Thursday, November 16, 2017

Remember Your Leaders and Trust in Jesus, Part 2

In the last blog we began to consider the sixth command in Hebrews 13:1-19, namely, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (13:7-8). We saw that the author wanted his readers to look to the faith of those who led them to Christ, as well as their subsequent death, and to recognize that the faithfulness of Jesus is what kept them faithful to the end. As they pondered this, he wanted them to press on in their own journeys with their eyes firmly fixed on Christ.

At this point, the author takes a bit of a rabbit trail but it was an important one for his first readers because they were being tempted to drift away from Jesus and go back to their former ways. They were tempted to return to Jewish rites and rituals that had been fulfilled in Christ and therefore were no longer valid or necessary. And so as a man who loved these precious people, the author once more warns his readers in verses 9-14, and I want to warn you that this is going to take a little thinking on our part. What the author says makes sense, but it’s going to take a little work to see how it makes sense.

He writes, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them” (13:9). Since Jesus Christ is faithful yesterday and today and forever, the clarion call upon these believers was to cling to him and avoid any teaching that would lead them away from him. This was particularly hard for them because the teaching that was threatening to lead them away from Jesus was the teaching that guided the Jewish people for some fourteen centuries before this time. They had to do with the system of worship that included the tabernacle and then the temple and the priests and sacrifices and rites and rituals and festivals and feasts, and all manner of rules about food and drink and washing.

And all of these things were designed, not to lead people away from God, but to lead people toward God. Yet, as we have seen in the earlier chapters of Hebrews, none of these things could ultimately pay the price for sin and transform the sinning soul and perfect the conscience of the worshiper and heal the broken relationship between God and his people. Therefore, in the fullness of time, God sent his only begotten Son to become the all-sufficient sacrifice so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. Whoever believes in him will be perfected in him and be fully and eternally reconciled to God. Whoever believes in him will begin to feast upon the pleasures of God that will belong to them forevermore in Christ.

The readers of Hebrews had believed this message that was preached to them by their former and now departed leaders, and it was imperative that they continue to cling to Christ and the truths they once embraced about him. It was important for them to realize that all those former laws, well intentioned as they were, accomplished nothing of significance for those who practiced them. But simple faith in Jesus Christ accomplished all things because Christ is now the eternal King and High Priest over all things.

So it is that the author pleads with his beloved readers not to be led away by strange teachings but instead to cling to Christ by faith. Then in verse 10 he reminds them that as believers they have a right of access to God that not even the priests or the High Priest of Israel had. This was a stunning thing to say to Jewish people but it was true. Jesus Christ has opened up the way to the true Holy of Holies in heaven, and through faith in him every believer can now approach the very throne of God with boldness and confidence. We don’t come with arrogance—God forbid that we would come with arrogance—but we do come by the blood of Christ with boldness and confidence because Christ has made the way and invited us to stay where he lives and breathes and has his being.

Several days ago, I woke up about early on a Sunday and spent some time praying for our church and the upcoming worship service, as well as some other things. When I was finished and came out from my place of prayer, I had an irrepressible smile on my face because it hit me anew that I was just speaking with God Almighty and he actually heard what I had to say. Why in the world should God care about or value what I have to say?

O Beloved, this is the privilege of every child of God in Christ, and the author was trying to help his first readers understand that if they returned to that former system, they returned to nothing, for Christ had fulfilled all things and would soon bring an end to the shadows which pointed to him.

But herein lies a problem: in order to go to where Christ is, we have to suffer as he suffered because embracing him means rejecting everything else. Certain people and systems of people will not be happy when we walk away from them in order to walk toward Jesus, and that is a price we must be willing to pay if we are to inherit everything through him and be content in him.

This is why the author writes in verses 11-14, “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. [That is, after the priests spilled the blood of the animals, their bodies were removed from the temple and burned outside the temple or what in former days was called “the camp.”] So Jesus also suffered outside the gate [that is, outside of the temple in Jerusalem, on top of that hill called Calvary or Golgotha or The Place of the Skull. And he did this] in order to sanctify [or make holy] the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. [Let us leave the people and systems and practices we know and embrace him by faith who is the fulfillment of all things.] For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”

Like Abraham and his family, like Moses, like those leaders who shared the gospel with us, our hope is not in this world and therefore we can let go of this world and all it affords that we might gain Christ. And if we gain Christ, we gain all things for all of the fullness of deity and all of the riches of God dwell in him and him alone. We will have to suffer in order to gain him but why would we not suffer given all that we gain in him?

So the author is saying, “Remember your leaders and consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith because no matter what they had to suffer, it was worth it. By grace through faith they gained Christ and therefore they gained all. And they preached Christ to you and by believing you too gained all. So hang in there, press on, keep believing, keep trusting, keep clinging, keep running your race by grace for you do not run alone. Keep striving with all your might to know him and grow in him and go with him together, and you will share in the reward of those who have gone before you.”

This, I believe, is what the author is trying to communicate to his readers, and also to us, which is why he writes this in verse 15: “Through him [Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Jesus, our great King and High Priest, has offered the all-sufficient sacrifice for sins and since we believe in him, we have no further need of such a sacrifice. Some of you will remember the saying I shared with you several months ago, namely, for all our sins but one thing will suffice: the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ.

Since this is true, there is only one sacrifice that God requires and that’s the sacrifice of praise. It’s the sacrifice of lips that are not ashamed to acknowledge Jesus in the presence of other people, no matter what the cost or consequence. It’s the sacrifice of deep and heartfelt thanksgiving. And we see in verse 16 that it’s the sacrifice of service to others, for there the author writes, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

Beloved, the Lord is not calling on us to make such sacrifices in order to earn anything from him, for Christ has already earned it all for us. Rather, the Lord is calling on us to let the fountain of Christ so richly flow in our lives that we cannot help but overflow with praise to God and public confession of Christ and good deeds and glad-hearted giving toward others. He’s not calling us to a new kind of work, rather, he’s calling us to rest in Christ and then let him work all things through us. And as Christ works all things through us we will naturally overflow with “the sacrifice of praise” and with “the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” We will naturally thank him, sing to him, call upon him, walk with him, tell of him, brag about him, care for others because of him, and share what we have for the glory of his name. These kinds of things are the fruit of souls that have been captured by Christ.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Remember Your Leaders and Trust in Jesus

In the last two blogs we considered the fifth command in Hebrews 13:1-19, and today we will begin to look at the sixth command, namely, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (13:7-8). For the most part, biblical scholars are agreed that when the author uses the word “leaders” here, he has in mind the people who first preached the good news of Jesus to his readers but had since died.
Therefore, the author was calling upon them to remember these people, and also to do something more: he wanted them to carefully consider and meditate upon their way of life and the outcome thereof. He wanted them to think about all that their leaders believed, all that their leaders did, all that their leaders endured for the sake of Christ, and all the fruit that their leaders had borne for the glory of Christ.

And he wanted them to carefully meditate upon their deaths and see that they lived to the end by faith. Like Abel and Abraham and Sarah and Moses before them, all these died without receiving the fullness of the promises of God and yet they died in peace. They died with joy. They died believing that God would accomplish all of his purposes and fulfill all of his promises in due time. They believed in those words from the prophet Isaiah which say, “I am the Lord, in its time I will hasten it” (Isaiah 60:22). In other words, when the time is full, God will cause all of his words to come to pass precisely as he has spoken them. 

So for the good of their souls, the author wanted his beloved readers to remember these people and carefully consider their way of life. He wanted them to think about this. He wanted them to speak with one another about this. He may have even wanted them to write about this. And then, he wanted them to do something more: he wanted them to imitate the faith of their leaders. He wanted them to be encouraged by their faith, so that they themselves would learn to live by faith no matter the cost or consequence. He wanted them to ponder how these men and women trusted Jesus, so that they themselves would learn to trust Jesus.

This is the point of verse 8, which in some ways seems to come out of left field: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” That is to say, Jesus was the author and perfecter of the faith of your leaders, and he has not changed. He is the author and perfecter of your faith as well, and if you will fix your eyes on him and run your race with passion and endurance, you will find him faithful. The author is saying, “The faith of your leaders is not mainly about your leaders; it’s about Jesus, so look to him, cling to him, and trust in him.”

This, then, leads the author onto a bit of a rabbit trail but we’ll consider that in the next blog.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Our Security is in Christ, not Our Wealth

By the grace of God in Christ, we don’t have to look to the current state of our bank accounts or retirement plans or the broader economic situation in the world and take our sense of security from these things. And we don’t have to worry or lose our sense of security when we lose these things. I’m not saying that bank accounts and retirement plans and the world economic situation don’t matter at all, but I am saying that they will never provide the security, pleasure, or comfort we need. 
And I am saying that we have all things in Christ and that what we have in Christ can never be lost or diminished. What we have in Christ we will have in Christ forever, and this is the source of our security, pleasure, and comfort.

By the grace of God in Christ, we can fix our eyes on him who gave himself for our sin and know that he is good and that he will provide for us more abundantly and passionately than he provides for the flowers of the field and the birds of the air. O we of little faith, why do we worry about what we’re going to eat, and what we’re going to drink, and what we’re going to wear, and where we’re going to live, and how we’re going to retire, and so many other things? Why do we care that we can’t afford the latest gadget or live in some specific neighborhood or enjoy a certain standard of living? 
We all get caught up in this way of thinking from time to time, but it’s good for us to listen to the gracious words of our Father and see that the reason we get caught up in it is because we’ve taken our eyes off of Christ. We’ve failed to fix our gaze on him who’s provided everything for us, and who is in fact our promised eternal inheritance.

Friends, the Lord is very gracious, and he is speaking this word to us because he knows that we struggle to live in his peace and that we need his help. Therefore, he’s spoken to us in very strong terms, and let me explain what I mean. 
The promise that’s quoted in verse 5 is very emphatic and literally reads like this: “No not you will I leave, neither no not you will I forsake.” Please hear that again and feel the force of it: “No not you will I leave, and neither no not you will I forsake.” I don’t know how our Father could have made his heart any clearer. He wants us to know how passionately he feels about this. There simply ain’t never no way that he’s going to turn his back on his Beloved children, and we who believe in him are his beloved children and so he’s speaking to us!

Oh he might allow us to go through hard times. He might remove his provision to some extent and for a season. We might feel at times that God is silent and that he’s not meeting our needs, but feelings are not facts. Sometimes the Lord uses times like these to teach us to trust him. Sometimes the Lord uses times like these to heighten the worth of our treasure in heaven, a treasure that can never diminish or spoil or fade or go down in the market or be stolen by thieves or eaten by moths or ruined by rust. Sometimes the Lord uses times like these to teach us how to treasure his presence and his promises more than all other things. Sometimes the Lord removes from us the valuables of this earth that we might gain what is most valuable, namely, faith in his faithfulness.

Friends, we must understand that the Lord is not poor and he is not vindictive and he does not turn his back on his children. He has purposes for every season and in due time we will see his reasons. But for now he calls on us to trust him and in this way he builds our faith. So let’s be content in him and with what we have from him.

Since this is so, we can confidently say in the words of verse 6, which come from Psalm 118:6, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?” This kind of talk is not arrogance; it’s the humility of a child of God who looks to her Father and says, “My Father is for me, and I trust him. Since he is for me, nothing or no one can ultimately be against me. Nothing I face can threaten my place in his heart and home, so I will not fear. I will look to my Father and be content in him and be thankful for his present provision in this life and resolve to use it all for his glory and the good of others.” 
This is the language of a heart set free. This is the language of a heart that’s been captured by Christ so that nothing else in this life satisfies or constrains it. One of the ways we offer acceptable worship to our Father is by being content in our Father. So let’s help each other look to him, depend on him, trust in him, and be grateful to him for all that he provides. Let’s encourage one another with these words: Christ is enough for us, and his present provision will suffice for us.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Be Free from the Love of Money

In the last few blogs we’ve been pondering the fourth commandment in Hebrews 13:1-19, and today we turn to the fifth command, namely, “Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have” (13:5). I think this command is related to the command of verse 4 because they both have to do with looking for pleasure and comfort and security and power from a source other than God. They both have to do with the temptation to cling to the things God has provided for our good rather than clinging to God himself.

Marriage and sexuality are beautiful and glorious but when we make much of sex and little of marriage we fall into a trap. We commit idolatry. Likewise, God graciously provides money and things to meet our needs and increase our joy in him but when we make much of money and things and little of God we fall into a trap. We commit idolatry. We turn from the Lord and grieve his heart and damage our souls and limit our usefulness in his Kingdom. So it’s a gracious thing that God would command us to honor marriage and to be content in him rather than money. He’s commanding us for our joy, and he’s working for our good.

Let’s be sure that we’re clear on this point: the issue here is not money itself but rather the love of money. Money is a gift from the Lord and a tool in his hands to accomplish his purposes in our lives, but again, problems arise when we cling to money for pleasure and comfort and security and power rather than clinging to the Lord. So being content with what we have isn’t about focusing on the things that are available to us and expecting those things to meet our needs. Rather, being content with what we have is about focusing on Jesus and knowing that he is all we truly need in this life. When we learn to be content in Jesus himself, we will be content with his present provision, whatever that provision is.

Some years ago, Kim and I went through some serious financial difficulties that had to do with her health and some long-term medical expenses we incurred along the way. At one point in this journey it looked like we might literally lose everything we have, and with this possibility staring us in the face, we sat down and prayerfully thought it through.

I remember saying to her, “Kimmy, here’s the worst-case scenario: we lose all of our income, our home, our cars, all of our assets and end up living in a van down by the river! Well, first of all, I’ve lived on the streets and I know how to survive out there, in fact, now that I’ve been sober for twenty-seven years, I can do a much better job of it! Second, if we end up homeless, we’ll just go somewhere and start a ministry to homeless people and rest in the fact that our eternity is secure in Christ and no financial crisis can take that away from us.”

Now, obviously, this wasn’t a realistic scenario because we were in little to no danger of actually being homeless but I took us to an extreme to make a point. We have Jesus and all of his fullness and all of his promises and all of his love. He has held nothing back from us, and so the greatest issues of life are totally settled for us in Christ. And if we will learn to be content in him, we can face anything with joy. We can endure anything and still bear fruit for the glory of his name. We can go through any financial difficulty and still find ways to serve and bless and even give to others.

This is the point of the promise that’s quoted in verse 5. The reason we can be content in Christ is because, “He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” This quote comes from Deuteronomy 31:6, 31:8, and Joshua 1:5. All three times these words are used, they’re directed at Joshua as a way of preparing him to lead the people into the Promised Land. And the point of these words was to say that no matter what transpired, no matter what enemies they faced along the way, God would escort his people into the fullness of his promises and nothing would stop him. As their leader, Joshua had no reason to fear and therefore the people had no reason to fear, specifically because the Lord said that he would be with him. His presence would be their provision and protection and assurance of the promise.

The original context of these words is about more than finances, and yet these words have everything to do with finances. These words were telling Joshua, and they are telling us, that our security in this life is found in the presence of Christ. Money will come and go but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Money is a fickle mistress but the promises of the Lord are solid and sure and in his presence we're secure.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Let Marriage be Held in Honor - Pornography

In the last few blogs, I've written about the call to holiness within the bonds of marriage based on Hebrews 13:4, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." Before I move on to verses 5-6, I just have to say a word or two about pornography because it’s become so widespread in our culture.

When I was younger, a person would have to go to a shameful place to acquire shameful material, and throughout the culture there was still a rightful sense of shame about it. We should not have shame about sexuality in general because it’s good and beautiful and glorifying to God when it’s seen and practiced according to the will of God. But we should have shame about the abuse of sexuality because it is a very sacred thing, and again, in the 1980s and 1990s and even the early 2000s this kind of rightful shame was somewhat prevalent and visible in our culture.

But now, in such a short time, things have drastically changed for the worse and, as the prophet Jeremiah said to his people, we have forgotten how to blush (Jeremiah 6:15). We’ve become callous to our sin because of our sin and we’ve forgotten how to feel shame. Sadly, pornography is now available everywhere we turn and a person can access it without anyone else knowing. It’s available in the same ways it used to be available, and it’s also available through cable or satellite TV, internet providers, and smart phones with nothing more than the push of a button.

The use of pornography has reached epidemic proportions in our country and around the world, and we need to learn to think about it this way. We have a massive cancer in our country and in the world and, sad to say, in the church of Jesus Christ as well. It’s tragic but true: pornography is hamstringing the people of God because we’re not hearing and heeding commands like Hebrews 13:4, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.” See the glory of what God has done in this most sacred of relationships, reject the devil’s lies, walk away from the devil’s substitutes, and give honor to what God has made honorable.

And one of the most insidious aspects of this kind of abuse of sexuality and marriage is that it often comes with the lie that what’s done in secret remains in secret. It often comes with the lie that what’s done in secret doesn’t really affect anyone. But the truth of the matter is that the Lord sees everything and the abuse of sex and marriage affects everyone in our lives. It really does, and let me just give you a few examples.

Intermittent or mild or serious addiction to porn disrupts our communion with the Lord. It distorts our focus in life. It depletes us of power to do the will of God in Christ Jesus. It diminishes our love for God and our joy in him. It diminishes our love for others and our joy in them. It causes us to think about sex itself rather than the glory of marriage and the covenant relationship in which sex is supposed to take place. It leads us to envision human beings as objects of personal pleasure rather than persons who are created in the image of God. Every time a person clicks on a pornographic image or video they are casting a vote that says, “Give us more of this kind,” and the purveyors of porn then look for and use those kinds of girls. Pornography causes people to turn in on themselves and become more and more self-centered, and as this happens it affects every relationship in their lives, as well as people they don’t know at all. 
I could go on, but suffice it to say that secret sexual sin has public consequences. Do not be deceived and do not believe the lie that your private sin is totally private, because it’s not. Your sin in this area of life really matters and therefore your Father lovingly and graciously and firmly calls on you to repent. Do not take his word lightly. Do not refuse him who is speaking. Do not push him away. Listen to your Father’s loving words and embrace his loving discipline, for it means that he loves you and is working for your good.

Brother or sister, if you are struggling with this sin I want you to hear me say what you probably already know and what we affirmed at the communion table today. If you will turn to Christ and confess your sins, he will be faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. The sense of shame you feel can be wiped away in a moment of time or over time because the Lord is not eager to hold this over you. Rather, he’s eager to release you from that which you’ve allowed to trap you. He is incredibly gracious and willing to move forward, but we must turn away from what God forbids. Our Father knows what he’s doing and his heart is to lead us into everlasting joy, but this means that we must walk away from those false joys which taste so sweet in the mouth but end up being bitter in the stomach.

If you want help overcoming this kind of sin please feel free to reach out to me, or better yet, someone who is mature and trustworthy in your life. One of the issues with this particular sin is that it loves to hide in the dark, and so we must boldly bring it into the light. Christians are not literally Jesus and therefore they can’t free you from this sin, but they can walk with you down the road toward purity and we can watch God do amazing things in your lives. There are so many tools and resources available today to help you along the way, but most of all, those who look to Christ in simple faith will find all the power they need to be freed from anything that binds them. Friends, there’s hope, mercy, and help available through our faithful and merciful High Priest today, so don’t delay. Speak up and learn to overcome with other Christ-followers by the power of his once-for-all sacrifice and of his ceaseless intercessions.

Let me close this blog entry by saying one more time that we need to take the battle for sexual purity very seriously. Satan knows the glory of God’s design in marriage and sexuality, and so is it any wonder that one of his primary aims in this world is to attack marriage and sexuality? Let’s see his schemes, walk away from them, and embrace the loving counsel of our Father: 
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.” The Lord will help us as we seek to worship him by conforming to his kind and life-giving commands. 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Let Marriage be Held in Honor Among All: Part 3

In the last two blogs we’ve considered the value of marriage and the call to purity. Now, besides seeing the value of what God has created marriage to be, the author gives another reason why we should promote and protect its honor, namely, that God will judge everyone who fails do so, both the sexually immoral and the adulterous. The “sexually immoral” are those who engage in sexual promiscuity outside the bonds of marriage, while the “adulterous” are those who engage in sexual immorality inside the bond of marriage. So this warning is being issued to people who are not married and to people who are married.

Friends, God cares about what he has created, and since he created marriage to have such a high station in life, he will vindicate it sooner or later. He will strike out against those who seek to destroy his sacred designs. He will discipline those who know him and need to walk away from immoral behavior. He will punish those who do not know him and refuse to embrace the pleasures of God in Christ over the fleeting pleasures of this world. God is immensely gracious and patient but the day will come when his mercy gives way to wrath and he vindicates marriage and all he created it to be.

So let us have ears to hear and hearts to receive the gracious warnings of texts like these. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” The people to whom Paul was writing had come to think that since they were free in Christ, they were free to indulge their flesh. So Paul wrote to them in love to say, “No, Beloved, to follow Christ is to walk away from the lusts of this world and by his grace we must walk away from those lusts.”

And in this same spirit Paul wrote to another church and said this in Ephesians 5:3-6: “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Beloved, the world is brashly proclaiming to us that sexual immorality is no big deal but God doesn’t agree, and therefore he issues gracious commands like these to help us come out of the world and to honor what he has created to be honorable.

And Paul wrote to still another church and said this in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (emphasis mine).

Friends, in love, I’m compelled to say again that the Lord is immensely gracious. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is patient beyond imagination. But he means business when it comes to the sanctity of marriage and so I urge you to meditate on these texts and let your Father shape your way of thinking and living for the glory of his name, the joy of your soul, and the blessing of the nations.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Let Marriage be Held in Honor Among All: Part 2

In the last blog, we began to look at the fourth command in Hebrews 13:19, namely, “Let marriage be held in honor among all” (13:4). We reflected there on the great value of marriage, and now with that in mind, the next exhortation in verse 4 is this: “let the marriage bed be undefiled.”

The point of this exhortation is to say, “My beloved children, pursue and protect sexual purity. Understand the purpose of marriage and therefore the purpose of sex. Behold the glory and beauty and blessedness of sexuality within the bond of marriage. See that sex was designed to be an overflow and expression of the deep love between husband and wife, that it’s to be a fruit of their relationship and not a thing in itself. And as you catch sight of these things, keep the marriage bed holy. Pursue and protect sexual purity in the life of the church as an act of worship to me.”

Now, for those of us who are not married, the implication of this is that you should abstain from all forms of sexual activity. You should wait on the Lord to provide you a spouse, and trust his judgment if he does not do so. Single people, there is a sacredness to singleness which we’ll talk about another time, but for now let me encourage you to trust the heart of your Father. He knows what he’s doing. Share your heart with him, share your feelings with him, and share your suffering with him. But in all things trust him.

And as your share your heart with him, pour out your life in worship to him. Serve him by serving others. Use your time to exalt his name by blessing others. Spend time with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Spend time with lost people. Do whatever the Lord calls you to do, but in all things spend your strength for the glory of his name. And along the way, do all you can to exalt the value and protect the honor of marriage.

For those of us who are married, the implication is that we should remain faithful to our spouses in our minds, hearts, words, and actions. We should not fantasize about others. We should not have any form of sexual contact with others. We should not engage in any form of pornographic activity. The sacredness and beauty of what God has created in marriage should be most protected and honored by those who have the privilege of enjoying marriage.

One day Kim and I were sitting in our living room together and I was holding her. As we sat in silence, enjoying each other’s company, I was suddenly overwhelmed with an intensity and strength of the love for Kim that I had never felt before and that I find impossible to describe. I can say that I was moved to tears and asked the Lord, “What is this about? What am I feeling?” I sensed the Lord respond, “Charlie, this is the smallest glimpse of what I feel for my Bride, the church.”

O Friends, whatever our experiences or depth of insight into the Bible, the more we know about the sacredness of marriage, the more we ought to strive to protect and honor it in our hearts, our homes, our church, and our world as an act of worship to God. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.”