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October 26, 2003
Scripture: Deuteronomy 6
Track 43 of 52 in the Sermons from 2003 series
Running time: 31 minutes, 59 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, October 26, 2003
(Deuteronomy 6)
Copyright 2003 G. Charles Sackett

Every day now for the last several weeks I've heard a take on that on the local radio station. It's an advertisement for something Peoria Christian School is doing but it also has that same kind of twisted move to it where the young lad is telling his parents what it is that they need to be doing as parents. If you've seen advertized, or maybe have even gone to see "Freaky Friday" you need to know that it's that same kind of twist on life where mom and daughter exchange lives for a day to see what it's like to walk a mile in the other person's shoes.

Ah, two or three years ago Keith and I happened to be out in New Hampshire. We visited Nashua Christian Church and watched as Wes Dillon was baptizing some young people and overheard him tell the story of how things had gone so differently in the last few years of youth ministry where it was now true that more young people were leading their parents to Jesus than it was the other way round.

I was in Boise at the Bible college last week and I was having this conversation with a young lady named Dominique, who had decided that she wanted to give her life to the Lord and wanted to do something in the way of full time ministry. Had decided to go off to a Christian college much to the dismay of her parents. Her mother, particularly, was against this move and was trying everything she could to get her to not go when they finally reached this conclusion that Dominique, when she turned eighteen, was going to do what she felt the Lord was calling her to do anyway.

The common thread in all of that is very simple. It's all backwards. It's all really just very twisted. And yet, it's so easy to get into that situation where we are allowing the wrong people to lead.

I think as long as I live, I will remember the day when I was thinking to myself--"I don't know why our youth minister doesn't come and talk to my daughter about her relationship with Christ". Now, you're talking about a preacher who's a bible college professor thinking that it's somebody else's responsibility to teach his own children about the Lord. And yet it struck me that it's not uncommon at all for all of us to fall into that situation and wonder when it is that somebody who is the professional is gonna do what we are supposed to do as parents.

In an article written for the Southeast Christian Church Newspaper, based on a report by George Bornean (?), there is this comment. "Although about two out of three parents of children under twelve attend religious services at least once a month and generally take their children with them, most are willing to let the church provide all of their youngsters spiritual training."

Well, the principle is very simple. Responsible parents lead their own children to the Lord. We pass along what matters. I wish that were a statement that we could debate. It isn't! That's just the nature of things. We pass along what matters to us. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that what matters to me is good, just means that we pass it along.

I almost hate to tell you this, but I have a really nasty habit of not being happy when other people cut me off in line. In fact I tend to probably be more expressive at those moments than I should, though I keep it fairly subdued. It usually looks something like this when somebody pulls out in front of me in a car. My hands go in the air and I say something really profound like "thanks a lot for being so polite".

I pick my grandson up every Thursday to take him to school. Somebody pulled out in front of us just the other day. Before I could say it, guess what? "Thanks a lot!" We pass along what's important to us, intentionally or otherwise, it gets to the next generation. What I'm suggesting is that when we're responsible as parents and grandparents, we will do the job of passing along what really matters.

The text we're looking at is Deuteronomy, Chapter 6 - Deuteronomy, Chapter 6 - that great old testament text that comes right on the heels of the giving of the ten commandments. The opening part of this particular text - Deuteronomy, Chapter 6, Verse 1 through 9. 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, O' 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 fathers, 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 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.

Moses tells Israel that you cannot give what you don't have. You cannot pass along to the next generation, something that you don't personally possess.

In a sermon that came out a few years ago in the Preaching Today Series, the preacher made this comment. "Very few believers come from homes where there was a kind of indifferent, apathetic commitment to Christ. It is sobering and thought-provoking to suggest that in American culture, the chances are better for a child growing up in a non-Christian home, to become a Christian, than for a child growing up in a home that has an indifferent apathetic commitment to Christ." That is a frightening comment to me, but true, I am convinced because I grew up in a non-Christian home. For me the church was fresh and alive, new and different, but for the person who won me to the Lord, the church was rapidly becoming something that was just an every day experience. We went to church but that was about all there was to it. You can't give what you don't have. This is the first command with a promise according to Ephesians. When Paul makes reference to family principles in Ephesians 5 and 6, he says in Chapter 6 that parents are to raise their children in the Lord because that is the first commandment with a promise. The promise is to live a long life, to see good days and what they're supposed to do in the context of Israel worship, is to believe that the Lord their God is One. It's the saying of the Shema. Israel did it every day--at least twice. In fact, I went out and did a little looking just to see if I could figure out what might have to happen if we were gonna do that. Ah, here are the instructions from one particular page explaining the Shema.

Before the Shema is said in the morning and the evening, one must have in mind that he's going to perform the reciting of the Shema and accept that God is king. The Shema should be said clearly and distinctly, pausing slightly between a word that begins with the same sound that the previous one ended, like alevakatha and vakaraath. (???) One must hear every word he recites and concentrate only on its meaning and that God is One. In the morning, when saying the words, bring us in close to the heart between the fourth and fifth fingers of the left hand. The instructions are explicit about how this is to be said--morning, evening say the Shema. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one and you shall love him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And then they would repeat the rest of Deuteronomy plus two others texts every day, twice a day--say the Shema. Be reminded that God is, in fact, One. The word Shema is simply the word for listen. It occurs over eleven hundred times in the Old Testament. Listen, hear. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and strength. You shall bind them on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts. You hear the emphasis to the parent? - to the grandparent? You shall do this. . . You shall love the Lord. You shall teach the law. You shall talk about it on the way. You shall spend time at the dinner table. You shall sit on the child's bed. You shall write it on the doorposts. You shall talk while you travel.

Mark uses this in answer to this question. . . . . What's the greatest command? And Jesus responds, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength. You can't give what you don't have.

And so, the first responsibility of parents is to become lovers of God, down deep in their soul. . . . that it begins to ooze out of their pours and their children and their grandchildren just see it happening all around them. And it isn't an unnatural experience to simply be driving down the road or walking through the park or sitting at the table talking about the things of God, hearing the stories of what God has done, reflecting on the experience that they are having with God. The thing carries over into the lives of their children. We exist as a congregation to fulfill the great commandment and the great commission. The great commandment is Love the Lord your God. That's our purpose. That's why we're here, to help one another come to grips with loving God with a passion. But you have to be here. I don't mean here in this place. I mean you have to be in love with God, personally before you can ever give it away to anybody else. And that's the call.

Well, if you notice in Verses 7 through 9 of this text, it says we're to impress them on our children and talk about them along the way. It suggests something like this. They can't have what we don't give! Now I understand that children will learn a great deal just being around us. But if we never consciously give to our children, our faith, we're taking an enormous risk that they're somehow just gonna catch it on the fly.

In that article, based on a poll that Bornean (?) did of a thousand adults, here's his statement. "Close to nine out of ten parents of children under 13 believe that they have the primary responsibility for teaching their children about religious beliefs and spiritual issues. However, the survey of a 1,010 adults found that parents have no plan for the spiritual development of their children. They do not consider it a priority. They have little or no training in how to nurture a child's faith and they have no related standards to satisfy and they experience no accountability for their actions."

In other words, they think it ought to happen. Eight out of ten parents would tell you - "yes, we believe it's our responsibility to help our children grow up in a faith." And very few of them have any plan on how they are going to get that done. There is no intention that these are the things that we're going to do to see to it that it actually happens, and nobody holding them accountable to ask the hard questions . . . . . "are you getting this accomplished?"

And so, like so many - my guess is that your family, like my family, counted on the fact that we went to church a lot to do the job. See, it's not our children's decision, it's our decision and if I could sound like an old person, one who lives in another era, I would say this. The great American tragedy is that we've allowed our children to take over responsibility for their own lives way too soon. We've allowed them to become adults long before their ready.

There's an interesting study that came out done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. It was reported on in the CNN web site. Here's their comment. "Teens whose parents have established rules in the house have a better relationship with their parents and substantially lower risks of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs than the typical teen." They surveyed approximately a thousand young people between the ages of 12 and 17. About one-fourth of those teenagers live with parents who actually have rules. A fourth have rules. But that fourth was at far greater - had far less risk of being involved in substance abuse. Successful parents, they say, keep at least ten of the following twelve rules. I'm not going to read them all to you. They keep ten of these twelve rules and here's what it says. "In lax homes. . . In lax homes only twenty-four percent had good relationships with their mothers and only thirteen percent good relationships with their fathers. But in strict homes. . . . .relatively speaking, in strict homes, fifty-seven percent had good relationships with their mothers and forty-seven percent with their fathers." The president of that organization says, "Mothers and fathers who are parents, rather than pals can greatly reduce the risk of their children smoking, drinking and using drugs."

In a report that came out in the New York Times Karen Stebner writes, "It seems that the parents of today's parents, those strict disciplinarians of the fifties and early sixties, may have been right all along. Father and Mother did know best."

One of the leading psychologists at the Family Institute of Northwestern University in Chicago says "telling a child NO is essential to raising healthy children."

Somewhere along the line, parents are going to have to decide to be parents - that it's their job to give their children what it is that their children are supposed to have.

One of my students at the seminary preached in class the other day. He's a young father and so I understand that he's early in the game. His children are still small. He is nearly in tears as he's reciting what he does every evening as he sits on the side of his children's bed to pray and read Bible stories.

In last week's Christian Standard, Bob Russell's son, Rusty, writes a tribute to his father's habit of evening prayers and morning devotions.

You can't give what you don't have and they can't have what you don't give.

We have to give them. . . . . Well, the question is what do we give? Let me hurriedly tell you what I think this text is trying to tell us we need to teach our children. What do we teach them? What is the stuff that matters that we pass along? Well, if you look at Deuteronomy, Chapter 6, Verse 10, you would discover this. We teach them not to be distracted. Verse 10 -

When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you--a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant--then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you our of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Moses says, don't allow people to become distracted. They came into a land that they didn't have to work for. It's a land that is utterly good. It's a land that all of these--it's prosperous and in that prosperity he says, don't let them forget God. Prosperity tends to distract us. We forget where our blessings originate--where they come from. When life is really, really good and there are no difficulties, when there are no pressures, when there is nothing that we face, we forget who God is.

One of the things as a parent and a grandparent, my responsibility is to remind my children and my grandson about things like denied and delayed gratification. No you don't have to have it at all and maybe you don't have to have it NOW.

Have you ever wondered why we have such a difficult time with consumerism in America? Because we have never learned to say NO to anything. You know why the recent reports are that we have such an incredibly high obesity rate in America? We know nothing about denying gratification. We live in a world where we're supposed to have what we want, when we want it and sooner rather than later. We live in a prosperous land and in this prosperous land we sometimes fail to teach our families, the origin, the source of where this stuff comes from. And some of you parents will relate with the discussion, I'm sorry it has to happen, but it happens all the time in every house I've been around. NO, you can't have the most expensive jeans on the rack. Why not? Because it's the label you're paying for. Or maybe you've used this line. If we could afford it, we still wouldn't. It isn't a matter whether we have the money for it or not, I'm just not spending it. It's just not good stewardship.

Somewhere along the line we have to teach our children to eat, breathe, sleep the love of God and to recognize in our world there are gods a plenty to distract you.

Power, prosperity, pleasure and they distract.

Moses says, teach your children this. Don't be distracted. He also says in Verses 16 through 19, don't compromise.

Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not test the Lord your God as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord's sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.

Here's the situation. Israel was told to go in and take the land and totally eradicate the entire population. Take the land. Get rid of all that other stuff. And you know what they did. They let a little pocket of people live over here and compromised with some folks over there and they allowed a tribe over here to stay in the land and because they allowed those other people to continue to occupy their space, the next thing you know they had compromised their relationship with God and they were no longer Israel, as God intended them to be.

They began to complain. Why don't we just go back to Egypt! One of those stories was when Saul was told to totally eradicate the Amalekites because of their sin. Get rid of everything. Then Samuel came and ask him if he had done what the Lord. . . . .

Well, of course. I got rid of everything and here's the haunting question that occurs in 1Samuel, Chapter 15. Then what is this bleating of sheep that I hear? What is the noise of the sheep that I hear. If you did everything that I called for you to do why do I keep hearing the sheep in the background? Because he had kept some of them. It seemed innocent enough but it was a disregard of God. A little compromise here, a little compromise there because we don't think it will hurt to let just a little of the world into our life.

Suzanne Twist, who is the President's wife of TCM International gives every new short term worker and every new professor a little booklet that was written a number of year ago called Christ's Heart My Home. It's a story of a person who has invited Christ into their life and it just simply walks from the study to the kitchen to the den to the porch to the closet (the rooms of a man's heart) as God begins to fill that up and begins to take over and the struggle that the person has to let those places go. It's worth your taking a look at because it reminds us of how easy it is to try to hang on to little bits and pieces of the stuff of our past. Your kids would love nothing more than for you to give them permission to be just enough like the world that nobody will give them any trouble and I don't know anything harder for a parent or a grandparent to do than to try to get their children to live differently from everybody else because nobody wants to stand out any different. But that compromise is the very compromise that will cost them their life if we're not careful.

So what do we teach them? We teach them. . . don't be distracted. . .we teach them. . . don't compromise. . . we teach them . . .not to forget.

Verse 20 of Chapter 6

In the future, when your son asks you, "What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws". . . . . . tell him: "We 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 wonders--great and terrible--upon 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 care 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."

Don't forget the story he says. We came up out of Egypt, out of slavery. . . .you remember? A few months ago, when we were going through Joshua and we created our pile of rocks, that memory aid to remind us, this is what God has done, and what he's asking us to do is create those kinds of memory aids for our children so that they remember the things that God has done. Don't let them forget the times that God has done in our lives. Three times Paul talks about it.

It's the only thing repeated three times in the book of Acts. This is my testimony of what God has done. Have you told your children your story. That's the question. Do they know why you're a Christian? Do they know where you came from? How did you come to faith? Who was responsible for you knowing Jesus? Do they know the story of where you came from and what God has done in your life? Don't let them forget what God is doing. That is what he's trying to remind us of.

You know we've all got stories. Every family I have ever met has stories. They keep alive our life. One of my favorite ones has nothing to do with being a Christian. It's just the power of story. My grandfather came over as an eleven year old boy from Denmark. Lived out West. His favorite story--Cody, Wyoming--standing in front of the local hotel where none other than Wild Bill Cody rode up and ask him to hold his horses. I'll never forget the story. I'm a lover of Wild Bill Cody. Why? Because of my grandfather. He held his horses. That's a lot better claim to fame than on my father's side who was a horse thief. So I choose the good story.

What story are you telling? What story are you leaving with your kids and your grand kids . . . .ah. . . . see responsible parents pass along that which is important. What are they taking that you can't give them or you don't have. And if you don't have a faithful walk with God, you can't offer that to them. As much as you'd like to pass that along to your children and your grandchildren in hopes that they'll have what you don't have--highly unlikely it will ever happen. It's gotta be real to you, but they'll never get it if you don't intentionally give it to them. It doesn't happen by osmosis--it doesn't happen just because we're in the same room at the same time, it happens when we intentionally tell them the stories. We remind them. Frankly, sometimes we take control of them at certain ages and we don't let them compromise and we don't let them forget.

I'm encouraging you as parents and grandparents to just make some intentional decisions to be responsible for your children and your grandchildren's faith and yeah, they'll not like it for a while, but they may one day wake up and thank you for finally taking control and doing what's right. What about you young people -- the ones who have families who do not want you to be faithful to Jesus. He will be faithful to you if you hang in there.

Her name was Roberta. She wanted desperately to come to church. She wanted desperately to love Jesus with all of her heart. She wanted to give her life to him and be baptized and her parents said NO! What do you do? You wait. You demonstrate that the love of God has made you a better child. So you wait and when she turned eighteen, she gave her heart to Jesus--she was immersed--she came to church when she could. No--she never did win the rest of her family to Jesus. But 25 years later I still hear from her faithfully leading her children to Jesus.

Give away what is most important. Give your family your faith.

Let's stand.