Biblical Child Discipline in an Age of Therapeutic Goo (9)

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On Loving the Standard

Sermon Video


The chances are pretty good that over the years you have heard me say something like this. You task as parents is not to get your kids to conform to the standard, but rather to get them to love the standard. This may seem straightforward and simple, but there are actually layers to it. As we pursue this, we turn to the greatest commandment in the Bible, which is where we find the authority to say things like “love the standard.”

The Text

“Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:1–9).

Summary of the Text

This passage is where we find the greatest commandment found in all of Scripture. We know this on the authority of the Lord Jesus Himself (Matt. 27:36-40). Now God gave Israel all His laws and statutes, in order that they might live them out in the land (v. 1). Doing this, they would fear the Lord, keep His word, from grandfather to grandson, through lengthened days (v. 2). Hear and do, O Israel, that you might prosper (v. 3). Then we come to the great Shema, hear, O Israel. The Lord your God is one (v. 4). You shall love the Lord your God with all that you have and are (v. 5). These words must be taken into the heart (v. 6). From the heart, you are to teach them diligently to your kids—all the time (v. 7). Bind these commandments to yourself (v. 8) and post them on your house and gates (v. 9).  

Love Can Be Taught

The first thing to take away from this passage is the understanding that love is a thing that can indeed be taught. But it cannot be taught by people who do not understand it themselves. Those who would teach this love to others must have it first themselves. Before you teach it to your children, you must be doing it yourself. Love the Lord your God with all your heart (v. 5). The words of His commandments must reside in your heart (v. 6). From the heart, it flows to the mouth, and from the mouth to the environment of the entire home.

Religious instruction of children must not be pro forma or perfunctory. You are not ticking boxes, but rather nurturing souls, starting with your own.

Commanded to Love

The fact that we are commanded to love does not take away from the nature of God’s grace. In his Confessions, Augustine once said, “Give what you command, and then command whatever you will.” Our obedience to this kind of requirement is entirely dependent upon the sovereign grace of God.

“Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway.”

Deuteronomy 11:1 (KJV)

“In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.”

Deuteronomy 30:16 (KJV)

The fruit of the Spirit, the outworking of His grace in our lives, maps very nicely onto the commands of God. What is the greatest command? Love (Dt. 6:4-9). What is the first fruit? Love (Gal. 5:22). It is the same thing all the way through—joy (Phil. 4:4; Gal. 5:22), peace (John 14:1; Gal. 5:22), longsuffering (Eph. 4:2; Gal. 5:22), gentleness (Tit. 3:2; Gal. 5:22), goodness (1 Tim. 6:18), faith (John 8:24; Gal. 5:22), meekness (1 Pet. 3:4; Gal. 5:23), and temperance (Tit. 2:2; Gal. 5:23). God gives us commands, and His Spirit grows obedience to those commands in us. Our responsibility is not to go obey Him on our own, and then bring that obedience back to Him, expecting some kind of a reward. No, we go in His grace, and we come back in His grace, and with gratitude for all of it.

And we model for our children what this is like. As we walk along the road, we have them by the hand.

Children learn by imitation primarily. “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1).

Good and Godly Teaching

What does it mean to teach? It means to love your God, and the subject you are handling, in the presence of a student, whom you also love. It means to love God and your neighbor, and then to work out the problem together.

This always brings us back to Jesus Christ. There is nothing worse, nothing more suffocating, than to be trapped in a Christless Christianity. Of course, this is not really Christianity at all, but there appears to be an abundant supply of this counterfeit nonetheless. A Christianity without Christ has no blood in it, no salt, no sap.

But when Christ is present . . .? How would it be possible not to love the standard? “Great peace have they which love thy law: And nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165; cf. 97,113, 163).

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