Love God: Love Discipline

discipline“No.” I hear the word a lot. I hear my kids say it. Being a children’s pastor, I hear kids at church say it over and over again. If they do not say it, they often brazenly demonstrate the thought by grinning at me while the directly disobeying my latest command to sit down. “No!”

When our kids say no they do not ultimately have a problem with authority. They have a problem with God. The creator of the universe tells children to obey their “parents in the Lord for this is right,” and tells them to “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” (Eph. 6:10; Heb. 13:17).

When they tip over their cup, when they hop out of their seat, and when they scream at their parents in anger, they are declaring themselves to be the God of their universe. They are saying, “I know better; This will make me happy, and I have every right to get it regardless of the cost.” Little people who cannot go to the bathroom by themselves are attempting to turn the world upside down when they say, ‘No.’ We cannot let this happen.

The Bible has a term for such little people: fools. In Psalm 14:1 God says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.” We should lovingly discipline children when they do abominable deeds because such children are ultimately rebelling against God. We send kids home from church and place them in timeouts so that they will learn that they our fools. We imperfectly model divine judgement because we want our children to see their foolishness and repent of it. A one week ban from church is much kinder than an eternal life in Hell. If we love the children in our homes and churches, we will discipline them.

This is the mindset of God. He says in Hebrews 12:6, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” God punishes his children because he loves them and wants what is best for them. For us to be like God, we too must discipline children out of love.

If we remember 1 Corinthians 13, we will remember that love does not boast and does not seek out it is own. We discipline not because ‘our’ authority was challenged, and not because we are upset that ‘our’ plans have been changed. We should never punish children to defend our pride. Like our children, we are sinners daily in need of grace and correction. We discipline because we hate sin wherever it appears and because we hate seeing foolishness destroy our children’s lives. God administers such loving discipline to us. We must follow our father’s example. Are you ready?

Should We Excommunicate The Kids?

excommunicate blogChurch discipline is making a comeback. And it should be! For a church to be a church it must affirm the purity of the gospel and the purity of the the God’s people. God is holy. All those who truly love him, will seek to purify themselves. And when a man or woman continues in sin and refuses to repent after being approach by two or three witness, the sinner should be brought before the church. Hopefully at some point during the discipline process, the man or women will repent. But If no repentance ensues, the sinner must be kicked out of the church and treated as an unbeliever. Such are the commands found in Mathew 18: 15-17.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

But should we make our kids walk through church discipline? In the Old Testament, parents could take their unrepentant and disrespectful kids to the elders and have them stoned. Can we and should we take our kids before the church and have them excommunicated? The easy answer is, it depends.

Um…No

In some cases, the answer is a flat out no. If the child is not a member of the church, then we do not discipline them. All children come into the world with a sin nature. All kids are sinners and all act like sinners. If they have not repented and accepted Jesus, we cannot expect them to respond to God’s divine means of repentance and restoration. Expecting church discipline to bring an unbeliever to repentance would be like expecting a soccer team to thrive in the NFL. It’s not going to go well. They play by different rules.

For this reason and others, some churches are very slow to admit children into membership. Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. will only baptize people who are 18 or older. And while I do not think we have to make 18 a special benchmark age, our churches should be slow and methodical when considering children for baptism and church membership.  If a kid is not a believer and not a member of a church, they are not subject to church discipline. Yes, we should pray with them and for them. We should counsel them with the word (evangelize them). But we should not discipline them in front of the church.

Why…Yes

In other cases, the answer is a resounding yes! If a child or a youth has made a credible profession of faith, has been baptized, and has been admitted into the church as a member, then he can be disciplined. If the child refuses to repent of lying, slander, sexual immorality, or any other sin, then their parents should practice church discipline. Their parents should involve the church, bringing a trusted friend or pastor into the situation. Lord willing, the child will respond well and repent. But if he does not, the child should be taken before the church. And if that still does not drive the child to his knees, he should be excommunicated.

Final Thoughts

In short, we should not hastily kick our kids out of the church. But if we are going to have biblical, healthy churches, we must be willing to excommunicate those who refuse to repent even our kids and teenagers. As 1 Corinthians 5:11 says,

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

Because church discipline is such a monumental and necessary thing and because following Christ is no easy accomplishment, we must not hastily rush kids down the aisle, baptize them, and admit them into membership. We must make sure our kids understand what they are doing. The church is no country club. And if we do enroll a child, we must be willing to discipline him. Are you ready to excommunicate the kids?

The #1 Kids’ Excuse of All Time and How to Beat it!

Blog He Made Me Do It“He made me do it!” Is perhaps the number one kid excuse of all time! I mean is there a better excuse? Is there a better way to deflect responsibility for our sin than blaming our actions on someone else? “I got mad because my teacher didn’t recognize me.” I snatched a cookie because you wouldn’t let me have a snack.” I.e. I sinned because of you!

Why It Doesn’t Work

The only problem with this thinking is that it is not biblical. God never holds other people responsible for our sin. Not even parents are judged for the sins of their kids (Ezk. 18:20). God holds us responsible for our actions. Regardless of the circumstances, our actions are always just that, our actions. We don’t sin because of someone else. We don’t sin because someone triggered all our defense mechanisms with one rude comment.  As Pastor Brad Bigney said, “That button was already there – the pressure only revealed it.” (p.151). We sin because we want to, because we love something more than God! Notice what James 1:14 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”

Understanding The Real Problem

The very first of God’s ten commandments says, “You shall have no other God’s before me (Ex. 20:3).  To really understand how to only worship one God, we need to take a look at the very last commandment: “You shall not covet.”  These two commandments bookend the other 8 because the first one shows us what God requires of us and the last shows us how to achieve it. To worship God and God alone, we have to treasure him above all else. We can’t have idols in our heart. We can’t covet.

fall-651020_1920The reason we sin, the reason we snap when we don’t get our way is that we are coveting. We are worshiping something more than God. According to Colossians 3:5, covetousness is idolatry. Covetousness creates idols in our heart that replace God.  We look at the nude girl on the screen, we scream at our kids when they get too loud, and we rant on Facebook about our job because we are worshiping something other than God. We lust because we covet human companionship more than God. We scream because we covet a quiet house more than God. And, we rant because we love our success more than God.  Spiritual idols are not just limited to the generic category of sports, money, and fame. They are the daily things we want more than God. They are the things we sin to get or sin when we don’t get them. As Bigney says, “An idol is anything or anyone that captures our hearts, minds, and affections more than God.”(p.41).

The Covetousness Cure

To not covet, we have to love God. And to love God, we have to avoid coveting. This is how we overcome sin. We daily focus upon worshiping God. And, we daily do battle in our hearts. We daily worship God and we daily abandon our idols. This is how we find the strength through the power of the Holy Spirit to obey God and our parents. This is how we avoid lying, stealing, and murder. To grow in Christ, we must actively pursue the things of God. We must actively uproot out our idols

The next time your child tells you that they sinned because of what some teacher, some (crazy) children’s pastor, or some little kid did, challenge them on it. Remind them that they are in trouble not because of what the other person did but because of what they thought, said, and did. They are in trouble because their actions revealed that they loved something more than God.  Help your kids to start asking themselves why they sin. For example, show them that cheating to get a good grade means they love the approval of men more than God.  Expose their hearts to the reality of sin, Then, point them towards the God of the universe!