August 2011

Hope In Light of the Curse

Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That verse encapsulates the problem with every person on this planet. Although many would deny the problem, that does not fix a problem that obviously exists. Paul would further write, “

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12, NASB95)

How is it that all have sinned and thus fall short of the glory of God? Why is that the case? Because, Adam disobeyed God and thus, in him, we all sinned. Regardless of the difficulty of understanding ‘how’ all sinned in Adam, the statement remains clear. Adam’s singular disobedience inserted sin into the world that God created. Thus, since sin entered there, death followed. That is because sin is disobedience to God’s commands and Adam, the man made in the image and likeness of God, disobeyed when he took of the fruit and ate. Death, then, spread to all men through one act of sin.

So, what do we have in this summary of the entrance of sin? What is here is the reason why marriage is difficult and why childrearing is seemingly impossible. The fact that Adam sinned plunged every man, woman, and child into a condition in which sin reigns and the result of sin is death (Romans 6:23; James 1:15). Everything that God created in the garden, especially the relationship of the man to the woman and their relationship to God, is now inaccessible. The beauty, harmony, and glory is lost and cannot be regained by our own discovery. But, God, because of who He is, does not leave it there. He is a God of hope (Romans 15:13). In fact, it can be said that the entire fall occurred in order to usher in hope (Romans 8:20-21).

I have written about the fall and God’s promised redemption elsewhere. From what we encounter in Genesis 3, we understand that the wicked one has deceived Eve, Eve has enticed Adam, and Adam disobeyed God. We see that Eve believed Satan rather than God. We understand that Adam did not exercise rulership over the snake, the woman, or Satan. He simply chose to be under the sway of the deceiver. Satan was successful in bringing the man and the woman into his ‘kingdom’ and out from God’s rule. He was successful at setting himself up as god to the man and the woman and drawing the man and woman away from the true God. Thus, true to form, Satan robs God of His glory, at least it appears that way.

However, we see that God had cast sentence upon the enemy which will ultimately call for his destruction. This destruction will not simply be by a judicial act of God, but rather by the seed of a woman. In saying this, God is saying that a woman will bear the male child who will crush the head of the serpent and all his handiwork will disintegrate. Satan, from that point forward, lives in light of this sentence. Thus, God’s sovereignty is maintained. In fact, due to Satan’s diabolical work, God’s greatest glory will come to light in the redemption of sinners.

And that is what this is all about. The power and glory of God’s redemption is on display in the child of God. Both now, on this planet, and on the planet to come (Revelation 21:1). The fact that Satan tempted and deceived the woman did nothing to ruin the glory of God ultimately. In fact, his efforts were simply a key component in God’s ultimate and powerful display of His glory.

Most Christians do not see that great plan of redemption work out in their marriage. They love the doctrines of redemption and love to philosophize about it, but they don’t see that the very doctrines of redemption that they love, or say they love, are the foundation of their marriage. The home is the stage for redemption. Further, unfortunately, many marriage and home ‘ministries’ do little to identify, reiterate and explain this phenomenon. They do that to their own shame as they replace their own abilities to establish the home for the ability of God to glorify Himself in the home . As the Psalmist has said, “Unless the Lord build the house, you are wasting your time” (my paraphrase of Psalm 127:1). Thus, what is needed to make a home the stage for God’s redemption is clear. First, you need to identify sin. That might seem easy at first glance. However, truth is, many are so blind to what is expected of them in their homes, that they don’t see the sin. Thus, their minimized standards replace God’s high and lofty standard that gives Him glory.

For example, fathers are commanded to “train” their children (Ephesians 6:4). They are commanded by their Creator to be actively and profoundly training their children with all the resources of the Old and New Testaments toward the God of Scripture. This is an unending training that makes the home the training ground for children. However, how many fathers would rather fill their time with their own pursuits? How many Christian fathers would rather give their attention to their own hobbies and thus train themselves in proficiency of their own interests? The training that is called for is the truest and hardest expression of self-denial there is, next to marriage itself. Anything less than that kind of commitment is sin. Yet, we have pews filled with fathers, if they even come to church, who have decided that they don’t need to train their children. They are comfortable to let another man, or woman, do it telling himself that “they are the experts” all the while refusing to shoulder this command, take on the responsibility, and learn how to train his children.

Once that sin is identified, repentance is required. This is nothing less than an acknowledgement that there has been a failure in some area to give God glory. Maybe that father in the above example would identify that he has been lazy in his responsibilities, and he turns to God in his heart asking for forgiveness. God is quick to forgive, that is sure. However, the next step is to learn how to do what is required. He must give his heart completely to the responsibilities that God has given him. I personally have had a number of times of repentance when I would examine my own commitments in light of Scripture and see a very wide difference between the two. Obviously, the Scripture is not wrong. I was. By the mercy of God, I repented and devoted myself to the commitments God requires of me in my marriage and my family. I have never regretted turning away from the worthless things of this world and turning to the glorious provisions of God in a myriad of ways. For example, my family and I used to have Friday as our “movie night.” Of course, all week long we would be anticipating that 2 hour block of time when we dim the lights, pop in the movie and get lost in the story and action. As time went on, I began losing interest in those things less and less. At that point I began to examine why we were having movie night. Throughout the week, in the evenings, we would sit down and watch some show or some news as well. However, mixed in with the movies, the shows, and the news were some of the filthiest and most horrible pictures and scenes imaginable. Who has not had the experience of watching a show and a lewd advertisement comes on? Or, who has not watched some sporting event and the commercials introduce an ungodly habit, like drinking. Many Christians simply tell themselves, “Oh, I don’t do that so it doesn’t affect me.” Really? Job made a covenant with his eyes to not gaze at a virgin (Job 31:1). David got into trouble, initiated by looking, which affected his entire family for the rest of his life (2 Samuel 11:1-2). Jesus said that what you look at you think about (Matthew 6:22-23). That passage is especially pertinent because if you identify as light that which God calls darkness, you are really deceived! Nakedness, drunkenness, promiscuity, profanity, ungodly behavior (things that Jesus Christ would not Himself encourage), violence, and other behaviors are condemned by God, and yet we are entertained by them. What is worse, we let our children watch much of the same!

Therefore, Karen and I made the decision to get rid of our T.V. when we moved and we have never looked back. We have regained our children’s hearts, regained our day, regained our time, regained our conversation, regained our purity of mind. Our children are ignorant of many of the celebrities and superstars that are commonplace in the world and that is as it should be (Romans 16:19). They are unfamiliar with the degradation in the world around them and we are thankful. Why do I want to encourage the sin that is latent within them by placing ungodliness before them?

Once a sin is identified and repentance is sought, then conviction needs to be established. Having convictions very often is what establishes the heart. A conviction is some truth that you are convinced of in Scripture, whether by deduction or outright instruction, and thus your life now is subject to that truth (as an example see Romans 14:14). That is conviction. Paul told Timothy to be subject to the truths that he learned from Paul and those things that he has grown convinced of (2 Timothy 3:14). That is the idea. Once you become accurate in your interpretation of a passage, you subject your life under its teaching and you don’t move away from it for anything. The key, of course, is to make sure you accurately understand it. But once the Scripture is understood and rightly interpreted, obey it. Train your children also toward those convictions.

The display of the glory of God is the taking of a sinner and making him a son. When man was made in the image and likeness of God, that image and likeness most directly referred to the eternal Son, Jesus Christ. However, once sin entered in because of disobedience, something the Son would not do, the image and likeness, i.e. glory, was lost. Now, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that image and likeness is restored through faith in Him (2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 13:14; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:10). That is the hope of Jesus Christ. And, that is the hope that resides in the home that is brought under the Lordship of Christ.

The Joy of Marriage

Yesterday I began a series on Marriage and the Family. I believe it will be a foundational and important series because of the fundamental importance the topic holds in most everyone’s life.

The home is the place where a man, and his wife, have children. It is the place in which, or from which, all of life is lived out. It is in the home, that the newborn infant is cared for as well as the teenage son is trained. It is in the home where the husband and wife can enjoy the best of times, and the worst of times. It is in the home where relaxation can occur or the most horrendous conflict. The home is a very central place for any people, culture, or nationality. Whether you live in huts, or in a mansion, that home represents the decisions and habits of everyone living there. Therefore, a true and biblical understanding of marriage and the family is foundational to all of life for the church.

The first place you have to begin in this kind of teaching is to reiterate the sufficiency of God’s Scripture. God’s Word is not a fix-it kind of manual. It is not some kind of book of opinions and “try this, it might work” kind of a thing. Rather than looking for ways to “apply the Scripture” to my life, we should be trembling before it (Is. 66:1-2), and obeying its instructions. It is life and it is dangerous, as it will cut through to our hearts. Yet, it restores and replenishes our souls. Notice the process in 2 Timothy 3:14-16:

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14–17, NASB95)

Notice the process: in order for Scripture to be profitable, it first must be learned. Second, it must teach us. Third, it will reprove us. Fourth, correction has to take place. Fifth, the result is a training in righteousness that will ensue. Thus, the man of God will be equipped in this fashion. There is no other way. It hurts. It is hard. But, the “profit” is immeasurable. It, in fact, leads to life and joy.

When considering the family, this process is no different. The Scripture will confront all our failures, misconceptions, wrong ideals and then shred them to pieces. However, to those who are trained by it, it leads to life and the glory of God. So, let the Scripture have its way with you. It is to your benefit and leads to the joy of God. Jesus said it simply, “Sanctify them in the truth (Father); Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).

Put simply, the foundation of every marriage and every home is the glory of God. That is, the original design for the home, marriage and children was ultimately and absolutely, for the display of the glory of God.

When God originally designed and created the heavens and the earth, he was purposeful. The apparent goal in it all, was His own glory. The heavens themselves cry out the glory of God day and night (Ps. 19:1). The animals He created were created as a display of His power (see Job 38-40). But the greatest display of His handiwork was the fantastic design and creation of the man and the woman. God is glorified by the heavens and the animals. However, God is on display in a personal way by the man and the woman. This is the foundation of marriage and the family.

How do we know this? In Genesis 1:26-27, Moses writes for us this very thing. He states,

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26–27, NASB95)

When God spoke within Himself for the creation of a man, He said that He intended to make a man to be His image and likeness. Thus, the man, inherently, would be the glory of God. This is true today according to 1 Corinthians 11:7 and James 3:9. The fact of the matter is, the man was created to display God and that did not change when he fell. He is still the image and likeness of God, however, he has been separated from the glory that accompanied that in the original creation (Romans 3:23). The power of the gospel is to restore that glory, through Christ, to the man and the woman respectively (2 Corinthians 3:18; see Ephesians 4:20-24). This is called sanctification. Sanctification is the restoration of the original glory we were designed to bear. However, this is no longer in Adam, but in Christ, which far exceeds Adam. Therefore, we can truly be sons of God.

In order to be the glory of God, man would have to display the nature of God as well as His character. The summary of all nature and character of God is found in the overall function of the man in that he would rule over the entire earth. God is a ruler. He is sovereign. And, as such, He would give to the man to rule as well. In reality, God would rule through the man as that man would represent Him on the planet. The man would have absolute authority and dominion, but with the character and nature of God Himself on display in him. Thus, there is no room for dictatorship, selfish ambition, cruelty and hatred. This rulership would be commensurate with the nature of God Himself. How glorious!

This foundational requirement of the man would demand multiplication. That is, for the man to exercise dominion over the earth and rule in the fashion that God does from heaven, the man would have to be accompanied by another. There are overtones of the Trinity in this. This is why God says that it is not good for man to be alone. If man is the image and likeness of God, then he cannot be alone since God is three Persons in One. God is singular, but Three. Thus, if the man would be the image and likeness of God, he would have to be more than one, and yet, in some way, still maintain his unity. The solution-put the man asleep, take from his side, fashion a compliment for the man, yet taken from the man. In other words, the man would be two from one. Thus, marriage is the reunification of the two into one. This is, as Paul says, “a great mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). There is a representation of the Triunity of God in marriage. Adam and his wife are one, made of the same essence. Yet, they are two different persons with individual wills, minds, and hearts. However, the essence of marriage is the making of the two into one again in all those things. The relationship of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit were to be on display in the relationship of the man and the woman and then, in time, the children. Thus, the family would be a display of the image and likeness of God. Therefore, when Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is made up of such as children, He is referring to the fact that children are a display of that Triunion of God. It all stems from the original creation. By the way, this basic understanding is the groundwork for a biblical perspective of children, which we will cover in later posts.

Marriage, then, when understood in this light, is sacred. It is holy. It is exalted and it is joyous! So much for the superficial descriptions and so-called quick-fixes of modern psychologists and Christian therapists. Marriage is more than 5 steps of good communication. Marriage is the display of the immense and far-reaching glory of God!

With this foundation, we can then see why the woman would be submissive to her husband just as Christ is submissive to the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3). With this in mind, we can see why children are called to submit to their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3). With this in mind, we can see why fathers are given the responsibility to train their children, as all knowledge and instruction of God should come from the father just as it does the heavenly Father (Ephesians 6:4). And, with this in mind, we can see why there is so much trauma in a home that does not set its sights upon these glorious truths and put this into action.

The glory of God. that is the foundation of the home. The glory of God is the foundation of the family. The glory of God is the foundation of a marriage. Anything less will end up in empty self-made reformation. When will we, the church, return glory to God and pursue Him in our most fundamental components of life?

Over the next number of posts, I will be attempting to develop this “Theology of the Home”, as I call it. The realities that God instilled into this thing called marriage and its resultant fruit of a family are profound. Personally speaking, nothing less will do.

Where Do Quarrels and Fights Come From?

Fights and arguments are inevitable. Everything from slight disagreements to all out national and international wars are commonplace in our world. Most, if honest, thrive on that. We are entertained by violence on the television or will spend the Lord’s money at the movie theaters just to be entertained by it. Some get paid to fight-professional sports, military, radio talk show hosts. They all have this in common-they make a living at fighting someone…anyone.

But, think about God’s perspective on this. What does God think of the violence of fighting? It was violence that incited God to destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 6:11-13). It was contention that caused Moses to be dismissed from entering the land promised to Abraham (Numbers 20:12). It was because of the love of war that David was not allowed to build a house in which God would dwell (1 Chronicles 28:2-3). It was violence that characterized the beloved city Jerusalem in the days of Jesus and which subsequently led to His rejection of her (Luke 13:34-35). And it was the desire to fight that Jesus had to address periodically in the hearts of His disciples (Luke 9:54-56; Matthew 26:51-56).

Violence and fighting is not from God. The thought of the desire to hurt or destroy anything God has created, let alone another human being made in the image of God, should provoke us to sadness at the condition of our hearts. But it is normal to us. Jesus told Peter in the garden the night He was betrayed that if you are going to live by violence, you will die by violence (Matthew 26:51f). No thank you. I don’t want my life to be characterized by conflict, anger, hatred and violence. In fact, being angry is enough to categorize my motives as violent (Matthew 5:21-26).

Jesus’ half-brother James teaches us the real reason we fight. In James chapter 4 verses 1-12, he diagnoses this bloodlust in our hearts. Once diagnosed, he introduces the cure.

         1      What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?
         2      You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.
         3      You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
         4      You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
         5      Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?
         6      But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
         7      Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
         8      Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
         9      Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.
         10      Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
         11      Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.
         12      There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

Much can be said about this passage. But notice how James addresses the sin of fighting. First, he gives the diagnosis, then he gives the cure.

DIAGNOSIS:

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?

  • You love pleasure
  • You lust
  • You commit murder
  • You are envious
  • You have wrong motives
  • You are a friend of the world
  • You are proud
  • You have dirty hands and hearts
  • You speak against the brethren

 

Quite a list. It is difficult to know the exact conditions in the churches in Asia Minor to whom this is addressed. Apparently, it was quite a difficult bunch, which demanded godly leadership from this man of God. This was no time for dialogue and counseling sessions. There were no twelve steps here and I don’t see any love languages being spoken. This is a time for decisive action and, in following the pattern of His Master, a time to call for repentance. These people should have been ashamed of themselves, and so should we. Remember, this list of sins is the source of quarrels and conflicts. What does that tell you? When there are quarrels and conflicts, at any level at any time, these are the culprits. The bottom line is that when we fight, argue, or contend, we offend God. The love of pleasure, lust, anger, hunger for the world, and a dirty life all wind us up in arguments all the time with everyone. Why? Because “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:2–3, NASB95). Angry people are frustrated people since they do not get what they want. That is the issue. Mark it down and consider, the last time you argued with your wife, was it not because you did not get something you wanted? You wanted respect, attention, affection, to be heard, or a million other things and you did not get it. So, husband, you take it out on your wife and children. True? Wives, you did not get something you wanted from your husband, love, affection, understanding, that new car etc. and you did not get it. So he bears the brunt of your fury. How sad we are. Children in the home are fighting because they did not get their toy car, their doll, or, when they are older, their IPOD, or to be with their friends etc. and they argue with their parents. Clearly, the source of our fighting is ourselves. There is nothing good in fighting, conflicts, or arguments. They are murderous, ungodly, worldly, and even demonic (James 3:14-16).

 

CURE:

“GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

  • Submit to God
  • Resist the devil (and his ways)
  • Draw near to God
  • Cleanse your hands
  • Purify your hearts
  • Be miserable and weep for the sin in you
  • Humble yourselves in God’s eyes
  • Refuse to speak against a brother or sister

 

What kind of a home, church, or organization would you have if everyone submitted to God? Think about it. If we all were more concerned for God and His glory than our own? What if we demanded of ourselves to despise the very things we love and think we can’t live without? Remember, you can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). What would it be like if, instead of spending money on our ‘pleasures’, we spent money on missionaries? What would it be like if instead of looking at a pastor with suspicion for the instruction he gives, we looked upon him with desperation for the Word that he is proclaiming? What would it be like if children feared for their spiritual lives every time they transgressed a parent’s instruction? And what would it be like if a husband broke down in tears at the repetitive transgression against God of his failure to love his wife?  I would think things would be different. I would think that quarrels and fights would be less frequent.

I know that this is why Jesus instructed us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). It is not because our enemies (real and imagined) are somehow less evil than they are. It is because the real issue is that you and I are responsible for bearing God’s image, and God does not hate like we do. God is love. Granted God hates the wicked (Psalm 7), and even hated Esau (Malachi 1:2-3). But if you think that somehow your hatred is on par with God’s then you are really mistaken. The predominate character of God is love (see 1 Corinthians 13). Therefore, to protect your own holiness before God, love your enemies. Don’t allow anger and hatred to have its way in your heart. Instead, be characterized by love. Let love be your predominate character, even as your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:48).

Repent from violence. Repent from hostility. Repent from the love of anger. It is sin.

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