THE SPIRITS SWORD
Mt. Baker church of Christ
1860 Mt. Baker Hwy · Bellingham, WA 98226
Volume V, Number 40 - December 30, 2001
Editor..................Joe R. Price
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In this issue:
Joe R. Price
The Bible reveals that God Almighty established marriage to meet and fulfill man's need for companionship, to provide mankind with moral cohabitation and thus furnish the appropriate environment for rearing subsequent generations (see Gen. 2:18-25; 1:26-28; 18:19; 1 Cor. 7:1-2; Deut. 6:7-9; Psa. 127; Eph. 6:1-4). Marriage is an honorable and lifelong arrangement (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6; Heb. 13:4). Those who choose to dishonor it by putting it asunder will answer to the God who ordained it (Heb. 13:4). Every person who enters marriage is obligated by God to (1) abide by God's regulation of marriage (Matt. 19:9; 5:32; Rom. 7:3; Mk. 6:17-18); and to (2) accept the roles and responsibilities marriage obliges them to as husband or wife (Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:39; Eph. 5:22-33).
Today, the American view of marriage is very, very different. In the year 2000 there were 5.5 million Americas living together outside of marriage, an elevenfold increase since 1960 (The Broken Hearth, Wm. J. Bennett, 13). More than half of all marriages in our country are now preceded by a period of living together (Ibid.).
After people get married the picture is just as bleak. The United States has the highest divorce rate in the world (The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, Wm. J. Bennett, 59). Historian Lawrence Stone has assessed divorce to be "as much a part of our culture and our lives as death and taxes" (The Broken Hearth, 13). Currently, one out of two children will witness the breakup of their parents' marriage (Ibid., 12).
The breakdown of marriage and family life (which some defend in the name of personal expression, fulfillment, liberation and happiness) is one of the very reasons for so much doubt, uncertainty, sadness, emotional imprisonment and faithlessness in our society. The promised joy of liberation from the oppression of marriage did not happen.
More than once people have presented me with their marriage problems and asked, "Can this marriage be saved?" When both parties are fully committed to restoring their marriage to what God wants it to be, their marriage can be saved. Often, the sad truth is that only one person in the marriage wants to work toward its success. Since two cannot walk together unless they are in agreement, such disparity makes it extremely difficult to achieve success (Amos. 3:3; cf. Prov. 19:13; 21:9, 19).
Here are a few things it takes to help make and keep our marriages strong, healthy and honorable in the sight of God and man.
When there is a problem, make things right with God and with your mate. Neither the husband nor the wife can say they have never sinned (Rom. 3:23; 1 Jno. 1:8). When sin against a spouse occurs, the sinner needs to confess it and repent of it - not defend it, excuse it and justify it (Matt. 18:15; 5:23-24; 1 Jno. 1:9). If you sin against your mate, ask God to forgive you - and ask your spouse to forgive you. Repent (change your mind) of your sin and act differently (Lk. 3:8; Acts 26:20). Being right with God helps establish the common ground needed to solve the problems which arise in marriage.
When both partners share a common faith and want to be right with God, their faith will help them bear the fruit needed to strengthen and sustain their marriage (Gal. 5:22-23). The husband and wife are "heirs together of the grace of life" (1 Pet. 3:7). That is, you share in life's blessings. Therefore, husbands and wives need to focus on sharing life with each other instead of destroying each other with bitter words and evil deeds (1 Pet. 3:7; Col. 3:18-19).
Remember to be merciful and to forgive every sin. Without a doubt, the sins committed against us by those closest to us hurt the worst (cf. Lk. 22:61-62). Indeed, the defilement of the marriage bed by one's mate is such that the Lord allows it as the only just cause for putting asunder one's marriage (Matt. 19:6, 9).
Yet, even when fornication causes putting away, the Lord expects the one sinned against to keep a heart of forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13). Just as the Lord earnestly prayed for the forgiveness of His murderers, even so every spouse ought to yearn for their mate's salvation (Lk. 23:34).
Often, when one sins against another in a marriage, the sin is not forgiven (I'm talking about the whole range of sins, not just fornication). Unforgiven sin becomes a root of bitterness and bears the fruit of resentment, retaliation and revenge, eventually destroying the marriage (cf. Gal. 5:15). If one fails to show mercy by forgiving when his mate asks to be forgiven, he will not be forgiven (Matt. 18:33-35; 5:7; 6:14-15). Furthermore, he will be contributing to the erosion of his marriage rather than its fortification. This apostolic admonition well applies: "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." (Eph. 4:31-32)
Practice genuine love. A thorough understanding and application of 1 Corinthians 13 is in order for every marriage to survive and thrive.
Selfishness is at the heart of many broken marriages. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church (devoutly, sacrificially, completely), and the wife is to lovingly submit to her husband as the church yields to Christ (Eph. 5:22-27). This is where love is applied.
A lack of self-control dooms many marriages. By indulging every desire rather than resisting every temptation, sin reigns and ruins the home (Jas. 1:12-16; 1 Pet. 3:3-7).
The demand to be served by one's mate rather than humbly serving each other drives many marriages into the rocks of destruction (1 Pet. 5:5; Eph. 5:30-33).
Can this marriage be saved? Yes, if both are willing to put God first, forgive every sin and practice real love by putting others ahead of oneself.
Bad Things and Good People
J. S. Smith
Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?
That question has fanned the flames of skepticism for most of history. If God is so good, why does he not prevent every evil and destroy every evildoer, instead of permitting wickedness to continue?
Habakkuk asked a similar question, but without a hint of skepticism in his heart. When God foretold the Babylonian invasion of Judah, the prophet wondered aloud how he could suffer something bad to happen to his good people. Then he said, "I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected" (Hab. 2:1).
God was disciplining his children in Judah as a loving father spanks his wayward offspring and while "no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Heb. 12:11). God still chastens his people today, "for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?" (Heb. 12:7, cf. 1 John 3:1).
What some people seem to want is a planet in which no suffering or disease or injustice or even tear ever befalls mankind. They want the wicked punished and the "good" to prevail permanently. They never want to see another plane crash or a drunk driver plow into a minivan.
Trouble is, God created a place like that and man was ultimately dissatisfied. The garden of Eden was pure until Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and the enticing knowledge of sin began to spread to humanity (James 1:14-15). Now, the only way to change this planet into what people claim they want would be to take away free will. But we do not even like that in the abstract. People in prison experience a partial removal of free will and they hate it. They cannot go where they like and do what they like and we call it punishment.
Moreover, God has instituted the kind of place people are describing when they lament the presence of injustice and human suffering. As the wilderness wanderings of the Exodus produced a people fit to dwell in Canaan, so this earthly pilgrimage is purifying a population for heaven, where "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).
-Woodmont Beacon, Dec. 9, 2001
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
The Year in Review
Joe R. Price
Will any of us forget where we were and what we were doing, that horrifying morning? September 11 is etched into our national consciousness, forever there to remind those with spiritual insight some invaluable lessons.
As 2001 comes to an end it is good to pause and reflect on the timeless lessons learned from this moment in time.
1) Count your blessings (Jas. 1:17; Eph. 1:3). From birth to death, we have been amazingly blessed. In Christ, our blessings are complete. As the year ends, remember to thank God for His rich blessings (Col. 4:2).
2) Life is brief and filled with uncertainty (Jas. 4:13-17). May we always remember and do the Lord's will as we live on this temporal sphere.
3) Evil is active in the world (1 Pet. 5:8). Though Satan has been bound and destined for eternal demise, he continues to exert his influence and power - blinding minds to truth and devouring the souls of men. The Christian does not despair, for "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 Jno. 4:4). But we are realistic. Knowing our enemy does not sleep, we must continue to be sober and watchful.
4) Get right with God, now (Lk. 13:4-5; Heb. 9:27). The suddenness and finality of death persuades right-thinking souls to set their house in order. Become a Christian while you have life, for in the grave your opportunity will have passed.
5) This world is not our home (Phil. 3:20). This is why the Christian will lay up treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21). We earnestly anticipate a forever home where there will be no pain, no death, no tears (Rev. 21:4).
6) Heroes are all around us, and they give us courage to endure (Heb. 11:39-12:2). We have seen ordinary people do extraordinary things this past year. May our faith also enable us to see the countless men and women of the past who, against tremendous forces, remained faithful to God. These heroes embolden us to press onward.
7) Justice will prevail against every sin (2 Ths. 1:3-9). Evil men will not escape the execution of divine justice. "'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Rom. 12:19).
8) Our nation must turn back to God (Prov. 14:34; Joel 2:12-14). When tragedy strikes, individuals and nations have an opportunity to assess themselves, to see their sins and to correct their standing before God.
God has blessed America, and for His bountiful blessings we honor and thank Him in reverent humility. May every American - and every citizen of this earth - turn to God. And may every Christian, regardless of nationality, remember to live for God every day of the new year - and every year - as long as life is granted in the flesh (Phil. 1:21-26).
May God richly bless each of you in 2002. May we all draw ever closer to God and each other in truth, in faith, in hope, and in love (Col. 3:12-17; Eph. 4:1-6).
The Spirit's Sword is a free, weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA
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