How Worship Affects Everything

(Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash)

I recently finished Paul Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. While I hope to provide a more in depth review of the book, today I want to focus our attention on one principle that jumped out to me. With the recent emphasis in the discussion of transgenderism, Teen Vogue’s article on anal sex, and the confusion surrounding human sexuality in general, I was again impressed with the relevancy of Scripture.

In the eleventh chapter, Tripp discusses the principle of ‘false gods.’ (Tripp, 2016) The principle is, ‘You are parenting a worshiper, so it’s important to remember that what rules your child’s heart will control his behavior.’ (Tripp, 2016)

The chapter develops how this principle fleshes out in our children. Tripp touches on a point that has profound implications: worship. He states, ‘Worship is a tricky word for most of us, because when we think of worship we tend to think of formal religion….But worship is not just a religious function; it is a human function. Worship is something everyone does every day.’ (Tripp, 2016)

Applying to our children, this enables us to understand why they do the things they do. Branching out from the focus on children, and this enables us to understand the state in which we find our country.

Think about it: we were made to be and are worshipers. Tripp wisely writes, ‘It’s the fact that we always live in service of something or that we always live in control of something.’ (Tripp, 2016) Why are individuals confused about their gender? (Let me state that there are some genuine issues underlying some instances of gender confusion and identity. I am discussing the willful abandonment of a gender at birth for the opposite gender.) Why are people desiring to be with the same gender, sexually? Why are magazines proving teenagers ages 12-17 how-to guides for anal sex? Because we are worshipers.

Paul, in his masterful work of the book of Romans, captures this truth exquisitely:

 ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.’ (ESV, 2007)

There are several points worth noting.

  • Rather than creation impressing God’s truth upon their hearts, their unrighteous acts suppress the truth.
  • These individuals knew God but rejected Him.
  • Because we are worshiping beings, our need to worship something still exists.
  • Our rejection of the worship of God results in the worship of creation, including humanity.

Our need to worship something does not dissolve with our failure to believe in God. As a result, we worship something or someone. How does this look like in our society?

We are confused about sexuality. We are worshiping ourselves, our good, our pleasure, when we step outside the God-ordained boundaries for sexual gratification. You see, sex is a good thing. God created it for our enjoyment as well as the natural means of increasing the population of the earth (see Genesis 1:28, 31; 2:24; Proverbs 5:15-19; and Hebrews 13:4). However, when we forsake worshiping the one true God, our worship moves to another, and in our society, sexual gratification is near the top.

We have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25, ESV). We have forsaken the worship of our Creator for us, the creature. If I choose to be another sex, then I change it, because my desire overrules even nature itself.

How does this understanding help us? In several ways:

  • It should cause us to have an enormous amount of grace with each other.

    If God made us to worship Him, and by our nature we avoid Him (see Romans 1:18-25 and 3:10-20), then it is only the incredible grace of Jesus that changes us (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Those who receive grace should be the most gracious, as we know the depths of our sin and the absolute wonders of His grace. That means we should be patient, kind, and loving. 1 Corinthians 13, the ‘love chapter’, details how the grace of Jesus should look in our lives. Are we sharing grace with one another?

  • It should help us understand why people do the things they do.

    I have heard people say, ‘How can they do that? What are they thinking?’ They (and we too) do it because they were meant to worship! They (and we too) were created by a gracious Father to spend our lives in awe and service to Him. By the fall, they (and we too) ignored the truth of creation that should lead us to the Creator and instead place ourselves on the throne of sovereign rule. They (and we too) seek to serve their god, themselves. Whether that means we change our sexual identity, our sexual orientation, or even the ages when we offer advice for sexual acts, we worship something. In our interactions with others, knowing why they do certain things can help us minister from a position of knowledge rather than stupidity.

  • It should help us understand our own false worship.

    Sexual sins are not the only expression of our need to worship. Our jobs, positions, titles, money, rest, people, television, mobiles, and much more are all expressions of our need to worship. The question is not, “Do I worship sex? (or insert any other thing)” The question is, “Do I worship God and God alone (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5)?” It is so easy to see the splinter in our brothers and sisters eyes and completely ignore the telephone pole in our own (see Matthew 7:1-5).

  • It should help us to pray.

    God desires to restore Creation (see Romans 8:18-25 and Revelation 21-22). In fact, it was the motivation for Jesus’ incarnation (see Ephesians 1:3-10 and Colossians 1:15-20). Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). It is God’s desire to restore everything so that it will once again be ‘very good’ (see Genesis 1:31). We, as recipients of this incredible grace, should pray for others. We, who experienced the bondage of sin and Satan, should zealously pray for those within it and his grasp. Our hearts should ache with a desire to be tools to help place the God who deserves all worship into the hearts of those who are failing to worship their Creator.

It always amazes me, though it should not, just how relevant the Scriptures are. It also amazes me just how depraved we (I am in the list too!) are. Finally, I am overwhelmed at the grace of our Lord, who ‘shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8, ESV)

There are several good resources that are available if you wish to discuss this matter further.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary provides a good article discussing Teen Vogue’s deplorable post.

For a good discussion on the topic of transgender, see Samuel James’ article on the Gospel Coalition.

Finally, check on the Christian Post’s article. You’ll find some helpful discussion there as well.

 

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3 Strategies for Parenting

‘Three Strategies for Parenting Teens’

It has been a while since I have provided some parenting encouragement from Paul Tripp. As I was looking through the incredible book Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, I came across something that I needed and thought I would share it with you today.

One of the most important aspect of Tripp’s book is the intentionality with which he approaches the parenting of teenagers. (It is, in fact, the whole idea behind the ‘age of opportunity’!) In this chapter of his book he discusses three strategies, or methods, that will help parents be more successful in their parenting endeavors.

Strategy 1: Project Parenting[i]

The first strategy that Tripp discusses is project parenting. In this chapter he discusses the foolishness of beginning a project without procuring the right tools, materials, and plans. No one in their right mind would attempt such an endeavor! And yet with parenting we often do this. Can I confess something? I do this! I approach parenting in the now. I do not put nearly as much thought into the conversations I will face with my two children the next day. I do not dwell on the heart issues affecting my daughter and son. But when it comes to planning a trip, I’ll spend time researching gas prices, places to stop, and most important, places to eat.

But this is a terrible way to parent and one that will most assuredly lead to failure and frustration. Tripp writes, “The phrase, ‘project parenting’ implies being focused, being purposeful, being goal-oriented in our daily encounters with our teenagers. When we are parenting with a sense of project, we will know why we are going after what we are going after….It means we will parent with prepared spontaneity; we will come to those unexpected, spontaneous moments of parenting with preparedness and purpose.”[ii]

So what does this look like practically? Well, for me, it looks like character development for a four and two-year-old. It means learning how to cultivate my daughter’s heart to be willing to share because she loves others. For my son it means developing his understanding of situational control and the management of his anger. But what about teenagers? This is where you come in the picture. It depends on you and your teenager. What are his or her struggles? What difficulties is he or she currently facing? Determining this information will help with reactive issues. But there are also proactive items that you will want to address. What character qualities would you like to see developed? What type of work ethic would you like to instill? Discussing these type of questions prior to an interaction will be similar to the project manager gathering materials and supplies and drafting a plan. This will not guarantee success, but it certainly will help make it more obtainable.

Strategy 2: Constant Conversation[iii]

The next strategy Tripp offers is that of conversation. The Cambridge Dictionary Online defines conversation as, “an informal, usually private, talk in which two or more people exchange thoughts, feelings, or ideas, or in which news or information is given or discussed.”[iv] Conversations are intentional, meaning they simply do not happen by accident.[v] We, as parents, must be deliberate in our desire to communicate with our teenagers. Tripp made it a point every night he returned from work to spend time with each of his children. If you currently do not hold conversations with your teenager, it may be awkward at first. But keep pursuing it! It is so necessary for your own relationship with them, but also for the development of their relationship with God.

There are many spaces within our daily lives to create conversations. During a trip in the car, while waiting for the food to get to the table, during a game time. One lost art of our busy society is the family meal. My wife and I recently purchased a table for our new dining room. Up to this point, we did not have a dining room or a table at which to eat, so we would sit in our living room and the kids usually would watch a cartoon. But when we moved to a larger home and added the table, we began to eat meals together. We cannot stress enough what a blessing it has been! We have seen a different side, albeit a goofier side, of our kids. It has been amazing. And I imagine that having one family meal a day would grant a prime opportunity for conversation.

Strategy 3: Leading Your Teenager to Repentance[vi]

And here we have our ultimate goal as parents or guardians: restored relationship with God. Tripp gives five steps to help carry this out, but I want simply to elaborate on the idea behind this as opposed to offering another list of ways to accomplish it.

If we are more purposeful in our parenting then we will (or at least should) come to this goal. We want, desire, yearn for our teenagers to be in a thriving relationship with God. With each struggle they face, temptation they to which they yield, angry word they utter, etc., restoration should be our primary goal. This also requires us to be transparent. We need to own up to our own shortcomings. We need to apologize and ask forgiveness of our teenagers. And we need to show them what happens when we repent and God forgives.

Conclusion

Parenting is hard work. It is day-in and day-out, stressful work. But it is also fun! It is exciting when you see your child reach a point in their life when they begin to reason, when they make the right decision, or avoid that certain situation. Imagine if we put as much thought into our own parenting as we do vacations, projects in the home, or the purchasing of a new vehicle. I can picture a different teenager, a wholesome home, and a thriving church.

May God help us to be more proactive in our parenting!

[i] Paul David Tripp, Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2001), 215.

[ii] Tripp, Age of Opportunity, 215-216.

[iii] Tripp, Age of Opportunity, 222.

[iv] http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/conversation Accessed 13 January 2017.

[v] Tripp, Age of Opportunity, 223.

[vi] Tripp, Age of Opportunity, 226.