Rev. Haak is pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan and radio pastor for the Reformed Witness Hour, on which this message was aired.
In the past weeks, many of us have again witnessed the opening of Christian schools, and many of us have returned to the active, daily teaching of our children. As people of God, we believe that it is our calling to bring up our children. And, as the Lord gives us the ability and provides for us, it is our calling to establish our own Christian schools for them.
What are the reasons for this? There are especially three reasons.
The first is that the Scriptures teach that it is our calling as parents to instruct our children in the way of the Lord. Specifically, it is the calling of fathers to do this. Isaiah 38:19: “the father to the children shall make known thy truth.” Genesis 18:19: “For I know him (that is, Abraham), that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4: “And, ye fathers, …bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Everywhere the Scriptures make plain that it is the calling of a believing father, with the aid of his believing wife, to bring up his children in the way of the Lord. It is not the calling of the state in public education. It is not the calling of the church in parochial education. But it is the calling of the parents. And the instruction includes all that makes the child a child: physically, emotionally, spiritually, educationally. The parent is entrusted with and is responsible for the entire nurture of his children.
The second reason that we provide Christian schools is that we believe, from the Word of God, that it is our calling to instruct our children in a distinctive way, that is, in God’s truth as we are given by grace to believe it. It is not our calling to provide simply a bland, lukewarm, you-decide-for-yourself type of education. It is not our calling merely to present options for our children, from which they may choose what pleases them. But it is our calling to bring up our children in the truth of the Word of God as we believe it. That truth must be applied to every sphere of knowledge. The light of the Word of God, the Reformed and biblical faith, must be brought to bear on every area of knowledge. To expose error, yes. But much more. God’s truth must be brought to bear upon every area of knowledge in order that His glory may be woven into everything that our children learn, in order that they might adore and glorify Him and serve Him in this world as His children.
This must not be done artificially. We do not simply take the truth of God’s Word and tape it on the outside of subjects. This truth must be woven into the very core and heart of the subject. Indeed, one does not know anything about a subject unless he knows how it stands in relationship to the truth of God.
Our third reason for providing our own Christian schools is that it is our calling, as parents, to instruct our children so that they are equipped to serve God. It is our calling that we bring up our children so that when they leave our homes they are able to live to His glory. They must be instructed and taught how to live as God’s children in this world, how to live as believing fathers, believing mothers, in the work place, in the church. Whose duty is that? You say, “Well, I thought that was the duty of the minister.” No. That is your duty, as a father, to bring them up so that they think God’s thoughts after Him and are equipped to serve Him in every area of life.
These are the reasons that lie behind a Christian school’s existence, namely, it is our calling to instruct our children; it is our calling to instruct them in a distinctive manner; it is our calling to instruct them so they are equipped to serve God. These reasons must not become mere platitudes. They must be living realities and commitments of our heart.
So we look this coming year with expectation to the task of Christian education. The Christian looks with expectation towards Christian teachers. He prays that the Christian teacher may be equipped by God to bring sound instruction through thoughtful preparation. We look for teachers who put their heart into their work and believe that every class counts, teachers who are men and women of consistent and godly example. We pray for Christian school teachers, because Christian school teachers must say to their students: “Do as I do.” We pray also that we have good communication with our teachers, and that we show our teachers our support and love for them.
We have expectations also for the students who attend Christian schools. Those expectations are that they be diligent, that they take this obligation seriously, that they see the great privilege that is theirs, that they apply their talents, that they use their time. Our prayer for them is that they show courtesy to and love for one another, and kindness and respect and obedience to those who are in authority over them.
And we have expectations in this coming year for us as parents. If you have the privilege of sending your child to a Christian school, then your obligation toward and involvement with the school is not finished when the children leave your door and head for school and you pay your tuition. It must be a loving commitment, a prayerful involvement, a daily involvement. You must show your children, through your life before them, that this is of great concern to you.
The Word of God that equips our hearts and prepares them for this coming year with respect to Christian education is found in Psalm 34:11-14. Here, in these verses, we find all the things that we have been talking about so far today. Psalm 34 is a prayer of David. In verses 11-14 we read the following:
Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
This psalm was written by a very humble David. David at this time was in the cave of Adullam. He had just feigned himself mad before Achish the king of Gath. Now he is alone and deserted in the cave of Adullam. In that situation he turns his thoughts to the children of God’s covenant. That is not really so striking, because when a child of God has been humbled low and crushed in pride, then his mind and heart become very concerned about spiritual things and about spiritual responsibilities. It is the exalted and prosperous Christian who is seldom mindful of children. It is the humbled child of God who is mindful of the children of the church.
David says to the children of the covenant: “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” There is a great sense of urgency there. Do you possess that as a parent? Come, ye children! Hearken unto me! Urgency.
Why was David so urgent? He was urgent, first of all, because of his personal experience. David knew the seriousness of sin. He knew the consequences of sin. He knew the difficulties of godliness in this world. He knew the schemes and plots of the evil one, the devil. He was one who had personally experienced the Christian life. He had gone through the struggles. He had seen his sins and weaknesses. And out of that he has a sense of urgency for his children.
Still more, David possesses urgency because he loves the children of God’s covenant. He loves them with the love of God. Do not say you love your children if you are not concerned about what your children are taught. Do not say you love your children if you are not concerned whether or not they are being equipped. Love for a child will mean that you are very diligent for their education.
Still more. David’s urgency is based on his desire for God’s glory. He wants God to be glorified in the lives of the children coming up in the kingdom and covenant of God. He is not so concerned that they be wealthy and honored and successful in earthly terms. But he desires that God be glorified in them.
For these reasons David was urgent. He says, “I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” He wants to make the children God-fearing. The fear of the Lord is not a bad thing. It refers to holy reverence, to a loving awe. It is the knowledge, first of all, of the majesty of God and of His sovereignty. But then, secondly, it is the knowledge of one’s own littleness before God. And then it is to be overwhelmed that this God, so great, has been gracious to me. So a godly fear is simply this: that God’s smile is your greatest desire and God’s frown is your greatest dread. This is what David wants to instill in the children of the covenant.
He does not want to instill in them how they are going to improve the world, how they are going to advance social causes. No, these are not his concerns. This is not his object. But his resolve and object is to teach them to fear God in this world—in their work, in their home, in their school—that they might show forth the virtues of the sovereign God. His goal was that they be led to worship God, that they be led to adore God, that they be led to resolve to place their trust in God alone. That is the object of Christian education.
David goes on to say that his instruction, having this great object, will be concrete and pointed instruction in godliness. Read verses 12 through 14:
What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
David there is speaking of the fact that the fear of God will be shown in a thankful Christian life. Having been saved by grace, we find that the burden of our hearts is to ask the question: “How shall I thank Him? How shall I thank Him in all of my life?” Then David becomes very specific. He says, We shall thank God, first of all, with a bridled tongue. “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.” In Romans 3 we learn that the first evidence of depravity is found in the tongue. “The poison of asps is under their lips” (v. 13). But so also the evidence of the fear of God is found in the tongue. And the object of education is to give specific instruction as to how to use the tongue to the glory of God. Jesus taught that what comes out of the mouth reveals what is in our heart. So the instruction will be to keep our tongues from speaking guile, that is, deceit and falsehood, and to teach our children to speak honestly and charitably.
Still more. The goal of education will be holy actions. David says, “Depart from evil and do good.” That is referring to the antithetical life of the believer. This, too, is a great goal in Christian education. Antithetical simply means separation of the believer from the evil world and dedication of the believer to the service of God, to the performance of that which is good.
So the goal of a Christian education is that the child be equipped to bring forth holy actions in this world, that the child be equipped to be pleasing to God and to have his eye upon God in this world.
Finally, the goal of this education will be peace-making. David says, “Seek peace and pursue it.” What good is all the education of a child if he ends up fighting and squabbling and filled with pettiness and selfishness? No, the goal of education will be peace-making. And that all fits. If the child is taught to fear the Lord, if the child is taught to see the glory of God in all things, if the child is taught to bridle his tongue and to bring forth holy actions in his life, then the result will be peace-making. He will seek peace and will pursue it. The peace of God will descend upon his life and upon his home. And in that peace of God he will flourish and prosper.
David, then, is resolved to teach the joy and blessedness of being a child of God, founded upon the truth of God’s Word. That must be our resolve. We must teach our children the joy and blessedness of being a child of God, and our instruction must be founded upon the wonderful truth of God’s Word as expressed in the Reformed faith.
Are you resolved to bring this instruction to your children? Are you resolved to sacrifice for it? Look to God and remember: all the instruction that we give to our children is powerless unless God, from the very first to the last, blesses it. He has promised His blessing. In that confidence, let us go forward to teach our children the fear of the Lord.