The picture above is taped to the top of my computer. “Word Before World.” Three words that order and shape my days. Before the computer gets opened and the relentless noise of the busy online world rushes into my living room, the quiet Word of the Still, Small Voice is ushered into my soul. A foundation. A respite. These same three words should also order the steps we take when shaping our children’s worldview training.
When federal treasury agents train to spot counterfeit money, they do not begin by studying the counterfeit. They begin by saturating themselves in the knowledge of the real thing, and only by studying genuine bills until they master the look, feel, smell, and weight of them, can they recognize bogus money. In the same way, we must immerse our children in the truth of the Word of God before they are introduced to the world’s false ideas.
There is indeed a necessary time and place for the in-depth study of false religions, errant philosophies, and mistaken ideas, but this is where our training must begin – where it must always begin: With the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. The belt of truth is the first piece of spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6:13 and 14 for a reason. Without truth, you and I leave ourselves and our children open to deception and thus unable to stand firm.
Satan’s every attack is marked by this one thing: deception (John 8:44).* As your children grow in the knowledge of the Lord and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, only then can they face the powers and false doctrines of this present world with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom (2 Pet 3:18; Matt 6:33; Eph 6:12; Prov 2:6). We must not teach our children to lean to their own understanding! We must acknowledge God and all of His ways in all of our ways – and He will make our paths straight (Prov 3:5&6). False doctrines can never stand up to God’s truth. When we know God’s truth, when we allow ourselves to be guided by the lamp that lights our path (Ps 119:105), the deceptions of the enemy are exposed. Ephesians 5:13 tells us that “all things become visible when they are exposed by the light.”
I read an article a few years ago on the topic of the benefits of Christian parents teaching their children about other religions.** The author wrote that her son was doing fairly well at learning his ABCs, but had trouble differentiating between Cs and Os if they were hidden in an exercise designed to help kids decipher the letters of the alphabet. She then began to show how many times false beliefs mimic the doctrines of Christianity, and how it can be difficult, if you are not fully aware, to automatically discern falsehood from Truth. Isn’t that just like our enemy?!
The Bible says that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). We must become aware, and ensure that our children are aware, of unbiblical beliefs and know how to differentiate between God’s Truth and false doctrines, to tell the difference between the Cs and Os. Yet, though it’s vital to understand how others believe and why, and how those beliefs differ from Christianity, a firm foundation of the truth as it is revealed in the Bible is where it has to start. It begins here, with knowing God and making Him known (John 17:3; Acts 20:24). It’s that simple; it’s that important. Word before world.
*Priscilla Shirer, Armor of God, Session 2
**Natasha Crain, Christian Mom Thoughts.com
“After a presentation at a large church…a woman approached me at the book table and eagerly asked me to sign a copy of Cold-Case Christianity for her daughter. She asked me to write something compelling on the title page in an effort to encourage her daughter to read the text and reconsider her decision to walk away from Christianity. This mom’s story was all too familiar… It’s tempting to assign our responsibility as parents to others, especially when it comes to issues that require some expertise we don’t already possess.
“Spiritual instruction is really no different… Spiritual questions are often difficult to answer and questions related to secular philosophy, historical veracity and arguments for the existence of God can seem insurmountable. When the challenges arise, it’s easy to look to someone else for the answer… But, while that’s a good start, that’s not the only thing our kids need from us when they begin questioning. They came to us with their questions and they needs us to guide them to the answers. They need us to be involved in the process. We’re the ones who love our kids enough to understand their shape and the nature of their personalities. We ought to respond to their questions well. When your kids begin questioning their faith, you’re the person who needs to become the best Christian Case Maker they know.” ~ J. Warner Wallace, in a blog post titled Parents Are Still the First Line of Defense.
When my husband and I had our little girl, we were excited to introduce her to our amazing Creator and His world and Word. Both of us grew up in strong Christian homes and were introduced to the defense of the faith while still quite young. Over the years I’ve collected many books and sat in many classes on apologetics. But the more I got involved in apologetics and the more I learned, the more I began to see what I have yet to learn.
A consistent reoccurring thought in my mind has been, “I sure hope Quin continues his high school apologetic classes as our daughter grows up so she can sit under him!” When I learned that a friend was teaching a class on Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, I was immediately interested for our daughter. And when God prompted me to introduce a parental apologetics series to this blog, I asked this same friend to write it each month. None of these things are, in and of themselves, a bad idea! But when I came across this post’s beginning quote, I realized my underlying motive was to find someone (else) to give our daughter answers to the hard questions of the faith.
You see, we all can be quite intimidated by the topic of “apologetics” when it comes to our own abilities to defend the faith (Jude 1:3). And yet each of us is charged with the responsibility to give an answer for the hope we have in us (1 Peter 3:15). And that responsibility begins at home (Deut 11:19). And we don’t have a way out (Deut 4:9 & 6:7). And that should excite us (Ps 78:4)!
Parents, we have a wonderful role in our children’s lives. God has shown us a way to know Him and to know why we believe what we believe. Giving our children a solid foundation and a growing understanding of how to find the evidence for God, the creation, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and showing them the way to have a personal relationship with Him will be to give them the best gift we ever could.
J. Warner Wallace continued on in his article: “I told the mom at my book table that I…doubted her daughter would even open the book now. Instead, I thought that she was the best resource for her daughter. She was going to have to read the book to prepare herself for her next opportunity… As parents, we are still the first line of Christian defense.”
Interestingly, the friend I asked to write these blogs each month declined, as led by the Lord, and instead gently encouraged me to fulfill God’s calling in this area. And so, I’ll be writing this blog once a month, and together we’ll explore ways in which we, as parents, can begin to fulfill God’s command to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
As it says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, there is nothing new under the sun, so I will be using a myriad of resources to help us in our study and will recommend further reading with each post.
We can’t afford to leave this training to others. Our kids will have questions. We can be ready.
Christians today have a unique opportunity – one I fear we are squandering. A horrifying reality of people taking into their own hands the determination of whose life matters and whose life doesn’t now brings our country to the brink of implosion. Police overreach threatens legitimate police action. Hate group terrorism threatens legitimate citizen concerns. What is the answer and how do we, as Christians, respond? Whose life matters, anyway?
As Christ followers, we have the answer, the same answer we give to those considering abortion, to those contemplating suicide, and to those concerned about refugees and immigration: All lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us. How we determine through discernment the best course of action in order to preserve life may be different in each situation, but even within those differences, the underlying foundation remains the backbone of every decision: All lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us.
John 3:16 is perhaps the most well-known and most often quoted verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and raised again.”
1 Peter 3:18 is equally clear: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just and the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”
Hebrews 2:1 makes its own case: “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”
And Genesis 1:27 explains why: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (All emphases mine)
The Bible says Jesus died for all. That means Jesus died for all. You, me, him, and her. Them. Yes, even them. Kermit Gossnell. Members of ISIS. Celine Dion and that twerking kid. Gays and straights. Drug addicts and holier-than-thous. Blacks and whites, Asians and Hispanics. Stubborn Scots and the Fighting Irish (thank God). Jews and Gentiles, Samaritans and lepers. Us. All of us.
Not all will accept His blood sacrifice. Not all will go to heaven. But all will receive the opportunity (Romans 1:20) because all lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us.
Humanity, however, has a unique way of swinging the pendulum of truth wildly from one far side to the other, and when that gold ball hanging from a thin gold post swings left, right is forgotten entirely. All lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us. But neither in godly principle nor in God’s Word are we instructed or given the option of ignoring justice and the truth of the Gospel in the name of tolerance or acceptance. To consider such a thing is proof our view of God’s love is skewed at best. Neither we as Christians nor our law enforcement officers will or should handle everyone in the same manner, but instead as unique individuals in a unique situation (Proverbs 13:8&9; Romans 13:2-5).
What, then, is our job as Christians? To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all, because all lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us (Matt 28:19). What, then, is the Gospel? The true Gospel always begins with the bad news: All have sinned and the penalty of sin is death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). There’s that word again – all, and you’re part of all. Each one of us has fallen short of the mark, short of God’s glory, short of good, and none of us can redeem ourselves. Death is imminent and hell is reality…but for the grace of God! And herein lies the Good News: Christ died once for all…and you’re part of all.
And because all lives truly matter to us, we are to love people enough to speak the truth in love to them – the truth of God’s justice, mercy, grace, and sacrifice. The truth that all other lives matter, too, and that taking the lives of others because you’re angry or discriminated against or hurt is as unjust as the injustice enacted upon you. We are to stand against crime, stand against sin, stand against injustice in its various forms, but we are not to stand silent, for to do so is to squander the opportunity we as Christians are now given.
I am reminded of the tale of two salesman who ventured to Africa to find new business opportunities. They both sold shoes and, upon arriving at their destination, they each quickly formed an opinion. One man called his wife and sadly told her to book him a flight home immediately. “I can’t sell anything here,” he told her, “No one here wears shoes.” The second salesman called his wife, as well. Full of excitement he told her to get ready for an adventure. “I can sell to the whole country,” he exclaimed, “No one here wears shoes!”
We’ve all read the stories, heard the reports, and seen the news. We all know our friends’ opinions, the pundits’ opinions, and the president’s opinions. But the only opinion with which we need concern ourselves is God’s. Whose life matters, anyway? The value of every human life is infinite and sacred. All lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us. Go buy up that opportunity.
It’s amazing the things you see on social media these days. Lightening-fast news updates, good info on the latest movie, pictures of fuzzy animals doing whatever fuzzy animals do, laugh-out-loud stories of your neighbor’s kid doing whatever your neighbor’s kid does, a few things you wish could un-see, and more than a few articles or videos that soundscriptural, but aren’t.
Sound familiar? You click on a link hoping to find God-breathed wisdom just to find a few scriptures taken out of context and turned into a bunch of man-made foolishness. Yet it actually does have a slight ring of godliness. Well, sure, it certainly sounds like something Jesus would teach if He were here now. Then again, maybe not. Part of you wonders how this ever made it onto a Bible-believing Christian’s Timeline, another part of you wonders how we’re to ever tell the difference between Truth and counterfeit.
Last week, Jamie led us through the first and best way to spot a counterfeit doctrine: Become intimately acquainted with the Truth. The next way to detect counterfeit doctrines is to get to know them. That’s right, study them, get to know how and where and why they differ from the firm foundation of Truth. Why is this important? Because many counterfeit doctrines can, in fact, look pretty darn close to the Truth sometimes.
For example, study the picture below.
Somewhere in this photo, there is one letter that is different from the others…and it’s very difficult to distinguish it from the rest. The difference between a Q and an O (the differing letter in the photo), though small, is one that changes queen to oueen, quack to ouack, and quazi to ouazi. The slight change creates a new word that no longer makes any sense. Even seemingly inconsequential differences between doctrines can lead to big changes in meaning.
One example is the assertion that Muslims and Christians may worship the same God. This idea can cause Christians pause, especially when understanding the similarities in the Islamic views of God. But a detailed investigation into the religion will prove that, though a complex matter, Christians and Muslims do not worship the same triune God of the Bible.
Another vivid example is Penn Jillette’s re-write of the 10 Commandments. The famous comedic magician, author, and atheist chose 10 biblical sounding creeds by which all people should live, including love as one of the highest ideals in life, not putting things or ideas above other human beings, putting aside time to rest, respecting all human life, keeping your promises, not stealing, not lying, and not being envious. Sound familiar? Yet a deeper search reveals that within these slight variations, even by Jillette’s own admission, God’s Truth is removed.
Even closer to home, religious leaders such as Joel Osteen and Rob Bell, among many others, present counterfeit doctrines dressed up in gleaming smiles, promises of riches, and hopes of eternal bliss for the unsaved. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But is it True?
Without thorough training in Truth, and without further delving into the counterfeits to find where they differ from that Truth, we can be deceived into believing an O is really a Q. To be truly prepared to give an answer for the hope within us, and to successfully navigate the often confusing world of counterfeits, we need to understand what other belief systems claim and how those claims differ from Christianity.
Indeed, without truly understanding what others precisely believe, it will be difficult to abide by the principle of presenting our own beliefs and hope with kindness and respect.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” As Jamie wrote last week, immerse yourself in God-breathed Scripture. Get to know the scent and the sound and the feel of God and His Truth. And then examine other beliefs in the light and context of the Real Thing. This is the second step in detecting counterfeit doctrines. “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:5).