Summary: If you want to pass the faith along to the next generation, eliminate threats to their spiritual inheritance and set the example of a full and satisfying life.
W. A. Criswell tells the story of a five-year-old Baptist girl who lived next door to a five-year-old Catholic boy. On a hot summer day, they decided to play in a small wading pool in his back yard. As they were splashing around, quite innocently, they both took off their swimming suits. The little girl looked at the little boy and exclaimed, “I didn’t know there was that much difference between a Catholic and a Baptist!” (W. A. Criswell, Sermon, March 28, 1982)
When it comes to matters of faith, our children and grandchildren have a lot to learn, don’t they? And it is our responsibility to teach them. It is our responsibility, as parents and grandparents, to pass the faith on to the next generation.
Yet that seems harder and harder to do in a culture that has rejected basic Christian values and in fact is becoming hostile to those values. Josh McDowell, in his book The Last Christian Generation, reports that various denominational leaders estimate that “between 69 and 94 percent of their young people are leaving the traditional church after high school … and very few are returning.” (The Last Christian Generation, 2006, p.13)
Citing the Barna Research Group, McDowell says (Ibid.) that of our young people raised in Christian homes, 63% don’t believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God; 58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths; 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead; 65% don’t believe Satan is a real entity; and 68% don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real entity, as well.
That’s scary, isn’t it? Especially when you consider the consequences of such beliefs. According to Josh McDowell, these beliefs make our children twice as likely to be disappointed in life, twice as likely to steal, twice as likely to physically hurt someone, three times more likely to use illegal drugs, and six times more likely to attempt suicide than those who have a basic biblical belief system. (The Last Christian Generation, 2006, p.16)
My dear friends, it is very important that we pass that basic, biblical belief system on to our children and grandchildren. It is imperative that they “get it” not just up here in their heads, but down here in their hearts, before we lose them altogether.
So how do we do that? How do we pass the faith on to the next generation? How do we instill Christian beliefs and values in our children and grandchildren in a culture which is hostile to those values? Well, if you have your Bibles, I Invite you to turn with me to Genesis 25, Genesis 25, where we see how the first patriarch of our faith passed his faith on to his son and their sons 4,000 years ago in the midst of the Canaanite culture.
Genesis 25:1-4 Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. (ESV)
God is keeping his promise to Abraham to make him the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4,6). Many of these children become the heads of nations to the east and southeast of Canaan. Only at this time, they pose a threat to Isaac, Abraham’s primary heir. So…
Genesis 25:5-6 Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country. (ESV)
Abraham eliminates any threat to Isaac’s inheritance, and that’s what we must do if we want to pass the faith on to our children and grandchildren. We must…
ELIMINATE THE THREATS to their spiritual inheritance.
We must get rid of those things that endanger their spiritual growth and development. We must remove the hazards that jeopardize the development of their faith. That’s our job as parents.
Rod Dreher, who is now senior editor of the American Conservative, worked in the 1990’s as a professional film critic, who reviewed numerous films with graphic violence. Then came the birth of his first child when he went from watching eight to 10 movies a week to almost none. One day, while holding his newborn son, he started watching a well-known film, but then he quickly turned it off, sickened by the violence. What changed? Dreher writes:
“I had become a father, that's what. I could not sit in my armchair cradling that fragile newborn boy in my arms, and watch human beings savaged on the screen… Welcoming a baby into our home taught me [how obscene] violence can be. I once took pleasure in watching this kind of thing. Now, something within me said no, this is unclean.