Honoring God in the Home
June 4th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
HONORING GOD IN THE HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-4-89 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Honoring God in the Home. The staff of our wonderful church asked me to prepare a series of messages between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day on the family, and this is one in that series, Honoring God in the Home.
Our background text is the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis. There is not a more beautiful or moving story in all literature than the twenty-fourth chapter of Genesis. If we had time, I would speak of it. Abraham is seeking a wife for his son Isaac, and he calls his faithful servant Eliezer and sends him to his own father’s house in Haran of Mesopotamia, there to find a girl to be brought back, to be engaged, and to be married to his son Isaac. And the story that follows after is filled with prayer and with appeal to the Lord God in heaven.
Honoring God in the Home. I have three parts in the sermon: first, honoring God in the home in the building of the home; second, honoring God in the home in the character of the home; and third, honoring God in the home in the remembrance of home.
First: in the building of a home. It is vital beyond any way that it could be said in syllable or in sentence that our children and that our young people be brought to the knowledge of Christ as Savior and Lord. Practically all, if not all, of the great decisions in our lives are made when we are young: whether we accept Christ as our Savior, almost always that decision is made in childhood; when we enter into the fellowship of the church, the family of God; our education and the choice of a vocation practically always is made in the youth time of life; and finally, the choice of a life’s companion, the building of a home. That is why it is so vital that the couple to be married bring to that exchange a covenant vow, a heart dedicated to God, and a soul that seeks the will and way of our blessed Lord.
After World War II there was an enormous rise in divorces in our beloved America, and a part of that I can well understand. For three years of the war I was pastor in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and the military had built just outside of the city a very large camp. The 42nd division and the 88th division were reactivated in that camp. The 88th division, especially, was composed of boys, just very young, from the streets of the cities of the Northeast, from the streets of New York and Hartford, Connecticut, and Boston, Massachusetts. And in the days of my pastorate there, beyond what I could think for, I performed the marriage ceremonies of those youngsters from the streets of New York City and American Indian girls who were reared in the country and in the Cookson Hills in eastern Oklahoma. And I cannot forget the trouble of heart that I felt in performing those many marriage ceremonies. They didn’t fit. And the marriages, it seemed to me, were under the exigencies of the war and were entered into without prayer and dedication.
There is not anything more vital for the building of the nation and for the salubrity and health and vitality of the church and the kingdom of God than that the marriage covenant be made in the will of God and in the blessing of our dear Lord. There has never yet in the history of mankind, there has never yet been a nation that has survived in the collapse of that marriage vow. Not one. I suppose the greatest history that’s ever been written in human speech is this one by Edward Gibbon entitled, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, written about two hundred years ago. And in that study he says that for five hundred years there was not a divorce among the Roman people. Five hundred years, not a divorce. Then he describes the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, these people who conquered the civilized world. And Edward Gibbon says the leading cause for the disintegration and the decline of the power of the Roman people was this: the disintegration of family and of the home. This is the thing that burdens my heart about our beloved America. The values of the world are decimating the spiritual repercussion that the Christian has toward God, and America is becoming increasingly secular in its home life, and our families are beginning to disintegrate.
One of the most amazing things that I observe and read in my pastoral work as a shepherd of God is this: one out of every four divorces in America is of a couple who are reaching toward twenty years in their home life. It is unthinkable, it is indescribable, what is happening to our American people, and the end of it lies in a tragedy beyond any way that language could describe it. I repeat: There has never yet been a nation that has survived in the collapse and the dissolution of the marriage vow.
Second: honoring God in the home in the character of the home. And I have three things to speak of there: the family life, and the devotional life, and the church life. The family life. One of the things that you’ll observe in reading God’s Holy Word is the modeling that is found in Holy Scripture. It’s amazing to me. For example, Paul will say in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, as I am a follower of Christ,” a model. One of the most ancient principles of education is modeling. For example, those ancient rhetoricians would make assignments to their pupils and say, “Now, you take this subject, and you prepare it and present it as, say, Demosthenes would do it or as Cicero would do it,” modeling. So it is in the Bible: modeling. These are the models that God would have us pattern our lives after. Now, I’m going to take one from the New Testament and one from the Old Testament. Modeling, the building of the home according to a model in Holy Scripture.
Now, in the fifth chapter of Ephesians:
As the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in every thing.
And husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it…
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies…
We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and His church.
The model of a home. The Christ figure in the home is the husband, and Christ was a servant. He washed the disciples’ feet [John 13:4-5]. He went about blessing and doing good [Acts 10:38]. The Christ figure in the family is the husband. He’s a servant. And the church figure in the family is the wife, subject unto Christ, but loving and obedient. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. In the third chapter of Galatians Paul writes, “there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female” [Galatians 3:28]. We’re all equal in the sight of our Lord, husband and wife, but we play different roles. There’s a role for the husband; there’s a role for the wife.
There is a word ekklesiola, ekklesiola. Now, you’ve heard the word ekklēsia all your life. That’s the word for the church: ekklēsia. Ekklesiola means “a little church,” and that is God’s picture of the home. It is a little church with the husband, the Christ figure, and the wife, the church, that loves the Lord and bows in His presence. It’s a beautiful thing.
Now let me take the model from the Old Testament. As you read, you will find one of the major causes of divorce, of the breaking up of the family, is in-laws. Now, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus, you have one of the most dynamic stories that you’ll ever come across in the Bible. Moses, you remember, for forty years worked on the back side of the Midian desert for Jethro, and he married Jethro’s daughter Zipporah [Exodus 2:21], and when the Lord God called Moses to go down into Egypt to deliver his people [Exodus 3:10], why, there occurred a vicious and violent confrontation between Zipporah and Moses over circumcision [Exodus 4:25-26]. You see, Moses had two boys, two sons, by Zipporah, and she was a pagan, a heathen, and the boys were not circumcised. And there occurred a violent confrontation between Zipporah and Moses over the circumcising of those two sons, and they separated. They parted. And Zipporah went back to her father, Jethro, and took the two boys with her [Exodus 18:2-5], and Moses went down into the land of Egypt to deliver the Israelites alone, by himself, his family gone [Exodus 18:2].
Well, as the days passed, finally Israel came out, and they were wandering in the Wilderness of Sin. And Jethro the father-in-law, the father-in-law Jethro, never criticized Moses, never spoke ill of his son-in-law, and while they were wandering in the wilderness, Jethro brought Zipporah and the two boys back to Moses. And he instigated and initiated the reconciliation of Zipporah and Moses [Exodus 18:1-7]. The in-law did it. And if I could say in passing, Jethro must have been one of the wisest men who ever lived. He instituted a court system in Israel that liberated Moses for the tremendous problems that he faced in guiding those people to the Promised Land [Exodus 18:13-27]. But isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that great? Isn’t that a model? Instead of the in-law adding to the divisiveness and destruction of the home and the family, the in-law, Jethro, is the instrument by which the family is put together again. That’s a model for all of our in-laws. Help the children. Bless them. Minister to them. Make it possible for them to have a beautiful home life together.
I haven’t time even to begin to speak of these things. The devotional life of the home. I do not think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful picture, a precious painting. It is a poor family, evidently poor by the furniture and by the way they’re dressed. It is a poor family, and they’re at their table with their heads bowed, saying the blessing, asking grace at the table. And the artist has painted a picture of our blessed Lord with His hands extended above that praying family. Sweet people, do you say grace at the table before you break bread? Do it. Do it. It will sanctify and hallow everything in your home. That’s just one in the devotional life of your precious family.
I speak now of its church life. We never go astray and we never go wrong in our work life, never. It is always in our social life, always. And if, in our social life, we can center it in God and with God’s people, in the church and in the ministries of the church, you will have a godly and a beautiful home. And I speak now of just one facet of it. There are four Ds that are dreadful: debt, divorce, disease, and death. I take just one of them: debt. Debt. When you read, you will find most of the researching people say that money is the first cause of divorce; money.
I can give you in a sentence an answer for every problem you’ll ever face in your financial life. If you will follow this pattern of 10 and 80 and 10, I don’t care who you are, where you are, you will be blessed in the financial, monetary facet of your family and of your life. Ten: this belongs to God: ten. Eighty: this belongs to me and the necessities of life. Ten: and this belongs to the savings account. Put it into the buying of a house or in a government bond or whatever. If I have a dime, this penny belongs to God; these eight cents belong to me; and this penny belongs to the savings account. If I have a hundred dollars, this $10 belongs to God; and this $80 belongs to me for the necessities of my life; and this $10 is for the savings account. You will never ever have any problem in your life with finances and with money if you’ll do that, if you’ll do that. God bless us. God is in that. I am an old man. I’ve been a pastor for 62 years. I’ll be 80 years old this year. I have never yet, not yet, either heard of nor have I read of anybody anywhere, under any circumstances, who has ever found fault with that kind of a division. Do it and God will bless you in your home.
Last: honoring God in the home in the remembrance of home. A long time ago in the 1600s, there was a very gifted preacher by the name of Increase Mather. For sixty years he was pastor of the Second Church in Boston. Seventeen of those years he was president of Harvard College. Increase Mather wrote a little pamphlet entitled, “The Duty of Parents to Pray for Their Children.” Now, Increase Mather had a wonderfully gifted son called Cotton Mather. Cotton Mather was pastor of that same church, the Second Church in Boston, for 43 years. Anyway, Cotton Mather wrote a pamphlet, and here’s the title of it: “The Duty of Children Whose Parents Have Prayed for Them.” What a wonderful thing: honoring God in the home and the remembrance of home. The thought of it, the image of it, the remembrance of it brings us back to God.
I was in the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, and as I sat there, big on the wall on that side was John 3:16. Well, I understood that. John 3:16. And to my amazement, big on the wall on the other side right back of the pulpit, the wall there, was, “When last did you write to Mother?” Well, I thought, “Of all the things incongruous!” John 3:16, the gospel. That’s right. But this: “When did you last write to Mother?” But as I sat there in that mission and turned it over in my mind, I could easily see the cause and the reason to get that wayward, homeless boy to thinking about his mother. We need to think about God. That is, if the mother was a godly somebody.
O Lord, how vital it is that the father and the mother in the home be godly parents. And when the son or the daughter thinks about home, it brings back to the heart of the child the remembrance of God. And I can tell you this: that child, I don’t care who it is, whether it be Adele Suddeth, who is so devout, or a wayward child, they don’t forget Mother. You just can’t. God made it that way.
In this last war, there was an American boy wounded, mortally so, on the battlefield in France. And the lad was taken to a base hospital in England. And in his delirium, as the lad was dying, he began to call for his mother: “Oh, Mother, Mother, Mother.” There came a woman into the ward. She walked over to that bed and put her arms around that dying American boy and said to him, “My son, your mother is here. I am here.” And the boy cried, “Oh, Mother, Mother! I knew you would come. I knew you would come.” Well, there was a senior nurse in the ward watching that drama, and she walked over to that woman and said to her, “This is absolutely the most miraculous and amazing thing I have ever seen in my life. This American boy and his mother from America should be here just when he dies.” And the woman replied, “Kind nurse, I’m not his real mother. I just heard him calling for ‘Mother,’ and I came, and I took her place. I thought that his American mother would understand.” Dear me. What a wonderful thing it is if the mother of our children can bring to the mind and memory of the child something of God and of the way of the Lord.
And sweet people who have shared with us this hour on television, I pray that your home will be a Christian home, that your children will be brought up in the love and admonition of the Lord Jesus. There is not anything into which you could pour your heart and life that has the meaning of listening to and giving your heart to the blessed Lord Jesus. And if you don’t know how to accept Him as your Savior, you call us. The number is on the screen. And there will be a devout Christian counselor who will guide you into the way of our Savior. God bless you and your home and your children.
And in the great throng of people who fill this sanctuary here in this dear church, in the balcony round, down the stairway, on the lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, God has spoken to me, and I’m answering with my life.” To join the church, to give your heart to Christ [Romans 10:9-13], to listen to His voice, as the Lord shall make the appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.