Marriage is a gospel issue

Posted by on Jan 17, 2015 in Featured, Leadership

Marriage is a gospel issue

indexIf there is one thing I’ve learned about culture it is this: most of what comes out of places like Hollywood is highly idealized fantasy (this of course being the world that pornography swims in). From romantic comedies to reality television, there is a trend in culture that says there is a person out there who is perfect for you if you simply look hard or wait. More on this in a moment.

The statistics are in regarding marriage and family and they are not good. The divorce rate is at an all-time high. 65 percent of women and 55 percent of men will have an adulterous affair by the age of 40. In 1970, 89 percent of all births were to married parents, but today only 60 percent are. Over 72 percent of American adults were marred in 1960, but only 50 percent were in 2008. (You can find these statistics just about anywhere, but I cite these from places like the National Marriage Project at University of Virginia.)

This can get somewhat overwhelming, but there is hope because marriages, though typically in decline as many are opting for cohabitation, are still going strong and the divorce rate is markedly lower in Christian circles (as well as those of other faith traditions). The common assumption that the divorce rate for Christians is just as high as secular culture is absolutely false (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/january/21.34.html).

Enter Jesus. The Apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 5:32 that marriage is a gospel issue. He likens the relationship between a husband and wife to that of Jesus and the Church. This model helps us learn more and more about what it means to be married. It means for husbands to lead their wives through servant leadership (like Jesus), while wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:20-33; cf. Titus 2; Colossians 3:18-24). It means that spouses should never love themselves more than they do the other person or Jesus. It means that marriage itself is a picture of a greater reality that can only be the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel is the reality that you and I are more sinful than we could have ever imagined or admit, yet more loved than we could ever dare hope. This is the power and pattern for marriage.

You never marry the “right” person because there is no “perfect” person; marriage changes you and since we are all on a level playing field (meaning we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory), there is no possible way for you to find someone who will fit everything on your “list”. That person does not exist. Don’t believe Hollywood. Nobody will ever measure up to your expectations. Marriage isn’t 50/50. It is 100/0. You go in expecting nothing yet willing to give everything.

This is the gospel-centered marriage. One that looks at the other spouse and sees that person through the lens of the gospel. Keep short accounts of sin because Jesus has wiped your account clean; never speak ill of your spouse because Jesus intercedes for us daily speaking heavenly words to the Father. You need the gospel every single day in order for your marriage to work and not turn out as another statistic. Believe the gospel, not the lies.

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Act Like A Man

Posted by on Jan 16, 2015 in Featured, Leadership

Act Like A Man

manhood_400x200Gentlemen: You are not boys. Women are not objects. Christ is most assuredly King.

I’ve noticed a trend in young men who relinquish their God-given role as spiritual leaders in their families: childish, selfish, pride-filled immaturity. Some of them have been married for several years now. Others have children out of wedlock. But that is the common problem: immaturity.

As a pastor, I spend a lot of my time not just studying, but counseling. I’ve listened to wives cry for hours because of the pain caused by men who forfeit their role (Genesis 3). I’ve watched couples fall apart because of a man who acts like a boy. And I’m tired of it.

When a man gets married, what should be forfeited is his pride, his selfishness, and his youthful lust (2 Timothy 2:22). The covenant of marriage demands complete selfless love (Ephesians 5:25). You no longer get to play the “single” game–hanging out with the “boys” all hours of the night, spending time at the bar with other women, and doing whatever it is you wish to do.

Grow up (1 Corinthians 13:11).

You now have a family, and God viciously guards this covenant institution. You don’t get to just do whatever you want, you now have a family to consider second only to God. What in the world are you doing squandering this gift? Why do you think that hunting comes before your bride? Sports on television before your children? Beer before prayer? The ‘guys’ before your family?

Grow up.

Let me tell you something… You have two full-time jobs. You don’t get to come home, plop down in your lazy boy with a beer and “check out”–all in the name of “I work hard to provide for my family.” You come home and you get back to work. You turn off the television set and play with your kids. Enough already. I’m tired of men who act like boys. Just because the woman is a weaker vessel doesn’t mean you get to abuse her with your cold immaturity (1 Peter 3:7).

Where are the tender-hearted men who cry over their sin instead of their football game? Where are the men who lead like Jesus, selflessly sacrificing their time, energy, and love for the sake of their family? I know you’re out there. Stay the course.

And listen, young men who wish to be married, don’t act like a child. You are a man (1 Samuel 4:9). Act like it (1 Corinthians 16:13). Why? Because Jesus grew up and went to the cross for His Bride.

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Hide Or Seek: When Men Get Real with God About Sex

Posted by on Jan 16, 2015 in Christian Living, Featured, Sexual Sin

Hide Or Seek: When Men Get Real with God About Sex

946630When it comes to the topic of pornography and/or sexual sin, there are a growing number of helpful resources that address the issue from a variety of angles. What is needed, however, are more books—not less—that address this topic, for the simple fact that this is one of the greatest issues facing the Church today. The problem of addiction to pornography and/or sexual sin is not going away, but is instead growing rapidly. This is a battle I personally know well, as I’m one of the men who has overcome an addiction to pornography. The pornography addict (as I’ve said before and will say again) lives in a world where guilt and shame reign supreme instead of Jesus. Truly men (and now even women) who live in pornography-addition, live in darkness instead of in the light. This is why John Freeman, the President of Harvest USA—a ministry dedicated to speaking to these issues—wrote his book, Hide or Seek When Men Get Real with God about Sex.

Hide or Seek has ten chapters organized around one central idea—that is to help his readers understand the lie of pornography and the hope of the gospel. To this end, he thoroughly examines the epidemic of porn in Chapter One. In chapters 2-4 he explores life as a God-hater, idol-maker, and game player—emphasizing why living a double life won’t meet our greatest need for Jesus. In Chapter Five, Freeman moves to explain why we (as men) need to live a life of integrity. From there (in chapter six) he talks about how to “come out of the darkness and into the light”, and continues into chapter seven by explaining how we are to live in the “banquet room”. Chapter eight takes a very helpful look at dealing with the dark desires that come up as a result of sexual sin. Chapter nine helps readers to come out of living in a world where guilt and shame reign supreme, and helps them to begin to breathe in the fresh air of the gospel. The book concludes with a clear call to know Jesus and be known within the local church.

Reading Hide or Seek was a true joy, primarily because this book is so drenched in the Bible. The author doesn’t assume anything about the readers understanding of the meaning of theological words, but helpfully explains what each of the terms mean, with a heart to help his reader grow in knowledge of the Word of God. Additionally, the author writes as a practitioner. Since pornography affects the identity of the person—people need to understand that this is a topic that they should speak about, but can’t speak too authoritatively unless they have truly wrestled with it. That isn’t to suggest that people who’ve never had an addiction to pornography, or been affected by witnessing someone they know struggle in its grasp, can’t speak to these issues. I believe that those who haven’t struggled can be a great blessing and help to people who have overcome an addiction to pornography, as they learn how to live a pure life that honors and glorifies the Lord. Yet, this is what the author does so well—he combines his many years of experience as a practitioner with his understanding of the Bible to highlight what the Word of God teaches and illuminate the hope that Jesus provides in His finished work.

At my local church, I serve in a variety of ministries—including as a leader of the Men’s Ministry. I also lead the Men’s Evening Bible Study on Wednesdays. I’ve heard the stories of how many men (not only in my local church, but also outside of it) have wrestled with an addiction to pornography, and have either overcome it or are currently struggling with it. Like John Freeman, I know well this struggle. It is one of the most terrible issues that Christians must speak out about. This book will help ministry leaders to think properly about sexual sin, and to help the people of God to come out of the shadows and into the light of God’s presence. I highly recommend this book and believe it will help both the struggling individual and the disciple to understand, not only the issue of sexual sin, but the hope that the gospel of Jesus provides to sinners and saints alike.

Buy the book at Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God About Sex, WTS books, or from New Growth Press.

Title: Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God about Sex

Author: John Freeman

Publish: New Growth Press (2014)

I received this book for free from New Growth Press for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Hope and Freedom for the Captives

Posted by on Jan 13, 2015 in Featured, Sexual Sin

Hope and Freedom for the Captives

Kayaking_in_Glacier_Bay_Alaska1-1024x744-300x217Recently a new survey commissioned by a nonprofit organization called Proven Men Ministries and conducted by the Barna Group took a national representative sample of 388 self-identified Christian adult men. The statistics are alarming and paint a picture of the serious problem that is addiction to pornography.

The statistics for Christian men between 18 and 30 years old are particularly striking:

  • 77 percent look at pornography at least monthly.
  • 36 percent view pornography on a daily basis.
  • 32 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 12 percent think they may be).

The statistics for middle-aged Christian men (ages 31 to 49) are no less disturbing:

  • 77 percent looked at pornography while at work in the past three months.
  • 64 percent view pornography at least monthly.
  • 18 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 8 percent think they may be).

Even married Christian men are falling prey to pornography and extramarital sexual affairs at alarming rates:

  • 55 percent look at pornography at least monthly.
  • 35 percent had an extramarital sexual affair while married.[i]

These statistics are alarming; in fact they can be downright discouraging. The porn addict lives in a world where they go through a cycle of feeling sorry for what they did, but never coming to see the horror and complete depravity of what they have done. The statistics, as I stated earlier, paint a disturbing picture. They demonstrate that we need to help porn addicts understand the seriousness of their sin, the nature of true biblical repentance, and turning away from sexual sin to Jesus Christ.

The great Puritan author, Thomas Watson, once said there are six ingredients for true repentance. The first is sight of sin, whereby a person comes to himself (Luke 15:17) and clearly views his lifestyle as sinful. If we fail to see our own sin, we rarely, if ever, are motivated to repent. The second ingredient for true repentance is sorrow for sin (Psalm 38:18). We need to feel the nails of the cross in our souls as we sin. Repentance includes both godly grief and holy agony (2 Corinthians 7:10). The fruit of repentance is revealed in genuine, anguishing sorrow over the offense itself, not just the consequences of it. Sorrow for sin is seen in the ongoing righteous actions it produces. True repentance lingers in the soul and not just on the lips.

The third ingredient is confession of sin. The humble sinner voluntarily passes judgment on himself as he sincerely admits to the specific sins of his heart. We must not relent of our confession until all of it is freely and fully admitted. We must pluck up any hidden root of sin within us. “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deuteronomy 28:19).

The fourth ingredient for true repentance is shame for sin. The color of repentance is blushing red. Repentance causes a holy bashfulness. Ezra 9:6 says, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens”. The repenting prodigal was so ashamed of his sin that he did not feel he deserved to be a son anymore (Luke 15:21). Sin makes us shamefully naked and deformed in God’s eyes and puts Christ to shame, the One who took the scorn of the cross on Himself.

The fifth ingredient in repentance is hatred of sin. We must hate our sin to the core. We hate sin more deeply when we love Jesus more fully. Repentance begins in the love of God and ends in the hatred of sin. True repentance loathes sin.

Finally, the sixth ingredient of repentance is the turning away from sin and returning to the Lord with all your heart (Joel 2:12). This turning from sin implies a notable change, “performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20). “Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ezekiel 14:6). We are called to turn away from all our abominations, not just the obvious ones or the ones that create friction in others. The goal of repentance is not to manufacture peace among others with perfunctory repentance, but rather to turn to God wholly and completely. This repentance most importantly is not just a turning away from sin. It also necessarily involves a turning in “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Here is the joy that is found in repentance. “It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance” (Romans 2:4). We rejoice that Christ has done so much for us and continues to do for us.

By understanding the seriousness of sin and biblical repentance, we can come to understand that there is hope and freedom for the captives. Jesus came to set the captives free. While we live in a world that is full of bad news, in the midst of the bad news of our sin there is hope and healing from sexual sin. In the midst of your struggle look to the beauty of Jesus in the cross. Gaze at the wonder of the cross.

Look to Jesus—He is the cure for sexual brokenness. Jesus is in the business of setting the captives free through His finished work. No matter your sexual history, Jesus alone can make you pure again. Turn to Him, and trust in Him. He is all you need.

In conclusion, I urge you to heed the words of J.C. Ryle who wrote, “Look at the cross, think of the cross, meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can. I believe that holiness is nowhere learned so well as on Calvary. I believe you cannot look much at the cross without feeling your will sanctified, and your tastes made more spiritual. As the sun gazed upon makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendor of this world. As honey tasted makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world. Keep on every day steadily looking at the cross of Christ, and you will soon say of the world, as the poet does—

Its pleasures now no longer please,
No more content afford;
Far from my heart be joys like these,
Now I have seen the Lord.

As by the light of opening day
The stars are all concealed,
So earthly pleasures fade away
When Jesus is revealed.”[ii]

[i] For more on these statistics please go to http://www.provenmen.org/2014pornsurvey and www.covenanteyes.com/pornstats/

[ii] J.C. Ryle, The Cross of Christ, accessed January 5th, 2015. http://www.gracegems.org/23/Ryle_cross.htm

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3 Keys to being a loving husband

Posted by on Jan 1, 2015 in Featured, Leadership

3 Keys to being a loving husband

chicago-florida-beach-engagement-photographer-heart-in-sandLove. Now here is a word that is more abused than probably any other English word. Unlike the Greek that has several different words to express what type or kind of love—English does not, and so, we admit that we love houses, cars, food, pets, and our wives—all within the same sentence and usage of the word. With that said, let’s clarify the meaning of love. The Scriptures inform us that a person can only know love, if they know Christ (1 Jn 4:19); all else is an emotion, a feeling, or an action—not from the soul. Why? because the unregenerate heart has no awakened soul and lives in spiritual blindness. Here we see the first principle for being a godly and loving husband, Christ is Lord.

Second, we view that Paul’s command is for “Husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). This doesn’t necessarily mean that the husband should jump on a grenade to save his wife—of course he would. How did Christ love the church? Christ was ridiculed and beaten for her. Christ endured temptation for her. Christ was misunderstood. Christ continued to encourage, pray, and be the example.

Thirdly, let’s talk unity. Do you ever ridicule your wife? Being unified means that when you ridicule your wife, you are putting yourself down. If you cut down your wife, there is some insecurity in you, or pride, and you need to repent and draw nearer to Christ. As husbands, we cannot think that God will hear our prayers when we’re not lovingly united to our wives. As the Apostle Peter states, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

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Rest

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 in Rest, Warriors of Grace

One of the most frequent questions I receive when I attend conferences and meet with people is, “How do you produce so much content?” My typical response is that I discipline myself to the task of content creation. While I enjoy content creation I’ve learned that I need to have a balance in my life between work, play and rest in order to write my best. Whether you’re a writer or a preacher, or you work in a skyscraper or at a construction site, we men are prone to overwork. In this article I want to consider what it means to be a man who champions the balance between work, play and rest, why rest is so crucial and then conclude the article by looking at a theology of rest.

What does it mean to be a biblical man who champions the importance of rest?

First, men need to study their tendencies. I know for example when I get tired that I need to get off the computer because my tiredness makes me more susceptible to temptation. I also know when I push myself too hard and overwork I tend to struggle with my emotions being all over the place. The Lord doesn’t give us an endless supply of energy. There are only so many hours in a day and we need time every day to rest after we work. We need to take one day a week to rest from our labors. Resting is for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Finally, the man who wishes to be known for disciplining oneself for the sake of godliness will be one who works hard, plays hard and rests. As men it’s not enough for us to work hard at our job outside the home, we need to work hard in the home. While there’s a place for you relaxing in front of TV and watching that sports game, you need to balance watching TV by spending time with your family by playing and instructing them in the Word of God. While this will look differently for every man, in my own home, my wife and I often times relax in separate rooms for an hour and then come together to spend the evening together. As we do we chat with each other about our day and minister to each other. The man who champions the balance between work, play and rest is a shepherd leader.

What is a good theology of rest?

The model of God resting on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2) established the Sabbath as a day of rest (Lev. 16:31). The Bible speaks of rest as a spiritual quality given by God to those in close harmony and fellowship with Himself. God said to Moses in Exodus 33:14, “And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” In the New Testament, Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The Book of Hebrews develops the concept of divine rests as one of its chief motifs. In Hebrews 3:7-4:13, the author uses Psalm 95:7-11 to interpret the meaning of the Moses and Joshua stories, which had promised rest to God’s people. The preacher of Hebrews claims that this psalm reveals that the Israelites did not enter God’s rest, because they did not listen to His voice, because they were unbelieving 3:12, 1), rebellious (3:16), disobedient (4:6,11), and hard of heart (3:13, 15; 4:10). The author of Hebrews maintains that the plea to listen to God’s voice “today” (Ps. 95:7) implies that God’s rest is still available. Taking the “today” literally, he decides that the available rest can no longer be that associated with the exodus from Egypt or conquest of Canaan; rather, looking to Gen. 2:2, he determines it must be the “Sabbath rest” that is now available (Heb. 4:9). Thus, the importance of hearing God’s voice is exponentially greater than before, because doing so will bring one into the ultimate Sabbath rest of God (4:9–11).

The writer of Hebrews asserts that there is still a “rest” for those who believe in Christ. Believers have entered that rest already—that is, they have entered it in faith, through Jesus (Heb. 4:1–3). We do not have to worry about our lives because the Lord takes care of us. He will help carry our burdens and give us the strength we need to endure (Matt. 11:28–30). Believers can also hope for and anxiously await our final “rest” which will be in Heaven with Jesus our Savior (Heb. 4:8–11). We will be free from sin and will live for eternity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Why do we need to rest?

Now is the day of our labor, the day when we do work. We rest our burdens on Jesus Christ, and he sends his Holy Spirit to help us shoulder the load. But the same Savior who offers us rest is also the Lord who commands, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Our final day of rest is yet to come. It awaits us in heaven. God worked for six days and then he rested; now is the time when we work, after which we too will rest. Understand that your labor now is not in vain. Your struggle, born of faith, fueled by God’s Holy Spirit as He works in you, is not for nothing. We are storing treasure up in heaven. As the angel proclaimed to the prophet Daniel: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).

Now is the day of our trouble and our toil. Now is the time of tears, of wrestling with sin, of witnessing to those around us, many of whom will scorn and abuse us. But if we do it all with our eyes looking up to heaven, gazing toward our home, trusting our heavenly Father, and asking him to find pleasure in our meager works, then we can be sure that He will. And in the day of our rest, we too will find joy in them forever.

Conclusion

Workaholism is a real problem in our day. By balancing the time we work with play and rest we will find a biblical balance in our lives. As men, we are being made whole by the gospel. By examining how hard we are working with the time we are spending playing and resting we can find balance in our lives. Men of God let us not only proclaim the truth about working hard to the glory of God but let us by God’s grace, balance that conviction with the truth of playing hard and resting.

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