08 January 2008

Sacrificing our children on the altar of Self

What are we doing to our children? Even some in the church? It pains me so deeply to see young people walking into church with all their designer labels, the girls in their spaghetti straps (if they even wear straps), all fitted like the local Church of the Almighty Self (i.e., "shopping mall"). There's a mall here in Knoxville. I went there recently looking for a gift for my wife's birthday. It wasn’t long until I realized why I don’t frequent these places any more than I do. It was like one big Pantheon composed of shrine after shrine where people worship at the altar of Self.

Sadly, many churches are becoming like these Pantheons. And our children are going to be the ones who suffer. Because they are being taught that if they are going to be anything, they have to dress like their friends. They have to wear the right clothes, the right labels. Instead of being taught that the most important thing they can do in their life is to follow Christ—not fashion trends. "Well, I want my child to have friends." How about teaching them to have the right friends? Not just people that will hang out with them if they wear the right clothes.

This situation reminds me of Judges 19:10-30 (ESV). So many parents are turning their children over to the Sons of Belial, thinking they are doing them some kind of big favor, only to realize—when it is too late—that they are really sending their children to their own destruction. Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all of these kids are going to be lost; some will be saved. But how many will live their lives to please the world, instead of pleasing God?

Verses 10-15But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him. When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, "Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it." And his master said to him, "We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah." So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah.

Instead of "concubine", the proper reading should be "wife" (Look at the context of 19:3. It describes the Levite as "her husband.") In this chapter, the Levite represents today's worldly parents, the Levite's wife represents their children, and Gibeah (and the land of Benjamin) is the church. When parents, who think they are doing right by teaching their children they have to look like the world, send their children to a church with a youth program whose sole purpose is to entertain them rather than teach them solid Biblical principles—these parents may not know any better, and may be thinking that their children are being shepherded properly.

This is why, in this day and age, a good youth pastor—one rooted and grounded in the Word of God rather than the ways of the world—is almost as important as the senior pastor. Because he is the one teaching the next generation. And whether this next generation grows up to be true worshippers of God or false worshippers of Self can be determined by the kind of instruction they receive from these youth pastors. But some parents don’t care. Many of these worldly parents are so self-absorbed and so much more affected by the style of their church rather than what's being taught that they just shrug their shoulders and turn a blind eye to their children's spiritual well-being.

Many of these parents say, "Well, you know, I don’t think of myself as my kid's parent so much as their friend." Well, parent, you should think of yourself as a parent. Because that's what you are!! Your job—your responsibility—is to raise your child in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). And if you don’t, do you know how high a price you will pay? It may be in this age, it may be in the age to come—but it will be paid. If you are a parent who is more concerned about your child's spiritual well-being than their acceptance by this world of greed, corruption, sin and death, then make sure their youth pastor is one who will train them properly in the ways of the Lord.

Verse 16 And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites.

This is where it starts to get interesting. The old man represents the compromising people in the church. As we will see later, these people offer friendship and kindness at first, but this will in turn give way to their desires to please those who practice wickedness. How shameful it is that so many of those who teach the youth in our churches are so enamored with the dazzling glitter and shiny gloss of the things of the world. They use worldly music—godless, anti-Christian, Satan-glorifying music—to attract the young people into their circle of followers. For what reason? To build up godly followers of Christ? Or adoring followers of men? 2nd Corinthians 6:14-18Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty." When you bring the worship of Self into the house of God, you are dividing that house. And that house will not stand (Matthew 12:25).

Is it something to be thought highly of that you have a large number of children in your youth service? How so, if their lives are no different than they would be if they weren’t there? "Well, the point is to get them in the door, then we give them the message." But what message are you giving them before they get in the door? Are you not telling them, at first, "See, we're Christians, and we like the same kind of music you like! We practice the same wicked acts as you do!" Then once they get in the door, do you tell them, "Hey, um, you know how we convinced you to come here by telling you we liked the same kind of music as you do? Well, we kinda lied. You really shouldn’t listen to that. We just did that so you would come here, and now that you're here—well, just don’t do that. M'K?"

As we will see in a short while, this Ephraimite is like that. He tells these people, "Of course you can lodge with me tonight. You will be safe, I will protect you, I will not suffer you to come to any harm." But that will not be the case. He will give in to pressure from outside, he will compromise his word, and great harm will come about because of it.

Verses 20-22And the old man said, "Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square." So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank. As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, Sons of Belial, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, "Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him."

They are promised protection. They are promised to be cared for and nurtured for the night. They are promised that all their needs will be met. But then, along come the world, knocking on the door. Calling out for the ones who are under the roof of the one who promised to care for them.

The world is not one to compromise. When the world decides it wants something—or someone—the world will not back down. It will yell and scream and bang on doors and burst in uninvited until it receives satisfaction. So why is the church not as forceful in staying true to the teachings of the One it claims to be its master? Why is the church so ready to back down and give in and compromise with the world that does not want to be our friend, but only seeks to destroy us? Why, when the world bangs on the door of the church, are we so hasty to just fling open wide our doors and let it in? Do we not think the goal of the world is to see the work of Christ set at nought? Do we think, "Well, if we show the world that we're really not the upright prudes they think we are, maybe they’ll like us and accept us. Maybe if we just compromise a little bit, maybe they'll be more accepting of us."

FOOLS! BLIND GUIDES! COMPROMISERS! CORRUPTERS!

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4) How much clearer does the word of God need to be before you realize that there is no "straddling the fence"? You are on one side or the other! How much clearer does it need to be spelled out before you realize that being the world's friend may make you acceptable in the sight of the world, but will make you detestable in the eyes of God!! Adulterers and adulteresses!! The world is knocking on your children's door!!!

They want your children to look like them. They want your children to listen to their music.

"Bring them out that we may know them!"

They want your daughters to be like Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton. They want your daughters to grow up thinking they need to be noticed to be important.

"Bring them out that we may know them!"

They want your sons to think they have to have sex with as many girls as they can in order to be a man. They want your sons to think they have to become alcoholics by the time they're 18 lest they be thought of as "backwards."

"Bring them out that we may know them!"

They want your children to grow up thinking that if they're not happy, it's somebody's fault. They want your children thinking this world owes them happiness. They want your children to think that it's OK to marry someone who isn't a Christian because, after all, that other person will change once they get married.

"Bring them out that we may know them!"

And what happens when you allow your children to be compromised by this world of corruption? What happens when you sacrifice your children's souls for your own satisfaction? What happens when you tell the world, "Here are my children! I offer them to you, I give them up to you to raise. Teach them as you will!"

Verses 23-28And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing." But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, until it was light. And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, "Get up, let us be going." But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home.

The Sons of Belial are, of course, the world. The world that says it wants to be your friend. The world that has a slight bit of affection for religious things—so long as those religious things don’t infringe on their own happiness. The world that tells us to keep our Christianity to ourselves. The world that tells us it wont accept us unless we look like it.

How many parents say to themelves, "I don’t want people thinking my child is a nerd. I will not have my children miss out on opportunities because they don’t look right, or dress right. Here, world! Have my children! Don’t think badly of me! Here! Take my children! I sacrifice them to you on the altar of Self! I give them to you in the name of Tommy Hilfiger! To the praise of Abercrombie and Fitch! And to the glory of Aeropostale and Hollister!!" And the world abuses them all their life long. And when the world is through with them, and has had their fun with your children, they get discarded and tossed to the side like so much refuse.

But that's OK. At least you won’t be thought of as that backwards parent that didn’t let your children live their life. At least you can say, "Oh, I gave my children everything! Whatever went wrong??" Because, hey, it's not your fault! And hey, you can just buy them one self-help book after another. You can send them to one shrink after another. They can spend years in therapy trying to sort out their broken lives. At least you didn’t compromise your principles. At least you showed your children how to live their lives on their terms, and nobody else's.

After this incident, the children of Israel set themselves against the tribe of Benjamin for allowing such men as these to live among them. It was a great war, and many thousands of people died in battle. It was one of the darkest periods in the early history of the nation of Israel. And I leave you with these last words of the book of Judges—the words that close this record of this dark period. Judges 21:25In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

In these days there is no restraint in the church. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes.

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