It is often said that “God does not have grandchildren” or “you can’t absorb faith by proximity”. I notice these truisms in church where you have a parent fervent in prayer or worship while their teenager looks on bored or confused about what is going on. Most Christian parents drag their children to church from a young age. These children grow up in church and through the years, come to know about God but may fail to take that necessary step to know God for themselves. As is sometimes the case, when they leave home they may continue to go to church for a while, as a force of habit. However, with no roots of their own, in time they abandon the faith. This post is for such a teenager or young person who has left home and is trying to find themselves.
Firstly, for us as parents, I believe we have a duty to raise Godly children. Nevertheless, to do so, we must first figure out things for ourselves. For those of us born and bred in Christian homes, there is a real danger of riding the church wave on the coattails of our parents. For this reason, it is worth taking some time out to ask yourself “do I truly know God for myself?” I say this because our children are very adept at spotting hypocrisy. If the way we live our lives doesn’t tally with the faith we profess, our children will see us as hypocrites. Who you are on Sunday in the church cannot be different from who you are when you leave the church. Furthermore, I think we also need to show and share our vulnerability. A Christian has good and bad days, we need to share that with our children. We also need to endeavour to model the attributes of the fruitful Spirit-led life detailed in Galatians and when we falter, we ought to be humble enough to seek forgiveness and try again. Modelling the Christian walk for our children might be the best possible gift we could give them because they are watching.
As for the undecided teenager or young person, you have a decision to make. Everyone that hears the Gospel has a decision to make. Ask yourself: do I truly believe that Jesus is who He says He is? If He is who He says He is, what does that mean for me, do I want to become His follower? This has to be a conscious decision and nobody can make it for you. It is also not a one-time decision, it is a daily, even a minute by minute decision, to choose to live life in accordance with God’s word. God always gives us the freedom to choose to follow or reject Him and I marvel at this freewill. Logically, no one knows a product better than its inventor. If this is true about things, then it also makes sense that God, the Author of life knows the best possible way to live it. Of course, you could argue if indeed there is a God at all. Many have debated that question and I suspect many will continue to debate it. My answer is this: My God is alive, if you seek Him earnestly, He will reveal Himself to you. So just talk to Him.
If you do choose Jesus and you want to give Him pre-eminence in your life, then the next natural step is to get to know God. It is unlikely that a Person you do not know can become important to you, let alone take first place in your life. Thankfully, God has given us a book about Himself, the Bible, and reading it is the best way to get to know who He is and what He is like. It not only reveals God but “every part of scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us the truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way” [2 Timothy 3:16 MSG]. In church generally, we tend to read or hear excerpts of the Bible. I struggled with this growing up. I would hear about the Philistines, Canaan or Babylon or about Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, etc. I would even know some of the stories about these places or characters but I did not understand why they were important. I had very little context. It wasn’t until relatively recently when I started reading and studying my Bible that a lot of what I had heard through my years in church started to make sense.
The Bible is a remarkable book. It is set primarily in the Middle East and as such, bears the hallmarks of that culture. It was written over several centuries by several authors, some of whom did not know each other. Amazingly, it tells a consistent story that encompasses all of history, from the beginning to the end of time. It is made up of books and each book is written within a particular context. The statements or verses in each book derive their context from the book within which they are written. Therefore, it is important to study and understand a book. Who wrote it? Why it was written, who it was originally written for and what can I learn from it? For the benefit of those who are not very acquainted with the Bible, let’s look at a summary in the next paragraph.
There are two parts to the Bible; the Old Testament (before Jesus came to earth) and the New Testament (during and after Jesus’ time on earth). The Old Testament books fall under one of three headings; the Law (first 5 books), the Prophets and the Writings. The first part of the Law starts at the beginning of time and details the creation, the fall of mankind and the consequences of that fall. It then narrows to God’s relationship and promises to one man (Abraham) and his family as He seeks to redeem mankind through this family. He promises to be the God of this family (who grow to become a nation, Israel). The Law was given by God to this nation and details how they ought to live. The books of the Prophets detail how the nation of Israel responded to God and his laws as well as the consequences of their actions. The Writings, written mainly in Hebrew poetry, generally centre around one individual or event. They can also be songs and prayers or words of wisdom. The New Testament starts with the life of Jesus (first 4 books), followed by the formation of the Church and then teachings and instructions on how those who follow Jesus ought to live their lives. It finishes with a prophetic book detailing what is to happen in the future. We will explore this further in later articles.
Reading other books may make you knowledgeable, but only the Bible can make you wise and equip you to truly live life to the full as God intends for you. You will find that it is an honest book, it does not embellish events or characters and it does not hide flaws. There is a lot to learn from events and flawed characters that are directly relevant to life today. As Paul puts it “even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next” [Romans 15:4 MSG]. I do hope you choose Jesus because though He is God, He became a man like us so that you and I might have life and have it abundantly.