Child Training That Proclaims
the Truth of the Gospel
by Patrick Hurd

Christians are to find great hope in that, though they are in the world, they are not of the world. However, the hope of better things for God's people, while very valid, doesn't insulate them from the consequences of the fallen world in which they live. As Jesus reminded his listeners that the sun and rain fall on the righteous and unrighteous alike (Matt 5) so Christians should know that the consequences of a fallen world befall the righteous and the unrighteous alike. (Ecl 2:14)

"What then," one might ask, "is the profit of being a Christian?" Much in every way! Chiefly, in that unto us, His Church, is committed the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1-3) By His word is the knowledge of sin and the need of a savior. Faith, God's means of grace, comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Rom 10:17) In short, by His Word His people know and realize the blessings of His covenant promises as well as avoid His curse for covenantal disobedience.

It is the latter point that, in my sometimes not-so-humble opinion, a large segment of the today's Church has mostly ignored for a large segment of this century. Neglecting the promises of God's covenant, especially the warnings of disobedience, evidences itself within and without the Church. Instead of a city set on a hill and a light high on a lampstand, the world considers the Church more like a three ring circus: irrelevant to reality, irrational in Her responses, and irresponsible even to Her own constituents. Worse than such a poor opinion from the world is that a large segment of the church accepts the perception as true and acts accordingly.

It is as if Christians, while accepting the words of Jesus that they will be hated and rejected by the world, resign themselves to that fate to the neglect of being salt and light to the world. It would be like the Church ignoring the homeless and hungry just because Jesus said the poor would always be with us - as if there is nothing we can or should do for the hungry.

Likewise, the Church has accepted the label of irrationalist nolo contendere, smugly winking an eye in the face of the charge, and excusing herself by portraying the Holy Spirit as the holy source of her irrationalism. It is not my purpose to attempt a discussion regarding the Church's default judgment upon itself and, thus, you may not agree with my assessment. Nevertheless, I pray that we at least agree that if such slander is done to the character of the Holy Spirit (directly by word or indirectly by action) how heinous a blasphemy it is if done by those who claim to be kingdom loyalist.

By now, however, you may be wondering just what then IS the purpose of this article. My purpose is to discuss with you the important role child training plays in a family's ability or inability to proclaim the promises of God's covenant to a world that has no other hope. Based on what you have read thus far you may wonder how we are ever going to get to the subject. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. However, my desire is to focus more on the purpose of child training rather than with specific training methodologies. Ultimately, I hope that we will explore a few practical ideas as to what we as parents can do in the way of child training that will establish our families and, therefore, the Church as the model of the gospel of God.

The Lost Art of Modeling

The fact that people yearn for role models to pattern their behavior and values is well documented and undisputed. The fact that our society has been mostly void of bigger than life heroes for going on 50 years is evident by the recent sources of role models we and the subsequent generation have defaulted to: Drug/body abusers, rock stars, and professional athletes. One might think that the natural progression from childhood to adulthood would include leaving the "groupies" scene to become a source of leadership for the next generation. Apparently not, for it seems that a large portion of groupies continue grouping for years even after the target of their grouping is either mentally or physically dead. Those who do distinguish themselves from the pack seem to do so on a basis that displays less maturity than my 5-year-old does. On the other extreme are those who never identify with anything. These tend to grow up into rugged individuals who need no one and are good for no one. "I am a rock. I am an island," was the accepted cry of Paul Simon's anti-groupies.

One expression of anti-groupie individualism within the Christian community is in the form of a vigilant "priesthood of the believer." "The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth. All others are a matter of opinion," they proclaim. Never mind that the means of His guidance might be a brother or sister in the Lord, an authority that is in your life, or even a creed or confession of the Church historic. The Christian faith makes no allowance for rugged individualists or for mindless allegiance. The Christian faith is one of community.

The fact is that, while it is true that we all look to Christ as our model of life, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, instructed more than one of the churches to follow his example of Christian living. (Phil 3:17;1 Cor 4:16; 11:1) If it is true that we are to follow the example of Jesus and Paul in their response to the world they lived in, then it must follow that one way we are obedient to their admonishment is by determining to model the Christian faith before the world and the Church as individuals, as families, and as communities.

For most people of natural humility, the thought of being portrayed as an example for others to guide their life by is one quickly dismissed. We know ourselves all too well. Likewise, most people are quick to recognize the person who, through self-deceit, arrogantly asserts himself as a fine example of human behavior that all should be pleased to exemplify. We know them all too well also. However, the two extreme positions in no way relieve the Christian of the responsibility to live his life faithfully and in accordance to the covenant promises of God and in such a way that the faithfulness of God to His promises proclaims His glory. (Matt 5:16).

There is no better time than during this present age to prove the truth of the gospel through the life testimony of a family whose allegiance is dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. The performance by secular humanism's ringmaster manipulating and subduing the family, God's first ordained institution of man, is comprehensive and relentless. Encouraged by an environment of egalitarianism, feminism has so redefined the role of men and women that the whole structure of the family is at risk of toppling over. Women are no longer called to a supporting role to their husbands and husbands are no longer called to vocational dominion. While women are leaving home and the men are coming home, the children are left in the middle for the taking. Other than enjoying the fruits of two working parents, the children would much rather be in the company of their foolish peers (like surely man, the Bible like doesn't mean like really harmful man, like harm) than in the company of their confused, busy, fighting, and equally visionless parents.

Within this swirling mess of confused roles and relationships, the entertainment and educational institutions of our society relentlessly reinforce the message to kids and parents alike. The kids are told how dumb adults are by various entertainment media. Educational faculties, using environmental and social issues, illustrate to the kids how out of touch their parents are with the real world. Adults need to give attention to the opinions of children with regards to social and economic problems, stay out of the way in issues of sex/abortion/mutilation, and make way for the coming universal consciousness by voluntary euthanasia, or so we are told.

In the midst of this topsy-turvy maze of mirrors, God sovereignly ordains the presence and influence of His social order in the form of the family. The Christian family proclaims the truth of God's justice by the law and order established within each individual of the family and the expression of that order within the family community. The Christian family proclaims the lie of egalitarianism by demonstrating God's social order in the context of the family. In other words, it is the Christian family's duty to stand for and apply the truth of God's word in all the arenas of social order. There are no others in society who possess the hope of God's covenantal promise. All others are lies.

For the Christian family to function as described above, the family must think differently, act differently, make decisions differently, respond differently, etc. Christian families don't have to be void of problems or difficulties; the world doesn't need plastic people or families. What the world needs to see is how Christians, and Christian families in particular, respond to the maladies of living in a fallen world that befall everyone, Christian or pagan. That is the significant difference - not whether bad things happen to good people, but how do God’s people respond to the bad things that happen.

Understanding the family's ordained role in society is one thing, actually accomplishing it is quite another. We live under the influence of a fallen world, individually and as a society. Therefore, while the redeemed in Christ are renewed in spirit and mind, we continually struggle under the influence of sin and its consequences as well as the influence of a fallen society that indoctrinates us to respond in humanistic terms rather than in Godly terms.

Accordingly, for the family to fulfill its God ordained role becomes not only a matter of God's grace in each person's life, but also a matter of determination by each person individually and cooperatively. The family cannot simply jerk along, like a man walking the high wire, twisting, careening, and turning in every direction in order to accomplish a few steps forward while struggling to maintain balance and not fall off the wire. Rather, the Christian family must plan its course according to God's word and God's calling exemplifying the confidence and hope of God's covenant promises.

Standards and Expectations

Staying the course of God's calling means submitting to the standards of living and conduct according to God's word. This is something that is not natural to our fallen nature nor is it of our children's nature. Therefore, the family who is determined to express the truth of God's word through the life of their family is one who examines the standards of God's word and makes effectual plans toward accomplishing those standards.

Carrie and I were very blessed, when our children were fewer in numbers and still young, to cross paths with a family who had deliberately set standards of behavior for their children. As we got to know them better and discussed with them their philosophy of family, we learned that they had developed expectations of their children's role in the family and society based on the promises of the Bible. With the hope of God's promises, they established the standards of their family’s life and government that they believed would accomplish those expectations.

What a breath of fresh air it was for us to know that we were not destined to struggle alone and in vain against every whim of cultural influence that strove to captivate our children. Don't get me wrong, we were not new to the faith or ignorant of God's promises. But it is one thing to know something because someone told you and quite another to know because you have experienced the reality. What an encouragement it has been to us through the years to watch that family and others God has sent our way and see their children grow into young adults that stand apart from the norm the prevailing culture produces.

Tragically, the lack of Godly models, whether from a lack thereof or because of rugged individualism, causes many families to just ride the tide of whatever comes along. More tragic, failures within Christian families are often viewed as failures of God. Accordingly, the promises of God are reduced to good wisdom and nice instruction, but certainly nothing you can hang your hat on. After all, you never know what might happen. Such evolutionary thinking cannot be allowed to sway our confidence in God's word. Either God is not faithful to His promises and, thus, every man's wisdom is as good as the next or there is no other hope and stay to anchor one's soul. I say, "Let God be found true but every man a liar." (Romans 3:4)

Unfortunately, there is little to nothing from the pulpits about the promises of God’s word in the area of child training or standards of behavior. Accordingly, families are left to fend for themselves with no guidance or direction until such a time that a crisis occurs in the family. Left with no objective standard for which to strive, each family tends to compare their children’s behavior with those around them to judge the acceptability of their own conduct. Therefore, rather than being encouraged to raise their standard of conduct that accurately proclaims the truth of the gospel, they are allowed to subjectively compare and gradually adjust their levels of acceptability to the lowest common denominator. By doing so, they present a false gospel to the community.

By God's grace, Carrie and I were encouraged with confidence to set the standard for our family beyond that of what we saw as normative in Christian and secular circles. But it didn't happen all at once. It was and continues to be an evolutionary (if you don't mind me using that word) process as our family grows, matures, and as God's calling continues to unfold before us.

Standards of behavior don't usually implement themselves. We determined that our family would be one of mutual respect and honor to one another. Sibling fights and bickering were not and are not tolerated. This standard didn't just happen; it was one of many over the course of time that Carrie and I talked over for many nights until agreed upon. Likewise, respect and courtesy toward others is an important part of child training in our home. The children are expected to display deference to adults when in person by giving them seats, not going ahead of adults in the food line, not interrupting their speaking, always being respectful in speech ("Yes sir" or "No ma'am") and behavior, etc. Likewise, we believe that it is important for our children to establish their subordinate position when engaged by an adult not in person, say, by telephone. Accordingly, our children identify themselves when answering the phone so as to 1) not leave the caller guessing as to who is talking and 2) to prevent the child from using anonymity as a means to relate to an adult caller as a peer.

My purpose for sharing this with you is to illustrate the means by which we are attempting to accomplish goals in the life of our children - that is training them from an early age in a biblical way to respond to people and circumstances. It is our belief that by giving them guidance and direction from an early age, in a relatively friendly and protected environment, that they will incorporate these principles as they grow, at a time when life is not so friendly or controlled. Accordingly, we believe that Proverbs 22:6 is more than nice heavenly advice from above. In fact, the whole of chapter 22 teaches Godly responses to the circumstances of life: the importance of reputation, being prudent and discerning, being humble, keeping away from perversity, money management and generosity, keeping a pure heart, faithfulness, diligence, morality, correction, and justice.

Proactive vs. Reactive Training

The automatic implication of Proverbs 22 is that children are in need of Godly training. Those of us with children and open eyes don’t need someone to tell us our children are born with sinful natures. Christians understand by God’s word that the simplest expression of our sinful nature is in the form of rebellion and self-will. The simple manifestation of rebellion can be found in every one of our children long before they are able to communicate except by bodily expression. Knowing this gives the Christian parent the upper edge on the materialization of sin in our children from birth. The key is keeping the upper edge on that sin nature until adulthood.

For example, we have dealt with lying by every one of our children, in some degree or another, down through Allison (4). Melody and Andy aren’t expressing themselves well enough yet. Give them time. But unless there is something specific in my genes, lying is just one of the expressions of our sin nature that most if not every child is going to test. In our household, there is not a more serious error in judgement. Carrie, an ex-polygraph examiner by trade, has a nose for a lie that is exceeded only by her sheer determination to get to the truth at all cost. She is a lady with a plan just waiting for some unsuspecting child to dare confess anything but the raw truth. She knows she is going to get her turn with each and every one of them, it’s just a matter of time.

Perhaps Carrie is somewhat more passionate about this area than most of the other character flaws in her children, but there is no reason why every parent should not be anticipating the basic exhibitions of their children’s sin nature: passive rebellion, willfulness, laziness, stealing, etc. If these and other sins one might list off are more than likely to express themselves in our children at some time or another, why not plan and decide in advance the course of action and punishment?

In very many cases, having identified intolerable behavior in advance of its manifestation allows the parent to nip said behavior in the bud (no pun intended) when the child is young, more teachable, and probably only experimenting with the behavior. For example, as soon as our kids are crawling we teach them to come to us when called. Carrie and Lindsey sit on the floor a few feet apart and call the newly walking child back and forth to them. It becomes a game. At first, the child isn’t allowed to go anywhere but to the other person. Gradually, the child is given the opportunity to make his own decision. It didn’t take Carrie & Lindsey but a week or so to break Melody of ignoring them or walking the other way when called. Today, Melody (2) doesn’t give it a second thought. When she is called, she comes to you. It wasn’t necessarily hard, it wasn’t traumatic on Melody or us, it was just a game, but it was a plan that was decided on beforehand.

One benefit to such a simple exercise is that it lays the foundation for acknowledged authority as well as expected behavior while the child is still young and the consequences are still small. Upon this foundation additional training can be effected with the child at a faster rate and with less trauma to the child and parent.

Contrast what we have just discussed with what is very commonly seen at the grocery store, the restaurant, the shopping mall, and too often at church. In most cases the parents have been reduced to reacting to their child’s bad behavior in an attempt to control the child. Having done no pre-planning, the parents end up applying discipline, if at all, inconsistently – one time they may discipline the child, the next time, well, now they’re too tired. Additionally, once they are moved to discipline the child they are usually so exasperated and, perhaps, embarrassed that they end up abusing the child physically and/or verbally.

Such arbitrary standards and treatment only lay the foundation for a child’s rebellion against parental authority. The Christian’s standards, on the other hand, are far from arbitrary as they are based on God’s word. God Himself set the example of Godly discipline when, for one example, He established the redemption of His people even before the foundations of the world. (Rev 13:8; 17:8) When Adam and Eve ate what was within grasp but forbidden, God wasn’t caught off guard or without a plan of recourse. Likewise, the Law and the Prophets are not arbitrary rules made up by a reactionary god. Rather, they are carefully designed and planned to 1) set God’s people apart from the other nations (Deut 4:7,8) and 2) to train them, their generations, and us to the fulfillment of God’s promised redemption (Gal 3:24).

Raising the Standard

Child training, while certainly a vital aspect of the child’s individual character, is broader in scope than just for the sake of the individual. It affects the whole community. Each of us makes a public profession regarding the hope that is within us when we present our family to the community. It is a tragic state of affairs that one can tell little to no difference between the families presented by the pagan communities from the families presented by the Christian community. The divorce rate is virtually the same. The rates of teenage rebellion, premarital pregnancies, abortions, body pierces per capita, decibels of music, et al within each community are the same whether Christian or pagan.

For Christian families to fulfill their duty of proclaiming the truth of God’s gospel they must look to the only source that distinguishes them from the pagan families: God’s covenant promises. As those promises are identified they must be implemented in the home, diligently and consistently. Implementation doesn’t happen automatically or easily. Effective implementation takes vision, effort, planning, discussion, agreements, determination, perseverance, adjustments, et al. Effective implementation means consistent and effectual child training at home.

As God’s promises are applied within the family and every family member trained accordingly, the family will grow in confidence and hope. They will begin to distinguish themselves within the community of families by default. It is at that point that the family is truly established to be a city set on a hill; one who displays the hope and confidence of God’s social order. They are not without faults nor insulated from the tragedies of life. But the way in which they respond to their own faults and to the tragedies of life, as well as that of others, is what sets them apart from the crowd.

It is certainly one thing to be a hearer of God’s word, but quite another to also be a doer of God’s word. God’s word commands us to educate, administrate, and discipline our families according to His word and no other word. In doing so, He is kind enough to encourage us by insuring blessings and favor for our obedience. By our obedience we honor and glorify Him and openly profess our belief in His word.

I know there are a growing number of families across our nation who are being wooed and warmed by God’s calling to raise the standard of family fidelity to God’s word. May we all determine to openly profess our belief in His promises by the way we administrate our families, encourage and admonish others that God causes to cross our path, and exhibit the willingness to be a disciple of those who God has caused to lay the path ahead of us.

Fortifying
The
Family

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Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas
PHurdWford@AOL.com

EST. 01/01/01