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Will Our Children Have Faith?

Deuteronomy 6: 4-9

Most of us are very much interested in learning how to help our children have faith in God,
and how to help them grow in their faith.
Making sure that our children have faith in Christ is an urgent need.
It is also a desire rooted deeply in Biblical faith.

At the end of four decades of frustrating wandering in the desert, Moses spoke to the Israelites
about what life would be like in the Promised Land.
They were about to be scattered throughout the land.
They would be confronted with and impacted by people whose values, lifestyles, and faith were
altogether different from theirs.
This is what our children face as they live in today's world.

It was essential to the Israelites that they devise a strategy for surviving and thriving as
the people of God in a hostile environment.
Ancient and contemporary Jews referred to Deuteronomy 6: 4-5 as the Shema.
It comprises the most important scriptural command that they would ever learn.
It's repeated at the beginning of each new day by those who seriously long to live a godly life.
Ever since Moses first spoke those words, parents who want their children to have a vibrant,
living faith in God have followed this command.

Let us look at three principles based upon this passage that will help your children to have faith.

The first is the principle of experience. (Verse 6)

Did you notice Moses' first concern?
Before parents can reasonably hope that their children will have faith in God, they must model their faith.
It must be "... upon your (own) heart," Moses said, "before your children
will ever try it out for themselves
."

Children watch their parents!
Children are extremely perceptive, and they quickly recognize whether there is a connection
between their parent's faith and the way they live.
Unfortunately, the failure of many Christian parents to effectively model their faith leads some children
to reject Christianity.
The children have seen a distorted version of Christianity.
They have never been exposed to the real thing.

At the close of a national youth conference in Washington DC, a questionnaire of 12 reasons
on why children raised in Christian homes might possibly reject the Christian faith.
Three of the top five responses related to the influence of non-Christian friends.
The remaining two of the leading five responses related to the breakdown of Christian influence.

"Hypocrites in the church" was the second most frequent response.
The fifth most frequent response was "poor Christian role models in my home."

Thomas Aquinas once told some students, "Preach Christ everywhere you go.
And if necessary, use words
."

That is good advice for parents, also.
Still, I don't think any of us are ever as good as our words imply that we are.
On the other hand, the Christ, we so feebly struggle to love, serve, and incarnate in our lives is not seen
by others in the way we live from day-to-day.

I suppose that our children always expect more of us than we can actually deliver -- in almost every aspect of life.
But when it comes to our Christian faith, there will never be any excuse for our own children concluding
that we are phonies, and that we never meant business with God.

The second guideline toward helping our children to have faith is the principle of exposure. (Verse 7a)

The KJV uses the two words, "teach diligently," while the New International Version
translates the Hebrew as "impress."
The literal meaning is "to say something twice" or "to repeat."
The Hebrew word originally referred to the sharpening of a blade or a tool by rubbing it repeatedly
against the whetstone.
The word evolved in its meaning: first, from the act of sharpening; then, to a piercing action;
and finally, to the process of teaching.

The basic idea of this verse then, is that by repeating the teachings of the Law over and over again,
parents will eventually drive it home in the hearts and minds of their children like a piercing weapon.
To this day, Jews celebrate the ancient feasts of Passover and Hanukkah -- in their homes
and synagogues, recalling every year the divine intervention of God in their history.

We, as Christians, regularly observe the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper,
and celebrate Christmas and Easter.
Every Sunday is Easter.
It's our way of telling the story of our salvation over and over again -- thereby keeping our faith alive.

Unfortunately, most contemporary Christian celebrations are largely confined to the church.
Consequently, relatively little is done in our homes, which is intended to keep our faith alive
in the minds of our families.

Believe me, I understand how Christian parents worry about "pushing" their children
to make a profession of faith.
But the solution is not to do nothing at all.

Christian parents, listen!
We pound into our children's heads the necessity of making good grades, and the urgency
of getting a good college education.
We repeatedly talk to our children about responsible social behavior.
We prod them toward success in everything they do.
We spare no expense to make them pretty, poise, popular, positive, and prepared to face the world
-- and apparently, we do it all with little or no reference to God, Jesus Christ, or to the Christian faith.

Parents, what have you done to prepare your children to face God and eternity?
What have you done to prepare your children for death when that moment comes to them?

The third way to help your children have faith is the principle of encouragement.
(Vs. 7b-9)

Everything a Christian parent does in the home should be directed
toward encouraging their child's personal salvation through Jesus Christ.

I believe that we have recently entered a new era in the Christian faith.

For many years, a church could expect its own children to declare their own personal faith in Jesus.
This has changed drastically in the last 15 years.
Christian parents have assumed a new posture.
For the most part, they expose their children to only mild doses of the Christian faith and religion.
For fear of being accused of using undue influence, many parents give virtually no encouragement
to their own children's declaration of personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Some parents are saying or expressly by their actions that so many options are available
to their children today -- just let them wait.
Parents are saying that there is a variety of ways to earn respectability, a reputation, and a reward.
They are saying that there is a whole host of religious options for which a person may choose.

But I tell you, on the authority of God's word, there is only one way to God -- and that is
through His Son, Jesus Christ.
To allow for any other way is wrong and deadly!
Your children will never become Christians by mere exposure to Christian faith
-- either in mild or large doses!
Neither is it enough to give your children "a little taste" of what the Christian life
is all about -- by enrolling them in Sunday school and Vacation Bible School, and making sure
that they attend "most of the time."

By its very nature, the Christian faith demands conversion.
And by virtue of your position, as the most influential person in their life, you owe it to your children
to see to it that they are presented with the good news of Jesus Christ.
In other words, you have a responsibility to encourage them, and to influence them to make
Jesus their personal Saviour and Lord.

Will your children have faith in God? In Christ?
In a very large measure, that depends entirely upon you!
So, tell me: if it's left entirely up to you, what's the answer to that question?

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@AOL