Previous article in this series: October 1, 2011, p. 20.
I concluded my last article with a discussion of the urgency of raising our sons to be strong in the Lord. This strength begins with a living knowledge of the Lord and strong faith in Him. It is urgent that we teach our sons to be spiritually strong in a desire to be holy before the Lord and to resist the temptation to immorality in their lives. The world encourages sexual adventure and excitement. This is considered by the world to be a sign of manliness. The world cares not a whit about morality.
Our covenant young men must be taught to respect and honor young women as fellow image bearers of God and not to use and abuse them for the gratification of ugly, sinful passion. Even our hearts and minds must be kept pure and holy. We must do nothing in life that stirs up unclean thoughts and desires. If young men are not taught by their parents, they are in danger of learning the evil philosophy and practice that the world is quite eager to teach them. The modern-day world has more and more powerful instruments for influencing our covenant young men, already very early in their youth. Some of the electronic wizardry of our time can easily be used without the knowledge and understanding of parents. Especially in our modern times, great diligence is required by parents to guard and protect their young teenagers.
Dating practices ought to be supervised by parents, and there should be discussion in the home about the importance of moral purity and holiness in this area. Careful rules and guidelines must be established in our covenant homes. Parents must not be deterred by the common worldly opinion that adamantly maintains that dating is so private and personal a matter that parents have no right to pry into it in any way. Scripture is quite specific about teaching morality. See for example I Thessalonians 4:1-9. It is urgent that we keep our body as the temple of the Lord and not defile it with fornication. Otherwise the service of God will be made impossible. See also II Corinthians 6:15-20. We cannot glorify God with our bodies if we give them over to the grievous sins of immorality and fornication.
Spiritual self-control is required for all sorts of sinful passions that may arise from the sinful nature with which children are born. Unholy and uncontrolled anger is a powerful sinful passion. Sinful anger is displeasing to God. It wreaks havoc in one’s personal life and brings the judgment of God upon one. In marriage and the home, in the church and in society, sinful anger can do great damage. The urgency of control over sinful anger must be taught in the home to the sons of the covenant. Scripture speaks of this in many places. Paul exhorts Christians, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice” (Eph. 4:31). There is a parallel passage in Colossians 3. And the wise writer of Proverbs has much to say about this subject. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32).
Spiritual lessons in this area will do much to prepare a young man for a happy, stable, and peaceful Christian marriage. Many marriages are destroyed by uncontrolled anger of men who as husbands and fathers take out their sinful anger on their poor undeserving wives and helpless children. Paul exhorts fathers in the Christian home not to provoke their children to anger, lest they be discouraged (Col. 3:21). It is for good reason that this exhortation is given specifically to fathers. The blessed peace of Jesus Christ will keep our homes only in the way of our controlling sinful anger.
God created both man and woman with a moral, rational nature. Though this is a point militantly debated in our day, we believe that it is true that God has made the mind of a man different from the mind of a woman in certain respects. This has nothing to do with making men inherently superior to women. God’s Word commands that we live according to His knowledge and wisdom in every part of our life. Our life as Christians must be a life of principled obedience and not merely of formal, cold legalism. Youth is the time when this knowledge and wisdom must be firmly implanted in the minds and hearts of our sons and daughters. Spiritual principles must be followed in our lives, strong principles of the fear of God and love for Him, principles of righteousness and truth. Then there will be no need for law upon law and precept upon precept. Then our sons will by the grace of God be prepared for genuine Christian living.
Our young men must be trained in the covenant home to be able to endure hardness. Our ungodly society promotes laziness and softness and ease. Young men are often taught to expect that everything will come to them with little or no effort on their part. They are taught the false idea that the world owes them a living, and parents are obligated to give them virtually everything they might want. If they do not get what they want, they have the right to complain. This kind of thinking leads to a life of irresponsibility and sin.
Covenant sons must learn restraint and rigorous discipline in the days of their youth. They must be taught that we all have a calling and responsibility in life. They must be taught the virtues of steadfastness, patience, faithfulness, and endurance. They must be taught never to compromise Christian principles in their lives, even when this means suffering for Christ’s sake.
Our covenant sons must be trained to be faithful providers and protectors in a covenant family and responsible leaders in the church. Much diligent preparation is necessary for this. The days of youth are the God-ordained time and opportunity for this. Laziness is a moral and spiritual issue. So is the refusal to take up one’s God-given responsibility. One of the most frequent warnings of wise Solomon in the book of Proverbs is against the sins of slothfulness and total lack of concern and preparation for the future.
Discipline and great effort is required by young men of the covenant in the matter of preparing themselves for a good occupation later in life so that they might support their family, the church, and the causes of the kingdom. God gives to young people different natural abilities. Not all are cut out for occupations that require a great deal of rigorous academic preparation. Young men in their homes need to be taught to work hard, working with their hands the things that are good. Our sons need to be taught to use their God-given talents in the fear of the Lord and for the cause of His church and kingdom. A highly educated, very gifted, and well-trained young man who uses all this only for his own glory and advancement and success in the world is worthy of no praise in the sight of God. His whole life will be nothing but vanity. The young man who whiles away the days of his youth and does not think of the need for having a good occupation to be able to provide for himself and for his family is also to be condemned. Paul writes to pastor Timothy that he must instruct young men to be sober and to be diligent in the fear of God. He characterizes those who do not provide for their own household as worse than an infidel. See I Timothy 5:8.
Life is difficult, for some much more so than for others. The years ahead for many will in the providence God involve sorrows and trials. In the providence of God, these trials and hardships will sanctify us and strengthen us in the service of the Lord.
Our young men need to learn to be able to endure hardships and to be ready to make personal sacrifices for causes greater than their own satisfaction and glory in the world. They that will live godly must be ready to suffer persecution for the Lord’s sake. A life of godliness must be prepared for by great spiritual exercise and discipline. Remember the famous statement of the apostle Paul in writing to young Timothy: “Exercise thyself rather unto godliness. Bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things” (I Tim. 4:7, 8).
Our young men need to learn, in the days of their youth, to endure hardship. They ought not to be coddled and pampered by their parents, so that they grow up to be soft and weak, spiritually lazy, and yielding to every opportunity to escape the hardship that God sends. They must be taught not to become bitter and to complain about hardships in life but to face them with spiritual courage and strength. The God-ordained position of covenant fathers requires that they be able to lead their wives and families in the midst of and through great hardships by prayer, through faith in God, with spiritual endurance, courage and patience, and trust in God. Our covenant sons must learn this in the days of their youth.
Our next article will address the unique aspects of raising our covenant daughters.