We Are Family


There is no more beautiful human relationship than that of family.  These are the people who are the closest to us and who are most dear in our hearts.  We sometimes speak of them as being our blood relations.  By this we mean that they share the same essence as ourselves.  Biologically we share the same DNA and many of the same physical characteristics.  Emotionally and psychologically we think and react similarly, if not exactly the same as each other.

In some circumstances a disparate group of people may come together in a relationship that is nearly as close as that of a physical family.  The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team is an example of this phenomenon.  They were an especially tight-knit team, even though they were composed of men of various ages, ethnicities, social, and educational backgrounds.  They thought of themselves as a family and even adopted a popular song of the time as their theme song.  That song was We Are Family by Sister Sledge.  The unique chemistry of this team, along with their family-like devotion to each other resulted in them winning the World Series that year.

The benefits of being a family are easily seen and greatly to be desired.  It is no wonder, then, that this is one of the images used to portray the body of Christ, which is His church.  God, the Father, is the patriarch of the family.  Jesus, the Son, is the older brother and heir of the family.  Those who are Christians are the adopted children in the family.  In Eph. 1:5 Paul spoke of this adoption.  He said of God, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”

As members of the family of God, Christians share certain things in common.  These things are our spiritual DNA, as it were.  The most important of these is redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.  When we obey the gospel our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16), and we are clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27).  Because our sins have been forgiven, we become heirs in the family of God.  In Gal. 3:29 Paul said, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”  As heirs of the promise, we share the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit, who is the pledge of our inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14).  As members of the family of God, we share the same destiny, which is a place being prepared for us in heaven (Jn. 14:1-3).

In the same manner as in a physical family, there are certain expectations for how we should conduct ourselves.  In Col. 3:1-17 Paul spoke in some detail about these expectations.  Members of the family of God are expected to refrain from every kind of ungodly word or deed.  At the same time they are expected to exhibit certain qualities such as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness.  The bottom line is that whatever we do in word or deed must be done in the name of our Lord Jesus; that is, by His authority and in accordance with His will (Col. 1:17).

Because we are adopted into the family of God, we are in many senses different from each other.  However, these differences should no longer apply in our relationships with each other.  Like the Pittsburgh Pirates of 1979, we should be tight-knit and devoted to each other in the family of God.  No one should be more important to us than our brothers and sisters in Christ.  There should be no length to which we wouldn’t go for one of our spiritual family.  God the Father and Jesus His Son have done much more for us than we can ever do for each other.  Therefore, we must love and support each other all the way to heaven, because we are family.

Disappointment

 

One of the facts of life is what we call disappointment.  This is a state of mind in which a person feels let down or frustrated or dismayed about something.  This feeling can come about because of actions one takes, or fails to take.  It can also arise due to the actions of another.  In other cases, disappointment may occur when events beyond one’s control result in the loss of some highly anticipated opportunity.

Disappointment is an ever-present part of our existence because we are human beings.  In spite of our best intentions, we are going to let others down in one way or another.  Children disappoint parents when they act up in a public place, or get in trouble at school.  Husbands and wives disappoint one another when they forget important anniversaries, or when they say or do things that hurt each other.  Employees disappoint their employers when they fail to give their best on the job, or when they violate a trust.

Every one of us has caused disappointment in another.  Every one of us has been disappointed by another.  Every one of us wishes this were not the case, but we can’t escape it.  It is human nature to let others down, to disappoint.  This doesn’t justify it, though, or make it more palatable.

We may sometimes wonder, “What if there were a means to never disappoint, or to never be disappointed?”  We need not wonder about such a possibility, for it exists.  Long before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah recorded the words of God the Father, who declared this truth.  In Isa. 28:16 the scripture says, “Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly corner stone for the foundation, firmly placed.  He who believes in it will not be disturbed.” (NASB)

This declaration is a prophecy about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  We know this because both Peter and Paul quoted it in their letters.  In 1 Pet. 2:6, as Peter exhorted his readers to come to Christ as living stones, he said, “For this is contained in scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (NASB)  Paul uses the same words, again with reference to Christ, in Rom. 9:33 and Rom. 10:11.  Peter and Paul both confidently assert that Christ will never disappoint those who believe in Him.

This assertion is simple, but it requires a degree of maturity on our part to fully understand it.  Some will say that they have indeed been disappointed by the Lord.  They make this statement primarily because they didn’t receive the answer to prayer that they desired.  Thus, they believe the Lord let them down.  In extreme cases, such disappointed people have even renounced their faith in the Lord.

The reason for their disappointment is not because of a failure by the Lord, but because they have failed to understand the context in which Peter and Paul spoke.  The Lord is the foundation of the church and the precious corner stone of it as well.  If we believe in Him, obey His will, and live faithfully for Him all the days of our lives, we will not be disappointed at judgment.  We will indeed receive the home being prepared for the faithful.  No one who truly believes in Him will be disappointed in this regard.

What about when bad things happen?  In Rom. 8:18 Paul said that such things are not worthy to be compared to the glory that awaits us.  Bad things happen in life, but these things are not the most important things.  The most important thing is to believe on the Lord.  Those who believe in Him will not be disappointed.

Flood

 

The third week of August 2017 in Texas was one for the record books.  It began with a total solar eclipse, and was followed by some small earthquakes in the oil patch.  Temperatures reached 100+ in many parts of the state, and then Hurricane Harvey hit the southeast Texas coast.  Days after Harvey made landfall huge sections of the greater Houston area were under water and it was still raining as the storm slowly moved toward Louisiana.  The devastation from the hurricane and the flooding is catastrophic.  Some say the damage will exceed that of Katrina in 2005.

Our collective hearts are broken as we view images of those whose homes and possessions have been destroyed, and whose lives have been devastated by this event.  While many are resolved to return to their homes and rebuild both them and their lives, others, no doubt, are hovering on the brink of despair.  Some may even wonder where God was while all this was going on.  Admittedly, it is difficult to maintain one’s composure and one’s faith in the face of such destruction, but this is exactly what we must do.

As devastating as Harvey was, it was nothing compared to the flood that God sent to cleanse the world in the time of Noah.  In that flood, the rain fell for forty days and nights, the waters rose to a height of about 22′ above the highest mountains, and they remained on the earth for 150 days (Gen. 7:17-24).  This flood was indeed an act of God, purposely done in order to cleanse the world of sin.  For the nearly 100 years that it took Noah to build the ark, he appealed to mankind to repent and enter the ark in order to avoid the impending destruction.  No one did so, and they all perished, except for Noah and his family.  When this cleansing was completed God brought Noah and his family out of the ark and promised them that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood (Gen. 9:8-17).

God promised Noah that the rainbow in the sky would be the sign that He would never again bring a worldwide flood on the earth.  Every time it rains today, even during events like Harvey, God’s rainbow is there, keeping His promise.  This is the good news that more than offsets the devastation of natural disasters such as Harvey.  As terrible as such events are, God is still in control and will not allow the earth to be destroyed by these things.  We need to take hope from this promise and not lose faith in our creator.

The imagery of a flood perfectly captures how we sometimes feel in our spiritual walk.  In 1995 a group called Jars of Clay wrote and recorded a song entitled, Flood.  It captures the helplessness we feel when we are overcome by sin, by depicting a man being overwhelmed in a flood.  In the refrain of this song, the man turns to the only one who can save him.  He cries out to the Lord, “Lift me up, when I’m falling; lift me up, I’m weak and I’m dying; lift me up, I need you to hold me; lift me up, and keep me from drowning again.”

Like the people outside Noah’s ark, we have no hope as the flood waters of sin engulf us.  However, if we turn to our Savior and Lord in obedience to His will, we have the assurance that He will indeed lift us up by the blood of His cross.  If we surrender to Him, then no flood waters will ever threaten our spiritual house.  Like the wise man who built his house on the rock, the rains will fall, the floods will come, and the winds will beat on our house, but it will stand because it is founded on the rock of our Savior Jesus Christ (Mt. 7:24-27).  In the spiritual floods of life we have only one reliable resource to rescue us.  Therefore, as we anticipate these floods, let us turn to the Lord in obedience to the gospel, and cry out, “Lift me up!”

Eclipsed

 

The first total solar eclipse to traverse the continental United States since 1918 occurred on August 21, 2017.  The rarity of this kind of event lends itself to incredible hype and excitement.  Millions of pairs of special glasses were sold so people could safely view this wondrous celestial phenomenon.  The total eclipse was only visible in a small swath of the continental U.S.  Even so, one source estimated that the economy lost nearly $700 million in productivity due to the large number of workers who left their jobs to observe this event.

An eclipse occurs when one celestial body passes between the sun and another body, thus blocking the sun from that body’s view.  A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth.  A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth passes between the sun and the moon.  Whether the eclipse is partial or total, the effect is that the view of one body is obstructed.  In the areas in which the recent eclipse was total, the sun was fully blocked by the moon.  Only a “halo” was visible around the edges of the moon at the most complete point in the eclipse.

All those who wished to view this phenomenon were warned to only do so with protective glasses or by means of a device that projected the image onto another surface.  Anyone who failed to obey these warnings ran the risk of permanent eye damage from looking at the sun with the naked eye.  Fortunately, most people were wise enough to heed the warnings and take proper precautions to view the eclipse.

As we stand in awe of events such as this, there is a spiritual lesson that may be drawn from it.  As believers we are called to keep our eyes on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as we go through life.  In Heb. 12:1-2 the scripture says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Sometimes, however, our view of the Lord can be eclipsed because we allow something else to get between us and Him.  This can happen in many ways.  When we allow ourselves to pursue the passing pleasures of sin, we have allowed those desires to eclipse our view of the Lord.  When we put work or school or hobbies or friends or family before our devotion to the Lord, we have let these things eclipse Him in our sight.  When we fail to give our very best in His service, whatever the reason may be, we have let the Lord be eclipsed in our lives.

In Mt. 6:24 Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.”  When we consider this statement in conjunction with the admonition to fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2), we see that we must not let Him be eclipsed in any way.  He is the author and perfecter of our faith, who went to the cross to pay the debt for our sins.  For this reason nothing can be more important to us than our Lord and Savior.

If we allow anything to eclipse the Lord in our lives, we run the risk of permanently damaging our souls.  If we face Him this way in judgment, the darkness into which we will be cast is total, terrifying, and eternal.  Therefore, let us keep our eyes on Jesus, and let us not allow anything to obstruct our view of the Son.

Unconditional Surrender

 

World War II raged from 1939 to 1945.  It was truly a global conflict, with battles being fought from Europe to Africa to Asia and in virtually every sea.  Amazingly quick victories by the Germans and the Japanese in the early days of the conflict left their opponents reeling.  In time, however, the tide began to turn.  By early 1944, it was evident that the Allied nations would ultimately be victorious.  At this point the leaders of the Allied nations met to discuss how to conclude the hostilities.  While they squabbled over some of the details, they agreed on one point. The Allies would demand the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers.

Unconditional surrender meant that the defeated nations reserved nothing for their own control.  They had to give up all right to self-determination, or to dispute or resist anything imposed on them by the victorious nations.  They could place no conditions on their decision to lay down their arms.  The defeated nations must place themselves completely at the mercy of the victors.  This insistence on unconditional surrender was a prudent measure.  The Allies did not want to leave their defeated enemies with any means to undermine the peace or to resume the conflict.

In the context of spiritual matters, the principle of unconditional surrender is just as valid as it is in the context of human warfare.  The scriptures teach us that our sins make a separation between ourselves and God (Isa. 59:2).  This separation is characterized throughout scripture as rebellion against God.  When we persist in our sins we are, in effect, at war with the Creator of the universe.  It is a war that we cannot win, of course, and the consequences of losing this war are too great to bear.  Rev. 20:11-15 tells us that at judgment those whose names are not in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death.

All who fight against God until judgment face this fate, but there is an alternative.  In Col. 1:19-23 Paul explained that God offered peace to mankind through the blood of the cross of Jesus Christ.  The Lord’s blood paid the price for our sins, and thus gives each of the opportunity to be reconciled to God.  There are terms, though, but why would we expect otherwise?  God is the victor in the great battle between good and evil.  As the victor, it is His prerogative to establish the conditions for peace.

God’s terms are simple and they are unequivocal.  We must obey the gospel, and we must be faithful to Him until we die.  Our Lord Jesus declared God’s terms as clearly as anyone could.  In Mk. 16:16 He said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”  In Rev. 2:10 the Lord told the Christians of Smyrna, “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.”  That’s the long and short of it.

However, we will never obey these commands until we unconditionally surrender to the Lord’s will.  We cannot place any conditions on our obedience.  If we wish to be saved, we can no longer reserve any aspect of our lives for our own control.  We have to run up the white flag and let God have His way with us.  We must place ourselves at His mercy.  Anything less than this is unacceptable to Him.

Our Lord Jesus showed us how to do this throughout His ministry, and especially on the night before He was crucified.  In the garden He asked that this cup might pass from Him, but then He prayed that the Father’s will be done and not His own (Mt. 26:39).  If the Son of God unconditionally surrendered to the Father’s will, how can we do any less?