Successful Christian Parenting, Part 2

True North - Part 10

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Chris Oswald

March 24, 2024
True North



We’re going to talk about the role of influence in raising up children who love the Lord. We get this concept by the inclusion of a little phrase in vs. 14 — “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.”

I think parents intuitively understand this. So I don’t suspect I’ll show you anything new today. My aim is to merely highlight and reemphasize a principle you probably already understand.

I. Negative Influence

We’ve just moved through a section of the book where the negative influence of others has been discussed.

In chapter 2, we saw that irreverent conversations lead to more and more ungodliness. Paul compared this kind of thing to gangrene — spreading from one member of the body to another.

And then in chapter 3, (Logan Thune preached an excellent message on this topic) we see Paul say:

3 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Ti 3:1–5)

All of this fits with we are told in 1 Corinthians 15:33 — “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals.”

The danger of bad influence is a constant theme of the Old Testament. When Israel sinned (which they often did), they often did so by “learning the ways of the nations that surrounded them.” (Jeremiah 10:2)

And the book of Proverbs is full of fatherly counsel about who’s company to avoid:

Proverbs 22:24-25

Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
nor go with a wrathful man,
lest you learn his ways
and entangle yourself in a snare.

Proverbs 23:19-21

Hear, my son, and be wise,
and direct your heart in the way.
Be not among drunkards
or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
and slumber will clothe them with rags.

Psalm 1:1
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

We join with David who said in Psalm 119

Depart from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commandments of my God.

We need to say this for our children, on behalf of our children. We need to banish evil doers from their presence as well.

Last week I mentioned that 30 of young people leave the Christian faith. What happened? In many respects — influence.

As the spiritual father of Timothy, Paul was careful to curate the company Timothy kept. Likewise, mothers and fathers must do the same for their children.

So that’s a bit about the negative side. What about the positive?

II. Positive Influnce

Look back at vs. 13-14

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.” 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

There’s a phrase going around in theological circles right now. An old phrase, originating with Thomas Aquinas — grace perfects nature. That’s what Paul is doing. He isn’t trying to overcome the nature of man. Man is is going to be influenced. That is nature.

Here we see that while Timothy is surrounded by a sea of unfaithfulness, but his life has been built up on an island of godly influence. While so many others are bobbing in the sea, tossed to and fro by every wind and wave, Timothy has a faith built up on high ground.

That phrase, “from whom you have learned it” is in the plural. Paul isn’t pointing to himself alone. Rather he is pointing to the whole company of influences who played a role in passing on the faith.

We can delineate these influences in three categories:

His Household
His Church
His Mentor

IIA. The Role of the Church and Godly Mentors

I’m going to spend most of my time emphasizing the importance of godly parents in the successful transmission of the faith — but Timothy’s story provides us with an opportunity to mention the role the whole church plays in helping a young person continue in the faith.

So let me lump “Church” and “Mentor” into a single point and talk about that for a moment.

I never gave you a brief biographical sketch of Timothy. So let’s do that now.

Let’s start with his name.

Timotheo — literally means God honoring.

His name appears at least 25 times in the New Testament.

Five times in Acts
Twice in 1 Corinthians
Twice in 2 Corinthians
Twice in Philippians
Once in Colossians
Twice in 1 Thessalonians
Once in 2 Thessalonians
Many times in 1 and 2 Timothy
Once in Philemon
Once in Hebrews

I did not do a comparative analysis of other prominent names. But it would be hard to imagine that amongst the non-apostles, there is any other name that appears as often. Timothy was a very prominent figure in the early church.

And there’s a point to be made about that. Parents, when we raise our kids for the Lord, we raise them for the Lord’s kingdom. Church history is full of men and women who had an outsized influence in the kingdom — the vast majority of them were consistently prayed over by at least one parent.

This reminds me of a cute little exchange between Spurgeon and his mother.

Spurgeon’s mom: “Ah, Charles! I often prayed the Lord to make you a Christian, but I never asked that you might become a Baptist.”

Spurgeon: “Ah, mother! The Lord has answered your prayer with his usual bounty, and given you exceedingly above what you asked or thought.”

The connection between Spurgeon’s influence and his mother’s prayers is not novel. This is the norm we see over and over again in church history. There are some outliers — men and women saved from raw paganism who ascended to prominence in the church. But generally speaking, the pattern we see in Timothy and in Spurgeon is the primary way God does things.

Now Spurgeon was not Spurgeon because of his mother alone. And neither was Timothy.

His name first appears in Acts 16. Paul was in the town of Lystra. There he meets a young Timothy who is described as “a disciple” — the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek and presumably not a believer.

Acts 16:2 says that. "He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium.

Now this little sentence reveals the role the local church plays in the development of godly young men and young women.

This tells us that Timothy was so enmeshed in the life of that local church that the brothers in both his own home church and even a neighboring church knew him. They had their eyes on him. They were able to say to Paul, “this young man Timothy really loves the Lord.”

Let me wrap this section up by sharing a vision or daydream I recently had.

I imagined a prominent visitor coming to a very beautiful and well run medieval city. When he arrived, the city’s mayor who was a very industrious and kind hearted leader was eager to show him around his quite large and well fortified town. The town was bustling with life, full of productivity, and a great wall surrounded the town to protect it from invaders.

The mayor said something to the effect of, “we have this huge wall and several dozen gates built into different parts of the wall so that goods can efficiently be brought in and sent out from nearly every part of the city.”

And the guest was duly impressed. He said, “Mr. Mayor, this is a beautiful town! Your diligence and love for this place is very obvious.” But then he asked a rather penetrating follow up question.

“You have how many gates — several dozen? Yes. How many gatekeepers do you have?”

The mayor looked down, somewhat embarrassed and sheepishly replied, “You’ve touched on a real problem we’re facing. We built all of these gates but have had trouble finding gatekeepers. We have dozens of gates but only two full time gatekeepers. And they are getting quite old! So these gates, which really are an asset, have become somewhat of a liability. We don’t have enough people willing to guard all of these gates.”

Friends, when your children are young, they only have a few gates. Mom and Dad can and should guard them. But as a child grows older, he, by necessity of age and the complexity of his own life will require many gates. Here’s the question. Who will help you guard all of these gates? The answer is the church, the living body of Christ, the people of God.

With all of the immediate demands of raising children, I want to encourage you to be very careful to not neglect the long game. While you are raising your children, you also need to be raising up allies within the church. Trust me, the day will come will you will need a whole community of faith to help stand guard over your child’s life and doctrine. The friendships you build in the church today will become gatekeepers in your child’s life tomorrow.

Pick a church and stick with it. If at all possible, put down roots. Plant relational seeds so that when they are older, your children find themselves in an environment teeming with godly influences.

Not only did Timothy grow up in a Christian home, but he also grew up in a wider Christian community.

No person lives a perfect Christian life. We all have blindspots and inconsistencies. Furthermore, our lives are very particular contexts. If we isolate our children from the church, we deprive them of the opportunity to see the Christian life lived out in a variety of contexts, articulated in a variety of voices, with a variety of burdens and blindspots.

By the time your child is 18, he or she should have seen the Christian life applied in a wide variety of careers, ages, and seasons of life.

He or she should have seen how the Christian life is applied in a wide variety of problems.

How does the single mother trust Jesus?
How does the chronically ill person fight discouragement?
How does the person struggling with substance abuse find deliverance?
How does the marriage rocked by an affair get put back together again?
How does the man who unexpectedly loses his job get back on his feet?
How does the couple struggling with infertility walk in faith?

We want our kids to see how all of Christ applies to all of life. That’s too big of a job for one set of parents.

IIB: Positive Influence: The Role of Parents

But it certainly begins with the parents.

That’s probably the main idea in our text:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.” 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

We see that Paul is thinking mostly of Timothy’s childhood. And he is pointing to the faith of his mother and also his grandmother.

You may remember that this is how Paul opened this letter. Way back in chapter 1 the apostle Paul writes,

3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (2 Ti 1:3–5).

The key ingredient to raising up godly children is that the faith of his parents be sincere. The greek literally means — non-hypocritical. The greek word for hypocrite is closely associated with actors. Not in the climate change private jet sense our modern day celebrities. But in the simple sense of acting or playing a part.

There should be no huge disparity between who you are in the home and who you present yourself to be in the church.

Time and time again, it is this problem that causes young men and women to stumble. They learn to think of Christianity is a set of projected behaviors and church as a kind of LARP.

Dad is angry at home but pleasant at church.
Mom is sassy or worried at home but in church, she is abounding in faith.

We don’t want to teach our children that Christianity is an act to put on in certain company. We want them to see that by in large, we are the same person in every context.
Let me conclude with something I think I received from the Lord to pass on to you.

Let’s wrap up by thinking of the story of the prodigal son.

Tell the story:
Prideful punk who squanders his inheritance and only comes to his senses when he has no other options.
The father sees him from a long way off and runs to him and eagerly bestows grace upon grace.
The older brother who never left, is provoked by this. Because he is a stranger to grace.

Now how do we normally process this story? Especially when talking about parenting.

I have a friend that I see a couple of times a year. He is a little older than me and has five adult sons. One of those sons has completely abandoned the faith. And from time to time, I pray for this young man.

When I meet with my friend, I usually ask, “how’s the prodigal doing?” And he responds, “still prodigaling.” And so we keep praying and dreaming of restoration.

When we think of the prodigal son, we tend to think of situations like that. We pray in hope that these stayed sheep will come to their senses and return to the heavenly father. Fair enough.

But you know, the real message of that story is not to tell us about the nature of prodigals. It is to tell us the nature of God.

A God who, in spite of being seriously wronged, is eager to forgive and embrace his ruined son. So happy at his recovery, that he throws a feast (not sure if it was brunch themed).

Moms and dads of all ages and stages. When was the last time you felt the Father’s embrace?

The bible talks about Moses physically glowing after being in the presence of God. Are you glowing after experiencing the grace of God?

When was the last time you felt the forgiveness of God? When was the last time you went to him completely undone and and honestly repentant? When was the last time you felt the joy of the Father who secured our forgiveness in Christ?

I counted up the years I’ve been doing pastoral ministry. 27. In all that time, I’ve found that all Christian homes can be divided into two basic categories.

There are Christian homes led by parents who see themselves as restored prodigals.

And then there are Christian homes les by parents who have more in common with the older son. They are strangers to grace.

You see, I imagine these two men growing up and having children of their own. And I am certain that the prodigal son would make a much better parent than the older son.

Strangers to grace make terrible parents.

But the prodigal knew the grace of God intimately, presently, personally. Do you?

Friends, we all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way.

Some of us have very significant seasons of extreme prodigal behavior. Some of us spread out our prodigal behavior in “micro-aggressions” over a long period of time. All of us routinely turn aside from the Father.

We are all like sheep that have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way. And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

In the end, we want our children to say, mom and dad were people intimately familiar with grace. They were forgiven much, so they loved much.


23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. — 1 Co 11:23–26.

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