Children

It’s National Children’s Day!

1-2011-09-03_13-54-029.jpgIntroduction

1456053183_thumb.pngThis is National Children’s Day here in Vanuatu. The Ministry of Justice and Community Services in collaboration with the Ministry of Education is focusing on the child’s development and learning at an early age. Today we want to underline the importance of children in a biblical worldview.

According to the 2009 census, Vanuatu had a population of some 235,000 people. Some forty percent were less than the age of 15. Vanuatu had about 95,000 children under the age of 15 in 2009. Today that number would be closer to 100,000. One hundred thousand children under the age of 15. That is a significant part of the population, and in a very short time, those children will be leading the nation.

How to we regard children today? How are we to treat them? How are we to prepare them to lead the world of tomorrow? What is our view of children? And what has been the view of children throughout history?

1.      The View of Children in History

Children have not always been valued in the history of mankind. Going back to the Old Testament, when God sent the Israelites into the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, the Ammonites were sacrificing their firstborn children to the god Molech. When God have the Israelites the Law, he said in…

Leviticus 18:21 (ESV) You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

In Leviticus 20 and Deuteronomy 12, God clearly forbids the Israelites from offering their children to the false gods of the Canaanites.

Deuteronomy 12:31 (ESV) You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

And yet, that is exactly what the Israelites ended up doing. With time, they began to imitate the people and the cultures around them. God sent prophets to warn them, but finally, judgment came upon Judah and God sent them into exile in Babylon because of this horrible abuse of their children:

Jeremiah 7:30-31 (ESV) “For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the LORD. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.

Again in Jeremiah 19,

Jeremiah 19:4-5, 7 (ESV) Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind– 7 …in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth.

God’s judgment eventually fell upon his own people, and one of the reasons was that they had sinned against their own children.

Historian O. M. Bakke tells us in his book When Children Became People, that “in ancient Greece and Rome, children were considered nonpersons.” The most highly valued people in ancient Greece and Rome were freeborn adult males and those who were most similar to them. In his article, “How Christianity Invented Children,” Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry says, “Various pagan authors describe children as being more like plants than human beings.” Wealthy parents left the care of their children to slaves, and in Rome, a father had the right to kill his child for any reason until he came of age.[1]

Unwanted children were often abandoned. In his commentary on 1 Timothy 5, William Barclay comments,

In an age when the marriage bond was very lax and men and women changed their partners with bewildering rapidity, children were regarded as a misfortune. This was the great age of child exposure. When a child was born, he was brought and laid before his father’s feet. If the father stooped and lifted him, that meant that he acknowledged him and was prepared to accept responsibility for his upbringing. If the father turned and walked away, the child was quite literally thrown out, like an unwanted piece of rubbish. It often happened that such unwanted children were collected by unscrupulous people and, if girls, brought up to stock the public brothels, and, if boys, trained to be slaves or gladiators for the public games.[2]

“Children were regarded as a misfortune.” Unfortunately, the world in which we live today, is sounding more an more like the ancient world of Greece and Rome. The marriage bond is becoming very lax. Men and women change their partners with bewildering rapidity. Many do not even bother with vows of faithfulness, and children are the ones to suffer most. Pregnancy and children are regarded as a misfortune.

Gobry also points out, “Another notorious practice in the ancient world was the sexual exploitation of children.” He goes on,

This is the world into which Christianity came, condemning abortion and infanticide as loudly and as early as it could.

This is the world into which Christianity came, calling attention to children and ascribing special worth to them. Church leaders meditated on Jesus’ instruction to imitate children and proposed ways that Christians should look up to and become more like them…

But really, Christianity’s invention of children — that is, its invention of the cultural idea of children as treasured human beings — was really an outgrowth of its most stupendous and revolutionary idea: the radical equality, and the infinite value, of every single human being as a beloved child of God. If the God who made heaven and Earth chose to reveal himself, not as an emperor, but as a slave punished on the cross, then no one could claim higher dignity than anyone else on the basis of earthly status.

That was indeed a revolutionary idea, and it changed our culture so much that we no longer even recognize it.[3]

The further we move away from the biblical foundations, the more children will suffer.

2.      The Biblical View of Children

2.1.     Children in the Old Testament

The first promise in the Bible was the promise of a child, a child that would become the Savior of the world. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and decided that they knew best and that they would go their own way, God in his infinite mercy not only brought judgment upon them, expelling them from the Garden of Eden, he promised that the many times great grandson of Eve would crush the head of the serpent.

For centuries, young women in the godly line of Seth and Noah and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — godly young married women would hope that their child would be the promised Messiah, until the prophet Isaiah prophesied 700 years before Christ, that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. While the nations around Israel offered their little ones to false gods, the biblical view of children was that they were to be cherished, loved, protected, and cared for.

When God called Abraham it was so that Abraham would instruct his children to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just:

Genesis 18:19 (ESV) For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

There in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, God places great value on children. They are to carry the biblical values that God has revealed to his people.

We find the same esteem for children in the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi. There God addresses the sin of divorce and its effect on children. God says that he will not accept the offering or prayers of the people, though they weep and groan. The prophet Malachi continues in chapter 2 verse 14,

Malachi 2:14-16 (ESV) But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Verse 15 says that God has made the married couple one. This is in reference to the one flesh sexual union between a husband and wife. The prophet asks the question, “Want what was the one God seeking?” And he gives the answer, “Godly offspring.”

God wants godly offspring. He wants children to be born in the context of the lifelong commitment of marriage. When a husband and wife divorce, there is a violence to the soul, a tearing apart of what God has put together. And while the husband and wife suffer, the children suffer even more and God’s goal of having godly children is often destroyed. God hates divorce.

The Old Testament is full of references to the value of children:

Psalm 127:3-5 (ESV) Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

All six verses of Psalm 128 refer to children as the blessing of the LORD:

Psalm 128:1-6 (CSB) A song of ascents. How happy is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways! 2 You will surely eat what your hands have worked for. You will be happy, and it will go well for you. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house, your sons, like young olive trees around your table. 4 In this very way the man who fears the LORD will be blessed. 5 May the LORD bless you from Zion, so that you will see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life 6 and will see your children’s children! Peace be with Israel.

God has a special concern for children. In fact, for those who have no father, God says that he will be the Father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). *** He upholds the fatherless (Psalm 146:9).

2.2.     Children in the New Testament

When we come to the New Testament, we see in several places how Jesus cherished the little children.

Mark 10:13-16 (ESV) And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

The Apostle Paul modeled his ministry toward new believers after the care of parents for their children. First he compares himself to a nursing mother who nurtures her own children:

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 (CSB) Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother nurtures her own children. 8 We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

Then he compares himself to a caring father:

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (CSB) As you know, like a father with his own children, 12 we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Later, Paul speaks directly to fathers, telling them to be wise in instructing their children:

Ephesians 6:4 (ESV) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

2.3.     Children in the Womb

How ironic and shameful that we would celebrate Children’s Day and celebrate a woman’s so-called right to an abortion. No one has the right to take another person’s life. No one has the right to stop a beating heart. This is the destruction of the next generation. It is the killing of the future of the nation. It is a shame for any nation to permit the killing of pre-born children.

It has been said that a mother’s womb is perhaps the most dangerous place in the world for a baby.[4] And yet, God was placed in a womb. The Word which was God was born of the virgin Mary. “The Son of God, Jesus, is the most precious thing to God in the whole universe. And where did God place his most precious possession? In a womb.”[5]

The womb is the place where God puts us together.

Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

It is in the womb where God forms us. It is in the womb that we are created in the image of God. From the moment of conception, from the time the sperm cell fertilizes the egg cell, you have life. And what kind of life is it? It is not animal life; it is human life. The life in the womb is a human life, created in the image of God. The psalmist David says,

Psalm 139:13-16 (NLT) You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Job 10:8, 11 (ESV) Your hands fashioned and made me… You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.

The infinite value of children begins from the moment of conception. Today, through ultrasound, we can see the baby in the womb. We see his shape, his hands, his feet, his head. We can even determine his sex. That is why the younger generation is becoming more and more pro-life. It is very clear that a child is growing in the womb.

How do we treat our children? Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa said: ”There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Ravi Zacharias: “A nation has reached its lowest ebb when our children are victimized.”

Mother Theresa: “It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”

 

3.      The Education of Children

National Theme for this year is that “Everyone should support children’s learning by enrolling all our children in to class 1 at age 6.” Let’s talk about education.

3.1.     The First Four Grades

The first years are the parrot years. These are the years that children collect facts and can parrot them back to you. This is the time when children are to absorb as much information as they can about the world around them. This is the time to gather facts, learn songs, and memorize poems and Bible verses.

Too often, we put the emphasis upon self-expression. Learning to express oneself is good and necessary, but the accumulation of knowledge must be primary at this stage from age 6 to 9. Children are like sponges; they soak up knowledge. But if you squeeze the sponge dry, nothing comes out. So the sponge must first be filled. Give you children the chance to learn. Supply them with knowledge and skills that will allow them to become creative in later years as their minds develop. Fill their minds and imagination with as many pictures and stories and facts as you can.

Tell your children the stories of people, your family, your history, the history of your island, the history of Vanuatu, the history of the Pacific. Tell them about the explorers such as Captain Cook. Tell them the stories of the missionaries that brought the gospel.

Tell them the history of the world. Tell them how God created the world is six days, how he created the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve. Tell them how that God made everything good, but that man disobeyed God and we have lived with the consequences ever since. Show them that disobedience has consequences. Tell them that God in his grace, promised that a Savior would be born in due time to save us from our sins.

Teach them about Cain and Abel, about Noah and the worldwide flood that left fossils all over the world. Tell them about the Tower of Babel and how God confused the languages of the world so that people would be scattered all over to fill the earth. Tell them how God called Abraham and promised that that his many times great grandson would be the Savior of the world.

Tell them the stories of Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt but that God was with him so that he became the Prime Minister of Egypt and saved his family from destruction. Tell them how the nation of Israel grew during their 400 years in Egypt. Tell them that a new king, Pharaoh, tried to kill all the baby boys, but that there were brave midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who defied the evil king’s orders and spared the baby boys. Tell them about the faith of Moses’ parents who hid him from the king so that he might live and deliver his people from Egypt.

Tell them the stories of Gideon and Samson and Samuel. Tell them the stories of David and Goliath, of the three Hebrew children who were cast into the fiery furnace, and of Daniel and the lions’ den. Most of all tell them the stories of Jesus, his miracles, his death and resurrection, and the birth of the church.

This is our heritage for we all are the children of Adam and of Noah. We are all related!

God has given you children and with the children he has given you the responsibility to teach them and train them to walk in his ways.

So how do we do this? One important way is to spend time reading to your children and talking to them. Teach them to read. Show them how you love to read by reading children’s books to them.

3.2.     Teaching: Transfer Your Faith

Billy Graham: “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”[6]

That is what God instructs us to do. We are to teach our children:

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (ESV) And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Your investment in your children is an investment in the nation.

Charles R. Swindoll said, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”[7]

One hundred seventy years ago, at the time of the American Civil War, Frederick Douglass was a black abolitionist and statesman. This is what he said about educating our children: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Psalm 78:1-7 (NLT) A psalm of Asaph. O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, 2 for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past– 3 stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. 4 We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders. 5 For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, 6 so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children. 7 So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.

The great evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, ”If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!”

Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and microbiologist said this about children, “When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments — tenderness for what he is and respect for what he may become.”

On this Children’s Day, let’s remember that what our children become, depends to a large extent on the direction that we give them.

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The education of our children cannot wait. Today is the day to teach them and prepare them for tomorrow. And today is especially the day to bring them “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).


[1] http://theweek.com/articles/551027/how-christianity-invented-children, April 23, 2015

[2] Barclay, William – The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

[3] http://theweek.com/articles/551027/how-christianity-invented-children, April 23, 2015

[4] http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Evils%20in%20America/Abortion%20is%20Murder/most_dangerous_place.htm

[5] http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-was-placed-in-a-womb

[6] http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/children.html, 2016-07-23

[7] http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/children.html, 2016-07-23

Also: Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trainied Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, 2004.

 

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Mark 09v30-50, Defining Greatness on the Way to the Cross

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngHow do you define greatness? Being at the top of your game? Being number one? The world is looking for greatness and defines it from the top down. Jesus says that we’ve got it upside down. He defines greatness from the bottom up. Do you want to be great?

1.      Looking for Greatness in All the Wrong Places

The desire for greatness can be found in most every one of us, in one way or another. We may define greatness and success in different ways, but we have a deep need for greatness, for significance. We seek meaning and purpose in life. It is often suggested that we may pursue greatness in trying to find something bigger and greater than ourselves.

Historically, the rulers of Europe were often given the attribute “the Great.” There was Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.), Charlemagne (“Charles the Great”, d. 814), Frederic the Great of Prussia (1712–1786), Catherine the Great of Russia (1729–1796), and Napoleon the Great (1769-1821), as well as many others.

In Bible times there was Cyrus the Great (c. 600–530 B.C.), kind of Persia; the Syrian ruler, Antiochus the Great (223-187 B.C.), and Herod the Great (73/74-4 B.C.).

Jesus spoke of these “great ones” when he said,

Mark 10:42 ESV … “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.

1.1.   Greatness according to the World

You do not have to be a ruler to pursue greatness. Perhaps you define greatness as being at the top of your game. Perhaps you want to be a great athlete, or a great teacher, or a great administrator, or a great leader. Perhaps you define greatness in terms of financial success, living in a nice home, eating the finest of food, and having people wait on you hand and foot.

Perhaps you define greatness in terms of intelligence, or scientific achievement, or as an artist. Or you may define greatness in terms of “the rich and the famous.”

According to the Wikipedia,

Greatness is a concept of a state of superiority affecting a person or object. Greatness can also be referred to individuals who possess a natural ability to be better than all others. The concept carries the implication that the particular person or object, when compared to others of a similar type, has clear advantage over others. As a descriptive term it is most often applied to a person or their work…[1]

Here greatness is defined in terms of comparison, being better than others, having abilities that are better than others, have a clear advantage over others.

This is certainly how the disciples understood greatness. In Mark 9:34, the disciples “had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest.” They are each arguing for their own superiority over the others. They are vying for position.

Then we read…

Mark 9:33-34 ESV And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.

They were “on the way.” “On the way” to where? Jesus and his disciples were “on the way” to Jerusalem.

The disciples could not get beyond their ideas of greatness. In spite of all that Jesus had told them, and in spite of their fears and apprehensions, they knew that they were “on the way” to Jerusalem, and they remained hopeful. They are en route for Jerusalem, and “…the journey to Jerusalem has been fanning the flames of messianic and eschatological hopes in their minds. Surely the kingdom would break forth in Jerusalem, with Jesus — and they with him — at” the head of the kingdom![2]  But Jesus was on the way to the cross.

1.2.   Fighting for Greatness

So the disciples are arguing about which one of them will be the greatest in the kingdom.

This passage is thick with irony. Jesus has just announced a second time to the group of his disciples that he is going to Jerusalem not to be crowned as king, but to suffer, and to be rejected, and to die — and the disciples just do not get it.

Let’s retrace briefly what has happened in the last few sections of Mark. In Mark 8, Jesus asked his disciples who they believed him to be. Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ (8:29). Then Jesus told them plainly for the first time that as the Christ, he would suffer many things, be rejected and killed, and after three days rise again (8:30). Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Christ, but then he rebuked Jesus because suffering and death were incompatible with his understanding of what Christ the Messiah would do.

In turn, Jesus sharply rebuked Peter for expressing not the thoughts of God, but those of men. And then, Jesus turns everything upside down

Mark 8:34-35 ESV And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Here is the paradox of the gospel: If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you lose your life for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s, you will save it. Save it and you lose it. Lose it to save it.

One week later, Jesus took Peter and James and John up to the top of a high mountain where he was transfigured before them with the glory that was his before the creation of the universe. Surely following Jesus would be worth the risk. Coming down from the mountain, Jesus tells those three disciples to tell no one “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).

Now in Mark 9, Jesus spends time teaching all 12 disciples a second time about what he was going to do.

Mark 9:30-31 ESV They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”

This is not public teaching; this is a private teaching session. As Jesus is en route for Jerusalem, he does not want anyone to know his traveling plans. Jesus does not want any interruptions from outsiders as he explains to them what will happen to him. This is a private teaching session with his 12 disciples, teaching them lessons which they must — by all means — learn.

The first time, Jesus had spoken of suffering many things, of being rejected, and of being killed. This time he adds an element: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”[3]

  • Jesus will be delivered — betrayed — by Judas, one of his own disciples (14:10-11, 18, 21, 41-42).
  • He will be delivered by the high priest’s council into the hands of Pilate, the governor. They will force Pilate’s hand so that he decides to execute Jesus (10:33; 15:1, 10).
  • “Pilate will deliver Jesus into the hands of the soldiers who will crucify him (15:15).”
  • Yes, the Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of sinners (14:14). All of “humanity falls into this category.”

“But there is another hand behind all this handing over. It is the hand of God, whose purposes are being fulfilled unbeknownst to any of the actors in the drama.”[4]

After the resurrection of Christ, it is clear from the preaching of the apostles and from the New Testament epistles that God had delivered his one and only Son as a sacrifice for our sin. The Apostle Paul says it like this in Romans:

Romans 8:32 NAU He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Jesus told them plainly that he was going to be delivered and killed and after three days, rise from the dead.

  • Jesus is talking about his suffering; they are arguing about their own significance.
  • Jesus is talking about being rejected; they are arguing about reigning.
  • Jesus is teaching them about his death; they are arguing about domination.

The disciples simply embody man’s normal and sinful ambitions. The world defines greatness as

  • Getting to the top
  • Being number one
  • Securing wealth, power, and position

Mark 9:32 ESV But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

How could they understand what Jesus was saying? What Jesus was saying was totally incompatible with their notions of greatness. They were not looking for a crucified Christ. That was an oxymoron, a contradiction of terms. The cross was incompatible with their notion of the crown and the kingdom. How could they possibly understand? Jesus was not fitting into their categories. He was not conforming to their way of thinking. But our way of thinking should not be like the world’s way of thinking because the world has it all wrong. That’s why the Apostle Paul tell us,

Romans 12:2 NLT Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Jesus has now told his disciples twice that he was on the way to the cross… “he was teaching his disciples…”

Mark 9:32 ESV But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

They did not understand, but apparently they understood something, for they were afraid to ask him. Perhaps they remembered before when Peter had rebuked Christ and had been in turned rebuked for setting his mind on the things of man instead of on the things of God (Mark 8:33).

We recreate a gospel to suit us, a gospel of health and wealth and prosperity. Like the disciples, we do not want to hear about denying ourselves, or suffering, or rejection, or death to self, or losing our life so that we may yet save it.

We recreate our gospel to suit ourselves, but it is not a full gospel; it is a diminished gospel. It is a gospel that tells us to repeat a prayer and all will be okay. Get yourself baptized and you have a sure ticket to heaven. Make sure you go to church on the right day of the week and all will be okay. But that is our contemporary gospel and not the gospel of Jesus Christ, not the gospel of the apostles, and not the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation.

2.      Greatness according to Jesus

Greatness according to the world is diametrically opposed to greatness according to Jesus. The world lives according to the principle dominance, “looking out for number one,” being first in line.

Mark 9:33-34 ESV And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.

2.1.   Jesus Redefines Greatness as Serving, Not Dominance

So Jesus sits down and takes the position of a teacher:

Mark 9:35 ESV And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Once again Jesus is turning their categories upside down. Jesus has already declared that whoever would save his life must lose it for Christ’s sake and for the gospel’s. Save it and you lose it. Lose it to save it.

2.2.1. First is last, last is first

Now Jesus gives a second paradox: To be first, you must be last.

Mark 9:35 ESV … ”If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

You want to be number one? Then you must be last. Do you want to be great? Then you must be last of all and the servant of all.

Jesus is not telling us that we should not pursue greatness; he is redefining greatness. We think that greatness is being at the top; Jesus says that greatness is serving someone at the bottom. We think that greatness is going first; Jesus says that greatness is letting everyone go ahead of us. We think that greatness is ruling over others; Jesus says that greatness is serving others.

We are so concerned about pride of place. The Rabbinic writings (the writings of the Jewish rabbis) “frequently comment on the seating order in Paradise, for example, and argue that the just would sit nearer to the throne of God than even the angels.”[5]

We talk about “bigman” and even in the church we introduce guest preachers as “a great man of God.” We are to give honor to whom honor is due, but we disobey Christ and dishonor God when we exalt man in the presence of God. This is what Jesus said about the Pharisees:

Matthew 23:6-12 NLT And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ 8 “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

The disciples are fighting for first place in the kingdom, but they have not understood that to go up, you must go down. If you want to go high, you must go low. If you want to be great, you must be a servant.

How horrible it is in the church today when people fight for position and power and dominance! How ugly it is when pastors campaign like politicians to get the votes of church members! That is not the way of servanthood. That is not the way of the cross of Christ who said,

Mark 8:34 ESV … “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

On the other side of the cross, perhaps the disciples had an excuse for not understanding, but we are on this side of the cross and the resurrection. We are on this side of Calvary. We have the New Testament Scriptures which had not yet been written, not even the first word. The disciples may perhaps be excused for failing to understand, but we have no excuse.

Mark 9:35-37 ESV And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

2.2.2.   Jesus Illustrates Greatness by Taking a Child in His Arms

Jesus took a child and put the child in the midst of them. Here in the middle of the disciples was a child. Children were of no account in Roman and Jewish societies. Today, more and more, to our great shame, children are becoming throwaway commodities. But Jesus not only took the child, but he took the child in his arms. He cherished and loved the child.

Now Jesus was not using the child as an example of humility. No, the child was “an example of the ‘little’ and insignificant ones whom followers of Jesus are to receive.[6]

Mark 9:37 ESV “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Disciples are thus not to be like children, but to be like Jesus who embraces them. It is Jesus, not the child, who here demonstrates what it means to be “the servant of all.”[7]

2.3.   Jesus Redefines Greatness as Openness, Not Exclusion

The second worldly way of seeking of greatness is through exclusion. This is greatness by monopoly. This is being great because you have eliminated the competition. You have become the only source for the commodity that you offer.

Mark 9:38 ESV John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

Let’s note that…

  1. This person was casting out demons.
  2. He was casting out demons in the name of Jesus, that is, with the authority of Christ.
  3. He was successfully doing something that the disciples had just failed to do earlier in this chapter when a father brought his son to the disciples to have them cast out the demon, but they were not able (9:18).
  4. John tried to stop this man because he was not one of their group: “because he was not following us.”

This is seeking greatness by excluding all others, but this is not the way of Christ.

Mark 9:39-41 ESV But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

Remember that John was part of the inner circle. Peter and James and John were the only disciples that Jesus took with him when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. Those three were the only disciples to witness the transfiguration of Christ on the mountaintop. John has begun to think that he is part of an exclusive group. He was one of the twelve. He likes being part of that special group. And he wants his group to be exclusive. He wants them to be the only ones.

And then John sees someone else doing what the disciples are called to do. He sees someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus had previously sent out the 12 disciples and had given them authority over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7, 13). Perhaps this man had seen the disciples casting out demons in Jesus’ name. He believes and does the same thing: he begins casting out demons in Jesus’ name. John sees him casting out demons in Jesus’ name and tries to stop him because he did not belong to their group.

Mark 9:39-40 NLT “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.”

Some churches claim to be the only true church. They want to exclude all others. That is one of the marks of a false cult. Some churches claim to have apostolic authority. Apostolic authority does not come from apostolic succession or having the right person lay his hands on you; apostolic authority come from believing and preaching what Christ and his apostles preached.

2.3.1. The One Who Is Not Against Christ Is for Christ (9:38-40)

This is all about Jesus. It is not about me or you or my church or your church. It’s about Jesus. The question is not, “What church do you belong to?” The question is, “What Christ do you preach? What gospel do you preach? Are you preaching the Word of God or the vision of a man?” You may not be a member of my church or of my denomination, but if you are following my Lord, if you are preaching the Word of God, if you are proclaiming Christ and him crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, then I rejoice that Christ is being preached! The first missionaries that came to this country and laid down their lives, they did not preach their church; they preached Christ. They did not preach a certain day; they preached Christ. The question is not whether you are Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist or Nazarene or Anglican or Assemblies of God or apostolic. The question is, “Do you know Christ? Do you preach Christ?”

2.3.2. The One Who Serves Christ Will Be Rewarded by Christ (Mark 9:41)

Mark 9:41 ESV For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

“Whoever” means you. Jesus is telling the disciples that anyone who identifies with Christ and shows his allegiance to Christ by serving those who serve Christ, that person will not lose his reward. Jesus sees. Jesus knows. He will “reward the smallest and humblest acts of service done to others” in his name.[8]

2.3.3. Warning: Do Not Cause Believers to Stumble

Jesus promises a reward to the humblest believer who serves Christ by serving others. But he warns us not to cause these believers to stumble. We must not hinder the humblest of believers in their service for Christ.

2.3.3.1.           Learn the Lesson of the Great Millstone (Mark 9:42).[9]

Mark 9:42 ESV “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

Do we see the danger? Forbidding people to do what they can for Christ may cause them to stumble. It would be better to be drowned in the depth of the ocean than to offend the humblest believer in Christ.

2.3.3.2.           Learn the Lesson of Self-Mutilation (Mark 9:43-48)

But then Jesus expands the warning. He tells us that saving faith is a fighting faith. We must pursue holiness “with passion and discipline.”[10] Jesus speaks of our hands, our feet, and our eyes: what we do, where we go, and what we see:

Mark 9:43-48 ESV And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 44 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 46 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

Jesus uses the language of hyperbole, or the language of exaggeration because the importance of what he is saying cannot be exaggerated. Cutting off our hands and feet, and tearing out our eyes will not solve the problem because Jesus has already told us that sin is deeply rooted in the heart (7:21). But Jesus is telling us that we must be violent with the sin in our lives. It must be cut out. Three times he tells us that it is better to be crippled, lame, and one-eyed than to be thrown into hell. He tells us that hell is a horrible place where the fire never goes out and the worm never dies.

What are you doing to get the sin out of your life? You must kill sin or it will kill you.

Romans 8:12-13 NLT Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.

2.3.3.3.           Learn the Lesson of Good Salt (Mark 9:49-50)

Mark 9:49 ESV For everyone will be salted with fire.

Jesus picks up the word “fire” and tells us that everyone will be salted with fire. The unbeliever will be salted with “the perpetual fires of final judgment in hell.” The believer will be salted with “the preserving and refining fires of trials and suffering that mark the road to true greatness.”[11]

Then Jesus adds,

Mark 9:50 ESV Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again?

Salt preserves, but “unless we maintain the purity of our own lives (plucking out the eye, etc.) and are purified by the flames of testing, and remain faithful to Christ, our lives will have no preserving influence on this corrupt world.”[12]

Finally, Jesus tells his disciples,

Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

The disciples had been arguing over who was the greatest. They were vying for position and superiority. Jesus showed them that greatness is not found at the top; it is found at the bottom, serving one another.

It is no wonder that the early Christians were described as those who had turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

Conclusion: An Upside Down World or a Right Side Up World?

The world thinks that Christian values are upside down, but in reality, the world is upside down. Jesus came to set it right side up. The world fights and clamors to get to the top, but Jesus showed that the way to be exalted is to humble ourselves.

Philippians 2:4-11 ESV Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What kind of a world would this be if

  • Instead of trying to get to the top, we began serving those on the bottom?
  • Instead of lifting up ourselves, we would humble ourselves
  • Instead of putting people down, we tried to lift them up
  • Instead of seeking to be served by others, we served others
  • Instead of trying to be number one, we were last
  • Instead of trying to stop others who are serving Christ, we rejoiced that the Gospel was being preached.

What kind of a world would this be? You can begin to make a difference today. You can demonstrate true greatness.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greatness

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009. 9:34.

[3] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 421.

[4] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 421.

[5] Edwards Jr., James R. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[6] Edwards Jr., James R. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009. 9:36-37.

[7] Edwards Jr., James R. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009. 9:36-37.

[8] Akin, Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014.

[9] Akin, Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014. 9:42

[10] Akin, Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014. 9:43

[11] Akin, Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014. 9:49

[12] Sinclair Ferguson in Akin, Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014. 9:49

Mother’s Day: The Influence of a Faithful Mother

Young woman reading bible

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngWe wish a very Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers. God has given you great responsibilities, and a position of great influence and honor. Today I want to talk to you about the influence of a faithful mother. And yet, we recognize that Mother’s Day is a difficult day for many.

  • It is difficult for those women who have wanted to become mothers but have not been able to have children.
  • Mother’s Day is difficult for those who had lost their mother.
  • And it is especially difficult for mothers who have lost children.

Our heart goes out to you. May the God of all comfort be with you.

We live in an age when motherhood is not always honored, and yet from heaven’s point of view, mothers are to be honored. In fact, parenting is singled out for special mention and special honor in the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:12 ESV “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Jesus especially rebuked the religious leaders of Israel for their failure to honor parents. Society wants to push motherhood aside, but motherhood was God’s idea, and he determined that mothers are to be honored. In fact, that fifth commandment is the first commandment with a promise:

Exodus 20:12 ESV “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long…

Someone asked some questions about mothers to some seven year old children, and here is what they said:

Why did God make mothers?

  1. That was the best way to get more people.

Why did God give you your mother instead of some other mother?

  1. Because we are related!
  2. Because God knew that my mother would love me more than the mothers of other children would love me.

What ingredients did God use to make mothers?

  1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
  2. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

What kind of little girl was your mom?

  1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
  2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
  3. They say she used to be nice.

What is just perfect about your mother?

  1. Her teeth are perfect, but she bought them from the dentist!
  2. Only her children!

What a lucky mother! If only all mothers had perfect children!

Today we do not want to talk about perfect children for there are none. Nor do we want to talk about perfect mothers, for there are no perfect mothers either. But we do want to consider…

The Influence of a Faithful Mother

As you can imagine, the Bible gives a lot of attention to mothers. The word “mother” is mentioned 330 times beginning with Eve whose name means “life” “because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).

Many of the mothers of the Bible, we know by name:

  • There were unlikely mothers, women like Sarah, and Rebekah, and Rachel, and Hannah. These women were sterile until God intervened and gave them children.
  • There were brave mothers like the mother of Moses who was not afraid of Pharaoh’s edict, but hid baby Moses to preserve his life (Hebrews 11:23).
  • There was Deborah, who led the Israelites in battle against the Canaanites.
  • There was Mary, the mother of Jesus, unique in that she was the only virgin to ever become a mother. Matthew tells us that Joseph had no intimate relations with her “until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matthew 1:25). She and Joseph were chosen by God to raise Jesus, the Son of God.

We find a lot of mothers mentioned in the records of the kings of Israel and of Judah. As we read the record of the kings of Israel and of Judah, we find a strong emphasis on the mothers of the kings. Some 25 times we read the name of a king and the name of his mother, and then an evaluation of his reign, either “He did what was right in the sight of the Lord,” or “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” The implication is that mothers have a very great influence on their children, on future kings and nations, whether for good or for evil.

For example,

2 Chronicles 22:2-4 ESV Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah, the granddaughter of Omri. 3 He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor in doing wickedly. 4 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done. For after the death of his father they were his counselors, to his undoing.

There were also godly mothers, who influenced their children and the entire nation of Israel for the good:

1 Kings 22:42-43 ESV Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. 43 He walked in all the way of Asa his father. He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD…

The Mother of Timothy

When we turn to the pages of the New Testament, we find a wonderful example of a faithful mother who influenced her son for God, and through her son, Timothy, touched many people for Christ.

We first meet up with Timothy during the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey. In Acts 16, Paul arrives in the town of Lystra where he had planted a church during his first missionary journey, about three years before.

Acts 16:1-3 ESV …A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

This is the first time that we meet Timothy, and we are told that he is a disciple. He has a good reputation among the believers in two towns where Paul had planted churches.

We learn that Timothy is from a mixed marriage. His mother was a Jew, but his father was a Greek. While we know little to nothing about his parents’ marriage, or whether they were even still together, it seems clear that this pagan father had some reservations about Timothy’s full induction into Judaism. Timothy’s father had not allowed him to be circumcised according to Jewish custom.

Paul wanted Timothy to join his missionary team, to become a partner with him and Barnabas. Yet, Paul does not want Timothy’s situation as an uncircumcised Greek to be a hindrance to them trying to reach the Jews for Christ, since everyone knew that Timothy’s father was a Greek, so Paul circumcised Timothy.

So it appears that Timothy’s father was not a believer, yet in this very first sentence introducing Timothy, we read that he was “the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer.” Immediately, Luke tells us about the influence of Timothy’s faithful mother. It appears that the dominant influence on Timothy’s life was not that of his father, but the influence of his mother.

Since Timothy already well spoken of by the believers, we wonder when he became a Christian. It is quite possible that Timothy and his mother came to a knowledge of the truth in Jesus Christ during Paul’s first visit to Lystra a couple of years earlier. During that first missionary journey, Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city, and left for dead. A group of those first disciples gathered around him, and he got up and went back into the city before continuing his journey with Barnabas the next day. Very possibly during that first trip, Timothy and his mother were part of that group of disciples that gathered around Paul and cared for him after he had been stoned by the people of the town.

Now when Paul visits the disciples of Lystra three years later, young Timothy already has a good reputation among the disciples and that good reputation is tied to the influence of his faithful mother. Yet, we will see, that this mother’s influence is traced back to Timothy’s earliest childhood.

We learn more about Timothy’s family in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Paul writes the letter some fifteen years later from the Mamertine Prison in Rome. This is the end of Paul’s ministry. The moment of his execution is getting closer. Paul writes his “beloved child” in the faith, this young man of 30 to 35 years of age who has walked long roads with the Apostle Paul. Paul urgently wants to see Timothy one last time. He writes…

2 Timothy 1:4-5 ESV As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Here we learn more about Timothy’s family. Paul knew Timothy’s family. Perhaps he had stayed in their home. Paul knows Timothy’ mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois, two mothers who had a great influence on Timothy’s life. Paul says,

2 Timothy 1:5 NLT I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.

Your faith is genuine and strong, Timothy, and I know where you got it. Your faith first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice.

Eunice and Lois

Imagine with me, the background of Timothy’s mother Eunice. She was married to a pagan. This young man had made promises, and Lois and Eunice had believed him. He was going to convert to Judaism. He was coming regularly to the synagogue. He gave all the indications that his intention was sincere. He was sincere, as far as he knew himself. Perhaps he came from a high ranking family, was well educated, and had a good paying job. The future looked bright for young Eunice. Eunice, the young Jewess, and this handsome young Greek, loved each other. Lois gave them her blessing and approval to marry.

But after the marriage, Eunice’s husband no longer could find the time to go to synagogue as he had before. He had many responsibilities and no longer had as much free time. And he had come to the decision that he did not want to be circumcised.

Soon Eunice and her Greek husband had a child, a boy, and they named him Timothy. Eunice wanted to have Timothy circumcised the eighth days as the Law prescribed, but her husband was no longer sympathetic to the idea. It seems that he had forbidden it (Acts 16:3).

How many times had Eunice regretted marrying her husband? How many times had she regretted it for herself? How many times had she regretted her marriage for her son, Timothy? How many times had Lois regretted giving her permission for the couple to marry?

Other women would have given up. They would have thrown in the towel. They would have simply followed their unbelieving husbands down the wrong road. But Eunice and her mother Lois were not other women. One mistake was enough.

But what could they do so that young Timothy not grow up like a pagan? What could they do to instill in him godly values? What could they do to influence him to serve the Lord? They had a mighty tool available to them: they had the Scriptures, the Word of God.

How can we influence our children for God?

1.        To influence our children for God, we must make use of the Word of God, the Scriptures.

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul is encouraging Timothy to stand firm in a difficult situation. Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to correct a church where the pastors themselves had gone astray. Paul encourages Timothy to stand strong:

2 Timothy 3:14-15 NIV But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Paul takes Timothy back to his roots, back to his infancy. He reminds Timothy that he has known the Holy Scriptures since he was a baby!

15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures…

He also reminds Timothy “because you know those from whom you learned it.” Paul reminds Timothy that his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois had determined that this child Timothy would know the Holy Scriptures “which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

1.1.     The Scriptures give us good models to imitate.

A boy needs a model to follow. Timothy’s father was apparently not a good model. How could Timothy’s mother Eunice fill in the void? The Scriptures could make Timothy wise, so Eunice determined that she would teach her young son the Word of God.

We can imagine Eunice selecting a passage. There were so many examples to choose from:

  • The faith of Abraham who left everything to obey God.
  • The story of Jacob wrestling with God
  • The story of Joseph maintaining his faith in God when sold into slavery, when tempted to commit adultery, when thrown into prison when falsely accused, and yet he remained faithful and God finally exalted him to become the prime minister of Egypt.
  • The story of Moses, leading the children of Israel out of Egypt
  • Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan, marching around Jericho for seven days until the walls fell down flat.
  • Gideon defeating the army of the Midianites with just 300 Israelites.
  • David killing the giant
  • Daniel in the lions’ den
  • So many others!

Eunice selects a biblical passage. She reads it over and over to make sure she understands it. She selects a verse to memorize. This faithful mother is a woman of influence.

1.2.     The Scriptures help us walk in purity.

Psalm 119:9-11 ESV How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Eunice and Lois fill young Timothy with the Word of God. His whole worldview is shaped and molded by God’s Word. He meditates on God’s Word and thinks God’s thoughts after Him.

1.3.     The Scriptures make us wise.

The Apostle Paul had said that the Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation.

Psalm 119:98-101 ESV Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. 101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.

Eunice made sure that her son Timothy knew the Word of God that would make him wise. As Paul said,

2 Timothy 3:15 NLT You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.

This mother faced a difficult situation, a situation that she could have and should have avoided according to the Word of God, but she was determined in her heart to do her best in the midst of trying circumstances.

1.4.     The Temptation of Reverse Delegation

Books about business management talk about the problem of reverse delegation. That’s when your boss gives you a job, but you end up asking him to do it for you.

We are like that with God. We want to entrust our children to God and we want him to do whatever is necessary to save them. But that is why God has given us children. God said of Abraham,

Genesis 18:19 ESV For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

God has entrusted us with the responsibility of leading them to the Lord. We must pray for our children, but prayer is not enough. We must use the means that God has given us.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 NLT And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

When my sister and I were growing up, people would tell my parents that we were exceptional, that our behavior and our commitment to the Lord were exceptional. But that is not quite. We were not exceptional; our parents were exceptional.

Every morning before we would leave the house, our mother would have us read three chapters in the Bible, followed by prayer for the Lord’s blessing, protection, and guidance throughout the day. My mother believed that the Scriptures could make us wise “to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” I know that my mother prayed for us, but what is much more important is what she did with us: she read the Bible with us and prayed with us.

2.        To influence our children for God, we must be faithful.

One translation of Acts 16:1 says that Timothy was the son of a faithful Jewish woman.

2 Timothy 1:5 ESV I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Lois and Eunice were probably saved during Paul’s first visit to Lystra. Sincere faith first filled the heart of Timothy’s grandmother Lois and then his mother. By the time Paul returned three years later, Timothy was himself a disciple. Paul will call him his true son in the faith, not because Timothy was saved under Paul’s ministry, but because Paul had trained Timothy for ministry. Timothy was saved because he saw the faithfulness of his mother and his grandmother.

When we talk about faithfulness, we can also talk about sincere faith. If our faith is sincere, we will be faithful. Our faithfulness is an expression of our sincere faith. We show our faith by our faithfulness. That is what James said in his letter: it is one thing to say that we have faith; it is another thing to show our faith by our works.

It was the faithfulness of my parents to the house of God, the sincerity of their faith that showed me the reality of the Gospel that they were teaching me from the Word of God. My father was a very busy businessman, but every time there was a service at church, we were there. When we had special meetings that would sometimes last every night for three weeks, we were there each evening. Since my sister and I were students, we had to finish our homework as soon as we got home so that we would be ready to go to church. We were convinced of the reality of the Gospel by the faithfulness of our parents. If we are not faithful as parents, how can we expect our children to be faithful?

Sincerity of Faith

Let’s underline the sincerity of faith. Our sincerity or its lack is manifested in all that we do. Are living up to the Word of God? Literally, this sincere faith is faith without hypocrisy. We are not acting. Paul says that this sincere faith was first in Timothy’s grandmother, then in his mother before Timothy made it his own. The children are watching. They are waiting. They want to see if the faith is authentic, genuine, sincere.

We will transfer to our children what is in us, whether it be hypocrisy or sincerity and faithfulness.

Proverbs 22:6 ESV Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Conclusion: You have a great influence.

Ladies, you must never underestimate your influence as a mother or as a grandmother. In spite of great difficulties, Lois and Eunice instructed young Timothy in the Word of God. They watered him like a plant with the Word. They shaped him. They were faithful to their task, and with time, they saw the fruit of their work.

I would like to say to all mothers and grandmothers today, that God has given you a great responsibility. In your children are all the possibilities that God has put within them. Who would have ever thought that from this unfortunate marriage between Eunice and the unbelieving Greek, God would call a pastor and preacher of the Gospel?

What are your hopes for your children? Open your eyes to the possibilities. Open your eyes to your responsibilities. Be sincere and faithful.

  1. Make a commitment today to read at least one chapter from the Bible each day with your children.
  2. Choose some verses to memorize together.
  3. Pray with your children every morning and evening.