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By Rev Charles Seet
(Preached at Life BPC, 8am service, 9 April 2000)

Text: 1 Timothy 5:8; Matthew 10:34-37

The theme for our 8 am services this quarter is "Strengthening the Christian Home." Why is it necessary to talk about strengthening the Christian home? One good reason is the prevailing trend of breakdown in family life today.

I. The Present Breakdown in Family Life

A. In the World: Mother's Day is coming up next month, and last Sunday there was an article in the Straits Times that a new mother's day card is now on sale in Britain because of public demand - for single mums. It reported that Family life is changing and traditional families (i.e. with two parents and children living together) are on the decline now. There are fewer marriages, more cohabitation and 4 out of 10 babies in Britain are born to mothers outside of marriage. 3 in 10 children will experience a broken home before they are 16 years old. 

Another article in the papers two days ago reported that teenagers in Thailand have become decadent and permissive in behaviour as a result of the breakdown in family life there. This was revealed in a survey conducted by a university there.

The role of the family unit in society is increasingly neglected. Because of all kinds of influences from the world urging efforts individual achievement and success, the average family spends less time together now than before. And it is not surprising then that in many rapidly developed countries, broken homes are very common. And even in Singapore there are already forces working that if we are not careful, can result in the fracturing of family life.

B. In Singapore: Let us be aware that family life in Singapore is changing, because of the stresses of our increasing pace of life, and the demands of the new global knowledge-based economy. Just last month, this trend was the subject of debate in parliament. A nominated MP passionately argued that the government should prioritise the needs of the family, do more to strengthen the family, and review its policies to help families, for example, more flexible leave policies to spend time with one's family, and paternity leave for fathers.

She proposed that private companies should implement family-friendly practices like providing childcare facilities in the office for working mothers. One columnist described the typical Singapore family life as being complex and messy. It is getting common now for families to be fragmented because of overseas study, overseas work assignments, housing constraints, and failure in marriage. In many families both parents have to work for economic reasons. In some cases this has resulted in the neglect of their children, who in turn grow up to abandon their parents. Concern has been raised over increasing incidences of family violence and child abuse, and of young people getting involved in violent crimes.

History has shown that a society that upholds the family and family life will be morally preserved, while a society that neglects the family, and allows sinful influences to destroy and fragment the family, will become morally decadent. Dearly beloved, we cannot ignore what is happening today in the world and in Singapore - the family unit is degenerating! What then in the remedy for this degeneration of family life that is affecting us today?

II. The Prominence of Family Life in the Scriptures

The remedy is to refer to the instruction manual provided by the Maker who designed and created the family unit. The Bible gives us all the basic principles we need from God, about how families should function, and the role of each component of the family. God originally ordained the family to be the basic unit of society. We can find this emphasized in the Word of God in at least four ways. Firstly, in the

A. Commandments and Instructions about Family Life: Many of the commandments given in the scriptures are related to promoting harmony and godliness in family life. Husbands are commanded to love their wives, and the wives are commanded to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22,25). Parents are commanded to love, instruct, and discipline their children, while children are commanded to honour and obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1-4). These commandments will be dealt with in greater detail in our 8 am messages next month.

But what we want to observe for now, is the abundance of commandments and specific instructions given in the Bible about family life, and ask the question, "Why does God give so much instructions about family life?" Doesn't this indicate how interested He is in families?

And if the Lord gives so much attention and effort to regulating family life, should we not then do the same? And this is not the only way that the Bible emphasizes family life. Let us go on to look at another way that the Bible emphasizes family life, that is, in the:

B. Promises of the Bible: It is a fact that many of the promises given in the Scriptures deal not just with individuals, but also with families. For instance, when Peter delivered his first gospel sermon at Pentecost, he proclaimed: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."  (Acts 2:38,39)

When Paul and Silas brought the Gospel message to their Philippian jailer, they said to him, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Earlier on in the same chapter (vv.14,15) another family was saved - that of Lydia, a seller of a purple dye from Thyatira. The Lord opened her heart when the Apostle Paul preached the gospel, and she and her household (family) were baptized. Her house thus became the meeting place of the first church at Philippi.

By the way, it is because of the fact that the promise of God is extended to families and, that household baptisms are recorded in the NT, that we practise infant baptism in our church. We believe that baptism is a sign of the covenant that God has made with His people, a covenant to bless not just individuals but their families as well. And our part in this covenant is to build our families in godliness, to cultivate Christian homes. In a later message we shall deal in detail with how to do this, when we look at the topic of family devotions. If we understand the concept of the covenant - that it applies to the believer's family, then family devotions would be the logical outworking of that concept.

C. Requirements for Spiritual Leadership: And besides commandments and promises concerning family life, we can also find in the Scriptures, that harmonious family relationships were an important requirement for anyone to receive positions of spiritual leadership. This is another way that God indicates the importance of the family.

When the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about what kind of persons the church should appoint as its elders and deacons, he added that they must be proven to be good governors of their own families first, and he said, "If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"

In line with this, it is interesting to note that one of the reasons why God chose Abraham out of so many people who lived in his time, to enter into a covenant with him, was his family life. Genesis 18:19 tells us, "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him."

D. Examples of Good Families: And besides all that, the Word of God also supplies us with many fine examples of godly families.

1. The Family of Noah is the first example of a godly family. In Genesis 6:18 God told Noah "But with thee will I establish My covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee." In a world so wicked that God brought destructive judgment upon it, the family of Noah was the only family living in obedience to the Lord. How wonderful it must have been to see Noah and his three sons with their respective wives working and building the ark together, and also experiencing God's deliverance from the Flood together as a family. Perhaps one of the reasons why Noah was able to stand firm against the evil of his day was because he enjoyed the peace and sanctity of a godly home. That is one of the benefits of belonging to a godly family. Dearly beloved, like Noah we are living today in the midst of an ungodly world. How great therefore is our need to have godly homes, good Christian families that will enable each family member to stand against the strong evil influences around us.

2. The family of Moses is another example: The 11th chapter of Hebrews tells us of the faith of Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses who defied pharoah's command by faith and hid Moses for three months. When they could no longer hide him, they floated him down the Nile river in a basket and God caused Moses to be found by the Egyptian princess. Amram and Jochebed had three children: Aaron and Miriam, the siblings of Moses, served God as high priest and prophetess respectively, and Moses of course became the great deliverer and Lawgiver of Israel.

3. In the book of Jeremiah (chapter 35) the obedience of the family of Jonadab the son of Rechab is used by God as an example for the disobedient nation of Israel. The Rechabites strictly observed their father's command to dwell in tents and to abstain from drinking wine. Even when Jeremiah offered to them pots of good wine, they refused to yield.

4. In the New Testament one family that is mentioned very favourably was the family of Philip the evangelist. Acts 21:8,9 - "And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy." The remarkable thing about Philip's family that Luke observed was that his four unmarried daughters were serving the Lord, like Philip, their father. Verse 8 tells us that they prophesied. This could have two meanings. It could mean that they were all endowed with a special gift of receiving supernatural predictions from God, in an age when the written Word was not available to believers yet. Or alternatively it could mean that they like their father were engaged in proclaiming the Gospel, and teaching God's Word. Whatever v.8 means, one thing is definite: Philip's daughters loved the Lord as much as their father. And the fact that warms our hearts is that they were serving God together as a family. According to Eusebius the church historian, Philip and his four daughters later moved to Hierapolis in Asia Minor because of persecution, and there they provided the famous church father Papias with valuable information for his writings on the early days of the Jerusalem church.

III. The Principles for Christian Family Life

Having seen how prominent the family is in the Bible, we now go on to learn some principles that must serve as the foundation or basis of the Christian family. Now these principles need to be practiced and applied, and there is not enough time now to discuss the very many practical issues in family life that are involved in applying them. But if you are really interested in knowing more about their practical application let me recommend this book for you to read: Formula for Family Unity - A practical guide of Christian Families by Walter and Trudy Fremont (BJU press, 1980) - only 35 copies in bookroom. It deals with key family and marriage problems - How to love, communicate, submission, leadership, parental responsibilities, discipline of children, manage family finances. This authors are staff members at BJU who conduct weekend family seminars in churches throughout the year. Right now we are going to look at the two principles that form the basis for building a godly Christian home: The first is that

A. Family Members Must be Committed One to Another

This principle is given in 1 Timothy 5:8 - "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." Although this command is found in the context of providing for one's aged parents or grandparents, we want to understand the general principle it teaches - the sense of obligation or better still, the commitment that should bind family members together.

There are some who believe that love is what binds family members together. That is true, as long as our idea of love is not that of the sentimental feelings or warm emotions that the world tends to portray as love. What is love? In the Christian family, love means being firmly committed to one another, regardless of how we may feel about one another. Feelings change all the time. A wife may sometimes feel irritated by her husband's untidy habits. A mother may sometimes feel upset with a child who is disobedient. Siblings sometimes quarrel with each other over toys and personal belongings, or exhibit 'sibling rivalry'. If the quality of family life depended upon feelings, it would very soon end up in terrible jeopardy! But if there is commitment between members of the family to one another, then family life would still remain strong and steadfast, despite any change of feelings.
This applies first of all to the marriage relationship. This is the relationship that undergirds the whole family. Father and mother's undying commitment to one another are the pillars upon which the whole family rests.

If that commitment were to be compromised, the very foundations of family life would be shaken. Let me therefore say this to all who are parents here:
If you want to build a strong Christian family, then build up a firm commitment to your spouse, and let nothing ever compromise that commitment.
Commitment also applies to the parent-child relationship. Such commitment keeps a father from disowning or child or giving up on him, even when the child becomes rebellious and disobedient.

We think of the many times that Israel rebelled against God, and roused His displeasure and wrath against them. And yet as their heavenly Father, God always remained steadfastly committed to the covenant He made with them! It is also commitment that enables a Christian to persevere in taking care of an aged bedridden parent to the best of his ability. The tie that binds family members together is commitment. But there is a more important commitment than this. For even if all members in a family are deeply committed to one another, it would not be a Christian family without commitment to Christ. This brings us to the second principle that forms the basis of the Christian family.

B. Family Members Must Be Committed to the Lord

We have a wall plaque in our bookroom that reads, "Christ is the Head of this House, the Unseen Guest at every Meal, the silent listener to every conversation." A Christian family can be described as a family where Christ is honoured, obeyed and served as Lord and Master. It is a home where the father, mother, sons and daughters are all growing in their commitment to Christ, looking to Him for help to deal with problems and praising Him for His daily blessings. And ultimately, the strength of the Christian family depends on this: The commitment that each member of the family must have, to the Lord Jesus Christ. The ideal situation we should strive for is to have all family members equally and fully committed to the Lord.

In some homes however, family members may not all share the same commitment to Christ. Sometimes the children are deeply committed to Christ, but the parents are not. Sometimes it is the parents who are deeply committed to Christ, but the children are not. Some of us may have loved ones in our family who are not Christians, or are nominal Christians.

We can anticipate problems in such a situation. There may be occasional disagreements or conflicts arising from the differences in commitment. Let us consider what Jesus said would be the effect of this upon families, in Matthew 10:34-37 -  "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.  For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.  And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.  He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."

As long as our loved ones are not committed to Christ there will be things that stand between them and us. But if we take the trouble to bring our loved ones to have the same commitment to Christ, and succeed, there will no longer be these differences to strain our relationships. Instead we would be able to share freely about our common faith in the Lord Jesus. We would have a closer and more meaningful time with them.

In our dealings with loved ones who are outside Christ right now, the joy and fellowship we can share together with them is actually quite limited. When we get together, the only things we would talk about are family matters, our jobs, or the weather. Other than that, our values are quite different and we will soon sense that. We would like to talk with them about spiritual things, about our heavenly hope, about Christ and His word. But they would rather talk about worldly things, about new opportunities to make more money in this life, and about their own ambitions and dreams.

But imagine what a difference it would make when they become fully committed to the Lord. Our time together with them would become more meaningful as we can now share freely about the blessings we enjoy in Christ. For this reason, let us make every effort to bring every family member to commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. That means praying for them, reaching out to them with the Word of God, and if we are parents, by teaching our children to love and obey the Lord. This is the way to build a Christian family.

Dearly beloved, we have seen today that God expects us to regard the family with the same great regard that He has for it. And because of this, we must strengthen our commitment to the rest of the family, and most of all to strengthen our commitment to the Lord. Let me challenge all of us to meditate on what we have heard and then apply them well.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

November 19 & 26 - The End of the World

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10