Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Love of God and Love for My Wife

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
(I Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV 1984)

In preparation for my marriage with Abby tomorrow, I have been meditating on “love” as defined by God in I Corinthians 13.

This passage, containing the verses above, provides the clearest definition of “love” ever written in human language.

As I have been commanded by God to love my wife, it is crucial that I understand God’s definition of love.

In learning from this passage, it is absolutely necessary to recognize that “God is love” (cf. I John 4:16) and that this revelation of love from God in Scripture is a reflection of God’s essential character.
And this love is expressed toward all who believe through Jesus Christ the Redeemer as demonstrated by the following passages:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9 NASB)

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (Ephesians 1:5 NASB)

Not envying, not boasting, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking:
Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death--even to death on a cross. For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow-- of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth-- and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 HCSB)

Not easily angered:
Then they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer. Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouth, And they lied to Him with their tongue; For their heart was not steadfast with Him, Nor were they faithful in His covenant. But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, And did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, And did not stir up all His wrath; For He remembered that they were but flesh, A breath that passes away and does not come again. (Psalm 78:35-39 NKJV)

Keeps no record of wrongs:
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! (Psalm 32:1 NASB)
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12 NASB)

If this is how God has loved and forgiven me in Christ, then how can I refrain from expressing this same love (and forgiveness, when the occasion calls for it) to those around me– and first and foremost to Abby, whom God has given me as a wife?

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell

The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade:

To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song.
[“The Love of God” hymn by Frederick M. Lehman, 1868-1953]


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Love for My Wife

As many of you know, this weekend, by God's grace, I will be getting married to the love of my life, Abby Leigh Hulsey. In preparing for our upcoming marriage we have received pre-marital counseling from Dave Stephenson, the pastor of my congregation, Grace Bible Church.

I have also been meditating on Ephesians 5:25-33a, the passage that I have mentioned before as demonstrating that human marriage is an example meant to magnify God in Christ as the merciful savior of His Church.

This passage reads as follows:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of His body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, (NIV 1984)

The love described in this passage is:

1. Self-sacrificial: Christ gave Himself up for the Church. The primary way that I can magnify the sacrificial work of Christ as crucified on behalf of the Church in my role as a husband- how, specifically as a husband I can give witness to the power of the Gospel- is to take up my own cross daily and sacrifice of myself for Abby, placing her eternal needs above my own temporal needs and desires.

2. Sanctifying: as Christ washes His Church by His Word in order to bring the Church to a state of constantly pleasing God in every detail, I must be a minister of God's Word to Abby. As I desire to teach others, I must magnify the work of Christ by first lovingly teaching my wife in the ways of Christ.

3. Self-like: As Christ cares for the needs of His body, the Church, and grows in communion with the Church, I must magnify His work by caring for Abby, providing for her physical needs and lovingly joining in blessed communion with her in every sense of the word.

As has been demonstrated, focusing on Christ when considering the husband's role in marriage makes each decision a Gospel decision, infusing every aspect of married life with eternal significance to the glory of God alone.

So I ask, is this how you make YOUR decisions, dear reader, or are you just going through life doing whatever seems best for the here and now, trying to avoid the thought of what death means for yourself and your loved ones? I urge you all to turn away from your own selfish ideas of how to do things and instead to focus on Christ who is the only way to peace with God and eternal life in Him.
[I am indebted to Cliff Knight, student pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church, the congregation that Abby attends in Auburn, for the above outline.]