Before moving into the message, let me just take a moment to say Happy Father’s Day to the dads present here today. Our goal is to make this a Dad friendly service where we just get to the point. So with that in mind I am going to speak for about 19 minutes – in two parts – Part 1 will be about 14 minutes and Part 2 – no more than 5 minutes. So let’s start the timer!
This weekend we are continuing our Church At Work series and we are going to talk about the church where it is described in the bible as a family.
The Bible gives us this image when we read “See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are!” 1 JOHN 3: 1 (NLT)
And when Peter writes, God “has given us the privilege of being born again, so that we are now members of God’s own family.” 1 Peter 1:3 (TLB)
You are members of God’s very own family,
EPHESIANS 2: 19B (LB)
Baseline statement – When we place our faith in Christ, God becomes our Father, we become his children, other believers become our brothers and sisters, and the church becomes our spiritual family. (Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? (p. 152). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)
And never forget we are invited to a spiritual family that is forever. Our families on earth can be wonderful gifts from God, but they are temporary and fragile, often broken by divorce, distance, growing old, and inevitably, death. On the other hand, our spiritual family — our relationship to other believers — will continue throughout eternity. It is a much stronger union, a more permanent bond. (Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? (p. 153). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)
Now let look at three snapshots in scripture on how we need to look at how this spiritual family – the church of believers. The church at work is described as a
Family that’s better
Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” (Matthew 12:50, NLT)
Jesus himself challenged the idea of putting our natural family ahead of our faith-family. His mother, brothers and sisters came to get Jesus one day because they felt he was being an embarrassment to the family and when the crowd he was with told him his mother and brothers and sisters were there, Jesus challenged the very notion of family relationships and the power they hold over us. “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother!” he said.
That was a very counter-cultural statement in that time just as it would be in our time. But other the years, I’ve come to see the value in this.
Often our families can have a bunch of mixed up broken priorities that drive us. For some it is a race! For others it is about performance. For others it is about manipulation, guilt and shame. For others it is about enjoying life and meeting one’s needs before others. For others it is just taking care of each other to the exclusion of others.
But imagine a family that has better prioritiesis set on striving to do the will of God our Father? What are the core expressions of God’s will? Forgiveness. Servanthood. Humble trust. Justice. Mercy to the poor. Unconditional Love. A commitment to truth. Peace. Grace. Sacrifice to each other. Commitment. These are core to the church family – that makes it better.
Brent Hudson, our teaching pastor has observed, when we start our own family we want a better version of what we personally experienced. A 2.0 version so to speak. Church family is actually the 2.0 version of family that I wanted and needed.
The church family is better because it is more diverse. So often if you and I want our family relationships to grow more healthy, but because we are the drivers of that change — from my own brokenness and my rejection of patterns I experienced — the pendulum just swings into another form of brokenness. For example – family that fights over every conflict to making a family that flees every conflict.
Brent H. goes on to say – What we need is the influence of people with a great variety of health and who are fighting against a brokenness that is just as serious but is different from mine. That person can speak into me and can both challenge and encourage me. I can challenge others because my struggles are nuanced in a different way than theirs. Of course, all of our struggles are struggles “to become more and more like him” in our personal lives but we all are pushing forward in one direction with different struggles and challenges. The church is a better family — it is more diverse in its pain and in its health. The church is an opportunity for all of us to experience family 2.0 — a better family.
Not only that, but the church at work is a …
Family that’s secure
… he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15b, NLT)
We have this expression: “blood is thicker than water”. We use it to basically say “relatives come first”. This is not different from any other tribal group in the world from the beginning of recorded history. Humans are basically social beings and we protect our closest groups — we are tribal. We look after our own. We look after family first. Family is family whether you like it or not.
But dad’s leave their families for all kinds of reasons. Mom’s leave their families likewise. Even children sometimes run away. There is brokenness at work in our families and it is a brokenness that only finds healing in God’s love and being connected to him.
Brent Hudson says the church is a family that is secure because it is not based just on my hopes but on God’s choice. Paul says that God “adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” Think of that — God went through the orphanage of this world and he looked at you and said: “Mine” If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, that is evidence that God has adopted you as his own child. Your relationship with God is forever changed and your relationship with other believers is forever changed.
Whenever you feel unimportant, unloved, or insecure, remember to whom you belong.
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again into your family
Your blood flows through my veins
Lee Strobel, former Chicago Tribune journalist turned pastor once told this story:
Shortly after the Korean War, a Korean woman had an affair with an American soldier, and she got pregnant. He went back to the United States, and she never saw him again. She gave birth to a little girl, and this little girl looked different than the other Korean children. She had light-colored, curly hair. In that culture, children of mixed race were ostracized by the community. In fact, many women would kill their children because they didn’t want them to face such rejection.
But this woman didn’t do that. She tried to raise her little girl as best she could. For seven years she tried to do that, until the rejection was too much. She did something that probably nobody in this room could imagine ever doing. She abandoned her little girl to the streets.
This little girl was ruthlessly taunted by people. They called her the ugliest word in the Korean language, tooki, alien devil. It didn’t take long for this little girl to draw conclusions about herself based on the way people treated her.
For two years she lived in the streets, until finally she made her way to an orphanage. One day, word came that a couple from America was going to adopt a little boy. All the children in the orphanage got excited, because at least one little boy was going to have hope. He was going to have a family. So this little girl spent the day cleaning up the little boysgiving them baths and combing their hairand wondering which one would be adopted by the American couple.
The next day the couple came, and this is what the girl recalled: “It was like Goliath had come back to life. I saw the man with his huge hands lift up each and every baby. I knew he loved every one of them as if they were his own. I saw tears running down his face, and I knew if they could, they would have taken the whole lot home with them.
“He saw me out of the corner of his eye. Now let me tell you. I was nine years old, but I didn’t even weigh 30 pounds. I was a scrawny thing. I had worms in my body. I had lice in my hair. I had boils all over me. I was full of scars. I was not a pretty sight. But the man came over to me, and he began rattling away something in English, and I looked up at him. Then he took this huge hand and laid it on my face. What was he saying? He was saying, ‘I want this child. This is the child for me.'” (http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2002/july/13779.html)
That’s the story of God and us. It’s not just about acceptance, it’s also about security. God has declared you are his children, that you are the child for him.
The church is a family that’s secure because it is rooted in God declaring that we are his children — brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ and heirs of the kingdom of God.
Consider also Hebrews 2:11, which points out that Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters.
Let that amazing truth sink in. You are a part of God’s family, and because Jesus makes you holy, God is proud of you! Being included in God’s family is the highest honor and the greatest privilege you will ever receive. Nothing else comes close. Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? (p. 157). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
But it doesn’t end there. God gives us a better family; He gives us a family that’s secure, but Paul reminds us we also play a part in this and that we are a…
Family that’s doing good things for one another.
Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. (Galatians 6:10, NLT)
This passage tells us to put a priority on God’s family.
Why? Isn’t it true when I value something I will take care of it. I see the sports cars come out in the spring…shiny, clean…cared for!
Why is the family of faith valuable? Because of who we are. If we have a low view and value of the church – the family of faith – it will not make our list at all. But when we begin to realize who we all are in Christ – that we are a forever family…that we are spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ – that we are spiritual royalty…whoa!
Now I am seeing things from a different perspective. Rather than looking at people in the church as liabilities to manage, as burdens or threats that we must minimize – we will seek to wash each other’s feet as Jesus showed us. John 13) And we will resist the worldly formula of misery, which is to use people and love things – instead we will love people and use things. Our attachment will deepen with God’s people and loosen with personal possessions.
This passage is once again a call to service. Jesus told us the those who are first in the kingdom of God are the servants of all.
Can I suggest there are benefits in serving – doing good things for one another.
This comes from the field of social analysis – from Arthur Brooks – an American conservative economist – in a lecture in which he discusses how to have genuine happiness. He highlights 2 studies
Study 1 – At a seniors home half of the seniors were given board games and other fun activities to do – the other half were trained to give massages to infants. After a set period of a few weeks the group of seniors who had served these infants who could not praise or pay them – studies were made of their brain and found their stress hormones were reduced by half.
Study 2 – The way you serve others and the way you are treated. A large group were gathered to do experiments, where, in phase one, people were asked voluntarily to help one another. Data was collected on much each person volunteered to serve. In the second phase people were put in groups and were to ask to select their leaders. The ones who were most charitable were chosen 80% of the time to the positions of leadership. That means servant leadership is a very real thing, it is empowering, it lifts you up and it makes you happy. Doing good things changes what you will experience in your forever family.
Arthur Brooks goes on to say –
Don’t fight for people who support you but fight for people who need you – we should be champions of hope and opportunity –
What we learn how to love our family of faith shapes how we will love our own families.
Centered on God’s will
Secure with an unconditional love
Do good things for one another
Dad’s – Have you identified with God’s family? members are not ashamed to be recognized as a part of the family.
Why is baptism so important? Then I realized it is because it symbolizes God’s second purpose for your life: participating in the fellowship of God’s eternal family. Baptism is pregnant with meaning. Your baptism declares your faith, shares Christ’s burial and resurrection, symbolizes your death to your old life, and announces your new life in Christ.
It is also a celebration of your inclusion in God’s family. Your baptism is a physical picture of a spiritual truth. It represents what happened the moment God brought you into his family: “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into Christ’s body by one Spirit, and we have all received the same Spirit.” 20 Baptism doesn’t make you a member of God’s family; only faith in Christ does that. Baptism shows you are part of God’s family. Like a wedding ring, it is a visible reminder of an inward commitment made in your heart. It is an act of initiation, not something you put off until you are spiritually mature. The only biblical condition is that you believe.
When we are all on the right track with God, it is my church family that will challenge me most, help me most, love me most, and be there for me through thick and thin. It’s also the place where we will act badly and need forgiveness and have opportunities to follow Jesus’ teaching with others who are keen to do so as well — though we all may need some encouragement and help along the way.