Let’s talk about maybe some practical ways – how do we pass this on so they can make wise decisions?
Number one: Encourage them to saturate their mind with truth. The Bible, great books, tapes, videos. You have in your notes, this is one of my favorite passages, Romans chapter 8, verses 5 through 8. It says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their mind set on the flesh; but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. The sinful mind is hostile toward God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. And those who are controlled by the sinful nature or the flesh cannot please God.”
All I want you to get is: Where do you set your mind? Where do you set your mind? First and foremost, we have to model this but, boy, we have got to pass on to our kids, to those that we are discipling, to our grandkids, to the groups that we hang out with. I’ll tell you what, I have been in small groups where the Bible is never opened, truth is never discussed but we know a lot about what’s on sale, what sport teams are doing different; we have a good social time.
And I think that social interaction is great. It just doesn’t transform your life. The great majority, I don’t do counseling, per se. And I was kind of joking, but when I get done speaking at different places, there’s usually a line, a long line of people, and they come up and tell me stuff, I don’t know why, but I’m thinking, I would never tell anybody that.
And they tell me all kinds of really painful, horrendous, difficult – marriages, homosexual affairs, drugs, addicts, on and on and on and on. And many, very sincere believers who never dreamed this could happen to them.
And I, despite what I told you about myself, when I first meet people, I ask God for great compassion and I listen attentively, and I ask questions, and I try to discover what is going on. But I have learned, over the years, I always ask one question: “Would you tell me, I know you have been a believer so long, I know you never thought this could happen to you, and that someone like you could never have an affair and you’re a leader in the church, etc., etc. Would you tell me, right now, a little bit about your personal time in God’s Word?”
And I know, I almost know the answer one hundred percent of the time. And I will tell you, it goes like this, “Well, I used to but…Well, I go to church regularly.” “I didn’t ask you if you went to church regularly.” “Well, I listen to Christian radio now and then.” “Well, yeah, great. God bless, some of those guys are okay. I asked you about your personal time in God’s Word, where God speaks to you and it’s a heart relationship.”
You have to pass that on. The great majority of Christians do not spend personal time in God’s Word and, therefore, are powerless to break the bonds of sin and are duped and seduced because they are not armed with the truth. And we have to model that first and then you have to pass that on.
And it has to be passed on, not as a club. You know? “Okay, kids! Get around the table right now! It’s breakfast time! Or supper time! All right. Nathaniel? Open to Proverbs chapter 1. It’s the first day of the month, isn’t it? Read it! Now! Ethel? Shut up. Listen to your brother. He’s reading God’s Word!”
I can tell you where these kids are going to be at about eighteen. It will not be in church. Or much to do with God.
But in winsome ways, early on, I remember my wife. She has read to all of our kids. They became readers. And she read all the Chronicles of Narnia and then she read other things and she read to them even at times where they got old enough it would have been embarrassing so we didn’t talk about it. Especially the boys.
And then I was much more concerned, little by little by little, I met with my kids and taught them how to spend some time with God and Theresa and I, we would just try and share the love and what was happening in our struggles and our journey, but with God.
And I wanted my kids far more to begin to meet with God on their own than us have perfunctory family devotions, although we met and did that.
And I talk to my kids now, and my one son who is a pastor, I said, “Well, Ryan, what was it that really clicked for you in terms of, how did God lead you that way?” And I’m thinking, Maybe it’s one of my great messages, I’m sure. But this is my kids.
He said, “Well, Dad, it’s really pretty easy. I don’t know how many times when you’re a little kid and you get up and go to the bathroom and you think it’s the middle of the night because it’s five o’clock and for you it’s the middle of the night and there is a light on and mom is on her knees praying. Or she is sitting in the chair with a cup of coffee, reading God’s Word. I just grew up watching you and mom. That’s what mattered. And when we drove in the car and we were in the back seat and you guys were just, it wasn’t, it didn’t sound spiritual. It just sounded like you were doing life.”
That’s what they catch. And so you have to create [these practices or opportunities] when they are little and then when they are older.
I will tell you, I didn’t pay my kids to do the chores, remember we talked about? I paid them for extra stuff. I paid them to read books. You say, “That’s bribing them.” Absolutely. I did it on purpose.
When my kids got in high school and now they were getting all these worldviews. James Sire, okay, “Tell you what. I’ll give you ten bucks to read that and write me a report on it. Here’s a thicker one. I’ll give you fifteen bucks to read that and then we’ll discuss it.” Hey, they wanted money, I wanted truth to get in their mind.
But you have to saturate their mind with truth. Encourage that.
The second is: Encourage them to hang out regularly with wise, godly people. Proverbs 13:20, “He who dwells with wise men will be wise, but the companion of a fool will suffer harm.”
There is a great line, I got this from, it was in a casual conversation and it was with a vice president of a guy that I work with. And his wife was there and we were talking about the influence of kids and you’re always worried about who they hang out with. And she just turned to all of us and said, “Well, I’ll tell you, you show me your friends, I’ll show you your future.”
Man, I don’t know where she got that. I wrote that down and I’ve been using it since and when I can remember to give her credit, I do. Like now. But it’s true.
Think of who you are investing in. You need, if you have control, you need to be very careful about who they hang out with.
Now, that doesn’t mean we have a little holy huddle. Let’s go to some guys I have had the opportunity to help and disciple. I have really talked about, “Hey brother, I got news for you. I love you, I care for you, we are playing hoop, you’re a new Christian, you’re making progress. Now, tell me again about what you came out of. It was New Age and cocaine, right? Okay. And you used to smoke this stuff and sell it? Yeah. Okay. And you’re telling me you’re struggling, right? Okay. Why are you struggling? Okay. Now, tell me who you’re hanging out with. Two other dealers. Now, help me with this.”
I mean, I’m in Santa Cruz, California. This is normal. “Help me with this. You think you’re not going to do that hanging out with them?”
“Well, they are my friends and I want to lead them to Christ.” “Hey, you lead people to Christ on neutral turf. You know what? You don’t go over there and they probably aren’t going to come to church, but let’s find some neutral places where let’s have them hang out and you can influence them instead of them influence you.”
More than one time, with my kids, I said, “You can’t play with those two kids anymore.” “But Dad! Dad!” “No, you can’t play with them anymore. They can come to our house and hang out but you’re not going to their house. No one is home, I know what happens, you’re just not going to do it.” “Well, you’re…!” “Yeah, of course!”
Some of us need to be, those of you that have smaller children, or teenagers, it’s okay to be the bad person. It’s okay. They can say, “I don’t love you anymore.” Let them slam the door. “Who are you to tell me who I can be friends with?” “Your parent, that’s who.” “I don’t love you!”
Here’s what I hear, and I’ve got a number of cases, it’s anecdotal, but here is what I hear, “Well, if we set those boundaries too tight, then they will rebel.” Especially in the area of teenagers dating unbelievers and I hear, “Oh, we can’t do that because we have to be really careful.” I’ve got news for you. Their heart gets connected to an unbeliever that is not walking with God, they are going to go down the tubes.
So draw the line lovingly, and catch it early, and I know there are a handful of success stories where that gal or that girl finally came to Christ and all the rest. Let me tell you, I’ve got a hundred other stories for every success story you can give me.
The number one thing that causes young people to fall, and fall away from their faith, and when they go to college, the reason they change their morals is not they really change their theology, but they have to change their theology to adapt their lifestyle.
And when your emotions kick in and you fall in love and you get to have sex. Let’s see, Do I really believe in God and the Bible and some of this old fashioned stuff, or this? Hmmmmm. That’s a no brainer. And we can’t figure out why…
The statistics are alarming of the percentage of all of our “young Christian youth” who go away to school, about ten to twelve percent keep their faith five years later. And I have had some deep, deep conflict with my children in that journey. And I was a really, really bad guy. And it wasn’t always pretty. And I didn’t always do it right.
But I will tell you, that is a non-negotiable. You’re the parent.
With that said, you are having lots of fun investing in their life and doing lots of great things that other parents don’t do with them. Because, see, the bridge of truth is relationship. And the more relationship you have, the more love, the more deposits, the more truth that they can hold. Because at the end of the day, they don’t want to disappoint you. They really don’t, but it’s in a tug-of-war, at times.
Third, model for them how to ask God for discernment and wisdom. It’s really important for those you are trying to help that you don’t become like, “The Answer Man,” or, “The Answer Woman.” Well, what should I do about this? You know more than me. Well, can you tell me? And you say, “Well, da, da, da, da, da, do this or do that.”
Model for them, “You know what? Here’s a passage in James chapter 1 verse 5, okay? ‘If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach. But when he asks, let him ask in faith, for the one who doubts is like double-minded man who is tossed here and there by the waves. Don’t let that person expect to receive anything from the Lord.’”
And then you explain to them, “Wisdom is doing life God’s way, according to His design. He will always show you what to do. The Bible doesn’t tell you what state to live in. The Bible doesn’t tell you what vocation. The Bible doesn’t say you ought to go to a Christian school or a non-Christian school. You need wisdom from God.”
And so what you want to model for them is, “I don’t have the answer to that, but God makes a promise.” And if we had time to develop that whole text, the thesis of that text of not ever doubting is not that you never have doubts about God. Everyone has doubts.
We get our word, schizophrenic. It’s a double-minded person. When you pray, “God, will You show me Your will so I can consider it as one of the options?” God says, “No.” Did you catch that? Let me go over that a little slower. Some of you went…
When you pray and you don’t do it like this intentionally, but it’s what we do. “God, I really want to know what Your will is about this relationship. Now, and then when I know Your will, I will decide whether I’ll take it or not.”
Guess what? God says, “You know what? I don’t answer those kind of prayers.” But what he says is, “God, I don’t know about what to do about this relationship. I don’t know what to do about this money situation. I don’t know what to do about this marriage crisis. I don’t know what to do about this wayward son or wayward daughter. God, I don’t know about my calling and whether I should get out of this work and go to that work.”
Here’s the promise of James 1:5. If I will come and say, “God, I want You to know that I have signed my name on the bottom of the check and I have turned it like this and put it under the throne room of heaven, I will do, no matter what it is, whatever You tell me. You fill in the top and I will do it.” He says, “One hundred percent of the time, I will fill in the top.”
And now, how is He going to show you? It might be through a person, through the Scripture, as you pray, wise counsel. But He promises He will show you what to do. Ninety percent of the will of God is being really willing to do whatever God says.
Most of us, myself completely included, I want to get God lined up to get Him to do what I want because I think I know what’s best. It’s that surrender to be willing to do it. And you have to model that.
And so a lot of you, some of you, how many have some teenagers. Anybody got any teenagers or young adults? Okay, yeah. This is where, don’t say stuff like, my kids, when they were hitting the mid-teens, it would be something like, “Hey, I want to do this or that or go to this movie or do that,” and I would think, You know, that’s not good. But if am I going to keep making every decision, we are going to be in trouble.
And so I would often say, “Well, would you do me a favor?” “Yeah.” I said, “Pray about it for twenty-four hours. And just really think it through. Do you believe God wants you to go do that?” “Well, Dad…” “I know. Hey, don’t argue with me. Just talk to God about it. I’m just asking you.”
And, again, you take that responsibility instead of the power trip, “I said no!” What you want to do is start helping them. “I want to buy this, I want to go here, I want to do that.”
And if you’re not sure but down deep in your heart you think, You know, that’s probably not a very good thing, but it won’t kill them whatever they do, I always wanted to give them a lot more rope and say, “Why don’t you pray about it?”
And by the way, this parental thing we have of wanting to protect our kids from pain, is not real smart. What you want to do is not protect them from small pain so it hurts really badly. Like, Gosh, I just spent twenty-five dollars on this wacky thing and it looks so dumb and now I wore it to school and it wasn’t even cool and I blew twenty-five bucks. Good!
Or, I decided to go on this thing and, man, everyone did this terrible stuff and I wish I never would have been there. Good. See, if you always tell them what to do and you always keep them inside your bounds, then what happens is they can’t wait to get away to go try some stuff.
So you want to develop them hearing God’s voice. You want to model for them how to get wisdom, how to discern.
Another practical thing with your kids is, you know that little clicker when you’re watching something? As much as I will talk a little bit later about limiting media. My kids, it was like, I believe every moment is a teachable moment.
And you don’t go overboard. But, okay, you’re watching the Superbowl, right? And so these commercials come on. And they spent, what? How many zillion dollars to create this commercial? They are paying one point five million dollars for thirty seconds.
And here is a girl that she’s got it cut down to here and pushed up to there and pulled down to here and another guy that’s been on steroids and he’s got his Coors Light and this that, this that, and the music comes on: bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. And then, stop! Okay. Before we watch the rest of the game. What was the message of that? Okay? Where are they coming at us, and why? What are they selling to us? What do you think? Okay. Why do you think she’s dressed that way? Okay. Why does he have that? What’s the message.
And what are you doing? You are helping them discern good from evil. And so then you watch this real silky movie and it makes you cry and it’s really good and it’s really warm and there’s no sex in it and there’s no violence in it. The only problem is, in this movie, the person that you identify with is married to this not very nice person. And so this person married to the not very nice person falls in love with someone else and they have an affair and there’s music and they are going out and da, da, da, da, da, da, da.
And we are all crying and thinking, Oh, I’m glad she finally found love in her life and it was a popular movie and everyone loves it. And you stop the thing and you say, Wait a second. Wait a second. I got sucked in just like you but what did she do? We all love her and she was the pretty one and the music was really playing and all the violins. And her life was so hard before. Right?
Okay, let’s rewind. It’s called adultery. So how does that play out in real life? Let’s go through some families in the church where someone committed adultery. Let’s remember what that looked like. Let’s remember what it did to their family. Do you understand what I’m saying? That’s what you do. So it’s not a classroom. It’s every moment of every…
Now, by the way, don’t stop at every commercial. Some of your kids are going, Get out of here. But you get it.
Finally, teach them to monitor their exposure to the media. Teach them to monitor their exposure to the media. Romans 12:2, we touched on it earlier. “Do not be conformed to this world,” this present world system; not the physical world, it’s the cosmos. It’s the world system and I John tells us what it is made of: The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
The way to help your kids is this is like Fortune, Cosmo, and People magazine. Okay? That’s the world. If you have this much money and have this kind of plane and you’re a B--, and you’re a top forty, you’re a B--illionaire and have this house and this and that, then you’re finally significant and are a someone.
If you can have her body like that, Cosmo or Seventeen or what else, then, or Muscle Magazine, Men’s Fitness. “You can get tight abs, baby, in six seconds a day.” And with the right drugs.
Or People, if you can just be famous, right? The whole goal is to be an American Idol. I want to be famous! I want people to know me! I will say ridiculous things on TV. I will go on reality shows and make a complete fool of myself doing things with a camera that I would never do in my own home. But I have to because I’m on TV! And isn’t that the epitome of all of life? I’m famous now!
No, you’re an idiot now.
But your kids, your grandkids, the people you are discipling are getting, boom, ba boom, boom, ba boom. They are bombarded. And so when they go to buy something, what is it? The clothes are that way, the media is that way, the magazines are that way. You will never be whole and healthy instead of being deceived and seduced unless you say, “Stop allowing yourself to be molded by this world system.”
You have to put a real barrier in media and how much you watch and what you watch.
My kids heard it a zillion times and the people I have had an opportunity to help disciple. What you allow to go into your mind is the most important decision you make every day. Way more than what goes into your mouth.
My wife is really healthy, this is organic and this doesn’t have any pesticides. We are really into eating good, healthy things. But, boy, you have to put healthy stuff in your brain. You are the product of your thought life. You understand that?
“As a man thinks, as a woman thinks in his heart, so you become.” You watch enough TV, you rent enough videos, you glance through enough magazines, it will create desires that you can never fulfill and you will never be satisfied and you will get sucked in. And the lure, right in, and bam!
And, by the way, when you live this kind of life, this is where people will start thinking you’re weird, because we are living in a day where, according to Barna, I don’t know how accurate, but according to Barna, about one out of every ten or one out of every twelve people who say, “I am a Christian, I am born again, I have prayed to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior,” about one out of every ten or twelve are living the life. The others have either a mental or…
Now, I’m not saying they’re not believers, I don’t know. I’m just saying that they may have the living Spirit of the living God living in them but their external behavior, their values, their honesty, their commitment to marriage, their lifestyle, their speech, their priorities, and their values are exactly the same as their non-Christian friends. Because you are what you eat.
And if you don’t believe me, this is a mature group, so I will go way out on a limb. For you younger ones who want a mild challenge, go on a three-day media fast. Okay? No rentals, no TV, don’t get on and surf the Internet, media fast. Get in the car, no talk radio. Positive music, teaching, okay. Three days, no TV, no media.
You’ll get antsy. Some of you will find you have an addiction. Because when you walk in, you turn it on. Some of you are like me that when I do watch TV and as soon as a commercial comes, I’m bored. So I can watch four shows at one time to relax, of course.
And then I’m exhausted when I’m done. I have to be, this game, this game, this game. Ohio State is doing this, this, and then part of this movie, this.
If you go on a three-day media fast, I will tell you, you will be, one, you will have all this time you didn’t think you had. Go on a ten-day media fast. For some of you, you will try and it’ll be scary because you can’t do it.
Go on a ten-day media fast, then sit down and watch just general prime-time TV. You will be shocked. That’s how desensitized we have become. You will be shocked at what comes out of people’s mouths, you will be shocked at the sexual innuendo, you will be shocked and you will see stuff that you have grow accustomed to, in terms of how people are dressed and different things that will stir your flesh that doesn’t even register now.
And it’s the classic, what’s the illustration that you put the frog in the water and if you heat it up real slowly, it won’t jump out? We have a whole generation that isn’t jumping out. And here’s the sadness. Then we reap the consequences, even though it’s not a willful, volitional, “I hate God,” sin – you just reap the consequences of an un-whole and unholy life.
Because holiness is the demand of God to keep His universe healthy. So there are consequences when I put junk in my mouth, junk in my head. It creates a set of desires.
And so limiting the video games, the violence, the sexuality. You are just going to be a spiritual salmon swimming upstream with your fellow friends and other people thinking you are weird.
Now, [does this mean] never watch TV? Of course not. This is really asking yourself, Is this good, honorable, right, praiseworthy? Is this in the Philippians 4:8 criteria? Does this draw me closer to God or pull me farther away?
And, by the way, for me, sometimes it’s just good stuff. I just have a limit. After about two hours of TV, even a great game, and I love sports. I just find I get spiritually desensitized. And I’m different than you. Some of you can take a lot more than me.
But if you take seriously what goes into your mind and then substitute it, you will see dramatic life change. Dramatic life change.
What is the message? Living holy lives is how we get God’s best. Holy living allows you to experience God’s best for your life. Let’s move holiness out of this idea of the other worldly, dark robes, something weird and let’s move it into becoming whole, healthy, pure, winsome, loving, and receiving that chalet life that God has in every relationship, in every area of your life.