Monday, May 19, 2014
I've got a question for you. Would you be upset if, when your car emerged from the car wash, it was still dirty? I sure would be. After all, I brought my car there specifically for the purpose of it becoming clean. If it basically looked the same way coming out as it did going in I'd demand my money back!
There are quite a few similarities between the ineffective car wash I just described and our youth groups of today. Too many similarities to be discussed here I'm afraid. So today, let's just talk about one of them . . . confirmation.
What exactly is confirmation? And what exactly is it that's being confirmed? How come some churches have confirmation and others don't? Is it important? Is it required? Is it useless? This is from Wikipedia:
"Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and many Anglicans view Confirmation as a sacrament. In the East it is conferred immediately after baptism. In the West, this practice is followed when adults are baptized, but in the case of infants not in danger of death it is administered, ordinarily by a bishop, only when the child reaches the age of reason or early adolescence. Among those Catholics who practice teen-aged confirmation, the practice may be perceived, secondarily, as a "coming of age" rite."
In Protestant churches, the rite tends to be seen rather as a mature statement of faith by an already baptized person. It is also required by most Protestant denominations for membership in the respective church, in particular for traditional Protestant churches. In traditional Protestant churches (Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran etc.) it is recognized by a coming of age ceremony. Confirmation is not practiced in Baptist, Anabaptist and other groups that teach believer's baptism.
When I was a confirmation teacher in a Lutheran church confirmation was a fairly big deal. It was the culmination of a child's "training." Kind of a Sunday School graduation ceremony. People dressed up really nice, there were gifts and cards and parties to attend. It was important. But why? What IS confirmation anyway?
Confirmation is supposed to be the "confirmation" of one's faith in God. The "affirmation of baptism" as the Lutheran church wants to call it. That's all well and good, but I know several people who went through confirmation simply to appease their parents. They are now practicing agnostics or atheists. So if they did not really "confirm" their faith during confirmation why were they allowed to "graduate"? The only conclusion I can come up with is . . . somebody lied!
I do know of some kids who were NOT allowed to be confirmed. They didn't finish enough assignments or take enough sermon notes. My question is, what are we humans doing trying to determine whether a person actually believes or not? That's impossible. That's God's job. So why do some churches place such emphasis on being confirmed? How do we actually know that our son or daughter is really confirming their beliefs? Because they've taken a class?
Do you think I am being to critical? Read this opinion by one Martin Luther and see what he thought about confirmation.
"I do not say this because I condemn the seven sacraments, but because I deny that they can be proved from the Scriptures. Would to God we had in the Church such a laying on of hands as there was in apostolic times, whether we called it confirmation or healing! But there is nothing left of it now but what we ourselves have invented to adorn the office of the bishops, that they may have at least something to do in the Church. For after they relinquished to their inferiors those arduous sacraments together with the Word, as being too common for themselves, -- since, forsooth, whatever the divine Majesty has instituted has to be despised of men -- it was no more than right that we should discover something easy and not too burdensome for such delicate and great heroes to do, and should by no means entrust it to the lower clergy as something common -- for whatever human wisdom has decreed has to be held in honor among men! Therefore, as are the priests, so let their ministry and duty be. For a bishop who does not preach the Gospel or care for souls, what is he but an idol in the world, having but the name and appearance of a bishop? (1 Corinthians 8:4) But we seek, instead of this, sacraments that have been divinely instituted, among which we see no reason for numbering confirmation. For, in order that there be a sacrament, there is required above all things a word of divine promise, whereby faith, may be trained. But we read nowhere that Christ ever gave a promise concerning confirmation, although He laid hands on many and included the laying on of hands among the signs in Mark 16:18 "They shall lay their hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Yet no one referred this to a sacrament, nor can this be done." - Martin Luther, 1520 treatise, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church
All of the denominations we have in the world today offer us differing opinions on what they feel is right and true. Confirmation is required in some churches and not required in others. So, what is right? What is the truth? Let's go to the Bible to find out.
"14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit." - Acts 8:14-17
These days confirmation is nothing more than a graduation ceremony of sorts. It represents the culmination, in the church's opinion, of a students training. Whereas "confirmation" in the days of Jesus meant the receiving of the Holy Spirit, that is not the case today. The danger comes when parents THINK their children have received the Holy Spirit when in actuality they haven't. Their children are in danger. Eternal danger.
Parents are responsible for the training of their children, not the youth pastors. Pastors teach, parents train.
"6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6
It is SO important for parents to take the lead in the training of their children. It is literally a life and death situation.
So, how can parents tell if their children have been "confirmed" in the Biblical sense of the word? How can parents be sure that their children have received the Holy Spirit? Examine their "tree" for fruit. Parents should look for spiritual fruit in the lives of their children. We need to become fruit inspectors!
"22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23
Has your child suddenly become more patient? More kind? Do they exhibit self-control after submitting their lives to Christ? If they have become changed in such a way it's a pretty good indicator that God's Holy Spirit has been confirmed in them. Evidence of that fruit is truly a cause for celebration and praise. Evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is all the confirmation anyone really needs.
Here's another scripture reference for you fruit inspectors out there:
Saved? - Bob's Lifesongs