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Seasons of Christian Parenting – Spring (0-5) – 7/2/23

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Seasons of Christian Parenting – Spring (0-5) – 7/2/23


Andy Henderson


July 2, 2023


2 Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:14-17


You can open up, if you would, to 2 Timothy 3:14-17. This morning, we’re going to be going over in the Seasons of Christian parenting, the spring period, which is 0 to 5. In the following weeks we’ll be going over summer, which is 6 to 12, the fall, which is ages 13 to 18, and the winter which is 18 and above into adulthood.

If you do not have a copy of a Bible this morning, we have some provided for you in the backs of the chairs in front of you, and you can find 2 Timothy 3 on page 996.

I love being a dad. I love each of my kids deeply. Nothing that I have experienced in life is as rewarding and as challenging as raising kids. We started two churches, and as challenging and rewarding as that was, I’m not sure that it even compares. I had a great dad, and I always looked forward to being a dad myself if the Lord willed that. And I remember the excitement I felt leading up to each of their births and the intense thrill of going to the hospital to finally meet them. I remember holding each one for the very first time. People talk about love at first sight. That is really love at first sight.

For each of them I had this instant sense of overwhelming love and overwhelming responsibility. Every one of them belonged to God, and God had entrusted Melinda and me to lovingly raise them. We were stewards. That’s what we were. Stewards of God’s abundant blessing, not just to care for them physically, which obviously is of utmost importance. But as Paul writes in Ephesians 6, “to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

But I knew something about each one of them, even though I had just met them. In fact, I knew something about each one of them before I met them. Although they were all unbelievable gifts from God and all of them made in God’s image, at their very core they’re also worshipers whose strongest desire will be to advance their own kingdom. Now, that may not be so easy to discern when they’re a week old, but it becomes fairly obvious when they’re about two. And apart from a miraculous work on Christ’s part, that will be the constant direction of their lives. That beautiful, seemingly innocent baby that you’re holding in your arms is a worshiper because all people are worshipers.

Romans 1 tells us that they will either worship the Creator or they will worship something in creation, namely themselves. None of our children automatically acknowledge God is king. They want to be king. They are most passionate about their own desires, right? Their own plans, their own expectations, their own feelings, their own way. They will automatically believe — I don’t have to teach my kids — they will automatically believe the notion that nothing is more important than them. Nothing is.

So where do we as stewards of the children that God has given to us even begin with that knowledge in our minds? Where do we even start? And this is where I believe 2 Timothy 3:14-17 is crucial. There are a couple of big ideas that we see in this text that can be very helpful to us.

Big idea number one. We parent from the very beginning with the end in mind. So, look at the text. This is Paul writing to Timothy, his son in the faith.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood [and literally this is from infancy – from infancy] you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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.”

Did you notice that what he said here at the beginning of that passage and the end of that passage? From the time that he was an infant, his mother and grandmother, who were Timothy’s primary spiritual teachers, had raised him in a certain way because their hope for him was that he would grow to be a man of God. “From infancy … that the man of God.” Timothy was raised from the time he was an infant with the hopes that he would be a complete believer fully prepared for every good work. And although this particular passage is about Timothy being able to stand up to false teachers, I think there’s a general principle at play here.

So this begs the question, what are our hopes for the children that God has given us to steward? What are your hopes for this baby, for this young child? What do you think his will would be for them? We’re not raising children, right, to advance our own kingdom. We’re praying that they will grow up to advance his kingdom. So, from the moment that our children were born, we have been praying things like this. “Lord, according to Romans 1, we know that the default setting in all of our kids is to worship the creation rather than the Creator. And our hope is that they will one day be Romans 12 believers instead that present their very lives to you, which is the only logical worship, and that they would be transformed from the inside out. Lord, we know that the default setting in all of our children will be to care about, above all else, fulfilling their own desires and following their own way. And our hope is that you will transform them by your gospel into people who learn to deny themselves so that they can be freed up to love God with all of their hearts and to love and sacrificially serve others. Lord, we know that the default setting in all of our children will be to advance their own kingdom. Our hope is that one day they will seek of first importance your kingdom and your righteousness.”

And what a blank canvas we have in the spring season of parenting. I mean, ages 0 to 5. There’s so much going on in those first five years. In fact, there are two major dynamics that are at play in those years. Number one is brain development. And I got to read a lot about the brain development of little kids, and it was really fascinating. I’m going to read a couple of things to you that I learned.

In the first five years of life. Positive experiences and warm, responsive relationships stimulate children’s development, creating millions of connections in their brains. In fact, children’s brains develop connections faster in the first five years than at any other time in their lives. This is the time when the foundation for learning, health, and behavior throughout life are laid down. I read this in another article. Data compiled by the Rauch Foundation found that 85 percent of a person’s brain is developed when they are five years old.

And with that brain development comes a lot of curiosity. I’ve seen stats that the average four- year-old asks anywhere from 200 to over 400 questions a day. I saw another that stated that it’s estimated that the average child asks 40,000 questions between the ages of two and five. And I know I’ve been on long road trips where I think my kids got their allotment out, all 40,000 in those few hours. And it seems to me that about 39 of those 40,000 questions are all the same. And they’re one word. What is it? Why? Why, Daddy? I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day as I’m studying, and right next to me there was a mom with her little kid, probably three or four years old. And, I mean, he just, he asked 50 questions just in that little bit of time. And almost all of them were why? Why do they do this? Why do I have to do this? I mean, just constantly. Why? Why? Why? And listen, I understand the importance of teaching children to obey right away. I understand that a lot of times for their own protection. And I also understand that we’re not always in a place where we can spend a lot of time in explanation. But those “why” questions are golden opportunities to pour into our kids and to teach them truth. Don’t get frustrated with the “why” questions. Don’t get frustrated with all of their questions. They’re learning from the very first couple of months of life. Children are already exploring the world around them. They’re gathering data. That’s what they’re doing. Their brain is developing. They’re trying to figure out life and they’re gathering data. And we’re there to help them interpret the data they are gathering. So, take a look at all of those as opportunities.

But it’s not only brain development that’s this dynamic that’s going on. There’s another dynamic that’s going on, and it’s boundary testing. We see this dynamic early in life. When one of our kids — and I use this with permission. They said I could. One of our kids was eighteen months old. That kid just looks like he’s ready to test some boundaries, doesn’t he? I mean, he’s just kind of got that look. My child was eighteen months old, and we had these Venetian blinds. And again, when back then, I’m sure they weren’t very nice Venetian blinds. And we were afraid that they would fall on our kids. So, we told our child, don’t touch the Venetian blinds. Just don’t touch those blinds. He had toys everywhere, all over the floor, games, all kinds of stuff to do. Just don’t touch the Venetian blinds. And so, he looked, locked eyes with my wife and never let go. He looked at her in the eye. He bent over. Stuck his little rear end out and started backing up until he was touching the blinds. Toys everywhere and the only thing he wanted to do was touch those blinds. And that was eighteen months old. As they get closer to two, many children really begin to test their authorities and exert their own will, they begin to say “no.” They push limits. I mean, we’ve all seen kids at the store. Not ours, but others who throw a tantrum for as long as it takes to get what they want. And then what happens? They get what they want. What are they doing? They’re testing boundaries. We’ve all heard parents say, I’m going to count to ten. And we watch as the child continues to disobey until we get to nine. Right. What are they doing? They’re boundary testing. And these are all opportunities to start from the very beginning with the big picture in mind.

Which brings us to the second big idea from our text. In 2 Timothy 3 14-17, we parent with the Scriptures as our foundation. John Piper wrote,

“God’s ordinary way of shaping children into radically committed, risk-taking, countercultural, wise, thinking, loving, mature, world Christians is through parents who teach and model a God-centered, Bible-saturated worldview to their children.”

So, let’s look one more time at our text. We’ve already seen the very beginning part, the very end part, right? We parent with from the beginning, with the end in mind, from the infant to the adult. But we also see something else in this text.

“That from childhood, from infancy, you have been acquainted with the sacred writings [talking to Timothy, you’ve been acquainted with the sacred, which would have been the Old Testament] which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture …”

And this is all of it – Old Testament, the portions of the New Testament they had at that time,

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

And obviously, there’s a lot that we could say here. It’s a little daunting to hand a parent a Bible and just say, Hey, just teach them this, right? There’s so much there. And it’s important to do that. But fortunately, two major thoughts come out in this passage that I think can help us narrow this down a bit. There are two truths that you can be teaching your children every single day from this text. Remember, this is a time of great brain development in your kids. In which we should be taking full advantage to teach them the truth.

So first, we consistently teach our children to have an awareness of God and his plan of salvation. The salvation spoken of here in our text, right “the sacred writings that make you wise and to salvation,” the scripture that makes you wise and to salvation. That salvation spoken appears broader than the moment of conversion. A lot of times we talk about salvation, right? It is that moment of conversion. But the Bible speaks about it in a much broader way, as well. It is the whole plan of salvation from start to finish. It is our responsibility and privilege to teach our children from the moment they are very little about God’s overarching plan of salvation, the very storyline of the Scriptures, that God is the main character that he’s the center of the universe. And this is what Timothy had been taught from infancy. And it begins with creation, which answers the question “where did all of this begin?” We teach our children that God made the world and every human being in it. He made it with care and with purpose. And when it was created, he saw that it was good. And therefore, our kids, we can teach them from the very earliest moment that God created them, and he has a purpose for them.

But the question arises, if what God created was good, why do we experience pain and hurt? Why do we do things that hurt ourselves and others? Why do we disobey our authorities? So, we teach them about the fall. Answers the question, “What went wrong?” If God created it and it was good, why is there pain? Why is there evil? We teach them that although God placed man in a perfect garden, people decided that they didn’t want to follow God’s will. They wanted to do their own thing and rebelled against God. And sin, pain, hurt and evil followed.

But by God’s grace, and because he loved us so much, he made a way for redemption, which answers the question, “How is it all going to be made right?” And this is why Jesus came, to rescue people from the consequences of their sin. God became man and lived a perfect life in man’s place. His name was Jesus. He then died in man’s place to pay for their sin. And now Jesus is willing to give those people his reward for his perfect life. And now we can be made okay with God.

And although we still may experience pain and sin in this life, there’s something that all God’s people can look forward to, and that is restoration. Which answers the question, “Where is all of this going? Where is it all heading?” God not only created the world in which we live and all of the surrounding universe, and he not only made a way for sinful people to be made okay with him. Jesus is coming back, and all things will be made right once again. There’s not going to be any more tears, no more pain, no more sin, no more death. And we all need constantly — this doesn’t end in childhood — we all constantly need to see the overarching story of the Scriptures. It’s all still applicable. And of course, we teach it in differing ways depending upon our kid’s age. But of all the stories in the world, this is THE story. And we need to be teaching this to our children constantly.

So, what is the big lesson for our kids in this? To have an awareness of God and his plan of salvation. What’s the big lesson for them? The continual telling of the story will remind them that although you love them with all of your heart, they are not the center of the universe. God is. Their kingdom is not ultimate. God’s is ultimate. They are not worthy of worship. God is worthy of worship. And the only path to true flourishing is to believe that. And according to our text, this begins at a very early age.

But also remember, the first five years are not only a time of intense brain development, but also boundary testing that we talked about. And I know this sounds strange, this sounds really counterintuitive, but we need to see those moments as blessings. Because our heart, our child’s heart is on full display. That’s a blessing, because later on in their childhood, it’s not on full display often. So, we get to see this. We get to see that they’re testing boundaries and we get to teach them truth. We get to help lead their heart.

So second, we consistently teach our children not just an awareness of God and his plan for salvation, but a submission to God and his authority. And again, we go back to 2 Timothy 3, which tells us that “all Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and continued instruction.” In other words, we teach our kids that God has a way, and God has a will. And this is not just for children. This is for all of us. No matter the age or level of maturity, we are all accountable to God and his authority. Even those who deny he exists. Just denying that God exists doesn’t mean you’re not accountable to him. And they are. All will stand before God one day. And this is a process that begins at the youngest ages. As parents, we commit to lovingly and patiently teach them truth over and over again, whether they get it quickly, or whether it takes them a long time. We teach them God’s way, his will, his character, and attributes, his work, and words, his promises. We set up boundaries and rules to help them see that truth and how it plays out in real life. And then we lovingly and patiently reprove them when they go astray of the truth. We don’t ignore it when they refuse to obey the boundaries that have been lovingly set up for them. We don’t ignore it when they willfully sin, we engage it. And then we lovingly and patiently correct them back onto the right path.

This is the perfect time to teach them about confession, admitting their own sin, and repentance, turning from that sin. We might not use those exact words with our 2-year-old, but we teach him what it means. And what a valuable thing to teach them at an early age. I mean, this is truth that is going to serve them well into adulthood. And then we lovingly, and patiently do it all over again. We train them over and over again in righteousness. Again, this is a process that continues on and on in the life of a follower of Jesus. And even though we feel like — I’m sure all of us can say I have told them the same things over and over again — that’s okay. Because this is not about my kingdom as a parent. It’s about stewarding my time with my child well. Julie Lowe writes,

“God places loving authority in the hands of parents. It is a responsibility to lead, oversee and direct a home in a wise, godly manner. Loving authority is trustworthy, acting on behalf of those it governs and does what is right. It is judicious and benevolent and understands the need to direct and instruct and establish rules. It models Christlike influence and points children to a God they can trust and follow.”

We have rules for lots of reasons. One of those reasons, among those reasons are the safety and well-being of the child. We set up rules and boundaries and guidelines so that they’ll be protected. But we also want to teach them how to live in community with others. You can’t just live in community, and everybody does everything that they want to do without thinking of everybody else. We give them rules so that they learn how to live in community. We give them rules and guidelines to teach them to submit to their earthly authorities, something they’re going to be doing, by the way, for the rest of their lives. And then ultimately, we provide guidelines and boundaries and rules so that they learn what it means to humbly submit to God.

To not have boundaries or to have no consequences for those going past those boundaries is not teaching our children reality. And really, it’s not loving. The reality is that failing to submit to authority and most certainly God’s authority has consequences. And that’s a really important lesson for our children to learn early on for their own good. And there are many that balk at this idea, right? We don’t live any longer under the law, right? We live under grace, and that’s a glorious thing. But the presence of grace does not mean the absence of rules. There are hundreds and hundreds of commands in the New Testament revealing the heart of God for our lives. So, we know that grace does not equal no rules. We just understand and diligently teach our children that adherence to a rule does not save them. It doesn’t make them approved before God. Only grace can do that, and that’s only through Christ. But rules can point them to their need for a Savior. And the way we exercise that authority in the lives of our children is of utmost importance. Paul David Tripp, in his book Parenting, writes,

“This means that every time you exercise authority in the lives of your children, it must be a beautiful picture of the authority of God. In the lives of your children, you are the look of God’s face, you are the touch of his hand, and you are the tone of his voice. You must never exercise authority in an angry, impatient way. You must never exercise authority in an abusive way. You must never exercise authority in a selfish way. Why? Because you have been put into your position as parent to display before your children how beautiful, wise, patient, guiding, protective, rescuing, and forgiving God’s authority is.”

I’ve read that quote several times over the last few days in preparation for this morning. And I read those words with the knowledge that there have been plenty of times that I have dealt with my own children in such a way that did not paint a picture of a loving heavenly Father and his kingdom, rather of a dad who cared more about his own kingdom than Christ’s kingdom.

So, what’s the big lesson for our kids in teaching them to submit to God and his authority? What do we want for them to begin understanding even in their first few years of life? It’s this. I love you with all my heart. But you are not the ultimate authority in your life. God is. And the only path to true flourishing is to believe that.

So, how do we take these really big ideas from 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and practically apply them in everyday life with 0-to-5-year-olds? How do we do that? And we’re going to employ the help of Jared Kennedy. He wrote a book, Keeping Your Children’s Ministry on Mission for Churches. But he has a great section in there about the stages of childhood that I found very helpful.

So, for infants, birth to 24 months. What are a couple of things we can take from this and think about? Number one is be nurturing and available. Kennedy wrote that a baby can learn to trust that God is unchanging in his love and care before ten months of age. In this stage, they learned that while they may experience some momentary discomfort, everything is going to be okay because they have someone who faithfully takes care of them. So, lots of physical touch, lots of eye contact with a parent is so important. And all along as that’s going on, even with a little infant, you are teaching them to trust your authority and ultimately the authority. Also, be planting seeds of faith even in those first two years. We introduce them at the very beginning about God in the smallest ways and by speaking the simplest of truths over them. We pray with them. We speak much of Jesus.

I was talking to somebody this morning after the 8:30 service, and he said, “You know, it was interesting. My parents must have done that well, because I never remember a time when I didn’t really know that God was there and that he loved me.” What an incredible testimony.

How about for toddlers — 2-to-3-year-olds? Cultivate joy in learning new things. That’s really important. Make it fun and active. We want to disciple our children to always be learning more about gospel truth, to always be learning more. That starts early. So, make the journey of constant awareness, the God consciousness, make it enjoyable for them. Something they look forward to.

And number two, root their identity in the gospel story. Help them to begin to see the wisdom and power and care of the Lord all around in his creation. Go on nature walks. Talk to them about God creating this and how God created that. Help them begin to find their place in the overarching story of God in the Scriptures. And as you’re setting boundaries for their lives, help them begin to see the effects of the fall in their own lives and the forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus. From the very earliest moments.

How about for preschoolers — 4-to-5-year-olds? Be clear and consistent with the rules you’ve established for them. Discuss the wisdom of having those rules. Be clear and consistent as well with the consequences. Help them see that simple rule-following cannot make them right before God. Only Jesus can do that. And appeal to their developing conscience. Teach them that their consciences are an amazing gift from God. They help in discerning right and wrong. Help them develop an internal sense of right and wrong from the Scriptures. I find this very important, especially working with adults who have had their consciences bound. Help them to develop an internal sense of right wrong from the Scriptures and not from a list of extrabiblical preferences. Go to the Word of God. That’s going to be incredibly important as they continue to develop.

So, one final thought to consider. There are probably people here that are asking questions like, “I can’t even keep up with doing everything I need to do in a day. How in the world am I supposed to be constantly teaching my 0-to-5-year-old about the Lord? Or what if I started late? What if I became a Christian later on? Or what if I learned about these things later on and I didn’t teach these things to my 0-to-5-year-old? What if I have one that’s gone astray? What if I feel like there have been so many times that I have failed as a parent? What if I feel like I missed a golden opportunity to teach them some deep spiritual truth, and that opportunity is now gone?”

I just want to remind us this morning that parenting is a marathon. It’s not a 100-yard dash. It’s a marathon. It’s a long process that goes well beyond their first 18 years. So, I want to encourage you with another quote from Paul David Tripp in his book, Parenting.

“So each day you look for another opportunity to advance that critical conversation. One more step. And because you do, you don’t consider those moments where correction is needed to be interruptions or hassles, but gifts of grace afforded you by a God who is at work in the hearts and lives of your children. So, you’re not mad at your children for needing you. You’re happy for another opportunity to continue the process. Here, in a phrase, is what you are committing yourself to — many, many moments of change. It may be a few moments at bedtime. It may be a brief talk at the dinner table. It may be a few carefully chosen words at the mall. It may be a few comments after school. It may be a back and forth discussion in the SUV. But you’re called to be thankful for each one and for the incremental steps that are being taken to rescue, restore and transform your children. You get up each day aware of what will be required, but thankful that for another day you can take more steps with your children in the most important process in the world.”

And isn’t it great that we have a gracious Savior who walks every step of that path with us? So, let’s parent from day one with the hope that one day when our child’s journey on this earth is over, and they’re standing before the King of kings, that they hear these words,

“Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” [Matthew 25:21]

That is what we’re parenting for.

Let’s pray. God, we love you and we thank you for your grace in our lives. We thank you that although we are very imperfect parents and imperfect disciplers of people, God, this is for all of us. It’s not just for parents who are teaching young children or older children or adult children. This is for all of us as we disciple, because parenting at its core is discipleship. And I pray that you’ll give us the wisdom to do so. I pray that you’ll give us the love for you and the love for others. God, we pray these things in the name of your son, Jesus. Amen.