Here is a third principle drawn from John 10:1-5 about how men can shepherd their families well. It is this: a faithful shepherd shows the way forward.
We get this from verses 3-4: “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” We have this great picture of Christ, our Good Shepherd, leading His sheep and going before them, taking them to a place of pasture. In the same way, men, as the shepherds of their families, are to show their families the way in which to go.
Notice that in verse 4 the Good Shepherd goes before the sheep. He walks ahead of them, to show them the way. This is how Jesus leads us. He calls us to a life of living for the glory of God, but He has gone this way ahead of us. Living for the glory of God will at times mean self-denial and suffering, carrying our cross. Yet Jesus does not call us to go where He has not gone Himself. He bore the cross first. Jesus leads us in our fight against sin, but not as One who was unwilling to fight sin Himself. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus walks with us, and Jesus walks before us. By His Spirit and His Word, He shows us the way we are to go.
Men, are you showing your family the way they should go? Think about your own example – if your wife and children follow your example, will they be more like Christ or less so? Will they increase in holiness, or decrease in holiness? There are other ways that we show our families the way in which they should go, but nothing is more powerful than our example. God has appointed men the leaders of their homes, and their faithfulness or unfaithfulness to God sets the tone for the whole household.
Have you ever heard this poem before?
There was a crooked man
Who walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence
Upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat,
Which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together
In a little crooked house.
That poem has something spiritually significant to say: crooked men tend influence everything around them, and especially their families. If we are to lead our families well, we must have the power of Christ at work in us, making us upright men, men of integrity.
Consider this simple poem, about a father saying good night to his son:
“To get his good-night kiss he stood beside my chair one night,
And raised an eager face to me, a face with love alight.
As I gathered in my arms the son God gave to me,
I thanked the lad for being good, & hoped he’d always be.
His little arms crept around my neck, & then I heard him say,
Four simple words I shant forget, four words that made me pray.
They turned a mirror on my soul, on secrets no one knew.
They startled me. I hear them yet. He said, `I’ll be like you.’”
Fathers, can we say to our children, “Imitate me, and I will show you the way to go!” We should be able to say that.
One of the more controversial passages in the Bible is 1st Corinthians 14:33-35. There, Paul says that women should keep silent in the churches. He goes on to say, “If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home.” Did you hear that, husband? Your wife is instructed by God to go to you when she has something she wants to learn about God and the Christian life. You are to be the resident theologian in your home. This does not mean that you have to have all the answers, but it does mean that you should study and know as much as you can. When your wife has a question that you don’t know the answer to, you should take it upon yourself to do what you can to find an answer.
What’s more, the duty to train up children in the way they should go does not fall first to the mother. It falls first and foremost upon the father. Fathers are to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
So husbands and fathers are to instruct their families. This should probably take place first of all in appointed times. A husband and wife can have a daily time when they are together in God’s Word, talking things through, praying together. A father can lead in family worship, reading the Scriptures and explaining spiritual things to the children.
Of course, many of the most important teaching moments occur in everyday life. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And these words that command you today shall be on your heart. 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.” The picture there is of a father who is speaking about the things of God all the time, throughout the day, because they are on his heart. In fact, if we have set times of family worship but fail to talk about God and His truth in the midst of everyday living, we create an artificial picture of Christianity for our families. Being a Christian is not just something we do at appointed times. Being a Christian is being a Christian. It means every moment of everyday we seek to live for God’s glory by honoring Him in all things. Whether we are eating or drinking, or whatever we are doing, we are to do it for the glory of God. Husbands and fathers should see everyday life as full of teaching opportunities.
This all assumes that the husband has something to teach. Men, we must be confessional. That is, we must have a faith that we know and can confess to others. We must know what we believe about the Bible, about God, about man, about salvation, about the family, about the Church, about this world we live in. We ought to have strong beliefs, beliefs that come from the pages of Scriptures, beliefs that we can articulate, defend, and pass on to our children. A man with no firm beliefs is a man with little to stand for, little to live and die for. He is a wimp of a man, and he will raise wimpy children who are fickle and confused and themselves will have little to live and die for.
Another way a man leads his family and shows them the way they should go is by keeping them in church. The man should lead the way in showing the value of the local church, and by cherishing the instruction received there. When the law of God was to be read publicly in Israel, Moses declared, “Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God…” (Deuteronomy 31:12-13). Children were not just tag-alongs with the family when God’s people were assembled. This gathering was taking place in part specifically for their good. So in the New Testament we see the epistles address husbands and fathers, wives and husbands, young men and young women, and even children. It was assumed that the family would be together assembled with God’s people, benefitting from the Word of God. Fathers, once your children are out from under your authority, they may choose to reject God’s gift of the local church. But as long as they are under your authority, they should be among God’s people, and you should be praying that God would save them and do them good.