Thursday, October 30, 2008

James McDonald on Family Reformation

Family Reformation?
By James McDonald

As a pastor, I’m increasingly saddened by the failure of the Christian family.

Yes, I said failure. I know that may seem like an extreme statement, but consider the proof, starting with a quote from Christian statistician George Barna:
The typical worldview of a person in their early twenties promotes self-centeredness, the right to happiness and fulfillment, the importance of personal expression in all forms, the necessity of tolerating aberrant or immoral points of views, allows for disrespect of other people and use of profanity, and advances forms of generic spirituality that dismiss the validity of the Judeo-Christian faith. Largely propelled by postmodern thought, the typical worldview of young people does not facilitate respect for life, acceptance of the rule of law, or the necessity of hard work, personal sacrifice, paying the dues or contributing to the common good. Barna noted that only about 2% of today’s teenagers possess a biblical worldview that acknowledges the existence of God, Satan and sin, the availability of forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ, and the existence of absolute moral principles provided in the Bible. – The Barna Group

Sadly, Christian teens don’t fare much better than secular ones. Modest estimates from conservative denominations show that 70% of children from Christian households are leaving the faith! Just imagine if 70% of your church dropped dead today. Would this get your attention? But, the trends show that 70% of the children in our churches are spiritually dead—and somehow we failed to notice.

A recent survey showed that 50% of Christian men are addicted to pornography, “abstinence programs” are a failure, and Christian couples today divorce at the same rate as the world, yet we wonder why we’re losing our children and why the world views Christians as hypocrites. Are most of our churches making a difference?

Too often, the church shamefully adopts the position of the three monkeys – hear no evil, see no evil – speak no Gospel. The modern evangelical mantra is too often, “Come as you are; stay as you are – just make sure your gift is in the offering plate.”

What is desperately needed is a true God-powered change in the family—a genuine family reformation! The Christian family must line up with the Word of God to be effective in the church. Husbands and wives, and sons and daughters must hear and obey the Word of God (1 John 5:3-4; John 14:21).

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord gave the famous illustration of the wise and foolish men who constructed houses (Matthew 7:24-27) on differing foundations. As you may remember, one man built his house upon the rock and the other built his house upon the sand. The house built on the rock withstood the storms and winds that came, while the house built on the sand was destroyed. Christ told us the man who heard and did His words was the one who built his foundation on the rock. It is time we stopped building our houses on the shifting sands of the world.

So, what is a family reformation? To reform something means to “form anew” or to “rescue from error and return to a rightful course.” Many Christian families are in error. We have churches full of “out of order” families where men are not leading, wives are disrespectful, children are rebellious, and everyone acts and reacts selfishly. Families need to be “formed anew” – reformed into the order God prescribes in His Word. Allow me to briefly present to you a few key points on what family reformation means.

1. While individualism has become one of the attributes of the modern man, God designed man to be relational:

a. The first, and most fundamental institution created by God, was that of the family–society’s basic unit (Genesis 1:27-28).

b. God designed two other key organizations for the benefit of man: the church (Ephesians 2:19-22) and the state (Romans 13:1).

c. All three of these organizations must work together until such time as all Christ’s enemies have surrendered to His Lordship (Psalm 110:1). When the family decays the church is wounded and eventually, society crumbles.

2. In order for the family to succeed, a husband and wife must both submit to God’s order in the home. If we believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, then we should strive to follow its precepts for life (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3). To properly understand God’s creative order in the family, we must realize the following:

a. Both man and woman are created in God’s image and are of the same worth and value (Genesis 1:28, Galatians 3:28).

b. Yet, men and women have distinct and crucial roles within God’s economy—roles that were established for them at Creation, before sin entered into the world (Genesis 2:18, 21-24; 1 Corinthians 11:7-9; 1 Timothy 2:12-14).

c. By God’s own decree, He ordained the husband as the head of the home (1 Corinthians 11:8-9). The man was to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25-33). He was to love his family as a servant-leader who rules well his own house. This is an act of submission to God and is the highest achievement of a biblical husband (Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:7). It is also one of the marks of a godly leader (1 Timothy 3:4, 12; Titus 1:6).

d. God has ordained the wife to be her husband’s helper (Genesis 2:18) and to bear and nurture their children (Titus 2:4). She is to keep the home and productively manage her husband’s affairs with wisdom (Proverbs 31). As she submits to her own husband, she submits to God (Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-6). Together they are to take dominion and bring life to a lost and dying world for the glory of God!

3. Children, as they are given from God, are considered blessings from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5). In addition:

a. Children are to be brought up with the expectation that they will be Christians (Genesis 18:19; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4).

b. Teaching children to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12) will help them to comprehend the Fifth Commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother” and to understand their responsibility to honor God and those He has placed in authority over them (Hebrews 13:17). We have a world full of adults who were never trained to obey their authorities; therefore they are in bondage to the lusts of the flesh (2 Peter 2:8-10; 1 Peter 2:18).

c. Our Sovereign God controls the womb (Genesis 29:31; Genesis 30:22) and we should accept God’s blessing of children wholeheartedly and with gratefulness. Christian children are the heritage of the Lord (Psalm 127:3)–they are the godly seed (Malachi 2:15) of the Kingdom. The use of abortion and abortifacient birth control are grievous and murderous sins (Exodus 20:13); they are a curse on our land (Leviticus 18:21; Jeremiah 32:35). Our covenant children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior (Psalm 127:4); and when properly sharpened and aimed, they are to be shot into the world to fight against ungodliness.

d. While the Word of God does not designate a particular method for the education of children, parents are responsible, before God, to insure their children have a thorough Christian worldview (Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:6-9; Romans 13:3-5; Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 3:15). We believe the best way to accomplish this goal is by educating and discipling our children at home.

e. Age-segregated philosophies in both organized schools and in some churches have no basis in Scripture and have actually worked to harm the church (Mark 3:25) and weaken its effectiveness (Luke 11:17; 1 Corinthians 15:33). The biblical training of covenant children is best accomplished within a wholesome, age-integrated setting (Deuteronomy 29:10-11; 2 Chronicles 20:13; Joel 2:16; Matthew 19:14); therefore we encourage a setting that unites the people of God into an age integrated group allowing the older and wiser to disciple and fellowship with younger members of the church.

4. As there are differences between a husband and wife, there are likewise differences between sons and daughters.

a. Sons are often sent out from the home to learn a trade and to prepare for their future family (Exodus 30:14, Numbers 1:20). Parents are to counsel their older sons, but their protection is limited as they grow up.

b. Fathers have a particular duty to prepare their sons to be successful future leaders, in the home, the church, and society. (1 Kings 2:1-4; Proverbs 3; Titus 2:6-8) Fathers accomplish this task by being examples godliness, gentleness and courage (1 Corinthians 16:13, Philippians 4:8-9).

c. There are no positive examples of daughters leaving the protective oversight of their fathers (Genesis 34, Numbers 30:3-5). We believe it is a biblical model for a daughter to remain under the protection of her father until she is married. This way, his responsibility to protect and guide his daughter into marriage can be properly carried out. In Matthew Henry’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:38, he teaches the following on a man giving his virgin daughter in marriage: Children should be at the disposal of their parents, and not dispose of themselves in marriage. Yet, parents should consult their children’s inclinations, both to marriage in general and to the person in particular, and not reckon they have uncontrollable power to do with them, and dictate to them, as they please. It is our duty not only to consider what is lawful, but in many cases, at least, what is fit to be done, before we do it.

d. Young ladies should be educated and equipped to be godly helpers to their future husbands. Since women are called to be keepers at home (Titus 2:5), they should be well trained in domestic skills. However these skills should be augmented in ways that fully complete her education. Her personal giftings should be considered, encouraged, and developed in the expectation that God will use them to enhance the giftings of her future husband, thus completing a one-flesh union that will better glorify God. (Proverbs 31:10-31; Titus 2:4-5).

e. The Christian father should endeavor to see his children married in Christian unions (Jeremiah 29:6. Malachi 2:15, 2 Corinthians 6:14) and produce generations of godly offspring.

5. The family does not supplant the church or the state, but is a unique government that is to work in consort with the others with the goal of the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

a. Each person in a family should be a member of a local church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 10:24-25; 13:17); should seek to serve the church with their unique abilities and gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-26); and should obey church leadership, recognizing that it is a gift from God (Heb 13:17).

b. Each family should obey the civil magistrate, unless their dictates prove contrary to the Word of God, and should work for the peace of the society in which God places them (Jeremiah 29:7; Acts 5:29; 25:11; Romans 12:18; 13:1-7).

c. We should recognize that the family is God’s love letter to the world and that as families, we are to live holy and blameless lives before an unbelieving generation (Matthew 5:13-16; Ephesians 5:22-33).

6. The successful Christian family is one that sees faithfulness passed down from generation to generation; ever expanding the Kingdom of God, and thus fulfilling the mandate to bring His Word to all nations and all tongues (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 78:1-8; Isaiah 59:21; Malachi 4:6; Luke 1:17).

I pray this gives you a little glimpse into the heart of family reformation. As Christians, we have a call to live out the Word of God in season and out of season, without compromise and without fear, trusting that the Lord will be honored and the Kingdom of God increased. May you hear and act on this clarion call—remembering the words of Jesus, “If anyone loves Me He will keep my Word…” (John 14:23)

No comments: