A Long Obedience in the Same Direction Pressing on in Zealous Covenental Education

"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh – Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. I press on toward the goal for the prize ofthe upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Phil 13:1–3, 12, 14

As a new school year begins, it is good for us to remind ourselves what our focus must be concerning Christian education. Our focus ought not be on the occasional article about Christian education; nor should it be on ourselves. In fact, the focus should not even be upon the school. Instead, we must focus upon THE focus of our lives: Jesus Christ. As John the Baptist said in the midst of his ministry and influence over his disciples regarding Christ: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). The testimony ofthe apostle Paul was, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). It is with that privilege that we come to focus upon the One who has made us His children. Our Savior must be the focus ofeverything in our lives. He is our all in all. He is our Lord, our King; and our hearts must be His throne. Therefore, we seek to hear the truth that He speaks concerning the covenantal instruction of HIS children.

I realize that I can by no means exhaust the truths that can be spoken about in the area of Christian education. This really should not be surprising because the ways ofour God are unsearchable. Just as we can never mine all of the jewels that are found in God's creation, so also we can never mine the riches that God reveals in His word concerning Christian education.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul was writing to a very faithful church. He wrote to them something they already knew. Paul very likely had written these things to them before. This was not a church that Paul was rebuking. This was a church that knew the truth and loved it. Paul wrote to counsel them, assuring them that it was not tedious for him to do so.

We may well ask why Paul would want to write them. We may ask why Paul would not consider it a burden to write them. After all, what would Paul write them? He wrote them: "Do not let anyone take you away from Christ and Christ alone. Do not let anyone tell you that you need Christ and the Old Testament types and signs." Paul wrote, "Do not let anyone fool you into believing that you need more. Hold on to Christ because that is who your Savior is!" The Apostle wrote the simple news of the gospel. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved! That's it!

Couldn't Paul be expounding something else to them? Something of greater depth? Why wasn't Paul preaching this simple gospel to someone else-a worshipper of Diana, or a an agnostic philosopher? Surely, not the Phillipians! The Philippians were a faithful and righteous church that clung to Jesus alone. Ifthe Philippians had heard all of this before, why was it not tedious for Paul or for them? The reason was not because the Philippians had forgotten what Paul had said. The reason was not that false doctrines had crept into the Philippi an church. Here is the reason: they needed to hear the gospel because it was safe for them.

It was a safeguard for them. The church was surrounded by enemies. Paul gave them warning, "Beware of dogs that are barking and biting, trying to tear apart the truth that you have been given. Beware of evil workers trying to undermine the work that God has done in you. Beware of the false circumcision" (or, as another translation puts it, "Beware ofthe mutilation" of the truth). There were enemies all around them. They were a faithful church; Paul loved them and thanked God for them in all of his prayers; yet the church was still susceptible to falling away from Christ if they did not stand guard. We, too, are susceptible to that danger. Let us not fool ourselves. We must beware lest we fall away from Christ alone; from the very One who loved us and gave His life for us.

I would like to take the liberty of comparing Christian education to the Philippian church. Like the Philippians, we, too, must be faithful. Christian schools must not stray from the doctrines of the Reformed faith. They must hold to the infallibility, inerrancy, and authority of God's Word. Just as the Philippian church had heard the same instruction from Paul before, we also need to be reminded o fthe importance of a solid Reformed Christian education for our covenant children. So I ask this question: Are our annual meetings, our fund raisers, our many hours of volunteer work all vanity? Are our constant reminders to ourselves of the importance of Christian education all tedious? Or are they "safe" for us?

The Reason for Our Focus

One reason it is safe for us to hear about the importance of solid, Reformed Christian education is because as humans we can easily forget. We need to be constantly reminded. We can see this in how easily the patriotic zeal for America dropped not even a year after 9/11. Remember the patriotic zeal that sprang up immediately after the attacks? In less than a year that zeal had already dwindled. That is why Israel built memorials. God told them, "When your children look upon them and say, 'what is the meaning of this?', then you will tell them what wondrous things God has done for Israel." Without those pillars and memorials, Israel could have forgotten to tell their children about the wondrous deeds God had done for them. Likewise, we cannot remind ourselves too often concerning the importance of educating our children in the Reformed truths.

A second reason is that by God's grace Christian schools continue to get new members and new students. While many of us have heard these things over and over, there are those who have not. They need to be told anew. New families need experienced parents and teachers that have grown in their understanding of Reformed Christian education. They need their wisdom, their instruction, and their example. While some are hearing this as a reminder, others could very well be hearing it afresh.

A third reason it is safe and important to hear the same thing is that many things happen daily that can avert our eyes from our Savior. When our eyes are taken off our Savior, there is no hope that we will still have our eyes on the purpose and necessity of the Christian school. We can be distracted so easily, especially when things become difficult. You have many meetings to go to. These meetings can be on days when you would rather not have them. You dread going to the next meeting, whatever it may be, because you know someone is upset. Some issues seem to keep coming up again and again. Some children just do not seem to want to learn. Others seem to be bent on disobeying and disrupting. Contracts need to be changed unfavorably—something difficult for both parties. At times you have probably felt like throwing in the towel. It simply is not worth it! It is at times like that when we must again be reminded of our purpose, remove our focus from the burdens and struggles, and direct our gaze to our Savior and Lord, the one who has given us this task; the one who will give us the strength to carry it on. It is worth every sacrifice we make!

There is a fourth reason why it is safe for us to remind ourselves of the purpose of a Reformed Christian school. Like the Philippian church, we have enemies all around us. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches us that our three enemies are the devil, the world, and ourselves. No school is free from the battle. These enemies do not rest wherever we are. These enemies do not spare any component of the school. They attack the association members, board members, supporters, parents, teachers, and our children. When children leave school, every billboard they see, every radio station they listen to, every cartoon show they watch is battling for their soul. They all are giving them messages that are in contrast to what they have been taught in school. The enemy does not rest. Therefore, we cannot take a break from guarding ourselves against our enemIes.

The Task of Christian

Education John 18:37, 38a reads: "Therefore Pilate said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is ofthe truth hears my voice.' Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?'"

Jesus came to testify to the truth. It is the task ofthe school to do the same. The truth sets us free. It does so because the truth is not some random idea; the truth that sets us free is Jesus Christ. When someone rejects the truth; he rejects Christ. Just as well, when someone compromises the truth; he is actually compromising our Lord Himself. That is why the truth is such a big deal! That lis why we take such a strong stand on teaching our children the whole counsel of God. When a school, a church, or any other organization compromises the truth, God's Word, even for the sake of unity, they are compromising the Lord Himself.

Parents must demand a school that will train their children to know and live in the truth. That is the beauty of our God. His truth is not philosophical rambling or other-life thinking; no, His truth is lived. We see this powerfully in Romans 11:36. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

This is a key verse for Christian education. All things are from our covenant God. All things must be done according to His Law, His Word, and must be done in return to His glory. All things are from God, through God, and done for God. He has given us salvation through His Son. He calls His people to live in covenant fellowship with Him, sacrificing their entire lives for Him.

The beauty of Reformed education is that it is not merely a preparation for living in the "real world." That is a false idea. There is a world out there trying to teach our children that truth is relative it is whatever you make of it. NO! Reformed Christian schools teach our children about God's sovereignty. It should be evident in choir and the beautiful, intrinsic design of music. Itis in the sciences in which we discover how little we know of God's world and how much is yet to be found out. We can point it out when we look at the stars remembering that God knows them all by name. Maybe our students are not going to become astronomers, but as covenant children they have to learn that even in the stars God says "Look at me and give me glory for these, for I am your God, and I
am an amazing God."

Our children must be taught to see His care, order, and beauty in everything. Whether they are going on to college or the work place, the goal of Reformed education is that students take delight in what they are learning because they are learning about their God. They are learning about their God who has made covenant with them always to be their God: the God who loved them and gave His life for them. That is the joy of Reformed education. Whether they realize it or not, every time they step into the classroom, it is an opportunity to learn more about their God.

They cannot see Christ in their subjects if they do not see Christ in their teachers or in their parents. In order for schools to glorify God, parents must be just as diligent to live out the doctrines and the truth as we are diligent to make sure it is being taught. Do the children see us loving one another, forgiving one another, bearing each other up, encouraging one another? They must see this. If they do not, then we cannot expect, save for the grace of God displayed somewhere else to them, that these children will grow to love the Lord and His truths.

What a task lies before us! Surely we are not adequate for these things. Yet God commands us to press on. He encourages us again and again to continue strong in His Word. The victory is sealed, and God's presence with His covenant people is assured.

Pilate's response to Jesus is the response of our world today: "What is truth?" our world is indeed spinning around in darkness. They have no concept of the truth. This is not the case with us. God has been most gracious to an undeserving people. He has testified to us His truth. By God's grace you have been firm in this task thus far, and we must continue in it joyfully. We look not unto ourselves to do this, but we run, we fight, we rejoice with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Mr. Johnathon Nagel is a senior at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa.

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