The Saving of the Home
April 23rd, 1989 @ 8:15 AM
THE SAVING OF THE HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-23-89 8:15 a.m.
Once again welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Saving of the Home.
In our preaching through the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, we are in chapter 19, and in verse 27: “Then saith Jesus to the disciple,” the one that He loved, the author of the Gospel, who writes it, “Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple, the apostle John, took her unto his own home” [John 19:27]. And that little phrase there, “unto his own home,” brings to my heart and mind a message for us all.
The apostles were married. In 1 Corinthians Paul speaks of the fact that all of the apostles were married [1 Corinthians 9:5]. One of the miracles of our Lord was performed in the home of Simon Peter, whose wife’s mother, his mother-in-law, was sick [Mark 1:29-31]. All of the apostles were married; they had homes. And in this instance, our Lord speaks to the apostle John concerning his home and his care for Mary the Lord’s mother. It is not without meaning that on the cross, dying for the sins of all humanity [1 John 2:2], our Lord remembered His mother [John 19:26-27]. In the Book of Exodus, the Ten Commandments “Honor thy father and thy mother” [Exodus 20:12]. In Ephesians 6:2 Paul speaks of that commandment as being the first with promise out of the list of the commandments; the first one that has with it a pronounced blessing from God is that one, “Remember thy father and thy mother.” So our Lord in keeping with the command of heaven and in keeping with the devout and holy life took care of His mother, even though she was present at the time when our Lord suffered His greatest agony [John 19:16-30].
There is a beautiful painting: it is of John taking away His mother, guiding His mother from the cross. And when you look at the painting you notice something in her hand; and when you see what it is, it’s the crown of thorns from the head of our Lord [John 19:2]. No more dramatic or sensitive or emotionally fraught scene could ever be depicted than the love and the care for His mother when He died. That brings us to this Book, the religious faith, the religion of our fathers, and God’s Holy Bible.
As you know, I was single for about the first ten years of my pastoral work, and I lived literally in the homes of the people. Back yonder in that long ago day, when I would enter a home of the people to whom I ministered as a country pastor, almost every home would have a large family Bible; and it would be prominently displayed on a table in the living room. In the Bible, as you would look at it and open it, you would find the names of the children who were born into the home, and then sometimes there’d be a pressed flower from the memorial service of a loved one who had died. That’s a beautiful thing; something that you never see anymore. But there was always in every home a big family Bible.
Well, it is not only a family Bible, but this is a Bible of families. That’s what it is, the Book I hold in my hand. If you turn to the Bible seeking a history of the world, you’ll be disappointed. If you turn to the Bible seeking socioeconomic principles and guidelines for political advancement, you’ll be disappointed. The Bible is a story of the family of God. That’s exactly what it is. It starts with the family of Adam, and then the family of Seth, then the family of Noah, then the family of Shem, then the family of Terah and of Abraham, then the family of Isaac and of Jacob, then the family of Judah, then the family of Boaz, of whom we read just now, the husband of Ruth; then the family of David, and finally you come to the New Testament. And the New Testament begins—you have a translation of it that doesn’t give you the idea—it starts off with, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ” [Matthew 1:1]. Well, that’s all right; they are copying the Greek word genea, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ.” If I could translate it accurately it would be, “The book of the family of Jesus Christ.” It starts off with the family of Zacharias and Elizabeth [Luke 1:5-80]; then speaks of the family of Joseph and Mary [Luke 2:4-52]. The whole Bible is a Bible of the family of God.
Now that reflects the great and everlasting foundational truth that the unit by which God creates civilization, culture, life, always is the family. There’s no exception to that. It is the basic unit of all existence. If you have a pagan family, you’ll have a pagan nation. If you have a sordid family, you’ll have a sordid nation. If you have a materialistically minded family, you’ll have a materialistically minded nation. But if you have a Christian family, you’ll have a Christian nation. Whether it is sordid or whether it is godly depends upon that family unit.
Now that is seen from the beginning of civilization in the destruction of the family on the part of those who seek a socialist or communist state. From the days of Plato and his Republic, to the day of Karl Marx with his Communist Manifesto, the first thing always is the destruction of the family. When you have a family, that means you have to have a home, you have to have a house, that means property, and that finally means protection and guardianship. Any home, any family seeks to support itself and to take care of itself. Well, in a socialist, communist state, children become the wards of the government, and the destruction of home and property—you can’t have a communist state and magnify the home. They are antithetical. And may I antithetically say, that’s the first place where Soviet Russia will be destroyed and is now disintegrating. It’s against God, it’s against nature, it’s against the heart, against the soul, it’s against life, it’s against the very fabric of existence itself to destroy the home and the family. God made it that way.
And that leads me to speak of our blessed nation of America. As you know, as all of these children have been taught, the Spanish conquistadors came to America, roamed over our part of the earth, here in the Southwest, especially through Central America and South America. They were seeking gold. And they ravished the civilizations of the Aztecs and of the Incas in order to further their search for that glittering metal. When the Pilgrim Fathers came to America, they were seeking God. In December of 1620 they landed up there on the Massachusetts coast. That winter, when May came after the passing of the winter, half of them had died; there were only fifty of them left. But those fifty built a little village, homes; there were thirteen homes on the little street. And at the head of it was the church; the head of it was the church. That was the beginning of the life of America. And you see it poignantly illustrated in one of our greatest men.
As some of you, I went through the memorial, the monument to Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois: a beautiful and sacred place, those corridors so soft and quiet; and the great sarcophagus, and on it the sentence of Secretary Stanton when Abraham Lincoln died, “Now he belongs to the ages.” Then before that, as practically all of you I’m sure have done, visiting the memorial monument in Washington D.C., where it sits there as though it were the guardian of the Potomac and of our nation; then back of that, when I was a village pastor in Kentucky, every weekend I’d drive by Hodgenville. And there in Hodgenville, Kentucky is a beautiful marble monument built over a little tiny log cabin. And on the wall of that monument there are engraved these words: “All that I am, and ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln.” They were Baptists. Tom Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were a Baptist couple; had a Baptist family. And Abraham, the little boy, grew up in that home, and was taught the Holy Word of God by that godly mother. He never got away from it. As long as he lived, the great basic background and foundational life of Abraham Lincoln was in the Word of God.
The strength of our America and the strength of our nation lies in its godly home and in its godly people. Do you remember that word from the great poet Lord Byron?
While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand
When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall
And when Rome falls—the world.
If I could parody that great poem:
While stands the Christian home, America shall stand.
When falls the Christian home, America shall fall.
And when America falls—the world.
The basic foundational unit upon which God builds His kingdom is the Christian family and the Christian home.
And that leads me to my last avowal: the building of our Christian homes. If you’ve ever been in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, in the great nave there is a very effective and famous picture by Holman Hunt. It is entitled Jesus the Light of the World. And the picture is this: He is standing at a door knocking, knocking [Revelation 3:20]. And a little girl standing there with her mother, looking at that picture, turned to her mother and said, “Mommy was the door ever opened? Was He ever invited in?” As you look at the picture, there’s no handle on the outside; it’s on the inside. The little girl’s question, “Did He ever get in? Was He ever invited in?” That’s the most meaningful of all of the questions that can be asked by any heart, any house, any home. Is the Lord invited in?
May I make an aside about a miracle of our Lord that is not said but is so apparent to me? When our Lord was invited into the home of Simon the Pharisee, while He was seated there at meat, now you know how the people ate in those days: they leaned on the table with their left arm like this, and their feet extended out away from the table. While our Lord was there, a prostitute, a street woman, a harlot, called “a sinner,” came in, and anointed His feet, kissed them. And the Pharisee said, “This Man is no prophet. If He were a prophet, He wouldn’t let her touch Him” [Luke 7:36-39]. That’s what he thought. Well, that’s the story, and of course followed the great abounding love of our Lord for the sinner, for the lost [Luke 7:40-50]. But the aside that I want to point out is, the little phrase, when that woman anointed Him, anointed Him, anointed His foot, the phrase, “and the room was filled with perfume” [John 12:3]: anywhere that Jesus is, the house, the room, is filled with perfume. If Jesus is here, it’ll be a different place, it’ll be a sweet place, it’ll be a dear place, it’ll be a holy place, it’ll be a heavenly place, if our Lord is present, anywhere, anywhere in this earth. His coming is always a great blessing.
When Zaccheus invited Him to his home, Jesus blessed the house [Luke 19:1-6]. And Zaccheus, though he was a midget of a man, stood ten feet tall! Jesus’ presence is always an incomparable blessing. Into the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, when death came, He was the resurrection, and the life [John 11:25].
I don’t think there’s a more moving story in human literature than the last chapter of the Book of Luke. Some of the great critics like Renan have said the same thing. Jesus, Jesus breaks—resurrected, walking along with the two disciples to Emmaus, but they didn’t recognize Him [Luke 24:13-16]. And as they walked along and came in the eventide to the home in Emmaus, He made as though He would walk on [Luke 24:28]. And they constrained Him to enter in, to come into the house. And He said the blessing, they bowed their heads for the meal, and He said grace: and they recognized Him in the way that He said the blessing, the way He said grace at the table. And immediately He vanished out of their sight [Luke 24:29-31]. Then do you remember the following word? “They said to one another, Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked to us by the way, and opened to us the Holy Scriptures?” [Luke 24:32].
You will never experience anything sweeter or dearer in human life than to invite the Lord into your house and into your home. He is always that: a perfume, a holiness, a blessing. And in the hour of despair and darkness and death, He is ever there to see you through—the finest Friend any pilgrim could ever have.
I want to say just one thing of how sad it is, the obverse, the adverse of that—how sad it is to turn your back to the Lord and to be so engrossed in anything that takes you away from God. How tragic it is, how sad it is to be consumed with other things and let Jesus and the family go over the board.
I read just this much—why the thing ended where it did I do not know, but I read just this much. There was a teenage boy, like you fellows, there was a boy in court. And the judge said to the boy, “Stand up to be sentenced.” So the boy stood up before the bench to be sentenced. And the judge said to the boy, the judge said to him, “I knew your father well. He was a great barrister. He was the authority on laws of property. And these books,” and he showed a series of books, “these volumes on property were written by your father. And you have brought shame and disgrace on your father’s name.” And the boy standing before the judge, said, “Yes sir, yes Your Honor.” And the judge said to the boy, “Why could not you have been like your father?” And the boy replied, “Your Honor, sir, I never knew what my father was like.” The judge in astonishment said, “What do you mean you never knew what your father was like?” And the boy replied, “Your Honor, sir, any time I ever went to my father and say, ‘Dad would you play with me?’ or, ‘Would you go with me?’ or, ‘Would you walk with me?’ or, ‘Would you say to me; or teach me?’ my father would always say, ‘Run along, son. Run along, son. I haven’t time. I am working on these books of property.’”
That’s where the story ended when I read it; ended there. I want to add a sentence, a little paragraph. The story doesn’t say, but I would bet my life on it: when that court sentenced that boy, the judge did it with a heavy heart.
Great God! What’s the matter with us? Time for everything under the sun, for money, for pleasure; but no time for God, and no time for the Christian home, and no time for church, and no time for Sunday school, and no time for the things of the Lord. If you rear your children to be multi-millionaires, or to be the most famous actors or actresses or successes in the world, and they miss heaven, what have you gained? The first commitment, the first great dynamic in the building of the house and the home: “Lord, the door is open, come in [Revelation 3:20]. These are Your children. Bless them. And this household is a sanctuary for the Lord.” Oh, how infinitely blessed your home, your heart, your family, if you have room in the house for Jesus.
And that is our invitation and that is our prayer this morning. While we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, come and be with us in the love and worship of God our Savior; a couple you, maybe just beginning a home, “This is God’s day for us, and we’re starting with the Lord.” A one somebody you, “God has spoken to my heart, and I’m accepting Him as my Savior” [Romans 10:9-10]. As the Spirit shall press the appeal, answer with your life. In a prayerful bowing before God, make that decision now in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come, and a thousand times welcome. Angels attend you in the way. This is the greatest decision you’ll ever face and that you’ll ever make. “Pastor, we’re giving our hearts and our lives to the Lord. We’re dedicating our home to Jesus. And we’re going to be numbered with the family of God, and here we stand.” Welcome, while we stand and while we sing, while we stand and while we sing.