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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Home Construction by the LORD
Text:LD 39 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 5th Commandment (Obedience)
 
Preached:2019
Added:2019-02-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 111:1,5                                                                              

Hy 85:1,2,3  [after Apostles’ Creed]

Reading – Psalm 127; Proverbs 3; Ephesians 6:1-4

Ps 127:1,2,3,4

Sermon – Lord’s Day 39

Ps 128:1,2,3

Hy 65:1,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved, who is building your home? There's some capable tradesmen and carpenters around, but I don’t mean that sort of building. I mean who shapes everything that happens under the humble roof where you live. Who is shaping your relationships as husband and wife, as parents and children? Who sets the tone for the kind of things you talk about around the dinner table? What decides on the entertainment, and sets the budget? These are all things that reveal the kind of home you’re building.

Whether we realize it or not, all our homes are under construction. How we live together is always being shaped by influences that might be good or might be harmful. One family’s home life might be ruled by their computers and devices. Another’s home life is dictated by endless hours of work. Or maybe we can’t really say what the basis of our home is, but we just keep going: sleep, eat, work, take it easy—repeat—without giving thought to the overall plan and direction. Yet even then, a certain kind of home is being built.

And home construction is a serious thing. So in the fifth commandment the LORD gives us wise direction: “Honour your father and your mother” (Exod 20:12). In those few words, God gives a key part of the blueprint for our lives as families. It’s the way to solid home construction. If we try to do it another way, we’re doomed to fail.

This is what Solomon says in Psalm 127, “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain” (v 1). Certainly Solomon knew about building projects: cities and fortresses and palaces, and even the temple in Jerusalem. He spent years on some of these projects, involving thousands of workers, tons of materials, heaps of gold and silver. All these projects took careful planning, organizing, and directing. But Solomon would never attempt such projects without a detailed blueprint, without a firm idea of who was in charge of the project, and a clear vision of what it was going to look like when it was done.

So for us. In building our home life, we need a firm plan and a capable director. We need to live under the blessing of God’s guidance and grace. I preach to you God’s Word as it’s summarized in Lord’s Day 39,

Make sure your home is being built by the LORD!

  1. the calling of parents
  2. the calling of children
  3. the blessing of God

 

1) the calling of parents: It’s clear from the fifth commandment that God has designed our homes to function in a certain way. That is, He’s placed some people “in charge,” and some in the position of having to obey.

We all know that Dad and Mom have authority over the kids. Yet it’s good for us to understand why this is so. For in themselves, parents hold no natural position of authority. They’re not in charge because they’re bigger and stronger and smarter, nor because they conceived and brought their offspring into the world. No, it’s God alone who gives authority to parents. Which means that it’s also God who has given them a task to do.

Now, probably every parent wants to raise children who will be responsible and hard-working. We want our sons and daughters to be independent by the time they reach a certain age. We want our children to acquire certain life-skills like driving a car and managing their money, and to have certain qualities of character, like being understanding and polite and punctual. These parenting goals are worthwhile.

But it’s all in vain, says Psalm 127. Unless the LORD is the one directing and guiding and setting the direction of the lives of our children, then it’s all for nothing. What’s learning and training and growing for, if you’re not living for God, and the worship of his name? It’s only going to end in disaster.

For this reason, God gives covenant parents the task to nurture our children in the things that really matter, things that endure. With a single phrase, the Catechism sums up our calling: we must impart to our children “good instruction and discipline” (Q&A 104).

There can be no doubt about what kind of instruction the Catechism means. One of the proof texts below this Lord’s Day is Ephesians 6, where Paul exhorts parents—and especially fathers: “Bring your children up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (v 4). “Good instruction” is God’s Word. More than anything else, children must learn the ways and the will of God through the Scriptures. Having God as your Builder means that his Word needs to set the tone of everything that happens in your home.

Here we can be grateful that God has given parents a lot of direction. For the same man who warned us in Psalm 127 not to build a house without God’s blessing, also explained how a home can be properly built. The man was Solomon, and his instruction is found in the book of Proverbs. This wisdom is so relevant to the fifth commandment, for in Proverbs are several sections described as a father’s words to his child. For example, in chapter 1 he says, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (v 8).

In following chapters, Solomon continues to share much wisdom. He’s like a father, taking his son aside to prepare him for the right kind of life in God’s world. Particularly chapter 3 contains core lessons for the instruction that needs to happen in a covenant home. In verse 1 Solomon says, “My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands.” He’s teaching his child the basic ways of godly living, the sort of things we ought to be teaching our children. So what’s the curriculum? In a nutshell, it’s this: trust and obey.

A text we’ve heard many times is found in these verses: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct your paths” (vv 5-6). Notice how this is what Solomon puts first. If his son is going to learn anything at all from his dad, it has to be this: trust.

Parents, give those lessons in fishing, in riding a bike, in baking a cake and driving the car. But first this: “Trust in the LORD.” Instruct your children in the way of humble faith. Help your children to learn that God can be relied on always. Teach them to know that we can turn to God for mercy and help, no matter what. Isn’t that the one thing needed for life, even for eternal life: that we live by faith?

It’s definitely not easy for parents to trust, let alone to show someone else how to trust. Faith isn’t something that you can just give to a person! Yet the Holy Spirit can employ parents for working this miracle; it happens when we teach our children about the greatness and grace of God. It’s through the Word that faith comes, so open God’s Word with your children. The Bible is full of testimony to how the LORD is so worthy of our dependence. Talk about how God always keeps his Word. Highlight how the LORD does amazing things to save and protect his people. Our children need to be shown these mighty deeds of God, the wonders He has done.

That lesson will be solidified and confirmed if Dad and Mom show by their lives that they too, trust in God “with all their heart.” As parents know, children are watching all the time and absorbing many lessons—some good, probably some bad. So children should hear the trusting spirit of their parents when we humbly pray for God’s good will to be done. Children should see this trust when we quietly rest in God’s hands and when we count on him to provide.

We said before that parents generally train their children to be independent. After all, we want them to move out of the house one day and find their way in this world. But remember this lesson from Solomon, when he says to his son, “Do not be wise in your own eyes” (v 7). Independent and capable and skilled as they might become, children must see that real wisdom and ability don’t come from us, but these gifts come from God.

So parents should instruct their children not only to trust, but also to obey. To the wisdom of God they should point again and again, saying: “These are the commandments of the LORD. This is how God wants you to pray. This is our duty as followers of Christ. This is our calling to love one another, to take care of the needy, to go to church, to read his Word, to do his Word.”

In verse 7 Solomon charts this one path to wisdom: “Fear the LORD and depart from evil.” These commands are closely connected. If the living God has been introduced to our children as almighty, as holy, as worthy of our love and worship, if they know him as someone to constantly hold in awe—then we pray that our children will also strive to do what this God says, including by fleeing from what is evil.

And there is so much evil to flee. It’s a wicked world and temptation surrounds us. We can be really worried about the kind of world that our kids will grow up in. Yet parents should do more than say, “Satan’s out there—watch out.” No, like Solomon will do for his son later in Proverbs, parents need to explain how Satan operates and where he thrives. Teaching obedience means knowing how Satan tries to snare us. What sort of things in our hearts and mouths are Satan’s work, and not God’s work? If you know it, you can fight it.

This is why our homes need to be places of spiritual safety. Satan’s evil works saturate  the world, and sin still has inroads deep into our hearts. We and our children are always pulled toward it, so we must prevent wickedness from entering our homes, through whatever means it might enter. Parents need to be constantly vigilant when watching over their children: What are they doing online? How much are they on their phones? What are they reading, and who are they spending time with?

Being wise parents means that we shouldn’t be naïve about the power of sin. In this respect, covenant children are no different than anyone else—they're no different than us. That’s why Paul mentions “training and admonition” as a key part of the parents’ task (Eph 6:4), and this is why the Catechism speaks of “good instruction and discipline.” Our children need correcting, rebuking, and much encouraging in doing good. Also by punishing them in love, we try to persuade them that God’s is the best way to follow.

Of course, when a child needs correcting, it’s all too easy to be irritable and impatient. With good reason, Paul warns fathers (and mothers), “Do not provoke your children to wrath” (Eph 6:4). Unfortunately, there’s many ways we can provoke our children. We might be critical of so much of what they do. We might come down hard on their mistakes, perhaps mostly because their misbehavior is an inconvenience to us. We might not really listen when they speak because we’re too busy with other things. When we look at our kids, we might wish their character was different, and we vainly try to change them. All this provokes and exasperates.

Then we need to think together with Solomon about the perfect example of God our Father, and the spirit in which He always cares for us: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest his correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (3:11-12). With a gentle and loving hand, God refines us through hardships. These are things we can endure because we know they’re for our spiritual training.

In love for our children, we should do the same. Our admonitions and discipline must have a clear purpose: not to make them more like us, but more like Christ. Not to make our life easier, but to make their life more pleasing to the Lord. Having God as your Builder means that we distinguish between God’s goals for our children, and our own goals for them, and that we remember what is most important and lasting. Our greatest delight is for them to know the Lord, to trust him, and to obey him.

Unlike God our Father can, we as parents can’t just reach into the hearts of their children and change them. So pray for your children: pray that they be given true faith, that they be conformed to Christ, that already now they be prepared for a life of good works. As parents carry out this work, we can trust in God’s sure promise: He will give wisdom to those who ask. God will show us the way, and He’ll equip us with grace and with strength. If we sincerely ask, it is God who will build our home.

 

2) the calling of children: We’ve spent a fair bit of time on the duty of parents. So what about the kids? Some might expect that children are called to obey their parents, and that’s it. Children just have to clean up after themselves, and make it home by 10:30. That would be obedience, yet it might only be external—so God calls children to much more. The Catechism says you must show your parents “honour, love and faithfulness.”

Let’s look more closely at each of those three words. Children, you are called to honour Dad and Mom. What does it take to honour them? It means you have to see that your parents’ place is God-given. He put them in your life for an important reason, because God knows you need guidance on a daily basis. Guidance is most helpful when it is very close and personal.

That’s why the Catechism says, “[It’s] God’s will to govern us by their hand” (Q&A 104). In his wisdom, God has put our parents very close to us, even just an arm-length away.

This nearness means that parents can be very involved in your life; they can listen to your worries; they can try to understand your concerns; they can help you along. If they’re doing their task properly, your parents will direct you in doing God’s will in all good things.

So the greatest honour that children can pay their parents is to treasure up their words. When I was living at home, there was a plaque on the wall with this saying, “By the time you realize that your parents were right, you’ll have children who think you are wrong.” It probably rings true in many homes. The lesson, of course, is that when parents fear God and try to live and teach by his Word, children should pay careful attention. Don’t wait until later to realize it, but humbly accept it now: they’re probably more right than you think!

Children, you are called to show honour to your parents, and you’re also called to show love. We must love our parents—not with a love that depends on what they’ve done for us lately. But with a love that is true. Children, love comes across in the way you talk to your parents when you get home from school and you’re feeling a bit grumpy. Love is expressed when you pray for your parents. Your love is demonstrated through obedience to what your parents have said, and through thankfulness for what they have done for you.

Children, you’re also called to show faithfulness to your parents. Above all, this means you must be truthful. It’s always possible to break the rules of the house in little ways. It’s (almost) always possible to hide things from your parents, to say one thing and do another. But we must be faithful. We need to speak the truth to our parents, by being open with them, honouring their words, even when they’re not looking or will never find out.

It is through “honour, love, and faithfulness” that children will bring much joy to their parents, and will bring much joy to God. And in all this, let’s remember that children are getting ready to build homes of their own. You might only be eight years old, or in your last year of high school, but home-building is in your future too. You too, will be involved in building a “home” of one kind or another. You will put together a life, by setting goals and making friends and developing interests. Believe it or not, you’ll probably get married and have children. And one day you’ll look at the people and priorities and possessions that fill your life, and you might say something like, “See, I’ve built a life of my own. This is where I feel at home.”

But listen again to what Solomon teaches us, “Unless the LORD builds the house, it’s all in vain.” In building your life, you’re going to need God’s plan and his Son as your director. You’ll only have success when you live under the blessing of the LORD’s guidance and grace.

Remember, that’s the question for all of us, whether parents or children, single or married: Who’s the builder? It’s either ourselves, or it’s God. We should not rely on ourselves or find security or meaning in the things of this world. But look to the Lord. And when you do, He’ll surely bless. That’s his promise, that whoever looks to Him in faith through Jesus Christ will never be disappointed. You won’t build in vain!

 

3) the blessing of God: God wants us to follow his holy blueprint for a good reason. It’s because He wants his people to be blessed! That’s the promise built right into the fifth commandment, as Paul highlights in Ephesians 6: “‘Honour your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with a promise, ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’” (vv 1-2). God grants his blessing and goodness when we faithfully honour his law. This is true for every commandment, and also the fifth. He blesses our obedience. Again and again, He confirms that his way is the best way.

When Solomon speaks to his son, he is sure to emphasize this point. He too was looking ahead, to when his son would start a family of his own. So he lays out the alternatives very clearly: “The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just” (Prov 3:33). He promises to bless the home of the just, the faithful!

The home that is built by God probably won’t be a sprawling mansion with five cars in the driveway. And certainly, the home built by God will still have its challenges. Parents, if you’re dedicated to doing it God’s way, there will be tough choices and painful sacrifices. It’s not easy to give proper instruction. It can be difficult to apply discipline, let alone to receive it. It will probably take some self-denial if you’re going to have enough time for your children. It’ll cost money, and it’ll cost energy, and quite likely some nights with less sleep than you need.

It won’t be easy, but the home built by God will be blessed. By God’s grace, a Christian home will be full of harmony and joy. Home can be a place of refuge from the raging sinfulness outside. Home can be a place of stability, even when hardships come knocking. Home can be a safe place for growing and maturing. A Christian home can be where believers of different generations and characters can together love and serve the Father.

God blesses us in these ways so that we learn to see the goodness of his will—so we learn to accept that his blueprint is the right one! Parents and children and everyone, it’s the most important thing you need to know for life, that the LORD God should be your chief Architect and Builder! Though the world is full of shifting sands, God’s Word is dependable, the one thing we know is true. And this same Word keeps pointing us to our Saviour, for He’s at the heart of it, the very centre of the gospel. Through his saving work, He’s become our Rock, on whom the whole house depends.

So whatever your place in life, parent or child, young or old, single or married or retired, you need to give careful thought to the question: Who’s building your home? Is it being built to last? Is it being built on Christ? Even now, does your home have a solid foundation?  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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