Sunday, February 6, 2011

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.