1st Meditation - Christian education begins with repentance and faith!
Text: Psalm 23:1
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
In Christ Jesus, who is our Good Shepherd, dear fellow redeemed:
These words are so familiar, aren’t they? They are so soothing that they can at times slip over our tongues and out of our mouths without our fully comprehending their meaning and application. This morning as we focus our attention on the subject of Christian education, I would suggest to you that these words teach us that Christian education begins with repentance and faith! How is that the case?
These first words of Psalm 23 are both a confession and an affirmation. In the first phrase you and I confess that “the LORD is my shepherd,” while in the second phrase we affirm that with Jesus as our shepherd we will never lack anything that we need! The ultimate object of Christian education is to lead children to embrace a worldview that includes both of these elements!
Now, what is all involved when we confess that “the LORD is my shepherd”? First of all, we are confessing that we are sheep. Sheep, while rather cuddly in appearance and idealized in our urban society, are in reality quite contrary animals—if there is a hole in the fence they will find it, if there is a noxious weed in the field they will eat it, if there is an opposite path to travel they will take it. In addition, sheep are weak animals—animals that are easily frightened, relatively fragile, and completely unable to defend themselves.
When we each confess that “the LORD is my shepherd,” we are confessing that we are sheep and that, quite frankly, is not too flattering! Who would ever want to confess themselves to be a weak, straying sheep? It would be much more impressive, if we were able to boast that we are lions—the king of the beasts…noble, strong, intelligent, revered…but in reality we are but sheep—by nature lost, vulnerable, contrary, and in need of the guidance that only the LORD God, our Savior Jesus Christ, can provide. Truly, we must confess with the prophet Isaiah: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way” (Is. 53:6a).
When we confess: “the LORD is my shepherd,” we are confessing our need for and willingness to accept the guidance of a shepherd—the Lord Jesus! Christian education cannot begin until we understand our need for Jesus Christ and until we are led by the Spirit of God to accept the fact that as sheep we need to be led by the instruction of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Consequently, we can say that without question Christian education begins with repentance! It is when the law of God reveals our sinful rebellion, demonstrates that we are hopelessly lost, and if left on our own ultimately damned, that the Spirit of God can bring us to a genuine sorrow over our sin and a sincere desire for forgiveness. It is only then that you and I will willingly look to and follow a loving Savior—a Good Shepherd whom Isaiah says has strong hands and a gentle embrace, and who desires to instruct us in the ways of life.
As you and I follow Him, listen to Him, and learn from Him, we will be blessed by Him. Therefore we can affirm that we “shall not want!” We will not lack anything that we need. This is an expression of faith—that simple trust in a loving Savior that will move us to desire to listen and to learn even more, and to love even as we are loved! Yes, Christian education begins with repentance and faith, which lay a foundation for the reception of Jesus’ continued instruction!
2nd Meditation - Christian education deals with the whole person—body and soul!
Text: Psalm 23:2-3
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
Christian education deals with the whole person—body and soul!David speaks of Jesus’ concern for our bodies when he speaks of Jesus making us “lie down in green pastures” and leading us “beside the still waters.” He speaks of Jesus’ concern for our souls when he speaks of Jesus restoring those souls and leading them “in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
Education, in general, is important, but the type of education we choose for ourselves and our children is even more important. Christian parents are entrusted with their children by God and have only a relatively short time to educate them before they grow up and are on their own. Consequently, it is important for parents to educate the whole child—body and soul. The apostle Paul instructs fathers to bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4b). To do anything less is not an option for Christian parents! To do this there are different choices to be considered. There is the option of a public school or other private non-religious school. Such schools provide for the needs of the body but are not in the position, often by law, to address the needs of the soul. Indeed, at times such options even endanger the soul. Should Christian parents choose one of those options, they will want to nurture their children’s souls on a daily basis in the home and on a weekly basis in the church. We have much useful information in our church library to help parents using the public school option to provide for the Christian education of their children. But, as we all know, those materials will be of little use if they are not sought out and put to use. Another option increasingly in use today is home school. Parents are certainly able to minister to both the body and soul of their children as they lead them personally through their daily studies. This can be a very effective means of Christian education. We are blessed here at Immanuel to have yet another option—our Christian Day School, where the needs of both body and soul can likewise be and are being met.
There are many within our society who question the wisdom of home schooling or supporting and sending your children to Christian schools. They suggest that such schooling cannot prepare students for the real world. I beg to differ! In fact, in a splendid book written many years ago and entitled Preparing Your Child for the Real World, it was argued that the Christian Day School was the best place to prepare children for the real world, for the real world is not just the physical universe in which we live and the relatively few years we spend here, but rather it is tied to both earth and heaven and to both time and eternity.
If we are going to prepare our children, both body and soul, for time and eternity, we will want to surround them with an environment whenever possible in which Jesus can lead them in the “paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” We will want to put our children in environments where the adults who influence them share our Christian world-view and teach them not only how to add and spell, not only historical facts and scientific theories, but who teach them how to do and use those things to the glory of God. An education that does not include Christ and the truths of the Bible cannot possibly answer the most important questions of life—“Who am I? Why am I here? Why does evil exist in this world? What is the solution for evil? How can I be certain of my salvation?” The apostle Paul says: “Whatever your do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17). Yes, Christian education deals with the whole person—body and soul!
3rd Meditation - Christian education is at times difficult, but God remains with us!
Text: Psalm 23:4
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Christian education is at times difficult, but God remains with us!Supporting a Christian Day School within an individual congregation is at times a very daunting task. Providing adequate space, finding and supporting well-qualified teachers, providing up-to-date text books and classroom equipment, and securing the necessary support staff, all on free-will offerings and tuition, can be and often are difficult tasks. It takes dedication to accomplish them, but our Lord promises to walk with us through all of the shadows that can arise while operating a Christian Day School. He promises in His Word and works through that Word to uphold us!
While it is always rewarding, it is not always easy to teach in a Christian Day School. Such teaching is much more than a job—it is a vocation…a calling from God. It is not simply about teaching students mathematics and language arts, so that they can demonstrate proficiency on state-mandated tests, nor is it merely a matter of helping children mature into responsible adults. No, it is guiding young hearts and minds into a living relationship with their Savior Jesus Christ. Consequently, it is very serious work, for we are dealing with bodies and souls. The criticism and rejection of one’s work becomes that much more crushing when it occurs, for your work reflects not only on what you do but who you are and the deepest held beliefs you possess. Yet, Jesus promises to walk with you through the valleys of “the shadow of death.” You need not fear, for He is with you—always to comfort you!
Why is Christian education so very important? It is so very important because life is often difficult. In the past several weeks, I have visited members and non-members alike who have been or are yet facing serious surgeries, who are confronted by life-threatening illnesses, whose marriages and families are facing crisis, who are struggling with issues of depression and chemical dependency, and who are facing difficult financial circumstances. We walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” often during our lives, but we need not fear. Our Christian education—the rod of the law and the staff of the gospel—help prepare us to endure and not only comfort us, but prepare us to withstand every assault of Satan and help us rest in our Savior’s abiding love. Oh, it is true that we cannot use Bible verses like pain pills, and expect after quoting them that all our problems will go away. Yet, within those Bible verses we find the wisdom of God, which if properly and regularly applied within our lives will bring us great blessing! Yes, Christian education is at times difficult, but God remains with us!
4th Meditation - Christian education prepares us to meet every challenge!
Text: Psalm 23:5
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over!”
Christian education prepares us to meet every challenge! In the devotional book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Philip Keller explains how preparing the table for the sheep refers to the work shepherds do each spring to prepare the high elevation table lands to which they will lead their sheep for summer pasturing. They go up and by hand remove noxious weeds, so the sheep will not be poisoned and die. It is hard and arduous work, but well worth it for it helps maintain the health and welfare of the flock. He further explains that the anointing of the head with oil refers to the shepherd applying thick oil to the head of the sheep and particularly around the sheep’s nose and eyes so that the summer flies do not have an opportunity to torment them. These actions of the shepherd help the sheep overcome the steady challenges, which would otherwise confront them.
Christian education prepares students for the challenges of life. Consider the noxious weeds found within the humanism so prevalent in the coursework our children will confront on the public high school and university levels. The post-modern thought that there is no absolute truth, but only relative truth is to be found everywhere and has infected the thinking of many even within the outward Christian community. The results of the scientific community’s steady drumbeat of evolution causes people to doubt not only the Bible, but also to deny the very existence of God. The steady and clear instruction of our children with God’s Word helps our children to see the problems and deal with them effectively—removing them before they are consumed and can cause damage. Even more important—Christian education provides the nutritious food focusing on the redemptive work of Christ, which will build our children up and truly prepare them for life. Remember Jesus’ promise: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:31-32).
Christian education can give our children the information necessary to resist the pests that will confront them—immoral people making suggestions that will undermine proper moral principles, false teachers attempting to undermine true faith, false friends suggesting courses of action contrary to the will and way of God. Christian education prepares us and our children to meet every challenge!
5th Meditation - Christian education bestows everlasting benefits!
Text: Psalm 23:6
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Christian education bestows everlasting benefits! The heart and core of Christian education is “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). When we speak of “goodness and mercy” following us all the days of our lives, we are talking about the forgiving love and providential care that is ours by grace through faith in Jesus as our Savior from sin.
This is based upon the redemptive work of Christ, for by nature we do not deserve “goodness and mercy,” but rather the everlasting judgment of God. Remember Jeremiah’s lament: “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22). Yet, the Bible tells us: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing (charging) their trespasses to them” (2 Cor. 5:19). The guilt of our sins was charged to Jesus. He bore our sins upon the cross and endured the punishment of hell for us, so that we might “dwell in the house of the LORD forever!”
Why is Christian education so important? Because in the end, it does not matter the fame you enjoy, the fortune you possess, or the power you exercise, for every one of us will one day face death and judgment. At that point it will not matter who you know—apart from Jesus! At that point it will not matter how much money you have—for salvation cannot be purchased! At that point it will not matter who obeys your commands—for the One who has authority over all things will be the One before whom you will stand and to whom you will answer!
Where will you and your children spend eternity? Can you say and can they say with confidence, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever”? All of you can if you have come to know Jesus Christ and been led to believe in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit! That brings us back to Christian education, for Christian education is based upon the Word of God, which is the means of grace by which the Spirit Himself creates faith. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16).
Dear friends, you are observing a Christian Education Sunday—an extremely wise thing to do from every perspective, because Christian education bestows everlasting benefits! May we all by God’s grace live to enjoy them! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
To God alone be the glory!