Monthly Archives: September 2014
The gospel-centered home starts with a model – you! 2 Timothy 3: 14 – 15 states, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 1:5 tells us that Timothy learned it from his grandmother Lois and his mother, Eunice.
You as a parent have an undeniable influence and effect upon your children by the example you set. In the teaching of children, they always learn far more by starting with a visual example before you begin instructing. You should be explaining things to your children after they have observed the example.
John Piper wrote, “It is impossible not to teach children about God, because not to teach them is to teach them plenty. It teaches them that Jesus does not matter much, that mom and dad don’t consider him nearly as important or exciting as new furniture, or weekends at the lake, or dad’s job or all the other things that fill their conversation. Silence about Christ is dogma. Not to teach the infinite value of Christ is to teach that He is negligible.” (Will the Next Generation Know by John Piper, July 25, 1982, DesiringGod.org)
How do you begin to model the gospel? It starts with recognizing what the power of God can do in the life of a family. It can transform the family. Romans 8 teaches us that society, creation and we will be transformed one day. Everything will. Does your family life show that this is a reality? Do you show a love for Christ? Does the Word of God matter in your home? Are you as a parent growing in character? Do you demonstrate to your children a conviction over your own sin? Do you confess your sin publically so your children know? Are you cultivating godliness in your character? Are the evidences of the fruit of the Spirit in your life shown with consistency?
Can you say to your child or teen that you want them to continue in the things they are learning and becoming convinced of in the home? If not, begin now and make sure they will soon.
My weekly spot in the Lincoln Christian School newsletter mentions the marks of an educated person. These should be a goal of our teaching that we are leading students to these marks. Space did not allow me to list these marks so I will use this medium. These come from Arthur F. Holmes and his work titled, “The Idea of a Christian College” which is not necessarily a book about college but about Christian education.
The first mark are spiritual virtues. These include an unreserved commitment to God and his purposes for us in the world, a confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a self-giving devotion (faith, hope and love). These virtues bring to life purpose, expectation and humility.
The second mark are moral virtues. These are qualities of character like love, fairness, the courage of one’s convictions, integrity, and a commitment to justice and love in every area of life.
The third mark are intellectual virtues. These include a breadth of understanding, openness to new ideas, intellectual honesty about other views and about the problems in one’s own, analytic and critical skills, not just verbal skills and powers of communication but grace and eloquence therein as well, and the ability to say the right thing in the right way at the right time. To acquire intellectual virtues, one needs a sense of history, an imagination that frees them to work at both old and new problems in fresh ways, to ask fresh questions, a wisdom that gets down to basic principles and spots assumptions, sees what is right and good and true, and makes sound decisions accordingly.
The fourth mark is responsible actions in all areas of life. These include a conscientiousness, helpfulness, a servant’s heart, the ability to correct one’s course and start afresh, to maintain relationships, active involvement in the church and community, and to be an effective agent of needful and helpful change.
The fifth mark is a self-knowledge. These are an honest appraisal of their own strengths and weaknesses, no false modesty and no overconfidence, a willingness to address weaknesses, and a willingness to address strengths. Knowing oneself means knowing what you have to learn, knowing how to learn it, and the ability to learn from others.
(From The Idea of a Christian College by Arthur F. Holmes, Eerdmans Publishing, 1987)
Here is a critical question Christian parents need to answer. Am I qualifying my child just for earth or am I qualifying them for heaven?
A home may be of Christian parents, but it does not mean it is a gospel-centered home. When we are governing our homes by parenting with behavior modification techniques and throwing in Scripture, we can produce “perfect” children who may end up breaking our hearts. Consider the rich young ruler of Matthew 19: 16-20. And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”
Wow! Who would not want that resume’ for their teenager? He even asked a very spiritual question! However, the narrative does not end there. In verses 21 and 22 we read, Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. The perfect teen breaks your heart. A young man so close, yet so far away!
John Angell James, a British Pastor in the early 1800s wrote in his book, The Christian Father’s Present to His Children, “But how it would embitter our last moments, and plant our dying pillow with thorns, to leave you on earth in an unconverted state; following us to the grave, but not to heaven. Or should you be called to die before us, how could we sustain the dreadful thought…that the very next moment after you had passed beyond our kind attentions, you would be received to the torments which know neither end nor mitigation? And when you had departed under such circumstances, what could heal our wounds or dry our tears…O! no: they may qualify for earth but not qualify for heaven.”
Charles Spurgeon once wrote this about his mother:
“I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother. It was the custom on Sunday evenings, while we were yet little children, for her to stay home with us, and then we sat round the table, and read verse by verse, and she explained the Scriptures for us. After that was done, then came the time of pleading: there was a little piece of Alleine’s Alarm or of Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted, and this was read with pointed observations made to each of us as we sat around the table; and the question was asked, how long it would be before we would think about our state, how long before we would seek the Lord.
Then came a mother’s prayer, and some of the words of that prayer we shall never forget, even when our hair is gray. I remember on one occasion, her praying thus, “Now Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.” That thought of a mother’s bearing swift witness against me, pierced my conscience, and stirred my heart.”
…..Spurgeon, Autobiography, The Early Years, Banner of Truth Trust
“My mother said to me once, after she had long prayed for me and had come to the conviction that I was hopeless. “Ah” said she, “My son, if at the last great day you are condemned, remember your mother will say ‘Amen’ to your condemnation.” That stung me to the quick. Must the mother that brought me forth and that loved me say ‘Amen’ to my being condemned at last?’ ……..Spurgeon, “The Chaff Driven Away.” Sermon October 23, 1859
How are your family devotions going? Is the gospel being proclaimed? Are you assuming too much of your child’s soul. In posts to come I will address the why and how of the principle that we should preach the gospel often to our children and how they will give you ample opportunity to do this.
The following is a short article revealing the disturbing trend in the viewing of pornography. My immediate concern is working at a Christian school with several hundred young people. Surveys of students (both boys and girls) indicate that some view it regularly, even here at school. We will address it to the students and offer help for those who ask, but smart phones don’t seem to be a smart thing at times (though the phone is not the problem but the heart is the issue) … George
Article by John Stonestreet
Nearly 15 years ago, a survey found that Christians looked at pornography at nearly the same rates as non-believers. Have things improved?
In the spring of 2000, Zogby International asked more than a thousand U.S. adults whether they had ever visited a sexually-oriented web site. Only one in five had done so. Among born-again Christians, 18 percent had gone to such sites, just three percentage points less than the general public.
Well, fast forward to today. A group called Proven Men Ministries commissioned the Barna Group to examine current pornography use. You might want to sit down for this? Barna found that 64 percent of American men and 20 percent of women view pornography at least monthly. And for Christian men, that number is 55 percent.
Fourteen years ago, only one out of every three men had ever gone to a pornography site, but now nearly one-third of men under 30 do so on a daily basis. And if you think it can’t get worse, the survey found that 18 percent of men believe they may be addicted to pornography. That’s more than 20 million men in deep trouble.
Friends, take a moment to let this sink in. More than half of Christian men in America routinely expose themselves to sexually explicit lies that shape the way they see sex, love, marriage, and women. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that this is a crisis for the Church and certainly for our culture. If these numbers are accurate in any sense, and I believe they are, we’ve reached a time of reckoning.
One of the first things to realize is that rampant pornography use can’t be isolated from its larger cultural context. So many of our social ills stem from the fact that society is losing or abandoning the ability to see people as beings made in the image of God.
With crime, victims are treated as obstacles to overcome or things to exploit. Abortion sees people as disposable because he or she is inconvenient. Pornography treats people as objects in service of self-gratification. We’ve become this “use or be used” society.
And so, if we are to reclaim the sacred dignity of every human person amidst this brutish culture, we must turn inward. We’re all tempted to point angry fingers at those sinners “out there” that we think are degrading our culture. But even as Miley Cyrus flaunts herself on stage in front of millions, tens of millions of Christians are secretly watching pornography while their churches stay silent as tombs about the issue.
It may be that we in the church should revisit the story of the self-righteous Pharisee in Luke 18. If these survey results are true, we can no longer stand in the front of the church patting ourselves on the back for not being like those sexual sinners out there. Instead, together we can lower our face before God and say, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Although this survey grieves me, I remain hopeful that through true evangelism and service, and by praying and seeking spiritual renewal in our churches, we have an incredible opportunity to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ to the hidden, the lost, and the ashamed. And right now, there are plenty of folks? millions even? waiting along the highways and byways for an invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb. And invite them we must.
The Bible warns us many times that the sexually immoral will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. People’s eternal lives are at stake, including many who we call brother and sister each week in church.
I find Luke 6: 27-36 haunting at times..“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Jesus distinguishes between the one who has been touched by the mercy of God and those who have not. I am haunted because I often act like the one who has not been and in doing so, I am no different in my actions than the unbeliever. In fact, they can look more “Christian” than I can.
And so it is with parenting. Why is it that those without Christ as the center of their home can parent so well and we who have Christ can do so poorly? There is an ingredient available to the Christian that can be distinguished from all other homes. It is the gospel. There is a difference in a gospel centered home and the unbeliever’s home. There is even a difference in a gospel centered home and many Christian homes.
How is the difference distinguished? The gospel centered home will be focused on how the gospel informs every aspect of our living and not on behavior modification. Some ways to know a home is ruled by the gospel:
1. Everyone will know that Jesus is our redemption and has set us free from the slavery of sin. Discipline will be Christ-centered with the focus rejoicing in Christ, our Redeemer.
2. All will understand that Jesus is victorious over sin, Satan, and death. It is a home where the strength to deal with tough issues will be nourished by the finished work of Christ.
3. Knowing that we are all justified in Christ where our sin has been taken away and the righteousness of Christ given to us so that we will not be weighed down by the guilt of sin but will deal with it confidently in Christ.
4. The family will know that Jesus has cleansed us from all our sins that we have committed and all that have been committed against us. The obstacles of broken relationships have been removed so that forgiveness and reconciliation are possible.
More to come….
I saw that my blog address was posted in the Lincoln Christian School Newsletter and realized that I have not posted anything in months. I guess I better get back in my saddle and hopefully encourage parents and students who take the time to check out what God puts on my heart. I will plan on a least one posting per week and comments are always welcome. Here is a great article by Pastor Erik Raymond of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha which I believe every parent can identify with. Hope it encourages you. He writes:
My kids are growing up. This is filled with all sorts of emotions. Life presents new challenges and circumstances. This is true for any parent. But things are a little different for Christian parents. We actually believe that our kids are not Christians just because we are. Heaven is not an unalienable right like voting at 18. Our children have to actually come to terms with the God of the gospel themselves.
This presents an interesting set of circumstances for parents. We have a responsibility, a mandate even, to raise our kids in the ‘discipline and instruction of the Lord.’ (Eph. 6.4) We understand that in this same book the same Apostle says that prior to conversion we all are dead in sin, and apart from a supernatural work of God’s grace and mercy we would not follow Christ (Eph. 2.1-8).
So what do you do?
The Dangerous Trap
I think there is potentially a trap to step into here if we are not careful and thinking. If you believe that your children cannot be converted apart from God’s sovereign work of grace in their lives, youmay become complacent in praying for them and actively ‘gospelizing’ them. We may begin to think that since they are unbelievers then what you do with the Scriptures and what you do on your knees is not helpful. This type of thinking is as dangerous as it is unbiblical.
The command to train your children is not contingent upon their receptivity. Parents (specifically Dads) do not have to ask to be the leader, they already are. And so therefore they are accountable.
“But wait…,” some might say, “how is God going to hold me accountable for something that I have no ability to accomplish myself?”
This is important to think through.
The Motivating Truth
You are right, you cannot save your children. But, God never called you to save them, he has called you to care for them. You are to shepherd their hearts with the word of God (Eph. 6.4; cf also Deut. 4.9;6.7; 11.19). And you are to carry your cares of their salvation to the throne of grace for mercy and help (Heb. 4.16; 1 Pet. 5.7). It is this that you will be accountable for.
Please think through the horrible logic of being lazy in light of your children being unconverted and disinterested in biblical things. Your excuse then is that you are lazy because God is sovereign and they are sinners? The first thing I would ask any of my Reformed leaning friends is, “What are you doing about it Dad?”
So what do you do about it?
I can sum it up in a sentence: Pray like you can’t save your children and parent like you can.
Be relentless on your knees for your children. Carry them to the throne of grace daily as you petition the sovereign and good God of the gospel for mercy. And also, be faithful to bring the Scriptures to bear in regular study, instruction and application in their lives. Have regular times of family devotions. But also, be sure to integrate the glory of God in all manner of life and thinking. Bring the matchless beauty of Christ to bear on everything that you can.
This is hard work. It is however, the work of faith, the work of dependence and the work of love. It is gospel work. It is Christian parenting. You are believing that God is merciful, that his word is powerful, and that he is infinitely valuable. We cannot afford to cling to lame and ill-conceived excuses when we are talking about such weighty things as the glory of God, our accountability before him, and the souls of our children.
So get to work, in the prayer closet and at the kitchen table; plead Christ to them and them to Christ!