It’s good to be together in the building, and if you’re joining with us live-stream, we’re so glad to be together as a church family to worship God. And as Josh said, we’re starting a new series. It’s called The Family. And we’re going to introduce an idea that, for many of you is a way of life, but for some of you is going to be a brand new idea. And that’s the idea of church being family.

So as we talk about the family, the primary focus is actually going to be on our church family. But at the end of our message today, we are going to have some focus on your family at home, your physical family.

We’re going to take a look at things that we can do in the church family and take those lessons and also apply them to our family at home. I like to tell you what we’re going to talk about today.

We are going to ( got my clicker) talk about understanding and appreciating the church as family, and then we’re going to talk about three ways to strengthen the church, and then we’re going to use those three ways to talk about how to help your own family.

Now to begin the message today I’d like to use two illustrations back to back. The first illustration is a music video. We’re going to watch this music video in its entirety. We actually got written permission from the licensing company of this music video artist to show this video to you guys. I was excited that we were able to do that. They gave us permission. And then after the music video, we’re going to read excerpts from an article in The New York Times and that’ll get us started on our message today.

So let me set up the music video for you, let you know why we’re going to be listening to this and watching this today. There’s an artist named Matthew Miller and his Hebrew name is Matisyahu. There might be some of you who have heard of him.

And Matisyahu is an American Jewish reggae singer. And he did he wrote a song more than a decade ago.

But three years ago in a concert, he took that song, which is called One Day, and he taught it to the audience that came and the audience that came was an audience of three thousand people that were deliberately invited as a mixed group.

They were Muslims, they were Jews, they were Christians and they were invited together. These ethnic groups that have a tumultuous history, they were invited together to learn the song. And Matisyahu does not perform it. He’s the song leader and the audience becomes the choir and they sing in English, Arabic, Hebrew, and they even have sign language as part of this song. So I hope that you enjoy this. Let’s watch the video at this time and then we’ll talk about it after we watch it.

I love what I see in that video. I love the heart behind that. I love what’s going on there. And what makes that extra powerful is that this concert took place in Israel, in the city of Haifa, where a lot of these tensions are kind of at a peak. And they had this concert to try to help with harmony in the region.

I love the lyrics. It says, All my life I’ve been waiting for I’ve been praying for all the people to say, I don’t want to fight no more, let’s have no more wars. Our children will play. I think most of us want this. I hope that that all of us want this.

And I see a lot of what I see in the video in our congregation being diverse, being together and coming together. I believe that the heart of Christianity is demonstrated a little bit and what we saw in that music video of diverse communities coming together and being able to be at peace with each other.

The second illustration is the other side of the coin. It’s the kind of the dark side of the difficult side of mankind living at peace with each other. This is an excerpt from a New York Times article. I’m just going to read two sections of the article. It was written in two thousand three. It’s a little dated, but I think you’ll find it powerful.

It’s entitled What Every Person Should Know About War, What is war? War is defined as an active conflict that has claimed more than a thousand lives.

Has the world ever been at peace? Of the past three thousand four hundred years, humans have been entirely at peace for two hundred and sixty eight of them, or just eight percent of recorded history.

I heard one speaker say that there was a group of historians that figured out there was actually only five days, not years, five days of peace where there was no place that there was a war going on in the globe in recorded history.

And I don’t know how to fact check these historians, but I think all of us get the idea and we see it playing out all the time that we want to get along together.

But we don’t know how we want to get along together. We want to be at peace with each other, but it is beyond human ability to pull that off to achieve that. The last section I wanted to read out of this article, it states this.

It says, How many wars are taking place right now? At the beginning of 2003, which is when this article was written, it says there are 30 wars going on all around the world and then it organizes that alphabetically.

It says these include conflicts in Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, China, Colombia, the Congo. And it goes on and lists all these nations that are actively at war.

And the premise I want to share from the Scriptures is that to achieve lasting peace, humans need help. We need help for people to live together in harmony. We need the help of God.

You know, I think that ideas like singing songs together or any kind of peace movement or activism can be partially helpful. And we’ve seen societies and cultures positively changed by that. But we have not really been able to achieve full peace and harmony ever in the history of man. We need the help of God, but I want to bring you a scripture of hope. I want to bring you a scripture that is a powerful one that we’re going to unpack and take a look at. And that’s out of Ephesians Chapter two.

This particular scripture is going to take three slides and we’re going to read through it. It’s speaking of Jesus Christ and it says. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing barrier wall of hostility.”

Now, the two groups that this is talking about in the Book of Ephesians are the Jewish people and all people that are not Jewish, which we would call gentiles. This is talking about taking Jews and Gentiles. They have lived in hostility with each other and bringing them together as one in Jesus Christ.

It says in verse 15, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations, his purpose, Jesus’s purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.

And the reason I highlighted this idea of one new humanity. Is that we need to be changed to get along with each other, when you and I come to Jesus Christ and we’re born again, when we become Christians, we’re given power and ability to come together as people that we would otherwise not have in order to achieve peace we need a new changed humanity.

His purpose was to create in himself one humanity out of the two, thus making peace and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which he put to death their hostility.

So notice he uses this illustration here of one body. Now, this is actually not speaking just of the body of Jesus, but it’s beginning to signal the idea of a body of believers. As we read on in the scripture, it says “he came, Jesus came and preached peace to you, who were far, far away and peace to those who are near for through him. We both have access to the father, God, the father by one spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.”

So now we see a second and the third illustration, the second illustration is this idea of being citizens. So he’s talked about a body, now he’s talking about citizen citizenship, and then he used this word household. Now the Greek word for household can also be translated family. And in many modern English translation, the scripture says household. And in many other English translations, it is translated family.

Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ, Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone, and now we have a fourth illustration, and that is of a building.

It doesn’t have the whole building.

The temple is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him, you two are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit. So as we see these four illustrations in this passage of scripture, we see the illustration of a body, our citizenship, our household, a family, a temple and a building, and all of these things are pointing to the group that can have unity. And that group is the church.

We are the ones who can hold out hope to the world of coming together at. I wish that singing songs together would accomplish it. I wish that that movements would accomplish it. But we need the help of God. Only through his power can we come together and have a diverse community that lives in peace and harmony with each other.

This idea of the church, being a family is demonstrated by Jesus Christ in his own family and in his own ministry. Listen to this passage of scripture. While Jesus was still talking to a crowd, his mother and brother stood outside wanting to speak to him, someone told him your mother and brothers are standing outside wanting to speak to you.

He replied to them, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers? Pointing to his disciples, he said, Here are my mother and brothers. For whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” And I have highlighted here in yellow this idea that Jesus is identifying a second family. He has a physical family and he’s saying, look, we also have a spiritual family, a community of believers. Now we know from the rest of the pages of scripture that Jesus was not disowning his family.

His own mother and his brother became followers of his members of the church. We even know that on the cross, as Jesus was on the cross, he asked his disciple John, to take care of his own mother Mary, like Jesus was not attempting to be rude to his family. He’s attempting to teach you and me something. We have a second family.

What about this idea, church as family, churches, family, this phrase is even used in the letter to the Galatians in Galatians six, it says “therefore is we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Do you consider your church? A family. Do you consider the church, your family? Is that how you interact with church? Is that how you feel about church? The Bible describes church as close knit, diverse and an active community, and that’s not always the expectation today, look, when I was a kid growing up, we did my family did not view church as our family. We viewed church as something you went to. Maybe sometimes my parents went to church and sometimes my parents did not go to church. And so the church is not primarily about worship. That might be a radical idea for you. But the church is not primarily a place where you drive to and sing and pray. It is primarily the church.

It’s described in the scriptures as primarily a family or a community where we’re living with God and we’re living with each other.

Now, the church certainly has a part of it that is all about worship, that that is involved in worship. And something we do as a church family is glorify God and worship him.

I’m just sharing with you that in the scriptures, the picture that’s painted the motif, if you will, in the Bible of the church is a family, not primarily a place that you go and worship God.

Look what Jesus said. At the Last Supper, as he was about to go to the cross, he said to his disciples. A new command I give you. Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another by this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.

This is what we’re called to today, and if you’re born again, you’re not going to church. You are the church. You are the church. Now I know that a lot of churches do not function this way, but it is God’s intent that we would have a diverse community.

Look, look what Jesus said, he said, therefore, go and make disciples of all nations. We’re supposed to be diverse. We’re supposed to be. Jesus was calling at this time in history, Jewish Christians to expand the borders of their new Christian community beyond the Jewish faith, to include people of all nations.

There’s a statistical trend going on right now where some people, even in the United States are giving up on the idea of having diverse churches and there’s a little bit of a trend.

It’s not a strong trend, but there’s a little bit of a trend of white people going back to having white churches, of black people, going back to having black churches of Hispanic people, going back to having Hispanic Hispanic churches because they don’t want to fight the fight of unity. I hope I put that so that you understand there’s a struggle.

It’s a challenge to live in a diverse community with other people, like, for example, the music. If you try to have music that makes everybody happy. It could turn out to be that nobody’s completely happy with the music because you’re trying to meet different groups needs. But listen, this is what we’re called to. We’re called even if it’s difficult to live together in a diverse community and to push through the struggle of relating to people that are different than us. They have a different color, a different ethnic background. Maybe there are different age or different socioeconomic status. This is the glory of the church, is the people who should be in the world hostile to each other have those barriers torn down?

As it’s said in the song, where we stop the violence and put down the hatred. That’s what we’re about. I’m proud of the Broward church. There’s a lot of congregations that don’t do well with this and there’s a lot of congregations that do well with this. And I believe in the Broward church, we’re really doing great and living together as a diverse community. But a primary complaint that many people would have about their church experience is this. Is this that many congregations around the world across denominational lines are not being the church that God is described and that God has empowered?

What was your church experience like when you were a kid growing up, if you did go to church? I mean, many people would go to a church. Nobody says hi to them. You don’t expect to build friendships. You don’t view that experience as family. You view it as an event that you go to to worship God.

So my challenge today is to go through some areas, three areas, as I mentioned at the beginning of the message, we’re going to look at three areas where we can join together in the fight to become a stronger, unified body. Let us join together in the hard work of being the family of God. So I have three challenges for you now. Some of these you might be doing well in. But I want to ask you to open your heart to being challenged.

We are going to go through these quickly, but I hope you’re OK with the idea of being challenged on something of growing in an area of opening your mind and your heart to change.

The first of the three ways that we can strengthen our church community is to make God the center of our lives.

Listen to this passage of scripture. This is a very famous and important passage of scripture in the Old Testament. This passage of scripture was repeated by Jesus in the New Testament. It says, “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. These words that I’m giving you today are to be in your heart, repeat them to your children, talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up behind them is a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the door of your house and on your gaze.”

You might be thinking. I think I’m doing pretty good with this, but I want you to take it home and challenge yourself. Here’s one thing you can do.

Put your name in this passage, put your name in it, for example, if we use the name Josh, if we use the name Josh, listen to this.

Josh loves God with all his heart. He loves him with all his soul and all his mind. The words of God are on Josh’s heart.

Apply this to yourself. Josh talks about him with his children. Josh talks about him when he sits at home, when he walks along the road, when he’s lying down, when he’s getting up. Josh sticks Bible passages on his body. He writes them on his house and on his possessions. Is that describing you? Is that describing you because the more you bring God to the center of your life, the more you’re empowered to help the church community be all it can be, because we can only have a church community by the power of God.

Love over Sin

The second thing is to choose love over sin. I don’t know if you ever noticed this in the famous Bible passage that’s read at weddings, but I want to show you something out of First Corinthians 13.

It says, “love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others. By the way, some translations where it says does not does not dishonor others, it says is not rude, it’s not rude or does not dishonor others. It’s not self-seeking. It’s not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrong’s love, does not delight in evil. But rejoice is with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always helps, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

I don’t know if you this but there’s a lot of sin in this passage. I’ll highlight it for you. Notice that it’s comparing love to these various sins and it’s not limiting itself to these sins, it’s just giving these sins as a cross section. As an example, here you see the sin of envy, the sin of boasting or being proud of being rude, self-seeking, of anger, being a problem, of not forgiving. Of not rejoicing in evil but rejoicing in the truth.

Now, the reason this is coming up is for a simple, straightforward fact. Sin damages relationships, sin damages relationships in your home, and sin damages relationships in the family of believers. So here’s the challenge I have for you along these lines. Is your sin, whatever sin that might be, is it hurting your relationships with your family church, with your church family? Is there a sin that’s keeping you from talking to other Christians? Is there a sin that’s keeping you from attending church and interacting with other people? Is there a sin that’s actually coming between you and other people in the church? And there’s a call here to repent of sin and to choose love.

Don’t let your sin get in the way of your engagement and involvement in the family of God. And I want to take a quick aside to give some biblical advice, if that is the case for you, and I know that none of us are perfect and that all of us sin. But if you’re trapped in a sin, if you’re caught in a sin, please listen to this biblical advice. It says “see to it brothers that none of you have a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God, but encourage one another daily as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sins, deceitfulness.”

What the Bible is saying here is if you’re trapped in a sin, engage with other strong Christians, go get help. Confesses to somebody, get counsel from somebody, start spending time with other Christians, you see the trend.

That happens with sin, when sin begins to capture you when you get trapped in a sin is you want to withdraw, you want to isolate yourself, you want to remove yourself from people.

And this is a cure and it’s a hard cure.

But it’s like you need to talk with other people, get involved with other people, get the help you need so that you can be the church family member that God has called you to be.

And the last of these three challenges for us in building church family is to initiate. To be a giver, not a taker. I would like to show you my favorite scripture in the Bible, if you like to know what Joe’s favorite scripture in the Bible is, this is it right here. It’s Luke six thirty eight, it says “give and it will be given to you a good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap with the measure that you use. It will be measured to you.”

This is not talking about financial offering, this is talking about a lifestyle of being a giver rather than a taker, God’s intent for the citizens of his kingdom, for those in the church, is to be givers and not takers.

I want to challenge you and encourage you on something, but I also want to be sympathetic about this. I have talked to people in church, and some of you may be in this situation where you’re waiting for someone to come and love you. And maybe your feelings or your thought process are along these lines. I’m in the church, but I feel lonely, I’m in the church, but I still don’t feel like people really love me.

And I just want to share with you that if you’re waiting for somebody to come and get you, it’s a bad strategy. It’s not a biblical godly strategy. This is a biblical godly strategy. You give first, you give first.

And I hope this isn’t too blunt of a way to put this, but if you’re a giver, you’re going to get but if you’re a taker, you’re going to starve. Even in the Lord’s Church, this is how it is, it’s a hard reality, but the people who get love are the people who give love first.

When I first got baptized, when I was 18 years old, one of my small group leaders, a man named Keith West, he gave me some simple, practical advice that I’d like to pass on to you. It changed my life. Simple idea. Straightforward idea, but it changed my life. He said, Joe, now that you’re baptized, this is how you ought to live, set up appointments with other people. Call people, schedule a lunch with people, have them over to your place for dinner.

Go out with them for dinner, set up times to have fun together, set up time to work and do chores together, set up times to share each other’s hearts, get help with a sin, let somebody know how you’re doing spiritually, helped somebody else spiritually, but make your lifestyle a lifestyle of initiating appointments with other people.

Brothers and sisters and guests who are listening, I want to pass on that advice because I believe it’s in the spirit of this passage and the rest of the scriptures, don’t wait for somebody to come to you, be a giver, be an initiator, and look at the example that God set for us.

Josh even quoted this scripture in his introduction and says, we love because he first loved us. God is an initiator, and he’s not wanting to teach us to be a taker because he’s an initiator. He’s giving us an example of this. Even in Ephesians Chapter five, it holds up not only God, the father, but God the son, as an example of this.

Says Follow God’s example, “therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us, now is showing us Christ Jesus Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

I wanted take a minute to share with you some examples in the church. I hope you like these photos of these two, but this is Colin, Sandra, Lindsay, and this is Vincent and Sue Ellen Pompa. Now, Colin and Sandra have been Christians a long time, and they lead one of our small groups in our church.

In our church, we call our small groups. We call them community groups. And Colin and Sandra, our community group leaders and Vincent, Sue Ellen have this in common with Colin and Sandra.

They also lead their own community group. They they don’t live too far from each other.

And they both decided, both couples decided we need Christian friendships not only within our small group, but with other leaders of other small groups so we can compare notes. So maybe we can commiserate so we can help each other so we can have fun together. But we need Christian friendships with other leaders. These guys love each other. I mean, they got together, I was talking to them about what photos they wanted to use and they told me that they got together two or three nights ago this week.

They’re getting together consistently. They’re building a great friendship. Recently, one of the four of them went into the hospital for surgery and the other three organized both community groups to make meals for the person that went into the hospital.

This is what we’re talking about, isn’t it? And these two couples are not the exception to the rule in the Broward Church. They’re just one of many, many examples in the Broward Church of people building family of making community. Also wanted to hold up another example. I don’t know photos of them, but I wanted to help another example of initiation. Stephen and Gina Mitchell and separately, Tom and Mary Hattaway both started groups for young married couples.

I don’t even think the two couples coordinated this. They just initiated this because they saw a need in the church.

Now, the Mitchells and the Hattaway’s have been married a long time, their leaders in the church. One is an eldership couple, one is Deacon couple. And they decided to use their experience to counsel, to comfort, to guide, to help out young marrieds in our church. That’s the kind of initiation that I believe is reflected in the scriptures and ought to be happening in the church. Let’s end by applying this to our family. So these three areas that we’ve talked about were just briefly going to apply these to our own physical family.

And the first is this in your home, in your home, even if you’re single and it’s roommates we’re talking about or the living situation that you have. Think about this in your home are you making God the center? And I want to give you a test for that, it’s a way to kind of evaluate this. Ask yourself this question. Do your family members or your roommates see you as a person who’s devoted to prayer and Bible study?

Do they see that?

Do they think? Well, I think of of Joe or I think of Josh or whoever it is, I think of them as a person of prayer, a person who knows the scriptures well.

Do they think of you as being changed in your character? By God? Are you in your home demonstrating the fruits of the spirit? Are you changed by God? Are you passionate about sharing your faith or are you actively involved in discipleship? Are you putting Christ as your priority before other things? We don’t want to be people to put on a church face when we come to church and then when we go home we’re a different person, we want to be a whole hearted disciple, someone who loves God with all the heart, soul, mind and strength.

If you want your family members to be saved and to be close to God, please lead the way.

Now about love over sin in the home, there’s even a scripture. It’s just one of many examples of not sending in your home and says fathers do not exasperate that word, can also be translated, embitter, do not exasperate on embitter your children, instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

We need to be careful that we’re righteous at home the way we ought to be. Are you? More sinful in your home than outside the home? Now, for a lot of people, this is not the case, but for some of us, I know that this can be the case, that when you go home, you let down your guard and you think, because this is my house, I can vent my anger or because this is my house I’m not going to worry about being polite or courteous to my family members. I’m going to let rudeness are provoking be part of my behavior in the home.

How do you do in your home? With selfishness, with laziness. Let us initiate love in our home and choose love over sin, even in our home. And last but not least, are you thinking about and initiating with your family members in love? You know, there’s a beautiful passage of scripture. This is the last scripture in the Bible in the Old Testament. This is the Old Testament, ends with the scripture.

It says, “see I will send the Prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes, by the way, that’s a prophecy of John the Baptist who would come in in the form of Elijah and says he will turn listen to this, the hearts of the parents, to their children and the hearts of the children, to their parents, or else I will come and strike the lamb with total destruction.

I know that you probably love your family members wholeheartedly, that you have an emotional attachment to your family members, but here’s the question.

Could you love them better? Like, I know that you probably have emotional attachment to them. I hope that’s the case. Are you loving and thinking about your family the way you ought to. I want to give you two challenges and then we’ll conclude. I want to speak to the fathers, dads. Don’t wait for the mother of your children to do the thinking and the planning for your children. This was a challenge for me and my relationship with Pam because Pam really is thoughtful as a great planner for our family, and there were so many times, to be honest, that Pam would bring up a need of the children that I should have caught, that I should have thought of.

And I just want to encourage you guys, dad to dad, if I could just speak to the dads for a minute, think and pray about your children. Don’t just leave it up to the mom or if your family dynamic is it usually the dad is thinking and the mom is more responsive and reactive. I just want to encourage all of us, initiate with your family, initiate love. We were having a parenting class recently and one of the parents said this. And I think anybody who’s been a parent can identify with this. This this parent shared this in the group. She said it takes more effort to discipline my child than to not discipline my child.

Anybody who’s been a parent can get that. They understand that it is a challenge to exert the effort to exert the energy to be the parent that you ought to be. But that is the call that we have. I hope these things have been helpful. We are family. I’m so thankful for the family of God and at this time we’re going to do something that the Bible describes as a family event, and that is we’re going to take communion together.

Now, the primary purpose of communion is to remember the sacrifice that Jesus had on the cross, but it has a secondary function described in our closing scripture, and that is that it brings us together as we share the Lord’s Supper as a community. Now, you’ll notice that you do have those small cups you need to peel off the top layer to eat the bread. And then there’s a second later that you can layer that you can peel up to to drink the juice as we do this.

But let’s share this scripture together. I’m going to say a prayer and we’ll share in the Lord’s Supper together is not the cup of Thanksgiving for which we give thanks to participation in the blood of Christ and is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ. Because, listen, there is one loaf and we who are many are one body. This communion signifies we are one family together where we all share the one love.