Sunday, May 09, 2004

The Church: The Family of God

Intro: I want to start with a test. I want a show of hands. 1. How many of you were not raised by a family? 2. How many of you were raised by a family? 3. I was surprised to learn two things this week as I prepared this sermon 4. Much of the Bible focuses on families       Adam and Eve       Noah and his family       Abraham and his family and descendants Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph (one of twelve sons)       Ruth is the story of family commitment       Esther is a story of one young woman's involvement with her family       Jesus earthly life focuses on his family - Mary is present even at the cross 5. The Greek word for family only occurs 3 times in the NT 6. Yet we know our selves as the "Family of God" 7. Concept is rooted in the fact that, as believers, we are children of God. And if we all have the same father, then we are a family. Read John 1:1 - 1:13, Romans 8:14-17 Pray I. The family is the unit for growth A. The family is designed to be a place for nurture and growth (Ill.) Though my wife and I met in Sacramento, my home town and where we both went to college, she lived 2 hours northwest in the small community of Santa Rosa. In Santa Rosa California is the one-time home of Luther Burbank. In his backyard is a plant that lives for 25 years, blossoms and dies. It puts all of its energy and resources into that one flower, that it has nothing left once it has bloomed. Not at all like raising a child. B. Nurturing is something that takes time - it does not happen automatically C. And time takes a commitment. D. That's parenting - but it is no different in the church - that means those us who are part of the church will be committed to seeing those around us grow. (Ill.) Family growth takes two forms - We have children, they get married, - over the years we see numerical growth in our family. And that of course is part of what we want to happen in the church. Even as we allow new people to enter into our families - whether through birth or marriage - we need to allow new people to enter into our church family. (Ill.) But family growth also occurs as our children age - they go to school, they have their own relationships, they leave the home, and eventually start families of their own. Spiritual growth is something we want for ourselves and for others. Spiritual growth must focus on the "I"s - 1. Imperative - we are expected to grow. We cannot merely content being where we are. 2. Intentional - we plan to put ourselves in places and situations where we will grow 3. Integrated - if every area of our lives have been tainted by the fall, then every area of our lives will need to be evaluated in terms of God's expectations for us. II. The family is a place where we can be cared for A. Another characteristic of the family is love - a love that says to each member that they are special and that they belong to the family unit. B. The church should not be any different. Each person who steps through those doors is a valued member of our community. A person loved by God - and because of that loved by us. (Ill.) When you come into our church you can expect to get a hug. Here a bunch a people that care for each other. C. But caring for one another is not just a matter of hugging each other. D. It also means holding ourselves accountable for our behavior. Interestingly, the task of holding one another accountable has it roots in the very earliest days of Methodism. In fact, it was the regularly scheduled meetings of John and Charles Wesley where they and their friends met to check up on their spiritual lives. E. What kind of questions did these men ask each other. You will find a modern version tucked inside the bulletin - these seven questions were distributed by Charles Swindoll but they are the type of questions that were asked by the early Methodists as they supported each other. Find someone to hold you accountable, find someone to ask these questions - and then answer them honestly. III. The family is also a flawed institution A. Our theology, our understanding of God, tells us that every area of our lives is tainted by the fall. If this is so, then our families are flawed - - both our human families and the church. B. This is important because we are presented with the question - Will our spiritual family, the church, be a copy of our human families, our flawed human families; or will we place our church and our human families in a position so that we are obedient to scripture? (Ill.) To the best of my knowledge, I have never seen a counterfeit dollar bill. But I understand, that a person who handles real money day in and day out, can easily spot a counterfeit. It just feels wrong. The same is the church. When someone comes into the church they can tell whether we copying our own flawed families, or are copying the real thing - to the best of our ability. C. Bottom line is this - what is going to be our standard- will it be our flawed families or will it be the Word of God. D. As we seek to understand the nature of the church in the coming weeks and months, I do hope that we will choose to let the inspired, unchanging scriptures be our standard. (Appl.) Finally, this means that we will spend time getting to know God's word. Conclusion: We have spent the last three weeks looking at the church. 1.The Church is the bride of Christ - we are being prepared for a wedding 2.The Church is the body of Christ - we to get out and do the work of Christ 3.The Church is the Family of God - we are a group of people in relationship to each other. Are you a member of the church? Do you belong to Jesus Christ?