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This blog post is Part 11 of a series entitled, "Orthodoxy" by Pastor Jeffrey Dean Smith of Donelson First in Nashville, TN. 

Message Date: March 26, 2023

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My daddy loves to fish. My mom loves to paint. My older brother, Kent, is an attorney in Little Rock. He married an attorney. My younger brother Jeremy was a second-grade schoolteacher until he had an accident.  

When I think of my family who all live in Little Rock:

• Playing old-school Atari games like Ms. Pac-Man, Pitfall, and Breakout.

• Countless baseball and basketball games my parents watched all of us play.

• Tuna Burgers When I think of my family, I recall fishing and camping and working in the yard.

• Meme & Papa, Memaw & Papaw. Sunday AM Barry Manilow and Charlie Daniels albums.  

When I think of my family, I have so many memories that bring so much joy to my life.  

What about you? Answer this question:

When I think of my family... How do you complete this sentence? If like me, then you too have memories, both amazing, sad, emotional, crazy, and joyous.  

Now imagine this... Imagine if you were created to live alone. No birthdays. No Christmas mornings. No holidays, vacations, first dates, puppies, and ball games... no memories at all of family.  

Had God not defined and ordained the family as the foundational institution of humanity, none here today would have any history, experiences, and memories of family.  

Well, fortunately, as always, God got it right. God had a perfect plan that involves you and your family.  

Today we will continue our study of Orthodoxy as we discuss: Part 11: The Family is Defined and Ordained by God as the Foundational Institution of Humanity.   

This has been a hard one for me because there is so very much to be said about the family!  

In Part 10 of the Orthodoxy series, we took a very intense look at the onslaught of attacks the foundational institution of humanity, the family, is receiving. Last week was a really important week in this series. 

Before moving on to the next Foundational Principe in this series, I want us to now spend some time talking through aspects and godly attributes of the family that should be important to us all.  

You know... there is not a person here today who isn’t dealing with some type of challenge, hurt, dysfunction, or brokenness as it relates to family.  

The family dynamic is often extremely difficult to navigate. Think about it... it’s true for so many people:

Those who know me the best, spend the greatest amount of time with me, and love me the most, are often the same people who bring me the greatest joy.  

But also true... those who know me the best, spend the greatest amount of time with me, and love me the most, are often the same people who can hurt me the worst... and I them.  

Can I say: 

I’ve thought of things I should not have about a family member. I’ve said things I wish I had not to a family member. I’ve done things I wish I had not done to a family member. Each of us can relate to one or more of these truths.  

Again, consider the thought I posed earlier: Imagine if you were created to live alone.  

Sadly, there are some, possibly many here today, most definitely some right here in the Donelson community, who do live a life immersed in tremendous sadness and loneliness. We want to continue being the church to reach these people.  

We want to help people find hope and to realize they were never created to do life alone! This is exactly what Scripture points to. We established last week the only thing God stated throughout the Creation process that is not good. Do you recall what that is? Genesis 2:18

God reveals humanity's dilemma. God then offers the solution.

The dilemma: Loneliness. Man was alone and in need of companionship. The solution: Family.  

Genesis 1:28

Genesis 2:23-24  

Here at the beginning of time, we see clearly God ordains the family as the foundational institution of humanity.  

Family is extremely important to God. Consider:

God designed us to live in families. The Church is called the “family of God.” We are adopted into His family when we are saved. Even Christ Himself was born within the context of a family. “God in the flesh” submitted to an earthly mom and dad to model what it means to honor parents and to benefit from their loving direction.   

Family is extremely important to God. Therefore, family must be extremely important to me. I must take seriously my role in helping my family shine as an Orthodoxy-led family.

Orthodoxy  = the foundational truths that define the Christian faith

So as an Orthodoxy-led family, we believe in and strive to apply the foundational principles we are discussing in this series.   Specifically, what does this look like in the home? This is what I want our discussion to be today.  

Now, I too want to recognize that no two families are the same. No family is perfect. No family always gets it right. And just because we discuss these truths today does not mean it all works in the home tonight.  

The family dynamic is tough... I too know that among us are some who live alone, who have never been married, or who are widowed. As we talk about family today, I encourage you whether living alone or with your spouse, kids, or grandkids, to apply today where you need to what is most important and relevant to this season of life in which you are living.

1. As an Orthodoxy-led family, I declare God’s Word is the authoritative truth for my family.  

We speak of this often at DF, because it is the most important attribute of a healthy church - - to be in the Word of God. It too is the most important attribute of a healthy family! Listen... If I am not in the Word with my family, I am failing my family.   This is not some cute saying I have structured to convince you of this truth.  

It is true. If I am not in the Word, reading the Word, praying the Word, reciting the Word, displaying the Word, studying the Word, talking about the Word, and my family into the Word, then I am failing my family!  

Some might say, “Well, that’s a little extreme, Jeffrey!” Is it? Is it?! I say, “No!”  

If each night Amy cooked everything on her own, set the table, cleaned the dishes, washed the clothes, cleaned the house, did all the shopping, mowed the lawn, paid the bills, and on and on and on all her own and I never chose to help her and join her and partner with her...what would that make me?  

I know what that would make me – dead! By either her or her daddy or both!  

Seriously, if I offered no help or aid or support or direction with any of these things, I would be an absolutely terrible family man.  

Or, if Bailey were in need of financial help and I told her, “You are an adult now. Figure this out on your own!” Or, if Brynnan had a health issue and I thought, “Well, she is 19 now. Surely, she has the capacity to handle this and get it right.”   In each of these scenarios, I would be considered by every single person here today a terribly horrible person, husband, father, and family man!  

So... why the free pass when it comes to the spiritual well-being of our families? 

Why do we expect involvement and focus and commitment when it comes to house chores, finances, and the health needs of our family members all the while precluding their spiritual lives?  

We should not.  

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8  

Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10  

If you were with us for Part 2 of the Orthodoxy series, then you probably recall the Orthodoxy origin passage in Deuteronomy. The nation of Israel has been led out of 400 years of Egyptian captivity. They are now establishing a new nation. In the previous chapter, Moses presents the law to the nation of Israel handing down the 10 Commandments.  

And now, Moses is articulating the expectation God has for His people to follow the laws outlined in these commandments.   Deuteronomy 6:5-8  

These words are not a suggestion nor a recommendation. Instead, these words make it clear: 

The burden is on me to know these truths of Orthodoxy. The burden is on me to engage my family to do the same.  

As we often do, let’s look at the original text, the Hebrew, to help us better understand the magnitude of this responsibility we each hold to our families.  

I want to highlight three words. The first is found in Deuteronomy 6:6  

Commandments /Hebrew/ dabar, noun = the entirety or the whole of these words  

This means you and I cannot pick and choose what “words” we want to apply and teach our families from God’s Word. No! I am to choose “the entirety or the whole of these words.”  

The “entirety or the whole of these words” INCLUDES everything I taught last week. Part 10 of the Orthodoxy series was so important for us. I hope you will listen to the archive on the podcast!  

Deuteronomy 6:6  

Be /Hebrew/ haya = a state of being; to be  

Meaning... these words are to “be a state of being” - - a constant. Not just something to experience or to visit from time to time but the very words upon which one builds their life and their family! Isn’t that so good Church!  

And let me show you one more word. It’s the Hebrew word: Deuteronomy 6:7  

Talk /Hebrew/dabar, verb = to speak together  

This action verb is one that invites multiple people, in this case, the family, into the conversation. Moses was telling God’s people that the process of “talking about them” was to be an exercise that the family does together.  

I can tell you this Church - - my family has done this so much more since I was called to be the Senior Pastor here at DF. We talk, “dabar” about these truths together as a family. And I know we are better for it! I hope you are doing the same during your family time together away from the church. Look at what Moses then says to these people. We have discussed this passage many times before over the past few years:  

Deuteronomy 6:20-25  

You see, at the end of this challenge from Moses, he brings the focus back to the family. He specifically challenges parents to help their children understand the importance of following the truths of God’s Word.  

And notice again: Deuteronomy 6:2  

This was not to be just a passing thought for these families. No! Following the Orthodoxy of God’s truths will actually contribute to our well-being and our ability to live! Moses says, if we follow the Orthodoxy of God’s truths, we will continue to “...prosper and be kept alive!” To do otherwise was a matter of life and death for these families. Imagine if we as Donelson First families choose to live in such a way. Imagine if you and I: Live as Orthodoxy-led families who declare God’s Word is the authoritative truth for my family.  

I can tell you I became extremely convicted this week that I have not been the family member to my family that Deuteronomy 6 calls me to be!  

Have you?  

What a tremendous responsibility we have for one another as a family!  

This Orthodoxy series just continues to convict me to live better and do better and to be a better person...especially in light of the family man I am to be based upon the Orthodoxy of God’s Word.  

I think of the way I, at times, speak in ways that are not God-honoring before my family. I think of the way, at times, I allow our family to binge-watch series and shows that are not edifying to the Lord. I think of the way, at times, I do not respond and live and talk and act in a way that points my family to honor the Lord.  

I wonder if you need to take this thought to the Lord, as I did this week: Lord, I want to commit to better declare God’s Word to be the authoritative truth for my family.  

Let us each make this our pursuit as we become Orthodoxy-led families!    

2. As an Orthodoxy-led family, I celebrate my family.  

First, let’s remember who we are not.  

My family is not:

1. A perfect family. Every family has funk.   

2. Defined by our failures. I speak with so very many people who allow the past to define the present, especially when it comes to choices of regret, a prodigal child, a lack of intentionality, and more.  

All of these are lies from the enemy!  

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19   

My past mistakes do not define my family. The mistakes of my family do not define me.

So... consider a few questions:

Who are we as a family? (This will be a great conversation starter question for you + your family.)

What defines us? 

What is unique about us? (This will be an enjoyable exercise. Sit. Talk. Write.)

What can we do better as a family? (Time together. Dinner time. Devotional time.)  

3. As an Orthodoxy-led family, I am committed to holiness in my marriage.  

Most marriages that fail, fail when happiness takes priority over holiness.  

Genesis 2:24-25  

Nothing else God created was accompanied with the proclamation for the male and female sex to leave their parents and unite as one.  

God created marriage to be a covenant relationship, a covenant agreement, between two people – man and woman – and Himself. And in many ways, this covenant of “three” is a representation of the unity we see in the Trinity between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Read the words of Jesus on this covenant between a man, woman, and God:   Matthew 19:5-8 In verses 5 & 6, we read the word: “one.”  

This is such an important word. It’s the same word we read in Genesis 2:24 where it states, “And they become one flesh.”   In both the passage in Genesis and here in Matthew 19, we see the word “one,” which is defined in both Hebrew and Greek as:  

One /Hebrew/Greek/heis = single; faithful  

To be “one” with my spouse means that we are to simultaneously move in motion and are to do life, rather than separately, as one single and faithful in a covenant.  

You know... it’s almost impossible today to discuss marriage without also discussing divorce. In a time when almost half of all marriages end in divorce, it obviously is a topic of which the church must be willing to lead the way.  

As to the topic of divorce... we will discuss this at another time in much greater detail. But we see that it was God’s intention from humanity's first relationship for marriage to be a sacred covenant that, once entered into, is to never come to an end!   Jesus confirms this covenant in:

Matthew 19:4-6

After making this statement, Jesus is asked this question:

Matthew 19:7  

Look at His response: Matthew 19:8  

The reason we are not going into detail with the topic of divorce today is because I know there are a plethora of reasons and situations and dilemmas and life choices that aid in the complexity of this matter. At a future time, I will speak about this great struggle. I will say that I too know that for every person having been through a divorce, there is a story unique to you that is very real and raw and most likely painful.  

Before moving on, I do want to point out one word we read in the Greek that highlights the response Jesus gave when asked this question about divorce:  

Notice the reason for which Jesus states people get a divorce: Matthew 19:8  

Jesus states that it is because of one's “heart.” 

Heart/Greek/sklērokardia = stubbornness

We are a stubborn people. We want what we want... and we often fight to hold our ground when don’t get what we want!   Would you agree...  

Stubbornness is a close companion of selfishness.  

Of course, there is so very much I could say about marriage. For time’s sake today, I offer this reminder that must serve as a guide for us all if we are to have God-honoring marriages.  

Three words...   Holiness before happiness. I had a conversation just this week with an individual who chose happiness before holiness in his marriage. He stated that, after 24 years of marriage, he was unhappy with how things were going. So he looked outside the home to fulfill his pursuit of happiness. He told me, “I have this hole in my life that seems to be getting bigger and bigger.” He explained how he had ventured into many different areas in his pursuit to fill this emptiness. 

 The pursuit of happiness will never fill the hole in my life. With such a pursuit, the hole will only get bigger and bigger and will only lead to more and more regret, guilt, pain, and brokenness. The pursuit of holiness will fill the hole in my life and will do so eliminating regret, guilt, pain, and brokenness and replacing it with peace, joy, contentment, and fulfillment.

You see...  

If my goal in marriage is for true holiness, the end result will be a marriage that honors God and cultivates true happiness as the two of us unite to become one.  

Remember, the Greek definition for the word “one” = single & faithful. For every married couple today, here is your homework assignment. At some point this week, find some time, silence all distractions, and answer this question for each other:

My marriage homework: Ask my spouse...  

In what way(s) have I pursued happiness over holiness in our marriage? What can I do to better cultivate an even holier marriage?  

4. As an Orthodoxy-led family, I will fight for my child.  

Years ago a father and mother were forced to abandon their child. They were convinced it would be the only way to protect their son’s life from a ruthless dictator. At first, they kept their baby nearby. But after three months they placed him in a small watertight vessel and set him afloat in a river. Read with me part of the story:

Exodus 2:1–10  

I learn so much in this story about parenting...  

1. Every day is a fight for the well-being of my child.  

We don’t know much about Moses’s Egyptian stepmother. We don’t even know her name. But we do know she was fearless. She violated a pronouncement of her father, a murderous tyrant who had ordered the execution of every Hebrew-born male. Moses’s stepmother knew the risk involved in bringing a Hebrew infant into the palace to live, but she did it anyway.  

It wasn’t as if Pharaoh’s daughter came home and said, “Dad, I accidentally ran a chariot into the side of one of your pyramids.” No, she came home knowing full well that Dad hated the Hebrews and wanted their baby sons dead. Then she introduced Dad the tyrant to his newest step-grandson, a Hebrew.  

2. God chose me to be the parent of my child.  

Did it just so happen that on the same day Moses’s parents placed him in the Nile River, he was found by someone who had the power and resources to protect him? Is it a fluke that the one who found a baby boy and chose to keep him was the daughter of the dictator who ordered the murder of all Hebrew male babies? There is nothing coincidental about this story. God chose the daughter of Pharaoh, the most powerful man on the planet, to be the stepmother of a son. The son, a Hebrew, would do great things for God and eventually lead His people out of the land of the Egyptian king.  

It too is no coincidence that you are here in this moment as the parent to the child God has given you. No matter how difficult, how dark, or how challenging this season of life as a parent or grandparent! And...   

To give up on my child, or to parent without extreme focus, determination, and passion to is a slap in the very face of God. This is why...  

3. Keeping tabs on my child does not make me a nosy parent. Doing so makes me a really good parent.  

Pharaoh’s daughter seemingly is one of the most important people in the Old Testament. Though she isn’t known for ascending to the throne, she forever will be known as one chosen by God to fulfill a critical role. She was the daughter of an Egyptian king, and she became a mother to Moses. God chose her for this purpose.  

What my children do on their phones, in their private lives, on their dates, online and on and on and on is my business! I should take it seriously - - the responsibility of being intimately involved in every aspect of my kid’s life.  


God could have chosen anyone to be the parent of my child. He didn’t choose just anyone. He chose me.  

This is no coincidence. No other parent is capable of doing the job He created you to do. If anyone else had rescued Moses, he would not have received the type of education and upbringing he needed to fulfill the call God placed on his life. The same is true for you and your child. 

 The unique plan God has for my child is founded on the reality that God chose me to be his parent.  

Even before my child drew a breath, God was preparing me to be the parent to lead him/her every step of the way.   

Ephesians 6:12 says: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  

Know this:

Satan hates me. Satan hates my child. Satan will never stop the fight. I can’t either.  

Parents you are in the fight of your life!

As an Orthodoxy-led family, I fight for my child with: 

Prayer. God’s Word. Discipline. Conversations. Accountability. Involvement. Truth.    


5. As an Orthodoxy-led family, I will commit to placing Jesus before my family and my family before me.  

Imagine... if every single one of us aspired for such - - to place Jesus before others and to place others before ourselves, especially in consideration of family!  

If we as Christians got this right, we would win... and our families would win every single day.  

We have already hit some pretty intense stuff in the 11 weeks of Orthodoxy. We have much more to go as we continue to walk through this truth series. And, as you and I strive to apply all that we have been studying, it is quite probable for some here that you will find yourself at a crossroads with a family member – a family member who doesn’t see Orthodoxy as you do; a family member who doesn’t agree with Orthodoxy as do you...  

And you will have to decide on which side you stand on – the side of Orthodoxy or the side of the agreement and what appears to be a decision that will keep peace among you and a member of your family.  

Look at what Jesus said about placing Him before family:  

Luke 12:51-53: Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Living for Orthodoxy will be divisive. Living for Orthodoxy requires my complete loyalty to Jesus. Living for Orthodoxy very well may call me to abandon all... even my family.  

Luke 9:59-62: He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still, another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  

In the same breath that I am to place Jesus before my family, I too am to place my family before myself. Again, we follow the lead of Jesus here.  

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20-21  

to take charge of /Greek/ = to seize and imprison  

Jesus’ family obviously did not see Him as the Savior of the world. They instead thought He was crazy and wanted to lock Him away! But what does Jesus do? He stays the course and surrenders His life for His very family!  

We are called to do the same Church - - to place the very greatest needs of our families before one another.   If we do, imagine the impact... 

Humbling myself to lift up another. Setting aside happiness for holiness. Embracing the act of meeting the needs of family before stroking the desires of self.  

This is what it means to pursue an Orthodoxy-led family.  

Let us make this one of our greatest aspirations.         


Jeffrey Dean Smith is a husband, father to Bailey & Brynnan, author, and the Senior Pastor at Donelson First in Nashville, TN. If you are in Music City, meet Jeffrey and enjoy iced tea on the front lawn each Sunday at 10:30a.