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- Colossians 3:20 - 21
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
As a recap of where we have been in the last few months. We have been studying together Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. The letter was written to believers and explains how to live as believers saved by the grace of God. The broad heading of the letter is this: Jesus is all you need to be saved and changed. You don’t need to go in search of the latest craze or idea for moral improvement. You don’t need to explore the power of positive thinking or read horoscopes or stay on top of the newest scientific discoveries, like the “God gene.” All you need is Christ. Christ is sufficient to save you and Christ is sufficient to change you. So when we are saved by Christ, we are to simply walk in Him and obey all He teaches. That is why we open the Bible every week, to learn Who Jesus is and Who we are as believers and how we are to now live in the rule and reign of Christ.
We are now at a place in this letter where Paul is addressing human relationships. The question being answered is this: How does being saved and changed by Jesus affect our human relationships? There is an obvious assumption here and its this: salvation will have a radical effect on your human relationships. If you are saved or think you’re saved, but your relationships have not changed, you might not be saved. Salvation is not simply a transaction between you and God. Salvation is the transformation of your entire life, including your relationships. So 2 weeks ago we looked at the relationship between a man and woman in the covenant of marriage. And today will be exploring the relationship between children and their parents and specifically fathers and their children.
No corner market
I said 2 weeks ago that I don’t have the corner market on marriage. And I can say this week that I don’t have the corner market on parenting either. But what I do have is the Word of God and what you have is the Word of God. So together, we need to look to Him. Why?
God created family
Because God created the family unit. None of us created man and woman. None of us created marriage. None of us created the idea of children. None of us created the category of aunts and uncles, and cousins and second cousins, and grandparents and great grandparents. God created these categories and God created dads and moms and children. So then, families exist because God has willed that families exist. And God has created families with a specific plan on mind. Husbands are to love their wives. Wives are to submit to their husbands. And here children are to obey their parents. So this is God’s intention for the family. God is not vague in declaring His will for us. He is very specific. He has not left His plan for families hidden from us. If we are willing to hear, God has graciously given His will to us and His Spirit that enables us to accomplish His plan for families.
A Christ-centered home
I am convinced that a Christ-centered home will look radically different than a home that does not know Christ. But that is not because of moral superiority over non-Christian homes. Our hope for families is that they will live under the authority of Jesus. So with His leading, His empowering and His wisdom, let’s dive in:
Verse 20, “Children obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord.”
Children are essential
Now a short observation needs to be made here. Paul wrote this to children. Children then are not a secondary part of the church. They are an essential part of the Christian community. And children ought to be challenged. The culture is not the standard for how children behave. The Word of God is the standard. So we are to see children as future adults who are essential part of our church, in the present and in the future. And we are to hold them to a high, biblical standard for their own good.
To a Christian home
Now it is very important that we know the context of this command. Paul is writing within the context of a family who’s Lord is Jesus Christ. He is writing to a believing, Christian family. That does not mean that children growing up in non-Christian homes should not obey their parents. They should. But the reason I give some context here is because children should not obey their parents if their parents are asking them to disobey God. So children if your parents are asking you to lie, steal, curse the name of God or participate in activities that you know do not please God, you can respectfully refuse to participate. You are to obey God first and never disobey God in order to obey our parents.
Obeying is not always easy
But if your parents tell you turn the tv off and go to bed, you are to do what they say. If your parents tell you that you can’t go to that friend’s house, you are to do what they say. And this isn’t always easy. I remember growing up and having to do chores. I had to the mow the lawn and do the dishes and work in the garden (which usually ended up in a fight with my brother). And I did not always enjoy doing these things. But what I learned growing up is that my parents knew what was best for me and I needed to be under their authority. I was not old enough to make wise decisions on my own.
I needed to be guided and directed and led. And that never changes. We all need to be under authority. Children who never learn to be under the authority of their parents, will have difficulty coming under the authority of God and His Word.
It’s about God
So kids, remember that you are to obey your parents so that the Lord is pleased. It is not only about you and your parents. It is about you and God. You are ultimately seeking to obey and please God. He is our ultimate authority. So kids, God has put your parents into your life to protect you, to give you instruction and to lead you to a relationship with God. So listen to your parents and obey your parents.
What age range?
So what age range does Paul have in mind here? I think that Paul is writing to children of various ages who are still under the protection, provision and leadership of their parents. So this includes toddles to elementary students, all the way up to high school seniors. So if you are still living under your parents roof and still under their protections and provision, this command applies to you. If you are 20 year old in college and your parents are still calling you and telling you when to go to bed, that might be a problem. Childhood should not be needlessly prolonged.
Honor doesn’t mean obey
There will come a point in the life of a son or daughter when the command to obey your mother and father will no longer apply to you. As a son or daughter we are always to honor our parents at every age until our own death or the death of our parents. But we are not always to obey our parents. This is a temporary command given to children under the provision, protection and leadership of their parents.
Husbands and wives
So if you are husband or a wife, you are no longer to live under the command to obey your parents. Husbands your calling now is not to obey your parents. Your calling is to love your wife. So what I don’t want to see in our church is husbands who are still living underneath the command to obey their parents. That ship has set sail long ago, men. You have a new priority. It is your wife. So if your parents want you to go to a family reunion in Milwaukee and your wife says, “honey, we haven’t spent much time together lately. I really want to stay home.” You are to love your wife. You are to prioritize her. You are to please her. You are to love her as you love yourself.
Your wife is your priority
Now I am not saying that you can’t go to family reunions. You probably should go to family reunions. What I am saying is this. Men, you have vowed to love your wife. She is the priority of your life. You are in a covenant with her and with God and no one else. Honor the covenant. Obey God by loving your wife. Leave your father and mother and cleave to your wife. If you are still seeking to “obey” your parents, you are actually disobeying God.
Same for wives
And this goes for wives also. Wives, you should not live in obedience to your parents. You are now a wife. You have taken on a new roll. You have begun a new family with your husband. Submit to His leadership. Promote him. Encourage him. Leave mother and father and cleave to your man for better or worse!
Lingering at your parents’ altar
What I see in many marriages is a lingering desire to obey and please parents. And this destroys the joy of marriage. Why? Because the covenant is not made between a man, a woman and their parents. The covenant is made between a man and a woman and God. There is only room for 3 in the covenant and only 2 human beings in the covenant. Marriage demands an intense level of loyalty and emotional intimacy. There can only be 2 human beings at the altar and you ought never to enter someone else’s altar. Stay in your lane and enjoy it!
For your good
And the reason I say this is not to put a wedge between you and your parents. We ought always to honor our parents and respect them deeply. And in so far as it depends on us, we should have a good relationship with our parents. The reason I emphasize the uniqueness of the covenant is so that I want your marriage to be vibrant and free. I want you to celebrate your oneness and to relish your identity as a husband or as a wife. I don’t want you to be burdened down with other people’s expectations. I want you to be uninhibited to love each other and build a new family together.
Simple and beautiful
I hope you feel the simplicity and beauty of these commands. They are simple and they are beautiful. The commands in verses 18-21 are commands that we are to grow into and they are good commands and they are for our good. When we are young we are to obey our parents. Now that we are older and if we are married we are to love our wife and to submit to our husband. We need to progress appropriately. In just 3 verses Paul has cleared everything up for us.
Now lets move on to fathers. Verse 21 “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
Now there are 2 ditches to avoid when parenting children. One is a lazy, unengaged approach to raising our children. This approach basically says, “kids are the way they are. There is nothing I can do about it. I will bide my time until they finally move out. They can hang out with whoever they want to hang out with. They can date whoever they want to. They can watch whatever they want to. And I can’t stop it.” This approach treats parenting like a spectator sport. Parents watch their children and hope for the best. They observe and respond but fail to guide and lead their children to the grace of God. This approach is madness and it fails to acknowledge a simple biblical truth. We are all born with a sin nature that needs to be addressed. And we all need correcting and training. Passive, unengaged parenting is destructive for a child’s growth and development. Kids need actively engaged parents. So that is one ditch to avoid: lazy unengaged parenting.
The other ditch
The other ditch is rigid, heavy handedness that weighs a child down with excessive rules. This is the approach that says, “kids need more external rules and if they have enough rules thrown at them, they will turn out okay.” Interestingly enough, this method of parenting also fails to recognize the inherent sin nature in all of us. A thousand rules cannot change a child’s heart. Outward behavior does not change internal nature. So this view takes a naïve approach to children. This approach does not see children as possessing little hearts that need to be shaped and guided and changed. This approach treats children like they are capable of being holy and righteous simply by behaving a certain way, which is a direct contradiction to the teachings of scripture.
Failure to understand the meaning of grace
And I think that parents who operate like this do not understand the meaning of grace in their own lives. Sometimes there may be embedded sins in their own lives that they have not dealt with. And so they are trying to cover up their own imperfections with rules for their children. So instead of parents being honest with their children about the sins they’ve committed, they try to put on the façade to their children that they are holy and sinless. That creates a massive barrier between children and parents. Children detect the hypocrisy and then respond to it by rebelling against the unreasonable commands of their parents. So then, the home becomes a place filled with fake spirituality. And instead of the Word of Christ dwelling in you richly, a stuffy fake show of spirituality rules the day.
So what is the alternative to these 2 ditches? The alternative is to train your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Fathers, you are to guide and lead your children in the teachings of the Bible. You are to point them to Christ and lead them to Christ by your own example.
What does that look like practically? Fathers, here are 6 things we need to be doing consistently in our homes.
1) Read the Bible
We are to read the Bible with our children. This doesn’t need to be a 1-hour devotion. This can start out very small. Dads, you can open up the word around the dinner table or the breakfast table. You can read a few verses. You can read the verse of the month: Ephesians 2:8-9. The point is to let your children know that you have a Guide by which you live, the Word of God.
2) Pray with our children
We are to pray with and for our children. This is not a rule. It is not like you as a father stand up every morning and say, “family, we must pray for it is our duty.” No. For believers in Christ, prayer is a way of life. Prayer is not an interruption to what is important. Prayer is supremely important over everything. The prayer does not need to be long. But it needs to be sincere. Fathers we need to let our children hear us pray to God, our Father.
3) Protection from negative influences
We are to protect our children from excessive influence from television and movies. I just read some statistics about tv viewing the other day. Listen to this. The average child in America spends 25 hours a week watching television. 67% of all Americans watch television while eating dinner. The average child will have seen 150,000 violent acts on television by the age of 18. In one year, the average child will watch 16,000 60 second commercials. The average person in their lifetime will have spent 9 years of his or her life watching television.
Not condemning the sin out there
Now I am not one to condemn the sin “out there.” Sin is within us. It inside of us. The tv is not evil. Sin nature is evil. A movie is not evil. A movie displays the evil of sin nature. So we are not to be deceived or to point our fingers. The enemy of our joy in the home is not the tv. The biggest enemy is us. Yet, television shapes our minds and we will be conformed to the thing that has the most influence over us. And if kids are watching 25 hours of television every week, don’t you think that at least some of that will have severely negative consequences on their thought and attitude? So then we are not be influenced mainly by the television. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds meaning we are to be shaped by the Word of God.
Hop on pop (no seriously)
We often end up with books in our home and we are not always sure where they come from. And we ended up with a book called, “Hop on Pop” by Dr. Seuss. And I have read this book a few times to Jude. And I noticed some pictures in there that were disturbing. And they were bothering me so much that I got out a pair of scissors and cut out the pages. In one of the pages, there was weird creature biting another weird creature so I cut that one out. And on another page, little kids were being told not to jump on their daddy’s belly. And so I ripped those pages out. Interestingly, the name of the book was “hop on pop” yet they were being told not to hop on pop. What in the world? Can kids hop on pop or not?! I ripped those pages out because I don’t Jude to read about little kids not being allowed to jump on their daddy. No. I want Jude to jump on me. Jude can hop on pop.
And I tore out the pages that had these weird creatures. Why? Because I don’t want Jude to learn about weird creatures made up in someone’s mind. I want him to learn about God’s beautiful creation. I don’t want Jude’s view of the world to be shaped by television and most books. I want Jude to see the world through the lens of scripture.
4) Protect from harm
Dads, we are to guard our children from people who may harm or negatively influence our children physically, emotionally, sexually or spiritually. Dads, we need to know what is going on with our kids at school and with their friends. We need to have difficult, uncomfortable conversations. We need to ask them about their relationships. Why? Because we love our children and we are responsible for protecting and loving them to the best of our ability.
We are not superior to them and sometimes you may feel unworthy to question your child. But the truth is this: you are unworthy. And the confidence you have to speak honestly and openly with your child is not because you have been blameless all your days. Your confidence is that Christ can use you and your weaknesses to train and equip your child for a life of joy. On the flip side, kids when your parents ask you what’s going on with you, tell them. Don’t keep it from them.
5) Love your wives
Men we are to love our wives. Husbands, demonstrate to your children sincere love for your wife, their mom. Show your boys how to treat a woman with gentle, tender affection. Show your daughters how a woman should be treated so that they will wait for a good man, who is like their daddy. Shape your children’s minds to think biblically about manhood and womanhood. And do not think that loving your wife has nothing to do with being a good dad. It has everything to do with being a good dad.
6) Demonstrate the grace of God
And last but not least, men we are demonstrate to our children the grace of God. Do not hide your humanity from them. Do not seek to give the impression that you are above them or morally better them. Do not give the impression that they are beneath you. Do not give them the impression that you are to busy for them or that you do not want to here of their struggles and sins. Do not move away from them in your heart. Move toward them.
A dad who submits to God
If you as a dad are in humble submission to God, you will not embitter your children. You will encourage your children. You will be quick to remind your children of this reality. “The Lord disciples those He loves.” That means that you can look your child in the eyes and say, “son or daughter, I as your father, still get disciplined by the Lord. God loves me and wants to keep walking in His commands. I also love you and want God to bless you in all things.” So we fathers are not without a heavenly Father.
We all need authority!
We are all under authority and we all need authority. Authority is a good and necessary thing. Jesus Himself is under the authority of His Father. And we are under the authority of Christ and the Word of God. Authority is not evil but good. So let’s all live under the authority of Jesus to the glory of God within our human relationships.
A basket of joy
Let me close with this story. Our boys have a big basket of wood blocks in their room. The other day, we were making a port for Jude’s boat. So we made this port and when we were done Jude knocked it down. So I had said, alright, let’s put the blocks back in the basket. Jonah got really into it and started pitching them in left and right. But Jude wasn’t real into it. So I kept coaxing Jude along, “Come on Jude, throw them in, right now, let’s go bud, keep going.” And the more I told him to do it, the slower he got. Then something in me shifted. Call it a caffeine or adrenaline rush but I think it was the Holy Spirit. Instead of demanding him to do what I say, I decided to cheer him on.
A better ending
So Jude threw one in a block and I said, “yeah, way to go, you can do it.” And he started to get excited and he started throwing them in really fast and his smile got bigger and bigger and my cheering got louder and louder. And he was obeying Daddy. And he was enjoying it. He was obeying me and I was not embittering him but cheering him on. And God was pleased.
And that’s how it is when a family obeys God. We are all happy and joy-filled. Children and parents included. So let’s joyfully live under the commands of God and seek to please Him for our own joy in Him. Please pray with me.