Transcribed and edited excerpt from the Father’s Day sermon preached on June 20, 2021
Notice the Lord’s covenantal purpose for Abraham in Genesis 18:18. When God calls Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and He tells him to leave his family, home, and land, He promises him that he will inherit the nations as his possession – not him specifically, but rather, his seed as the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice the Lord’s intimate knowledge in Genesis 18:19: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” God knows specifically how Abraham conducts himself with his household. Since Abraham has been conquered by the grace of God Most High, he is all in: he trains his servants, children, and those around him in terms of religion and the way of approach to the living and true God. The text stresses Abraham’s effort to command his children and household to “keep the way of Yahweh” and to “do righteousness and justice.” This is exactly parallel to the emphasis in Micah 6:8 where God says through the prophet Micah that “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
This ties into God’s command to Israel in Deuteronomy 6. The nation of Israel was to be regulated by the Word of God and not emotion, feeling, irrationality or criminality. Notice their central confession in verse 4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Verse 5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” In light of who God is and what He has done for us, this is the legitimate implication. Paul argues similarly in Romans 12:1. If Romans 1 to 11 is true, and it is – if Christ has saved us from our sins and justification by faith is a reality, the logically necessary implication is that you are to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.” You are to live in a certain way that is well pleasing in His sight. In terms of sanctification, you live like one who has been justified freely by God’s grace. But notice the necessity to internalize truth in Deuteronomy 6:6. It can’t just be catechetical – though catechism is important, it needs to be experiential too. It’s not just theory, but it’s also about application. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.” In other words, God’s activity on the plains of Moab, through Moses’ prophetic function, is preparing the children of Israel to take the Promised Land by conquest, is something that they hold on to, something that governs them, and something that they delight and rejoice in. Notice verse 7: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” There’s an individual emphasis in verse 6 that leads to a familial and social emphasis in verses 7 to 9. … But in terms of instructing our children, God does not say to do it if you think it might help, to do it if you think it might be beneficial, or to do it if you have the time. Brethren, there are certain things in life that you make time for, and you need to make time for instructing your children in the truth concerning the living God. You don’t just sort of tack it on or add it on. You don’t just say, “Well, you know, we didn’t get around to it today.” There are times for formal instruction. What I’ll argue for later is the use of a family altar. I don’t mean this in a papist sense. But in terms of gathering the family together, and worshiping God together, there should be those formal times and seasons where fathers and mothers instruct their little ones in the true and saving religion. Brethren, if we do not seek to address or counteract the prevailing philosophies of our generation, it will be ruinous. These poor kids—I don’t mean poor in the sense that they are judicially not sinners or not in Adam—but these poor kids are faced with threats and temptations that some of us weren’t! Our generation didn’t carry around phones, have access to the internet, or have all those things that can be used successfully, managed effectively, and be helpful in terms of life. It’s a wonderful way to find your way using GPS, but there’s a whole lot of things attached to those particulars that we need to guard our children against. And the way to do that is by instructing them in the truth of God’s Holy Word. So we need seasons of formal instruction at the family altar, but then informally too: when you rise up, when you walk by the way, when you lie down; when you go to the zoo, you point to the giraffe and you tell your little son or grandson, “Isn’t that an amazing thing that God made?” See, we seek by grace to “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). We don’t just say, we’ll let them figure it out…
The world is indoctrinating our children. The devil is active (1 Pet. 5:8). He has infiltrated all manner of places within popular culture and society. You can’t think that he’s not actively engaged in trying to corrupt your child with false religion, cults, occultism, humanism, and all the prevailing philosophies that are anti-God. If we as parents are not going to step in the gap and exercise the stewardship that God Most High has entrusted to us, then we need to repent and stop that attitude. And we need to understand that when it comes to our children, someone else is going to indoctrinate them if we’re not. This is a horrible situation that we are facing today and it is certainly not the case that parents can abdicate responsibility when it comes to this most crucial element in terms of the religious education of their children. …
Notice Joshua’s report in Joshua 24. Now that Israel has entered and conquered the Promised Land, they are now told to divide and retain the land. This is the emphasis in the latter chapters of Joshua. During the covenant renewal ceremony in Joshua 24, Joshua lays down the gauntlet as it were. He sounds like Jesus – “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matt. 12:30). He’s like Elijah – “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21). You can’t bring this half-hearted approach with divided attentions and think you are doing any good. Notice Joshua 24:14–15: “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” He’s not actually advertising those false gods as if they were an option out there. He is emphasizing that point that Jesus and Elijah made. He’s making the choice very clear before underscoring his own conduct. He goes on to say: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Now, you need to understand something, brethren: yes, you are busy men. I have been very encouraged over the years and very blessed to see the work ethic that is demonstrated in this church. It is a wonderful thing to see hardworking men, but you haven’t been tasked with invading Canaan, killing people, and breaking things. That is a full-time job. And nevertheless, Joshua was able to inculcate the fear of God in his children. He taught them the truth as it is in Jesus. With this idea that, well, I’m too busy – there are seasons to be sure that are extra busy – but don’t take it from your family. Rather, take it from yourself in terms of time: neglect your own situation before you neglect your wife and children. Joshua did this. He was faithful. He was a military commander tasked with dispossessing Canaanites from the land of Canaan. He didn’t do it through a Facebook campaign or through social media.
Matthew Henry makes the wise and sage observation: “Joshua was a ruler, a judge in Israel, yet he did not make his necessary application to public affairs an excuse for the neglect of family religion.” Again, I don’t want to bind anyone’s consciences: there are things, circumstances, and seasons of difficulty and trial. You certainly don’t need me to harangue you and say, “Oh, you’re just a terrible person.” But on the other hand, brethren, if we want to and if we believe that is good to instruct our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, we will make time for it. We will certainly seek by God’s grace to maintain fidelity in this aspect of family religion—again, understanding that if we’re not indoctrinating them, someone will be as someone who hates God, despises Jesus Christ, wants to shut churches, wants to put pastors in prison, and wants to engage in all sorts of mayhem.
Notice the assumption in the Psalms. In Psalm 22:30–31, we are told that a “posterity shall serve Him.” How could that be the case? It’s the case because a faithful remnant of Israelites took seriously the mandate from Deuteronomy 6 to instruct their children about God’s law and redemptive acts during the Exodus. As a result, David can say that a “posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation. They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done this” (Ps. 22:30b–31). We don’t want a one-generation church. If that’s all we’re gonna get, praise God, that’s better than not having any church. We want two, three, four generations – we want to see our sons rise up and go faithfully into the ministry of God’s Word. That’s not going to happen if we just passively and idly sit by and let the world train our children to despise God.
In Psalm 78:4–7, we see this emphasis again: “We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children. That the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children. That they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.” You see, there is something larger than just us. There is the passing of the baton through instruction in biblical doctrine that we are to give to these children. If we don’t value and prize that, we’re not going to operate consistently with the principle.
In Psalm 145:4, the same emphasis appears. “One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts.” Again, the psalmist assumes that God’s people who are blood-bought by the Lord Jesus Christ are going to do this. Men and women, I imagine that you have a hobby. I bet your children know what that hobby is, your delight in it, and your desire for it. I’m not suggesting that the Christian religion or biblical doctrine is simply a hobby when it’s far greater than that. But if the children know you like stamp collecting, they better know that you love the Triune God too. They better know that you subscribe to the Old and New Testaments, and that you affirm that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16). …
The following is from the sermon’s conclusion.
If we do not indoctrinate our children, someone else will. Brothers, I want to encourage you with every drop of encouragement I can muster: if you’re doing it, continue to persevere; if you’re not, start. And understand that it is in this that we honor God, and we pass on the best thing we can ever pass on to our children, the knowledge of God Most High.