Calvary Road Baptist Church

“A HIGH VIEW OF CHILDREN” Part 2

Psalm 127.3

On this anniversary of the terrible Roe v. Wade United State Supreme Court ruling, I preached this morning about the conditions that must exist in a culture that would tolerate such a Supreme Court ruling without so many people protesting in the streets the president and Congress would have to enact steps to amend the Constitution to overturn the Court ruling. Imagine what would have happened in January 1973 had the spiritual and church leaders in our country enough sense and commitment to Christ to learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His sense of personal outrage, his experience with the suffering of the Black people in the United States, and his intelligent reading of the citizenry, enabled him to lead a ground swell of opposition against Jim Crow that changed the face of our nation, even if it did not entirely eliminate racism. Our country was forever changed by the things he and those who marched with him did. Imagine what might have happened if prominent men agreed to link arms around an abortion clinic and been willing to suffer arrest for taking a courageous stand against abortion. Imagine what might have happened had only one of those men the insight to then write, as Dr. King wrote, something like his Letter from Birmingham Jail, in which he argued that the battle against segregation should not be limited to court rooms, but should also be fought by means of peaceful protests in the streets.[1]

I dare say that if only one of the prominent Christian leaders of the day had done for the antiabortion movement what Martin Luther King, Jr. did for the anti-segregation movement, tens of millions of unborn babies would not have lost their lives in abortion mills across this country. Richard M. Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, wrote a wonderful book titled Leaders. In that book, he posits that a great leader is found with the following combination of circumstances/opportunities: He must live in a great country. He must be faced with a great challenge. He must be a great man. I submit to you that with respect to the abortion tragedy that arose from the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, our great country and the great challenge we faced were met with the disappointment of men who were not great in rising to the single most important crisis of their lifetimes. Because the abortion battle was not fought by great men in position to fight the great fight, we are now left with a country that is no longer great (How can a country be great that tolerates the slaughter of its unborn?), and we face the likelihood that same sex marriage will gradually gain legal acceptance in state after state until it becomes the law of our entire land. What a legacy we have left our children, because so many who name the name of Christ wanted to be left alone to live their lives conveniently and relatively free of conflict.

Therefore, as we turn our attention from our nation to ourselves, to our own families, and to our churches, how do we ensure that we are not guilty in our own way with respect to children? Not that any Christian would be guilty of abortion, which is the murder of the unborn, and would clearly expose the guilty party as a false professor. However, what steps should be take to make sure that we have a high view of children, that we embrace Biblical truth about the most defenseless among us? As a first step, may I make three suggestions respecting our relationships with children?

First, WE MUST LOVE OUR CHILDREN

You may think love of children is quite a natural thing, but you would be mistaken. The kind of love that is sanctioned in God’s Word is love that is much more than sentimental feelings and emotional attachment. Love for children in God’s Word involves meeting their most profound needs in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the Bible. This is why Paul points out to Titus that particularly qualified aged Christian women teach young women to, among other things, love their husbands and love their children, Titus 2.3-5:

3      The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

4      That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

5      To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Loving their husbands and loving their children, the issue to which I am now speaking, is something most mothers do not know how to do. Most fathers do not know how to love their children, either. Four comments in this regard:

First, to love our children we must first love God. No matter how frequently this is asserted, some people find it impossible for this truth to truly sink in to their consciousness. Until your vertical relationship is right, your horizontal relationships cannot be right. Until you love God, you cannot properly love others in your life. Think about it for a moment. Your capacity to love is enabled by the love you have for God. Thus, if you do not love God, which is to say worship, adore, serve, praise, glorify, extol His virtues, and all the rest that is entailed in loving God, you will have no love to give to others and you will have little skill in communicating real love. You will only be able to muster affection and sentimentality, which is nice, but is a poor substitute for real love. Thus, the young mother who is not a Christian who thinks she loves her baby, or the profoundly maternal woman who has a house full of children that she thinks she is loving and properly raising, is missing the one ingredient her children most need from her as she gives them what passes in her mind for love. She denies her children the opportunity to see their mother love God before their eyes. I would suggest to you that in a real sense love for God is caught rather than taught, is modeled rather than merely discussed, and is exhibited rather than only advised.

Next, to love our children we must love all children. What is the real difference between your child and any other child? Is there a qualitative difference? Is your child better than another child is? In reality, is your child different from other children in any substantial way, or is it only that your child is more familiar to you than other children are? I submit to you that there is no qualitative difference that distinguishes your child from any other child, and that all children are wonderful gifts given to us by God. As our text declares, “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” If this be true, and if there are actual reasons for loving your child, those reasons would apply to other children as well as to your own, would they not? Thus, my child is not superior to other children, better than other children are. The distinguishing characteristic of my child is that she has been placed into my care by God to raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. While my relationship with my child is more intimate than other children, and my responsibility to express love and meet the needs of my child are more direct than for other children, the qualitative aspect of my love for my child and my love for all children is essentially the same, and should be the same if my love is a scriptural kind of love. I love Sarah, but I also love Monica, and Lisa, as well as the others.

Third, to love our children we must know all children. The remarkable thing about Christ’s love for me is His knowledge of me while still loving me. I am not a lovable guy, yet God still loves me. Though He knows everything there is about me to know, He loves me still. That is real love. Our love for children, and our love for our own children, should not be based upon some pretense that children are in all ways cuddly and wonderful. Rather, our love for our own children, and our love for other children as well, should be based upon two things, the love Christ has for them that is ministered to them through us, and that aspect of them which reflects the image of God each of them bears. In Second Corinthians 5.14, the Apostle Paul begins, “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” Though his particular remark was in connection with reaching the lost, it applies to all our dealings with people, and includes our dealings with our own children and the other children we meet. Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world. If you are a Christian, Jesus will minister His love to the children through you. This, despite the fact that we know children are liars from the womb, Psalm 58.3, are frequently very troublesome, and can be profoundly inconvenient. We know their nature, their tendencies, and their proclivities, yet we are called upon to love them despite what they are like, not because of what they are like.

Finally, to love our children we must give them what they need. This is really what loving children is all about. Some people make a big show of loving children, when the reality is that they greatly love themselves and find children useful in defining themselves and establishing their identity. Thus, it is not love for children, but a fondness for the usefulness children provide them that is passed off as love for children. Real love in God’s Word is part and parcel with meeting profound needs. To be sure, we can meet no need God has, but God’s love for us and an individual’s love for another individual is the primary motivation for blessing the one you love by meeting his needs. This is difficult for some people, in light of the fact that they see love as giving children what they want, or doing things that make children happy with them. However, such an attitude is wide of the mark, because it is blind to the greatest needs each child has, the need of Christ and the need of godly parents. It is obvious that every person’s single greatest need is the salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the greatest need of each child is the same. I would suggest that the second greatest need each child has is a godly mom and a godly dad, since such parents are crucial to that child being in a Christian home and a good church where the gospel is at hand and every encouragement to reconcile with God through faith in Christ is available. Once again distinguishing between sentimental feelings and real love, parents who are not Christians cannot set godly examples for their children, cannot by their own actions model repentance, faith in Christ, godly humility, and the rest of the Christian graces. In other words, to give children what they really need, most especially giving your own children what they really need, you must be a Christian.

Next, WE MUST TRAIN OUR CHILDREN

Training children is profoundly important in God’s Word. Proverbs 22.6 begins, “Train up a child in the way he should go.” Thus, we see that child rearing in the Bible is a very different in concept from contemporary parenting. In God’s Word, moms and dads are shown to be assertive leaders whose responsibility it is to mold the personalities of their children, impart wisdom to them while discouraging foolish behavior, and inculcating values as they prepare them for adult living and responsibility. That is quite different from contemporary moms and dads, who see themselves primarily as friendly providers and personal attendants, who in the main follow after their children to clean up their messes and solve problems they have created so as to ensure that they are as happy as can be. Consider three aspects of training children:

First, training requires a set of attainable goals. Is this not implicit in Proverbs 22.6, which begins, “Train up a child in the way he should go”? Parenting is not at all about where the child wants to go with his life, but training a child in the way that he should go, where God wants him to end up. Where should a child go? Most parents have not a clue about the goals and targets to which their children are not only pointed to strive for but also reared to achieve. In First Thessalonians 2.7-12, the Apostle Paul, likening himself to both a mother and a father engaged in raising children, revealed not only his own goal for the Thessalonian Christians, but also the proper goal for the children of every Christian parent: “That ye would walk worthy of God.” Where a child should go is heaven, and everything about parenting should be with a view to seeing the child converted to Christ and equipped for serving God on his way to heaven. What qualities are necessary for a child to grow into an adult who can walk worthy of God? Realizing that the key is conversion to Christ, which I will speak to later, children must also be raised with character qualities that include integrity, honesty, humility, courage, self-discipline, a good work ethic, a strong academic foundation, and a familiarity with sound doctrine and Christian history. Thus, there are facts your children should be expected to learn, character traits your children should be expected to display, and values that you should seek to impart to them. They should be trained to honor their parents, Exodus 20.12, to honor widows, First Timothy 5.3, to honor their spiritual leaders, First Timothy 5.17, and to honor their employers, First Timothy 6.1.

However, training requires diligent reinforcement. I once read a Reader’s Digest condensed article about child rearing that mentioned the number of times a child needs to be provided direction before it is ingrained in him being about 7,000 times. That is about the number of times I was told growing up not to let the screen door slam as I ran outside. As well, do we not see this principle in Isaiah 28.10 and 13?

10     For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

13     But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

Therefore, do not fool yourself into thinking that training is accomplished by telling a child something and then expecting him to incorporate what you have told him into his life. It did not work that way with you, and it does not work that way with anyone else, either. It takes a long time to train someone, and all along the way, the person being trained needs large doses of explanation and encouragement to reinforce the training. Turn to Galatians 4.1: “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all.” In explaining the role of the Law in relation to the gospel, the Apostle Paul’s starting point is the place of the child in the home. Notice that although he will someday inherit from his father, while he is a child he is effectively a servant and should be so treated. Thus, children should be trained to serve as they are being raised, laying the groundwork for and diligently reinforcing that child’s preparation to serve God. Sadly, most parents serve their children these days, rather than training children to be servants.

Training also requires correction. Children need to be corrected for three reasons: First, because they are prone to making mistakes and misunderstanding what is expected of them. Second, because they lack judgment and engage in folly. Third, because they are prone to intentionally doing what they know to be wrong, being sinful. What is the Biblical prescription for correction in each of these categories? If an error is derived from a simple misunderstanding or a mistake, instruction and encouragement to make another attempt at compliance is called for. If an error is derived from a clear case of foolishness, Proverbs 22.5 provides a remedy: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Why spank a child for foolish behavior? Someone who is foolish cannot be taught or reasoned with, because Proverbs 1.7 reveals to us “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1.22 shows us that fools hate knowledge. Thus, when you are dealing with a foolish child, you can teach and talk until you are blue in the face without any change in behavior. However, when you give Lonnie a really good spanking that he will remember for sticking a table knife into the electric outlet, he is unlikely to do that again. You may also have saved his life, because “fools die for want of wisdom,” Proverbs 10.21. What is the remedy for rebellion and intentional acts of disobedience? Do you seriously think you can reason with an unreasonable child? Dare you stand by while your child dishonors you by yelling and screaming at you, venting his anger toward you? Why do you suppose the LORD directed everyone to “fear every man his mother, and his father,” in Leviticus 19.3? Listen to Second Samuel 7.14: “I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.” Training requires correction. Correction comes in the form of instruction when there is need to correct ignorance or a mistake. Correction comes in the form of a spanking when there is need to correct foolishness, since fools despise instruction. Correction comes in the form of a spanking when there is rebellion, since spanking produces the closest approximation to repentance when the child sins by intentionally disobeying his mother or his father. “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying,” Proverbs 19.18. Correcting is always easier done with a younger child than an older child, because the personality becomes less flexible and more firmly set as the child ages and matures. Yes, I know some parents will convince themselves that their child will be raised differently, without resorting to spanking. However, no one has ever shown me how one reasons with an unreasonable child who desperately needs to be trained in the way he should go. Refuse to chasten your child and you rob him of one of the proofs that you love him, Hebrews 12.6-7.

Finally, WE MUST EVANGELIZE OUR CHILDREN

As destructive as Charles G. Finney’s influence was to the gospel preacher, so destructive was Horace Bushnell’s influence on the evangelizing of children, particularly church children.[2] Bushnell was singularly responsible for altering the philosophy of ministers and Sunday School teachers toward the children of church members, arguing that kids raised in church should be insinuated into Christianity rather than being subjected to the ministry of the Law to prepare them for the gospel. Bushnell objected to the idea that church children needed to feel strong conviction of sins prior to their conversion. He maintained that church children were not as sinful as unchurched kids, and that their tenderness toward the things of God exempted them from any need of deep convicting work by the Holy Spirit. My own evaluation of Bushnell is that he completely missed recognizing that unchurched kids were not more sinful than church kids, just prone to committing different kinds of sins than church kids.

As we look into God’s Word, how many gospels do we find? Does not the Apostle Paul warn the Galatian churches of any deviation from the one true gospel, Galatians 1.8-9? I would also ask, does the Holy Spirit not work to convict all sinners of their sins, John 16.8? Do we find any indication that someone who is more religious is dealt with differently than someone who is not religious, except for the fact that the more religious person is more likely to be a hypocrite? No. Thus, though many parents are strongly persuaded that their children should be preached to more softly than other children, should be counseled more tenderly than other children, and should be guided to Christ in somewhat different fashion than other children, such ideas are not found in the ministry of John Bunyan and Pilgrim’s Progress, in the ministry of Jonathan Edwards, Dwight Moody, or Charles Spurgeon (because such a notion is unscriptural), but reflects only the thinking of the 19th century liberal pastor and theologian Horace Bushnell.

I have said all that to say that when we seek to reach our children, we must seek to reach them with the same message and by the same means we seek to reach other children. The tendency is to love our children while not loving other children, which is wrong, to train our children patiently while being impatient with the training of other children, which is wrong, and also to evangelize our children somewhat differently than we seek to evangelize other children, which is wrong. Whether it be loving, or training, or bringing to Christ, the essence of what we do with our children and children not ours should be the same, even while acknowledging that our responsibilities toward our own and those not our own are not exactly the same.

We need a high view of children. We need to see them and to treat them as made in the image and after the likeness of God. We need to recognize them to be dead in trespasses and sins, depraved and without hope apart from the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. A high view of children is one that sees them as having fallen from a lofty height to a very low estate because of sin. Thus, while we should be lovers of good men, Titus 1.8, we should also be lovers of children, our own and others. The essence of our love for children should be the same as the essence of our love for our own children, with all children ultimately belonging to God, and our kids placed into our care so we can more carefully and more particularly train them and nurture them. However, we should not love our children while have no love for other children, for then the question is raised if there is real love for our own children.

As for training children. Training children is not allowing them to run ahead of you and always saying no when they ask you for something. Training is generally being in front of them, clearing a path through life for them to follow you, and correcting them when they deviate from the way they should go. Sometimes correcting them requires explaining to them. At other times, correcting them requires coercing them by various means, sometimes even spanking them. At no time does training them allow for them to be disrespectful and disobedient without you visiting upon them real consequences for wrong behavior, just as you visit upon them reinforcement for correct behavior. Then there is evangelizing children. All children are born lost. All children are dead in trespasses and sins. All children have deceitful hearts. Every child’s single greatest need is the salvation that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. No child needs a mom or dad who is more concerned about his child’s relationship with him than his child’s relationship with Christ.

For us to have a high view of children, we need to see them as bearing God’s image, as being fallen creatures, and as needing Christ. As we love them, train them, and seek to bring them to Christ, we are doing more for them personally than can possibly be done otherwise. May God bless us as we reflect in our lives and ministries the attitude demonstrated by our Savior toward children.



[2] Theodore T. Munger, Horace Bushnell Preacher And Theologian, (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899)



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