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!