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February 2009

Covenant Living: Discipleship

"And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 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. " (Deut. 6:6-7 )

A few months ago we began a series of lessons on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 which was the classic Call to Worship for the nation of Israel. I noted when we began that there are six principles in this passage which, if we are a bit creative, can all begin with the letter "d". For example, the first principle we looked at came from verse 4 which says, "The LORD our God, the LORD is one." This is a statement about the nature of God. In other words, it is a doctrinal statement. We can learn from this that if one of the first things said in the classic Call to Worship is a doctrinal statement about the nature of God, then doctrine is very important indeed. We should be doctrinal people.

The second word which begins with the letter "d" comes from the next phrase in this passage which says, "You shall love the LORD your God." Doctrine is important, but in all of our studies about God, we must not fail to love God. We must be devoted to him. God is a person, not merely a theological concept. We should be devotional people.

This month we want to continue with our study of this passage. Our third principle comes from the next phrase in this text which says, "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 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" (Deut 6:6-7 ). Another word for "teach" is disciple (That's our third "d"). To disciple someone is to teach them. It is to convey truth and information to others. It is to teach others how to live the Christian life.

Teaching others is fundamental to the task we have been given by the Lord. In the Great Commission, the Lord tells us to "make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:18 ). The amazing thing about learning the things of the Lord is that it is a life-long endeavor. I have been studying the Bible as a pastor for over 20 years, and I am still learning! This is why we want to provide valuable Sunday School lessons for all ages, Scriptural sermons during our Sunday morning worship, and fellowship groups for men, women, and youth as avenues for discipleship.

In context of our passage, we could ask, "Who is it specifically that is to be discipled?" The passage is clear: it is the children. "You shall teach them diligently to your children." Believers of all ages are to continually be studying and learning the things of the Lord, but passing on the faith to the next generation is extremely important. Our Children should be taught the important stories and teachings of the Bible. After all, it is God's inspired Word! But, in addition to this, the Reformed Church has a wonderful tool for the discipleship of our children in the Heidelberg Catechism. The Catechism is based upon three very important things: The Apostles Creed, The Ten Commandments, and The Lord's Prayer. With a Sunday School program that goes systematically through the Bible and a Catechism program which studies the basic teachings of Christianity, our children have a great opportunity to be discipled in the things of the Lord.

But another question could be asked: "Who is to do the teaching?" The text says, "You shall teach them diligently." Another way of asking the question is, "Who's the 'You'"? In context, it is quite clear that the 'you' is the parents, and, in particular, the fathers. Obviously, this does not mean that ministers or teachers other than parents can't play a big role in the teaching of children. But what it does mean is that it is a primary responsibility of parents to see to it that their children are taught the things of God. We must never assume that our children will "just pick it up" any more than we should assume that they will get good grades in school with no help or motivation from parents. Parenting is a responsibility before God and it is one all parents should take very seriously.

There is one more point from this section of Scripture that I would like to note. Consider when this teaching of the children is to take place. The passage says, "and [you] 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." When you think about it, that's pretty much all of the time! We can speak of the things of the Lord when we are sitting around the house, going somewhere, lying down at night or getting up in the morning. I remember a TV commercial from a few years ago. There was a boy sitting in the kitchen, eating a bowl of cereal and reading the cereal box. Then, the father walks in, gets himself a bowl of cereal, fluffs open the newspaper and begins to read silently to himself. All that you hear is the clanking of spoons against bowls as the boy and the father quietly eat breakfast. After a few moments, a voice-over says, "Another lost opportunity to talk to your kid about drugs." We could say the same thing, only instead of drugs, it could be the things of the Lord. Never miss an opportunity to speak to a child about the things of God.

The People of God should be a discipling people. Each of us should seek to be disciples ourselves and should seek to disciple others. And we should particularly see to it that the next generation of the Church is taught the things of God as well.

 

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