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The Home that God Builds
God's Forever Family
Ephesians 3:14-15
Today I want to ask you to turn in your Bible to Ephesians 3:14-15.  We will be bringing our series on “The Home that God Builds” to a conclusion this morning with some good news and some bad news.
First, the bad news is it doesn't take a genius to see the family, as we have known it traditionally is under siege.  The family is going through tremendous changes in our country as well as around the world.  Many of the problems facing the family were unknown to the generation before it and yet today, the traditionally family with the father who is the bread winner and the mother who is the homemaker and children who grow up in a home where they have the same parents all of their life is unknown to many, many people in our world today.
Fifty percent of the marriages end in divorce, children grow up many of them, in single parent homes. As a result of this, children and youth have been affected in so many ways by so many pressures that those of us who grew up a generation ago did not know.  The stress today on the family is unprecedented in our national history.
One woman said, “Why do I need a home? I was born in a hospital, educated in school, courted in an automobile and married in a church.  I eat all my meals at restaurants, spend my mornings on the golf course, my afternoons at the bridge club, my evenings at the movies and when I die I will be cremated and buried in an urn.
I don't need a home; all I need is a garage in which to park my car.”
And many people can identify with that.  It seems we are so busy today, the family is never together at home.
Further complicating the issue is that no matter how hard we try, no home is ever going to be perfect.  Husbands and wives will never do everything to please their mate.  Children are still going to be rebellious.  Parents are going to make mistakes raising their children.  And even though you may be the most dynamic Christian in the church, you are not exempt from the possibility of home attacks.  In fact, that just may make you a more desirable target for the enemy.
And beyond that, you may be single or single again or married to a lost spouse or remarried after a failed marriage or marriages or be a widow or widower or have a thousand other issues that remove you from the typical definition of a traditional family and makes the ideal situation the Bible describes an impossibility.  So that’s the bad news.
No home is perfect and never will be and we have all kinds of complications that get in the way of us having the kind of home that God builds.
However, I’ve got some good news also.
Ephesians 3:14-15
Notice that reference to the whole family in heaven and in earth.
No matter what your family situation, no matter who you are or what you’ve been through or what’s going on right now, you can live in an ideal family and be a part of the home that God builds because can be a part of what I want to call today, God's forever family.
Listen:  your earthly family may never be what you would like for it to be because you can't undo the past, you can’t control other people’s behavior, you may not be able to climb the ladder and make all the money you want or a hundred other “wish-we-coulds” and “if-onlys”.
But I want you to know you can live in a family where you can have a Father who is immensely wealthy, He can meet all of your needs, He is extremely wise, He can give you counsel on exactly what to do.  You can live in a family where you will have millions of brothers and sisters who will love you and who will support you and encourage you.  You can be a part of God's forever family.
And I want to tell you something:  even more important than having a healthy, happy family here on earth is that you are a part of God's forever family.  Our earthly families are temporary, but God’s family is forever.  Every earthly relationship will come to an end; that relationship lasts for eternity.  Our earthly home will deteriorate or crumble; our home in heaven will because we are going to live in a family forever and forever and forever in a place called heaven. And I hope today you are a part of God's forever family.
A lot of people get really involved in family reunions.  In one church I pastured in a small community, family reunions killed church attendance because everyone married locally.  As a result everyone was kinfolk.  So when each family had their own reunion, the same folks attended!
I go to a family reunion every week!  Every Sunday right here in this place I get together with God’s forever family!  I enjoy seeing the members of the family and I want you to be a part of God’s forever family also.
So how do you get in?  First let’s talk about
1.  Your Entrance into God's Forever Family
Now the normal way to get into a family is by birth.    I became a part of the Tolbert family by birth.  My dad used to tell me I was hatched, but when I got to be about 21, I realized he was just kidding with me.  I was born into the Tolbert family.  I have four sons who became a part of the same family by the same means. 
Just as you get into a physical family by physical birth, you get into God's forever family by spiritual birth.  There is only one way to get into God’s family.  Jesus said to a Jewish attorney named Nicodemus, “You must be born again”.  Then He used the same analog of physical birth versus spiritual birth to tell Him about eternal life.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about how you get to be a part of the family of God.  Some people think you get to be a part of the family by ritual.
They think if you are baptized or sprinkled as an infant or confirmed as a teen that means you are a part of the family of God.  Remember our analogy, physical birth gets you into a family physically and spiritual birth is required to be a part of the forever family of God.
I am fearful today that a lot of people are members of the church who are not a part of the family of God.  How sad it would be to be baptized or make a public profession faith but never be a part of the family of God.  They’ve got their name on a church roll somewhere, but the book that really matters is the Lamb’s Book of Life.
In it is recorded the names of every person who is a part of the family of God.  When you were born they put your name on record at the courthouse.  There is a record of your birth.  If you are born again, if you are really a part of God's family, then God has your name in the Lamb's Book of Life.
Don’t be deceived or confused into thinking that just because you are a member of the church you are a part of the family of God.  I am not talking about just joining a church; I am talking about being born into a family.
It is not ritual or religion.  And it is not right living.  God wants us to live right, but living right doesn't make you a part of the family of God.  I could pretend to be somebody's son all I wanted to do.  I could just pretend that I am in that family, I could live like I am in that family, but unless I was born into that family nothing I could do would make me a part of that family.
You can't be a part of the family of God just by the way you live, just by turning over a new leaf.  In Titus 3:5 the Bible says, "it is not by the works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.
Now listen, "by the washing of regeneration and by the renewal of the Holy Spirit."  In other words, it is a divine miracle that puts you into the family of God.  Every birth, physical or spiritual, is a miracle.
To be born into the family of God means you are born again by faith in Jesus Christ.  John 1:12 says, "but to as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God even to those who believe on His name."
When you receive Christ, Jesus comes to live in your life, within your spirit.  You have a whole new relationship to God. It is a miracle of God.  It happens on the inside of you.  Your life is changed from that moment on.  Now you are part of God's forever family.
Have you ever studied how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly?  At first, he’s just an ugly worm crawling around in the dirt.  But in the fall of the year, he spins a cocoon around himself.  All winter long, he just hangs around in the cocoon.  But when the springtime comes, something miraculous begins to happen that results in a beautiful butterfly emerging from that cocoon.
What was once an ugly worm crawling around in the dust is now a beautiful creature flying through the air.
He may get his wings clipped, he might be injured, he might sometimes fall but no power on earth will ever change that butterfly back into the worm he once was.
Nicodemus didn’t realize it, but he uttered one of the most profound spiritual truths you will ever find in
John 3:4
He was asking about being born again and how that worked, but what He said, in so many words is, “You can never go back to what you once were.”  And that’s true.  If you get saved, you have to have a second birth experience because the first one can’t be repeated.  But there is a companion truth in that also.
You can never go back to what you once were.  When you are born, you stay whatever it is you were born as.  On the spiritual side of that thought that means whatever you are as a result of your birth you will always be.  Just as a butterfly will never again be a worm, once you are born again by the spirit of God, you will forever and always be what the birth has produced.
When you receive Christ, when you invite Jesus to come into your life personally, you become a member of the family of God from that moment on and nothing in this world that happens will ever change that fact.  You are eternally a part of the family of God.
When you are born into a family, you have somebody else’s blood running through your veins.
It doesn't make any difference if you disappoint
 them, it doesn't matter if sometimes you might not live up to all the expectations, you are still their child.
When you become a child of God, it doesn't mean that you are perfect.  It doesn't mean you won't make a mistake, it doesn't mean you won't sin but it does mean that you will always be a part of that family because the very blood of God is running through your veins.
God will always be your Father.  He will be there to correct you, to help you, to lift you up when you fall and you will always be a child of God.  I will always be the son of my father and nothing I can do will change it that was made possible because of my birth.  My father brought me into this world.
And I want you to know you will always be a part of the family of God once you are born again and God will always be your Father.  That is God's forever family.  That is your entrance; you are born into the family.  Have you been born again?
You may say, “We’ll I’m not convinced you can be sure.  Of course you can!  Are you convinced you were born the first time?  How do you know?  How can you be sure?  You have a birth certificate and there were witnesses.  You’ve got a birth day.  But I’m most convinced because I’m alive!
Listen:  As a child of God, I’ve got a birth certificate!  I’ve got witnesses. I’ve got a spiritual experience when I gave my life to the Lord.   But most of all I know because I’m alive unto God.  You ask me how I know I’m alive?  It’s because He’s alive in me!
When Jesus Christ came into your life and became a real person to you, there began a relationship in you between you and Jesus.  That is what it is to be born again. And if you have never had that time when you know that you know that you know that you were born again, until that happens you are not a part of God’s forever family because that’s how you get in.  That’s the entrance.  Next let me share with you
2.  The Enjoyment of God's Forever Family
What do you enjoy if you are a member of the family of God?  First, you enjoy
- forgiveness
God takes all your sins away.  Your sins are forgiven.  God has provided for your past sin, your present sin, and your future sin.
Not only do you enjoy forgiveness, you enjoy
- fellowship
The family of God is a place where we come together and you are accepted.  You are forgiven by other members of the family.  You know that is so important.  Children try to earn the acceptance of their parents.  They work, they strife to achieve to do everything they can and it is so sad when a child is doing everything he can to be noticed and accepted by his father or mother.
He wants mom or dad to put their arm around that child and say to him, I am proud of you son, I am proud of you daughter. They want to feel accepted.
Many times when they can't find acceptance they turn to the world and what it offers.  They will find acceptance somewhere in some crowd.  The family of God is a place where you are accepted and where we accept one another in a non-judgmental way.  Do you know what I want this church to be? I want it to be a model of what the family of God is to be.
I come across people all the time who are going through some problem or challenge and what God has intended to drive then to the church and to His Word and to His presence, instead drives them away from all that.
Listen:  When you are going through those difficulties is when you need God’s Word and God’s Church and God’s people more than ever before.  Listen:  The church is not for people who’ve got everything straightened out and perfectly aligned!
Church is not where we are waiting for you to get everything cleaned up in your life and get your act cleaned up and then you can come and get involved.  And those who act like it is are nothing but hypocrites.
How dare you look down your nose and be critical of others for the problems they’ve got!  They may well be a whole lot closer to God than you if that’s your attitude!
None of us are perfect; all of us are still struggling; we are all still growing.  Come to the family of God and we will accept you just like you are.  Run to the presence of Jesus!  Hurry to be near His people and involved in His Word!
God forgive us when we send the wrong message to a lost and hurting world.  Many times people refuse to come to church because they’ve been led to believe it is a place where you have to either be perfect or pretend to be or you will not be accepted.
But I will remind you the church is not a social club for saints; it's a hospital for sinners.  Jesus said I didn't come for the righteous; I came to call sinners to repentance.  The church ought to be a place where people find unconditional acceptance no matter where they are in their life.  How else can they get the help they need and find the strength they need to deal with the problems they face in their life?
No doubt there are a lot of people who are living in ways that we don't approve of.  But there is a great difference between approval and love.  I can love somebody without approving of all they do.  Jesus loved the woman caught in the act of adultery; it didn't mean that He approved of her sin.
There are lots of folks doing all kinds of things we disapprove of, but when they feel they are unwelcome here and can’t attend and hear the Word of God and be exposed to the things of God, then there is something terribly wrong, not with them, but with us.
And by the way, chances are you were doing some things the church didn’t approve of before you got into it and the only reason you got in was because somebody loved you in spite of what you were and what you were doing!  You may say, “Not me.  I’ve never done those things!  Well ring-a-ding-ding!  Pin a rose on your nose.  Maybe it was your old high and mighty attitude where you were looking won your nose and being critical and holier-than-thou about everybody else they had to over look!
You’re welcome!  
If we have to wait till people get everything right, they will never come.  Jesus said that He did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save the world.
It is not my job to condemn you; it is my job to reach out to you with the love of Jesus Christ.  And it’s not my job to convict you.  That’s the job of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit into the world and when He was come, He would convict the world of sin.  I am not the Holy Spirit of God.  And guess what?  You ain’t either!
All I need to do is love people and preach the word of God and the Holy Spirit will do the convicting work and show people what they need.   The church is a place where you enjoy can forgiveness and you can enjoy fellowship.
Then you enjoy the food of the family.  Us Baptist’s we’ve got this one down real well!  The food of the family is the word of God.  This is a place where you can come to God's banquet table and you can get a good meal and enjoy it.  Sunday after Sunday we emphasize the preaching of God's infallible, inerrant word as the answer to the needs of our life.
Now I know some of you enjoy it more than others.  It’s amazing to me how little of theWord of God satisfies some folk.  But I’ll tell you how I approach that subject.
I’m going to do my best to lay you out a feast every time you come.  I don’t care if it’s Wednesday night or Sunday morning or anytime in between.  I consider our time together to be too important for me to just slop together some kind of little old snack and expect you to be satisfied. I’m going to lay out a buffet so we can eat and be satisfied. And by the way, Sunday School teachers, I expect that of you also.
How dare we throw together some kind of little lesson late on Saturday night after everything else is done as if it’s not important.  If you’re not going to work hard at being a Sunday School teacher, then for the sake of the work, give it up and get out of the way!
When we come to church we ought to be given the opportunity to stuff ourselves on the bounty of the Word of God!  And if you don’t like that much, there’s the door!  Slip out anytime you want to.  You won’t offend me at all.  In fact it might help my spirit and the spirit of the church if you take your old bad attitude and go on down the road.  But don’t be critical and mad just because some of us have more of an appetite for the things of God than do you.
When you get into God’s forever family, you have the privilege of enjoying forgiveness and fellowship, and food.
3.  The Entitlements of God's Forever Family
As a part of God’s family, He gives us certain entitlements.  That means there are some things coming your way, not because of what you’ve done or desrerve, but simply because of who you are.
For instance, if you are born into God's family, you are entitled to
- eternal life
We’ve already talked about God’s family being a forever family.
But you are also entitled to
- abundant life
God doesn't just want to add years to your life; He wants to add life to your years.  Life doesn't begin at forty it begins at Calvary.  When you come to know Jesus, life here and now really begins.
Then you enjoy
- answered prayer
Jesus said, "if you abide in Me and My word abides in you, you will ask what you will of the Father in My name and I will give it unto you."
You are entitled to
- acceptance by God
Paul said in Romans 8:15, God has accepted you in the beloved; you can call Him Abba Father.  That means there is not one thing in this world you can do to make God accept you more.  There is not one thing in this world that you could do, not one mistake you could make to make God accept you less.  God accepts you "period" when you are born into His family.  You have been accepted by God.
In the family of God, we are entitled to
- an incorruptible inheritance
Romans 8:17 says you become an heir of God, a joint heir with Jesus.  Now let’s slow down there for a moment.  The Bible says Jesus is going to inherit all things.  Now if Jesus is “the” heir of God and we are joint heirs with Him, then everything that’s coming to Him is coming to us.
Why in the world do I need to run around disgruntled and disappointed and down in the mouth because the world’s stuff is not mine?  I’m a child of the King and He has chosen to share His wealth with me.  That is why we celebrate, that is why we are happy, and that is why we can sing and praise God because of the entitlements we have in God's forever family.
Last of all, what is
4.  The Expression of God's Forever Family
In Ephesians 3:21 Paul said, "unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."  Unto Him be glory, where? In the church.
The word church is used many times in the New Testament.  I think the number is something around 110 times. Did you know the vast majority of those usages is referencing a local, visible, expression of the body of Christ?
I have to laugh when I hear people downplay the importance and significance of the church.  They try to tell us it’s old and antiquainted and out of touch.
But the Bible declares that Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for it. Are you saying that the church is not important when Jesus laid down His life for the church? There is only one institution Jesus said He would build.  He didn't say He would build a lodge, He didn't' say He would build a school, He didn't say He would build some other religious organization.
Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build My church.”  What is the visible expression of God's forever family?  It is the church. It is this church.  That is why we are where we are.  We are to be a visible expression of the invisible body of Jesus Christ.  And it is so important for you to be a part of the church.
Listen, Jesus wants to build three homes for you.  Satan is the great home wrecker.  Jesus is the great homebuilder.
Jesus wants to build first of all,
- the home of your family
That’s why we’ve spent these last six weeks studying about the home that God builds.  “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor, labor in vain”.
He wants to build your marriage, whatever marriage you are in.  He wants to improve your home, whatever your home situation.  Turn it over to Him.  He is the great homebuilder.  He wants to build the home of your family.
Secondly, He wants to build
- the home of your faith
 Jesus said upon this rock I will build My church.  This church is not my church, it is not the deacon's church, it is your church, God's church.  Jesus said, “I will build My church.” And it is so important to be connected to a church where you can express the fact that you are a part of God's forever family.
If you are not a part, a member of God's church and God has led you here I hope you will come today.  God wants to build the church of your faith.
Last of all God wants to build
- the home of your future
In John 14, Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you.  In my Father's house there are many mansions.”  Then He said, “I am going to prepare a place for you.”
Or we could say it “I am going to prepare a home for you”.  There are some beautiful homes being built around the country.  There is lots of money and time being devoted to building some beautiful houses.
But Jesus right now is building a home for you in which you will live for all of eternity.  The Bible says, "eyes have not seen nor ears heard, neither has it entered into the heart of those what God has prepared for them that love Him."  What a beautiful place it is going to be.  There will be no tears, no sorrow, no suffering, and no death.
There are lots of beautiful places in the world to see and visit, but I want to tell you something:  the place I like best is home.
One of these days you are going to see the gates of glory and you are going to say there is my home.  You are going to live in that home with all of your brothers and sisters in Christ in God's forever family.
So the question of the hour is, “Are you a part of God’s forever family?”  Do you have a spiritual birthday?
You may have to say, “Pastor, no I don’t, or I am not sure that I have done that.”  Then listen, it is very simple.  The Bible says, “To as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God.”  Today can be your spiritual birthday.  No matter where you find yourself or what your circumstances, today can be the beginning of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ as He welcomes you into your forever family.
Author Keith Miller tells of an outgoing 40-year-old woman who was part of a sharing group he led. Here is her story:
"When I was a tiny little girl, my parents died and I was put in an orphanage. I was not pretty at all and no one seemed to want me. But I longed to be adopted and loved by a family as far back as I can remember. I thought about it day and night, but everything I did seemed to go wrong. I must have tried too hard to please the people who came to look me over and what I did was to drive them away.
But then one day, the head of the orphanage told me that a family was coming to take me home with them. I was so excited that I jumped up and down and cried like a little baby.
The matron reminded me that I was on trial and this might not be a permanent arrangement, but I just knew that somehow it would work out.
So I went with this family and started to school. I was the happiest little girl you can imagine, and life began to open up for me just a little. But then one day a few months later, I skipped home from school and ran into the front door of the big old house we lived in. No one was at home, but in the middle of the front hall was my battered suitcase with my little coat thrown across it. As I stood there it suddenly dawned on me what it meant---I didn’t belong there anymore."
Miller reports that when the woman stopped speaking there was hardly a dry eye in the group. But then she cleared her throat and said almost matter-of-factly, "This happened to me seven times before I was 13 years old. But wait, don’t feel too badly. It was experiences like these that ultimately brought me to God---and there I found what I had always longed for---a place, a sense of belonging, a forever family."
And if that’s what you’re looking for, let me be the first to say, “Welcome home!”
Let's pray.
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