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Christian Life, Faith, Spiritual Growth, Theology

Laughing on Judgment Day

March 16, 2016

 

 

The contrast between fear inspired by lack of faith and faith that leads to dauntless courage has been a recurring theme in my spiritual growth thus far in 2016. In the last few months I’ve posted a couple times about it, and during one of our recent Threshingfloor community gatherings we spent a significant amount of time discussing John’s words in 1 John 4 about love casting out fear. Our discussion uncovered a truth in the Apostle John’s words that I’d never seen before. He writes,

God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1 John 4:16-18

When you picture yourself coming before the judgment throne of God, how do you imagine you will feel in that moment? What will your expression, your posture be? My assumption, fed by various sermons and texts like Isaiah’s throne-room encounter or Israel’s experience on mount Sinai, is that my feelings before God on that day would be barely reigned-in fear, kept in check by the fact that I know Jesus has covered me (but just barely). In my imagination my posture was always one of kneeling, bowing, and trembling. Isaiah-style “woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips,” worried that at any moment I might be obliterated but clinging in faith to Jesus’ saving work. I’d leave the throne room feeling like I’d just survived an encounter with a hungry lion.

Judging by these verses that’s not what John expects, and it’s not what he wants Jesus’ people to expect either.

God is Love

John writes that God is love, perfect love, and that perfect love casts out fear. A verse or two earlier he states, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.”

If God is love and love casts out fear, why have I always assumed that my encounter in his throne room would be one of fear?

If we have God living in us and we are in God, why would coming before the throne of God be anything more than arriving for the first time at the home that we’ve always longed for?

If love has indeed been “perfected with us so that we may have confidence,” then maybe it’s time that we re-evaluate our assumptions about God, love, and fear.

We Have Confidence

According to John, “we may have confidence for the day of judgment”. The writer of Hebrews echoes this in Hebrews 10:19, saying “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,” and Paul declares, “In him [Jesus] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)

The glorious truth about Christ’s saving work is that it doesn’t just get us through the judgment throne of God by the skin of our teeth, trembling lest we damned. Instead it so radically, deeply connects us with God the Father that when we come before the judgment throne we come with confidence and boldness. You won’t tremble on that day, you’ll rejoice. You won’t fear, you’ll be free.

For those who are in Christ the experience won’t be like being sent to the principle’s office. It will be more like coming home to a Father who is wildly excited to see them again.

When we grasp this it dramatically changes how we proclaim the Gospel, how we live, and how we think about our relationship with God. If our imagined experience of our first encounter with God the Father is one of fear rather than love, if our faith is driven more by expectation of judgment than anticipation of joy, no wonder it holds little appeal to the world around us. But if we grasp the radical, life-transforming love that is truly ours in Christ, those around us will be inexorably drawn to it.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment,” and in Christ all punishment has been done away with. Soak in God’s love. Believe it. You’ll be coming before the throne with boldness on that day. How much more bold and fearless ought you be today?!

 

 

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Faith, Theology

Checking Jesus’ Death

March 7, 2016

 

 

 

When things go wrong we tend to question God. When we sin we often question whether God’s grace is going to cover this failure. Does the Lord truly love us? Is he pleased with us?

The common practice of Roman soldiers was to break the legs of those who were being crucified in order to ensure that they died quickly. The day Jesus was crucified, John records in his Gospel that the soldiers came to do exactly that but found that Jesus already appeared to be dead. To confirm this, “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (John 19:34)

Death by crucifixion is death by drowning, liquid pooling up in your lungs as you struggle to breathe. When water spilled out of Jesus’ pierced side, the soldiers knew full well that the man hanging on the cross was definitely dead. They didn’t need to check again. The execution had been completed.

Years later, the Apostle Peter writes, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” Christ suffered once for sins. The book of Hebrews reiterates this, declaring, “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10, emphasis mine)

God has proven himself to us completely in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. He proved his love through the sending and sacrificing of his son. He’s proved his power through the miraculous life and resurrection of his son. He’s proved his faithfulness through his son’s promise to be with his people till the very end and ultimately, to return.

When we question the goodness, grace, or power of God every time we sin or something doesn’t go the way we desire in our lives, it’s as if we’re that soldier there on the crucifixion mount, returning again to spear Jesus’ side, double, triple checking that his sacrificial death is truly real, over and over again.

Checking Jesus’ death over and over again isn’t faith. It’s fear and doubt. Put the spear down and take God at his word. Clearly this is what John intended for us to do when he concluded his Gospel with the words; “He who saw it has borne witness – his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth – that you may also believe.” (John 19:35)

You may not have been there for Jesus’ death, but John’s word is true and is written so that you may also believe. Take God at his word. Don’t let your questioning become a continual testing of his truthfulness. Stop checking Jesus’ death. Trust that he has suffered once, for all, and has covered completely every sin and failure and shortcoming that you will ever have. Trust that his love is unending and his patience is perfect. Trust he does indeed work everything for the good of those who love him. Trust him. His testimony is true!

 

*This post was inspired by something my roommate Andrew shared with me after he had been praying, so credit for the concept goes to him!

 

 

 

Book Highlights, Quotations, Theology

Book Highlights: Disarming Scripture

December 9, 2015

Periodically I share some highlights from the books I’ve been reading.  Of late, I’ve been delving into the current literature that is attempting to rewrite how we interpret, understand, and apply scripture. Many of the questions and critiques of Christianity raised by the likes of Rob Bell, Rachel Held Evans, Brian McClaren, and others are important ones. They call out real problems, abuses, and weak spots within evangelicalism and Christianity at large.

My initial impulse was to outright reject the teachings of those who are rejecting the past few thousand years of Christian history. How are we to be so proud as to say that we know better than the tens of thousands who have gone before us? However, I felt like God was challenging me to dig in more deeply and actually hear what’s being said. I started with this book, Disarming Scripture by Derek Flood, because it had been referenced by several people I know and (handily enough) was free for Kindle a month or three ago.

At some point I may write an at-length review of the book, but for now it will suffice to say that even after full, open engagement with what Flood and others with similar viewpoints are saying, I strongly disagree and find – across the board – their reasoning and arguments to be woefully insufficient and based more on a desire to make the gospel ( the small g is intentional) more appealing to popular culture or to remove things that make them personally uncomfortable than on sound logic, evidence, and exegesis.

Below are several quotes that, in my opinion, communicate the key points that Flood makes in Disarming Scripture.

If we as progressives are going to reject violence and instead focus on mercy and social justice, then we need to have a developed hermeneutical rationale for our reading which can stand its ground against a conservative reading that seeks to legitimize violence in God’s name. What we need is an approach that can honestly face and confront violence in the Bible, and do so from the perspective of faith, and as the necessary outgrowth of a developed moral conscience.

The priority of Jesus was not on defending a text, it was on defending people—in particular defending the victims of religious violence and abuse.

In faithfully acting to restore people, the Gospel writers tell us, Jesus continually appeared in the eyes of the religious leaders around him to be breaking God’s laws. Jesus was not particularly concerned with this, and instead was infinitely more concerned with caring for the least, even if this meant his reputation became one of a “blasphemer” and “law breaker” in the eyes of the religious authorities.

The Pharisees’ understanding, as it is presented in the Gospels, is characterized by a rigid observance of laws and rituals. Jesus, in contrast, had a way of interpreting the Bible that put a priority on people over rules and rituals. The way of the Pharisees is focused on fear, and thus insists on strict adherence to all of the commands, even when these commands hurt and shut people out. The way of Jesus in contrast is instead focused on what love requires—even when doing so means breaking rules and commands.

Rather than finding a single narrative throughout the Old Testament, we instead repeatedly encounter these conflicting perspectives within the Hebrew canon: One narrative states that suffering and violence are just and deserved, the other protests and argues against that narrative, calling it unjust.

Paul’s conversion was one away from religious fanaticism. In other words, Paul did not see himself as rejecting his Jewish faith or Israel’s scriptures, but rather as rejecting his former violent interpretation of them.

Looking at the record of dispute found throughout the Old Testament, we can begin to trace the outlines of a people’s slow development away from the primitive view of violent tribal war gods so typical of the worldview of the ancient world. Part of this development involved Judaism moving from polytheism to monotheism.

The New Testament must be regarded as a first step along a trajectory in regards to changing oppressive societal structures which at the time as a persecuted minority group they had little power to change. Finding ourselves in a position to effect those changes in society today, our task is to work out how to apply the spirit of Jesus’ teaching to our time and circumstance.

the way that Jesus read Scripture was shaped by his own direct experience of God in his life. Jesus therefore understands his messianic mission to be radically different from what his fellow Jews were expecting. Jesus’ experience of the Spirit shaped his understanding of Scripture, and not the other way around.

Note that the measure of “right” interpretation here is not based primarily on evaluating whether the text has been properly understood (the question of proper exegesis), but on evaluating the results when it is applied in our lives—observing whether it results in bringing about life or death, flourishing or harm. As we have seen, Jesus saw the primary role and telos of Scripture as leading us to love. If we wish to read the Bible with that same aim, the question we need to ask is therefore not so much “Have I read this right?” but more importantly “Does this reading lead to life?”

In the end, what really matters is how we treat each other. For my part, I am perfectly content to trust God to judge rightly so long as we humans stop hurting each other in God’s name or in the name of justice. The bottom line here is that while we can find disagreement among New Testament authors as to God’s violence, the New Testament is unanimous in its radical rejection of human participation in violence.

Christian Life, Commentary, Discipleship, Evangelism, Theology

God On Mission

October 14, 2015

The Father didn’t send Jesus on vacation; he sent him on a mission. Throughout his adult life, Jesus had a goal. He wasn’t dropped randomly in an inconsequential place at an inconsequential time. Quite the opposite. Jesus was sent on a mission by God the Father “at just the right time,” and he was sent “not to be served, but to serve.” After his resurrection Jesus appears to his disciples and says to them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21) Wonder of wonders, he says to his disciples that they’re being sent in the same way that he was, on a mission.

Jesus wasn’t doing something new in his mission-oriented life. From the very beginning – even before the fall and sin – God has been on mission. His goal: that the earth be “full of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” or, to put it as he did to his image bearers Adam and Eve, “be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” Jesus, however, gives us an extended, up close, and truly human glimpse of what it looks like when God shows up on mission.

I want to take the next several paragraphs and zoom in on a specific scene from Jesus’ life that I believe gives a beautiful picture of God on mission in all it’s wild and frightening strangeness. From this scene we’ll see six things that are always present when God is on mission. The characters: Jesus and twelve young men – a few fishers, a tax collector, a zealot, and some others. The scene: rural Israel in the first century.

 

Read the full post at the Verge Ministries blog

Best Of, Christian Life, Evangelism, Spiritual Growth, Theology

Freedom and The Glory

July 6, 2015

 

 

The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
– Romans 8:19-21

 

Subject to frustration

You’ve seen and you’ve tasted the futility and frustration of this world, haven’t you? The pain of the stillborn child, the death of two teen boys in a sudden car crash, the hours of work that barely bring in enough money to make ends meet, the frustrated plans for a beautiful marriage. Our world was subjected to this. It wasn’t meant to be this way. Things are broken and in need of fixing.

Subjected in hope

But, unlike what modernism, post-modernism, evolution, nihilism, and their ilk want us to believe, this subjection wasn’t purposeless. It’s not the result of ten billion molecules aligning for the sake of creating purposelessness. We’re not on the treadmill until we die and then off into the void of death.

Creation (note the intentionality in that word) was subject in hope. There’s a massive difference between purposeless pain and the purposeful agony of pushing your body to accomplish a goal. This frustration and seeming futility was done with an end in mind, a hope that it will have a certain outcome. And what is that hope?

In hope of freedom

The hope is that the futility would lead to freedom. Liberation from captivity, from destruction, and from pain. No more bondage to death and decay. Subjected to captivity for the sake of freedom is a strange path to take, but it’s a pattern than God seems to repeat. Israel in Egypt for four hundred years before walking into freedom. Paul blinded and captive for days before being released to shake the world with the Gospel. Jesus bound, beaten, and killed before rising from death as ruler over all, displaying his glory.

In hope of glory

The end goal of this futility is glory. The pent-up wonder and awe that has been tamped down for millennia by the frustration of a broken world will soon explode over the horizons of creation. Glory will cover the earth like waters cover the sea. Jesus was the first deluge, but he was just the start. Just the firstborn among many sons and daughters.

Of the children of God

This freedom and glory is “of the children of God.” It’s something possessed by God’s children, given as a gift to the heirs of God’s kingdom through Christ.(Romans 8:17) Jesus purchased our adoption, yes, but this glory and freedom is ours to give. Creation’s aching and anxious for it to be revealed. God’s made the downpayment, sealed his children with the Holy Spirit and anointed us to be the ambassadors of the free and glorious kingdom that has and is to come.

The present frustration and pain is tiny in comparison to what’s coming. Creation itself is on edge in anticipation. Join in. Embrace the freedom and glory that God has given for today and lean into the future freedom and glory, so hard that you – like Jesus – become a bridge between the then and the now. Let the world taste the good future of the children of God so that they too join the family. The freedom and the glory is yours, child of God. Share it.

 

 

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Theology

Reason and Mysticism

June 15, 2015

What strange kind of man spends days sitting around reasoning and debating, giving cogent arguments for his position, and then goes all mystic one night, has a vision, and lets that direct where he lives and what he does for the next 18 months?

The kind of guy who is like the Apostle Paul.

Acts 18 starts with Paul in Corinth, spending his days off work in the synagogue reasoning and debating, giving argument for the truth of the Gospel. After a couple weeks of resistance from the Jews, Paul moves next door to a non-Jewish guy’s house and continues preaching. One night God speaks to Paul in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”

Because of the vision Paul stays in Corinth for a year and a half.

Are we prepared for both of those things? Would we be able to reason and debate? Would we be able to receive a vision from God and obey?

Our modern world has pitted reason against mysticism. Someone who believe in miracles, visions, angels, and demons must be unreasonable. The woman of science and logic must inevitably reject the supernatural as something that never existed or perhaps existed back in the times of Jesus.

We need to break down that false dichotomy. We need a new framework – a new plausibility structure – that can encompass both the miraculousness of the resurrection and visions from the Lord that are meant to guide our day-to-day life as well as the depth of logical thought and reasoning that can lay out why the Gospel makes sense.

I want so much to be a person that bridges the gap that satan has driven into the heart of the church that separates the “charismatic” from the “evangelical” and the gifts of the Spirit from the word of God. Let’s be rid of the lie that separates truth from power and logic from passion.

I want to be someone who knows when to leverage reasoning and mental powers that God has gifted his people with and when to simply say yes and obey a dream or vision that God has given.

It’s that kind of person that Jesus formed his disciples into in the first century as they followed him from town to town and village to village, with him repeating over and over again “I only do what the Father tells me to.” That’s the kind of person that Paul was. That’s the kind of person that will be fully equipped to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel boldly in a society that is increasingly devoid of the trappings of Christendom and firmly against Christians.

I’m praying for it for myself, for Threshingfloor, and for God’s people across this country and world.

Christian Life, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Warfare, Theology

Submit to God, Defeat the Devil

May 9, 2015

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

– James 4:7-10

Early on in Threshingfloor’s history there was a young woman who started coming occasionally. As we got to know her better, she shared that she had a tremendous difficulty leaving her apartment to join us for our community gatherings each week. She described an almost physical force pushing her to stay in her apartment, that faded once she was out of her building and in her car but returned later in the form of feeling sick to her stomach  whenever we spent time in worship or she tried to pray. To make a long story short, we discovered that she was in the midst of some serious warfare with satan who was fighting tooth and nail to keep her from growing in Christ.

There’s been other stories like that throughout the years. Young men who functionally trapped in childhood because of the spiritual bondage of unconfessed sin, women who have overwhelming social anxiety that turns out to be demonic oppression, people whose seeming laziness and spiritual apathy are the result of spiritual warfare more than just personal choices.

All that to say, don’t discount satan. Don’t be ignorant of the spiritual reality that we operate in.  The devil is hard at work attempting to drag you down and draw you away from the destiny that God has for you. He works to divide families and the body of Christ (and loves to use “theology” to do so – but that’s a post for another time). He works to keep people in sin and addictions, and he works with all he has to keep people from encountering Jesus in deeper ways.

There are plenty of books out there on spiritual warfare, ranging from overly-mystical and legalistic to practically helpful and biblically grounded. Most focus on steps of deliverance, dealing with generational sin, and other actions that need to be taken to receive freedom.  Some are helpful. We’ve used them with people in our communities. But when James, the brother of Jesus, wants to equip believers to stand against the devil he starts somewhere different than most modern authors. He starts with humility and submission.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

I want every Christian to grasp this truth. The foundation of your freedom from satan is your submission to God. We will always be operating under somebody’s authority – always taking someone’s word about us. We’re not autonomous beings. There’s no way to be truly independent and make of yourself whatever you want to be. Either you submit to God, or you submit to satan.

Submitting to or being taken captive by satan doesn’t necessarily look like demon possession as demonstrated in Hollywood’s dark corners of horror films. Generally it’s (seemingly) much more benign. The signs of submission to satan aren’t hard to spot – they’re generally just the opposite of submission to the Spirit of God. Check out the contrast between the two, from both my experience and scripture:

Submitting to satan

Submitting to God

  • Consistent anxiousness and worry
  • Easily angered at small things
  • Slow to trust, expects negative thing
  • Constantly measuring and feeling like a failure
  • Frustrated that others don’t believe the same things
  • Doesn’t care much about other’s feelings
  • Peace and rest regardless of circumstance
  • Gracious and slow to anger
  • Quick to trust and expects good of others
  • Entrusts judgment of self to God, doesn’t need to compare
  • Values the different viewpoints that God has given to his people
  • Gentle and kind toward all

 

If we want to defeat the devil in our day to day life, submission to God is the weapon we must wield. The question then is, how do I practically go about submitting to God? How do I practice with this weapon of freedom? James tells us;

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

 

  1. First, come near to God. Make space in your life to enter into the presence of God, and practice drawing near to him at all times and in all situations. Practice the presence of God. As Augustine notes in his Confessions, we may run from God but he is never far from us. Take a minute or two every half hour to step back from what you are engaged in at the moment and lift your soul up to Him, acknowledge that he is near and draw near to him. This is the beginning of all submission. Once you’re near to God – once you encounter him – you can’t help but submit to him.
  2. Second, wash your hands. Cast off any fleshly sin that you’ve been dabbling in. Throw it aside. Sin, by very definition, is opposed to submission to God. As Paul says in Romans, choosing sin is choosing submission to the mastery of satan. If you’ve been born again by the blood of Christ, sin is no longer in your nature. It’s mud on your hands. Wash it away in the waters of repentance and belief.
  3. Third, purify your heart. Don’t be double minded. Commit yourself to Christ completely. Partial commitment to Christ is total commitment to supporting satan. If there’s something in your life that is causing a division, get rid of it.
  4. Fourth, mourn and repent of your sin and any way that you’ve submitting to the devil. Engage your emotions in the realization of what was wrong.

In all of this, you are humbling yourself before the Lord. As we do so he will always lift us up. Jesus is the ultimate example of how this plays out. Throughout his life he submitted to the Father. As he submitted he was able to resist the devil and the devil fled from him in terror. Jesus humbled himself to the point of death on a cross, and the Father has lifted him up and given him the name that sits above every name in the universe. The same is true for us. As we submit to God we gain an authority that is far greater than satans. Want to resist the devil? Submit to God and he will flee from you. And you know what? That’s just fun.

 

Commentary, Theology

Seven Lessons from Habakkuk

December 30, 2013

This past Sunday at Salem one of the pastors preached a message from the book of Habakkuk. This three chapter Old Testament book has what is, in my opinion, one of the most terrible and beautiful images of God’s power as Habakkuk sings praise to the God over all. The last 19 verses deserve several posts in and of themselves, but for the moment here are seven things that stood out to me as I searched through Habakkuk’s words on Sunday afternoon. Sit down, read the book through, and get a glimpse of our King’s glory.

  1. Speak to God honestly and tell him what you really think. He can handle it. (1:1-4, 1:12-2:1)
  2. God can righteously use evil toward good ends. (1:5-11)
  3. Don’t judge God’s justice by present experience. (2:2-20)
  4. When you pray, determine to look for an answer until you get one. (2:1)
  5. God isn’t tame, fuzzy, or feel-good. He’s ferociously powerful. (3:4-16)
  6. God is not above violence. (3:11-15)
  7. Knowing God’s ferocious justice and power builds faith that withstands trials. (3:16-19)
Best Of, Christian Life, Theology

Marriage isn’t for you – it’s for Jesus

November 6, 2013

 

To my knowledge this is the first time I’ve written a post in response to something I’ve read on another blog. Generally I feel that internet debates lack positive fruit, however, several people I know and respect have shared this blog post and said that it was a must-read via various social media outlets. Kelly, my beautiful wife, was reading it on Sunday night and commented her disappointment with what she had expected to be an excellent article, asking my thoughts. I read and was similarly disappointed. Over the last day or so I’ve put some time into thinking through what was wrong with the post “Marriage Isn’t for You,” and figured I would write out some of my thoughts for the benefits of my friends.

First, a disclaimer. From a brief browsing of Seth Adam Smith’s blog I don’t see much evidence for him being a follower of Christ. If that’s the case, then my post here isn’t any judgment of him since, without the Holy Spirit, there’s no way to truly know the ultimate goal of marriage. My goal is to correct what may be an error in our understanding of what marriage is about, which is a critical thing to understand in our increasingly anti-marriage culture.

The point of Seth’s post can be seen in his quotation of his father’s advice on marriage;

You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

The post has obviously struck a cord. Published two days ago, it already has over 3000 comments. I’ve seen it posted approximately 10 times in the last two days on my Facebook feed. Seth has tapped something that we know we need to hear. Marriage isn’t about us. It’s not about what we get out of it. It’s about loving and serving someone else.  Excellent truth, right? No. Not really.

The problem with the post isn’t that it’s totally wrong – it’s that it falls far short of the mark (Rom. 3:23). While statements like, “No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love,” connect with Biblical morals found in places like 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 that emphasize marriage’s other-contentedness, they hang terribly disconnected from their Gospel end goal.

If marriage is indeed “about the person you married,” even if it’s for your family and your future children, then marriage becomes the sin that Paul warns of in Romans 1:23 where we “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man”. Marriage becomes idolatry when its end goal is your spouse’s happiness. When your marriage becomes an idol then it’s on your shoulder to carry it, and the burden of two human souls is not something that we have the strength to bear. It’s a weight that will inevitably crush the structure it sits on, leaving your marriage cracked and crumbling.

According to God, marriage isn’t about you, your spouse, your kids, or your family. It’s not even about being “better together” and serving more people. According to Ephesians 5, marriage is about Jesus. The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes, “’a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh [be married].’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” God’s declaration is that marriage is about Christ and the church, not about the person you married. The main reason that our King created marriage was to give the world an image of what his love for his people looks like. It’s not about you. Her. Him. It’s about Jesus and the gospel.

Marriage isn’t about us because it’s about Jesus. In marriage we serve each other because Jesus served us. We sacrifice for each other because Jesus sacrificed for us. We raise children, sacrificing for their sake, loving them, and giving unlimited grace to them because Jesus made the way for us to become children of God and is loving us, raising us up in his image, and being infinitely patient with us. Seth Adam Smith’s blog post isn’t all wrong, but it does fall far short of the full truth, and that’s a terribly dangerous place to be.

Kelly and I have been married just over a year, and we have certainly learned that marriage doesn’t work when we’re thinking of ourselves first. But we’ve also learned that we need our marriage to orbit around something much larger than ourselves for it to work. When our marriage is lived out from the grace of Jesus for the glory of Jesus, everything works. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison in his “Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell,”

Marriage is more than your love for each other. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, and office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man.

Check out a couple of other great resources on Biblical marriage below;

 

Discipleship, Leadership, Theology

David, Discipleship, and the Sovereignty of God

October 22, 2013

O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.”

– 1 Chronicles 29:18-19, ESV

When we follow Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations we need to remember that we are going in service of the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth. When we forget that mighty truth and begin to take the weight of souls on our shoulders the work becomes a burden too great for us to bear. We don’t have the power to change people’s hearts. I don’t have any real way to ensure that the 20 or so people who regularly join our Threshingfloor community will stay faithful to Christ tomorrow, much less a year from now.

David’s prayer at the end of his kingship over Israel gives us a picture of the attitude that we need as disciple makers. David is passing off the crown of a massive kingdom, leadership of tens of thousands of people, and, most importantly, the task of building the temple that he has been stockpiling resources for. Quite literally, David is turning the kingdom of God on earth over to his son. From this moment on Solomon will be the leader of God’s people. Where does David turn for assurance that things will go well? How is he able to entrust so great a task to someone else?  His prayer gives us the answer.

First he acknowledges God’s sovereign control of the human heart. David prays, “keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you.” David trusts that God is the one who directs people’s hearts. Because David knew the sovereign power of his God he was freed to empower others. We need to know the same.

Discipleship without faith in the sovereignty of God inevitably becomes manipulation. We leverage Bible verses, peer-pressure, small groups, and the human conscience to get people to change and call it discipleship.However, when we believe the biblical truth that the Holy Spirit is the one who guides and shapes the hearts of those we disciple we are freed from the need to manipulate or cajole people into obedience.  We are enabled to entrust them with the Gospel truth, trusting that God is the one who establishes his kingdom.

Like David we stockpile the treasures that the Lord has given us through our time with him and entrust them to others. God is in control of what happens next. Jesus passed the treasure of the Gospel off to a small team of incapable men when he ascended back to heaven, knowing that his Father would take care of the rest. Like David, Jesus knew that our hearts are “a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)

In your journey of disciple-making don’t lose sight of our Lord’s sovereignty. Without him having all authority we will fail. But if he does indeed rule over all then we can move forward in joyful confidence that his kingdom will be built and more and more men and women will become temples and priests to our God, living stones in a house built for the glory of his name.