10 Healthy Habits for Raising Strong Families ❧ Part 4
Open with me to Exodus 20:4-6. We’re looking at the 10 Commandments and the family. When God gave the Ten Commandments, He gave them primarily for the home. The truth be known, our homes impact every part of our culture unlike any other. What happens in the home significantly affects our schools, our businesses, our government, our nation, our world, our lives. Charles Swindoll described the importance of the home well; Home is where life makes up its mind. It is there – with fellow family members – we hammer out our convictions on the anvil of relationships. It is there we cultivate valuable things in life, like attitudes, memories, beliefs, and most of all, character.
Last week we looked at the first commandment: You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3). The greatest impact you can have on your children is to put God at the top of your list. When your children see your relationship with God is first, they will never forget. This is the first habit – putting God first. The first habit tells us Who to worship.
This morning we’re going to look at the second habit – Raising Children for A Life of Significance. Where the first commandment tells us WHO to worship. The second commandment tells us HOW to worship. The first protects us from false gods. The second protects us from false worship. Listen to what God says, You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands (Exodus 20:4-6, NLT). God is saying, idol worship is hazardous to your family – don’t do it. God tells us in verses 5-6 if we as parents get off track worshipping false gods, He will lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. God’s not talking about the guilt of the parent’s sin here, but the result parents of sin. The sins of the parent always have a ripple effect on their children. This verse is saying, worshiping any other god but God can set our children on a collision course with disaster. It is not a coincidence the more confused parents are about who God is the more their children are confused what is right and wrong; the more their children struggle to make sense of life. When we are confused about who God is, we will be confused about who we are for the simple reason we are made in His image.
Before we go any further, we need to answer the question: What is an idol? It is anything or anyone we value more than God. How do false gods affect us? The idols of the nations are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and mouths but cannot breathe. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them (Psalm 138:15-18, NLT). The psalmist is saying: whatever you worship, that’s what you’ll become like.
Why does God tell us we’re not to make an image of Him? The Bible says no human eye has ever seen God; He is invisible (Deuteronomy 4:12; John 4:24;1 Timothy 6:16). God created the heavens and the earth. As the Creator, He is greater than all His creation. Therefore, nothing in all creation can capture His glory and reveal who He is. Creation is merely a reflection of His unlimited glory. Who can be compared with the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high? (Psalm 113:5). Answer: No one!
The second commandment points to the habit necessary for us to raise our children for a life of significance. 2 Needed Habits 1) Promote God’s Plan, 2) Proclaim God’s praise. (We’ll look at two more in another message) : 3) Practice Gods’ Presence, 4) Pray God’s Promises.
I. Promote God’s plan. In the book of Deuteronomy, God gives an expanded explanation of the Ten Commandments. The first habit parents need is to know and promote God’s design for the family. Commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, NLT). Notice, parents are to commit themselves wholeheartedly to following God’s blueprint for their family.
Parents, grandparents, you can’t take your kids where you haven’t been. If you want them to know God and discover a life of significance, they need to see it in you first. God’s plan begins with you and then in your home. Church (Children’s Church, Awana, Sunday School) can help, but it will never take the place of the home. Teachers at school can be a great influence for good, but they can’t take the place of mom or dad. Your kids need to see God is real in your life and you’re committed to following His plan for your life.
Tucked away in in 2 Chronicles 26 is the story of a king who had been a highly successful and good king. But somewhere along the way, his view of God took a wrong turn. He decided he could worship God on his own terms. His name was Uzziah (my strength is God). In 2 Chronicles 26 it says: But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar (2 Chronicles 26:16, NLT). Uzziah decided he could take incense into the Temple as an act of worshiping God. He may have been sincere, but he was sincerely wrong. The priests tried to stop the king, but he became angry and didn’t stop until God struck him with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:19). When Uzziah realized what God had done, he rushed out of the Temple as fast as he could. For the rest of Uzziah’s life he lived in isolation, was excluded from the Temple, and his son Jotham took his father’s place as ruler of the land (V.21). Uzziah worshiped God in the wrong way and it had a deep impact on his son Jotham.
2 Chronicles 27:2 says Jotham, Uzziah’s son did what was right before God with one exception: he did not enter the Temple of the Lord (2 Chron. 27:2). Uzziah’s false worship led to his own son avoiding the Temple altogether. In effect Jotham’s actions said: Well, Dad had trouble with the church and quit going. So, I don’t think I’ll go either. Each week when the Sabbath came, instead of going to church, Jotham said to his family: Hey, let’s do our own thing. We don’t need to join with other believers to worship God. Uzziah’s false worship led to Jotham’s failed worship.
Remember God warned Israel: I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me (Exodus 20:5). God’s not talking about the guilt of the parent’s sin here, but the result parents of sin. So, who was Jotham’s son? Ahaz. What was Ahaz like? 2 Chronicles 28:2 tells us he dove headlong into idolatry! He went so far as to sacrifice his own children burning them alive worshiping the false god Molech; an idol with outstretched arms and hollowed out belly where a raging fire burned to consume human sacrifices. You can’t take your children where you haven’t been yourself.
There’s a positive side to this. God says in verses 5-6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. Not just three or four generations, but thousands of your family will be blessed for your faithfulness to God. Psalm 23:3 says God leads us in paths of righteousness. When we follow Him, He restores our souls. We’ve all heard of people who’ve exhausted themselves pursuing paths of worldly success and pleasure. In the end they find themselves so worn out they can’t go on. They valued success, pleasure, things of the world more than God and it left them drained and disillusioned. Earnest Hemmingway was a man who appeared to have it all. A brilliant and gifted writer, he enjoyed a great deal of literary success and fame. Yet, in 1961, in Ketchum, Idaho, he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He couldn’t go on. He had everything, yet he had nothing. He never found the path of God that restores the soul. He never found the satisfying green pastures or still waters of God. When God says He is jealous, it means He loves us and understands the danger of worshiping anyone but Him. He wants to safeguard us from despair and disappointment and instead experience rest and restoration.
I mentioned last week the greatest contribution we can make in our generation and our children’s is to put God first. The first habit of raising our children for a life of significance is: Promoting God’s Plan of putting Him first in your family.
II. Proclaim God’s praises. Let me ask you a very important question: Do you praise God for Who He is or what He does? Do you love God because He has been good to you? Would you worship Him even if He took away everything you have that is good? In other words, is God a means to an end for you? Nothing more than a divine resource that exists for your convenience; Someone to
satisfy your desires? This is really an age-old question. At its core this is really a question about idolatry – valuing, treasuring something or someone more than God.
Augustine of Hippo, the 4th century theologian, defined idolatry as using what should be worshipped. He said idolatry confuses the creation with the Creator. David wrote in Psalm 63: Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! (Psalm 63:3). David is saying he treasured God and His love more than all of life. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory (Psalm 63:2).
Chapter one in the book of Job tells us Satan came to God one day and told Him the only reason Job loved Him was because of all the good things God did for him: You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” (Job 1:10-11, NLT). Satan proposed that if God were to take away all the good things God did for him, Job would curse God. In other words, Satan was accusing Job of idolatry. Satan was saying what Job really valued was God’s blessings more than God Himself.
How do you know if you’re valuing things more than God? You place them in front of you and ask the question: What is this for in my life? A good place to begin would be family. We value our families; they’re a gift from God. But do we value them more than God? Jesus said: If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26). This is what God means when He says He is a jealous God. He is protective of our relationship with Him because He knows if we worship anything or anyone other than Him it will only hurt us and our children. God is jealous our relationship with Him because there is only One true God and we can’t compare Him with anything or anyone.
Author Colin Smith in his excellent book: The 10 Greatest Struggles of Your Life, illustrates this well. Imagine the scene of a candlelit dinner in nice restaurant. A couple sets at the table, Jim and Joyce. Jim stoops to one knee, snaps open a ring box and says: Joyce, will you marry me? You’re not really what I am looking for, but I think that you have potential. I’d like you to lose a little weight. I need you to change your entire wardrobe, and the strange way you laugh irritates me. Also, you need to do something about your strange accent, but I want you to know I love you.”
What do you think Joyce would say? You are a jerk! You don’t love me at all! You’re only in love with the image in your mind. I won’t be your fantasy. I am who I am!
Real worship is when we worship God for who He is and don’t try to conform Him to an image of our own liking. God will not be used. I find Smith to again be helpful to us. He points out our postmodern culture with all of its diverse religions with all of their idols is showing that the human race is really seeking God. But Smith rightly points out, the Bible does not see idolatry as an expression of seeking God, but of rebelling against God!
How do you know you’re worshipping God as God and not Someone you can shape to your own liking? You praise Him whether He brings good into your life or allows suffering because He alone is worthy of our full trust. Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming (Psalm 147:1, NAS).
Why does God tell us not to worship idols? Because they are a recipe to destroy your family. How then do we prepare our children for a life of significance? By promoting God’s plan of making Him first in your family and praising Him for Who He is, not just what He does.