Lord's Day Liturgy

The Opposite Sex and Sanctification

When we communicate we don’t just say words at a target, we share meaning through the words. Communication starts with what’s common between persons, what is shared. Even the phrase “speaking the same language” does double duty, not only in reference to using the same dialect but also to working with the same definitions. Conflicts often happen because the parties have a verbal disagreement; each person thinks differently about the same word.

In pre-marital counseling I always encourage couples to read a book or listen to a series about finances, not because I think they need to slavishly put all their money in envelopes, but so they learn to share the same vocabulary. What does it mean to be generous? Is $1.00 given out of every $10 more than she’s ever thought about giving before, or does generous mean only keeping the $1? The discussion gets them on the same spreadsheet, so to speak.

In a Christian community we share Christ. In Christ we live and move and have our being. That said, we not only have different gifts to serve one another as part of His Body, we have different expectations, different perspectives, different backgrounds, and different ideas about some community practices.

Our church community thinks marriage and family is great. We generally want our young men and young women to look forward to, and prepare for, if/when the Lord would bless them with those responsibilities. And yet, the community is made up of many families, and not all fathers talk the same way or share the same vision for getting their kids hooked up in covenant (which, even that phrase, means something different to a pagan these days).

There are a variety of approaches to the leave and cleave process, and spectrums from narrow to loose. And yet there are some principles that we should all know and agree on. When it comes to knowing God’s will, more than finding His will for your (or your child’s) spouse is recognizing His will for your (and your child’s) sanctification. “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). We’re supposed to share a desire to please God in our walk (1 Thessalonians 4:1).

For the next few weeks we’re going to consider sanctification in community relationships between the opposite sex. This is a subject for all of us, whether you’re in a dating relationship or wish you were, or you fancy yourself a matchmaker, or you’re a friend to a courting couple, or you have a father’s responsibility. “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” Amen.

Lord's Day Liturgy

What’s Your Problem?

Only the unrepentant are unwelcome at the Lord’s Table. Those who will not believe in and submit to Jesus do not have any part of Him. Those who profess faith but undo their profession by ongoing rebellion to His commands are disciplined away from the fellowship of this meal. But every other believer is invited. More than that, every believer is being changed by it. Take, for example, those believers that Paul categorizes in 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

Christian, are you idle? Consider the humble and exhausting service of Your Lord. He labored in life up to and through death for you, and even now prays for You. Think of the work that went into this meal and get off your rear.

Christian, are you faint-hearted? Consider the resurrection of Your Lord. He died and was buried, but He rose again on the third day just as He promised so that you would have life (1 Thessalonians 5:10). His will cannot be stopped, and no one can stop Him from loving You. Think of the faithfulness and courage that this meal represents and don’t shrink back.

Christian, are you weak? Consider the nature of Your Lord. He does not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick. He partook of the same things as you, He was tempted in all ways as you are, and so He sympathizes with your weaknesses (Hebrews 2:14; 4:15). Think of His tenderness, His gentleness, His kindness to you even in this meal. You are not solo in your need.

Whatever the problem, Jesus does not leave us where we are. He knows who needs to grow and what is lacking in their faith. He is patient, just as He calls us to be patient with one another. But He is always working toward His will that we all be completely sanctified even when we eat the bread and drink the cup of communion. No believer will be left behind.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Not Your Gift

After midnight one Christmas Eve, when all the family had been in bed for a couple hours, the youngest of two teenage brothers couldn’t sleep. He tiptoed out of his room, down the stairs, and pulled up an arm chair next to the star-topped tree. Instead of getting sleepy, he became more awake as he grew tired of waiting for everyone else to wake up. So he did what anyone in his situation might do; he decided to open some presents. But, instead of opening the ones with his name, he opened the ones tagged for his older brother.

The first package contained a video game. He fired up the console and played at the station for over an hour. The game was great fun and, when he was done, he re-taped the paper and put the present back under the tree. Still no sounds were heard from the bedrooms upstairs so he took a second. It was a Seahawks jersey, two years too big for him. But he put it on anyway and pantomimed as Russell, as Richard, even as the Beast. After routing every imaginary opponent he rewrapped the shirt with care in hopes that his brother would never be aware.

Finally he grabbed the only other present left for his brother. It was a model rocket kit that his older brother had been coveting for a while. Having by this point lost his conscience, the younger brother took it outside, lit the fuse, and watched the rocket launch right into the side of the house. The crash woke the family and they found him in his pajamas busily gathering up the broken pieces.

The younger brother had taken what was meant for someone else and used it for his temporary pleasure. At best he hoped to deceive his brother. With the last gift, he did irreparable damage.

According to 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 Christian brothers ought also to think about proprietary gifts when it comes to sexual purity and relationships. Too many young men transgress and defraud their brothers by taking what isn’t meant for them, not only in terms of private parts but also regarding intimate affections. God prepares gifts and He avenges those who disregard His warning not to mess with gifts meant for others. People are not property, but there are owners. God’s will is that sanctified men refuse to take what isn’t theirs or tread where their don’t belong.