PREACH AND TEACH TO CHANGE LIVES
Step 4: FOCUS ON YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE (cont’d)
PREACHING TRACK: WHAT TO PREACH TO SPIRITUAL PARENTS
In our Blog Posting #14 we talked about what to preach to SPIRITUAL YOUTH. In this posting we will talk about what to preach to SPIRITUAL PARENTS.
AREA OF CONFLICT: RELATIONSHIPS
MAJOR TEMPTATION: PRIDE OF LIFE
We need to view the SPIRITUAL PARENT at two levels.
LEVEL ONE is in his/her role as caregiver and nurturer of spiritual children. Using the developmental progression of growth and maturity in human life, the SPIRITUAL PARENT STAGE may be distinguished from the first two as follows: at the BABY STAGE a Christian needs to be cared for by someone; at the YOUTH STAGE a Christian learns to care for himself/herself; at the PARENT STAGE the Christian learns to take care of others. To take care of others a Christian needs to develop a QUALITY OF LIFE that’s predominantly characterized by LOVE. Naturally, love deals mostly with RELATIONSHIPS. A major temptation at this stage is PRIDE OF LIFE in contrast to SERVANTHOOD. Love motivates and empowers a Christian to serve others; pride motivates a person to demand from others service and obedience.
LEVEL TWO has to do with his/her deepening relationship with God. The QUALITY in a spiritual parent’s life has to do with an area of spiritual experience implied in the description given in 1 John 2:12-14:
12 I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.
Please note above the statement in bold letters: “I write to you, fathers (spiritual parents), because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” This implies the quality of an ever-deepening intimacy with God and an ever-increasing knowledge of His purposes. Gene Tabor, my mentor, had a favorite scripture to bring this out:
Psalm 103:7: He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.
Gene loved to point out that God made known to Moses “His ways”, but to the children of Israel He only made known “His acts”. By “ways” was meant God’s character, which (because Moses knew it) helped Moses also to know what God would do. By “acts” was meant the outward works and actions of God, which the people became aware only as they happened. The spiritual parent is someone who is becoming more and more intimately schooled in the ways of God, in His nature and character. As a result of this knowledge, he/she is also able to discern God’s purposes for his/her own life and in the lives of the spiritual children who look up to him/her for leadership.
What then do we preach to spiritual parents?
At level one (as pointed out above) we preach to spiritual parents on topics that will enable them to become better caregivers and nurturers of their spiritual children. For starters, the first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians is a gold mine for truths and topics that will help spiritual parents; in this letter, Paul (the model spiritual parent) opens up his heart and tells about things he did as a spiritual parent. Take one passage, for example, 1 Thessalonians 2:4-12:
But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 9 For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
In this brief passage, we can discover many of the qualities and activities that spiritual parents must have and do to be effective in their role.
At level two, spiritual parents need to receive teaching and preaching that will help them to know God better. A sermon or study series on the attributes of God will greatly help spiritual parents to grow in this area. Standard Christian theology textbooks are good sources for such sermons or studies. Two modern classics have ministered to God’s people in this area: I. J. Packer’s Knowing God and A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy.
For an illustration, below is a Bible study I prepared as Lesson 3 of my book NewLife Book 7:
THUMB: FIVE TRUTHS ABOUT GOD
WHEN God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, He told him, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5).
As we study about God we should remember that we are standing on holy ground; like Moses we must take off our sandals. In other words, we must maintain the attitude of humility and worship. The only reason we are able to study about God is because He has made Himself known in His Word, and He has made it possible for us to know Him by making us members of His family through His Son Jesus Christ (John 1:18). He has also given us His Holy Spirit, who will enlighten us to understand what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:12). We may begin by studying five truths about God.
TRUTH 1: GOD IS CREATOR
What is the first truth revealed about God in the Bible? God is Creator. (Genesis 1:1)
The Bible tells us WHO was responsible for all creation: GOD. The Bible tells us two things about HOW creation came to be: First, God created everything by His Word. Second, God created everything out of nothing.
Whenever we human beings make anything, we have to use previously existing materials. In the beginning, there was only God, and He did not have any pre-existing material to use; He caused everything to come into existence out of nothing. As theologians say in Latin: God created EX NIHILO. God SPOKE things into existence from nothing.
Read Genesis 1:3: Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (See also verses 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26). Let’s also study Psalm 33:6; Hebrews 11:3.
Scientists have proposed all kinds of theories about the beginning of everything. However, all their theories require that a pre-existing material must already be available to produce everything that we now find in the universe – from the smallest atom to the biggest galaxy. In the beginning, only God had the power and wisdom to create something out of nothing.
TRUTH 2: GOD IS SUSTAINER
The Bible reveals that God did not leave His creation to continue operating on its own without Him. God continues to sustain and govern His creation. From the following verses describe God's work as Sustainer.
Psalm 36:6; Isaiah 40:22,26; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3.
Note specially Colossians 1:17 and Hebrews 1:3. These verses reveal to us that everything in the present creation is held together and kept in proper working order by the power of Jesus Christ.
The universe needs constant maintenance! Scientists tell us that we may expect the universe to do two things, either to fly apart, with planets and stars scattering in all directions away from one another; or to collapse upon itself, planets and stars crashing into one another into one big crunch – but it doesn't. Why not? Because of the power of GOD THE SUSTAINER, who keeps all things together in their proper places.
TRUTH 3: GOD IS REDEEMER
The Bible tells us that everything was created perfect in the beginning, but something terrible happened to mar this perfection. Humanity fell into sin, and as a result everything in creation became subject to decay and death. God could have decided to discard the ruined creation – people and all – and start fresh. But against this dark background, another aspect of God's nature was revealed. God manifested Himself not only as Creator and Sustainer, but also as Redeemer or Savior of His creation, specially as Redeemer of human beings. Please note the name of God in the following verses:
Isaiah 44:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Jeremiah 50:34; Titus 3:4,5.
Let’s think of this truth on a personal level. Each time we sin, God has all the right to judge and punish us instantly. But He doesn’t. Instead He has provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and to be restored to Himself and restored to the right path He has set for us. This way is through His Son Jesus Christ who redeemed us – paid for our sins – on the cross. When we believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior He forgives us our sins and gives us new life and power to live in the way God wants us to live. We may call God our Redeemer “the God of second chances”. He always gives us a chance to begin again. Do you realize that you have strayed away from God? Why don’t you ask God’s forgiveness – and begin again with Him today?
TRUTH 4: GOD IS FATHER
The truths about God as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer are awe-inspiring. But here is a still more awe-inspiring truth: God gives Himself to us as our FATHER! This story is told about one U. S. president. One day he was meeting with very important persons from different nations; all these persons were very formal and careful as they talked with the president. But on the floor, at the foot of the president, his son was playing with his toys. Whenever he had a little problem with his toys he tugged at his daddy’s coat tails and the president would put all his guests on hold while he attended to his son. This story is only a faint illustration of what God wants to be to us as Father – very close, very intimate, very personal.
In the Old Testament, the Fatherhood of God was only hinted at. In the New Testament the full blaze of the Fatherhood of God was revealed by Christ. However, Christ’s revelation came both as Good News and Bad News. The Bad News is that, because of sin, God's Fatherhood is no longer universal; it is conditional. The Good News is that Christ came precisely to restore sinful man to relationship with the heavenly Father.
BAD NEWS: Because of sin, who has become the father of sinners? John 8:44
GOOD NEWS: How may we restore our relationship with God as our Father? John 1:12
GOD THE FATHER calls us to a Father-Child relationship. Please study 2 Corinthians 6:17-18.
JESUS CHRIST THE SON teaches us to pray to God our Father. Matthew 6:9
THE HOLY SPIRIT enables us to call to God in the most intimate terms. Galatians 4:6
A PERSONAL QUESTION: Are you sure that your relationship with God as your heavenly Father has been restored? You may have it restored by inviting Christ to come in your heart as your Lord and Savior.
TRUTH 5: GOD IS PERFECT
God has attributes or qualities which He alone possesses in perfection. We shall mention nine of His innumerable attributes. Please study the following verses and meditate on each attribute that's mentioned.
1. ETERNAL (no beginning and no end) Psalm 90:1,2; Revelation 1:8
2. OMNIPOTENT (all-powerful) Luke 1:37
3. OMNISCIENT (all-knowing) Psalm 139:1-6
4. OMNIPRESENT (present everywhere) Jeremiah 23:23-24; Psalm 139:7-10
5: SOVEREIGN (controls everything) Daniel 4:34-35; Romans 11:36
6. LOVE (merciful and gracious) 1 John 4:8-10; Jeremiah 31:3
7. FAITHFUL (unchanging; fulfills His promises) Lamentations 3:22-23; 2 Corinthians 1:18-20.)
8. HOLY (pure; does not tolerate any sin) 1 Peter 1:15-16; Isaiah 6:3.
9. JUST (punishes sin exactly and fairly) Romans 2:5-6; 1 Peter 1:17.
How should our knowledge of God affect how we relate to Him and how we live our lives?
(a) WORSHIP – As our CREATOR and SUSTAINER, and as One who possesses all PERFECT ATTRIBUTES, God deserves our worship. Revelation 4:1-11 describes how God is worshipped in heaven; please note verses 10-11. 1 Chronicles 29:10-18 is a good example of a prayer of worship.
(b) RELATIONSHIP - As our REDEEMER and FATHER, God calls us into relationship with Him. Are you sure you have a personal relationship with God? John 1:12.
If you already have a relationship with God, are you living worthily before your Heavenly Father? 1 Corinthians 10:31.
MEMORIZE: John 17:3
NOTE: To know God better, we must also know Christ and the Holy Spirit better. In NewLife Book 7 I also wrote the following lessons: 5 Truths about Christ, and 5 Truths about the Holy Spirit.