Matthew 10:37-39; Malachi 4:6

June 5, 2011 | Brian Bill

Did you know that it’s costly to have kids?  According to a report from the USDA called “Expenditures on Children by Families,” it will cost a middle-class family over $200,000 to raise a child born in 2009 to the age of 17.   

Did you know that it’s even more costly to follow Jesus Christ?  According to an eyewitness reporter named Matthew, it will cost you everything you have.

To be committed to our kids and to be committed to Christ is costly.  But it’s a price worth paying.  I want to propose that the best way to change your family is to make your faith your number one priority.

I’m reminded of the challenge Joshua laid on the children of Israel right before they entered the Promised Land in Joshua 24:15: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua is calling others to a binding commitment but not before he commits himself and his household to serve the Lord. 

Our focus today is “commitment,” the sixth word in our “Eight Words to Change Your Family” series.  The word “commit” means to “to give in charge” or “entrust” or “to put” or “to roll.”  I like this last idea for it shows that instead of running our own lives, we’re to roll everything over to Him.  That’s how the word is used in Psalm 37:5: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.

Our families will not change until we fortify our faith by paying the price of total commitment to Christ.  Matthew 10:37-39 lays out two different dimensions of what complete commitment is all about.  

1. Love Jesus more than anyone else.

Check out verse 37: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  James MacDonald writes: “To allow our kids to mean more to us than our relationship with the Lord is to put them in great danger.”  That’s why Abraham was asked to take his son Isaac up on the mountain in Genesis 22 and sacrifice him.  God wanted this father to settle who it is that he loved more – his son or his Savior.

Kevin DeYoung talks about two extremes that we should avoid as parents.

  • Family as nothing. He calls this the family straightjacket where the family curtails what it is that we really want to do.  In this view, kids are to be seen and not heard, or maybe not even seen.  Some parents see their kids as a nuisance and will do anything to not be around them.
  • Family as everything. The other extreme is when the family comes first and children are at the center of our lives.  If the sin of parents awhile ago was to ignore their family today it’s to make children our first focus.  DeYoung points out that we no longer have a patriarchy or a matriarchy; we have a “kindergarchy.”  We do our kids no favors when they think they are the center of our life.  Too many of us parents have become child-centered instead of Christ-centered.  When we cater to all their needs we can end up raising self-absorbed, self-focused children who go through life with an entitlement mindset.

The main point Jesus is making is that while family is foundational, following Christ must come first.  An overemphasis on family can rob us of faith but there’s something else that causes us to go in the ditch.  It’s our very selves.  We’re to love Christ more than those closest to us and we’re to love Jesus more than we love our own life.

2. Lose your life and follow Christ.  

Discipleship is demanding because we’re called to die to our desires

Verse 38-39: “And anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Cross-bearers are called to follow the Crucified One.  Discipleship is demanding because we’re called to die to our desires.  

We have romanticized the cross and turned it into something we put on our walls or wear around our necks.  When we do reference this verse, we often say something like, “Well, I guess that’s just the cross I must bear” and normally it refers to putting up with an obnoxious relative or living with an illness or some other affliction.  But let’s remember that the cross was carried by condemned criminals and ended with a humiliating and excruciating execution. Everyone knew the person was saying goodbye to everything and that there was no turning back.  

When we lose that which has always been so important to us, we end up finding that which we’ve been searching for all along.  Speaking of those who are completely committed to Christ, Revelation 12:11 says: “…They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

Friend, are you willing to renounce every person, every possession and especially yourself in order to follow Christ?

Jesus hits at the very heart of human relationships to make sure that following Christ comes first. Then he brings it closer to home by challenging us to lay aside our personal ambitions, goals, and our very life.  It’s easy to be a fan or to add Jesus as a friend on Facebook; it’s much more difficult to be a follower.  Friend, are you willing to renounce every person, every possession and especially yourself in order to follow Christ?  Will you put your faith over your family and over anything else that has been first in your life?  What is it that is keeping you from following fully? 

In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we live in a time of “cheap grace” and “easy believism” where Christianity is more identified with health and wealth than with sacrifice and service.  It’s interesting that in Luke 14:25, a parallel account, we read that “large crowds were traveling with Jesus.”  Hearing these weighty words, the crowd thinned out in a hurry.  But Jesus doesn’t lower the bar.  Commitment to Him is costly.  Discipleship is demanding.

Here’s the deal.  When you settle the surrender issue and commit to follow Christ at any cost, your family will be in the right focus.

I came across a stunning parenting insight from Andrew Ferguson recently that I’ve been pondering: “You fulfill yourself by denying yourself, preparing the people you can’t live without to live without you.”

Let me summarize.  First, love Jesus more than anything else.  Second, lose your life and follow Christ.  These two calls to commitment are costly but they are the prerequisites to being the parent God wants you to be.  Here’s the final point I want to bring home today.

3. When Jesus has your heart, He’ll turn it toward your home. 

Let’s look at the very last verse in the Old Testament, Malachi 4:6.  Speaking of the coming of Elijah, which was actually fulfilled by the ministry of John the Baptist, we read these words: “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”  You can almost hear the longing for a day in which houses are transformed into homes.   Here are five quick observations:

  • The “He” here is God.  Only God can change a human heart.  
  • The issue is always the heart.  Proverbs 27:19: “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.”
  • Turning implies that a change needs to take place.  
  • Fathers are key; although this applies to all parents…and grandparents.
  • Children also need to pray that their hearts will soften to their parents.

I’ve often wondered why this verse comes at the very end of the Old Testament.  This is God’s last word for about 400 years before the Gospels come on the scene.  God’s heart is for my heart to be toward my children and for the heart of my children to be turned toward me.  Parents, if you sense that your heart is not really into parenting, and your kids don’t have much to do with you, then make this verse your personal prayer.  Ask God to turn your heart to your children and ask Him to turn their hearts to you.  He will be glad to answer a prayer like this.  

Action Steps

1. What’s holding you back from full commitment to Christ? 

What’s keeping you from following fully?  What has a hold on your heart?  I talked to a young woman who just graduated from high school recently and she told me that she was planning on partying in college and then getting serious about her relationship with Christ after she graduates.  That all changed when something awful happened to her this week.  She said that it’s now time for her to surrender.  How about you?   

2. What’s holding you back from full commitment to your family? 

It’s time for a heart change.  Ask God to turn your heart toward home.  What do you need to say “no” to that has been taking you away from your family?  How about making a recommitment to your faith and to your family? 

Will you pay the price?  When we lose that which has always been so important to us, we end up finding that which we’ve been searching for all along.  We want to end this morning with a living example of a couple who are living out their commitment at great cost.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?