A sermon that I got permission to share most of on this blog. I didn't write it, I just obtained permission to share it here.
The sermon begins with a reading of Psalm 78:1-8, you can read it [here].
Today we celebrate the beginning of a new school year, and a new Sunday School year here at [redacted], because both are very important in the lives of our children.
In the first 200 years of our nation's history, education in this country was explicitly Christian, and it produced amazing results. In the era of the Founding Fathers, where all education was Christian education, there was widespread literacy. Our nation rose to greatness because it was founded on the principles in the Word of God. The curriculum was God-centered. Unfortunately, the rise of the modern education system has replaced Christianity in our schools with humanism and secularism.
In 1963, Madelyn Murray-O'Hare succeeded in taking prayer and Bible reading out of our schools. Since then, the curriculum in our public schools has become human-centered -- based on the belief that the human being -- not God -- is the highest entity in existence and everything is built around it. In addition, the Bible has become nothing more than just another piece of ancient literature.
In 1887, A.A. Hodge, professor at Princeton University and one of America's greatest theologians, said that a public education system, divorced from Biblical Christianity, will become the most atheistic, anti-Christian, and nihilistic system this world has ever seen. It's hard to argue that the separation of church and state as it appeals to the educational system today has made Hodge's 130 year-old statement true.
Add to that, the proliferation of immoral language, sex and violence on TV and in the movies and video games has destroyed all moral absolutes, and all standards of good and evil taught in God's holy word. The traditional family, Sunday worship, and morality are fast becoming things of the past.
Add to that the fact that today's society has become so characterized by self-gratification, self-centeredness and self-absorption. We are preoccupied with promoting ourselves to ourselves. The newest word in our language is "selfies", and through the internet we are constantly engaged in self-promotion, self-labeling, and self-advertisement. Yet the Bible is full of admonitions to do for others more than we do for ourselves.
Thus, from our American beginnings as a Christian nation, founded upon Christian principles, led by men and women of faith, we have become one of the least Christian countries in the world. Truth be told -- Islam is rapidly becoming the primary religion of the U.S. and many other countries.
If all this doesn't disturb you in some way -- it should! But lest we throw up our hands and give up -- all is not lost. The greatest challenge facing the church in our generation is the need for Christian Education. In the past, as I mentioned earlier, all education was Christian Education. Today, it is the sole responsibility of Christians -- specifically Christian parents, families and the church. Education is the foundation for a good and full life, setting the individual on a path to personal fulfillment, economic security and societal contribution. For many centuries it had been considered that education in general and academia in particular were responsible for the moral and social development of students and for bringing together diverse groups for the common good. Today, the key that unlocks the door to building a better world is Christian Education -- an education grounded in Holy Scripture.
If our church is to face this greatest challenge, we must recognize the importance of Christian Education. Teaching is powerful! Teaching can be greatly used to build God's kingdom. Jesus himself spent more time teaching than anything else.
What does this all mean for us? It means that we begin anew today -- as parents and all who are responsible for raising children, and as a congregation.
A man by the name of Bruce Wilkinson has said, "From the birth of your child onward, you as a parent are a craftsman for God. In your hands is the soul of the next generation."
We must also lead by example. Instructing children from the Bible is good, but living what we teach is even better. We can teach children how important it is to obey God, but they will know what we really believe by how we conduct ourselves. Children are watching every move -- good and bad -- whether ti be the example set by their parents, or the standards set by others such as teachers, pastors, coaches, professional athletes, politicians and Hollywood stars. It has been said, "Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls upon them makes an impression." The truth is, everyone today is crafting the next generation. What values do we want to instill in our children today who will become tomorrow's adults? What messages do our actions portray to our children. Someone once said, "Don't worry that children never listen to you. Worry that they're always watching you."
As parents, and as Christians, we must all walk by faith, and God must be at the forefront of our lives if he is to have any meaning in the lives of our children. If we settle for less than God's best, our children are sure to follow in our footsteps.
The good news for us this morning is that the more we know Jesus, the more we will want to be more and more like him by becoming the men and women he wants us to be. The same is true for our children.
A great deal of responsibility has been placed on our shoulders. Children grow up quickly, and we only have a short window of opportunity to influence a child's character. One statistic says that nearly "three-quarters of all people who have consciously, intentionally and personally chosen to follow Jesus Christ did so before their 18th birthday." We need to devote as much time and attention as we can to young people while they are still young and moldable.
And so we are here today, not just to celebrate, but to commit ourselves to the Christian Education of our children -- of these precious ones who are here in our midst. The Psalmist has stated that God's commands are to be taught to our children and grandchildren, and that if we are diligent in teaching them to walk in this way, then they will receive a great blessing and inherit God's best.
The question for us this morning is: What are we going to do? What spiritual legacy are we going to pass on to today's children? Many years ago, Rosa Parks said, "It is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and hopefully, we shall overcome." We need to be sure to raise the next generation to know God if we want to see the kingdom of God advance and overcome the escalating sin of our country. We need to be sure to raise the next generation to know God if we want to see our children thrive in a post-Christian society and begin to reclaim our nation's spiritual heritage. We must all take up the challenge of Christian Education and be intentional about raising our children with strong Christian values -- not just parents and Sunday School teachers. History has proven that it only takes three generations for a family, or a nation, to slip away from God entirely. We are now on that brink. The bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old enough he will not depart from it." (Prov. 22:6)
My deepest prayer for this church today and for Christian Education is that we may all come to know Jesus and to be known by him; that we might all engage in the practice of hearing his voice and following him and in the process become like him; that we may all be counted among his own and enjoy the life he has made possible for us -- life that is abundant and eternal. May God bless us and our children. Amen.