Putting Down Roots
Coming in is Easy!
Growing up was a little rough for the Rausch boys. I’m not sure what it was but there was a time when we were fighting like cats and dogs.
I know that none of you can relate to this J but we had our ups and downs as brothers, especially as we slipped into our teenage years.
We were highly competitive, close in age and cut no one any slack, with dad more than once having to step in as referee.
It was pretty bumpy for a stretch and it wasn’t until later that we began to appreciate and support each other. But it took years to come to that place.
Some of it had to do with the fact that we didn’t get to choose our siblings, some of it with the normal rough and tumble of three boys close together, and some of it was just plain immaturity and stupidity.
Thankfully, we did eventually grow out of it and came to appreciate each other and what we had.
But it does underline the point that coming into a family is relatively easy, while living as a family is another matter altogether.
It’s so easy to get married and to have kids; it takes nothing at all! Anybody can get married and most everybody is able to bear children.
Getting married has become so easy. All you need to do is purchase a license, get a couple of witnesses and have a JP or a minister officiate. Only afterwards do you realize how much work it really is to have a happy, functional marriage.
It’s the same with having kids. If you are able to bear children, then having kids is easy. Raising kids to become successful and well-adjusted adults is another matter altogether.
I am saying that to say that the same is true in the family of God. The challenge is not in the coming into the family, but in the staying together as family.
Just like it was easy for you to be born into this world, so it is easy to be born a second time into God’s family.
None of the work is yours. All of it is God’s. The Father wills it, the Son provides for it, and the Spirit makes it happen. The heavy hitting was all done from above.
I love the language and imagery in Ephesians 1 that captures the sense of second birth:
“God predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ… In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Eph. 1:6-8
All we need to do is agree to this and ask God to bring us into the family. How hard can that be? God did all the heavy work.
Staying In - Not So Easy
So coming into the family is the easy part, but staying in the family and getting along with the family is another matter.
I really think the struggles my brothers and I had was related to how different we were. While my dad’s blood certainly ran in my veins, I can tell you that I am an Olbrich more than a Rausch. My brothers, on the other hand, were more Rausch.
It was like Rebekah’s twins, jostling in and out of the womb. One clearly more like his father, while the other more like his mother.
Shades of that was our reality as well. In some ways we were as different as can be with none of us having a choice in the matter.
We ended up stuck in this family trying to make it work. No wonder we had struggles.
The same is true with the family of God. We do not get to choose our brothers and sisters and very few are going to be like you.
Most will have different values, ideas, preferences and characteristics than your own, which means that staying together takes a ton of work.
It means putting aside our own agendas, with the interest of others ahead of our own, as we grab towels to serve instead of thrones to reign.
Honestly, we have not done well with this. People have left in anger and stopped talking to each other, churches have been split, congregations haven’t gotten along and denominationalism remains entrenched with barriers and dividing walls seemingly everywhere.
The Prayer for the Ephesians
This is what drives Paul to his knees in the desperate prayer that is Eph. 3:14-21. Behind this stood his deep concern for the unity and the getting along of these diverse believers!
This section is called The Prayer for the Ephesians, and it uses the rare imagery of kneeling in prayer as a way to show the seriousness of the situation at hand.
Paul says: “For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom the whole family of believers in heaven and on earth derives its name.” Eph. 4:14-15
I want you to notice a couple of key things in this passage.
First off, when he says “for this reason”, Paul is linking this desperate prayer back to what he called the mystery having been unveiled, namely that Gentiles are co-heirs along with the Israelites in a brand new family arrangement.
“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” Eph. 3:6
This naturally led to a huge surge of people coming into the family of God, jostling for a rightful place at the kitchen table along with those who were already there.
You can well imagine the rough and tumble of what that would look like. This is like trying to make a blended family work.
Honoring the Family Name
One of the first things he does is to pray that they would remember whose name they bear: “For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom the whole family of believers in heaven and on earth derives its name.” Eph. 4:14-15
Yes, we derive our name from the Father. I don’t know if you have ever been told not to bring shame to your family name but in some families it’s all about the honor of the family name.
‘Live up to the family name. Don’t dishonor it. Remember whose child you are and whose name you carry.’
In a far greater sense, we bear our Father’s name. I love the intentional play on words in the passage to underline that.
The words family and father are almost interchangeable in the original language. One is patera (father) and the other is patria (family).
Similar sounding words, coming from the same root, meant to suggest a striking similarity between the family members and their Father.
We bear his last name, we really do! We are to be more and more like our Father.
Born into his family, as true and genuine sons and daughters of him, becoming more and more like him the more we grow up and mature.
As we take on his nature, mimic him in our attitudes, thoughts and behaviors, then you would think that differences and divisions begin to dissipate, right?
I have learned since my teenage years that me squabbling with my brothers was a childish thing. Thankfully, over the years, as I matured, I was able to set aside arguments as I gained a deep appreciation of the diversity among us as brothers.
The same is true in the family of God! Learning to get along and appreciating diversity honors the name we now bear.
When we insist on only hanging around only with our kind it brings dishonor to His name, for those folks in the other corner bear as much His name as we do over here.
There is no greater joy in heaven than when we can leave our shell behind, reach across the table, and embrace someone completely different from us. I honestly believe that.
That is what’s behind Paul’s prayer!
Jesus Moving In!
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Eph. 3:16
Paul is praying that the Father, who has immense resources, would “out of his glorious riches” strengthen them. Literally, this means to encourage their inner being with the power of his Spirit.
So what kind of power is this, for what purpose is it given, and how will that help us get along in the family of God?
The answer may surprise you, my friend. Notice what it says in the next verse as the reason for being strengthened with his power: “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (vs. 17)
What this means is that when we were birthed into God’s family Jesus came into our hearts and life whether we realize it or not.
We didn’t just have our Father’s eyes, but in our hearts Jesus came to dwell. Everyone that is born of God has Jesus dwelling in his or her heart.
The more we realize that, the more room we make for him to settle down and permanently move in.
The more Jesus settles into our hearts and makes it his living space, the more likely we are to grow up spiritually.
If there is a key word in this passage, then it’s the word “dwell” because of its permanence.
It’s not temporary, it’s not in the here and now. Jesus is not a guest who is coming over for a visit but a resident who is settled in. Lyman Coleman points out how the word dwell implies a permanent dwelling such as in a house versus a temporary stopover such as in a tent.
So it isn’t just “Come Lord Jesus and be my guest” but “Stay Lord Jesus and move right in!”
This is an incredibly powerful image that will help us in our spiritual growing up.
Jesus isn’t just a guest or a visitor but someone who has moved in and intends to stay permanently.
Make yourself at home. My home is your home. Empty your suitcase, hang up your coat, and feel free to take off your shoes.
That’s what Paul is after when he says “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
Pray that we would have the ability, desire and wherewithal to realize that Jesus takes up permanent residence in our hearts, and that as he does he takes over the place more and more.
We should realize how that is actually a very good thing since it becomes key to us growing up in the family of God.
The more he takes up residence, the more that is going to affect and change my life.
It’s almost like when somebody moves in, and I mean really moves in, and they begin to spread themselves all over the place. They hang their stuff all over, their furniture arrives, and their food ends up in your fridge. The moment you walk in you know they have moved in.
Bumping into Jesus
When you let Jesus move in He will happily hang his stuff all over the place, so much so that when someone walks or bumps into you all they see is evidence that Jesus lives here.
Think about that for a moment. When you live in close proximity within a family you are bound to walk into each other. It happens in your natural family and it happens in the family of God.
We are bound to walk into each other. Somebody, somewhere, is going to step on your toes. Sooner or later you are going to bump into someone.
It’s inevitable in the family of God. There’s going to be differences of opinion. Different dreams and desires, different expectations and traditions, different styles and preferences.
So yeah you are going to bump into each other, no question about it.
If you have Jesus living in you and somebody walks into you how sweet it would be if all they saw is evidence of Jesus living in your heart? How sweet that would be!
The test of who lives in you really comes down to what someone finds when they bump into you.
Is it the clothing of the old nature outlined in Gal. 5:20, which include: “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy”?
Or is it the clothing of Jesus outlined in Col 3:12-14 where it says: “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Whose clothes are hanging in your closet? Paul tells us to “clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 13:14). Has that happened?
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is that the clothes of Jesus would be hanging all over their place.
Rooted in Love
Speaking of his clothes, first and foremost those clothes are made of love. Which is why he tells the Colossians: “Over all these virtues put on love.”
That’s his stuff. It’s love. That’s what he hangs up when he moves in and that is what ends up in your fridge, closet and cupboard. The more Jesus lives in you, the more love will be evident.
So what does love in you looks like? Something like this:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” I Cor. 13:4-7
This idea of when Jesus moves in love moves in, is at the heart of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Eph. 3:16-18
Using now the imagery of a tree deeply planted in soil, Paul says that Jesus dwelling in us becomes the soil out of which our tree and eventual fruit grows.
When somebody bumps into you they are going to become acquainted pretty quickly not only with who lives in you but with what fruit you have on your branches.
So let me ask you: What is your primary fruit? What do people notice first when they bump into you? Is it bitterness? Envy? A sharp tongue? Anger? Mistrust?
Or have you been planted so deeply in the love of Jesus that the fruit are all variations of his love, which Paul describes as the fruit of the Spirit including “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22,23) Of which Paul says: “against such things there is no law”, meaning that you can keep living that way, reacting that way and being that way and it will never be illegal and there will never be a law against it.
So Paul prays that we would “know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Eph. 3:19
That it would be the fullness of God that people would bump into when they bump into us!
A Sweet, Ripe Peach
As we wrap it up this morning, ask yourself what’s the first fruit people bump into when they get too close to you?
Are you soft and mushy like a sweet ripe peach or prickly and sour like an old cactus in a desert?
The answer is not avoiding people, unless you want to live the hermit life, but figuring out how to be that sweet, ripe peach.
The key to that answer is Jesus and his soil in your life, and there is usually one of two things at play here.
If you have prickly pears or the fruit of a cactus, then either you have not let your roots down deeply enough into the soil of Jesus’ love, or there is no soil in your heart into which to let your roots go down into.
So I would encourage us to do two things:
1. Open up your heart and invite Jesus to come into your life and hang his stuff all over your house, and you will see how his soil settles into your heart.
2. If you have done that, then let your roots down deeply into the warm moist soil of his love. How? By praying, by confessing our sins, by absorbing his Word, by worshipping him with all our heart, by responding to his Spirit and by always asking ‘what would Jesus do.’
That keeps the connection strong and unencumbered, as you reach deeply down into the wonderful soil of his love.
As you nurture that relationship, the fruit of the Spirit will be your auto reply and default setting, without even having to try much.
So don’t try to be sweeter, don’t let this be about your effort, but open your heart and let your roots down deeply into the love of Jesus and then you will see how sweet peaches will be the first fruit.
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.