Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Family of God

To Timothy, my true son in the faith.
Paul, in 1Timothy 1:2

Matthew 12
46. All the while that [Jesus] was speaking to the multitudes, behold, his mother and brothers had been standing outside, wanting to speak to him.
47. Someone said to him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers have been standing outside wanting to speak to you.”
48. But he answered and said to the one who had spoken to him, “Who is my mother?  And who are my brothers?”
49. And extending his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Behold, my mother and my brothers!
50. For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

God has a time appointed for us all to be confronted with a decision.  That decision, which will have eternal consequences, will be determined by what you feel in your heart concerning this simple question: Was Jesus Christ serious about what he said?  Do you think that Jesus really meant what he said in the above verses?  I don’t mean, do you think he meant what he said in some philosophical, other-worldly way.  I mean in practical, daily, real-world terms, do you believe that Jesus was serious in saying that his family is made up only of those who hear the word of God and obey it?
If you answer, “No, Jesus did not mean his words to be taken literally,” then you must answer this question: What did Jesus mean?  When he defined his family as obedient hearers of the word of God, and if he did not really mean what he said, then what did he really mean?
My friend, there is no hidden message in Jesus’ words.  The Lord meant exactly what it sounds like he meant.  And he not only said precisely what he intended to say, but he is still saying it – and he still means it.  I am persuaded that God, through Jesus Christ, still considers no one to be a member of His family except those who have heard from Him and who have obeyed what they heard.

Confessing Christ

Many years ago, Jesus taught me that if we follow his example in just this one thing, if we are like him in nothing but his holy attitude concerning who our real family is, those who are of this world will hate us.  There is something about Jesus’ innocent and pure way of looking at life and family that enrages those who are “in the flesh” rather than “in the Spirit”.  And at some point in our walk with God, it is certain that we will be called upon to face their hatred and confess that God’s family is ours, just as Jesus did.  But then, isn’t the confession of belonging to God’s family just another way of confessing that we are “foreigners and pilgrims on the earth”, as did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Heb. 11:13)?
What did Paul mean when he said we are citizens of a heavenly country (Heb. 11:16)? Or that we are God’s ambassadors for Christ (2Cor. 5:20)?  Did Paul really mean what he said? Or was Peter serious about describing the saints on earth as “sojourning” here (1Pet. 1:17), that is, temporarily living in this foreign land?  Yes, these men meant what they said!   It was real to them!  They did not belong on earth, and they said so.  And for those men of God to make such a confession was to confess Christ, who came from his heavenly home into this wicked world to make it possible for us to belong to his world and his family.  Dear brother, if we who believe refuse to confess that basic truth before men, Jesus warned us that he will refuse to confess us before the Father:

Matthew 10
32. “Whosoever confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.
33. But whoever denies me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

When Paul called believers “brothers” and “sisters”, he was confessing Christ and his family before men.  Paul understood that all who believe have the same heavenly Father, and he lived his life as though his family really was the family of God.  That was not evil for Paul to do.  Neither does that mean that Paul was unkind or unmindful of the feelings and needs of earthly relatives that he had.  He said he grieved constantly for his unbelieving “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:1–3).  We never hear of any of Paul’s fleshly relatives coming to Christ, but he maintained a relationship with at least some of them.  Paul’s sister’s son, you will recall, was visiting him in prison in Caesarea when the lad overheard some Jews making plans to murder Paul (Acts 23:12–16).
Paul exhorted the saints to do good to everyone, as opportunity presented itself, but then he added, “especially toward those of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).  In this, Paul was telling the saints that to do good to God’s children is more important than to do good to others.  What made Paul’s exhortation a godly one is that doing good “toward those of the household of faith” pleases God more than doing good to others.  God “loved the world” and gave His Son for the sins of all; still, He holds His children dearer than worldly people, and everything in the Bible, rightly divided, teaches us that.
God, speaking through Moses on one occasion, and the young prophet Zechariah on another, told His people that among all nations, they were “the apple of my eye” (Dt. 32:10; Zech. 2:8).  And there will certainly come a time when we will be called upon to confess that Moses and Zechariah, as well as Christ Jesus and Paul, and others like them, were truly speaking for God and that they all really meant what they said.  God’s family is precious to Him, and while He is willing now to forgive sinners and take them into His family, in the end, He will destroy forever every sinner who does not repent, and they will never trouble His dear children again.
At some point in your pilgrimage, my brothers and sisters, you will be asked by God to confess His Son and His family before men.  That family begins with your brother Jesus, and it includes all who love God as Jesus does.  But be prepared for the hatred and the slander that will follow your confession.  The world abhors and scoffs at the very idea of anyone belonging to a real, distinguishable family of God; therefore, when any of God’s children testify to the reality of that sweet, holy family, and testify of their participation in it, they will feel the contempt of ungodly men and the heat of the world’s cruel wrath.

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