Here are my notes from Episode 015: 5 Questions My Kids Need To Answer About Their Faith
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I meet millennials and Gen Zs, this generation of students, everywhere who have grown up in the church, know all of the “so-called” popular stories in the bible, they love their parents, they love Jesus and, they go to camp with their youth groups in the summer, they are involved in on-campus bible studies in college, say they have a personal relationship with Jesus, and believe they will spend an eternity in Heaven with Him.
But, the questions they ask me and the things they wrestle with often tell a different story. Questions like, “Aren’t all religions really the same?” Or, “As long as someone lives a good life, surely they get to go to Heaven?”
And, here’s one thought with which this generation is really struggling that I’m hearing from students everywhere, and I can tell you, this is a very telling thought that provides overwhelming evidence as to the spiritual temperature of our nation:
“Jeffrey, Isn’t the Bible a little outdated? And, even if it isn’t. I’m just not sure that it’s ALL true.”
This week’s subject is super important for families, because this affects all families. In this post-Christian era, the message permeating culture is: “All religions are the same, all give you access to Heaven, and in the end -everyone wins!”
In episode 15, I’m going to give you these 5 culturally popular questions, and then, I’m going to take you to God’s Word for the answers!
The Bible tells us in Joshua 1 that after Moses died, God spoke to Joshua and said:
“Moses My servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites. No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.”
These words had to be comforting to Joshua, as he now would the leader of this nation of more than a million people. God then said to Joshua:
“Be strong and courageous. Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua had been relying on Moses for nearly everything; now Moses was gone. The more than one million Hebrews camping in the wilderness started looking to Joshua for leadership. God commanded Joshua to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Can you imagine such a responsibility?
Imagine Joshua’s life – – a different kind of busy than mine and yours, but a HUGE responsibility! He was responsible for more than one million people.
How could he keep an entire nation moving in the right direction? If I were to speculate, I’d say it was by knowing the importance of two words: above all. Did you catch these two words when I was reading from this passage in Joshua?
In the first six verses of Joshua 1, God made clear what He expected. He told Joshua that if he followed God’s instructions, “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.”
In verse 7, we hear the key words: above all. God’s instructions and promises would be worthless unless Joshua obeyed God’s Word above all else.
This really hits me as a parent! My responsibility as a parent – – is to live out the above all – – that “this book of instruction,” as God proclaimed to Joshua, “…must not depart from my mouth.”
We also read in another passage in the Bible, Deuteronomy 30:8–10, a similar challenge:
“You will again obey the LORD and follow all his commands I am giving you today. Then the LORD your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The LORD will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, if you obey the LORD your God…and turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
The take-away from this passage for us as parents isn’t that we should recite Scripture to our kids day and night; instead, we need to integrate God’s Word into our everyday lives so these truths shape us in ways that are honoring to God.
Up to this point, your child’s values and beliefs have been shaped by family, probably church, and absolutely by their relationships and or course, the culture. But what about the powerful, life-changing impact of God’s Word?
I don’t use the word failure lightly with what I am about to reveal to you. And, I want to give you a heads-up that what I’m about to say isn’t good news!
There is no other word I can use that describes the lack of biblical confidence parents are instilling in their children than this word: “failure.”
I see evidence of this everywhere, everywhere, as I travel – as I meet students, as I hear their stories…
And, as I talk with moms and dads all over America who are quick to admit to me they know they’ve failed in this arena.
You may know that I offer coaching and mentoring to families, to parents, couples, and of course, to students.
Right now, I’m working with a family in Florida – specifically their son who is 15 and is struggling with a porn addiction. In my initial phone call with his mom she told me that, though they are a Christian family, they almost never spend time together reading the Bible, praying or even talking about spiritual matters. She said, “I know we should be doing these things together as a family, but we haven’t made this a priority in our home.”
This is pretty much the norm among Christian families that I interact with both in ministry and in my personal life.
This next statement is going to be a tough one for you to hear – but it’s a reality statement about the state of the American Christian family.
This is the key to our success as families.
This is the key to building strong families.
Answer these two questions:
1. Does my family have a consistent family devotional time?
2. Does my son or daughter have a consistent personal devotional time?
Much of what my daughters and your children believe is likely a result of what you and I have taught them and what they are expected to believe.
But, and you know this too, as parents, we are far from the only influences in our kid’s lives. In middle school and high school, tweens and teens jockey for position and significance among friends and classmates. As they move into new circles of influence, much of what they have believed so far is challenged by a chorus of new voices.
As your child matures, meets new people, goes to college, the Armed Forces, takes a job, makes new friends, or possibly gets married…he or she will be asked questions about their faith, God, eternity, heaven, hell, the Cross, Christianity, Satan and more.
While speaking on a college campus, I met Kristin. She was in her sophomore year, and she mentioned she had undergone a “spiritual shift.” She told me, “I was the girl back home who grew up in church, attended all the youth-group events, went on several mission trips, and even consistently sang in the youth worship band.” But she explained that since arriving at college, things had changed.
“Once I got here and started making friends,” she said, “I realized that I couldn’t clearly answer some of the questions I was being asked about my faith, my beliefs and about God. I too realized that my beliefs weren’t as strong as I thought. Church became less of a priority and sleeping in on Sunday mornings became routine. By the end of my freshman year, I wasn’t even going to church or really even reading my Bible. I admit that a few friends (and one professor in particular) have really pushed me to question a lot about my faith. I’m not sure where I am with it all right now. I guess you could say I’ve lost confidence in some of the things I once believed about God and I’m still trying to figure it out.”
Such questioning can be an important process for anyone in search of answers about life, God, and salvation. It is important for you, as a parent, to be sensitive to such questions, since they may alert you to signs your child is abandoning his or her faith. It also is critical that your child has confidence in what he or she believes. If our kids aren’t confident in their beliefs, eventually their belief system will be shaken by the input they receive from someone or by the way circumstances affect them.
Your child, especially as they enter those upper teen years – 16, 17, 18…should be able to clearly defend what he or she believes. You know – our kids are challenged from all angles. The culture has become increasingly secular and often discriminatory toward religion, Christianity in particular. And, it’s only going to get worse!
In light of this, I want to help you help your kids solidify in their mind the answers to 5 important questions about their faith.
Now, before I jump in, I want to be clear…
just because I present these questions and offer you biblically-accurate answers, does not mean that it’s naturally going to be a cake-walk for you as you work to instill these truths in your hearts of your family, particularly your kids. And, just because you teach doesn’t mean they will follow.
However, I tell parents everywhere – if you’re driving right now while you’re listening – you may need to pull the car over and intently focus on what I am about to say – – if you’re on the treadmill – I don’t want you tripped here – so grab those grips tightly as you hear this:
Teaching, talking, instilling, and living-out truth for our kids to receive, hear, and see, does NOT always mean they will ACCEPT what we teach, talk, instill and live-out. They may reject these truths.
But, knowing this could happen doesn’t give you and me the green light to wave the white flag, give-up, merely surrender and stop trying to instill the above all challenge of Joshua 1:7.
As a parent, this is my job – maybe the greatest job – to share these truths – to help my kids know what they believe and why they believe what they believe – AND, to help them answer important questions about what they believe, so that when questioned – and THEY WILL BE QUESTIONED – they are able to answer to the best of their ability why they choose to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Question #1: Do I believe the Bible is the absolute truth of God?
I recently had lunch with a good friend, Aaron, who is Brynnan and Bailey’s student pastor at our church. I asked, “What is the greatest struggle you have as it relates to reaching generation Z?” He answered,
“It’s the fact that many [teens] do not believe the Bible is the absolute Word of God…. Students have to understand that everything about their existence begins with the fact that God is who He says He is and that His Word is proof of it all. If they don’t believe this, then it’s going to be almost impossible for us as pastors and parents to help them believe that what God says in His Word is true as it relates to eternity, sin, Satan, saving sex until marriage, homosexuality, salvation, and more.”
Everything begins here. If your child doesn’t believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, then it’s only a matter of time before he or she loses confidence in who God is and what He says about how He desires each of us to live. How they respond to the tsunami of information, myths, and lies of the Enemy rests solely on what he or she believes about the Word of God.
Your son or daughter’s ability to answer this question in the affirmative is second only to the question of where he or she will spend eternity. Of course, the more you are in the Word, the more you will believe in the Word.
Question 2: Do I believe Christianity is distinct from other religions?
At a recent Christian student conference, I outlined some of the core beliefs of Christianity. Then I asked a group of teens what their faith would be if they were to define their faith in one sentence. Here are snippets from some of the responses:
~ “I believe all religions lead to the same God.” (Anna, fourteen)
~ “There’s more than one way to heaven.” (Carter, fifteen)
~ Zoe, sixteen said, “I believe Jesus sinned. Everybody sins.”
~ “Hell isn’t real. I think hell is just in your mind.” (Gabrielle, fifteen)
~ “Of course I believe in evolution. Doesn’t everybody with a brain?” (Jordan, seventeen)
~ “What’s most important is that you treat other people with tolerance.” (Evan, sixteen)
~ “Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism—everybody prays to the same God. It’s just that God has different ways he (or she) is seen.” (Reagan, eighteen)
These responses from Gen Z students reveal that many of them hold strongly to counter-Christian beliefs. Such comments greatly burden me, for I believe that many church-attending students today see Christianity as just one of any number of acceptable religious choices. Jesus talked about the mark of a follower:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” -Matthew 7:21.
Some religious groups worship false gods. Some believe in God but don’t believe that Jesus was His Son. Some think that Jesus was a real person but not that He died for us and was raised from the dead. Some don’t believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.
Buddhism says there is no God. Instead, Buddhists believe that when you die, you return to being at one with the universe, much like a drop of water blending back into an ocean.
Hinduism claims that there are many gods and that Brahman (the ultimate power underlying the universe) is in everything and in each person. Hindus believe that one only needs to rediscover his or her inner god in order to reach a state of nirvana, or eternal bliss.
Islam does believe in one supreme God: Allah. However, Muslims do not recognize the human plight of original sin. According to Islam, God is not considered a loving “father” and Allah has no son.
Jews, with the exception of Messianic Jews who have come to a saving knowledge of Christ, proclaim the one true God. However, Jews don’t believe that Jesus was God’s Son. They don’t believe He was the Christ who came to earth, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of humanity, rose from the dead three days later, and offers salvation and eternity in heaven to anyone who believes in Him and chooses to receive Him as Savior and Lord.
In comparison to these world religions, Christianity is unique. Nothing is more critical than helping your family believe four truths about the Christian faith:
1. God is the only God, and Jesus is the Son of God, who came to earth, died for humanity, and conquered death by coming back to life and proving that He is the one true savior of the world. ” 1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”
2. The Bible is God’s Word and the ultimate authority for everything we do. Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
3. We follow Jesus Christ. John 12:26 says, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
4. We can’t save ourselves. In Ephesians 2:8 we read, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”
These 4 truths of the Christian faith are each critical truths that our kids need answered, need to be able to answer, and need us to help them answer.
Question #3: Do I believe there are multiple ways to get to heaven?
Hindus believe in reincarnation based on Karma, which determines what entity a person will be born into in his or her next life. Buddhists also believe in reincarnation, meaning that the way a person lives in his or her past life determines the form he or she will take in the next life. Mormons believe in an afterlife but that before going to heaven, they need to prepare by going to a temporary “spirit world.” Scientology, Judaism, and Islam each have differing views about heaven. I’m actually working on an episode for later this fall where we talk about these and other world religions. So, to stay on track with these 5 questions, I won’t go deep into each of these religions here. But, this upcoming episode on other religions is going to be a good one. So, keep listening for that one.
As Christians, we choose to believe in and live for Jesus. Christians believe that faith in Jesus is THE ONLY WAY to get to heaven. You can’t just be a good person or just do good deeds (though, of course, if you believe in Jesus, you will want to do those things). There’s only one path to eternal life and it’s through Jesus Christ! The powerful words of Jesus recorded in John 14:6 summarize it all:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” – John 14:6
4. Do I believe that all other religions are false?
In Matthew 7:15 Jesus warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
It will be only a matter of time before a friend, a high school teacher or college professor, an employer, or potentially a future spouse tries to convince your teen that all religious paths lead to heaven. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 7 that such people, even people your teen loves, are hungry wolves. There is only one way to heaven, and it’s through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
As you create a spiritual environment that honors God above all else, you will realize that much of the Christian faith is unsettling to the world. Due to the world’s standards, you and your teen are likely to be labeled homophobes, xenophobes, misogynists, racists and bigots, closed minded, superstitious, ignorant, and haters.
Amy and I had a powerful conversation with our daughters about this. One of Brynnan’s friends sent her a text stating he doesn’t believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. He told Brynnan, “For you to tell me that you are right about this and I am wrong is very narrow minded of you.” This text, though difficult for Brynnan to process, gave us a chance to discuss the fact that some people, possibly even those you count as close friends, are going to disagree with you at times. Choosing to believe that the Bible is the ultimate authority means you will be at odds with the world.
When my kids and your kids choose to stand for such a set of beliefs, they are likely to pay a price. If they do not settle in their hearts that all other religions are false, they eventually will develop the “I’ll consider your religion if you consider mine” philosophy.
Just how serious is God about this?
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord” – 2 Corinthians 6:14–17.
Once we open our minds to false teaching and then choose to be unequally yoked with someone of another religion (whether it be a friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse), we open ourselves up to a spirit of deception. Of course, this verse isn’t saying that you or anyone in your family should avoid all contact with anyone who believes differently than you do about God. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus spent time with many people who didn’t believe. He “came to seek and to save the lost” – Luke 19:10. However, it is important to help our kids understand that a close, deeply committed, intimate relationship with someone who isn’t a believer is dangerous.
5. Do I believe in the deity of Jesus?
The Bible is clear that Jesus is the Son of God:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” – John 1:1–4.
Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified, died for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven to reign at the right hand of God. The world denies this truth, and Satan will work hard to convince your teen it is false. It will be only a matter of time before your teen meets people who say they believe in Jesus but really just believe He was a moral teacher and a good man.
It is impossible for Jesus to have just been a good man. He regularly made radical statements such as this one:
“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” – John 12:44–50.
Jesus claimed that believing in Him is the equivalent of believing in God and that seeing Him is the same as seeing God. He said that He is the light of the world and that He came to save the world. He pointed out that anyone who doesn’t believe in Him will be judged, that His words are God’s words, and that they are everlasting.
If Jesus wasn’t God and wasn’t the savior of the world and wasn’t all He claimed, then the label good man wouldn’t be fitting. Something more like liar, freak, or fraud would be far more accurate.
After working through the five questions, you might be asking, How do I instill these truths into the heart of my teen and live out the “above all” command God gave to Joshua? We find the answer in Joshua 1:
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it” (verses 7–8). God told Joshua to follow His laws carefully. This command to “meditate on” and “be careful to do everything written in” is one requiring a focused discipline.
God wants you and your family to have a well-grounded confidence in who He is. He knows that this confidence will not take shape without hard work. My older brother, Kent, [Jeffrey: Is Kent your only older brother? If so, we’ll add commas around his name, as there are in the next chapter.] just finished running his first marathon. He is fifty years old and understood that getting from the starting line to the finish line would require strong discipline. He knew that without hard work, he would never be successful. God knew that in order for Joshua to be successful in leading the nation of Israel, he, too, would have to work hard. He would have to above all study, know, and reflect on Scripture.
The more you read and meditate on the Bible, the more you believe in God. His Word teaches us how to place confidence in who He is and who He has created us to be.
“What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” – Romans 1:19–20.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made” – Psalm 19:1.
These passages teach us that we can see God’s glory, thus placing confidence in who He is, by looking at His creation. Just as our physical eyes see proof of the wonders of the earth, our spiritual eyes see proof of the wonders of who God is. Your family is counting on you to lead them into the wonders of God’s Word.
I want to also remind you that if you haven’t received my gift for you: The Family Strong Blueprint, you can get your copy today by texting the word “family” to the number 345345.
The Family Strong Blueprint is your personal guide to helping you build a strong family. It’s a digital toolbox packed with tips and tools to help up you construct a plan to become an even stronger family. And, the best part of all – it’s free!
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Jeffrey Dean is a family influencer, author, and counselor whose mission is to help build strong families. For information about having Jeffrey speak in your community, contact our office.