Douglas Wilson – Decluttering Your Marriage II

INTRODUCTION:

In the message last week, we addressed the problem of how pride and a lack of self-reflection compounds the problem of cluttered relationships. In this message we are going to focus on some practical steps that will help you get things picked up, and will help you keep it that way. As things stand now, you are contemplating moving to the Swiss Alps to start your own signature ministry — you could call it Debris.

THE TEXT:

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

The text contains an overt teaching about confession of sin and the blessing of God. But there is also an unstated assumption about time which we can make explicit in a paraphrase. “He who covers his sins for any length of time shall not prosper for that length of time. But whoever confesses and forsakes them immediately shall have mercy immediately” (Prov. 28:13). In other words, there is a now implied.

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Douglas Wilson – Decluttering Your Marriage I

INTRODUCTION:

Many of you have been married for quite a number of years now. This can be wonderful, like aging wine, but before anyone says awwww, it can also grow seriously un-wonderful, as bad spiritual habits compound with interest. Marriages can get badly cluttered, like a neglected garage, attic, or basement. And when things get cluttered, they also get people into a position where they really don’t know what to do. Where should they even start?

THE TEXT:

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

We are going to begin with this text because it lays down some important principles for the process of decluttering any relationship, but particularly your relationship with your spouse.

Say that someone else is overtaken in a fault, whatever it is. You see a problem over there. Who should correct it? Paul first states what the qualifications are for the one undertaking the job of correcting another. He says that the task is limited to those “which are spiritual.” If you are annoyed, bothered, frustrated, exasperated, you are the one person on the planet who may not correct the problem. And the problem is that when you are qualified, you are not motivated. And when you are motivated, you are not qualified.

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Randy Alcorn – The Cumulative Effect of Our Little Choices

Have you ever seen a sink hole? Cars can be parked on a street day after day, and everything appears normal, then one day the asphalt caves in and cars disappear into a gigantic hole.

Everybody says, “That hole came out of nowhere.” But they’re wrong. The hole appears suddenly but the process that led to it has gone on for many years. The underground erosion was invisible, but it was there all along.

Likewise, sometimes when a man commits adultery and abandons his family, it appears to have come “out of the clear blue sky.” It hasn’t.

Sink holes remind us of two things: first, something can look good on the outside, when underneath major problems have been going on for years, and disaster’s about to happen. Second, our lives are affected by little choices, which have cumulative effects that can result in either moral strength or moral disaster.

A battering ram may hit a fortress gate a thousand times, and no one impact seems to have an effect, yet finally the gate caves in. Similarly, sinful actions don’t come out of nowhere—they’re the cumulative product of little moral compromises made over time, which ultimately result in ungodly behavior. On the other hand, it’s equally true that godly actions are the cumulative product of small, habitual, and Christ-honoring choices for righteousness.

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Matthew Holst – The Wisdom of Sex

Perhaps now, more than ever, Christians need wisdom to process the multitude of temptations to sexual sin with which they are confronted. While it is true that sexual sin has always been a problem in the church, there should be little doubt that the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are a seemingly ubiquitous danger for Christians today.

The Puritans were well-known for their diagnosis of sin. In fact, it might be one of their lasting legacies. Some modern theologians (e.g. see this and this) have continued that pattern of examining the Christian life by seeking to uncover the root issues which lie behind our external sins. Of course, Scripture itself is the main source for uncovering both surface and root issues. Below are several biblical principles by which we may guard ourselves from sexual sin.

1. Sexual sin is idolatry: The Apostle Paul tells us this plainly in Colossians 3:5: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry.” That is to say, sexual immorality–whether on a screen or in person–is a replacement god. Nothing should be more appalling and grevious for the sincere Christian, than to turn his or her back on Christ and bow down to another god. That is precisely what we do, however, in idolatry. We de-throne Almighty God and replace him with pornography; or fantasy; or adultery.

2. Sexual sin occurs when we fail to “keep our heart.” Proverbs 4:23-27 provides us with a powerful warning and encouragement to help us keep our hearts pure. “Keep the heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life” (Prov 4:23). The next verses tell us what that looks like: v 24 watch what you and others say; v 25 watch what you look at; v 26 watch what you think about and vs 27 watch where you go. That is to say, if we are not always keeping guard over our senses, we allow ourselves to become subject to wickedness. We strangle the ministry of the Spirit in our lives (c.f. Prov 4:23 & John 7:37), giving ourselves to impurity, through which the Spirit will never work.

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Michael Boling – Qanna: YHVH is a Jealous Elohim

Then YHVH said all these words: “I am YHVH, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery. “You are to have no other elohim before me. You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline. You are not to bow down to them or serve them; for I, YHVH, am a jealous Elohim, punishing the children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but displaying grace to the thousandth generation of those who love me and obey my mitzvot.” (Exodus 20:1-5)

These introductory verses to the well-known passage containing the Ten Commandments declare some important truths. We are presented with the fact that it was YHVH who delivered His people from bondage in Egypt. Second, His people are commanded to have no other gods before Him, nor are they to create any representation of something in the created realm as a temptation to worship. After making those commands, YHVH declares He is a jealous God, punishing those who reject Him and demonstrating grace towards those who adhere to His mitzvoth (commands).

The fact that YHVH describes Himself as a jealous elohim is arguably a name of YHVH some may be tempted to gloss over when reading this passage. After all, isn’t jealousy considered a sin in passages such as Galatians 5:20 where the Apostle Paul notes jealousy as being a construct of the old sin nature? How then can a perfect Elohim describe Himself as being jealous? These are both valid questions and ones we will address.

First, let’s address the word jealous as used in Exodus 20:5. It is the Hebrew adjective qanna meaning quite simply “jealousy”. It is a term only used of YHVH and is used five times in Scripture, all in the Pentateuch. One fundamental element of this term is its relation to the holiness of YHVH. Since there is no element of imperfection with YHVH, the fact He is a jealous Elohim requires this description of who He is to operate completely outside the framework of our understanding of jealousy as it operates within a fallen world.

The typical fallen world demonstration of jealousy involves desiring something or someone that is not ours to be had. For instance, I could be jealous of my neighbor purchasing that brand new truck with this attitude of jealousy even rising to the level of covetousness. I want what I cannot have which could in turn negatively impact my relationship with my neighbor. When we approach YHVH being a jealous Elohim, we have to understand that since all things belong to YHVH, there is nothing that is not already His. This means His desire for something is not rooted in covetousness, but rather the element of ownership and more importantly, the desire for relationship. The Creator of the universe jealousy desires relationship with His creation. As noted by John Hartley, qanna “captures the intensity of the divine love that emanates from holiness.”[1]

Second, it is vital to understand the context of Exodus 20:5 and how it relates to qanna. At Mt. Sinai, YHVH was not just providing a set of rules and regulations. That certainly took place; however, what was also taking place was the provision of the terms of a contract, specifically a marriage contract or better yet, a marriage covenant known as a Ketubah. YHVH’s people in Exodus 19:8 had affirmed they would abide by the terms of the covenant by declaring ““All that YHVH has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 19:8) At this point, YHVH was betrothed to His people as the terms of the Ketubah has been read, understood, and agree upon by both parties.

The aspect of jealousy therefore as understood within the context of a loving marriage relationship brings this name of YHVH to a more personal level. We are to have no other elohim before us because to do so would break the terms of our marriage contact with YHVH. As Creator and our deliverer, the One who has extended His great mercy towards an underserving and sinful people, He deserves to be worshiped and loved with every fiber of our being. He deserves our full and undivided attention. He loves us with a perfect love. When we act in a manner unbecoming a betrothed bride, YHVH being completely holy and deserving of all that He has created, is jealous. He is not jealous for something He cannot have. As Creator, all is His. His jealousy stems from His aforementioned perfect love and in keeping with One who is abiding by the terms of the marriage contract. His jealousy towards us, both in outpouring discipline and judgment on those who break the terms of the contract and also by showing grace and mercy on those who abide by the terms of the contract, is rooted in the call for relationship.

YHVH is not some distant entity who created everything and then left His creation to its own devices, never to be involved in the affairs of man. YHVH is a relational Elohim. He loves us and demonstrated that love by sending Yeshua His only Son to be the sacrifice for our sin in order to provide the means for the restoration of relationship between Creator and humanity. He paid the bride price through the blood of His Son. He is a jealous Elohim because He loves us. He deserves your love and passion because He is jealous for you and passionately in love with you in keeping with His perfect holiness.

References:

[1] Hartley, John. “Holy and Holiness, Clean and Unclean” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and David Baker. Downers Grove: IVP, 2003.

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J.H. Merle D’Aubigne – Family Worship

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

“Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” We have said, my brethren, on a former occasion, that if we would die his death, we must live his life. It is true that there are cases in which the Lord shows his mercy and his glory to men who are already lying on the death-bed, and says to them, as to the thief on the cross, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” The Lord still gives the Church similar examples from time to time, for the purpose of displaying his sovereign power, by which, when he is pleased to do so, he can break the hardest hearts and convert the souls most estranged, to show that all depends on his grace, and that he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy. Yet these are but rare exceptions, on which you can not rely absolutely; and if you wish, my dear hearers, to die the Christian’s death, you must live the Christian’s life; your heart must be truly converted to the Lord, truly prepared for the kingdom, and, trusting only in the mercy of Christ, desirous of going to dwell with him. Now, my brethren, there are various means by which you can be made ready, in life, to obtain at a future day a blessed end. It is on one of the most efficacious of these means that we wish to dwell today. This mean is Family Worship; that is, the daily edification which the members of a Christian family may mutually enjoy. “As for me and my house,” said Joshua to Israel, “we will serve the Lord.” We wish, my brethren, to give you the motives which should induce us to make this resolution of Joshua, and the directions necessary to fulfill it.

History

Family worship is the most ancient as well as the holiest of institutions. It is not an innovation against which people are readily prejudiced; it began with the world itself.

From the beginning

It is evident that the first worship which the first man and his children paid to God could be nothing else than Family Worship, since they constituted the only family which then existed on the earth. “Then,” says the Scripture, “began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” Family Worship must indeed have been for a long time the only form of worship addressed to God in common; for as the earth still remained to be peopled, the head of every family went to live separately; and, as a high-priest unto God in the place which was allotted to him, he offered unto the Lord of the whole earth the homage due to Him, with his wife, his sons and daughters, his man-servants and maidservants. It was only by degrees that, when the number of men was greatly multiplied, various families happened to settle near each other; then came the idea of adoring God in common, and Public Worship began. But Family Worship had become too precious to the families of the children of God to give it up; and, if they began to worship God with the families of strangers, how much more was it their duty to worship him with their own families!

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Joseph Franks – Gospel Leadership: A Call to One and All

In my personal life, over the last two years, God has impacted me in a special way. It has been a time of intense spiritual renewal and incredible personal growth. Some of it has been fun; some of it has been painful. However, through it all, my gracious Heavenly Father has targeted me for revival and improvement. I am thankful for the work he has done and is doing, and I trust I will never be the same. It is a fantastic truth to realize that, “He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.” The same is true for you; that is if Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord. He loves you too much to leave you as he found you.

Well, one might be wondering, “Joe, in what areas has the Lord most adjusted your thinking and practice?” For me, this is a very easy question to answer. Today, I believe I better understand both the undeserved, unlimited, unalterable Gospel of Grace and the incredible importance of Leadership. Oh, please do not misunderstand me. I am not claiming to be the expert in either of these two subjects; I feel I will always a student and rarely the scholar. In addition, I am also not saying these are the only areas in my life the Lord needs to work on. There are too many to list, and I am positive more glaring deficiencies will be addressed in future days. However, this I know, as of late the Wonderful Counselor has brought the Gospel and Leadership front and center. Consequently, I find myself consumed to make up for lost time. I am hungry to better communicate the gracious Gospel of God, to continue maturing as a bold, Christlike, servant-leader, and to spend the rest of my days influencing people to be Gospel-understanding, Gospel-expressing, Christlike, servant-leaders in their various circles of influence.

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Joel Beeke – Marital Love Must Be Sexual

As we’ve seen, the Puritans had a rich understanding of Christian marriage (part 1, part 2, part 3). In this final post, I’d like to show that they also believed marital love must be sexual. Both marital partners should give themselves fully to each other with joy and exuberance in a healthy sexual relationship marked by fidelity. Reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin re-established this aspect of marriage by abandoning medieval Roman Catholic notions that marriage was inferior to celibacy leading to “religious” (clergy, monks, nuns) and “profane” (laity) classes of Christians, that all sexual contact between marital partners was only a necessary evil to propagate the human race, and that any procreative act that involved passion was inherently sinful. This negative view was rooted in the writings of the ancient church fathers, such as Tertullian, Ambrose, and Jerome, all of whom believed that, even within marriage, sexual intercourse necessarily involved sin (see Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 261).

Puritans preachers taught that the Roman Catholic view was unbiblical, even satanic. They cited Paul, who said that prohibition of marriage is a “doctrine of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Puritan definitions of marriage implied the conjugal act. For example, William Perkins (1558-1602) defines marriage as “the lawful conjunction of the two married persons; that is, of one man and one woman into one flesh” (“Christian Oeconomy,” 419). The Puritans viewed sex within marriage as a gift of God and as an essential, enjoyable part of marriage. William Gouge (1575-1653) said that husbands and wives should cohabit “with good will and delight, willingly, readily, and cheerfully” (Quoted in Ryken, Worldly Saints, 44). “They do err,” added Perkins, “who hold that the secret coming together of man and wife cannot be without sin unless it be done for the procreation of children” (“Christian Oeconomy,” 423).

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Joel Beeke – Marital Love Must Be Superlative

Contrary to characatures, the Puritans had a lot to say about love, and marital love in particular. In our continuing series (post #1, post #2) we take up their teaching that marital love must be superlative.

A husband and wife are to love each other so dearly that both are persuaded that the other is “the only fit and good match that could be found under the sun for them,” William Whately (1583-1639) writes (A Bride-Bush, 8). Because of parental love, a godly parent would not trade his child for another parent’s child, even if that child were better-looking and had more ability or gifts; similarly, a godly husband and wife would not trade each other for a better-looking and more gifted spouse (A Bride-Bush, 8). Whately concludes: “Marriage-love admits of no equal, but placeth the yoke-fellow next of all to the soul of the party loving; it will know none dearer, none so dear” (A Bride-Bush, 9).

Surely, a wife is a man’s best companion and friend. Thomas Gataker (1574–1654) suggested that Adam was truly happy in Eden, but he was not fully happy until God had provided him with a wife, and he was joined to the woman as his closest friend and companion in all of life. Gataker said, “There is no society more near, more entire, more needful, more kindly, more delightful, more comfortable, more constant, more continual, than the society of man and wife” (Certain Sermons, 2:161). He was convinced that a house was “half unfurnished and unfinished, and not fully happy but half happy, though otherwise never so happy,” until it was completed with a wife (Certain Sermons, 2:161).

The Puritan ideal of superlative marital love appears in the poems that Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672) wrote to express her longing for her husband when he traveled away from home. She wrote to him,
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man was lov’d by wife, then thee….
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense. (Quoted in Nichols, Anne Bradstreet, 118)

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