Friday, February 25, 2011

Suspension from the Lord's Supper

Several weeks ago we spoke of the necessity of discipline within the Christian community. Even as our fathers separated themselves from the mixed multitude in Nehemiah’s day, the church is commanded to publicly censure those professing the Name of Christ who refuse to obey the Word of God. Listen as Paul commands the Thessalonian church to implement the first stage of this public discipline, a stage we commonly refer to as Suspension from the Lord’s Supper:

2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 (NKJV)
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Paul begins his words on discipline with an exhortation to the congregation at large, “brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” Note that Paul’s command presumes that it is a temptation to grow weary in doing good – after all, we don’t warn about things that aren’t threats. In endeavoring to do good we face much opposition – both from within and from without – and so Paul commands us to never grow weary. The temptations of the Evil One, combined with the allurements of the world and the lusts of our own flesh, often make the task of doing good challenging. Add to this that other people frequently discourage us from doing good and we begin to understand that the temptation to grow weary is indeed great.

Because of the strength of this temptation, the temptation to give up doing good and simply start doing whatever, Paul exhorts the church to take seriously those who refuse to obey the Word of God. As Paul remarks elsewhere, a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. If a congregation permits sin to go unchecked, then that congregation cannot be surprised when such sin spreads. So notice that Paul urges the Thessalonians to act – “if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Paul’s command involves two parts – first, the Thessalonians are to “note” – mark – point out – publicly identify such a one. Second, they are to refuse to keep company – refuse to enjoy communion, including normal fellowship at the Lord’s Supper – with such a one. Why? What is the purpose of this marking? This suspending of normal fellowship? Note Paul’s words: “that he may be ashamed.” In other words, the purpose of this discipline is to awaken the sinner to the seriousness of his sin. As Solomon writes in Proverbs 20:30, “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.”

It is with sober hearts that the elders inform you today – in accordance with Paul’s words that such things are to be announced in the public assembly (1 Cor 5:4) – that ------------ have been suspended from fellowship in the Lord’s Supper. For the last eight years and more the elders of Christ Church in Spokane and the elders of Trinity Church have endeavored to help ----------- overcome sinful habits of communication in their home. These sinful habits include anger, outbursts of wrath, malice, dissension, lies, false accusations, bitterness, resentment, and all manner of evil speech (cf. Eph 4:25-32; Col 3:8-11). Despite repeated warnings and numerous attempts at accountability these habits have remain unchanged. As a result, ------------ are living separately for the second time in as many years. Because they have failed to give heed to our private exhortations, we are now announcing this to the church, praying that God will use this to convict and restore them to one another and to the fellowship.

In so announcing, we would remind you of Paul’s exhortation, “do not treat [them] as enemies but admonish them as our brother and sister.” Your duty is to pray for and admonish ------------- as professing Christians to repent of their sinful conduct and be restored to one another and to the body. And remember that we are to do this in a spirit of gentleness, taking care lest we also be tempted (cf. Gal 6:1-5). How might you be tempted in the midst of correcting them?

• Pride – Imagining that you yourself are above such sins and superior to -------------. Such is not the case. But for the grace of God, we would all be in like circumstances. So please pray for -----------, asking God to show them mercy.
• Gossip – Using this as an opportunity to speak uncharitably about ----------- with others rather than as an opportunity to pray for them and long for their restoration.
• Slander – Listening to false accusations that may be made against the elders, accusing us of heavy-handedness or insensitivity in disciplining them. Let us assure you that this action is the culmination of years of patient shepherding that has borne no fruit.
• Flattery – Listening to sob stories from either ---------- in which they blame others for their plight. By listening you would be allowing them to say what they want to say rather than calling them to hear what they need to hear. Admonish them to deal with their own sin in a godly fashion – by confessing it to the Lord and forsaking it (2 Cor 7:8-12).

These warnings against sin serve as a reminder to all of us of our need to confess our sins to the Lord. So let us confess our sins – first privately and then corporately using the prayer found in your bulletin. Let us kneel as we confess our sins together.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Necessity of Spiritual Growth

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those are full of age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

The passage before us today discusses the necessity of progression in our understanding and application of the Christian faith. This progression is both intellectual--an understanding of the oracles of God--and ethical--the ability to discern between good and evil. God expects His people to grow intellectually and ethically. We are not to be stagnant.

The applications of this text are numerous. Let us highlight four. First, note that there is such a thing as progression in the faith. Not all believers are to be at the exact same place--there are infants and there are aged in the body of Christ. This observation should serve to quell unteachableness, on the one hand, and haughtiness on the other. Babes in Christ need to recognize that they are babes and that they have a responsibility to be receptive to the wisdom and instruction of the aged. The aged in Christ must be conscious of their own growth in grace and extend grace to those who are now growing into adulthood. Rather than looking down on younger Christians and noticing every pimple that mars their appearance, they must lift them up and speak to them words of encouragement.

Second, notice that the possibility of regression also exists. Our passage remarks that the readers “have come to need milk and not solid food.” By virtue of their sin and doubt these saints had regressed in their knowledge of God. Though once growing and blossoming Christians, their leaves were withering. Hebrews warns us--beware of spiritual regression. Pray for the renewing grace of the Spirit; ask God to prune the dead branches.

Third, note that God expects progression from His people. The author of Hebrews rebukes his audience for though they ought to have been teachers they were still in need of milk. Christians, Hebrews says, are to grow in grace to such an extent that they can nurture new babes. Have you ever met someone who has been in the church for 10 or even 20 years and still describes himself as a babe? This is deplorable! For a babe to fail to develop over the course of 10 or 20 years is not something praiseworthy but a cause of genuine concern. Christians are not to remain stagnant so that they are in constant need of spoon feeding. The author of Hebrews expects growth, expects that those who have been in the faith some time will lead those who are just entering the fold. And one particular need in our congregation is additional elders and deacons. And so my question to the men in the congregation is--what are you doing to prepare yourself for these offices? God expects growth, he expects wisdom--are you striving for it? Or have you become complacent in your Christian walk?

Finally note that this requirement of God that we progress in grace would be particularly cruel did He not also provide a way for us to progress. But He does provide such a way. He has not left us ignorant. Progression in wisdom comes as we consistently resort to the Word of God in an effort to train ourselves to discern good and evil. Spiritual progression, Hebrews tells us, is a result of determined usage. Solid food is for those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. God does not bestow wisdom by osmosis. Just as physical training is necessary in order to fine tune one’s body, so spiritual training is necessary in order to train one’s soul. Couch potatoes do not form huge triceps--and neither do Christians who fail to seek wisdom in the Word of God.

Reminded of our failure to progress in the school of Christ as we ought, let us confess our sins to Him – we will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. Let us kneel together as we confess.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Baptizing Babies

This is a meditation on some baptisms from this past summer:

Not ten years ago I would have recoiled from that which I rejoice to do in just a few minutes – baptize some babies. And I know that for many of you this practice will seem, at the least, questionable, if not positively absurd, or radically unbiblical. Since this is the first infant baptism we have had as a congregation in a while, I thought it fitting to explain briefly why we baptize babies.

In Ephesians 2 Paul writes to the Gentiles declaring that though at one time they were strangers and aliens from the covenants of promise, they have now been brought near by the blood of Christ. Jew and Gentile alike, in Christ, are heirs of the covenants that God has made throughout history. So, for instance, we who are members of the Church are called “sons of Abraham” because we are the heirs of the Abrahamic covenant; we are called a “royal priesthood, a holy nation” because we are the heirs of the Mosaic covenant; we are called “kings and priests to God” because we are the heirs of the Davidic covenant. We are no longer strangers and aliens but are the rightful heirs of all God’s covenantal promises throughout redemptive history.

So what does all this have to do with infant baptism? Exactly this – in every one of these covenants that God made with our fathers, He promised to be a God not only to our fathers – not only to Abraham, not only to the twelve tribes in Moses’ day, not only to David – but to their children and their children’s children. In every single instance the covenants included both believers and their children.

In the Abrahamic covenant, for example, God speaks of His calling of Abraham this way: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice.” God established his covenant with Abraham that Abraham might disciple his household, might bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and pass on to them the faith that had been entrusted to him. Consequently, the sign of the covenant with Abraham – the rite of circumcision – was applied not only to Abraham but to the members of his household, including infants. Circumcision declared to Abraham and to these children – I am the Lord and you are my people, so love Me, fear Me, serve Me, and worship Me all your days.

In the New Testament, this emphasis upon household identity continues with the children of believers being accepted, blessed, and brought into the community of God’s people along with adults. When Paul writes to the Ephesians and Colossians, for example, he addresses his exhortations to the households in the congregation – to husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves. And in these exhortations he freely applies the promises of the covenant made with Moses to the children of believers – Honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth. God continues to act not only with believers but with believers and their children.

Why does God act this way? Because it is a reflection of His own nature. God works from generation to generation among His covenant people. When God passed in front of Moses and revealed His Name to him, this is what the Lord declared:

And the Lord passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Ex 34:6-7a)

God declares that it is His nature to keep mercy for thousands – and our question is this, “Thousands of what?” The answer is thousands of generations. As Moses declares later in Deuteronomy: “Therefore, know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Dt 7:9).

So why do we baptize infants? Because God has promised to be a God not only to us but to our children and our children’s children. So our calling is to believe Him, to trust His Word, and to bring our children before Him. For these are His children not ours, given to us in trust, to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. God has revealed Himself to us “in order that [we] may command [our] children and [our] household after [us], that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Membership Vows

Acts 16:31-33 (NKJV)
31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

This morning we have the privilege of welcoming a number of households into membership at Trinity Church. At such times it is always profitable to recall why we do this membership thing. This morning I would like us to consider why we administer membership vows to the Head of Household rather than to each individual member of the household. Why do this?

The point is certainly not that only the Head of Household is important; nor is the point that in order to be a member of the church you have to be an adult. May it never be! It is important to remember that the Head of Household is taking a vow not only for himself or herself but for his or her entire household. In other words, if you have been baptized and you are part of a member household, then you individually are a member of this congregation. You receive the loving care of Christ, the kindly fellowship of the covenant community, and the gracious accountability of the elders and deacons. You are part of the body, an integral member of the covenant community, and to be treated as such. So as we bring these families and individuals forward, all those who have been baptized join us as members of the church.

If they are all individually members of the congregation, then why have just the Head of Household take the vows? The reason is this: to emphasize that God has created the world in such a way that not all the decisions which affect us personally and legally are decisions that we ourselves make. All of us were born to parents that we did not choose; we were born into a country we did not choose; we were born subject to laws and statutes we did not choose. Not only is this the case, we all were born in sin, subject to the wrath of God, because of the rebellion of our father Adam. He was our representative, the one whose sin determined the course of our lives. God created the world in such a way that not all the decisions which affect us personally and legally are decisions that we ourselves have made.

And praise God that this is true – for were it not, none of us could ever be saved. Why not? Because we are saved not because of anything we have done but because of Christ. We have His righteousness credited to our account. Though we have not personally been righteous, God in His grace and mercy looks upon us in Christ and treats us as holy and beloved. Because we are part of His house, under His loving headship, we receive innumerable blessings.

So household vows emphasize three things: first, the critical role that the head of household has for the spiritual vitality and health of the entire household. Second, the incredible blessings that come to the entire household when that household is subject to the Lord Jesus Christ. And third, the need for faithfulness from every member of the household so that, in the future, additional healthy, robust, and godly households can be established to the glory of God.

Beware the Fate of Zedekiah

“[King Zedekiah] did evil in the sight of Yahweh His God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of Yahweh. And [the king] also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God; but he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to Yahweh the God of Israel.
2 Chronicles 36:12-13

The text before us today speaks of the sad legacy of King Zedekiah, last of the kings of Judah. Heir to a dwindling kingdom, Zedekiah hastened its slide into oblivion. Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, had conquered Judah in fulfillment of God’s just judgment. Rather than submit to God’s hand, however, Zedekiah sought to weasel out by soliciting the help of Egypt. The result was disastrous. Zedekiah watched his own sons slain before his eyes before being blinded and forced to end his days in chains and slavery.

The transgressions of Zedekiah stand as warnings to those of us who, like him, partake of Adam’s sinful nature. There are three admonitions which we can gather from this text.

First, Zedekiah failed to humble himself before the Word of God. When confronted by the prophet Jeremiah, Zedekiah spurned his counsel. He chose to follow his own wisdom instead. And what of you? How do you respond to the Word of God preached? Do you listen and heed? Or do you harden your heart? Or perhaps just conveniently forget? Then beware the fate of Zedekiah.

Second, Zedekiah broke an oath which he had sworn in God’s name. He swore on oath in the name of Yahweh to remain loyal to King Nebuchadnezzar. However, when Egypt came soliciting his loyalty, he forsook his oath. So what of us? Are we faithful to our oaths? In baptism, we have sworn in the name of the Triune God to love Him and serve Him as our Lord and Master – are we? In marriage, we have covenanted to be faithful, heart and soul, to our spouse unto death – are we? In our membership vows, we have sworn to support the ministry of this church, to submit to her leadership in the fear of God – are we? Beware the fate of Zedekiah.

Third, Zedekiah’s largest failure was that he failed to turn to Yahweh. When he entered upon the great responsibility of kingship, he relied upon his own strength rather than Yahweh’s. This was his most critical failure. So to whom are you turning in your difficulties? Perhaps there are new pressures at work or at home? The children are not behaving as you have hoped? A friendship is under strain? To whom are you turning? Have you turned to God, prayed to Him, asked Him to intercede on Your behalf? If not, beware the fate of Zedekiah.

These warnings serve as a reminder that as we come before the Lord to worship, we must confess our sins and transgressions to Him, beseeching Him to forgive us for the sake of Christ. As we do so, we will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. Let us kneel together as we confess.

Not be like their fathers

Psalm 78:5-8 (NKJV)
5 For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; 6 That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, 7 That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; 8 And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Two weeks ago we considered this passage and its exhortation to fathers – fathers are to instruct their children in the ways of the Lord. Our task is to teach our children that they might put their hope in God, trust Him, love Him, serve Him, delight in Him.

This morning as we return to this text, I would like you to notice that the task of instruction is not only positive, it is negative. Not only are we to teach our children that they may set their hoe in God and keep His commandments – this is imperative and the central message that must be coming across – but we must also warn them of the dangers they will face in following Christ. Notice our text emphasizes that we are to teach our children so that they “may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” The task of fathers is to point out the folly of their fathers and exhort the current generation to remain faithful to God, to – as the psalmist remarks – set its heart aright.

So what will this involve? Quite clearly this will involve a regular study of the Old Testament. The Word of God gives us numerous examples of the way that “our fathers” were not faithful to God but turned away from Him to serve other gods. Whether it is the worship of the golden calf, the defeat of God’s people at the city of Ai because of Achan’s sin, the apostasy of God’s people at the time of Elijah, the destruction of Jerusalem because of our fathers’ unfaithfulness, or the ongoing sin that threatened our fathers in Nehemiah’s day – all these stories should be objects of discussion and instruction. Look at our fathers, look how they were unfaithful to God, look how they went after other gods and worshiped them, look at the dangers they faced and the way in which God was faithful again and again to enforce His Word.

But not only must we talk about the way in which our fathers failed to serve the Lord faithfully in the Scriptures – the Scriptures, after all, are meant to be applied to our generation, meant to instruct us about the dangers we are facing. So as fathers our task is not only to read the Bible but to help our children see the way in which the rebellious spirit that our fathers’ manifested in their day is being manifest in our own. Fathers, your task is to identify the idols of our day and help your children see them and flee from them. We are in the midst of a time of cultural rebellion and apostasy – our children need to know this and be equipped to recognize the signs of it. So, fathers, rise to the occasion.

And not only must our fathers rise to the occasion, but so too must you children. Your calling is to listen to your fathers as they apply the Word of God to our current generation. Your calling is not first and foremost to imbibe the wisdom of the world offered in the form of movies, music, and literature – your calling is first and foremost to set your heart aright before God and have a spirit that is faithful to Him. And this type of heart, this type of spirit, will necessarily get you in trouble with our broader culture. Just last night our family read of the murder of John the Baptist – a man whose heart was set aright before God and whose spirit was faithful to Him. This is the challenge set before you – to be that kind of man, that kind of woman.

Reminded of our calling to learn from the errors of our fathers – both those in Scripture and those in our own society – let us confess our sins to God. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. Let us kneel together as we confess.

Sanctity of Life Sunday

Ezekiel 16:20-21 (NKJV)
Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to [your idols] to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire?

Once upon a time there was a couple, man and wife, who longed to have a child. But for some years the wife could not become pregnant. Finally to their great delight she found herself with child and husband and wife both eagerly awaited the birth of their first child

It just so happened that this couple lived near a walled garden that was owned by a terrible enchantress, the Witch Gothel. Each day the wife glanced down into the garden and as her pregnancy progressed she developed a craving for the rapunzel that she saw growing there. She begged and pleaded with her husband to get some of the rapunzel for her but he refused – the wrong of stealing coupled with fear of the witch enabled him to resist her pleas. But the wife became so desperate that she ceased eating altogether and her husband grew alarmed. Soon his fear for his wife overcame his scruples and his fear of the witch. He broke into the garden and obtained his prize.

His wife was delighted. She made herself a great salad and devoured the rapunzel. But her feast only increased her hunger. The next day she demanded that her husband return to the garden for more – and then the next day again. But this time just as the husband made away with his prize he was discovered by the witch. Great was her wrath as she loomed above him.

“How dare you steal from my garden?” demanded the witch. “Prepare to die!”

“Please,” begged the husband, “have mercy! I would not have dared to steal from your garden but my wife is pregnant with our first child and declared that she would die without this rapunzel.”

At these words Gothel’s demeanor softened though her lips curled in derision and her eyes bore a hungry look. “Very well, you may take the rapunzel to your wife. But this is the price you must pay – when your wife has borne this child, you must give it to me.”

The man agreed. After all, what else could he do? He had stolen from her garden and would lose his own life if he refused. So he departed with the rapunzel. Soon his wife gave birth to their child, a daughter. Immediately Witch Gothel appeared to claim her prize and the parents watched helpless as she took the child away. They were brokenhearted.

The story of Rapunzel reminds us that when we choose to serve other gods, they frequently give us their goods – even as Witch Gothel gave the husband the rapunzel – but these goods always come at a cost. And that cost is frequently our children. It was for this abomination, the abomination of handing their children over to their idols, that God exhorts the people of Israel through His prophet Ezekiel.
Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to [your idols] to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire?

Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday. Yesterday was the 38th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision. Since then Americans alone have slaughtered approximately 52 million human beings, offered them up to our gods and polluted our hands with blood. In America the gods that we have been worshiping – consumerism, greed, money, power, influence, convenience, beauty – have been demanding our children. We’ve made a pact with the Witch Gothel and now we’re giving her our children. Even more tragically, many of these slaughtered children were slain by professing Christians. We have taken God’s children and caused them to pass through the fire.

Is there hope? Only in our dear Prince, the Lord Jesus Christ. He can rescue us from our insanity, deliver us from the madness that has overtaken us, and take us to His own kingdom. For though He too demands our children, He demands them that they might live not that they might die. So let us listen to Him, hear His voice, and turn from the false gods we have worshiped.

Reminded that we have been worshiping other gods and sacrificing our children to them, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord.

Catechisms as Teaching Tool

Psalm 78:5-8 (NKJV)
5 For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; 6 That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, 7 That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; 8 And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Last week we remarked that one of the lessons which the fathers of Israel are to teach the people of God is the necessity of instruction. Fathers are to teach their children – and one of the tools that our fathers have handed down to us to accomplish this task is the catechism – a question and answer format that summarizes some of the most essential teachings of Scripture.

Today we are reminded that the function of these catechisms, the function of this instruction, is not first and foremost to fill the minds of our children with facts. Knowing what Scripture teaches is important, but this knowledge is not intended to exist as a repository of data; it is to move them, to touch them, to transform them by the grace of God. Notice what the psalmist declares:
[We teach] That the generation to come might know them [here is the knowledge level – but note it doesn’t stay here], The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments;

Notice the several purposes which this instruction is to have. Children, take note what you are supposed to be learning from the catechism, from the teaching which your parents are giving you. First, you are to learn the importance of giving this information, this instruction, to your children. You are going to grow up. You are going to have children yourself, most likely. God is giving you this information now so that you in turn can give it to your children.
Second, God is giving you this instruction so that you might put your hope in Him. The world wants to offer you all kinds of objects in which to put your hope. Put your hope in an ipad; put your hope in a great education; put your hope in diversity; put your hope in a change of government; put your hope in health care; put your hope in your ability to defend yourself. The catechism teaches you to put your hope in God. He will not betray you; He will not desert You; all His promises will reach their fulfillment; He is entirely trustworthy.

Third, the psalmist insists that the purpose of instruction doesn’t end here: when we have learned what God has done in the past, when we have learned that He is totally and absolutely trustworthy, we will then be reminded of the absolute necessity of obeying Him and keeping His commandments. After all, when we learn the stories of Scripture, one of the things we learn is the seriousness with which God takes His Word, the faithfulness with which He judges His people when they ignore it. And so, the catechism teaches us what it means to obey God, what it means to serve Him and delight in Him. This is the duty which God requires of man.

Let us consider, therefore, what the purpose of our instruction is – the purpose is not just to fill the mind but to touch the heart, to move the will, to shape the conscience. Parents, how are we doing molding and shaping not just the minds of our children but their character? Children, how are we doing learning not just the facts, not just the information that is being given, but the significance of this information for our own lives?

Reminded that the function of education is to do all these things, let us kneel and confess that we have often neglected them.

Fathers as Teachers

Proverbs 3:1-2 (NKJV)
1 My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; 2 For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you.

For the last number of weeks we have been considering the lessons which fathers teach us as the people of God. And here in our text we find a critical lesson – fathers serve as our teachers, our instructors. It is fathers who are to pass down to their children laws and precepts, commands and ordinances. My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; Why? For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you. The very principles given by fathers to their children add length of days and long life and peace to the next generation.

Children are exhorted by God Himself, “Honor your father and your mother, that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth.” And so now Solomon gives a window into one way that the honor which children show their parents translates into long life. Fathers give commands to their children and these commands preserve their children from sorrow and trouble. Children, you know the nature of some of these commands. “Junior, don’t play ball in the middle of the freeway; don’t touch the stove when it’s hot; don’t stand in front of the microwave; don’t waste your time playing games all day.” The function of these commands is to protect and preserve your lives – and, as you honor and obey your parents, your lives are extended.

The entrusting of spiritual principles to our children is no less life giving. God is the Lord. He governs in the affairs of men. And so as we fathers teach our children to know and love and serve and worship the Living God, we are teaching them how the world works, how to preserve their life from trouble, to guard their souls from destruction. “Junior, worship the Triune God alone, make sure that you gather together to worship the Lord on the Lord’s Day, don’t steal your brother’s bike, remember who made the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, pray regularly.” These precepts as much and more than the pragmatic, day to day precepts, preserve the lives of our children from destruction and add to them length of days.
One of the tools which our fathers have passed down to us to help new generations of fathers instruct their children in these basic spiritual principles is a catechism. A catechism is a means of summarizing essential truths of the Christian faith in question and answer format so that fathers (and mothers) can use these questions and answers to instruct their children in the ways of the Lord. “What is God? God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”

For the past few years, our congregation has recited the Heidelberg Catechism each Lord’s Day. This year we are switching to the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Both catechisms accomplish the same basic task. Their function is to summarize some of the basic truths of Scripture. And because we want these truths taught not just in the congregation but in the homes of our congregation, we are switching this year to the Westminister Shorter Catechism. Why? Because those of you who have small children uniformly use the Shorter Catechism rather than the Heidelberg Catechism – and the elders want to do all we can to encourage and buttress the work you are doing of having your children memorize the catechism. Again, why? Because length of days and long life and peace they will add to us and to our children.

Reminded that our responsibility is to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, to give them the words of life that their lives might be full of the grace of God and the knowledge of Christ, and reminded as children that our responsibility is to honor and respect and give heed to the teaching we receive, let us kneel and confess our failure to do these things to the Lord.