(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Days 15 & 16 of Rick Warren's A Purpose Driven Life. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)
Days 15 and 16 are the beginning of Purpose #2, You Were Formed For God's Family. When someone is especially close or dear to us, we often say that person is "just like family". Sometimes we are blessed with a family on earth that is supportive and a source of love. There are also times when our earthly family can be broken or badly dysfunctional. Sometimes social status can depend on what family a person is from. We've also heard the expression "You can choose your friends but you can't choose your family". These are just some of the things that come to mind when our human mind thinks of what a family is.
God's idea of a family takes our limited view to a whole new level. We were pre-planned and destined to be part of the greatest, most powerful, influential and dynamic family that possesses riches we can't even imagine: the family of God. God's very nature is love and relationship and out of love we were created to be in relationship with Him and with one another. God is made present when two or more are gathered in His name (Matthew 18:20) and our brothers and sisters in Christ help us to grow in love and knowledge of Him, so that we can share Him with the world. The way we love one another in Christ is the most powerful witness to the world, and is one of the most important commandments. Being a part of God's family entitles us to an inheritance, where God will meet all of our needs "according to the glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). Rick Warren sums up our inheritance as children of God this way: "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." (p.119) Basically, anything we could ever need beyond all imagining belongs to us as part of God's family. We officially become a part of God's family through baptism.
Baptism is our official rite of passage or initiation into the family of God through new life in Jesus Christ. On page 120, Rick Warren states, "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." Jesus commanded us to do this as well (see Matthew 28:19 below). This is crucial and signifies an important turning point in a Christian's life. With baptism also comes responsibility, for us to continue growing in faith, love and knowledge of God so that we are living the truth of this important sacrament. Rick Warren makes this point also by stating, "Baptism doesn't make you a member of God's family, only faith in Christ does that. Baptism shows that you are a part of God's family." (p.120).
Day 16, What Matters Most takes us further into why God created us to be a part of His family: Love. On page 125, Rick Warren writes, "After learning to love God (worship), learning to love others is the second purpose of your life." Not only are we to love our neighbor, but we are to pay special attention to our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is because, "God wants you to be in regular, close fellowship with other believers so that you can develop the skill of loving" (Rick Warren, p. 124) Having a faith community and meaningful relationships with other believers is a source of strength, accountability and stability. This is an important foundation that we need so that we can share Christ with the world.
There are three important truths about love Rick Warren identifies that are learned through fellowship with other Christians:
Life without love is worthless. Relationships are the most important part of life. They are what give our life meaning and they cannot survive without love. Love will last forever. The love of God is far beyond anything we can conceive. Love is the legacy we leave behind, and how we treat eachother determines what our legacy will be. We will be evaluated on our love. God has instructed us that the most important thing we learn how to do is to love, and how we love determines the quality of our relationships. When our life on earth is over, God wants more than anything to know that we lived this to the fullest and were able to love as He does.
I sometimes think of the autism community, in particular the moms of children with autism as a family of its own. There are many different members who have different views and roles. All are part of the whole. All of us, especially at the beginning of this journey are in such a great need of love. Not just earthly love, but the love of God, that is bigger and greater than the obstacles and heartaches we face. As we fellowship and grow in our own love and knowledge of God, we can be His hands and feet in the world. We can make His love present and bring others into the greatest family there is.
1 John 3
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
John 13: 34-35
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
1 John 4:12
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.