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Christ in the 21st Century Home

by Ian Coker

 

For some time now social commentators and historians have been calling our time the “Post-Christian Age”. This tendency will only increase now that we have turned the century and have entered into a new millennium. Ted Turner, head of CNN, wants to change our dating to B.P. and A.P. (Before Peace and After Peace). He regards Christianity as a religion for losers and at a meeting for News proprietors in the early 90s he challenged all present to work hard to bring about peace by the turn of the year 2000. Time’s up. Perhaps he has already changed his mind for I see that he is promoting the Goodwill Games as the means of mankind’s salvation. Other more charitable souls are saying “Granted, Jesus has been a great influence upon the world - but it is all past. The modern world has passed Him by. What He has said and done belongs to the past and is dying. We must reach out for new forms, new ways of thinking”. As Theilhard de Chardin asked, “Is the Christ of the gospels, imagined and loved within the dimensions of a Mediterranean world, capable of still embracing and still forming the centre of our prodigiously expanded universe?” Many have suggested that the teachings of Christ, though revolutionary and profitable in their day, have had their day and certainly have no place in the 21st century home.

But who made the home? Is it not the case that problems with the home exist because of ignorance of what the Designer had to say about the home? The design for the home was for all time and so the basic foundational features in Eden are just as relevant in the 21st century. If man has outgrown the design of the home as given by God, whence then have all the problems with the home arisen? Wisdom is justified of her children, and the fruits of ‘modern’ approaches to the family show that man’s vaunted wisdom is lacking. It will do us well to return to the drawing board and see the basic design for the family as given by the Designer.

The home as God designed it, whether it be the 21st century BC or the 21st century AD was designed to have as its base, a union of a man and a woman for life. It was not designed as a homosexual or bisexual arrangement, but a heterosexual relationship. In this relationship man was given the headship because he was first created and the woman was created for the man, not man for the woman. The man is to cherish the woman, realizing that she is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone and a joint-heir of the grace of life. The home is to be an independent and autonomous unit under God, with both husband and wife having left father and mother. And the home was designed not only for the companionship of the husband and wife, but also for the bringing of children into the world and raising them in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

But let us turn our attention to some particular problems we will need to be aware of this century, for it is evident that for the foreseeable future man is going to continue on his way to restructure the family. This is the society we will live in and we need to be aware of that is happening. Firstly, there is a redefinition of what a home is. It is sickening to note that at the forefront of those who would seek to redefine and redesign the family to include the idea of homosexual unions are those who profess to follow Christ. Hardly a week goes by that local newspapers don’t contain some article reporting the ‘marrying’ of two homosexuals by some cleric. True, it is often to report the consternation this causes in such churches, but it is apparent that in many cases a line has not been drawn in the sand and the continual degradation of marriage will continue. And if this be the case with those who profess to follow God’s word, then what can we expect of our pluralistic society? This has no guiding star except that of politically correct pluralism, which says that every idea and every doctrine and every philosophy is to be given equal value, with the exception of Christian values of course, because they are seen to be too dogmatic, exclusive, and intolerant. And tolerance is the buzzword - but tolerance quickly turns to intolerance when it suits. And when the approval of homosexual marriages is advocated in the name of love, what can a rudderless world do except capitulate in the face of such a noble virtue? But love and unbridled and unnatural lust are two separate things - always have been and always will. Modern and fancy notions of what constitutes a family are not to cloud our minds. A half century ago George Orwell said that politics can easily corrupt language and that language, once corrupted, can have corrupting real world consequences. He said, “Our language becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts”. It applies equally well to religion. We need to be aware of how inaccurate use of Biblical terms leads to inaccurate thinking in the world at large. So, if we change the meaning of a word, we can accept the change in design inherent in the new use of the word.

God’s design for the order of the home includes the idea that the man is to provide the leadership and also the provision for the needs of the home (Gen. 3:17; I Tim. 5:8; I Cor. 11:3). Industrialization, mechanization, and the electronic age generally have changed the nature and labouriousness of income earning. Role reversal has become much more possible if not popular because many women can earn more money than their husbands. So the man stays home to ‘guide the house’ while the woman goes out to support the family. I know that God designed woman as a helpmeet, and the assistance she can provide for the man in periods of sickness and disability can be amazing, but I am not talking about that. Economic considerations, though touted by governments as basically the sole criterion by which a nation is judged, are not the only ones by which decisions should be made in a household. The introduction of a unisex society is certainly not in keeping with God's design. Where possible the man needs to work and fulfill the role that God gave him. To suggest that it doesn’t matter is to also suggest that God really didn’t know what He was talking about when He designed the family and imparted to each member the skills, temperaments, dispositions and responsibilities unique to each gender. If the man can relinquish the responsibility for providing for his own, could he not relinquish his position of headship? And if the woman assumes the role of primary provider for the family, could she not take the attitude, “Seeing I do most of the work, then I have primary responsibility in the decision making?”

What makes this seem more of a natural progression instead of a regression is the rise of ‘gender equality’ in the workplace as well as the modern advent of the ‘career woman’. Each of these have their rightful and legitimate place in the upholding of such principles as equitable pay for equal amounts of work and the right for women to have interests outside the home (cf. Prov. 31). As is the case with all freedoms, man has trouble dealing with them in a responsible and balanced way. For example, Paul has to warn us not to let our freedom become an occasion to the flesh (Gal. 5:13) and Peter likewise warns us not to use our liberty as a cloak of maliciousness (I Pet. 2:16) et al. It seems the old “give an inch and take a mile” is a maxim that will always find application. Our legal eagles are past-masters of using one freedom to undermine another responsibility. For instance, the equal-opportunity laws are superimposed over laws against such things as homosexuality to ensure the homosexual is not discriminated against, homosexuality being illegal notwithstanding. Whatever freedoms that exist for the modern mother in the workplace should not be used to undermine the responsibilities she has in the home. Unless a woman is superwoman with more than the 168 hours per week given to lesser mortals, she will have to make some choices about priorities. Is she going to be able to climb the corporate ladder whilst at the same time beings keeper at home, guiding the house, and looking well to the ways of her household? The details of how that balance of priorities is met will vary from circumstance to circumstance, but the modern fashion of downgrading the role of mother will have to be resisted.

The multiplication of media forms accessible to the home in the 21st century will pose great challenges for the Christian family. It is no longer just the daily newspaper that comes into the home, but the radio, free-to-air TV, cable TV, videos, the computer and the world-wide web. A medium is a neutral thing, but the content is not. I am not just speaking of those things that concern us like the promotion of immorality by pornography, the teaching of an evolutionary world view, or the promotion of violence. It is more subtle than that. In 1876 when Bell invented the telephone, Henry David Thoreau was approached by a friend who told him enthusiastically of this new development. “Just think, a man from New York can pick up this instrument and talk immediately with someone in Texas.” Thoreau replied, “What if the man in New York doesn’t have anything to say to the one in Texas?” There is a difference between medium and message. My mother used to say upon hearing pop songs, “What’s not worth saying is sung”. With mass media it means that the basest and vilest of types in our communities can become philosophers to the masses, especially impressionable children. Everett Parker said, “The cardinal sin of mass communication is not that television, radio, movies, magazines and newspapers are devoted primarily to providing escape entertainment and the means for dumb relaxation. The unforgivable sin is that the most powerful force in modern life is directed to the sale of commodities and to the fostering of a philosophy of atheistic hedonism, based upon the acquiring of commodities”. Malcolm Muggeridge wrote “No view of life, as I am well aware, could be more diametrically opposed to the prevailing one today (that is, the view of Christ) especially as purveyed in the mass communication media, dedicated as they are to the counterproposition that we can live by bread alone, and the more the better”.

With this comes the danger of greater affluence. 100 years ago we had 72 wants, of which 16 were regarded as necessities. Today we have 484 wants, of which 92 are regarded as necessities. But the span of our lives is still basically the threescore years and ten, and each week still only contains 168 hours. So what will these wants do to us? Unless we learn to number our days and apply our hearts to wisdom they will consume our lives, and like the seed sown in the thorny ground, fruit-bearing will be choked out. In the particular case of the subject at hand, things will eliminate the richness of interpersonal family relationships and what they are designed to accomplish. And coupled with this greater affluence there are the perils of more options, more mobility, more distractions and more things to do because we require less time to accomplish necessary chores. If a man’s life consists not in the abundance of things which he possesses, then how can it be true that a family’s life can consist in the abundance of things it possesses?

"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine,
and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man,
which built his house upon a rock;
And the rain descended, and the floods came,
and the winds blew, and beat upon that house;
and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine,
and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man,
which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came,
and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell:
and great was the fall of it."
Matthew 7:24-27

PARALLEL SCRIPTURE: Luke 6:46-49
"And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great."

INTRODUCTION
This most famous of parables shows that there are only two classes of people (an extension of what He began to say from verses 13 and 14: the wise and the foolish - not a third class! Thus this parable infers that all of us during the course of this brief life, are already in the process of building spiritual dwellings (whether we like it or not); but the remaining vital question is how are we building? Note that in the parallel Scripture (Lk. 6:46), Jesus prefaces this parable, calling into question our faithfulness by our hypocrisy, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" By contrast, in Hebrews 8:10, the Lord promises here to establish a new covenant (quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34) not like the old one (Hebrews 8:9), but where God would put His "laws into their minds" and "write them upon their hearts". This was referring to the New Testament Age, where we as Christians do not merely follow by ordinances written on tablets of stone, but are ourselves "living letters" (2 Cor. 3:3) with His law written on the tablets of our hearts - His word dwells within us (Col. 3:16).

The reality is, is that we all struggle in one way or another to apply the teachings of God's word to our lives. Or on the other hand, we forget, as in James 1:22-27- looking at face in mirror and forgetting = reading and not applying the Bible to your life - and forgetting. Christianity is not like a dishwasher, "set and forget", but a conscious, ordered process of personal application and ongoing maintenance. The more we look into the mirror of His word in studied observation, the more we find out what we are like inside. The more we closely examine our Lord's word, the more we take in and are influenced by it (see the process of Christian growth, 2 Cor. 3:18). Have you ever found it hard to transfer His words found on the page, into the heart of your Christian walk? Have you considered the process involved applying the Bible to your life? Here are some principles to consider.

v. 24 Therefore - This particle in Greek is an inferential conjunction," i.e., "in view of what I've just said" (in the previous verses 21-23). This parable becomes a graphic description of the coming judgment (see also Lk. 6:46).

Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, although specifically referring to the Sermon on the Mount, but in a wider sense the principle also holds true - all that He has commanded us (Mt. 28:20), whether through His apostles (Mt. 10:19, 20) or in the Old Testament which He inspired (1 Peter 1:11), is all His words, therefore necessitating obedience.

and doeth them, The essential element of obedience is what establishes the rock solid foundation of faith and salvation in the individual (Matthew 21:28-32; James 1:22-27; 2:14-26).

I will liken him unto a wise man, The Lord contrasts the wise and foolish - (a recurring theme in Proverbs, 1:7; 10:1,14; 11:29; 14:1,3; 15:7,20; 21:20; 29:9) a continuation of the teachings starting in Matthew 7:13, 14.

which built his house upon a rock: Luke 6:48 adds, "like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock" Because there was a lack of good land in those days (as all good land was used for farming), people used to build anywhere else they could (even near creeks, hence v. 25, "floods"); in building a better class of house, it is usual to dig down until the solid rock is reached, in order to have a sure foundation for the building (one case read of a man who dug 30 feet, "Manners and Customs of the Bible", p. 413) The spiritual parallel of creating solidness suggests diligence, fastidiousness, as well as a faithful action, to build on a solid spiritual foundation of Christ's words - this is the pattern for us to imitate today, to build on a firm foundation of faith. There is work involved, a conscious spiritual process - not by osmosis! How then can we go about this? As our Lord expounded upon the famous parable of the sower and the four soils, He spiritually interprets the fourth case for us in Luke 8:15, "And the seed in the good ground, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance." Note the process involved in being that "good soil" where the seed of God's word germinates. We can learn from what Jesus says: "these are the ones who have ...
i) "heard the word" - to aurally receive the message of the gospel - note that the other 3 cases of seed heard, but didn't survive, but only one of the 4 cases survived - and this is it!

To "hear the word" today means looking at God's word for yourself - in some form of personal Bible Study "faith cometh by HEARING..." Rom. 10:17 (1 Pet. 2:2). There is no replacement in the Christian life for spending time with God and His word. The faith we grow in must be our own - we must develop our own personal relationship with God - so study for yourself, don't just listen to the preacher (Acts 17:11). You have to know what's in the book before you can apply it to your life.

o Must study correctly (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Pet. 3:16). This necessitates diligence (Jn. 5:39; 2 Pet. 3:16). What is it? Diligence is single-minded persistence, and the inner strength to endure the distance.

ii) in an honest and good heart, We must have the right heart before God to truly receive it.

o Be "Honest" with God and with self. How? Humility (Jas. 1:21; Pro. 15:31-33). Remember who God is - and who we are in comparison, recognising our spiritual need for God above everything else. Realise these are His Words (1 Thess. 2:13), He has given for our good (1 Jn. 5:3). However, honesty is not enough; we can be honest enough to see that we are in sin and that we need God, but not have the good heart to change their ways and submit to God...

o "Good Heart" -refers to accepting the word, and submissively; a willingness to receive the good things that God teaches. Be like a child (Matthew 18:3) - willing to learn. Respect God and His wisdom (Ps. 111:10; Pro. 1:7 - The arrogant don't learn because they don't think they have to). We need to realise that the word He gives applies to us. PRAY - God is the one who causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6). See Jas. 1:5-8, a Scripture that doesn't only apply to those taught by God's miraculous wisdom back at the beginning of the church, but the principles are clearly applicable to us also:
- Ask Him for the wisdom (Jn 15:5)
- Believing that you'll receive it, (v. 6).
- If you don't, don't expect God to reveal His truth to you (vs. 7, 8). Pray for His help; we can't do it alone. We are changing to His ways; He is the only one who can help. We must spend a lot of Bible study time in prayer.

iii) "Hold it fast" Thayer says it means, "to hold fast, keep secure, keep firm possession of" (& 1 Cor. 11:2; 15:2; 1 Thess. 5:21; Heb. 3:6; 10:23). K.J.V. translates as "keep it" = grasp it - hold it down and hold tight! Meditate on the Scripture (Ps. 1:2, 3) in question, and:
o ask "How do You want me to apply this to my life, Lord?" Then think on ways you could fulfil the commandment or what areas you know that you're deficient in, and what you can do, starting from the small ways, to change things in your life - search for and read the Scriptures that give examples to follow.
o Make a decision to accept it - that He is speaking to you His truth, understand what it means to do such a thing and realise you need to change your ways (1 Thess. 2:13).
o Be determined to Change permanently - Say "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me"- especially in this! (Phil. 4 :13) - this begins the life changing turning point, but a work of faith, asking for God's help.

iv) "Bear Fruit" (means to produce something that comes from the word put into the obedient heart - action, as in Matthew 7:15-20) Once we know the truth, we must DO IT - put it into action! Don't just have a mental comprehension (Jas. 2:14). This is the building a house on a rock: to 1) "Hears these words of Mine", 2) "Does them" is the only thing that will fulfil God's will for us. Then bear fruit and reap the blessings! (John 15:11)

v) "with perseverance" - KEEP DOING IT! The ongoing, determined maintenance (continual focussed application) of your resolution is what strengthens your resolve (Jas. 1:3 "endurance" ), and will mean the difference between becoming the victor or the vanquished. This is why we have trials - for our learning (Hebrews 12:5-13); God teaches us life's valuable lessons through this process. The struggle with the sinful self takes time (Romans 7:14-25) - so be patient with yourself: as God is patient with us. Remember that just as the fruit bearing process on a tree does not happen overnight, same with the Christian! Understand that we have limitations and that we are learning, growing. But we must keep at it, like anything worthwhile in life that we want to learn.

v. 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; Q: What does this refer to? Although applying the Bible's message to your life saves us from the storms and stresses of life, what does the immediate context point to? vs. 21-23: not turmoils of life, but a graphic, true to life illustration of the extent of devastation of the coming judgment (2 Peter 3:10-13).
and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. Luke 6:48 adds, "and could not shake it". The rock is symbolic of the state of the faithful and obedient Christian - there is no stronger personal conviction on earth that is so unshakeable as a strong faith; that will bring victory (1 Jn. 5:4).

v. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, Although it is essential to hear the word of God in order to be saved (Rom. 10:17), it is clearly not enough on its own here.
and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: The Bible uses the word "sand" to describe immensity (Gen. 22:17; 32:12; Heb. 11:12) thus immeasurability. Sand is heavy in abundance, yet so unstable, movable, unsuitable for building dwellings. This style of building suggests a lack of diligence to build soundly; laziness. As distinct from the wise man, this man "cut corners"!


QUESTION: What are some reasons that stop people from doing the will of God?
o Unbelief (lack of confidence/trusting in God, lack of knowledge, lack of understanding, lack of commitment).
o Hardness of heart (2 Cor. 4: 4) - Love of sin (Jn. 3:19-21), Worldly concerns/pursuits (Mark 4:19; Luke 8: 14) or pride, or even spiritual immaturity - there maybe one area that a person finds really hard to overcome sin, and this is still just as serious (Mark 10: 17-22; James 2:10); still, we must learn to respect all the aspects of God's word with equal reverence, and not put any area in the "too hard" basket.
o Laziness or Procrastination. People can become apathetic after hearing a lot of teaching, so must guard against this.
o Fear - Timidity, in lack of trusting in God, or, "What will people think of/say about/do to me?" What's the worst anyone can do? Kill you, Matthew 10: 28. Often we think too much, even to the point of reasoning our way out of action - we fear the consequences. Feed your faith, and your fears will starve to death.

Are any of these excuses valid? Some things become so big in life that we cannot overcome them; it is at this point that we must surrender ourselves to God (Prov. 3:5, 6) - truly trust God, then forget the seeming immensity of the task before us, focus our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1, 2) and do the will of God by faith (2 Cor. 5:7).

v. 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: Luke 6:49 adds, "and immediately it fell"
and great was the fall of it. Luke 6:49 adds, "and the ruin of that house was great". In this graphic, true to life illustration of the extent of devastation of the coming judgment (2 Peter 3:10-13). The ruin of many lives will be great (Matt. 7: 21-23; 25: 31-46; 2 Thess. 1: 7-10)

CONCLUSION
Note that both cases of people heard the word, but only one survived the storm - because only one acted upon what was said. There are many thousands of people today who build visually spectacular religious lives (skyscrapers) on the unstable foundations of sand - what an awful shock they will have on judgment day! It's not enough just to believe the will of God, we have to do it!

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