I love my wife. I love her a lot, but as a sinner, I don’t love her enough. I am fickle, inconsistent, and selfish – I need reminders. I also want to refresh the commitment I made years ago and renew my commitment to her, day after day. Looking back over our relationship, I can see times when certain priorities were in place, and we thrived. I can also see times where we struggled, because those factors were plateauing or declining. Recently, I have seen examples in my own life and ministry of what happens when Christ is at the center of a marriage, exalted and enjoyed – so I sat down and made a list of some essentials that are needed to keep love fresh and strong. I commend them to you:
Recently I have been reading the epistle of 1 Peter, and have been so encouraged. I was intrigued as I read by how the former fisherman made reference to Jesus, to whom He had been so closely and intimately bonded for 3 ½ years. He knew Him, loved Him, enjoyed Him, and walked with Him more closely than anyone else. In 1:8, he told those that had not been given that privilege because they had not seen Him, that they can love Him too. Here is why. Jesus is:
1. The One who calls – 1:1
2. The One we obey – 1:2
3. The One who sprinkles us clean with His blood – 1:2
4. The only Son of God His Father – 1:3
5. Risen from the dead – 1:3
6. Coming in glory – 1:7
7. The One we love – 1:8
8. Unseen at the present time – 1:8
9. The One we believe and love – 1:8
10. The One whose Holy Spirit moved the Old Testament prophets to write sacred Scripture – 1:11
11. The One who suffered and who will reign – 1:11
12. The One who will come again with His grace – 1:13
13. The unblemished spotless Lamb – 1:19
14. Foreknown before the foundation of the world – 1:20
15. The One who came into this world for our sake – 1:20
16. The One through whom we believe in God – 1:21
17. Risen from the dead – 1:21
18. The One through whom we offer spiritual sacrifices – 2:5
19. The One whose death left us an example of suffering – 2:21
20. Suffered without deceit – 2:22
21. Suffered without reviling – 2:23
22. Suffered without uttering threats against His persecutors – 2:23
23. The One entrusted Himself to His Father in suffering – 2:23
24. Our sin bearer – 2:24
25. The One whose wounds cleanse us – 2:24
26. The Lord – 3:15
27. The One who should be set apart in our hearts – 3:15
28. The One who died for our sins – 3:18
29. The One who brings us to God – 3:18
30. Just – 3:18
31. The One who triumphed over evil imprisoned spirits – 3:19
32. The risen One who frees our conscience from guilt before God – 3:21
33. The One who is at the right hand of God – 3:22
34. The One to whom all things in heaven and earth are subject – 3:22
35. The One who suffered in His flesh – 4:1
36. The One who is ready at this moment to judge the living and the dead – 4:5
37. The One to whom belongs all glory and dominion – 4:10
38. The One whose sufferings we share – 4:13
39. The One whose name causes us to be reviled and blessed – 4:14
40. The One who suffered publicly for us – 5:1
41. The Chief Shepherd – 4:4
42. The One who will award us with the unfading crown of glory – 5:4
43. The One who will share His eternal glory in Christ with us – 5:10
In preparing my own heart and our pastoral staff for the BOLD Conference, we have been examining what the Scriptures teach about the very topic that is worth dedicating an entire conference to understand, the virtue of boldness. It’s worth passing on to you. For us to stand firmly, live differently, and speak clearly in any and every context is a virtue indeed, because it requires us to do it whether we are walking barefoot on the green grass of the bypath meadow or facing the furnace of affliction and feeling the flames lick our face. Naturally, if we are living the Christian life as we should, we will be the same in any and every context. But also true, if we are living the Christian life as we should, we will draw fire from the enemy. In either situation, we should stay the same. Unflinching. Confident. Resolved. Godly. This means that being bold doesn’t start when you have to stand up for what you believe; it starts by living your life with conviction each day so that when it is tested, it shines forth as it really is – virtuous.
Having said that, one of the issues that we are facing as a state and as a nation in 2012 is the role of the Christian in the public square, especially as it relates to the political choices before us at the ballot box. But the issues are so much deeper than what elected officials should occupy the places of influence as our representative. We face a more Biblically relevant issue, one that the people of God have almost always had to address: how do we live out our faith in the context of a ungodly, most often hostile pagan, political environment?
Apart from the days of David and Solomon, with a few shining exceptions, God’s people have always been forced to be the people of God amidst a “crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:15). Think about Pharaoh and his hard hearted, “I do not know this God and I will not let your people go.” Remember Nebuchadnezzar who decimated Israel in 586 B.C. who plundered the people of God, ravaged the temple, carried the Jews to a foreign land, then set up an idol and forced people to worship it and threatened the fiery furnace if they would not. Don’t forget Darius whose decree was that no one pray to anyone but him. Caesar after Caesar proclaimed himself deity, forged their images on coins that became as miniature idols in the pockets of Jewish worshippers who were forced to carry them in order to conduct business. These Roman Emperors required everyone to bow with their knees and confess with their mouths, “Caesar is Lord” or die in the gladiator arena. Nero, a ridiculous Caesar and flaming homosexual, torched Christians to light his garden parties, abused them sexually, and blamed them for the burning of the city of Rome so that he could build a bigger and more opulent monument to himself.
The corruption, degradation, immorality, and repugnance of the ancient world make us realize that the issues we face are nothing new, and it could get worse—a lot worse. Imagine the shock of Christians who lived under these circumstances reading verses like:
Romans 13:1-5, ” Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.”
1 Timothy 2:1-6, ” First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”
1 Peter 2:11-17, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”
Honor the pagan who usurps divine authority and puts himself in the place of God? These godless officials are “ministers of God”? Submit? Be subject? Live a quiet and tranquil life? Answer? Yes. Of course, the only exception is if the governing authorities over us ask us to sin specifically. Then our answer must be that of Peter and the apostles who said in:
Acts 4:19, “But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge;”
Acts 5:29, “But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
Daniel refused to eat what God had forbidden. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego wouldn’t worship the image even to their own peril, Daniel wouldn’t stop praying to His God. Peter and the apostles wouldn’t stop preaching what they had seen and heard. And neither shall we. Boldness.
Other than that, we submit. We demonstrate as Paul did before Felix and Festus or as Jesus before Pilate that Christianity is about a kingdom not of this world where God’s servants overturn the government and spread His cause with the militia—we advance a spiritual kingdom with the Gospel, subdue hearts by bringing men into subjection to Christ with the knowledge of a Savior who Himself submitted to wicked human authorities while entrusting Himself to His Father. Boldness must co-exist with submission, humility, patience, and love.
No bombastic, hasty, boisterous, rebellious, quarrelsome, mutinous, malicious, sarcastic overthrow. We advance on our knees, trust in the sovereignty of God, keep focused on the Gospel, and avail ourselves of whatever means the government under God gives us to see that it function the way God intended. All the while, we refuse to get caught up in a futile attempt to legislate morality or Christianize America; we do not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the real needs all around us. We love our neighbor, meaning we have a moral obligation to them. Salt and light means being used by God in our culture to stem the tide of encroaching darkness. We uphold and defend the family. We defend life and the rights of the unborn. But above all, we uphold and defend the Gospel. We can be passionate, persuasive, and persistent, but not ugly.
Living with the Biblical balance is a challenge. If history is any indicator, this scenario isn’t going away until Jesus comes. That’s why we need the ability to step back and focus on it from God’s perspective and answer an all important question—“Okay, so what do I do? What is my role?” Register for BOLD and find out. Time is running out. Registrations are still open. It is worth burning some vacation time just for this. You can’t afford to miss it. Log in today: www.boldchurchconference.org.
See you there,
Boldness – it can be one of your highest virtues or one of your greatest downfalls, depending on what kind you have. An unapologetic, unashamed, and unflinching commitment to stand firm, come what may—that’s boldness, in part. Not all boldness is good. Some are bold for the Lord, but not bold in the Lord—they are arrogant, self-confident, and quite frankly, obnoxious. Always a fight. Always a critique. Always in the name of the Lord. Always wrong.
Worse still, some are bold about their sin. It won’t take you long in a Google search to realize that being bold to many means being brazen about sin. They are bold to declare that they don’t care how many people know about their choices or what they say about it.
Biblical boldness is what you see in Elijah when he stood toe to toe with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, John the Baptist when he rebuked Herod for his unlawful marriage, David when he burned inside at a giant who taunted the living God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they stared at the fires in the furnace and still wouldn’t bow to the idols, Esther when she knew that breaking protocol in the king’s palace could cost her and the Jews their lives, or Jesus when out of passion for His Father cleansed the temple and drove ten’s or even hundreds of thousands of people away.
But don’t get the idea that boldness is John Wayne, bravado, a wild at heart, careless, risk-taking, tough-guy kind of machismo. It is the abandonment of self-reliance and an expression of utter God-dependence to live by conviction. Psalm 138:3 says it is given by God for us to be strong in the inner man. It is a lion-like righteousness, where we live our lives at such a level of integrity that the threat of exposure holds no fear (Proverbs 28:1).
It is a confident courage to be bold in our God, and not in ourselves (1 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 10:2, 12). Most commonly in the New Testament, it means stepping up and speaking out on God’s behalf. Every time the word bold, boldly, or boldness appears in the book of Acts, it is with reference to the Word of God:
- “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
- “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 9:27–28)
- “Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46)
- “Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.” (Acts 14:3)
- “and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 18:26)
- “And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8)
Elsewhere in the New Testament, the recurring theme is bold proclamation:
- In Ephesians 6:19 it means speaking the truth in the context of spiritual warfare (Philippians 1:28-29).
- In 2 Corinthians 3:12 it refers to a kind of fearless speech that arises from a heart that is filled with hope from the Gospel.
- In 1 Thessalonians 2:2, it is a divinely enabled “stick-to-it-edness” in our God to proclaim the saving message of Christ in the face of persecution.
So then, being bold is not an end in itself, but a way to stand for God and His Gospel. But it also implies that we have to overcome something: fear of man, persecution, or even self-reliance and pride. But what makes us confident is not our ability to summon and project a kind of fearlessness; rather it is a spiritual tenacity to go after the things of God without compromise: no moving aside, conforming, backing down, or shutting up.
Our reason to be confident is that we know who God is and what he has called us to do. To that end, he strengthens our resolve to not waiver. Specifically, boldness is confidence in God to stand firmly, live separately, and speak clearly in any and every context, with God’s Word, by God’s power, for God’s glory.
How does God want you to stand today? What life choices should you be making that demonstrate you are His, and which even call you out from the world? What remains to be said, that if you had the courage in God to say it, might make the eternal difference for someone who needs to hear from you about God? Be bold.
Consider the words of C.H. Spurgeon, “You see a lot of things which are called men, who turn the way the wind blows; a number of preachers that turn north, south, east and west, just according as the times shall dictate and their circumstances and the hope of gain shall drift them. I pray God to send a few men with what the Americans call “grit” in them; men who when they know a thing to be right, will not turn away, or turn aside, or stop, men who will persevere all the more because there are difficulties to meet or foes to encounter; who stand all the more true to their Master because they are opposed; who, the more they are thrust into the fire, the hotter they become, who, just like the bow, the further the string is drawn, the more powerfully will it send forth its arrows, and so, the more they are trodden upon, the more mighty will they become in the cause of truth against error.”
Weak in myself—bold in Him,
Pastor Justin Erickson
adjective, bold·er, bold·est.
- not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff; courageous and daring: a bold hero.
- not hesitating to break the rules of propriety; forward; impudent: He apologized for being so bold as to speak to the emperor.
- necessitating courage and daring; challenging: a bold adventure.
- beyond the usual limits of conventional thought or action; imaginative: Einstein was a bold mathematician. a difficult problem needing a bold answer.
- striking or conspicuous to the eye; flashy; a bold pattern.
- The one conference you should attend this year
“Bold” is a word that has great meaning for the Christian. It conjures images of bravery, courage, and spine. It refers to the spiritual backbone with which we stand firm for the truth and the name of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t mean we are never afraid, but that we have instructed our fears with the Word of God and committed our hearts to the One who alone stands supreme over the universe—to Whom men are “less than nothing” (Isaiah 40:17). It means that we have a holy tenacity about the things of God and won’t be deterred by doubt, discouragement, disobedience, or disbelief. It does not allow us, however, to be crude, careless, manipulative, subversive, deceitful, or downright mean, “in Jesus’ name.” Instead, we do as Martin Luther wrote, “Let goods and kindred go; this mortal life also. The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever.”
If you read the book of Acts, two truths emerge: 1) the Gospel is unstoppable—not persecution, false teaching, racial conflict, internal compromise, the schemes of Satan, prison bars, snakebites, or even hurricanes—nothing; and 2) you are immortal until God’s work for you is done—not careless, reckless, extreme risk taking that presumes on God (like Satan tempted Jesus to do), but the attitude of Paul who said in Acts 20:24, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”
Never has this bold confidence been needed than the time in which we now live. With the moral darkness of sin and unbelief encroaching, we as followers of Christ must be what Christ saved us to be: salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). A preservative that keeps the world from decaying as quickly as it normally would by our influence, and a light to guide men to God, Whom they see manifest in us. With the political, economic, medical, social, religious, and moral standards on the decline, now is the time for you as a Christian to know your place in private and in the public square.
Because that is true, we have assembled two of the finest Bible teachers available: Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. Rick Holland, men of God whose messages will address some of the most important cultural and Biblical issues now facing us as a church, a state, and a nation. Dr. Mohler will speak to how we as individuals can engage our culture without losing sight of the real need to keep the Gospel central. He will explain and defend the Biblical balance of speaking to the culture with a clarion call for repentance while keeping Christ the main thing. Mohler, a John the Baptist in his own right, has not only been the most dominant voice for this issue in recent days, as a seminary and Bible college president, he understands how this fits with the pastor and the local church. Dr. Holland will speak to the same issue from the vantage point of the church and her responsibility to live with purity and priority in a pagan culture. He will concentrate our focus on how to minister in and among a pagan culture, day in and day out.
This conference is for pastors, elders, deacons, Christian workers, and serious Bible students who have a passion to see Jesus Christ exalted and sinners brought to a saving relationship with God through Him.
To celebrate the glory and joy of this relationship, we will welcome two of the finest musicians to our concert: singer and actor, Jubilant Sykes and renowned classical guitarist Christopher Parkening. These men will offer special music throughout the conference and a concert together on Monday, which celebrates the great hymns of the faith and the truths men and women have boldly lived to proclaim and died to defend.
Go to our website: www.boldchurchconference.org for dates, times, and registration. The cost is reasonable and registrations are still open. Also, watch the site for special promotions – this Thursday and Friday you can register for only $75. You don’t want to miss it.
It happens all the time. You know it the moment you see it. When a new couple starts a relationship, something happens. You see a side of them you’d never seen before. They get giddy. They talk to one another with a sweetsie voice. They look into each other’s eyes with sparkle and dazzle. They post pictures of themselves on Facebook and their cell phones. They talk for hours on the phone with little to no concept of time. They spend money on each other and find frivolous ways of showing attention. Most of all, they just want to be alone. They are, to use the old Wise Owl’s words from Bambi, “Twiterpated.”
Some of this is natural and should be expected. It’s evidence of ordinary affection and is actually a mark of health in a relationship. It’s also a potential problem. I’ve seen it over and over. Couples tend to disengage, pull out of ministry, withdraw from others, and whenever they are with others, they are into…each other. Couples can, if they are not careful, become so enamored with each other that they lose sight of what’s most important. They can get ingrown, where their relationship causes them to take their eyes off what’s eternal.
This is a common scenario, but it can lead to a serious problem. Romantic relationships can actually make Christians more focused on themselves and less focused on the Lord and His purposes. In other words, it can distract them. That’s why in his teaching on marriage and singleness, the apostle Paul included a vital piece of instruction for us to use in our relationships that help us weigh the decision to be married, and to whom. According to Paul, a couple should only get married when they have confidence that they are more effective for the Lord together than apart. To say it differently, God’s design for marriage is that in coming together, a man and his wife have a greater eternal impact than is possible by remaining single. It is my conviction that if a couple cannot legitimize their relationship by demonstrating how they are more useful for the Lord as a couple than as singles, they probably shouldn’t get married.
Candidly, this is a Biblical principle that is missing from most modern day teaching on marriage and relationships, but is clear according to God’s Word, especially according to 1 Corinthians 7:26-34:
I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away. But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
I remember where I was the first time I read this passage. “Do not seek a wife”? Say what? It stopped me in my tracks! I almost had to turn my Bible to the cover and make sure it was the “Holy” Bible. Then I had to remember my view of inerrancy and inspiration. It is from God, free from error or contradiction, and totally sufficient for life and godliness. I remember praying, “Lord I have no idea what this text means, but I have a feeling it is going to change my life!” How can God say, “from now on, those who have wives should be as though they had none” when at the opening of the chapter he insists that husbands should fulfill their duties to their wives (7:3)? It didn’t make sense. I employed the Jacob principle to Paul’s words, I wrestled with the text all night and insisted, I will not let you go until you bless me.
I was right. The answer is life-changing. However, we need context. To be sure, the apostle Paul has continually stressed the advantage of singleness over marriage, though he acknowledges that not everyone is called to be single (7:7). Throughout the chapter Paul argues for the benefits of singleness and even in the verses above, urges couples to weigh the decision to marry, based on certain cautions like:
V. 26 – “in view of the present distress”
V. 28 – “such will have trouble in this life.”
V. 33 – “one who is married is concerned about the things of the world.”
V. 34 – “his interests are divided.”
Christians who are married have greater challenges and burdens to bear than those who stay single. They experience greater distress and trouble because they are married. It seems from some of the historical evidence that survived that era that Corinth was uniquely plagued with natural disasters like earthquakes and famines resulting in food shortages. Caring for a family in that kind of situation was a serious hardship. Paul says think twice.
Added to that was certainly the distress and trouble of rampant persecution that came against Christians, which could take a serious toll on a family. Very simply, you can get away easier if you aren’t carting a family. You can endure a little easier when they aren’t targeting your wife or children. You might be able to more readily endure trials because of your faith in Christ, even if persecutors ask you to deny Christ or die, but what if they asked you to deny Christ and live to watch your wife or children die. It would be an entirely different kind of temptation. Paul says, think again.
Beyond all those things realize the fact that so much of what you do will be, in the words of Paul, “the things of the world” that is, of earthly concern. Instead of serving in a ministry or doing something eternal, you will spend your time doing things that have no lasting impact. Good things—just not eternal things.
Instead of spending your energy in ministry, you will stand in line at 2AM for baby formula, pick up toys over and over and over again, and do endless piles of laundry. When you are married and have a family, you can’t just pick up and go whenever you want to or drop what you are doing to meet needs like you may prefer. You have people depending on you, and rightly so. But you are not available and free like you could be if you were single. You do not have near the time or money you would otherwise have. You have schedules, bedtimes, feedings, practices, chores; so many earthly “concerns.”
Now don’t get me wrong. Being married is an incredible blessing. Children are a gift that I hope God gives you and that you enjoy. There’s nothing like it. In fact, Paul reminds us in 7:28, “if you marry, you have not sinned.” So we have to be careful. Paul is not saying you should never get married or that you shouldn’t have a family. However, he is asserting that before you do, you should weigh how hard it will truly be, and how diverted you might become from what is truly eternal. Very simply, you will have many additional challenges and divided interests and it’s going to be much harder to remain focused on the right priorities. So, Paul argues that if you are going to enter into marriage, realize that your attention will be distracted and you will have to work harder to stay on mission.
But Paul takes his admonition to another level. He bases his exhortation that “from now on, those who have wives should be as though they had none” in this principle, because “the time has been shortened” and because “the form of this world is passing away.” Without mincing words, Paul says we are running out of time. God is bringing all things to their final consummate end. Eternity is about to begin. We are standing on the cliff of eternity and our toes are hanging over the edge. This world is passing away, and everything in v. 29-31, including marriage is earthly and will end when Christ comes. Thus says Paul,
“But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.”
The things that make us happy and the things that make us cry are all about to be done away with. What we buy and what we use are very soon not going to matter at all. And here’s the key relevant to Paul’s point, marriage itself, which is a temporal, time bound, earthly relationship, will end too.
This may be news to some, but you are not married to your earthly spouse in heaven (Matthew 22:30). When you die or when Christ comes again, it is over. Why is that? Because you are married to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:7). Paul says, that day is almost here and as a single man or woman, you have the ability to make an eternal difference unlike you do when you are married…unless you marry someone whose passion is to make a difference for eternity and who refuses to be taken off course by earthly diversions.
The implication is this: if you are going to get married, don’t let your marriage distract you from pursuing what is eternal. Get married only if you can use your marriage in a way that will impact eternity. In other words, one of the essential criteria that you should use to discern whether or not God is moving you out of singleness into marriage is whether or not you both view your marriage as a way to affect eternity. If not, don’t do it.
So practically, if you are dating or engaged, ask yourself: are you focused primarily on each other and your relationship or on using your partnership to fulfill God’s kingdom priorities in the world? The answer tells you whether you are right for each other. Is the person you are considering marrying seriously maximizing his or her singleness for eternal impact? If not, marriage won’t change it. Marriage will only make it worse.
Jesus nails me. Every time I read something He has said, I am awed and convicted at the same time, not just because of the wisdom and clarity with which He speaks divinely authoritative truth, but also because of how He hammers my heart. That’s even true in the things that Jesus says by way of inference as well. For example,
in Matthew 5:43-48, when Jesus calls me to do the hardest thing, love my enemies, He not only raises the standard for holiness (which only a believer transformed by sovereign grace can approximate), He takes it to a new level when He says, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” The clear teaching of that text is a truly saved Christ follower is going to go further than the outcast pagan. He is going to do more than simply love those who love him. He will love his enemies. Got it. But, did you catch the inference? A pagan can love those who love him back. An unbelieving sell-out who has denied the faith in order to make his wallet fat, is motivated to love others. Prompted, I trust, by the Holy Spirit, I am forced to ask, “Do I even do that?” Do I faithfully love the people in my life who are easy to love? Those who are not my enemies? I am often like the pagan, guilty of only loving those who love me, but I fear at times the pagan even outdoes me… To my shame I say that.
According to Jesus, it’s easy for me to love the people in my life who love me deeply, faithfully, and consistently. The question for my heart: “Is it?” Why is it that the people who are the dearest to us are often the objects of our harsh words, angry attitudes, and passive neglect? Why do we cheat them of our time, affection, and attention? If we can’t love them—Jesus’ implication certainly applies here—we will never love our enemies. So, in an effort to help move us closer to the standard
Christ our King lays out for us, here are some ideas as it relates to nurturing those closer to us, that then we might use as an overflow to express love to our haters.
- Love those who love you with your persistent, sacrificial generosity. To be specific, look for opportunities to meet needs. It could be small or large, but prayerfully ask God to make you attune to ways that your loved ones can use your help. It could be a practical service need, financial, or even just for fun. But find a way to serve the ones you love by anticipating their needs and meeting them, at cost to yourself. Men, do the dishes for your wife and load the laundry. Send your bride out for a night with her lady friends and let her enjoy what you have during the day, while you experience the challenges of flying solo as a parent. Tell her that she is not allowed to get the kids in the middle of the night if they have needs, but that you are on duty. She needs sleep, probably more than you do. Ladies, give him a morning to sleep in and make him his favorite breakfast. Keep the house reasonably clean so that it is a relief not a burden when he walks in the door. But each other a gift that you have heard the other mention would be encouraging to have. Don’t balk at each other’s desire to pursue a hobby (within reason). Have a time to sit down and discuss parenting, your relationship, areas of growth, schedules, etc. Make a list of ways to love and stimulate one another to love and good deeds, and make it a regular part of your relationship.
- Love those who love you with your deliberate and planned affection. To be specific, find simple and sometimes even elaborate ways to surprise one another regularly, where you do something out of the ordinary, which you know will express devotion. The more creative, the better for both of you. Men, come home early from work to help your wife with a project. Women, plan a romantic night for your man without any notice. Get on Facebook and declare your love to your spouse or children in front of the world. Take the opportunity to praise them in front of others. Be the exact same way in private. If you don’t plan it, it will likely not happen.
- Love those who love you with verbal and non-verbal communication. Gentle, upbeat, encouraging words, packed with hope and with a smile go a long way. They also reveal something about the heart. Ephesians 4:29 says it can actually impart grace to those who hear you. Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Words heal and words kill. But what you don’t say can be just as powerful. Don’t believe me? Do you remember Genesis 4, when God confronted Cain about his murderous intent towards Abel? God drew attention to his face, specifically his countenance. It had fallen and his non-verbal cues said everything about what was going to come. God told him that if he repented of his sinful direction, his face would surely show it; if not, sin would overtake him to his ruin. You know what happened. You should read it again.
Bottom line, the practical side of love boils down to an investment of your time and attention, where your attitude is proactive and nurturing. The opposite is self-love, and it always stands in the way of you being the man or woman of God that He saved you to be. Pick someone today to encourage and love like this, and see what God does. You just might become addicted to it! And go back to the people you love, like I had to do recently, and ask forgiveness for not measuring up to God’s standard of love towards them. I’d also love to have you respond with some practical ways that you strive for this standard, via email, Facebook, or here at www.justinerickson.org.