Introduction: Theological Vision and Identity.
· FIVE identities for Advent—READ Acts 2.42-47.
o Most challenging past 3 years.
o CONSUMERIST culture and church.
Certainly we recognize there are many legitimate claims by church members of unfulfilled expectations. It can undoubtedly be the fault of the local congregation and its leaders. But many times, probably more than we would like to believe, a church member leaves a local body because he or she has a sense of entitlement. I would therefore suggest that the main reason people leave a church is because they have an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality.—Thom Rainer
’membership,’ but at its core, it’s a promise to look out for one another, a way of saying, ‘I’m in, I’m about this, and I want us to mutually journey together toward Jesus.’ We resist making such statements because we love the sense of comfort and freedom we feel from a lack of commitments. At its heart, this sense of freedom is a mask for consumerism. It’s an attitude that allows us to drift from church to church, from one big thing to the next, chasing fads and hype without setting down any roots. And without roots, we’ll never go deep. We take and we take, and we never give, we never contribute, we never say, ‘I’m in.’—Daniel Montgomery
· Mona Chalabi—Average American moves 11 times in lifetime.
o Behavior of improvised—unstable.
o New church, new relationships everytime.
o RESULT: Lack depth—Family.
Theme: Jesus transforms the Church into a transforming family.
1. Israel was a family.
We learn from the beginning of the Bible that everyone shares the same parents—Adam and Eve. The problem is our first parents brought sin into the world. What has grown out of that is a people full of selfishness and entitlement like Dr. Rainer mentioned. We see this from the first children born from Adam and Eve. One of the first two brothers on the earth murders the other because selfishness and pride. Humanity continues in the same problem throughout every generation. Therefore, God decides He wants to restore unity through one family—the descendents of Abraham. God tells Abraham He will bless all the families of the earth through His offspring. The nation of Israel is formed out of Abraham’s descendents. This family was supposed to be the model family for all the others of the earth. They were supposed to be the Cosby’s or Keaton’s of the ancient world. I mean listen to some of God’s instructions:
If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.—Leviticus 25.35-38
What is this? It is God telling Israel how to treat each other like Family. I mean we are that bad off that God has to tell us how to live like family. Israel ends being more like the family from Family Guy or Arrested Development. The family of Israel ends up being like all the backbiting dysfunctional families of the world.
2. Jesus transforms us into a family.
Jesus enters the world in His birth into this dysfunction. Jesus is taking on the STRESS of living in an earthly dysfunctional family. I think this is encouraging for several reasons.
First, this is encouraging because we have a God who is willing to enter into our mess. He is not up there in a perfect holy tower hoping we can work this thing out. No, He enters into our world, and lives like us. Jesus’ earthly family wasn’t a wealthy family, but a like most of us, He was poor. Immediately this means if we are followers of Jesus will need to come down from our entitlement and enter people’s mess. This is what it means to be a family.
Second, this is encouraging because Jesus can transform anything. All throughout the Gospels we see Jesus bringing healing to great multitudes. He spends the majority of His time with all the outcast of society—those who the world had written off. His best friends are the cultural rejects, and Jesus transform them into leader’s of movements. The greatest example of this I can think of is the Apostle Paul. He was prideful murderer. Jesus transform His life so much so he completely rejects all his previous identities. I mean the person he murdered, Stephen, was a wonderful godly man. Can you imagine all those first Christians being told by Jesus to now accept Paul? Jesus not only transformed Paul, but the people he used to persecute.
This brings me to my last one, Jesus transform a bunch of diverse dysfunctional people together and unifies them through the Gospel. Because of Jesus, we who were once separate can be a unified family now by Jesus giving us a new vision for family. Listen to what Jesus says in Mark 3.31-35:
And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”—Mark 3.31-35
In order to understand the weight of what Jesus is saying we need a little context. All throughout the OT and the ancient world there were “FAMILY CODES”. We saw evidence in our Leviticus. In the ancient world it would be offensive to betray your brother than your wife. This is why you would never marry someone your flesh and blood did not support. That is JUST not how we live today. Jesus’ statement would have been VERY offensive. Jesus is giving His followers a new paradigm. Jesus is giving us a new, or should I say, a RENEWED priority.
This reality is accomplished through the Cross of Christ. Jesus’ flesh and blood creates a new humanity. There are two types of humanity friends—the children of wrath and the children of God. Each of us where born in earthly families. Those families have certain traits. Whether we like it or not we share similar values and behaviors to the families we were born into. Some of those are good, but if we are honest most of them are dysfunctional. Therefore, what Jesus tells us we need to be BORN AGAIN—we need ADOPTION.
Jesus statement is not meant to exclude His earthly family, but meant to an invitation into REAL family. A family that will last. The same invitation is extended to everyone here today.
3. The Church is a family—the best one.
That is what the Church is. We are a FAMILY, and where can see that here in our Acts 2 passage? “All who believed were together and had all things in common” [Acts 2.44]. Clearly this does not mean everyone is in some weird cult that mass-produces religious robots. They are not all standing there together saying, “We have all things in common.” So what does this mean? They are sharing what they have like family, but they also are dedicated to the same values. It says “...they DEVOTED themselves” to the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. The text goes on to say they were worshipping every day together. If you are family then you live like it.
So let me give you one way I thought about all this. In Romans 12 Paul says:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.—Romans 12.9-10
The NLT phrases this another way that is helpful:
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.—Romans 12.9-10
The church is not supposed to be this fake community—acting like we love each other. Family really love each other. Families are full of diversity, and a good family learns to appreciate those differences. They are sensitive to the strengths and weaknesses of each other. We need to be a family that can see our differences and appreciate those differences. Romans 12 tells us we should abhor evil or hate what is wrong, so that does not mean we are not a corrective community, but we are even our correction needs to show someone honor. We need to show respect to each other. For instance, I struggle with approval of man, which means I care about what others think. This can be a gift and a curse. I can teach others how to consider someone’s perspective or be understanding when approaching a conflict. But it is challenging because I can be too soft on truth. There are other men in our church, who I love, because this is not struggle. In a community, a family, that appreciates those gifts in each other we can actually encourage each and help each become more like Christ. Jesus is perfectly gentle, but is also firm at the same time.
This not only makes a family, but the best kind, because we are transforming family. God has placed in each others lives to help each other be more like Christ. But friends this requires a commitment, because it is certain broken people will HURT each other. At the end of the day, if we are TRULY committed to each other then we will work through those hurts. That’s what families do. Historically, and here at Refuge, we call our commitment “Covenant membership”. It is a covenant because we are “PROMISING” to be committed to each despite our failures. It is membership because we are all members of the same family—the family of God.