A Solid Christian Foundation
What our Children Need to
the Children of Elohim
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday, 4 June 2005
Last week I received a very positive letter from a lady in response to last week's sermon, All the Hidden People. It got me thinking about a few things especially in the light of all we have learned over the last few years. Now as you know, whenever I read articles or letters by other people, the Ruach (Spirit) leads me to certain key words which often reflect the core or heart of what the writer is saying. A few weeks ago I preached a sermon to you entitled, The Inconvenient Messiah in response to a letter another lady had written to me. In this letter she had stated that she was no longer interested in the message we were preaching because it was too "inconvenient" and it was this single word that literally zoomed me into her chief spiritual issue. And so it was with this latest letter about last week's sermon. As I read it, four words literally leaped out of the page and into my face, as she related to me how her son was being given "a solid Christian foundation".
And so today I want us to ask ourselves - and especially parents who are raising their children - this vitally important question: What is "a solid Christian foundation"? How can we know that we are teaching our children in the right way? And what evidence should there be in our own lives, and the lives of our children, to show that we are giving them what we claim?
Go into any school these days and you will at once pick up that children are often viewed in terms of their future value. They are being prepared to fit into society, on the one hand, and on the other they are being prepared for the job market. And as we know from our own painful experiences with state schooling, state education is not preparing children to be Christians and it is light years away from giving them any sort of Christian foundation. The values that underpin state education are secular humanism and its attitudes towards religion are not at all dissimilar to the old pagan Greek idea that all religions are of equal value or of no value at all.
The result of this mindset was that then, as now, laws were enforced requiring that no religion claim exclusive truth upon pain of death. All religions were to be equally revered and the protector of this status quo was the King or Emperor. Christianity suffered some of its worst persecutions anciently because of this humanistic philosophy, first under Antiochus Epiphanes, whose infamy we remember every Hanukkah, and subsequently the Roman Emperors. Today kings and emperors have been replaced by a fictitious entity called the 'state' whose dark shadow looms not only over our secular affairs but also our religious ones. Under Antiochus Epiphanes, who forced the Jews to renounce Torah, tens of thousands perished by the sword; and under some of the Roman Emperors, who forced Christians to make offerings to the them as a god, millions more perished in amphitheatres and elsewhere.
What distinguished Yahweh's people from all the counterfeits was that they refused to be paganised. First the Hasmoneans rebelled and fought a successful war against the Syrian occupation forces of Antiochus Epiphanes and secured the independence of Judah. Then the Christians like the martyr Stephen rebelled and declared that we should obey God before man. Very clearly, then, to have a solid foundation in Christianity we have to be prepared to say "no" to the forces of religious and secular reaction and insist on living the True Faith according to the pattern ordained by Yahweh. Because the Hasmonean Jews were built on a solid foundation of Torah the Nation was saved, and because the first Christians were built on a solid foundation of Christ, Christianity was not only saved but rejuvenated. In both cases it took courage to say "no" and to do what was right, and in both cases they were vindicated by Yahweh, even though they had to suffer. So in asking ourselves what a true Christian foundation is, it is clear that it is not only total adherence to the truth but also a willingness to be courageous enough to defend it, no matter the cost.
Now in the days of the Maccabbean Revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes, there were many Jews who were willing to compromise with Hellenic or Greek culture. They started imitating the ways of the pagans and little by little started turning away from Yahweh's Torah. And there is no doubt what Yahweh thought about these people - they were apostates no less. We also know from our knowledge of Christian history that there were plenty of people who were willing to compromise with pagan ideas in order to secure positions of power and wealth that led to rebellion against Torah and compromises with pagan religion. Both Western and Eastern Christianity - Catholicism, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy - are saturated with paganism and are in direct violation of the commandments. And they are teaching their children - as they have been doing for centuries - to continue violating those commandments. The consequences of this wilful rebellion have been disastrous - as Larry Fowler, the Protestant author of the book, Rock Solid Kids, recently wrote: "The Church of Jesus Christ is only one generation away from extinction". And there is no doubt about it - we are witnessing Western Christianity come to a full ripening. And what we see is not good. Look at Sweden. Here in this nation, the Archbishop of the Lutheran Church - the country's representative of all Swedish Lutherans - does not believe in the Bible and isn't even sure that God exists! He is the head of the majority group of Christians so-called in this country.
Last week, in connection with what I was sharing about children, I quoted Isaiah for you. Let me remind you of that passage again:
"The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment" (Isa.1:5-6, NKJV).
When the head is spiritually sick - whether it is mental illness, belief in false doctrine, or whatever - then the rest of the body becomes sick too - "the whole heart faints" and "there is no soundness". And when there is no soundness, it is because people are spiritually hurting and in need of ministry. The Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, who does not know whether God exists or not, and who does not believe in the Bible, is quite obviously spiritually sick and has no business calling himself a Christian ... at least not a Bible-believing Christian. Clearly such a man lacks a solid foundation, and as the figurehead of the whole Swedish State Church, ensures that the rest of his flock has no solid foundation either, since he is its earthly father. For what can he teach but agnosticism and disbelief in Yahweh's Word? And since he isn't sure that God exists, then it is unlikely that He believes in the Biblical Christ either and, along with other liberal Christians, views things like the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection as mere 'symbols' or 'metaphors'. Worse, in many ways, what I am writing here is probably illegal since one is not allowed to criticise other religions. Here, as in Norway, they lock up Pastors who dare to tell a biblical truth that is politically incorrect, just as the Jews under Antiochus Epiphanes dared not complain that the Syrians were oppressing and persecuting them; and not until they were brought to the very brink of extermination, did someone dared to stand up and say "no". Who of these people do you believe were "solid Christians" or "solid Yahweh-worshippers"? We do well to ask ourselves such questions if we are to save our souls and those of our children whom we are responsible for.
Jack Eggar, President of Awana Clubs International, is more than aware of the crisis facing Christian parents today. He writes this:
"Where are the parents? Trying to stay afloat amidst crazed, hectic schedules that allow little time for meaningful spiritual interaction with their children ... Together, parents and churches have settled into a destructive co-dependent relationship. Parents, with little inclination and few high quality resources to devote to the spiritual nurture of their children, have largely abdicated the job to the church. And the church has readily taken on a task that was originally mandated in Scripture to the parents of children".
How right he is. The raising of children is supposed to be done at home, not by churches and certainly not by the state! And that is why we, and hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world, are home schooling our children, so that they can have a solid foundation in truth from Day #1. Moreover, the Bible teaches that it is the father who has the responsibility to raise his children, not the mother! The mother is supposed to be trained by the head of the household and to pass on his instructions to her children. And the father, in his turn, is supposed to be totally Christ-surrendered and Torah-obedient, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. This is the only way that children can get a solid Christian foundation.
Little wonder that the words, "a solid Christian foundation" leaped up out of the page when I read the letter from this woman. For not only did this woman abandon her pastor-husband and stepchildren when the going got tough, but when her stepson visited her and reported that when staying there over many days he never heard the word 'God' or 'Christ' mentioned once, never heard a prayer said, never heard a blessing on the food, never saw a Bible opened let alone read or spoken of, saw the Sabbath treated like any other working day, and saw numerous commandments broken, it soon became clear to me that that something was seriously wrong. What indeed is one to conclude when there are no signs of the Christian life anywhere? ... no gathering with other believers for Sabbath worship, no home devotionals, no prayer, no witness, no evangelism, nothing.
When Yah'shua (Jesus) was alive He gave children His full attention and love. He taught the Torah to young and old alike both in the synagogues (in the beginning) and later in private homes and outdoors. He passed His message of the solid Christian life to His apostles who recorded them for us in the Gospels and other books of the New Testament. And the apostles went out and taught the same things. For adults and children alike, the most important influence in our lives is the Bible, the Word of God. Once you set that aside, you are wandering off into the murky waters of man-made philosophy and values and its deceptive language, and are quickly deceived by false spirits.
There can be many reasons why parents abandon teaching their children the Gospel. It may be that the parents have themselves abandoned the faith, got lazy, become lukewarm, or simply have allowed themselves to get so caught up in worldly concerns - job and entertainment - that they have forgotten how to prioritise their time. As a pastor I hear many excuses, and one of the most common ones is 'a lack of time'. But it's not true. There is never a lack of time, only a lack of value. And you only get value if you are willing to make personal sacrifices.
In our home there are daily devotionals. The children enjoy them so much that they often stay on afterwards and generate their own questions and interests. Every evening we spend about an hour together singing, praying, studying the Bible, and hearing Gospel stories along with neighbours and friends. We share spiritual experiences. Every day in home schooling the children get a short scripture to memorise which stimulates their minds into asking more questions. Every day in home schooling they are exposed to one of the 60 Biblical ideal character traits which are integrated into their curriculum and are repeated every year. They are left to create their own projects revolving around these passages of scripture and character traits. Some of my boys arise early with me to pray for others, on their own initiative, and beg me to wake them up so as not to miss out. They have learned how to intercede for others and to show an active interest in the spiritual welfare of the people around them, adults and children alike. Every mealtime they hear and say and sing prayers. And when they go to bed their mother prays over them. They have learned the 10 Commandments and are learning the rest of the mitzvot or commandments. And they are queuing up to be baptised, held back only until we feel they are mature enough to make a believer's confession and commitment. They are learning from the Bible to make their own judgements on the world and its values. They are thinking and acting for themselves. And, of course, we are in touch with other families who share the same values and goals for their children.
Just as Yah'shua (Jesus) appreciated the boy who brought his modest lunch of loaves and fishes, Yahweh can use and multiply the smallest contributions from even the smallest people. Children who grow up ministering as part of the Messianic Assembly or Church, will remain in the Messianic Assembly or Church when they are older to teach the next generation. Those who are not brought up in fellowship and community inevitably adopt selfish and egotistical values in company with the majority of the world which is centred around the individual. The children will imitate their parents (or parent if they are being brought up by single parents) and bring up their own children in the same way.
So what is a 'solid Christian foundation'? Well, as we have seen so far, it is many things. First and foremost, it's about a solid Christian home life where father is in proper headship rôle and where the children are being brought up by him in the ways of Yahweh. Secondly, it's about Christian community - the Messianic Fellowship - on Sabbaths, during the festivals, and daily devotionals. The first Christians gathered at one anothers homes each day for prayer, study, worship and communal meals. The love was so strong between them that they hated being absent from one another. They evidenced Christian agapé love in action. Moreover, they were not built upon the traditions of men but upon pure New Covenant Torah - they obeyed the commandments and proved that they loved one another by doing so.
Last week I described the importance of children being allowed to come out of themselves by our coaxing them out with love. What this doesn't mean, however, is that children should be allowed to do whatever they want. It doesn't mean that you allow the children to set the rules of the household or decide whether religion should be a part of their lives or not. And it most definitely doesn't mean that they can choose whether they want a father or a mother or not. When children are allowed to do whatever they want, then this is a sign that they have been taught that Yahweh's commandments are unimportant. It is a sign that their parents have abandoned them to chance. Children need Yahweh's Torah as much as adults do because this is their safety net. Indeed they cannot grow into normal, spiritual and God-loving adults unless they are raised in the way ordained by Yahweh. To believe otherwise is sheer delusion.
When a child is walking in the Word and learning to interact with Yahweh in prayer, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) gradually starts taking over the teaching rôle from the parents. It's a gradual process that starts at infancy and works its way up to youth and manhood. A child brought up on the Word and prayer has no inclination to rebel or hide because he has made contact with the living Elohim all his life and knows where to find his safety and security. He experiences the supernatural and does not need to hang on his parents' every word. Moreover, because his parents are united in the Truth of the Word, he will always hear the same things. Thus he will know constancy, truth confirmed by the Bible, with which he can judge and successfully interact with a godless world. He will learn to know what true love is and not the pale imitations of false religion and secular humanism. In short, he will be built on the sold rock of Christ and know the truth for himself.
Exposure to the written Word (Bible), the living Word (the Bible living in our lives), and prayer increases a person's likelihood of becoming a Christian. Statistically, this is backed up by the fact that areas with high concentrations of Christians have a higher number of new believers and areas with a low number of Christians have a low number of new Christians. It is obvious that children of Christian parents are much more likely to become Christians than the children of non-Christian parents. This is something even the casual observer can see. Is there, however, any clinical proof of this influence? Well, there is one study that compares the offspring of the eighteenth century American evangelist, Jonathan Edwards, with his American contemporary, Max Jukes, a drunkard of ill repute.
Edward's descendants include 100 preachers or missionaries, 13 college presidents, 3 U.S. Senators, 30 judges, 60 doctors, 60 prominent authors, and one U.S. Vice President. Jukes's offspring included 200 thieves and murderers, and 90 prostitutes. I am not saying parental influences were totally responsible for the differing legacies but what I am saying is that they made a significant contribution. And the Bible makes promises to this effect. Teach a child up in the true way he should go and he will not depart from it (Prov.22:6), for instance. I'm sure genetics and cultural factors also played a part. However, I believe the firm family foundation Edwards established lasted for several generations. And I believe it is the only hope in these dangerous times where, in a generation, the traditional Christian Church will almost certainly be extinct.
Brethren and sisters, we must follow the entire Bible or none of it. If you want a solid Christian foundation for your children then the only way you can accomplish it is by doing what the Bible says in its totality. Now I realise that there are numerous definitions of what a 'Christian' is and a 'solid Christian foundation' for a Swedish Lutheran is, I guarantee, going to be radically different from what it is for a Messianic Israelite like myself. The question is, which of us is following the Bible? Which of us is truly raising our children in the admonition of Yahweh (Eph.6:4)?
The Bible is clear. It is not enough to claim to be a Christian, you have to prove it by your works. So if a parent claims that he or she is giving his or her child a 'solid Christian foundation', then my response must be: prove it. For if you are not, then as a Christian parent the condemnation not only falls upon you but upon your child and his children for several generations. It's a law of life. It's reality.
Ministering to our children is probably one of our highest priorities and is the duty of the father to preside over. Pawning them off to school or church teachers is not a solution, and ignoring them altogether is a disaster, so let us summarise the key truths to giving a children a solid Christian foundation:
1. Scripture is the foundation of the content of the education we give them and the rest follows;
2. The spiritual training of children is the core lifestyle of the home - if it isn't evident in the home it isn't happening;
3. Every child must feel safe and loved at all times - if the parents don't feel this themselves, then neither will the children: parents' dysfunctionality makes children dysfunctional, because children imitate their parents;
4. Children serve Yahweh as soon as they are ready. We teach and encourage but don't force them;
5. The Gospel must be communicated with clarity and urgency. If the father is absent and if the mother is lukewarm, that communication will never be conveyed;
6. Children must have regular opportunities to trust in Christ - there must be a life-vessel in which to live the Gospel for real.
Children must have a proper Christian foundation and that foundation is not some wishy-washy notion in our heads. It must be solid and Bible-based. The Psalmist said:
"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps.11:3, NKJV).
There must be patriarchal headship, total Biblical felicity, daily and weekly family and congregational life, and oceans of love and acceptance. These are the ingredients of 'a solid Christian foundation'. Without them only failure can result. Oh, and one last thing: there'll be lots of fun too! Amen.
This page was created on 6 June 2005
Last updated on 6 June 2005
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