"EVANGELISM TRAINING BY EXAMPLE"

Proverbs 22.6

 

INTRODUCTION:

1. Turn in your Bible to Proverbs 22.6, which will serve as our text. When you find that verse please stand for the reading of Godís Word: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

2. There is an age old argument concerning the factors that most influence the rearing of children. Some say that the main influence is inheritance. Others say that the main influence is environment. And each argument, it might seem to some, is used to take credit where credit can be taken and to shift blame where blame can be shifted.

3. There is no doubt in my mind that inheritance plays some strong role in how a child will turn out. But such verses in Godís Word as we have before us show that the most vital factor in rearing children is the skill, the wisdom, and the spirituality of the childrenís parents.

4. This morning I wish, particularly, to use this verse for the purpose of encouraging you and exhorting you to raise your children in such a way that they will, when they are converted, if they are converted, live a useful life in the masterís vineyard.

5. That this is your responsibility is clear from First Thessalonians 2.12 where Paul, comparing his ministry to that of a motherís and then to that of a fatherís, very clearly showed the goal of good pastoring and the goal of good parenting to be, "That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory."

6. Godís desire is for you to raise your children in such a way, not that they would have warm and fuzzy feelings of quality time spent with dad when they grow up, not that they remember fresh baked cookies in the kitchen when they reach adulthood, but that they would be trained to walk worthy of God. The real golden moments bear little resemblance to Norman Rockwell paintings, but are comprised of those times and occasions that a godly man or woman can look back on as priceless gems of instruction and example when mom and dad taught me how to serve God.

7. Now for a little history. Some years ago God, in His wise and merciful Providence, showed me that what I had been taught about reaching people for Christ was wrong-headed and actually destructive to the cause of Christ. Not that I was confused about the Gospel, but that I was confused about how best to apply the Gospel.

8. I had been taught, and I had in turn taught, decisionism. Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved. Though I did not believe decisionism had I been asked, I certainly did practice decisionism, and passed it on to others in this Church.

9. What God provided for me about 7 years ago was a much needed clarification of things related to conversion. Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinnerís standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.

10. Realizing that I did not, myself, fully understand the implications of these last 170 years of error brought on by the 19th century heretic Charles G. Finney, and that it would take me years of prayer, study and reflection to make meaningful progress in straightening my ministry out, I made a significant move about 4 years ago. I had decided to end all forms of organized outreach at our Church 7 or 8 years ago. Then, after de-emphasizing organized outreach for several years, about 4 years ago I then discontinued our outreach.

11. Why did I eliminate our "soul winning" ministries? Was it because they were unimportant? No, it was because they were profoundly important, and because our approach to evangelism and "soul winning" as decisionists was actually more harmful to the cause of Christ, in my opinion, than doing nothing at all. You see, I am convinced that it is far better to leave a lost man lost than to trick and deceive him into thinking he is saved while he is still very much lost. And that is what usually happens with decisionism.

12. Why did I make this move? As Dirty Harry once said, "A manís got to know his limitations." And I knew that if I tried to gradually root decisionism out of this congregation over time I simply would not succeed. So I stopped the outreach and ran the risk of allowing folks to become dormant in their thinking about what a Churchís outreach ought to be like, while teaching you for several years about your personal approach to witnessing. That teaching series, if you will remember, I called "Unsupervised Evangelism."

13. Another reason I made the move to end our decisionism approach to evangelism by shutting down evangelism was because we at the time had so many unconverted Church members that I knew resistance to a more Scriptural approach to evangelism would be resisted by many members, even though the resistance would be an unintentional consequence of being unconverted.

14. But now that perhaps half of our congregation is hopefully converted we are starting up our evangelistic outreach in what I sincerely pray is a more Scriptural approach than before. But our attempt to purge from our minds the wrong way to reach the lost and replace it with the right approach comes with a cost. And the cost is born by two groups in our congregation:

15. First, the cost is born by those who have come to Christ here during the last 4 or 5 years. These new converts have come into their new Christian lives without the important impression of how vitally critical to the Christian life it is to seek the conversion of the lost as a part of the Churchís ministry. Iím sadden by this, but there was no other way I could see to do what needed to be done. All I can now do is stress the importance of evangelism to the hopefully converted and wait for their new life in Christ to show itself in our new Saturday night outreach.

16. Then there are our children. In a perfect world with a perfect pastor who had perfect knowledge my daughter would have been raised in a Church that always had an organized outreach. But Sarah, and Leah, and Eric Moyer, and Michael DiGiovanna, and Stephen DiGiovanna, and so many others, will always have in their memories a Church that for a while had no outreach. That is very sad, but unavoidable in our efforts to rid ourselves of decisionism. What harm it will do them remains to be seen, but is offset by the harm they would have experienced growing up in a decisionist minstry.

17. But we now come to the younger children and the newer children. I speak of those who will not really remember in their adulthood the last 4 years of inactivity, because they are simply too young. Along with them are the kids who have not been here long enough to form the firm memories that they will use to judge their childhood memories upon reaching adulthood. I speak of Jason, and Jack, and Thomas, and Joaquin, and Priscilla, and Brandon, and Sean, and Matthew, and James, and Erin, and Jordan, and Katarina.

18. Our lesson for today will show you parents of these kids how to provide these children with evangelism training. Training that will not only impress upon them the tremendous importance of getting converted themselves, but training that will show them very clearly that Christianity without involvement in the Churchís organized outreach isnít real Christianity at all, but the pitiful new evangelicalism that is so common here in Southern California, wherein every man does that which is right in his own eyes.

19. Look to our text, Proverbs 22.6, as we consider the interpretation, the application, and your opportunity as parents to leave with your children the profoundly important legacy of genuine Christianity.

1A. First, THE INTERPRETATION

1B. "Train up a child in the way he should go" Let us first consider this curious clause.

1C. Adam Clarke translates this phrase, "ĎInitiate the child at the opening (the mouth) of his path.í When he comes to the opening of the way of life, being able to walk alone, and to choose; stop at this entrance, and begin a series of instructions, how he is to conduct himself in every step he takes. Show him the duties, the dangers, and the blessings of the path; give him directions how to perform the duties, how to escape the dangers, and how to secure the blessings, which all lie before him. Fix these on his mind by daily inculcation, till their impression is become indelible; then lead him to practice by slow and almost imperceptible degrees, till each indelible impression becomes a strongly radicated habit. Beg incessantly the blessing of God on all this teaching and discipline; and then you have obeyed the injunction of the wisest of men. Nor is there any likelihood that such impressions shall ever be effaced, or that such habits shall ever be destroyed." The Hebrew word, "which we translate train up or initiate, signifies also dedicate; and is often used for the consecrating any thing, house, or person, to the service of God. Dedicate, therefore, in the first instance, your child to God; and nurse, teach, and discipline him as Godís child, whom he has intrusted to your care. These things observed, and illustrated by your own conduct, the child (you have Godís word for it) will never depart from the path of life."

2C. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary states that this word "train" refers to initiating, or instructing early on.

3C. Here is what Matthew Henry says: "Catechise them; initiate them; keep them under discipline. Train them as soldiers, who are taught to handle their arms, keep rank, and observe the word of command. Train them up, not in the way they would go (the bias of their corrupt hearts would draw them aside), but in the way they should go, the way in which, if you love them, you would have them go. Train up a child according as he is capable (as some take it), with a gentle hand, as nurses feed children, little and often."

4C. So you see, there is consensus that this refers to the early impressions you make on a child. This leaves you parents with young children having a unique opportunity. And you parents whose children have only recently been introduced to Church also have a wonderful opportunity. You can so raise your children that they have no contrary memories of a Christian faith that does not seek the salvation of the lost, but only memories of a Christian lifestyle which is so ordered to the Gospel that temptations to wickedly sin against God by ignoring oneís duty to reach the unreached with the message of salvation are weak at best.

5C. And is this important? First Thessalonians 1.3-4 shows that this is integral to establishing your own convincing Christian testimony: "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."

2B. "And when he is old, he will not depart from it." Now the concluding portion of our text.

1C. Of course, parents who love their children seek to set them on a course and direction of life that will most greatly benefit them. Itís the natural affection all parents have for their children.

2C. Most beneficial to your child, you must realize, are not the happy memories of long ago, but a life that is lived in the present for God.

3C. Your example, and your exhortation, will go a long way in setting the course of life your own children will follow.

2A. Next, THE APPLICATION

1B. There is only one correct interpretation of any portion of Godís Word, while there are many, many applications. The interpretation of this verse calls for parents to initiate their children, to train them at the beginning, to start them out right.

2B. The application that i wish to focus on this morning has to do with your childís view of Christianity, with how the christian faith is perceived, what itís duties and obligations are. Specifically, the duty and obligation of evangelism.

1C. The Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ provides us with our marching orders. "Go ye therefore and preach the Gospel to every creature." Found in 5 places in the Gospels and Acts, I submit that your children will not take the Great Commission seriously if you do not take it seriously. Train them early by setting the proper example for them.

2C. If the Great Commission is our command, then Romans 1.14 shows our holy obligation. Paul wrote, "I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise." And we, no less than Paul, have a debt to the unreached, an obligation to the unsaved, to at least try to reach them for Christ.

3C. In John 15.8 Jesus said, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." That is, when sinners are brought to Christ God the Father is glorified and those converts are likened to fruit, much like a living branch bears fruit as testimony to its health and attachment to the vine.

4C. These three passages taken with First Thessalonians 1.3-4, which we have already considered, can be considered with Ephesians 2.10, which we examined last week, "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Five different insights, then, into the Christian life that any child is literally robbed of by not being privileged to see them in action on a daily basis.

3A. Finally, YOUR OPPORTUNITY

1B. If your experiences match mine in any way then you grew up with a perverse and distorted view of Christianity, misrepresenting the reality of the Christian faith in a harmful and destructive way that interfered with the simple gospel message.

2B. Now itís your turn, and I hope you are committed to faithfully representing Bible Christianity to your children. Iíve showed to you that Christianity really isnít Christianity if it isnít vibrant and outreaching, if it isnít enthusiastically organized to reach the lost.

3B. I could just have easily shown you that Christianity is not a lone ranger religion, each person doing his own thing for God, in a triumph of arrogant autonomy over spiritual submission to the will of God.

4B. Bible Christianity is local church centered. Bible Christianity is congregational communion and cooperation to get the job done. This is why the gathering together of ourselves should not be forsaken, Hebrews 10.25, even when the gathering together is for evangelism Saturday at 6:00 PM instead of preaching Sunday morning at 10:30 and Sunday evening At 6:00.

5B. How is getting sinners to church less important than preaching to them once they get there? Therefore, how is getting your children to evangelism on Saturday night at 6:00 less important than getting them to church on Sunday?

CONCLUSION:

1. What a unique opportunity you have if your children are very young or if you are not a long time Church attender.

2. You have an amazing opportunity to do for your children with respect to Christianity what you may wish someone had done for you when you were young.

3. So, donít blow it, okay? Saturday at 6:00 PM.

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