05 August 2020
Ps Ben Hooman
We are in the Wisdom Series and on Sunday we looked at wisdom within the family. The way of wisdom is the way of Jesus and the way of Jesus is wisdom. To follow Jesus is to follow Jesus wholeheartedly.
And tonight, we will continue in the application of wisdom within the family. We need to understand that there is an alignment needed within the family context when serving the Lord.
Please open your Bible at Deuteronomy chapter six. Let us hear the Word of God by looking at the great commandment that follows the ten commandments in chapter five.
Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-25.
Looking at these verses, we see that these are words spoken to God’s own people, a people that He has redeemed, a people that God brought out of slavery in Egypt, a people that God Himself made a covenant with.
This is of huge importance for the ten commandments were never given as a ladder for unsaved people to somehow get nearer to God. The commandments are a way of life that are particularly given to God’s redeemed. And in essence the book of Deuteronomy is an explanation and application of the ten commandments given in chapter five.
The first commandment says you shall have no other gods before God,
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Deuteronomy 5:6-7)
What does that mean? How does that look like to have no other gods before the Lord? The answer to that is in the next chapter of Deuteronomy. Here is how it look like to have no other gods before God,
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Here it says positively what the first commandment says negatively. That is why Jesus says that this is the first commandment within the new covenant that we are in as the redeemed of Christ.
In the gospel of Mark, we read of a certain teacher of the law asking Jesus which one of the commandments is the greatest, and Jesus answered,
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)
Here is what we are called to as the redeemed people of God:
Loving God with all your heart means that you love with all of your affections, with all the workings of your mind, and all the strength of your will.
Loving God with all of your soul means you love Him with all of your vitality, with all of your energy, with all of your capacity, with all of your ability, and with all your gifts all the years of your life.
And loving Him with all of your strength means you love Him out of all of your substance, nothing that would hold you back from laying everything on the altar of sacrifice before the Lord.
So, love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and soul and mind. This is the life, a life separated to God which, as a redeemed in Christ, you are called to.
But here is the question and it comes straight of the description in Deuteronomy of what it means to live this life devoted to the Lord: If I love Christ like this, what will be the impact on my family? If I really stretch myself all out in serving Jesus Christ, will it hurt my children? What will the effect be on them? These are very real questions. Every parent faces these questions. You love the Lord, you want to serve Him, and you want your life to count for Him.
Some of you already have children and many more of you will have children in the future, and you will feel this tension. You love your children; you want to be a good mother, a good father, but the question is: What does it look like to love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength when you are married and you have children?
As soon as Moses give the call to this first commandment, he immediately goes on to speak about the impact of that on the family. And this is the impact and the challenges I want to bring to you tonight. We want to see from the Word of God that if you chose to stretch yourself out throughout the course of your years, to love God with all your heart and soul and strength, and to extend yourself for whatever it takes to give yourself to Him, far is it from destroying your family!
The promise of God is that your family will be blessed by it. To put it in one sentence: The best way to serve your family is to live for the Lord. Any other choice will ultimately have a negative and destructive effect on the people that God has entrusted to you.
The principle is a very simple one to grasp: Love the Lord first and your family will be blessed, love your family first and your family will suffer.
Let us see this in the Word of God. Turn with me to Deuteronomy chapter one. Remember in this book Moses speaks to a new generation of God’s people who are now on the verge of entering the promised land. Forty years before this God commanded the parents of this generation to enter the land. They then sent out spies that reported back that the land was good, but then they said that there are giants in that land that are much taller than them, and that the cities were large and fortified.
Parents standing in front of their promise from God of a new free life in the promised land. But when they heard from the spies, it alarmed them greatly and they were unwilling to enter the land. They disobeyed the command of the Lord. Even after Moses told them that God will go before them and fight for them, that He will carry them as a father carry his children, but they refused and spent the next forty years in the desert.
Now why did the parents then made that decision? Why did they refuse to go up into Canaan? There must have been many factors but we get a fascinated insight in what was going on in their minds. Here is why,
“And the little ones that you said will be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad – they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. But as for you, turn around and set out towards the desert along the route to the Red Sea.” (Deuteronomy 1:39-40)
What happened? The spies came back saying that there are giants in the land and the parents decide that it is to great a risk to enter the land. “We have little children and we have to think what is best for them. We have to put our children first. If we go into the land, some of our little children could be taken captive, and the risk is just to high. We cannot do what God says”.
That is what they said, and in a way, we might understand their thinking, but we have to follow the story for further instruction. They put the children first and what was the result? Children they tried to protect, spent forty years, the largest portion of their lives in the desert. The parents walking away from the blessing and promises in disobedience to God and that is the reason for their children growing up in a desert, growing up in a dry place and they knew nothing better. If their parents had been faithful, they would have grown up in the promised land!
The parents put their children first and it was devastating for them. It meant that their experience of life was that of a wilderness due to the decision of their parents by not putting God first.
As the new generation comes to the edge of Jordan, at the verge of entering the promised land, I want to bring the challenge of this to you tonight. Let me bring it to you in three ways:
- Don’t live for your spouse or for your family.
I believe I now have everyone’s attention by saying this.
Moses is with the new generation, the ones of whom most have been born in the desert and raised up to in the wilderness, and now even have their own little children around them. They also now have to decide how they going to live their lives.
This is the whole point of the book of Deuteronomy. It is actually one sermon of a massive presentation Moses is making to them.
Take this challenge from these Scriptures tonight: Don’t live for your spouse or for your children. Putting your children first is the worst thing you can do to them.
The same is true of marriage. Wives, do not desire to be put first in your husband’s life. Desire that Christ will be first in your husband’s life. If he loves Christ with all his heart, all his mind, and all his strength, he will love you well. But if you become first in his life, then you have taken the place of God and taking the place of God causes a burden that you cannot bear. You can only fail and you can only disappoint and it will not be good for your marriage.
Husbands, by all means go and buy a card that says: I love you! But do not buy a card that says: I live for you. That is idolatry and you don’t want to make of yourself an idolater. You place a burden on your spouse that she cannot possibly bear. Only God can be god to you. Your wife can never have that capacity.
This is also true of children. The first commandment is clear; ‘you shall have no other gods before God’. That includes the children, those little gods. That is what Christ says; anyone who loves his son or his daughter more that Him, is not worthy of Him.
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not his cross and follow Me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37-38)
Why is our Lord saying that? Jesus is referring to the first commandment. If we allow our children to have the very first place, the first claim, we make of them an idol and we teach our children to worship themselves. That is what satan tried to get Adam and Eve to do in the garden of Eden, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:4), be your own god.
This is why it is so important for us to be clear about these things. Live for your family, and you will lead your family into the desert with huge spiritual consequences. Live for the Lord and you will point your family to the promised land. When God says to us to be holy, it means to be set apart for Him. So, the first challenge tonight we can frame like this: Don’t live for your spouse and for your family, for you will do terrible harm apart from the idolatry that is involved.
The second challenge, the first was negative, this one positive, and here is what we have to do:
- Align your life around one holy passion for the Lord
Picture this dramatic scene: It is forty years on and after all these years in the desert, after the parents tried to protect their children, the children themselves raised and with most of their parents now dead, they now have their own little children gathered around them. And Moses says to them,
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Moses is saying by implication, “Your parents did not do that by putting you first. You have seen what that did to them and you have experienced what it has done to you. Here you are standing at the same place. You must now choose who is first in your life”.
And here redeemed people of God, is what Moses is saying to us, “I am calling you today! Love the LORD your God with all you are so it be well with you and with your children!”
“If you seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 5:29)
The positive call here is to align ourselves around one holy passion for the Lord. Why am I using the word ‘align’ here? Aligning is not prioritising. We hear so often in discussion about life, and ministry, and service, the language of prioritising and never find it particularly helpful.
Sometimes people say, “Well, you must put God first, family second, and ministry third”. We all have heard this and you will hear it many times in the future. But how in the world you going to separate loving God from serving God! Loving God is seeing in obeying His commands and a life of service in His Name. Christ is claiming a whole of your life and not a part of it. The language of prioritising is therefore not very helpful.
Then there is another kind of language that helps even less, and that is the language of balance. Where ever people talk about balance, they mostly trying to do good in saying: “Well, when the issue comes up in loving God and loving your family, you got to keep a balance. You got to have time for this or that, so keep a balance”.
It sounds awfully good, but I find it not very helpful. Here is why: If loving the Lord, and loving or serving your family, need to be kept in balance, it means that the two become separated. They are like two pans of the scale where the word balance is used. We got to then weigh the one against the other and keep a balance.
I don’t want family to be weighing against the Lord. No, I want my family to be weigh for the Lord! This is what Joshua understood when he said,
“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, … But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua24:15)
That is not the language of balance but of alignment. Understanding this will help us in life and in ministry, and what it means to lay all on the altar of God. We are not trying to keep a balance but to achieve an alignment.
Moses tells us how to do that. He says that if you going to have a life and a family that is aligned around one consuming passion for the Lord, it begins in the heart.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” (Deuteronomy 6:6)
Loving God is the fountain of this holy life. The love of Christ flow from the knowledge of Christ. It begins there, my heart beats for God as a father or a mother apart from anything else we do.
But then it is not to be only in your heart, but also in your conversations.
“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)
This is a family conversation. Don’t let your love for the Lord, your work for the Lord, be some kind of private thing. Talk about it openly with your family. Open your heart to those God has placed around you and let them see and grow up in the passion for the Lord that drives your whole life.
Moses is not speaking about the ten commandments in general but about the first commandment in particular. What he is saying is that the whole of family life is an expression of this one consuming passion of loving the Lord that works its way into everything. It is the fabric of family life because it is the very nature of a father and of a mother.
“Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” (Deuteronomy 6:8)
Hands are the means of action. This is one consuming passion you align your life around, not only remaining in your heart, not only expressed in your conversations, but let it also be seen in what you do; the actual practices, commitments, priorities, and choices in your life. You want to align a family around a single passion. Step out not only in what you say but also in what you do.
“Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:9)
Bring your children into this great holy passion. Help them to feel part of it. Help them to participate in it.
Young people, allow this message to paint a vision of what a holy life, a holy family life, a married life with children can look like. Don’t ever lose the opportunity to bring your children up in the ways of the Lord, aligning their whole life in the love for God.
Parents, religion will let your children rebel against God. It is not about the works but your first love, your love for Christ as you align everything around one holy passion for the Lord. It is about the love for Christ, the first commandment of loving God with all you are. Impress that on your children and they will not hate what you do, but love who you are in Christ.
Young people, if you hope to be married, the time for you to shape this vision is now. The person you are looking for is someone who will share this vision with you.
Some of you are married and you are trying to figure out how you can best serve the Lord; grasp this and hide it in your heart. If God give you the gift of children, it is not with a view of serving Him less.
Remember the parents who said they cannot follow God’s calling because of the children? They were the ones who led their children into the desert. But the one that said, ‘For me and my children will serve and obey the Lord’, entered into the promised land.
So, don’t live for your spouse and for your family for it is idolatry. Positively align your life around one holy passion for the Lord. And here is the third and last challenge:
- Give gospel-centred answers to the questions raised by your life
As you live for one holy passion for the Lord, your life will provoke all kinds of questions, especially by your children.
“In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws of the Lord our God has commanded you?” (Deuteronomy 6:20)
Here he is asking for an explanation, “Dad, why do we live like this? Other families don’t live like this. Why are we living like this?”
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. …” (1 Peter 3:15)
If you set your life apart for God, it will provoke questions. That is why Peter says to be always ready to give an answer from the hope that is within you. A holy life always produces questions and that is wonderful. When the questions come give gospel-centred answers.
Christopher Wright in his commentary on Deuteronomy says it would be easy to jump from verse twenty to verse twenty-four in chapter six. The question in verse twenty is: Why do we keep these laws? The answer is in verse twenty-four,
“The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we must always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.” (Deuteronomy 6:24)
But what is between these two verses? Before we get to the Lord who commanded us in verse twenty-four as His redeemed people, we have the Lord who deliver us!
“Tell him: ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent miraculous signs and wonders – great and terrible – upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But He brought us out of there to bring us in and give us the land that He promised on oath to our forefathers.” (Deuteronomy 6:21-23)
Why do we pursue a holy life? Here are the answers you give: Son, we were slaves in Egypt and the Lord delivered us with a mighty hand!
That is gospel, that is redemption right here. “Son, if it was not for the Lord, I would have been a slave of the world, but He brought me into His inheritance, into His promised land, into the kingdom of God. His redeeming love is the reason why I have an aligned life around this one holy passion for the Lord”.
We desperately and confidently need to be able to communicate this gospel as an answer to the questions that will arise from the family. We got to be able to say that we once were all slaves of sin from which every person needs to be delivered. Jesus Christ brought us out and He delivered and redeemed us. Everyone needs the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are living in an affirming culture that give us the idea that the best thing we can do for our children is to constantly tell them how great they are. But here is the problem and I consider my words carefully: that is the most damning thing you could ever tell your children because if nothing in your children is broken, what then is the need to be redeemed? How will they ever see the need for a Redeemer?
You may say that I am suggesting that you start telling your children that they are little sinners. No, I want you to start telling them that we as parents are big sinners. You need Christ and I need Christ. We need Christ much tonight for apart from Christ there is no good in us and there is no hope for us.
Let us help our children to understand the mystery of sin that is in them. And whatever you do, please do not harden their hearts by drip-feeding them the false gospel of self-esteem. Also don’t end there but tell them we were slaves in Egypt.
How will anyone come and take a seriousness in Christ who claims everything and said: Take up your cross and follow Me! How will anyone be interested in Christ if they have not come seriously to deal with the devastating condition sin brings to every person born into this world.
When that is established, tell them something else, and that is that the Lord has brought us out with a mighty hand! When your son, your daughter, ask you why you live like this, why you pursue Christ with one holy passion for Him, the answer is the gospel.
Once a slave, but God’s redeeming power brings you out of the desert, out of the wilderness, into all the promises and into His kingdom. It is more than just a moral code to live by. It is a call to a new life that is aligned along this single passion for the Lord. Tell them what the Lord means to you, and tell them in New Testament terms that the Son of God loves us and has given Himself for us.
Don’t live for your spouse or for your family, but rather align your life around the holy passion for the Lord.
Give gospel-centred answers to questions that are raised in your life.
Tell your children that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and that is why you love Him with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Your children will be a generation that will want to enter the promised land and live a life for the Lord in an extraordinary way. I am saying to you tonight from the Word of God that if you do that, your children will be blessed!
Let us pray:
Father help us through the Holy Spirit to so live this life as is described in Your Word. We want to do this for the sake and the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ in whose Name we pray, Amen.