Numbers 26,27; Luke 1:1-20
“And he will go on before the Lord in power of Elijah, to turn the heartsof the fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of therighteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” Luke 1:17
Not long before our first child left home, I wrote an article which gave advice on giving our children’s roots. As I think back on that assignment, I am sure that there was a lot of wishful thinking mixed into my writing.
Any Christian parent worth anything holds deep concerns about their children’s faith beyond the safety of the nest. Now that our children are grown and now nurturing children of their own, I am fairly sure of what I suspected. I was not a perfect parent.
The Old Testament closes with these words. “See I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” Mal. 4: 5, 6
Reading this prophecy concerning John the Baptist gives one a sense of the profound role he was to play. Often we think of John as a colorful evangelist employing unorthodox wardrobe choices and who ate a diet of locust and wild honey.
A closer look at John the Baptist, however, reveals the true intent of his role. John was a true prophet. There was not a lot of give in his theology. He did not see his world in technicolor. For him things tended to be black and white.
“John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to you, “We have Abraham as our father.”
Clearly John called his audience away from “easy believe-ism.” Repentance which did not exhibit the fruit of changed lives was unacceptable. In other words, repentance had to be shown by a change in conduct.
According to both Malachi and Luke, the deepest call of John the Baptist is that of turning the hearts of fathers to children and turning hearts of children to their fathers. The most significant legacy of a Christian father is to make sure that the baton of faith is passed to the next generation.
A recent issue of Leadership magazine offered six reasons young people leave the church.
- Isolationism: One fourth of 18 to 29 year olds say church demonizes everything outside church, including the music, movies, culture and technology that define their generation.
- Shallowness: One third call church boring, about one-fourth say faith is irrelevant and Bible teaching is unclear. One fifth say God is absent from their church experience.
- Anti-science: Up to one-0third say the church is out of step on scientific development and debate.
- Sex: The church is perceived as simplistic and judgmental. For a fifth or more, a “just say no” philosophy is insufficient in a techno-porno world. Young Christian singles are as sexually active as their non churched friends, and many say they feel judged.
- Exclusivity: Three in ten young people feel the church is too exclusive in this pluralistic and multi-cultural age. And the same number feel forced to choose between their faith and their friends.
- Doubters: The church is not a safe place to express doubts say over one-third of young people and one-fourth have serious doubts they’d like to discuss.
If there is a modicum of truth to this poll, then what does it indicate.? How do we respond? I fear that we parents have left the salvation of our children in the hands of the church.
In response, I hear the call of John calling for the kind of repentance that will bring spiritual awakening to our families, the kind of repentance that will yield the fruit of biblical holiness.