Living It Where It Matters The Most (Outdoor Service)
The reason we are outdoors is to say to anyone that hears our voice that our church family loves to see new people come in.
We are not a family that has closed ranks but are welcoming of anyone to come and check us out and become part of us, if they so wish.
It doesn’t matter who someone is or where they have come from, there is room at our kitchen table for one more person. There is enough stew in our pot to feed one more mouth.
The only thing is that the only way to come into our family is to be born into it just like every one of us here.
You mean to tell me that every one of you in this family has been born into it? You bet we have. It’s the only way to be a part of our family.
Don’t get me wrong, we would welcome you as our guest but to really enjoy the family feeling, that sense of belonging and being totally part of a rambunctious family is to be birthed into it.
Not only would you be part of our family but you would also discover how the God of this Universe is also your Father in heaven with you as his child.
When you are birthed into God’s family not only do you inherit a ready-made family that loves you and cares for you, but you also have God become your Father.
You can call it what you may – born again, second birth, birthed into – the idea is the same and that is you can become a child of God with a family around you and a God above you as your Father.
I don’t want to get into great detail in terms of how that happens except to say that Jesus makes it possible and the Holy Spirit leads you through the process of being birthed into God’s family.
All you need to do is open your heart toward it and reach out in faith to God and the result will be that you will be a full fledged member of the family of God just like everyone one of us here!
That’s why we are here outside this morning. We want to throw the doors and windows wide open and say to anyone who hears us that we want you in God’s family of which we are a small chapter near the corner of Vine & Scott.
That was the first of three points Paul made in the Letter to the Ephesians, namely that the family of God is open for whosoever will! That’s what Eph. 1 was all about.
Let Them Come In!
The second part of the letter was really meant as an internal memo to the existing family to make sure to welcome the newcomers and make room at the kitchen table for whosoever was coming in.
This is another reason we are outside today. This is about us saying we are making room and shoving over to let you in.
We’re saying that this is not really our family but God’s family, and that whosoever will is welcome to join us.
If we were closed we would stay indoors. If we wanted this to only ever be for us we would never unlock our doors and instead circle our wagons around the campfire while showing the world our backs.
So us being here today says we want you to join us. That’s what Eph. 2 and 3 were all about.
Then the last part of the letter starting at Eph. 4 is all about how to get along in the rough and tumble of this rambunctious family.
If you thought you came into a perfect family then you need to think again. In fact, if anything, you coming in only adds to the rough and tumble of who we are.
But do not despair, since that is the Father’s plan. The whole point of coming into the family is that we would learn to get along and thus grow up as children of God.
There is a wonderful passage in I John that beautifully captures the three stages the transition from infancy to maturity that the Father wants for all of us.
Using the descriptors of children, young men and fathers, the passages cycles us through the stages of personal development:
I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
Much of what you find in the latter part of Ephesians deals with moving through these stages. It sees us growing up in the family of God, where we take on the nature of our Heavenly Father as seen in the daily interactions with one another.
Because I tell you that living in a family as diverse and different as we are, means you are going to bump up against things that are just going to rub you the wrong way.
Your ability to get along and even thrive in this diversity and melting pot means you have moved from infancy to maturity.
So Ephesians dedicates entire passages to what should and shouldn’t be in the family of God. Things such as:
And indeed it is impossible unless you are born into the family of God with a brand new nature empowered by the Holy Spirit.
There is no way that you can have honest and truthful speech that builds others up, a lack of anger and rage, the desire to earn an honest living, a commitment to being gentle, harmless, compassionate and forgiving while committed to sexual purity, without this brand new nature empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The most important thing that you are hearing me say this morning is that you need to be born a second time.
Let me reach way back into Eph. 1:5-7 to show you this:
“In love the Father predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. 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.”
While Paul uses the word ‘adoption’, his definition of adoption is what we mean by second birth. This is much more than adoption. This is more like being born into.
In our second birth we not only have redemption or release from the old way of life but also moving forward with forgiveness for every time we fall back into the old ways.
Say it with me one more time: “In love the Father predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. 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.”
So you are welcome to be birthed into our family and it will be the greatest miracle of your life. All you need to do is reach out to God in faith.
Once you are in our family then you have the wherewithal to live up to the reputation you now have as a child of God.
My Wife, My Sister
That brings me to my third point this morning namely where do we live out this new way of living? This benign, harmless life - where does it happen? In what setting and context?
Where does honest and truthful speech that builds others up take place?
Where does a lack of anger and rage, or the desire to earn an honest living, or a commitment to being gentle, harmless, compassionate and forgiving while committed to sexual purity take place?
I can tell you it’s not going to be in a room full of strangers nor on that first date. Nor will it be with your friends, since your friends are people that you chose and like.
This is not going to happen on a Sunday morning when everyone is on his or her best behavior.
This new way of living will be hardest among those whom you do not get to pick and choose but are thrown into close proximity with and in some of the most pressure filled situations.
So this will not be among your friends or among those that you brush up against such as strangers, acquaintances or people that you barely know nor will it be when you are feeling your best such as on a Sunday morning or while on vacation.
Instead the rubber meets the road when we are thrown into close proximity among those we do not get to choose.
Who is that, you say? Who do we get thrown in with no choice on our part?
“Yeah but I always have a choice”, you say. Really? There are going to be some people who will always be in your life over which you have no choice.
Some of them will come and go, for sure, but while they are there you have no choice but to be with them. Others will be with you your whole life long.
So who are these people? In Paul’s day he was thinking about those who had come into the Ephesian family of God who were in relationships with others over which they had no control.
In first century culture it was people such as husbands, wives, parents, children, masters and slaves that you find mentioned in Eph. 5 and 6.
Paul’s point is we should practise this new way of living among those who are in our life whom we did not get to choose.
Who is that for you and me in the 21 Century? It’s still our spouses, parents, children and anyone else in our families. We don’t get to choose our families and they will always be there.
In addition to that, the 21 Century equivalency of masters and slaves is anyone that you go to school or work with.
It’s actually anyone in close contact that you do not get to choose. You can figure out who that might be.
It can even be the guy on the road pushing your buttons. It can be the boss, the teacher, the co-worker, the annoying neighbor down the hall, the crazy in-laws, the raging ex, the extended family and certainly your immediate family.
That’s where we live out this new way of living.
What that sounds like in modern English is what we find in The Message translation of the Bible:
25 What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. 26-27 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.
28 Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.
29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
31-32 Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.
3-4 Don’t allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly.
Impossible, you say! There is no way that I can ever life like this. You don’t know what my (fill in the blank) is like (my ex, my boss, my neighbor, my spouse, my parents etc.)
It may well be impossible if you are still in the old family with the old nature and the old way of living at work, but let me tell you that if you are born into the family of God you will receive a brand new nature and with it the ability to live this way.
So in first century Ephesus it meant that wives could submit to their husbands and husbands could actually love their wives. They could love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy instead of treating wives like chattel, as was the custom.
It meant children could obey their parents and that fathers did not need to exasperate their kids, as was the custom.
It also meant slaves could obey their masters with respect, fear and sincerity and serve whole heartedly while masters could treat their slaves with respect, sincerity and no favoritism.
That’s what it looked like within that context. What that looks like in your context among those you are thrown in with, you need to figure that out.
All I know is that this new way of living that is now possible consists of these characteristics:
If you still say impossible then I invite you to experience this new birth that gives you the ability to begin to live like this.
If you have this new life and its still not happening for you then don’t beat yourself over the head as you realize that growing up is a process that takes you:
Not only will you come into a brand new family with an amazing new Father but you will also receive a new nature empowered by the Spirit and with it the wherewithal for this new way of living.
Already in the family of God but still not quite there yet?
Don’t despair but open your heart to the work of the Spirit as he moves you from infancy through adolescence toward maturity!
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.