A survey released by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago revealed that the U.S. will likely no longer be a majority Protestant nation in years to come, due to a decline in affiliation with many Protestant churches. Between 1993 and 2002, the share of Americans who said they were Protestant dropped from 63% to 52%, after years of remaining generally stable and the percentage who said they had no religion rose from 9% to nearly 14%, and many are former Protestants. (Chicago Tribune, July 21, 2004)
Pope John Paul II warned several U.S. bishops that American society is in danger of turning against spirituality in favor of materialistic desires, giving way to a "soulless vision of life." To fight this, the Pope argued, the U.S. church must study contemporary culture to find a way to appeal to youths. The American church must respond to the profound religious needs and aspirations of a society increasingly in danger of forgetting its spiritual roots and yielding to a purely materialistic and soulless vision of the world.”
Pope John Paul added: "An effective proclamation of the Gospel in contemporary Western society will need to confront directly the widespread spirit of agnosticism and relativism which has cast doubt on reason’s ability to know the truth, which alone satisfies the human heart’s restless quest for meaning." (Associated Press, May 28, 2004)
I believe that an effective proclamation of the Gospel will not only confront directly the widespread spirit of agnosticism and relativism but will also perpetuate the influence of the Christian faith. Today as we celebrate the 11th Anniversary of our Church and I would like to propose that we stop the decline of Christian influence in our society by effectively proclaiming the Christian faith and values starting within our family. Believers must strive to achieve the continuity of faith in God within the family. We often say to our children that education is the best heritage that we can leave them thus we encourage them to give their best in their studies. But I say, faith in God is the best heritage that we can give our children when we leave them behind for the future.
Please open your Bibles to Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and let us find out why and how we can leave a heritage of faith in God to our loved ones. The title of this message is “A Heritage of Faith.”
1These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. 4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:1-9, NIV)
Why is faith in God the best inheritance for our children?
God promised the Israelites a land of their own but He gave those commands, decrees, and law to observe as they live there. Why?
1. ESTABLISHES GOD’S AUTHORITY (v. 1)
1These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess,
Commands, decrees, and laws imply authority and direction. People need authority and direction to be able to live peacefully. Absence of authority will result to anarchy. Disorder and chaos make our existence very unpleasant. The Bible says that observing the commands, decrees, and laws is a demonstration of our fear of God. Fear of God is the feeling of reverent regard for God, tempered with awe and fear of the punishment of disobedience. Fear of God should be practiced by us, our children, and our grandchildren. God should be an absolute authority in matters of life and death.
Relativism is the thesis that all points of view are equally valid although varying according to circumstances, persons, and cultures. This amounts to saying that all moralities are equally good; that all beliefs, are equally true. They all deny that any standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.
Some of the results of this ideology are the allowance of same-sex marriage, the validity of all religions, and the respect of all varying opinions like abortion, divorce, gambling, and pre-marital union regardless of their morality. As a result, confusion and disunity occurs in our society. When God created us, He established His authority by setting commands, decrees, and laws. Disregarding those boundaries is a rejection of His authority over our lives which will eventually result to spiritual, moral, and political anarchy.
To prevent this from happening, let us teach our children that absolute truth and authority rest on God and His Word. In this way, they cannot be persuaded by worldly values and rebuke the arrogance of the relativist.
IN THE ABSENCE OF PARENTAL LEADERSHIP, some children become extremely obnoxious and defiant, especially in public places. Perhaps the best example was a ten-year-old boy named Robert, who was a patient of my good friend Dr. William Slonecker. Dr. Slonecker said his pediatric staff dreaded the days when Robert was scheduled for an office visit. He literally attacked the clinic, grabbing instruments and files and telephones. His passive mother could do little more than shake her head in bewilderment.
During one physical examination, Dr. Slonecker observed severe cavities in Robert’s teeth and knew that the boy must be referred to a local dentist. But who would be given the honor? A referral like Robert could mean the end of a professional friendship. Dr. Slonecker eventually decided to send him to an older dentist who reportedly understood children. The confrontation that followed now stands as one of the classic moments in the history of human conflict.
Robert arrived in the dental office, prepared for battle.
“Get in the chair, young man,” said the doctor.
“No chance!” replied the boy.
“Son, I told you to climb onto the chair, and that’s what I intend for you to do,” said the dentist.
Robert stared at his opponent for a moment and then replied, “If you make me get in that chair, I will take off all my clothes.”
The dentist calmly said, “Son, take ’em off.”
The boy forthwith removed his shirt, undershirt, shoes, and socks, and then looked up in defiance.
“All right, son,” said the dentist. “Now get on the chair.”
“You didn’t hear me,” sputtered Robert. “I said if you make me get on that chair, I will take off all my clothes.”
“Son, take ’em off,” replied the man.
Robert proceeded to remove his pants and shorts, finally standing totally naked before the dentist and his assistant.
“Now, son, get in the chair,” said the doctor.
Robert did as he was told, and sat cooperatively through the entire procedure. When the cavities were drilled and filled, he was instructed to step down from the chair.
“Give me my clothes now,” said the boy.
“I’m sorry,” replied the dentist. “Tell your mother that we’re going to keep your clothes tonight. She can pick them up tomorrow.”
Can you comprehend the shock Robert’s mother received when the door to the waiting room opened, and there stood her pink son, as naked as the day he was born? The room was filled with patients, but Robert and his mom walked past them and into the hall. They went down a public elevator and into the parking lot, ignoring the snickers of onlookers.
The next day, Robert’s mother returned to retrieve his clothes, and asked to have a word with the dentist. However, she did not come to protest. These were her sentiments: “You don’t know how much I appreciate what happened here yesterday. You see, Robert has been blackmailing me about his clothes for years. Whenever we are in a public place, such as a grocery store, he makes unreasonable demands of me. If I don’t immediately buy him what he wants, he threatens to take off all his clothes. You are the first person who has called his bluff, doctor, and the impact on Robert has been incredible!” – James Dobson.
7The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. 10They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11, NIV)
2. SECURES OUR SAFETY (v. 2)
2so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.
Notice that complying with the commands, decrees, and laws of God will also result to longer life time. Commands and decrees serve as boundary by which our safety is defined. If we go beyond God’s commands and laws then we are stepping on dangerous land. God’s commands and decrees serve as fences that tell us how far can we go and still be safe. Therefore the absence of God’s Word in our lives, is a life in the wilderness on our own and unprotected.
Our families need protection and our presence will not always suffice to make this happen. Most of us are afraid to release our children because we do not know how far will they go and we are wandering if they are not walking on dangerous ground. I believe the best protection that we can provide our children is helping them learn the commands, decrees, and laws of God. God’s laws and commands will equip them to know the difference between right and wrong; evil and good; and appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
9How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. 10I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9-11, NIV)
3. PERPETUATES OUR GENERATION (v. 3)
3Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.
Notice that as the Israelites obey carefully God’s commands, it was promised that things will go well with them and they will increase greatly in number and wealth. Sometimes we hear people say to someone who have demonstrated a good example or behavior, “may your tribe increase.” Or at times, we say, we seldom see an individual with an exemplary behavior and convictions. It is true. And the number is decreasing if we are not going to do something about it. Their growth does not happen automatically, we must be intentional in terms of their significant influence. Raise a life founded on God’s Word or guided by Christian values and morals.
"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. (Matthew 12:33, NIV)
Do you want to see more Christian influence in our society? Begin sowing the seed of Christianity in our homes and our tribe will increase. Our homes are people factory. We manufacture what kind of behavior and character our children will have.
4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4, NIV)
How can we leave a heritage of faith for our family?
1. Parents must set an example. (v. 4-6)
4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
Take note that before they can impress on their children the commands of God, the adult must first take them upon their hearts. They were to love him totally (v. 5). The exhortation to love "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" is not a study in faculty psychology. It is rather a gathering of terms to indicate the totality of a person’s commitment of self in the purest and noblest intentions of trust and obedience toward God. The parents must therefore demonstrate their total commitment of self in the purest and noblest intentions of trusts and obedience toward God.
5I know that you sincerely trust the Lord, for you have the faith of your mother, Eunice, and your grandmother, Lois. (2 Timothy 1:5, NLT)
ILLUSTRATION Two families from the state of New York were studied very carefully. One was the Max Jukes family and the other was the Jonathan Edwards family. The thing that they discovered in this study is remarkable: like begets like. Max Jukes was an unbelieving man and he married a woman of like character who lacked principle. And among the known descendants, over 1,200 were studied. Three hundred and ten became professional vagrants; 440 physically wrecked their lives by a debauched lifestyle; 130 were sent to the penitentiary for an average of thirteen years each, 7 of them for murder. There were over 100 who became alcoholics; 60 became habitual thieves; 190 public prostitutes. Of the 20 who learned a trade, 10 of them learned the trade in a state prison. It cost the state about $1,500,000 and they made no contribution whatever to society.
In about the same era the family of Jonathan Edwards came on the scene. And Jonathan Edwards, a man of God, married a woman of like character. And their family began and they became a part of this study that was made. Three hundred became clergymen, missionaries, and theological professors; over 100 became college profs; over 100 became attorneys, 30 of them judges; 60 of them became physicians; over 60 became authors of good classics, good books; 14 became presidents of universities. There were numerous giants in American industry that emerged from this family. Three became United States congressmen and one became the vice president of the United States.
• Example in your conviction – principle and morality.
• Example in your practice – prayer, meditation, and worship.
• Example in your lifestyle – speech, discipline, and relationship
2. Impress God’s Word to your family.
Impress – carries the idea of using pressure on so as to leave a mark; to implant firmly in the mind or fix in the memory.
6These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:1-9, NIV)
20In the future, when your son asks you, "What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?" 21tell him: "We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders-- great and terrible-- upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. (Deuteronomy 6:20-23)
4We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD. We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did. 5For he issued his decree to Jacob; he gave his law to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, 6so the next generation might know them-- even the children not yet born-- that they in turn might teach their children. 7So each generation can set its hope anew on God, remembering his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. (Psalm 78:4-7, NLT)
3. Pray for your family.
It is possible to move men through God by prayer alone. - J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-- to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:10-12)
IN ADDITION TO THE SAINTS in Scripture, we have nearly 2,000 years of history that can and should be used as challenges to piety and faith. We Protestants have been so concerned about avoiding the veneration of the saints that we often have bypassed a rich heritage, a rich heritage of faith. Just as the book of Hebrews gives a roll call of believers, so we can look to countless examples of equally courageous lovers of God. —Harold Myra, Christianity Today, October 22, 1982
Let us not bypass that rich heritage of faith left by the early believers of Christ. Let us perpetuate this heritage by making sure that we practice them faithfully and instilling them to the next generation especially our own children and the succeeding generation.