Dads Who Disciple
Topic: Expository Passage: Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Since this is Father’s Day, I’d like to consider one of my favorite parenting passages. Deuteronomy 6 is best known for vv. 4–5, which the Jews call “The Great Shema.” Jesus called this command, to “Love the Lord” supremely, the greatest command in Scripture. It’s very important. But Deuteronomy 6 also teaches that a big part of loving God is making sure that we pass this love on to the next generation. Let’s take a look at what it has to say both about loving God and parenting the next generation (read).
Remember that Deuteronomy is a sermon that Moses preached shortly before his death. Israel was excited to seize the Promised Land. But Moses knew that their greatest need was to remain faithful to the Lord, so that God would remain near and bless Israel.
The same is true of us. There is no greater treasure than the nearness of God and the blessing of his grace. And there is nothing more valuable that you can pass along to the next generation than a deep walk with the Lord. If we love our children, we should be passionate about raising them to know and love the Lord. So, how do we pass our faith to them, so that they can live under an umbrella of grace?
And let me add that this important questions for all of us, not just for parents. Even if you don’t have kids in the home, the children of our church are watching you, and learning from you. And many of you have influence with grandkids, nieces, nephews, cousins, and children in your neighborhood. This includes teenagers and young adults. Kids are watching, and you can have a profound impact as you take time to invest.
So, this morning, I want to focus on 2 major challenges from this chapter. If you want to be a dad who disciples, a mother who disciples, or a Christian disciple maker, you must first, be godly, and second, teach godliness. First, to raise a godly generation, you must…
I. Be Godly.
In other words, it is very difficult to pass along a godliness that you don’t personally possess. It’s not impossible. One of the blessings of the church is that we can compensate for each other’s weakness through other godly examples and discipleship programs. But the fact remains that the greatest gift you can give your children is to walk with God yourself. And Moses highlights 3 essentials to pursuing godliness. First, you must…
Know the Lord (v. 4). This verse states Israel’s 2 foundational beliefs. First, “The Lord (Yahweh) (is) our God.” The point is that Yahweh had a unique, special relationship with Israel that no other nation shared. Second, “The Lord is one!” In other words, Yahweh is the one and only true God. Because Israel lived in polytheistic world, Moses especially wants to emphasize Yahweh is absolutely unique. No one stands beside him. He is the “King of kings and the Lord of lords.”
I doubt that many of us would question these truths, so we might be tempted to skip over it as elementary. But the fact is that everything about our faith stems from this reality. And what really matters is not what we say we believe but what our affections and actions really prove.
What does your worship, your Bible reading, your prayer life, and heart passions say about your view of God? Do you live like someone who believes that Yahweh is the exclusive Lord and that he is your God, or like he isn’t really that big of a deal? These questions matter, because nothing is more foundational to your effectiveness as a parent and a disciple maker than what you really believe about v. 4. This is because if you see God for who he truly is, it will naturally lead to the second essential…
Love the Lord (v. 5). Jesus said that it is the first and great commandment, so, it is very important. Notice particularly that God is calling us to more than a strong feeling of love.
First, God commands us to love the Lord, “with all your heart.” Eugene Merrill states that in the Hebrew way of thinking, the heart was considered the, “seat of the intellect, equivalent to the mind or rational part of humankind.” So, loving God with all your heart means that your passion for God dominates the core of your being and especially your mind.
From there it moves out to the soul. This term encompasses the human will and the choices we make. At times, it referred to the entire person. So, Moses is saying that a genuine love of God reshapes all of our priorities, passions, and choices. It transforms our entire being.
Third, God commands us to love him “with all your strength.” Regarding this term, Daniel Block states, “Its meaning is best captured by a word like ‘resources,’ which includes physical strength, but also economic or social strength.” So, if I love God, it will reshape everything I do, how I use my body, my talents, my finances, and my home. Everything I have becomes a tool to express my love for God and to further his purpose.
Hopefully, we’re getting the point that God demands more than a token nod. He wants us to love him with a life-transforming passion.
Notice what else Moses says about this passion in vv. 13–14. Loving the Lord means fearing the Lord. We must stand in awe of his glory. And this deep reverence must lead to service, or you could also say worship. And when Moses says you “shall take oaths (exclusively) in His name,” the point seems to be that Israel must swear allegiance only to Yahweh. No other god can stand beside him, as he says in v. 14.
I want to emphasize how crucial this love is to effectively passing along our faith. I was listening to a sermon this week by Milton Vincent, and he said, “Your affections are the most contagious thing about you.” That’s so true. our passions and our actions communicate a lot more than our words, especially with those who know us best. What would your spouse, your children, and your closest friends say are your greatest passions? What really gets you fired up? What do you love to talk about? If you were to take a tally of your social media posts for the last 6 months, what would that tally say about what your passions?
You can say all you want that Jesus matters the most, but your family knows what’s in your heart. By God’s grace, build a contagious passion for the Lord, because it is foundational to your impact. The 3rd essential is…
Obey the Lord. Jesus was pretty blunt about the fact that genuine love for the Lord always results in obedience, when he said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Moses makes the same connection in v. 2. If you truly “fear the Lord your God,” you will “keep all His statutes and His commandments.” Moses continues the them in v. 3 and again in vv. 17–18.
God is clear that if we truly fear him and love him, by God’s grace we will strive to obey everything he has said.
And this obedience or lack thereof often dictates your effectiveness as a disciple maker. We’ve all dismissed someone’s talk as hypocritical, because we know their life doesn’t match their words. How sad it would be if you lost your voice with your children, because of your disobedience.
Beyond that, you are setting an example of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. If you act one way at church, but a very different way at home, they are learning that Christianity is playing a hypocritical game. If you obey Scripture half-heartedly, they are learning that God really doesn’t require all of us and that God’s commands aren’t all really for my good.
But if I am always striving to obey, they see that God matters and that his commands are good and gracious. Of course, none of us will always obey perfectly. We all have struggles, and we all fall short. The key is that when we fall, we are honest about our failures and that we humbly run to the grace of God. In fact, we sometimes teach more in our failure than in our success, if we respond well. So, your failures don’t have to wreck your kids. What they need to see is that are striving to obey God, because you love and trust him.
In sum, if you want to be a dad, a mom, a grandparent, or a mentor who disciples others, it all begins with developing godliness. It’s very difficult to teach what you do not believe or possess yourself.
It’s so true that the greatest gift you can give your children, your grandchildren, and the next generation of this church is a robust life of godliness rooted in gospel grace. It’s far more important than providing a beautiful home, a massive college fund, going on grand vacations, or buying big gifts. Walk with God. Show them what it means to be a Christian, love them like Christ, and watch God use you. Be godly. Second…
II. Teach godliness.
One of Moses’s great concerns is that once Israel conquered the land and enjoyed prosperity, they would forget all that God had done (v. 12). A second closely related fear is that the story of God’s deliverance would die with the exodus generation. Therefore, Moses repeatedly urges his audience that loving God requires discipling the next generation to love the Lord as well. Notice the charge in v. 2. Notice that Moses isn’t only concerned for the next generation (i.e., your sons). He also mentions “your grandsons.”
That’s significant, because our goal is not merely that our children profess faith in Christ and keep going to church. Afterall, if this is all we accomplish, we have only delayed the end of Christianity by one generation.
Rather, our goal must be to see the faith take such deep root in the next generation that they are as equipped or even more equipped than us to teach their children. In other words, we aren’t just looking to raise up Christians; we are looking to raise the next generation of godly husbands and wives, pastors, missionaries, deacons, Sunday School teachers, and evangelists (2 Tim 2:2). Our goal is that the next generation of Life Point “will be able to teach others also.” That’s a big goal! So, how do we get there? I see 3 A-words in this text. First, we must teach godliness…
Unashamedly: Something that stands out about this chapter is the absolute truth claims and responsibilities that God gives. Verse 4 says, “The Lord is one.” There is no one beside him. Because of this, v. 5 says that he demands our complete allegiance. Verses 14–15 say, “You shall not go after other gods…for the Lord your God is a jealous God.”
This tone is very different from the “tolerance” that our society values so highly. We’re told that a good parent or teacher doesn’t push an agenda, even as the left pushes its agenda very hard. Instead, we simply urge kids to find their own path.
But God says that’s bogus, and really, it is unloving. There is one God, and salvation, blessing, and eternal life are only found in him. Therefore, we have an agenda. We are raising kids to know and love Jesus.
Of course, we can’t force them to do so. God has to change their hearts, and they have to respond in faith. So, we have to pray that God would do what only he can do.
But don’t ever apologize for teaching the exclusivity of the Christian faith or for pleading with people to believe on Jesus. Don’t feel bad for shielding your children from false worldviews or for boldly showing them why they are false. Teach the Word of God and the gospel unashamedly. Second…
All the Time (vv. 6–9): These verses are very challenging. But I want to emphasize that it all begins with your heart. Moses first says in v. 6, “These words…shall be in your heart.” The only way I will be motivated to teach God’s Word the way vv. 7–9 describe, is if God’s Word is my heart passion.
But if that’s true, I’m ready, in the words of v. 7 to “teach them diligently.” It’s interesting that the verb teach, actually comes from the idea of an inscription. Eugene Merrill states, “The image is that of the engraver of a monument who takes hammer and chisel in hand and with painstaking care etches a text into the face of a solid slab of granite. The sheer labor of such a task is daunting indeed, but once done the message is there to stay.” What a great picture of what disciple making really is.
Then with the remainder of vv. 7–9, Moses paints a powerful picture of what diligent teaching and a Word-centered home will look like. In a word, God says that effective, biblical parenting requires constant repetition of basic biblical truth. A godly parent must be consumed with teaching. This includes when you “sit in your house, (and) when you walk by the way.”
Sitting refers to times of rest or inactivity. Don’t waste those times. Use them to speak of biblical truth. And then walking is a reference to times of busyness or work. Oftentimes, the best teaching moments happen when you are doing a project together. Working creates camaraderie and alertness. I have some distinct memories of spiritual lessons I learned while doing projects. So, parents, when you are working on a project with your kids, don’t just think about getting the project done. Use it as a teaching moment.
Next, Moses mentions, “when you lie down, and when you rise up.” You could also say, “From sun up to sun down.” Now, Moses is not saying that parents need to have Bible classes with their kids from the moment they wake up until they go to bed. It’s not practical. Rather, Moses is using hyperbole to make the point that we should take every opportunity to teach. We shouldn’t just put it in the calendar for Sundays or family devotions.
Then the point of vv. 8–9 is that we must express our faith and commitment to God publicly. There’s some debate about whether Moses intended for these verses to be taken literally, but modern orthodox Jews do. Maybe you’ve seen them wearing their phylacteries. They wear little boxes that contain fragments of Scripture, and they put them on their doors.
Regardless, the point is that we should not be ashamed of our faith. We want to be clear to our kids and to everyone around us that we are committed to the Lord.
I recognize that you might read these verses and feel overwhelmed. You don’t know what to say to your kids, or maybe it’s awkward for you and for them. In response, there are a lot of books, videos, etc., that you can use, especially with younger children. From there, ask probing, spiritual questions. Talk about the sermon or the songs we sing at church. Look for ways to turn conversations toward spiritual things.
Get creative. If you’re struggling, ask someone in the church that you trust. Regardless, find ways to show your kids that the Word matters to you and to provide a strong biblical and theological education. The third A-word is…
Apologetically (vv. 20–24): By this I mean that you teach with a focus on providing a reasonable explanation of our faith and reasonable defense against outside attacks (read). Notice that v. 20 anticipates a question coming from Hebrew children. They want to know why we believe all this stuff and why we have to obey so many rules? We should expect that our kids will ask the same kinds of questions.
And Moses tells Israel to respond with a reasonable explanation. Tell them how God delivered Israel from Egypt, how he gave Israel the law at Mt. Sinai, and how he promised to bless Israel as they obeyed.
The example that Moses sets is so important. Sometimes, we feel threatened by questions, or they make us afraid that our kids are about to abandon Jesus. Therefore, we squash questions or simply demand conformity. As a result, questions linger and sometimes bitterness grows. And when our kids venture out into a hostile culture, they are sitting ducks for Satan to destroy.
Therefore, it’s vital that we follow Moses’s example. We don’t have to hide from the culture. We have a reasonable faith that can stand up to the test. So, be ready to answer the questions and false accusations our culture makes against Christianity. Make your kids feel comfortable asking their questions. And ask them questions to make sure they aren’t just giving lip service to Christ even as questions and doubts linger in their minds. If something comes up that you can’t answer, be honest, but tell them you will get an answer. And then get one. Help your kids develop a strong foundation that will endure long after you are gone.
As our culture becomes more hostile toward Christianity, I think it’s fair to say that more than at any other time in our nation’s history, there is a tremendous need for sound discipleship of the next generation. They are going to face some stiff challenges, some hard questions, and real sacrifice. But no matter what they may face, I know that Jesus is worthy of their love and worship and that every sacrifice will be worth it in eternity. If we love the Lord, if we love our kids, and if we love this church there is no more precious gift we can give than to build a robust faith in the next generation that will withstand every challenge. So, let’s all commit to pray that God would do a mighty work in our young people, let’s pray for parents that God would give wisdom and endurance, and let’s all invest in discipling the next generation of Christ’s servants.