I recently came across a phrase on an electronics technical blog that was new to me. Do you any idea what the phrase “Tabula Rasa”means? My first thought, based on my limited knowledge of Eastern Religions was it may be something Hindu. I was surprised to learn that the phrase is Latin. The word Tabula means tablet and rasa means blank. Th phrase means blank tablet referring to the concept that man is born a “blank tablet”and then shaped by environmental influences and life experiences. The challenge for the follower of Jesus is that this concept is contradictory to Biblical instruction.
This past week I faced a conundrum. I was scheduled to preach through Romans 7 in our series on Romans for our Celebrate Summer – Gospel 360. It was also the week that we were scheduled to focus on our CLEAT Soccer Camp celebration where we invited families to join us for the special service. I have traditionally focused my message on parenting. If you know anything about Romans 7, this does not seem to be a good passage for this focus. Yet, the more I studied and prayed, I came to see that a portion of chapter 7 is a crucial foundational passage for parenting.
You can listen to the full message here. But let me share one insight. Your child is not a “clean slate” but a “dirty slate.” What I man by this is, they have within them a sin force (or sin nature) that rebels against any kind of authority. Paul stated this truth this way: “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” (Romans 7:8-9) His point is that this sin force lies dormant (“sin lies dead”) in every human being and is stirred (“seizing and opportunity”) when we are asked to do something that we don’t want to do! He was a happy camper (“alive apart from the law”)when freed from any responsibility. Yet once he was aware of this responsibility, the revelation of the sin force, revealed his true condition (“sin came alive and I died.”)
So how does this apply to parents? Well, first, let me point out that Romans 7 reminds us that rules, like the Law, are good. The real culprit is the inborn sin force. It is the gospel of Jesus that breaks sin’s absolute control over us and gives us the ability to overcome its influence in our lives. Parental instruction not only prepares our children to be receptive to the gospel it also trains them to make God-honoring choices until they come to that place in their lives. These verses in Romans make more sense when coupled with what Paul wrote to the Christian parents in Ephesus, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson