************ Sermon on Psalm 71:18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 25, 1999
"Fruitful Lives – Fruitful Living"
Christian Education & Baptism
Parents, what do you want for your children? Mark & Connie, Aaron & Heather, what do you want for the babies you presented for baptism this morning? Let's start off by saying what we don't want. I know I won't get any argument by saying none of us want our kids to be like Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris – the two boys at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado who gunned down and killed 14 people and injured 19 others before killing themselves. I repeat, none of us want our kids to end up like these two boys.
What do parents in America want for their children? I think I can safely say that most of our neighbors want lots of friends, good grades, and health for their grade school children. When children hit high school parents want them to have the right kind of friends, a drug and alcohol-free life, athletic ability, good grades. When children get out of their teens parents want them to have a good college education, a promising and prosperous career, a wonderful marriage partner. To sum up, our secular neighbors want their children to have a piece – a nice big piece – of the secure, materialistic, prestigious world. That's it. That sums ups their hopes and desires for their children's lives.
Parents, what do you want for your children, for the children you present or presented for baptism? What is your number one priority for their life? I hope, I pray, that your goal is children who know, who fear, who serve the Lord.
Our Scripture reading this morning tells us what the Lord would have parents do so that their children – by grace – end up knowing, fearing, and serving God. Our text tells us that God wants parents to give their children Christian instruction: "to declare God's power to the next generation, His might to all who are to come." Faithful Lives – Fruitful Living: that is the goal. This morning let us look at the what, who, when, how, and why of Christian instruction.
A What is the instruction that is supposed to be given to our children? Our text specifies instruction about God's "power" and God's "might." What is in mind here? Let me list some of the events the Psalmist has in mind:
Day after day and year after year our children and youth need to hear the great stories of the Christian faith: not just the ones I mentioned but also and especially the story of Jesus Who died on the cross and rose from the grave. And, they need to hear about the 2nd coming and the Final Judgment and the creation of a new heaven and new earth.
- God, out of nothing, made heaven and earth.
- God saved Noah and His family but destroyed the world with the flood.
- The miraculous birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah when they were both old and past the age of bearing children.
- The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
- The miracles or plagues in Egypt.
- The safe crossing of the Red Sea by Israel and the drowning of Pharaoh and his army in the same sea.
- The thundering of God's voice from Mt. Sinai as He delivered the Ten Commandments.
- The stopping of the River Jordan.
- The destruction of Jericho's walls.
- The victory of Gideon and 300 men over a Midianite army of 135,000.
- The agony and defeat of the Exile and the joy of the Restoration.
B Of course, it does no one any good to learn these stories without also learning or realizing what these stories are meant to teach us. So, what do these stories teach us and our children? What are the theological truths behind these stories? The truths we are to pass on to our children are these:
- God is the almighty, sovereign Creator.
- God is holy and hates sin.
- God is loving and merciful and shows grace and mercy.
- God has a goal or a plan to make everything new and perfect.
- God expects His people to be holy as He is holy.
In other words, our children must be told all about God: His being, His person, His attributes. Our children must grow up hearing that there is a God. They must grow up hearing there is only one God. They must grow up hearing about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit so that none of the persons of the Trinity are strangers to them. They must hear about His acts of judgment and mercy. They are supposed to grow up knowing that lying, cheating, stealing, violence and killing are wrong. From childhood on they are to be taught the difference between good and evil. As little infants already it is drilled into their heads that they must be obedient.
C I think we all realize that Christian Schools support parents in teaching these truths. Not only that, but as the bulletin cover puts it, Christian schools enable us to go a step further. These schools proclaim to our children and youth the relevance of God's work through Jesus Christ for their studies and for all of their lives. These schools have teachers who realize that what they say today affects eternity. These schools help children and young people learn how to live their lives fruitfully as citizens of God's kingdom. The result is "Faithful Lives – Fruitful Living."
A God's will, God's leading, is that it is Christian parents who are to give their children this Christian instruction about God: His person, His deeds, His commands. Our text says,
(Ps 71:18) Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.God's Word is plain, simple, and easy to understand: it is Christian parents who are to give their covenant children Christian instruction.
We often miss this obvious point. It is to parents that God entrusts the primary responsibility for giving children Christian instruction. Moms and dads, do you live up to the Lord's leading here? Do you follow God's will for your life? Do you take seriously your responsibility to give your child Christian instruction about God and His ways?
B A few months ago we had Mission Emphasis week in which we looked at the outreach ministry of the church. The words of the psalmist reminds us that the most important mission field is in our own home. It makes little sense to worry about the salvation of the heathen if we don't press the claims of God and His Christ upon our own children and loved ones. It makes little sense to expend money and effort on the lost of the inner city if we are not willing to do the same and even more for our own children. No mission field, congregation, is more important than the one in our own home. And no mission is more important than passing on the faith in our own families.
Topic: Parental InfluenceFamilies are God's primary missionary society. "Faithful Lives – Fruitful Living."
Title: Why I Believe?
Lewis Smedes, professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, says this:
May I share with you the real reasons why I believe? The real reason is my family. I believe because I was brought up in a believing family. I don't make any bones about that. I don't know what would have happened to me if I had been born in a Chinese family in the depths of Manchuria. I just don't know. I do know that I was led to believe in the love of God as soon as I learned I should eat my oatmeal. Other kids sang "Jesus loves me this I know, 'cause the Bible tells me so." But I know that Jesus loves me because my ma told me so.
I wasn't alone. You probably heard about a reporter asking the great German theologian, Karl Barth, toward the end of his career: "Sir, you've written these great volumes about God, great learned tomes about all the difficult problems of God. How do you know they're all true?" And the great theologian smiled and said, "'Cause my mother said so!"
A Having said this, I must also say that we can't limit Christian instruction to the home. The church and school must supplement and support the instruction given in the home. Listen to what Moses, inspired by the Spirit, says:
(Deut 6:6-9) These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (7) Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (8) Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. (9) Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
According to this Word of the Lord through Moses, Christian instruction is a day-long activity. It starts when the child wakes up and continues all the way to bedtime. It happens when sitting around the table, when walking or driving down the road, when resting or playing. All day long, wherever the child happens to be, he or she is to be given Christian instruction.
B As you all know, during the school year our children and youth spend the bulk of their waking hours at school. Upwards of 8 hours per day your child is in the care of school authorities. Now think about this for a moment. All day long, wherever your child happens to be, it is the parents' responsibility to give him or her Christian instruction about God: His being, His deeds, His commands. In light of this command, Christian parents have only two choices: to home school their children or to send them to a Christian school.
A How are parents to give their children the Christian instruction that God want them to give? Our text says:
(Ps 71:18) Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.Notice the use of the word "declare"? We must tell our children about God. Naturally, in our day to day conversation, God – His being, His acts, His commands – ought to come up. Naturally, whatever we do, as we come and as we go, we are to talk to our children about God. We also ought to read to and with our children and youth the great stories of the faith. To do this, we ought to have a shelf or two of our homes filled with children's Bibles, Church School lessons, Bible Stories, and children's devotions. "Faithful Lives – Fruitful Living."
B When it comes to giving our children and youth Christian instruction, God has more in mind than speech and hearing. Lifestyle is also important. You know the old saying: "Actions speak louder than words." And that is especially true of children. They notice everything and miss nothing.
Topic: Parental InfluenceThe best way to give our children Christian instruction is by the lifestyle we ourselves lead.
Title: Children Are Listening
One day a young mother and her kindergarten-age son were driving down the street. The inquisitive little boy asked, "Mommy, why do the idiots only come out when Daddy drives?"
As parents we must set an example for our children. If we don't want our children to swear and to fight, then we ourselves cannot. If we want our children to be honest and to speak the truth, then we ourselves cannot be dishonest and full of lies. If we want our children to have a close and living relationship with God, then they must see us having that kind of relationship. One father writes this:
Topic: Parental InfluenceCan your children and youth say that about you? They should be able to. "Faithful Lives – Fruitful Living."
Title: My Dad Knows God
When my small boy was playing with his buddies in the back yard I overheard them talking one day. One boy proudly said, "My dad knows the mayor of our town!" Another said, "That's nothing--my dad knows the governor of our state!" Wondering what was coming next in the program of bragging, I heard my son say, "That's nothing--my dad knows God!"
Why are Christian parents to give their children Christian instruction? I touched on this at the beginning of the sermon: so that their children – by grace – end up knowing, fearing, and serving God. The psalmist puts it this way:
(Ps 71:5-6) For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. (6) From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you.
(Ps 71:8) My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. (Cf Ps 71:14-17)
When Christian parents give their children Christian instruction, then those children – by grace – end up with faith. When Christian parents give their children Christian instruction, then those children – by grace – trust God, know His deeds, and keep His commands. When Christian parents give their children Christian instruction, then those children – by grace – become heirs of salvation.
But the opposite is also true. When parents don't give their children Christian instruction, their children cannot help but grow up as covenant breakers.
Several years ago the Christian Life and Faith magazine presented some unusual facts about two families.
Topic: Parental InfluenceNot all children of good parents become useful citizens, nor do all the offspring of wicked people turn out bad. Yet the possibility of a child getting the right start in life is enhanced if he or she comes from a home and goes to a school where God's power and might are declared.
In 1677 an immoral man married a very licentious woman. Nineteen hundred descendants came from the generations begun by that union. Of these, 771 were criminals, 250 were arrested for various offenses, 60 were thieves, and 39 were convicted for murder. Forty of the women were known to have venereal disease. These people spent a combined total of 1300 years behind bars and cost the State of New York nearly 3 million dollars.
The other family was the Edwards family. The third generation included Jonathan Edwards who was the great New England revival preacher and who became president of Princeton University. Of the 1,344 descendants, many were college presidents and professors. One hundred eighty-six became ministers of the gospel, and many others were active in their churches. Eighty-six were state senators, three were Congressmen, 30 judges, and one became Vice President of the United States. No reference was made of anyone spending time in jail or in the poorhouse.
Yesterday I was listening to Talk Radio in the car while driving home from the coast. The provocative host of the show said that the parents of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are to blame for the death of 16 people in Littleton, Colorado. The parents are to blame because they did not know or bother to know what their kids were doing. I would have to add to this that the parents are to blame if or because they did not give their kids Christian instruction.
"Faithful Lives – Fruitful Living." Mark & Connie, Aaron & Heather, parents, is this your goal? If so, then at home and through the school declare God's power to the next generation, His might to all who are to come.
Turn to Litany led by Erin Groen.
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