Archive for October, 2014
Recently I was reading through 1 John and was struck by the phrase “walk in the light as He is in the light” from verse 7. My mind immediately jumped to Ephesians 4:1 in which Paul instructs Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” and then to 5:1-2 he says to “be imitators of God…and walk in love.”
As I began to reflect on these passages about walking, I recalled a time earlier on in my life when my wife and I would take walks together.
As I reflected, I realized that these are some of my fondest memories of our early days of being married. My wife and I first moved to Texas to go to Southwestern Seminary in 2002. We had been married for about two and a half years and it was before we had kids. It was a much simpler time. 🙂
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has a beautiful campus that encompasses several city blocks, and my wife and I would often take long, quiet walks around campus. Just talking. As I look back, I think of how close we became during these walks. How our relationship grew. Sometimes these walks were filled with vibrant conversation; other times, we walked silently enjoying each other’s company. I learned a great deal about her, myself, and our relationship during these walks. Sometimes we talked about the future: wondering what life would look like for us after I graduated or after we had children. What I realized now, though, is that even though we often discussed the future, what was really happening, in those moments, with each step and each conversation is that we were growing close as couple. God was knitting our heart together in ways that we could not see.
As I think about these memories, an old phrase we don’t often use anymore comes to mind: “your walk with the Lord.” Many of you will remember when that was common vocabulary in the church. Personally, I miss this terminology because, at least to me, it conveys a slow, steady pace and investing time in the relationship. Sadly, this phrase might be lost today in our busy day-in-and-day-out lifestyle. In fact, one of my sons asked me recently, “Dad, do you think there will ever be a time when we won’t have to walk anywhere?” I fear many see walking as a necessary evil.
This scene comes to mind:
Back on track…
When the Bible talks of our relationship with Jesus & our Christian life, I believe this is what Jesus wants for us (the slow, steady walk; not the Wall-E picture above). He wants us to set aside time each day to read His Word. Not in preparation for teaching or just to check it off a list of things to do, but to He wants us to hear Him… to get to know Him. Talking (praying), yes, but listening. Listening to the truth of His Word… how He loves us. So I want to encourage you to pause during your busy week and “take a walk with Jesus” (sometimes it helps to even literally take a walk).
As parents (and teachers), the most important gift we can give our children is investing time in our own relationship with Jesus. We cannot merely teach kids into loving Jesus; we must lead them into loving Jesus.
Hebrews 2 warns us to pay close attention to what we have heard so that we will not drift away. The thing about drifting is that it happens so subtly we often do not even know it is happening at all.
I think of floating out in the ocean just off the beach. The waves roll around me. I am tossed ever so gently. Unless I keep my eyes on the beach and exert effort, before I know it I’ll be further into the water than I planned and further away from where I left my things.
Paul paints the same picture in Ephesians 4 when he says that, as we mature in our faith, “we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” In this context, Paul describes some of the things we must do (our own efforts) as we grow in Christ. He commands us to “walk worthy of our calling… with all humility and gentleness with patience accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.” He goes on to explain that we are to utilize our spiritual gifts for the edification of the church (active service).
As parents, we must remember that spiritual maturity takes intentional effort. We have to guard our own hearts so that we do not drift away from those foundational teachings of Scripture. Guarding our hearts is a defensive strategy. We must also actively learn from those who authentically teach the Bible and serve the Body of Christ, which is an offensive strategy. If we are going to be equipped to teach our children, we must first pay close attention to ourselves.
Final caution: It is too common that, as adults, we think “Oh. I know that Bible story.” or “I’ve been in church my entire life.” And we allow pride and complacency to be our excuse for laziness. Let us put away pride and admit that we too must daily abide in Jesus, even as adults. Speaking specifically of temptation but applicable across our lives, Paul says “whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Too often, we drift and are not even aware of it because of our pride.
Final encouragement: In a different illustration, the author of Hebrews says in chapter 12 “let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus.” Back to our original example on the beach, we must fix our eyes on where we want to stay (Jesus & sound doctrine) and intentionally put forth effort so that we do not unintentionally end up somewhere we do not want to be.Note: This discussion of work and effort is not meant to imply we are working to earn salvation. We work to serve the church and to not be carried away by teaching that is contrary to the Word of God.
Sometimes as pastors we say things like “When is the last time your shared the gospel?” or “Are you living a gospel-centered life?” But often times we forget or neglect that there are many who, though born again or saved, do not understand what the term “the gospel” entails. This is especially important for parents who want to make sure that their children hear “the gospel,” but don’t really know what to say or how to say it. Sometimes it’s because parents have heard it so many times that their memories (hearing it over and over again years ago) cloud the simplicity of the gospel, and sometimes it’s because parents are just learning it themselves. In any case, “the gospel” is “good news,” and as Jeffery Reed (lifeway.com/kidsministry/author/jeffreyreed) recently said “The gospel is good news, not a good recommendation or suggestion.”
The most explicit place in the New Testament in which the gospel is laid out is in 1 Corinthians 15:1,3-8 —
I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed…For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time;most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep.Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me.
A good way to summarize this good news is to biblically unpack the words God, Man, Christ, Response.
- God. God is the creator of all things (Gen. 1:1). He is perfectly holy, worthy of all worship, and will punish sin (1 John 1:5, Rev. 4:11, Rom. 2:5-8).
- Man. All people, though created good, have become sinful by nature (Gen. 1:26-28, Ps. 51:5, Rom. 3:23). From birth, all people are alienated from God, hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God (Eph. 2:1-3).
- Christ. Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of all who would believe in him, and rose from the grave in order to give his people eternal life (John 1:1, 1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 7:26, Rom. 3:21-26, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Cor. 15:20-22).
- Response. God calls everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in Christ in order to be saved (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21, Rom. 10:9-10).