Guest Post: How to Welcome Sinners into Your Church, part 2 by Dan Wakefield

 Dan Wakefield currently serves as a pastoral intern at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Coconut Creek Florida. This article and the two to follow are edited from a recent sermon Dan preached in our church. 

In the last post the focus was upon the Pharisees’ attitude toward lost sinners. Now let’s consider..

Jesus’ attitude toward lost sinners

When we consider our Savior’s ministry to the outcast and the sinner in Israel, we find a sharp contrast with the attitude of the Pharisees.  Unlike these religious leaders who didn’t want anything to do with the outwardly unclean, Jesus showed compassion to them.  He was not afraid to associate with them.

As I get into this point, I want to be very clear.  In the midst of a society that wants to redefine the Bible to mean whatever it wants, we need to make sure that we carefully see what the Bible is and is not saying.  So in this second blog post, I want us to consider two things.

First of all, what Jesus is not doing

Jesus is not condoning sin or condoning people who are living a sinful lifestyle.  It’s amazing that people will take the gospels and use them to say that Jesus accepts all kinds of lifestyles that are contrary to the Bible.  But that just isn’t the case!  Matthew tells us in his Gospel that Jesus came to save His people from their sin, not so they could continue to live in their sin.  We must be clear on that.  This story of Jesus sitting down to eat with tax collectors and sinners doesn’t mean that Jesus was declaring His acceptance of their lifestyle.  That would be an utter failure to remember the beginning of the story!  Consider Mark 2:14again.  “And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him.”  Levi didn’t stay in his tax booth; he left it to follow Jesus!

In his retelling of the event, Luke writes in Luke 5:27 – “After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.”  Levi didn’t follow Jesus while hanging on to his money-loving tax-collection business.  He left it behind!

Consider some other accounts from the Gospels that help to reinforce this point.  In Luke 5:32, in the parallel passage about the call of Levi, Jesus says this: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  Jesus didn’t come to call sinners to himself who would have no change of life.  He called them to turn from their life of sin in order to follow Him.  Jesus also says to those who are already his disciples in Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”  Jesus is using a figure of speech to show that his followers are those who will do whatever is necessary to put sin to death. Followers of Jesus are not those who are complacent about sin in their lives.

In the midst of a world that hates to talk about sin, we need to be clear on what Jesus says about it.  Not only is it rebellion against God, but unless repented of, it will lead to eternal destruction.  Even people who claim to do work in Jesus’ Name but who don’t truly repent will not be saved on the last day.  Jesus reminds us of this sober reality in Matthew 7:22-23, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

So we see first of all that Jesus’ association with sinners is not an acceptance of their lifestyle.

But then secondly, let’s consider what Jesus is doing in Mark 2

“And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Mark 2:15-17

Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus is showing compassion to lost sinners.  He’s not condoning their sin.  He’s not accepting their lifestyles.  But He is demonstrating real compassion.  How is He doing that?  He is seeking the lost, right where they are.  He went to Levi’s tax booth.  He went to the dinner party at Levi’s house where there were tax collectors and sinners.  He didn’t avoid people like this any more than a doctor avoids sick people!  Jesus makes it clear that He is a physician and He has come to heal those who are spiritually sick.

Listen to what J.C. Ryle says about this account: “The Pharisees found fault with Him, because He allowed publicans and sinners to be in His company. In their proud blindness they [thought] that a teacher sent from heaven ought to have no dealings with such people. They were wholly ignorant of the grand design for which the Messiah was to come into the world–to be a Savior, a Physician, a healer of sin-sick souls.”

The amazing truth is that for those who come to Jesus in repentance, no matter what lifestyle they have lived in the past, He is not ashamed to associate with them.  He is a merciful Saviour.  This man Levi had been a traitor to the Jewish people.  He had sold out to the Romans so that he could get rich by extorting money from his own people.  But Jesus was not ashamed to associate with this repentant sinner.  Jesus was not ashamed to eat dinner with this crowd of tax collectors and sinners.  They had no doubt been invited by Levi in order for them to meet his new-found Saviour.  And many of them had already begun to follow Him.

The point is this: Jesus wasn’t associating with this crowd to condone their sin.  He was associating with this crowd so that he could heal them from their sin.  William Hendriksen says this: “When He associates on intimate terms with people of low reputation, He does not do this as…a comrade in evil…, but as a physician, one who, without in any way becoming contaminated with the diseases of His patients, must get very close to them in order that He may heal them!”  The church must always remember that Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  As Jesus Himself said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Next time, we will consider some practical applications of these first two blog posts.

The Gospel is Not Only for the Lost, by Jeffery Smith

In Romans 1:16 Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek”.  Paul is not ashamed of the gospel and one reason he is not ashamed is because of the commodity the gospel conveys: salvation. It’s the gospel and only the gospel of Jesus Christ that brings and conveys salvation to every lost and hell deserving sinner who by God’s grace believes.

But have you noticed in this passage that for Paul the gospel is not only for lost sinners. It’s for believers.  It’s clear this is included in Paul’s thought here and is, perhaps, the main idea because he is especially and specifically speaking in this context about his eagerness to preach the gospel to people who were already Christians. It’s easy to miss this but notice the connection with v.15. “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome”. To whom? To you very folks to whom I’m writing this letter; to people he described up in vv.6-7 as the called of Jesus Christ, beloved of God, called saints. In other words, Paul was not only eager to preach the gospel to unbelievers in Rome so that they might be converted (no doubt he was eager to do that) but he also wanted to preach the gospel to those there who were already believers. I am eager to preach the gospel to you. Why? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”

The verb is in the present tense and could be translated, “for everyone who is believing. “ It is a gospel that conveys salvation, not only initially in conversion, but it continues to be the means through which God’s power works to bring about the continuing and the final salvation of all who believe this gospel. It is the primary means by which God preserves his people and brings them safely all the way to glory.

Now this perspective on the gospel is very important. This reminds us that the gospel is not only for the lost. It’s for believers. It reminds us that we never get beyond the need to hear the gospel and to exercise faith in the gospel. It is the gospel that is God’s power, not only to bring us to initial faith and justification, but it is the gospel through which God continues to work in our hearts to sanctify us and to preserve us in a state of grace until the very end. It is the gospel continually heard and continually believed and increasingly appreciated and understood in all its fullness that is the power of God by which we as God’s people are enabled to triumph over every obstacle and every foe that would seek to destroy us and are enabled to make it safely all the way to heaven.

There’s an attitude I’ve sometimes sensed in some professing Christians that the gospel is something specifically for the lost. We Christians don’t really need the gospel. We need to get beyond that to other more important things. We need practical how-to teaching. The gospel is for the lost. Well it’s true that the lost need to hear the gospel. It’s also true that as Christians we need to grow and mature and be exposed to the whole counsel of God. It’s true we need practical teaching about the living of the Christian life. But it’s not true that we no longer need the gospel. The gospel is not just for so-called evangelistic services. The gospel is for Christians.

If somehow I could know, or it was revealed to me, that every person who attends the services of the church I serve as a pastor is already converted, I would still preach the gospel there. It wouldn’t matter. I would still on a regular basis preach what you might call, in one sense, evangelistic sermons, sermons that contain and proclaim the evangel. Why? Because it’s the gospel, the good news of God’s free unmerited grace to sinners through the person and work of Jesus Christ, that not only arouses and produces faith, but sustains and maintains our faith. It’s the gospel that strengthens our faith and enables our faith to triumph in all of the conflict of the Christian life. And it’s the gospel of God’s grace to sinners in the person and work of His Son that motivates us and inspires us to a life of holiness and devotion to Him and His glory

We never get beyond the need to hear the old, old story of Jesus and his love. I don’t know about you, but I need the gospel every day. I need it every time when, in the painful consciousness of my past and present sins, I go to God in prayer and seek to draw near to Him with any degree of confidence. It’s the gospel that keeps me from giving up in despair in all the daily conflict with remaining sin and in all of the trials of this life. It’s the gospel that is the power of God by which I am continuing to be saved and will finally be saved in the end. Therefore, I need to know more and more about it. I need to see more of its glory. I need to understand more fully all that Christ is for me and all that Christ has done for me and all that He continues to do for me. I need to go back to the very basics of the gospel over and over again and learn to rest my faith more confidently upon Him.

Yes, the gospel is for Christians, just as much as it is for the lost. Remember, to whom did Paul write this letter; a letter that gives the fullest exposition and explanation of the gospel in all of the scriptures? He wrote it to Christians, to believers in Rome. So brothers and sisters, let us never think that we are beyond the need of hearing and learning more about the gospel. We need to hear it all the time and to be constantly growing in our understanding and appreciation of all that it is and all that it means.

For more on this topic I recommend three sermons by John Piper entitled How Does God Save Believers? (http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/by-scripture/romans/) Also consider reading for your own devotions the excellent, simply-written, paperback commentary on Romans by Stuart Olyott entitled The Gospel as it Really Is.  Another book that addresses the ongoing place and power of the gospel in the life of the believer is The Gospel For Real Life, subtitled Turn To The Liberating Power Of The Cross…Every Day by Jerry Bridges. Of course, most of all feed on the truths of the gospel directly from the fountain of God’s Word itself.

 

For The Lonely and Laid Aside, by Jeffery Smith

The word of the Lord comes to Elijah, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan” (1 Kings 17:3). Then God makes a promise, v.4, “And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” This must have seemed like a strange command to Elijah and an even stranger promise. “Go hide myself, now while the nation needs me most? You want me to go hang out in a ravine and just stay there hiding for who knows how long? And what will I eat? Ravens are going to feed me there! And how long do I have stay there?” God doesn’t say. You just stay there until I tell you otherwise. It’s a strange command but Elijah obeyed and God did as he had promised.

Here we see that God sometimes leads his servants into circumstances of solitude they may have never chosen for themselves; circumstances, perhaps, in which it seems we aren’t able to do very much for the Lord or circumstances in which we have very little close fellowship with other believers. We find ourselves very much alone or laid aside from a more active life. I imagine this course of action was the exact opposite of what a man like Elijah would have chosen for himself; hiding himself by the brook Cherith, days and weeks and months of solitude, at such a time as this! Elijah was a man of great zeal and action. If he followed his instincts, indeed, if he did what he thought was most glorifying to God, I don’t think he would go hide somewhere. I think he would have embarked upon a wide preaching tour throughout the towns and villages of the nation. He would have spent his energy seeking to awaken the consciences of his fellow countryman, exposing the evil of the idolatry of the land and calling men to repentance. There is a kind of personality that thrives on action and thrills at danger. I think Elijah had that kind of personality. He was eager for the fight; ready for the God-wars to begin. William Taylor speaks of reading about, “a distinguished general who said that he was never so cool, composed, and self-possessed anywhere as he was upon the battlefield; and that, apart from the horrors that were inseparably connected with such a scene of strife, there was something in its stimulus and excitement which he felt to be intensely exhilarating”

I think Elijah was like that as he faced this great moral and spiritual conflict with the forces of evil in the land. Like the war horse described in Job, “He scented the battle afar off, he mocked at fear and was not affrighted, neither turned he back from the sword”. This was Elijah’s element, the conflict, the exertion of energy, throwing himself into the battle for righteousness and truth. But this is not the way God led him. This must have been a great trial for Elijah. However, this was the will of God for Elijah’s life at this time and Elijah was submissive to God’s will.

We need to learn from this. God doesn’t come to us and speak to us directly by special revelation, as he did to Elijah. We don’t look for a voice that says, “Go here and do this”, or, “go there and do that”. But that’s not to say God no longer guides his servants. He guides us by the commands and directives of His word, by the general principles of His word and He also guides us by His providence, just as surely as He guided Elijah. It may be providential events that hedge us up and keep us from going somewhere we  hoped to go or intended to go or providences that may hinder us from what we would really like to be doing for Christ or that might keep us away from being as active as we would like to be. It may be circumstances that put us in lonely places or in lonely situations with very little fellowship or close friendships, the solitude of the sickbed, the solitude of unusual circumstances that hedge us up to some kind of obscure situation or place or, perhaps, the pressure of unusual responsibilities or necessary duties that tie us up or tie us down. Or, perhaps, there’s the solitude experienced when we take a stand for truth and right and it leads to separation from former friends or when obedience sets us against the popular tide and we find ourselves standing alone with very little support or sympathy. These are things that can try our faith and try our patience. But learn from Elijah to be submissive to God’s will when such providences come. Realize that we may serve God and know His smile in solitude, just as we may serve Him in public and that when God has you hedged up in this way it is because He has a good purpose in it both for your good and for his glory.

Jesus was advancing our salvation and pleasing the Father just as much when driven out in the wilderness alone to be tempted for forty days, as He was when He preached to the multitudes upon the Galilean hillsides. It was necessary for John the Baptist to dwell in the wilderness for a time eating locust and wild honey. Paul is found in a lonely prison but from there, under the inspiration of the Spirit, so many mighty epistles were written. Moses had his forty years on the backside of the desert and David those years of living in caves. What a great blessing to the church of Christ are the many years John Bunyan spent in a Bedford jail.

God would sometimes shut us up to a time of relative inactivity or to a time of solitude or even loneliness. There are brothers and sisters who are shut up by God’s providence like this for most of their lives. But the lesson is that when God in His providence leads us into such a time, we must embrace it. And we must not sin or act foolishly, but be patient. Times like this can be good for us. Elijah was alone, but he was never really alone. God was with him while he was confined to that little ravine, hiding in the thickets, lying around in caves, unable to go anywhere or to do anything. God was there and, no doubt, he enjoyed unusually sweet and precious communion with God in the solitude of the Brook Cherith. I imagine after it was over he would not have traded those days for anything. And through this trial God was preparing him and strengthening him for the work that lay before him in the future.

There is a danger of living off of our activities, even Christian activity, even activity done in service to the Lord. We can be so busy serving the Lord and so busy doing things for the Lord, while at the same time we’re neglecting our souls and our own personal relationship to the Lord. Then when the activity stops, or providence makes us unable, we may discover that we have very little relationship to the Lord at all. We’ve been living off of our busyness and when that’s gone the quality of our relationship to Christ is exposed.  This, I believe, is the concern behind our Lord’s words to His disciples in Lk. 10:20. He had sent out seventy to preach the kingdom of God. When they returned they were absolutely elated and they said, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name”. It’s wonderful Lord the great things we’ve been enabled to do! Jesus acknowledged this but then He said, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”. That’s the most important thing. Don’t become so charged up by your service that you forget your Savior. Don’t become so impressed with all you’re doing that your work becomes greatest joy and not your relationship to Me. It’s not what you do and accomplish that is most important, it’s what you are and who you know.

Have you ever read the autobiography of John Paton? You should if you can get it. He was a missionary to the cannibals of the South Sea Islands in the last half of the 1800’s. He lost his wife four months after he landed on the island of Tanna. Two weeks later his newborn son died. He buried them alone with his own hands. He stayed on this particular island for four years packed full of terrifying dangers. He was all alone, except for the cannibals who lived there. Finally things got really, really bad. An uprising was mounting against him. Seeking help from the one native he thought he could, perhaps, trust, a man named Nowar, he was told to flee the village and to hide in a particular chestnut tree. Nowar told him his son would lead him there and to remain there till the moon rises. Listen to Paton’s account of this. He says…

“Being entirely at the mercy of such doubtful and vacillating friends, I, though perplexed, felt it best to obey. I climbed into the tree, and was left there alone in the bush. (listen) The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the Savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among these chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship.”

Then he asks the reader a question, he asks you and me a very searching question, “If thus thrown back upon your own soul, alone, all alone, in the midnight, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then”

Are You Trying or Training for Godliness? by Jeffery Smith

Lately I’ve picked up a number of books on biblical masculinity in preparation for a retreat I’ve been asked to speak at in early Spring. One book I’ve purchased and have been reading is The Dude’s Guide to Manhood: Finding True Manliness in a World of Counterfeits by Darrin Patrick. Without taking the time right now to give a review of the book, that’s not my purpose, I wanted to comment on a very helpful distinction Patrick makes in one of the chapters. It’s the distinction between trying and training.

There are many things that cannot be accomplished without training. You can try to do them but you won’t be able to do them if you’ve not been engaging in the discipline of training. For example, you may try to run a marathon but you won’t be able to, no matter how hard you try, if you haven’t been training for it. Spend six to twelve months training for it and you might be able to do it in a decent time. Running long distances requires the discipline of running on a fairly regular basis to build up your stamina. You may try to bench press 250 pounds but most men are not able to do that by simply walking into a gym one day and giving it a try. To get to the place where you can bench press 250 pounds normally requires the discipline of regular weight lifting to build up your strength.  I may try to lose weight but, again, if I really want to lose weight and keep it off in the long term I must train to lose weight. I need to develop disciplines of exercise and proper eating.

So the point is there’s a big difference between simply trying and training. In the book Patrick gives this very helpful quote from John Ortberg, “Discipline is any activity I can do by direct effort that will help me do what I cannot now do by direct effort”.  That’s a great definition. By direct effort I can begin to train. I can run at least some distance. And as I continue to do what I can do now by direct effort, I’ll eventually be able to what I cannot do now by direct effort.

Now what we all need to understand, as Christians, is that the same is true when it comes to godliness. Paul writes to Timothy and he says in 1 Tim. 4:7, “Exercise yourself toward godliness”. Or it could be translated, “Discipline yourself toward godliness”. We grow in godliness, not merely by trying, but by training. Of course, as Christians we’re not left to ourselves in this. We’re not merely left to our own resources. We have the Spirit of God dwelling within us to enable us to do what we could never do of ourselves. However, at the same time progress is only gained in the context of spiritual discipline. We must train and not just try. This involves, for example, the regular use and the diligent application of ourselves to the means of grace. There are no shortcuts. There are no shortcuts to godliness. There’s not some magic pill, some spiritual steroid.  There’s not some second work of grace or some spectacular spiritual experience that we’re to hope for that will somehow suddenly catapult us into a new level of godliness. No, this is not the way God has ordained for His children to grow in godliness. We must discipline ourselves for godliness. We must develop the regular disciplines of prayer, bible intake, involvement in and faithfulness to the church, sitting under the ministry of the word, applying ourselves to it and taking it in, together with regular thoughtful, prayerful participation in the Lord’s Supper. These are the means of grace. Neglect the means or be careless in your use of the means and you won’t grow in godliness. Though you may try really hard, you must not only try, you must train. We must do it, yes, trusting that God is working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure and that united to Christ all of the resources of his grace are there for us. But from that perspective and in that confidence we also must work at it and train and discipline ourselves for godliness.

Increasing godliness and spiritual growth doesn’t come simply by trying. It’s the result of training and of the ministry of the Spirit who is promised to make that training progressively effectual in the heart and life of every true Christian. So are you trying for godliness or are you training for godliness?

A Vision for our Families, by Jeffery Smith

“May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the Lord will give you from this young woman” (Ruth 4:12)

Here we have part of the prayer lifted up by the people of Bethlehem in their joy over the marriage of Boaz and Ruth. It’s an interesting petition. Notice first the focus of this prayer. It has to do with Boaz’s house; the house that would come from the offspring the Lord would give him through his marriage to Ruth. They’re not talking about a building with three bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room and a living room, not that kind of house. This is common O.T. language to refer to one’s progeny, one’s descendants; a clan or family line. So the concern here is with the family line that would descend from this marriage. What is their prayer concerning that family line?

Well notice, secondly, the house to which they compare it. “Let your house be like the house of Perez.” They pray that the family line descending from this marriage would be like the family line of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah. Do you remember that story? The story of Tamar and Judah is in many ways a very sordid story but the emphasis of the prayer is not that Boaz and Ruth would be like Judah and Tamar. The prayer has reference to the house of Perez who was born to Tamar and Judah. And what was significant about the house of Perez? Well Perez ended up being the most important and influential of the twin sons of Judah and Tamar. He had a large number of descendants and, in fact, he was the direct ancestor of Boaz himself, as we see in in verse eighteen of Ruth chapter four. Atkinson comments, “The expression house of Pharez points probably to the large number of his descendants—of whom the people at the gate are some. Pharez was certainly one of Boaz’ ancestors. The people pray that Boaz will, like his ancestor, have a numerous and renowned family of descendants”. So I believe this petition could be summarized in this way, they pray that the marriage of Boaz and Ruth will be the beginning of a numerous, prominent and influential family of descendants among the people of God. There are some encouraging and challenging lessons we can learn from this prayer.

First of all, we learn that it is a good and desirable goal that our families would be the beginning, if not the continuation, of a long line of prominent and influential descendants for the glory of God. This is one of the goals we should have, a vision we need to have for our families. So often we only think about the here and now, our immediate situation, our immediate children. But we should also think about, and pray about, and order our family life and instruct our children with a view for the good of the generations to come.

It is quite amazing the influence one family can have for the glory of God and the good of others. I’m thankful that I’m the beneficiary of something that is becoming increasingly rare in our country. What am I referring to? I’m referring to a godly heritage. I knew several of my great grandparents and as far as I can recall those I knew professed faith in Christ. The same was true of my grandparents. Two of my grandfather Smith’s brothers were Baptist preachers. All three of his sons became Baptist pastors, including my father. And, of course, one of his grandsons is as well, me. In addition another grandson, my cousin, is preparing for the ministry. Both of my sisters are active members of Baptist churches. I’m not bragging about these things. That’s not my intention, God forbid!! It’s all of God’s grace but I do thank God for my godly heritage and I pray that God would allow me to pass it down through my children.

You may not have that kind of family heritage. All of your most recent ancestors may have all been and still are unbelievers and there may be some very shameful  things in your recent family history. But, perhaps, your little home could be the beginning of a change, the beginning of a new line of descendants, many of whom love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to believe that this can happen and we should be motivated in the training and  teaching of our children by this hope, that not only will they be blessed by growing up in a godly Christian home, but that our grandchildren will be blessed and our great grandchildren, and if the Lord tarries, many, many descendants who will follow on after we have left this earth. Not only should this motivate us in the raising of our children, but in the way we live our lives. I don’t want to do anything that will leave a shameful blot upon my Christian testimony as the story of my life is passed down to my descendants. May God grant that what they hear about me and know about me will be the story of a grandfather or a great grandfather who consistently and faithfully walked with God to the end.  I pray for this conscious of my need of God’s grace to keep and preserve me in the way. This is also true of you. Without Him we can do nothing.

Brothers and sisters, don’t underestimate the influence one godly family can have upon future generations. Some years ago I read something very interesting about the descendants of Jonathan Edwards. It’s fairly common knowledge. Edwards was a great preacher, mightily used of God during the Great Awakening in the early to mid 1700’s in this nation but if you’ve ever read about his family life, he was also a wonderful, loving and diligent father. Indeed, it could be argued that as great as his preaching was and his writings are, his greatest work was the quiet work of raising his children for Christ. A study was made of 1,394 known descendants of Edwards and his wife Sarah back in 1900. In roughly 150 years this one marriage had produced 13 college presidents, 65 college professors, 100 lawyers, 30 judges, 66 physicians, 3 U.S. Senators, three mayors of large cities, three state governors, and a vice president. His descendants had authored 135 books and edited 18 journals and periodicals. Scores entered the ministry and at least one hundred served as missionaries overseas. And this is just the public visible fruits of that marriage. Only God knows the quiet unnoticed influence of Edwards and his family that is multiplied over and over in hundreds and thousands of lives down to our present day, even in the lives of some of us who are reading this article, including the person writing it.

I know that even if we faithfully and diligently raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord this doesn’t guarantee they will all be saved or that their children will all be saved. God said that He was a perfect father to Israel but they rebelled against Him. Yet at the same time we can be encouraged by the fact that God’s general purposes of mercy towards His people often include many blessings, both temporal and spiritual, for their children and their children’s children, if not always all of them, often at least some of them. Prov.20:7, “The just man walks in his integrity, his children are blessed after him.” Ps. 112:1-2, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in his commandments, his seed shall be mighty upon the earth.” From these, and many other similar promises in the word of God, we can safely deduce that God so loves his people that He frequently includes their descendants in His saving purposes. This gives us much cause to hope and to pray and to labor to that end. As we lead our families may God help us to do so with a vision for the powerful influence our families can have for the glory of God and the cause of Christ in coming generations, should the Lord tarry!!