A. THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
GROWING IN OUR NEW LIFE IN CHRIST AT HOME.
Now let me relate something about our home life, for that is where the new life in Christ is often most severely tested. The year 1970 was a very significant year for us. I was saved in January, we moved into our new house during March or April, Martie accepted the Lord Jesus in June and then on 19 September, our first child was born. It was a son and we named him Frans, after my father. Just prior to his birth we had exchanged our Toyota pickup for a very fine used, two litre white Opel, and so, on Martie’s discharge from the maternity home, we drove home, the proud parents of a little bundle of joy wrapped in blankets and cradled in Martie’s loving arms. Our pedigree boxer dog, however, did not share our enthusiasm for he immediately sensed that this would be competition.
What really stands out in my memory in regard to those early years of Christian life, was my drastically changing attitude towards my wife. In my parents’ marriage, though they were Christians, there were defects that were a daily irritation. My dad was a very upright man, strong in integrity, never told lies, was never disloyal to my mum, never cheated anybody but sometimes acted a bit rashly, possibly because of insecurity he had borne from his childhood days. My mum was a very virtuous and wise person, but somewhat failed in the area of submission towards her husband. She over reacted to his wrong behaviour, blaming him and manipulating him to the extent that she was actually in charge of our family. I strongly resented this as a child and more so when I grew up into adulthood. Subconsciously I must have come to the firm decision never to allow my wife to rule our home and this is exactly what I did when we got married. I always made quite sure that I was the undisputed head of our family. My word was law and I did not tolerate my wife correcting me. In this way I felt secure and in control. At that time, most other men felt exactly the same way and I do not recall that there was any Christian teaching to the contrary in our churches.
But God wanted it otherwise and very soon the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to what His Word taught in this regard. I discovered that a husband was to love his wife deeply and to offer himself up for her wellbeing. The Lord then began applying this principle to my life in a very practical way. One day, after wronging her, He gently spoke to me saying: “Go to her and tell her that you are sorry for what you have said and done.” I immediately recoiled as if bitten by a snake. I said to myself: “Goodness me, what is going to happen in our home once I begin apologising to my wife? She’s going to take over just like my mum did. There will be no order whatsoever in our home anymore. Everything’s going to fall apart! No, this could not be from God. I will not do that.” But that inner conviction just persisted and persisted to the point where I had no peace at all and so I went up to Martie and sort of just mumbled: “I’m sorry,” as I walked past her. I expected her to sneer, point a finger and highlight my mistake. To my utter astonishment she reacted in a gentle way, saying: “Don’t worry, I was also wrong, I shouldn’t have said that.” I was astounded. I never expected that she would display such an attitude. I was humbled before God. I had learned my first deep, deep lesson in marriage but I would have to learn that lesson over and over and over again and I must confess that I am still, to this very day, in the process of learning it in an ever deepening way.
MARTIE’S ACCOUNT OF REJECTION BY HER FAMILY
Of course, wherever we went, we were testifying about what happened to us spiritually. It was not always easy. Suddenly we were rejected by many people, especially by some of our family members. This was not easy for me because we, as a family of three brothers and six sisters, were very close to one another. I prayed and cried before the Lord about the rejection I was experiencing and He answered me from His Word, saying: ‘I tell you the truth: no-one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for Me and the Gospel, will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age’ (Mark 10:29-30). And also: ‘You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men …..’ (Matt. 5:14-16).
I replied: ‘Thank you Lord, I am willing to go through all this, whatever the cost might be!’ The Word of course also says: ‘I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns Me before men, will be disowned before the angels of God’.(Luke 12:8-10).
“COMPETING WITH THE JONESES”
Our new house was situated in a new suburb. Ours actually was the first, or one of the first homes to be built in that suburb. Since I had been appointed as a deacon in our church, I visited every new couple that moved into a home in that area. I recall that one month I visited as many as 43 homes. I did this to find out whether some of them were members of our church and to invite them to attend our meetings and become one with the body of Christ. The result was that we got to know just about everybody in that area. They were mostly young people, people of our age, let us say between 25 and 35 years of age; couples in the earlier stages of their lives, full of zeal and determined to make a mark in life. This was good, for I do believe that we all need to make the best of the time which God gives us on this planet.
The negative side of it, however, was that there was a strong underlying competition between all of us: “Keeping up with the Joneses.” We were continually speaking of and showing one another our cars, lawns, gardens, fruit trees, carpets (for wall-to-wall carpeting had just hit South Africa and we all felt we just had to have it or else lose prestige). The competition was not in a bad spirit, yet it was very, very real and everybody was somehow always a little bit tensed up, looking around to see what neighbours and friends were doing, what they were up to, what new things they had acquired. This did not please the Lord and so He started speaking to me on the issue.
I clearly recall the phases I went through during the next couple of months. To me too, acquiring as many material things in life as possible was the right thing to do. That was what a good person, a good husband, a good citizen was supposed to do. But I say again, God had different views on this issue and as I studied the Word, I came to the conclusion that He wanted us to work hard, to do our best, but to also be content with what He gave us and not continually to set our hearts upon that which could be seen, smelled, tasted, physically sensed.
The first practical issue in my life with which the Lord dealt with, was in regard to the motor car we were driving. New Toyota sedans (the Toyota Mark 2) were coming onto the market and I felt that I just had to have one. It was becoming an obsession with me. The other men were also buying new motor cars one after the other and I did not want to lag behind. Yet, I had no peace about this matter. The Holy Spirit kept on telling me: “There is nothing wrong with your Opel; it is in perfect running order and you do not need anything better for the present”. Wow, what a spiritual challenge.
First of all I had to overcome this in my own heart, then I had to convey it to Martie in such a way that she would be convinced that this really was the way God wanted it to be. At that time too, we had very little teaching along these lines in our church. However as time went by, my conviction that this attitude towards material things really was of God, became so intense, I was so certain of my stand, that I could also convincingly convey it to Martie. I had, in my inner being, in my spirit, crossed a line but now let me tell you, my new stand was so fragile that I declined when a friend of mine invited me to go for a drive with him in his new Toyota. I was perched on the point of a needle and so scared that my new-found resolution might not be strong enough to hold up under that temptation. Many months passed before I knew deep within my heart that I had gained a complete victory over the desire, or let me say over the compulsion to drive a new motorcar every year or two.
Once a clear victory was gained the ice was broken and the Lord showed me that the same principle actually applied to all our other material things. I sat down with Martie and we discussed this over again and again until, in the end, we came to that wonderful green pasture and quiet waters where all desire to compete with others in the acquiring of material things, was overcome. The desire had left us. The Spirit of God and the truth of his Word had set us free. We could now walk into the homes and sit in the cars of our friends, enjoying all they had, without any resentment that we ourselves did not have this or that or the other thing. What a wonderful freedom that was.
DO NOT LOVE THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD; THEY ARE NOT FOR KEEPS!
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