Instruments of Influence
Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:14–15
Instruments of Influence2 Timothy 3:14-15
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Pastor Randy Smith
I think New Jersey has to be the most colorful state in the nation. Wherever I go people almost always have a strong impression of our state. When I reveal that I am from New Jersey, it's almost as if I brace myself for a joke or a long story. Everybody almost always seems to know somebody from New Jersey. Sadly, almost always their understanding of our state is weak. It doesn't take long to tell who really knows the state and who's an imposter.
So how do you know if you really know New Jersey?
- You know what a pork roll sandwich is and understand that everybody here does not love Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. You don't think of fruit when you think of "The Oranges." You can name three diners within 5 miles of your home.
- You know what a jughandle is. You refer to all highways and interstates by their numbers (except for "the Parkway" and "the Turnpike)."
- You know that there are no "beaches" in New Jersey - there's the shore, and you don't just go to the shore; no matter where you're coming from, it's always going "down to the Shore."
- You know that this is the only "New" state that doesn't require the preface "New" to identify it.
- You don't think "What exit?" is very funny.
- You have at least three friends named Tony, Sal and Frank.
- You have never pumped your own gas.
- And you know the state is not one big oil refinery
I believe in many ways that reach a more serious level, you can also oftentimes tell the difference between a Christian and a Christian imposter. I know we can't see the heart, but we can usually tell a lot based upon lifestyle and spiritual fruit those who claim to be a Christian and those who really are living for Jesus.
To get even more specific on Mother's Day, there is a distinct difference between a Christian mother and a non-Christian mother. Oftentimes we like to draw this contrast between the mean or neglectful mother that we hear about too often in the news (the non-Christian mother) and the sweet mother that deeply cares for her children (the Christian mother). And while I would never disagree that all Christian mothers are to be caring mothers, I would also state that not all caring mothers are indeed Christian mothers.
I was blessed to have been raised by a very loving mother. She placed my needs exceedingly above her own. I can remember her working a second job to help put me through college. Frequently she would wake up, prepare me a breakfast and get me to hockey practice by five o'clock in the morning. She always was there to help. She always was my biggest cheerleader. She always listened. She always went over and above to provide the most thoughtful Christmas and birthday presents. And she did all of this as an unbeliever - without any apparent biblical knowledge, any dependence on the Holy Spirit, any prayer and any desire to glorify Jesus Christ.
So if Christians are truly set apart for Christ and indwelt by the Spirit, if we really are born-again and recreated with new hearts and desires, what marks should truly identify a Christian mother? If it's only being sacrificial and gentle and caring, you didn't need to come to church to hear that. Any secular Hallmark Card for Mother's Day off the aisles of K-Mart can teach you that. Is it only showing up for church on the weekends and praying with your children at bedtime?
This morning we'll find out what a Christian mother looks like by looking at three different domains through the lens of Holy Scripture.
1. Biblical Thinking
The first domain unique to a Christian mother is "Biblical Thinking."
The apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:14, "The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." In 1 Corinthians he said our message as Christians is "foolishness" to the world (1 Cor. 2:14). So if our message is contrary to what those without Christ believe, shouldn't what they believe also be foolishness to us? I believe we as Christians agree with this on paper, and yet we often still get our cues on parenting from the enemies of God who suppress the truth of Scripture in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).
So how do we best approach this? Option one is that we can just do what many parents do. There is little dedication to their children or concern to develop good parenting skills. Whenever they get around to it, whatever works, works. Option two is to understand the responsibility of being a parent, but then get our cues like the world from either unbelieving friends, talk show hosts or magazines at the checkout line. Option three, realize God wants us to be good parents, believe the Bible is sufficient for all we need to know and then follow this instruction manual given to us by God in everything we do.
So where does this biblical thinking start? Mothers need to understand the biblical purpose of motherhood. Far from children being an inconvenience or interruption or even something that can enhance our lives, we must see them in the light of Psalm 127:3: "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward."
The reason the Lord takes motherhood so seriously is because He takes children so seriously. Every child is a gift from Him, a stewardship entrusted to the care of a mother that will nurture and point that child to Christ. This takes time. This takes effort. This takes skill. And without starting with the right priority, there is no chance of this ever taking place. Motherhood must be seen for what it is - a high and serious calling given to us by the living God. Mothers, do we believe that? Do our daughters believe that?
Stories are frequently told of all the young girls that are asked in school what they want to be when they grow up. Every little girl is praised until one says, "I want to be a good mother." Blank stares and crickets chirping!
I think of Hannah from 1 Samuel 2. She was barren, but promised God that if she was given a child, she would dedicate the child to the service of the Lord in the Tabernacle. She was given that child. She fulfilled her vow, but didn't release the child until he was weaned. Even though her child was to be moved to a distant location, Hannah knew the priorities of a mother to establish that firm godly foundation in the early years.
One author said, "The goal of becoming a godly mother is the highest and most noble pursuit of womanhood. God has specially equipped women for that very purpose, and in Christ, women can experience profound satisfaction in that divinely ordained pursuit. They can be who God created them to be" (John MacArthur, The Profile of a Godly Mother).
I am so encouraged by the mothers in this church that view their calling as mothers as a priority.
2. Biblical Teachng
Second, it is impossible to raise children that will honor God, if the parent, in particular the mother because of her concentrated time with the children does not commit her life to teaching her children the Scriptures.
Here is what one pastor back in 1928 had to say about his mother: "Well may we pause to pay honor to her who after Jesus Christ is God's best gift to men, mother. It was she who shared her life with us when as yet our members were unformed, into the valley of the shadow of death she walked that we might have the light of life. In her arms was the garner of our food and the soft couch for our repose. There we nestled in the hour of pain; there was the playground of our infant glee. Those same arms later became our refuge and stronghold. It was she who taught our baby feet to go and lifted us up over the rough places. Her blessed hands plied the needle by day and by night to make our clothes. She put the book under our arm and started us off for school. But best of all, she taught our baby lips to lisp the name of Jesus and told us first the wondrous story of a Savior's love" (W.L. Caldwell).
The Bible simply takes it for granted that Christian mothers will be teaching their children the Bible. It's all over Proverbs: 6:20, "Do not forsake the teaching of your mother." 23:24-25, "The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her rejoice who gave birth to you." 31:26, "She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." How about Psalm 78:4? "We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done."
Remember the sons of Eli? Cruel actions and no regard for the Lord. Much of the blame was placed on the parents that weaned them, mainly the father. The Bible says these sons were "worthless men; they did not know the LORD" (1 Sam. 2:12).
How about contrasting them with the godly young man named Timothy? The apostle Paul said of Timothy: "I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father" (Phil. 2:20-22). Contrary to the sons of Eli, Timothy was useful man in the hands of God.
And contrary to the parenting of Eli's sons, the apostle Paul says this about the parenting of Timothy, mainly his grandmother and mother: "For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well (2 Tim. 1:5). And, "You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:14-15).
The Scriptures say Eunice the mother in Timothy's life had a "sincere faith." Her faith was genuine. It could be passed off to the next generation. It was marked by a Christlike example and a wholehearted commitment to teach Timothy the Scriptures (the verse says) when he was a young boy. God grew these seeds planted by his mother and used Timothy mightily for His glory.
As a parent, I'm always thinking that. I want my children to honor God more than anything else. How will that happen if they are not learning the Bible in their home? And I can be teaching them the Bible, but is their best Bible lesson of what it means to be a Christian seen in my life? So is my faith like Lois and Eunice, a "sincere faith?"
I remember, I think it was Natalie, a long time ago, who came home with a project she completed in school. It was a profile of her father. One of the questions was what does your dad like to do at home? Obviously her answer to that question would reveal a lot about what she believes are my priorities. Her answer" "He's always reading his Bible." No it wasn't! She answered: "He watches sports on TV." I read the Bible at work and in the evening when she was sleeping, but it was a reminder that I need to model before her eyes the priority of Scripture in my own life. If I don't, what motivation is there for her to prioritize it when I encourage her to live her life by the Word of God?
Parents, show and speak the Bible to your children!
- Let them learn about people who turned from sin and were saved by God.
- Let them learn about people who suffered the awful consequences of making sinful choices.
- Let them learn about people who did amazing things through faith.
- Let them learn to have the highest regard for people who truly love the Lord.
- Let them learn the priorities of the family and the church.
- Let them learn biblical virtues such as love and humility and wisdom and honor and self-control and joy and hope.
- Let them learn about their own sin and the accountability they have before God.
- Let them learn about the beauty of Christ and the forgiveness offered in His name.
Moms, see it as your ultimate responsibility to train your children. Show them Christ. Read to them the Bible and excellent books (available in our bookstore). Get them out to church and keep church a priority. Prepare them to be "arrows" (Psm. 127:4) one day shot from you to be useful weapons for God's kingdom, regardless of their vocation, that will reproduce in their own children what they learned from you.
In recalling his mother, the great preacher, C.H. Spurgeon said, "Never could it be possible for any man to estimate what he owes to a godly mother. Certainly I have not the powers of speech with which to set forth my valuation of the choice blessing which the Lord bestowed on me in making me the son of one who prayed for me, and prayed with me. How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come?... How can I ever forget when she bowed her knee, and with her arms about my neck, prayed, 'Oh, that my son might live before Thee!'"
3. Biblical Living
So biblical priorities, biblical instruction and last, biblical living. What I mean by that is the home that the Lord desires to see a Christian mother cultivate.
I love all the passages that take the heart of a mother and then use it as an example for other biblical relationships. For example, when God wanted to illustrate His tenderness for His people, He said in Isaiah 66, "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted in Jerusalem" (Isa. 66:13). When Paul spoke of his pastor's heart for the church he said, "But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children" (1 Thes. 2:7). When David considered his hope in the Lord he said, "Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother" (Psm. 131:2).
I remember one time when Shane was throwing up throughout the night. I came downstairs and Julie had him on the couch cuddling him in her arms. I'm like, "He's contagious! He going to get you sick as well!" And her response was, "This is what mothers do." And even if I were brave enough to take her place, we all know very few fathers can replace a mother's touch in the life of a child.
All those attributes of God that bring us so much comfort are revealed in the heart of a Christian mother. And when the mom, who often is wired to display these traits better than the dad, demonstrates them in the home, it shows and sets a wonderful environment that models Christ for the family and the visitors who enter.
Thank God for our mothers who best model the very traits our Lord desires to fill our homes with encouragement and gentleness and hospitality and modesty and unconditional love and forgiveness.
I fully affirm the saying, "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world." Society has sold mothers a pack of lies. It's not about raising kids to get on with the more important things in life. Motherhood is a high calling and a blessed calling that God has entrusted especially to women.
So mothers, be encouraged! No one has arrived. Because the calling is so high, all mothers, just like I would say to all fathers, have room to grow in this area. Many ladies think they are forced to figure this out for themselves. But the good news is that you are not alone. The Lord is with you. He has given you His Word. He has given you excellent Christian resources. And He has given you the church (Sunday school, showers, retreats and life-on-life). As a matter of fact, one of the primary responsibilities for older ladies in the church is to train the young ladies in these areas.
You know Titus 2, "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored" (Tit. 2:3-5).
I know with Christ there is always room for change. And according to the verses I just read from Titus, there is always room to be used by the Lord in this area regardless of your age, past experiences or station in life.
I'm thankful we have so many women that prioritize Christian motherhood (both young at old) at our church. According to Scripture, they should be held in high regard in our church and in high regard in the homes where they dwell by their husbands and children. In Proverbs 31 we read, "Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: 'Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.' Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates" (Pro. 31:28-31).