Shepherding a Child's Heart (Week 1: Intro & Chapter 1)

Joshua 24:14–15 ESV
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 6:4–9 ESV
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Proverbs 22:6 ESV
6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
When it comes to parenting, there is no question about it, the way we parent has an enormous impact upon our children.
It shapes them and molds them into who they become.
For the both the good and the bad.
For example, in the late 1800’s there lived a boy named Joseph, who lived with a father who was a father in name only.
For this father was cruel and abusive man, who regularly beat Joseph severely for even the most minor of infractions.
For example:
If Joseph was late for dinner,
Or if he didn’t finish all his chores,
or did them to his father’s standard,
he was often beat with a whip, belt, and even a wooden stick.
And by beat, I don’t mean a light spanking, I mean severely beat!
To the point that he even would lose consciousness!
And though the physical abuse was quite severe, the emotional and psychological abuse was often just as great!
For example, Joseph’s father was a mean drunk, who would often ridicule his son for taking an interest in reading and education,
And why?
Because he insisted that it was a waste of time since his son would never become anything other than a shoe-maker like himself.
And though Joseph eventually became free from his abusive father, he never escaped the damage it caused upon him,
for as history tells us, he grew up to become one of the most abusive people in all of human history.
In fact, during Joseph Stalin’s reign as the leader of the Soviet Union, he oversaw the deaths of not hundreds, not thousands, BUT MILLIONS of people,
Which came about through the combination of forced labor camps,
mass starvation,
and mass executions.
which in the end, took upwards to 20 million lives.
And though he was responsible for his own brutal behavior,
there is no question about it,
his father’s influence left a lasting legacy upon him which he never escaped.
When it comes to parentings, while there are many different ideas out there telling us how to parent,
Nearly everyone agrees that the way we parent has an enormous impact upon our children’s future.
It effects the way they think,
The way they act,
and who they eventually become.
Which is why the Bible warns us over and over again on the importance of parenting rightly, and not wrongly.
And all throughout the Bible, especially the Old Tesatment,
We are given numerous examples of this.
For example, in the Bible, do you remember the names Hophni and Phineas?
Who were they?
They were the sons of Eli the priest.
And what were they like?
1 Samuel 2:12 NIV
12 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord.
What does that mean that they had no regard for the Lord?
Right - it meant that they didn’t respect or fear God.
They ate whatever meat they wanted in the temple - instead of the meat God told them eat.
They sleeping with the women who served in the temple,
And they were the ones who took the Ark of the Covenant out to battle against he Philistines when they weren’t supposed to, which led to the slaughter of thirty-thousand Israelite men!
And in response to this, what did God do?
Did He say: “Well boys will be boys!”
“They will chase the girls and break rules!”
“That’s just a part of adolescence!”
He not only did He allow the ark of the covenant to be captured by the Philistines,
BUT - he judged Hophni and Phinehas with death!
1 Samuel 2:34 ESV
34 And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day.
And in chapter 3, the Lord God went on to say:
1 Samuel 3:11–14 ESV
11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
And as we know, that’s precisely what happened, as both Hophni and Phinehas, along with their father were soon thereafter killed.
And why did the Lord kill them?
Hophni and Phinehas were judged by God and killed for their sinful rebellion against God,
And Eli, as verse 13 says, because he knew his sons were blaspheming God and he did not restrain them.
And this isn’t just a one-off example
For the Bible is chalk-full of example after example of how ungodly parenting leads to complete and total disaster!
And these examples serve to warn us to take our parenting responsibility with deadly seriousness!
Because not only can it lead to the physical deaths of our children,
But it can lead to their never-ending spiritual death in hell.
And so with this mind, the apostle Paul instructs both children and parents in Ephesians chapter 6, saying:
Ephesians 6:1–4 ESV
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
When it comes to bringing up our children,
Which simply means how we raise them, there are so many different voices out there telling us how to do it!
And these voices offer VERY, VERY different advice on how to do so.
For example, one popular psychologist you may have heard of offers this advice on parenting:
The way you measure your value as a parent is to ask yourself! How well am I doing in teaching my children to value themselves, love themselves, have confidence in themselves, protect themselves and do for themselves.
“How about bad parenting advice for 500 Alex!”
And it’s bad parenting advice, because loving yourself is not a good thing!
In fact, it stands in stark contrast with the Bible calls us to do!
Mark 12:30–31 ESV
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
And yet, while the Bible calls us to think of ourselves less often,
Nearly every voice around us says the opposite!
“Find yourself!”
“be true to yourself!”
“Love yourself!”
“FOLLOW YOUR ARROW no matter what anyone tells you!”
According to the Bible,
if we raise our children to do that,
we will be just like Eli who knew his sons were blaspheming God and he did not restrain them.
Which will, sooner or later, lead to their destruction.
As our parent book points out, when it comes to parenting we have lost our way as a society.
We are a rudderless ship without ua compass, which leaves us with no sene of direction to know where to go!
and why is that?
anyone ever heard that before?
Everything was fine and dandy until rock & roll came long, and the anti-authority culture of the 60’s rose up and rebelled!
And while that certainly didn’t help things, is it true that parenting was in a pretty good place before that?
Not even close!
When it comes to parentings, we have two major ditches into which we can fall.
And we are going to continually refer back to these two ditches throughout out class,
And what these ditches are are the man-centered authority ditch and the anti-authority ditch.
As our book explains, prior to the 1960’s, our culture valued authority, because we were a culture based upon honor and shame.
For example, if you watch old TV shows, the dad’s were shown as respectable leaders of the home, and disrespecting their authority was seen as a negative thing.
But is that how they are depicted today?
Dad’s are constantly represented as man-boys,
As incompetent Homer Simpsons who aren’t respectable, and therefore shouldn’t be respected!
In the book, the author talks about how since the 1960’s, Dads no longer live in fear of their boss or of being fired.
And while yesterday’s bosses used authority to accomplish their goals. Today’s bosses use bonuses and incentives.
Now think with me for a moment: why do you think that is?
What changed and why?
What changed is we no longer value authority.
We don’t respect it
We don’t honor it,
And it’s because we don’t think of it as being a good thing!
But, according to the Bible, is authority a good thing?
Absolutely it is!
Because think about it:
If we do not value authority, how are we going to approach God?
We are either going to not care at all about what He thinks or says,
Or, we are going to approach Him in the way many Christians and American churches now do.
Which is how?
Not as a God who is to be feared and revered,
But as a life-coach,
And someone who’s exists to help us and make our lives better,
and this is all entirely on our terms!
But if you read the BIBLE, like… AT ALL you know that this is called FOOLISHNESS!
Proverbs 1:7 ESV
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Similarly, in Matthew 10, Jesus says:
Matthew 10:28 ESV
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
The result of this is that children not only view God as someone who exists to serve them - instead of the other way around,
But children now view parents as peers!
What did Children used to call adults?
“Mr and Mrs.”
But now they call them by their first names and will gladly interrupt adult conversations without concern or care!
And yes, I’m well aware that there is no 11th commandment that says: Thou shalt call adults by Mr. or Mrs.
I’m simply bringing this example up to show the massive shift in perspective that has occured in our culture.
and that perspective is that authority and respect for it is a bad thing!
However, as we’ll dig into deeper in the weeks to come, one of our primary tasks as parents is to teach a proper fear and respect for authority.
And why?
Because THE ultimate authority (which is God) has commanded things that are NOT AT ALL optional!
And if we disregard his commands as optional, it comes with DIRE CONSEQUENCES!
I said this last night at our prayer meeting, but I am convinced that the most important lesson our kids need to learn from us BY THE TIME they are two years old is this:
“There is such a thing as authority, and YOU ARE NOT IT!”
And we must teach them this so that that they will come to have a healthy fear of the Lord and His authority, which is the beginning of knowledge!
And I can say this, because Proverbs 1:7 says this.
Again, Proverbs 1:7
Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
This is where we start as parents.
Our first task is to instill a proper fear and respect for authority,
and so why do we REQUIRE our children to show respect to their parents, their coaches, their teachers, or their governing leaders?
Because, as we’ll get to, all legitimate authority is delegated authority which comes from God
And so for children to disregard their parents - or any other legitimate authority - is to disregard God’s authority!
Which is a REALLY, REALLY bad idea.
And so by clinging to a biblical view of authority we can avoid the first ditch.
But, does that automatically keep us out of ditches?
Because there’s another ditch on the other side of the road that’s just as dangerous.
and that ditch is the man-centered authority ditch.
or as the book refers to, the John Wayne style approach to parenting.
What is the John Wayne style approach to parenting and why is it bad?
This was the “LISTEN UP OR ELSE I’LL CUFF YA” approach to parenting.
Which to be fair, did get some results.
It did, for a while at least, produce kids who listened and obeyed,
But… the question is, is that what we are after as parents?
Is the goal simply raising compliant, well-behaved children?
No, it’s not.
And why is not?
Because, to quote our book:
A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable.”
If you leave with only one thing from this entire class on parenting, I would strongly encourage you for it to be this!
Because if we raise our children to obey externally, without the internal change that God commands,
We have simply raised MORE CLEVER DEVILS!
Which means, yes, our lives are a bit more peaceful on the surface of things,
As our children are well-behaved little honor students who play their instruments well,
Get into the right college,
And get a great career,
But, their heart’s are still not reconciled to GOD!
And to make matters worse, they good and compliant behavior has only served to TRICK THEM into thinking they are good with God!
But like the Pharisees, they are not good with God, because all they are, are self-righteous HYPOCRITES!
Which is not a good thing!
And so, gospel-centered parenting, which is what we are all about as Christians, must never forget that obedience without heart change is not commendable, it’s CONDEMNABLE!
It makes God sick.
It nauseates Him just as much as the Hophni and Phineas’s of the world do!
And will, without repentance, lead to a similar judgment!
So in our last remaining moments, I want talk about this gospel-centered approach to parenting,
so we can set a course for this class in the weeks to come.
First off, gospel-centered parenting embracing a right understanding of biblical authority.
Why should kids obey their parents?
Bigger than them,
Smarter than them,
My house my roof...
No - because God is the ultimate authority who has delegated authority to parents, and so parents must be treated with honor and respect.
“You exercise authority as God’s agent. You may not direct your children for your own agenda or convenience. You must direct your children on God’s behalf for their good.”
Getting compliant, well-behaved children isn’t (primarily) about our happiness, peace, or contentment.
It’s about bringing Glory to God and the good of our children!
And if we forget that, we are making something called an IDOL our of our parenting!
Anyone here guilty of that?
Guilty of making a good thing into a selfish thing?
As parents, our children to not exist to serve us,
In fact, remember the 1st and 2nd greatest commandments we just read:
We are called to love God and our neighbor as ourselves
Which means parents, we are called to serve our children over ourselves!
And so we parent them graciously and lovingly,
not in anger and frustration,
because we are SERVANT LEADERS
which the Bible speaks MUCH OF!
And when you think of great servant leaders, who comes to mind?
Jesus is an example of this. The One who commands you, the One who possesses all authority, came as a servant. He is a ruler who serves; he is also a servant who rules. He exercises sovereign authority that is kind—authority exercised on behalf of his subjects. In John 13, Jesus, who knew that the Father had put all things under his authority, put on a towel and washed the disciples’ feet. As his people submit to his authority, they are empowered to live freely in the freedom of the gospel.”
As a father, one of my primary jobs as a parent is to show my children what God the Father is like.
Which is really hard, because I’m not HOLY like He is!
I sin.
I fail.
Which means I need the same gospel of grace that my children do!
And so when I fail as a parent and sin against my children, what am I to do?
Apologize, repent, AND ASK FOR FORGIVENESS!
When my children fail and sin against me or their siblings, what do I call them to do?
Apologize, repent, AND ASK FOR FORGIVENESS!
And so talk with me here, to get them to do this sincerely, what do we have to do?
We have to get to the heart.
And to do that, we have to approach them as a shepherd!
We have to be gentle, but firm,
We have to be caring, but careful!
We have to encourage, but warn!
When our kids sin in the same way for the 10th time that week, do we keep clubbing them over the head with the law and yell, “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LEARN TO LISTEN AND OBEY?”
because the gospel tells us exactly why they can’t just listen and obey!
And it’s because they are little sinners who’s hearts are as desperately sick as ours are!
And the solution to their sin isn’t MORALISM, it’s the CROSS OF CHRIST
which we must point them to as parents!
So what are some ways we can do that as parents when our kids fail?
Law -> Grace, mercy.
As parents, we are not merely after behavior modification.
We are after heart change.
And yes, we can’t bring that about on our own, but we know the One Who can,
and our job as parents is to point our children to to Him.
and if we don’t, we are merely treating the symptoms of our children’s problems, and not the source!
“Gospel-centered parenting focuses correction on deeper things than changed behavior. The profoundest issue is what happens in the heart. Your concern is to unmask your child’s sin, helping him to understand how it reflects a heart that has strayed. That leads to the cross of Christ. It underscores the need for a Savior. It provides opportunities to show the glories of God who sent his Son to change hearts and free people enslaved to sin.”
“This emphasis is the fundamental tenet of this book: The heart is the well-spring of life. Therefore, parenting is concerned with shepherding the heart. You must learn to work from the behavior you see, back to the heart, exposing heart issues for your children. In short, you must learn to engage them, not just reprove them. Help them see the ways that they are trying to slake their souls’ thirst with that which cannot satisfy. You must help your kids gain a clear focus on the cross of Christ.”
In our day, many parents think have largely given up on parenting.
They think it’s an impossible task, and they are just counting down the days until their kids hit 18 and leave home.
Anyone ever heard someone say to you: “Oh you just wait until their teens! You’re in for it!”
And the reason they say this, is because as our book points out, many kids have already left the nest by age 12!
They no longer look to their parents as source of guidance and instructions!
instead, where do they look?
So, how then can we avoid this?
How can we continue to be parents whom our children look to, and don’t think of us as being disconnected dinosaurs who are clueless?
Discuss not just the WHAT, but the WHY
Be open to hard questions
My dad - the problem of evil
If we don’t know the answer, don’t give pat answers
Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know and that you’ll look into it.
Discuss spiritual things - ask what God is teaching them
Model Christ-likeness, repentance, and the gospel of grace.
and in all of this, REMEMBER, There is hope!
But not in our ability as parents,
Not in a particular strategy
Not in a methodology, but in a God who is faithful to His promises!
Proverbs 22:6 ESV
6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
This book, however, asserts hope for the situation. You can raise children in godly ways at the beginning of the 21st century.  You need not—indeed, you dare not—cave in, concluding that the task is impossible. Experience may tell you failure is inevitable, but experience is an unsafe guide.
The only safe guide is the Bible. It is the revelation of a God who has infinite knowledge and can therefore give you absolute truth. God has given you a revelation that is robust and complete. It presents an accurate and comprehensive picture of children, parents, family life, values, training, nurture, and discipline—all you need to be equipped for the task of parenting.
God’s ways have not proved inadequate; they are simply untried. The church mirrors the problems of the culture because we weren’t doing biblical parenting a generation ago. We were just doing what worked. Unfortunately, we are still trying to do it, even though, because of changes in our culture, it no longer works.
The parenting task is multifaceted. It involves being a kind authority, shepherding your children to understand themselves in God’s world, and keeping the gospel in clear view so your children can internalize the good news and someday live in mutuality with you as people under God.
Questions or thoughts on the book?
When kids fight over toys - “who had it first”
1. What are ways that the anti-authority culture impacts our parenting.
2. What are ways that the John Wayne parenting style impacts our parenting?
Application Questions for Chapter 1
When our children disobey, where does the Bible say that disobedience comes from? (The heart)
How can we as parents connect the sin back to the heart issue behind it?
Why is it so easy to get sidetracked with behavior when issues of the heart are clearly so much more important?
What is wrong with a change in behavior without a change in the heart?
If the point of discipline is to direct the heart, how does that change the approach to discipline and correction?
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more