Friday, September 02, 2011

The Fall and Redemption: A Wedding Sermon - Part 3

Finally, the conclusion of my previous two posts:
In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul gives instructions to husbands and wives, and he exhorts husbands and wives to emulate Christ’s relationship with the church.  A husband is instructed to lead, love, and sacrifice himself for his wife.  A wife is commanded to respect her husband and submit to his loving, sacrificial leadership.  This is God’s design for marriage and an illustration of Christ’s special love and care for his people.

Since God has designed marriage to illustrate Christ’s relationship with the church, and since we, as followers of Christ, are called to and desire to be like him, we must pursue marriages that honor Christ and reflect his character and nature to the world.  One author has identified five principles regarding marriage that we all should understand, and to which we all should commit our lives and marriages.  Today, I charge you, Stephen and Amber, to understand and commit yourselves to these principles.

  1. First, I charge you to understand and commit to The Permanence of Marriage.
    Whether it is acknowledged or not, marriage partners make their vows before God.  According to Matthew 19:6, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.”  God has designed marriage not to end while both of you are living.  This relationship, like Christ’s relationship with his church, is permanent, meant to last as long as you both are alive.
  2. Second, I charge you to understand and commit to The Sacredness of Marriage.
    Marriage is a relationship designed, instituted, and initiated by God.  Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”  This relationship, like Christ’s relationship with his church, is sacred, initiated by God.
  3. Third, I charge you to understand and commit to The Intimacy of Marriage.
    Moses commented in Genesis 2:24 that, “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”  God’s design for marriage unites a man and a woman together intimately, removing each from their family of origin and creating a new union.  Marriage creates a context for knowing and being known.  This relationship, like Christ’s relationship with his church, is designed for intimacy.
  4. Fourth, I charge you to understand and commit to The Mutuality of Marriage.
    In Paul’s teaching on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, he exhorts husbands and wives to selflessly serve one another and to pursue the other’s best interests above their own.  Just preceding this passage, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  Therefore, honor God with your body.”  God’s has designed marriage for your mutual benefit and pleasure.  You are called to put the needs and desires of your spouse first.  This relationship, like Christ’s relationship with his church, is designed for mutuality.
  5. Last, I charge you to understand and commit to The Exclusiveness of Marriage.
    “No other human relationship must interfere with the marriage commitment between husband and wife.”  1 Corinthians 7:2 instructs us that, “because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.”  It is God’s design for a marriage that a man and woman set themselves apart to the exclusion of all others.  This relationship, like Christ’s relationship with his church, is designed for exclusivity.

As Stephen and Amber prepare to make their vows and illustrate their commitment to each other, I would like to commend them for pursuing Christ together.  They have sought wisdom from many counselors leading up to this most joyous of days, and I know they have understood and committed to each of these marriage principles.  They have demonstrated the desire and determination to pursue each other’s best interests, and they understand that the close communion of marriage will require compassion and forgiveness.  Stephen and Amber, may your marriage reflect the loving care and tenderness that Jesus Christ has for his people.

~ Todd

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Fall and Redemption: A Wedding Sermon - Part 2

Continued from yesterday's post:

Despite the complexity of our lives and our bodies, we are, in many ways, simple creatures. We often understand concepts and principles more clearly and vividly when they are illustrated by a picture or a story. We are often unmoved by cold facts, but stories resonate with us and inspire us in ways we don’t always understand. Knowing this, God has given us many illustrations of his nature and character. He displays his eternal power and divine nature through majestic mountain vistas and vast seas. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). He gave us the story of Joseph and the Exodus in the Old Testament to illustrate his providence and patience and his plan to redeem from slavery a special people for himself.
In a similar way, God has designed marriage to illustrate something greater than it seems on the surface. In the Old Testament, God describes his relationship with Israel as a marriage, and he emphasized his faithfulness even if his people were not faithful! God even commanded Hosea to marry an unfaithful wife to vividly illustrate the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel.
Thankfully, in the New Testament, the marriage metaphor has been radically altered. Instead of God’s bride being represented as an unfaithful wife, the bride of Christ is different. Christ has redeemed his people, and his bride has been washed clean, given new desires, and given white to wear on the wedding day. God is preparing for Jesus a bride that will never be unfaithful! Revelation 19:9 declares, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Stay tuned for the charge to the bride and groom.

~ Todd

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Fall and Redemption: A Wedding Sermon - Part 1

I had the awesome privilege of officiating the wedding ceremony of Stephen Lawrence and Amber Osborne a few weeks ago, and I wanted to share the short sermon I preached:

The Fall and Redemption: The Charge to the Bride and Groom

In the beginning, when God rested from his work and stepped back to admire his creation, he was very pleased. Genesis 1:31 tells us that “God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” The crowning achievement of God’s magnificent design, the pinnacle of the first six days of creation, was the human being. The psalmist writes, “What is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than God, and you crown him with glory and majesty” (Psalm 8:4-5). God made Adam and Eve to represent himself to the earth. They were given differences, yet they were designed for perfect and permanent unity. They were given different roles, yet their goals and instructions were the same. Their job was to have dominion over the world, and to fill the world with worshipers of God.

God designed Adam and Eve for permanent unity and dominion over the earth, yet Satan devised a plan to divide and conquer. God’s creation was very good; yet God left room for a great tragedy. Adam and Eve, the second in command over all the earth, failed to rule over creation. Instead, they chose to doubt the truth of God’s word and believe a lie. God had entrusted them with the garden, to manage and keep it, yet they betrayed God. The very design for unity that God had created for their joy and benefit had become corrupted. Eve led Adam (without a fight) into sin, twisting and distorting God’s design and resulting in blame-shifting and curses from God.

Yet God had prepared for this tragedy. From the very beginning, before the first word of creation was spoken, God had a plan to demonstrate his character to the universe. Even as he pronounced curses upon Adam and Eve and the serpent, he provided a glimpse into an incredible plan to redeem his creation. In Genesis 3:15, God promises to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” One day a baby boy would be born of a virgin, and he would grow into the One who would crush the serpent and all he represents. This is the birth of hope, the promise of redemption. In the very curses God pronounced as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, he began to introduce a Hero, a Savior.

I'll probably post the rest in two additional parts.

~ Todd

Friday, April 15, 2011

What To Do When You See Yourself In Scripture

In 2 Timothy 3:2-5, Paul seems to be describing our culture as if he had an iPhone with YouTube on it and he could miraculously peer into the future. He writes:
"For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power."
What's most difficult about this description is that I see myself in this list. It is so easy to slip into a spiritual "neutral" gear, and we all too easily become lovers of self and pleasure and praise. This "neutral" is itself listed as being "without self-control." I am characterized, at least sometimes, by this list!

So what does Paul instruct Timothy to do? At the end of verse 5 he says, "Avoid such people." So what does that mean for the Christian who finds him or herself struggling with these issues, "having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power"?

Here's the answer: repent.

Writing to Christians regarding their ungodly passions and desires, James instructs his readers in chapter 4:
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." - James 4:7-10
This is a pattern of repentance and contrition before God that we should emulate. If we see ourselves in Scripture, it usually means we should repent.

~ Todd