The Christian Home
May 12th, 1991 @ 10:50 AM
THE CHRISTIAN HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-12-91 10:50 a.m.
The title of the sermon this morning is, The Christian Home, a tribute to our mothers and our fathers who brought us up in the love and admonition of the Lord Jesus [Ephesians 6:4]. Reading as a background text in the second chapter of the Book of Luke, verse 39: “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city. And the Child grew, and waxed strong. . .filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him” [Luke 2:39-40]. Then the last two verses, after the visit to Jerusalem: “They went down and came to Nazareth, and He was subject unto His parents. . .And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” [Luke 2:51-52].
Thus we are introduced to the incarnation of God. How would it be when God came down to live our life and to walk in our midst? The incarnation of the great God Almighty; this is the way God chose it to be. He placed the Lord Himself, God Himself, He placed Himself in a home, in a family [Matthew 13:55]. There did He live. There was He brought up. And there was He taught the things of God.
And all the years of the afterlife of our Savior reflect that upbringing in that devout and godly home. He was a man of prayer. His mother was a woman of prayer. In the Bible, never did He eat, unless first He said grace at the table, always reflecting the habits of life He gained in that godly home.
He went to church. He went to the synagogue. Luke says, “as His custom was” [Luke 4:16], He attended the services of the worship of the Lord. And He read and knew God’s holy and infallible Word [Luke 4:17-20; Matthew 4:3-10]. Even as a Boy of twelve, He amazed the doctors of the Law in the temple by His knowledge of this holy and infallible Book [Luke 2:46-47]. And of course, when He went into the synagogue, they gave Him the scroll of the Bible that He might read before the people [Luke 4:16-17].
He grew up God incarnate [Colossians 2:9]. He grew up in a godly home. And all the years of His afterlife reflect that beautiful upbringing of our blessed Lord. Thus, we come to speak of the Christian ideal of a godly home, one that magnifies the Lord and is built upon the rock of God [Matthew 7:24], a home in which our Savior is a welcome guest.
I don’t think I ever saw a more beautiful or plaintive or dynamic painting than the one entitled The Unseen Guest. A family is gathered around at a table, bowed in prayer before they break bread together. And unknown and unseen by them, the Lord is standing above, with His hands outstretched in holy blessing upon that godly family. What a beautiful way to live in the home and God is in our midst! There is an inevitable coming of need and providential sadness and sorrow in human life. No one escapes it. And no home is beyond it. How marvelous and wonderful it is when those exigencies arise and we have God to turn to, and the Lord Himself to help us!
Do you remember the story that begins, there was a great woman in Shunem, the Shunammite woman, and she said to her husband, “I perceive that this man, who passes by once in a while, I see that he is a man of God” [2 Kings 4:9]—referring to Elisha, the prophet. “Let us build for him a little chamber. And it may be when he passes by, he will turn in thither and stay with us” [2 Kings 4:10]. So they built a little chamber in the house. And it was so, when Elisha came by, he turned in thither and he stayed in that godly home. Out of it came the birth of a son. She was childless, and in making a request of the man of God, she was given the life of a little boy [2 Kings 4:14-17].
And as the lad grew, and became, say, a young teenager, he sickened and died [2 Kings 4:18-20]. Oh, what an incomparable, indescribable sorrow to that mother and that father! What did she do? She made her way to the prophet, Elisha, and laid before him the sorrow of her heart [2 Kings 4:25-28]. And the story ends wonderfully and gloriously. He comes and he raises that lad from the dead [2 Kings 4:32-37]. What a glory to have God in the home! And when that inevitable day of sorrow and tragedy comes, He is there to help us, and to stand by us, and to bring us hope and confidence and assurance.
This is the life of a Christian home, and how beautiful and precious it is, thus to look to God in all of the exigencies of our lives. If God is with us, every providence that ever comes is for our good and for our blessing, even our sorrows and our tears.
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me;
I cannot see the pattern,
But He worketh steadily.
Sometimes He weaveth sorrow
And I, in selfish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the underside.
Not until the loom is idle
And the shuttle cease to fly,
Will God unfold the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads—of sorrow and disappointment,
The dark threads are as needful
In the Master’s skillful hands
As the silver and the golden
In the pattern He has planned.
[from “The Weaver,” Benjamin Malachi Franklin]
What a wonderful assurance and comfort and strength, to have God with us in our home! The ideal Christian home: the language is chaste, and the visions and hopes are virtuous and pure, and the habits of life glorify God. Oh, what a beautiful thing, the ideal for the Christian home!
May I speak now of the teaching and the rearing of our children? Dear God, how they reflect us! The baby sharks were trying to teach the little crabs to walk forward and not backward. So, they labored and struggled and succeeded. And at the end of each day, the little baby crabs would be walking forward. Then, the next day, when they came from home, they were back again, walking backwards. And the baby sharks were so chagrined, in despair, and could not understand why, in the daytime, at the end of the day, the baby crabs were walking forward, then the next morning, when they came from home, they were all walking backward. Then they learned, the baby sharks went home with the baby crabs, and saw Daddy and Mother walking backward. This is human life. Our children reflect us.
One of the most unusual of all of the parables that I’ve read in the Bible—Jotham stands on Mt. Gerizim, lifts up his voice, and cried unto the men of Shechem:
Hearken unto me . . .
The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king . . . and they said to the olive, Reign over us.
But the olive said, Shall I leave my fatness . . . and go to be promoted over the trees?
Then the trees turned to the fig tree and said, Come thou, and reign over us.
But the fig tree said, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, to go to be promoted over the trees?
Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.
And the vine said, Should I leave my wine that cheereth man and God, and be promoted?
Then said the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
And the bramble said to the trees, If in truth you anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow . . . and then fire will come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.
Somebody will teach our children. If it isn’t the fig tree, if it isn’t the olive tree, if it isn’t the vine, it will be the bramble. Somebody will teach our children. You can remember it well. The streets confer no degrees. And they bestow no honors. And they confer no diplomas, but they educate with terrible precision. If we do not teach our children, somebody will. There’s no exception to that in human life. How infinitely better that the child be taught in the love and admonition of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4]. One of the strangest things that you could ever think for, you will read in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews. In calling the roll of the heroes of faith, the author says, “Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter: choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” [Hebrews 11:24-25].
Do you ever think through that? This man, Moses, Ramoses, until he forsook Egypt and cut off the “Ra,” the name of the sun god, this Ramoses, Moses, without the Ra, this Ramoses was brought up in the court of Egypt. He was groomed and prepared to be the next Pharaoh. He was the son of the king. But when he was forty years old, forty years of age, after he had been in that court for a generation, when he was forty years of age, he chose to give his life with, and for, the people of God [Hebrews 11:24-25]. How could such a thing be? I’ll tell you how. When he was a baby, unknown to the daughter of Pharaoh, she placed the little life in the hands of his mother [Exodus 2:2-10]. And that mother taught that little lad the true God, Jehovah, Lord. And he never forgot it. That child never will.
I think of Sampson down there in the land of Philistia, compromised in the house of Dagon, having cut off his hair—he was a Nazirite, the sign of his dedication to God, the hair that grew at length, cut off his hair, down there in Philistia [Judges 16:16-19]. And in the house of Dagon, the Philistine god, made sport of, contemptible; Dagon, so great, and Jehovah God, so small. And his hair grew back, the Nazirite sign of dedication to God [Judges 16:22]. Put out his eyes; ground and ground at the prison mill [Judges 16:21]. Then, the remembrance of his mother’s God. And he bowed his head in his blindness, and in his destitution and contemptible performance there before the house of Dagon, and said, “O Lord God!” He remembered the God of his childhood. “O Lord God, remember me and stand by me” [Judges 16:28].
Isn’t that remarkable? The child never forgets it, never! You rear that child in the name of the Lord and no matter what the providences of life that follow after, he’ll never forget it, never!
Do you ever wonder, how is it that these Jews, the family of Abraham, how is it that these Jews, scattered to the ends of the earth, persecuted as no other tribe or people have ever been persecuted, how is it they still cling to the Lord? How is it they still are distinct, like the Gulf Stream in the great ocean of humanity? How is it that the Jew still is here in our midst after these thousands of years of dispersion and persecution? I’ll tell you how, and why. They teach their children in the home. They are brought up knowing Jehovah God. It never fails. It never fails. And sweet people, how desperately we need to do that in the generation in which God has cast our life and lot.
O Lord, this secular world in which our children are now growing up! By law, by law, you can’t read the Bible in the school! By law, you can’t pray in the school. By law, you can’t have chapel service in the school. By law, you are forced to teach them evolution! By law! By law, you can’t teach creationism, that God made us. By law, you’re forced to teach them that they are the products of the apes and the monkeys, that they are animals. Isn’t it amazing that we should be surprised that they act like animals, when they’re taught that they are animals?
This secular world in which we are forced to rear our children. Television—I read about a week ago one of the most amazing of all the things I’ve ever read on the printed page. They took a group of children in a third world, that had never been introduced to radio or television. They took those children and showed them televisions, television programs, television programs. And the same thing happened to those children that happens to us in America. The children became criminally minded, and sexually perverted, and evil in thought and language and style and life; the secular world in which we live. Great God, how we need that Christian home!
And the violation of the Lord ’s Day! “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” [Revelation 1:10]—goodness alive in heaven! If there were, I’d say, any kind of an athletic game, I’d say, if it is vital and interesting and superlatively interesting, you’d play it on Sunday. I would guess, if I were not introduced to it, that if we had a great Super Bowl here in America, the game would be played on Sunday. I would say that if you had a number one baseball game, you’d play it on Sunday. The secular world in which we live; O Lord in heaven, how we need desperately the teaching of these children in a Christian home!
All of you kids that are in school, reading of these Puritans and about Increase Mather and Cotton Mather—finally the Puritans developed into the Congregational and the Presbyterian churches. Increase Mather, born 1639. Cotton Mather, born in 1663. Increase Mather wrote a tract, “The Responsibility of Parents to Train Their Children in the Lord.” And then Cotton Mather, the son, wrote a tract, “The Responsibility of Children Who Have Been Taught by Their Parents to Love the Lord.”
And did you know, did you know, that in that one family, that Mather family, there are more than two hundred fifty years of those sons and generations in the ministry, in the pulpits? Two-hundred fifty years taught and trained in the Lord. O God, how desperately we need the teaching of our children in the love of Jesus!
I have but a moment remaining. May I speak now, in closing, of the social character of the worship of God? And I’m speaking now of our families as a part of the family of heaven, in the church. It’s a remarkable thing—from the beginning and throughout all the revelation of God—it’s a remarkable thing: the social nature of the worship of our Lord. I would think that you could sum up the entire Old Testament in telling the stories of families going to worship the Lord—Adam and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and David and the social aspect of the worship of God—togetherness, the feasts of Israel, the great convocations before the Lord, gathering at the door of the temple or of the tabernacle, the social nature of the worship of God.
And the same thing obtains in the New Testament—the togetherness, the meeting together of God’s people. You could summarize the whole story of the Christian church in the New Testament in the gathering of God’s people.
And that brings to me an aside. We don’t stray in our work. We turn aside in our social life. A man in his work is going to be for the most part honest, true, laboring at his tasks, but it is in his social life that he leaves God and goes astray. How desperately we need the family in the house of the Lord, worshiping together. I need you. We need each other. And our children need to be brought up in the house and fellowship and the family of God.
I one time heard of a pastor who went to see a man who had quit coming to church. It was in the wintertime and he sat with that man who had ceased coming to church. He sat with that man before a fireplace. The fire was burning. And the pastor took the poker, and reached in there, and pulled out a burning coal, and put it on the hearth. It burned for a moment. Then it smoked. Then it died. And the man said to the pastor, “Pastor, I’ll be there at church next Sunday.”
That is we. If I cease to come to church, I’ll finally drift away from God and be lost in the interests of a secular world. I need to come to church. I need to be with you in the presence of our precious Lord. I want to show you that. Then we have to stop.
In ]Exodus 8:8], Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron and said—they had told Pharaoh, “God has called us to worship the Lord” [Exodus 8:1]. God’s called us to go to church.
So Pharaoh called and said to Moses and Aaron, “You go, but you worship the Lord right where you are” [Exodus 8:25]. You don’t need to go to church. You can worship the Lord mowing the lawn. You can worship the Lord watching television. You can worship the Lord seated at the table. You can worship the Lord just where you are. Stay where you are. And Moses answered, “Not so. God has called us to go to church and we are on the journey” [Exodus 8:26-27].
All right, the second. Pharaoh said, “I will let you go that ye may worship the Lord your God. Only go not very far” [Exodus 8:28]. Don’t be fanatical about going to church. Don’t be overly interested and overly committed—just somewhat. Moses said, “No, we are going all out” [Exodus 11:8].
Then Moses and Aaron, brought before the Pharaoh, he said, “You go serve the Lord, but who are they that are going?” [Exodus 10:8].
And Moses said, “We all are going, with our children, our sons and our daughters” [Exodus 10:9].
And Pharaoh said, “Not so. Just the men go. Just some of you go. Not all of you go, especially these little children. Don’t bring them” [Exodus 10:11].
And Pharaoh called unto Moses and said, “You serve the Lord. Go to church only let your flocks and your herds be stayed” [Exodus 10:24]. You can even take your children to Sunday school, but leave what you have at home. Go empty-handed.
And Moses said, “Not so. We must have sacrifices and offerings, that we may worship the Lord our God. And our cattle are going with us. Not a hoof left behind, for thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God” [Exodus 10:25-26]. I’m going to church, and I’m going to bring my children with me. I’m going to rear them in the house of the Lord. And I’m not going empty-handed. I’m bringing, according to the Word of the Lord, a tithe and an offering to dedicate it unto Him [Leviticus 27:30, 32]. And that is God’s kind of religion. It’s the home kind. It’s the house kind. And when that day came, and they left, they took the blood of the Passover lamb and put it on the lentil and on the doorposts on either side—in the sign of a cross [Exodus 12:7, 13]. And the next day, they all went to serve the Lord [Exodus 12:31-37].
That’s God’s will for us. We all are going. We all are serving. And that includes our little ones and our children. And we’re not coming empty-handed. We’re coming with a gift for God; beautiful thing, to love God and to build a Christian home.
In just a moment, we’ll stand and sing our hymn of appeal.