We are starting up our series called Fixer Upper this morning. It is all about how God fixes the brokenness in families. To be honest, no matter who you are and no matter what your family looks – families hurt each other. We are broken people living in a broken world with broken people. We will, and do, and have, hurt each other.
Today we will apply Biblical teaching to the topic of household hurts. Before we do, join me in prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Truth about Household Hurts
We are going to look at a few different Bible sections today, but our base lesson for learning about Household Hurt is from Genesis 16. Because Genesis 16 features a family – it features hurt; it features a family that hurt each other. Take a look:
Sarai, Abram’s wife, had born him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my servant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” (v.1-2)
Briefly: This introduces us to the three main characters in this family. There’s Abram, the husband; Sarai, the wife; and Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant. Briefly – servant or slaves back then would have been a lot different than the violent slavery that we think of in America’s past. Generally, the head of household – in this case – Abram – would have servants who dwelt with his family. They helped fed the sheep, herded the cattle and helped to grow veggies. In exchange, Abram offered protection, food and housing.
He was kind to them. He cared for them.
In essence: they were ‘part of the family.’ Part of the household.
But this family has one key problem: Abram and Sarai, the patriarch and matriarch, didn’t have any children. He had lots of servants. These servants were like sons and daughters to them…but none of them were biological sons and daughters to them.
And if you’ve ever struggled with having children. That’s hard.
But these two had a particular hope. God had promised Abram and Sarai that they would have a child. About 7 years earlier, when Abram was 75 years old (which is already a long time to wait for having a child) God promised Abram that he would have a son. He promised that his son would have children. He promised that from his descendants the Savior of the world would come – namely – Jesus.
That was 11 years ago.
At the time of chapter 16 – Abram is now 86 years old. Was it ever going to happen? Were they ever going to have a child? Would they forever be – that rich couple that can’t have kids?
In verse 2, Sarai has enough. Look at her plan: “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go; sleep with my servant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Do you sense the desperation? Her idea is simply: “Go; have sex with that attractive employee of ours – then, I can be an adoptive mother of sorts.”
What do you think?
There are a lot of morals lacking in today’s world – but just about everyone – including non-believers and non-church goers would agree that cheating on your spouse is NOT a good idea. It’s morally reprehensible; it hurts trust. It causes all kinds of pain. Even cheating on your boyfriend isn’t good! I was catching a bit of Bachelor in Paradise the other day – not exactly the moral pinnacle of life – and one of the reality stars was upset that the boy she had been dating for 2 days was caught kissing another woman.
That’s after 2 days.
And it’s only a kiss.
How much more pain is there after years of marriage with a lot more than kissing?
To be fair – God was in agreement. Way back at the beginning of the world God said, “For this reason a man will be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Because this sleeping together is an extremely intimate thing. It’s not like a high five. You high five lots of people. You high five your friends, your coworkers, your boss, even that guy at the local pub who’s cheering for the same team as you.
Sleeping together? That’s much more intimate. God’s plan was for it to only be between one other person.
Yet Sarai suggests that they go against God’s plan.
She suggests that they take it into their own hands.
She suggests that Abram sleep with her employee.
And to be fair – Abram doesn’t stop her.
Abram doesn’t say, “This will drive us apart.”
Abram doesn’t say, “But I am a one-woman kind of guy and you are my one woman.”
Essentially, he says, “Cool.”
And Abram slept with Hagar, and she conceived. (v.4)
Guess how well things turn out.
To start, Hagar starts to feel very special when it comes to Abram.
She views him at the very least as the baby daddy – if not a husband of sorts.
But the reality is, she wasn’t. Sarai was Abram’s wife. Nothing could change that.
And that hurts. Because she had been used.
So, since she can’t be his wife and that hurts, she helps herself feel better by rubbing in her motherhood in the face of Sarai.
“I am so glad that I get to be a mother, aren’t you? Oh…wait…that’s right.”
“Oh, sorry Sarai, I can’t join you for a glass of wine – the baby.”
“Isn’t Abram so nice? He’s big and strong and muscular and…oh, is that making you uncomfortable?”
In response, Sarai comes running to Abram: “You jerk! Abram, you are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me.” Notice she doesn’t blame herself for coming up with and encouraging the idea. She blames Abram – and don’t get me wrong, he is to blame. And yes, in Scripture, it is only one sentence. But I imagine this conversation went on for a while. Sarai yelling at Abram. Abram getting defensive. Sarai saying, “You never listen to me.” Abram saying, “You always do this.”
Until eventually Abram has had enough. And he tells Sarai – “Do whatever you want with her.”
Sarai mistreated her. (v.6a)
At least verbally.
“Oh, there’s that (insert female name for other females that sleep around). Were you off sleeping with the rancher? IS that why you’re late?”
The emotional toll is so great that the result is this: Hagar fled from her. (v.6b)
She fled from her household.
She fled from her friends.
She fled from her family.
Does this sound at all similar to your family story? Maybe not the not having children and sleeping with someone else in order to have a child part, but the circular hurt part?
Because pay attention to the cycle of hurt:
Abram and Sarai are hurt; so, they use Hagar and hurt her.
Hagar is hurt. So, she hurts Sarai.
Sarai is hurt so she hurts Abram.
Abram is hurt so he gives Sarai permission to hurt Hagar. And he hurts her in the process, too.
Hagar is hurt – so she hurts them both and runs away with Abram’s baby in tow.
One gets hurt by another.
One hurts the other.
And the other who gets hurt.
Hurts them back.
TRUTH #1: Hurting others never fixes hurt. It only increases it.
And yet that’s how we act in families!
If I call my sister that name, I feel less hurt.
If I look at this porn, I’ll probably hurt my wife, but I’ll feel less hurt for a moment.
If I text mom that I don’t love her anymore, I’ll feel less hurt.
If I flirt with this coworker, my husband might be hurt, but good – I’ll feel better if he knows what it feels like.
It does not work like that.
That’s be like somebody throwing a kickball in your face from about 3 feet away. It would hurt. And so, in order to stop the hurt, you throw a kickball at their face.
Do you feel better?
Not at all.
Hurting others in your family does not help the hurt in your heart.
It only brings more hurt.
And ultimately? It hurts God.
It hurts God and your relationship with God.
Because now you feel guilt.
Now you feel far apart from God.
Now the devil starts to make you question if you are worthy of God’s love.
And suddenly, the other person isn’t the only one that’s hurt. Because the truth is…
TRUTH #2: Hurting others also hurts you.
II. God Sees Your Hurt
Still… Household hurts hurt.
And you might have been very hurt by your family.
By your spouse.
By your son.
By your daughter.
By your sister.
By your brother.
By your mom.
Or your dad.
You might feel like no one understand.
You might feel like no one cares.
You might feel all alone dealing with this hurt.
That’s how Hagar felt. Sarai hated her. Abram hated her. She was despised by the other servants.
She felt used and abused and totally alone in this hurt.
So, she sneaks out at night.
She puts a few of her belongs into a sack.
She runs as fast as her pregnant legs can carry her outside of the camp.
She heads to the desert.
She hits the grounds.
She wets the dry sand with her tears.
No one loved her.
Everyone used her.
No one cared about her pain.
And as she sat there in the darkness of the early morning hours, she felt a darkness overcome her soul that seems impenetrable.
…she saw the light.
It wasn’t the sun.
It wasn’t the moon.
It wasn’t a flashlight out looking for her.
It was something else, something different, something…divine.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar. (v.7)
And he said, “Where are you coming from and where are you going?” Not that he didn’t already know – but he was already giving something that Hagar needed, an ear to listen.
“I am running away from my mistress!” (v.9) She hates me and Abram hates me. And the others hate me. And no one cares about me and no one cares about my pain. No one!
“Hagar. I care about you. I care about you and I see you. Go back home.”
I. Will. Bless you.
And Hagar got up.
And Hagar’s pain subsided some.
And Hagar went back to her family.
TRUTH: The LORD cares for you.
No matter how alone you think you are.
No matter what other family members have told you.
No matter how icy cold they are to you.
No matter how much they have hurt you.
Here is the reality: The LORD still cares for you.
And you might be saying “Prove it! Prove that God feels my pain.”
God so loved the world (are you in the world? Answer: yes. Meaning God so loved you) that he gave his One and only Son (gave him to earth. Gave him up to death. Gave him up to bitterly painful death on a cross for the pains that you have caused) that whoever believes in Him will not perish (meaning you won’t be forgotten about. You won’t spend eternity alone. You won’t be ignored and left to eternal pain) but have eternal life. (Life without hurt. Life without pain. Life surrounded by the One who loves you most – your Father. Your brother. Your family.)
In fact, if you are still doubting it. If you are still thinking that no one cares about you and God probably doesn’t care about you, well, what about these words right now? They aren’t mine; they are God’s! It is God, your Father, speaking to you: “I love you.” It is Jesus your brother beckoning to you: “Come on home.” It is God the Holy Spirit holding up your adoption papers signed in Jesus’ blood to show you: “Yes, you are a part of this family.”
III. What Now?
1. See the God Who Sees You
Because this truth – that God cares, that God is there, that God sees you and sees your pain and is actively doing things to help with that pain – even as he has already done all that’s necessary (on the cross) to take away that pain eternally – this truth helps with our household hurts right now.
In fact, it helped Hagar so much that she stopped drowning her sorrows in the desert and instead focused on this incredible God who saw her and spoke to her. She called him, “The God who sees me.”
It’s kind of like a kid…late at night. He’s nervous because it’s dark and he heard a mysterious hooting coming from outside his window. And he’s trying to be big and he’s trying to be strong, but he’s still a bit nervous. So, he gets out of bed, sneaks to the stairs, and looks at the living room.
They are still here.
And he is no longer afraid.
It’s the same when we spend time in God’s Word.
We are reminded that we aren’t alone.
We aren’t dealing with family pain alone.
We are dealing with family pain – in the presence of the Head of our Spiritual family.
We are in the presence of God.
So…spend time in God’s Word.
Spend time at worship.
Spend time in study.
If you don’t, it will only be that much harder to deal with hurt, but with that truth – the hurt will subside.
2. See the Pain of Others
Because the reality of Hagar’s story is that she wasn’t the only one hurting.
Abram and Sarai both were, too.
If any of them had been able to look past their own hurt and see the hurt of the others around them, the cycle of hurt would have been stopped.
The hurting would have stopped.
There would have been time for healing.
I know it’s hard, but when you are hurting from a fellow family member – trying to focus less on your pain but more on theirs.
That’s what Jesus did! He looks past his pain – that we had sinned against him countless and rejected him as God – and he went to the cross in order to heal our pain and guilt and win us an endless, pain free existence in heaven!
Let the truth that Jesus selflessly sought to heal your pain; to empower you to selflessly heal the pain of your family.
Because the truth is, what I’ve noticed is that when you start focusing on the pain of others in your family, your pain subsides, too.
It’s silly because when we hurt, we tend to only focus on our hurt – again and again and again.
That’s like the time that I had a splinter – and this is a recent time – and I had this splinter and I just sat there and held my thumb and said, “It hurts. It hurts. It hurts.” Guess what? That didn’t make it feel any better. Not at all!
Focus on the hurt of your family.
Watch your own hurt fade, too.
3. Remember: The One Who Sees, Also Hears
In fact, Scripture says this, “Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 That passage is awesome. It’s a command from God in which he says, “Listen to me! I want you to speak to me so that I can listen to you.”
And notice – he wants all of our anxiety.
All of the pain.
Because – Americans are pretty private people. We love to smile politely. Singsong our hellos and say things like, “How are you?” “I’m fine thank you.” – even when things are falling apart at home.
We want to keep our hurt private.
Not with God.
He knows you already.
Share your pain with him.
Tell him about your deepest hurts.
Tell him about how people have hurt you.
Tell him about how the way you have hurt others is hurting you too.
Tell him the things that you don’t feel comfortable telling anyone else.
Cast all your anxiety on him; because he cares for you.
That’s what the man in the Gospel for today did. He had a lot of hurt and a lot of pain.
Physical pain from the incurable leprosy that was eating away at his flesh.
Social pain from being cast away from his friends and family.
Emotional pain from the look of disgust that his own wife gave him as “You’ve gotta get away from me so I don’t get sick.”
He felt alone.
He felt hurt.
He felt like no one cared…until….
“Lord, Jesus have mercy on me?”
And Jesus heard him.
And Jesus saw him.
And Jesus cared for him.
May God begin to heal all of our pain as well. Amen.
Just a few nights ago, the youth group from New Ulm was at our house with Pirates of the Caribbean on Netflix. I was sitting on the couch mildly watching Johnny Depp swing his sword around Orlando Bloom when I got a text message on my phone. It was from my wife – who was sitting about three people away. A few moments later I got a message from Mr. Steenbock, the youth leader – who was a bit farther away -- on a chair by our dining room table. In fact, throughout the night I got a few Facebook messages --- four email updates --- a comment on Instagram and even an attempted Skype chat.
Wow. We are connected. If you want to get ahold of someone nowadays, you can try Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, Text Message, Email, Skype --- and even this crazy, old fashioned thing called a telephone. Have you heard of it?
Yet. In spite of how connected we are, Americans have trouble connecting.
You can misread tone in an email and get real upset at a your spouse who was sending you a lighthearted joke.
You can send an angry emoticon on accident to your child and he will respond with a very real, on purpose, emoji of an angry cat.
You can turn on the CAPS LOCK to get your point across and dampen your relationship with your sibling, because “WHY ARE YOU YELLING?”
The truth is that in spite of the new ways to connect – we still need to approach communication in the same way God commanded us to approach old fashioned, face-to-face conversation.
What is that command? Today we’re going to continue our Family Matters series on Communication by looking at what exactly God’s Word has to communicate to us about communication.
I. The Sinful Truth Behind BAD Communication
Take a look at Luke 6:28-29. These are the words of Jesus himself. He said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
That’s an awesome amount of love. Notice who it’s for. Do this for your enemies. Enemy means someone who hates you. Someone who’s against you. Someone who treats you really, really poorly. Someone who calls you “jerkface.” Someone who takes your toys away from you. Someone who spends the last of your budgeted money on something that you didn’t want to spend money on. Someone who yells at you, fights with you, and leaves you in tears.
Someone who might be in your family.
Isn’t that a sad truth? Yet it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, we are all sinners. We sin daily. We often sin much against those who are in close proximity.
It’s kinda like a sprinkler. It’s hot out now, so you might set up the sprinkler. But if you are mom or dad and cold, cold water doesn’t sound like something you want to get on your nice “hangout” clothes --- just set up shop outside the vicinity of the sprinklers’ range. Everything in range will get soaked. But you’ll be fine.
Unfortunately, its impossible for families to set up shop outside the radius of our own sin. The fact of the matter is that we will naturally get hit by our families over and over and over again. There’s no one you will sin against more than your own family – simply because you spend the most amount of time with your own family.
So how do you react? Jesus says, “With love. Treat them how you want to be treated.”
But our actions seemed to indicate that we have misread his words.
Our version is something more like this:
"Hold grudges against your enemies, say hateful things about those who hate you, 28 curse those who curse you, complain to your friends about your family who mistreats you. 29 If your brothers slaps you on one cheek, slap him back harder. If your sisters takes your coat (without asking first), tell her that she’s a “Brat.” Tell your children who asks you for something to “get a job – this is my money,” but if your wife takes the money that belongs to you, angrily demand it back! 31 Do to others as they have done to you.”
This is exactly what Esau did. Remember him from our Old Testament lesson? He had been looking forward for years to receive a special blessing from his father. He had been looking forward to the “birthright” which allow him special blessings as the first born son. When his father finally told him it was time for the ceremony, he went off into the woods to hunt for a delicious venison meal and spend some sentimental, quality time with his father.
When he came back after waiting in his tree stand, after quivering with excitement for this long awaited moment, after skinning the animal, preparing the meat and dreaming about the success that was due him, he found out that his brother had stolen it. Jacob had dressed up as Esau – taken advantage of his father – and stolen what was rightfully his!
Esau was ticked.
Verse 41 says that Esau held a grudge against Jacob. In fact, he immediately began denouncing his brother and decided the only action he could take wasn’t carefully, calmly expressing his pleasure. Esau didn’t write out a long letter venting his frustrations. He didn’t pray to God for help.
He threatened to murder him. “I’m doing to Jacob what he did to me.”
But that’s wrong. That is not how God wants us to communicate. Godly communication isn't selfish.
Godly communication is selfless.
II. Godly Communication
Look at Luke 6 again. It says, “Love your enemies.” Do you realize who is saying that? It’s Jesus Christ. He absolutely had enemies. The religious leaders of his day were so angry with him for calling them sinners and so jealous of him for all of the crowd following him that they planned on killing him. They arrested him. They threw him in prison. They told lies about him. They spoke badly about him. They convicted him of false wrong doing. They shouted – “Crucify him – Nail his body, hand and foot, to this big old piece of wood and let him hang there until he dies!” They ridiculed and mocked him – “You say that you’re the Son of God! I don’t know any Son of God that would hang up on a cross and die. You worthless worm – you disgust us!”
And Jesus’ response?
He spoke no ill will.
He didn’t curse them.
He didn’t even call them jerks!
He blessed them with final words of the Gospel. He prayed to the Father for their forgiveness. He turned his other cheek – and his other hand – and his other foot. He let them take his clothes. He gave them his blood and sweat and tears. He did to them, not like they did to him, but completely unlike how they treated him.
That’s God’s love. That’s selfless communication.
In fact, Psalm 103:10 says, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities...For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love.” He doesn’t speak as you deserve nor as you have spoken about him. He speaks to you with love.
He could call you sinner – instead he calls you forgiven.
He could call you enemy – instead he calls you friend.
He could call you brat – instead he calls you his child.
He could call you disgusting – instead he calls you righteous.
He could ignore you (just like we’ve done to him) – instead he is attentive to your every prayer.
He could shout at your to get far away from him and never return – instead he promises a home in heaven to which he will bring you when He does return.
This means that if you have been a poor, ungodly communicator in the past -- God has heard your cry for mercy. He sent his Son Jesus that you would be forgiven. By hearing that message and confessing your faith in it -- you are forgiven.
III. WHAT NOW?
Therefore, let’s learn from Jesus. May his love be a motivation and a guide for our communication in our families. A few quick notes from God’s Word:
One spouse says, “You spent $100 at Whole Foods on like, 11 items?”
The other spouse says, “Do you think I want to waste our money? I can’t believe you are so stingy.”
The original spouse says, “I didn’t say you were a money waster. Stop calling me a jerk. ”
The other spouse says, “I didn’t call you jerk. Stop calling me a name caller.”
And the rubber keeps bouncing back and forth, more and more quickly with each non-listening jab.
So try this: worry less about having others listen to you and worry more about how well you are listening to others. Be quiet. Listen. Repeat what they said. Ask questions about what they said. Learn about their fears, emotions, and anxieties, because then, you’ll know how to address them.
That’s exactly what God did. He heard your cry into eternity – “Lord, help me from my sins and my guilt.” God gave you exactly what you needed – a Savior, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for all of your sins.
(2) Build Up.
Ephesians 4:29 says this, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building each other up.
Imagine that you bought a bookshelf at Walmart. It came in pieces and needed to be put together. Dad was going along and put in screw after screw after screw to hold it together. How helpful would it be to go behind him with your own screwdriver loosening and taking out every screw that he put in?
It wouldn’t be. That’s destructive.
It’s the same thing with our words. They can easily destroy – a wife’s confidence, a husband’s character, a brother’s good nature, a sister’s self-worth.
Stop destroying and start building. Look for ways this week to build up each member of your family.Go out of your way to tell them that you’re proud of them, to tell them that you think they’re beautiful, to tell them that you are praying for them. If you do that, you’re building. You’re building up and building up and building up with God’s help. There’s no telling how high it’ll go!
(3) Season with Salt
Colossians 4:6 says, “Fill you speech with grace, season it with salt.” Salt is important. It improves the taste of bland casserole. It makes brussel sprouts tolerable. It is the incredible key in making Doritos so awesome.
Grace is like salt. Phrases like “I love you,” “I forgive you” and “thank you” make any kind of message that much sweeter! It’s Politeness 101.
Use these words. Too often we leave that grace salt on the shelf and sprinkle those spicy four letter words into the conversation. Or we grab a pinch of pure insults and drop them in to get our way.
But you don’t need those things. You are God’s child! You are a part of the salt of the earth; let your language reflect it. Sprinkle words of grace into your conversation.
(4) Ask for God’s Help
Scripture talks about how the tongue is THE most powerful weapon of the body. Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me – is not remotely true at all. It can greatly harm someone.
So just like if you are picking up a samurai blade to slice off a piece of cheese, be very careful with what you say – you can easily do much more harm than good. Look at Psalm 103:4 it says, “Set a guard over my mouth; keep watch over my lips.”
We need God’s help. We need his help to muzzle our tongues from destructive talk and seasoning. Communicating our desire for his help will undoubtedly result in him sending his angels to guard our tongue -- and keep it safe from itself.
Can you imagine what it would be like to get stuck in the desert? (I know it's been hot in Raleigh, but at least the humidity means there's plenty of water in each faucet). If you were stuck in the desert, you'd start to fade. Your energy would evaporate. Your nutrients would disappear. All of your energy would be zapped. Even a glass of water would be a welcome sight!
Life can be kind of like a desert. Dealing with day to day stresses, disappointments, and struggles at work. You can be zapped of strength and out of energy. How do you deal?
Proverbs 10:20 says "The tongue of the righteous is a fountain of life."
Wouldn't it be nice if your family was a fountain of life?
A place where you get re-energized?
A spot where the words reinvigorate your soul?
The go-to area to receive the Word of Life itself and strengthen your faith in the LORD?
Be that fountain of life for your family.
Be strengthened by The Fountain of Life Himself.
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.
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!
Father's Day is tomorrow.
For some, it means a round of golf hitting the ball not so hard so that dad still thinks he has it. It means grilling four separate types of meat on the grill. It means taking the tour of dad's workshop (for the fourth time this year) and commenting on just how nice that birdhouse looks.
In other words, it is a time of thanksgiving for dad.
But this is not true for all of us.
Because some will spend tomorrow without any idea who their dad is. Others will be wondering where dad is. Still more will spend tomorrow remembering dad's drunken rage, his unfaithfulness to mom, even his lethargy toward being a parent.
In other words, it will be a time of sadness.
Is this the norm? Everyone celebrates Mother's Day, but Father's Day?...Divorce. Premarital impregnation and abandonment. Irresponsibility. Drug use. Alcohol abuse. These things have ruined dads. Ruined relationships. Ruined Father's Day.
This is sad.
This is sin.
But even if you won't be fishing tomorrow with an earthly father figure, please don't let Father's Day be a sad one.
Because you do have the best dad anyone could ask for.
(And I'm not talking about your earthly dad, no matter how wonderful he was...)
I'm talking about the One who is always there for you. The One who always listens. The One who always loves you. The One who disciplines, but only with your best interests in mind.
The One who saw you grow up. Who loves you at the present. Who has a wonderful future in mind for you.
I'm talking about the One who gave up the only Son who perfectly loved, listened to, and obeyed Him. The One who gave up this model child for you--his stubborn, rebellious, wayward child, the one that doesn't listen--just so that one day you might come home.
I'm talking about the One who never gives up on you. Who always chases after you. Who holds you tightly in his warm embrace.
I'm talking about God.
Your heavenly Father.
Give thanks tomorrow for any earthly father figure that you have been blessed with, but don't forget about your Heavenly Father either.
He'd love to have you chat with him. Look through the family history with you and remind you of how much he loves you.
Maybe you could even go to his house!
However you celebrate, may your day be blessed as your remember your fathers and your Father.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, Father's Day is tomorrow. For some of us it is happy, for others it is sad. Today I am reminded of the joy that I do have in having you as my Father. Forgive me for the rebellion I have had against you my heavenly Father. Thank you for always being kind, for always being loving, for sending Jesus, your son to die and rise against in order to save me. Thank you Dad for your true love. May I always reside in that love. Help me meditate on that this Father's Day. And I thank you for the father figures you have given me in this life. Be with them. Bless them. Raise them up to be true leaders, fathers who train with God's Word and love with God's love. Amen.