What parent doesn’t want to enjoy parenting? Today AMBrewster discusses the positive side of joy and what Christian parents can do have the greatest joy a human can ever experience in this life.
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Welcome to 2018.
It’s kind of funny the way my mind works. Instead of celebrating the New Year, my brain likes to think about what people in the past would have thought about being alive in 2018. They probably would have been amazed by the technology and the music and architecture. And then my mind runs forward and imagines how silly and old-fashioned we’ll all look in a century.
But that’s the way it is. God has prescribed that you and I are to be alive right now. The past is not ours to influence and the future is not ours to live. All we can do is glorify God in the here and now.
But we can influence the future. We’re not called to leave our mark, we’re called to leave Christ’s. We’re here — if for nothing else — than to love God and to teach our children to do the same.
So here we are, and I’m so glad you’re with me now at the start of Season 5.
We have some big plans for this year. If you haven’t subscribed yet, I hope you will. Lord willing, we have a full year of discussions and studies and talks all about Christian parenting. And we get to plumb the depths of God’s Word to find the answers for our grief, the couplets for our questions, and the foundation of our joy.
And that’s what this short, two-part episode is all about. We’re here to talk about joy, and to discover how we can have it in our parenting.
Today we’re going to talk about the comfortable side of joy, and next time we’re going to discuss the painful side of joy.
It’s no secret, anyone who’s read the Bible knows that joy is attainable in every situation and circumstance of life. But the question is, “How?” — especially in the midst of family pain.
This is because it’s rarely the knowing that’s difficult. It’s the doing.
And, like we studied in episodes 95-101, our doing grows directly from the roots of our belief. What we believe, we do.
So, let’s start our new year on the best foot possible. Let’s discover how we can set ourselves and our families up for joy in the 2018 . . . or any year for that matter.
Today I want to delve into a familiar passage. In fact, some of you may have this verse displayed somewhere in your home.
It’s III John 1:4.
“III John 1:4?” you say. Yeah, you know the one: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
Let’s take a moment to break down this tiny verse.
First, it’s important to note that this seeming little verse about parenting is not the focus of the passage and isn’t even being spoken by a biological parent. In fact, it’s practically a parenthetical.
John starts this small, one-chapter letter with these words: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
The rest of the fifteen verse “book” discusses the difference between those who walk in Truth and those who don’t. So, this little exultation about joy is more like the beaming of a spiritual father than a principle or command.
However, the reality is that all born-again parents rejoice when their children walk in Truth.
So, let’s take this verse apart.
1. John says that he has no greater joy. Joy is a pure gladness, an exceeding happiness, a calm delight. But have you really thought about what John is saying? He’s talking about his greatest joy. The highest joy John can experience is this.
I don’t know about you, but I think about “the joy of my salvation” maybe should be a greater joy?
Is John saying that the one thing that brings him the most joy is that his spiritual children continue in the Truth of God?
That’s what he’s saying.
And John’s not the only one to talk like this. Paul told the Thessalonians that they were his glory and crown of boasting and joy. He told the Philippians they too were his joy and crown.
But I think it’s also important to acknowledge the motivation for their joy. In the same way the angels rejoice in God when a sinner repents, I believe a God follower is not merely taking joy in their child, but also in their God.
The context of each of these usages is clear that the joy is rooted in God’s Truth and flourishes with God’s enabling.
So, when you take the supreme, loving, amazing, Lord of all creation and see His marvelous Truth lived out in the lives of those to whom you are the closest and for whom you’ve invested the better part of your life . . . how can there be anything more magnificent?
So, I believe it’s important to notice, and we’ll touch on this again a little later, but this joy is not merely in my children. They are not the sole providers of joy. It’s a conditional joy, and the greatest condition is submission to God.
2. One of the conditions of this joy is easy to overlook. John says that he has no greater joy than when his children are “walking” in Truth. The word “walking” here refers to living in general; deporting oneself, being occupied with something, following after something.
This is not merely a child who assents to Truth, who likes Truth, who claims to follow Truth. This is a child who’s life is characterized by Truth.
Sure, she’s not perfect, but those who know her have a hard time seeing the faults for the Truth in her life.
Proverbs tells us that a faithful messenger is refreshing to those who send him, but James tells us that the double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Someone who occasionally walks in Truth, but who also spends time wallowing the darkness are not a joy. They’re grievous to their parents.
To be honest, I feel more comfortable with a consistent atheist than a vacillating Christian. I know where the atheist stands, but the double-minded Christian is very untrustworthy and unknowable.
3. And lastly we need to figure out what this Truth is. This passage — like so many others — is referring to real, authentic, genuine Truth. The realities of God without which the world would cease to exist.
John actually gives a snapshot of Truth and evil in the rest of the passage. John commends Gaius and his church for working hard to care for believers — even those who were strangers. This church sent them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. This church supported them as they went out to share the Truth of the Gospel with the Gentiles.
However, there was another guy there named Diotrephes who didn’t acknowledge the apostles authority, who spoke wicked nonsense about John, refused to welcome brothers, and also encouraged others to do the same.
This man was evil. He was not walking in Truth. John says in verse eleven, “ Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”
Walking in Truth refers to the double-edged blade of imitating God by doing what is consistent with His character and rejecting all that stands against His goodness.
Do you want joy in your parenting? Do you want to experience the greatest joy you will ever have in our earthly habitation?
We need to equip our children to walk in Truth.
We need to teach them of God’s Truth, model for them what it looks like to live in His Truth, train them to reject all that attacks God’s character.
To this end, Truth.Love.Parent. exists.
If you haven’t heard our previous episodes, I challenge you to do so. Start at the beginning if you must. These episodes are not tied to cultural shifts, headlines, or the ever-changing philosophies of our world. Every episodes if packed with God’s Word.
Listeners have written to me to tell me their favorite episodes, and they span from the beginning until now.
I could name a number, and I try to reference them for you when a former episode will help to broaden your understanding of a current subject, but for now I’d like to point you to episode 94, “Train Your Child to Stay with God.”
I referenced the importance of training your child. That particular episode discusses what training really is and will help you appreciate how training your child in Truth will result in the greatest joy imaginable.
You can also read over our episode notes which I’ve linked in the description. I pray they’re a blessing to you.
Today we talked about the joy that makes sense. And, Lord willing, our next episode will shed some light on joy that frequently doesn’t make sense.
How can we have joy when our children are not walking in Truth?
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Being a parent, both a physical and a spiritual parent affords us the greatest joy possible. But it will take work. It’s not a guarantee, and our greatest calling is to work to receive our greatest joy by helping our children walk in the Truth of God.
See you next time.
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