Many passages of scripture speak of God’s deep love for mankind. In what is perhaps the greatest verse, Jesus states, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). Also, we find Paul writing, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). And John adds, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). All these passages point to the great love God has for His creation (mankind).
The act of love on God’s part in sacrificing His Son, is the basis of the gospel. It is His plan for man’s redemption from sin. “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
It is by this gospel (and no other) message that calls us to salvation. “…because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13-14). The gospel message holds the key to our salvation. Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16 ).
God gave His Son as a sacrifice for the guilt of our sins. His act of love calls for a loving response from each of us. The most effective way one can demonstrate their love for God, is by obeying the gospel. This is done by dying to your life of sin as you are buried with Christ in baptism and raised up from that watery grave reborn, forgiven, saved in Christ (Rom. 6:3-5).
God has abundantly demonstrated His love for us through the gospel message. The question is, “How are you responding to His love?” Perhaps, at this point, it might be wise to read Paul’s description of the final day of judgment: “…when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
In Genesis 1 we are told God made man in His image. Included would be the ability to reach a conclusion from observable evidences. The ability to reason manifests itself every time we make a judgment about a person or thing. Therefore, with this ability comes grave responsibility. It is such a serious a responsibility that there are admonitions in scripture warning us about how to judge.
For instance, Jesus warns, “Do
not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Jesus’ statement implies
that mankind will make judgments from time to time.
of an action or thing to God (is it righteous) is to be the basis of these
judgments. Peter and John challenged the Sanhedrin of their day to judge if it
was right to obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19). Paul asked the Corinthian
brethren the rhetorical question, “Do you not judge those who are within the
church?” (1 Corinthians 5:12). He then instructs Christians not to go to law
against one another but to let brethren judge in any legal dispute that may
arise (1 Corinthians 6:1-8). In 1 Corinthians 10:15 Paul continues by saying, “I
speak as to wise men; you judge what I say.” Then he charges the brethren to
judge whether it is proper for a Christian woman to pray to God unveiled (1
Corinthians 11:13). As we look to these many admonitions to “judge,” it is
undeniable that men can and do, in fact must, make judgments. Therefore, those
who would be righteous must judge with righteous judgment.
Wait until all evidence is in
When Jesus said that we are not
to judge according to appearance, He was warning us not to make judgments
before we have understood all the evidence. Paul makes this point concerning
his own stewardship as an apostle of the Lord. In first Corinthians chapter
four, he encourages them to accept him as a steward of the mysteries of God (vs.
1). He then says a steward must be found faithful (vs. 2). Next, he addresses
the possibility man’s judgment can be faulty by saying, “But
to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human
court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing
against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is
the Lord” (vvs. 3-4). Paul
knew judgment without understanding could be faulty, hence his statement about
man’s judgment. His own judgment of his stewardship did not justify (declare
him righteous). Only the Lord can justify. The reason man’s judgment may be
faulty is because of his propensity for prejudice (Proverbs 24:23).
Paul concludes the thought by
saying, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait
until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the
darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise
will come to him from God” (vs.
5). The way righteous judgments are made is by considering the evidence as Paul
illustrates with the judgment of the Lord.
How can we build better families? How can we strengthen the foundation of a society?
As politicians campaign for office, it seems as if every one of them is trying to help the American family. Some want to give tax breaks. Others believe the offer financial help is the best way to attract votes. Still others look to instill better values.
The one common thread that connects all these efforts is; the family needs help. Whether the politician is Democrat or Republican, the one thing they will agree on is the need to bolster the American family.
Politicians may not agree as to exactly where the family is hurting or how to do this, but they do agree that families are hurting. They know that many families are disintegrating. They know that our society (or any society) is only as strong as its families.
Yet, very few turn to the real source of family values. To rebuild or strengthen the family, it is absolutely necessary that people turn to the One who created the family in the first place. It was God who brought Adam and Eve together (Gen. 2:22-25) making them “one flesh”. It was God who commanded them to “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). God established the family. God ordained that families would be the backbone of any and all societies. So, what is God’s plan for your family and mine?
Values Are Learned At Home
We hear a great deal today about the need for values. Many turn to schools or government institutions to try to teach children and adults about right and wrong. But these values are taught best and most powerfully in the home. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:1-4). Paul tells us that values are learned at home.
Parents are to admonish and nurture their children. They are to instill a sense of honor and respect for parents. Children are to be obedient to parents and are to learn to respect them. These are the very values that seem to be missing in society: honor, respect, obedience, nurturing. If families respond to God’s plan by living this way, our society would undergo a profound change from selfish violence, to selfless respect for others.
Old Testament Suggestions
These values are passed to children in subtle ways. “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deut. 6:4-7). As Moses restated the law, he explained the process that instills values. It begins with the realization that God is, that He is our God and that He commands our lives. These facts should not be wrapped up in sermons, but in a lifestyle that speaks of God, thinks about God, and talks about God.
Moses even gives ideas about how to do this. He suggests talking about God in informal settings such as walking, eating, getting out of bed or going to bed. Those parents who include God at meals by praying are accomplishing much in the way of instilling values. Those parents who pray with their children before bedtime are setting the example children need in order to learn good values.
Actions Outweigh Words
Finally, realize that these values are more modeled than taught. Children learn much more by example than by lectures or sermons. Taking your children to church is important. But if the home life is a poor example of faith, then all the lessons in the world, taught by all the best teachers, will fall on deaf ears. What takes place in your home will set in concrete the values your children adopt.
Throughout Paul’s discussion of marriage and child-rearing (Eph. 5:21-6:4), he constantly refers to an atmosphere in which family members and protected. So a husband will not be threatened by a wife who submits (Eph. 5:22). So a wife will not be afraid of a husband who dies to self for his wife (Eph. 5:25) or who treats his wife as his own body (Eph. 5:28-29). So parents will not be pressured by kids who honor them (Eph 6:1) and children will not be angered by parents who nurture (Eph. 6:4). A family is to be a group of people who make it safe to live, to work, to worship, to succeed and to fail, without threat or intimidation or fear.
Homes Should Be Physically Safe
A home should be a place where everyone is safe from abuse. Our society takes spanking and too often turns it into pain, fear or worse. Society deals with that by making laws and taking steps to protect children. What child should need protection from a parent? Every child should feel safe to come home, even when that child is in trouble and deserves punishment. I never enjoyed facing my folks when I was in trouble. But I was never physically afraid of either of them. They would discipline, they love and they would forgive.
A wife should have that same sense of safety. When Adam met his bride they “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25). This first couple had no barriers between them. No matter how pretty or ugly she was, no matter how thin or obese, no matter how tall or short, she was accepted and loved by Adam. Eve returned this love to Adam, so that both could be completely transparent, physically and emotionally, and not be at risk. In too many homes today, spouses are afraid to be honest with each other. They are afraid of criticism, or of an explosion that would be even more pain than holding in the truth. Every marriage is to be built on a foundation of transparency in which both partners can be honest even when wrong, and not be afraid harmed emotionally or physically.
Homes Should Be Emotionally Safe
But homes also need to be a safe place to risk. Paul tells husbands that Jesus died for the church, “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Eph. 5:27). Jesus died to encourage the church to become all that God wanted us to be, pure and holy. In the same way, husbands should die to self that their wives can shine in all their glory and become all God wants them to be. Wives should do the same for husbands. Parents must do this for their kids.
A family should be a safe place to risk being more, knowing more, trying more, learning more. Some families are so critical, so harsh, so discouraging that no one ever succeeds. A family built on God’s plan encourages its members to grow physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. I want my wife to be happy, to be satisfied and to accomplish all she can in life for herself, for us and for God. My children should have the opportunity to go farther, to do more, to know more, to love more than I have. I want my children to know God better and to serve Him better than I have. To do this they must risk new things, take chances that might not work just right. But a family is to be a place in which that sort of risk can be taken.
God’s Plan For The Family
Repeatedly in Ephesians 5:21-6:4 Paul gives the key to having a family based on God’s plan. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (5:22). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (5:25). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1). “Fathers…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). The key to all family functioning is having God and Jesus at the center.
So wives submit, not because their particular prince charming deserves it, but because that is what Jesus wants. Husbands die to self, not because their particular bride is wonderful and perfect, but because Jesus wants it. And children obey parents, not because parents are always right or smarter, but because, in the Lord, that is what we are asked to do. Finally, parents are gentle and disciplining, not because their kids are perfect and deserve good parents, but because that is the will of God.
Christians are formed in the family
This means that the family is the ground for being Christians. Thus, it is at home that we learn about mercy, about grace, about righteousness, about faithfulness. Also, it is at home that we learn about turning the other cheek, going the second mile and giving up our rights. And we do all this because it is God’s will, not because the people in our homes deserve it. Too many families are built on the idea of “you go first.” In God’s plan it is always the believer who “goes first” by dying to self and submitting to the others.
In answer to the questions at the beginning of part one, we can change homes by being aggressive in ministering to families as they learn the skills of modeling, transparency, and denial. Churches and believers can teach and practice these skills so that the world comes to us, not because we have good ideas, but because God’s plan, put in action in our lives actually works!
Marriage and the marriage vows are something that should never be taken lightly. What happens when two people come together under the idea of marriage? They stand before a man to recite wedding vows to each other. But, what does this mean? Consider if you will, the words both the male and female make: “Will you take this woman/man to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, to live together in holy matrimony? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor her/him, and keep her/him in sickness and in health…, forsaking all others for as long as you both shall live? Will you take to yourself to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and to love and cherish each other till death do you part?”
Your Marriage Vows are before God, do you mean it?
When two people repeat their wedding vows, those involved in that marriage make this promise to each other and to God. They promise they will be together forever. However, far too many times, this is far from the truth. Separations occur and eventually divorce comes (annulments included). But what is divorce? Obtaining a divorce is a legal (by man’s standards) dissolution of a marriage. It is a ceasing, a breaking of promises, to let go, or to release from bonds that terminates a marriage. But what is ceasing? However, what are things that break in divorce? Could we say that we are breaking two hearts in a marriage or breaking a family into jagged pieces? But what are we letting go? Could it be the bond that was first made on the wedding day between each other and between God? But, why the release?
Did not Jesus say to the Pharisees who came tempting Him
with questions on divorce that, “…a man shall leave his father and mother and
be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5)? Two
lives join into one. Therefore, the bond of husband and wife is stronger than
that between children and parents. And, to be as one means that they are to be
the only ones together. Yet, if this is true, then what comes in between them?
It should be said that when something comes in between the one flesh, it must
be a painful experience seeing as how pain always comes when something is
inserted between flesh. With a marriage, this insertion is planned and cannot
happen by accident and once it is between flesh, it separates it and divorce is
seen shortly down the road.
Marriage Vows Combine Two as One
Jesus said, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Now, what could be so forceful that it could separate flesh? Perhaps a friend? Maybe they just drive each other crazy. Perhaps they are just not compatible. Jesus again speaking said to the Pharisees, “whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality (fornication), and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9).
What is fornication? It is illicit sexual intercourse. It is sexual intercourse whether it is with a man, woman, homosexual, lesbian, animal, etc. Jesus said that for this reason only can one divorce. Why? It is because sexual intercourse breaks the one flesh into two. Also, because there is a foreign flesh attempting to rip part of the flesh from the rest. It is because it breaks the covenant relationship between man and woman. In addition, it breaks the covenant relationship with God because once you are in a marriage, you are commanded by God to keep it (Rom. 7:2).
Men can attempt to justify this by saying that the laws of the land permit other actions. Well, so did the laws of the land in Jesus’ day (Matt. 19:1-9). But just because it is a law of the land, does not give us a right to violate God’s law. The apostles, which were led directly by the Holy Spirit said, “. . . We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, if God defines what a marriage is and what it is not and defines the reason to end a marriage, we must obey God rather than man for only God can dissolve a marriage.
Divorce Means Ignoring Your Promise to God
Divorce that comes outside of fornication, happens when men forget God (Rom. 1:18-32), when they forget His word (Psa. 119:11), and when they want to do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). May we each do the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21-23).