Friday, May 10, 2013

Mail Bag: Worried About My Adult Children Going to Hell

Mail Bag

I received the following email from Diana, in Nebraska:
Mr. Miano:

Your ministry is very inspirational - I enjoy watching your YouTube videos. The Lord has definitely called and equipped you for evangelism.

My question: my adult children are living what I consider a carnal lifestyle. I have guilt for not giving them proper biblical instruction. The fear is that one of them will pass on prematurely and I would have to reconcile that my own child may be burning for eternity. Surely other mothers and fathers have faced this - how can one "deal" with this?

As far as I can tell, King David's son [Amnon] did not appear to be following The Lord, seeing as he raped his half sister, left her in disgrace and was murdered while he was drunk. No mention is made that David freaked out because he knew his son was apart from God for eternity.

Your thought and insight would be deeply appreciated and respected!

God Bless -

Diana, I can't begin to count how many parents I know and how many parents I've met or have been contacted by with whom I've discussed this very issue. For the Christian parent, I would be hard-pressed to think of a more important life issue than where their children will spend eternity. The concern of a loving, Christian parent regarding the salvation of their children intensifies with each passing year.

Once a child reaches adulthood, it seems that many Christian parents resign themselves to occasional hopes and prayers for their lost, grown children, believing it would take a "miracle" for their adult son or daughter to be saved. A "miracle." Every instance of God taking an unregenerate sinner, taking their heart of stone and giving them are heart of flesh, and literally causing them to be born from above ("born again") is a miracle. It is a miracle because it is a supernatural work performed by God upon the pinnacle of His creation--mankind. And God performs these kinds of miracles every day, around the world.

First, Diana, I would like to address your "guilt" for not giving your children proper biblical instruction.

Yes, the Bible is clear. Parents should raise their children to fear, follow, and love the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Deuteronomy 11:18-21; Psalm 34:11). Parents should also avoid exasperating their children (Ephesians 6:4). I've already made this mistake, today, with one of my girls and I had to seek her forgiveness.

While their are promises from God corresponding to the obedience of these commands, there are no promises of salvation their children if parents keep these commands. In other words, the salvation of children is not contingent upon the behavior of their parents, or the godly skill with which their parents seek to raise them.

Diana, if you believe you failed to give your children "proper biblical instruction" when you were raising them, then repent of that sin. But something tells me you already have done that. Something tells me the issue regarding the guilt you are feeling has less to do with repentance and more to do with faith. Diana, the issue regarding your guilty feelings is that maybe you have not fully trusted in God's ability and promise to forgive you. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). If you are in Christ, if you belong to Him, if He has caused you to be born again, then your sins are forgiven. Look to the cross for your forgiveness, not in the mirror.

The Tragedy of King David's Children

Diana, you mention one of many tragic stories in the Word of God--a story of deceit, betrayal, violence of the most depraved kind, and murder. And it all took place within the family of a great King--a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:13-14; Acts 13:22). For those unfamiliar with the story, here it is in its entirety, as it appears in the English Standard Version of the Bible.
Amnon and Tamar

13 Now Absalom, David's son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David's son, loved her. 2 And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. 3 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David's brother. And Jonadab was a very crafty man. 4 And he said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister.” 5 Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” 6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. And when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.”

7 Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon's house and prepare food for him.” 8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house, where he was lying down. And she took dough and kneaded it and made cakes in his sight and baked the cakes. 9 And she took the pan and emptied it out before him, but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, that I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the cakes she had made and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. 11 But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” 12 She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate[a] me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. 13 As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” 14 But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.

15 Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!” 16 But she said to him, “No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.”[b] But he would not listen to her. 17 He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.” 18 Now she was wearing a long robe[c] with sleeves, for thus were the virgin daughters of the king dressed. So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. 19 And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.

20 And her brother Absalom said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this to heart.” So Tamar lived, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom's house. 21 When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry.[d] 22 But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad, for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had violated his sister Tamar.

Absalom Murders Amnon

23 After two full years Absalom had sheepshearers at Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king's sons. 24 And Absalom came to the king and said, “Behold, your servant has sheepshearers. Please let the king and his servants go with your servant.” 25 But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, let us not all go, lest we be burdensome to you.” He pressed him, but he would not go but gave him his blessing. 26 Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon go with us.” And the king said to him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But Absalom pressed him until he let Amnon and all the king's sons go with him. 28 Then Absalom commanded his servants, “Mark when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then kill him. Do not fear; have I not commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.” 29 So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king's sons arose, and each mounted his mule and fled.

30 While they were on the way, news came to David, “Absalom has struck down all the king's sons, and not one of them is left.” 31 Then the king arose and tore his garments and lay on the earth. And all his servants who were standing by tore their garments. 32 But Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David's brother, said, “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men, the king's sons, for Amnon alone is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day he violated his sister Tamar. 33 Now therefore let not my lord the king so take it to heart as to suppose that all the king's sons are dead, for Amnon alone is dead.”

Absalom Flees to Geshur

34 But Absalom fled. And the young man who kept the watch lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, many people were coming from the road behind him[e] by the side of the mountain. 35 And Jonadab said to the king, “Behold, the king's sons have come; as your servant said, so it has come about.” 36 And as soon as he had finished speaking, behold, the king's sons came and lifted up their voice and wept. And the king also and all his servants wept very bitterly.

37 But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son day after day. 38 So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. 39 And the spirit of the king[f] longed to go out[g] to Absalom, because he was comforted about Amnon, since he was dead.
Diana, King David was crushed by the death of his son, Amnon. David was consumed with grief about the moral collapse of his family. What father wouldn't be! But there is a difference between your grief and King David's grief. David grieved for what had happened to his son and his family. You are grieving for what has not yet happened to your children. You are fearing the unknown. David was mourning what he had already lost.

God Has Not Given You a Spirit of Fear

Diana, if you are in Christ then God has not given you a spirit of fear. "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:6-7; emphasis added). God has not given you an enslaving spirit that would allow you to fall back toward fearing the consequences of sin. "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father'” (Romans 8:15; emphasis added)!

Trust God

Diana, as God the Father encouraged Israel with these words, may you who has been made alive by Christ also be encouraged.
"But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior'" (Isaiah 43:1-3).
Diana, in addition to setting aside your fears for your adult children, you must also trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones" (Proverbs 3:5-8).
Diana, don't make assumptions about what God may or may not do to, through, and/or for your unsaved adult Children. Do not lean on your own understanding. Trust the Lord!

God is Sovereign

Diana, God is sovereign over everything, including your unsaved children. There is nothing, absolutely nothing you have done, are doing, or will do that can circumvent God's eternally-predetermined will for your unsaved children. You cannot save your children. You cannot keep them from being saved if God has chosen to save them. Salvation is of the Lord (Psalm 37:39; Lamentations 3:26; Jonah 2:9)!

Find comfort in the sovereignty of God, Diana. The responsibility of your children's salvation is not yours. It is God's alone. The ultimate decision regarding where your children will spend eternity is neither yours nor theirs. It is the Lord's (John 1:12-13; Romans 9:14-18). Only God can cause your children to be born again (1 Peter 1:3).

Your Responsibility

Diana, your spiritual responsibility in the lives of your adult children is simply this: continue to love God and continue to love your children.
"And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets'" (Matthew 22:35-40)
Love God and love people: God's two greatest commandments. And Jesus made it clear that if we love Him we will keep His commands (John 14:15; John 15:10).And that's what you must do for your children, Diana: love God by loving them. Love them by continuing to pray for them. Love them by taking advantage of every opportunity to share the gospel with them--not with a spirit of fear or a palpable sense of panic, but with joy in your heart. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Speak the truth in love to them (Ephesians 4:15), trusting in the sovereignty of God to do what He will with your children's souls.

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