by: Dr. Bob Gray Sr.
Genesis 4:1, “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.”
I am thinking of a man whose father is a nationally known preacher. This man went to a Christian school and grew up in a Christian home. He had all the love of a mom and dad that a boy could receive. He sang songs such as Jesus Loves Me, and The B-I-B-L-E, and Zacheaus Was a Wee Little Man. He participated in all of the teen activities. He went soul winning. In spite of this, today he is living a wild, ungodly lifestyle. He is involved with liquor, the Hollywood lifestyle, and illicit sex. He even burned down his parents’ house, trying to kill them.
There is a well-known pastor who has preached behind my pulpit. If I were to list the ten most popular preachers of our generation, he would be on that list. He loves God, and he and his wife had a great marriage. However, his daughter was loose. She thought she could go to Lovers Lane, neck and pet, and not be affected. Soon, she became pregnant out of wedlock, and her dad’s heart was broken. His second daughter followed the same path.
Billy Sunday was one of the greatest evangelists who preached across this nation. He fought the liquor crowd. He went to his pulpit one day, and someone handed him a newspaper. The headlines announced that Billy Sunday’s own son had been involved in a drunk-driving accident.
Dr. Hyles told me the story of one of the men who drove him around. This man was a graduate of Tennessee Temple Schools. His dad was a well-known pastor, and this man became a popular evangelist. One day, the evangelist went into a bar to collect a debt. He took his first drink and walked out drunk. He was married seven times, and his life was ruined. He ended up in the Hammond Rescue Mission.
There are teenagers sitting in churches all over the country who are sold out soul winners. They think they can live for God while they fool around with the world, but they cannot do both. Before long, their lives will be wrecked and ruined, and they will be looking for help and advice from their preacher.
Maybe you visited a church and found it was different from any other church. The pastor preached strong convictions and soul winning. People were saved and baptized. You sensed the Spirit of God working. You laughed at the jokes, cried, and went to the altar. You even found yourself saying, “Amen.”
You joined the church, thinking you would have it made. You thought things would go well for you if you had that particular pastor—a pastor who preached separation from sin, who had a bus ministry, who preached Hell-fire damnation, who held standards and never changed. You thought your children would automatically turn out right if you put them in the Christian school. You thought your sons and daughters would turn out right in that college with an electrifying soul-winning atmosphere.
Now something has happened to you. You discovered the preacher and the staff members were human. You discovered the members had faults. You discovered the members gossiped at that church, just as they gossip in every church. It did not bother you until you were the target of the sermon or the target of the gossip. It did not bother you until your child received demerits you thought he did not deserve.
Suddenly, you find that you are backslidden. Your children are backslidden. You do not understand how it could happen in such a great church.
I believe “influence does influence,” and that is why it is called “influence.” A Christian school pushes for right. It helps those who want to be right with God. On the other hand, it hardens those who do not want to be right with God. If you want to serve God, it will help you be above average; but if you want to be average it will be a thorn in your flesh. No amount of influence and environment can ever make you spiritual or make you do right; it simply makes it easier to do right and be spiritual.
Think about Cain. Both of his parents were saved. God had given both of them coats of skin; they were washed in the blood and born again. When Cain was born, Eve said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord.” Cain’s name means “acquisition.” He was cradled in a lullaby of love and faith from infancy. He worshipped with his parents at the gate of Paradise. Every Sabbath day his dad killed a lamb, placed his hands of faith on its head, and sacrificed it on an altar. He saw the cherubim and the flaming torch. He actually heard the voice of God.
Cain’s parents probably showed him the results of sin. They made him feel the thorns on the plants, and then they showed him the poisonous snakes that had once been peaceful. They showed him the weeds in their gardens. They warned him that sin would ruin his life, just as it did the rose, the wild beasts, and the serpent. They showed him their wrinkled brows and stooped shoulders caused by sin. They explained that their fatigue at the end of the day was caused by sin.
There were no dirty magazines in Cain’s home. No flashing lights lured him to watch a dirty movie. No wrong crowd led him astray, and no fallen woman lured him to sin through lust. There were no atheistic professors to ruin his mind. No slum area caused his fall, and no ghetto pushed him to dope. There were no adult bookstores, no profanity, no television, no bars, no rock music, and no Playboy magazine. There were no disco joints, no country and western music, no miniskirts, no drug dealers, no pimps, and no red-light districts. There were no Kennedy’s, and no John MacArthur’s. There was no NIV, ASV, or RSV.
Cain lived where it was easiest to serve God. He lived in a utopian place. Yet, he disobeyed God by bringing the wrong sacrifice, and then he murdered his own brother.
If you had been in the Garden of Eden, you would have blamed God for your fall. You would have blamed Paradise. Yet, it is no more the church’s fault that you are not right with God than it was God’s fault that Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. You have no one to blame but yourself.
Church is a marvelous place, but it will not make you spiritual. Members come and go. They become upset with the preacher when they quit reading their Bibles and going soul winning. They quit going to Sunday school and start working on Sundays, and then they wonder why their children turn out wrong. They quit tithing and giving offerings. They blame the preacher because he did not keep them right with God.
God did not give you a preacher and a church to keep you right with Him. It is your job to stay right with God. If you do not read your Bible for the entire week, you cannot expect the preacher to keep you right with God. Pray and read the Bible for yourself.
The youth pastor only has your children one hour on Sunday morning and one hour on Sunday afternoon, so it is not his fault if your children turn out wrong. There are 168 hours in a week, and the pastor only has you for three of those hours. It is your responsibility to keep yourself right with God.
A dad once said to me, “I gave my kids to fundamentalism, and look what happened.” I replied, “You should have kept them because it is your responsibility to raise your children.”
If you are backslidden, you have two choices. First, you can look for another church that matches your spiritual condition. You can justify your backslidden condition by gathering other backsliders around you.
Second, you can face the fact that the atmosphere cannot keep you right. It can only point out your backslidden condition. Even though you are backslidden, stay in your church. Then, get right with God. When your child gets some sense, he will have a place to come home.
If you backslide at church, you cannot go to a better place to get right with God, so stay and get right with God. There is no better Book to help you get right with God than the King James Bible. All the other “bibles” are simply perversions. There are no better truths to give you. There is no better cause than keeping people out of Hell. What else motivates you and keeps you right with God? It is your responsibility to keep yourself right with God.
The greatest tragedy is when a Christian goes to church, hears the great music, sees the salvations and baptisms, hears great guest preachers, hears Bible studies and sermons, and goes to summer camp, yet backslides and longs to return to Egypt. You walk sacred halls, sacred buildings, and sacred classes every day, but you are not right with God. You go to chapel and hear men of God preach, but you are not right with God. You are in a spiritual utopia, yet you are backslidden. Your church preaches the King James Bible is the only Word of God, and you are backslidden. Instead of realizing it is your fault that you are backslidden, you blame the pastor.
It is easier to lose your temper with the principal or youth pastor because your child was supposedly wronged than it is to lose your temper at the child for doing wrong. No, it is not the preacher’s fault, the church’s fault, or the school’s fault; it is the home’s fault. You have no one to blame but yourself. We can make it more conducive for you to be spiritual and for you to raise your children right, but you have to choose to do right.
Parents do not let your guard down. Students do not let your guard down. The preacher will not make you spiritual. The church and school will not make you spiritual. Throw away the TV Guide, brush the dust off your Bible, and read it. Spend time with God. Being around spiritual people will not take the place of your personal walk with God.
You were attracted to the church and people because you were spiritual. You loved to see people saved. You were the best producer at your church. You loved the singing and the preaching. They used the right Bible. You loved the bus routes. You went to that church because you were on a spiritual high.
The church became unattractive because you became unspiritual. The people did not change; you simply became unspiritual. If you had been spiritual, you would have forgiven. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Now you are cold and backslidden, and the church is unattractive. The preacher is unattractive.
God puts imperfect people in perfect positions on purpose. The pastor is an imperfect man preaching a perfect Book to imperfect people, trying to perfect them. The pastor’s imperfection is used by God to help you become more spiritual and forgiving.
You became unspiritual because you depended on the church to make you spiritual.
I was in a Question and Answer session once with Dr. Jack Hyles when a man asked him, “Dr. Hyles, how do you keep Mrs. Hyles right with God?”
Dr. Hyles replied, “It is not my job to keep Mrs. Hyles right with God. That is her job.”
If you are very irritated by the preacher, you are unspiritual. When you depend on the church to keep you spiritual, you will be unspiritual. Did you read your Bible this morning? Did you pray?
If you joined a church because of right, you will not allow your wife or child to make you leave. However, if you joined the church because of your wife or children, you will leave because of them.
One man said, “You did not get the heart of my son.” The Bible says, “My son, give me thine heart.”It does not say, “My church member, my youth member….” Dad, go home and claim your child’s heart. Quit blaming the church because your children are not doing right.
Why did you choose your church? Why did you choose that particular church over another church in town? The answer will determine how long you stay at your church. Our church has great benefits; however, you should not join a church because of its great youth program, its music, its preaching, its college, its fame, or even its soul winning. You should join a church because it is the right church for you to attend.
As father and priest of your home, if you do not believe your church is the right one, neither will your children. They will believe and act what your heart believes. If you believe in your church, your children will believe in it, too. No youth activity or school will induce your children to love Jesus and serve God.
If you believe in your church, you will stay in it even if your children go to the Devil. You will not be affected by the emotions of your wife or the rebellious behavior of your children. You will not be prodded, coerced, tormented, or manipulated into leaving it.
Your wife will be secure and happy, knowing that you will not move when times are tough, when friends leave, when the children do wrong, or when she has a bad day at church. Your children will be happy and secure because you support the preacher, the principal, the teacher, and the youth director. In fact, if your wife and children think they can sway you or change your mind in such a weighty decision, they will lose confidence in you as a leader. If you leave for the sake of their happiness, they will actually be less happy.
This unwavering determination to stay because it is right for you and your family has two benefits. First, your choice to stay where God wants you gives your marriage stability. My wife is happy and secure because she cannot change my mind. Second, this decision to stay gives my children the confidence to stand for right and the example to follow to turn out right.
Too often parents change trying to salvage their marriage or their teenager and actually end up destroying what they were attempting to salvage. If you tell them you were lying about the church being right, they will wonder what else you lied about. You will become merely a politician who takes a poll before making a decision or giving a speech.
When your child is a college student trying to decide what is right for him, your stability and confidence will make it easier for him to decide the same. He may not decide the same, but it will be easier for him to do right if he knows mom and dad are staying, regardless of his choice.
The church will not make you spiritual. It cannot make you do right. You must be responsible for your own spirituality.
Dr. Bob Gray Sr.