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I’m your host AMBrewster, and today we’re continuing the conversation about punishment and consequences that we started last week.
If you missed Part 1 of this study, please start with that one, and then I’ll meet you back here.
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Alright, so if we’re not supposed to punish our kids, but God does want us to give them consequences, then we need to make sure we understand the nature of consequences and sin.
Last time we learned that consequences are simply the necessary reaction to every action. And we learned that they exist for two important reasons.
The first of which is that consequences make existence possible. Not only would we not be able to accomplish anything if consequences didn’t exist, but we also wouldn’t be able to survive. For example, we would die if the action of inhaling didn’t actually bring air into our lungs.
And this reality of consequences is the inescapable. It’s impossible to do, say, feel, think, or believe something without there being consequences.
But there’s another God-designed purpose for consequences in which we often don’t participate. God created consequences to teach.
When we act and then experience the necessary reaction, God expects that we be discerning and wise enough to be able to determine if the reaction was biblically valuable or not. In the event that the reaction was biblically bad, then God desires for us to learn from that experience and avoid the action that produced the negative reaction.
Now, I hope you caught how carefully I just spoke. I talked about things that were “biblically” valuable or not.
If someone were to interpret the persecution they received because of their strong Christin witness as being a “bad” reaction that should be avoided, then they won’t do the things God has commanded them to do. But God doesn’t say that experiencing persecution is bad or should be actively avoided at all costs.
If someone were to selfishly interpret the praise they receive from the world when they reject God’s truth as a good thing, they’re missing the lesson God has for them. Psalm 12:7 says that wicked people praise what is evil. James 4:4 says that friendship with the world is enmity with God.
And the list goes on.
Therefore, in order to truly learn from our consequences the lesson God wants us to learn, we absolutely must submit to God’s view of what is good and bad, valuable and not valuable.
However, when it comes to biblically understanding the consequences that come into our lives, I’m going to assume that we — as the parents — are already determined to interpret life through the lens of God’s Word, and we’re desperately trying to teach our kids to do the same.
If that’s not you, then I strongly implore you to recognize that no interpretation of life — no worldview — that disagrees with God will ever end in anything other than destruction.
You, I, and our kids must submit to the Creator and King of the universe. He created it, He’s in charge of it, He knows best what is right and wrong, good and bad, truth and lies.
Now, today’s topic is about what I call the Primary Consequences of Sin, and next time I plan to discuss the Secondary Consequences of Sin. But in order to appreciate how the two relate, we’re going to need to start by pulling way, way out and looking at . . .
1. The Nature of Actions and Reactions
We Christians understand that everything in this life is a result of God’s initial actions. God is the only entity in the cosmos Whose existence is not a consequence of anything else. Nothing made Him. Nothing informs Him. Nothing provides Him anything He needs. He’s the original first actor.
Everything that comes after that is a reaction to His action. So, in one way or another, everything is a consequence of all of God’s sovereign actions.
But, it’s very important for us to realize that each reaction in the world can also be seen as an action having its own reaction. Then the subsequent reactions to the reactions are actions in and of themselves — which by definition — require their own reactions.
Sometimes the chain of reactions slowly deescalates into nearly imperceptible cause and effect, but often the chain of reactions grows with intensity as it spirals into the future.
This is why some choices have generational impact and others have eternal impact.
Therefore, it’s important for us and our kids to understand that every action is a reaction with a consequential ripple-effect that not only tends to travel for quite some time into the future, but also flows backward on itself.
To be honest, it can be complicated, and my brain has come to the point of frying on more than one occasion as I’ve studied and contemplated it.
But I want to present these truths in the most straightforward way possible. Eventually, we need to teach our kids these concepts, so I want to make them accessible. Just please understand that this will require that I simplify a lot of very theological, existential, ontological, and epistemological concepts.
Anyway, let’s start our simplification by zooming in on an individual. This individual has a lot of information flowing into his life. He experiences life through his senses, and he formulates responses to all of that stimuli. And this formulation takes place in the individual’s spirit.
Now, if you’re new to Truth.Love.Parent., let me clarify that — biblically speaking — the mind, heart, and spirit are all the same thing. I choose to use the word spirit because the words heart and mind carry way too much conceptual baggage. I do use those words from time to time, but I ask that you understand them to be synonymous with the biblical concept of the spirit.
The spirit is the center of our being. Everything we do, say, and feel has its genesis there.
That’s means we need to start with . . .
A. Spiritual Actions
Spiritual actions have three types of reactions — or consequences.
Spiritual actions have Spiritual Consequences, Physical Consequences, and Relational Consequences.
Let’s say that I choose to reject the God of the Bible. That is going to effect me spiritually, it will effect the things that I do and say, and it will effect my interactions with others.
And this is where the complex web of consequential potential explodes.
B. Physical Actions
All physical action is ultimately a consequences of a spiritual action, but all physical actions have the same types of consequences that spiritual actions do. Physical actions have Spiritual Consequences, Physical Consequences, and Relational Consequences.
If we use the example from the last point, it’s easy to see that my choice to live in a way that displeases the Lord will affect me spiritually, it will bring physical consequences into my life, and it will influence my relationships.
And I think you can probably see what’s coming next.
C. Relational Actions
The relational reactions to our physical reactions to our spiritual reactions to the knowledge we encounter in life, also have consequences that effect us spiritually, physically, and relationally.
Back to my example of rejecting the God of the Bible. That spiritual choice produces physical consequences. Those physical consequences are going to wrap back on themselves and continue to impact my mind, but those physical reactions are also going to produce additional physical consequences, and my physical choices will obviously affect my relationships.
Then as my relationships are affected, that will have a consequential impact on my spirit, my body, and my relationships.
If nothing else, we and our kids need to understand the power of our choices. The world likes to see our choices as being benign. Live and let live, tolerate, coexist, be true to yourself — as if our choices aren’t going to matter in the long run. But that is completely not true.
Choices have consequences, and oftentimes those consequences outlive us and impact people we will never meet.
Now — unfortunately — we need to zoom back in from our big-picture view. I could write my doctoral dissertation on this topic, but our goal today is to deal with the Primary Consequences of every choices — specifically, every sinful choice.
But our understanding of the consequence web is going to be important as we discuss parental discipline. If we don’t understand the divine nature of actions and reactions, our reactions to our children’s choices will only create more problems.
So, let’s go back to the most seminal piece of this puzzle.
2. The Nature of Spiritual Consequences
There are many spiritual consequences — comfortable and uncomfortable — that arise from our spiritual actions, physical actions, and relational actions. But instead of overcomplicating this discussion with another big picture view, we will best be served by having a laser focus.
This series is about consequences specifically in how they relate to corrective discipline. The question we’re trying to answer is, “What are the appropriate consequences God wants us to give our kids when they sin?”
But before we can correctly understand our role in the process, we need to recognize that there are three things that happen every time anyone sins. They happen without us parents having to lift a finger. For the Christian, understanding this reality is the very basis for all biblical corrective discipline.
Now, because these spiritual realities are the most important consequences in a person’s life, I refer to them as the Primary Consequences of Sin.
And the first thing we need to learn about Primary Consequences is that . . .
A. Sin hurts.
Whether we’re talking about the wages of sin being death or the fact that those who scheme to hurt others inevitably end up hurting themselves or the fact that sin is lawlessness and lawlessness earns penal consequences . . . sin always hurts.
This, my friends, is one of the earliest lessons I taught my kids. Right up there with touching the stove hurts and putting things in the outlet hurts and the potential that unfamiliar people and animals can hurt, and so can heights and sharp things and chemicals and so on . . . I taught my kids that sin hurts.
And as they grew in their maturity, I showed them how sin hurts. Sin hurts in three unique ways.
First, sin hurts our relationship with God.
Now, let me explain what I don’t mean. I don’t mean that sin causes us to lose our salvation. I don’t mean that our sin causes God to love us less.
Here’s what I mean:
Our sin displeases God.
The Bible is excessively clear that sin angers God. It steals His glory and it infinitely displeases Him.
All unbelievers who die in their rebellion will receive the full measure of God’s wrath poured out on them in the Lake of Fire.
But even though most of God’s wrath is reserved for those who reject Him, the Bible reveals that a Christian’s sin displeases the Lord as well.
Hebrews 11:6 reveals that it’s impossible to please the Lord if our actions aren’t growing from our faith in Him.
Ephesians 4:30 warns, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” And the very next verse lists things that would grieve Him.
And I Thessalonians 4:1 says, “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.”
And this is an easy concept for kids to understand. If you have a good relationship with your children, they’re not afraid that their sin is going to tempt you to be furious at them. But they know it will displease you, and they don’t want that.
The same is true with our young adults and their romantic relationships. They’re not worried that their significant other will literally kill them if they forget a special date, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t “fearful” of displeasing them — they care about the person too much to do anything that will cause them pain.
But, it’s also important to note that our sin doesn’t just displease the Lord. Often our sin continues to hurt our relationship with God by actually breaking down communication between us and God.
The second way our sin hurts our relationship with God is that our sin hinders our prayers.
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that faithlessness, direct disobedience, men not living with their wives in an understanding way, not forgiving others, pride, and other sins all directly hinder our communication with the Lord.
For example, Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” And I Peter 3:7 reads, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
But there’s a third way that our sin affects our relationship with the Lord.
Our sin closes off access to the blessings of God.
The vast majority of the promises in the Bible are conditional promises. When we do right, we have access to joy and peace and contentment and thanksgiving and so many other spiritual blessings.
But when we sin, we can’t access those blessings.
So, we need to understand for ourselves, and teach our kids that our sin hurts our relationship with God.
But . . .
Second, sin hurts our relationships with others.
One aspect of this truth is easy to grasp. In the same way that our relationship with God will be affected when we sin against Him, anyone who thinks like God will be equally displeased by our sin.
However, there are two other sides of this that our children don’t often understand.
The second part is that our sin doesn’t just hurt those who dislike our sin, our sin also hurts our relationships with people who like our sin. A simple example is that though thieves may value dishonesty in themselves and their fellow thieves, that same dishonesty makes it difficult for them to trust each other, thus affecting their relationships.
And the third unexpected facet of this truth is that our sin hurts our relationships even when the other person doesn’t know about our sin. For example, if a child lies to her parents — even if her parents believe the lie, the relationship is still being negatively affected. You can’t enjoy the benefits of a thriving, healthy relationship when at least one of you is being dishonest in the relationship.
I see it all the time in biblical counseling; an unexplainable deterioration in a relationship is always the result of hidden sin. And since sin in our lives touches everything else in our lives, it’s amazing the types of things that wear away at our relationships. For example, I frequently see how a man’s sinful choices at work (laziness, dishonesty, unkindness) affect his relationship with his family at home. Even though he’s not being lazy and dishonest and unkind at home, the fact that he’s the type of person who doesn’t mind doing those kinds of things at work makes it impossible for him to truly enjoy a mature relationship with his family at home.
So, we’ve seen that sin hurts God, others, and . . .
Third, sin hurts ourselves.
The main way most people understand this concept is that sin brings Physical Consequences into our lives — for example, the physical issues associated with drug abuse or receiving a spanking.
But Relational and Spiritual Consequences also apply here. Whether it’s the Relational Consequences of infidelity or the Spiritual Consequences that grow from viewing pornography, sin is going to hurt us.
In fact, the reality that sin hurts our relationship with God and others is another way that sin hurts us.
But there’s another interesting Spiritual Consequence of all sin. The very act of committing a sin makes it easier to commit the same sin again in the future. This is the habit-forming consequence of sin. The second drink, the second profanity, the second rape, the second abortion, the second theft, the second murder are all easier than the first.
Related to this concept is the idea of what we may call gateway sin. Not only does scratching someone because you’re mad make it easier to scratch them again later when you get mad, but a habit of scratching people easily turns into slapping, which turns into punching, which escalates more and more.
It’s this Primary Consequence of sin that we often don’t realize is paving the way to even more sin and more abhorrent sin in the future.
But there’s another important truth we need to learn about sin. Sin doesn’t just hurt.
B. Sin always hurts.
In Numbers 32:23 we learn, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”
Our kids need to understand that God is omniscient. There is nothing He doesn’t know.
But they also need to understand that God is just. There is no sin that will not reap consequences.
But another important factor of this conversation is that God is also omnipotent. He cannot be tricked or overcome or outrun.
Our sin always hurt us, hurts others, and hurts God in the ways we’ve described and more. This truth is more real and constant than gravity itself.
So, those are the Primary Consequences of sin. It’s absolutely vital that we and our kids understand what they are and how they work, or the rest of our conversation over the next couples weeks won’t make sense, and we’ll find ourselves right back where we were punishing our kids because we don’t know what else we can do.
But before we end today, we need to consider a really important question and then finish by discussing practical ways God expects parents to interact with their children’s Primary Consequences.
So far, I have made the assertion that every sin always hurts us in the ways I described. But since the consequences are spiritual, we so often miss them.
The question we need to consider is, if sin always hurts . . .
C. Why do people invite pain into their lives?
The first reason is . . .
1. Some people sin because they don’t know about the Primary Consequences.
They’re blind to it, and Satan tries to keep them that way.
But even after learning that sin always hurts, your children will still sin . . . as will you and I. Why is that?
2. Some people sin because they don’t recognize the Primary Consequences.
This category is a little different than the last.
As I’ve matured, I’ve been able to understand the Primary Consequences in my life much better than before. However, I don’t always see them all, and I don’t always recognize the extent of the consequences.
However, like with the first category, this is another version of ignorance and immaturity. Whereas I now know the Primary Spiritual Consequences exist, I don’t always recognize them, and so I go on as if they’re not happening.
But there’s a third and even more damaging reason people continue in their sin.
Whereas some people don’t know about Primary Consequences and others can’t always see the extent of those Consequences . . .
3. Some people sin because they don’t believe in the Primary Consequences.
As you’ve no doubt heard me say on many occasions, there’s a world of difference between knowing a thing and believing a thing.
You can teach your kids about the unavoidable Primary Consequences of the their sin, and you can help them see the effects even when they don’t see it naturally . . . but you can’t make them believe it.
So, what’s a parent to do?
How does God want us to interact with the Primary Consequences in our kids’ lives?
Now, let’s take what we’ve learned about consequences and human nature and finish this episode by discussing point number . . .
3. How Parents Need to Interact with Primary Consequences in their Children’s Lives
No doubt, this first step is already very clear to you.
A. Parents need to teach their children the existence and nature of Primary Consequences.
Our kids absolutely need to know about the Primary Consequences of their sin. We need to teach them because they’re not going to realize it on their own.
Too often, when a person doesn’t experience Physical Consequences, they believe a lie that they haven’t actually experienced any consequences at all — especially when they believe they’ve successfully hidden their sin. Having not felt any physical sting, they believe they aren’t experiencing any negative consequences at all.
As you look around the world today, it will be painfully obvious how many people are being crushed under the weight of Spiritual and Relational Consequences, but they can’t see it. Satan uses humanity’s spiritual blindness and preoccupation with the physical to keep them deluded about the true state of their life choices.
And though this isn’t an issue just for children, they tend to be far too immature to understand these realities on their own. So we need to help our kids understand that their sin does hurt them whether they realize it or not.
And even though their sin may not have any immediate Relational or Physical Consequences, it always has Spiritual Consequences.
Let’s all commit — in the very near future — to teach or remind our children of the fact that sin hurts. Their sin is hurting their relationship with God. It’s hurting every other relationship in their lives. And it’s hurting themselves in ways they can’t begin to imagine.
In episode 123 we talked about Parenting Like the Holy Spirit. One of the Spirit’s main jobs in this world today is the conviction of mankind. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement.
In the same way, we parents can be used in that process to teach our kids about sin, righteousness, and judgment.
If we don’t help our kids understand the inescapable reality of Spiritual Consequences, we’re not only lying to them about the nature of the world, but we’re also leaving them to come up with their own justifications for the experiences in their lives.
Instead of recognizing their lies as the reason their relationships are always falling apart, they will believe it’s the other person’s fault.
Instead of understanding that it was their high-handed sin that has cut off access to the Lord’s blessing, they will justify themselves by blaming God for being cold and uncaring.
And just like Adam and Eve, they will blame everyone else in their lives for the consequences they experience.
You don’t have to look far to see this at play in your home, your community, your nation, and potentially even in your own life.
We often talk about the parental injunction in Deuteronomy 6 to teach our kids about God as we stand, sit, lie down, and walk by the way. But when God in verses 6-7 said “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons,” it wasn’t talking solely about just loving the Lord. Yes, that was part of it, but it’s the whole law God expects us to teach to our kids. Tied to nearly every commandment in the previous chapters was a promise that when the people of God obey the Lord, it will be well with them. And there are also many painfully clear times in the Scripture where God pronounces consequences on sin.
We owe it to our God and our kids to teach them about consequences and how they work.
But giving them the information won’t be good enough. As we teach them, it will be important to remember that . . .
B. Parents need to help their children identify the Primary Consequences in their lives.
As a beekeeper, it’s one thing to know the behavioral characteristics of Italian, Carniolan, Russian, and Africanized bees. But unless you can identify them when you see them, you’ll always be ten steps behind.
In the same way, our kids are not mature enough — they don’t have the spiritual discernment to recognize the Primary Consequences in their lives. We will have to help them see specifically how they’re hurting God, others, and themselves. And once they see the actual consequence, they will also likely need help recognizing that it was their sin that caused the consequence.
Just like God did with Adam and Eve and Cain, and just like Paul did with the churches to whom he wrote, and just like Solomon did with his children as he taught them the Proverbs, so too we need to help our kids see the connection between their sin and the circumstances in their lives.
But just teaching our kids to know about and recognize the Spiritual Consequences in their lives isn’t good enough.
C. Parents need to help their children respond correctly to the Primary Consequences in their lives.
Remember, the Primary Consequences are not Penal. It’s not punishment. God’s goal is not merely to hurt them because they own Him. God’s goal is for the hurt to teach them something. It’s part of a larger lesson they need to learn. Therefore, it’s in our kids’ best interest for us to help them learn from the experience.
When I consider this point, I think about God and Cain.
Cain had offered God an unacceptable sacrifice. A consequence of that action was what we learn in Genesis 4:4, “And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.”
Well, instead of learning from his poor choice, Cain became angry. Instead of seeing the consequence as a result of his own sin, he — like his parents — saw other people as the problem.
So, in verse 6 we learn that God goes to Cain and says, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
God clearly connected the dots for Cain between his actions and the reactions. He pointed out that Cain’s bad attitude was a result of sin, not of any perceived grievance he may have had with anyone else. And then God clearly gave Cain practical advice to avoid such consequences in the future. To put it in the words of James 1:13-15, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
Cain had everything he needed to respond correctly to the lesson the consequences were designed to teach him.
He hurt his relationship with God by sinning against Him, and therefore God had no regard for Cain’s offering.
His hurt his relationship with his brother by viewing him as the enemy and being angry at him.
He hurt himself by having a fallen countenance, setting himself up for the murder he was contemplating, and bringing upon himself the curse of God.
All he had to do was learn from the temporary pain and discomfort. All he needed to do was take God’s advice so as to never have to repeat those consequences ever again.
In the exact same way, we need to sit our kids down and connect those dots so that they can clearly see how the Primary Consequences they’re experiencing are a result of their sin, and we need to then set them up for success the next time they’re tempted to that same sin.
We need to open God’s Word, teach them about the Lord and the great promises He’s given us. We need to teach them that true obedience is doing the right thing in the right way for the right reason in the right power. We need to teach them that wise living grows from understanding which grows from knowledge. We need to teach them how to believe the words of God. We need to help them make practical application to their own life so they have a plan to avoid sinning in the same way next time.
And, Lord willing, our kids will actually learn from the Primary Consequences in their lives. When they do, there’s no need for any additional Secondary Consequences.
Unfortunately, most people don’t learn from the Primary Consequences. We know that Cain didn’t heed God’s perfect parenting. Despite knowing exactly what happened and how to do better next time, Cain compounded the problem. He refused to believe what God said and took out his sinful anger by attacking what he believed was the real source of his problems . . . his do-gooder little brother. His sin multiplied and had a generational effect on his family. But the consequences of those choices have even continued until this day. God wants for us and our kids to learn from Cain’s terrible choice.
The unfortunate point is, we need to be prepared that no matter how well we parent our kids, it will still be up to them to believe God’s truth.
That means that when children don’t learn from the Primary Consequences the way they should . . .
D. Parents need to bring Christ-honoring Secondary Consequences into their children’s lives if they refuse to learn from the Primary Consequences.
We’ve gone much longer than planned today, and we have the whole next episode to build out this point, so allow me share just two short thoughts.
First, we will never understand our God-ordained role in Secondary Consequences if we don’t understand how He created consequences to work and — specifically — the nature of Primary Consequences. This foundation is absolutely necessary in order for us to build a Christ-honoring system of parental discipline in our homes.
And second, though Secondary Consequences are incredibly important, please note that they are Secondary. We need to be pouring ourselves into teaching our kids about God, the consequences of sin, the promises and empowerment the Lord provides to live a life that glorifies Him, the glory of the Scriptures, and how they can have victory as they mature in holiness.
Secondary Consequences only become necessary — in essence — when our children reject all of that other stuff.
We absolutely need to have our priorities right.
Thank you for your great attention today.
I know we covered a lot, so if you have any questions, remember that there is a transcript and episodes notes on our blog, and you can always email us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or call us at (828) 423-0894.
We would be honored to help apply these concepts in your family.
And also, please share this series on your favorite social media outlets so that other families can learn these invaluable lessons.
And — of course — I hope you’ll join us next time as we once again open God’s Word to discover how to best worship God with our parenting.
To that end, we’ll be discussing using Secondary Consequences as corrective discipline.
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