Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Biblical, Gospel-Shaped View Of Marriage

In the Winter 2015 issue of The City (a publication of Houston Baptist University) the president of HBU talked about the current state of marriage. In response to the question, “How do we display to [those who are younger and skeptical about marriage] that marriage is worth fighting for…?” He answers: “Primarily, of course, how we help them believe in marriage is through the model of marriage.”  He then adds the following.

“We won’t finally be restored until the resurrection from the dead, but in the process here and now, we have communities of faith. We have Scripture-shaped communities and we are supposed to live as the people of God n the world who are actually modeling…we’ll never do it perfectly…but the new creation. I think education matters. Ideas matter. 

“It really has to matter for [those young people who are skeptical]. If we don’t model marriage and talk about marriage and talk about the role of the family, for example, as God intended, it’s a challenge to Scripture. We believe in Scripture-based communities. It used to be that people simply said, well, we disagree about this interpretation of Scripture and there were efforts, for example, to re-read Romans 1…and so on.

“The fact is that, I think pretty well everyone agrees, we know what the Scriptures say about same-sex behavior, about divorce. We don’t want to talk too much about divorce because that would offend some of us, but we have harmed the family long before the same-sex revolution. At any rate, we ought to think about the importance of marriage in terms of just maintaining what the Scriptures teach. Are we Scripture-based communities or not? We ought to maintain marriage, frankly, for the sake of the Gospel.

“The family is inextricably linked with the nature of the church.”

These are great initial thoughts on marriage and why it is important for us to view it from a biblical, gospel-shaped view point. It helps us see why in June we will start a short sermon series on marriage in which we will address what the Bible teaches about marriage and why it is important. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fifty-Three-Year-Old Preschooler

I matriculated at Liberty University (then known as Liberty Baptist College) in the fall of 1979. Since that first semester when I began Greek and theology courses, I have studied the Bible at a significant level for almost 36 years, including three degrees, all of which have increased my theological knowledge. Since 1988 when I became a full-time pastor, I have studied the Bible verse by verse in Greek and Hebrew for 10+ hours a week (not counting sermon and lesson preparation), I have averaged reading around 60 books a year (most of which have helped me focus upon the message of the Bible), I have read the Bible through over 30 times, and I have spent thousands of hours preaching, teaching, counseling, discipling, training, and talking about the Bible and God.

I give all this background because it helps you understand a discussion I had with myself not long ago. I am currently reading two books that are “knocking my socks off”—one about how God is glorified through both salvation and judgment and one that deals with why and how we glorify God by enjoying his creation and all the gifts he gives us in creation. Both are subjects I have thought much about, but in each I am learning, being stretched, experiencing stabs of joy as I think and pray about them. As I was meditating upon one of the books in the morning hours recently I said to myself, “Barnes, you are so slow and thick. I can’t believe you haven’t already covered this ground in all these years!”

Ah, but then a new thought hit me—one I believe that was carried by the Spirit of God. “I should not be surprised that I am still learning new things about God. After all, he is infinite. I will never know everything about him and I will spend eternity growing in my knowledge of him and my delight in him. The fact that I am still learning is a reminder of this!”

I then thought about some of the greatest Christian minds that have walked this earth: the Apostle Paul, Peter, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, J. I. Packer, John Stott, John Piper, D. A. Carson, and so many others. The best have not made it out of kindergarten in this age when it comes to the knowledge of our Lord. What that means is that at the most I am a fifty-three-year-old preschooler when it comes to my knowledge of God!

But what this focuses our hearts on is that all of us who are in Christ will have eternity to unpack who God is, his grace in his acts of kindness toward us, and in this expansion we truly will grow in our enjoyment of him!  I ended that morning not being discouraged, but with great pleasure—I (we) get to spend age after billowing age exploring God, his grace, his person, his work, his creation (the new heaven and new earth) and our fellow believers, ever-increasing in my capacity to love him, others, and to worship him. And those stabs of joy will forever increase in us. What an amazing thought!

As a result of that morning self-talk from God’s glorious Word, I invite you not only to enjoy getting to know him now, but to look forward to what we will experience for eternity. Oh, and don’t feel bad that you believe you are not that far down the road in your knowledge of God. Join the club!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Why Not A Post-Bucket List?

In the Spring issue of Eternal Perspectives magazine author Randy Alcorn writes that “the reality of the resurrection means you don’t need a bucket list.” He explains: “The term ‘bucket list’ was popularized by the 2007 movie of that name. It’s an inventory of things people want to do before they ‘kick the bucket.’ The idea is, since our time on earth is limited, if something is important for us to do, we have to do it now, because this is our only chance to do it.”

Alcorn, however, goes on to write that this view of the world falls short of how the follower of Jesus should see the future. It is certainly not wrong to have a bucket list. However, our physical death in this age will not be the last opportunity we have to have adventures in this world. Because we are united to Jesus Christ and because he is the firstfruits of our resurrection, we know we will be resurrected and will live on the new earth, the new heaven, for all eternity. So, go ahead and have a bucket list. And, while you are at it, why not make a post-bucket list. Maybe you can start off with a trip to Mars or Venus!

Praise God that because Jesus lives, we live and will continue to live also!