Sermon series: Going Right in a Culture Gone Wrong
Listen to this letter a college student once wrote to her parents:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I'm so sorry to be so long in writing you. Unfortunately, all my stationary was destroyed the night our dormitory was set on fire by the demonstrators. I'm out of the hospital now, and the doctors say my eyesight should return, sooner or later. The wonderful boy, Bill, who rescued me from the fire, kindly offered to share his little apartment with me until the dorm is rebuilt. He comes from a good family, so you won't be surprised when I tell you we're going to be married. In fact, since you've always wanted a grandchild, you'll be glad to know that you'll be grandparents in several months.
Signed,Your Loving Daughter
P.S. Please disregard the above practice in English Composition. There was no fire, I haven't been in the hospital, I'm not pregnant and I don't even have a steady boyfriend. But I did get a D in French and an F in Chemistry and I just wanted to be sure you received the news in proper perspective.
Getting things in proper perspective is critically important! As we take stock on a new year, few could be more important than building a godly home.
1. Personal priority
Good participation illustration: Print the entire Psalm in your bulletin, and ask your listeners to circle every phrase that has the personal pronoun "I" in it that describes an action point. If you'll add one "My" phrase, you'll have to circle 12 such phrases! After that exercise, there won't be much doubt about the personal priority it takes to build a godly home. This will also take your listeners though the scripture one more time, immediately after they've heard it/read it for the first time. If repetition is a good educational principle, this is a great way to repeat the scriptural instruction.
Read Psalm 101:1-8
This is the foundation. Whatever your role in the family, this is your responsibility. If you're the father, building a godly home will obviously require a personal commitment. But if the mother doesn't make it a priority, he'll have a tough time getting the job done, just as she would have a tough time without him. Every member of the family has to help with this work. Every child, and every family member that, perhaps, has come to live with the family.
Illustration: When Greg Swindell pitched for the Cleveland Indians, the games didn't always go his way. In fact, after 16 years in the Major Leagues, he won 123 games and lost 122. Think the pressure's bad at your office? For Greg, thousands of people were there to cheer his successes, and boo his failures.
If you could have gotten a good look at Greg's baseball cap, however, you would have seen one of the secrets to how he kept his cool when the pressure was on, or when things weren't going well. Stitched in white, in very small letters on the underside of the cap's bill, was "January 21, 1991." The importance of that date? It was the birthday of Greg's daughter, Sydney. "When things are going badly or when I'm getting shelled, I can take it off and look at it and know what I have to look forward to when I get home." Whether you stitch a date on your cap, or simply keep a photo on your desk, visual reminders of where your priorities lay will help you through any day, as long as you make it a priority.
2. Intentional action
Verse 2 says, "I will be careful to lead a blameless life."
If the emphasis on this sentence is "blameless," or "perfection," the job will seem too difficult. Failure will greet you almost immediately, for no home is a perfect place. But if the emphasis of your intentions is on the first part of this sentence, you might just make it.
I will be careful . . .
The Psalmist asks the question, "When will you (God) come to me?" And the answer is right here. When you are careful, or intentional, in taking steps to make your home godly, God will, indeed, show up! When we take care to avoid the land mines of temptation, sin, greed, wrong attitudes, and violence, then our homes will take on that air of godliness that we desire.
Verse 2 also says this: "I will walk in my house with blameless heart."
Have you ever taken Scripture literally? Do you realize how life-changing this instruction could be for families here today? If, on the eve of a New Year, we literally walk through our homes, we might immediately see some things that need to be changed, things that need to be done, in order to make our homes more godly.
Remember: This is something that requires a personal priority. We're about to list some of the practical suggestions that this passage makes, but if each member of the family isn't committed to building a godly home, it won't work. It just won't happen. Are you willing to be careful?
If so, you're on your way to a great year. You certainly won't be able to control what your neighbors do, or what the rest of the culture does, but you can make some decisions for your home, for your family, that will be incredibly beneficial to you, and bring honor to God.
3. Mindful about music
There's no wasted time here. In verse 1, there's the proclamation that "I will sing praise!" And of course, the entire instruction comes in the Bible's hymnbook. In the heart of the Bible comes music for the heart.
Did you know there's a clear connection between the music we listen to and the actions we take?
Illustration: A recent study by the RAND Corporation that followed more than 1,400 teens for three years showed that sexually charged lyrics had a direct impact on the sexual actions of those who listened to those lyrics. The study compared all kinds of music, and found that rap and rap-metal music – famous for their explicit lyrics – had the worst impact on those teens. (Source: "Sexually charged music directly impacts teenage sexual habits, new study says," Michael Foust, BP News, Christian Examiner, October, 2006.)
Naturally, it's not the notes of an instrument that take on any level of morality, but the words that tell the story. From a practical standpoint, there's no denying that we remember the words of our favorite songs. I can recall the exact words from jingles I heard years ago, jingles I'd rather forget. But I can't! The music and the jingles and the little sayings are embedded in my mind, and I simply can't stop the idea that "things go better with Coke," that a little bit of Alka Seltzer will go "plop-plop, fiz-fiz," or that Mr. Whipple really doesn't want you to squeeze his Charmin.
Participation illustration: Pick out some of the more famous jingles, and offer the first phrase. More than likely, if prodded, people will finish, out-loud, the rest of the phrase. Again, it's proof that we remember the words of the music we hear.
I am so thankful for contemporary Christian music. A few decades ago, Christian music outside of a church was hard to come by, and most of the time, of a lesser quality than what we heard in secular music. But today? No matter your taste in music, there are incredibly talented artists and producers already offering you a chance to put good words with good tunes into that memory of yours. By doing so, you'll literally be following the construction instructions of Psalm 101, when it comes to building a godly home.
Don't throw away God's gift of music just because of lot of secular music is so immoral. Instead, fill your heart, and your mind, with songs that bring God glory, and help keep our homes on a godly path.
4. Aware of the eyes
Brace yourself for verse 3: "I will put no vile thing before my eyes."
Illustration: Father Ralph W. Beiting, founder of the Christian Appalachian Project, tells of an Easter visit he and some of the ministry's volunteers made one year to families living along a Kentucky mountain creek bed. They stopped at one shack where a man and woman lived with their children. Their only heat was from a fireplace. They proudly ushered their visitors over to a corner of the dim room, where their two month old child lay. The baby wasn't in a crib, a bassinet, a cradle, or even a pillow lined basket. This child, the family's most precious treasure, lay in a cage made of tightly woven chicken wire.
Beiting said, "After a moment of stunned silence, my curiosity and concern got the better of me, and I asked the parents why they had their little child in this cage, I'll never forget the answer."
The father said, "We have to have him in this little cage, so that the rats won't eat on him."
It wasn't cruelty that motivated this father when he took the chicken wire and built the cage. On the contrary, like nearly every parent, he deeply loved his newborn son. No doubt he built every bit of that chicken-wire cage with love in his hands and a desperate hope in his heart to protect his child.
Can I ask our parents a question? What kind of cages have you built in your home?
Is there a cage around your television, or are the children able to watch anything they want? Do you have an unhindered sewer line that brings unfiltered filth into your home? Build a cage there. Don't allow your television to ruin your spiritual life.
Every parent will take different steps of cage-building, different rules for their own homes, but one thing is unquestionably true. The Bible says a godly home will "put no vile things before its eyes," and television has a lot of vile things being broadcast. This is so important, there simply cannot be a discussion in today's society about godly homes, without including what a family will do about the rules of its television viewing.
Add to television the computer monitor. Are your children unhindered on the internet? Does Dad have godly parameters? Does Mom? What kind of discussion could you have, this afternoon, about making some changes in the way your family uses the Internet? Don't skip this one, parents. Let your children hear you talking about the challenges, the dangers – for you and for them – and make some rules together. This is being careful. This is being intentional. This is building a godly home.
And video games. What is it with video game makers that even produce some of the garbage that's out there? The combination of ungodly television shows, an unfiltered internet, and violent video games has, after a full generation, taken a terrible toll on our country. You and I may not be able to do much about our national morality, but every one of us can take control of our homes.
And that's exactly what the Bible has asked us to do.
Be sure to walk all the way around your house. Look at your calendars, your artwork, your clothes. Look at everything, and build a godly home by paying attention to what you see. Build an art library of contemporary or classic Christian art. It's incredible what's out there today. Stock your video library with wholesome movies. Plug into internet filters, and even television filters. Take control of what you see!
5. Fulfilling friendships
Verse 6 has one of the most important – and delightful – instructions in all the Bible. "My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me."
Here we have God-given instructions to surround your family with friends who will bring their laughter, their gifts, their food, their priceless friendship into your home. You may share vacation time with them, and you will enjoy the most memorable times of your lives with them.
My, what a positive thought! My eyes will watch the godly people in my community. I will befriend them, and they will spend time with me. And they will minister to me.
Do you know what happens if the opposite is true? You can fill your home with the music of God. You can fill you head with the lyrics of great hymns or praise choruses. You can blow up your television. You can fill up your home with Christian art.
But if you invite ungodly people into your home, they'll tear down that foundation in minutes. Your children will be attracted to evil the way termites have a taste for untreated wood. And if you've invited them into your home, your children will see that these people have your stamp of approval and will drink in the influence like hungry sponges.
Maybe we should pause for a moment and consider something that is, unfortunately, very, very true. Some of the people who give you the most trouble in this area may be family. Few families are godly from top to bottom. And most families have several gatherings a year that are pretty much required attendance events. The holiday season is filled with such events.
So here's the point. If you've made building a godly home a personal priority, and you've taken several practical steps to make it that way, you'll grow to a point where pleasing God is, by far, your priority. Your family will watch your example. If you have a bad incident at the family get-together, you may have to de-brief the children on the way home. It's not only OK to talk about something that might have been a bad influence, it's almost mandatory. Without that follow-up conversation, they may live in a state of confusion about the characteristics of what a godly home really is.
Beyond that, in rare cases, you may have to take some actual steps to reverse the influence of an ungodly family member. You'll need to immerse that situation in prayer, you'll need to have a thorough understanding of the biblical principles that apply there, and you'll have to take steps of faith. It will certainly require courage, and it might be a good idea to be creative.
Illustration: It reminds me of the mother who was frustrated with her 8-year-old son. No matter how often she scolded him, he kept running around with his shirttail hanging out of his pants.
Her neighbor had three boys, and each kept his shirt tucked in neatly. Finally the woman asked her neighbor to tell her the secret. It was a matter of one mother using her imagination.
"It is very simple," she answered. "I just sew a bit of lace around the bottoms of their shirts."
How can you be creative and be a witness that your home has chosen to be God's home?
Have a Bible (several Bibles) in key spots around the house. Use those Bibles. If you have a place where you regularly study the Bible, don't hide the evidence of your study. Let your children see it, let your spouse see it, and let your guests see it. I promise you, the Bible, all by itself, will make a tremendous statement to all who come into your home.
Memorize Scripture, and leave the memorization cards in key places, like at the kitchen sink, or on a bathroom mirror. If you have a love for a passage, create or buy scripture art.
Fill your home with religious art. Biblical art makes a wonderful statement, especially at the entrance points of your home. How many homes have you seen that have posted the passage from Joshua 24 near the entrance? "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!" What a powerful statement to all who come inside!
Talk about your faith with your family and friends. Make it part of your normal conversation. We talk about all other things, so it should be natural to talk about the most important part of your life, too.
Be consistent. If you will make a commitment to be godly, to carefully remove elements of evil in your home and replace them with the things of God, people will notice. Family will notice. Friends will notice. Your children will notice. You will notice. And changes will take place. It's like playing a musical instrument. You may not be so good at it at first, but if you'll hang in there, the music will get better in a very short period of time. In a few years, you'll be a master at it!
Illustration: You've heard of Al Capone, but have you ever heard of "Artful Eddie?" Maybe you have, even if you don't recognize the name just yet. Eddie was a product of gangster life in the Roaring Twenties, and he ran Capone's dog tracks. The trick? He overfed seven dogs and bet on the eighth. It worked like a charm, and Eddie was set for a life of wealth, prestige, and style.
But Eddie turned himself in. He squealed on Capone, and soon suffered the fate Capone's enemies had come to expect. Two shotgun blasts did him in.Why would Artful Eddie give up a life of leisure for a life of honesty, even if that life was short?
It was the baby. Eddie had a son, and Eddie wanted the boy to have a decent father. He wanted desperately to clear the family's name so his son could have a clean slate.
Because Capone's cronies killed Artful Eddie, the man who wanted to give his son a chance at decency never got to see what would happen next. The boy's name was Butch, and Butch was a kid with potential. He was appointed to Annapolis, commissioned as a Navy pilot, and a became a record-setting fighter in the Pacific during World War II. By the time Butch came home, he was wearing The Congressional Medal of Honor around his neck.
Butch was such a hero, his hometown named its airport after him - Chicago's O'Hare Airport. But none of it would have ever happened if it hadn't been for a dad who wanted to give his son a good home, a clean name, and a chance at decency. (Source: And the Angels Were Silent, Max Lucado, pages 45-46.)
When you make building a godly home a priority, it will cost you dearly. You'll have to watch what you watch, and you may not see as much as you used to. But you can change! And with the help of godly friends, you can build a godly home, and pass down an inheritance that will withstand the fires of time you can pass down an inheritance of godliness.
Open a Bible, or Bibles, to the passage of Joshua 24:15, and invite families to come forward and pray over the passage. It's a powerful invitation that involves a practical step, enforcing the main impetus of the message. It's not enough to hear the Scripture. We must put it into action!
Ask fathers to pray out loud over their families. Remind families to look around them, and to, perhaps, "adopt" someone for this special time of invitation. Often there are children or teens present whose families don't attend. Sometimes, it's a grandmother, an older single, or a younger single. In this invitation, it's important for ministerial families to go first, to lead by example, and it's a good idea to allow families to get children who might be in the nursery, or children's church. It's a long invitation, and there's time.
Another good opportunity in this invitation is to have the minister or ministers standing to the side of those coming forward, ready to receive anyone who'd like to make a profession of faith, join the church, or simply pray with a pastor. Once the pressure of an empty aisle is removed, it's amazing how many people will take advantage of such an offer!