1. Be Strong in Grace (verse 1).
2. Remember Jesus Christ (verse 8).
3. Lead Your Family (verse 2).

In the June 2003 issue of Touchtone Magazine, an article appears called “The Truth about Men & Church.” [1]This article points out the impact of a father’s spirituality as it relates to his children. Robbie Low, the writer of the article, quotes a study conducted in Switzerland regarding the correlation between the church attendance of parents and the future church attendance of their children. Sifting through the data, it makes a profound statement about the impact that the father of a home will have upon his children, especially as it relates to God.

I’ll boil all of the statistics down to the four most important ones. First of all, according to this study, if a father and mother are regular in their church attendance, then 33 percent of the children in the home will end up being regular church attenders in the future. Now, this number may seem low to you; it does to me. If it does, please realize that this statistic was taken in a survey across all denominations in Switzerland, a county of declining spiritual interest. And, the significance of this figure isn’t so much in the percentage itself, as much as it is in the following two related figures, which I now want to share with you.

The second statistic is that when a mother is regular in her church attendance, but a father is irregular in church attendance, only 3 percent of the children in the home will end up becoming regular church attenders.

And now for the most shocking statistic: when a father is regular in his church attendance, but a mother is irregular in church attendance, the percentage of church attenders among children goes up to 38 percent. And, if a mother is not practicing her religion at all, but the father is regular in his church attendance, the percentage of children becoming church attenders in the future goes up even more to 44 percent!

In other words, when it comes to the spiritual life of a child, it’s the father’s spirituality which is the greatest determining factor in the life of a child. In fact, you could even argue, mothers, regarding the spiritual impact upon your children, it’s better for them if you are cold and lifeless in your faith, if you have a husband who will leave you at home and bring your children to church, despite your protests, because then, your children will be able to see the genuine reality of spiritual truth. Now, of course, I’m not advocating this. But, the question comes, "Men, if your wife didn't believe in Jesus, where would you be this morning? Is Christ so precious to you that, barring all hindrances, His worship is your priority?"

Here’s what I believe is going on in these statistics. In the life of an average church-going family, when mom and dad both attend church, the children see church for what it is. It’s a place where sinners gather with other sinners to worship the Lord. Some children are attracted to the gospel and have remained in the church. Others have seen the hypocrisy of their parents and have abandoned the whole thing. And when a father shows little interest, but mom goes to church, I believe that the children often seen church as another social organization. It’s a social place where mom finds her friends. After all, aren’t women more social creatures? But, when mom show little interest, and dad still goes to church, the children see it for what it is. Dad isn’t going for social reasons. He's going because of a greater reality. He’s going because of what he believes is true. And the children are more ready to embrace the truth.

Fathers, do you see the importance of your role in the home? I have a burden upon my heart this father’s day to address you fathers, calling you all to be spiritual men. Be a spiritual man, if for no other reason than for the sake of your children. After all, they are the reason that you are called, “fathers” in the first place. My message this morning is a topical message entitled, “Spiritual Fathers.”

Now, before I get into the heart of my message, I know that there are some wives, who have spiritually absent husbands. And these statistics have done nothing more than caused you more grief than you already have regarding the lack of interest that your husband has in the things of God. I’m aware of your pain, and I feel your pain. Being sensitive to this, I want to encourage you first, before I challenge the men.

First of all, I want to encourage you by the scope of the statistics. The study was very external. It merely addressed church attendance, which really means nothing. There is nothing in these statistics that accounts for the genuine level of spirituality in the mothers, because that cannot be measured. It merely addresses whether or not they attend church. The low percentage of children becoming regular church attendees is across all denominations, both liberal and conservative. These statistics are purely demographic. And I would suspect that there is a much greater hope for children who are actively led in the ways of the Lord by their mothers who are attending solid churches.

Second, I want to encourage you with the life of Timothy. Paul writes to this young man, who was pastoring a church in Ephesus. He wrote, ...

2 Timothy 1:3-4
I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.

Here was Paul, writing to his loved brother in the Lord. You can see his heart and his love for this young man. He said (in verse 3), “I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.” Hardly a waking moment went by, but that Paul wasn’t thinking about Timothy and his ministry in Ephesus. He said in verse 4, “[I am] longing to see you.” Throughout the epistle, you can sense Paul's love for Timothy and how Paul urged Timothy to be faithful as a minister of the gospel of Christ. But, of most importance to us this morning is verse 5, ...

2 Timothy 1:5
For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Paul mentions the faith of Timothy, but he does so in a way that ought to encourage you mothers with spiritually absent husbands. Paul mentions Timothy’s grandmother, Lois. Paul mentions Timothy’s mother, Eunice. He mentions both of these women as fellow believers in Christ. Where’s Timothy’s father? He’s not mentioned. Why? Because he was an unbeliever.

In Acts 16, verse 1, Timothy is described as “the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek” (that is, an unbeliever). When Paul took Timothy along with him on his missionary journeys, the first thing that he did was to circumcise Timothy, because all of the Jews of that area knew that Timothy’s father was a Greek and that he was never circumcised according to the law (Acts 16:3). That’s an indication of his father’s failure to follow the Lord by following His law. Timothy grew up in a home with a godly mother and with a spiritually absent father. And God used his mother (and probably his grandmother) to be crucial and instrumental in his life to lead him to Christ. I say this because of 2 Timothy, chapter 3, and verses 14 and 15. Here we read, ...

2 Timothy 3:14-15
You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Timothy learned the Scriptures “from childhood.” Who else is teaching Timothy as he is a child, but his godly mother? His father certainly wasn’t teaching him. And her teaching stuck, despite the pull of Timothy’s wayward father. Timothy became a great hero of the faith, who stood strong for the gospel together with Paul. “He served with [Paul] in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father” (Phil. 2:22).

And so, you mothers with AWOL fathers, take heart. God can use your influence in your children’s lives to lead them to Christ, apart from the bad influence of their father.

Not only is there a Biblical encouragement. You may also be encouraged with church history. Several heroes of the faith were raised with ungodly fathers. Their mothers made a big impact in their lives. Consider Augustine. His father was a pagan, named Patricius. He had nothing but a bad influence upon Augustine's life. But Augustine had a godly mother, who prayed for him constantly. Her name was Monica. And she prayed and she prayed and she prayed for God’s mercy upon her son. Eventually prayers were answered.

Augustine’s testimony is that “she was always in deep travail for my eternal salvation” [2], even in his wayward days. He continued, “I ‘believed’ along with my mother and the whole household, except my father. But he did not overcome the influence of my mother's piety in me, nor did he prevent my believing in Christ, although he had not yet believed in him. For it was her desire, O my God, that I should acknowledge thee as my Father rather than him” [3]. In other words, despite the contrary work of his father, Augustine believed in Christ through the prayers of his mother.

John Newton is another man whose mother played an instrumental role in his salvation. He was the slave trader who came to Christ. He grew up with his father, knowing the ways of the sea, because, his mother died when he was almost 8 years old. It was a terrible lifestyle for any boy to face, living with wicked sailors on the sea. Their lifestyle was of depravity personified. So naturally, he lived in sin and rebellion against the Lord. And yet, John Newton was converted. In great measure, this had to do with his mother. She taught him to read at a young age, and then helped him to memorize many Scriptures before she died. These Scriptures were a help to John Newton in his conversion.

It was March 21st, 1748 and John Newton was in a storm on a ship with no hope of enduring the storm alive. While everyone else was below deck at the pumps, Newton had a break and was on the deck, manning the rudder of the ship. It was here, in the middle of the night, that he reflected upon the many, many Scriptures that he had learned as a child. They haunted him. But, they led him to cry out to the Lord for mercy.

Here is Newton’s testimony concerning his mother:

For the encouragement of godly parents to go on in the good way of doing their part faithfully, I may properly propose myself as an example. Though in process of time I sinned away all the advantages of these early impressions, yet they were for a great while a restraint upon me. They returned again and again, and it was very long before I could wholly shake them off. When the Lord at length opened my eyes, I found a great benefit from the recollection of them. My dear mother, besides the pains she took with me, often commended me with many prayers and tears to God. [4]

So, mothers with spiritually absent fathers, don’t despair of the statistics that I shared earlier in my message. Be encouraged with Timothy. Be encouraged with Augustine. Be encouraged with John Newton. And, know that there are many untold millions who have been prayed into the kingdom by their mothers. So, Pray! Let the tears flow for your little one! Plead the mercy of the Lord!

But, my message this morning isn’t for mothers. It’s for fathers. It’s a call for you to be spiritual men. It’s a call for you to be spiritual leaders of your home. It's a call for you to be authorities in your love for Christ, that your children are drawn to believe because of your example.

By way of outline, I want to give you 3 points of application for spiritual fathers. I'm loosely basing them on 2 Timothy 2.
1. Be Strong in Grace (verse 1).

Consider the following text of Scripture.

2 Timothy 2:1
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

In the original context, of course, this was Paul’s counsel to a pastor as he was to relate to his church. But, since the church is in many ways a large family (1 Tim 5:1-2), it is good counsel for fathers who are relating to their children. Fathers, “Be strong in grace.”

As men, we are used to being strong. It’s the way that God made us. He made us strong. He gave us strong chests and arms. We are stronger than our wives. Peter tells us that our wives are the “weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7). This implies that we are the “stronger vessel.” I doubt that there is a man here in this congregation, who couldn’t physically subdue your wives. If this isn’t true of you, I’d encourage you to hit the weightroom.

Not only is there a physical strength with men, there is usually an emotional strength as well. God has made men in such a way that they can endure the rough times of life. In general, a man can face rejection and hardship better than a woman can. Men, we are used to being strong. But, the call here in 2 Timothy 2:1 is to be strong in grace.

Grace is another word for kindness. Grace is giving others what they don’t deserve. Grace is love. Grace is caring. Grace is giving. And when it comes to your children, you, fathers, need to be one who gives and gives and gives and gives to your children, far beyond what they deserve.

On the one hand, this is an easy task. God has put within parents an undying love for their children, even their wayward children. I have seen parents extend themselves greatly to their own children who have dishonored them and have resisted them and have opposed them in every way. I have seen parents reach out to their children who have caused them great pain. Why? Because God has put within us a love for our children that won’t easily go away. So, being strong in grace toward our children isn’t such a difficult task.

But, on the other hand, there are times when this is incredibly difficult! There are times when your child disobeys your clear command for the tenth time; when your child fails in his/her responsibility as a member of your house; when your child accidentally breaks something precious and dear to you; when your child demands more than you can give; when your child comes to look at you as a slave. It is difficult to be strong in grace in these times.

But, men, it’s precisely in those moments where you need to be strong in grace! I’m talking about coming to your children kindly and softly. I’m talking about giving to your children what they don’t deserve. Rather than yelling at them, I’m talking about hugging them. Rather than giving them an angry stare, I’m talking about giving them a kiss. Rather than shouting loudly in anger, I’m talking about speaking softly in love. That’s grace. And fathers, if you want to be a spiritual father, you, too, must be strong in grace.

Now, for us fathers, this is a difficult task. Everything in the world teaches us the opposite. In the business world, it’s the aggressive fighter who often has the success. Many times, it’s the angry man who gets results by tyrannizing his subordinates to do his will. But, such methods don’t work in the home. God builds godly homes through grace. "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who built it" (Ps 127:1).

Sadly, there are many children, who know nothing but an angry father. He demands of his children what he, himself, is unwilling to do. He intimidates his children into servitude. He blows up when anything doesn’t go his way, and the children walk on eggshells.

I believe that the fruit of a father’s anger will be a child’s rebellion. I do not think that it is an accident that the only two instructions given explicitly to fathers regarding the raising of their children address this very issue of anger. Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” The demanding, angry father will provoke a child to anger. And the demanding, angry father will exasperate a child.

See, when your demands are never enough to be met, and when you are hounding your children--always telling them what to do, always telling them what not to do, always restricting their ways and never fully being satisfied--your children will lose hope. The counter to that is grace. Fathers, may grace fill your homes, because you are strong in grace. You say, “How do I do this?” Here’s my second point, ...

2. Remember Jesus Christ

2 Timothy 2:8
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.

You say, “Steve, of course, I’m going to remember Jesus Christ. I’m a Christian, aren’t I? How could I forget Jesus?” Let me ask you, “What about Timothy? What sort of a man was he? Was he in danger of forgetting Jesus?” Timothy was a pastor of a church. He had been called by God to shepherd the church in Ephesus. He was fully engaged in the ministry. Timothy knew the great apostle Paul. He followed in His steps, traveling with him on his missionary journeys (Acts 16:3ff). He witnessed the great sacrifices that Paul made for the faith. He shared with Paul’s heart for the church. And yet, Paul says, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.”

Why did Paul say this? Because it’s easy to forget. It’s easy to forget the core of our faith: Jesus Christ raised from the dead, descendent of David. Jesus was a descendent of David, of the line of Judah, according to the promises of the Messiah. Jesus was crucified upon Calvary for our sins. Three days later, Jesus was raised from the dead. And this space/time reality of Jesus Christ, the Son of God come into the flesh, dying and raising from the dead, will be the thing that will strengthen you to be strong in grace. Because, you will remember how you were saved in the first place.

God doesn’t save us when we are righteous. God saved us while we were yet sinners. He saves us by His grace. I love Paul’s testimony, which he gave back in the first epistle that he sent to Timothy.

1 Timothy 1:12-16
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

With such a perspective, how do you think that Paul would have dealt with his children, (if he had any children), especially when they sinned. I believe that he would have taken his child in his lap and remembered Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Imagine:

Apollos, you have sinned. And the thing that you have done is wrong. But know that your daddy has sinned far more than you ever have. Before I came to Christ, I was a wicked man. I hated the name of Jesus and blasphemed him on many occasions. I hated those who followed him. I used to chase down Christians and imprison them. I used to beat them with rods. I remember even rejoicing when the Christians were being stoned for the errors of their way (Acts 8:1). At one point, I was on the road to Damascus to imprison those who called upon the name of Jesus. But, Jesus appeared to me--the Living One, raised from the dead! He saved me by His grace (Acts 9). And you have sinned, just like your daddy. But know that your daddy has found forgiveness in Jesus. And I still sin. Even though I am a follower of Jesus, “nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh. ... The good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (Rom. 7:18-19).

And so, son, I can sympathize with you in your sin, because I, too, am a sinner. And I would beg you to believe in Jesus and to follow Him (2 Cor. 5:11-21). “God made Jesus, who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). He’s the only way that your sins can be taken away. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). But, in Jesus Christ, there is the forgiveness of “all our transgressions” (Col. 2:13). So, believe in him. Find mercy at the cross, like I have found.

See, when you remember Jesus Christ, it will help you in dealing with your children. When you remember how God saved you by His grace, not by your works. Then you can have compassion upon your children. Then you can be strong in grace!

Sadly, too often, parents deal with their children as if they have never sinned themselves. They see their children sin and are provoked, “I can’t believe that you would do such a thing!” as if they would never do it themselves. But, would the truth be known, most every one of the sins that our children commit, we have committed before they did. Next time your child sins, ask yourself, "Did I ever do this?" And in this, we can sympathize with them as fellow sinners. So fathers, don’t forget Jesus Christ! Always have before your mind what He has done for you! Mercy after mercy after mercy has come to you. Such should be extended to your wayward children.

Now, that’s not to say that there isn’t a place for discipline. There is a place for discipline. But discipline isn’t for you to vent your anger. Discipline is for the purpose of showing the severity of sin. You would never want to inflict pain upon your child unless you wanted to make a point. Sin is dangerous. Sin hurts. Stay away from sin.

Fathers, never discipline your children in anger! Discipline them in love. To do this, remember where you were before the cross, and deal appropriately with your children. Know that you are a fellow sinner. When you forget this, you may easily fall into hypocrisy.

One of the most devastating things for children to see is hypocrisy in the home. Too often, the very thing that drives children away from the Lord is the hypocrisy of their parents. They see a show on Sunday morning, but they see a different reality throughout the week. They see them singing praise to God, with eyes shut and arms raised, which aren’t bad things. But, then, at home, they see their parents provoked to anger and sin themselves, never admitting their failures. At home they see parents who demand perfection in their children, while being imperfect themselves. And the children see right through it. They see the hypocrisy. As a result, the children want nothing to do with Jesus.

Do you know the only way to overcome hypocrisy? Humility and transparency. Fathers, do you want to have a spiritual impact upon your children? Confess your sins to them. Tell them of your struggles. Tell them of your wayward ways. They see it. You might as well tell them and make it a public matter. And most importantly, share with them how you have found forgiveness for your own sins. And then, your children cannot charge you with hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is to say one thing and to do another. But, when you sin and confess your sins to those you have affected, you are no longer a hypocrite, because you fully admit your sin. Rather, you are one who walks in integrity. You do this because you want your children to believe the gospel. The gospel isn’t that we live correctly and do everything right. Rather, the good news is that we are sinners, but have found grace in Jesus by confessing our sins. This is what we want for them to believe.

Remembering Jesus Christ will help you to focus your attention upon the aim of all spiritual fathers, which is the new birth of their children. Too often, fathers in the church aim to have merely moral children, not godly children. And there is a difference between moral children and godly children. Nicodemus was a moral man. But, Jesus told him, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

William Farley pointed out, ...

The primary focus of Christian parenting is not morality. Well-behaved children are not the ultimate end. Saving faith, deeply rooted in the children’s hearts, is the supreme goal of Christian parents. God saves the child who transfers all his trust from his own works to Christ’s and expresses that faith with repentance. Therefore, Christian parenting is all about the transfer of Dad and Mom’s faith. Morality is important, but it follows faith. It does not produce it. ...

Transferring morality is the primary goal of secular parenting. For unbelievers, the goal of parenting is children that conform to society’s expectations, such as admittance to Ivy League schools, success in business, or marriage to the "right" people.

By contrast, the goal of Christian parenting is heart transformation. As we have noted, morality always follows that transformation, but it is secondary. This means that effective Christian parents aim at their children’s hearts rather than their behavior. ...

Mom asked Johnny to sit in the corner. With a sullen look he obeyed but said, "I’m sitting down on the outside, but on the inside I’m still standing up." This is not heart transformation. It is moralism. It is the attitude of many teens from Christian homes: "I’m a Christian because my parents are, but I would really rather be at the party." It describes many adult Christians: "I go to church because I was raised that way, but my real passion is golf, hunting, or _________ [fill in the blank.]” [5]

Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:5, “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” In all this, Paul was focusing upon the internals, which has its effect upon the external. Too often, father aim merely for the external, missing the internal as the key to it all. But, remembering Jesus Christ will help to keep your focus upon the internals.

Let’s look at my third point, ...
3. Lead Your Family (verse 2)

That is, lead your family spiritually. For this, I want for you to look at verse 2.

2 Timothy 2:2
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Now, again, I want to remind you that these words are not written primarily to fathers. Rather, these words were written to a pastor of a church. Timothy was to take the teaching of Paul and not hold it merely to himself. Rather, he was to share it and pass it on. In particular, he was to be on the search for other faithful men, to whom he could entrust the gospel. These men were to be strategic men, who would take his teaching and share it with others, who would be able to share it with others.

That’s how the church ought to work. It is pastors teaching faithful men, who are teaching other faithful men. But, think about it for any length of time, and you will realize that that’s exactly how a family is to work as well. Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall praise Your works to another; and shall declare Your mighty acts.” Here you have parents proclaiming to children the mighty acts of the Lord!

And when the children grow up, they are to do the same with their children, who are to do the same with their children. That is the call of Psalm 78.

Psalm 78:5-8
For He established a testimony in Jacob
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers
That they should teach them to their children,
That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born,
That they may arise and tell them to their children,
That they should put their confidence in God
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments,
And not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not prepare its heart
And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

In other words, the call of God upon your lives, fathers, is to so teach and train your children in the ways of the Lord, so that they may, in turn, teach their children. You need to have your eyes upon your grandchildren. You say, “Steve, but my oldest is only 8 years old! What do you mean, ‘eyes upon your grandchildren’?” Well, that’s the point of verse 6, “that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born.” That's talking about unborn grandchildren. But it goes even deeper. It goes to great grandchildren, as the ones not yet born are to tell it to their children. So train your children with a view to the spiritual health of your grandchildren. Train them that they might be in a position to train their children. You have generational teaching going on, which is totally in the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:2.

Pastors need to look for faithful, available, and teachable men to lead and train. And so, fathers, you don’t have to look too far to find your faithful men. Your children are the ones that have been given to you to teach and train, so that they may train their children (who are not yet even born). And so, fathers, lead your family (verse 2).

There are two ways to lead your family. The first is by precept. It’s by the things that you say to them. It's by the things that you teach them. It’s by the things that you read to them. Do you have a plan for your children? Are you teaching them? Are you leading them?

Over my years of being a father, I have found that the most effective way in doing this is what I call “Family Worship.” It’s really simple. It’s evening time, and we call our family together for a time of reading. We read from the Bible. We read from other books. We talk about the realities of the Christian life. There are times when we read a lot. There are times when we read a little. There are times when we sing. There are times when we pray. It doesn’t happen every evening. But we shoot for it every evening.

I believe that such gatherings make a huge difference in the life of our family. Over my years of being a father, here’s what I also found. Family Worship never happens unless I initiate it And it takes work to initiate it. Calling everyone together means pulling them away from what they are doing. It takes a bit of tact and skill and persuasiveness to do such a thing. But, apart from my initiation, it plain doesn’t happen.

I believe that the constant gatherings that we have set a tone for the rest of our lives. It allows us to take it on the road at times. We were traveling on Friday night to a home Bible study. I brought along a stack of books. My daughter was driving and I was doing the reading out loud for all to hear. The things I read were catalysts for discussion. As I read, there were questions and comments and examples that someone had to share. At these moments, I stopped reading and we talked about it. We did this for half an hour, and we were far from out of material, seeing as I had brought along several books from which we might choose to read. I love these times together as a family to teach and train my children. And in the process, I’m edified as well.

I’m calling you men to take the initiative. If you aren’t gathering your family together for some sort of spiritual edification, you are missing God’s call upon your life. Deuteronomy 6 is a call for all of your fathers, who want to be spiritual fathers.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

But, beyond family worship with the entire family, there are also other ways to provide spiritual leadership. I constantly have a book that my wife and I are reading. It’s bedtime and she’s getting ready. And so, I often read to her until she climbs into bed. Then, we pray together. I also have a plan for my children. I have my older children on a ready program. If you want to find out more about it, come talk to me. To help, we are going to begin emailing out to the church body an email of what's coming at church. It will include the songs we will sing next week as well as what the children will be studying in next week's Children's Church. You can use this to start conversations with your families about these things.

The second way that you lead your family is by way of example. All of the teaching in the world will accomplish nothing if it’s not backed up by a life that makes God attractive. Too often, children can't hear a word that their parents are saying, because their lives are shouting too loudly!

You can pray. You can pray for them. You can pray with them, especially in times of difficulty. This past month, there have been a few occasions in my daughter's life that have been particularly demanding. And so, she and my wife and I have engaged in earnest prayer over these matters. Beyond praying, you can serve. Fathers, you should be a model servant in your home, putting Eph. 5:25 on display. You can love. There are many ways that you can show your love for your children.

Perhaps the greatest thing that you can do for your children is to model a marriage that makes the gospel attractive to your children. Fathers, how's your marriage? Here again the words of William Farley, ...

What is our marriage telling [our children] about Christ and his bride? They see it all. They hear our fights. They absorb our attitudes. They know who or what really sits on the throne of our lives. They watch how we handle resentment. They hear the way we talk to each other. They know when we hear the Sunday sermon and apply it. They also know when we ignore it.

The message that our marriage preaches either repels or attracts our children. God wants your child to watch your marriage and think, "I want a marriage like than, and I want the God that produced it." Or, "When I think of the beauty of the gospel, I think of my parents' marriage. I want to be part of a church that is loved by God the way my dad loves my mother. I want to be part of a church that finds its joy in submitting to Christ as my mother joyfully submits to my father." [6]

Does your marriage make the gospel look attractive or unattractive? When your children see your marriage, do they want to have a marriage like that? Or, are they repelled? I know of several children who have seen their parents' marriage and have said, "I'm never getting married!" Why do they say this? Because of the example of their parents. "If marriage means fighting and arguing and pain and crying and loneliness like I see, then I don't want it," they say. Such a marriage isn't commending the gospel to children.

Christian marriage preaches [the gospel]. ... It makes it either attractive or ugly. When a husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church, washing her with the Word, forgiving her, serving her, and tenderly leading her, his marriage says, "Christ loves his church. You can trust the Groom. He is infinitely loving. Serve him. You won't be disappointed." When a husband humbly loves a menopausal (or pre-menstrual) wife, his behavior says, "Christ loves the church even though she is sinful." His behavior tells his children, "Christ loves his bride even when she is unattractive." It says that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, even our failings.

But when a husband is unfaithful to his wife, verbally belittles her, loves her children more than her, or takes her for granted, his marriage says, "Christ's love is not that great. He loves us only when we perform. You can't trust this Savior. You can't meet his expectations. He doesn't keep his promises. Why serve a fickle despon?" His deeds say, "Many things can separate us from the love of Christ."

Wives also preach. When Mom joyfully submits to her husband "as to the Lord" (Eph. 5:22), recognizing that he is her head as Christ is the Head of the church, and that she is his body as the church is the body of Christ, it makes an attractive statement. When she does this for an unworthy husband, not because she trusts him, but because she trusts Christ to care for her, it points her children to Christ. Her behavior says, "Christ is trustowrthy." It says, "The Son of God is infinitely good. You can trust him. My father is very imperfect, but Mom trusts Christ to take care of her. If she can trust Jesus this way, I can also."

But when a wife tells her children to obey Christ, yet doesn't trust him enough to take care of her relationship with an imperfect husband, but seeks to control him, resists his authority, refuses to respect him, and declines to serve him, her actions speak loudly. They say, "The son of God cannot be trusted. He promises to exalt the humble, but I don't believe he will exalt me. He says he will take care of those who submit to lawful authority, but I don't really believe that. If I don't take care of myself, who will?" In most cases her children will internalize what she does, not what she says. [7]

May God give us such marriages that preach the gospel to our children!

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on June 20, 2010 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] You can read the article here: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-05-024-v.

[2] Confessions, 1:11:17.

[3] Confessions 1:11:18.

[4] John Newton. Out of the Depths, p. 22.

[5] William Farley. Gospel-Powered Parenting, pp.. 42-43. Much of the heart of my message this morning comes from this most excellent book. I highly commend it to you.

[6] Ibid. pp.110-111.

[7] Ibid. pp. 111-113.