I was standing in line at Kroger the other day and there it was – right next to the package of Certs and Three Musketeer King Size bars that are about the size of an actual king’s scepter.
Improve your Intimacy Now! -- 5 Rules for Better Sex -- Secrets of the Bedroom: How to Connect with Him Better.
I’m not alone in this, am I? There’s at least one of those assertions on the front of every Cosmopolitan. As if intimacy could be achieved by a quick top ten list or the $3.99 magazine that I was going to use on a bag of Doritos.
Fear not. The truth about intimacy is not found on the grocery store aisle shelf. It’s found on the little shelf in the back of the pew in front of you. (Or on your shelf at home.)
I. True Intimacy isn’t about You
The section of God’s Word that we’re looking at today starts in 1 Corinthians 6. It begins in verse 12 by helping us to understand the attitude of the times. This is kind of the way that Corinthian society viewed sexuality and unfortunately it’s the way that many in the Corinthian church viewed sexuality. In fact, it’s in quotation marks in your Bibles because scholars are pretty well convinced that this was a catchphrase of the 1st century day. If there would have been hashtags back then, there would be all kinds of people hashtagging the first part of verse 12.
“Everything is permissible for me.” #EverythingIsPermissable
The idea is pretty simple. If it’s legal in Corinthian culture, then why not do it? Stop being burdened by moral laws and start doing whatever makes you feel good. What do you think? Does that sound familiar?
But listen to the Bible’s objection:
Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. In other words, “Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s good.”
Just cause it’s legal to sleep with a cactus in bed, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Just cause you won’t go to jail for emailing your boss that he’s a no-good-scuzzer-muffin, doesn’t mean you should call him a no-good-scuzzer-muffin.
Just cause you won’t be arrested for drinking the Kool Aid made by your preschoolers with 9 more times the amount of sugar than normal, it does not mean that you should do it!
Just cause doing something sexual with someone you aren’t married to feels good, does not mean it is good.
For your relationship with God.
Look at the next reason that the Bible has for not just doing whatever you want sexually. Paul says, “Everything is permissible to me, but I will not be mastered by anything!”
Thing is: It’s so very easy for sexuality to become your master.
That guy’s no good for me. He beats me. He bad mouths me. He hates that I’m a Christian. But…I really love sleeping with him. So I’ll stay with him.
That was nice looking at porn. Now to spend hours making sure that every bit of it is deleted from the internet history.
I could put my marriage and my job in jeopardy by flirting with this coworker. Oh well. I’ve gotta obey my desires.
That’s the problem. When you’re obeying your own desires, than the only one you’re intimately connected with…is yourself.
Let me say that again. If you are only obeying your own sexual desires, then you are becoming most intimately connected with yourself.
Not with God.
Not with your spouse.
Just yourself and your sin.
One more passage: 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” That’s what we read last week in Genesis 2:24. It’s the blueprint for marriage that husband and wife become one together. That they become so intimately connected that you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends.
What’s it like to become one with sin?
What’s it like to introduce people to porn as your spouse?
What’s it like to run all your decisions through your own sexual addiction?
What’s it like to be so connected with adultery that when you look in the mirror that you don’t see anything else but that?
Lonely. Guilt filled. Far outside the kingdom of God.
II. True Intimacy Starts with God
Kind of like the woman in the Gospel Lesson:
That’s what the men called her. That’s what they were shouting at her. “Adulterous!” “Sinner.” “Death.”
With tears in her eyes, she fell to the ground. A cloud of dust hit the air. It’s what she deserved though. She had sinned. She had broken up someone else’s marriage. Everyone would now. She might be better off dead.
She heart them shouting in the background! “Jesus! Get over here.” “Jesus, join us!” “Jesus, she sinned…won’t you help us condemn her!?!”
Then, it was quiet. She heard whispering, but she didn’t dare look up. She waited. Waited for her impending doom. But it didn’t come. She waited and waited and waited. Nothing.
Then, she felt a gentle voice beckon to her. She looked up. “Woman, has anyone condemned you?”
She looked around. All the angry men were gone. Nowhere to be found. “No. I don’t think so sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.”
If you have been like the woman. If you have let your desire get the best of you. If you have sinned, sexually. Fall at his feet and hear his voice: “Neither do I condemn you.”
And understand this: You were meant for so much more than that. Take a look at 13-14: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
Do you get that? You were meant for the Lord. You were meant for the divine Creator of heaven and earth. He wanted you to become intimately connected with him. He didn’t want you connected with a momentary high OR the excitement of a glance combined with the guilty aftermath. God wanted you connected with his divinity, with his holiness, with his wisdom, with his incredible, love!
When we have failed to give up our bodies for the Lord, that’s about the time that He gave ups his body for you. In fact, take a look at this truth:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.
Have you heard of the Antilla? It’s a 27 story high skyscraper owned by Indian business tycoon Mukesh Ambani. It’s huge. It has a garage with room for 168 cars. The lobby alone has nine elevators. It’s estimated at 1 billion dollars!
That’s nothing compared to what God paid for you. He paid his eternal blood.
Do you get that? It’d be as if you went on Zillow or were searching in the real estate ads and there was your Facebook picture. With a list of all the qualities you have – disgusting sinfulness, awful sexual sins from the past, up in the attic are all kinds of skeletons, and what’s under the carpet? Don’t ask.
And God said. Yes. I’ll have that! I will make an eternal, infinite, everlasting deposit of my holy, precious blood so that I can put my name on the deed and she will be mine forever.
That’s how much God loves you.
It means whatever your past – whatever your struggle with sexuality – whatever your devotion to your own public intimacy – God still paid for you. He paid to free you from that master’s clutches. He owns you and that sin doesn’t.
You are forgiven.
III. WHAT NOW?
The more you understand God's forgiveness, the more confidence you will have in God’s love. You’ll stop worrying about yourself and what you need to feel good about yourself and instead… you will start to give over every aspect of yourself – to your spouse.
(1) Reserve Yourself for Your Spouse.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:2-4:
Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.
Focus in on marital duty. What’s that? Are we talking about the Honey-Do-List? Are we talking about doing the budget? Are we talking about cooking meals? Are we talking about refusing to call the plumber, because ‘they cost too much and all I need to do is YouTube it and I’m sure I can figure it out!”
Nope. Marital duty is Paul’s polite term for sexual intimacy. The beautiful, physical, literal expression of two becoming one.
I know. What the Bible is proposing here is the exact opposite of what our world proposes. Because it is so common for sexual intimacy to be all about when I feel like it and when I want it. But God is telling us to be all about your spouse or your future spouse. Isn’t that something? It means you keep your spouse in mind when temptation comes.
I’m sorry. I can’t do that. That will harm my future spouse.
Honey, I’ll stay away from that guy since he makes you uncomfortable.
I will not look at my coworker like that, because I want to reserve that kind of look for my wife.
(2) Become an Expert In Your Spouse
Guys love to be experts in sports. We love to quote batting averages and drop the names of players from over 40 years ago, just to show off. In fact, I remember back in grade school – trying hard to fit in—and spending each day trying to memorize the stats in the Watertown Daily Times just to be an expert in whatever sport was going on at that time.
What if we put the same effort into learning about our spouse? What if we learned about their likes and dislikes? What if we asked them about their favorite color, favorite ice cream flavor and favorite Backstreet Boy? It’s what God has called us to do! To know them and learn them intimately.
But, pastor, what about my needs? Doesn’t God care about them?
Don’t worry about it. Because in the perfect version of this—guess what? The husband is thinking about his wife’s needs. The wife is thinking about her husband's needs. And their needs are both—taken care of—because God is taking care of them through each other.
God’s smart, right?
He’s smart and he loves you. Which is more than just a witty conclusion to this whole sermon. It’s the truth. He loves you more than you. He loves your spouse more than you do. He knows you more than you. He knows your spouse more than you.
He know you’ll be happiest when you’re intimately connected to him and one another.
I don’t know if you saw it in the hallway, but the blueprint for the new school is up. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s looks very cool.
But I’d be lying if I told you it was the first blueprint. There have been quite a few others. This is like draft 12. Walls have been added, windows widened, mini gyms made larger.
Honestly, it probably will change a few more times before all is said and done. Because times changes, thoughts changes, and needs change. Blueprints change.
But what about the family blueprint? For millennia, the family has been focused around marriage.
Should that change?
Today we’re going to examine that very question. In order to do that we’re going to need to take a look at the original blueprint found in God’s Word. Take a look at Genesis 2.
I. Where is the Original Blueprint from?
A long time ago, there was a man. He was a healthy man. He had toned muscles. A solid bone structure. He had a keen amount of self-awareness and an incredible occupation as a gardener.
He was also only one day old.
Hours earlier Adam had been created by God. God had used his hands to pile up some dust. Form together some feet. Carefully shape the abdominals. Pinch out some arms; add a head; place the appendix in the perfect spot and carefully define his eyebrows.
Then, God smiled and breathed. When God breathed, he breathed a breath that only God, the Creator can breathe. He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
Suddenly, the clay figurine was alive. Alive and human. He quickly became aware of his surroundings. He noticed the beautiful hanging leaves of the weeping willow. He smelled the beautiful aroma of the daffodils. He saw the gleaming red of cardinals darting from branch to branch. He investigated the little creatures that were crawling beneath a log. He looked up at the giant, glowing ball in the sky and thought, “How wonderful this world was."
It was an incredible, wonderful, big world for him to explore...
God had an idea. He would parade being after being, animal after animal in front of the man. The man would give the animals names and, if he found one of special importance, he would select that being as his partner in this world.
The man agreed and suddenly the very first parade in the history of the world was in action. (Only without the giant SpongeBob balloon). In walked alligators and aardvarks, zebra and wombats. Adam looked at swarms of bees, packs of piranha’s and a pride of lions. He rode on the horse, threw a ball for the dog, and avoided the house cat.
The man gave them all names. Sea horse for the horse that lived in the sea, flying squirrel for the squirrel that flew, and hippopotamus – for that big old creature that kind of looked like it “potamus”sed when it walked.
But, of all the animals that he saw that day and all the names that he came up with, there was one name that the man never used:
The Creator knew this. He had known the whole time. Now the man knew too. He was missing the perfect partner. A being to challenge him. A being to intelligently talk with him. A being to share the adventure of life with him.
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. (Genesis 2:21-22)
God brought the woman to the man. The grand finale. As Adam woke up from the divine dose of anesthesia, he blinked.
What was that beautiful creature in front of him? Her eyes were more beautiful than the flowers. Her smile radiated more beautifully than that giant orange orb thingy.
The man spoke, the very first love poem ever spoken:
“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:23) Look at the end of this love story. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Marriage. It’s the original blueprint.
But you might be thinking: “Pastor, c’mon. This is a myth. This isn’t real. It’s a made up story like Dr. Seuss or something.”
Look at what Jesus thought about this. “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.’” (Matthew 19:4-5)
Does that sound like he treated it as a myth to you?
In fact, he’s using that verse of the Old Testament – that verse from Genesis 2:24 – to argue with the religious leaders of his time what God’s original design for marriage is.
And if you are thinking, “But why should I trust Jesus?” Allow me to give you his credentials. He knew how to bend the elements and walk on water. He knew how to control the weather and stop storms. He knew how to reduplicate matter at an alarming rate by feeding over 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish. He knew how to cure the deadliest of diseases simply by speaking. He knew how to cure the most handicapping of paralyses simply by touching. He cured death when no one else ever has. He promised his disciples that he would die and come back to life…and he did.
I know many of you trust him for salvation. Do you trust him for the marriage blueprint?
Because if Jesus is right, then marriage is not just some evolved social contract that slowly came into being over time. Nope.
Marriage was invented by God.
That’s important to remember. Because Americans bristle at the sound of marriage.
It’s the Ball and Chain.
It’s a prison.
It’s signing your death certificate.
But...that can’t be true. Not if God invented it. Because we’re talking about God here. Not just God – but the name used to define God here is very specific. It’s YAHWEH. That’s important, because it’s the name of the covenant God. It’s the name of the God who promised to send a Savior. It’s the God who kept his promise and sent a Savior. It’s the name of the God who loved his beings so much that he would never, ever give them anything bad.
A while back the preschoolers were in charge of drawing a picture of a house. Let me tell you, as nice as those pictures were, if you followed those blueprints – the house would be a disasters. Windows as big as each room. A room made of squiggles. No door to be found anyway. Sitting on top of what appeared to be a jagged cliff.
God’s not a preschooler. His marriage blueprint comes form a loving heart and an all knowing mind.
II. Examining the Blueprint
Keep that in mind. Let’s look at that blueprint. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”
Now if you have been paying attention to life within the last couples hundred years, you’d notice that society has kind of reinvented that. They’ve kind of written that statement. In a three different ways.
This is the easiest one. God said that marriage is for “a man and his wife.” How many people is that? Simple math says two. One man and one wife.
Take Sister Wives. Have you ever seen it? It’s a reality show all about the Browns – Kody, the husband, and Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn. His four wives. Guess what? It doesn’t always go well. There’s a lot of jealousy between wives. They all vie for his attention and fight for time with him. Go figure, huh!?! Julianna thinks it’s hard enough to get my attention when a Packer game is on.
Having more than one spouse or polygamy is not godly. It’s simply not a part of God’s blueprint.
And…I don’t think that any of you are struggling with that. You only have one spouse – and most of society agrees there is only two names on the marriage certificate.
But this also means that there should be only two names enjoying the perks of marriage. There’s only one other name that you sleep with, one name that you flirt with, one name you are intimate with. There’s only one other person you should be staring at without clothes on!
Don’t let society fool you. The blueprint needs to remain the same to be a godly marriage. Marriage and all of its perks need to be between two people.
Now that’s the least touchy. Let’s jump to the most touchy.
“A man…will be united to his wife.” Wife is a Hebrew word that refers to the female person in a spousal relationship. It means a woman.
And notice that it stopped there. There aren’t any other caveats. No footnotes. No other options. It doesn’t say “A woman …will be united to her wife,” nor does it say, “a man will be united to his husband.” That’s not a part of God’s original blueprint.
Still the Supreme Court has now ruled that it is legal for same sex couples to get married in America. State governments are not allowed to withhold that social contract from them. Fair enough.
But if the government has changed the definition of marriage, does that mean God’s definition has?
In fact, remember that passage from Matthew? Jesus affirmed marriage to be between two different genders. That’s huge! Because he’s the one who rose from the dead. He’s the one who promises us forgiveness of sins. He’s the one who we believe will take us to eternal life.
Shouldn’t we also believe him on marriage?
In light of recent horrible, tragic events in Orlando, please allow a caveat.I am not telling you to shoot people who disagree. I’m not telling you to attack them. I’m not telling you to bomb them, hurt them, harm them, or even call them names. I am not advocating violence in anyway – nor is Jesus.
But I am saying that God hasn’t changed the blueprint.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” It doesn’t specifically state a length of time. But because it doesn’t specifically state a length of time, the implication is that there isn’t set period of time.
Jesus himself affirms this in Matthew. He says, “Two become one flesh. One God has joined together let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:6)
In fact, that’s the very reason the Pharisees were talking to Jesus in the first place. They wanted to know if God was cool with them separating from one another for any and every reason. “Because I’m bored.” “Because it’s not as romantic as it used to be.” “Because I like someone else.” “Because we grew apart.”
Jesus’ answer? No. Unless it’s because of (1) sexual unfaithfulness – which is basically divorce or (2) abandonment – because if the person just gets up and leaves you, it’s kinda hard to stay married to him – unless your marriage has already been physically broken up, then Jesus isn’t cool with divorce.
You might be asking Why?
I went to kindergarten in Minnesota. In kindergarten, we had one hour recesses. I remember spending an hour making a snow fort. It had tunnels. It had windows. It had a kitchen and a video game room. It was good work.
Then, the bell rang. The class bully immediately started trashing it!
I was upset. He destroyed my work.
If you break apart your marriage, God will be upset. You destroyed his work. Unlike me as a kindergartner, God doesn’t do meh work. God’s work is wonderful. You’ll have destroyed his wonderful work.
It'll hurt much more than God. In fact, God isn’t issuing this command to stay married because he wants you to suffer. No way. He is issuing this command because he doesn’t want you to suffer. He wants you remain one flesh – not to rip apart and cause all kinds of spiritual and emotional bleeding.
That's why he put this blueprint into his Word. Because The Word of God endures forever! (1 Peter)
And thank God it does.
Because we’re human. We’ve completely messed this up. God gave us a blueprint – he asked us to follow it – we’ve messed it up. No one has a perfect marriage – and because of that – you’ve probably seen the results of messing this up:
Tears. Wall of tension. Kids locking themselves in their room. Trust evaporated.
Is there any help?
Check out Ephesians 5:31-32 “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.
How cool is that? Jesus says that he is the groom and you are his bride. A bride he was willing to do anything for in order to keep you married to him.
And I do mean anything. Things like:
Jesus died to make you one with Him – you and Him – completely together in righteousness.
Jesus’ resurrection was your wedding day – the day he took you, his beautifully robed bride to be his forever.
Jesus made that promise to you – intimately – to make his love for you and no one else.
Jesus promises to be with you forever and let nothing get in the way.
It means He forgives you.
Knowing that Jesus has made us his forever and living in His forgiveness for messing up the blueprint…what now? Two things:
But our love is strong.
That’s not love! Love is an action. God is love. Love is following God’s will for marriage. Love is doing what God does and being faith forever.
Instead of discouraging, encourage. Encourage friends to be married. Listen to their struggles; offer Godly advice. Recommend a good book. Pray for them. Give them an anniversary card.
Model a good marriage.
Because we need it. There’s enough Kim Kardashians in this world. Young married couples need good role models to follow. In fact, if you’d be willing to help us out here at Gethsemane – mark it on the connection cards. We’re starting up a new marriage mentors program. If you’ve been married for 10 plus years – write your name down and I’ll get into contact with you to serve as mentors for some younger married couples. They need help in this sin-filled world.
2. Focus on your Own Marriage
This is key. Too many Americans focus on so many other things first. Money. Fame. Their career. Even their kids. Marriage is one of the last things.
In fact, there was a recent study in which over 65% of millennials (I just fit into this category) stated that Marriage is not as important as other things.
Don’t listen to that message. If you are married, your spouse is the number #1 non-God thing that is in your wife. Put it on your To-Do-List. I know fixing the sink, getting little Johnny to karate, and working is important but if “Strengthen my marriage” isn’t on your list, you’re aiming to fail. You’re forgetting the most important thing.
Don’t forget. Because God didn’t forget you. In his marriage to you he put repairing your relationship with Him as number 1. He lived for you. He died for you. He rose for you.
He made you a part of his blueprint. Make him a part of your family blueprint. Amen.
Ever heard of MELT?
It’s an online video service that teaches you how to give massage. The premise is that if you are really good at massage, then you’ll be able to destress your spouse and your family will grow close. The premise is that massage is the key to a success family dynamic.
So we tried it out! Julianna and I did a head massage video for a date night. We learned how to dig our fingers into the back of the neck, the importance of rubbing behind the temples, and even how to do a proper eyebrow massage.
It was awesome.
But, then, I got an email the other day from the founder. The guy in the video who talks about how massage giving has given his wife and him a strong relationship, guess what? They’re getting divorced.
Apparently massage isn’t the key principle to having a happy family life.
To be fair, no one really seems to have the answer. If you searched on Google for “How to Improve Your Family Life” a bunch of very different pages would come up. Blog post after blog post, top five list after top ten list, each telling you something different: You need better communication. Better looks. Better intelligence. Better health for your whole family. Better cooking and your husband will love you. Better romance and your wife will love you. Better discipline and your kids will love you and we will tell you how to do it, for only 3 easy payments of $9.99!
But, maybe, instead of listening to people with imperfect family lives tell us what’s most important in family life…Maybe, we should listen to the One who invented family: God Himself.
Last week we started our series called Family Matters and we built a foundation for our talks on God’s own family dynamic. Remember last week we learned that (1) sin separated God’s family (2) God achieved unity in Jesus (3) God really, really, really wants you in his family AND (4) God’s family is all about grace.
We’re going to build on that this week by learning from God’s family how to improve our own family life. Today we want to identify the Key Biblical principle for having a solid, godly family life. Before we do, let’s say a prayer:
O Lord, strengthen by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see about our own family lives; to hear what you want us to hear about how to improve our family lives and to believe what you want us to believe about being in your family. Amen.
I. What is the Key?
Check out 1 Corinthians 13. It’s a part of a letter that was written to a congregation of believers in a place called Corinth. Granted the Corinthians weren’t a biological family. But they were a spiritual family. Just like regular families, this spiritual family had its share of family problems.
At that time, the church was experiencing a brand new phenomena. Speaking in tongues was a common thing. Ever heard of it? Speaking in tongues was a special gift from God given to the early New Testament church. It was a heavenly language that one didn’t really understand. I could give you some examples but it would just appear to be babbling. Still, it was important because it was proof that Jesus hadn’t abandoned the church and the Holy Spirit was with them.
But some people saw it as more important than that. Some saw it as proof that they were better Christians. “You know son, the real proof of being a Christian, isn’t confessing your faith in Jesus OR showing love to your neighbor; it’s speaking in tongues. Which – I’m awesome at that.”
How do you think the people who couldn’t speak in tongues reacted? They were jealous! Immediately they started to promote another, more important characteristic in God’s family. It just so happened to be whatever they were good at.
“Actually the most important thing for a successful church family is music!”
“Nope! It’s saying really good prayers. You can talk to me for how to do it best.”
“Well, I think that baking good fellowship cookies is best. And based on what you’re eating right now, I’d say you agree.”
Paul hears about this argument. He’s the one who started this church, their founding pastor. He decides to weigh in. Which is kind of a big deal. Everyone is waiting to find out what Paul thinks is most important – I’m sure he’ll vote for friendliness, I’m awesome at it.
Listen to his response from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have LOVE, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have LOVE, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have LOVE, I gain nothing.
Do you like cymbals? Actually the Greek says, “repetitively clanging brass.” Do any of you have that for your ringtone? As your Pandora station? Is that your favorite station on the radio: “Just hit cymbal music. All the time. Any time.”
Cymbals are loud. They are brash. They are obnoxious. With the exception of the one music note that the one cymbal player plays once in thousands of measures of music – the cymbal isn’t all that luxurious sounding. It’s more of an obnoxious alarm clock than anything else.
Paul says that’s what our family skills and all of our communications are like without love. Obnoxious.
The dad who keeps talking about how much money he makes for you kids so leave me alone. Obnoxious. The mom who tells teenager time and again all the wisdom she learned as a mom and how she knows what she’s talking about because it makes her feel a bit better about her past decision. Obnoxious.
I make so much money for this family you should be more thankful thankful. Cymbal clash.
I learned this from the 47 parenting books that I read, I’m a good mom listen to me. Cymbal clash.
Mom, fine; I love you too, just leave me and my friends alone. Cymbal clash.
I worked so hard making this meal. You should all appreciate this more. It’ll help me feel better. Cymbal clash.
Honey I said, I love you. Now, let me go back to watching the game. Cymbal clash. Obnoxious cymbal clash.
Notice the tone.
Notice the lack of love.
Without love, it doesn’t matter how wise you are. It doesn’t matter how many tongues you speak in. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how good your looks are, how healthy your body is, or how many books about parenting that you own.
You’re nothing, because you are neglecting the most important principle, love. Without love, even the most incredible skills and assets in family life are worthless.
But, on the other hand, the addition of love to imperfect skills or talents, can transform the whole thing:
The coloring page that says “I love you Mommy” all outside the lines – goes on the fridge. Beautiful.
The car window that was broken, but after countless hours in the garage – goes up – slowly and with a squeak – gets a heart: “Thank you.” Beautiful.
The spaghetti sauce that tastes about as salty as the Atlantic Ocean gets a “Thank you for working so hard on this, Mom.” Beautiful.
Love is the key.
II. Defining Love
But what is love? If you’ve ever watched Disney movies before you might be under the impression that love is this burst into song type feeling. Love means that bluebirds follow you everywhere you go, you defeat the evil sorcerer, and burst into songs together throughout the day. Love means happily ever after.
But is that true?
What happens when Snow White isn’t under a sleeping potion and is just lazy?
Or when Cinderella suddenly becomes materialistic?
What happens when Prince Charming is no longer charming?
Is there still love? Is love over? The feeling is gone.
That’s not how God describes love. It isn’t a feeling or an emotion. Listen to how God describes love:
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. Love never fails.
Notice. Nowhere in that verse does Paul describe love as a feeling. Nowhere does he describe it as a dream. Nowhere does he describe it as fireworks in the sky while zooming through Agrabah on a magic carpet. Love is an action. It works through difficult times. It acts even when it’s recipient is undeserving!
Take Jesus. In today’s Gospel lesson he comes across a guy with leprosy. Leprosy is disgusting. It’s a terrible disease. When you have leprosy, your skin slowly begins to rot. It turns pale white. It dries up and falls off. You lose the tips of your fingers and the cartilage in your nose. You slowly die.
Because it’s so contagious (and because it’s kind of hard to look at), people avoid you. At the time of Jesus, you were quarantined. Destined to live your life on the outskirts of town. That’s what the man in Luke 5 was experiencing. A slow, lonely, hard to look at, impossible to be with, existence.
Jesus approached him. Jesus spoke to him. Jesus touched him. Jesus healed him. And all of this for an untouchable of society! For someone unloveable. It wasn’t when this man had lots of money, had his life all together and was a cool dude to hang out with that Jesus met with him, but when his nose was missing, stench was growing, and his spirit was bitter and hardened! Jesus showed active love when the man was unlovable.
But that’s not the only time Jesus did that. That’s not the only untouchable, unlovable that Jesus showed love to.
He also showed it to you.
Think for a moment about yourself. Be very real. Think about all the most unlovable things about yourself. Things others have told you. Things you would never tell others about. The pride. The vengeance. The sick as a dog drunkenness. The repetitive pornographic viewing. The adultery – all four times it happened.
Got that picture?
Understand this: That’s who Jesus died for! Not for the social media version of yourself, but for the real, awful, ugly part! It wasn’t romantic. Jesus wasn’t feeling the love. There wasn’t beautiful, soft sonnets playing in the background while you were on a date.
But Jesus died for you the worst of you on the cross.
Get this picture:
He wasn’t dying for his bride dressed in a beautiful gown on our wedding day, but for the angry, vengeful, jaded woman who just finished telling him what an awful Savior he has been. He wasn’t dying for the kind, tuxedoed gentleman on the first date, but for the belligerent, beer drinking, scumbag on the couch.
He wasn’t dying for that peacefully sleeping child who just said, “I love you,” but for the shouting, swearing, door slamming teen who said, “I hate you!”
In fact, that’s exactly what Scripture tells us is the definition of love: 1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. It’s a love that defeats bitterness. A love that defeats hatred. A love that defeats all of the awful things that make our families less than perfect. A love that goes through the worst – a slow, painful death on the cross – for the worst – us.
That’s the kind of love that made you a part of God’s family.
That’s the kind of love we ought to have in our families.
III. WHAT NOW?
(A) Stop Obsessing Over Lesser Gifts
How do you choose a doctor? Is it based on what kind of magazines he has in his waiting room? Is it based on how great of a knowledge he has of Duke Basketball? Is it based on whether or not he has a degree in from the culinary school of the arts?
No. Those things are unimportant for the job he wants to accomplish. We don’t obsess over them, because they are peripheral.
Why not do the same thing in our live? There’s plenty of societal expectations out there. Social media loves to remind us of them: Be a more beautiful. Be better at discipline. Be more romantic. Make more money. Be more athletic. Be a better student. Be more relaxing.
But these are lesser gifts. They aren’t bad, but it is bad to make them more important than the greatest gift: Love.
(B) Pursue the Greatest Gift
1 Corinthians 12:31 says this, “Eagerly desire the greater gifts...”
1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “The greatest of these is love…”
1 John 4:8 says, “God is love.”
Pursue the greatest gift. Pursue love.
Do you want your family to grow in love? Obsess over God! It’s that simply. Because in God you see incredible, undeserved, unfailing love. You hear about his love for you, it motivates you to show that love for others.
So, obsess over Him personally. Make Bible time a can’t miss part of your morning. Make midday prayer an essential part of your day. Find a group to study the Bible with. Make church a can’t miss opportunity! Obsess over God, because that’s how you grow in love.
And obsess over him as a family. Make family devotion a priority. Make church a family activity. Talk about God together more than you talk about Justin Bieber and Transformers.
Obsess over God because God is love.
Love is key.
God is key.
For having a godly family.
For being a part of His family.
Afterall, God invented family. Why would we expect anything less? Amen.
The people who are always there for you. The people who always support you. The people who guide you, love you, and deal with you even when you’re not at your greatest.
The people who every once in awhile can get a bit annoying. The people who grab your toothbrush, use it, and don’t even know it enough to dry it off and hide the evidence. The people who don’t show up at the piano recital, just like they do at all piano recitals, when they said that this time would be different and they were really going to be at the piano recital. The people who whine and complain that they don’t have the iPhone and when you finally buy them the new iPhone they whine and complain that it isn’t the NEW, new iPhone. The people who, when you sit down with a beer and some chips to watch the recording of the NASCAR race, feign innocence when the only available recorded shows are the last three episode of The Bachelorette!
Yes, family .The people who are always there for you which means they’re always there.
It’s amazing how when you talk to different people, you will get a lot of different thoughts about family. Some like it. Some hate it. The distinct difference is most likely related to their own family dynamic – growing up or currently.
Who’s right? Is family good? Is family bad? Is it just sometimes ok, but mostly annoying?
This morning we are starting a sermon series all about family. We’re going to take a look at what it takes to have a happy, blessed family in this modern era. In order to get to that, we need to see what God has to say about it. He is the one who invited family. But before we listen to God’s principles of family life, we need to first understand where God is coming from. We need to understand God’s Family Dynamic.
I. God Loves A United Family
Take a look at Luke 15 beginning at verse 11. This is a section where Jesus tells a quick story to give us a glimpse into the kingdom of God. Kingdom of God is a phrase that Jesus uses interchangeably to talk about his family. In this parable, Jesus wants us to understand what it’s like to be a part of the family of God.
Jesus said this, “A man had two sons” For years, they were a happy family. Dad owned a big farm that made them a lot of money. Every night they had home cooked meals. Dad wrestled with them after dinner. He loved giving them both noogies after lunch. They took turns grabbing his nose and hiding it from him. He paid for them to try out soccer, then karate, then baseball, and even Harry Potter camp. He tucked them in for bed, read them a Bible story, and prayed for God their souls to keep.
Then, they got older. As they got older, the younger son grew restless. He wanted to live out there in the world. He wanted to be to the places he had seen on the TV. He wanted do the things that he heard the guys in his father’s work crew talk about being. He was disenfranchised.
One day, he had enough. The younger son said to his Father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” There was no asking. No wondering dad’s thoughts on the matter. No “can I borrow a dollar for the vending machine.” Just a demand.
Give me money, Dad. I’m sick of this place. I’m sick of this boring existence. I’m sick of being in this family. I’m sick and tired of being your son. Give me money so I get out of this hellhole.
And Dad, he teared up. He fought back sobs. He went to his hiding place and returned with the son’s inheritance.
Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, he set off for a distant country and there he squandered his wealth in wild living. He bought an apartment high rise in downtown Raleigh. He made sure it was close to the local bar. He went out the first night and spent his money on a fine steak, top shelf Grey Goose Vodka, and $9 dollar local brew after $9 local brew.
One night grew into every night. He developed some friends. Friends who showed him where to score some drugs. Friends who showed him where to find the best strippers. Friends who knew where the good prostitutes were located.
He fell in love with one of them. She fell in love with his money. She made him buy her diamonds, Gucci dresses, and the finest wines. After he had enough of her, he tried men – spending enough money at the local gay bar to pick up a new guy each night.
Until one day – one day when it all ended. Relationships ended. Friends ended. The fancy meals and top shelf booze ended.
It ended because the money ended.
Soon the young man wasn’t even able to pay the rent. He was facing eviction. Soon to be homeless. Down to nothing more than a few dried up bags of Ramen noodles.
15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. Fixing the slop. Feeding the pigs. Spending each minute of daylight walking around in the filthy, disgusting, foul smelling mess of a bunch of hogs.
Thing is. The guy was so hungry that even the moldy apples with the rotten strings of banana wrapped around them, drizzled in fresh pig saliva looked like the fancy steaks he had been eating.
Then, he snapped out of it. 17 He came to his senses & said, “What am I doing? I had it so good. I was fed. I was clothed. I was cared for. I was loved. Now here I am starving to death. 18 I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants. Because even if I am lowest of the low – the servant in charge of cleaning the restrooms at my dad’s ranch, at least...at least it’d be way better than this.
20 So he got up and went to his father. He packed the few things he had left – an old ball cap, a broken wallet, and a sponge he used to clean himself. He put them in a bag and made his way back home.
As he got close, a feeling started generating within his stomach. It was small at first – tense. Then, it grew. It grew and grew as he nervously anticipated what it would be like to see his Dad again.
I told you so. You ungrateful, little worm. You dare come back to me after the way you had spoken to me!?! Get out. You were done with me; now I’m done with you.
A tear formed in the young man’s eyes.
Then, off in the distance. He saw him. He saw the figure of his father. He saw his father approaching him – slowly at first; then quickly. As the recognizable shape of his dad got closer, the nervousness grew. His dad got closer and he raised his arm into the air.
The son winced.
His father’s giant paw wrapped around him. It pulled him close. It welcomed him.
The son immediately started protesting. “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” I’ll work in the fields. I work as far away as possible from you. I’ll make it so you won’t have to look at my disgusting face ever again.
But his dad wasn’t listening. He motioned to the servants who had been watching this scene unfold: “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it! We’re having the fine steaks tonight. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
That’s how much God loves family. He wants families to be whole. He wants them to be repaired. He longs for family to come back together even when awful, awful things have happened between them.
But this is more than just a feel good, Hallmark movie about how nice family is. This is more than just motivation for you to go out and fix your family.
This is a story that shows just how much God, our Father, wants you in his family.
Maybe you can relate to the younger son. Maybe you’ve left God. Maybe you grew up in the church, you went to Sunday school, you had sugar cookies, sang “Jesus Loves Me” and played with the Duplo version of Noah’s ark.
Then, you got older. Then, you got curious. Then, you left your heavenly Father.
You became an alcoholic.
You did drugs.
You had sex with various men and women.
You married yourself to work and money became all you thought about.
Then, when you ran into troubles – you blamed it all on God! If only he hadn’t been such a tyrant. If only he hadn’t have had so many rules. If only God wasn’t your Father, this wouldn’t be happening.
You distanced yourself even farther from God.
I know. That’s exactly what I did. I’m not joking.
But then, something happened. Something happened to make you realize how wrong you’d been. Maybe you lost it all. Maybe you lost a friend. Maybe your family fell apart.
Maybe it’s this sermon.
But the guilt is great! How can I go back to God? I never should have left. I know it now. I’ve sinned against heaven and against you, God, my heavenly Father. How can I come back to you – I don’t deserve it. I haven’t earned it. I’ve earned nothing but your scorn. You should disown me because I have disowned you.
But. Hear God’s heart: He won’t raise his hand to smite you; He will raise his arms to hug you.
He still loves you.
This is how much God wants you to be a part of his family. He took his Son, the only and only perfect Son, the only Son who didn’t leave him, the one who was perfect in every way – Jesus Christ – and he sent his son into the world to defeat the sin that had taken us, to stomp out the death that threatened to separate us, and to destroy the devil who had led us away in the first place.
Scripture says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” That’s you – no matter where you’ve been, no matter how long you’ve been gone, no matter how heavily you wanted to be apart from God -- God longed for you. He still longs for you - -and when you come back to him – you will be a part of his family.
Galatians 3:26 says this, “In Christ Jesus, you are a child of God through faith.” Not you might be. Not you could be. Not you may possibly be one day after years of quiet, faithful, no complaining, getting up each day and sunrise and working to sundown service….
You are a child of God.
II. God’s Family is about Grace
Of course, that’s hard to believe. It’s why the son was nervous to return. It’s why the son started refusing his dad’s love. It’s why the son said, “Dad, I’m not worthy.”
And it’s also why the older brother wasn’t at the celebration.
Remember him? This story isn’t over.
The older brother was in the fields. In the fields, like he always was. In the fields, like he had been since his younger brother left and like he was when his younger brother came back. He missed the fantastic reunion.
But as he returned to the ranch house that evening, sweat on his body glowing in the evening sunset and dirt caked well under his fingernails, he heard some noise. He heard music. He heard dancing and laughing.
"What’s going on?” he asked a servant that ran by with a bottle of wine.
"There’s a celebration, sir. It’s your brother. He’s back."
v28 The older brother became angry. Are you kidding me? That ingrate is back. And…we’re having a party for him. I want nothing to do with this. And he went and shut himself up in his home.
Meanwhile at the party, his dad was feeling pretty good. He was in the middle of showing his younger son how to whip and NaeNae, when he started to feel incomplete. He looked around. The whole family wasn’t there. He was missing the older son.
And so he left the party. He went to his son’s house. He knocked on the door. He knocked again. He heard his son’s voice, “Go away,” shout from in back.
What’s wrong son? Why aren’t you at the party? Don’t you know your brother is back?
Suddenly, the older son came storming outside – poking his accusing finger as he approached.
29 “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.” I got up in the morning. I got up at night. I ran the show when you were sick. I picked up the slack when the servants were away. I’ve been in this family and happily a part of this business for years. But you never threw me a party. You never even gave me a small rump of meat to go and celebrate with my friends.
But this son of yours – he ain’t my brother – he comes back. After what he said to you. After what he did to you. After making our family an embarrassment. After leaving you in that depressed state – not feeling whole – and you kill the fattened calf, the finest possible meat that we have on our entire ranch for that fool!?! He hasn’t earned it. I earned it. Now you’ve earned my disrespect.
Dad paused. He sighed. He put his arm on his boy. 31 “My dear son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. You have been a part of this family. You are a part of this family. You will be a part of this family. But we had to celebrate, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
You see – the older son had totally misunderstood what it meant to be in his Father’s family. He thought it was about earning a spot in the family. He thought his long list of quality service and well done chores made him a part of the family and his brother’s sins disqualified him from it.
To be fair that happens in earthly families. Someone is disowned. The family never mentions that one sister. Mom and dad never speak to each other again.
But not in God’s family. God’s family is about grace.
It has to be! Without grace, every one of us would be disqualified. Yes – even you long time, long time, long time church goers. Even you member of the ladies guild, counter, signed up for snacks once a month at church, church goer. You would not be a part of this family without God’s grace.
So stop thinking it’s about what you’ve done. Stop thinking it’s your long tenure as a child of God that made you a child of God. You’re wrong. If you’re thinking like that, you’re on a path to abandon the family of God altogether.
God’s family is about grace. It’s about the Father’s love. Love that forgives the worst of rebellions. Love that forgives a subtle anger against the worst of rebellions. Because that's what God's love does. God's love unites us back into his family.
To be honest, I don’t have a lot for you this week. We’ll get more into how to have a godly family in a modern world over the next weeks. For now? Take today – take this moment – take this coming week – to reconnect with your dad.
Read his letter to you – it’s a book called the Bible. Open it up and read about how much he loves you.
Talk to me. If you have questions, concerns, even a bit of a hunch that maybe, this is all true – Talk to me. You’re hearing the heart of God calling to you.
Come back. Come back to God’s house next week. Don’t let it be so long before you return again. Come back and celebrate with us.
We were dead and we are alive. We were lost and are found. Alleluia!
Let's get the family together and celebrate!