Marriage & Union with Christ

In Ephesians 5:25 Paul is use marriage as an illustration for the union that we have with Christ.  Before we look too closely at this verse we need to remind ourselves why this is such an appropriate illustration.

To do this we nee to go back to Genesis 2:24.  Here’s what it says,

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, ESV)

Here we see that by God’s design a husband and a wife are in union with one another through marriage.  This union certainly implies martial intimacy, but marital intimacy is only once aspect of the union that a husband and wife have.  In some sense God intends for two individuals to become one entity.  They don’t loose their distinctive personalities, but together they become something that there weren’t when they were apart.

This union is the fundamental principle of marriage, and a failure to understand it is one of the most common causes of marital problems.  Think about it.

  • When you recognize the union that you have with your spouse you’re not going to have troubles “leaving the nest.”
  • When  you understand the union you have with your spouse then you’re not going to be striving toward your own individual desires, instead you will be working for the good of the new entity that has been created by your union.
  • If you understand the union that you have with your spouse then infidelity won’t be an option, you will be satisfied to enjoy the marital intimacy that represents the fullest manifestation of your marital union.

It is this marital union that Paul uses as an illustration of our union with Christ in Ephesians 5:25:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” (Ephesians 5:25, ESV)

Do you see what Paul is doing here? Just like a husband and a wife have been joined through marriage, so too Christ and the church have been joined together through spiritually union.  The impact of this union is similar, but even more profound than the union between a husband and a wife.

  • If you understand this union you’re not going to have trouble leaving the world behind.
  • If you understand this union you’re not going to strive after the lust of your flesh, you will be working for the glory of the one you’re in union with.
  • If you understand this union then spiritual infidelity (i.e. idolatry) won’t be an option, you will be satisfied with the union you have and eagerly anticipating the unveiling of the fullest expression of that union at the Second Coming.

When you think of it in these terms it is an amazing illustration of the union we have with Christ and the impact that is will have on our lives.

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What did Jesus Mean by “Son of Man”?

During his earthly ministry, Jesus’ favorite self-designation was “Son of Man.”  But what exactly did Jesus mean by this? Robert Peterson helps answer this question by delving into the OT background:

“son of man” in the Old Testament usually refers to humanity in its frailty and mortality (e.g., Ps. 8:4 and more than ninety times in Ezekiel to refer to the prophet). But only God rides on a cloud in the Old Testament (Ps. 68:4; 104:3; Isa. 19:1; Nah. 1:3).  The “son of man” is thus both human and divine.

In this quote Peterson is reflecting on Daniel 7:13-14 when the prophet sees the “son of man” coming “with the clouds of heaven.”  In this OT picture of Christ we see already a glimpse of divinity and humanity.  A great reminder that even–especially–our NT Christology is rooted in the OT.

Horton on Union with Christ

Michael Horton has a very helpful article on this most important doctrine.

He writes,

Nevertheless, there is a subjective aspect to our union with Christ which receives equal attention in Scripture and, therefore, commands equal attention from us. Calvin wrote, “We must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us….All that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him” (Institutes, III.i.1).

All of our righteousness, holiness, redemption, and blessing is found outside of us–in the person and work of Christ. This was the declaration of the Scriptures and, following the sacred text, of the reformers, in the face of a subjective righteousness located in the believer. And yet, as Calvin points out, this “alien righteousness” belonging to someone outside of us would mean nothing if this righteous one remained forever outside of us. An illustration might help at this point. In my junior year of college, I went to Europe with some friends and ran out of money. Happily, my parents agreed to deposit enough money in my account to cover my expenses. Was that now my money? I had not earned it. I had not worked for it. It was not my money in the sense that I had done something to obtain it. But it was in my account now and I could consider it my own property.

While none of our righteousness is our own, Christ is! While none of our holiness belongs to us, properly speaking, Christ does!The devils know Christ is righteous, but they do not, cannot, believe that he is their righteousness.

It is essential, therefore, to point unbelievers and believers alike to Christ outside of their own subjective experiences and actions, but that is only half the story! The Christ who has done everything necessary for our salvation in history outside of us now comes to indwell us in the person of his Holy Spirit. “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col.1:27). While our assurance is rooted in the objective work of Christ for us, it is also true that “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (1 Jn.4:13).

Again,

Thus, this doctrine is the wheel which unites the spokes of salvation and keeps them in proper perspective.

Again,

This doctrine is another way of saying, “Christ alone!” All spiritual blessings in heavenly places are found in him. Even the gifts of the Holy Spirit are through and for the ministry of Christ the Mediator. No one is baptized in the Holy Spirit, but baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ.

You read the entire article HERE.

Freedom of Choice is in Jeopardy from a Surprising Source

I’m confused. I thought the pro-abortion camp was committed to freedom of choice. That’s the point right? Pro-Choice? If that is really the case then President Obama just became the biggest opponent of Pro-Choice. Or…

..in light of recent event it’s becoming clear that “choice” isn’t what’s driving the abortion movement at all.

Read this…

Finalized on March 12, 2012 (and set to go into effect with the 2014 exchanges), the new HHS rule implements Section 1303 of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The new rule imposes mandates on every single enrollee in a qualified health plan that happens to include abortion coverage. In particular, federal law will soon mandate that every single individual enrolled in such a plan make payments to a private fund designated solely to the payment of abortion. This scheme allows Obamacare to get around the controversial issue of government-funded abortions with a new funding source: mandatory private payments by you, the insured.

This was a little confusing for me at first, so here is an explanation:

Here’s how it works. The new rule authorizes issuers to offer abortion coverage as part of their plans in the government-subsidized exchanges. For issuers that voluntarily include abortion coverage as part of their health plans, the new HHS rule mandates the private insurer to compel all enrollees to directly pay a separate abortion premium “without regard to the enrollee’s age, sex or family status.” Not surprisingly, the abortion premium also must be paid without regard to whether the individual has a religious or moral objection to funding other people’s abortions.

Well, you might argue, you still have the “choice” to choose a non-abortion providing insurance plan. Maybe not…

According to the rule: “A [qualified health plan] that provides for coverage of [elective abortion] must provide a notice to enrollees, only . . . at the time of enrollment.” It goes on to provide that the issuer’s advertising in the exchange must provide information “only with respect to the total amount of the combined payments” (without the need to put consumers on notice by breaking out the abortion amount to be billed separately). Thus consumers picking plans will likely have no idea about which ones come with the abortion premium mandate.

As I read up on this and tried to do as much fact-checking as possible, I was left with several observation:

  1. Pro-choice isn’t about a choice. If it were then people would be able to choose not to fund abortions.
  2. Pro-choicers are going to have to put their money where their mouth is. I’m staunchly pro-life in every way, which means I morally oppose abortion. Even if I weren’t, which I am, I still wouldn’t want to pay for someone else to have an abortion. That’s what this does. Americans need to decide if they want to be personally responsible for financially facilitating abortions.
  3. The Pro-choice mentality sees people and relationships in a far different way than the bible. For pro-choicers a baby is only as valuable as it is convenient. It’s only worth keeping if it doesn’t get in the way of a “real” person’s aspirations and desires. The bible doesn’t view people like that. God doesn’t view people like that. I hope you don’t view people as tools only existing to serve you. If you do something tells me you’re not very happy in your relationships.

You can read more HERE.

Actively Trusting God

I. Trusting God is not Passive

Trusting God is not our default position.  This means that if we want to trust God in our every day lives we can’t be passive.  Think about it.  What are our default objects of trust? Here are some of the main ones:

  • By default we trust in ourselves – this is why we want to micromanage every detail of our lives and our circumstances.
  • By default we trust in our circumstances – this is why when nothing “big” is going on in our lives we tend to forget about God.
  • By default we trust in “things” – many times we take the “thing” that God is using as an instrument of our provision, and we trust that instead of God.

Ironically, each of the  items on the list above is controlled by God.  They are all a part of the creation.  Just as we have a propensity to worship the creation instead of the Creator, so to our default position is to trust in the creation instead of the creator.

II. Trusting God is an Active Choice

Trusting God begins with the choice to do so.  We cannot wait until we feel like trusting God.  We must actively choose to trust God, even when we don’t feel like it.  Don’t make the mistake of letting your emotions control you and your trust in God.  Remember, your heart is deceitful (Jer 17:9).  Your emotions can and will lead you astray.  That is, unless you actively choose to trust God rather than “how you are feeling.” God has given you your emotions and he fully expects for you to submit those emotions to the Word of God.  Sometimes you won’t feel like trusting God, but this is when you must make the active choice to do so.  I love the way Jerry Bridges deals with this active trust,

Trust is not a passive state of mind.  It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us. (Trusting God, 214)

III. Trusting God is Practical

I’m a pretty practical guy.  So, what does it practically look like to actively pursue trusting God?  Here’s a simple strategy that is especially helpful for those times in life when you don’t feel like trusting in God:

  1. Preach to yourself – Again, don’t let your emotions be the locomotive in the train of your life.  Remind yourself of God’s truth, especially his promises and hold onto them.
  2. Pray to God – Sometimes our prayers sound something like, “I don’t feel like trusting… I don’t understand why… but I know I should trust in you because your trustworthy.”  Or as a very wise man once said to Christ, “I do believe, help my unbelief.”
  3. Permeate yourself with Scripture – The only way you’ll be able to consistently trust God is if the Spirit is using the Word to renew your mind (Rom 12:1-2)
  4. Pursue Godly Accountability – Since we don’t always do a great job of preaching to ourselves it is helpful to find someone else who will.

The Value of Integrity

I recently read an article on how easy it is for a cannon ball to destroy the integrity of a ship’s hull. The article stemmed from the discovery of a 200 year old ship with a hull made of 3 feet of solid wood.  You guessed it, they found the ship at the bottom of the ocean.  Get this, it was sunk by a cannon ball that looked to be about the size of a softball! It doesn’t take much to compromise the most important part of a ship, the integrity of a its hull.

Unfortunately the same thing is true about us. It doesn’t take much for us to compromise our integrity either. What makes the compromising of our integrity so sad is the fact that just like the integrity of a ship’s hull is one of the most important parts of a ship so too our integrity is one of the most important aspects of our lives. This is because from a biblical perspective this means an unwavering commitment to keep God’s law, and uphold His truth. There are not too many issues more important than this. I would even argue that, as Christians, our integrity before the Lord is the only thing we can really control.  Think about it.  You can’t control your circumstances… you can’t control how people treat you… you can’t control another person’s integrity… all of these are under God’s control.  You’re not responsible for any of these things.  You are, however, responsible for how you respond to these things.  In other words, you’re responsible for your own integrity.

This is why in God’s economy this kind of integrity is what truly has value.  Thus, integrity should be valuable to us as well.  In fact, this is just what we see in Proverbs 22:1-5.

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all. The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.” (Proverbs 22:1–5, ESV)

This passage contains two specific principles principles that reveal the importance of integrity in the lives of God’s people.  Over the next few posts we will look at these principles.

I. Integrity is more valuable than human achievement (vv. 1-2)

The first principle that emerges from the text to reveal the importance of integrity in the lives of God’s people is the principle that integrity is more valuable than human achievement.  We see this principle in vv. 1-2.
This principle begins to unfold in v. 1 where we see the value of integrity.

a. The value of integrity (v. 1)

There is some question as to whether or not v. 1 really belongs with vv. 2-5.  However, I think that Garret is right when he says that “this text could be read as a prologue to vv. 2-5.” (186), That is to say, in v. 1 the topic of integrity is first introduced as Solomon extols the value of integrity.  And in v. 1 this value is seen initially in the high price of a good name.

            i.      the high price of a good name

As it says in v. 1, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth.” This “good name” is the good reputation that comes from living a life of integrity. Prov. 3:3-4 explains how this works:

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3–4, ESV)

Bruce Waltke adds this, “A good name is the outward expression of the person’s inner wisdom.” (199)  To put it another way, it is the outward reflection of inward integrity. The almost perfect biblical illustration of this concept is Joseph. At every step of the way Joseph exemplified what it means to be a man of integrity. An even better example, actually the completely perfect example is Jesus. Jesus perfectly exemplified Proverbs 22:1.  Look at what Luke 2:52 says about Jesus:

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52, ESV)

He was the perfect man of integrity, that is what made him the perfect substitute for our sins. In the eyes of Solomon a reputation built on integrity like that of Joseph & Jesus was to be chosen every single time even over great wealth. This is the meaning of the Hebrew verb translated by the NAS as “to be desired.”  It is the Niph form of בְחָר, which means “to chose.”  We are to chose integrity.This is pretty amazing since a good name is to be chosen even over great wealth.

If anyone knew this is was certainly Solomon.  Solomon was a man of great wealth (1 Kings 10:26-29).  If I was to provide this advice to you it would have to be in principle because I have never had great wealth.  But Solomon was speaking from personal experience.  The word of God backs up Solomon’s experience.  From the perspective of God’s word the good reputation that comes from a life of integrity is of immense value, and cannot be replaced with any amount of money.
The bible values the reputation that comes from a life of integrity.
ii.      the high price of favor

This principle is essentially restated in the latter half of v.1 where the value of integrity is seen in the high price of favor.
The principle is essentially the same.  A good reputation, or the fruit of a good reputation is valuable. Here Silver and Gold = Great wealth. Again the point is that the reputation earned through a life of integrity is valuable. It is one thing to have great wealth, but it is a better thing to have your integrity before God and man.  Wealth can, and will pass away (James 5:3), but a good name endures.

At this point we need to be careful to understand the implications of this verse precisely. This verse should not motivate us to pursue the approval of man as an end in and of itself.  When this passage teaches us of the high value of a good name and favor the implication is not that we should become “man-pleasers”, but rather that we should value our integrity which, in turn, will lead to a good name. Prov 29:25 is a good balance to this verse:

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25, ESV)

Our job is not to seek the approval of men, but ultimately a good reputation among men is the natural result of a good name before God through Jesus Christ. As we live our lives in a way that is consistent with the truth of the Gospel those around us will recognize that we value integrity.  This is an important part of the Christian life, especially for leaders in the church.  Paul made it a requirement for those pursuing pastoral ministry to “have a good reputation with those outside the church.” (1 Tim 3:7)

Here are some questions for us to think about:

  • Do we have a “good name” both within and outside of the church?
  • Do we value integrity to the point where those around us recognize it?  If not, then what is more valuable to you?  What are you willing to compromise your integrity for?
  • If you are compromising your integrity for any kind of wealth or human achievement, then v. 2 reveals that you are valuing the wrong thing.

 

God’s Sovereignty and Adversity

Here are a few thoughts on why we face adversity, and how we as Christians should respond to adversity.

I.       God’s Work in Adversity

  1. Pruning away unprofitable fruit (John 15:2)
  2. Refine our personal holiness (Hebrews 12:10)
  3. Force us to depend upon His grace and strength (2 Corinthians 12:10)
  4. Increase our perseverance (James 1:3)
  5. Prepare us to serve others (2 Corinthians 1:4)

II.    Our Response to Adversity

  1. We must submit (James 1:2)
  2. We must bring the word of God to bear upon our adversity (Hebrews 4:12)
  3. We must remember the lessons learned (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

(Adapted from chapter 12 of Trusting God by Jerry Bridges)