Teach Your Children Well

Sermon #1 in series “Ripples of the Resurrection”

Preached April 12, 2015

Brook Hill United Methodist Church, Frederick, MD, USA

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (NIV) 

1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Today we start a sermon series called “Ripples of the Resurrection.”

The resurrection of Jesus is foundational for God’s people. There wouldn’t be a Christian movement if Christ hadn’t risen. And the resurrection is meant to have an ever-expanding impact from our lives into all the world. The ripples of Jesus’ resurrection are meant to flow outward even after 2000 years.

This morning I want to address the issue of how the Good News of Jesus is transmitted from one generation to the next.

My cousin Kevin Hicks sent me a quote whose author we can’t identify: “A faith that is a reality to one generation, if treated by the second as a convenience, will be regarded by the third as a nuisance.”

Our task, I think, is to make Jesus Christ a living reality in our lives, and a living reality (rather than merely a convenience) in the lives of our children.

You may feel that you have not done right by your children when it comes to spiritual things. But God loves your children. He is calling them to Himself every day. He is whispering to them, and sometimes shouting, “Turn to me, come to me and be saved!” It is not His will that any of them should perish, but that all of them should come to eternal life.

So pray for your children and grandchildren by name! Let your children hear you as you pray for them.   Many Christians have never developed the habit of praying aloud, and one of the sad results is that their children and grandchildren have never heard their parents lifting their names in prayer.

There’s probably no ironclad guarantee that our children and grandchildren will follow in our footsteps when it comes to Christian living. But the Bible gives us some important guidelines.

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, his son in the faith, and he says: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (2 Timothy 1:5) 

It’s no coincidence that Timothy’s mother and grandmother were followers of Jesus, and that he followed in their footsteps, even though his father and grandfather may not have been believers.

This morning I suggest to you that passing our faith on to our children and grandchildren doesn’t happen by chance, but by purposeful action.

And I am suggesting two action steps which will make it far more likely that our children will become followers of Jesus:

1. Take every opportunity to speak with your children about what it means to follow Jesus wholeheartedly.

Please read with me again the verses from Exodus 6:6-9 — Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. (The Message)

So we are to internalize the values and commands of the Lord. Write them on our hearts. Get them inside ourselves and our children. Talk about them wherever we are. At home. Walking down the street. At waking-up time. At bedtime. All through the day.

Read about God’s ways to your children. Write about them. Crochet the good news into your doilies. Paint it into your paintings. Sing it into your songs. Carve God’s Word into your doorframes. Engrave it into the city gates.

Live God’s truth. Breathe it in and out. Take every opportunity to teach God’s ways to your children and grandchildren.

Connie and I are blessed with two daughters who have grown into feisty, opinionated women. They welcomed Jesus into their lives at an early age and are now strong believers in their 30s. I give my wife 90% of the credit for this.

She was their teacher, the parent with common sense, the practical one who indoctrinated our daughters, line upon line, precept upon precept. She was the one who gave them the right to disagree, but to be respectful. She was the one who not only taught what is right and good, but also why it is right and good – the principle – the reason behind everything.

Her main rule was that we would eat our evening meal together, whether early or late. Dinner was the high point of the day, a time to share with one another, to grow together, to laugh, to weep, to pray together.

Connie and I haven’t been perfect people or perfect parents. Early on, there were years of struggle in our marriage. Our daughters knew about those struggles, even as young girls. But they also knew we had made marriage vows to last a lifetime. And they knew our faith was real, even when the going got tough.

Our daughters are not perfect. But I’m so thankful for what I see of Jesus in them.

2. Be the kind of Christian you want your children to become.

Our children live with us. They know whether our faith is deep or shallow. They know whether our commitment to Jesus Christ is a Sunday infatuation or whether it carries over into the rest of the week.

What will happen if our children see their parents as fully devoted followers of Jesus? They will be far more likely to follow in our footsteps.

What will happen if our children see us honestly struggling to apply God’s truth to the hidden places of our lives? They will be far more likely to say, “That’s what it means to be an real Christian.” They will be far more likely to seek after God for themselves.

What will happen if our children hear us praying aloud and they feel our earnestness and they sense the Holy Spirit moving through our words? It will be much more likely that their hearts will resonate with ours.

What will happen when, at mealtime, our children hear us speaking of God’s grace and goodness, and how He is working in the circumstances of our lives? They’ll begin to speak in the same way. Their speech will be seasoned with their own God-thoughts, with their own personal spiritual discoveries.

I suggest to you that we have a real problem if our children never hear us speak about our faith, if they never hear us pray.

In Matthew 12:34b, Jesus says that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (NKJV)

What do your children and grandchildren hear coming out of your mouth?

Could it be that we ourselves – parents and grandparents – have nothing spiritual to say to our children because there is no spiritual abundance within us?

Aiden Wilson Tozer was a 20th-century preacher and writer. Listen to his probing words: “The church is notorious in using outside pressure to make a sinner act like a Christian. You can teach almost anybody to do almost anything. Baptize him, confirm him and feed him the Lord’s Supper regularly; instruct him in the faith, and after a while he begins to act like a Christian. He is not a Christian because there is not that inward factor impelling him to righteousness and true holiness. Outside pressure is making him conform and act like a Christian. However, when he is away from that pressure, he reverts to acting like himself— a sinner.”  (A. W. Tozer “Experiencing the Presence of God”)

It may be that SOME OF US have never experienced the transforming grace of God for ourselves. The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus’ love is meant to be experienced by you in a personal way that will transform your life.

God wants to touch you in the inner places of your heart and mind. TODAY He wants to change you from the inside out. He wants you to have a genuine faith to share with your children and grandchildren.

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