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.

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A Beloved Son

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.” -Matthew 12:18

This verse describes God the Father’s feelings for Jesus. The Father wants the Son because He chose Him. He is His Father’s beloved. And the Father is well pleased with His Son.

There is an incredible truth taught in the Bible known as the doctrine of Union with Christ. The Apostle Paul was obsessed about it. Over 160 times in the New Testament Paul used the phrase “in Christ”  or “in Him.” It means, when our faith is in Jesus, and His Spirit is in us, God the Father feels the same way about us as He does about Jesus. Meaning, for Christians….though we are a huge habitual failures, Jesus was not…and He paid for ALL our failures on the cross. So no matter how bad a day you’re having, if you are trusting in Jesus’ life and death in your place, God treats you like He treats His son …chosen …beloved …well pleased.

As I meditated on this truth this morning I thought, “How can I understand what that must feel like to have God love me like this?” “What can I relate that to?” Then I remembered a phone call I received first thing this morning. My father called to check on me. He had been concerned about my well being. He wanted to express his love for me and for my family. I felt his love. I was very glad to hear from my dad.

Then it came to me…”That’s what it feels like! It should make me feel the way I felt when my dad called me this morning out of the blue! Only, as much love as my earthly dad has shown me in this life, God’s love for me is infinitely greater.” God used my dad’s call this morning both to bring encouragement to a son from his father, and to give me a small illustration of how God’s love for His Son should affect me.

So, I wrote my dad and shared that with him. He has shown great love for me throughout my life. And God has used all the good he has given me as my father to show me just a little bit of what its like to have a heavenly Father.

The greatest thing a person can have these days is a relationship with their Heavenly Father that resembles the relationship Jesus has with His Father. Any suffering we face, all the trials, and even the triumphs, do not compare to what God has given us when we are united to Christ. It helps to put all of this in perspective. When we are in union with Christ, we have access to all the resources accessible to Jesus. And in the way God treats Jesus, he treats Jesus’ followers the same.

Though it may not have the exact same implications for us as it does for Jesus our Redeemer, if your hope is in Jesus today, God is saying these very same words of you right this moment: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.” You’re His beloved child. That is an incredible reality!

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.

Spurgeon and Home-Discipleship—Part 1 of 3

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born on June 19, 1834 in Kelvedon, in Essex, England, just ten days after the death of William Carey in India, the father of the modern mission movement. He was the oldest of seventeen children. Supposedly a study of Spurgeon’s ancestry will show that he followed a direct line of preachers dating back twelve generations.[1]

Spurgeon’s father and grandfather were Congregationalist ministers. Each one had a lasting impact on the young Spurgeon. Within a year after Charles was born, he was sent to live with his grandfather, James Spurgeon, the minister of Stambourne. While under his grandfather’s care, Spurgeon began to gain a lasting understanding of Scripture.[2]

Before returning to his parents care at age 6, it is said that Spurgeon “had learned to love John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress,” a popular resource for family worship even today.[3] He would claim that he read and reread Pilgrim’s Progress over one hundred times in his lifetime.[4] “Back with his parents, he grew up in a home with strong Puritan teachings and faithful, restrained lives to match.”[5]

Family worship is a term Spurgeon used often describing the practice of home-discipleship and worship he experienced under the care of his grandparents and parents. Spurgeon’s family took responsibility on his spiritual formation. This was not thought of as the responsibility of the church. Neither, at least for him, was his education forfeited to the care of someone outside the home.

It is easy to see, in retrospect, that those early Stambourne years gave colour and bent to his whole life. It was well that he had no formal schooling (save only such elementary instruction as he could glean from old Mrs. Burleigh of the village) until he had looked out on life from the comparative solitude of Stambourne. The simplicity of his early surroundings remained with him to the end.[6]

This means that his education, like his spiritual formation, was first the priority of the home, with a view that any outside assistance only assisted what is done in the home.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was much the product of a home that took the responsibility of home-discipleship and worship seriously. The Spurgeon home contained 8 children, 9 others did not live through infancy.[7] His mother’s prayers and devotions, while Charles’s father was away during the week, made a great impact on the boy. “Her prayers, no less than her exhortations, aroused him to concern of soul.”[8] This is a testimony to the many mothers who are home with children with an absence of a Christian husband.

Sunday evenings, especially, Mrs. Spurgeon would sit with her children around their table and read Scripture, explaining it verse by verse. She would then pray prayers, that would be etched in the mind of young Charles for the rest of his life “Once she said, ‘Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance they perish, and my soul must bear swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.” That was not at all in the modern vein, but it was the arrow that reached the boy’s soul.”[9]

The training received at home from his grandfather, and then his mother and father helped the young Spurgeon mature rapidly as a young man. The impact of his mother’s faithfulness to family worship was very noticeable as Spurgeon grew up. He would often reflect while preaching on the diligence and concern of his parents for his salvation.

In the first sermon he published in London, he said, “There was a boy once—a very sinful child—who hearkened not to the counsel of his parents. But his mother prayed for him, and now he stands to preach to this congregation every Sabbath. And when his mother thinks of her firstborn preaching the Gospel, she reaps a glorious harvest that makes her a glad woman”.[10]

It is noted that his father’s training made quite an impact on him too. His father and grandfathers use of the Ten Commandments in his childhood raising was productive. Spurgeon acknowledges that he most likely was kept from many sins, “But all of a sudden I met Moses,” referring to the moral Law contained in the Ten Commandments.[11]

Then there came to my startled conscience the remembrance of the universality of law. I thought of what was said of the old Roman Empire, under the rule of Caesar: if a man once broke the law of Rome, the whole world was one vast prison to him, for he could never get out of the reach of the imperial power. So did it come to be in my aroused conscience.[12]

Spurgeon once said in a sermon on Romans 5:20 called “Law and Grace” on August 26, 1855, “The law causes the offence to abound by discovering sin to the soul. When once God the Holy Ghost applies the Law to the conscience, secret sins are dragged to light, little sins are magnified to their true size, and things apparently harmless become exceedingly sinful.”[13]

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


[1] Fullerton, W. Y. Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Biography. 2001. http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/bio1.htm (accessed January 14, 2009).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Spurgeon, Charles Haddon Spurgeon Gold: Pure. Refined. Edited by Ray Comfort. Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2005, 179.

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

[5] Spurgeon, Spurgeon Gold: Pure. Refined.

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

[7] Ibid..

[8] Ibid.

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

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit: Law and Grace. August 26, 1855. http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0037.htm (accessed January 18, 2009).

Gospel vs. Religion, part 3

Christianity without the compassion of Jesus is just empty religion. Mark 2:5-12 reveals that Jesus was concerned for people. This is one reason he healed. His compassion for others is a pillar of what real Christianity should be about. The gospel requires that we be concerned about helping people.

This passage says Jesus was home. I don’t know about you, but if someone busted a whole in my roof, I’m not sure I’d remain calm and help the. Even if you could tell me that the houses in 1st century Capernaum had roof access, like a sun roof or something, they still interrupted his sermon. The compassion Jesus had for others is striking. Without it, your religion is empty.

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Gospel vs. Religion, part 2

Christianity without faith alone in Jesus is just empty religion. In Mark 2, four men came to Jesus bringing to him a paralytic (3). That’s all we know. This man could not walk and his friend carried him on his bed to find Jesus. “And when they could not get near Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and…they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay” (v4). And Jesus saw something in these men…faith. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (v5).

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Gospel vs. Religion, part 1

Christianity without a desperation for God is just empty religion. Look at Capernaum for example. In Mark 2, Jesus returned to Capernaum a short time after making His purpose on earth known. Jesus “lived in Capernaum by the sea” during His adult life (Mt 4:13). During this time, “many were gathered together” in a house, “and he was preaching the word to them.” “The Word” that Jesus was preaching was the gospel.

There can be gospel ministry, and no gospel transformation. Capernaum had the true gospel being preached to them (v1-2). In fact, they had the best gospel preaching there has ever been. And they also had real healing occurring (v11-12). No one could argue that Capernaum was not seeing and hearing wonderful gospel ministry in their city. Yet they were none the better for it. You can’t just use the Gospel like a fairy wand.

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