Saturday, March 1, 2008

Authority from Jesus – Part 1

Hi everyone, I hope this day finds you in good health and in a good spirit. I wanted to write today on the problem of children leaving the faith of their parents, along with a possible way to help. First, the statistics: in a recent study called the PEW study ( the study found that 44 percent of adults have left the denomination of their childhood for another denomination, another faith, or no faith at all. According to the 2005 study on youth entitled, "National Study of Youth and Religion," thousands of non-religious teenagers were interviewed who said they were raised to be religious but had become "non-religious." The teenagers were asked, "Why did you fall away from the faith in which you were raised?" They were given no set answers to pick from; it was simply an open-ended question. The most common answer (32%) was intellectual skepticism.


So children leave the faith of their parents, and even leave faith altogether because of intellectual skepticism. But is there anything parents can do to help combat their children's lack of faith? I believe at least one part of the solution is that parent's are given spiritual authority over their children, with this power going unused. Let me explain with two Biblical examples:


First, we know of the example of Moses and the disobedient people of Israel, as set out in the Books of Exodus and Numbers. In Numbers 14, we see that the people of Israel rebelled against Moses and Aaron as they are about to enter the Promised Land of Canaan, and the reports of the spies come back of the inhabitants being giants. And the people of Israel ask that a new leader be appointed and that they return to Egypt (Numbers 14:4). But Moses, as God's appointed leader over Israel was able to intercede on behalf of Israel, and ask God's forgiveness:


(Moses said) Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now."


20 Then the Lord said, "I have pardoned, according to your word. (Numbers 14:19-:20.)


This story shows all of Israel's sins were forgiven based upon the authority of its leader (Moses) and his plea to God for forgiveness. Let's not touch the topic of what this story means for who we should vote for in the next election, but let's see if this story has any application for parents. Do parents also have this kind of authority to ask for forgiveness of their children's sins? I think the story of Job shows that they do.


In Job, we see that Job is an upright man who shunned evil (Job 1:1). At the beginning of the story, Job and his wife have 10 children. And apparently these children were adult children who held parties of their own (Job 1:13). Yet, Job would offer burnt sacrifices for each of his children early in the morning after any celebration of feats, to "purify them" (Job 1:5, NLT). Job did this in case any of his children sinned by cursing God in their hearts (Job 1:6). And Job did this all the time for his children (Job 1:6).


Now, how much more powerful would our intercessions for our children be under the new Covenant of Jesus Christ? Though Job made repeated sacrifices of animals on his children's behalf, we have a much better sacrifice, the Lamb of God Himself, Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross. And so, as Hebrews 9:14 teaches, just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds, compared to the ceremonial sacrifices offer in the Old Testament. Therefore, I am saying that we can ask for forgiveness for our children by the blood of Jesus, just as Job repeatedly made sacrifices for his children.


Will our asking God for forgiveness of our children, grandchildren, godchildren, cause them to stop leaving their faith? No, not by this alone. But I like the chances of a child who is prayed for over the one who is not. So my take away application for those reading this, is that God has given us authority through our role as parent, godparent, grandparent, and others. Use your authority today and offer a sacrifice of praise and a prayer for forgiveness for others, as Moses and Job did before use. Thanks be to God.


Edward Oleander said...

"Every day people are leaving the church and going back to God."
~ Lenny Bruce ~

Bryan & Meggan said...


I'd say Scripture teaches that if they "left the faith" they never were really of the faith.

Parental authority in the realm of faith is an interesting realm of theology - it is where ideas like the age of accountability or infant baptism (I would say) find their genesis. For me personally I believe that Scripture teaches that if my children do not believe, then I am disqualified for ministry (Titus 1:6). Does that mean when they are adults too? I think that is more a matter of opinion, but to truly be “above reproach,” probably. Hopefully I will never have to face that day.

One thing I think we could all take from this in addition to what you wrote is the parental spiritual authority there is with adult children. Though you cannot force a child to believe, when they are adults I think you ought to be all the more active in trying to pass on the faith. A parent can never say that their job in spiritually raising their children is done. A parent should always be an example of faith, a treasure of wisdom and knowledge of faith, and an accountant of their child’s faith. It is a sad day when parents simply leave their children (yes, even adult children) to fend for themselves, so to speak, in the realm of faith. That is not the biblical pattern, and nor is it a loving one.


tom wolff said...

Hi Bryan, thanks for your addition.

Ed, Lenny Bruce is right in this sense. We don't need a church or religion to come into relationship with God. And Jesus is this Way to God, as Jesus taught everyone in John 14:6, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one can come to the Father except through Him. Thanks for your comment.