[What Must we Learn?]
For all intellectual and academic disciplines, the Christian person must begin with God, and His revelation on that subject. Our thoughts about education, must begin with God. The Bible teaches us, that God Himself is a teacher (Job 36:22).
When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by me,” (Jn.14:6), He made an absolute statement concerning His Father, Himself and men. We too, must be able to make absolute statements based on scripture, about education.
We must dispel the myth that education relates mainly to the gathering of knowledge, in areas such as Maths, Science and English. These may be relevant subjects of study, but the growth of knowledge is secondary. The primary issues of education, relate to values, and specifically, whose values? In essence, what do we believe? I want to contend that the warp and woof of education must be specifically Christian. I do not mean by this, that we occasionally have a devotional study, or Bible reading or prayer, tacked onto a curriculum which ignores God, to supposedly give it legitimacy. This can inadvertently perpetuate a sacred/secular dichotomy, which has always proven hostile to Biblical faith: as though the Bible is helpful in “spiritual” things, but has nothing to teach us about science or medicine.
When the Bible says that Jesus “is to have first place in everything” (Col.1:18), it means that education must be in harmony with Him. Education, law, politics, economics and every other field of study, all have their origins in the eternal God, for “apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (Jn.1:3). A godly curriculum will give Him His rightful place.
If God really is “the strength of my life, and my portion forever” (Ps.73:26), and “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Neh.8:10), then God should be evident in education. Noah Webster, the famous dictionary writer, claimed almost 200 years ago, that “education without the Bible is useless.” Thus the whole course of our educational activity, should be in accord with scripture. This was one of the requirements of Deuteronomy 6, “so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and his commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.”
So, what must we learn?
I. To Know the Lord:
Eli’s sons had lots of religious experience, but they “didn’t know the Lord” (I Sam.2:12). Clearly religious experiences, and knowing God, are not the same thing. Are our childrens’ religious and educational experiences teaching them to know the Lord? Jesus’ prayer in John 17, was that we might know the Father, and Paul’s prayer was, “that I might know Him.” Nothing will be of any value to our children, unless they personally know the Lord. The Bible says, that “those who know the Lord, will be strong, and do exploits” (Dan.11:32), and this is what we must be leading our children into.
II. The Absolute Priority of:
a) God’s Kingdom:
Jesus taught us to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Mat.6:33). Jesus’ kingdom must be first. If Jesus Christ is my child’s king, there will be evidences of his willing obedience. The child will be glad to submit to Him, in all his relationships. Being members of God’s kingdom, means that it is not my child’s kingdom. He is a member of it, but is responsible to the king, Jesus Christ, for his attitudes, his actions and his words, and is not merely to live for himself. There will be evidences of his attitude, if he understands his proper place, as a servant in the kingdom of God.
b) God’s Will:
When Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (Jn.6:38), He made a clear statement concerning the nature of our relationship, with the God of heaven and earth. When He claimed, “if anyone serves Me, he must follow Me” (Jn.12:26), He wasn’t suggesting we should all go on guided tours around the Sea of Galilee. He was committing to us the same responsibility of obedience, that He had. Therefore, children must learn to submit themselves to the will of God, in all things. To “do all things without grumbling and complaining” (Phil.2:14), is one indication of their submission to God’s will.
Samuel reproved Saul with the statement that “obedience is better than sacrifice” (I Sam.15:22). Therefore, we can logically extrapolate that God is more interested in our childrens’ obedience from the heart, than whether they can sing hymns sweetly, read the Bible lucidly, or engage in outward religious performances.
Whether a child has learned obedience is easily determined through domestic tasks.
Our sons have learned that they have duties and responsibilities: make the bed, put out dirty clothes, do dishes, wash the car, cut the grass, load the trailer, put the garbage out. We want those jobs done, to be sure; we find out, in the process, if children have learned willing obedience. Our Lord did not float about as an impersonal spirit, as some sort of Peter Pan figure, unaffected by the affairs of life; the Bible says He learned obedience as a man, and our children must learn that their first priority in life is obedience to God.
c) God’s Word:
The child who has learned to read, can familiarise himself with the scriptures. He can begin the process of “meditating day and night in God’s law,” which Joshua 1 and Psalm 1 teach, and ultimately inherit the promises of blessing and success, which are attached. Thus he can learn to be governed by God’s Word, and consider this his absolute direction for life, in all things.
Children learn an enormous amount by visual example, and thus they need parental example. Someone has said that “the will of God is known by revelation, but that the ways of God are known by observation.” Are our children seeing us reading the scriptures, and treating the Bible as the most authoritative document on earth? Do they see us daily, living out the implications of our Christian faith, submitting to the scriptures? There is a strong chance that they will choose to copy what they see, if they see in our example, a verifiable faith. Never negate, the effect of a powerful, consistent example.
Paul instructed Timothy to “show yourself an example to those who believe” (I Tim.4:12), and he said, “be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (ICor.11.1). Children will learn the life of faith in God, as they observe it in us, the same way Timothy did from his mother and grandmother (II Tim.1:5). Our first disciples, are our own family members.
III. To “Rule and Have Dominion.”
This was God’s original purpose for all of us, and involves us taking responsibility in the world that God has made. Someone has said that, “power flows to people who take responsibility.” The person or community that refuses to take responsibility has a dismal future. The Federal Treasurer, in order to oversee a budget of hundreds of billions, has to make sure the sums stack up. So, a child starts with himself: his behaviour, his words, his attitudes, his bedroom, how he relates to his family members etc, and he will spend the rest of his life seeking to direct his affairs: his money and time, and many more things, in God’s service. A large part of our calling as parents is to train them in these things.
Joseph went from being a prisoner to a Prime Minister. How could he do that? He had learned at home, many years earlier, to “rule and have dominion,” in subjection to Jacob and Rachel. So, our children must learn obedience, responsibility, faithfulness in lots of domestic tasks, and accountability. That is the whole thrust of Jesus’ parable of the servants with the talents.
IV. To Absolutely Trust God:
The Bible commands us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov.3:5). The Bible says that Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one besides you to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you” (II Chron.14:11). We may as well admit from the first, that we have no strength in ourselves, but that God is absolutely trustworthy, and worthy of our confidence and our hope, and that we can depend on His faithfulness. Our children can learn from us, to trust in God.
V. To Place no Confidence in “the Flesh.”
No one can simultaneously trust in God, and in something, or somebody else. Thus our children must learn not to place their confidence in themselves, in man, money, or institutions. Furthermore, Christians must be wary of educational fads, such as the promotion of “self-esteem.” True self-esteem has nothing to do with my accomplishments, but must relate wholly to the fact that by the grace of God, I have been apprehended by God, and I am now considered by Him to be “in Christ,” the Saviour of the world. Through Christ, I have right standing with God. This is the basis of true self-esteem. Thus for the Christian person, with an awareness of the faithfulness and mercy of God, failure is not final.
The Bible warns us that “he who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Prov.28:26), and that we are not to “trust in princes” (Ps.146:3). It also warns us saying, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are strong” (Isa.31:1). Every person and institution this side of heaven is fallible-subject to failure. God is the only infallible One, and thus is worthy of all of our confidence. Jesus Christ will be faithful to us, through eternity.
VI. To Look to God in all Things:
When Jehoshaphat said to the Lord, “we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (II Chron.20:12), he provided an example for every generation of believers. Children can learn that God will be the source of every good thing for them, for He has said, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth” (Isa.45:22).
Our children’s security is not related to their bank account, or how intelligent, well qualified, or good looking they are, but is directly related to the faithfulness of God. The Bible says He wants to show Himself strong on behalf of those who trust in Him, and that includes our children.
VII. To Grow in Godly Wisdom and Character:
The Bible says, “Does not wisdom call, and understanding lift up her voice?” (Prov.8:1) Our children must learn that they have been called of God, and thus are to develop firstly as His individuals, to please Him. The Christian life for all of us, is not to be static or passive, but is to be characterised by God-inspired growth and change. That will mean challenge and adversity. The Bible teaches us that Daniel was such a mature individual, that even while alone in Babylon, in a hostile religious culture, he was shown to be neither corrupt nor negligent, but was faithful (Dan.6:4).
Thus our children must learn that their goal (amongst others) is to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God” (Mic.6:8). This will not happen overnight, but their lives are to be characterised by growth in the fruits of the Spirit, as they face the responsibilities of life. In twenty years from now, we trust that our children will be loving the Lord, married, raising children, and making a difference in their generation. Our task before God is to prepare them for this, so they are flexible in the hands of the Lord, and prepared to change their attitudes as God directs them: to cry with the Psalmist, “show me Thy ways, teach me Thy paths” (Ps.25:14).
What must we learn? What must our children learn?
To be “taught of the Lord” (Isa.54:13), means to love God, and accepts His Word as being authoritative in any area of life.
To be taught of the Lord means that a child develops a submissive attitude, and wants to do the will of God, above all else.
To be taught of the Lord means that a child is being prepared for eternity, wanting to hear something along the lines of, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Mat.25:21).
For it is God Himself who is the ultimate Teacher, and the One to whom we all will give account, Who said, “I am the Lord thy God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go” (Isa.48:17).