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Pastoral Letter - 21 Jan 18                                                 

Dear Calvarians,        

As we have considered in last week's article, "By the way" parenting means that parents must instruct their children and model for them the kind of behaviour that is in line with the Word of God. What are some of these attitudes and behaviour?

Assurance of Love

Our Lord Jesus told a parable of two sons. After the younger son demanded from the father his inheritance, he gathered his portion and left home. Away from home, he wasted his inheritance in riotous life. It was not before long that he was bankrupt. To survive, he had to resort to feeding pigs.

The Bible passage says that when the man "came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." And the father declared, "For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:13-24).

There are several lessons that we may derive from this well-known parable. One of them is to look at the father. His son had left him through no fault of his own. That must have broken his heart. To a lesser man, this unfilial act of the son would have driven bitterness into the father's heart.

Yet when the erring son returned, it was the father who first saw him. The father was looking out for the son. He was yearning for his return. And when the son did return, it was the father who ran toward the son, and kissed him.

The son was remorseful. He realised what he had done sinned against his father. He said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son" (Luke 15:21). Yet the father called out, "My son...."

What caused the son to return? What was in his mind? What was in the father's mind? One thing we know from this parable is the father's assurance of love for his son - an assurance that gives confidence to the son that if he repents and returns to his father, he will find a place in his father's home. In his own mind, he would be satisfied with being a servant, but as far as the father is concerned, a son is always a son.

This is the assurance that every born again believer has in God. This is also the confidence that brings us to our knees in repentance when we have sinned. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

This is the assurance of love that parents must impress upon our children. While sin demands consequences, yet it should never severe covenantal relationships. There must always be room for repentance and forgiveness.

The simple power of offering forgiveness to our children is a way that our parenting can become more and more marked by the gospel of Jesus Christ, who has so richly and deeply and fully forgiven us through His death on the cross. Paul says that we are to be "kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32)

Parents often discipline their children by reacting to situations. When a wrong has been committed, parents often react in anger, and they punish without any explanation about the wrong that has been committed. Children, like adults, need to know that when they have done wrong; they need to be disciplined, and they also need to know that they will be forgiven.

When we offer forgiveness to our children, we are giving them a picture of the gospel. We are teaching them about how we are applying the truths of the cross of Jesus Christ. In discipline, parents must explain to our children, using the words of Scripture, Christ's forgiveness to us and the need for God's grace.

The parents' interactions with children present excellent opportunities of teaching about our own sinfulness and our need for God's grace. Our children must be convicted of their sin, and the provision of grace from our Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we do that? They must learn from and see this in their parents, who set the standards of behaviour, hold them accountable for their misdeeds, and who will also explain to them that their unconditional love is grounded in the love of God toward them in Christ.

Call to Obedience

Parental assurance of love for children does not run counter to the need for obedience. Discipline and obedience are keys to parenting. It is possible for parents to over-emphasize grace and love to the extent of their being indulgent. We see this in Eli - the high priest - whose two sons were described as "sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD" (1 Samuel 2:12). It was recorded that their sin "was very great before the LORD."

Eli knew about the sins that were committed by his sons, "how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD's people to transgress" (1 Samuel 2:22-24). But Eli did not take any concrete action. He let the sons be. In the end, God judged Eli "for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not" (1 Samuel 3:12-13).

Eli failed as a father because he did not demand obedience from his sons. Grace-centred parenting must affirm the concepts of discipline and authoritative calls to obedience for our children. The reason is that the Gospel is also grounded in obedience. When the children are young, parents need to exercise their biblical authority to establish God-ordained order in the home and family. Father and mother are always in charge. Children are not. They need to submit to the authority of the parents.

To exercise authority without love breeds children's resentment against parents, and the Gospel of grace is deemed a fetter to chain and restrict them. Yet, to love without biblical authority will result in self-indulgent children, who would view that grace is cheap, and God's call for holiness is a matter of personal preference. Grace-centred parenting marries assurance of love with a call for obedience. More next week.

Lovingly in Christ,

Pastor Isaac


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