Consider the Nature, Basis, and Goal of Christian Education!
O Lord God, heavenly Father, You are the Source of all wisdom and the Giver of every good gift. Send Your Spirit to instruct me with Your truth, so that my life might have a solid, Christian basis—a basis that will withstand the storms of this life, and which will provide me and my family with both hope and direction in every situation. Do not allow Satan to undermine my faith, but rather sustain me by Your grace unto life’s end. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Moses reminded the children of Israel, even as he reminds us, that we are diligently and faithfully to teach the truths of our God to our children, so that they might know those truths, embrace those truths, and practice those truths.
Jesus welcomed little children and commended their faith while blessing them. Christian education is not simply a matter of morality, but rather a matter of faith leading to love for Jesus and loving as Jesus.
Text: Colossians 2:6-10
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in itwith thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
In Christ Jesus, who calls upon us all to bring our children to Him so that they can experience His rich blessing, dear fellow redeemed:
As already mentioned earlier in our service, today is Christian Education Sunday at Immanuel. The first Sunday in August was so designated by our Church Council some years ago in order to highlight our congregation’s efforts to instruct our members, especially our young members, in the truths of God’s Word. The goal of providing a Christian education for the young is at the heart of our congregational ministry—foremost in our Christian Day School, but also in our Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School programs. This fall will mark the beginning of the 150th year of operation of both our Christian Day School and our Sunday School program.
Those programs are in reality an extension of our Christian homes and are intended to help parents to fulfill the Biblical command to bring up our children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (cf. Eph. 6:4 – NIV). In order to help us all better to understand and fulfill this command, let us CONSIDER THE NATURE, BASIS, AND GOAL OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION! We will discover from Paul’s words to the Colossians that its center is the work of Christ; its basis is the word of Christ; and its goal is a walk with Christ!
Let us, first, consider THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION. At its center is the work of Christ! [See “Christian Education” image.] Jesus Christ—who He is, what He came to do, what that means both for our present life in this world and our future life in heaven is at the heart and core of Christian education. Why is this so very important for each and every one of us? Consider the final two verses of our text: “For in Him (Christ) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Who is Jesus? The Bible identifies Him as the “only-begotten Son” of God (cf. Jn. 3:16). Why was He sent bodily into this world? He came, the Bible once again informs us, to be our Savior (cf. Lk. 2:11). As our Savior Jesus did two things for us sinners. He lived that holy and perfect life demanded of us in God’s law and, thereby, provided us with the righteousness we need to stand before God (cf. Rom. 5:18-19). Were it not for the righteousness of Christ, we would all be condemned after we die to an eternity of suffering in hell. Jesus then ascended to the cross, bearing the punishment we deserved and serving as our Substitute, just as Isaiah had once prophesied when he said: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was laid upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5). It is through this work of Christ, the benefits of which we receive by faith, that Paul is able to say that we are “complete” in Christ. That means that there is absolutely nothing we need do, or can do to gain salvation, for everything has already been done. By God’s grace through faith we have been declared God’s children and heirs of eternal life (cf. Gal. 3:26-29). That is God’s gift to us, a gift of His grace (cf. Eph. 2:8-9), that is assured us by the fact that Jesus has been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (cf. Mt. 28:18). Our present lives can now be lived in hope with joy and confidence because we are certain of our final destination—the glories of heaven.
Consider now by contrast the nature of secular education. [See “Secular Education” image] The center of its focus is man. Man’s thoughts, man’s works, man’s goals become the focal point. Notice that in many respects the designs are similar. That is because education, whether Christian or secular, is intended in large part to prepare students for life in this world. In order to do that you must study language, mathematics, science, history, and the arts. But there are significant differences. [Compare both images, side by side] Within Christian education, the cross of Christ ultimately informs every aspect of education and, consequently, all of life. Within secular education, faith and religion, both true and false religion, become only a small part of education—you might say it is reduced to a “one day of the week” proposition—Sunday. God’s place in this world and in our lives is simply omitted from the overall curriculum, leading many to question their value and relevance to the “real” world and in many cases to reject the concept of God altogether. This, I believe, is even a greater danger than that posed by evolution which is directly opposed to Biblical truth.
In order to illustrate the difference between Christian and secular education, consider an article from this past Monday’s Mankato Free Press. The title of this front page article was “After School Satan Club Could Be Coming.” [The Free Press, August 1, 2016, A1] The article addressed the attempts of the leaders of the Satanic Temple in Salem, Massachusetts to introduce after school Satan clubs to America’s public grade schools. A recent strategy session included the heads of the Satanic Temples from Salem, New York, Boston, Utah, and Arizona together with others from Minneapolis, Detroit, San Jose, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Florida participating online.
While this may seem a bit bizarre to most of us, it is important to realize that the teachings of the Satanic Temple are, quite frankly, mainstream humanism. Listen to the what the article says. “The group’s plan for public schoolchildren isn’t actually about promoting the worship of the devil. The Satanic Temple doesn’t espouse a belief in the existence of a supernatural being that other religions identify solemnly as Satan…. The Temple rejects all forms of supernaturalism and is committed to the view that scientific rationality provides the best measure of reality…. ‘Satan’ is just a ‘metaphorical construct’ intended to represent the rejection of all forms of tyranny over the human mind. [The greatest form of tyranny, by the way as defined by the article, is Christianity.] The curriculum for the proposed after-school clubs emphasizes the development of reasoning and social skills. The group says meetings will include a healthful snack, literature lesson, creative learning activities, a science lesson, puzzle solving and an art project…. ‘We think it’s important for kids to be able to see multiple points of view to reason things through, to have empathy and feelings of benevolence for their fellow human beings.’” Note the emphasis upon man being the measure of all things and man’s thoughts and ideas being sufficient outside of and apart from God.
My dear friends, CONSIDER THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION! Its center is the work of Christ, which brings us into an eternal relationship with our God that enlightens our present lives and assures our future lives in heaven.
CONSIDER as well THE BASIS OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION! Its basis is the Word of Christ! Listen once again to the words of our text: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” We must realize that man by nature lives in rebellion against God. The Bible informs us: “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). It is only after the Spirit has worked repentance and faith within our hearts that we can understand the truths of God revealed through the writings of the Bible, which Paul declares to be a solid “foundation” for our lives, “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (cf. Eph. 2:20). It is only in the Bible that we find the ultimate truths leading to true blessing in this life and the next. The Word of Christ informs every subject in the framework of Christian education.
Secular education, on the other hand, rests rather upon the thoughts and opinions of men. Ought all such thoughts and opinions be automatically rejected? Of course not! God has gifted every human being He has created. He has given them a natural knowledge of Himself and given every human being intellectual gifts which allow them to examine and live within this world. But the driving philosophies, principles, and traditions of men will inevitably be found to be in conflict with God’s Word. Paul urges us to “beware lest anyone cheat” us out of the grace and blessings of our God. What are those driving philosophies, principles, and traditions of men? Among them would be materialism…the thought that matter alone truly exists; evolution…the idea that our material universe arose without the creative act of God; personal autonomy…the belief that human beings are free of all constraints and can do whatever they please; and work-righteousness…the opinion that man can define his own concept of good and earn God’s favor without Christ.
Consider a second Free Press article from this past week. In Wednesday’s paper there was an article entitled, “Pope Laments Modern View of Gender” (Section A:5). While I seldom quote or commend the Pope, in this instance he is correct in his observations. The article informs us that “Pope Francis has lamented that children are being taught at school that gender can be a choice, adding that his predecessor, Benedict XVI has labeled current times ‘the epoch of sin against God the Creator.’ … Francis said, ‘Today, in schools they are teaching this to children—to children!—that everyone can choose their gender…God created man and woman, God created the world this way, this way, this way, and we are doing the opposite.’”
Once again, dear friends, CONSIDER as well THE BASIS OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION! Its basis is the Word of Christ! If we depart from that word, as secular education increasingly does, we will inevitably live to regret it, for as the Bible so clearly informs us: “All flesh is as grass, and all the glories of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever” (1 Pet. 1:24-25a).
CONSIDER, finally, THE GOAL OF CHRISTIAN EDUATION! Its goal is a walk with Christ! Paul opens our text today with this series of evangelical admonitions: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in itwith thanksgiving.” When we are led to faith by the work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts through the preaching of the gospel or through baptism, God has a specific goal in mind for our lives. He does not want us to return to sin, nor does He want us to be deprived of any of the many blessings He has in store for us. He wants us to keep on walking with Christ. He knows the difficulties that we will encounter in this sin-filled world. He knows the challenges we will face to our faith and our faithfulness. Consequently, He encourages us to be “rooted and built up” in Christ, so that we might be “established in the faith.” That faith is the doctrinal foundation of life presented throughout the Scriptures—a foundation absolutely necessary when the trials and tribulations of life occur. Satan wants to knock us off-balance; the world, while promising thrills and excitement, ultimately saps us of both our strength and joy; and our sinful flesh, in its pride, assumes that it knows what is best for us, while it often simply leads us astray. But when we are rooted, built up, and established in the truths we learn through Christian education, we become strong, wise, and able to meet those challenges and overcome them. Remember, our God is faithful (cf. 1 Cor. 1:9) and our Savior is true (cf. Rev. 22:6)!
Permit one last reference to this past week’s articles in the Free Press. Once again this past Wednesday in an article with no less an authority than Abigail Van Buren, the writer of “Dear Abby,” a young woman wrote that she was “obsessed with having sex,” that she had been having sex since she was eight years old, that now as an eighteen-year-old, she wanted to stop having sex, but her boyfriend did not and threatened that he would leave her if she would not continue. I believe this article likewise provides a way to contrast secular and Christian education. Dear Abby did not mention the concept of morality and certainly did not refer to the 6th Commandment in her response to this young woman. Rather, Abby directed her to Sexaholics Anonymous which in some ways, arguably, is defensible. However, what should be noted is this—the very best that secular education can provide children is a general sense of morality by which to live their lives. Without God and His Word, its concepts of right and wrong will no doubt be relative, but the very best goal will be outward morality in this world—a necessary but limited goal. Christian education has a much deeper goal. Yes, we teach the Ten Commandments but not as a moral end in themselves. They serve as a curb to our flesh, a guide in our lives, but most of all as a mirror to show us our need for Jesus and the importance of our walk with Jesus. That walk includes an understanding of sin, a rejoicing in God’s grace and forgiveness, and the blessed assurance of the unfailing love of God in life, at the time of death, and then throughout all of eternity.
My dear friends, CONSIDER THE NATURE, BASIS, AND GOAL OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION! As we have discovered—its center is the work of Christ; its basis is the word of Christ; and its goal is a walk with Christ! Amen.