A Family Portrait
Ephesians 5:22-6:18 August 28, 2005
God’s vision for us (chosen/predestined to be part of his kingdom – to the praise of his glory)
How to keep it alive (prayer)
How to live it (grace/not works)
United in it (family)
Getting committed to it (mystery/love)
Consumed by it (prisoner/mature/work/‘one’)
Changed by it (obey)
*A Family Portrait
The last message we had on the topic of vision in our journey through Ephesians challenged us to be changed by the vision God has for us.
What good is just seeing a vision set before us as the family of God without
experiencing it unfold within us?
Let us remind ourselves of the main points in that message since our centennial celebration last week may have diverted our train of thought with all the events and people that made it so gloriously successful.
But, in fact, the whole theme of vision was to bring us up to the centennial. Now we need to go beyond it.
What are the ways we must be changed by embracing God’s vision for us?
We must think differently
We must act differently
We must talk differently
We must be more conscious of God
We must become more like God
We must become holy
We must understand God’s will (vision) for us
We must be spiritual in mind (reverence toward the Holy Spirit)
We must be spiritual in relationship (reverence toward others)
We must be spiritual in worship (reverence toward God)
We must submit all things to Christ (reverence toward Jesus)
In the end, it all comes down to preparing for a family portrait because being the holy family of God is what his vision for us is all about.
You know the drill: getting the kids all spruced up and putting on your best dress or suit; then going to the professional photographer to pose for your best smile.
Our passage this morning in Eph. 5:22-6:18 gives Paul’s final details in Ephesians to what this family portrait should look like – and also what threatens it.
This is the picture he wants to show to the world. In showing this picture to the world he wants the world to see him as our heavenly Father.
His vision for us has always been about family.
Do you know when the family of God got its start? It was in Gen. 4:25-26 when the line of Seth separated from the line of Cain. Only the line of a costly “blood” religion – a line changed by Christ – is worthy to be called the family of God. The line of Seth led to Noah – a preacher of righteousness (2Pet. 2:5). The line of Cain dies out in Scripture after Gen. 4:19-24 – never to be heard from again.
“6 ¶ Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."” (Ge 4:6-7 NivUS)
Then Cain killed Abel. Cain refused change. And so God changed the world.
“5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 ¶ The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth— men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air— for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 ¶ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” (Ge 6:5-8 NivUS)
By the time of the flood, Noah was all that was left in man of the knowledge of God. All the other patriarchs had died. The construction of the ark gave stark testimony to his preaching for 120 years. But family does indeed matter in the continuity of the knowledge of God – Noah was still alive several decades after Abraham was born. He was called God’s friend.
“And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God’s friend.” (Jas 2:23 NIVUS)
How about the times we are in? Will things get better or worse before the end? Don’t be confused by that question and how things seem to be unfolding. It may well do both. God will complete his kingdom before the rapture. But you can be sure he will glorify himself in what he does. If we are not changed (different enough from the world for the world to take notice) then God gets no glory when he takes us home. I am coming to believe that the time of the end will show the world getting worse while the true people of God get better (polarization - more holy vs. more evil). It is the difference that will reveal his glory. Are you ready for change? Are you ready for revival as the family of God?
In technological terms, we are talking about a digitally enhanced portrait here – one that shows up more clearly than ever to show the grace of God at work.
I believe the revived polarization of the people of God is what is meant by this verse:
“11 ¶ Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (2Pe 3:11-13 NivUS)
This polarization is further explained by these enigmatic sayings in Daniel and Revelation. What they mean is that there will come a time when nothing further can change, any further spirituality is at a standstill, and then Jesus comes.
“He replied, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” (Da 12:9-10 NIVUS)
“Then he told me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy." "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” (Re 22:10-12 NIVUS)
What this all means for us is more important than ever. We stand at the crossroads. The family of God has always stood at the crossroads of challenge and change.
But as long as the end is not yet here, there is still opportunity. It is still possible for people to come into the kingdom. God the Father decides when to “call the question” and send Jesus for his church.
That time will come as surely as the centennial of Mayfair Bible Church would come 100 years after it was conceived. Now we need to pray and do all we can to bring in even the least of God’s kingdom family.
So for us here at Mayfair Bible Church right now the challenge is greater than ever. We have celebrated 100 years as the family of God through thick and thin.
Satan has wanted to destroy that witness before we came to it and he wants to destroy it more than ever now that we have come through it.
These spiritually important milestones in life are instigators of Satan’s wrath. But more importantly they are heralds of God’s strength and grace to overcome – if we will.
Our times right now may get a little more thin than thick for awhile. We are facing new challenges. You know that we have had some people and families leave due to various unrelated circumstances over the last year or two.
Now that we have received notice of New Jerusalem Church leaving the end of September for larger space at Northside Gospel Center, our church will have to adjust to that change as well because we will not have the money that they paid to use our church and many of their people we have grown to love will be elsewhere.
But we must realize that this has been their goal revealed over the last seven years they have been here – to remain an independent church and outgrow the space we could give them.
And we could only give them so much space or compromise God’s vision for our own Mayfair Bible Church.
We had invited them several times to become one church. It was coming down to whether we would be New Jerusalem Church or Mayfair Bible Church.
We put everything in place for their success – and for this we should praise God. We can find fault in this – or we can submit to God’s purpose in this. But now there is a new transition that must take place.
The money they paid for sharing our church has given us resources to fix up our church – getting it ready for what God has next. Now we need to do it.
This will require faith and perseverance to fill our church with the fruit of our own witness. The burden is on us to be the family of God – a living portrait of the grace of Christ.
You say we have become too small even to grow? I beg to differ. Let me take you back to our centennial celebration and the history of this church. Wasn’t it started by only six families from the neighborhood who got together to “start a church that would uphold the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation”? (what does that mean?)
We have at least six families here. We need to begin the next hundred years – or less if Christ comes first. And I believe that is imminent – we have little time to lose, but we do have whatever time God gives us.
ILLUS.: Overhead Transparency about the lives of the patriarchs and the “influence of family”. See what one family accomplished?
So let us take a look at this family portrait that Paul paints for us. After all, to recount last week’s centennial message, there are only five things God cannot do: lie, sin, be faithless, be loveless, be unkind. So our God can do anything through us if we only believe.
What should the family of God look like – and what threatens it?
I. Cycle One: The family of God should look like a beautiful husband/wife relationship (vv. 5:22-33)
A husband and wife, as the church and her Savior should be, a picture of the local church in union (marriage), totally in love, totally protective, totally pure and holy in motive and action toward one another, sacrificial toward one another, producing godly offspring, yet not forgetting godly headship and order.
II. Cycle Two: The family of God should look like a beautiful parent/child relationship (vv. 6:1-4)
A parent and child, as the church and her Savior should be, a picture of the local church in reproduction (child rearing), the young in Christ honoring and respecting the old in Christ, looking forward to productive lives in Christ as those they follow, the old nurturing the young to carry on their precious faith in Christ.
III. Cycle Three: The family of God should look like a beautiful leader/follower relationship (vv. 6:5-9)
1Co 7:22 For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ‘s slave.
Ga 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Col 3:11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
An employee and employer, as the church and her Savior should be, a picture of the local church in doing the work of the ministry, serving with devotion, awed at the sense of privilege to serve, serving to please the Savior, serving from the heart and not grudgingly, knowing that Christ is driving you but leading you, that he loves all his children the same whatever they are called to do and able to do.
IV. Cycle Four: The family of God is threatened by not using God’s power and provision against the devil (vv. 6:10-18)
ILLUS: Painting I saw in Windsor, Canada, showing the temptation of Christ with all the beauty of the world out the window but with Satan in the background.
ILLUS: “Presidential Candidate Seeks to Claim Haiti for Christ”, Crosswalk.com
Just like in a country, demons can get hold of hearts even in a church, and we must take back whatever territory was given/or taken.
No matter how hard we try, something always gets messed up. There is a reason for that. He, like God, has a name – Satan. But he is not God. He is allowed by God for our good, believe it or not. We can believe that because God is good. It is not that God cannot or could not destroy him with a word. Evil serves the godly purpose of helping to define the kingdom of God – the family of God, if you will. It helps define it by offering a choice. A choice stands before us to either believe God for our church, or to believe Satan for our church.
Like the situation in Haiti, things happen in the past, choices happen in the past, that affect the present and the future. These are choices that have given Satan an inroad, a wound through which infection can fester, sometimes for years before it becomes fatal.
We cannot carry out God’s vision for us unless we in the present take action by the power of faith against the wounds of the past. Every life, every family, every church has wounds because of sin in one form or another.
We cannot carry out God’s vision for us unless we repent of whatever it is we know, and even what we don’t fully know. Satan will flee from a repentant people since there would be no more wound through which to work – at least for a time.
Many times we have just cause for whatever it is we have said or felt – but we add to the crime of sin by our own fallen nature in how we handle it. How can we grow as a church if the Spirit is grieved (Eph. 4:29-32)? Every one of us is guilty beyond doubt. Let us cleanse our hearts – grieve, mourn and wail ---
“Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (Jas 4:5-10 NIVUS)
We must take action against this enemy in the background who defiles our portrait as the family of God.
I know that there are some things in the history of Mayfair Bible Church that are hindrances. For one thing, pastors have turned over on an average of every 3 ½ years, not counting Pastor Charles Bartels. Other than he and myself, the only other longest tenure was about five years. I am trying to change that, being here now ten years.
I asked one of the old-timers at the centennial why the new addition was never completed and I got total silence. Some demon is there that needs casting out. Every church has had problems past or present. The centennial was a time of celebration for the good over the years and not the time to address other issues less admirable.
But issues remain that effect us now, whether we like it or not, whether we had anything to do with it or not. We are the ones that must now take a stand to let none of the confusions of the past effect us. We need to go on, even if it is only six families, to carry out the vision God has for us now.
We must be completely loving toward one another, giving preference to one another, not quickly finding fault, realizing human failure of others while being completely broken over our own, not giving the devil a foothold, letting go of issues that really don’t matter, reasonably teaching and even lovingly confronting to deal with issues, being gracious to a fault, being gracious behind people’s backs, not always wanting to have our own way, not being enslaved by money, not arguing about ministries but doing them – basically inviting the full manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit among us.
Let us hunger to be together, worship together, learn together, pray together, reach the community together. These things are the power of God that defeat the devil and manifest the vision of God for his church.
God has done some marvelous things even this week: an Uzbek woman named Dilya, referred to me by Dave Stilwell as a Moody studen, has contacted us about coming to church here, Ed and Jane Skowron of New Tribes Mission have contacted us to put on a puppet show for the Awana clubbers Oct. 5, we received word that we will indeed get 4 Moody students to help in Awana this year in spite of having our application fall through and told the students were all assigned out already, we received over $8,000 from the centennial with probably more to come, we have the prospect of more space for ministry now that New Jerusalem has found another place to meet that better serves their needs. God is good! We can look down or we can look up. I believe things are looking up.
Let us be fearless in love and not easily put off by some inconsistency. Let us carry out Paul’s benediction to us in v. 6:24 and love Jesus with an undying love by loving others. That is how this church will thrive and never die.
Let us be the church of undying love by which we will never die.
What should the family of God look like – and what threatens it?
The family of God should look like Jesus. What threatens it is when we don’t.
Are you a part of God’s vision by coming into his family?