Deuteronomy 6:1-15 During his earthly ministry our Lord Jesus Christ asked a question of those who followed him that I want to put before you today on this Christian Education Sunday: “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” We understand that question don’t we?
Health. A home. Work we love. Family. All of these are incredible blessings from God—all of them make our earthly life a joy. But all of them come to an end—all of them, without exception. And then eternity.
Every blessing of an earthly life, stacked one upon another over the course of a long, long life is still nothing compared to eternity when the only thing that will matter, the only thing that will count is: did we live with God on earth through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Did we trust that our sins were washed away by his blood shed on the cross? Did we believe that death was a defeated enemy because of Christ’s resurrection? Did we live as God’s children in the power of the Holy Spirit?
If we did, then a lifetime of earthly blessings will be magnified beyond measure in the glories of heaven! If we did not, then every earthly blessing from the bountiful hand of the God of creation will testify against us in the eternal fires of hell. “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” And of course, the answer is absolutely nothing! We understand that about ourselves, don’t we?
But do we understand the same about our children? We love our children. It’s hard to even put into words how much we love our children. We want the best for them. We make sure they go to the doctor and dentist. We try to provide good meals. We take them to dance and music and sports. We help them study and want them to succeed academically. We guide them in choosing a college major and a career. Our lives are filled to overflowing with care and concern for our children so that they can be happy and healthy and successful.
But the question of Jesus stands: What shall it profit your child to gain the whole world and lose their soul? And the answer is the same for them as it is for you: absolutely nothing. It is just as critical for your child as it is for you to have a life with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—for that is the only thing that matters eternally. So it has always been.
In our Old Testament lesson today we see the children of God preparing to enter the Promised Land. The LORD saved them from slavery in Egypt. He drowned their enemies in the waters of the Red Sea. He guided them, protected, and provided for them. They would enter into and possess a land that they had not earned and did not deserve. They would eat from vines they had not planted and drink from wells they had not dug. All of the blessings of their Savior God would be poured out upon them. They would have it all.
But their heavenly Father knew about his children that, having it all—apart from a life with him—was the worst thing that could happen to them and he wanted to make sure that first things came first in their life. And so how would that take place? Having been given the world, how could he make sure that they did not lose their soul along the way?
They would need to be taught. They would need to be taught the story of salvation. They would need to be taught what that story meant in how they lived their day to day lives. That story would need to be very center of their life together in their families and that story would need to be taught for the sake of those who came after them so that they too would possess the one things needful—a life with the LORD. The Bible says:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
This is the great confession of faith of God’s people in the Old Testament. The LORD is the One who spoke to Abraham and promised to make him a great nation and bless the world through the Messiah who would come through him and then renewed that promise again and again. The LORD is the One who protected his people from death as they took refuge under the blood of the lamb. The LORD is the One who delivered his people from slavery and drowned their enemies and cared for them and guided them and provided for them and protected them.
This great, gracious salvation story that is grounded in the person and work of the LORD--the one, true Savior God-- was to be held and treasured in believing hearts and be told and taught again and again. The great, gracious salvation story was to be the very center of their lives as God’s people and the very center of their lives as families. So it is for us.
We bring our children to the waters of Holy Baptism so that their spiritual enemies would be destroyed in those gracious waters. And then we teach them the story of their Savior God—how he shed his blood on the cross so that we could take refuge in it from the powers of darkness and death---how he feeds us with that very sacrifice to strengthen our faith in him—how he abides with us all our days to bring us to the homeland in heaven.
Telling this great salvation story and explaining what it means begins in the home and it is the chief responsibility of parents. To give your children everything and fail to give them the story of salvation is to fail in the only way that matters eternally. And so we teach our children. We tell them the story of Jesus. It forms the very heart of our homes and our lives together in families.
That great, gracious salvation story is the reason we have a Sunday School and Christian Day School—to assist parents in their solemn responsibility to make sure that their children know their heavenly Father who loves them with an everlasting love and to show them what this Good News means for their day to day lives. The Bible says:
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it,
When they could do nothing to save themselves—God saved them. When they had no weapons to defeat their enemies—God destroyed them. When they had way to support themselves—God provided for them. Their life with God, from beginning to end—was the story of his gracious love that made them his children.
And so then, it was BECAUSE they were the children of a gracious heavenly Father that they were called to live in such a way that their lives were a reflection of his own: not to BECOME God’s children—but BECAUSE they were God’s children—and as God’s children, their heavenly Father had a will for their lives that was expressed in the commandments, statutes and rules he gave them.
We understand this as parents. We have rules that govern life in our house and our children are expected to obey them. We have values we live by that we want our children to live by too. We have ways of doing things that we want our children to follow. All of this—not so our little ones can become our children—but because they are our children. So it is with us and our heavenly Father and we need to teach and model this life of obedience to our children.
There is a great deal of confusion about this among the people of God. On one side are those who think that their life with God as his children comes about through their obedience to his will rather than by his gracious love. On the other side are those who mistake his gracious love as a license to live however they please. Neither are right.
Instead, our lives as God’s children are to be lived in conformity to his will that he reveals to us in the Law. We no longer see his expectations for our lives as some terrible, burdensome imposition. We are children of the heavenly Father! We delight to hear our Father’s Word! We are blessed to do our Father’s will! We rejoice to walk in our Father’s ways! We stand in holy awe of our heavenly Father and we desire the same for those who come after us in our family. The Bible says that we walk in his ways and do his will so that we
may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly
By God’s grace the Eckert family have been Lutheran Christians since the Reformation. Many of you can say the same thing about your Christian family. A heritage of faith is a precious thing!
One generation after another making it their first priority that their children know and believe the one thing needful: the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ—helped along the way by faithful pastors and teachers and fellow Christians.
Everyone assembled here today—especially our teachers—have the same privilege and responsibility in this place and time, among this generation.
What we do in our homes and churches and Sunday Schools and Christian Day Schools in teaching the faith to our children has ramifications far, far beyond the children in our care at this moment. It affects their children and every generation that comes after them and it affects each of them eternally. The Bible says:
take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.
We began our meditation on God’s Word this Christian Education Sunday by hearing the voice of Jesus who asks us about ourselves and our children: “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” He ask us to consider that question about the dangers of because it is entirely possible to do so and it is entirely possible for our children as well.
We live in a world that is actively opposed to everything that we value and hold dear as God’s children. We live among people who worship and serve false gods of materialism and power and selfishness and sexual immorality. The culture and word-view and values of this time and place stand in stark contrast to everything we cherish as God’s children.
We and our children are not magically immune from the temptations to go the broad and easy road that leads to eternal life and just as there is incredible blessing from a heritage of faith—there is an incredible curse when just when Christian falls away because they take their children with them and their children with them and countless generation fall under the wrath of God. May God forbid such a thing happening to us and those we love!
We belong to God and so do our children for the LORD has brought us out of slavery to sin and death by the outstretched arms of his Son Jesus on the cross so that we might be his for time and eternity.
And so then, we are to stand in awe of him and serve him and trust that we live in his presence in every thing that we do and every word that we speak and we are to teach our children to do the same. May God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.