Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Lamentations - Part One

In the coming days, I expect to post some of my laments. Sometimes I get so sad about the state of the world, especially the state of the church, I just cry out to God over the wickedness, apathy, and hypocrisy I see every day. I think God doesn't mind when I vent, because I believe he also laments over what He sees here.

Lately, I have witnessed several newly broken homes resulting from men who have forsaken their vows and committed adultery. At one time, the church wouldn't tolerate such behavior, but in one of these instances, the man is still teaching Sunday School at his church, though he is open about his adultery, taking his new object of lust to public events, even if his wife is at the same event. The church seems to say, "this man is a sinner, just like the rest of us, so why should he be singled out?" As usual, the church's refusal to honor the true doctrine of holiness is leading the Christian culture to hell.

This deadly, cancerous disease of depraved, selfish minds called divorce is a blight on the church, a sickening stain that spreads its corrupting, lethal venom with every passing year. This corruption is graffiti on our walls that says, “Ha! You’re no different, you bunch of hypocrites!” We preach “good news,” yet we live in laughable turmoil, ravaged by the very illness we claim to cure.

Have couples completely forgotten these holy vows: “For better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part”? With words like these binding two into one inseparable union, a reasonable person would think the divorce rate might be one in a thousand, perhaps one in ten thousand, and with drastically lower percentages in the church.

Rather, the truth about the divorce rate is beyond tragic. With the national rate hovering at around 43 percent of unions, and around 50 percent for couples under the age of 45, the prospect of marriage looks more like a coin flip than a promised life of fidelity. And an even more alarming conclusion comes from the Barna Research Group: “Christians are more likely to experience divorce than are non-Christians.” Divorce rates are actually higher among professing Christians than among atheists!

Such a finding is a tragic slap in the face of Christ, who said,

Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh”? Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).

God hates divorce. (See Malachi 2:16.) Trying to deny this fact is like closing our eyes in a hurricane while denying the reality of wind and rain furiously slapping our faces. Yet people make excuses in droves, thinking that their vows are mere ceremony, empty words designed to decorate a beautiful show. It’s as though they crossed their fingers while promising marital faithfulness. They believe that somehow God will excuse their mistaken belief that this person was really “The One” whenever they decide the sparkle is gone.

In reality, God has left us with no option; we are to fulfill our vows.

When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the Lord your God will surely require it of you. However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God, what you have promised (Deuteronomy 23:21-23).

Why do “Christians” divorce at a higher rate than non-Christians? There are two major reasons. The first is simple. Too many people view God as a doting grandfather who just wants to make them happy. I have heard people say, “God wouldn’t want me to stay in an unhappy marriage. That’s why I knew He wanted me to get a divorce.” Seeking only their pleasure, these people assume that God always blesses their pursuit of happiness. They have molded God into their image, fashioning a bobble-head idol who simply nods “yes” to every whim of its human creator.

They are merely playing Christianity, not really walking the bloodstained steps to Calvary. They are like straw houses built on sand. While they close their eyes to the truth, the hurricane strikes, and they are left desolate. Their houses crumble, all because they have denied the reality of the wind and rain, the reality that God really does require their sacrificial allegiance and doesn’t condone fleshly indulgence for the sake of “happiness.”

What is happiness, anyway? Where does it originate? Was Paul happy when authorities unjustly sent him to prison? As a matter of fact, he was! Singing hymns of praise to God, he celebrated God’s goodness even during terrible circumstances. (See Acts 16:25.) Did the apostles find joy in being flogged? Surprise! They actually enjoyed it! Although the beating itself likely drew moans of agony and painted dark bruises on their aching bodies, they still rejoiced in their suffering. (See Acts 5:41.)

For a Christian, true happiness comes in pleasing God, especially during great trials. This is the happiness our Lord calls us to seek. God isn’t interested in fulfilling our fleshly desires, allowing us to please ourselves in violation of His principles. If Paul had bought into the rationalizations of many today, he might have stayed at home and skipped his missionary journeys. “Traveling is just too hard!” he might have said. “They threw big rocks at me last time. And I can’t risk going to places where they’ll throw me in jail. I wouldn’t be happy there, so God can’t be calling me to do that.”

If Jesus had lived a “please-the-flesh” mentality, He wouldn’t have gone to the cross. He might have said, “Father, you wouldn’t ask Me to bleed and die for a bunch of sinners, would You? That wouldn’t make Me happy.” And He would have skulked out of the garden and avoided the approaching soldiers.

The true story should blare in our minds like a trumpet call to sacrifice. Although Jesus had a bodily desire for the cup of death to pass from His lips, what did He say to His heavenly Father? “Yet not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). Going to the cross brought Him true joy, as the Scripture reveals, “Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus said to His Father, “I have come … to do Thy will” (Hebrews 10:7), and this shout of complete obedience echoes in the soul of every true Christian around the world.

What made Jesus “happy”? Pleasing God. What makes Christians happy? The same self-sacrificial search for holiness, the seeking of God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Whoever seeks fleshly desires over God’s purposes is not a real Christian. “For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14).

Yes, God wants us to be happy, but of far more importance, God wants us to be holy. On this truth, we can all firmly stand, because as we live holy lives we find true happiness in obedience. This is our joy, to find favor in the eyes of God.

Another reason the divorce rate is so high among “Christians” is that so many of them have bought into the popular “blind-God” concept. They’ve been taught that sin is normal and that when God looks at them He sees only Jesus. Naturally they conclude, “God won’t bring judgment for the sin of divorce. He doesn’t even see it. He sees only His dear, sweet Son hanging on a cross.” It’s as though Christians have a cardboard cutout of Christ shielding them from view.

This heresy threatens to tear down the walls of the church. We might as well close the doors and send everyone home. Not only are we not separating ourselves from participation in the world’s system, these lies concerning our commitment to marriage covenants have made us worse than the world. Our hypocrisy makes us look like clown-faced charlatans, and people just laugh and shake their heads, thinking, What a bunch of buffoons! This Christianity sideshow just doesn’t work.

There are many forces that try to tear married couples apart: family and financial pressures, spiritual persecution, and mental illness, just to name a few. Every one, however, is anticipated in this wedding vow: “for better or for worse.” God still commands us to keep our unions whole. Only adultery remains as the true break in the marriage covenant, and even then we’re not commanded to divorce. God still hates divorce, although He allows it when sexual unfaithfulness destroys the bond. Even when it is allowed, however, divorce still stains the beautiful image of Christ and the church. Divorce, even because of adultery, stands as a symbol of failure, a precious pearl intentionally thrown into a sewer for the sake of a few minutes of pleasure by the adulterer or adulteress.

Adultery proves unfaithfulness to God. The Bible says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Don't be deceived. You cannot be a Christian and an adulterer. Since the church, for the most part, has bought into the lie that true believers are still sinners, every imaginable sin has become both commonplace and acceptable. Unrepentant adulterers are teaching Sunday School and pastoring large flocks, parading their hypocrisy on national television.

With this kind of example, the blind leading the blind into hell, it's no wonder God and His true followers lament. The time for judgment is coming quickly, and it will begin in the church.

5 comments:

Galactic Overlord-In-Chief said...

And then of course there's the children of said adulterers and divorcees, whose world must go into a tailspin when one or more of their parents thoughtlessly decides to go have a "good time" and feed their marriage, along with the stability and security of the family unit, into the shredder. I like Michael Reagan's definition of divorce:

"Divorce is where two adults take everything that matters to a child-the child's home, family, security, and sense of being loved and protected-and they smash it all up, leave it in ruins on the floor, then walk out and leave the child to clean up the mess."

WayneThomasBatson said...

Brian, that's a heart-breaking lament. But if I may offer my two cents, I think the subject of Christians seeking happiness above holiness needs more exploration.

I am afraid that Christians, influential Christians, are partly to blame for this mentality. And I don't just mean the televangelists who promise new cars for faith.

I'm talking about respectable, well-educated Christians who offer the gospel as a kind of panacea. You're an alcoholic, come to Jesus and be cured. You struggle with anger, the Lord will make you mild. That kind of thing--and sometimes it's far more subtle.

Well-meaning Christians put on masks and pretend all is well every time they step out into public. Then, the struggling Christian wonders, what's wrong with me?

I think the church as a whole would be far healthier if we all realized that we will NEVER be totally happy or satisfied until heaven. We can taste it. We can serve God and catch Glimpses of it. But we've got to realize that there will be a tangible sense that all is not well.

I think a lot of Christians dive into sin because they think (like unbelievers) that sin will help cure that disappointment they feel.

Clefspeare said...

G.O.

That's a graphic definition of divorce that aptly shows the damage that divorce brings. Thank you for posting it.

Clefspeare said...

Wayne,

You're right about the happiness versus holiness part. It needs a further exploration. I cringe when I hear gospel messages like that (e.g. Come to Jesus to fix your problems).

But I disagree that Christians dive into sin because they think it will cure the disappointment they feel. I think unbelievers who call themselves Christians continue in sin after false conversions because they are told that it's normal.

Thank you for your thoughts. I respect your opinion.

Becky said...

Bryan, I agree that some "conversions" are seed on stony ground. It springs up but dies quickly because there is no root. Unfortunately, dead growth isn't cleared away from our churches any longer.

However, I do think Wayne is right also. Maybe it's immature Christians, but some of us turn to something other than God when things are hard. That self-reliance or pleasure medication, whatever it is, isn't right. It's one of the sins Christ died for--one of the sins He knew about before the foundations of the world.

There are also sins I learn are sins the longer I walk with Christ. Things like pride and sins of the thought-life. These are things I never considered for the first ten or so years of my Christian life.

Here's the part that I disagree with--the idea that I am holding Christ up as a cardboard cutout because I turn to Him as the source of my forgiveness now as before I became a Christian. I neither earned my position as a child of God nor do I maintain it by righteous living.

Any righteousness credited to me has Christ as the source. Think along banking terms. not a stage production.

Becky