September 3, 2006 / No. 3322
Dear radio friends,
Today I would like to direct your attention to the beginning of another school year. The passage of God’s Word that I have in mind is, I trust, a familiar one to many. It is found in Deuteronomy 6:6, 7. There we read, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
The setting for that Word of God was momentous. The words were spoken by Moses, the prophet of God. He was speaking to two million Israelites, whom he had led out of the land of Egypt, and for the past forty years had led as a shepherd in a waste-howling wilderness. Israel had just conquered the children of Ammon, had escaped the treachery of Moab, and was about now to go over the Jordan into the promised land. But Moses would not be the one to lead them over the Jordan because, you will recall, he had disregarded God. When God told him to speak to the rock and He would send water for the thirst of Israel, Moses, in his frustration and anger with God’s people, had struck the rock. And God had told him that he would not lead Israel over the Jordan. His servant Joshua would be the leader and conqueror of Canaan.
Moses now has gathered the children of Israel together to speak to them his final words. As he speaks his final words in the book of Deuteronomy, he wishes to rehearse for Israel all that the Lord had done for them and to impress on them their calling as God’s people in the world. He wishes to remind them of all the commandments of the Lord that he had taught them, and to remind them that they must do these commandments when they enter into the promised land.
Moses’ message to Israel had a focal point. It came down to this: the importance of the education of their children. Moses was saying to them (or the Holy Spirit is saying to us) in Deuteronomy 6 that if we are to live as God’s people in this world, as a people wholly unto the Lord, not following the wickedness of nations around us but being that people saved by grace, then parents would have to educate their children. Moses says to Israel in his day, “If you are to live in the land of Canaan and be preserved as God’s special people, then the truth of God must be in your heart as a parent. And there must be a burning passion in your heart to teach your children.” That is the Word of God also for us today in Jesus Christ. We want to hear of the responsibility of parents in the education of their children.
Now, whether your child will be attending, in the great goodness of God, an existing Christian school organized by Christian parents, or whether he will be attending some public university or church college, or whether you home-school your child, education in all of these areas is never something that you give over to someone else. It is always your responsibility as a parent.
That education of your child, God makes plain, is very important. Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” How that child will walk with God in his old age depends upon how he has been trained in his youth.
So God comes to us with a commandment of our parental responsibility. We must bring up our children in the way of the Lord. And we must do this, not just when we feel like it. But these words of God must be in our hearts, and we must teach them diligently to our children.
Let us consider that for a few moments today, “Diligently Teaching Our Children,” asking three questions: What does it mean that we are to teach them? When are we to teach them? Why are we to teach them?
To teach our children means that we will take the knowledge of God’s Word and transmit it to our children to give them the knowledge of how they are to live on this earth as the servants of God, as pilgrims seeking a city whose builder and maker is God. In short, what we are to do as Christian parents is to teach our children how to live as friends of God right now in this world, and how they are to prepare for eternity.
Moses put it this way, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.” The word “teach” means, literally, “to sharpen,” or “to whet the edge of a sword or knife,” “to make pointed, clear, and sharp.” You see, wherever we turn in the Scriptures, we find that God’s Word is opposed to the exalted folly of man. Man would say that education is relative, that truth is changing, that there is a little truth everywhere. But God’s Word tells us that thetruth is precise and clear. God’s Word and God’s truth do not change. It is something very clear. And our children must be sharpened. They must be taught that truth in a clear way. The teaching that comes from your lips as a parent must be clear teaching. You must not be concerned simply with vague generalities. But you must bring that Word of God to them in such a way that they understand it, that they see it, with the understanding of a child.
That certainly means that we want to take into consideration our children when we teach them. We want to take into consideration their temperament, we want to take into consideration their age, and we want to remember that God has given to us as a parent a natural tie to our children. We are to bring that truth to them in a way that is very clear.
But, specifically, what are we to teach. Moses says, “These words, which I command thee.” What are “these words”? If we go back to verses 4 and 5 of the chapter, we will find that those words were these: “The LORD our God is one LORD: and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart.” What are we to teach? We are to teach who God is, that He is the one and only living God, independent, eternal, infinitely exalted, self-sufficient, and oh, so glorious.
But we must also teach what our response to God must be, namely, that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might. What is a God-centered education? It is one in which all things are brought into the light of the living God. And in all things we are led to understand our calling toward this God.
Specifically, the words of God form the content and basis of our education of our children. For Moses, the word that he is speaking to Israel was a summation of all that he had taught them over forty years. He had not only taught them the truth of the living and eternal God, the eternal love of God, and the promise of God in Jesus to save His people from their sins, but he had also taught them the moral law, or the Ten Commandments, that is, how they were to live in love and joy before God. He had taught them how to love the Lord their God with their being and with their heart and with their soul. All of these things we are to teach our children.
That means that we must teach our children a life of obedience. Moses says, “Thou shalt teach them to observe these things.” Observe them, obey them. That word “obedience” is a bad word today. It is thought by so many to be something oppressive, stunting, against self-determination, tyrannical. But when you come to the Bible, God’s wonderful Word, you find that obedience to God is freedom!
Now, you may sit and listen to that and not understand it and say, what in the world does that mean — obedience, freedom? You might say, as a young person, “That’s not freedom. Obedience? I’ve been waiting around here under my parents, but when at last I get out from under the roof, then I’ll be free.” Nevertheless, the Bible is very clear. And the Bible is very true. To obey God is freedom. To live a life of disobedience to God is not only folly, but it is bondage, tyranny. Life and freedom are found in obedience to God. For this purpose God has loved His people in Christ, has redeemed them from their sins in His Son, and has sent forth the Spirit into their hearts. Why? So that He might bless them. How? To bring them into loving obedience to Him.
In the way of obedience to God is freedom. Romans 6 puts it this way in verse 16: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” The Word of God says to us, you obey either Satan or Christ, either sin or God, either yourself or the living Lord. There is no middle ground. There is no alternative. And it is only when, by grace, through the Holy Spirit, we obey God and are taught to obey God, that we can experience freedom. That is true freedom! Freedom is obedience to Jesus Christ – a new obedience from the heart, a desire to please Him in everything we do.
Now, that is what we teach our children. Whatever the course of study, whatever the issue in their life, we teach them that through Jesus Christ we have been made free to obey God in all that we do.
Maybe someone will say to me, “You mean to say to me, then, that I can’t do whatever I want to do?” The answer is, “Yes, that is exactly what the Word of God means.” If you do whatever you want to do, apart from God, then, the Bible says, you serve a fool: yourself. You are under tyranny to your own sinful and foolish lust and will. Freedom is to know God, love God, and obey God from the heart. This is what we teach our children.
And we do this always. That is when we are to do it. “And thou shalt talk of them,” says Moses, “when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” When you are at home, or when you are away from home; when you go to bed, and when you get up – all the time, full time! You see your calling from God as a parent? That calling is full time. All the time.
As Reformed believers we believe that the preaching of the gospel through the church is the chief means of grace, that is, the chief way that God has appointed to the church to bring His grace to His people. So we believe that we are to live our life under the preaching of the Word of God. But that preaching goes on. That preaching continues by parents and by every believer who, having heard the Word of God, now goes out to live that Word of God. As a parent, now, when you walk before your child and when you are at home with your teenagers and when you are about to go to bed and when you wake up and say “Good morning” to your children, you are always to be speaking in such a way that the truths of what you believe are coming out. That does not mean that you quote Bible verses randomly, or that you try to do this in some mechanical way. But in your life before them you show that you rejoice in, and that you take the time to teach them, the truth of God’s Word.
Maybe it is with your little boy at a tee-ball game. Maybe it is when you take your family and young people with you (your teenage son) to the rest home to visit your aged grandpa or grandma. Maybe it is when you are mowing your lawn on Saturday or driving to church on Sunday. Maybe it is when you get up in the middle of the night when they have had a nightmare. You teach them. You make it clear that you live, and that they too must live, in the love of God, to please God, to know God, and to rejoice in God through Jesus Christ.
You teach this in everything that they learn: math, geography, science, spelling. Always you seek to communicate that the Lord our God is one Lord, who has created all things for His glory, and that the end of all things is to know Him, to please Him, and to walk before His face.
You see, Christian education is not just the Ten Commandments. We have not attained to Christian education if we nail up the Ten Commandments on the exterior wall of a building, or if we have prayer in a building. Christian education is much more than that. It is to show how God’s Word applies to play and to work, to laughter and to tears, to study and to recreation. How loving God with all your heart applies to and governs all of life. Teach them diligently – constantly is the idea, thoroughly.
Your teaching must involve your whole life. That means that it will also be very practical. You will teach them why, when we use someone else’s goods or tools, we must be careful to return them. You will teach them that, yes, as a young teenage girl you ought to leave a room better than you found it. You will teach your little boy why it is important to do his schoolwork, and why he should be alert in school and not slouch. Why? Because, you see, the great truth is – by grace we are not our own, to live our own way. But we were bought with the price of the blood of Jesus Christ. And now the child of God wants to glorify God.
What I am saying is that there is no separation between a religious and a secular education. It is not as if some things are secular and some things are religious. But all thingsfind their truth only in the light of God’s Word.
This is why we form Christian schools. We form Christian schools because we desire to have a school where the teacher believes the same thing as the parent and will, therefore, inculcate or breathe into all of her teaching an atmosphere of reverence for God and teach the children that the end of all knowledge, no matter the subject, is to bow before God who is glorious and gracious in Jesus Christ.
That is Christian education. And that is our goal in this coming year.
We do this because Jehovah, whom we love and whom we desire to communicate to our children, is our covenant God. God’s covenant undergirds all of the Scriptures and it undergirds everything that Moses is saying to Israel. Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy, is not gently giving a list of do’s and don’ts so that he could create a sect on earth in Palestine. Moses is not to be seen as the leader of a cult, giving the approved list to a bunch of lemmings. He is speaking the words of the covenant, of God’s gracious fellowship in Jesus Christ His Son, and of how God’s people will live in fellowship with Him. Now, granted, in the Old Testament it was done under the pictures and shadows of the law, and it is fulfilled today in Jesus Christ. But what God was saying to them was this: “I have redeemed you. I have set my love upon you. I have given you promises in Jesus Christ to remove the burden of your sin. I promise to draw near to you and to show you My own glorious self.” Now, as the friends of the living God, because of this covenant, teach your children all these things. That is why we do it.
But more. We do it out of gratitude. We do it because the one controlling, dominating factor in the child of God is thankfulness, thankfulness to God. Because we love God and wish to thank Him – that is why we teach our children.
Do your children know that about you? Do they see that Dad and Mom walk with God in thankfulness? Do your little boys and girls say, “God is so great and so wonderful because that’s the way He is to my Dad”? Do you show that to them day by day in your house? Do you show that also by beginning now, yourself, in your church, to attend Bible study classes? Do you say to your child, “We’re going to go out of the house tonight to be with our fellow saints so that we can learn more and more of God and His Word. We want to be there.” Do you show that in every way of your life, that God is great and that you are thankful to Him?
That is what it means to bring up your children in the way of the Lord.
We do this because all of these things are in our hearts. “These words,” said Moses, “shall be in your heart.” They are not in our hearts right now as they should be. But they are there, by a wonder of God’s grace. And those words are life to us. They are the treasure of our hearts. They are our joy and our comfort. We rejoice in them.
Therefore, out of love for God in our hearts, we want to teach our children the way in which they are to go. That is the covenant. That is the truth. Out of a heart of a parent given to know the truth, we want to teach our children everything in order that they might know God and praise Him forever.
Is that true for you? God be with you in this coming year, that as a parent you might grow in love and knowledge of God, and that there might be in your heart as a parent the holy desire to teach this to your children.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray that it might be fruitful in our lives. Bless us in the schooling of our children in the coming year. We pray through Jesus’ name, Amen.