Good morning to you all! Turn with me in your Bibles to Deuteronomy, chapter 6. We’ll be looking at verses 1 through 9. Once you arrive at Deuteronomy, chapter 6, I invite you to stand with me in the honor of reading from God’s Word. Would you stand with me? Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 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. 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.
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.”
As you’re being seated, let’s go to the Lord in prayer.
Father, what’s really at stake when we think about family discipleship is the very message and the very fabric of the gospel that you are mighty to save. Lord, we endeavor to not lift up the family as the goal but, Lord, to lift up the gospel. Father, may you help us today to see that, to see clearly that family discipleship is about passing on the message that you’ve saved us. You’ve purchased and died for sinners. Lord, I pray to that end. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
In the 90s, there was a music group that broke onto the scene by the name of Milli Vanilli. Some of y’all are laughing because you remember them. They were cool. Some of you high school kids are rolling your eyes at me. They were cool! Their song “Girl You Know It’s True” just makes me want to break out and dance. It gained them international success and fame. They sold millions of dollars worth of copies of that one song.
Their acts were made up of these huge dance routines and all this light show. It was this incredible thing that just took the world by storm, if you will. There were clothing lines. They won a Grammy. But if you remember the story behind all the business, behind all the lights, behind all the dance routine, there was a terrible deception that went on. What was it? They were guilty of lip synching, right?
The very song that made them famous “Girl You Know It’s True”…their voices were not even to be found on the track. You see, after they had to give back over millions and millions of dollars worth of refunds and after they went through like 27 different lawsuits, the judge and everyone around concluded that Milli Vanilli was guilty of a gross form of fraud.
You say, “What in the world does that have anything to do with Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verses 1 through 9?” Well, I think, amidst the busyness of everything that goes on sometimes in the church and all the production sometimes, I think we are guilty of a particular type of deception. That is with regard to the role of raising up our children to be the vocal men and women of God, with regard to the responsibility of discipling our children that is unequivocally an assignment that’s been given to parents.
Anytime we pay someone else (a youth minister, children’s minister) to do the role that’s been assigned to us, it’s fraud. I know what you’re saying. At this point you’re going, “Are you saying we should fire Charity?” Charity is at the back going, “No. No, don’t! Don’t fire me.” Right? “Are you saying we should get rid of all youth ministers?”
Well, to explain that, let me grab hold of my opening illustration and say this. If Milli Vanilli’s voices were there, if they were present, if they were the primary voices and then there were backup singers, nobody would have said anything. It would have been okay. It’s the fact that they, as the primary singers, their voices, weren’t even present on the CD. That’s the issue.
Here’s the question I have for you, parents. When you think about discipling your children, are you the primary voice of discipleship in their life, or have you given that over to a coach, to a teacher? We mean as the church to come alongside you and to be back-up voices to help you, to help equip you, but the responsibility of that was given to you, parents.
What I want to do for this moment is to talk with you about family discipleship. But I can’t fit family discipleship into Deuteronomy 6, or I can’t make Deuteronomy 6 only about family discipleship, meaning to read the Bible well, you also have to see it in context. Deuteronomy, chapter 6, has a context. Kids, you remember the story of Moses. God’s people are in captivity. They’re in slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt. God brings them out, and he uses Moses to do so.
Then God gives Moses the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are to be a way that God’s people and he are to relate to one another. Moses has just delivered the Ten Commandments, and now he is going to give us the purpose behind the Ten Commandments, and then he is going to preach one of them. The purpose behind the Ten Commandments comes at verse 2. “…that you may fear the Lord your God…”
The purpose of the Commandments is for fear of God. If you guys keep me around long enough, I’d love to preach a sermon (I’m begging you at this point) on fear of God to walk this out further. There are several different types of ways people can fear God, and there are several different components to fear of God. We won’t go into them all, but perhaps you think of fear of God in the sense of trepidation, like what happens to Adam and Eve when they’re standing after they bit the apple. They’re standing there, and they’re afraid, shaking, if you will. That’s a form of fear of God.
Perhaps you think of Moses when he is talking to the Lord in a burning bush. The Lord tells him, “Take off your sandals.” There’s a sense of reverence that accompanies the fear of God. Maybe a component of fear of God. We hear the text often. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” We don’t have the time to go into all of that, but I would say this.
Part of fear of God is being intimately connected with God’s omnipresence. Omnipresence and fear of God go hand-in-hand, meaning what it means to live in fear of God is to live our lives as if God is watching us. Because God is everywhere and because God sees all, he indeed is. That’s what it means.
Children, what that means is Mommy, Daddy, or those sitting around you, what we want to say to you is it’s really important what we do, even when nobody is around. It still matters because God sees us. That’s what it means to fear God, a sense of paying attention, a sense of being careful, a sense of awe. When we think about fear of God, our problem is that familiarity breeds content.
If I put it to you like this, a man is working at a construction site. He begins to work a bulldozer for the first time. When he first walks up to this machine, he looks at it and goes, “Man, this thing is awesome. It’s huge.” He climbs in it, and he is looking around. It’s precisely because he doesn’t understand it fully yet (he is not completely familiar with it yet) that he recognizes the power of this machine. He follows the steps. Step one, step two, step three. He has a healthy sense of fear.
That’s day one. But on day 360 when he finally has an accident after he climbs in it… Because he is familiar with it, because it’s become commonplace with him, that familiarity makes him lessen the power. He is not thinking as much about how powerful. He doesn’t have a fear of how powerful this machine is and has an accident.
The question then I would pose to you is…Is the machine’s power any less dangerous on day 360 than it was at day one? No. The familiarity breeds content. What I would pose to you is…Is God any less dangerous now than when he flooded the earth and bodies were floating in the water? Is God any less dangerous now than when the man puts his hand out just to steady the ark of the covenant that has God’s presence and falls down dead? Is God any less dangerous now than then?
Is God any less dangerous now than when Ananias and Sapphira tried to hide sin from him, and he strikes them down dead? Is God any less dangerous now than when he was then? Is God any less dangerous now than when he broke the back of his Son and killed him because of sin? Is God any less dangerous? The answer is no. He is not. He is not to be played with.
For those of us who believe in him and who have walked with him… Unbeliever, I would say this is reason for you to repent and be saved. For those of us who have walked with him, I think there’s a sense of awe and wonder. Because of that awe and wonder, we love him. We know he is awesome and big. We love him for that reason. My question to you is…Do you have a proper fear of God when you gather together to worship corporately or what you do alone in your house? Have a proper fear of him.
You know, you’ve always heard it said, “It’s better to be feared than loved.” That’s a secular statement. I think Jesus wants both. I think he wants our reverence, he wants our fear, and he wants our love. It says the fear of God is the purpose behind the Commandments. Then he is going to pick one of the commandments up, and he is going to preach it.
In particular, it’s the first commandment. Not only is the purpose of the commandment to fear God, but then it’s going to come along with a promise. That is if you fear God and you do what he commands, there’s a blessing that comes along with it. What’s that blessing? Well, it’s going to go well with them in the land to which they’re going over to possess.
Verse 2: “…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.” God is looking, and he is saying to them, “There is a blessing for keeping my Word.” When God’s Word prospers, they prosper. He says there’s going to be a blessing. What’s the blessing? Perseverance of identity. He is going to keep their identity amidst a wicked and evil generation. That’s the blessing. “I’m going to keep your identity.”
How is he going to keep their identity? He is going to keep their identity through the family. God looks and sees the family as a means of a blessing for keeping the identity of his people. God sees the family as a blessing. We see the family as an inconvenience. God sees the family as a conduit by which our faith is passed on from one person to the next. That’s how we preserve ourselves.
I mean, have you considered what is it we have to offer the world? Is it stuff? Is it money? Houses? All of those things will go away. What we have to offer the world is our worldview, our faith. The way we will preserve that is through the family. Our perspective on the family (I’ve heard it said) is, “One for me; one for you. Thank the Lord we’re through.”
It’s true that Muslims understand this point. They understand it well. If you think about the classical sense of the way of the Muslim belief according to their own scriptures, they are planning to spread, and they’re planning to spread through proselytization, sharing their faith. According to their scriptures, they’re planning to spread also through force.
Then finally they’re planning to spread… They get this right! They understand this. We don’t. They’re planning to spread their faith by means of children. They have big families, because they want to see their faith preserved. Christian, right now we’re not having enough children to see our faith sustained. But God sees the family as a means for preserving the faith. The conduits by which our faith is passed on is one father being faithful to sit down and to tell his sons about the goodness of God and how mighty God is to save.
There’s a blessing that comes along with it. God’s Word prospers. We prosper. Then he is going to pick it up, and he is going to preach one of the commandments. “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” I’m going to stop. This is the commandment. He is not talking in terms of being how God the Father relates to the Son and the Holy Spirit. Here he is talking about the exclusivity of God.
There’s no other God like God. He is the only one. The way we teach this in Next Gen is to say, “God is best, he gives what is best, and he knows what is best.” That’s the way we teach it over there to the kids. Really what we’re getting after is the supremacy of God. There’s no one better than him! There’s no one who has the quality of character. There’s nothing else better that he could give us other than himself. There’s nobody like him. The supremacy of God. God is what is best, he knows what is best, and he gives what is best.
That’s the first commandment. Now follow with me here, because what comes after that first commandment is the natural consequence. If he really is God of the universe and if he really is the only one, then what follows is a natural consequence of that reality. Verse 5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
This is natural. If he is who he says he is, this is what he would demand of us. Do you hear that, unbeliever? He is your Creator. Because of that, because there’s no other God like him, he demands this of us. What follows then in verse 7 is also a natural consequence, meaning the context for how we’re going to talk about family discipleship comes out of the first commandment.
Because God is the Supreme Being above all things, because of that, because he is one and he is best, “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.” Teaching our children about the supremacy of God is just a natural consequence from who he is. The tangible way we demonstrate God is solely Lord over our lives is by teaching our children.
Let me say it in the negative way. If you don’t teach your children about the supremacy of God, it’s probably because you really don’t believe he is supreme over all things. If a single person were to come to me and say, “Hey, I want to know about how to have a good family,” perhaps I would start talking with them (and I would) about family discipleship.
I’d start talking with them about prayer. I’d talk with them about time together as a family. But behind all of that is this press toward the Supreme Being. God is supreme over all things. Because of that, you should do these things. The driving force behind us doing all of this is the fact that we believe in the reality that God is best. It’s comprehensive.
“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.”
It should be in everything you do! Parents, this is what we’re after. In everything we’re trying to demonstrate to our kids a theology of, “Son, God rules over me and all of my life. So you can see a theology of what I believe about God and how that controls how I handle money, what I believe about God and how that controls how I treat you.” All of that! We’re trying to demonstrate that comprehensively to them.
We don’t want a secular/sacred split, meaning somehow what I do at church matters to God, but what I do in other areas of my life doesn’t matter to him. A good way to produce a kid who doesn’t love Jesus is to have that split in your heart, in your life. What we’re trying to do is show a comprehensive nature that God is supreme over all things. Because of that, he reigns over it all.
One of the ways we want to talk about this with parents is we’ll say, “First be intentional with your time.” Make sure you’re spending time catechizing and talking with them and examining where they’re at in the faith. We do this in education. We look at a student who perhaps is in the twelfth grade and can only read on like a third-grade level. We look and say, “Something is wrong.” We take assessment.
We do that in sports world. If you’re in high school playing basketball and you can’t dribble with just one hand, we say, “Look, you’re behind.” Parents, we should do this to our children as well. We should look into their lives and examine and try to figure out where they’re at and how we can take time and disciple them. Not only that, we want to think about moments. We want to be faithful with our children with just different moments that go on in their lives.
As they fall down, it’s a good opportunity to talk to them about the goodness of the Lord even when things are going badly, right? In all moments of their life (and please hear me), if we’re not faithful with the day-to-day small moments, when the big purity talk comes up, don’t expect to be able to have the authority to shepherd then.
We want to be faithful in all of life to sit down with them and point them toward the supremacy of God. Then not only that, we want to talk about the milestones in their life. We want to celebrate what God is doing and what he has done. We want to remember how God has brought us through difficulty.
We want to have those moments in their life where you’re getting together with them and pointing to reasons to celebrate God and reasons to remember when he has brought us through difficulty. So time, moments, and milestones, but all of it comprehensively is us just continuing to point to God is best.
Here’s a radical point that comes along with this. When a child looks and he obeys Mommy or Daddy, what’s going on there is that there should be a one-to-one. Mommy and Daddy are so obeying God that when a child obeys Mommy and Daddy, it should be the same as them obeying God. You say, “That’s radical.” I agree. Look with me at Ephesians, chapter 6.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ’Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ’that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’” Did you catch that? That’s exactly a similar phrase we find in Deuteronomy, chapter 6.
Oftentimes you’ll hear something like this said from Dad. “You’d better obey me. You’d better listen to me. Do you want to live long? You’d better obey me. Something weird is going to happen. A plane is going to come out of the sky. It’s going to fall. It’s going to hit the ceiling, and that speaker is going to fall off and fall on your head. You’d better obey me. Do you want to live long? Obey me.”
What’s going on here contextually is in Ephesians 5 (before chapter 6) the husband is living his life like Christ. He is living in a sacrificial way, so he is painting the gospel with his life. Then Mom is submitting in a certain way. She is submitting in the way the church is supposed to submit to her Savior. So she is painting the gospel.
The assumption then once we get to chapter 6 is that when the child obeys Mom and Dad, Mom and Dad are so obeying the gospel that the child is obeying the gospel. When the gospel prospers, we prosper. What’s at stake in our family discipleship is the very keeping and upholding and perseverance of God’s people by means of the gospel. That’s what’s at stake.
It’s something more than trying to make sure your daughter doesn’t get pregnant. It’s something more than trying to make sure they don’t end up bad people. What’s at stake is the preservation of God’s people through the gospel. That’s what is at stake here. It’s the preservation of the message of deliverance. If we were to flip back to Deuteronomy 6 again and we were to turn over then to verse 10, we’d find out this is what he wants them to remember.
“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ”
Don’t forget that God is mighty to save. He saves you in such a fashion that you didn’t even have to. That’s what he is saying to them. “You didn’t even have to build the city.” It was that good of a salvation. He purchased you, saved you, and he was mighty enough to do that where you didn’t even have to lift a hand. How does the family fit in that? Well, then verse 20.
“When your son asks you in time to come…” It’s a good thing! The kid is looking, and he is seeing Daddy live out stuff. It’s making him ask questions. It’s a good thing! “’What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ’We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.’”
God is mighty to save. That’s what’s being passed on to the son. God is mighty to save. As I’m concluding here, let me help you see this even more so. In the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve are created in perfect harmony with God. They mar that harmony by rebelling against God. This is where we think you’re at, unbeliever. You rebel against God. They sin against him, and so they’re put out, if you will.
But right there in Genesis we get what is called the proto-euangelion (the first gospel, if you will) where God sees sin, and then he kills an animal. He kills. Blood is shed so he can cover his children. It’s a picture of what Christ will do on our behalf. We sin. He kills his Son so that he may cover us. Why does that happen? To show a picture: God is mighty to save.
Cain then sins against his brother Abel. Then we see that sin is furthering. It’s increasing. It’s going on all the way to the point to once we get to the story of Noah, we know there’s evil and wickedness all over the earth, so much so that God fills the earth with water as judgment. His holiness is offended. He judges the earth. He pours water out.
But then there’s a message in there. God is mighty to save. How? He takes Noah and his family, and he puts them in a small boat, and they are protected from his judgment. It’s a picture of the cross, us being in Christ. The waters subside. The land is still wet. The boat has finally hit the land. They get off the boat, and we see…what? Sin. But the good news is God is mighty to save. He gives us the story of Abraham, and he says to Abraham, “I’m going to make you a nation. I’m going to give from your descendants a huge nation. You’re going to have multiple sons and daughters.”
Abraham figures, “Well, if you’re going to give me multiple sons, I at least have to have one.” So he tries to start getting one for himself. Through adultery and sinful circumstance, he tries to get a child for himself. Yet God demonstrates he is mighty to save. He gives him Isaac. Then he tells him, “Take Isaac out into the middle of the woods and kill him.” If you know redemptive history, if you know the Bible, you know at this point, if Isaac dies, it’s all over.
But then God demonstrates, “I’m mighty to save.” What he is saying to them is, “If this child dies, it’s okay. I’m mighty to save. I’ll raise him from the dead just to keep my promise.” It’s a picture of the resurrection. Abraham has Isaac. Isaac has Jacob. Jacob has 12 sons. Those 12 sons are the first picture we get of a family. They are dysfunctional. Does that make you feel better about your family? It does for mine.
They’re dysfunctional. They sell their brother off. Joseph gets sold off into slavery. He then goes, and he is in captivity. He is in slavery there in Egypt. But the good news is then there’s a famine that happens in the land, and his family is literally about to die. They get ready to go to Egypt, and they think this is their last hope. But what they meant for evil, God meant for God. God is mighty to save. Joseph is standing there, and through his forgiveness, the people persevere. His people persevere.
Then they go into Egypt, this small, ragtag family. They come out in the millions. As they’re coming out, they’re no longer just in spiritual captivity. They’re now in physical captivity, physical enslavement to Pharaoh. God delivers them through miraculous wonder and deed, and he says to them, “I am mighty to save.” That’s what’s going on here up until this moment. He wants them to make sure they continue to pass that story along.
Dads, you can do this. You can do this even if you’ve blown it. You can demonstrate by going to your kids and repenting of your sin and saying to them, “I’ve done all these things wrong, but God is mighty to save. Look at what he has done in my life now.” You can do this, single person. You can go, and you can tell the message of deliverance by spreading the gospel.
If we were to jump from here over into the New Testament, Ephesians, chapter 2, we see the bad news. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but God is mighty to save. In Christ Jesus, he has made us alive together with Christ Jesus. This is what is at stake. This is the message we hold onto and we proclaim to one another. May we be diligent to pass that along to our children. Let’s now bow to the Lord in prayer.
Lord, we thank you for your goodness. Lord, we thank you for your Word. Lord, we thank you for saving us, purchasing us. Lord, may we never move beyond that message. May the centrality of what you have done to save us and purchase us be always the thing that fuels our right living, our family discipleship, our love for one another, our gatherings together. May it all be centered around what you have done to save us. Jesus, we love you, and we thank you for your salvation. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.