In honour of Father’s Day last Sunday, all this week we’re looking at Christian parenting. But not just for parents – for everyone. Our text is Psalm 78:1-8, which is the introduction to a very long Psalm that recites the great deeds of God in Israel’s history. But the introduction itself tells us a lot about teaching future generations about God. We’re using John Piper’s six key ideas as our “window” into the Psalm:
(1) God, the central reality in our lives, (2) has given us a fixed deposit of his truth (3) which we are to teach (4) so that our children might know that truth (5) and therefore put their trust in God (6) enabling them to live lives of loyal obedience.
God has given us a fixed deposit of his truth
Yesterday we saw how God needs to be the central reality in our lives if we’re going to be able to teach the children in our family and in our churches. Today, the focus turns to the truth itself.5a He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel
God has given us his truth, preserved for us in the Bible. He has given us this knowledge of himself. And it’s not knowledge that will change from generation to generation. Much of the knowledge we study at school or university – particularly in the sciences – rapidly becomes obsolete, as new things are discovered, as old theories are disproven. But the knowledge of God preserved in the pages of the Bible does not change. How we communicate God’s truth will vary according to time and culture and language. The particular expression of that truth may change quite a lot, depending on the context. But the truth itself does not.
It provides an absolute standard by which we can measure all people and cultures and times in history. Although it was revealed through human history, it stands outside of human experience in defining right and wrong, in affirming what is moral and deploring what is evil.
And it’s this absolute truth that the next generation needs to be taught. Particularly in an age where the prevailing ideology is that everything is relative. Where we’re too scared to say that one culture’s practices might be inferior to another’s. Where something is considered wrong only if it hurts others, rather than judging it by an absolute standard. Where it’s considered offensive to suggest that one set of religious beliefs might be true to the exclusion of others.
But it’s more than just the content of the truth. It’s also how to go about it. How to be gracious and accepting of people while remaining firm in what we believe. How to decide which battles are worth fighting and which ones it’s better to sit out. How to be successful scientists and politicians and academics and journalists who believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead.
As a church – and particularly for those whose role it is to guide children and teens – we need to model for the next generation how to live by God’s absolute standards in an age of relativism. We need to model how to know the Bible; how to love the Bible; how to live by the Bible.
Parents alone aren’t going to be able to do it – particularly if everywhere else their children go they’re confronted by the gospel of pluralism. We need an entire community – we need the church village – to teach and live out God’s values. During the teenage years especially, we need people reinforcing what parents teach – because as you know, parents of teenagers know nothing.Mark Twain: ‘When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned.’
To think about
How is your church modelling a gracious but unbending response to the pluralism of our world?