“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). This verse is simply the starting point in understanding how to raise your children. We need to understand the nature of what we are dealing with!
God created the human mind, the intellect, the process by which we think, conceive our plans, imagine about the future, reason back and forth, and the process of taking given facts and deducing or predicting certain outcomes. The Eternal God created the mind of man for a brilliant purpose.
“So mark well this super-vital truism—that perfect, holy and righteous character is the supreme feat of accomplishment possible for Almighty God the Creator—it is also the means to His ultimate supreme purpose! His final objective! But how? I repeat, such perfect character must be developed. It requires the free choice and decision of the separate entity in whom it is to be created” (Mystery of the Ages).
God created law—law is good (1 Timothy 1:8). Submission to God’s law brings the excellent, profitable and blessed results that God intended for human beings, and which ultimately leads to eternal life.
Yet there is an opposing law that impacts our minds to lead us to disobey God’s law. Paul called this “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). He contrasted it to “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus which sets us free from the law of sin and death.” The Apostle James elsewhere calls God’s law “the law of liberty” (James 1:25; 2:12).
These two laws, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus and the law of sin and death, constantly are at war in the mind of man. “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:21-23).
This is a constant and desperate fight, which a converted human being contends with till death. The reward that we inherit after death depends on whether we succumb to that law of sin or yield to and obey the law of God. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
So our starting point in understanding God’s method of child rearing is to deeply understand just what it is that we are dealing with. We are dealing with fresh, young human minds. Minds that are automatically tuned in to Satan’s wavelength from birth! “The human spirit within each human is automatically tuned to Satan’s wavelength. It seems as if Satan has surcharged the air over the entire Earth with his attitude of self-centeredness and vanity” (ibid). Here is the source of the law of sin—that great fallen Lucifer who was the first living entity to sin (Ezekiel 28:15-17).
That nature of Satan is the law of sin. It opposes and seeks to exalt itself above all that God’s perfect law of liberty, the law of love, stands for. It is a law of corruption which leads to chaos in any human mind unable to resist it. It is full of pride, vanity, jealousy, lust and greed. It is selfish to the core. It is anti-love, anti-life, anti-God! As Gerald Flurry writes, “Sin becomes deeply etched in our minds, as if it were written there with ‘a pen of iron’ and ‘the point of a diamond.’ It becomes engraved upon our hearts. It’s like being hooked on heroin. The key is to never let it begin” (Jeremiah and the Greatest Vision in the Bible).
That’s the challenge you face as a parent! As the umbilical cord is cut and that little baby is laid upon its mother’s breast, already Satan is intent on tuning in to that mind. We may picture the drama of Revelation 12:4 applying to the children in God’s firstfruits Church. Satan literally stands before the expectant mother, seeking to devour that little one’s mind as soon as it is born.
And it even starts before birth! This precious little life is drawn from the womb of its mother with a mind already impacted, even in its fetal stages, through the influence on the mother of the war between the law of sin and the law of life!
Many studies have proved that the state of mind, body and general circumstances of the parents at the time of conception of the child have a bearing on the general well-being of the fetus developing within its mother’s womb. “Good breeding” in the physical sense starts with two healthy bodies, those of the mother and the father. Congenital defects and weaknesses in children simply can be sourced at the breaking of God’s laws at some point in the ancestry of the child.
Satan has so impacted the mind of man as to greatly corrupt the good Earth and its air, water, produce and livestock, designed by God for the sustenance of healthy life. Whatever we breathe, drink or consume as food has inevitably been weakened or warped by man’s interfering, law-breaking hand to the point that congenital problems related to heredity and environment are escalating dramatically. Those couples contemplating having children would do well to ensure that their physical fitness and health is at its peak when endeavoring to conceive.
Further, mental and emotional well-being of the parents in the time leading up to conception and during the prenatal process is vital to the mental and emotional well-being of the newborn child. A happy, pleasant, bright, breezy, harmonious environment and state of mind in the family home during the mother’s nine-month gestation is vital to giving the new baby the best possible start in life. It is interesting to note that mothers who sing to their unborn children and who expose them to the sounds of pleasant and melodic music prior to birth find that their children’s sense of tone, rhythm and key is greatly enhanced. A happy mother and father make a happy child. Yet this is mostly all on the human level.
At the spiritual level, as Mr. Flurry infers, the best cure for sin is “never let it begin. Once we are hooked, it is almost impossible to repent without mind-paralyzing trials. That is how hard a sinning mind becomes. Sin penetrates our very being and becomes a real part of our lives” (ibid).
It’s a terrible legacy for a child to have its mind allowed to run freely on Satan’s wavelength without any or only minimal effort to resist it. That child will soon be so hooked on sin that it may be destined to live in rebellion against God’s law for the rest of its life.
Too many converted parents have concentrated on attempting to work out their own salvation to the neglect of their children. Too many ministers and members of God’s own Church have sacrificed their children on the altar of serving for glory in the Church. This is not God’s way. Our heavenly Father calls for self-sacrifice in the conduct of His daily, continual Work, but He holds us accountable if we neglect our children’s teaching and training in His way of life. Our God is a Father. He is the perfect Father! It is to Him that we look to understand how to raise children. He does it perfectly!
We should strive to copy His perfect example in parenting His Family. That’s the godly method of child rearing. It is not of man. It is not of any of man’s “sciences”—falsely so called—such as psychiatry, psychology or sociology. Godly parenting is simply of God! Every law, statute, judgment, tenet and principle of perfect child rearing is found in God’s Word. That’s the perfect psychology book for mankind.
And the perfect psychology of God starts with a deep comprehension of Jeremiah 17, which Mr. Flurry describes as getting “to the core of the whole Bible message.” In verse 5, it states, “Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” Speaking of those who no longer trust God, Mr. Flurry writes, “They are under a curse because they no longer trust God—they ‘trust in man.’ It is a curse that leads to eternal death, unless they repent. That ‘man’ they trust may be a leader, or it may even be their own human nature—people can follow their own minds. This is a fundamental lesson that man has not learned for 6,000 years. We are cursed if we follow a man” (ibid).
Again, in this masterful exposé of human nature, Mr. Flurry states, “Our educational system looks upon man as being basically good and trustworthy. That philosophy destroys institutions and nations! We must see the evil in human nature, or we can never solve our problems. That is where man’s false hope lies—in an incredibly deceitful mind that is terminally ill! Here is where men generally place their trust. What deadly deceit!” (ibid).
That is why we reject the human ways of psychology, psychiatry and sociology in coming to understand human nature, human interaction between God and man and between human beings. Godly parenting is only possible with godly revelation. It takes converted minds, converted parents, tuned in to God’s wavelength, daily—and aggressively tuning out Satan’s wavelength—to comprehend the vision within which our child rearing must be conducted. We are accountable to God to understand how to apply the God-given method of training up those children in the way that they should go.
As parents, the key is to not “let a day pass without intense Bible study and repentant prayer to our God. Only He can save us from our incurably sick minds” (ibid).
Train Him Up
Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Let’s briefly analyze this key Bible verse, upon which all instruction turns in relation to godly child rearing. The first of the key words in this verse are “train up.” The literal translation of the Hebrew word is to “train, dedicate, inaugurate or catechize.” If we consider this word in context of the whole verse, the full meaning of our parental responsibility comes to light. In the sense of inaugurating, a parent is launching, starting the child on the road to the fulfillment of its incredible, God-given human potential. In the sense of dedicating, the converted parent is dedicating the child and all of the effort that is put into raising that child to its Creator, the living God. To catechize the child connotes a responsibility to teach the child God’s laws, statutes and judgments upon which its life will be based.
In order for the parent to be able to inaugurate, dedicate and catechize the child, the mother and father need to set up a relationship with their infant, from the beginning, which permits this to be effectively carried out. The key to this relationship is found in the word translated “child” in Proverbs 22:6. The Hebrew word can be translated either child or servant. It is used interchangeably in the Scriptures. The true intent of the use of this word in Proverbs 22:6 is revealed by Jesus Christ when He stated, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).
True humility is expressed by submission to authority—obedience! The end result is expressed by Jesus Christ thus: “But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve” (Luke 22:26). This is the beginning point on the road to achieving our full, incredible human potential. For the children of godly parents, this starts with instilling in them, from the beginning, the habit of obedience to the authority of mother and father.
The Way That He Should Go
So, you’re not really educated? You think you lack the basic education needed to teach and train up your child in the way that he or she should go? Then listen to this! Speaking of Jeremiah 17:9, Mr. Flurry writes, “Understanding this profound verse is more important than any education in this world. When we understand it, radical action is necessary. The greatest need is to understand God—to let Him reveal our own sickness and heal it” (ibid).
So having proved and accepted this as our fundamental thesis, let us now go to God’s Word and allow Him to reveal to us His perfect method of child rearing.
Jesus Christ personified the perfect way of life. He lived the way man was designed to live. He taught this way to His disciples. He described it thus: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14).
King David showed that a reverential fear of the Eternal God is fundamental to receiving an understanding of how to live the way our Creator designed and intended for us to live. “What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose” (Psalm 25:12). The psalmist knew that the end result of fulfilling that incredible human potential was rich blessings in this present life, and a great inheritance at the resurrection into eternal life. “His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth” (verse 13).
As David taught, a mind that was trained to habitually tune in to God and tune out Satan’s wavelength would gain knowledge of revelation of truth not otherwise accessible to the human spirit. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant” (verse 14). As the wisest man conceived of human flesh, Solomon, wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). This “way that he should go” is simply the way of God’s immutable law of love. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
When He Is Old, He Will Not Depart
Like many ministers, I have had the wonderful experience of witnessing numerous living fulfillments of Proverbs 22:6 working with God’s people in the pcg ministry. If we study the true meaning of the originally inspired Hebrew in this verse, the intent is “even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Mr. Flurry has often said that it’s not so much how we begin that is important—it’s how we finish!
Human beings have human nature. It’s common to us all. It exerts the strongest of pulls on us to travel in a particular direction in our lives—a carnal, self-willed, fleshly direction. As the Apostle Paul states, it is a law within us human beings that literally wars against our desire and our will to obey God. It sets up a constant tension in the life of the converted servant of God who has freely received God’s Holy Spirit. It’s a constant war between the carnal mind and God’s mind in the converted person, and this war is aggressively promoted and aggravated by that old serpent, Satan the devil, whose passion is to destroy the Family of God!
It is within this arena that the child rearing of precious children must be carried out. It is not an easy task. And contrary to the teaching of some in this world, it does not end when your child reaches his teens.
The primary responsibility of a parent in teaching and training up a child is completed when that child reaches an age when he can demonstrate self-reliance, accepting responsibility for his own actions. This is usually somewhere between the ages of 18 and 20 years. It is interesting to note that, in Israel, under the theocracy of God’s government, men were regarded as being ready to separate from their parents, and ready for battle, at age 20.
“A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary” (Jeremiah 17:12). This is where we find revealed the godly method of child rearing. It is to the glorious high throne of the Supreme Leader of the universe that we must go to receive the revelation of how God raises His spirit-begotten children. His method gives us the perfect pattern within which to initiate and develop our child rearing at the human level. Always, perfection of knowledge flows from the spiritual to the physical. The Word of God is the foundation of all knowledge. The throne of the Eternal God, Father of all mankind, is the fountainhead of all truth.
Do you realize that without the revealed knowledge from God’s throne, we cannot even begin to understand how to raise our children to fulfill their very reason for being? In the subject of child rearing, as with all truth, we must listen to God, not men! “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
So let us now heed God’s instruction on this most vital of subjects.
A Royal Household
Two factors, on the human level, weigh powerfully on your child rearing. One has been controlled by those who went before us—heredity. The other is largely within our control—environment. Just as conditions during pregnancy will effect the health of that fetal life, so the physical environment enveloping your child from birth will profoundly influence the outcome of your child rearing.
Herbert W. Armstrong, the end-time Elijah, built three fabulous campuses for institutions of learning. These were the Ambassador Colleges, located in Pasadena, California, Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire, England, and Big Sandy, Texas. In developing those campuses to their award-winning status, Mr. Armstrong had a real purpose in mind. He knew that the higher the quality of environment, the higher would be the state of mind and level of aspirations of the faculty and students. Place a human being in inspiring surroundings and his mind will automatically be lifted up, inspired to think on a higher level. The reverse also applies: If we place a human being in degrading circumstances, surrounded by filth and degeneracy of environment, the human being’s state of mind will sink to levels of despair and despondency.
For the Church of the firstfruits (James 1:18), Jesus Christ declares that He has “made us kings and priests unto God and his Father” (Revelation 1:6). That means in God’s eyes, the saints are already kings and priests.
If we do really get it, then we as parents will not only be seeking daily to live our lives now as spiritual begotten kings and priests, we will also be creating a royal environment within our homes befitting that of a king priest. What sort of environment will your child be raised in? Have you established a home environment which truly is a royal castle, in the sense that the father is the loving, savior-like ruling head of the wife? Is the mother the regal, queenly, submissive helper to her husband? Do the physical surroundings reflect warmth, peace, orderliness, beauty and harmony? Is your home a fitting place within which to raise a royal prince or princess? Is it an environment that reflects, realistically, within your budget, the “Ambassador College” standard, so ably and royally set by Mr. Armstrong as our example in these things?
Stimulus-Response Vs. Attitude
Having established a home environment conducive to raising up your little prince or princess in the ways of our loving Father, we need to dwell on two fundamental aspects of child rearing—physical behavior and mental attitude.
Behaviors can simply be taught by conditioning a mental response to certain stimuli in the mind of a child which automates certain behavioral reactions. One can teach a child and a dog to sit by applying the same set principles to each. But the child has intellect, a mind, the spirit in man. The dog has a brain, with no mind, no “spirit in dog,” only certain pre-programmed instincts. Whereas the child can be taught attitude, mindset, thought patterns, the dog cannot. Its reactions are governed by instinct and conditioned physical behavior.
As Pavlov proved, you can condition the physical reaction of a dog, inducing salivation by simply ringing a bell prior to feeding time. With training, eventually it will just take a bell ringing to promote salivation from the dog, as it anticipates being fed. This is the same with humans. At the sound of the dinner gong, those called to the table may already be induced to salivate in anticipation of the meal about to be served. But the level and type of conversation around the dinner table will rest largely upon the mindset, thought patterns and inspiration of the moment which stimulates the spirit in man to respond with vocalization of his thoughts. The conversation will express certain attitudes of mind. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).
So the parent faces a two-fold challenge with the newborn child—how to instill acceptable physical behavior in the child and how to stimulate right thought patterns, a godly mindset, which will influence the developing behavior, knowledge, skills and habits of the child from birth to successful adulthood. These two challenges must be placed in right sequence, otherwise the child’s degree of success in life will be greatly inhibited.
In the final and mature years of his powerful ministry to God’s Church, Mr. Armstrong expressed his deep concern about the behavior of the children in God’s Church in an article titled “How You Must Teach Your Children to Behave in Church” (Good News, May 1981). In that article, Mr. Armstrong quoted a letter written by his firstborn son, Dick Armstrong, in March 1958, to the brethren in the Fresno congregation. Here is what Mr. Armstrong had to say about that letter: “I do not think my son really wrote this letter, except as God’s instrument. The living Christ, I feel, actually authored it. But it contains a dynamic sermon on the responsibility of parents for the training and the behavior of their children at Church services” (emphasis added).
Notice that God’s apostle, the Elijah, through whom all things were restored to God’s Church (Matthew 17:10-11), felt that Jesus Christ, the Head of God’s government in the Church, authored this letter. That makes it extremely important to you as a parent of children in God’s inner court! “As I reread this letter, the realization comes forcibly upon my mind that many of our brethren—especially those newer in God’s Church—may not fully realize the seriousness of strict training and vigilant enforcement of the behavior of children at Church services. Brethren, we need to be reawakened! We need to realize the extreme seriousness of this matter. God is holding every one of you parents responsible.”
The subject is physical behavior, teaching children to behave in a manner that is pleasing to God! Unless we get the physical behavior right, we will have a continual problem teaching our children the knowledge of God. The principles of godly child rearing must be carried out and adhered to in right order. First, get the vision within which to train up your child. Next, teach right habits of physical behavior to the infant child. When you’ve got the behavior right, then you can direct the mind of the child to learning right knowledge. Once the child has inculcated the basic knowledge of God and understands that he will be blessed for obedience and cursed for disobedience (God’s law of love in action), then you are in a position to inspire that child to action—to work to achieve his incredible human potential!