SGC. . . .hasn’t our time in Judges been faith enriching?! And faith building?! And faith inspiring?! Judges also helps us feed our faith with how to understand the Lord’s love and hate. And the reality of love and hate in our lives.

Five chapters in, we’ve seen how faith and failure played out among God’s people in and around 1200 BC. Much like we sort through faith and failure in 2023 AD. We’ve seen faith filled, but flawed, personalities living imperfectly as they follow the Lord. Much like we are faith filled but flawed individuals doing so as well. Most meaningfully, perhaps, we’ve seen how God’s love for and faithfulness toward His people is wonderfully elevated above Israel’s (His chosen people or nation in the O.T. See Deut. 7:6-11) failures apart from the faith. Not because God approves of their failures apart from the faith, of course. After all, He judges them time and time again. But, because of His longsuffering love for His people.

. . .we’ve seen how “God’s love for and faithfulness toward His people is wonderfully elevated above Israel’s. . .failures apart from the faith. Not because God approves of their failures apart from the faith, of course. . . But, because of His longsuffering love for His people.”

As we noted the other Sunday, He is routinely moved with “pity” (Judges 2:18) to raise up Judges and save his recalcitrant prone people. This is in keeping with His glorious character. Once He sets His love upon us, nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:31-39)!! As we are so gloriously reminded of with the Father sending His Son to die in suffering the judgement for our failures apart from faith, in our place.

The Judges themselves, foreshadowed this love of God in Christ among Israel, as we find them serving as redeemer and savior types until their deaths (Judges 2:16, 3:9,15 etc.); even as Israel was failing apart from the faith. Think about it, at the onset of their sin cycles, as the second generation separated from the faith of the first generation (Judges 2:10), we find the Lord judging His people (2:11-15). Yet, we also find him being moved with ‘pity” (2:18). And, being moved because of their suffering under oppressive and brutal foreign Lord’s, such as King Eglon (3:12-30). This pity of God, or compassion, brings the Lord to graciously (unmerited favor and preferred treatment) raise up judges to save his people so mercifully (unmerited relief from what is deserved). 

“Once He sets His love upon us, nothing can separate us from His love”

Again, and this warrants belaboring, this pity (or compassion), mercy and graceis born out of His love for them. As we reach back to Deuteronomy, just after the Lord our God saved Israel from Egyptian captivity and oppression, He clarifies His reason for saving themAnd choosing them to be saved, over and against all other surrounding nations. He speaks through Moses, “The Lord your God has chosen you (Israel) to be a people for his treasuredpossession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you. . .but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you form the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharoah king of Egypt” (Deut.7:6-9; cf.10:14-15).

The Apostle John definitely has this ‘pity’ and love of God in mind when he invites us to, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we (you and me SGC) should be called children of God, and so we are. .. Beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 John 3:1-2). John says this, by the way, after commenting on how we are sinners, after warning against sin, and after exhorting us to avoid sin. What faithful love and ‘pity’ our Father has for us SGC! 

“What faithful love and ‘pity’ our Father has for us SGC!” 

However, with all of this being said and celebrated, our loving Lord and God always looks upon evil as evil. And calls evil what it is. After all, one of the common refrains that reoccurs in relation to Israel’s sin cycles throughout Judges is, “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…” 

As we’ve noted on a previous Sunday, this verbiage of doing what is evil is language that bespeaks a systemic and prevailing lifestyle of sin. A rank abandoning of the Lord’s Word and following His commands (i.e. His moral law. See Deut. 5-11). Even with His chosen Israel, among whom His saved remnant lives, the Lord calls evil what it is. Because our Lord hates evil. 

SGC, this is crucial for our awareness of what going forward in faith looks like and engenders. The Lord our God always and in all ways hates evil. He despises wickedness. And, He calls upon His people, you and me, to also despise evil. This is well captured in Psalm 139:19-22, “Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise against you? I hate them with a complete hatred; Icount them as enemies.” Notice the personal pronouns here, “I” and “me”. This speaks to what our disposition is to be toward how our Lord views evil. (AlbeitWhile this is to be our disposition toward evil, this isn’t to be our actiontowards evil! See below)

“The Lord our God always and in all ways hates evil. He despises wickedness. And, He calls upon His people, you and me, to also despise evil.”

In fact, as we’ve seen in Judges 3 for instance, we find the Lord actually -and in ‘real life’ as our 5 year so often qualifies- mocking and denigrating evil despots, abusers, egoists, and narcissists, et al (as this is His revealed Word ultimately reflecting His posture toward evil figures).

Please bear with me here?! 

The writer of Judges (many hundreds of years after the fact) looks back upon the king of Mesopotamia as “Cushan-rishathaim”. This isn’t actually the name of the king. It was a Hebrew manner of speaking that identified this king as ‘doubly evil’. This sort of reflection and description speaks to how we are to remember and understand such nefarious and dubious personalities, totalitarian authority figures, abusers, haters, military and political despots, pedophiles, sociopaths etc. who never turn from their evil. History will remember them this way. Most significantly our Lord remembers them this way. We are to remember them this way. And, this is okay. Because it is in keeping with God’s nature and character.

This is only magnified when we consider the description of King Eglon in Judges 3:12-30. This king is described, remembered and spoken of using the most unflattering of verbiage. The entire section is recorded in a deliberatelysatirical manner. Or, to be a touch more on the nose, in an obviously insulting manner. Eglon is portrayed as a nincompoop; more or less. He’s described (by God btw) as an incompetent oversized (although heaviness in their day wasn’t necessarily a sign of insult but of wealth and prosperity) ruler who is ultimately foolish and naive in allowing Ehud (a foreign emissary) a private audience in his personal space. And if this wasn’t insulting enough, Eglon is remembered as a guy who uses the restroom on himself. Or, whose dung spills all over himself. This is how he is posthumously rememberedOr, rather, infamously, deleteriously and derisively remembered. A lump of hot, steaming. . .well, you smell what I’m stepping in. 

This remembrance, is a reflection of absolute -and God approved- derision for this grotesque malefactor who’s presence defiled humanity, while disabusing and exploiting those under his authority. We are also to have such a remembrance for the aforementioned doubly evil lives and persons. The Lord preserves his memory or legacy as a lasting joke. Or a punch line, even.

What does this mean? 

Well, among the church, we are to always and everywhere view such villainy as evil. We are to positively and mockingly affirm it as evil. And, even look back on such folk who don’t turn from such evil. . .disapprovingly, derisively and mockingly even!

So. . .with this in mind, the Caesars of Rome were doubly evil. The child sacrifices of the Incan empire were doubly evil long before the Portuguese arrived (whose exploits were also doubly evil). Boko Haram is doubly evilApartheid was doubly evil. The Bolshevik revolution was doubly evil. The Confederacy was doubly evilSegregationwas doubly evilRed China was doubly evilChina’s present government is doubly evilRobert E Lee was doubly evilMao Tse Dung was doubly evilHitler and the Holocaust were doubly evil. The transatlantic slave trade was doubly evilSaddam Hussein was doubly evilSupreme Court Justices voting in favor of lawful abortion are doubly evilPoliticians consciously legislating in favor of one class at the expense of another is doubly evil. The Holy Warswere doubly evil. The Roman Catholic sacerdotal discrimination of priest and laity was and is doubly evilJeffrey Epstein was doubly evil. The systemic child and sex abuse among the Southern Baptist Convention was and is doubly evil. So forth and so on. Critical Race Theory is doubly evil.

“. . .among the church, we are to always and everywhere view such villainy as evil. We are to positively and mockingly affirm it as evil. And, even look back on such folk who don’t turn from such evil. . .disapprovingly, derisively and mockingly even!”

So many more could be added to this list SGC. Nothing is new under the Sun as Ecclesiastes reminds us; includingthe doubly evil. You and I know this. We experience this. We feel this. We have memories of this. And experience trauma due to this. 

It goes back to the fall. Sin is the origin of this evil. Sin is its cause. And sin is a doubly evil influence and reality. This is why Jesus Christ is our only help. 

He is our only helping and comforting presence in the face of any presence of discomforting evil; or even the doubly evil. He also experienced the doubly evil actions of Judas, the Pharisees and Sanhedrin, along with the Roman Empires doubly evil oppression. He even experienced this doubly evil to the point of death. And yet, He overcame and endured them all!

SGC. . .Jesus empowers us and you to do the same! He arose from the doubly evil experience of an unjust crucifixion at the hands of doubly evil humanity and doubly evil human institutions. And, in so doing, He overcame and conquered the doubly evil. Jesus alone is the sinless One who suffered the evils of all of our sin/s, so that we have strength for life in the face of any and all of the doubly evil we may encounter. Plus, He gives us strength to arise above the temptations toward the evil of sin ourselves. 

He also gives us and you helping rest and peace as the One who personally experienced the doubly evil and wasn’t undone by any of them. . . .He was kind to Judas, His betrayer. He healed the Jewish soldiers ear who was present in Gehtsamane to unjustly arrest him. He lovingly entreated Peter, even though He overheard Peter’s public denial of knowing Him while being unjustly oppressed (doubly evil).

SGC, you and I can know peace and respite, in the face of the doubly evil, or even in the face of common and ordinary evil encounters each and every day, because Jesus had peace unto the most unjust death and mistreatment. As you may recall, after the redeemer and savior types of judges were raised up by God to save Israel, their land experienced peace for 20 years, 40 years etc. This brought the people to also know rest and peace. However, these stints of peace were short lived, as every Judge eventually died. Christ, on the other hand, has risen from the grave! And, being alive forevermore, the strength and peace He supplies us with also is alive in us forevermore! And, we can go forward in faith boldly in Him SGC

Excursus | Now, while this to be our disposition towards rank evil, our action towards rank evil is much different. We are called, in Christ, not to pray for the slaying of the wicked, but to pray for the wicked and to do good to them (Luke 6:27-28; Acts 7:54-60; Proverbs 24:17,25:21-22; Matt.5:44; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Peter 3:9; Romans 12:14-19; 2 Timothy 4:14-18). Moreover, Jesus calls us to love them (Luke 6:27-28; Matthew 5:43-45), to honor the office of rules even when their practices are evil (Rom. 13:5-7; 1 Peter 2:13-25; Titus 3:1-2).    


7 Quick ‘Be’s’ Regarding Revival

There has been much commentary and dialogue and dismissal and critique and social media posts interacting with the phenomena happening on campus at Asbury. Perhaps you’ve heard?! If not, you can easily conduct an online search and a deluge of info will cascade about a ‘revival’ precipitating on this campus. 

A few things can quickly be said about what a revival isn’t and what a revival is. Revival isn’t an event, though an event is usually an impetus. Revival isn’t an experience, though it is existential in that there’s an experience of, or, perhaps better put, an encounter of the presence of God accompanied by renewed faith and life. Revival isn’t a feeling or sensation, although there will be renewed feelings or affections for the worship of God and for communion with Him. Revival isn’t characterized by ecstatic insatiated outward expression, but rather characterized by enthusiastic sustained inward transformation. 

That being said, as things play out with Asbury, here are a few ways God’s Word provides us with to gauge the thermostat of this ‘revival’, so called. Please bear in mind, below is by no means an exhaustive list or trenchant analysis. Rather, a quick gathering of a few thoughts. 7 quick ‘Be’s’ regarding revival, if you will.

Be patiently watching |

Gamaliel’s advice to Israel’s leaders about a conceivable bourgeoning Christian Church in his day, is posthumously helpful as we are observing what’s happening at Asbury. Or when there’s any comparable event unfurling and language of revival is being proffered as a description. Or accounting.

Gamaliel cautioned the leaders to wait patiently. He remarked, “if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail, but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God” (Acts 5:33-42). 

Conversely though, patiently watching is thrown out of the window should it be known that false doctrine and unbiblical worship is being espoused.

Be careful criticizing |

We need to be careful about criticizing such moments or events among the church we don’t quite comprehend from a distance or while we’re not in the immediate vicinity. The Pharisee’s had no compunction or reservation for eschewing the work and move of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Their characterization of his ministry and movements was that he was possessed by demons (Matthew 12:22-32). They couldn’t imagine a move of God apart from their established templates of religious activities or apart from their own religious underpinnings.

Be sober about rejecting |

Further, appertaining to carefulness with criticism (above), we need to be sober with rejecting what the Lord might be doing in this Asbury setting. Members of the church in Thessalonica were experiencing or encountering misuse of ‘prophecy’ in their setting. While we’re not entirely sure what was transpiring, what they encountered brought suspicion of the expression of ‘prophecy’ among them. Paul’s instruction though, wasn’t to reject the legitimacy of bona fide expressions of ‘prophecy’. It was rather to promote being sober minded about it, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). 

Be hopefully interceding |

While mindful of how the Lord previously renewed his people, the sons of Korah write a psalm interceding for the people saying, “Restore us again. . .Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you” (Psalm 85).

Heart’s encountering a spiritual revitalization will actively pursue the Lord for renewal or revival, so called. This prayer will be intercession for God’s people to have a refreshed delight in the Lord and a clearer appreciation of His glory, righteousness and beauty.

This is also something we, who are watching from a distance, ought to be prayerfully pursuing ourselves SGC. As we saw during our #SGCRevitalize sermon series last year.

Be aware of what’s transforming |

In Psalm 85, the intercession was for a revival of salvation among God’s people. That is, a fresh remembrance of His forgiveness of their sins. A fresh revival of delighting in the worship of God and enjoyment of sweet communion with the Lord. Along with a rejuvenated passion and enthusiasm to hear God’s word.

True revival will entail transformation such as this. Where the hearts cry is ‘restore in me the joys of my salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit’ (Psalm 51:12). Genuine revival is a revival of the whole persons posture before God. Whereby, our affections, attitudes and actions are reoriented to worship God, live for God and delight in His presence. 

Be mindful of where it’s happening |

Revival isn’t about an event or location. Though these might be involved. And, are often an impetus. Revival isn’t marked by passionate expressionism locationally. It won’t remain confined to an auditorium or campus. When revival is poured out, it will spill over into our daily affairs and decisions. It will spill over into how we go about working and spending our time. It will spill over into a renewed interest in sharing the gospel and worshipping together. It will spill out into our households, jobs, Sunday’s together so forth and so on.

Revival will eventually bring us to be mindful of all the places the church is being renewed in all the places we find ourselves. The singular location that might have served as an impetus, will eventually fade from our view as revival spills over into all those ordinary aspects of life. Otherwise, it may be that the revival was perhaps a worship of revival or a movement, rather than the Lord God.

Israel was brought to a revival of sorts as Joshua was portending his death. He brought Israel together at Shechem, where the whole of Israel renewed their faith in Joshua 23-24. There was a revival of interest in obeying the Lord, loving the Lord and serving the Lord. All of this language permeates this ancient revival. However, they moved in revival out into their ordinary lives from Shechem. Their renewal of faith, or revival ultimately was a matter of bringing them to serve the Lord all of their days (Judges 2:6-7).      

Be looking for Christ-centering |

Any genuine revival that God stirs (Ezra 1:1; 1:5) in the spirits of His people will always center everyone’s attention upon Jesus Christ. Worship will be elevating His name. Preaching will be drawing faith to His name. Teaching will be attracting attention to the call of God to turn from sin and to follow Jesus (Acts 2:22-41; Matthew 16:24-28 et al). Praying will be praying in His name. Inner healing will come about through the forgiveness of sins and renewal of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus baptizes us with (John 1:33; Ephesians 5:15-21).

As the Spirit of God indwelling the temple of God -aka the church- is filling the church with a revived presence of God, the center of attention will always be Jesus Christ. For, as Jesus taught, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14).

When revival impacts a person, or a gathering of believers of whatever size, it won’t be the event or location being accented, it will be the whole of life that is impacted. The whole of life being impacted by the whole of Christ’s life.


SGC, hasn’t the opening chapter in Judges been an enriching deposit of God’s grace that has fed our faith. And I mean faith quite literally. After all, we’veve been highlighting characteristics of faith from chapter 1 in each Sunday sermon so far. We could also describe these characteristics as qualities of faith. Or attributes of faith even. 

As we have seen, the opening chapter is replete with portraits of faith being inexorably lived out as Israel is moving forward in life to settle the land of promise God had given them and led them to.

For instance, at the very onset of chapter one -in the very first verse even – we immediately find faith effervescing. Before anything else, following the death of their leader, Joshua, Israel inquires of the Lord about how to go forward in life and in their corporate mission as God’s chosen people. “The people of Israel” sought the Lord our God’s direction. Faith always begins with an interest in discerning and seeking God’s guidance for life from His revealed Word (Judges 1:2). And then, moving forward and living by faith obeying and following His revealed Word (Judges 1:3-7).

Faith always begins with an interest in discerning and seeking God’s guidance for life from His revealed Word. And then moving forward and living by faith obeying and following His revealed Word

As we’ve noted, upon receiving revelation from the Lord that Judah would be Israel’s trailblazer going into battle, Judah responds in faith to God’s Word. However, there’s another hue in the color spectrum of our faith that’s brought into view as Judah responds. A hue we didn’t particularly highlight when working through Judges 1:1-10. And, a hue only tacitly touched on the other Sunday from verses 11-15. 

This additional hue of our faith, is the color of corporate faith. Or community faith. A communal faith Paul inarguably and beautifully exhorts us to and celebrates in Ephesians 4:1-6, “I therefore,. . .urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. . .bearing with one anothereager to maintain the unityof the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit. . .one Lord, one FAITH. . .one God and Father of all (believers), who is over all and through all and in all.” What lofty language speaking to a shared and lived communal faith. Moreover, chapters 2-6 of Ephesians all advance an elevated view of such a communal faith

We also find Jesus praying for this communal faith in John’s gospel 17:20-23; as the very One Who is building His Church (Matthew 16:18).  

This communal hue of our faith SGC, is the first impulse of Judah as he responds in faith to God’s Word. His response wasn’t an impetuous and brazen ‘faith’ to ride into battle alone, for fame and glory. Nor for prestige and honor or tribal  respect and admiration among the other 11 tribes of Israel. And he didn’t move forward in ‘faith’ alone out of trust in self sufficiency or out of fear of being perceived as needy, inferior or weak.  After all, Judah was blessed by Jacob as the brother of prowess. As the brother who would have the “rulers staff”. As the tribe described being a lions cub who none would dare rouse (Gen.49:8-12). Rather, Judah involved Simeon, his brother along with his tribe in this conquest.

Judah’s faith wasn’t exclusive, it was inclusive. An inclusive faith that is no less true for us as well SGC! Judah’s faith wasn’t an exclusive faith that rested in the blessing of his tribes prowess and ability or reputation. His faith was an inclusive faith that was vested in the blessing of God for all the tribes (of Israel); including his own. A faithcommunally confessed in Joshua 23-24 as all of Israel renewed their faith before God together.

Judah’s faith wasn’t exclusive, it was inclusive. An inclusive faith that is no less true for us well SGC!

Now, with the aforementioned in mind, let’s extrapolate a few communal expressions that faith involves.

Firstly, our communal and inclusive faith involves invitation.

We all need to invite others among our church family into our lives and situations; as Judah invites Simeon into his – and by extension Simeon’s tribe. You need to invite other marrieds into your own marriage for counsel, consolation, suffering and recreation. This might include inviting families along with their children into your home and possibly your children’s lives. Even if they don’t share a sameness of affinity and interests. And particularly, if they are differently schooled. Such as homeschooled, private or public schooled. Or enrolled in the school of hard knocks! Remember, invitation involves inclusion by faith, not exclusion. 

You need to invite other faith based singles into your world. Other singles you can share your experiences and situations with. This also extends to marrieds and families inviting singles into your worlds. To enjoy their company and for singles to better grasp family or married life. And vice versa! For singles to enjoy the company of marrieds and for marrieds and families to appreciate and value those remaining single.

You also need to invite other generations into your personal faith. Excluding other generations from your own life of faith, homogenizes your faith. It limits your faith maturation by only including those who are similar or familiarwith your generation’s cultural climate. We need to welcome other generations into our own by way of inviting their input, their perspective and their experience into our own faith’s formation

We see this playing out with the older Caleb inviting the young buck Othniel into his own life of faith in Judges 1:11-15.  So much so, Othniel is invited into Caleb’s own ‘tribe’, as a son in law. And into sharing Caleb’s ancestral inheritance.

Excluding other generations from your own life of faith, homogenizes your faith.  It limits your faith maturation by only including those who are similar or familiar with your generation’s cultural climate.

Secondly, our communal and inclusive faith involves participation.

It goes without saying, Judah’s extended tribe would participate in one another’s lives going forward into battle and establishing their familial situations and conditions. Plus, Simeon and his extended ‘tribe’ would also come alongand participate. And vice versa. Not to mention Caleb’s extended family would be involved participating by faith in Judges 1:11-15.  

Going forward in faith with our Lord will bring you to actively participate in the lives of others. This isn’t a passive participation, whereby you statically or merely confess this to be true. Rather, it is an active participation, whereby you also dynamically profess this to be true. Confession is an uninvolved verbal recitation. Profession is an involved actual and personal participation. Judah and Simeon actually and actively participated in each other’s lives as they embarked in warfare together.

Faith will bring you to actively and actually participate in the lives of others among our church family. Rather than secluding yourself among your “biological” family or your usual, and often closed, social circle. Faith doesn’t insulate itself from everyone else. Faith will incorporate itself among everyone else (Mark 3:31-35; Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 4:1-13; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Philippians 1:27; et al). Faith will involve you serving in children’s ministry or the welcome team. Faith will involve you helping another family through conflict and with child rearing. Faith will involve you grieving with others among the church at a funeral or celebrating a momentous occasion with them. And, so forth.

Faith doesn’t insulate itself from everyone else. Faith will incorporate itself among everyone else

Thirdly, our communal and inclusive faith involves cooperation.

As we see from Judges 1:3, Judah doesn’t only invite and welcome Simeon into a participation of his own tribes conquests, Judah offers his own tribes resources and energies in cooperation with Simeon’s efforts of conquest and settling in the territory allotted to him, and thus Simeon’s own extended tribe.The same is true of Caleb’s offer of his daughter for whomever (Othniel) would lead his own interests going forward into the land promised to them by the Lord our God (1:20). It’s also noteworthy that Achsah involves her newly minted husband to cooperatively ask Caleb for land (1:14). Whereas, she cooperates in their marriage and family interests by approaching dad for a blessing (1:14-15).

Faith will bring you to cooperate with other believers as you sort through how you understand your faith and how you are to live out your faith going forward. The book of Acts captures this so brilliantly as the nascent church is emerging. Living by faithcooperatively, ranges from sharing life and belongings (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37), to cooperatively praying together (Acts 4:23-31; 12:5; 13:1-3), to cooperatively organizing ministry (Acts 6:1-7; 10:1-48), to cooperatively sorting through the doctrine of the church -ecclesiology- and the doctrine of salvation -aka soteriology- and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit -aka pneumatology- (Acts 11:1-18, 19-30; 15:1-35) et al.

Faith will bring you to cooperate with other believers as you sort through how you understand your faith and how you are to live out your faith going forward.

Faith will bring you to cooperate with others as you sort through how you interpret your faith and mature in your faith. This is what the Apostle Paul is helping the Corinthians to grasp as they are gravitating toward preferred teachers of the faith. Teachers who personify their own personal preferences; rather than involving all the Lord’s people resources to cooperatively challenge, correct, refine and enhance their own faith.  He challenges this myopic view of faith, by firstly calling it individualistic and immature (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). And secondly, drawing the attention of believers in Corinth to our growth in faith being a cooperative endeavor and experience (1 Corinthians 3:5-9 {10-23}). After all, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7). This reception comes about through cooperation in receiving from others. And also, you contributing into the lives of others through cooperation.

Ultimately SGC, this communal faith that involves our invitation, participation and cooperation displays the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, as our Mission Statement affirms. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12). In other-words, just as the natural body is one body with many members, “so it is with -body of- Christ”, referring to His church. And this is so, because, as Paul resumes in the very next verse all believers are baptized BY Jesus into one body (church). As we’re brought to faith in Christ, we’re brought into a communal faith by Him as He personally “baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33) unto new life in Him and with Him. A new life that is a communal life in Him with one another as we “all were made to drink of the one Spirit”

Turning To Jesus Trustingly Revitalizes Us

During two recent #SGCRevitalize Sunday’s, we explored prayer from Mark 9:14-29. As we’ve seen, Jesus revitalizes us as our prayer life is renewed. Turning to Jesus prayerfully is essential to your and our revitalization as a church.

Conversely, the disciples in that Markan account were unable to promote revitalization among the lives of a father and spiritually oppressed son in. This was so, because they -themselves- were cut off from revitalization resulting from being personally cut off from prayer. Cut off from the oxygen of revitalization, much like a diver will be left struggling to breathe or will be gasping for air when their oxygen line is tangled or cut off. 

Prayer is essential for revitalization personally. And essential for revitalization among SGC corporately. After all, Jesus imbrues our souls with His life as we are turning to Him, in faith, for life. Plus, our turning to Him and pursuing Him prayerfully will invariably promote life in others. As we have seen with the father pursuing Jesus personally and prayerfully for the life of his son in those verses in Mark. 

“Prayer is essential for revitalization personally. And essential for revitalization among SGC corporately. After all, Jesus imbrues our souls with His life as we are turning to Him, in faith, for life. Plus, our turning to Him and pursuing Him prayerfully will invariably promote life in others”

If you recall, a main accent point from those Sundays was to clarify how prayer isn’t as mystical or ethereal as is often thought. It isn’t reserved for super-spiritual elites or monastic spiritualists. Prayer is personal and conversational. It’s best to simplify. The above account in Mark records personal conversations between a father (regarding his son) with Jesus. Along with personal conversations with the disciples and Jesus. 

We often don’t construe such accounts with Jesus in the gospels as praying to Him. But. . .this is precisely what is happening. So, let’s bear this in mind moving forward.

As a quick reminder from the other Sunday, here are a few of the practical prayer pointers that cultivate revitalization spiritually. God’s Word evinces that we prevail when praying : 

  1. By pursuing Jesus in prayer privately
  2. By pursuing Jesus in prayer corporately (with the church)
  3. By persisting in these areas of prayer
  4. By listening in prayer
  5. By unloading in prayer
  6. By asking in prayer

Beyond these, there is another essential area of prevailing prayerfully found in a unique exchange between Jesus and His disciples in Mark 8:14-21. . .An area of our lives appertaining to TRUST

What’s striking about this area of trust Jesus is calling us to and drawing us to in this account, is that it is uniquely counterintuitive to our ordinary experience and sense of things. In that, this trust in Jesus isn’t achieved through cataloguing various details in order to arrive at confidence. This trust isn’t attained by way of mentally processing accessible facts as a means to comprehend or even understand the variegated situations and circumstances we find ourselves entrenched in. This trust, is provided by Jesus as we turn to Him by faith. This is primarily what Mark 8:14-21 particularly illustrates for us.

“…trust isn’t attained by way of mentally processing accessible facts as a means to comprehend or even understand the variegated situations and circumstances we find ourselves entrenched in. This trust, is provided by Jesus as we turn to Him by faith.”

Now, what unfolds just prior to this account, lays important stepping stones for grasping what Jesus is accentuating. Mark 8:14-21 doesn’t happen in isolation. In Mark 8:1-10, Jesus multiplies 7 loaves of bread and “a few small fish” the disciples had among them to feed a crowd of 4,000 people. Wow! Quite astounding. This ought to inspire confidence, right?! Well, not so much with a certain group of folk.

Shortly after this (Mark 8:11-13), Pharisees “argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test (or prove) him”. Bear in mind, the Pharisee’s are gainsayers of Jesus. Pathological doubters to be sure. They demand tangible and empirical data to garner their trust that Jesus is the Son of God. They want Jesus to prove Himself to them. Christ’s response was that they would be given no such “sign from heaven”. After all, they’ve already seen and heard all the proof for such confidence that a reasonable person would need.

It’s immediately on the heels of these two accounts that Mark records the aforementioned situation of trust involving bread and the disciples (Mark 8:14-21). They find themselves low on supplies and in a bit of a bind. Aware of their depleted situation and hungry condition (and Jesus is always aware SGC!) Christ warns them, “saying, watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod”. This warning follows upon the heels of Christ’s rebuke of the Pharisees’ disbelieving and cynical demand for a sign to be convinced by Jesus. Bottom line, they were demanding verifiable data or corporeal ‘believe it if I see it’ facts in order to secure their trust. And this leaven was trickling down into the disciples own faith.

This is what Jesus is drawing the disciples attention to as the disciples are expressing their concern about not having bread. A worry and concern that precipitated as they were, “discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread” (v.16). In response, Mark recounts, “And Jesus, aware of this (Jesus is always aware SGC), said to them, ‘Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” This line of questioning is directly referring to remembering the occasion where Jesus previously fed 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread. And the more immediate occasion where He multiplied 7 loaves to feed 4,000 (Mark 8:1-10). 

In other-words, how can the disciples still be struggling or losing sleep over the “fact that they had no bread” (v.16)? When the very One Who fed thousands upon thousands with next to nothing is in their immediate presence?! This is why Jesus ended this conversation saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

While the disciples had hard, accessible and undeniably real facts before them (lack of bread), they had Jesus, the sustainer and provider with them.      

Jesus wants us and invites us to trust Him. We’re always surrounded by facts and ensconced in the details of life. We’re often busily painting by numbers. And intently focused on and worried about the details of following the numbers to fully ‘perceive’ the picture we know is already there. It’s confidence boosting to remind ourselves SGC, that Jesus is present and with us in the details and among the details. He is with us, by His Spirit, as He was physically with the disciples in Mark 8:14-21. 

“It’s confidence boosting to remind ourselves SGC, that Jesus is present and with us in the details and among the details. He is with us, by His Spirit, as He was physically with the disciples. . .”

We can turn to him prayerfully, with confidence, trusting that He’s present and providing and sustaining; even as the very real data points or fact patterns we are processing are crowding our minds. We can trust him as the real data points of divorce or marriage conflict are swarming. We can trust him as real  financial and economic fact patterns are depleting our checking accounts. We can trust him as real data points are being relayed with us from our surgeons or doctors. We cant trust him as real fact patterns bring concerns into our worlds relative to our children or parents or friends. 

This is a helpful reminder that prayer isn’t to be conceived of as transactional. You know, like an ATM machine or bank. Whereby, as we request money from our account, that exact amount is given upon request. It is true, Jesus elsewhere assured his disciples , “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). A promise you and I are also assured of. However, this also assumes, as Jesus reminds us in 1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God (prayerfully): that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”. It was assumed in the “whatever you ask in my name” assurance, that the disciples would be praying in accordance with God’s will in Jesus ChristJesus wasn’t espousing transactional prayer with them. This reminds us, our trust in Christ isn’t transactional. Rather, life giving and revitalizing trust precipitates as we entrust ourselves to his, “good and acceptable and perfect” will of God (Romans 12:2). 

“…our trust in Christ isn’t transactional. Rather, life giving and revitalizing trust precipitates as we entrust ourselves to his, “good and acceptable and perfect” will of God (Romans 12:2).”

And, what you’ll find and experience is – as you turn to Jesus prayerfully – trust and peace will burgeon within you. Jesus was with the disciples as they were overwhelmed and worried about the data points and fact patterns in their immediate and real experience here in Mark 8:14-21. Howeverthey weren’t turning to Jesus in conversational and personal prayer. Their personal and spiritual (mental and emotional) unrest would have been assuaged in turning to Jesus. In fact, as they listened to Jesus speaking to them (prayerfully) in person, I imagine all unrest melted away much like the shivering cold of winter dissipates with the rising of the warming sun. 

Jesus also prayerfully and personally speaks to us. He does so through His word and by the Holy Spirit who indwells us. I believe this is why the letter to Jude concludes with an urgent call to, “  


So SGC, we’ve been sorting through how God’s Word speaks to revitalization during our present sermon series –#SGCRevitalize. And, where better to turn, than God’s Word to incite and excite spiritual renewal among us?! To have His very Word speak to us about inward vitality. After all, it’s by means of His written Word that Jesus, Himself, personally administers soul nourishing and enlivening strength and awakening. An awakening the Holy Spirit effects and affects internally. 

As Jesus, the Word in the flesh reminds us, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and life” (John 6:63).   

And, we’re accenting spiritual renewal, in contradistinction to, say, physical healing or renewal, because Scripture’s primary loci of focus is upon the condition of our soul. Our inner self. The “You, you”, as Francis Schaefer put it. Such spiritual revival, if you will, is the locus of interest reverberating throughout God’s Word.  

Of course, the Lord cares about our physical condition and well being. After all, upon his return Jesus, “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body. . .” (Philippians 3:21). However, our spiritual fortitude and our inner condition of faith’s health and vitality is the pulse that enables us, by God’s grace and empowering, to endure all things physical. All circumstances. All disappointments. All heartaches and headaches. Every such all

“. . .our spiritual fortitude and our inner condition of faith’s health and vitality is the pulse that enables us, by God’s grace and empowering, to endure all things physical.”

This is why Paul writes the Corinthians saying, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. . .” (2 Corinthians 4:16) And, again, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are a home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faithnot by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6)

This is also why Jesus spent concerted time and energy imbuing his disciples with spiritual “peace” and “joy” inwardly just prior to His departure. He knew they needed inward peace as they were about to undergo a great deal of oppression. Including their own deaths, physically. (John 16:16-24; 16:33 et al). Jesus was revitalizing them. 

Well, beyond them, He also well knows we/you need the same inward, spiritual endowments. He knows life bogs you down. He’s aware juggling work, kids, home, finances, et al, is so often overwhelming for you. He knows your inhibitions, your discomforts and frustrations. Along with your worries and anxieties. He’s familiar with the social pressures at school and among friends you are often confronted with. Not to mention the sexual enticements in a ‘your body, your right’ environment. Jesus is aware how all of this weighs on you and wears you down. It often depresses your faith and suppresses your spiritual vitality. As with the disciples (above) Jesus also wants your personal revitalization. As well as our revitalization as a church

“As with the disciples (above) Jesus also wants your personal revitalization. As well as our revitalization as a church.”

This revitalization is firstly realized, as we pursue Jesus among those areas of ordinary and complicated life. We need Jesus speaking revitalized life and vitality into our every day experiences and ordeals. And, He does so as we read His Word and gather with our local church to hear what His Word says to us. Such life awakening peace and joy is needed so that we are excitedly gathering with the church to worship Him and receive great grace from Him as we do. We need to “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. . .that I may know him and the power of his resurrection” as Paul gladly boasted in Philippians 3:8-10.     

“. . .revitalization is firstly realized, as we pursue Jesus among those areas of ordinary and complicated life. We need Jesus speaking revitalized life and vitality into our every day experiences and ordeals.”

Jesus also well knows the areas in life you are prone to temptation. He knows your sinful predilections and shortcomings. It’s with this in mind that Jesus exhorted his disciples so incessantly in the Garden of Gethsemane to spend their time praying rather than sleeping. And He did so, by the way, during one of His most overwhelming moments – apart from his path to crucifixion and judgment that was about to be more immediately set in motion. Jesus knew what was about to unfurl, and He urged his disciples to prayer. His reason, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). We need to hearJesus speaking to us through His Word about sin, in all of the aforementioned settings just mentioned, in order to know life apart from sin’s destructive and damaging presence. Paul reminds the church, “we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. . .For this is the will of God, your sanctification. . . .” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3) 

This is Christ’s will – His Word – to us and for us, for personal and church revitalization. Moreover, this Word also involves prayer as Jesus exhorted His disciples -and us- to do in Gethsemane above. 

Revitalization is secondly realized through prayer. Such spiritual renewal happens where there is a prayerful renewal. This is the renewal we find the Sons of Korah praying for in Psalm 85, “Restore us again, O God of our salvation. . .Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice (action of inner joy) in youShow us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints” (85:4,6-8). The revival or revitalization these guys were praying for was part and parcel spiritual. They were praying for a revitalization of soul, inwardly. An inner renewal appertaining to their salvation. A revival of the condition of the soul tantamount to what David prayed for in Psalm 51:11-12, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from meRestore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

“Revitalization is secondly realized through prayer. Such spiritual renewal happens where there is a prayerful renewal.”

What’s glaringly obvious from the aforementioned, is that praying is essential to revitalization. And, it was expressed in nothing short of petitioning desperation. We need to be praying individually and privately as David was. We need to be praying personally and corporately as the Sons of Korah were. We need to be awake, consciously and purposely conversing with our God, as Jesus was urging His disciples to give themselves to. If we are physically disengaged from prayer or asleep to prayer personally, our souls will be asleep to being revitalized. Additionally, if we are physically disengaged from prayer or asleep to prayer corporately, the soul of our church will be asleep to being revitalized.

Jesus wants us revitalized. And, He is present through His Word and Spirit to revitalize our own -your own- souls among all the variegated stuff of life. And, what’s more, as we -you- are revitalized, the church will find herself being revitalized by her Grooms -Jesus Christ’s- life. He has the life and power and authority to give us such renewed life and vitality. As He overcame the life suppressing and depressing power of sin and death and judgment through His vital resurrection. “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. . .For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:21,26)


When I was an early teen, I would often bike around our neighborhood with a buddy of mine. We would often cut through alleys that divided backyards. On one occasion, as we passed by an open lot between houses, I noticed a large white image charging at us from my peripheral view. As I turned to better visualize what this image was, adrenaline kicked into gear as my legs began peddling faster and harder. This was because that large white image was an enormous, and apparently, a ravenous pit bull chasing us. At the time it seemed more like a smaller polar bear.

Come to find out this dog broke free from its backyard. It was unleashed and able to terrorize anyone out and about in the neighborhood. Even if on a bike. Eventually this pit bull was re-connected to its leash. Its free movements were curtailed.  And thus, the neighborhood was no longer subject to this dogs animalistic surprise and unrestrainedattacks.

Similarly, the devil has been tied to a leash. As we’ve seen SGC, Jesus has bound this mongrel. This mut. Satan isn’t free to run amuck without the restraint of a leash. He isn’t a free range devil or adversary. 

To be sure, he has never been able to freely inact or instigate his devilish schemes, carte blanche, apart from God’s providential consent and sovereign approval. We’re reminded of this very uniquely in Job chapters 1-2 as the Lord our God oversees, so to speak, Satan’s activities and instigations against Job. Apart from God’s sovereign approval, Satan would have had no business with Job. To be sure, God Himself, introduces Job to the devil’s consideration (1:8, 2:3). 

“Satan isn’t free to run amuck without the restraint of a leash. He isn’t a free range devil or adversary.”

On one level,  Satan’s mobility has always been limited to the Lord God’s own purposes among Creation. And subject to our Lord’s will as it’s being worked out among humankind. On another level, he has always been, “going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” (1:7, 2:2). And, still, on another level, Satan has been able to have a locution among the heavenly host of God, in some sense (1:6; Zechariah 3:1-2).

However, as we’ve seen from Revelation, in particular, Satan has been permanently cast out of heaven. As John is given vision in chapter 9, “I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth.” This star is who Jesus had in mind when mentioning during his earthly ministry, “I saw Satan fall like lighting from heaven” (Luke 10:8). Upon his falling, John envisions Satan being, “given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit” where he unleashes a flurry of demonic activity as is described in 9:1-11. After all, Satan is the king of this bottomless pit ‘into’ which he has fallen (9:11).

Although, this Satan instigated flurry of demonic -or fallen angel- locomotion is, as it has always been, subject to the Lord God. All of this demonic commotion is restrained. Or leashed. “They were told not to harm the grass of the earth. . .but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (symbolism of ownership and belonging in their time)” (9:4). What is more, their tormenting actions among those unsealed by God – those unsaved by God or those not elected (Rev.7:3,13:8,14:3-4; Matthew 24:22, 22:14{1-14},13:36-39) by God for salvation – are also limited and restrained in various ways throughout history until Jesus returns (6:2-3,9:5,13:7).

All satanic and demonic oppression is leashed SGC. Anything such spiritual powers unleash is limited by the leash God has tied them to. This is such an assurance for believers, for the true church and Bride of Jesus. We are protected from such devilish and demonic oppressive influences and movements, spiritually and personally and salvifically. We can have such confidence in the security and permanence of our salvation that Jesus goes so far as to say, “For false Christ’s and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, IF POSSIBLE, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). Jesus is conveying the impossibility of the elect being led astray into unbelief. And, what is more, Jesus makes this confidence boosting statement in the context of the final and intensified tribulation just prior to His return (24:25-31).

“This is such an assurance for believers, for the true church and Bride of Jesus. We are protected from such devilish and demonic oppressive influences and movements, spiritually and personally and salvifically”

And, to amplify this confidence, Jesus promises just prior to 24:24, that the greatest persecution of the church will be shortened “for the sake of the elect” (24:23). This speaks to our Lord’s care and concern for our condition and suffering. Such oppression and suffering just prior to Christ’s return, won’t be permitted for long. He will bring great and eternal relief from sins suffering and God’s judgments against sinful unbelief. 

For all who are brought to saving faith in Jesus, there isn’t a power of hell that can disqualify nor ruin our salvation. As Jesus himself reminds us, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29).

The devil may do his ‘darndest’, as we say in the south, to nefariously influence us with unforgiveness, and yet, there isn’t a single thing he nor anyone can do or say to nullify or cancel our forgiveness in Christ. This gospel truth is what brings Paul to joyously and confidently assert, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The assumed answer is no one! “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn (us for sin). . .Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution?” etc. The answer to these three rhetorical questions is an emphatic and unflinching, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers. . .nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39)  

“For all who are brought to saving faith in Jesus, there isn’t a power of hell that can disqualify nor ruin our salvation.”

Our confidence in sins forgiveness SGC, is in Christ. He has suffered God’s judgment for the whenever’s of our sin and the whatever’s of our sin. He has satisfied the righteous wrath of God against our sin. He has paid the full penalty of our sin by bearing the full weight of our sin on the cross, in our place.

Moreover, Our security in God’s salvation, is also in Christ. As Hebrews 7:25 reminds us, “he is able to save to theuttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for us”. Our salvation knows no expiration. Only aspiration. We see this when Christ prays for Peter in Luke 22:31-32. “Satan demanded to have” Peter, “that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” 

And this is why the Son of God and Son of Man, took upon Himself human nature in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). And this entails Jesus coming to “bind the strongman” -aka Satan- as He entered the “strong man’s house” to “plunder his goods” (Matthew 12:29). An entering and plundering that commenced upon Christ’s earthly ministry. And, arguably began when Jesus defeats Satan on his own turf in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). As Willliam Hendrickson goes so far as to say in his book More Than Conquers, “This work of binding the devil was begun when our Lord triumphed over him in the temptations in the wilderness”

The ‘Away from me, Satan!”, Jesus declared and established as He was tempted by the devil in that wilderness, has also become our declaration in Him

We will explore this more in the next post. 


“Money. . .it’s a gas. . .Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.” This 1981 line from Pink Floyd’s Money is so often how the good life is defined. To be sure, living luxuriously -or living excessively- has more or less become equivalent with life itself. The next lyric in Money pointedly captures this, “New car, caviar, four star daydream. . .Think I’ll buy me a football team.” 

Maybe this comes across as a gross overstatement? But, how many do you know who would honestly say living in poverty. . .is really living?

To put it another way, if you were in a position to choose between a life of luxury and between a life of poverty, which would you choose? At prima facie, face value, the answer may seem fairly obvious. Who would elect to choose a life of poverty, after all? 

Well, this scenario was a reality, in a very real and harrowing way, for the churches immediately being addressed in John’s letter of Revelation. However

the churches of Revelation weren’t being confronted with this scenario on a monetary and physical level alone. Underlying this dilemma for them, was also life eternal.

The churches had come to saving faith. A faith, which holds to the truth that Jesus is the way, the life and the truth (John 14:6). This new life though, was presented with cultural, religious, political and economic threats while living under the thumb of the Roman empire.  Prevailing threats -among many threats of course- that often boxed Christian’s into making a choice between luxury or poverty. And, beyond this, between luxury and eternality. After all, it was commonplace for Christian’s to be cut off from luxury and financial prosperity strictly for confessing Jesus as Lord. Not to mention being cut out of the economy, on the whole. At the very least, they were marginalized or pushed to the periphery of the established ‘marketplace’.

We are given a whiff of this in chapters 2-3 of Revelation. Jesus directly addresses a couple of churches about succumbing to the ‘practice of sexual immorality and eating food offered to idols”. At the least, addressing them about these sinful pressures generally impinging upon them. This language speaks to what was common among trade guilds in their day. In order for Christians (and anyone) to gain acceptance within the trade guilds, participatingin these sinful and secular customs was expected and demanded even. Refusing to do so, invariably meant -if not, inevitably meant- they were cut out of all economic opportunities, by and large. 

We also know from extant historical records that Rome issued edicts that targeted the Christian community with oppressive taxation and with communal or societal strictures. This is one reason why the early church became such an insular community as these pressures segregated them from the larger community. 

The early church was uniquely confronted with a choice between the possibility of luxury or financial prosperity and the promise of eternity, more or less.

At the least, confronted with a choice between economic convenience and comfort over and against the pressures of living for Christ with life eternal in mind. 

Admittedly, we aren’t being confronted with such stringent economic oppression. However, we are confronted with and often pressured into the same basic choice/s of a life of luxury or life eternal? Such as, choices between financial convenience or impropriety that brings compromising ones faith or turning from faithful confidence in God’s provision. In other words, excessively working to live excessively such that you are disengaged from church life. Or excessively working such that there is no time for routine dinner with the family where meaningful prayer and spiritual conversations can be enjoyed. Or, perhaps it’s a choice between the luxury of busyness, unrelated to work, and hosting other members of your church in your home. Or allowing the local restaurant to host all of you even.  Maybe its such busyness as excessively going out of town every other weekend or escorting children to superfluous events and games rather than carving off time for a church outreach or Lord’s Day worship. There’s also the pressure to leave your faith at home or to only express your faith on Sunday because the attitudes and activities of your social circle/s aren’t in keeping with Christ. Or the pressures of not living out the faith by participating in outings and activities with the boss and co-workers that betray the faith in order to advance at work. After all, you need a pay raise. Because you want another vacay. A new wardrobe. A four wheeler. A theater room. So forth, and so on.

The pressures of such luxurious priorities, along with all appertaining temptations related to luxurious living, is the currency of the great prostitute first mentioned in Revelation 17. Also known as Babylon the great (17:5; 18). Everyone who chooses to pursue her deceptive and seductive luxury are described as growing rich from the power of her luxurious living” (18:3). 

As an aside, this phraseology isn’t implicating money itself as a villain. Or even wealth itself. After all, God’s Word reminds us wealth and money aren’t evil. It’s the love of them (1 Tim. 6:10). Pink Floyd misquoted the church when singing, “Money. . .So they say. . . Is the root of all evil today.” 

That being said, 

the sinfully luxurious living Babylon promotes culturally, economically, nationally and societally is a life driven by and consumed with wealth, possessions, entertainment, wardrobe and excessive indulgences, etc.

This is how the voice from heaven in Revelation 18:11-13 describes the merchants inordinate obsession with Babylons luxury. On the heels of having provided a lengthy list of luxurious ‘fruit’ that’s no longer able to be plucked from the luxury tree -upon Jesus’ final judgment of Babylon- the voice from heaven says, “The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!” (18:14)

In other words, the rhyme and reason of their lives is determined by such luxury. The quality of their lives are defined by such excessive possessions and materialism. Their pursuits are wrapped up in self-centered consumption or consumerism. A consumerism our present economy is primarily based upon. 

This is why the response of those with an inordinate obsession in living luxuriously are described weeping and wailing when no longer having their materialistic and consumeristic passions and wealth feeding them upon Jesus destroying Babylon’s “sorcery” (Rev.18:21-23). A sorcery they have been under the deception of.

This is also why “another voice from heaven” (Jesus likely) insists all believers, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues (judgments of God)” (Rev.18:4). Jesus well knows luxurious living isn’t real life. As Jesus inquired elsewhere, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Matthew 6:25). To which, the assumed answer is a resounding YES!!

The rich young ruler couldn’t quite grasp this as he chose a luxurious life over eternal life. He initially asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life. And, after justifying himself as righteous (as if anyone is), Jesus calls upon him to give his wealth to the poor. However, he couldn’t imagine ‘life’ without his possessions and chose luxury over life. He turned from Jesus “disheartened” and “sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:17-31).

When it comes down to it, the dilemma of choosing luxury or life is ultimately a choice between living for luxury and living for Christ. Locating a shallowness of life in things or having the fullness of life in Jesus. True life, life eternal, comes from and is given by Jesus alone. He has come that we “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). And, this eternal life is that we may relationally and personally know the “only true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 17:3).

The dilemma of luxury or life is about what or who we choose to know and pursue more.

The more we count all things as rubbish, much life Paul declared, “for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:7-11), the more alive we are and ultimately will be! 

Resting From Avenging Anger In Revelation

Hello again SGC and friends. As we have continued our series in Revelation, the Spirit has helped us to understand how God’s judgments against sin and unbelievers and this fallen sinful world are being unsealed (6-8:5), trumpeted (8-11) and poured out of bowls (15-16) upon them all. Of course, among these three are interspersed transitions and sections highlighting the same, while building upon the same. Albeit, with caveats and expanded details. 

As we explored the other Sunday, all of God’s judgements are poured out by angels whom Jesus summons (16:1). Angels who acknowledge the Lord God as the, “Just” and “Holy One” Who has “brought these judgments” (16:5). 

Moreover, in response to these judgments of God, we are told John also envisions those -believers who have died and whose souls have ascended to be with Christ in heaven-  around the altar (16:7a) affirming much the same, “Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” (16:7a,b).

These judgments of God are envisioned as bowls of wrath in chapters 15-16. This wrath is God’s holy and righteous displeasure and anger towards unforgiven sin against Him. His displeasure and anger expressed in action (opera ad extra) among His Creation and creatures. 

What’s incumbent upon us to once again notice, is how the angel and those around the altar both declare the Lord to be Just, Holy and Almighty in relation to His plagues of judgment. God’s wrath, the judgement our Lord and Savior executes, is born out of His Holy and Just nature (opera ad intra). Wrath is God’s natural and only  reaction or response to anything unholy, unjust, unlawful, unnatural and impure. 

In being Just and Holy, the Lord our God alone is able to execute divine wrath -or divine anger- without sin or guile or imperfection or flaw. Whereas, among us, as James reminds us in his epistle, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (1:20).

This is our quandary, to be sure. After all, we are invariably angry.  We’re angry with sin in the world, angry with sin toward others and toward ourselves. And we often should be

David expresses this quandary quite pointedly in Psalm 139. He exclaimed angrily, and with justifiable anger, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise against you? I hate them with complete hatred, I count them as enemies.” (vss. 21-22). Sin and sinfulness is to be hated. And, it will appropriately anger us.

However, David continues. Upon positively affirming personal anger for sin against God (139:19), he subsequently inquires of the Lord to search him and try his thoughts to ensure there is no grievous way in him (139:23-24). This dichotomy of David is our own. While we might hate -or be angry at sin and sinner- with complete hatred (to our minds anyway), our heart and thoughts are never completely pure, righteous, just or holy. This is why our anger never produces the righteousness of God, going back to James. If you notice, James doesn’t qualify his statement on man’s anger (James 1:20). Can you ever recount an occasion whereupon you found yourself working with a completely righteous anger toward sin? An anger without the contagion of bitterness, malice, vengeance, payback, resentment, ire, heartache, headache etc.?

“This is our quandary, to be sure. After all, we are invariably angry.  We’re angry with sin in the world, angry with sin toward others and toward ourselves. And we often should be.”

This brings us back to the altar in Revelation 16:7. And those around the altar. They aren’t only confessing  the quality and veracity of God’s judgments. Their confessions also involve their personal concessions. Back in Revelation 6:9-11 the same believers round the altar are calling out for God’s judgment and wrath. In their anger (justified) about those who sinned against them, they call upon the Lord to avenge them. On the heels of this, Jesus calls them to rest in the time and place of His vengeance. Here in Revelation 16:7, those around the altar have responded in faith to Christ’s promise in 6:9-11 and conceded vengeance to Him. In so doing, they find rest from their anger. Peace of mind from their troubled and enraged thoughts. Calm from their emotional turmoil and vexation. 

This is why turning to the Lord trustingly, via prayer -as David did in Psalm 139- is crucial when grappling with anger. Paul writes to believers, “The Lord is at hand;  do not be anxious about anything (including justice and vengeance), but in everything (including anger) by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Conversely, Jacobs sons provide us with a slap on our clinched and angry fists (Genesis 34,49:5-7). Upon learning of their sister Dinah being mistreated and abused, they become infuriated (34:7,25). This makes sense to us. We too would be justifiably angry at such sinful violence. And ought to be. However, Simeon and Levi become so incensed with a boiling anger, that it spilled over into the lives of uninvolved men, women, children and livelihoods (34:25-29). Not to mention their own family and future (34:30-31). They murder all the men of the town. And in doing so, invite further violence into their own lives and families. 

Ultimately, their angry vengeance is castigated by Jacob. And thus, Scripture -God’s voice- castigates  such anger and vengeance. As Jacob is dying, he curses the two brothers who ignited justifiable anger into unrighteous anger and destructive vengeance, “…weapons of violence are their swords. . .For in their anger they killed men. . .Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel” (49:5-7).

There are always unwelcome and unexpected outcomes to anger and a vengeful spirit. This is the nature of the anger of man that doesn’t work the righteousness of God. It boils over and spills into our relationships. It spills over into how we interact with our neighbors. It spills over into our own experience. Into our jobs and our conversations. Into how we discipline our children or approach a member of our church. It spills over into our emotional and mental health. Not to mention, what we post on social media!! Lol.  

“There are always unwelcome and unexpected outcomes to anger and a vengeful spirit. This is the nature of the anger of man that doesn’t work the righteousness of God.”

This is why what Jesus says in response to those he has saved around the altar in heaven is so profound and helpful. As they are still embroiled in anger over their unjust deaths. Being angry with those who sinned so grievously against them and their families by extension, they cry out (prayer), “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on earth?” In response to which Jesus clothes them with a white rob and tells them to “rest a little longer”.

As we entrust vengeance to the Sovereign Lord, Jesus speaks peace into our angry experiences. The Prince of Peace graciously clothes us with a consoling peace that brings the boiling water of our anger to simmer down and return to room temperature. Revelation very uniquely reminds that “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). So, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (Romans 12:19). And, Revelation makes abundantly clear, Jesus is returning to “finish” pouring out the wrath of God upon all sin and every sinner apart from Him (15:1,8,17).

This “finish” language, reminds us of what Jesus said upon the cross. As He suffered the most incredible injustice of all, having the full cup of God’s wrath poured out upon Himself in our place, while Himself being without sin, Jesus remarked, “It is finished”. In doing so, He was entrusting His life to our Father in heaven as he also remarked, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Our Lord and Savior left His vindication and all vengeance relative to His suffering to God, “entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). 

Jesus, the Son of man, found peace among injustice and strength to endure as He entrusted Himself to God’s vengeance and vindication. So to can we because we are in Him and He is in us.


As you well know SGC, we have been hearing God’s Word from Revelation lately. What an amazing time, right?! It goes without saying, that the vision God gave Jesus Christ (1:1) to give to John while he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (1:10, 14:13) has been quite thoroughgoing and eye opening. Definitely a much more practical and day to day letter to the church that many have missed this meaning of as flights of fancy have so often predominated about Revelation. 

Our time in Revelation has surely fed our faith. And, this is of primary interest throughout Revelation. Jesus is actually aiming to encourage the faith of Christians – those God has sealed for salvation with His name and the name of Jesus (3:12, 7:3-8, 9:4, 13:8), those Jesus has commanded to be measured as means of adding them to His church (11:1-2) – toward endurance (13:10, 14:12, 2:25-29, 3:10-11).  An endurance that even those who have died and gone to be with Jesus in heavenly places are encouraged with (6:9-11).

Why endurance? Well, our Lord is encouraging an endurance of faith because the impact sinful interlopers, disease, oppression, and spiritual warfare were having upon Christians living life out during the last days. An impact immediately being experienced in the days of the churches of Revelation (ch’s.2-3). And, an impact that will be continually experienced throughout the church age, until Jesus returns. After all, the last days began with the ascension of Jesus and continue until he returns (Rev.1:9;1 John 2:18; Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Peter 2:3-4; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Acts 2:17(1-17).  

We all need to hear Jesus’ call to endure, even as the early church did. While the issues that we find ourselves embroiled with in 2020 aren’t nearly the same as what the churches Revelation was originally written to toward the end of the 1st century going into the 2nd were experiencing, you and I nevertheless experience personal conditions and situations such that we need to hear Christ’s encouragement to endure. Much like my high school track teammates were vocally encouraging me to endure the burn in my legs as I caught the lead runner toward the end of our 4×4 relay. Their voices encouraged me to endure the burn and surpass that lead runner for the team win.

Maybe you need to hear Jesus’ encouragement to endure in faith. Maybe you are wearied by a prolonged illness that doesn’t seem to give you a breather. Perhaps you are parenting a special needs child and wrestle with questions, worries and uncertainties. Maybe you are processing a change of career to have more available time for ministry. In the areas of church or family. If not both. Or, possibly you are processing how to raise children in such a tipsy turvy culture where sinful license is seemingly ubiquitous. So forth and so on.

Well, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep. . .their faith in Jesus” (Rev.14:12). Jesus Himself encourages your faith, whenever and wherever you are!

In addition to encouragement, there is another salient message that courses throughout Revelation. A message of fear. That’s right! Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, one of the most oft repeated  prohibitions throughout God’s Word is, ‘fear not’ or ‘do not be afraid’?!” This is indubitably true. This, though, is more often than not, a call to not recoil from the faith and endure while trusting the Lord; as touched on above. However, the message of fear in Revelation, is a different kind of fear. It is a true and sober and godly fear. A fear of God that cultivates and motivates a life of holiness and reverence for God.

As the eternal gospel is being proclaimed throughout the last days, we find in Revelation 14:7, that this gospel declaration includes a call to, “Fear God and give him glory. . .and worship him” as your Creator. Our Creator. 

We find this dichotomy of fears and differentiation of fear being taught by Moses in Exodus 20:20, “Do not be afraid; for God has come into order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him (reverence) may remain with you, so that you may not sin (holiness).” Jesus calls us to a pursuit of holiness and a life of reverence throughout Revelation. Even as He is calling us to an endurance of faith while not fearing our experiences.

As a young adolescent, there was a trendy clothing line recognized by the expression ‘No Fear’. It was quite popular when I was in 9th grade. If you have no memory of it, this is understandable. This brand was en vogue during the mid 1990’s. This lifestyle clothing brand was meant to engender an existential and situational and recreational fearlessness. Which is why, it makes total sense that such attire was popular with extreme sports enthusiasts. The brand’s expression, ‘No Fear’ promoted disdain for social traditions and brazen disregard for law and order.

Conversely, the fear of God calls us to sport or don a different sort of attire with an entirely different message and lifestyle. Throughout Revelation, God calls us to ‘Know Fear’ rather than to have ‘No Fear’, in relation to the Lord, as we are positioning ourselves toward sin. Rather, against sin.

In fact, when brought to saving faith, we are brought into a reverent fear of God throughout life, as Moses was teaching above in Exodus. 

Reading through Proverbs and Psalms you will notice this emphasis quite resoundingly. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom that promotes life :

Proverbs 19:23, “The fear of the Lord leads to life”

Proverbs 14:27, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares

of death”

Psalm 34:11, “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”

Psalm 128:1, “How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, Who walks in His ways”

The fear of the Lord promotes holiness and reverence throughout life:

Proverbs 23:17, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, But live in the fear of the Lord


Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil”

Psalms 112:1, “How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, Who greatly delights in His


Again, this fear of the Lord brings us to sport or don a different sort of attire with an entirely different message and lifestyle. For instance, Revelation 3:4 calls upon the church to be those who, “have not soiled their garments (soiled with lifestyles of sin, that is)”. What’s more, Christ calls for the 7 churches of Revelation 2-3 -representing the church throughout the ages until Jesus returns- to repent. This is an unavoidable illustration of Jesus calling us to holiness and reverence.

After all, they’re being called to repent or turn away from sinful practices, temptations, cultures, attitudes, traditions and lifestyles among intense suffering and localized persecution. Suffering that was only increasing in intensity. Bearing this in mind, it is beyond cavil that holiness and reverence aren’t an after thought for Jesus in Revelation. 

So, we aren’t only called upon by Jesus to an endurance of faith, but a holiness of faith, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Rev.14:12)

However, holiness and reverence are often points of emphasis that fall in between the couch cushions like loose change from our pockets never to be seen again. This happens, when you excuse sin in the name of forgiveness. Or, presume upon grace as an allowance for sin. You also experience this as you disengage from personal devotions or worshipping with the church because, as you’re rationalizing, you aren’t committing adultery or aren’t sinning as much as someone else. Or, you become comfortable with anger, lust or jealously, because you aren’t murdering someone, or watching pornography or stealing from others or gossiping. This also happens as you minimize sinful trends and practices among your friends, by going along with them because it is common place or pop culture, rather than not going along with the herd or bringing sin up as an issue.

Beyond endurance and holiness (fear of God), Revelation also feeds our faith with confidence. This is another major thread weaved into the tapestry this book. This confidence is the peanut butter and jelly that holds the two slices of bread (endurance and holiness) together.

Throughout Revelation Jesus is heralded as Sovereign Ruler and Lord over all of creation and salvation history. Right out of the gate He is declared to be, “the ruler of kings on earth” (1:5). Including the brutal tyrannical Caesars who would oppress the church such as Domitian and the like. Shortly after this, Jesus identifies Himself as “the first and the last, and the living one, I died, and behold I am alive forever more, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (1:17-18). As the first and the last He holds all things in His hands. Having died, He overcame sin, judgement for sin and death through His resurrection. Such that he has the keys of authority and power over Death and Hades. A key, He hands over to Satan who opens the bottomless pit for demonic activity to unfurl (9:3). Jesus has power and authority over these.

This is underscored by how the demon locusts of 9:4-5 are forbidden by Christ to spiritually devastate all those saved by God throughout the last days, while being able to instigate their derision only because they are allowed by Jesus. We find this language of Christ’s restriction and permission re-occurring in Revelation (6:2 “crown was given”, 6:4, “rider was permitted”, “he was given a great sword”, 7:2, “four angels who had been given power to harm earth and seas” are limited in their activity according to Jesus’ command etc).

SGC, our endurance and holiness are rooted in the rich soil of the confidence we have in Jesus Christ. Whom the angels ascribe, “power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (5:12) to, upon Him ascending to the right hand of Father God (5:1-14). The “right hand of Power” as Jesus Himself describes it in Mark 14:62.

In being “the first and last” of Revelation 1, Jesus is also the, “the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” of Revelation 22:13. All of salvation history, until Jesus returns, including every single event that occurs, is subject to the power and authority of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Our endurance through sickness, suffering, depression, justified divorce, death, and so forth, is possible because of our confidence in Jesus who is over all and in all. Who Himself endured the cross and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). We look to Him to endure.

Our holiness in the face of sinful pressure, temptation, doubt, inconvenience, imposition, marginalization, and so forth, is possible because of our confidence in Jesus. After all, “ because he himself has suffered when tempted (though without sin 4:15), he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18, 4:14-16). We pursue holiness in the face of sinful pressure or pressure to sin, because of Jesus who lived to the point of death, being tempted all the way and in every way, although without sin. 

“It is no longer I who live”. . .No longer Rachel who lives, Demetrius who lives, Gerald who lives, Sasha who lives. . . “But Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) 

Awakening Intimate Love?! pt 1

As the pervious articles have established, God’s Word DOES, in fact, lay out a very clear position and perspective germane to Christian dating. Dating that is inarguably to be faith based. And, this means Word based. And, this is so helpful for promoting fruitful relationships.

In the last article, Dating Identity and Body Ideology, we saw how Scripture clearly evinces that seeing our identity in Christ precedes any approach to dating. Not to mention, that our bodies are to be viewed first and foremost as belonging to the Lord God. We are not our own. As Paul states quite emphatically, “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This was stated, by the way, at the tail end of addressing sins of sexual immorality.

With this being said, and with everything relayed in the prior articles, there is a final note worth striking. A note on awakening intimate love.

A note recognizing that prematurely involving ourselves in personally romantic and intimate relationships (encompassing emotional, physical and mental interactions with another prior to marriage) beyond a biblically based relational reasonableness, is personally and intimately hurtful and damaging. Awakening love prematurely is an unfruitful endeavor and experience.

Awakening love prematurely is an unfruitful endeavor and experience.

Solomon’s fiancée new this fairly well. As she was romantically and lovingly dwelling upon her passion and delight for Solomon, and upon him reciprocating, she remarks to other ladies, “I adjourn you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 2:7).

This bride to be continues, in this veritable love letter, enlarging upon how she is ceaselessly enraptured by her ‘beloved’ throughout chapter 2. The scene then shifts to her infatuation with him while in bed at night (dreaming?). It brings her to, rather, compels her to seek him out so that she can bring him into her mothers house. She concludes, again, “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 3:5).

Definitely an appropriate and healthy and wholesome and passionate yearning for a bride to be!! Especially, as she awaits being united to her groom. Who wouldn’t be burning and yearning at this juncture?!

However, even within this awaiting position, we don’t find her acting upon her passions and infatuations and yearnings. While we do find her being overcome with them, she exercises restraint. And warns other ladies to not ‘stir or awaken love until it pleases’.

In other words, there is an appropriate, healthy and approved time for acting on or pleasing oneself with such loving and personal passions. Stirring up or awakening love prior to this, by way of analogy, is much like opening a bottle of wine prior to the appropriate time. It proves to be noxious. Wine connoisseurs who are passionate about their wine, insatiably anticipate the moment they open the bottle, pour a glass, swirl it around while breathing in the aroma and then enjoying a taste as they swish it around in their mouth. However, should the cork be pulled prematurely, prior to allowing the appropriate amount of time for the wine to oxygenate, et al, the bottle releases noxious sulfuric odors accompanied by volatile acidity.

“there is an appropriate, healthy and approved time for acting on or pleasing oneself with such loving and personal passions. Stirring up or awakening love prior to this, by way of analogy, is much like opening a bottle of wine prior to the appropriate time. It proves to be noxious.”

Acting on physical passions or interacting with emotional excitements prior to marriage (see prior articles on body sanctity etc), will invariably produce noxious effects in a displeasing manner among the areas of intimacy and physicality. Even if, unintended.

This is surely why we find Adam committing to Eve, as His “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” companion, prior to consummating their one flesh union.

Solomon’s bride aside, Paul very acutely acknowledges the above effects and implications when calling believers to, “Flee from sexual immorality.,” while in the same breath, clarifying, “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Sins of immorality effect us in a manner unlike any other. This is especially worthy of note when keeping the sanctity of marriage that all Christian’s are called to hold as sacrosanct. After all, physical and emotional exchanges and interactions with any one else (other than ones marital spouse) personally, romantically and intimately, detrimentally impacts the “love” that is to be passionately and appropriately stirred up or awakened when it pleases. That is within the cords of marriage.

Marriage is the only context within the nomenclature of Scripture where we are to awaken and act on romantic, emotional and physical passions intimately. As we’ve noted in a previous article, Paul elsewhere encourages those wrestling with romantic, physical and emotional passions with another to move forward and actually marry, “If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly towards his betrothed (engaged), if his passions are strong. . .let them marry. But, whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control. . .keep her as his betrothed” (1 Corinthians 8:36-38).

Again, marriage is the only context for guy and gal to awaken love in a healthy and truly pleasing manner.

Now, apart from Scriptural guidelines, principles and doctrine on this subject, as we’ve explored in prior articles, there are very clear, practical, common sense implications to “stirring up or awakening love” prematurely.

Let’s consider a few:

1) Serial dating | By this, I mean, moving from one person to the next. A guy and a gal have no business formally engaging in pursuing each other relationally and romantically unless there is interest in pursuing marriage. However, the cultural and secular dating milieu have bled into the church’s culture, viz a viz, serial dating. This is also commonplace among our youth. If not prevalent. ‘Dating’ as adolescence, is, by and large, way premature. At the least, because neither are capable of supporting and sustaining a family at this age. Let alone a spouse.

Serial dating has proven, time and time again, to be destructive to commitment and faithfulness. Two characteristics of a healthy marriage dynamic that are essential to fidelity and mutual felicity. Serial dating or moving from guy to guy or gal to gal presents a Basking Robbins mentality of preferential selectivity and consumerism. As soon as something surfaces of a ‘dislike’ in one or another, it’s time to end things and move on. Or, perhaps another prospect surfaces that appeals to a different taste that the other isn’t satisfying, so it’s time to order another flavor.

This sets marriage up for failure. As divorce becomes more reasonable and optional whenever a spouse isn’t providing the flavor we are in the mood for or of the mind for.

“Serial dating or moving from guy to guy or gal to gal presents a Basking Robbins mentality of preferential selectivity and consumerism. As soon as something surfaces of a ‘dislike’ in one or the other, its time end things and move on.”

2) Experiential dating | By this, I mean, being involved with innumerable dating experiences. Sharing romantic and intimate and emotional experiences with another, especially with more than a few, precipitates unspoken comparisons and unrealistic expectations with a future spouse.

For instance, consider experiences germane to physical intimacy. When someone is involved kissing outside of marriage or involved sexually. Or, even a tamer cuddling or caressing. Sharing these experiences with another invariably leaves a memory and impression with you that will likely superimpose comparisons upon whomever you marry. You know, he kisses differently. Or, she isn’t as available or experimental as so and so. This is memory we shouldn’t have prior to our spouse.

Of course, where this has happened. Healing and transformation are attainable where the Spirit of the Lord is involved. However, isn’t remaining pure and available only for a spouse the best scenario to stir up and awaken love?! Definitely.

There is also the other side of this coin. The spouse is very familiar with how much ‘experience’ the other has had. For many spouses, this introduces an inner sense of expectations. Expectations they are pressured to rise to occasion to meet based upon the other spouses ‘experience’ with another. This isn’t realistic nor fruitful for marriage.

3) Recreational dating | By this, I mean, enjoying a plethora of events, adventures and activities with others when loosely dating. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, maybe. However, what happens when the next person you are dating doesn’t seem to interact with the same recreations or amusements as the previous date? Or, the next. And so on. How is it helpful to a marriage for someone to ‘settle’ for another who isn’t as ‘recreational’ as the date 5 or 6 persons ago. Or, for another to ’measure up’.

4) Dysfunctional dating | By this, I have in mind the guy or gal who seems to always be on the receiving end of a ‘breakup’? Even, if those they’re dating aren’t aware of the breakups. Regardless, the impact is invariably the same. A person who is always being broken up with, comes away with certain unseen scars or relational inhibitions. Such as a personal sense of inadequacy or perpetual failure, bringing them to perpetually question and doubt wether they can actually provide whatever is needed for another in a meaningful and lasting way. So forth and so on.

These are just a few versions of dating that have the noxious effects of opening a bottle of wine prematurely. Awakening love outside of marriage just isn’t healthy. Even without the sure and clear guidance of God’s Word, common sense also speaks resoundingly to this.

The good news is that, if much of the above sounds familiar, there is forgiveness, healing and transformation in Jesus Christ. John 8 reminds us of a woman who was brought to Jesus to be stoned and punished for her sexual escapades and relational sinfulness outside of marriage. The Pharisees presented her to Jesus for judgement. His response was, ”Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her”. They all dropped their stones. However, there was one among them Who was without sin. Jesus! And, He responds to her, not with condemnation, but with mercy and salvation. He responds, ”Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more.”

There is no condemnation for anyone who is in Christ Jesus! Because, the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans.8:1-2).

So, receive mercy and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And, in the words of Jesus, ”go and from now on sin no more.” Turn and flee sexual immorality and relational sin.

Well then. …how can we fruitfully awaken love? Next article soon to come.