Homeward Bound

April 15, 2007 / No. 3354

Dear radio friends,

    Today I would like to consider with you the resurrection of Jesus Christ as it applies to parenting.

     You might ask:  “What do those two have to do with each other?  What does parenting have to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ—specifically with the resurrection of the body and life everlasting through Jesus Christ?”

     The answer is:  they have very much to do with each other.  First of all, God created the family to prepare us for eternity.  That is very easy to forget.  Looking at your children you might think today that, as their parent, I must prepare them for life.  Yes, that is true in itself.  You need to prepare them to hold a job, to be responsible, to plan for their education, to take care of their health.  And you hope to leave them a little something.

     But God says, “If that’s your goal, if that’s the heart of it, you aim far too low.  You miss the heart of it.  You must prepare your children to die well, and how to live for eternity.  That is your task as a parent.”

     It is the life in Jesus Christ that must be your concern.  It is their future, not on earth, but in heaven, that must be your burden.  In the hedonistic, materialistic culture in which we live, this is the great task of Christian parents—preparing our children to live with an eternal perspective.  Do your children and young people see eternity in your eyes?  When they look into your eyes, do they see what matters to you?  What is in your eyes as they look?  What is revealed in your spending patterns?  What is revealed in your interests?  From you, what do they learn that life is all about?

     Secondly, we must remember that, as parents, we bring forth children for eternity for God’s house.  That needs to sink in.  Even the world sees that God has made parents, especially mothers, as the ones who set the goal for their children.  That was true, you remember, of Moses.  The unextinguishable flame of eternal life and a resolve to live as a pilgrim on the earth was kindled in Moses in his first years of life, by the time he was three or four, by his mother.  By God, yes, I know.  But the means were his mother, Jochebed, in a mud-thatched hut, so that when Moses was forty years old he said to his step-father Pharaoh, “I am homeward bound.  I’m going to take up a place with slaves.  I’m going to leave a palace and a throne for affliction and for reproach, because my heart is set on the hope of glory in Jesus Christ.  There are greater riches with Christ than anything here in Egypt.  Pharaoh, I’m going to live for eternity.”

     And Pharaoh became angry.  There was the wrath of the king.  Pharaoh said, “What?  All I worked for for you, the power, the wealth, the influence.  And now you’re going to throw it all away?  What’s the matter with you?”

     Nevertheless, Moses set his hope upon heaven.  And it was his mother whom God used to set his eyes upon the true riches of Jesus Christ.

     Now do you see the connection?  Do you see the connection between, on the one hand, believing in Jesus Christ the risen Lord, in the resurrection of our body, in the life everlasting, and, on the other, our calling as parents?  It speaks to us.

     The resurrection of Jesus Christ does not speak simply to those who are at death’s door or are in rest homes or are aged.  It speaks to us.  It speaks to parents.  It speaks to young people.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ says, “This is direction.  This is guidance.  This is life.  You are only living today if your eye and your heart are set upon eternal life.  That is life.  You must live homeward bound.”

     This present life, according to the Scriptures, and by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is not the end.  It is not the end-all.  It is the preparation for a better life.  This is our Christian faith.  II Cor-inthians 5:1, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  When I die it is not the end.  It is the beginning of a better life.  Now we are in a tent.  Then we shall be in a heavenly building.  The important life is the life that is to come.

     This shows how poor the life of millions is today, how poor you are if this life is all that you have and all that you have pinned your hopes upon.  This life, you say, is all there is?  Then it makes sense that the world, apart from Jesus Christ, is in a frenzy.  They have to do it now; they have to have it now; and they need to spend it now!  Then mothers will say to daughters at an ever-earlier age, “You need to have romance now.  You need to have a boyfriend now.”  And the world will say to young people, “You need to spend now and have a credit card now and be in debt now.”  And then the world will say to middle-aged people, “Your life is slipping away.  You need to leave your husband or wife if you’re not happy.  You need to follow your dreams now.  You need to do it now.”  If you get caught up with the “now—you have to have it now,” you are denying faith in Jesus Christ.  For this life is not all there is.  It is not the end-all.  But life is Jesus.  It is the fullness of His presence.

     That is what we believe (Heb. 11:1), “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  The life that is ahead is the better life.

     Paul says in Philippians 1:23, 24:   “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:  nevertheless to abide in the flesh is  more needful for you.”  This present life, make no mistake, is good for us as Christians (“for to me to live is Christ”).  This present life is not to be despised or wasted.  It is to be used and to be enjoyed.  But the life that is ahead is better, much better.  We do not despise the present life.  We believe that it is necessary and valuable.  It is preparation for the life that is to come.  We do not think little about marriage or about rearing children or about earthly things.  All of these things matter, yes.  But the life that is ahead is better.  It is better to be with Christ.  It is better to be clothed upon with His life.

     So we read in Ecclesiastes 7:1:   “A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.”  Solomon says that the day of one’s death is better than the day of his birth.  You say, “How can that be?  I believe God’s Word, but that is hard for me to understand.”  You say, “I was present at the birth of my children.  I remember the joy and the joy of having these children.  And you are saying that if suddenly, in the middle of the night, a four-year-old is taken to the hospital and dies, or a husband of forty years dies, or, perhaps a young person dies, you say that is better?”  And we answer, “Well, of course, apart from Jesus Christ it is not better.  Apart from Jesus Christ, the day of one’s birth and the day of one’s death are bad days.  Apart from Jesus Christ, it is all bad.  But, yes, in Jesus Christ, the day of one’s death is better than one’s birth.

     Because, you see, first of all, this life now is attended with the misery of our sin.  And birth marks our entrance into all misery, whereas our death marks our entrance into the fullness of eternal joy.  Yes, this present life is good in Christ.  And we have eternal life and faith in Jesus Christ now.  Christ in us, says the apostle, is the hope of glory.  But now we live in our sinful flesh.  We live with woe and toil.  We live with unrelenting struggle against sin.

     So we bring up our children in the midst of this world to be soldiers of the cross and to fight their sin.  That is their enemy.  Are you making your little boys and girls good soldiers of the cross of Jesus Christ?

     But there is another reason why death for the Christian is better.  That is because in death we are brought into full communion with God.  We enter into Father’s house of many mansions.  And the Bible says to us that there is something about seeing God’s face that is so indescribably worth it.  We read, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness:  I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Ps. 17:15).   The apostle says, “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (I Cor. 13:12).

     At the moment a Christian dies, his soul is taken to Jesus Christ, our Head and our Savior.  And the moment we stand before Jesus we understand, we are perfectly satisfied.  Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).   He held out that hope, being more than enough comfort to overcome all the pain and misery in his soul.

     So, parents, we must bring up our children.  And we must sometimes take them to a funeral of a loved one, and stand before a grave and a pile of dirt and a coffin.  And that little child will ask you, “Where is he?  Where is Grandma?  Where is Grandpa?”  They look up into your eyes and they see tears.  But they must also see in our eyes the sparkle of light and hope.  And you tell them that the life of the soul is what matters today.  You tell your little girl that what really matters is not the color of her hair or how pretty she is or the beautiful things that she can wear.  But the most beautiful thing must be her heart.  And that her heart must be right with God, in the forgiveness of sins.  You tell her that beauty is not something in a cosmetic case, it is not something on a rack at Nord-strom’s, or obtained at Valley Fitness, but it is in Jesus Christ.  And then you tell them that Jesus Christ has a complete victory, and He is going to take the body of our dear departed, and our own bodies, and will raise them and will make those bodies like unto His most glorious body.  You say that one day the Spirit of Jesus Christ is going to come and blow upon cemeteries and upon ocean bottoms and open fields, and dead bones are going to live again in the new creation of God forever and ever with Jesus Christ.

     And then, parents, you begin to tell your children about their bodies—that their bodies are temples of God, and that their bodies have been created to praise God, and are not for fornication or drugs.  You teach them about a life that is better and sure, which is to come.  You teach them to live for heaven.

     Is your family homeward bound?  Is your marriage on track?  Are you and your children living for the better life?  Then you will be ready to die.  And to be ready to die means that you are living in Christ now.

     As young people, we have the tendency to think that our future is all right and that our earthly life, at least until we get to be forty-fifty-sixty is invincible and indestructible.  And we can be shocked when a friend of our age dies or is diagnosed with a fatal disease.  It is always someone else who is going to be diagnosed with cancer, with Lou Gehrig’sdisease, with the sudden car accident.  That happens to other people.  I’m invincible.  I’m immune.  It will not happen to me.

     But the Bible says to you today, “How do you know that?”  We must live daily by faith in Jesus Christ, trusting His righteousness and trusting Christ as our full acceptance with God.  Where is your heart today?  At the moment of death it must be fixed upon the cross of Jesus Christ.  And you must be able to understand that at the moment of death you go to heaven not because you are a good person, but because God unleashed the fury of His anger against your sin upon His dear Son Jesus Christ.

     And believing that, you will live in that truth and you will possess a joy in your heart in Jesus Christ.  You will have confidence.

     But then, with this before us as parents with our children, we will know how to view earthly things and we will know how to live toward earthly things.  We will respect them.  We will care for them as the stewards of God.  But we will understand that the earthly things cannot satisfy.  We life in a consumer-culture.  Advertising relentlessly bombards us with this message:  “Things give you pleasure and you must have them right now.”  Future costs must be set aside for personal, present gratification.  We live in a society of overwhelming consumer-debt, national debt, credit cards.  Evidently the society believes there will be no final accounting.  They believe that all payments will be deferred.  That is not true.  Death comes.  You do not postpone it.

     How are we raising our children?  Jesus Christ said, “Take heed.  A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses, but in being rich toward God.”

     So now, what does life consist in?  What really makes you happy as a young person?  What is life?  Clothes?  Spending?  Good times?  Parties?  CDs?  Why do you want to have a job?  To make money to throw around?  Do you believe that clothes make the man?

     You understand that living for heaven makes all the difference about how you are going to live and how you are going to view earthly things.  Then you say, “Why do I have a job?  Because I want to serve my Jesus and I want to serve Him faithfully.  At the heart of this job as a father is that I want to provide for the things of the kingdom of God for my home, for the Christian school, for the church.”  It affects everything.  And it affects how we rear our children.

     Father and mothers, you must not buy into the world’s economy.  You must not sell off your spiritual assets.  There are many men who are listening, I trust, who are in business.  You would recognize a smooth sail in earthly things.  Well, there is none so smooth as the devil.  And he says to you today, “Give me just a small amount of your spiritual capital and I will give you the world.  Give me just a few hours of work on Sunday and I will make you successful.  Give me a few extra hours so that it intrudes into your supper hour and I will give you hand and fist of all the things of this world.”

     But now let me tell you something that the devil is not telling you.  This is what you are going to get if you go for his sale.  You are going to get many cares.  You are going to get many worries.  If you set your hearts on the things that are below, you are going to see your marriage broken up and you are going to have children who have not learned the one crucial lesson of being a Christian.  That crucial lesson is:  sacrifice.  You will end up like Lot.  You will flee this present life, and your wife and your children will be left behind.

     Let us live for eternal life.  We, who belong to Jesus Christ the risen and exalted Savior, let us live for eternal life.  Then we will live in joy and in hope, our hope that never makes us ashamed.  And then we will have longing.  In our families, and in our life, and in our marriages, and in all that we do, we will say to each other:  “I want to go home.  I am very eager for Jesus to come back.  I love Him.  I love His people too.  I want to be where Jesus is.”

     Do you not?  Do you not, parents, want to be where Jesus is?  Do you not want to go home?  Then, with your children, live your life homeward bound.

     Let us pray.

     Father, we thank Thee for the precious Word of God.  We ask again that Thou wilt seal it to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, so that we may live out of a risen Savior, that we may live with our eye upon life eternal, the hope that shall never make us ashamed.  We pray in Jesus’ name,  Amen.