Previous article in this series: January 15, 2013, p. 179.
God has given the high calling to parents to discipline their covenant children. The discipline of these precious children is necessary for the salvation of their souls. The discipline of our covenant children is necessary for establishing the truth of God in their lives and to train them to live for His glory. It must establish order and direction and purpose in their lives from earliest childhood on. Discipline is necessary to prepare our sons and daughters to be fit members of the church. Of this glorious church our children are members from their birth. Discipline must train our children in every area of their life for their citizenship in the everlasting kingdom of righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. They must be trained and disciplined for the service of the King. If we do not discipline our children they will grow up to be unruly, wicked, and rebellious, and without direction and purpose. Often they will leave the true church in the days of their youth, preferring instead a life of worldliness and ungodliness that will lead them to their destruction. Ours is indeed a high calling as parents, requiring great wisdom and much prayer and diligent effort and ongoing personal involvement with our children.
The proper disciplining of our children must flow out of our own fear and love for God. The natural bond that God has created between us and our children is very strong. Because of this bond our children are very dear to us. It is important for our children to know and experience the reality of the love of their parents. This will greatly help them in accepting the God-given authority of their parents in their lives. The love that we have for our covenant children must, however, be greater than mere physical humanistic affection. We must discipline our covenant children out of genuine spiritual concern for their welfare and not out of sinful anger and disappointment in them. The love of God in our hearts as parents must keep us from being harsh and cruel and tyrannical in the disciplining of our children. This evil spirit on the part of parents will discourage children and provoke them to anger and make them bitter. Our love for God and for His glory must make us serious, firm, steadfast, and uncompromising in our discipline. There may be no sinful permissiveness. But our love must be tempered by sincere compassion.
We will divide our consideration of this subject into several parts in this and future articles. Instruction in the truth of God must lay the foundation for the necessary discipline of our children. There must be preventive discipline through serious warnings about sins and disobedience. Correction and chastisement are necessary to drive sin and foolishness from the hearts of our children. If this is not given, our children will become accustomed to sinful patterns in their lives and will be hardened in their hearts. When our children repent of their sins, we need to know how to lead our children to the cross of Jesus Christ. This must be followed by a showing of the comfort and joy in the forgiveness and mercy of the Lord. After discipline has brought about the necessary correction, there must also be help with restoration and encouragement to go on in a life of joy and thankfulness. Our children must learn the positive benefit of discipline in their lives.
Instruction in the absolute truth of God Himself and of His Word is the foundation of Christian discipline in the home. The foundation for discipline in the lives of our children lies in the truth of God’s sovereignty, righteousness, and holiness. Their lives must be rooted and grounded in these truths of God. There is one only absolutely true and living God who must be served and obeyed. There is one only redeemer who has saved us. Before Him must all repent, and in Him alone we must trust. And we owe to Him a life of thankfulness.
Living as children of God in the world will involve sacrifices, self-denial, and trials. Christian living is antithetic to self-centeredness, pride, and demanding immediate gratification for every desire and lust of man’s sinful nature. We and our children must be ready to stand against the enemy and to endure hardships and persecution in the world. Our children must be trained to resist the temptations and evil influences of the world. Godly discipline must train our children for a life of self-denial and suffering.
We live in a time that has been called the “post-modern age.” Characteristic of this age is the total rejection of all absolutes and final authority. According to this foolish and evil teaching there is not only one absolutely true God, but many gods that are all equally worthy. Advocates of this ungodly worldly philosophy maintain that we should perhaps teach our children about all different kinds of gods and then leave them the freedom in their later years to choose one for themselves. It matters not what god they choose, for all are equal. Morality and truth in our lives and the lives of our children are possible only when the absolute standard of the Word of God is maintained in our lives. Obedience to this truth is possible only through the redemption of Jesus Christ and His grace and Holy Spirit in our lives.
The disciplining of our children must not produce in them any legalistic understanding of God’s law or any thought of works righteousness. Pharisaism is not true Christianity. True Christian living involves thankfulness to God through our humble obedience as His servants.
The foundation of discipline in our covenant homes must be instruction in the law of God as the absolute standard of right and holy living in the fear of God. The youth of the world grow up without an absolute standard and guide for truth in their lives. Everyone has a right to live as he pleases as long as he does not interfere with or condemn others. No wonder that the children of the world grow up to be lawless and defiant and rebellious. This is the case even of the children of well-educated parents who send them to the best schools in the land and are able to give them all kinds of earthly advantages.
God-fearing parents must teach their children that the law of God must be the absolute standard for judging between right and wrong and good and evil in their lives. The way of keeping the law of God is the way of God’s favor and blessing. In the keeping of God’s commandments there is great reward. Laying the foundation for godly discipline in the lives of our children, we as parents must teach our children the great spiritual principles of the law of God and seek to establish these principles deeply in their hearts and consciences. And of course this can be accomplished by godly parents only if they themselves are at the same time an example and pattern in their own lives and in their own godly and spiritual perspective in life.
We lay the foundation for discipline in the lives of our covenant children by bringing them to church with us. Children must join their parents in the worship of the covenant God of their salvation. The gospel is for them as well as adults. They too, in the context of the worship service, must be built up in the faith. This takes place according to Reformed truth through the chief means of grace, the preaching of God’s Word. In the Reformed church children are not separated from the adults and led to a separate classroom where they receive shallow and superficial instruction and little moralisms for their lives. This kind of thing will not train our covenant children and make them strong for disciplined living and for confessing and defending the truth of God in their lives.
Good Reformed tradition maintains the importance of solid catechism classes for the instruction of the children of the covenant. Children in such catechism classes are instructed in the glorious history of the covenant full of lessons and spiritual examples. In these catechism classes children learn the wonders of the incarnation of the Son of God, the true meaning of the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross, the power of His resurrection, and the blessed hope of His return as they are taught in the infallible Scriptures. Good catechism instruction will teach our children to think doctrinally. Such instruction is necessary to understand Scripture rightly as a whole. It will equip our children and make them strong to discern and condemn false teaching, which would otherwise in their later life lead them astray. Our covenant children in the catechism class must be instructed in the Reformed creeds. This will ensure that these creeds in later life will not be a dead letter or mere museum pieces for them, but their own living confession, guiding them in knowing and maintaining the truth in their lives. This is the disciplined instruction necessary for covenant children in order for them to grow up to be good and strong members of the Reformed church. Parents must diligently support this catechism instruction by being sure that their covenant children are well prepared for the lessons and behave well in the class. All these things help lay the necessary foundation for discipline in the lives of our children.
Disciplining our children is a broad subject with many aspects to it. Good instruction is its foundation.