An open letter to my children
by Patrick Lafferty
When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
Dear Seamus, Savannah, & Jedidiah,
Pastor Mark preached a sermon Sunday from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy—the part when Moses says to the mommies and daddies in Israel about what to say when their kids ask about God. Moses wanted the parents to be ready to explain why everyone made a big deal about things in the past—about their time in Egypt while they were slaves and about how God had rescued them from Pharaoh’s control. (You know, kind of like Frodo helping rescue all Middle Earth from the power of Sauron.)
Pastor Mark preached from that part in the Bible because he wanted all the mommies and daddies of our church to be ready to explain to their children why we make such a big deal about some things—about who Jesus is and what He’s done for us.
You might sometimes wonder, “What’s the big deal that we get up every Lord’s day, get dressed in clothes we don’t wear most other times of the week, and get together with all those people in the sanctuary—singing songs, praying prayers, hearing sermons, and shouting hallelujahs?” You might also wonder why we ask you to be quiet, to listen, to be respectful of others, and to participate in the parts you can?
Well, I want to tell you.
The mommies and daddies of Israel told their children about being enslaved to Pharaoh. I want to tell you about being enslaved to sin.
Sin is not a person like Pharaoh was. But it is something that makes you do things you know aren’t good or right, and yet you’re still the one doing them. You’ve sometimes caught yourselves doing things you knew were wrong. Like hitting one another, or snatching something rudely out of one another’s hand, or saying something unkind to one another. You may have been sorry you did them, but you still wanted to do them, even though you can’t quite explain why you wanted to.
I know that’s hard to understand, but that’s like what it is to be enslaved to sin. It means wanting to do things that later you wish you never wanted to do, and yet, you don’t know how to stop wanting to do them. You’re stuck wanting to do things you know you shouldn’t.
That’s sad and frustrating in itself, but what’s worse is what happens to us if our hearts are never changed—if they’re never freed from our enslavement to sin. Not only do we continue to do what we know we shouldn’t, we also end up pushing ourselves farther and farther from God. And unless something happens to bring us back to Him we will live forever without Him.
It was sad and fearful for the mommies and daddies of Israel to be enslaved to Pharaoh. It’s even sadder and more fearful for us to be enslaved to sin.
But just as they told their children about being rescued from their slavery to Pharaoh by God’s mighty Hand, I want to tell you about being rescued from our slavery to sin by God’s mighty and merciful Son, Jesus.
God knew we were enslaved to sin. Since God is pure and holy, He also knew He would have to punish sin. So He sent His Son to take our punishment for our sin. Imagine if you did something wrong, but someone else was punished for it. That’s what Jesus did in dying for us.
When He was punished for our sin, He did something about our enslavement to sin, too. He made sure our sin could no longer keep us from being a child of God; His death forgave us of our sin. But He also gave us a gift that would change everything. He gave us His Spirit, and it’s His Spirit that changes not only what we do but also what our hearts want.
Our hearts used to want many things the Lord hates. But now, by the gift of God’s Spirit in Jesus, we now actually want many things the Lord loves. His Spirit changes our heart. We’re no longer stuck always wanting what we know is wrong. Now we’re free to want the things God wants.
Only God can do that. Only God the Father, through God the Son, by God the Spirit did do that. That’s why we believe God is both mighty and merciful. He did for us what only He could do. And He showed us kindness we did not deserve.
So part of the reason we make such a big deal about Jesus is because of what God did through Him to free us from our enslavement to sin.
Last week when most of us were sick and mommy was heroically giving us aid, she found one of you watching a video about tornados. At one moment in the video, someone who’d once been caught near a tornado said, “One day you wake up and you discover you’re not in control.” You heard that comment, thought about it for a minute, and then just quietly said, “God is in control.”
I believe that’s exactly what Mommy and Daddy want you to know—that God is in control. There will be plenty of times when it seems like everything is scary and God is either not there or doesn’t seem to care. But if God can do the hardest thing imaginable, like free us from our enslavement to sin, then we can be sure nothing is outside His control.
One last thing. Maybe you’re wondering why I’m writing all this down. Can’t we just talk about it while we’re eating dinner, or driving in the car, or just before we give our last goodnight kisses (and zerberts)? Yes, we can talk about it, and, I pray, we will talk about it in all those places—in planned and unplanned moments. But I want to write you a letter just to show you that this was important enough to write down—important enough to hear once and maybe to read again later. If it was important enough for Moses to write down, it’s probably important enough for me to write down, too. It’s written down so we would not forget. It’s written down out of love for you. So, I write this to you because I love you. May God keep showing us His love by freeing us to want the things He wants.