This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us;
that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him;
that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us;
that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us;
that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power;
that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us;
that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.xvii.2
Every once in a while I see a bank or business that attempts to entice customers by declaring: “We’ll treat you like family!” With the general demise of the family in western culture, I wonder whether this line really works. So many people have had such negative experiences with their families that it is probably the last thing they want to hear.
One aspect of the new birth that we have not discussed in our sermons is that through it we have been born into a new and different family, the family of God. We are now children of God rather than children of darkness. We are co-heirs with Christ. We are members of the ‘household of faith.’ Our identities, our ‘selves’, should be increasingly defined by this new family connection and less by our old family connections whether our former spiritual forebear—Adam—or our merely biological forebears.
The Church is the family of God and participation in the local church is the way that God has designed for us to experience the blessings and reality of entrance into this new family. Yet, much like our biological families I suppose, we frequently take our church family for granted.
Like our birth families, the church family repays investment; we get out of it what we put into it. And also like our birth families, there are always a host of other things which seem to offer more immediate benefits for our attention to them than does the church family. Many people complain that church doesn’t do much for them when all they have given to it is occasional attendance on Sunday morning. Your home life won’t give you much with so little attention.
How do I engage more with my church family?
- Be fully here on Sunday. Arrive on time. Turn off the phone.
- Plan to make purposeful contact with specific people before, during, and after the service.
- Serve in a ministry. You’ll probably end up spending time with someone you don’t already know well.
- Pray for brothers and sisters.
- Use the mailboxes to connect and bless others.
I hope that your biological family is a place of joy and blessing. Whether it is or isn’t, avail yourself of the new family you are part of as a result of the new birth.