The smallest example of the church, where Christ’s love and faith is to work out in community is the family. Be it just husband and wife, or husband and wife and children, there can be no greater example of a loving and lived out community than this. And for those of us this morning who are single, you are still a part of a family somewhere. My question for this morning is: Youth, are you loving your parents as your neighbor? And parents, are you loving your children as your neighbor? We follow Christ’s example and directive to love our neighbor as ourselves and follow his pattern of sacrifice.
What we know of grace, and mercy we learn first from our parents. Though sometimes we find such things which lead us to the foot of the cross in spite of our parents, it is necessary to know that without our parents we would not even know what it is we hunger for, what are we missing.
Scripture teaches us that we love because God first loved us. The love of a parent is parallel to this, a poor reminder, a pale reminder, but a glimpse none the less. Jesus reminds the crowds of God’s goodness by reminding them of the goodness of a parent’s love and just how it parallels the love of God:
We give, we love, we live as it has been shown to us. We do as we have been taught.
And for us in Christ, who by his mercy has shown us the way God intended Adam & Eve to live, we know more fully than any other. This is part of Paul’s message to the church at Ephesus. He has to tell them this because it is so contrary to our fallen human nature. We are poor, pale glimpses of the divine love, and how much worse those who grew up without a Christian home? Indeed, even within, no one is without fault, the cycle continues and is perpetuated. We are fallen, and we are lied to daily about this. Distracted by trying to look better and to try to be better people, we neglect the primary truth – we were created good by a loving God, but we all, all of us, have chosen to rebel against our God, the Father of Lights from whom every good and perfect gift comes from – we have chosen darkness. By grace we are saved, by nature we are damned.
However, there is a semi-false pattern we force ourselves into when we become Christians. We read all these texts and do all of these programs in order to awaken us to the realizations of the lost around us, we focus so much on the world around us. How can we reach our friends, our neighbors, our world – but we forget that our primary place for missions is the home. “Charity begins at home” is the old axiom, and we forget that charity is not about handing out money, but about love – love primarily shown in action. Are we falling guilty in the premise of our first calling – to be servants and examples within the context of our primary community – our homes?
There can be no greater way of reaching the next generation than in the home. And how easy is it for us to give this away or to downplay it? We long to hear the calls of the minister to come forward, and for our children to respond, but how can they and how will they if they do not see the surrendered life at home? Parents set the priorities for their children, a pattern that is hard to break.
But this new pattern of life that Christ calls us to is contrary to what we think we should force ourselves to do. It’s a pattern that Paul writes so much about, it is the model for parent to child and youth to parent. This is a pattern we so easily afford to strangers and friends, but how often do we extend this to our own homes?
But first, maybe we should examine this pattern:
It is right after this passage that Paul talks to wives, husbands, and children for this reason – the family is the primary unit of the church. He draws out from these verses how someone should live in the role they have been given to by God. And it is necessary because of how contrary it is to our fallen natures. The old pattern of the world values progeny as property, as something that they own and have to care for. But for Christians, this is not the case. As we look at Scripture we see how much God values children. They are for our joy and comfort and reveal to us a side of God we often forget. In the ancient pagan world, children were at the disposal of the father, and mother, who after hours of labor if the child did not suit them could toss them aside. God’s pattern for care of children is exceptional. In the Old Testament, He calls us to remind and tell our sons all that He has done for us in Exodus 13. God expresses horror at the evil generation who offered their children as burnt offerings to the idol Molech. In the New testament, Jesus admonishes the disciples not to hinder any child from coming to Him, meaning that God does not think Himself too high for these grubby handed kids. He loves them and cherishes them, telling us to do likewise. When we look at passages like Malachi 4:1-6 we can realize that why God is saying these things is because the natural relationship between father and son has been broken. And when the OT begins, we see this. The fathers are not looking after their sons to make sure they are following the paths of righteousness. And so the children were not honoring their parents. It was a cycle. The promise of Malachi is that this can end permanently when the Messiah comes because He will make it possible for us to follow this new pattern of living.
To Him, young or old, we are all His children. And it is as children He calls us into a new pattern of living.
If the family cannot function on this pattern of the new life, then what hope has the local church? Our ability to work as a church, as a people called out of the world, depends on the grace of Christ who gives us the ability to take hold of this pattern of life and to actually submit to each other.
God does not hold a parent more accountable than the child, but we should be able to see each other in love and to help one another. Parents are given the task to raise their children in the ways and knowledge of God – a child is to recognize God’s providence by placing them in the care of their parents. The care and concern we give for those of the world should be practiced amongst the family first.
As we look over the passage, know that this is our encouragement! This is a pattern that we can truly do! This is part of the promised life given to us by our Lord when he rose. We are not guided anymore by lies or by the foolishness of the world. The pattern of our life is new! Our poor pale glimpses have power to undo all the heartache that is seen so regularly in the world. The world flaunts its help and tries to tell you who you are in Christ is not normal, right, or safe. But this is a lie – same as “if you eat this fruit you will not surely die.” We are awake, wide awake, and risen from the death of sin as clearly as when we rise out of those baptismal waters.
Parents, walk according to the ways of God and your children have a better chance of doing likewise. Show them the hope you have daily. Make this the priority. We will walk in the ways of our Father and glorify your God if you show us how. Spend time with us. Show us the worth we are and do not give us the excuse to try to find our worth in other things or people.
I believe this is the key, and I hope that it is something I live up to in regards to my own family. I need to spend time with my children. I’ve already started them on the track to find the right husband. I’ve started teaching them about the stars. I knew how to really impress a girl back I the day. I still like to think I can impress my wife, but only she really knows. I know the stars and constellations pretty well. I also know that the best way to see them is in the dark, secluded. I do not want my girls to fall for the same trap. So I am teaching my girls the stars within the context of God’s glory. My wife has asked me what is to stop my girls from doing to the guys they date what I used to do… and I answered that hopefully we’ll raise them better than that.
If there is to be any hope that my children find the sure hope that I have in Christ, then I must demonstrate it for them daily. I must show them how I love and live and how this pattern of life is not the norm, but it is right and correct. They must be acquainted with who I used to be and how my life has changed because of who Christ is and how he reached out to me. One of the tragedies of the current Christian home is that we will share our testimonies with everyone except our children. We’ll give tracks with our tips (which, as a server, this is a practice I am adamantly against) and we’ll even tell our children why we do it (for their, this stranger’s, salvation) but do we ever tell our children the content of our lives so that they can see us better?
Eph 4:25-32 draws attention to the old ways and should sound harsh when compared to the way we live. Do we live out this pattern for our children? Mothers and fathers, are we holding ourselves accountable to a different lifestyle than our children? God calls us to walk as children… I would commend parents that they should do as they would want their children to do. What TV and movies are you waiting for the kids to go to bed for? What things are you doing that you look to make sure your kids aren’t around? What jokes do you tell at work that you would never repeat at home? Let your lives be transparent before your children, and they will trust you. Make spending time with them your priority, and let them see the glory of Christ demonstrated in the pattern of your life.
The programs of the church, Sunday school and youth groups should never eclipse or take the place of the role of the parent. They can never replace the role of the parent and they should not be seen as such. The content of what is covered in Sunday school and youth group should only be the reinforcement of what is going on at home. Do not be totally disappointed if you have children who go to all of these wonderful programs but do not act as they should. Look to the pattern of your life, can your kids see Christ in you first? Can they see where you are most satisfied?
This role never ends. You never retire from being a parent. You must share with your children what is going on in your lives constantly… what is God doing in your life at 40, 50, 60, 80? Tell your children so that thay can see this pattern of life does not end.
Satisfaction in Christ is what leads to Eph 5:1-21.
This brings us back to the Fall – the snake awoke in Adam and Eve a dissatisfaction with where they were, with who they were created to be. Desire became their aim, and striving on their own became their reality.
Teenagers, kids, college students, older children now called parents, where are you finding satisfaction? I know I just talked to your parents about their roles as your parents, but now you must listen, because one day, if the Lord allows, you will be where they are. This is where I am today. I am a child of 2 parents now with children of my own, and this is what I had to struggle thru.
Gang, your parents are not perfect and to think that they are or to expect them to be is … well, when you do this, you are looking to your parents to satisfy a need that no fallen human could ever fulfill.
But see the greatness of God in this – he placed you in the family you are in because he knew that you would be worse off with any other family, on any other continent, in any other time, and in any other culture. With all their faults and foibles, your family is the best family that god could have placed you in.
You should trust them, should being the operative word. I know all about not trusting parents. I also know what it means to believe that God knows why He puts you in the family you are in.
I tell you this story because I fully believe that God did what He did for a reason. He knew this was what was best for me, my siblings, and my parents. And I pray that my transparency and my way of living, the very way I am raising my kids, will have an effect on my parents.
Do not be swayed by hissing snakes and the banter of the world – follow the example of those who have walked the pattern of faith and have followed Christ to his glory and honor! What can the world offer you? “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God!”
Follow the good example – pay attention, wake up and look at the pattern of those who have gone before you. There is no reason why your lives cannot be transparent for your parents, especially, and anyone else. This family unit depends on the abilities of its members to walk in love and to do as He says. So, you make a mistake, tell them! Let them know what you are thinking, and what you are doing so that they can help you. They will trust you if you can be trusted, so tell them.
How long can you keep these secrets? Christ tells us that one day everything whispered or held in our minds will be shouted from the rooftops. Rather you tell them now and be seen as someone who reached out for help than a coward who would not own up to your mistake.
Walk in freedom by confessing to each other and experience the joy in Christ of bearing an unburdened soul.
We, as a generation, as a people, have been lied to far too long by the world and we who have been called out the darkness need to wake up and live in the promises of Christ, who leads us into the light.
For parents, I would encourage you with these words:
1. Make your children the focus of your personal ministry. As a church, focus on the world, the people around you, but do not neglect your children.
2. Parents, be transparent with your kids, sharing your walk with them. Make sure they know your testimony better than anyone else’s.
3. Do not rely on anyone else, or any program, Sunday school, VBS, youth group, to teach your children about Christ. If they are not hearing it or seeing it from you, th likelihood of them knowing Christ is lessened.
And teens, college students, anyone who has ever been called a child:
1. Allow your parents to make you their priority. Choose to spend time with them. I know you are busy, but do not forget that you are also an example for your parents in how to walk.
2. Be transparent with your parents. Share your walk with them, show them you are trustworthy, and in whom you find your satisfaction.
3. Do not allow anyone or anything to have your attention until you get married. In this we follow the commandment to honor our mothers and fathers, knowing that when we marry we leave them and are joined to our own family. We watch them so we can learn to live in all arenas of life, so that we can live long in the land and prosper.
Look over the pattern of your lives and see to it that each member of the family adheres to it. If the local church is to maintain its clear and good example, it must make sure that the members of the church recognize the importance of the family. It is through their parents that the children are given the best shot at knowing Christ.
Turn with me to a curious passage, that I don’t know that many pay attention to, perhaps beyond me. When I fully read this verse, I understood a little bit more the scene that we will celebrate in about a month’s time.
“And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull).”
Here we have a man called Simon, who literally picked up the cross of Christ and followed where he was to go. At that moment, Simon’s pattern of life changed and he was led to the foot of the cross. The most amazing thing, his sons are named here, Alexander and Rufus. Amazing because Mark thought it was important to mention their names as witnesses to what had occurred. We can infer, though, that because they are mentioned they are a part of the church! These two young men watched their father carry a cross not meant for him and became followers of Christ. Amazing! Those boys were no longer just sons to their father, but they were his brothers, as well. Amazing.
So, parents, learn from this. And Children, pay attention.