God’s Plan For The Family

How can we build better families? How can we strengthen the foundation of a society?

As politicians campaign for office, it seems as if every one of them is trying to help the American family. Some want to give tax breaks. Others believe the offer financial help is the best way to attract votes. Still others look to instill better values. The one common thread that connects all these efforts is; the family needs help. Whether the politician is Democrat or Republican, the one thing they will agree on is the need to bolster the American family. Politicians may not agree as to exactly where the family is hurting or how to do this, but they do agree that families are hurting. They know that many families are disintegrating. They know that our society (or any society) is only as strong as its families.

Yet, very few turn to the real source of family values. To rebuild or strengthen the family, it is absolutely necessary that people turn to the One who created the family in the first place. It was God who brought Adam and Eve together (Gen. 2:22-25) making them “one flesh”. It was God who commanded them to “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). God established the family. God ordained that families would be the backbone of any and all societies. So, what is God’s plan for your family and mine?

Values Are Learned At Home

We hear a great deal today about the need for values. Many turn to schools or government institutions to try to teach children and adults about right and wrong. But these values are taught best and most powerfully in the home. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:1-4). Paul tells us that values are learned at home.

Parents are to admonish and nurture their children. They are to instill a sense of honor and respect for parents. Children are to be obedient to parents and are to learn to respect them. These are the very values that seem to be missing in society: honor, respect, obedience, nurturing. If families respond to God’s plan by living this way, our society would undergo a profound change from selfish violence, to selfless respect for others.

Old Testament Suggestions

These values are passed to children in subtle ways. “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deut. 6:4-7). As Moses restated the law, he explained the process that instills values. It begins with the realization that God is, that He is our God and that He commands our lives. These facts should not be wrapped up in sermons, but in a lifestyle that speaks of God, thinks about God, and talks about God.

Moses even gives ideas about how to do this. He suggests talking about God in informal settings such as walking, eating, getting out of bed or going to bed. Those parents who include God at meals by praying are accomplishing much in the way of instilling values. Those parents who pray with their children before bedtime are setting the example children need in order to learn good values.

Actions Outweigh Words

Finally, realize that these values are more modeled than taught. Children learn much more by example than by lectures or sermons. Taking your children to church is important. But if the home life is a poor example of faith, then all the lessons in the world, taught by all the best teachers, will fall on deaf ears. What takes place in your home will set in concrete the values your children adopt.

Throughout Paul’s discussion of marriage and child-rearing (Eph. 5:21-6:4), he constantly refers to an atmosphere in which family members and protected. So a husband will not be threatened by a wife who submits (Eph. 5:22). So a wife will not be afraid of a husband who dies to self for his wife (Eph. 5:25) or who treats his wife as his own body (Eph. 5:28-29). So parents will not be pressured by kids who honor them (Eph 6:1) and children will not be angered by parents who nurture (Eph. 6:4). A family is to be a group of people who make it safe to live, to work, to worship, to succeed and to fail, without threat or intimidation or fear.

Homes Should Be Physically Safe

A home should be a place where everyone is safe from abuse. Our society takes spanking and too often turns it into pain, fear or worse. Society deals with that by making laws and taking steps to protect children. What child should need protection from a parent? Every child should feel safe to come home, even when that child is in trouble and deserves punishment. I never enjoyed facing my folks when I was in trouble. But I was never physically afraid of either of them. They would discipline, they love and they would forgive.

A wife should have that same sense of safety. When Adam met his bride they “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25). This first couple had no barriers between them. No matter how pretty or ugly she was, no matter how thin or obese, no matter how tall or short, she was accepted and loved by Adam. Eve returned this love to Adam, so that both could be completely transparent, physically and emotionally, and not be at risk. In too many homes today, spouses are afraid to be honest with each other. They are afraid of criticism, or of an explosion that would be even more pain than holding in the truth. Every marriage is to be built on a foundation of transparency in which both partners can be honest even when wrong, and not be afraid harmed emotionally or physically.

Homes Should Be Emotionally Safe

But homes also need to be a safe place to risk. Paul tells husbands that Jesus died for the church, “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Eph. 5:27). Jesus died to encourage the church to become all that God wanted us to be, pure and holy. In the same way, husbands should die to self that their wives can shine in all their glory and become all God wants them to be. Wives should do the same for husbands. Parents must do this for their kids.

A family should be a safe place to risk being more, knowing more, trying more, learning more. Some families are so critical, so harsh, so discouraging that no one ever succeeds. A family built on God’s plan encourages its members to grow physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. I want my wife to be happy, to be satisfied and to accomplish all she can in life for herself, for us and for God. My children should have the opportunity to go farther, to do more, to know more, to love more than I have. I want my children to know God better and to serve Him better than I have. To do this they must risk new things, take chances that might not work just right. But a family is to be a place in which that sort of risk can be taken.

God’s Plan For The Family

Repeatedly in Ephesians 5:21-6:4 Paul gives the key to having a family based on God’s plan. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (5:22). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (5:25). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1). “Fathers…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). The key to all family functioning is having God and Jesus at the center.

So wives submit, not because their particular prince charming deserves it, but because that is what Jesus wants. Husbands die to self, not because their particular bride is wonderful and perfect, but because Jesus wants it. And children obey parents, not because parents are always right or smarter, but because, in the Lord, that is what we are asked to do. Finally, parents are gentle and disciplining, not because their kids are perfect and deserve good parents, but because that is the will of God.

Christians are formed in the family

This means that the family is the ground for being Christians. Thus, it is at home that we learn about mercy, about grace, about righteousness, about faithfulness. Also, it is at home that we learn about turning the other cheek, going the second mile and giving up our rights. And we do all this because it is God’s will, not because the people in our homes deserve it. Too many families are built on the idea of “you go first.” In God’s plan it is always the believer who “goes first” by dying to self and submitting to the others.

In answer to the questions at the beginning of part one, we can change homes by being aggressive in ministering to families as they learn the skills of modeling, transparency, and denial. Churches and believers can teach and practice these skills so that the world comes to us, not because we have good ideas, but because God’s plan, put in action in our lives actually works!

WHO IS A CHRISTIAN?

by Jerry Henderson

Who is a Christian

The word “Christian” is used 3 times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16). It is both noble and honorable to wear the name of Christ (James 2:5-7). The “name” the rich were blaspheming in James 2:5-7 was without a doubt the name of Christ. The name by which they were called was “Christian” which is a combination of “Christ” and the suffix “ian” and when put together means a follower of Christ. A Christian is more than just a baptized person; church member; weekly worshiper or just a good person. There are many counterfeits, but few that are real or genuine (John 8:31).

Some considerations about the name Christian

First, we want to consider the origin of the name “Christian”. God promised to give a “new name” (Isaiah 62:1-2). It would not be an old name with new significance, it would be a new name. It would be given when the “Gentiles would see the righteousness of Zion. It would be given by the mouth of Lord not by the enemies of the Christians. Isaiah 56:5 says it was to be “within my house.” God’s house is the church according to 1 Timothy 3:15. Therefore it is unscriptural to call one a Christian who is not in the Lord’s church. This name was to be an “everlasting name” (Isaiah 56:5). That means it is to last forever.

Now consider the meaning and use of the name “Christian”. As noted above, the name means: a “Follower of Christ” (Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon); or an “Adherent of Christ” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary). It is not used in Scripture in a hyphenated way as it is used today: such as, “Baptist-Christian; Methodist-Christian or some other man-made name attached to the name “Christian”. There are no “conservative Christians” or “liberal Christians.” The Lord never prefixed or suffixed the name Christian. “Christian” is a noun, not an adjective! Yet the word “Christian” is tacked on too many things – homes, schools, colleges, Sabbath, etc. The term “Christian Atheist.” is even used. It is thought if a person was a good moral Atheist, he or she was a Christian Atheist. People even talk about Jewish Christians, but a person can’t be both a Jew and a Christian. One can be of Jewish descent but not a Jew from the religious standpoint.

Let’s answer the question, who are not Christians

Just who are not Christians? Certainly, those not in God’s family, the church, can call themselves a Christian. Obviously, someone can appropriate a name and wear it even though they are not entitled to. One could call themselves “Jones” when not in the “Jones” family. They have “assumed” a name rather than it being “assigned” to them because they are a part of the family. Identity theft or the stealing of a name and or the identity of another is a major problem in our society today. Abraham Lincoln is said to have asked: “If you call a cow’s tail a leg, how many legs does she have?” Most answered five, but he replied: “No, four, calling a tail a leg does not make it one!” So, neither does calling someone a Christian make them one! Not all “good” people are Christians. Yes, one must be good, but that in and of itself does not make one a Christian. Nicodemus was a good man but had to be born again to be a part of the Kingdom (the church or family) of God and thereby be called a Christian (John 3:1-5). Cornelius was a very devout man, but he had to hear words to be saved (which made him a part of God’s family and a Christian) (Acts 11:14). Not all “religious” people are Christians. Even those who are heathens are religious (Acts 17:22). The apostle Paul, before his conversion, was very religious, but he was holding on to what was false (Acts 26:5, 9). He even persecuted Christians. So, even though he was very religious he was not a Christian before his conversion. There are, in fact, two kinds of religion, “pure” and “defiled” (James 1:26-27). Not even all church members are Christians. Just joining or attending a church does not make one a Christian. There are even some who call themselves members of the “church of Christ” who are not Christians (John 8:31).

Then who are Christians?

Then just who are Christians? Wearing the name “American” involves duty: such as upholding the constitution, obeying laws, good citizenship, etc. Those who do not obey laws, burn flag, and try to destroy this country we call “un-American” because they are not demonstrating the characteristics of an “American”. Wearing the name “Christian” involves a life of duty to Christ. A Christian is something a person IS, not just something they are called. A Christian is a person who has obeyed the gospel – been baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) and is therefore “in Christ” (Galatians 3:26, 27)

Questions to ask yourself

The following are some questions a person can ask themselves in their effort to determine if they are, in fact, a Christian. Have I obeyed the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17)? One is not a Christian if they have not put on Christ by obeying the commands He has set forth in His Will, the Gospel. Did I obey the gospel out of conviction or convenience (Romans 6:17)? If a person did what they did just for family, prestige, or for any reason other than their desire to submit to the Lord and His will, they are not a Christian. Am I willing to suffer as a Christian (1 Peter 4:16; Hebrews 10:32-34)? A person willing to suffer for something has conviction. A person unwilling to suffer for Christ is not a Christian. Am I separated from the world in recreation, language, conduct, apparel, etc. (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15-17)? A person cannot serve God and mammon (material things) (Matthew 6:24). Am I truly devoted to Christ? Do I love the brethren, or do I have no time for my brethren or others (John 13:34-35)? Do I attend services as much as I can or as little as I think I can get by with (Hebrews 10:25)? Do I give liberally or miserly or do I give the leftovers to God (2 Corinthians 9:6, 7)? Am I truly interested in leading others to Christ? Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and if we are Christians, we are followers of Him (1 Peter 2:21). Do I appreciate strong preaching or am I offended when the Bible condemns my sins? What is my reaction when error is exposed (Galatians 4:16; John 6:66)? Am I growing in the faith (2 Peter 1:5-8)? Am I concerned about my spiritual development and that of my family? We are taught that we must “glorify God in this name” (1 Peter 4:10-11). Therefore, everything we do must be such as would bring glory to God or I am not a Christian even though I might call myself such.

What’s Important

When our spirit leaves our body, the important question will not be “was he or she rich, a great athlete or a scholar, etc. etc…” But rather the important question will be “was he or she a faithful Christian?” So, are we really Christians, or are we just wearing the name? If you are not a Christian, you can become one by obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ. That means you must hear the Word (Romans 10:17); believe in Jesus Christ (John 8:24); repent of your sins (Luke 13:3); confess your faith publicly (Matthew 10:32, 33); and be baptized for the remission of your sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). You will then be added by the Lord to the church, the family of God (Acts 2:47) and you will be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. There is an old spiritual song that says “ev’rybody talkin’ bout heav’n ain’t goin’ there.” There are also a lot of people calling themselves Christians who are not. ARE YOU A “CHRISTIAN”?

What Must I Do to obtain remission of sins (be Saved)?

What must I do to he saved?  How can I receive forgiveness (remission of sins)?  What does God demand of me?  This question, in one form or another, has been asked over and over since God put mankind on this earth. This is the very same question that many Jews on the day of Pentecost wanted answered. These are the very same people who, some forty days earlier had cried out for the torturous death of Jesus. So, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke the words needed to pierce their hearts (Acts 2:22-36).

Baptism

The people, instead of reacting to this accusation with anger, as some today, reacted with godly sorrow: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). They were asking the question of universal interest to all. What shall we do? How do we gain atonement for our sins’? They wanted to know what was necessary to remove the stain of blood from our hands’?

But remission of sins comes by grace

What shall we do? Do; was it possible that there was something that they (or we) could do? People for ages have insisted quite strenuously that there is nothing we can do in order to have our sins forgiven. Their rational is, “If we must do something, salvation is not of grace – it is not the free gift of God.”

Is it possible that salvation can be of grace and that we still must do something to obtain it? An illustration used to make the point go something like this: Two men were sitting at the table talking. when one noticed the other had a very nice pen. Upon the man commenting about the nice pen, the owner of the pen held it out and said, “You may have it.” Here is a gift. This is an act of grace. The man did not pay for the pen. the other simply gave it to him.

But, if this man took the modern notion of grace he would have simply sat there and stared at the pen. Why? If the gift is of grace, there is nothing for him to do to obtain the gift. If he so much as reached out his hand to take the pen he has “worked” for it and the gift is not of grace.  He, however, not burdened by this false notion of grace, would take the pen and thank the owner for his gracious offer. He did something.

Those on Pentecost understood remission of sins and salvation

And indeed, on the day of Pentecost there was something the crowd had to do. In fact, there were several things. First, they had to recognize (believe) that Jesus was indeed the Christ. Notice, something they had to do. They demonstrated this by their reaction to Peter’s sermon. Having believed, they felt they must do more. Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit, agreed.  His directions were simple: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

They were commanded to repent; change their heart and ways. Also, they were commanded to be baptized. The result? The remission (blotting out) of their sins. As straight forward as this seems. many who would call themselves Christians claim forgiveness of sins is not contingent upon baptism.  Their reasoning goes; baptism is a “work” and if remission requires you to do anything, it cannot be of grace. They fail to comprehend what was said in John 6:28-29 about belief.

If we say baptism paid the price for sin, the argument would have some merit. But the fact is, I know of no one who teaches that baptism earns forgiveness of sins. Simply being obedient to God earns us nothing. We are His and this is our duty (Luke 17:10). Every one I am acquainted with (regardless of religious affiliation) accepts the necessity of belief and repentance for forgiveness. But these are things one must do. So, also, must one be baptized.

When does remission of sins come?

One objection continually raised by some is; Acts 2:38 says “because of the remission of sins . . .” instead of “for the remission of sins ….” Their reasoning; A person is baptized because he is saved, not in order to be saved. Circular logic comes into play at this point. The proponents of this reasoning argue salvation happens when they believe (and repent), otherwise salvation is of works, not faith. Despite this claim, not one single respectable translation of the Bible contains this reading! For comparrison refer to the KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, MV, NCV, RSV, NRSV and any other acronyms that you can think of.

In fact, Peter’s words properly translated into English remain: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Three thousand people understood that day and were baptized (Acts 2:41). There is a similar passage when Ananias is instructing Saul (later known as the apostle Paul) as to what was necessary for the remission of sins in Acts 22:16. If you want remission of your sins, you will believe, repent, and be baptized.

If You Were To Die Today, Would You Go To Heaven
Somethings Never Change

Brotherly Kindness and its Importance

Brotherly Kindness

Brotherly kindness is a topic that must never become stale or outdated. The bonds of kindness that exist between Christian brothers and sisters is one of the clearest testimonies that we are in fellowship with God. “The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10). “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7). One of the best Biblical texts dealing with the importance of brotherly kindness is 1 John 4:7-21. In this article we’ll examine some of what this text teaches us regarding brotherly kindness.

Brotherly Kindness Shows That We Are God’s Children

First, brotherly kindness shows us that we are true children of God (1 John 4:7-8). God is the definition of love. He is the source of love. From God we learn that love is not mere sentiment but involves an act of the will. Love is a verb. God not only told us of His love, but He showed it in His divine act of love (cf. vv. 9-11). “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16, cf. John 3:16 & Rom. 5:6-8). For Christians, brotherly kindness should certainly be spoken, but what is most important is that this kindness is shown in deeds. Can we say that we are God’s children? We can if we have brotherly kindness one for another and if it is shown in our deeds.

Fellowship With God

Secondly, brotherly kindness brings us into fellowship with God (vv. 12-16). Of course, we cannot fellowship God as we do each other for God is not visible to us (v. 12, cf. John 1:18). However, when brotherly kindness abides within our hearts, then God abides in us through His Holy Spirit. It is impossible for one to say he has fellowship with God when he does not have kindness in his heart for his brothers and sisters in Christ. It is just as likely for an unloving person to be a child of God as it is for a fig tree to bear olives (cf. James 3:9-12). Just as Jesus said that the world would know that we are His disciples by the love we have for one another (John 13:34-35), so the world will know that we are not only disciples but also God’s children through our brotherly kindness.

Boldness and Confidence Before God

Finally, brotherly kindness gives us confidence in our standing before God. Many are unsure of their standing with God and face the idea of judgment with trembling uncertainty. Such need not be the case. Why? The answer is simply this. In brotherly kindness, we are as He is and as such, we are confident of our sonship. “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). This knowledge that we are as He is comes from the love that we have for one another in our hearts. Those who still live in fear of judgment show that God’s love is not fully developed in their hearts (v. 18).

Brotherly Kindness Is NOT Optional

Brotherly kindness is NOT optional. Some live with self-deception. John gives a stern warning. “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21). Hate is a strong word. What is hate? It is no more, nor any less than the absence of love. For the true Christian, brotherly kindness is not optional. It is not something about which he can have a “take it or leave it” attitude.

Let us show brotherly kindness to one another! Love is of God. He is the source, definition and supreme example such. With brotherly kindness I leave “church going” behind and live as a true and authentic Christian and have bold confidence in my standing before God. Without this kindness, my “church going” and sacramental observances are nothing more than a hypocritical sham.

Adapted

See also: