What Barriers Keep Our Kids From Christ? Or Us From Christ?
The following is taken from a message recently given to our MS and HS Students. Items in blue are for us to reflect on as parents.
I Have A Bad Feeling About This
Have you ever had an experience with food that was SO BAD, you didn’t want to ever eat that food again? I have. It's Taco Bell.
In fact, in my opinion, if you can eat at Taco Bell with no digestive repercussions, you're ready for a missions trip out of the country.
I have eaten at that restaurant and literally EVERY time I eat there, I end up getting sick. Not like, oh no, I don’t feel well…or I’m going to hurl kind of sick…but it’s almost gotten to the point of, “We’re going to Walmart to pick up the adult diapers kind of sick.” It doesn’t matter which location either. I have eaten at the location in Newark, I have eaten at the location in Heath, I’ve visited stores in Charlotte North Carolina and Concord, NC as well as ALL OVER Florida. And it doesn’t matter which one, I almost ALWAYS get ill.
I’ve noticed over the years that people can have the same idea about Jesus. They’ve had a bad experience along the way and it has given them a wrong impression about “why he came here.”
For many of us, we know that the reason that Jesus came to this planet was to not only make a way for forgiveness of sins but because God deeply longed for a relationship with his Creation. What makes this narrative even MORE interesting is that it's not really ever Jesus, or the Bible that people have issues with, it's His followers. PEOPLE that they have come into contact with who have given them a bad taste of what it means to follow Christ.
(Check out the video below or follow the link to read the text about this story.)
In Luke 5:17-26 is a beautiful story about a group of friends so desperate that they fight a large crowd of people to bring their paralyzed friend to the feet of Christ. In fact, in Luke's account, they remove part of the roof to make this happen. They lower their friend despite the obstacles because the REWARD was greater than the risk.
What Roadblocks Do We See?
What are the roadblocks that we’ve constructed in our own hearts and minds about bringing friends, our kids, or a family member to Christ? Or from coming to Him ourselves? What is keeping us from going deeper in our faith.
The CROWD – We have legitimate fears about being different and even going against the flow that can paralyze us. Being a follower of Christ means that we ARE “set apart” for a purpose. It means not always fitting in, especially if culture isn't following the Truth of scripture.
Your CONDITION – How many feel unworthy? Shame will stop us from being effective. Shame is a barrier that keeps us from getting close Jesus because we don't think He even wants us. How about a hardened heart? This can stop us from thinking we need to change anything at all.
The CRITICS – People have a powerful influence on what we think and feel. In fact, there are groups in our community that reduce Jesus to a “fun time” and our relationship with Him becomes friends with benefits. This is dangerous because the moment things get hard, and they will 2 Timothy 3:12 warns us that standing for God's Truth (the Bible, not our opinions about culture etc) will bring about persecution.
The reason that these friends took the man to Jesus is because they knew that they were in the presence of the only ONE who could offer what they needed. How about for YOU? How about those you love? What’s keeping you/them from Jesus? Crowds? Critics? A Condition?
Let's go back to the RISK REWARDS evaluation. This is the same thing that every HS boy does before jumping off a cliff into water. “I’m scared to death…but this is so totally worth it.“ They weigh out the potential costs of the action and weigh it out in light of a perceived "reward" they will get for doing it.
Consequently , If you don’t see the value in something, there is a good chance it won’t weigh out the risks. So what do we do? We look at the excuses or the "risks" and try to make a decision.
Get Rid of the Excuses
…they went up on the roof, removed some tiles… Luke 5:17
It says that the man was a paraplegic, so he was unable to go to Jesus himself. He wasn't kicking and screaming, so we can safely assume that he WANTED to go to Jesus, that he himself believed that Jesus was able to do a work. But either way, if they hadn't at least brought him, he wouldn't have the opportunity to make the decision.
What we see is that he couldn’t have gone to Jesus himself. They had plenty of reason to quit trying as they looked at that crowded house, but they didn’t give up. In our culture when we try to bring our kids to Christ in this same manner, in other words. to give them an opportunity to decide, we are accused of PUSHING RELIGION on our kids.
No doubt the man was uncomfortable being brought in front of all those people. I am sure that the "ride over" to see Jesus was bumpy and carrying the bed was awkward, not to mention we don't know how FAR they had to carry him. It was uncomfortable for the man to say the least.
As a species, we seek comfort and ease more than any other animal on this planet. Even in sleep, we go to great lengths to make sure that we are comfortable. If these friends had valued COMFORT over seeing a work of Jesus in their friend's life, they never would have tried. What a tragedy that would have been for both the man AND the friends.
So comfort isn't bad unless it becomes an excuse for not doing the right thing or for NOT bringing our friends to Christ. THEN it becomes a roadblock to us receiving what God desperately desires to give us. True and ABUNDANT life in those we love and care for.
There are plenty of reasons that we can come up with for why we are timid in sharing our faith. But the bottom line is, we are comfortable. We are comfortable and so we make excuses…
There Is An Answer
Ask this question of yourself of your family.
-ARE the things I currently VALUE getting me to where I see myself going?
-Am I doing the things that are going to help me ARRIVE at what I value most?
At the end of your life…what story do you want people to tell? What do you want people to say about you of your family?
Answering that question will help you to find out what you MOST VALUE. It will help you to weigh out your own risk rewards conversation...AND help you to realize what excuses might be keeping you from achieving those goals.
If it's to be the best athlete, are you getting them involved in programs that will elevate their athleticism/ To be a great student, are they enrolled in a school that will help them to be able to attend a competitive program at a prestigious school or university?
How about the issue of faith? Am I encouraging things that are going to give them access to people who will encourage and challenge their faith story? Most importantly, what am I doing AT HOME to encourage this growth? The greatest growth comes from students who have parents actively engaged in their own personal faith journey.
Is it to LOVE PEOPLE, to love my neighbor as I love myself? If that is your goal, you will find that you are willing to go to great lengths and even to be uncomfortable and maybe even feel awkward at times. And you may ask: WHOSE example do I follow in learning to LOVE BETTER? For the Christ-follower, it's Jesus. The example we see in the Gospels.
One Last Thing
And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” Luke 5:20
Everyone is expecting him to say: YOU’RE HEALED, but he doesn’t. Instead he meets the greater need and says: You’re WHOLE. You are FORGIVEN. He knows the man’s SIN was a bigger obstacle than his handicap. So he says INSTEAD: You are forgiven. There is something to be said about trusting God for what we need and the prayer: Your WILL BE DONE on earth as it is in heaven. We can suspect that the will of the friends was a physical healing, instead their friend finds eternal life in Christ.
How about asking yourself this question: Would the paralytic have found Christ without his disability? Would he have found eternal life apart from this encounter. Sometimes the VERY THING we pray deliverance FROM, is the very thing God wants to use to bring us into a deeper relationship with Himself. Check out some of the resources below.
So, let me ask you again…What’s keeping you from Jesus? Is it the CROWD? Is it your condition? Or maybe it’s the critics?
Will you live like he is just a man? Or will you start living like he is the Savior of the World?
-Lord help me to live my faith more boldly. I want to live my life and not be in constant fear of the CROWD.
-Maybe it’s a REQUEST about your condition: Lord help me to overcome my anxiety, help me to stop allowing SHAME and GUILT to keep me from coming to you. I KNOW you have all that I need, make yourself real to me.
-Maybe it’s a prayer to forget the critics. Lord help me to overcome my fear of man and to stop living in the shadow of other people expectations.
Or Lord help me to overcome MY OWN unbelief, maybe you admit tonight that YOU’VE been God’s biggest CRITIC and you know it’s time to start trusting Jesus.
Please, let us know how we can pray for you or for your family,
God Bless -PastorMark
Other Related Blogposts:
Our Kids Faith Isn't Extracurricular https://www.shbcyouth.org/post/shoppingtripjesus
How Can I Tell My Teen Is Questioning: https://www.shbcyouth.org/post/questions