October 2, 2016
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
Family is an interesting word
Every one of us comes from a family and many of us have formed families, but the word means different things to different people.
To some of us, family is a happy word that brings up images of holidays and togetherness and stability.
To others of us, family is a little less relevant these days. Maybe your family lives far away from you, so they don’t figure much into your day to day life. Or maybe you are single and tend to be more connected to your neighbors and community.
Or for some of us, family is a painful word. Maybe because of the way our families failed us…or maybe because of the way we’ve failed our families.
What words describe families in America today?
- Important: 75% of Americans say family if the most important element in their life
- Diverse: Families are becoming more diverse
- Educated: I don’t know about you…by my kids learned more in grade school than I did!
Less positive words?
- Unmarried: People are less sure about marriage…and 5% unwed pregnancies in 1960…41% today
- Less Stable: We marry and divorce and re-marry at a rate unknown in other developed countries.
When we think about our culture and the way it relates to the family, there have perhaps been some gains (divorce rate is slightly down in the last couple of years, and our kids are probably more educated than before)…
But overall, we live in a time of great confusion about the family. That’s the bad news. This confusion has now risen to the point of very fundamental questions like:
- What is a family? i.e., the very definition of family…in our culture, press and government
- Whether or not marriage is a good thing? Many young couples are afraid that their marriage will fail…or hurt them…or turn out like their parents.
- When sexual intimacy is right and wrong?
- What are the rules?“Confusion” doesn’t just mean disagreement with conservative Christianity…there is real confusion about what the standard is.
The good news is that we as Christians have the capacity to help. Not because we have all the answers. Not because we’ve got it all figured out or because we live perfect family lives. But because we have God’s Word. And God has a lot of very helpful, life-giving things to say about the family.
Family refers to everything from the way we relate to our children and parents, to our marriage and even to the relationship we have to one another in the church, so family is relevant to those without spouses or children.
The good news is – this is a great opportunity for us as Christians. This is one of the main ways that we can truly help our neighbors!
GOD RELATES WITH FAMILY IN 3 WAYS
GOD INVENTED THE FAMILY
We have a loving Creator who intentionally designed the family for our well-being.
The basic family unit – man and wife living together faithfully, children in the home being raised by parents who have authority over them with the marriage being the most invested relationship in the family – is NOT
- A random invention of our society
- Just some sort of convenient legal agreement
- Something that evolved by happenstance
It is the purposeful invention of a loving Creator.
And that means it’s not up to us to define family however we want. The Family was designed…and designed to operate in a particular way. There is a Design and a Designer. God invented the family. It’s not up to us to define it. That’s His job.
This is the story of the creation of Eve and of the family. Now, just to bring you up to speed – At this point, God has created Heaven and Earth – and Adam – and the garden of Eden – and to this point every time God makes something it says “And the Lord saw that it was good.” Day and night – good; Plants – good; Animals – good.
The Lord God said, “It is NOT good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
– Genesis 2:18-25
Notice what God does here in this simple story:
God makes Adam search to highlight what he is about to provide.
- God sees man’s loneliness…his need for a suitable helper…and he formally states his intention to provide one.
- But then the narrative is interrupted by this Dr. Doolittle scene—where the Lord sends Adam on this errand to name basically every warm-blooded animal in Eden. You get the idea that this must have been kind of time-consuming. “Why are you making him do that?”
- The answer is – “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.” There was a Mr. & Mrs. Hippo…there was a Mr. & Mrs. Zebra…there was a Mr. & Mrs. Culpeo…but no Mrs. Adam.
- So what is God doing? He’s highlighting what he’s about to provide. Because it’s special! This is different from the rest of Creation…it’s a big deal! So he highlights it…
He then provides exactly what Adam needs.
- He has Adam look all over creation to see what kind of companion he can find on his own…
- And then he says “why don’t you just take a nap and let me see what I can come up with…He takes a rib…and out comes Eve!
- We joke a lot about the battle of the sexes…but Adam doesn’t see it that way at all. He’s like “Wow! She’s bone of my bone! She’s everything I need! She’s my suitable helper! “Suitable helper” can also be translated “oppositee / according to.” She is complementary to Adam…she is everything he needs in a companion.
- God highlights his provision, and then provides exactly what Adam needs.
God then gives us these incredible basic principles that show us how he made the family to work: Leave your father and mother…cleave to your wife.
- Leave – families were meant to grow apart
- Cleave – and marriages were meant to grow together
It’s after they have been pronounced man and wife…and only after—that they experience intimacy without shame.
WE ARE NOT OUT THERE ON OUR OWN
That’s what a lot of people believe…that they are on their own.
We talk with a lot of young couples…and the vast majority are not living within the boundaries that God has laid down for marriage and family.
- They are not living out God’s design.
- But you know what?…For most of them, it’s not just because they are trying to disobey God…
- Many of them are scared. They are scared because they’ve seen how painful a bad marriage can be…and they don’t want that.
- Or many are just lost—most of them, no one has ever told them how God designed the family to work.
– Why faithfulness is important…
– Why the marriage should be the most important relationship in the family.
– Why there are roles that God calls kids…and moms…and Dads to play.
And when you combine not hearing about those things with a society that tells us we just evolved – or that no one really can say what’s right or wrong – we can get the idea that we’re just out there…trying to figure this thing out to the best of our ability.
A couple of years ago, I talked to someone that worked with teen-agers…and I asked them…what do you think most kids today believe about morality? And she said “simple…they believe they are on their own…and they are terrified.”
We need to confront everyone with God’s definition of the family.
We’re not out here on our own, trying to figure out how to make this thing work.
GOD EMPHASIZES THE FAMILY
God didn’t just invent the family and then leave us to it with no other instruction. He emphasizes it and makes it a priority. Family is a major theme in Scripture.
Each member of the Trinity emphasizes family in some way:
- God the Father not only invented the family…but he took as his title that family name of “Father”…that’s the way he wanted to be portrayed.
- God the Son bears that family name “Son”…but he also sanctified marriage by performing his first miracle at a Wedding – Helping guests celebrate that holy moment by turning water to wine.
- God the Spirit moved the Apostles to use one family image after another to portray the relationship of God to his people.
– We are called the Bride of Christ.
– We are called Children of the Living God.
– The Church is called God’s Family…his Household…
- Each member of the Trinity is connected to family in some way: The Father takes the name “Father”. The Son did his first miracle at a wedding. And the Holy Spirit uses family imagery of the Bride, Adoption, Children, a household, etc. to depict the relationship between Christ and the church.
19 of the 66 books of the Bible give direct instruction about how God wants families to live.
The other books portray healthy or unhealthy families and relate to the topic as well.
Family is the first place our faith is lived out
The first place our faith and leadership show up is in our families. If you really want to see what someone believes, don’t look at the way they behave in Church, or at community fundraisers or even at the office…Look at their family.
- Do they really believe eternity is more important than having lots of stuff?
- Do they really love and forgive because Christ forgave them?
- Do they really live a life of integrity?
One of the main ways Scripture tells us to evaluate someone’s ability to lead in the church is by their family life. When God gives us instructions in Timothy and Titus about how to select Pastors or Elders and Deacons for the church, the very first place he tells us to look is their family.
- How is the marriage doing?
- Are they faithful?
- How are the children?
Family Matters to God.
God didn’t just invent the family, tell us it’s important and then leave us on our own…he gives us help in living out our family lives.
God can help your family…and that he can help other families through you.
Our families are important to God. Family is a priority for the Trinity, for Scripture and even for where our faith is lived out.
Your family really matters to God. God loves it when a family is changed by Him. He delights when we turn our families over to him. It is immensely pleasing to God when –
Families give him free access and say “We are going to serve the Lord as a married couple or as a family.”
Family members say “OK… maybe I didn’t have a great example…maybe I don’t know exactly what this will look like…but I’m going to give Christ free reign to come in and make my family new…starting with me.
Dads say “I didn’t have a great example, but I’m going to be a spiritual leader for my family…and I’m really going to love my wife”.
Wives say “I didn’t grow up with this…but I’m going to treat my husband with respect and encouragement.”
This is truly pleasing to God.
First, God gives us powerful principles from Scripture that can really help our families:
- Marriages were meant to grow together…families were meant to grow apart. Do you have any idea how much family strife would be eliminated if people really got that basic principle? If Moms and Dads understood that their job was really to pursue each other…and cultivate a marriage that’s going to outlast their kids time at home…and outlast their jobs…and carry on til death do us part. If Moms and Dads really got that part of their job was to prepare their children to be released from their family to form other healthy family units?It would save us hours of counseling…we could sit around and eat bonbons!
- God made husbands and wives to be different…to be opposite/according to…to be complementary to each other. We’re not supposed to be the same…we’re supposed to treasure the differences.
- Physical intimacy comes after marital commitment…that’s for our own good!
- Parents are supposed to be the primary disciplers of their children…that’s fron Deuteronomy 6…and it’s a huge principle for families.
Second, God helps us by giving us roles to play to help our families. He calls:
- Husbands to love their wives sacrificially.
- Wives to respect their husbands.
- Children to obey their parents.
- Parents to exercise authority over their children, not in a way that exasperates them…but in a way that is beneficial for them.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
– Ephesians 5:22-6:4
Third, God gives us each other. He gives us our relationships in the body of Christ so that we can speak into each other’s lives.
So that we can encourage each other to be good husbands and dads, good wives and moms, good children.
Not to meddle…not to criticize…but to encourage.
This is where those of you that are single…or whose families maybe have grown and moved away…those of you for whom family is a less-relevant topic—this is where you fit into this picture perfectly.
This is something that Paul wrote to a young Pastor named Timothy, to describe the kind of relationship that he should have with the congregation. But truth be told…this is the way God wants us all to think about each other in our church…listen to what he says:
Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. – 1 Timothy 5:1-2
Do you know what that’s saying about our relationship to one another? It’s very simple: Paul is saying that we are family. We are to treat each other with the same respect and affection that we would have for those in our own family.
One of the main resources that God has given to help our families is our believing family. And we want to be a family of families here at Perry Creek Church. That’s why we want inter-generational ministry: We have so much to share with each other…don’t we?
- Don’t you love it when Beau’s daughter Ellis helps lead the singing?
- I love it when I see the Mailand kids playing with Joel and Allison Brown.
- I love it when Obbie Clemmons talks to me, and shares her godly wisdom…She’s like the godly grandmother I never knew.
And here’s the thing: He gives us each other. 1 Timothy 5:1-2 describes the way that we are supposed to relate to each other in the Church, and it tells us that we are supposed to relate AS family. We are to treat each other with the affection and respect that we should treat our family with. We are to love one another as family. We are family. If you don’t have a family…or don’t have a family accessible: If you don’t have a spouse, or kids, or if your kids are far away…we are your family.
We can be that to each other.
- Some of you didn’t have good family role-models growing up…well listen, maybe you’ve got them right here.
- Maybe if you would ask someone to get a cup of coffee and tell them your story, and ask for their perspective, they could help you.
- And I don’t mean that they’re perfect, or have all the answers…but maybe they’ve been where you are going…maybe they can help you avoid some of the pitfalls.
- Can you imagine having a Bill Wallace in your life?
- Or in your kids lives?
- Can you imagine being a Bill Wallace for someone in our church?
- How about for someone in the community?
God has given us each other…We want to be a family of families.
We have a lot to offer…to each other…and to a world that is confused about family.
- God has a lot to say about family…it’s important to him.
- He invented the family…he emphasizes the family…he gives help for the family…
- In his principles…in our roles…and in each other.
We have a lot to offer the community when it comes to marriage: God invented it, it’s a priority for him, and he gives us helpful instruction. And as a church, we want to make family a priority.
A couple of problems…
First, we aren’t perfect in living out what God says. We have our own shortcomings. Many of us have:
- Experienced failed marriages
- Struggled with our kids
- Kids whose faith is weak or non-existent.
What do we do about that?
Second, some churches can become a place only for perfect families. Some churches start working on family as a value, and soon the whole church becomes a place only for families that have arrived. Struggling families become uncomfortable.
Luckily, both of these problems have the same solution: The Gospel.
The Gospel allows us as struggling marriages and families to find grace again and again. So it frees us up to ask for forgiveness, to reset the needle, to find help when we need it. And that is exactly what makes us relevant to other struggling families. As long as we remember our need for God’s grace, we will relate to other families that need God’s grace!