Sermon delivered April 3, 2004 by Cynthia Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Educating for Eternity

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Good morning. It is really a joy for me to me to be with you this morning. I bring you greetings from over twenty-nine thousand brothers and sisters in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference sisterhood of churches. We currently have one hundred and forty organized churches, forty-five kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools, two kindergarten-through-tenth-grade schools and five academies and one university within the geographical territory of our conference. My husband has already introduced you to me so I don't have to tell you who I am, except to say, I am the mother of three wonderful children: Jim, Lisa and Rod; and the grandmother of five gorgeous grandchildren: Brittany, Holly, Candace, Fay and Caleb. I'd be glad to talk to you about them any time.

But more importantly, thanks to a very recent miracle, Prayer Warriors, on its daily battle and a wonderful medical team, I am a cancer survivor. And I praise the Lord that I have the opportunity of being with you today.

In August of 2003 I became the vice-president for Education in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. Because of that job title, I know you're expecting me to preach about Adventist Christian education, and I'm happy to be able to do that, because to me, learning is a life-long adventure. I'm passionate about the value of the home; parents are the very first teachers. So, I'm choosing to speak today about how parents in their homes, churches, Sabbath Schools and the church school can work together to educate for eternity.

I would like to share a couple interesting facts with you about Adventist Christian education. Are you aware that the Georgia-Cumberland Conference subsidizes 35% of the cost of every conference-employed elementary teacher? Are you aware that during the 2003 calendar year the Georgia-Cumberland Conference invested around $990,000 in the upkeep of three academies? And, my last fact: Are you aware that McDonald Road Church invests more than sixty thousand dollars each school year in Adventist Christian education? Obviously I am preaching to the choir. I have a question to ask: Why do Christian parents choose to not utilize the free public school system that is already in place, paid for by their tax dollars? In my professional life I've had the privilege of teaching in some of these very finest public schools. And I am pleased to tell you that they excel academically. And they make large contributions in character development. But I need to go on and tell you that it is also my opinion that Adventist Christian education not only excels academically and makes contributions in character development, too, but, according to the Values Genesis Study and the new book of ten-year follow-up studies--it was just published last month we excel academically, and in saving children for the church. These authors conclude that our education does educate for eternity.

In the months ahead you will be hearing more and more about Adventist Christian Education. Watch for announcements about the Adventist EDGE, which stands for Educators Delivering Great Education. This Southern Union Initiative will be presented at camp-meeting the end of May.

But before I go on talking about Christian education, let me say that we here at the McDonald Road Church are extremely blessed to have many parents who are able to home-school their children. And I want to share with you that in my opinion, humble though it is, home schools are simply an extension of the church, and they, too, provide quality Adventist education. I applaud the parents who are able to provide these opportunities for their children. And I am pleased to report that the Georgia-Cumberland Conference is working on developing a plan to work even more closely with these home schoolers.

When parents need teachers of school for their children, I recommend that they pay attention to advice that was given us over a hundred years ago on page 304 of the book, Child Guidance. Ellen G. White tells us that in planning the education of their children outside of the home parents should realize that it is no longer safe to send them to the public schools and should endeavor to send them to schools where the education will be based on a scriptural foundation. "Upon every Christian parent there rest the solemn obligation of giving to his or her children an education that will lead them to gain a knowledge of the Lord and become partakers of the divine nature through obedience to God's will."

Before we begin the actual study of the Bible this morning, I would like to ask that you pray with me.

Good morning, Lord. You know that I love to teach, but right now I am totally stepping out of my comfort zone and I ask that You will be with me and bless my words. May they be from on high. Thank you for allowing us such a beautiful day to come and worship You. Send the Holy Spirit to abide with us I pray. In Jesus's name, Amen.

Clear back in the last century, 1996 to be exact, because we lived so close to Atlanta, most of us got involved with the Olympics. Many of us watched competitions on TV. Some of us even stood in line to buy tickets so that we could be present to watch athletes to perform in Atlanta. Some of us drove to nearby Ocoee and watched athletes, but before the games actually began, a very important event took place. The Olympic flame was carried through many towns of America by hundreds of runners. Each runner passed the flame on to the next runner until that grand moment when the light, the great golden torch was lit in Atlanta, and the games began. Every Olympic year this tradition takes place. Many special people are nominated to pass the flame, and once they're chosen to participate, they often travel hundreds of miles to be present at the event.

In 2002, a friend of mine, Nancy Chain, principal of the Ooltewah Adventist School was selected to carry the torch. What an honor! She drove to Daytona Beach, Florida where she ran with the flame in honor of the Olympics for Utah. She's not the only one that's been chosen to carry the flame. We, as parents and church members, have been chosen to carry a spiritual torch, and God has outlined a wonderful plan whereby we can pass the flame representing our spiritual values to the next generation.

To learn about this plan, let's open our Bibles again to the book of Deuteronomy. Turn to the sixth chapter. We are going to learn about the plan for passing the torch that was given to Israel. If there is one thing that this can teach us it is that the saving connection with the true God does not come naturally, it must be taught. If we are going to spend eternity with the Lord, it will be because someone educated us because they loved us.

Think a minute about a young child. I would like to share the analogy that a young child is like an unexposed roll of film. Clean and impressionable. And the bible model shows us that most of the teaching that will lead to the proper print happens in the home.

The setting for our text in Deuteronomy 6 is the Biblical model that was given at Mount Sinai just before the long awaited entrance into the promised land. Imagine that you are an Israelite. You've just been given the Ten Commandments from God's own hand. In just as few weeks you and your family will be entering the promised land, flowing with milk and honey. While you're imagining that, I need to point out what could happen on the other side of the Jordan River. There are pagans there, those who don't even know the Lord. The promised land will truly be flowing with more than milk and honey. It will soon flow with blood. Things are going to be different on the other side of that river. You might lose your life. Heathenism might even snuff out your love for God. What can you do to help your children remain true to God?

Fortunately, God, the divine parent, has developed a plan to keep His people faithful. As parent we also want to pass this spiritual torch to our children. We do not want our offspring to lose faith. Personally, I don't want to tell Jesus that my children aren't with me when I need Him. Here is the key to helping our children accept Jesus and stay faithful. Here are the directions for educating for eternity.

Let's start with Deuteronomy 6:1 (New King James Version). Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess. The Lord is giving the commandments, the decrees and the laws, and He's directed us to teach them so that you and your children after them may fear the Lord. Here, God is telling us the secret for passing on our religious values to our children. It's simple. We must teach them.

Now, how many of you are willing to say you are teachers? We are all teachers. We are all teachers.

The great plan that is found in verses 4 to 9 is often referred to as nasheema, a Hebrew word that means, "he has heard." I'm going to tell you that the Lord gave these directions because He heard the cries of the parents, saying, "How should we teach our children?" This is a direct answer to our request. This is, perhaps, the greatest success strategy in the entire Bible. It's a nuts and bolts plan for parents to follow so that they will know how to instruct their children in the ways of God. Your children must be taught God's law. Education must become a very concerted effort where what is taught at home is also taught at school, taught at church, taught back at home, taught back at school. It has to be very much a part of the cycle.

The answer to how to raise your children this way is not found in the White House, but in the union of your house, God's house and God's school.

Let's examine God's special plan. There are three strategies He has given us.

  1. He has told us to be an example. (Verses 4-6) That's not so hard.
  2. He has told us to spend time. Oh, dear, that's getting a bit harder. (Verse 7)
  3. We are told to share the truth. Sometimes I think this is the hardest part because we have to share our lives. We have to talk about what we're living, what we're going through, with our children.

Let's go back to number one. Be an example. Live the life you want them to live. Walk the walk you want them to walk. Talk the talk you want them to talk. Deuteronomy 6:4 (NKJV) says, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one!" Going on in verse 5 (NIV), "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." In verse 6 (NJKV), "And these words which I command you today shall be in your hearts."

Your children, and for those who, don't have children at home, your grandchildren are watching you, you mirror Biblical values. That's not holding you accountable for much is it? Your example powerfully communicates your true beliefs. A sure-fire method of losing your child s to be inactive yourself.

I'd like to share a survey with you. It was conducted and reported by the Baptist Standard. It's on the web site. And it found that depending on the involvement of parents in the church there is a direct correlation to involvement of children in the church as adults. If both parents are active and faithful, ninety-three percent of their children remain in the church. If only one parent is active and faithful, and that is the father of the family, seventy-three percent of the children will stay active in the church. And now I'm going to go to meddling. They did the studies so it's okay. If both parents are semi-active, fifty-three percent of the children will stay in the church. If both parents attend church infrequently, only six percent of the children will stay in the church. What a reason to be active and be involved in the church!

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV) says, Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. If you desire for your children to have this relationship with Jesus, you need to make sure that you have gotten one yourself and that you're maintaining it.

Number 2. Let's spend time. If you desire to pass this torch of eternal values found in Jesus Christ on to your children, you must spend time with them. Develop a food relationship with them. Talk to them even about the Ten Commandments. Deuteronomy 6:7 (NKJV) says, "You shall teach them diligently to your children." It's referring back to the Commandments, "and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when your rise up." The New Century Version says, "Teach them to your children, talk about them when you sit at home and walk along the road, when you lie down and again when you get up." Do you see how intimately we need to be involved with sharing our relationship with Jesus with our children?

Let's look at this Bible picture for a minute. This Bible picture pictures you and your children sitting down together, walking along a road together, being together at bedtime and again being together in the morning. This takes time. All good relationships take time. Religious values are both caught and taught as we take time to share our lives with our children. Teaching our children will not be easy. It will take diligent effort and much time.

Now, let me contrast this picture with modern life. Don't identify with it.

We rush off to work in the morning, and our kids rush off to school. When we finally all get home in the evening, we sit down, but not usually together. We sit in front of the TV. Often the kids have a TV in their own room. And the adults have a large-screen TV in what we call the family room. Seldom are we as a family in the family room. Even worse, all too often the kids are already in bed by the time both parents even get home.

How can we pass the torch of moral values without spending meaningful time together? God wants us to teach our children His Law when we are together, sitting, walking, in the morning at worship and in the evening at Bible story time.

Spend quality meaningful time with your family. Are you good at hitting the bull's eye of a target? Would you like to know how to get better? Simply stand close enough to the target. Accuracy decreases with distance and increases with closeness. This is awfully true when you are educating your children for God. Therefore it is paramount that we be close to our children. Touch them. Sit with them. Do things together. Make them first.

Number 3 - Teach them the truth. Once you are setting the correct example, when you spend quality loving time with your children, only then are you ready for step three. Verse 8 (NKJV) says, "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes." Verse 9 says, "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on yur gates." These are the Commandments that we're talking about. We are supposed to surround ourselves with these Commandments. Teach them over and over, day after day. Soon all those family worships morning and evening will really begin to add up.

In America's historical days families spent time together, milking the cows, putting up the harvest, planting, canning, sewing, quilting, hoeing, cooking. The youngster was at the side of the adult almost all day long. There were almost unlimited opportunities for conversation. The son could hear his father's insight on all the issues of life. The daughter would listen as her mother conveyed the correct viewpoint about marriage and about religion, making a home.

But in this modern day things have changed. We have homework, piano lessons, shopping, softball games, etc, etc. We are super busy. We must be creative because it is hard to find the time to teach what God wants us to teach.

Let me give you several suggestions:

How do we learn good things? All that I have shared with you this morning is really just plain common sense. Do we learn it by reading? Not necessarily. But I can tell you that we will learn it by hearing it and seeing it over and over again, just as our children will learn the love of the Lord when they hear about it over and over again.

Many of you seated here today may think, 'Well this sermon is just for parents with children or teenagers.' I want to share a story with you that I just heard this week about the influence of a grandmother on a child's life. This grandmother loved camp-meeting. She chose to go and retreat each year for a ten-day camp-meeting. She chose to not go alone. Once her granddaughters were born, these granddaughters became part of the trip. This week I had the privilege of meeting one of the three granddaughters. She will graduate from Southern Adventist University in May. She's been recently hired as a kindergarten church school teacher, and she traces all of this back to the time and energy her grandmother invested in her by taking her to camp-meeting. She went year after year, and finally her mother agreed to go one year. The joyous news is they were both baptized. That grandmother has been rewarded.

Parents and grandparents, we often least realize that there was a teachable moment. It will only be years later that we are told the value of the words we shared.

Finally, I want to say, I need to ask the question, What makes a family spiritual? I can't look at you and describe you as being spiritual or non-spiritual. It's something that's happening inside. But I do want to encourage you to take time with children so that we can educate for eternity.

PRAYER: Father, in your mercy forgive us for the times we have dropped the torch ourselves. Empower us to hold the torch high. Teach us how to pass it on to our children.

Hymn of Praise: #221,  Rejoice, the Lord is King
Scripture:  Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Hymn of Response: #653,  Lead Them My God to Thee

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