For the week commencing 8th September 2019
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on “Dear God, my kids don’t want to know you”
Next Sunday we conclude our series looking at some of the questions or doubts people would love to raise with God. Here’s where we’ve been and remember if you missed any of these, you can find the sermons (and the reading notes) on our web site:
11 Aug Do I have to go to church? Heb 10, 1 Cor 12, 1 Peter 2
18 Aug Why aren’t you real to me? Psalm 13
25 Aug Sometimes I’m not sure if you care Psalm 62, 2 Cor 12
01 Sept How can I trust your promises? Psalm 46, Psalm 119:105
08 Sept I’m not a very good Christian Romans 10:9-13
15 Sept My kids don’t want to know about you Mark 10:13-16
“My kids don’t want to know you!” Over the time I’ve been in ministry, people lament over this situation either because they struggle to get grumpy teenagers to church, or because they have grown-up children who are no longer involved in church. Indeed, sometimes, people have reported that their adult children are quite antagonistic to anything Christian they mention.
We’ll spend two days on the first scenario, and two days on the second.
DAY 1: Read Mark 10:13-16
I want to lay the groundwork for our exploration of this topic with this passage. The message is simple: our children matter to Jesus and can be in a relationship with him right from the beginning!
What a brief but beautiful account this is. People were bringing their kids to Jesus for a simple blessing. Why would the disciples want to stop such a thing? Because children in the 1st century were nobodies. Not to be seen or heard! The disciples wrongly assumed that someone important as Jesus wouldn’t want anything to do with children. Notice Jesus’ reaction! He’s indignant! Not impressed! He wants the children to come to him. The kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Or – these kids belong in the kingdom of God – in relationship with him.
This means, that we don’t evangelise our kids. We don’t sit across from them at breakfast and ask, ‘have you become a Christian yet?’ We don’t even pray that they will become Christians! We raise them in relationship with Jesus from day one – just as we raise them in relationship with their grandparents. We pray that they will grow strong and clear and keen in their relationship with Jesus and do everything to enable that to happen. So, with our children, we prayed with them, read the Bible with them, talked about Jesus with them all the time. There was never a time when they didn’t know the Lord in their lives.
If you are parents of young children, I urge you to claim the promises of God for your children. That because you are a child of God; your kids are precious and important and part of God’s covenant people. I know not all who read this are from traditions in the church who baptise children – but this is why we do. We are claiming God’s promises which extend to us and to our children. (See tomorrow’s reading notes.) In faith and trust, we are marking our children out as belonging to God. Of course, they will grow to take hold of and own and proclaim their own trust in Jesus one day! But if the kingdom of God belongs to such as these, then we take God at his word and give them the covenant sign of their relationship from day one.
Ours is the joy to encourage and nurture their relationship with Jesus at every opportunity. Teach your kids about Jesus every day and make the Sunday gathering an unbreakable habit to show that there is simply nothing more important or significant on Sunday than gathering with God’s people and hearing God’s word.
I well remember Philip when he was only 4, as we were walking along a beach hand in hand one day, turning to me and saying, “Daddy, God made all this for us”. And I was thinking – thank you Lord. He already knows you and your love and your power and the beauty of your creation.
DAY 2: Read Acts 2:36-41
This is part of the very first sermon ever preached! The Apostle Peter had stood up among crowds of people in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost, to explain how the Christians had suddenly been able to speak in other languages. God had poured out his Holy Spirit on them. You may like to read the entire message – only short – and only an executive summary of the sermon Peter gave that day.
The sermon had a remarkable impact. Note that Peter had explained the gift of the Holy Spirit as he quoted the prophet Joel, and then went on to show how David had pointed forward to the death and resurrection of the Messiah. The cutting words of v36 drove Peter’s message home: ‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah’. The result? v37 – ‘When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostle, “Brothers, what shall we do?” ‘
Peter’s response is crystal clear (v38) – ‘repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call’.
He’s talking to Israelites – people of God’s covenant. And he assures them that God’s promises are both for them and their children – as well as those ‘far off’ – by which he may mean – geographically or spiritually, walking away from the Lord presently. As people of God’s covenant – the new covenant made possible by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus – our children are included recipients of the promises of God.
Claim God’s promises for your children. Relate to them as fellow recipients of the promises of God and members of his family. Don’t treat them as outsiders. And consistently remind them, whose they are!
DAY 3: Read Acts 2:36-41
OK – but what if you have adult children who don’t want to know about Jesus and in fact are very anti? And what if you weren’t even Christian when you were young or didn’t really have a clue what you were doing? What if you now realise you weren’t very intentional but just sent the kids to Sunday school?
And what if you WERE intentional – you read the Bible with your kids; you taught them about Jesus all the time; you sang Colin Buchanan songs; you prayed with them; they were very involved in church – but now – nothing! What do you do then?
You keep praying. You don’t beat yourself up. You repent of anything you neglected. You keep loving them unconditionally. You don’t hassle them, yet you assure them you’re still praying for them and you take opportunities to encourage them were you can.
If you were a Christian when they were young, you still trust they are recipients of God’s promises. If you weren’t, you can trust that the Lord will use your trust in him now to witness to them. And you continue to live such radically different lives from the world around your kids, that your kids see in you that your money, your travel, your retirement plans, your golf etc, are not the most important things in your life, but rather, your relationship with the Lord Jesus is.
DAY 4: Read Luke 15:11-32
Jesus knew what it was like to have a child want nothing to do with you but long to go and do their own thing. Not that Jesus had a child of his own, but because when Jesus told a story such as this, he was probably drawing from life situations he had known among his friends. So, please know that if your child is anything like the lost son or like the entitled and bitter older son, God knows your pain. You can run to him and pour out your hearts to him about this.
The second thing I want you to learn from this account, is to offer the same unconditional, welcoming love that the Father offers in Jesus’ story. Keep alert and on the lookout, so to speak, for them to come running home. Keep praying that they’ll come back to you and back to our heavenly Father. Practice loving and joy filled hospitality. Show them how good it is to be in relationship with God. And show them by your welcome, the welcome they can expect if they come back to God.
It may well be that you have to come back to God today. Maybe you’ve wanted everything God has to offer but have rejected or neglected him. Resolve to go back to the Father in all humility and then feel his welcoming embrace and his desire to celebrate your return!