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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Building a Strong Christian Family
Text:Deuteronomy 6:1-25 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Savior, Like a Shepherd, Lead Us 
Our Children, Lord, in Faith and Prayer                
How Shall the Young Direct Their Way?    
O Give Us Homes 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“Building a Strong Christian Family”
Deuteronomy 6:1-25
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the law of God – those two tablets of stone that we know as the Ten Commandments – all Israel was gathered before him. It was a family scene. All these families of Israel were still in the desert and were headed to Canaan. They would be in a land where the people would be hostile to them. They would also be in a land where if they were not careful, they would become corrupted by the evil culture of the Canaanites.
In other words, the Israelites, and their families, were in a situation very similar to ours. We too live in a society that has an increasing animosity toward true Christianity. Our society is willing to accept all sorts of false gods and false religions, but to have saving faith in Christ is considered to be an expression of ignorance and intolerance.
And, if we follow along and listen to the voices of our culture, we too, can so easily become indifferent and wander from the one true God revealed in Scripture. When Moses says in verse 4, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one”, he is referring to God as the one true God whom we know from other Scriptures as one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Because the people of Israel faced great challenges as they traveled through the desert to the promised land of Canaan, the Lord, in his gracious wisdom, sent Moses with the message we have read in Deuteronomy 6. It is a message just as relevant for us today as it was for the people of Israel back then.
In this passage Moses, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us a number of principles for building strong Christian families, families strong enough to resist both the animosity of the world and the seduction of the culture in which we live – for our culture strives to draw us and our children away, to draw us after the things of the world instead of the truths of God's Word.
The first principle for building a strong Christian family, whether for Israel and their situation so long ago or for us today, is recorded in verse 3 where Moses says: “Hear, 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.” Moses is telling us, as he told the Israelites of old, to listen to the Lord and obey him.
That is the first key for parents to build a strong family. As parents we must listen to God's Word and strive to obey it. Our children take notice and see whether we listen to the Word but don't put it into practice, or whether by God's grace we earnestly strive to put it into practice, with our heart, soul, mind, and strength even though, unfortunately, we so often fail.
That’s also why family devotions are so important. Reading the Bible together as a family is crucial. For many families, that time is especially opportune after eating a meal together. After being fed with a meal, so that we are nourished physically, we also read the Word of God, so that we are nourished spiritually.
One of the vivid memories I have of growing up in a Christian home is that of the family devotions that we had after supper every day. We always had to wait after the meal for my father to have a cup coffee and a Lucky Strike. I can still picture him inhaling the Lucky Strike cigarette, which is what took his life with lung cancer, at the age of 45. During that time, he and my mom talked about the events of the day, and my brothers and I listened quietly, knowing that their conversation would be addressed by the Word of God that my father would read after he had put out his cigarette.
I don't remember much about the actual reading of the Word, except that it was in the old King James English and as a child it was hard to follow the “Thee’s” and the “Thou’s.” But because it was done without fail after every supper, I realized that it was something important. I began to realize that it was more important than the conversation that led up to it, and that in many ways the conversation leading up to it anticipated the reading of the Word of God.
All of us who are parents are to set a crucial example by reading the Word of God with our children around the table, as well as other times. Both we as parents, and our children, need that structured, systematic reading of the Word of God.
Whole-Hearted Love for the Lord
A second key for building a strong Christian family is linked directly to listening to the Word of God and striving to put it into practice in our lives. The second key is there in verse 5 and 6 where Moses impresses on us the need to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.”
He emphasized the need to not only have the knowledge of God's Word in our head, but to also have that knowledge in our heart. The heart is the wellspring of life, and we are to love the Lord with our whole heart – with all that is within us – which is what he is getting at when he tells us to love the Lord “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
How do we do that? How do we love the Lord with whole-hearted commitment and devotion? One way is by remembering him, not forgetting all his blessings to us. We see that in verse 12 where Moses instructs the Israelites to “be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
Perhaps as Moses spoke to the people, some of them were thinking, “How could we forget the Lord? He brought us out of Egypt; he is leading us to the promised land. When we sinned by making the golden calf he punished us, but then he made new tablets for Moses to bring to us, so that we would know from his law how we are to live. How could we possibly forget about the Lord our God?”
But did you notice how Canaan is described? Did you notice in verse 3, how Canaan is described as “a land flowing with milk and honey”? That is a description of prosperity. The people of Israel would be out of the desert, far from the bondage of Egypt. They would be in a prosperous land, and few things can make us forget about God quicker than prosperity.
Look at the distractions that would come Israel's way there in verse 10 and 11. Those verses describe how Israel would receive a land with large, flourishing cities that they did not have to build. Verse 11 describes houses filled with all kinds of good things that they did not have to provide, wells that they did not have to dig, and vineyards and olive groves that they did not have to plant. With all these material blessings they would be well satisfied, so well satisfied with the gifts God was giving them that they could easily forget the Giver of those gifts.
Is it any different for us today? Materialism and the pursuit of “things” – not “needs” but “wants” – can so easily consume our lives, causing us to forget God. No wonder Jesus said that it would be harder for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
As you build your family, you naturally want to provide nice things for them. And there's nothing wrong in that, to a point. But if we are not careful as parents, we can provide material blessings for children, forgetting about God, and not giving them the spiritual blessings that far outweigh all the material blessings that the world can offer.
Another aspect of wholehearted love for the Lord includes not following other gods. In verse 14 we are warned, “Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you.”
The culture that the Israelites would face in Canaan was a culture that worshipped all sorts of false gods. They had the Baals; they had gods and goddesses of fertility who demanded immoral practices in their worship. They served gods like Molech, who required the sacrifice of their children, as the firstborn was sacrificially burned to death.
Maybe, as we consider the culture in which the Israelites lived, we think that our culture is far removed. Yet, although our culture does not have those same false gods, we live in a culture that serves so many other false gods. Materialism, pleasure, sports – things that can be good in themselves – can also take over our lives and be worshipped, just as false gods and idols were worshipped by the nations surrounding the Israelites.
It is so easy to make a god of our own mental conception; the same is true for idols. John Calvin accurately described the human mind is an idol factory. Part of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is examining our life to see whether we are trying to serve both the one true God and the false gods of the world in which we live, along with idols of our own making. This passage warns us that following the false gods of this world is incompatible with wholehearted love and devotion to the One true God revealed in Scripture.
In verse 16 Moses adds that we are not to test the Lord. We test the Lord when we pursue false gods, get entangled in idolatry, and also, we test the Lord with our complaints against his providence.
One of the many ways that the Israelites tested the Lord was with their complaints. At Massah, the people first complained about the lack of water. It was there that Moses was commanded to strike the rock from which water would flow.
That rock, which produced the water for the people, is one of the Old Testament “pictures” of Christ. Christ is the Rock who accompanied the Israelites through the desert, 1 Corinthians 10:3 teaches us. He is the Living Water who provides the life-giving water of salvation to his people. As he said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
If we truly love the Lord, we will guard ourselves from testing the Lord, as the Israelites tested him. Instead, we will trust him to provide what we need in life, the water of life – our salvation – and whatever else we need – our daily bread – at the appropriate time, without complaints.
Impressing Truths Upon Our Children
These principles are crucial for us to follow as parents. And it is crucial to impress these truths on our children. It has been pointed out that raising children is a lot like pouring concrete. A solid base is needed so that when the concrete is poured it will be shaped into the base that has been formed. If done correctly, a concrete foundation will far outlast the one who poured and shaped that concrete. Done incorrectly, the evidence will soon appear as the concrete cracks and crumbles, causing the structure based upon it to shift and collapse.
The same is true with children. They need that solid base, and that solid base comes from parents who have a wholehearted love for the Lord, who seek to live by his Word and who admit their many failures, confessing their sin with complete trust in the forgiveness found through saving faith in Jesus Christ alone.
That is why the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to speak to the people the words recorded in verse 6 and 7: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Impressing these truths on our children is crucial, and we do so by both discipline and encouragement.
The discipline of children today is not a popular topic. Instead of discipline, parents are taught to let their children seek out the path that they would like to go in life, and then to validate the decision of the child. Unfortunately, that even goes so far as to include sexual identity. If already at a young age a child identifies themself as being the opposite sex from that with which they were born, then parents willingly accommodate. A shocking number of children today are receiving sex change hormones and therapy, as well as gender-altering surgery.
How radically different our culture is from the truths of Scripture! The rod of correction is used many times in Scripture, not to be mean and abusive, but to shape and mold the sinful child after the image of Christ for their own good.
The author of Hebrews, quoting from Proverbs 3, points out that God disciplines those whom he loves. He writes, in Hebrews 12:7-11: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it,”
As we raise our children, God gives us not only the proper use of the tool of discipline, he also tells us to encourage our children. In Ephesians 6:4 we read, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Sometimes parents will rely so much on discipline, that they overlook the need for encouragement. 1 Corinthians 12 describes how each person in God’s family is unique. One is like a hand, another like a foot, still another, the tongue or ears. Each is unique, and yet each individual is a part of the family of God.
It is no different with our children. Each child is unique; God has given each one different gifts, and when those gifts begin to blossom, don't squelch them in the bud. We as parents have a tendency to do that. We may want our child to go one direction, and if their gifts point in another direction, we try to squelch their abilities in that area. Why? Because that area is an area not included in our plan for their lives. Maybe a banker wants his son in finance and the son has gifts in carpentry. Or the farmer’s son doesn't care for farming but is great with computers.
When those gifts begin to blossom, even if they send your child toward a different direction from your dreams, don't squelch them in the bud. Only squelch them if they are in direct opposition to God's Word and God's will.  If we as parents are always critical, we may break the spirit of our children. Our constant criticisms will bring about cracks in the cement of our children’s lives.
Those of us who are blessed to be parents, grandparents and great grandparents, are to take every opportunity to use the means God has given us to shape the young ones entrusted to our care. We are to use both discipline and encouragement in shaping our children, just as our heavenly Father uses discipline and encouragement to mold and shape us after the likeness of his Son.
And those opportunities to shape and mold our children after the likeness of Christ come up repeatedly in the everyday activities of life. That's why Deuteronomy 6:6-7 commands us: “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Did you notice how many times the words “you” and “your” are repeated, just in those two short verses? There are five different references in just these two verses to “you” and “your”. In other words, the Lord is saying, “Parents, it is your responsibility to raise your children to follow me and to know my Word. Parents you must take every opportunity, in the everyday events of life, to teach my ways to your children.”
There are many excellent ways to help us in the raising of our children. In addition to the preaching of God’s Word in a faithful Bible-believing church, there is Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Gems, Cadets, and Young Peoples, among many other Christian activities for our children. There are also Christian Schools and excellent resources for home schooling. But don't ever think that because your children have these blessings that your responsibility is over. It is ultimately your responsibility and mine, as parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, to teach biblical truths to our children and the generations that follow.
Redemption Through Saving Faith in Christ Alone
And the reason we are called to teach these truths is so that our children will see that their redemption out of bondage to sin is through saving faith in Christ alone. In verse 20 we read, “In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord has commanded you?’ Tell him, ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord has brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.’”
Just as Israel was in bondage in Egypt, all of us have been in bondage to sin and Satan. But just as God graciously redeemed his people out of their bondage in Egypt and brought them to the promised land of Canaan, so through faith in Christ we and our children are brought out of our bondage to sin and Satan and brought into the eternal kingdom of the heavenly Canaan.
But entrance into the heavenly Canaan only comes by God's grace. That was true for Israel of old, and it's true for you and for me today. Did you notice how the chapter ends with a self-righteous sound? Verse 25: “And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”
But none of us can keep the law perfectly. I look back at my life as a parent and I'm appalled at all the times I failed to encourage my children and to discipline my children as I ought. I'm appalled by all the times that I set a bad example in many ways, hearing and knowing the Word, but not putting it into practice in my day-to-day living.
Yet my righteousness, and that of my children, depends not on what I have done, but on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In fact, by the Holy Spirit's conviction, the realization that our own righteousness can never save us, drives us to Christ in humble repentance and true saving faith. As Galatians 3:24 puts it: The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (NKJV)
And that is the goal of our parenthood: to raise our children to believe – by God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s regenerating power – in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.
And it is by God’s grace and Spirit’s power that our children believe. It is not because as parents we do such a good job in raising them. Some of you have instilled in your children the biblical truths this passage describes, only to see them leave the church, leave the biblical teaching they grew up with, and run after the world.
Don’t ever give up on praying for them and modeling for them what it means to live as a Christian. God, in His grace, may bring them back to himself long after you have gone to glory.  He is sovereign in salvation, and his Word never returns to him void, but always accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent (Isa. 55:11).
The people of Israel, there at the base of Mount Sinai so long ago, were in a situation so similar to yours and mine. They were ready to enter a society that would be hostile to their faith, a prosperous society that would tempt them to forget the Lord, a society that would try to seduce them away from the Lord to follow false gods and idols of their own making.
But the Lord sent Moses to give the people of Israel these principles for building strong families. May all of us who are parents use these principles of Scripture to mold and shape our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren in the everyday events of life, so that by God’s grace, they love and serve the Lord, as they trust in Christ alone for salvation. Amen.
sermon outline:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 6:5-7
“Building a Strong Christian Family”
Deuteronomy 6:1-25
I. To build a strong family, parents must be strong in the Lord by:
    1) Listening to the Word of God, and living by it (3; James 1:22)
    2) Loving the Lord wholeheartedly (5-6), which includes remembering Him (12), not
        following other gods (14) nor testing the Lord (16)
II. Impressing these truths on our children is crucial (6-7). We do so by both discipline (Heb.
     12:7-11) and encouragement (Eph. 6:4), so that our children understand that salvation from
     sin and the gift of eternal life (20-24) is through faith alone in Christ alone (25; Romans 3:20-
     24; Galatians 3:24)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Ted Gray

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