Affirm vs. Build: A Crucial Distinction

We were so very privileged to have Dr. Scott Pace from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with us yesterday as our guest speaker for our Discipleship Sunday. Although due to some Covid-related issues we decided to cancel the afternoon portion of our schedule, Dr. Pace led us through two excellent sessions that focused on the importance of intergenerational discipleship. The links to both sessions can be found below and I would urge you to take the time to view them.

In the first session Dr. Pace led us in a study of Deuteronomy 6:1-9. He presented the passage as God’s blueprint for the family. This included insights for both parents and the church concerning the all-important task of discipling the next generation. I have long loved this passage and the way that it presents this task as a community project. It begins with the specific call to parents to embrace the role of primary faith-influencer in the lives of their children. But it extends out and to the crucial role the whole church community plays in joining, supporting, discipling, encouraging, challenging, and equipping parents in this task.

During the session Dr. Pace presented what I believe is one of THE crucial distinctions for the American church to understand when it comes to our posture toward God’s Word. He shared that it is not enough to affirm God’s Word as true; we must build our lives upon it. Why is this such an important distinction for the American church in particular? Because we live in a place where it is so very easy to stop at affirmation alone.

By contrast, brothers and sisters in different contexts around the world simply do not have the option of stopping at affirmation. Due to the persecution they face and the cost they incur for living as Christ followers they are pressed into building their lives on the truth of God’s Word. As a byproduct of this, they don’t lead their children to adopt a cultural Christianity that contains little Christ and majors on self. They teach their children to lean deeply into Jesus because the gospel is all they have. They lead their children to treasure Jesus because he alone is worthy of the heart’s deepest affection. They lead their children to see Jesus as the only true source of life, joy, and safety.

Our own culture continues to produced cheap pseudo-gospels that proclaim the idea that we can have Jesus along with everything else our hearts desire. In fact, many of these false gospels present the idea that Jesus is the cosmic key to having everything (else) we long to have–and be. We can participate in church and identify as a Christian with relatively no cost or potential harm to self. It’s easy to affirm a “Christian” way because that actually helps us, especially in our context in the southeast, to conform to our culture. It has become very easy where we live to affirm the Christian religion and then morph ourselves into our culture’s version of it.

This is not the essence of biblical faith.

Faith is not the affirmation of a truth alone; it is building a life on the settled certainty of what we believe to be true. It is not enough to nod our heads at Deuteronomy 6. The Scriptures call us to respond to the truth of God’s revealed Word by yielding our lives to it. This is the essence of faith. We exercise faith when we take God at his Word, when we build our very lives on it as the only sure foundation for life, joy, and hope.

The greatest obstacle to this is idolatry, or missed-place affections. We do not pursue the vision of Deuteronomy 6 because it gets in the way of the things our hearts really love. We cannot pursue Jesus and our culturally-shaped vision of the good life: for us or for our children. So we are confronted with this question: “Do we believe God’s Word?” Ultimately we will answer that question with our lives, not our words.

I am thankful for the way Dr. Pace clearly presented a picture of the faithful response the Scriptures call all believers to show. I am praying for the families of our church. Yesterday’s messages were confrontational. Scripture confronts us. And because we live in a context that serves as an incredible incubator for cultural, Christ-less, gospel-less Christian religiosity, we need to be confronted in this way, and often.

So, the question: Is your family building upon this foundation? Are we as parents leading our children to see and respond to the supremacy of Christ? Are we as a church coming alongside parents and students to push them toward maturity in him? Are we most passionate about seeing each other press more deeply into Christ?

My prayer is that we would ponder the answers to these questions deeply in the coming days. I’ll be offering more thoughts in order to help us do just that.

Here are the links to yesterday’s sessions:

Session 1

Session 2 (Worship Service)

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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