Pastoral Exhortation - Series of 2011

Parenting The Teens

Written by Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy Sunday, 13 March 2011

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The main purpose of this article is to reiterate the importance of a firm, uncompromising, biblical mentality in parental instruction and guidance of the teens.

Biblical firmness against the ungodliness of the world

The words of the Lord in Deuteronomy 7:1-6 remind all Christian parents to be insistent that their children will not conform to the ways of the world around them. The Lord said, "When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, ... and when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth."

These verses instructed the Israelites about how they were to deal with the pagan nations that occupied the land God was giving to His people. Israel was to destroy the pagans and make no covenant with them. Especially, they were to avoid having their children marry the pagans - "For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods." The clearest spiritual lesson of this passage for the Christian parents is that they should aim to raise their children with a mindset of a warrior who seeks not to accommodate the enemies of God. Unlike the time of ancient Israel, God has not given the physical sword to the saints so that they may conquer God’s enemies by outward force, but to win them by the proclamation of the Word, which is "the sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17). "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh. (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Christians are called to confront the world with God’s revealed truth and thus conquer His enemies by making them disciples of Jesus.

Through the firm teaching of God’s Word, our children must be taught to recognize falsehood so that they may not succumb to it. As they are busy counteracting the lie, it will be more difficult for the lie to influence them. Children who are trained to be spiritual warriors are more likely to remain faithful as they become adults.

Avoid intimate associations with the enemies of God

The second lesson of the passage above is that God’s people must avoid intimate associations with God’s enemies. If the Israelites married the pagans, they would be led to forsake the true God and worship idols (and this happened repeatedly throughout Israel’s history). 2 Corinthians 6:14 is generally applied to this matter of avoiding marriages with unbelievers: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" But marriage is just one example of an intimate association. Surely the point of this verse is that any compromising connection between believers and unbelievers must be avoided.

What constitutes an intimate association? It would be any relationship in which a heart-bond is created. If the mind is persuaded, the affections are kindled, and the will is drawn; it is an intimate relationship. Examples of such relationships are marriage and relationships that include those between pastors and members of their flocks, teachers and their students, counsellors and those being counselled, employees and his co-workers, etc. Close friendships are among the most intimate of human associations. Actually, of course, there are a myriad of other ways in which people may be connected such that a heart-bond is created. Any relationship that involves spending considerable amount of time with another person may become an intimate one.

Christian parents often fail to guard their children against forming intimate bonds with unbelievers. One of the greatest threats to the spiritual health of Christian children is the influence of friendships and even godless teachers in schools. The overall intellectual and spiritual atmosphere is unbiblical and godless. When we consider that the best hours of our children are spent with unbelieving and immoral classmates, we realise how severely they could be influenced by the negative environment around them.

Parents should be careful about who their sons and daughters spend time with. Hours of teaching, conversation and modelling by parents can be undermined by the hours a child spends with a friend, with co-workers at a job, or even with someone on an Internet chat room. Many a child has fallen away from faithfulness due to the failure of parental diligence when it comes to association with those who do not follow the Lord.

Of course these negative influences need not be personal. Impersonal influences can also effectively undermine faith in the heart of a child. By "impersonal", we refer to things like music, television, movies and magazines. A child in a Christian home who is not in a public school, who has no non-Christian friends and who does work outside the home can still become a casualty if he spends hours watching television or listening to rock music every day. The lies of the devil become his meditation as he absorbs them through these media.

Avoid intimate associations with compromising Christians

Some years ago, a research group announced that in the United States, "A minority of born-again adults (44%) and an even smaller proportion of born-again teenagers (9%) are certain of the existence of absolute moral truth" (www.barna. org). Among those who claim to be born again, less than half of the adults and less than a tenth of the teens are certain that there is such a thing as absolute moral truth. Today, the situation is more or less the same in churches around the globe. Is it any wonder, then, that exposure to church people is not much better than exposure to the world?

Actually, it is worse - parents should not assume that some kind of Christian association will provide positive input into the lives of their children. Another finding by the above research group shows that: "Only a minority of born-again teenagers (44%) claim that they are ‘absolutely committed to the Christian faith’. " The simple fact is that hanging out with the average youngsters from an evangelical church is likely to undermine a firm commitment to Christ and to God’s revealed truth.

It has become necessary that we must guard our children against hanging out with not just the compromising evangelical Christians, but also the leaders of such churches and Christian groups. So it is important that as much as possible we worship in fundamental, Bible-believing churches.

Even in a fundamental church like ours, there can be youths or leaders who are compromisers and worldly. So godly parents must still be vigilant in watching over their children’s friendships even within fundamental churches, such as ours. Here I am not advocating total isolation of our children from others. I am calling for parental involvement and vigilance in limiting children from careless interaction with compromising Christians.

It is an extraordinarily difficult thing for serious Christians to prevent their children from having too much exposure to the personal and impersonal influences that may lead them astray. Nor is it desirable or reasonable to eliminate all contacts with those who do not believe and live as they do. Some exposure to the lie can be appropriate — and even necessary for training purposes — if there are also heavy doses of training to recognize the antithesis. But it is not necessary or wise to immerse oneself in evil in order to learn about it. As Paul wrote, "... yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil" (Romans 16:19). Too much exposure or unguided exposure to evil leads to tolerance, then to accommodation and eventually to an embracing of the lie.

It is easy to believe that our children will be able to stand strong in the midst of alien world view, to think that the people in question are not all that bad. Vice does not usually present itself right up front as a "monster", and we hate to be too restrictive. Christian parents have a strong inclination to be optimistic concerning their own children and their associations. "Our local public school is not as bad as most others." "The youth group leader is a godly young man. I’m sure he will set a good example for my daughter." "My son knows that we don’t endorse the values that he sees and hears on TV." But Scripture is clear in its warning: "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33). Our tendency is indeed, as the apostle notes, to be deceived about these things. We so easily lose sight of the antithesis ourselves, and everything begins to blend together so that we have a hard time taking a stand and risking the disappointment or even the hostility of our children when we say "No". It is so much easier to believe that our children won’t be negatively affected by "evil company" or that the company is, after all, only a little evil. We have to remember that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:14), and yet, he is a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). Many godly parents have seen their precious ones devoured by the enemy because they have failed to remember how devious and determined he is, and thus how discerning and diligent they must be in response.