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Equipping Our Children for the Father’s Glory

by Amos Kwok. Delivered on 28 September 2008 at KKMC

When I was given the opportunity to speak today, I accepted eagerly. This is
because equipping children for the Father’s glory is a subject very close to my
heart. I want to share with you some things I’ve learnt both from teaching
Sunday School and from bringing up my own sons. For those of you who aren’t
parents or who aren’t bringing up young children, what I have to share is still
relevant because it applies to everyone’s lives.

I want to begin by first asking why glorify God? Then I want talk about what it
means to glorify the Father.

I. Glorifying the Father

Why glorify God?


This may sound like an obvious question but let’s take a moment to think about
it. Isn’t it enough that we believe in Jesus and trust him for our salvation and that
we acknowledge him as our Lord? Why do we need to make such a big deal out of
this? The simple reason is because we were all made to glorify him. God created
us for this very purpose. I think we sometimes forget this. We keep thinking
about “What’s in it for me,” when the truth is that we should ask, “How can I
make God the Father better known?”

When a carpenter wants to shape a piece of wood, what does he use? He might
take a flat screwdriver and chip away at the wood. Or he might take a cheese
knife and try to cut through the wood. Will that work? He’d probably make some
dents and probably end up ruining the cheese knife and the screwdriver.

But say he hands over the cheese knife to the chef. The chef can use it to slice
cheese beautifully. And the screwdriver is best used to drive in screws. The
cheese knife would be so much happier when it was doing what it was designed
to do. The screwdriver would be so much happier when it was doing what it was
made for.

Likewise, we and our children would find so much more meaning and joy in our
lives if we do what we were designed to do: glorify God! So many people ask,
“What’s the meaning of life? I’m bored. My life has no purpose.” That’s because
they’re not doing what they were made for. We don’t want our children to have
meaningless lives so we need to teach them that they were designed to glorify
God.

The Bible states this truth very clearly in

Isaiah 43:7, “…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my


glory, whom I formed and made."
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How to glorify God


So what does it mean to glorify the Father? Let’s turn to Romans 11:36.

"All things are from him and through him and to him, to him be glory for
ever."

And it says in Hebrews 2:20, “All things exist for him and by him.”

To put it simply, the Bible is saying that God is the central reality in the universe.
Everything was made by him. Everything is made for him. We humans often act
like we are the centre of the universe. We live in the ‘me’ generation. And that is
deadly wrong.

To glorify God simply means we spend our lives making him our ultimate
treasure. We are to be flashing sign posts, pointing to God as the most valuable
and precious thing in the entire universe. When people see us, they should see
God. We worship him in everything we do, we give him praise in all our words
and deeds, and we are obedient to him in every aspect of our lives. That’s
glorifying him.

It’s not about a stable income, or being a regular churchgoer or doing social
service. It’s really about spending an entire lifetime, glorifying him and then after
that, being glorified with him in heaven.

In order to teach our children how to glorify God, there are two things we need
to do. The first is to teach them who the Father is. The second is to give them a
God-confidence or God-esteem.

1. Know the Father


Let’s talk about teaching our children about God. We must teach our children
who he is, what he has done in history and what he promises to do. We teach our
children that God is the creator-owner of the world and that is good. We teach
them that God made all of us and that is true. We tell our children that God loves
us and that is wonderful. But you know, that’s only half the story. The Bible says
in Psalm 34:11,

“Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”

Do we teach our children to fear the Lord? I’m not just talking about respect for
God or an acknowledgement of his authority. I’m saying, are we scared of the
holy God? Are we afraid—we mortal sinful creatures—of the sovereign God who
will punish all evil and sin and unrighteousness? Do we teach our children this
fear?

Fear the Lord


Oh come on, some of you are saying, why scare the kids like that? That’s terrible.
I want them to love God, not be afraid of him. But that’s the problem! We don’t
teach children to fear God anymore. We teach them that God is love, that he will
forgive our sins, that he wants the best for us. All true.
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But children need to learn about the God who cannot tolerate sin, who cannot
tolerate his name being tarnished, who will not allow anyone or anything to take
the glory that rightfully belongs to him. Do we teach that to our children?

Do we teach our kids that they are doomed for hell and only by God’s grace can
they be saved? Do we tell our children that?

It is right for us to teach our children this fear. In fact, it is necessary.

There once was a little boy who had no fear or respect for his parents’ authority.
He was disobedient, and he was hard to control. Then at Sunday School, his
teachers started teaching his class about God’s character. The teachers showed
him how God was loving but God also was a judge who would punish people for
their sins. He was taught about God keeping a record of everything and how all
people would have to answer for their entire life’s worth of deeds and thoughts.
That scared the boy. He realized he would have to answer to God. This
realization brought a change in his behaviour.

Instead of being disobedient, he would say, “Oh, you mean it’s wrong of me to do
that? Okay, I’ll try not to do that anymore.” He was shown who the Father was
and that brought about wisdom. Indeed,

Psalm 111:10a says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

If we want our children to be wise, they need to have a fear of the Lord. It’s that
simple.

Our children and indeed, we ourselves need to understand the following points:

• God is holy and righteous.


• All men are sinful.
• God hates sin and will punish sinners.
• God created the lake of fire as a fitting punishment for sinners.
• God is also a God of love.
• God shows his mercy to us while we were yet sinners by sending his Son to
pay for our sins.
• Then he imputes into us his righteousness so that we can be made right and
become friends of God.

That’s the Gospel. The wrath of God satisfied and the love of God saving us.

If these truths don’t make our spine tingle; if these don’t make us drop to our
knees and say, “All glory is yours, heavenly Father”; if these truths don’t make us
break out into a cold sweat once in a while; if these truths don’t make us want to
shout, “Hallelujah! That’s my God!”; then, we need to ask ourselves, “What kind of
a God do I trust in?”
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2. Living with a God confidence


The second thing we need to teach our children in order for them to be able to
glorify God is to teach them to have God-confidence.

1 Peter 5:5b says, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble”.

Do you know what sin is? Sin is anything that takes away God’s glory. And the
chief sin is pride. Pride was what made Lucifer think he could be like God and
lead a rebellion against him. And God cast him out of heaven and called him
Satan.

Pride was what made Adam believe he could live his own life and be apart from
God. So he rebelled and took the fruit and ate. And God cast him out of the
Garden and called him enemy.

God opposes the proud but favours the humble


The Biblical truth is that we can do nothing apart from God. We may think we
have done it ourselves, but that’s a delusion. So many people in the world today,
Christians included, are full of self-confidence. They think they have the brains,
the willpower, the money, the skill, the looks, the talent to make it on their own
apart from God.

And then they find out they cannot and their lives are destroyed. I cringe when I
see training courses that aim to teach our children self-confidence and self-
esteem. Such thinking is sin and foolishness!

We should be teaching our children to build up their God-confidence and God-


esteem.

Once, one of my sons did something naughty and we had to punish him. He felt so
bad about what he’d done, he pouted and cried to me and said, “I’m a bad boy.”

I sat him on my lap and cuddled him and said, “Yes you are. We are all bad, we’re
all sinners and it is in our nature to do bad things. That’s because we have a bad
heart. We cannot help but sin.

“There is only one who is good. That is God and it is only through his power and
with his help that we can become good. The Holy Spirit works on our bad heart and
makes it better, until we are like Jesus. Trust God to make your heart good.”

Our son listened and understood and after we prayed, he bounded off to play
with renewed hope and joy that he does not have to rely on himself. Rather, he
only needs to rely and trust God to make him who God wants him to be.

Now he doesn’t need self-confidence. He has God-confidence.

Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in
you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
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What good news! What amazing reassurance from God. Trust God and don’t rely
on yourselves. God himself promises to make you over. The ultimate makeover. If
our children understand this, then their will live with joy their whole lives. Don’t
you want that joy for them? They do not have to rely on themselves and carry
their own burdens. God will do it for them.

Does this mean our children will never face failed marriages or disappointments?
Does this mean they will never lose a job or get their hearts broken or face
cancer? No, it does not. But with a God-confidence, they will never lose hope.
They will continually look to God for deliverance and they will find it. They will
never lose their joy, even in the midst of pain. The joy of the Lord is their
strength.

II. Nurture the Heart


So the first part of glorifying the Father is to teach our children to know the
Father and to have a God-confidence. The second aspect of equipping is
nurturing the heart.

Let me tell you a story that I had read in a book called “Grace-based parenting”,
by Dr Tim Kimmel.

Dr Kimmel’s church had Sunday evening services and there was once a picnic
before service. As the adults were packing up after the picnic, someone empty all
the ice from the coolers into a pile at the corner of the church grounds.

Now the kids all gathered around and took off their shoes and socks and were
trudging through the ice. But one particular boy wasn’t content to just step on
the ice. He asked all the other kids to stand back and he ran at the pile of ice and
slid headfirst into it. The other kids clapped and cheered and so the boy did it
again and again. He was soaked from head to toe and was covered in grass.

His parents were so embarrassed and worried about what the parents might
think of their kid’s upbringing. So the dad took the boy aside and told him not to
slide in the ice anymore and as punishment, he would go to Sunday School in his
wet clothes.

Then the parents turned to Dr. Kimmel and asked for his opinion.

Dr Kimmel asked, “Was your son being mean to the other children or not
allowing them to also play in the ice?”

The father said, “No.”

“Was there a moral or relational issue that he was disregarding? In other words,
was there anything actually wrong with what he was doing? Had you told him
earlier not to do it?”

The mother said, “No, I can’t say he was doing anything wrong, other than getting
his clothes wet.”
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“Were these play clothes that were allowed to get dirty and wet?”

Both parents nodded.

“Is his personality type such that he likes to make people laugh and tends to play
very hard?”

Both parents said, “Absolutely!”

Dr. Kimmel said, “So he was acting within his personality type and you didn’t like
it because you are both much more reserved and you felt he reflected poorly on
you even though he really wasn’t doing anything wrong?”

Both parents nodded.

Do you see what Dr. Kimmel was driving at? Now, he wasn’t advocating raising
out-of-control, over-the-top kids. But he was pointing out something to the
parents. They were more concerned about their son’s external behaviour, rather
than what was going on inside his heart.

As parents, we want to bring up well-behaved, model citizens who have good


jobs, good standing in society, who go to church regularly and read their Bibles
daily and pray to God whenever they run into problems.

We spend a lot of time teaching our children how to behave. We teach them right
from wrong. We tell them Bible stories and ask them to pray. We do a good job
controlling their outward behaviour.

But what about what’s going on inside their hearts? We have all heard horror
stories of how well-behaved kids suddenly rebel against their parents when they
hit their teens. Or we may have overheard well-behaved children bad-mouthing
their parents.

How could this have happened?

It is precisely because we’re so focused on their exterior. As Asians, having face is


a big deal and we do our very best to get good behaviour from our children.
That’s like putting the cart before the horse.

What does the Jesus say about this?

Luke 6:43-45 says, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad
tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not
gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the
evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of
the heart his mouth speaks.
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Did you hear what Jesus is saying? He is focusing on what drives all our actions:
our heart. What’s in our heart? Is it good or is it evil? What is in our heart
determines what we say, how we act, how we live. People will see us by our fruit.
And what kind of fruit we produce will depend completely on what’s inside our
hearts.

Danger of over-focusing on outward behaviour


But what’s the harm of focusing on the outward behavior? We need to teach
socially acceptable behaviour, right? Yes, but if we neglect the heart, a deeper
problem will result.

Isaiah 29:13
The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor
me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is
made up only of rules taught by men.”

Little hypocrites
When we do a good job of focusing on the outward behavior and not enough on
what is in our children’s hearts, we will eventually get children who know how to
behave properly on the outside, who know the right thing to say and do, but their
actions are just that… an act. We end up breeding little hypocrites.

So I’ve learnt to stop controlling the externals. I try to see things from God’s
perspective. When I see my child doing something I don’t like, before I take any
action, I stop and these questions:

1. Is what he has done biblically or morally wrong?


2. Are his actions harming anyone or himself?
3. In the light of eternity, does it matter?

If the answers are no, then I need drop it and just let my son be.

However, if I feel that something my child has done is really wrong, then I will
focus on the heart issue and not on the external.

For example, when two of my boys are fighting over a toy, my usual tactic is to
stop them and ask them who had the toy first. Then I’ll decide maybe the second
kid should really wait his turn and back off or did the first kid play with the toy
too long and he should really hand it over to his brother.

That’s the external way of dealing with a problem. What did I just teach my sons?
Whoever snatches first gets the toy! And woe to him who is slow.

I’ve learnt that a better way is to stop them and ask:

If Jesus were here right now, what do you think he would say about this? Didn’t he
show us love by giving up his life for us and now here’s your chance to do the same.
You can show love to your brother by not considering yourself first but consider
him first. What do you think you could do to make your brother feel loved?
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And I let that thought linger and then ask them what they think they should do to
resolve the problem. Nine times out of ten, they would agree on how to share the
toy or one of them would go find some other toy to play with. I didn’t control
their behaviour, I shepherded their hearts.

And that’s what I wanted to share with you this morning. I have much more to
say if I had more time, but I’ll stop here. The two thoughts I want to leave with
you is 1) teach your children to fear the Lord and thus teach them to have God-
confidence and God-esteem. And 2) nurture their hearts rather than control their
behaviour.

I want to close by telling you the dangers of not equipping our children properly.
I want to show you what happens if we just teach our children to go through the
motions of being a Christian.

Matthew 13:47-50
47 “…The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and

gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat
down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it
will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil
from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place
there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Here, Jesus isn’t talking about non-believers mixed in with believers. The net is
the kingdom of heaven. In other words, Jesus is talking about everyone who is
supposedly on the way to the heaven. But what happens? The fishermen sort
through the fish. The good fish are kept and the bad ones are thrown into the
fiery furnace.

Do you know what that means? There are people in church, claiming to be
Christians, who tithe regularly and do everything by what the Bible says and yet,
they will be cast out to the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
These people had every outward appearance of being Christian but in fact, they
are not. I don’t want my kids to be bad fish. I don’t want to be a bad fish. So I try
not to focus on the exterior. I try to focus on the heart. I try to focus on who God
is. I want to build in myself and in my kids the fear of the Lord and also a God-
confidence. Then we can begin to live the way that God designed us for, i.e., to
glorify God with our lives.

Ultimately, we realize that while we do our best to teach ourselves and our kids,
it’s the Holy Spirit who does the work.

So we humble ourselves, reminding ourselves that God, through the Holy Spirit is
the one who shapes our children. And that is a good thing. It gives me hope and
confidence that we will indeed succeed in equipping our children for the Father’s
glory.