“Home Alone: God’s Family”

Today we continued our series at Gateway Church in Austin called Home Alone.

Family can be the source of great joy and great pain. When so many of us come from dysfunctional families, we can learn new family dynamics where forgiveness rather than bitterness and kindness rather than cruelty become the way we relate with each other. 

Message Discussion:

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner,  life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Next Steps

Message Video:

Message Notes:

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and to do that we have lots of traditions and time with family.

Family can be the source of great joy and great pain. 

  • There are things we love about our family of origin.
  • There are things we cannot stand about our family of origin.

​​My parents had a tradition of giving bad Christmas presents.

When I was in middle school, my parents wrapped a coat I had been wearing since October and gave it to me for Christmas. I waited to open it last since it was the largest box.

For my brother, my parents re-wrapped the sweatpants and sweatshirt he had asked for the year before because they didn’t feel he wore it enough or appreciated it enough the past year.

Now, I actually have great parents! I will be forever grateful for the life they provided for me. One of the greatest contributions to my life was raising me with faith. Introducing me to Jesus. From a generation where they didn’t talk much about faith, but we went to church faithfully.

I said “yes” to Jesus at age 10 and baptized. This all happened after my grandfather died. 6th through 11th grades I got sucked into middle school and high school foolishness and shenanigans. You would not have known I had a relationship with God in part because  I discovered faith for myself at age 17. 

Now I am part of a global family. I would have never imagined how amazing my life has been as a result of saying “yes” to Jesus. 

Last week we looked at how because of Jesus, we are never alone. We can have a very real and vibrant relationship with God.

Today we are looking at how when we say “yes” to Jesus we become a child of the King, and the King of Kings has a big family! You are part of a global family!

You have brothers and sisters who look nothing like you, don’t know the same language, grew up in a different country, and yet you have the most important thing in common – Jesus.

God’s New Family can be described as the following:

  • Fully Alive
  • Takes Off the Old
  • Puts on the New
  • Helps Others Do the Same  [one slide]

Today we are going to look at how in this new family, we become fully alive as we take off the old and put on the new and help others do the same.

What has been your spiritual journey?

Did you grow up in a context of faith? Or were your parents not spiritual at all? 

Or were they spiritual but all over the place?

Did you grow up among people who said they had faith, but how they lived made faith seem meaningless?

Did you wander away from your parents’ faith?

Have you wandered away from your own faith?

No matter where you have been or where you are now, you can start or restart a relationship with God today.

This invitation is for all of us. 

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:13

More specifically:

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9

This a family we get to choose. You can decide you want God to become your heavenly Father because He came to rescue us!

You may not want to choose it because of all the crazy cousins and weird uncles. And there are some that say they are in the family, but they actually aren’t. These are the ones where Christianity is more of a cultural, religious, or political thing. 

I loved our Q&A Weekend a couple of weeks ago. When asked about all the evil things Christians have done in history, Lisa Jacob from our Gateway Pflugerville campus encouraged us not to allow broken people to get in the way of how we see a perfect God!

In its essence, true Christianity is about a relationship with God that transforms us and brings transformation through us.

Even still, God’s Family does have issues. Next week we are going to talk about “Messy Family” and how to restore relationships when they are broken. But today we are looking at who God is inviting us to be as part of A New Family.  It’s about sharing the same Father. It’s a transformed heart. 

So when you are following Jesus, you are made fully alive in this new family!

Fully Alive

To help us understand this, I want to spend some time in the book of Colossians written by Paul. Paul was a former Pharisee who despised Christians. He arrested, imprisoned, and was there when one was killed by the angry mob. He believed in a version of religion where it was ok to kill others who did not share your beliefs. He had such a miraculous encounter with Jesus that he then began sharing with others that Jesus is the long promised Messiah. As a result, the religious people began to attack, arrest, imprison, and even kill him.

He wrote a letter to a church in the city of Colossae. Unlike the other letters of his we have in our New Testament. He had not started the Colossian church. Their pastor Epaphras shared with Paul about their struggle. Some were slipping back into their old pagan lifestyle and others were slipping back into their more religious mindset. You see the early church was made up of people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. As a result, they would slip into the way they were brought up instead of the way the new family was to relate to each other.

“Since you were raised from the dead with Christ, aim at what is in heaven…. Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. Christ is your life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory.” – Colossians 3:1-3 NCV

When we read the word “heaven” in passages like this we may thing of the place we go when we die, but think of it more as the place where God’s presence is. We can have more of heaven on earth as we experience more and more of God’s presence in our life. We can bring more of heaven to earth where we live, where we work, and everywhere we go.

Something supernatural happened in the spiritual realm. 

All of us were once physically alive but still spiritually dead.

But Jesus makes us alive!

Baptism is symbolic for what actually happened spiritually. In going under the water, you reenacted dying to your old life and coming out of the water is be raised up to live a new life.

And we are now considered “in Christ.” You cannot see it, but you are now in Jesus and Jesus is in you. 

Think of yourself like in one of those Inflatable Plastic Bubbles – a Zorb ball!

The Scriptures say when you follow Jesus, His Spirit comes to live within you, and that Jesus holds you and so does the Father. 

Jesus said about those who believe: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” – John 10:28-29 NIV

The Father, Son, and Spirit have got you! 

You are fully alive and no longer a victim of the darkness! 

You can live a new life by dying to self and dying to your old life.

The Light who came into the world on that first Christmas now lives in you!

And that Light can overwhelm the darkness in your heart and in your world through you!

Now that you are a child of the King, you now live according to new family rules.

If you are in God’s family, you don’t live the way the world does. You are freed from that, and don’t have to fall into that anymore 

Take Off the Old

So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god which makes God angry…. – Colossians 3:5

We are children of the Light so we don’t live in the darkness anymore. When we do, it’s like giving our allegiance to another father, a false god.

The passage then reminds us that living in the dark disappoints our heavenly Father and even makes him angry. Remember, it is not a sin to be angry. Our version of angry is very different than the loving, grace-giving, sacrificial, patient anger of a perfect and holy God.

Even still, the letter continues…

 In your past, evil life you also did these things. But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk. Do not lie to each other. You have left your old sinful life and the things you did before.  – Colossians 3

Every single person who has ever lived or will ever lived experiences brokenness and is broken. By default we do things that hurt ourselves and hurt others.

When so many of us come from dysfunctional families, we can learn new family dynamics where forgiveness rather than bitterness and kindness rather than cruelty become the way we relate with each other. 

What are some of the things you learned from your parents which they learned from their parents which are actually dysfunctional?

God’s new family gives you a place to unlearn those things. 

You see we need each other to show us what it means to really walk with Jesus.

Youth pastor taking us on mission trips. Such an odd concept. You take off time from work to go serve people. It’s like a vacation without the fun? So many of my friends from church had done it and came back telling such amazing stories, it made me want to do it.

So I finally agreed to go on one. At age 19 I went to Brazil to serve people who lived in the favelas. I had such a great time on that trip. It created within me a greater appreciation for people from other cultures and people who are living in poverty. It was the most meaningful vacation days I had ever taken off from work in my entire life. It also showed me how big God’s family really is! With us throughout the week were Brazilian believers, some of whom lived in the favela.

You see God’s family is made up of broken people who have been healed and are healing. And this family is multi-ethnic and there are no divisions or classes or prejudices.

Earlier in this same passage, Paul writes:

“In the new life there is no difference between Greeks and Jews, those who are circumcised and those who are not circumcised, or people who are foreigners, or Scythians. There is no difference between slaves and free people. But Christ is in all believers, and Christ is all that is important.” – Colossians 3:11 NCV

God includes in his new family people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. To be circumcised or not circumcised was based on one’s religion. 

God includes in his new family even those with a rowdy and wild past. By the way, Scythians were considered very wild and cruel people.

God includes in his new family people from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

He includes in his family people you would not usually like if left to the way you were raised or your own prejudices.

That last line: But Christ is in all believers

We are called to love all believers because Christ is also in them.

Christ is in us! His Spirit guides us and empowers us!

We are to love all people – even those without faith – because all created in the image of God. Jesus gave His life for all – even if not all say “yes” to Jesus.

For me, saying “yes” to Jesus  at age 17 and then “yes” to go to Brazil at 19 and “yes” to move to Seattle at 22 and “yes” to move to Los Angeles at age 26 kept opening doors for me to experience God’s beautiful multi-ethnic grace-giving family all around the world.

I have had a chance to share a meal with believers in Syria, the West Bank, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Malaysia, China, Europe, Mexico, and I have shared meals with believers from other nations who now live here. 

When we grow to love people from around the world, we catch more of a glimpse of heaven on earth.

So what are some things you need to unlearn?
Who are those you look down on?
What are some of the behaviors used to be bad habits, and now they are just how you live your life?

What are some of the mindsets that you know are not from God, but they tend to be your default view of the world and how you make decisions?

God’s Family can help us with this!

Who are some of the people in your life who follow Jesus and whose life represents Him well?
Are you learning from them? Are you serving beside them? Are you asking them questions? Are you letting them invest in you?

So in this new family, how do you get rid of this dysfunction and live in this new way? You not only take off the old, but you also

Put On the New

We don’t just stop doing those things we know are destructive. We actually start doing those things that are constructive, healthy, and life-giving. 

The letter to the Colossians continues…

You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God. -Colossians 3:10 NCV

Want to have true knowledge of God? Let Him make you new. Trust Him! Surrender to Him!

When you choose to follow Jesus, He forgives you of the past and makes you new. And He keeps making you new even as you struggle to live this new way.

But did you hear what should motivate every believer? Listen to this.

“God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you.” – Colossians 3:11-12 NCV

You are loved by God. You are chosen by God. You have been given purpose from God.

Out of gratitude for all God has done for you, you want to change. You want to please Him above all others. You want to live a new life in this new family.

So what are God’s family’s dynamics?

So you should always clothe yourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you…. -Colossians 3:12-13

People who follow Jesus should be known as the most merciful, kindest, most humble, most gentle, most patient, and most forgiving people on the planet!

Are those adjectives how people describe you?

I’ve gotten much better at a couple of these, but some of them I may have given up even trying. I may have even given into the lie that I am never going to be be one or two of these. Here’s the thing: on my own, I don’t have much hope of change.

With God’s help, I can completely change.

Here’s what concerns me: I know far too many Christians whose lives do not actually reflect Christ.

I know far too many people who have been completely forgiven by a Pure, Holy, and Perfect God who have unforgiveness in their hearts towards their spouse, their parents, their co-workers.

Bitterness and unforgiveness keep us living in the darkness.

Some of us think: well I don’t steal, kill, or do anything immoral. That’s good! But that’s not all God is calling us to be! We are to be holy! Set apart in how we live our lives. People should see the light of Jesus pouring out in the way we treat every person in our life.

So what is forgiveness?

Because it seems so hard to do.

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. … Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses.

The root of “forgive” is the Latin word “perdonare,” meaning “to give completely, without reservation.”

I found some great quotes to help us understand the power of forgiveness.

You see, forgiveness takes courage and is a byproduct of love. Maya Angelou once said:

“You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.'”

– Maya Angelou 

“Forgiveness is a sign that the person who has wronged you means more to you than the wrong they have dealt.”

– Ben Greenhalgh

Maybe my favorite quote I found is by Dr. King.

“Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Forgiveness is a catalyst. Too often we are trapped by our bitterness and unforgiveness. We think we are holding the person who has hurt us hostage to their past, but in reality they have moved on. We are the ones stuck there.

Forgiveness opens new doors, many fail to go through. Paul Boose once said:

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”

– Paul Boose

Some of us are in marriages where the bitterness and unforgiveness is so thick that there is an emotional wall between you two. For some of you who are married, Marlene Dietrich said:

“Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.”

– Marlene Dietrich

Or actually this one:

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”

– Robert Quillen

Or how about this one by the poet Alexander Pope.

“To err is human, to forgive, divine.”

– Alexander Pope

I love this one. We are more like God when we forgive.

The greatest quote on forgiveness took place when Jesus was suffering and dying on the cross and he prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

If you are waiting for that apology before you forgive, you aren’t following the example of Jesus.

Who do you need to forgive?

I am not talking about being ok with unhealthy boundaries.

Who do you need to surrender over to Jesus? And ask him to help you forgive? 

To entrust their future and their consequences for whatever they did to you to God?

Guidance on how this new family relates to each other continues…

Even more than all this, clothe yourself in love. Love is what holds you all together in perfect unity. Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking, because you were all called together in one body to have peace. Always be thankful. Let the teaching of Christ live in you richly. – Colossians 3:14-16

Wait?! We not only have to be kind to people and to forgive people, we have to love people too! People are jerks and idiots and morons! People hurt us!

Yes they do. And even still God came for us. 

Jesus was born in manger. Lived a perfect life. Loved the outcasts of society. Taught with authority. Healed the hurting. And willingly gave His life dying on a cross. But then He rose from the dead! Jesus is alive! Not even death could separate His love from us!

God loves you so much!

God loves those around you so much too! 

Let Him change you to become who the hurting world around you needs you to be!

You cannot do that without leaning into your faith and living out your faith in community. 

The local church is filled with struggling and hurting people who are being refined into the new and best versions of themselves as we live life with each other. 

If you are online with us, join one of our online communities.

If you live in Austin, join us on the weekend at one of our Austin area campuses.

You cannot live out your faith without others in your life! 

Consider all the “One Another” passages you cannot possibly obey without “another.”

Love one another. Bear with one another. Serve one another. And on and on we could  go

Finally…

Help Others Do the Same

“Use all wisdom to teach and instruct each other by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Everything you do or say should be done to obey Jesus your Lord. And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus.” – Colossians‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NCV‬‬

The way we live our life is our way to thank Him for all He has done for us.

People are hard to deal with–I’ve been burned, would rather keep my distance. More on that next week as Carlos will be sharing a message called “Messy Family” in our Home Alone series. 

Here’s the thing about this family, we need you and you need us.

God’s New Family is

  • Fully Alive
  • Takes Off the Old
  • Puts on the New
  • Helps Others Do the Same  [one slide]

What does He want you to surrender? Who does He want you to forgive? How does He want you to connect or reconnect with His family?

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