DAY 15 Formed for God's Family God is the one who made all things, and all things are for his glory. He wanted to have many children share his glory. Hebrews 2:10a (NCV) See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are! 1 John 3:1 (NLT) You were formed for God's family. God wants a family, and he created you to be a part of it. This is God's second purpose for your life, which he planned before you were born. The entire Bible is the story of God building a family who will love him, honor him, and reign with him forever. It says, "His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure." Because God is love, he treasures relationships. His very nature is relational, and he identifies himself in family terms: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Trinity is God's relationship to himself. It's the perfect pattern for relational harmony, and we should study its implications. God has always existed in loving relationship to himself, so he has never been lonely. He didn't need a family-he desired one, so he devised a plan to create us, bring us into his family, and hare with us all he has. This gives God great pleasure. The Bible says, "It was a happy day for him when he gave us our new lives, through the truth of his Word, and we became, as it were, the first children in his new family. " When we place our faith in Christ, God becomes our Father, we become his children, other believers become our brothers and sisters, and the church becomes our spiritual family. The family of God includes all believers in the past, the present, and the future. Every human being was created by God, but not everyone is a child of God. The only way to get into God's family is by being born again into it. You became part of the human family by your first birth, but you become a member of God's family by your second birth. God "has given us the privilege of being born again, so that we are now members of God's own family." The invitation to be part of God's family is universal, but there is one condition: faith in Jesus. The Bible says, "You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus." Your spiritual family is even more important than your physical family because it will last forever. Our families on earth are wonderful gifts from God, but they are temporary and fragile, often broken, by divorce, distance, growing old, and inevitably, death. On the other hand, our spiritual family-our relationship to other believers-will continue throughout eternity. It is a much stronger union, a more permanent bond, than blood relationships. Whenever Paul would stop to consider God's eternal purpose for us together, he would break out into praise: "When I think of the wisdom and scope of his plan I fall down on my knees and pray to the Father of all the great family of God-some of them already in heaven and some down here on earth." BENEFITS OF BEING IN GOD'S FAMILY The moment you were spiritually born into God's family, you were given some astounding birthday gifts: the family name, the family likeness, family privileges, family intimate access, and the family inheritance!? The Bible says, "Since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you." The New Testament gives great emphasis to our rich "inheritance." It tells us, "My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." As children, of God we get to share in the family fortune. Here on earth we are given "the riches ... of his grace . . kindness ... patience ... glory ... wisdom ... power ... and mercy." But in eternity we will inherit even more. Paul said, "I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people." What exactly does that inheritance include? First, we will get to be with God forever.' Second, we will be completely changed to be like Christ. Third, we will be freed from all pain, death, and suffering. Fourth, we will be rewarded and reassigned positions of service." Fifth, we will get to share in Christ's glory. What an inheritance! You are far richer than you realize. The Bible says, "God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.' This means that your eternal inheritance is priceless, pure, permanent, and protected. No one can take it from you; it can't be destroyed by war, a poor economy, or a natural disaster. This eternal inheritance, not retirement, is what you should be looking forward to and working for. Paul says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward." Retirement is a short-sighted goal. You should be living in light of eternity. BAPTISM: IDENTIFYING WITH GOD'S FAMILY Healthy families have family pride; members are not ashamed to be recognized as a part of the family. Sadly, I have met many believers who have never publicly identified themselves with their spiritual family as Jesus commanded-by being baptized. Baptism is not an optional ritual, to be delayed or postponed. It signifies your inclusion in God's family. It publicly announces to the world, "I am not ashamed to be a part of God's family." Have you been baptized? Jesus commanded this beautiful act for all in his family. He told us to `Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.' For years I wondered why Jesus' Great Commission gives the same prominence to baptism as it does to the great tasks of evangelism and edification. Why is baptism so important? Then I realized it is because it symbolizes God's second purpose for your life: participating in the fellowship of God's eternal family. Baptism is pregnant with meaning. Your baptism declares your faith, shares Christ's burial and resurrection, symbolizes your death to your old life, and announces your new life in Christ. It is also a celebration of your inclusion in God's family. Your baptism is a physical picture of a spiritual truth. It represents what happened the moment God brought you into his family: "Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into Christ's body by one Spirit, and we have all received the same Spirit." Baptism doesn't make you a member of God's family; only faith in Christ does that. Baptism shows you are part of God's family. Like a wedding ring, it is a visible reminder of an inward commitment made in your heart. It is an act of initiation, not something you put off until you are spiritually mature. The only biblical condition is that you believe. In the New Testament, people were baptized as soon as they believed. At Pentecost, 3,000 were baptized the same day they accepted Christ. Elsewhere, an Ethiopian leader was baptized on the spot when he was converted, and Paul and Silas baptized a Philippian jailer and his family at midnight. There are no delayed baptisms in the New Testament. If you haven't been baptized as an expression of your faith in Christ, do so as soon as possible, as Jesus commanded. LIFE'S GREATEST PRIVILEGE The Bible says, `Jesus and the people he makes holy all belong to the same family. That is why he isn't ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters." Let that amazing truth sink in. You are a part of God's family, and because Jesus makes you holy, God is proud of you! The words of Jesus are unmistakable: "[Jesus] pointed to his disciples and said, `These are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!" Being included in God's family is the highest honor and the greatest privilege you will ever receive. Nothing else comes close. Whenever you feel unimportant, unloved, or insecure, remember to whom you belong. DAY FIFTEEN THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE Point to Ponder: I was formed for God's family. Verse to Remember: "His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ." Ephesians 1:5 a (NLT) Question to Consider: How can I start treating other believers like members of my own family?