Sermon Date: August 17, 1908
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: Deuteronomy 11:1-7, 16-21
The Spiritual Training of Children
Children, do you know what a family tree is? The roots of a family tree roots kind of looks like this (family tree). There’s you; below you is your mom and dad, below them is their moms and dads, who are also your grandparents. How many of you know all the names of your great grandparents? No? Well, that’s okay! Someone in my family has a complete family tree that goes all the way back to 1820. That’s 188 years ago! Now, you might be wondering who in my family has family records that go back that far. Is it me? Is it my wife, Mary? Actually it’s our dog,Nance. If you’re a racing greyhound, your family tree is very important, because the more winners in your family tree, the more likely you’re going to be a winner too. However, we’re not greyhounds, we’re people. As people, it really doesn’t matter who came before us or what things they did. What matters is who comes after us and the things they’ll do. And so, and this is for everyone, will your children and your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren be children of God forever? Or, if you don’t have physical children, will your spiritual children and their children be children of God forever? God doesn’t want us to have a “what-will-be-will-be” attitude. He wants us each to take an active role in The Spiritual Training of Children. Here’s how. 1. Remember God’s grace to you. 2. Live in God’s grace everyday. 3. Teach God’s grace little by little.
We read, “Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.” This sounds like a Law statement, and it is. But sometimes the purpose of a Law statement is meant to help us see our sins and sometimes it’s guide us. Here it’s to guide us. In the verses before our text Moses had reminded the people of who God is and all He had done for them. God is the absolute ruler of the universe and everything in it. He shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. In other words, if we commit a sin, we cannot get an acquittal from God by offering Him 50 cents worth of good works or even a million dollars worth of good works. Still, in spite of God’s holiness and His awesome power, God reaches down to love the littlest, the poorest, and the weakest.
Such were the Children of Israel. They were slaves in Egypt, which was the mightiest nation in the world at that time. However by means of 10 mind-blowing miracles God freed them; and the people in our text saw all this with their own eyes. However, they also saw how their parents had rebelled against God 10 times, and so as teenagers it’s very likely they had danced around a golden calf along with their parents. Now, it’s 40 years later. Their parents have passed on; but God is not holding the sins of their youth against them. How could a God, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes do that? God forgives, because He sent Jesus to be righteous for all and to die in the place of all; and this is God’s grace. And so, God’s grace is more than not getting the punishment we deserve. Grace is also getting the love and the blessings we DON’T deserve.
In the case of the Children Israel, by God’s grace they were heading toward the Promised Land of Canaan. In our case, by God’s grace we’re heading toward the Promised Land of Heaven. However, what does all this have to do with the spiritual training of children? Well, before we can teach God’s grace to our children, we need to know God’s grace for ourselves! And since one of the ways children learn is by example, we need to live in God’s grace ourselves. But how do we have the strength to always do that? Remember God’s grace! As we do, we look to the cross, and as we look forward to heaven, God’s grace moves us to ask, “Lord, how can I thank you. Please show me!” And now here’s His answer.
We read again in our text, “Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and hiscommands always.”In the original Hebrew, Moses wasn’t being redundant. The word for requirements refers to the way Israel worshipped in God’s house. To love God is to worship Him and sing His praises, as David writes, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD."” The next underlined word in this verse is decrees. Decrees referred to the Old Testament ceremonial laws. These laws pointed the people to the promised Savior. And how could they show their love to God for that gracious promise? In the peace of forgiveness obey the ceremonies, and so be reminded again and again and again of their special relationship with God.
The Hebrew word in our text for laws refers to the civil laws God gave to the nation of Israel. How could they show their love to God for all his blessings upon their nation? In the gratitude of forgiveness obey their nation’s laws. Now, the ceremonial laws and the civil laws of the Old Testament were only meant for the people of Israel, and do not apply to us. However, the last underlined word in this verse does apply to us. The word, commands, refer to the moral law which is summarized in the Ten Commandments. In other words we love God by always loving Him and our neighbor according to how HE defines what love is.
There’s an old saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” When we remember God’s grace for ourselves, and when motivated by God’s grace, our attitudes, our speech, and our actions glorify God, this will have a tremendous impact on little eyes and ears. On the other hand, if we forget God’s grace, either we’ll become self-righteous like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, or we’ll begin lowering God’s standards, so that we can sin and still feel good about ourselves. That too has a tremendous impact on little eyes and ears.
Unfortunately we all still have our sinful nature, and because of that nature, it’s so easy for us t get out of the habit of worship, and reading our Bible, and in the peace, joy and gratitude of forgiveness living according to it. For this reason, to help all of us stay on track, God gives our family and our congregation a special blessing. He gives us children, and then He makes US responsible for their eternal welfare.
Let’s read on in our text, “Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the LORD's anger will burn against you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Did you ever notice how we might do some things we wouldn’t want our children to do? And why wouldn’t we want our children to do those things? It’s bad for them! Well, if it’s bad for them, it’s probable bad for us too. Still, while we might not give up something bad for us, or start doing something good for us for our own sakes, we’ll do it for our kids. And so setting a good example is a blessing both for our children and for us.
However, while the example we set our children is very, very important, when comes to God’s grace, that they have to learn by us telling them. But how many times to do we have to tell them, or how many times do they need to hear about Jesus? Once? Twice? 50 times? Well, parents, how often do you have to tell your children not to leave dirty dishes in the family room? Once? Twice? 50 times? Children learn by repetition little by little day by day. This especially true of God’s grace. They need to be told everyday throughout the day with as many age appropriate ways we can show and tell them that Jesus is their Savior.
Incidentally, that’s one of the great blessings of a Lutheran Education. The children don’t just learn reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic, although when they graduate from our Academy they can be eligible for a Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship. But more importantly, every class in our Academy is taught with this attitude – that we are all sinners, that Jesus died for all, and that each child is precious to Him!
Now, if for some reason Lutheran Education is not possible for your children or grandchildren, and if for 6 hours a day they have to be subjected to other attitudes, you, parents, will have to work doubly hard with your children during time you do have them, so that they remember God’s grace and live in His grace and someday teach His Grace to their children. However, I don’t want to imply that Lutheran School parents have it easier than others. The point God is making in our text is that He wants all of us to be doing everything we can all the time to pass our faith on to the next generation. But this is also why New Hope offers Sunday School, and Catechism Classes, and Junior High and Senior High Youth group.
However, while teaching Bible truths is vital, it’s equally important to show children how these truths apply. For example, the parents in our text were to tell their children how God had tested their faith. When they were in the wilderness those 40 years, by remembering God’s grace, they were to obey the Commandments and trust in Him, even when they didn’t have food or water. God’s purpose in testing them was that they grow in faith. Also, while testing them, God would strengthen them with His promises, so that in the future they would always have right priorities.
That’s hard, isn’t it always have right priorities and not our lives just be about things or pleasures or the latest fads or the latest time-robbers. Yet here’s how we and our children can be protected from all this and from the terrible consequences which result. Remember God’s grace, so that guided by God day by day and equipped by God day by day our lives will be a true blessing. In fact, instead of just looking back on our a family tree, we can be looking ahead to seeing this kind of a family tree. Here’s you at the bottom, with your children and others you reach, and then the people they in turn reach – all to God’s glory and our greater joy in heaven. Amen.