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Posts Tagged ‘creation’

Christianity ought to radically change the way that we see people and relate to them. As I am currently working through the parables of Jesus, I have been struck by how many of them address our relationships with people. In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus intimates that all people are our neighbors–even the person we are most frustrated with (for the Jew that was the Samaritan). Further, Jesus is more concerned with us living like neighbors than determining who fits that bill. In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus indicates that we should be reaching out in love to all people. Living in a kingdom that is upon us and yet awaits fulfillment (already/not yet) should open our eyes to see the poor, the downtrodden, and the needy in our midst.

The gospelradically changes the way we see ourselves and other people and how we relate to them.  Using the four gospel truths of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation, here is a basic guide to poeple:

  1. Creation:  God created the world and he made it good–everything in it, including you and me, belongs to him. Every breath is a gift.
  2. Fall:  God’s good creation has subjected itself to corruption. We have sinned and what God made good has been broken.
  3. Redemption: God promises to fix his broken creation through the death and resurrection of His Son, the God-man Jesus Christ.  People who trust Christ are healed of their corrupt nature.
  4. Consummation: God will send Jesus back to finally redeem those who trusted him and he will finally and decisively make all that is wrong in the world right.

Seeing ourselves in the right light:

  1. 1. We are created beings. We have value.
  2. We are broken. There is much about us that isn’t good–we need to be familiar with this aspect about ourselves. Our nature has been corrupted in a way that we cannot fix by ourselves.
  3. We can be redeemed through Christ. Our corrupt nature can be done away with and replaced with a new one. We don’t deserve this–its the most marvelous gift.
  4. We are not yet what we will be.

Seeing other people in the right light:

  1. They are created beings. They have value. Not one is worth more than another.
  2. They are broken. We should expect them to fail and even hurt us at times.
  3. They can be redeemed by grace. No one deserves this–that is why everyone should hear about it.
  4. Those God saves he will perfect.

Seeing ourselves in relation to other people:

  1. You are created and therefore have value to offer other people.
  2. You are broken and thus have the potential to do great harm to people made in God’s image.
  3. You are saved by God’s grace. You don’t deserve this–its a gift so you are no better than anyone else.  This salvation does grant you a unique potential to bless others.
  4. You are saved, you are being saved, and you will be saved. God isn’t done with you yet.

This paradigm has the power to radically change the way we see people and relate to them. As C.S. Lewis said–humans are immortal beings–that changes everything. Christians ought to be the humblest of all people.

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The number one problem of every marriage is the husband and the wife.  If your marriage isn’t what you want it to be, let me encourage you with this–it is probably your fault.   Certainly marriage problems are more complex than I am making them, but transformation inside of marriage doesn’t come from compromise but rather spiritual transformation.  What your marriage needs is not more compromises but a common and worthy goal.  God-glorifying marriages are made of a wife and a husband who are moving in the same direction together.  Successful marriages pursue Christ together.  Let me explain:

No Dr. Phil cannot fix your marriage.  In fact I find a good bit of his marriage advice suspect.  Certainly much of what good ole Phil has to say is worth hearing, but I think most of his advice is rooted in a false assumption that the differences between men and women are irreconcilable and thus the lesson that needs learning inside of marriage is the art of compromise.

Learning to compromise in areas of conflict won’t fix your marriage and could in fact ruin it.  Compromise is handy when it comes to what movie to rent, where to grab lunch, and how to spend your free time as a couple.  Compromise can be deadly when applied to more essential matters.  To put this clearly, there are certain areas of marriage that we must not compromise on.

For instance, let’s say my wife is very close to her family (which she is) and we live much closer to them than we do to my family (which we do), so my wife suggests that we spend every other weekend with her parents (which my wife would never do, though she loves them very much!).  What should I do there?  Should I compromise and say once a month?  What is the right course of action there?  Compromise in this instance would neglect to prioritize my relationship with my wife and would contradict the Bible’s clear teaching on marriage.  The Bible tells me that “a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).   In other words if my wife is not leaving and cleaving–I am not helping her by compromising.  Whether we live like it or not, we are “one flesh” and that means that we must prioritize this new one flesh relationship.  So in this instance, compromise would get us in trouble.  In this instance I need to lovingly show my wife that we are now a family that takes priority over our individual families.  Certainly we will want to spend time with our families, but what needs to happen is that my wife and I need to understand that our relationship is unique–we are “one flesh.”

What does it mean to be “one flesh?”  We see this word “flesh” in Genesis 6:12, “And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.”  So flesh here doesn’t mean our physical bodies nor does it carry the New Testament understanding of “flesh” as our sinful nature.  The clearest definition of “flesh” here in Genesis is person.  Being “one flesh” means that a husband and wife are no longer autonomous individuals.  They are now essentially “one person.”

The implications behind God’s creative design for the husband and wife to be one are vast.  Adam and Eve were one flesh to such an extent that they were “naked and unashamed.”  Nakedness in Scripture is tied to intimacy (more than just sexual) and vulnerability.  When one is truly “naked” nothing is hidden.  Before the fall this meant that Adam and Eve knew each other intimately, neither of them were self-seeking but rather they knew, loved, and appreciated each other.

What happened immediately after the Fall when God confronts Adam and Eve in the garden?  They immediately become consumed with self and they blameshift.  Adam says its Eve’s fault, Eve says it is the serpent’s fault (Gen. 3:12-16).  Neither will admit their failure and they hide not only from God but from each other–true intimacy is broken.

So how can such intimacy be restored?  Through the gospel, by which Christ is reconciling all things to Himself (Col. 1:20).  The gospel tells me how my sin which is crippling my marriage can be cleansed.   The gospel frees me from slavery to sin (Rom. 6) and transforms me such that the intimacy with God I was created for and the intimacy I am to have with my wife can be restored.  This doesn’t happen over night, but God delights to heal his people and he heals them through the power of the cross.

So instead defaulting to compromise any time there is conflict, how about asking whether your marriage is focused on the gospel?  Ask this question instead–do we share a common goal in this marriage?  Is our goal to become more like Christ?  Are we moving toward greater intimacy with Christ?  Are we pursuing Christ together?

Marriage exists to display the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:22-33).  The marriage that glorifies Christ is the one that is being conformed into his image.

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After hearing bloggers, commentators, journalists and the like speak on how biggoted Miss California, Carrie Prejean, is because of her response to a question about same-sex marriage, I decided to look up the definition of marriage in the dictionary.  I do have a Webster’s in my bookshelf here at home, but I decided to go the web-savy route and give you dictionary.com’s definition of marriage (Webster’s says the same thing):

the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.

According to celebrity blogger and Miss America judge, Perez Hilton, “Miss USA should represent everyone.”  That is a fair statement–Miss USA should be someone who represents the values of our country.  But Hilton goes on to say that Miss Prejean’s “answer alienated millions of gay and lesbian Americans, their families and their supporters. She lost it because of that question. She was definitely the front-runner before that.”

Let’s say she gives an answer more suitable to Hilton’s liking, then who has she alienated?  Probably many many more millions who in our country believe that marriage is a social institution designed for a man and a woman.  Prejean simply gave the textbook, dictionary definition of marriage and she lost Miss USA because of it.

I don’t watch beauty pageants and in all honesty I think they promote many problems of their own, but I find it interesting that Miss California’s comments are being called “bigoted” and others are claiming that there is “no room for preference or belief when it comes to legally enforeable discrimination that is imposed on the entire population.”

. . . Really?  No room for “belief”?  That sounds more than a little hypocritical.  Apparently there is room for the belief that people who define marriage as it has been defined for the vast majority of human history are bigots.

But the real question behind all this debate is the simple but all to often unanswered question, “What is marriage?”  For thousands of years, marriage has been defined as a socially recognized union between a man and a woman.  Webster and dictionary.com agree. Should we change this definition simply because so many gay people have desires to be married?  Should we change it because they claim to have been born that way.  To be quite honest, I have desires to leave restaurants sometimes without paying for my meal (I never do btw!) but would it be right for me to do so?  I think all people are born with desires to lie, to twist the truth for their own selfish gains–they were born that way, so it must be right.  Maybe we should lighten the sentences on thieves in the courtroom–they were born with desires to steal right?

You see where that sort of thinking leads?  What is marriage?  Who defines it?  As soon as we start looking for answers to that question that depart from the framework of a holy creator God, the doors begin to swing open to all kinds of absurdities (i.e. why not recognize marriages between men and rocks, or why not recognize polygamy–certainly there are people out there with desires to marry more than one person).  Throw out God and you might as well throw out the entire institution of marriage.  I don’t think our country is ready to throw God out of the equation, the majority of people in our nation still believe in Webster’s definition, but this Miss California controversy is evidence that now, perhaps more than ever, we need to be asking the simple but all-too-important question, “What is marriage?”

***Disclaimer*** All that I said about gay marriage is obviously from the view point that God ordained marriage and therefore defines it.  That does in no way mean that gay people are lesser people in any way.  Christians must love gay people, share the gospel with them, and in no way should a Christian ever feel justified dehumanizing a gay person in any way.  The age old cheesy Christian mantra is absolutely true–“hate the sin, love the sinner.”

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Why did God create sex and yet it would seem that He has placed so many stipulations around it?  Joshua Harris attempts to succinctly answer that question in the above video clip from The Gospel Coalition.  In short, I think the answer if found in the simple fact that all of life does not revolve around us.  If we really believe that God created us, then it would follow that there is a creation/creator relationship that we must take seriously as Christians.

As creator, God thought up sex.  He created it and He created it good.  Because God designed sex, it is meant to be enjoyed as He has designed it.  No doubt there are myriad abuses of God’s design for sex in our world today and I think each of these abuses can be traced to a failure to recognize God’s design in sex.  In short, our culture’s view of sex is very selfish.  One night stands, pornography, and even homosexuality (on some level) hinge on the idea that sex exists primarily for our own gratification (i.e. the idea that if you have an inward desire, surely it must be filled–when we do that we are making ourselves ultimate rather than God)–these things are inherently selfish.  If, however, we believe that God is creator and is ultimate and He created us in His image, then it follows that sex exists not primarily for our personal self-fulfillment but rather as a means of glorifying God.  When a man and a woman enjoy sex within the confines of marriage, God is honored because we express love for Him by honoring His design and we experience satisfying joy in Him because we recognize sex as what it really is–a gift from God.

As creatures made in God’s image, we enjoy His gifts most when we submit to His design–its no suprize that when we neglect to honor His design, despair ensues.  God is supremely satisfied in himself and we will only find true and lasting satisfaction in God Himself . . . this reality ought to transform the way we think about everything, including sex.

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Missions exists because worship doesn’t.  Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.  When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.  It is a temporary necessity.  But worship abides forever (John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad, 11).

I will never forget reading those words by John Piper my sophomore year in college and being shaken by them.  I know what you are thinking-“Drew are you ever going to stop throwing Piper books and quotes at us!”  I probably won’t–I think I quote Piper and recommend his books because, his books and his preaching shake me so often!  This particular quote shook me with its stunning simplicity-“missions exists because worship doesn’t.”

The reason that you and I exist is to worship God (Isa. 43:7).  That is why Adam and Eve were placed in the garden-to know, enjoy, fellowship with, and worship God.  God is ultimate.  Worship of Him is what we were made for.  Of course we know the great barrier that stands in our way of living out this great purpose of worshipping God–sin.   Not just any sin, but our sin.  The fall resulted in sin being passed down from generation to generation–we are born into sin and each of us willingly choose to sin (see Romans chapters 1-5-sorry can’t give you an easy handful of verses on that one!).  So what keeps us from worship is the fact that we love sin, we love ourselves more than we love God.  The gospel, of course, is the great remedy to our fallen state, the means by which we are restored to the purpose of our existence–to worship God!  So once we come to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is then fundamental to our worship of God that we spread His gospel message.  Missions and evangelism are, at their very heart, acts of worship.  Why do we take great pains to see the gospel spread?–Because the gospel is precious to us and because it tells us how we can be restored to the very purpose of our existence!

So as I opened up a new series on Evangelism in Sunday School recently, I was reminded of the fact that “missions exists because worship doesn’t.”  The same could be said of evangelism.  The reason we are to preach the gospel to our friends, neighbors, and coworkers is because God is glorious and His gospel is the best news in the universe!  The reason that we ought to share the gospel is because our great God is worthy to be praised!  When you and I share the gospel we are setting forth the one message that can change lost, hell-bound people into Christ-treasuring worshipers of almighty God, headed for blessed eternity with Him!

Is it your desire that more people would worship and praise our great God?  That is the first step of missions and the first step of evangelism.  I will be the first to admit that I am inconsistent in evangelism, but what is the first step to see that change?  Do I just need to try harder?  Do I just need to be more disciplined?  Do I need a little more guilt to motivate me to share the gospel?  While some of those things might help, they are not the answer to my lack of evangelism.  Behind all my lack of evangelism is a lack of God-centered, Christ-exalting worship.

So what do we need to do in order to be more evangelistic?  We need to value Christ supremely.  We need to see the gospel as the best news in the universe.  We need more of Jesus and less of ourselves.  We can’t make ourselves treasure Christ supremely–we need help.  Again, we are saved by grace through faith not by works (Eph. 2:8-9).  So step 1 in evangelism is simply to cry out to God for mercy concerning our lack of worship and ask Him to fill us with joy in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Only when we love Christ supremely will be share Him fervently.  Step 1 is pretty simple isn’t it?  Just pray and ask God to give you a deep passion for Him–a desire to see Him known and worshiped in your hometown and to the ends of the earth!

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I read Psalm 19 this morning. Here are a few devotional thoughts:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing in the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. (Psalm 19:7-9)

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” God has made himself known first by what he has made (also cf. Romans 1:19-20), and then by his word. God’s Law is special revelation and it reflects his character and love, and his holiness and justice. And his law is perfect; it is able to transform the lives of those subject to his word. It can revive the soul that is dead. But how can it do that?

God has added the gospel (that declares the redemptive love of God and his justice) to both creation (that declares the knowledge of God) and the Law (that declares the precepts and character of God). He has revealed himself as the Savior of sinners through Jesus Christ. He accomplished it in history, and it has been written in Scripture that we might know life and salvation by God’s grace through Jesus Christ. Ponder that. God has made himself known to sinners; he has done it to revive their souls and save them from hardness of heart, sin and rebellion. By his testimony, we who are simple are made wise–not in the wisdom of the world, but in the knowledge of God. By his Word that revives our soul, we rejoice in his precepts because they are right. By his Word, our eyes are enlightened to love the pure commandments of his precepts. By his Word, our healthy and loving fear of God is renewed and clean. We no longer will fear him out of shame, but we will have an upright fear of him that produces a wonder of his grace. By his Word, we will know that his rules are certainly true and that he is righteous altogether; but also, we will know that our righteousness is found in him through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God’s Word is sufficient and powerful (cf. Hebrews 4:12). In creation, by his Word all things were made. In his Law, his character was made known explicitly and his righteousness was taught to us by his precepts. In his gospel, he has granted us grace, redemption, justification, righteousness, and glory to those who will have faith and repent. By his Word, he will also see that it is done. “The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”

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This post has been in the works for quite some time. Initially I had planned to do a detailed exegesis of the two crucial texts in Matthew in relation to divorce and remarriage (Matt. 5:31-32 and 19:1-12) as well as those in Paul’s letters, but teaching Sunday school, visiting my future in-laws, finishing seminary, and preparing for an August wedding have all proved more pressing, while such an expansive post on divorce and remarriage seemed daunting. Also, men much wiser and godlier than myself have produced work on divorce and remarriage much clearer than I can, at this point in my life, attempt to post on this blog.

So instead of attempting to press verse by verse through the divorce texts in Matthew, I have decided to direct you to some helpful work that has already been done on divorce remarriage and simply provide some further thoughts on why I have recently adjusted my position. Finally, I hope to challenge you to prayerfully consider how we ought to understand our Lord’s teaching on “what God has joined together . . .”

If you haven’t guessed already, I should go ahead and admit that I owe a great debt to Pastor John Piper in helping me think through the issue of divorce and remarriage. My view is very close to Piper’s and I came to it in great part through considering the argument put forward in his position paper on divorce and remarriage. To hear these arguments in a more engaging format, you can read, watch, or listen to two sermons Piper preached on divorce and remarriage last summer–here and here. Also, for a compendium of views on divorce and remarriage, you can check out the Spring 2002 edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology or check out the three views book on divorce and remarriage edited by Mark L. Strauss. I particularly commend Gordon Wenham’s article Does the New Testament Approve Remarriage after Divorce? in the SBJT. Wenham does an excellent job of reading Jesus’ teaching on divorce in light of their theological context, particularly the context of Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God and the new covenant.

As a side note, I wanted to mention that while John Piper has been phenomenally influential in my walk with Christ, I do not follow everything he says blindly, in fact I disagree with Piper on some significant areas with regard to the church. I should also tell you that Piper’s position (and my position) on divorce and remarriage is not the majority position among evangelicals. In fact, people who hold his view are by far in the minority. In what follows, I will briefly outline Piper’s argument and offer a few insights.

Piper’s position is basically this: the only biblical ground for remarriage after divorce is the death of a spouse. He essentially grounds this position on Mark 10:9 and Matt. 19:6 when Jesus is asked about whether a man may divorce his wife for any reason and Jesus responds, saying, “what God has joined together let not man separate.” In other words, God created marriage and thus has rights over when it may be abolished. Since marriage is God’s, man does not have the right to abolish it for any reason. God is the one who separates via death. Jesus clearly sees marriage as a ‘one flesh’ union. This one flesh union is inaugurated by God–marriage is something that God himself has joined together. It is not fundamentally a social institution but a creation of almighty God.

This position on remarriage is confirmed in 1 Cor. 7:39 and Rom. 7:1-3, which cite only death as legitimate grounds for remarriage after divorce. Therefore, I think Christians should never pursue divorce. There may be times when, for safety reasons, a Christian may need to flee and separate from an abusive or dangerous spouse. Or, if a Christian has an unbelieving spouse and they demand a divorce, 1 Cor. 7:15 seems to indicate that a Christian may accept such a demand, but it seems clear that Christians are not to actively pursue divorce with a believing or unbelieving spouse (cf. 1 Pet. 3:1-2). I would interpret such deliberate movement toward divorce as separating what God has joined together.

The immediate objection to this position is the exception clause found in Matt. 5:32 and 19:9, when Jesus says that remarriage after divorce connotes adultery “except for sexual immorality.” Many conservative evangelicals see this as simply a reference to adultery. As I have previously outlined, “porneia” (the Greek word for sexual immorality) in the New Testament has a much broader meaning than adultery. For example, 1 Cor. 5:1 uses the porneia in reference to incest, and 1 Cor. 7:2 uses porneia to refer to premarital sexual activity. Further, Matthew clearly sees a distinction between the more common word for adultery, moicheia, and porneia as the two words are mentioned side by side in the list vices in Matt. 15:9. Also, both Matt. 5:32 and 19:9 cite porneia as the exception shortly after having utilized moicheia to refer to adultery. (more…)

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