Raising Up Godly Children, by Mitch Davis (07/29/12)

July 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Sermons, Special Series on the Family


Listen to the Sermon  / Download the PowerPoint

Children today are being raised with confusing and ever changing (and selfish) standards. The Bible clearly teaches our children to obey and honor their parents. Parents, you are expected to train them to learn this fundamental role in the family.

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A Religious Survey Challenges us to Evangelize the World and Pass Our Faith to Our Children

The Fields are Whiter than Ever

USA Today reports that most religious groups have lost ground, that is membership numbers, over the past 18 years. Basing their article on the recently released American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), USA Today reports that, “The percentage. (sic) of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation.” This is despite the fact that there are 50 million more people in America than 18 years ago. 

Sadly, many people are going to hear this and bemoan the losing of a Christian America. Regrettably, too many people are going to be so caught up in their political agendas that they miss what this means for real Christianity. Unfortunately, so many people are going to view this as Christians losing the fight for a Christian nation that they will forget God never asked us to produce a Christian nation. He asked us to get the message of forgiveness and freedom to one more person.

With that in mind, this doesn’t mean we’re losing the battle. Rather, it means the fields are more white than they’ve been in a long time. There are more people who aren’t religious. That means there are more people who are going to be recognizing something is missing, even if they aren’t going to be completely up front about it. 

I remember the story of two shoe salesmen who were sent into a tribal country to try to expand sales. The first called home and said, “I’ve got bad news. We’ve made a big mistake. Nobody here wears shoes. I’m coming home.” The second one called back and said, “I’ve got great news. Nobody here wears shoes. Everyone is a potential customer. Send more shoes.”

Which salesman are you? Do you read this article and think, “Well, what’s the point? Nobody wants to hear.”? Or do you think, “Wow, we’ve got work to do. We have more prospects than ever.”?

Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). What we are learning here is this doesn’t necessarily mean go to Africa, Asia, or India (though there is definitely need for that). For many of us who will never travel to those foreign lands, we need to learn this means go next door and teach the gospel. 

Let’s quit being sociological about why people are less religious and just get evangelistic with the good news Jesus offers. Some of those 50 million people are looking for something to give them forgiveness and freedom. Let’s get out and give it to them.

A Generational Legacy

One statement was made in the article that gave me pause and presented a concern. Kendall Harmon, theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, expressed one thought for why there is the drop. He said, “I see kids today who have no vocabulary of faith, and neither do many of their parents.” He presented an example of some parents who brought a yellow pad of their teenage son’s religious  questions. One question was, “What is that guy doing hanging up there on a plus sign?” This was a teenager.

Is that just a plight for Episcopalians? Or should we worry about that as well? 

Sadly, this is not simply a religious concern. This is a cultural concern. There was a time when most people in Western culture had the same background (this was true despite the divergent nationalities). Other than the completely uneducated, a reference could be made to something in Homer, Virgil, Milton, or the Bible and everyone would know what was being said. Probably some of you are wondering who Homer, Virgil, and Milton even are. There used to be a real, shared cultural background. People had read the classics. They had read the documents that formed our country. They knew and shared more than a language but shared a cultural background that made communicating ideas and even having a cross-generational conversation easier.

Today, we have lost that in our culture. Our shared culture is found on television. We can make references to Jack Bauer and Jack Shepherd and more people will know what we are talking about than if we speak of John Adams or John Hancock. Though John Adams had a recent miniseries on HBO which makes him a little more familiar. 

This is finding its way into religious culture as well. There was a time when we could talk about Joseph, David, Peter, Paul, Mary and everyone would know who and what we were talking about. That doesn’t seem to be the case any more. However, this is not for lack of these stories being taught in Bible class. Our children get a healthy dose of Bible stories in their classes. Yet, it seems more and more forget what is told them in there. 

What is the answer? We have to remember that it is not the local congregation’s responsibility to get these stories into the hearts of our children. We parents need to do that. We need to pass on a generational legacy of faith. We need to pass on a vocabulary of faith. The Bible stories, the foundational teachings, the great Biblical principles must be part of our daily conversation with our children.

I know it is an Old Covenant teaching, but the principle remains true in the New as well.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” — Deuteronomy 6:5-7

As Lois and Eunice passed on their faith to their grandson and son, we must pass on a generational legacy of faith to our children. We need to pass on that vocabulary of faith, which is more than just using the right words and having the correct definitions of often misused words. It means having a good, fundamental background in the Bible, its stories, and its teachings to be able to have good conversations about what it means for our lives.

By the way, do you know who Lois and Eunice are? If you do, great. If you don’t, you see the point I’m making. Check out II Timothy 1:5.

The fields are truly white for harvest at home and out in the neighborhood. Let’s not despair; let’s get to work.

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A Formula for Parents to Protect Their Children in a Wicked World

Over the holidays I had a rare opportunity to spend time with all four of my grandchildren. Madeline (9), Ben (7), Julia (4), Jonathan (Boo) (2).  As I watched them play and realized how wonderful and innocent young children are, I then realized what the Bible says in (l Peter 5:8) “….the Devil as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” That includes my wonderful little grandchildren.

I also got to thinking how much better I had it as a young child and/or teenager. My childhood, including my teenage years, occurred in the decade of the fifties. There actually was very little crime then. We never locked our house or our cars. As I remember, I don’t believe we even had a key to our house. When we went shopping in the summer, unless it was raining, we always left the windows on the car down to keep it from getting too hot (no air conditioners). We never had anything taken from our house or car.

The television shows, for the most part were wholesome family type shows (I Love Lucy and Andy Griffith’s Mayberry). After all, we only had three channels and they were black and white. The movies we saw did not have any profanity and the actors always kept their clothes on. The books and magazines were not filled with nudity, sex, and violence. I never heard the words pornography or pedophiles, much less knew what they meant. The word gay meant to be very happy.

My parents never feared for my safety. We would play many games after dark in our neighborhood, i.e. hide-and-seek, kick-the-can, etc. I would walk by myself day or night the four blocks to get to downtown Franklin. Drugs were something to be taken when we got sick.

In school we had a prayer to start the day every morning. Once a week, during our chapel devotional, we had a local preacher come and lead us in a couple of spiritual songs and have a short lesson from the Bible.

As we jump from my generation of the fifties to my grandchildren’s generation in the 21st century, MUCH HAS CHANGED. We would not dare go to sleep at night without locking our house, nor would we go to a shopping mall and leave our car unlocked. It may still get broken into, as much crime as we have. I would not feel safe if my grandchildren even got out of my sight, much less allow them to play games in the neighborhood at night.

Today our movies as well as television shows are filthy, filled with sex, nudity, and violence. We did not have computers in the fifties.  Computers are a wonderful tool in our society; unfortunately they have a dark side. They provide an avenue to bring pornography into our homes. The tragedy in this, is young children can be exposed to pornographic websites. Sexual predators use computers to trap young unsuspecting children. Magazines have to be placed on high shelves where young children can’t see the naked woman and men on the cover.

One of the other bad things in my grandchildren’s life is that many in our government have taken God and prayer out of the schools. They also push us to accept homosexuality as an appropriate alternant lifestyle.

What is the answer to this condition? Parents have an awesome responsibility to teach their children God’s principles found in the Bible. They can not leave it to Bible school teachers at church that see the children a couple hours a week. They need to start their spiritual education when their children are young. I am going to paraphrase what is found in Ephesians 6: 10-17; it is a formula parents can use.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and the power of his might. Parents put on your children the whole armor of God that they might withstand the wiles of the devil.

Parents have your children’s loins girt about with TRUTH, put on them the breastplate of RIGHTEOUNESS, shod their feet with PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF TRUTH, give them the SHIELD OF FAITH, give them the HELMET OF SALVATION, and finally, teach them to wield the SWORD OF TRUTH, which is the word of God.

If parents will prepare their precious children as described in these verses, they will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil in this very wicked and perverse world where we live.

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As The Family Goes, So Goes the Nation

We have heard this quoted many times from many sources.  Pope John Paul II referred to this condition as contributing to the many changes and chaos in our society today. I know there are many wonderful families in our country today.  Parents who have taught and directed their children well. Young married couples just starting their homes.  Single parent struggling to raise and direct their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord as Ephesians 6:4 directs.

However, consider the general social condition of our United States at the present time.  The divorce rate is more than 50%. This leaves many single parents trying to raise a family.  Too many children are separated from one of their parents.  Three states have passed laws to allow same sex marriages, leaving us with children with two moms or two dads.  These children notice their families are different from their friends’ families.  Please note Psalm 128:3 and Genesis 2:24. We have many teenage gangs today breaking the law, committing crimes, stealing and murdering. These children are not taught God’s word at home. They are not taught the rights of others and to respect human life.  If they want something, instead of working for it they just go out and steal it.  This is a picture of our nation today. 

These problems facing our nation did not occur overnight.  They have been getting progressively worse for years with each generation.

One of our religious neighbors says “Give us a child for the first six years of his life and he will not depart from what we teach him.”  Why do you think this is true?  Moms and dads, surely you have noticed how these young minds are ready to soak up anything they hear or see.  Have you ever been put on the spot by something your children may have seen or heard from you?  We must be very careful what we say in front of our children.   Parents, these young children are looking for an authority person to learn from and to mold their lives forever.

Consider the family of God’s chosen people, the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4:9.  Notice the instruction to teach children and grandchildren. In Deuteronomy 6:7-9 note the emphasis God puts on the responsibility of the parents.  Verse seven says we should teach them diligently. When?  When you sit in your house, when you walk in the way, when you lie down, when you rise up. 

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (NKJV).

Read Psalm 78:1-8. Notice the reference of the fathers telling the children, passing on to the children, making known to the children the commandants of God.  Whose responsibility is it to teach and train our children? It is not the government’s responsibility. It is not the school’s responsibility. It is not the church’s, although the church shares a part of the training from a congregational standpoint. 

Whose responsibility is it? Yes, you’re right—moms & dads.  Children need parents, both of them.  Honor your marriage. Children are emotionally affected if moms and dads do not get along. Moms and dads, teach and train your children.  If they want to talk, listen to them.  Don’t put them off!  What may not seem important to you, may be to them.  Read the Bible to them.  Pray with them.  It may not be convenient at the time but make time and communicate.  The reward will be great and they will make you proud.

Remember they did not ask to be born into this world with all its challenges and problems.  They will grow up someday and they will be moms and dads raising their children.

“As the family goes, so goes the nation.”

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