The family the Bible talks about is incredible. The promise the Bible talks about is incredible.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!
35 Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."
Jesus says whoever does the will of God they belong to the family of God.
29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will
30 fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.
This is just after Jesus had the encounter with the rich young man. Jesus promises here that whoever gives up something for him or for the gospel will not fail to receive a hundred times more in this present age. The Bible promise us incredible things about the kingdom of God, about the family of God. For us to become a bigger and better family there are two things we need to focus on.
1. Family Relationships
The church is definitely big but it is made of small, small, families. If we talk about the church we say "the church needs to shine"," there should be love in the church". But there should be love in every family. Love should start from small, small, families and that love overflows to every part of the church. Bible has great family examples.
- Adam and Eve, God created a family there. It had a family feeling and God wanted that love to be spread in that family.
- Noah in his time - he and his whole family were saved in spite of the whole world getting destroyed by the flood. There was a family there, God protected that family and the family was totally united and in love.
- Abraham or Isaac and Jacob - these were all family men and women in the Old Testament - great men and women who had incredible families.
- Joshua's attitude was great after they had crossed the Jordan river and the Israelites were about to conquer the promised land. Joshua was old and he was giving his farewell speech.
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.
Joshua's attitude was like "you can do anything you like but as for me and my household we want to serve God". That should be the attitude that all of us as married men and women should have - as for me and my household we want to serve the Lord. With broken families and broken marriages how are we going to build an awesome church? The Church is supposed to be the light for the world. When people come into the church the first thing they need to see is awesome marriages, awesome parenting, and awesome families. That is where love starts.
There is a famous saying- "Charity begins at home". We can say Christianity begins at home. It is not on Sundays that Christianity begins, it is how we live our family lives, how we are at home, how we behave with our spouses and our children, that is how we remain true Christians. If we fail at home then we have failed our mission, we cannot reach out to this world, we cannot show the light to this lost world. I think the first step is, in our home itself we need to be a unit of love, there should be incredible love in every family and that is how the church is built.
How are our families today? Is our family a light to this lost world? Are we really concerned about our family, are trying to build spiritual families?
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
God talks about the importance of parenting. God believes that spirituality gets transferred through families. He says we should pay so much of importance how we raise up our children, teaching them to love God the way we love God. Brothers and sisters, if we are failing at home, then we are failing in what God has called us to do. We need to pay attention to our own family relationships - our relationship with our parents, our relationship with our spouse, our children.
2. Family Group Relationships
The church is so big and we cannot expect everyone to be in touch with everyone. And that's why in the church we meet in smaller groups called family groups. In the first century, in early Christianity the disciples didn't meet in big auditoriums. In one or two places we can see that they met in a theatre or some place like that but most of the time they met in houses. And those houses were called house churches - the group that met there was called the church that meets in so-and-so house.
That's how our family group is - it's a small unit that meets in someone's house or in some small place. For us to see love and see the church full of love, it should start in small family groups. There should be love in small, small, family groups and then the church will be full of love. If we are not willing to be involved with our neighbors, to love one another in our small groups, we cannot expect a big group to be united and feel loved. Our small group in which we meet, our family group, it needs to be a functional group where there is love, where all these relationships are practiced, where all these scriptures (love one another, admonish one another, encourage one another, teach one another) are put into practice.
God has definitely offered an incredible plan to build awesome families. But there are some precautions we need to be aware of. Every scripture about one another is about giving to one another. Talk about loving one another it's about us going and loving. It's not about "o.k. someone needs to love me". In some ways we have applied this scripture to our neighbors and not to ourselves. It talks about serving one another. It's not talking about "o.k. no one is serving me" it talks about we having to go and serve. It's talking to us and not to our neighbors whether they are doing their job or not. We have to apply the scriptures to our hearts.
Most of us when we were growing up, in some way or the other, our emotional needs were not being met in the way that God wanted it to be met. So when we come to the church for the first time we see this love, this outpour of love, we get so attracted and feel "wow! This is different, this is awesome". Now it's o.k. to be attracted - we see the followers of Jesus were attracted to Jesus through different things (miracles, food, different reasons) - but attraction is different from motivation. What motivates us is not what attracts us. What attracts us is what brings us together but what really motivates us is what is important.
What happens is that when we come into the church with all these deep-seated expectations (because as a child most of our emotional needs were not met) we get disappointed that many of these needs are not met. The irony of the problem is that we are so emotionally needy it actually rebels people instead of attracting them to us, instead of getting the help that we need. People get afraid because they feel they cannot meet the needs that we expect. And then what happens is we become critical that our needs are not being met in the way that we want it to be met. And we look at others and sometimes we become very possessive about relationships, we become jealous if someone else is close to the one we are close to. These things rule our hearts.
The opposite thing happens when we are brought up in a family where we are the center of attraction. Some of us, as little children, we were the center of attraction and we expected our whole family to give to us. In other words we were spoilt children. And then we come to church and expect everyone to give to us. "How awesome I am, everyone should give to me, everyone should serve me". That's because as little children that is how we received. We were so used to receiving that giving is not an issue. It's always about taking, always about receiving which is contrary to what the scriptures teach.
So what is the answer to all these problems? God should be the greatest focus in our lives. When we don't love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, with all our strength, then we look to people to meet all our needs and it becomes impossible because only God can meet all our needs.
Jesus loved people so much. If he had focussed on those people to meet his emotional and spiritual needs Jesus would have been a very discouraged man. But the Bible says with loud cries and tears he put petition to the Lord. He went to God and he poured out his heart to God and he got strengthened and he came again to give to people. God gave him the strength and he gave to others. This is very important for all of us. Jesus was focused on loving God with all his heart and mind and strength then he was able to love his neighbor just as himself. We need to build our Christian relationships on giving rather than on taking. The Bible doesn't say 'demand from one another', the Bible doesn't say 'take from one another' it says love one another, it says give to one another, it says forgive one another. It's about giving and not about taking.
Few questions for us to see our own hearts in relationships.
- Do we find ourselves waiting for others to initiate or do we initiate with others?
- Are we often critical of others when our needs are not met or are we grateful all the time?
- Are we possessive of our relationships? Does it bother us when our closest friends spend time with others? Do we feel jealous or envious at that time?
- Do we find difficulty in relationship changes? For example if we have to go to a new ministry do we have difficulty in building new relationships? Or let's say a new person comes to our ministry do we find it difficult to build a relationship?
- When we serve others do we feel hurt when they don't reciprocate or give that same service to us?
- Have we ever thought of leaving the church, leaving the fellowship because we're disappointed in relationships?
God wants us to have incredible relationships but it's not like the world - not build on high expectations and demands and all these things. It is built on sacrifice and giving to one another.
In conclusion, what we need to do. First of all we need to get rid of comparison. It is comparison that hurts us. We compare one person with another person and we expect that person to be like this person. It hurts us. Everyone is different. We cannot expect everyone to be like everyone else. We have to die from all sorts of comparison.
I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
Paul talks here - we should remember that Paul has never visited the Roman church. The group of disciples he's talking to -he has never visited them. But look at what he says in v14. This is where we need to look at one another and believe that we have one another to help us. That is enough. Whoever is in our family group is enough to instruct us. Of course there will be specific cases where we need expert advice and we need to take it from people who are expert in that area but in general all of us are competent to instruct one another.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
The truth is already in the scriptures, the truth is complete, the revelation is complete- we have it written clearly. The goal is clear - the goal is for each one of us to become like Christ. All of us, whatever life we may be living, our ultimate goal is to be like Christ. That is where we use the scriptures to become more and more like Christ.
The third thing is our commitment. Now we've heard people say "I'll be committed to the Church but I don't want any deep relationships". We are completely mistaken - if we are not committed to one another we are not committed to anything. Bible calls us to be committed first to God and then to one another. Church is not an organization where we come in every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday - like these are a certain set of rules we must follow. No, we are committed to one another.
The Bible talks about loving God and loving our neighbor. That is why we meet each other, that is why we are involved in one another's life, that is why we are there, we are willing to sacrifice, willing to give. The more we shy away from relationships the more we move away from true Christianity.
Finally, all of us need to mature. Not that any of us have reached there but the bible talks about going on to maturity.
11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.
12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!
13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.
14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God,
2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
3 And God permitting, we will do so.
The Hebrew writer says that by this time many of us ought to be teachers but we need to be reminded of the elementary truths all over again and again and again. Here in v14 it says solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. If we want to become mature we have to train ourselves. Spiritual maturity comes from training, when we train ourselves to distinguish good from evil. Do we need someone to teach us? Yes, we need someone to teach us but we need to teach ourselves more than that, we need to train ourselves, we need to be open to discipling ourselves to change, not to accept our feelings and not to go in the way we want to go.
Christ revealed God and it is the church that reveals Christ to the world. Our role is to reveal Christ to this lost world, to give a solution to the world.
First of all we need to build spiritual families. It is the smallest unit, it is what the church is built on - small, small families everywhere. We need to have strong convictions about building spiritual families.
Secondly we need to build awesome family groups. We need to have family group relationships. These are the small units of the church. We cannot expect everything to happen just like that. It has to start in small, small family groups. And then we'll be the kind of church that God wants us to be.