The most important person in your life is your father. He has more power than anyone to influence you—for good or for evil. Hearing the word “father,” does it conjure up amazing memories, or does it cause you to sense loss because he has abandoned, betrayed, failed you? What kind of father are or will you be? Strive to become like Father God and bless your children the way he has blessed you.
6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
The most important person in your entire life is your father. He has more power than anyone to influence you for good or for evil. What was your dad like? Did you have a good dad? Even hearing the word “father,” does that conjure up some amazing memories, bring a smile to your face, and joy in your heart? Does it cause you to feel a sense of loss? You don’t know your father. He abandoned you. He betrayed you. He disowned you. He has failed you. He has become an enemy toward you. Men, this sermon is for you. We’re going to do things a little bit differently today. We were going to be in Ephesians 6:1–9; we’re just going to camp in Ephesians 6:1–4.
The first time I preached this sermon just a few hours ago, I just decided in the moment we’re going to do things a little differently today. I know I wrote a book. I know the book has a different topic.
Here’s what we’re going to do. Ephesians 6:1–4—if you’ve got a Bible, go there. Women, I want you to ask yourself: what kind of man will raise your children? Men, I want you to ask the question: what kind of father are you or will you be? How will your children perceive you, speak of you, look to you, follow you? What is your responsibility toward your own children?
In a day when the majority of children born to women under the age of thirty are born out of wedlock, upwards of 30 percent plus of kids tonight go to bed without their biological father, when we’ve handed our responsibilities to governments, and to schools, and to prisons, and to churches, where are the men? Where are the husbands? Where are the fathers?
This has been one of our distinguishing convictions at Mars Hill Church for seventeen years, and as long as there is air in my lungs, this is what we will be talking about. Many, if not most, of the problems that we are facing as a people can absolutely be laid at the feet of the men, the failure to obey Ephesians 5—to be good, loving husbands who lead their families—and Ephesians 6—devoted dads who are committed to their children.
Many of you men are going to leave. You should all stay, and by God’s grace we can all change. And Paul’s first word is to the children, and then he’s going to speak to the parents, and then he is really going to hammer on the dads, because he loves us dads, and he has bestowed on us this incredible title of “father” that we get to share with him.
So first, he has a word for the children. Let’s read it all together. Ephesians 6:1–4, “Children.” Any of you children? Children? “Yes.” OK, children, the word here refers to younger kids.
Some of you have overbearing religious mothers. They’re sixty-five, you’re forty-five. They pull this verse out and say, “You need to do what I say.” No, OK? I love you, but I was reading a book called the Bible, and the word “children” is not for forty-five-year-olds with their own children. It’s for kids like mine.
I’ve got kids, all right—seven, nine, eleven, thirteen, and fifteen. Every other year, somebody shows up with our last name. That’s the Driscoll family, OK? When my kids hit their teen years, all this is what we’re talking about. We’re talking about children. We’re not talking about grown adults who have children.
“Children,” uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh, very controversial word. People are going to get their feelings hurt. Oh boy, this sociologist took a vote on this. They’re not sure about this word. What does it say, Mars Hill? “Obey.” You know what that means in Greek? Obey, OK? “Obey”—not everybody. Who? “Your parents.” Oh, kids should have parents? Yeah, just throwing it out there. What kind of parents? How about a mother and father? We’re into a lot of controversial stuff now, aren’t we? It didn’t take long. Welcome to Mars Hill.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord”—meaning, the parents are to teach on behalf of the Lord, and the children are to obey the parents, and if the parents are teaching what the Lord teaches, then the parents are being obeyed as the Lord is being obeyed. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” What, what, what? There’s right and wrong? Yep, very controversial. People say, “That’s wrong.” No, no, no, I’m right.
All right, here we go. “Honor your father and mother.” Come on—you guys who went to school; read along. “Honor your father and mother.” Kids are like, “Should have stayed home today. Should have—this is going to be a bad day for me.” Oh, it’s going to be a good day for your folks, though, OK? “This is the first commandment with a promise.” So he’s talking about the Ten Commandments. He’s, here, echoing one of the Ten Commandments: “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Oh, here we are at dads. We dealt with children, moms and dads, now dads. We’re going to deal with all of this. It’s going to take an hour. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So, starts with an exhortation to children, those who are under authority, and then it gives exhortation to parents, those who are in authority. Beginning with the children.
You and I need to think biblically when it comes to children. The Bible says that children are a blessing. They’re a blessing. They’re an expensive, complicated blessing, amen? But they’re a blessing. You kids are a blessing. I tell this to the Driscoll kids. “Hey, you’re my blessing, you’re my blessing, you’re my blessing.” I kiss them, I love them, I hug them. They’ll confirm this, and they know that they’re my blessing.
They’re a blessing, but they’re also sinners. We do not believe that children are innately good. Every once in a while, somebody will get on TV or they’ll sing some silly song—“Oh that we could all be innocent like children.” The only people who think that are people who don’t have children. People who have children know they’re sinful. You don’t have to teach them to be selfish, to throw a tantrum, to disobey. They just have it in them. It’s their sin nature. So, we know children are a blessing, but they’re born—conceived—with a sin nature.
So, what that means is our view of parenting is absolutely shaped by our biblical convictions. So, you go out into culture, and they’ll basically tell you people are basically good, children are altogether innocent, and, essentially, we need to just create an environment where they can naturally become whoever their heart declares them to be.
Look at the world—it’s not going well. If you just allow children to become what their fallen, sinful nature designates, you hate them. You hate them. You hate them. Instead, we know that children need a new nature. They need to meet the Lord Jesus and have their sins forgiven. They need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
See, prior to this chapter, Ephesians had been talking a lot, in chapters 1–3, about who Jesus is and what Jesus does. And then once we understand who Jesus is and what Jesus does, then chapters 4–6 help us understand who we are in Christ and what we do in Christ. So, he’s talked about marriage relationships. And here he’s talking about parental relationships.
So, after learning about what Jesus has done, now there’s some things for us to do—in Christ. And this includes an exhortation to children, that they need to come to Christ and have their sins forgiven in Christ. We don’t believe that people are born in right relationship with God; we believe that they must be born again in right relationship with God.
Some of you have very defiant children. You say, “What’s wrong with them?” Perhaps they need a new nature. Our goal is not to just have moral children but to have children who love God and obey him out of a new heart. So, we’re not looking just at behavior modification. We’re looking at salvation for a child.
Children can come to know the Lord Jesus very young. They can. Paul tells Timothy, “You’ve known the Scriptures from infancy.” Little kids can learn a lot about Jesus. Little kids can come to know and love the Lord Jesus, and little children need parents who are in the Lord, love the Lord, serve the Lord, and then represent the Lord in instructing the child, and then the child is to—two words, “honor” and “obey.” The obedience is often outward—it’s the kid actually doing what you’re asking them to do. The honor is more inward.
Have you seen a kid who has outward obedience but not inward honor? “Could you please go do your room?” “Pfft, really, seriously? OK.” Not a lot of honor in that. Obedience but not honor. God wants inward honor and outward obedience. Religious parents only care about outward obedience. Christian parents also care about inward honor.
It’s like our relationship with God our Father. He doesn’t want us just to obey him; he wants us to honor him. “My Father loves me. My Father is good to me. My Father’s commands are for my good. I want to do what my Dad says because my Dad is always looking out for me. So yes, I’ll obey him outwardly, but I want to honor him inwardly.” Children need to obey their parents.
Parents, this means that you should teach your children, you should be able to give instructions to your child, and your child should obey you. They should. They should. And this differs from so much parenting philosophy and nonsense out there: the kids are basically good. Just create an environment that they’re safe in, and then let them grow and be whoever they will be. As I said, if you hate them, do that. If you love them, do this. The world in its wisdom does not know God.
So, children need to honor their father and their mother. Oh, mother and father. The assumption is that the best scenario for the raising of a child is a—what’s it say? Mother and a father. Crazy, that’s usually what is required to create a child, and lo and behold, it also is the best context for raising one.
A man and a woman. Again, we’re Christians. The whole world disagrees with us on almost everything, so it’s not a shock that they disagree with us on this. What this means as well is that the child needs to obey the mother and the father.
What this assumes is the mother and father are asking and teaching the same things. How many of you didn’t grow up in that home? Mom says no. That’s OK, go ask dad. He never agrees with mom anyways—or vice versa. The assumption is that Mom and Dad are in the Lord. That means they’re in Christ, they’re Christians, they’re in the Bible, they agree theologically.
And for you who are single, don’t just marry a Christian, marry a Christian whom you agree with theologically. Otherwise, you’re going to have real conflict when it comes to organizing your home and raising your children.
All right, let’s say, for example, you know, Mom and Dad agree. Yeah, Mom is the best one to stay home with the kids, when they are little, to invest in them. Let’s say Mom and Dad don’t agree on that. It’s going to lead to all kinds of conflict on how they organize their home.
You need not just agree about the essentials of the Christian faith. If you’re going to marry someone, you have to agree about the secondary matters about Ephesians 5, gender roles, marriage roles, Ephesians 6, family structure, who parents, how they parent, who takes primary responsibility for the leadership in the family, who’s the primary provider, who’s the homemaker/caretaker. It’s seriously, seriously, seriously important.
Some of you don’t think it is. Take it from a guy who’s been doing this for seventeen years. It’s really important. Those of you who are married, those of you who are parents, true or false, this is really important? It’s true, right? It’s hard enough, if you agree, to put your life together. If you don’t even agree, you’ll never put your life together.
So, the assumption is that the parents are in the Lord and that they agree and that they’re teaching the same thing to the child. So, if Mom says it, the kids know, “Well, that’s what Dad thinks.” If Dad says it, the kids think, “Well, that’s what Dad and Mom agree to.”
The worst home, a bad situation, is Mom tells the kids to do something, the kids are defiant, they’re dishonoring and disobedient, and then Mom, at her wit’s end, gets really frustrated and says, “Wait until—” Oh, it happened at your house, too? There was quite a chorus there. “Wait until—wait until—wait until your dad comes home.” If that needs to be said, the children are not obeying and honoring both their father and their mother.
Mom is saying, “You don’t honor me; you don’t obey me. Wait until your dad gets home. He’s bigger”—which is really not a biblical argument, but that’s what a frustrated mom says, right? Sometimes, the kids are doing things that are dangerous, and you can’t wait till Dad gets home. Sometimes the kids are creating chaos; you can’t wait until Dad gets home. Sometimes one child is setting a horrendous example for the other children, because oftentimes, the younger kids look up to the older kids.
Luke 6:40, I think it is, Jesus says, “When fully trained, disciples are like their teacher.” Big brother, big sister, you’re a disciple maker. You’re either creating a worshipper or a terrorist, but your little brother or sister will be like you.
So it can’t just be, “Wait until your father gets home,” because what that means is, practically, functionally, the children are in charge until Dad shows up. That’s not a biblical home. That’s not a healthy home. That’s not a godly home. That’s oftentimes not even a safe home. Mom says, basically, “It’s out of control. You’re in charge till Dad comes home, and then we’ll get a new leader.” That’s anarchy. The lunatics have taken over the asylum at that point, right? (I shouldn’t have said that. [Laughing.] There’ll be other things I shouldn’t say, and they’ll be forthcoming.)
So, “Children, 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.’” God expects children to learn, children to honor, children to obey, and we cannot allow the excuses of culture to create exceptions to Scripture.
We do; we create whole—“Oh, well they’re in the terrible twos. So, for this year, they’re evil. At three, as soon as you light the birthday cake at three, it’ll be fine. It’ll be fine—because it’s twos. Oh, they’re in junior high? Well, yeah, oh, it’s the teen years, so basically from, like, the end of twelve until pushing twenty, you just sort of—good luck! You know, good luck. You know, I just—hopefully nobody gets pregnant and I know a good rehab hotline. You know, good luck. Oh, it’s the teen years. We just expect rebellion. We just expect it. And then they’re in their twenties. Well, you know, you’re in your twenties. Oh, you’re in college. Well, in college, you know, you drink, and everybody gets a major in stupid. They just do that. They just do stupid things. Oh, you’re single now? Well, you know, you’re in your twenties, have some fun, you know, you don’t want to take any responsibility—”
All of sudden, what you get is a culture where grown adults still act like children because they never matured in the Lord, either because they didn’t have parents who instructed them, or if they did, they didn’t honor and obey their parents. The result is we have a whole generation of people who are physically adults but emotionally children. And then they tend to have their own children and have no clue how to parent those children, and that is called America, OK?
So, what’s the answer? Take a look at it. Well, there’s a very important word right here. What’s that word, Mars Hill? “Fathers.” “Fathers.” Boy, I don’t know anywhere else you’d go to learn about that, do you? Any of you right now say, “I’d like to be a good father; where do I go for that?” Good luck!
Welcome to Mars Hill. This is what we do. This is what Scripture teaches. This is what God commands. Moms and dads are equal, but they don’t bear equal responsibility. Mothers and fathers have responsibility for the well-being of the children, but fathers bear primary responsibility. That’s the teaching of the Bible. You feel that weight on your shoulder, men? You should. You should.
OK, if you’re a father right now, stand up. Even if your wife’s pregnant, stand up. OK, you fathers, I’m a father. I’ve got five kids. Fathers, are you a good dad? Are you a bad dad? Are you taking responsibility for your family? Are you abdicating responsibility for your family? Would your children consider you a blessing or a burden? Is your wife glad to have you, or is she grieved to have you? Who will your sons marry? Will your sons marry? Will your daughters marry? Who will your daughters marry? Do you want your daughters to marry men like you? They probably will. Do you want your sons to become men like you? They probably will. How much time have you already wasted, and what remains to be done?
Right now, standing up, do you feel encouraged, like, “Yes, I assume this responsibility, and I want to grow in it.” Or do you feel embarrassed and ashamed—“I’ve failed miserably, and I have no right to be standing among God’s men”? Please have a seat.
I love you men, and I have this great opportunity to teach you. For those of you men who are married, your wife is sitting next to you, and she is desperately hoping that you receive this. She wants you to lovingly, humbly lead the family and take responsibility for the children. If the Holy Spirit is in her and the Holy Spirit is in you, then your desires are the desires of the word of God, because the same Holy Spirit who wrote the Scriptures lives in you, and he will cause you to desire what he commands you to do.
Men, there is an epidemic of failure as fathers. We know this, and God’s answer is for you and I, by the grace of God, to have God as our Father, to see how he fathers us, and then we, in kind, father our own children.
“Fathers.” So many books out there today are on parenting. I think many of them are wonderful, but it’s also about fathering. There are additional responsibilities that are to be carried on the back of the dad. He gives us two categories: “Do not provoke your children to anger,” OK, “but do bring them up in the discipline and instruction and the paideia of the Lord.” So, do not provoke them, but do train and raise them. We’ll deal with these in kind.
“Do not provoke.” How does a father provoke his children? There’s a long list. Let me share with you a few. And dads, I want to take this from theoretical to practical. I don’t want you just to have a good theology of fathering. I want you to have good fatherly instincts. Dads, you need to know this. This is true for moms as well, but I’m speaking specifically to the dads.
Think of it like a bank account. Encouragement is a deposit; criticism is a withdrawal. One of the ways you provoke your children to anger is you make far more withdrawals than you do deposits. A lot of your time with your children should be encouraging. “You did your best; I appreciate that. I know this is hard; I’m praying for you. You are a blessing; I’m glad to have you. Hey, I saw what you did, and I just wanted to tell you I really appreciate that. I know that was not easy for you; thanks for hanging in there.”
Lots and lots and lots of encouragement, right? This can be a letter, a text, you know, a verbal affirmation, a kiss on the forehead. “I know this is tough. Here, let me pray for you. Lord, please help them. I love them. Help them do this. Help them obey. Help them understand this. Help them persevere through this.” Encouragement.
You and I, as parents, are going to make withdrawals because the kids have sinned. But what provokes a child to anger is when they feel like the parent is a critic and not a coach, one who is there to just point out the flaws and not to help provide some solutions. You can see this with some children. Let’s say dad walks up to a kid—and I’ve seen this. Dad walks up to a kid, “OK, I need to talk to you about something.” You can see the kid immediately, head drops, shoulders slouch, look at the ground, “What did I do now?”
If that’s the first instinct of the child, then there’s a serious problem with the parent. The assumption is, “You never talk to me unless you’re going to criticize me. If you’re coming to talk to me, it’s a bad thing.” It shouldn’t be that way, all right? [With] the parents in general, but fathers in particular, [the child] should be like, “Hey, what do you want to talk about? Because most of the time my dad comes, it’s because he loves me and wants to encourage me or teach me something or hang out with me.”
My first instinct should not be, “Oh no, here comes my dad.” And if you are that way, you provoke your children to anger. They feel like, “Man, my parents don’t even pay attention. My parents don’t even see the things that I’m trying to do. They don’t even pay attention to the things that I do well.”
In addition, another way that parents in general, but fathers in particular, can provoke their children to anger is physically. Hit the kid, shove the kid, kick the kid, get in the kid’s face, provoke, escalate, intimidate. That provokes a child to anger. Provokes a child to anger. It’s violence.
You could do this verbally. Some parents goad their children, sometimes in front of the other children. “You’re so stupid. You always do that. You failed again. You’re fat. You’re an idiot. You’re a loser.” All of a sudden, we start shaping an identity that is death for the child. “Oh, you’re going to get angry? Oh, you’re going to cry? Oh, you’re going to be a baby again? Oh what, you’re gonna glare at me now? What are you going to do?” Provoke, antagonize, hostility, escalation . . . it provokes the child to anger. Those children either grow up to rage against their parents, particularly their father, or they just leave.
Emotionally. You can provoke your children to anger if you’re not emotionally present. “Yeah, Dad’s always woodworking, working on the car, working in the yard, talking on the phone, watching TV, can never be interrupted. We don’t even have a right to insert ourselves or engage with him. He’s just—he’s physically present, but he’s emotionally absent. He’s aloof. Dad never gives us a hug. Dad never kisses us on the head. Dad never tells us that he loves us.”
And it provokes the child to anger, particularly, friends, if your child is one who is highly invested in by appropriate physical touch. Like, my youngest daughter, she thinks I’m a beanbag, I think. For about an hour a day, she just needs to lay on me. Just, “Hey Dad.” “Hi, sweetheart,” like, “glad to have you.” She just likes to sit on my lap or sit next to me. Just the physical contact is really, really important. And she’ll just—literally, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I mean, she’ll just come and sit on my lap. She’s like, “I need an hour.” “Great, I do too, so that works out fantastic.”
Imagine a child that is high-touch—let’s say it’s a daughter—and she doesn’t get that hour every day. Imagine what happens when she’s fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, and a boy comes along and says, “Oh, you could sit with me.” It leaves a girl in a very dangerous position.
I get very concerned when I go to someone’s house, and let’s say it’s a family I don’t know, and they’ve got a daughter that I don’t know, particularly if it’s a young girl, and she immediately just comes and sits on my lap. Like, what is wrong? This is a girl who has probably an emotional deficit and she’s trusting of any man, and she’s physically affectionate with strange men. This girl is on a path toward a really difficult future, and the wrong kind of boys will take advantage of that kind of girl, right?
And that can provoke to anger, because for the child that is high-touch and needs that emotional investment and encouragement, when there’s negligence and not investment, it leads them to anger. “They don’t even love me. They don’t even care about me. They’re not even available for me.”
Sometimes you can provoke your children to anger by publicly humiliating them. In front of their friends, you cut them down. In front of the other kids, you cut them down. You don’t pull them aside—“Hey look, we need to go talk. Let’s go in the other room. Come here, I love you. Come here, stop freaking out. Come on, come on. I do love—” you’ve got to smile. You’ve got to use the “I love you” voice. “Come on, come here, come here.” You’ve got to kiss them on the head. “Come on, I’m your dad. I love you. Come on. Let’s not do this in front of everybody else. Let’s go talk in the other room.”
You mothers need to know that in Ephesians 5, when it says for wives to respect their husbands, you need to know that your sons shouldn’t dominate. You shouldn’t submit to them. They’re not in charge of the home. But you want to respect them, otherwise you will provoke them.
So, this is a skill that moms and dads need to learn for all of their children, but especially with their sons. A mother who criticizes, attacks the son in front of others, disrespecting him, is going to provoke him. It doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t say anything. It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be dealt with. There’s just a way to do that privately and a way to do that respectfully.
It’s not saying, “Hey, you’re down here!” It’s saying, “You know what? I know you can be up here. God wants more for you. I see in you these gifts and abilities, and I see this godliness and maturity. And you know what, Jesus and I are grieved that this is what you did or where you’re at, but Jesus and I are here, and we want to help you grow. We want to help you mature. We want to help you rise up beyond that.” There’s a difference in the tone. There’s a difference in the invitation.
How about this one? True or false, you can provoke your children to anger, particularly us dads, if you’re no fun? You’re no fun at all. Some of you dads are very religious. You’re like, “OK, I know this, and I know this, and I know this, and I did the Greek study on kephale, so I’m the head of the household. And I did a Greek word on paideia in Ephesians 6:4, so I know I’m supposed to raise my kids.”
You’re not fun. You’re not fun. You don’t know what to do with a Fudgsicle. You don’t know what to do with a wiffle ball. You don’t want to do with a swimming pool. You don’t know what to do with a bike, right? You don’t know how to wear a silly hat and sing a song and dance. You’re no fun. You’re no fun.
True or false, going to heaven to be with our Father will be enjoyable? Yes, I’m looking forward to it. I am, totally. God is a Father, and he’s a Father whom his kids enjoy, OK? There’s nothing worse that a dour dad, no fun at all. You met these guys? They’re no fun. I know one guy whose wife left him because he’s a—anyways—and they’ve got, you know, joint custody of their one child, and she does not even want to be with her father because he’s no fun. On visitation, it’s always, let’s go do what he wants. That’s not what she wants to do. He’s no fun.
Kids should have memories primarily of enjoyable times with their dad. Proverbs says it, Hebrews repeats it, that “the Father disciplines the children that he”—what? “delights in”—has fun with, makes memories with. Most of our time should be enjoying our kids, laughing, making memories, getting stuff done, having fun.
And here’s what I like to do: I like to take photos of it all. I like—I take photos and videos of everything. My kids’ll tell you it drives them crazy, but I do, because there are going to be days when they forget a lot of the fun stuff we’ve done, and I will show them. I will be that dad. “Look at all the fun we had!”
And someday when they get older and they have kids, I’m going to sit down with the grandkids and be like, “Hey, when your mom or your dad was your age, here they are. You know, here’s where we went to Disneyland, and here’s us playing catch, and here we are going for a walk, and here’s them running track, and here’s them throwing a baseball, and this is what we did on our vacation, and—” Capture the memories.
What I love is—I love sometimes we’ll just—I’ll be sitting on my computer and the kids’ll come up—particularly the younger kids, they’ll just pile on me on the couch—“Hey, can we see the photos?” Yes, we can. I think I have like seven thousand photos on my laptop. I actually killed a MacBook Pro. Killed it, preached its funeral. Done, OK? Too many photos, couldn’t handle it. Too much video, couldn’t handle it. You know why? We have that much fun. You’re welcome, OK? You’re welcome.
Here’s the deal. Some of you men think that your enjoyment is in your hobbies. It’s not; it’s in your family. Hobbies are not sinful, but the truth is, what’s better than a man having hobbies is a man who gets to watch his children have joy. Right, men? You’re like, “I used to be good at hunting, fishing, golfing, and now, planning something for my kids and watching them have fun and have an enjoyable memory and capture a few photos and hear them laugh—that is what I enjoy the most.”
See, the dads will tell you, it’s true, right? So, being fun. Let’s just say that Christians are known for many things. Being incredibly fun is not one of them, OK? By the grace of God, may we fix that. And what this means is, Dad, when your kids are little, you have to be silly. You have to be silly. You’re going to wear some outlandish outfits. You may sit down at a table that is far too small for a man your size for a tea party that includes a cup that there’s no way is going to quench your thirst. It’s far too small.
At some point, yes, a very masculine man might be wearing a tiara. It’s going to happen, OK? Because if you’re going to go to the princess party, that’s what the princesses are wearing, OK? Now, if you just did this on your own, we would bring you up for church discipline, OK? Just bringing that out. Like, if we found out, yeah, all the men’s Community Groups are rocking tiaras and doing princess parties, like, all right, Mars Hill needs to shut down, all right? We need to start over.
But if you’re doing that with your daughter, true or false, it’s a godly thing? It’s a godly thing. It’s a godly thing. Ladies, true or false, your husband’s actually pretty cute wearing a tiara going to the princess tea party. Aww, OK? Don’t take a photo of that, though, OK? Like, if a photo of me at a princess party in a tiara ended up online, I would have to call CNN back. I mean, it’s just so—something to pray about. But it’s good for dads to have fun with their kids, right?
Now, let’s say a dad is making memories, he’s having fun, he loves his kids, he enjoys them, they know it. When it comes time to correct them, when it comes time to discipline them, it’s in the context of a loving dad who’s available and present, totally enjoys you, and is making memories with you and has fun with you. God our Father is like that.
Here’s another way we can, in every way, cause our children to be provoked to anger: not generous. You ever met a dad, he’s just a—he’s a cheapskate. He’s just cheap. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have the money; he just doesn’t like to spend it. I saw this not long ago. We were out with a family and a kid asked, “Dad, can I have some ice cream?” Dad says, “No, I don’t think we need to spend the money.” No, we don’t need to spend the money; we have to spend the money. This is a very important matter. They’re already taking a portion of my money for taxes. I may as well set some aside for ice cream.
The dad was not willing to buy the children ice cream, not because they’re lactose intolerant and they would explode, not because it was right before dinnertime and would ruin their appetite, but just because, you know, a couple bucks. Dad was like, “No, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.” I do, I do—buy him ice cream!
I learned this from my Grandpa George. My Grandpa George—I love my Grandpa George. We were very, very close. He died when I was ten. And he lived in a cul-de-sac, and his rule was when the ice cream man comes, you run out and stop him. And he couldn’t because he couldn’t run very fast, so I would. (He ate a lot of ice cream.)
So I would run out, and I would stop the ice cream man, and then my grandpa’s rule was you can get anything you want from the ice cream man, and all the other kids in the neighborhood can get anything they want, and then I’ll come out and pay for it. I loved my Grandpa George. How could you not? Right, like, and then all of a sudden, you’re like—you hear that little song, and as a kid you’re like, “Whoo! Here we go again!”
And then all the kids would converge around the ice cream man. “And oh, I’ll get this, and I’ll get a Fudgsicle, and I’ll get a popsicle, and I’ll get this, and I’ll get that . . . ” And all the kids are excited, and I’d look at my Grandpa George’s face, and you know what? He was happy because he liked to be generous, especially to kids. That’s the heart of a father. That’s the heart of God the Father. That’s the heart of God the Father.
OK, you guys—I can already hear it—some of you guys are like, “I don’t want to spoil my kids.” Here’s my deal. I tell my kids—our kids are here. What’s the line? “I will spoil you, but you’re not allowed to act spoiled.” They know the line. If they start acting spoiled, OK, then we’re going to talk about it. I don’t mind spoiling them as long as they don’t act spoiled.
There’s a difference, right? You ever met a kid whose parents are really generous toward them, and they’re very, very grateful, and they’re still humble and thankful, and then the kids learn to be generous? That’s a good thing. Generous. My Grandpa George also had—I just—as I think about my Grandpa George, there was a lot of sugar involved.
He drove an Oldsmobile, because according to the Bible, grandpas drive Oldsmobiles. It’s another part of the New Testament. But my Grandpa George drove his Oldsmobile, and in his glovebox, he always carried a big bag of Tootsie Roll lollipops. Every time you got to ride in his car, you got a lollipop.
True or false, I liked him? Some of you’d be like, “I would like anyone who gave me a lollipop and an ice cream cone.” My grandpa was considerate. He understood fun. He set up his home and his budget to accommodate children, and as a result, I knew that he loved me, and when my mom and dad would say things like, “Do you want to go to your grandpa’s house?” “Forever. Yes. Yes, I do.” That generosity. If you’re not generous, you can provoke your children to anger. Like, “Man, my dad says he loves me, but he doesn’t show he loves me.”
Another one, you can provoke your children to anger—we can provoke our children to anger when we don’t repent of our own sin. Have you ever had a dad who’s like, “Hey, that’s a sin”? You’re like, “Hey, what about you?” “I’m the father.” Hmm, no, you’re the hypocrite, right?
So as parents, we’re going to sin against our kids, right? You’re going to bust them for something that they didn’t do, and you didn’t listen, and you got it wrong. You’re going to get frustrated with them and say something you shouldn’t. You’re going to err in the way your correct them. You’re going to blow it. What do you do? What do you do?
You repent. You go to your kids and say, “Look, Dad’s a sinner. I was wrong. I’m sorry. I ask for your forgiveness. Jesus died for it. That’s what a big deal it is, so I don’t want to pretend that it wasn’t a big deal. Could you please forgive me, and could we pray together, because I’m really sorry about what I’ve done, and I’m sorry for the way that’s affected you.”
How many of you have never heard that from your dad? Your dad never said, “I was wrong.” That’s what it means to be the head of household and the family leader—you set the temperature of the home. You set the precedent for the home. How many of you right now, even thinking about that, you’re like, “Man, even though I’m an adult, if my dad just came to me and said, ‘You know, I’m wrong, I’m sorry, I ask you to forgive me,’” you’d be like—that would feel like the weight of the world just came off your shoulders, and you’d be able to reconnect with your dad.
Fathers, we don’t need to be right; we need to prove to our children that God is always right, and sometimes that means we say that we’re wrong. So he says, “Don’t provoke your children to anger, but do train them.” Do train them. We at Mars Hill call this Pastor Dad. I’ve got a whole book. You guys can find it. We have printed copies—marshill.com/pastordad. It’s free; you can download it as an e-book. It’s Pastor Dad.
This first hit me early on at Mars Hill as we were teaching this. We’ve been teaching this for seventeen years. This is a big, distinguishing conviction of Mars Hill Church. There was this cute little girl, and it was after church, and I was giving her candy, because my grandpa was George, and I looked at her and I said, “Sweetheart.” She was a cute little girl in a dress, and I said, “I’m really glad I get to be your pastor.”
She crinkled up her nose and she said, “You’re not my pastor.” I was like, “Oh, OK.” Awkward. “Give me the sucker back.” I didn’t say that. “I only give suckers to people I’m the pastor of.” No, I didn’t do that, but she said, “My dad said he was my pastor.” Oh, yay. Yay, that’s right. Dad evangelizes you, Dad disciples you, Dad encourages you, Dad loves you. If you’ve got a question, Dad’ll answer it, and if you need a prayer, Dad’ll utter it. How do we bring our children up in the Lord?
Men, what this means is, yes, your wife is involved; yes, the school is involved; yes, the church is involved; but all of that is under your primary responsibility. You can’t just abdicate or delegate your responsibility to raise your children. And the truth is that much of this, men, comes down to modeling.
Modeling, right? If your kids see you read the Bible, what are they going to do? Probably want to read the Bible. If your kids hear you pray, what are they probably going to do? Start to pray. If your kids see that it’s not just Mom dragging Dad to church against his will, but Dad picks the church for the family, gets the kids up, loves Mom, gets them in the car, and takes them to church, and says, “Guys, we’re going to worship God. We’re part of God’s family. Our family’s part of God’s family. We’re here to learn. We’re here to love. We’re here to serve. We’re here to give,” what do you think your kids are going to do? They’re going to follow your example.
See, there’s a cliff for a lot of men in their teens or right after high school. You know why a lot of young men don’t persevere in their faith? Because their father is setting a bad example, and the boys grow up thinking, “Well, real men don’t raise their hands and sing to Jesus. Real men don’t read their Bible. Real men don’t go to Community Group. Real men don’t go to church. I want to be a real man like my dad.”
Then the daughters grow up thinking, “Well, I guess it’s OK to marry a guy who doesn’t read his Bible, doesn’t pray, doesn’t go to church, and isn’t in community or under authority, because that’s what my dad’s like.” The truth is your sons are going to be like you and your daughters are going to marry someone like you. Most of the time, that’s the case. How’s it going men, the modeling—the modeling?
What this means as well, when the kids are little, you read the Scriptures to them. Find an age-appropriate Bible like the Jesus Storybook Bible. Read the Bible to your kids, but please make it—what? Fun. Use a silly voice, get dressed up in the outfits. My kids used to like this when they were little, all right? So next thing you know, like, one of my little kids is dressed up like Zacchaeus, and he’s standing on the table. You know, I mean, we did this, all right?
Make it kind of fun. My kids always liked it when I would make up different voices for every one of the characters, the most ridiculous voice I could possibly conceive of, and then they would laugh hysterically. Try to make Bible time a little bit of fun. Bible time should not be like reading the phone book, OK? “Everything in here is true.” It’s also kind of enjoyable and very helpful, so let’s just pick up the pace a little bit, Dad.
As the kids get older, it’s encouraging them to read an age-appropriate Bible, which you buy them. And then they get to read it to you, or they get to read it to one another, or then the older kids start reading the Bible with the younger kids, because it’s practicing for their parenting one day when they have your grandkids.
It’s so powerful for a dad to pray over his kids, yes? How many of you, your dad has never prayed with you? How many of you, if he did, that would change your whole life, even though you’re an adult? May all of our kids say, “Oh well, yeah, my dad prayed with me all the time, and he prayed over me and read the Bible with me and had fun with me.”
Part of this is integration, OK? Sometimes well-meaning parents will get very legalistic. And I’m not against curriculum or against certain catechizing. That can all be very helpful, but there has to be integration. Deuteronomy 6 and 11 says, when you’re sitting down with your kids, when you’re walking down the road, when you’re having dinner, integrate, teach, integrate, teach.
So, here’s what that means practically: it means that you don’t just drop your kids off at the mall or the store. You walk with them and you’re teaching. All right, you got a teenage daughter—”OK, whoa, whoa, let’s talk about that outfit in the window of the store, OK? Notice the neckline meets the hemline. Let us discuss that. Why do you think that they would want you to dress like that? What are they trying to tell you about your body? How are they wanting you to present yourself to boys? And how will response come from boys? And then how will the response come from your father to the boys who are responding to that outfit? Let’s have a huge discussion about what could possibly ensue in this scenario if that were to be worn by you, whom I love with all my heart.”
A lot of you are like, “What? You have the right to talk about your daughter’s wardrobe?” Yeah, if you love her. What this means for us at our house is as we watch TV, I will hit pause, and we will talk, because here’s the truth: class is always in session, and Dad is the teacher. Class is always in session, and Dad is the teacher.
You see this in Proverbs. The father is integrating instruction. So, they’re walking through the field. “Hey, son, you see that guy’s house?” “Yeah, Dad, it’s fallen down, and there’s weeds in his garden, and all of his cattle are skinny.” “Do you know why? He’s a sluggard. Do you know what a sluggard is? It’s a lazy man who doesn’t do his job. “Do you want a family like that? Do you want a house like that? Do you want to be—” “No.” “Well, then here’s what you’ve got to do.” This is the integration.
So like, when we’re watching TV, here’s the worst thing you can do: just give your kids a phone, or give them a computer, or give them Internet access or cable TV, and don’t monitor it. Oh, and give them a gun—just dangerous things. Let them have their own computer in their bedroom. Let them have their own cable TV in their bedroom and a fully stocked liquor cabinet and fireworks, you know, just—all right?
No, you need to have Net Nanny software, the computer needs to be in a place where it is visible, like the kitchen, where people tend to congregate, one TV with password protection, so they can’t get to certain kinds of shows, and you need to monitor, and then you need to instruct.
And some parents will say, “That’s why I don’t let me kids have technology.” Our goal is not naivety but holiness. Naive people get into all kinds of trouble because they’re gullible. So I like to watch TV with my kids, and we’ll hit pause—my kids’ll confirm this—and then we have discussions.
So, a while back, Zac and Calvin and I were watching TV, and on came a commercial for a really hot, cool, new car—and boys like cars—and it was for lease. I said, “Pause, wait, do you boys know what a lease is?” “No Dad, no Dad, we do not know what a lease is.” “OK, we’re gonna—OK, get your phone and pull up the calculator app. OK, what does it say?” $326 a month, I think, is what it was for three years.
“OK, add that up. Plus how much down? Plus $3,000 down. OK, what’s the total?” They totaled it up. “What’s the total?” I said, “OK, after you pay that money, what do you think happens?” They said, “Well, you own the car, right?” I said, “No, you give it back. You give it back.” My sons say, “That’s a rip off!” Also known as a lease, OK, also known as a lease. “Well, we’re never going to lease a car.”
Perfect, right? We’ve just reduced the odds of my grandkids living at my house, you know? You’re starting to understand that it’s a con game, and it’s always won by the person who knows what the word “lease” means, OK? It’s integration; it’s instruction.
And have you ever seen any modern television show—Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, any kids’ movie—that in any way encapsulated these values? In fact, it’s antithetical. The sermons they preach are antithetical. Parents are stupid. The family’s in danger. The child saves the day with the help of the family pet—gerbil, hamster, cat, mouse, dog, horse, whatever. The dumbest person is always the dad. Gerbil—genius, OK?
Pause. All right, kids, what’s the sermon? Parents are stupid, pets are helpful, children are brilliant. But that’s false teaching. Some of you say, “Oh, no, no, that’s not false teaching. A gerbil’s singing. It can’t be false teaching if a gerbil is singing.” Sometimes Satan lets gerbils sing to preach false doctrine. That’s what I’m saying. That’s what I’m saying. “That was harsh.” Yep, OK.
But it’s true, right? How many of you, if you just let your kids watch the shows, they are getting some really confusing messages. And so some of you conservative parents are like, That’s why we unplug the TV.” Nope, sit down and talk about it. Hit pause, put class in session, let Dad be the professor, right? Then your kids will start to be discerning in their entertainment consumption and in their worldview ideology.
Why? Why? Because here’s what it says: “That it may go well and you may have a long life.” Isn’t that what you want for your kids? I want my kids to have a good life, by the judgment of God, and a long life. If Grace and I will agree in the Lord and instruct our children, and I will take primary responsibility for our family, the odds are greatly improved that my children will live a long life and a better life.
True or false, I don’t want my daughters to end up with some abusive, irresponsible man. I don’t want my sons to grow up and prey on vulnerable women. I don’t want my grandkids to be in the middle of a custody dispute one day. I don’t want to preach the funeral of one of my children. I want them to live a long life. I want, with all my heart, my children to love the Lord and to live a fruitful life and to live a long life, and I want to be a really old man who’s sitting next to Grace, holding her hand while our kids come over for dinner and our grandkids are asking for ice cream. And that’s my responsibility.
Men, you need a vision and then a plan. How many of you are the first link in a chain and so much has to change with you, because the legacy has been one of death? How many of you are in the middle of a few generations of faithfulness and love for Jesus, and you say, “You know what? My dad was a good guy. He loved me. He loved Jesus. He didn’t get it perfect, but he really tried and cared, and he’s still there.” Great, then by the grace of God, continue the legacy. This is pattern of Scripture in the genealogies: “So-and-so was the father of so-and-so, was the father of so-and-so,” and that faith is to live from one generation to another, and we worship the God of our fathers. That’s biblical thinking.
What does this mean for those of you who are single? You single women, don’t even consider a man who’s not willing to take the responsibility for the well-being of the family and is unwilling to be a good father who raises his children. It’s better to be single than married to a man who is a failure. For those of you men who are considering marrying one day and you are single, you’re not just looking for a good time but a good legacy. You’re not just looking for a wife but a mother to your children, amen? How many of you guys are married now, and you have kids, and you realize who your wife is, in many ways, determines who your children become?
This week at Mars Hill Church we will have upwards of three thousand children under the age of ten. There are children being born literally every week, sometimes almost every day. Who they become, what they achieve, the legacy they live is in large part contingent upon the men who are their fathers.
Men, I want you, as a sacred honor, to take on this responsibility. It’s something that the world is not doing, and you will not hear anywhere apart from the word of God. But if the Holy Spirit is in you, you want to become a father like God the Father, and you want to bless your children as the Father has blessed you.
For some of you, that means today you become a Christian—you turn from sin, you trust in Jesus, you receive God as your Father, and you change before you could start to effect any change in your family legacy and history. In a moment, I’m going to pray for us. At this point, it’s my great honor to make an invitation to you, to invite you to respond.
The first way to respond is we’re going to collect our tithes and offerings. We are a church family; God is our Father. Like every family, we have a budget, and so we give generously and we practice generosity because heart of the Father is generosity. And for those of you who are giving generously, I want to say thank you as we collect our offering. Might I also recommend, if you are new, give us your visitor card, place that in the offering. And maybe you need to get into a Community Group, and you need to get connected to other people and families, you need relationships, accountability, and mentoring. If you will fill that out and let us know who you are, then we can help connect you in that way, and we would love to connect you and possibly even your family to our church family, amen?
As well, then, we’re going to partake of Communion, where we remember Jesus, our big Brother, who takes away our sin and reconciles us to the Father. And what families like to do together is have a meal, and Communion is like a meal where the children of God come to eat with God their Father, remembering the salvation and adoption that the big Brother Jesus provides.
And then after that, we’re going to sing. You know why? Because kids love to sing. Have you noticed that? Have you ever been around kids? They sing, they dance, they have fun. God is our Father; we are his kids. We come to sing, to celebrate, to enjoy together our Father. And let me beg you, fathers, sing, raise your hands and surrender, model worship for your children. Some of your wives have been waiting for this for years, all right? Put joy in their heart. Put an example before your children and worship, sing, rejoice, surrender to your Father, and then invite the Father to help make you a better father.
And as we are preparing for our response, we’ve got a few weeks left in Ephesians, and then we’re going to jump into the book of Acts. And I wanted to share with you a little bit in the book of Acts and where we’ll be going in the next series.
Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” What does Jesus’ mission look like here? What’s his mission here? What does Jesus’ mission look like here? What does Jesus’ mission look like here? What is Jesus’ mission here? How do I know what Jesus’ mission is?
Lord Jesus, you taught us to pray to God as Father, so Heavenly Father, we thank you that you’re our Father. Of all the names we get to call you, Dad—Dad is the one that you have designated. For those of us who have had godly fathers, we say thank you. For those who have had no fathers, we thank you that you are a father to the fatherless.
And God, today I want to thank you that you’ve saved my father, and he worships at Mars Hill Church, and you’ve saved me, and I worship at Mars Hill Church, and you’ve saved our children, and they worship at Mars Hill Church. And God, I pray that my dad would live long enough that four generations of us would get to worship you as Father together.
And God, I pray for those who would hear this word, that Lord God those of us who are fathers, that we would seek to submit to you as good, obedient sons, honoring and obeying our Father. And then as a result, we would learn how to lovingly, humbly, graciously, generously, joyfully love our wives—Ephesians 5—and raise our kids—Ephesians 6.
And God, I pray that Mars Hill Church would never walk away from this great mantle of responsibility. Of all the problems that we find in the world, we know that many, if not most, if not all of them would be resolved if people met Jesus and men took responsibility. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Note: This sermon transcript has been edited for readability.