Sunday, October 22, 2006

Is your child lost?

The most heart-rending words I think I've ever heard from a parent to a child were said by my great-grandmother ("Grandma") to her son, my grandfather ("Daddy"). This was about 25 or so years ago, when I was in high school. Grandma would have been in her mid-80s at that time, and Daddy would have been around 60. I was present because I lived with my great-grandparents, and my grandparents lived on the same street, just 2 1/2 blocks down the street. Daddy, being a very dutiful son, would stop by nearly every evening to visit his mother, step-father and me, his eldest grandchild.
On this particular occasion, I don't remember how they got on the subject, but Daddy and Grandma were talking about the Bible. I remember Daddy was talking about all the errors in the Bible, how the Bible was merely a book written by men, containing all these errors, outmoded rules and regulations, and prejudices against non-Jews. Now, keep in mind, Daddy was a church member--we all were members of the same church--so, it wasn't like Daddy was some non-churchgoing pagan. If anybody had asked him, he would have said he was a Christian.
Grandma tried to explain to Daddy that what he was saying was not right: the Bible was true and we need to read it and follow what it says. Now, I'm a witness that Grandma did practice what she preached. She read her Bible every morning of every day, as far as I know, until the last few months of her life, when she was bed-ridden. One of the dearest memories of my growing up is of Grandma, sitting in that chair in her bedroom or in her chair in the living room, reading a passage from her old King James Version, 1917 edition, Scofield Bible. She didn't just read a favorite Scripture here and there, but read through her Bible in a systematic fashion, from cover to cover. She studied her Bible and, for someone raised in the "country", who never even went to high school, she knew her Bible well. Better than that: she believed what the Bible said. If the Bible said it, that was good enough for her.

Well, Daddy wouldn't hear of it, and continued to bash the Bible. This went on for a short time, until Grandma said pleadingly, almost with tears, "Son, I'm afraid you're goin' to be lost!" With this, Daddy backed off, but Grandma continued. She was genuinely dismayed; she thought she had taught her only son better than that. She said, "If that's what you believe, Son, you're goin' to be lost."

Those words are stuck in my memory. Never before, and never since, have I ever heard a parent express to their child their fear that the child would be eternally lost in such direct terms. Now that I've been a parent for 13 years, I can imagine how painful that was for her to say.
"Son, I'm afraid you're goin' to be lost!"

Was Grandma right in speaking that way? Yes, she was. Unbelief in God's word is simply incompatible with saving faith. How can it be possible to savingly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate word of God, while rejecting as authoritative the written word of God? The Scriptures know nothing of believers who reject God's revelation. You won't find a theologically liberal believer in the Bible. Check it out! If we reject the Scriptures, which testify of Christ, what else is there upon which to base our faith in Christ? There is nothing else! So yes, Grandma was absolutely right to be concerned, and to say so.

Sadly, I believe Grandma was also right about her son's eternal destiny. I preached Daddy's funeral six years ago and, regrettably, I have no reason to believe that my grandfather was truly a believer. First of all, I never knew him to renounce what he said that day when I was in high school. That was the only time I ever heard him say anything about God's word; and then, it was only to express his unbelief. Secondly, although Daddy attended church once or twice a month, said grace over meals at home, and was a "good" man (humanly speaking), I never heard or saw anything that would lead me to believe he loved the Lord Jesus Christ. He loved his family, was kind-hearted, gave freely of his time to his family and friends, but never did he demonstrate a passion for the Lord Jesus Christ. He was proud of the fact that I was a preacher, and I felt I had his support, but never did I hear him just talk about the Lord or about knowing the Lord or receiving Christ or obeying God's word. Nothing. Ever.
A year or less before he died, I gave Daddy a Bible--an NIV Study Bible. I figured it would be easy to read and understand, and it would have notes to help explain the Scripture to him. It was my awkward, feeble attempt to express concern for his soul. I was hoping that he might read the Bible, and that through the word God would say to him what I never had the nerve to say. After Daddy died, while his house was being cleaned out, I came across that Bible. I can't tell you how desperately I searched it, hoping to find just the slightest evidence that he had read something--anything--in it. I saw absolutely no evidence that anyone had ever cracked a page open. God knows all things; He knows the human heart. Nevertheless, like I said, to this day I have no reason to believe that my grandfather ever knew the Lord.

This experience prompts me to ask a question: How many parents today would be willing to say to their errant children, "I'm afraid you're going to be lost"?
I watch people carefully--study them. I've listened to what some parents have said about their children--their behavior, their values, their friends. I work in a public high school. I've watched students I knew or learned attended evangelical (or supposedly evangelical) churches. Sometimes, these students have been no different than the other students, for example, in dress, conduct or language (One girl told me, "Just because you go to church doesn't mean you don't cuss!", as if Christ had no right to clean up her language. I'm reminded of a fight between two girls in class 21 years ago, when I was a student teacher. I knew both girls' families, and knew they both went to church. The "b-word" and other expletives were flying on that occasion.). I wonder...would their parent(s) be willing to say to them, "I'm concerned about your soul; I'm afraid you're going to be lost"?

Grandma used to tell me, "You know, you can love your chil'ren too much." What she was talking about wasn't true love, but this wimpy, milquetoast kind of love that causes some parents to just let their children run all over them, disrespect and abuse them, and the parent does or says nothing to stop it because they "love" their child so much.
Some Christian parents, I think, "love" their children too much, so much so that they believe, contrary to every visible evidence, that their children are saved and on their way to heaven, no matter what. Sure, you have to argue with them to get them to go to church, you suspect they're sneaking around your back doing drugs and/or having sex with their girlfriend/boyfriend, they never read their Bibles (and don't want to, either), they've gone away to college and stopped going to church at all, they've just come out of the "closet" as a homosexual/lesbian--you name it--but because they prayed the "sinner's prayer" in AWANA when they were 5 years old, you're convinced they're Christians.
"If anyone [and that includes your son or daughter] is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). There must be some evidence! O parents! Don't assume your childrens' salvation simply because they go to church and are active in the youth group. And, for heaven's sake, don't rest easy just because they repeated a prayer when they were very young. Look for present evidence of the life of Christ in their souls. Look for evidence of a love for Christ. Look for evidence of the fear of God (and I would think the "fear of God" should include submission to the word of God).
Here's something I recommend: Pray for your children's their presence. Let them hear you pray for their soul. Let them know you're concerned about their souls.
Pray that God would cause them to desire Him.
Pray that God would give them a hunger for Him.
Pray that God would cause them to seek Him (and that God would allow Himself to be found by them).
Pray that God would cause them to be born again.
And then, question your children about their walk with God. Ask them what they understand about the Bible, about Christ, about the Gospel. Search for proof that Christ resides within. Look for the evidence.
I'll never forget that moment, over 25 years ago, when I heard a grieved elderly mother say to her senior citizen son, "Son, I'm afraid you're goin' to be lost." She loved her son enough (and, more importantly, loved God enough) to be concerned for his soul.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Mr. Duncan,

Thank you for this rousing post. Each of my three young children have made professions of faith. This is both a great joy to me and a cause for concern. Is this the "child like faith" that the Bible speaks of, I wonder? It upsets my wife a little when I question these things but I feel compeled because their eternity is at stake.

Due to this concern, we've recently changed the way we refer to our common faith. We don't want to constantly imply that they are Christians. I know this sounds odd, but what we strive for is to continually hold out to them the gospel message and allow the Holy Spirit to confirm to their heart that they are in fact "in Christ."

On another note, I've read through many of your posts and was blessed with your thoughts. You are making a spiritual contribution to the Church and I thank you.

Jason Stoddard