I know many of you have been admiring my tie, as the only person who actually wears a tie. There’s a little bit of a story behind it, in that when i got the job at RTS, I asked what the dress code was. And they said, “Oh, we like professors to wear coat and tie.”
Well, that was one of the sacrifices of living in Southern California, where my custom was to sit in my shorts and t-shirt and study at home, and then go for a job, shower, and put on another pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and then study some more.
So I thought, well, if I’ve got to wear ties, I’ll at least have some fun with these Presbyterians and as the only baptist at RTS, this is my favorite tie with Mr. Spurgeon on it.
And then in addition … Actually, I probably wouldn’t wear it in a worship service. It’d be too distracting, but I’ve got to hope that when you hear me preach today, it’ll make you think of Spurgeon somehow.
Before I do that, a couple of things I wanted to say. First of all, I’m just so thankful to the Lord for those who have served us so well this week. People keep coming up to me and thanking me. All I did was got on a plane and came here and was ready to speak, but there have been people that have been working, praying. There have been people getting here in the morning at 7:30 and changing bathroom stuff and putting out food and working just to the point of exhaustion, and here until 10:00 at night. Many volunteers, and so we’re just so thankful to God for them for serving us so well. We’re thankful for Jason for leading us in music and the people from the church who have been so wonderfully hospitable with this amazing facility. The Lord has provided for us so well.
And I’m very thankful for you. You’re very kind to those of us who lead and speak in terms of being encouraging and embracing of [inaudible 00:02:06] of the new people. Bob’s different than Craig, who’s different from Jim, but you love us all, and we’re very thankful for that as well.
I’ll also very grateful to God for those who have spoken. It’s been an amazing lineup up until now, and it’s really ministered to me in various ways. I’d already read Dave’s book, but the things he said really speak to me, and the things we’re currently experiencing.
Last night with Zach, I’m not sure how many of you realized how hard that was for him to do what he did. He’s had to go home. He’s got to preach probably in the morning. But I have some experience. Thankfully not in my marriage, but with my kids, similarly. I actually have had conferences where they were like, “Come speak about parenting. You’ve written about parenting.”
It’s like, that’s the last thing in the world I want to talk about, because it’s been so painful. And even the things, like Craig said, talking about what I’m going to talk about today, how the gospel divides families. It’s a hard thing to do. And for Zach last night, he poured his heart out in terms of sharing. That’s the last thing in the world I’m sure he wants to share with us, and yet, that’s something that helped us, his transparency. And many of us have stories like that, and even though for me it wasn’t my marriage, it was my kids. I feel like I have the same story he does and I’m thankful. And of course, that made a big impact on me.
That’s also why you come to conferences and don’t just … Even a video won’t capture what happened last night if you weren’t here, because there’s something Paul said in Romans 1, that he wants to come to Rome to preach the gospel. There’s something about the face to face interaction that nothing else, no matter what media we have, they could have three-dimensional internet streams, it still won’t be the same as being in the room and seeing what the Lord is doing.
So before I continue, I’d like to pray.
Father in heaven, we come to you in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. We come to you through Him who was despised and rejected of man for us, even though he did nothing wrong, but only good. We pray Lord, that you would help us to understand some hard things in your word that you would encourage those that are faint-hearted, help the weak, admonish the unruly. For those who are in situations now, strengthen them in faith. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
There are different forms of what I would call a false prosperity gospel. One form is the, “Your best life now,” “Name it, claim it.” You know, if you just have the right amount of faith, you’ll be healthy. You’ll live the long life. You’ll have lots of money. And that’s a heracy because the reality of living in a fallen world … And you even see this in the bible. People get sick. They die. They’re martyred. The best life is later. The momentary troubles of now are nothing to be compared to the glory that is yet to be revealed, and so now we live in anticipation of glory, but we’re not living yet in glory.
But in addition to kind of a material or health false prosperity gospel, there’s also a false family prosperity gospel. And that is, if you’re just good enough parents, your kids will all believe. And there are verses that seem to say that until you look more carefully at scripture. Like, oh, train up a child and away you go when he’s old enough to part from it, and it’s a maxim. It’s a God blesses faithful parenting. The bible does teach that, but it’s not an unconditional promise.
The bible is full, beginning with the very first family of all, of families where children have turned away from the good and wise teaching of their wise parents. And so, there’s not a formula by which if you just follow these steps … It’s like baking a cake and out pops the perfect kid who wants to be a missionary, pastor, pastor’s wife, doctor, lawyer, whatever you’re dreaming of.
It’s true in marriage as well. Peter says, “There’s hope that if your spouse is a non-believer wife, you hope without a word you’ll win him by your behavior,” and it goes the same way.
But 1st Corinthian 7 does say, “If you’re married to a non-believer, stay if they’ll have you, but you can’t know whether they’re going to be converted. On the divine level, God has to sovereignly open their heart. On the human level, they’re responsible for the choices they make,” and so we know.
We’ve already heard a lot about it. There’s some people who suffer in their families with unbelief. And some of the most disturbing words that Jesus ever spoke were about family. And in Luke 12 verse 49, he says, “I’ve come to cast fire upon the earth and how I wish it were already kindled, but I’ve a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished. Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth. I tell you know, but rather division, for from now on, five members in one household will be divided three against two, two against three. They will be divided father against son and son against father. Mother against daughter and daughter against mother and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
How can that happen? Well, he explains that elsewhere, more explicitly. It’s also in the context of the passage I just read. And the reason, ultimately, is that when you become a Christian, you turn your back on everything else and you follow Christ. And if your family doesn’t want to follow Christ, there’s going to be problems even if you try to be at peace with them.
Jesus says in Matthew chapter 14, I’ll begin in verse 25. Now large crowds are going along with him and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. He who does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Earlier in Luke, he actually says to the person, “Well first, before I follow you, let me bury my parent. Let me bury my father.”
He says, “No. If you’re going to follow me, come now.”
And the point isn’t that family isn’t important. The point is that as important as family is, Christ is more important, and there are going to be times in life where people have to choose. And what Jesus is saying is you always must choose me.
Then you have a question, well how does this … When Jesus says, “I’ve not come to bring peace but division,” how does this relate, because didn’t he come … You know, the Christmas story, peace on earth, good will to men, prince of peace has come. Yes he came to bring peace.
Actually, Calvin says, “The peace is in the context of those who have faith. The peace that Christ brings is peace for those who embrace him.”
And actually, we are aware that his coming to bring peace … He’s coming to bring peace to a world that is at war. The war began in Genesis 3, and he came when that ugly serpent took over and the whole world lies under the power of the evil. And he came to crush that serpent by the giving of his own life.
The whole bible is really a description of the battle of those who were of the serpent and those who are of Christ, the seat of the woman and the seat of the serpent. And his coming is to bring that conquest. For this reason, he appeared. “The son of God appeared,” John says, “To destroy the works of the devil.”
He came to make war. He came to conquer. He came as the son of David to slay the Goliath. He came as Hebrews 2 says, “We who lived in fear of death.”
He came to conquer sin and death and Satan. And those who continue to follow the serpent, even those who have our own family, they will be crushed under the rock, the cornerstone. And for those of us who are believers, for many of it is the greatest trial of our lives. Jesus taught many times, wherever the word of God goes for, there will be division.
In the very last day, there’s going to be the last division, and some will be the sheep and some will be the goats. And some in our family right now are not looking like sheep.
Now, not every family experiences the conflict with the same level of intensity. One of the pleasant things about reading scripture, especially the Book of Acts, is that you read of households who are converted and baptized and served the Lord. You have a Philippian jailer and his family, and we can rejoice in that.
The Lord has helped me, when I see beautiful families where the children and even multiple generations following the Lord, and I have friends where their kids are walking with the Lord and doing great, and I love that. And God often works that way and in that, we can rejoice.
But the bible also has other different stories. And again, it began with the very first family where there was a separation, just like the one Jesus talks about, where Cane hated his brother. And actually, in 1st John chapter 3, it says, “We should love one another, not as Cane, who was of the evil one and slough his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”
That’s another description. So from the very firs family, the conflict that Jesus talked about, about division in family, it occurred with them. And again, many of us have experienced some of those divisions.
JC Ryle, writing in the 19th century said, “Few believers can look around the circle of their own relatives and acquaintances and not see striking illustrations of the truth of our Lord’s prophecy.”
Sad as it seems, it is a fact that nothing annoys some persons so much as the conversion of their relatives. And we live in a time and a place right now where it’s getting worse. We’re entering post-Christian culture in America, like has happened in Europe ahead of us. We’ve never been fully a Christian nation in my belief, but at least we were a nation where Christians could thrive and had a lot of freedom and rights.
But that’s changing, and as it changes, those in our family members who are of the world are going to be less tolerant of us, and it’s going to impact us. And some of us are already experiencing that. But we should not be surprised.
John says in chapter 3, verse 13 of first John, “Do not be surprised brethren if the world hates you.”
And we know that from reading scripture, because our Lord Jesus was rejected and hated by his own people. In John 1, the famous verse is, it says, “He came unto his own, but those who were his own did not receive him. He was in the world. The world was made through him, and the world did not know him.”
Jesus, himself. Again, when I have conflict with my kids, I can look, and in every single case, I can see someplace I’ve sinned. I don’t always think I’m the primary instigator in the problem, but being a weak sinner, I don’t do well when sinned against. Jesus never sinned against anybody. He did nothing but good for his own people, yet still, they rejected and killed him.
In Mark 3, you have a situation where early in his ministry, his mother and brothers come, and it’s like they’re trying to take him away because they think he’s crazy perhaps. They don’t get it at that point. Later they do, thanks be to God. That’s the hope we have, they can change, but in his ministry, his own mother and brothers didn’t understand him.
Jesus warned that we would be hated and mistreated as he was. He said, “You will be hated by all because of my name,” he said, “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you.”
We see this in the Book of Acts, wherever the gospel goes forth, there’s persecution. Right now in many places in the world … I had the privilege of being in the far east in a place where religion is suppressed earlier this year. And the issue is, the state is the ultimate authority, and any authority where people … That’s what Christianity is. It’s saying, just like it says, “Christ is more important than your family,” Christ is more important than your government and totalitarian countries won’t tolerate that, because they want to be first.
There are a lot of people that say, “You have whatever religion you want, but we deserve your ultimate loyalty.”
There are places in the world today where allegiance to Christ is … People have wound up in prison.
In our country, people talk about persecution. I don’t think that word is quite appropriate yet for what’s happening, but there’s hostility. We believe that from the moment of conception, a child is a baby, worthy of life and worthy of protection. We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman for life, and that puts us at odds with our culture. And some people hate us. Some people call us names.
Jesus said, “This is the judgment, that light has come into the world and that the men love darkness rather than the light, because their deeds we evil.”
And Jesus has said … Again, there’s so many places where this comes up. Another one is in Matthew 10 verse 21. He says, “Brother will betray brother to death and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.”
That’s pretty serious. There have been families … This hasn’t quite happen to us, that I’m aware of, anybody in this room where Jesus said, “There will be a day that comes that people who kill you think they’re serving God.”
One of the most striking verses to me, and this is a psalm we’ll come back to, but Psalm 27 verse 10. And the fist time I ever noticed this psalm was actually when our kids were in a homeschool group. And a group of about a dozen kids memorized Psalm 27 and stood in front of the parents. It was cute, but when they got to verse 10, seeing all these little people saying, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.”
But that’s a reality for some people. Your father and your mother, sometimes just evil, they’ve abused you. In some cases, they’ve rejected you because of your loyalty to Christ.
There’s a person visiting our church in North Carolina who’d come out of a cult and he’d came to Christ. His parents have completely disowned him, will have nothing to do with him.
There have been people from Jewish backgrounds whose parents would actually hold a funeral when they became Christians, as if their child had died. There are people coming out of Islam when they become Christians, where their families would even try to kill them for betraying the family faith.
There are friends that we have, Christian leaders, people whose books are for sale in the other room, whose family members have completely shunned them. They send cards to their children and their grandchildren. They get returned unopened, because they want nothing to do with these wacky Christians.
Some of you are aware of Francis Shaeffer and Edith Shaeffer who had an amazing ministry with Lebree, and they had an amazing impact on many young people, going to Switzerland and other places in Europe. He was an amazing apologist, he watched the videos, read the books.
But they have a son named Frankie, and named after Francis. And Frankie has written, I believe, four books essentially attacking everything that his parents stood for. And a lot of that happened after Francis had died, but Edith lived to know about it, and I know it broke her heart. Just mocking evangelicalism. And he actually wrote novels that portrayed a crazy American family in Europe trying to evangelize Europe, and just gave the most grotesque descriptions of his own parents. It was just so, so sad. I would not recommend you buy them and read them.
Many of us in our families, the family members think we’re religious nuts. Yeah, religion is okay, but you’re taking it too far. You’re becoming a missionary. Well, you could make a lot of money doing something else. You’re wasting your education. But they reject us because they’re rejecting Christ.
Ryle writes, “Let us never be moved by those who charge the gospel with being the cause of strife and division upon the earth. It is not the gospel which is to blame, but the corrupt heart of men. So long as some men and women will not repent and believe, their must need be division. To be surprised that, it is the height of folly. The very existence of division is one proof of Christ’s foresight and the truth of Christianity.”
Luther wrote, “If our gospel received in peace, it would not be the true gospel.”
Now, I want to add one other thing in terms of the cause of conflict. I think there’s a lot of conflict in our families because they don’t receive the gospel and they reject us because of Christ, but there’s another cause too. Our family members who are unbelievers are fleshly. And it may be that it’s not so much your Christianity that offends them, but they’re just selfish sinners and they’re full of anger, strife, selfishness, immorality, etc. now, those things are compounded sometimes because they know what you believe and they feel judged by you because of the evil they know deep down in their hearts that is wrong. But a lot of the problem we have with unbelievers too is just unbelievers act like unbelievers and they do bad things, and so that can make life difficult as well.
There is comfort. We’ve already said how Jesus experienced this in his ministry, but we also know God, the Father, who you see in Isaiah, he had wayward children. He said, “Sons, I have reared, but they have revolted against me.”
We see in Jeremiah and Isaiah how Israel is portrayed, not as his son there, but as his bride, and yet Israel is portrayed as a faithless bride, as an adulterous bride. And when you read in Hebrews that as we turn to Christ and he intercedes for us and sympathizes with us, he knows what it is like to be betrayed by those close to him. He knows what it’s like, and he can sympathize with us and help us.
Then this is the challenge, and the challenge of these passages, is that we need to be careful. If we really are disciples of Christ, are we willing to pay the price sometimes when it comes to our families? And the risk is that we could be tempted sometimes to put our family above Christ. We must always remember that Jesus comes first.
Now again, not all of you are going to be experiencing this. Some of us are able to live at peace with some family members, and they seem to be very tolerant of us, right. They put up with us. They think we’re a little weird, but they like us. They’re kind to our kids, and it all kind of works out.
And some of you have people like that. You wish they’d become Christians, but they’re actually fairly nice unbelievers. And I would also say, in some cases, we’re guilty of provoking them. We can be fleshly. We can be simply judgemental.
People talk about people who come to a reformed faith going in kind of caged stage where you’ve got to lock them in a cage and not let them out, because they’re out blasting everybody they don’t agree with. And we can be sometimes obnoxious Christians. And that would be on us. If we’re in a sinfully judgemental way coming after them rather than gently trying to win them to Christ. So we need to make sure that it’s not our fleshliness that makes things worse.
And as I said, when we get sinned against, it’s hard not to sin back. But Paul says in Romans 12, “Never take your own revenge. Don’t return evil for evil. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. Thirsty, give him something to drink. Overcome evil with good,” and that can be hard. That’s where … Remember, we’ve all proved that you can quote 1st Corinthians 10-13, “Realize God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you’re able. He will give you a way of escape.”
This is where verses like Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me that under the provocation by the grace of God, I can endure without making things worse by my own sin.”
Peter says also, “If you’re suffering as a Christian, that’s a good thing, but don’t suffer as an evil doer. Don’t let your fleshliness make things worse with your family,” and I can confess, sometimes it has. You want to be a positive influence for the gospel with them. You don’t force things upon them. Don’t cast pearls before swine. They probably already know what you think and repetition doesn’t always make it more effective.
But I really believe that as the world becomes more post-Christian and more hostile, it will become more difficult. And there are situations that will come up, and I’m going to give several passages of scripture that exemplify this, where one will have to make really hard choices. And about the hardest choice that I could find in the bible was in Deuteronomy 13.
So you think under the old covenant, in verse 6, it says, “If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or your daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods whom you nor your fathers have known, but the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you, or far from you from one end of the earth to other end,’ you should not yield to him or listen to him, and your eye shall not pity him nor shall you spare or conceal him but you shall surely kill him. Your hand shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of the people.”
That sounds really difficult. I mean, there are many reasons why I’m thankful I live under the new covenant. The passage about bad kids getting stoned, I probably wouldn’t be here, so that would be one aspect of it. But I read that passage, and there’s nothing bad in the old covenant. It’s just preliminary. And in hierocracy, it’s supposed to be completely holy.
The idea of someone coming in and teaching the people to serve other gods, that is a cancer that must be removed. And God said, “It is so serious.”
It’s not saying if you had a horrible marriage and your wife becomes a pagan, fine, get rid of her, you can kill her and find another one. He’s saying, “If it’s the wife you cherish, you get along other than the fact that she’s a pagan, if it’s your best friend, if it’s your sibling you love, if they are advocating rebellion against God, you must choose to expose that rebellion, that idolatry, and if they will not repent, participate in their death.”
Again, I’m glad I’m not living under that, but that shows how seriously God takes it. And that’s why when you get to Jesus saying, “You must take your father and mother,” you get the point. It’s, “I must be first,” and sometimes it’ll be easy, but sometimes it’s going to be really, really difficult because your family may pressure you to choose them above Christ. You must obey God rather than men.
Matthew Henry writes, “Children must love their parents and parents must love their children, but if they love them better than Christ, they are unworthy of him. We must not be deterred from Christ by the hatred of our relatives so that we will be drawn away from them by their love. They may with their love try to entice you, or by the withholding of their love, threaten you.”
[inaudible 00:26:24] wrote, “If your love for your family contests and wins over love for Christ, then it is enough to cause eternal problems.”
I’ve got some biblical examples. I’m not going to turn to all the texts just because of time, but I can quote some of them. You see in the bible, the most famous failed father in the bible is Eli. And Eli had sons, and you read in 1st Samuel 2, they were corrupting the worship of God by taking the food and not cooking it properly and stealing. They were at the place of meeting, committing sexual immorality with the women who were serving there.
And in 1st Samuel 2, Eli rebukes them. He says, “My sons, what you are doing is not good,” and he verbalizes it, but he won’t do anything. He just whines. And because he’s the chief priest and they’re in the family priesting business, it’s his responsibility to shut those guys down and he won’t do it.
In 1st Samuel 2:29, God sends a prophet to Eli to tell him what’s about to happen, but he says in one phrase in 1st Samuel 2:29, which captures it. He says, “The Lord is angry with Eli. He says, ‘Because you have honored your sons above me.”
Eli’s great sin and failure as a father is he was more concerned about pleasing his sons who were wicked then pleasing God, who is holy. And he compromised the holiness and the worship of God to keep peace with his children. How’d that turn out? They died. He died. He didn’t really buy much peace with that, did he? But people don’t learn, right.
David. David had lots of problems with his kids. The most tragic has already come up in 2nd Samuel chapter 13. His son Amnon entices and rapes his half-sister Tamar, and then sends her away shamefully. And it says that it made David angry, but he’s like Eli. He didn’t do anything. What should you do when this happens? What should have happened to Amnon? He should have been executed. He should have been executed for raping his sister. Such a thing should not be done in Israel. And then especially then forsaking her after that. But David failed. He did nothing.
Did that help Amnan? No, he just got murdered by his brother Absalom instead. And then David had another problem with Absalom and he loved Absalom in the wrong way. He honored Absalom above the Lord. He almost lost his kingdom.
“Oh, Absalom, Absalom, my son,” when he had all these people who gave their lives, risked their lives to rescue his kingdom from his wicked son.
And then you get to 1st Kings 1, he’s got a son, Adonijah, and it says about him, “He had never crossed him at any time.”
And how’d that turn out for Adonijah? Well, the next chapter, he has to die too. All these cases where these men honored their children above the Lord, it didn’t buy them peace, it didn’t do anything good for their kids.
And now you’ve got today. You’ve got people … We were traveling overseas one time and found a situation where a pastor who hosted me, I learned after I’d been there for a few days that his son, adult son was living in the house with a woman whom the son was committing adultery. And the pastor had wondered why people had stopped coming to his church.
This is what Dave has been talking about, if you enable sin of those who are in rebellion against God, you’re not helping them, you’re not helping yourself. You’ve got to honor God first. You can’t ever choose your family above Christ, and that’s back to the Matthew 10:37, “Hey who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. He who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it and he who has lost his life for my sake will find it.”
Your family, someday, may put you under a great deal of pressure. And some of you, because of your culture, your family traditions, it may be harder for you than for some of us.
When we were in Saudi Arabia over 30 years ago, we had this lovely lady named Peggy who was a nurse from Singapore, and she came to faith in Christ, and became a very zealous Christian. She had to go home on leave to stay with her parents. And part of the expectation there was that she would offer food sacrifices to their ancestors.
So what does she do? She said, “I can’t do that. That would not be right.”
Well, look. Even if you don’t believe it, even if you don’t want to, you’re a good daughter, and in that culture, you’ve got to … You would be shaming the family if you don’t offer the food sacrifices to the ancestors. Just do it. Even if you don’t believe it, just do it to maintain the peace.
She can’t, right. I must obey God rather than men, even if that causes her family to be very upset with her.
I had another friend from Sri Lanka. Parents do a lot to kind of arrange marriages. His parents were trying to set him up with a girl who was not a real believer, a nominal Christian from a apostate denomination. And all kinds of pressure. You’ve got to be a good son. We want grandkids. We want you to marry someone that we choose. He says, “I can’t marry an unbeliever. I’m sorry.”
But again, that makes his family pretty upset.
Other situations come up. I’ll tell you what’s come up the most lately. I was speaking to a group in Charlotte, and some grandparents were there. I was talking with another professor actually about the transgender, trans-sexual issue, and they said, “Well, our daughter is dating a guy in college who is transitioning to being a woman, or something, “And she wants us to accept and embrace the relationship.”
And there are a lot of Christians, a lot of people in this day are being pressured where your child, adult child, young adult child, and they’ve come out as homosexual and they want you to come to the wedding and they want you to embrace this man who married your son as your son-in-law.
[inaudible 00:33:01] I think we can still love them both, but in terms of … You may just decide this is not a wedding I can go to. This is not a relationship. Because they don’t want your tolerance, they want your celebration and approval. And if you don’t get it … There’s an irony in this that they will accuse us of being judgemental, but if you want to see what judgemental looks like, say that you believe marriage is only between a man and a woman and you in good conscience can’t celebrate any other marriage than that.
There are a lot of people in corporate America who have lost their jobs just for expressing that opinion. I mean, one guy just had a sandwich at Chick-fil-a and had to do penance for weeks. Another guy lost his job because he just acknowledged, he affirmed that marriage is a man and a woman. And the culture is going to hate us for that right now.
This is the irony. Every human being is a moral being. It’s just, we have different set of morals. We all have absolute standards, and we all by nature are judges. They just have set a counterfeit set of standards, and they would judge us as being the scum of the earth and haters and racists because of what we believe, because we don’t want women to choose and we don’t affirm gay and transgender people in expressing themselves. Those people are as passionate about either judging us or converting us as we are about converting them.
And where it really hits home … By the way, even if your kids aren’t into that lifestyle, they’ve still drunk the Kool-aid. If they are of the world, this is the great … The world is a moral place, and right now, the moral message of the media and education is that we embrace all that. That whatever you feel that you are, you can choose your own identity and it’s wonderful to express yourself, and anybody who doesn’t celebrate that is really wicked.
And even if your kids are straight, if they know what you think, they may judge you. They may even shun you or look down upon you. And there are people who have given in. There are people who have said, “Well this is hard for me, but I see the world is changing and so yes, now I’m going to go to the wedding. I’m going to celebrate. I’m going to go for this.”
There’s a lot of pressure. A lot oof pressure. And other things that seem tame by comparison in terms of living together without being married and living in fornication and co-habiting. How do you deal with that? And again, you’re under pressure. Even if you don’t have a wedding business with cakes and photography, you’re under pressure to conform to the world.
Jesus described how they will judge us in John 16. He says, “They will make you outcasts in the synagogue. The hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the father or me. These things I’ve spoken to you so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning because I was with you.” Your faithfulness to Christ may produce their hatred.
Other things that can come up, and this is something that several of us experience where you’ve tried to raise your kids as the bible says. And by the way, we all know we did it imperfectly, right? But you tried to be faithful.
So you disciplined the way the bible says. You discipline with the rod. You taught them the bible. You brought them to church. But maybe when they’re 25 and they’re unbelievers, they will hate you for all of that.
I read an article that said spanking is always bad and psychologists have said that if you spank your kids, all of these horrible things are going to happen and it’s going to wreck their lives. And, “You’ve wrecked my life because you did this,” or, “You made me go to church. You made me weird. I missed out on all the things that the world had to offer.”
They want you to apologize and make penance for being a horrible parent when the very things that they hate you for are the things you were doing because you thought that was what God had called you to. They will completely reject that if they reject Christ.
You can say, “Yes, there’s so many things we did wrong,” but ultimately, we’re still trying to follow Christ. You cannot love them. You cannot back down in terms of your loyalty to Christ. A couple of the things about this, it’s going to test you. It’s going to test your faith.
When Zach was telling his story last night, where his whole world collapsed with his wife and his church and his work and his friends and saying, “What did you do to cause this,” that’s got to test your faith, doesn’t it?
And when these things happen, when it’s your husband or your parents or your kids … And one of the things is, Carol and I pray together at night as we struggle with our three unbelieving adult sons that the Lord strengthen our faith. Help our weakness, because this is really hard.
The passage I go to a lot is in John 6 when people were leaving Jesus and Jesus said, “Are you going to leave too?”
And Peter said, “Where else can we go, for you have the words of eternal life?”
There’s nowhere else to go, but sometimes it’s really hard to follow Christ.
Another challenge is that for a Christian couple, where you’re both believers, it can still be a challenge when you’re trying to figure out, “Well, how do we process this with our kids? Do we let our son and his boyfriend come to Christmas dinner? Do we let our daughter and her boyfriend stay here? How do we engage in these situations?”
Dave has very helpfully talked about how prodigals, people who are just narcissistically self-serving without a conscience, sometimes the consequences, but then when you and your spouse are trying to work that out, the devil would love to divide you too. It can be a challenge there.
Probably in the worst case, it even could be where the wife says, “Look, we’ve just got to accept that. We’ll go to the gay wedding and we’ll just accept that,” and they get pulled in.
And the husband, “No, we’re not going to do that.”
On the other hand, one thing that Dave said that really meant a lot to me, he said, “When you bring the consequence, it should be with tears. Not in anger, not in harshness, not in judgment, but weeping with compassion.”
So if Christ comes first, you’re going to have conflict. He warned us about it, and it’s going to hit you with your family.
And this next section, I can go over briefly, because it’s something Dave has also reinforced, and that is that even if your family treats you like an enemy, you can still keep loving them. The fact that they mistreat you, the fact that they break your heart, the fact that they may to some extent even shun you for being a Christian, doesn’t mean you give up. It doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying in the relationship.
In Luke chapter 6, beginning of verse 27, Jesus says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you in the cheek, offer him the other also. Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from his well. Give to everyone who asks of you and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat other in the same way that you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you for even sinners love those who love them, but if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that, for even sinners do the same.”
So the Lord wants us to keep loving our kids, no matter how wayward they are. If your child has embraced the world, if your child is living in an immoral relationship, the problem is not their lack of morality, the problem is their unbelief.
I love how Rosario Butterfield talks about it. She came out of a lesbian lifestyle. She said, “I wasn’t converted from lesbianism to heterosexuality. I was converted from unbelief to Christ, and then that other part took care of itself.”
But sometimes, I think we can focus on their shameful acts and realize their problem is they’re unconverted. We’re allowed to love unconverted people where they are. It doesn’t mean we finance and enable their rebellion against God, but we an be kind to them. We can love them and just say, “Nothing will ever stop me from loving you.”
The same thing is true with a spouse. I actually find most people have an easier time loving a wayward child than a wayward spouse. I see a mom whose kids do about every evil you can imagine, and they still stick with those kids, but then their husband is acting inappropriately in some way and they’re ready to check out pretty fast.
He is your flesh and blood as much as your kids are in the eyes of God. It doesn’t mean … If you’re being abused, get out of there, get safe, but you keep loving, you keep caring. You give even to those who hurt you. You overcome evil with good.
And then another aspect is that sometimes you can read these verses, “You must hate your father and mother. Christ must come first,” and we’re so capable of extremes. And so, I’m really concerned the pendulum can swing the other way, “Okay, I hate father and mother. My parents are unbelievers. Therefore, I’m going to have nothing to do with them.”
And Jesus actually specifically warned about this. I talked about it in one of my break out sessions yesterday. It was Matthew chapter 15, I believe, where he admonishes the Jews because he said that, “You, for the sake of your tradition, you ignore the commandment of God. The commandment of God is to honor your father and your mother, and yet, you say, ‘Well, whatever I would’ve given to my parents, I’ve given to the Lord. Therefore, I have no obligation to them and Jesus condemns them as being extraordinarily wicked.'”
The point being, don’t use the fact that Christ comes first as an excuse to neglect legitimate responsibility the bible gives you towards your family. Does that make sense?
We could go the other way and you could say, “Well, they’re non-believers,” and you could be kind of put out with them and mad at them, “I’m just going to avoid them.”
You can’t just say, “Well, because I gave to the Lord, I don’t have to give to my parents who are needy.”
The fifth commandment still applies, even to adult kids. Well, if your husband is an unbeliever and you’re going to church six days a week and you’re gone all day on Sunday, you may be overdoing it a bit. And you may be tempted to be in church serving the Lord all the time, just so you can get away from him, but you may have some sin in that as well. You have responsibilities to him and with your children.
Your children can be sinfully jealous of Jesus because he is first, above them, or your spouse could be sinfully jealous of Jesus. But all the commands of God to love your husband, love your wife, and I think, care for your children, they’re not obliterated because you love Jesus. If your commitment to Christ, so you think, is causing you to sin against your family members by not caring for them, loving them, engaging with them, and making efforts towards them, you’ve carried this thing in the wrong direction. That’s not what Jesus meant. Some of us can be tempted to that as well.
I will confess personally that a struggle I have with three unbelieving sons is my desire would be to invest in people like Craig instead. God has put lots of Craig’s in my life for the last 30 plus years, young men who are passionate for the Lord, and they want everything I have to offer. Now I’m teaching in a seminary and that’s full of those guys.
And when I have sons who don’t want any of what I want to offer spiritually, and this is where Caroline is a great help to me, because she keeps whispering in my ear, “You need to keep calling, trying, writing, spending time with, and caring.”
It’s not enough just to put up with it. You have to make effort to be what a father should be to adult children. And so, we need to be careful not to neglect those responsibilities if your family members are unbelieving, if they’re living a lifestyle you think is very wicked.
The bible says, “Somebody who claims to be a Christian who acts that way can’t be treated as a Christian,” in 1st Corinthians 5.
But if you have unbelieving family members living a certain lifestyle, there’s no obligation in the bible that should … It says in 1st Corinthians 5, “We’d have to leave the world if we couldn’t associate with immoral unbelievers.”
We’re not expected … You can be really kind, not just to your immoral child, but even to whoever they’re attached to right now. You can be kind to them, and we should be kind to them.
You hear stories, again, like Rosario Butterfield, where a pastor and his wife have her over, show hospitality when she’s a lesbian activist who hates Christians, and God saves her through that.
Other stories you may have heard, Comeback Barbara, a pastor’s daughter, living a bad lifestyle, and her parents kept loving her and loving whoever she was hanging out with and Go ended up saving her.
Again, their problem is their losses, and we pray that God will save them. We can be gracious.
Jesus on the cross, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
Be willing to forgive.
Don’t be surprised when unbelieving family members mistreat you, hate you, shun you. But we have hope, many, many ways of hope.
I read from psalm 27 earlier. I just want to go back there for a moment. It’s not just our kids. Verse 1 he says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom should I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life. Whom shall I dread? When evil doers come upon me to devour my flesh, my advisories and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. They’ll host and camp against me. My heart will not fear. The war arise against me. In spite of this, I shall be confident. One thing I’ve asked from the Lord and that I shall seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in his temple. For the day of trouble, he will conceal me in his tabernacle, in secret place of his tent, he will hide me. He will lift me up on a rock. And now my head will be lifted up against my enemies around me. I will offer in his tent, sacrifices with shouts of joy. I will sing. Yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.
Hear oh Lord what I cry with my voice and be gracious to me and answer me. When you said seek my face, my heart said to you, ‘Your face, oh Lord, I will seek.’ Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger. You have been my help. Do not abandon me or forsake me oh God of my salvation, for my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up. Teach me your ways oh Lord and lead me in the level path because of my foes.
Do not deliver me to the desire of my advisories, for false witnesses have risen against me in such breathe out violence. I would have despaired in this. I believe that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, wait for the Lord. Be strong in your heart. Take courage. Just wait for the Lord.”
When Jesus’ mother and brothers didn’t understand him, they were coming to take him away, remember what he said?
“These are my mother and my brothers.”
Scripture talks about how … I’ll read it. 1st John 3. John writes, “See how great a love the father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God, and such we are. For this reason, the world does not know us because it does not know him.”
Your father and your mother may forsake you. Your kids may think you’re crazy or shun you or judge you, but the Lord will lift you up. He calls you his brother, his sister. He offers you peace forever more.
In Luke 18 verse 28, Peter said, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed you.”
And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.”
I can’t promise you today your kids are going to come back or your spouse is going to come back. It didn’t happen for Zach, did it. It hasn’t happened for some of us right now.
I’ve had people tell me, “Oh, don’t worry.”
There’s not a promise in the bible it’s all going to work out in this life. But Jesus has said, “I’ve given you a family.”
This is my family. This is our family. We have people who love us, accept us. We have the community, the church. Our local church is where we experience the family of Christ. What an amazing thing that we should be called children of God. We’ve been adopted into his family. We’ve been welcomed as his sons and his daughters.
And Jesus said, “Whatever you have lost, you’ve gained far more both now and forever.”
That is our ultimate hope. May God help us. May God help us to always put Christ first, even if that means our families will hate us, no matter how hard we try to love them. May God help us to love them when they break our hearts. Not to become embittered, not to be fleshly, but to continue to show grace and patience. May God help us when our hearts are broken to be thankful that Christ has given us the privilege of being his adopted sons and daughters, and he’s given us a new family of which we will be a part forever.
Father in heaven, as Zach was transparent last night with something that happened to him many years ago, and yet, it’s still as raw. There are people here today whose hearts have been sad, whose hearts are broken. Lord, help them to know the assurance of being your sons and your daughters. Help them to enjoy the privilege of being members of your family. Lord, help us strengthen our faith, make peace with us and our families. We long to see those who are not yet believers come to faith in Jesus Christ. Help us to walk with you no matter what happens.
We pray in Jesus’ name.