Summary: Teaching Christian values without bringing our children to faith in the Risen Son of God, condemns them to eternal death. The Pharisees stand as a beacon warning Christians not to succumb to the lure of presenting Christian values.

“Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.’” [1]

Seldom do I preach my doubts. However, when I consider the future of the Faith as taught to our children, I am plagued by serious concerns that quickly mount to the level of doubts. As a young man just beginning my service before the Lord, I was possessed of boundless anticipation. During the seventies and eighties, the Christian world witnessed a number of religious movements that appeared to thrust the message of Christ aggressively into the midst of the world—the Jesus Movement, the popularity of books such as “The Late, Great Planet Earth” focusing on the return of the Master, the formation of The Moral Majority and a series of “revivals” that broke out spontaneously in seminaries and theological schools in the United States and in Canada. The evidence seemed to point to some momentous event that must surely herald the return of the Master. Though I was careful to avoid setting dates, it was evident that Christendom was being shaken by successive movements that challenged the established churches and promised some dramatic transformation.

I confess that I’ve lost the youthful optimism I once possessed. Almost without exception, the religious excitement died down as quickly as it had flared up. The Jesus Movement degenerated into a cesspool of immorality for the most part. The excitement generated by the various books was short-lived, to say the least; the message of those books is mostly forgotten and ignored today. Those who had authored these works often turned out to be sleazy, self-centred opportunists who were prepared to take advantage of the gullibility of the professed, though largely untaught people of God. The Moral Majority and the evangelical vote quickly shifted its gaze to formation of an earthly kingdom rather than focusing on righteousness and godliness. The revivals were not only transient, but those who were so excited at the first grew distant and cold toward the cause of Christ in short order.

I have now preached and pastored among the Lord’s saints for almost forty-five years. During that time, I have witnessed the vast majority of children raised in church desert the Faith. A little over seven years ago, I preached a sermon that generated surprising hostility in one congregation. The sermon was entitled, “Inoculated Against the Faith.” [2] The message generated hostility because those listening wanted to believe that their children were “good” kids because they had once “prayed the prayer” or they had been baptised and joined the church. The parents of these children and their former Sunday School teachers did not want to believe that the children of the church were in eternal jeopardy—but they were in peril of divine judgement.

That message was a study of the life of Judas Iscariot. I was motivated to prepare that particular message after reading the results of a survey published by the Barna Group. That study found that the vast majority of American teens reported they had attended a church or church-sponsored training session during their teen years; yet, six out of ten youth rejected Christian spiritual disciplines after they left home. [3] The study prompted me to review the records of that congregation over the previous twenty years. The record of youth continuing in the Faith, though professing to believe in their teen years, was dismal at best.

At the time the message was delivered, not one child that had reached the age of majority still worshipped with her or his parents in that particular congregation. The young families that were members of the assembly had come into the fellowship through outreach into the community and not through continuation in the Faith from childhood. The children expressed enthusiasm about the Faith until they were about fourteen years of age. Then, each Sunday morning was a battle, usually with parents conceding the fight in favour of a modicum of peace in the home. The blunt assessment from the pulpit proved so distressing to some of the stalwarts of that particular congregation that they ceased attending services, giving mute, though effective evidence both for the genesis and for the validity of that stern assessment. The faith of the stalwarts could stand neither challenge nor examination. I trust that will not be the situation among our own people.

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