Formed for God’s Family

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Welcome to week 4 of “What on Earth Am I Here For?”
I hope that your reading went smoother this week. It was a very important week as it covered our first and most important purpose in life, that you were Planned for God’s Pleasure and that your whole life is to be worship – which is not only singing. If you missed the talk or if you skipped the reading, do yourself a favor and catch up.
Today we are going to get into the second of the five purposes God has for your life:
You and I are Formed for God’s Family.
Hebrews 2:10
God is the one who made all things, and all things are for His glory.  He wanted to have many children share His glory.
God wanted a family.  That’s why you’re alive.  God wanted a family and He wanted you to be a part of it.
Ephesians 1:5
His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ.
Isn’t that amazing?! From before time. From before there was a creation, and as creation was happening, and all through the ages – that the plan from the beginning was that you and I would be ADOPTED into God’s family. That we would become His sons and daughters.
When we come to Christ we become a spiritual family. We are brothers and sisters OF Christ and IN Christ. And every Sunday is a family reunion.
And we are told throughout scripture that we are to love our spiritual family.
1 Peter 2:17
Love your spiritual family.
Why is it important to love your spiritual family? Because your spiritual family is going to outlast your physical family.
Your physical family is only going to last here on earth.  In fact, a lot of families don’t even last that long.  They’re separated by divorce and death and all kinds of things.  But your spiritual family is actually more important than your physical family because you’re going to be spending forever – forever and ever and ever – with your spiritual family.
And God wants you to learn how to love your spiritual family.  Why?  Why does He want you to do that?  Three reasons.
            First, God is love and when you learn to love you become more and more like Him.  And He wants you to become like Him.
            Second, God wants His kids to get along.  Are any of you parents?  You like for your kids to get along and God wants His children to get along and learn to love each other.
            And third, it’s practice for eternity.  Because when you get to heaven you’re going to love God and you’re going to love the other people that are there.  God says I put you on earth to practice this.
There’s a word for loving your spiritual family.  It’s called  “fellowship.”
My second purpose in life is fellowship. (fill in)
The problem is that this word is often misunderstood.  Just like last week when we talked about a lot of people misunderstand the word “worship” a lot of people don’t know the meaning of “fellowship.”  They think it means just getting together and hanging out, having casual conversation, maybe eating together, maybe just having some fun, going to a movie, going to church – something like that.  That’s not what fellowship is all about.  For most people fellowship is shallow, it’s guarded and it’s brief.  But real fellowship is much more than that.
So, what IS fellowship?
Fellowship is loving God’s family. (fill in)
1 John 4:21
The person who loves God must also love other believers.
We are to love other believers.  Now, remember this is not fuzzy love. This is not having happy feelings toward everyone. Love in the bible is not emotional love, it is Agape love, which is a love of action. This is an important distinction. When you hear ‘love’ in the NT, don’t think of it as the way you feel about your kids or spouse. Love in this context is a choice that results in action.
And we are to AGAPE love other believers. So, how do we do that?  Fortunately the Bible gives us crystal clear instruction.  All through the Bible we’re taught how to love God’s family, other believers. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
1 Timothy 3:14-15
I’m writing so that you’ll know how to live in the family of God.  And that family is the church.
Circle the word “church” and circle the word “family” and kind of draw a line between them.  God’s Word says the church is a family.  It is your spiritual family on earth.  The church is going to go on forever.
The church is not a building and the church is not an organization and the church is not an institution and the church is not a social club.  It’s a family.
Most of the time when you use the word “church” you use it in the wrong way.  You say, “I’m going to church.”  You’re not going to church.  You’re going to a worship service.  Church is not something you go to.  It’s not something you do. Church is a family you belong to.  It’s not a building, it’s not a program, it’s not a service, it’s not a campus.  Church is a family you belong to because you’re a believer in Jesus Christ.  Then you go to a service or a program or whatever.
In God’s family there are levels of fellowship.
Just like outside of the church, there are levels of relationship
The levels are each important, and the goal is to GROW through the levels. God wants us to GROW in our fellowship because:
It is impossible to fulfill God’s purposes for your life by yourself.
You have to get this one right before you bother with the next three purposes because they all involve other people. I dont mean you have to reach the highest level before moving forward, but that you need to get it right in your head that this is vitally important.
Scripture tells us over and over and over again we all need each other.  You were not meant to go through life all on your own.  You need other people.  You need a family.  And more importantly, you need a SPIRITUAL FAMILY.
Level One: Membership.  CHOOSING TO BELONG (fill in)
This is the most basic level.  Find a church family and choose to belong. It’s fine to skip around to different churches while you’re looking for your home, but once you’ve found it –
Ephesians 2:19
You are members of God’s very own family and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.
Circle “members” and “belong.”
The Christian life is not just a matter of believing.
It’s also a matter of belonging.
You may say, “I’m a believer,” but are you a belonger?  If you’re not a belonger you should question whether you’re a believer.  Because they go together.  God’s Word says you belong in God’s household.  Fellowship begins with belonging.
Romans 12:5
In Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others.
This is a very important verse.  The church is not only “God’s family,” it is “Christ’s body” and it we are all to be members.
A “member” is a part of a body…that’s why when Bigfoot rips your arms and legs off it is called DISMEMBERMENT. Parts of a body are called members. That’s what the word means.
We do membership a little differently here at Reality. If you are new with us since August then you missed the part where we created a whole new membership model here. Instead of a short class on a Sunday afternoon, we have a “membership course”, which is a six-week Life Group. There are a few reasons for this, but one of them is to help you truly get connected with us, and that’s hard to do in a one-hour class.
We will have our next (actually first) membership course starting the first week of November. If you think you may want to participate in that, then please let me know by marking that in your bulletin and turning it in at the end of service.
Now, before you can be a member of a local church, you need to be a member of the body of Christ.
Which means you need to be a Christ Follower. Having accepted His forgiveness and made Him the Lord of your life. And once you have done that, there is an outward symbol of what took place in your heart: baptism.
1 Corinthians 12:13
This is what we proclaim in word and action when we were baptized.  Each of us are now a part of His resurrected body.
Romans 6:3
That’s what baptism in the life of Jesus means.  When we’re lowered into the water it’s like the burial of Jesus and when we’re raised up out of the water it’s like the resurrection of Jesus.
It’s not unlike a wedding ring. It’s not the ring that makes you married, but it is symbol to the world that you are. We don’t have any specific jewelry that acts as a symbol of being a Christian, but we do have an action. It’s called baptism. Getting baptized is an outward signal to the world that you identify with Christ’s burial and resurrection and that you are submerging yourself into this new life. If you’ve never been baptized or you don’t remember it because it was done TO YOU and not of your own choice, then I encourage you to do so.
We just had a baptism at the beginning of last month, so we don’t have another one scheduled just yet. But if enough of you are interested, I have no problem filling up the pool some Sunday and dunking a few of you. If that is you, just let me know in the bulletin before you turn it in at the end of service.
So that’s level one. MEMBERSHIP. That’s entry level – literally. Entry into the body of Christ, entry into the water of baptism, and entry into the church family. That’s where all of us start.
Now let’s talk about level 2.
Level TWO: Friendship: Learning to Share. (fill in)
God wants you to have friends.  You were created in God’s image which means you were made for relationships.  God is relational. From eternity past God has existed as a self-contained relationships: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The “Trinity”. It’s a confusing concept but totally scriptural.
Right from the beginning, God said that it was not good for us to be alone.
We need relationships.  We are not meant to go through life alone.  Life is not a solo act.  We all need friends.
It’s the reason why authentic community is one of our two missions. One of the two ways we get to changed lives. It’s that important.
One of the hallmarks of the early church was their fellowship.
Acts 2:44
All the believers met together constantly and shared everything with each other.
Circle “met together” and “shared.”
Those are the two things that have to take place if you’re going to build deep friendships in life.  You can’t develop friends without meeting together and you can’t develop friends without sharing.
In meeting together the more frequent you meet obviously the deeper the relationship is going to become.  If you only see somebody once a month you’re not going to have a very strong relationship with them.  You have to make the time to build friendship.
The reason why most people are lonely is that they’re not willing to put in the time it takes time to build relationships.
We’re too busy with accomplishments that we don’t have any time for relationships.  So many get to the end of their life and don’t have any friends because they spent most of their life busy building sand castles on the beach that once the tide comes in will simply wash away. Relationships are what matter.
You can’t take your money with you into eternity, but you can take your friends.
And a fundamental difference between an acquaintance and a friend is that you share.  And I’m not talking about just sharing things.
Acquaintances share their things.
Friends share their lives.
There are three specific non-tangible things that GOOD friends share with each other:
1.  GOOD Friends share EXPERIENCES
We are to share our experiences with each other so we can grow.
Proverbs 27:17
People learn from one another just as iron sharpens iron.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s wise to learn from experience.”  It is even wiser to learn from the experiences of others.  It’s a lot less painful too.  You don’t have time to make all the mistakes yourself in life.  Let somebody else make some of them.  Learning by trial and error is a very difficult way to live and if you have to learn everything in life by personally experiencing it, by the time you learn everything you’ll be dead.  So the fast track to maturity, the fast track to being smart, the fast track to learning is to learn from the experiences of others.
2. GOOD Friends share our HOMES
1 Peter 4:9
Open your homes to each other.
Why is this important?  Experiences makes sense, but why our homes? Because deep friendship doesn’t form in a crowd. Friendships do not grow from the 2 second handshake you make with the person sitting in front of you. Friendship doesn’t blossom from the “Good morning, how are you?” “I’m fine” as you get coffee at the same time. It grows from close proximity and intimate settings.
Sharing your home is not always literally sharing your house but sharing the essence of home, in that you invite each other into your personal lives.
This is why small groups are so important. You NEED that time to just sit, eat, and enjoy each other’s company.
I’m not saying that Sunday morning is not a place for fellowship or even friendship growth. But you have to put in the effort. Get here early so you can hang out with your friends before service. Stay late for the same reason. Come to the potlucks like what we’re doing today and spend some time with us. Don’t just dart out the back as soon as I let you go.
And aside from small groups, make a point to have dinners and lunches and playdates with your fellow church members. Spend quality time together. That’s the point of opening our homes.
3.  GOOD Friends share our PROBLEMS
Galatians 6:2
Share each other’s troubles and problems.
You aren’t meant to go through life on your own.
When you share a joy it’s doubled and when you share a problem it’s cut in half.
Scripture says that we are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.  Sometimes in your small group you’re going to laugh your head off.  And sometimes you’re going to shed a tear depending on what people have gone through that week.  We’re to help each other through our problems.
It does not say we’re to fix each other’s problems because you can’t fix everybody’s problems.  You don’t have to.  God doesn’t expect you to fix everybody’s problems.  It does say to share them.
What does it mean to share problems?  It means you lend a listening ear.  A shoulder to cry on. An understanding soul. Someone to acknowledge the validity of the pain and not cast judgment or give a bunch of advice.  It’s bearing one another’s burdens.
There is a time for advice, but sometimes the best thing to do is just be there.
Level 1 is Membership: choosing to BELONG,
Level 2 is Friendship: learning to SHARE
Level 3: Partnership: Doing my part. (fill in)
That’s realizing that you have a contribution to make.  That the family of God needs you.
God did not bring you to this church just to sit and listen.  That’s not why you’re here.  He brought you here to serve, to make a difference with your life.
Just like in every family there are family responsibilities, there are chores you need to do when you’re a part of the family to make the family work. In a spiritual family there are things for you and me to do to make it work.
Fifty-eight times in the New Testament, the Bible uses the phrase, “one another.”
serve one another
pray with one another
greet one another
help one another.
And the Bible even says we’re to put up with one another while we’re doing all of this.
It’s great to share your heart.  That’s level two – friendship.
But even greater is:  do your part.
Level three is love in action.
1 Corinthians 3:9
We are partners working together for God.
Fellowship is also partnership. The Greek word usually translated as fellowship is KOINONIA. It’s also translated partnership. It’s the same thing.
It’s more than just hanging out.
It’s doing life together.
It’s authentic community.
Ephesians 4:16
The whole body is fitted together perfectly.  As each part does its own special work it helps the other parts grow so the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Circle “each part.”  If you remember from the WE series a couple months ago, I spoke about this a lot. Each part does its work.  It’s when we work together that God does His work through us in the greatest way.
Just like in a team – you pick the sport – each player has a part to play and if they don’t do their part, the whole team suffers.
We each have a part to play working together in the body of Christ.  It’s when we cooperate that we get more done than we ever imagined doing on our own.
A key attitude to keep that makes this part even more enjoyable is the attitude that we do it for Jesus’ sake. Not your own sake, not the church’s sake, but for Jesus.
Mother Teresa, as many of you know, served the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India.  She was once asked, “How do you handle the tough parts?  How do you handle all the deaths and all the disease on a daily basis?
Here was her answer:  “Every person that I bathe, every person that I bandage, I imagine seeing the face of Jesus and I do it for Him.”  We do it for Him.
Matthew 25:40
Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of My family you did it to Me.
Let’s make this practical.  Let me give you a practical step with this to take you and I to a deeper level of fellowship.  Let me suggest this next week that you look for a practical need in your group that you can meet.  Not that others can meet or that somebody should meet.  Look for a practical need in your group that you can meet.  As you meet that practical need you’ll find that not only did you meet a need but you also deepened a relationship.
Level 4: KINSHIP: Loving believers like family. (fill in)
This is not a new word.  It’s actually an old word that may not be familiar to you.  When I say the word “kin” or “kinship” or “kinfolk” what some of you think of is the Beverly Hillbillies (or Danny Bob).  That’s not what I’m talking about.  “Kinship” just means your closest family, those very close to you.
Acts 2:42
They were like family to each other.
Romans 12:10
Be devoted to each other like a loving family.
Circle “be devoted.”  I mentioned KOINONIA before – the Greek word we translate as fellowship  At its basic meaning it means this: being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ.
That’s the level that God wants you to eventually grow to.  Being as committed to each other, to other believers in the family of God as much as we are to Jesus Christ.
1 John 3:16
We know what real love is because Christ gave up His life for us and so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters.
This is the deepest level of fellowship, sacrificing for each other.  It’s the kind of love that Jesus Christ had for you.  He died for you.  He had kinship love for you.
Now, this is not suggesting that you can only reach Level 4 fellowship by dying for someone. Why would God want us to do that? How can we fellowship when we are dead?
While there are many Christians that do indeed die because of their faith – happened just this past week in Oregon and is happening in other countries every day as you can see on the news – sacrificial love is not always about literally dying.
Giving up your life for someone is about putting their best interests above your own. Its sacrificing your preferred life for the benefit of the one you love. That MAY require actually dying, but for the most part it does not.
And really, its the sacrificial LIVING that is more difficult and the greater sign of love than is the sacrificial DYING. As Christians – dying is easy. We get to go to heaven!!
I know it sounds crazy, but if I were ever put in an UNLIKELY and EXTREME situation where someone was going to kill either me or my wife because of our faith or something else. I would rather they kill my wife because I know in that instant she would be in heaven and released from whatever horrible situation that would cause such a situation. I would rather that than leave her here to endure who knows what kind of fate while I enter eternal bliss. I love my wife enough to sacrifice time in heaven for her. Now, if the same situation existed and she was not a believer – then I would take the bullet to give her more time to find Christ.
Sacrifice is about me taking the worst and giving someone else the best in light of the big picture of eternity, heaven, and hell.
Paul put it this way:
Philippians 1
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. …23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
“It is more necessary for you” – that’s sacrificial living.
For most of us this will not take the extreme of choosing to live or die. But more than likely it will simply mean sacrificing your own plans and desires to benefit the ones you love.
Like taking half a day to help someone move, or
driving  for hours  to visit someone in the hospital.
Or giving a large amount of money to a friend in need or to the church instead of buying something you really wanted because the Holy Spirit told you to.
It could also take the form of canceling a trip to a FOOTBALL GAME in order to spend some quality time with your spiritual brothers at a MENS RETREAT – like one of our guys did. Thats sacrifice.
The level of kinship – of loving each other like family. Of loving each other sacrificially is all about placing another’s welfare over your own – whatever that looks like.
So, those are the levels.
What do all of these have in common?  LOVE
That’s what life is all about.
Loving God = WORSHIP
Loving Others = FELLOWSHIP
These are the first two purposes in your life.  Don’t miss these.
This loving each other is how the world will see Christ in us.
John 13:35
Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are My disciples.
Not by your
bumper sticker,
Christian T-shirt,
Facebook posts,
or how good or bad you are.
No, He said your love.  They will know that we are Christians by our love – thats it.
Agape Love
By how we act like a family.
How we bend over backwards for each other.
How we walk the extra mile for each other.
How we make spending time together a priority.
How we treat each other with respect and kindness.
How we carry each other’s burdens.
How we rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep.
How we truly, deeply care for each other.
That is the family you were formed to be a part of.
And if you are not yet a part of this family, then I invite you to be.
How do you know if you’re on God’s family?  Three Bible verses.  Here’s the test.
1 John 3:10
Anyone who does not love other believers does not belong to God.”
1 John 4:20
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?
1 John 3:14
If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.
Not everyone is a child of God like popular culture believes.
The proof that you are saved, that you’re on your way to heaven, that you’re in the family of God is that you love other believers in the family.  The greatest privilege you’re ever going to get in life is being invited by God to be a part of His eternal family.  It’s a family where you really learn how to love.
Not romantic love.
Not sexual love.
Not tolerance love,
but true AGAPE love.
The same kind of love that Jesus has for us to the point that He died for us.
All those other kinds of love are nice, but they won’t be there when your life is in shambles.
The “love” that the world talks about only sticks around when things are fine and dandy. At the first sign of difficulty it’s running for the door.
But God’s love, and what our love should be if we are in His family is an enduring love. It’s the love that 1 Corinthians talks about:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Notice this is not describing an emotion. It’s describing an action, a set of actions, a way of being. The love of the world is all about feelings. The love of God is all about action.
Which is better?
Feelings are nice, but they don’t help you when you’re hurting or in need. Love in action does.
Like when you see stuff on the internet about starving kids in Haiti you may feel something about that…but do you do something? Feelings do not fill a belly. And feelings do not drive to your house and let you cry on their shoulder. Feelings do not die for you.
But love in action does. Agape love, when you fully understand it, you will see that it is more precious than gold. It is priceless, and it can be found ONLY in the family of God.
The world does not understand this. It can’t. The world is all about self.
God’s love is all about self-less.
Don’t you want to be a part of something like that?  Well you can.
So, what level are you at?
Maybe you’re already at level 4: Kinship – that’s great. That’s the sweet spot. But I imagine most are not.
Maybe you’re level 3: Partnership. You get it. You belong, you share, and you do your part. It’s a great place to be, but don’t stop there.
Maybe level 2: Friendship. You’re on a good track. You can’t get to kinship without becoming friends first. I encourage you to invest in that. Make it a priority. Push the limit. Don’t be timid. Don’t be scared. EVERYONE WANTS TO BE AT LEVEL FOUR BUT YOU CAN’T DO IT BY YOURSELF. Take the first step to get there.
Maybe you’re at level 1: Membership. You’ve decided to belong. You’ve become a member or you want to. You participate and make an effort. That’s wonderful. That’s step one. Level 2 is just a small group away. Don’t stop here.
Maybe you’re not yet on the scale. If you are a believer, you are in the family of Christ – but not yet in THIS family, the Reality family. It’s not a decision to make quickly, but if you are interested then ask around and come to the membership course.
Now, before I continue I want everyone to bow your head and close your eyes.
We do this in church for two reasons.
1. It allows you, the listener to focus on the words you hear me say AND the words coming from your own head or heart instead of whatever the slide says or what your neighbor is doing.
2. It makes it so you can freely respond without fear of someone noticing you. Right now, it’s just you and God. I am only a messenger.
Everything I have said so far today only applies to those already in the family of God. Those who are believers, Christians, Christ Followers.
If you are not a believer. If you have never placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and trusted Him as your Lord and Savior. If those three verses I read do not apply to you at all. Then you are a CREATION of GOD as we all are, but you are not a CHILD of GOD.
There is only ONE way to become an adopted child of God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
As you have hopefully heard today, God desperately wants you to be a part of His family. But until now, that could not happen because of your SIN. Your willful choice to reject God’s ways have made you unwelcome in His house. It’s the same position we have all been in, and some of you are still in.
But God wants to adopt you so desperately,  that He sent his only son to PAY FOR YOUR SINS HIMSELF so that you could be declared NOT GUILTY. He did this freely, before ever being asked because He loves you so much. And now He offers His forgiveness and an invitation to join the family if you will only trust Him.
If you are ready to do that….