How to Choose Your Children
John 21.15-19 / Acts 1.1-5
Dr. Jim Denison
Genetic engineering is much in the news. The idea that parents can one day determine the sex, hair and eye color, abilities and capabilities of their unborn children is exciting to some and abhorrent to most of us. It is very troubling to me as well.
But while I don’t believe in genetic engineering, I believe very strongly in “spiritual engineering.” We must do all we can to help our families and friends follow Jesus, to mentor them in the Christian faith, to encourage and influence them for Christ. Eternity is at stake.
Mentoring has ancient roots. When Odysseus went off to fight the Trojan War, he left his young son, Telemachus, in the care of a trusted guardian named Mentor. The siege of Troy lasted ten years, and Odysseus journeyed another ten years finding his way home. When at last he arrived, he found that the boy Telemachus had grown into a man—thanks to Mentor’s wise tutelage.
God wants us to be equally intentional about “mentoring” others to follow Christ through our lives and relationships. Proverbs 27:17 is clear: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” God’s call is for men, and for women; for parents, Sunday school teachers, church leaders, anyone who wants to make an eternal difference in the lives of the people we care about.
Last week we discovered how to choose our spiritual fathers and mentors. This week we close our series on key relationships by learning how to mentor others—how to choose our spiritual children.
Value spiritual mentoring
Begin by valuing spiritual mentoring as Jesus does. Remember that God measures our success by the degree to which others follow Jesus because we do. He values nothing in our lives more than the way we use our spiritual influence for his purposes.
In Acts 1 he proves that it is so. Already he has lived with his disciples for three years. Already he has mentored and guided their souls and their lives. But here he delays his long-awaited return to his heavenly glory for another forty days, so that he can mentor them some more. Learn to value spiritual mentoring as Jesus does.
David made the same commitment to his son that Jesus made to his disciples.
Remember God’s question of Solomon: what would you ask of me? Solomon asked for wisdom, and became the wisest man on earth.
Why did he ask for wisdom? Proverbs 4 tells us. Only recently did I make this connection. Here Solomon quotes his father’s advice: “When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, ‘Get wisdom, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:3-4). And he did, because his father taught him to do so. Because his father mentored him.
God wants us to add to his Kingdom by direct and personal evangelism. But he also wants us to multiply his kingdom by our influence in the lives of others.
If every Christian on this planet won one person to Christ today, and then that group won one person to Christ tomorrow, how long would it take for the entire human race to be converted? Two days. There are 2,024,929,000 Christians alive today, out of a total population of 6,128,512,000. By Tuesday the entire human race would come to eternal life through Christ.
This is the value of spiritual mentoring.
We must value mentoring as Jesus does, or we won’t make the time to do it well.
Michael Medved, New York Post film critic, documents the fact that by the age of six, the average American child will have spent more time watching television, videos, and movies than that child will spend in an entire lifetime talking to his or her father. We cannot allow Hollywood to raise our kids for us. We simply must invest our time and lives in leading them spiritually.
Would you stop right now and decide on this issue? If you’re blessed to be a parent, will you commit yourself to doing the best you can to be a spiritual influence and mentor for your children? Whether you’re a parent or not, would you make the same commitment for the sake of others in your life?
Value mentoring as Jesus does. Again, God measures the success of your life by the degree to which others follow him because you do. Decide to be successful.
Mature growing Christians (Acts 1)
Now let’s get specific and practical. How do we do this well? Believers in need of mentors fall into two categories: those who want to be mentored and those who do not. Let’s begin with those who do—with growing Christians, those of our family or friends who are walking with God and are open to our help and encouragement. How do we influence them for Christ?
Following Jesus’ example, first we follow the Spirit’s guidance. Jesus taught his disciples “through the Holy Spirit” (v. 2). We cannot lead our families or friends to God without God’s help. We ask the Spirit to guide us to those we are to influence. Then we yield this relationship to the Spirit, pray for the Spirit’s guidance and wisdom, and listen constantly to his leadership.
Have you prayed about your spiritual influence with your family or friends? Have you asked the Spirit to guide you? Ever? Today?
Second, we teach faith essentials.
Jesus made certain they knew that he was alive—that he was and is our Savior and Risen Lord (3a). That they knew their purpose was to build his Kingdom (3b), to extend his rule into the lives of all mankind.
He had spent three years with them, but he wasn’t done. We are never finished with this crucial work. Have you taught your family and friends the essentials of our faith? Are they committed to them?
Third, lead through relationship. Jesus ate with them (4a), as he had earlier with his followers in Emmaus (Luke 24:30) and his disciples on the shore of Galilee (John 21:12).