ďYou, Your Children, and Their ChildrenĒ† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† March 14, 2010
SI:† Weíre studying the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy is a book about Godís grace,
†† and the life of faith and obedience we give to God in response to his grace.
The Israelites are standing on the brink of the Promised Land.
†† About to receive the blessings God promised to Abraham.
Theyíve just listened to Moses repeat the Ten Commandments.
†† And now he talks to them about their children.
INTRO:† I have a snapshot taken twelve years ago of Will, heís a baby,
† †and me, and my dad, Ron, and my grandfather, Clyde.†
Four generations of Siegenthaler men in one photo.†
I know a little genealogy and know that my great-grandfatherís name was Albert.†
†† He held me when I was a baby, but I didnít know him.†
And his father was Bernhard.
†† Bernhard came to America from Switzerland in 1873.†
And his father, from back in the old country, was Christian.
†† And Christianís father, my great-great-great-great grandfather Siegenthaler
†† was Ulrich.† Isnít that a great name?† Ulrich Siegenthaler.
†† I tried to get Allison to let me name Will, Ulrich.†
Iím interested in my ancestors.† Iím interested in the little village they were from.
†† They were dairy farmers.† Iíd like to see those farms some day.
†† Maybe do a little yodeling.†
Iím also interested in how long these men lived.
†† The average age for the past five generations of Siegenthaler men
†† is 74.4.† That means I have 29.65 years left.†
But the thing that interests me the most is the spiritual heritage.
The Swiss Siegenthalers were all baptized in the Reformed Church in village,
†† but I donít know if any of them had a personal faith in Jesus Christ.†
My great-grandfather and my grandfather were good, hard-working men,
†† but they seemed to have had little interest spiritual things
†† or in personal relationship with the Lord.
That could have been my heritage.† I could have grown up as a moral,
†† hard-working, non-Christian, estranged from God and going to hell.
But the Lord stepped in.† Through the ministry of Bethany Presbyterian Church
†† in Ft. Lauderdale, my grandmother and my father were converted.
†† And I became a Christian through my parentsí teaching and example.
And Allison and I have the joy of children who have claimed our faith as their own.
My hope is that this heritage of faith in Jesus Christ will never be broken.
†† That my children will tell their children, and they in turn will tell their children,
†† and the family of the faithful will multiply and enjoy Godís blessings
†† for the generations until Christ returns.
So I like this chapter.† Deuteronomy 6.† Because thatís what this chapter is about.
†† Some theologians call it ďcovenant succession.Ē
Succession usually refers to kings and nobles.
†† That a generational line inherits the property, dignity, titles, and throne of fathers.
The idea conveyed in the term ďcovenant successionĒ is that Godís covenant of
†† salvation, with all of its blessings and honors, is passed down as an inheritance.
You can certainly see that idea in this passage.
The Lord says at the beginning:† Iím giving you these commandments
†† so that you, your children, and their children after them my fear me,
†† keep my decrees, enjoy long life, and that it will go well with you in
†† the land I promised your forefathers.
I was reading a commentary on Deuteronomy this week written by a childhood
†† friend of mine, Dr. George Robertson, Pastor of First Pres, Augusta.† He says:
ďImmediately following the Ten Commandments in this section of Deuteronomy, we find Godís redemptive strategy for all history:† to cause his grace to run through the lines of generations, of families.† He is teaching the law to these first inhabitants of the Promised Land, not only for their individual good, but also for the long-term goal of raising up a people, generation after generation, that will love and fear God.Ē
George doesnít use the term covenant succession,
†† he calls it Godís redemptive strategy for all history.†
Thatís fascinating.† Because when I hear the term ďGodís redemptive strategy,Ē
†† my first thought is world missions.† Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, uttermost parts.
†† Taking the Gospel to lost tribes and peoples.
But George is right.† Godís redemptive strategy for all history is not just that
†† individuals are saved through the preaching of the Gospel,
†† but that their children and their childrenís children would fear him.
Itís a glorious teaching that we should know and claim and put our hopes in.
†† God wants our families to know him for generations.
And we should also see the danger.† The danger is presumption.
†† Itís easy to presume that covenant succession happens automatically.
That just because Iím a Christian, my children will be too.
†† I donít have to do anything to ensure that they will follow him.
†† Thatís not at all the case.† This chapter emphasizes in the strongest language,
†† the absolute necessity of each generation working very hard to pass on the faith.
So letís look at both sides of this teaching.
Two points.† Iíll tell you now and repeat them later:
1.† God delights in pouring out his grace along the lines of generations.
2.† God uses the preceding generation to pour out his grace on the next.
Letís see how we need to take those to heart and apply them.
MP#1† God delights in pouring out his grace along the lines of generations.
The Bible teaches us that this is the way God ordinarily works.
†† He works through families.† This teaching in Deuteronomy 6 is not isolated.
†† Itís part of a grand theme that runs throughout the Bible.
It starts in Genesis 17 when the Lord says to Abraham:
†† ďI will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the
†† generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.Ē
As we saw in the very first chapter in Deuteronomy,
†† it was this promise to Abraham and his descendants that the Lord remembered
†† when he brought the Israelites to the brink of the Promised Land.†
This promise is repeated in the Law.† Itís in the 2nd commandment.†
†† ďI the Lord your God am a jealous God, showing love to a thousand generations
†† of those who love me and keep my commandments.Ē
Let that sink in for a minute.† A thousand generations.†
†† That really is a redemptive strategy for all of history.†
You find this promise in the Psalms.† David sang:†
†† ďFrom everlasting to everlasting, the Lordís love is with those who fear him,
†† and his righteousness with their childrenís children.Ē
Itís in the Prophets.† The Lord says to Jeremiah:
†† ďMy Spirit is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your †
†† mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this
†† time on and forever.Ē
Itís in the Gospels.† Jesus said:†
†† ďLet the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
†† for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.†
Itís in Acts.† The Apostles said:
†† ďThe promise is for your children.†
†† ďBelieve in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, and household.Ē†
This is not a minor theme in the Bible, this is not a little promise.†
†† Itís big and it touches on the deepest concerns and hopes
†† that Christians have for their children.†
Will my children walk with the Lord?†
†† Will they enjoy Godís blessing in this life and the next?
†† Will my mistakes and failures as a parent harm my children spiritually?
Just this week I was talking to a mom and dad in our church about this very thing.
And in our conversation they expressed their deep concern for this childís future
†† walk with God, and concern about passing on their faith to him.†
This is a great and precious promise that we need to know and claim.
†† Without it our children and their future and our parenting a big question mark.
†† But with this promise, we have something to stand on.
If you looked back through church history and made a list of the greatest heroes,
†† you would find in the majority of cases, these were people who came from
†† Christian homes and who were the recipients of Godís generational grace.
Let me give you some examples from two time periods in church history.
†† I mentioned these last year during our study of Abraham.
Letís start with church fathers:†
The church fathers were the leaders of the church during the first four centuries.
†† The foundations of our theological understanding of the Bible laid by these men,
†† and in many cases they defended the church in its darkest hours.
The greatest of all the church fathers was Augustine.
†† Itís impossible to overestimate his influence on the church.
Godís grace came to Augustine through his mother, Monica.
†† Weíll come back to her in a minute.
John Chrysostom was the greatest preacher in the early church.
†† In fact, he laid the ground for what we call expository preaching.
†† He was such a great preacher, nickname was ďGolden Mouth.Ē
†† If you want to call me that, feel free!
Godís grace came to him also through his mother, Anthusia.
There were many heresies in early centuries that threatened to overwhelm church.††
†† One of the great heresy fighters and defenders of deity of Christ was
†† Gregory Nazianzus.† His mother was Nonna, and she was a Christian.
And there were other great church fathers who had two Christian parents.
Athanasius, who stood against heresy Arianism
†† when most of churches and leaders had accepted it.†
And there was Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Jerome, translator of Latin Bible,
††† Gregory the Greatóand many others.†
Now letís turn to another period in church historyómodern missionary movement.†
†† Missions as we know it, †started in the late 1700s, early 1800s.
And virtually all of the greatest pioneer missionaries, who led the way, and broke
†† the ground came from homes with one or two Christian parents.
William Carey, Robert Morrison, David Livingston, John Paton, Henry Martyn,
†† Robert Moffat, Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson, Amy Carmichael,
†† Mary Slessor, Lilias Trotter
We could add to that list the great evangelists of the modern era:
†† John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, and Billy Graham.†
All of these people did not have the same conversion experience.
†† Some came to faith in childhood, some later in lifeóbut all had a Christian
†† mom and dad, or in some cases, just a Christian mom.†
And God was pleased to pour out his grace along the lines of generations.
Letís go back to Monica, mother of Augustine.† Iíve told you her story before.
†† Itís one of the great stories of church history.
†† Itís a beautiful picture of Godís generational grace.
†† Monica was a Christian, her husband was not.† He was a pagan Roman.
Her son Augustine was a brilliant young man, but he embraced Greek philosophy
†† instead of Christianity and the lifestyle that went with it.
†† He had a mistress and illegitimate son.† He became a well-known teacher.
And Monica prayed for him every day.† Often moved to cities where he taught.
The Lord started to answer Monicaís prayers.† Augustine became more and more
†† disillusioned with his philosophy and way of life.† One day, in a friendís garden,
†† and he heard a child calling out:† ďPick up and read.† Pick up and read.Ē
†† Augustine looked down, on a bench was a bookóthe New Testament.
He did the old ďopen and pointĒ and the verse was Romans 13:13-14.
†† And Godís grace flowed from mother to son.† He was converted.
There is one more very sweet detail, that grace then flowed from son to grandson.
†† The son of Augustineís mistress, young man Adeodatus, became a Christian,
And he and his father connected for the first time in their lives.
Thatís our God.† He delights in pouring out his grace along the lines of generations.
†† Told you Monicaís story so that if you arenít seeing that grace, you donít give up.
†† God has his eye on your children, even if they are wayward now.
Brings us to the second point.
MP#2† God uses the preceding generation to pour out his grace on the next.
God uses you as the primary channel of grace to your children.
You know the song . . .Jesus loves me, this I know/For the Bible tells me so.
†† Itís a childhood favorite.
Your children should also be able to sing it this way:
†† Jesus loves me this I know/For my daddy told me so
†† Jesus loves me this I know/for my momma told me so.
Christian parenting is the God-ordained means through which
†† Godís generational grace flows to your children.†
How did the Lord tell this generation of Israelites in Deuteronomy
†† that their children would be blessed in the Promised Land?
By being guided into a life of faith in the Lord, and love and obedience.
†† Christian parents are the God-ordained channel through which
†† Godís covenant blessings come to their children.
This canít be ignored.† God saves by grace but he works through means.
†† If Christian parents neglect the means of grace,
†† if they neglect bringing their children to Christ,
†† then they can have no confidence in the covenant promises
You cannot be neutral in regard to your childrenís faith.
Some parents think itís wise to say:
†† Iím not going to impose my religion on my children,
†† Iím going to let them make their own decisions.
Iíve never heard any parents at Christ Covenant say tható
†† but I have sometimes heard fear expressed that if I make my kids do something,
†† if I make them come to church, if I make them sit through family devotions,
†† itís going to turn them off.† So itís better to let them make up own mind.
But thatís not what you do about the other important things of life.
†† You make them do it, whether they like it or not.†
†† And you hope that good habits and patterns will form.
Thatís exactly what the Lord tells the Israelites to do in this chapter.
†† Work to be a channel of my grace and blessing to your children.
You do so in two ways:† By teaching your children the true faith.
†† And by setting the highest standards for their life of faith.
You have to teach your children the true faith.† Look at verses 6-9.
†† These commandments that I give you today are to be upon 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.
There is so much in those verses about the way you are to instruct your children.
It has to be earnest.† It has to come from your heart.†
†† Your goal must be to impress these things upon them.
The Lord also says that it should take place at all timesóat home, traveling,
†† when you wake up, when you go to bed.† It shouldnít be artificial.† Way of life.
I know man who when he was a teenager, started dating his pastorís daughter.
†† She invited him to supper one evening.† And after supper was over, the pastoró
†† who was a very prominent minister in our denominationóread Bible and prayed.† Later this young man asked the pastorís daughter:†
Does your dad read the Bible and pray after supper every night?
†† She said, Never.† First time ever.† He usually jumps up to watch Star Trek.
†† That wonít do.† Itís got to be real and part of your life.† Got to be genuine.
And at the same time, it must be deliberate and planned.†
†† Tie the law as symbols on your foreheads and hands.
†† Write them on your doorframes and gates.† In later years, Jews took this literally.
Go into Jewish homes, little box on frames with law inside.† Something to that.† †
†† When you instruct your children, you are communicating something more than
†† content, youíre doing something symbolic.†
Youíre saying, This is who we are.† Weíre a Christian family.
Itís a busy night and everybody has homework, but before you get up
†† from the table, you read the Bible or some sacred literature, and you pray.
And it might seem perfunctory.† You might be able to tell the kids are preoccupied.
†† Sometimes family devotions are good and sometimes they arenít.
†† But youíre saying.† This is who we are.†
You have to earnestly, intentionally teach your children the content
†† of the Bible and the Christian faith.† They arenít going to get it from TV.
They wonít get it at school, unless they go to a Christian school.
†† They will get a little bit at churchóbut not muchóan hour a week.
They have to get it from you.† Be glad to share whatís been good for us.†
Second, you have to set the highest standards for their life of faith.
†† Moses imagines a conversation between a believing parent and child.† Vs. 20
In the future, when your son asks you, ďWhat is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?Ē tell him:† ďWe were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.† Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wondersógreat and terribleóupon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household.† But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers.† The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.† And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.Ē
Why do we have these commandments?† Why do we live this way?
The first answer is notóbecause they are good for you.† They certainly are.
†† The answer is notóbecause God says so.† Thatís true too.
The answer is what?† Itís the Gospel.†
Itís that God in his grace brought us out of slavery in Egypt by his mighty hand
†† and given us the Promised Land.† In New Testament terms itís Jesus Christ
†† delivering us from sin by his mighty work on the cross and giving us eternal life.
Thatís the answer Moses says to give your children.†
Son, Daughter, youíve been called to live the highest possible life.†
†† A life of gratitude and obedience because of all Jesus has done for you.
Does that mean a sinless life?† Of course not.† Christians sin, even heinous sins.
But they repent, and make amends, re-commit themselves to follow the Lord.
†† Repenting is the first part of obedience.†
†† Moses says:† Thatís the righteous life.† To be motivated in all you do,
†† by grace of God and the cross of Christ.
Now, hereís what it means for your children.
It means they learn from your expectations for them,
†† that you care for nothing except this:
†† That their lives be spent joyfully serving the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do your children know that you donít care how much money they make?
†† Do they know you donít care where they live or what worldly honors and
†† successes they achieve, as long as they do all they can and be all they can be
† †for Jesus Christ?
Donít load your children with shallow, worldly expectations.†
†† Donít push them for prestige and success.†
But urge them to respond to Godís grace by following the callings
†† he has placed on their lives.†
A friend once asked Susannah Wesley, John and Charles Wesleyís mother,
†† how she could stand her sons going off to the American colonies to do missionary†
†† work.† And she said:† ďHad I 20 sons, I should rejoice that they were all so
†† employed, though I should never see them again.Ē
Do you feel that way?†
Do your children know you have such high expectations of them?
†† Do they know you want them to follow Godís calling,
†† even if it takes them far away from you?†
Like Samuelís mother Hannah, do you know that your children belong to
†† the Lord first?† Have you told them that?
If we raise our children this wayóearnestly teaching them the truth,
†† urging them to live great lives for Christ and follow his calling,
†† itís going to be exciting to watch them grow up.
Because wherever they go and whatever they doó
†† whether they stay here in Cullman or go to the other side of the worldó
†† weíll see them living righteous lives, motivated by the Gospel.