When you come to Christ, you become part of the greatest family on earth…
Acts 2:42-47 (ESV Strong’s)
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
THE FAMILY IS GOD’S MASTERPIECE
We know great artists by their most important creations: Michelangelo by the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven by his “Fifth Symphony,” George Lucas by the Star Wars saga. Each masterpiece reveals something of its creator.
The same is true of God. He spoke galaxies into existence, formed the mountains, filled the oceans, and planted forests and created animals and mankind. But the masterpiece that reveals more about God than anything else shows up when God made something called “family” (Genesis 1:27-28).
Two essential elements of family — marriage and parenthood — reveal God’s character like nothing else in Creation. According to Ephesians, the love between a husband and wife gives a glimpse of Christ’s passionate devotion to the church as His bride.
Ephesians 5:31-32 (ESV Strong’s)
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
In the same way, the ups and downs of parenthood offer a compelling picture of God’s tenderness and patience toward us as His children. But despite family often being hard, and often hurts, doesn’t mean we give up on it! In the pandemic, isolation might have helped flatten the curve, but it has flattened a lot of families along the way.
When you come to Jesus, you’re not joining a club, a buying group or a fraternity. You’re not even joining a church, or a denomination. When you come to Christ, you become part of the greatest family in earth…
Ephesians 2:19 (ESV Strong’s)
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
We are His household, children of the King, and we are one family. Like any family we have our ups and downs. There might be someone you don’t particularly warm to, and every family has a weird uncle or a strange cousin, but we are family, and that counts for a lot.
I’m starting a short series in the church family, and why we need to not be isolated or forming small cliques but pull together in unity as a family.
FAMILIES UNDER ATTACK
Families in general have been under attack in recent decades, and the church family is no exception. The government has conjured up harsher and more restrictive rules for the family of God than any other club or group, and it’s all designed to stop us being the family God wants to be.
1 John 3:1 (ESV Strong’s)
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Let’s examine what family, and therefore our church family is…
1. FAMILY IS NOT CHOSEN
You can’t generally pick your parents or siblings in your natural family, and it’s the same in the church. I can’t chose the ones I like and reject the one who are a pain.
2 Corinthians 5:15 (ESV Strong’s)
and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Even the difficult ones? Even the ones who hurt us? Even the ones we don’t think deserve God’s grace? Yep, Christ died for all.
2. IT IS WELCOMING
Have you ever been away for a long time, and when you come home the family rushes our to greet you? That’s what family should be like.
Romans 15:7 (ESV Strong’s)
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
As family we must be welcoming, so going forward we are strongly encouraging our church family to welcome and honour new people like long lost family members. It’s tempting for us to become a holy huddle, an exclusive clique, I’m saved, you’re not, I’ve got the Holy Spirit and you don’t.
Paul and others had to address this very issue in dozens of places in the epistles because from the start of the church, people were prideful and exclusive instead of inclusive. But God’s plan is for families, His church included, to be welcoming.
3. FAMILY FORGIVES
Our family should have our backs, but sadly many families criticise, fight and judge one another. Some members of my extended family haven’t talked for a decade because they took offence and refuse to forgive. My uncle recently died, and some of his kids refused to even contact their mother because of a long running feud! What a shame… But Church can be the same. I am more criticised by church people than by anyone else, by about 100 to one!
Opinions are like noses… Everyone has one, and most if them smell, and everyone thinks their point of view is right. Family should love each other, even love the differences and forgive each other so much that they overlook the faults and differences we have and pull together in unity.
Colossians 3:13 (ESV Strong’s)
bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
There’s far too much harshness and legalistic criticism in most families, and especially in the church today.
4. IT NURTURES
A family is a place where you grow up, hopefully to a mature, responsible and caring adult. Babies are cute, but if they stay that way for 20 years, something is wrong! Church is the same. A church family should help each other mature and grow into Christ likeness. If you discover a spiritual key, share it. We should encourage one another to hear God, read His Word and make wise and godly decisions.
Ephesians 4:29 (ESV Strong’s)
Let no corrupting talk (lit: putrid, worthless) come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
So are your words building up your church family. Or tearing them down? Is your mouth a bringer of peace or an offensive weapon?
5. FAMILY HAS RESPONSIBILITIES
Every family comes with blessings, but also responsibilities. When we fostered kids, most of whom were very Street wise, they got to share all the blessings of being part of our family, including holidays and events. But they also had to do chores. They had responsibilities just like the rest of the family.
Acts 2:44-46 (ESV Strong’s)
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
The church in Acts took responsibility to their church family seriously. They prioritised turning up to church, in the temple, in homes, everywhere, and they even sold stuff and gave the proceeds to care for others.
They didn’t float in and take what they could get from church. Church family was about what you can give, not what you can take. As Winston Churchill once said, we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
6. FAMILY STAYS COMMITTED
The phrase “blood is thicker than water” means family ties are the most important. Just ask the Mafia! Families are among the strongest units our society has, and the enemy is attacking families because he can cause anarchy in society if he destroys families. Right now he is attacking the church family.
Right now, even mature, committed believers are starting to say, “I prefer to sleep in or watch online instead of getting up and going to church.”
Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV Strong’s)
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Families stick together, and as convenient as it is to watch church online, it’s more powerful and you can touch more lives if you gather with other believers. I want to encourage all of you to not neglect meeting together, at church or at your home.
7. WE SHOULD PULL TOGETHER
Favouritism is incredibly destructive in families. We should love each other equally, not play favourites. Look at the OT patriarchs, who favoured one wife or one child over the others. Jacob and Joseph…
Genesis 37:3-4 (ESV Strong’s)
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
This is why James and others caution us as the family of God,
James 2:9 (ESV Strong’s)
But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
But Christians do it all the time. We have the right way, you don’t. We have tongues, you don’t. We have this revelation and you don’t. Families who form cliques of haves and have nots inevitably will be destroyed!
Aren’t we far better pulling together, to say, I’ve found a key, let me share it with you. Or I have a blessing, let me share it with you. A friend of mine recently wrote, how fast did Abraham reach the promised land? Answer… As fast as the slowest member of his family.
If someone was sick, they stopped and cared for them. If someone was lost, they stopped and looked for them.
WE ARE BETTER TOGETHER… SPIRITUAL BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER
Going forward, our church family is going to change, I believe for the better. But as your pastor, I refuse to rush into changes that isolate and leave people I love, people in my family, behind. We are in this together, for better, for worse, for richer for poorer in sickness and in health. We are family!
2 Corinthians 13:11 (ESV Strong’s)
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Restoration is Gk KARTARTIZO, meaning to frame of fit perfectly together. Our church family is like a wall, with each stone hewn to fit perfectly with the others. Together, we are better, so now is the moment that we are able to restore church, not as it was, but as it ought to be. We are going to meet together, in the temple courts and in homes, but we are family, warts and all, weird uncle and nagging aunty and all, each one different, but every one important is the Lord fits us together.
This could be the defining moment for our church, when God reignites the passion, the Blessing and the unity of our church.
Come, let’s pray for unity.