It seems that everyone has an opinion about Gay Marriage, and these opinions are rarely ambivalent. Christians have (and rightly so) been outspoken in their opposition to a redefinition of marriage. This recasting of the institution of marriage is not, we would argue, a progressive and healthy advancement but rather a disastrous detour from what biblical, therefore, right and good.

At the same time and while marriage is on the front burner, particularly the undermining of God’s plan for it, let me ask a question. Are Gay and Lesbians the only ones who undermine God’s plan for marriage?

The answer is, “Of course not!” Just because you are hetero-sexual does not mean that you are reflecting God’s plan for marriage. You don’t get a pass just on marriage because you are not Gay. The basis of a marriage reflecting God’s plan is how it reflects the gospel. In other words a marriage is reflective of God’s plan in so far as it reflects the marriage between Jesus the husband and the church the bride.

This is where it gets quite personal for us inside the Christian camp. God’s plan for marriage includes the following:

Love: Your marriage is to reflect the joyful sacrifice and service of your spouse in order that they might be blessed. This service and sacrifice is to reflect Jesus’ sacrifice and service of you in the gospel. This obviously excludes the selfishness that plagues far too many of our marriages.

Confession: This is the willingness to call sin what God calls it and to admit that we have done it to one another. Confession of sin is the precursor to the display of mercy and grace. Christian marriages are to be characterized by humble confession of sin rather than prideful defending of ourselves.

Forgiveness: This is a hallmark of Christianity and so therefore a hallmark of Christian marriages. How can a marriage that is characterized by anger, bitterness, resentment, and strife be reflective of the gospel of grace.

Distinction of Roles: Husbands and Wives have equal access to God, standing before God, joy in God and acceptance from God. There is no distinction of status (Gal. 3.28) but there are distinction of roles. The Christian husband is the loving leader of his wife who willfully lays his own life down for her while serving his wife in sanctification (Eph. 5.25-33). The Christian wife is to lovingly submit to her husband in a manner that reflects Christ’s willful submission to his Father (1 Cor. 11). This respectful, honoring, posture of love between joint heirs of grace is to be continually reflecting Christ’s love in the gospel.

These are just *some* of the distinctivess of Christian marriage. In so far as we do not love one another, blur roles, or deal unbiblically with sin—then we are undermining God’s plan for marriage. Far too many Christians are sharpshooters, adeptly able to pick off the various cultural perversions upon marriage without taking inventory of their own house. This does not mean that we should be silent until we have the perfect marriage, it just means that we should not act like we are all about God’s plan for marriage when we ourselves, are not. Because it vividly promotes the gospel, Christians are to passionately promote God’s plan for marriage, starting with our own.

We Are Saved By Him and From Him

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9)

This passage is gloriously placed in the midst of an unparalleled salvation symphony.  It underscores our rebellion (we are called weak, ungodly, sinners & enemies here).  But it also shows the powerful and unfathomable riches of God’s love.

Indeed we were wayward and alienated and through the reconciling work of Christ God has brought us near to him.  We have been justified by his powerfully effective blood.

But did you note the reality of what we are saved from here?  It is the wrath of God.  That is, God’s unrelenting and uncompromising settled displeasure against all that opposes him.  It is to be uncorked upon all that belittle his glory, disregard his will, and presume upon his mercy.  This is all of us who are weak, ungodly, sinners and enemies.

But what happens?

God puts forth Jesus.  His beloved Son.  And rebels like us are saved by and through him.

But saved from what and from whom?

Look again at the text.  It is from God himself.

Let this transcendent reality stir your heart today.  God has not compromised his righteous anger or his beloved holiness, rather he has the potion of his wrath fully mixed and it was uncorked and all spent.  But it was not spent on you Christian, though it was due you.  It was spent on Jesus.  The one through who’s blood we are saved.

This is why Paul goes on to say that we (those who were formerly enemies) now rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5.11).

The beautiful Savior has made the angry God propitious (favorable) and he has made the enemies who hated God to rejoice in him.

Therefore, we find ourselves again at that refreshing and instructive hill outside of the gates where Jesus displayed the unfathomable reservoir of divine truth.  Upon the cross God is holy, loving, wrathful, merciful, forgiving, judging, gracious and just.  And to those of us who behold the Son, we humbly rejoice.  We rejoice because we have been saved from God by God.

Some Quick Tips on Spiritual Growth

I am an unabashed gym eavesdropper. This is really the only place where I shamelessly listen to people talking. Whether it is in the locker room, on the workout floor in the lobby or wherever: I listen. In one recent conversation I heard a couple of guys talking. The one guy was in his mid 50′s and the other guy, I’ll guess early 20′s. Both guys were in great shape. The older guy was telling the younger guy what he has been up to in terms of training. Apparently they hadn’t seen each other for some time and this guy was noticeably different. He explained how he changed his diet, got disciplined about weights, and didn’t try to go too fast. Over the last year and a half the guy has transformed.

As I listened to them I couldn’t help but notice the younger guy’s shock. He is knee-deep in the culture that demands instant results. He remarked of how amazed he was at the difference over time. In the end it was a proper plan, consistency of discipline, and time. The guy was a different guy.

I thought about how this illustrates something of the Christian’s struggle. We want instant maturity, knowledge, and wisdom. In God’s wisdom however, it doesn’t work like this. Far from being instant and overnight, spiritual growth is a life-long process. From a human perspective, it takes a proper plan, consistency of discipline and time.

If you want validation from experience here, go and ask mature, godly people what the secret is. I have had the opportunity to ask a number of such people, from people that would be labeled Christian “celebrities” to ordinary guys who are mature. What sticks out is the answer that is repeated when I ask them to tell me what has contributed to their spiritual “fitness” and maturity. Over and over again it is, “Prayer, Bible Reading, Regular Attendance to hearing the Word preached, Christian Fellowship, and reading good books.” It’s always the same thing. You will grow in maturity if you take a good plan, go after it with consistent discipline and then give it some time.

In the last 15 years 3 priorities have stuck with me. If you do these things and are in a church that preaches the Bible and emphasizes discipleship and fellowship then I have no doubt you will grow.

  1. Forbid that you go to bed at night without learning something new about God or having your heart freshly fascinated by him.
  2. Forbid that you go to bed at night without being able to identify a particular aspect of God’s blessing in that very day.
  3. Identify a particular subject in theology to study every year. Go get a Systematic Theology (Grudem or Horton are great for starters) and then pick a subject, say Bibliology for year 1. Then read the chapter on it and find other good books to learn and study from that year. Think about what your affections for God and his word would be like if in the next few years you read 5 good books on Biblilogy next year then 5 good books on Christology the next, then 5 good books on the Justification the next, then 5 good books God’s attributes the next. (Here is a link to some recommended reading)

Don’t try to microwave your growth or take some magic spiritual pill. There is no such thing. There is a plan. The plan takes discipline and time. I guarantee that if you faithfully get after it and adopt something like is outlined above you will grow. God the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God in the Child of God to make him strong in the grace of God. It’s just how it works.

There is no better day than today to start.

The Record Never Skips in Heaven

Where do you go for comfort when the rug is pulled out from under your feet? I am talking about those surprising events in life where you wake up on a regular day and then you get surprised with something serious. Perhaps even something tragic.

In the last year or so I personally have seen a significant uptick in these types of surprises. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. More likely it is because I live in a broken world and this happens. I have found myself hunkering down in two particular passages of the Bible. They are conveniently located right next to one another, Revelation 4 & 5.

In chapter 4 we read of God the Father enthroned receiving the worship due him by his creation. The exclamation is that God is infinitely holy, eternal, forever worthy of worship. The exclamation is not limited to voices either. We read of this in verses 5 & 6:

From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

With rumblings and flashes of fire and light reminiscent of Sinai (Ex. 19.16) this reminds us that God is the law-giver and judge. He overlooks and sees everything on earth. There is nothing that escapes his notice and nothing that will not ultimately intersect with him and his sovereign plan. The Creator sees and sustains this world. He knows. This truth, combined with the thundering chorus of worship, causes me to smile and be reassured amid the uncertainty of this world.

When surprises happen to me the record doesn’t skip in heaven; the bass is still bumping at the infinite decibels. 

In chapter 5 we read of another scene. In this one there is a scroll in the hand of the one on the throne. According to chapter 4 this is the Father. He has this scroll which is overflowing with content and sealed. What is this scroll about? Based upon what we see in chapters 6 and following, I would understand this scroll to be the impending judgment of all that opposes God and the final restoration of things. With the opening of this scroll the process whereby the planet is purged of its wickedness and Kingdom of Christ comes in all of its fullness.

If we read chapter 5 we see that there is a slight problem. The angel searches for one who is worthy to open the scroll and declares that there is no one. None in heaven or under heaven that can do this. This grips John and shreds his heart (Rv. 5:4), as he begins crying. Why is he crying? Well, if the scroll cannot be opened then this is the end. No kingdom, no restoration, no hope, no anything. We as Christians are of all people the most to be pitied.

This is not the end. There is one who is worthy; it is Christ! He is the one who has conquered and is worthy to crack the seals and execute its contents!

Christ was slain for our sins, conquered the grave, and is enthonred in heaven. He is willing and able to open the scroll and execute its contents!

When it seems like I am surprised by life’s events I have to remember that there is a King and a Kingdom. He is able to bring it to pass. Christ Jesus is alive and eagerly anticipating his Second Coming. He will bring judgment, salvation and restoration. It is certain.

When we are surprised we need to remember that the record doesn’t skip in heaven! Christ remains enveloped in an incense cloud of his own merit with the praise of angels and saints surrounding him!

At the core I get unsettled because I feel like John, “Oh no! What now? What are we going to do?” The answer is the glory of God in the face of Christ. Read Revelation 4 & 5. Peer into this heavenly portal and see: God reigns. This is good for my soul. Now the heavenly soundtrack is playing in my soul again.

About Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is pastor at Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He and his wife, Christie, have six children. You can follow Erik on Twitter @erikraymond and read his blog at OrdinaryPastor.com.

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