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The Joy of Christian Education

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The Joy of Christian Education - Pastor Oesterwind

Topical Message

May 3, 2009

Introduction:  This morning at Heritage, we’ve made an attempt to recognize and publically appreciate the teaching staff in our Sunday school department and our Christian academy.  Almost 30 people do an incredible job with limited resources; therefore, we’ve doubled the pay of our Sunday school teachers - effective immediately J

Some of us become so busy and distracted with much physical serving that like Martha we say, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”  (Mark 10.40)  Mary chose that good part, that which would not be taken away from her.  Our teachers would tell you that sitting at the feet of Jesus and hearing His Word has done much more for them than it has their students.  Passing the fruit of their labors on is as natural as breathing for them. 

As much as we appreciate the teachers representing this ministry, we remember how needy we all are of learning from the Master Teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Many of you have experienced what it’s like to live a life without Jesus and His Word as the source of truth.  But even believers forget this and get caught up in frenetic activity and have little time to just listen and learn from the Scriptures. 

When we behave like this, we’re like the eight-year-old boy who asked his father if he believed in the Bermuda Triangle.  His father wisely answered the son by distinguishing between the literal region and the mysterious stories about ships and planes disappearing.  There is an actual region called the Bermuda Triangle:  one point of the triangle is the southern tip of Florida, the second the island of Bermuda, and the third point Puerto Rico. 

His boy’s father concluded that if his son meant the literal region, then he believed it existed; however, if his son meant the mystical aspect, then he believed that was a bunch of baloney (Hebrew for nonsense J). 

His son defensively replied:  “Well, Dad, I believe in it.  And I bet you want to know why.”  His father said that he did want to know.  The son said, “Well, I was watching Scooby Doo…”  That’s all we really need to know about the son’s reply.

A lot of people prefer the Scooby Doo version of truth over the Scriptures.  They have little appreciation for the Master Teacher.  If they have little appreciation for the Master Teacher, then be assured that they will have little appreciation for Christian educators - whatever form they take.

·         Little attention is given to private Christian education in America. 

·         The bulk of America’s children are educated in secular schools.

·         Secular universities carry the weight of society’s greatest research and most profound discoveries. 

·         When the media look for opinions, they go after university professors. 

As a pastor or a Christian educator and/or homeschooler, we are tempted to feel like we haven’t quite arrived.  We are just people who are teaching the Christian faith - necessary for the weak-minded.  The secular education machine is forming the next generation.  Of course, nothing is further from the truth.  It is crucial that Christian educators understand the difference between secular and Christian education.  This morning, I’d like to flesh out two distinctives that belong to Christian teachers…

1.       Christian teachers are concerned about the eternal well-being of their students.

Explanation:  Believers teach with eternity in mind - at least they should.  Doing so keeps them anchored and filled with great hope.  Paul said it best:  “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For the our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor 4.16-18)

Christian teachers seek above things, “where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” (Col 3.1).  They set their minds on above things, “not on things on the earth” (3.2).  With this eternal framework, the Christian educator becomes an instrument of eternal revelation in the hand of God.  This is an incredible privilege!

There is great joy when a Spirit-filled and Word-centered Christian teacher imparts eternal truth and the eyes of his student sees it and changes the direction of his life.  Generally, secular education brings knowledge that puffs up and that is self-centered; Christian education brings eternal edification and is Christ-centered …others-centered (1 Cor 8.1).  Paul wrote, “If anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought know.  But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.” (8.2)  Those receiving Christian educations, receive educations that affect the way they live now and into eternity. 

Illustration:  It’s like the man who visited his brother-in-law - a man who hated wearing seat belts.  The man had always berated him for it.  Then one time the brother-in-law picked up the man at the airport, and he had on his seat belt and shoulder harness.  The man asked him what had happened, what had changed him. 

The brother-in-law said that he had been to visit a friend in the hospital.  The friend was in a terrible auto accident.  He went through the windshield and had hundreds of stitches in his face.  The brother-in-law thought he had better wear his seat belt after that. 

You’d think the brother-in-law would know about the possibility of going through the windshield if he were in an accident.  Well, of course, he did know.  It’s just that he saw his friend in the hospital and that fact became new to him.  The information finally took root and affected the way he lived.  That’s what really drives the Christian educator.  When the student gets it, an eternal lesson is learned.  That lesson takes root downward and bears fruit upward.  That’s a transaction of joy that occurs only in the eternal realm.

Tim Keller, from the audio workshop "Unintentional Preaching Models," Preaching to the Heart, CD 3; produced by Ockenga Institute of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Transition:  Christian teachers are concerned about the eternal well-being of their students.  Second, …

2.       Christian teachers are concerned about the transformation of their students.

Explanation:  While maintaining and communicating the eternal perspective, Christian teachers want more than making a person better, more effective, successful, and knowledgeable.  Life is more than winning Final Jeopardy after all.  Christian teachers seek the transformation of people into the image of Christ. 

Most people learn from teachers that help them fit into the world system; Christian teachers impart knowledge, but they move people away from the world.  We are not to be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds (see Rom 12.2).  When this transformation and renewal occurs, then we are able to prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Christian teachers have a different goal - not just becoming a master-teacher, but a mastered teacher.  Christian teachers disciple; they change lives.  What does Romans 12.2 transformation look like in the students we reach as a discipleship training center?  There are five marks of the transformed disciple…

·         Mark 1:  Consuming Passion for Christ - it’s not what you know but Who you know!  Christian teachers are consumed with bringing their students to greater works and greater commitment - all for Christ!  We have a role in bringing people to these new horizons. 

·         Mark 2:  Growing Character for Christ - character formation is the goal in the Academy and church.  If people leave Heritage satisfied with gathering information for their heads without renewing their hearts, the teachers here have failed.  Character transformation is a must!

·         Mark 3:  Ever-expanding Service for Christ - those sitting at the feet of Jesus need to become skilled at….

o   Communicating transforming truth - we bear the sword of the Word of God.  Knowing and handling the Word of God accurately is a service that becomes a practiced art for the teacher.  Teaching others the truth must end in their apprehension of it and their own practice of it.  People need to know how to apply truth.  Christian teachers also must become skilled at…

o   Becoming emotionally involved - like the man who visited his stitched up, broken brother-in-law in the hospital.  That emotion of seeing his friend led to action and empathy.  Feelings are important.  The more emotionally invested we are in the lives of others, the better off we are.  Let people at Heritage know the truth and feel strongly about it!  Our ever-expanding service for Christ means that we will also become skilled at…

o   Acting upon what we know - Jesus “was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” (Luke 24.19)  Does are talk walk?  By the way, you will never be adequately prepared.  Don’t delay and excuse your inaction.  Move forward with what you know to help another.  This is true service.

·         Mark 4:  Unique Ability for Christ - we’re all different.  We need to use our differences in the body of Christ to create unity from our diversity (see 1 Cor 12).  That’s why we teach principles from the Word of God, apply them in a mostly general way, and then let people apply them to their unique place in life.  We want to bring people to depend upon their own unique relationship with God - to develop their God-given abilities and use them to strengthen the local church. 

·         Mark 5:  Effective Communication for Christ - we become good listeners and watchers first, and then we are equipped to teach others.  I am (to some extent) my teachers - mentor, books I read, relationships I develop, etc. 

o   We read and study the Bible for its relevancy to our lives.  It is relevant and sufficient for everything in life.  I am grateful when people listen intently to the Word of God being preached or taught.  It shows me that they are retaining and sensitive to spiritual growth.

o   Expressing the truth is communicating it to others.  We garner something from our time with the Lord or our study for a lesson, and we share the overflow with others. 

Transition:  Christian teachers are concerned about the eternal well-being and transformation of their students.  The transformation goes beyond perspective and is evidenced by five marks:

·         Consuming Passion

·         Growing Character

·         Ever-expanding Service

·         Unique Ability

·         Effective Communication

Conclusion:  That Christ would give us such a privileged work in spite of our sinful flesh is quite amazing.  There is no joy greater than that of Christian education. 

In the book What if Jesus Had Never Been Born?  the author relays the 19th century story of Charles Bradlaugh, a prominent atheist, who challenged a Christian man to debate the validity of the claims of Christianity. The Christian was Hugh Price Hughes, an active soul-winner who worked among the poor in the slums of London. Hughes told Bradlaugh he would agree to the debate on one condition.

Hughes said, "I propose to you that we each bring some concrete evidences of the validity of our beliefs in the form of men and women who have been redeemed from the lives of sin and shame by the influence of our teaching. I will bring 100 such men and women, and I challenge you to do the same."

Hughes then said that if Bradlaugh couldn't bring 100, then he could bring 20. He finally whittled the number down to one. All Bradlaugh had to do was to find one person whose life was improved by atheism, and Hughes—who would bring 100 people improved by Christ—would agree to debate him. Bradlaugh withdrew!

D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (Thomas Nelson, 1997), p. 189; submitted by Jeff Allen,

We teach with an eternal perspective for eternal transformation!

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