"Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God."

Luke 18:16 NKJV


"Take Care of the Lambs"

As we are gathered in convention, many things call for our time and attention in the work of the Kingdom of God laid before us. Not the least of the focus of our time and attention must be and remain what we can and must do for the Christian education of our children, our young people. This is brought out by the theme chosen for this convention taken from the words of Christ: "Feed my lambs . . . feed my sheep" (John 21:l5ff.).

This command comes from our Lord who a number of times in His earthly ministry showed His love and concern for children in a special way. On the well-known occasion recorded in Matthew 18 and Mark 16, when some mothers brought their children to Jesus for His blessing, the disciples rebuked those that brought them (isn't it eye-opening that Jesus' disciples were the rebukers?). They perhaps said things like: "Dont you know the Lord is busy? He has come to this earth to build the Kingdom of God. Let Him get on with His work! Why pester Him with your little ones?" Do we, in our own ways, as individuals or as a congregation or as a church body, sometimes reflect this attitude of the disciples?

Let there be no question about the fact that children and their Christian training are very dear to the Lord, and therefore children and their Christian training must also be dear to us who would serve Him aright. Jesus loves little children ("And He took them up in His arms.. and blessed them." Mark 10:16, Matt. 18:1-4). Our Savior-God is concerned about their proper training ("But bring them up in the in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" Eph. 6:4; Isaiah 40:11; John 21:25). Jesus commanded our children to be brought to Him early ("Suffer the little children to come unto Me" Mark 10:14; Matt. 28:15; 2 Tim. 3:15). Our Lord God wants them to be trained thoroughly in His Word ("And thou shalt teach them {God's words} diligently unto thy children." Deut. 3:l2, Matt. 28:20, Ps. 1:2, 111:10, 2 Tim. 3:17). Jesus earnestly warns against spiritual neglect ("Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones." Matt. 18:10, Mark 10:13-14). God promises to reward those who give children spiritual care ("Train up a child . . . and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Prov. 22:6, Matt. 10:42, Prov. 29:17, Ps. 1:1-3).

When the Lord told Peter: "Feed my lambs," he wished to remind him and us of the great care that is necessary for our children. The story is told of a pastor who was once visiting a sheep farm. It was towards evening, and the pastor was walking with the master. Suddenly threatening clouds and high winds began to appear, but before the master and the pastor ran for shelter, the master hurried back to call his older son and shouted, "Take care of the lambs! There is a storm coming!" Similarly, consider carefully: Our Lord and Savior was soon to return to His throne on high, but one of the last words He left with His disciples was: Take care of the lambs!

This concern of the Lord has behind it a realization of a child's weak and helpless condition while attempting to survive in the "storm" that is this ungodly world. The weakness and helplessness referred to is not only in the physical realm, but also, and even chiefly, in the spiritual. Children are by nature sinful and would be lost forever except they be diligently cared for. Children dare not be left to choose for themselves what they want, whether that be what they need for their physical well-being or what they need for their precious, blood-bought souls. The Savior's lambs need to be directed to, and guided by, the green pastures of His holy and saving Word. The Psalmist asks and answers: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word" (Ps. 119:9).

In the Lord's speaking of feeding the lambs even before feeding the sheep we might conclude that He sees in the little ones the possibility of the future--the future of His Church. There is no greater heritage that one generation of Christians can leave for the next than the rich heritage of the Word of God and the pure Gospel of the Savior. The Psalmist brings this out when he says: "God established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children; that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children; that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the words of God, but keep His commandments" (Ps 78:5-7).

There are only two basic world-views. One is a God-centered view of life, its meaning and purpose; the other is a creature-centered view. The former is what our Savior-God expects His people to inculcate to the up-and-coming generation. Each generation of Christians is responsible for handing down to the next a view of life which teaches children to put their confidence in God. One place to look to determine if a Christian Church has a proper love for its Lord is at what it is doing to feed, care for, the lambs of the Good Shepherd. Such feeding, such caring, is an on-going, yea, a crying need!

The Real World and Real Truth

The congregation which I serve has a Christian Day School. Our children have the blessing of a formal education in a school which supplements beautifully what they learn by word and example (hopefully) at home and in church. And yet there is commonly heard even from members who choose not to avail their children of the benefits of our school the complaint that the students in our school aren't prepared to meet the real world. There is heard something like this: "There's a jungle out there, a world of struggle and survival and young people need to be equipped to meet it. We want a school for our youngsters which prepares them for the real world."

Of course, that's true. We do want our young people to be ready to live in the real world. But is the real world this present, evil, dying world? The Apostle John writes: "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (1 Jn. 2:17). St. Paul writes that "the fashion of this world passeth away" (1 Cor. 7:31). He says that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ "gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world" (Gal. 1:14). On the basis of such a perspective it must be said and understood that giving Christ's lambs an education aimed at preparing them for this world only falls pitifully, woefully short of meeting their real needs.

As we see it, the real world is the world as God created it: "And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). That one-time perfect world was lost due to the entrance of sin but will one day be restored, and "we according to His promise look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). Therefore we suggest that if education is preparation for life, and life is preparation for eternity, then we will want schools for our children and young people which equip them for a life that will in turn equip them for heaven. Education in time must be education for eternity if it is to be true education.

At the same time it follows that a true education is grounded upon and governed by the Word of God. There is nothing else in this present fallen world which will survive in the real world. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35). "Forever, 0 Lord, thy Word is settled in heaven" (Ps. 119:89). If we want true education for the real world, we must base that education on the truths of the Holy Scriptures, which alone can answer aright the big questions in this life of "Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?"

The Savior prayed for His disciples, young and old alike: "Sanctify them through Thy Truth, Thy word is Truth" (John 17:17) He said: "The Scripture cannot be broken" (Jn. 10:35). The Psalmist therefore says: "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps 119:105).

Furthermore, Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate (Jn. 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13) is the embodiment of all Truth. He is "the Truth" (Jn. 14:6). Christ is both the "power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). He is "the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (Jn. 1:9). Since Jesus Christ is Himself the Truth, the goal of all true education must be to bring children to know and believe on Him "that in all things He might have the preeminence (hold first place)" (Col. 1:18). The goal of true, Christian education is "casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).

This latter is an all-inclusive statement. Without exception, everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, all human speculation, all human wisdom, science, reason, must be "pulled down" (2 Cor. 10:4) lest blood-bought souls be led astray. That is the negative side. The positive is bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (which is only accomplished by God the Holy Spirit working through the Word). The goal of Christian education, education for the real world, is to bring our children into intimate, mature union with their Savior Jesus Christ so that they "grow up into Him in all things" (Eph. 4:15).

By the same token, God's Word gives ample warnings against accepting or adopting human reason, science, or wisdom as a basis for "truth." We are told to "avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so-called." (1 Tim. 6:20) "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments (basic principles) of the world, and not after Christ." (Col. 2:8) God's Word makes very clear that human wisdom as such always leads away from God (1 Cor. 1:19-21); that in the long run it will come to nothing (1 Cor. 2:6); that, as far as God is concerned, it is utter foolishness (1 Cor. 3:19-20); and that it is, in fact, at war with God (Rom. 8:7). The burden on our heart is that Christian people, particularly those who tend to regard human wisdom compatible with God's wisdom, bear these things seriously in mind as they consider what is best as far as their children's education is concerned. "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3).

Everything that is being said here stands behind the basic principle laid down in Scripture that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps. 111:10, Prov. 1:7). And this wisdom does not come naturally, does not have a human source, but rather it is a "hidden wisdom," a wisdom "which none of the princes of this world know; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory" (1 Cor. 2:7-8).

The "Jungle Out There"

While this world is not the real world for which we ultimately desire our children to be prepared, it is the world in which we are here living and against which we must, therefore, in every way possible guard ourselves and our children lest we perish with it. Ever since the Garden of Eden Satan hasn't altered his purpose, which is to destroy Gods wonderful creation, with his prime target being the souls of men.

Among the potent allies Satan has on this earth for his relentless soul-destroying efforts there is the sinful flesh which all men as children of Adam have. Then there is the fallen world itself over which Satan is god and prince (John 14:30, 16:11, 2 Cor. 4:4, Eph. 2:2). There dare be no question about the fact that we are living here in "enemy territory." The world is the "field" of the devil (Matt. 13:38). "The whole world lieth in wickedness" (1 Jn. 5:19). This includes the "things that are in the world" (1 Jn. 2:15). It includes the abstract things of the world such as "the spirit of the world" (1 Cor. 2:12); "the wisdom of the world" (1 Cor. 3:19); "the fashion of this world" (1 Cor. 7:31); and "worldly lusts" (Titus 2:12). Therefore the Word of God warns us about "the corruption that is in the world" (2 Pet. 1:4) and "the defilements of the world" (2 Pet. 2:20). We are warned about forfeiting out life for the sake of gaining "the world" (Matt. 16:26); about "abusing the world" even while using it, as we must, during our earthly sojourn (1 Cor. 7:31). St. John summarizes by saying "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him; for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world; and the world passeth away, and the lust thereof" (1 Jn. 2:l5ff.).

Oh, let us not be deceived! Satan's desire is to keep us what we are by nature, namely, children of this hell-bent for destruction world! He seeks to dupe us into believing that this world is the real world. He seeks to instill in us, ever and again, a "things"-centered, creature-centered view of life. He has countless ways to do this, not the least of these ways being to control the education of each and every up-and-coming generation. Since he is unalterably opposed to real Truth, Satan, as the "father of lies" (John 8:44) seeks to blind sinners so that they "resist the truth" and "turn away their ears from the truth" (2 Tim. 3:8, 4:4). He wants people to be "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7), with the hoped-for result that "professing themselves to be wise" they become fools (Rom. 1:22).

We say, Satan attempts to achieve this end by controlling education. It is noteworthy that the initial Fall into sin came as a result of Satan's trying to control knowledge. We refer to his successfully suggesting to Eve the lie that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make her as God, knowing good and evil. We must not be ignorant of Satan's ongoing devices in this regard. And to that end, we suggest that the public school system can be one of the greatest influences away from God and His Truth in our country.

When one of our children was attending second grade in the public school in Phoenix some 10 years ago, he brought home, quite proudly, a penmanship paper graded "good!" Following the instructions of his teacher, he had written, in excellent printing style, the words, "We are an animal." As concerned parents we had some "setting right" to do, first of all with our little son. The next day we made an appointment with his teacher, expressing our unhappiness with the humanistic, evolutionary slant of the sentence. As we recall, she quite casually dismissed our concerns by saying something to the effect that we were over-reacting, nothing was meant by it, she had just been teaching handwriting.

The fact is that this teacher was an instrument of the god of this world who uses every avenue open to him to undermine real truth, to propagate (if but by mental osmosis) his lies. In the last analysis, what doth it profit a child if he can read quite well and write with flawless penmanship, but eventually loses his own soul because he is taught to believe and live according to the creature-centered principle of life that he is, in fact, no different from an animal?

The creature-centered philosophy of humanism is the "religion" of the public schools. To a large degree this anti-Christian influence of secular humanism in the public schools has been shaped by two men; Horace Mann (called "the father of the American public school") and John Dewey (called "the father of American Progressive education").

Mann (1796-1858) was a Unitarian, denying the Holy Trinity and the deity of Christ. He believed in the unscriptural doctrine of the natural goodness of man, so that universal state-compelled education would, in his view, ultimately develop a perfect society. He stressed that every man had a basic right to education enabling him to reach the highest potential of his innate abilities. On his part, Dewey (1859-1952) accepted Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species." He tried to apply evolutionary ideas to the curriculum and the methods of education. His religion was that of evolutionary pantheism. By no surprise or coincidence, Dewey was one of the founders of the American Humanist Association. He has profoundly influenced the philosophies of America's public school educators up to the present time.

Soul-destroying secular humanism (as opposed to God- and Christ-centered Christian education) pervades public school education in our day. Included among its basic tenets are these: 1) Man is supreme--there is no higher power; 2) Man evolved from lower forms of life--there was no creation; 3) Man is inherently good, but corrupted by evil social institutions and a bad environment--there is no such thing as inherited or original sin; 4) Man is an animal--not really different, in substance, from the rest of the creature world; a blindness to the fact that man was created in the image of God; 5) There are no objective moral standards or absolutes--the standard is what is commonly accepted out in the world, not what is recorded in God's holy Word. Where such a philosophy reigns, there are ample spawning grounds for all sorts of evil offspring. Included among the offspring of humanism are other "isms" such as materialism (trust in and dependence upon consumer goods); hedonism (living for and on pleasure); narcissism ("me first," the self-worship of the "me generation"); technologism (the machine, computers, and video games are "king"); faddism (having to be in tune with the times); celebrityism (being fascinated with fame); and even Youthism (adopting what the young do as the "in" thing, attempting at all costs to slow down, or camouflage the inevitable aging process). Surely other "isms" might be added to this list.

But such is the satanic milieu in which we are living in these latter days! Such is the worldly environment in which those who are strangers and foreigners on this earth are called upon to raise their offspring for Christ! Fostered by secular humanism and its offspring, there truly is a "jungle out there." The jungle of our modern American society is a refuge for crime and corruption of all kinds, including the monsters of abortion (11 million thus far since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling which allowed abortion on demand); illegal drug traffic and/or alcoholism (altering the minds and destroying the lives of countless thousands); the breakdown of the family by the divorce evil (in the last decade or so divorce has come to be considered almost the natural climax of marriage, with frightening results also for the children involved); the sexual revolution (including trial marriages, pornography, free sex, homosexuality); "R" and "X" rated theater and television (which indulge, without shame or inhibition, the baser lusts of a sinful people).

When James encourages the Christian to "keep himself unspotted from the world" (1:17), what a formidable task he assigns! We and our children are indeed involved in a war of struggle and survival! As well acquainted as each of us adults is with the pull of the flesh within ourselves to adopt, or at least to casually accept life in such a Satanic jungle, what about our children? If it is true that "children are like wet cement, easily impressionable," what impressions are left on them as they are exposed to these forces of evil? And then the question cries out for an answer: What can, what must, we as concerned parents, as concerned Christians, as a concerned church and church body, do to help our children survive in such a jungle? How best can we meet the challenge incumbent upon us to raise the next generation for a God and Christ-centered view of life? We must do all we can to provide them with a truly Christian education and worldview at home, in church, and in school! "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 Jn. 5:4-5)

Being a "Moses' Mother" to Our Children

In connection with our promoting Christian schools, if we are accused of failing to prepare our children for this world, we are similarly charged with "sheltering" them from it. On this subject, Paul Harvey is quoted as making the following observation: "Years ago it was argued that students maturing in a sheltered environment would, like hothouse plants, be unprepared for the cold outside world. Now more than ever more Americans are eventually realizing that it is in fact the public or state school student who is over-protected. He is sheltered from religious instruction and exposed to all forms of non-Christian philosophy and behavior."

Think of it. How devious Satan is! Since the hearts and minds of men are restless until they rest in God, how out-of-balance is that education which "shelters" men from knowing the one true God and His Word which alone can provide the real, true answers to life's big questions. If they are rightly sensitive to the many and subtle influences of the ungodly world, parents who have a Christian school available for their children will think it over a hundred times before advancing the argument that they want their children to be prepared for the "real" world by asking them to "swim in it" as they "push them overboard" into the public school system of our land. (We know that not all of our Christian parents have Christian day schools to which to send their children. Some have no choice but to enroll them in the public school [that is, on the elementary level; Immanuel Lutheran High School in Mankato, Minn., and Eau Claire, Wis., and Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire are available on the secondary level for all our young people]. Happily we observe that the recent increase of private schools is testimony to the fact that more and more Christian parents are choosing to have their children trained and educated for the God-centered view of life.)

If, in fact, our Christian schools do shelter our children from the evil world in which we live, is that all bad? We appreciate the following words which we recently came upon. Based on Hebrews 11:23 ("By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents"), this was said: "These simple words tell us our duty, what our faith must do. Christian parent, hide your child. And where? Oh, hide him in the safest refuge, the shadow of the Almighty..... In the quiet of home life, hide him from the excitements of the world without, from the influence of a civilization and culture which is of the earth. In that hiding, where the enemy cannot find, we have one of faith's highest duties.The education Moses mother gave her son during the years of his childhood was such that all the years of training in Pharaoh's court could not obliterate it. His parents' faith bore fruit in his faith when he, at every cost, chose suffering with the people of God and was not afraid of the wrath of the king. Moses saw Him who is invisible. Train the child for God and his people, and when the time comes that he must go out into the world, even into Pharaoh's court, he will be safe in the power of faith and of God's keeping. God grant that the Church may indeed become a Moses' mother, the faithful nurse of the children He entrusts to her care, hiding them and keeping them separate from the world and its influence." ("How to Raise Your Children For Christ." A. Murray, pp. 55-56)

In Home, Church, and School

There is no question that the on-going, crying need for training and educating the next generation for Christ begins in the home. The actual mention of teaching in any form in the Scriptures is in connection with the home. In Genesis 18:19, speaking of Abraham, God said, "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment." At the same time let us note carefully that the primary purpose of teaching, of home-teaching, in God's sight was to be moral and spiritual. (This is divine support for the remark that "when you educate a child in mind, but not in morals, you educate a menace to society.")

The fact that teaching is to be centered in the home, and also that its primary function is to instill spiritual values, is laid before us also in the classic passage on Christian educational methodology in Deuteronomy 6:6ff., as well as in such Scripture passages as 2 Timothy 3:15 and Ephesians 6:4. Thus it ought to be clear that schools, even Christian schools, are not a substitute for home training. The Good Shepherd looks upon parents as His under-shepherds, each of whom has his little flock of lambs to keep and rear for Christ.

However, as more and more knowledge of God and His wonderful world was accumulated over the years, it became increasingly difficult for fathers, or the home, to impart this knowledge to the next generation. The result was more formal schooling. While there is no reference in the Scriptures to the school as a separate institution established by God, formal schooling was gradually recognized as necessary. As far as believers were concerned, the church quite naturally became involved. It was recognized that the Lord's command to "teach all things whatsoever I have commanded you" included the inculcating of the teachings of Christ and His Gospel to those entrusted to their care.

As for the Lutheran Church, it has from its very beginning been an ardent and outspoken supporter of the God-centered view of life through Christ-centered schooling. The Preface to the Lutheran Book of Concord includes the words "our churches and schools" no less than ten times. Thus it is clear that our Lutheran forefathers recognized that the church has a vital role to play in providing Bible-based schooling where Christianity is both "taught and caught" by the students.

At this point it would not hurt us to review some of what Dr. Luther had to say on the subject. He said: "we see how the schools are deteriorating throughout Germany." This could not continue, for, said Luther, "the right of instruction of youth is a matter in which Christ and all the world are concerned." The Reformer showed his personal concern by publishing his treatise of 1524 entitled, "The Letter to the Mayors and Aldermen of All the Cities of Germany in behalf of Christian Schools." Luther gave three reasons for supporting schools: 1) "In this work we are fighting against the devil, the most artful and dangerous enemy of men." 2) "we should not receive the grace of God in vain, and neglect the present favorable time." 3) "God's command, which through Moses so often urges and enjoins that parents instruct their children." Six years later, in "The Sermon on the Duty of Sending Children to School" the Reformer explained: "God needs pastors, preachers and school teachers in His spiritual kingdom and you can provide them." He continued: "You can serve your sovereign or country better by training children than by building castles and cities and collecting treasures from the whole world."

Over all of Luther's writings on education stands his central theme: Education must be Christ-centered! "Where the Holy Scriptures do not rule, there I advise no one to send his son" And again: "Above all, in schools of all kinds the chief and common lesson should be the Scriptures." Clearly, Luther was determined that we must have schools, Christian schools. If he was so convinced of this in his day, what would he have to say on this subject if he were living in these latter days?

In Conclusion: Sobering Thoughts

With all that has been said, we hope we have helped to instill a heightened awareness of the truth expressed in the words: "The Church which is not concerned for the Christian education of its children, need not worry about the future, it has none." This maxim was paraphrased in a very down-to-earth way in the recently published history of the CLC: "If preaching and teaching the Gospel in the CLC (is) to continue, there (has) to be pastors and teachers to carry on the work. Others must take over the work of those who retire and die. History has taught us that church bodies which failed to establish schools usually disappeared." ("This is Your Church", p. 25)

These days, from many quarters in our church body, we are hearing concerns expressed about the future of the CLC relevant to ILC. ILC's Board of Regents recently circulated our pastorate seeking the whole-hearted cooperation of all in promoting enrollment at our Eau Claire school. It was pointed out that "one half of our pastors in the CLC are graduates of the ILC seminary" and that "also one half of our teachers have come to our schools from the ILC teacher-training program." With such statistics to back them up, these sobering questions were then put: "Where would the CLC be without ILC? What shall become of the CLC if ILC has to close its doors?"

The contents of this essay do not give much by way of a practical solution to the problems we face in regard to continuing to operate and maintain ILC. Hopefully, however, a foundation has been laid that might serve as a springboard for a soul-searching and profitable discussion regarding the vital role ILC has in our destiny as a church body in the history of this world. For indeed, if we do not attend with undying urgency to the Christian training of the next generation, the days of our church body are numbered. And what is more, the eternal salvation of precious blood-bought souls is at stake.

Educating the next generation for God's real world, for eternity, is and remains an on-going, crying need so long as we live in the "enemy territory" that is this sin-sick, dying world. We must firmly maintain the biblical doctrine of education--that the only real and true education begins with the impartation of God's Word. Whether in chemistry or sociology, history or biology, music or literature, or whatever the course of study, everything should be understood and taught in the framework of God's perfect creation, the universal effects of sin and the curse, and the saving work of Christ.

Pastor Paul G. Fleischer

This tract was presented by Pastor Paul G. Fleischer at the Fifteenth Convention of the Church of the Lutheran Confession assembled at Eau Claire, Wisconsin, July 12-16, 1982


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