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In the subsequent episodes, we also are going to talk about Phase 3 application and evaluation, but first-things-first.
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And now let’s talk about the essential Phase 3 of Biblical Parenting.
And how does It do that? Verse 16 reveals that the Bible is designed to accomplish four things in our lives. Teaching is the first, reproof is the second, and the third task is called “correction.”
1. What is Correction?
The Greek word translated “correction” in II Timothy 3:16 is a hapax legomena—which (as you already know) means that it’s only used this one time in the New Testament.
However, the word is grammatically related to one other Greek word. That other word refers to setting something up straight or setting it straight again. It’s translated “restore” in Acts 15:16 where James is quoting from Amos. Amos 9:11 reads, “In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins And rebuild it as in the days of old.”
And Acts 15:16 says, “After these things I will return, And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, And I will rebuild its ruins, And I will restore it.”
The word translated “restore” is related to the word translated “correction” in II Timothy.
In ancient Greek this word carried the idea of returning to a point of origin or a state of being.
Imagine a small boat leaving the safety of its harbor and—after a while on the open ocean—finds a storm brewing. What does the little boat do? It turns around and returns to the harbor.
That’s the picture behind this idea of correction.
My friends, biblical correction is not merely teaching. To teach is simply to give information to someone whether they choose to learn it or not.
Correction is not reproof. Reproof is persuasively communicating to someone that they made a bad choice whether or not they choose to respond to the reproof.
Correction isn’t punishment. Correction isn’t consequences. I think this particular usage is very familiar to most English speakers. We refer to “correcting our kids” as reproving them and/or giving them a consequence for their actions—even though we’ve had to give that consequence over and over because the children never really corrected their behavior.
But correction isn’t even reconciliation. Now, reconciliation is a part of the correction process, but correction is so much more than mere reconciliation.
Correction, my friends, is just that. The thing that was incorrect must now be correct in order to have been corrected. This requires that the former incorrect behavior is no longer; instead, it’s been replaced with correct behavior.
Correction requires an actual change—not a promise to change, not an intent to change—actual change.
Therefore, correction is by definition a fixing, a rectifying, a restoring to it’s rightful place, position, or productivity.
“Now, wait a minute, Aaron. Are you saying we can fix our kids?”
No, not really. But I am saying that God created His Word to fix our kids, and He expects us to be part of the process to the same degree He expects them to be part of the process. The Bible’s not going to do it by Itself, but neither are we or our kids going to do it by ourselves. In a best case scenario, all three of us need to be working together. Yes, our kids can change with only the power of God and His Word, but if we’re going to worship God with our parenting, then we absolutely need to do our part simply because He commands us to.
Now, I’m going to discuss this tension in our next point, but before I move on from this, I want to give you some resources.
The first one is A Parent’s 5 Jobs, Part 4 | Counselor. That episode was our first main discussion about this topic. Later on we put out How Do You Become a Counseling Parent? in order to help parents take their first steps into this Phase of Biblical Parenting. And we also had an interview with Dr. Heath Lambert called Counseling and Parenting.
“Counseling?” you ask. “I thought we were talking about correcting?” Yes, I’ll explain that in a minute as well.
Just make sure that you listen to those episodes if you need to grow in your correction.
2. The Absolute Necessity of Child-Participation in Correction
As I already mentioned, teaching can be done even if the student doesn’t learn. In the same way, reproof can be done even if the student doesn’t accept it.
Our ability to glorify God by doing those two Phases is entirely on us. He expects us to consistently and faithfully teach and reprove our kids—to speak truth in love.
And—for most parents—parenting is comprised of a seemingly never-ending cycle of teaching and reproving, teaching and reproving, teaching and reproving with little to no change in our kids.
Now, of course, the child is only benefitted as they participate in the teaching and reproof. If they learn from the teaching and submit to the reproof, amazing things are going to happen in their lives. But even when they don’t, I, the parent, must continue to teach and reprove.
But that is literally all I can do as a parent. It’s impossible for me to use the Scriptures in my child’s life until he or she decides to participate.
What do I mean?
Well, consider the necessary reconciliation that comes at the end of the reproof stage. We cannot be genuinely and legitimately reconciled unless our kids truly desire it.
Now, yes, we don’t know their hearts, and they may say all the right words, and we grant them forgiveness, but it’s possible we’re not truly reconciled because the child is just playing a game. True, legitimate, Christ-honoring reconciliation is going to require real humility and a desire to change.
And that right there is the bridge from the Reproof Stage to the Correction Stage of Biblical Parenting. When the child submits to the reproof by confessing their sin, asking for forgiveness, and committing to repentance, they are inviting us to move with them into Phase 3.
Now, do you remember how I said on a previous show that many parents try to move into Phase 3 or 4 immediately after reproving their kids? Yeah, unless the child is participating in the process, that’s actually impossible. You’re not really correcting them; you’re just teaching and reproving. You’re definitely not training them; you’re just teaching and reproving.
But once the child embraces reconciliation, they’re setting the stage for continued correction.
So, imagine that you have taught your child how to sail their little boat in a safe manner. And they say they have learned the importance of staying away from storms. But instead of seeing the storm far off and turning around, your child sailed their little boat right for it, and you can see it all unfolding through your telescope. So you radio your child and tell them, “You’re going the wrong way. You need to turn around.”
But the child isn’t interested; they want to see how close they can get. They think the choppy waves are fun. So you keep reproving them, and eventually, they are persuaded. Maybe it was your impassioned pleading, and maybe it was the waves that were threatening to capsize their little boat, or perhaps it was the painful consequences of finding themselves in a storm—either way they finally realize they were wrong, and they want to change.
And you can hear their voice on the radio, “Please forgive me. I was wrong. I want to go back home.”
And, of course, you forgive your child and are happy to help them home. Unfortunately, they are so far in the storm, they have no idea where home is. They’re surrounded by miles of dangerous waters with no direction in sight.
But you have a radar. You have a lighthouse. So, you get on the radio and you say, “I know it’s scary, and I know you can’t trust what you see and hear, but you can trust me. You can trust the instruments that I’ve put in your boat. You need to to turn around and head due west. It’s doesn’t matter what it looks like, it doesn’t matter what it sounds like, and it definitely doesn’t matter what it feels like, you need to fight as hard as possible to head due west. And when you’ve traveled about 5 miles, you’ll be able to start seeing the lighthouse which can guide you in the rest of the way.”
Now, have you successfully corrected your child at the end of that impassioned speech? Was all of that talking and instrumentation and advice Phase 3 of our Biblical Parenting? No.
Do you remember how I said that every subsequent Parenting Phase will include the previous Phases? Well, Teaching and Reproving are part of Correcting. All you’ve done at that moment is given them new information and encouraged them to recognize their error and do something about it.
It won’t be until they actually take your advice, turn their bow due west, and sail on the heading you’ve given them that they are actually being corrected. Yes, because of what you said, but also—by necessity—by doing what you said.
James 1:22 says, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Your children are deluding themselves if they think they’re being corrected simply by hearing the word. And you’re deluding yourself if you think that teaching and reproving are the same as correcting.
You have not actually entered the Correction Phase of Biblical Parenting until your kids follow your advice, turn from their previous course, and go the opposite direction.
By the way, that is the very definition of the repentance to which they committed during their reconciliation.
In fact, we could put it this way: correction is the process whereby you lead your child into biblical repentance, and they follow your lead.
There’s another biblical word for this. It’s called discipleship. Matthew 28:19-20 reads, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” In this passage the idea of discipleship and correction is described as you teaching them and them actually observing what you’ve taught. The Greek concept translated “observe” isn’t just passively watching something; it refers to continuing in something, holding onto something, keeping something, and guarding something.
In fact, all of the discipleship passages in the Bible illustrate the idea of correction. A discipler is leading the disciplee into change, and the disciplee is following. This is the very core of the over 30 one-anothers in the New Testament.
Consider the last few verses of James, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
And this is why I call this Phase the Counseling Phase.
Discipleship, one-anothering, parenting, pastoring, and counseling are all synonymous concepts. The only main difference is that the correction within each relationship takes place within a different kind of relationship. Otherwise, there’s no functional difference.
The job of a biblical counselor is to show the counselee what God’s Word says about their change and then to make it easy for them to do right and hard to do wrong. That’s the very definition of parenting and discipling. But regardless of all the counselor has said and done, the counselee will never actually change until they participate with the biblical counselor and follow their lead.
And this is where so many Christian parents mess up.
A. Many Christian parents don’t get to the Correction Phase.
This happens either because their children refuse to submit, or sometimes the kids do submit, but the parents think that as long as they admitted they’re wrong, everything will work itself out. They just kind of assume the kid will figure out what they’re supposed to do.
That’s not parental correction even if the child does change by the grace of God.
B. Most Christian parents only know how to Correct broadly.
Yes, by all means, lead your child to shore, but telling them to go west will only accomplish so much. What about the specific skills needed to navigate giant waves? You can’t just plow ahead and hope not to capsize. What about the rocks that surround your harbor back home? How will they get around those in the dark? What if you don’t know how to use the lighthouse? What if they don’t remember how to use the instruments in their boat? What if your kid doesn’t know how to use a compass? Simply telling them to head west is not helpful.
Now, yes, general, broad correction is better than no correction, but—let me tell you—this part of parenting is the absolute hardest if you don’t know how to do it. Trust me, we don’t just figure this part out on our own. We don’t do this part well when we’re flying by the seat of our pants. Most parents can’t improvise their way through the Correction Phase.
We need to know God’s Word inside and out, and we need to continue studying it if we hope to help our kids (or anyone else for that matter) truly change.
Dr. Randy Patton likes to say that “Change doesn’t happen in fuzzy land.” That’s to say that people can’t change direction without clear direction. You don’t just look at a premed student, hand them a scalpel, and say, “All you need to do is take the tumor out.” No! They need education, practice, information, and skill.
And our kids who want to escape the bondage of their sinful choices are going to need the same kind of help.
That’s why today’s third point is so important.
3. The Necessity of Specificity
Now, I only want to mention the importance of this. I’m not going to go into very much specific detail at this time because the entirety of our next episode is all about this point. But between now and then, you need to realize that beneficial correction is specific correction. The more specific you can be, the better.
But there are two main methods for correction I want to consider today with the remainder of our time.
Okay, so your child is in sin. It may be a “big sin” or “little sin,” but it’s a sin from which they have confessed, apologized, and promised to repent. Now we need to help them change.
So, let’s consider . . .
4. The Value of Centering
I’m going to mix my metaphors a little during this point and the next, so stick with me.
There is truth to the idea that there are ditches on both sides of a road, and the best thing to do is to stay in the center of the road—avoiding the extremes.
Being extreme to the right is often just as far from God’s expectation as being extreme to the left. Erring to the right is still erring, and this illustrates the biblical concept of moderation.
In I Corinthians 6:12 Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Moderation is a refusal to be mastered by anything other than God. To be mastered by food or drink or sex or other addictions is to be mastered by my own’s appetite which is idolatry.
Proverbs 25:16 and 27a read, “Have you found honey? Eat only what you need,
That you not have it in excess and vomit it . . . . It is not good to eat much honey.”
And I Corinthians 9:25 tells us, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
Your kids have been making extreme choices. And I don’t mean that in the way most people mean that. When I say “extreme,” I’m referring simply to sin. Sin is insanity. Sin is stupidity. To sin on one side or the other is still sin. It’s doesn’t matter if you’re a prostitute or a Pharisee. It doesn’t matter if you’re an abortionist or staunch religious practitioner if your religiosity is being done in your own power for your own glory.
The Bible clearly condemns nearly all excess and yet demands that all things be done to the glory of God. That speaks to moderation. We must only do a thing to the degree that God is glorified, and not a second longer or a degree more.
So, what’s the application for correcting our kids? Likely, your kids’ sin is a result of their lack of moderation. It may be extreme sinfulness like sinful sexuality, lying, stealing, rebellion, and other sins for which there are no moderate versions, but only a moderate difference.
But it also may be in an obsession for something that is good. The behavior itself isn’t inherently bad, but the immoderate participation in that activity is harmful and reveals a self-worshipping mindset. This is the root of almost all obsessive behavior even if it can be argued the behavior itself is not necessarily harmful.
But there’s also the good behavior that is only exercised within limits, but which is being done solely for the glory of self.
In each of these situations, moderation looks like moving away from the extreme behavior toward a Christ-honoring “middle” position.
In order to help correct your children, you can Center them by calling them to true obedience. This will require for them to do the right things in the right ways for the right reasons and in the right power.
Centering rejects extreme behavior. It seeks to do exactly what the Scriptures says, how the Scripture says, and why the Scripture says.
Now, I like this centering approach. I think it has great value. This correction seeks to reduce the temptation for our kids to just swing to the opposite—but equally sinful—extreme, and this method has success as it teaches the child the details concerning true, biblical obedience.
To this end, I encourage you to listen to our Teach Your Children to Obey Series because it breaks down biblical obedience into its four necessary parts without which there is no real submission to God.
So, yes, centering is a valuable method for correction because it recognizes the importance of biblical moderation; it rejects the sinful extremes to which humans are so want to swing.
However, there is another method for correcting that I like very much.
5. The Value of Penduluming
“Wait, Aaron, didn’t you just say that penduluming to either extreme is bad?” Yes, I did, but remember that I warned you I was going to mix my metaphors. If nothing else, today’s episode is instructive in how careful we have to be with language.
When I speak of penduluming, I’m not referring to extreme swings from one form of sin to another, I’m talking about the necessary extreme changes we need to make if we’re going to truly repent.
Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:29-30, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Then listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 18:8-9, “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. 9 If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.”
And even though the book of Mark is the shortest Gospel that tends to abbreviate Jesus’ teaching (as compared to the other Gospels), in Mark 9:42-48 we read the longest version of this amputation discourse, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44 [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] 45 If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46 [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] 47 If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
My point in reading all of that is to recognize the importance of what is often called Radical Amputation. God calls us to be holy as He is holy. His people are considered peculiar when compared to the world. In fact, when compared to the world, a biblical lifestyle is considered extreme and fanatical.
True redemptive change requires extreme choices to mortify the flesh, flee sin, fight satanic influences, and hide from temptation.
When it comes to helping your child repent, this approach is incredibly important. If your child is stealing, you don’t encourage them to steal less and less until they finally reach a point of maturity where they no longer steal. You don’t allot someone who used to lie 100 times a week a stipend of 20 lies until they mature enough to stop lying.
No, Ephesians 4:25-28 tells us, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 BE angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.”
Do you want to repent? You need to stop sinning and start being righteous. You need to reject the lifestyle of the godless world and clothe yourself in the light of the Word. You need to move in the exact opposite extreme direction of your prior sin. You were worshipping self, and now you need to fly to the throne of God, and those two places are as far from each other as the east is from the west.
Now, I know that I’ve presented these two methods as two different ways of correcting your child, but the biblical reality is that they are the same approach viewed through two different lenses and explained with two different metaphors.
True, Christ-honoring moderation is categorically opposed to sinful gluttony. Such a biblically moderate position requires radical amputation where we cut off our idolatry, flee from temptation, and refuse to participate in the works of darkness. Christ-centered balance is a million miles away from fleshly humanism and requires extreme intention and Spirit-filled strength to traverse the distance.
True, biblical correction could easily be called Extreme Balance.
Compared to the rest of us who walk around all day with our feet planted firmly on the ground, tightrope walkers seem crazy. But what if—metaphorically speaking—the Christian life could more accurately be compared to tightrope walking while self-centered idolatry could be compared to rolling around on the ground?
It doesn’t matter how extreme it may seem to the immature, the pagan, the unbeliever, or the fool, if God commands it, we must do it.
But in order to walk that tightrope well, we must be Spirit-controlled, moderate, and balanced. There is truth in both, and the truth of both is equally important because it illustrates important truths that are required of true repentance—true change.
Therefore, please understand that to help your child truly be corrected, you are calling them to Christlikeness—balanced, and perfectly centered on God’s Word. But in order to reach that place from whichever sinful extreme your kids have found themselves, such a move is going to take a zealous, passionate, and equally extreme act of God and personal work of holiness.
Don’t shoot for a wishy-washy “moderation” because you don’t want to look extreme, but don’t just be extreme to be extreme. You’ll find out soon enough that biblical obedience is both perfectly balanced and yet completely foreign to our flesh.
If you want to correct your child biblically, you need to understand both sides of this coin.