Building a Christian Home

January 9, 2011 / No. 3549

Dear radio friends,
Today, I’m going to begin a series of messages on the Christian home. As an introduction, I will speak to you from the first part of Psalm 127:1, where the psalmist says, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”
When the psalmist says “house,” he means home or family. That is clear from the rest of the Psalm and also from Psalm 128 that follows. These two psalms are about the home. In verse 3 of this psalm, he says, “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” Psalm 128 speaks of having a wife who is “as a fruitful vine” with children gathered around the table. In both psalms he speaks of the blessing of having grown children in your old age.
There is a big difference between a house and a home. A house is something that a carpenter builds, whereas a home is something that God builds. What is important is not what kind of house you live in, whether big or small, with running water and electricity or simply a cardboard shack. No, what is much more important is the quality of your home life. There are many modern houses, large and luxurious, that are not homes. And there are many homes that barely have a house to live in.
So, what is a home?
First, the home is the basic unit or institution of human existence. In the beginning God created Adam and then Eve and brought them together in marriage, and the first home, the first family, was instituted. The home is the most basic building block of all other relationships and institutions in society. A church is made up of families, and a nation is made up of communities that are made up of homes. In the home, a person’s morals and opinions and behaviors are shaped. What a person learns in his family life he will take with him into the broader world.
Now Satan realizes the importance of the home, and that is why, in our day, he has launched a vicious attack on the home. With divorce and homosexuality, he has attacked marriage. With feminism, he has devalued the role of the woman as wife and mother and attacked the authority of the husband and father. With legislation, he is attempting to take away all the rights of parents to raise their children and instead have the godless state dictate how they may be raised and what they may and may not be taught. With television, Internet, and other media, he systematically undermines the Christian instruction and example of parents. And as the family crumbles, so does the moral fiber of society and of the church. And all this makes it so important for us to get back to what the Bible has to say about the home. What does God, who created the home, want our homes to be?
So, first, we see that the home is the basic building block of society.
Second, the home is fellowship of the people who live together as a family. Most commonly, the home is made up of a husband and a wife and their children. However, it can be that God does not give children. Then the home is the husband and wife. Or it can be that there is only one parent with children. Then that is the home. Or it can even be that a person lives alone as a single person or a widow, and still, that is a home.
What makes a real home is the fellowship that the people living together in the home have with each other—the environment of love and joy in one another’s company. In the home, family members rejoice to know one another and to share their lives with each other. If you do not have that, then all you have is a house that is a shell, with some random people rattling around inside and occasionally crossing each other’s paths. That is not a home.
Now the key to meaningful fellowship in the home is that you have a Christian home, that is, a home where there is not only fellowship with other people, but also a living relationship of fellowship and life with God. You see, God is a family God. And when He created Adam and Eve and the family, He did that to reflect the joy of His own life as Father and Son in the Holy Spirit—three persons in one, a perfect harmony of love.
And in the Christian home, a husband and wife in marriage reflect the relationship of Christ and His bride, the church. The parents and their children reflect the relationship of God to His children. Brothers and sisters reflect the relationship of every believer to Jesus Christ and all the other members of the household of faith. The key to harmony and peace and love in the home is that we see each other in Jesus Christ, that we have a vertical relationship with God that is reflected in our horizontal relationship with each other in the home.
That is a home. The word “covenant” in the Bible really gets at what that is. The covenant is God’s loving and saving relationship of friendship with His people in Jesus Christ. That covenant will be perfect when we all come to heaven and enjoy perfect communion with God. That covenant is established by God, with believers and their children, and reflected in the relationship of husband and wife in marriage. Friendship in the family is what makes the family a home. Sharing life, with all its joys as well as all its pains with one another, coming together in prayer and before the Word of God, knowing one another intimately, depending for strength on each other, being aware of the weaknesses of each other, and yet loving because we need each other—that is a home.
Even if you live alone as a Christian, you still have a home, because you can enjoy all the riches of this covenant life with God, your Father. You are a part of His family. He is the Father of the orphan, the Husband of the widow, and the Friend of sinners. Do you see how beautiful the home is as God made it? How important, then, that we protect it against Satan’s attacks.
How, then, do we go about building a home? The text that we are considering says, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” The first thing to learn from this is that we, in fact, cannot build a home. Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. What does that mean? It means that we, fallen, sinful humans do not have the resources or the ability to build a home ourselves. I once spoke on this text at a wedding and I said to the young couple, “You want a Christian marriage? You cannot build a Christian home. All your building and all your labor is a waste of time if the Lord is not first the builder of your home.” You see, the greatest danger in building our homes is self-reliance and self-interest. If you are selfish in building your home, you will ruin your marriage, and in the end ruin your family and children. God must build our Christian homes.
How does He do that? He does that very directly. First, He shapes and forms each member and then puts them together in the home. Ultimately, you do not choose the members of the home and family that you live in—God does. He has decreed and planned in eternity which home each person would live in. He has picked out a husband or a wife for each other. Just as in the beginning God made Eve and brought her to Adam, so today God prepares a man and woman, from their childhood up, and brings them together in marriage to form a home. When you get married, you cannot expect to shape or form your spouse into what you want him or her to be. No. God has already prepared them and their personality for you. That is true of the children that God gives you, too. God determines the birth and the personality of each child that is born into a home.
That means also that God determines which homes will be Christian homes and who in each home will be saved. You remember from the Bible the story of Isaac and Rebecca and their twin sons. Before they were born, and before they had done any good or evil, it was made clear that God, in love, had chosen Jacob to be the promised child and that He had rejected Esau. God builds our homes by election. And He brings salvation to our homes and to our children according to His purpose. All our work cannot change the purposes of God. God must build our homes.
Then, too, God builds our homes by regenerating the heart of one or both of the parents in that home. The Bible speaks of God’s saving a home by saving one of the adult members of that home. When Jesus came to the home of Zaccheus in Luke 19, He said, “This day is salvation come to this house.” In the book of Acts, chapter 16, you find that as a result of Lydia’s faith, her household also was saved. And the same is true of the home of the Philippian jailor. That’s because, when God saves parents, He makes promises to save their children as well. And so God builds our homes very directly by touching them with His grace, by bringing salvation to our homes.
But we must understand that this does not mean that we do nothing in the building of our homes. The psalm does not say, “Because God only can build, you might as well do nothing.” No. God is pleased to build Christian homes through the godly behavior of the family members, and especially the behavior of the parents in the home. God always uses means to accomplish His purposes. He makes the crops to grow, but He uses the means of rain and soil and the farmer’s labor to give a good crop. God works salvation and faith in the hearts of His chosen people, but He uses the means of preaching to accomplish that end. And so it is with the Christian home. God builds our homes, but He does it through the godly behavior of the adult members of the home.
So, what is our role? Well, what you have in the text is an illustration. “Except the Lord build the house.” God is the architect of the home. He has made the blueprint. He has provided all the materials for the building of the home. Our task is to follow His plan and use the resources that He has given properly. Just as a builder must follow the blueprint and the regulations and must use the right pieces of lumber and brick in the right place and at the right time as he builds the house, for the house to turn out and not be condemned, so also is it with the building of the Christian home.
The blueprint is given in the Bible, which clearly defines the place and role of each member in the home. In the coming weeks we are going to look in more detail at this, but the Bible clearly places the man as the head of the home—the one who must provide for his family, the one who is responsible for the spiritual well-being of his home. The Bible teaches clearly that the wife must be subject to her husband, that the mother must give herself in the home to the care and instruction of her children. The Bible teaches that children must obey and honor their parents; that all the members of the home should live in love with one another, preferring the others before themselves; that there should be forgiveness in our families. God has designed our homes to be this way, and if we stray from His plan, then we will end up with a mess. Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.
Also, God has provided all the building materials, the resources for the building of a home. He provides the foundation on which a Christian home is built. You remember Jesus’ parable of the wise and the foolish house-builders? The foolish man built his house on the sand with no foundation. The storms came and the house fell flat. The wise man, on the other hand, built his house on a rock, and the house stood firm against the storm and wind and waves because it had a foundation.
The foundation that God provides for the Christian home is Jesus Christ, the Rock. That we build on Jesus Christ means that we believe on Him, that every day we rest on Him and secure ourselves to Him by faith, that daily we acknowledge our sins and our need of Jesus Christ. We confess our sins to God. We depend on Christ and His righteousness for forgiveness.
And that means that we will live humbly with one another in our homes, ready to confess our faults to one another and to seek forgiveness together at the cross. It means that we will pattern ourselves after Jesus Christ in our family living. As husbands, we will live with the sacrificial love that Christ has for His bride, the church. The mind of Christ that Paul describes in Philippians 2 will govern all our behavior in the home, so that we are not self-seeking and proud, but willing to serve one another in love.
God provides not only the foundation, but also all the other building material and the tools. How do you build a home? You build your home with prayer. Since we are so unfit to build our homes ourselves, we must rely on God in daily prayer. In the book of Job, chapter 1:5, we read that Job made daily intercession for his children. The book of Judges gives us the example of Samson’s parents, who prayed to God and asked this question: “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” Our children need our prayers. Parents need prayer. Prayer is an essential tool in building the home.
Another tool that God has given is His Word. If we are to build our homes, we need to follow His Word. We need to be fed out of His Word. We need to use His Word to teach our children. Perhaps the greatest task of all for parents is to instruct their children—to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, so that from childhood they know the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make them wise unto salvation. The Bible should have a prominent place in our homes—not as a decoration, but as something that is used and read with our children. Deuteronomy 6 puts it this way: “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” The Word of God should be a constant part of our conversation in our homes.
Another tool that God has given for building the home is parental correction and discipline. Children are born as sinners. And they need not only to be taught but also to be corrected and disciplined when they sin. The parents have the right from God to do this in a loving way. If children are not corrected, they will never learn and instead will become a detriment to the building of a Christian home.
Still another tool that God has given is the church and our life in the church. As we go to church, we come under the preaching of the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation. What we should desire in the building of our home more than anything else is the salvation of our homes and our children. And so we need to raise our families and build our homes in the context of a faithful church. Part of this is the benefit of being able to do things with other believers that will benefit our homes. I’m thinking especially of Christian schools, established by believing parents for the instruction of the children of believers. What a wonderful tool the Christian school is to help us in the building of our homes.
So these are all ways that we should be busy following God’s blueprint in building our homes: prayer, instruction, correction, a church life, and also being living examples of godliness to our children. The building of a home requires a lot of concentrated, difficult labor. We should throw ourselves into this work—not merely for the physical and educational benefit of our children, but especially for their spiritual well-being. This will mean spending time as families in the Word of God and prayer. It will mean controlling my own sinful behaviors and especially my speech in front of my children. It will mean that the home and the building of the home will take priority in all my life.
When we build our homes this way, then God builds through us. Then we are not depending on ourselves but on the power of the Word and the Spirit of God. And that labor, God will bless. He will bless it with peace in our marriages. He will bless it with godly children. He will bless it by giving us peace in our souls and joy in our homes.
In the coming weeks we will look at the place and the role of the different members in the Christian family.
Now, let’s pray.
Lord, we give thanks for Thy Word, which not only gives us strength but also direction for the work that we have to do here in the earth. We thank Thee that, as we work, we can know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord. We give thanks for Thy grace that saves families of believers and their children. Continue, we pray, to bless our Christian homes and the Christian homes all over the world. For Jesus’ sake, we ask it, Amen.