By Kenneth Ryland (Reproduced with permission, from The Sabbath Sentinel, May-June 2012)
Recently the church I attend took the Lord’s Supper. As we were discussing the significance of the bread and the wine, it occurred to me that the whole ritual we were reenacting was about family. I suppose some will say, “You mean that you’ve never thought of it that way before?” No, not in the way that it impacted me this time. When you stop to think about it, what is supper but a family meal? This is the “Lord’s” supper, and gathered around the table were the “Lord’s family.”
As we dig a little deeper into “the Family,” we will look at several Scriptures that will solidify our understanding of the concept of living within the family of God. Since we have to live in this world, we probably give little thought to the idea that we are representatives of God’s family here on earth, but that is exactly what God through his Son is in the process of building here and now. He is bringing sons and daughters into His family, and you are a member of that family.
When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane in agony praying to His Father in Heaven, He cried out, “Abba, Father, ... everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). However, Jesus had already introduced His disciples to the idea that God was their Father, too. Jesus told the disciples what their Father expected of them when He said, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). If you want to be part of God’s family, you have to put away all feelings of revenge and do to those who mistreat you the same as God has done for us when we were busy going about our lives with no consciousness of our sins and living as if there were no God. In other words, we need to put away our thoughts of calling fire down from heaven to fry our enemies.
How would you describe your relationship with Jesus and your heavenly Father? Or, do you even have a relationship with Them? Do you truly understand that you were created for the sole purpose of having a relationship with Jesus and His Father, who is also your Father. As the apostle Paul said, “... we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15). We cry, not Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Too often we get hung up on what we can’t do, and forget the One to Whom we are related by blood ― the blood of Jesus. Yes, we have rules to live by, but the purpose of the rules is to enhance our relationship with our Father and His Son, not to take our eyes off that relationship for the purpose of performing a set of instructions. If we lose sight of the true purpose of the Law (the boundaries of our relationship) and think that the Law is an end in itself, we forfeit our intimacy with God and lose the most essential part of being a Christian ― that close fellowship with God that we long for.
I like the way Christian apologist and author Ravi Zacharias puts it in his new book: “Our destiny is in a relationship to a person, not in a pilgrimage to a place. Our purpose is in communion with the living God, not in union with an impersonal idea or nameless Higher Power: Such categorization is intellectual cowardice. Access to an abstract power gives you no one to be grateful to in times of blessing and no one to question and receive comfort from in times of sorrow.”
What to you is your most important family connection with God? Are you in a time of great joy or great sorrow? What is the trigger point for you in your relationship with God? What situations in your life make you think of God in terms of “Father and son” or “Father and daughter?” There is great blessing in understanding our relationship with God in terms of Father-son or Father-daughter. It eliminates the distance that sometimes exists in our thinking (but not in God’s thinking) about God. We are too prone to think of Christ and the Father only in terms of what we think they demand of us, rather than to approach God recognizing His love for us and His desire to have fellowship with us. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we like to hide from God assuming that He can’t see us. It’s like the small child who pulls the blanket over his head believing that others can’t see him. It is not God who hides from us, but we are the ones who want Him “not to know....” He stands at the door and knocks. He wants to come in and dine with us if we will let Him. We just have to open the door.
We need always to keep in the forefront of our minds the plans that God has for us who love Him and His Son. The apostle Paul tells us of God’s plan for us in Romans 8:17, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, so that we may be also glorified together [with Christ].” Our destiny as children of God is to share everything that the Father has given to His Son. Did you get that? We will share everything with Christ. There is a verse that we often quote to encourage ourselves or others when we have doubts about what God is doing in our lives. However, the scope of this verse goes well beyond an emotional pick-me-up. It goes right to the heart of God’s desire for His children: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). You are a joint-heir with Christ. That is your future, and that is your hope.
How does God look at you, his child? We often short-change ourselves by refusing to believe that God even now looks upon us with great affection. We think it is just too fantastic to believe that “...God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever [you and I] believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” We think that if God only knew what we were really like, He would look elsewhere for sons and daughters. Somehow, in our minds we have this idea that God doesn’t actually know already what is in our minds and hearts. Let me assure you; He does. The apostle Paul explains exactly how God sees us in our current condition. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,...” (Ephesians 2:5). Wherever Jesus goes, He carries us with Him. We are seated with Him next to the Father in heaven. Does that seem too incredible for you? If so, you need to rethink your relationship with God and believe the Scriptures.
How close are you as one of His children to the heart of God? What does He think of you, and how much does He yearn for you? Is it enough for you to be one of God’s “little ones?” What does the Scripture say about God’s affection for you? “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (Matthew 18:10-14). Yes, He will leave the 99 who are safe to go after the one (is that you?) who has gone astray. He esteems His fellowship with you as His top priority.
The Bible ends in the book of Revelation with God making a statement about us. “... who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7). Believe it, and live it fully here and now in this life.