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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
Title:True Freedom
Text:LD 39 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Proverbs 4:10-19; Eph. 6:1-4

Lord's Day 39

Ps. 95

Hy. 11:6

Ps. 78:1,2,3

Ps. 119:4

Hy. 85

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

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ,

I think it is fair to say that we all want freedom, but what is freedom? How would you define it? Is it being able to do exactly what you want when you want? No one telling you what to do? No outside authority in your life?

There was a time in the life of the people of Israel when there was no outside authority in the people's lives. I'm talking about the time of the Judges. There is that refrain: “There was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

They had freedom from authority, but what kind of freedom was it? It was miserable, for it led to heathen practices, the judgment and punishment of God at the hands of marauding tribes and cruel nations. At the end, Israel's rejection of God's authority and law led to their expulsion from the land and exile in Babylon. Some freedom!

What applied on a larger scale to the nation of Israel applies on a smaller scale to our families. Each of our families is a small nation. Just as God governed Israel by the hand of the king, so God governs our families by the hand of our parents. Your mom and dad are the king and queen of your family. As Israel rejected God when they rejected the king, so we reject God when we rebel against our parents. Rebelling against God never leads upward to happiness and freedom; rather, it leads downwards to slavery and misery.

As we listen to the instruction of Lord's Day 39, we are going to think about three things:

  1. Nurturing the children

  2. Honouring our parents

  3. Living in freedom

1. First thing we need to see when we began talking about the parents task to nurture their children is that parents must give their children good instruction and discipline. That's the first task of parents. That is how parents nurture their children (to nurture means to care for and encourage the growth or development of someone or something—like a plant, or in case, children).

Parents have many legitimate concerns for their children. We are concerned about the education of our children. We even make financial sacrifices for Bible-based and confessional schools. If they are academically inclined, we are willing to make further sacrifices to have them go to college or university. If they are inclined towards a trade, we like to help them get set up in one of the trades. We teach the children skills - job skills, personal skills, life skills. Parents are often concerned about the social status of their children.

Then we have other concerns. Their health and physical well-being. Clothing. We want to provide a good home environment for the children to live in. And so we buy them toys and dolls, bicycles and Lego blocks.

This is all good and important. All of this falls within the task of parents. Being moms and dads includes all of this. But it's all secondary.

The primary task of parents is to instruct and discipline their children in the ways and the service of the LORD. Parents, that is your first responsibility to your children. To help the children advance in the understanding of God, of his Word, and of the covenant relationship he has with your children.

Think of the well known words of Dt. 6 which tell the parents to pass the knowledge of God on to their children. The LORD said through Moses: These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 

In the book of Proverbs we have an extensive collection of parental teaching. Throughout the Proverbs, children are encouraged and exhorted to accept and obey the instruction of their parents. It starts in 1:8,9: Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

We read part of ch. 4, about a father's instruction. The child is called upon to accept it and pay heed to it.

Now, if children are supposed to listen to their parents' instruction and to pay heed to what mother and father say, then it is clear that the parents must give that good instruction. The Bible assumes that you, as parents, are going to give your children the food and clothing they need. As Jesus said: when a son asks for a piece of bread, then his father is not going to give him a stone. If he asks for an egg, dad's not going to give him a snake. Of course not. Jesus assumed that parents give their children the things they need for daily welfare. The bible doesn't command parents to do these things. Rather, it commands us to do the most important thing: to teach the children about the Lord; to teach them about God's great deeds of salvation and about his commandments.

And this is to go from generation to generation. Think again of what we read in Prov. 4 where we hear a father speaking to his son. Father says: “Listen, my son. Pay attention to what I say. When I was a son with my father ... he taught me, and said to me ...” And then comes the teaching. To hold fast the commandments, the precepts, and divine wisdom. We hear a father passing on his father's teaching to his child. Three generations.

We too must pass on what we have received to the children so that the word of God may be preserved in the lives of the generations.

Sometimes you will meet with resistance. Even children of a young age will, at times, resist, to sabotage your efforts. But it is your task as parents to persevere.

We can give our children many things: a nice home, good food, stylish clothing, computers, ways to entertain themselves—Wiis, Xboxes, iPods, iPads, smart phones Netflix—piano lessons, opportunities to play sports—many things—but if we do not faithfully pass on to them the sound instruction of the word of God, we have short-changed our kids.

We we hear whenever parents make those wonderful promises to God before presenting a child for baptism. Listen again to the third question: “… do you promise as father and mother to instruct your child in this doctrine, as soon as he (she) is able to understand, and to have him (her) instructed therein to the utmost of your power?”

Good instruction is so important for the future well-being of your children.

Along with instruction comes discipline. Lord's Day 39 talks about instruction and discipline These always go together.

The book of Proverbs teaches that if you love your children, you will discipline them. Prob. 3:12 says that parents will reprove and discipline the child they love. The apostle Paul, in Eph. 6:4, commands parents to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

It might, at first, seem easier to be light on discipline. And, perhaps, even to say: "Let the kids make up their own minds. Let them go their own way and find out for themselves. Give them some space. They'll be o.k. They'll be alright. Let them experiment by themselves and find their own way."

That can be disastrous, especially because it's based on bad theology. It's based on the idea that there is no such thing as original sin. It's Pelagianism. Pelagius (who lived around the year 400) rejected the doctrine of original sin. He said that every child is born as a blank slate without the guilt of original sin. To reject discipline is to embrace Pelagianism. Children need to learn self-discipline That's not something that comes naturally. By nature we are all born spiritually dead. It is as parents discipline their children that the children will learn self-discipline.

Parents may not do so in a cruel, heavy-handed way. We must be careful that we do not frustrate our children by unreasonable demands and expectations. As Paul said: "Fathers, do not provoke (exasperate) your children." We must beware of discouraging our children by harsh discipline. We must give them firm, kind, and loving discipline. And in that way to lead them in the pathways of the LORD. It is God's will to govern the children by the hand of the parents he gave to the children. Let's be faithful in doing so.

You will recognize that the word “discipline” and “disciple” are closely related. Parental discipline needs to be done in such a way that the parents lead their children to be disciples—disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps some of you had parents who did not nurture you. Who, perhaps, were hard on you, maybe even abusive. That is difficult, but please know that you have a Father in heaven who has adopted you, and who will always be good and kind. And your have the church as your mother, who will always lovingly nurture you.

2. The children must submit in obedience to this good instruction and discipline.

The basic commandment is: Honour your father and your mother. The word for "honour" which is used in the Hebrew means something like "heavy", "weighty". In the sense of importance. The Lord calls upon you to be impressed by your parents. To consider them important for they carry weight and authority.

That same word - the Hebrew word for "honour" - is used at times to refer to God. To describe him. We must honour him because he is important and impressive.

In the fifth commandment God requires of us that we honour our parents as we honour him. By using that same word - by saying in the fifth commandment that we must honour our parents - God is teaching us that he takes some of his weight and authority and places it upon our parents. You must respect and obey your parents because God has given them authority over you. As Lord's Day 39 says, it is God's will to govern you by their hand.

A child can do little worse than dishonour his parents. Prov 30:17 -- "The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures." That is a rather gruesome prospect!

This commandment also calls you to love your parents. The thing about honour is you can quite easily enough fake it, but love—that you can't fake.

And you are called to be faithful to them. Stick up for them and help them. That's a life-long task. Very important that we remain faithful to our parents when they get old, weak and feeble, perhaps even suffer from dementia. Prov. 23:22 says: Do not despise your mother when she is old. Then too, remain faithful. There is no statute of limitation on the fifth commandment. It will apply for as long as you have parents.

Not all of us have children to nurture, but we all have (or have had) parents to honour and love.

Here, too, we should follow the example of Jesus. He showed us how to honour our parents. When he was young, he was an example of obedience and submission. Read about that in Luke 2:51. Luke wrote very explicitly of the 12 year old Jesus that he was obedient to his parents.

At the end of his life, even when he hung dying on the cross, he was concerned about his mother. He committed her into the care of his disciple John. Then he was an example of faithfulness. In his youth he was an example of obedience; in his adulthood he was an example of faithfulness.

His whole life, from adolescence to adulthood, was embraced by faithfulness to his earthly parents.

He had patience with their weaknesses and shortcomings. We too need to have patience with the weakness and shortcomings of our parents. Your parents are not perfect. They'll be the first to tell you that. They make mistakes and errors of judgment. God calls you to be patient with them.

There is a limit to all this. Really only one limitation. The limitation is that you must love the Lord Jesus more than your father or mother. As Jesus said in Matt 10:37, "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me ...." Above all we must love Jesus Christ. Our love for our parents may never get in the way of our love for Christ. If ever we have to choose between our parents and Jesus Christ, between our earthly family and the family of the church, then we must choose the Lord Jesus Christ and his church. We must follow Christ at all times. In Mt. 10 the Lord said that our obedience to Christ will, at times, create stress between parents and children. Sometimes we have to bear a cross, even within the context of family, for the sake of our obedience to Christ. That's difficult, and that's sad, but Christ will give you strength.

Love, honour, and obey your parents, but love Jesus above all.

3. If we live in this way in our families, then things will go well for us. If the parents give the children good instruction and discipline and if children submit to this, and if the church, who is the Mother of us all, instructs and disciplines us according to the Word of God, then we will enjoy true freedom.

You see, there is a promise attached to this commandment. The promise is: That your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

God said to his people Israel as he was bringing them into the Promised Land: “If you obey your parents, if you submit to their good instruction and discipline, you will live long in this land. Because when you obey them, you obey me. But if you reject the instruction and discipline of your parents, if you reject the teaching they received from their parents and are now handing down to you - if you reject that, your days will be short in the land. I will drive you out of the land of freedom back into slavery.”

The Promised Land was the reality and true expression of Israel's freedom. God took them from slavery in Egypt and brought them into a free land. If they turned their back on the divine instruction and discipline which they received from their parents, then God would drive them from the land of freedom, back into slavery. We know from the history recorded in the OT that this happened. The people ended up in exile in Babylon.

Prov. 4 connects obeying your parents with long life. Listen to v. 10 -- Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. And to v. 13 -- Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.

Obedience leads to freedom and to life while disobedience leads to slavery and death. In Prov. 4:14-19, we read about those who reject and scoff at their parent's teaching and discipline. V. 19 says that the way of these people is like deep darkness. They end up groping around in the darkness of sin. They stumble and fall flat on their face. They are too foolish even to realize over what they have stumbled.

You can see it in the lives of some people. In the lives of people who have rejected their parents good instruction and discipline. Their parents warned them about reckless and godless living. They rejected that, and their lives spiraled out of control.

Perhaps that has happened, or is happening, to some of you. Or one of you. You are not listening to your mom and dad. What they say is so old fashioned. You have lost interest in what they have to say. Their teaching, their warnings, their admonitions. And your life has spiralled, or is slowly spiraling out of control. You are here this afternoon and as you hear the Word of God you must admit that things are not going well.

Well listen: there is a way back. There is a way back today for all disobedient sons and daughters. Jesus taught that in a parable.

There was a young son who took his share of his father's inheritance, went to a far country, and spent it all on riotous living—on wine, women, and song. But when the money ran out and he found himself, literally, in the pig pen feeding hogs, a few corn cobs away from starving to death, he came to his senses and went home. And as he turned into the lane of the family farm he saw his father running towards him. He fell into the embrace of his father, and his father said: “My son is home! He was lost but now is found. My son is home.”

There is a way back, loved one. There is way back to the heavenly Father and to his eternal home. You have been baptized, been marked out as belonging to God. There is a way home.

Or perhaps you are parents silently grieving for a child who grew up but quit listening to you. He went his own way. He is like the son in the parable, but who is still, as it were, in a faraway country. Don't give up. Don't lose heart.

Remember that one son of Israel dying on a cross beside Jesus. Impending death focused his mind on the one thing that was important. Impending death has a way of doing that. He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Do not quit praying for that straying child. Plead upon his baptism. Pray that God may work in him, to turn his heart back to Jesus, that Jesus may have mercy on him and bring him into his kingdom.

May God bring us all into his heavenly kingdom, to that beautiful land, to the home he is preparing for us. AMEN

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. George van Popta

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