Transforming The Christian Family
In these days preceding the return of Christ, the Lord’s Church, His precious bride, must earnestly prepare herself. God desires to see all of us, from the youngest to the oldest, actively preparing for and anxiously awaiting His return. As parents and grandparents, and as those who have children in our sphere of influence, we must steadfastly pray and teach them by our example to live out the two greatest commandments: "Jesus replied, ‘"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself"’" (Matthew 22:37-39). If the Church is to be transformed into a pure, spotless bride, she must be enthusiastically consumed with the desire to fully obey these commandments in preparation for His return.
Many Christians are praying for the Lord to come soon, because they cannot bear the thought of living through times of suffering, or watching their loved ones and others do so. He will come when it is God’s determined time, and when He has accomplished through us all that He desires. Sometimes we neglect to remember that the Lord has also told us many of the signs of His coming. One of these signs, said Jesus, is: "… this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). We must diligently pray that the saving message of Jesus Christ will be preached to the whole world! We should not pray to be taken out before the completion of the Great Commission, which is the ultimate fulfillment of the second greatest commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Colossians 3:4 says, "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." Is Christ your life? Does your family love God with all of your hearts and souls and minds? Do you love your neighbors as yourselves…next door, down the block or across the world? Following are some specific ways that families can live out lives of active transformation as we prepare for the return of Jesus:
Keep Watch! Do Not Let Him Find You Sleeping!We do not know the day or the hour of His return, yet Jesus gave us specific instructions to keep watch. How do we do this in practical terms? It is important to be continually aware of what God is doing in and around us. It means staying focused on the wonderful mystery in Colossians 1:27: "…Christ in you, the hope of glory." We MUST be continually tuned in to Him in order to live our lives in alignment with Him. If we are intimately connected to Jesus, in whom we live and move and have our very being (Acts 17:28), then we will be consistently awake and alive to what He is doing. We won’t be caught unaware or off guard.
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come" (Matthew 24:42)."Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour" (Matthew 25:13). "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’" (Mark 13:35-37). When Scripture says something several times, it is a good indication that the Lord has placed special emphasis upon it! "Therefore, keep watch…" is spoken as a command to us, and we must pay attention and obey it!
How do we make sure that our families will not be found sleeping when Jesus returns? How can we encourage one another to be watchful? Continually talk about the things going on around you. Discern the times in which you live. Right now, much is happening in the way of natural disasters, war, persecution, etc. Talk about these things together and what it might mean to you as Christians. These things are not to make us afraid – they are to keep us awake and alert – always looking to see God moving! Keep your children informed about what is happening in the world and practice "informed" intercession. Pray from the knowledge of what is going on around you. A good way to do this is simply to pray through the news. Be prepared at all times to minister to those around you and across the world who have been impacted by famine, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, etc. As Christians, it is our mandate to respond by pouring light into darkness. Discuss as a family how you can help those who are in need – physically, emotionally and spiritually!
Guard Against the World
Titus 2:12 says, "It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good." There are very real threats against the lives of our children today. Satan wants them hindered, distracted, and disabled. He throws against them everything he can use for his evil purposes. To thwart the plans of the devil, teach your children to participate in activities that have the potential to be eternally significant. If they spend too much time playing video games, watching TV, or idly talking on the phone, etc., it is time to talk about what pleases God, and help them to see that some of their activities may be displeasing to the Lord. Sometimes the friendships our children develop can be damaging and the enemy can utilize them to lead kids into unhealthy situations or tempt them to live in ways that are not God-honoring. Help them to see the difference and offer them choices that will keep them attached to the Vine – Jesus. Give them strategies to say "No" to what is ungodly. Teach them that they should always seek the Lord’s face before doing anything that is questionable. Remind them that His words are trustworthy (2 Samuel 7:28) and that He is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made (Psalm 145:13)!
Probably the best way to keep children and youth attached to the Vine is to actively engage them in ministry. Help them to find a way to show the love of Christ to others. Perhaps it will be volunteering at a nursing home, or shelter. Maybe it will be to take food to homeless people, or to pray for missionaries and lost people! There are so many ways children can reach out beyond themselves to become the hands and feet of Jesus. It is our job to connect them to the ministry of Jesus in relevant ways so that they will be able to withstand the temptations the world offers.
Repent of Sin and Experience Times of Refreshing
"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets" (Acts 3:19-21). There is probably nothing more important than bringing your children to a saving faith in Christ. As a family, you should continually be talking about our need to know Jesus, no matter what age your children and/or grandchildren may be. If you are a teacher or youth worker, it is also critical for you to bring the salvation message into every opportunity you have to be with children.
As a family, you should get good at confessing your sins to one another and praying for one another (James 5:16). Teach children that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). When we are cleansed of our sins, we can experience times of refreshing…those precious moments when His wonderful love can wash over us and make us whole, new, and clean. Teach your children what it means to have a repentant heart before God. Confession without repentance is not pleasing to Him – it is just words and not action.
Please do not hesitate or wait until you feel your children are old enough to understand the salvation message. It needs to be part of the continuous culture of your family that Jesus is Savior and Lord of your lives and home! Do not be complacent and think you have a lot of time for your children to make a decision of the heart…remember, you do not know the day or the hour when Jesus will return. Second Peter 3:9-10 says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare."
Prepare your children to be more excited about their heavenly home than they are about their earthly one. "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await aSavior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body" (Philippians 3:20).
Make Yourselves Ready
As we talk about the return of Jesus in our homes, it is very important to discuss how we should live. As we study Scripture, we will become more and more aware of the way God wants us to act before that day arrives. "Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7). Notice that this passage does not say that God will make us ready. It states clearly that we, the bride of Christ, have made ourselves ready. It is important to realize that this will not happen in our own strength and that much prayer must go into such preparation. Here are some specific prayers for your family:
1. Pray that He will make you and your family pure as He is pure: "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2-3).
2. Pray that He will strengthen the hearts of your family so that you will be blameless and holy in God’s presence: "May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones" (1 Thessalonians 3:13)..
3. Pray that God will sanctify (consecrate, set apart) your family for His purposes: "May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
4. Pray "…that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:9-10).
5. Pray that your family will "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us" (1 Peter 2:12).
6. Pray that your family will "…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.... I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time – God the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To Him be honor and might forever. Amen" (1 Timothy 6:11-16).
7. Pray that your family will be patient and not grumble against one another: "Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at thedoor!" (James 5:7-9).
Part Two will be in next month’s issue.