I recently heard about a man who asked some of his friends, “What are the three most wonderful words in the English language?” One of his friends said, “To me the three most wonderful words are, ‘I love you.’” Another said, “The three most wonderful words to me are, ‘Home Sweet Home.’” The third man said, “To me the three most wonderful words are ‘Enclosed find check.’”
I don’t want to make too much of that story except to say it may be symptomatic of an age in which materialism has become the strongest factor of our day. In our society, we tend to view success in terms of money, or fame, or career success. But God views success in terms of godly, loving family relationships.
Our text this morning is going to talk about the importance of not only raising up godly children, but also godly grandchildren. In fact, our prayer and our goal as parents should be that our godly children raise up godly children who in turn raise up godly children.
It’s the same principle found in 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul wrote to Timothy, “what you have heard from me…entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” There are four generations mentioned in that one verse. There’s Paul who taught Timothy, who was told to teach faithful men, who were to teach others also. And that’s the same kind multi-generational discipleship that needs to be taking place in our families.
But, before we get there, I want us to take an overview of the entire book of Deuteronomy. Watch this video and then I’ll talk with you about this concept of family discipleship.
This morning, I’m going to be talking primarily to parents, to fathers and mothers, but whether you’re a parent or not, the little ones who are in this room, the teenagers and the young people, their spiritual well-being is of concern to all of us. We all need to feel the weight of that responsibility, because we’re going to see in scripture that it’s not just Mom and Dad, it’s not just parents, but it is the congregation, the corporate assembly, the family of faith that is responsible for the next generation.
So, as we read from Deuteronomy, when you hear those words “children” or “sons and daughters”, don’t tune me out if you don’t have any kids or if your kids are grown. I want us all to feel the weight of the next generation in our midst as we read this passage.
I’ll be reading from Deuteronomy chapter 6, but first, I want to review a few things. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at the story of God redeeming and rescuing his people out of the land of Egypt. We looked at the book of Exodus and we talked about Moses and how God used Moses to lead his people out of slavery, to lead them out of Egypt, into the wilderness to Mount Sinai, where he gave them the Law and he made a covenant with them that he would be their God and they would be his people.
But, as we saw last week in the book of Numbers, sadly, that generation, the generation of people that had been led out of Egypt, disqualified themselves from being able to enter into the Promised Land that God said he would give them. Because of their rebellion, because of their hard-heartedness, God said, “You’re not going to be allowed to entered into the land of Canaan.” So, that generation dies out in the wilderness – every single one of them — and all of their children then grow up into another generation.
And so, in the book of Deuteronomy, we find Moses retelling the Law, retelling the covenant to this new generation. As we saw in the video, the word Deuteronomy actually comes from a Greek word that means “second law”. It’s not a new law. Moses is just retelling the Law that God gave to the Israelites back in the book of Exodus. So, if you’re wondering why you can find the Ten Commandments both in Exodus and in Deuteronomy, it’s because it was being told again to this new generation. So that’s what the book of Deuteronomy is all about.
But, if the people of Israel are going to survive as a nation, then this new generation is going to have to share what they have learned about God to their children, who will then share it with their children, and on and on from generation to generation.
And that’s exactly what God said to the people in Deuteronomy chapter 6. We pick up in verse 4, “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.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
I’m sure those words sound familiar to you, because this is what Jesus said in Matthew 22 and Mark 12 and Luke 10. But those words didn’t originate with Jesus. Jesus was quoting from here in Deuteronomy and he said, of all the commandments in all the Law of Moses, this one right here was the most important command.
And the Jews knew how important this was, because this passage along with two others in the Old Testament became a prayer that was recited by Jews every morning and every evening. They call it “the Shema”, because “shema” is the first Hebrew word in this passage – “hear”. “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.”
This is the first instruction that God gives to the Israelite parents. And what I find interesting is that there is no mention yet of the children. If you look at your children and you say, “I want them to follow the Lord. How do I get them to do that?”, you’ve started at the wrong point. Raising our children to be disciples of Christ doesn’t start with the children. It starts with the parents. It starts with us.
God says, “You want to raise your children to follow me? Then you need the love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Mom and dad, family discipleship starts with you.
And it’s not about just keeping the rules. God says, “I want you to love me with all your heart.” It’s not just about giving the appearance of morality. It’s not just going through the motions of religion. It’s about having a love for God that shapes everything in your world and the world around you. It affects how you act, it affects what you say, it affects how you view people, and how you interact with others. Don’t expect your children to have a passion for God if you don’t have a passion for God.
Whenever you drive home after worship, if all you talk about is complaining how long the service went or how some of the songs were pitched too high, or what somebody was wearing, or how somebody treated you, don’t be surprised if your children grow up not wanting to go to church. The first step to developing a genuine love for God in their lives is to develop a genuine love for God in your life.
Because if you’re just going through the motions, your kids will pick up on that in a heartbeat. I heard somebody put it this way – “Children have been created by God with a military-grade hypocrisy radar.” (Matt Chandler) You can fool a lot of people into thinking God comes first in your life, but you can’t fool your kids.
Our kids know what we have a passion for. They know whether work is more important to us than God is. They know whether sports is more important to us than God is. They know whether entertainment is more important to us than God is. They know what we get passionate about, what we get excited about. They know what we spend most of our time doing. They see where our money goes.
The way you’re living your life and the way you’re ordering your life at home is communicating to your children what is of utmost value. That’s why God said step one to raising your children in the Lord is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Then, in verse 5, God said, “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.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
So, now we move on to the children. In this process of making disciples who live out the story of God, it starts with Mom and Dad and then it moves on to the children. It’s like there is this overflow of the love that we have for Christ that begins to kind of permeate our family.
But if we’re being honest, this is tough for most parents to hear because most parents feel stretched pretty thin. Between your work schedule and the kids’ school schedules, and all the homework, and the sports activities, and after-school activities and the birthday parties, sometimes it just feels like you’re constantly on the go.
And now you’ve got the preacher telling you that you need spend all this time teaching your kids about God, and you’re thinking, “When in the world am I supposed to find time to do that in the midst of the chaos that is my life? Do you have any idea what it’s like to try to raise three small kids? Or teenagers?
I love that God always meets us where we are. The Bible rarely, if ever, paints a picture of reality that is inconsistent with how you and I experience life. I want you to notice here in this passage that what God has done is not to add a whole bunch of stuff that you need to be doing. Spending time in the Word with your kids doesn’t have to involve flannel graphs and songs with choreography. Rather, God says, “While you’re doing what you’re already doing, talk about me, talk about my Word.”
God mentions four specific times that parents need to make use of. Now, these aren’t the only times you can talk with your kids about God, but these are times when it’s convenient to do that because we all have these four moments in our homes. We all have moments when we’re sitting together. We all have moments when we’re traveling. We all go to bed at night and we all get up in the morning. You don’t have to cram something else into your busy schedule because you’re already doing these things. And so, God says, “While you’re doing what you’re already doing, talk about me, talk about my Word.”
Let’s take a closer look at these four times.
1. When You’re Together at Home, Teach Your Children
“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.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
The time that most families sit together, or at least it should be, is dinner time. And I know we all have busy families, running here and there for activities at all hours, but coming together for dinner and talking as a family (with the TV off and cell phones put away) is so important and healthy.
Maybe at your house breakfast is the one meal where everyone is home. Or maybe it’s dinner. Whatever meal it may be, use that opportunity with your children. Maybe read a different verse from the Bible each day and talk together about what it means. Maybe get a copy of a Family Devotional Bible and read a short devotional.
Or maybe just ask one question at each meal. There are a lot of websites that can provide you with lots of ideas, but here are a few:
- If someone asked you “who Jesus is” what would you say?
- What is your favorite book of the Bible and why?
- If you were going to be a missionary, what country would you like to serve the Lord?
- If you were completely blind but could somehow see for one hour each week, how would you spend that time?
- How did you help someone today and how did someone help you?
If meal time doesn’t work for you, use some creativity and try finding another time when you know everyone will be present in your home.
2. When You Travel Together, Teach Your Children
“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…walk by the way.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
Now, of course, most of us don’t walk with our kids. But we do drive. Have any of you have driven your kids somewhere this week? I’m guessing you’re driving your kids everywhere. It’s another opportunity to hold some of those spiritual conversations.
In fact, I’m going to step out on a limb and guess that all of you who are parents are going to be in the car with your kids in about 30 minutes. I don’t know of any parent here who says to their kids, “I’m out of here, but you’re on your own. You better start walking now if you hope to be home by nightfall.”
So, what do you do with that time that you’re traveling home? It’s a great time to ask your kids questions. “What did you learn in your Bible class this morning? Did you learn anything about God? Was there anything in the sermon that was helpful to you?” Talk to your kids about God and God’s Word when you travel.
3. When You Go to Bed at Night, Teach Your Children
“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…lie down.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
Bedtime is a great time to read and pray with your kids. I know putting your kids to bed isn’t always relaxing, but there really is nothing better than ending your day with your children focused on the most important thing in your life – God. Choose age-appropriate devotions or Bible stories, and spend the last part of the day talking about how you’ve seen God at work in your lives that day.
4. When You Get Up in the Morning, Teach Your Children
“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…rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
This may not be an easy because not everyone is a morning person, but there are things you can do to start the day focused on Jesus and give God the first moments of your day.
Make use of books like “I Can Learn the Bible: 52 Scriptures Every Kid Should Know”. Read the scripture in the morning while you’re getting your kids dressed. Put post-it-note on the bathroom mirrors, or on the refrigerator.
The great thing about Deuteronomy 6 is that it encourages you to be creative and intentional about spending time in the Word with your kids, but it also reminds me I don’t have to do anything elaborate. The Word of God needs to be part of our daily comings and goings together. That’s how God has always wanted it.
I love how the New Living Translation translates this passage: “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
You don’t have to fit another 6 hours a week into your schedule. You just need to consciously remember to make use of those everyday moments to have spiritual conversations with your children to help them see what’s really important.
Let me give you an example of a family who took this seriously. One night, they were eating out at a restaurant, and the parents decided to use the minutes waiting for their food as a teaching time. They passed out an index card and a pencil to each child and had them write down a memory verse: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23).
Then they said, “Let’s watch this waitress and see what kind of worker she is. Do you think she is working with all her heart?” The kids never took their eyes off her. They started whispering to each other, “She was sure nice about bringing extra napkins.” “She has to stand up all the time, and she’s not crabby.”
That waitress never knew she was being scrutinized. But, by the end of the meal, those children not only had that Scripture memorized, but they had also had done an on-site study of its meaning. That couple was creative. They made a game out of learning God’s Word. More importantly, they took seriously God’s request for them to impress God’s Word on their children.
Family discipleship is done by creating intentional time during the everyday routine of the family’s life for the purpose of thinking about, talking about, and living out the gospel.
If you spend time asking your kids what they learned in school or how their football practice went, but you’re not asking what they’re learning about living for Jesus, you’re teaching them something. You’re teaching them what’s really most important to you.
We need to be reinforcing with our kids, “Living for Jesus is what’s really important. I want to know what is going on in your heart.” But that’s not going to happen by accident. It’s only going to happen when you recognize how important it is. And it can’t happen until you take the first step, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”