Sunday Sermon: ‘Raising a Champion for Christ’

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Take your Bible and turn with me to Ephesians 6:4. Today I want to talk to you about ‘Raising Champions for Christ.’ I’m sure that it’s the desire of many of you to raise a son or daughter who will become a champion for Christ, but how do we do so? None of us is a perfect parent and none of us raise perfect children; yet we can raise children who will know and love the Lord. Look with me once again at the book of Ephesians.

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Much has already been said about the importance of parents not provoking their children to wrath. Perhaps a better translation would be, do not exasperate your children and cause them to lose heart and quit. How can a parent exasperate their child? They can do so by showing favoritism to one child versus their siblings. They can do so by making unreasonable demands. They can do so by being harsh and overbearing. They can do so through verbal or physical abuse. They can do so by not giving the child the love and attention they deserve and need.

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The term ‘bring them up’ literally means ‘nurture them up.’ We’ve spent a couple of weeks studying what it takes to nurture a child in the things of the Lord. Nurturing requires our personal involvement in our child’s life. It also involves us verbally sharing with our child biblical truths. Nurturing involves us modeling before our children what it means to know Christ and to serve Him.

Paul tells us to bring them up in the ‘nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ One translation says, “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Note the word ‘training.’ Training implies, not only teaching them what to do, but also how to do it. One book I’ve read on parenting describes parents as their child’s ‘coach.’ Parents need to coach their children in how to walk with God. Another translation says, “bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Note the word ‘discipline.’ Whenever we hear the word discipline, we often think of some sort of punishment; yet a better understanding would be ‘correction.’ We’re not punishing our children for their wrongdoing. We’re correcting them in order to help them get it right. We should note that both the word ‘discipline’ and the word ‘discipleship’ come from the same root word. Both refer to helping someone to learn.

I. Raising Spiritual Champions

As you can see, I have entitled today’s message: ‘Raising Champions for Christ.’ The inspiration for this title came from a book I went back and reread this week. The book is ‘Revolutionary Parents, Raising Your Kids to Become Spiritual Champions’ by George Barna. Let me tell you a little bit about this particular book.

George Barna has long been known for his statistical analysis of data involving various aspects of how we live out our Christianity. Barna goes out and does surveys of how we as Christians actually think and live, and then he reports his findings.

In this book, Barna and his team interviewed thousands young adults who were still in their twenties and who were living what he calls ‘transformed lives.’ Perhaps it would help us to understand where Barna is headed if we first understand what he considers to be a ‘spiritual champion.’

“Spiritual Champion: an irrepressible follower of Jesus Christ who accepts the Bible as truth, lives by its principles, and seeks ways to impact the world and continually deepens his or her relationship with God.” [1]

That’s a pretty high standard. In other words, these spiritual champions are continuing to walk with Christ, even after they have graduated from high school and left home.

Barna’s goal was to “find out what happened during their formative years that led them to become irrepressible followers of Christ.” [2] In other words, ‘What do you think made the difference that caused you to follow Christ?’ Then, he went to their parents and asked them similar questions about their family’s background. After gathering this information and making various analysis, Barna then reports his findings in this book. I would encourage every parent who is serious about raising a champion for Christ to read this book. I have several copies that I am willing to loan out so that you can read them and then pass onto someone else.

The title of this book is ‘Revolutionary Parenting’ and therefore obviously, a lot of the focus is on how we approach the parenting our children. Barna writes, “Remember that your children were made in God’s image, not yours; therefore raise them that way.” [3]

The goal is not necessarily to raise the kind of children we want, but the kind of children God wants. That’s exactly what Paul is saying.

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The New Living Translation says, “bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” God is the one who determines who our child should be. If it’s God’s goal that we raise champions for Christ, then that should be our goal as well.

II. A Spiritual Champion Named Timothy

As I read Barna’s book, my mind went to a young man in the New Testament named Timothy. Look at what Paul said about Timothy –

“For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.” (Php 2 ESV)

Who was Timothy and what made him so different?

A. Who was Timothy?  

The first time we learn of Timothy is in Acts 16. What is amazing to me is not only that was he not much more than a young teenager, but he was also referred to as a ‘disciple.’ What is a disciple? A disciple is someone who strives to learn and emulate their master. Who was Timothy a disciple of? He was a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Not only was Timothy a disciple, the Bible says that he was spoken of highly by the church. Get this picture in your mind. Here’s a young teenager who is one of the most respected members of the church. So remarkable was young Timothy’s Christian character, that Paul invited him to travel with him on his missionary journeys. Perhaps of all the Christians Paul ever knew, he respected none more than he respected Timothy who was young enough to be his son. As a matter of fact, Paul refers to him as his spiritual son.

B. What Made Timothy a Champion for Christ?

2 Timothy 3:14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

1. “From a child …” 

First, we should note that it began when Timothy was still very young. The word that Paul used here for ‘child’ refers to a baby. Actually, the word is sometimes used of a child before they are born. Even while Timothy was still in his mother’s womb, he was being taught the things of God.

What was Timothy’s childhood like as he was growing up? We don’t know a lot, but we do know that his mother was a Christian, but apparently, his father wasn’t.

In addition to his mother being a Christian, so was his grandmother.

2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; 4 Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; 5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned (sincere / pure / genuine) faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.

Apparently, Eunice and Lois not only taught Timothy about God, they also modeled the Christian life before him.

2. “…thou hast known the holy scriptures…”

In addition to how Eunice and Lois lived, they taught young Timothy the Bible. Paul said, “…from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Why is it so important that we teach our children the Word of God? We read also from Paul’s letter to Timothy –

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

What makes the Bible so powerful and important is that it comes from God. As many of you know, the word ‘inspiration’ literally means “God-breathed.” Peter says that God’s Spirit moved upon men as He guided them to record God’s Word to us. (see 2 Peter 1:21)

George Barna says in his book –

“One of the non-negotiable factors embedded within the parenting behaviors of the revolutionary parents was their insistence on faith in God and obedience to biblical principles… the driving force behind the household culture and their child rearing practices.” [4]

Revolutionary Parenting involves the consistent and systematic teaching of the Word of God. Paul says that it is the Word of God that makes us ‘perfect’ and ‘throughly furnished unto all good works.’ What do those phrases mean?

‘Perfect’ doesn’t mean perfection in the way that we think of the word. Paul’s not saying that we’re going to raise perfect children. The word actually means ‘mature.’ Paul’s not talking about physical maturity, but spiritual maturity. What’s even more interesting is that this word seems to imply something that is right for the moment. Sometimes I think about my little grandchildren and the world they will have to grow up in and I become afraid. But then I remember something that Mordecai said to Esther, “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) I can’t control the world my grandchildren will grow up in, but I can be a part of preparing them for it. If the Lord chooses to delay His return and my grandchildren have to live in a terrible day, I want them to be prepared to be used by God for His glory. I want them to be Champions for Christ.

3. Process of Raising Champions for Christ

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  

Paul tells us four important facts about the Word of God:

a. The Bible Teaches Us What is Right

That’s what doctrine is. Doctrine is biblical truth that God wants us to know. Where can we find truth today? We find it today where men and women have found it for thousands of years. We find it in the Bible.

b. The Bible Teaches Us What is Wrong

The Bible not only teaches us what is right, it also teaches us what is wrong. We read from the book of Psalms, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9 ESV)

The book of Hebrews says this about God’s Word: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV) True biblical discipline that will help a child change requires teaching from the Word of God.

c. The Bible Helps Us Get Right When We are Wrong

The Bible not only shows us where we are wrong, it tells us how to get right. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” the Bible says in Psalm 119:105.

d. The Bible Helps Us Stay Right

And the Bible helps us stay right.

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 

CONCLUSION

Without a doubt, one of the most awesome responsibilities anyone will ever take on is being a parent. That’s why I like it when Barna refers to parents ‘partnering with God.’ Parents, you’re not in this alone. God is with you and He wants to help you.

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[1] George Barna, Revolutionary Parents, Raising Your Kids to be Spiritual Champions, back cover

[2] ibid, p viii-ix.

[3] ibid p142

[4] ibid p 126

[5] ibid, p 16

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