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Children, God's Special Gift – Part 2 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
November 20, 2023 12:00 am

Children, God's Special Gift – Part 2 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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November 20, 2023 12:00 am

Children are a wonderful blessing, but they can also be an immense challenge. Parents must pray for their children, whether compliant or rebellious, to be transformed by the gospel. In this message, Pastor Lutzer considers not only how to parent, but also what it means to be a parent. Only God can save our children.

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Dr. Stephen Davey
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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Children are a wonderful blessing, but they can also be an immense challenge. Some kids are obedient and cooperative.

Others do their own thing, no matter what mom and dad say. Today, navigating the uncertain waters of child rearing. Please stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, there are days when all of us as parents wonder why we signed on for this.

Dave, you're absolutely right. All of us have been disappointed in our children, but as we look back, we see oftentimes that over a period of time, they turn out to love the Lord and to serve him. So we want to give all the parents who are listening some encouragement. And as we begin this message, it is so important for us to emphasize that family is really where it's at, so to speak. Furthermore, we've taken this series of messages, which I believe are among the most important I have ever preached. We've taken these messages and we have packaged them in such a way that they can be most beneficial to our listeners. I'm going to be giving you those details at the end of this message. For now, let us listen.

Let me ask you a question. Which group of people did Jesus have the greatest problem with when he was here on earth? Well, you know, he was criticized for hanging out with the drunkards and the prostitutes and the tax collectors and all those other things. They said, you know, he's hanging out with these people. But Jesus was received by them, but the goody two-shoes who are keeping the law.

Oi, yoi, yoi. If you haven't read Matthew 23 for a while, you read Matthew 23. And, you know, I read it and I say, you know, I've never had the nerve to even preach on this. Is this the loving Jesus talking, excoriating these self-righteous people? He had a bigger problem with them. In fact, that's why he once told a parable about a man who had two sons, the older brother who stayed home, the one who worked on the farm day and night, made it successful. And then the other kid, you know, who ran into the far country and then in desperation decided to come home. And what Jesus is saying is that that older brother, it's possible, you know, to be in the Father's work and not share the Father's heart.

He was working hard, but he was disconnected. He didn't have a personal relationship with his dad. The younger son, the prodigal, he came home.

I've been thinking about this this past week. I think that all of us would prefer to raise an elder brother than a prodigal who leaves home. But, you know, at the end of the day, I do have to at least ask the question, which son pleased the Father more? And the answer was the prodigal because he came with nothing and the Father is a God of grace and said, hey, bring him the best robe and put it on him, put a ring on his hand, shoes on his feet, let's have a party.

The older son didn't care for a party with the Father. The older son was into works, righteousness, and it was he who made that farm go. And he never entered into the Father's grace. That was the whole point of the parable.

Both needed grace. You say, well, is there a problem with the law? No, the problem with the law is that we keep it superficially. We think that the law was a matter of outward obedience and we don't understand that the first commandment was thou shall love the Lord our God with all our heart and that the law, as Paul says, should drive us to Jesus. Because all of us know we don't keep it, at least in our hearts. But the Pharisees thought as long as we keep it outside, we give our tithe, everybody's watching, we say our prayers in the street corner and we keep the law. We don't have to have a changed heart. So the law didn't do its work.

That's supposed to be. And so Jesus says both of these need grace. So that's what children need.

They need law. They need grace. When they transgress as they will, you should not be surprised. Don't ever underestimate the evil and the deception of the human heart.

Don't underestimate it. But at the same time, you don't jump on them just simply, law, law, law, law. What you say is, you know, I understand what you did and I'm really not surprised. You know, that's why Jesus came to die for us and to rescue us from ourselves and to give us the strength that we don't have. And you keep pointing them to a gracious, loving, accepting Jesus. There's something else that the children need and that is praying parents. This is so important that I hope to preach an entire message on it near the end of the series of messages, praying parents. But why do they need praying parents? Why do children need parents who are following God?

Well, I'll tell you. It's because conversion is God's work and it's not yours and it's not mine. We think to ourselves, you know, as long as we teach him, ram it in, cram it in, people's heads are hollow, ram it in, cram it in, make sure there's more to follow. We think to ourselves, well, you know, we put him to Sunday school, we put him in camp, he memorized a hundred verses. So it's time for him to believe on Jesus.

Do you think it's time to believe on Jesus? And the kid, well, yeah, I guess so. So parents say, pray this prayer because we want to make sure you're in the kingdom. Child grows up, there's no transformation of life at all. They live the way they've always lived.

There's no evidence of the work of God in their hearts. And they begin to say, I wonder if I was really saved back then. And the parents unwisely say, oh yeah, you were because you remember, you prayed this prayer when you were five years old.

You remember where we were? Because oh, okay, I guess so. Parents, never presume that your child has savingly believed on Jesus. Let the Holy Spirit and the word of God grant them the assurance.

And don't try to get, you know, the chicken out of the egg. You share the gospel with them lovingly. You share from your own experience of weakness, how weak you are and how much you need the gospel. You humble yourself because that's what grace is all about. And then having humbled yourself and shown them the gospel, you trust God to do a miracle that you can't do. I don't want to be misunderstood, but parents don't overestimate your ability to bring up kids right so that they will follow the Lord with precision and make you proud. Don't overestimate your ability. You say, well, don't we have a promise in Proverbs 22 verse six, bring up a child in the way in which he should go and afterwards you'll not depart from it? Well, I have news for you.

You're going to write this down. You know what the book of Proverbs is? It's a book of Proverbs. That's what it is.

Did you get it? Proverbs are not universally true. They are maxims by which we live our life. I could go through a whole list of Proverbs and show you that they always are not true. For example, just one example, a soft answer turneth away wrath. Is that always true? Every time you get a soft answer and you give a soft answer, wrath is turned away.

No, no, no. Sometimes you give a soft answer and you're swatted across the face and you might even be jailed. It's not always true, but generally, no. Bring up kids this way.

Yep, generally true, but don't overestimate your ability. You say, well, what are we left with? I mean, this is scary. I'll tell you what we're left with. We're left with calling on God for grace in our children's life that only God can supply. That's what we're left with because you as a parent can change a child's behavior. What you cannot do is to change a child's heart. That is God's business. And all that we can do is to create an environment in which the gospel is shared and lived and trust God. And by the way, rules without relationship equals rebellion.

Should have said that earlier. So first of all, grace means that only God is able to save children. Secondly, grace means that no disobedience, no disobedience is final or fatal unless of course the child dies in disobedience. But you have no idea about God's ability to rescue people even from the pit. I was sharing with someone recently who was involved in moral failure and I read to him from Psalm 40. I waited patiently for the Lord. He heard my cry and he delivered me from the miry pit.

I think my translation says from the miry bog. And the deepest pit, God's been able to reach and deliver. There's a woman at prayer meeting whose name I will not mention. She's an elderly lady, but she is there every single Wednesday to pray. So I asked her last week, I said, how many years have you been coming? And she said, ever since I came to the church 20 years ago, and she's been praying for a son and she has been praying consistently not just 20 years, but even before that time.

And God has given her the assurance that someday her son will believe the gospel and be saved. No disobedience is fatal because grace works in unexpected ways. Thirdly, the grace of God, the grace of God often makes up for all kinds of human failure and sins. None of us is a perfect parent. I look back and wish that I could relive some of my days as a parent. My parents prayed a lot and I'll tell you that story when I speak on prayer, but boy, if you judge them by certain standards, they were not the ideal parents. Not sure if anybody has the ideal parents. And God sometimes comes along and he saves people and he transforms them despite their background. Some of you may be adopted and you don't know who your parents are. Some of you perhaps have been conceived out of wedlock and so you've wondered about your worth. I'm here today to tell you that there are all kinds of people like this that I've met throughout the years who are mighty warriors for God because God's grace is greater than human failure and sin.

Aren't you glad for that? Just think for a moment. Joseph is one man in the Old Testament about whom there is no sin recorded. I mean, if any kid was perfect, it was Joseph. Ah, he was a little unwise in sharing this dream with his brothers.

He should have known that that wasn't going to go down very well. You know, I saw a dream and in the dream you guys bow down to me. Oh yeah.

Oh, we're very happy to do that, Joseph. But you know who his father was. His father played favorites with him all because the father loved that wife because she was more beautiful than the other wife that he married. And so he loved these kids more than the others.

Boy, is that ever sinful. That was the context. And by the way, this is a parenthesis.

You're getting it all free today as part of the program. I just was so amused when I discovered this. You know, it's Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Okay. Did you know that the ancestry, the ancestors of Jesus go back not to Rachel, but to Leah, the one who wasn't pretty. I love God. God just says to Fluey with all this business of who looks best, I'm going to choose the unloved one and it is going to be through her that Judah will be born and then eventually Jesus from that line.

I can do whatever I like. I'm speaking on behalf of God when I say that, by the way, just so that you understand. I just marvel at God.

I shake my head and I say, wow. So here's Joseph brought up in that context and it turned out pretty well, actually, betrayed by his brothers. I think, for example, of Moses, who was really reared by a woman who was a sun worshiper. She wasn't his mother, though his mother did have impact because his mother was kind of the nurse that took care of Moses in his early years.

He turned out pretty well, actually, considering the fact that he didn't have a stable family that he could depend on. And then there's that one in the Old Testament that I've often thought about, a man by the name of Ahaz who was a wicked king. Not Ahab, he was wicked too, but I'm thinking of Ahaz. And the Bible says that he put up idols and did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord. And he has a son by the name of Hezekiah. Hezekiah is a righteous king.

He tears down the idols. There are some mistakes in his life, to be sure, but basically Hezekiah followed the Lord all the days of his life, the Bible tells us. And then, shock of all shocks, he has a son. And the son's name is Manasseh and it says, and Manasseh did more evil in the sight of the Lord than all the others before him. How'd that happen? Was it Hezekiah's fault?

To what extent was it his fault? I don't know. It's just that the grace of God sometimes comes along and converts and changes in the most unlikely places and then in the middle of all of this grace, you also see the power of sin.

I don't know what your background was. I don't know where you are coming from, but I do know this, that if you reach out to God, grace can fill your life, the grace of forgiveness, the grace of acceptance, the grace of transformation. God changes our hearts. You see, when we're converted, born again, there's actually something within us that wasn't there at the beginning. Because there's a new nature.

There's something created there that is supernatural. And that's what gets to the very heart of our desires. In this message, I've played off this whole thing about grace and law. So I conclude with a story from Jesus.

Jesus loved stories. He said, the two men went into a temple to pray. One said, I thank you, God, that I'm not like other people, adulterers, fornications.

I fast twice a week. The other man, your member, wouldn't look up to God. He couldn't look God in the eye, so to speak. He was a publican. He was a sinner.

He was an outcast. But the Bible says he smote his breast and just said, God, be merciful to me, the sinner. The great says be propitiated to me, the sinner. Jesus said, which one do you think went home justified? You know, I can't help but think that today I'm speaking to two classes of people. In fact, I know I am in this large crowd and those who are listening by other means. I'm talking to the man who may be sitting there arms folded and saying, you know, this business of church and God and Jesus is good for women, children.

I like the idea of giving my children some kind of a moral foundation. I don't need redemption. I've had a hard life and I've done well.

I've worked hard. I've played by the rules. Then I can imagine somebody who's in the far country and who would say to me, pastor, if you knew even what I did this past week, you'd know that God could never accept me.

He's so mad at me. And I say that if you are willing to pray the prayer of the publican, God be propitiated to me, the sinner. God, no matter how high your standard is, it doesn't matter as long as you meet it for me.

You set the standard. And then in Jesus, he meets it on my behalf so that I can freely be forgiven and to be received. That is the gospel.

Luther put it very clearly and simply. Oh Jesus, I am thy sin. Thou art my righteousness. Our great contribution to salvation is we bring our sin. His contribution is to take it from there and redeem us and forgive us and adopt rebels into his family and make them sons and daughters of the almighty. That's what God does. And he'll do that for you if you believe on him. Would you find a child that you can pray for?

I forgot to mention the assignment for this week, but it's in the bulletin. If you will, let us pray. Father, as this message has gone out, it's fallen into many, many hearts, some open, some closed, some angry, some receptive. Oh Father, the work of salvation is your work.

At this point, we just back off and say we have nothing more to say. You have to bring conviction. You have to grant faith.

You have to do everything from here on out. Before I close this prayer, no matter where you are, would you cry up to the Lord wherever you are and say, Jesus, I'm my sin. You're my righteousness.

I receive you now. I receive your grace. Father, we thank you that the work you've begun in us will be complete in Jesus' name. Amen. Well, my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer and you know what your assignment is for this week?

I would suggest that it is praying for a child, if not yours, someone else's child. We're living at a time when children are often abused. They are listless because they are on social media.

They are filled with a sense of competition and unworthiness. May God help us to reach out to our children. As I mentioned at the beginning of this program, I think that this is one of the most important series of messages I have ever preached, and we want you to be able to take advantage of it. Here's what we have prepared. We have prepared transcripts of these messages so that you can actually read the messages if you desire, furthermore, a link if you want to listen to them, and then a study guide, a study guide that will help you to reflect for your own marriage, for your own children, for yourself, as well as for others, to ask yourself, how does all of this apply to me? Now these three resources are bound together in a book, Fighting for Your Family.

And for a gift of any amount, this can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to

That's, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. I believe so deeply in this series of messages and in these resources that I'm going to be giving you this contact info again. But I want to remind you, if you're a parent, you really have no idea who it is that you are raising.

And Jesus exalted the role of children when he said, Let the little ones come to me and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. No matter where your children are or if you don't have any children, there are children out there for you to pray for. Once again, this resource, Fighting for Your Family, go to, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

Right now, go to You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. With the click of a mouse, you and your kids can access Internet pornography on demand. Protecting your family from the evils of a technology we all need is a daunting task. On our next Running to Win, guidance on doing just that. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-20 03:25:24 / 2023-11-20 03:33:50 / 8

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