Leaving a Godly Legacy

For more than a year now I have been enjoying the privilege of teaching the Bible on air at Mango Radio Philippines, then at 97.1 FM in Davao City, now at http://mangoradio.asia/. I am thankful to the Lord for the opportunity to proclaim and teach the Holy Scripture over the radio. I also enjoy answering many practical, doctrinal and ethical issues asked by our listeners through text and Facebook messages.

As a Reformed Christian, and a minister at that, it is my joy to teach the Scripture and relate it in the daily life and personal relationships of ordinary believers. My way of interpreting the truths of the Scripture is not unique. The interpretation I express is not new but I always seek to be consistent with how faithful Christian interpreters in the past have explained the Bible and applied it in the lives of the believers.

I always remind myself that I (or anyone in this generation) am not the first who studied the Scripture and discovered the truths it bears and applied them to life’s daily struggles. Our forefathers in the faith had the same struggles that we have and they turned to the written Word of God to find answers to the issues they were facing.

Wisdom calls for us to learn from faithful and godly authors from the previous generations. They can teach us a lot of things from the Scripture about problems we face today. We can build our own new discoveries and conclusions on the solid foundations that they have laid. Of course we can also learn from their mistakes.

But I’m afraid we are losing the rich Christian legacy that our forefathers in the faith had discovered and written about and passed on to us. We will impoverish ourselves if we ignore the truths they have learned to love and preserved for us and the succeeding generations.

In trying to understand the teachings of the Scripture many of them devoted their time to extended study of it. I, for example, am greatly helped by the printed and online commentaries, treatises and sermons of faithful men of previous generations like Athanasius, Ambrose, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Anselm, Bernard of Clairvaux, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, J. C. Ryle, and many more.

Many of their precious insights and teachings are now available and accessible not only in libraries of old institutions of learning but also in the worldwide web or internet. We can easily read them there and try to understand them for our own benefit. We can especially pass on their teachings to our children and young men and women in our churches.

I am writing this essay because I want to share my thoughts on why it is important to leave a godly legacy. I wish to share my insights with you, dear readers, in order to somehow help stir within you the need to take seriously our responsibility to study the Christian faith in order to live it out and leave behind a godly legacy to the next generation.

I do believe that a good legacy one could pass on to his descendants, as I remember one radio listener has shared, is love for God and everything that pertains to Him. What I wanted to share with you here is similar to that idea. The one that I desire for my children and the next generation of believers to learn from me is the faith that I received also from faithful believers of our Lord Jesus Christ, which ultimately comes from God.

Does it sound like the one the Apostle Paul is talking about in 2 Timothy? Actually that’s the kind of heritage I desire to leave my children. Remember how Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5 about the faith which he received from his mother Eunice and first lived in his Grandmother Lois? Although that faith that Paul is talking about pertains to the gift that God promises to give his people which the Holy Spirit creates through the hearing of the gospel of Christ that faith does not come without the knowledge of the gospel of Christ and the assurance and conviction from the written Word of God.

The faith I’m talking about is the body of Biblical doctrines handed down by the Old Testament prophets, preached by the New Testament apostles and their companions, faithfully proclaimed, guarded and defended by the Church Fathers, preserved through the Middle Ages by a few faithful monks and preachers, and fearlessly preached by the 16th century European Protestant Reformers. This body of doctrines were taught and lived by many English and Scottish Puritans as well as by a good number of French, German and Dutch Reformed Christians and their posterity.

That faith has been carried and preached by the 18th and 19th century missionaries (like William Carey, John Paton, Adoniram Judson and many others) to many parts of the world until it reached us here in the Philippines by the providence of God. This body of doctrines summarized in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creed and in many 16th and 17th century Confessions (like the Belgic Confession, Westminster Confession, Second Helvetic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechism, The Thirty-Nine Articles, etc.) is now unknown to many Christians. But this is one legacy worth leaving the next generations of Christians.

Love for God rooted in the living faith of the Apostles results in true godliness. So sound biblical teaching and diligent exposition of the apostolic faith is imperative in producing wise and God-fearing Christians. There is no fear of God without the proper knowledge of God. Godly legacy is being passed on from one generation to another as a result of faithful and godly teaching being lived out by preachers and teachers in the church and by parents at home.

Faith that glorifies God does not come in a vacuum. The Holy Spirit brings it into our hearts by using preachers and teachers as well as godly parents who are soaked in and renewed by the Word of God. As the Holy Spirit uses their words and deeds and as He enables us to understand the holiness of God, the severity of His wrath against sin, the graciousness of His love and goodness and the super-abundance of His mercy in Jesus Christ to undeserving sinners, like us, we are empowered to believe.

These kinds of teaching and practices are becoming extinct in many churches and homes today. Teaching the Christian faith by pastors and parents used to be practiced in previous generations. If we read historical accounts we will discover that basic doctrines of the faith were being taught first by parents to their children at home. Conscientious Christian parents used to pass on their faith to their children in an ordinary house setting as well as in their more formal daily family devotions or family worship.[1]

Of course the church has a responsibility to nurture the believers and their children to mature in the faith. But this does not excuse parents from their responsibility to train and teach their children in the ways of the Lord. Believing parents are the main discipler of their children. They ought to teach their children the teachings of the Holy Scripture.

This is not the case in many Christian homes anymore. If we are going to ask a typical young people in our churches why he is a Christian, or why he or she goes to church, or what does it mean to be saved, you will usually get blank stares. Ask him about the basic doctrines of the Christian faith (such as the person and work of Christ, or the gospel, or faith and repentance, or justification and sanctification) and challenge him to defend these doctrines from the Holy Scripture and you might get frustrated.

But ask him to sing the latest composition of Hillsong or Integrity Music or Contemporary Christian Music and he will do it with gusto. Not that all contemporary praise songs are really bad (some of them are theologically sound and their melodies are quite singable, even a few of them might be sung in our church fellowships) but most of these songs are theologically erroneous.

One Vineyard song that I used to like is the song “Beloved.” Its chorus goes,

I’m Your beloved, Your creation, and You love me as I am;
You have called me ‘chosen’ for your kingdom,
Unshamed to call me, ‘Your own,’ I’m Your beloved.

To a typical evangelical Christian that song may not present any theological problem. But the thing is, when it comes to the love of God, God does not love me “as I am,” but He loves me “in Christ” and “through Christ.” He does not consider me His child apart from His Son, who is the Beloved. If God is going to deal with me “as I am” I will perish. “As I am,” in my natural state, I am a child, an object, of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:1-2) deserving judgment. But “in Christ,” I am God’s beloved.

That’s the problem of this contemporary song. God does not love me “as I am” but He does love me “in Christ” and “for Christ’s sake” by grace through faith in His Beloved.

I could cite another example but I think you get what I mean. Some contemporary songs that many Christians sing in church may sound nice and orthodox at first hearing but to a theologically-trained mind they are erroneous or unscriptural.

How sad it is to see many shallow and immature young people in our churches uninformed of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith! But there are elementary teachings of Scripture that we can’t live without as Christians (see, for example, Hebrews 6:1-2). Unless we grow in these basic doctrines we can’t go on to maturity in the faith.

How come many professing believers don’t know much about these fundamental doctrines anymore? I could safely say that many in our Evangelical churches today are Biblically and theologically illiterate. I was such an illiterate Christian once! If not for the gracious providence of God I could have remained immature in the faith oblivious of the precious and glorious doctrines of God’s amazing grace in Christ Jesus.

In His own time, God sent me faithful believers who diligently taught me the Biblical faith. He also gave me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of these Christian truths from faithful ministers of Christ in a Reformed church and at Mid-America Reformed Seminary.

By the grace of God, I’m still learning a lot from the Holy Scripture about the Christian faith. My learning of and training in the holy faith does not end when I took a three-year formal seminary education. As a pastor I continue to study and learn the faith ‘once delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3).

If church pastors and teachers won’t go back to the basic Biblical teachings taught by the Apostles and by our forefathers in the faith sooner or later the church would lose its power and the world around us won’t see our holiness (which literally means “set apartness” or “separateness”) and godliness as the people of God called to be salt of the earth and light of the world for our Lord Jesus Christ. How I wish that pastors and teachers, together with parents, would diligently teach their youth the whole counsel of God and the most holy faith, not man-centered and ear-tickling teachings!

By the grace of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I desire to leave these Biblical doctrines that I’ve learned and am still learning from others to my children, and Lord willing, to the young men and women and the next generation in the church.

There seems to be a prevailing myth among many pastors today that teaching solid Biblical doctrines bears no relevance in our lives since the 21st century has brought a lot of technological advances that renders the Christian faith irrelevant, if not obsolete. It’s kind of boring to them and besides, they would reason out, no one seems to like that kind of stuff nowadays. They are ‘nose-bleed’ for them. People in the pew, they would argue, have felt needs to be met that doctrinal or solid Biblical preaching would not be able to address.

That claim might be true if the teaching of these Biblical doctrines is devoid of practical applications. I’ve seen it done that way. But I have also seen faithful preachers and Bible teachers proclaim and teach these doctrines with relevant, day-to-day and down-to-earth applications. This kind of teaching does not only fatten the mind and gladden the heart but it also strengthens the feet and hands ready to go and do the will of God in the daily grind of life and every relationship.

So I agree that there’s a way to teach theology that can give knowledge but could not transform the thinking and lifestyle. But I disagree that theology is hard and irrelevant, unable to address the needs of ordinary people. People in the pew may have many felt needs. However even if these felt needs are somehow met or addressed by ‘practical preaching’ devoid of the gospel of Christ, yet if their basic human need is not met, that is, to be reconciled with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through the preaching of the holy gospel, these people will remain discontented and lost.

So many preachers today don’t preach anymore the doctrines of God’s sovereignty in creation and redemption, the fall of man, redemption in Christ in His substitutionary death at the cross, justification and union with Christ by faith alone, suffering for the sake of the kingdom of God, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and other basic Christian tenets.

Our forefathers in the faith were so moved by these doctrines that they can’t help praising God, serving Him with all their heart, soul and strength, living a life of gratitude, and pleasing Him in everything they say and do. Just the glorious thought and true knowledge of God moved them to endure fire, sword, persecution and many other forms of trials and sufferings to keep the faith and to stand for it. The book Foxe’s Book of Martyrs testifies to this.

Today we often hear many preachers talk about “Five Steps to Financial Recovery,” or “Ten Steps to Financial Success,” or “Five Steps to a Happy Marriage,” and other similar teachings without laying the Biblical foundations of these teachings or disconnecting them from the gospel – the redeeming and transforming work of God in Christ.

Worse yet, they tend to emphasize success and prosperity in life as if by his own wisdom and power man could achieve it by doing certain things that would oblige God to bow down to his selfish desires and demands.

Of course we need practical teaching but not at the expense of Biblical and doctrinal truths. If church members are being taught that financial success or career advancement is up to them – it’s their choice – apart from the sovereign will of God and from the finished work of Jesus Christ at the cross of Calvary, the church of Jesus Christ will produce many selfish, greedy, immature, and worldly people, ready to leave the church at the first sign of failure or disappointment.

Professing Christians who are unaware of the essential truths of Christianity on which practical issues, such as marriage, parenting, giving, prayer, stewardship, etc., stand will not grow deeper and stronger nor will persevere in the faith when the going gets rough and tough. Faithful and persevering Christians are enamored by the glory of God in Christ in the gospel. And this kind of believers would be willing to ‘give what they cannot keep to gain what they cannot not lose’ as missionary martyr Jim Elliot once said.

As long as the Lord gives me the strength and the voice to speak for Him it is my aim to proclaim the whole counsel of God and the Good News of salvation which is in and through Christ Jesus our Lord. I pray that the Lord would preserve me in this faith and will not let me go astray from it for the sake of His name.

I also wish that our faithful Christian listeners at Mango Radio Philippines would be vigilant in guarding the faith which we proclaim over the radio. I pray that they would be discerning, scrutinizing the kind of teaching that we promote and teach and let us know when we say things that are not consistent with the Word of God.

Paul said in 2 Timothy 3 and 4 that there will come a time, in the last days, when people become lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power… they will not put up with sound doctrine but, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. The only way for us to endure and counter such a terrible time is to do what Paul charged Timothy to do, that is, to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).

It is my desire that the Biblical faith is being handed down by this generation of believers to the next. That I believe is one legacy worth leaving behind. While the church through its pulpit is the primary place to preach the Word of God, yet the homes, and even radio stations, like Mango Radio Philippines play a vital role in the propagation and the preservation of the true faith once for all entrusted to the saints.

I pray and work hard for this godly legacy to be passed on to the next generation for God’s greater glory and praise!

[1] Dr. Francis Nigel Lee’s 1987 Doctoral Dissertation, Daily Family Worship: Household Devotions Each Morning and Evening as a Chief Means of Church Revival, available at http://www.ebooklibrary.org/details.aspx?bookid=690203


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