Summary: Growth in the Word is vital if we are to share the Word with our families

Sermon Text: Psalm 78:1-8

September 9, 2001 -- Christian Education Sunday


I’m sure most of you have heard the story about the Christmas ham. It goes like this: One year, as mom prepared to put the Christmas ham in the pan, she cut a piece off one end. Her daughter was watching, and she asked, “Mom, why do you do that?” The mother thought for a moment and replied, “You know, I’m not sure. All I know is that my mom always did it that way.”

The daughter immediately went to Grandma in the other room. She asked Grandma if it was true that she always cut a piece off the Christmas ham, and if so, why. “I don’t know,” Grandma said. “I guess it was because my mother always did it that way.”

It wasn’t until the girl asked Great-Grandma that the truth came out. “Why did I always cut the piece off,” Great-Grandma snorted, “because my roasting pan was too small. Unless I did that, the ham wouldn’t fit.”

The point of the story is this: we all have traditions we value, whether we understand them or not. The things we learn from our parents are highly treasured. What our children learn from us is important. On the other hand, what they don’t learn is often disregarded as unimportant. What’s the most important thing we can hand down to our children? If there’s just one thing we could impress on them, what would it be? The answer to that question is simple: we would tell them about Jesus. The psalm writer speaks for us today. With firm resolve we, too, declare that WE WILL TELL THE NEXT GENERATION! 1) The Praiseworthy Deeds and 2) What We Ourselves Treasure.

1) Praiseworthy Deeds

“We will tell the next generation,” the psalmist says. That’s really a vow, a promise. What happens if that promise isn’t kept? What happens if we don’t resolve to tell the next generation? The gospel will be lost. The gospel of Jesus is lost from one generation to the next simply because it is neglected. It becomes forgotten. “How can that be?” you might ask. It happens when we adults become complacent. It’s easy for us to become comfortable and slip into a rut. That can happen even when things appear to be going well, or should I say it especially happens when things are going well.

The big point this psalm writer makes is that we are to tell others about the Lord. For that to happen we need to know what we’re talking about. In order to know what to say, we need to listen to God. Does God have our attention? Are we into his Word? Is your family in the Word of God?

Notice which member of the family is mentioned in particular? The psalmist says: “O, my people, hear my teachings, listen to the words of my mouth … what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.” He thanks all those fathers in the homes who did not let the story of God’s love become lost. He doesn’t thank the temple priest, the Levites, the pastors or teachers. He commends the dedicated parents, especially fathers. Well, dads, how are we willing to teach our children the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord? Or is that something you just leave up to your wives? Now, it’s wonderful to see wives and mothers taking an active role in their children’s spiritual education, but they shouldn’t be the only ones trying to teach these things in the home. Dedicated fathers and mothers are expected to teach their children at home. And fathers are to take the lead. In the Old Testament times God commanded it. It was that important.

It still is important. Learning about God’s eternal plan for us is even more important than learning how to walk, talk, or eat with a fork. It is more important than soccer or piano lessons. God is pleased when children learn about him at home. God wants parents to take the time to share Bible truths with their children. Don’t just think that once a week will take care of it.

Sometimes we might feel intimidated. This all seems like an undaunting task. Maybe some parents don’t feel qualified to speak to their families about the Bible. The truth is that most of us know more than we think about the “praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.” Can you tell your children the story of how Jesus died? Can you explain why he died? Can you apply that to yourself – do you believe you are a forgiven sinner in Jesus? Can you tell the story of the resurrection? Do you know what significance it has in your life? You may be a better teacher than you think! You understand what the Bible teaches. You know what God has done for you. You can apply those truths to your life. That’s really all it takes to be able to tell your children about praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.

Perhaps some parents have a hard time finding where to begin when it comes to family devotions. The best place to start is small. Do you pray together as a family before and after meals? Begin there. Learn a written prayer use a Scripture passage (like a Psalm), or hymn verse. However you begin, make sure to thank God for the day, the food, or whatever else might come to mind. Gradually work in a Bible reading or devotion.

And remember you’re not alone. Those of us with small children, we have been getting periodical mailings as part of our Cradle Roll material. This material is meant to help new parents get a good start in proclaiming the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.

Our Sunday school will resume again today. The material used in our Sunday school can be used in the home too. Many of the lessons have special take-home sheets, which can be used during the week. It has a summary of the Bible story the children have been learning as well as some advice and activities that will help moms and dads to reinforce the Bible truths at home.

2) What We Ourselves Treasure

These are just some simple ways to help teach the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord to the next generation. But none of this is worth anything if we don’t want it to be. The sad thing is that the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord – the message of salvation in Christ – can be silenced. If we are to proclaim God’s love and mercy, then it must be a priority in our lives. In order to tell the next generation, we need to treasure the message ourselves.

What I’m getting at is spiritual growth. And that’s a matter of attitude. What is your attitude towards your own personal growth in God’s Word? Can we be content to sit in church one hour a week, and expect that to get us through the rest of it? What happens when we walk out those doors and get on with the rest of our lives? What happens when something comes up and we need additional strength from God’s Word? Do we know where to find that strength? Do we care?

Attitude is key. What’s your attitude towards learning the Scriptures? Maybe you feel inferior. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable with all those other people. I don’t read well. I don’t know enough. I might look dumb!” Don’t feel that way. That’s not the proper attitude. Bible study is the chance for fellow Christians to gather around God’s Word and to listen and learn from the Lord. It is not a time to show off how much we know or to ridicule those who might not know as much. When we approach God’s Word with the confidence that we will learn something great, then we’ve got the right attitude. The whole purpose of Bible study is to grow in our knowledge of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.

This leads me to the other point. Some of us might feel a bit superior. “I’m not going to waste my time sitting with those simpletons. Why, I was instructed by Pastor So-And-So, I know everything I’ll ever need.” Again, that’s the wrong attitude. Remember what the psalm writer says, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.” In order to do that we need to learn to treasure the wonderful message of grace for ourselves – we need to continue to grow in our faith.

In order to dispel some of the misconceptions about Bible class, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to ask you to look up a couple of passages for us to consider. The first passage is John 3:16 on page 1650 in the pew Bibles. Four questions to consider: 1) What does this passage say? 2) What makes me sad? 3) What makes me glad? 4) What does it move me to want to do? This passage talks about how Jesus died for the entire world – all people. He had to die because we are all sinners. He died for us because he loves us. We’ll want to share this good news with others.

The next passage we want to look at is 2 Corinthians 5:21 on page 1799. Again, ask yourselves the same questions. This passage talks about Jesus as our substitute for sin. He suffered my death. He did this for me personally. I can’t help but thank God for his great love!

Do you see what we just did? We had a group Bible study, like the kind we have every week. It’s that simple! I have a feeling that some of us have gained new understanding of those passages and have learned to treasure them. That’s the blessing of Bible study. The Holy Spirit blesses our study as he leads us to treasure the Bible because it contains the priceless message of salvation.

Traditions and habits can be nice, but they are hard to break. Just ask Great-grandma about her Christmas ham. The best tradition or habit we can have is to grow as a family around God’s Word.

Whether we are young, old, or somewhere in the middle, we all possess the peace and joy of a loving Savior. God’s Word is ours. Let’s continue to gather around God’s Word both here and at home. After all, if we have one thing to leave behind here --just one thing -- let it be this: That we will tell the next generation about the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD. Amen.