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2 Timothy 3:1-5, 14-17
Please turn your attention to our second lesson for today. As we think about Christian education, Paul reminds Timothy and us of the importance of, and the means for pointing children in the right direction
What’s one of the most common statements you hear when you talk to parents about the spiritual training of their children? Doesn’t it go something like this? “I’m not going to do anything now so that they can decide on their own when they get older.” That might sound logical, even loving to many. We are told it’s not right to force our beliefs on others. But would you do that with food? Would you say, “I’m not going to tell my children what to eat now so that they can decide what food is good for them when they get older?” If you wouldn’t say that about their physical diet, then why would you say it about their spiritual diet?
Paul describes for us what the world is like when children don’t receive any spiritual guidance. He describes what happens when children are left to choose for themselves and are not guided by God’s word. The sinful nature rules. When the sinful nature rules, people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemous, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful…
The sinful nature with which everyone is born is 100% self-centered. A person that does not have the Holy Spirit living in them through faith and is not guided by God’s word can only think everything is about them. They can only think that they are better than others, deserve everything they have and more, and don’t have to listen to what anyone is telling them. You might notice that the “give everyone a trophy so that everyone is a winner” idea plays right into the desires of the sinful nature.
The first part of this list is bad enough, but it gets worse. Those who are only guided by their sinful nature and only think of themselves will be unholy, unloving, not able to reconcile with others, slanderous, without self-control, savage. Unloving means that they don’t even show what might be considered by society to be normal compassion. They have no problem lying, or slandering others just to get what they want. They don’t show any control over their desires. They don’t care what happens to others as long as they get their way. Some are even willing to traffic their children. They won’t listen to reason, they hold their opinion even when shown proof that they are wrong. They act like untrained animals.
Could it get any worse? Paul continues, they are haters of what is good, treacherous, reckless, puffed up with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to an outward form of godliness but denying its power. Paul says in another place that nothing good lives in the sinful nature. It is 100% opposed to God and hates anything that God says. If God says something is good, the sinful nature calls it evil. If God says something is evil, the sinful nature calls it good. As Jesus pointed out, they are willing to betray even close family to death. Convinced that they are right they run headlong toward eternal destruction. Their actions show that their real god is pleasure, whatever feels good. And worst of all, many claim to be godly or spiritual. They might go through the motions of worship in a church, but all the while they are denying the only thing that has the power to save them and guide them in true godliness – the word of God.
Paul’s description of what it will be like in the last days sounds all too familiar. His words are a clear reminder that we are living in the last days. We see and hear the things he describes every day. These things have always been there, because the sinful nature is always present, but they are not only becoming more obvious, but more accepted, and even promoted. What Paul encouraged Timothy to do is just as important for us today. Turn away from such people. Know what your kids are being taught in school. Know who your kid’s friends are. Help them see if their friends fit the description Paul gives of those who live to gratify their sinful natures. Help them see the danger of not turning away from such people unless or until they are brought to repentance and faith. Yes, we have to live in the world, but we are not to become of, or like the world.
What does Paul offer as a solution? He reminds Timothy of what he had learned from the time he was, in the Greek language, a brefos. That means a child who is either unborn, or an infant that still has to be carried by its mother. It’s likely that Timothy’s mother went to worship at the Synagogue, and so he heard the word of God even before he was born. It’s a scientific fact that unborn babies can hear. As soon as he was born, his mother and grandmother prayed in his presence and shared God’s word in his presence. As he grew, they made sure that he was instructed in God’s word and they showed that these were not just customs or traditions for them. These were things that they themselves firmly believed. They told him that the most important thing in the Old Testament Scripture was God’s promise to send a Savior, because, like them, he too was a sinner who needed to be saved. So, when Paul showed up in his town and proclaimed that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised savior, when he showed them from the Scriptures all that the Messiah was to do, and then explained how Jesus fulfilled every prophecy, Timothy rejoiced. He was convinced that what Paul said was true. He believed. He trusted that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, his savior from sin.
Lois and Eunice and Paul served as a John the Baptist for Timothy. They pointed him to Jesus and said, look, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He has taken away your sins too. His sinless sacrifice in your place has satisfied God’s justice. His blood shed on the cross has cleansed you so that you are able to live before God now, and live in his presence forever.
The world governed by the sinful nature wants to be spiritual, but when they deny that the Bible is inspired by God and therefore completely true and without error, they deny the only thing that has the power to save. When the rich man in hell thought that a resurrection from the dead would have the power to get his brothers to see the truth, he was told that the only thing that could do that was the Scripture, Moses and the prophets. Someone risen from the dead, knocking on their door to warn them wasn’t going to save them. Remember, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and the Jewish leaders decided they had to kill him because of it. Jesus rose from the dead and they decided that they had to pay off the guards and circulate the lie that his disciples stole his body. Only the gospel is the power of God for salvation. Only the Scriptures have the power to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
That’s the power of Christian Education. It’s the power you have as parents when, even before they are born your children hear God’s word as you worship and pray; when, as soon as they are born you bring them to baptism which is the visible Gospel, the gospel promise of God attached to water; when, as long as they live under your roof you show them how important the Word of God is by reading it yourself and by teaching it to them. That’s the power that is present in a Christian school that uses the Bible, teaches that it is the truth from God, and makes it the basis of everything that is taught and done. It is only through the Scriptures, that the Holy Spirit works to take children, who like all of us are born only with a sinful nature, and give them new birth, a spiritual birth, a new man of faith. The new man of faith is the exact opposite of the sinful nature. The new man of faith is 100% in tune with God. When God says a thing is good, our new man of faith says Amen! When God says something is evil, our new man of faith eagerly and happily turns away from it and hates it as God does.
What this means is that everyone who has been brought to faith by the power of God through his word has a constant battle raging inside. Paul says, for the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. That’s why being in the word yourself, and then serving as a John Baptist for your children, constantly pointing to the word and to Jesus, is important. God’s word is useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, well equipped for every good work. Only Scripture tells us the truth. It points out our sins, it tells us what we deserve because of them, and then it points us to Jesus for forgiveness. It guides us when we want to know how we can show our thanks to God for all he does for us. It trains us and equips us so that, when things happen, both good and bad, and opportunities to serve God and our neighbor arise, we and our children can take advantage of those good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The world says, let children decide for themselves when they get older what they want to believe. We are reaping the results of that philosophy as we experience what Paul said would happen in the last days. Many people look at the mess the world is in and are concerned about their grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren. What can parents and grandparents do? Be like Lois and Eunice, be like John the Baptist. Point them to Jesus as the Lamb of God, their Savior. Keep pointing them in the right direction, to Scripture. Keep encouraging them to remember what they have learned from Scripture. Keep reminding them that only through Scripture can they be wise for salvation.