4. Our Relationship With Our Spiritual Family

Introduction

In the last lesson, we spoke about our relationship with our physical families. We saw that our relationship with them may be severely broken because we decided to follow Jesus, Matthew 10:37 / Luke 14:26.

And as heart-breaking as that can be, there is good news, God doesn’t leave you as an orphan, He provides another family for us, a spiritual family which He calls the church.

What comes to your mind when people talk about church?

Some people think the church is a building, where people gather to worship God. Some people think it’s a place where only good people meet to worship God. Other people think that church is a place of entertainment, where they have the best speakers, the best bands, and the best kid’s programmes.

‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ Matthew 16:18

When Jesus speaks about building His church, He isn’t speaking about a building. The Greek word for ‘church’ is the word ‘ekklesia,’ ‘ek’ means ‘out’ and ‘klesia’ means ‘called.’

Simply put, the word church means called out and the word is used 114 times throughout the New Testament and every time it refers to people.

But what are we called out from?

‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’ 1 Peter 2:9

The church isn’t a building, it’s the people who have been called out of darkness. Everyone here who has obeyed the gospel of Jesus are the church. All those who have moved from the darkness into the wonderful light are the church. In other words, we don’t go to church, we are the church.

1. When we think about our church family, we think about the wonderful relationships which form among us.

Someone once said that the church would be great if it wasn’t for the people. And that’s true because there is no perfect church and the reason there is no perfect church is because there are no perfect people.

But it’s those very imperfect people that actually help us on our journey with God. It’s those very recovering sinaholics who help us grow and walk in our faith.

And I say recovering sinaholics because we’ve all got baggage, we’ve all got history. But as an alcoholic or drug addict never really recovers, they do have a great support network around them.

The church is filled with people with all kinds of backgrounds and experiences, and if anyone is looking for the greatest support network in the world, then the church is the place to be.

Paul reminds us of the example we ought to follow when we’re together, holy, loved, compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient, Colossians 3:13.

And let me be honest with you all, we all still have our struggles and issues and that’s because nobody becomes a Christian and stops struggling and wrestling with sin overnight.

Your goal and my goal are to strive to be like Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:18. We all must strive to sound and think more like Jesus than we did yesterday. We must strive to speak and live as Jesus did more than we did yesterday.

And that takes time, that takes patience, not only with ourselves but with others too. Those wonderful relationships we have with each other within the church help us do just that.

The church is the place where we learn together, give together, remember the Lord’s life together and pray together, Acts 2:42. The church is the place where we sing together and give thanks to God together, Ephesians 5:19-20.

The church is the place where we can experience real love, where we can love and be loved, John 13:34. The church is the place where we laugh together, it’s the place where we cry together, Romans 12:15.

The church is the place where we make lifelong friends and support one another on our journey to heaven. And there are times when our relationship with our spiritual family can actually be more supportive than our physical family.

‘Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:31-35

Jesus says we have a spiritual family which is far more enduring than the physical relationship we have with our physical families. He’s not saying that our relationship with our physical family isn’t important. He’s saying when you become a Christian by doing God’s will, you become a part of a larger spiritual family.

2. When we think about our church family, we think about the responsibilities we have for each other.

Did you know that there are over thirty New Testament commands that Christians can’t obey on their own? To obey these commands, we need to be around other Christians, take the following for examples.

‘Love one another’. John 13:34-35

‘Serve one another.’ Galatians 5:13

‘Be kind to one another.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:15

‘Have fellowship with one another.’ 1 John 1:7

‘Offer hospitality to one another’. 1 Peter 4:9

‘Confess our sins one to another and pray for one another.’ James 5:16

‘Carry one another’s burdens.’ Galatians 6:2

‘Encourage one another’. 1 Thessalonians 4:18

Now let’s be honest with ourselves here, there’s no way on Earth we can fully obey all these commands listed above, and there are many others, on a Sunday morning during worship. There’s no way we can obey all these commands in the space of two hours when we meet together each Lord’s Day.

If a Sunday morning is the only time when most Christians will meet other Christians in the space of a week, and sadly, it is for some, how can any Christian fully obey all these commands?

Yes, the Bible doesn’t say, ‘thou shall meet on another day of the week’, it doesn’t say, ‘thou shall come together every Wednesday for a Bible study’, etc.

But the Bible clearly commands us to do a whole host of things together and for each other, which are almost impossible to fulfil in the space of a few hours each Lord’s Day.

‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ Hebrews 10:24-25

Notice that the Hebrew writer says that Christians are to ‘encourage one another as they see the Day approaching.’ In other words, this encouragement needs to be done throughout the rest of the week before the Day arrives, that’s what ‘as you see the Day approaching’ means.

This surely implies that Christians need to meet together ‘outside’ of worship times. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a whole church meeting, but any kind of meeting where Christians gather together to meet to encourage each other and promote love and good deeds.

The problem the church is facing today is that we ‘wait until that Day has arrived’, and then we try to squeeze in as much time together as we can to encourage one another. We quickly say ‘hello’ to each other, because we need to take our seats and get prepared for worship.

After worship some will get together to have a cup of tea and biscuit, but others will quickly say ‘goodbye’ to each other because they’ve got dinner in the oven and things planned for the rest of the day.

1 Thessalonians is one of Paul’s most personal letters, and in it, we find some useful advice to help us build up our relationships with each other.

“Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children”. 1 Thessalonians 2:7

The first thing Paul says we need to do to help us in our relationship with our church family is, ‘we need to admit our need for other Christians’.

Notice that Paul uses the word, ‘cares’, 1 Thessalonians 2:7. The well-known saying is very true, ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’

“So we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8

The second thing Paul says we need to do to help us in our relationship with our church family is, ‘we need to encourage deep relationships with other Christians’.

Paul is reminding us that we shouldn’t take relationships lightly. It’s hard enough living in this cold, cruel world at the best of times but even harder if you’re living in this world as a Christian, especially when you’re a young Christian. We need those deep relationships with each other, but they don’t just happen, they take effort.

Notice the next word Paul uses, it’s the word, ‘share’, 1 Thessalonians 2:8. A mother can’t nurse her children without sharing a part of herself with her child, 1 Thessalonians 2:7.

In other words, for our relationships with each other to get stronger, we need to get up close and personal with one another.

The church in Thessalonica didn’t just share the Gospel, they shared their lives together. They helped each other in times of need, they encouraged each other when they were down.

They fed the hungry and visited the sick, they clothed the naked and looked after the elderly, widows and orphans. They did these things together because that’s what families do together.

Notice the next word Paul uses, it’s the word, ‘loved.’ 1 Thessalonians 2:8. Paul loved these people and when we love others, we have to remember to treat each of them as individuals.

C. Watts Jr. once said, “Compassion can’t be measured in dollars and cents. It does come with a price tag, but that price tag isn’t the amount of money spent. The price tag is love.”

May we cherish the relationship we have with our family, our friends and especially with our spiritual church family. May we continue to encourage one another and take our responsibilities to each other seriously.

May we continue to love one another and share with anyone who has a need. May your congregation continue to be a support group for all who strive to journey to heaven.

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