Not Worrying # Not Caring!

Those nights when you lie awake, restless and tossing and turning, your mind churning over a future that is uncertain and unknown. Those days when your heart is heavy and your spirit is sorrowful while you imagine what will befall you or that person you love. There isn’t a human being alive who doesn’t know the agony of worry. There isn’t a human being alive who hasn’t allowed legitimate concern to devolve into illegitimate anxiety. But just because worry is universal does not mean it is right or good. To the contrary, God warns us against it: “Be anxious for not h fting,” he says, and “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.”

But it’s not so easy in the moment, is it? If God forbids worry, why do we still spend so much time doing it? If God warns us against anxiety, why we do we still find ourselves racked with fear as we consider what we’ve done and are doing and will do? Why do we waste days and squander nights in the joyless captivity of worry?

We think worrying is caring. We associate the issue or concern with the anxiety we feel for it. In fact, we may go so far as to sanctify our anxiety, to elevate it to the status of virtue. “I worry so much because I care so much.” And maybe we turn on people who don’t feel the same: “You don’t worry because you don’t care.” But worrying is not caring. Or, to turn it around, not worrying does not equal not caring. Our willingness to fret about something is not a necessary indication that we care deeply about it. Our unwillingness to fret about something is not a necessary indication that we are ambivalent about it. In those times we are fearful or uncertain, we can make ourselves believe that our worrying displays just how much we care, just how much our hearts are engaged. But it’s a false connection. The fact is, we can care deeply and never feel a single pang of worry.

We thinking worrying is effectual. “Effectual” is “producing or able to produce a desired effect.” We want our problem to be fixed and convince ourselves worrying will help. We think our worrying will accomplish something. Especially, we think our worrying may convince God just how much we care and cause him to respond to our pleas. But worry is not effectual. It does not accomplish anything—or anything good, at least. Worry is not the means through which God wants us to express our desperation to him. Worry is not the means through which God hears us or responds to our pleas. Worry is not a shortcut to the ear of God or the key to unlock his attention. To the contrary, it may be the very opposite. Our worry may cause God to allow our trial to continue until we have calmed our hearts and submitted them to his good purposes.

God does not mean for us to worry, but to pray. He does not mean for us to bear our own burden through anxiety, but to entrust it to him through prayer. It is not God’s will that we fret, that we feel deep anxiety, that we spend days and nights running over all the terrible possibilities in our minds. Rather, we are to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt us, casting all our anxieties on him, because he cares for us” (1 Peter 5:6-7). His care, not our anxiety, is our refuge. When we hand it all to him, we can truly be anxious for nothing. We can care deeply without worrying for as much as a moment.

Tim Challies

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http://www.ligonier.org

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Grace and Peace to You – A Supernatural Peace

 

 

Bible Text: 1 Peter 1:2-9, 25; John 14:25-27

 

If there is anything outstanding and important that one needs to know about the 1st Epistle of Peter then it is this; he is writing to scores of Christians who have been dispersed and scattered all through Asia Minor because of dire persecution and trials.

Trials, to state the obvious, are perennial and, therefore, there are trials that not only the Christians of 1 Peter had to face but also, it is equally applicable to you and I and also many other Christians across the world who are going through similar trials. Let me remind you of that with a Scripture.

1Peter 5:9

“…Remember that your brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.”

Again, trials are not limited only to Christians but, they are ubiquitous and affect even the non-Christian just as much as they affect Christians. However, you need to know that, concerning Christians, it seems to me that trials and even persecution come our way for one purpose and one purpose alone and that is to sanctify and purify us as God’s elect; those who belong to Jesus Christ and those Jesus Christ is committed to in bringing them through life in order to ensure that they will be with Him in heaven one day.

 

GRACE AND PEACE ARE INEXTRICABLE!

Just as a footnote, Peter uses Grace and Peace in the same sentence (verse 2). The reason for this is that they are inextricably combined. In other words, Grace is a favour and blessing from Christ – a favourable benefit – and Peace is just the same. Therefore, Grace cannot come without Peace and, conversely, Peace cannot come without Grace!

Remember, the context of 1 Peter is all about facing trials and even persecution. The problem for you and me is this: how in the world are we able to make sense of this, especially where we live in a world that seems completely devoid of Peace?

Even I, in this past week, had to constantly check my own heart all the time to prevent myself from acting out my old nature – as a non-Christian, a person who used to be full of hatred and lash out at situations any way I pleased. I tell you, family; it is becoming exceedingly difficult as a Christian these days to still maintain our Christianity, especially when we are commanded by Jesus to “LOVE OUR ENEMIES!” (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36)

AN UNDEFILED, UNFADING AND IMPERISHABLE INHERITANCE KEPT IN HEAVEN FOR US! (VERSE 4 )

What is an “Inheritance”? Well, in our culture and mindset, an inheritance is something that the children get when their parents have died and have hopefully left something for them afterwards. However, when it comes to the Jewish culture, an inheritance is received and experienced before the parents have died. In fact, the children benefit from the inheritance even while the parents are living. This is why Peter says that this inheritance is unfading and imperishable because it has been given to every single believer right now and is theirs forever.

In one sense it is already received and in another sense, the full inheritance will only be realised in Heaven. The word “Kept” (τετηρημένην) means that this inheritance has been secured and is reserved by God for His people. In other words, this inheritance is being guarded by God, Himself, for His people. Therefore, you need to know that, for the true believer; as we journey through this life, our inheritance is being experienced now in part and will be fully realised when we see God face to face and receive the fullness of what He has secured for us.

BEING GUARDED BY GOD’S POWER FOR A SALVATION READY TO BE REVEALED! (Verse 5)

This is why verse 5 tells us that we are “Being Guarded by God’s Power for a Salvation ready to be Revealed”. The idea behind this is that God is guarding (φρουρουμένους) this Salvation, keeping it in His custody for us, just in the same manner as a military guard would guard and display whatever offensive or defensive means are needed in order to fulfil his duty.

Once again, I am mentioning all of this because I want to get to a very crucial point this morning. One may rightly ask the question: “Well, if I am being guarded by God, then why has there been no peace in my life at this moment or even in this last week or last month etc.?” “Why does it seem that there is trouble around me and also in my own life every other day?”

IN THIS YOU REJOICE…! (Verse 6)

Furthermore, and one final point that I want to make, and which I want to pose as a question before we move on to the Book of John Chapter 14 is this; “How in heavens name is one meant to rejoice when bad things happen, especially to Christians; to good people?” “Where is all the so-called peace in the midst of these bad situations and circumstances?”

 

I confess that this can only be done if we continually and persistently cling to our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and be filled with His Holy Spirit on a daily basis. There is no other way that we can walk through this life as Christians unless we are filled daily with His power and His Holy Spirit.

 

John 14:25-27

 

WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT, EVERYTHING ELSE IS MEANINGLESS!

You need to know that, without Jesus promising and giving His Holy Spirit, everything else after verse 16 will be completely meaningless for us! As a born-again Christian, it is not just a promise from Jesus to send His Holy Spirit just because He is feeling benevolent or happy, but He is sending His Holy Spirit in order to lead us in all righteousness [and truth]!

The statement in verse 16 about the giving of the Holy Spirit is not just there so that we can be “Good Christians” or “Super-Righteous Christians” because, if that is the be all and end all of it then that would not even make sense to us in the context of verse 27.

Let’s face it; there are ungodly, unsaved, and un-regenerate people who happen to also act in righteous ways, many times even putting many Christians to shame. Many times, we find so-called born-again Christians who act in such unrighteous ways that it brings disdain and disrepute to the name of God and also to Christianity as a whole.

Everything that is being said about the Holy Spirit from verse 15-26 is building up to verse 27. It is more than just the dispensation of the Holy Spirit to God’s people but, rather, the end result and the main point that is of utmost importance of John 14:27 is that of “PEACE”!

PEACE – A POPULAR WORD; BUT AN ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE REALITY!

Let’s face it; peace is a constant pursuit by the whole world, both by the unregenerate and also so-called Christians alike. They are forever chasing after it but never seem to find it, at least, the true Peace that Jesus speaks of in verse 27.

John MacArthur says; “Peace for the world is the absence of what troubles them”. In other words, the peace that the world seeks is not the peace according to what God has in mind and, therefore, it is not that true peace that they actually receive. It is said that when there is a war and both sides stop to reload, there is a moment of peace. That is not peace!

Peace is not toleration; peace is not toleration or any other vile social behaviour or a “Peaceful” governmental proposal, which by the way, is generally disproportionate and one-sided. The pursuit of peace has been hard to find and, in fact, it seems to be hidden and seems that the world has been unable to find it as yet and, neither will they ever find it.

THE WRONG PURSUIT OF PEACE!

People pursue peace in various forms: shopping, recreation, drugs, spending money and the list goes on and on. Many people say that peace will only come when there is social change or economic change. For instance, in our own country, certain people are being led to believe that peace will only come when all the farms are taken away and handed over to their rightful owners – the previously deprived owners. That in itself is a lie because even if that were to happen, peace will still not be attainable at all because, “… The heart of man is desperately wicked and who can understand it”. (Jeremiah 17:9).

Mark 7:21-23

21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Hate will continue, lust will continue, envy and jealousy will continue, pride will continue, and so will all those evil things that are inherent and natural to all people continue. People will never find peace, nor shall there ever be genuine peace between human beings. Neither will there ever be peace between man and God especially when the peace that man seeks and accepts is the peace that the world offers on a platter that is plated with fool’s gold.

By trying to fix the external things, peace will never be found or established. It may be momentary or temporary but, it will quickly fade away in a blink of an eye. If I can paraphrase 1 Peter 1:24 then it will sound something like this:

1 Peter 1:24 (Paraphrased).

“All flesh is like grass and all its glory is like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, and just, in the same manner, is it with the peace that man seeks after – it may seem glorious for the moment but in the end, it will fall and come to nothing.”

Those who do not truly know God in this wicked world will never ever have true peace. Again, let me remind you, peace in the world can be defined as “The lull in the battle when everybody stops to reload”.

 

THE BIBLICAL DEFINITION OF PEACE!

“Only God and God’s through His word [is able to] authoritatively point to real peace.” (John MacArthur).

Opposite to this; the only peace that the world can try to offer, and by the way, it will always miserably fail in this, are things like; freedom from trouble, prosperity and wealth and riches, to be free from conflict, to have no stress, absence of hostility and unrest. Peace for the world is “having no trouble” and being free from things like; being fearful, stress, anxiety, depression, cancer, AIDS, and any other thing that causes unrest in the human heart and soul may cause damage to the human body.

This, by the way, is an insufficient and incomplete definition of peace (MacArthur). It is the only peace that the world can offer, you need to know this. This type of peace is superficial and always temporal.

Now, according to God, the most excellent and reliable definition of peace is that which we have just read in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you…”

 

HAVING PEACE WHEN HELL IS BREAKING LOOSE!

You have got to know that, when Jesus spoke these to His Disciples words in John 14:27, He was facing the most dramatic, disturbing, and distressing moment in His life and that was shortly to happen – His Crucifixion. The tumultuous ordeal he is about to face is horrendous but, yet, He speaks these almost unbelievable words to His disciples knowing full well that He is soon to be viciously assaulted and gruesomely crucified on a Roman cross. Further to this, Jesus knows that He will be separated from His father and punished for all of the sins of the world; for all the sins of the people throughout history and also for all the sins of the people that Jesus knows will in future come to believe in Him and trust in Him.

Jesus knows this all too well so that in John 14:28 He says “… I am going away…” because He knows what is lying ahead and looming over Him.

However, verse 27 tells us that Jesus says to them (His disciples) “… Let not your hearts be troubled.” And so, Jesus is going to give to them – his disciples – a kind of peace; a unique piece that will be very different to what the world can ever offer. It is a peace that will put an end to their troubled hearts!

  • A SUPERNATURAL PEACE – ONLY FOR THOSE WHO BELONG TO CHRIST!

This peace is a supernatural peace that not only can come from God but, also is a piece that is uniquely and specifically for only those who belong to Christ.

  • THE NATURE OF THIS SUPERNATURAL PEACE!

Now, I want to take a look at the nature of this peace and, therefore want to break it down into two logical parts; A) Objective Peace and B) Subjective Peace.

  • OBJECTIVE PEACE!

Objective peace is that type of peace that is outside of you. It is not experienced by you nor can it truly be created by you, although it may seem that way in many instances. As Christians, however, you need to know that this Peace is created by God and is harnessed by the Christian and utilised by the Christian to bring peace to circumstances and situations that are outside of us and most of the time out of our control.

 

  • SUBJECTIVE PEACE – John 14:27!

Subjective peace is that type of peace that is inside of you and is experiential. In other words, it is a peace that is experienced by you as an individual and when it comes, you as a Christian will know for certain that it was never created by you or conjured up by you. In fact, it is a peace that is not from you but independent of you. Furthermore, it is important to know that this type of peace is specifically placed there to guard your heart and your mind and your Christian life in Christ and keep you rooted in Christ.

Philippians 4:4-7.

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness [or gentleness] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, this subjective peace is actually based on the supernatural peace that Jesus was speaking about in John 14:27.

 

NO GOD, NO PEACE – KNOW GOD, KNOW PEACE!

Again, I need to reiterate this and emphasise that this peace which is given by Jesus is not for any other person or persons but only for those who belong to Him. NO GOD, NO PEACE – KNOW GOD, KNOW PEACE! In other words, there will never be any peace in the world because God is not known by the world. This peace is for those who are reborn, justified and sanctified by His Holy Spirit. It is for the genuine Christian – the Christ follower; the one who has no other god before him or her. This peace is for those who know God and are known by God! (Romans 4:24-25; 5:1)

 

Rev. S.C Bryant (OMIN CLC) BDiv Cum Laude, MI

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Are You Running With Endurance?

1 Peter 1:3-21
3)Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4)to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5)who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6)In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7)so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8)Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9)obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
10)Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully 11)inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12)It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 13)Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14)As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15)but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16)since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17)And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18)knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19)but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20)He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21)who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

StopAndPrayTV

Hebrews 12:1-3

A marathon is a taxing race. The runner must overcome muscle cramps, blisters, and the urge to quit. But each step reaffirms his commitment to keep going until he triumphantly crosses the finish line.

In many ways, this is what the Christian life is like. It’s not a fast sprint to heaven but a long, obedient marathon. There are obstacles that could cause us to stumble and burdens we need to lay aside so we can run unencumbered.

The one word that summarizes our earthly race is endurance. This term implies going through something difficult without quitting. It includes the concept of abiding under hardship with patient, sustaining perseverance. Christ hasn’t promised us an easy life. In fact, He told His disciples, “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33).

How can we keep going? The answer is to fix our eyes on Jesus, not on the…

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Grace and Peace: The Elect Living Among the Pagans (The World)

What does it mean to be God’s Elect or elected by God as a Christian?

Born-again Christians have been specially chosen [Elect] by God as His own and also for a rendering of a special service to Him, although, in the midst of this trouble, it may not seem that way. Furthermore, it may also seem like God , Himself, is a malicious vindictive God by purposely putting Christians through various kinds of desperate trials.

Therefore, as Christians , you have been elected, you have been chosen by God, not just to belong to Him as His children and as His people but, moreover, you have been chosen by God to remain in Him in whatever situation or circumstance or environment He has placed you in right now, whether it is short-term or even long-term. The truth is; you are where you are because of God whether you like not.

We are urged, if not commanded, to let our conduct be godly commanded and even holy because the Holy One who called us out of darkness has called us to live a life of holiness. We are urged to live in and among the world – the pagans – but not to become like them just for the sake of becoming popular or winning friends. (1 Peter 1:13-16)

 

 

 

Rev. S.C Bryant (OMIN CLC) BDiv Cum Laude, MI

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Feeding on Christ!

31 JULY 2015

What Should We Do When They Stray?

Of all the painful experiences that I have had to face through nearly a decade in ministry–the death of a mother, couples enduring the heartbreak of miscarriage, strife, abuse, divorce, scandal, etc.–having to walk with a godly father and mother through the dark shadows of having a child rebel is among the most difficult. There are many difficult and painful experiences that ministers face, but the spiritual rebellion of a child of a believer weighs heavily on the heart of any true minister of the Gospel. Perhaps it weighs heavy on my heart because I was one such rebellious child brought up in a Christian home. Though I was nurtured in an extremely spiritually and theologically strong Christians home, I ran from it–and to the spiritual darkness and sin of this world–as far and as fast as I could.

Not long after I was converted, news of my conversion spread through the church that I began attending in Greenville, SC. People would frequently approach me to ask if I would reach out to their son or their daughter–children who were living prodigal lifestyles akin to that which I had lived. The first year of my conversion exposed me to the prevalent nature of such rebellion among children who had grown up in Christian homes. I started to realize a few things as I labored to bring the Gospel to young adults who were strung out on pharmaceuticals, cocaine, acid, crack, meth, MDMA, etc. First, I realized how true my Calvinistic beliefs really were (i.e. unless the Lord–in His sovereign mercy and grace–redeems, all is hopeless); and, second, I realized that most of the parents were at a loss to know how to pursue their rebellious covenant child. The only example that I had was that which was etched in my mind by the actions of my father and mother. Today, whenever I am counseling the parents of a rebellious child, there are five things that I always remind Christian parents with rebellious children:

1. Pray the Promises of God for Your Children. Incessantly ask the Lord to fulfill his covenant promises on behalf of your children. God has given believers large promises. While the salvation of your children is ultimately dependent on the sovereign grace and mercy of God, the agency of godly parents often plays an important role. Many times, the Lord has answered the prayers of the parents of rebellious children in order to bring them to salvation. This is part of the mystery of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Such was the case with Augustine of Hippo, who attributed his conversion to the Lord answering the prayers of his mother, Monica. That account has been a constant source of encouragement for Christian parents. The mother of one of the greatest theologians in all of church history incessantly prayed down the promises of God from heaven for her son. So too ought Christians parents of rebellious children.

2. Pray that God will Surround Your Children with Strong Christian Friends. Through all of my years of rebellion, I knew that my parents were praying that the Lord would bring godly young men and women into my life–and that is exactly what He did. I would often find myself working with Christians who reached out to me with Scripture and the Gospel. I would see God answering that prayer by having my sister introduce me to new believers who had been saved out of similar lifestyles of rebellion. I’ll never forget how, on one occasion, a biker at a bar I was at began witnessing to me and asked if he could pray for me in the bar in front of my unbelieving friends. That experience will forever be etched in my mind as a direct answer to the prayers of my parents. A month before I was brought to saving faith and repentance, I met my best friend, Stephen–who had been strung out on Ketamine (a cat tranquilizer and club drug) and had been enslaved to many of the same things to which I had been enslaved. Stephen had been converted at a conference under the preaching of John Piper. When I met Stephen, I saw something in his eyes– joy and satisfaction in Christ for which I longed. Stephen tried to get me to go to church with him one Sunday night. I went and then left immediately before the call to worship. Still, I remember thinking to myself, “I wish that I had what he has!” A month later–after the Lord gave me a new heart–I called Stephen to come and get me and take me from Asheville, NC to Greenville, SC. Stephen was a direct answer to the prayers and efforts of my parents to surround me with strong, spiritually minded Christians.

3. Pray that God will Do What it Takes to Bring Your Children to Himself. Though no one likes the thought of asking God to “do whatever it takes,” this is a prayer that we should all be willing to pray for our children. The Lord often brings individuals to rock bottom in order for them to see their need for the Savior. This is certainly the testimony of the Gospels. It is remarkable that the majority of those who trust the Savior are those with afflictions or who have been enslaved in prodigal living. In fact, this is the very teaching of the parable of the prodigal son. When he finally hit rock bottom (eating the pods that the swine ate), he remembered the love of the Father and the comforts of the Father’s house. The prodigal son, Jesus tells us, “came to himself” (that’s shorthand for “repented”) and returned to His Father. In many cases, the Lord brings covenant children back to Himself by striping them of the comforts that they once experienced. This is also the teaching of excommunication in the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul says that when one is excommunicated for unrepentant sin, they are being “delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that their spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5). Godly parents should pray that the Lord does whatever is necessary to save their children. Better to have redeemed children who have had to suffer hardship than to have healthy and prosperous children who perish eternally.

4. Pursue Your Children with the Word of God. This is arguably the most significant thing that my parents did through almost a decade of my rebellion. My dad (though he will tell you how unfaithful he was) was extremely faithful to read the Scriptures to my sister and me. We had many copies of Bagster’s Daily Light (the most purely biblical devotional in print!) sitting around our house. If my dad was not reading to us out of a book of the Bible, he would be teaching us out of the Daily Light. When I was getting into deeper and deeper spiritual darkness, my father was more and more intentional about reading the Scriptures to me.

When I was a young boy, my dad had taught us the significance of Romans 9. In the weeks leading up to my conversion I remember asking myself, “What if I am a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction?” The Lord used the strong emphasis that my dad placed on the significance of even difficult portions of Scripture to bring me to Himself. The truth of Romans 9, interestingly, encouraged me to cry out to the Lord for redemption.

I distinctly remember how, on one occasion, I had been out all night partying and was still under the influence of drugs the next morning. My dad woke me up and called me out to our living room. He began to read from the Daily Light. The first verse that he read that morning was John 8:12, where Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” I sat there knowing that Jesus, the Living Word, was speaking directly to me through the written word. Though I wasn’t converted until many years after that experience, it was still formative and the Lord used it in bringing me to Himself in the end.

In addition to reading Scripture together, write particular verses out in a letter or on an index card and hand it to your children when they are in your home. There is something special about handing a handwritten letter–or card–with Scripture in it to you son or daughter. It shows personal and specific spiritual care for them. God has promised to use His word to bring men and women to Himself. The Lord declared through Jeremiah the prophet,“Is not My word like a fire?…And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces” (Jer. 23:29)? Only the word of God can break apart a heart hardened by sin and rebellion. So, Christian parents, continue to set the word of God before your rebellious child.

5. Be Firm but Loving in Addressing Your Children. This is the last thing with which I try to encourage Christian parents with rebellious children. Far too many parents think that they can love their children into the Kingdom by being soft on them. Nothing is further than the truth. Surely, the goodness of God bring us to repentance–and He often uses the kindness of Christian parents to reflect His goodness (even toward rebellious children). However, when we read the Scriptures, we find the Savior and the Apostles being serious and firm in their teaching against sin and rebellion. There is a seriousness with which we ought to address our children when they are rebelling. When I was at the height of my rebellion, my dad and mom came to visit me. I will forever remember my dad looking at me and saying, “Nick, you chose this day, blessings or curses. If you continue living the way you are and continue to reject Christ, you are choosing covenant curses.” This was a very powerful warning that I needed to hear. It was a loving thing for my dad to confront me in this way. He knew that saying hard things might drive me further away from he and my mother, but in the end, he knew that the Lord uses such things to bring individuals back to Christ. In fact, this is precisely what the Lord said to Israel: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deut. 30:19). The Lord used my father’s forthrightness and sobriety in bringing warnings and promises before me.

That being said, it is possible for parents to swing the pendulum from the one extreme of enabling and weakness to the other extreme of heavy-handedness. There must be a balance between sternness and tenderness. The Apostle Paul warns against fathers provoking their children to anger by being too heavy-handed (see Eph. 6:4). We must always have hearts that are full of tender affection for our children. We should weep much when they rebel. We should show them affection in the midst of their rebellion, but we must be direct and firm in bringing the warnings and the promises of Scripture to bear upon them.

Whenever I hear that one of the children of believers in our congregation is straying–or has been straying from Christ for quite some time–my heart fills with sorrow. I think of the many hours that godly parents have spent teaching them the Scriptures, praying with and for them and having them among the congregation of the saints who are worshiping the Lord week in and week out. I think of the pain that they are experiencing as they know that they cannot change their child’s heart. I think of my own inability to change their hearts. I think of the hardships that they might face if they do not repent. I think of the years of my own rebellion–the powerful enslavement to sin. Then I think of how God, in his most amazing and astonishing sovereign mercy and grace, saved a wretch like me. I think of the many others that He has redeemed late in life and I am encouraged to pray more fervently for them. I think of the fact that the Gospel is for rebels–that God loves the prodigal and receives and welcomes them home with great joy and rejoicing. I think of my own need for the Gospel today and my need for the word of God.

When I hear about the spiritual straying of the children of believers, I remember that everyone of us needs the same thing–the grace of God in the Gospel. I remember the power of the message of Christ crucified. I remember that part of my task, as a minister of that Gospel, is to remind Christian parents of these things. With grief, I remember watching my mother–who is now with the Lord Jesus–age significantly on account of the burden that I placed on her from her having to deal with over almost a decade of my running to the world. But, I also remember how the Lord finally brought me to repentance and enabled me see my need for the pardoning and cleansing blood of Jesus. I remember calling home to my mom and telling her, “I now know what Paul meant when he wrote, ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.’” I remember the joy she experienced as we watched the Lord restore the years that the locust of sin and rebellion had eaten (Joel 2:25).