Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Divine Image, the Family & the Social Order

Accompanying Video: 

Audio Message:

My grandma passed away recently.  I gave her a wind chime when I was young, and she hung it on her back patio. For years during my wayward times, I would be in a mental hospital, or in a rehab, or in jail, or overdosing, in the emergency room, and grandma would listen for the wind chime. And the wind chime would be blowing all over the place, making all sorts of noise. And she knew at those times, that I was in danger. And she would pray for me. The wind chime never broke, but boy did it take a beating.

The last time I saw grandma, it was early January. We went to see her at the nursing home. She hated it there. Someone had broke her tv. Other residents would randomly come into her room and stand over her bed at night. The nursing home had drained her bank account and taken her house. She was in a great deal of sorrow. She didn’t know who I was at first. And she was terribly confused. So I closed my eyes for a moment while I was there, and prayed that God would clear her mind for just a moment. And sure enough, God answered that prayer. And she remembered who I was. She said, her favorite grandson. Grandma Monica wasn’t perfect, none of us are, but she was a devout Catholic, a prayer warrior, a caring loving grandmother, and she will be missed.

Today we’re talking about family. The official title of this message is “Sociology: The Divine Image, the family, and the social order.” But ultimately what we’re talking about is family. Society broken down to it’s simplest repeating structure is the family unit. Husband, wife, and children. We’re going to see how God has designed society to function, and how that beautiful sovereign plan is being undermined in our world today.

God made all things, at the beginning of time, and he said after each creative act: “This is good.” He made the universe, the galaxies, the various plant life, animals, creatures, and then he made humanity. But he made man different than any other creation.

Genesis 1:26-27: Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

So if we are to trust the Bible as the definitive word of God, then this short paragraph makes it abundantly clear that every single human life is sacred and precious. You’ve never met a mere person, but every single person walking around doing their thing is a being made in the image of God. All of them. All people have that spark. Which means every single person matters.

Even the ones we disagree with. Even the people who make us angry. Which is why we should treat each person with dignity and respect. Even and especially the homeless, the addicted, the abused, and even the abusers. They are all made in the image of God, and therefore, able to receive knowledge of salvation and new birth through Christ Jesus our Lord.

So God designed humanity, and society, and he made it to be good. But, something went wrong, right? The first humans succumbed to a temptation, choosing to disobey God and this act of rebellion led to dire consequences.

Thomas Cole's "The Expulsion"

Genesis chapter 3 verses 17 to 19. God indicated the consequences of man’s rebellion, and self exaltation. “"Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.“

Cursed is the ground because of what was done. So today we live in a fallen world. Which for me, aches my heart a little bit everyday. I think about it as I live my life. What it means to live in a fallen world. It means people suffer. It means people do wrong. It means nations fight and war. To this very day, Russia struggles to take control of the Crimea. Syria is in the midst of civil war. In Iraq an armed insurgency is taking place. On and on the list goes. And people die. Recently my grandma died. My cousin Elizabeth died when she was five years old, drown in a pond. Someday I’ll die. This is a fallen world.

Man was made in the image of God. Theologians indicate that the fall caused a distortion of the image of God upon each man. We are still made in the image of God, with eternity stamped upon our souls, yet we struggle with sin. Our mindset and attitudes as we grow up are grounded in the ancient fall event: We tend to be selfish, instead of serving.

We tend to exalt ourselves, instead of others.

We tend to want to take control, instead of allowing God to be in control.

And each of us, each individual, made in the image of God, is accountable to God for how we live. Each person has certain responsibilities and certain inalienable rights.

In fact our society, our legal system was founded on that premise. Group rights were immaterial. There were no group rights or group identities. Our system was based on the premise that each individual person is made in the image of God, and endowed by their creator with inalienable rights. Government, society at large had no say in those rights, they were transcendent, beyond government’s authority. Government’s only job was to make sure none dare infringe on those rights.

Unfortunately when the Christian underpinnings of our culture and system of laws is swept away, as is happening today across our country, these rights tend to get swept away with them.

See, if people are not made in the image of God, but simply evolved animals, then it would make sense that it would be fine to exterminate unborn children. If they’re just evolved animals, then why not remove the unwanted ones? If people are just evolved animals, creatures, then why not euthanize the elderly? There are many countries considering such possibilities today. If people are just evolved animals, why not allow for assisted suicide? In fact countries like Belgium allow assisted suicide. I read about a 24 year old girl who was deeply depressed, who nearly went through with an assisted suicide. Thankfully she changed her mind.

These are just a few examples of how, when a society loses it’s identity, society begins to crumble. The truth is we are made in the image of God. Which means each life, even unborn lives, are absolutely precious. And it means that the elderly should be cared for, not euthanized in old age. And it means that suicide should always be unthinkable for someone made in the image of God.

Ultimately at the very core of society, of our sociological system is the family. The family is very simply, the father, the mother, and the children. This is a strong foundation for society. The mother and father support one another, love and care for one another, and they work as a team to guide their children and raise them up to be godly, ethical individuals who will support and contribute to the larger society.

Our entire society: our economy, our education system, the arts, entertainment, the laws, the government, and the church all rest in the arms of the family. Husband, and wife, and children. That is God’s design for the family.

Some say oh come on one man and one woman isn’t even in the Bible. Yes it is. Genesis 2 verse 24: “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” One man, leaves his father and mother, one father, one mother, and is united to his wife. Not wives, wife. Singular. One man, one woman. Some say hey there are multiple wives in the Bible. That’s true. The Bible isn’t just a straight teaching book, it includes history and tells what really happened. And every time there were multiple wives did it go well? Nope. Not with Jacob, and not with Solomon.

So God’s design according to Genesis 2:24, the family is one man and one woman. This is an eternal design. It doesn’t change. And if you think about it, it works pretty well; woman and man compliment each other quite well. And through this coupling children can be born. Wild how God’s design is not only elegant, but functional.

Today in our culture, man passionately argue, why can’t we allow man to marry man, or woman to marry woman? They say: If two people love each other why isn’t that enough? That is an emotional argument. But God has designed marriage in a particular way. He has designed the family in a particular way. And when we go outside God’s design, and breach his teachings on this, we do so at our own peril.

Romans chapter 1 verse 25-27: “They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”

That is a tough teaching for our day and age. Should we just read the fun verses in the Bible, just the John 3:16s, the Jeremiah 29:11s, and the Philippian 4:13s? Is every word of the Bible the word of God? Or do we get to ignore the passages we don’t like, like Romans chapter 1, verses 25-27?

The whole Bible, cover to cover is the word of God. If we get to ignore the parts we don’t like, then we might as well toss out the whole thing and just make it up as we go along.

Some might say, “Well who are you to judge? We’re not suppose to judge others.” I would simply reply, “I’m not judging anyone. I’m teaching the word of God. That’s my job as a pastor. The word says what it says, and doesn’t say what it doesn’t say.”

Love those who disagree with us on marriage, those who practice those relationships, befriend them, and minister to them, and invite them into the church, to know Christ, but don’t condone or encourage what God has told us not to do. His word and teaching is true, eternal, and unchanging. We can disagree on marriage, and still love one another and befriend one another.

I want to move on, but I think it’s vital that we understand that God designed the family in a particular way, and that God’s design is good. It is very good.

It’s a blessing that I want in my life. I want to be married, and to have a family. And God willing someday soon I believe I will.

One more thing regarding family: And Jesus talked about it a lot actually.

Mark Chapter 10: “‘God made them male and female' from the beginning of creation. 7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

So Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 and emphasizes it, this is God’s design of marriage, he affirms Gods design, of man and woman, united, and bearing children. And he even strengthens it saying, don’t split about whom God has brought together.

There are several implications.

First, divorce is a serious breach of family. Let me preface by saying that it is sometimes necessary. But the damage is severe for divorce. It’s a fundamental breaking of God’s design. Today in our society, about 50% of marriages end in divorce according to the American Psychological Association. The damage this does to children is severe, though some do deal with it better than others. My parents divorced when I was sixteen years old. I know how divorce feels to the children. It’s something you never forget.

Second implication, assuming you’ve followed God’s will in your life, then you’ve married the person God wanted you to be with. Isn’t that beautiful? God actually designs you to be with someone. I’ve seen many couples like that, where you just know they were made for one another. I’m trying not to be jealous. I really am.  It's a blessing.

Sometimes I look at your children and I think wow, that kid looks like a combination of her mom and her dad. Which, would certainly make sense. But it’s just amazing. We’re so blessed by God. We meet, we get married, it isn’t perfect or easy, but it’s fundamentally good. And then we have these children and raise them up with our values. It’s a blessing. We’re so blessed.

Sometimes we take our family for granted. But often times, like the soldier returning to his children, or her parents, we realize at times just how much it means. It’s love. Love and unity that binds our families together. Love and unity.

And just as our families are created in the image of God, as a community, just like the trinity is a community of Father, Son, and Spirit, so is our church and our society designed as a community.

Though we are born physically of parents and grandparents, we are born spiritually by the power of Jesus Christ, in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we are born again, and baptized into a new spiritual family.

One of the hardest things in following God’s design for my life was leaving behind my family in Wausau Wisconsin. Family is very important to me. Which is why you’ll often see my mom or my dad here at services. They come visit a great deal.

But Jesus said, Luke Chapter 14 verse 26: “"If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Jesus calls us to leave behind everything to follow him. He calls us to love Him above our friends, our family, and even our very lives.

Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and we are the church, not the building, the people. You and me.

Ephesians chapter 5 verses 31 to 33, big shocker, first we had Jesus quoting Genesis, now we have Paul quoting Genesis. It says “31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Husband and wife, become one. A unity. They become one. What did Jesus say about his relationship in the Trinity? The Father and I are. One. Unity. We are the church, and this scripture says Jesus and the church are: one. Unity. Paul writes also, that the church should be: one. Unity.

We start out joined to our family, as a unity, then we go and join with our wife or husband, and we are one. A unity. Then we meet Jesus Christ, and we become one with Him, through union with the church. The church is called the bride of Christ. As a guy, not my favorite comparison. I tend to picture myself in a white dress. Not sure why. But ultimately what it’s saying is that our destiny is unity, oneness with Christ, with the church, in the Spirit, unified with God the Father in the eternal city. That is our ultimate destiny.

Unity is our destiny. Oneness.

So in conclusion, sociology, the study of society shows us that the basic foundation of all of our society is the family. Husband, wife, and children. This institution is under attack today. But we can reclaim a biblical basis for family in our own lives. Ultimately though, the most important sociological structure for us is our connection to Jesus Christ, as the church of Christ. Our spiritual family, our church family, is so important. Churches ultimately unite society together across our country, and without the churches that sow our society together, I don’t know what America would look like. But the simple truth about our society is this: America is a blip on the radar of history. Countries are not usually this free, they aren’t usually this prosperous, and not usually this religious. As we see the United States battling in a culture war between the religious foundation and the militant secular revolutionaries, I hope we’re praying that God’s unity would be found in our societal structure, in our country, in our cities, in our churches, and in our families. 

Church of the Assumption, Malta
A Philosophical Transformation Series
1. What is Truth? A Battle of Worldviews
2. Science & Faith: The Existence of God
3. God's Overarching History: The Big Picture
4: Theology: Understanding God
5: Sociology: The Divine Image, the Family & The Social Order
6: Redemption of Man: The Cross (Paradise Regained)
7: Practicing our Faith: Principles to Live By
8: Government & Law: The Unique American Experiment
9: The Future Destiny of Man: The New Heavens & New Earth
10: Everything is about Jesus: Closeness with Christ & Living Missionally

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