Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Teach Your Children Well

This is an article I wrote for our church newsletter, so I thought I would share it with the 3 or 4 regular readers of this blog.

As Paul approaches the end of his 2nd letter to Timothy, he warns his young protégée about the conditions that will prevail in the latter days. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 contain well known words that have been the source for many sermons decrying the cultural disintegration of our times. As a contrast to all of this, Paul encourages Timothy to “Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14-15, ESV).

Among many other issues, this speaks to the rationale behind our church’s ministry to children. Why do we expend time, energy, and resources for Sunday School? For some, the answer is inadequate; “We have always had Sunday School. I’m sure there is something in the Bible that tells us we should do this.” What about VBS and KidVenture? Do we conduct these programs so that we can say that we have something for the children; something to entertain them and keep them busy?

I hope you would agree that our motivation in this area – as in everything else we do – should be rooted in Scripture. The Bible says that the “holy Scriptures” (KJV) is that which God uses to bring children to salvation. This implies several things:

The Scriptures should be taught to our children.
Paul reminds Timothy of what he had learned and from whom he learned it. This may refer either to his mother and grandmother, the instruction of Paul himself, or to both. We assume that children cannot learn Biblical truths, but this is a fallacy. Certainly, they learn at their own level, but they can and must learn.

Of course, this implies that they should be taught. This is where the role of the teacher enters the equation. It is a great responsibility and privilege to teach God’s Word to young people.

The Scriptures are God’s instrument to bring salvation to our children.
This is a very important truth. Note that the Bible says that it is the Word of God which makes one wise to salvation. It is not the Sunday School curricula, the Jr. church or VBS material, it is the Word. Insomuch as these are aids in communicating the Word, they have value, but they can never be a substitute for Scripture. None of our urgings, pleadings or invitings can replace the power of the Holy Spirit as He uses the Word of God.

The Scriptures make children wise to salvation.
We believe in sudden conversion. But, this passage seems to indicate that there is a process that leads to this conversion. In fact, some people cannot point to a definite time and place when they “gave their heart to Christ.” Timothy was reared in an atmosphere of Scripture, so much so that it is likely that he was saved at such a young age that there was no dramatic conversion story to tell.

It is not by accident that, in the next chapter, Paul instructs Timothy to “preach the Word.” If the sacred writings (the Bible) are God’s instrument to awaken one to salvation, why would we preach anything else? Those who are truly evangelistic and who have a genuine compassion for the souls of men (and children) will be diligent to teach the Word of God clearly and carefully.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mohler on Dawkins

I hope the 3 or 4 people who read this blog are regular readers of Al Mohler. If not, close this window and go to his blog now!

Today he writes about our favorite atheist, Richard Dawkins:

Dawkins, pleased to be known as "Darwin's Rotweiller," has been given a new three-part television series in Britain, known as "Dawkins on Darwin." The British press is fawning in its applause, and Dawkins appears to be in rare form.

Follow this link to read the rest of Dr. Mohler's commentary.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hiding the Word in the Heart

Although I have done too little to avoid the charge of hypocrisy, I am a fan of memorizing large passages of Scripture. Certainly there is value in committing key verses to memory, but the shot gun approach that is usually followed fosters a proof-texting mentality that has not always been well used. Memorizing chapters and entire books is more challenging, but tremendously rewarding.

I have known people who have memorized entire books of the Bible. One of my professors - one of the most humble men I have ever known - memorized the book of Hebrews and Romans (maybe others, too), not for any other reason than personal edification. Another seminary professor I knew memorized the entire NT in the ASV - he was blind and could quote verses at will.

While roaming around the web, I came across an interesting article on the ESV Bible blog offering help in memorizing books of the Bible. It presented a renewed challenge for me, and I hope that it will be helpful for you. You may find the PDF written by Andrew Davis here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Personal Devotions

I imagine that sometime or another, we have all had struggles with maintaining freshness and creativity in our personal devotions. For some of us, it is more duty than delight.

I am always interested when I read of creative ideas to ramp up my devotional life. I know how desperately I need a regular time of personal worship and enrichment. Tim Challies has posted an excellent article called "Sandbox Devotions." It is certainly worth the time. You may find the post here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Old School Evangelism

Many people do not associate the word "Puritan" with evangelism. It is hard to imagine John Owen button-holing someone outside of Parliament asking, "If you died tonight, do you know if you would go to heaven?"

J.I. Packer has a helpful chapter on Puritan evangelism in his book A Quest for Godliness:The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Crossway, 1990). If we would adopt this philosophy, the result might be fewer "decisions" but more actual conversions; smaller churches, but holier ones.

Packer writes:

To their [the Puritan preachers] minds, it would be the worst advice possible to tell a troubled person to stop worrying about his sins and trust Christ at once when that person had not yet faced the specifics of his or her own sinfulness and has not yet come to the point of clear-headedly desiring to leave all sinful ways behind and be made holy. To give this advice, they held, before the heart is weaned from sin would be the way to induce false peace and false hopes, and so produce ‘gospel-hypocrites,’ which is the last thing that a Christian counselor should be willing to do.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Is Doctrine Necessary?

Is it really necessary to be concerned about theology or doctrine? After all, shouldn’t we be more concerned about addressing the felt needs of hurting people, about encouraging people to live real and authentic lives before the world? Only in the climate of modern Christianity would such a question be asked.

The current mantra seems to be this: doctrine divides but love unites. Therefore, do not emphasize doctrine or else you will be guilty of one of the worst offenses in all of Christendom: causing schisms and destroying unity. Modern Christianity has become so steeped in pragmatism that doctrine is relegated to a category of intellectual concern with little or no bearing upon the dynamics of daily life. It is clear that there is an appalling dearth of doctrinal and theological precision in the pulpits and the pews of American churches. This is obvious in at least 3 ways:

  • The proliferation of media ministries, specifically: those that present teachings that are contrary to orthodox Christian doctrine (they are so popular that it would bring recriminations to any who would call them unorthodox).
  • Those who boast in an absence of doctrine in the name of tolerance and acceptance. “We have no creed.”
  • The tendency of Christians to follow the latest evangelical fads without thinking critically about the substance or content of those issues.

T.C. Hammond addressed this concern nearly 70 years ago. His words are even more applicable in our day;

The student certainly ought to know something about the intellectual processes, which have governed the interpretation of the message of God through the ages. Those who have been trained to classify and think clearly in their secular branches of learning ought to be applying the principles of their mental training to the understanding and teaching of divine revelation. Unfortunately, we find very often that ‘educated’ Christians are foremost amongst those who mix things that differ. We often hear it glibly said, ‘You see, I know no theology!’ and frequently this particular ignorance is regarded as a matter of pride. The study of Christian doctrine is often thought to be dry and uninteresting. By a singular perversion of ideas it is sometimes said to be ‘unspiritual!’ ‘Doctrine,’ ‘theology,’ ‘dogma’ are thought to have an unpleasant ring to them, to be solely the art of making hair splitting distinctions, and altogether remote from the vital issues of salvation.

Every serious study has its dogmas. The medical practitioner speaks a peculiar language of his own and writes prescriptions in an ancient hieroglyphic. The medical man is expected to know the technique of his special study. A student who boasted that he depended on ‘common sense’ in diagnosis and had never made a serious effort to absorb the principles of this art would, we hope, become disillusioned by the absence of patients, who would prefer to suffer than risk his ‘common sense.’ Yet, sometimes even ‘professional’ ministers of the gospel content themselves with a minimum of theological information. ‘Amateur’ Christian workers often display commendable eagerness to ‘save souls’ and yet are themselves satisfied with a very hazy knowledge of the real nature of salvation.[1]

[1] T.C. Hammond, In Understanding Be Men rev. and ed. by David F. Wright (Leicester, England: IVP, 1968), 13-14.