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Welcome to our final episode in our Circle of Learning Series, a continuation of our Teach Your Children to Learn Series.
I want to jump right in today, so don’t forget to follow us on social media for daily Biblical Parenting encouragement, and be sure to check out TruthLoveParent.com for all of the episode notes, transcripts, and resources for teaching your kids to learn and think in Christ-honoring ways.
Today we’re going to talk about how your family can have the fear of the Lord at the center of your Circle of Learning.
We need to start by recognizing two things:
Let’s look at the first one.
If your child isn’t engaging with The Circle of Learning — this means that they dislike acquiring knowledge, the refuse to deepen their understanding of the knowledge they have, and/or they have a bunch of information, but they don’t use it in their lives . . . they are not fearing the Lord as they should.
We’re going to look at various passages today that clearly teach that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. And we’ve already seen how a good student is not going to stop with the mere acquisition of knowledge; they’re going to seek understanding, and then they’re going to use what they know and understand in their life.
If someone truly fears the Lord, they will be moving around the Circle.
Of course, we recognize that moving around the Circle is not the same for everyone. Everyone has different amounts of information and different levels of understanding. And — because of that — if your two different children are using their two different levels of knowledge and understanding wisely in their lives, they will exercise more or less wisdom accordingly. And that’s fine as long as they’re each growing and doing their best.
But — the point is — they will be cycling through all three parts of the Circle if they fear the Lord.
To refuse to engage with any part of The Circle of Learning is an indicator that the fear of the Lord is not present.
So, stop for a moment and ask yourself these questions,
Now let me explain why you’re asking these questions. If you say, “Yes, all five of my kids love learning and put their knowledge to use in their lives,” that does not mean they fear the Lord. We’ll talk about them in a minute.
Right now, we’re asking the aforementioned questions because we’re not looking for the people who are good students, we’re looking for the ones who aren’t.
This is going to help you in your parenting because it will help you see past the superficial fruit and recognize the deeper root problem in the heart.
People who don’t cycle through The Circle of Learning have a worship problem. They don’t fear the Lord as they should.
If you’re familiar with our foundational parenting series called The Merest Christianity, then you recognize that what your child believes about God, His Word, and themselves is infinitely more important than the grades they’re getting at school.
So, first we need to orient ourselves that our kids are not God-fearing followers of Christ when they consistently and unchangingly refuse to learn, understand, and live accordingly. And this is true of Didactic learning that they get in school as well as Divine learning that they receive from the Scriptures.
In fact, you may have a child that regularly zips around the Circle in an area of study they really enjoy. Maybe it’s math or sports or speech, but when it comes to the things of God, they don’t even like the knowledge step. That child does not fear the Lord.
And the same is true for kids who seem to really like church and the things of God, but they refuse to participate in school, are getting worse at their chores, and won’t submit to their coach. Despite their apparent love for God, they’re not using His Truth in their lives and are therefore not being wise. And — if they’re not being wise — they’re not fearing the Lord.
So, 1. No one in your family fears the Lord if they aren’t using The Circle of Learning.
2. Your family isn’t necessarily fearing the Lord just because they are using The Circle of Learning.
I’ve already introduced this idea last time and touched on it today, but it bears repeating because there are too many parents whose kids are good students, get better at mowing the lawn every time they do it, and excel in their jobs — and their parents think that all of that is evidence of their child’s spiritual maturity.
And, yes, it’s true — the child may fear the Lord, but they may also be cycling through The Didactic Circle of Learning in their own power and for their own glory.
So, how can we know if they’re using The Circle of Learning in the fear of the Lord or not?
The real test as to whether or not your family member fears the Lord is not that they use the Didactic Circle, it’s how they function within The Circe of Divine Learning.
A Christian absolutely will grow and mature in every facet of their lives as they fear the Lord. That includes cooking and public speaking and soccer and music and everything they do to the best of their ability to the honor and glory of God.
But unsaved people can grow and mature in those same areas and still hate God.
That means that we can only recognize the fear of the Lord in our kids as we observe them knowing, understanding, and submitting to Him in their lives.
Therefore, we must deepen our understanding of our kids. We must neither assume our kids love God even though they fight the Circle at every turn, nor should we assume they fear God simply because they embrace the Circle at every turn.
Now, before I get into the meat of today’s episode, there’s one burning question some of you have in your minds.
“Yes, but Aaron, what about my child’s learning disability?”
We can’t take the time to do this answer any justice, so allow me to reiterate that I am not saying that all children learn the same way and at the same speed.
I’m also not suggesting that a legitimate learning disability won’t make the acquisition of knowledge more difficult.
But I can say that God commands us to have joy in our trials and peace in our struggles and contentment in our labors.
That means that your child may legitimately struggle with math, and it may also mean that math is not your child’s favorite thing to do. But a born again child of God who fears the Lord is still going to do their best in His power, and they’re not going to gripe and complain and refuse to do their work, and they’re not going to fight the process.
All of that is a sign of spiritual immaturity and is an indicator that the child is not fearing God.
Okay, let’s review and then jump into the meat of today’s study.
Anyone can and should be able to learn truth and then grow in their understanding of that truth. As they learn it and understand it, they should start living in the light of that truth.
And a person has been created by God to do this even if they aren’t a Christian.
But the only way we can truly fulfill all of our God-given potential and live up to our divine calling to be worshipers of Christ is to root our Circle of Learning in the fear of the Lord.
Only then does our learning and living genuinely glorify God as well as truly benefit us.
Alright, today we’re going to see what Proverbs says about the fear of the Lord, but we’re going to sample other books as well.
In fact, the very first mention of the fear of God comes from the book of Job. Job is the oldest book in the cannon, and in the very first chapter Satan asks the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan was trying to insinuate that Job only feared God because of all the blessing the Lord had given Him. Of course, we learn that was not true.
And the first time fear of the Lord is used in the Scriptures is also in Job. In chapter 28, verse 28 while speaking of God, Job says, “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.’”
The ultimate wisdom — the ability to live life the best way possible — comes only from fearing the Lord.
But before we talk about its benefits, we need to define what it means to fear God.
1. The Nature of the Fear of the Lord
The Hebrew word most often translated “fear” in the “fear of God/the Lord” has two main ideas wrapped up in it.
On one hand the worreferred simply to dread and extreme fear. In Psalm 55:4-5 we read, “My heart is in anguish within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5 Fear and trembling come upon me, And horror has overwhelmed me.”
That’s our word, “fear.”
On the other hand, the word was used to refer to reverence and awe.
In Psalm 5:7 David says, “But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You.”
And both of these ideas are tied up in the concept of what it means to fear the Lord.
Without taking too much time, allow me to step us through the process.
A. As an unbeliever, there should be nothing scarier to us than the Living God. If we live in defiance to Him, we will receive the consequences of that choice both now and for all eternity.
Of course, God is also loving and gracious — I don’t want to downplay that — but the reality of Hell and judgement and the wrath of God is a legitimately fearful thing.
So, then the Holy Spirit works in us and B. As a believer we learn the revere God in holy awe.
Now I’m not afraid of God’s wrath. I’m not afraid of His judgement, but I am in absolute awe as to His grace and mercy and long-suffering and kindness and the immeasurable riches He daily pours on me as a child of God.
However, it doesn’t stop there. We don’t just substitute dread for reverence. There is still an element of dread within the fear of the Lord.
Allow me to illustrate it this way. I would hate to forget my wife’s or my children’s birthdays. I absolutely do not want to fail my family. I love them so much and value them so much that I would hate to let them down.
Do I fear failing them because of how they’re going to respond? If I fail them, they’ll torture me? No. I actually fear failing them because I value them so much.
My response to God is far greater.
As a follower of Christ, I’m not afraid of God; I’m afraid of displeasing God.
In I Corinthians 9:27 Paul puts it this way, “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
He did not want to fail his God.
So, to fear the Lord is to respect and admire Him so much because He’s so amazing and we’re afraid to displease Him.
And the fact that God commands us to fear Him makes our zeal that much more intense.
2. God Expects us to Fear Him
Proverbs 3:7, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
There are three commands here. 1. Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Don’t be delusional. Don’t have mere Didactic Wisdom. 2. Fear the Lord, and 3. Turn away from evil.
What’s interesting is that you can’t do one of those without the others. If you’re wise in your own eyes, you’re not doing the other two. If you’re biblically turning away from evil, that is a result of fearing the Lord and not leaning on your own understanding.
Proverbs 23:17 says, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, But live in the fear of the Lord always.” Not only does God expect that we do it, He expects that we do it all the time.
But the Old Testament isn’t the only place that demands that we fear God.
I Peter 2:17 tells us, “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”
And Revelation 14:7 reads, “And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7 and he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.’”
From the first book of the Bible ever written to the book that details the beginning of eternity, God commands everyone everywhere to fear Him.
Allow this to really shine a light on your own priorities for your family. Nowhere does the Bible say that we absolutely need to become successful doctors or play forward on our high school soccer team or get that scholarship or work that job.
Yes, we’re to do our best and all of that, but God expressly commands us to fear Him, to love Him, to obey Him, to submit to Him, and to sacrifice our very lives to Him.
Is that the single most important desire you have for your kids?
I had someone forward me a clip of a comedian named Mekki Leeper. Now, listen, you don’t want to follow this guy or listen to his comedy. He’s very crass and discusses a ton of vile things.
This particular clip was sent to me though because of the unique perspective he had on parenting, and I want you to listen to it.
Don’t worry, there’s nothing obscene in this short clip.
Mekki Leeper: “It was weird growing up in a house with two religions. You know, my mom was muslim, and my dad was Christian. And instead of forcing one on me like you’re supposed to with your child, they’re like, ‘Nah, it’ll be fine. We’ll just let him pick. C’mon Mek. It’s about time. After all, you are eight. Sure, you can’t choose what you wear or what you eat, but ‘creator of the known universe?’ That’s all you, baby. Roll the dice. No pressure, one of us has to be wrong, so, why don’t you come home after little league and denounce one of your parent’s beliefs. That will be character building, I think.’ I left all that behind, though, moved out here — big atheist now. Praise, Space X or whatever we’re doing.”
And now couple that with this view from a very famous atheist known as Penn Jillette. In 5 minute video which I’ll link in the description of today’s show, Penn talks about a Christian man who gave him a Bible. Penn was very respectful of this particular man for many reasons espoused in the video. But then he says something really amazing about the practice of proselytizing. To proselytize is to share your beliefs with another person in such a way that you’re trying to persuade them to believe the same as you.
Penn said, “I’ve always said I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell and that people could be goin to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that ‘It’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward’ — atheists that think that people shouldn’t proselytize, ‘Just leave me alone — keep your religion to yourself’ — how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it — that truck was bearing down on you — there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And [eternal life] is more important than that.”
So, let me ask you, parent . . . how much do you have to hate your kids to believe that the most important thing in the whole world is to fear the Lord, and you don’t proselytize your kid — you don’t make it your life’s mission to persuade them that there is nothing more vital to their existence than to know and acknowledge and submit to the God of the universe?
In the words of an atheist, “How much do you have to hate [your kid]?”
The very core of biblical parenting is a parent who follows Christ and does his very best to convince his children to genuinely follow Christ too.
I’m not talking about manipulation, I’m not taking about behavior management, I’m talking about evangelism and discipleship.
But the problem is that we too often take all of our talk time with our kids discussing sports and grades and chores and friends and entertainment, but we rarely discuss how the fear of the Lord must not only be the most important aspect of all of that, it must be the very root of all of it.
And we do this primarily because we do not fear the Lord as we should.
II Corinthians 5:11 says, “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.”
So, part of the reason we will persuade our kids to fear the Lord is that God is worth it, and the other reason we do it is we believe . . .
3. There are Consequences for Not Fearing the Lord
Romans 3:10-18, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one. 13 Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving, The poison of asps is under their lips; 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16 Destruction and misery are in their paths, 17 And the path of peace they have not known. 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
And never forget the words of Romans 1:18-32. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them . . . . For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
These passages show the results of people who know and understand certain divine truths, but they don’t wisely live in the reality of them because they have chosen not to fear the Lord.
And the consequences are so sad.
So we convince our kids to fear God because He’s worth it and because of the consequences if we don’t, but also because . . .
4. The Blessings of Fearing the Lord
These verses are powerful in that they contrast the blessings of the fear of the Lord with even more consequences of despising Him.
Proverbs 10:27, “The fear of the Lord prolongs life, But the years of the wicked will be shortened.”
Proverbs 14:26-27, “In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, And his children will have refuge. 27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, That one may avoid the snares of death.”
Proverbs 15:16, “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord Than great treasure and turmoil with it.”
Proverbs 16:6, “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.”
Proverbs 19:23, “The fear of the Lord leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”
Proverbs 22:4, “The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord Are riches, honor and life.”
Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”
And consider Acts 9:31, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.”
We will never experience any lasting, genuine, and worthwhile spiritual success in this life if we do not fear God.
Some sub-points of the blessings of fearing God include . . .
A. The Fear of the Lord Helps Us Learn Better
Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 1:29, “Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord.”
When our kids start with the fear of the Lord, they will approach learning very differently. This is why so many kids who don’t fear the Lord hate learning. Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
But also . . .
B. The Fear of the Lord Helps Us Understand Better
Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
And Psalm 111:10 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.”
And this is why . . .
C. The Fear of the Lord Helps Us Live Better
Proverbs 9:10 again, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Proverbs 15:33, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.”
Our kids may have Didactic Wisdom without fearing God. They may put a man on mars or transplant a heart, but they will lose their souls if they don’t fear God. They need Divine Wisdom, and that only comes from the fear of the Lord.
But — in all of this — we’re also going to have to teach our kids that . . .
5. The Fear the Lord Requires Work
This is where proselytizing really starts.
It’s one thing to share the facts, the benefits, and the consequences. It’s another to actually teach our kids how to fear the Lord.
We’ve read Proverbs 2:2-5 many times now: “My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, 2 Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; 3 For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; 4 If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will discern the fear of the Lord And discover the knowledge of God.”
We need to teach our kids how to search for the knowledge and understanding, that will result in the wise application of the fear of the Lord.
The Hebrew word for “seek” refers to searching, investigating, begging, and even demanding.
We need to teach our kids how to be so passionate for the will of God that they demand to know more so they can understand better so they can live more holy lives.
But — I’ll tell you this — they won’t even think to live that way if they’re not seeing it demonstrated in us.
If we don’t need it, why do they?
But if they see our passion and our spiritual maturity and our spiritual successes in Christ, that will be a much more persuasive argument for the fear of the Lord.
Therefore, we must model for them and teach them that . . .
A. To fear the Lord we must turn away from evil.
We must not tolerate evil in our homes. Any and all sin — the Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, the Pride of Life, sins of omission, sins of commission, highhanded sins of rebellion, naive sins of ignorance — we must turn from it all. No sin is okay. We don’t excuse it, we don’t lie about it, we don’t tolerate it, we mortify it.
Proverbs 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
The fear of the Lord is not only going to cause me to turn away from the evil outside of me, it will cause me to turn away from the evil inside of me.
This includes our natural fleshly beliefs, thoughts, desires, feelings, actions, and words.
Proverbs 8:13 is really powerful: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.”
Do we hate pride and arrogance, perverted mouths and evil ways?
We don’t have time to talk about godly hatred, so I encourage you to listen to the 10 Things All Parents Should Hate Series. Not only will you learn about other things you and your kids should hate as you learn to fear the Lord, you will also learn about godly hatred
Listen, godly hatred is not unloving. It’s not hateful. Hating evil does not excuse rudeness and wickedness and being a jerk and arrogance and the like.
Since we don’t have time, make sure you check out that series. I’ve linked it in the description.
But not only are we to turn away from evil in the form of behavior, we must also turn away from the people who are evil.
Proverbs 24:21, “My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not associate with those who are given to change.”
The idea of being given to change refers to inconsistency — people who don’t act faithfully and persevere in righteousness.
And this admonishment has to start with Proverbs 23:17, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, But live in the fear of the Lord always.”
If I fear God, I’m not going to envy people who don’t fear God.
Now, we’ve talked a lot about influence on this show. So, I’ll include some resources in the show notes about how we can teach our kids to fear God in their relationships with other people.
But turning from evil will always be incomplete if we do not also go the opposite direction.
B. To fear the Lord we must turn to righteousness.
Turning from sin to the Savior, turning from evil to righteousness, is known as repentance.
But so often we tell our kids what not to do without equipping them to do the right thing well. We tell our kids not to hit their siblings, and we may even tell them to be nice, but that’s a really hard thing to do when my sibling is being a huge jerk.
What does it take to really respond correctly to a thieving, rude, slanderous, impatient, unloving sibling?
Too often we leave that part out.
I encourage you to check out our Parent’s 5 Jobs Series on which we just expanded. The Counseling/Correction stage is so incredibly important, and yet so often not accomplished in our homes.
But we need to help our kids do it because Proverbs 14:2 says, “He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, But he who is devious in his ways despises Him.”
What does it look like to walk in uprightness? Well, the Bible has a lot to say about that, and God wants us to help our kids do it.
And consider II Corinthians 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
That is the grand and glorious end of what it is to fear God — perfecting holiness.
If we’re fearing God, we’ll be growing in our holiness. If we’re not growing in holiness, we’re not fearing God.
Do your kids hate The Circle of Learning? Then they need to learn to fear the Lord.
Are your kids moving their way around the Didactic Circle of Learning but not really engaging with the Divine Circle of Learning? Then they too need to understand the fear of the Lord.
And we need to teach it to them.
We need to teach them the biblical nature of fearing God, we need to communicate to them that God expects them to fear Him, we need to carefully explain the consequences of not fearing God, we need to also share the blessings that come from revering Him, and we need to practically teach our kids how to turn from evil and to righteousness as they pursue the fear of the Lord.
By the way, if you have a question you’d like answered or scenario you’d like discussed on the show — perhaps what it may look like to practically help a child turn away from a specific sin and toward the righteousness of God — then please send your question or parenting struggle to TeamTLP@TruthLoveParent.com.
And if you would like a faster and more personal response, you can send those same questions and struggles to counselor@TruthLoveParent.com.
Now, allow me to bring this series to a temporary close by reading Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”
Let’s work though this passage backwards.
Whether our kids are living righteously or wickedly, even if it’s hidden from your eyes, God is going to judge it. And there’s not a single person who has or will ever live who can escape this reality.
Therefore, we must fear God and keep His commandments.
Those are completely indivisible realities. If we fear God, we will keep His commandments. If we’re not keeping His commandments, we’re not fearing God.
In the same way, a person who fears the Lord will learn and understand and live accordingly. But a person who refuses to learn and understand and live accordingly absolutely is not fearing God.
Thank you for your patience today as we complete — for now — this huge discussion, and I hope you’ll join us next time as we once again open God’s Word to discover how to parent our children for life and godliness.
To that end, we’ll be discussing where we’ve been and where we’re going.
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