Tell the Coming Generations
In 2006 the New York Times ran an article entitled “Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers.” The article cited a report that projected that, if the current trend holds, less than ten percent of children of evangelical parents will themselves be Bible-believing Christians. That is a sharp decline from the 65% of the WWII generation who followed their parents as believers, and even the 35% of the baby boomer generation. That report was followed by the 2010 book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, by Kenda Dean. The book reveals that, “though three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, and most can’t talk coherently about their beliefs” (CNN). Christian teens—like many Christian adults—have fallen into what Christian Smith famously calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” So these two reports tell us that either teens are abandoning Christianity or they are redefining it in unbiblical terms—and they are doing so in large numbers.
Some might think that information like this surprises followers of Jesus. It actually does not, perhaps because the Scripture is counterintuitive on this point. We tend to think that children are born innocent and simply need to be shielded from the evil influences of the world (however we define them). The Scriptures, however, teach that we are not born innocent, that when Adam disobeyed God in the garden he was acting as our representative, and that his sinful act broke the image of God in us so that we all come into the world broken and fallen. That’s why Jesus came: to restore what was broken, to redeem what was lost, to save what was ruined. He lived the life none of us could live so that we would be free from our empty efforts to gain God’s approval by our deeds. He died the death we deserve so that we don’t have to face judgment but could be welcomed as daughters and sons. And he rose from the grave to prove that there is none like him and that he is worthy of being trusted and followed.
But what does that mean for us who follow Jesus as we look into the faces of our children? They’re born into this world broken, bent away from God, in need of a Savior. What are we to do? Our text underscores our responsibility (vv. 4, 6): we are to make the next generation a priority in our lives, we are to do everything in our power to disciple them so that they too will be enthralled by Jesus and follow him all the days of their lives. How do we do this?
- Roles: who is responsible to disciple children?
- Implication underlying this text: Parents are primarily responsible for the discipleship of their children (vv. 3–5)
- Where was this commanded? Deuteronomy 6.4–9. Priority given to loving God and meditating on his word before discipling one’s children.
- Commandment carries over to NT: Ephesians 6.4.
- Not leaving the discipleship of one’s children to the church.
- Contra the modern notion of reaching parents through their children, the Scripture emphasizes reaching children through their parents.
- Ephesians 4.11–13. Christ has given shepherds who equip the saints for the work of serving. Part of that service for believing parents is the discipleship of their children. Thus part of the shepherd’s task is to equip parents to disciple their children.
- Implication: The church has a secondary–but no less necessary–role in the discipleship of its children.
- Philosophy precedes practice. Not doing children’s discipleship to meet cultural norms but seeking to fulfill God’s commands.
- Is a youth pastor necessary? No. Is Sunday school necessary? No.
- How do we decide what we will do? What will serve parents in the discipleship of their children?
- Stated: tell . . . the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders he has done (v. 4)
- Note the oscillation between the people’s sin and the Lord’s actions throughout this psalm. (See below).
- The oscillation points to the gospel. Christ is the final dial between the two points. Ultimately he ends the cycle of our sin.
- The means by which we disciple our children is by telling them about God, declaring his glory, recounting his wondrous deeds.
- Self-evident, right? Not so much.
- Illustrated: David and Goliath
- Typical SS lesson: no matter how small or insignificant or unloved or misunderstood you are, you can slay giants if you trust God.
- Not a true statement. Instead the source for much grief and guilt for those who don’t slay their giants (e.g., cancer).
- More fundamental problem: this lesson tells to the coming generations the glorious deeds of David, and his might, and the wonders he has done. It seems to focus on God (“David trusted God, so you trust God”), but in fact it turns our attention to David.
- Corrective: begin by asking, “What does this passage reveal about God?”
- God loves his covenant people and is concerned for their welfare. He is wise enough to know how to protect them from the enemy and is so strong that he can use anyone or anything to accomplish his purposes. A lesson like this inspires trust, even without the imperative.
- Furthermore since David typifies the coming Messiah, this story is a visible metaphor for what our King has accomplished in the face of our greatest enemy, sin. Unlike David, Jesus had to be slain in order to procure our victory, but (also unlike David), Jesus rose from the dead to vindicate himself and deliver his people from sin and death.
- Application: our curriculum
- Knowledge of the word (v. 7)
- Follows from the parents’/disciple-makers’ knowledge of the word
- But not knowledge for knowledge’s sake
- Hope in God (v. 7)
- Working to build a generation whose confidence is in our God more than ours is (cp. v. 8): a kind of God-filled, Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered confidence that impels them to live and die for his glory.
- Knowing the Bible means nothing without knowing our God. The point of the knowledge of the Word is hope in God. True for us and our children.
- Still another generation (v. 7)
- The people we want to hope in God are not just the ones in our classroom. We want so to communicate the glory of God ultimately revealed in the gospel of Christ to the next generation that their unborn children will hope in God!
- Relaunching children’s discipleship: Sunday, September 18
- Five Sunday school classes: nursery (0-2 yrs.), preschool (3-5 yrs.), lower elementary (1st-3rd grades), upper elementary (4th-6th grades), Jr./Sr. high school.
- Three classes during all or part of corporate worship: nursery, preschool, children’s church.
- Looking for 2-3 adults per class.
- Workshop for children’s workers: Saturday, September 10 @ 9:00 a.m.
Oscillation in Psalm 78
The People’s Sin The Lord’s Acts
vv. 9—11 vv. 12—16
vv. 17—20 vv. 21—31
v. 32 v. 33
vv. 34—37 vv. 38—39
vv. 40—43 vv. 44—55
vv. 56—58 vv. 59—72