Wednesday, June 29, 2016

a wedding message

We always have a great time when our family gets together. We like to eat, go on walks, watch movies, and play games. But this? This is no game today. This is serious business. Yes, there will be a lot of fun and happiness and joy today, but this is still serious and important stuff. Reminds me of the old CS Lewis quote - "Joy is the serious business of heaven."

To many people today this whole thing is like a game of Trivial Pursuits. The direction of their lives and the things they spend their time on are utterly trivial. But we know better. We know that's not God's will for us. We were created in God's image, we have been redeemed by His Son, we have been filled with the Holy Spirit, we were meant to live, for him and for one another, to His glory and for the good of all.

So though many see marriage as just another trivial pursuit, as God's people, we know that marriage is a big deal. It's a beautiful blessing from our Father God. It's a wonderful gift that He has given us, to bring a man and a woman together in love to build families, to provide a foundation for the church, to bolster and build up society.

God says in His Word says that in marriage two people become one flesh. That’s pretty amazing. How is that possible? How can this happen, two becoming one? Well, God makes it happen. His Word makes it happen. His love makes it happen.

In marriage you leave your father and mother and are united as one flesh. That means leaving some things behind - old habits, old interests, old expectations, always putting yourself first. To have a marriage that works takes work, it requires wisdom, discipline, maturity, a leaving behind of selfish and childish ways.

The Apostle Paul says, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I grew up, I put childish ways behind me." To have a good marriage means leaving some old things behind. But it also means taking on some new things. Things like faith, hope, love, dedication, commitment, sacrifice. That's what marriage is really all about.

One of the Scripture readings for today is from Ephesians 5, where Paul echoes Genesis 2 and the creation of man and woman and God's design for marriage as the foundation for His created order. Paul shows us that as far back as the 2nd chapter of the Bible, marriage was already the chosen instrument God would use to bring His Messiah into the world, as well as being a beautiful picture and symbol of Christ and the church that permeates throughout the rest of Scripture. Paul is teaching us that God's purpose and plan for his people is not trivial, but is something far greater than our own wants, needs, and desires. When we follow the Lord, our lives always mean more than we think they do. Our normal, ordinary lives become extraordinary when God is at the center. Everything we do in faithful obedience to Him is important, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be.

In another of his letters Paul reminds us how God uses weak and broken people as well as plain and simple things to display the greatness of his power and wisdom and love - even though it may seem trivial to the world. Everything we do in the name of Jesus is important. Serving one another, helping those in need, falling in love, getting married, having a baby, raising a family - for the Christian all of these seemingly simple things are all quite profound, for they are grounded in God's will in Christ and connected to eternity. They are all part of something much bigger than our little minds can even comprehend.

As Christians we believe that the best is yet to come. Our God saves the best for last. That's the promise that sustains the life of men and women who follow God, who trust in Jesus, who are saved by God's grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Paul quotes Genesis when He writes, "therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to His wife and the two shall become one flesh." To cling, cleave, hold fast, the word literally means to glue. You two are glued together by Christ and His Word. Proverbs 18:24 says there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. That is you for one another - and most importantly - that is Christ for you both.

That's the devotion and dedication we are to have with one another in marriage as husband and wife. No matter our differences or flaws, as Christians we are called to love and serve one another, just as God in Christ has loved us and served us.

There's always more going on than we think in God's great plan of salvation. There's more to the story than just two people and a beautiful wedding and a happy marriage and thankful parents and a proud grandma or grandpa. If there weren't, it would be just another nice afternoon outdoors - another good reason for a party. But there is so much more. For when we are joined together in Christ and connected to God's grand story, it opens up our lives to things we could have never imagined. It points us back to all the great saints of old, and it points us forward to the future glory of heaven with God forever. And in the meantime, it centers us in Jesus, in His life and death and resurrection for us which promises forgiveness of sins, life and salvation to all who believe. It gives us the promise of a hope and a future together with God forever. And let me tell you, there is nothing trivial about that. Amen.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The 5th Gospel

There's an old quote by British evangelist Rodney Smith that goes like this - "There are five Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian - but most people never read the first four." The truth of the matter is - you may be the only Bible some people read.

If the world never reads the first four gospels, then what will they read? They’ll read us. They'll read you and me. They’ll read our lives as Christians. You and I are the 5th Gospel, and unless we've gone undercover, we’re being studied, watched, and examined.

This is not about some secret or hidden gospel out in the desert somewhere that is just waiting to be discovered. This is the real thing, what Luther called the "viva vox", the living voice of the gospel, the genuine and authentic witness and testimony of the Christian about what they believe about Jesus.

Unfortunately, many Christians have gone AWOL - incognito for Jesus. But God’s not looking for more secret service agents. He's got enough of those. He wants ambassadors instead. The 5th Gospel is an invitation that asks each one of us, “Will the real Christians please stand up?”

In his Epistle to the Romans Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). And Jesus in His Great Commission said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

Every Christian’s life is sending a message. The question is - what kind of message are we sending? As followers of Jesus, our lives are on display for all to see. The apostle Paul, speaking to the Corinthians said, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Cor. 3:2-3).

Our lives tell a story. But what do they communicate? That’s the question. We are meant to be the 5th Gospel - a good news message in a bad news world for people who desperately need to hear it.

(ht - bobby conway)