Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WHEN A NEGATIVE IS A POSITIVE”

Ephesians 6.4b 

On this Grandparents Day, I want to appeal to you who are grandparents to back me up, to support me, to verify the reliability and truthfulness of what I am about to say. We live in a day when very few people have any idea anymore how to raise children. Consider what has happened to our country in the last almost 75 years to contribute to this horrendous problem.

In 1941 the United States of America went to war against two enemies, on opposite sides of the world. To win the war took the combined resources of our country, the Soviet Union, France, and the British Commonwealth, and left France a shell of what it was while destroying the Commonwealth. They have never recovered the world prominence they had before that terrible war, with the Soviet Union no longer existing.

During that for us four-year war the fathers of every boy in America were gone for the duration. How did the absence of all those dads affect those boys? Their fathers were gone at that critical time of life when boys learn to be men; to be responsible, to provide for their families, to guide their children. Those lads, in turn, married and sired their own children. But what happened when their boys grew into adolescence? Those fathers, who had missed their dads during World War Two, had not a clue as to what to do to get their boys through their teen years. By the way, the children of the boys who had no dads at home in World War Two became the flower children of the 60s and 70s. And the flower children of the 60s and early 70s became, themselves, fathers. They were two entire generations removed from any practical expertise at raising kids through the difficult teen years. That is a great part of the problem that is faced in our country today, and in our Churches today.

Not even considering the wholesale departure from the Word of God that began at the turn of the 20th century and continues even to this day, we have a nation of people who have little idea how to raise their kids. Because they have little notion of how to raise kids, since the Apostle Paul forcefully illustrated the parallels that exist between being a pastor and being a dad, these same people are oblivious to the realities and the principles that lie back of providing spiritual leadership and followship to congregations.

No wonder so many kids are the way they are, and Churches are filled with lost people who choke on Biblical leadership. Very few of us have any cultural memory of things being done the right way. Fewer still have enough knowledge of God’s Word to raise kids the right way or be the kind of Church members we ought to be. Thankfully, we have the Word of God. If God’s judgment against our wicked country is stayed long enough we might see a generation of men raised up who will know how to grow children, and who will know how to follow the leadership of a pastor, because they will be thoroughly familiar with the Biblical principles involved in both endeavors.

This morning I want to bring to you a message from the second half of Ephesians 6.4: 

“but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” 

Let me show you how confused men generally are about raising kids. Of course, the first part of the verse is negative. Don’t do something. The second part of the verse is positive. Do do something. But if you will pay attention to what it is Paul commands spiritual fathers to positively do in the lives of their children you will see that positive input into the lives of your kids requires distinctly negative activity. Let’s examine the words of the last half of the verse individually.

First, there is the word “but.” This is a word of contrast. Paul is showing how different the two parts of this command of Ephesians 6.4 really are. Negatively, do not say or do or be those things which will provoke your child to wrath. Don’t be a dad who sends his kids to Church but doesn’t go himself. Don’t be a dad who doesn’t support his family by whatever it takes to get the job done. Don’t be a dad who is arbitrary and unjust in his dealings with his kids, resorting to the naked demonstration of power and authority. On the other hand, there are two things that fathers are commanded to engage in in the lives of their children. These are fatherly responsibilities assigned to dads by God, Himself. But before we look at those responsibilities let’s consider the second word, “in.” This is the word which establishes the context in which the kids in the family are to be raised. They are to be raised “in the Lord.”

One of the great delusions of the 20th century was the false notion that you can be a good dad without raising your kids “in the Lord,” that you are a good dad if you are not a bad dad, that you are successful so long as you don’t provoke your children to wrath. That’s a false notion, my friends, based on the erroneous belief that there is a region of moral neutrality between the good and the bad. One question shows the poverty of such a position. If you raise your kids to love you and to like you, to get a good education and achieve success in business, but they die and go to Hell after having lived a life that counted nothing for Christ, have you succeeded as a father? I think not. That’s why the context in which you must operate as a father is critical to understand. You cannot succeed as a father unless and until you provide for your kids the moral and spiritual leadership that will lead them to Christ and then lead them to serve Christ.

Here is how you do it. And remember, this is the positive half of the verse. But notice how that which is shown to be positive in the Word of God is usually thought to be quite negative by the world. To raise your kids properly, dad, you must first “nurture” them. This word “nurture” translates the Greek word paideia, which refers to educating, training, or disciplining a child. In other words, dad, you are to constrain their behavior through training. There goes the Montessori school, where kids are allowed to do anything they want to do all the day long. And there goes the television set baby sitter, as well. You see, this word “nurture” carries the idea of boundaries that limit a child’s options. You provide limitations on what the child is allowed to do, and you train him to go in the direction that is good for him, with chastisement as a means of reinforcing correct behavior when it is called for, as other passages in which this word is used show.

But how many dads do you know who take up this challenge in the lives of their children? Most dads allow moms to do all this, which frustrates the moms since they are often no better prepared to do what God wants dads to do than dads are themselves. But that’s not all. In addition to constraint, God also wants dads to provide confrontation. This is the word “admonition.” Translating the Greek word nouthesia, the idea here is confronting with a view toward correcting. But how many fathers try to slough all of this off on their wives? I’ve known so many men who simply refuse to back their wives up in matters of discipline and correcting their kids.

Hold on, dad. That duty is your primary responsibility, even if most of the sparks fly when you are at work. It is your job to face off against your kids and insist that they give an accounting to you of their wrongdoing when needed. In the context of a Christian home, then, these two activities, when properly pursued by the dad, may seem to be mainly negative in their impact. But they are incredibly positive in their results. When you realize that dad is dealing with sinful children, when you realize that dad is the primary authority figure in the home, and when you realize that on those occasions when dad has to back up his words with chastisement that he is only reinforcing his love for his children (Hebrews 12), then you realize how it is that something so negative can actually be so positive in the life of a child.

Consider the parable of the prodigal son. You remember the story of the younger boy who left home. Some of you, if you knew the prodigal’s father, would severely criticize the man for not running after the boy and pleading with the boy to return home. “Yes,” you would say, “the boy left home of his own free will. Yes, the father did try to talk the boy out of leaving and even told him how much he loved him. But that man should have run after the boy and tried to drag him back. After all, what about the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 to pursue the one who strayed?”

This is the typical reaction of someone who knows nothing about fathering, who is clueless about the Biblical concept of nurturing and admonishing, and the chastising that sometimes goes along with them, and who, most of all, is oblivious to the consequences in the life of the son who did not leave home should his father abandon principle to bring back into the home an unrepentant child. Were the parable of the prodigal son a true story, instead of fiction created by the Savior to teach timeless truths, you can be sure that before the boy left the father would have done all he could to prevent his son from straying and ruining his life. But such a wise father would also know that you cannot raise a son without that son’s cooperation, just as a pastor cannot pastor a man without his cooperation.

At some point you just must let him go, turn the matter over to the Lord, and hope he comes to his right mind and returns. But notice how the boy returned. Here is where we so often go wrong. He could come home when his attitude showed a complete change of heart toward his father. Such a situation is almost impossible these days because there is always some knucklehead who will take a prodigal son in, or comfort him, or give him solace, or even tell him he was right for leaving. And the result? The foolish child will remain too proud to do what’s right. More reason, dad, to make sure you bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, to make sure they never jump the tracks in the first place. Because in the crazy world we live in, they will never be properly encouraged to repent and then to return home. That’s why the margin for error when raising children, in modern days, is so slim. Dads, be careful to do your job right the first time. And letting mom do it is not the same as you doing it.

Unsaved people are predictably backward about what things are good and bad and what so-called “positives” have a negative consequence and what negatives have a genuinely positive consequence. And by unsaved people, I include the clear majority of evangelical Christians in the world today. I cite this example: I know a man who ran the notorious pseudo-Christian so-called ministry whose professional training is exclusively secular Freudian psychology. This Christian psychologist had the unmitigated gall to prescribe ages for children who can be swatted. Without any Scriptural authority at all, he dared claim that swatting the behind of one too young or too old does irreparable harm to the kid’s self-image. A classic example of an unsaved man thinking something God prescribes for rebellious children is harmful to them when it has a tremendously beneficial result, both long and short term. Proverbs 13.24: 

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” 

The best example of lost mankind’s misread, and again I include the clear majority of evangelical Christians, has to do with the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Oh, how lost people oppose the energetic preaching of the Gospel, claiming that such preaching is too negative. How surprising it is that evangelicals are in complete agreement with those lost people and that they would alter the Gospel message so that all the perceived negatives of a forceful presentation of the Gospel are removed. Of course, this means it isn't the Gospel of Jesus Christ any longer.

Forget how the Apostle Peter preached. Forget how the Apostle Paul preached. Forget John the Baptist. You can even forget the negativity of the Lord Jesus Christ. We live in modern times now, and we need the Gospel presented in a new and more sophisticated way. These things said, this morning I want to present to you a positive Gospel message, negatives and all. However, if at the end of my negative presentation someone is positively saved, then it will have been a positive experience for one and all after all. Amen?

I have this morning, five areas that I want to touch on. 

First, THE PERSONAL GOD 

We have two reliable sources of information about God, and only two:

First, there is the natural revelation of God. You can go out at night and look up into the sky and see convincing evidence that God created all that in this universe is. Look at leaves under a microscope as they use chlorophyll to harness the energy of the sun. Carefully examine any natural phenomenon, and you will see evidence of a grand and glorious design. And of course, if there be a design, there must be a Designer. As Psalm 19.1 says, 

“The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” 

A Designer must, of necessity, be personal. And if His creation is any indication at all, He must also be infinitely powerful and very wise, indeed.

But natural revelation is not all we have. There is also the Scriptural revelation of God. In the Bible, we have concrete evidence that the God Who created all that in the universe is, most definitely, a personal being. One proof of this is man himself, who was created in the image and likeness of God. Are you a person? Are you personal? God is, also. Additionally, from God’s Word we understand that God is good and holy, and righteous, and just, and long-suffering. Oh, my friend, God is perfect in every imaginable way. 

Second, THE PERFECT SCRIPTURE 

There be many who attack the Bible. There be many who ridicule the Bible. For thousands of years this wonderful Book has been the target of the most intense opposition but to no avail. Men have tried to say it contains errors. They have tried to say it is the invention of men. Others try to say that it’s old-fashioned. But none of their attacks work. None hold water. Why? Because this Book is perfect.

It’s perfect because of its authorship. God is the Author of this Book. Second Timothy 3.16 declares that 

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” 

Second Peter 1.21 asserts that 

“prophecy came not in old time by the will of men: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 

God wrote this Book through the agency of chosen servants. That’s why the great Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, refers to God’s Word as “the holy Scriptures.” You be careful, you who discount the Word. You be cautious who slight this Book by your inattention to it. Remember, the God Who wrote this Book is the God Who cannot lie. This Book not only contains truth, but this Book is also truth!

The Bible is also perfect because of its application. Let me read to you just a few passages which show how the Bible is perfect in this regard: 

Psalm 12.6-7:     

6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. 

Psalm 19.7:        

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” 

Psalm 119.89:    

“For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” 

Psalm 119.105: 

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” 

Psalm 119.130: 

“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” 

Psalm 119.165: 

“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” 

Psalm 119.169: 

“Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD: give me understanding according to thy word.” 

From these verses, we see that the Bible is perfect in its quality, perfect in that it cannot be improved upon, perfect in providing guidance and direction, and perfect in converting the soul. Indeed, so perfect is the Word of God in this matter of converting the soul that James 1.18 says this about the role of Scripture in the new birth: 

“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” 

And it’s regarding the Bible’s perfect application in bringing about the conversion of a lost soul that I bring to your attention the third of my five points. 

THE POINTED ACCUSATION 

The pointed accusation of the Bible is, of course, the real reason for the opposition that is mounted against this blessed Book, is that the Word of God stands like a finger of indictment against the sinner. It rails against your sins and shows you for what you are, and it pronounces the condemnation of God upon you for it. “Tear up the Bible, throw it away, cast doubt upon what it says, ignore it, pervert it in translation. Do anything but believe it and preach it.”

Why? Why do men avoid the preaching of God’s Word? It’s because deep in the bosom of every sinful soul there is the fear that “the judgment of God is according to truth.”[1] And this Book is truth. By the truth of this Book, you shall be judged by God.

What, then, does the Book say about the sins of man? First, it declares them to be sins. The world calls it prevarication. The Bible calls them lies. The world calls it a relationship. Scripture terms it fornication. The world calls it an alternate lifestyle. Holy Writ labels it unseemly. The world calls it love. God’s Word identifies it as lust. The world calls it alcoholism. The Bible shows it to be the sin of drunkenness. Where else but in God’s Word do you find your sins called what they really and truly are? Second, the Bible shows the cause of these sins you commit. You sass your mother, which violates the Ten Commandments, you disobey your father, you lie, you cheat, you steal, you use excuse after excuse to justify your lazy slothfulness. You clothe yourself in religious trappings and fancy yourself to be so superior and righteous, but you are just as wicked, just as proud, as any skid row drunkard. But why? What’s the cause? Can it all be attributed to poor family life, to public education, to abuse as a child, to bed wetting? No. The sins you commit cannot be laid off on anyone or anything else. The single and solitary reason you commit sins is that you, my friend, are a sinner. Like David, in sin did your mother conceive you. And like every other human being, you are a sinner in the sight of God. It’s because you are a sinner that you commit sins. So, the first pointed accusation the Word of God, the perfect Bible, levels at you is that you are a sinner by nature and that you commit sins against God. Oh, the outrage. Oh, the crime.

Then, the Book tells of the sentence of a sinful man. What is the sentence to be meted out to you for your sins against God? There can only be one sentence for the capital crime of treason against the sovereign of the universe, for the inexcusable offense of being by nature contrary to the Holy One, righteous and just. Romans 6.23 reads, 

“For the wages of sin is death.” 

Death to the guilty sinner. Death in this life and death in the next. The reason for such great opposition to the Book is understood. 

Fourth, THE POWERLESS ACKNOWLEDGMENT 

It results from conviction. You stand condemned in the sight of God, a sinner guilty who is before Him. Do you agree with the indictment of God’s Word? Do you acknowledge your sins against the Holy One?

Then you are convicted, for only the Holy Spirit so surely convinces sinners of their sinfulness. Conviction, in turn, produces concern. Are you concerned for your soul, my friend? Do you find yourself aware of the peril you are in?

I say peril because you are condemned in the sight of the all-powerful God. I say peril because there is nothing you can do to alter your situation. You are powerless before God’s impending wrath. Romans 5.6 declares you to be without strength. 

THERE IS, HOWEVER, THE POWERFUL SAVIOR 

Think about it. God created man. Man rebelled against God openly and flagrantly, plunging himself and his posterity into the darkness of spiritual depravity. God’s Word accuses every man of his wrongdoings and his wrongness. But God’s Word also tells sinful man that God sent His Own Son, the second person of the Trinity, to become a man, to become sin, He Who knew no sin.

God’s Son, Jesus Christ, Who has died for your sins on the cross, Who was buried and rose again after three days and nights, and Who is now seated at the right hand of His Father back in heaven, is powerful to save you from your sins.

What of His motive to save a sinner such as you? His motive is the same as His Father’s. His motive is love. My friend, you’ve not known love such as this until you experience the love of Christ. Love that was willing to suffer and bleed and die for people who reviled and rejected Him. Love that knows everything about you and loves you still. Love that takes you the way you are but doesn’t leave you that way.

I close with this. What is His means to save? What stands between you and being reconciled to God is your sin. Sin is your problem. Sin is what keeps you from God and sin is what will keep you out of heaven. But the Lord Jesus shed His blood to wash sin away. So powerful is Jesus Christ’s blood to deal with sin that First John 1.7 declares that 

“the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 

All that remains for you to be saved is to trust Jesus Christ.

__________

[1] Romans 2.2

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