Romans 1:18-23—For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
DON’T DROP THAT BATON!
At times I have wondered if some of the world’s church related statistics have not been worded in such a way as to discourage parents—especially Christian parents.
It’s hard to miss that ugly declaration in bulletins and periodicals everywhere. One such report from George Barna’s stats proclaimed that an average of 70% of teens will leave the church after high school graduation.[i] Should we be frightened? What should be our response?
One blogger testifies that families and the church are dysfunctional and that kids want to get away from both. They want to find their own “functionality” for their lives without the problems they see around them.[ii]
Not only are the children leaving, but scores of women are said to have already left the church for institutions where their voices may be heard from the pulpits and stages. Supposedly even preachers are leaving for systems where they are not so restricted by laws.[iii]
My husband and I have given birth to three strong-willed, independent-thinking children, beginning with our firstborn in 1963. Later we adopted two more equally strong willed children whose families were not there for them. While I was a public school teacher, my husband was a full time minister, and after more than a half-century of investing our lives in our children’s spiritual development, supplementing their education, eventually beginning to home school, we have learned a whole lot about what it means to transfer the baton to the next generation.
Early on we learned that home educators are particularly blessed with an edge. They have the benefit of access to their children 24/7, leading by example and exercising a powerful influence, primarily because they have the luxuries of time and togetherness. Yes, after I became a homeschooling mom, my thoughts have often been occupied with pencils, papers, and curriculum, but my overriding mission and passion has always been more about imparting spiritual concepts to our children than simply pursuing an academic agenda.
The average Christian parent whose children are sent out to be educated doesn’t get to see his school-aged child for seven to ten hours of each weekday, because during those hours children are on the way to school, being influenced by the world in school, or on the way home from school. That same child may spend about as much time sleeping in his bed at night. The hours left for meaningful parent-child interaction are not only few, but they also are chock-full of stressed carpools, debriefing, dinner preparations, chores, homework, and assorted extracurricular activities. The fact is, the world’s formal schooling holds families hostage to a system that dominates their days, nights, and weekends. Within that system, only crumbs of time are left for directing the children toward discipleship.
Worse yet, while the vice of secular academia grips these vulnerable kids in its jaws, they are likely to be exposed to all manner of negative influences during their countless hours on campus. In public schools it’s no secret that their course of study will be permeated with secular humanistic philosophy,[iv] while at the same time they could be dodging bullets,[v] bullies,[vi]blatant sexual perversity,[vii] and peer pressure, to name a few of the dangers they could encounter daily. And let’s be honest, private schools cannot guarantee a child exemption from such hazards.
On weekends (if there’s time after soccer, hockey, band, and football), this same parent may drop his children off to attend church programs designed to save them from the deplorable indoctrination experienced while engaged in their educational institution. Crazy, wouldn’t you say? Such programs are just one more way for the world to take the children away from the influence of the parents.
Local churches too often offer elaborate décor, Wii games, basketball, air hockey, and other age-appropriate amusements. These folks are serious about impacting the youth, but in my decades of experience, I have learned that providing myriad special youth nights and extravagant pleasure for teens doesn’t keep the teen sheep in the fold. Institutions will not save our kids. It’s up to parents to create our own revolution in our homes for our sons and daughters.
I said “home educators have an edge,” but I didn’t say “they have it in the bag.” Many enthusiastic homeschool parents are smugly touting their youngsters the “signs and wonders following them,” but a word of caution: babes under your wing aren’t yet adults who’ve decided to follow Jesus.
I’ve met many disappointed parents and heard much debate related to this topic. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve found what I think is the non-negotiable in this all-important matter of getting—and keeping—our kids in the race (Heb. 12:1-2, KJV).
It begins with us. The good news is that we are the models! Wow! There is so much power in our very own hands to impact the next generation! The bad news is that we are . . . the . . . models. Sigh! What a huge responsibility we have before God to make right choices for the sake of our children.
It’s my conviction that we pass on to our children far more than our physical DNA. Our sons and daughters will reflect what we are. We establish the standard and cast the mold, and that’s serious stuff. We can preach truth day-in-and-day-out, but if we aren’t living it, kids know that. You can’t get anything past them.
So . . . what are you? I’m not asking if you’re a church member, a homeschool parent, how much money you give, or what good works you do. What we are and what we do can be two very different things.
Are we simply religious followers in systems, attending to those duties prescribed by the church or traditions of men, or are we decidedly dedicated disciples of Christ, recognizing that “…he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15, KJV)?
As Christian parents, we are far more than educators equipping our students for a future vocation; we are the primary ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our impressionable youngsters. Isn’t that sobering?
If we believe Jesus’ statement that “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” (Luke 6:40, KJV), our mission is paramount. We cannot deny that our toughest job is to first lead ourselves strongly (with the baton firmly in hand) to grow into the image of our Master (Eph. 4:11-13). Let’s be done with lesser things and “. . . So run, that ye may obtain.” (1 Cor. 9:24, KJV)!
The Pathway of Spiritual Growth
Purification through temptation is the pathway that leads to the finish line. We have already seen the scriptures that direct us to be perfect (complete in love) as the Father and Son and saw that this is the goal for which Paul was aiming (Phil. 2:12). James describes the same pathway in very clear terms. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). We note the succession of steps on the pathway.
Temptation (trying of our faith) => Patience => perfect/entire/lacking nothing
Paul gives the same process saying that he glories in tribulation. Why would anyone glory in tribulation? No doubt it was the same reason that James commands us to count it all joy when we fall into various temptations. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:3-5).
Tribulation => Patience => Experience
The word ‘experience’ is the same word used by James (the trying of your faith) and Peter (that the trying of your faith) referring to the process of purifying metal (1 Pet. 1:6-7). Let it be said at the outset, that not just any suffering will cause spiritual growth. There is a certain kind of suffering which god has ordained for our spiritual growth. This brings us to a very confused subject in Christianity.
One of the great attacks on Christianity is the question of the existence of evil. Men ask whether a righteous God could create such a thing as evil. They cannot fathom a righteous God allowing all of the pain, suffering and evil in the world. Our God has a grand purpose for both suffering and evil. Consider some of the principles of God and the possibility of these standards if there were no evil on earth.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same (Matt. 5:43-46)?
We can be children of our heavenly Father. Jesus gives the definition of spiritual children when he informed the Jews “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). If we are God’s children, we will do the works of God. God returns good for evil. If there were no evil we could not be God’s children. If we return good to those who do good to us, we have no reward and are no different than the tax collectors. Returning good for good is a far lower standard than returning good for evil. Without evil in the world we cannot grow to be God’s children.
Paul Crucified His Old Man
Paul is our example of having crucified the old man. He testified, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (Gal. 2:20).
This crucifixion was a crucifixion to the world. He said, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).
This death to the world was a death to the rudiments of the world and the ordinances made by men of the world. He asks the Colossians (who had been crucified to the world), “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?” (Col. 2:20-21).
The old man walked like the rest of the world (Eph. 2:2-3) and loved the world and the things of the world the same way the world does (1 John 2:15-17). The new man has responded to the first gospel sermon: “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40).
The new man has agreed to fulfill his part of the covenant: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:17-18).
Paul had done this. He testified, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phil. 3:5-9).
RECEIVING CHIRST AS SAVIOR, REDEEMER OR CREATOR
For the Christian, “Receiving Christ” is not the same as the denominational doctrine of “Receiving Christ as one’s personal savior.” “Receiving him” in this context, does not refer to Christ as savior. The context of “receiving Christ” goes at least back to John 1:10: “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:10). Jesus made the world and therefore is Creator. The Jews did not receive him as Creator (John 1:11). The Jews did receive him as an ordinary Jew until he was 30 years old and began to preach publicly. Even then, as he went from village to village, they only received his healing and gifts. However, the Jews did not receive Christ as being their Creator.
What does it mean to receive Christ as Creator? To receive Christ as one’s “Personal Savior” requires a deep gratitude. When Paul saved the jailer’s life in that prison in Philippi, the jailer owed Paul his life. However, the jailer did not live only for Paul from that day forward. In that sense Paul was his savior but not his Creator. A savior has done a good work which requires a great depth of gratitude, but a Creator owns what he creates. “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psa. 24:1). “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine” (Eze. 18:4). What belongs to the Creator should be reserved only for the Creator; however, man has ignored the Creator and the Creator’s purpose. Some are willing to give God a token from their abundance, but that is not all that belongs to God. He owns the world and everything in it. He expects man to live only for him and his purposes. “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15). Thus receiving Christ is to receive the purpose for which he died, that we would no longer live for ourselves, but for him. In fact, he gives us a specific warning that states that exact principle. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35). Receiving Christ as ‘personal savior’ is to be thankful for what has been done in the past, and then to turn “every one to his own way” (Isa. 53:6). To receive Christ as Creator (John 1:10-12) is to turn from living for ourselves, lose all that we have, and live only for him and the gospel (Mark 8:35). Those who receive Christ as Creator are given power to become the sons of God, for they believe on his name (authority) (John 1:12). His authority is not for a part of our lives but it is all power (authority) in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18).
Not only is Christ our Creator, but he is also our Redeemer. What does it mean to be a Redeemer or to be redeemed? The significance of being redeemed by the blood of Christ is often only partially understood. To most, a Redeemer is someone who paid the price for our sins. Forgiveness of sins is surely an integral part of our redemption, but only a part. When we sin, we are taken captive by Satan. When we are saved, God has “. . . translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). Thus we are redeemed from Satan. This is the blessing that we get, but it says nothing about what Christ gets. The word ‘redeem’ is to ‘buy up.’ Christ is our redeemer because he has redeemed “. . .the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). When Jesus redeems us, he purchases us. We know now what it means to be redeemed. He tells us plainly that “…ye are not your own. For ye are bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Based on that purchase he says, “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). This is the reason for his declaration that: “…he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15). If we are purchased we do not belong to ourselves. We belong to the one of who bought us. If we belong to Christ, then we have no right to live our lives to suit ourselves. This is why Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35). When we receive Christ as Creator and Redeemer we belong solely to him in two ways—he owns his creation and he owns what he has purchased. We are truly and only his.