CTT | Christian Dating?

So, it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. It’s been a while since we last tacked the subject of dating relationships, so I thought I’d revisit the topic. In covering this topic, there is going to be a lot of Law. We’ll get to the Gospel in this area, but in our society and even in our churches, there is a great deal of lawlessness in the area of romantic relationships.

Where does the Bible address dating?

Before I answer this question, let’s start off by clarifying what we mean by “dating”. In our modern context, “dating” in its cleanest form is what we call two unmarried individuals getting to know each other in hopes of determining whether or not they’d like to marry. I have no doubt that there are some who put this into practice with the best of intentions. In its dangerous form, “dating” is a short-cut to companionship and carnal knowledge between two unmarried individuals in hopes of gleaning all of the benefits of marriage without any of the commitment. Should this “relationship” last long enough as the most desirable, or the best each individual can hope to get, then it might progress into a marriage relationship. The common theme here is that it’s somewhat considered a process for selecting a spouse, but the difference between good dating and bad dating is the level of premarital intimacy. A major element in American culture is the hyper-individualism we embrace in every decision we make. We “date” for what we think will make us the most happy. We explain away dating mistakes, abuses, and heartbreak through the lens of “finding ourselves” or “doing what’s right for me”. Nowhere in Scripture is the marriage relationship described in such selfish and self-centered terms. Since marriage is never described as such, how can anyone justify “dating” with that mindset as a valid approach to finding a spouse. So, we have an issue with the term “dating”. Our modern context goes about it selfishly, carnally, and individualistically. So, let’s discuss this Biblically. For starters, let’s ask a better question than “where does the Bible address dating” by asking “Where does the Bible address finding a spouse”.

Where does the Bible address finding a spouse?

The short answer is “Yes, but not in great detail”. The first mention of finding a spouse we’ll look to is in Genesis 2. Let’s also look at what Jesus taught in regards to the Law of marriage.

Genesis 2:23-24 (ESV)

Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The first point I want to make here, is that until we are married, we are not individuals, we are very much a part of our family. Western society had a “kick them to the curb at 18” when I was growing up, and millennials tend to more of a “the kids know what’s best for them these days” mentality. Each of this is destructive to our understanding of the estate of the Family and the vocations of parents and children. The fourth commandment (5th Reformed) is in play here (honor your father and your mother) for both the man and woman leading up to marriage. Who you choose to marry impacts both families greatly. There are those whose family ties are already fractured, for now I’m talking to families that are intact. There are boundaries that need to be placed, for it is you who must choose to marry, but the fourth commandment applies across every social context. Rebellion is a horrible way to enter into the marriage covenant.

The sixth commandment (7th Reformed) “do not commit adultery” is one we modern-day Christians like to minimize either by stratifying the degrees of adultery or by crafting environments where we can understandably “oops” into sexual immorality by suddenly being overcome by burning passion, “in the heat of the moment”. The first approach comes by renaming the form of adultery we are more comfortable forgiving/excusing into “premarital sex” rather than adultery. We like to reserve that word for when one or both parties engaged in sexual intimacy is in-fact married to someone else. Then, we like to create degrees of error depending on the extend of the physical intimacy so there’s sex, and then there’s foreplay, and there is “heavy petting”, wet vs dry kissing, sexting, flirting, etc. Is this the right approach? No, it isn’t. To quote Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. (ref)“. Changing what we call a sin, and inventing our own taxonomy of terms sub-dividing that sin into categories does not have any real impact on the sinfulness of the sin. It’s still sexual immorality. It’s still adultery. Jesus addresses this attempt at diluting the Law directly in His sermon on the mount.

Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV) | Lust

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

This goes for women, too, by the way. None is immune to this sin. So, if thoughts and fantasies apart from action are no less adultery, there is no muting of the sin of adultery in your dating by simply drawing a line in the sand where you think you’ll be able to refrain from crossing before marriage.

As for the “heat of the moment” approach to sexual sin, Proverbs 5 addresses this quite plainly as well. Whether you run toward sexual sin, or simply plan to be carelessly swept away by your own passions or are caught in a temptress’ snare, death is death, and to flirt with death is folly.

The Scriptures point to sexual purity whenever the discussion of marriage comes up. The primary reason for this is that sex is given as a gift only within the covenant of Marriage. Outside of marriage, sex is a curse. Sex in all of its forms outside of marriage is sin. It is a particularly dangerous sin. So, we’ve established that sex outside of marriage is sin. Let’s take a moment to see what happens when the Pharisees tested Jesus concerning marriage and divorce, particularly with how the disciples heard His teaching.

Matthew 19:1-12 (ESV) | Teaching About Divorce

Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

If you take some time reading through Malachi, you’ll see that the priests were abusing the letter of divorce under the Mosaic covenant and leaving the wives of their youth for younger models (Malachi 2:13-16). The LORD sends rebuke through the prophet, Malachi, for this and several other grave sins. So, marriage is a life-long covenant, not to be broken by man. The disciples, realizing the seriousness of the marriage covenant here, come to the conclusion that it’s better not to marry. They were right, but Jesus reminds them that not everyone can go through life without sexual sin. That is a particular grace; therefore, God has given us marriage. No marriage = no sex of any kind. That’s the Law. At this time, adultery was punishable by death, though not always sentenced to it. If you recall, Joseph thought to quietly divorce Mary, the mother of Jesus until and angel spoke to Joseph confirming the Word of the Lord to Mary (Matt 1:19-25).

Okay, so what about choosing a spouse?

Dear brother and sister in Christ Jesus, you are free to choose whom you will marry. You are not free to include sexual sin in your selection process, that is still sin and will require continual repentance. It’s also a horrible, terrible metric for selecting a spouse. In our modern context of dating, we allow things we don’t like in hopes of getting whatever we want. It is reckless to base a life long commitment of marriage on a few moments of sexual pleasure that may or may not be genuine and may cease the moment your marriage is settled. Physical beauty is fleeting, we all age. Making physical attraction/chemistry the focal point of choosing a lifelong spouse is also foolish.

I’d like to take a moment to read through the Apostle Paul’s instruction regarding marriage and remarriage in his first letter to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV) | Flee Sexual Immorality

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The vast majority of us fall in the category of those to whom it wasn’t given to be born a eunuch. We struggle with sexual immorality. We are told to flee from it. Marriage is a blessed escape vehicle from sexual immorality, for within marriage sex becomes a gift of uniting us with our spouse into one flesh. A word of LAW here, and it is not my aim to offend any of you, but where Paul writes “prostitute” we should consider those who are comfortable with sexual intimacy outside of marriage. In this Roman culture where we find Corinth, they were more “sexually liberated” than we are even today. The “red-light” district in those days were mainstream, publicly known, and even included in worship of various deities. Paul is having to rebuke Christians for engaging in such practices and providing Biblical instruction to them on the matter. This teaching couldn’t be more relevant for us today. Brothers and sisters in Christ, do not take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute or an immoral woman, and do not lead each other into sexual immorality.

Chapter 7 goes into great detail regarding marriage, remarriage, and being single. I encourage you to read through the whole chapter as one letter, but for now I’ll quote the portions that directly relate to what we’ve discussed so far.

1 Corinthians 7:1-5 (ESV) | Principles for Marriage

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Remember when we talked about our individualistic, self-centered, selfish approach to marriage. This blows that right out of the water. Now, I’ve sat through many a “marriage seminar” that has taken this passage and turned it into a pragmatic “if you meet your spouse’s needs then they’ll meet yours”, but this isn’t teaching a quid-pro-quo approach to sexual relationships within marriage. This isn’t about negotiating sexual favors, this is about surrendering ownership of your body to your spouse. You don’t get to desire/demand the things she hates, and vice versa. And it is usually here where the temporal effects of carnal living attack our marriages the hardest. Sexual immorality scars the mind and the body and twists and shapes your desires and fantasies. There is more to 1 Cor 6:18 than unwanted pregnancy and venereal disease, sexual sin will numb the conscience and warp the mind. The enemy will fire condemnation at you for things you’ve done, and hurl accusations toward your spouse for the things you wish they do or don’t do. For those of you who have not fallen in this area, Praise be to God. Continue to abstain and pray for continued grace in this area, that the enemy will not be given more ammunition. If you’ve fallen in this already, Repent, and trust in the LORD.

1 Corinthians 7:8-16 (ESV)

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Paul is urging that we keep the covenant of marriage in as far as it is within our charge. We see here that Paul is teaching what Jesus taught (no surprise since Paul is an Apostle of Jesus Christ) regarding being single. If you can be unmarried, remain unmarried. But better to remarry than to burn with passion (sexual sin). Paul instructs the Corinthians later (2 Cor 6:14-15) not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but here he is addressing marriage and stating quite plainly that being married to an unbeliever is not cause for divorce, especially if that unbeliever is willing to remain in the marriage. But, if the unbeliever separates, let them go.

So where does that leave us?

The Church is the Family of God, we who are of the household of Faith are all brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. The Law of God is summed up in 2 Commandments: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). If you are unmarried, take a spouse from among the household of faith. Do not prey upon the weak, do not cause one to stumble into sin.

My children are still quite young, but a day will come when I will have to give sound advice on this matter to them.

  • Stop looking for “someone to date”, you’re looking for someone to marry.
  • Look for a spouse from among the Household of Faith, the Church.
  • Understand that finding a spouse is a family affair. Know their family and let your family get to know them.
  • Remember the 10 Commandments, and pray/confess them daily.
    • 1. Am I trusting the LORD for all of my needs? Have I made an idol of my singleness or my desire to marry? Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
    • 2. Have I called upon the Name of the LORD in this matter? Pray to the LORD, make your petitions to Him.
    • 3. Am I resting in Christ Jesus? He is our Sabbath rest. Lord, forgive me for being anxious in the things I cannot control, and for trying to bring about my own peace of mind through dating and seeking a spouse.
    • 4. Is my desire for a spouse in keeping with honoring my parents? Am I guilty of rebellion in my pursuit of a spouse? Lord, have mercy.
    • 5. Have I thought evil of an ex? Have I harbored anger at a rival suitor or thought evil of a brother/sister in the Christ? Lord, have mercy.
    • 6. Have I committed adultery in my heart, or in my flesh? LORD, have mercy.
    • 7. Have I stolen another person’s property or failed to protect my neighbor’s belongings? Lord, have mercy.
    • 8. Have I destroyed (or failed to defend) the reputation of an ex, a rival suitor, a brother/sister in Christ, my neighbor? LORD, have mercy.
    • 9/10. Have I coveted my neighbor’s spouse/fiance/friendships in my heart? LORD, have mercy.
  • Choose a spouse. Don’t engage in mysticism, don’t look for a “soul-mate”, don’t let fate (or hormones) decide, choose a spouse. If that spouse choose you in return, marry and be blessed in the LORD.
  • The Christian life is one of repentance. The Married life is one of repentance and forgiveness. You’ll have to grow into your marriage in much the same way you grow in Faith and repentance. God is faithful and His Mercy endures forever. Amen.

As a mere layman, I’m sure this list will need some work. If you are struggling with this, do please contact your pastor about praying through the 10 Commandments.

The Gospel of Grace and Forgiveness

The problem of sin is an ever-present one while the LORD tarries. Many of our families are broken by sin, death, adultery, abuse, divorce. The wages of sin is death, but the Gift of God is everlasting life. There is forgiveness for sin at the Cross of Jesus Christ. All sin. Including sexual sin.

1 John 1:5-10 (ESV) This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

In this life, we will have struggle. In our struggling, we will have temporal consequences for sin. Praise be to God our LORD and Savior that our right-standing with God is not based upon our works of the flesh; rather, they are in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Mark 10

GWWelcome back as we continue working through the Gospel According to Mark. Two weeks ago we covered Mark 9, where we saw Jesus transfigured into His glorified form in front of Peter, James, and John. We also worked through some difficult passages. I’d like to remind my readers that if anything I write seems novel (new) to you, please discuss these things with your pastor, for I am but a layman sharing my thoughts as we read God’s Word together. Particularly in the difficult passages… do not simply take my word for it.

Today, we’ll resume reading, beginning in Chapter 10 of the Gospel According to Mark.

Mark 10:1-12 (ESV) | Teaching About Divorce

And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them.

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

We’ve discussed this teaching and the subject of Divorce before. This is a question of the Law, and Jesus answers it lawfully. To divorce is to sin against God. What God has joined together, let not man separate. Specifically it is the sin of adultery by virtue of having sexual relations with 2 different people. There is a tendency for Christians to provide an escape clause of sorts for those who have been abandoned and for those whose spouses have committed the sin of adultery. They don’t use this passage, they refer to the one in Matt 5:31-32. The intent is to relieve the consciences of those Christians. It is a noble intent, but we already have the best solution for that in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Law doesn’t provide an out as we see here. When it comes to righteousness coram mundo (in the sight of the world/neighbor) we do all that we can to save the marriage, bring reconciliation within the marriage, and seek forgiveness and absolution… there is no “easy out” of the marriage covenant. There are no “biblical divorces” that receive God’s blessing. It is sin. The solution for this sin is the same solution for all sin, the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In this sinful life, we have to deal with sin all around us and within us. There are times when a divorce is unavoidable and the necessary course of action due to sin and unbelief as is the case with the guidance of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. There is repentance, forgiveness, and absolution by faith in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. Marriage is a vital gift from God and divorce is a destructive and odious sin to be avoided. By the Law we uphold the highest view of marriage possible, and we cannot fulfill its demands on our own, we need the Gospel of Jesus Christ to grant repentance, forgiveness, and healing.

There is room for Pastoral care, teaching, and guidance in all things marriage related and it is necessary. There is a role for Church discipline regarding sexual immorality, marriage, divorce and even remarriage… but we must ever be Gospel focused in how we treat this subject.

Mark 10:13-16 (ESV) | Let the Children Come to Me

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Jesus receives whom He will receive, and it isn’t for man to determine who merits the gift of God’s Grace. Praise the LORD!

Mark 10:17-31 (ESV) | The Rich Young Man

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again,“Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

This man came to Jesus for confirmation that he was “good to go”… because he had kept the Law and was good. We see this first demonstrated in Jesus’ response to the man calling Him good teacher. The man didn’t catch on, and he even went further to claim that he had not only kept all of the commandments, but he believed he had kept them since childhood. Being the father of two precious little children myself… I know this cannot be the case. I love my kids… and they break commandments daily. So, we see a man seeking justification according to the Law, not understanding that the Law condemns everyone in sin… no one is good except God alone.

Mark 10:32-34 (ESV) | Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Mark takes us through tough encounters of teaching regarding the Law of God… and now he presents to us the Gospel in the foretelling of His death and resurrection. The disciples didn’t get it at the time, but praise be to Our God and Father for His patience and mercy on us, and Grace to us in His Son Jesus.

Mark 10:35-45 (ESV) | The Request of James and John

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Quite the bold request made in ignorance. Jesus graciously redirects their focus away from a theology of glory and back toward a theology of the cross, of service to others in Christ Jesus. I believe the right hand and left hand of Jesus to be already prepared in Trinitarian Godhead. We know that Jesus ascended into heaven and exalted at the Right Hand of the Father (Acts 2:33). When we are all joined together in the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit of God will be there also. As for dividing up the Kingdom of God among the elect who are designated reign and rule with Christ (1 Cor 6:3), such things are not open for dividing up in the moment by contracts here on earth… such places have already been prepared according to God’s infinite Will and purpose, for His Glory Alone.

Mark 10:46-52 (ESV) | Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

Praise the Lord. May that be our prayer today… “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!“.

Conclusion

Until next week, spend time in the Written Word of God and do not forsake the gathering of the saints, hearing of the Preached Word… both Law and Gospel.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Train Up a Child in Gender Roles

With all of the craziness in the news and crawling across social media, it is tough to keep steady and steadfast without getting completely frustrated. Maranatha! Today, we will be addressing a relatively new cultural phenomenon and how Christian parents need to respond to the culture in a way that we haven’t had to in a long time. We need to teach our children, in plain language, Biblical gender roles and Biblical sexual identity. God created us male and female. The gender binary is Biblical, it is God’s design, and man cannot change it.

Let us begin by looking at Proverbs 22.

Proverbs 22 (ESV)

22 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
    and favor is better than silver or gold.
The rich and the poor meet together;
    the Lord is the maker of them all.
The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
    but the simple go on and suffer for it.
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord
    is riches and honor and life.
Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked;
    whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.
The rich rules over the poor,
    and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
    and the rod of his fury will fail.
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
    for he shares his bread with the poor.
10 Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out,
    and quarreling and abuse will cease.
11 He who loves purity of heart,
    and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.
12 The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge,
    but he overthrows the words of the traitor.
13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!
    I shall be killed in the streets!”
14 The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit;
    he with whom the Lord is angry will fall into it.
15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
    but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
16 Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth,
    or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

Words of the Wise

17 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
    and apply your heart to my knowledge,
18 for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
    if all of them are ready on your lips.
19 That your trust may be in the Lord,
    I have made them known to you today, even to you.
20 Have I not written for you thirty sayings
    of counsel and knowledge,
21 to make you know what is right and true,
    that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?

22 Do not rob the poor, because he is poor,
    or crush the afflicted at the gate,
23 for the Lord will plead their cause
    and rob of life those who rob them.
24 Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
    nor go with a wrathful man,
25 lest you learn his ways
    and entangle yourself in a snare.
26 Be not one of those who give pledges,
    who put up security for debts.
27 If you have nothing with which to pay,
    why should your bed be taken from under you?
28 Do not move the ancient landmark
    that your fathers have set.
29 Do you see a man skillful in his work?
    He will stand before kings;
    he will not stand before obscure men.

Society Used to Promote Gender Roles

American Society used to promote gender roles as healthy and desirable qualities in men and women. Though the picture of a “man’s man” or a “fine lady” have gone through trends and fads, they were always there. Since WWII, however, things started changing on that front, and several progressives have pushed throughout the past 3 decades an agenda of dissolving gender roles, to the point where society is even unwilling to accept biological limitations on gender. The goal is (and always has been) to dissolve the family unit, so that there is only the State and a collective of individuals who obey it. The currency for this obedience from the individual is “empowerment” to do “what feels right for the individual”. Scholarly dissertations could be written mapping out the progressive movement’s assault on the family throughout the 20th century, but for our purposes we need only acknowledge society’s current state.

When I was growing up, my parents didn’t have to go out of their way to teach gender roles. Society accepted (at least in general) the fundamental differences between men and women. Our clothing was distinct (except for women’s jackets getting shoulder pads in the 80s… that, was odd) and for the most part men were expected to be a certain way and women another, and it was what we looked for in the opposite sex. Now, that is not to say that the gender roles within the family were right… culturally we had abandoned the notion of a single-income family, and latch-key kids were being raised by the public school system and television. The visible church was in the televangelist boom with Oral Roberts and the like promoting egalitarian views to keep in step with the feminist movement, and it was during this time also that Rick Warren and Bill Hybels were starting their movements. The family was on shifting sands at this point, but the fruit of such compromise wouldn’t manifest until the mid 90s. One such bad fruit would become apparent in the Columbine massacre. Society had abandoned teaching its kids right from wrong, had put down the rod of discipline in favor of more self-esteem psycho-babble, and we left our children to be brought up by the world. Fast forward a couple of decades and we have large swaths of evangelicalism abandoning the inerrancy of Scripture, the Biblically prescribed gender roles within the church, and even on the applicability of sexual immorality as sin. We are left with full-on rebellion against God’s design in cases like Bruce Jenner and Stephonknee Walschtt (Warning: both links are NSFL or Not Safe For Lunch) being tolerated and even celebrated.

Romans 1:22-32 (ESV)

22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Christian Parents Now Must Teach Gender Roles Properly

I can remember a time while growing up when the cool fads in accessories for men were considered feminine in nature, such as bracelets and earrings. My parents didn’t need to point to any scripture to enforce the gender distinction, they simply had to hold the line at “those are for women, not men”. Whenever we bought a button-down shirt, we needed to know which side the buttons were on so that we wouldn’t be wearing a “woman’s shirt”. My point being that my parents’ role regarding training us up in gender roles was one of discipline and reinforcement of societal norms. Was this right? No, because we ended up allowing the world to push us into an egalitarian mindset, but it was the norm, and that’s what is new for our day as parents… it is no longer the norm. Insanity is the norm. Full-on post-modern, post-christian, delusion is now the norm. We now have to teach explicitly what most of us never thought would ever have been questioned. We have to teach our kids that their gender is bound to their biology and that it was all carefully and wonderfully made by God before they were even born. Sin has corrupted our flesh, and allowed death to enter into the Earth, but God’s design for sex, procreation, gender roles, sexual purity, and marriage remain. We now have to teach these things to our children plainly and without relying on society to enforce it. In fact, we must accept the truth that the world seeks to destroy our children’s minds and teach them to hate God’s plan for the family and even hate their own bodies that were given to them by God.

Ephesians 6:1-4 (ESV) | Children and Parents

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Matthew 19:3-6 (ESV)

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Genesis 5:1-2 (ESV) | Adam’s Descendants to Noah

This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.

I decided to walk this progression backwards, from Paul’s writing, to a quote of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees all the way back to Genesis. God created man, and He did so with a binary gender, not a fluid one. Our gender is bound to our bodies, and designed to become one flesh in marriage. That is by design, and man cannot simply annul a marriage covenant much less is he qualified to redefine gender or sexuality. Teach your kids to love their gender, their God-appointed gender, a gender that is bound to their biology and cannot be changed by man. Remember what we saw in Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. Children must be taught in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. 

Titus 2 (ESV)

Teach Sound Doctrine

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Conclusion

My children are still very young… and we already have to teach God’s plan for men and women. We’ve taken the homeschooling route, and I’ve been working through Luther’s small catechism with them. We’ve not yet explained procreation, but we’ve already had to address cross-dressers, and the fact that my son will always be a boy and my daughter will always be a girl and that their differences will always be there, and that those differences are a good thing even if they don’t see it yet. We have to teach what is appropriate conduct for boys and girls, and my wife and I weep when we think of how much malice the world harbors for our children and their innocence. While in our flesh we are troubled, and we worry, and we so desperately want to protect them from the hate of the world, we are comforted knowing that we serve a Living God who is not unfamiliar with our struggles. We find rest in Him, and we pray the same for you.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 19

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 18.

Last week’s look at Matthew 18 ended with the parable of the unforgiving servant. In this parable, Our Lord Jesus Christ is demonstrating the proper framework or perspective from which we should view the call to forgive our brothers who have sinned against us. That framework being of one who is fully aware (by faith) of the insurmountable debt of sin of which we have been forgiven by God for the sake of His Son, Jesus. In light of what we have been forgiven, we have no right to withhold forgiveness from our fellow sinful man. I think it is extremely important that we maintain this proper perspective, since the very next topic that presents itself in the Gospel According to Matthew is that of divorce and marriage.

Matthew 19 (ESV)

Matthew 19:1-12 (ESV) | Teaching About Divorce

Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

There is a common teaching that takes verse 9 to indicate that Divorce is allowed in cases of adultery, but not in anything else. I think that is a poor reading of this text. The Pharisees had their own laws regarding divorce, and some had gone so far as to make the slightest infraction (burned dinner) capable of warranting a divorce. They sought to draw Jesus into their dispute, to get Him to weigh in on their laws with their initial question, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”. That is the opening question. The question is open for a fully open “yes” meaning that any cause is lawful or a limited answer of “yes” in which they would debate to establish the left and right limits of lawful divorce. I don’t think they were expecting Jesus’ answer, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”. His answer was “no”, there is no lawful case for divorce. What does that answer mean? It means that in all cases, divorce is a sin. The Pharisees were white-washed tombs, on the outside they were clean… this is an “on the outside” question. They wanted to establish a way to divorce their wife while still coming out the “good guy”, the “clean” guy… or in our modern-day language, the “innocent victim”. According to the Law, the punishment for adultery is death. Death ends the marriage covenant. A widow or widower is free to remarry without incurring the sin of adultery (provided the new spouse is free from adultery).

The Pharisees then attempted to refute Jesus’s answer by pointing to Moses and the certificate of divorce. Jesus points out that it was a concession made as a result of their hardness of heart, from their sin. Jesus is directing the Pharisees beyond Moses and the Mosaic covenant… this is an important distinction, one that the author of Hebrews conveys wonderfully in chapter 10:

Hebrews 10:1-10 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All
1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

That Moses granted a certificate of divorce does not indicate that God was in any way pleased by divorce in any circumstance. King David rightly understood that it wasn’t the sacrifices that pleased God; rather a broken and contrite spirit were pleasing sacrifices to Him (Psalm 51, specifically vs 16-17).

So, by the time we get to verse 9, Jesus isn’t presenting a get-out-of-marriage-lawfully card, He is saying that every case of divorce and remarriage is the sin of adultery. The case of adultery is a different case under the Law because the adulterer is put to death. Under the Law, there is no lawful case for divorce, because even if there was no adultery and both divorcees lived, if they remarry they are committing adultery. What does this all mean? Sin. Those who are under the New Covenant must repent of their sin and be forgiven… the sin of divorce is the sin of adultery (as is the sin of adultery). Does this mean we are to place the burden of the Law on the necks of Christians and deny them remarriage after having repented of the sin of divorce? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven and extend Grace. God is not mocked, He disciplines His own. All cases of divorce is sin… Christ’s Finished Work on the cross is sufficient for all sin. This takes discipline, discernment, rebuke, repentance, grace, and forgiveness. This is the role of the church, to build up one another in the faith that was once-for-all delivered to the saints. Marriage is not to be taken lightly, neither dare we take sin lightly. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

The permanence of marriage is so strongly conveyed here by Jesus, that the disciples decide it’s better not to marry at all, then. Jesus doesn’t disagree… but He does make clear to them that not everyone can live that way, for such a life is a call to celibacy, since sex is only lawful within the covenant of marriage. I find it very interesting that Jesus (through Whom everything was created) declares that some are born eunuchs. Some people are born without a driving sexual desire, and that is by design. Now, the world perverts this idea by insisting that everyone has sexual desires that need to be satisfied, so those who God designed to be born a eunuch are tempted to seek gratification in sinful ways. The world is all to eager to push us into sexual immorality, even those for whom sex isn’t as strongly wired as others. Just a thought that has no bearing on what is sin and what is righteous but the church should remember that Jesus plainly taught that some are born eunuchs… by design. Then there are those individuals who are made eunuchs (castration) and still others who choose celibacy for the sake of the ministry of the Kingdom. Not all can accept this life, so as Paul will teach later, better to marry than to be burned up with passion.

Matthew 19:13-15 (ESV) |  Let the Children Come to Me

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

This was a major theme in last week’s posts, and here I think it is important to remind parents that their children are their first ministry. We are called to bring our children (even infants as we see in the language used by Luke) to Christ… for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19:16-30 (ESV) | The Rich Young Man

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

What a passage. In the first part, we see a man seeking to be commended for his good deeds. He was prepared to demonstrate his righteousness and was awaiting the approval of Jesus. Jesus crushes that notion with His first comment, there is only One who is good. His actual answer to the question of what goo deed, is keep the commandments. God is the only One who is good, and Jesus (the God-Man) is good for He is the only One who kept all of the commandments. God is One. The next question from the man is diagnostic question… leading to the “what do I still lack?” Jesus’ response is a picture of repentance, dying to self, and following Christ. This lesson is further given to His disciples. We generally refer to this notion by quoting a different passage:

Luke 9:23-26 (ESV) | Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

How wonderful it is to see the Gospel message remains the same across writers and circumstances. Eternal Life is found in none other than Jesus Christ.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 20. We’ll see a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, and we’ll see Jesus give a third warning of His death. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Broken Together” by Casting Crowns

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

April 7, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Broken Together” by Casting Crowns which currently sits at #16 at 20theCountdownMagazine.

We’ll continue using this top 20 song list until I find a better list. Your feedback in this would be greatly appreciated.

Today’s song is not a song of worship; rather, it is a plea for forgiveness sung from a husband to his wife. It doesn’t come to a resolution, and it isn’t a specific “please forgive me”; rather, it’s more of a “can we both just accept that we are broken and in need of forgiveness?” I think this is a good song to include on the Album, just not sure it is complete enough to get significant airplay. Today’s post will be less focused on this song, and more focused on the Marriage Relationship as described in God’s Word.

VEVO Official Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLOVE)

Broken Together by Casting Crowns

What do you think about when you look at me
I know we’re not the fairytale you dreamed we’d be
You wore the veil, you walked the aisle, you took my hand
And we dove into a mystery

How I wish we could go back to simpler times
Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light
Now on this hallowed ground, we’ve drawn the battle lines
Will we make it through the night

It’s going to take much more than promises this time
Only God can change our minds

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I’ll bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way we’ll last forever is broken together

How it must have been so lonely by my side
We were building kingdoms and chasing dreams and left love behind
I’m praying God will help our broken hearts align
And we won’t give up the fight

Publishing: © 2013 Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (BMI) All rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Tree Publishing administered by Sony/ATV. / My Refuge Music (BMI) (adm. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / Songs of Universal, Inc. (BMI) / G650 Music (BMI). All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Writer(s): Mark Hall, Bernie Herms

Discussion

The first verse seems to be an apology for not living up to a hyper-romanticized view of what a marriage is “supposed to be”. Our culture suffers greatly from this problem of hyper-romantic view of intimate relationships, though it has largely abandoned all standards for sex and marriage. While the Church at large predominantly holds onto Biblical Marriage (many are slipping), many within the church maintain a hyper-spiritualized, hyper-romanticized notion of marriage that simply isn’t Biblical. We’ve taken the worldly notions of “soul mates” and “destiny” and “prince charming” and baptized them in churchisms. Rather than keeping the covenant of Marriage as a foreshadow of Christ’s relationship with the Church, we’ve created “sanctified fantasies” of marriage being God’s perfect gift created for our personal fulfillment and contentment.

The song has a misstatement that I’d like to address first to get it out of the way. Marriage isn’t eternal, or “forever” in the Western sense. Sure, the Hebraic understanding of time allows for “everlasting” to be limited by covenant or “an age” or truly ‘eternal’, but in our cultural context when we hear “forever” we are thinking of “infinity”. Jesus clearly taught that in the resurrection there will be no marriage or being given in marriage (Matthew 22:29-31 ESV). Marriage in this life is a foreshadowing of the eternal relationship between Christ and His Church in the Resurrection. With that established, let us focus in on the 2 references to God in this song between a husband and a wife.

Only God Can Change Our Minds

Before we jump into scripture, I’d like to make one thing clear: a good marriage isn’t a thing that God hands you as an answer to your prayers. Marriage is a covenant relationship between 2 sinners before God. Nowhere has God promised to change your spouse so that your marriage will be better for you. Both the Husband and the Wife need to be submitted to God by Grace through Faith for His Glory and Honor. When the Apostle Paul teaches on marriage and households there are always instructions for both and they are both to be submitted to God. I think the best example can be found in his letters to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 5:22-33 (ESV) | Wives and Husbands

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Egalitarians miss the point of this passage entirely. Now then, let us look at how to best approach the line “Only God can change our minds”. This isn’t something that we can find in any of the marriage texts, so we need to approach this concept within the context of being part of the Body of Christ. I think the best place to look is Romans 12, but let us begin in Romans 11:25.

Romans 11:25-36 (ESV)

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins.”

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience,31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 12  (ESV)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Such a wonderful passage. Now, the context here isn’t specific to marriage. In fact, it’s far more hostile an environment. Paul is addressing Christians who are maligned and persecuted by the Jews. But these principles apply directly to Christians dealing with spouses, even in contentious or broken marriages. In many ways marriage is the proving grounds for understanding life in the Church. There is a reason and a purpose for Paul’s inclusion of a man’s marriage and conduct in his family life in the list of qualities of an Elder or Deacon in the Church. You cannot faithfully pastor a congregation if you’ve neglected your spouse or your family. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. For those of you in that covenant relationship, that is your first ministry in Christ. Please note that I’m not saying you have to be a perfect husband before you can be a leader in the Church. In all things bear the fruit of repentance, for we are all sinners. But failure to lead, pastor, shepherd your family is a disqualifies you for Church leadership… step down, focus on your family, and allow God to restore your marriage, your family, and then your position within His church for His Glory.

I’m praying God will help our broken hearts align

This is such an important prayer for married couples. The two shall become one flesh. This is where God designed sex to unify a man and a woman. Within a marriage where each spouse seeks to outdo each other in showing honor, the complementary design of man and woman are such that they compel each other to become one, to align. Sin in our hearts and flesh lead to death of our mortal bodies as well as our relationships. As sinners, we are to continually die to ourselves and present ourselves to God as living sacrifices. We are also defer to our spouses and resist the temptation to seek our own passions and desires directly. It’s the opposite of quid-pro-quo, we don’t demand service on credit; rather, we seek to meet the needs of our spouse before our own, knowing that in so doing we will be made whole and one flesh.  The Apostle Peter also had some encouragement in these matters.

1 Peter 3:1-9 (ESV) | Wives and Husbands

1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

Verses 8 and 9 are a return to the body of Christ as a whole, but are worth including here as they still apply to husbands and wives. The whole of the New Testament is focused on the redeemed growing in the knowledge and fullness of Christ. Therefore, the only way that we can ask God to align us with our spouses is by submitting to Him and allowing the Spirit of God to keep us and grow us in Christ Jesus.

Law

The problem with the song is that it remains sort of stuck in the Law. The singer is caught up in the “we’ve done it wrong” moment. We’ve looked at a lot of what the Scripture has to say regarding the covenant of Marriage, and that covenant is indeed Law. But do not walk away from this topic thinking that observance of the Law (even of marriage) will grant you the Love and restoration in your marriage you so desire. Love and restoration flow from Christ Jesus and can then be expressed outwardly in love.

1 John 4:7-19 (ESV) | God Is Love

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 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. 18 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. 19 We love because he first loved us.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge