Charles Dickens once wrote "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". As we enter the 21st century we have experienced wonderful scientific advancement. Communications are now near instant around the world, modern medicines have greatly increased our life spans, the information age is upon us, we have advanced more technically in the last 150 years than we have throughout the rest of human history and this trend shows no signs of abating. As we look into the coming century it should, technically speaking, be a time of wondrous things.
But it is also the worst of times. . . violence is increasing, the judicial system is becoming increasingly unjust, immorality of all forms is on the rise, and unbelief in the God of the Bible is rampant. The home as God would have it is under serious attack.
Couples are cohabiting together in increasing numbers in so call de facto relationships. Of those who do enter into marriage, about 1 in 3 will end up in the divorce courts. If we follow the American trends (and we usually do) this number will increase to 1 in 2 marriages ending in divorce. Countless children are being born out of wedlock and are deprived of a real family environment. In the US the results of these trends is the Biblical or traditional family of mum, dad and the kids now accounts for only 1 in 4 of families.
The encouragement of mothers to be in the work force has bred a generation of latch-key children, who starved of the warmth of a real home, are materialistically minded. The education system is teaching our children that there is no God; homosexual unions are as legitimate as heterosexual unions. Children are taught that parents who spank them are violating their 'rights'; and that 'rights' are emphasised without the accompanying responsibilities. For moral decision making, young people are taught situation ethics - if it feels right then it is right.
The modern welfare state has loosened the interdependence of the family by liberalising divorce laws and making spouses and children financially independent of one another. The feminist movement is active in trying to erase the Biblical roles of men and women, husbands and wives; and from the media we are subjected daily to all forms of ungodliness, immorality, blasphemy, profanity and violence.
Without doubt the forces of Satan are arrayed against us as individuals and our families. As we look into the 21st Century we ask ourselves the question: How can we safeguard our families from the increasing onslaught of the world?
In our lesson we will examine several scriptural guidelines we can implement to help us succeed. As we begin our study we will learn that the first two steps of safeguarding our families begin before we even have a family.
Be A Faithful Christian.
We cannot afford to be lukewarm Christians. Jesus plainly showed us in Revelation 3:15,16 what He thinks of those who are half hearted towards Him - they will lose their souls unless they repent. In addition if we are to build, strengthen and protect our future families we are going to have to have the Lord's will uppermost in our minds, plans, and conduct. In other words what He wants and how He directs will be the way in which we walk and live.
Therefore before we marry we will need to commit our ways fully to the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-7). It is with such a mind that we will understand before committing ourselves to marriage - what God's pattern is for the family; what God expects of the family; what our role will be in the family; and how God wants our children to be reared.
If we are walking with a Godly attitude then we will also be learning from the example of Godly families. The principle of Phil 3:17 holds true and we will be learning much about family life as we watch these families apply God's Word.
If we do these things, then: we will approach marriage and family life with certain well defined Biblical goals and expectations. We will be instructed in certain "dos" and "don'ts" and we will be able to enter into marriage with a degree of maturity and commitment which is so lacking in marriages today. Most importantly we will have the Lord working with us and for us.
Marry A Faithful Christian
Building, strengthening, and safeguarding the home will require the combined efforts of both the husband and wife. The successful and secure home needs both to be aspiring to the same goals, to walk according to the same standards, and to uphold the same principles.
However we cannot adequately protect our home from the world, when we invite the world in. As someone once said: "If you marry a non-Christian, you will always have trouble with your father-in-law!"
Sometimes brethren will say that they married a non-Christian and converted them and they have walked in God's service ever since. This is tremendous for them. However for those who entertain such a notion of marrying and then converting their mates, the reality is - of Christian women who marry non-Christian men, only forty per cent will remain faithful. Of the Christian men who marry non-Christian women, only eleven per cent will remain faithful! Therefore for every brother or sister who is proud to have converted their mate there are at least six and up to nine others who have lost their souls. The bottom line is don't marry a non-Christian! Your soul is too valuable to take the risk.
However in order to have a godly family and to protect our family, it is not enough to just marry any Christian - we must marry a faithful Christian!
How can we know a faithful Christian? When I was at the ABC I attended a 'Staff Selection' course. This was a course to enable employees to be qualified to sit on selection panels that would interview applicants for various jobs. One of the main things emphasised is that to gain an insight into how effective a potential employee would be, look at their track record. By examining the initiative they had shown, the work they had done, the way they had gone about solving problems, their effectiveness in how they would work in their new role could be determined. In a similar way, when assessing if a young man or woman is a faithful Christian and hence a faithful mate, have a look at their involvement with the church, the effort they put in, the way they deal with their brethren and with the lost. This will give a fair idea as to the sort of person you would be marrying and whether or not they are sincere in their desire to live God's way. Safeguarding the home begins by laying a good foundation in the Lord.
Spiritually Educate Our Family
Whilst it is vital that we have our own personal times of study and prayer, we also need to study and worship as a family (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). God's word is to be exalted in our family.
Fathers need to lead in Bible studies and family worship periods. Both fathers and mothers need to be actively involved in teaching children God's Word and how to apply it. Every moment is to be used as a teaching opportunity. For example - opening the curtains on a bright sunny day can be opportunity for the giving of thanks; at the supermarket, seeing someone pushing into a line can be an opportunity to teach against selfish behaviour; when a fellow Christian is known to have done a good deed, this is a time when good behaviour can be praised; walking down the street and seeing someone in skimpy attire can be an opportunity for teaching about modesty. The list can go on and on! By using these opportunities we are able to help our children discern between good and evil in very practical ways.
We need to have it firmly in our minds that the primary responsibility for teaching our children Godly values lies with the family. We cannot rely on the schools, society, or the government to do it - in fact they will be, more likely than not, teaching our children ungodliness. We might also note that the spiritual training of our children is not the church's responsibility. Bible classes are fine, but at their best they are only an aid in the teaching of our children.
Live, As A Family, The Christian Life
Whilst it is important for spouses to see each other striving their best to live a godly life, it is even more important for children to see their parents living by what they teach. The world is trying to draw the children away into many alternate (sinful) lifestyles. However when children see their parents living faithfully, and the results of such living, they will be better equipped to resist temptation. When children see that the fruits of the way in which their parents live - the peace, harmony, righteousness, joy - then they will see that the world really offers nothing of value.
Training up children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6) is not simply imparting knowledge, but it is also through practical demonstration.
If the family then would lay in place those things that will provide spiritual safeguards then each member needs to actively treat the others in a Christ like way. The family should also be active in doing good deeds together. Children need to observe their parents studying the gospel with others; daughters can be involved in helping mothers prepare food for the sick and shut ins; sons can be involved helping their fathers with chores for those who are infirm, or otherwise unable to do many household jobs; families need to be out together visiting with the sick. Whatever it may be, a family which is actively doing God's will is going to be better able to withstand the pressures of the world.
Be Active In The Local Church
We should look forward to worship and Bible Study. Never in a Christian home should grumbling be heard about getting up and going to worship or that going to a mid week meeting is a grind.
The Christian family should make church activities one of their highest priorities. It should take precedence over sport, recreation, holidays, school, or work. If we do not then our families will be spiritually weakened, conversely if we do, we strengthen and safeguard our families.
Parenthetically we might also add that safe guarding the family is also a church responsibility. We need to understand that families cannot look to anyone else besides the brethren to assist them in having more Godly families. For this reason every member of the congregation needs to be setting a good example and helping families to be strong. For example immorality, immodesty, drinking, swearing, and rebelliousness should not be found amongst the brethren. It is extremely helpful for parents to be able to cite brethren as examples of good conduct. For example parents need to be able to say: "The Bible tells us that we should be modestly clothed; and you don't see any of the Christians wearing skimpy clothing", or "God tells us that we need to assemble with the brethren; and you don't see the others going off to play sport or go fishing on Sunday". The examples could be greatly multiplied.
In addition older Christians have a responsibility helping to safeguard younger families by being an example and encouragement to younger husbands, wives and parents.
Reinforce Roles Within the Family
The world is trying to blur and erase God's appointed roles within the family. For example - married women are told that they have the same right to pursue a career as men - just put your child in Childcare. It's okay to mix the roles in families - if the wife can earn more money, then let the husband stay home and mind the children. The world seems set on portraying mothers who are homemakers as nothing else but second class citizens.
However whatever the world may say, God's roles for each family member are clear. Husbands are to be leaders and provide for their families (Ephesians 5:23; I Timothy 5:8). Wives are to be in submission to their husbands and keepers at home (Ephesians 5:22; Titus 2:5). Finally children are to be obedient to their parents (Ephesians 6:1). The rightness and nobility of each member keeping to their respective roles needs to be encouraged.
A husband should praise and honour his wife, and do so in front of his children, that they may know that their mother is an esteemed member of the family. A wife should respect, encourage, and allow her husband to lead. Again before the children she needs to uphold the role of their father. Lastly, parents should raise their children with love, discipline, praise and respect, making it easy for the children to honour and obey their parents.
Be Involved With The Children's Education
Biblically speaking the education of our children is our responsibility, not that of the government.
We need to be aware of much that is being taught to them, as it is opposed to the Godly values we are seeking to instil. These teachings include godless evolution; sex without morality; tolerance to all, including sin, paganism, and the perverted; 'Rights' without responsibility; and situation ethics to name just a few. If we are unaware then Satan will attack the faith and morality of our youngsters, through the teachers they have come to trust.
As the values of the public school system deteriorate, the time is coming when Christian parents are going to have to give serious thought to the alternatives of this system which threatens to morally and spiritually brutalise our children.
Be Discerning In Recreational Activities
The world seems set on amusing itself with wickedness. TV sets pour forth violence, blasphemy and immorality. Music lyrics often promote promiscuity, drugs, or just sheer mindlessness. Computer games and toys desensitise and make bloodshed, maiming and death activities of fun. Drugs, alcohol, mixed dancing, immodest swimming, and free sex are advocated as popular recreation.
We can safeguard our families from these influences for seeking out and enjoying together those activities which are wholesome, sociable, and teach our children that fun can be good, clean and godly.
As we face the decades ahead our families will be subjected to pressures most of us can only struggle to imagine. However now is the time for us to safeguard our families for the times ahead.
For those who are not yet married, to commit themselves to fully following the Lord now; and for those who are married, apply these and other godly principles for your family's sake and that of your children's families.
May God help us meet the increasing challenges of the 21st century.