Christian Education

September 14, 2003 / No. 3167

Dear radio friends,

      Our program today celebrates the blessing of God in Christian schools.  Perhaps you ask, what is a Christian school?  Why do parents have them?  The answer is:  We have Christian schools because of the clear teaching of the Word of God — the teaching of the Word of God, first of all, that it is the calling of the parents to instruct their children, to rear their children, to bring them up, to give to them an education based in the truth of the Word of God.  The Word of God speaks of this throughout.  Let me just mention a few texts:  Isaiah 38:19, “The father to the children shall make known thy truth.”  Genesis 18:19, “For I know [Abraham], that he will command his children.”  Ephesians 6:4, Fathers, bring up your children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

     The Scriptures teach us that it is not the calling of the state or of the government to provide education for children in public schools.  The Scriptures teach that it is not the calling even of the church to provide education for children in their formal rearing, in a parochial school.  Certainly the church is to catechize, to teach the children of the church the doctrines and the truths of God’s holy Word.  But throughout, the Bible teaches us that it is the duty of parents to teach their children, to bring them up, to rear them, to provide an education.  All that makes a child a child, physically, emotionally, spiritually, educationally — all of these things are entrusted to the parent.

     But the Bible goes on.  The Bible not only teaches us very clearly that it is the calling of parents to instruct their children, but that this instruction must be in a distinctive way, that is, we are to bring up our children in God’s truth and we are to bring up our children in the truth that God has given us to know and cherish!  The Scriptures teach that it is wrong and it is of the Devil to have the attitude that a proper rearing of children is simply that you present to them various options for their choice.  You say then to a child, “You must decide for yourself because we would hate to infringe upon your right of self-determination.”  That is not a biblical idea either.

     But the truth is this.  God has made known His Word in the holy Scriptures.  Those Scriptures have now, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit, been opened for us.  And the church has mined out the truth and set forth that truth in biblical and Reformed creeds.  The truth may be known.  And parents who love that truth and rejoice in that truth are, therefore, called to transmit it, and to teach their children in a distinctive manner.  The holy Scriptures, the living Word of God, God’s truth, must be woven through every aspect of every subject that is taught — not artificially, not something tacked on, but as the very core and heart of our instruction.  We teach our children to love the Lord their God and to know His glorious, blessed truth in everything we teach them.

     The third thing that the Bible teaches us about Christian education is this:  as it is our calling to instruct our children as parents, so also may we look to God for the confidence that He will equip us, that He will give us His grace, that He will be with us.  It is only in that confidence that we can proceed.

The living Word of God must be woven

through every aspect of every subject that is taught — not artificially, not something tacked on,

but as the very core and heart of our instruction.

     Now these things that I have just mentioned (the calling of parents to instruct their children, the calling of parents to instruct them in a distinctive way, and the promise of God to equip the parents to do this) are some of the core principles in the founding of Christian schools.  That is why we have them.

     Our program today celebrates Christian education.  It celebrates Christian education from a distinctive point of view, that is, we want to find our encouragement from the Word of God to be faithful to this task, because the task of training and rearing our children and of establishing and maintaining Christian schools is a great task and a difficult task.  We are often tempted to succumb to discouragements or to go about our work with tiredness and a sense of foreboding.  So we look today to the Scriptures to encourage us as parents, to encourage us as people of God in establishing and maintaining Christian schools.

     The verse of the Bible that I have my eye on is Deuteronomy 11:12.   There we read:  “A land which the LORD thy God careth for:  the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.”  Moses here is speaking of the land of Canaan to the Israelites of his day.  When he says that the land of Canaan is a land “which the Lord thy careth for,” and that His eyes are “always upon it,” he is obviously then referring to the land of Canaan that God had chosen for the Old Testament people of God to live in, a place that He would provide them and to which He would lead them.  In that place Israel would live and instruct their children.  In that place they would live in their part of the covenant.  Our part of the covenant is this:  that we cleave to the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that we trust in Him and love Him with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, mind, and strength; that we forsake the world, crucify our old nature, and walk in a new and holy life.

     When God says that He would care for the land, He is referring specifically to the fact that He would care for His covenant people.  The word “land” (it is the land which the Lord thy God careth for) is a figure of speech, being put for the people who would inhabit the land.  The land would be the place where these people would live.  But when God says that He would care for the land, He means that He would care for the people who would inhabit that land.  And He would provide them with all that they would need to live unto Him in the covenant of His grace.

     The land, therefore, represents the sphere in which we live our life as God’s people.  For us, today, it refers first of all to our own homes.  These homes are indispensable and central.  Our home is where we live our life as children of God and perform our calling.  The home established by God is basic!

     Secondly, the land, for us, refers to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ — the instituted church, which is established by God with elders, pastor, and deacons — the church which preaches the truth of God’s Word, administers the sacraments, and exercises Christian discipline.  That is the city.  That is the land that the Lord God loves.  He loves the church.  And we are to live our life in the true church.

The home established by God is basic!

     Still more.  We may say that the land, therefore, also extends and includes Christian schools.  As God gives parents strength and ability, so parents form together a Christian school, establishing that school to instruct their children, as I said, in the truths of the Word of God that they believe.

     Of all of these things — of the home, of the church, and of the Christian school — we read, it is a “land which the LORD thy God careth for.”  God cares for these things.  When He says that He cares, He means more than simply, “I care about it.”  But He means provides.  God was saying to the people of Israel as they entered into the land of Canaan that He was going to provide.  He was going to take care of them by providing for them a fertile land.  Under the providence of God, as we learn from the Scriptures, the land of Canaan at that time (of Moses and Joshua) was especially fertile.  It was a land flowing with milk and honey, says the Bible.  It was a land that drank the water of the rain of heaven.  It was scenic and it was fruitful and it would provide everything that was necessary for the people of God to live before God and perform their calling.

     So also to us.  That the Lord God cares for His covenant people as we live in our home, church, and school means that God will provide us with everything that we need to perform our calling.  He promises that.  Believing parents, therefore, can never say that they do not have what they need in order to obey their God and to live in His covenant and to bring up their children.  Whether that believing parent, a hundred years ago, lived in a sod hut as a homesteader, or whether he lived in a city with factories, or whether he lived in the country with dairy farms and other types of farms, or whether he lives in the last day of the Antichrist — the Lord says He will always provide, He will always give, not necessarily everything we want, not to the degree that we may desire, but He will provide.  He will always give to us that which we need in order that we might obey Him and live before Him in the way of His covenant.  In the way of a husband and wife humbly trusting in God on their knees in prayer, they may also expect that God is going to give to them their needs for the home, for the church, and for the Christian school.  That is what God is saying.

     And that should be a great comfort for us as we pursue the good task of Christian education.

     Hear that Word of God.  Hear that, teachers, with the burdens and the pressures and the hard work, day in and day out, of teaching children.  God says He is going to provide.  That is, you never need to go into a classroom doubting whether or not He will be gracious and give you, by the Spirit, that which you need.

     Parents, God says He is going to provide.  In your own home, with all the needs of those children, all their different personalities, and the evil world surrounding your home attempting to destroy your home — God says that He will care for you, He will provide you spiritually, through His Word and through prayer, all that you need.

     God says that to the church of God as we are called to be His people and live in the church to manifest His truth.  God says, I will provide for you, I will care for you through My Word.

     As we pursue Christian education; as we desire to promote this good cause; as we desire to regulate the affairs of a Christian school; as we have to deal with problems and difficulties and as school board members have to come together for meetings and as we are tempted sometimes to become weary, God says, “I will care, I will provide.”

     The eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it.  That is beautiful.  God is saying to us that we do not do this work alone or in our own strength.  God is telling us that His eyelids do not close in sleep and that He always sees and that He always watches.  That is so beautiful.

     God is referring to His eye of love.  The eye of God’s love is upon His people.  The eye of His love is upon them especially as they engage in their covenant calling in the home, church, and school.  His eye is upon us.

God is telling us that His eyelids do not close in sleep and that He always sees and that He always watches.

     Think of it this way.  Do you watch your child on the ball field or in the soccer game?  All the little children are running through each other, all balled up around the soccer ball, but your eye is, where?  It is on your child!  You do not take your eye off your own child, do you?  Well, Jehovah’s eye is all-seeing, and His sovereign eye is directed always to His people.  He always sees us as we are engaged in the work of His kingdom and covenant.  God is able to see over the walls of our impossibility.  And He is able to see to the end so that He directs us and leads us to that perfect end and to the end of glory.  That is very comforting.

     It is also very sobering, is it not?  That means that we must take heed to ourselves.  God’s eye is upon us.  God’s eye is upon us in our home.  Think about that when you wake up on a Monday morning and you are irritable and you are ready to light into anyone who gets in your way.  Think about that, young people, with all the arguments and all the bickering that so often takes place in our homes.  Think about that in the church.  Think about that in the Christian school.  How many times we are so displeasing to the Lord!  How often our hearts are so contrary to His!  Is it not sobering for you to hear that the eye of the Lord is always upon the cause of His kingdom and covenant and what people we ought to be?  How that ought to cause us to inspect our hearts so that we always desire to be pleasing to Him!

God is able to see over the walls of our impossibility.

     But although it is sobering, it is also very comforting.  Let us think about how comforting that is.  God’s eye is upon the work of His kingdom and covenant.  That means, as I said, that we do not do our work in the covenant of God based upon our own strength.  And it also means that we do not do that work in order to earn His love.  That is not why we establish Christian schools.  We do not establish Christian schools because we think that by this endeavor we will catch God’s eye and earn His approval.  That is not the reason.  If that is the reason, then we are functioning exactly as the Pharisees.

     No, in the kingdom of God’s covenant, in the kingdom of the covenant of grace, we perform our duties for one reason alone:  thankfulness.  That is the reason.  When God says that His eye is always upon us in the covenant of grace, He means His eye as He sees us in Christ, as we appear before Him justified in the blood of the Lamb.  That His eye is upon us does not mean that we should go about our duties trying to gain God’s approval and make ourselves worthy, make ourselves deserving.  We cannot do that.  No, the idea is this:  that God looks upon us through Jesus Christ.  He sees us in His forgiving blood.  He sees us in His perfect righteousness.  He sees us through the cross.  And as He sees us through the cross, His eye is always upon His people.  That is the comfort here.  Lay hold of that!  Unless you lay hold of that you cannot persevere in your calling in the home or in the church or in the Christian school.

     I say again, we do not serve God in dread terror.  We do not serve God because we are afraid He is going to curse us if we do not.  We do not serve Him because we think that by our deeds we have gained His applause.  Oh, no!  We serve Him out of thankfulness.  We serve Him in strength.

     Why can we do that?  Because His eye is upon us — the eye of Jesus Christ.  He sees us through the cross.  It is only when I am assured that He sees me in Jesus that I can do my work and my task.  Apart from the confidence that God loves me and that He sees me in the forgiving blood of Jesus Christ, the rearing of children would become impossible on any level — home, church, or school.

     If we try to rear our children without that assurance, we are going to rear our children out of fear, we are going to rear them harshly.  And we are always going to have about us a sense of doom, foreboding, and quaking.  No, says the Word of God.  The eye that God has upon us as we perform our duties in the home, the church, and the Christian school, as we do that as parents and as we do that as school board members or teachers, as we do that as the people of God in all of our covenant life, we know that His eye is the eye of compassion, of pity, and of delight in the blood of Jesus Christ.

     For the eye of the Lord is upon you, from the beginning of the year, says Moses, even unto the end of the year, that is, perpetually, constantly, unwearyingly kindly.  His eye is always upon us.

     That was true of the land of Canaan.  Throughout the history of God’s people in the land of Canaan, God’s eye saw exactly what was needed.  And God’s hand immediately supplied it.  He gave to them the spring rain to germinate the seed and the latter rain when the corn was ready to be set in the ear.  He caused the grass to grow in the fields and He covered the trees with fruit and the vine with grapes.

     Today, well, His eye is always upon it, too, is it not?  His eye is always caring from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.  In the Scriptures He says that He feeds the sparrows.  He cares for each creature.  He brings the seasons.  Therefore shall not He also give to you and to me always, in a timely manner, what we need to live?  As we go about our calling to teach our children, will He not always give us exactly at that time, year in and year out, that which we need spiritually to bring them up in the way of the Lord?

     May we not then in humble and childlike trust look up to our heavenly Father with holy joy and confidence as we go about the task of Christian education?  Year by year, God has said, “I’m going to give exactly what you need.  My eye will be upon you.”

     Let us hear God’s Word.  Let us go forth in our calling as we live in the land of God’s covenant — in our home, in our church, and in Christian schools — let us go forth with zeal.  Let us work.  Let us bring up our children in the way of God.  Let us teach them these glorious and wonderful truths.  Let us be zealous in this great work.

     But as we go about that work and we face difficulties and see our weakness and our sins, let us not become discouraged.  Let us not be overcome.  But rather, let us be quiet, let us be still, let us hear the Word that may not be contradicted:  It is a land which the Lord thy God careth for:  His eye is always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.

     Do you hear that word?  Then your hands are not going to hang limp by your sides.  Your hearts will not drag in the dust.  Your lips will not prophesy doom.  And your chest will not heave in sighs of despair.  Rather, this year, as we go about the great task of Christian education, this year will testify that we have heard God’s Word that from the beginning of this year, even unto the end of this school year, the eyes of the Lord our God are always upon the cause of Christian education, because it is a cause that the Lord thy God careth for.

     Let us pray.

      Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word.  And we pray for its rich blessing in our hearts.  Through Jesus Christ, and in His name, do we pray, Amen.