PARENTS! WHERE ARE YOUR CHILDREN?
SERIES: JESUS, SAVIOR OF THE LOST
By Ron Ritchie
No matter what kind of parent you are, married, single, a grandparent raising
grandchildren, a foster parent--raising children in this modern, high-tech,
fast-paced society is a real challenge. I suspect that your heads and hearts
spin daily as you evaluate all the opportunities that you have to offer
your children in this age. As Christian parents, we are tempted daily to
open every possible door of opportunity to our children. We want them to
have a good and full life which will allow them to reach their full potential.
Deep within our hearts we are tempted to offer our children the secrets
of living on earth, the absence of failure and pain, and the sweet joy of
success. The merchants of this world are not blind to this "window
of opportunity," and have filled our society with seminars, clinics,
books, and workshops on how to raise our children. Unfortunately, it is
usually on a self-centered, horizontal, competitive level, which ends in
On any given week day we can go out to schools in our community and watch
what happens when the final bell rings. Station wagons and cars will show
up with faithful mothers or babysitters to pick up waiting youngsters. These
cars will not take the children home for a time to sit at the kitchen table
with Mom, having cookies and milk, reviewing the day, and talking about
life. The cars show up to take them for two and three more hours of clinics,
workouts, and practices where they can continue to excel and find their
On any given Saturday or Sunday morning there are several fields where children
participate in various sports. Many are taken there by faithful fathers
who may want to absolve their own guilt for being absent through divorce
or work pressures, but also with the hope that their children will grow
up successful. One mother told me that her seven-year-old son sat down at
the table and said after thinking through all the clinics that he had to
be in that week, "Mother, I can't take it anymore!" Granted, there
is nothing wrong in these activities in themselves. The question is, how
many and to what end?
As a result of this "station-wagoning" of our present generation,
we as well as our children are living in a stressed-out condition, pushed
beyond our limits because we want our children to become over-achievers--the
best, the strongest, the fastest. In the midst of this shuffling of our
children, few take notice that we have given over the high privilege of
parenting to others, "professionals" who may know very little
about nurturing, and by default many of us are becoming nothing more than
I cannot stand before you and say I did it all right, so you ought to follow
me. No one even talked to me about this when I was raising children. I did
not have a father. I did not have a mother who told me anything about raising
children. Children just arrived and then we tried our best. Rather, I would
like to go back to the scriptures and ask all of us who are Christian parents
to consider whether or not there are areas in which we need to correct our
course in order to line up our lives with God's view of parenting.
Five thousand years ago, the mandate from God through Moses was,
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, all your might, and these words which I am commanding
you today shall be on your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to
your sons and daughters, and you shall teach them when you sit down in your
house, and when you walk by the way and when you lay down and when you rise
up" (Deut. 6:5-7).
Finding the time to be a parent takes forethought and hard work. We are
not rabbits who have offspring, and somehow they grow up. We are human beings
who are to pass on much more to them than how to have more rabbits.
God's view of children follows: "Behold, children are a gift of the
Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior.
So are children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full
of them" (Psalm 127:3-5).
Although the scriptures proclaim that children are a gift, our society's
stance is the polar opposite. This generation is called the "throw-away"
generation in contemporary literature. If we do not throw them away in abortion,
then we throw them away by putting them into private schools, clinics, and
day care centers so as not to interfere with our own careers, hopes, and
dreams. In contrast, the scriptures say that the parent is to have a genuine
relationship with the Lord. It is from him that we derive our life, example,
power, love, patience, direction, and wisdom. It is from him that we see
the value of our children, assume responsibility to raise them to love the
Lord, and prepare them as arrows to shoot into the next generation. That
is the key: they must have direction, they are to go somewhere. Hopefully,
through our children, another generation will be prepared by God to hear
the message of redemption through Jesus Christ.
The challenge for the Christian parent is to choose the right target at
which to take aim and shoot our arrows. There are three possible targets.
First, there is nothing. Longfellow said it so long ago: "I shot an
arrow into the air, it fell to earth I know not where." The principle
is if you shoot at nothing, you will hit it every time. A lot of us are
doing that with our children. We are preparing them for nothing by not assuming
our God-given responsibility.
The second target is the world system, which the apostle John describes
as "the lust of the flesh," in order to achieve power; the lust
of the eyes, in order to achieve possessions; and the boastful pride of
life, in order to achieve position. You can see this so well modeled in
the recent movie, "Dead Poets Society", with Robin Williams, in
which he is a modern Mr. Chips. In an English prep school of the 1950's,
this teacher's mission was to teach a class of affluent kids the joy of
living. This was in opposition to the wishes of the parents who desired
their children be prepared to achieve the lost opportunities and advantages
of which they were deprived in their generation. The problem with the movie
is that it ends up in the world system of shallow fulfillment and empty
The third target is godly wisdom. Job sums up this target so clearly when
he said, "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart
from evil is understanding" (Job 28:28). Honoring, loving, submitting
to the one and only living God is wisdom. From this God comes wisdom, the
skill of living life on this earth in a way that will bring understanding,
wholesomeness, peace, and joy to us as parents and then to our children
in this and the next generation.
In the scriptures we are blessed with models of parenting from the lives
of Mary and Joseph. We will look at the early life of Jesus in Luke 2:39-52.
When he was only 40 days old we saw that God was preparing Jesus' earthly
parents to love, trust, and rely on him for all of life. They were responsible
to take the life of Christ as an infant in the flesh and prepare this arrow
for succeeding generations.
In our last message, Luke told us of the virgin birth of Jesus, circumcised
on the eighth day under the Law, and then taken to the temple on the fortieth
day to be dedicated to the Lord, according to Exodus 12. It was at that
point that Simeon, a godly man in the community, came forward to do the
dedication. As he blessed the child, he could not believe that he saw God's
Messiah in his arms, and said, "A light of revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of thy people Israel." He turned to Mary and prophesied,
saying, "Behold this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many
in Israel and for a sign to be oppose--and a sword will pierce even your
own soul, to the end that thoughts from many hearts shall be revealed."
Later, verse 39 continues: "When they had performed everything according
to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own city of Nazareth."
According to Matthew 2:1-23, there are two years missing from the Luke 2
account in which several events occurred: (1) Mary and Joseph were visited
by the three kings, (2) Herod plotted to kill the "Shepherd of Israel",
(3) the family escaped to Egypt, (4) the slaughter of the innocent male
children under two years of age in Bethlehem, and (5) the death of Herod
the Great. Mary and Joseph subsequently returned from Egypt and went to
Today, as we look at Luke 2:40, we want to ask the question, "Parents!
Where are your children?
I. Hopefully, Maturing in Godly Wisdom, Luke 2:40
The child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in
wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him.
In this passage, Jesus was about two-years old. We will see three things
occurring in the young life of Jesus. First, he grew physically. Down through
the centuries, hundreds of stories have been quoted about the boyhood of
Jesus, although the Bible is completely silent on any Little League activities,
piano lessons or awards for languages. If we were to believe some of the
legends, however, we would have to say that Jesus had a lot of fun as a
boy. One legend says that lions and leopards worshiped him. Another says
that when Jesus was an infant, he said to a palm tree, "Bend down and
refresh my mother with your fruit," and the palm tree obeyed. Another
story says that when Jesus was five years old, he molded twelve sparrows
from clay, then he clapped his hands and the sparrows flew away. These stories
will continue to be told as long as people think that Jesus knew from his
infancy exactly who he was and the power that was available to him in his
deity. They think he was "grown up" from the time he was born,
in other words. But this verse does not say that.
Our Lord Jesus was born as a baby, incarnated, God in the flesh. He experienced
the full spectrum of his humanity, yet without sin. The apostle Paul said
it clearly in Philippians 2:6-8: "Who, being in the very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself
nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient
to death, even death on the cross." Our Lord experienced in his humanity
all the joys and temptations of growing up, becoming strong physically like
all the other chldren in his neighborhood, yet without sin.
Jesus went through a process of increasing in wisdom. Jesus was raised by
godly parents according to the Law of Moses. Early in his life, he learned
the joy of studying the Law, the prophets, and the Psalms. Proverbs encouraged
him to seek godly wisdom, not that which the world relies upon. Webster
says, "Wisdom is the quality of being wise; the power of judging rightly
and following the soundest course of action based on knowledge, experience
and understanding." That definition describes wisdom out of our own
resources. James, however, warns: "But if you have bitter jealousy
and selfish ambition in your heart, this wisdom is not that which comes
down from above but is earthy, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and
selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing" (James
3:14-16). Of this wisdom, the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians: "God
made foolish the wisdom of this world" (I Corinthians 1:20). All the
wisdom of man is foolishness to God, because it does not include him.
On one hand, there is the wisdom of the world, and then there is the wisdom
of God. Godly, spiritual wisdom is the skill necessary for godly living
in an ungodly world. Godly wisdom takes the revelation of Scripture and
applies that truth to our own lives and the lives of those around us. Godly
wisdom is the true insight into the true nature of things visible and invisible
on all levels of human experience. "The wisdom that comes from above,"
says James, "is pure, peaceful, gentle, merciful, filled with good
fruit, understanding, without hypocrisy" (James 3:17). Psalm 111:10
says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding
have all those who do his commandments." Proverbs 2:2-6 says, "Make
your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if
you cry for discernment. Lift your voice for understanding; if you seek
her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will
discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God. For the
Lord gives wisdom. From his mouth come knowledge and understanding."
We pray to him about all our circumstances in order to seek wisdom and live
as godly people. Proverbs 2:13-14, 18 says: "How blessed is the man
who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For its profit is
better than the profit of silver and its gain than fine gold. . . . She
is a tree of life to those who take of her and happy are all who hold her
fast." These scriptures say that if you want to know how to function
in this world on every level of human experience, then ask God. Talk to
God, study his word. Stop in this generation of stress. Slow down. Shut
down the motor. Sit with your children, talk with them. Wherever you are,
talk to them about things that are eternal.
The young Jesus was encouraged by the Holy Spirit, the word of God, and
his parents to develop in the area of godly wisdom in order to lead a life
that pleased his heavenly Father in a fallen world. Jesus had to go through
the process of developing godly wisdom over a period of time.
Not only did Jesus grow physically and intellectually, but he also grew
spiritually. The Lord God was pleased with his son as evidenced by his words
at Jesus' baptism: "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased"
(Luke 3:22). The prophesies of the Old Testament are set up to teach us
about who Jesus is. In Isaiah 11:1-3 there are these words about Jesus:
"Then a shoot will spring up from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from
his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him.
The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, and He will delight in
the fear of the Lord." Isaiah 53 says: "He grew up before him
as a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground" so that he
could fulfill his ministry in his generation."
I am sure that Mary and Joseph experienced the temptation to push Jesus
to experience his full potential. Yet they chose by the power of the Holy
Spirit and the instructions from the word of God, the prophecy of the angel
Gabriel, the shepherds, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna to be instruments
of God to help their child develop physically, intellectually, and spiritually
to the glory of God rather than the world system.
Recently, I was a guest in the home of a friend who lives in Santa Barbara.
I met one of their two daughters who was about to deliver her first child.
Her husband was on leave from New Guinea where they are missionaries with
Wycliffe Bible Translators. She related that she and her husband were back
from New Guinea where they are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators.
He was on leave to do further research, and then they would return after
a few months.
As I came down the stairs the next morning to get a cup of coffee, I heard
beautiful music coming from the parlor. I stopped in my tracks in awe by
the scene that was before me. The couple was sitting facing each other,
singing a hymn while she played a cello and he played the violin. When the
song was over he read some scripture to her, and then they joined in prayer.
My eyes were glued to those two lovely people as they worshiped God; I felt
as if I were in the Holy of Holies. All I could think of was how delighted
God must be with these two potential parents who would pass on to their
child all the truths of their heavenly Father. They were preparing ahead
of time by falling in love with the Lord in order to be godly parents.
Parents, where are your children? Hopefully, they are maturing in godly
wisdom and favor with the Lord.
II. Hopefully, Maturing in Favor with God Luke 2:41-52:
And his parents used to go to Jerusalem every year at the Feast
of Passover. When he became 12 they went up there according to the custom
of the feast. As they were returning after spending the full number of days,
the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. And his parents were unaware of
it, but supposed him to be in the caravan, and went a day's journey; and
they began looking for him among their relatives and acquaintances. And
when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for him.
And it came about that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting
in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions.
And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
And when they saw him, they were astonished; and his mother said to him,
"Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have
been anxiously looking for you." And he said to them, "Why is
it that you were looking for me? Did you not know that I had to be in my
father's house?" And they did not understand the statement which he
had made to them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and
he continued in subjection to them; and his mother treasured all these things
in her heart. And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor
with God and men.
At this time Jesus was drawing close to his thirteenth year, a time when
he would be pronounced a man, a son of the covenant, through a Jewish ceremony
which we call Bar-Mitzvah. A son of the covenant has the freedom to experience
all the privileges of the synagogue. That might explain why Jesus lingered
in the temple at this point.
The Jews had three major feasts that they would seek to attend each year
as a family: Passover, Pentecost, and the Day of Atonement. For those living
outside of Jerusalem it might be difficult to attend all three occasions,
so many families would plan to go to at least one feast each year. The Feast
of Passover was held in Jerusalem to commemorate Israel's deliverance from
Egypt. It was at that point that the nation of Israel was born, cut free
from the bondage of Egypt to enjoy the new life of grace and fellowship
with God. This deliverance was accomplished by the "blood taken from
a sacrificial lamb." Each faithful family had placed the blood on their
doorpost so that the angel of death would pass over when he saw the blood
and spare the life of the firstborn. The Passover meal was followed by the
seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Apparently, Jesus' family had
stayed for the full seven days and then found a caravan that would safely
carry them back to their home in Nazareth.
In the midst of the thousands of Jews who were leaving town at the same
time, Mary and Joseph assumed Jesus was somewhere apart from them in the
caravan. However, the family realized after a day out of Jerusalem that
Jesus was not with them. They looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but to no avail. Rushing back to Jerusalem with hearts filled with fear
and worry, they spent the next three days looking for their son.
"They found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers,
both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him
were amazed at his understanding and his answers." Jesus had been seeking
wisdom all these years, so being in this situation was not amazing to him.
Only people who do not seek wisdom are amazed in the face of wisdom. Here
were the teachers of the Law and the prophets and the Psalms, and they were
amazed at this young man's godly wisdom. Since it was Passover time, perhaps
they were listening to him and answering the questions that had to do with
this major event in the life of his people. As the Final Passover Lamb,
Jesus might have been asking about the significance of the Passover as it
related to his life.
When they saw him they were also astonished; and his mother said, "Son
why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father has been anxiously
looking for you. "Mary and Joseph were not only astonished at Jesus'
ability to handle the teachers, but they were also amazed that he had stayed
behind and created such anxiety. Jesus was sitting in one of the porches
of the temple area, where the great teachers answered the questions of the
students who gathered to hear them. Here was their son, holding the audience
in the palm of his hand, answering deep questions about the things of God.
They sensed that something other than the normal give and take with their
twelve-year-old son was going on. (Mary came to a full realization of who
her son was only after his resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit.)
But it was here in the temple area that one could gain wisdom, and wisdom
was one of Jesus' major interests in life. He was the right person at the
right place at the right time, seeking wisdom, insight into the true nature
of things visible and invisible, on all levels of human experience.
And he said to them, "Why is it that you were looking for me? Did you
not know that I had to be in my Father's house? Jesus was essentially saying,
"Mother, based on your own experience with the angel Gabriel, the confirmation
of your cousin Elizabeth's song, the prophecy of Simeon, the visit of the
three kings, you have always known who I am and why I have come to earth.
I myself am slowly but surely coming into that full reality. The full reality
is that I am the final Passover Lamb, the Savior of the world, the light
of the world. I am all that Israel was supposed to be, the salt and light
of the world. I am the world's only hope for salvation." He was surprised
at his parent's lack of understanding of his person, his relationship to
his heavenly Father, and his mission. Through his study of the Scripture
he realized he was to be about his heavenly Father's business. The purpose
of his life on earth was to accomplish God's plan for him. In Psalm 40 it
was written of Jesus, "Behold I come; in the scroll of the book it
is written of me I delight to do thy will. O my God, thy law is within my
heart" (Psalm 40:7,8). Jesus was on earth to please his father.
"And they did not understand the statement which he had made to them.
And he went down with them in subjection to them; and his mother treasured
all these things in her heart. " Mary and Joseph did not understand
their son and the words of eternal life. Jesus was seeking to show them
eternal truths, but they could only see from their material view of reality.
At 12, Jesus was growing in his awareness of the Spirit, the word, and the
various experiences he had that he would one day become the final Passover
Lamb. And yet, in the midst of all of this, he was still in subjection to
his earthly parents.
Luke then summarizes the following 18 years of Jesus' life before he entered
his public ministry: "Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature and
in favor with God and man" (verse 52). Intellectually, he increased
in wisdom. The Lord from his early childhood, through his teens, and then
into manhood, focused on gaining wisdom in his humanity. He developed the
skills for handling and understanding life as his Father desired life to
be lived. The fruit of this shows up in Matthew as he goes back to Nazareth
in Matthew 13:54: "And coming to his home town he began teaching them
in their synagogue, so that they became astonished and said, 'Where did
this man get this wisdom. Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother
called Mary?'" In other words, he had no credentials from private schools,
workshops and seminars that other children had. Where did he get this insight
into reality? They were astonished, shocked by his abilities.
Physically, he increased in stature. He was an example of God's desire for
the human body, without sin and its resultant decay. Adam and Eve had shown
us the perfection of innocence, but Jesus was perfection in holiness.
Spiritually, the Lord increased in favor with God. He was a joy to his heavenly
Father, full of grace and truth. Socially, he increased in favor with men
until he announced that he was the long awaited Messiah, and then the camps
Parents, where are your children? Hopefully, they are maturing in godly
wisdom, and in favor with God. However, the mandate is not over. To review,
God's view of parenting is expressed in Deuteronomy 6:5-7: "You shall
love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with
all your might. And these words, which I am commanding you today shall be
on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall
talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and
when you lie down and when you rise up." That is what is referred to
by "teachable moments." We must grab every one of them.
Likewise, God's view of children is stated in Psalm 127:3-5: "Behold,
children are a gift of the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like
arrows in the hand of a warrior. So are children of one's youth. How blessed
is the man whose quiver is full of them." Parents, treat your children
as gifts of God, and prepare them to be shot into the next generation so
that men and women might have hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So we need to ask ourselves two questions. First, as Christian parents is
our love for Jesus Christ growing and maturing? Why does it have to start
with us? Paul says, "For in Christ is the mystery of God in whom are
hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." He is saying that
if we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and it is growing,
we will uncover a hidden treasure, all the wisdom and knowledge necessary
to cope in this world.
Secondly, as Christian parents are we helping our gifts from God, our children,
to grow in favor with God as we encourage them to love the Lord and his
word? Are we preparing our "arrows" in such a way that when we
shoot them into the next generation they will penetrate the bullseye on
the target marked "godly wisdom"?
Proverbs 9:10 says: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." It takes time
to be with our children, it takes time to be with the Lord. As parents,
where are our children? Where are we in relationship to this truth?
Our Heavenly Father, as parents we want to pray the same
prayer which Moses addressed to you so long ago, "Teach us to number
our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom in order to raise our
children to love you and seek your wisdom all the days of their lives."
Catalog No. 4120
Ron R. Ritchie
June 25, 1989
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