I’ve been late in this final post—thanks for your patience. On top of that, I’m sure it will be too long. Several days ago I had a very good 40-minute conversation with the young lady who wrote the letter. Her heart is tender to the Lord and I will share some of that in a “wrap up” post tomorrow.
As for this third response, here are the primary things I would say to the young lady who wrote the letter:
1. Pursue God and Loving Jesus with All of Your Heart and Future. Ephesians 6:6 reminds us to do the will of God from the heart. God tells us His first command is that we love Him with all of our hearts. Regardless of your past, or who failed you (and we all have people who failed us) it’s now up to you to keep your Christian life real, from the heart.
Externals are just that—externals. They are to be the product of a right heart, not a replacement or cover for it. Whatever outward service or standards you have in life, let them flow from a fervent, heart-based love for Jesus Christ. Let your life flow from the inside out. The externals of the Christian life—the preaching, teaching, worship, service, standards—only make sense if you have a real heart walk. If you don’t, you will only end up resenting the externals, as many Christians do. Nobody but you can make sure that your heart and love for Jesus are strong.
2. It’s Time to Prove Your Own Beliefs and Biblical Standards. Some would counsel you to abandon the outward evidences of Christianity that you have been taught—I’m glad that is not your heart. That would be a mistake. Externals do not produce spirituality, but a truly spiritual heart will always “shew forth” externally. You can’t hide godliness beneath a carnal exterior. Now is the time to dig deep, embrace not only the biblical externals, but the solid foundation of belief that you have been given. Now is the time to prove and establish your own personal convictions based upon the Word of God. Titus 2:11-12 states that the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness. God’s Word is clear that our conversation (lifestyle) is to be as becometh the Gospel (Philippians 2:17). We are commanded to shew forth the praises of Him… (1 Peter 2:9).
3. The Passing of Time Will Change Your Perspective. Over the coming decade, and longer, you will gradually become more and more thankful for what your parents did right, and more forgiving of their blind spots. You will become more and more grateful that they stayed married, kept you in church, gave you a solid foundation, and protected you from sin. Don’t be too hard on them. When you are a parent, you too will have blind spots that you will need your children to forgive.
4. Don’t Mistake Parental Blind Spots for Flaws in the Faith or Way of Jesus Christ. There is no perfect earthly authority. One of my great prayer requests is that my own children and those I influence would stay faithful to the Lord—in spite of my imperfections. Human flaws don’t indicate that the truth is flawed or that the ways of Christ are flawed. They simply reveal that we all struggle at this thing of the Christian walk. I’m glad to know that you haven’t hardened your heart to church, to preaching, to teaching, or to other right things in your life.
5. Don’t Mistake Institutional Structure for Personal Holiness. A school, a college, or any institution must have structure. In Christian environments, often that structure is mistaken as some ultimate standard of personal holiness. For instance, it’s not a sin to chew gum, but most Christian educational institutions don’t allow it. Every school must draw boundaries of appropriate dress, behavior, etc. It’s a huge mistake to assume that the school’s boundaries should be the standard of holiness for every Christian. Personal holiness cannot be that legislated and institutionalized. Be thankful for institutions that raise the standard high. But develop your own walk with Christ and your own personal standards of holiness.
6. Deal with the Bitterness and Forgive. There’s only one option regarding those who have failed you. Forgive them, as Christ has forgiven you, and refuse to become bitter. Stop and think about the ways you’ve failed those same people. Consider all that they have done for you. If you become bitter, your life and future will become a reaction to the failure of others. Don’t let that happen.
7. Build on the Right Foundation that Your Parents Gave You. There isn’t a parent alive that doesn’t hope their kids will grow up and do things better than they did. We all do our best, make our mistakes, and hope that we gave our children the tools to do better. I promise, your parents feel the same. These experiences place you in the position to determine that you will do things differently with your own kids. So build on what your parents gave you, and decide now that you will build the relationships that you missed. Don’t repeat history. Determine to provide for your children the balance that you missed.
8. Ask the Lord for the Right Opportunity to Talk to Your Parents. The coming years will probably afford you a good opportunity to develop what you missed out on. Ask the Lord to give you the grace, the wisdom, and the love to pursue that closeness that you haven’t had yet. There’s still a chance to have it.
9. Be Ready for Some Teens and Those to Whom You Minister to Reject Your Message. By far, most of the young people I’ve known over the past 20 years have stayed faithful to the Lord. But each one has a free will, and even in a perfect environment, some young adults would still grow up and reject truth. This is the price of being in ministry—your message, and more importantly, your Saviour will be rejected. Some who reject will return! So don’t ever lose hope or reject them. Always have open arms to welcome them back.
10. Decide to Be an Open, Approachable Parent. When you have kids, welcome questions. The bottom line is this: the Christian life makes sense. A holy life makes sense! When I read of or meet Christians who reject holy living, I wouldn’t want their life. I wouldn’t trade places with them. Right living is worth it. When our kids reject right living, they are deceived. Make sure your kids can come to you with “why…” and “how come…” and “but what about…” and give them solid, biblical, logical answers. Be real, be a joyful Christian, and help others make sense of the ways of Christ.
There’s a lot more to say, but those are the things that your letter put on my heart. Thank you for writing to me! Keep growing in God’s grace and walking personally with Him! There’s nothing better in all of life!