Whatever Happened to the Home?

Bible Book: Psalms  89 : 11-18
Subject: Family; Marriage; Husbands; Wives; Children; Home
Series: Fixing the Family

Series: Fixing the Family - Sermon 1 of 6 Sermons

Whatever Happened to the Home?

Psalm 89:11-18

To say the average home in America is in trouble is an understatement. I recently read about a man who was hired to go and take a census in the hills of east Tennessee.

He came to one ram-shackle home, knocked on the door and was greeted by a young girl. Brandishing his clipboard, the interviewer asked the girl, "Is your mom home?" She said, ''Nah, she ran off with a moonshiner.'' The man continued, "Is your father home?" "Nah," she replied, "He pokes his head in once a month to take a bath."

The frustrated guy said, "Do you have an older sister?" "Yep'', she replied. "Well, is she home?"

"Nope, she's in jail for shooting the sheriff." "Well, do you have a older brother?" "Yep" The guy said, "Well then, is your older brother home?" She said, "Nah, he's at Harvard." The astonished census taker gasped and said, "Harvard? What's he studying?"

The girl said, "Nothing. They're studyin' him!"

Sadly, although that's a joke, it strangely makes sense! And unfortunately, it doesn't take a Harvard professor to know the average home has changed over the last few years, and not for the better. And because of that, the job of trying to raise a ''Normal'' family has become harder and harder.

In fact, some time ago, Ellen Goodman, who is a liberal feminist, wrote in The Boston Globe, "Americans once expected parents to raise their children in accordance with the dominant cultural messages. Today they are expected to raise their children in opposition to them. Once, the chorus of cultural values was full of ministers, teachers, neighbors, leaders. They demanded more conformity, but offered more support.

Now the messengers are violent cartoon characters, rappers and celebrities selling sneakers. Parents are considered 'responsible' only if they are successful in their resistance. That's what makes child raising harder. It's not just that American families have less time with their kids; it's that we have to spend more of this time doing battle with our own culture."

We are now living in a world and society that considers same-sex marriage to be acceptable, gender roles are being challenged to the point of allowing men to use women's restroom facilities and vice-versa, nearly half of the nation's teenagers are not living with both natural parents, for the first time in American history we have more couples living together outside of marriage than married couples, only about 50% of millennials will ever get married, the number of divorces each year continues to hover at around 50% of the total number of marriages performed and on and on the statistics go.

And it's easy to blame it on all the liberals and atheists and non-traditionalists. But in a rare moment, I recently found myself mostly agreeing with piece from, of all places, the Huffington Post.

It was a commentary written by John W. Whitehead, the founder and president of the Rutherford Institute. The article was originally written back in August of 2010 but had been updated in December of 2017. It was entitled "The Breakdown of the Traditional Family: Why Conservative Christians Should Rethink Their Blame Game".

Whitehead wrote the piece in response to the Supreme Court's decision to overturn California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage. And what he wrote was not so much in defense of gay marriage, but simply to say the breakdown of the traditional marriage shouldn't be blamed on gay marriage, but on the church, and in particular, conservative Christians. And I found what he wrote to be, not only a fair assessment, but extremely indicting. Listen to what he wrote:

"Despite the political firestorm surrounding the federal court decision that overturned California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, little has been said about the real issues that are contributing to the dysfunctional American family. The disintegration of traditional marriage and the family, once the glue that kept society together, has set in motion a domino effect that, as it ripples outward, is relegating children to lives of poverty and servitude and destroying the foundations of freedom.

Contrary to what critics might say, same-sex marriage, while it may be a symptom of a cultural shift away from traditional marriage and all it has historically entailed, is not responsible for the collapse of marriage as a long-revered institution in this country.

That blame rests squarely on the shoulders of heterosexuals for whom marriage — and the family unit that arises from it — has become a temporary arrangement at best, with divorce now seen as an immediate cure-all and cohabitation a happy, less permanent, alternative.

Even among professed evangelical Christians who tout traditional marriage, divorce rates are comparable to those of non-Christians. And while the decline in divorce in recent years has been hailed as good news (it now stands at 40 percent, down from a high of nearly 60 percent in the 1980s), it is a false positive that is offset by falling marriage rates and surging cohabitations. As researcher George Barna observes:

There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage. Interviews with young adults suggest that they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility. There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life.

That said, divorce is not solely to blame for the collapse of the institution of marriage. Marriage generally seems to be falling out of favor everywhere except in the realm of reality TV. For the first time in American history, unmarried households now make up the majority of all U.S. households. Younger generations are also more inclined to live together.

Where once the institution of marriage gave legitimacy to sexual relations and children, it no longer serves as much of a gatekeeper. This can largely be attributed to the sexual revolution, which paved the way for sex outside of marriage; the feminist movement, which pushed to legalize abortion, thereby making pregnancy a woman’s “problem” to deal with as she sees fit; and the decreased role of religion in American life.

Consequently, nearly 40 percent of all U.S. children are now born out of wedlock. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of unmarried-couple households with children has risen to more than 1.7 million — up from under 200,000 in 1970. Moreover, there are 9.8 million single mothers versus 1.8 million single fathers.

The ramifications of the breakdown of marriage and the subsequent rise in single-parent households are far-reaching and alarming. For example, children living with a single mother are six times more likely to live in poverty than are children whose parents are married.

The same study found that children in stepfamilies and single-parent families are almost three times more likely to drop out of school than children in intact families. And living in a single-parent home can cause a disconnect among children between family and marriage.

Moreover, as W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, notes in “The Evolution of Divorce”:

Since 1974, about 1 million children per year have seen their parents' divorce — and children who are exposed to divorce are two to three times more likely than their peers in intact marriages to suffer from serious social or psychological pathologies.

In their book Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps, sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur found that 31% of adolescents with divorced parents dropped out of high school, compared to 13% of children from intact families. They also concluded that 33% of adolescent girls whose parents divorced became teen mothers, compared to 11% of girls from continuously married families.

And McLanahan and her colleagues have found that 11% of boys who come from divorced families end up spending time in prison before the age of 32, compared to 5% of boys who come from intact homes. ...

Sociologist Paul Amato estimates that if the United States enjoyed the same level of family stability today as it did in 1960, the nation would have 750,000 fewer children repeating grades, 1.2 million fewer school suspensions, approximately 500,000 fewer acts of teenage delinquency, about 600,000 fewer kids receiving therapy, and approximately 70,000 fewer suicides every year.

These statistics tell some painful truths about America at the dawn of the new millennium. They show that our priorities have clearly shifted.

Despite the billions we spend on childcare, toys, clothes, private lessons, etc., a concern for our children no longer seems to be a prime factor in how we live our lives. What are the consequences of all this?

First, the loss of the traditional family structure has led to a destabilization in society of “mediating structures” — neighborhoods, families, churches, schools and voluntary associations. When they function as they should, mediating structures limit the growth of the government. But when these structures break down, people look to mega-structures, such as the state, for help.

According to Wilcox, the public costs of family breakdown among working-class and poor communities exceed $112 billion a year “as federal, state, and local governments spend more money on police, prisons, welfare, and court costs, trying to pick up the pieces of broken families.”

Second, major religious institutions have virtually little to no moral or spiritual impact on American society — apart from politics, that is. The Christian church is a prime example. Intensely political, many Christian organizations today work feverishly to enact such anti-gay measures as same-sex marriage amendments while doing little to impact the traditional family positively.

Indeed, despite all the money ($40 million and counting), politicking, fundraising and energy that conservative Christian groups put into defeating gay marriage in California, nothing was accomplished in terms of shoring up the traditional family structure.

Third, the data supports the premise that the decline in the family leads to a decline in our democratic form of government. Indeed, the family, not schools, is where children should learn self-government, basic moral values and the beliefs that determine the future of democratic institutions. Thus, it stands to reason that without stable families, we can have no hope of producing self-reliant, responsible citizens.

Finally, traditional marriage plays a critical role in the structure of free societies by interposing a significant legal entity between the individual and the state. Author D. H. Lawrence once recognized:

The marriage bond is the fundamental connecting link in Christian society. Break it, and you will have to go back to the overwhelming dominance of the State, which existed before the Christian era. The Roman State was all-powerful, the Roman father represented the State, the Roman family was the father’s estate, held more or less in fee for the State itself. Now the question is, do we want to go back, or forward, to any of these forms of State control?

Lawrence continued:

It is marriage, perhaps, which has given man the best of his freedom, given him his little kingdom of his own within the big kingdom of the State, given him his foothold of independence on which to stand and resist an unjust State. Man and wife, a king and queen with one or two subjects, and a few square yards of territory of their own: this, really, is marriage. It is a true freedom because it is a true fulfillment, for man, woman, and children.

There can be no easy fix for these problems. Certainly, there are no legislative or governmental solutions, and fighting gay marriage isn’t going to do it. Morality and the decline of the family have become convenient platforms for those on both sides of the political aisle. Having reduced the very real problems plaguing America’s families to soundbites bandied about in the quest for political dominance, today’s politicians, gay rights activists and traditional marriage activists are not providing a lasting solution to the marriage meltdown.

The solution, if there is one, is to be found where the problems start: with each man, woman and child taking responsibility for keeping their family together. So let’s forget about politics. Forget about the debates over who gets to marry whom. Instead, let’s look around at what’s left of our neighborhoods, our communities and our families, and put our children first.

While I don't agree with everything he writes, two things stand out. First, It has become painfully obvious that …

The church has lost her spiritual impact on society, and second,

We must take responsibility for our own family.

To that end, I want to spend a few Sundays exploring some issues that relate to the family. If ever there was a problem that needs to be fixed, we need to be working at fixing the family. And not just in general terms, but in personal terms.

So let's begin at the beginning.

If you were to catch me reminiscing about my childhood, chances are you would hear me talk about shows like "Leave It to Beaver" and "Andy Griffin". While I wasn't born early enough to see them when they originally aired, I did and still do catch a lot of reruns.

Leave It to Beaver debuted in October of 1957. It was a story about a middle-class family, father and a mother and two sons. The dad's name was Ward, and the mom's name was June, and they had Wally and Theodore. And in retrospect, it provided a great snapshot of what family life was like just 60 years ago in America. while Wally and the Beav and their parents dealt with problems in almost every episode, they were nothing compared to what families experience today. There weren't any episodes where June and Ward had to set the kids down and tell them they were divorcing. June never found a crack pipe in the Beav's backpack and you never saw an episode where Wally had to tell his parents about his girlfriend being pregnant.

Now understand those things or problems similar to them were around back then, but they were not the things most families were dealing with. They were very rare and highly unusual. And the reason for that is back then, society had a much stronger foundation of what was right and what was wrong. Families, for the most part, were intact, and they operated according to a value system that was based on the Word of God whether they were church-going Christians or not. Today, it's not like that.

We've moved far away from what God says, and at the same time, we've created our own standards of morality. And as a result, the problems that families deal with are extremely complex. Divorce and living together are common. We have problems with teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse in the home. We deal with domestic abuse and problems with drugs and alcohol. We have problems with depression and chemical imbalances and no communication. By and large, there is no respect for authority at home, at school or in society. And at the risk of sounding too simplistic, families have disintegrated because we have turned away from the clear teachings of Scripture and significance of the church. And if things will ever be fixed, they must be fixed by restoring Scriptural principles.

Now, with that in mind, I want you to listen to a short passage of Scripture found in Psalm 89. Listen to what we read in verses 11 -18

Now just to set the context a little bit, this psalm is written to encourage the nation of Israel to remember all they had been promised through God's covenant with David. There is also a reminder of that sorrow and lost blessings that accompany disobedience. And in this section in particular, there are these statements about how God operates. And what these verses provide us are some principles for life. After all, if they work for God, they will work for us. And I might just add, these principles are imperative if we will know God's blessing in any area of life. In particular, we are going to apply them to marriage and family and the home. But they'll work in any human endeavor. If you want God's blessing, then employ these two principles.

Now, if you were paying attention to what we read, you noticed it spoke of joy and rejoicing. It speaks of God's protection and blessing. We find there light and exaltation. So how do we get those things in our life and the life of our family? The key verse is verse 14 because there we find two principles that must govern our lives. And I use the word "must" intentionally. These principles must govern our lives or else, we will get off balance and out of kilter. They are essential to the character and nature of God and they are essential to us if we will know His blessing. And if we will manage and govern and be good stewards of our homes and families, we must do it as God would do it. So notice what we read here in verse 14. There are four characteristics listed and they are grouped into two groups of two. First, we see

Righteousness and Justice, followed by Mercy and Truth.

Those are God's guiding principles. So, if I want to have a home that honors God, I must employ what He employs. So let's look at these two primary principles and see what is involved in restoring these principles to our homes. First,

1. Righteousness and Justice

Notice, they are described as the foundation of God's throne. Understand the picture we find there. God's right and authority to govern and rule is built upon the foundation of His righteousness and justice.

Now, the word righteousness is "tsidkenu" in the Hebrew. In fact, in the Old Testament, one of the ways God is identified is as Jehovah Tsidkenu, which translates as "the LORD our Righteousness".

Righteousness carries the idea of being morally and ethically right. It's very similar to the word holy. We understand that our God is a holy God. He is described that way in a number of places in the Old Testament.

The word for justice means "judgment" or to declare a verdict". If you ever have to appear in court on some kind of charge, a verdict will be passed. And one of the things that a fair trial demands is a righteous judge. A just judge will deliver a righteous verdict. That's what is being said of God. He is a just judge and His judgments are righteous. That is the underpinning of His throne. Therefore the place of position of His authority is based upon and ruled by righteousness and justice.

So what does that have to do with the home? Well, it used to be society accepted what God said as being right and just. Watch those old sitcoms from the 50's and 60's and you will discover that without ever quoting a verse of Scripture, they taught and presented Scriptural truth.

The setting of the episode might be based on one of the 10 Commandments or the Golden Rule or some other principle from Scripture, but that was the standard. And God's standards were just accepted and reverenced and honored in the greater part of American life. And back then, right and wrong weren't subjective issues like they are today. In those days, people looked at the Bible and decided what was right and wrong. But today, people base their behaviors, not on the moral code of ethics contained in the Bible, but rather on what they believe to be right or wrong. Or, if they consult the Bible, they interpret it to meet their own needs and desires. It's all subjective. You live by your rules and I'll live by mine and you have no right to impose your convictions or beliefs or morals on anybody else, and neither does God. We believe we know better than God what is right and wrong, so we'll do what we want to, and we'll do it buck naked in the middle of main street if we want to. But to do that is to ignore the foundation of righteousness and justice.

Twice in the book of Proverbs, at chapter 14, verse 12 and chapter 16, verse 25, the Bible says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." In other words, human logic may tell you something is right and you may choose to do it, but just because it seems right doesn't mean it isn't harmful.

The last verse in the book of Judges says this: "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" Right and wrong were subjective. But justice and righteousness are not subjective. They are declared by God and flow from His throne.

I brought with me a tool that is used in building. It's called a level. Now there are new-fangled ones available that use lasers and fancy stuff like that. But this is an old-fashioned level. It has a little sight window into a tube that is filled with fluid and it's filled just enough to leave a little bubble. And the way it works is when it is level, that little bubble will fall exactly between two marks that are provided on that tube. So if you are building a cabinet and you want to make sure it's level across the top, you can lay this tool on it and see where the bubble falls and if it needs to be raised or lowered so that once the cabinet is installed, the eggs won't roll off the cabinet top and make a mess in the floor. Or if you want to determine if a wall is plumb, you can turn the level up like this and look at the little site window and tube and bubble and see if it's installed as it should be.

Now here's the deal: you and I have a bubble also. And because of sin, our bubble is off! We don't see things the way they are really. Therefore, when we make evaluations about things like morality, our judgment is wrong. What we think looks right is not right. We look at something and say,, "Well, that look's straight to me!" But the problem is our bubble's off and we make a mess of things. Somebody else comes along and judges it by their level and the mess gets even larger.

Listen: Only God's level is accurate. Read the book of Amos and you will find this very picture was his tool to describe how the people had sinned against God. God held out a plumb line and measured the people against it. And in this psalm, we are told "The foundation of His throne is righteousness and justice." Right and wrong are defined by God. He is the author of morality. He tells us what is right and what is wrong. He's the one that says, ''This is straight. This is righteous. This is true and this is not.'' And one of the reasons we have so many problems in our families is because we are rejecting and ignoring God's righteousness and justice and substituting our own standards of morality. Every so often, I'll hear someone say, "Well, just let your conscience be your guide."

Listen: Your conscience is an untrustworthy guide until it is educated according to the Word of God. Don't let your conscience by your guide; Let God's Word be your guide. Let the Bible be your guide. God is the one who tells you what's right and what's wrong! It doesn't matter what subject it is. When it comes to the issues that confront our families, whether it is divorce or abortion or homosexuality or marriage or raising children or respect for authority or whatever the issue, 's Word must be our guide. His throne is established on righteousness and justice.

The second principle that guides the behavior of God is

2. Mercy and Truth

Once again, notice the imagery. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne but mercy and truth go before you. In other words, they are His traveling companions. He operates from the unchanging throne of righteousness and justice. But that sense of rightness is accompanied by mercy and truth. Now one of the things I noticed while studying this verse is that the word for mercy makes a lot of appearances in the Old Testament, but it's not as common in the New Testament. Keep that in mind and we'll come back to that thought in a moment.

One of the primary things you notice when you study the Old Testament appearances of God's covenant love with His people is that it was not based on conditions. It's an unconditional love. God loves people unconditionally and it is according to His mercy. By the way, a simple definition of mercy is not getting what we deserve.

For instance, right here in Psalm 89, notice what we read in verse 30 and following. God is talking to, the sons of David, and He says, verses 30-37

Notice, God operates on the basis of righteousness and justice. These people are forsaking God and His laws and judgments and there is going to be consequences for that behavior. That's what we read in verse 32. But that righteousness and justice is accompanied by mercy and truth. The truth is, God established a covenant with them and their behavior doesn't change that fact. And even though they don't deserve it, He's going to keep on loving them. He doesn't lie and He's not going to change the deal just because they messed up! That is our God. He has a heart of mercy and I don't care what you've done or where you've been, He loves you and that love is unconditional.

Once, while being interviewed, Billy Graham was asked, "Dr. Graham, what would you do if one of your sons told you he was homosexual? Would you still love him?" Billy Graham said this: "I might love him even more. Of course, I would love him, but I would show him even more love because I know he's hurting now and he's in need now. And I would let him know that no matter what you do, no matter where you go, I'm going to love you.''

What do our homes need today? They need a foundation of righteousness and justice where there are rules and conditions based upon the declared and unchanging Word of God, but they also need to be a place where mom loves dad, and dad loves mom, and mom and dad love their kids, and they say to their kids, ''I don't care what you do; we're always going to love you!"

I told you a moment ago the New Testament doesn't mention the mercy of God as much as the Old Testament and that's true. Instead, what it does is introduce us to Jesus and expand the concept of God's love to include grace. In fact, one of the very first things we read about Jesus in John's gospel is that when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, it was the glory as of the only begotten of the Father in that it was "full of grace and truth".

It's interesting, isn't it, that the Psalmist said the foundation of God's throne is righteousness and justice, but when He travels, He follows the path of, is accompanied by, mercy and truth. And when God traveled all the way to where we were, He came in flesh that was absolutely righteous, fully human, yet without sin, and He was full of grace and truth.

And Paul reminded us in letter to the Ephesians that we grow to become mature representatives of Jesus when we learn to "speak the truth in love". In other words, if that's the God way treated people in the Old Testament and if that's how He lived in and through Jesus in the New Testament, that's how we are supposed to be with one another. And we're definitely supposed to be like that at home.

When I was a kid, I largely lived outside either riding my bicycle or playing in the dirt with my dog. So scraped knees and cuts and injuries were not uncommon. I always dreaded coming in with a cut or scrape because momma would wash me up and then put either Merthiolate or Mercurochrome on the wound. These products were labeled and sold as antiseptics but from experience I can tell you it was battery acid mixed with mercury and alcohol. It came in tiny brown bottles with a glass dropper which served as a hot poker to apply the battery acid to the wound. This byproduct of brimstone was supposed to prevent infection, and as I recall it did that by burning away every possible shred of skin, hair, flesh and bone that it came into contact with. Thankfully, they were were banned in the U.S. due to the presence of mercury and the howls of innocent children being tortured and were sent back to hell from which they came. There was no sting like Mercurochrome or Merthiolate applied to an open wound. So why would a mother do that to a child? Righteousness and justice. Momma loved me enough to keep me from getting infected. And that's not all she did. After she's put the balm of Satan on my cut, she'd very quickly blow on it, and it would ease the pain. And that's a picture of what we see here in Psalm 89. God establishes a standard of righteousness and justice. He loves us too much to let us get infected. And when the pain of righteousness is severe, by His grace, He blows on it.

Now everybody in this room, you and me included, has a problem finding the balance between these two principles. Either we are so much righteousness and justice that nobody can see the grace, OR we are so much on the grace side, we don't want to hurt anybody or deal with the issues that need to be dealt with. But I want to remind you of something: If you are all justice and minimize grace, you give people no hope for salvation. On the other hand, if you give them only grace and no righteousness, there's no need for salvation. It is critical that these two principles be kept together. Let me see if I can illustrate that for you:

Suppose you're driving along and there is a dangerous drop off coming up. Truth will put up a guardrail and mark it with a sign that says, "Danger! Caution! Dangerous cliff ahead!" However, even though the truth may be posted, it doesn't keep you from driving like an idiot if you choose to. And truth doesn't do anything to help you if you crash and go over the cliff. It just says, "The sign was posted and they were warned." Too bad, so sad." That's truth. And remember, just like the foundation of God's throne, it is established and foundational.

Grace, on the other hand, has an ambulance waiting down at the bottom of the cliff, equipped with paramedics and all kinds of medicine and emergency equipment to help you when you crash. Grace doesn't post any signs or put up any guardrails. It just comes to your rescue when you are in need.

It doesn't even require that you deserve or earn it. And remember, grace is God's traveling companion.

And that's why you need both grace and truth, love and righteousness. They work together. And we need to hold a balance between those things, especially at home. Kids need to know the family adheres to God's standards. And at the same time, they need to know mom and dad love them.

Parents, make sure you put up some guardrails, and be waiting with the ambulance and the paramedics if and when they crash. Healthy homes are those that walk in love and truth where these two principles are in operation. Righteousness and justice and the foundation of our behavior and mercy and truth are our traveling companions.

And by the way, notice Psalm 89:15

One final thought: These two principles are what God uses to bring us to Himself in salvation. How are we forgiven of our sin and saved? By righteousness and grace. If you will be saved, you've got to come clean with God. We call that repentance. God's standards have been violated. And if there is no repentance, there is no forgiveness of sin.

But the wonderful thing is when God's righteousness and justice convict and convince me of my sin, His grace and truth meet me at the cross to forgive and heal me of all my sin. God is the God of righteousness and grace and He wants to share His joy with you. Let's pray.