I have a theory that I would like to expound on why we might be ineffective in relating the Gospel to others. Hazel, my wife, used to remind me concerning my parenting that “rules without reason brings rebellion”. I would say, “Oh I’ve got a reason”, but admittedly it didn’t always come out that way. From time to time, I have heard in religious discussions the outlining of do’s and don’ts which come across bluntly, cold, and without love: hence the “rules without reason” warning. Do I think these people don’t love or don’t have faith in God? No, that would be a judgment of the heart I couldn’t make. But sometimes the way the rules are expressed and emphasized opens up God’s people to the accusation of being works oriented and graceless. Are we? No. But it’s still a problem which must be addressed if we are to effectively change hearts and minds for Jesus.
The Bible shows us great spiritual principles like grace, justice, faith, hope, love and so on. Now unless these go from the abstract and “metaphysical” to the concrete, they are meaningless and unhelpful. For example, unless God actually sent His Son to die for our sins, grace would be meaningless and unhelpful. Unless we actually do what we profess to believe, faith is a hollow term. And similarly we know “love, faith, and hope” by the way they are lived. Those three little words which relate to actions, just as the Apostle Paul makes clear in the first letter to the Thessalonians. He said he was, “constantly bearing in mind your WORK of faith and LABOR of love and STEADFASTNESS of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 1:3; 1 Cor. 13:13).
To effectively preach the Truth of God to others, for example, to our children, we must present both the outward expression of faith and also speak passionately about faith itself. My experience tells me that parents and other Christians often speak of the outward expression: you must go to church, you must remove your hat in prayer, you must pray before dinner, you must wear modest clothing, you must not curse or say God’s name in vain, you must do this and you must not do that. All of these things are fine and needed, but where is the faith? Where is the motivation of God’s grace? Why do these if there’s no mention of the hope of heaven? I suppose my point is that we often bypass the “why” and it sounds like we are merely talking about rules (there’s no accusation here to anyone on my Facebook, just an observation from years of experience.) Back to the theory….
How are we to effectively bring the next generation to God if we don’t talk lovingly and passionately about the Messiah who loved children? How are we to arm our children for spiritual warfare if we do not speak with awe of the mighty deeds of God. I was reading an old comment on my blog (http://www.aconqueringfaith.net/2008/04/what-we-taught-our-children.html) from a mother who attributed her child’s faithfulness to her focus on “church attendance with sincere faith” and the mother went on to explain the way she exemplified that faith in her own life. The mother did not emphasize only “church attendance”, “wear a dress”, “don’t cuss”, etc. This mother understood that a message of rules would be powerless and ineffective unless a “sincere faith” was also communicated to her child.
So when we fail to bring our children to God, it may be that we did not adequately explain the love and saving grace of God. And if our children do not see visible faith, hope, and love in us, all of the rules we pound in their head will prove to be flat and powerless to shape the souls. When we speak the whole counsel of God. Speak of grace and faith (Eph. 2:8,9), but also speak of the works that accompany them. AND according to my theory, when we speak of characteristic Christian works, be sure to speak of the God’s grace for those who put their faith in Him.
p.s. message me or comment with questions or clarifications. Thanks.