The Glory of God in Family Worship

Leading Our Families to Treasure Jesus Christ by Faith
(taught last Wednesday for some of our community group men)

God is worthy of all of our worship. Ps. 117 aptly says, “Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD! “ The beginning of Ps. 145 reads,

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

I am thrilled to be able to commend to you God’s own vision of His worship in the home, because it is so true and right and good and helpful and because it gives great and true glory to God. God wants His name – His very character and glory – known and treasured in families, not simply individuals, across the globe. There is a real reason that the Scriptures compare the church to the family. Family matters to God. God assumes that families will be worshiping Him. Indeed, God is deeply honored when families stop their so-called “busy-ness” to sit down together to study God’s Word, sing His praises, and pray in Jesus’ name.

But, in some ways, I am ashamed to have to explain and commend to you the practice of family worship. Its regular practice seems so manifestly obvious in Scripture that its wholesale decline grieves me seriously. It makes me sad to say that, as a child, neither my immediate nor extended family ever once worshiped God together in the home, though most all of them profess Christ.

Apparently, we have this artificial divide between what happens “at church” and what happens “at home.” Our cultural background blinds us to the necessity of family worship. We think that “church” is there in a building, and “home” is here in our houses. But, as one professor taught me, the family is meant to be a “domestic church.” This is exactly why the New Testament compares a church to a family! If the family wasn’t worshipping God, how would this comparison work? Therefore, all of the Bible’s instruction about church and worship can rightly be applied to the family.

The Bible speaks often of family worship. Tonight, we will look at the two key OT passages and note some NT support in closing, and I pray that God would write these words on your hearts and teach you how to apply them specifically in your family context.

Deut. 6:4-9

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

So we note a few things here: first, the opening line calls for spiritual hearing because of God’s unity. Second, we are told to love God with our entire being. Then third, His words are to be on our hearts. Fourth, the very next application is that we would teach God’s words to our children at all times – lying down, rising up, sitting, and walking – and have them written all over our minds and hands and houses. This, then, is truly a vision of the full-on, life-consuming enjoyment of God.

Ps. 78:1-12

1 A Maskil of Asaph. Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. 9 The Ephraimites, armed with the bow, turned back on the day of battle. 10 They did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to his law. 11 They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them. 12 In the sight of their fathers he performed wonders in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.

Note two main things here:

  • the purpose of the teaching – that children and children’s children and unborn children would put their hope in God (v. 5-7)
  • the effects of not teaching your children – these often omitted verses show that untaught, unbelieving children will turn back in the day of battle (v. 9-12)

Now we turn briefly to some supporting verses in the New Testament. Though there are many, we will only note three.

  • Eph 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
  • 2Ti 3:15 “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
  • Acts 20:20f “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

These verses point out that Paul tells us to raise our children by teaching them about the Lord Jesus, that Timothy read the Scriptures as a child, and that Paul and the apostles taught in houses. So why wouldn’t we?

Application
So this necessity of family worship is written on your heart, now what? These notes have proved helpful to me:

1. Keep it simple.
This means in time, parts, and manner. Keep the same time (after dinner, before bed, after breakfast, etc), the same order (Bible, prayer, song, etc.), and the same speech (simple, God-honoring, applicable).

2. Keep it short.
At least at first, it is hard even for adults to get used to 30-45 minute Bible studies late in the evening. Yes, this is more important than television, but no, we don’t want to bludgeon our families with Greek exegesis of Hebrews. Believe me, I tried.

3. Keep pressing on.
Starting and continuing family worship, especially from the historical-cultural places from which we come, is difficult. I’ve found it, indeed, quite difficult. Sin, Satan, and silliness will try to keep you from worshiping Jesus together with your family. Don’t give in; and don’t let anyone but God win in your family. There really is nothing our enemies would rather see than our families drifting away from God into weak affections and unbelief. When you mess up and forget, or forget to plan, just admit it, ask God and family for forgiveness, and press on. Persevere. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work,” (2 Cor. 9:8). Let us press on together, brothers. God is infinitely worthy and infinitely sufficient.

Final Notes
You may have situations – work, school, unexpected occurences – that don’t allow for this kind of practice every night, but try to do it every night that you can. And once you have this written on your heart, God will remind you and show you and give you the urge to carry it out. Remember, God is able to make all grace abound to you, including the grace to lead and serve your family in worshipping Him together.

Tom Ascol sums it up like this:

Make family worship a priority. Don’t let pride keep you from asking for help. Ask men and women who are doing it to give you suggestions. Get Don Whitney’s booklet on the subject (now available as a message on CD, as well) and read it together. Don’t be intimidated with unrealistic goals or visions of what family worship ought to be. Start simple. Read the Bible, sing a song or a chorus or a verse of a song, and pray. Then do it again the next day. Recognize that there will be days that you are not able to worship together as you like. Recognize that there wiil be days that you are able and you simply choose not to due to laziness, neglect or blatant sin. When that happens, repent, believe the Gospel, and start over, and do that the rest of your life. Once you incorporate family worship into the regular pattern of your life, don’t let house guests divert you from your schedule. Include them, or at least invite them to join you. Evangelism happens during such times. So does discipleship. Your example and testimony can be powerfully used by God in the lives of others who witness it.

One final helpful point: Your formal times of family worship (where you sit down together after dinner, for instance, to read the Bible and pray and sing to Jesus) will drive your informal times of conversation and worship (like conversing as you walk with your children, or talking before bed, or breaking into song). And those are wonderful and glorious as well, because all believers want their entire lives to be filled with songs and meditations and prayers from and through and to Jesus Christ. And so we desire for our families as well. May the God of glorious grace make it so. He is more than able.

Web Resources:
Vision Forum Ministries – a wonderful website and ministry dedicated to “rebuilding the Christian family, one household at a time.”

John Gill’s commentary on Deut. 6:7

Matthew Henry’s commentary on Psa 78:1-8

Pastor Tom Ascol on Family Worship

Joe Thorn on Family Worship

Between Two Worlds – The Key to the Spiritual Health for Your Family

Books:
Family Worship by Donald Whitney
Thoughts on Family Worship by J.W. Alexander
The Godly Family by various authors
The Bible and the Closet by Thomas Watson and Samuel Lee (see the very back for “The Family Altar”).

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About B Treece
loved by God before I ever loved Him, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the authority of the Bible alone to the glory of God alone, made to enjoy Him forever, happily married with wonder-filled children.

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