by Barry Newton
Anemic is sometimes the first word that springs to my mind as I interact with Christian young people. To be sure they often understand that we need to rely upon Christ for salvation. They also comprehend that how we treat others is part of our service to Christ. Admittedly such basic understandings are vital. One of my fears is that their teachers have not commonly provided them with the necessary knowledge that could insulate them from being tossed back and forth by the craftiness of men.
For whatever it is worth, here is a partial quick list of a few of the missing bricks:
1) How can the spiritual maturity characterized by such qualities as self-control, patience, and loving one’s enemy be achieved if the curriculum and programs silently pander to fun as being the supreme value? As we read about Jesus’ ministry and message, we hardly see him marketing his message with claims of how fun and exciting everything will be. While Christianity is hardly against enjoying ourselves, at some point the self-centered motivation of pursuing fun has to be challenged by those higher and guiding values intrinsic to discipleship and cross-bearing.
2) Every culture exerts pressure to distort the Christian message into its own shape. Ours is no exception. Secular versions of tolerance, acceptance, maintaining a positive message, along with other cultural values would seek to silence the church from addressing a whole host of biblical teachings because they are regarded as being offensive. How often have young people heard lessons regarding immorality considered acceptable by society, our need to conform to healthy doctrine, divine judgment and yes, even hell? Yet the scriptures are filled with these and other often overlooked subjects.
3) Our kids need to understand the naturally embedded framework of scripture. Throughout history God has consistently by grace chosen to claim people as his own through offering them a covenant. Among the many benefits emanating from understanding this truth comes the realization that the gospel lies within a much larger context. Accordingly, receiving the salvation Christ makes possible will correctly be equated with not only relying upon Christ’ death for us, but also with receiving the promises of his covenant and entering into his covenant community. A full understanding of this can fortify against culturally individualistic spiritual tendencies. It can also inoculate our youth against embracing the sinner’s prayer as being how the gospel calls us to rely upon Christ. Why? Because the New Testament describes the baptismal faith response to Jesus as being how we receive the promises of his covenant and enter his community. Furthermore, understanding the framework leads toward interpreting any specific text within its proper larger frames of reference. Matters related to worship will thus become illuminated.
4) If grace and Romans 8:1 are widely misconstrued as being the claim that there is nothing God has commanded or called the Christian to be which failing to do could condemn the Christian, then the inevitable fruit will stunt and distort the next generation. The fact that those in Christ are forgiven and thus they are not condemned does not in the least whit dismiss us from the responsibility of faithfully handling the entrusted message. Nor does it release us from the ensuing results from whether we build upon the foundation of Christ with poor teaching or even worse — if we end up destroying God’s people. Paul indicates there are real consequences of judgment. Grace is forgiveness toward those who’ve died to themselves to live for him. It is not permission for self-determination and reckless handling of his message.
Perhaps much of this goes back to realizing that discipleship involves dying to our thinking, our desires to shape life as we would have it, as well as to our cultural values in order to learn from Christ, so that we can approve what God’s will is in order that we might offer our lives as living sacrifices.
by Barry Newton