May 4, 2007

Second-Hand Faith

The first time Tobey and I visited Cincinnati, a few of you turned us onto to Valley Thrift Store. If I remember correctly, it was ‘Half-Price Monday’ or something like that. What a find! We’ve gone back again and again. In fact, on my way to Ethiopia, I bought a couple of $70 dress shirts for $5 each! Second-hand clothing can be a real blessing!

But there are some things you don’t ever want second-hand—toothbrushes, engagement rings, syringes, cigarette smoke…and faith! Faith is never any good when it is second hand. Faith cannot be handed down from generation to generation, or from one friend to another, like a suit-jacket. Each person must believe on Christ for himself. So how is it that so many people (particularly young people) are content with second-hand faith? How is it that so many believe that all is well because their parents believed, and brought them to church, and taught them wrong from right? All this is wonderful…but it doesn’t make a person a believer!

Let’s do a case-study of one Old Testament second-hander: Joash, king of Judah (2 Chronicles 23-24). Joash became king when he was seven years old. Of course, with such a young king, the nation needed a steady, faithful man who could act as regent while Joash grew up and learned how to act like a king. And God provided such a man—Jehoiada, the priest. As I read his story this week, it seemed to me that Jehoiada was one of the most exemplary characters in the Bible. He ruled well in Joash’s stead. He led the people back to the LORD. He raised Joash and taught him the ways of God. And Joash obeyed the Lord—restoring the broken-down Temple and serving well as king.

In fact, according to 2 Chronicles 24.2, “Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (italics mine). Now those italicized words should signal to you that something must have changed once “the days of Jehoiada the priest” were ended. And something did change. 2 Chronicles 24.17-19 tell us that once Jehoiada was dead, Joash began to listen to ungodly counsel and eventually turned against the LORD altogether—finally murdering Jehoiada’s son because he dared to point out the king’s unfaithfulness.

How could a man who started so well, finish in such a mess? One answer: His faith was second hand. His devotion, it seems, was more toward Jehoiada the priest, than toward Jehoiada’s God. And so, like many young-people whose religion is more out of duty to their parents than out of love to Jesus, he crumbled when Jehoiada died.

Isn’t this why so many young people leave the church when they go off to college, or get their own place? They are no longer under the watchful eye of their parents. If their faith was really in Jesus, they would remain and serve the LORD. But, as it is, their religion is second-hand. They are only doing it because mom and dad are watching. But let mom and dad die…or let the child be out from under the roof…and what appeared to be faith soon appears to be falsehood.

So what must we do? Well, as parents (or grandparents, pastors, SS teachers, etc.) we must constantly point away from ourselves and to Christ. We must plead with young people to be sure that their devotion is directed toward Him, and not toward us. And, if you find that you are a second-hander yourself…seek Christ while He may be found! Realize that no one else’s faith can save you. Make sure that you are devoted to, in love with, and believing in Christ for yourself.

No comments: