Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-11 Teaching Outline)

Introduction: It is quite common today to hear people say things like, “I don't believe in any one religion, but I am a very spiritual person.” People are simply perplexed about what spirituality really is or isn't, yet they want to appear to be “spiritual.” They don't understand what that really means, but this only aids them in thinking that they ought to be the ones who define it for themselves. As George Gallup wrote in an online article back in August of 2013:
As described in The Next American Spirituality, which Tim Jones and I wrote, the pendulum may be swinging away from what is beyond us to what is within us. In the 1999 survey, we asked, “Do you think of spirituality more in a personal and individual sense or more in terms of organized religion and church doctrine?” Almost three-quarters opted for the “personal and individual” response.
In a January 2002 poll, 50% of Americans described themselves as “religious,” while another 33% said they are “spiritual but not religious” (11% said neither and 4% said both). When respondents to a 1999 Gallup survey were asked to define “spirituality,” almost a third defined it without reference to God or a higher authority: “a calmness in my life,” “something you really put your heart into,” or “living the life you feel is pleasing.”
As further evidence of the focus on self in spirituality, many people today appear to be practicing a “do-it-yourself” faith -- taking pieces from various traditions and building their own kind of “patchwork” faith. For example, according to a September 1996 Gallup Poll, one-fifth of people who describe themselves as “born again” also say they believe in reincarnation. (Americans' Spiritual Searches Turn Inward)
Such findings are really no surprise to those of us who have been paying attention to what has been happening in our culture. But, sadly, many professing Christians are just as unaware of what true spirituality is or isn't. They often know that what they are hearing around them is wrong, but they aren't always sure how to respond to it. However, I think the parable before us today may help us to get to the heart of the matter. For in it our Lord Jesus directly challenges the false spirituality of the Pharisees of His day, and He offers us a picture of what true spirituality really looks like. I hope to demonstrate this for you as we make our way through the parable. In the process, we will examine 1) the context of the parable, 2) the communication of the parable, and 3) the application of the parable.

I. The Context of the Parable

The context of the parable is found verse 9, where Luke tells us what we need to know about who Jesus was speaking to and why He was speaking to them.
NKJ  Luke 18:9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others ….
Right away Luke wants us to understand the problem Jesus is addressing. There were people around Him who thought they they could be righteous in and of themselves, and these people tended to despise anyone who didn't measure up to their self-defined standards of righteousness. They were self-righteous people who didn't really love others, but the real problem behind this is that they didn't really love God. That this is the problem will become even clearer as we examine the parable itself.

II. The Communication of the Parable

The communication of the parable is found in verses 10-13. Although it has been my habit to follow a verse-by-verse format when teaching the parables of Jesus, I prefer to teach this parable in such a way as to highlight the comparisons Jesus wants us to make between the Pharisee and the Tax Collector presented in the parable. He introduces these two main characters in verse 10.
NKJ  Luke 18:10 Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
Notice that Jesus tells us that both men went went up to the temple to pray, not only the Pharisee but also the tax collector. Thus Jesus indicates that both men were ostensibly engaging in spiritual activity, even though this might have come as a surprise to most of His hearers. In fact, most of those who were listening to Jesus would have expected to hear about a Pharisee who went up to the temple to pray, but they would have been quite taken aback to hear about a tax collector who did so. You see, the tax collectors were not typically religious people. In fact, they were typically greedy and crooked men who actually collected taxes for the Romans and for this reason were often considered traitors to their people. As the IVP Bible Background Commentary observes:
Pharisees were the most pious people in regular Palestinian Jewish society; tax gatherers were the most despicable, often considered traitors to their people. Pharisees did not want tax gatherers admitted as witnesses or given honorary offices. To catch the impact of this parable today one might think of these characters as the most active deacon or Sunday-school teacher versus a drug dealer, gay activist or crooked politician. (e-Sword)
So you can see why most people who listened to this parable would already have been surprised – perhaps even a bit shocked – by what they were hearing. They would have expected a story about a Pharisee who went up to the temple to pray, but they would have been surprised to hear a story about a tax collector who went up to the temple to pray.

Yet the real surprise of the parable still hasn't come. For Jesus actually goes on to reverse what they would have expected. He goes on to show that the Pharisee was the spiritual fraud and the tax collector was the one who was spiritually genuine! In doing so, he sets up a contrast between them in order to make His point. So, in order to highlight the comparison and contrast that Jesus wants us to see, let's examine first two indicators of false spirituality exhibited by the Pharisee, and then we will examine two indicators of genuine spirituality exhibited by the tax collector.

1. Two Indicators of False Spirituality

These indicators are seen in Jesus' description of the Pharisee in verses 11-12:
NKJ  Luke 18:11-12 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.”
The first indicator of false spirituality is trusting in one's own ability to conform outwardly to religious requirements.

Luke has already indicated that the Pharisee stands for those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous” (vs. 9). In doing so he has prepared us to understand what Jesus says here as a description of the way in which their trust in themselves could be seen. Notice especially the way the Pharisee talks about himself and about his own actions:
I thank you I am not like other men … (vs. 11a).
I fast twice a week … (vs. 12a).
I give tithes of all that I possess … (vs. 12b).
In fact, Jesus says that the Pharisee's prayer isn't really a prayer at all, but rather a self-congratulatory pat on the back. For Jesus specifically states that the Pharisee “prayed thus with himself” (vs. 11a, italics mine). That is, although the Pharisee was trying to appear pious, he was actually talking to himself and about himself.

The NET Bible notes offer a couple of options for understanding the Greek phrase that describes how the Pharisee prayed with regard to himself:
… two different nuances emerge, both of which highlight in different ways the principal point Jesus seems to be making about the arrogance of this religious leader: (1) “prayed to himself,” but not necessarily silently, or (2) “prayed about himself,” with the connotation that he prayed out loud, for all to hear. Since his prayer is really a review of his moral résumé, directed both at advertising his own righteousness and exposing the perversion of the tax collector, whom he actually mentions in his prayer, the latter option seems preferable. If this is the case, then the Pharisee's mention of God is really nothing more than a formality. (BibleWorks)
As William Hendriksen also aptly observes:
Outwardly he addresses God, for he says, “O God.” But inwardly and actually the man is talking about himself to himself …. Moreover, having mentioned God once, he never refers to him again. Throughout his prayer the Pharisee is congratulating himself.
That this is the true state of affairs follows also from the fact that nowhere in his prayer does the man confess his sins. Nowhere does he ask God to forgive him what he has done amiss. Now if he had had any sense of the divine presence, would he not also have had a sense of guilt? (e-Sword) 
We may also see the Pharisee's lack of awareness of his own sins when we consider the way he views others, which leads to our next characteristic of the self-righteous.

The second indicator of false spirituality is gauging one's spirituality by comparison to the perceived lack of holiness in others.

Again, Luke has already indicated that the Pharisee stands for those who “despised others” or, as the ESV renders it, those who “treated others with contempt” (vs. 9). So he has again helped to prepare us to understand what Jesus intended when He offered His portrayal of the Pharisee in this parable. Notice especially how, while pretending to give God the glory, the Pharisee says, “I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector” (vs. 11b).

Application: This portrayal of the Pharisee should lead each one of us to examine himself or herself in order to see how much we might be like this Pharisee. For example, we might want to ask ourselves questions like, How often do I say “I” when speaking of the good things in my life or of ministry accomplishments, as though the credit belongs to me rather than to God? Or, perhaps worse, how often do I pretend to credit God but don't really man it? You see, we may know the right things to say in order to sound spiritual to others, but whether or not we mean what we say is the true test of genuine spirituality rather than hypocrisy, and – one way or another – who we truly are will eventually show through, just as it did with the Pharisee in the parable.

2. Two Indicators of Genuine Spirituality

These indicators are the opposite of those pertaining to the false spirituality of the Pharisee, and they may be seen in Jesus' description of the tax collector in verse 13:
NKJ  Luke 18:13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
The first indicator of genuine spirituality is an awareness of one's own inability to live righteously.

Given that the tax collector is contrasted with the Pharisee, and that the Pharisee illustrates “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous” (vs. 9), we may assume that the tax collector represents those who do not trust in themselves that they are righteous. We see his awareness of his own inability to live righteously both in his actions and in his confession. For example, Jesus says that the man confessed his sinfulness to God, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” But He also says that he “beat his breast,” which is a sign of intense sorrow. Jesus wants us to see clearly, then, what a recognition of one's own inability to live righteously entails. It entails a clear understanding of our own sinfulness in the sight of God and a corresponding sense of sorrow for our sins. As the Apostle Paul would later write to the Corinthian believers:
NKJ  2 Corinthians 7:9-10 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Unlike the Pharisee, who should have understood such things himself, the tax collector in the parable serves for all time as an example of such a godly sorrow for sin. He is the kind of person about whom Jesus spoke when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:3-4).

The second indicator of genuine spirituality is gauging one's spirituality by comparison to God's holiness.

Jesus says that the tax collector was “standing afar off” and that he “would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven.” These actions again indicate a sense of humility and a recognition by the tax collector that he was not worthy to enter the presence of God. He clearly understood that the standard by which he was to be measured was the holiness of God rather than the morality of those around him.

Application: This portrayal of the tax collector should lead each one of us to examine himself or herself in order to see whether or not we exhibit characteristic of genuine spirituality. For example, we might want to ask ourselves questions like, When was the last time I really saw my own sin for the terrible thing that it is? Or, When was the last time I truly sensed my deep need for God's grace and forgiveness? The answers to such questions might just reveal the last time we had a clear vision of God's holiness.

But what if such self-examination reveals that you have never experienced any such remorse for your sins? If this is the case, then you must face the fact that you may be a spiritual fraud and are not really a Christian at all. I think this is a possibility our Lord Jesus would have you consider for, although I have suggested some application of the parable up to this point, we should not miss the most important one, and that is the one made by Jesus Himself, which leads us to the last point.

III. The Application of the Parable

We find Jesus' own direct application of the parable in verse 14:
NKJ  Luke 18:14 I tell you, this man [i.e. the tax collector] went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Remember that the Pharisee represents those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous” (vs. 9). This means, given the contrast Jesus draws between the Pharisee and the tax collector, that the tax collector must represent those who trust in God for their righteousness. Thus when Jesus says that the tax collector “went down to his house justified,” He speaks of the man being justified in the same forensic sense that the Apostle Paul later described at length when he proclaimed the Gospel that he had gotten directly from Jesus Himself (Gal. 1:11-12). For example, in his Epistle to the Romans Paul declares:
NKJ  Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
This “righteous of God … to all and on all who believe” was the basis upon which the tax collector in the parable was said to be justified – declared righteous – in the sight of God. Although since then we have seen even more clearly how this righteousness comes “through faith in Jesus Christ,” the doctrine of justification was the same under the Old Covenant as it is under the New Covenant, a fact which is assumed by our Lord Jesus in the telling of this parable.

But what about Jesus' statement that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”? What does Jesus mean by this? In answer to answer this question, I would suggest that the context indicates in what sense one who humbles himself will be exalted. Jesus is speaking about two men standing before God and being judged by Him. The one who humbles himself by recognizing his own sinfulness and unworthiness – the one who is thus sorrowful for his sins and repents – this is the one will be exalted by being declared righteous in the sight of God. But the one who exalts himself by trusting in his own ability to attain righteousness (vs. 9) – the one who is thus prideful and does not repent of his sins – this is the one who will be humbled in the future judgment of God.

You see, although the final judgment of God is future, those of us who have trusted in Him as the source for our righteousness may know now what that verdict will be, for it has already been pronounced on our behalf. Thus, just as the tax collector in the parable was able to return to his home already justified in the sight of God (vs. 14), even so we who have trusted in the righteousness of Christ are justified even now. As the Apostle Paul said:
NKJ  Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
This is why Jesus told this parable. He wanted us to know how we can be justified in the sight of God, that we can only be justified by Him if we leaving off trusting in our own righteousness and instead trust in the righteousness that only He Himself can provide for us. As Paul said to the Corinthian believers:
NKJ  1 Corinthians 1:30-31 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”
Conclusion: Have you trusted in Christ as the source for your righteousness? For He alone has lived a sinless life, so He alone can provide for you the righteousness that you need in the sight of God. As Paul again said:
NKJ  2 Corinthians 5:20-21 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
This is the happy exchange by which our sin was reckoned to Jesus Christ when He died on the cross and by which His righteousness is reckoned to us through faith in what He has done for us. For He died on the cross for sinners like you and me, and He rose from the dead that we might have everlasting life. Will you abandon your own false spiritually now and cry out to God for the genuine spirituality that recognizes both the greatness of your own sin and the greatness of His grace in Christ as the answer for it?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Answering Common Objections to Celebrating Christmas

In an article published last Friday, Matthew Everhard, Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida, responded to a number of common objections to Christians celebrating Christmas. The article is entitled Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday? A Response to Eight Common Arguments, and here are the eight objections to which Matthew responds:
1. The etymology of both the words “Christmas” and “Easter” is problematic; Christmas contains the root “mass,” a false and abominable sacrifice of the Roman Catholic Church, and Easter is derived from the name of a pagan god, worshipped in ancient times.
2. Neither the practice of Christmas nor Easter are commanded in Scripture and therefore are not warranted by the Regulative Principle of Worship (See the Westminster Confession of Faith 21.1).
3. Both Christmas and Easter contain pagan symbolism; the former retains the use of the so-called “Christmas Tree” and Easter retains usage of the “egg” and other fertility-cult symbolism.
4. Both Christmas and Easter are often attended by ridiculous and childish customs i.e. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, which detract from the worship of the Trinitarian God. Many churches that purport to be "evangelical" have even brought such nonsense into the very sanctuary and perverted the holy worship of God!
5. Both Christmas and Easter are practiced by the Roman Catholic Church which has so far distorted the Gospel as to be no Gospel at all and therefore their historical practices ought not to be carried forward by Protestants.
6. Both Christmas and Easter encourage consumerism and materialism and ought to be rejected upon the grounds of being a distraction from the Gospel.
7. Both Christmas and Easter are inconsistent with the practice of the English Puritan heritage from whence the American Presbyterian heritage derives.
8. Both Christmas and Easter are practiced during times of the solar year related to the solstice, at which times pagan festivals have been historically linked.
As you can see, the article also deals with similar objections to the celebration of Easter by Christians, and it is well worth reading. I think Matthew does a pretty good job responding to such arguments. Check out his responses for yourself, and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Journey, My Friends, and God’s Work in Colombia

As I wait for my flight back to the great state of Arkansas, I am filled with many emotions. I am here at the Bogota Airport, and I miss my family. I cannot wait to kiss and embrace my wife and swoop up my three boys into my arms. I can already see their smiles in my mind. But my anticipation is bittersweet. Though I have yet to depart, I am already missing my new friends here in this beautiful country. Let me tell you about them. Let me tell you about my journey. And let me tell you what great things God is doing here in Colombia, South America.

My Journey

My experience in Colombia begins with bouncy friends, bouncy music, and a bouncy car ride into the mountains.

I came to Colombia to teach Biblical Theology to a group of pastors. But the night before I left Arkansas, I realized that I was coming down with a cold – not a good feeling when your voice is a key instrument in teaching. So I began to pray and stock up with medicine and cough drops, for with a sore throat or not, the time of departure was upon me.

I arrived in Bogota at 9:30, but it was not until 11:00 p.m. that I exited the airport. Outside of the doors, four men greeted me. “Are you pastor Jeff?” they asked in a foreign accent. With a quick “yes,” strange names began to fly out of their mouths – names that I never heard before – “I am pastor Guillermo.” “I am pastor Jorge from Ecuador.” “I am pastor Eduardo; I will be your interpreter.” And “I am Mr. Eduardo.” They were friendly. They asked me about the details of my flight, offered me water, and grabbed up my bags as they showed me to the car.

But that is where the real bounciness began. The roads there are bumpy and curvy, as the mountains are large and steep, and the traffic is beyond chaotic. Pastor Guillermo is a skillful but aggressive driver – which I learned later is the only way you can drive in a city of 9 million people who are trying to get to the same place at the same time. There dividing lines on the road mean nothing. In fact, there don't seem to be any rules at all. Where there are two lanes, four lines of cars seek to drive abreast with motorcycles buzzing around anywhere they can squeeze in. Cars will suddenly pull out in front of you as if you are not even there, which causes knee jerking stops. It is a madhouse to say the least. Bogota reminds me of a disturbed ant-mound that has been kicked by a pesky kid – so many people group together that they are running all over each other. I have been to a lot of large cities – Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Rome, but no city I have ever been to can compare to the vast amount of people and vehicles that are squeezed into a single space.

So, imagine late at night that you’re in a car that is going up and down, from side to side, from top speed (as if you are in a drag race) to squelching stops. All of this on a bumpy and curvy road as the car is dodging other cars, large trucks and flying motorcycles. It did not take long before, along with my sore throat, I had motion sickness. And it did not take long before my new friends cranked up the Colombian music. The music is bouncy all right – like party music driven by an accordion. With the music rocking, my new friends began to sing, tap their feet, and move with the beat, which caused the car to rock back and forth, as we were already moving in all directions. So round and round we went.

“Two hours to our destination,” they informed me. With the news, I became hot and queasy. And it was only then that I became thankful that United Airlines no longer offered an in-flight meal. I understand that all things work together for good, and an empty stomach is preferable with motion sickness. So like a ball thrown into a blender, my journey in Colombia had begun.

Thankfully, without any unpleasant incident, we made it to the retreat center sometime around 1:00 a.m. There I was to lecture 21 times over the next four days. A Colombian meal was waiting on us and a little over 50 pastors, from all over Colombia, were already sleeping in their rooms and tents. After a good meal, I went to bed.

The next day, like the next four days, was full of food, juice, coffee, and teaching. I taught 6 times per day. My sore throat had not gotten any better, but I knew my church family in Conway, AR, was praying for me. The Lord was gracious. Not once did my voice hinder my teaching. But before I tell you about the teaching and seminary here in Colombia, let me tell you a little bit about this wonderful place.

Colombia is amazing. It is tropical and breathtaking. When I woke up, I could not believe the beauty that was all around me. Massive and irregular shaped mountains encircled the place, which caused me to understand why the roads were so crooked and steep. Flowers. Wow! Flowers of all kind were everywhere. Fruit was hanging on almost every tree. Everything was blooming, budding, and flourishing. There was fruit that I didn't even know existed. There were avocados the size of footballs. Truly, this is a land flowing with milk and honey. And birds. Wow! All kinds of birds were flying around and chirping. I woke up to a pleasant and relaxing melody of tropical birds singing to the glory of God. To top it all off, the weather was perfect. It is as if this is the place where God abides and personally sets the temperature – in the mid seventies, no humidity, and with a cool and gentle breeze keeping the air fresh. In fact, if I had to imagine the Garden of Eden, I would think it was similar, if not identical, to Chinauta, Colombia.   

My Friends

The beauty of the place was only the backdrop to the even more beautiful people. Colombians are a diverse people with a variety of skin tones. In many ways, Colombians are like Americans. They like to joke around, laugh, and play sports. But they are a little more affectionate and generous. They are a little more welcoming. Maybe it is the music, maybe it is the food and tropical climate, but whatever the case, they are an endearing people. Take these natural qualities and put Christ in them, then you have a group of people that you cannot help but quickly fall in love with. It is amazing how kindness and love can transcend any language bearer. They would reach into their pockets and give me candy, buy me ice-cream, and bring me coffee as if I was someone special. But this is how they treated each other as well. These men love each other as they love “Christo.” Being around such beautiful people makes me long for heaven where there will be people from every nation and people group of the world.

God’s Work in Colombia

My trip is almost over. Though I am headed home, I am taking much with me. I am leaving with a better understanding of the words of Christ, who said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” America is saturated with the gospel and various gospel ministries. We take our access to the gospel and Christian resources for granted. We have access to many resources, books, and churches. Colombia, on the other hand, is in great need of all these things. They are hungry. They are grasping on to almost anything. Those like myself who travel here to teach are readily heard, and every book that is translated into Spanish is quickly consumed. (This is why it is important to provide solid teaching.)

I am also leaving with a greater commitment to supporting indigenous ministers and ministries. We can spend thousands of dollars in supporting American missionaries, who often need as much money to live in a foreign country as they do in America. Most American missionaries last only four years on the field. But indigenous ministers are there to stay, and they don’t need money as much as they need training.

Because they are hungry for a basic education of the Bible, I am convinced that one of the best ways to support foreign missions is not by sending American missionaries (except for the unreached people groups of the world), but to provide Biblical training to the pastors already living in those foreign lands. Colombia, for instance, is vastly Catholic, about 70%, and the Evangelical influence is mostly charismatic. The prosperity gospel, sadly, is popular there as it is in America. They need solid resources and training to combat such influences. This is something that our churches can support. This is something that I am convinced is making a huge difference.

With this in mind, I am thankful for Reformed Baptist Seminary’s support of the Biblical training program that is overseen by Guillermo Gomez, pastor of Sovereign Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Bogota. This program is called “The Marrow of Theology.” Because of limited options and a great hunger for the truth, “The Marrow of Theology” program is attracting men from all over Colombia. Afterwards, they are slowly reforming their churches or planting solid Reformed Baptist churches throughout this country. In this one ministry, hundreds of ministers are being trained and sent out across Colombia. This is changing, and will continue to change, the landscape of South America.
In addition to my desire to support “The Marrow of Theology” program in Bogata, I plan to start a Spanish branch of Free Grace Press. Eduardo Fergusson, who translated my teaching and preaching this past week, has agreed to assist in the translation of our English books into Spanish. Jorge Rodriguez, from Ecuador, has agreed to oversee the printing and distributing of these books throughout South America. Because the books will be translated and printed in South America, the cost will be a fraction of the expense of books printed in America. 100, 200, or 300 dollars can make a major impact. What an investment for the sake of the kingdom.  

With all of this, I am going home with a new passion for international missions. I hope to communicate this passion with my church family and friends. I am excited about what God is doing in South America…so please join me in praying for these beautiful people in this beautiful region of the world.

Friday, December 12, 2014

"I Am the Very Model of a Biblical Philologist"

I just thought this was fun! But, then, I am a bit of a Biblical exegetical and background studies nerd. Here is a description of the video found on YouTube:
"A biblical- and ancient-Near-Eastern-studies–themed parody of 'I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General' from The Pirates of Penzance. Lyrics, musical arrangement, and vocals by Joshua Tyra, ⓒ 2011. Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan, original lyrics by William S. Gilbert."
I tried to see how many of the terms I actually knew, and, although I knew quite a few of them, I didn't do so well overall.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

James White on Rick Warren's Capitulation to Rome

As usual, Dr. White does a very good job challenging the heretical thinking and practice of one who ought to know better. In the three videos above he demonstrates how Rick warren has undermined the Gospel of Jesus Christ in his attempts to be untied with Roman Catholics. It is a sad thing that there is so little reason at this point to be surprised by Rick Warren's whitewashing of Roman Catholicism. He has increasingly demonstrated a bent toward doing such things, and he has once again led people way from, rather than toward, the truth of the Gospel. Thank you, Dr. White, for taking the time to address this issue in truth and love.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Jonathan Leeman Identifies "Twenty-Two Problems with Multi-site Churches"

I recently came across an interesting and thought-provoking article by Jonathan Leeman, the Editorial Director of 9Marks, entitled Twenty-Two Problems with Multi-site Churches. Here is the introduction to the article:
I love my gospel-loving friends in multi-site churches—both leaders and members! But as Christians we work continually to reform our churches in light of Scripture. So I trust a little push back on the multi-site structure serves everyone, assuming my concerns turn out to be valid. Below are 22 misgivings I have about the multi-site model. All of these apply to churches that use a video preacher. Over half apply to churches who employ a preacher on every campus.
Here are the first four problems listed by Leeman:
1. There’s no clear example of a multi-site church in the New Testament, only supposition. “Well, surely, the Christians in a city could not have all met…” (but see Acts 2:46; 5:12; 6:2). 
2. If a church is constituted by the preaching of the Word and the distribution of the ordinances under the binding authority of the keys, every “campus” where those activities transpire is actually a church. “Multi-site church” is a misnomer. It’s a collection of churches under one administration. 
3. For every additional multi-site campus out there, there’s one less preaching pastor being raised up for the next generation. 
4. What effectively unites the churches (campuses) of a multi-site church are a budget, a pastor’s charisma, and brand identity. Nowhere does the Bible speak of building church unity in budgets, charisma, and brand.
I recommend reading the rest of the article here. As always, your comments are welcome.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Biblical Principles for Parenting: Part Four

In the introduction to this series, I indicated that our focus would be upon four principles which relate in one way or another back to God as our heavenly Father and our supreme example for parenting. In the last three posts, I have discussed the first principle, the second principle, and the third principle. In this post I want to consider the fourth principle.

Principle #4: Our heavenly Father teaches us the importance of a proper view of both a father's and a mother's role in the family.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked passages dealing with men's and women's roles is found in 1 Corinthians in a discussion of the way men and women wear their hair. When beginning a description of what is appropriate to men versus what is appropriate to women, Paul draws an important analogy between the relationship of God the Father to God the Son and the relationship of men to women. He writes:
NKJ  1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
This is an important verse because it teaches us that, just as God the Son takes a subordinate role to God the Father even though they are equal with respect to their divine being, even so women are to take a subordinate role to men despite the fact that they are equal to them as bearers of the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and as those who possess sonship in Christ (Gal. 3:26-28). That is, even though the fact that the Father and the Son share an ontological equality, they nevertheless take upon themselves functionally superior and subordinate roles. And this is precisely how we should think of the relationship of men to women in the church and in the home. Even though they share equality as bearers of the divine image and as joint-heirs in Christ, they nevertheless fill functionally superior and subordinate roles. Such a role distinction is clearly expressed by Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians:
NKJ  Ephesians 5:22-27 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (See also 1 Peter 3:1-7)
Such a role is also assumed by Paul when he discusses the qualifications for elders in the churches. For example, he teaches that an elder must be “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Tim. 3:4-5).

It could not be any clearer that husbands and fathers are to be the heads and rulers of their homes. They are to be the highest authority – under God – in the home. However, this does not mean that they are the only authority in the home, for mothers have authority over their children as well. Consider, for example, what the Book of Proverbs teaches about the importance of mothers:
NKJ  Proverbs 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother ….
NKJ  Proverbs 6:20 My son, keep your father's command, and do not forsake the law of your mother.
Notice that in both of these proverbs it is assumed that the mother has an authoritative teaching role in the lives of her children just as the father does. John Gill has observed this as well, and he has written that this verses applies to:
… any and every mother of a child, who having an equal or greater tenderness for her offspring, and a true and hearty regard for their welfare, will instruct them in the best manner she can, give the best rules, and prescribe the best laws she can for their good; and which ought to be as carefully attended to and obeyed as those of a father; and she is particularly mentioned, because the law of God equally enjoins reverence and obedience to both parents, which human laws among the Gentiles did not; and because children are too apt to slight the directions and instructions of a mother; whereas they carry equal authority, and have in them the nature of a law, as those of a father. (Exposition of the Entire Bible, e-sword)
The IVP Bible Background Commentary concurs when it states that:
The call to listen to the instructions of one's parents stands as a corollary to the law requiring children to honor their father and mother (Exod. 20:12). Thus the wisdom of mothers, who generally served as a child's first teacher, is equated with that of fathers. (e-Sword)
And why does Solomon assume that a mother's instruction may “carry equal authority” with that of a father, as Gill says? It is because Solomon assumes that she relies upon the law of God when she instructs her children, just as it is assumed that the father relies upon the law of God. He is speaking here of a godly mother, and he is assuming that the law of your mother will be none other than the law of God taught by your mother. As a matter of fact, some of the Book of Proverbs is actually a repetition of such a mother's teaching. Consider the introduction to the instruction contained in chapter 31:
NKJ  Proverbs 31:1 The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him....
The teachings of King Lemuel's mother, which she apparently wrote in the form of two poems (the first in verses 2-9 and the second in verses 10-31), actually became a part of the inspired text of Scripture.

Thus we must remember the crucial role that mothers play in the training of their children, a role which they must take up in submission to their husbands, but a role which is one of authority in the lives of their children nonetheless. Mothers are therefore every bit as crucial to the raising of children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) as are fathers. Both fathers and mothers must therefore heed the Biblical teaching about parenting, and they must work together as one in the rearing of their children before the Lord.

Conclusion: We have considered at some length at least four primary principles from Scripture that are crucial in the parenting of our children. It is my prayer the the Lord will grant us by His grace the wisdom and patience to put them into practice consistently.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Biblical Principles for Parenting: Part Three

In the introduction to this series, I indicated that our focus would be upon four principles which relate in one way or another back to God as our heavenly Father and our supreme example for parenting. In the last two posts, I have discussed the first principle and the second principle. In this post I want to consider the third principle.

Principle #3: Our heavenly Father teaches us the importance of raising our children to know His Word.

This is one of the most important principles of parenting that God revealed through the Prophet Moses to the people of Israel. He commanded them to be diligent in teaching His Word to their children, even to make it a part of every aspect of their daily lives, as we see in Deuteronomy:
NKJ  Deuteronomy 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Notice that the our heavenly Father desires first of all that we as parents have His Word in our hearts, for it is only when we love Him above all else and hold fast to his Word in our own hearts that it will become such a part of our daily lives that we naturally share it with our children in all that we say and do. As a matter of fact, this issue is so important to our heavenly Father that He made sure to repeat it again later in Deuteronomy:
NKJ  Deuteronomy 11:18-19 Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
It is also worth noting that the same Greek terminology used in the LXX translation of the various proverbs concerning the discipline of children, terminology which is taken up by the author of Hebrews in his discussion of our heavenly Father's discipline of His children (12:1-11, as we saw in Part Two) and is used by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:4, is also taken up by Paul when he describes the sufficiency and authority of God's Word:
NKJ  2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof [ἐλεγμός, elegmós, noun related to the verb ἐλέγχω, elégchō, used in Heb. 12:5], for correction, for instruction [παιδεία, paideía, same word used in Eph. 6:4 and Heb. 12:5, 7, 8, and 11] in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
This should not surprise us, for if we are to bring up our children in the training and admonition of the Lord, of course we must look to His Word, which has been given to us as the absolutely authoritative and all-sufficient source for this training and admonition. It is His Word that will make us thoroughly equipped for the good work of parenting, and it is His Word that we must teach our children if we are to have any hope that they will come to faith in Christ and embrace our heavenly Father as their own.

Here we would do well to heed another bit of advice from J.C. Ryle concerning the role of the Word of God in the lives of our children:
You cannot make your children love the Bible, I allow. None but the Holy Spirit can give us a heart to delight in the Word. But you can make your children acquainted with the Bible; and be sure they cannot be acquainted with that blessed book too soon, or too well. 
A thorough knowledge of the Bible is the foundation of all clear views of religion. He that is well-grounded in it will not generally be found a waverer, and carried about by every wind of new doctrine. Any system of training which does not make a knowledge of Scripture the first thing is unsafe and unsound. 
You have need to be careful on this point just now, for the devil is abroad, and error abounds. Some are to be found among us who give the Church the honor due to Jesus Christ. Some are to be found who make the sacraments saviors and passports to eternal life. And some are to be found in like manner who honor a catechism more than the Bible, or fill the minds of their children with miserable little story-books, instead of the Scripture of truth. But if you love your children, let the simple Bible be everything in the training of their souls; and let all other books go down and take the second place. (The Duties of Parents)
In my view, parents who send their children to public schools – or even to many private Christian schools – will have a much more difficult time instructing their children in the Word of God, for they will have to combat the constant undermining influence of the worldly thinking their children are encountering in a much deeper way. This does not mean, of course, that it is necessarily wrong for parents to send their children to such schools, but it does mean that they should do so only if they are fully aware of the increased spiritual warfare and temptation to which they are submitting them, and only if they are able to combat such things and are committed to doing so. At any rate, we must never forget the supreme importance of the Scriptures in raising our children for the glory of God.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series, in which I shall discuss Principle #4.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Biblical Principles for Parenting: Part Two

Note: Since this series was originally my teaching notes, they contain Hebrew and Greek words in many of the texts cited. I do this for my own benefit, so that I can see linguistic connections in the text, and Jeff liked it, so I decided to keep the words with transliterations following each one. I hope this will not be too distracting, especially for those who have no familiarity with the languages.

In the introduction to this series, I indicated that our focus would be upon four principles which relate in one way or another back to God as our heavenly Father and our supreme example for parenting. In the last post, I discussed the first principle, and in this post I want to consider the second principle.

Principle #2: Our heavenly Father teaches us the importance of the loving discipline of our children.

This is a principle that the author of Hebrews stresses emphatically in his instruction of believers who are enduring trials and sufferings:
NKJ  Hebrews 12:1-11 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening [παιδεία, paideía] of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked [ἐλέγχω, elégchō] by Him; 6 for whom the LORD loves He chastens [παιδεύω, paideúō] and scourges [μαστιγόω, mastigóō] every son whom He receives.” [LXX text of Prov. 3:11-12] 7 If you endure chastening [παιδεία, paideía] God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening [παιδεία, paideía] of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected [Masc. Acc. Pl. > παιδευτής, paideutḗs] us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening [παιδεία, paideía] seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
This passage should drive out of our minds the silly notion current today that discipline is necessarily unloving or cruel. The exact opposite is true. Only a father who truly loves his children will discipline them for their good, just as the Lord lovingly disciplines us for our own good. This is why Solomon, who is quoted by the author of Hebrews in the above cited passage, taught his own son not to despise the discipline of the LORD because such discipline is actually a sign that we are truly His children and that He truly does love us (see Prov. 3:11-12). This same principle is then applied to earthly parents a number of times in the Book of Proverbs. For example:
NKJ  Proverbs 13:24 He who spares his rod [שֵׁ֫בֶט, shēḇeṭ, or staff] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines [noun מוּסָר, mûsār; the LXX has Greek verb παιδεύω, paideúō] him promptly [שָׁחַר, shāḥar, literally to seek early].
Here the author uses a Hebrew construction that may literally be rendered “seek him early for discipline.” So we can see why there are a couple of different approaches to translating it. For example, the NKJV has “he who loves him disciplines him promptly,” but the NASB has “he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (italics mine). The NET Bible notes offer this brief discussion of the Hebrew word:
tn Heb “seeks him.” The verb ‌שָׁחַר‎‏‎ (shahar, “to be diligent; to do something early”; BDB 1007 s.v.) could mean “to be diligent to discipline,” or “to be early or prompt in disciplining.” See G. R. Driver, “Hebrew Notes on Prophets and Proverbs,” JTS 41 (1940): 170. (BibleWorks)
However we understand the Hebrew text here, one thing is certain: We do not really show love to our children if we either refuse or consistently fail to discipline them promptly and diligently. If we love our children, we will want to discipline them in order to deliver them from their foolishness, to teach them wisdom, and to lead them to trust in the LORD. Consider in this regard the following proverbs:
NKJ  Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child [נַ֫עַר, na‛ar]; the rod [שֵׁ֫בֶט, shēḇeṭ] of correction [מוּסָר, mûsār; LXX has the Greek noun παιδεία, paideía] will drive it far from him.
The Hebrew word translated child here has a wide range of meanings and can refer to a child as young as an infant (e.g. Exod. 2:6), or to a small child (e.g. Judges 13:24; Hos. 11:1[-3]), on up to a young man or woman, such as a teenager (e.g. Gen. 14:24; Eccl. 10:16). Here Solomon probably has younger children in mind, who are old enough to understand and thus benefit from such correction, but who are not so old that it would prove either impossible or impractical. The fact that Solomon speaks of the way in which “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child” also indicates that younger children are in view, in whom such foolishness might most typically be expected. The NET Bible notes are again helpful in assessing the meaning here:
tn The “heart of a child” (‌לֶב־נָעַר‎‏‎, lev-na'ar) refers here to the natural inclination of a child to foolishness. The younger child is meant in this context, but the word can include youth. R. N. Whybray suggests that this idea might be described as a doctrine of “original folly” (Proverbs [CBC], 125). Cf. TEV “Children just naturally do silly, careless things.” (BibleWorks)
Before we move on, however, we must address a problem that many people today have with this proverb and others like it. For there are many who would argue that the Hebrew term for rod in this verse is only intended to be taken metaphorically and not as a literal reference to the infliction of physical pain. The problem with this view is that it doesn't fit the way the word is used elsewhere in the Book of Proverbs. Consider, for example, the way the rod is employed with regard to the foolish in the following proverbs:
NKJ  Proverbs 10:13 Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding, but a rod [שֵׁ֫בֶט, shēḇeṭ] is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.
NKJ  Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod [שֵׁ֫בֶט, shēḇeṭ] for the fool's back.
There is also the way Solomon speaks again of the application of the rod in the discipline of children:
NKJ  Proverbs 23:13-14 Do not withhold correction [מוּסָר, mûsār] from a child [נַ֫עַר, na‛ar] for if you beat [נָכָה, nāḵāh, strike] him with a rod [שֵׁ֫בֶט, shēḇeṭ], he will not die. 14 You shall beat [נָכָה, nāḵāh] him with a rod [שֵׁ֫בֶט, shēḇeṭ], and deliver his soul from hell.
Here we might want to pause to consider whether we actually have a Biblical command to spank our children. For it must be remembered that the majority of the proverbs are brief sayings which are intended to be memorable and which summarize what has been gained through empirical observation of the general consequences of particular actions. In this regard many of the Biblical proverbs are no different than modern ones, such as “A fool and his money are soon parted” or “Many hands make light work.” Many of the proverbs are thus “generalizations, not iron-clad promises” (Jack Collins, Covenant Theological Seminary class notes on Psalms & Wisdom Literature). As Derek Kidner aptly points out:
Proverbs gets us to compare the 'now' of an act with its 'afterwards.' We watch the wine sparkling in the cup, but face what follows when it is loved too much (23:29-35). We look easily at money, but notice that what lightly comes, lightly goes (13:11). Or at illicit sex in the light of what awaits it 'in the end' (5:4). More cheerfully, we compare the irksomeness of accepting good advice with the blessings it will bring one day (19:20). And when it seems too costly to be godly, we are helped to see the picture as a whole:
Surely there is a future, And your hope will not be cut off. (23:18)
(The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes, p. 29)
Walter Kaiser concurs when he writes:
By their nature and form, proverbs are generalized statements that cover the widest number of instances, but in no case are they to be taken as a set of unbending rules that must be applied in every case without exception (An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, pp. 99-100).
A good example of such a proverb would be one of the most frequently quoted proverbs with regard to parenting:
NKJ  Proverbs 22:6 Train up [חֲנֹךְ, ḥānaḵ] a child [נַ֫עַר, na‛ar] in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Although many believing parents are tempted to see this as an iron-clad promise, they really should be cautioned not to do so, given the nature of most proverbs. Thus we have stated here what parents may commonly expect to happen given a faithful application of the principle enjoined, but we are not given a guarantee that this will always be the outcome.

So what about the proverbs that speak of discipline with the rod of correction – or what we would call spanking? Do these proverbs demand that parents always spank their children? Are there no exceptions? Well, we certainly have no clear command to use the rod in any of these passages. Even Proverbs 23:14, which the NKJV translates as a command – “You shall beat him with a rod” – is capable of an alternate translation. For example:
ESV  Proverbs 23:14 If you strike him with the rod [שֵׁ֫בֶט, shēḇeṭ], you will save his soul from Sheol.
However, we must also consider the way that each of these proverbs is presented to us. So, for example, as we have seen in our study thus far, when the author of Hebrews cited the LXX translation of Proverbs 3:11-12, he assumed that the Lord Himself is an example of a Father who spanks every child whom He receives and that He does so because He loves His children. We have also found Solomon asserting that we will discipline our children if we love them, that such discipline includes the use of the rod of correction, and that withholding the rod means we don't really love them (Prov. 13:24). He certainly doesn't appear to consider the possibility that there will be any children who will not need such discipline at some point in their lives, although he does consider the possibility that there will be parents who will want to deny or avoid such discipline even when it is necessary. In this regard he anticipates the objections of many modern parents who try to explain away the Biblical teaching on this subject.

Christopher Cone, president of Tyndale Theological Seminary & Biblical Institute, offers the following response to those who would argue that “the rod” is to be understood strictly as a metaphor in such passages:
Here is the question: What specifically in the contexts of these passages gives indication that the language is intended as non-literal?
How does one “strike” a person with a metaphorical rod? Why would a person be afraid of “striking” a person with a metaphorical rod for fear of killing him? (“Oh my goodness! I am afraid that if I give general parental structure and guidance—nonphysical, of course—that my child might just fall down dead. Oh My! I am not so sure I want to parent with a metaphorical rod…”) I don’t mean to be glib—of course this is a serious topic, and certainly no laughing matter. Especially in recent months attention has been drawn to child abuse cases in which parents who were claiming to discipline their children actually harmed them to the point of death. That is despicable child abuse. This is something that does not result in death. This is something that never harms a child. This is something that offers the child freedom from foolishness.
Especially in light of [Proverbs] 23:13-14 … there is no textual basis to understand the meaning as non-literal. And if there is nothing in the text itself to suggest a non-literal meaning, then how would we justify a figurative interpretation? (A Biblical Perspective on Spanking, Part 2)
I agree with this assessment concerning the rod as an implement of physical discipline. I also agree that such discipline should never be done in such a way as to harm the child but rather to help free the child from foolishness through correcting foolish behavior. But foolish behavior must not be understood here simply as immature or childish behavior. We must understand that terms like “wise” and “foolish” are primarily moral rather than intellectual terms and that the fool is not necessarily intellectually challenged, but rather is spiritually stupid. In this context, we are dealing with the foolishness of disobedience and hence the need for corrective discipline. However, we must not see our role as simply correcting foolish and sinful behavior, but rather as teaching wisdom, and this is made clear in yet another proverb:
NKJ  Proverbs 29:15 The rod [שֵׁ֫בֶט, shēḇeṭ] and rebuke give wisdom, but a child [נַ֫עַר, na‛ar] left [Pual > שָׁלַח, shālaḥ, sent off or set loose, here meaning unrestrained] to himself brings shame to his mother.
Thus the rod of discipline, combined with rebuke for wrong behavior, is employed with the goal of teaching the child wisdom. This means that we must look to the Scriptures as our guide in correcting our children so that we will know what wisdom is and learn how our children may come to know it. For example, we will take these other proverbs to heart:
NKJ  Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
NKJ  Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
So we are always focused on leading our children to know the Lord, and, in training our children to obey us, we are ultimately training them to obey the Lord as well. J.C. Ryle drives home this same point very well when he writes:
Parents, do you wish to see your children happy? Take care, then, that you train them to obey when they are spoken to – to do as they are bid. Believe me, we are not made for entire independence – we are not fit for it. Even Christ's freemen have a yoke to wear, they “serve the Lord Christ” (Col. iii. 24). Children cannot learn too soon that this is a world in which we are not all intended to rule, and that we are never in our right place until we know how to obey our betters. Teach them to obey while young, or else they will be fretting against God all their lives long, and wear themselves out with the vain idea of being independent of His control. 
Reader, this hint is only too much needed. You will see many in this day who allow their children to choose and think for themselves long before they are able, and even make excuses for their disobedience, as if it were a thing not to be blamed. To my eyes, a parent always yielding, and a child always having its own way, are a most painful sight; painful, because I see God's appointed order of things inverted and turned upside down; painful, because I feel sure the consequence to that child's character in the end will be self-will, pride, and self-conceit. You must not wonder that men refuse to obey their Father which is in heaven, if you allow them, when children, to disobey their father who is upon earth.
Parents, if you love your children, let obedience be a motto and a watchword continually before their eyes. (The Duties of Parents)
This assessment is correct. When we train our children to obey us, we are training them to obey the Lord. But this is why it is all the more important to bring them up in the training of the Lord. That is, we must train them in accordance with the principles of the Lord and in a way that follows the example of our heavenly Father. This is what the Apostle Paul was getting at when he wrote to the Ephesians:
NKJ  Ephesians 6:4 “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath [παροργίζω, parorgízō] but bring them up in the training [παιδεία, paideía] and admonition [νουθεσία, nouthesía] of the Lord.”
Notice what Paul tells fathers not to do. He tells us not to provoke our children to wrath (or anger). And by this he refers to ways in which parents can sinfully provoke their children to anger. He does not mean that, whenever our child demonstrates anger, we must have sinned as parents. Children can become sinfully angry with no help from us. So, if one of your children throws a fit just because he didn't get what he wanted, you certainly aren't guilty of having exasperated him. In that case, he was self-exasperated, you might say. However, if your child seems to be angry often, it behooves you to at least consider the possibility that you may be sinfully provoking this anger in some way. And, if you are, then after confessing it to God, you need to confess it to your child as sin and seek his forgiveness.

Before I offer some examples as to how we might exasperate our children, it would be helpful to examine the parallel passage to get a fuller understanding of what is in Paul's mind here. Paul gave a similar instruction to the Colossians:
NKJ  Colossians 3:21 “Fathers, do not provoke [ἐρεθίζω, erethízō, cause to become resentful or bitter] your children, lest they become discouraged [ἀθυμέω, athumeō].”
Or, as the NASB translates it:
NAU  Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
Paul has in mind the ways in which parents can anger or exasperate their children to the point that they become discouraged. This describes a situation in which children feel that, no matter what they do, they will never be able to please their parents, so they just give up trying. So, a tell-tale sign that a parent has sinfully provoked his or her child to anger is that the child is also very discouraged in this way.

Art Alexakis of the band Everclear wrote a song called “Wonderful,” in which he described the exasperation and discouragement of his own childhood after experiencing the trauma of divorce and a broken home, and I think he did a good job of describing the exasperation of far too many children today. Since it provides a window into the experience of so many exasperated children today, I think the song is worth citing in full:
I close my eyes when I get too sad
I think thoughts that I know are bad
Close my eyes and I count to ten
Hope it's over when I open them
I want the things that I had before
Like a Star Wars poster on my bedroom door
I wish I could count to ten
Make everything be wonderful again
Hope my mom and I hope my dad
Will figure out why they get so mad
Hear them scream, I hear them fight
Say bad words that make me wanna cry
Close my eyes when I go to bed
And I dream of angels that make me smile
I feel better when I hear them say
Everything will be wonderful someday
Promises mean everything when you're little
And the world's so big
I just don't understand how
You can smile with all those tears in your eyes
And tell me everything is wonderful now
Please don't tell me everything is wonderful now
I go to school and I run and play
I tell the kids that it's all okay
I like to laugh so my friends won't know
When the bell rings I just don't wanna go home
Go to my room and I close my eyes
I make believe that I have a new life
I don't believe you when you say
Everything will be wonderful someday
Promises mean everything when you're little
And the world is so big
I just don't understand how
You can smile with all those tears in your eyes
When you tell me everything is wonderful now
I don't wanna hear you tell me everything is wonderful now
I don't wanna hear you say
That I will understand someday …
I don't wanna hear you say
We both have grown in a different way …
I don't wanna meet your friends
And I don't wanna start over again
I just want my life to be the same
Just like it used to be
Some days I hate everything
I hate everything
Everyone and everything
Please don't tell me everything is wonderful now
I don't wanna hear you tell me everything is wonderful now (From An American Movie Vol. 1)
This song – written from the standpoint of an exasperated child – demonstrates quite pointedly some of the things parents can do to provoke their children to anger and to the point of complete discouragement. In particular, it describes the exasperation of a child whose parents have fought and then divorced. We all know that there is a multitude of such children in our country today. But there are many ways in which we can exasperate and discourage our children short of ripping the family apart through divorce. Here I will just suggest some possible ways in which we could sinfully provoke our children:
1) Making promises to them that we don't keep.
2) Lying to them, trying to make them think things are other or better than they really are (as in the aforementioned song).
3) Being hyper-critical and giving them the impression that no matter what they do, it will never be good enough.
4) Being hypocritical and expecting one standard in public (or at church) and another at home.
5) Expecting things of them that they cannot possibly achieve.
 e.g. We must not expect little children to show maturity beyond their years.
6) Refusing to let our children grow up and take on more responsibility.
7) Showing favoritism to one child over another.
8) Treating them unfairly.
Remember, though, that children will often feel that they have been treated unfairly even though they haven't been. But a child doesn't know what really is fair in every situation, so you cannot allow your child to determine this. The important thing is that you be fair and know that – as your child grows up – he or she will come to understand that you have been fair. Also remember that treating your children fairly does not necessarily mean treating them all the same way. Children are different, and it is very often unfair to treat them the same way. For example, when my daughter, Sarah, got her driver's license, she already knew that she would not get the same driving privileges that my son, Joshua, had when he first got his driver's license. This was not because I thought she would be a less responsible or a less capable driver, but simply because she is a girl and he is a guy, and I would not let my 16 or 17 year old daughter drive places at night the way I allowed my 16 or 17 year old son to do. It simply isn't as safe for a girl that age to be driving at night as it is for a guy. It would have been unfair, though, to Joshua if I had curtailed his driving privileges in order to treat him the same way as his sister. And it would have been unfair to Sarah if I took greater risks with her safety in order to treat her the same way as Joshua.
9) Neglecting our children and making them feel as though we don't love them. 
Withdrawing our love from our children is cruel, and if we don't pay attention to our children or show concern for their welfare, we are sending a message that we really don't care about them at all. This reminds me of an old anecdote: “A mother made an appointment with her young child's pediatrician. She said she had noticed that he had eaten dirt on several occasions. To the doctor, she said, 'I've always heard that if a child eats dirt, there is some deficiency. Do you think his dirt-eating indicates a lack of something?' The doctor replied, 'Yes-very definitely. A lack of supervision!'” (2000+ Bible Illustrations, e-Sword)
10)  Failing to offer them the encouragement they need.
e.g. A parent may work hard to avoid being hyper-critical of their children, but may still provoke them by holding back encouragement or praise when warranted. Both approaches can end up in the same place – with an exasperated child who is discouraged and thinks he will never measure up to his parents expectations or demands.
11)  Punishing them too harshly out of anger.
As D. Martin Lloyd-Jones once observed, “When you are disciplining a child, you should have first controlled yourself … What right have you to say to your child that he needs discipline when you obviously need it yourself? Self-control, the control of temper, is an essential prerequisite in the control of others” (As cited by John Stott, The Message of Ephesians, p.249).
These are just some possible examples of ways in which we may exasperate our children by disciplining them – or by failing to discipline them, as the case may be –  in a way that does not look to the example of our heavenly Father. But at this point we must also remember that when God disciplines us it is never an expression of His wrath, for we are promised that we shall never have to face His wrath because have been redeemed through the blood of Christ. For example:
NKJ  Romans 5:8-9 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
NKJ  1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. 9 For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
NKJ  1 Thessalonians 5:8-9 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ ….
Thus God's discipline of His adopted children in Christ is not an expression of wrath toward them but rather of love that seeks their good. Indeed, even the Lord Jesus Himself – who is God's only unique Son by nature rather than by adoption – “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8), and such suffering was most definitely not an expression of the Father's wrath toward Him, for Jesus never sinned and thus never incurred the Father's wrath in any sense (see Heb. 2:17-18 and 4:15-16 and recall that as our propitiation Jesus took upon Himself the wrath due our sins).

Thus we must seek to emulate our heavenly Father in this respect as well, and our discipline must not be seen by our children as an exhibition of wrath. Rather we must avoid disciplining them in anger and instead seek to show them that we are disciplining them out of love and for their good. For some parents, this means that they must take some time to cool down before they administer discipline to their children. For, even though discipline should be prompt, it should also be an expression of loving concern rather than the venting of a parent’s anger. Indeed, I would say, for example, that spanking done in anger is actually violence rather than discipline.

For what it's worth, when I had to discipline my children by spanking them when they were little, I tried never to do so when I was angry. I tried always to do so in a calm and loving way that tempered the punishment with mercy. So, for example, I would commonly explain to them that I had to spank them because I loved them and wanted them to learn obedience to the Lord. And frequently I would take part of the punishment on myself. So, for example, if Joshua had to be spanked, I would explain that I felt that he deserved a certain number of swats for what he had done – say, e.g., four – but when it came time to administer the final swat I would often then exclaim, “You know what, I think I'll take the last one for you.” And then I would swat my own behind as hard as I could. This would typically start Joshua laughing, but it also showed him mercy, as well as the concept of substitution that is so central to our idea of the atonement. I did this so that, as he got older, I could also explain substitutionary atonement more easily. It also turned these times into something we shared in an even deeper way and helped to reinforce that what was happening was a good thing.

At any rate, to bring up our children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” certainly means that we will follow the example of our heavenly Father in these ways, but it also means that we will bring them up in accordance with His Word. After all, it is in His Word that we find our Lord's instruction both for us and for our children. This, then, will be the focus of our next principle.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series, in which I shall discuss Principle #3.