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Gospel-Centered Parenting | Deuteronomy 6:1-9

April 3, 2016 Preacher: Ryan Gilbert Series: The Gospel Centered Family

Topic: Parenting Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:1–9

Message Excerpts

Manuscript

Good morning, Raintree. And happy April, if you can believe that it’s already April. Today we begin a 3-week mini-series called “The Gospel-Centered Family.” Today’s focus is Gospel-Centered Parenting from Deuteronomy 6, which is a great passage of Scripture. Next week, because singles are sometimes treated like the ugly stepchildren of the church, when we focus so much on families, I wanted to have a week specifically for Gospel-Centered Singleness. So next week, we’re looking at another GREAT text in 1 Corinthians 7. And then two weeks from today we’re looking at Gospel-Centered Marriage from Ephesians 5.

Now, I wanted to mention briefly why a message on parenting matters for singles, and why a message on singles matters for married people, and so on and so forth. The Bible is incredibly relevant even when it’s addressing a life phase that is not our own. Why? First of all, because it’s God’s Word and it matters no matter what. But secondly, because we are the body of Christ, and we’re to help each other become more like Jesus, and support and challenge one another with the Word of God. That means, for the sake of your brothers and sisters, a message on parenting should matter to singles! And a message on singleness should matter to married people! I hope that’s your heart over the next three weeks, as it is mine.

 

Introduction

So today, Gospel-Centered Parenting. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of parenting strategies and philosophies and books and opinions, and you’ll be glad to know that I’m not going to be speaking from my months and months of parenting experience, 24 months to be exact. I’m also not going to be giving you a particular parenting style that is best and how the rest are wrong. That’s not my job, and nor do I even have much of an opinion yet as to which ones are best. But what we are going to do this morning is look at what the Bible has to say about parenting, in particular from Deuteronomy chapter 6.

Before we get to the text, though, because this is the first time I’ve ever talked with you specifically about parenting, I do want to bring up one question for us to ask ourselves as parents: I want you to think about the things you want for your kids, or your grandkids. I’m assuming you want some or all of the following:

  • You want them to become well-rounded, moral people.
  • You want them to learn to provide for themselves, and perhaps a family.
  • You want them to be happy and perhaps contribute to society in some way.

Those all sound good. I hope that you want these things. But here’s my question… How is that any different from anyone else? Think about this: Atheists want those things for their children, do they not? Agnostics want that for their children. Mormons, Buddhists, Muslims, I mean, generally speaking, that’s what everyone wants for their kids! As Christians, though, we have a completely different purpose and authority in life! That purpose is to love and obey Jesus! That means that our ultimate goal as parents should be far bigger than just these things that I mentioned.

Is our ultimate goal as parents, right now, to raise kids that love Jesus more than anything? Is that truly our ultimate goal? I want you to ask yourself that. Or do you desire worldly success or stability for your kids more than you desire for them to wholeheartedly follow Jesus, even if it means less stability? For Gospel-Centered parenting, the ultimate question is not, “How do I raise a well-rounded individual that provides for himself,” even though that’s a question we need to ask. The main question, however, for Christian parents, should be, “How do we raise kids that love and follow Jesus above all else?” That should be our ultimate question. Once we’ve established that that truly is our main goal, it is then and only then that we can answer the question, “How do we raise kids that love Jesus above all else?”

 

Deuteronomy 6:1-9

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses basically preaches a sermon of sorts on the 1st of the 10 Commandments. He has just finished, in chapter 5, rehashing the 10 Commandments, because he wanted them all to be reminded of God’s law before entering the Promised Land. The ones he is talking to are the new generation of Israelites who are about to take their children into the Promised Land! So, for their sake, and for their children’s sake, he’s going to expound on the 1st Commandment, which is, “You shall have no other gods before me.” So, I want to walk us through verses 1-9 of Deut. 6, explaining as we go along, then we’ll move into what we can learn from this as far as Gospel-Centered Parenting closer to the end of our time. Let’s start by reading the first 3 verses of Deuteronomy 6.

1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

 

So Moses is making very clear here that these commands are from God are not from himself. He also brings up the ultimate purpose of the 10 Commandments. Vs. 2: “that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son.” The ultimate purpose is that we may fear and revere God, that we may see God as God and live life like God is God! He’s our King, our Ruler, and we have gladly submitted to Him as our loving Ruler, as our God who knows all, including what is best for us.

And the neat thing about this particular command that we see in verse 3 is that there’s a blessing that goes along with it. What’s the blessing? That you may live long! Does that mean life is perfect if you obey these commands? Of course not! But there are blessings that come with obedience. There are blessings particularly because even pain and suffering in the path of obedience has purpose, and ultimately will result in our good. We obey, because God knows best, even when we don’t fully understand why it’s best. This obedience is then summarized in verses 4 and 5. Look there with me.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

 

These two verses, historically, have been considered the essence of God’s person and our response to who He is, but in like Twitter version! It’s sixteen words in the Hebrew text, and it is the most central tenet of who God is and how we’re to respond to who He is. Jewish tradition, even in modern times, calls these two verses the “shema.” “Sema” is the very first word in verse 4, which means “to hear.”

Now when it says, “Hear, oh Israel,” it’s not just telling all the people to get close enough so they can hear what’s about to be said. You know, “Come here so you can hear.” That’s not what it means. “Hear” in the Hebrew language means to “obey.” So, to hear these verses and not obey them is, in effect, not to hear them at all. So it’s incredibly important to understand and implement these verses. In New Testament times, when Jesus was asked, “What are the greatest of the commandments,” you may remember that he quoted this verse as well as Leviticus 19:18, about loving your neighbor as yourself. These weren’t just Jewish tenets, it was Jesus himself who summed up all the Law with these two commands.

Love the Lord your God with EVERYthing. Everything. This love is not just emotional, though that’s definitely part of it too, but this is our natural and almost obligatory response to who God is. It just makes sense. He is our God, there is no one like Him. He created us and provides for us, therefore we love Him, specifically through obedience!

Maybe it seems a bit unusual in the middle of talking about obeying God’s commands, and in the middle of Deuteronomy of all books, that suddenly we’re told to love God. Why is love brought up? What does love have to do with obedience? What does love have to do with the Law? Everything. In fact, in this particular context, especially, love and obedience are synonymous. This is true throughout the Bible, Old and New Testaments. In John 14:15, Jesus puts it pretty simply: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” So there can be no separation between loving God and obeying Him.

We love and obey Him with everything: All of our heart, which in the Hebrew language was the seat of the intellect, the rational part of the person. This is probably why, when Jesus quoted this verse in the New Testament, he included on top of these three “all of your mind”, because the Hebrew understanding of the heart includes what we would consider the mind. 2ndly, we’re told to love God with all of our soul. This is mainly referring to our will and our desires. And then, lastly, love God with all of our might, or strength. This refers to the physical side of the person. So we’re to love God with every part of who we are, and all of every part of who we are. AND… here’s where Moses gets even more specific with our children, look at verses 6 through 9.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

Whoa! So these commands shall be on our hearts, in our constant reflection. We are to teach them diligently to our children. The picture here is of engraving a text into a monument! That doesn’t mean that we, you know, staple the list of rules to our kid’s head so he finally gets it. What it means is that it takes time, precision, diligence, and, yet, when it’s there, it’s there!

We’re to so desire for our children to understand the great truths of our faith, in particular the Gospel, that we’re to talk about it all the time! Whether sitting or walking, that pretty much includes all of our effort or actions. Whether we’re going to bed or getting up, basically that encompasses all of our time. As a sign on your hand, in other words in what you do; frontlets between your eyes, in other words they’re to be on your mind; And we’re even to write them on the entries to our homes.

Now this isn’t really being literal, that we need to write God’s commands all over the place, the point he’s making, though, is that all of who we are should love and obey God, in fact, we’re to have such a commitment to love and obedience that we always talk and think and live out God’s commands. That’s the idea here.

That’s Gospel-Centered Parenting. The Gospel is the big, overarching story of the Bible, the heart of which is Jesus dying as our Substitute, and rising again defeating death. Answer #1 to the question, “How do we raise kids that love and follow this Jesus above all else?”

 

  1. We love God with every bit of our beings.

Funny enough, the first thing we must do to raise kids that love Jesus, the first thing, ironically, has nothing to do with our kids. It has everything with us, as parents and grandparents. I mean, right in the middle of talking about what we’re to be giving our kids, what legacy we’re to be leaving for them, we get verses 4-5. “The Lord our God is ONE; Love Him with all your heart and your soul and your might.”

There’s a reason these two verses come before all the details about how to raise kids in the way of the Lord. Because if we’re not taking God seriously, and if we don’t really love Him more than anything else, how can we expect our kids to do so? Kids can spot a fake a mile away! Even Jacob’s old enough, at barely two years old, to be able to tell whether or not I really like peas. I can eat them and say mmm…. All day long, for the purpose of getting him to eat them, but he can already tell when I’m faking it! He looks at me with a look that says, “You think I’m stupid?” The number one way we raise kids that love and obey Jesus, is by being people who truly love and obey Jesus.

One of my professors back when I was in seminary in Texas used a great example. Imagine 1st chair dad, 2nd chair dad, and 3rd chair dad. Now, no matter what camp you’re in, don’t feel demeaned, this is just the easiest way to explain this illustration. 1st chair dad truly desires to love and obey Jesus more than anything! 2nd chair dad puts on a good show, but if he’s honest, he’s more focused on what he wants, or just other things besides just Jesus. 3rd chair dad doesn’t give a flip about Jesus. Ok? 1st chair: absolutely and genuinely loves and follows Jesus more than anything. 2nd chair: puts on a show like he really loves Jesus, but is really more focused on himself. 3rd chair: couldn’t care less about Jesus.

Statistically: 3rd chair dads raise 3rd chair sons. Dads that don’t care about Jesus raise sons that don’t care about Jesus, generally. 1st chair dads raise 1st chair sons. Dads that really love Jesus raise sons that really love Jesus, generally. Here’s the kicker: 2nd chair dads (the ones that put on a good show) raise 3rd chair sons. Why? Because if there’s one thing children don’t respond to, especially this generation of children and teenagers, it’s hypocrisy. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “Familiarly breeds contempt.” Well, similarly, with parenting, hypocrisy breeds contempt, or at least breeds indifference. Faking it is the worst thing we can do for our kids, pretending like something should matter to them even though it doesn’t really matter to us.

We don’t have to be perfect parents; but we can’t be hypocrites! The best way to truly raise kids that love Jesus above all else, is by loving Jesus above all else ourselves! We love God with every bit of our beings. That doesn’t mean being perfect, at all. In fact, parents that really love Jesus above all else admit their faults, and aren’t too prideful to confess their mistakes. We love God with every bit of our beings. That’s the first way to raise kids that love Jesus. The 2nd way:

 

  1. We spend intentional time with our kids.

How do we do that? Well first, we’re present in every way. We’re there physically, yes. But even more than that, we’re there MENTALLY! Be engaged with your children. Turn off the TV, put away the phones, do whatever you have to do to truly be present both physically and mentally.

Going a bit further, we’re to be intentional with the faith of our children. We read the Word with them! Do a family devotional once a week; you don’t have to be some crazy gifted teacher, just open it up and read a little bit! That’s part of why we’ve put together the family center in the entryway, which we’ll be talking about more over the next two weeks. Our goal is to provide you specific ways to be intentional with your children’s faith. Ways to talk about God when you walk and when you sit and when you go to sleep and when you wake up. Ways to put verses 6-9 in action.

Now, I want to give a side-thought here. Sometimes it’s easy to so strongly emphasize the impact we have on our kids as parents, which is a good thing. We emphasize this, because it should be emphasized. No one will have more of an impact on your kids than you will. This is why we are to be intentional in what we do with them.

But here’s the side-thought: God is not bound by our failures as parents. If you’re here today, and maybe your kids are grown, and you feel like you failed, please know something: God is not limited by what you may perceive to be failures, and secondly, God is not bound by the sin of your children! Some of you are distraught because of the decisions your children have made or are making, in particular adult children. Don’t be distraught, as much as possible. Trust God. His grace is bigger than our sin. He is not bound by your children’s sin, in the same way he’s not bound by our sin. He has a plan that we may know nothing of, and he’s saying, I’m your Father, trust me, no matter what happens.

It’s so easy for parents to think that their failures caused whatever’s happening. Listen, no parent is perfect, and no parent doesn’t fail at times. We need not be perfect, AND we need not dwell on the past. The greatest thing you can possibly do to impact the faith of your children, is to love and follow Jesus more than ever before. Even if you feel that you’ve failed, even if you’re children are grown and gone, and maybe you didn’t really take your faith seriously back when your kids were with you, the greatest thing you can do for them even now is move forward and love and follow Jesus above all else.

For those of us with kids still at home, and even for those of you who are empty nesters: Imagine your children, over years and years, watching you be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Imagine your children seeing you convicted by the Holy Spirit. Imagine your children seeing you sing on Sundays every week, and sing from the heart. Imagine your children watching you really care about what this book has to say. This is the greatest thing you can do for the faith and lives of your children.

This is also why we welcome children in this room on Sunday mornings. I know the more appealing thing to do is offer a Sunday morning experience where we take your children from you for three hours, and then as you leave you get them back, never to really spend any time together, at all.

It’s appealing, it’d probably help us grow faster numerically, and yet I’m convinced we’d be raising an largest unreached, unengaged people group in our church! Why are the national statistics for high-schoolers who graduate and leave the church so staggering? Because they were never really part of the church to begin with! At Raintree, we have so many good things in place, from a very early age to really integrate children into the church as a whole, but be praying for us as we plan and pray and figure out the best way not only to help parents disciple their children from age 0-18, but also the best way to fully integrate children into the church by the time they’re in high school.

 

Conclusion

I know parenting is a HUGE topic to cover in one message. It’s impossible, frankly.

For today, though, the question to ask yourself, as I mentioned earlier, is “What is your ultimate desire for your kids? Is it, truly, that they love and follow Jesus above all else? If it is, praise God! Know that the best way to see that happen is for YOU to love and follow Jesus above all else, and to be intentional with the time that you have with them. Take advantage of our Family Center, which we’ll be talking more about over the next two weeks.

But if you realize today that maybe that’s not your ultimate desire for your kids, that there’s something else that’s more important or maybe competing with that desire, I want you to realize something: if we do not desire, above all else, that our kids love and follow Jesus, then we ourselves likely don’t love Jesus above all else.

It is likely that we have an idol in our lives. I implore you, eradicate the idol! Don’t waste your life being distracted! Don’t waste your life teaching your kids to be distracted from what matters most. Remember the Gospel and what Jesus has done for us, and love and follow Him above all else.

I don’t remember much from 8 years old and younger. In fact, I remember very very little. But one thing I do remember is sitting in First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, TX, next to my parents. I was coloring in a coloring book, paying no attention to what the pastor was saying. But I do remember that whatever that pastor was saying, and whatever that big book said, my parents cared about it. That impacted me. One of the only other things I remember from such an early part of my childhood, is my dad trying to start a family devotional I think on Sunday nights. It lasted only 2-3 weeks, and I don’t know why we stopped, maybe he felt like the kids weren’t paying attention, I don’t know.

Only 2-3 weeks, but guess what? It impacted me. I didn’t learn the Gospel, I didn’t grow in knowledge that I know of, but I knew that whatever this book had to say, it mattered to my parents enough to try and start a little family devotional, it mattered so much to them, and maybe it would matter to me one day. You don’t have to be a seminary graduate, a theologian, a pastor, anything except a born-again Christian to have a lasting impact on the faith of your kids. Step One: Love and obey Jesus with everthing. Step Two: Be intentional with your kids.

Let’s pray.

More in The Gospel Centered Family

April 17, 2016

Gospel-Centered Marriage | Ephesians 5:22-33

April 10, 2016

Gospel Centered Singleness | 1 Corinthians 7:17-35