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Pastoral Letter - 12 Nov 17                                        

Dear Calvarians,        

 

Solomon, in his instructions to his son, says, "Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; And the years of thy life shall be many. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths" (Proverbs 4:10-11).

 

These words contain a time element as well as methodology. Solomon is saying that he has taught, is teaching and will continue to teach his son. With regard to Solomon's methodology, he not only teaches, but he also leads. "To teach" means "to cause to learn," implying a formal instruction. "To lead," on the other hand, has the idea of showing. Solomon therefore plays the dual roles of both teacher and master. He imparts knowledge by instruction, and he directs the way by example.

 

William Arnot describes these two elements of spiritual education as precept and example. He writes in his commentary on Proverbs: "Teaching and leading are closely allied, but are not identical. It is possible and common to have the first in large measure where the second is wanting. It is easier to tell another the right way than to walk in it yourself. Only a godly man can bring up his child for God. Many will do evil; few dare to teach it to their own offspring.... Great is the effect when parents consistently and steadfastly go before their children, giving them a daily example of their daily precepts. An example of some kind parents must exhibit in their families. If it be not such as to help, it will certainly hinder the education of the young. God in the providential laws permits no neutrality in the family. There you must either be for or against Him."

 

What then is the curriculum? What is the prime object we should seek for our children? Besides Bible knowledge, the chief goal of parents should be the culture of a God-fearing, God-obeying, God- loving character.

 

Let me suggest the following areas:

 

Church life. The first thing that Christian parents can model a genuine faith for their children is through a commitment to, and love for, the local church they attend. It sounds cliché, but it is true that a love for the church is more often "caught," than "taught" - especially during the early years.

 

The enthusiasm of Christian parents for the church is just as easily noticed by the children as is the parents' cynicism. The parents' attitude toward God's people and corporate worship is going to have a tremendous effect on their children from the very beginning stages of development. The point is that when parents are enthusiastic about their involvement in church work, when they regard serving God as a priority, and - may I add - fun and rewarding, the children will catch on.

 

One pastor comments: "Families that have an ecclesiology usually generate children who have an ecclesiology. These children believe in and behave according to the primacy of the local church. Even godly families, that do a lot of self-feeding on spiritual resources, but who do not have a strong theology and application of ecclesiology, will most likely generate under churched or consumeristic kids when it comes to church."

 

In other words, it is not enough for parents to have head knowledge of the Christian faith, and it is not enough for them to teach the children just the doctrines. Christian parents who see their faith in and relationship with Christ as intricately woven together with life in a local church will likely have children who grow up seeing their personal spirituality and church life as inseparable.

 

Personal devotions. The Psalmist writes that the Word of God is "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: And in keeping of them there is great reward" (Psalm 19:10-11). The parents' personal commitment to the Word of God is also an important influencing factor on their children. Christians would also do well to set aside time as a family to make God's Word prominent and a priority in the home.

 

In contrast, there are parents whose contact with the Bible is once a week - just as the family is about to leave for Church, the father grabs his Bible from the bookshelf. When the children see the personal spiritual commitment of their parents, they will come to one of these two conclusions - either "mom and dad are serious about the Word of God," or "mom and dad did not really believe this stuff anyway; it was just a Sunday thing."

 

One biblical example is Lot. After he had been warned by the angels that Sodom and Gomorrah would come under God's divine judgment, Lot tried to persuade his sons-in-law to leave the cities, Genesis 19:14 says that Lot "seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law" (Gen. 19:14). Lot's lifestyle destroyed his testimony for the LORD.

 

Marriage. "The best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother." I remember this quote from a book that I read many years ago. In a day and age where divorce rates are going up, I know this may not be the case in every home. However, marital stability and love greatly affect the children. The simple and clear witness of a loving marriage relationship between parents can be a compelling pull to gospel faith and life for the children.

 

There is no better way for a parent to demonstrate genuine Christian faith than in his relationship with his wife. The marital relationship is the closest and most immediate relationship that is observed by the children daily. It is also the best way to live out a gospel-centered relationship before their eyes.

 

I must add that it is the husband/father who must take the initiative on this. By the husband's love for his wife - and the wife's submission to her husband - the love of Christ is demonstrated in daily living. Conversely, when the husband/father is abusive to his wife and irresponsible in his duties as a father, it will most likely leave an indelible and damaging impression on the children. When a husband/father treats his wife unlovingly (or if the wife/mother despises her husband), he is implicitly telling the children that the gospel may be true... but it does not apply to the most fundamental of all relationships.

 

For some husbands and wives, this may be the place where we pause and hit the reset button in the marital relationship for the own good of the parents and for the sake of the children.

 

More next week, God willing. 

 

Lovingly in Christ,

Pastor Isaac

 

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