In his well known book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever writes, “The family is supposed to be our training ground in this loving authority. It is a ramping-up place that God has given us to learn love, respect, honor, obedience, and trust, in order to prepare us for relating to others and ultimately to God Himself.” The family is God’s ordained plan for our lives. God created Adam and presented him with his wife Eve. They were commanded to be fruitful and multiply. The plan of marriage and family is the foundation of civilization and was instituted by God. As we live life, we often become wrapped up in our culture and forget about the big picture. If we aren’t careful, we stop looking at life and culture through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When that happens – the culture invades our minds and our hearts. This invasion has lasting results. Sometimes the results are eternal. Below I have written an article with seven things you should know about your family. I’m sure you can add to my list. The list isn’t intended to be an exhaustive rule. If you are challenged by the points, know that I have written them with a healthy inward gaze.
1. Dad, your family has been entrusted to your care by God.
As we read the Bible, it’s abundantly clear, God has arranged the family and placed the man as the head of his home. Therefore, the man is in a place of physical responsibility as the provider, but the most important aspect of his role is the spiritual leadership that he must provide. It isn’t the job of the mother to be the spiritual leader of the family. Every father must see himself as the priest of his home. The house and automobile that the family owns will be directly connected to the provision of the father, but more important marks upon the family exist in the area of spiritual leadership.
For instance, what church the family belongs to is connected to the father. The decisions made each day that have lasting spiritual consequences upon the family are directly connected to the leadership of the father in the home. If the father is lazy in his approach to the gospel, his family will suffer the consequences. God has rendered unto our care gold and He desires to receive gold upon His return. Men must take responsibility for the care of their family. Psychologist Harold Voth, in his book, The Castrated Family, argues that there will be nothing but chaos in a family where the father is not the head of the family. He points out that the father is responsible for the direction, character, family standards, and overall strength. Dad, your family needs you and God has placed them in your care.
2. The devil hates your family.
It’s true – the devil hates the Christian family. However, the devil hates the institution of family in general. That’s why unbelieving families experience divorce too. That’s why unbelievers turn to homosexuality. That’s why unbelieving homes have rebellious children too. The devil, like a roaring lion, is seeking his prey. Sometimes the attack will come upon the father. The devil will lure the family away from God by enticing the father’s love for sports, the lake, or a bigger house. In some cases, the devil will slither like a snake in silence as he attacks the mother of the home with the pursuit of more money and a promising career away from the home. The subtle devil will, in many cases, attack the woman with a need for fulfillment as he entices her into the trap of adultery. She may fall into this trap through a simple private message on Facebook just after making the kids a PB&J for lunch. The devil hates marriage. The devil hates your children. The devil hates the gospel and the covenant keeping promise of marriage.
If he is unsuccessful in his attempts, he will continue to attack. He may use an old method called divide and conquer. His plan of advancement may take place through technology devices. Through i-devices, he may create distance between the family, between the children, and between the parents. He will then wiggle his way into the home by creating space between the family and then attacking them when they are weak. The devil loves to watch a family crumble to the ground. The devil loves the ring of the last number of the divorce attorney being pressed on the cell phone. The devil hates your family. What are you doing about it?
3. Boundaries are necessary.
In our sinful heart, we are programmed to resist boundaries. The postmodern mind views boundaries as legalism and rigid rules that bind our freedom. If we are honest, we all need boundaries. This past week, Kari and I discussed some needed boundaries with technology in our home. Although we are not opposed to the use of technology in our home, we don’t want it to rule our home. We set aside two or three days each week to be unplugged days where no i-device would be used. Those boundaries are helpful for the health of our relationships in our home. Such boundaries guard the heart from idolatry. When we cannot go a day or two without a technology device – it speaks of massive problems in our heart. Have we found our joy in technology rather than Christ?
Technology isn’t the only area where boundaries are necessary. We could discuss food, work, exercise, recreation, relationships, and a number of additional areas where boundaries are necessary. We can categorize these boundaries under two main headings (personal and biblical). If the Bible doesn’t address the issue (directly or indirectly), we may have freedom to choose. If that’s the case, we can classify this as a personal issue. We are free to set the boundaries to a degree. If the Bible does address a specific issue, we are completely bound by the rules established in the Word of God. Although Israel often complained about the civil and ceremonial law which provided boundaries upon their dietary practices, it was for their own good and God’s glory. We must not reject healthy boundaries. It’s a good thing for your children to hear the word “no” come out of your mouth. It is possible to spoil your children to hell.
4. The gospel, not morality, is the key to success.
As a father, I often find myself repeating the phrase, “be good” to my children. While that is a good thing to teach children, I can fail them miserably by raising them to “be good” kids. Many good kids have grown up to be good rebels who live for self rather than Christ. As I grow as a father, I am constantly looking to reinforce the statement with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why do I want my children to “be good” for their mother when they go out in public? Why do I want my son to honor his mother during his time in school? These things matter, but they must be reinforced with the gospel. This is something that I often fail in and one area that I am praying for maturity and sanctification.
5. Adjustments are necessary.
Plan ahead and remain flexible. That’s what I have learned as the father of four children. By nature I am not the most patient man in the world. I have had to learn to make adjustments. At the end of a long day, I often think about how I have failed in my attempts to be a Christ exalting father in the way I disciplined my children. Those thoughts are God’s grace upon my life. Perhaps you experience them too. They allow me to go to bed at night and make necessary adjustments for the upcoming day. Sanctifying adjustments are a must in the life of any family. Children must learn to make them. Mothers must learn to make them. Fathers must learn to make them. As fathers make adjustments and his sanctification is visible in the eyes of the family – it will leave an indelible mark upon the life of that family.
6. Family worship will likely never be cool for your family.
Are your children learning about life through the lens of a television show or through the pages of the Bible? I remember watching a particular family closely as I was growing up. It seemed that the mother and father always made family decision in an attempt to be cool. Family worship is likely never to be a cool decision for a mother and father to make. Like any discipline, although it’s not fun or perhaps the popular choice among friends or family members, it will bear eternal fruit. I still recall Dr. Joel Beeke’s answer to my question in the 2013 G3 Conference during our panel discussion. He said, “God has basically instructed us to do four things with our children everyday.”
- Read the Bible
- Talk with our children about the Bible
- Pray with our children
- Sing with them
Dr. Beeke went on to urge pastors to preach on this topic and provide helpful resources for families to do this on a weekly basis. We often complain about how children are walking away from the church and the truth of the gospel as they grow older. The question remains, how much time did we spend instructing our children about the gospel, biblical manhood and womanhood, the importance of the church, and a host of other issues? If you organize a family worship time with your children a minimum of 5 times per week, starting at age 3 and ending at age 18 when they move out of your home, that totals 3,900 opportunities over 15 years to instruct your children with the gospel. Make the most of the limited time you have with your children. They will soon be gone. The devil is waiting on them at the end of your driveway. Will they be prepared?
Charles Spurgeon once said, “The Christian family was the bulwark of godliness in the days of the Puritans but in these evil times hundreds of families of so-called Christians have no family worship, no restraint upon growing sons, and no wholesome instruction or discipline. See how the families of many professors are as dressy, as godless as the children of the non-religious! How can we hope to see the Kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His gospel to their own sons and daughters?“1
7. Your family is not the church of Jesus Christ.
The family is extremely important and was designed by God. The family is to be a nurturing center for all of the members and a training ground for the children. While the father is the priest and worship must happen in the home, the institution of family is not the church. Although God has created the institutions of family, government, and the church – we see a special relationship between Christ and the church that transcends the other two institutions. Family as we know it here in this life will change drastically when we arrive in heaven. The government in this life will be replaced by the rule of God without the veil of time and space. God will no longer use the mediator of government to rule. Yet, we see that the church of Jesus Christ will be present in heaven.
Family time is important and we must guard it. We must nurture our family and allow love to permeate our home. However, we must never allow family to become an idol to us. We must never replace the church with our family. God has saved us and called us into His church. Fathers and mothers must learn to balance this wisely, but nevertheless, the responsibility of worship and service in the life of the church is not debatable. It is vital for our children to see us serve Christ through the church. If our children only see the fathers serve in the church while mothers nurture their children until they move out at age 18, we will likely raise unbalanced children who have not seen the importance of serving Christ as functioning members of the body. If we are not cautious, we will raise practical atheists who hear doctrine come out of our mouths but see a massive disconnect from word and deed. The book of James reveals this truth. Our doctrine must have legs and feet! Our faith must have action – in all seasons of life.
In closing, I want to make a clear confessional statement. I am a young father of four children and I have not figured out all of the answers to this thing called parenting. I fail often. I fail miserably. I know it and it hurts me to think of how I miss the mark on a constant basis. Here is what I do know. Life is short. Life is not a video game. We don’t have the luxury of a reset button. We do have a promised appointment before the throne of God. We must trust in God’s unending grace to get us through this life and in His divine sovereignty for the salvation of our children’s souls. In the end – we must fight the good fight of faith and persevere in the faith until we finish our course. Christ is worth it.
Paul David Tripp writes, “In the family, life is brought not only to our doorstep, but into our kitchens, bedrooms, and dens. In the family, life is happening all around us, and it begs to be questioned, evaluated, interpreted, and discussed. There is no more consistent, pregnant, dynamic forum for instruction about life than the family, because that is exactly what God designed the family to be, a learning community.”2
Pastor Josh Buice
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1. Only a Prayer Meeting, Christian Focus Publications, 2000, 12.
2. Age of Opportunity, P&R Publishing, 1997, 41-42