Husbands and Wives Reflecting the Bride of Christ, by Steve Wolfgang

Over at the website for the Dowlen Road church of Christ, you can find another much needed lesson by Steve Wolfgang. If you have time, spend it meditating on your connection to Christ as seen in your marriage.

Husbands and Wives Reflecting the Bride of Christ:

On a Christians Commitment in Marriage, by: Doy Moyer

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While we need to be concerned about the influence our spouses will have on our spiritual lives (see On Christians Marrying Non-Christians), we must ourselves be committed to serving our spouses and helping them serve the Lord. In other words, marriage shouldn’t be all about me. It is about me to the extent that I must bear responsibility in glorifying God. It is about me in the sense that God calls upon me to glorify Him. But my focus must be first on God, then on loving my spouse as Christ loves His people (Eph 5:22ff). Therefore, while I must be concerned about the type of person I marry, for the sake of my own soul, I must be even more concerned about the type of influence I will have on my spouse. Not only do I need a spouse who can aid me in serving God and preparing for eternity, but I need to be a spouse who will aid her in serving God, also. A single Christian praying for a spouse should not just pray, “Lord, send me the right person,” but “Lord, make me the right person for someone else.” Focus on being the right kind of person and the right of kind of person will be attracted to you.

Dedication in marriage is not a 50/50 proposition, and if that’s how we view it, then we will feel justified in treating our spouses in a lesser way than we are capable of or responsible for. This means that even if a spouse fails to try or gives less than his or her best, we are still responsible to give our very best to the marriage. My approach to marriage must not be conditioned upon the way my spouse acts, but upon God’s will. This is because, as Christians, we are to approach all things with an attitude of service to the Lord.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col 3:23-24).

This is an over-riding principle for all that we do, and this should be no less true in marriage. It is the Lord Christ whom we ultimately serve, and therefore our treatment of our spouses and our commitment to marriage is built upon this principle rather than upon some quid pro quo with our spouses.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Phil 2:3-5)

This passage, though dealing with relationships broader than marriage, must nevertheless be applied within a marriage. Our commitment is to be like Christ, to have His attitude in everything. Once again, this is not based on how others act, but upon our primary commitment to God. In this sense, then, marriage is about my spouse, not me. Just as Christ did nothing through selfish ambition, so we must act in humility toward our spouses in order to serve them and their interests (primarily spiritual interests). If I make marriage about my own personal happiness, then likely I will act out in selfishness and end up destroying the marriage and the happiness of my spouse, not to mention my own happiness in the process. Make marriage about your spouse, not yourself, based upon the principles demonstrated by Christ in humbling Himself to die for our sins. In this way, the husband can love Christ as He loves His body (Eph 5).

Christians must also recognize that marriage is a direct reflection of God’s relationship with His people. This is Paul’s primary point in Ephesians 5. After speaking of the submission of the wife and the love the husband is to have for her, Paul then says, “I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (vs. 32). I believe that one of the main reasons God initiated marriage in Genesis was to showcase male and female as His creatures made in His image. He then used the marriage metaphor throughout Scripture to describe His relationship with His people — with Israel and then with His people under Christ. Prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Malachi stress the importance of this principle as the people had committed acts of adultery with foreign gods. Now marriage to Christ as His people is primary for the child of God. We are the bride of Christ, adorned for Him in covenant relationship (cf. Rev 21:2). Paul used marriage again as the illustration to show that we were made to be joined to Christ in order to bear fruit to God (Rom 7:1-4).

These ideas highlight the importance of physical marriage for God’s people. Marriage was made by God. He joins two together. Breaking the covenant is treachery (see Mal 2:15-16), and He hates divorce. God intends marriage to reflect His own covenant relationship with people made in His image. I believe that this understanding of marriage will help us realize just how important our commitment to our spouses needs to be. Marriage ultimately isn’t about us, but about God’s own commitments to covenant. Though God made marriage for mankind, He made it for the greater purpose of reflecting His image. May God help us to reflect it properly.

Doy Moyer

Via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2013/11/on-a-christians-commitment-in-marriage.html

On Christians Marrying Non-Christians, by: Doy Moyer

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“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33).

This article is not an attempt to place any guilt trips on those already married. I understand the delicate situation. Yet I think that we sometimes are afraid to tackle the question, and I beg your careful consideration of the question: Should a Christian marry a non-Christian?

What sets the child of God apart from the world, in action, is seeking first the kingdom of God (i.e., God’s rule, doing His will) and His righteousness. My question, when it comes to marriage, is this: should a Christian, who is to be seeking God’s rule first, join himself or herself to one in marriage, who is not seeking God’s rule first? Is this even compatible — seeking first God’s rule while joining myself in the most intimate of ways to one who is going the opposite direction? I’ve never been satisfied with a “yes” answer to that question (maybe you can be satisfied with it, but I have yet to figure out how that works).

The problem is that a non-Christian has refused to submit himself to God’s rule, and this can spell trouble. Why? Because, it indicates that one is taking self over God. One of the most fundamental aspects of being a Christian is that of self-denial (Luke 9:23). But a non-Christian has refused this, which means that he has set a pattern of self-will for himself. There was a reason God told His covenant people under the Law of Moses not to intermarry with pagans. He knew their hearts would be led away if they did (see Deut 7:3-4). Shall this principle be ignored now? Do we find the danger of having our hearts turned away from God lessened today?

This is particularly problematic for the woman who marries a man who is not a Christian for the simple reason that marriage is a reflection of Christ and the church (Eph 5). The man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. This is difficult enough for one dedicated to the Lord. For one not dedicated to the Lord, he may show love, but he will not purposefully pattern his love after Christ. Is this what we want?

What should be the first criterion for choosing a spouse? Should it be attraction and chemistry? Should it be that you like the same hobbies? Should it be that you laugh together and get along so well? What is the foundation of your relationship that will get you through life together, including all the difficult times and trials that will surely come your way?

The Christian’s commitment is to please God in all things and to pursue holiness. Why wouldn’t it be that way in marriage, too? Therefore, the fundamental question to be asking is this: will this person help me serve the Lord and prepare myself for eternal life with God? I advise ladies to answer the question, “Will you marry me?” with “Only if you’ll help me serve God and go to heaven.” This puts the responsibility back onto the man to be the leader he is called to be, first and foremost in leading his family in the way of God. It seems axiomatic, does it not, that a non-Christian will be unable to do this since he has not committed himself to God’s rule above all else.

“Are you saying that being married to a non-Christian is a sin?” No, and I am fully aware of the teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 on this. If you are married to a non-Christian, then you really are married and need to live out your commitment. Here I’m not really talking so much about already being married as much as I am talking about getting married. In other words, if you are already married, then you need to be dedicated to that marriage, no matter how difficult it may be or who you chose. The questions I am asking have to do with the attitude of one who is looking to get married, before the “I do’s” have been said. How careful are we being about the kind of spouse we choose?

I also recognize that some are married to one who has since quit the Lord. That is, both were Christians at the time of courting and marrying, but now one has given up on the Lord. Again, the Lord has joined them together and the Christians must remain dedicated to making that work. 1 Peter 3:1-6 would certainly apply to both sets of circumstances.

I am also fully aware that many have been converted to Christ after getting married. Praise the Lord for that! However, that still does not really address the fundamental point here. We cannot marry with the expectation of being able to convert a spouse, as if marrying a non-Christian is a form of evangelism (I’ve had that argument put to me before). Though there are many examples of post-marriage conversions, there are many others that have not seen such a pleasant outcome. Are we willing to risk it, and why?

Then, there are the children. All children are precious and need proper care in growing and learning. The Christian’s task is to raise up a child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). The non-Christian does not have the same goals for children, and this creates a divide in training children. Even if the non-Christian agrees to let the Christian teach the children, the influence of both parents will be strong and divisive. Yes, some have been successful in spite of the circumstances, and I would praise those parents who have been able to do it, but do we want to enter the situation with such a risk in the first place? There are enough difficulties in raising children, given a culture that is antagonistic toward God and His people. Why would we willingly compound the difficulties?

The Christian considering marrying a non-Christian needs to take a long, hard look at this. The problem is, once a person has fallen in love, many of those problems will likely be overlooked. My plea, even more, is to single Christians who are not dating anyone yet. Decide now that the person you will marry will be truly devoted to the Lord and in helping you in your spiritual journey toward God and eternal life with Him.

Doy Moyer

via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2013/11/on-christians-marrying-non-christians.html

“You May Now Kiss the Bride” by Cindy Dunagan

via Focus Magazine, No. 98, April, 2008.

Sexual purity. What virtue is more difficult to instill in our teenagers than purity of heart? No one needs to tell you we are living in an ultra-sexualized culture where your teenagers will be continually surrounded with sexual temptation. This roaring lion (I Peter 5:8-9) is a computer click, radio station button, and TV channel away. Many of the ones your teens will spend the day with at school are not only sexually active — they are advertising themselves as so. It is no wonder we are losing more teenagers to fornication than any other temptation. I am the mother of a seventeen-year-old son and a sixteen-year-old daughter, and I share your concern — yet there is good news.

Recently I attended two weddings where the bride and groom experienced their first kiss together on their wedding day upon the words, “You may now kiss your bride.” The first time I attended such a wedding, despite being relatively well acquainted with the family, I did not know until sometime after the wedding that this vibrant, college-age couple had made such a goal. With the second couple, I only knew of their commitment to this atypical standard because we are very close friends with the family. Both couples were clearly motivated by a sincere desire to honor God and one another by making this sacrifice. Neither reflected an arrogant or “holier than thou” attitude. How admirable.

Shortly after one of these weddings, my daughter posted a little survey on her blog, which read,

[This couple] courted for a year and didn’t kiss before they were married…. What are your thoughts on what is appropriate physical affection before marriage? How will your children be raised to date/court compared to how you were raised? Do you ever wish your dating/ courting years were more or less physically involved?

As would be expected, responses varied greatly. One stated she could never resist kissing because she enjoys it way too much. I could see her point. What is not to like? Another respected those who chose not to kiss, but had once broken up with someone because she realized by kissing her boyfriend she was not physically attracted to him.

A mother of a bride wrote,

Not kissing before marriage was her choice, not our rule. But she came to the decision after reading about courtship, and deciding that purity begins in the mind and heart, and they need to be educated. [My husband] and I dated for a year before we were married, and did kiss. After reading the same things [my daughter] did, educating myself and looking back, I wish we had waited too. It’s a piece of your purity that is precious and should be saved.

How wise for this mother to realize that the only way her daughter was able to successfully achieve her goal was that it was deeply part of her own heart, and not something that was only valued in the hearts of her parents.
One young bride wrote,

[My husband] and I didn’t kiss before “you may kiss the bride” …it made our dating relation-ship unique to the others that we have had and made our relationship so much more than physical attraction. It also made our wedding day even more anticipated. However, I don’t believe that it is wrong to kiss your boyfriend/ girlfriend… but I wouldn’t change our decision if I had to do it over again!

She went on to explain that both she and her husband had previously kissed other people. How encouraging to be reminded that although a girl has kissed in her past, if she decides to save the rest of her kisses for her future husband, she can!

Another bride also had wise advice for those who would start afresh:

[My husband] and I kissed before we were married — but at a point in our relationship, we had to make the decision that we needed to stop because it was becoming a focus in the relationship. As we got to know each other better and learned to balance stuff in our relationship, we were able to gradually reintroduce it. … [My husband] was the only guy I’ve ever kissed and I feel like it’s a very special thing. I think it depends on the individual couple — if kissing is the focus of the relationship, it’s not a good thing. I think I definitely want to teach my kids that they shouldn’t devalue themselves or the importance of relationships by kissing every person willy-nilly.

What are some practical steps successful parents have taken to encourage purity in their teenagers?

  • Nurture a chose relationship with your teens and enjoy your relationship with them. Your opinion should be the most important influence as they are deciding whom they will date, and how they will date.
  • Sit down with your teens and discuss or even list the ways teens show affection in their relationships and where they have determined to draw the line to keep their own hearts pure. Lack of communication, gray lines, and blurry standards can lead to compromise and excuses.
  • List with your teens all the blessings and benefits you can think of for guarding one’s purity, and as many specific consequences for sexual compromise you can think of.
  • Delay dating years as long as possible. When your teens do date, consider confining it to double or group dating, or better yet, primarily in the presence of family.
  • Read books with your teens such as Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye (also available on DVD), which is really more about dating wisely than not dating at all. Another popular Josh Harris book is Boy Meets Girl. You probably will not agree with everything the author proposes in either book, but many successful families have found these books chock-full of practical, wise advice and motivation to present our bodies as instruments of righteousness (Romans 12:1-2).
  • Only allow media and technology in your house that does not put a stumbling block in the way of your teenagers. If you allow a MySpace blog, visit it frequently, and let them know in a friendly way you will be doing so. Many Christians are allowing http://www.pleonast.com as a safer alternative. Avoid televisions and computers in bedrooms. Even with parental controls and blockers, the spiritual disadvantages often far outweigh the advantages.
  • Many families present to their teens, on the birthday that marks for them the beginning of their dating years, a “purity ring” symbolizing their son or daughter’s promise to God and himself or herself to remain pure. It is often given by the father and is worn until it is replaced with a wedding ring. The ring is saved as an heirloom to give to the son or daughter’s own child one day. While the ring obviously has no inherent power, like a wedding ring, it is a reminder of a very holy commitment.

I see guarding the purity of our hearts when we are so very much in love with our future spouse as one of the most challenging expectations from God. Yet the reward of choosing to replace physical intimacy with emotional, mental, and spiritual intimacy during courtship has a definite advantage. It prevents the natural progression of lust, which by its nature grows more and more alluring. Not playing with lust also gives couples better clarity as to whether they are together for more substantial reasons than sexual chemistry, thus allowing a deep, real love to develop. Although it puts stress on the relationship to deny oneself the fun of kissing, it is less stressful than feeling guilt, being dishonest with parents, and trying to stop the lust that can feel like a speeding train, which so often follows kissing. No one is saying that it is always sinful to kiss, yet many wise young people are discovering a clear spiritual advantage to staying off “first base” altogether, in order to avoid “second and third base.”

Each and every one of us was created with no greater desire than to love and be loved. God promises in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” The two couples whose weddings I attended are beautiful and refreshing examples of love, self-control, and the full joy God wants for each of us. The word of God is powerful and by it you too can raise teenagers whose faith is stronger than the pull of sexual temptation.