Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 24: Teaching the Next Generation
June 27, 2010
Objectives of sermon:
· To motivate and instruct my congregation to bring our children up in the ways of God in specific, pragmatic ways.
Scripture reading: Deut. 6:4-9 (Genea)
Happy belated fathers’ day!
This week, Micah asked me why we didn’t do anything for the fathers last week for Father’s Day. He noticed, and I think he is right, that being fathers ourselves, it feels a little self-serving to push a gift through, but the fact is that we are church that values fatherhood.
You have given us as parents and as a church the responsibility and privilege of raising our children. As we see the failures made by others, help us do learn from their mistakes.
Last Sunday we were in Joshua, and this week we enter Judges. If the theme of Joshua is God fulfilling the covenant, then the theme of Judges is Israel breaking their part. In Judges we watch them descend to the depths of depravity and wickedness.
· Judges ends with a story so graphic and violent that it would offend many of you if I shared it publically.
Q So how did they go from faithfulness in Joshua’s day to wickedness in Judges?
· To borrow from one of my favorite movies, “Wa’ happened?” (Are you not mockumentary fans? “I don’t think so!”)
It’s like finding out that that perfect couple with the fairytale romance and wedding are getting divorced; you want to know what happened.
· And why do you want to know? Because you know that if it happened to them it could happen to you.
Judges tells us exact what happened:
Judges 2:7, 10-13 7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel.... After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 ¶ Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
Do you see what happened? It’s not as if one day the Israelites watch God break down the walls of Jericho and the next day they’re sacrificing their first born to Molech.
· Each and every time, things went down the tube at the changing of the guard, when it passed from one generation to the next.
It’s not like the next generation was born wicked. They didn’t come out smoking a cigar, swearing like a sailor, and trying to seduced the nurse.
· I not saying cigars as a sin, but they are if you’re under 2.
How did they get from A to B? It tells us right here:
After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.
We have a major problem here: How could they not know about the plagues of Egypt, manna in the wilderness, the fall of Jericho?
· That’s like us not knowing about FDR and MLK.
Folks, what we have here is a failure to communicate.
Joshua’s generation did fail, not by idolatry or forsaking God, but by failing to pass their faith on to their children. In one generation, the nation went from serving God to ignoring Him.
· Think about that – in one generation everything was lost.
My heading says, “Joshua’s failure,” but I desperately hope that this is not my failure: I want to be strong and courageous, I want to lead this church into the Promised Land, as he did. But I want to make sure that we bring our children with us.
· And I mean “we”: Because we are all about community, even those who are not parents play a key role in this.
One of the joys of community is helping each other in many ways.
spiritual law of thermodynamics
The nature of things is that each new generation must either build on their parent’s faith, or drift from it. Either our children will be closer to God then us or else further from him.
· And a spiritual law of thermodynamics says that the tendency is to drift away from him, not towards.
In 19th century France, Jewish immigrants faced the same problem. They observed:
· “The grandfather prays in Hebrew, the father reads the prayers in French, and the son does not pray at all.”
This drift is just as likely in ancient Palestine, 19th century France or 21st century America –the church is only one generation from extinction.
While that is very unlikely, there is a real possibility that your children will walk away from God, and he will hold you responsible for how you raise your children.
I need to be very clear about something: We’re held responsible for our role, but at a certain point free will kicks in.
I can do everything right, teach them everything, and be a perfect example but they can still choose to rebel against God. I can’t make my girls love Jesus. One of the scariest parts of parenthood is knowing there’s no guarantees.
· God’s first kids were rebellious too.
Some children simply have to learn the hard way – we may have our heart ripped out before we see them return. Some may never choose God. Ultimately, it’s up to them.
· We are responsible for what we give them.
· They are responsible for what they do with it.
A lasting legacy
This is a principle, not a promise:
NIV Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
· But if we raise our children in the ways of God, it will have an effect, even if it has to “skip a generation.”
If we are faithful in our role, we have the power to create a lasting legacy of following and loving God.
Many of you are familiar with Jonathan Edwards, godly pastor before the American Revolution and a key figure in the Great Awakening. You may not be aware of was his legacy.
In 1900, a study was made of his 1,400 known decedents:
· Over 100 lawyers, 30 judges.
· 13 college presidents and over 100 professors.
· 100 clergymen, missionaries, and theological professors
· 80 elected to office, 3 governors, several members of congress, 3 senators, and 1 vice president (Aaron Burr)
And in fact Cecil and I went to college with one of them (Cecil wants you to know that he was in his wedding.)
It is my hope that all of us also leave a legacy by training up our children in the way that they should go. That we teach them what God is like, that it means to fall in love with Jesus, and give them a genuine experience of what God.
Q So how do we do this?
The NT has surprising little to say about parenting, because it builds upon the OT. Because the topic was well covered there, the NT writers did not have much to add.
For this, we begin by looking to the “3rd Greatest Commandment”:
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 4 ¶ Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. [There’s the first great command, then the second is “love your neighbor.”] 6 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.
As we saw that Joshua’s generation failed to teach the next generation about God.
Q Did you know that there was supposed to be a regular reading of the Law and the blessing and the curses, but we don’t have any record of that happening?
“Let them choose their path...”
Briefly: There can be this really strange idea that we shouldn’t teach our children about the one true God or that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, lest we bias them for Christianity. Rather we should teach them about all religions and let them choose.
There are a couple problems with that:
1. There is no such thing as an unbiased teaching about spiritual matters – the belief that there are many paths to God is itself a spiritual belief, and by teaching them all paths, you are biasing them to that view.
2. In the same way I want to them to be biased against lying and stealing, I want them to be biased and for the one true God, maker of the universe.
Silence is teaching
I don’t think that many of us here are inclined to do that. I think all of us struggle with being like Joshua’s generation – failing to intentionally teach our children about God.
· The problem is that by not intentionally teaching them, we are still teaching them something.
The question is not IF parents should teach their children about God, it is WHAT will they teach children about God?
· And silence is teaching.
I read an article about how in Washington DC prestige is based on how much “face time” a person has talking with the president. It was a little funny to me, like all these grown men and women jockeying for the attention of the popular guy.
· Likewise, the amount of time we spend talking about the parts of our life communicates value.
Q What are you communicating to your kids about God?
Do they think Jesus is the absolutely most important thing in your life and that God is truly everything you really want?
Or do they think that dressing well is more important? That dad’s job is more important, or doing well at school?
Q 20 years from now, what will your kids say you valued the most? A good job? Education? Citizenship? Family?
Obviously these are not bad things, we want our kids to be intelligent, diligent, well-adjusted kids. But is our silence miscommunication our values.
· We may really think that God is the most important, but the darnedest thing is that they can’t read our mind.
Public, Private, or Home?
But it’s not just about teaching values and to desire God, it’s about teaching them Biblical truths about who God is and how we serve him.
What are they practical ways we do this? I am going to stir up a hornet’s nest here:
There is a real controversy among Christians: How should we educate our children, at public school, in a Christian school, or home school them?
Here is The Gathering’s official position: You should be teaching your children at home. And in the car, and as you play in the park, and as you walk around the grocery store.
· We’re not going to tell you if you should send them to public, private, or home – each family must carefully decide that.
But both the Bible and numerous studies show that you as the parents have the greatest impact on your children’s education. Just ask any teacher who has to struggle with children whose parents think that education is a waste of time.
· How much more is this true of their spiritual education, which public education is not allowed to teach?
You will be your child’s most influential theology teacher, regardless of what you teach.
Q What are you teaching your children about God? Is it what you want them to learn?
I was recently suckered into listening to a sales pitch from a guy selling retirement investments. One thing he talked about was IRA’s for the girls’ education. The idea is that you look at how much you’ll need and how long you have to save.
Q But even more important: Are they on a trajectory to know what they need to know about God by the time they are adults?
There are four ways we teach our children the truth of who God is. All of them are important and commanded in Scripture:
1. Teach as you go
As Deut. says, “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Every waking moment is filled with “teaching moments,” opportunities to talk teach our children about God – answering questions, responding to daily events.
· When Grace and Sarah talked about children at school who were mean to them, it gave numerous opportunities to teach them.
· When I make mistakes, it teaches humility or pride.
Similarly, we have taught our girls not to litter, explaining that it makes God sad when we don’t take care of his creation. Sarah recently saw litter and said, “It’s sad that some people don’t love God and so they litter.”
· If Sarah sees you littering at the camping trip she’ll think you’re going to hell.
2. Planned teaching
I think most of us do okay with teaching moments. But I think we have a harder time with setting time aside to teach them the basics of the Bible and who God is.
· Sometimes we think it is church’s job to teach our kids.
The input we have on each other’s kids, whether through teaching Sunday School or hanging out, is irreplaceable. And the church also comes along side do teach you so you can teach your kids.
· But you are still the most important teacher.
To be honest: This is something I am really trying to work on – I am not nearly there. You think it’d be easy as a pastor, but in some ways it’s harder. I’m hypersensitive to them feeling like stereotypical PK’s so overcompensate by say nothing.
See how the enemy works? He has a lie to stop each of us from teaching our kids about God. Perhaps you think that you don’t know enough to teach your kids.
· There’s a simple solution – learn more! And if you are learning, you can learn alongside them.
You don’t have to be a Bible expert, just a fellow student. If you hit stuff you don’t know, that’s fine. Call or e-mail me, or one of the elders.
A suggestion: Daily Devotions
How do we do this? There are various ways, including talking to your kids about their Sunday School lesson, but I think one “old-fashioned” tradition could go a long way: Family devotions.
Marilyn and I have been talking about it for a while, but no preparing for this sermon, I have been highly motivated, so we have begun making plans.
3. teaching through TRADITIONS
The OT is filled with rituals designed to teach the children about God. Here is just one example:
Exodus 12:24-27 24 Obey these instructions [for the Passover] as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, “what does this ceremony mean to you?” 27 then tell them, “It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.”
It was a means of passing more than the knowledge of God but also the experience of him, reliving what God has done and been to them.
Because we have seen so much meaningless ritual, we shy away from it, but the Bible is filled with meaningful rituals:
· Praying before meals or bedtime
· Advent wreaths
· Easter traditions
Actions, sights, sounds, and tastes imprint themselves on our memories in powerful ways. “Jesus risen and Chocolate eggs” is a valid joy.
4. teach by example
Finally, we teach by example. Actions speak louder than words. How we live will have the largest impact on our kids’ lives.
Q Do you know anyone who doesn’t want anything to do with God, because their parents told them a lot, but didn’t show much?
Don’t make the mistake of not using words (“Preach always, if necessary us words”). Joshua’s generation did have actions – they walked the walk, but didn’t talk the talk.
· Words are absolutely vital, but they are worse than useless if your life does not match your teaching.
My observation (speaking very broadly – there are many other influences):
· Many children who drift away from God were shown but not taught – they live good lives, but Jesus is not truly Lord.
· Many children who rebel against God were taught but not shown, they grew up with hypocrisy and want nothing to do with it.
We don’t want either, so we must show and teach.
Little eyes are watching
Our children are watching us far more closely than we imagine. They live to imitate us.
· “Darn” drivers story.
Look at your life right now:
Q Is this what you want your children to be when they’re your age?
Q Will you be proud of them if they threat their spouse the way you treat yours?
Q Will you feel satisfied if they if they love God as you do?
If the answer isn’t a clear yes (which it isn’t for any of us!) then we have our work cut out for us.
· Spend some time with God doing an inventory, if you are married, do it with your spouse on the way home.
If you don’t have kids, or they’re out of the house, think about the children you have contact with: Will you be remembered as a grumpy adult or an example of the fruit of the Spirit.
My mom had a group of women that she met and prayer with regularly (one of the many good things they demonstrated). Less than half of the children went on to serve God wholeheartedly, and only one other family had all of their kids for so.
I can’t tell you why each kid did what they did (though many of them were my friends). Some home schooled, other public and private; they were all good parents. Free will played a role.
But I do know that mom and dad both taught and demonstrated that God was the most important things we could ever desire. They never read Piper, but understood and demonstrated that God was more important than a nice house, nice car, or a good education.
From this they built my grandparents legacy, and went further. Likewise, we build on their legacy and hope to further, and see our children exceed us.
· Some build on a legacy, others are starting from scratch, but all of us can start a lasting legacy of glorifying God.
Q & A
Call to worship
Our kids are watching us (we planned it that way) the balance between not making the dislike church and teaching them reverence and how to worship.
One huge element I neglected to mention is the importance of prayer: If you believe that God is more powerful and wise than you are, then prayer should be your most important tool.
· Don’t wait until your reach the end of your rope!
For the church I am also feeling a massive need to be praying for God’s hand. We have great things ahead of us, but we can’t pull it off on our own.
For that reason, I am starting to set aside 30 minutes on Mondays to pray for the church. I want to invite all of you to join me, 12:30-1:00. I will be sending out Facebook invitations.