Monday, December 26, 2011

Look Who's Building a City

Reading: Genesis 4  
When Adam and Eve rejected God's rule over their lives (the kingdom of God), they were immediately separated from God (Genesis 3:8-10, 23-24). The relationship between Adam and Eve was altered from peace to conflict (Genesis 3:16). Now we see that the division between people extends to brothers as well (Genesis 4:1-8). The fall brought brokenness in our relationship with God and, as a result, our relationships with one another. We see this clearly in the story of Cain.
8Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let's go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don't know,” he replied. “Am I my brother's keeper?” (Genesis 4:8-9)
Ironically, in Genesis 4:17, we discover that Cain—the one who was not interested in being his brother's keeper—is suddenly building a city. Evidently, this was a city of people who have no desire to be responsible for one another; a city of those not willing to be their brother's keeper. This is a culture rife with vengeance (Genesis 4:24).
Throughout Genesis, we find a contrast in what people build. Cain, the murderer, is building a city; Nimrod, the mighty warrior, built several cities—none noted for their godliness (Genesis 10:8-12). In Genesis 11:1-8 we read of Babel, and the city people were building there. Each of these cities were built in opposition to the rule of God. However, Noah built an altar to God, as did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 8:20; 12:7-8; 13:18; 22:9; 26:25; 35:6). One group built a society in opposition to God; the other built lives around worship of God.   Abraham and those who lived by faith were building their lives around worship and looking for a city they could not build; a city who's builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10).
When Christ came he announced the Kingdom of God. In Him, the rule of God has returned and it is clearly a kingdom in which those who live there are their brother's keeper. They are called to a new command, “Love one another, even as I loved you.” The King of the Kingdom has done the most to be “His brother's keeper,” in laying down His life for us. And rather than being a kingdom rife with vengeance (Genesis 4:24), it is a kingdom rife with forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-22).
Christ is building a city that is quite different than Cain's city. Christ is building His church (Matthew 16:18), a city which is also a bride (Revelation 21:2, 9-10), and Christ is building all who believe in Him into that city (Ephesians 2:19-22). To be a Christian is to build our lives around worship of God through Christ; and it is to allow our lives to be built into the city where we are our brother's keeper! Love one another rules the day.
In a day when even evangelical Christians are becoming more and more independent, living lives isolated from people they prefer not to be around, the Gospel intends to transform us into a city where we live under the King's rule—not running from difficult relationships, but reconciling and living in a kingdom where forgiveness and forbearance prevail. Look Who's building a city now—Jesus Christ, the King of the Kingdom. Are you being built into the city?
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Daughter's Wedding Sermon

Reading: Genesis 2; Ephesians 5; Revelation 21   
[This past Saturday, December 3, 2011, was my daughter Lindsay's marriage to David. For Donna and I, it was a joy to be blessed by the Lord in seeing now our second daughter married to a young man in whom, by the Lord's grace, we have confidence will lead our daughters well. Stephanie and Micah were married nearly 3 years ago, and now David and Lindsay. The following is the wedding sermon I wrote for David and Lindsay's wedding. I put it here as it grew out of my devotions and may serve yours as well. I have made slight additions since there are not so many limitations on the blog.]
The Bible begins and ends with a wedding: Adam to Eve; Christ, the Lamb and His bride. In each of these weddings, God is the Father of the groom; and God is the one who makes or prepares the bride for the marriage.
We read of the first wedding,
Genesis 2:18-25 18The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."…21So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs [lit. from the man's side] and closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, 'for she was taken out of man." 24For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
God was Adam's Father–He made Him. Adam subsequently became the father of the human race. Because of Adam's rebellion against God Paul's wrote the Corinthians, “in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Adam became the father of all, and all are born spiritual dead. Dead while they live.
When we get to the end of the Bible we have the second least the second cosmic wedding. God is the Father once again of the groom, for the bride is the wife of the Lamb... Jesus the Lamb Slain. This is the One called “the second Adam” by Paul in Corinthians. That is to say, He will be the beginning of a recreated, reconciled human race. So the verse we read a moment ago continues, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” In this second wedding, again the Father gives the bride after He has prepared the bride for the groom.
Revelation 21 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband....[observe how this bride, the city of God, the people of God was prepared for their wedding] 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates.… 18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone.… 21The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
This bride is prepared as a beautiful, glorious bride. And in both cases the bride is beautifully prepared.
Since God places a wedding at the beginning and end of Scripture, and since He uses a marriage to describe His relationship to His people, how should we live in our marriages? David and Lindsay, how should you live in yours?
I believe we have some help in answering that question from the pen of Paul, the apostle. In this text, which Chuck1 read earlier, Paul actually references both of these weddings we've spoken about... the first and the “second” weddings. Lindsay, you are told,
Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
This runs contrary to everything our culture tells us. Why, many ask, should a wife submit herself to her husband? What if the wife is smarter—she often is? What if the wife is right and the husband wrong? Paul is by no means commenting on who is smarter or who is right. Paul roots this directive in something much more significant: For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
In the first marriage, Eve did not submit to Adam but to a serpent. Adam was right there... she did not turn and ask him, but rather handed him to eat. (And Adam passively abdicated his leadership rather than serving his wife with truth.) However, in the second marriage, the church comes to Christ, as His bride saying, “Christ is Lord.” This marriage is about our trusting in Him, and not ourselves. Paul says our earthly marriages as believers in Christ should mirror that relationship so as to model it to the world.
David you are instructed,
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave him-self up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
In the first marriage, Adam did not wash his bride with the water of God's Word. Adam did not say in the face of temptation, “Eve, remember what God said... that in the day we eat, we die. Remember that though the serpent tells us that we will actually be better of if we disobey God, that God told us to have do-minion over the serpent... Do you realize that God has provided us with every-thing; we lack nothing. God has been good to us. Why would we now suspect God of withholding, and trust this serpent who has done nothing for us?” Adam sat idly by watching his wife wander into the trap of temptation, and then we read, “...she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
However, in the second marriage, Christ loved His bride and gave Himself up for her. In the second marriage, Christ took authority over the serpent through His own death, and Christ leads His wife as a Servant–suffering Servant on behalf of His wife. This is not a domineering or “I'm the boss” kind of leadership, but humble, laying down of ones rights kind of leadership.
Over the last several years, one of the concerns Donna and I have had for Lindsay, because of her compliant tendency, has been that she have a husband who is both a strong leader and a humble, gentle man who draws her out rather than silences her voice. This is not an everyday quality. From all I can observe, David surpasses anything we could have imagined. A humble, loving, gentle, strong, firm, willing to be entreated kind of leader. Around him, Lindsay's joy is evident, and her countenance brightens. Around him, rather than being silenced, she actually seems more free to express herself.
In Ephesians, Paul quotes a passage from the first wedding of Adam and Eve, and tells us that it was really pointing us to the second wedding:
31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
David and Lindsay, your marriage is to be a reflection of this marriage—a model of the Gospel.
Finally, there is one more detail not to be overlooked when comparing the two weddings:
In the first, Adam slept, and while he slept, God took from his side and made the bride which He presented to Adam. In the second, while the Son of God slept in death, on the cross, we read in John's Gospel:
John 19:34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
You see, from His side, we too have been created and prepared for Him.2 It is in His sleep of death and resurrection that we are created in Him, when we believe. It is through the blood that flowed from His side that we are cleansed and prepared for our groom.
David & Lindsay not only are you cleansed by the blood from Christ's side; not only are you now part of the bride, the wife of the Lamb, having been taken from His side; you are charged to model Christ's relationship to the church by your relationship with each other.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,
1I had the privilege of officiating jointly with the groom's father, Chuck.
2When you consider the numerous allusions to Genesis in John's Gospel, which begins with, “In the beginning...”, and that the first miracle mentioned of Jesus' in this Gospel is the transformation of water to wine at a wedding feast, I don't believe this connection is a stretch. The word for "side" in the Greek Old Testament (LXX) of Genesis 2:21, 22, is used only 25 more times in the whole Greek Bible; 4 at the end of John's Gospel referencing Jesus side. (Many of the others referencing side rooms of the temple.)