When we think of some houses, we get a little nostalgic. You likely remember a certain house you visited as a child where you always felt at home even if it wasn’t your house. You likely remember watching a television show and sensing a love. But in our nostalgia, let us not forget that in a show like The Waltons even John and Olivia had their spats, as did their children such as John-boy and Mary Ellen.
As humans, our selfish nature will not allow us to perfectly get along with others. You might recall a few weeks ago when I preached on the passage of the prodigal son, the title was “Living as Orphans.” That story, of course, is about two brothers and a father who may have lived together but certainly did not live as a tight-knit family. First, the younger son wanted nothing to do with the father, then when we returned, the older son wanted nothing to do with the younger, and questioned the father’s decision to celebrate his brother’s return.
The reality is that the dissension represented in that story is far more normal than what God calls us to as His children. And God knows that. It isn’t what He designed, but it is what sin desires. Sin makes us desire our wants and needs over anything, or anyone else. In a family setting, this creates tension among husbands and wives, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, etc. Thus, God had to show us what it means to live as part of His family.
So, what does it mean to be a part of the family of God? Well, first, it means that it is His family, not mine and not yours. He is in charge. But it also means that as His children, He wants us to represent Him. He wants us to get along. He wants us to be like Him. To do that, let us return to the Sermon on the Mount, beginning in Matthew 5 to find some principles for living as a part of God’s family.
As I mentioned last week, we will begin a series on the Sermon on the Mount and what it means to live in God’s Kingdom on December 31. Today, however, I want to focus on a few verses from Matthew 5 from the mindset of living as a part of God’s family.
Our Father Wants Us To Be Blessed (Matthew 5.1-12)
Jesus begins by teaching that God wants His children to be blessed. The blessed are poor in their own spirit, instead yielding to Dad. They mourn when they do wrong. They are powerful as a child of God, but don’t wield that power without humility. They want to be like Dad. They show mercy to others. They keep their hearts pure and promote peace. And they stand up for all Dad has taught them no matter what.
Again, we will review these ideas in a bit more detail next month, but at first glance some of these ideas do not look so rewarding. Persecution, for instance, would be less than appealing. But Jesus does not teach that we are to seek to be persecuted, He merely states that it will happen if we live like a child of God.
But notice the promises affiliated with each of these blessings. The kingdom of heaven (living with Dad), being comforted (by Dad), inheriting the earth (from Dad), being satisfied (by Dad), receiving mercy (from Dad), seeing Dad, being His children, and receiving a great reward.
Again, next month, I will elaborate on the idea of being blessed and how we often misuse that term. But make no doubt, according to Jesus, being a child of God has significant benefits for those who fit these characteristics. Our Father truly wants us to bless us.
Our Father Wants Us To Bring Him Glory (Matthew 5.13-20)
The next part of this passage is likely becoming more significant to us as a church. Verse 16 is our church’s verse for our vision statement. Matthew 5.16 answers the question of what He wants from us. Truthfully, it answers the “Why” for our living – to bring God glory. First, Jesus tells us that our Father wants us to season the earth with salt. Most people get used to certain foods tasting a certain way. Then, someone adds a different spice or seasoning. And, voila, a new taste sensation is born. Or perhaps, you are used to a certain taste and a certain seasoning is left out making the food so bland you can barely eat it. Ladies and gentlemen, Jesus is saying that His followers are that new seasoning for some and the missing seasoning for others. But if we don’t live as the salty children of God, then how will He, our Father, get the glory we are to bring Him?
Jesus then changes metaphors and says to let our light shine. Really, it is His light shining. The light is not to be hidden, it is to light up the world. And, as His light shines through us, people can more clearly see God – the Father. As they more clearly see who the Father is, and what He is doing through us (making our dark lives, light), He will receive glory.
In verses 17-20, Jesus made it known that the rules our Father has given must be followed – literally to the letter and even every stroke of every letter. Let’s hold this thought for a few minutes and I will return to it after our next point. For the moment, let us just realize that if we follow His commands and live and salt and light, then we will bring our Father glory. Furthermore, the glory will not only come from us, others will join us in giving Him glory as well – which, in our context, may mean they are becoming His children as well.
So, we are to bring Him glory by letting our light shine and following His commands. But how do we do this practically? How should this impact our relationships? Well, that leads directly to our next point.
Our Father Wants Us To Get Along With Each Other (Matthew 5.21-48)
So far in this post we have seen that the Father wants to bless His children and that God wants us to bring Him glory. But how are we to do that? By acting as His children should act – culminating with being perfect, which we talked about last week – we show ourselves to truly be a part of God’s family. So, how should God’s children treat one another?
- You shall not murder with Jesus equating being angry with our brother as murder. (v. 22)
- You shall not commit adultery with Jesus equating lusting after another (coveting) with adultery. (v. 28)
- You shall not commit adultery which is the result of many divorces. (v. 32) And, in that culture, divorce was often a disgrace so you were not honoring your mother or earthly father, let alone your heavenly Father.
- You shall not lie, instead say what you mean. (v. 37)
- You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (vv. 42, 44)
The point is that God is not just saying that people should live this way. He is saying that His children should live this way because these ideas represent the very nature of the Father – one who is loving, faithful, and truthful. Yes, the Bible speaks of God’s anger and wrath, but it also speaks of Him being just. Usually when a person is angry, at least two things are true. First, they do not have all the facts. Secondly, they lose perspective. In contrast, God always has all of the facts, and His perspective is always that of being holy. Thus, He never plays favorites and never misappropriates judgment. And, and as His children, He wants us to do the same.
Consider what the world would be like, that is, how much glory our Father in heaven would receive, if Christian brothers and sisters:
- did not murder one another by tearing each other down when we talk.
- were as faithful in marriage as God is to His people.
- were always truthful – in word, in deed, AND in our intentions.
- loved others in the same way we love ourselves.
- truly lived as God calls His children to live.
The truth is that very few choose to live this way not because they do not know what the Father wants, but because they do not appreciate the Father enough. For instance, in the Lord’s Prayer, when you say, “hallowed be Your Name” what does that mean to you? If we truly believe Him holy it will change our behavior. It should change our behavior.
The fact is that Jesus own words say that His true brothers and sisters and mothers are those who do God’s will (Matthew 12.46-50). In other words, the people who do not murder, or lust, or divorce, or lie, etc., are the ones that truly represent God’s family. We can say that we are in God’s family, but Jesus says, it isn’t just about what we say, it is evident by what we do.
Now, please understand that I did not say, we become a part of God’s family by what we do. I did not say that. We become a part of God’s family by grace. We become a part of God’s family because Jesus did what we could not. (Take a moment to read Matthew 5.17-20.)
Our righteousness comes from what Jesus did, not what we can do. And the righteousness that has been given (imputed) to us empowers us to live as God’s children, to represent Him as family members, and to bring Him glory as we do.
So, we do not become members of God’s family by what we do, but for those who are a part of God’s family, we have much to do. But for all we have to do, our JOURNEY letter for today is not about our need to Observe as it was last week. Last week, I said we should Observe because the focus was on our relationship to our Father. This week, the focus is on what the Father wants for His children and, ultimately, the commands and the blessings are about being in fellowship together with one another as we are in fellowship with God. Thus, our letter for today is:
JOURNEY: U – Unite
Not murdering others, not lusting after others, honoring our marriages, being truthful with one another, loving our neighbors, and similar commands are about making and maintaining bonds with mankind. As John wrote in 1 John 4, we cannot claim to love God if we do not love our brothers and sisters, so let us better unite with one another, so that we better reflect our God and allow others to truly glorify our Father who is in heaven.
NEXT STEP(S): Learn. Once again, our step this week is to memorize 1 John 3.1. The overall goal will be not only to memorize the verse, but to LEARN to understand it, so we might LIVE in light of its truth, LOVE others because of it, and ultimately LEAD others to embrace it as well.