The Gospel-Effect Upon Society

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1–4 (ESV)

I keep hearing that the Church needs to do something to address the social issues of the day, and that this means it needs to do more than simply say that the gospel of Jesus Christ is enough. By this some imply that it isn’t. Social action is the desire, and the timing for that action is now.

But Scripture is clear, we sow what we reap (Job 4:8; Prov 22:8; Hos 8:7; Gal 6:7-8), and America has been sowing some nasty seeds for a long time. Add to this the failure of the American church to faithfully proclaim the truth of Scripture and its application to the life of the home and society, and we have a recipe for disaster. The culture has changed and the salt of Christians has in many places lost its saltiness (Matt 5:13; Mk 9:50; Lb 14:34). As a result, the Church in general has very little impact upon the culture today. We have traded our inheritance of influence for a bowl of political-alliance stew, as it were. The solution for when you find yourself in a pit is not to dig faster, but to stop digging.

The solution for the Church is not to engage in more social action, but instead to return to her charter: bold, faithful, gospel proclamation.

At the end of Ephesians 5 and following into chapter 6, Paul lays out the way that the Church is to “walk in the Spirit” in practical, everyday terms. The gospel life has an effect upon marriage and addresses the practical life of the wife and the husband. It reaches into the home further and makes clear the way that children are to live and how parents should raise them up. It also speaks about the relationship of servants and masters, who in the time of Paul’s writing, were house-servants. Although this could be applied to the employee/employer relationship today, in Paul’s day he was still addressing issues of life in the households of believers.

In the very next section, Paul then transitions to speaking about spiritual warfare. This isn’t an accident. Paul didn’t just lose interest and abruptly change the subject. He knew, as the Church once knew better, that to engage in spiritual battle begins in our homes and our communities. When we fail to parent as Christians, and we send our children off to school and they absorb the wisdom of the world because of the vacuum we have left in their souls, they will soon enough take on the lies and philosophies of the evil one. And as we forsake our marriage vows and live no different than the pagan world around us, indulging in the lust of the flesh and calling it “entertainment,” we will find our vows are crumbling. And when the love of Christ does not inhabit our homes so that husbands will not lead the family before the throne of grace, and wives will not lovingly follow her husband as he follow Christ, we are sowing seeds of destruction that the enemy will water and tend.

Why are we in such a state in our nation? There are many reason, some of which we cannot influence directly. After all, our God moves the nations by his sovereign hand for his good purposes. But we can be faithful to proclaim the gospel from our churches, into the hearts of God’s people, and repeatedly echo those truths in our homes with love and joy, so that our spouse, our children, our neighbors, and our community smell the fragrance of life lived in Christ. We will be salt and light as we are supposed to be. Salt will have its effect on the spoiling world around us, and the light will shine bright against the darkness.

We don’t need a revolution of society. We need a revolution of our souls. We need revival in our churches and homes. We need to return to the fundamentals.

Men, It’s Time to Man Up

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

(1 Corinthians 14:33–35, ESV)

Right now in American evangelical churches a war is raging regarding the place of women in ministry. For me, passages such as the one above and 1 Timothy 2:12 make it clear that there are definitely limitations to the roles women can hold in regard to teaching in the Church.

First Corinthians 14:25 is Paul’s response to the women in the Church of Corinth who were disrupting the worship of the church with questions, introducing confusion. His solution? Ask your husband at home.

But here is the rub. In many Christian homes, the husband couldn’t answer many of his wife’s questions because he knows less Bible and theology than she does. Many men are not readers, and even less study–unless it’s sport’s scores. Traditionally, many men have left the “religious instruction” of children to their wife, and the largest sector of church attendance across almost all denominations is female.

So, as we think about the battle of the sexes in church, and how those of us that are complimentarian desire to follow the instructions of male leadership we believe the New Testament teaches, we need to work on beefing up ministry to men and expect more from them. We need Christian men to man up. Men who will open their Bibles and read them. Men who will dig deep. Men who are working to be equipped to defend the faith. Men who are willing to sit down with their wife and children and teach them from Scriptures–and not be fearful of those hard questions our wife might bring to us.

Men, our wives and children deserve better. Our churches deserve better. The Lord deserves better.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

(1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV)

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

(1 Corinthians 16:13, ESV)

Hard Heads Often Lead to a Hard Life

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Proverbs 1:21–22 (ESV)

“If you keep going down this path, you two will end up divorced, your kids will be taken from you by the authorities, and you will end up in jail.” I remember the words coming out of my mouth and the shock upon the face of the couple as they sat in my study seeking counsel for their marriage. We had met over and over again. Sometimes the calls came in the middle of the night, sometimes they were desperate. Sometimes the conversations included drunken slurring of words and being hung-up on while speaking on the phone. Now they were desperate. Again they asked for help.

My sobering words to them were not my first words. They were what I feared would be my last words before disaster struck. Interventions with elders, other believers, social workers, and family had all gone unheeded. Temporary remorse was quickly undone by indulgence in sin. Drunkenness, drugs, adultery, anger and violent outbursts were all the fruit of their foolish lifestyle.

As Solomon appealed to his son to hear his words, he noted that wisdom is not hidden. She shouts in the streets to all who will listen, but the fool plugs his ears because he loves being simple. In v. 21, Wisdom asks the question, “How long?” Will this keep going?

I have heard those who have lived through difficult times refer to their education in the “school of hard knocks” as the only way they could learn the lessons they needed to learn. That is sad, because it isn’t the only way. Scripture is open, it continues to speak and hold forth light for those who are willing to accept it. What I think these people really mean is that they were so foolish and proud that they were unwilling to listen. Unable and unwilling are two very different things.

I can look back at my own life and many times see my own foolishness. O how I wish I had listened to the wise voices that pleaded with me. But I was unwilling. But Wisdom continued to speak truth, and finally the Lord’s words penetrated my foolish heart and I began to not only hear, but heed his Word.

Are you praying for a hard-headed fool? Don’t stop speaking truth. They may continue to delight in their foolishness for a time. Perhaps God in his grace and mercy will stop them dead in their tracks and open their eyes to see the truth, and will change them. He did it for me. And that couple? He did it for them as well. They finally heard the warnings and began to make the changes they needed to make, and God in his infinite love spared their marriage and their family, and began making something beautiful out of the ashes. He can do the same with the foolish person in your life as well.

Are You Investing in Eternity?

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. A Song of Ascents.

(Psalm 127:1–128:title, ESV)

In our fast-moving world it seems that there are those of the opinion that you work hard and play hard, collecting all you can get out of life. There also seems to be a growing number of people who feel that they are entitled to the fruits of others’ labors simply because it is a human right to have what your neighbor has, so why work?

The Bible definitely speaks positively about the need for hard work in order to provide for your needs, and beyond yourself, the needs of those who are weak and helpless. This reflects the character of God who “labored” for six days in creation and also cares for the needs of all of creation.

But Psalm 127 addresses a real problem that we need help with in our modern age–work hard, but work in such a way that you are dependent upon the Lord God for your effort.

In these first two verses of this psalm, the work of building, securing what we have, and making sure we have good food to eat, are all measured to be vain activities if the Lord is not involved in the life of the one making the effort. This isn’t to say that such a person doesn’t meet their goals. The house is built; the city is secured; the toil does produce bread. That isn’t the issue.

The question is, when all is said and done, and when we stand in heaven before God, will what we have done in this busy life have been done in vain because we did not include the Lord in our work, but instead rushed headlong into our work by ourselves? This is a good question to ask before we have gone on too far in life. It is a tragedy when life is only examined on the death bed. At this point, what can be changed?

The second half of the psalm (vv. 3-5) are so different from the first half, that some have thought that they are two different songs somehow placed together. But they are connected, both poetically, and logically. The Hebrew word for “builders” (v. 1) is bonim, and the word for “children” (literally, “sons”) is banim. But there is a greater connection here.

Whereas the first part is a picture of the mad rat-race of life to get as much as you can by your own herculean efforts, the second half begins with the inheritance that is received as a good gift from the Lord. Like a plot of land (a common gift of inheritance in the biblical world), the land would need to be cleared of trees, stumps, weeds, etc., then plowed, seeded, and finally harvested.

Children are like this. They are gifts from the Lord, and they are for a time a liability rather than an asset. They need a lot of attention, pulling sinful weeds, watering with love, seeding with the gospel, removing rocks of rebellion and unbelief, but in the end, this fruit of the womb has a reward. Not a reward from God for our goodness or righteousness. No, children are a gift of grace. The reward is the fruit of the labor in seeking to raise children in Christ. When we do this, it is the Lord who builds the house–not a literal house, but a figurative one, in the family.

These children will become warriors for truth in the hands of the parents, beginning in the quiver of the parents, and eventually being launched out into the world to carry on the building of a household that pleases the Lord. How blessed is this father and mother!

It is a tragedy that the family has been attacked in our society and world. Abortion has destroyed innocent unborn children in the name of progress and opportunities. Not only is it wicked, it is foolish.

It is a tragedy when parents sacrifice their children in order to provide them with a “good home” all the while tearing down their family through neglect and the instilling of unbiblical values through abandonment of duties and disregard for the warnings of Scripture.

Who has built your “house?” If it isn’t the Lord’s doing, all your labor will be in vain.

Choked by the Weeds of Bitterness?

“The poisonous weed of bitterness thrives in the deep soil of unresolved anger.

It must be pulled up by its roots, not just snipped off at the top.

Hebrews 12:15 states that a root of bitterness can spring up and cause trouble, causing many to be defiled. You cannot nurture the bitterness plant and at the same time keep it concealed. The bitter root bears bitter fruit. You may think you can hide it … live with it … grin and bear it, but you cannot. Slowly, inexorably, that sharp, cutting edge of unforgiveness will work its way to the surface. The poison seedling will find insidious ways to cut into others. Ironically, the one who suffers most is the one who lashes out at those around him. He becomes victim of the giant he refused to slay.”—Charles R. Swindoll, Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), pp. 26–27.