Living as Family
Passage: Acts 2:42–47
How should we live after we believe the gospel? Because the Father adopts us, we should live as family.
Every family is different. When Katie and I were dating, I started going to her family Christmases and she started coming to mine. Both of us quickly realized the differences in our families. When you arrive at my parents’ house, everyone comes to the door and lines up to give you a hug. Sometimes my mom’s side of the family would come for a New Year’s party and when each relative arrived, everyone would line up at the door for a hug. When you arrive at Katie’s family get-togethers, everyone stays seated and says “hi” from where they are sitting.
Then when it comes to opening Christmas presents, my family passes out presents to each person and then we all open at the same time. When you finish one present, you go get another and just keep opening and saying thank you to people as you do. Katie was a little bewildered. But I was a little confused when I went to Christmas with her family. Presents get passed out to one person at a time. That person then opens their presents one at a time and says thank you. After a while, the kids are so trained that as soon as they finish opening, they hold it up and smile while looking for the camera taking a picture. For me, this was really awkward because everyone is watching you open your gift and seeing how you respond. For Katie, she felt like it was chaos with my family.
These were just the beginnings of our family differences. Once we got married and moved in together, we discovered how our families did chores differently, how they handled conflict differently, how they spent money differently, how they cleaned up the house differently, and so forth. Obviously, I learned the right way and she’s the weird one ;) But every family has different patterns, values, traditions, priorities, and histories. Every family is different.
Today, we are continuing our series called “Living the Good News Together.” As a church, we are learning how we can live in light of the good news about Jesus together.
Take a moment to flip to the graphic on the last page of your song book (the same graphic is on our What Are We All About page). This is the roadmap for what we are covering. First, we covered our mission: as a community we are surrendering all of life to Jesus and inviting others to do the same. Then last week we covered our first Community Practice of Believing the Gospel. Our mission tells us what we are doing. Our Community Practices answer how we are going to do our mission. How do we surrender all of life to Jesus? How do we invite others to do the same? By practicing Believing the Gospel, Living as Family, Loving as Servants, Going as Messengers, and Relying on the Spirit.
And why do we do all of this? Our vision at the bottom tells us so that as the family of God we can show and tell the good news of Jesus to every man, woman, and child. Today, we are focusing on our second Community Practice of Living as Family.
When Jesus was going around 1st century Israel telling people about God’s kingdom and the offer of forgiveness for their sins, he was also calling people to follow him and live a totally new way of life. If you believe this news of forgiveness, that means a life change. Jesus was bringing together a community of people who would live in light of the good news he was announcing. As we heard in our first Scripture reading from Matthew 12, Jesus was forming a family with God as their Father. Jesus was doing his heavenly Father’s will and he was calling others to do likewise.
Jesus’ vision for the community he was forming didn’t fully blossom until after his death and resurrection. So this week, we are focusing in the book of Acts, which records what happened with Jesus’ disciples immediately returned to his throne in heaven.
We will be looking at Acts chapter 2, verses 42 through 47. The big question this passage answers is: How should we live after we believe the gospel? How should we live after we believe the gospel?
Let’s consider this question from Acts chapter 2, verses 42 through 47.
The Community of Believers (Acts 2:42-47)
The bible contains many instructions for what Christian community is to look like but Acts 2:42-47 provides us with one of the most powerful descriptions of what the early Christian community looked like.
When the book of Acts begins, Jesus is still with his disciples. He died and was buried, but then was resurrected and spent 40 days with them, instructing them about the kingdom of God. At the opening of Acts, he tells them to stay in Jerusalem until they receive the Holy Spirit from God the Father.
Why do they need the Holy Spirit? Because after his resurrection, Jesus gave his the disciples the mission of witnessing to what he has seen and heard. Like eyewitnesses called to the witness stand in court, they are to tell others what they have seen and heard from Jesus. Specifically, they are to spread the good news of forgiveness in his name. He died for people’s sins so that they can be free of them and he is alive today proving this news is true and his disciple are to tell the world this news. But he told them they must wait for the Holy Spirit before they embark on this mission.
Who is the Holy Spirit? There is only one God, but that one God exists in a loving unity of three equally divine persons: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Jesus, God the Son, was sent by God the Father to bring salvation. And Jesus told his disciples that he would send God the Holy Spirit to be with them. They needed the Holy Spirit for their mission because they needed the personal presence of God with them.
So after Jesus returned to his throne in heaven, the disciples waited for the Father and the Son to send the Holy Spirit. They took care of some internal business as they waited and after fifty days of waiting in Jerusalem, they were all gathered together in one place and a mighty rushing wind blew into the room and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. They began speaking in other languages and other people overheard it and thought they were drunk. At that moment, Peter preached the first sermon proclaiming Jesus.
To all listening, Peter told them that Jesus was sent by God to bring salvation like all the prophets talked about. Jesus was made Lord and Christ by God and was the one they had long waited for, but they crucified him. The very people he came to save killed him. Everyone listening was cut to the heart and they asked, “What shall we do?” Peter said, “Repent and be baptized everyone one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So all those who believed the gospel that Peter preached were baptized and it ended up being about 3,000 people.
That brings us to Acts chapter 2 verse 42. What do these people do after they believe the gospel? What happens after you believe the good news about Jesus and the forgiveness he provides?
One of the truths the apostles, Jesus’ first disciples, will later teach is that when we trust in Jesus, God the Father adopts us into his family. Because of our sin, we are estranged and alienated from God. There are barriers between us. Our sin separates us. But everyone who believes the gospel receives forgiveness. The barriers are gone. When we trust in Jesus, we are no longer estranged and alienated. We are close with God. We have been brought into his family. God the Father adopts us. The same love the Father has for Jesus is now the same love he has for us.
All of the people who believe Peter’s message about Jesus believe they are forgiven by God because of Jesus and it changes how they live. And how they live sounds a lot like a family. They hung out together, used their resources to help one another, spent time together in their homes eating and enjoying each other. The gospel brings them together into this community.
The big question this passage answers is: How should we live after we believe the gospel? The answer is: Because the Father adopts us, we live as family. Because the Father adopts us, we live as family. That’s how we should live after we believe the gospel.
Believing the gospel and trusting and following Jesus is personal, but it is never private. We follow Jesus with a family of other people who are also following him and who have also been adopted into God’s family.
That’s why our second Community Practice is Living as Family. When we believe the gospel, we are given a new identity. Who we are is changed. Jesus told his disciples to baptize people into this new identity. He said go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When we are baptized, we receive God’s name. We are identified with God.
When Katie and I got married, she received my last name. It shows a change of status. When we believe in Jesus - when we commit to him - there is a change of status. We receive a new name. What defined you before - sin, shame, guilt, pride, disobedience - no longer defines you. What God says about you now defines you. If you trust in Jesus, God now says to you, “I love you. I paid the price to adopt you into my family. I will take care of you and protect you. You are my beloved child and you always will be.”
Our Community Practice of Living as Family focuses on our status as adopted children of God the Father. We are baptized into the name of the Father. We are also baptized into the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit on which our next two Community Practices focus.
We may wonder how we live as family. Verse 42 tells us four commitments. It says:
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)
So here are four commitments for how we live as family.
First, we live as family by committing to follow Jesus together. We live as family by committing to follow Jesus together. Verse 42 says they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.
Now, when we hear “apostles’ teaching”, we are prone to think about this as information download. Teaching and learning for us is largely done in classrooms where we are learning more information. “Disciple” is the word the bible uses for someone following Jesus. It means “learner” but it has less to do with information and more to do with life transformation. The apostles learned Jesus’ way of life and that’s what they were teaching. So after we believe the gospel, that’s the starting point of learning a new way of life - new habits, new priorities, and new plans all centered on Jesus.
The apostles aren’t here with us, but we have their teaching in the bible. Their teaching is all about Jesus. Jesus is always at the center of the family he creates. That’s why his crown is at the center of our logo and the dots representing community are around it. When we commit to follow Jesus, we join a community of people to do it with us. We can’t do it alone and we were never meant to. Jesus calls us to a new and better way of life and that way of life includes others. I really enjoy author Paul Tripp, and he says we need “intentionally intrusive, Christ-centered, grace-driven, redemptive community” (Dangerous Calling, 84).
First, we live as family by committing to follow Jesus together. Second, we live as family by committing to open-hearted togetherness. We live as family by committing to open-hearted togetherness. Verse 42 says they devoted themselves to the fellowship. “Fellowship” is one of those words that gets used in church a lot, but it can be hard to define.
“Open-hearted togetherness” is one of the phrases my good friend and fellow church planter, Justin Searles, uses and I think it captures the spirit of the word “fellowship.” “Fellowship” means connection, interdependence, openness, sharing, warmth, companionship, friendship, and oneness. Committing to open-hearted togetherness means all of these things.
If you commit to open-hearted togetherness, it means that you are opening the door of your life to other people. Your heart is open to others so they can see you and know. It means that you open the door to share yourself with others. You let other people into your fears, your pain, your sadness, your struggles, your sins, your anger. And you let them into your joys, your victories, and your celebrations. It means you bring all of you to the table. You let people see your real self.
Open-hearted togetherness also means that you open the door for others to share themselves with you. Your heart is open to listen to another person’s pain, fear, sadness, sorrow, and anger. Your heart is open to feel compassion, cry with them, and comfort them. Your heart is also open to celebrate with other people when something good happens. You open the door for another person to bring their whole and real self to you.
Open-hearted togetherness means that we are sharing both our burdens and our joys with others and they are sharing them with us. This sharing of ourselves leads to sharing of our stuff. Verse 44 says:
44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
The concern of one person is the concern of the whole community. Each person or each family unit isn’t keeping their resources for themselves but using their resources to help others.
God has opened himself to us. God the Son became one of us, taking one our pain and our sin and the curse it brings. God did this so that we can have a relationship with him. He entered into our brokenness and sin in order to bring us into his life and light and joy. Jesus was rich and became poor so that we can share in his riches. We worship a generous and giving God who knows us and invites us to know him. Now we can do the same with others.
We live as family by committing to follow Jesus together and by committing to open-hearted togetherness. Third, we live as family by committing to open our homes to each other. We live as family by committing to open our homes to each other. Verse 42 says they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, which means they ate together. They shared meals together. This adds an even more personal element to what they did after believing the gospel because they didn’t just hang out in public spaces together and bring items to donate for other people, but they actually brought strangers into their homes and sat around the dinner table with them.
Verses 46 says:
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. (Acts 2:46-47a)
Families sit around the dinner table, talking about their weeks, sharing burdens and joys and stories. They know each other and are walking together through the ups and downs of life. Sharing a meal is one of the simplest yet most intimate actions you can do with someone.
God has welcomed us into his family and will welcome us into heaven and eventually a new creation for us to enjoy. He has brought us in as close as we can get. We follow his lead by welcoming others into our homes and getting close with them.
We live as family by committing to follow Jesus together, committing to open-hearted togetherness, and committing to open our homes to each other. Fourth, we live as family by committing to talk with our heavenly Father together. We live as family by committing to talk with our heavenly Father together. Verse 42 says they devoted themselves to the prayers and verse 46 says they attended the temple together, probably for the daily prayer services. The rest of the book of Acts records times that the church committed themselves to praying together.
If we are going to be part of God’s family, we need to talk with the heavenly Father of the family. He adopts each of us into the family and we seek his guidance and wisdom together. It’s only because of him that we are family and only by his power that we can live as family. That’s why our first Community Practice is Believing the Gospel and our last is Relying on the Spirit. This community in Acts chapter 2 is formed after they believe the gospel and after they receive the Holy Spirit. Those are the two essential ingredients to living as family. The gospel tells us the truth that God has adopted us and forgiven us. The Holy Spirit assures us it’s true and gives us the power to actually live as family and treat each other like God has treated us.
Family for many of us and many people in the world is a difficult subject. All around us, we see broken families and we all come from imperfect families. Perhaps for some of you, hearing the word “family” or the word “father” fills you with painful memories and the feeling of unfulfilled longings.
Because of sin, our families are not what they were meant to be. Some of us need time and healing to start seeing God as the good Father he truly is because we tend to project what our earthly fathers are like on to God. The good news is that God is a perfect Father. The good news is that when you believe in Jesus, you are adopted into God’s family. What is a family like with God at the head of the dinner table? It certainly isn’t perfect because sin is still present with us, but God’s family is one learning to be more like their heavenly Father as they follow Jesus who always does his Father’s will.
We need to know this truth. Know that God saves you to be part of his family. That was always his intention. Church is not optional for Christians. You were transferred from the domain of darkness where sin reigns into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. Being a disciple of Jesus means being part of a community of disciples.
But the reality is we can be resistant to this way of living. There is an enemy that keeps us from these commitments: from following Jesus together, from open-hearted togetherness, from opening our homes to each other, and from talking to our heavenly Father together. That enemy is pride.
Pride tells us “you don’t have time for God and his family.” So living as family with other believers becomes an optional add-on instead of a new identity God has given you. If you trust in Jesus, you are adopted into God’s family no matter what. The question is, are you avoiding your family or are you invested in it? The gospel tells us that God has blessed us with adoption into his family. It is a blessing to have brothers and sisters in Christ with whom to walk through life and faith. We should receive it as such.
Pride tells us “if you need help from other people to follow Jesus, you are weak. You have to do this on you own.” So we keep our struggles and our sin to ourselves. We don’t tell anybody our weaknesses and faults. Instead we try to overcome them on our own. But sin grows best in the dark. To kill sin, it needs to be brought into the light. The gospel tells us that no one can fix their sin problem on their own. That’s why Jesus came to die and why we are given the Holy Spirit and why we are adopted into a family. We need others to battle sin with us.
Pride tells us “if you open up to others, they will think less of you.” So we keep everything to ourselves - we don’t share our feelings, our sin, or our struggles because we don’t want anyone to think less of us. We don’t want them to find out we actually sin too and need help in life. But the gospel tells us that everyone needs helps. We need help from God and from other people.
Pride tells us “if people saw what you are really like, they would never accept you.” So we keep people out of our lives. We don’t let them see when we are having trouble following Jesus. We don’t show them our real selves or our homes. We think that it all needs to be cleaned up and perfect for anyone to love us or accept us. But the gospel tells us that no one is perfect but God loves us anyway. So that’s what God’s family should do too.
I have to fight against all of these in my life. Often I don't want to give my time to others, I don't want to share about hard things in life, I don't want people to see the sin I struggle with, and I don't want people to see my mess. But I know that I need all those things.
Fear keeps all of us from doing what would truly bring fulfillment to our lives. We all want to be known by others. We all want help. We all want to be cared for. We all want to not be alone in carrying the heavy burdens we are carrying. We all want to be loved, accepted, and welcomed by others. These are all deep human needs and longings. But fear keeps us from getting them met. Fear keeps us only showing other people the highlights of our life instead of all of it, with the mountains and the valleys, the joys and the hardships, the good and the bad.
But if you trust in Jesus, you don’t need to be afraid anymore. You can open yourself up to other people because even though you are a sinner Jesus has forgiven you. You have been wiped of your debt. You don’t need to hide your junk from others, you don’t need to hide your brokenness and frailty and neediness. You don’t need to hide imperfections and shortcomings and failures. You can open yourself up to other people because God knows it all already and he loves and forgives you in spite of it. There’s nothing anyone else is going to find out about you that God doesn’t already know and nothing you will do that God hasn’t already forgiven.
This week, initiate spending time with someone in our church that you haven’t spent time with yet or haven’t in a while. Have them over for dinner, go out for coffee or breakfast or lunch, something. Then practice open-hearted togetherness. Share your story with them: where’d you grow up, what was your family like, how’d you come to know God, and so forth. Then share a present struggle or concern for which you need prayer. Then pray for each other.
How many of you know the band Rend Collective? One of their albums is called Campfire because they recorded it on the beach around a campfire. In it, they give a beautiful picture of what Christian community is like.
First, they give this warning: “We need to be careful to not allow hurt or cynicism to drive us from church, otherwise we end up like a branch taken from the fire, lifeless and cold. I know the pain we experience in life can be overwhelming, but we aren’t meant to go through it alone.” WHen we try to follow Jesus on our own, we are like a branch taken from the fire.
Then they go on to give this vision for the church in the world: “All of us have the divine spark within us, and we so desperately need the breath of God to bring us to life and light. Jesus wants to set the church on fire so that the world can warm themselves around us and find light and safety…”
These commitments for living as family are simple to say but difficult to do. But they are also a powerful picture of the gospel to our world. Our sinful world doesn't do relationships well. Because of that, people are desperately longing for safe people. They are longing for a place where they can share their pain, their fears, their disappointments. But most people don’t find that and so they learn to live as lone rangers. They learn to go it alone and put up walls of protection. Our world is full of people wandering in the dark and in the cold and God’s family can be the light and warmth they are looking for.
We believe that we can’t accomplish this type of community in an hour and 15 minutes on a Sunday evening. That’s why we have Gospel Communities and Gospel Fluency Groups as well so if you are longing for this type of community, I’d invite you to get further involved.
All this is only possible with Jesus and his Spirit inside us. Jesus is the only one who can “set the church on fire so that the world can warm themselves around us and find light and safety.” Only when we believe the gospel that we have been adopted and forgiven by the Father, will we ever want to open ourselves in community like this.