Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Life We Leave Behind

Today I want to continue on yesterday's topic of family.  Today I want to share a twist on the the message of marriage and how that is a picture of the our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Today's message will center around a text commonly used in weddings.
For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:30-32 NKJV
The Christian family on earth is a representation of the church's relationship with Christ.  Just as we become one with Christ as we are his bride, the wife becomes one with her husband as she is his bride.  I am sure we all know this very well and when this passage is taught, the emphasis is always on the relationship of the husband and wife.  I am by no means saying that is wrong as it is a wonderful picture of the Gospel.  Today, though, I am going to take a different approach to this passage as my focus will be on what we leave behind when we are joined in marriage.  Today my focus will not be on the two becoming one flesh, but on the man leaving his mother and father to be joined with his wife as that is also a picture of who we become in Christ.

For our earthly families, the picture is of the man and woman leaving the authority of their parents to a new system of law.  The obedient son becomes the leading husband and the obedient daughter becomes the submissive wife.  When the two are joined, the authority of their parents is immediately abolished.  Unfortunately, many in-laws, even Christian in-laws, seem to forget this fact.  My wife and I are blessed in that we have no issues with in laws and share a wonderful relationship with both sets, but I know many are not so blessed.  I know that many have parents who even after marriage try to instill authority over their sons and daughters.  This can lead to much stress in the marriage and sadly it has even ended many marriages.  Unfortunately, again, some sons and daughters are also caught up in the same issues of not leaving the authority of their parents.  They cause their own problems in their marriage allowing or even inviting their parents to interfere in their marriage.  They sometimes put their parents ahead of their spouses.  This is where a wife will listen to her mother or father over that of her husband and where a son allows his parents to vicariously lead his wife through him.  The healthy marriage is one where sons and daughters continue to honor and respect their parents, but also put them in their context as the old authority and one they are no longer subject to. 

In terms of our relationship with Christ, the newly weds represent the Christian, the parents and their authority represent the old law, and the new laws of marriage represent the law of Christ.  When we come to Christ, we are no longer under the authority of the law.  We are under a new law, the law of grace through Jesus Christ.  When in-laws try to put their children under the old law, they are taking the prosecutorial role of Satan in that they are trying to show them the failures they are under a law that no longer applies to them.  The newly weds who choose to put their parents authority above the laws of marriage are those who try to justify themselves by works.  They are binding themselves and subjecting themselves to a law they are no longer under and the parents who allows that to happen serve as constant reminders that they can never live up to that law.  The healthy Christian is one who honors and respects the old law as it is the righteous law of God, but they honor and respect that law in the context of the new law of grace. 

How can husbands and wives no longer be subject to the law of their parents?  When the two become one at marriage, the two, in a sense, die and are recreated as one.  This is consistent with our coming to Jesus. When we come to Jesus, our old man is crucified with Christ and we are born anew of the Spirit, eternally joined with Christ.  This must be so as to break the bonds of the authority of our parents, we must die to their law.  We leave mother and father and at the moment we are joined, the two that we were are done away with and rejoined as a new creation.  The two have become one flesh, joined forever in this life.  When we are recreated, that new one flesh is subject to the laws of marriage as spelled out on God's word. 
Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.  Romans 7:1-4 NKJV
When we are joined in marriage, we leave much more than the law of our parents behind.  We leave just about everything behind.  Just like coming to Christ, coming to marriage means many new wonderful freedoms that were not available at any time during our old lives.  Those freedoms certainly work to make marriage a wonderful thing.  However, when we come to marriage, we do lose some freedoms. We lose the freedom to live for ourselves.  We lose the freedom to spend our treasures on only our own desires.  We lose the freedom to court another.  We essentially give up our old lives for the higher call of marriage.  Not only do we give up our old lives, but we give up all that we have.  What was "mine" is now "ours."  The sacrifices we make are far out measured by what we gain.  We gain a whole new life with new now-allowed activities, we gain a partner in all that we do, we gain a constant support, we gain a kind of love and intimacy that can only be attained through marriage, and we gain the prospect of having our own children to raise in the Lord.  There is nothing in the single life that can compare to the blessings of marriage.  Life before marriage is all about satisfying ourselves, life after marriage is about living for somebody else.  Life before marriage relies on ourselves for our happiness, life after marriage gives us a partner who lives to provide that happiness.

Much is the same when we come to Christ.  We gain a whole new perspective on what freedom really is, and that is freedom from condemnation, from judgment, and from the law.  These freedoms do come with a price, and that price is all that we have.  Just like in marriage, we do lose some freedoms.  We no longer have the freedom to live for our self.  We no longer have the freedom to court other gods.  We no longer have the freedom to hold our treasures for our own pleasures.  Now we may technically be able to do those things, but just like in a marriage, exercising freedoms we no longer have only serves to hurt our relationship. Just like in marriage, we give up all that we once were and all that we have.  If you notice the accounts of the calling of the apostles, those men just up and left whatever they were doing for the upward call in Christ.  They left behind their old lives and for many even their old occupation.  The heard the simple call of "follow me" and gave up all to follow.  We must have the same heart.  We must not be like the hesitant wannabes who wanted to take care of matters at home first or the sad rich man who allowed the grip of his treasures to be harder than the pull of Christ.  We must be like the apostles and drop all, at once, for the higher calling of Christ.  Whatever we hold onto from our old life only serves to hold us back from truly appreciating the new life in Christ.  We may lose all for the glory of Christ, but we gain the glory of Christ. What can be greater than that?  We gain an intimacy with our creator God and the promise of eternal life in paradise that can be attained through no other means then through Jesus.  All we have, including our self, my be considered not "mine" but "His" and allow it all to be used for His glory.  We are exchanging our earthly trash and eternal treasures. 
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Philippians 3:8-11 NKJV
Coming to Christ is likened to entering into marriage.  We love to think on the amazing promises of coming into our eternal union with Christ, and we should.  Those promises are the hope of our eternity.  We must also, however, leave some things behind as we enter into that union.  In a marriage, we leave behind the old system of parental authority and into the newness of being one together in marriage under a new law.  You can not be in a healthy marriage if husband and wife are still subject to mother and father. The wife never truly gives herself to her husband and the husband never truly leads his wife.  A marriage will never be healthy so long as the parties try to live under the old law of their parents.  We will never have a healthy relationship with Christ if we continue to try to justify ourselves under the old law.  In fact, husband and wife must leave mother and father in order to enter into a marriage just like a man or woman must leave behind the old law of self justification in order to come to Christ.  When we enter into a marriage, we leave our old life behind and all that we have now belongs to "us" not "me."  One can not have a healthy marriage so long as there are petty property disputes just like one can not have a healthy relationship with Christ if we do not consider all that we have to be His.  One can not have a healthy marriage if either or both parties continue to live for themselves.  How can two become one if either of the one's refuse to give up their own self?  The marriage is the obliteration of the two and the recreation of the one.  How can one give them self to Christ if they try to hold onto self?  You can not give yourself if you do not give your self.  You can not be joined with Christ if you hold onto your own self.  When you are married, you are no longer free to court another as we give up our single life of searching for whom God has for us.  In fact, continuing that search is the only Scriptural grounds for divorce-for-cause.  When we come to Christ, we can not continue to seek out other gods.  Jesus may never divorce us, but if you never stop looking for a savior after you find Jesus, you never really put your faith in Him to begin with.  In other words, Jesus may not divorce you, but He does not have to.  You were never married to Him to begin with. 

In the end, we we gain is greater than what we can ever give up.  Nothing can compare with the riches of knowing our Lord.  I will say it again: We give up earthly trash for eternal treasures.  We give up a life of hopelessness to a new life based on the hope of the eternal God.  We give up our self, but gain Christ.  We give up our life, and we get eternal life.  Women look forward to their wedding day their whole lives, often planning it from a very young age.  May women have that same heart for our marriage to the Lord.  Men, on the other hand, generally do not.  Men, in this case, may we take our daughters as the example.  As they plot and plan and dream about a wedding day that is far and away to a man they never met, we must do the same for our glorious wedding day with our Lord.  This is especially true as we wear the engagement ring of the Holy Spirit inside our hearts reminding that the glorious day is growing ever nearer.  Brothers and sisters, give up what needs to be left behind and truly enter into our betrothal to our Groom. 
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  Ephesians 5:22-27 NKJV

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