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About this series
Leaving a Legacy that Lasts Forever
How to Give Your Kids and Grandkids What Money Can't Buy
How do you leave a legacy that stands the test of time? How do you give others what money can't buy? We all desire to leave an inheritance of significant value to those around us. So, just what does that include? We can leave money and possessions, but what can we leave that really matters and will echo throughout time?More from this series
We make our choices and then our choices make us. Some of our good choices have resulted in a happy marriage, a great job, and deep personal satisfaction. Some of our poor choices have resulted in destroying a marriage, losing a job, and suffering shame and reproach.
Few things will determine the quality and the fulfillment of your life more than the choices you make for better or for worse.
I have heard someone say that when you boil it all down, you will probably make a half a dozen very major, important choices about God, about future, about relationships, and about how to deal with some difficult things in your life that will determine all of your life. You just basically play out the rest.
In fact, let me give you some time with yourself. I would like you to think as fast as you can about the two best choices you have ever made. Two choices that you say, Some of the richest, deepest blessing; when I look at my life from where I am now, backwards, I think about I made a couple of choices. These were good choices.
And some of you think back to a window of time and you chose to make a decision that was counter-culture and you ended up in a world and in a job that you were made for, and you look back, I can’t believe I got to do that. Right?
So I just want you to mentally think about, What are maybe the top two or three choices you have made? And some of you just need to remember you have made some good choices.
Okay, now, I want to go to the other side. Just what is one choice that you have made that, if you could take this one back, you would take it back? One choice you made in the past that you just thought, Oh my. That was dumb. In fact, that was worse than dumb. That was biblically unwise. In fact, that choice cost me a lot.
And it could be a choice that cost you a lot of money, it could be a choice that cost you a relationship, it could be a choice that, in just a quick moment of time and it was like, it promised a lot of pleasure but it really delivered a lot of pain. Can you think of any?
Now, here is why I want you to get your emotions around that instead of just your head and your heart. In like manner, there are few gifts that you will give to those that are coming behind you, okay? This whole series is about passing on the things that matter most.
And when you think about that person you’re wanting to help grow spiritually, or that child of yours, or that grandchild, or someone in church, or someone who is looking to you and you want to pass on what matters most, few things could be a greater gift than you giving them the skill and the ability to make wise choices.
In fact, I would go out on a limb and say: To give people wealth without wisdom is to sentence them to a life of folly and failure in their future. And yet, the research is in, almost all followers of Christ have spent much more time thinking very carefully about how to transfer their wealth to their kids and grandkids, than they have their wisdom.
And so it’s not too late, but if you take time to make an estate plan and to make a will, to think about how important it is to give them your stuff, what you want to do is translate your soul, what are your values? Teach them how to make great, great decisions.
Great decisions about God, great decisions about relationships, great decisions about money, great decisions about how to respond to adversity, great decisions about how to resolve conflict. Make wise, wise decisions about opportunities that seem too good to be true, because they are.
Wise, wise decisions about how to discover who God made them to be, wise decisions about – if they are parents – how to parent well. Wise decisions about how to take care of their bodies. One of the greatest gifts you could ever impart to those that you care about the most is the skill and the knowledge and the ability to make excellent, wise decisions.
And so our transferable concept is: Teach them to make wise choices. And what I would like to do now is say, I believe there is a place to start and if I was going to just open the Bible in the middle here and it opened to Proverbs like it did, let me read one verse as a launching point.
It’s not in your notes, here is the wisest man in the world. Past, present, future. And he says, verse 7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline.” The fear of the Lord.
And the fear of the Lord is reverential awe, for sure. The fear of the Lord is an emotional, He is awesome and powerful and all-knowing and pure and you are actually afraid. You are afraid not to do life His way. The fear of the Lord, both positively and negatively, part out of admiration and part out of just actual fear, is to say to God, I want to do life Your way, because You have designed it in a way for my good. And, by the way, You are God. Whether it’s for my good or not, You are God and You created me, and You say these things. And I am afraid to do anything other than what the One who created me, and deserves to have rightfully anything He wants, He can have. He made me.
And so, the fear of the Lord. And what I would like to suggest is if we are going to learn to make wise decisions, we need to walk through a theology of holiness.
And I have summarized, I didn’t put all the verses there but I have summarized a theology of holiness. Now, when you hear this word, please do not go to black robes, lit candles, prune-faced people chanting in the dark. Or people who don’t wear makeup ever or don’t play cards. Okay? I’m not talking about external holiness.
Right next to this in your notes, a theology of holiness, put a dash and write the word wholeness. W-H-O-L-E-N-E-S-S. The root word of holiness comes from wholeness. It comes from health.
The prerequisite for the universe that a perfect, holy God has made, is for it to be whole and to be healthy, it must be holy. And the fall is like cancer. And it’s like eating away at the environment, at the world, at the structure that God created.
And so, His holiness is His standard that provides health. When we live a holy life, when we follow God’s holiness, it not only is what He expects because of who He is, but it’s also His way of helping us get health in our relationships with Him and with others, and what makes us whole and complete.
And they didn’t know all the scientific stuff that we know. And when He gave multiple commands and it looked like just ceremonial holiness, they didn’t know about bacteria and they are washing their hands all the time. They didn’t know that the platelets clot at, what is it, when you circumcise a child, Purdue did a study that the platelets clot the most on that very day.
But all these standards and all these laws that God gave His people to be this holy nation were for their health and for their good and so they would reflect Him.
And so, what does it mean? What is holiness? Let’s walk through it. First, God is high and holy and the idea of holy means He is totally other. He is not a bigger, better category. He is completely different. We are creation and He is Creator.
When we look at our little Milky Way, that couple billion stars, and then try to imagine behind it, maybe, two hundred billion other galaxies, we are speaking of One who spoke a word and it came into existence.
He is a God that, when people ever get even near His presence, they fall on their face. He is a God who is unapproachable light. He is absolute purity. Absolute holiness. He is the source of all life. And so, He is other.
He is not the old man with the beard who nods at His children and He is not a divine Santa Claus, or He is not a cosmic vending machine. He is holy.
God is absolute truth, John 14:6. Jesus came and He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” God is truth.
God’s Word defines absolute truth. You might jot John 17:17, the last prayer of Jesus. “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth.” And sanctify, that’s our same root Word for holy. Set them apart, is the idea. Something special. Not something regular.
A theology of holiness includes God’s Law, or morals, that is for our protection. When God lays out these commands, these guardrails, this is not from a prudish God that is against sex or someone that has all these rules to frustrate us and anything that we like to do, He comes up with a command to say, “Don’t do that.” They are for our protection; they are for our boundaries.
Imagine, if you will, this is a little word picture. For me, sometimes these things are abstract. I have this picture, because I have struggled with all of this a lot, and I didn’t grow up as a Christian and I never read the Bible growing up.
And all I knew was, even when I was a young Christian, if I liked to do it, I could find a command that said I’m not supposed to. And I spent probably the first five years of my Christian life with, I’m on this side and God is on this side. And there is this big fence, and all the time, He was telling me, Ingram, you can’t do that. You can’t do that. I thought He was against me.
And I had a warped view of God. And what I came to understand is, actually, He is on the same side with me, and this fence or this barrier of some laws that He gives me are that He is all wise and all-knowing and loving and He cares about me.
And I began to see those as guardrails. And so here is the word picture that I came up with that really helped me want to obey. Is, imagine if you will, this little chalet at the top of a mountain.
And there is this windy, windy, windy road to get up to it. But when you get up to it, the refrigerator is stocked, there is a workout room, the view is absolutely glorious. All your closest friends are there and they can stay forever and ever and ever. It is life at its very best.
And that is the trail, this “abundant life” that God has for us. But you need to go on this trail and it’s windy and it’s dangerous. And so, all along the trail you get near the edge and there is a thousand-foot drop off. So He puts these guardrails.
And the guardrails are His laws and His decrees so that when you bump into them, you realize, Oh, oh, oh, don’t do that or you could go over the edge. But if you stay inside those guardrails of His moral decrees and laws, He wants you to get to that chalet. He wants to enjoy you. He wants you to have the very best. He cares about you. You are the object of His affection.
So they are for you. And so, especially in those college years and those post-college years, I didn’t grow up as a Christian and I learned for eighteen years how to relate to girls. And then I become a Christian right before I leave for college and there are four girls for every guy. I mean, ugly guys were getting good girls where I went to school. You didn’t even have to try and you could get a girlfriend.
And this is the early seventies so everybody is sleeping with everybody. I remember the co-ed dorm thing was starting to come in and I would walk out of the bathroom and a girl is, whoa, you know? This is wild!
And now I’ve got this new Bible and God telling me, Now, you need to be sexually pure. And I’m thinking, Boy, You must be very powerful if You think that can happen. And I made a commitment to be. But it was always like, God, I’m missing out. God, I’m missing out.
And then, and I have done a lot of research in this area. And I have learned the most sexually fulfilled people in all the planet are highly religious, monogamously married people that have no other partners, that believe in God, and that He created marriage. And they have thirty-one percent, how they measure this, don’t ask me, but they have thirty-one percent better sex than all the rest of the people. I dare not ask how that happens.
Those people who live together, prior to marriage, have a fifty percent higher divorce rate. They have about a seventy-five percent more likelihood of adultery. Sexually transmitted diseases can lie dormant for over ten years before they pop up to let you know that what you did on a fling back then can come back and visit you, or you can pass it on to your partner or other people.
Now, God knows all that. And so when God says, “The marriage bed is holy,” and when He says, “Don’t have sex outside of marriage,” I didn’t even get to the spiritual implications. I didn’t get to any of the issues emotionally. I didn’t get to the baggage in the back of your mind when you are making love with your wife and the pictures of the past can come up or vice versa.
And so, all I’m saying is when God says things like, “Don’t have sex before marriage,” this isn’t a prudish God that doesn’t understand that we have hormones.
This is an all-wise, all-loving God going, “You don’t want that second-rate stuff with all the baggage emotionally, physically, right? I got chalet sex for you. Okay? I want you to be completely committed, without guilt, free of shame. You’ll still have your struggles.”
But you know what? When He has a command about money, you ought to give here, save here, do it this way. Same reasoning. When He has a command about telling the truth and speaking the truth in love rather than gossiping, it’s the same. Every one of His moral commands, because He is holy, is for your health.
And when you can ever get your arms around, His commands are for my good. That’s why, read Psalm 119. David, despite His struggles and His failures, “His commands are my delight, I rise in the middle of the night, like someone waiting for the dawn, I love His Word.” Why? Because he got it. They weren’t prohibitions. They were the pathway; they were the guardrails to get the highest and the best.
That’s what holiness is about. It’s about wholeness and it’s about health. And it reflects God’s character.
God’s ultimate aim is to make us holy. We quote Romans 8:28 quickly when life is bad, right? “For we know that God works all things together for the good,” the car wreck and the down economy and the struggle with one of our kids and the tension in our marriage and circumstances, He works it all for the good. And we quote 28. Well, verse 29 is the purpose behind how He takes every situation, every person, every circumstance, every difficulty that you will ever face and – what?
Verse 29 says that, “In order that He might conform us to the image of His Son.” The game plan is to make you like Jesus. That’s what holiness really is. Christlikeness.
In Ephesians chapter 4 we get the picture of what the Church is all about. And in verse 11 through 13, we are told why God gives leaders in the Church. “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers,” – why? “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”
And then why is the body of Christ supposed to be built up? “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, of the standard of the measure of the fullness of Christ.” Maturity. Paul said, “My goal in life is to present every man perfect.”
It’s the same word: teleos or mature. You know what that is? That’s called being holy. That’s called being Christlike. That’s His aim for you.
Now, a byproduct is, as you walk that way, you will have great joy. But happiness has to do with circumstance. Joy is the byproduct of relationships.
And you know what? Your happiness can go up with the stock market and it can go down with the stock market. Up with you in love; down with your heart broken. God’s aim is to make us holy and to reflect His Son. It’s a winsome, pure, not weird religious, out there, you people are, where are you coming from? holiness. It is a holiness that is loving and winsome and pure and approachable and Christlike.
When you are holy, you are like Jesus. And that is God’s agenda.
The Old Testament roots are we get Exodus chapter 3, verses 5 and 6. Moses sees the bush. God says, “Don’t come any closer; take off your sandals for the place where you’re standing is,” – remember? “holy ground.” Then He said, “‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.”
We have lost a generation of people that are afraid to look at God. We are casual with God. We think God is going to wink at stuff. I’ve got a lot of friends in churches all around the country and as we compare notes, I will tell you, the average single person in the average evangelical church, and I’m just going to throw a statistic out, it’s probably higher than this, but the average single person in evangelical churches is sleeping around, about eighty percent of the time.
And people will just look you in the eye and say, “Well, you know, I don’t think God really expects that anymore. Like, eight out of ten commandments, that’s pretty good. Isn’t that an eighty on a test?”
We have really lost the sense of the awesome holiness and purity of God. Here we have a situation with Moses, God says, “Take off your,” – why? “Nothing artificial, man. Wherever I am, it is holy.” You find John meets Jesus, right? Revelation chapter 1? Bam! He’s on his face!
Joshua meets the angel of the Lord. We have lost the sense of God’s transcendence. He is not our buddy. He is approachable, He is immanent, He is loving, He is kind. But He is unapproachable light and purity and holiness.
Isaiah caught it in Isaiah chapter 6. Listen to the verse, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord,” – what was He like? “high and exalted; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphim,” special angels, “each with six wings: With two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling out to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.’”
This is the only time you ever find God addressed as three different things. In Hebrew, they don’t have, I can’t even remember what you call them in English. We say “very good,” or “best,” or “better.” They don’t have that in Hebrew. The way you make a stronger statement, it’s, “Holy,” or you go, “Holy, holy,” or if you want to make it, “Holy, holy, holy,” it’s a majestic, exponential, it’s, whoo.
And that’s what the angels were doing then and, according to the book of Revelation, that’s what they are doing now. And there’s going to come a day where they are going to keep doing it and we are going to get in on it.
But that’s who God is. And these are perfect angelic beings that are of the higher ups. I don’t understand all the cherubim and seraphim and who knows how all that works. But I’ll tell you what, they are in the very presence of God, night and day.
Later we find out they have eyes all over them and there is all this wisdom and they are innocent and they are pure. And yet, in the presence of God, they hide their face and they cover their feet and they declare who He is. I will tell you, when you get a glimpse of who God really is, it changes everything.
Everyone throws around that, “It’s not about us, it’s not about us.” It’s not about us. And it’s not about being in control. And it’s not about making your little life work out or my little life work out and our plans work out and what other people think. When you see God for who He is, it’s just like, whoo. All that stuff goes away.
“And then at the sound of their voices,” the text goes on, “the doorposts and the thresholds, they shook, and the temple was filled with smoke.” And this is what happens when you see God afresh. “‘Woe is me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined!’”
This is a prophet. This is the statesman of the day. This is a man who heard from God. This is a guy that, his righteousness, I’m sure, compared to most of ours, his is here and we are here. But he sees God, “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
And then we get this powerful picture of the seraphim who flies with the coal, takes it from the altar, touches his lips, and you have this process that I think needs to happen. The old word for it is, repentance and renewal.
But it’s this process where we get into the Scriptures, and in community and in worship, where we, again, get a glimpse of who God really is, which leads to an accurate view of ourselves, which leads to a realignment of our agenda with His.
And that process is over and over and over in Scripture. And that has to happen with us. And it’s painful. Sitting quietly before God, worshipping God for who He is, versus just asking and telling and whining and complaining. We can do all that. But we need to come before God and worship Him for who He is and remember who He is and then ask Him to, by His searching light, pray the prayer that David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me, examine me, see if there is anything in me.”
And you know what? Then sit quietly and unless you’re living on a different planet than I am, He will show you stuff.
And for some of you that are very mature and walked with the Lord far longer than me, it probably won’t be outward, external stuff. It’ll be that little self-righteous attitude. It’ll be that little judgmental thing of how you think about so-and-so. It’ll be about issues like motive. When everyone looks to you and yet what you know is, you’re playing to the crowd just a little bit too much. You’re liking the praise of men just a little too much. You become a little bit of a people pleaser a little too much. You have allowed your faith and how you live to be a little badge. And you’re human.
And you just need to get the fiery flame of the holiness of God to purge you and purge me and allow Him to do that and then we recognize with a new level, how unworthy we are. And guess what that does – the work of Jesus then becomes very precious because you realize, without Him, you’re in big trouble. And so the cross takes on new meaning.
The biblical profiles are Moses and Stephen. I like the Hebrews passage where it says Moses chose to be mistreated for a time than live in a pagan culture and enjoy the pleasures of Egypt. There is a price tag to be holy.
And Stephen, you have this, when they chose Stephen, remember Acts chapter 6? “Choose from you men who are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” And the very first name is Stephen. He is a holy man. He is filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
And then chapter 7, what do we have? We have Stephen making this defense and they bring these trumped up charges. And as he is looking up, God gives him a vision of Jesus next to the throne. And you have courage when you’re holy and you have boldness when you’re holy. And you know the Word of God, because He goes through the entire history of Israel when you’re holy.
And then he gets to the end and you have a forgiving heart. “Father, forgive them. Please don’t take this into account.” That’s what a holy life looks like. Not people who dress funny or put, “Praise the Lord!” on the back of their cars or have big, black Bibles.
Holiness is a quality of life that is winsome and loving and Word-centered and deeply caring and morally pure.
The New Testament command is 1 Peter 15 and 16, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy,” – in your notes, will you circle the word all? “in all you do. For it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
In all you do. In what you watch. In what you put into your mind. In what comes out of your mouth. In what goes into your mouth. In what you say. In what you think. Be holy in all that you do.
Holiness is not an option. The Scripture says, “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” Holiness is not external religious activity. Holiness is a condition of the heart, a purity of the mind that expresses itself in a righteous lifestyle.
And then notice the great promise: “Blessed are the pure in heart,” because what do they get? They see God.
And at the end of the day, that’s God’s heart’s desire. And you’ll never get greater reward. Just see God, know Him for who He is.
And, by the way, that’s how transformation occurs. 1 John will tell us we don’t know exactly what we are going to be like, but this is what we know, 1 John 3:2: When we see Him, we will be like Him.
Paul would say in 2 Corinthians 3 when he is talking about the difference between the Old and the New Covenant. He goes, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed,” process, “from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
And his point is, as we get these glimpses of who God really is, how loving He is, how holy He is, how pure He is. You know what? And when you have that attitude it’s not like I get, Okay, read a chapter a day, keep the devil away. Or, I read five chapters. I feel really holy today. God, what do you think? Can I get a little star on the refrigerator up there? I prayed for fifteen point seven minutes. I fasted for two whole days.
Those are all performance mentalities. I read because I love You. Would You speak to me? I fasted because I am not clear and I don’t know what to do and I want to eliminate the distractions. I get no brownie points. I’m not better than anyone else. I just need to pull away from the world because I need to hear Your voice. Will You speak to me? I love You.
I want to sing to God because He is my Savior in what He has done, and I forget that. That is what holiness looks like.
And then you begin to pass on and give to others what God has given to you. On the application, it says, “I”. I would like you, if you would be so bold, to write your name in there, commit to learn how to discern good from evil. That’s the heart of becoming holy.
See, the problem is we have a real, real hard time in our day. You are living in a mirage, in a mirage of lies and appearances. And Paul would pray, we’ll look at it a little bit later in Philippians 1. He would pray that God would grant them the ability to discern good from evil.
Isaiah, in his day, would say the world and the religious leaders, he would say, “You know what’s happened is now we are calling evil ‘good,’ and good ‘evil.’” And I don’t know about you, but I see that today, everywhere.
So how do you pass this on? How do you pass on this view of God, this sense of holiness? Because if holiness has to do with being whole and health and if God, because of the nature of who He is demands holiness for the health of His universe, and when people violate that holiness, there are consequences because God is pure.
When a parent lets anyone do something that is harmful for them, over and over, without consequences, you don’t love them! Proverbs says the evidence of love, and Hebrews 12 says the evidence of real love is when a parent disciplines.
So when we step outside of God’s moral law and boundaries and He brings consequences, what He is saying is, “I love you. Because you keep doing that, you’re going to get hurt badly. You’re going to get hurt really badly. That attitude is going to bring pain. That behavior is going to bring pain. You keep logging on to that site, you’re going to lose affection for your wife. You keep chatting around and reading those romance novels, and creating this ultra-world that you hide in and have this virtual world, I’ll tell you what, it’ll ruin your marriage. You keep letting your kids hang out with that group, I will tell you, they are going to land in the ditch.”
And so, He says there is this standard of holiness, but the standard of holiness is built out of blocks or bricks of love to bring about health and wholeness. So 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, 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 a 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’ve got 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’ve got to model that first and then you’ve got to pass that on.
And it’s got 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 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’ve got 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.
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, “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. 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.
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 Super Bowl, 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, and 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… 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 1 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 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 privately, even 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.”
So, you’ve got 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.
Like, 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’ve got 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 rent, no TV, don’t get on and surf the Internet, media fast. Get in the car, no talk radio. You can, 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. Mmmm!
You go on a three-day media fast, and 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 grown 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, is this: 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, I don’t know, 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 otherworldly, 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.