The nation of Israel has, from its very inception, been a spiritually weak people. According to Paul in his letter to the Romans, God himself has grown weary with them a time or two, calling them a “disobedient and gainsaying people.”
After Moses died, a leader named Joshua took over in his steps. Joshua led the children of Israel in battle, and was entrusted with their spiritual and political guidance.
Just before his death, in Chapter 24 of the Book which bears his name, Joshua gives quite a discourse about the history of the Hebrew nation, and wraps up with a heavy admonishment:
Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
We all make a choice.
We will either serve Jehovah, another god, money, or perhaps even ourselves. But, it is inescapable.
Joshua was clear: His house was going to serve the Lord. If you were in Joshua’s family, you were going to follow the God of Israel.
We live in a day of much skepticism (and cynicism). The unfortunate reality is that most Christians are not even aware of the common challenges to Christianity, and many don’t care to know them.
It’s as if to even look into the issues would somehow lessen one’s faith.
This is a terrible philosophy. And it’s costing us, deeply.
It’s costing our credibility before the world as thoughtful individuals who can speak to relevant issues. It’s costing the name of Christ to be vilified, with no defense from those who claim to be his followers.
It’s also costing our children. We don’t teach them why we believe (or even what it means to believe) in Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, and we wonder why they are leaving.
The real reason? It’s because we don’t fight.
We are at war–at battle. Not with unbelievers, but with bad ideas! Bad ideas permeate our society. We’re so worried about whether or not a piece of entertainment has bad language that we overlook the bad ideas!
Disney channel movies and TV shows, for example, have perfectly acceptable language in many cases. And we let our kids watch them! Nevermind the fact that many of them actively teach:
- Cultural celebration of homosexual marriage and gender fluidity.
- The ridicule of fathers.
- The lessening of parental authority in the home writ large.
- The autonomy of personhood.
- Pre-marital sex.
- Hedonism, whatever the price.
Sadly, the list goes on and on.
If it sounds like I’m just a grumpy old man, I’m sorry, but I’m just too concerned with the nature of reality to remain indifferent.
Let me ask you a question:
If, God forbid, you were diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, would you want to know, so you could begin treating the issue? Or would the uncomfortable reality cause you to wish it had been kept from you?
In a moment of desolation one may prefer the latter, but when reality strikes, the former is what matters. Once we know the problem, we can begin to implement a solution.
Ignorance is not bliss, it is foolish.
It’s in this spirit I’d like to suggest 5 absolute must-do’s if you are going to fight for the faith of your family. And–you had better be willing to fight! It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.1
1. Cultivate (and Demonstrate) an Experiential Love for Christ
Above, I briefly noted the vilified view of fatherhood in this day.
In the past, fathers were seen as harsh, unloving, and uncaring. Dad did not get involved in the emotional–he went to work and provided. Mom nurtured. Nevertheless, he was the boss.
Today, feminist teaching goes the opposite route. Mothers go to work, dad stays home (or both work and somebody else raises the children). Dad is not the boss, how can he be? His ideas are stupid, after all.
Obviously, there is something wrong with both pictures. Somewhere in between, there is the correct, biblical philosophy of the home. It teaches that both parents work together for the good of their family. Dad does lead the home, spiritually. Why? Because God has ordained it that way.
Of course, this comes with huge caveat. Dad is also held responsible by God for the nurturing of his family. As Uncle Ben Parker would say, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
But what exactly is that responsibility? The Bible commands husbands to “love [their] wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”
But it seems to me the only way to love someone as Christ does is to personally experience that love.
I mentioned just last week that I am currently reading an excellent new book by Rankin Wilbourne called Union with Christ.
In the book, Wilbourne takes us back to the Bible, through church history, and shows (quite convincingly) that the Apostle’s Paul concept of “in Christ” used to be central to Christian thought, and is all but missing today.
We forget that the gospel is God uniting his own life to ours, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.
Wilbourne pictures salvation beautifully:
Salvation is not mostly a matter of relocation; it is a matter of transformation. It does not consist primarily of ending up in the right place, but being made into the right person. And this happens when we are immersed in Jesus the way a dolphin is immersed in the ocean, when we are united to Jesus (though more deeply and more profoundly) like a bride is united to her groom.
This “mystical union” is central to the experiential knowledge of God. One does not really know who they are until they find their identity in Christ. In this way, we are all “becoming human.” Christ was the perfect human.
Thus, the Apostle Paul says that we are being conformed to his image (Rom. 8:29).
We must pursue the depths of our own union with Christ–and demonstrate our love for him to our family–before we can convincingly lead them spiritually. Until they see Christ in us, it is difficult for them to understand what Christ looks like in themselves.
2. Teach (and Live) Sound Biblical Theology
I loathe reading instructions.
My wife will tell it honestly–I had rather spend hours trying to put something together for myself before I spend any time figuring out what the useless book says. But this is not universally true.
Let’s admit it, guys: If someone, at the beginning of your marriage, had handed you a book with the sure-fire instructions on how to have a meaningful and beautiful relationship with your wife, wouldn’t you have read it?
Come on ladies–you know the same is true in reverse.
We have been called into an eternal relationship with the God who created us. And it’s very important to understand the word relationship.
In the book I mentioned above, the author makes an interesting point. Union with Christ is a truth so impossible to describe, that one can only use imperfect metaphors to grasp it. As matter of fact, God’s Holy Word–his own message to us–must even use them!
And the closest metaphor (as can be seen in the quote above) is that of marriage! All throughout the Scriptures, we (the Church) are pictured as the bridegroom. We are invited to a wedding! Our wedding! Our ultimate, eternal union with Christ.
Here’s the thing: We have the instruction manual. We have that guide. We have God telling us through direct, divine inspiration exactly what to do, how to live, and how to respond to him.
We are even let into the juicy secrets. Job teaches us how to respond to God when life seems unbearable. David teaches us that we can be used of him, even when we inevitably fail. Peter teaches us that though we are often weak and unfaithful, we are still loved.
In fact, there are no accidents in the Bible. Each character is very intentional, and the entire Book is “written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4).
What a disservice we do to the Redeemer of our souls to live according to anything less than correct theology. I am excited to see a resurgence, in this day, of a love for sound doctrine and theology. A theology not focused on behavioral performance, but on biblical principles–not on tired traditions, but on timeless truth.
We ought to hold that banner high! We should live by sound theology and proper thinking, but we must also distill this into our family. Our family, led by us, ought to cultivate a love for biblical teaching.
God’s revelation to us is not limiting, but it is liberating! We have access to God, our Father, though his Son, Jesus Christ. We have been called into a personal relationship with him. And we have been given precise and exact instructions (complete with illustrations and examples!) on how to foster the proper relationship to God, with God, and with our family.
3. Read (and Study) God’s Word Each Day with Your Family
Our first two “must-do’s” are very personal and inward focused. There is a reason why the flight attendant stresses that you receive your oxygen mask first in the case of emergency.
We have a spiritual emergency in this day, and most of the belligerent and disingenuous infighting that takes places is a result of hypocritical Christians trying to fix everyone else’s problems without strapping on the mask themselves, first. By the way, Jesus dealt with this incorrect thinking on numerous occasions (Matthew 7; 23; John 8:7, etc).
This is the transition point. Once you understand what your right relationship in Christ looks like, you can take the steps to “transfer your enthusiasm” to your family.2
Christians ought to be enthusiastic about the Word of God!
Will this enthusiasm make traipsing through Leviticus any easier? Maybe, maybe not. There are passages of the Bible that are, admittedly, harder to read than others.
But instead of treating daily time with God’s word as a chore or an inconvenience, position it as an exciting challenge and adventure. It is easy to get discouraged about Bible reading, but in my own life, I have found that the more passionate I am about my relationship in Christ, the more persistent I am to read (and enjoy reading) his Word.
And, by the way, talk about what you’ve read!
I am all for “God said it, that settles it.” But we must not pretend as though it is easy to swallow everything we find in the Bible. If your teens have trouble with talking snakes and camels, child-sacrifice, and resurrections, talk about it!
Don’t let these questions simmer until your family has been hardened by the absurd philosophies of the world. All it takes is a bit of critical thinking to move past even some of the most pressing objections, but it will do no good to let those questions go unanswered.
This brings us quite naturally to the next “must-do”:
4. Introduce (and Answer) Challenges to Christianity Regularly
One could spend hours online reading the deconversion stories of figures both known and unknown. Some of the most troubling are those who had previously pastored churches, defended the Christian faith with vigor, and were influential spiritual leaders to many.
Yes, this sort of thing actually happens all of the time.
I find these situations particularly challenging to cope with; not because there are no answers to their challenges, but because they have “insider information,” so to speak.
They know about the doctrine of eternal security. They know there is supposed to be a Holy Spirit Who uniquely confirms one’s experience in the faith. Many of them even know the same arguments you do for God and for the resurrection of Christ, etc.
In a way, it feels like they’ve cheated the system. If they’ve tried it and were once upon a time “faithful” Christians, it’s hard to refrain from asking, what happened—and why couldn’t it happen to us?
It seems obvious to me that most folks fall away from the faith because their questions have been not been answered. In the face of overwhelming tragedy and despair, faith becomes difficult, and one without a solid intellectual understanding of God will have a difficult time staying grounded.
This is just one reason of many that you should regularly introduce challenges to faith, and spend time answering them with your family. We must remember that our circumstances have no power to speak to the existence of God. In other words, God still exists, even if your circumstances appear to make it unlikely.
Knowing and sharing the reasons is one of the very best ways to fight for the faith of your family. I have addressed this notion from multiple angles in previous pieces. Here is just a handful of them:
- 10 BIG Problems Many Christians Don’t Even Know About (Part 1)
- 10 BIG Problems Many Christians Don’t Even Know About (Part 2)
- Pie in the Sky or Steak on the Plate: What is Christianity?
- 3 Arguments for Reasonable Doubt
- Is Faith in God Rational?
There are many great resources about this as well! Groups like Answers in Genesis and ICR, for example, regularly produce high-quality children’s resources. Natasha Crain is a well-known Christian author whose work focuses mainly on children and families—I highly recommend her work as well.
5. Stress (and Model) the Importance of Living According to Reality
Have you ever heard of the fallacy of consequence? Simply put, it is when a person incorrectly infers a conclusion on the basis that the implications are either favorable or unfavorable.
To trade on a poignant illustration I offered above, consider someone who has just received a cancer diagnosis.
The person has been told that they have less than three months to live.
She may choose to deny this because she does not like the inevitable outcome, but nevertheless, she must deal with reality. When people deny reality, we often say that they are “living in denial.”
I’m reminded of the opening credits for the popular Discovery Channel show Mythbusters. Adam, the hilarious red-headed special effects designer (and mad-scientist!) claims, “I reject your reality, and substitute my own!” The problem, of course, is that this is nothing more than wishful thinking.
Many times, this happens right under our noses. Hypocritical church members and leaders disillusion our children, and they begin to reject the truth of Christianity not on the merits of its claims, but on the disappointment of its constituents.
Inevitably, this leads to a sort of confirmation bias. All it takes is a week or two away at a secular university, and suddenly, your children are given the intellectual firepower needed to reject what they already wanted to be false.
Our previous “must-do” certainly is helpful here, but even more than that, we must stress living according to reality. We want to deal with the world the way it actually is—delusions of grandeur are meaningless with respect to truth. We ought not to sugarcoat Christianity to make it sound more appealing, because this also contributes to failed expectations.
When discussing spiritual matters with your family, make sure you have not positioned Christianity as just another option on the pluralistic religious buffet. Reality can only actually be a certain way, and to purport that it cannot be is an egregious error.
Your children want to believe in something greater than themselves. God is good for your children, to paraphrase renowned pediatrician Dr. Meg Meeker.
The good news is we have every reason to believe Christianity is true! One need not fear what secular college professors and the like are attempting to teach our children—that is, if we’re going to do something about it. If we’re going to sit idly by, however, we have every reason to fear for the faith of our children.
It’s up to you! It is our responsibility, as parents, to teach our children according to the precepts of God. It is helpful to be in a good church. It is helpful to place your children in a Christian school! But unless your children are being taught by you how to think about important things, they will not receive a proper foundation to build upon.
Fall in love with Christ, teach according to his truth, read the Word regularly, introduce and work through challenges, and whatever you do, stress the importance of living according to reality rather than emotionalism and wishful thinking. This is how we fight for the faith of our families.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!
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- It is worth noting that much of this post will be written from my perspective as a father and a husband.
- This was Zig Ziglar’s way of describing the sales process. Sales is nothing more than the transfer of enthusiasm. Witnessing and demonstrating Christ to your family is a lot like this. When you want to persuade a friend to do an activity with you, you will not be very persuasive if you’re not enthusiastic about it! A lack of enthusiasm for pursuing God is the result (and cause) of much spiritual apathy today.