The Gospel Changes Our Relationships

http://www.foresthillsbaptist.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/The-Gospel-Changes-Our-Relationships.mp3  

Each Monday I’ll be putting up my sermon notes and audio file for the sermon series from Forest Hills Baptist Church “Christ Over All: A Study from Colossians”. This is an edited copy of my sermon notes, not a transcript of the sermon. You can listen to the sermon audio above or directly for at the church’s website

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” (Colossians 3:18–4:1, ESV)

A man in his family ride in to church on Sunday morning. They go off to their respective classes. The man in a SS teacher so he teaches his class then goes to the worship service where he serves as an usher. The man an his family is well respected in the church and they are on many committees and wield great influence. After church the man gets in the car and on the way back begins yelling at his children for not cleaning their rooms before church, mocking them, belittling them, and domineering over them. He gets home and isolates himself in a room ignoring his wife and his children as he gorges the afternoon with television.

That night he approaches his wife hostile and angry over the amount of money she’s spent on groceries that month and the two get into a huge fight over their finances. She gets angry at him for spending to much on hobbies while he gets angry at her for not making as much as she does. The two spend the rest of the evening not talking to one another. At work the next day after yelling at the kids some more because they weren’t ready on time he goes into work. His boss is on vacation this week so he spends the morning goofing off with his employees and just letting calls go to VM. During lunch he gathers around his co-workers as they tell stories about their boss to poke fun and demean him. They spend the remainder of the afternoon gossiping about some other employees then clock out. He goes back home. Gets angry at his wife again as she doesn’t have dinner on the table yet. He refuses to help with the dishes or get the kids into bed for the night. He goes to his room, shuts the door, and checks out. The next day, rinse and repeat.

Unfortunately this fictional story I just told is a far to common reality in our churches. We have men, women, and children, who are quite adapt at playing the Christian part while in the building, but when their faith comes to their private and personal relationships there is often a breakdown. We might be able to fool our pastor our SS class and our friends at church about our faith, but those who know us best - our spouse, our children, and our co-workers - can spot a hypocrite easily.

Paul today addresses that the Gospel impacts our most personal relationships. If the Gospel isn’t changing the way you think as a husband or wife, or a father or mother, or an employee or boss, then you either have some serious immaturity and blindspots in your life or you may not know Christ at all. The Gospel changes our most personal and daily relationships from family to work.

1. The Gospel in Marriage Relationships (3:18–19)

2. The Gospel in Parenting Relationships (3:20–21)

3. The Gospel in Work Relationships (3:22–4:1)

6 Ways You Can Create Authentic Community in Your Church

The church is not a building or an event, but a people. The Church is the called out people of God, a holy community made up of redeemed sinners. Unfortunately often the emphasis of church is on the Sunday event or the building itself and not on the community. In many churches it is not hard to show up incognito, hide out in the back, and leave as soon as the service is over all the while remaining completely unknown. It is possible to go to church without participating in the community of the church. For those who do seek to build relationships with other church members, often those relationships are on the superficial level. We may talk about the weather, how our favorite college football team performed over the weekend, or some hobby interest, but rarely to we break through the brick wall of superficiality. Isn’t biblical community more than this?

We wall tend to long for authentic community. We want it. We need it. Yet, a culture of authentic community in the church can be hard to foster. There is the great pressure to present your life as an ideal Christian, so we hide our struggles and slap on our plastic smiles. The pressure to have it all together has turned the church into an actors guild perfecting their religious masks. But play acting is the death of authentic Christian Community. When vulnerability is replaced by a hypocritical masquerade the church is lost. The church is to be a bastion of hope for redeemed sinners not an elitist ivory tower for the self-righteous. The church is made up of self-confessed sinners who have been made righteous in Christ Jesus. If any people on the planet should have the freedom to be authentic, it should be Christians. For their sin has been covered by the blood of the lamb.

So how can you help create a culture of authentic community in your church? How can you help build meaningful relationships with other Christians for the mutual building up of the body? Let me share with you six ways.

1. Be Intentional

Go deeper through perceptive questions. Rather than a quick “Hello! Pretty cold weather today”, ask questions that encourage people to open up. “How have things been going this week?” or “How is your mom who has been fighting cancer?” or “What can I be praying of you this upcoming week?” or “What has God been teaching you recently through His word?” Ask questions that allow you to dig deeper that creates opportunity to encourage and remind one another of the Gospel and its implications.

2. Be Hospitable

Find opportunities to invite others into the rhythm of your life. If you are running to the store, invite someone to go along with you. If you are making a delicious apple pie for dinner, invite someone over to enjoy it with you. Invite people into the routine of your life, all the while being intentional in your conversations, going deeper together in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

3. Be Available

Community cannot be manufactured through planning. Sometimes there may be a friend who needs you to drop what your doing an pray with them. There may be a crisis such as a death in the family that they need your support. Someone may have had a terrible day at work and they need a friend to talk to that night sharing their sorrows. If we are going to foster community in our lives and in our churches we must learn to be less busy. We must learn to not so over schedule ourselves that we don’t have time to be available for those who need us. Intentionally leave time open and unscheduled so you can drop what your doing and be there for others.

4. Be Teachable

Some people seem to think they have it all together. You start talking about an issue, and they seem to have it all figured out. Yet, in genuine Gospel-community everyone should take a posture of humility and teachability. We have a lot to learn from one another and others may be able to see blind spots that we are missing. If we come across as unteachable and prideful, than community will be non-existent. Go to others for advise or counsel. Ask others how they would handle the situation your facing. Not only will your conversations be richer, but God may teach you something through your brother or sister that you might not have known had you keep yapping your mouth.

5. Be Forgiving

When we enter into deep and authentic relationships with other believers, we leave ourselves exposed to be hurt. Often times other people may say something that deeply wounds us. When those times happen it is vital that we be quick to offer forgiveness. We we sit an allow others offenses to fester, the poison of bitterness creeps into our hearts, eating away at our soul. So when others hurt you be quick to forgive and quick to seek reconciliation.

6. Be Vulnerable

You have to be willing to let down your guard and open up. It is scary, its risky, its terrifying, yet essential for Gospel community. Be courageous enough to let people see the real you. Share with a sister in Christ about a struggle you are facing. Be aggressive in asking for prayer from a good friend. Share the struggles of your heart or encourage another with a difficult lesson God has taught you in the past. When we let down our guard and are vulnerable with one another, authentic community is the result.

May these six things help you as you seek to foster authentic community in your life and in the life of your church. May we as Christians not settle for anything less than authentic, honest, and vulnerable community. May we be so bold as to find our identity and worth in Christ that the fear of man that so often hinders true community be put to death. As we throw our religious masks to their graves we will find the joy of that wonderful community of grace with which God has gifted us, the local church.

What other things would you encourage others to find authentic community? What does community look like in your relationships and in your church?

Dating and Marriage Part 4: Some Practical Wisdom in Dating

Dating can be messy.  As Christians, we have learned that there are two viable states for a Christian, singleness or marriage.  What about those who exist in that awkward tension of singleness while looking for a spouse? To be honest, the Bible doesn't speak directly on how Christians should think about dating, but the Bible does indirectly speak to issues like dating.  The Bible is full of wisdom and it provides us with a worldview of how to examine and make decisions as a Christian.  As Christians, we are to be holy and set apart from the world as Jesus is.  This means that we need to think and date with a different focus than the rest of the world.  So the following is practical counsel from me to you as we think about dating relationships.  When it comes to dating, the tension isn't always between a right and wrong decision, but a wise and a foolish decision.  The following are things I advise to my students as a Youth Pastor that I've learned as I've studied the Bible and learned through experience, most of my experiences being my own failures and sins.

Maximize Your Singleness for God

We have talked extensively in a previous post about how singleness is an incredible gift.  Use your freedom to maximize your relationship with Christ.  Take the extra hours you have to study the Bible, spend nights in prayer, go on mission trips, and serving in the local church.  Don't sit around and cry over your loneliness, but use that extra time God has given you to make much of Jesus.  Besides, the best way to meet a nice Christian person to date is through the local church as you serve and work along side other single Christian people who are looking for a spouse, just like you!

Do Not Date a Non Christian

This one isn't just wise counsel, but commanded by the Scriptures.  Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 6:14, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"  As a Christian you have been born of the Spirit.  By God's grace He has saved you and made you pure because of what Jesus has done for you on the cross.  As a result, your beliefs, convictions, purpose, hopes, and dreams are going to be drastically different than someone who does not know Christ.  If the purpose of dating is to result in marriage, then why would you date someone who is going to hinder, rather than spur on your relationship with Christ? Do not fall for the lie of missionary dating, which is trying to date a non-Christian in hopes to convert them.  Most of the time it doesn't work and leads both parties into sin and heartbreak.  Hang out with lost people. Be friends with lost people, but do not open yourself to a person so that you are unequally yoked.

Do not Seriously Start Dating Someone until You are Ready for Marriage

This might be one many would disagree with me on, but I share it with you as some practical wisdom.  I suggest that you do not begin seriously dating someone until you are in that place in your life when you are ready to marry.  I say this because so many teenagers just end up in sexual sin in middle school and high school.  None of them are even thinking of marriage, they just want a pseudo marriage where they can treat some person like a fake spouse.  They get way too intimate, way too quickly, and way before they are ready for marriage.  They begin to connect on an emotional, physical, and a tragically sexual manner that when the inevitable break up happens it leaves both parties in utter chaos.

However is it realistic to begin dating young when we live in a couture that enters into marriage in their thirties? As Christians, I think we need to not be afraid to marry early.  If the bible teaches abstinence from sex before marriage and we are going to expect this from our young teenage and college followers of Jesus, is it realistic to abstain from sex until the age of 30?  So often we make our young Christians feel like it is a shameful thing to get married at the age of 20, 21, or 22.  In fact many older married people even discourage younger Christians from getting married young (It happened to me and my wife), most often because they themselves have terrible marriages and enviously long for their single life back.  We forget Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.  But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry.  For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."  Many of our young christians are burning with sexual passion and rather than discouraging a young christian couple from marrying we should encourage it.  Instead of holding to the social faux pas we need to celebrate it.  For it is better for young Christians to enter into marriage than to burn in sexual passion and sin.

Don't find your identity in the person you are dating

As many people date, they create an idol out of the person they are dating.  In fact, many people begin finding their identity in that individual.  An unhealthy dependent relationship begins to develop.  Many people begin to want the intimacy of marriage in their relationship without the commitment.  However, as Christians we must be constantly on guard in case we begin finding our identity, hope, and satisfaction in anyone or anything other than Jesus.   Even in marriage, we must be careful of finding our hope in our spouse instead of Christ.  So many sinfully look for a romantic relationship to satisfy what is lacking in them.  However, in Christ we lack nothing, but have been given everything we need! No boy or girl will ever satisfy you, only Christ!  Guard your heart from idolatry as you date, and pay careful attention to your thoughts and emotions.  Keep the focus on Christ and in all things you do, whether you are single, dating, engaged, or married; do all for the glory of God and for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus!

Dating and Marriage Part 3: The Importance of Marriage

In the last post, we discussed how the Bible allows for people to live either as single and celibate or married.  We looked at the gift of singleness primarily from 1 Corinthians 7.  Now let's take a look at God's design for male/female relationships, marriage.

The Creation of Marriage

In the creation account in Genesis, we are told that God created both male and female in the image of God.  In Genesis 2:23, we get to see the first marriage ceremony as God creates the woman from the rib of the man.  In the creation of the woman, man was given a partner and helper in the task that God had given him which is to fill the earth and subdue it.  In Genesis we are told that marriage exists because God first created the institution.  We are given the commentary on this event in Genesis 2:24-25:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Notice that marriage was created before sin was brought into this world through Adam and Eve's disobedience.  Marriage was never an evil necessity in response to sinful humanity, but given by God as a good and perfect gift.  Marriage and sexuality are God's idea, therefore the definition of marriage or the practice of our sexuality is never dictated by the culture perspective of the day, but by the Word of God.  This is an important point to remember as we discuss dating and relationships.  God's definition of the covenant of marriage is very specific and defined by the Bible.

God's Design

God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman for one lifetime.  That's the ideal. That is the way God created marriage to be.  However, although this is God's plan, because of sin's rampant destruction in our world divorce happens (permissible or not, we can debate that in another blog post).  In fact, many look around our society and question, "Why would you even want to get married. Clearly with the sky high divorce rate and the failure and heartbreak that comes with so many marriages, we should just give up on the institution."  However the problem isn't with the institution of marriage itself, but rather with the depraved hearts of those who enter them.  The reason there are so many defunct marriages is simple, sin.  However although sin plays a part in destroying so many marriages, the institution should not be given up or abandoned, but practiced as God intends it to be.

 God's Plan

Marriage is God's plan for male/female relationships.  As we think about the purpose or end game of dating, we must think of it through this lens.  When it comes to dating, the purpose must not be to simply have a good time or eat a good dinner, but to move towards the goal of marriage.  Therefore, as you think about dating, you must never forget the purpose for which you are dating, to find a spouse.  I say this because so many people forget that this is the goal.  Do not just keep on dating a person knowing that you have no future with them.  Therefore be purposeful as you date, knowing that the end goal is marriage.

 The Importance of Marriage

Marriage is incredibly significant.  There is a reason that God uses the illustration of marriage to describe His relationship between Christ and His church.  Marriage is God's only plan for male/female relationships.  If we are going to live our lives in a way that is holy and pure, then we must understand that the sexual union and the lifelong covenant that comes with the one flesh relationship of marriage needs to be taken seriously.  There are two options for a Christian, singleness or marriage.  The decision to enter into marriage does not need to be taken lightly and finding the right person to marry can be a challenge.  In the next post we will look at some practical counsel on Christian dating and choosing the right spouse.