The Culture We Live In
I heard an evangelist speaking to college students the other day. One had grown up Catholic, one Lutheran, one Episcopalian, but not one of them believed in absolute truth.
Each argued that God is whomever or whatever we want him to be, and if it’s true for you then it’s true, but it doesn’t have to be true for me.
Although they all went to different churches, it seemed as if they had all been indoctrinated into the same religion—and it wasn’t Christianity. It was post-modern secularism.
“Your truth is your truth. You do you. I’ll do me. We’re all good—unless you offend me.”
This kind of thinking is so common in our culture, it can’t be a coincidence that so many think this way. It’s as if everyone in our culture has been indoctrinated into thinking this way, and even church-going people believe more of what the culture teaches than what the Bible teaches.
In a 2004 study, Barna said, “The low percentage of Christians who have a biblical worldview is a direct reflection of the fact that half of our primary religious teachers and leaders do not have one. In some denominations, the vast majority of clergy do not have a biblical worldview, and it shows up clearly in the data related to the theological views and moral choices of people who attend those churches.”
If this is where professing Christians were in 2004, where are they today? And where are their children?
“Our children will ultimately act on what they believe,” says Voddie Baucham in his book Family Driven Faith, “If we do not give our children a biblical worldview, they will simply follow our rules while they are under our watchful eye, but as soon as they gain independence, they will begin to make decisions based upon their worldview. How many times have we seen this scenario played out? A young man or woman who was raised in a ‘good Christian home’ goes off to college and loses his…mind! What happened? It’s actually quite simple; the restraints were removed, and his worldview took over.”
This is the challenge parents face—how to raise your kids in such a way that when they grow up, they will have a biblical understanding of the world and a desire to live it out.
Ultimately, only God can work salvation in a child’s heart and cause them to desire the things of God. However, parents aren’t left to stand idly by, watching their kids grow up, hoping that one day they’ll become Christians.
God’s Blueprint for Parenting—It’s Starts with the Fathers
Instead, God has given clear principles for parenting, a blueprint. Ephesians 6:4 is a short little verse, but it gives us a grand outline for everything we need to know about parenting.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
This verse can be broken into four phrases, and each one teaches a critical component.
The first phrase is just one word, one powerful word. It’s a word of address in which God addresses the most important figure in a child’s life—his father.
Have you ever wondered why Paul addresses the fathers in this passage? Why doesn’t he say parents?
In the context of this verse, Paul is explaining the order of authority and responsibility in God’s kingdom.
Husbands are to love their wives. Wives are to submit to their husbands.
Children are to obey their parents, and fathers are to raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Paul addresses fathers because they are ultimately responsible for raising their children in the Lord.
That’s not to say that mothers are unimportant. You can’t have fathers without mothers, and children need both parents!
I don’t think I could say enough about how important mothers are, but still, at the end of the day, when we stand before God’s judgment seat, and he reviews how we did as parents, he’s going to be looking squarely at the dads.
Dads have a unique and powerful role in the lives of their kids. There are all kinds of statistics on how important and influential dads are.
A powerful one is this: eighty-five percent of youth who are currently in prison grew up in a fatherless home.
Fathers are more important than we can imagine, and though it takes two to parent well, God will hold fathers responsible as the head of their homes.
Therefore, if a father would take this command seriously, he must take responsibility and leadership in raising his children in the Lord.
Do Not Provoke
The next phrase of the verse says, “do not provoke your children to anger.”
Now, to be clear, this command does not mean parents are somehow supposed to keep their kids from ever getting angry. That’d be impossible.
“This command does not mean a parent is to never oppose, deny, cross, or upset the child.”
Rather, “This command does imply a child is not to be brought up to an angry, impulsive lifestyle.”
If that’s the case, parenting must not be self-centered or manipulative. It must not be careless or lazy. It must not be marked by anger. Parents are called to love their kids and love them enough to discipline them not when it’s convenient or in the parents’ own interest, but when it’s for the good of their children. Self-centered anger in parenting is the reason for many problems.
John Piper says, “Fathers cause their children’s souls to shrivel into small, hard, angry shells mainly by being like that themselves…Paul says to all of us, especially dads, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you [not just your children!], along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
When a father is angry on a regular basis, not only does he provoke his child to anger by his bad example, but he also leads him (or provokes him) to discouragement, bitterness, and resentment because his children can never live up to the father’s expectations.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” ~ James 1:19
Tedd Tripp says, “I have spoken to countless parents who genuinely thought their unholy anger had a legitimate place in correction and discipline. They reasoned that they could bring their children to a sober fear of disobeying if they showed anger. So discipline became the time when Mom or Dad manipulated their children through raw displays of anger. What the child learns is the fear of man, not the fear of God.”
This is not to say that when a child needs discipline we should speak in a soft tone with a smile on our face.
Anger has no place, but you can’t be happy-go-lucky either.
When you must discipline, it’s a serious matter, and your tone and demeanor must communicate that.
But there is a difference between being serious and being angry.
If you’ve ever been in a courtroom or seen one on television, the judge is not screaming in out-of-control anger. He is calm, cool, and collected, yet he is serious.
When the judge speaks, his words are weighty and serious.
Like a judge, you don’t have to be angry to convey seriousness.
Tedd Tripp says, “All earthly [discipline] presupposes the great day when destinies are eternally fixed.” It should not be taken lightly.
Loving discipline is done the good of the child. Parents must do it out of love because they want to save them from the graver consequences of an unrepentant, sinful lifestyle.
Therefore, parenting must not be self-centered or manipulative. It must not be careless or lazy. It must not be marked by anger. Parents are called to love their kids and love them enough to discipline them not when it’s convenient or in the parents’ own interest, but when it’s for the good of their children.
Parents who have been angry on a regular basis can confess and seek their child’s forgiveness.
Being a good parent isn’t about convincing your kids that you never sin. It’s showing them how to respond properly when you do.
A parent’s confession teaches by example.
The Paideia of the Lord
The next phrase says, “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
There are two keywords in this phrase—discipline and instruction—which need to be understood.
The word translated discipline comes from the Greek word, Paideia.
What does Paideia mean?
It’s much more than simple discipline. It’s more than training, education, nurture, or instruction as it’s been translated in other versions.
Each of these words captures an aspect of it but not all of it.
To paraphrase, Douglas Wilson says, “if we were to take a first-century Ephesian to one of our schools, and we asked him to tell us the Greek word for what was happening at the school, he would say, Paideia. But it’s more than that. Paideia is about forming a culture and an entire worldview.”
It’s more than simple discipline. I have to admit, my understanding of the word discipline in this verse has been narrow.
I’ve always thought of discipline as consequences for misbehavior.
That’s part of it, but there’s more.
God commands parents, and fathers specifically, to educate their kids, to foster a Christian culture for them, and to educate them in a biblical worldview.
This doesn’t mean fathers are the only ones who must do all the teaching, but they should be a large part of it. Further, any part they are not personally doing should be overseen by them.
A foreman on a job doesn’t do all the work, but he tells his employees what to do, he guides them as they go, corrects what they are doing wrong, and inspects their work when they are finished. And if anything is wrong, he makes them fix it.
If a foreman is that involved in his job, how much more should a father be?
Think about those three college students who were raised in churches.
They each went to church as a child. It’s likely they attended some Sunday mornings, and they went to confirmation classes or some sort of biblical training, but they didn’t have a biblical understanding of truth or of the world.
Rather, they sounded like the world. “Your truth is your truth. You do you. I’ll do me. We’re all good—unless you offend me.”
Where did they learn this?
They weren’t raised in the Paideia of the Lord. They were raised in the Paideia of the world with a little church sprinkled on the side.
Why are two out of every three young people walking away from church when they graduate high school?
It’s because of the Paideia in which they were raised.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Wait a minute! What about kids who grow up in “strong” Christian homes and still walk away?
The following is an excerpt from Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham. It’s a longer story, but it illustrates a problem so prevalent in parenting today that it needs to be shared.
“Not long ago I sat down with a grieving father. He wasn’t grieving because his child had died, but over something potentially far worse. His son, Thomas, had grown up in church. He was a good kid. He was a fixture in the youth group, he dated a girl from the church, he went to Disciple Now weekends, Youth Camp, and YEC (a Baptist youth outreach), and even participated in a mission trip his sophomore year in high school.
However, when he went off to college, things changed. His parents had heard of the danger of ‘secular’ schools, so they guided him toward a Christian university. He was an outstanding athlete and had won a baseball scholarship. Thomas’s story was not just typical—it was exceptional. He had done all of the things Christian parents desire for their children—good grades, great friends, active in church, popular, and off to college on an athletic scholarship. So why was his father grieving?
As it turns out, . . . things were lurking beneath the surface that his mom, dad, youth pastor, and Sunday school teacher never saw. Once he was away at ‘All-American Christian University,’ [a] darker side began to surface.
First, Thomas stopped attending church. He occasionally attended the large weekly Bible study on campus or the area-wide college service hosted by a large church in town, but he was not plugged into a local body of believers. Moreover, there was no sense of personal holiness, no pursuit of Christian disciplines.
Next Thomas began to struggle a bit in class. He had always been an A/B student, but now he was struggling just to pass midterms in some of his classes. Upon closer examination of his academic struggles, they found that Thomas was staying out late and drinking heavily and often missed classes.
Finally, Thomas was suspended from his baseball team when a random drug test revealed that he had taken anabolic steroids. The father was so distraught that he did not allow Thomas to return for his second year. He opted instead to place him in a local community college until the young man could ‘get his head on straight.’
Upon hearing Thomas’s story, I tried to console this grieving father as best I could. He cried for a while and then asked me a question that I don’t think he wanted answered. ‘Where could I have gone wrong?’ he asked as he shook his head in disgust. Over the next several days he and I unpacked the situation and dealt with some very tough issues. I am not suggesting that his case is cut-and-dry. But we did find some very familiar patterns.
First, Thomas’s lack of commitment in spiritual matters was not as strange as it seemed. As I talked with this father, I learned that Thomas was more than just a naturally gifted ballplayer. This kid had been playing baseball since he was six and started taking private instruction at nine! He had been part of a traveling squad at age twelve and was an all-star at every level. This man and his wife had gone to great lengths to see to it that their son became the best baseball player he could be.
This also means that during the summer and fall their church attendance was sporadic at best. Like many parents, they found themselves traveling to tournament after tournament and praying for the opportunity to be out on Sunday since that meant they were playing for a title somewhere. What they didn’t realize is that they were teaching Thomas to prioritize baseball above the Fourth Commandment. They were teaching Thomas that he should honor the Sabbath and keep it holy unless it’s baseball season.
Thus, when Thomas got to college and had to choose between going to church and hanging out with his teammates, the foundation for his decision had already been laid. When he had to choose between extra time in chemistry lab and extra time in the batting cage, he knew intuitively which choice to make. And when he had a choice between sitting on the bench for the first time in his life or taking a shortcut to a bigger body and a faster bat, he struggled for a while but eventually made the decision based on the one that had directed his path since was six years old.
In other words,…Christianity was never the center of Thomas’s universe. It was always something on the periphery. Church, and more importantly Jesus Christ, always orbited around baseball, the bright, shining star at the center of his universe. Does this mean that every young ballplayer will experience moral compromise? Certainly not; nor am I arguing that we should abolish all sports. I am simply arguing that anything that causes us to compromise our beliefs can (and probably will) become an idol.
Thomas’s father had never missed one of his son’s games. Moreover, it was his father who taught him how to throw a curve ball, how to put his body in front of a grounder, and how to turn a double play. In fact, Thomas’s father was the coach of his first T-ball team. However, when I asked whether or not he led his son (and his family) in worship, his only response was, ‘I never even thought about it.’
In other words, this man had spent countless hours and immeasurable amounts of energy teaching his son how to be a ballplayer but hadn’t done a thing to teach him how to be a Christian. When I pressed him on this issue, he said, ‘I thought the youth pastor was doing a good job of that.’ The point here is so obvious that I hesitate to state it. When it came to baseball, he had coaches and leagues, but [the father] was the one providing private instruction in the backyard. However, when it came to spiritual matters, he passed the buck.”
Fathers, when it comes to raising your kids, don’t pass the buck. Instead, raise them in the paideia of the Lord.
The Nouthesia of the Lord
The final phrase says, “Fathers, bring them up in the . . . instruction of the Lord.”
The Greek word for instruction is nouthesia, which is where the idea of nouthetic counseling or Biblical counseling comes from.
Biblical counseling is a counseling model distinctly based on the truths and principles of God’s Word without integrating man’s wisdom or philosophies. It’s based on the sufficiency of Scripture for all of life.
While a parent is not going to meet with their child an hour a week in a counseling room, they can and must use the principles of biblical counseling when helping their children navigate life with wisdom.
Randy Patten says, “Three actions are involved in [nouthesia]:
One: Discerning thinking and behavior God wants to change (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Colossians 1:28).
Two: Using God’s Word, by verbal means, to change that thinking and behavior (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 10:11).
Three: Doing this for the child’s benefit and the glory of God (1 Corinthians 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:15; Colossians 2:18).”
What’s the difference between these two concepts?
It could be said that Paideia is focused on teaching, educating, telling, modeling, and living the Christian life for your children.
Nouthesia is listening to, relating to, and understanding your children, and then specifically guiding them toward truth through conversation.
To put it another way, Paideia is filling their mind with truth. Nouthesia is guiding their heart toward God.
Parents must do both.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my mother did this for me when I was in high school.
I’d come home from school or my job or hanging out with friends, and my mom would ask me questions about life, about my thoughts, and about everything.
We’d talk for hours, and she would help me see my wrong thinking and point me toward right thinking based on God’s Word.
She wasn’t teaching. She was counseling, and this is what parents must do.
Ask questions and listen to their kids’ answers.
Show genuine interest in them, and give sincere loving advice based on God’s word.
Bringing It All Together
Children will grow up in a paideia. They will either be influenced more by the world or more by the Lord. Parents can ensure their children are raised in the paideia of the Lord if they take to heart the instruction of Ephesians 6:4.
Therefore, parents are not left helpless over the future of their children. By God’s grace and with his help, they can make an impact on the future of their children.
 Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith.  Ibid.  Texas Department of Corrections: https://lifeisbeautiful.org/statistics-on-fatherless-homes/  Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries, Parenting for the Glory of God Session #2—Teaching, 2.  Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries, Parenting for the Glory of God Session #2—Teaching, 3.  John Piper, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/more-thoughts-for-fathers-on-ephesians-6-4  Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart.  Ibid., 99.  Douglas Wilson, The Paideia of God.  Randy Patten, Parenting with Purpose Seminar Notes, 6.