Homes are messy, even under good circumstances. Homes can be disastrous when anger rules or abuse pervades. Homes can be desolate and empty when the proper nurture is simply absent. Homes can be the difference maker when love of God and others is taught and genuinely demonstrated.
The family is the building block of human culture. The leadership of moms and dads, for better or worse, has the most influence on the children born or adopted into that family. Children are born into all kinds of different situations which they did not choose themselves. If the home was loving, protective and stable, we should be grateful. If the home was a nightmare, we should believe that our past doesn't have to define the present or determine the future.
Many decisions go on daily in a home concerning work, school, recreational activities, schedules, money management, parenting, emergencies, extended family and so forth. And all of these items have their proper place and part of our time. However, there is one decision that is of the greatest importance. It is decision each person makes between himself or herself and God. It is the decision that Joshua put before the people of Israel in his farewell speech.
Joshua had reviewed Israel's shared history from Abraham to their present. He then said in 24:14-15, "Therefore, fear the LORD and worship Him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship the LORD. But if it doesn't please you to worship the LORD, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship the LORD" (HCSB).
The single decision we make to have the greatest positive impact in our homes is to fear and worship God alone. To fear God means to live with the genuine conviction evidenced in action that God exists and is the righteous judge of the universe to whom I will give an account of my life. To worship God is to consecrate my life to God, meaning that my life is set apart for God with the goal of finding my satisfaction in Him and bringing Him glory. I think what Joshua said, gives us considerable insight into what this looks like for us today.
First, we can't allow the negatives of the home of our upbringing define our present or future home. Joshua reminded the people of past times of unfaithfulness and hardship in the lives of their ancestors. The human tendency is to be trapped in cycles of negativity and dysfunction. Abused children raised by abusive parents tend to become abusive parents themselves. Children raised by idolaters tend to become idolaters themselves. It's human nature. We learn most effectively from what is modeled for us. But the choice can be made to not recycle the negatives of our own past in our current home. However, the power for such transformation will not be found in ourselves, but through a saving relationship with God through Christ, in which the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you. In this, you will experience the power for real change.
Second, the guardians of the home must start smashing cultural idols. Joshua told the people to get rid of the false gods. Blending the culture around them with their devotion to God was a persistent problem for Israel. But every time an Israelite allowed an idol into their homes, it compromised their worship of God and showed a lack of proper fear. If parents wish firmly to ground their homes on the worship of God, then they must have the discernment, dedication, and determination to remove the idols of our modern culture. Broadly speaking, an idol is anything that competes with our worship of God alone. And our worship of God is compromised when we love something else more than God. And we know that we have a greater love for something else when we allow it to take us away from our corporate worship, discipleship and service. When we allow other things to squeeze out our time that should be dedicated to God personally and corporately, those things have become idols. Leaders of Christian homes either decide to get rid of idols or hold on to them. But it is a poor model for our children when we try to hold Jesus in one hand and cling to idols with the other. Lay the idol down and smash it.
Lastly, Joshua implies that to fear and worship God alone, he was willing to be that weird family that would be conspicuously out of step with all his neighbors. Basically, Joshua says that each of them have to decide for themselves what they will do, but what they do won't impact what he will lead his family to do! They can all decide to be half-hearted, compromising, two-faced followers of God, but not him. He is all in. And he will lead his home to be all in. Truly possessing the fear of the Lord radically shapes our homes. That fear works as a filter for our homes, especially in regards to raising children. Truly worshipping God alone radically prioritizes our homes. When we are consecrating ourselves and our homes to God, we learn better to say yes to what serves the Lord and spiritually grows us and no to what serves self and tends to chase idols. It a world filled with idols, that will just look weird to most people. We just have to be okay with that.
The climate of our homes will be a result of our choices. But it's more than just striving for the absence of conflict, stability and a good loving feeling. Those things are great, but there must be more. There are eternal issues at stake in the choices we make. This is why the decision to fear and worship God alone is the greatest of all choices. Not only will this choice lead to the right climate in the home, but it addresses the most important issue facing you and your children - relationship with God now and for eternity. And this fear of the Lord and consecrating yourself to Him is not a life of religious bondage. It is not legalism and isolation of the family. It is the only truly freeing experience. In Christ we become free from condemnation for our sin. We are free from the idolatrous rat race of culture. We are free to find our satisfaction and joy in God. We are free to love others better. We are free to be in an intimate, loving relationship with God in Christ by the Spirit. When we make this choice, it won't make all the messiness of our homes magically go away. We'll still be messy people from time to time. We'll still make some bad choices along the way. But God will have His hand on our homes, continually conforming us to Christ for His own glory and our greatest happiness.
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