Not too often, but sometimes, I’ll look back at GraceLife articles from many years ago to get some perspective on how we’re doing. Some of the articles go back more than 30 years, but this one is more recent. I wrote it at the turn of the millennium while thinking about what was ahead for the Body of Christ on earth. Now that same article may help us look back on how we’ve done during the past 15 years and what we can do better in service to our Savior, Lord and King, Jesus Christ in the years to come.
I recently listened to Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, say that he believes the American Church hasn’t done enough for the persecuted Church. Graham appeared on television with the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini to share his concern for Saeed and thousands of Christians around the world who are imprisoned and beaten for their faith in Jesus Christ. Pastor Abedini is an American citizen, but the government of Iran detained him two years ago (9/26/12) because of his Christian ministry. Iran believes the pastor is a threat to its national security.
Is Graham right that the American Church has not done enough for Christians around the world who are suffering, really suffering, for their faith in Christ? You bet he is and here’s why.
The fifth step to Teaching Wisdom To Our Children is to lead them to understand the power of the influence of things. That includes money and possessions. Both have been the downfall of millions of people through history.
A simple way of explaining the process from enticement to wise results is found in the first chapter of Proverbs: “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not…My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path.” If someone entices you to sin, don’t do it. Easier said than done, I know, but the fact remains that if we don’t consent to the enticement to sin, we won’t commit that sin.
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Children from Christian homes will generally agree with their parents about sexual standards until they reach the early to middle teen years. If they are part of a strong youth group or other Christian influence (like Christian martial arts), their commitment to Christian standards about sex may continue through their teen years and into adulthood. However, the combination of peer pressure, hormones and what the world tells our young people about sex may lead some Christian young people to experiment with sex.
We should be able to agree, based on God’s Word, that sexual relations before marriage are wrong. The question now is how to teach that to children and teenagers so they understand the dangers to their bodies and minds and help them deal with sexual temptations that will surely come their way as they mature.
We turn again to the Book of Proverbs for insights into how to teach the wisdom of sexual purity to children. God tells children what other people will do to entice them to have sex outside of marriage. Here are several examples we can share with our children and young people. It’s also a good reminder for those of us who have been married many years.
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” Romans 1:8-12
The Apostle Paul had a strong desire to visit Christians in Rome. Based on what Paul wrote in Romans and 1 Corinthians and what Luke wrote about Paul’s travels in Acts, we believe Paul wrote to the Romans from somewhere in Greece in 56 or 57 AD.
- Wisdom About Sexual Relationships
Another powerful relational influence on children and teenagers is sex. The sexual urges often become stronger than the influence of parents and other adults who care for the wellbeing of the child. God understands the power and addresses it powerfully and clearly in His Word.
We live in an extremely sexually-permissive society. Television, movies, magazines, books for young people, social media, Internet … half-naked people in sexually-suggestive embrace … it is literally everywhere. What is a parent to do trying to raise a child today to understand the importance of sexual morality?
“For the house of Israel and the house of Judah Have dealt very treacherously with Me,’ says the Lord. They have lied about the Lord, And said, ‘It is not He. Neither will evil come upon us, Nor shall we see sword or famine. And the prophets become wind, For the word is not in them. Thus shall it be done to them.” Jeremiah 5:11-13
The lies of false preachers are so devious and treacherous that even true preachers can fall prey to their lies. How can that possibly happen when we know so much about false preaching and teaching from God’s Word? Shouldn’t church leaders be wise enough to know when someone is trying to ensnare and trap them?
“For among My people are found wicked men; They lie in wait as one who sets snares; They set a trap; They catch men. As a cage is full of birds, So their houses are full of deceit. Therefore they have become great and grown rich. They have grown fat, they are sleek; Yes, they surpass the deeds of the wicked; They do not plead the cause, The cause of the fatherless; Yet they prosper, And the right of the needy they do not defend. Shall I not punish them for these things?’ says the Lord. ‘Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?’ ‘An astonishing and horrible thing Has been committed in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” Jeremiah 5:26-31
In our last study about false preachers we looked at what they preach and why they preach it. We looked at how to discern false preaching and teaching in local churches, conferences, denominations, writing (e.g. articles, books), radio and television, and new media (e.g. social media, blogs, online videos). Once you become adept at discerning false preachers and teachers, you will find that distinguishing between truth and lies is something you can do with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, there is one more thing we must consider and that’s how good preachers and teachers are “caught and trapped” by false preachers and teachers. While it is sad to see good men trapped by “wicked men,” it is even sadder to see how many trusting Christians who follow the truth preachers are pulled into the trap with them.
God’s Word gives us the insights we need to know how to handle this growing problem in the Church.
“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal truthfully are His delight.” Proverbs 12:22
God does not want His children to believe anything that’s not true. Truth is the centerpiece of the Christian worldview. Truth is what sets people free from wrong thoughts, beliefs and actions (John 8:32). God’s Son came to earth from Heaven filled with “grace and truth” (John 1:14-17). Jesus said that true worshippers of God will worship Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Jesus said He is the “truth” (John 14:6). Jesus said that the Holy Spirit who lives in Christians is the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17). Jesus prayed to His Father before going to the Cross and asked Him to sanctify believers by His truth, identifying that truth as God’s Word (John 17:17).
However, Christianity has a powerful enemy who does not want God’s children to know or believe the truth. As Jesus reminded us about the enemy – “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)
Satan does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. That also goes for people who say they are speaking for God, but are really speaking for Satan. As harsh as that sounds to say someone who claims the name of Christ is really speaking for Satan, that is the truth.
We’ve seen God’s warnings to His children about false preachers and teachers. We’ve seen God’s methods for discerning false preachers and teachers. Now it’s time to learn how to use those warnings and methods to guide and protect us from the lies of Satan.
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:1
There are two types of preachers in the world today, even as there were two types in centuries past: true and false. As we saw in the first part of this series about A Prophet’s Perspective About Preachers, God is quite clear about how His people can know whether a preacher speaks truth or a lie. His standard is extremely high – to the degree that one false prophesy was grounds for death.
God has given His people an important protection against lying preachers. I think of it as a “spiritual filter.” Think about the many kinds of filters in your home, office and car: air filters, air conditioning filters, furnace filters, oil filters, gasoline filters, water filters, aquarium filters, electronic filters, vacuum filters, camera filters, lens filters, color filters, light filters.
What is the purpose of a filter? At its root a filter discriminates. A filter discriminates between what is wanted and what is not wanted. A filter also removes. A filter removes what is not wanted. A filter also reveals. A filter reveals what is not wanted. What do you see when you check a filter? If the filter is working as it should, you should see what you don’t want. You should be able to hold the filter in your hands, look at the waste material you do not want, then dispose of it so that it never poses a threat to you again; whether it’s a threat to your health or house or car or anything else you own.
Most people give little thought to the importance of filters in their lives, but what if we did not have filters? What if we did not discriminate against pollutants and toxins? What would happen to the health and wellbeing of our families and friends if we did filter dangerous elements from our air, water and food supplies? We would become sick and possibly die. That’s how important filters are in life.
With those three things in mind – filters discriminate, remove and reveal – let’s look again at what God tells His people about preachers.