If you’ve ever been in my office you’ve probably noticed that it’s full of various knick-knacks. Some of them are devoted to theologians like Martin Luther or superheroes like Batman and baby Groot. But there is one collection on my shelf that my kids have never been able to understand. It’s a collection of coke bottles.
One of these was purchased on a trip to the World of Coke where I won an award as a McDonald’s All-Star cashier in 2001. True story. One was purchased in my first trip to the Dominican Republic. One is from Haiti.
What my kids don’t get is why anyone would have a Coke bottle with Coke in it with no intention of drinking? Coke is not for collecting and displaying, it’s for drinking.
Many of us are tempted to have the same approach to God’s Word. We go from worship service to Bible study to Sunday School to books and podcasts collecting one truth after another. But we have no intention of actually using any of these truths. They’re just nice little theological knick-knacks to keep on the shelves of our hearts and minds.
The truth is, many of us are educated beyond our obedience. The problem is not that we don’t know what Jesus requires of us, it’s that we don’t obey what Jesus requires of us.
So let me issue you a challenge before I share what’s on my heart for parents: don’t let these truths be another knick-knack on the shelf of your heart. Commit right now to do the hard work obeying what God teaches parents in His Word.
I want to share with you the crucial foundation for Christian parenting. If parents will rightly exercise their authority, they must begin by faithfully submitting to God’s authority.
This shouldn’t surprise us. After all, Jesus told His followers this before He ascended into heaven:
Matthew 28:18-20—And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Where we sometimes struggle, however, is recognizing what it means practically to submit to God’s authority. It isn’t some nebulous thing, it’s specific and concrete. Why? Because God reveals His authority in His Word. Peter put it this way:
2 Peter 1:16-21—For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (17) For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” (18) we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (19) And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, (20) knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. (21) For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Peter’s argument is clear. Having the recorded Word of God in Scripture is more reliable and certain than hearing a voice from God. But is God’s Word enough? Don’t we need other sources, other voices, other ideas to help us be faithful? This is where the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is so important.
In his book Taking God at His Word, Kevin DeYoung lists Four Essential Characteristics of Scripture:
· Sufficiency: The Scriptures contain everything we need for knowledge of salvation and godly living. We don’t need any new revelation from heaven.
· Clarity: The saving message of Jesus Christ is plainly taught in the Scriptures and can be understood by all who have ears to hear it. We don’t need an official magisterium to tell us what the Bible means.
· Authority: The last word always goes to the word of God. We must never allow the teachings of science, of human experience, or of church councils to take precedence over Scripture.
· Necessity: General revelation is not enough to save us. We cannot know God savingly by means of personal experience and human reason. We need God’s word to tell us how to live, who Christ is, and how to be saved.[i]
The former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia James Montgomery Boice said, “Inerrancy is not the most critical issue facing the church today. The most serious issue, I believe, is the Bible’s sufficiency. Do we believe that God has given us what we need in this book? Or do we suppose that we have to supplement the Bible with human things? Do we need sociological techniques to do evangelism, pop psychology and pop psychiatry for Christian growth, extra-biblical signs or miracles for guidance, or political tools for achieving social progress and reform?”[ii]
Or we could put it this way: Do we believe that God has given us what we need to be faithful parents in this book? Or do we suppose that we have to supplement the Bible with human things? Do we need Babywise, and What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Do we need child therapy? Do we need creative discipline strategies like “time outs,” “time-ins,” Do we believe that God’s Word is sufficient?
Paul put it this way in 2 Timothy 3:16-17—All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Why is submitting to God’s authority a crucial foundation for Christian parenting? Why is it essential to understand that Scripture is true and sufficient? Because God’s Word has much to say about parenting. And unless we begin our parenting with a commitment to follow what God says in His Word, we’re building on sinking sand.
Consider some of the things that God’s Word says about parenting:
· Parenting is a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5)
· Parents should provide for their children (2 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Timothy 5:8)
· Parents should train their children (Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:4-9; 11:19; Proverbs 1:8-9; 22:6; Joel 1:3)
· Children should listen to their parents (Proverbs 1:8-9; 23:22)
· Children should honor their parents (Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:3; Deuteronomy 5:16; Ephesians 6:2-3)
· Children should obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20)
· Children are naturally foolish (Proverbs 22:15)
· Parents should discipline their children (Proverbs 3:11-12; 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15, 17; Hebrews 12:7-11)
· Men should lead at home (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 1:6; 1 Peter 3:1-7)
· Dads shouldn’t provoke their kids (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21)
I’m sure you could add more to my list. But here’s the question: are these truths mere knick-knacks on the shelves of your heart, or are you striving to obey them? Who’s the boss in your home?
[i] Kevin DeYoung, Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 44. [ii] James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to The Gospel of Grace?: Rediscovering the Doctrines That Shook the World (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 72.