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Are You Missing One of Life’s Great Joys?

Most Christians miss one of life’s greatest blessings – the joy of having spiritual children. Before I got married, I didn’t know if I wanted kids. I’m an only child. I was never around children and didn’t feel I’d be a very good dad. My wife and I decided not to have any kids for at least five years. Thankfully, God had other plans. In spite of birth control, we had four terrific kids in the first six years of our marriage, and boy am I glad we did. Being there when my children were born is one of life’s most amazing moments. Raising them was even better.

 Children make us better people. They grow us up, free us from selfishness and offer a deeper satisfaction than anything else in life. Just think about the blessings Christians miss by not having spiritual children.

 There is great joy in helping someone know the Lord. Discipling them is even better. Sadly, few Christians know that joy. Our American church model seldom trains Christians for their most important role: having and raising spiritual children.

 Most Christians have never even evangelized anyone, let alone discipled them, and that’s the very reason why God chose us. You don’t plant a fruit tree to get flowers. Churches should be virtual disciple orchards. Authentic Christians reproduce as naturally as grapes, grains, fruit or animals. The fact that they don’t reflects our inadequate methods and priorities as much as anything. 

 Sharing my faith with agnostics and atheists in the last year reminded me of lessons I learned years ago. When I was still an atheist I ran a youth group in a Baptist church. After my conversion, I shared my enthusiasm for Jesus with those kids. Most made a commitment to Christ but within months most fell away.

 This made me rethink my approach to evangelism. It’s easy to get people to accept a free ticket to heaven but that’s not what Jesus told us to do. We’re to make disciples, teaching them to obey Him (Matthew 28:19-20). True disciples bear much fruit (John 15:8), reproducing as certainly as wheat reproduces wheat and not weeds. But if our fruit is to last, it must be properly planted and nourished.

 I was asked to start a Christian coffee house at a resort but first, I needed to know why so many kids fell away. The parable of the sower showed me. When a farmer planted seed, some fell by the roadside, some amongst stones or thorns and some in good ground (Matthew 13:1-23). Birds ate some seed. Some sprung up quickly, but soon withered and died. Thorns choked out other seed, but the seed that fell in good soil multiplied 30 to 100 times.

 Think about this: if just committed church members discipled one person a year, we’d reach the whole country in a few short years!

 Jesus’ disciples sought an explanation. He told them that the seed represented the word of God’s Kingdom. Notice He didn’t say it was a word about going to heaven or hell. He said that if people don’t understand the word of the Kingdom, Satan steals it from their hearts. The first principle then is that people understand it and its practical relevance for their lives.

 Every truth needs a great illustration to help people remember and accept it. Jesus saw the necessity of great metaphors. So must we if we want people to embrace Kingdom truth. J.B. Phillips said we must design our words like torpedoes that secretly penetrate the defenses of the mind and explode once inside.

 Jesus then said the person who receives the word with joy but later stumbles has “no root in himself”. Every person listens most to that great internal radio station WIFM – What’s In it For Me. Guilt, heaven and hell only motivate us so much. Unless we know that all God teaches is for our benefit we won’t obey for long.

 A friend recently asked about biblical absolutes. Of the hundreds of laws mentioned in the Bible, the New Testament only cites 28 sins that can keep us from inheriting God’s Kingdom (Cf. Romans 1:28-32I Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:5). Only eight qualify us for the Lake of Fire (Revelations 21:8). This is not sins you did before you were a Christian or are struggling to quit. It refers to sins you are actively practicing without repenting.

 When I showed her the list she agreed it was reasonable. Of these 28 sins, nine are mentioned more than once, including idolatry (four times), murder, covetousness and fornication (premarital sex) three times each. Unrighteousness, immorality, adultery, drunkenness (not drinking, drunkenness), and sorcery are all mentioned twice. The other 19 things sins include things like stealing, homosexuality, hatred, (gossip), lying, and cowardice.

 If these behaviors were allowed in heaven, it wouldn’t be heavenly. They all harm others and ourselves, which is why God forbids them. He loves us. He doesn’t want us bound by painful addictive lifestyles.

 I mention these sins because we must help people dial clearly in to WIFM; we must explain why God tells us to do some things and avoid others. Then the word of His Kingdom can take deep root, protecting us from evil and providing us a better life now and for all eternity. 

 For Kingdom seed to bring lasting results it must be understood. Since that youth group, I never press for a quick conversion. My role is to love people, then help answer their questions from the Bible. If I can do that, they will come to Him.

 After the coffee house, I had another chance to reach kids. My wife and I ran Methodist sailing camps where two thirds of the kids there made profound commitments to Christ. That’s because we discussed things they wanted to know about like drinking and sex. We made sure they understood, not just what the Bible said, but also why it said it.

 To accomplish this, I didn’t just preach sermons about sex. We had them act out dramas on Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba and Amnon and Tamar. God showed us His greatest heroes, warts and all. Dramatizing their lives planted the Word deep within the kids in ways they understood and it changed their lives, so much so the Methodists asked us to stop. Kids went home from camp and challenged their parents and pastors about giving their lives to Christ. In liberal Methodist circles, not everyone liked that. When camp directors asked us to do more sailing and less Bible stuff, we quit. I didn’t become a pastor just to teach kids to sail.

 Few joys in life equal the pure pleasure of seeing someone born again. The satisfaction that comes from helping them grow only adds to that happiness. If Christians were doing what we were saved for, our lives would be richer, fuller and more abundantly blessed. Who wouldn’t want that?


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