Colossians 3:20-21 / Parents and Children

September 16, 2019

Andy Kerr

What does it look like to have Jesus as Lord? As our minds are set above where Christ is seated, what does it look like on earth for a parent or child or teen to put off the old nature and put on the new? We may not all be parents but we all need to reflect on how we were parented. Many 70 year olds are still acting out from parental hurts, which means all of this talk is for all of us.

Parents, what do you parents want for your children? If they are under 5 a good night sleep!

Too many parents want clever kids not wise kids or happy children not holy children or a healthy self-esteem not a servant heartedness. Our goal is to not make Middle class Christians but Christ like disciples.

You see it in what we get excited about. A new car or an apology from daughter for lying or Your son to get top marks or hear how he has been witnessing at school.

The 2 most popular models of parenting are

  • Those who mirror their own parents – if it was good enough for me then its good enough for my kids. We can do better than that
  • Those who do the opposite of their parents – my Father was a harsh disciplinarian so I never discipline my kids. We can do better than that

We aim too low and our children pay the price. We are into reactive parenting, not proactive parenting.

What do I want for my children? I want my kids to have Jesus as Lord, to discern how to choose good friends, to be able to say no to drugs and see through a flirt, to save money and yet be generous and to have a work ethic without being a workaholic.
It’s not easy. When your kids are young you’re physically tired, when your kids are teens you’re emotionally tired.

We also know the temptation to live our lives through them, to find fame in our kids. We know that you can’t out-source your role to Christian schools or youth groups. Although when your kids are about 12 they do need other young adults to speak into their life. I honor the parents who take their kids to youth group every Friday even if its 20 km trip or take their 16 year old teen to 6pm service. The primary person to disciple your child is the parent. It takes a disciple to make our children disciples.

Let’s look at how we disciple our children, Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (NIV)

Let me focus on the positive first. Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Your children need ‘God talk’ coming from your mouth. Read and discuss the bible, pray with them and for them, ask them what they learnt at youth or kids church, share what you learnt from Sunday or Growth Group. Let them see your love for Jesus. Deuteronomy 11:19 says for it to be part of your life.


Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (NIV)

This week I talked to 2 fathers who watch The Bachelor with their daughters. That is sacrificial love. They ask questions, helping them stand back from the show without ruining the show. We need our own theological goggle box.

As our children grow up we need to explain more than just ‘don’t sin’. If you’re not good at discussing ideas, ask them to listen to a podcast, or sermon on the topic with you or while you’re driving them. Discuss why God hates pornography. Think how it’s not just their own personal sin. Remind them, there are real people behind those pornographic images. Often abused, drugged and lied to. Porn dehumanizes people especially women and children, the very ones we are called to protect. The porn industry treats people made in Gods image as things to be used and discarded.

Since pornography plays on the same reward system of our brain as does heroin, there is a constant desire for more. To get the same hit porn has to escalate. The trajectory for pornography is violence and rape, it desensitizes those who look at porn.
I’m hearing of both young and old males who pressure their spouses and girlfriends to perform sexual acts learnt from porn.
There is a growing demand for more aggressive and dehumanizing sex. All fed by learnt patterns fed off porn images.
It has been soul-destroying for so many women.

Every child who has accessed porn have been permanently damaged for life. If 11 is the average age when a child sees porn
We must get to them beforehand. Don’t delay in talking to them and don’t reduce porn to hardcore.

Think in terms of images advertising, girls as young as 5 are sexualized and used for advertising. Even if it’s animated the issue is exactly the same. The porn industry is using you so you can use others who use others. Its pure evil. By participating in viewing pornography we are perpetuating the evil.

It’s a lie to say that it’s a private sin that doesn’t hurt others. It hurts everyone. Remember friends, you have the greatest role to play in their life. Turn to Proverbs 22:6

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (NIV)

This verse will either give you hope or make you feel guilty. You can influence their future. The course of a child’s life is shaped by a parent. Don’t treat proverbs as if it were promises of God, this is saying how life is normally lived not always lived.

There are heaps of opposite examples:

  • Foolish Adam produced a righteous Abel.
  •  Foolish Saul produced a righteous Jonathan

You get one chance to shape your children. It’s not just instruction but discipline. I am who I am in part because of my parents. I hate graffiti and vandalism. Why? When I was young, I was working on the farm with my brother picking up pig weed. When we finished, I opened the gate for my brother who drove the trailer, but instead of waiting he took off and I was furious, I took off and cut across the farm. I got to a patch of lettuce and spinach we were both growing and I went to town ripping it up. As I was doing it, a shadow was cast upon me and it was my father, he hated vandalism so he took out his belt and I ran for my mum who was in the house. Ma help. Mum saying leave him alone. Dad rarely ever touched me. That value is now in my bloodstream.

Discipline involves teaching, warning, encouraging. It involves rebuke, correction and it involves words and consequences. See Proverbs 13:24

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. (NIV)

The principle is simple – Allow a child to feel a small quota of pain in the small things in life, to avoid feeling the big pain in the big things of life. Nothing is more painful than finding the thing a child likes and removing it from them for a period of time. I want my kids to know I expect them to keep their word on small things, so they don’t have to pay the price of not keeping their word in marriage or business.

Follow the pattern of God – teach them before you discipline them, warn them before you punish them, but do follow through.
Telling Johnny ‘Don’t do that’ 20 times and then getting angry is not discipline. It’s abuse. Be clear, count and then follow through with consequences without emotion. It must be driven by the good of the children not for you to vent your spleen.

Notice here and in Colossians, fathers are specifically addressed. But God knew that when he gave the role of Father and husband to men they would be tempted to abuse their role. So He said in Colossians. 3:21

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

In Ephesians, God the Father tells human fathers not to exasperate or generate anger in his children. Fathers don’t exasperate, don’t embitter your kids. Isn’t that a surprise!

I would have thought that God would tell children to not exasperate their parents. Afraid not!! You can embitter or provoke your children to anger in a thousand ways. Just ask your kids.

Here are a few of them:

  • Constantly making and breaking promises. How unlike our Father in heaven.
  • Crushing Discipline. When the punishment is way greater than the crime.
  • Being inconsistent. Rules change from day to day, always moving the goal post. Too much of our discipline rides on the wave our emotions.
  • Punishing when you have no evidence
  • Disciplining out of anger. I still remember the day my son was 4 and he woke me up early after two late nights. And I let him have it. I tell you, I killed him that day!
  • Incessant nagging. If we keep on their back about everything they will think that putting the lid on the peanut butter is the same as lying.
  • Qualified love “I love you if…” Discipline them by actions not emotions. Don’t sulk when they do something wrong when you discipline them. Leave it there. Don’t keep bringing it up.
  • Never embarrass your children in front of your friends or theirs. Although, I still expect to be kissed at home when their friends aren’t around.
  • Not spending time with them. Learn to play with your children. Learn to have fun together. My relationship with my Son changed when he was five. My time with him went into my diary and only a crisis could revoke it. He knew it. He saw me turn people away.
  • Being one thing at home and another to the world. God hates hypocrites and so our children.
    Asking the impossible. Don’t expect a 4 year old to act like a 10 year old. And if your anything like me you don’t know what is realistic. Nor is treating a 15 year old like a 4 year old any better.
  • Favoritism. I loved my parents for being absolutely clear on this issue, although my sister thinks it’s because I am the favourite.
  • Nothing exasperates more than a parent who will not apologise for doing the wrong thing.

A word to children – Colossians 3:20

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (NIV)

It pleases God when you obey and honour your parents in everything, that is, everything that is not sin. Children are viewed as having their own relationship in Christ and a child’s obedience to their parents is a mark of the obedience to Christ. So when I cursed my Dad with a string of swear words behind his back. God heard every one of them.

A child puts a smile on the face of God when we honour our parents, even when our parents are wrong and at times unfair.

That is what Jesus did in Luke 2:51-52

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (NIV)

Jesus submitted to his mum and dad after they blamed him and not themselves for leaving him behind in the temple. And he was their creator saviour and judge. Jesus went home and submitted to them…He obeyed the 5th commandment. So, when Jesus went to the cross at age 30, He was able to save you because he obeyed his parents when you didn’t. He is fully fitted obedient son of Man. See Romans 5:19b

… so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (NIV)

He could die for your sin because he didn’t have sins of his own to die for. He died for your sins, those times you failed to honour your parents, failed to take care of them, failed to respect them, failed to love them, He died so that you would no longer live for yourself.

When you read verse 20, start with Jesus who did it for you. But apply it you must, whether your 6 or 60 do your parents feel respected by you? If you’re not sure, ask them. Sure it looks different depending on your age.

When my kids were 6 I told them when to go to bed but I don’t want my 31 years old son asking me if it’s ok if he wants to stay up and watch a movie at midnight. It doesn’t mean you will allow your parent to cause you to sin, because its ultimately for his sake.

If you’re not married – your parents are your first obligation after Jesus.
If you’re married – your spouse is your first responsibility but your parents don’t stop being your responsibility.

Sandy loved me by loving my Maltese parents. Her mum only needed a monthly call, my mum needed a weekly visit. Because anyone who does not take care of their family is worse than an unbeliever. And if they have died there is still time to forgive them and hand them over to God.

I remember the week before my Dad died I was not sure he could hear me. I sang Christian songs, shared about my love for Jesus, and I talked to Dad like he could hear. I confessed my sins to him and his sins to me. I cried and I told him I loved him. I honour my father by honouring his memory. I can tell you about his anger issues. But I’m also thankful for so many things, Dad even warned me about not joining the mafia.

I’m now an orphan–both my parents are dead. I thank God each Monday for them. My grief is not heavy, I think it’s because I learnt early on that Jesus came first Matthew 10:37

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (NIV)

If Jesus is supreme in your heart and mind, you will live well with the wounds of your parents.