Marriage Questions Answered #1507

1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1–2, NKJV)

The Corinthians sent a letter to the apostle Paul with questions about several matters, to which he replied as one who was inspired of God (1 Corinthians 7:40). Their first questions concerned marriage. Paul began by addressing the virtue of not touching a woman (a euphemism for sexual relations). He was not issuing a divine directive that celibacy is superior to marriage. (Nor does verse 2 demand everyone must marry.) Instead, Paul recognizes God’s clarion call to sexual purity. Given the present trials and pressures upon their faith, he will advise the Corinthians of the advantages of being single (1 Corinthians 7:26, 28, 32, 35). Marriage is designed as a guard against sexual immorality. The marriage bed is honorable, but the bed of fornication is defiled (Hebrews 13:4). The apostle explained that how designed marriage so that “each man” has “his own wife” and “each woman” has “her own husband” (verse 2). Marriage is between man and woman. More specifically, it is between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19:4-6). Polygamy, same-sex marriages, and every other marriage distortion is of human origin and is a sin against God and His will concerning marriage.

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God’s Tender Mercy #1506

11 Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. 12 For innumerable evils have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; They are more than the hairs of my head; Therefore my heart fails me. (Psalm 40:11–12, NKJV)

While pleading for God’s mercy to abide with him, David acknowledged God’s merciful protection comes from His steadfast love and truth. When evil surrounds us and our own sins overwhelm us, God’s mercy secures our souls. He supplies abundant mercy when sinful forces from without and within test our hearts and try our faith. God’s mercy flows from His eternal love. His every purpose and act is founded in His abiding love for us (John 3:16; 1 John 4:7-10). Simultaneously, it is His truth that safely protects us against evil and its forces. His word (which is truth, John 17:17) explains how mercy and truth meet to give us relief from our sins (Psalm 85:10). We do not mandate the mercy of God; His word of truth does that. It explains how and upon whom the Lord shows mercy (Romans 9:14-18). Truth teaches us that we cannot expect to receive God’s mercy if we are practicing sin. Sin brings wrath (Romans 1:18). Mercy comes when we repent and obey God’s truth (Ephesians 2:4-10; Hebrews 5:8-9; Titus 3:4-5). God’s mercy proceeds from love and is revealed by truth. All who put their trust in Him and do His will shall be preserved by His mercy (Psalm 40:1-8).

Unholy Alliances of the Proud #1505

Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5, NKJV)

Pride is a scourge upon the soul. It reshapes our thinking to imagine we are larger, better, worthier, and more deserving than others. It elevates our estimation of ourselves. So convincing is pride that it will persuade us we are the humble ones. “I’m so proud to be so humble” is self-talk promoted by pride, producing self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14). Solomon reminds us that pride is abhorrent to the Lord, and will be punished by Him. Still, the proud of heart willingly form unholy alliances to achieve common (albeit unholy) objectives. Remember, the agenda of the proud in heart centers upon self. When their unholy alliance accomplishes their mutual goal, they invariably turn on each other. Pride cannot long endure serving someone else’s cause instead of its own. Therefore, Christians are warned, “do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Galatians 5:13-15) Let us always guard against the sin of pride by being humble servants of one another (1 John 2:15-17; 1 Peter 5:5-7).

Plans of the Heart #1504

1 The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. 2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits. 3, Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established. (Proverbs 16:1–3, NKJV)

A measure of self-reliance is at the heart of individual liberty and responsibility, limited government and entrepreneurship. But, self-reliance can also tempt us to trust in our own instincts and ideas without thinking of God. That form of self-reliance elevates us above God, producing sinful outcomes. We plan many things (education, career, family, vacations, retirement, etc.), but the answers to how we should pursue our plans belong to the Lord and not to ourselves (“O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps,” Jeremiah 10:23). We must yield “self” to God (“not my will, but thine be done”). Even when we consider our ways to be pure, it is the Lord who evaluates our heart’s motives, intentions and dispositions (Hebrews 4:12-13). His word is truth and reveals the way we must go (John 17:17). We trust our actions (“works,” verse 3) to the Lord by first preparing our heart to follow His word instead of our own word. Let us make plans that agree with God’s word, so He approves of our plans and our actions.

Bringing Good News #1503

Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace! O Judah, keep your appointed feasts, perform your vows. For the wicked one shall no more pass through you; He is utterly cut off.” (Nahum 1:15, NKJV)

Using language similar to an earlier prophet (Isaiah), Nahum announces the joy of Judah upon hearing the news of Nineveh’s overthrow. He pictures a messenger traversing the mountains to bring good news that the wicked enemy had been defeated and would no longer plague them. As the messenger proclaims peace, Judah is called to worship Jehovah free of the enemy’s oppression. Isaiah used these words to declare the coming of the Messiah (Isaiah 40:9; 52:7). In Romans 1:15 the apostle Paul used this figure to describe preaching the gospel. Like Isaiah and Nahum, the gospel contains both the message of salvation in Jesus Christ and the defeat of our enemies. Like the proclamation of Nineveh’s defeat, the gospel of Christ proclaims peace with God because our enemies, sin and death, are defeated (John 12:31-33). It is by preaching this good news that sinners hear, believe and call on the Lord for salvation (Romans 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Acts 2:36-41). With the oppression of sin removed in Christ, we now serve Him with the joy of salvation (Philippians 4:4-9).

“God, be merciful to me a sinner” #1502

13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:13–14, NKJV)

The depth of our sins magnifies the depth of God’s mercy. The Pharisee in this parable depicts “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). The Pharisee justified himself in comparison to others. He considered himself to be superior spiritually – “not like other men” (Luke 18:11-12). When we cannot see our own sins we are unable to show compassion to others, much less receive God’s merciful forgiveness for our sins. God is ready, willing and able to show us mercy when we, in anguish over our sins, turn to Him for relief (Psalm 51:17). The tax collector was crushed over his sin. Even so today, a sinner who is “cut to the heart” over his sins receives God’s mercy when he repents and is baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). The contrite heart turns to God for compassionate forgiveness and receives it. It is precisely when we understand our own need for mercy that we are able to show mercy to others. The merciful do not elevate themselves above others, for they know their own need for mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). The self-righteous do not give or receive mercy.

Jesus Wept #1501

33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. (John 11:33–35, NKJV)

The tender affection of Jesus is seen as He shares in the grief of Mary, Martha, and others who attended these sorrowful sisters. Jesus loved this family with warm affection (phileo, John 11:3, 36) and with active goodwill (agapao, John 11:5). By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had died four days earlier. Jesus predicted his death would be a great occasion for God’s glory to be seen and for the Son of God to be honored (John 11:4, 14). Soon, Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead in a powerful display that He is the “resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26, 38-44). So, why did Jesus weep? Because He cares when we hurt. He comforts us in ways only the Son of God can (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16). By doing so, He shows us how to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Jesus also weeps over our sins and its effects (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 6:23). Our sin grieves Jesus (Genesis 6:5-6; Mark 3:5). Jesus weeps when people refuse His word and bring upon themselves divine judgment (Luke 19:41-44). Far from taking pleasure in the death of the wicked, the Son of God seeks to save the lost (Ezekiel 18:31-32; Matthew 18:11-14). Instead of bringing tears to the eyes of the Savior, may we repent and do God’s will, bringing joy to heaven (Luke 15:7).