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The Functional Family (Ephesians 4:1-3

Fixing the Family

The Functional Family

Ephesians 4:1-3

 

A lot is said these days about the dysfunctional family. In fact, last week I probably gave you information overload with statistics about the modern family. We looked at such subjects as divorce and teen crime and the effects the disintegrating family are having on the home.

 

Then Sunday evening we looked at an Old Testament example of a dysfunctional family through the home of Isaac and Rebekah and their sons, Jacob and Esau.

 

And we began a study to consider what can be done about fixing the family. Our starting point was to realize our homes must be governed as God governs. And from Psalm 89, we saw that God's throne is established on the foundation of righteousness and justice, and His traveling companions are mercy and truth.

 

Now if just those two principles were employed in homes, the effect would be staggering. Can you imagine what our neighborhoods and state and nation would look like if, in every home, we were operating according to God's standards of righteousness and justice and responding and relating to our families with mercy and truth?

 

I would suggest that most, if not all of America's problems in the home could be eliminated immediately. Now it is critical, and we talked about this last week, that we must take personal responsibility for our families.

So what kind of changes could we expect? Well, let's think today about what a functional family looks like. As I said, we hear lots about the dysfunctional home. The word "dysfunctional" is an adjective that means things are "not operating normally or properly." It means "deviating from the norm in a way that's regarded as bad."

 

I ran across a definition for the dysfunctional family that says, "A dysfunctional family is one in which conflict, misbehavior, and often abuse on the part of individual members occur continually and regularly, leading other parts of individual or other members of the family to accommodate such actions."

 

What that means is there's something wrong in one part of the family and it causes the other part of the family to react in a dysfunctional way to accommodate the bad actions.

 

One part is messed up and the other part gets messed up to deal with the mess in the first place. And the dynamics of that can escalate and grow until every part of the family is affected.

 

The initial dysfunction might be an addiction or a behavior or an emotion. But one part of the family expresses that dysfunction and everybody else has to deal with it, and therefore they wind up being dysfunctional also.

 

I want you to hear me in what I'm going to say: God did not create the family unit to be dysfunctional. In fact, just the opposite, He intended the family and home to be a living, breathing illustration of Himself and His love for the world to see.

 

That's why He told husband to love their wives just like Christ loved the church and died for it. That's why He told wives to honor and graciously submit to the spiritual authority and leadership of their husband. That's why He wants children to honor and obey their parents. He desires that because that's the way things work in the Kingdom of God.

 

So I think maybe what we should do instead of talking about and studying and researching the dysfunctional family so much, is to spend some time looking at what the functional family looks like. And maybe we should take some time to see and think about what could be possible in our homes if our families operated as God designed them to operate.

 

Listen: God doesn't want your home to be dysfunctional. He wants your home to be a place that honors Him and points people to Him. He wants your family to function as He designed. He wants your family to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit. That's means it will be a place of love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and gentleness and faithfulness and self-control.

 

So here's the question for today: How can we experience the joy and blessing of a functional family? How can that be true for your home and mine? How do we put the principles we learned last week into practice?

 

Well, the answer to that question involves everyone in this room, whether you're a young family just getting started or a senior adult living by yourself. It includes families with no children and those with a houseful.

 

 

It extends to children and teenagers who live with parents who don't attend church and those who worship faithfully as a family unit. This message is for you because everybody is involved. Everybody can have influence on making whatever family unit you have to be a functional family.

 

And it does nobody any good for us to gripe and complain about what everyone else in the family is or isn't doing, but never deal with ourselves. So today I want you to study with me from Ephesians 4 as we seek to gain some insight into how the family of God is supposed to operate, and how it spills over into the family that stays in our home.

 

Listen to Ephesians 4:1-3

 

There are four things in this text I want you to see. First, if our families will function as God designed, we must

 

1. Get Serious about Walking with God

 

verse 1

 

Let me point out a couple of things to help us understand the text. There is a tendency to believe this verse is just for preachers or ministers. After all, he's talking about our calling.

 

While it's true there is a lot in the Bible written for God-called ministers, this verse isn't about that. The calling he's talking about in this verse is the calling of salvation. He's talking to believers and how they live in the world.

 

 

Now the specific instruction is to "walk worthy". In the New Testament, "walking" typically has to do with daily conduct. Therefore, "walking worthy of our calling" is the idea of living to march your position in Christ.

 

So the exhortation is a very practical one. Paul has moved away from Bible teaching to Bible application. Since he uses the word "therefore", he is telling his hearers to take the teaching he has provided them in the first three chapters of the book and use it in daily living.

 

And in a general way, there is a great need for Christians to walk worthy of their calling, but that is especially true in our homes. And I don't care how good your family life is, it could be improved if every family member made a determined effort to get serious about their walk with God.

 

And by the way, I don't care how bad your family life is either. What it needs most of all is for the Christians in that home to get serious about their walk with God also.

 

I realize some of you are living in terrible situations. And you don't see how in the world you can walk with God in that environment. You may be in a home where your spouse doesn't serve God or you're living with an evil step-mother. Maybe you're in a blended home and it's not blending too well.

 

And you may be saying, "I just don't know how I can do this. My circumstances are so bad." Well before you write it off as impossible, I want you to look again at this verse.

 

Notice, Paul says, "I am speaking to you as a prisoner of the Lord."

 

What does he mean by that? Is he just writing as one who views himself held in captivity to Jesus because He saw Jesus as Master and himself as a servant? Well, he saw himself that way, but that's not what he's saying.

 

The letters of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon are called the prison epistles because Paul wrote them while incarcerated in Rome. He was chained between two Roman guards and held as a prisoner for preaching the gospel.

 

But notice, Paul doesn't say he's writing as a prisoner of Rome. You'd think that's what he would say. "I, therefore, the prisoner of Rome, beseech you," because that's where he was. He was a prisoner in Rome, but he doesn't look at it like that. But he's not whining about it. He's not excusing himself so he doesn't have to walk worthy of his calling.

 

He's says, "I may be held in Rome, but I'm writing to you as a prisoner, a captive of the Lord because He is the One Who is in charge of every circumstance in my life. The Romans don't have charge over me. God has charge over me. And even though I'm imprisoned, I'm walking worthy of my calling, and I'm writing to instruct you to do the same, regardless of your circumstances."

 

Remember when Jesus appeared before Pilate and Pilate is aggravated because Jesus won't talk to him. He says, "Don't you know that I have the power to release You, or I have the power to crucify You?"

 

And Jesus said, "You have no authority whatsoever except what My Father in Heaven has given to you."

 

Listen: anything and everything that happens in your life, God is over it all. That doesn't mean that God causes it. God is not the author of child abuse. He's not the responsible for sexual abuse. He's not the author of domestic violence. God hates those things. Those aren't the will of God. But God is in charge of everything in your life. See, nothing comes to your life unless it first filters through His fingers of love. And God is over it all.

 

That means God is over all your circumstances. And God has a purpose in all those circumstances. In every prison, God has a purpose. You say, "Well, what in the world is God's purpose in my situation with my parents getting divorced?"

 

It's the same as it is with every difficult situation. God is putting you on display. He wants to show the world what Christianity looks like. He wants people to see how you respond and react when the going gets tough.

 

God wants you to shine for Jesus Christ in all your circumstances. In every prison, God says, "I want you to shine for Me. I want you to trust Me in this difficult situation and shine for Me." Maybe you're 7 years-old and you've only been a Christian for six weeks. God says, "I want you, in that difficult home, to shine for Me, to be light in a dark place." The Lord has a purpose there.

 

 

 

 

Paul, in prison, was shining for the Lord Jesus Christ. "I'm not the prisoner of Rome. I'm the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. He's my Master. He's my Savior. He's my Boss. He's over everything in my life. And He wants me here in prison for whatever reason. I don't understand it, but I'm here, and I'm going to shine for Him." Chained to one Roman guard on his right, chained to another Roman guard on his left. Paul was a witness there in his incarceration.

 

By the way, before his life came to an end, Paul became very accomplished at prison ministry. He closes out the book of Philippians, which was written in prison there in Rome, by saying, "All the saints greet you, especially those in Caesar's household." Well, who were those in Caesar's household? The guards! He led them to the Lord and now they are sending their greetings to other Christians. He won them to Christ because they saw him shine for Jesus.

 

In Philippi, Silas and he were beaten for preaching the gospel and wound up in prison. The Scripture says, "But about midnight, Paul and Silas began praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them."

 

Wow! You talk about shining in bad circumstances, shining in a dark place. That First Century prison there in Philippi that was a dark, nasty place. But they shined! And the prisoners were listening. And before it was over, he led the warden of the prion and his entire family to the Lord!

 

Listen. People watch. People notice. People in your family notice when you walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. You might be the only one, but they notice.

 

You might be a kid and you say, "What can I do in my dysfunctional family?" You can walk with God in your dysfunctional family and shine and realize you're not the prisoner of a dysfunctional family; you're the captive of the Lord Jesus Christ. And He will honor your faith as you walk in a manner worthy of Him. So that's the first thing. And you can do it, and I can do it, and we can do it as we look to the Lord Jesus Christ. You can get serious about walking with God.

 

Here's the second thing. If my family will function as God designed it, not only must I get serious about walking with God, I must

 

2. Get Serious about Treating My Family Right

 

verse 2

 

There are lots of key words in that verse. We see the words lowliness and gentleness. He mentions longsuffering and patience. The word love is in there.

 

Now most of the time, we use those words and this verse and others like it to talk about our relationships in the church. And I'm not against that. I think all of this should be true of us as brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

But let me remind you of something about Christianity and the church. If it doesn't work at home, it doesn't work. Understand what I'm saying? The church has more than enough members who put on a show down at the church, but they are not at home what they are in public. Anybody can clean up and dress up and put on a smile and everybody will think you're really something down at the church. Lots of people fake it for a couple of hours on Sunday.

But what we are at home is what we really are. And first and foremost, God wants to make a difference in our home. If we will ever know God's blessing and approval in our outward ministries, we must learn to be the people God wants us to be at home.

 

Second, Paul instructs his hearers to practice

 

- lowliness

 

That's humility! It's interesting that the Romans and Greeks had no word for humility. In fact, many historians believe it was a word coined by early Christians, and maybe by Paul himself, to describe the quality most evidenced by Christ.

 

Now, we need to understand, humility is not thinking less of ourselves than we should. It doesn't mean you walk around with slumped shoulders talking about how terrible you are. That's not being poor in spirit; that's just poor posture!

 

A humble person is simply someone who doesn't have to be first all the time. They don't have to win every fight or always think of themselves before they think of anyone else. A humble person is someone who thinks about other people and their needs and feelings. Humble people aren't selfish.

 

And I know it will come as a shock to some of you, but everything doesn't revolve around you! Life is not all about you! That is the attitude of a selfish, spoiled brat. And unfortunately in far too many homes, we've got grown men and women, husbands and wives acting like little children.

 

 

I ran across this little piece called "The Property Laws of a Toddler: Evidences of Original Sin." It's what a little toddler would say if he knew how:

 

"If I like it, it's mine. If it's in my hand, it's mine. If I can take it from you, it's mine. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way. If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are mine. If it just looks like mine, it's mine. If I saw it first, it's mine. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine. If it's broken, it's yours."

 

That's a little kid. That's nursery behavior. But we've got full-grown, educated adults still trying to operate by the toddler's rules. Listen: You will never fix your family and function as God designed if you are full of pride and selfishness. So here is what you do.

 

Treat them, your family members, as more important than yourself. That's what Paul wrote to the Philippians. Listen to what he said in

 

Philippians 2:3-4

 

Listen guys, husbands: your wife is more important than you are. Wives, your husband is more important than you are. Kids, your parents are more important than you are. Parents, your kids are more important than you are. Learn to treat others as more important than yourself and you will never have to worry about living a selfish life.

 

Paul also says, use,

 

- gentleness

 

Gentleness is meekness and its primary idea is that of self-control. It means to have a mild spirit. Sir, does that describe you and the way you react to your wife and children? Mom, are you gentle? It's amazing to me that a lot of people would never dream of treating or talking to their dog or cat they way they do their kids, but when the kids mess up or the spouse disappoints, they unload!

 

I read about one police recruit who was asked during his exam, "What would you do if you had to arrest your own mother?" He answered, "Call for backup."

 

Be gentle! And then, demonstrate

 

- loving patience

 

I love the way verse 2 is translated in The New Living Translation. It says, "Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love."

 

I feel sorry for families where kids are expected to be perfect! Have you ever seen 'em? I don't know which I feel more sorry for, the kids who are expected to be perfect or the parents that expect them to be that way!

 

I read about a father of 5 who came home with a toy. He called his children in and asked which one should be given the present. "Who is the most obedient, never talks back to mom and does everything he or she is told to do?" he inquired. There was silence, and then a chorus of voices: "You play with it daddy!"

 

Listen there is only one perfect Parent and that is God and there is only one perfect Child and that is Jesus. And even His earthly parents made mistakes. After all, they lost Jesus! How do you lose Jesus? And how do you explain that to God? The nation of Israel has waited on the Messiah for 1,000's of years, God entrusts Him to you, and you lose Him!

 

Everybody messes up! Kids mess up and parents mess up, and even grandkids mess up! And knowing that, God instructs Paul to encourage his hearers to be long suffering. By the way, do you know what it means to be long suffering? It means you cut folks some slack.

 

The Greek word literally means to be long tempered and it refers to a resolved patience. It means to be determined to be patient and it is the outgrowth of humility and gentleness. I know we want our kids to do right and be obedient and turn out well, and there is nothing wrong with that. I think we ought to work hard to accomplish it.

 

But not everything always works out the way we want it to and it doesn't because we are not perfect parents and they aren't perfect kids and we live in a sinful world where Satan never rests. Remember, he is roaming around, just looking for a good meal! That means your family is the target of Satan.

 

So when things don't go as smoothly as you would like and your kids mess up or your spouse burns the toast, chill out and cut them some slack. And by the way, kids, it wouldn't hurt anything for you to cut your parents some slack also.

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, they're going to make mistakes. But they love you and God has given them the responsibility of raising you and you could do yourself a favor if you started listening to what they have to say and realize they love you more than anybody else in the world.

 

There are lots of things to cause stress and division and upheaval in our homes. We're dealing with blended families and divorces and financial strains and medical issues, and the last thing we need is some know-it-all perfectionist putting unrealistic demands on the family and making it miserable for everybody under the roof. Just chill out and cut people some slack.

 

By the way, the word longsuffering or patience comes from two words in the Greek. The compound word they form is makrothumia. Makro means "long or far," and thumia means "passion, as if breathing heavy." It has to do with wrath and anger.

 

And the picture the word provides is of when somebody gets worked up and angry and their breathing starts to change. And the Greeks recognized that visible characteristic. They noticed when animals would get irritated, their nostrils would flair and their breathing would be affected.

 

So when someone responded with patience, they called it "makrothumia" or being long in the nose. That meant they didn't breathe heavy and snort and get all worked up. And if you put that in scriptural terms, we understood God is "long in the nose", and we're supposed to be like that also.

 

 

 

And if we will fix the family and see it function as God designed, we've got to get serious about our walk with God so we can get serious about the way we treat the people in our family. Then there's a third thing that is critical if we will be a functional family and that is, we must

 

3. Get Serious About Getting Along with Each Other

 

verse 3

 

Anytime a verse says something like we find at the beginning of this verse, we know it's especially important. These modifiers are included for a reason. And when it comes to getting along and keeping the peace, we are to endeavor to do it. That means, as some translations say, we are to "make every effort" to see it happen.

 

We are to endeavor "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace". Let's take it a phrase at a time so we can understand the teaching.

 

First, what does he mean by "the unity of the Spirit"? To understand that phrase, it helps to read the following verses.

 

Ephesians 4:4-6

 

These verses are all about unity. In fact, Paul lists no less than seven specific areas of oneness including the body, the Spirit, the hope of our calling, the Lord, faith, baptism, God the Father. And his point is not to distinguish all these things as separate entities; in fact just the opposite.

 

His objective is to tie them all together with one common unifying characteristic and that is the Spirit. That is the unity of the Spirit. He has the power to bring things together and give them a common bond and purpose and mind.

 

And by the way, according to John 16:14, Jesus said the Holy Spirit came to glorify the Son of God. So the purpose of bring us together is so that Jesus will be honored and glorified.

 

And the same things is true in our families. God brings us together as a family by uniting us in the Spirit so that Jesus will be glorified. That's the objective on God's side of things, and on our side, we experience peace.

 

Notice, unity of the Spirit" is partnered with "the bond of peace". Or to make it simple, we could say it like this: When you are unified, there is peace. The word for peace in the Greek means "a state of tranquility, exempt from the rage and havoc of war."

 

That's the goal God has in mind when we are experiencing the unity of the Spirit. Listen: God wants there to be peace in your home. And when every place else around us is a war zone, God has designed a little place called home where we can experience peace.

 

For a family to function as God designed, there must be some peacemakers. By the way, Jesus said peacemakers would be blessed. Peacemakers are those that do all that can to keep the peace in their home. They don't have to respond to every attack. they don't have to argue just because someone tries to get one started.

Is that easy to do? No! That's why Paul began the verse by using the word endeavor. Of course it's not easy to be a peacemaker. It goes against everything in our nature. But when we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit, we will enjoy the bond of peace.

 

Let me give you one final thing to think about. If we will be a functional family, we need to get serious about following God, we need to get serious about treating each other right, we need to get serious about getting along and fourth, we need to

 

4. Get Serious about Enjoying Life

 

Now to be fair, this one's not in the text. I'm just throwing it in. But it's an important point. A lot of people in a lot of families just seem to kind of grit their teeth and bear down and do what they do, but they don't enjoy the journey.

 

I want to show you something that you need to see. We are talking about the functional family. Let me ask you something: What do the first three letters of the word "functional" spell? The spell "fun".

 

I'm afraid a lot of families have forgotten how to have fun, therefore they become dysfunctional. And as odd as it sounds, some of you need to get serious about having some fun!

 

By the way, who do you suppose was the happiest and most fun person to be around that ever lived? Contrary to public opinion it's not the devil. It is Jesus Christ!

 

No one ever enjoyed life any more than did He!

 

He was fun. People wanted to be around Him. Little kids lined up to sit in His lap. Why? Because He was happy and full of joy! Listen to what we read in

 

Psalm 16:11

 

Think about that! The Psalmist wrote from a time when a personal, indwelling constant relationship with God was not possible as it is with New Testament believers. But he understood that living in the presence of God was where the joy was!

 

Even when Jesus was on the earth, His closest friends experienced separation anxiety. There were times when Jesus was away from them, and they couldn't be together. And then the crucifixion occurred and they thought they would never see Him again. When Jesus died, it was the saddest day of their life.

 

But because of His death and resurrection adn ascension, that made it possible for us to have arelationship that is constant and uninterrupted. He lives in us and stays with us and promised we would never be separated. He will never leave us!

 

That means the Prince of Peace, the Giver of Joy, the Provider of everything good has said, "I want to make My home in your heart and in your family. I want to spend time with your everyday! I want you to be near me and experience My joy and happiness and peace! And when He does that, your home has the best chance to function as He designed it to function. He wants you to enjoy life! He wants you to have abundant life!

 

So, are you? Are you enjoying life? Is your home a fun place to live?

Rick Warren says to parents, "If you create a home that's not any fun now, don't be surprised when your kids get older, if they won't come back." Why? Because they don't like it, it's no fun. Who wants to go to a place that's misery, that's no fun? Enjoy life.

 

And determine to make your home a functional place where you're going to walk with God, and you're going to treat your family right, and you're going to be get along and serve the Lord.

 

I said as we began this message was for everyone. Everyone here can do those four things, regardless of who's living under the roof. Anyone from senior adults to young children, single, married, divorced, blended, intact, whatever the makeup of your family, anyone can determine to walk with God, treat people right, get along and enjoy the journey.

 

Would you make it your intention this morning that in my home, we're going to function as God designed?

 

Let's pray.

 

 

 

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