We as an older generation are passing off the scene. We sense that we have been blessed above measure. We have been given a priceless heritage of seeing the New Testament as a book to be lived out in everyday life because of our love for the Lord Jesus. We have no greater joy than to see that vision embraced by younger ones coming on.
There is a new generation filling our ranks, replacing us in energy and in resource. No doubt the qualms we have as we give them the reins are similar to the feelings of each preceding generation. One of the reasons for concern is that we understand more than ever how important convictions are, convictions that are based on eternal principles.
The Apostle Peter instructs us to give an answer to every man. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1Peter 3:15). Giving answers to the rising generation and to the seekers who come into our midst is certainly part of obeying Peter’s admonition.
The word which is translated “reason” is, according to Strong’s, logos. We receive our word logic as somewhat of a direct transliteration of this word. We also find the word logos is often translated “word,” as in “the word of God.” These are the two strong pillars our answers should be based on. One is the unchanging Word of God. The other is the logic or reason that links practices to their underlying principles.
How do we convince a rising generation of truth and its practical outworking? How can we help them appreciate the separation we have found so satisfying and fulfilling in our own experience?
Our children must be taught to hearken to admonition in the days of their childhood. There is something in our human nature that rebels at the thought of being told what to do. We do not like to be corrected, given direction, or to be instructed because we have a basic pride in ourselves. Out of three types of individuals who are not prepared for life, Proverbs identifies the fool as one who has not been taught to hearken. The simple one has not been instructed. The scorner has been told, but chooses immediate gratification. The fool despises correction.
From the days of toddlerhood we must train our children in obedience. They first must be conditioned to respond to simple commands without question. Later they will need to respond to more complicated directives and finally to internal voices which call them to duty or Christian discipleship. It is not easy to bring appropriate consequences, even painful correction, to our little ones, but it is of absolute necessity.
If we sense we were not made to obey as a way of life in our childhood, we need to be suspicious of ourselves and any friction we may have with authority. Perhaps our “very good reasons” for conflict or disobedience are really nothing more than a rebellious nature. A will guided in childhood goes a long way to producing a heart sincere in finding the truth in adulthood.
Our youth must witness that the gospel is the answer in our own experience. The Bible promises that God’s grace is able to see us through every challenge in life. It promises that there is specific fruit for those who are led and filled by God’s Spirit. It proposes that prayer does bring heavenly resources into our experience. If our way of life has to be propped up by artificial comforts or indulgences, the rising generation will see right through the emptiness of our faith. We will never be able to convince others that we have genuine New Testament discipleship when our lives do not express the soul rest that Jesus promises.
Likewise our youth will not believe an inconsistent gospel. If we major on minor commands but neglect the great identifying features of the Gospel, this will be obvious. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples” must be in place and visible as the main tenet of our faith. We will not be convincing when mammon or pleasure is the mainstay of our belief system as we hold to an empty culture.
Our youth should be encouraged to bring their doubts, struggles, and questions to us. In Deuteronomy 6:20-25, parents were instructed to expect questions and be ready with honest answers. The wise father in Proverbs 23:26 begged for the heart of his child, that he could guide him in the choices of life. He wanted his life to be an example, but he also wanted to know the doubts and questions with which his son was wrestling.
When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to guide the disciples into all truth, He kept his promise. They received the entire body of divine truth. Likewise, the disciples fulfilled their responsibility in writing these “all things” into the pages of God’s Holy Word. What is written has a back cover; the body of Truth is complete. May generations of church life discover extra truth? We are not equipped to add to the Word of God. We may discover ways to apply the Truth from generation to generation, but we cannot create more truth. Can we avoid the temptation to find ways to contradict the bible? Will we simply trust in its trustworthiness?
Our answers will be kept reasonable as we are forced to see their strengths or weaknesses through the eyes of those who have not come to accept them just because “we said so.” It is a blessing to the church to have a constant stream of new “outsiders” coming into the church. It is a blessing to have a rising generation who articulates their doubts about practices of the past. These force all of us to evaluate our norm, our status quo, to bring it in line with eternal truth.
Finding answers together will bond our hearts in closer unity. It is no secret—people will bond with those who give them answers. If they come to us and find we give pat answers or intimidate them with a “just because” answer, they will feel alienated in their hearts. If they go to a secular counselor and find answers that make sense, a bond will be created. They will naturally believe and adapt to the other philosophies the counselor believes in.
In short, let us all rise to the challenge from the Apostle Paul so many years ago…. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1Th 5:21).