have the curse inside of them, but they have the system of the world outside of them. The world continually keeps the pressure on. That’s why Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world.”
Don’t let your children be conformed to the world. Consumptive materialism teaches them self-indulgence. That’s a terrible thing to learn. Society teaches them rebellion against authority. It teaches them that the most important thing in their life is self-esteem and self-fulfillment — getting their own will and their own way when they want it and how they want it.
But know this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, without gentleness, without love for good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, but having denied its power. Keep away from such men as these. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
One of the characteristics of the last days is a defiance toward parents. Rebellious, undisciplined, selfish, sexually-stimulated, angry, bitter, frustrated, destructive children are the products of a society that is disobedient to its parents.
The philosophy of the last days is anti-family. We all know that. The feminist agenda is anti-family. The homosexual lobby is anti-family. The abortion thrust is anti-family.
The only hope to shade the generation to come is to submit ourselves to what the Word of God teaches about the family and about raising children. And what He says is this: “Teach your children to obey you and to respect you.” That’s the sum of it all.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1996, titled “God’s Pattern for Parents, Part 1.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at masters.edu.
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