Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Weeklong Sermon: At Home and at Work

I was thankful for the opportunity to share on Ephesians 6:1 – 9 this past weekend at Grace.  Throughout our series in Ephesians, I have been reminded over and over of all God has done and how what He has done impacts my life.    Once we begin to see all that God has done and once we begin to understand who we are because of what Christ has done, we will be able to live out of those truths.  This will impact every area of our life.  Ephesians 6:1 – 9 focuses on how Jesus works in us and through us at home and at work.  If you’re interested, you can watch the sermon right here.

It quickly became evident to me that time would not allow me to share as much as I would like to share. So, I thought I would follow Pastor Mitchel’s lead and take some of what ended up on the “cutting room floor” and share it on the blog. 

Ephesians 6:1 – 4 reads: 1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (ESV)

The hope is that as my wife and I parent our children in a grace-filled way that it will return to us as honor.  The progression of what happens with kids is they simply start out obeying, and as we grow them, pour into them, and nurture their hearts, it ends in honor.  As a parent, for it to end in honor, it needs to begin with a few other things.  The book of Proverbs teaches that humility comes before honor (Proverbs 15:33), so I need to be a humble parent.  Proverbs also teaches that grace comes before honor (Proverbs 11:16), so I need to be a parent full of grace.  And, Proverbs teaches that pursuing righteousness and kindness will lead to honor (Proverbs 21:21), so I need to pursue those qualities as a parent. The more I parent with these qualities, the more likely honor will follow. 

For our children, honor will be found in the heart before it is found in the act.  So, our desire as parents is to do what we can do and then trust God to do what only He can do: awaken in their hearts a love for Jesus and a desire to embrace His way of life. One way to embrace Jesus’ way of life is to honor our parents (Mark 7:9 – 13) To honor means to “prize or fix a value upon.”  The hope is that as we age, and as our children age, that they will begin to place a high value upon us as parents.  And, we desire this not because they “owe” us or because we are demanding anything from them but rather because doing so is for their good. The command comes with a promise and as they follow it, things will go well for them and they will have a long life on earth. (Ephesians 6:3)

If you read Exodus 20, you’ll discover that this is the fifth of the 10 Commandments.  “Honor your father and mother,” were among the first words God spoke to His people (Exodus 20:12).  It’s important to remember that God gave His people the 10 Commandments not as a CONDITION for His love and approval but rather BECAUSE of His love and approval.  As all of God’s word, He gave the 10 Commandments to His people for their own good and to keep them free.  His people had been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years.  God had just miraculously freed them from bondage and now He was giving them boundaries that would protect them from becoming slaves again slaves to themselves and their own selfish desires.  If human history has proven anything, it’s proven that mankind is not on a quest for smallness.  Human history is always a reminder that we are out to make a name for ourselves, even at the expense of others.  The 10 Commandments stand in opposition to these natural desires by placing God and others at the center.  And, Jesus summed up the entire law by saying “Love God and express that through loving others.”  (Matthew 22:36 – 40)  It’s natural for our wants and our desires to take center stage. This leads to slavery.  Accepting what Jesus did on the cross will set us free and following God’s commands will allow us to walk in that freedom.  Obeying God’s commands will always be for our good and the good of those around us.  This command in particular was given so that His people would enjoy a long, full life in the land He was giving to them. 

“God regarded honoring parents as the key to a peaceful, orderly, stable society saying, in effect, ‘Your nation will never be stronger than your families.  How you treat your father and mother will influence how you treat your fellow citizens, which will directly impact the future welfare of your country.’  If you grow up honoring your parents, more than likely you will lean toward honoring the people around you as well.  And the remaining commandments that follow center on extending honor to others.”  (Stanley: The Grace of God)  While this promise originally applied to the Jewish people, the Apostle Paul applied its truths to followers of Jesus today. (The Bible Exposition Commentary)  A strong family helps make everything stronger.

Again, the progression is that children start out obeying and then move to honoring as they become adults.  This weekend, we briefly discussed what it could look like for adults to honor dishonorable parents.  That is an unfortunate reality in our broken world.  For many, though, the question of honoring parents as an adult is not an issue of a lack of desire or of insurmountable wounds, but rather an honest bewilderment as to how to do it.  Author Bronwyn Lea provided some insight in to this.  In a series of interviews posing questions to the parents of adult children, she was amazed to see a constant and significant trend in the answers. “More than anything, they just wanted to be acknowledged. Parents with adult children didn’t need their children to take their advice, but just to know they had listened and considered it. They didn’t need their children to be constantly available to them, or to be their ‘best friends,’ but they did want to know they were accepted. ‘The worst thing is when your kids treat you as if you have nothing of value to offer.’ wrote one parent.”

She went on to say, “The most often cited source of hurt from parents was feeling disregarded. However, small acts and words of acknowledgement were mentioned by almost all as being the most significant way they felt honored. One mother of three grown sons laughed as she told me: ‘My son used to set his phone to remind him to call me once a week. He only had five minutes, on his way home from his last class. But he was faithful to call every week, and given that we only had five minutes, we never talked about any hard stuff. But those minutes were precious: they kept the human connection. I felt remembered.’

Finally, she noted that “while relationships between adult parents and children are among the most complex and catalytic of relationships, the question of how to honor our parents as adults ends up reducing to something surprisingly simple: not speaking badly about them, and remembering to speak regularly to them. As it happens, those small acts of honor to our parents are significant acts of honor to God.

“Honoring our parents is part of our allegiance to Christ and will be rewarded by God in the coming kingdom of heaven, and to some degree in the fullness of life now even in our broken world.  Christians who honor their parents will tend to know the joys of a close family in which children ordinarily respect their parents.”  (Coekin: Ephesians for You) 

When our children demonstrate obedience, as parents, we’re not the only one happy about that.  God is as well.  (Colossians 3:20)  Their obedience pleases Him.  Their obedience to us as parents is a reflection of their obedience to Him as God and this pleases Him because before obedience is just found in the act, it’s found in the heart.  When, as adults, we honor our parents, again our parents are not the only ones happy about that.  God is as well.  Honoring them is a way to express our honor to God.  “For adults this means respecting our parents’ wisdom by seeking and heeding their advice; it will mean caring for them by visiting, providing practical care and financial help, and possibly accommodating them as they become frailer, and more unwell and afraid.  Just as we will not allow our kids to disrespect our spouse, we must not disrespect our own parents or parents-in-law in the way we talk about them.”  (Coekin:  Ephesians for You) 

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