VERSE OF THE MONTH-Deuteronomy 6:4-9: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Happy New Year! Our theme for 2017 is the Year of the Family! If there is one thing I know Satan wants to destroy it is your family. The family was instituted by God, and it is in the family unit where we get to work out who we are in Christ and where we learn to walk by faith first.
This year, we want to provide opportunities for your family to spend time together, to serve together, to pray together, and to learn Scripture together. We want to give you parenting tools and tools that will help strengthen your marriages. We want to provide grandparents with special opportunities to invest in your grandchildren. Whether you are in a two-parent family, are a single parent, are a grandparent raising grandchildren, whether you are a blended family or a family that has been blessed with children through adoption or foster care, or whether you are in a family where you are the only practicing Christian, we want you to know that God has a plan for your family and wants your family to succeed.
When God created Adam and Eve, He created a family. The first human institution was the family. What does that tell you about what God thinks about family and the importance of family? Let’s not take for granted that God has put us together in units called families. We have a responsibility to understand what that means.
I love that our children purchased a collage of pictures of our family for us to hang in our home for our Christmas gift. They took pictures from our recent vacation along with some other family pictures to form a montage of memories that we can look at often in celebration of our family.
Whether you are married or single, whether you have children or not, you still come from a family of origin that God desires for you to impact, and all of us who are in Christ are part of the Family of God where through the blood of Jesus we are all connected to one another in a beautiful extended family.
While there may be many resolutions you are considering, many goals you are setting at the start of this new year, I want to challenge you to make the spiritual health and well-being of your family a priority during 2017. Families are a lot like sports teams. Each member of a team has something to contribute to the team. What is it that you bring to the table in your family? How can you make a greater commitment to being a family man or family woman? What are God’s desires for your family? At the start of this new year I want to challenge you to make three resolutions regarding your family.
- Resolve that Christ is the AUTHORITY for your home.
Genesis 2:18-18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
God is speaking in this verse. He said, “I will make,” “I will create.” “I will provide someone else to live with the one I have created.” God created the family. Family is God’s idea. God is pro-family! Since God is the Author of the family, He should be the authority for the Christian family.
You have to decide on what authority, on what foundation, your home will be built. Whether you have thought much about it or not, every family is built on some authority. Your family will either be built on the wisdom of the culture or on the wisdom of Christ. What informs your family life? From where do you draw your values? Your goals? Your rhythms for how you spend your time and money?
Culture tells us to keep up with the Kardashians, but the Word of God tells us to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, to keep up with Christ. They are two entirely different pursuits with two entirely different outcomes. Most TV families portray a kind of life that is in conflict with the Word of God. When shows portray children disrespecting their parents, when they mock the institution of marriage, when they portray marital unfaithfulness as the norm or healthy exploration we need to see those storylines as being in conflict with God’s design for the family rather than “just the way it is these days.” God and His Word must be the final authority for the Christian home.
Look at Deuteronomy 11:18-25:18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
God’s people are to be people of the Word, people who transmit the Word into the hearts of their children. I know this is one area where I have fallen short as a parent. I have worked to instill Christian values and principles into our kids’ hearts, but Scripture memory and talking about the Word as intently as this passage commands hasn’t been the focus it should have been. Our kids need to not only know what Christian values are, but they need to understand the Word behind the values. We’re told in Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” It doesn’t say, “I have hidden your principles in my heart, but your Word.”
Knowing Christian values is great, but if our kids believe that the values by which we live are our idea, as they grow and become young adults they may be more easily swayed to develop their own values which may be different. But if they realize the values aren’t just our idea based on our life experience, but that they are God’s ideas, straight from His Word, they will understand that there is a higher authority than the authority of their parents and that He is the final authority for all things good!
There is power in knowing the Word of God, a kind of power that will help us build Christian homes and stay on the right track in the midst of a culture that is headed down another track. To help all of us focus on this effort this year, I am going to suggest a Scripture of the month for all of us to memorize together here in our services as well as at home.
Whether you memorize the Scriptures or not, resolve that Christ and His Word and ways will be the authority for your home.
- Resolve that faith is the ANCHOR for your home.
While an anchor keeps you steady and fixed in one spot, faith is a spiritual anchor that keeps you connected to the Holy Spirit Who is the One that moves you forward and helps you grow as a Christian.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is the doing of our knowing and believing. Faith is the expression of our commitment to make Christ the authority of our homes. James 2:17 tells us that faith without works is dead. We aren’t only supposed to believe something as Christian families, but we are to practice and express something as families.
Our homes are wonderful incubators for faith to develop. Living as a Christian begins in the home. Trusting God as a family, praying together as a family, serving the Lord as a family, worshipping together as families is so important. It isn’t what we say, but what we do that proves our faith to be genuine.
Where faith is expressed the life of Christ is lived out in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we choose be Spirit-led in our homes there is peace instead of anger. There is joy instead of division. Where faith is expressed our family members are built up instead of torn down. Our homes need to be the safest emotional place on the planet. When expressing our faith as individuals and as a family becomes a priority, our family unit becomes a wonderful witness to the rest of the world.
When God made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis ________ it was a covenant that involved not only Abraham, but His family. Through Abraham’s descendants, through his children and his children’s children, and their children for generations to come, all other nations would be blessed as Jesus would eventually be born.
Here is the thing: God has a plan to help other people experience salvation through you and your family’s witness. The love and unity in your home are supposed to point people to the love of God and the unity that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share. The way you speak to one another, the choices you make as a family, the standards by which you live, the way you reach out to others, your commitment to your church-all of those faithful expressions are to be used by God to help other families see that there is a different way, a better way, a holy way to live. It wasn’t just about Abraham and his relationship with God, but it was to be about God’s relationship to Abraham’s entire family throughout the generations.
Dad and Mom, it starts with us. Do our children see us expressing faith? Do they see us reading the Word or hear us talking about it? Do they see us giving God’s way? Do we take godly authority in our homes and set boundaries for our kids that will help them stay spiritually safe and draw closer to Christ or do we bend over backwards to do anything they want us to do and give them everything they ask for? Do our kids see us engaging in worship when we come here or do they observe us simply observing all that is going on? Do we lead our families in prayer? Do we point our children to the goodness of God and regularly give thanks for His many blessings? Are we serving the Lord in some capacity that models for our kids what it means to use our gifts and talents to build others up? It won’t matter what we teach them, or tie on their hands or bind on their foreheads if we don’t walk our own talk. What we model matters. We will never transmit a real faith if we don’t live it out ourselves.
Faith is action, and it needs to be demonstrated first and foremost in our homes.
- Resolve that grace is the ANSWER for your home.
Genesis 2:24-25 tells us that when God created Adam and Eve, before sin entered the world, they were naked and unashamed. They were together before the Lord without shame. When God created the family, it was a unit, an experience without shame and condemnation. But after Adam and Eve sinned, we find them hiding from God. When God called to them and reached to them, Adam told him that although he had heard God calling, he was afraid and stayed in hiding. Genesis 3:10 tells us that after he sinned he recognized his nakedness which brought him shame. Sin and shame go together.
If you are married, you are married to someone who was born a sinner. If you are a parent, you are parenting people who were born sinners. I might just also deliver the cheerful news that you, yourself, were born a sinner. You are listening to a born-sinner deliver this message. It is important to own the scriptural truth that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can understand grace, you have to first accept that you are a sinner. We were all born sinners.
Adam and Eve experienced tremendous conflict and division in their marriage after they sinned and they started pointing fingers at each other, trying to blame each other for the mess they were in before God. Sin not only produces shame, but it creates division in families.
Here’s the good news. In Genesis 3:21, grace entered the picture. God didn’t treat Adam and Eve as their sins deserved. God came to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:21 and gave them clothes of skin to wear. He killed the animals, He skinned the animals, He tailored the clothes, and He covered their nakedness. He covered not only their sin by shedding blood in the Garden, but He also covered their shame and made a way for them to be right with God and to come together again as a family.
We are all capable of messing up. We are all capable of sinning against God. We are all tempted to blame someone else for our wrong choices. And when we do, there can be division in our family. What we need is forgiveness to flow in our families. What we need is a fresh start to be possible in our families. What we need is grace. As Christian families, we need to make sure we make it easy for our family members to have a do-over. We need to make sure that grace abounds in our home so that we model the grace of God to the world.
As I Corinthians 13 says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” We need to love generously. We need to forgive often. We need to stop blaming each other for what has gone wrong in our families and ask ourselves what we can do to help fix it. Not one of us is part of a perfect family. What could we do to help create an environment where grace abounds?
I encourage you to set your weight loss goals, your work goals, your financial goals, your educational goals and whatever other goals you have been considering for 2017, but I challenge you to focus on your family in perhaps a more intentional way than ever. Look to Christ to be the authority for your family. Purpose to live out your faith in order to keep your family anchored to the Holy Spirit. Decide to do your part to help maintain unity in your home through forgiveness and grace. Will you join me in making these “Family Resolutions” for 2017?