Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord… Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church…
(Ephesians 6:4; 5:25a)
Spiritual war rages. The dangers are innumerable and subtle. Brothers, God has given us charge over our families. We must fight tooth and nail against the cosmic powers of this darkness that would threaten our homes. We need valiant warriors equipped not with swords and spears but with spiritual weapons of discernment, courage, integrity, wisdom, faith, hope and love.
PRAY FOR YOU WIFE & CHILDREN EVERY DAY – Without fail, you must pray for the spiritual wellbeing of your family every single day, over and over again. Name every member of the family. Pray that God may protect them from the evil one, that God would lead them in paths of righteousness, that God would make them strong against temptation. Our job is to call down blessing from God, hour by hour, upon the family. Headship begins with constant prayer for the family (Job 1:5).
SET STANDARDS FOR YOUR WIFE & CHILDREN – Work out the standards with your wife first. Your wife does not want you to dominate the family nor does she want to run the show. She is eager for you to take initiative and responsibility for the moral direction of the family. Using Biblical principles, decisions must be made concerning how the children dress, how they are entertained, where they go and what they do. The Bible emphasizes guidance, not control, of children (Prov. 22:6). With that being said, fathers who allow their children to dictate the family’s standards of morality are failing in their responsibility.
DON’T LET YOUR FAMILY GO TO BED ANGRY – (Eph. 4:29) How does the devil infiltrate a teenager’s bedroom? When dad takes no steps toward reconciliation he is leaving the door wide open for the devil to tear his family to shreds. Anger can wreak havoc on a soul, on a marriage and on an entire family if left unchecked. Dad, headship of the family means you must initiate reconciliation no matter whose fault it is, how grievious the sin is or how often the sin occurs (Eph. 5:25). You simply do not have the luxury to be unmerciful (Mt. 18:21ff).
CONFESS YOUR SINS AND ASK FOR FORGIVENESS – Not many things can break a teenager but the soft heart of his grown father confessing his faults and asking for forgiveness just might. The sincerity of a repentant father and husband might be the healing balm for your family because it is evidence that the gospel is at work in you. When they see repentance in you it may soften their heart. Obviously, peace is a two-way street but the burden of responsibility lies with you dad: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Rom. 12:18)
Fathers, your daughters need to hear straight talk from you about modesty and your sons need to hear straight talk from you about integrity. Husbands, your wife desperately needs you to lovingly lead the family to heaven. Follow Jesus’s lead!
Make room in your hearts for us…
(2 Corinthians 7:2)
Have you ever been searching for a parking spot in a busy lot? You drive around in circles hoping to catch someone just pulling out. Then there is that magical moment when you see a person walking to their car, keys in hand. You position your car to make your claim on the spot clear to all your fellow drivers. They open the door. They enter the car. The seatbelt is fastened. The tail lights light up and the exhaust gases begin to putter. You wait for what seems like a reasonable amount of time for them to back out. But they just sit there.
There was a study done with hundreds of drivers that proved we take longer to leave a parking space if we know someone is waiting! The study also showed evidence that if the waiting car honks their horn or signals their rush, drivers made them wait four times longer. Experts call this phenomenon “territorialism” and it can be witnessed in any crowded space. At the DMV, the doctor’s office, in traffic and at restaurants, the longer the line or bigger the crowd, the longer we linger.
It is easy to become selfishly territorial and refuse to make space for others but nowhere is this more dangerous than in our relationship with God. Our lives are filled with so many interests, pursuits and obligations that we sometimes struggle to find space for the most important things and people.
If you think of your life as a house and the things in that house represent your pursuits, interests and obligations, how would you describe it? Would it look like one of those crazy houses on “Hoarders”? Perhaps you’ve said “Yes” to so many unnecessary things that there is no room to sleep in your bed or eat at the kitchen table or work at the desk.
You may feel like introducing any additional spiritual activity in your life, like worship or prayer or study, feels like adding to an already crushing burden. An overcrowded life will actually pervert our priorities and our values turning spiritual pursuits into obligatory checklists. (Hag. 1:2-6; Amos 8:5)
If you feel spiritually drained, bitter or just overloaded, God can help you. Jesus lived the fullest, freest life possible and He did so by using one special word very carefully and deliberately: No.
“No” is a powerful word in Scripture. Joseph was an expert on the word “No” (Gen. 39:8, 12) as were Daniel and his three friends in Babylon (Dan. 1:8; 3:18; 6:13). When Nehemiah was helping to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem the enemies of God tried to pull him away and interrupt this important work. “And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.” (Neh. 6:3-4)
If we wield this one powerful and liberating word according to God’s wisdom, “No” can become the scalpel to reshape our lives and make room for the most important things. (Lk. 4:1-13)
But it is not as though the word of God has failed...
There are times, especially in large crowds, when I think, How can so many people persist in unbelief? How can multitudes who have read the truth live their lives without embracing the gospel, without ever investigating it? Then I remember that at one time I was in the exact same position, “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:13). And I remember, after opening my mind enough to entertain even the possibility that the gospel could be true, how long it took me to act upon it.
The reason wasn’t because the truth was hard to find. The reason was because the truth was hard to embrace. As a sincere skeptic learning about Jesus I knew He was the Christ long before I obeyed the gospel. So why the reticence to embrace Him? Because I knew there are consequences to belief.
As a Christian, it’s easy to look at unbelievers and wonder why they persist so long in unbelief. Don’t they see the evidence? Don’t they see the beauty of the Scriptures? Don’t they see God’s love for them? They would be fools not to obey! We think people come to hear the gospel with a blank slate wanting to believe the truth when that is hardly ever the case.
Thomas Nagel, a professor of philosophy at New York University once admitted,
“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
When we approach skeptics and hold up a beautiful verse like John 3:16 we may wonder, How could the beauty of these words not overpower their skepticism? How beautiful and true do words have to be to conquer the human heart?
Somehow, the answer lies in freewill. God gives us the dignity of choice, the freedom to disagree with Him. The Bible doesn’t say, “Say these words in this order and they will believe.” Instead it warns us that most will respond with rejection and some even outright hostility. Even Jesus didn’t convert everyone! On one occasion, Jesus told a rich, devout young man that to go to heaven he would have to do the one thing he wasn’t willing to do. And Jesus let him walk away. (Mk. 9:17-22)
The gospel is still powerful. (Rom. 1:16) “It is not as though the word of God has failed.” (Rom. 9:6) The gospel is hard to accept because it requires change. For the saving word to be planted we must swallow our pride first. (Jas. 1:21) As messengers for God sharing the gospel with our neighbors we have to appreciate #1 – the power to save is in God’s word and #2 – God gave us the will to choose. This is why salvation depends on faith. (Rom. 1:16)
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
(1 Timothy 1:16)
Trial lawyers know the importance of evidence and the value of a witness. But things get challenging when a witness has something to gain by testifying one way or the other. The “Hearsay Rule” says that statements made out of court by a witness can’t be admissible in court if they are being used to prove the truth of the matter asserted by the statement. This is a convoluted way of saying out-of-court statements can’t be trusted because they can’t be cross-examined in court.
There are a number of exceptions to the “Hearsay Rule” and one of them is an admission by an opponent called a “statement against interest.” In other words, when someone on the other side of the case makes a statement that admits the weakness of his own case and the strength of the other. For example, if a major corporation is being sued for dumping chemicals into a river and the CEO of the corporation admits out of court he ordered the dumping, he has made a “statement against interest.” Since his statement harms his side of the case it carries more weight in court.
Now let’s pretend you were trying to prove the validity of the New Testament or the resurrection in a court of law. Who would be the best witness? Whose testimony would carry the most weight? Many say that the Bible was written by Christians who have a vested interest in Christianity being true. A better witness would be an enemy of the Christian faith who actively opposed and publicly denounced the movement. Can you think of anyone who would fit this description?
Saul of Tarsus would be the most valuable witness for proving the validity of the Christian message. A good trial lawyer would put an eyewitness like Saul, a former enemy turned ally (Gal. 1:13; Phil. 3:4ff), on the stand and let him sing his song to the jury over and over again. Saul was willing to change his mind and it cost him dearly. He was severely persecuted for “switching sides” which gave him credibility as a witness for the truth.
And how did God use Paul in the book of Acts? In every place, He was in a position to share his testimony publicly. When Paul was eventually arrested and put on trial in front of a string of government officials, none of the charges for treason or rebellion stuck. But he used this ready audience not only to defend his innocence but to promote the gospel message.
“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Tim. 1:12ff)
It seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Most people know the New Testament begins with the four books of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. We call them the four Gospels. Sometimes we think of them individually as “Matthew’s Gospel” or “Mark’s Gospel” etc. But instead they should be called “The Gospel according to Matthew, Mark…” etc. In the New Testament there is only one Gospel. (Gal. 1:6-9) And in the first four books of the New Testament we have this one gospel being presented according to the witness of four individuals.
That’s why there is so much similarity between these books. They each have unique qualities but they are telling the same story. They all start, in some way, with the beginning of Jesus’ work on earth and end with His crucifixion and resurrection. Reporting the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is a tidy way of summarizing the good news. (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
We hear a lot about “The Gospel of Thomas” and “The Gospel of Peter,” which are second and third century documents that some say are just as authentic and authoritative as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But if you read “The Gospel of Thomas,” for example, you will notice the difference in content to the original four. It is a fake document that was written later and ascribed to Thomas. In fact, it does not follow the storyline that the others follow. There is no account of Jesus’ ministry, of His death or His resurrection. It is simply a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus. Whatever it is, it is certainly not “The Gospel according to Thomas.”
But the four Gospels of the New Testament are telling the same story and are just ordered differently by four different men. The beginning of Luke’s gospel is especially fascinating because he gives us insight into how he compiled and wrote it. Luke says he did a lot of research. Many people had written summaries of Jesus’ life but Luke wanted a more comprehensive account. So he studied early church documents and he interviewed early Christians, people like Peter and Paul, whom he knew personally.
He did all of this for a man named Theophilus who was a young Christian who needed reassurance about the things he was taught. Theophilus may have been a wealthy patron who funded Luke’s research and the publishing of the document, which was an extremely labor-intensive and costly process.
The purpose of the document was to reassure him of the truth of the Gospel. Many people think faith is a subjective choice and has nothing to do with objective truth. But faith in the Bible is never used in this post-modern way. Rather, Biblical faith is perceiving and acting upon what is true. Our faith is increased (our faith in who God is, what Jesus has done, His death and resurrection) when we understand what is true. When the truth is articulated and defended, faith is established. (Rom. 10:14ff)