REVELATION’S BIG 3 | ENDURANCE, HOLINESS & CONFIDENCE

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

always”

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

commandments”

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.

Dating Identity & Body Sanctity

In the last post we considered the reality of Scriptures position regarding how we are to view our body in relation to dating. As we saw, the body is to be viewed as sacred. We are only to exchange our body with or offer our body to a guy or gal within the bonds of marriage. This has always been God’s design and purpose for men and women.

Our bodies are only meant to be shared and enjoyed within God’s ordained one flesh union of companionship – aka marriage. Union precedes communion.

Knowing one another physically, romantically and intimately not to mention emotionally (in an intimate manner) -or bodily and fully- is only and has always been meant to be exchanged within a one flesh marital context. This proves to be a truism throughout the Bible.

Paul uniquely captures this reality when employing the language of ownership in his first letter to the Corinthians (6:12-20). In these verses, he uniquely elucidates how we are to understand body ownership. He’s doing so, because the Corinthians were struggling with addressing the issue of sexual immorality and sinful body exchange outside of marriage (5:1). It must have been challenging for them to break with the prior culture of sexual license that was commonplace in Corinth. This subject is one guys and gals have struggled with and continue struggling with because its a good and natural instinct and desire. Of course, within the appropriate marriage union, as we have seen. It is even more acute in our day and age than ever before. Primarily, due to the implications of the sexual revolution and ‘my body, my choice’ pop culture attitudes we are encircled by.

The apostle more directly resumes this subject in 6:12, in response to questions the church had. He sets out by quoting the pop culture allowance of the Corinthians. They were propagating, ”All things are lawful for me”. To which Paul retorts, ”but not all things are helpful.” Evidently, the Corinthians were promoting relationships of allowance and license. In other words, a bodily freedom of expression and experimentation.

His immediate reply is, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. …Do you not know your bodies are members of Christ?”

This is where body sanctity begins. Your body doesn’t primarily and firstly belong to you. It doesn’t exist for you to employ as you so please, or according to physical, emotional and sexual passions. As Peter reminds us, ”Since, therefore Christ suffered in the flesh (taking upon himself human nature), arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions (your bodily, intimate, sexual) but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles (godless sinners) want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and lawless idolatry.” (1 Peter 4:1-3).

“Your body doesn’t primarily and firstly belong to you. It doesn’t exist for you to employ as you so please, or according to physical, emotional and sexual passions.”

Your dating body or your single body or your married body, exists firstly, for Jesus, your Lord and Savior.

Accordingly, your first thought, germane to dating, is to sound something like the following : ”How am I to treat my body in a manner that pleases Jesus?”, “How am I to use my body in obedience to my Lord?”, “How am I to use my body in relation to whom I am dating or courting, as Jesus would have me use my body?”, “How am I to treat, embrace or make contact with the body of the guy or gal I’m dating who’s body is a member of Jesus, along with mine?”, ”Would Jesus use His body, of which I am a member, in this manner?” and so forth.

God’s Word, firstly answers this, by saying, ”Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ. Shall I then take the members (your body) of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!” (1 Cor. 6:15).

Before anyone else, your body belongs to Jesus! Would Jesus support you giving your body to another, prior to a covenant commitment of a marital one flesh companionship, as touched on in our previous articles? Of course not! Our bodies belong to Christ. How we view our bodies and use our bodies and share our bodies begins here. Our body’s belong to Jesus as our Lord (1 Cor. 7:22; Eph.6:5-6; Col. 3:23-24; Rom. 6:6-14; et al).

This is our beginning point germane to dating. You aren’t to view your body as your own. Your own, to do with as you please. Your body belongs to Jesus, in singleness and in dating. Not to mention, in marriage.

Secondarily, you are to understand your body in relation to whomever you will unite with in marriage. Another consideration arises regarding sexual exchanges in 1 Corinthians 7:1. Some were asserting that it wasn’t beneficial to have sexual relations with a woman. And vice versa, by implication. However, Paul responds with an honest awareness of every man and woman’s struggle – the personal need for sexual intimacy and satisfaction. This is a good and natural impulse, after all.

However, one that is only to be satisfied with a bona fide husband and wife. This is Paul’s response to this consideration, ”But because of the temptation to sexual immorality (immoral body exchanges), each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband”.

Sexual expression and bodily or physical satisfaction is a truly good, meaningful, fruitful and enjoyable experience, so long as it is exchanged within the marital context. Within a God created and instituted one flesh covenant and union of companionship.

It is only within the context of marriage that a man or woman has the right or liberty to share their body with another.

So much so, that within the marriage context, a guy and gal isn’t to refuse their spouses sexual satisfaction and physical needs. A spouse doesn’t have authority of their own body, in relation to meeting the physical and sexual needs of their spouse. At the least, in relation to depriving the spouse.

This is why Paul continues, ”For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another. …” ( 1 Cor. 7:4-5).

Does this establish cart blanche authority or abuse? Of course not! This is not the context. The interest of Paul is in proscribing or disapproving of spouses depriving one another of sexual or bodily intimacy.

Thirdly, and finally, your body at no point belongs to the guy or gal you are dating. Or even engaged to. Until marriage, your body is not yours to give to another. And the body of the guy or gal you are dating, isn’t yours to receive should they offer. As we have considered above, their body isn’t theirs to present to you prior to marriage. It only belong’s to Christ prior to marriage.

Paul touches on this dynamic 1 Corinthians 7:36-37. Paul is interacting with the reality of betrothed dynamics. In our jargon, he is touching on those who are engaged or committed to be married. He speaks to those engaged, whose “passions (sexual and physical is assumed) are strong”. To these engaged folk wrestling with such passions, Paul encourages to move forward into marriage. To those who aren’t wrestling with such passions, Paul encourages (in their unique circumstances) to remain engaged.

This only serves to underscore the body theology we have been considering. Even when engaged, a guy and gal are not to be involved in intimate and physical body exchange. It is an intimacy and romance only reserved for the marriage union.

In our next blog, we will consider common sense reasons for body theology we have been exploring and considering. The implications and consequences of premature body exchange are ruinous.

BODY THEOLOGY & DATING IDEOLOGY

To date or not to date, that is the question. Or is it? The better question is, probably, ‘how are we to go about dating?’

Our last post, commenting on the nature and practice of dating, ended with a Christian truism and a principial biblical precept : 

“…we take our guidance from what is scriptural rather than cultural. . .from what is biblically principial rather than personally preferential. . .from what is biblically propositional rather than romantically or emotionally sensational. Of course, what is biblically principial will translate into those other categories. Those categories of our dating relationships romantically, personally and emotionally in a healthy manner both spiritually and culturally.”

“But, how does this translate practically and relationally?”

Well, let’s begin with the beginning. The beginning of relationship dynamics. The beginning of guy and gal interactions and interrelations. The “beginning”, more acutely, found in the book of beginnings, Genesis. Genesis 2 provides us with wonderful insights into how we are to understand relationships. Not to mention, how we are to approach relationships, regardless of courtship or dating phraseology as touched on in our last two article drops.

To begin (no pun intended), it is clear from Genesis that we aren’t to live apart from our ‘better half’, so called. Godwants us to have a compliment – ‘Husband and wife’ or ‘wife and husband’. We are incomplete without the other. Male and female constitute a completion of halves, or a whole. In other words, our lives are lacking or incomplete without our ‘better half’, so called. This is why Creator God, comments that ‘it isn’t good that man should be alone’. Man is incomplete without his woman. And, woman is incomplete without her man.  

Because, man and woman -or husband and wife- are created for one another, there are natural and intrinsic impulses, affections, attitudes, feelings, attractions, and yearnings that are good and innate within us. But good and innate, within the appropriate relational and physical and spiritual and conversational and emotional and sexual context. God establishes this in saying “it is not good that man should be alone”. Our Lord eliminates this alone’ness and provides us with good’ness by providing a woman for man. And, a man for woman.

However, this good’ness -relationally, physically, spiritually, conversationally, emotionally and sexually, so forth and so on – is a good’ness only to be knownenjoyed and experienced exclusively within the marital one flesh union. 

“This good’ness is only to be known. . .

exclusively within the marital one flesh union”

This is what Adam celebrates and sings in Genesis 2:22-24, “And the rib that the Lord old had taken from the man, he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (ONLY) Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed

In the appropriate marital context – a “one flesh” covenantal union of companionship as affirmed in Genesis 2 – male and female intimacy doesn’t introduce a shameful exchange between guy and gal in their own relational experience. Nor shame in their relationship before God, most significantly.

This is precisely why our Lord God speaks to wayward and unfaithful husbands in the language He does in Malachi’s prophecy. Husbands were treating their ‘marital vows and marriage relationship’ frivolously, loosely and sinfully. They were expressing intimate relations beyond or outside the “one flesh” covenantal union of companionship ordained and instituted by the Lord our God. This is why God chastised such sinful relations, “Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them (husband and wife) one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:13-16)

Guys and gals are only to know and enjoy the unique interpersonal and intimate ‘one flesh’ oneness –or personally coming together– of physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual and psychical within the chords of a one flesh covenant and union of companionship. This is a biblical truism for all ages, when approaching dating or male and female dating/courting.

“Guys and gals are only to know and enjoy. . . ‘One flesh’ oneness. . .within the chords of a one flesh covenant and union of companionship”

This is only underscored by Scriptures inarguably clear position on or teaching of the sanctity of the body (1 Thess. 4:3-8) In other words,  how we express ourselves bodily and what we give ourselves to bodily. Not to mention, how we treat our bodies.

Your bodyholistically speaking, is sacred according to God’s Word. It’s origination is from the mind of God (Gen.1:26-27; Psalm 139:13; Isa. 44:24; Jer.1:5 ). It’s design is known by God (Job 37:7; Psalm 139:15-16;). It’s purpose and meaning is intended according to God (Isa. 49:5; Jer. 20:15-18). It is saved to be given for his glory and excellence (Eph.2:10; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). The Bible’s body theology is to guide and govern our dating ideology.

“The Bible’s body theology is to guide

and govern our dating ideology.”

This body theology -understanding the body in accord with God’s Word- as sacred is quintessentially amplified in the coming of Jesus. The Son of God, becoming incarnate, or taking upon Himself the fullness of human nature while, remaining the fullness of deity (Col.1:19, 2:9; John 1:1,14; et al). This means God, Himself, took on bodily form. Jesus, Himself remarks, ”Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me…Then I said, ”Behold, I have come (in bodily form) to do your will, O God…” (Hebrews 10:5-6). How Christ’s own body is set apart, as sacred ,for the will of God speaks to the sanctity, par excellence, of how we are to view our bodies.

The first recorded sermon in Acts 2 nails this down most pointedly (Acts 2:25-28). In Peter’s sermon we are reminded of David envisioning a pre-incarnate image of Jesus. He remarks, ”For you will not abandon my soul to Hades (the grave), or let your Holy One (Jesus) see corruption.”

Peter further enlarges upon what this statement means when preaching how David, ”foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh (body) see corruption. This Jesus God raised up (physical resurrection and glorification; Acts 2:31-32). Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t illusory, He was physically raised with a transformed body (Luke 24; John 20:24-29). Jesus died to sin and emerged donning a transformed physicality. In saving us, he is cleansing of sin and purifying us from sin, both inwardly, spiritually and outwardly, physically and bodily.

Of course, until we are fully cleansed and purified upon Christ’s return, we often mistreat and misuse our bodies. There is further good news, beyond being saved from sin. Our body sins are forgiven because of Christ’s bodily crucifixion. He bore God’s judgment for our bodily sins in His own body! And, accordingly, we can now know that we are viewed by God as already holy and blameless, even in the face of bodily sins.

As Paul reminds us in Colossians, “And you, who once (past tense) were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now (present tense) reconciled in his (Jesus’) body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him”

In the next article, we will look further into how God’s Word presents a body theology that is to guide and govern our dating ideology. As we will see, ultimately our bodies aren’t our own!

DATING IS TO BE FAITH BASED & PRINCIPIAL

So, what about dating?

As I touched on in the first article, our approach among the church – as parents, teens, twenty somethings, pastors, student ministry leaders, et al – must begin with what begins our faith, hearing from God’s Word. As we know, faith (both saving and ongoing) comes from hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:1-3,6 et al). And, our faith isn’t something that is to be separated from dating! Quite the contrary. Faith is to be foundational to our dating and our approach to dating. 

Consequently, for us to have faith for dating, such faith to date is also inarguably to be founded and grounded upon God’s Word. Over and against construing this faith to be some nebulous sensation or subjective feeling about what is right or permissible as regards dating. With this in mind, we must also understand that to act apart from faith, even with regard to dating, is sinful (Romans 14:23). 

Moreover, faith is also something inborn within us and empowered within us by the Spirit. The Spirit, Who is uniquely described as Holy in God’s Word, will empower and enable a ‘faith to date’ that is in keeping with God’s Holy Word, rather than personal preferences and subjective passions. Not to mention, in keeping with holiness rather than worldliness, as we will see.

Again, and admittedly, as I alluded to in the first article drop, M’lady and I surely absolutized various aspects of dating during our initial interest and pursuit of one another relationally and romantically. While we wouldn’t vehemently argue in favor of approaching relationships or interests in a different manner nor staunchly insist upon adhering to our approach to dating relationships, we wouldn’t counsel, parent or recommend anyone dating or courting otherwise. At least, principally and common-sensically. And, at most, biblically.

While Sarah and I would agree that we were both naively absolutist (but well meaning) on some level – in a formal sense –  we also would agree that we were both honestly purest -in a biblical sense.

So, and again, as the first article drop asks ‘What Of Dating?’ Well, prior to delving into the dynamics of dating relationships, we first need to explore whether dating is legit. Recall, dating as we know it, is a modern conception.

Firstly, God’s Word doesn’t answer the dating question with a ‘No’

I begin here, because this is where Scripture didn’t serve as my guiding light as a young believer. While dating isinarguably a modern concept, dating isn’t against the guiding light of Scripture. Even if we can differentiate -or insist upon- categories of courting and dating semantically.  

Sarah and I insisted upon ‘courtship’ phraseology (and praxology) in relation to a, more or less, disapprovingposture toward ‘dating’ phraseology. But ultimately – and honestly – courting and dating verbiage speaks to excessive insistence upon technical distinctions.  While meaning well relative to phraseology, we were wrestling with superficial terms, rather than affirming and considering the ‘reality of relational distinctions and dynamics’that God’s Word primarily and principally enlightens us to understand germane to pursuing a dating relationship

Ultimately, and honestly, the dating answer isn’t an issue of insisting upon courtship jargon over and against dating jargon. These aren’t biblical categories or nomenclature. 

So, admittedly, God’s Word doesn’t answer the dating question with a ‘no’. Guy and gal relationships are paramount within the rhyme and reason of God’s Word and purposes for our lives (at least this side of eternity, Luke 20:34-36). “In the beginning” (Gen.1:1), after all, God ordained a man and a woman be intimately involved (Gen.1:27-28; 2:20-25). So much so, that many years later the guys of God’s people are encouraged to go “clubbing” for wives, so to speak (Judges 21). So much so, that the husband and wife relationship is something the Lord our God is present as a witness to guarantee indissolubility of the relationship (Mal.2:14-16). So much so, that we are provided with a Word from God about guy and gal intimacy that is to be cultivated within a healthy, committed and approved marital relationship (Song of Solomon). And, most significantly, so much so, that the God ordained ‘husband and wife’ relationship uniquely displays the relationship of Christ and His bride, the Church (Eph.5:22-32). We would be hard pressed and errantly imaginative to suggest that dating is contrariwise to God’s own Word. Or that God’s Word disapproves of dating, at least semantically and ideologically.  And, even perhaps, culturally. Although, not worldly, of course.

Now, with this being said, God’s Word doesn’t answer the dating question with a ‘Yes’, either. The lion share of liberties, taken germane to dating among the church in our day and age, aren’t approved of nor promoted by God’s Word either. Nor are such culturally and acceptable dating liberties and allowances in keeping with the communal norms and relational dynamics God’s Word irrefragably affirms and promotes.  

Secondly, God’s Word doesn’t answer the dating question with a ‘Yes’ either

While acknowledging the aforementioned, Christian dating ought not be confused with the practices (praxology) of modern dating, with dating phraseology aside. Nor, the culture of modern dating. Nor, the passions of sensualdating. Nor, the allowances of emotional dating. 

While Sarah and I insisted upon courtship phraseology in a superficial or uber technical sense, our approach to courtship or dating praxology (practice of) was trenchantly founded and grounded upon God’s Word, as it relates to the ‘reality of relational distinctions and dynamics’ germane to pursuing a dating/courting relationship. However imperfectly it was.

After all, God’s Word does indeed guide us about dating or cultivating such relationships. But, guides us based upon principial communal norms regarding the ‘reality of relational distinctions and dynamics’ over and against worldly based cultural forms of ‘relational distinctions and dynamics’. Albeit, biblically based relational dynamics that don’ttranslate very well into our sexually liberated culture and formsour personally permissible cultureour relationally allowable culture or our communally fragmented and individualistic or autonomous tribal culture

So, what are the faith based communal norms and relational dynamics God’s Word enlightens our dating path’s with? We’ll probe this more principialy  in the articles to follow.  For now, and to be sure, God’s Word does lay out such guidance on a principial level, even if not or when not done so explicitly. And, as the church, we derive our dating direction from the light of God’s Word, even when God’s Word isn’t necessarily explicit about such guidance. The Bible’s collective wisdom on a subject, even if principial, is a better guiding light than cultural and preferential forms and trends. Such forms and trends that violate purity boundaries and physical boundaries. Such forms and trends that introduce relational dysfunction and emotional toxicity. So on and so forth.  

While God’s Word doesn’t respond with a ‘no’ on the subject of dating, God’s word also doesn’t respond with a ‘yes’ on the subject of dating. How are we to sort through this then? Well, we take our guidance from what is scripturalrather than cultural. . .from what is biblically principial rather than personally preferential. . .from what is biblically propositional rather than romantically or emotionally sensational. Although, what is biblically principial will translate into our dating relationships romantically, personally and emotionally in a healthy manner both spiritually and culturally. 

WHAT OF DATING?

What are we to make of dating? 

More specifically, what about dating among teens? Albeit, not exclusively. After all, the following principles and biblical guidelines inarguably extend to those beyond their parents home. However, my interest in the following uniquely has in mind teens and parents of teens. And, of course, not to be excluded, pastors and/or youth leaders of teens.

So, what about dating among teens? This is a subject that my wife and I have been personally wrestling with afresh over recent years. Sarah and I have two teenage sons who we are walking with and walking through dating dynamics. And walking them through, as parents, imperfectlyBut, walking with them having their best interests in mind. Not to mention having the best interests of any young lady they may have interest in, in mind. It’s not just our own we care about, it’s someone else’s own as well. The young gal on the other end of such dating dynamicsgermane to our sons. I’m sure many of you parents can identify with this on some level. If not, you ought to be.

Nevertheless, Sarah and I have been in the throws of processing ‘dating’ dynamics a fresh. And communicatingdating principles to our two oldest sons, of late and recent. The following is a relevant consideration of adolescent and contemporary dating categories and practices from a biblical vantage point in contradistinction to a culturalvantage point. As it so often proves to be, this distinction is forgotten when adjudging how we approach this subject of dating.  

To begin,

Dating is to be guided by God’s Word and Spiritual norms rather than culture’s word and pop cultural forms.

Dating questions need answered in harmony with God’s Word and referential principial or biblical normsrather than a self oriented personal word and/or preferential cultural forms or expressions. Preferential cultural forms or expressions that invariably vary from person to person, based upon preferential tastes or what God’s Word disapprovingly identifies  as passions, desires and earthly, sensual (Gal.5:16; Col.3:5-11; 2 Tim. 2:22, 4:3-4; Titus 2:11-12 et al)

So, how are Christian’s to approach dating? How are parents to instruct and guide their teens on this subject? What are parents to insist upon? What are parents to permit? Or, what are parents to establish as allowances or reasonable freedoms? Conversely, what are parents to refrain from? How can caring supervision become an overbearing intrusion? Plus, what are reasonable expectations among teens? How are teens to understand levelsof relationship? How are teens and those ‘dating’ to view boundaries? Not to mention how they are to view their bodies and emotions in relation to someone of interest? This body verbiage is huge in helping parents and teens, as we will see.

Such questions, of course, are legion. And, an encyclopedic consideration of such questions and so many others wouldn’t suffice to answer all the myriad questions. My interest here is no such consideration. A consideration better reserved for a book.

Nevertheless, and most meaningfully, the answers to such dating considerations are to be undoubtedly hinged upon something more reliable than dating trends and ever changing secular influences. Something most reliable. Something propositional rather than situationalAlthough, propositional in a manner that involves graciously and honestly and spiritually sorting through the situational. Something objectiveas opposed to subjective. Something eternal and spiritual rather than cultural and carnal and physical and emotional

What is this something? It is the something of how God’s Word guides us parents and our teens (not to mention all Christian’s dating irrespective of age), over and against how culture would insist upon guiding us? This is a huge starting point. Because, dating as we know it now, is a modern concept. One that is saturated with worldlyconceptions, categories and influences. A conception of approaching relationships that, by and large, originatesamong a fallen or sinful world  and culture.  

Ultimately and personally – not to mention relationally – it is beyond imperative that we take our ‘dating’ cues from God’s Word. His Word is the point of clarity that enables us to navigate through the fog of the dating environment and its cultural trends, customs, tendencies, deceptions, popularities, and fashions etc.

As Psalm 119:104-106 reminds us, “Through your precepts I get –dating– understanding; therefore I hate every false –dating– way. Your word is a lamp unto my –dating– feet and a light to my –dating– path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous –datingrules.” (Psalm 119:105-106). God’s Word is the norm and our dating guide regardless of age. The moment we begin with dating culture allowances and permissions as our starting point is the moment we step into the snare of dating dysfunctions and relational deceptions

“The moment we begin with dating culture allowances and permissions as our starting point is the moment we step into the snare of dating dysfunctions and relational deceptions.”

Moving forward, I must confess, my initial ideas of dating as a newby, neophyte Christian were likely forged within me from an absolutist and hyper-idealized aversion to wordly dating that was unreasonable and impractical. Albeit, I will admit, it was introduced into my and Sarah’s processes and considerations with a well intended interest and genuine conviction. I am grateful for the guidance and care of those around us then. On the whole. So, this isn’t a slam on those in ministry leadership around us back then. Most among church leadership, then, had our best interests in mind. And, Sarah and I are grateful for them.

Nevertheless,  Sarah and I approached our initial interest with one another through the rubric of courtship.  In our context, this was a category understood in contradistinction to secular dating. By courtship, according to our rubric then, I mean engaging in relational and intimate relationships of interest between a guy and gal in a manner and style unlike engaging in such relationships according to ‘worldly’ comfortabilities and allowances. This sounds good, at first blush. And, understandably. This is an essential starting point as touched on above.  But, we absolutizedcertain relational strictures in a manner that wasn’t a Scriptural guiding light, but more of a preferential light. A preferential light, that cannot and must not be the legal interrogation light that genuinely suspected criminals are subject to when  they are being questioned for having violated official and explicit laws.

“…we absolutized certain relational and dating strictures in a manner that wasn’t a Scriptural guiding light, but more of a preferential light”

So, what does ‘dating’ being ‘guided’ by God’s Word and norms rather than a cultural word and forms entail? Does God’s Word answer the dating culture with a no? With a yes? What about courtship? Wait, what is this again?! What about boundaries? How are communal forms and values to play apart? How does Scriptures emphasis upon body exchange factor in? How is holiness, purity and godliness to guide the dating narrative? How do these last three serve to govern the interaction of bodily and intimate expressions according to biblical norms over and against cultural forms? How does Adam and Eve come into play? How are we to walk as a Christian brother and sister?

This will be explored in the next article drop.

MODES OF THE SPIRIT’S GUIDANCE, 1

SGC, over the past three Sunday’s we’ve seen from John 16 how Jesus promised to fill us with the indwelling Spirit. If you recall, John the Baptist reminds us that while he baptized with water, Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11). We find this first playing out in Acts 1-2 among the initial 120 or so (1:15). From there it spills out into all people groups as Jesus was saving sinners. 

In saving us, Jesus has baptized us with the “one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). He has a baptized us with His indwelling Spirit unto repentance that leads to life (Acts 11:15-18). And so He has!

We too have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit! A wonderful blessing of the Father (Eze. 36:25-27; Acts 1:4-5).  A personal presence that brings us help as we’ve seen. 

As our faith has been fed from John 16 of late and recent, we have seen how the Holy Spirit helps us into salvation life and throughout salvation life. We need His help at all times!  We have also seen how the Spirit helps us with conviction unto life and throughout life. Salvation is impossible without the Spirit’s conviction of sin. Beyond this though, the Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment throughout life. We have also seen how the Spirit helps guide us into knowing the truth and into speaking truthfully in our relationships throughout life. Throughout life with those in our own households, our own social circles, our own church families, our own co-workers, our own dating relationships, our own marriages etc.

As we also heard the other Sunday, the Spirit guides us into speaking truthfully in appropriate manners, measures and at the opportune times. From here on I’ll refer to these as ‘modes’. Of course, I couldn’t cover the full range of these modes. A single Sunday doesn’t allow for this after all. So, in this post I’m following up on the Spirit’s guidancegermane to speaking truthfully with one another in appropriate modes.

Mode #1 | Speaking truth, or being truthful with those in our lives is to be seen as a spiritual and fruitful exchange,rather than being simply a mental and informational exchange . It’s not simply about downloading data!  We see this play out with Paul in his letter to the Ephesians in a very spiritual manner. With a clear interest, moreover, in being fruitful in what he shares with great profundity. 

In chapter 1:13-14 Paul elaborates very extensively on gospel truths ranging from election, forgiveness, God’s decretive will etc. However, after doing so he moves into prayer mode. He realizes that what he has just shared perhaps might not be registering personally or fruitfully. So he prays (vs.15). And prays with everything he has shared in 1:3-14 still in mind, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . May give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts (not mind or brain) enlightened, that you may know. . .”. The verbiage of “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” undoubtedly has in view the Spirit’s presence empowering understanding (1 Cor. 12:7-8; 2:6-16). Paul, is praying for spiritual understanding (1 Cor.2:12-14). He doesn’t insist on demanding a mechanical mental agreement based upon facticity. Of course, he wants them to discern and accept the glorious truths he has just enlarged upon. However, he digresses and prays for the fruitful illumination of the Holy Spirit to spiritually be impressed upon their “hearts” (Eph.1:18). 

Speaking the truth’s of Ephesians 1:3-14, for Paul, was more than an informational download. It was a spiritual upload! An upload intended to be a fruitful exchange of spiritual truths that enlighten the heart, rather than merely informing the mind. Though, of course, both are involved and interrelated.

So, our truthful conversations ought to be done in more than a mental arm wrestling mode. Our approach with one another ought to be done in more of a spiritual hand shaking mode. We ought to be reasonable and seasonablewith one another as we aim to speak truthfully with one another about the truth’s of God’s Word and as we speakwith one another relationally

Reasonable in that we understand the Spirit’s role in illuminating the heart and mind. Accordingly, this conditions our approach to be a spiritual one engendering love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Gal. 5:22-23) where our conversation be will infused with patience and gentleness (2 Tim.2:24). 

Seasonable in that we will have in mind our conversations bearing fruit in those with whom we are in dialogue. When preparing a culinary main dish, the chef’s aim is to season the dish as is best for consumption. Different dishes will be seasoned differently in order to make them flavorful and palatable. Otherwise, the dish isn’t eaten or enjoyed.  We are to season our speaking with one another as it suits the occasion and person (Eph.4:29; 2 Tim.4:6) so as to bear fruit in those we are speaking with.

“A word filly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the soul of his masters” (Proverbs 25:11-13)

Which brings us to Mode #2 | Speaking the truth in our relationships ought to be done personally and passionately. Truth and communicating  truthfully irrefragably involves personalism. We need to be personal with one another, rather than mechanical.

Paul illustrates this for us throughout his epistles with a unique signature. For instance, he crafts his personal letter to the Colossians “with my own hand” (4:18) regarding a Colossion heresy that was influencing the church. Again, we find Paul personally accenting his letter to the Thessalonians with a signature, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write” (2 Thess. 3:17). 

Paul took his relationships so personally, that he elects to send and involve Timothy and Epaphroditus to personally relay messages between he and the Philippian church. He describes how Timothy wasn’t simply the USPS or UPS. Rather, Timothy was personally and “genuinely concerned for” their “welfare” (2:20). And Epaphroditus was, “longing for” them (2:26). Both were personally vested and personally present messengers who were communicating truthfully. Communicating truth both doctrinally and relationally.    

In our conversations with one another, regarding truth both biblical and relational, aren’t we to strive for a personal signature rather than an impersonal misadventure? It would seem  so. Instant messaging and social media have wreaked great havoc on such personalism. While there are occasions where utilizing these methods of communication rather than in person conversation (1 Thess. 2:17-3:5), “face to face” conversation is much more personal and relational. And, often received more heartily and desirably.

On the other side of this mode #2 coin regarding speaking truth, truthfully, is doing so passionately. Communicating personally, naturally involves doing so passionately. These two are inextricably bound. 

Paul’s enthusiasm in Ephesians 1:3-14 comes to mind again. It goes without saying that he isn’t sharing deep, doctrinal truths in a rote or detached mode. Rather, He is noticeably quite passionate and expressive. If not excitedly animated! The truths of the Gospel, in particular, and God’s Word, in general, are evinced to be a clearly very personal matter. So personal, that he has incontrovertible interest in such truths becoming personal truths for those he cares about and loves. As we are passionate about God’s Word or other general truths that need shared in our relationships, we will personally express ourselves in a mode that evinces our earnest interest for those we are in relationship with to also be personally enthused about such truths. 

Or, at the least, wether someone wants to receive, say, a biblical or relational truth or not, we still want them to be personally aware of whatever it is we are sharing with them, truthfully. And, we still need to do so with a passionate tone. But, passionately doesn’t always engender approving  expressiveness. Speaking passionately also involves disapproving expressiveness. Or a mode of dissatisfaction and disappointment. 

For instance, Paul writes the Galatians about being personally “astonished” (1:6) germane to them entertaining a false gospel. Often times, when personally sharing truthfully with others, a disapproving expressiveness or tone matters. The seriousness of the truth Paul was relaying, was such that, he needed to personally establish a disapproving astonishment. Personal tonewhen sharing truthfully, is essential and vital. Tone helps to personally purvey truth. And promotes a personalism for truth to be more openly heard and received. In writing the Thessalonians regarding how he was worried about the condition of their faith (3:5), Paul reminded the Thessalonians of the tone of ministry Paul and his team communicated while among them. He speaks to how they were “gentle. . .like a nursing mother” (2:7; 2:11) while also writing this letter with an endearing tone (2:8).  

In our truthful exchanges with one another, both biblically and relationally, we should be appropriately, situationally and contextually passionate about the truths of God’s Word in our personal expressions.  Rather than being stoic or seemingly detached.

“To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” Proverbs 15:23

Jesus personifies this so incredibly! Doesn’t He? God, makes Himself known to us graciously and truthfully in and through the person and personal communication of Jesus Christ, “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God (Jesus Christ), who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). The Word became flesh, personally (John 1:1) and passionately entered into conversation with fallen humankind about our sinfulness and His provision of salvation! 

THE HOLY SPIRIT HELPS WITH CLEANLINESS & ORDERLINESS

SGC, we are at that place in our ‘Pillars of the Faith’ sermon series, as we are also highlighting aspects of our Statement of Faith in conjunction, where we are presently allowing God’s Word to inform our faith about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. As we are, I have been reminded of a well known saying,“Cleanliness is next to godliness.” But, does this reflect Scripture? 

In the early years just after my conversion, I was under the impression that this quote was found in Scripture. Come to find out, it isn’t a quote from God’s Word. It likely came into vogue among the church during the era of Victorian Christianity. It’s possible that this expression was introduced through Francis Bacon in his Advancement of Learning, published in 1605. 

However, this well known and well used adage among the church, was likely popularized by John Wesley. In his sermon, On Dress, he remarked, “Let it be observed, that slovenliness (lazy in work; untidy in appearance) is no part of religion; that neither this, nor any text of Scripture, condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly this is a duty, not a sin. Cleanliness is, indeed, next to godliness.” Wesley’s point, was that undisciplined behavior and disorderly appearance isn’t inspired of religion or the Christian faith. Butnor is it a matter of condemnation. However, he notes, cleanliness is in keeping with godliness. Such modes of conduct shouldn’t be pressed too severely though. 

Nevertheless, this accent on “cleanliness is next to godliness” in his preaching among the broken down areas of England’s rookery’s, precipitated a rejuvenation and renewal among those ‘broken burbs’. 

So, is “cleanliness next to godliness”? Even though, this adage isn’t found in the Bible?

The simple answer is. . . Yes! Admittedly, while this adage isn’t an inspired Bible verse, it is inspired revelation(Eph.1:17; Phil.3:15-16). In that, it is clearly a personal realization about and application of God’s Word. Among other implications of the teaching of Scripture, this expression of and emphasis on cleanliness  is an unavoidable application of the doctrine of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. 

After all, the Spirit that we are baptized with by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (John 1:32-34, 7:37-39; Acts 1:4-5, 1 Cor. 12:12-13) isn’t a nondescript Spirit. It isn’t accidental, that the Spirit is ascribed to be the ‘Holy’ Spirit. And, it is the Holy Spirit that comes to indwell us (John 14:26), as our God saves us in Christ.   

What does this mean for you and for me? To be indwelled by the Holy Spirit? Well, it means that this holy verbiage is to be assumed in our lives and throughout our lives. In other words, holiness will carry over into our actions, expressions, decisions, priorities, jokes, attitudes, interests, schedules, words – so forth and so on. And, this is to be understood very personally and existentially. As Paul reminds us, “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 Cor. 6:19-20).

The rhyme and reason underlying this verse, in context, is that, holiness in you – by the Holy Spirit in you – personally recognizes, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God”. This means that you are to view yourself as a temple of sanctity. A temple that is characterized by holiness and purity. Over and against, your “body” expressing wordly qualities, priorities, trends and characteristics. Over and against, a “body” welcoming worldly attitudes, interests and passions. And, over and against, a “body” internalizing wordly philosophies, therapies and values. 

Relative to physical health and well being it is often said, “your body is a temple”. This is meant to motivate you to guard what you allow into your body germane to food and substances that could produce physical breakdown or diminution. Understanding yourself as a temple of the Holy Spirit, motivates and impels you to guard what you allow into your personal experience and what you give yourself to participate in.          

Furthermore, according to the second part of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, the Spirit indwelling you brings you to a view of holiness that recognizes, “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 7:22-23). 

You aren’t to view your body as your own. You aren’t to view your life, decisions and actions as your own. Why? Well, because Christ has purchased you through his death. And because the Holy Spirit in you now gives you a view of holiness so that you now see your life and decisions and actions through a lens of holiness. Your ‘body’ (life, decision, actions en toto) isn’t to be determined by your personal preferences and prerogatives, butby the Spirit of holiness. You are to positively view yourself as a holy temple, over and against, a temple of your own making. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).  

So, “cleanliness is next to godliness” after all. As the Holy Spirit indwells you, He promotes a view that brings youto strive for godliness and holiness. So much so, that you are to view your life and body in an incredibly sanctimonious way.

In coining this adage, Wesley was also affirming that cleanliness, while not godliness in and of itself, is related to godliness. Again, cleanliness is a personal expression and application of holiness or godliness. A “holiness” youare to “strive for. . .without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). 

Cleanliness, is an unavoidable outworking of the presence of the Holy Spirit within you and a common sense application of what Scripture establishes as a lifestyle of holiness or godliness. After all, the Holy Spirit is present within you purifying and cleansing you inwardly. The language in God’s Word regarding the Holy Spirit cleansing and reordering our soul, inwardly (1 John 1:9; Titus 3:4-5; 1 Peter 1:22-23 et al) also speaks to having a proportionate effect upon how you carry yourself outwardly. Cleanliness is an unavoidable and complimentary expression of holiness and godliness. 

If the Holy Spirit reorients your inward condition to pursue holiness and godliness (1 Tim. 4:8; 2 Peter 1:5-8, 3:11; Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 7:1), He also reorients your outward expression toward personal cleanliness. It is a common sense extension of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life and experience. Cleanliness within will produce cleanliness without. Of course, this isn’t to be translated into washing every day in hand sanitizer or being obsessively compulsive or hyper-clinical about cleanliness, so that one’s home is uncomfortable to live in. You know, wrapping a couch in plastic and all. Nevertheless, cleanliness is in keeping with godliness and holiness. 

However, cleanliness, it must always be born in mind, primarily speaks to a cleanliness of morality and conduct.So, after characterizing believers as “the temple of God” (2 Cor.6:16-18; see above ), God’s Word exhorts us to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2. Cor.7:1). Cleanliness of heart, mind and soul always receives the locus of attention throughout God’s word. As James reminds believers, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded”

Cleanliness in life, is in keeping with the saving work of Jesus in your life, via the Holy Spirit’s presence within you. Your mind isn’t to be divided on this or double minded about it. Cleanliness is the natural expression of the supernatural transformation brought about in you by the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, orderliness may be another way of envisioning cleanliness. Although, orderliness will have a variation of meaning in and of itself. However, it does touch on cleanliness, in that, it involves a deliberate structuring or ordering of life in a sacred and purposeful manner. This surely underlies cleanliness. There is orderliness to maintaining healthy dental hygiene for instance. Brushing teeth prior to bed, upon awaking in the morning or, even, brushing after meals. There is an orderliness to cleanliness.

Orderliness in life and relationships, is also a fruit of holiness and godliness. Paul speaks to this very thing when addressing outward conduct and expressions among the church at Corinth. He speaks of their disorderly expressiveness as childish (1 Cor.14:20) and then calls upon them to pursue order among their gatherings and relationships (1 Cor.14:40; 14:26-40). Paul also affirms such orderliness among the church’s culture elsewhere (1 Tim.3:14-16; Titus 1:5). 

Orderliness in life is sine qua non for fostering a mentality and life of cleanliness. Both are worked into our hearts and minds through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  

Don’t we most significantly see this play out in the saving and cleansing work of Christ? He came in the fullness of time. As He ministered among humanity he purposely ministered outside of Jerusalem. This was deliberate and ordered. He requested and insisted on a number of occasions that those he healed not publicize the healing eventso as not to distract from His passion. Often, as religious leaders aimed to capture Him he is mysteriously described as somehow evading capture before the appropriate time. At least, until the ordered time, as he willingly surrendered to the soldiers in Gethsemane (John 18:4-11). 

And it was this orderliness of our Lord’s salvation, that brought Him to be appropriately glorified and in place beside the Father in the heavenliness, from where He baptizes us with the Holy Spirit. And in saving us in Christ, our God is also cleansing us through the presence of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7). The orderliness of Christ’s saving work also involves the Spirits cleansing work! 

JESUS IS FULL OF SAVING GRACE

As you well know SGC, we have been walking through our denominations Statement of Faith this summer. And, this summer sermon series, ‘Pillars of the Faith’ – so named from 1 Timothy 3:15 – has been a wonderful time in God’s Word together. Our time together during this series has been primarily based upon God’s Word, even though it’s aiming to explore our Statement of Faith (SoF), simply because our SoF is grounded in and founded upon the Word of God as revealed in the Bible. 

This why our SoF begins with an affirmation of ‘The Scriptures’. God’s revealed Word, the Bible, is the vox dei or the Voice of God, preserved for us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is the very Word of God.

Following our time together considering the doctrine of God’s Word, we touched on the biblical truth of our Triune God and how Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all equally, yet, uniquely involved personally working out our salvation. 

We then explored the nature of sin and how our sinful condition requires our God’s saving rescue. This rescue from our sinful condition and from God’s judgment of our sin, is known only in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is God’s saving work in Jesus Christ that all of human history -a sinful history- centers on. And, it is what your life and my life are centered around. 

While all three person of the Trinity -Father, Son and Holy Spirit- are uniquely and personally working out our salvation in a perfect unity, they are, as One God, working our salvation out – along with the renewal of all creation – in Jesus Christ. This is what Paul affirms when speaking about Jesus being all in all (Eph. 1:22-23{15-23}; Col.1:15-20, 3:11; 1 Cor. 15:28; Heb.1:2). 

God’s salvation only comes together in Jesus Christ. He alone is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He alone reveals to us the invisible God of our salvation (John 1:18; Heb. 1:1-3); the One and only true God (Deut. 4:35, 6:4-5; John 17:3; Isaiah 43:11) whom we are saved to worship and enjoy renewed fellowship with (1 John 1:3-4; John 17:3).

This salvation of God in Jesus Christ, is a salvation offered and provided according to God’s gracious nature. Salvation is a gift of God’s grace. As Paul reminds us, “For by grace you have been saved (by God is assumed) through faith. And this (salvation by God’s grace) is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. . .” (Eph.2:8). This salvation of grace as God’s free gift in Christ, is uniquely delineated and affirmed in Romans 5:12-17(18-21) as we have seen the last few Sunday’s. 

As we have seen, the language of grace and free gift quintessentially speaks to how our God relates to us in Jesus Christ. He freely and lovingly chooses to provide His gift of salvation – rescue from His judgment of our sin and rescue from the power or bondage of sin – for sinners such us! Our salvation, is His own gift SGC! One we received by faith. A faith, that is also a gift of grace (Acts 16:14; 2 Tim. 2:25-26; Heb,12:2; Eph.2:8-9; Phil.1:29; ).

One astonishing gift of we are given in Christ, through God’s saving grace, is the gift of justification as we saw from Romans 5:15-21 the other Sunday. God’s justifying grace speaks to his provision of righteousness through the sinless life of Jesus Christ. A righteousness that He provides us with because of our unrighteousness. A necessary provision, because we lost right standing (righteous condition) with God through Adam’s original sin (Rom. 5:16,18) and due to our sin. Because of this condition, we couldn’t enjoy acceptable standing in God’s presence because of this. We needed God’s gift of justifying grace in Christ, because He only accepts us having the righteousness of Jesus (Rom.5:1-2; 4:22-25 et al).     

Another amazing gift we are given in Christ, through God’s saving grace, is the gift of eternal life. We also saw this the other Sunday while in Romans 5 together. God freely gifts us with eternal life (Rom. 5:17-21; 6:20-23) SGC! This is huge! Considering that we were dead in our sinful condition (Rom.5:12;15,18; Eph. 2:1-3 et al) we need new life. Well, God gifts us with this grace in Jesus Christ, even though we deserved and earned the judgment of death and damnation, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.6:23; see also Eph.2:4-10; 1 Peter 1:3-5; et al)

Having explored these gifts of God’s grace together in particular, it is also imperative to recognize that Scripture additionally helps us see that Jesus personally and freely gifts us with both Himself. As Paul reinforces in Romans 5:15 that, “the grace of God and the free gift (of righteousness 5:17) by the grace of that one man Jesus Christabounded for many.” The grace of our God unto salvation is uniquely and personally given by Jesus Himself. As the apostle John reminds us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. . .the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . .And from his (Jesus’) fullness we (who have faith) have all received, grace upon grace. . . grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17). 

Jesus came to dwell among, via His incarnation, us to personally gift us with God’s grace unto salvation. The fullness of salvation, which includes both justification and eternal life. 

Jesus Himself, SGC, gifts us with this saving grace. It is Jesus, the shepherd of our souls, who leaves the flock of 99 sheep to rescue every sinfully wondering sheep (Matt.18:10-14) whom Father God has decided or decreed to be apart of His true flock of sheep (John 6:37,65, 10:29). Jesus personally calls out to us savingly, in our sinful condition and rebellion, knowing that we will hear His saving summons (John 5:25, 10:14, 25-27). And, it is the Lord Jesus as Luke records in Acts 2:47(41-47) who, “added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Jesus not only personally secured our salvation objectively through His righteous crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus has also personally gifted us salvation subjectively through His righteous resurrection and exaltation as Lord Who has been endowed with all power and authority to give life to whomever He sees fit (John 5:21,25-26)  

WHAT IS TRUTH? TRUTH’S WE AFFIRM FROM GOD’S WORD

“What is truth?”

This was the remark of Pilate as he was actually in the company of the truth, for Jesus, “the way the life and the truth” (John 14:6) was brought before him. “The Word” who “became flesh” Himself (John 1:14). “The true light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9). 

Pilate’s question, of course, was a reflection of his religion – his worldview and beliefs. A religion of pluralism among a pantheon of gods. In his day and age, one’s ‘truth’ was situated around or predicated upon which ‘god’ was offended. And, which ‘god’ among that pantheon needed satisfied for the innumerably possible reasons they might be offended. It was a house of mirrors reflecting a confusing array of ‘gods’. 

Pilate’s question was also a reflection of Rome’s philosophy. A situational or conditional pragmatic politic that had come to dominate Rome’s landscape, and thus Pilate’s own judgments and decisions. Not to mention, the influence of the lingering ‘aristocracy’ ideals that saturated Roman thought life. This essentially meant that making choices and judgments were more or less conditioned by how a particular ruling class viewed one’s own personal decisions or accepted one’s own personal judgments. Pragmatism often carried the day.

No wonder Pilate’s reply was, “What is truth?”. This is, I believe, an honest expression of confusion about what is ‘true’ and disorientation because of his worldview. In as much as it was a point of personal principle.  

This question of truth, in the face of truth, is one that has become commonplace in our day and age as well. It is the popular zeitgeist or spirit of the age. We are surrounded by Pilate’s question and confusion. 

Secular culture’s response to this question of truth is expressed through the present and popular mentality of individualism. An individualism that determines identity and sanctity according to one’s own personal preferences and selections. Pliable preferences and selections made, or arrived at, as one takes a stroll through the hodgepodge of carnival booths peddling their own personalized and preferred ‘truth’. This madness actually produces a small car full of clowns endlessly emerging from the trunk with their own unique and specialized persona’s and notions of existence. Notions based upon their own individually selected and preferred ‘truths’. Of course, so many clowns are also endlessly annoying and insufferable. It’s madness! 

We need the truth of Jesus speaking into the carnival of current cultural, political, emotional and individual climate more than ever in the West. The church, you and me, are in a position to be more biblical than ever! We need to be – and the world around us needs us being – personally, authentically, honestly and lovingly biblical or Bible Based.

This is why I am so excited about our denominations Statement of Faith (SoF). We have spent a number of years thoughtfully and carefully thinking through, evaluating and improving our SoF. We embarked on this process with a heart and mind for our SoF to best reflect the truths of God’s Word. And, for our SoF to more fully reflect such established truths.

Our SoF is a wonderfully crafted expression of the Christian faith that is in keeping with consistent biblical theology, historical theology and traditional theology. The link below will take you to an online version to read for yourself. You’ll definitely drink in the truths of God’s Word affirmed therein!

https://sgclagrange.com/about-us/statement-of-faith