Do Our Children & Grandchildren Know What We Believe
Growing Our Children in the Life of Faith is THE Most Important Thing We Should Be Doing
The western Christian world is constantly swirling with new programs for discipleship. In my five plus decades of working in church and missionary structures, how many have I seen? Tens, hundreds?
Yet, the church and parents continue to be weak in forming their children into the righteousness that a resurrection with Jesus would anticipate. In all fairness, it is probably not a weakness of the many materials available. But, it is a weakness in the expectations of church leaders who are so building and program bound that they fail completely to see what this formation would demand. And, don’t form parents to pursue the formation of their children.
Forming confessing Christians into the life that faith anticipates, demands two non-negotiable things.
First, it takes time. We cannot expect that transformation will be from one day to another. Commitments can appear to be instantaneous, but living those commitments takes the time that growing spiritual disciplines will require.
Leaving this task as parents to the gathering events of a church or youth program can be deceiving. “Gathering” or “worship”meetings can help to define the parameters of orthodoxy, which in turn defines and anticipates the kind of lifestyle decisions that the Holy Spirit will grow within us. But, to grow children in faith takes time. It takes time (months, years and decades) for them to grow and it takes time for us to help them grow.
Second, it takes intentional relationship. Many good things can happen when true believers gather. But to think that a gathering of anything more than fifty or so people expresses fellowship and relationship, is nonsense. A handful of the “inner circle,” may use these occasions to reconnect to each other. But, this too is superficial if they are not also connecting in many other smaller ways throughout the week.
The kind of intentional, relational connections necessary to truly mature children in the life of faith takes reasonable relational connections with parents and others who demonstrate that they have matured over the years, and are willing to spend time with these who need to mature.
Church or para church based small groups can be a step in that direction. But the mixed gender nature of these groups and even the size, lends itself more to greater encouragement, small doses of accountability, and, meaningful mobilization for missional living, both by the group as well as the individuals.
In my book, Divine Design, I use the second part of the book to advance the Sermon on the Mount as one way to project what a maturing life of faith will look like.
My contention would be that we do not need books on “discipleship” to feed programs we call discipleship.
First, because these curriculums are created to feed a “program.” Too often small groups are simply a second class citizen to the “main event” of the worship service.
Second, because Scripture itself serves as our best guide as to the definition, delivery and content of what all maturing Christians need.
It is the clearest definition of the maturing process. If you love me, you will obey me. Take up your cross and follow me. My sheep hear my voice. Etc.
It defines the best delivery mode as well. “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2). “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women…” (Titus 2:3-4)
We have set in place five “becoming” values that we champion in the scp training. The first is the key to everything else, the daily practice of the priesthood we have with God, through Jesus Christ and administered in us by the Holy Spirit.
These values are so important that it could be said that everything else that we teach about church planting, leadership and strategy pales in comparison. When the people of Christ are maturing in their daily relationship with God in and through His word, all of the other “things” about the great commission and the great commandment are more easily seen in practice.
The glory, power and strength of the Church of Jesus is its people. Maturing in relationship with God, spending time in His word under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, with a maturing obedient heart, and living with our hands open full of all of our assets, anything God wants done in each and every place, is possible.
Our effectiveness as parents is directly related to the maturing incarnated righteousness of our own lives and the intentional time we spend forming our children. We are the message of the image and likeness of God.
For as I have said often, whatever God is going to do He is going to do through all of Christ’s people. How they live then becomes eternally important. If we cannot grow people who look more and more like Jesus every year, then we are indeed in trouble. But God has designed them to mature. In Jesus, the last Adam, everything that they need to say no to the flesh and yes to the Spirit is available to them. While the bumps of life will continue to challenge them, spiritual failure and unrighteousness does not need to be their default.
Our effectiveness as parents is directly related to the Biblical strength of our values. We are the measured and maturing holiness of God. The market place’s statements about organizational values has bled into churches. And, in most cases they are not only nonsense to the distinct organic nature of the church, they cannot be found in scripture.
One example suffices: excellence. That idea might be right for Starbucks but it has no place in the life of a local church. The organic life of the church is meant for people just as they live their lives. Not in a vacuum that presents life as something only a manufactured media company would create. It creates a message that we are more about perception and entertainment than we are about learning to live the righteousness of Jesus in the trenches of life.
What do these people of Christ look like in real life? As I have already mentioned, the Sermon on the Mount is one picture. Of course, the fruit of the Spirit is another picture. Perhaps, the most specific picture of Christ’s people in action is in Romans 12:9-21
It would seem quite simple to me to build an outline of interaction between Christian parents and their children and grandchildren.
A kind of discipleship catechism if you like. Using only scripture and regular relational dialogue in one on one’s, or one on three at the most, to build a journey of say one year for people to be grounded in the essences of what God the Spirit wants to build into their lifestyles and decision-making.
We don’t need textbooks nor workbooks. We don’t need seminars nor consultations. We don’t need experts in discipleship to train us. Use Scripture alone.
The intellectual information necessary (the mind) will come directly from Scripture. The conviction to change (heart) will come from the Holy Spirit. And, the commitment to allow the Spirit to change one (will), will be dependent upon the person responding to all of this. If they respond, a lifetime of a disciple will be matured.
The goal is not the mind and information. The goal is not the heart and simple conviction. The goal is to see the will line up every new day with the word of God in the hands of the Spirit of God.
The five “becoming” values of scp. (You can find expanded exegesis and explanation of each point in chapters 3 and 4 of the book, Renovation)
The first call of Scripture, and thus the most important value, is cultivating relationship with God. Not just any kind of relationship but close, intimate relationship. Without relationship with God we can never proceed to representation of Him to the people in the world around us. When a church champions and expects people to walk in close relationship with God, it is doing its job.
The second value in the New Testament is found in Ephesians 3:1–11: living out and verbally expressing our grace stories to the people around us in our daily lives. Here we find the clear and simple declaration of the purpose of the church for time and for eternity:
If the Spirit of God is sovereign in the giving of spiritual gifts, then if people are not growing in their understanding and use of these gifts, the church is, once again, not accomplishing its God-given task. The Holy Spirit uses gifts to give strategic expression through God’s people to the many ministries Jesus wants done. To lose the maturation of even one person in his or her deployment in the church and world is to diminish the creative genius God has designed for His people. Thus the third value is living out the gifts of the Spirit in our homes and workplaces.
The fourth value is exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships with each other and in the world. Paul lists these interpersonal qualities in Galatians 5:22–23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” These are the natural result of the Spirit living in Christ’s people and should be continuously developing in maturity and expression.
The fifth value is stewarding our lives, relationships, and assets for the expansion of the kingdom of God on Earth.
More on these thoughts can be found in my books “Renovation,” and “Divine Design,” both available at www.dwightpaulsmith.com
Below I am suggesting two different categories of outlines. The first is a simple dialogue based discussion with our children and grandchildren that focuses upon some of the most important things that we believe. We cannot guarantee that our children or grandchildren will choose to follow Jesus. The very nature of being created in the image of God confers on us the most important definition of what it means to be human. They can choose.
But, it gives the Holy Spirit more focused opportunity to build truth, conviction, repentance and salvation. An intentional discussion allows our children and grandchildren to push back on all of the “truths,” lies, and deceptions that surround us daily.
Outlines for dialogue based truth formation, that the Holy Spirit is sent to form in us. Nothing seems to me as important as these intentional discussions, if, as seems probable, we are headed for deep, rebellions as evil waters.
A short catechism for times of testing
We believe the Bible to be inspired, God breathed. It is our primary source of daily living and relationship with our Heavenly Father.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17
We believe that God is our Heavenly Father and that He created everything in our universe, seen and unseen. He calls us to know Him and serve Him.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26
We believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God. He was born of the will of God His Father, to a virgin. His divine and eternal natures are not compromised by His taking upon Himself flesh. He is perfect and as such is the right and only gift for our sin.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:1-4
The Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, sent by the Father to accomplish His will. Through Him the world was created, the Son was born of a virgin, we are indwelled for new birth and righteous living and, the final events of earthly events will be accomplished.
“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20
The purpose of the church
The Church are people called out of the world to be in relationship with God and serve His salvation purposes for all of the peoples of the earth. Created in His image and recreated in Jesus Christ, they progressively grow in His righteousness and demonstrate this into all of their relationships.
“so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 3:10-11
The promise of God birthing the Gospel
In the beginning God the Father made a promise to overcome the disobedience of Adam and Eve, by raising up out of the womb of Eve one who would conquer sin, death and Satan. God preserved and managed that promise down through the corridor of human and biblical history. The good news is that this promise awaits only the complete movement of the message across the whole of the earth.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15
New birth brings with it new living. The whole of scripture anticipates that, in spite of the flesh that still lives within us, we can and will be progressively conformed to the image of the Son, Jesus Christ. Paul describes this as the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus describes this in the Sermon on the Mount.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
We believe that Jesus will bodily return to the earth. He will come to redeem His own to Himself. He will judge all those who rejected God’s offer of salvation in the Son, and commit them to an eternal separation from God.
“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-22
The world to come.
We believe that God will ultimately restore all things to the reasons for which He made this world in the first place.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”
Outlines for discipleship discussions between
Look at the key words in each challenge by Paul in which we were created to walk.
Love (used with 2 different applications. “Let love be genuine,” “Love one another with brotherly affection.”
Good. “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
Showing honor. “Outdo one another in showing honor “
Serve the Lord. “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
Hope. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute (giving) “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
Blessing others. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
Rejoicing. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
Living in harmony. “Live in harmony with one another.”
Applied humility in relationships (Not haughty. “Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.”
Appropriate value of self. “Not wise in your own sight”
Doing what is honorable. “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.”
Live peaceably. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Never avenge. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Overcome evil with good. “Do not be overcome by evil, but but overcome evil with good.”
Jesus describes His people
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Be salt, light and truth
Live true righteousness
Live without anger
Deal with lust
Keep your marriage vows
Speak with integrity
Deal with the evil person
Love as God loves
Steward your assets
Don’t judge others
Ask God for your needs
Stay on the narrow path
Know the difference between good and
Do the will of God
Build your life on God’s word
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Practice love. Love looks like:
Free from any law!