Tag Archives: Holiness

Marriage as a Sacrament

These thoughts are the results of over 5 years married to the most gracious, wonderful, and beautiful woman I have ever known.

The Roman Catholics maintain seven sacraments; most Protestants have only two, which they don’t really take very seriously. While I’m not prepared to embrace the full Roman Catholic understanding, I definitely believe we need to go back to viewing marriage more sacramentally.

In the most classical Christian understanding, the sacraments are means of grace for mankind. It is faith in Christ Jesus our Lord which ultimately saves, but the sacraments empower and enrich the sanctification part of our salvation. Thus Baptism and Eucharist are not simply symbolic rituals but actually have real power for the believer who par takes of them, and according to St Paul real danger to those who partake apart from faith and righteousness before a Holy God.

While marriage may not be an ordained sacrament in Scripture, it is certainly an ordained action for our well being. All of the use of marriage as metaphor in the Word illustrates just how highly marriage ought to be viewed by those who follow Christ. That marriage is an important aspect of our sanctification and growth in the knowledge of God can be easily illustrated. This doesn’t mean marriage is ordained for everyone, but it does mean that to those who. It is given it should be taken very seriously. In a society that under values marriage, as a the Church of Jesus Christ we need to restore a proper understanding of its sacred significance. What follows is a list of the ways that marriage has been sacramental in my life, 5 years from now and no doubt I will have even more thoughts on the subject.

Marriage reveals how self-centered and petty we are. In premarital counseling, the difficulty of the first year of marriage is often a subject of discussion. Many married couples can look back to the first year and the trials they overcame together. The reason behind this is our own self-centeredness. Living together in a covenant relationship draws out our selfish tendencies so the Holy Spirit can purge us of them. This becomes painfully clear when we are quick to anger over the smallest of household operations. What it really boils down to is that we just want our own way that bad. The marriage relationship draws this selfishness to our attention in areas we couldn’t even see it before.

Marriage demonstrates the importance of covenant and unconditional love. Only in a firm commitment to love one another until death does marriages true teaching about unconditional love and covenant relationship hit home. When we find it easy to love, or to accept love this lesson is lost. When, ontheotherhand, love is painfully difficult or we find ourself feeling completely unworthy of love, the message of God’s love begins to dawn on us. When for the first time you receive love from your husband or wife while still behaving in a way you know is completely unworthy of that love, the cross stands in the background with new meaning. When we come to the full realization that no matter how bad things get, our love for each other isn’t going anywhere, God’s unchanging love becomes more real than ever before.

Marriage is an important part of our sanctification. As I mentioned above marriage often puts a spot light on issues we didn’t realize we had. This becomes a key part of the process of sanctification in our lives. A godly spouse becomes our primary source of accountability, and because they see us at our worst our spouses cannot be tricked by the pious show we often put on for others. When we allow our marriage to bring sin in our lives to mind, and then walk through repentance together, we overcome issues we likely would have missed on our own.

Marriage points out areas of unforgiveness and unhealed hurt in our lives . It is always interesting how previous pain and heartache can impact a marriage. Often actual arguments ensue simply because something was said that touched a sore spot. After some reflection and personal growth, it becomes clear that the marriage isn’t the problem. Instead previously unhealed areas or areas where hurt someone else did is still unforgiven must be addressed for the happiness of the home. This healing and forgiveness process is not always pleasant and that is why, when given the choice, we shy away from it. In marriage we quickly realize how much harm we are doing to ourselves and others by hanging on to the past and are forced to confront our own heartache, God is then able to step and heal our broken hearts.

There is a great deal more that could be said on all the different ways that marriage is sanctifying and sacramental, but the point remains the same. God has established marriage for our well being and help, we should treat it with reverence and allow it to do its good and healing work in our lives.

Daily Scripture Meditation

In reading through the Old Testament, particularly the books of 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles; one of the first things we notice is that there is a constant fluctuation between the worship of God and the worship of idols in Israel. In many cases this change took place in rather extreme ways within a single generation. One minute there would be a good king and the people would pursue God and then the next minute that leader would be gone and it would be right back to idolatry. Now obviously we know that God preserved for himself a remnant of those who were faithful to Him (1st Kings 19:18 for example0, but have you ever wondered why the people were so quick to switch back and forth between the worship of God and the worship of idols?

2 Chronicles 15:3-4 provides an explanation that has some important truth for us today as well.

“For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law; but when in their trouble they turned to The Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them.”

Like most people, Israel turned back to God when the futility of their idolatry became clear and they had no where else to turn; and God, being gracious and abounding in mercy, responded to their repentance and prayer. That they had a long tradition of idolatrous ways (as does all post-Eden humanity) partially explains there constant back and forth, but the 2nd half of verse 3 shines some additional light on the subject. They had been a long time without a teaching priest and without law.

When the law departs from a people, when the priests fail to keep in constantly before them. They have no solid foundation on which to resist idolatry and wicked behavior. There commitment to The Lord is based on emotion, and upon what they need to receive from The Lord in that hour. When a political or cultural leader stands as the driving force to follow God, then they will. When that leader is gone, they won’t anymore. Without the sound teaching of scripture to provide a moral backbone, nations flounder in idolatry and sin.

We live in a day and age where idolatry is running rampant. Obviously we don’t put our trust in little statues of made up gods anymore, but instead we have turned to insurance policies, to political leaders, to economic systems, to money, television, and others. In the midst of all this idolatry, the Church, the “kingdom of priests” has allowed herself to be silenced by the need for “tolerance”. In an age of moral relativism, holding forth a bright light of absolute truth, right and wrong, is unpopular. People are more comfortable lurking in the gray haze of “it doesn’t really matter”, “don’t judge”, and “no one is really right”.

If this is allowed to continue that the pattern from Scripture is clear, we will see a back and forth vacillation between worship of God and worship of idols based solely on emotion. As that vacillation continues idolatry will become worse, up until the point that God chooses to pour out His wrath on our nation and punish the idolatry for the sake of His name, which on our account is now slandered among the nations. Ultimately responsibility for this will fall on the Church in this nation for failing to hold up the Scriptural commands as absolute and essential.

If you don’t want the blood of others on your hands, then don’t participate in this deliberate watering down of Scripture. Cling to the whole Word and beg others to do so as well.

Daily Scripture Meditation

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of of the world makes himself and enemy of God. -James 4:4 NKJV

It would seem to me that we have largely forgotten that the Gospel is incompatible with the rest of the world. When we take on worldly behaviors or give in to worldly thoughts and activities we are moving away from God in doing so. We cannot continue in the normal, day to day activities of everyone else around us, as Christians, and please God.

Christian worship is rebellion against the world and all of its wicked ways. When we give our lives in worship each and every day, we press in to obedience to God and rebellion to this world.

We need to stop more often and ask ourselves questions like: Is my life to compatible with the lifestyle and culture I find myself in? Does the behavior of the world around me bother me, or have I become comfortable with it? Do I stand out from the world around me, or have I become so like the world that no one can tell the difference?

We are called to be set apart to holy behavior before a holy God, this requires that we reject sinful influences and patterns in our lives. While the rejection of sin is a daily battle, it is one that we ought to win more and more as we fight it and in so doing make it clear before the world that we serve a different king, Jesus!

The Triumph of the Lamb

Can you imagine the day without the Lamb? As followers of Christ today, with the constant presence of the Holy Spirit to make clear the meanings behind difficult things as well as to comfort us, it is difficult to imagine the shock and confusion of the disciples. On the one hand it seems so strange that they would be unable to understand all of Jesus’ prior teaching about His up coming death and resurrection, but on the other hand we as humans are very foolish and it should come as no surprise that the disciples would be too.

Here they had been from Friday night until Sunday morning, weeping and deeply distressed by what had happened. The one they believed was Son of God and messiah had perished on a cross and died. I think we have lost hold of the depth of this scandal. How strange indeed that the Son of God would allow Himself to be beaten and killed. He had the full authority to put a sudden end to His oppressors, and yet He chose for the glory of God and our redemption to stay anyway.

Then suddenly Sunday morning, the disciples heard a strange report. Jesus was alive again. This was wholly unexpected. What could it mean?

We who celebrate the Lord’s resurrection every year at this time are prone to forget the depth of its implications. First of all, it serves as full verification of Jesus’ claims about His identity and power. Had Jesus not risen from the dead, our Faith would be useless and also likely non-existent. The idea ought to startle us, that a man should rise up from the grave and walk away by His own power. Certainly such an event has powerful implications.

Jesus is Lord. There should be no question in our mind that God the Father has vested the full authority of the God head in the person of the Son. The authority to overcome the grave and return to God on high reflects the fullness the Son’s power and might

Jesus has won total victory over the power of sin and death. The resurrection represents the total crushing of sin and death through the death of the righteous Son. In this moment the power of sin to trap and hold the followers of Christ was lost. Its only power now is in deception, convincing us that we are entangled when we are in fact not.

This victory serves to demand holiness from us. If Jesus has crushed sin and death once, for all time; then those who are filled with His Holy Spirit are free from entangling sin. We are called, and enabled to walk in holiness. To do less is to deliberately trample the cross underfoot and make it of no effect.

The final implication is that Jesus is that Jesus has become worthy of His own chosen reward, the worship of the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, and nation. I will address that topic separately in my next post.