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Lesson Three • “Like a Dog that Returns”
Pastor Ryan Story


A relapse can be worse or more frustrating than the original fracture.

1. Have you ever re-injured yourself playing or participating in a sport or hobby? What happened?

I love family month. I love family ministry. I have heard it said, “Strong churches do not make strong families, strong families make strong churches.” I desire to see the families within The River Church become stronger. The strength I am referring to is the strength that only comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When families are living out the Gospel at home, the church will be stronger.

Sadly, despite our best efforts to live as Christ-honoring families, sometimes things break, and sometimes things break again. I have had numerous conversations with my sons about disobedience. I have had to have numerous conversations with my wife about ensuring that work does not take precedence over family. While week one we talked about the initial moment things go wrong resulting in pain, this week I am hoping to lead you through the process of what to do to avoid a re-break.

Having issues in your family is not the worst-case scenario, not learning from the initial injury is the problem. Proverbs 26:11 says, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.”
(My goal for this lesson is for you to be able to do this within your family. While I think having the conversation within a Growth Community is an amazing outlet, please utilize this lesson within your family. “Strong churches do not make strong families, strong families make strong churches.”)

There are ten concepts that need addressing.

1) Do not keep walking in pain.


Ephesians 4:17-19 says, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”

I used to think it was a testament of strength to walk with a limp. I thought I was tougher if I could endure the pain and press on. Sadly, many people live life with constant pain, friction, tension, and unresolved issues that have resulted in a calloused heart. Inside the family, I think it seems missing because they are “alienated from the life of God because of ignorance.” There are well-meaning Christians who cannot “call a spade a spade” and discuss the sin that is separating a member in their family from God and from each other.

2. Why do we continue to walk in pain with our families?


2) Old habits are not necessarily godly habits.

Ephesians 4:20-24 says, “But that is not the way you learned Christ! - assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
I have never liked how people refer to themselves in the same mentality as a canine. “You can not teach an old dog a new trick” is not a justifiable response to living a life that is not honoring to Christ. I come from a family background that was horribly ungodly. I was never taught empathy, respecting others or myself, or proper ways to deal with conflict. I was never taught the Bible, but my family would have said they were “good with their relationship with God.” I look at where I am now with my family and realize I cannot claim, “Well it is too late for me to learn a new way.” To lead my family, I had to learn a new way. If I want my children to live a life that is Gospel-centered, it is going to take me showing I “learned Christ.”

3. Is your family the first group of people to see how you have “learned Christ?”

4. What does it mean to be “renewed in the spirit of your minds?” How can you do that as a family?


3) Speak the truth.

Ephesians 4:25 records, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”

Somehow, Christians have been taught that they have to always be “nice.” We avoid conflict, we avoid hard conversations, and we avoid discipline, all in the name of nice. We have mistaken kindness for niceness. The kindest thing you can do at times is to speak the truth in love, discipline your child, and push into conflict rather than avoid it.

5. Why is speaking the truth to our loved ones sometimes the hardest thing to do?

6. How could a truthful conversation avoid a bigger issue down the road?


4) Do not let emotions rule your relationship.

Ephesians 4:26-27 adds, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
One of the favorite rules my wife and I made in our marriage is we have 24 hours to discuss any issue that caused tension in our relationship. This forces us to have a healthy conflict to ensure unity inside our marriage. Anger happens, people disappoint, and expectations are sometimes not met, but that does not give you the right to sin.

7. How does anger give an “opportunity to the devil?”


5) Assembly is required.

In Ephesians 4:28, Paul continues, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”
Nothing ever is fixed by leaving it alone. This includes emotions, relationships, families, children, husbands, wives, and our relationship with Jesus. Jesus had to come down and do work to reconcile our relationships with God.

8. Are you willing to put the work into seeing your family strong in their walk with Jesus?

9. After things break and break again, why is it so hard to want to continually work “honestly with our own hands” inside our family?


6) Words are powerful.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

10. How do you define “corrupting talk?”

11. Have you ever said something to your spouse or your child out of frustration? Why can words break us down so much?


7) Let God work.

Ephesians 4:30 adds, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
One of the scariest truths I find in the Bible is we can put ourselves in a place where we can grieve God. We can live a life that brings sorrow and pain to God. There are many examples of how one can grieve the Holy Spirit, but at the core of all of the instances that are used in the Bible, you see a lack of faith in God. If we allow our families to be a place where people begin to give up on each other, where we do not believe that God can work, no longer believe Scripture is true, and allow sin to rule, we in essence have given up on God and have grieved the Holy Spirit.

12. How can a family grieve the Holy Spirit? How can that cause a sinful relapse within the family?


8) Clean up your heart.

Ephesians 4:31 adds, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

13. As a family, what are some actions you need to put away in order to better reflect the Gospel of Jesus Christ?


9) Forgiveness is key.

Ephesians 4:32 continues, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
There is no question for this verse, just memorize it and apply this verse every day of your life!


10) Walk like God.

Finally, Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

14. How can your family walk in love with each other?



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