The Calamity of Progeny

There are interesting similarities between man and the world around him.  I was recently speaking with a friend about how we see the wisdom of God in nature.  I recounted to her how the Tern, a ground nesting bird, endeavors for the preservation of their young.  From the incubation period, around a month, to the first days of life, until flight capabilities develop, the parent terns work in tandem to ward off predators.  All birds have predator issues, but with ground nesters the threat is from all quarters.  I am blessed to be able to observe these birds give there all for their young every spring, and am always amazed at the self sacrificial love they have for their helpless progeny.  Mothers lie flat and still over their eggs when a threat is detected.  The father is always near to act as a decoy, to feign injury, and lure the threat in his direction.  Never sleeping, always vigilant, and yet never showing a hint of despair at the perilous position their creator has placed them in.  Their entire continuation of the species is a calamity in the making.

The plight of the Tern bears a remarkable resemblance to my recent topic because as human parents, particularly Christian parents, the raising of our children can be fraught with danger.  Sickness, worldly influence, lack of achievement or willingness to thrive, and many other fears assault our weak faith all along the process.  We doubt the wisdom of our Creator in placing us in the position of rearing young and despair over what will become of our brood.  I can’t look into the little red eyes of these Terns and see what is going through there minds, but I think I can assume they don’t fret over their predicament.

Edward Lawrence, in the second chapter of his treatise, calls having unsaved children a calamity.  We don’t use that term often in our vernacular, but we have the wisdom of Solomon to give us quite an accurate description of the calamitous nature of our unregenerate offspring.  “To have a fool for a son brings grief; there is no joy for the father of a fool.” (Prov. 17:21)  “A foolish son is his father’s ruin.” (Prov. 19:13)  The very fact that children can bring pain and grief to a parent who, like the bird, loves them sacrificially, is the very definition of evil.  A child can never in a lifetime repay a parent for their love and devotion.  The human equivalent to Christ on the cross is the ill treatment of a parent.  I think back to my own parents and how I treated them.  Though they are vane regrets, I cannot help but see what grief my foolishness caused my parents and be struck by the evil of my  disregard of the fifth commandment.

“He who robs his father and drives his mother out is a son who brings shame and disgrace.” (Prov. 19:26)  How ever you envisage the picture portrayed by this verse the ugliness is apparent.  For parents to bear this pain is heart rending.  Parents see fear.  Fear of great sin lurking  in the future of the child if their ways are not mended can be paralyzing.  God’s heavy judgement waiting to be unleashed leaves the parent constantly in fear of what might befall the child around the next bend in the road.  Then there is the constant horror of eternal damnation as the last stop on their voyage.

Then there is anger.  Parents experience anger toward the children for willful disobedience.  We fail to recognize the fallen condition that drives the rebellion.  The fact that their rebellion might provoke God’s wrath has no affect on them.  Our righteous indignation on God’s behalf is but a ruse for our own affront.

In the end there is sorrow.  The parents knowledge of God makes their heart bleed to see children scorn and despise the glory of Christ.  Fear, anger, and sorrow are interchangeable emotions for the parent.  I once heard someone say that every example of anger was proceeded by fear and followed by sorrow.

Search your own experience and identify this emotional pendulum.   If you are new to the journey, look more closely at the object of your care.  Evolving in their tiny being are the very mechanisms for your own calamity.  If you are veteran parents you are well read on the subject.  For parents to have unregenerate children may truly be described as a calamity, for it is a most difficult trying of our faith.  However, it is a case for the application of God’s direction see the bright side.  Our hope comes in the purification promised by these refining fires, from which we will be made stronger.  To have our reliance on ourselves dissolved and our trust in God renewed is a blessing.  To become dependent on God’s parenting and not our own is the height of accomplishment.

“Post tenebras lux,” after darkness light, was the call of the protestant reformation.  This could also be the mission statement of Christian parents, for out of the darkness of fiery trials we look to the means of Grace for the light of God’s revelation on how to bear up under the strain.  In the next post we will apply the “Pollyanna” approach to parenting.

 

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The Larger Issue

In the Reformed and Covenant Theology community we rely heavily upon the various confessions, compiled by counsels of Churchmen centuries before our time, to provide guidance into what are the truths that scripture teaches.  Edward Lawrence preached during the time of the publication of the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646).  His subsequent run in with the Church of England was an outworking of his strong belief in what was taught by these doctrinal positions.  His hope for the eventual conversion of his children was bolstered by what the confession taught concerning baptism.  His strong desire for his children to claim their inheritance in Christ was dependant on baptism, infant baptism.  Chapter 25 Section 2 tells us that according to scripture the visible church, those who profess true religion, includes our children.  From the days of the Apostolic Church until the middle of the 16th century, the mass majority of the Christian Church baptized their infant children as an expression of their promised inclusion in the Body of Christ.  It was not until the late 1500’s that the Anabaptist doctrines of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands began spread and the idea of not baptizing infants was popularized.

Without going into the details of the confessional position on baptism, for the purposes of encouragement to parents, one point is clear.  The efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment it is administered (WCF 28.6).  Rather it is the promise signified by baptism that God’s Grace will be conferred in His appointed time according to the counsel of His will.

If you don’t come from a confessional background you may tend not to place much importance in these old reformed confessions.  What did they know back then anyway, right?  They did not have Wikipedia or all of the bible commentaries we have today.  Well, how about Peter?  Speaking under the inspiration of God,  Peter told the early church, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off; for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38,39)  He told the Jewish believers to turn from your belief in your Jewish traditions, be baptized, and like you would circumcise your 8 day old baby boy, baptize all you children as a sign and seal of God’s covenant with Abraham and all his generations. On top of that we are going to tell the whole world that this same promise that was given to you in the old covenant, will be given to those of the gentile world whom God will call to repentance and faith.  We are going to baptize them and their children too as a sign and seal of God’s Covenant faithfulness to them.

This was some radical stuff for these early Jewish believers to grasp.  Radical in the sense that Peter was introducing the concept of a new sign and seal.  Not radical in the sense of their inclusion in the covenant of grace.  They were very familiar with God’s covenants to the patriarchs in their ancestral tree.  They were also very aware that God used these recipients of his Covenant of Grace as examples of exceptions to his covenants.  You might say, God used the children of these renown covenant characters as examples of what being outside of his covenant looked like.

The first members of “Grace Church” were Adam and Eve. Their children would have been the first covenant children.  However, in God’s providence, in order to accomplish his sovereign will, he chose only to include one of the boys in the covenant.  Not because of anything Abel had done nor would do, but rather for His own Glory, Abel would inherit the promise given to his parents.  Cain did not just go bad, or fall away, or fail to keep the law.  He was never of the family of God.  In 1 John 3:12 the warning to the visible Church is “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one.

There were none as faithful as Noah among the prediluvian world.  Genesis 6:8-9 made this plain saying, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God.”  This was said of him before he took the abuse of a scornful public for building an ark, and before he floated around for weeks without complaining about the cruise amenities.  He was later the recipient of another of God’s Covenant promises.  But you know the story.  God made an example of Ham as the one son who was cursed of God.  You might think that Ham’s indiscretion was not worthy of cursing him and his posterity forever.  That wasn’t the point.  Ham was never in the Covenant.

Isaac greatly loved Esau. He was his prized son and the heir to his family heritage.  However, God hated Esau.  God hated Esau and loved Jacob and made that decision based not upon their deeds but upon his right to choose to whom he will show mercy. Romans 9 is the go to scripture in matters of the sovereignty of God in the election of his followers.  Esau is used as the example of God’s right to choose not depending upon anything man can do.

David, the man after God’s own heart, was the father of Absalom, another fraternal murderer.  Absalom, like the others, was not included in the covenant family of God.  All their exclusion being left to the hidden wisdom of God, and not because he foreknew their actions or inactions.

All of the parents of these children who were outside of the redeeming grace of God must have been full of grief and bitterness.  We must all consider the possibility that our children may be in this category.  Though, looking at the larger issue, here we have more cause to believe that God will bring them to himself.  God does nothing arbitrarily.  He did not make a promise to grow his kingdom through the Church so that he may then cause you to doubt him by placing more weight on the examples of those he has shown us.  In fact, if you want to offend the righteousness of God in the most vile way, then doubt the righteousness in his promise keeping ability.  You are screaming mutiny.

We may be bitter, we may be grieved, but we may not doubt.  We will go through a myriad of emotions over the course of our lives as parents.  We may even see signs of the working of the Spirit in our children and then have some great disappointment when those signs fade.  Once again, we must not doubt God’s promise to work, relying on our lack of decerning vision.  If you are truthful with yourself in looking back on your own journey, you cannot declare the point of your rebirth.  If you can you are rare.  You may recount a time in which you discovered marks of your faith, but that may have been some time after God breathed life into your dead heart.   The mystery of God’s work of regeneration is outside of our realm of comprehension.  Likewise trying to weigh the behavior of our children to determine their conversion can be a roller coaster endeavor.  To engage in the work of identifying the presence of regenerative work by the Holy Spirit in the heart of your children, young or old, is folly.  Rather, focus your energy in identifying the truths of scripture that tell of God’s faithfulness to his promises.  I am not saying, “let go and let God.”  On the contrary, take hold of God’s word, wrestle with these concepts, and extract from these the power of His righteousness in His covenant keeping.  Simultaneously, never stop evangelizing your children, for they are the heirs of your inheritance, and co-heirs with Christ.  Treat them as such.

Six Situations That Aren’t Signs That Your Child Isn’t Saved

This is a great article related to this series of posts.

The Responsible Puppet

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I believe one of the most important considerations a parent can have is whether or not their child is saved. And while we often can’t know with certainty whether or not another person is saved, there are things we can look for.

A while back I posted a list of signs a child isn’t saved. Recently I been thinking about human situations that might cause a parent to fear that the child they thought was saved really isn’t.

So let’s say you have a son or daughter who understands, believes and loves the gospel. You see real spiritual fruit and sanctification in their life and you feel they are walking with Christ.

But there is something going on in their life that makes you doubt their salvation.

Here is a list of real life situations that shouldn’t.

1. He is sinful.
The Bible is clear, we all sin…

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