To my son and co-worker in the faith, whom I deeply love, grace and peace to you from God our Father and The Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God for you.
I have had a blessed ministry extending over 45 years. I have already passed the baton to others to carry on works that I have done. More will be released later and you are one seasoned follower of Christ who will carry on God’s work into the future, as I have been graced of God to do in the past.
You will not do it my way, nor would I want you to. You may glean from my experience and that of others and put together your own pathway to follow. The key reality to remember is that you carefully examine all you think and do, to wisely know what must remain and what is allowed to change.
Remember, God has given us commandments to live by and principles to guide us. But much of life and ministry will fall into the “neutral” zone, where what you decide to do is neither right or wrong in itself. You are free before God to make your own choices and be accountable for your own choices. Don’t judge others and don’t let others judge you in this wide area of life and ministry. (If you need a boost on this topic, read John Calvin’s lesson on things indifferent in his Institutes, Book 3, Section 19.)
The authority of Scripture must remain. O, there will be strong discussions among godly people over just how the Bible is inspired of God and how this should affect our interpretations, teaching and application. But this core conviction must remain.
Then, the core teachings of Scripture must remain. You can voice this core in many ways. But among the best is found in the words of the ancient “Apostles Creed.” This creed speaks to Christians and to the world of every generation. Notice how it is even expressed through some contemporary music styles. Embrace its words, and see that they remain.
And teach it! You can be clever but don’t try to be cute. You should teach to touch your generation, but don’t try to remodel what ought to remain. Believe me, it won’t work!
I was born near the end of the Second World War. It was a pivotable time. Generations before seemed stable and traditions continued. Changes that did occur were gradual. All that is over! My generation and the generations that have followed ours are used to rapid change, and now it is more rapid than ever. Many results of this are good, but some are not. Contemporary Christians lack “roots”–an idea prominent in Scripture. If you don’t know where you came from, you will have a harder time knowing who you are and where you should be going. Also, many don’t value history, so they can’t learn from the experiences of the past–good ones and failures. And they don’t value wisdom gained by generations past, living and dead. In contrast, the Proverbs reflect the seasoned insights of long lives lived and shared. Live the Proverbs Way.
You will face challenges that are either new or increased, compared to the challenges of the past. Your culture will be less and less supportive of your faith and message. In the name of “tolerance” it will reject you if you are loyal to the core that must remain. You should expect to “pay the price” at a level I didn’t have to.
You will have to assess new ideas and developments very carefully. Don’t reject them out of hand or run toward them unreflectively. For example, communication has exploded in my lifetime and yours. People give and receive information at an astounding level. Not all of it is good! People communicate more than ever before, but I’d be hard pressed to say they communicate better than before. Take what the Bible says about our words, good and bad, and have your speech “seasoned with salt” at all times.
Do your best to live in your community and culture productively. Seek the “shalom” of your community, as one of my favorite prophets Jeremiah once said. Do your best to make it a better place. Learn to interact with all kinds of people. Seek the common good. When you do have to speak out against something in your culture, do it from the strong position of respect you have earned, as I once told Timothy that leaders of a church must have respect among unbelievers.
Be a good citizen and work to make your government good. Don’t try to “Christianize” it–that’s not what biblical influence calls for. But strive to make it good. Lead it do do justice and love mercy
And keep strong in your testimony in word and deed. You have a calling to share your faith with others and strengthen your fellow believers to do the same. Teach them how to have reasons for the hope that is within them and how to share these with those who do not know your Lord.
In your personal life, be sure to honor your spouse above all and love her as Christ loves his church. Make sure your place of ministry regards her and your children as persons in their own right, not as extensions of the church. Be sure your family members can maintain reasonable privacy and protect them from any unfair judgments. Be sure you keep a weekly “sabbatical” and don’t immerse yourself unreasonably (pridefully?) into church matters to where they consume you. Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think.
Live backward from how you wish to reflect back upon your life as you reach the end of your journey, so you can say sincerely, “I have fought the fight; I have kept the faith.”