One of the worst things about movies and TV, and now the internet, of course, today, is the amount of swearing and vulgarity contained in movies and videos that you see online. It seems that no matter what the program or film is, both men and women, and even children- now they're putting words in the mouths of children- think nothing of using the Lord's name or various kinds of profanities. Even in movies that are comedies. There was a time, if it was a comedy, you could trust that it was going to be funny. Today, comedies are rated R, and there is all kinds of bad language in these movies. This is not going to be a rant about movies here, just the idea that the phenomenon of vulgarity, public vulgarity, is demonstrated a lot in the entertainment industry today.
Remember this scene, here? Robert DeNiro, an actor, using the F-word to curse our President. It doesn't matter what party you belong to, the President is still the President of the country. And he used the F-word to curse him on television- I think it was the Tony Awards, where they're handing out awards for plays, musicals, comedies, best drama, whatever. And in the middle of all this, he just stands up and pulls a stunt like that. And he received a standing ovation for his efforts.
This phenomenon, of course, is carried over into our society and especially into the world of young people, where vulgarity and swearing, filthy language, are seen as no big deal, maybe even a mark of being mature. I think that's always been the case with young people, as a way of establishing their independence. But today, the degree of vulgarity, the degree of swearing is at a level that I can't remember in my lifetime.
We know that Christians are encouraged, of course, to avoid this kind of language. Paul says,
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word that is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
- Ephesians 4:29
These type of words, these expressions used in books and videos are not edifying for those who watch these things. And are certainly not edifying for Christians. Even though Hollywood may be promoting the use of the four letter word, a brother in Christ named John Watty- I think many of you have heard of him- he's a preacher and teacher, wrote an article suggesting several other four letter words that we, as Christian parents, should be teaching our kids.
And so the lesson tonight is Four Letter Words That We Ought to be Teaching our Kids. I'd like to share a couple of those four letter words with you.
4 Letter Words 4 Christians
The first one is: work. Children need to learn the meaning and the importance of work. Even before Adam sinned, God intended work to be a healthy part of his life, Genesis 2:15. After his sin, Adam still needed to work, but it would be much less satisfying for him. But nevertheless, he still had to work, Genesis 3:19.
Solomon said that the greatest satisfaction in this life- not including one's relationship with God in heaven- but the greatest satisfaction in this life was the satisfaction and joy that comes from one's work, Ecclesiastes 9:9.
Even Jesus learned to work from the teaching of His earthly father, as well as His heavenly father who obliged Him to work the works of God, John 9:4.
God did not design society to be a welfare state, where some who are healthy and able, live off of the work of other people. Paul establishes the best welfare method going. He says,
For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he not to eat, either.
- II Thessalonians 3:10
That would solve and resolve many, many problems. Remember, he says here, willing. Those who are willing and able to work, if they refuse to work, they shouldn't eat either. Unless we teach our children the importance of work and impress upon them the dignity and the potential rewards of honest work, they will not be pleasing to God or to themselves. There is a great satisfaction that comes from doing a good job, no matter what it is.
Another four letter word to teach our children: give. One of the reasons we work is so that we can give to those who are in need, Ephesians 4:28. It's not the only reason we work, but one of the reasons that we work. The ability and the habit of giving, giving regularly, giving cheerfully and giving generously is not an inherited trait, it is taught mainly by example, usually parents who are too busy or selfish to serve others, too worldly to give to the church, end up having children who grow up to have this same immature and unspiritual character. Why? Because that's what they learned from their parents. Jesus taught that it was more blessed to give than to receive, Acts 20:35.
This lesson comes alive for children if they witness the joy and satisfaction that their parents feel from their various giving experiences. If they see their parents enjoy giving, enjoy serving, it'll be something that they also would like to participate in. If we don't teach our children to give, they will miss out on the blessings that come from giving, because no one else will teach them that lesson. That's a lesson we teach our children.
Another four letter word to teach our children: love. Another character trait that is not inherited, but taught at an early age. Fathers need to teach their sons how to love a woman, with tenderness and understanding. Mothers need to teach their daughters how to love their husbands, with respect and how to be devoted to their families. You learn these things. Children learn the nuts and bolts of how to love within their own families. This is why institutional care is so inadequate for raising children. It feeds them, it puts clothes on their back, it teaches them two plus two and how to parse a sentence. Sure, you get all that in an institution, but you don't learn how mom treats dad and how dad treats mom. You learn that within the family circle. Parents are responsible to teach their children the higher goals of loving their neighbors and loving God.
I appreciated what Harold said this morning, Step up in September, yes of course. We need our elders to exhort us in this. And of course, I'm preaching to the choir. You are all here. But the point he's making, that it is important for us as parents and grandparents to impose or to develop in our children the desire to worship God and to be with God's people.
Parents are responsible to teach their children these higher ideals. Politicians think that society's problems will be solved with better education or better medical care or better policing, but we know that if people don't know how to love one another, all these other things will not work. We need to teach our children love for them to be fully human and to be mature.
Another four letter word: pray. Young people are bombarded with all kinds of messages and sales pitches and information to the point that they often feel anxious and depressed. They're taking in so much stuff online, they're always on the phone, I'm on the phone. I'm on my iPad. And I see, at my age, but I can imagine younger people. They're always in front of a screen. And don't you think that marketers know that young people are glued to the screen? Of course they know. And so these young people are bombarded daily with non-stop advertising and ideas from marketers and all kinds of individuals that are online. Add to this the peer pressure they feel at school and the uncertainties of growing up in a fast paced, and a violent society. They need to pray and we need to teach them to meet every challenge and every anxious moment with the soothing and reassuring habit of prayer.
The best thing a dad can say to his daughter when she's crying and she's had a hard day and she lost her best friend or whatever, and after he's tried to comfort her, that life is long, you'll make some new friends, it's okay- the best thing he can say to her at this point is, "Hey, let's pray about that. Why don't we pray about that?" To a daughter, to a son, to a grandchild. Somewhere along the line, the adult needs to point that child to God. And the best way to start doing that is to say to them, "Why don't we pray together about that? Why don't we bring this before the Lord?" You know what, that young person eventually is going to think to himself, you know what- even when grandpa isn't there or grandma isn't there or mom or dad- I remember what they used to do with me when I was having problems, when I was stressed, when I thought all was lost. They used to encourage me, take me by the hand and lead me to God in prayer. Maybe I should start doing that, just for myself. That's where it begins. If we want them to know the peace that surpasses all understanding that Paul talks about in Philippians 4:6-7 we have to teach them and encourage them to pray without ceasing, I Thessalonians 5:17.
Another four letter word: obey. A recent survey done for the military in this country showed that every branch of the Armed Forces is not finding enough recruits to fill their need. Have you ever wondered why that is? I think it's because the younger generation rejects authority figures and can't stand being in a situation where they're expected to obey orders. I'm not saying all young people. I'm just saying in this generation this becomes a particular problem. If you don't learn to obey your parents, you won't be able to obey your Sergeant either. Of course, if you don't learn to obey your parents, there are other problems that you're going to face: You won't be able to obey your conscience; You won't be able to discipline yourself to study, or to learn how to play the piano or to throw a 95-mile-an-hour fast ball; You won't be able to practice self-control in marriage, if you don't learn how to obey. And you'll find it difficult to obey the Gospel. You may believe the Gospel, but since you've never been taught to obey, you may find submitting, even to God, too difficult for you. From the Garden of Eden to the coming of Christ, those who have had the most rewarding lives here on earth, as well as in the Kingdom of God, have been those who learned to obey at an early age.
It is time consuming. And it requires self-discipline for parents to teach this to their children. How many times do parents say, "How many times do I have to tell you no?" Well, the answer to that is: as many times as it takes. The strategy for kids is, I'll wear them out. Because that's all kids have got to do. They've got nothing else to do, you know what I'm saying? They don't have a job to go to. They don't have to fix the car. They don't have to balance the checkbook. The only thing they have to do is get their parents to agree to give them what they want. They've got all day to do it.
I asked mom early in the morning, "Mom, can I go sleep over at Janice's house, and we're going to go to the ice cream party?" And she said, "Well, it's a week night. No, there's no sleepovers on the weeknight." "Oh, please?" "No, I said no." Okay, and she turns away. Well mom thinks, I took care of that. I nipped that thing in the bud. But little Suzy, walking away, she says, "Well, it's only 10AM. We've got all day. I've got all day to work on her." That's how kids think. So, as I said, it's time consuming and it requires self-discipline for the parents to teach this to their children. But if you don't invest your time and effort in doing it now you will spend a long time regretting it later.
Another four letter word: read. Although we live in an advanced technological society where there is an overabundance of visual stimuli, nothing has greater power to stir up the soul and motivate the spirit than reading God's word. From childhood, Timothy, Paul's coworker and evangelist, read the scriptures, which eventually led him to the wisdom and the knowledge of salvation. We read about that in II Timothy 3:15.
David, the king and the writer of Psalm, said that God's word was what guided his every step in life, Psalm 119:105.
Again, children will only do what they see their parents doing and are encouraged to do themselves. We teach little children to brush their teeth because if they don't, bad things will happen. We tell them, "Your teeth will fall out if you don't brush them;" and drink their milk to help their body be strong. And yet the teeth and the body and all of that is all going to pass away eventually. But we often neglect to teach them how to nourish and care for that part of their being that will last forever, which is their soul. What's more important? Bright shiny teeth or an everlasting soul with God? Teeth are important, don't get me wrong. But we have to keep things in perspective. I know parents would not skip a night to make sure that little Suzy and Johnny brushed their teeth, every night to get into that habit, but wouldn't demand that we sit together and read the Bible every night before going to bed. Which is more important, not having cavities or living eternally?
Another four letter word that we need to teach our kids: Lord. Our children deserve to learn the meaning of the word Lord. They need to know what Lordship really means in their everyday lives, not just repeating the name at the moment of their baptism or wearing a bracelet that says Jesus loves you. We need to show them that if Jesus is Lord, this means that He is the king and the ruler of every area of their lives: How they think and what they say; How they act and what they wear; What they see, what they listen to. He is the Lord of all those things. Where do they learn that concept? Not just from church on Sundays, if the preacher happens to be talking about that in his sermon, and they happen to be sitting there. No, they learn the meaning of it and how to apply the Lordship of Christ, they learn to apply that in their everyday lives from their parents and watching their parents put the Lordship of Christ- this concept- into practice in their own lives.
Some young Christians think that having Jesus as Lord means you say a prayer before eating or you go to church service regularly, and certainly it does. But they need to be taught that Jesus wants them to surrender every aspect of their lives and their goods to Him. Having Jesus as Lord isn't just, as I say, wearing a t-shirt with His name printed on it. It's having His name stamped on your heart, and stamped on your soul and stamped on everything that you do, that everyone around you knows where you're coming from and where you're going, and who exactly is your Lord. There's no doubt in anybody's mind around you, who you know and see and serve, as Lord.
So we have to make up our minds, who will have the upper hand in teaching our children? Who's going to be the boss of that? Who's going to have the hand on the control? Will it be the writers of books and movies and internet celebrities? Are they the ones that are going to handle- are they the ones in control of what goes into the mind and heart of our children? Will it be their friends or the advertisers of products for the youth market? Are they the ones that are going to be in control? Or will it be you, the parents? Will it be you, the Bible class teachers? Will it be you, the Christian friends and mentors? They will either learn the world's four letter words, or they will be taught the four letter words that guarantee a healthy, happy and pleasing life before God. And it's up to you, it's up to me. We're the ones that need to take the initiative.
Okay, one last four letter word before I close tonight: save. Peter used it when he preached his first sermon on Pentecost Sunday. What did he say to the people?
And with many other words, he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation.'
- Acts 2:40
Marty began his sermon this morning in Acts 2:37-38, explaining Pentecost Sunday. And the people said,
What shall we do? Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'
- Acts 2:37-38
Yes, we know that, but then a little later on, he kept on exhorting them. It's like he was saying, "Folks, I'm not kidding here. This is serious business. You did crucify your Savior. You are guilty of that. You stand condemned before God because of that action," and others, of course. So he continues to exhort them, "Be saved from this perverse generation." He was insistent that his countrymen not waste any time in confessing Christ and being baptized in order to be saved.
Well my point is, we need to teach our children and our friends and our neighbors about the need, the urgency, to save themselves from the judgment that is coming. We don't talk a lot about judgment, but that doesn't mean the judgment isn't coming. It is coming. So let's not be fooled. Let's not become complacent. Let's not become too comfortable in this world. Jesus is coming, for each and every one of us, young and old. And He's coming for us in death or in His sudden return.
I say, like Peter said, save yourselves, come to Christ. If you need to come to Christ tonight in repentance and in baptism, as Peter preached in Acts 2:38, you will receive the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive, this very night, the gift of the Holy Spirit, which will guarantee your eternal life in heaven. If you need to respond to the invitation to be baptized, or perhaps as a parent, a grandparent, you need help, you need prayers of the church and encouragement to do a good job with your children, maybe even do a better job, the church is here. As I say often, the elders are here to serve your needs, to pray with you. If you have any reason to respond to the invitation, please do that now as we stand and as we sing the song that has been chosen.