God in my Family
GOD IN MY FAMILY
PREACHER – ANTONIO COPPOLA
Those of you who know me well will know that my family is very important to me. I love my family – my immediate family (that’s why I still live at home, technically that it!), and my big fat Italian family. My idea of a perfect Sunday is to be with my famiglia around a huge table, eating pasta, olives, fresh home made bread and lots of other Italian food, drinking lots of red wine, enjoying each others’ company – playing games with my little cousins, connecting with my older cousins and hearing old stories from my grandparents about how life was in our village in Italy those many years ago.
Families are really special. Whether we like it or not, the most important relationships that we will ever have are with our family. Our families have the potential to be the place where we experience unconditional love – where we’re loved and accepted for who we are, where we can be real and honest and others can be real and honest with us, where our rough edges are sanded down and where we can really grow and mature into the person that God has created us to be.
I see this often when ministering to people – those that come out of strong, loving families almost always are more successful people all round – they tend to have better relationships, experience stable quality friendships and they tend to be more secure in who they are. I am generalising, but many who haven’t experienced a positive family life tend to have trouble in relationships and their identity. There is of course nothing that God can’t fix and heal, and I’ve experienced him restore a great deal in my own life. But the point is here is that our families are spiritual battle grounds. Because they are so key in our lives, Satan has a go at them, as he knows how powerful a healthy, Godly family can be in the kingdom.
This is why many of us have not experienced the ‘ideal’ family life. I know that my family isn’t perfect. Most of my extended family don’t know the Lord. Many of us have not experienced the love and affirmation that we were meant to experience from our parents. Many of us come from dysfunctional families, our parents are divorced, we have step parents, maybe one of our parents is dead, or there are severely damaged relationships within the family where some of our family don’t even speak to one another. Perhaps we have experienced abuse in our family – sexual, verbal, physical, whatever. Perhaps our parents and siblings are not Christians. Perhaps they are Christian, but don’t act like it around us. Whatever the case is, most families are far from perfect. Maybe for us it feels like we’ve been robbed of something that would should have experienced, but have not.
God and the Family
The good news is that God is passionate about healthy families and desires us to experience a healthy and full family life as a part of the abundant kingdom life that Jesus offers. So, what do the Scriptures tell us about God in our families? This passage from Deuteronomy is so crucial here, so let’s unpack it.
“Now this is the commandment, the statues and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statues and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.
Some context – Deuteronomy is a sermon by Moses to the Israelites as they are about to cross into the Promised Land. He’s telling them how to live the best possible way in the land, how to live God’s best for them. We know that, from the perspective of the New Covenant, our Promised Land is the abundant kingdom life that Jesus has to offer us now.
So, he’s saying here that if we want to take hold of and enjoy the abundant life and live in a land flowing with milk and honey, then there are certain things that we need to do…
Let’s just pause here and state that I don’t believe that God is saying our salvation is dependent on anything we do. We can do nothing to earn God’s blessing – it’s all grace! He has freely made his grace available to us through Jesus – but it is up to us to take hold of it, and not live passively and be apathetic towards what God has freely made available to all of us who trust in him.
So what is our side of the deal in terms of taking hold of the abundant life?
- Fear the LORD (v.2)
Basically worship, serve and obey the true God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and not be led astray by the false gods and idols of the world.
- Get your family to fear the LORD (v.2)
Not only does this Scripture say that we must worship and fear the Lord, but that our whole family, our whole household – our kids and grand kids – must worship, fear and obey the Lord.
We see here that the heart of God is that our families and households are to be places where God is worshipped and glorified. Our relationship with God is not meant to be just restricted to us personally, but it is God’s will that our relationship with Him affects all our relationships, here, specifically our family relationships. When this happens, the Scriptures indicate to us that we get a glimpse of heaven in our lives – verse 3 says that it will go well with us, that we will multiply greatly and that we will taste and experience the land that flows with milk and honey. Incredible promises of the Lord for us.
Spirituality and our worship to God are meant to be at the heart of our families. I believe that one of the reasons we experience problems in our families is because we have separated God from our families. We tend to keep the God part of our lives at church, while live differently elsewhere, including our homes. And I’m talking about us Christians here. Why is there still divorce amongst Christians? Why do some Christian parents have shocking relationships with their kids. Why do some Christian kids have shocking relationships with their parents?
Obviously we have ourselves to blame when we act out of line and don’t treat people well. We are all on a journey with God, and he is still moulding a saint out of this sinner! But, I also believe that the way in which we do church contributes to the problem too.
Our expectation of church is that it is the place where we will worship, receive meaty teaching, get discipled by the pastors and leaders, grow in the Lord, fellowship with other believers. If we have kids we expect that it will be the place where our kids will learn God’s Word in Sunday School and later in the youth group. Now there is nothing wrong with any of these expectations – in fact all these things contribute to a healthy church.
But – because most churches offer all of this, as families we’ve become lazy and handed over a lot of what God has called us to do within our own families, to church leaders. Let me explain…
Biblical discipleship actually happens within the family. Verse 2 said that it is our responsibility to teach our family about God, specifically train our kids in the ways of the Lord. Research has shown that most people come to faith in Jesus through members of their family and close friends, and quite minimally through church ministry events. Shows how vital discipling our families is! Verses 7-9 go on to say…
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
What’s it saying here? Teach your family God’s Word – talk about God in your house with your family. Talk about God when you travel with your family. Talk about God when you rest at home with your family. Talk about God in the morning when you wake up with your family. Take God’s Word seriously. Write God’s Word in your house so your whole family can see it.
This is radical discipleship, and it’s all based at home, with the family!
The biblical role of the father is to be the priest, prophet and king of the home. That means it is father’s role to take God-given leadership in the home, leading his family in the ways of God. This starts in the home, and is only supported and encouraged by going to church.
How can I bring God into my Family?
So, how do we do this? What is our God-given role in our family? How do we live to see our families transform into what God really desires them to be? Places of love, affirmation, growth, where everyone is growing in the things of God? Some of us may think at the moment that’s pretty impossible! Remember though that Jesus compared the growth of the kingdom to yeast in a batch and a mustard seed – it takes time, and has small insignificant beginnings.
If we are still at home with our parents – we may not realise it, but God can use us in a big way. Especially if our parents and siblings are not believers, we have an incredible opportunity to bring them into the kingdom and potentially see our whole family transformed.
Pray for your family. Prayers are effective. If there are problems or if you want to see a change, start with prayer! Ken & Jen’s Home Group…
Don’t separate your church life from your family life. Effect of having home group at our house – I believe it’s changed my family – my parents, Lorenzo, Andrea will come around soon… So bring God into your home, be creative! Bring more of your believing friends home, have socials at your home – it’s a good witness. Just don’t get drunk!! YA families examples…
Repair relationships where you can. Healthy relationships are God’s will. It breaks God’s heart when family members have broken relationships. So, take the initiative, don’t wait for them to make the first move, show them grace and display forgiveness. In other words, put your faith into action.
If you are a parent – now I know I’m not talking from experience (well, you hope!) but it’s how I’d like to be a father. I’m looking forward to the day when I’m a dad as I want to be the priest, king and prophet of my home. I want to love my wife the same way Christ loves the Church – unconditionally and passionately. I want to bring up my kids in the ways of God, teaching them the Bible, blessing them, speaking words of prophecy and affirmation over them. I want to love my children unconditionally and see them grow up into mighty warriors for the Lord. I want to have prayer and worship times as a family. Celebrate God’s goodness and provision over special meals where we thank God together as a family. I want to lead my family by Godly example so that they will want to follow Jesus with all their heart.
Families have such potential to be powerhouses for God’s kingdom. Places where lives are transformed, disciples of Christ raised up, and ultimately communities transformed. Let’s be people who bring God into our families and experience this happen in our lives!