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Strengthening Families, Part II: Families Walking with Jesus

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

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Families Walking with Jesus

Here’s a bridge.  See anything wrong with it?

When I was a 3-year old toddler living in Sioux City, in northwest Iowa, there was a major flood on the Big Sioux River.

The velocity of the water and the turbulence was so intense that this brand new bridge collapsed.  What happened?  The foundation of the bridge was too shallow.  Rather embarrassing for the engineers who designed this.

Having a strong, deep foundation is necessary for structures.  And it is necessary for our lives. 

We are in the middle of a series going through Stonebrook’s Pillars.  Foundational truths that hold up our lives and help us to live fruitful, meaningful lives for Jesus.

These Pillars are seven Core Values.  These are core truths of the Christian life that we want us all to be growing in.

Today and last week we are looking at our 4th Pillar, Strengthening Families.

And though our focus here is marriage and parenting, I would also include here households, such as a group of singles living together.  You who are single will find truth and application for your lives today, as well.

My premise today is this:

Strong families are founded upon a robust walk with Jesus.

A full, vigorous, comprehensive walk with Jesus.

To have strong families, we have to look at our families in a comprehensive, holistic sense.

Overview

So again, my premise today is,

Strong families are founded upon a robust walk with Jesus.

I say robust to mean strong, healthy, full, and comprehensive. 

I say walk to mean a lifestyle.  Not merely checking off a To Do list.  Not merely religious activity.  But a walk; a journey. 

I say with Jesus because our daily lives are to be wrapped up in a person, the Son of God, who loved us enough to die to rescue us.  He wants to walk with us through this life on into eternity. 

More than simply accomplishing tasks.  Walking with the Person of Jesus. 

My proposal this morning is that God calls us to a robust, full, rich Christianity in the home.

Instruction Directly Toward Family

First, we’ll look at instruction that God has given directly to the family.  Directly to husbands.  Wives.  Children.  Parents.

It is from Ephesians 5 & 6, the most extensive passage on family in the Bible.

I just want to address one main aspect, focusing on one theme.  One phrase.

Ephesians 5:22–6:4 ESV 

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord…

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church…

Children, obey your parents in the Lord…

Fathers…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

What is the common thread through all these commands to the family?

The Lord.  Jesus Christ. 

This sounds incredibly obvious to all of us Jesus followers, but it needs to be stated:   Central to strong, growing, fruitful families is Jesus.

Wives, submit to your husbands as you submit to the Lord.

This is profound.   Now, some of you may be reacting to this.  Such as, what about the husband who is a monster.  What about submitting to him?   That is an important question that needs careful and loving counsel on how to deal with specific situations.  If you are in such a situation, let’s talk.  You may need help.

What Paul is talking about here is the everyday relationship between a wife and her husband.  She submits to and respects her husband in the manner that she does to Jesus. 

Ladies, I know very well your husband is not Jesus. 

Every morning, I talk to the husband of my wife, and I am painfully aware he is not Jesus.  He is a flawed, sinful man.  He can be impatient.  Irritable.  Selfish. 

Even with that in mind, my wife is in a relationship first with Jesus.  I am secondary.  She first…first… obeys and follows Jesus.  She submits to and respects Jesus.

And then in that relationship with Jesus, he then calls the wife to walk with her husband in that same kind of spirit. 

On her good days and bad days.  On her husband’s good days and bad days. 

For example, countless times over our almost 34 years of marriage Annette and I have discussed various topics.  A decision has to be made.  Sometimes the final decision is not obvious.   Many times she has said to me in respect, “Whatever you decide, I’ll support.”

You might think that that is a blank check to me to be selfish and get my own way.  Actually, for me it has the opposite effect.  Her submission and respect in the Lord sobers me up.  I realize, “Oh my, she is entrusting herself to me.  I feel the weight of that responsibility.  Lord, help me not to screw this up.  She’s depending on me.”

I actually become a better husband because of it.  And it makes me appreciate her all the more. 

These words by the Apostle Paul, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord,” makes the marriage relationship deeply spiritual, far more than simply two humans in a covenant relationship only between themselves.

So central to her role as a wife is the Lord.  As she walks with the Lord and submits to him, she is to do similarly to her husband.   This is profound.  And counter-culture.

As a wife walks with Jesus in this faith-filled, humble submission “in the Lord”, it will generally (though not guaranteed) have a profound, beautiful impact on the husband.  Her humility and faith will strengthen him.  And embolden him.

Husbands, love and die for your wives like Jesus died for his Bride, the Church.

This also is quite profound. 

The goal for your marriage is far, far higher than your personal happiness.  I hope you can find that happiness with your wife.

But ultimately, your happiness comes from walking with Jesus.  From loving Jesus and doing what he asks you to do.

And what Jesus asks you husbands to do here husbands is die.  Die for your wife.  Jesus is calling you men to martyrdom. 

To die in the manner that Jesus went to the Cross and died for his adulterous, rebellious Bride, the Church. 

This means, men, you have to remember and believe what Jesus has done for you.  You need to read the Scriptures to help you remember.  Give thanks to God.  Break bread.  Pray for power to love like this.   Any such thing to help us remember the love of Jesus for us.

For me, one of my most frequent tests of dying to myself is late evening.  I’m tired.  Tempted to be irritable.  But my wife needs help.  What will I do?  Serve cheerfully and kindly, dying to my own body’s longing for rest, thus imitating Jesus?

Or will I grumble and complain?

As you love her like Jesus loved you, your wife will be richly blessed.  There is no guarantee that she will respond positively, but generally most women are longing for such sacrificial love.  But whether she notices or not, whether she appreciates it or not, follow Jesus anyway.  Die to yourself like Jesus died for his Bride. 

So far, central to the wife’s role and responsibility and the husband’s role and responsibility is the Lord himself.

Both of them are to respond to their spouse in Christ.  As Christ does.  As we follow Christ.

So do you remember my premise this morning?  Strong families are founded on a robust walk with Jesus.

If my walk with Jesus is suffering, my attitude toward my wife will suffer.  If my walk with Jesus is sweet, so will be my heart toward her. 

Children [vs. 1], obey your parents in the Lord

As you follow Jesus and obey him, obey your parents.   To follow Jesus means to follow your parents. 

You may have an understandable objection at this point:  “Yes, but Pastor Brad, you don’t know how sinful my parents are.” 

I agree.  I’m not in your home, and I don’t see all they are doing.  In extreme cases, in very harmful situations, the church and even the governing authorities need to step in to family situations.  That is right and necessary.

At the same time, I know enough of the parents in this room to know that in general they want to follow the Lord.  You’re in a good place, most of you.   And the Lord is watching out for you.  He died for you, and he loves you.

You belong to him now.  You are to follow him first now.

And in that, he now calls you to obey and honor your parents in the Lord.  Jesus will guide you and watch over you. 

When I was a teen, I fought with my Mom about going to church.  I really needed a dad to be strong with me, but my dad had died.  Mom had remarried when I was almost 13, but I didn’t want to listen to my stepdad either.  I didn’t believe in Christ until I was 19-years old here at Iowa State.  And not long after that, I heard sermons in this church like the one today.  And I remember being convicted by how I had treated my parents in my teen years.  I still remember calling them up and apologizing for my stubbornness and disobedience in many areas. 

Teens and younger children, to the degree you are listening and obeying your parents, that is the degree you are listening to and obeying Jesus.  “Obey your parents in the Lord.

Fathers, “bring up”, that is, nurture your children in the training and instruction of the Lord.  In the things of the Lord.

Dads, your work with your children, is heavenly work.

There are all the earthly, day-to-day things that you do for your children.  You feed and clothe them, put them to bed, maybe even change a stinky diaper.  This all is spiritual work.  A heavenly sort of work because your children belong to God.

Then there are also teaching and directing their lives toward Jesus.  God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for them.  And you are instructed by God to teach them the things about him.  The Lord wants your children to have a devoted walk with him, and you, dads, are charge with the main role in that.

Your goal is far more than providing financially.  Your goal is far more than keeping them out of trouble and hoping they are well-adjusted.  Your goal is wrapped up in Jesus.  To learn about him.  To know him.  To love him.  To obey him.  To know what is important to God.

You are to feed and protect them physically.  You are also to feed and protect them spiritually, keeping them away from wolves who want to drag them away from the Good Shepherd.  Be alert to the input they are receiving.  From friends, from their phone, from media.  Is it the world’s input or is it God’s??

Devotion to Christ

So the common thread we have seen so far to all the members of the family is to follow our Savior, Jesus.  We obey him, love him, and follow him.  All is done IN him and FOR him.

As we walk and obey and follow Jesus, so we are to do toward the family.

One of Stonebrook’s Pillars is “Devotion to Christ.”  Really, this is the most foundational Pillar.  And in a way, all the others are built upon that. 

A passage to keep in mind is my Life Verse.  This has been an anchor….a Foundation… for me for over 35 years.

2 Corinthians 5:14–15 ESV  For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

The Lord died for you.  You are loved by him.  You have eternal life because of him.  Now, in light of that love and new life, live for him.  He will watch over your life.  Live by his power.  Love him with all you have.

And we do this in the midst of the family. 

We’re not trying to have strong families simply to have strong families.  Our ultimate goal for the family is to love the Lord more.  To walk with Jesus.  To listen to him and obey him.

And our goal for the family is not merely religious activity.  It’s not about following a set of rules.  For example, when we read the OT, we can have the mistaken view that all God wanted the people of Israel to do was to follow the rules.  Be well-behaved rule followers.

But look at this instruction to Israel, written by Moses shortly before he died. 

Deuteronomy 10:12–13 ESV “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?

This sounds like NT language.  God is after our hearts.  He wants the adults and the children to fear him, walk with him, love him, serve him, and obey him.

Our Pillar of Devotion to Christ must be central to a strong family.

Biblically Minded

Another of Stonebrook’s Pillars that families need to be built upon is to be biblically minded people. 

The Scriptures are the revealed words of God sent from heaven for us to know him, understand our need for him, and to know eternal life.

We read Ephesians 5 and 6 on family:  Wives, husbands, children, fathers.  In the entire Bible, this may be the longest passage related directly to family.

So why, when we read throughout the Bible, is there so little written directly about family?  About husbands, wives, parents, and children?  Really, it’s rather surprising how little is said.

Why is that? 

Here is why, in my view.

I propose that this entire book, in one way or another, relates to family because this entire book relates to our walk with the Lord.

2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Through all the truth revealed in Scriptures, God wants to equip us.  Prepare us for every good work.  Every good work…even in the home.

The list is long and comprehensive. 

The wholeness of Scriptures is a passion of mine.  It’s one reason why in my 40 years as a Jesus follower I have read through the entire Bible each year in 25 of those years.  I love reading through it all to get a greater sense for the history of God at work on this earth.  A fuller picture of who God is.  A more complete picture of his will for us.  I love seeing how it all ties together. 

All I want to say here is that we should pray for a growing passion for this book.  Pray for a growing conviction that these are the very words of God.  Words sent from heaven to earth for us.  Words that are central to and crucial for the family.

Make this book central to your family.  Get your family exposed to this.  Sunday morning.  Life Group.  Early morning.  Meal time.  Don’t let it become a mindless ritual.  Seek to understand what it means.  Then seek to apply it to your lives through prayer.  It may seem boring at times.  Dry.  Keep persevering.  Pray, “Father, would you help me to understand this.”

The purpose of the Scriptures is to know God, love him, and walk with him.

Walking in Godliness

That leads us to another Pillar.

The Christian life, especially in the home, is to grow in our daily walk of godly character and conduct. 

Let’s look at some passages back in Ephesians.  A passage just before the section on family.

Let’s see if and how they relate to life in the home.

Ephesians 4:31–32 CSB Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

Husbands, wives, teenagers, and fathers—- what if you got rid of all bitterness, anger, and wrath?  No more shouting and slander toward the others in your home?

What if, instead, you were like in vs. 32:  Kind.  Compassionate.  Forgiving, as God has forgiven you in Christ.  That seems like a dream.

But to live more and more that way is entirely possible.  God commands it, so that means it is possible.

How?  How is it possible?  I go back to my premise for this morning:  A Strong Family is founded upon a robust walk with Jesus.

Paul gives a clue to this.

Forgiven as the Lord forgave you.”

To forgive—to live with a clean slate with others—you have to first know that you are right with God.

A couple weeks ago in my sermon, I said out loud to my wife from here on the stage:  “Feel free to confess all my sins.”

She told me later, “I don’t remember them.”  She didn’t mean, “You have no sins to remember.”

She meant, “They are not on my mind.”  In short, she has forgiven me.  She doesn’t keep a record of all my many sins.

She forgives as God has forgiven her in Christ. 

Wow.  That was a meaningful word to hear.

These lofty truths like “walk in a manner worthy of your calling,” are intensely practical. 

But there is a caution here.  We must not think that our goal is simply to line up with some moralistic code.

No, we are to walk in godly morality, but that is to be founded upon Jesus.  Upon a walk with our heavenly Father and his Son.

Look at the very next verse:

Ephesians 5:1–2 CSB  Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.

This is really a core part of what Matt talked about last week in Part 1 of this Pillar of Strengthening Families.  The Gospel is the power source for strong families.

Pay attention to the commands and the motivations.  The command:  Imitate God.   How?  As beloved children.  As intensely loved adopted children.  The motivation for godly living, even in the home is because you are dearly loved, adopted children through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The more we believe this and walk in closeness with our heavenly Father, the more we will WANT to imitate him.  Walk like him.  Talk like him.  Think like him.

Many mornings as I begin my day reading God’s Word and praying, I thank God for my adoption as his son.  I thank him for loving me.  For being my heavenly Father.  Isn’t that how Jesus taught us to pray?  He said, “Pray like this….Our Father who is in heaven…”  The more we know how much our heavenly Father loves us, and the more we believe we are adopted in Christ, the more compelled we will be to imitate our Father in godly character and conduct.

Then he says, “Walk in love.”  How?  Just as Jesus loved you and gave himself up for you.  This is the Christian life explained right here.   You will be hard-pressed to find a better summary of the Christian life.

Husbands and wives….roommates…. when you speak to each other, is it merely to get outward conformity to rules?

Or do you dig deep into the heavenly motivations here?

Parents, when you train your children, are you seeking mere outward behavior?   Or are you passionately telling your young kids and teenagers about the deep, deep love of Jesus, that through him they are adopted into a heavenly kingdom with a good and glorious Father?  And that they should imitate him?

Is this how you train your children?

So dream for a minute.  If everyone of us could stop sinning and start obeying more consistently, wouldn’t we begin to rate the quality of our marriage higher?  We might go from a 3 out of 10 to an 8 out of 10.

Husbands and wives, parents and teenagers, if we were growing in our spiritual life and lived this way, wouldn’t the dinner table be more joyful?

Wouldn’t late evening when everyone is tired and getting ready for bed be much more peaceful?  Fewer tears?  Calmer voices?

Other Pillars

These are the Pillars we have looked at so far in this series.

Strong families are built upon a foundation of these truths.

In the coming weeks, we will look at 3 more Pillars.

Being devoted to the fellowship

Serving the City

Proclaiming Christ

Our families need to be founded upon these things, too.  We can’t neglect them. 

Conclusion

So where do we go from here?

Family is so important.  It matters to God.

Our households must be founded upon the Rock, Jesus.

Most importantly, he has given us himself.    And he has invited us to walk with him.    Walk in a manner worthy of God’s heavenly calling.   Walk in love as the Lord has loved us and adopted us.