10 Purposes of Marriage

It has always been true that as the family goes, so goes the culture. We shouldn’t be surprised then that our culture is in disarray. People don’t value marriage today much less see its significance. And with the decline of marriage, so too has the culture fallen into shambles. In view of this, Christians must continually be reminded of the blessing and purpose of marriage. Marriage was designed by God and is hugely consequential. If we are going to see renewal and revival in the church and in the culture as a whole, it must start with the family. It must start with husband and wife being faithful and obedient to God’s Word.

Here are 10 purposes of marriage. I will let the Scriptures speak for themselves.

  1. Companionship: “Then the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” (Amos 3:3).

 

  1. Enjoyment: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18). “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4).

 

  1. Completeness: “And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man (Adam) said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:22-24).

 

  1. Fruitfulness or Procreation: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28). “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed” (Psalm 112:1-2).

 

  1. Protection: The husband is to protect the wife by laying down his life for her. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). The wife is to protect the home. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-5).

 

  1. Typify Christ and the Church: Marriage is to be a human picture or object lesson of the divine relationship between Christ and believers. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

 

  1. Sanctification: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) It will be readily acknowledged that living in close proximity with another person has a way of exposing our warts and bumps and bruises (in short, our sin). We see our own pride and selfishness in ways we can’t when isolated. God can and will use this to make us more like Jesus and to give us victory over indwelling sin.

 

  1. Support and Trust: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil….a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,12). “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain” (Proverbs 31:10-11).

 

  1. Mutual Honor and Respect: “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

 

  1. The Glory of God: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). This is the goal of everything, including marriage.

The Parable of the Seed Growing and the Miracle of Regeneration

I was privileged to spend my growing up years on a farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. My Dad was a grain farmer and I got front row seeds to watch him as he undertook his farming enterprise. In the spring, my Dad started by preparing the ground – tilling it up getting it ready for seeding. Then came the actually planting part. With the aid of modern equipment, billions of little seeds found their way into the ground. But then after the rush of getting the crop planted, things rapidly slowed down. Most of what you do over the summer is wait…..and watch…..and prepare for the harvest.

Jesus told a parable in Mark 4 that is unique to the gospels and powerfully illustrates the miracle of salvation. He said, “The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

In this passage, Jesus did what he often does, and that is to use an agricultural illustration in order to illustrate truth. Of course, agriculture was a touch-point to the culture, much more so than it is today. And Jesus’ basic point is that when you plant a seed in the ground, remarkably…..it grows! Most of the time farmers and gardeners take this for granted. They know that it is going to happen, but they can’t explain why or how it does happen.

Have you ever stopped to think about how amazing it is that seeds grow? Why is it that as soon as you put this little seed in the ground and give it some water and sunlight that all of a sudden it starts to grow? It is a miracle! In our day and age, scientists can explain incredible complexity, but yet how do you explain the miracle of growth. I guess in one sense, you can’t. It is simply beyond human comprehension. In other sense, we as Christians can say – it’s a God thing.

This same is true of regeneration or “the new birth.” God gives spiritual life to those who are dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). God doesn’t do this because of any worth or merit on the part of the sinner; He does so simply because of His grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:8-9). I would add that God does this on the basis of the worth and merit of Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross.

In this parable, the farmer represents the evangelist and the seed represents the gospel. And what is crystal clear is that the farmer doesn’t make the seed grow. Rather, he goes to bed and meanwhile, remarkably, the seed grows all by itself. That is why we would say that regeneration is a God thing. As Romans 1:16 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Notice how it is not the power of the evangelist. It is not his persuasive words that cause another person to be born again. No, it is the power of God. It is God and only God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist,” (Romans 4:17) who can work such a miracle in the heart of a sinner.

By way of application, rejoice in your salvation! The Bible says, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18). Along with that, as you spread the seed of God’s word, always keep in mind that it is not in your power to save the sinner. It is only the power of God and the atoning sacrifice of Christ that have the power to save. So……go humbly and confidently and be about the work of your Master.

The Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Lessons from John 14-16

A couple weeks ago I was teaching on the ministry of the Holy Spirit and I was struck by just how much we learn from John 14, 15, and 16. Of course, the whole Bible contains lessons about the Spirit, but we learn more in this portion of Scripture than anywhere else. Here is a sampling which I trust you will find encouraging in your walk with the Lord.

  1. God the Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name (14:16, 14:26, 15:26)
  2. The Holy Spirit is called the Helper, Advocate, Counselor, Comforter (14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7)
  3. Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another Helper” (14:26). The first, of course, was Jesus.
  4. The Holy Spirit will be with believer’s forever (14:16)
  5. Also called the “Spirit of truth” (14:17, 15:26, 16:13)
  6. The world cannot receive the Holy Spirit because it does not know Him (14:17)
  7. The Holy Spirit dwells within believer’s (14:17)
  8. The Holy Spirit will teach believer’s all things (14:26) and guide then into all the truth (16:13)
  9. The Holy Spirit will bring to our remembrance all that Jesus says (14:26)
  10. The Holy Spirit will testify on behalf of Jesus (15:26)
  11. Jesus will send the Holy Spirit (see the connection with #1) (15:26, 16:7)
  12. The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (16:8)
  13. The Holy Spirit will not speak with His own authority (16:13), but with the authority of God.
  14. The Holy Spirit will declare to believer’s the things that are to come (16:13)
  15. The Holy Spirit will glorify Christ by declaring the Word of God (16:14)

Two bonus lessons: The Holy Spirit is God (who else could do all of the above) and the Holy Spirit is a person (the pronoun “he” is used throughout John 14-16).

Why You Should Attend a Simeon Trust Workshop on Biblical Exposition

By Pastor Isaac Stuart

I had the privilege of attending a Simeon Trust workshop this past November in Youngstown, Ohio. I had never heard about the Charles Simeon Trust until Dan Stegeman told me about this workshop on expository preaching last summer. I believe whole heartedly in expository preaching for two reasons. First, it combats the Biblical illiteracy problem we have in the American church. Secondly, along the same lines, it addresses the bad theology that is prevalent in the church as well (i.e. the thinking that “God helps those who helps themselves” and much more). Expository preaching helps people understand the Bible and helps build their thinking and their lives upon God’s Word. I found the Simeon Trust workshop helped equip me even more as a young expositor.

In the teaching times, I was reminded of some very important tools that help in expository preaching. In one of these tools, called the “melodic line,” you look at your passage of Scripture from the perspective of the whole book. Another important reminder was how the entire Bible points to Jesus and the Gospel and how I need to think about how the passage, no matter where it is located, points to Jesus. But the biggest thing I took away from this workshop was during the small group times, where we looked at a particular book of the Bible and applied the principles we learned to that book. In Youngstown, we looked at the book of Judges. As we worked through different passages in that book, I came to a new appreciation for the book of Judges and I saw how a pastor would be able to preach through some of the harder sections of Scripture.

If I had to sum up the Simeon Trust workshop in a few words, I would echo what one of the leaders called these workshops, “A preaching tune-up.” Just as our cars need a tune-up to run well, we as pastors need a tune-up in our preaching to make sure that we are effectively communicating the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ. In order to do this, we need to make sure that we are not adding to Scripture or taking away from Scripture, but that we are holding to Scripture and allowing God to work through His Word to change people’s lives. I would encourage you to consider going to a Simeon Trust workshop. You will not be disappointed and you will be reminded of the great task we have as pastors to faithfully teach God’s Word to those God has entrusted to our care.

No Room For Jesus

A sermon from Luke 2:1-7

Two thousand years ago, the most powerful man in the world was Caesar Augustus and Caesar made a decree that everyone within the Roman Empire had to be registered. In order to register, however, you had to return to your hometown. Joseph, the man engaged to Mary, lived in the region Galilee and the town of Nazareth, which was over 60 miles from his hometown of Bethlehem. Even though his wife was pregnant and in need of care, there would be no exceptions to be made in his circumstances. Joseph would have to make the trip south to Bethlehem in order to be registered and his wife would have to come along with him.

Now, for those of you who are familiar with the story of David, you will know that he grew up in Bethlehem – which is why Luke calls it “the city of David.” But don’t be fooled by that terminology – Bethlehem was not some thriving metropolis. Our largest cities grow by tens of thousands of people every year, but Bethlehem, 1000 years after the time of David, was still just a modest city. It was into this modest locale that the Son of God would enter into the world. The amazing thing about this was that it was all part of God’s marvelous plan. Centuries earlier, this had been prophesied. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2

As these events unfolded, they were not by random chance. They were all part of God’s sovereign plan right from the beginning. The world is constantly telling us that everything happens by chance, including life itself. We are simply the product of random mutations that have evolved for billions of years. But everything in the natural world sends us a very different message. As we look around us, we see order and design. We see creativity and magnificent beauty. The only reasonable explanation is that what we see is God’s handy-work – His remarkable creation. And we clearly see His sovereignty in the Nativity story. It was God’s plan all along that His Son, the Savior of the world, would be born in Bethlehem – the city of David.

It is likely that there were a large number of people who were in the same situation as Joseph. At one time, perhaps they had lived in Bethlehem or had family there, but for whatever reason, they moved away and now would have to return. After Caesar issued this decree, the town activity would have picked up considerably. With all these people returning in order to register, it was not surprising that Mary and Joseph could not find any room at the Inn. You might be wondering, what about Joseph’s family and relatives? Surely they could house them or find a place for them? But such a scenario was not meant to be – there was simply no room, especially for a family of modest means.

The situation was further complicated when Mary’s pregnancy moved along so fast that the time came for her to give birth. There would be no place for pickiness – they would have to find a place and find it fast and it would have to be a non-conventional place. The place they found is probably the last place in the world that you or I would think of – baby Jesus was born in an animal stable. We are not specifically told that in the text, but we can infer it from Luke’s use of the word “manger.” A manger was a trough – the place that the animals drank from. Let’s think about this for a moment – the birth of the Son of God – the Savior of the world – the birth of the most important person in history, took place in the most humble setting imaginable.

And we wonder: how could this be? How could God’s very own Son, be born in an animal stable? Why didn’t they make room for Mary and Joseph someplace else? From our human perspective these are legitimate questions. But if we take a quick history tour over the past 2000 years, we would see that seldom has there ever been room for Jesus in the world. Over the past 2000 years, mankind has been doing its best to push Jesus out of everything – the result is that we have no room for Jesus anywhere. Let’s take a quick tour of our current situation.

There is no room for Jesus in the courts today. We have determined that there is no need for the Divine law in our justice systems. We are rational beings, so we think, and therefore, God has been left out of the law courts. What is the result? The result is little, if any regard for human life or morality. We have killed millions and millions of babies and called it “choice.”

There is no room for Jesus in our schools today. Our children are taught to be suspicious of anyone who claims to know “the truth.” Any professor that goes against the theory of Darwinian evolution puts their career in jeopardy. And there is little room for the very name “Jesus” in any educational curriculum across our land.

There is no room for Jesus in our government today. Aside from trying to get a few votes from the evangelical demographic, our government officials show no regard for the Son of God. They govern in a godless, immoral way, and constantly invite God’s judgment.

There is no room for Jesus even at Christmas. Ironic as it is, the celebration of the birth of our Savior takes second place to a fictional character that wears a red suit and has a long beard and gives kids whatever they want. We don’t say Merry Christmas anymore – we say “happy holidays.”

There is no room for Jesus in our families today. Instead of valuing this God-ordained institution, our society has placed its emphasis elsewhere – primarily on “the self.” As a result, the family unit has broken down and our whole society is suffering, as a result. The single parent has almost become the norm and the nuclear family has become a novel idea from long days past.

There is no room for Jesus in our conversation today. The mere mention of his name brings feelings of hatred to some, but indifference to most. He might have been a good moral teacher centuries ago, they say, but certainly not the Son of God. We often hesitate to bring Jesus up in our conversations for fear of “offending” someone.

There is no room for Jesus in our busy lives today. We have things to do, people to meet, and places to see. How could we possibly fit Jesus into all that? If we do have a little extra time here and there, we might be able to fit him in, but it had better not inconvenience us, or so we reason.

Finally, there is no room for Jesus in our churches today. Rather than affirm and teach the exclusivity of Jesus Christ – that He is the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to God, we dumb down the teaching of the bible.

So you see, this world that we live in, is not much different than Bethlehem at the time of Christ. We have pushed Jesus out of our country, our families, our churches, and our lives. As you know the results have been devastating. But let me put it to you – is there room in your heart for Jesus? Is there room in your heart for Son of God? Just because the world has pushed Jesus aside, does not mean that you must do the same. You might be wondering; how can I make room in my heart for Jesus. Perhaps your heart is filled with anger, despair, shame and sufferings from long past. How can I make room for Jesus when I am so broken, you ask? Well, I can assure that there is always room for Jesus. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, Jesus can forgive you and make you whole again.

Let me share with you the gospel. The word gospel means “good news” and the gospel is the greatest news in the world. This news is nothing like the news we watch on TV or read about on the internet. This news is actually “good news.” But before we get to the good news, we must understand the bad news first.

You and me and everyone on planet earth is a sinner. We have fallen short of God’s perfect law and now the wrath of God is upon us. So even if you think you are a good person, you are really not. The Bible says that no one is good but God alone. The Bible also teaches that the wages of sin is death. So the result of our sin is certain death and ultimate separation from God. With that in mind, let’s get to the good news part.

God is love. And God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ. The nativity story tells how Jesus was brought in the world. We sometimes call this the incarnation – how God became flesh and dwelt among us. But there is more to it than that – Jesus grew up and became a man and was ultimately crucified on a cross. You ask, how could the Son of God be crucified? The answer is that God the Father actually “gave” God the Son, over to death. Why would God the Father do such a thing? The answer lies in His love. God knew that because we were dead in our trespasses and sins, the only way to bring life to us was through His Son. So Jesus took our place on the cross and by his blood sacrifice, we have forgiveness of sins.

The only way to explain this is grace – amazing grace. There is nothing that you can do to save yourself. The bible says that it is by grace that we are saved. It is not by good deeds or by our good works. Rather, it is by grace, through faith and the message of the gospel is the greatest news you will ever hear. But how can I receive that forgiveness, you might be wondering?

First off, you must believe that Jesus is who He said He was – the Son of God. This is what is called “faith.” Second, you must trust Him for your salvation. Along with that, you must repent and turn from your sins, and follow Jesus. Perhaps at this point in your life, you feel like you have tried everything. You’ve tried to be a good person, you’ve tried to live a good life, but you’ve never truly been satisfied. You feel like your life is empty and without meaning. If that’s where you’re at, you are actually in a great position because you know that you are helpless in your own strength and in great need of Christ.

I want to assure you that there is room at the foot of the cross for you. Don’t be like the rest of the world – they have no place for Jesus. But is there room in your heart for Jesus? I can assure you that if you take this step of faith, the road ahead will not be easy, but it will be entirely worth it. Is there room in your heart for Jesus?

I preached this sermon December 24, 2013, at our Christmas Eve service. It was inspired in part by a sermon Charles Spurgeon preached December 21, 1862, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

What Is So Great About Being Weak?

2 Corinthians 11:30 “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

 

The Christian life offers many paradoxes, one of which is the paradox of weakness. The Bible tells us that being weak is actually a good thing. Ironically, we all want to be strong. We want to be strong physically, mentally, emotionally, and in virtually every other way. But if we were honest with ourselves, we would admit we are not. We struggle to keep things together on a daily basis. For the Christian, however, being weak is a good thing. Let me give you six reasons as to why weakness is not the bad thing we often think it to be.

 

  1. Being weak reminds us that we can’t take any of the credit. Remarkably, God chooses to use His people to accomplish His purposes. But anything of lasting value that is done in our lives only happens through God’s strength and power. Paul reminds some of his fellow believers of this reality in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31: 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Like the apostle Paul, when we are used of God, we can’t take any of the credit. We are just ordinary men and women, being used by a very gracious God.

 

  1. Being used of God also points the world to Christ. Obviously, this second reason compliments the first. God chooses to use His people to accomplish extraordinary things, not so they can take the credit, but so that God will gain the glory. God does this to point the world to Him. I am reminded of Acts 4:13, where we read, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Peter and John were not impressive by the world’s standards. They were just ordinary fishermen. But having “been with Jesus,” they were a force to be reckoned with and people could not help but notice these “common men.”

 

  1. Being weak makes us long for heaven where we will be given new bodies. The Bible tells us, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53). You don’t have to be a Christian to know that slowly (sometimes not so slowly) your body is breaking down. The older you get, the weaker you get. Yet again, this is a good thing because it makes us long for something more. For the Christian, that “something more” will one day be granted to us in the form a new glorified body.

 

  1. Being weak keeps us from making our bodies an idol. This is a big temptation, especially in our modern world where health and wellness are a huge focus. Safe to say that for many people, their body is their god. They are so focused and consumed with taking care of their bodies that little else matters. And granted that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). As Christians, we want to invest ourselves in “the life to come” over and above everything else.

 

  1. Being weak helps us keep things in perspective. Yet again, this complements the previous point. Paul writes, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). There is infinite value and worth in knowing Christ while any value that the world offers is continually diminishing. The reason why we need to keep things in perspective is because we are constantly being told just the opposite. When we remember our own weakness, however, investing in this world and the “glories” that are offered is not such a temptation. I will never be a “mover and a shaker” in this world and I am glad for that. Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24). Jesus didn’t say it is impossible, but He did say it is hard. The reason is simple – strength and riches tempt us to keep investing in this world. Weakness, on the other hand, is a continual reminder to invest in the world to come.

 

  1. Being weak is a sign of our identifying with Christ. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Through His death on the cross, Christ humbled himself in the ultimate way. And now, Christ is inviting us to walk the Calvary road with Him by taking up our cross and following Him. In so doing, we are forsaking the way of the world, and embracing the way of weakness. The believer now lives “by faith in the Son of God” and daily relies upon His strength and not our own.

In summary, we can be content to be weak and satisfied to let Christ’s power flow through us. Turning once again to the apostle Paul, he writes, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Weaknesses and everything else that Paul experienced were actually for the good because it forced Him to trust His Savior. Do you have that perspective today, in your own life?

 

Thus, the reason why weakness is a good thing for the Christian is because it compels us to turn to Christ. It forces us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). And it brings glory to God in extraordinary ways.

“One another” in the New Testament

Let the power of God’s Word speak for itself:

 

  1. “Therefore, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7
  2. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16
  3. “But God so composed the body, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” 1 Corinthians 12:24b-25
  4. “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:18
  5. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” James 5:16
  6. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10
  7. “Live in harmony with one another.” Romans 12:16
  8. “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  9. “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
  10. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
  11. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Romans 16:16
  12. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8
  13. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another……But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:13, 15
  14. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21