Last month we discussed the seriousness of friendship with the world. Please see Part 1 if you didn’t read it last month or you want to review its information. We discovered that a friend of the world is an enemy of God. Therefore, it is a dangerous thing to have worldly friends due to their influence in our lives and also our children’s. One question this might bring to mind is how are we to harmonize the command “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. . .” (Matthew 28:19-20) with Ephesians 6:4 that tells us to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
To answer this, we must realize that Jesus is not commanding our children to reach the lost. That is our responsibility as mature believers in Christ. Children are children (big surprise?), and those they are around will greatly influence them. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). Therefore if we don’t want our children to be worldly, we can’t have our children spending time with those who are worldly. This may be a shock to some, but Ephesians 4:14 is clear, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Reaching the unsaved or ministering to worldly Christians is our responsibility not our children’s because our children will be pulled down by worldly associations.
Some may not agree with the idea that children are not called to reach the lost or restore worldly Christians, but Scripture always agrees with Scripture. The Holy Spirit led Paul to write in Ephesians 4:14 that children will be tossed about and influenced by those they are around. Whether it is worldly Christians in clubs, teams, school or even church, they will exhibit a strong negative pull on the godly youth the more time they spend together. Certainly, the lost are far, far worse in their influence than even a worldly believer.
Consider Jesus’ disciples, who were men that Jesus was training personally. When Jesus first sent out these grown men, yet immature in their faith, He sent them out two by two. “And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7). Missionaries today often go two-by-two because there is spiritual encouragement and accountability when two are sharing with the lost. The Lord is not going to send out a child to reach those who will be a stumbling block to his own faith.
Then let’s answer another question that begs to be asked. “Why would a child of more faith be pulled down by associating with a worldly child of less faith?” Aren’t we who are saved to be stronger than the world? “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). However, we still have the flesh to contend with, and Paul speaks clearly to this war.
Paul describes the battle that rages within each believer in Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Surely, no one reading this would consider his child more spiritually strong and mature than Paul. Paul shares his struggles in doing what is right in Romans 7:18-19. Briefly, here, Paul says, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” Even a spiritually mature person like Paul struggled in following the Spirit; therefore, our children will be pulled down by worldly associations.
Every saved person has two natures within him—a new saved spirit and the flesh. These two are at war constantly, and the battle is what Paul is describing in Romans 7:15-25. As we grow in Christ by reading the Word and making obedient choices, our spirit grows stronger in the Lord Jesus and more able to resist the pull of the flesh. However, even someone like Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, acknowledges the reality of the struggle. If it is such a battle for the mature, then that explains why children are so easily swayed.
A good example of this might be the game called tug of war. When you have only two people on the rope—each one pulling against the other—the strongest one wins. However, it is no contest when there are two on one side pulling against one on the other. That is why a Christian youth is pulled down by a worldly youth (Christian or lost). You have two against one. The worldly youth joins forces with the Christian youth’s flesh, and the two are more powerful than the Christian’s spirit can resist. The result is one more Christian youth being pulled to the world.
Parents frequently tell us that they can’t find like-hearted friends for their children so they just pray for their children and believe that their children’s faith will not be harmed by worldly Christian friends. If one doesn’t heed Scriptural warnings, disaster will likely result. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3). I have heard deep sorrow in the voices of many parents who have shared with us over the years about how they lost their children due to worldly friends, and the greatest tragedy is that it could have been avoided.
May each parent be on guard and resist the fallacy that their children won’t be harmed by worldly friends. We parents are the ones who are called to reach the lost and restore the worldly brother. Even then we must be on guard as well. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Here Paul is exhorting us to come alongside a stumbling brother and help restore him. Furthermore, Paul adds a caution that we should be careful in this effort to restore because we might also be tempted in the sin that snared our brother. Even those mature in Christ are in danger of being pulled down by the worldly brother.
Next month we will continue this discussion on living in the world, loving those who are worldly, and not condemning them.