Drawn By Love, Kept By Grace – The Real Way to Keep Kids in the Faith

Leaving-Church1

A staggering 78% of kids raised in Bible-believing homes leave the faith by the age of 18. In an effort to understand this phenomenon, there are blogs, articles, and books written on this subject, discussing all sorts of ideas, such as perhaps it’s because we shove biblical “heroes” at them, or it’s because they attend youth group far more than they actually attend church, or maybe it’s because we’re pushing them to learn too many Bible verses.

 

The weakest argument I’ve heard so far is that Christians who use “churchy” language, such as believer, unbeliever, and the Lord willing, are somehow destroying our kids’ desire to follow Jesus. While that one may be the most frail and humanistic of the explanations, I do believe each may have its part in this unprecedented youth exodus. They still, however, miss the point of the deeper issue.

 

The solutions offered to these ideas address the specific issue thought to be the problem. We’re told that we should show kids that biblical “heroes” were actually liars, fornicators, and drunks. We decide that the youth should attend services once a month. We are warned against using “Christianese”, even though we are, in fact, Christians. And we’re told that we absolutely must show kids that the whole point of Christianity is that God always chases people who run from Him, and He will never give up on them. And yet the youth are still leaving.

 

These solutions don’t work because they only deal with the surface problems – the ones that exhibit themselves. You don’t really think Satan is going to make it that easy, do you? If we are searching in the wrong places for what is driving people away from the faith, we’ll end up with the wrong results.

 

To be fair, I have read some very good articles on this subject. One in particular, Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave the Church, should not be missed. In it, the writer states what I believe is the reason we are losing our kids: “We have failed to deliver to them the faith ‘delivered once for all'(Jude 1:3).” We have fed those searching for God a flimsy and idolatrous idea of what grace is and does. A counterfeit faith is no faith at all.

 

Apart from the true message of the Gospel, everything becomes superficial and unsatisfactory. So first, let’s take this out of the context of kids alone, and realize that for anyone – young or old – to stay rooted in the faith, we must understand what the Gospel truly is.

 

The message of the Gospel begins not with us or our need, or even God’s meeting that need. It begins with God – a God who is ultimately concerned about His glory, and who created man in His image to reflect and bear that glory. But from even before He created man, God knew we would mar His image through sin, and deeply grieve and displease Him. So from before the foundation of the world, God set about the business of redeeming and restoring His broken images, showing us love, mercy, and grace throughout history, ultimately culminating in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His only Son.

 

The work of the cross only strikes us as awe-inspiring,” one author wrote, “after we have first been awed by the glory of God.” But a great many people have been led into the kingdom of God by Christians who teach a watered-down version of the Gospel. Many prefer to tell people how much God loves them and wants to be with them forever, but shy away from talking about the bloody price of sin. Jesus died a brutal death to defeat sin and unite us to the Father through Him.

 

J.C. Ryle Quote on Sin

 

Love is power. And a self-centered, counterfeit gospel always leads to sin’s dominion again exerting itself. The primary reason sin gains power over believers is because we love it. If sin did not attract us and was not pleasurable, it would have no power over us. So what drives love of sin from us and cuts it off at its root?

 

A surpassing, transforming love.

 

And what fills us with this powerful, sin-displacing love?

 

Amazing grace…that saved a wretch like me.”*

 

He loved us before we knew Him, He died while we were yet His enemy. He holds us when we fail, He keeps us when we fall. He forgives us when we sin, He removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. He fills our hearts with surpassing love, He empowers us to keep every commandment.

 

Grace

 

Without love for sin, the world has no dominion over our us, for grace leads to godliness. A preeminent love for God, based on His love for us, makes doing His will and pleasing Him the believer’s greatest joy, and in this joy lies the strength to remain in Him (Neh. 8:10). And this joy lies only in this refrain:

 

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more
,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!**

 

The power of grace, the power of the true Gospel, is the power of all-conquering love. This alone can keep our kids – can keep us all – in the faith. 

 

Christ Alone

* Amazing Grace by John Newton

**It Is Well With My Soul by Horatio G. Spafford

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For the Love of Books

At the beginning of this year, I set a goal of finishing one book per month. I am way behind! I have, of course, completed many over the years, but I have just read my fifth book of 2012, and I want to share these five with you, along with a short review of each.

 

Loving the Little Years; Motherhood in the Trenches, by Rachel Jankovic

This book was written by a mama with five children ages five and under! God bless her heart, but you know that when she speaks about parenting, she knows what she’s talking about!

 

Rather than being filled with self-pity over how hard parenting lots of young children can be, this book is a courageous and comical look into the deeper issues of raising kids. It deals with correcting yourself before correcting your children, producing fruit and allowing God to do with it as he pleases, seeing discipline as a means of nourishment and grace, instructing children how to properly navigate emotions, giving kids the tools to become independent adults, teaching about thankfulness, and much more. Jankovic provides insight for Christian parents on how to have fun and live wisely, and find and give grace during the little years.

 

I laughed, cried, prayed, learned, and was convicted and encouraged. This book is definitely one of my top picks for mothers, and I highly recommend reading it!

 

Bringing up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman

This book was written by an American mother who, after living in Paris for a time, began to notice how different (read well-behaved) French children were from American children. Pamela explains the “wisdom” of French parenting and shows how American parents can make their lives less stressful by taking pointers from the French child-rearing experience.

 

I first heard about this book on a news program that described it as a “revolutionary” concept in raising children. I then read about it on blogs, in articles, and heard about it on talk radio programs. Everything I heard and read, though, seemed to me to not so much be revolutionary, but something one could learn if they were inclined to read old-school child-rearing material. Since I believe in the old-fashioned methods of parenting (and wanted to see what the hype was all about), I read the book.

 

Just as I thought, the majority of the advice that can be taken from “French parenting” equals out to nothing more than what used to be called “parenting”. I didn’t care for the author’s writing style, and a couple of the pointers were overly self-serving, even at the child’s expense.

 

All in all, if you are wanting to read about parenting and discipline, pick up The New Dare to Discipline by James Dobson, Making the Terrible Twos Terrific by John Rosemond, or How to Raise Good Kids by Barbara Cook, and don’t waste your money on Bringing up Bebe.

 

The Explicit Gospel, by Matt Chandler

Inspired by the needs of both the over-churched and the unchurched”, Matt Chandler writes a call to true Christianity, reminding us that the gospel is not works-based moralism, nor is it feel-good worship of tolerance and happiness. Instead, it is the beautiful truth of the supremacy of an awesome and holy God, the deep offense of man’s ungrateful sin, God’s merciful and unmerited favor, Christ’s brutal death and victorious resurrection, and the restoration of man – God’s image bearers – through Christ unto the glory of God.

 

You cannot understand the cross of Christ without understanding the weight of the glory of God and the offense of belittling his name and what the due punishment is for that offense,” Matt says. “The context of the gospel is the supremacy of Christ and the glory of God.”

 

To understand the true gospel, therefore, is to understand that “God’s plan for redemption is scaled to his glory.” Jesus redeems our souls, our hearts, and our history. “My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more…praise the Lord, oh my soul!”

 

Be warned though, the presentation of the true, explicit gospel of Christ demands a response; it will melt you or it will harden you. It is disquieting, convicting, and disruptive. It uproots the peaceful, pleasurable, and tranquil notions of many. It is also comforting, connecting, and gives an understanding of true hope, redemption, and salvation. To truly understand the gospel is to be transformed.

 

This is truly one of the best books I’ve ever read. It is a must-read for anyone wanting to know the beauty of brokenness, the fullness of freedom, and the truth of transformation. If you have ever wondered what the big deal about the gospel is, this book is for you.

 

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

Ahhh, how do I love this book? Let me count 1,000 ways. I almost don’t even feel like I need to say anything about this book since everyone knows my heart’s deep and abiding affection for this literary piece of heaven on earth.

 

Often difficult to read yet hauntingly beautiful in style, this book is a dare to live more fully right where you are. For my complete analysis of this book, read my blog post, Thanksgiving Thursdays, A Tradition of Gratitude.

 

 

The Hole in our Holiness, by Kevin DeYoung

John Piper calls Kevin “ruthlessly biblical” in his writing of this book. Written for those wanting to understand the role of the law in the life of the believer, Kevin shows us how to “fill the gap between gospel passion and the pursuit of godliness.”

 

DeYoung became a favorite author of mine when I read his book Why We’re Not Emergent, co-authored with Ted Kluck. I eagerly pre-ordered this book before it was released, since both the subject and author piqued my interest.

 

The subject, the lack of the pursuit of holiness among professing Christians, has long been a fire in my soul. Having been raised in a legalistic environment, I have seen many people of my generation go too far and take on the belief that holiness equates moralism. They no longer see the need live a transformed life of sanctification. Few Christians today look like Christ, and far too many aren’t concerned about that.

 

This book is for those who “are ready to take holiness seriously,” and I highly recommend reading it.

 

I have several more books on my upcoming reading list, and I’m excited to get to them! No doubt, I will let you know what they are and what I think of them.

I would love to hear what you are reading! Please tell me your favorite books in the comments section.