I also pray that in the family of God we never make our brothers and sisters in the Lord, spiritual sons and daughters, experience the pain of feeling unloved just because they don’t perform up to our expectations. If there’s anything that should characterize the family of God, it is unconditional love—the kind of love our heavenly Father extends to us.

In Ephesians 5:1 the Apostle Paul refers to us as “dearly loved children” of God. That’s a great phrase. It has all kinds of warm overtones, doesn’t it? Dearly loved children. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us” (vv. 1-2). In the previous verse Paul instructs all in the Church to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (4:32).

A word of clarification: The fact that God loves us unconditionally doesn’t mean He excuses our wrongdoing. But be aware that while He calls us to walk His better way, He doesn’t stop loving us when we stumble or fall.

Because God loves us unconditionally, we can extend the same kind of love to our church family. We can say to others, “I accept you and love you for who you are. You don’t have to conform to my standards. But in this family we also want Christ to teach us to become more like Him. We encourage each other in this regard … sometimes with tough love, love that confronts … but that’s still love. In this special family, love is never withheld. At least, it’s not supposed to be.”

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CHURCH GROWTH FACTOIDS

The 2012 Olympic Winter Games will be front-page news in America soon.  These upcoming events occur from July 27-August 12 in London, England, and feature world-class competitors who are vying to become recognized athletic champions.   Pastor, you can leverage all that media attention into spiritual lessons taught at your church!  Preach through the brand new sermon series Go for the Goal: Becoming a Spiritual Champion.  While they watch others on TV strive to become athletic champions, you’ll encourage your congregation to put into practice what the Scriptures have to say about becoming spiritual champions!

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