KINGDOM VALUE 5: THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS SECOND-HAND FAITH
Here are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone on Sunday, July 21, 2019.
THE MYTH OF THE PERFECT FAMILY
Earlier today, Trae and Cathy Jo dedicated themselves and their little Nehemiah to the Lord. That's a lovely thing, to see a family standing before the Lord AND standing in the gap for their child. Trae and Cathy Jo promised to raise Nehemiah in the "training and instruction of the Lord." You might be wondering what that means exactly. So, we'll look at that for our time together. This is Kingdom Value 5: There's no such thing as second-hand faith.
Before we get started, let me take some pressure off: I'm not teaching you how to be a perfect parent who raises perfect kids. Let's be realistic. We all know that just doesn't happen. Think about this for a moment. Mary, the mother of Jesus, raised one perfect child. She was up for mother of the year until her other kids were born. They were awful. They rejected Jesus and believed he had mental health issues. If Mary couldn't raise perfect kids, none of us can. So, relax.
The Bible doesn't give us a formula for perfection. It gives us a direction to follow in Ephesians 6:4, "bring up your children in the training and instruction of the Lord." Parenting is important. You'd think Ephesians would have more to say about it. Nope! Why not? So we don't get hung up on strategies and steps and formulae and perfection and competing with all the other parents.
So, what is God's direction for parenting? Let's look at that now:
A. DAD, YOU'RE UP - "fathers."
The buck stops with dad. You are called to be a spiritual leader for your kids to follow. That does not mean you do it all yourself. No, you should include mom, and grandparents, and friends, and the church. Get all the help you can. In some ways, spiritual growth is a family matter, but the buck stops with you dad. You must make sure your kids get a "Christian education." After loving your wife, this is the second most important goal in your life.
Why? Because the way we men are wired, we'd prefer to work, or watch TV, or shoot deer, and leave the spiritual stuff to our wives. And they may be better at it than we are. So, if the Bible didn't tell us to take on this role, we wouldn't. We'd hide out and hope someone else steps up to take our place.
This is one of the great regrets of my life. When my boys were little, I was working so much in the evenings and I wasn't available at home. Kim filled the vacuum and did a great job. But I should have done better. Dads, don't repeat my mistake. I did some things the right way. I learned Keith Green's memory verse songs with the boys and we had a great time singing those together. Back then, I did some work for a Christian publisher and they gave me a comic book Bible. The boys loved it, so did I.
B. HELP YOUR KIDS GROW UP - "bring them up in the training ... of the Lord."
Training is a general word for all we do to help our kids grow up in the Christian faith. It's much more than teaching the Bible. It has more to do with the lifestyle we model, the pattern that our kids imitate. Moses taught Israel that faith is caught and taught:
(Deuteronomy 6:6-9) These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Parents can do two things: talk the talk and walk the walk. Both shape our kids' faith, but the walk needs to match the talk or our kids will think we're hypocrites and they will reject our talk about Jesus.
Kids watch everything and they listen to everything. Then, to our horror, they copy it. That's what "training" is all about. So, if you want your kids to follow Jesus, you've got to follow him first. If you want them to pray, you pray with them and model how it's done. If you want them to trust God when things aren't going well, cut out the profanity and start quoting the promises. If you want your kids to love the church, make it a priority to participate in church and don't put other activities ahead of it. Parent, what you do and say will be the pattern your kids follow. It's called the "law of the lid." Your kids won't rise any higher than you do. That's just how it works.
C. HELP YOUR KIDS LISTEN UP - "... in the ... instruction of the Lord."
"Instruction" refers to teaching the Christian faith. In other words, parents, teach your kids the Bible. Start early, when they are babies. And keep going when they are busy and distracted teenagers. This is a key part of parenting. And, of course, the ultimate goal is that our kids learn the Gospel and turn to Jesus as their God and Savior, so teach the Bible with the spotlight on Jesus and the Gospel.
Some Bible teaching should happen in an organized way. KIm and I read our kids through the comic book Bible and the Storybook Bible several times. So, the kids sat in bed and she read or they read and they got a complete summary of the Bible message. And we also brought them to church to learn the Bible.
Formal is good, but sometimes the best and most effective Bible teaching takes place in more informal ways, in life situations. "Dad, why can't we watch a slasher movie. All our friends are doing it? Cos, Jesus made us for beauty not ugliness. And he wants to transform our minds. And because the Three Ninjas is a better movie." Just apply Bible principles to real life and show how God's word makes sense every day.
THE GOAL OF PARENTING
Parenting is so important. We can't delegate it to the church or to friends. No, God gave you a child so that you can have the privilege of passing the faith along. The training and instruction, modeling, talking, showing, teaching - it's all "in the Lord." It's to bring kids to the Lord and the Lord to the kids. Jesus told his disciples,
(Matthew 19:13-15) "Let the children come to me and do not hinder them ..."
That's a high calling. Whatever other goals you set for your parenting, make sure they include teaching Christ so that your kids can find a faith of their own and trust Jesus as their God and Savior. They must claim Jesus for themselves because there is no such thing as second-hand faith.
In some ways, this is the most frustrating part of Christian parenting. We can't make our kids believe. We can't give them our faith. We can't give them the second birth. We teach and model and love the faith for our kids, but then it's between them and God. So, the temptation is to get anxious and angry with our kids when they don't get it.
Paul tells us not to "exasperate" our kids. In the context, it means that we shouldn't berate them or beat them or bully them into becoming a Christian. First, it doesn't work, and also, being mean isn't a great way to portray Jesus. In fact, it's a great way to turn your kids off completely.
Is there anything we can do instead of fretting? Yes, we can pray. John Wesley wrote,
"Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will flow down. The Bible teaches us to expect great answers to prayer:
(James 5:16) The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Pray your kids to faith. Pray them into life-changing encounters with God. Pray God's love into their hearts. Pray the passion and fire of the Holy Spirit into them. Pray they follow Jesus their whole lives. If faith is your goal, prayer is your best resource. You can stand in the gap for other kids too. Pray for our Cornerstone kids. Prayer takes the pressure off and lets God to be God.
On the one hand, parenting is so complicated and confusing and exhausting. On the other hand, it's so simple: model a life of faithfully following Jesus, teach the Bible with Jesus and the Gospel at the center, and pray, pray, pray.