Have you ever said, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves”? Today’s reading in Judges gives us a clear picture of the result of that kind of parenting.
But on the other side of the equation, some have made Christianity merely about keeping rules. Though often well-intended, this can drive children far from God.
So how can we find the right balance?
Judges 1 & 2
A Note of Encouragement
If you set out to read through the Bible this year, you may be tempted to quit because you’ve gotten behind or started out late. I want to encourage you to keep going whether you just keep reading where you are or start with today’s reading. Either way you will probably read more than you have in the past. Even when it’s challenging or we do things less than perfectly, it’s still worth the effort.
Even if this is your first day visiting this blog or you just visit occasionally, we have lots of wonderful things to read and understand from God’s Word in the days and weeks ahead. So jump in and join us!
On “Forcing” Religion on Your Children
Judges 1 & 2:
A Generation Who Did Not Know the Lord
As we’ve talked about in the last few days, the nation of Israel was now in the Promised Land, but even though God had promised them complete victory, they failed to follow through and completely drive out the idol worshipers who had polluted the land and caused God to declare judgment against them. They thought they had things under control and did not need to completely obey God.
In addition, the older generation had failed to adequately teach their children about God. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is 2.10:
“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.”
More times than I care to think about, I’ve heard well-meaning parents say, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves.” That sounds good in some ways and, to be sure, we can’t “force” our children to believe.
On the other side of the equation, we need to be careful that we don’t present Christianity as merely religion by making it all about rules. Many a parent has learned the hard way that you can’t insist on some legalistic standard that drives your children away from God.
Both of those extremes are wrong. We can’t force our children to believe, neither should we neglect our parental duty.
Instead, we must seek God’s wisdom and grace to help us reach the heart of our children with loving instruction, appropriate discipline, and by living out our beliefs. Living them out in a way that is real and honest and where we show them how sinners respond to their own mistakes with humility and a teachable spirit.
We also need to look for opportunities on a regular basis to share the Gospel with our children. We shouldn’t do this by telling them they need to ask Jesus into their hearts. Instead, we should use their sin and struggles with the flesh, and ours, to help us lovingly explain why we all need the Gospel of God’s grace.
If you haven’t read this week’s marriage post, “Parenting as a Team” where I talked about the many opportunities we have to incorporate biblical truth as we go about our daily activities, you may want to check it out.
As we continue reading in Judges we are going to see how the lethal combination of neglect and disobedience is going to bring a cycle of disaster that will go on for generations. But you will also see God’s faithfulness to both discipline and show mercy to His rebellious children.
Today’s Other Readings:
Great is the Lord!
Verse 1, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised …
I pray that you are seeing the truthfulness of that verse as we continue on our journey through the pages of Scripture.
The Error of Self-Confidence
Verse 16, “A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident.”
A fool rages and is self-confident. In spite of what our culture teaches, God has not called us to be self-confident. We are called to be confident in God.
“My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; the humble shall hear of it and be glad” (Ps. 34.2).
God’s Dinner Party
Jesus tells a parable in verses 16-24 about a man (God) who gives a great supper, but the “invited guests” (the nation of Israel) make excuses and don’t come, so the host sends his servants out to bring in “the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind” (that was most of us, spiritually speaking!) and then to go out and invite the whole world (Jn. 3.16).
However, we were not “plan B.” God always intended to invite everyone, but His desire was to use His people, the nation of Israel, to be the holy, set apart people who would be a light to others. Instead, they constantly turned to the idolatry that they were supposed to stand against and destroy. Even when they had an outward appearance of religion, they had a legalistic, holier than thou attitude that shut others out. Even so, God loves His people and will someday, probably soon, do a great work in them again.
Will We Be Salt & Light?
In the meantime, we are to be salt and light to a dying world. How are you doing? How am I doing? Will we take the Gospel into all the world starting with those closest to us, including our children? Or will we choose self-righteousness, indifference, or neglect?
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