Is Parental Idolatry Real?

If you’re a parent, it is highly likely that you have suffered, and may still be suffering, from parental idolatry. And if you are not a parent, this still will be helpful for you to consider because you may be ruled by your reputation in some other area of life. We all desire to be successful. We also can easily be oppressed by thoughts of what others think of us. Today, a friend brought this article to my attention. I think its worth sharing here…

Friday, May 03, 2013

“The Idol of Success”
by Paul Tripp

I listened as the father said to me in the presence of his teenage son, “Do you know what it’s like to go to church and know that everyone there has been talking about and praying for your rebellious son? Do you know what it’s like to enter a service with all eyes on you, knowing that people are wondering how it’s going and how you and your wife are coping?”

He continued. “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. We tried to faithfully do everything God called us to do as parents, and look what we ended up with! I ask myself, if I knew that this was the way it would all turn out, would we have ever chosen to have children? I can’t describe how disappointed and embarrassed I am.”

That afternoon, with his son listening, that father spoke what many parents have felt but never verbalized. You see, we tend to approach parenting with expectations as if we had hard-and-fast guarantees. We think that if we do our part, our children will become model citizens. We tend to approach parenting with a sense of ownership, that these are our children and their obedience is our right.

These assumptions pave the way for our identity to get wrapped up in our kids. We begin to need them to be what they should be so that we can feel a sense of achievement and success. We begin to look at our children as our trophies rather than God’s creatures. We secretly want to display them on the mantels of our lives as visible testimonies to a job well done.

When they fail to live up to our expectations, we find ourselves not grieving for them and fighting for them, but angry at them, fighting against them, and, in fact, grieving for ourselves and our loss. We’re angry because they’ve taken something valuable away from us, something we’ve come to treasure, something that has come to rule our hearts: a reputation for success.

It’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that these are God’s children. They don’t belong to us. They’re not given to bring us glory, but him. Our kids are from him, they exist through him, and the glory of their lives points to him. We’re only agents to accomplish his plans. We’re only instruments in his hands. Our identity is rooted in him and his call to us, not in our children and their performance.

As parents, we’re in trouble whenever we lose sight of these “vertical realities.” Whenever parenting is reduced to our hard work, the child’s performance, and the reputation of the family, it becomes very hard for us to respond with selfless faithfulness in the face of our child’s failure.

God-ordained moments of ministry will become moments of angry confrontation filled with words of judgment. Instead of leading our needy child to Christ once again, we’ll beat them with our words. Instead of loving, we’ll reject. Instead of speaking words of hope, we’ll condemn. Our feelings will be flooded much more with our own embarrassment, anger, and hurt than with grief over our wayward child’s standing with God.

I want to ask you today to be honest. Examine your own heart. Do you have an attitude of ownership and entitlement? Have you subtly become ruled by reputation? Are you oppressed by thoughts of what others think of you and your child? These questions – no, let me rephrase that – these idols need to be confronted if we’re ever going to be the parents that God has called us to be.

So be honest. Confess to areas of parental idolatry. But be filled with hope, because Christ died to break the back of our self-absorbed idolatry. God is intent on owning our hearts unchallenged. His goal is that our lives would be shaped by our worship of him and nothing else. And, hear this: while God is at work in your own heart, at the same time, he has sent you to be his ambassador in the heart of your child.


Spurgeon and Home-Discipleship—Part 2 of 3

(This is part 2 of Spurgeon and Home-Discipleship. Click here for part one.)

Spurgeon understood the effects of the Law on a sinner, especially applied to a child from under steady training from his parents. The very essence of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Ephesians 6:1-4 were lived out in Spurgeon’s home and he was greatly affected. This kind of training may be the reason Spurgeon struggled with his sin from an early age.

The weight of his guilt before God weighed heavy on him. He would wonder why he never injured himself from the agony of his awareness to sin. He wrote, “I used to say, ‘If God does not send me to hell, He ought to do it.’ I sat in judgment upon myself and pronounced the sentence that I felt would be just. I could not have gone to heaven with my sin unpardoned, even if I had the offer to do it, for I justified God in my own conscience, while I condemned myself.”[1] He intimately understood his need of mercy from God. This because of his intimate knowledge of God’s Law, taught to him daily from infancy.

He understood that the Law was at work in him. His biographer, W. Y. Fullerton even called this the “Law work.” Spurgeon would describe this way, “It was like sitting at the foot of Sinai.”[2] Spurgeon would write,

When I was in the hands of the Holy Spirit, under conviction of sin, I had a clear and sharp sense of the justice of God. Sin, whatever it might be to other people, became to me an intolerable burden. It was not so much that I feared hell as that I feared sin; and all the while I had upon my mind a deep concern for the honour of God’s name and the integrity of His moral government. I felt that it would not satisfy my conscience if I could be forgiven unjustly.[3]

God was about to honor His Word, and the obedience of his parents and grandparents. He knew the Gospel well from his upbringing, but God was about to use an instrument outside of the home to secure the young man’s salvation.

On Sunday, January 6, 1850, at the age of fifteen, Charles Spurgeon woke from an unusual dream.

He rose before the sun, to pray and to read one of his bedside books. But he found no rest. As he says himself, God was plowing his soul, ten black horses in His team—the Ten Commandments—and cross-plowing it with the message of the Gospel, for when he heard it, no comfort came to his soul.[4]

He left his home that very cold day and headed to his church to worship. As he was making his way to his usually place of worship, he met a snowstorm which caused him to enter a nearby Primitive Methodist Church to worship. There he met Jesus.

It was not the place of his choice, but it was the place that God had chosen; not the morning of his hope; but the morning of God’s deliverance; not the preacher appointed for the day, who was probably snowed up, but the messenger entrusted with the key that led into the light the lad who for five weary years had been groping in the shadows.[5]

The place had no more than 15 people in it that morning. The pastor preached from Isaiah 45:22, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” The preacher, with little credentials and poor pronunciation, simply called his hearers to look upon Christ. The young Spurgeon did and he was saved.

What more he said young Spurgeon never knew, for in a moment he saw the way of salvation, and was possessed by the thought of the freeness and simplicity of it. ‘I had been waiting to do fifty things,’ he said; ‘but when I heard the word ‘look,’ I could have almost looked my eyes away. I could have risen that instant and have sung with the most enthusiastic of them of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith that looks alone to Him. I thought I could dance all the way home. I could understand what John Bunyan meant when he declared he wanted to tell the crows on the plowed land all about his conversion. He was too full to hold. He must tell somebody.’[6]

For fifteen years Charles Spurgeon was taught and demonstrated the gospel before him by his parents and grandparents. And yet, “He thought at first that he had never heard the Gospel before, that the preachers he had listened to had not preached it.”[7] This statement is an amazing testimony to the radical nature of regeneration. He was blind (or deaf) to the gospel, and then he could see (or hear). Later “he came to see the difference between the effectual calling of God and the general proclamation of the Gospel. The word of the Lord came to him expressly that morning, as it did to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3) and he was nevermore separated from his Saviour.”[8]

For part three of Spurgeon and Home-Discipleship click here.

[1] Fullerton, Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Biography.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Spurgeon, Autobiography, Vol. I, chaps. 9, 10, and 11, as quoted in Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

Are There Problems With Today’s Gospel? — Part 2

To read the first part of this post click here.

In part one, I tried to give reasons why the question, “Are there problems with today’s gospel?,” is a valid question. Research is regularly published that suggest major problems in the evangelistic efforts of gospel-believing churches. Before I suggest my opinion on solutions to this terrible dilemma, I want to share a few more factors that may be contributing to the problem.

At the 2007 Florida Baptist Evangelism Conference, Ed Young Sr., pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, shared his “secrets of Biblical insight” on how to reach kids that he believes “will radically change your church.”[1] Young pastors a church that hosts 45,000 people every weekend on five campuses. He said he began building his congregation “by focusing on evangelizing children and teens.”[2]

Acknowledging that two-thirds of all converts make decisions before the age of 18, Young plead for churches to adopt his strategy for reaching children, insisting it was necessary to reach Florida for Christ. His strategy is to focus on the needs of children, believing that “parents will come to a place where their children are loved and welcomed.”[3] For thirty years, Young has sought to attract children in order to reach parents and grow the church.

For many years, churches have adopted evangelism strategies much like this. It is not uncommon for churches to invest their resources in an attempt to reach the children of unchurched families in hopes of reaching their parents. Is this is wise methodology? Polly House of Baptist Press reported,

Of all the studies recently published, the most telling related to the fathers role in discipleship is this: according to a report published by The Baptist Press if a child is the first person in the household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability everyone in the household will follow. If the mother is first, there is a 17% chance everyone else in the household will submit to Christ. Here’s the clincher: If the father professes Christ first, there is a 93% probability that everyone else in the house will heed the Gospel call.[4]

These statistics do not suggest we should fore-go quality children’s programs in churches that teach children the gospel. Nor does this suggest that children cannot make genuine life-changing decisions to follow Christ. However, there is enough evidence to question our effectiveness in reaching children with the gospel. If “the one who endures to the end…will be saved” (Mark 13:13), we cannot settle for our children simply repeating a “sinner’s prayer” and being baptized, only to have 70 – 90 percent of them leave the church as adults and never return.

In addition, the evidence calls into question the effectiveness of reaching parents with the gospel by attracting their children. A large number of unchurched parents of these children are not being converted, and the children reached by the church will most likely leave the church permanently upon graduating high school. Is it wise to continue doing the same thing, while expecting different results?

Why is there a large emphasis on children making faith decisions today? Does the New Testament record an overwhelming number of children converts? I honestly cannot think of one, besides maybe Timothy. I do not see the strategy of churches “targeting” children in the New Testament. I see Scripture advocating children being permitted to come to Christ, and for parents to bring their children up to know Christ. But why are some so insistent that the success of churches in evangelizing their territories are dependent on our child evangelism efforts?

Continue reading

Core Values Study: Family Focused Church

The following is from our series of Sunday morning discussions with several families from Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL who are a part of the church planting efforts in eastern Lee County. We have been discussing core values for this new church.

2. Family Focused – The Bible teaches that the primary spiritual leaders of children are their parents (Deut. 6, Eph. 6). One goal of this new church will be to equip and empower families to grow in Christ and cultivate a healthy understanding of how the people of God worship together with those in their household, as well as other areas of life.

There are various ways churches are structured. There is no “right” model. Meaning, though there are characteristics and principles that every church should have, there are multiple ways to implement these principles in a church.

Some churches are designed according to departments and specialize in particular areas of ministry. An unintended consequence of this philosophy of ministry is that the family is divided into fragments while together with the church; and this implies that the church believes the primary spiritual influences of children are ministry directors, pastors, and Sunday school teachers, instead of their parents. (I know some great preschool, children, and student pastors, and all of them believe their ministries are to assist parents to disciple their children. The problem is, many parents have a contrary understanding.)

Before long, the mindset of parents conform to the belief that their children are better off under the teaching of professionals. As a result, children and teens today have a difficult time relating to adults because they are always with their peers, and not their parents and other adults. Once they graduate from the youth group, they find it difficult to join the church in adult settings. This is unfortunate and does not need to happen. Continue reading