Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Raising children for eternity ..."

What are we doing to our kids?!  There are a lot of statistics thrown around about every generation and those who are older often look at the present generation and shake their heads, forgetting that THEIR generation had its own struggles.  I grew up in the 60's so don't talk to me about a generation that rebels against authority or that is utterly and totally focused on self - that was my generation!  But there IS something different about the present generation, and I fear for the NEXT generation ... if, indeed, there is one, as we watch current events unfolding in the world.

Why the concern about this generation?  Because it seems that even those who claim to be Christians today are increasingly missing the God-given purpose for having children and raising children in this world:  to know, love and follow Jesus Christ ... to find joy in worship and in service to God, our Creator ... and to engage in being part of Christ's body, the Church, as a community of people focused NOT on self but on loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.  It reminds me of another time in history when a group of people who claimed to know the true God lost their focus and forgot to tell their children who He was ... who He IS!

"After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what He had done for Israel" (Judges 2:10).

That has to be one of the most tragic verses in the Bible, and while it has been true in some ways throughout history, the problem has never been as widespread as it is today.  Fewer and fewer young people are making a commitment to Jesus Christ, and even those who do often don't want anything to do with "organized religion" or what they see as "the church."  Why not?  I know - many things have been said about church structures and denominations, etc.  I've said a lot myself.  But while pointing out what's wrong, we have to talk about what's right ... what GOD says His Church is all about.  It's the body of Christ, His bride!

Thinking about the words of Judges 2:10, the responsibility for teaching children about the One true God who has sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to save sinners and to bring LIFE - eternal life - to those who believe ... the responsibility for teaching children lies with parents AND with the fellowship of believers.  Someone once said, "It takes a village," but the reality is, it takes the Church!  But herein lies the problem:  too many even in the visible body called "the church," do not know the true God and are spending their time trying to raise children for THIS world rather than for eternity!!

Children need to grow up knowing GOD.  They need to know that there is only ONE God, the God who has revealed Himself in creation and in His Word and in His Son Jesus Christ.  The current smorgasbord of religions that is being offered to young people is a toxic potion that leads to eternal death.  We live in a society that doesn't want to offend anyone, so parents and church leaders hesitate to say, "Thus says the LORD!"  People forget that the true God is a "jealous God," who will not give His glory to another.  Too many parents themselves do not believe that we have to take all of this so seriously.  Let the children decide for themselves and make their own decisions.

Leaving children alone to deal with a sinful nature bent on evil is the worst form of child abuse imaginable.  Children who don't know Jesus Christ will live a life without true hope, peace, love or joy and will then face the God they didn't know, finally passing into eternity to endure eternal death and judgment.  That's a hard statement, but it is true.  Jesus said, "Bring the children to ME!"  Instead, parents often want to raise their children to be good students, to have friends, to be successful by the world's standards - to get a job, to make a living and to be happy.  Is that all there is?

The national conversation in politics often declares that we should desire above all things that our children have it "better" than we did.  How's that working?  We are told that with the rising debt and economic woes facing us, this is the first generation for whom that is not true - for whom things might not be "better" than the last generation.  All the commentators are right - the "system" is broken!  But they have no clue what is really needed:  knowledge of the true God and of His Son Jesus Christ.  What is needed is the inner transformation that can be produced only by the very Spirit of God - that changes a child or youth or adult from a self-centered "taker" to a Christ-centered "giver."  Nothing else works ... NOTHING!

Yet, what is the solution being offered today?  Get rid of religion, it only causes problems.  Christianity, the one TRUE religion, gets lumped in with all the others and we are told that our children should be free to choose from the smorgasbord, or not to choose, whatever they please.  Yes, the pathway to hell IS paved with good intentions.  Failing to understand the powerful and destructive power of sin in the very nature of every child and every person, society ... and increasingly the church, offers children and young people nothing to combat the call of the world to the indulge the worst of our fallen nature, that is already turned away from God.

The real solution is found only in the Bible, the very Word of the living God, our Creator.  The Bible is NOT all about rules, it is about a relationship that God offers to all, but that will be received only by some.  In His grace and mercy God has made a way for children (and people of all ages) to find meaning and purpose in this life, as they look forward to eternity - eternal life with Him.  Other religions offer an "eternal life" of sorts, but only Christianity offers a personal, vital, living relationship with the Creator of the universe.  Parents need to stop trying to raise "good" children for this world and start raising children for eternity!

That requires talking about eternity.  It means helping children understand who God is and why He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross.  Children need to know that there is a Savior, One who tasted death in their place and who rose from the dead and is now ruling in heaven until He returns and destroys sin, death and evil for His followers and establishes His kingdom on the earth.  Children need to learn these things.  THEN, they will understand WHY the Church is so important, and they will have an identity that is not affected by their peers or the world.  They will know they are children of the King and nothing will be able to move them from faith in Jesus Christ and devotion to serving Him.  They need to be taught that God's love must be received, not taken for granted, and that life is not for self, but for Him.

So many parents don't feel like they know enough to teach their children.  Why not?!  Because too many have never taken the time to learn themselves.  Raising children is hard work.  Life is busy.  There are so many activities and family time is hard to find.  I have heard all the reasons ... but stop for a moment and think about this:  what if you have done everything for your child that you think you needed to do and you have given them all you could, but they go into eternity without knowing God and without Jesus Christ as their Savior?  But on the other hand, what if they know Jesus and know they are loved by God and live to be servants of God by serving others ... and even if they should tragically lose their lives, you are at peace because they knew their Savior and you know they are living forever in His presence?!

Let it not be said of you and me that "another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what He had done for" His people - for us ... for THEM!

Peter writes, "The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness (His promise to bring an end to this world and to bring judgment on those who do not believe).  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  BUT the day of the Lord WILL come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare" (II Peter 3:9-10).

Children and young people today need to be brought face to face with God and taught the only way to draw near to Him, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  They need to be given His Word, the "sword of the Spirit," to arm them against the forces of evil all around us.  They need to know the love of God and love Him back, finding in a relationship with Him as "Abba, Father," their identity and the purpose for their lives - to glorify Him!  Nothing is more important or more pressing - NOTHING!

My prayer today is for parents to take seriously their role in God's plan and not to waver or be overwhelmed.  The Church, the body of Christ, is called and equipped to walk alongside parents in this task of raising children for eternity.  It must occupy our minds and our hearts and we must give to this task our all.  May God help us!

1 comment:

  1. You nailed it, pastor! Now...what can the church, the body, do immediately to help? how can we bring in more kids to the kingdom? Is it through the parents only? Maybe through the kids already in our church home inviting their friends to come and get a taste? Jesus, give us direction.