How We Worship God
By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
and before all the people I will be honored. (Lev. 10:3)
In 2 Samuel 6:1-7 we are given the story of David and the Israelites bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. We are told that “David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God” and that they “carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab." David and all the Israelites were celebrating and dancing and singing as they moved the Ark to Jerusalem. The Israelites are worshipping God. They are worshipping and praising him for all their victories and for what God has done for them in delivering them from their enemies. The English word worship , which we use to translate the Hebrew word shachah and the Greek word proskuneō, comes from the Old English worth-ship, which mean to ascribe worth to something or someone. Thus, when we talk about worshipping God, we are talking about approaching God, treating God, in a way that ascribes to him the worth that he is deserving of. When David decided to move the Ark of the Covenant, which is the very throne of God (6:2), the Israelites are not ascribing worth to God. Like other kings in that day and age, God had commanded that his throne never be touched by anyone, and that it should be carried with poles upon the shoulders of the priests (Exod. 25, Num. 4). Thus, the first mistake the Israelites make is by placing the Ark upon an ox cart. The second mistake is when the ox cart begins to stumble and Uzzah reaches out his hand and touches the Ark. At that point God had enough and strikes him dead to send a message to all of them—when it comes to the worship of God, when it comes to how you treat God, how you approach God, it is not about how you feel; it’s about what God has commands. As God told Aaron, through Moses, after killing his two sons for offering strange fire, “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.”
Are You Available?
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:4-6)
As a minister, I have had the privilege of asking many people to consider serving in a particular ministry. Most often when I ask them, they seem reluctant. Sometimes they are excited, especially when it’s a ministry they had been desiring to engage in and hoping they would be asked to do. But most times they wonder if they will have the ability to carry out the ministry. Are they smart enough? Are they gifted enough? Do they know enough Bible? This is where looking to Paul as an example can be so helpful. Yes, Paul was an apostle appointed by God and, yes, Paul had the gifts of healing and prophecy and tongues. But none of that is where he derived his confidence to carry out the ministry that had been entrusted to him. Rather he says, “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit” (emphasis added). Paul understands that it is God who made him sufficient. His sufficiency does not come from himself. There is a great lesson to be learned here. When God calls a person into a particular ministry, he will also give them the necessary gifting and ability to carry out that ministry. The gifts of healing, prophecy, and tongues are gifts of the Holy Spirit; thus, Paul did not have these gifts until after he was called and ordained to be an apostle. When it comes to God using people in ministry, using ordinary people to do extraordinary things, it has been rightly said, “God is not as concerned about your ability as he is about your availability.”
Union with Christ
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,... (Ephesians 1:3)
In Paul’s theology, he places a tremendous amount of importance on our union with Christ. One of the best and clearest examples of this is from Ephesians 1:3-14, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him [in Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved [in Christ]. In him [in Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him [in Christ], things in heaven and things on earth. In him [in Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him [in Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him [in Christ], were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (emphasis and brackets added). Paul’s point is that all the spiritual blessings we receive as believers are not due to effort, but to position. Our sanctification and our salvation are not about Law keeping, but about location. Remaining inside the covenant community of God is not conditional, but positional. At the moment God sovereignly calls us and saves us, the Holy Spirit “who is the guarantee of our inheritance” brings us into union with Christ and seals us into Christ until the day of his return. There is a lot of comfort and assurance in knowing that.
Christ Living in You
I have been crucified with Christ. (Galatians 2:20)
So often the battle with sin can be both challenging and exhausting. And the trouble is the longer this battle rages within us, the more we run the risk of either tending toward legalism or antinomianism. Legalism is the idea that our sanctification and our salvation is entirely up to us. If we are ever going to become more like Christ and, ultimately, if we are ever going to make it into heaven, it entirely depends on our efforts and on how effectively we are able to mortify the sin that indwells us. Antinomianism is the idea that both sanctification and salvation are completely by grace through faith; therefore, we need not concern ourselves with our sins or even think about them, simply let go and let God. Legalism leads to a denial of the gospel, while antinomianism leads to a denial of God’s holiness. The balance is to understand what Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, 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.” When Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” He is not saying the crucifixion of Christ gave Paul a better version of himself, but rather that the old Paul has died with Christ and now it is Christ who is living in him and through him. He understands that he is a new creation, not simply an improved version of his old self. Yet, when he says, “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.” He is not saying he does not concern himself with living for Christ, that he is simply letting go and letting God. Rather he says “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (emphasis added). Paul is the one living this life. He is not a puppet being controlled by strings. Yet, he lives his life by “faith in the Son of God.” He understands that he is the one who is living his life, but the strength to live his life and to overcome sin does not come from him but from Christ who lives in him. Paul puts forth the effort to live the Christian life and to mortify his sin, but the source of his desire and ability comes from Christ who indwells him. Thus, it is not a matter of not putting forth any effort, nor is it a matter of believing all the effort depends on you. It’s a matter of putting forth the effort, knowing that the effort will not be in vain because of Christ who lives in you and through you.
Never Give Up
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Sometimes the Christian life can be exhausting, the constant battle with sin, the constant resisting of temptations, ministering and serving people who are a drain, who simply take, take, and take, without giving anything in return. It’s been said the Christian life is not a sprint, but a marathon—endurance is the key to victory. But I think the Christian life is more like an American football game where at the end of one’s career you may have carried the ball for over 18,000 yards rushing, but this comes at a cost of being slammed to the turf an average of every 4.2 yards. As Christians, as we run this race, it can sometimes feel like sin or just life is slamming us to the turf every 4.2 yards. Sometimes it's painful! Sometimes we just want to lay on the ground and not get up again. We’re tired. We’re done. We just want to lay there and give up. The apostle Paul certainly understood the pain and difficulties of living the Christian life. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 he recounts for his readers that five times he was flogged, three times he was beaten with rods, once he was pelted with stones, shipwrecked three times having spent a night and a day adrift in the ocean; he has crossed dangerous rivers, been threatened by robbers, chased by his own people, threatened by Gentiles, had been in danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers, has suffered hunger, thirst, and many sleepless nights. Yet, this same Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:57-58, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Paul understood that although life for the believer can sometimes be incredibly difficult, our labor for God is never in vain. Paul was driven and compelled and motivated by his desire to someday hear God say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.’
The Abundance of God's Grace
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7)
King Ahab was one of the evilest kings in the northern kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 16:30). He and Jezebel were a regular Bonnie and Clyde (19:1-3). He built a temple for Baal in Samaria, erected Ashura poles for the people to worship at, provided financial support for over 800 false prophets of Baal, and had many of God’s prophets put to death. His epitaph could easily read: “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (16:33). Ahab once offered to purchase the land of a man named Naboth. When he refused, Ahab goes into depression—the equivalent of an adult baby-tantrum. So what does Jezebel do? She has Naboth murdered so Ahab can take possession of his land. When God condemns Ahab through Elijah the prophet and tells him that because of what he has done to Naboth, he will destroy Ahab and his household, we are told that Ahab repented and “tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly” (21:27). Amazingly, God extends mercy! God says to Elijah, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son's days I will bring the disaster upon his house" (1 Ki. 21:29). If there was anyone deserving of God’s wrath and condemnation, Ahab was certainly a prime candidate. Nevertheless, as God declared to Moses, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exod. 34:6-7). God is amazingly gracious and merciful and forgiving. While God being merciful to Ahab tends to irritate our sense of justice, this is good news for us. Because if God can extend mercy to someone like Ahab, then there is hope for us. In 1 John 1:9 we read, “If we confess our sins [to God], he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What a glorious truth! No matter how badly we blow it, no matter what kind of wicked thoughts we struggle with, we can be sure that each time we come to God pleading for mercy and forgiveness, there is always an abundance of grace at the cross. God stands ever ready to forgive those who come to him. “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:6-7).
What Is Sexual Immorality?
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10 ESV)
There is this growing trend among Evangelicals that it is not sinful for two individuals to engage in sex outside of marriage, as long as they are in a committed relationship with each other and as long as neither of them are married to someone else. Much of this comes from the fact that whenever the Bible talks about sexual sins, most often it is within the context of adultery. Yes, we read passages like 1 Cor. 6:9-10 which says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (emphasis added). But what does it mean to be sexually immoral, some have argued? And when we try and define sexual immorality from the Old Testament, often those passages are dealing with at least one person being married or in the passages where scripture is very specific, it does not mention one unmarried man and one unmarried woman having sex together being sinful. See, for example, Leviticus 18. And the seventh commandment specifically forbids adultery. So where in the Bible do we specifically find that it is sinful for one unmarried man and one unmarried woman to engage in sexual intercourse? Exodus 22:16 says, "If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife.” Thus, according to God’s word, once two people engage in sexual relations, they must get married. This is the only proper way to repair the sin which has taken place. And in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 Paul writes, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (emphasis added). In other words, if your hormones are going crazy and you are struggling to control your passions, Paul says, you need to get married. Why? Because as Paul says just a few verses earlier, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (vv.1-2). In other words, in order for men and women to avoid the sin of sexual immorality, they should get married. Sexual relations outside of marriage is sin--sexual immorality.
Be Still Before the Lord
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; (Ps. 37:7 ESV)
In 1 Kings 19 we find Elijah hiding in a cave from Jezebel for fear that she is seeking to kill him. And while he is hiding in the cave, we are told the word of the Lord came to him saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (v.9). Elijah replies that is hiding because all God’s prophets have been killed and only he is left. The voice then instructs him to “go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” When he does so, we then read that “the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” When he hears that low whisper, he wraps his face and goes outside and then God speaks to him, giving him instructions, saying, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.” The point is that Elijah was going through something very difficult. He was hiding in a cave for fear that someone was trying to take his life. And when he looked for God, he did not find him in the wind. He did not find him in the earthquake, and he did not find him in the fire. Elijah finds God in the still small whisper. So often when we are going through the furnace of life, as we cry out to God, we find ourselves looking for some major sign from God. We want a neon sign making it clear what we should do or the decision we should make. But rather than look for God in the wind or in the earthquake or in the fire, we should listen for his voice in the still quietness of his word and in prayer. As the Psalmist says, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (37:7).
The Great Commission
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matt. 28:19-20 ESV)
In the passage that is often referred to as “The Great Commission” (Matt 28:19-20), many think the command is to “go,” to go into the world and make disciples or to go to other countries as missionaries. However, when Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples,” the imperative, the word that is in the command form, is actually the word “make”. That’s the command--to make disciples. The word “go” is a participle, which could be translated from the Greek, “while you are going, make disciples of all nations.” Thus, the command by Jesus is not really to go anywhere, but rather what he is saying to his disciples is “while you are going about your life or wherever you are going, make disciples of all nations.” Christians are commanded to make disciples. The problem is that too many Christians think this is a command to the Church in general. The Church is commanded to make disciples, not me. So as long as my church does some sort of evangelism ministry or sends out or supports missionaries or so long as the elders of my church are evangelizing people, then I’m good. I am fulfilling Jesus’ command by being a part of the Church. Wrong! And we know this because the apostles repeat this command in their letters in various ways. Paul writes in Rom. 10:13-15, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” His point is that no one is going to get saved unless we go out there and proclaim the gospel to people. All Christians have a duty to do that. He will say to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word.” Paul understands that if faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ, then no one will be saved without the preaching of the word (Rom. 10:17). Peter will write in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, so that you may proclaim [verbalize] the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” According to Peter, if you are a believer, God saved you so that you might proclaim the gospel to the world. The Great Commission was not given to angels—it was given to believers.
Love Is a Verb
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Cor. 13:4-8 ESV)
First Corinthians 13:1-7, the “Love Passage,” is one of the most beloved passages in the entire Bible. And for good reason. In that passage, Paul begins by saying, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” His point is simple. No matter how talented or gifted or intelligent or indispensable one may appear to be or thinks he is, ability without love rings hollow. Gifting without love leads to arrogance, self-aggrandizement, self-centeredness, and a prima donna complex. This is a valuable lesson for all Christians, but especially for those who serve in ministry. So often we have been shocked by extremely talented ministers who fall from grace due to some horrific scandal, often involving sex or money. This is because their ministry was not driven by love for God and love for people (Matt 22:37-39), but rather by love for self. Gifting without love is like a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” You cannot make music with just a gong or a cymbal. You can make noise, but you cannot make music no matter how talented of a gong player you are. Thus, talent without love is meaningless. But what is love? “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Notice love is an action. Love does or does not do certain things. Love is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth, bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. Love is not envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, self-serving, and does not rejoice in wrongdoing. Love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. Love is a verb.
The Lord's Table
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16)
Within Christianity there is this view of the Lord’s Supper (the eucharist) known as the Zwinglian view of the Lord’s Supper which argues that the Lord’s Supper is merely symbolic, a picture, of what Christ accomplished for us by his death on the cross. While this view certainly did not originate with Ulrich Zwingli (ca. 1484-1531), he was the one who popularized it. Unfortunately, however, Zwingli failed to grasp the full meaning of what Paul is discussing regarding the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10. There he writes, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (vv.14-16). What “cup of blessing” is Paul talking about? What is the bread that is being broken which is a “participation in the body of Christ”? Clearly he is speaking about the Lord’s Supper, which he will go on to discuss in greater detail in the next chapter (11:17-34). For now he is laying the groundwork as to how one ought to approach the Lord’s Supper. But what does idolatry have to do with the Lord’s Supper? In the previous verses Paul reminds his readers of how the people of Israel in the Old Testament would engage in the worship of God with one hand, and with the other hand engage in idolatry. Thus, because of God’s wrath, “twenty-three thousand fell in a single day” (vv.6-11). As he talks about the Lord’s Supper, Paul warns us not to do the same, not so engage in egregious sinful behavior throughout the week and then come into church and partake of the Lord’s Supper. This is because, as Paul says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” He will go on to say, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” (vv.21-22). That is, don’t think for a moment you can engage in egregious sins throughout the week and then take a seat at the Lord’s table and partake in the sacrament without incurring the wrath of God. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” For this reason, Paul will issue a strong warning in 11:27-30, saying that illness and death can be the result of those who take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. The point is that such strong warnings about the Lord’s Supper tell us that the sacrament is more that symbolic. When we take the Lord’s Supper, we are sitting at the “table of the Lord.” In a spiritual, yet real sense, we are supping with Christ himself.
To be Ruled by a King
I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, 'You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.' (1 Kings 9:5)
In 1 Kings 9-10, we are told of how God appeared to Solomon and reminded him of the promise that he made to his father, David. There God says to him, “And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” In the rest of the chapter, and then in chapter 10, we are told of the enormous wealth that God blessed Solomon and Israel with, of how the queen of Sheba came to Solomon to see if the rumors were true and to test his wisdom, and how she discovered that the rumors were true (10:6-10). But by the time we get to chapter 11, we see Solomon turning from the Lord and things begin to unravel, which ultimately culminates in the division of Israel after his death. Solomon failed to remain faithful to God, and God had warned him what would happen if that were the case (9:6-9). Nevertheless, God’s promise to David that he would some day give him a son for whom he would “establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam. 7:13) is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the promise given to David, and then repeated to Solomon, pointed to and was fulfilled in Christ. Matthew makes this clear as the phrase “Son of David” as applied to Christ appears no less than ten times in his gospel. And while we see Solomon reigning over a vast kingdom from the Euphrates River to the border of Egypt (4:20-21) and reigning over vast amounts of wealth, it is nothing in comparison to what the ultimate son of David will inherit. In Revelation 21 we read, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…. And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’…I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (vv.1-6). Christ, the son of David, will someday sit upon his throne and rule over and take possession of the entire earth, not just the land between the Euphrates River and the border of Egypt. As we experience the political turmoil of our day, we can look forward to the day when believers will live under a monarchy, when we will be ruled by a loving and perfect and generous and merciful king. I look forward to the day when I can exchange this republic for a monarchy.
If You Could Have One Thing?
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. (Prov. 4:7 )
Yesterday I wrote about wisdom and on becoming wise and, of course, when we think about some of the wisest people in the Bible we can learn from, we tend to think about Solomon. In fact, Solomon’s wisdom was world famous in that day and age. We are told in 1 Kings 10 that “when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions.” Solomon answered all her questions and so she says to him, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard” (vv.6-7). Solomon was extremely wise beyond his years, but this did not happen by chance and had nothing to do with genetics. Seven chapters earlier God came to Solomon in a dream and asked him the one question we all dream about. You know, that secret desire that some day we might find a lamp that a genie pops out of and says, “Your wish is my command.” Oh, what we would ask for if we were just granted one wish to have anything we want. What would it be? Money? Possessions? World peace? In 1 Kings 3, God comes to Solomon and says, ‘Ask me for one thing and I will give it to you. Name it.’ What does Solomon ask for? “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” He asked for wisdom. How often do we pray for wisdom? How often do we specifically pray, “Lord, please make me wise; please grant me wisdom and a heart of understanding?” James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Above all else what we need is wisdom. Wisdom to know how to live the Christian life. Wisdom to know how to strengthen our marriage. Wisdom to know how to parent our children. Wisdom to know how to manage our finances. Wisdom to know how best to serve the church. Wisdom is the key to a long and happy life. Yet, so often we pray for everyone else and everything else except wisdom.
On Becoming Wise
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
We are all familiar with the biblical concept that those who walk with the wise will become wise (Prov. 13:20). Or, the opposite, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). Most of us inherently know that the people we hang around with, the people we spend the most time with, are bound to rub off on us. This is one of the reasons I left the military. In my younger days, while I enjoyed serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army, playing with guns, tanks, and grenades, spending weeks at a time in the field with a group of roughneck soldiers became difficult. Maybe it’s because I was young in the Lord, a relatively new believer, but when we went out to the field for a three to four-week training exercise, I found myself behaving more and more like them by the end of it. This is because humans are impressionable creatures, and it is easier to behave ungodly than it is to behave godly. Engaging in sin is easy. Resisting sin is not. Yet so often it can be difficult to find those people, those fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that we can spend much time with, whom we know will be a positive influence on us. People are busy. Schedules are packed. We know it would be good to spend more time with people who would have a positive influence in our lives but finding the time is challenging. This is precisely one of the many reasons God gave us the scriptures and why the Bible is so massive. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-10, Paul reminds his readers of all the experiences the Israelites went through and suffered through, how God delivered them and provided for them in the wilderness, and yet most of them did not enter the promised land because of their disobedience and hard heartedness, because they engaged in sexual immorality and idolatry. However, twice in that section he makes two important statements. In v.6 he says, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” Then again in v.11, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” Paul’s point is clear. This is why we should read God’s word every day. This is why we should read through the entire Bible from cover to cover on a regular basis. Whether we read through the Bible in a year every year or take a longer three-year approach, the important thing is that we are reading through God’s word daily because “whoever walks with the wise becomes wise” (Prov. 13:20) and “these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction.”
Run to Win
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it. (1 Cor. 9:24)
As Christians it can be so easy to fall into the trap of believing that since salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, then it doesn’t matter how we live or how hard we try to live out our faith. Yet, Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” By using athletic imagery, Paul is reminding us of how athletes run a race. They put forth all their effort. They strive with every ounce of energy they can muster. They do so because they want to win the prize, reach the goal. However, this striving to win the prize does not just happen on the racetrack. For those who truly want to win the prize, all their effort and hard work begins long before the race. As Paul says, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. Athletes who are serious about winning, exercise regularly. They watch what they eat. They watch what they drink. They “exercise self-control in all things.” Thus, Paul says, “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” Paul may have echoing in his mind the words of Christ who said, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:21-23). At the Day of Judgement many will not be allowed into God’s presence having been deceived into thinking that simply saying “Lord, Lord”, professing Jesus as Lord, was enough. Jesus says it is not those who simply say, “Lord, Lord” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of God the Father. Paul understands this and so he says, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” To be sure, salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. Nevertheless, at the Day of Judgement, Paul does not want to be the one who hears, ‘Depart from me you worker of lawlessness.’ Paul does not want to be “disqualified” from gaining the prize. Paul does not want to be self-deceived into thinking he is saved when he is not. Thus, he disciplines his body and keeps it under control. He works hard at his sanctification and at mortifying the sin that indwells him.
Be Encouraged about the Future
I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35)
As we look out at the political landscape and what we see going on in the world, it can be easy to become discouraged or frustrated or concerned about our children’s future. What will the world be like in twenty or forty years? What kind of world will our grandchildren grow up in? However, regardless of what the world will be like in forty years, we can be sure it will be just as God intends it to be. In Daniel 4 we read this: “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’ (vv.34-35). God does “according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.” Although what we see happening in the world may surprise us or shock us or even frustrate us, none of it surprises, shocks, or frustrates God. All of world history, all of U.S. history and politics, is moving just as God desires it, just as he planned and foreordained it. We may not know what God is doing or why he does the things he does, but here is what we do know—we know God is sovereign, trustworthy, good, and wise. Therefore, we can know with absolute certainty that everything we see happening in the world—Covid19, the election of Joe Biden, social unrest, political turmoil—is all for a wise and good reason. Likely, Joseph struggled to understand why his brothers would sell him into slavery which ultimately landed him in a dirty, damp, flea-infested prison (Gen. 37). But had Joseph not been sold into slavery, he could not have saved his family from starvation. And had he not saved his family from starvation, they would not have become enslaved in Egypt. Had they not become slaves in Egypt, there never would have been an exodus. And if no exodus, then no Mt. Sinai, and if no Mt. Sinai, then no Law, and if no Law, then no nation of Israel, and if no nation of Israel, then no King David, and if no King David, then no Messiah, and if no Messiah, then no cross, and if no cross, then no salvation, and if no salvation, then I would not be trying this Daily Thought and you would not be reading it. And all of this because of one…single…coat. There is always a good and wise reason for everything God does.
Loving the Weaker Brethren
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way. (1 Cor. 13:4-5)
If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have probably come across believers who hold to some interesting views. I once had a very sincere fellow believer tell me I was sinning for wearing shorts in public, for showing off the bottom half of my legs. He argued that this was a violation of the Bible’s command to dress modestly. When he saw my wife wearing a skirt and makeup, he about came unglued. This may seem like an extreme example, but we all have views that others would likely think are extreme. Whether that be Christians consuming alcohol, smoking cigars, listening to secular music, watching TV or movies, using a particular Bible translation, women wearing pants, getting tattoos, we all have views we believe are biblical and can be defended from scripture. Views others would strongly disagree with. While it is certainly worth discussing every aspect of Christianity, what do we do once we have discussed and have tried in vain to persuade the other person to our point of view? Very often we think that since we don’t believe our behavior is wrong, we are going to do it anyway and if the other person does not like it or is offended by it, too bad. They are just immature Christians, and they need to grow up. Paul dealt with a similar situation in 1 Corinthians 8, wherein some Christians thought it was wrong, or even sinful, to eat meat that had been sacrifice to idols. The cultural situation going on in the city of Corinth is that many devout pagans who sold meat in the marketplace would often sacrifice a portion of the meat to their pagan god or gods in order to earn their favor in the hopes that the gods will bless their business. Some Christians in Corinth thought that to buy or eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols was in someway to endorse or approve of pagan sacrifices. This is not dissimilar to Christians who believe we should not do business with a company which has a pro-abortion agenda or a pro-homosexual agenda or some other unbiblical/politically liberal agenda. So how does Paul respond to this? First, he reminds those struggling with eating meat sacrificed to idols that “as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one’” (v.4). These false gods are not real; therefore, it’s really not a big deal to eat meat that had been sacrificed to them. But then he reminds those who are not concerned about eating meat sacrificed to idols that “not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled” (v.7). Some Christians, because of their past negative association with idols, are really bothered by eating meat sacrificed to idols. Thirdly, Paul reminds them both that “food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (v.8). Eat or don’t eat. It does not matter. But then Paul graciously ends his lesson with these words, “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (v.13). Even though Paul just taught that eating meat sacrificed to idols is not wrong or sinful, if it offends his brother, he “will never eat meat” again. This is perfectly in line with what Paul will teach in 1 Cor. 13 that “Love is patient and kind…[Love] does not insist on its own way.” In the end, let us seek to love the weaker brethren.
Finding Hope in Troubled Times
For I know that my Redeemer lives (Job 19:25)
Living life in a fallen world can be tough, just ask Job. In the opening two chapters of Job, we read that God granted permission to the devil to destroy all Job’s property, kill all his children, and inflict him with painful boils from head to toe. Things had gotten so bad, in fact, that by the end of chapter two we’re told that his wife says to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Why don’t you just curse God and die?’ Of course, amazingly, Job says to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Then we read, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Nevertheless, Job had gone through some horrendous experiences. The kind of experiences that would cause most of us to just roll over and die. Then to make matters worse, his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Elihu, do their best to convince Job he is being punished for his sin and if he would just repent of his wickedness, God would relent. With friends like that, who needs enemies? Thus, Job starts out trying to defend himself, but quickly begins to wear down under the pressure of false accusation and believing he has been unjustly treated by God. Yet Job never completely loses hope and never falls into complete despair because ultimately be keeps his eye not on this life, but on the next life. In Job 19 we see him reaching the pit of despair and says, “My breath is strange to my wife, and I am a stench to the children of my own mother. Even young children despise me; when I rise they talk against me. All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me” (vv.17-19). He feels the whole world is against him. Many of us have felt that way, when life is going so bad it seems our entire world is crashing down around us and no one is in our corner. Yet Job still sees there is hope. He says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (vv.25-27). His hope comes not from looking at this life, but from keeping his eye on the next life. Job looks forward to a day when this life will be a distant memory and in his flesh he shall see God. We can learn a lot from Job.
Can I Divorce My Spouse?
To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. (1 Cor. 7:10-11 ESV)
The above passage is one of those passages that has fallen out of favor in recent years. The idea that a person should not seek to divorce his or her spouse, and if they do, they should remain single or else be reconciled to their spouse is just a foreign concept that many have sought to circumnavigate. Even Evangelicals in recent years have sought to read between the lines of scripture arguing that people may legitimately get divorced for mental, emotional, or physical abuse. If you are unhappy, simply claim you are suffering emotional abuse from your spouse and then you can get a divorce. The reasoning goes something like this: Jesus permitted divorce on the grounds of “marital unfaithfulness” (Matt 5:31-32; 19:9); thus, when a person is mentally, emotionally, or physically abusive, he or she is violating the marriage covenant. They are violating their marriage vows “to love and respect and cherish till death do you part.” Thus, they are being “unfaithful” to the marriage covenant; they have committed the sin of “marital unfaithfulness.” Therefore, divorce is now permissible. The problem is that the apostle Paul says, “the wife should not separate from her husband…and the husband should not divorce his wife.” The second problem is that Jesus never said divorce was permissible on the grounds of “marital unfaithfulness.” What he said was “everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery” (Matt. 5:32, emphasis added). Jesus permitted divorce for sexual immorality, not simply marital unfaithfulness. The underlying Greek word for “sexual immorality” is one word, the word porneia, from which we get our English words pornography or pornographic. According to standard Greek lexicons, the meaning of porneia is “generally, of every kind of extramarital, unlawful, or unnatural sexual intercourse.” Thus, Jesus allowed divorce only for the reason of engaging in sexual intercourse with someone who is not your spouse. To be clear, the Bible does not require someone who is in a physically abusive relationship to stay in the home. He or she is certainly permitted to move out of the home and seek protection someplace else; however, divorce is not an option, according to Jesus. Or, as Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 7:12-13, “if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.” Thus, if the unbelieving spouse desires to remain married and has not engaged in sexual intercourse outside the marriage, the believing spouse does not have biblical grounds for divorce. All of is to say, being careful to marry a Bible-believing, God-fearing man or woman is tremendously important. Marriage should never be entered into lightly nor speedily. Marriage is designed by God to last for a lifetime.
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. (1 Cor. 4:6)
One of the many things the church in Corinth was struggling with and was causing division within the church was the gifts of the Spirit, talents, and abilities. Many of them were becoming puffed up toward each other thinking that each was better than the other. There was this pervasive idea running through the church that there were super-Christians who were more important or valuable or talented than the rest (1 Cor 12:14-26). To help resolve this issue, that was running the risk of splitting the church, Paul reminds them “not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” In other words, it does not matter what your gifts are, it does not matter if one has the gift of prophecy or not (whatever that is), scripture is the final, authoritative, inerrant rule of all faith, knowledge, and practice. What is written in God’s word is what we are to adhere to. To Timothy he would write, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-4:1)—“that the man of God may be complete.” In other words, God’s word, scripture, is all we need to be complete. The word of God provides us with all we need to know God, to live the Christian life, to grow in sanctification, to engage in ministry, and to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. No further authoritative revelation is needed, nor available, from God. Peter echoes a similar sentiment when he writes, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3). Everything we need for “life;” that is, for living life in this world, and for “godliness;” that is, for growing in sanctification and preparing for the next life is given to us “through the knowledge of him who called us;” that is, through the knowledge of God. The more we study God, the more we study the things of God, the more we study scripture, there is where we find all that we need for life and godliness.
The Trustworthiness of God's Word
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. (2 Samuel 7:12-14 ESV)
In 2 Samuel 7, David is feeling a bit guilty about living in a well-built palace while the Ark of the Covenant sits in a tent. Thus, he comes up with this plan to build a temple for God, a place for the all the temple furnishings and the Ark of the Covenant. But then God instructs Nathan, the prophet, to go to David and deliver a message to him from God. God, through Nathan, tells David he will not build him a temple because has too much blood on his hands from all the wars he has fought, but rather his son will build him a temple. But not only will David’s son build a temple for God, but he goes on to tell David that when “your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” Thus, God is going to give David a son who will (1) build a house for God, (2) establish a kingdom which will last forever, and (3) will be to God a son, and God will be to him a father. This wonderful promise comes to fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ who is himself the true temple of God (Jn 2:19-22), the heir to the Davidic throne, and whose kingdom is from everlasting to everlasting (Lk 1:30-33). God made a promise to David around the year 1000 BC and then brings that promise to completion in the birth of Christ. This testifies to the fact that God can be fully trusted. God always keeps his word. God’s word—holy scripture—is trustworthy and true and authoritative. Read it. Believe it. Build your life on it.
Impugning God's Character
You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's." (Exod. 20:17; Deut. 5:21)
One of the features that is interesting about the tenth commandment is the fact that it does forbid coveting your neighbor's husband, as if to say this commandment does not apply to women. However, the commandment is worded this way because of the patriarchal manner in which God viewed the family and the covenant community. God, from the beginning, established male leadership within the home and within the covenant community (Gen. 2:15-18). Thus, because wives are not above their husbands and children are not above their parents (Exod. 20:12; Eph. 5:22-24), then what is obligatory for men is obligatory for women and children as well. If it is wrong for God to lie, then it is wrong for humans to lie. If it is wrong for men to covet, then it is wrong for women and children to covet.
What is also interesting about the tenth commandment is that it is the only one that pertains to internal sin, a state of mind, a desire. All the other nine commandments have to do with external behavior. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t bow down and worship false gods. However, the tenth commandment forbids us from desiring that which does not belong to us. It’s the one commandment no one was ever stoned for in the Old Testament. Thus, what does it mean to covet and why is it sinful? To covet is to desire that which does not belong to you, that which you do not have, that which belongs to someone else. Understanding that God is sovereign and that all good things come to us from the hand of God (James 1:17), then to covet is to say to God that you deserve more than what he has given you. To covet after another man’s wife, another women’s husband, another person’s property, to covet after someone you are not married to (i.e., lust), is to express discontentment over that which God has given you. It is to imply that God is withholding something from you which you deserve. To covet is to imply that God somehow owes you more than what you have. Ultimately, to covet is to question the goodness and trustworthiness of God. To covet is to impugn the character of God.
Tell the Truth
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exod. 20:16; Deut. 5:20)
The ninth commandment prohibits lying. However, there are two questions that need to be answered here when we discuss the ninth commandment. First, is it always a sin to lie? Secondly, does the ninth commandment strictly forbid lying about other people, bearing false witness against your neighbor? Is it permissible to lie about oneself, to embellish our past or our talents?
For the first question: it is always a sin to not tell the truth. Christians sometimes argue over this because of certain examples we see in the Bible. For example, there is Rahab who lied about the spies and then is listed in the ‘Hall of Faith’ in Hebrews 11 (Josh. 2:4-5; Heb. 11:31). We also see God putting a lying spirit into the mouths of the false prophets (1 Kings 22:23). However, we first need to understand that God operates on a level that is beyond our comprehension—God is transcendent. This is not to say that it is a sin for us to lie, but not for God to cause people to lie; i.e., the false prophets. It is to say that this is the same God who allowed Satan to commit great evil on Job (chap. 1-2). God does not commit evil but does use evil for his glory and toward a good end. As for Rahab, she is praised in Hebrews 11 for helping the spies, not for her method. Nevertheless, there are tines when lying is a necessary evil. For example, the Christian hiding Jews in his basement in Nazi Germany and then telling the authorities he has not seen any Jewish people. The choice is between telling the truth and allowing this Jewish family to be murdered or lying and preserving their lives. The latter is certainly the more Christian thing to do. Nevertheless, the lie would still be a sin, but not an unpardonable sin and certainly the lesser evil.
Secondly, does the ninth commandment strictly forbid lying about other people, bearing false witness against your neighbor? Thus, is it permissible to lie about oneself? While the ninth commandment does not expressly forbid lying about oneself, to do so would be a violation of the first and tenth commandments. To lie about yourself is to portray yourself as something or someone you are not which is to make yourself into a god. It is to say we desire that others think more highly of ourselves than they otherwise would, and it is to say we are not happy with how God has made us. We are not happy with the past or talents or possessions God has given us. Thus, to lie about ourselves is selfish, self-serving, and is driven by covetousness—the desire to be something or someone we are not. Besides that, the New Testament makes clear that “having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). God’s people are always to speak the truth.
You shall not steal. (Exod. 20:15; Duet. 5:19)
The eighth commandment prohibiting theft is a universally accepted and enforced commandment. Throughout world history there have always been laws in every society against stealing. This is for two reasons. First, we all inherently recognize that no society can exist, build, and advance where theft is allowed to exist unchecked. Secondly, no one likes to be stolen from. Thus, stealing violates our inherent understanding of the Second Great Commandment—to love your neighbor as yourself, to treat others as you would want to be treated. Hence, most people understand that stealing is wrong, and most would never engage in open and blatant theft. However, many, including many Christians, continue to engage in subtle forms of theft. Much like the “little white lies” that many wrongly believe God does not care about. Often Christians will justify taking home from the office a notepad or a few pens. “What’s few pens or a notepad to a major corporation? They’ll never miss it. Besides, I’m sure God won’t care.” Or, will He? Notice that the eighth commandment is not merely a prohibition against grand theft—amounts over a thousand dollars. The commandment is “you shall not steal”--period. You shall not take for yourself that which does not belong to you, that which is not rightly yours, which you have not paid for or earned in some way or has not been given to you. At this point, some might be tempted to think I am being legalistic, overly technical. But remember the words of Samuel to Saul, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). What God demands of his people is obedience--complete obedience. However, another more common area in which many violate the eighth commandment is regarding the most precious commodity we own--time. Time is precious for once it is lost it can never be regained. Thus, when we are late to a meeting, when we keep someone held up, or outright forget our appointment with that person, we have stolen their time and have thus violated the eighth commandment and have sinned both against God and against that person. But the most grievous violation of the eighth commandment is when we rob God of his due glory by taking it for ourselves. When we pat ourselves on the back for our salvation or for the blessings we have in our lives, believing that we have accomplished these things, or when we engage in good deeds to be seen or praised by others, we violate the eighth commandment in the most grievous way by stealing glory from God. And that, my friends, God will not tolerate.
Do Not Commit Adultery
You shall not commit adultery. (Exod. 20:14; Duet. 5:18)
When people hear the word adultery, they immediately think of engaging in physical sex outside of marriage. On one level they would be correct. However, physical sex outside of marriage is not the only context in which people can commit the sin of adultery. Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Thus, the sin of adultery can be committed both internally (in the heart) and externally (with someone else). Both are grievous in the eyes of God and both stem from the sins of discontentment, covetousness, and lack of self-control. Discontentment in that we are often unhappy with where God has placed us, with our station in life, with what or whom he has given us. Whether married or unmarried, we wrongly believe we deserve something more, something better. Covetousness in that we engage in the sin of adultery because we desire that which God has not given to us. The sin of covetousness stems from the false notion that God owes us something. And lack of self-control in that the sin of adultery is always the failure to control our mind and to control our sexual passions. It is for this reason we read in scripture, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, 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. 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, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor. 7:1-5). Sex was created by God not only as a means of procreation but as a means of pleasure, release, and protection from temptation. While it is never the fault of the innocent person when his or her spouse is unfaithful, we can play a contributing factor by neglecting intimacy in our marriage. Wives can often be too tired at the end of the day for their husbands, and husbands can often be too focused on work to pay attention to their wives. Yet scripture commands: “Do not deprive one another…so that Satan may not tempt you…” For the unmarried this can be difficult as God wired us with sexual desires. For this reason, God encourages those who burn with sexual passions to seek to be married “for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:8-9). In the end, adultery is a sin which can be committed with or without the sexual act, but God has provided a remedy and means of protection through the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of prayer, spending time in God’s word, and through the institution of marriage.
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