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Passing on Our Faith & Heritage
F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Sermons -- Audio Version
Trinity VI - 07/11/10
Deut. 31:14-29; Psalm 96; Rom. 6:3-11; Mt. 5:20-26
How do we pass on our faith and heritage? Given that all persons, including our children, have a freewill and can rebel, and thus can reject their parental beliefs, how do we do the best possible job of making our Christian faith accessible to our children, giving them the best opportunity, motivation, and incentive to choose Jesus to lead them to the Father and to the Holy Spirit? How can we teach them to "trust" and "obey"? ....to stand on the Hand of God for their being, and to obey the Voice of God for their sense of importance and direction?
God told His people that they were out on the back side of the desert because He wanted to find out whether they would obey Him, even when the going got tough. God was putting them through a sifting process, to weed out those whose hearts were unfaithful, who would make a promise to obey, but then would not, who blocked the presence of the Lord in their own lives so that they could not experience the power and the word of God.
These would be persons who did not want what God was offering, even though they might be enticed at the beginning with the prospect of getting out of Egypt. They did not want to obey God for the deeper purpose of making them a people who would be a blessing to more than themselves, a blessing to the whole of the world's population. They did not want to become messengers for all the world to find freedom from their Egypts. They wanted God to be their servant, but they did not have it in mind to be the servants of God.
God was willing to be their servant. But He wanted them also to serve Him in this wonderful process of the redemption of the world. He was not re-enslaving them, He was leading them on to the highest possible creaturely calling -- servants of God and of our fellow man.
It is our obligation directly from God to raise our children to be His children. They begin being dependent upon us, but we must raise them up into the Hand of God, teach them to be dependent upon God Himself, no longer on us. And we must raise them up to the Voice of God as their Authority and Leader in life.
The time comes when they are, in that sense, no longer our children. They are to be children of God -- trusting and obeying God. And then we become brothers and sisters with our children -- equals before the same Parent.
The story of Jesus at 12 years old in the Temple suggests that we too, by 12 years old, should know who our real Father is, our Father who art in heaven.
The Hebrews had a very difficult time passing on their faith on to the next generations. We heard this morning from the mouth of God to Moses just before Moses was to die:
...this people will rise and play the harlot after the strange gods of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake me and break my covenant which I have made with them.
It does not seem to matter much how God wants to bless us, we think we know better what blessings will promote our happiness and welfare. But we are in every case wrong, and have demonstrated that over and over. The lesson, however, is not picked up by succeeding generations. Every generation, every individual, must go through the sifting process. And every culture must go through that same sifting.
The success of previous generations is no guarantee of entry into the Kingdom for their children. As we say, God has no grandchildren. You do not enter the Kingdom by being a child of a child of God. You must make that decision yourself, and then confirm it in the way you relate to God and to the rest of creation. It is all about personal relationship. You either build heaven with God and one another, or you build hell all by yourself.
A sociologist or an education expert might observe that the Hebrews had not provided sufficiently for their passing on of the Law of Moses. They read it only every seven years to all the people (as we learn in Deuteronomy just before our lesson). There is no record of the early Hebrews reading it regularly in local groups, as in the later synagogues. That left them vulnerable to the ever-present local pagan religions, it might be said.
That is partly true. But those desert people had phenomenal memories, and even today some of them memorize large passages of Scripture, whole books -- because they train their memories to do that from their youth up. Their bards and poets memorized their tribal histories which they would recite at campfires and celebrations. And these histories were memorized by many in the tribe as well. So the reciter could not make a mistake in the telling of the story -- he would be quickly corrected. The story belonged to the whole tribe, not just to the singer or teller of the story. The memory bank was a collective memory bank. Our reliance on printed and now digital information has left our memories poorly trained and poorly used.
And, the Hebrews did have the written law. So, there is more to the failure of passing on the Hebrew faith than poor education practices.
God tells Moses, "...I know the purposes which they are already forming, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give them." God had sworn an oath to the Hebrews to bless them with a new and prosperous land, but the majority of the Hebrew people kept taking what God was giving them and using it for their own rebellious and self-centered purposes. God was not pleased.
God could see, apparently by their own inner, and probably as yet unconscious, attitudes and purposes, that evil was being fomented among them. It would surface gradually and at first in a hidden way. But like a mold in the wooden foundation of a house, it would sooner or later show its devastating effect out in the open.
God could see that the spiritual foundations in many of the people were rotting already, and that these people, unless they repented, would end up creating their own self-destruction.
Because they continued to misuse His help, He would not rescue them. The only way to teach them was to let them have their way, and let them experience their own self-generated and self-destroying effects.
The effects of our rebellion and sin are not pretty. We are left then to the forces at work in the world, power struggle with no mercy or love. Only the law and grace of God can tame those forces of chaos. But if we have rejected the Giver of that law and grace, we leave ourselves vulnerable, sometimes to the worst the world has to offer.
We Westerners, with all our vaunted scientific development of education theory, psychology, and other attempts to make ourselves a replacement for the wisdom of God, are failing miserably. Secularized science has not given us the peaceable kingdom of earth, it has given us the most brutal and corrupt civilization in all history -- in the West, and spreading to all parts of the globe.
And we Christians are emulating the corrupted Hebrews, we have (once again) lost track of our own spiritual heritage, and are hardly passing any of the substance on to our children. In most denominations, we are losing our children to secularism or paganism at the rate of about 85%. After these children leave the family nest, they leave the Christian faith and probably never return.
That is child-abuse. We parents are to equip our children to survive their launching into life, and the long journey into maturity. But we are succeeding at probably less than 15%. And the quality of even that 15% is often dubious.
We have taken on the secular myth that secular science is "neutral" and not biased, that it goes by the evidence, by fact and logic. We have taken on the secular accusation that religion, especially Biblical religion, is biased, self-serving, unable to show intellectual, moral, or spiritual integrity. And so we have run from the public arena to practice our religion only within church walls.
There are wonderful exceptions to that dim picture, but they are the exceptions, not the rule.
The truth is that secular scientists are not typically neutral, they are often biased in the extreme. Its practitioners are often avowed and irrational enemies of Biblical faith, and have commandeered science to destroy Biblical faith. Destroy, not by legitimate research, discussion, and debate, but by subterfuge, dishonesty, and power.
Most of Western culture is controlled by persons who understand Biblical religion to be their worst enemy, and who will do whatever they can to destroy that Godly heritage. And most Christians remain oblivious, unaware, trusting the powers that be as perhaps mistaken, but generally honest. There is hardly a Christian leader one can name who has any sense of taking the offensive in the public arena.
But we must. Alan Keyes and Roy Moore come to mind, but there are only a small handful. And the media are orchestrated to keep them out of the public notice. They are too dangerous to the status quo.
So how do we pass on our Biblical faith to our children? It will not come from the top, it must come from the bottom up, from people like ourselves. There are many things that must be done, but here are two steps we must take:
1. We must teach our children, and illustrate it by our own behavior, that God holds the intellectual high ground, that there is no opposition between faith and reason, that faith and reason each require the other, that they work together, and that neither one will survive without the other.
Revelation without reason is, well... unreasonable. If you are unreasonable, the public rightly rejects your views. We Christians have given God the reputation for being unreasonable. That was a part of Satan's ploy, not a part of Godly revelation. God cannot be pleased.
And reason without revelation loses all moral quality. Truth no longer is an obligation, but just another weapon in the power struggle. Honest science cannot survive the loss of revelation and moral commitment to truth. We have today a science that has been coopted by evil forces for their own ends, not least in the production of mind-control, the use of reason to control, not set free. That mind-control has been a primary tool of our government-run failed education system.
Only a God who is understood to promote freedom of conscience and of truth-seeking will in the long run hold the imaginations and loyalties of the young people. Because America began that way, based on Godly and truth-seeking principle, our Declaration of Independence still inspires people all around the world.
2. We must recover parental control of educating of our children. A free market of ideas, which is the foundation of all science, will not survive government control of education. It will always drift toward mind-control -- to educate the population to vote the rulers back into office -- and to choose and like and to prefer their own slavery on a government plantation -- rather than the liberating challenge of honest self-government and the responsibility of freedom under God.
The love of parents for their children is one of the most consistent and powerful positive forces on earth. That is how God designed things. Government bureaucracies are set up by many of those who plan government activities -- to separate children from the support and authority of their parents, and to create a dependency on and obedience to -- civil government instead of parents. That is the globalist policy.
And, that is betrayal. It is the destruction of education, and the enslavement of the minds of our children. Government bureaucracies do not love your children. You do. And government bureaucracies cannot protect or nurture the faith of your children. You can.
Yes, there are many good Christian and other people working in government agencies and in our schools, whose presence helps to protect the children. But in the end, an evil system wins over the lives of the majority of the children. 85 %.
So we must do those two things: (1) Teach our children that God is an honest truth-speaker, and that we are to be honest truth-seekers, and (2) recover parental control of the education of our children.
God set the Hebrews free from slavery in Egypt, a slavery directly related to the power of government over them. And, as the conflict between God and Pharaoh continued, it was clearly a spiritual event. It was a fight between God and the pagan gods of Egypt.
We need God again to set us free -- in an America which began as, and had been, the most free nation on earth. No longer. That freedom was rooted and founded directly in the law and grace of God, and in no other primary foundation. It did not come out of secularism nor out of paganism. Our political order was, and is, always a spiritual event.
Only a people with a moral and spiritual unity have the power and authority to force civil government, with its near monopoly on coercive power, to be the servant of the people, not their taskmaster. Only a saved people, secure in the power and authority of God, can keep civil government on a constitutional tether. We live in a growing tyranny because we Christians are not raising children for God, we are raising 85% of our children for some version of the world, the flesh, or the devil.
That is child abuse. We must learn how to convey our Christian faith to the next generation, to our children. We otherwise send them out into an acidic world, which will eat away at their moral and spiritual integrity. It need not be that way.
And, given the general age of our congregation, it needs to be said that that includes grandparenting as well as parenting. We grandparents can contribute greatly to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual lives of our extended families. But we must learn how to do it both gracefully and aggressively. Like Jesus.
Psalm 96 gives us a picture of a healthy spirituality:
O sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord all the whole earth.... Declare His honor unto the heathen.... Tell it out among the heathen, that the Lord is King, and that it is He who hath made the round world so fast that it cannot be moved, and how he shall judge the peoples righteously... For He cometh, for He cometh to judge the earth.... and the peoples with His truth.
There really is no judge like God in all of pagan or secular history, there is no law or grace like His. Most of our children never learn that. The law and the grace of God are unique in all the world. We need to pass that theological and historical fact on to our children.
The Epistle, which points to our dying and rising in Christ, and the Gospel, which points to spiritual integrity in our relations with each other, tell us of those things which must happen in our own lives so that we can be adequate teachers of our children, and people of spiritual power in the public arena. Do not judge, confess your sins quickly, do not be misled by legalism. Our inner spiritual integrity is the foundation for child-raising, and for our public witness.
Father, Thy will be done on earth just as it already is being done in heaven. It is already happening. Make us the channels of your word and spiritual power to bring that about where we live. Enable us to pass on that truth and power to our families especially, and to our friends and neighbors, so that pagan and secular folks will be drawn to You and to your Kingdom of faith, love, and hope. In the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the name and authority of Jesus. Amen.
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