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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:My Son, Give Me Your Heart
Text:LD 39 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 5th Commandment (Obedience)
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-07-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 8:1,2,3                                                                                            

Hy 1

Reading – Proverbs 23

Ps 71:1,3,9,10

Sermon – Lord’s Day 39

Ps 25:2,4,6

Hy 85:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, sometimes you’ll hear people talking about a “teachable moment.” These are those golden opportunities for sharing a lesson with another person. Maybe you’re a school teacher, a supervisor at work, or a mentor for someone in the church. And along comes a teachable moment: you have an inquisitive student, something important to talk about, and you’ve got enough time to do so.

We shouldn’t pass up teachable moments, but we should use them to the fullest. Especially when it comes to children, these opportunities to instruct are so valuable. And in a home, these moments are frequent. Parents might find themselves giving an impromptu lesson about how the microwave works, or why exactly the sky is blue, or what the government does. The days can be full of teaching!

That’s how it should be. It’s the calling of Christian parents to use those teachable moments, to have many teachable moments. But not just with lessons about “stuff” and “things,” but about the Lord God and his Word, about the Creator of this universe, and the Saviour of sinners. To teach our children about what really matters!

This calling is clearly seen in Proverbs, where so much attention is paid to the youth, to boys and girls, young women and men. For the format of this book is Solomon, instructing his young son. He wants to give him wisdom for when he will reign as king of Israel, but also—and even more importantly—he wants to give wisdom for living as a child of God. More than anything, Solomon wants to share the important lessons of faith.

This is why we often hear Solomon appealing to his son to listen and remember. Consider 1:8, “My son, hear the instruction of you father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” Or in the chapter that we read this afternoon, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways” (23:26). And in itself, that exhortation says a lot: “Give me your heart.” Solomon wants to inform not just the brain of his son, fill it with facts and figures. No, he wants to instruct the heart—shape the spirit—because that’s the wellspring of life. The heart is the root of our thinking and speaking and doing. So here’s the calling that God lays upon every believing parent, to give true wisdom to their children. This is our theme from Lord’s Day 39,

              “My son, give me your heart.”

                       1. to receive teaching and discipline

                       2. to receive life and blessing

 

1) to receive teaching and discipline: We might want to dive right into all the duties and requirements of parents, or make a daily checklist for the children: tell you all what you have to do! But then we’d be passing over something essential to this commandment—and, indeed, something essential to every commandment of the Lord! It’s about the attitude behind our actions, the mind-set that directs all our behaviour.

This is the truth that we won’t get very far without love. Remember the greatest commandment of God’s law, and the second one like it. Remember how all the law and prophets are fulfilled with this one word: love. And for the fifth commandment, this means that you can have the most theologically-sound parental instruction, but without love, it’s only a noisy gong. And without love, the most careful obedience of children is only a clanging cymbal. In the Christian home, radiating from parents to their children, and from children to their parents, there must be a spirit of love.

I point you to the words of Solomon in 3:12, “For whom the LORD loves he corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” See the connection between the LORD’s love, and his treatment of us, his children: because He loves, God corrects and instructs us, and even disciplines us!

This is the heavenly model for earthly parents. A godly parent must love his or her children, and care for them tenderly, and show them the grace of God the Father. We’ll get to the calling of children a bit later, but see it already: God requires that “I show all honour, love, and faithfulness to my father and mother” (Q&A 104).

Yet isn’t it true that we sometimes obey God’s Word without genuine love? Obeying God without really adoring him for who He is. Doing what’s required without really caring for the people around us. This makes a mockery of God, and it also causes great harm.

The harm of a loveless obedience is seen clearly in the home. Children can pick up on it if a parent really cherishes for them, or is just tolerating them. Children are also quick to spot inconsistency; they see when there is a disconnect between words and deeds, and it makes those words empty of value. So when lessons are given by Dad and Mom without any loving encouragement, a child resists. Or when discipline is handed down outside the packaging of kindness, a child often goes the opposite way. For how can all these things really be right or worthwhile? Lack of love ruins the whole project.

But then the opposite is also true. When parental teaching is done in a spirit of loving concern, then the soil of the child’s heart is being well-prepared. It’s prepared to receive the good seed of the Word, and to bear much fruit.

Now, every child will come to recognize the shortcomings of his or her parents. They will know that blunders are made and bad moods blow in like a storm. But through it all, if the parents are devoted to the children, if there’s no question that they’re seeking their spiritual well-being, a child can accept—should accept—the teaching and discipline of Dad and Mom. They really mean this, and they want it for our good! It’s because they love us.

And their instruction gains so much force when it’s modeled by the parents themselves, when their example bears it out! Listen again to Solomon’s words in 23:26, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” Children watch their parents all the time, and pick up many lessons—good and bad—from our daily conduct, and from our outlook on life, and our conversations with other people.

Parents should know that, so we should be saying, “Not only will I tell you to pray every day, I’ll show you that prayer is precious to me as a parent. Not only will I tell you to trust in God, I’ll show that I try to trust in Him too. Not only will I tell you to make a priority of going to church, and working hard, and studying Scripture, and showing kindness, I will do all these things myself. Give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.”

The same thing is heard in 20:7, “The righteous man walks in his integrity; and his children are blessed after him.” God uses the integrity of Christian parents—the example of a faithful, committed, godly walk of life—to bring blessing on their children.

So just what is a Christian parent aiming to do? If we go back a chapter from where we read, there’s a key verse, a well-known verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (22:6). And the verb translated there “train up” is very revealing; literally, it means to dedicate something, consecrate someone for the service of God. It speaks volumes that the same verb is used to describe the consecration of the temple in Jerusalem. There, every stone and beam and utensil was assigned to the holy purpose of worship. In the same way, parents should be preparing their children for a whole life of doing the LORD’s work, a whole life of being “a temple of the Spirit,” and a “dwelling for God.”

Yes, we want to teach our kids any number of important lessons. We want to give children a sense of responsibility and independence, and we want to foster qualities like being polite and punctual. All these parenting goals might be good and worthwhile, but it’s important to keep “God’s curriculum” at the top. The Lord calls parents to give nurturing in what is really important—remember: matters of the heart.

That’s the real challenge from day to day. We can be so busy correcting behaviour, telling them what is expected, laying down rules, and more rules. But all along we could be neglecting where all that behaviour comes from, the very wellspring of life. “My son, give me your heart.”

So how do we drill down to the heart? With a single phrase, the Catechism sums up the approach: Parents must give their children “good instruction and discipline” (Q&A 104). “Good instruction” is the Bible. It’s the one book in this world that’s able to change the heart. So we need to teach Scripture.

It begins early in a child’s life. Tell the story of who God is, and how great He is. Tell about who Christ is, and what He did for sinners like us. This is how to pray. This is how to read the Word. This is how to worship the LORD, and how to love your neighbour. This is why we need to ask for forgiveness every day. And this is why we’re on the earth: to love the Lord, and to do his will.

And because God and his Word have everything to do with this life, the “teachable moments” are so many. Think of it: every part of our existence is touched by the Lord and addressed by Scripture. The lessons just keep coming; each day there are opportunities to have those conversations, to move forward the good instruction. May God help us not to see these moments as hassles or interruptions, but as beautiful possibilities to teach—even if it’s just a few words here and there, at bedtime, in the car, at the dinner table.

There are lessons about relationships, and about school, and money, and media, and sexuality, and church life, and more. Just like we need to ask ourselves every day, our children too must be taught to ask as their instinctive question: “What does the LORD say about this? How would my Saviour have me live?” Yes, the lessons will be repeated, and repeated again. Parenting sees so much repetition, requires much perseverance. But God uses his Word, applied by his people, to shape believers for Himself.

Not all these lessons are simple either. Because we know that our own hearts—and our children’s hearts—are full of sin. There is within us a spirit of selfishness, and even a tendency toward unbelief, where we live like there is no God. This is what Solomon writes in 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” Every parent knows it well: children don’t always want to listen. There’s that inclination towards folly instead of wisdom. Every child is born believing that they’re autonomous and self-sufficient—that they have the right to live the way they choose, just as long as they’re happy.

And that thinking isn’t quickly changed: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” It’s part of the fabric, woven in. Makes the job difficult. As parents we’re struggling with our own sin every day, at the same time as training our children to see sin’s power in themselves. But actually, shouldn’t that make us excellent teachers? The best teacher is one who knows what ignorance is like, who has struggled to learn himself. We want our children to seek the LORD alone for forgiveness, and to rely on his help to change, and that’s a reliance we have to model. We can show that we ourselves depend on God’s mercy and power.

Here’s another key to reach the heart, says Solomon in the rest of the verse, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (22:15). As a tool for teaching, God has given us the gift of discipline. For by discipline, errors can be corrected. It can impress on a child just how important these lessons are.

For this reason, Scripture isn’t afraid to say that discipline really is a matter of life and death. We read that in chapter 23, “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell” (vv 13-14). Once more we see that parents are busy with a task that is much bigger than raising polite children. We’re busy with a task that has eternal consequence, even delivering a soul from hell. So the molding of hearts needs the utmost attention: through faithful example, patient instruction, and loving discipline.

An upbringing without rules and discipline might sound good. It’s certainly easier to always say “yes” to your child, and never react to their disobedience. But we have it on God’s authority that it’ll lead to rotten results. Listen to 29:15, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” Understand discipline well, and use it properly. It’s not a harsh punishment to vent the anger of Mom or Dad. Discipline shouldn’t be the overflow of our irritation. A parent can always find something to pick on in his or her children, but this only exasperates and discourages. No, discipline is meant to restore and to shape.

And “the rod” isn’t necessarily a stick, or a hand. It’s any means by which parents can let a child know that here there’s something important: here is a sin to repent from, here is a mistake to avoid, here is a truth to honour and preserve. A child needs to know that, and remember it. Applied in loving concern for the heart of a child, discipline can reinforce the lessons of faith.

For that is our purpose. As we raise our children, it’s good to ask: Where are we going with this? Why instruct? Why discipline? Why support Christian schooling and send the kids off to Catechism and Bible study? Because we want our children on the path of life!

Think how often Proverbs paints a contrast between wisdom and folly, the righteous and wicked, life and death. Also here believing parents are presented with a stark alternatives. Do we want our children to be successful in all kinds of ways, or (above all) to be faithful to the Lord? Do we want them to be independent in spirit, or fully dependent—dependent on God? Do we desire smart children, or wise children: ones who are wise in the fear of the Lord? The #1 aim we have for our children is not their happiness; it is their holiness. God has told us what He wants: He wants godly offspring. So that’s the goal we’re working toward, by his grace and with his strength.

 

2) to receive life and blessing: The beauty of the Proverbs is how widely they apply. Also when it comes to the fifth commandment, Solomon has a lot to say not just to parents, but also to children. So what is the calling of children? It’s put very simply in 13:1, “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction.” He heeds it: he pays attention to it, and he puts it into practice. That’s echoed by the Catechism, answering the question of what God requires, “That I… submit myself with due obedience to their good instruction and discipline” (Q&A 104).

It’s one thing to be taught. It’s another to let yourself be taught. That means admitting you don’t know everything. Even a two-year-old wants to figure everything out on her own. But God calls children to have an attitude of humility, where they say: “I will listen to my parents. As much as I don’t feel like it at the moment, I will be instructed by them, and I’ll follow their guidance.” And why? Because God gave them this job, and the even the ability to do it! “It is God’s will to govern us by their hand” (Q&A 104).

The Catechism is realistic when it says that children must “also have patience with [parents’] weaknesses and shortcomings” (Q&A 104). For parents are human. As children get older, they come to see that, more and more. But here too, God commands love. So even if a child doesn’t want to obey Mom and Dad, there’s a calling to love and patience and submission. Despite all their weaknesses, God uses parents for good, to bring life and blessing. This is why Solomon says to his son, “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (23:22).

Beloved, this commandment, like every other commandment, is like a mirror that is held up to us, and which shows our failings. If we take an honest look, we see our flaws as parents, and the defects of our children. All these become so much more painful when we see how some covenant children do not come to love and obey God. Such things cause parents great sorrow, soul-searching, and even despair.

Some have wondered then, about these proverbs about raising children. Particularly that well-known 22:6 is difficult: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Is that some kind of guarantee? Is Solomon saying that a child of believing parents, diligently raised, carefully loved, thoroughly instructed in the Word, will never depart from the Lord’s way?

There’s no guarantee. The Proverbs are not iron-clad statements. They tell us only what generally takes place, not saying that there are never exceptions. Good and godly parents don’t always produce good and godly children. And when we think about that, let’s remember that success in parenting isn’t about achieving our goals, getting to the outcome that we wanted. As in all of life, true success is about being faithful—faithful in our God-given calling. With all our frailty, and in all dependence on the Lord God, we want to be useful to Him.

Then we can also take comfort that despite all the shortcomings of parents, and despite all the sinfulness of children, God is faithful. So when it looks like a child has departed from the way, he can come back. He can remember what he’s learned; he can return to the truth. This is what Solomon once said to his son about the teachings of God’s wisdom, “When you roam, they will lead you; when you sleep, they will keep you; and when you awake, they will speak with you” (6:22). That’s what we pray most earnestly for every covenant child. We pray it also for those who right now are “roaming and wandering.” We pray that they’ll be led, that they’ll come to have a living faith in God, and come to confess Jesus as Lord.

So to parents, God says: “Take hold of those ‘teachable moments!’ Don’t let them pass you by!” For such work can be used powerfully by the LORD. God can use parents as a tool for change, even to transform. That’s a promise built into the fifth commandment: “Honour your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12). Great blessing follows when we live in God’s ways.

We hear that blessing also in Proverbs 23:15, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will rejoice.” For isn’t that the greatest happiness of a parent, to see a child grow up to confess Jesus as Lord? To see a child live out a committed faith in every way? That gives great joy to a parent, immense satisfaction. Like it says in another proverb, “A wise son makes a glad father” (10:1). Because a parent knows that whatever happens, that believing child will be all right. That child will have hope and comfort and stability, because he’s walking with God and depending on Christ. That’s an encouragement for parents to keep going with the work.

And that’s an encouragement for children—to bring delight to their parents. Boys and girls, make your parents glad. Make them glad by your faith, by your love, by your beautiful spirit. Cause them to rejoice! A wise son, a wise daughter, makes a glad father and mother.

That’s the living legacy of godly parenting. It says in 13:22, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” On one level, that verse is about material wealth, but Solomon also recognizes that money and possessions quickly fade. So on another level, it’s about what Christian parents leave behind them spiritually. The inheritance of faith and godliness is a legacy that endures, even long after the parents have passed away.

Through such a faith, there’s abundant life and blessing. And God’s commandments tell us how to get there. Every boy, every girl—every one of us—needs that holy guidance. What are we to do with this life? Where to go? God’s Word gives the clear course to take, the reliable track to follow.

If that’s the road that we and our children take, then we will not be disappointed, “For surely there is a hereafter,” Solomon reminds his son, “and your hope will not be cut off” (23:18). That’s how valuable instruction in the Word really is: it’s good for this life, and for eternity! There is a hereafter—we have a sure hope. “So give me your heart,” says God, “and let your eyes observe my ways.”  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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