What had originally been planned as a brief call home to wish my grandfather a happy birthday turned into a two-hour conversation with the family as they viewed their grandson and everyone provided updates from their portion of the world. As is customary when we meet or chat, the conversation turned to how we had recently been challenged or encouraged by Scripture or the preached word.
Recent events in the world have certainly provided much food for scriptural meditation.
Earlier in the day I had read Psalm 78 where Asaph recounts all that the Lord had done for Israel and how they had pursued idolatry regardless. The beginning of the Psalm struck me with what Israel had been commanded to do in Deuteronomy 6 as the background for their antecedent behavior throughout history. Despite the clear commands that would place their hope in God and ensure they were not stubborn and rebellious like their fathers, Asaph states several times that Israel tested God, broke His covenant, or sinned still more against Him.
Multiple generations of Israel failed to follow a clear command thereby opening the door to breaking a host of others.
We will not hide them from their children, but tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.Psalm 78:4-8
God’s people did not teach His commandments to their children. The result of such faithlessness, as you can read in 1&2 Kings, was rampant idolatry, injustice, and sexual immorality. The Lord divided the kingdom of His people and when their transgressions could be tolerated no longer, He handed them over to their enemies to be judged and winnowed. (As I will highlight in an upcoming series, the Lord always preserved a remnant of His faithful people though they experienced the hardships along with their countrymen.)
Scripture is not silent about how parents are to raise their children (Deuteronomy 6:7-9, 11:19; Proverbs 19:18, 22:6; Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:21 to highlight a few); in both covenants, parents are told to explicitly train their children in the commandments of God. When parents ignore such instruction, disaster inevitably follows.
One example from my recent studies in 1 Kings comes at the hands of King Asa, a temporary reprieve in what would prove to be a long line of disastrous kings. The following three verses tell us a great deal of the state of Israel only three kings removed from Solomon (Jeroboam, Rehoboam, and Abijam only covered 20 years).
And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as David his father had done. He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all of the idols that his fathers had made. He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. And Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron.1 Kings 15:11-13
Asa’s grandfather, Rehoboam, was responsible for setting up altars and temples to false gods, leading Judah into rank idolatry, and establishing cult prostitution in the land by adopting the practices of the very nations the Lord had driven out before them. Scripture even states that he led the people of Judah into greater sins than their forefathers had committed.
Rehoboam no doubt observed these vary practices from his own father, Solomon, who married 700 women in addition to 300 concubines and fostered their idolatry in the land. The details of what Solomon allowed are for a post in the aforementioned series; for now the focus is on the impact it invariably had upon his lineage. Each successive generation inherited sinful practices and yet refused to deal with them.
When Asa took the throne, he was dealing with three generations worth of idolatry and wickedness. It surely would have been easy to maintain the status quo, especially since the queen mother, his grandmother, was keeping the practices alive within the family. One could hear “this is the family way” in the background.
Asa could have dealt with the national issues exclusively. He could have outlawed the idolatry and prostitution and obtained a clean public image; the traditional family king, perhaps. Many a politician and ruler has done just that, hiding personal and family issues as far from the public eye as possible and hiring individuals to manage their public image. “Let me champion this cause of which I myself am guilty,” just doesn’t have a convincing ring to it.
Yet, Asa surely knew what Matthew Henry said about this passage:
Bad practices will never be suppressed in the country while they are supported in the courts [home].Matthew Henry on 1 Kings 15:13
What we are seeing right now is the long nurtured fruit of bad practices permitted in the home. My focus here is not the pagan world behaving in a pagan way but the bad practices adopted by families confessing Christ. It does not take a great deal of sifting through the 2018 State of Theology to figure out that many professing evangelicals are wildly ignorant of the Scriptures they claim to adhere too. For example:
- 52% agree that mankind is good by nature and only sins a little.
- 51% agree that God accepts the worship of all religions.
- 78% agree that Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God; this is what the Mormon’s and Jehovah Witnesses teach.
- 53% of 18-34 year old evangelicals believe that the Bible contains myths and is not literally true.
- 36% believe God is actually concerned with their day-to-day decisions.
- 51% believe that the Bible’s teachings about homosexuality do not apply today.
- 46% believe gender is a matter of choice.
This holds true in the various middle school classes for whom I have taught Bible. As I converse with students, their notions of justice are informed by the world, right and wrong are skewed to match the flavor of the day, and their understanding of sin is absolutely paltry. It is no surprise that students cannot think Biblically because so many of them are ignorant of even the most elementary categories of Scripture, not to mention where books are located in the Bible. The result is that by 6th Grade, the amount of Scriptural teaching that is needed to actually achieve the Biblical worldview so many Christian schools boast is insurmountable in one year.
These things should not be.
It would be easy to leave the blame at the feet of students. It is not uncommon for them to balk against assignments, scriptural or otherwise. Yet, it must be pointed out that children often adopt the view of their parents; this is readily recognized even in the world (hence, they would love to end homeschooling). Since an ambivalence toward Scripture is not taught at the Christian school and unregenerate children will not love Scripture, one must ask how Scripture is viewed in the home.
When God commanded His people to train their children, it was not by means of osmosis or sitting on your hands and hoping God works against your disobedience. Instruction of children is to be intentional and constant. As J.C. Ryle notes in The Duties of Parents, “Train them in the way they should go and not the way they would go.” Children are born with folly in their hearts (Proverbs 22:15); left untended they will surely bear sinful fruit.
This is surely what we see in society at this present time. Much selfishness, pride, abuse, disobedience, ingratitude, slander, conceit, and godlessness have been tolerated in the home. Homosexuality (sodomy) and transgenderism have gained popularity with alarming speed in the last five years, dominating entertainment in every corner. Greed, envy, and theft have become the acceptable sins as socialism and communism intoxicate the masses. These things now flow effortlessly in the streets and the very people who raised such brutish individuals are unwilling to reign it in.
These sins have run unchallenged and unrepentant for a long time and instead of bringing Scripture to bear, Scripture is ignored and sometimes outright rejected by professing Christians. It is already a tired tale that someone changes their view of what Scripture says based upon the proximity of the sin in their lives either in themselves, a friend, or relative.
As I observe this trend among Christian families, I notice several factors which usually work concomitantly toward this end. While these factors can often seem simple at first glance and are thus swiftly waived to the side. Yet, the reality is that these factors have deep tendrils that plunge and grasp deep at the heart.
I wonder how you would answer these questions.
- Are idolatry, superstition, or prayers to saints present in your home? [Idolatry: having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in his Word.] (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 10:5-14; 1 John 5:21; Matthew 4:10; Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9)
- Do you worship God only as He has commanded? Do you tolerate depictions of Jesus in art or entertainment? (Deuteronomy 4:15-19; Isaiah 40:18-25; Acts 17:29; Romans 1:22-23; Leviticus 10:1-7; 1 Samuel 15:22-23; John 4:23-24)
- Do you misuse the name of God through cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths? Do you only use the name of the Lord with reverence and awe? (Leviticus 24:10-17; 19:12; Matthew 5:37; James 5:12)
- Prior to the quarantine, what was your families church attendance pattern? Is your church Biblically centered (not simply basing a therapeutic message on a verse out of context) and does it preach the whole counsel of God? Do you ensure that your family keeps the Lord’s Day holy? Is Sunday another day to finish chores, complete work tasks or homework, participate in sports that require missing church, consume world centered entertainment? (Deuteronomy 12:5-12; Psalm 40:9-10, 68:26; Acts 2:42-47; Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 14:31-32; 1 Timothy 4:13; Hebrews 4:9-11, 10:23-25)
- Do you show honor, love, and faithfulness to your parents by example? Do your children do the same? Do you and your children submit with proper obedience to all good teaching and discipline? (Exodus 21:17; Proverbs 1:8, 4:1; Romans 13:1-2; Ephesians 5:21-22, 6:1-9; Colossians 3:18-4:1)
- Does your family have a regular practice of family worship or devotions? Does that time consist of Scripture, prayer, scripture memory, or doctrinal discussions?
- Do your children learn how to put sin to death through your example? (Romans 8:13)
- Do you belittle, hate, insult, or kill your neighbor in your thoughts, words, looks or gestures, or deeds? Are you hateful, envious, angry, or vengeful? (Genesis 9:6; Leviticus 19:17-18; Proverbs 14:30; Matthew 5:21-22, 26:52; Romans 1:19, 12:19; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 John 2:9-11)
- Do your children see you loving your neighbor with patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, and protection? (Matthew 5:3-12, 7:12, 22:39; Luke 6:36; Romans 12:10, 18; Galatians 6:1-2; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 3:8)
- Do you live a decent and chaste life in your thoughts and actions? (Matthew 5:27-29; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, 15:33; Ephesians 5:3-4, 18)
- Do you steal through tricks and schemes, unjust weights and measures, fraudulent sales, counterfeit money, usury, or any means forbidden by God? Do you work to make your theft appear legitimate? (Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Psalm 15:5; Proverbs 11:1, 12:22; Ezekiel 45:9-12; Micah 6:9-11; Luke 3:14, 6:35; James 5:1-6)
- Do you lie, twist the words of another, gossip or slander, or join in condemning someone rashly or without knowing all of the facts? Do you instead love truth and speak it plainly? Do you defend and advance your neighbor’s honor and reputation? (Leviticus 19:11-12; Psalm 15; Proverbs 12:22, 13:5, 19:5; Matthew 7:1; Luke 6:37; John 8:44; Romans 1:28-32; 1 Peter 3:8-9, 4:8; Revelation 21:8)
- Do you delight in righteousness and hate sin? Do you combat any desire or thought that is contrary to God’s commands? (Psalm 19:7-14, 139:23-24; Romans 7:7-8)
- Do you love Scripture and study it yourself? Do your children see or know this?
If you were paying attention, you were just led through an evaluation of the 10 Commandments.
Do not misunderstand me. I am not asking these questions because you must adhere to a legalistic pattern in order that by doing these things you guarantee your children will adore Christ. The Lord sometimes permits difficult and unregenerate children in Christian families. Yet, Christ loving, Christian families do these things out of thankful obedience to Him. They walk righteous paths because they love Christ and His commands are a delight.
In other words, they obey because they possess Christ not in order that they may obtain Christ through obedience.
If the course of our country, wherever that may be, is to progress in a God-fearing and righteous manner, that must start in the Christian home. We cannot expect the world around us to pursue a path we secretly balk against ourselves. Casting down idols in the public square will not last if we are storing them in our closets. If we are truly people ‘of the book,’ we must follow what Christ tells us in 1 John 2:6 and walk just the way that He did; not begrudgingly or because we believe that adherence to His commands will redeem us, but rather out of humble gratitude for what He has started and will complete in us.
Understandably, we cannot adhere to or fulfill any of these commands in and of ourselves. The rich, young ruler thought he was doing pretty dandy. We will only delight in His commands when He has turned our heart of stone into a heart of flesh by the means of His completed obedience and sacrifice. This is why the gospel is so vital to the daily life of the Christian and should not be relegated to a single sermon on a select Sunday.
Through the Word rightly preached and the sacraments, the Lord nourishes and strengthens His people. He further uses the secondary means of daily Scripture reading and prayer in the believer’s life to conform them to the glorious image of Christ. Through these means, the Lord regularly places the Law and Gospel in front of His people that they may the more come to know their sinful nature and thus more eagerly seek forgiveness and the righteousness of Christ.
Christ and His perfections must be the foundation and lifeblood for our homes. We must be people marked by obedience to His commands. We must be parents who keep the word of the Lord before our children, upon our lips morning and evening, ready at the dinner table or sofa, informing our discipline, and fueling our love.
The only hope of prosperity for any nation is Christian parents training up their children in the ways of the Lord.
Let us begin by cleaning house.
From the Desk,