Hey welcome everyone!
Today we’re starting a new teaching series on the family.
Sometimes we teach verse by verse out of a book of the bible and occasionally we take topics and see what God’s word has to say about them.
So today and for the next couple weeks as we head into summer we’re going to be talking about family and all its wonderful, difficult and rewarding complexities.
And the Bible has so much to say about families and doesn’t really hide any of the dysfunction that happened which actually adds to the case of all this being real and true. If you were trying to make up a religion or falsify what happened you would omit A LOT of what we read in the Bible.
The very first family- Cain and Able, sibling rivalry and murder.
Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, King David, Solomon, Jesus’ family ALL had dysfunction.
Brothers and sisters sleeping together, Kids getting in trouble because they saw their dad passed out drunk and naked and made fun of him. Some weird stuff…
Came across this definition of dysfunctional family-
“A dysfunctional family is one where conflict, misbehavior, and often abuse on the part of individual members occur continuously and regularly, leading other members of the family to accommodate such actions.”
What that means is there’s something wrong in one part of the family and it causes the other part of the family to react in a dysfunctional way to accommodate the bad actions.
One part is messed up and the other part gets messed up to deal with the mess in the first place. And the dynamics of that can escalate and grow until every part of the family is affected.
Man… some of you are thinking about your jobs right now aren’t you? HA
Welcome to Church everybody!
The initial dysfunction might be an addiction or a behavior or an emotion. But one part of the family expresses that dysfunction and everybody else has to deal with it, and therefore they wind up being dysfunctional also.
I could sit here and give you tons of stats about crime and dysfunctional homes and families and teen pregnancy and all the things…
But the point is:
God still uses Dysfunctional people, families, churches, and Nations.
I want you to hear me in what I’m going to say: God did not create the family unit to be dysfunctional. In fact, just the opposite, He intended the family and home to be a living, breathing illustration of Himself and His love for the world to see.
And it’s not popular to say but that’s why He told husbands to love their wives just like Christ loved the church and died for it. That’s why He told wives to honor and graciously submit to the spiritual authority and leadership of their husband. That’s why He wants children to honor and obey their parents. He desires that because that’s the way things work in the Kingdom of God.
In the culture we live in today, many women understandably get upset when they hear the bible calling wives to submit to their husbands. This is an example of dysfunction in families. Husbands have used this verse to control and abuse their wife, so women filter these words through generations of hurt.
However, if we understand the history of the time this verse was written, where women were oftentimes viewed as property to their husbands, the radical part of this verse was Jesus calling Husbands to love their wives the way Christ loved the church. If husbands truly loved their wives the way Christ loved, wives can trust that they are submitting to a husband with the heart of Christ.
We are also a Church Family- The Kingdom of God is a family
In fact, God chooses to express his relationship with us in terms of a family. He calls us sons and daughters.. We see that Jesus, fully God, fully human, calls God “The Father” Abba- Daddy.
Some church traditions call each other brother/sister
So here’s the question for today: How can we experience the joy and blessing of a functional family? How can that be true for your home and mine?
The answer to that question involves everyone in this room, whether you’re a young family just getting started or a senior adult living by yourself. It includes families with no children and those with a houseful and single adults.
It extends to children and teenagers who live with parents who don’t attend church and those who worship together as a family unit.
This message is for you because everybody is involved. Everybody can have influence on making whatever family unit you have to be a functional family.
Doesn’t do us any good for us to gripe and complain about what everyone else in the family is or isn’t doing, but never deal with ourselves.
So today I want you to study with me from Ephesians 4 as we seek to gain some insight into how the family of God is supposed to operate, and how it spills over into the family that stays in our home.
Ephesians 4:1-3 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Heading for this section of Scripture- To Be Mature
In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
Take this verse by verse and look at the implications for us as a family AND as a family of God.
Let me point out a couple of things to help us understand the text.
There is a tendency to believe this verse is just for preachers or ministers. After all, he’s talking about our calling. While it’s true there is a lot in the Bible written for God-called ministers, this verse isn’t about that.
The calling he’s talking about in this verse is the calling of salvation. He’s talking to believers and how they live in the world.
Now the specific instruction is to “walk worthy”. In the New Testament, “walking” typically has to do with daily conduct. Therefore, “walking worthy of our calling” is the idea of living in a way that matches your position in Christ. (This last sentence is so good and important to understand, a great place to do that preacher thing where you repeat it so it really sinks in)
Paul has moved away from Bible teaching to Bible application. Since he uses the word “therefore”, he is telling his hearers to take the teaching he has provided them in the first three chapters of the book and use it in daily living.
And in a general way, there is a great need for Christians to walk worthy of their calling, but that is especially true in our homes.
And I don’t care how good your family life is, it could always be improved if every family member made a determined effort to get serious about their walk with God.
And by the way, I don’t care how bad your family life is either. What your family needs most of all is for the Christ followers in that home to get serious about their walk with God also.
I realize some of you are living in terrible situations. And you don’t see how in the world you can walk with God in that environment.
You may be in a home where your spouse doesn’t serve God or you’re living with an evil step-mother. Maybe you’re in a blended home and it’s not blending too well.
And you may be saying, “I just don’t know how I can do this. My circumstances are so bad.” Well before you write it off as impossible, I want you to look again at this verse.
Look again at this verse- There’s a nuance here-
As a prisoner for the Lord, then,
The letters of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon are called the prison epistles because Paul wrote them while incarcerated in Rome. He was chained between two Roman guards and held as a prisoner for preaching the gospel.
But notice, Paul doesn’t say he’s writing as a prisoner of Rome. You’d think that’s what he would say. “I, therefore, the prisoner of Rome, beseech you,” because that’s where he was.
He was a prisoner in Rome, but he doesn’t look at it like that. But he’s not whining about it. He’s not excusing himself so he doesn’t have to walk worthy of his calling.
“I may be held in Rome, but I’m writing to you as a prisoner, a captive of the Lord because He is the One Who is in charge of every circumstance in my life.
The Romans don’t have charge over me. God has charge over me. And even though I’m imprisoned, I’m walking worthy of my calling, and I’m writing to instruct you to do the same, regardless of your circumstances.” (so good!)
Listen: anything and everything that happens in your life, God is over it all. That doesn’t mean that God causes it.
God is not the author of child abuse. He’s not the responsible for sexual abuse. He’s not the author of domestic violence or disease or sickness and death. God hates those things. Those aren’t the will of God. The hurt and pain we experience can be a result of our sins, other people’s sins, or from simply living in a sinful broken world.
The hurt and pain we experience can be a result of our sins, other people’s sins, or from simply living in a sinful broken world.
But God will use circumstances and turn those circumstances for good somehow.
Though it’s true that God can use our bad experiences for His Good
It doesn’t mean that what you experienced wasn’t bad or painful. God grieved those alongside you.
In every prison, God has a purpose. You say, “Well, what in the world is God’s purpose in my situation with my parents getting divorced?” It’s the same as it is with every difficult situation. God didn’t cause it but He’s going to use it and put you on display. Possible edit: (God didn’t cause it but He’s going to use it and put His work in your life on display)
He wants to show the world what Christianity looks like. He wants people to see how you respond and react when the going gets tough.
Had a friend walk through a very difficult, hard wrong circumstance recently- and we were talking and I said I know this is so hard but THIS is when your auth counts- not when everything is going great.
When the going gets hard- our natural instinct is to stay home from church- It should be the place we’re running to experience and bring worship and receive healing.
Quickly on this- before his life came to an end, Paul became very accomplished at prison ministry. He closes out the book of Philippians, which was written in prison there in Rome, by saying, “All the saints greet you, especially those in Caesar’s household.” Well, who were those in Caesar’s household? The guards! He led them to Christ and now they are sending their greetings to other Christians. He won them to Christ because they saw him shine for Jesus.
Listen. People watch. People notice. People in your family notice when you walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. You might be the only one, but they notice. and see Jesus shining through you
You might be a student (we have students that serve in our tech booth almost every week- thank them)
and you say, “What can I do in my dysfunctional family?”
You can walk with God in your dysfunctional family and shine and realize you’re not the prisoner of a dysfunctional family; you’re the captive of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And He will honor your faith as you walk in a manner worthy of Him. So that’s the first thing. And you can do it, and I can do it, and we can do it as we look to the Lord Jesus Christ. You can get serious about walking with God. (I love how you brought it all together here. So good!)
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Lots of Keywords in that verse
The word love is in there. Now most of the time, we use those words and this verse and others like it to talk about our relationships in the church. And I’m not against that.
I think all of this should be true of us as brothers and sisters in Christ. But let me remind you of something about Christianity and the church. If it doesn’t work at home, it doesn’t work.
Understand what I’m saying? The church has more than enough members who put on a show at the church, but they are not the same at home as what they are in public.
Anybody can clean up and dress up and put on a smile and everybody will think you’re really something down at the church. Lots of people fake it for a couple of hours on Sunday.
But what we are at home is what we really are.
Had a cross country coach- “How you run when no one is looking is who you really are”
And first and foremost, God wants to make a difference in our home. If we will ever know God’s blessing and approval in our outward lives. We have to learn to be the people God wants us to be… at home. (AMEN!)
In the original translation of this verse- it actually says instead of being completely humble- “ With lowliness and meekness…. It’s interesting that the Greeks didn’t even have a word for Humility but Paul used the word lowliness as a way to describe the attribute that He saw in Christ the most- translated to humility over time.
Now, we need to understand, humility is not thinking less of ourselves than we should. It doesn’t mean you walk around with slumped shoulders talking about how terrible you are. That’s not being poor in spirit; that’s just poor posture!
A humble person is simply someone who doesn’t have to be first all the time. They don’t have to win every fight or always think of themselves before they think of anyone else. A humble person is someone who thinks about other people and their needs and feelings. Humble people aren’t selfish.
And I know it will come as a shock to some of you, but everything doesn’t revolve around you! Life is not all about you! That is the attitude of a selfish, spoiled brat.
And unfortunately in far too many homes, we’ve got grown men and women, husbands and wives acting like little children.
I ran across this little piece called “The Property Laws of a Toddler: Evidences of Original Sin.”
It’s what a little toddler would say if he knew how:
“If I like it, it’s mine. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine. If I can take it from you, it’s mine. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine. If it just looks like mine, it’s mine. If I saw it first, it’s mine. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine. If it’s broken, it’s yours.”
That’s a little kid. But we’ve got full-grown, educated adults still trying to operate by the toddler’s rules.
Especially when it comes to sex in the marriage – Selfishness on both sides- asking too much or demanding OR withholding out of selfishness or resentment– OR how money is spent- who’s hobby gets funded first.
Listen: You will never fix your family and function as God designed if you are full of pride and selfishness. So here is what you do.
Treat your family members as the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.
Listen guys, husbands: treat your wife like she is the daughter of the King.
Wives, honor your husband like he is the son of God.
Kids, God trusted your parents to raise you.
Parents, your kids belong to God and has placed them in your care
Learn to treat others as how God sees them and you will never have to worry about living a selfish life.
The second part of that verse says:
Humble and gentle and then bearing with one another…
Bearing with one another… why? Because no one is perfect-
Listen there is only one perfect Parent and that is God and there is only one perfect Child and that is Jesus. And even His earthly parents made mistakes.
Ever lose your kid for a moment in a store- There’s a story of Jesus’ parents losing Him
After all, they lost Jesus! How do you lose Jesus? And how do you explain that to God? The nation of Israel has waited on the Messiah for 1,000’s of years, God entrusts Him to you, and you lose Him! (HAHA this made me feel better as parent considering my experience of the loudspeaker in Toys R Us saying, “the parents of Dylan Chang please come to front!”)
Everybody messes up! Kids mess up and parents mess up, and even grandkids mess up! And knowing that, God instructs Paul to encourage his hearers to be patient with one another/ or long suffering.
By the way, do you know what it means to be long suffering? It means students you cut your parents some slack.- Parents cut your kid some slack- they’re not going to be perfect.
They. Are. Kids.
Your adult kids- not going to do it the way you did.
Your parents- are broken, imperfect people, just like you are
Irritated at Luke- not irritated at him, irritated at his childishness. -Yeah he’s a kid- “‘Cause I a little boy”
There are lots of things to cause stress and division and upheaval in our homes. We’re dealing with blended families and divorces and financial strains and medical issues, overwhelming jobs and school issues and friends and teenagers coming of age and driving and taking care of aging parents AND not to mention that we have a spiritual enemy constantly on the prowl to destroy families because they’re made in the image of God. (Great examples!)
So we would all be really well served if we could take a moment, take a breath (the word used for patience in this verse means to take an extra breath) and instead of placing unrealistic demands on our family, making everyone else miserable out of our own selfishness… to take a moment consider others better than yourself in love and patience.
Vs. 3 Quickly
3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Notice it says make every effort… and the message version we read Quick at mending fences…
First, what does he mean by “the unity of the Spirit”? To understand that phrase, it helps to read the following verses.
Ephesians 4:4-6 You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
Obviously these verses are about unity- that all these things list are what bring us together and make us a family of God.
But it talks about the bond of peace. We could say it simply this way. When there is unity, there is peace.
For a family to function as God designed, there must be some peacemakers. Peacemakers are those that do all that can to keep the peace in their home.
They don’t have to respond to every attack. They don’t have to argue just because someone tries to get one started.
Is that easy to do? No! That’s why Paul began the verse by using the words Make every EFFORT
Of course it’s not easy to be a peacemaker. It goes against everything in our nature. But when we make the effort to keep the unity of the Spirit, we will enjoy the bond of peace.
So to wrap it up-
It’s not in the verse but I’m going to add this one, is to focus on being a family that has Fun together.
Rick Warren says to parents, “If you create a home that’s not any fun now, don’t be surprised when your kids get older, if they won’t come back.”
Why? Because they don’t like it, it’s no fun. Who wants to go to a place that’s misery, that’s no fun?
Enjoy life. And determine to make your home a functional place where you’re going to walk with God, and you’re going to treat your family right, and you’re going to get along and serve Jesus together.