BRINGING UP A GENERATION THAT KNOWS GOD
This lecture was presented to a ladies’ session at the Singapore Four Seas Lectureship in 2015.
Throughout this lectureship, we have been looking at many different aspects of the overall theme, Living Soberly and Righteously. Learning practical ways, through which we can be more like the peculiar people Christ died for us to become, should be an encouragement to everyone (Titus 2:11-14). Why have we chosen to come out from this world and live according to the teachings of Christ, when we could be enjoying ourselves here? What motivates us?
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him (Colossians 1:16).
We understand that if God made us, then he owns us, and it’s only fair that we should live according to his rules. But are we not also motivated by hope?
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:12-13).
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul argued that, if we have no hope of a resurrection after this life, then why would we be willing to endure so many trials in this life for the name of Christ? Our hope is, indeed, an anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:18-19), that gives us a reason to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.
We understand, like Paul did in 1 Corinthians 5:9, that in order to receive the eternal life we hope for, we have to meet God’s conditions of the covenant he has made with us. Covenants have two parts, and each must keep his part. God has told us all of those conditions in his words, but it is our responsibility to look for them and be sure we keep them. Here is a list of a few:
John 3:16 Believing Matthew 19:16- 17 Keep the commandments Mark 10:29-30 Forsake everything Luke 10:25-28 Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength John 6:54 Eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking Jesus’ blood Romans 2:7 Continuing patiently in well-doing 2 Peter 2:9-13 Keep ourselves in the love of God
But there is one thing that God does not just say is necessary for eternal life; He says it is eternal life. That sounds as though it might be very important: And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:3). The Pharisees knew many things about God, but they did not know God according to scripture. What does it mean to know God?
Knowing God is eternal life. So how important must it be to know God? Actually, this was the ultimate plan God had for the New Covenant he has made with us:
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest (Hebrews 8:10-11).
God designed the New Covenant so that all his people would know him.
Even if these were the only two Scriptures that talk about knowing God (which they certainly aren’t), we could still recognize that knowing God scripturally must be something different and extremely important. If knowing God is eternal life (indicating we cannot have eternal life if we do not know God), and if God’s main intention for his people under the New Covenant was that they would all know him (indicating that we might not be a part of His people if we don’t know him), then knowing God is perhaps one of the most important commands in the New Testament!
God tells us very plainly what the consequences are if we do not know him:
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children (Hosea 4:6).
So in that case.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO KNOW GOD?
How would I know you? I might know some things about you - that you work in an office, have two children, live on such and such street, but do I really know you? For me to really know you, I would need to know what your heart is like - that you are particularly compassionate to the needy, kind to your husband and thoughtful of the elderly. The more I know about your heart, the better I know you.
Would I know God in the same way? Would reading accounts of how he works with his people and the laws he has given them help me to know him better?
But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord (Jeremiah 9:24).
How can we understand and know God? We have to know his kindness, his judgment, his righteousness. If we do not know these things about God’s heart, we do not know God. So what is God’s heart like? Kindness, judgment and righteousness are not all the qualities of his nature. Following is a fairly thorough, but not exhaustive list: Mercy, Judgment, Kindness, Compassion, Forgiveness, Longsuffering, Forbearance, Patience, Humility, Lowliness, Meekness, Holiness, Purity, Joy.
Some of these qualities, such as obedience, we might see more easily in Christ than the Father, since the Father does not have to obey anyone. Yet Jesus said in John 14:7 that if we know him, we know the Father also. By this we know that if it is a quality of Jesus’ heart, it is a quality of the Father’s heart also. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
What if I memorize this list of the qualities of God’s heart, do I know him then? In that case, obtaining eternal life would be as simple as just knowing a lot of Bible facts by heart. God himself tells us how we can know him: Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (1 John 4:7-8). This passage explains knowing God very clearly. If I love the brethren, I know God; if I do not love my brethren, then I do not know God. What does loving one another have to do with knowing God?
Before we answer that, we might ask, does love have anything to do with the heart of God? Yes, everything! God is love. But is God not merciful too? Is he not longsuffering? Is he not humble? All of these qualities are parts, which are bound up together in the complete love of God (Colossians 3:14).
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Of course God is longsuffering, kind and humble. But God’s kind of love (which is more than man’s concept that love is a warm and fuzzy feeling) includes all of these qualities. How does God love us? He is kind to us to provide our needs. He is longsuffering with our mistakes. He seeks our good. He is slow to anger. So when God tells us what his heart is like, he does not have to list all of these qualities every time. He can simply tell us that he is love. Love includes all the qualities of the heart of God.
Now back to our question, if I memorize all these qualities that are part of God’s love, does that mean I know God? Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (1 John 4:7-8). In order for me to know God, I have to love like God loves. I have to have all the parts of his love - his compassion, his longsuffering, his humility - in my heart. Why? God’s love is a lot deeper than man’s kind of love.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:46-48).
Here the perfection he commands is not sinless love but the complete (Strong’s #5046 - teleios - complete) love of the Father. Of course we love one another. All normal people do. But, the love of normal people has limits. God’s love goes far beyond any love, which most people can understand. That is why Jesus commanded, in John 13:34, that we need to learn to love as he loves, and why this passage in Matthew, chapter 5, commands us to be perfect - complete as our Father in heaven is complete. We have a lot of learning to do in order to learn the complete love of God.
Can we really know what it means to be as selfless as Christ was, unless we have experienced what it means to endure pain and suffering and grief for another? Can we understand the depth of Christ’s compassion unless we have experienced the temptations and suffering he experienced in order to feed those shepherdless sheep? Anyone can memorize the qualities of the heart of Christ, but in order to know the heart of Christ and the Father, one must experience those qualities by having them. Unless I do, I can’t possibly know the depth of their hearts. Knowing God requires actions on my part, not just inert knowledge.
ALL OF GOD’S COMMANDS ARE DESIGNED TO HELP ME LEARN HIS HEART
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:3-4). We just saw in 1 John 4:7-8 that if we love, we know God, but this passage tells us that we know that we know God if we keep his commands. Do these two passages contradict each other?
Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice (Strong’s #6666-rightness), and then it was well with him? He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the LORD (Jeremiah 22:15-16).
Note what it means to ‘know God’ in this scripture: it means to do God’s judgment and righteousness as well as to value the poor and needy. Throughout the Old Testament, God was often grieved with his people, since, even during the times when they were at least attempting to follow some of his laws, they seemed to be missing the point of the commandments. Why had God given them so many detailed laws about exactly how to judge? God pled with king Jehoiakim to consider how his father, Josiah, had kept the commands concerning justice and judgment. What was the result? Josiah knew God. God’s commands were designed to help his people to understand his heart.
While this was the underlying purpose of the laws in the Old Testament, this is also the stated purpose of the commands in the New Testament. God’s commands are designed to teach us to know God’s heart, by teaching us to have his kind of love.
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:8-10).
Why should we not steal? It is not kind. Why should we not kill? It is not merciful. Why should we not bear false witness? It is not compassionate or honest. All of God’s commands in the New Testament are purposefully designed to teach us how to love like God loves. In fact, this is exactly what 1 John 2:5 says: But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
1 John 4:7 says that if we love one another, we know God. 1 John 2:5 says that if we keep God’s commandments, we know God. These are not contradictions, because all of the commands of God in the New Testament are designed so that, if we keep them, we will love one another with God’s kind of love.
Learning the heart of Jesus - knowing him - is the central purpose of the way God designed the church, the purpose of his words and the purpose for Christ coming to earth:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).
Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm (1 Timothy 1:4-7).
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps (1 Peter 2:21). Learning the heart of God is the purpose behind the way God designed everything in the New Testament.
WE LIVE IN A WORLD THAT DOES NOT KNOW GOD
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-18).
What happens when the world, among whom we live, does not know God? And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24:12). Unfortunately, like leaven, the world can permeate even faithful Christians. Earlier we read in 1 Timothy 1:4-7, where Paul reminds Timothy that the end, or the aim, of the commandments is love out of a pure heart. Paul also noted that some people in the church had turned aside from this aim, and taught God’s words, without understanding them. 2 Timothy 3:7 speaks of people who are ever learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Can we read and learn God’s words without ever understanding his purpose for giving them?
Many so-called Christians in denominations, and even some Christians in the Lord’s church, speak glowingly of their relationship with God, and feel that proves they know God. But what are their works? They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate (Titus 1:16). [reprobate - Strong’s #0096 adokimos; unapproved, rejected; by implication, worthless]. Christians may profess to know God, but if their works are no different than what the world does, then do they really know the holiness, the purity, and the sincerity of the love of God? People who do not know God surround us. If we, as Christians, do not understand the purpose of Christianity, he declares that it is a shame. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame (1 Corinthians 15:33-34).
What a sad time it was for Israel, when there arose a generation that did not know God! They lost their moorings and their determination to seek and serve the Lord.
And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Balaam: And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger (Judges 2:10-12).
How can we keep this from happening in the church? Our first thought is probably, How can I keep the young people from falling away? But first I need to look at myself. I cannot very well bring up the next generation to know God if my generation and I do not know God! Remember Paul’s exhortation to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:4-7), not to be caught up in the vain jangling (literally random talk) of Christians who did not understand the end (literally the aim) of God’s commandments (Strong’s 46, 71). Just because I am called a Christian does not mean I understand and work toward the purpose of God!
IN ORDER TO KNOW GOD, I MUST SEEK HIM
And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever (1 Chronicles 28:9).
How do I seek God? What am I looking for? Moses asked the Lord to show him His way, so that he could know him. Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people (Exodus 33:13). How did the Lord answer that request?
And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy (Exodus 33:19).
As we are seeking God, what are we seeking? Like Moses, we are looking to understand our Lord’s nature. How can we learn more about his mercy? How can we understand his holiness better? The Gospel is the power of God which can save us. How? It saves us because in it we can find the righteousness of God.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:16-17).
How is it that some people can always be learning the Scriptures, but are never able to come to the knowledge of the truth? Can we, like the Jews in Isaiah, chapter 58, read the Scriptures daily without ever coming to know the heart of God?
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him (Matthew 11:27).
We can read the Scriptures every day, but cannot know the Father unless Jesus reveals him to us. Why would Jesus reveal the understanding of the heart of God to some people, and not to others? He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him (John 14:21).
Jesus said that he will reveal himself to those who love him. How does he know who really loves him? He can see who loves him by seeing who keeps his commandments. Just as there are many who profess to know God, there are many who profess to love him, but don’t really have any intention to keep all of his commands. They might keep a few, but they prefer an emotional religion where they can feel their love for God without having to do any commands that might be unappealing to them. Jesus will not reveal himself to that kind of people. So if we want to know God, we need to have a heart that is willing to do everything he tells us to do. If we approach our Bible study with the attitude, I want to find and do everything God tells me, God responds to that kind of heart by showing us his heart through his words.
This assumes we are willing to put the effort into this kind of study. How strong is our desire to find and do all the commands of God?
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:1-5).
I must diligently search the Scriptures to find the nature of God, and examine myself, how I can change my nature to be more like his. I also need to pray for God’s help, as I work to actually change my heart, to learn to love as fully as he loves.
If God’s heart is what we are seeking when we study the Scriptures, this will make us a very peculiar people! Once a school colleague asked me about where I went to church. In return, I asked her where she went, and what her religion was about. She responded that everyone in her congregation was about having great music, and great friendships and a lot of fun with each other. She then asked me what mine was about. When I responded that God teaches us that a disciple’s purpose is to learn to have the heart of Christ - to learn to treat each other with Christ’s humility, his compassion, his patience and selflessness, she looked as though a brand new, completely foreign idea had just struck her. She stammered thoughtfully, That must make you really nice people! If everyone followed this, we would be a different kind of people!
There are a lot of denominational people who have a very active, enthusiastic kind of religion. What makes God’s people different? God’s people know him. They are learning to actually show his selflessness, his mercy, his forbearance, toward one another. That’s something very special, which is worth passing on.
RAISING A GENERATION THAT DOES KNOW GOD
How can we pass that on? According to survey data by Barna and USA Today, 75% of the young adults in America raised in a Christian home leave the church when they leave home (Turek-Online; Martin-Online). Are we facing the same situation that happened to the Israelites after Joshua, whose children did not know God? Why had that happened in Israel? It wasn’t because they had not had good leaders, and God testified that under Joshua, all the people had been serving the Lord. So the children’s problem was not having unfaithful parents (Judges 2:7). What went wrong?
Did the children not know the Lord because the parents had not taught them as God had given instructions in Deuteronomy, chapter 6? Was it because they chose the ways of the heathen, whom they did not completely drive out as God commanded? Maybe it was because they became prosperous and forgot the Lord. God warned Israel about all three of these things, and He warns us about these three things as well. What lessons can we learn from Israel’s mistakes?
TEACHING OUR CHILDREN TO KNOW GOD
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
God gave them very specific instructions as to how much they should be teaching their children - when they got up in the morning, when they went to bed at night, and all the time in between, whether they were sitting at home or out and about together. Do we teach our children that much?
Why such urgency? We have so little time with our children to teach them so much! According to multiple research studies worldwide, including a New Zealand study of one thousand children from birth to adulthood, a child’s personality, when he is three years old, strongly predicted his character as an adult. Uncontrollable toddlers were twice as likely as others in their age group to have become involved in crime (Our Civilization-Online). That’s a scary thought! If a child’s character is formed by three years old, then we truly do not have a moment to lose in their training!
On the other hand, it is encouraging to see the permanent, positive impact that good teaching can have even on a toddler. How long did Hannah have to teach Samuel? How long did Jochebed have to teach Moses? Both Samuel and Moses were taken from their mothers when they were weaned. Samuel went to live with a man who had failed at training his own children; Moses was placed in a completely pagan culture. Yet whatever they had learned by the time they were three years old apparently had a profound impact on what they became as adults. The thought that we have the opportunity to have a permanent impact on a person’s soul should give us excitement and energy to make the most of every moment we have with a child. Do you feel at a loss for where to begin to teach a six month old to know God? See some practical suggestions in the articles about teaching children to know God on my blog, Muliebral Studies. One specific article for younger children is Making God Real for Babies, Toddlers and Young Children. (Johnson-Online)
But there’s another even deeper reason why God commanded that his words should not depart out of our mouths. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:34). The things that come out of my mouth show what is in my heart. Little children are perceptive. They know what I love. No matter how much I tell them they need to love the Lord, no matter if I dutifully set them down for a Bible study each day, if they see me focused on, talking about and doing other things, then what am I really teaching them to love? As God shows in Deuteronomy, chapter 6, we cannot effectively teach our children to love God with all their hearts if our hearts are going after something else, even if we profess much love for the Lord with our mouths (Ezekiel 33:31). The key is what Deuteronomy 6:6 says, And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart.
One really enlightening realization for me was that if I love God with all my heart, I have nothing left of my heart to love anything else! If I love God with all my heart, then he is the reason for everything I do:
- I prepare breakfast for my family because I love the Lord, and I’m happy to serve the bodies and souls He’s given me to look after.
- I go to work because I love the Lord, and want to obey his command to be a helpmeet to my husband in whatever way he needs me.
- I help my kids with their homework because I love the Lord, and I want to prepare my children to be useful to him.
- I clean my house because I love the Lord, and do not want to be a dishonor to him in any way.
When the Lord is the reason we eat and drink and breathe (Romans 7:6-8), then thoughts of him will naturally come from my mouth at all times of the day. Yes, we need to have God’s words in our mouths always, but they have to come from our hearts. Sometimes our kids can see us better than we see ourselves. They’ll know if our words are sincere or not.
Just as a side note, learning to commit our works fully to the Lord so that all our thoughts are about and because of him (Proverbs 16:3) is a growing process. Our minds can quickly determine they want to do nothing but what is for the Lord, but then we have the laborious process of conquering our flesh (Romans 7:18-25). That takes time. We should not let discouragement overwhelm us when we make mistakes in the process.
Changing our heart is no simple process. How do you learn not to love something that you do love (the world), and completely fill your heart with love of something that you do not know much about? This transformation begins with the determination of our minds, but cannot go on unless that determination is constantly renewed. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2). We are transformed from loving the things the world loves to being able to do the complete will of God by the renewing of our minds. How do we renew our minds? And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him (Colossians 3:10).
Our minds are renewed by constantly getting more and more knowledge of the image of our Lord, which we are trying to grow to be. This means studying the heart of Jesus! 2 Corinthians 4:16 tells us that we need to be renewed day by day. Studying the heart of God on my own every day is absolutely necessary for me to learn to love the Lord with all my heart. I cannot have God’s words in my heart so that they naturally are in my mouth to teach my children all day, every day, if I am not studying every day.
This also shows why it’s good to start working on the process before we become parents. The more we have cleansed the love of the world out of our hearts, so that we love the Lord with more of our hearts by the time we become parents, the better chance we have to be able to effectively teach our children to love God with all their hearts.
Mothers and fathers should not waste a moment in preparing their own hearts to teach their babies, but it would also benefit the children if they began teaching them while they are still in the womb. In the last 30 years, scientific research has shown that there is solid evidence of fetal learning in the womb - at least the third trimester. In addition to the previous evidence of the fetus’ certain responses to its mother’s speech patterns and voice, new studies have found that a fetus is able to remember such sophisticated information as musical rhythms or nursery rhymes as well (Patricia Kuhl; Christine Moon; Mary E. Dallas; Charlene Krueger - online).
So all this is talk about a mother’s speech, reading, reciting and singing ordinary things to her baby while it is still in the womb should alert us to another obvious conclusion. Research says the baby does learn those things. Could the Christian mother also read Bible passages and sing hymns to that same baby as well as the infant or toddler on her lap? Which would be better for the babies to learn? Consider: Redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).
HOW SOON SHOULD WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN?
As parents, we must bring our children up in the nurture (G3809 tutorage, education, training) and admonition (G3559 calling attention to, rebuke or warning) of the Lord. In the same way Lois and Eunice instructed little Timothy, we must build a foundation of faith in God’s exact words (1 Corinthians 2:4-7).
Some parents wait until they are sure their children can speak clearly before they begin to teach them. They may not know that babies understand language long before they are able to verbalize. What does the Lord say about when we should begin teaching our children? When did Hannah begin teaching Samuel? He was fully taught to love and serve the Lord by the time he was weaned (1 Samuel 1:23-24).
The Lord declares that: Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him (Proverbs 22:15). When should we begin to deal with their foolishness? We have a chance to train our children as soon as we see what they do, and that training should be age appropriate teaching as well as persuasion and correction.
God not only hears the little ones, but angels behold his face on their behalf. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 18:10).
It is always sad to hear some parents insist, I did teach my child the way I was supposed to; I took them to church every time the doors opened; I taught them Bible stories every night; they knew all the books of the Bible and major Bible stories by the time they were 18 months old. Why, then, did my children fall away? I thought God said, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.’ Did God break His word?
Perhaps some of Joshua’s generation felt that way too. But, as we can see from those same people, there’s more to the equation than just teaching facts. God also mentioned two other things that are crucial to bringing up the next generation to know him. Perhaps the one he most emphasized to Joshua was his command to drive out the heathen and make no covenant with them. Why?
THE WORLD WILL TURN OUR HEARTS AWAY
Over and over again, God warned the Israelites what would happen if they did not drive out all the heathen (Exodus 23:31-33; Leviticus 18:2-5; Deuteronomy 7:2-6). They would learn their ways. He doesn’t command us actually to drive our neighbors out of their homes, but He does command us to come out from the world and be separate:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 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 Corinthians 6:14-18).
We can understand the reason for this: Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul (Proverbs 22:24-25). In Proverbs 13:20 God warns us that if we walk with wise men we will be wise, but if we are a companion of fools, we will be destroyed. But what about the nice people who just happen not to be members of the church? And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness (1 John 5:19).
In what sense does the whole world lie in wickedness? My neighbor is a really sweet person, and she does not do anything immoral.
And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward (Luke 16:1-2).
A steward has a responsibility to use his Master’s goods in the way the Master commands.
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him (Colossians 1:15-16).
Since everything was made by Christ, and for him, then who is the authority? Revelation 4:11 reminds us that the Lord is worthy to receive glory and honor, because he created all things - for his pleasure. Psalms 24:1 reminds us that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. If God made us, then do we belong to ourselves? Yet while people might acknowledge they have a creator, are they treating him like the owner? 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 (Romans 1:21).
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider (Isaiah 1:2-3).
Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3). Yet most people act as though they made themselves - to do whatever they want! Perhaps what they want to do are not bad things:
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things (Matthew 6:31-32).
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things (Philippians 3:18-19).
What is the problem with minding earthly things? God created us to be about his business, just as Jesus was about the Father’s business from a very young age. If we use his goods to be about our own business, even if we aren’t using those goods for something inherently sinful, it is wicked, because it is stealing and wasting our master’s goods. Even good denominational people fall into this category, since, while they might profess to be following God’s will, they really are not interested in actually finding and doing his will, or they would have found the truth by now. There is a reason that God classifies anyone not in the body of Christ as the world, and he has a reason for saying the whole world lies in wickedness.
As Christians, our work is for something totally different than the world is working for. The just shall live by faith (Hebrews 10:38). Like Moses and Abraham, we look for a city whose builder and maker is God, (Hebrews 11:10, 13-16, 24-26), and we should exercise our minds on things above, not on things on the earth. If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:1-2). Living by our faith causes us to focus on different things than the World does. We choose to visit a sick person out of compassion rather than spend that hour relaxing in front of the TV, because of our faith that God will reward us eternally (Matthew 25:36). We reach toward sober-mindedness rather than silliness, because God says foolish talking and jesting are not what a Christian is to attain to, and should not be once named among us as becometh saints (Ephesians 5:4).
Our hope is in heaven (Romans 5:2; 1 Corinthians 15:19; 1 Peter 1:3). This is what makes us intrinsically different from the world, because their hope and interest is for this world only. They are not concerned with heavenly things, but in the lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth (Proverbs 11:7).
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things (Matthew 6:31-32).
They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them (1 John 4:5). A non-Christian is completely unconcerned with the Lord’s ownership or with doing his will; he is determined to live for himself, and do whatever pleases himself. And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go (Exodus 5:2).
As Christians, we have determined to live for our owner and creator, and to do his will, not our own. To do this, we must constantly buffet our body to think on things above, not on the earth. It is so easy tobe entangled again. As a dog returns to his vomit, and a sow to her wallowing in the mire, we can be drawn away from our first love like the Ephesians in Revelation, chapter 2. We cannot live for this world, but must have only one master, and that must be Christ.
Our flesh already drags us back toward the world (Mark 4:19), and a child is ill-equipped to combat this pull by telling himself No to all the lusts of the world. But what if he is in close contact with the world? Would that make it easier, or harder to resist the lures of the flesh? What if parents are unwise enough to encourage or allow companionship with these things? It would certainly make it harder to resist the pull of the flesh. Evil communication, or even just worldly communication, unavoidably affects our thinking. Our thinking is from our heart (Matthew 15:19), which is who we are (Proverbs 23:7). We must heed the warning of God - a wise man will be far from snares, not rubbing shoulders with them.
Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life. Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away (Proverbs 4:13-15). 2 Corinthians 6:14 commands us to not be yoked with unbelievers - indicating we are involved in the same work. He tells us to have no fellowship, no partnership with them, also indicating we are involved in the same work. Our work is to be for things above, our Father’s business, not for our own business here. The people of the world, even the nice ones, seek pleasure and happiness in this life. That is what their lives are about.
So what do our children learn from nice kids and good television? If we are honest with ourselves, we know that even if they do not secretly come away with new bad words or immoral thoughts, at the very least they learn to think like the world. They exercise their minds on things of this world, not on things above. We hear them begin to talk half in the speech of Ashdod. They get really good at memorizing great lists of Pokémon characters and their attributes. They love to share the excitement of the latest movie or their favorite game with their friends. They laugh at (cartoon) violence, which God says he hates (Psalms 11:5). They focus on their looks and the latest clothes, toys, and gadgets. Are these the things above, or the things on the earth? Does the world corrupt us, or does it not? Unfortunately, we ourselves become so accustomed to these things, we may not even see them as harmful. We need to stop and consider our ways, and be wise! These things seem harmless, but to what end do they lead, our owner’s good or our own pleasure? Are these things encouraging our children to seek God, or to seek their own pleasure? Have they become like the world, or not?
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth (Strong’s #1971 yearns, intensely craves) to envy (5355 detraction - to take away)? The world will take us away from God, if we’ll let it (James 4:4).
Friendship is the Greek word philia, meaning fondness. What is friendship? When we enjoy someone’s company, when we crave their approval, when we identify with them, when we like their ideas, when we do things with them for pleasure, when we favor them as our companions, we are their friend. God gives us a pretty serious warning - if we are fond of the people in the world, we are his enemy. We might argue that just being around them does not mean we are fond of them in the sense of friendship, but God is very plain what he means: Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Corinthians 15:33). Communications is the Greek word homilia, which means companionship, and is from the Greek word homilos which means association together.
Like the lawyer in Luke 10:29, we might try to justify our friendships by limiting our definition of who the world is. But who does God define as the world? Those without, or outside, the body of Christ are the world. 1 Corinthians 5:13 (if any man be called a brother... but them that are without God judgeth), and That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). God says anyone in need is our neighbor, but only those in the body of Christ are called brethren by God himself.
How much exposure to evil is too much? Many say, We cannot protect our children from all evil. If I over-protect my child, then he will rebel, and go wild as soon as he leaves home. I must expose him to ordinary life in order to strengthen him for the real world. Rather than forcing my child, I would rather teach him and then allow my child to make his own choices. If you were Satan, what better sales pitch could you give to get at least one foot in the door? Give a child a taste of evil. Does scripture not talk about the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13)? If I tell my child not to touch the fire, do I want to see him get as close to it as possible without touching it? Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? (Proverbs 6:27-28).
Remember the warning Jesus gave his disciples when he called the little child into their midst? Mark 9:42 says, And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. The word offend is Strong’s #4624 scandalizo, to entrap, or trip up. What if my tiny bit of permissiveness causes my child to stumble spiritually? Would it be better to err on the side of risk, or caution? There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12).
DO WE CHOOSE TO SPEND TIME ASSOCIATING WITH PEOPLE IN THE WORLD?
We might think that as long as they are not doing bad things, we will not be learning bad things from them, so as long as it is the good people in the world that we associate with, then it is okay. But we saw already that even if they are not committing blatant sin, the world is wicked in the sense that they are living for themselves and working for earthly things. If we associate with them, God tells us that they will corrupt us.
He gives us the particular warning, Be not deceived! Simply spending a fun evening with the nice neighbors next door seems so harmless. But Nehemiah reminded the Israelites that even Solomon, with all His wisdom, fell into sin because of the women he loved (Nehemiah 13:26). If we think (not in such words) Well Solomon might be susceptible to other people’s influences, but not me, we are fools (Proverbs 28:26). If we don’t recognize the difference in our nice denominational neighbors and ourselves, then are we really about our Father’s business? If we cannot see the danger of associating with the world, there’s something wrong with our spiritual sight!
Satan is sneaky. Perhaps we have trusted the Lord’s warning not to associate with and be friends with the world, but Satan finds ways to sneak the world into our homes. What about the books children read, or the television or video games they play? What if I’m very careful to screen all those things so that they only get wholesome entertainment? Books and TV, whether a bad influence or not, all steal our time and thoughts and opportunities to gain skills or treasure in heaven. Jesus, even at a very young age, said, Know ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10).
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them (Ecclesiastes 12:1). [Vanity - Strong’s, #1892 emptiness, transitory.]
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:7-10).
We must realize that God will require us and our children to give an account of the years he blesses us with. Whether we reap corruption or life everlasting is determined by whether we learn to distinguish between good and evil, and choose the good. Will we live for our owner, or ourselves? Do we think to teach our children that we don’t have to have all the friends of the world, and the latest shows or games to be genuinely happy? What about rearing them to find joy in doing good?
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings (Isaiah 7:14-16).
How much better would it be to train our children in good works than in seeking pleasure for themselves! This scripture indicates that while a very young child may not know, there comes a time when he is expected to have learned to refuse evil and love the good. It also shows that even what a child eats can cause him to know to choose good and refuse evil. What kind of spiritual food are we giving our children? Are we training them to value lightness (frivolity) or good? Are we teaching them to love the word of God, or stealing the words of God from them by wasting their time with useless things? A steady diet of junk food does not develop a child’s taste for nourishing food (Jeremiah 23:29-32). Are we profiting our children by what we encourage them to do? Are we guilty of allowing them (or encouraging them) to love the world and its frivolity, or are we using every spare moment to teach them to love the good?
Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph (Amos 5:14-15).
Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry (Psalm 34:11-15).
Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday (Psalm 37:3-6).
We see so many Christians actively teaching their children to be a fan of a certain sports team. Many indulge or enjoy their children’s obsession with a certain TV series or character: Doc McStuffins, Disney Princesses, Miles from Tomorrowland, Batman, and the list goes on. We do our best to teach our children to love nutritious food. We spend great amounts of time reading to them so they will love reading and be smart. Yet these are physical, temporary things. Can we see the value and need to teach them to enjoy doing good, to rejoice in spiritual things because of eternal rewards, and encourage them to be uncomfortable if they find themselves wasting (the Lord’s) time? (See also: Jeremiah 4:22; Romans 7:21-23; 2 Timothy 3:1-5.)
We often hear people say, Why not allow children to be children? Can they not play at all? Let them enjoy life while they are young!
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).
We must keep in mind our children’s ability and what they are able to bear. Can an infant fix a meal for an invalid? Can a toddler read his Bible? No, they are not capable of those things. But if they never learned to read, wouldn’t we be concerned? And let us consider (Strong’s G#2657 katanoio, to observe fully) one another to provoke unto love and to good works (Hebrews 10:24).
As parents, we must consider what our child is capable of, and encourage him toward doing good within his abilities, just as we would teach him to read when he is able. An infant is going to explore; he puts things in his mouth to learn texture and taste, plays with his own fingers to learn to use his hands. He babbles, listens, mimics, and learns language. A toddler is naturally going to run and play; however, his play can be actually useful. Give a baby girl a toy broom or dishes and dishwater, not a princess costume. Let her work at the sink beside you. Give a little boy a hammering toy, not an Angry Birds game on your iPhone. (You can only learn so much from a video game before it is no longer about learning eye-to-hand coordination or gaining information.)
Childhood, if used strictly for play and pleasure, is completely useless to God, and most certainly destructive to your child’s heart. If his play is used to train and prepare him with skills and knowledge to serve the Lord well, it can be very pleasing to God. Certainly Jesus’ childhood was not wasted. Think what his heart was like and what his interest was, and how much he knew already by the time he was twelve. Was he all about playing ball with the other children, or was he already spiritually, useful as well as favored by God and man? (Luke 2:40-52).
What we teach our children in their years with us can well make the difference between whether they know God or not. We have so few years with them. We can see the benefits of learning to love the good, and to hate the evil. But what are the dangers in children’s giving themselves to pleasure?
PROSPERITY CAN DESTROY US
Perhaps the generation that followed the Lord under Joshua had taught their children; and under Joshua’s leadership, they had certainly done their best to drive out most of the heathen. But God had warned them of one other thing that could cause their children to forget God. Just after his instructions in Deuteronomy, chapter 6, as to how they should teach their children diligently, God warned:
And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage (Deuteronomy 6:10-12).
Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage (Deuteronomy 8:6-14).
In Proverbs 30:7-9, the prophet Agur made the odd request not to be rich. Why? He says, Lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, Who is the Lord? How many times and in how many ways did Jesus warn about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, how the cares and riches and pleasures of this life may choke us? Job also describes this danger (Job 21:7-15). Their bull gendereth and faileth not. They don’t have to give much thought as to where their next meal will come from. They take the timbrel and harp and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They enjoy listening to music. They spend their days in wealth. Could this describe our society any better? Verse 14 shows the result; Therefore they say unto God, ‘Depart from us, for we desire not a knowledge of Thy ways.What profit should we have if we pray unto Him?’
Though we might not think of ourselves as rich, compared to people in most societies throughout most of history, aren’t our houses filled with good things? Do we have to dig our own wells? Do we have to grow our own food? We take it for granted that we will eat and be full. Especially when our children have not grown up knowing any other way of life, they naturally take all this for granted. When they live a life of ease and pleasure, what profit do they see in knowing God, especially when seeking that knowledge often requires giving up ease and pleasure? Riches are deceitful (Matthew 13:22)!
What is the solution? Should we move to a third world country? Perhaps that is one solution. For some of us, like the rich young ruler, measures like that might be necessary (Matthew 19:21). If Jesus said that it would be more worth it to chop off a hand than for our hand to cause us to be snared (Matthew 18:8), then he probably was not joking when he told the rich ruler to sell his things and give to the poor. What would we give in exchange for our souls (Matthew 16:26)? But short of literally going to live in a tent like Abraham did, how can we beware lest we let our prosperous, earthly-minded society cause us to forget the Lord?
God told them in Deuteronomy, chapter 6, that besides talking of his laws constantly, they should also write his laws on all their doorposts and their gates. What pictures and sayings are hanging up in our houses? Perhaps the decorations on our walls are not evil, but if they are not encouraging us to remember the Lord, then they are taking up space that should be. When a child is practicing his handwriting, can he copy Scripture?
In the same line of thinking, they did not have CD players back then, but what about what we listen to? The Lord says, Is any merry? let him sing psalms (James 5:13). There may be nothing wrong with the music we listen to, but if it isn’t reminding us to know the Lord, it is taking up time that we should be singing about the Lord. This may be one of the ways that prosperity causes us to forget the Lord. It provides us with so many other things to view and listen to that it crowds out our remembrance of the Lord.
There are other ways that even wholesome entertainment can turn an entire generation away from knowing God. The Devil hasn’t spared any expense in making his advertisements appealing. As one close relative of mine who left the church put it, The world is in technicolor. The church is in black and white.
After you watch a movie that seems so real that it seems like you are there, then it is hard for a child or an adult to be very interested in simply reading an account in the Scripture that could otherwise be quite gripping. When you can quickly succeed as a superstar on video games, why put effort into studying God’s word that makes you realize your shortcomings and faults, the rewards of which take time to discover?
We might be surprised to read the reasons God gives for destroying Sodom; it was not only their infamous sexual immorality. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49). This so fittingly describes this millennial generation, which feels entitled to having everything they want, even though they barely work to earn it. Employers are finding that young people addicted to social media, video games, and relaxation are not making very good employees. Can anyone say these young people are equipped to be good servants of the Lord?
This generation has been told that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are their inalienable rights. Believe it or not, this is not in the Bible! Why did God say he made us? For his pleasure, not ours (Revelation 4:11)! But a child that grows up constantly entertained grows up believing that he has a right to expect that out of life. It is hard for a child who has grown up living for pleasure to ever be willing to give that up, and choose to live for God’s pleasure. The same goes for ease and idleness. If a child has grown up never having to do or endure anything difficult (which, granted, loving parents would like to shield them from), then they will not be likely to choose to endure the hardness of being a soldier of Christ. Idleness and ease can lead to spiritual deterioration as fast as immorality can.
What are some things we can do to help children realize that life is not about whatever makes them happy? There is a reason that God said, It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth (Lamentations 3:27). Even if it is just physical labor, work teaches a child that he can do things that are hard for him and that he does not particularly enjoy. The same self-discipline that is required for a child to learn to work is necessary if a child is going to ever learn to deny ungodly lusts and learn to live soberly - with the Lord’s purpose in mind. A lot more can be said about the multitude of ways work benefits a child. If you are interested in practical suggestions for how to train children to work, see the article Raising Workers, Not Shirkers on my blog, Muliebral Viewpoint (Johnson-Online).
Consider each of the great men of the Bible about whose childhood we are told: David was out keeping sheep when his father needed him for anointing. From the time he was weaned, Samuel was useful in the temple and known to be a serious-minded prophet. Joseph, by the age of 17, could be trusted to go alone to find his brothers in a far-away field. Daniel was a slave from the time he was young, and became the greatest, most favored wise man in each of the successive kingdoms during his lifetime. Jeremiah became a prophet from the time he was a child. Think what Jesus was like at age twelve. Had he learned to waste his time, or to love and value spiritual things? What made each of these men great? Was it how much they had enjoyed their childhood, or how much they had learned and prepared their hearts to seek and know God in their formative years? We need to consider our part in the formation of the next generation. Our children belong to God, not to ourselves. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:4).
Our children are only given to us to teach and train for a few short years. As stewards, we will have to give an answer for our part in forming our children’s hearts. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17).
What will we have to answer on Judgment Day? Are we wasting our Master’s goods, or are we bringing our children up to know God and to be pleasing to him in every way? As Deuteronomy, chapter 6 encourages us, we do not have a moment to lose. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).
With every breath, with every moment, with all our strength of mind and heart, we must be teaching and encouraging the next generation to know God, and to fulfill his purpose for us in this world so that we have hope of serving him in eternity.
And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever (1 Chronicles 28:9).
Biblesoft’s King James Bible. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.
Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.
Dallas, Mary Elizabeth. HealthDay Reporter WebMD News from HealthDay http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20140725/rhymes-reveal-evidence-of-learning-in-the-womb
Glott, Ferah. Raising Workers, Not Shirkers. Muliebral Viewpoint http://www.helpmeettohim.org
Johnson, Beth. Making God Real for Babies, Toddlers and Young Children. Muliebral Studies http://pilgrimstranger.com
Krueger, Charlene. University of Florida’s College of Nursing. http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20140725/rhymes-reveal-evidence-of-learning-in-the-womb
Kuhl, Patricia. Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington. http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/01/02/while-in-womb-babies-begin-learning-language-from-their-mothers
Martin, Yvonne. Warning On Character. The Sunday Mail, 16/5/1999. http://www.ourcivilisation.com/decline/chldhd.htm
Moon, Christine. Pacific Lutheran University. http://www.plu.edu/marcom/news/2012/12/01/language-learning-begins-in-utero-new-study-finds
The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. New Zealand. http://dunedinstudy.otago.ac.nz/studies/assessment-phases/the-birth-of-the-dunedin-study
Turek. Barna and USA Today Survey, http://crossexamined.org/youth-exodus-problem
Published in The Old Paths Archive