************ Sermon on Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Psalm 78:7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 30, 2000
Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Psalm 78:7
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. These are all nice things to want for our children too, but are such things our first priority for their lives?
Parents, what do you want for your children? 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. Christian parents might want this for their children too, but before and above this they want their children to know and fear and serve the Lord.
Parents, what do you want for your children? 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 Scripture reading tells us what God would have parents do so that His great plan of election comes to fruition.
On this Christian Education Sunday we want to look at the responsibility of Christian parents to give their children loving Christian instruction. I have five points: the what, who, when, how, and why of loving Christian instruction.
A What is this loving Christian instruction that we have been talking about? What is the instruction that is supposed to be given to our children? We are told 3 things about this instruction. First, our Scripture reading tells us that the instruction starts off with the being of God:
(Deut 6:4) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 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.
B Second, our children must also be told about God's mighty deeds and wonders:
(Ps 78:4) ... we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. In verses 8-72 the psalmist tells us exactly what deeds and wonders he has in mind: the miracles in Egypt (vs 12), the crossing of the Red Sea (vs 13), the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night (vs 14), water from the rock (vs 15-16), manna (vs 23-25), quail for meat (vs 26-29), the Passover in Egypt (vs 51), the victories against the Canaanites (vs 54-55). 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 mentioned in Psalm 78 but also the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Paul, Peter, and especially Jesus.
C Third, our children must be told about the commands of God:
(Deut 6:5-7) Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (6) These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (7) Impress them on your children.Our children and youth are supposed to grow up knowing that lying, cheating, stealing, and disobedience is wrong. From childhood on they are to know the difference between good and evil. As little infants already it is drilled into their heads that they must be obedient.
(Ps 78:5-6) He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, (6) so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
A God's will, God's leading, is that it is Christian parents who are to give their children this loving Christian instruction about God: His person, His deeds, His commands. Moses says,
(Deut 6:6-7) These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (7) Impress them on your children. Talk about them ...And the psalmist says,
(Ps 78:5-6) He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, (6) so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. God's Word is plain, simple, and easy to understand: it is Christian parents who are to give their covenant children loving Christian instruction.
B Within the covenant community, God is addressing Himself first of all here to parents. We often miss this obvious point. It is to parents that God entrusts the primary responsibility for giving children loving 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 loving Christian instruction about God and His ways?
I have to share with you a concern that more than one person has said to me. It is far too easy for Christian Reformed parents to abdicate their responsibility here just because they enroll their children in the Christian grade school or high school and send them to church school. If you have any leanings this way, let me tell you, you are wrong. Loving Christian instruction in the school and church is never meant to take the place of loving instruction in the home. Instruction always starts in the home. In fact, it must start in the home. If there is no instruction in the home, chances are very good that your child's teachers in the Christian grade school and high school and in the church will be very frustrated.
It is to Christian parents, then, that God has given primary responsibility for instructing His covenant children. So let me ask you again, dads and moms: do you follow the Lord's leading, are you obedient to His will? Do you tell your children about God: His being, His deeds, His commands?
C The words of Moses and 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. Lewis Smedes, professor emeritus at Fuller Theological Seminary, says this:
Topic: Parental Influence
Title: Why I Believe?
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!"
Families are God's primary missionary society.
A Having said this, I must also say that we can't limit loving 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, loving 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 loving 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 loving Christian instruction about God: His being, His deeds, His commands. There is only one kind of school where this kind of instruction can be and is given: the Christian school.
C I can't neglect the role of the church here either. Parents, the church school program exists to help you give your children and youth loving Christian instruction. It is the job of the church to teach doctrine – and she is able to do so in a way that neither the home nor the school is able to. Yet, I also have to say that far too many parents do not think that church education is all that important. Why do I say that? Because those parents let their kids miss Catechism or Church School on a regular basis. This, of course, is not the way it should be.
A How are parents to give their children the loving Christian instruction that God want them to give? Moses says:
(Deut 6:4,6-7) Hear, O Israel ... (6) These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (7) ... Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. And the psalmist says:
(Ps 78:1-4) O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. (2) I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old-- (3) what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. (4) We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. Notice the use of the words "hear," "listen," "tell"? 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.
B When it comes to giving our children and youth loving Christian instruction, God has more in mind than speech and hearing. Through His servant Moses He says,
(Deut 6:6-7) These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (7) Impress them on your children ...Impress, imprint – God is talking about a lifestyle here. You know the old saying: "Actions speak louder than words." And that is especially true of children. They notice everything and miss nothing. Our children are sponges, quietly soaking up all we say and do. Philip Yancey (in "Holocaust & Ethnic Cleansing," in Christianity Today, August 16, 1993) writes:
Topic: Parental InfluenceThe best way to give our children loving Christian instruction is by the lifestyle we ourselves lead.
Title: Bitter Inheritance
I have a friend, George, whose marriage has gone through rough times. One night George passed a breaking point and emotionally exploded. He pounded the table and floor. "I hate you!" he screamed at his wife. "I won't take it anymore! I've had enough! I won't go on! I won't let it happen! No! No! No!"
Several months later my friend, George, woke up in the middle of the night and heard strange sounds coming from the room where his 2-year-old son slept. He went down the hall, stood outside his son's door, and shivers ran through his flesh. In a soft voice, the 2-year-old was repeating word for word with precise inflection the climactic argument between his mother and father. "I hate you ... I won't take it anymore ... No! No! No!"
George realized that in some awful way he had just passed on his pain and anger and unforgiveness to the next generation.
"Impress, imprint." As parents we must make an impression on our children. 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.
Topic: HomeCan your children and youth say that about you? They should be able to.
Subtopic: Devout Fathers
Gospel musician Hilding Halverson told of overhearing a conversation between his son and two other little boys. The youngsters were bragging about their dads. One boy said proudly, "My dad knows the mayor of our town!" Another said, "So, my dad knows the governor of our state!" Halverson's son then came up with this touching comment, "That's nothing -- my dad knows God!" Upon hearing this, Halverson quickly slipped away to his room and with tears in his eyes said, "O God, I pray that my boy will always be able to say, 'My dad knows God.'" He knew he had been paid the supreme tribute.
A Why are Christian parents to give their children loving 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 78:7) Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. When Christian parents give their children loving Christian instruction, then those children – by grace – end up with faith. When Christian parents give their children loving Christian instruction, then those children – by grace – trust God, know His deeds, and keep His commands. When Christian parents give their children loving Christian instruction, then those children – by grace – become heirs of salvation.
B But the opposite is also true. When parents don't give their children loving Christian instruction, their children cannot help but grow up as covenant breakers. Verse 8 and following tells us the sad result when children do not hear about God, ignore His commands, and forget His deeds:
(Ps 78:8) They would ... be like their fore-fathers--a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.
I say what I said before: families are God's primary missionary society. It is through the family that God carries out His decree of election. For this reason it is important, vitally important, for parents, in word and deed, to give their children loving Christian instruction.
Dads and moms, I ask you: do you follow the Lord's leading?, are you obedient to God's will?
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