We’ll call her… ‘Hannah.’ ‘Hannah’ does not want to get married. To her, marriage means heart-wrenching hurt, and she does not want to experience that hurt again. You see, ‘Hannah’s’ mom and dad were married and had her. Sometime later, they divorced. Dad remarried and had three children with his new wife. Mom married a man with three children from a previous marriage. So, ‘Hannah’s’ family consists of three step-siblings [not related by blood], three half-siblings [related by blood], and she’s in the middle. Her step siblings live with her mom and have a father. Her half-siblings live with her dad and have a mother. She lives with grandma. Dad does not cherish her, mom ignores her. To ‘Hannah’ marriage hurts.
We can call him… ‘Henry.’ ‘Henry’ does not want to get married either. To him, marriage means bitter arguments, and he does not want a wife who only argues. You see, ‘Henry’s’ mom and dad were married for many years and had several children. Then, dad’s wandering eye latched onto a [non-blood-related] sister-in-law. Dad divorced mom; sister-in-law divorced husband, and they married each other. Now, ‘Henry’s’ dad loves him, but his new mom not so much. This leads to arguments between mom and dad. Mom and dad grow so frustrated with each other that they yell at their kids, ignore their physical needs, and do not tend to their emotional needs. To ‘Henry,’ marriage means arguing.
‘Hannah’ and ‘Henry’s’ experience echoes the all-too-common attitude of our society: Marriage is not good. Many associate marriage with hurt and heartache and division. So, marriage is put off in order to avoid pain. The hurt inflicted and the reaction to that hurt was never part of God’s plan.
God makes that clear by leading us back to what he intends marriage to be. [S]ome Pharisees came and tested [Jesus] by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Really, the Pharisees have no intention of learning. This calculated question attempts to steer Jesus into a contradiction. Either Jesus (1) rejects God’s institution of lifelong marriage or (2) he disagrees with Moses, the God-approved and revered teacher of the Pharisees. Yet, Jesus is not about to share his opinion. Instead, he returns to the written Word: “What did Moses command you?”
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” That’s true; Moses did allow Old Testament Israelites to file for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) and God did not stop him. Notice, though, God allowed divorce; he did not establish or command divorce.
The opposite is true! God instituted (or: ‘set up’) marriage in Eden (Genesis 2:18-24). Later, God protected marriage at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:14). “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’” Just think about that. Man and woman are similar, but different. They look physically alike, but have different features. They both problem solve, but reach different solutions. They have emotions, but comfort in different ways. God makes men different emotionally, physically, and mentally. God makes women different emotionally, physically, and mentally. When you put them together, those differences become compatible. “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.” Husband and wife care for one another with a single-minded focus. Men receive emotional, physical, and mental blessings from a wife. Women receive emotional, physical, and mental blessings from a husband. What is important the wife becomes important to the husband. What is important to the husband becomes important to the wife. This companionship is a blessing. It gives the security and the commitment so many crave. God set up something good (Genesis 1:31).
The Pharisees’ question is all wrong. The question is not: “Can you divorce?” Rather, “If God did not create divorce, then who did?”
That question resounds to this very day. When you look at what God intends marriage to be, you quickly reach the conclusion that God did not create problems through marriage. Husband and wife transform each other’s weaknesses into strengths. Marriage is about how much you give. The reason ‘Hannah’ and ‘Henry’ have such a low view of marriage is because their parents demanded to receive.
The number one reason marriages end in divorce is because at least one spouse is selfish. Jesus makes that clear: It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law.” Husbands were bringing home mistresses. They were blowing money at the bar. So, God allowed divorce in order to protect the innocent party. The husband had already terminated his marriage and God allowed the wife to find commitment in a new spouse. The problem is not God, the problem is us.
If marriage feels unwanted, then the question must be: “As a husband, am I loving my wife as my own body?” (Ephesians 5:28) “As a wife, do I respect my husband like I want to be respected?” (Ephesians 5:22) “As a Christian, do I treasure the blessings God sets up through marriage?” (Hebrews 13:4) When our attention drift from God’s intention for marriage, then it is we who introduce hurt and heartache into our relationships. Our selfishness actually robs us of the joy God intends marriage to give and be. Marriage is ‘good’ because God made it good. It is our selfishness which separates what God joins together.
The way to reverse this attitude is to let God’s Word reverse our hearts. The motivation to love selflessly comes only when we see how selflessly Christ loved us. When we ignored his Word, we separated ourselves from his loving arms. We wandered, chasing after the short-term pleasures of this world. Pleasures of commitment without marriage. Pleasures of domineering and belittling our spouse. Pleasures of transforming relationships only to benefit us. Those pleasures only fill us up with joy for the moment, but never give real happiness.
God had every right to sign a certificate of divorce and send us away (read Isaiah 50). Instead, he sought us. Jesus gave his entire life on the cross, putting his needs below our wandering needs. Losing his life because he knew we needed life. He cared for us that he drinks God’s wrath. Raised from the dead, he raises us to be his bride, to live with him in his kingdom forever.
Child-like faith grasps the selfless love of God. That is why Child-Like Faith is The Foundation of Marriage. It grasps God’s revealed blessings that he set up. Your faith takes God’s intentions for marriage to heart. You then take those intentions and apply them to your marriage—or to your views of marriage. Remember, what is inside of you will be seen through your words and actions. Faith promotes God’s revealed blessing.
The way you treat marriage will reveal to others the blessings God gives through marriage. It starts with you. [Jesus] answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” Remember, Scripture gives two reasons for divorce: (1) marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:9) and (2) malicious desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15). The one who had an affair or leaves a spouse breaks the oneness of marriage. The innocent person did not end the marriage, the aggressor did. God protects the innocent by allowing them to find commitment with someone else. Those who break their marriage commit adultery. God’s judgment is reserved for those who toss aside his command, break their promises, and share their body with someone else.
Christians who have fallen into this sin repent. (1) They admit their selfishness. (2) They receive God’s forgiveness. (3) They turn from past behavior. The divorced might reconcile with previous spouse. If they do get remarried, they do so knowing full well that God does not desire them to get divorced again. Their second marriage would seriously treat their union as the lifelong union God desires. Faith promotes God’s revealed blessings. Others see it and carry a Godly view of marriage.
That is important today. Many live together before marriage, purchasing a home, sharing a bank account, and even raising a family. Do you wonder why that is? During the 1980s and 1990s the divorce rate stood high (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/divorce_rates_90_95_99-11.pdf). Nearly half of those who could marry today came from divorced households. That means, you have a generation who have experienced hurt, heartache, and arguments. Either (1) their parents were divorced and they do not want to bring that hurt on their children or (2) they do not to reintroduce that hurt into their own lives. Delaying marriage is meant to insulate and protect.
We do not help when we close our mouths and say nothing. We might say: “Well, times have changed.” Times might have changed, but God’s Word has not. The blessings he showers in marriage then are the same blessings he gives today. Searching for those blessings outside of marriage will never bring lasting commitment. So, God uses you (and me) to share his blessings with others. People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” If others are to know, learn, and live marriage, then they “must be brought” to know and see what Godly marriage is.
Some children do not treasure marriage because their parents did not treasure marriage. If we do not model God-pleasing marriage, then how can our children hope to live God-pleasing marriage? Regardless of your age, you can share with others the blessings you received in marriage. You can highlight how selfishness creeps in to destroy union. You can help others set their sights on the selfless giving. People need to hear God’s intentions of marriage. Not just that, people need Godly examples in our world today.
Look, you (or your friend) might be apprehensive of marriage. Maybe your parents did not shine the best example. That should not have been. But, do not remain stuck under the shadow of the past. Living together does not bring more commitment. You can still leave at any time! It will still hurt you and hurt children! The way to prevent that hurt is to set your attentions on God-pleasing marriage. See the myriad of blessings God gives. Be different; set a new trend by turning to the Word.
Families brought their children to Jesus. He took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. And Jesus blesses you too. You (and I) do not approach him physically. No, we approach Jesus in his Word. Set your heart and mind on the Word and see how he blesses you through marriage. He gives you security. He gives you companionship He gives you the satisfaction in trusting others.
Many will see marriage as something ‘not good.’ Yet, you know the truth. Jesus reveals God’s good intentions for marriage. Change a broken view by viewing the Word. As explore God’s intentions, you see how Child-Like Faith is The Foundation of Marriage. Faith grasps God’s revealed blessings Faith promotes God’s revealed blessings.
Let’s start with a question. Now, you do not have to raise your hand, stand up, and share your answer out loud; keep your answer in your mind. Since your answer remains yours, don’t worry about someone laughing at you. Don’t fret if you cannot answer the question. Form the best answer you can. Alright? Here it is: What is the first sin?
Remember, God creates a marvelous paradise. The days are never too hot or too cold, never too humid or too dry. Streams water every plant, preventing drought. Prey and predator live together. No aches. No death. No arguments. No division. No fighting. No bickering.
Yet, you know what happens next. The devil slithers up to Adam and Eve. He points at the God-forbidden tree and hisses: Did God really say, ‘You cannot eat?’ How do the two respond? Eve eats! Adam watches! (Genesis 3:1-6).
So, returning to the question: What is the first sin? Eating the fruit? Nope. That action exposes disobedience, but dig deeper. Touching the tree? No. Listening to the devil? Close, but remember, being tempted is not a sin. (Jesus is tempted, but does not sin [Matthew 4:1-11].) The first sin is Eve deciding that she possesses the right to step out from under God’s command and eat. At the same time, Adam decides that he possesses the right to stand by and say nothing. Simply put, the first sin is rebellion.
That’s how the Bible defines ‘sin.’ Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). The rebellious nature of Adam and Eve have trickled down through the ages, through every human heart, and remain the inherited rebellion we still struggle against today. Our rebellious sinful nature remains self-serving— pitting you (and me) against others and against your God. The remedy? Submit Yourself to God. Because God destroys the proud and God exalts the humble.
That’s what James says, Submit yourselves, then, to God. ‘Submitting’ sounds so restrictive, something maybe considered negative. That you lose freedom to make personal choices. That someone else controls your life. That you lose self-identity and all the unique, individual characteristics that make ‘you,’ you.
The devil does such a tremendous job to sour the word ‘submit’ so that we carry a misconstrued understanding and do not want to embrace it. You see that, don’t you? He hisses to Adam and Eve: Did God really say? The question is his method to lure people out from under God’s command, evaluate its fairness, and then form their own conclusions. So, both Adam and Eve step away from God’s command. They evaluate if God might be withholding something beneficial from them. Then they conclude that God’s command is ‘wrong’ and their choice is ‘better!’ They sit in authority over God.
Even when they are caught, that un-submitting heart goes through such great lengths to defend and justify its independence. God approaches Adam, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:11). How does Adam respond? Slander. Speak poorly of Eve’s character. “Hey, God, that woman picked the fruit. She put it into my hands. She made me eat it. She did the wrong!” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” (3:13). How does Eve respond? Judge. Determine what aspects of God’s command do and do not apply to her. “God, never mind me. Let me tell you what the serpent did wrong. He lied to me. He’s the one who told me to do wrong. Punish him.”
James says, Anyone who speaks against [slander] his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. Adam & Eve find fault with God’s expected applications of his command. Then they form new exceptions for their behavior. Yet, When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. The created exalt themselves over the Creator. They tell God what they will obey. Then, they hold each other to their own manmade standards.
You do not have to search long for more examples of the created exalting itself over the Creator. That same puffed-up heart of pride is the natural condition of our hearts as well. God’s command is clear: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only (Matthew 22:37). How is that treated? The devil lures us to step out from under Jesus’ expectation. Then we evaluate if Sunday worship fits into our weekend schedule. If it does, then we go; if it does not, then we put God on hold. You see, we, the created, have just determined how we will execute God’s command. We have determined how and when we will obey. (Maybe more shocking, is when defend our choice!)
Or, Christians are people who follow Christ. They love Christ; they cherish his Word. You (and I) have countless opportunities to spend moments with God outside of worship. We have two Bible class times. You carry home devotions. You have Bibles at your house. Yet, out of the heart comes all these excuses as to why God does not fit into your schedule! We can make time for friends at a moment’s notice, but know in advance learning opportunities— and then we just cannot commit. Even when the heart’s excuses are exposed as the excuses they truly are, then turn on the one who exposes it in the first place. “Pastor’s wrong! My Christian parents are wrong! The church is wrong! But never me!” Why is everyone else wrong? Because the heart steps out from God’s command, evaluates it, and decides to reject inconvenient truths for its own pleasures!
You see, that sinful nature is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law (Romans 8:7). It leaves you (and I) daring to stand before God, open up his Word, point out what it teaches, and then say, “I don’t want to listen.” You might believe in your heart of hearts that you can somehow deceive God. That does not see your hidden faults. That he is unaware of your secret, underlying motives. You might believe you can dupe God into believing something not true. That God actually thinks you do have a legitimate reason to ignore him. That God actually condones worldly living. Yet, James sounds the warning: There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. That person is not you. That person is not me. When you leave this life, God will take the seat as Judge and he will execute his authority to punish every lawbreaker. Those who fail to Submit to God will find God destroys the proud.
James does not mince words. He stresses the seriousness of our behavior so that we step back, evaluate our own actions, and approach our God with the right heart. Because those who Submit to God will find God exalts the humble.
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Remember, James speaks to you (and me), Christians. The only reason we would ever want to come near to God is that God has already made us his children. He has put his name on you at your baptism (Matthew 28:19). When we have wandered from his Word, it is the Word that shatters pride. The Word reveals that without God, we are forever lost.
Submit Yourself to God and God will draw near to you. How? God approaches you through his Word. There, he shows you (and me) Jesus. The One who has come to obey his Father (John 6:38). The One in whom there is no deceit (1 Peter 2:22). In the Bible, you again hear the Father say, “Jesus has amputated your wild heart and has placed his obedient heart inside of you. You want proof? This new life became yours in baptism. Baptism has washed your guilt away (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism created faith; baptism gives you a new way of life. You want more proof? Then approach the altar. Receive Jesus’ body and blood that was broken for you, that was poured out to make the payment you could never make.” Draw near to God, turn your attention to the Word, and the pride comes down, and God again assures you: “I remember your rebellion no more. You still have full rights as my child.”
And when you (and I) stumble and fail again, when the Word convicts and crushes you as the lawbreaker you are, draw near to God and God will draw near to you. In the front of our hymnal, in the ‘Common Service,’ how does it begin? “Beloved in the Lord: Let us draw near (or approach) God with a true heart…” an honest heart that will not hide or distort the facts. Wash your hands, you sinners. Wash away, remove the actions you know are wrong. Remove the excuses you create to stay away from the Word. Throw away the excuses as to why you can knowingly embrace the wrong. That is moral filth and God has washed you holy.
[P]urify your hearts, you double-minded. Until the day you enter heaven, you will struggle between two choices: For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing (Romans 7:19) Yet, Jesus has purified your heart (and mine). Look to the cross; see him wipe away every blemish, every stain. God sees you as pure and holy in his sight. This love is the motivation to serve with happy and willing hearts.
Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. No, not that God wants you to stop laughing or to mope around. Rather, do not rejoice or embrace the sin you know is wrong. Instead, Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. And he has. Christ has set you free from death in hell. He has set you free from seeing his commands as slavish bondage. Now, he has transformed your view of his commands. These Words form a loving God that preserve your life to heaven.
As you live under him, you resist the devil. The devil will still hiss his seductive whispers: Did God really say? The question is his method to lure people out from under God’s command, evaluate its fairness, and then form their own conclusions. Yet, submit to God’s Word and the devil flees. Why? Because God’s Word exposes the devil as the liar he is. It tells him that his promises are empty and that you do not want empty promises.
Submission is not enslaving. It does not strip away personal freedom or remove self-identity. Rather, living under God means you share in his heavenly victory. You remain close to him. You purge the sin that seeks to snag you into death. You live exalted as an heir of heaven.
That carries implications. The first sin is Adam and Eve appointing themselves as god. No matter what sin exists today, they all remain the same at their very core. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). It declares the self-appointed right to be God. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You (and I) have one God, one Law-Giver who obeys. One Judge who declares us “not guilty!” through the life of Jesus! So, what does that mean for you? You are not condemned (Romans 8:1). Instead, you are free! Free to lay aside pride. Free to wear humility. Free to serve the needs of each other. Our rebellious sinful nature remains self-serving— pitting you (and me) against others and against your God. The remedy? Submit Yourself to God. Because God destroys the proud and God exalts the humble
Yet, wisdom holds a unique feature. You can refuse to follow wise advice and still complete your tasks. You can wear loose clothing at the table saw; the saw will still power on. You can have greasy burgers, salty French fries, and sugary sodas for every meal; you will succeed eating. You can slice veggies with your fingers on the blade. Your bike still functions without you wearing a helmet. You can ignore wisdom and complete tasks… but(!) the table saw can grab your untucked shirt and pull you into a blade capable of splitting logs. Too much junk food clogs arteries, increases blood pressure, and can shorten life. Knives slice veggies and can slice off your fingertips. You can bike without a helmet, collide with a car, and damage your brain. Ignore wisdom and you put life in danger. Follow words of wisdom and you preserve life.
Each day you are confronted with following wise words or brushing wisdom aside. That truth not only applies to everyday matters, but also to your Christian life. Ignoring wisdom leaves you wandering into spiritual danger. So, God provides his Word of wisdom for you to follow and live. Be Careful to Live Wise. Remember the will of the Lord! Make the most of every opportunity!
In verse 17, God defines wisdom: [U]nderstand what the Lord’s will is. If you want to know what the Lord’s ‘will’ is for your life, then you must read God’s Word and hear what God says. There, in the Bible, God reveals his ‘will’ for you: God wants all [people] to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4). God wants you(!) saved. So, he took the necessary steps to accomplish his desire. He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Those who are wise recognize that life has a beginning and an end. The time you have now (in this life) is the time you have to know that only Jesus makes you right before God. You need to know this truth now because when you die, it will be too late to learn it then.[A.G.E.1]
So, real wisdom (1) knows there is an eternity. Real wisdom (2) knows, trusts, and believes that Jesus paid the price for you to enter heaven. Real wisdom (3) remembers the will of the Lord is for you to spend eternity with him. To those who know this, to you (and me), God expands his will. It is God’s will (his ‘want’ for your life) that you should be sanctified (or, ‘live a holy life’) (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Wisdom can be lost. That is why God cautions: Be very careful, then, how you live— not as unwise but as wise. Wise people remember— constantly, always, continually. God has saved you and has called you to live a holy life. Only a fool thinks he is so secure, so safe, so certain that nothing will destroy his faith. And that fool grows careless about what his heart believes. Are you a fool?
Well, what’s your response to God’s command (in verse 18): ‘Do not get drunk on wine’? Are you smirking inside? …replaying your drunken escapades? … chuckling about that one time your buddy mouthed off to the cops? Are you rolling your eyes because this sounds so, well… so “prudish?” I mean, this is one of those commands your friend points at: “Oh, Christianity is so strict! It’s no fun; it’s full of rules!” You do not want to be prudish, right? So, ignore God’s wisdom! Brush it aside! Follow whatever decision feels right to you! Let loose! Be excessive! Lose control! Because, after all, getting drunk does not hurt anyone, right?
Do you realize God gives the reason for his command? ‘Do not get drunk on wine.’ Why? [It] leads to debauchery. ‘Debauchery’ is wild, immoral living. Just think about where drunkenness leads. Sexual boundaries are crossed— sometimes against better judgment, at other times, it’s illegal. Drunk drivers crash cars and damage property; they injure others and ruin lives. Children are abused by a drunk parent. Reputations suffer. (It takes longer to erase the title “drunk” than serving a jail sentence.) Those are just the shameful, physical consequences! Drunkenness affects you spiritually! You indulge again… and again… and again. Little by little your conscience dulls. Breaking God’s command no longer bothers you; you do not even give a second thought to the holy life you are meant to live! Little by little you foolishly wander away from your God.
This command highlights the spiritual dangers surrounding you (and me). The devil uses the most innocent of looking objects and whispers the most subtle of lies: “Is it really that bad?” He wants you to leave God’s wise Word— a Word meant to preserve your life!— and to follow the opinions of your faulty human heart!
He can take just one single sin and make it explode exponentially. Yes, maybe you’re not the one getting drunk, but ask yourself this: Does the sight of drunk spouse or a drunk child still bother you? Or, do you tolerate it? Do you laugh? Do you condone it? (Which, by the way, means you stand on the opposite side of God)
And if you condone one behavior God calls ‘wrong,’ why stop there? Live in whatever way feels right to you! Dabble with drugs; say nothing when you catch your kids smoking pot! Never mind that God calls you to be sober-minded (1 Peter 5:8). Who cares if your relationship does not honor marriage as God intends it? Follow your own moral code— even if it means you willingly choose to do the wrong instead. You know you should immerse yourself with Word and sacrament— and you even admit this! But create all sorts of flimsy excuses as to why it is just not possible to worship every Sunday. Ignore wisdom and complete tasks!
Ignore wisdom and you put life in eternal danger. You see, the more you (and I) ignore God’s commands, the more you dull your conscience. The more you dull your conscience, the less you care about the wrongs you commit. The less you care about the wrongs you commit, the less you care about a Savior. Because, if you do not think your lifestyles are wrong, then what is there to confess? Nothing! And if there’s nothing to confess, then you don’t need a Savior. That, my friends, is the very definition of ‘foolishness.’
You need a Savior. You (and I) cannot save yourself. So, God provides his Word of wisdom to preserve your life. The Holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation [eternal life] (2 Timothy 3:15). The Bible points you to Jesus, the only One who desires to obey God’s will, the only One who desires to obey every single command (Psalm 40:7-8; Hebrews 10:5-7).
Just like you (and me), the devil trots up to Jesus (Matthew 4:1-10). “Jesus, make bread out of stones; it doesn’t look like your Father cares.” “Jesus, jump down from the building. Let’s see if God will keep his promise of protection.” “Jesus, worship me— just this once— and gain wealth.” Each seductive whisper wants Jesus to wander away from God’s commands. Following the devil’s lies, would lead Jesus into sin. Following the devil’s lies, would fail you (and me). Yet, Jesus wisely stands on the Word. Yes, ‘wise’ because Jesus’ obedience brings eternal life in heaven!
God chose to love the world, to send his only Son, to stand in your (and my) place, to suffer separation from God, which is where your foolish wandering leads—separation. Jesus has brought you back to God. Jesus has removed your foolishness. In its place, he fills you with wisdom. The wisdom to know that you are indeed forgiven. The wisdom to know eternal life is yours. The wisdom to know life leads to heaven.
God has made you wise to know, to trust, to believe this. So, he urges you, Be Careful to Live Wise! Remember the will of the Lord. Remember you are walking to heaven. Since this walk continues your entire life, make the most of every opportunity.
That is how you live wise. Mak[e] the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Non-Christians in the world— friends and family, co-workers and neighbors— will invite you to participate in the things God calls ‘wrong.’ Your sinful heart will continue pushing you to make your own choices. The devil will whisper foolish lies. Every day you will confront countless opportunities to wander into foolish behavior that only harms you.
So, make the most of your personal time. Instead of filling your heart up with earthly pleasures, be filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit already lives in you. At your baptism, when water was poured on your head and God’s Word was spoken, he entered your heart. He continues working in you as you remain in God’s Word. When you are unsure of a decision, turn to the Bible first for guidance. Reflect if your words are pleasing to God or not. Consider if you can still control yourself as you head out with friends. Deflate your pride by relying on the fact God saved you. If you are defending and justifying lifestyles you know are wrong, the time to return is now! Separate yourself from that which tempts you. Do not put yourself into a position of pressure. Make the most of every opportunity, that is, make the most of your time on earth by keeping your heart and thoughts close to God.
Make the most of every opportunity with others. You have family and friends, co-workers and acquaintances, those you are friendly with and those you know struggle. Some are walking the wide road to hell and may not even know it. The worst thing you can do is to condone the evil you know is wrong. It does not mean that you wag a finger, present a lecture that only rips people to pieces. Rather, speak the truth in love. The friend (young or old) who shrugs off God’s beautiful gift of marriage, simply say, “But marriage is God’s gift of blessings.” The kids smoking bowls when you’re gone; you, as a parent tell them: “I want you in heaven. Follow what is right.” The child greedily craving status, remind: “Status has an end. Your life does not.” God has handed you words of wisdom meant to preserve life! Make the most of every opportunity, fighting to dig deeper into the Word, fighting to sing it with others, fighting to share it now before the Savior returns. Be Careful to Live Wise, making the most of every opportunity to be close to God.
You can refuse to follow wise advice and still complete your tasks… but(!) ignore wisdom and you put life in danger. Follow words of wisdom and you preserve life.
Each day you are confronted with following wise words or brushing wisdom aside. That truth not only applies to everyday matters, but also to your Christian life. Ignoring wisdom leaves you wandering into spiritual danger. So, God provides his Word of wisdom for you to follow and live. Remember the will of the Lord! Make the most of every opportunity! Be Careful to Live Wise.
This is it… This part right here. This 48-inch belt stopped me dead in my tracks just outside Saline, [Michigan]. There I am, coasting at 70-miles-per-hour down Interstate-75. Drove under an overpass, popped out the other side, and started up a slight incline. As I went uphill, my speedometer started slipping down. 70-miles-per-hour. 60. 40. 20. 0 [miles-per-hour]. No matter how hard my foot pressed the gas pedal, the car would not speed up. It sat there dead on the side of the freeway. Do you know what went wrong? Well, do you know what this is? A timing belt. (https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/symptoms-of-a-bad-or-failing-timing-belt)
Now, if you don’t know what a timing belt does, that’s alright; I didn’t know about this belt before that day either. The timing belt makes sure the pistons work in sync with the exhaust valves. The exhaust valves must remain shut when the fuel ignites. The explosion then pushes the piston down, ultimately transferring power to the wheels. Now, if the valves are open when the fuel ignites, the explosive power exits through the exhaust; the power is not transferred to the wheels.
Simply put, the timing belt makes sure the individual components of the engine work in sync.(https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070126214836AAiZREP&guccounter=1]) It does not matter if you have a full tank of gas or four brand new, fully inflated tires or the best oiled pistons. No timing belt, no movement. Have a timing belt, have movement.
This morning God highlights all the individual components that make up a Christian family. Then, he draws your attention to the one Person who links Christian relationships together. Lose sight of this Person and relationships strain. Set your focus on him and you gain motivation for many parts to work together. That’s why God says, See Christ in Your Christian Home. Through the Christian women he sends and Through the response of praise you give.
In Proverbs 31, God lists the many blessings you receive through a wife of noble character (31:10). What makes such a woman “noble” is her faith which clings to Jesus as Savior. God loved her and joined her to the Vine of Jesus Christ. Like a branch connected to a vine produces fruit, so this woman, connected to the Savior, produces fruits of faith.
Verse 26 reveals some of that fruit. It says: She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Now, this wisdom is not life-advice she created from her sense of fairness or from how she thinks the world functions. Real wisdom acknowledges the poisonous devastation sin wreaks on the world and how Christ is the antidote. A Christian mother-figure holds the wisdom to know that greed can drag hearts away from love for God (1 Timothy 6:10). So, she gives financial advice, but does so, recognizing that money is a treasure given from God to provide for everyday life. A Christian mother understands that inside a wild, rebellious child beats a heart fighting against God’s commandments. So, she disciplines in love because turning that sinful child from the error of his ways will save him from eternal death in hell (James 5:19-20). A Christian wife is patient with her spouse. No, not because this keeps matters light and the tensions down for one day. Rather, God calls her to love her spouse just as much as believers love Christ (Ephesians 5:22-23). You see, God highlights the fruits of faith bursting forth. Everything this Christian woman has learned about God gushes out in her words and actions.
She is this individual component working in a Christian family or even among the community of believers. Do recognize that this is the work God considers important? To speak wisdom? To give faithful instruction? To watch the affairs of the house? Ladies, when you remember this work is pleasing to God you find satisfaction. Men and children, when you recognize this is how God uses the Christian women in your life, you benefit. As Christian women faithfully carry out their individual callings, you See Christ in Your Christian Home. You see Christ giving instruction and blessing through the Christian women he sends.
So, do you see Christ? Do you see the many blessings God gives you through mothers or through your wife or through the motherly-figures in your life? Do you understand the ways you serve the body of Christ as a mother or wife or mother-figure? Or, have you sunk into the standards of the world?
The world tends to praise the spectacular, right? Social media exalts the mother who can balance the three sport schedules, two school-bands schedules, and the jam-packed school schedule. It’s as though somehow this is the “real” mother that every woman must aspire to. Maybe it’s even you that feel deep down inside that you can receive glorious praise through the achievements of your child. Doesn’t that just stroke the ego? You set out to be a mother of this world so that you can receive human praise.
The world tends to compare, right? If you can look more successful than others, then people praise you! Being mother becomes this badge of pride that allows you to feel better about your life. “Oh, did you see the trouble their son ran into? Our child would never do that!” Or, “My grandchildren are better behaved.” Husband-wife relationships become this sort of competition. “Our marriage is better. We don’t fight. You should learn from us.” You puff out your chest, so proud that you are better than everyone else.
The world tends to gorge on the bread of laziness, does it not? Instead of seeing how Christ uses you to serve each other, you instead see how you can serve yourself. So, you manipulate your spouse in order to gain more affection. You demonstrate little care about your child’s spiritual life because you figure “it’s up to them now.” You feel too advanced in life to encourage your Christian family.
Do you see what happens? When your attention drops from Christ, you lose this unity with each other. No longer do you find satisfaction in motherly roles. Rather, you behave in ways so that you can steal praise from God for yourself! Even Christian men and children may believe that only the spectacular and sensational are praiseworthy! When you (and I) set our attentions on achieving worldly goals, you fail to See Christ in Your Christian Home. You fail to see the great spiritual blessings you give and you receive.
Life then begins to feel like all these individual components spinning about at random, spinning for their own self-interest. When you feel out of sync with your Christian family, set your attentions back to Christ. He unites every individual person together.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Serve he did. He served the sick and diseased— even putting aside his time to help them. He exposed the error of his disciples so that they would not drift from faith. He does not boast about how well he knows Scripture. Rather, he teaches so that many may believe. Jesus sets his attention to the life he gives.
Jesus Christ serves you by suffering humiliation on the cross. He suffers as though he is proud. He suffers as though he is spiritually lazy. He suffers as though he selfishly protected his time. Jesus is left out of the home of heaven so that you can call heaven your home.
And you can. Jesus rose to announce his forgiveness. For the times you failed to meet his standard of being a Christian woman. For the times you criticized his gift of a mother or spouse. He forgives you. He rises into heaven, allowing you see where he has gone so that you can remember you are heading to heaven.
Stop and reflect on the many different roles you have within your family setting. Some of you are children; others are adult sons and daughters. Some of you are fathers and mothers; others are grandparents (and great-grandparents). Some of you are empty-nesters with adult children; others have children growing a little less reliant on you. Some of you are husbands and wives; others carry loads of life experience after decades of marriage. Some of you are young and single; others are older and single. No matter where you are in life, See Christ in Your Christian Home. See how God’s Word is shared Through the Christian women he sends. See how Christ’s love for you motivates your appreciation for his blessings. This comes out in the response of praise you give.
Her children arise and call her blessed… Pay attention to the order; praise comes after serving. A negligent mother cannot demand her child respect her. Mother-figures do not manipulate children and friends so that she can receive her selfish craving for praise. When Christian women faithfully serve their Christian family, they naturally reap praise.
Praise from whom? Children, you call your mother “blessed.” That is the highest praise you may give. You are acknowledging that she is God’s representative sent into your life in order to be a blessing to you. Mothers provide food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home for their child. God gives daily bread through the work of this woman. Mother-figures encourage children of a congregation to keep connected to God. They empathize with the struggles children face at school. God uses these Christian women to encourage you in your life of faith. When you thank the Christian women in your life, you are thanking God for blessing you through them. Even when children live ungrateful and do not praise, God sees the faithful work done for his honor.
Husbands, you also praise her. You approach your wife, your mother, the widows of your congregation, or the motherly-figures, and you praise them for their real beauty. As our proverb says: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting… People can cover up their real personalities. Physical attraction does not mean you really know someone. Real beauty is found in a woman who fears the Lord.
Love for God is the most priceless trait found in a Christian spouse. How many of you can thank God because your mother shared Jesus with you? How many of you husbands will sing in heaven because of your spouse? How many of you can point to Christian friends who loved God that they invited you to worship, invited you to Bible class, or encouraged you to remain strong in your Christian faith? God uses individual members of your family setting to bless you. This is how you See Christ in Your Christian Home. As a result, every Christian—child and men and women—give thanks to God for the blessings they receive.
As you look closer into the Christian home, you see all the individual components that make up a Christian family. No role is greater than another. Rather, your individual roles are different. When you examine how Christ uses you in your role, this body of believers work together to bring God’s blessings into their lives and to thank God for these blessings.
Set your focus on Christ. He links your relationships together. Set your attention on him and gain motivation for many parts to work together. See Christ in Your Christian Home. Through the Christian women he sends and Through the response of praise you give.
If you are like me, it is difficult to hear these words and not form some instant reaction. And I’m not sure about you, but for me, when my heart reads over these words, it wonders: Is this realistic? To live pure? To honor God with your body? To be a temple of the Holy Spirit? In our world today? Because it’s not easy to do, is it?
This encouragement is not easy for the Corinthians to hear either. These words are so counter-cultural.
The best way to picture ancient Corinth is to picture present-day life in Las Vegas. That’s not an over-exaggeration (or my personal opinion). America has a saying: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That slogan describes the shameless behavior that runs rampant there. Well, the ancients created a slogan too. “Live Corinthianized” which means, “to behave as they do in Corinth.” And how do they behave? Well, a local Corinthian leader bragged: We have wives to manage our daily affairs and prostitutes for pleasure! (Athenaeus, qtd. in Deipnosophistae). Just like we have a seminary to train pastors, [the city of] Corinth had a school to train prostitutes for the false goddess, Aphrodite. Then, every year Corinth held a festival celebrating their prostitutes! The city held a special day, where drunk prostitutes carouse down the streets and people cheer—and the city is proud!
That’s the city culture: openly flaunt indecency. That’s the citizen mindset; no one sees anything wrong with this. That is the lifestyle in which this Corinthian congregation exists. And it rubs off on the Christians in Corinth.
Someone in the congregation is in an intimate relationship with his stepmom (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). That’s right, his dad dies, and he enters a romantic, intimate relationship with his father’s wife! Most shocking of all is that the congregation is proud! Even our society does not boast about this! If someone marries their stepmom, national tabloids cringe. We even have laws against marrying relatives.
Yet, in Corinth, this sexual behavior runs rampant. It is so normal, so widely accepted, that even Christians defend their indecency with a popular slogan: Everything is permissible for me. Just like the stomach has an appetite for food, so the body has an appetite for fleshly desires. After all, the stomach is created for food. It craves food. It is not wrong to eat food. So, it must make sense that if you have certain desires, it is only natural to satisfy them.
There’s a problem with that thinking. Everything may be permissible— but not everything is beneficial. The way you and I live as Christians— God has not commanded certain actions and has not forbidden certain actions. God has not said in the Bible that he forbids dancing or playing cards. God does not call drinking alcohol a sin (drinking too much is). Neither God has not commanded that you must wear suits and dresses to worship. You have freedom in these things; God has not given explicit commands regarding these matters.
Yet, God has commanded: The body is not meant for sexual immorality. God has warned: Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral (Hebrews 13:4; see also Exodus 20:6). God urges: Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5; see also Matthew 5:28). God desires: There should be no obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place (Ephesians 5:4). As Christians Everything may be permissible regarding matters in which God has given no explicit command. Yet, God makes clear: You cannot use your body in whatever way feels right to you.
That’s tough to hear and it may not sound like realistic way to live. Your present-day society, much like ancient Corinth, just doesn’t live like that. Instead, your society has normalized sexual temptations. Marriage rates have decreased— all because more couples live like husband and wife. Psychologists and counselors actually advise sleeping around in order to find the right spouse. How many television shows can go without a romantic scene between co-workers? … neighbors? … friends? What this does to us is that it desensitizes us so that when we hear a Scripture reading like this, we feel offended.
Speaking for myself, my heart tries to find some way around these words, tries to escape this condemnation, tries to find some reason that my behavior is not really all that bad. So, I hear these words and make excuses.
“But our society just doesn’t live like that.” Yet, it does not matter if your world acts differently, does it? God still laid an unchanging reality: The body is not meant for sexual immorality. God did not create you to live impure. He has not created your brain to think indecent thoughts. He does not create your mouth to share coarse joking. God created you to serve him.
“Yes, but my neighbors don’t act like this, they don’t believe the same thing.” That may be true, but what about you, Christian? Do you not know that your body is a member of Christ himself? By faith you are joined, you are glued to Christ. He is part of your life. His Word is the thing you have come to know, learn, and love. Christ lives in you. What do you with your body involves Christ.
“Yes, but times have changed.” How easy to look around at the world and try to change your to fit the world’s views. Yet, God has not changed. Even if society changes its views on decency, even if you wonder if it really matters how people live today, even if you shrug off these instructions, God still commands: Flee from sexual immorality.
Times may have changed, but God has not changed. He has not changed his command to live a pure life. He has not changed what is considered sexual immorality. He has not changed enforcing his expectations. God has every right to separate from those who choose to unite with someone else.
Times may have changed, but God has not changed. That includes God accepting Jesus’ pure life as payment for yours.
You were bought at a price. Jesus bought you. When you (and I) stood shackled to the emptiness of your own flesh, Jesus bought you. And the price? The greatest, most priceless gift this world has ever seen: the pure blood of Jesus.
Yes, look back to the Christmas-day manger and see who lies there: Jesus— born as true man and true God. True man— meaning, he is tempted in every way like you (and I) are (Hebrews 2:14-18). His life on earth is spent feeling those same passionate desires; he knows how difficult it is to remain pure in your thoughts and words and actions. He understands what it is like to live in a society which normalizes sexual temptations. He even stands out in society. He shares forgiveness with prostitutes and tax collectors. He encourages a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well to change her live-in-boyfriend status (John 4:1-26). He lives pure—not to shame you (and me), but to show that he lives the pure life God desires. As true God his pure life purifies your (and my) heart from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).
And that is what he has done. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, proclaiming that Jesus’ life is perfect enough to live forever. Since the pure life of Jesus is draped over you, God now sees you as pure. You live can live confident that he will raise us also.
You were bought at a price. God has not changed this price. Jesus paid for you once-for-all. Even when you (and I) stumble into impure living, God still forgives you for the sake of Jesus.
That’s what makes these tough words realistic. You can Glorify God with Your Body because Jesus has made you a child of God. You can Glorify God with Your Body because the love you have for Jesus motivates you to follow him.
So, you honor him with your body. Or, another way of saying it: You and I praise to God by the way you live. You and I lead others to praise God as they see the way you live.
Maybe you struggle to keep your thoughts and body pure. If so, take these words to heart. Society might normalize sexual temptation— and they will because they are not united to Christ. You do not live in order to blend into the world; you live to bring honor to God! That may mean you discuss marriage before relationship goes much further. That may mean your friends laugh and look at you weird when you share your belief about the blessings God gives in marriage. That may mean you need to literally flee from sexual immorality. You may have to stop watching a television show. You may have to turn the computer off. You may have to leave a room.
Why do this? Because God is an old, boring prude? No! Because God has made your body a temple of the Holy Spirit! God the Holy Spirit lives in you—and he constantly grows the desire and ability to match your life up to God’s expectations. He gives you strength to Glorify God with Your Body.
You are beacons of light leading others to praise God because of the way they see you live. That means as husband and wife be conscious that the world watches you. Praise God for the gift of your marriage! Hold up God’s gift of your spouse! Do not gripe about an old “ball-and-chain” or somehow give the impression that marriage is something less-than-satisfying. Show the world the emotional, physical, and mental joys of this blessed union. Glorify God with Your Body. Let the world praise God for such fulfilling commitment in what he established.
Even if you are not really seeking a relationship, these words are meant for you too. You may have celebrated decades of marriage. You experienced real joy. You may have experienced real struggle. Use that experience to encourage your grandchildren, your children, your fellow believers.
Those in your life also live in a world where relationships do not match up with God’s intentions. You know God’s intentions; you experience the peace of living united to him, to his Word, and under his blessings. Glorify God with Your Body, with your life as you lead others to praise him for satisfying unions.
Yes, this is tough— and it will be. It is not tough because God gives unreal expectations. It is tough because the world has fled from God’s intention for their bodies.
The Corinthians would stand out as they took these words to heart and put them into practice. You (and I) will stand out because we take these words to heart and put them into practice. That’s alright because you do not stand out alone, standing on your personal beliefs. You stand out because you are united to Christ, the One who has been raised from the dead and will raise you to purely unending life. With God’s realistic expectations in your heart, live to Glorify God with Your Body!