Part A | Part B | Part C | Part DLESSON X THE CHRISTIAN FAMILY
The family has been the basic unit of Gods creation from the beginning. After He had created the world, plants and animals, God topped off His creation by making man in His own image. Then out of man He created woman. God could have chosen to create many human beings as He had apparently created many plants and animals, and then set up a human government as His basic unit. But He did not do so. Rather, He chose to create the family as the basic social unit and the family unit became the basis for His relationship with man. This is most clearly evident in the Jewish family, although we see it in the Old Testament even before God called out the children of Israel to be His special people. God spoke to Adams family through Adam, and He spoke to each succeeding generation through the head of the family. That is why these men are still known as the Patriarchs. We see how God spoke to Noah and, through Noah saved Noahs whole Family. When He called Abraham, however, the line of family relationship became especially evident. God made a covenant with Abraham that applied to his family and their descendants. God even began to refer to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, identifying Himself with this growing family. Then as God blessed Jacob with twelve sons and changed Jacobs name to Israel, Gods people became known as the "Children of Israel." By the time Moses was born 400 years later the closeness of the Hebrew family was evident in the risks his parents took to preserve his life. When Moses answered Gods call to lead his people out of Egypt his brother Aaron, sister Miriam and even his father-in-law Jethro were used of God to assist Him.
In the wilderness God gave Moses the law, one section of which the Jews call the "Shemah." (Deut. 6:3-9; 11:18-21) This section speaks specifically of the family and its responsibilities. It includes a declaration of who God is, the commandment to love the Lord with all the heart rather than just superficially, the command to teach these truths diligently to the children, and to reinforce the teaching with continuous reminders. The family was to talk of these matters frequently, post reminders of them upon the walls and wear them on their bodies. The Word of the Lord was to be continually in their midst.
The Jewish Feasts were also intended to strengthen the family and draw the family to God as a worshipping unit. The Passover particularly held up the father as the spiritual head of the family. Each father was strictly commanded to pass on this observance to the eldest son. Through out the long history of Israel, from the tabernacle to the temple to the synagogue, the family has survived as the basic unit of worship and loyalty. In many communities around the world where there were not enough Jews to build a synagogue, or where anti-Semites was too strong for them to worship publicly, the Jewish family survived and Judaism survived.
Suggested Discussion Question:
The Christian family can learn from the Jewish example. How frequently do you remind your children of the Lord and His claim on their lives? How do you do this?
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The New Testament teaching regarding the family absorbs the Old Testament teaching and adds further details. The husband and wife become one, with the husband the head of the family as Christ is of the Church (Eph. 5:21-23). Children are to be brought up "in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20-21). God not only has established the family, but He has given His laws to protect it. Of the ten commandments, there are six that deal with interpersonal relationships. Of these six, three are intended to protect the family: [a ] "Honor your rather and your mother," [c] "You shall not commit adultery," and [c] "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. . ." ( Ex. 20:7-17).
First God established His plan for the familys organization, then He protected it from being undermined from within, and then protected it from attacks from without. Jesus extended this protection by enlarging upon the understanding of adultery (Mt. 5:27-28) and forbidding divorce except in the case of adultery (Mt. 5:32). Jesus plainly taught that a strong family unit is Gods best for mankind. This is why Paul gives extensive teaching on marriage and the family in his letters. He makes a very strong statement in his letter to Timothy that a man who does not take care of his own family is worse than an unbeliever (I Tim. 5:8).
This high standard of family loyalty puts the Christian family on a collision course with many modern political systems. These political systems undermine the family unit by setting the state over parental authority. They do this by removing children from their parents care with only minor justification, attempting to usurp family responsibilities in the teaching of moral values, providing government "day-care centers" to replace parental upbringing, and generally downgrading the importance of the home.
In some totalitarian countries the attack upon the family is even more aggressive. The authorities in such countries cut to a minimum the amount of time the family can he together. Both parents are required to work long hours outside the home, while the children are "cared for" by the slate. What little time the parents might spend with the children is often consumed by attendance at required political meetings, or waiting in long lines to buy scarce basic commodities. During the time that the children are in the care of the state they are being intensively indoctrinated. Teachings are often specifically anti-Christian and subtly designed to destroy the family unit.
One aspect of their teaching that is well known is often referred to as "children spying upon their families." This is a poor term, because it implies that the children are aware that they are doing something against their parents. Generally, this is not the case. They are supposedly being taught to be "observant" and are rewarded for having noticed anything "unusual." For most children it is just a game, but it is an important source of information to the authorities in many countries. Following the fall of Vietnam, for example, many attempting to escape were killed or captured because of tips turned in by children under 12 years-of-age! Christians inside of the Peoples Republic of China tell us that one of the most serious problems a family faces is the question of when to let a small child know about Christ. If they are told too young and they share it with the wrong people, the family will suffer. In fact, it is not unusual for the Chinese government to take small children away from their parents and place them in government orphanages if they learn that the parents are teaching them about Christianity! On the other hand, if the parents wait too long to share Christ with their children they have already been indoctrinated with Communist ideology.
Christians often foolishly think that their children would never fall for the Communist "line." This is a serious mistake. Communists do not hesitate to make promises they cannot keep, but they also make very basic practical promises that they can and do keep. Idealistic young people are frequently attracted to these programs, especially when the '"re-distribution of wealth" begins. Many of these Christians live in areas where there is little possibility that they will ever know economic security. The unfairness of a situation in which there are a few very wealthy people while the masses can barely exist is obvious. When the Communists begin to make some real improvements, as they have done in China, these idealistic young people are attracted to their cause. Another factor that puts great pressure on the young people is their natural patriotism. When the Communists take over they try to make everyone who does not enthusiastically support them look like an "enemy of the people." Pressure like this is hard for young people to resist.
In addition to the economic and nationalistic pressures, there is the matter of social justice. Young people with Christian training should be more sensitive to injustice and corruption than others. When the Communists promise social equality and justice for all, it is very appealing. The point is that the lure of Communism may put a real strain on the unity of the family. Those who have observed Communism over the years are aware that their promises are impossible to keep, and the popular slogans later have to be enforced with guns and barbed wire. But the young idealist may not be aware of this. The Communists take full advantage of these young people and do everything they can to discredit the church. They even quote "liberal" church leaders who deny the authority of Scripture and the divinity of Christ. Only a Christian family that is firmly grounded in the Word of God will be able to resist the enemys attempts to draw away children and young people.
If the children do successfully hold on to their faith, they may pay a big price. Advanced education may be denied them. Promotions in the menial jobs they are allowed to hold will be rare. The whole family may even be faced with open persecution, including physical violence. But if Christian families begin to realize the vitally important part they play in the victorious survival of the church, they will see that the family must stand!
Suggested Discussion Questions:
1. The hymn writer has said, "This world is no friend of God." What pressures have you felt the modern world bring against your family and its stand far God?
2. Has your fellowship seen its young people drawn away? What seems to be the attraction to them?
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There is much that families can do to be assured of victory in this battle the enemy is waging against the family. First, the family should study the Word of God together and become familiar with its teaching concerning the family. Serious effort must he exerted to establish relationships in the family that follow the teaching of Scripture. It is always a vital first step to accept the Biblical standard as your personal standard. A solid Christian family cannot be built on knowledge alone. It takes active commitment to the Biblical standard.
Second, parents should consciously set each child apart to the Lord. This may be done in a "dedication service" in a church building, or a simple act of commitment in the privacy of the home. The parents should come before the Lord and specifically commit each child to him. The Lord honors such commitment. If we could know the percentage of those who are now actively serving the Lord who were committed to him as c children, we would be amazed. Just a casual review of the stories of Christian leaders substitutes this belief. Of course, such commitment is just the beginning of the spiritual influence that parents should have upon their child.
Third, the Christian family should actively carry out the four basic functions of the church within the family group. The family can begin by worshipping together. This worship can he done in a variety of ways: reading and praying; listening to soul-stirring Christian music together and then having a time of praise; following the early church example of worshipping around the Lords Supper; or any combination of these and other activities. In many ways the family worship time, especially when the Lord's Supper is observed, can be like the Jewish observance of Passover. It will have great spiritual impact on the family and draw it together. Bible teaching and the study of Bible doctrine should be going on in the family as well. Sometimes a casual family discussion of a difficult point of doctrine will have more lasting influence than many sermons. Dont forget that Christian education should he based in the homes and occasional family devotions are not enough. The family should strive to have a daily devotional time together, but regular planned study sessions are also needed. This is the best way for a father to reinforce his Biblical position as spiritual head of the home.
The function of fellowship and helping is desperately lacking in many families today. The members of a Christian family should learn to enjoy each other and to actively care for each other. Members who have become sensitive to the needs of other members must learn to put love into action. As the concept of family members sharing each others burdens becomes a part of family life, the family will soon be reaching out to others; relatives at first, perhaps, then friends and neighbors. Many of these may not know Christ, and a caring sharing family will present a living Gospel message that is hard to deny. Many Christians claim that their relatives and friends are the hardest to win to Christ. If families live a testimony for Christ in the home, this will not necessarily be true. As other families are touched by the saving power of Christ, they should be taught to function as a church, too.
Fourth, the parents should set an example in believing fervent prayer. This includes the personal prayer life of each parent, as well as leading the family as a praying unit. As mentioned in the lesson on prayer, one of the important parts of a developing prayer life is learning to recognize Gods answers. The parents can help the children in this matter so that they do not become discouraged. Children sometimes get the mistaken idea that God gives whatever they ask for. The Communists like to try to destroy childrens faith in prayer by challenging them to pray for something specific, like candy. When the Christian children pray to the Lord, they did not get any candy. But when the others prayed to the Communist party they are immediately supplied. Children who have been raised in a praying family will not be so easily confused.
Suggested Discussion Question:
What does the Bible teach about a father's responsibilities in a family?
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A Christian family that has followed these four steps will be strong in the faith and able to help their local institutional church as long as the Lord permits it to operate. If the time should ever come when the institutional church is no longer permitted to operate, however, such a family can continue to stand for Christ. What can the church be doing today to build such strong Christian families? It is obvious that any steps the church would like to take to strengthen the family must be taken now. The following are some of the suggestions for strengthening the Christian family that have come to us from various countries of the world. You might consider them for your church.
Suggested Discussion Questions:
1. What do you think your fellowship could do to help strengthen your family?
2. Which of the suggestions given in the lesson do you think could be used in your fellowship?
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Thousands of Christians have stood for the Lord in spite of persecution, but tens of thousands have failed to stand for their faith. Even in the days of great Roman persecutions only a small fraction of those who had professed Christ stood true to the end. As was mentioned earlier, more Christians have suffered for their faith in the twentieth century than at any other time in church history. Why are some able to stand? They have learned how to sink their roots of faith deeply into the rock, J Jesus Christ. It is our prayer that these lessons have helped you to sink such a tap root of faith.
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