BRINGING HEAVEN DOWN - PART 4
HEAVEN IN THE HOME
October 3, 2013
“They said: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will get saved, you and your household.’”
– Acts 16:31
The family is the smallest cooperative unit in a civilized society. It is the fundamental and primary building block of our world. It is in the family where one’s personality is shaped and one’s perception of life is formed. Thus, if we are to bring heaven down on earth, there is no better place to begin than in the home. As the wise man wrote:
“Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6
Much good Bible-based counsel is available from many different sources concerning the ideal family and the roles each member should play. All of us would do well to consider such counsel and apply it to the extent it is in harmony with the plain and open teachings of Jesus. For example, no matter what counsel is given regarding submission and obedience, absolute submission and obedience is due only to the Father.
However, in this article, we go directly to the source, the foundation upon which all other counsel can securely rest because the family is more than just individuals who must carry out certain roles. We are more than role players. We are first and foremost sons of God and heirs to the heavenly kingdom. (Romans 8:16-17) As Jesus said:
“But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One.”
– Matthew 23:8-9
Accordingly, every member of your family, regardless of what role they must play, is your spiritual brother. [Those in the family who have not yet acknowledged nor accepted their sonship with God are still His children, though they may be blind or rebellious children. As such, we also accord them brotherly love and respect.] Therefore, the husband and wife are brothers in Christ. The parents and children are brothers in Christ. And the children among themselves are brothers in Christ. That means that the ‘role model’ for each one of us is Christ Jesus of Nazareth.
In his ministry, Jesus demonstrated the spirit that each of us should bring to whatever role we play in the family. For instance, he loved his disciples as should a father:
“Just as the Father has loved me and I have loved you, remain in my love. If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love.”
– John 15:9-10
He cared for his disciples as should a husband:
“Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it, that he might sanctify it, cleansing it with the bath of water by means of the word, that he might present the congregation to himself in its splendor, not having a spot or a wrinkle or any of such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
– Ephesians 5:25-27
He humbled and subjected himself as should a responsible wife and a wise husband (Ephesians 5:21):
“After that he put water into a basin and started to wash the feet of the disciples and to dry them off with the towel with which he was girded.”
– John 13:5
“But when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:28
He empathized and protected his disciples as should a mother:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it.”
– Matthew 23:37
And he was obedient as a child:
“Therefore Jesus said: ‘When once you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am [he], and that I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me; he did not abandon me to myself, because I always do the things pleasing to him.”
– John 8:28-29
We can each look to Jesus as the role model for the spirit of our behavior no matter which role we play in the family arrangement. We should each put on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) to enable us to do the Father’s will – the best and right thing under the circumstances. When confused, we can ask the popular phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” Then act according to his spirit. In this way, we allow ourselves to be led by the spirit of truth who is, for all intents and purposes, Jesus on earth:
“However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you. All the things that the Father has are mine. That is why I said he receives from what is mine and declares [it] to you.”
– John 16:13-15
If we engage our family members as spiritual brothers, we will be far less likely to take advantage of them or abuse them. We will be far less likely to yell at them, to call them names, to physically assault them, to steal from them, to lie to them, to betray them, to discard them.
Unfortunately, some feel they can take special liberties at home. They think home is where they can ‘let their hair down’ so to speak, and ‘be themselves.’ That being the case, we can say that the way a man treats his wife at home is a reflection of his true self – his real character – regardless of how honorable he may appear to be at work or in the congregation. The same can be said for the wife and children. The way we treat one another in the home is a better indication of who we really are than any amount of religious service or cultured appearance.
That is not to say that we cannot relax at home. We should have a certain comfort level and ease in our surroundings. But we should not take for granted our responsibility as Christ’s brothers to show kindness and respect to one another in the home. There are grave consequences for dismissing this counsel:
“Then they also will answer with the words, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them with the words, ‘Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did not do it to one of these least ones, you did not do it to me.’ And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.”
– Matthew 25:44-46
It is a powerful realization that the way we treat our family members is counted as the way we are treating Jesus Christ. What better reason to keep on honoring and respecting each member of our family as one of Christ’s brothers!
Love Without Hypocrisy
As brothers in Christ, we are given this counsel:
“Let [your] love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good. In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead.”
– Romans 12:9-10
“Now that you have purified your souls by [your] obedience to the truthwith unhypocritical brotherly affection as the result, love one another intensely from the heart. For you have been given a new birth, not by corruptible, but by incorruptible [reproductive] seed, through the word of [the] living and enduring God.”
– 1 Peter 1:22-23
Hypocrisy is defined as: “the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do; behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.” “The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.” It is, in essence, living outside of truth. Not being true to others or to one’s self.
Hypocrisy is not an inherent trait in mankind. We know this because children respond naturally and authentically to their environment unless they are trained, either directly or by example, to respond differently. Thus, hypocrisy is bred into the human race as a result of inconsistent counsel, unfair rules, covert agendas, and things like these. It is an almost guarantee of discord in the family as it breeds distrust, stifles communication, hinders love and ultimately results in total breakdown.
Living hypocritically also stunts spiritual growth. And prolonged hypocrisy kills it. While it may appear easier to say one thing and do another, in reality, living such a life takes a tremendous toll on our emotional stability since it requires constantly looking over the shoulders to see who is watching. And it shows a lack of respect for the spirit of God that dwells inside each one of us. (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19)
In giving counsel to parents, Paul wrote:
“And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”
– Ephesians 6:4
Living hypocritically is irritating to children who will quickly lose respect for such parents and their parent’s religious beliefs. Children seem to have an innate ability to sense hypocrisy, perhaps because they do not have a lot of emotional baggage that would cloud their judgment. And they may even turn away from God and choose to lead ‘double lives,’ believing religion to be nothing more than a parent’s fantasy that even the parents do not believe in. Such parents should not be surprised if they discover their children have a secret life of drug use, sexual promiscuity and profanity.
On the other hand, a wise and loving parent will discover that living openly and honestly will show their children that it is safe to approach them with their questions, no matter how sensitive or how personal. Honest living includes parents opening up about their own shortcoming, rather than hiding their truth under the guise of sheltering them or protecting them from life’s realities. In this way, such parents learn to walk with their children through their trials to show them how to make wise decisions, rather than running behind them cleaning up their messes.
And all in the family should take Jesus’ counsel:
“Just let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No; for what is in excess of these is from the wicked one.”
– Matthew 5:37
This counsel is especially beneficial in a spiritually divided home. Even though there may be different views of God or religion or religious beliefs, honesty and openness can still exist and permeate the family. In fact, rather than working to ‘convert’ your family members, a wiser course would be ‘converse’ by promoting fair and open communication without fear of attack, belittlement, condemnation, or judgment. Remember, a true spiritual awakening only comes from self-realization, when a person is able to see him or herself in the message. That can hardly occur when the message is presented in a condemnatory tone.
We can foster trust in the home by unhypocritically exhibiting the ‘mind of Christ’ and ‘letting our yes mean yes.’ This is the type of soil into which the plain and open teachings of Jesus can be implanted and in time, the tiny mustard seed of sonship can develop in your family members who are a little behind the ‘spiritual times.’
The Heavenly Atmosphere
Bringing heaven down in the home means that the atmosphere or mood in the home is reflective of the atmosphere or mood in heaven. That might sound like a near impossible feat, but it is quite possible. The Apostle Paul showed us how. He gave us what most call the nine fruits of the spirit, but we could just as well call them the nine displays of heavenly life because these are the fruits that flow from spiritual beings – those who are born of spirit and those who are led by spirit.
“On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
– Galatians 5:22-23
It is possible for one to exhibit ‘spiritual fruit’ here and there, but to become truly spiritual people, it requires repetition of enacting all nine displays of spirit. It must become a way of life – a course that we do not deviate from.
We note that all nine displays of spirit are positive and uplifting. It reminds us of Paul’s counsel to the congregation in Philippi:
“Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.”
– Philippians 4:8
We are counseled to keep a positive frame of mind. Instead of finding what’s wrong with the world, find what is right and good and true and virtuous, and talk about these types of things in the home. For example, the Father gave us the ability to display and appreciate art, music, and culture. While some of it is not beneficial, there is still a great deal of it that brings honor and praise to our Creator, uplifts our spirit, and draws us closer to the Father as the originator of those gifts.
Also our physical world can be a source of joy and discovery now, in spite of its current weather anomalies and instabilities. About our physical world, the psalmist wrote:
“You are opening your hand And satisfying the desire of every living thing.”
– Psalms 145:16
We can learn a lot about the power of God by an examination of our physical world with the naked eye and through the eye of science:
“For his invisible [qualities] are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.”
– Romans 1:20
As such, parents should encourage a study of music and art and science. Children should be allowed to explore our world as it allows them to get to know more about their Creator. Learning and growth should never be stifled. As Jesus commanded:
“Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking it will be opened.”
– Matthew 7:7-8
The glimpses into heaven that we have been given in the Bible reveal that music, singing, beauty and grandeur are abundant in heaven.
“And I heard a sound out of heaven as the sound of many waters and as the sound of loud thunder; and the sound that I heard was as of singers who accompany themselves on the harp playing on their harps. And they are singing as if a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth.”
– Revelation 14:2-3
“So he carried me away in [the power of the] spirit to a great and lofty mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God and having the glory of God. Its radiance was like a most precious stone, as a jasper stone shining crystal-clear. It had a great and lofty wall and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names were inscribed which are those of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.”
– Revelation 21:10-12
“Now the structure of its wall was jasper, and the city was pure gold like clear glass. The foundations of the city’s wall were adorned with every sort of precious stone: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, the twelfth amethyst. Also, the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was made of one pearl. And the broad way of the city was pure gold, as transparent glass.”
– Revelation 21:18-21
Learning to enjoy the gifts from our Creator in the areas of art, beauty, music, culture, gives us refreshment and fortifies us to be able to continue in our temporal journey while we await our adoption into heaven. While others choose to take a negative ‘us against them’ attitude toward the world, as sons of the kingdom and citizens of the heavens we should allow ourselves the opportunity to explore these avenues in order to build up the spirit in the home.
Yes, we are living in the last days of a certain system of things, but the system is changing right before our eyes. People are waking up and shaking off the old chains of an antiquated system that binds the spirit and imprisons the mind. The sons of the kingdom should be ambassadors of the heavens, promoting its spirit and its good will. We cannot do that if our outlook is all doom and gloom.
The family is the fundamental building block of society. If we want to change our world, it begins in the home. If we can get families to bring heaven down, we can start a wave of hope that leads to a tsunami of faith that culminates in the salvation of our world. We hope you will join with us in this lofty endeavor.
Continue to our next article in this series Bringing Heaven Down – A Ministry of Glad Tidings
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