Fellowship Not Family (The Heart of Christmas #4)

ChristmasStockingsPastor Barry/ The Gathering:     The Heart of Christmas (Fellowship Not Family #4)          To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Sermon Springboard:  Home For The Holidays by Perry Como (composed by Robert Allen with lyrics by Al Stillman) Released on November 16,1954

Family 1 Timothy 5:8

If a secular survey was done as to what people think of the most when they hear the word “Christmas” it would undoubtedly be “family”.  No wonder that Perry Como’s song Home For The Holidays became an instant hit when it came out as a single record in 1954 and remains a favorite Christmas song in the present. Family is one of the very best and most important things in life. The Bible makes this plain in the creation account, where God makes a woman and a man, unites them as “one flesh” and blesses them with the exhortation to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:23, 24). When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, number five was to honor ones father and mother and it came with a promise of long life (Exodus 20:12). The Bible revisits the family theme in Deuteronomy 11:19 and Proverbs 22:6, where the Lord instructed His people to train up their children in the way of holiness and truth. The “family” message is also declared in Psalms when it says that “children are a heritage from the Lord and a great reward”(Psalm 127:3). Responsibility to family is also expressed in the apostle’s solemn warning that “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). For all these reasons, we can see that there is a strong and inescapable biblical basis for loving ones family and placing them in high priority…but not the highest.

Family Perspective Mark 3:21, 31-35, Matthew 10:33-40, Luke 14:26-27, Matthew 19:29-30

Jesus has some tradition busting views on “family”. One time when Jesus was talking to a large crowd someone told him that his mother and brothers were waiting outside to see him. His family had come to get him because they said “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21)  Jesus did not go to them; instead he taught the crowd that “his family” were those who did the will of God.  From an eternal perspective this makes perfect sense.  All the members in our traditional family my not receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  In fact some may even be hostile to Christ and his followers.  If this is the case then how can we have true fellowship (meaningful friendship) with such family members?  Jesus said that the loyalty that he requires of one who follows him will bring divisions in families. (Matthew 10: 33-40)  Jesus even goes so far as to say that if we love father, mother, son or daughter more than him then we are not worthy to be his disciple.  In comparison to our love for him all others should be “hateworthy”! (Luke 14:26-27). If our parents or children should not follow Jesus, or even if they disown us for being Christians, we must still choose Jesus over them. It is in this sense that we are “hating” our family  members who reject the Lord or reject us because of the Lord.

Jesus did not say that “the church replaces the family system.” As a matter of fact, such an    interpretation of His words has been dangerously misapplied. A great deal of damage has been inflicted on spouses and children through over-commitment to church programs and activities. God values both the family and government institutions.  He in fact established them; however, when its members fail to honor Christ we must obey God rather than man. (Acts 5:29)  What Jesus did say is that our love for Him should be so great and so overpowering that it eclipses all other loves. Even the strongest and most compelling of our natural human loves ought to look like “hate” when compared with our love for Christ. In other words, the depth of our commitment to Him is revealed precisely in our willingness to     forsake even the very best things in life if called upon to do so for His sake.  In regards to our families, Jesus promised that if we leave them for his sake then we will receive “a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life”. (Matthew 19:29-20) 

Note: in regards to leaving families for the sake of following Christ it happens everyday throughout the world.  When a Muslim converts to Christianity he becomes dead to his family and is utterly rejected.  This is also true with many other religions.  On another note, some families are so dysfunctional that for the sake of healing and health one must break away.  As Christians, we of course should pray for our family members and seek to be witnesses of Christ to them.  This is our call to all mankind and especially to our family.

The Family Fellowship of God Acts 2:44-47, John 1:12-13,1 John 1:1-5

The heart of Christmas is not family it is fellowship with God and the eternal family that we have through Him.  The book of Acts tells the story of the early church and remains a recipe for the church family today. Those who believed were together (as a family).  They had all things in common (faith, doctrine, morals, ethics, hope), they took care of each other,    encouraged one another, and were generous and sincere in their faith and love.  As a result they were witnesses of Christ and people were getting saved daily!  The eternal family grew! 

Good, bad or indifferent, whatever your earthly family is your eternal family is better because of Christ in them.  Many of us are fortunate enough to have earthly family members who are also in our family of God, but rather that is true or not for you, no one stands in Christ alone. As a believer we are filled with the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18) and become children of God (John 1:12-13) and individual members (family) of the “body of Christ”(1 Corinthians 12:18-27) in which we all have a unique purpose. We are also each imparted with the ever growing fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), among them is that great Joy that the shepherds first knew at the announcement that Jesus was born! (Luke 2:13-20)  Salvation has come for anyone who will receive him! 

With our brother, the Apostle John, we can also proclaim Christ who has been from the  beginning (John 1:1-5) and has now come into our life. We who have fellowship with him also have fellowship with the eternal family of God. To make our joy complete we must share this message with others that they too would be apart of this forever family.  And this is the message that we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:1-5)  And this is the heart of Christmas!

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