A Hearty Amen

“Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23)

There are some verses in the Bible that we can admire because we take them rather lightly but when we look more closely at them we might wish they were not in the Bible at all. It is the other ‘bookend’ of another such verse: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (v 17).

We may have no problem giving a hearty “Amen” to these two verses but the heartiness may diminish when we look at what is between the ‘bookends.’

The context of these verses are our relationships with other people with special highlighting on the more intimate and built on love – the same kind of love that God has for us (vv 14-16). They presuppose that the love of God flows out of us through Christ in us (1:27c).

As he does in Ephesians Paul first mentions the marital relationship. Our thoughts, words and deeds within the marital relationship are our service to Christ and a witness of Christ’s gracious working power.  For both husband and wife that means living together as God planned.

Apart from having “Christ in you” there is also another prerequisite for this to be possible: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (v 16). It is up to us to discover what the Bible teaches about how we live in a marriage. Paul goes on to say how we can know what the Bible teaches on this and any subject, “teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

It is all very well to leave it up to the preacher but that is not what Paul or Jesus had in mind.

The other relationships are children to parents, fathers to children and, dare we acknowledge it, our work place. Can you believe that Paul says that all our thoughts, words and deeds at work at school or in the home are our service and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ? No wonder some don’t want to acknowledge to work mates (or school mates) that they are Christians!

Paul writes that our work is our service, our parenting is our service and our marital relationship is our service for Jesus.

The more we meditate on this passage and those like it the more we realise that it is infinitely beyond us to conform to it in practice. When we realise that fact we finally know the truth: We cannot live it, only Jesus Christ in us can live it. Let us stop getting in the way and let Him do so.

Look Ahead

“O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they should consider their latter end” Deuteronomy 32:29

It is through reading these parts of the Bible that we can learn some important principles to guide us in many areas including parenting. Before speaking the words of this song to Israel, Moses had been warned by God that Israel would depart from following His word. In this verse of Moses’ song he is grieving over this future failure and crying out for the people to respond to God’s word. If the people were wise they would consider where their choices and actions were leading them.

God is going to bless those who are with Him and He is going to curse those who oppose Him. Considering the two consequences that lead to two different destinies or “latter ends,” which one would a wise person choose? This is the choice each generation of Israel would make in the future. It is seemingly a relatively simple choice. Identify with the Lord or identify with His enemies. The consequences and outcome of each group is given – blessing or cursing – so that they can “consider their latter end.”

This is a principle that parents will find beneficial in training their children. Teach them to look ahead to the consequences and where their choice will lead. All too often we tell our children what to do or not to do without teaching them how to evaluate the choices available so as to make the best choice.

In giving us the Bible the Lord has made available to us the opportunity to understand where our choices will lead so that we may choose wisely. That Israel has so far failed to enjoy the full blessings of the Lord is testament to the fact that they have made wrong choices and placed themselves at enmity with God. The same could be said of some Christians and certainly of the Gentiles as a whole. One has only to compare many of the choices our contemporary society is making and compare them to God’s word to see that we are placing ourselves at enmity with God.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). This is a warning for people to consider where the path they have chosen will lead and what its consequence will be. Their present living and their eternal destination depend on the choice they make.

A generation of Israel will arise that will heed the warnings and wisely choose Messiah Jesus as the way and their destiny. In the mean time anyone who will look ahead and consider where their choices will ultimately lead has the opportunity to choose Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) and “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). Joshua put it this way, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Respect for Authority

“Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” Proverbs 23:22

For several decades ungodly people have been telling parents to allow their children freedom to choose their own way and not stifle them with the parent’s views on moral, ethical and social ways. The result is that we now have a generation of parents who have no basis and no knowledge of how to lead their children. The sad thing is that many Christians have bought into this lie. Reversing this trend will only come from within the church because the way back lies within the pages of our Bibles. The world, apart from Christ and God’s Word, can be described as the blind leading the blind.

Some adult victims of a wayward youth are demanding that parents be accountable for their children’s acts of violence and destruction but that misses the point and is at least one generation too late in my view.

Paul wrote of this situation nearly two thousand years ago, “In the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

No doubt all these characteristics were observable in Paul’s day but they were not universal as they have become now.

If children do not learn to respect and take note of their parent’s instruction when young they certainly won’t be inclined to do so in their teen years. If children are rebellious to parents and permitted to remain that way then they will extend that rebellion to all other authorities as they grow: schoolteachers; law enforcement; employers; government; God.

Without repentance they will end up spending many of their earthly days in prison and in hell eternally. Along the way they will make their lives and the lives of their parents and others a misery.

God’s commands, instructions and statutes relating to parenting are not given to make the life of parents and children impossible; exactly the opposite. The parents’ responsibility is to “Train up a child …” (Proverbs 22:6) not let a child find its own path.

Some years ago a young child ran from our church door along the footpath to the road. The speed limit on that road was 80kph. The child gleefully disobeyed the parents’ frantic cries to stop and kept on toward the speeding traffic. Several people set off in pursuit and that just encouraged the child in her game. This could have ended very badly but it shows the importance of training, dare I say disciplining, a child from birth.

If a child does not learn to respond to its parents instructions how will it learn to respond to other authorities and to the Lord? Children are different but observation has shown me that some children can be trained to respond to a parent’s instruction, from a distance, soon after they can walk. But the parents will have to start much earlier than that for that result. Correction is an act of love and it must be done out of love (Proverbs 3:11-12).

The Best Outcome

“I have found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord”   2 Kings 22:8

It is always an interest of mine to notice the effects one generation has on the next to see what impact there is. Key to this is to discover who influenced a person when they were very young. In the Bible it is sometimes impossible to know and other times it may be little more than a guess but there are some clues given.

Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became king of Judah. His father, Ahaz, had introduced Judah to a syncretic religion, a blend of the Law given through Moses and other religions of the region. We are told that Hezekiah’s mother was Abi, a daughter of Zechariah. This suggests that Hezekiah may have been influenced more by his grandfather (on his mother’s side) than by his father.

Hezekiah went further than any king since David to cleanse Judah of false religion. He developed an intimate walk with the Lord, trusting and obeying the Word of God.

Assyria had already displaced the northern tribes of Israel when Sennacherib came against Judah. Hezekiah demonstrated his trust in the Lord by resisting Sennacherib and seeking counsel from the Lord.

Later, however, when told by the Lord of his imminent death Hezekiah asked for healing. The Lord gave him an extra fifteen years. Almost right away Hezekiah demonstrated that pride was the reason he did not want to go and be with the Lord. He loved the glory of wealth and power and took credit for his success forgetting that it was the Lord who had given him all. God forbid that we should prefer to remain in this world rather than be present with the Lord.

Hezekiah turned from trusting the Lord and it was in that time that he bore a son, Manasseh, who would become king at just twelve years of age. He was raised by a father who was attempting to steal glory that rightly belonged to the Lord and had turned from following the Lord.

The outworking of that is that Manasseh did evil, returning Judah to a syncretic religious state. His son Amon was born and raised in that environment but a few years before his death Manasseh repented and turned to the Lord. It was in these years of revival that his grandson, Josiah, was born.

Amon was a wicked and evil king but fortunately reigned only two years. Josiah began to reign at just eight years of age. He may have been influenced by Manasseh’s repentance and did more to cleanse Judah than any before him.

How each of us live our lives will affect our children and grandchildren. The best outcome for our children and grandchildren will always be if we continually trust, obey and walk with the Lord.

When your children ask …

“When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’” (Joshua 4:21)

There is much that can be learned on the subject of parenting by observing how the Lord led Israel, particularly during the 40 years they spent in the wilderness while a new generation was being groomed to enter the Promised Land.

The phrase “when your children ask” is also recorded in verse 6 with regard to this event and similar phrases are recorded in Exodus 12:26; 13:14 and Deuteronomy 6:20 concerning other significant events. It seems we have a parenting principle that we would do well to emulate.

The next generation of Israelites would be provoked to question their fathers concerning the piles of stones. One pile was of smooth river stones on the bank and the other pile was of rough stones in the river. Both would look out of place even apart from being made into a pile.

These provocations were intended to be teaching tools to assist parents explain who their God is and what He has done to the next generation. Are there any events in the Christian life that might provoke our children to ask questions?

Actually there are many in the home. Your daily quiet time should raise interest as will the reading materials and conversations parents have in the home. The two most obvious ones in the church environment are baptism and the Lord’s Table. We should take advantage of these even if a question is not forthcoming.

In explaining the Lord’s Table and baptism to our children (and grandchildren) we explain the Gospel of grace through Jesus Christ to the next generation. We may not have a couple of piles of stones but we have something far better as a means of explaining the Gospel to our children and the unsaved.

Parents have the wonderful privilege of explaining the Gospel of Christ to the next generation and should take every opportunity to provoke their children to ask questions and respond clearly to them. God has given us an example to follow.