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The Home that God Builds
The Rod of God: When Love Says No
Hebrews 12:5-11; Proverbs 13:34
 
Have you ever heard anyone says, “The Bible says ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’?” The truth is that particular quote isn’t in there but it is found deep in the antiquities of history.  William Langland, in 1377, said, “Who-so spareth ye sprynge, spilleth his children.”  It is believed Langland used the word “sprynge” to speak of a rod or offshoot of a plant.
 
The person who coined the phrase as we know it was Samuel Butler in a poem written and published in 1662. It is widely held that his words were inspired by Proverbs 13:24 in the KJV Bible, freshly printed in 1611, which said, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
 
It’s an old saying and like most things old, it has been neglected and rewritten.  In fact, many newer translations have removed any reference to the rod or the discipline.  For instance, the Contemporary English Versions says, “If you love your children, you will correct them; if you don’t love them, you won’t correct them.”  It just seems to me that much of the urgency and seriousness of the original is lost in that translation.
 
The declaration of Scripture and the testimony of centuries of human experience would have us understand that to spare the rod is in fact to bring ruin upon their life.
 
Now I realize that is not a popular message and certainly not everyone agrees with what I have just said.  In fact, I am quite sure that many people disagree vehemently.  There are all kinds of experts today to flatly declare that corporal punishment is wrong and some even say it should be outlawed. They believe it is the first step on the road to child abuse.
 
In fact, in late 2012, Delaware became the first state in the union to outlaw parents from spanking their children.  The definition is very broad and says that any parent who “causes pain” can be imprisoned for up to two years, depending on the age of the child.
 
So before I go any farther, let me just insert a couple of things: First, I’m not an expert on child rearing and discipline.  I used to be, then I had some.  I used to preach “Ten Commandments for Raising Children”.  Now I preach “Two or Three Things You Might Want to Try that May or May Not Work!”
 
What I share with you today comes only from my own experience as a child and as a parent, coupled with 29 years of ministry experience and the wealth of the Bible’s input. 
 
The other things is today’s message is not a sermon about spanking. Maybe to be more precise, it is and it isn’t. I’m going to talk about spanking because I don’t think you can discuss the topic of child discipline without at least touching on corporal punishment.  It is however, a message about discipline.
 
Let’s begin by looking at Hebrews 12:5-11.  We just finished taking an in-depth look at these verses in our Wednesday evening Bible study time.  However there are some who have other responsibilities at that time and many who choose not to come.  So if it sounds familiar, that is only because you are faithful.
 
Hebrews 12:5-11:
 
Now here we have a passage that teaches us how God deals with his children. Along the way we learn by analogy something about the way earthly parents discipline their children. Three points deserve our attention:
 
Discipline is a sign of love. v. 6
 
Discipline is a sign of sonship. vv. 7-8
 
Discipline produces godly fruit. vv. 10-11
 
We discipline our children because we love them, because they are our children (and not someone else’s children), and because we want to produce the fruit of godly character in them.
 
This perspective is vitally important because from a biblical point of view, discipline is far more punishment.  In fact, it’s really not punishment at all.  God never punishes His children.  Punishment, Biblically speaking is reserved for those who reject Christ.
 
God, however, does discipline His children.  In fact, according to this text, God has two primary goals in mind when it comes to discipline. One of those is life (verse 9b) and the other is holiness (verse 10).
Now specifically, He brings discipline for at least three reasons. Sometimes it is for correction; sometimes it is prevention and sometimes it is education.  And from God’s discipline of us,, we gain great insight in how to properly discipline our children.
 
At its core, discipline is everything parents do to raise their children successfully. It involves years of teaching, training, direction-giving, instruction, praising, rebuking, correcting, and sometimes punishing. It requires patience, prayer, positive reinforcement, and helping children see the consequences of bad behavior.
 
When we have done our job well, our children grow up healthy, independent, productive, positive, well-balanced, obedient, respectful, enthusiastic about life, and wholly devoted to Jesus Christ. That’s a tall order, and it won’t be realized overnight, but this is our aim as Christian parents.
 
In a sense Hebrews 12 calls us to look to God as the model parent. We are to study God’s methods in dealing with us and then use those methods in dealing with our children. As God raises his children, so we are to raise ours. Godly parenting begins with the study of God—his character, his methods, his ways, and most of all, his Word.
 
With that as background, I want to offer to for your consideration some biblical principles regarding raising our children for the Lord. I’m going to organize my remarks under six major headings.
 
 
 
Fact #1: We Tend to Avoid the Issue
 
Maybe we shy away from this topic because of cultural pressure.  It might be past mistakes or maybe our own personal experiences as a child.  But for whatever reason, there seems to be a great tendency to avoid sharpening our skills as a parent.
 
Earlier I mentioned the issue of corporal punishment. As I researched this sermon, I discovered that there is a large, well-organized, well-financed, and well-publicized anti-spanking movement in America. It is led by psychologists, social workers, and educational leaders who strongly oppose all forms of physical discipline of children.
 
It has led to something called “child-centered parenting” where parents are instructed to look at their children as friends more than as children needing their direction and guidance.
 
It isn’t my purpose to offer a detailed argument in favor of spanking. There are all kinds of voices speaking to the subject.  Focus on the Family advocates mild spanking in the discipline of children ages two to ten.  The Family Research Council has extensive materials on the subject.
 
It’s also fair to say that no one I know believes that spanking should be the major tool parents use to raise their children. If you are spanking your children every day, or almost every day, then you probably need some instruction in good childrearing methods.
 
 
 
As I look back to the way I was raised, it occurs to me that either there was no anti-spanking movement when I was growing up or else my parents had never heard of it. I was spanked more than a few times during my growing-up years and as far as I can tell, I seem to be none the worse for it.
 
My mom was an equal-opportunity spanker.  She used every opportunity and whatever was handy to get the job done whether it was a fly swatter, her sandal or her hand.  My dad favored his belt.
As I think about my parents, neither of them strike me mean or harsh.  They were just no-nonsense when it came to raising children. You obeyed or eventually you would pay the price. That price might be exacted in a number of ways but judgment day would come sooner or later. There is ample biblical precedent for that approach to raising children.
 
Fact #2: Biblical Discipline must Reflect a Proper Mixture of Law and Grace
 
IF you pay attention to God activity, He always begins with law and moves to grace. For instance, in the Garden of Eden, God told Adam not to eat from one particular tree. That’s law. Later would come words of grace and forgiveness.
 
When we raise our children, we must start with law. We must give them rules and we must set limits. We must tell them what to do and what not to do. Grace must be our attitude but law must flow from our lips. If we leave our children to fend for themselves, we have abdicated our parental calling before the Lord.
 
 
Fact # 3: Biblical Discipline Produces Positive Results
 
For parents who want God’s view of childrearing, just read the book of Proverbs. Over and over again Solomon says, “My son, listen to my commandments and take heed to my words.” If we would raise our children according to Proverbs, we could dispense with 99% of the secular books on childrearing.
 
Let me give some five examples that show the good things that happen when parents dare to follow God’s plan:
 
1. It demonstrates love. Proverbs 13:24
 
The word “careful” means “discriminating.” It implies that godly parents watch their children at all times to make sure they are on the right road in life. To do anything less means you don’t really love your child, no matter what you may say.
 
2. It purges evil. Proverbs 20:30
 
I include this verse primarily because of the phrase “cleanse away evil.” It’s important to note that this verse is not talking about childrearing specifically. It probably has more to do with crime and punishment in ancient Israel. But the principle is the same. Effective discipline restrains evil by making the consequences so distasteful that the child wants no part of it.
 
 
 
 
 
3. It saves from death. Proverbs 23:13-14
 
Don’t misread verse 13. It’s not calling for beating a child unmercifully, but it does remind us that God has arranged the human anatomy so that a mild swat on the buttocks can be useful in punishing misbehavior. And our discipline—though it may seem painful at the time—can actually save a person from physical death and perhaps also from spiritual death. Better to discipline today even though your child sheds a few tears than to look back and say that you failed to give proper guidance.
 
4. It teaches wisdom - Proverbs 29:15
 
The “rod of correction” stands for the instrument used in discipline.  It might be a belt, an actual rod, the palm of the hand, or from days gone by, a switch off a tree. In the larger context, it refers to whatever means you use to punish misbehavior, such as a time-out chair, taking away privileges, grounding a teenager, and so on. Children learn wisdom when there are consequences for disobedience. And when they “get away with murder” at home, that may be precisely what they do years later.
 
5. It promotes domestic peace. Proverbs 29:17
 
Parents who care enough to say no, who set limits and then enforce them, who reward good behavior and punish disobedience—those parents are usually blessed with happy, well-adjusted, obedient children who bring delight to their souls. And what could be better than that?
 
 
Fact #4: Biblical Discipline Encourages Wise Choices in the future.
 
Sometimes parents act as if discipline is just about crime and punishment. But that is an extremely short-sighted view. What children learn now will stay with them for the rest of their life.  And the attitudes they develop about authority and discipline and correction and respect will have long and far-reaching effects.
 
We ought not to discipline out of anger or to create fear or seek revenge.  Instead we are to remember that we are teaching right from wrong and respect for authority and that there are consequences for what we do. And maybe if they learn that now, it will keep them out of jail later.
 
 
Fact # 5: We are to raise our children the way God raises us
 
This brings us back to Hebrews 12 with its emphasis on how God raises his children. We are to do what he does. He disciplines us to bring forth the godly fruit of holiness and righteousness. To do that, he uses hardship, trials, setbacks, sickness, pain, unanswered prayer, and all manner of difficulties that at the time seem hard to endure. Yet in the end they bring us to maturity and conform us to the image of Christ.  And tempering everything God does is grace, patience, individual attention, and a clear purpose.
 
 
 
Think about this:  Our goal as parents is to move our children to the place where, when they leave the home they are able to function successfully as adults. We are to move them from dependence on us to independence.  In fact, to put it more correctly, our goal is to move our children from 100% dependence on us to 100% dependence on God. When we have done our job well, our children will depend on the Lord just as much as they once depended on us.
 
So let me conclude with some practical suggestions for discipling your children the right way:
 
  • Be Consistent
 
Have fewer rules and enforce them fairly. Remember, God summarized his will in only Ten Commandments. Wise parents keep it simple so their children won’t forget what really matters.
 
  • Be Calm
 
Many parents have gotten into trouble because they disciplined during a moment of sudden anger. Often our temper causes us to do or say things we later regret. It is better to walk away than to discipline in anger. This is why Colossians 3:21 warns fathers not to exasperate their children and Ephesians 4:31 tells us to put away anger, malice, wrath, clamor, bitterness, strife and rage.
 
  • Be Clear
 
Have definite standards of right and wrong. Make sure your child knows the consequences of disobedience.
Before you punish, tell the child what rule he or she has broken. Otherwise, the opportunity for learning may be lost.
 
  • Be Prompt
 
Don’t drag out your discipline. Deal with the problem at hand and then move on. According to Ecclesiastes 8:11, “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.”
 
  • Be Fair
 
When your children disobey, make sure you get all the facts before you do anything. Proverbs 18:17 tells us that “the first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” Substitute “his sister” or “his brother” for “another” and you quickly get the point. Take time to hear all sides before you render your final verdict.
 
  • Be Merciful
 
This is a basic biblical principle covering all human relationships. Be merciful just as God is merciful. Don’t break the spirit of your children. Don’t beat them or abuse them. Don’t humiliate them in public or in private.
 
  • Be forgiving
 
When the discipline is done, don’t hold a grudge. Do what needs to be done and then move on. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t hold grudges with us? He forgives and forgets.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Let God’s forgiveness be the standard and your discipline will lead to joy and not to heartache.
 
In making these suggestions, I am simply calling on parents to practice tough love. If we want to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids, we must love them enough to say no, to set limits, to establish boundaries, and to take action when those limits are willfully violated.
 
Parents have an awesome responsibility. God has ordained that parents are the single greatest factor in the spiritual growth of their children. Mom, Dad, no one can take your place. The pastor can’t, the Sunday School teacher can’t, the school teachers can’t, and the grandparents can’t.
 
God uses believing parents to shape children for eternity. Every day by our influence we are preparing our children for eternal joy or eternal woe. A child can never cease to exist because all our children will live forever somewhere.
 
The days of childrearing quickly fly by.  We’ve got just a moment to impact their lives for time and eternity.  Someday we will all stand before the Lord to give an account of what we have done on earth. As parents we will answer for how we raised our children. In that day the Lord will not ask, “Did you know the latest theory on how to raise children?” But he will ask, “Did you train your children to love and serve me?” What answer will you give?
 
Let’s pray.
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