family

“Not Ashamed To Call Us Family” (Hebrews 2: 10-18)

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It only makes sense that God, by whom and for whom everything exists, would choose to bring many of us to His side by using suffering to perfect Jesus, the founder of our faith, the pioneer of our salvation. As I will show you, it’s important that the One who brings us to God (the Sanctifier) and those who are brought to God (the sanctified) become one (or become of one nature – ‘partakers of flesh and blood’), since we are all from one Father.

 This is why Jesus was not ashamed to call us His family (brothers and sisters), saying, in the words of the psalmist, “I will speak Your Name to My brothers and sisters when I praise You in the midst of the community.”And in the words of Isaiah, “I will put my trust in the Eternal One.” And again, “Look, here I am with the children God has given Me.”

Since we, the children, are all creatures of flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood, so that by dying He could destroy the one who held power over death—the devil—  and destroy the fear of death that has always held people captive.

So notice—His concern here is not for the welfare of the heavenly messengers, but for the children of Abraham. He had to become as human as His sisters and brothers so that when the time came, He could become a merciful and faithful high priest of God, called to reconcile a sinful people. Since He has also been tested by suffering, He can help us when we are tested. I’m going to use this passage for two weeks, because there is a lot to unpack her. First, the claim that suffering perfected Jesus, and the implications for us. Second, the claim that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sister. This week, we are starting with the family issue.

Jesus was not ashamed to call us family. I’m going to come back to this later to look at how powerful this is, but first I want to look at the three quotes that follow, because they seem kind of odd. The bottom line: they are all tapping into Old Testament scriptures that simultaneously claim that Jesus is the Messiah, and that we are now family spiritually.

 “I will speak Your Name to My brothers and sisters when I praise You in the midst of the community.”

The author is citing Psalm 22:22. David was essentially telling God that once he delivers him, David will sing God's praises. The writer of Hebrews attributes that to Jesus. Now, in the middle of the congregation, Jesus sings God's praises and points to him as the deliverer of his brethren. That “deliverance from suffering” that David wanted? Jesus actually gave it to us.

The writer added that because we are flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood. He had to become as human as his sisters and brothers to be the High Priest we need. [1]

Notice that in this quote Jesus simply declares God’s ‘name’: that is, he displays God’s nature and character, and he speaks that to his brothers and sisters.One commentator I read used the imagery of the temple to describe what is happening here:

  • The outer court is the equivalent to the miracles God does. It’s part of the temple, but it’s only introductory. There are much deeper things to come. They might declare God’s presence,but not God’s
  • The holy place is the moral attributes of God’s righteousness and purity. This is the space where the name of God – the character and nature of God – begins to be understood .
  • Behind the veil in the inner sanctuary of the Holy of Holies is the Mercy Seat, the ultimate expression of which is Jesus, whose incarnation and sacrifice perfectly and completely show the love and mercy of God. (Maclaren’s Expositions)

“I will put my trust in the Eternal One.” This trust is best defined as “obedience as a result of God’s persuasion.”[2]This is a verse about attitude. Jesus is both the object of our faith because He is God, and he is the perfect examplefor our faith; that is, what it looks like for us to live out our faith. This is why Jesus is“…the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)

This ‘firstborn’ language carries with it the idea of preeminence and importance, “the highest of those born” (Psalm 89:27), but it also suggest he is the one to whom the rest of us look to know what to do and who to be.

“Look, here I am with the children God has given Me.” If you are a child of God, God gave that privilege to you. We don’t force our way or earn our way into his family. God adopts us because of His love and grace.

Though the writer of Hebrews does not finish the verse from Isaiah, I suspect his audience finished in their heads – “for signs and wonders in Israel.” What does that mean? Well, is it not a wonder that God chooses us, dead in our sins, to be His children? And is it not a wonder that his glory is displayed through the work He does in us? As one person told me last week, “I am God’s trophy.” They weren’t bragging about how awesome they were; they were just acknowledging that God’s great salvation had done a miraculous and glorious work in their life.

“He is not ashamed to call us His family.” We will read this idea later in Hebrews also: “They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:16)

There are other places where Jesus talks about his followers as family:

  • “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:49-50)
  • (After the resurrection) “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17)

I think it’s worth the time to let the profoundness of this claim sink in with the help of some great theological giants on whose shoulders we stand:

“Considering him in the holiness of his Deity, and them in the filthiness of sin, he might have been ashamed of such a brotherhood; but by his effectual word he adopted them into a state of childship and heirship to God with himself; and in the flesh to give them that glory, that they might be one with God, as he and the Father are one (Matthew Poole’s Commentary) 

“He has so become partaker of our nature that now we are one family, and he is not ashamed to call us brothers. Am I addressing any who are ashamed of Christ, or who are ashamed of God's poor people, and who would not like to be known to be members of a poor church? Ah! how you ought to despise yourselves for having any such pride in your hearts, for Christ is not ashamed to call his people brethren! Oh, what wondrous condescension!”   (Charles Spurgeon)

They are poor, they are despised, they are persecuted; what is worse, they are imperfect and faulty, often sorrowful, cast down, condemning themselves, groaning at the mercy-seat; yet “he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” There is such a unity between the believer, be he in what sorrow he may, and the Christ, be he in what glory he may, that he is never ashamed to own the close relationship between them.”  (Charles Spurgeon)

There are a lot of things it could mean that Jesus was not ashamed (from Strong’s Concordance, 1870. Epaischunomai).However, perhaps the best way to understand this has to do with the language of condescension,of God coming down to our level and becoming one of us. When we talk with little kids, one of the best ways is to kneel – to come down to their level. That is what God did for His children.

Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of  a servant, and was found in the likeness of humankind, and humbled himself…” (Philippians 2:7)

  • Chapter One of Hebrews was all about how superior God is to us, the angels and everything else, so it seems like he would want nothing to do with us.
  • The Greeks and the Romans could not imagine that gods would want this, except to ravage and use us. And yet, Jesus wants to be with us as brothers and sisters. He stoops to save us and make sure we are adopted into His family.
  • Jesus was that bridge between God’s transcendence and his immanence. There is no concern that we will somehow soil God by His contact with the unclean. He is beyond us in every way, and yet, he is here. It is not below his dignity to save us.

Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters, to call us family, to come down to our level and claim his relationship to us. I tried to find songs about Jesus not being ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters, and every song I found was about how we are not to be ashamed of Jesus. That’s true, but the foundation for that unashamedness on our part is because we have a remarkable God. And one of the things that makes God so remarkable is that God is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.

When Sheila and I were dating, I loved to fake banging my nose on doors that I walked through. It got so bad that when we went to the mall she would go through the entrance about 10-15 behind me, like “Who is that guy? What a moron.” And once we moved past that awkward moment, we were good again. Until the next door.

That’s obviously trivial. I thought it was hilarious. And Vincent is making me proud by starting to carry on that tradition. But what about more serious things?

What have I done that make is so people don’t want to be near me? They don’t want to condescend to be with me because the dirt of my life threatens to make them dirty too.

What have you done? What have others done to you?

We put people into categories, don’t we? Those of whom we are ashamed. Those we think will make us dirty if we are too close. Those we don’t want to publicly claim as either family or spiritual family. Dare I say there are people in our life of whom we think, “I just can’t go down to their level?”

Is it not amazing beyond belief that our savior and brother, Jesus, was not ashamed to come down to our level and call us – us, even us– his brothers and sisters.

I was thinking of the parable of the Two Brothers this week (or the Parable of The Faithful Father). When the Prodigal son left home, he humiliated his father and his family. When he lived a life of what to the Jewish community would have been unthinkable uncleanness and sin, he humiliated them. And yet when he stumbled home, smelling of pigs and sin, his father ran to him. His father broke all kinds of standard protocol for looking honorable and humbled himself as he ran to his son.

Not ashamed to condescend to love His son. How is that possible?

I know we can struggle a lot with feeling of inadequacy, with feelings of not living up to God’s expectations. We feel weak, inadequate, and stupid. Our life feels like one big mess. If you are a follower of Christ, know this: Jesus was not ashamed to condescend, to come down to your level and claim you as one of His own.

I remember a coach once telling me of one of my boys – and I am paraphrasing - “He is being an idiot.“ And I knew that, but he was MY idiot. I was not and am not ashamed to claim all of them, even in the midst of their imperfections. I love them. What price would I not pay for their good – and I’m a deeply flawed father, not the perfect Savior of the world.

Does that mean Jesus overlooks sin? No. Does that mean He is never angry, or the Holy Spirit is never grieved? No. God has shown that He has no problem holding his children accountable. He will prune what needs to be pruned, because He loves us.

Jesus was not ashamed to come down and claim his brothers and sisters He has saved, even in the midst of their imperfections.

Tony Campolo used to tell a story about something he witnessed at an airport. A mother and baby got off an airplane, and it must have been quite a ride. The baby was covered with vomit. The father didn’t hesitate. He ran up and smothered his child with hugs.

Jesus is not ashamed to save and claim his family.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6akq4DvTuog[/embed]

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[1]Augustine once wrote: "God makes of sons of men sons of God, because God hath made of the Son of God the Son of man."

[2]From Strongs’s Concordance, https://biblehub.com/greek/3982.htm

Break The Power Of The Past (Emotionally Healthy Church Part 2)

In Part One of this series, we looked at the importance of honest introspection. We must look beneath the surface of our lives in order to, with God's help, see ourselves as we really are. In Part Two, we are going to look at one of the most significant ways in which our character, personality, and perspective on life are formed.

The legacy of our family profoundly impacts us (Exodus 20:4-6; Exodus 34:6-7; 2 Samuel 12:10). History is not destiny, but it is significant, and perhaps the most formative influence of all is our family of origin. How we were “parented” -whether by our biological parents or others who filled the role - will impact in many ways.  It can even influence our view of God.

 When we commit our lives to Christ, our past is not erased. We need to take a deep look inside at all the things that have formed us. We don't do this because we are stuck with our past, or because we want to spend our lives back there, but because it’s an important step on our way to seeing God clearly and passing that better view on to others. 

“A father has a powerful influence in deep and subtle ways. Even though children know intellectually that God is fair, loving and kind and patient, it’s hard for them to relate to God at a gut level in a deep way if their own father is not that way.”                David Dollahite. Professor of Family Life at BYU

Our perspective can distort our view of God anywhere from a little to a lot. 

  •  If you think love is earned, then you probably think you have to earn God’s love.
  • If you think family is stifling and parents just don’t understand, do you think that might impact how you view God the Father who offers you a new family?
  • If you think the solution to conflict is to withdraw or shame the other party, what happens when you have a gripe with God?  What do you think God does? (And what do you do?)
  • If you experienced parents that abandoned you, or were embarrassed or burdened by you, or used you, or hurt you, or communicated that you were just not important enough for them to live sacrificially …. What do you think God thinks of you?

On the other hand, you may think love is given not earned, and family is a place of safety, and conflict is resolved through healthy confrontation and resolution, and that you are loved sacrificially, deeply, closely, and safely – and that probably effects your view of God.

Part of the good news of the Gospel is that our past is not beyond redemption. We are more than the sum of our past experiences.  God has offered us a way past the defining power of history.

1) Embrace the work of Christ

Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.” (John 3:6-7)

Everything connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (Ephesians 4:21-24, The Message)

God does not give us amnesia. Our past will still call to us. We will need to learn how to honestly express our feelings and emotions rather than stuffing them as if nothing happened. We still have to ask questions like, “Why am I feeling like this?”  There is a reason, and it should be sought. The good news is that, through the work of Christ, we can begin to make new and better memories. We can be rebuilt.

2) Find Yourself In God’s Story

 Joseph carried a hard family legacy into his slavery in Egypt. Yet we find him years later a changed man, free of the deception and manipulation that marked his history. 

“I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you!”  (Genesis 45:4-8)

 How is this change of heart possible? Joseph saw the hand of God at work. All those terrible things that shaped me?  God has shifted them around and made something new. Joseph saw that his life was more than the sum of his experiences. From an earthly perspective, Joseph should have been a wreck. But God took the ugly pieces and made something beautiful.

3) Find Your Place in God’s Spiritual Family

“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes…  You are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” Galatians 3:26-29 

“Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Mark 3:33-35)

 God’s Word and His Spirit will work in us, but we need to reach out to His people and let them help to rebuild us. With the help of God’s Word, His Spirit, and the company of our Christian friends, we can move past the parts of our past that have been broken, look up and see God with ever increasing clarity, and live in such a way that we more clearly reveal the heart and the presence of God.

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**The posts in this series (Look Beneath The Surface, etc) are built from a summary of notes I used when preaching a sermon series based on Peter Scazzero's Emotionally Healthy Church and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (both the books and the study guides). Most of the main points comes from his work. I note when I quote him directly, but most of what you read are this insights paraphrased or adjusted to fit my audience and venue. Learn more at his website and his blog, and by all means order his books and read them thoroughly.