The Family of God

It???s only the third chapter in the gospel of Mark and already Jesus has healed several people and developed a following.  His name has gotten out among the masses and he can barely go anywhere without people following him.  He???s appointed the 12 disciples and our story picks up with Jesus and the others at home trying to eat.  The crowds are smothering him, his family is worried about him, and the Pharisees want to be rid of him.  

First, Jesus has begun his ministry in a big way.  Prior to our text, Jesus has announced what it is he has come to do and he???s done it through casting out demons and healing the sick.  In Luke 4.18???19, God???s will is that Jesus ???. . . bring good news to the poor . . . to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord???s favor.???  This is a bold statement, one that gets Jesus in trouble with religious authorities and even causes his own family to be worried over him.  For them, it may not have been so much that they didn???t believe in who he was or what he had come to do, but that he was going to hurt his reputation or even himself in the process.  But Jesus has a strange encouragement concerning his ministry and his reputation.  He says that his real brother, sister, and mother are those that do the will of God. 

You see, our biological and earthly families can appear to be the greatest gift we could ever receive.  And truthfully, they are…here on earth.  But Jesus point is that the family of God is an everlasting family; one that is born here and extends far beyond this place.  To be born into a natural family or form a new family is an amazing gift, but Jesus wants his followers to understand that nothing compares to the family that is created through Jesus Christ.  God???s sacrificial gift through Jesus gives birth to us in a way that a natural family cannot.  God has brought earthly families together for blessing and fellowship but also for the purpose of giving way to a heavenly family that???s bond is Jesus.  To be a part of that family doesn???t involve entering into the womb again, but rather it is being born again through the Spirit, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3.  

This is why your Church family is so important.  What we are building here as a church is a community of people that are trained up to accomplish the will of God.  God???s will is what makes us a family.  For God to bring us together in and through Christ and to redeem us means that we have been forgiven of our sins, baptized in the water, filled with the Holy Spirit and prepared for kingdom living.  Our purpose is to become heavenly citizens on an earthly plane.

We are given this life as a gift in order to prepare for the next.  How will you live now in order to prepare for later?  How are you living now that is preparing others for later?  The purpose of all this is to grow the family of God and that takes acting like a family???in unity with God and each other.  But what happens when we are divided?  We don???t grow.  We fight, we argue and quarrel.  We split up and abandon one another when instead we ought to be offering ourselves for the better of one another.  Look at the Pharisees in our text.  Who did they care about?  What did they care about?  They cared about themselves and they cared about their power.

The Pharisees didn???t want to grow God???s family, they wanted to control it.  This is the reason they came to Jesus and said he was casting out demons by the power of the devil.  You see, for Jesus to cast out demons would mean that he would have to have power.  That leads to the question, ???Where does his power come from????  If this power was from God, this would have serious implications toward the Pharisees and their control over the people and religious life.  But if they could convince the people that Jesus was casting out demons through an evil power, then it would detract from his ministry and cause the people to turn away from him.  But Jesus??? gives them a warning and a very serious one at that.

To denounce the work Jesus is doing is to denounce the Holy Spirit who has anointed Jesus for this work.  The Holy Spirit is the presence of God given to Jesus to do the will of the Father.  This denouncing is blasphemy in the worst way???blasphemy meaning profaning God.  With their statements they are in effect crediting the work of God to the work of Satan.  Could their be any greater offense?  Jesus says there isn???t.  His reply is, ???but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin…??? (Mark 3.29).  This is not to say that one could not repent of such a statement, but for anyone to harden their heart to the work of God there is an everlasting penalty.  

Sadly enough, the Pharisees are excluding themselves from the family of God by choosing to do their own will rather than God???s will.  If they would align themselves with the mission of Jesus, then they would be welcome among those who desire to put God first in their lives.  But, like the Prodigal Son, they have chosen to renounce their family and their Father and go their own way.

Their example shows the depth of human sin.  They are willing to call God himself the devil just to have what they want.  Sin is a powerful force, one that seeks to reign in our hearts and continue to bind us to its influence.  But what has Christ said even today in this passage?  That he has come to bind up the strong man, the devil, and plunder his property, which are the souls of those held captive by sin.  See, here it is again, Jesus coming to release the captive and free the oppressed.  NO MORE shall the strong man hold the children of God in bondage to sin and death.  No, Christ has come to defeat the powers that chain souls and harden hearts.  

And as disciples, we are co-laborers in this work.  We are called according to God???s purpose, to grow the kingdom of God through a holy family called the Church.  We have a mission before us, to reach out to those who don???t even realize that God is calling out to them to come home.  Fanny Crosby said it best in her song Rescue the Perishing, ???Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, / Feelings lie buried that grace can restore; / Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, / Chords that were broken will vibrate once more / Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, / Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.???  

In the tiny New Testament book of Jude, v.20???23 it says, ???But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.  And have mercy on some who are wave
ring; save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.???
  If we are acting as a family, then there are very few things that can stop us if we lock arms and pray.  God is on our side, going ahead of us, standing with us, and always behind us.

So I ask you today: who are your brothers, your sisters, your parents?  Are they simply the ones you live with or those who gave you birth?  Will you reach out, beyond your own will and take upon yourself the mission and will of God to rescue the perishing by welcoming them into the family of God?  I say join Jesus in his mission to release the captive and free the oppressed.  And if that is you today, then hear this: God is calling out to you, he has opened his arms, and stands ready to receive you into his eternal family.  Amen.

Rev. Whit R. Martin
Pastor, New Liberty United Methodist Church

Devotional Blog ???

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