David Horner is the founding pastor of Providence Baptist Church, which was established October 1, 1978, and he has served as the senior pastor ever since. Horner’s message was entitled Knowing How to Live. His thesis was that we need to know what it means to live life God’s way and love it enough to lead others to do the same thing according to that same purpose. Taking his text from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Horner sought to show us answers to two questions:
1. Where do we get this idea that we are supposed to be partnering with parents in the area of cultivating youth?
2. Where do we get the idea that parents have the primary role?
Horner opened with an illustration that when he was in seminary at Gordon Conwell, he noticed that many lighthouses on the coast used Fresnel lenses (1822) to allow a simple oil lamp to project a beam out to sea for as far as 18-20 miles. And Jesus calls for us to be the light of a darkened world so that we can serve as lighthouses projecting the saving light of Christ out into the dangerous currents and rocky shoals of life lived by those who are apart from God.
I. MAKING SURE WE KNOW HOW TO LIVE
I Thessalonians 4:1 reads: “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” Although people often want a list of do’s and don’ts, we need to teach them to understand Christian principles so that they can apply God’s standards to many areas of life. Just as some of the old arts are sadly disappearing (handcarved woodwork, old family recipes, singing with close harmonies, reading good literature and poetry), we as parents are often failing to teach the coming generations the most basic knowledge of all–how to live as God intended. This is reaping unwelcome results in the lives of the rising generations. We need to rethink how we are doing ministry in the home and the church. Children learn how to live from (a) parents (practices in the home) and (b) church leaders (processes in the church).
Horner maintains that there are four essentials in knowing how to live. We have not lived well until we both know these things and have passed them on to others.
A. NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO LIVE UNTIL THEY HAVE BEEN SHOWN THE WAY OF THE LORD (Ps. 25:4).
God’s instruction contains practical information about what pleases Him and also brings about the greatest good in our lives. For example, Paul gave instructions to those he loved in Thessalonica in order that they might learn how to excel in all aspects of life and live for the pleasure of the Lord. Children need to be shown the way of the Lord.
B. NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO LIVE UNTIL THEY LEARN THE FEAR OF THE LORD.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). We need to teach children the fear of the Lord (Ps. 34:9, 11). We cannot do this if we live and speak as if God is inconsequential in our lives. We should naturally speak to our children about how our passions and values are shaped by a reverence for God.
C. NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO LIVE UNTIL THEY DISCOVER THE GRACE OF THE LORD.
Fear alone does not sustain an enduring foundation for right living but does introduce the motivation every person needs to seek reconciliation with the Lord. When we fear the Lord, we know our choices have consequences. When we hear the gospel, we know our consequences can be overcome. When we discover grace, we know our lives can be restored.
D. NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO LIVE UNTIL THEY TREASURE THE BEAUTY OF THE LORD.
Far too many people in our generation, and those we have influenced, have never seen the beauty and value and infinite worth of Jesus Christ (Psalm 27:4). When we treasure something, we cannot help but talk about it. We want others to enter into the joy. Why is it that we often fail to spontaneously share a testimony of what God is teaching us? Because (at least at those moments) we don’t treasure it. When we settle for mere religious duty, that’s what we hand off to the next generation.
Once we know how to live, we then need to make sure we know what to build….
II. MAKING SURE WE KNOW WHAT TO BUILD
Is it our ambition to build successful programs, to fill up state of the art buildings, to win awards for the greatest creativity and innovation? Is it our ambition to baptize record-breaking numbers of students, to build such a reputation that even larger churches try to recruit us away, to build our own student kingdom within the church that is the envy of all? Ever heard: “We just built a new building, and now we need to see some results.” Remember Paul’s reflection on the surpassing value of Christ (Phil. 3:8).
A. WE WANT LIVES THAT ARE WHOLLY INTEGRATED.
It is amazing how well-integrated our lives become and remain when we set our hearts and fix our gaze upon Christ. We are to build consistently and comprehensively into the lives of those we serve by making it our chief objective and consuming passion to make Christ known. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 provide the outline for making that possible.
1. Personal, passionate instruction
If the things of God have not gripped your heart and engaged your passions, you will not be motivated to pass them on to those in your household. Instruction from those who care little about a subject to those who have no knowledge of it breeds a lukewarm, disinterested familiarity.
2. Practice It
There needs to be evidence to support our claim that Christ is our treasure. Let your kids see you studying the Bible. Let your kids into your processing what sort of entertainment you allow in your home. Let your kids come with you as you do acts of service and mercy.
3. Proclaim/verbalize It
Take advantage of time spent driving – or performing other mundane tasks – to explain to your kids how you are living out the Christian faith (Deut 6:7) There are lessons at work: Doing the dishes, paying the bills, mowing the grass, raking the leaves, cleaning the house…alll these give opportunities to teach lessons about doing all for the glory of God. There are lessons during play: sharing, fairness, honesty, self-discipline in knowing when to get back to work, sportsmanship. In addition, there are particularly teachable moments (a time of discipline, a crisis occurs in the life of a loved one, when they first see something spectacular in nature).
4. Post It
There are creative ways to display evidence to house guests and family members that “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Deut. 6:8-9)
a. Hands — All you do
b. Forehead — All you think
c. Doorposts — All that is in your home
d. Gates — All that touches your public life
B. A LIFE THAT IS WELL-ORDERED AND BALANCED
We cannot expect our ministry to rise to a level outside the home beyond what it has inside the home.
1. Every-member ministry
Ministry leaders must make sure that they do not do the ministry for the church, but equip the church to do the ministry (Ephesians 4:12, 16).
2. Principle-based ministry
Don’t give people rules and check-lists, give them principles to guide them in complex situations. That way we get to partner with families as we equip them, not become substitutes for families as we take over for them.
Richard Baxter wisely recognized:
“We must also have a special care for families to see that they are well-ordered and that each performs its duties. For the life of religion, and the welfare and glory of the church and state, depend much on family government and duty. If we neglect this we will undo all. How can we see to the revival of a whole congregation if all the work is cast upon the pastor alone? Or if the heads of families neglect their responsibilities, what will be the extent of a church awakening?
If any good is begun by the pastoral ministry, it will be stopped–or at least hindered–if the family is careless, prayerless, and worldly. But if you get the heads of families to do their part, to take up the work where you have left off, and then finally to help it on, what an abundance of good might be done! So I urge you to see the importance of family cooperation in your ministry.
Your goal is to be effective in family ministry. So get information about how each family is organized, and how God is worshiped there. Visit the families when they are at leisure and find out if the head of the family prays within his home, reads the Scriptures, enters into worship in other ways. Labor to convince those who are negligent about the validity of such duties; ask that they promise to reform their ways for the future.” (The Reformed Pastor, pp. 79-80)
When we know how to live life to its full measure in Christ, we will never settle for a ministry that falls short of that delight. God does not intend for us to make life in Christ a one-dimensional, shallow, trivial addition to the lives of students anymore than He does for you and me. Students need to see Christ in all His beauty displayed in integrated, well-balanced lives.
Update: Message Audio in MP3 Format