(For the message from Sunday, September 26, 2021: “Mourning the Harlot’s Death.” You can view this sermon by clicking HERE.)
I had the honor yesterday to lead our congregation in a study through Revelation 18 as we continued our sermon series through the book. Chapter 18 offers a far more detailed retelling of what we saw broadly in chapter 17 concerning the pronouncement of judgment on Babylon and her destruction. Our view has maintained that although at the time of John’s vision the city of Rome was probably in view (as a near fulfillment), Babylon refers to the spirit that is found within the city of man, or the fallen world. This spirit has been alive and active throughout history, since the entrance of sin and its consequences into God’s good creation. And here in these chapters we see its destruction.
I shared that some refer to this 18th chapter as a funeral of sorts, as it contains the response to Babylon’s destruction by those who profited most from her. But it also contains important proclamations of judgment, including a stark warning and command to God’s own people. We spent much of our time in the sermon focusing on this aspect of the chapter.
For my follow up this week I want to share how the study of this passage has convicted my own life as a father, and to offer that same challenge to other parents. The challenge stems from a proclamation made by whom most consider to be the Lord. He declares,
Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.Revelation 18:4-5
The challenge that keeps ringing in my ear is, “Do my children hear the echo of that call consistently from their parents?” I think the underlying question that at least in part begins to answer that question is whether or not I truly and soberly perceive the danger within the world’s systems that would compel me to call them out of it. Focusing on this question as I prepared this message worked to snap my heart to, so to speak. I think it’s a proclamation that should act as smelling salts to our all-too-often-prone-to-grow-dull hearts.
The truth is the very spirit of Babylon makes up the cultural air we breathe. It is an almost inseparable aspect of the cultural water in which we swim. And it is so very easy for our hearts to get swept up in its sway. This is the same “sorcery” with which Babylon has deceived the nations (18:23). Our hearts are often too easily enticed by the same illusions. And this is far too often the case with the vision we adopt for our children…and then lead them to pursue as well.
This is becoming very real to me as I now have a daughter in high school and a son beginning middle school. Questions like this hit me at the gut level now that I have *personal* skin in the game. Studying for this sermon has caused me to back up and evaluate (which is something we need to do faithfully and consistently).
Am I being faithful to point my children to Jesus? Am I begin faithful to immerse them into the reality of the gospel? Am I being faithful in helping my children understand what identity in Christ really looks like in a broken world? Am I being faithful to present Jesus as sufficient? Am I pointing their hearts to God’s grand objective in redemption and in being long suffering in praying that they fix their gaze and hope on that vision?
Here is where the rubber meets the road for parents today. Is it possible to echo the Lord’s call to “come out of her [the dangerous and evil systems of the world]” while at the same time…
…handing them over to technology with which to explore and use with little or no safeguards or parameters?
…turning them loose within the world of social media, allowing their hearts to be shaped by their unfettered presence therein?
…passively allowing them to get caught up in the world’s ideas about dating and relationships, and thus allowing the world’s systems to define for them what love is and what relationships are for?
…passively allowing them to be the sole arbiters of their personal consumption, offering complete freedom in the media and influences they choose to consume?
…passively allowing participation in the Body of Christ to be optional, or actively leading them to view it through the lens of consumerism?
…leading them to place their hopes in and direct the first-fruits of the whole family toward athletics or extra-curricular activities, often to the exclusion of meaningful membership in a local church?
…pursuing a lifestyle that has more to do with creating a veneer without than authenticity within?
This post may seem a harsh word, but this passage has offered a harsh wakeup call to my soul this week. As we see in Revelation 17 and 18, the world ain’t playing. Our enemy ain’t playing. Nor should we.
I shared the following in the message on Sunday:
God’s grand vision for your life does not look like the American dream. That’s not his objective for you. And we need to be careful to not allow that vision to become supreme … and to keep us from the only true source of life and living toward his end for us as his people: holiness and completeness in him.
Do my children know that? How passionate am I to point them to that vision? How desperate am I for them to know sufficiency in him? To align their hearts with his heart? To truly know him and commune with him? To fix their hope in him and in him alone? To be captivated by Jesus as enthroned King and Lord?
Here is the hard challenge, fellow parents: We can not have both. We cannot lead them in both directions. Either our parenting will resound with “Come out of her,” or we will press them deeply into her.
This is not a game. The world does not love us. The world does not love our children. She seeks to use us as our own flesh desires to use her. And in her are found a million opportunities for cheap thrills. But the pursuit of those thrills leads us to our own destruction. And it will lead to the same destination for our children.
I need to be reminded of this when parenting is hard. When I need to remind one of my children that we are strangers and aliens here. That there are times when we simply will not fit in. This world can often be an uncomfortable place for people who seek and follow Jesus as greatest treasure.
THE question for parents: What do I desire more: for my children to truly come to know Jesus and find their true identity and life in him, or for my children to fit into the world and realize temporary dreams shaped by the world?
Before we answer that question for the way we are parenting, though, we must first evaluate our own hearts and ask which vision we find most compelling for ourselves. The answer to that will be found in our actions, not our words.
Praying Through this Passage
- God, help me to see the world as it really is, and it’s systems and ways as they really are.
- Help me to daily heed your call to come out of the world and press deeply into you.
- Help me to echo that call to my children.
- Father, align my heart with yours. As the song proclaims, “Break my heart for what breaks yours.”
- Help me to trust in you and your coming vindication.
- Help me to look to you and you alone in the shaping of my perception of my identity. Help me to seek it and to find it in you alone.
- Thank you, Jesus, for your rescue that liberates me from sin, my flesh, and the curse of sin!
- Thank you, God, for the certainty of the eradication of sin and its consequences that is coming with your return. Help me to live toward that hope!