Scared of Marriage (Pt 2)

It was the Puritan John Owen that wrote: “To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.”

Perhaps nowhere is this remark more salient than in Christian marriage.  What is it that God requires of us, as followers of Christ, in marriage?  Mounds of books have been written on this subject, so let me just point to a few of the primary truths and texts concerning God’s expectations for spouses:

1. To understand sin’s effect on us as spouses is critical, and I believe God expects us to study what He has clearly said about us, as it pertains to all of life, including marriage.

a. Genesis 3:16 among other things, states that sin will cause Eve to have “desire” for her husband.  The same word is used again in Gen 4:7 where God tells Cain sin’s “desire is for you.” 

b. In context then, it seems clear that sin will cause Eve to want to control or rule her husband.  But, God essentially tells Eve it will not work, because “He will rule over you.”  God’s design, whether or not our culture agrees, is for male leadership or headship of the home.

c. Implied in God’s words, “he will rule over you” is the subtle hint that sin will cause Adam to abuse his God-given leadership in the marriage.  Sin will corrupt Adam’s headship.  He will not exercise it in God-honoring ways.  Indeed, much of the remainder of Genesis shows us sinful men struggling to exercise godly headship in the family! 

d. Knowing our resident enemy (sin) and its effect upon us as spouses is foundational; for if we are to fight in God’s enabling power to do marriage His way, we ought to know who or what we are fighting against.  

2. To commit to “one man, one woman for life” and to hate divorce (See Malachi 3:16; Matt 19:1-6).

3. For men to lead and love their own wives like Christ leads and loves His church (Eph 5:22-33).

4. For women to respect and submit to their own husbands as the church respects and submits to Christ (Eph 5:22-24, 33).

Numbers 3 and 4 above give many Christians today fits.  Perhaps they fail to see that the two principles go hand-in-hand and are really about Christ, not them?  As men lead and love like Christ, women will submit and respect (dare I say even treasure) the husband’s Christ-like leadership and love.  As wives respect husbands God-ordained headship, men will strongly desire to lead and love their wives like Christ does. 

And the grand purpose in all this?  The honor and glory of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, who paid for and purified His bride, the church, with His own blood and sets His bride apart to love and serve Him forever (Eph 5:25-27).  Amazing, huh?  As the church glorifies Christ, so Christ is determined to make His bride “holy and blameless.”  Christian marriage is to mirror this reality.  Who knew Christian marriage could accomplish such lofty things?

But, can a husband and wife really live up to these clear demands of God?  Put another way, is the young Christian’s fear of marriage rooted in reality?  Is there any hope for a Christian husband to actually mirror Christ to his wife?  Can a Christian wife actually submit to Christ’s ultimate headship through submission to her husband’s headship? 

As Paul asked in 2 Corinthians 2:16, “Who is sufficient for these things?”  Who indeed?  Methinks a discussion on sanctifying grace is in order.  Stay tuned . . .               

 

  

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Marylouise Matlin - You made lots of good points. Keep up the great work. Thank you very much.

Scared of Marriage

J. Budziszewski wrote a great article recently posted on Boundless Webzine.  In it, he chronicled how a young college student relayed to him his utter paralysis when it came to the issue of marriage.  This young man had no plans to marry, and doubted whether any couple can really stay married anymore until death parts them.

This is a sad scenario, isn’t it?  This is an animal of our culture’s own making.  Rampant lack of fidelity in marriages and decades of divorce have left our young people today quaking in their boots at the very thought of getting married.  Our baby-booming parents got divorced and remarried at the cyclical rate.  And, my generation appears to be following suit.  It never ceases to amaze me when I hear of folks in my graduating class who have been divorced and re-married three times, four times, or more.  We are not even forty years old yet!  

It is not my intent to be judgmental.  My hearts goes out to every divorcee, to every single-parent, to ever parent trying to make a blended family work.  My desire is to see every family experience the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, to be healed by Jesus the Great Healer of souls, and to know the power for living that comes by the gift of God’s Spirit to everyone who trusts Christ alone for forgiveness of sins.  So, no stone throwing from this sinner saved by grace!  Precisely because I do understand how deeply sin affects and infects us all, I realize no marriage is immune to divorce.  This is why I love the book by Dave Harvey titled When Sinners Say I Do.  The very title says it all.  Sin is the issue and human creatures do not possess inherent power to do battle against this resident foe.

The deep level hurt that divorce leaves in its wake is now surfacing in the paralysis of college students who have lost all faith in marriage as an institution.  Coming from students who do not have the Risen Christ in their lives, this reaction might not be cause for surprise.  But, what is most disturbing to me is the number of young Christian men and women who now shy away from marriage because they have witnessed their own Christian parents divorce.  

I confess some anger wells up in me when I see Christian couples divorce.  It says to a lost world, and even to Christian children, that there really is no significant power for living available to followers of Christ.  I mean, if Jesus cannot enable two of His followers to stay true to their marital vows, what makes us think He can assure us of eternal life with Him?  

Hypocrisy is the one excuse I hear most often for why someone raised in church has now abandoned it, or for why someone not raised in church has no interest in it.  Ruined Christian families littering the American landscape cannot bode well for our evangelism.  We can address the hypocrisy issue biblically (and maybe I’ll take up that mantle in future posts), but for now can we Christians just admit there is some legitimacy to the reasoning of a person who watches us live and sees no real difference, particularly in how we “do home”?     

So, what to do?  

For starters, Christians “make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).  You are not one of the “many” who will stand self-deceived before King Jesus one day, are you?  See Matthew 7:21-23.  Second, followers of Christ must get a handle on biblical sanctification and what I call “You Can because He Can” theology.  Stay tuned . . . more to follow on these matters.               

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The All-Surpassing Value of the Gospel of Christ

I am scheduled to preach this Sunday morning – yippee!  Opportunities have been scarce of late, so my heart is thrilled to once again have the sacred honor of feeding God’s flock from His Word.  Of course, for someone such as myself whose preference is always expository preaching, verse-by-verse, passage-by-passage through books of the Bible, having to just “figure out” what text to preach is somewhat intimidating!  How do you topical preachers do it? :-0  How did Spurgeon do it?  I’m just not that creative!

One thing is for sure, any man who fills a pulpit has nothing of eternal value to offer listeners apart from the very words of our God as recorded in the Bible.  This is why exposition – the explanation of the text’s meaning and the application of its timeless truth – is so very critical to the life of a church.  God created by His Word (Gen 1:3).  God saves us by His Word (Romans 10:17; James 1:18).  God sanctifies (grows us more like Christ) by His Word (John 17:17).  Jesus said “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).  One can quickly get the idea from Scripture that the Word is important!

Indeed, the Word is important.  And this Sunday, Lord willing, I will expound on a passage that leaves me awe-struck every time I read and study it.  The passage is 1 Peter 1:8-16.  In a nutshell, Peter tells us this gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus was sought after intensely by the grand old saints of Old – men like Moses, Samuel, David and Isaiah.  Pious woman of old like Esther and Ruth no doubt wished for their eyes to behold Messiah.  Yet, it was not God’s plan to send Salvation to walk the earth during their lifetimes.

This salvation God brings to undeserving sinners like us is so glorious that Peter says the angels are bewildered by it!  Say what?  Angels?  Like those men in white robes that have unbelievable power?  Yes, those angels.  They long to look into the mystery of how Holy God reconciles unholy sinners to Himself through the bloody work of Jesus on the cross.

Well, I do not want to get so excited that I preach the whole sermon here!  You’ll just have to come hear it in person this Sunday, March 7th, at Tar Landing Baptist Church, at 10:30 a.m.  Or, log onto www.tarlandingbaptist.org in a few days to download the audio.  I want you to hear the sermon not because I am preaching it, but because I am convinced we American Christians sorely need to reorder our priorities.

What would our lives look like if we really started to treasure the glorious gospel of King Jesus above all?  What would our homes look like if we truly bowed our knee in awe of what God has given us in the gospel?  How would we spend our money?  Time?  Would we still make the same educational choices for our children?  Would we continue to let our kids spend more time studying Geometry and Biology than they do Scripture?  What of their “extra-curricular” activities?  Might we launch our children to the nations to carry the gospel torch if we really got a hold of what God has told us through Peter’s pen?  After all, it is the gospel that has as its end the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!

That’s the all-surpassing value of the gospel, friends.        

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American Idols (Pt 4)

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24).

Jesus had a habit of making Himself clear!  Notice our Master says the issue of allegiance to God or money is not a “both/and” proposition.  It is “either/or.” 

Christian families in America desperately need to wrestle with this issue.  Perhaps nothing gets me in hotter water as a pastor than when I begin to challenge the whole notion that a dual-income home is a necessity in America.  Granted, in rare instances, it is necessary.  But, if we are all laid bare before God, the reason we send mothers out into the workforce right alongside dads is due to a standard of living – or, put another way, lifestyle.  We have established  lifestyles that require a certain amount (and often more than we actually earn) to sustain.   

If some crazed preacher implies that God might actually expect His people to downgrade their lifestyles in order to order their homes according to His purposes, he is scorned and ignored.  Our pursuit of lifestyle (aka the American Dream) is hindering us more than we know from following hard after the great treasure who is Christ.  If we get a raise, our first inclination is often to raise our lifestyle, rather than increasing our giving to the kingdom of God.      

Before the accusations start flying, let me clearly state that the Bible does not categorically forbid women from working outside the home and/or contributing to the family income.  In fact, the Proverbs 31 woman is industrious and does add to the home’s income.  A godly lady (or person for that matter) is not lazy.  Period.

That said, the Bible also makes it clear that God’s design for the home is for wives and mothers to be “workers at home” (Titus 2:5).  Feminists may despise this instruction, and several articles I have read in recent years have seen all out attacks on any woman who would dare to obey this Divine mandate.  Workers at home (or stay-at-home moms as we call them), according to feminist thinking, are “letting down the team.” 

But God Almighty does not check with anyone before telling us how a home is supposed to look.  And, I must ask, “Which team is being let down?”  The feminist army or our homes?  The very reason given for this Divine Design of the home in Titus 2 is “that the word of God may not be reviled.”

So, this crazed preacher may well be ignored, but let it be known that in the end, Jesus will not be ignored.  The choice He gave us is clear – God or money.  Bondage or freedom?  Freedom to serve at His pleasure.  Freedom to actually “raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Freedom to go as He sends.  Freedom to give as He guides.  Freedom to teach that class at church, to lead that home group, to start that ministry to abused women.  Freedom from the exhaustion that accompanies pursuit of the American Dream. 

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17).

O God, please begin to set your people free from the bondage of busyness and lifestyle.  Start a revival, O Holy Spirt, of Cross-Centered Homes.  Give us strength to give up the American Dream and start dreaming with You . . . for our neighbors, for our cities, for our states, for our nation, for the nations of the world, for the glory of God.              

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American Idols (Pt 3)

Funny thing, this morning I received a mailing from Focus on the Family.  Enclosed was a small flyer entitled “State of the Family 2010.”  Four key issues infecting our families were listed:

Unmarried childrearing, Cohabitation, Increasing childlessness, and Busyness.

Did you catch that last one?  Below the bold-faced Busyness the flyer reads: “Nearly 3 out of 5 Christians say their hectic schedules prevent them from spending enough time with God.  American parents spend 40% less time with their children than they did 50 years ago.”

But why?  Why are we work-a-holics?  Why do we work 50, 60, even 70 hours per week?  Is it because our employers demand it?  Only in rare instances is this truly the case.  I remember well working for a Fortune 500 Company from 2000-2004.  At first, having come from a military officer position (where ridiculous work hours are often routine and necessary), I logged 60 hour weeks.  I will never forget my first opportunity to get a raise.  My raise was pathetic in comparison to the hours I gave, and if I may say so, the value my work added.  My job was to save the plant money via materials cost out projects, and save it money I did! 

It was a pivot point in my life.  God came to me through those circumstances and strongly convicted me that I was enslaved to a system that was hindering my walk with Him, as well as hurting my family.  After long talks with my wife and lots of prayer, we begin making some tough decisions.  I would not work 60 hours any longer, unless there were true emergency-type circumstances.  The next three years of my work life were more pleasant, and even more financially rewarding, not to mention the turn for the better in my home life. 

But, why did I work such long hours anyway?  My wife and I had already committed to her staying home to manage the home and raise our daughters.  So, maybe that’s why I felt compelled to work so much.  We’d sacrificed the two-income standard, so the burden was now all mine.  Or, was there really another reason lurking beneath the surface? 

One word – lifestyle.  It’s the “other” American Idol that is spiraling Christian homes (and all homes for that matter) down into the abyss. 

Folks, face it, the “American Dream” still captivates us.  We work insanely hard to increase our lifestyle and to save so that we can give our kids an even better standard of living than our own.  Our parents bought into this idolatry.  So did their parents.  It appears at times that American Christians are willing to give up almost nothing for the sake of God’s kingdom.  

But, in our next installment, we shall see that our King, Jesus, has made Himself clear in this matter.  Doing home God’s way, pursuing God’s kingdom and His righteousness, requires hard choices, not the least of which is how much longer we are going to allow the idols of busyness and lifestyle to own us.

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