God's Forever Family

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  2 : 5-12
Subject: Family; Marriage; Church
Series: Fixing the Family

Sermon Series - Fixing the Family - 6 of 6

1 Thessalonians 2:5-12

Last Sunday, I mentioned we were ending our series of "Fixing the Family", but through the course of this week, God burdened my heart and gave me some direction regarding one more message on the subject. The primary motivator that caused me to continue the series was that I felt I had not given adequate attention to helping those who find themselves in difficult family situations. Our initial observation six weeks ago was the many problems and challenges facing today's family. And my goal was to help us return to the values and foundations that Scripture provides us. But what if things don't improve? What if your family is one of 50% of American homes that will end in divorce this year? What if you live with a spouse who is an unbeliever and not interested in Biblical values?

What if you are the child of a parent or parents that don't attend church or pay attention to Scripture? What if your home is not governed by God's principles of righteousness and justice, mercy and truth? And what if no one other than you takes seriously the responsibility to walk with God and treat people as God wants them to be treated? What if your home is not sensitive to God's Spirit and not marked by gentleness and encouragement?

Or what if you are trying hard to improve your family life, but Satan has convinced you it doesn't do any good? After all, no matter how hard we try, no home is ever going to be perfect. Husbands and wives will never do everything to please their mate. Children are still going to be rebellious. Parents are going to make mistakes raising their children. And even though you may be the most dynamic Christian in the church, you are not exempt from the possibility of home attacks. In fact, that just may make you a more desirable target for the enemy.

And beyond that, you may be single or single again or remarried after a failed marriage or marriages or be a widow or widower or have a thousand other issues that remove you from the typical definition of a traditional family. So what do you do then?

Well, I want to remind you that as a believer, you are a part of God's family and God not only wants to use you as an illustration of His Love through your family, He wants to use His family to be a blessing to you. A lot of people have no use for the church because they think of the church in the wrong way or misunderstand its purpose and nature. They think of it as an organization, such as the PTA or AARP. But he church isn't an organization; it is a living organism. Others think of the church as a club, such as Rotary or the Lions Club. But neither is the church a club. Above anything else, the church is a family. And one of the most beautiful portraits of God is found in Psalm 68. Listen to how He's described in Psalm 68:5-6.

Isn't that a beautiful phrase? "God sets the solitary (let's translate that" lonely") in families. You see, it's possible that, because of your faith and your commitment to Christ, even though you may live with other people, you are lonely. You are solitary in your faith. But God sets the lonely in families! So what is that family? Well, in its historical setting, the psalmist was referring to widows and orphans and the responsibility the nation of Israel had to care for its own who found themselves in that situation.

Perhaps the strongest word regarding that is found in Exodus 22. Listen to what we read in verses 22-24:

“You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.

Jeremiah, as well as Job and others spoke of the responsibility to take care of widows and orphans.

In New Testament terms, the church is the setting in which God puts the lonely into a family. Rick Warren wrote: "Church is not a place you go to; church is a family you belong to."

When God puts you into His forever family, there are both blessings and responsibilities. Let's think about those. First of all

1. Blessings of Being Included in God's Family

One of Paul's favorites imageries to use when discussing the church was the family. As we saw in Ephesians 5 and 6, he wrote about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church and the wife responding with honor and submission. But he made it clear to say, "I'm talking about the church. I'm using this picture of the family and there is a lot to learn from it about family life. But the real teaching is about the church."

We find a similar thing in 1 Thessalonians. When Paul wrote to the church that met in that city, e believers in Thessalonica, he compared his love for the church with the love of a mother and a father. He illustrated what he meant by using family relationships.

And just so we're clear, the actual phrase, "the family of God" doesn't appear in the Bible, but there are dozens of verses that refer to the church as a family.

This family not only extends to believers here on earth, but believers in heaven are also part of God's family. Paul wrote, "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Eph. 3:14-15).

God's family is a forever family. We become a part of His family here on earth; and after we die, we're still part of God's family in heaven. There are two primary blessings we receive from being a part of God's family. First of all,

A. We Share a Relationship with the Same Father

A biological family's most common link is their bloodline. A lot of people get very interested in that and trace their families back generations. I did that one time and found out I was the direct descendent of a crooked farmer and a drunken sailor. The farmer's name was Adam and the sailor was a guy named Noah.

But traditionally, family ancestry is defined by blood origins and common ancestry. When Jesus came and gave His life on the cross, He gave a new definition for a new kind of family: God's family.

We sometimes forget Jesus had a biological family. Mary was His mother, and Joseph was His stepfather. The only glimpse we have of Jesus' childhood is when He was in the temple, amazing the temple scholars. He told Mary and Joseph, "Didn't you know I had to be about my Father's business?"

He wasn't talking about carpentry; that was Joseph's business. He was talking about the Word of God, His heavenly Father's business. After that incident when Jesus was 12, we never again hear about Joseph. Most scholars assume he died before Jesus began His ministry at age 30.

But in Mark 3, we read about how Jesus' biological family came asking for Him.

Mark 3:20-21

Before we become too critical of the family, think about it like this: What if your 30-year-old son or brother left his good job as a carpenter and went about claiming to be the Messiah? You'd probably think he was nuts also!

Notice what happens:

Mark 3:31-34

Eventually, His biological family came to believe He really was the Son of God. His half-brother James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and wrote the Book of James. Another half-brother Jude wrote the short book we find just before the Revelation.

With Mary, there was never any doubt. She always knew, and Jesus always loved and honored His mother. She was at the cross where Jesus asked John to take care of her. After the resurrection, Mary is mentioned being with the disciples who were praying in the upper room on the day of Pentecost.

But then, it's rather interesting that she is never mentioned again in the New Testament. How she came to be so prominent among Catholics is beyond me! Especially when you read this passage.

And please keep in mind if you read this passage and just see and hear Jesus gently scolding his biological family, you miss the point. Jesus used the presence of His natural family to teach us that there is another family, a much larger family in which you and I can find acceptance and that is the family of God.

Now I know some people want to claim that every person is part of the family of God. That sounds good and it makes our failure to do any evangelism seem not so important and it allows us to sleep at night. But it's not biblical. A few years ago, that great theologian and country singer Alan Jackson made this claim in a song. He sang:

Here comes a Baptist, here comes a Jew;

There goes a Mormon and a Muslim, too.

I see a Buddhist and a Hindu;

I see a Catholic, and I see you.

We're all God's children; we're all God's children;

We're all God's children.

Why can't we be one big happy family?

The reason we can't be one big happy family is that we aren't one family. We are not all children of God. Everyone is a creation of God, but only those who believe in Jesus have God as their Father. You say, "Well how can you be so sure?" Jesus told me. He told you also.

In fact, He told everyone that there are two fathers and two families. Listen to what He said to the Pharisees in John 8:44: "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire".

The fact that those who are not saved are not children of God is also seen in 1 John 3:10.

One of the rich blessings of being a part of God's family is He is our Father. And no matter where the family is scattered, we have this one common connection and that is "Our Father Who is in heaven.

That leads me to the second blessing that comes from being a part of God's family and that is:

B. We Share Fellowship with Our Siblings

At the very beginning of the church, a strange thing began to happen. The people who followed Jesus began to refer to each other as brother and sister, although they were not related at all. And from the beginning, many of them were not even of the same race! They came from different backgrounds and religions and economic positions.

But now there was a new group identity, held together by more than common aims, hobbies or ancestry. It is a forever family, connected through time and space, and held together by the overwhelming joy of the love of God and by the freedom bought and paid for by Jesus.

We have almost two billion brothers and sisters around the world. There is great power in numbers. All by ourselves, we're not much, but when we join with our brothers and sisters we become a powerful force.

One or two snowflakes don't cause much damage. When you get millions of snowflakes together, they can shut down an entire city. The same is true of the church. There is power in numbers.

A few years ago, Reader's Digest published a joke about a hunter in Africa who was walking through the jungle. He came upon a huge dead rhinoceros. Standing next to the slain rhinoceros was this little Pygmy. He said, "Did you kill that rhino?" The Pygmy said, "Yes, I killed it with my club." The astonished hunter said, "Wow, how big is your club?" The Pygmy said, "There are about a hundred of us." There is power in numbers.

One of the amazing characteristics of the church is the immediate kinship we have with other brothers and sisters. That's why the pastor of a little church in the middle of Malawi Lake can make his way to America and visit our church and instantly be received and loved.

At the same time, that's why we can send missionaries to his world and they will be embraced and loved. And that happens all over the world in a multitude of ways. How can that be? you would think the cultural and societal and economic differences would create suspicion and doubt and distance.

The family connection made possible by the Spirit of God overwhelms all those barriers and bears evidence that we are brothers and sisters. In fact, because of the bond of love that exists in God's family, you can have a closer relationship with someone from 1,000s of miles away than someone who lives next door or even in your own house who doesn't know Jesus.

In 1979, the Pittsburgh Pirates were playing against the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. The Orioles had the best record in the major leagues and were favored to win. The Pirates were down three games to one. Baltimore needed to win only one more to clinch the series. Pittsburgh had something the Orioles didn't have. They had a theme song. They had adopted the song "We are Family," recorded that year by Sister Sledge. They played it throughout the games at the stadium. The words were simple: "We are family. I got all my sisters and me. We are family. Get up everybody and sing." That song and that team united them, and they won the next three games in a row to win the World Series. It's the last time the Pirates won the World Series. That could be the theme song of every church. We are family! I got all my sisters and brothers with me. We are family! Get up everybody and sing!" What a blessing to have a heavenly father and family

But life is not just about blessings. God not only gives us blessings by being a part of His family, He also give us

2. Opportunities for Serving through God's Family

In this passage, we see three important opportunities we have for serving in God's family.

First, Paul uses a maternal image to illustrate the opportunity to

A. Love Each Other

verse 7

The picture is of a protective mother nursing her children. It was a word that was used to describe how a mother hen covered her chicks with her wings. It's the word Jesus used when He wept over Jerusalem in Matthew 23. He said, "How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings."

We live in such an impersonal culture. People are electronically connected through texting, Facebook and Twitter; but people are lonely. People are longing for real relationships. That's what we should offer to people, the gentle caring like a mother loving her child.

I read an article recently about how people in Japan have become so busy that older people now can rent a family. Here's the quote:

"In Japan, you can rent a family. Elderly Japanese who are isolated from their children by the frantic pace of modern life can rent a family for lunch and a few hours. Just call Nippon Kokasei Honbu and ask for a son, daughter, grandchild, whatever relative you want, and that type will show up at your door and greet you as if they haven't seen you in years.

"Of course the service isn't cheap: three hours with your family costs $1,130, plus transportation.

Satsuki Ohiwa founded the business in 1990 when, as a businesswoman, she was too busy to visit her mother. Company staff visited her instead, and Ohiwa deemed it a success. "Ohiwa's observation of her customers is not surprising. She said, 'What is common about our clients is that they are thirsty for human love.'"

I wonder when someone is the United States will start offering that! Save yourself the cost of renting someone who acts as if they love you. You can be a part of a local church family, where people will love you as a mother for free!

Next Paul uses the imagery of hard work to illustrate the opportunity to

B. Serve Each Other

verse 9

We know from Acts 18 that Paul was skilled as a tentmaker. When he came to Thessalonica, he didn't expect the church to pay him any money. Instead, he worked hard to earn his keep as a tentmaker.

There is a problem that existed in Paul's day and it still exists. There are people who use religion or faith as a means to get rich. But Paul wanted to avoid that reputation. So he worked and earned his own keep.

he wrote that a workman is worthy of his hire and those who teach the Word are worthy of double honor, but he demonstrated he didn't receive money from the churches. He could work for a living.

In fact, in his second letter Paul wrote, "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat."

Here in the church, we serve one another. We aren't here to see what we can get. We're here to see how we can give. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive.

The third image is that of fathers and the opportunity to

C. Encourage Each Other

verses 11-12

We've already seen that imager in Ephesians 6. Fathers are to train and admonish and not provoke or discourage. Dads are to be an encouragement to those they care for. In fact, the best example we could ever follow is that of our Heavenly Father.

Did you ever think about what He said to Jesus when He was baptized? Matthew 3 records that He said, "This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well-pleased."

We often look at that as a declaration to the world and those who were observing and it is that.

But it was also spoken to Jesus and it is nothing other than a Dad telling His Son that He loved Him and that He was proud of Him. What an encouragement!

The Bible teaches that the main reason we gather together as a church is to encourage one another.

We ought to remind ourselves often of what we read in

Hebrews 10:24-25

It's a tough old world out there and sometimes the pain and loneliness and discouragement dwells in your house. That's why you need a church home and family. You need a place where you can be loved and served and encouraged, and by the way where you can share some love and service and encouragement with others.

You will find that place in God's Family. So how do you join God's family? Think about it; there are only three ways you can join a biological family. You can be born into it. You can be adopted into a family. Or you can marry into a family.

Did you know the Bible teaches that we enter God's family in the same three ways? Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be born again to see the kingdom of heaven. We enter God's family by …

i. birth

The Bible says: "To all who received Him, (Jesus) to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent…but born of God" (John 1:12-13).

When you were born the first time, you were born into the wrong family. That's why you need to be born again. When you receive Jesus as your Savior, you experience a new birth into God's family.

The second way you join a family is through …

ii. adoption

Now when you're adopted, that means a family has chosen you. Did you realize the Bible says God has chosen us to be a part of His family? And according to Romans 8:15, we have the privilege of calling Him "Abba, Father because we've been adopted into His family.

In fact, that phrase. "Abba, Father" is not the usual word the Bible uses to reference a father. That word is pater from which comes our word paternal. It's a very formal word; but when Jesus talked to God, He called Him Abba, which means "daddy" or "papa."

And now we are given the same privilege that Jesus enjoys as the Holy Spirit allows us to cry out to God in this very intimate way. You can call the Creator of the Universe "Papa."

The third way you enter a family is by …

iii. marriage

Did you realize the church is called the Bride of Christ? How did Paul say husbands should love their wives? In the same way Jesus loves His bride! Paul talked about the time when the church would be presented to Christ as a pure virgin!

Are you a part of God's forever family? He wants you to be in His family. Don't wait until you find a perfect church. The church isn't perfect because it's made up of people who aren't perfect.

You will never find a perfect church, and if you do, don't join it! You'd just mess it up! I love the little poem that says:

“If you should find the perfect church;

Without one fault or smear;

For goodness sake, don't join that church;

You'd spoil the atmosphere!

But since no perfect church exists;

(We're all imperfect men);

Then please stop looking for that church;

And love the church you're in.

So keep on serving in your church;

Until the Resurrection.

And then we all will be the Church;

Without an imperfection!”

The church isn't a club; it isn't an institution; it isn't an organization; it's a family. And everybody needs a family. Whether you're young, old, single or married, you need a family.

No doubt, there are a lot of isolated, lonely solitary people in the world, and without exception, they need a church family.

Three weeks before Christmas 1993, 43-year-old Wolfgang Dircks died while watching television in his Berlin apartment. His rent continued to be paid out of his bank account, and none of his neighbors noticed he was gone.

Five years later, when his bank account was depleted, the landlord entered the apartment and found his skeletal remains in his chair.

The TV Guide in his lap was turned to Dec. 3, 1993. His television set had long since burned out.

It's a sad story, but every year thousands of people are found dead days or weeks after their solitary deaths. How many thousands of lonely people there must be out there.

That's why we exist as a church. We are the place where God puts the lonely into a family, but you are the hands and feet of Christ. We must reach out and show the love of Jesus to people who are lonely.

Let's pray.