The Christian Family — Part One
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The Christian Family — Part One

Colossians 3:12–21  (ID: 3504)

We can only understand the Christian family within the context of the church family—and that begins by understanding the church itself. The local church is the community in which our identity as followers of the King is best expressed. Alistair Begg helps us understand the church’s role and importance by pointing us to the biblical context of Colossians 3, our present cultural setting, and the Gospel solution for our lonely and fractured world.

Sermon Transcript: Print

We’re going to read from the Bible, in the New Testament, in Colossians, and in chapter 3, and beginning to read at verse 12 through to verse 21. Colossians 3:12–21:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

We turn now to the Scriptures.

Father, what we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us. For your Son’s sake. Amen.

If we’re going to understand the Christian family, it needs to be within the context of the church family—that we do not exist as Christian families as separate entities and on our own, but we exist as Christian families within the context of God’s family, and it is within the framework of the family of God that we discover the support and the encouragement that we desperately need in the raising of our children.

And that is why, routinely—and this morning we have said it again, and in the second hour we will reinforce it in a further time of dedication—we are saying to one another that the child of a Christian home has a claim upon the prayers and service of the church. Now, how does that notion transfer itself to day-to-day reality? That’s the real question. What does it mean for you, perhaps as a young parent this morning, to have decided that you will place yourself and place your family within the context of this particular church family?

The church is not a building to which we return, where we visit, but it’s a family to which we belong.

To take it seriously—and seriously we must take it—and to understand it at the most basic level, it is imperative that we understand what the church is. What the church is. I was asked this past week to participate in some kind of radio campaign to encourage people to come back to church. And so they gave me a number of statements that are supposed to be made that apparently are being distributed across various radio stations around the nation. And I was very happy to do that—say, “Come back to church this Sunday!” But I said to myself, “Well, where are these people? Where are these people?”

You may think that we’re all back to normal here, because you’re coming to the first service. But if you come to the second service, you’ll find that it is entirely different. And if you come to the evening service, you’ll wonder, “Where in the world was everybody in the two morning services?” Where are these people? There’s a clear understanding as to why we were gone for a while, but there is no earthly reason as to why many are not back—unless, of course, we have completely missed an understanding of what the church is. It’s not a building to which we return, where we visit, but it’s a family to which we belong. Hence the song that we’ve just been singing.

And it just so happens that in our elders’ meetings, where we read a book with one another consistently, the book to which we turned in the last two meetings is another book by our friend and helper, Sinclair Ferguson, and is entitled Devoted to God’s Church. Devoted to God’s Church. And although we’re only into the first chapter, we as elders have been reminded that instead of asking, “How can I fit the church into my family agenda?” the question is actually reversed: “How, then, can I fold my family life into the purposes and practices of the church?”

You see, we’ve been going through 2 Samuel and been saying again and again that this king and these kings point forward to Jesus, who is the King. And Jesus is the King, and he has a kingdom. Now, what does it mean to be a part of God’s kingdom? Where do you make sense of the idea of the kingdom of God? Well, the church, the local church is the community in which an understanding of what it means to be followers of the King is then expressed.

And this, of course, is something vastly different from the idea of the local church as a kind of democracy, whereby it’s run by elected representatives, and people try and lobby their representatives and share their opinions and debate their ideas and consider their priorities and so on—you know, that kind of “one man, one vote,” try and get it the way you want it, a bit like a country club, or a golf club, or a sports club, or whatever else it is: “I think I’m gonna talk to somebody about that.” Well, you see, we are all under the King, and we are all under the Word.

Let me give you a quote from Sinclair. I could have, you know, messed it up and made it sound like it’s mine, but that would be bad. Better just give him his own words. This is what he says, and he’s writing as a pastor: “My family needs the church family for its own growth and health. No single family possesses all the resources it needs to be a truly and fully Christian family. We need support, friendship, example, wise counsel and much else from the church family.” Listen to this: “Two Christian parents are not in themselves adequate to rear one child for Christ—they were never meant to be. So the resources of our own family—no matter how wonderful—are scarcely adequate. We—and perhaps especially our children—need the church, and in that context [they and] we will be blessed beyond … expectation.”[1]

Now, that should probably make many of us just take a deep breath. It certainly did me. But it makes perfect sense. I mean, isn’t it true for us as parents that there is at least a period in life where our children think that their mother and father are two of the craziest individuals that ever descended upon the earth—that if they only go fifty or a hundred yards down the street, they can meet some of their friends who have parents who are perfectly normal? “How in the world did I get these two?” Failing to recognize that the same thing is happening in reverse: that the guy who lives a hundred yards down the street thinks my mother is just amazing. How are we going to do this?

We have lived or are living through the most rapid change in family structure in human history. That’s where we are. And therefore, it is absolutely vital for us to know what we believe, where we belong, and how, then, as citizens of a kingdom, as members of a family, we’re supposed to behave.

Now, it’s a very large subject and can give us an opportunity, perhaps over maybe three or four Sundays, to unpack it. But let me begin and suggest that what we need to do first of all, albeit somewhat briefly, is make sure that we understand the biblical context; then, recognizing that we do not live in a bubble or in a cocoon, that we acknowledge something regarding the cultural setting; and then, as we draw to a close, acknowledge the solution that is found in the gospel. So, biblical context, cultural setting, gospel solution.

The Biblical Context

Now, you will notice, as we read this together, that the specific directions for the Christian family begin in verse 18 with this radical call to both wives and husbands to a level of love that is quite remarkable. But the specific directions for the Christian family are set within the larger context of the place of the family in the context of the church. And so, look at how the church family is addressed. Verse 12: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones…” “God’s chosen ones.”

And what he’s saying to them is this: “You readers of my letter, living there in the Colossae valley, are part of a vast company of God’s redeeming purposes from the very beginning of time—that he began calling out a people that are his very own, and he is adding to that number all kinds of people from all kinds of places, including you. And you are the chosen ones. You are those who were sought out by God when you weren’t looking for him”—that the picture of the garden is the picture that is true, running through the whole of history: that it is God who comes seeking Adam and Eve (“Where are you?”)[2] rather than Adam and Eve running around looking for God. No, they were hiding from God. And by nature, we hide from God.

And there are people here that read this letter and said, “You know, that is exactly what was true of me. I had no interest in these things. I thought those people were crazy.” Just last week I spoke with a number of people, and I was struck by one young lady who said to me… I don’t know who she is; I met her just briefly, along with her family. And when I found out that she was in New York State somewhere, I said to her, “And what was happening there?” She said, “Well, I was hiding from God in New York City.” “I was hiding from God in New York City.” Well, what a good place to go and hide! Yeah. You can get lost in a lot of places there. “And what happened?” I said. “Well,” she said, “the hound of heaven reached for me.”

Well, I wonder, has the hound of heaven come and reached for you? Look at what happens. You turn back a couple of pages to the beginning of Colossians, and you realize that these Colossians had a hound who had reached them, and the hound’s name was, if you like, Epaphras. He’s writing to those who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s not writing to religious people who are trying to do their best. He’s writing to those who have been made citizens of the King. He is writing to those who are now members of the family. And he says in verse 6, “This is true of you: that the Word of Truth, the gospel, has taken root among you, and that is since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant.”[3]

Now, in that context, again, in Colossae, there were all kinds of voices, as there are all kinds of voices today, saying to men and women, “You know, if you want to know God, you have to reach a certain standard. If you want to be part of God’s group, then you have to be at a certain level. You have to do certain things. You have to stop doing a lot of things and start doing a whole bunch of new things.”

Well, you say, “Okay, well, where did this come from?” Well, it came from religion—the idea that somehow or another we can eventually, by negating that which is poor and embracing that which is better, reach a standard of acceptance with God; if you like, qualify for membership. But no, you see, the only qualification is the qualification that Epaphras told these people in Colossae about. He explained to these people that they could never—as I must explain to you routinely—that they and we could never attain God’s standard and that our acceptance by God is only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, what do you need to enter heaven? Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. What is required to be a member of God’s family? Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth
Is to feel your need of him.[4]

“I need you, oh, I need you!” Now, some of us are not there because we’re very self-sufficient. We’re proud of it! We have done it, we have earned it, we have put it away, and so on. Well, the door is closed, isn’t it? Because it only opens to those who cry out to him in need.

So in other words, we belong to him. We belong to him. We’re the objects of his love (coming back to our passage). We’re the chosen ones. We’re holy, set apart from what we were, set apart to God. We are beloved. It’s a lovely thought, isn’t it? That we are the ones who’ve been loved with an everlasting love.[5] And what he’s actually saying in this section, which we’re not going to delay on, is that in some senses, you wear what you are. I think the advertising slogan was the reverse of that, wasn’t it? “You are what you wear.” It was trying to sell you a certain kind of outfit, as it were. But in actual fact, you can put on, I could put on all kinds of things, and it would be very obvious.

I remember one time we had a surgeon at the Clinic, and he invited me to come down and participate with him and go through the OR rooms in the Clinic. It was a long time ago. He was from Michigan, I remember. And I met him in the locker room, and he dressed me up like a surgeon. It was one of the most ridiculous things you ever saw in your entire life. There is something about a surgeon who, when he puts that thing on his head, people go, “Wow, that is impressive.” If anybody else does it, the people are like, “Whoa, something is definitely wrong here.” And I remember I got on the elevator with him from the dungeons of the place to go somewhere, and as it turned out, there was some kind of Saudi prince who was in the hospital at that time who had his own secret service. And as we got on the thing, there was a secret service guy, a Saudi guy. And I’ll never forget the way he looked at me. And what he was essentially saying is “You are not that.”

So, the idea that you are what you wear? No. What he’s saying is, you wear what you are. Now we’re not going to unpack this. But what he said is, “You had a lot of clothes in your old closet. Your pre-Christian closet was full of a bunch of ugly stuff. In the grace of God, that stuff is being removed. But now, in the grace of God, put on your new clothes. You’ve been given a whole new wardrobe, and you have all these amazing T-shirts: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience.” And so your wife says to you, “Well, I see you left the patience one off this morning, did you?” And the congregation says, “And that’s another kind word from your pastor. I think you lost that shirt as well!”

No, your new self is under new management. And this is an ongoing process. You will see that—where is that?—in verse 10: “and hav[ing] put on the new self, which is being renewed”—present continuous tense—“is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” The process of being conformed to the image of Jesus, of being made like our Elder Brother, is not an instantaneous process. It goes on over a lifetime. And so the intense practicality of it ought to be a terrific encouragement to us.

And you will see that there as he goes on in verse 13: “bearing with one another”; if you like, putting up with one another. Do you know how many people bounce from church to church because they didn’t like x or they didn’t like y or they gotta take their baseball bat to another diamond? Don’t you know you’re supposed to put up with other people? Put up with the pastor? Put up with this one? After all, goodness gracious, aren’t they putting up with you? Putting up with one another. And where there is reason for complaint against someone else—and it would be a strange life if there wasn’t—“forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you.” “You’re a new person! You’ve been forgiven,” he says. “Therefore, it would be ridiculous for you, having been forgiven everything that stood against God, to hold in short term the debt that someone owes to you.” No, “forgiving each other.”

Remember when Brent was here on that Sunday night around the Christmas time, we sang that song which goes something like:

Oh kneel me down again
Here at your feet;
[Cause me to know these things],

[’Cause] you are the God of the broken,
[The] friend of the weak;
You wash the feet of the weary,
You embrace the ones in need.

I want to be like you, Jesus,
To have this heart in me.[6]

You see, this is the distinguishing feature. And if you imagine that they were wearing not clothes like this, with trousers and jacket and all that stuff, but they were wearing more like caftan things, and so how are you gonna stop yourself from just tripping up and falling over? Well, you belt them, or you tie them, and you tie something so as not to impede your progress and to hold everything else in place. That’s what he says here: binding all these things together. “Put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,”[7] right? We understand that longing, right? “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”[8] “Imagine there’s no this, imagine there’s no that.”[9] Where are the answers to these longings? Where’s the answer to these longings, you see? He says, “Now, you Colossian believers”—or, if you like, “Now, you Cleveland believers”—“you want to make an impact in your city? Here it is. It’s not a political campaign. It’s a radical transformation from the inside out. Wear what you are.”

And it is then, as he goes through that, he gets to the point where he says, “As the Word dwells in you, as the peace of Christ rules your hearts, as you give voice to the praise of Almighty God,” he says, “and let me just put it in this way: whatever you do…” It’s comprehensive. There’s no outs now. There’s no little secret place where I can say, “Yeah, but it doesn’t cover this.” No, he says it covers everything: “Whatever you do, … do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” So this is the characteristic of the member of the church family: a thankful, prayerful, joyful, forgiving, compassionate, kind heart. These are the characteristics. It’s daunting and wonderful, isn’t it? And then he applies it. Eighteen: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”

You see, once again, when you come to the details of the Christian family, unless we understand that the Christian family folds itself into the church family and that it is the church family which makes sense of the family—that the church family’s not an addendum; it’s not something that you join like joining a club. No, it is something that you are.

This is the characteristic of the member of the church family: a thankful, prayerful, joyful, forgiving, compassionate, kind heart.

Do you absent yourself from your family meals? Do you remember that movie Avalon? You say, “No, I don’t.” Well, let me remind you of it. Really, the writer based it on his own family background. And the only thing that I ever remembered about it was one line from an early part of the movie. And you know what the line is? “You cut the toikey?” “You cut the toikey?” I loved that. I said, “What is that about?” Well, what he’s trying to say is
“You cut the turkey.” Okay? But they live in New Jersey, and he is the oldest member of the family, he is the elder of five brothers, and he knows that the way the family works, you wait till everyone is present. “I can’t believe it! You cut the toikey. You have violated the whole family framework.”

Well, I get that. You take, for example, the church family: “You started the meal without me? Hey, I’ll be there. You mean the Communion is supposed to be a family meal? I only go every so often.” Loved ones, I’ll tell you what the real challenge is: many of us do not understand church. We are able to congratulate ourselves on a meager level of commitment, but without recognizing the nature of actually what’s going on.

The Cultural Setting

Now, it is to this matter of the family that we will return. But we need to, in setting it up, just say something in acknowledgment of the cultural setting in which we’re living. And let me say first of all that families that function together with a shared, if you like, moral understanding—families like that are increasingly an endangered species. They’re weird. And since many of us don’t want to be thought weird, the temptation is to blur the edges, to soften the calls, to say, “No, it doesn’t really mean what it means.”

Sociology’s recognized that right now, today, in America, a minority of American households are two-parent families, and a diminishing number are actually two-parent mom-and-dad families. Marriage, when it is adopted—and it is increasingly not adopted—when marriage is adopted, it is no longer primarily about child rearing (raising and rearing), but it is actually about personal fulfillment. Listen to people as you counsel with your friends. What do they say? “I deserve better than this.” “He is not that.” “She is not this.” “This is for me.” “This is about me.” “This is about my place in the universe.” And then they suddenly realize, “Well, that’s a fascinating notion!” The birthrate in America continues to fall. There are more American homes with pets living in them than with children living in them. Quote: “The sexual revolution has come and gone, and [it has] left us with no governing norms of family life, no guiding values, no articulated ideals. … Our shared culture … has nothing … to say.”[10]

Now, that’s not a comment made by some annoyed old minister somewhere. No, that’s a contemporary journalist. And what do we know? Well, we know this: that the vacuum is quickly filled with an agenda that comes from the dark side, that absolutely rejects the God of creation, sees no need for redemption, and believes that we will be able to muddle through on our own, provided we are free to tinker with it as we choose.

And so, for example, here, from The Times of London, just earlier in the year, an article, “The Advantage of Three Fathers: One Can Always Take a Holiday.”[11] This is just commonplace. It would be funny if it wasn’t tragic.

Many new parents recall their first months with a baby as a time of sleeplessness interspersed with moments of panic, if they can recall it at all.

It was not like that for Ian Jenkins, a medical professor from San Diego who made history, with his two partners, as the first known family to have three fathers registered on the birth certificates of their two children.

You want to know about the cultural context? You want to know about the nature of Christian family? It’s not about producing perfect little children, because we can’t. It’s certainly not about turning our children into little souls that can’t experiment with anything, can’t go anywhere. We’re like curling parents, you know. You remember in curling they have those brushes, and they’re smoothing out every little bump, every little thing in order that the thing might get to its destination. You see the parents; they’re no longer helicopter parents. They’re no longer looking down from the sky: “Oh, wait a minute! Where are you going? What are you doing?” No, no, now they’re curling parents: “Oh, poor little Johnny. Oh, we don’t want him to have a little bump to deal with. And she’s not gonna be able to handle…” This is where we live. This is where you live. I’m surely not alone, am I, in feeling that I have a front-row seat at the decline of a culture, and it’s not a movie. It’s not a movie.

The Gospel Solution

You say, “Well, you better get your last point.” Here I go. The biblical context we will return to. The cultural context is an ongoing observation. But listen: What about the gospel solution?

You see, we need only to scratch very lightly below the surface of our conversations with our friends and neighbors, and they will acknowledge that things are broken. They will be prepared, ultimately—and it won’t take a lot of pushing—to recognize that they do not have a secure base upon which to build what they’re doing. They have not had a reasonable explanation for who they are, what they are, and why they’re here.

And since, traditionally, those values were to be passed on within the framework of the nuclear family, if the parents have lost sight of their origin and of their destiny, they then have no means of navigating a path through life except a path of their own creating. Therefore, their teenage children are left saying, “Well, my parents don’t have an answer”; therefore, they will then try the wider culture for an answer. When they find the wider culture simply introduces them to confusion and heartache, they begin to look into themselves for an answer. And along that road will come many religious people with all kinds of hocus-pocus ideas. What are we to say? Yeah.

Well, you see, I mentioned Avalon. You say, “Yeah, but you’re just old now.” Yeah, that’s fine. But some of you are also kind of old. Some of you remember the old days when aunts and uncles and cousins used to sit around the table. Sometimes they used to sing around the piano. Do you remember the old days when you used to sit and watch TV together? But now everybody has their own TV. Everybody has their own screen. We are alone together. And we’re the product of our great desires: privacy, self-sufficiency, security. And privacy comes at a price. Thirty-five percent of Americans over the age of forty-five say that they are chronically lonely. Thirty-five percent! A third of the nation: “I am alone in the world.”

The decentralization of the nuclear family is reinforced by the decentralization of the church family. And I would argue that the distinguishing feature of the Christian family will only be known in the latter half of the twenty-first century when those who profess to be the parents of Christian families get to grips with what it means for them to be part of the church family. It starts there and flows out there. Your children are not there as your friends; they are there as your children. It’s not a quiz game to find out what we’re doing on Sunday. Either lead or you will be moved out of the way.

Isn’t it interesting, too, that while the family is pushed to the side, people are fascinated with genealogy? They want to belong to someone. In fact, I was staggered to find, in doing a little research this week, that sociologists are now documenting an increasing interest in kinship. Kinship. Yeah! They’re talking about, in society, the longing for a mutuality of being, for a solidarity of souls[12]—for a chosen sense of cooperation to be discovered somewhere, either genetically, emotionally, mystically, or spiritually.

Did you pay attention to the song? “My tongue repeats her vows, ‘Peace to this sacred house!’ For there my friends and kindred dwell.”[13]

Well, our time has gone. We must come back to it. But let me just say—let me tell you what my notes say. The church family, if ordered according to God’s plan, is the solution to all these needs. The church family. Because the church family is made up of the citizens of the King. And the King knows exactly what he’s doing. And the king will not be thwarted, and his plans are absolutely true.

So it is the church family that provides the answer, in a woke culture, to the issues of racial inequalities. It’s the church family. It’s not actually in telling people, “Well, I’m really into this,” or “I’m really into that.” You can be into whatever you want, but the fact of the matter is, read Colossians in the section that we just had, and what does he say? “There’s neither Greek, nor there is Jewish. There’s neither Scythian, there’s neither barbarian. There’s neither bond, there’s neither free.” What do you mean? “Because Christ is all, and Christ is in all.” Okay? So the answer is actually found in the church. Therefore, the church is supposed to be made up of people who say, “I wouldn’t want to be with these people were it not for one thing—actually, were it not for one person.”

I was talking to one of my Black friends in Washington, DC, during the week just to make sure I hadn’t lost my mind. And he said to me, “You’re not gonna get many people to come to your church; I heard your music. The Black people don’t like your music.” I said, “Well, what do you want me to do, Tony? You want me to change it or something?” He said, “No, don’t change it! That would be like tokenism. Don’t do that. You are what you are. But if the people want to acknowledge their union in Christ, they will be prepared to forgo some of their concerns about the nature of praise in order to be present under the teaching of the Bible and in the fellowship of God’s people.” I said, “Well, good, that’s at least… There’s a hope in that.” There certainly is! And I understand it.

Loneliness? Loneliness? Alone in a crowd. How lonely was the lady at the well? Oh, yeah! How lonely was the cheat Zacchaeus? How lonely are some of our teenagers?

Single parents. Maybe single parents should team up. You know, I mean, I’m not a single parent, but if I was, maybe I’d… I don’t know how you’d do it. But I mean, you don’t have to live alone like that. You have a family. You say, “Well, that’s just a word.” Yeah, I think so, until we make it not just a word.

And on the issues of our unitedness, the quest is not for homogeneity. It’s not a homogeneous group. It’s not we’re all the same size, the same height, the same social status. No. We have definite ethnic backgrounds, definite ethnic traits. We have different social contexts. Of course we do. We have individual personalities. And in Christ, that is not obliterated, that is not flattened, as if somehow or another, the church is made up of a really bad-looking room that is just painted an ugly color of beige, you know. It’s like “Whoa, what is this?” Or worse still, the gray, you know—that gray that makes you reach for a sweater, you know. It’s very modern. It’s all grey. Yeah.

Well, is that what you’re talking about? No! No! We’re actually talking about the rainbow coalition. They can’t have that. That’s ours. That’s ours. No, we actually believe that: “Red, yellow, black, white, all precious in his sight.” Of course! That the door is open widely to all, and the invitation is expressed to all, so that we might then not find ourselves living in some kind of strange and tasteless environment but rather that it would be vibrant. Vibrant.

It’s not time for us to curse the darkness and round up the wagons, but it’s time for us imaginatively, graciously, kindly to live out the story of the gospel.

And you know, I think it’s, amongst other things you and I said a few weeks ago—it’s time to stand up, speak up, and everything else—here’s another one: it’s time to let our guard down. It’s time to let the guard down. It’s time to be prepared to tell other people, “Look, I stink.” It’s time to be prepared to let other people know that as we seek to make our journey through life, we’re dealing with all kinds of stuff. We’re in a continual war against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We get it right some days; we get it wrong two out of four. We sin in our words. We sin in our deeds. We have nothing to say in defense of ourselves save the righteousness that is found in Jesus.

So then, suddenly, the family… ’Cause you know, you go to some families, and it feels stiff. It’s like, “What am I supposed to do?” And then you go to other families. I remember years ago, I had a girlfriend called Susan, and she lived in London. She said she’d take me to a friend’s house. And it was in Portman Towers, just in Knightsbridge. And we went up on the lift, and the door opened, and a guy—it was the father—came out of the door and said, “Come in my house! Come in my house!” I’m like, “Whoa, back off, man! Geez! What do you mean, ‘Come in my house’? Yeah, I’ll come in.” But then I thought about it afterwards. It was nice. It was a welcome, as opposed to “What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you around much.”

Well, we’ll come back to this.

Lord God in heaven, we are the learners from the one who has all the answers. We turn as children to you, our heavenly Father. We turn to the Lord Jesus Christ as our Elder Brother. We feel very much that in the present strange climate, that it’s not time for us to curse the darkness and round up the wagons, but it’s time for us imaginatively, graciously, kindly to live out the story of the gospel. We ask for your help, and we pray to this end in Christ’s name. Amen.


[1] Sinclair B. Ferguson, Devoted to God’s Church: Core Values for Christian Fellowship (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2020), 7.

[2] Genesis 3:9 (ESV).

[3] Colossians 1:5–7 (paraphrased).

[4] Joseph Hart, “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” (1759).

[5] See Jeremiah 31:3.

[6] Brenton Brown, “Humble King” (1999).

[7] Bill Backer, Billy Davis, Roger Cook, and Roger Greenaway, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” (1971).

[8] John Lennon, “Give Peace a Chance” (1969).

[9] John Lennon, “Imagine” (1971). Paraphrased.

[10] David Brooks, “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake,” The Atlantic, March 2020,

[11] Will Pavia, “The Advantage of Three Fathers: One Can Always Take a Holiday,” The Times, March 6, 2021,

[12] Brooks, “Nuclear Family.”

[13] Isaac Watts, “How Pleased and Blest Was I” (1719).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.