Monthly Archives: May 2012
So that we as fathers can carry out the orders given to us from God in Ephesians 6:4, let’s begin with understanding the fundamentals that lead us to joyfully fulfill the command to not provoke our children but rather to instruct them.
First of all Psalm 127 states that children are a gift from the Lord, a reward. How so? One way they are a gift is that God has given you children for your own personal holiness and growth. Being married has been a growing experience in my sanctification but being a father put me over the top. Every crack in my spiritual armor was blown wide open. Pride, selfishness, lack of patience, and many others, were all exposed. Therefore, my children were a gift to show me my sin and daily need of the gospel. We as fathers are sinners, who have been given sinners as gifts from God with the task that together, we as a family can grow toward God. The privilege of the gift is to teach the gospel to them so that they might be saved and one day when we all stand before the throne, they will not be known as my children, but as my brother and sister in Christ.
So Ephesians 6:4 begins with we fathers looking at ourselves. 2 Corinthians 7:1 states, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of the Lord.” In other words, my first priority before addressing my children is to purify myself. If I am addressing my children, they need me to be able to think clearly, effectively, and biblically. Men, if you are neglecting your own spiritual growth and your walk with God, it will have a profound impact on your motivation and your ability to carry out God’s command to you in regards to your children.
Tomorrow: Ways we typically provoke our children.
Most men like straight talk. Just tell me what you want me to do and/or not to do. I do not want a lot of details but enough that I understand what needs to be done.
God obviously knows this and so for you fathers reading this who are like me, God gives it to us short and sweet. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) That’s it! The only direct command given to fathers in the New Testament. A negative followed by a positive. Don’t do this and do that! Simple, concise, yet so much to unpack.
Between now and Father’s Day, I will try to unravel this verse and hopefully encourage fathers who read it to be examples of gospel grace in the lives of their children. Tune in the next few weeks.
I am currently going through the book “When Sinners Say I Do” (Shepherd Press) by Dave Harvey for about the sixth time. I decided a couple of years ago to use it as a guide for pre-marriage counseling and the results have been transforming and powerful to the counselees as well as myself. Here is a quick review of what this book brings to our understanding of marriage and will hopefully compel you to read it as well:
Many of the books on marriage address the symptoms of marital challenges but neglect what is the real problem. Dave Harvey states, “the cause of our marriage battles is neither our marriage nor our spouse. It’s the sin in our hearts – entirely, totally, exclusively, without exception. This is taught clearly and consistently in Scripture, from the first sin to the final judgment.”
In reading this book we are encouraged to develop the tools to diagnose our heart and then flee to the gospel for help. “God wants Christians to delight in marriage. And He has made provision in the gospel to do so. But we can’t truly understand the gospel, or even the basic problems of every marriage, until we come to terms with the undeniable reality of sin. Men and women (and me) find real hope when we realize that God uses marriage to reveal the heart and change the soul.”
So what is wrong with my marriage?
Me and my sin. I am the sinner or as Apostle Paul states in 1 Timothy 1:15, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” To say that I am a sinner is to stare boldly at the fundamental reality that many people don’t even want to glance at. But when we acknowledge the fact that sin holds considerable sway in our lives, several things become clear.
First we find ourselves in some pretty good company including all the heroes of the faith in and not in the Bible from Old Testament times until now. They all experienced the battle with sin.
Second we acknowledge what everybody around us already knows – particularly our spouse. But, by far the greatest benefit of acknowledging our sinfulness, is that it makes Christ and his work for us precious to us. Only sinners need a Savior. Jesus said in Luke 5:31-32 “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Often we think that issues like communication are the biggest problem with our marriage. But when we realize that our battle is against sin, it helps the gospel shine brighter in our heart and marriage. Bad communication can be a big problem in marriage, but it is not fundamental. Bad communication is the result of ignoring sin that desperately needs the grace of God and hope of the gospel to speak life.
What shapes your marriage comes down to your theology. By theology I mean your view of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, God’s Word and the gospel. Theology governs your entire life and it determines how you will live in your marriage day-to-day and year-by-year.
The Foundation of our marriage is the Bible: The center of the Bible is Jesus Christ. The Bible fills marriage with significance as it speaks as an authority on what marriage is to be.
The Fountain of marriage is the gospel. God did not just send Jesus to be an example of moral goodness and to teach us how to live – He sent Him as the answer to the sin dilemma and to propitiate His wrath against sin in order to restore us in a relationship with Him. The gospel is the ultimate solution for our sin and is the center of theological truth. We remain in our sin even though we have been saved and we need the gospel every day to resist sin.
The Focus of our marriage is the glory of God. Marriage is not just something God invented – it is something that belongs to Him. It exists for Him more than it exists for you. It is for our good but more so it is for God’s glory.
So, what is the key to a thriving marriage?
It is dealing with sin. When we apply the gospel to our sin, it gives hope to our personal lives and in our marriage. The sin that remains in our heart opposes God and our spouse. It obstructs our joy and our holiness and eclipses thriving, healthy marriages.
The hope that arises from the gospel is the beginning of a sweet relationship and marriage can become a living, thriving union where sins are confessed and forgiven.
As Thomas Watson once wrote and Dave Harvey repeats often in his book, “When sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet.”
Seems like in our part of the country we are being bombarded with the issues of homosexuality and same sex marriage. Our brother, Erik Raymond, who is the preaching pastor at Emmaus Bible Church in Bellevue, Nebraska wrote the following article on his blog OrdinaryPastor.com which I want to share because in the midst of the information blitz, we cannot lose sight of a biblical worldview of what is happening. We have a tendency as Evangelicals to fall into one of two extremes, becoming blind or picking specks out of other people’s eyes. This will help sharpen your focus. Erik writes:
President Obama’s recent statement concerning his views of same sex marriage has generated no small amount of discussion and controversy. In what was doubtlessly a political calculation the President made that statement couched in political and attitudinal terms. That is, this new take is his personal view. He has personally has come to a place where he can now accept and stand behind same sex marriage.
This change is not restricted solely to the President. Advocates for Gay rights have tirelessly worked to change the public perception of same sex couples. Over the last 15-25 years America has done a near 180 on the issue. The attempt has been to sanitize and normalize homosexuality.
There have been countless actors, musicians, athletes, and politicians who have publicly spoken out in favor of Gay rights. Many from these same spheres have themselves disclosed that they themselves are gay. It has become commonplace to have television shows and movies with gay characters. Characters like Oscar on The Office have helped to gradually move the meter on public opinion.
Now NBC is set to debut a new show this fall entitled The New Normal. What is the premise? Two guys are married and of course can’t have a child of their own. They hire a surrogate to begin their family. This is not simply an attempt at normalization from Hollywood it is a realization of it on Main Street. In a short period of time recently my wife and I saw a gay couple walking on our block, my son saw two guys kissing at their lockers at school, we visited a potential home purchase owned by two men, and have seen many (many) gay couples at the grocery store. And listen, we are in Omaha! This is, after all, “somewhere in Middle America.” While it may not yet be “The New Normal” homosexuality is surely becoming more or prevalent and more accepted.
Now, what does this mean for Christians? What does this mean for missions?
Among other things,
It means that we better get justification and sanctification clear. This is such an epidemic in evangelicalism; we aim to justify the church and sanctify the world. The world is not going to keep the Ten Commandments, walk in the Spirit, or glorify Christ…they can’t! They are unbelievers and they will act like it. This should not surprise us. We can recall our own unbelieving lives and we have read passages like Romans 3. The transformation into Christ likeness comes out of being declared not guilty and righteous in God’s eyes (Rom. 5.1). This comes by the merit of Christ in his doing and dying for sinners like us. We cannot expect unbelievers to look and act like believers. Having our these theological categories straight will greatly aid our interaction with the new normal.
It means that we better be clear about the character of God. The repeated theme is that “God made me this way and he would not want me to be unhappy.” The issue is not as much about the morality of the unbeliever but the character of God. Who is God? How did he create? Why did he create? How does he communicate what morality is? How do we know what he values? All of these questions drive us back to the Word of God for objectivity rather than subjectivity. God’s love is characterized by holiness and truth. You cannot know or experience the love of God apart from truth. In order to feel his love we must know him. Before we go about arguing about the cultural usages and understanding of particular Greek words there is priority to understand and communicate who God is.
It means that we better be clear about the problem. Far too many times I have heard evangelicals talk about homosexuality like our job was to get them to become heterosexual. If we can just get them to be straight then our work is done. The Christian objective in missions is to see people become Christians! This means that we want to see all sexual sinners become worshipers of Jesus. This includes fornicators, adulterers, porn-addicts, homosexuals, or whatever other category you can think up. The goal is to become a believer who turns from the worship of self to the worship of God. It is to turn from rebellion that is characterized by the suppression of truth to the submission that is characterized by obedience to the truth (Rom. 1.18-25; 3.19-27). The central issue is worship, or idolatry. The central answer is always the gospel.
It means that we better be clear about our tone. Can you lovingly engage a homosexual with the gospel in a winsome, tactful and still faithful way? Can you love them? This is really a question that I think evangelicals need to wrestle with and decidedly answer “yes, we must!” Pivoting out of the points above, that is out of the gospel, we have to see our own weakness and neediness. Who among us is not needy of the grace of Christ? Then we must lovingly and faithfully talk to others about it. If you can’t get control of yourself and speak the words of grace and truth to someone who is straight or gay then you need to ask God to give you a bigger heart. Ask him to shake you of pride and work gospel compassion down into you. I know that God is saving a lot of people from a gay lifestyle and I pray that he will continue to do so. As missionaries we need to speak and act like we actually want him to.
CONCLUSION–Be Prophetic from the Center!
The “new normal” is upon us. How will we respond? D.A. Carson has rightly said, “It is easy to sound prophetic from the margins, what we need is to be prophetic from the center.” That is, preaching against issues that flow out of a rejection of the gospel (sexual sin, abortion, etc) are peripheral and must be addressed by means of the core gospel, that which is of first importance.” (1 Cor. 15.3-5) In light of these ever-changing times, may this timeless charge become the “new normal” for us as evangelicals.
The following is a portion from Charles Spurgeon’s autobiography
I was privileged with godly parents, watched with jealous eyes, scarcely ever permitted to mingle with questionable associates, warned not to listen to anything profane or licentious, and taught the way of God from my youth up. There came a time when the solemnities of eternity pressed upon me for a decision, and when a mother’s tears and a father’s supplications were offered to Heaven on my behalf. At such a time, had I not been helped by the grace of God, but had I been left alone to do violence to conscience, and to struggle against conviction, I might perhaps have been at this moment dead, buried, and doomed, having through a course of vice brought myself to my grave, or I might have been as earnest a ringleader amongst the ungodly as I now desire to be an eager champion for Christ and His truth.
I do speak of myself with many deep regrets of heart. I hid as it were my face from Him, and I let the years run round,—not without twinges of conscience, not without rebukes, when I knew how much I needed a Saviour; not without the warnings which came from others whom I saw happy and rejoicing in Christ, while I had no share in His salvation. Still, I put it off, as others are doing, from day to day, and month to month, and thought that Christ might come in some odd hour, and when I had nothing else to do, I might think of Him whose blood could cleanse me. O my soul, I could fain smite thee now! Truly, I could lay this rod about my own heart to think that weeks and months should have rolled over my head, and I should have hid as it were my face from Christ in wilful neglect of my dear Lord whose heart had bled for me.
Children are often very reticent to their parents. Often and often have spoken I with young lads about their souls, and they have told me they could not talk to fathers upon such matters. I know it was so with me. When I was under concern of soul, the last persons I should have elected to speak to upon religion would been my parents,—not through want of love to them, nor absence of love on their part; but so it was. A strange feeling of diffidence pervades a seeking soul, and drives it from its friends. Yet I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother. It was the custom, on Sunday evenings, while we were yet little children, for her to stay at home with us, and then we sat round the table, and read verse by verse, and she explained the Scripture to us. After that was done, then came the time of pleading; there was a little piece of Alleine’s Alarm, or of Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted, and this was read with pointed observations made to each of us as we sat round the table; and the question was asked, how long it would be before we would think about our state, how long before we would seek the Lord. Then came a mother’s prayer, and some of the words of that prayer we shall never forget, even when our hair is grey. I remember, on one occasion, her praying thus: “Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.” That thought of a mother’s bearing swift witness against me, pierced my conscience, and stirred my heart. When I was a child, if I had done anything wrong, I did not need anybody to tell me of it; I told myself of it, and I have cried myself to sleep many a time with the consciousness that I had done wrong; and when I came to know the Lord, I felt very grateful to Him because He had given me a tender conscience.
Fathers and mothers are the most natural agents for God to use in the salvation of their children. I am sure that, in my early youth, no teaching ever made such an impression upon my mind as the instruction of my mother; neither can I conceive that, to any child, there can be one who will have such influence over the heart as the mother who has so tenderly cared for her offspring. A man with a soul so dead as not to be moved by the sacred name of “mother” is creation’s blot. Never could it be possible for any man to estimate what he owes to a godly mother. Certainly I have not the powers of speech with which to set forth my valuation of the choice blessing which the Lord bestowed on me in making me the son of one who prayed for me, and prayed with me. How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come? I thought her lips right eloquent; others might not think so, but they certainly were eloquent to me. How can I ever forget when she bowed her knee, and with her arms about my neck, prayed, “Oh, that my son might live before Thee!” Nor can her frown be effaced from my memory,—that solemn, loving frown, when she rebuked my budding iniquities; and her smiles have never faded from my recollection,—the beaming of her countenance when she rejoiced to see some good thing in me towards the Lord God of Israel.
Well do I remember hearing my father speak of an incident that greatly impressed him. He used to be frequently away from home preaching, and at one time, as he was on his way to a service, he feared that he was neglecting his own family while caring for the souls of others. He therefore turned back, and went to his home. On arriving there, he was surprised to find no one in the lower rooms of the house; but, on ascending the stairs, he heard a sound as of someone engaged in prayer. On listening at the bedroom door, he discovered that it was my mother, pleading most earnestly for the salvation of all her children, and specially praying for Charles, her first-born and strong-willed son. My father felt that he might safely go about his Master’s business while his dear wife was caring so well for the spiritual interests of the boys and girls at home, so he did not disturb her, but proceeded at once to fulfil his preaching engagement.
My mother said to me, one day, “Ah, Charles! I often prayed the Lord to make you a Christian, but I never asked that you might become a Baptist.” I could not resist the temptation to reply, “Ah, mother! the Lord has answered your prayer with His usual bounty, and given you exceeding abundantly above what you asked or thought.”
Ian and Larissa’s Story
I wanted to share this video with you not because it is so moving emotionally (for it is), but because it powerfully displays the truth about the gospel and Christian marriage.
Marriage as an institution is shared in what can be called the common kingdom of the world. Believers and non-believers alike participate in marriage as it was given by God to the human race. But Christian marriage is distinctive in that it represents something beyond us. It is the picture of the mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ where God would love us sacrificially in that while we were yet sinners, Christ would die for us.
In this 9 minute video there are so many highlights that point to the gospel but here are a few that struck me to start with:
1. Love is not about what the other does but what I give.
2. Commitment is based upon who God is, not my circumstances.
3. God does not change and I need to quit thinking of his goodness to me based upon my circumstances.
4. What it means to serve your spouse.
5. Larissa’s submission to her husband’s spiritual leadership and her willingness to let him lead in their own unique way. My wife Deb has no excuse for not allowing me in my clumsy ways to lead her.
6. I can lead my wife spiritually – I am out of excuses now that I saw this video and so is every man!
There are many more but please watch this video and absorb the message. Also the book mentioned, “This Momentary Marriage” by John Piper is available in a variety of ways:
1. You can read it for free by downloading it online here.
2. You can buy the book online. Here is the cheapest price.
3. If you read the book electronically, it is available through Amazon.com.
I am a lover of writings from the era of the Puritans (approximately 1550-1750). Their understanding of the Scriptures and the application of the Word to practical living is a timeless guide for us all. Being that this weekend is Mother’s Day, today I would like to share a letter that Sarah Whipple Goodhue (1641-1681) wrote. Some background is that Sara was married to Joseph Goodhue of Ipswich, Massachusetts and they had 10 children. Sarah wrote this letter titled, “Valedictory and Monitory-Writing” just days before she would give birth to twins and children numbers 9 and 10. She suspected that she would not survive the birth and she did die 3 days later.
Her letter would be read for inspiration through the 19th century. It offers advice to her husband & children and sheds light on the Puritan experience and her passion for the gospel to be implanted in the hearts of her children.
DEAR and loving Husband, if it should please the Lord to make a sudden change in thy family, the which I know not how soon it may be, and I am fearful of it:
Therefore in a few words I would declare something of my mind, lest I should afterwards have no opportunity: I cannot but sympathize and pity thy condition, seeing that thou hast a great family of children, and some of them small, and if it should please the Lord to add to thy number one more or two, be not discouraged, although it should please the Lord to deprive thee of thy weak help which is so near and dear unto thee. Trust in the living God, who will be an help to the helpless, and a father to the motherless: My desire is, that if thou art so contented, to dispose of two or three of my children: If it please the Lord that I should be delivered of a living child, son or daughter, my desire is, that my father and mother should have it, if they please, I freely bequeath and give it to them. And also my desire it, that my cousin Symond Stacy should have John if he please, I freely bequeath and give him to him for his own if thou art willing. And also my desire is, that my cousin Catharine Whipple should have Susanna, which is an hearty girl, and will quickly be helpful to her, and she may be helpful to the child, to bring her up: These or either of these I durst trust their care under God, for the faithful discharge of that which may be for my children’s good and comfort, and I hope to thy satisfaction: Therefore if they be willing to take them, and to deal well by them, answer my desire I pray thee, thou hast been willing to answer my request formerly, and I hope now thou wilt, this being the last so far as I know.
Honoured and most loving father and mother I cannot tell how to express your fatherly and motherly love towards me and mine: It hath been so great, and in several kinds; for the which in a poor requital, I give you hearty and humble thanks, yet trusting in God that he will enable you to be a father and mother to the motherless: Be not troubled for the loss of an unworthy daughter; but rejoice in the free grace of God, that there is hopes of rejoicing together hereafter in the place of everlasting joy and blessedness.
Brothers and Sisters all, hearken and hear the voice of the Lord, that by his sudden providence doth call aloud on you, to prepare yourselves for that swift and sudden messenger of death: that no one of you may be found without a wedding garment; a part and portion in Jesus Christ: the assurance of the love of God, which will enable you to leave this world, and all your relations, though never so near and dear, for the everlasting enjoyment of the great and glorious God, if you do fear him in truth.
The private society, to which while here I did belong; if God by his Providence come amongst you, and begin by death to break you; be not discouraged, but be strong in repenting, faith & prayers with the lively repeatal of God’s counsels declared unto you by his faithful messengers: O pray each for another and with one another; that so in these threatening times of storms and troubles, you may be found more precious than gold tried in the fire. Think not a few hours time in your approaches to God misspent; but consider seriously with yourselves, to what end God lent to you any time at all: This surely I can through grace now say; that of the time that there I spent, through the blessing of God, I have no cause to repent, no not in the least.
O my children all, which in pains and care have cost me dear; unto you I call to come and take what portion your dying mother will bestow upon you: many times by experience it hath been found, that the dying words of parents have left a living impression upon the hearts of Children; O my children be sure to set the fear of God before your eyes; consider what you are by nature, miserable sinners, utterly lost and undone; and that there is no way and means whereby you can come out of this miserable estate; but by the Mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ: He died a reproachful death, that every poor humble and true repenting sinner by faith on God through him, might have everlasting life: O my Children, the best counsel that a poor dying Mother can give you is, to get a part and portion in the Lord Jesus Christ, that will hold, when all these things will fail; O let the Lord Jesus Christ be precious in your sight.
O children, neighbours and friends, I hope I can by experience truly say, that Christ is the best, most precious, most durable portion, that all or any of you can set your hearts delight upon; I for ever desire to bless and praise the Lord, that he hath opened mine eyes to see the emptiness of these things, and mine own; and to behold the fulness and riches of grace that is in the Lord Jesus Christ: To that end my children, I do not only counsel you, but in the fear of the Lord I charge you all, to read God’s word, and pray unto the Lord that he would be pleased to give you hearts and wisdom to improve the great and many privileges that the Lord is at present pleased to afford unto you, improve your youthful days unto God’s service, your health and strength whilst it lasteth, for you know not how soon your health may be turned into sickness, your strength into weakness, and your lives into death; as death cuts the tree of your life down, so it will lie; as death leaveth you, so judgment will find you out: Therefore be persuaded to agree with your adversary quickly, whilst you are in the way of these precious opportunities: be sure to improve the lively dispensations of the gospel; give good attention unto sermons preached in public, and to sermons repeated in private. Endeavour to learn to write your father’s hand, that you may read over those precious sermons, that he hath taken pains to write and keep from the mouths of God’s lively messengers, and in them there are lively messages: I can through the blessing of God along with them, say, that they have been lively unto me: And if you improve them aright, why not to all of you God upbraideth none of the seed of Jacob, that seek his Face in truth: My children be encouraged in this work, you are in the bond of the covenant, although you may be breakers of covenant, yet God is a merciful keeper of covenant. Endeavour as you grow up, to own and renew your covenant, and rest not if God give you life, but so labour to improve all the advantages that God is pleased to afford you, that you may be fit to enjoy the Lord Jesus Christ in all his Ordinances. What hath the Lord Jesus Christ given himself for you? if you will lay hold upon him by true faith and repentance: And what will you be backward to accept of his gracious and free offers, and not keep in remembrance his death and sufferings, and to strengthen your weak faith; I thank the Lord, in some measure, I have found that ordinance, a life-making ordinance unto my soul.
Oh the smiles and loving embraces of the Lord Jesus Christ, that they miss of, that hold off, and will not be in such near relation unto their Head and Saviour. The Lord grant that Christ may be your Portions all.
My children, one or two words I have to say to you more, in the first place, be sure to carry well to your father, obey him, love him, follow his instructions and example, be ruled by him, take his advice, and have a care of grieving him: For I must testify the truth unto you, and I may call some of you to testify against yourselves; that your Father hath been loving, kind, tender-hearted wards you all: and laborious for you all, both for your temporal and spiritual good: -You that are grown up, cannot but see how careful your father is when he cometh home from his work, to take the young ones up into his wearied arms, by his loving carriage and care towards those, you may behold as in a glass, his tender care and love to you everyone as you grow up: I can safely say, that his love was so to you all, that I cannot say which is the child that he doth love best; but further I may testify unto you, that this is not all that your father hath been doing for you, and that some of you may bear me witness, that he hath given you many instructions, which hath been to the end your souls might enjoy happiness, he hath reproved you often for your evils, laying before you the ill event that would happen unto you If you did not walk in God’s ways, and give your minds to do his will, to keep holy his sabbaths, to attend unto reading God’s Word, hearing it preached with a desire to profit by it, and declaring unto you this way that he had experienced to get good by it; that was I pray unto the Lord for his blessing with it, and upon it, that it might soak into the heart and find entertainment there: and that you should meditate upon it, and he hath told you, meditation was as the key to open the door, to let you in, or that into your heart, that you might find the sweetness of God’s word.
Furthermore, my children, be encouraged in this work, your father hath put up many prayers with ardent desires and tears to God on behalf of you all: which if you walk with God, I hope you will find gracious answers and showers of blessings from those bottled tears for you. O carry it well to your father, that he may yet be encouraged to be doing and pleading for your welfare: Consider that the scripture holdeth forth many blessings to such children that obey their parents in the Lord, but there are curses threatened to the disobedient.
My children, in your life and conversation, live godly, walk soberly, modestly, and innocently: be diligent, and be not hasty to follow new fashions, and the pride of life, that now too much abounds. Let not pride betray the good of your immortal souls.
And if it please the Lord that you live to match yourselves, and to make your choice: Be sure you choose such as first do seek the kingdom of Heaven.
My first, as thy name is Joseph, labour so in knowledge to increase, as to be free from the guilt of thy sins, and enjoy eternal Peace. Mary, labour so to be arrayed with the hidden man of’ the heart, That with Mary thou mayest find, thou hast chosen the better part. William, thou hadst that name for thy grandfather’s sake.
Labour so to tread in his steps, as over sin conquest thou mayest make. Sarah, Sarah’s daughter thou shalt be, if thou continuest in doing well, Labour so in holiness among the daughters to walk, as that thou mayest excel.
So my children all, if I must be gone, I with tears bid you all Farewell. The Lord bless you all.
Now dear Husband, I can do no less than turn unto thee, and if I could, I would naturally mourn with thee.
And in a poor requital of all thy kindness, if I could, I would speak some things of comfort to thee, whilst thou dost mourn for me.
A tender-hearted, affectionate and entire loving husband thou hast been to me several ways. If I should but speak of what I have found as to these outward things; I being but weakly natured: In all my burthens thou hast willingly with me sympathized, and cheerfully thou hast helped me bear them: which although I was but weak natured; and so the more unabled to go through those troubles in my way: Yet thou hast by thy cheerful love to me, helped me forward in a cheerful frame of spirit. -But when I come to speak or consider in thy place, thy great pains and care for the good of my soul.
This twenty years experience of thy love to me in this kind, hath so instamped it upon my mind, that I do think that there never was man more truly kind to a woman: I desire for ever to bless and praise the Lord, that in mercy to my soul, he by his providence ordered that I should live with thee in such a relation, therefore dear husband be comforted in this, ( although God by his providence break that relation between us, that he gave being to at first) that in thy place thou hast been a man of knowledge to discharge to God and my soul, that scripture commanded duty, which by the effects in me wrought, through the grace of God, thou mayest behold with comfort our prayers not hindered; but a gracious answer from the Lord, which is of great price and re- ward. Although my being gone be thy loss, yet I trust in and thro’ Jesus Christ, it, will be my gain.
Was it not, to this end that the Lord was pleased to enable thee and give thee in heart to take (as an instrument) so much pains for his glory and my eternal good, and that it might be thy comfort: As all thy reading of scriptures and writing of sermons, and repeating of them over to me, that although I was necessarily often absent from the public worship of God, yet by thy pains and care to the good of my soul, it was brought home unto me: And blessed be the Lord who hath set home by the operation of his spirit, so many repeatals of precious sermons and prayers and tears for me and with me, for my eternal good: And now let it be thy comfort under all, go on and persevere in believing in God, and praying fervently unto God: Let not thy affectionate heart become hard, and thy tears dried away: And certainly the Lord will render a double portion of blessing upon thee and thine.
If thou couldest ask me a reason why I thus declare myself? – I cannot answer no other but this; that I have had of late a strong persuasion upon my mind, that by sudden death I should be surprised, either at my travail, or soon after it, the Lord fit me for himself: although I could be very willing to enjoy thy company, & my children longer, yet if it be the will of the Lord that I must not, I hope I can say cheerfully, the will of the Lord be done, this hath been often my desire and thy prayer.
Further, if thou could’st ask me why I did not discover some of these particulars of my mind to thee before, my answer is because I knew that thou wert tender hearted towards me, and therefore I would not create thee needless trouble.
O dear husband of all my dearest bosom friends, if by sudden death I must part from thee, let not thy trouble and cares that are on thee make thee to turn aside from the right way.
O dear heart, if I must leave thee and thine here behind, Of my natural affection here is my heart and hand. Be courageous, and on the living God bear up thy heart in so great a breach as this.
Dear husband, if by sudden death I am taken away from thee, there is infolded among thy papers something that I have to say to thee and others.
July 14, 1681
It has been my experience that for many who are struggling with a strong worldly desire, the idea that freedom will be found by embracing the affections of the gospel seems too simple for such a complex issue. Chalmers would say, “they do not see the love of God in sending His Son into the world. They do not see the expression of His tenderness to men, in sparing Him not, but giving Him up unto the death for us all. They do not see the sufficiency of the atonement, or of the sufferings that were endured by Him who bore the burden that sinners should have borne. They do not see the blended holiness and compassion of the Godhead, in that He passed by the transgressions of His creatures, yet could not pass them by without an expiation. It is a mystery to them how a man should pass to a state of godliness from a state of nature – but had they only a believing view of God manifest in the flesh, this would resolve for them the whole mystery of godliness. As it is, they can not get quit of their old affections, because they are out of sight from all those truths, which have influence to raise a new one.”
It is the application of the gospel that is the surest means of casting out the old affection. Chalmers also writes, “We know of no other way by which to keep the love of the world out of our heart than to keep in our hearts the love of God – and no other way by which to keep our hearts in the love of God, than by building on our most holy faith. The denial of the world which is not possible to him that dissents from the gospel testimony, is possible, even as all things are possible, to him that believeth.”
Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”
1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Currently in the city of Lincoln, Nebraska is a proposal before the city government to add an ordinance that adds to the definition of discrimination any decision based upon “sexual orientation” which includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. Also included is “gender identity” which is defined as the actual or perceived appearance, expression, identity or behavior of a person as being male or female, whether or not that appearance, expression, identity or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s designated sex at birth.
This article is not to dissect the ordinance but the ramifications of the ordinance does have an impact on the church, para-church organizations, and we as Christians living in this culture. The question I want to address is should the church of Jesus Christ respond to issues of civil government such as what is happening in Lincoln? Some would say no; I say yes and here is why.
As the church of Jesus Christ, we live being members of two kingdoms, the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this world. The Scriptures teach us that one kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, will be preserved and everlasting and the other kingdom, the kingdom of this world, will not last. Our culture, activities, and institutions will not be redeemed by God but for now, they are being preserved through the covenant that God made with Noah (See Genesis 8:20-9:17). Through this covenant, God himself established the responsibilities of our culture and in doing so, he did not distinguish a separate set of rules to identify one people group from another. It is however only the church, the Bride of Christ, that will be welcomed into the new heaven and new earth at the end of the age. So in the meantime, what is our role as citizens of heaven living in “Babylon?”
Because we are part of the culture, we are to strive for justice and excellence in our cultural labors out of a love for Jesus Christ. As Jesus prayed for us in John 17, we are not to be taken at this time out of the world but are to be entrusted with the message of the gospel and the responsibility to engage the culture with that message as those not of this world.
In this culture, the members of Christ’s church participate in the same politics, commerce, and many of the same cultural activities as those outside the church. We have not been summoned to withdraw from these but as residents in “Babylon,” we pursue these activities with righteousness and may even suffer persecution for doing so. But, we will return to our “Jerusalem” as we wait for the day when human culture will be destroyed. (See the connection of Jeremiah 29:4-14 and Revelation 21:2-8, 21-26)
So why get involved in political and social issues such as currently happening in Lincoln? Because according to the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 8:20-9:17), God is the one who has ordained what brings stability to culture until the day the world ends. He has also ordained us to engage in all these activities and to be voices of justice to those who would disrupt the social order established by Him. But, the cultural activities of the kingdom of this world have no part or authority on the eternal kingdom of Christ’s church. When we look at this proposal, we find that the civil government crosses kingdom borders. As Satan is not just a tempter, but is also an intruder of kingdoms, the government is not to intrude upon the church. Even our country’s founding fathers understood this.
Those in Lincoln and part of the church of Jesus Christ need to be informed of this issue and other issues that move out of the area of good social order and justice as established by God’s Word. Laws giving special rights and protection in sexual orientation and identity will not ultimately help these people. Each one of them needs to be treated with the dignity of being created in the image of God but they are enslaved to a sin that civil government laws will not free them from. If the church is silent, then so is the gospel message that is their ultimate hope. For everyone, this is not an issue just about the church and state, but it is an issue of love for those who need to hear and embrace the riches and the treasures of redemption in Jesus Christ.
For those of us in the Lincoln area, we need to be informed, get involved, and pray.
The love of a worldly desire cannot be expunged from the heart just by speaking about how worthless it is. We all know that things like pornography, drugs, and drunkenness are dark places yet those attached to them, continue it. A heart will not depart from a strong desire by a single act of resignation. What reigns in the heart will not easily give up occupancy to another … that is unless Christ the Sovereign appears with his charm and great power to subdue our moral nature and take control.
It is through the preaching of the gospel, corporately or privately to ourselves, that we behold God as in a way that we may love God more than our sin. Chalmers writes, “It is there (through the gospel) and only there, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence for sinners – and where our desire after him is not chilled into apathy by the barrier of human guilt…It is the bringing in of this better hope, whereby we draw near nigh unto God.”
In contemplating the gospel, the sin that grips us is brought into true light and when enabled by faith, which is God’s gift, we can see the face of the glory of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). It is through the gospel that we can understand that we have a full pardon from our sin, gracious acceptance by God, a love that is above all loves, a release from the spirit of bondage and tyranny of our sin, our adoption as children of God, deliverance from sin’s power, a faith that is revealed from heaven, and a new nature that is dead to the influence and reach of worldly desires.
Tomorrow will be the final article in this series and will explain how the truth of the gospel makes the demands of the gospel our heart’s desire.