Do you understand what you believe? Does it matter? (October 29, 2017)

When I was in high school or college, probably college, I remember walking home from church, and just praying, “God, if there is someone you want me to share the gospel with, let me know.”

I can’t remember what exactly I meant by that prayer. Maybe I was feeling super spiritual that day, and was ready to share my faith with anyone I met. As it turned out, just a few minutes later, I was passing by a bus stop, and a woman tried to hand something out to me: a Watchtower or Awake magazine. For those of you don’t know, those are the main magazines of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I can’t remember what I thought at that moment, but it was probably something like, “God, you can’t be serious. Her?” Anyway, I started talking with her, and one thing I figured out really fast was that I didn’t know nearly enough about my faith as a Christian as I should have. And so over the next several years of my life, I started to study it more, and I had some interesting conversations with Jehovah’s witnesses and Mormons that came to my door as a result. More importantly, I started to truly understand what I believed, why I believed it and it really shaped my life.

Today, we’re looking at I Corinthians 15, and as we do, I want you to think about these two questions: First, “Do I really understand what I believe? In particular, do I really understand what I mean when I say, ‘Jesus died for me and rose again?'” And second, “Why does it matter that I do understand? What practical significance does it have in my everyday life?”

Let’s take a look at First Corinthians 15 starting at verse 1.

Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1-2)

Here Paul says, “People, I want you to remind you of this gospel that I preached to you. Why? Because this message that you received is what you have taken your stand on as Christans. It’s the very foundation of your life. More importantly, it’s the gospel that saves you if you hold on to it. And then he says, something interesting, “Unless you believed in vain.”

Those words “in vain” are very interesting, and you see it in the Japanese translation. The idea is that the person never carefully considered what the gospel message was from the beginning. They heard it and said, “Yeah, I guess I can believe that. That sounds reasonable.” But they never really thought about what it meant.

Many people who say they are Christians are like that. They say they believe the gospel. But it never seems to make a difference in their lives. It’s one thing to say you believe all these things. It’s another thing entirely to really think them through to the point that it actually changes the way you think and live.

That’s why Paul takes the time to remind the Corinthians and us about this gospel we believe. Take a look at what he says.

For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me. (3-8)

Paul says here, “When I gave you the message of the gospel, I didn’t just make this up. I received this from Jesus himself. And the very people who witnessed everything that Jesus did and taught confirmed it.” (Galatians 1:11-12; 2:2-7) What is this gospel?

First, Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. What does it mean that Jesus died for our sins? What is sin? Sin is essentially rebelling against God. It’s saying to him, “I don’t need you. I’m not going to live your way. I’m going to live mine.” But by living that way, we hurt God, and we hurt the people around us. And if you’re honest with yourself, you can admit you’ve done that. But because we’ve done that, the Bible teaches us that we deserve death. Not just physical death. But eternal death, separated from God forever in hell.

Have you ever really thought that through? I said last month in one of our messages, that some people think God owes them something: a happy life, a happy marriage, etc. And I told you that God doesn’t owe us anything. Actually, that’s not completely true. God owes us hell. That’s what we deserve from him. Whenever you think, “I don’t deserve all the problems I’m going through!” remember, “Actually, I deserve hell. Because I have wounded God countless times, and I’ve wounded the people around me countless times as well.” When you think, “I deserve more from God!” Remember, “Yes, that’s right. I deserve hell.”

Tell me something: In your heart of hearts, do you really  believe you deserve hell? Or do you believe that you’re really not that bad? If you think that way, you don’t really understand the gospel. Because the gospel says Jesus died to take the punishment you deserve. But if you don’t believe you deserve hell, then what did Jesus die for? Nothing. But if you understand your sin, you start to truly understand God’s grace in your life: that through the cross, God gives us what we don’t deserve. Eternal life with him. A life with him that actually starts here and now. One in which, if you’ll follow him, no matter what trials or hardships you go through, you’ll find a peace and joy that only he can give. Not because you deserve it. But despite the fact that you deserve nothing but hell from him.

And all this was predicted in the Old Testament years before Jesus was even born. In Isaiah 53, the prophet Isaiah said this,

But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.

We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for the iniquity of us all.

…he bore the sin of many
and interceded for the rebels. (Isaiah 53:5-6, 12)

We also see a picture of Jesus in the Old Testament sacrifices. In those sacrifices, we see the picture of a perfect lamb taking the sins of the people on itself before being slaughtered. The Jews even had a special holiday called the Day of Atonement that pointed to what Jesus would do on the cross. That’s why Paul could say that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Time and again, the Old Testament Scriptures point us to Christ’s work on the cross.

Paul then says that Jesus was buried, and then rose again on the third day. Now, when we say that Jesus rose up from the dead, we don’t mean that he rose as a spirit. Sometimes people think that way, that just his spirit was raised. But Jesus was raised in his body. It was a transformed body, but it was his body that was raised, not just his spirit. And Paul says that was predicted in Scripture as well, hundreds of years before Jesus was born. So for example, David wrote this,

For you will not abandon me to Sheol (the grave); you will not allow your faithful one to see decay. (Psalm 16:10)

Jesus also pointed to the story of Jonah in the Old Testament, and said that Jonah was a picture of the resurrection as well. That just as Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days, and came out alive , so Jesus would come out from the “belly” of the earth alive, three days after he was buried there.

And Paul says, that Jesus’ resurrection was witnessed by over 500 people, most of whom the Corinthians could still interview if they wished.

So this was the message that Paul and the apostles preached. But have you really thought about what it means to you that Jesus rose from the dead? What significance does that have for your everyday life? Many of the Corinthians had never really thought that through, and because of it, it affected their understanding of the gospel, and it affected the way they lived. Take a look at verse 12.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”?

Now all the people in the Corinthian church would say that Christ was raised from the dead. But despite this, there were those in the church that scoffed at the idea that we will rise from the dead too. From what Paul says later, it seems they had a hard time imagining it. Perhaps they were saying things like, “Oh, come on. We’re going to rise from the dead? What? We’re going to rise up as skeletons? All our skin will have decayed off our bones. And that’s if our bones haven’t already been reduced to dust in the first place.”

But Paul tells them this,

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith. Moreover, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified wrongly about God that he raised up Christ—whom he did not raise up, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Those, then, who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. (13-19)

In short, Paul was saying, “People, think this through! Think about what you’re saying. You’re scoffing at the idea that we could possibly be raised from the dead. But if we can’t be raised, that means that Christ couldn’t have been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, this gospel we proclaim is in vain and so is your faith.

The word “vain” here is different from the one that Paul uses in verse 2. This “vain,” means “without essence or substance.” In other words, Paul is saying if Jesus is not raised, our preaching and your faith is totally without substance. It has no meaning at all. Why? Because of what the resurrection proved. What did it prove?

It proved that God had accepted the sacrifice Jesus had made (Romans 4:25). When God raised Jesus from the dead, he was saying, “Though you didn’t deserve it, you took the punishment of all these people’s sins. I accept that sacrifice for them. Now I will restore life to your body so that the whole world will know that I have accepted your sacrifice, and that now they have the hope of eternal life with me.”

That’s why Paul says that if Christ is not raised, we are still in our sins. If Christ is still dead, then it proves that God didn’t really accept his sacrifice, and we are still headed for hell. And all those Christians who have already died are in hell now. Here we are thinking that we’ll all be with God for all eternity, but in reality, we’re all still headed for hell if Christ is still dead. How sad is that.

Paul also told the Corinthians, “Not only that, think about what you’re saying about us, if you deny the resurrection. You’re calling us liars because we have testified to you that God did raise Jesus from the dead.”

Sometimes people in non-Christian universities, and sadly even in so-called Christian universities say exactly that. They say, “Well, Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead. The apostles weren’t really telling the truth about that. But hey, it doesn’t really matter. They meant their lie for good. They wanted to give people hope. They wanted to encourage people to live better lives. It was a “pious lie.” So it’s okay that they lied.

You look at Paul’s words here and you know exactly what he’d say to that. He’d spit on those words. There was no such thing as “pious lies” for Paul and the other apostles. For them lies were lies, and they would not accept their use in any circumstance, particularly when it came to the gospel.

Paul continues,

But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at his coming, those who belong to Christ. (20-23)

Back in the Old Testament days, there was a festival called the feast of Firstfruits (Leviticus 23:9-14). And in it, the Israelites would present an offering of the very first grain of the harvest for that year to God. They waved it before God as an acknowledgement that it all came from him, and as they did, they looked forward to the rest of the harvest to come.

Now Paul calls Jesus the firstfruits of those who have died and will be raised to eternal life. But here, it is God who presents the risen Christ for all to see to remind us that all life comes from him. Now when we see Jesus, we look forward to the great harvest of all Christians who have died and been sowed into the earth. And on that day, God will give all who have believed in Jesus new life and new bodies. So Paul tells us that just as Adam’s sin led to death for us all, Jesus’ death and resurrection gives life to all who will believe in him. When will this happen? When he returns to this earth.

And he will return. We won’t read it today, but Paul says that at that time, all things will be put under Jesus’ feet. In other words he will reign over all things. He’ll reign over all the people of the earth. And he’ll reign over death itself. Death will be a thing of the past. And then Jesus will subject himself to the Father and God will be over all.

Quick note here, because it is a point of confusion at times. We’ve taught the Trinity here before. That there is one God, and that within the one God there is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father. Yet there are not three gods. The Father, Son, and Spirit, together are the one God. How that works, I don’t know. But all are equally God. And they are all to be honored equally as God. And yet, there is a difference in their roles. And one of those differences that we see is that the Son is subject to the Father.

I talked about Jehovah’s Witnesses before, and one thing they always say is, “Well if Jesus is subject to the Father, he is obviously not God. He must be a lesser god. He’s inferior to God.” But that’s not true. The president of the United States holds a higher position than me. So does the Prime minister of Japan. But there is no way anyone can say they are somehow therefore more human than me. That they are more “man” than me. We are all equally human. And we are all equal in human dignity. Even if sometimes we don’t think so. I gotta say, I really shake my head at my president sometimes.

Anyway, Jesus is fully God as is the Father. But what we see in verse 28 is that he willingly subjects himself to the Father, and he will do so for all eternity. So if you’re ever talking to a Jehovah’s Witness, and they tell you, “Jesus said, ‘The Father is greater than I.’ (John 14:28) How can Jesus be God?” just remember, their roles are different. Jesus willingly subjects himself to the Father, that’s true, but they are still equally God.

But anyway, death is not the end for any of us. Jesus will return, he will raise us from the dead, he will reign, and most importantly, he will judge us all. And that gives the resurrection very important meaning to how we live our lives today.

Paul says, “You know, if the dead are not raised, I’m an idiot. I put my life in danger every day for the gospel. I’ve been thrown in prison, I’ve been whipped, I’ve nearly been killed. For what? If there is no resurrection,

 Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. (32)

Isn’t that true? If there is no resurrection, if there is no judgment, then why not just live how we want? And that’s exactly where the Corinthians’ beliefs led them. Paul said,

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Come to your senses and stop sinning; for some people are ignorant about God. I say this to your shame. (33-34)

One of the reasons that some of the Corinthian Christians were sinning the way they were was because they ultimately thought it didn’t matter. That they would never be judged for it.

Many people who call themselves Christians live that way today. Oh, they may believe in the resurrection, but they’ve never thought through what it means. What does it mean?

First, it means that Jesus is more than just a king in name. He truly is king because he reigns over everything, even death. Think about Japan and the emperor. How many of you truly think we owe him our total and utter allegiance? Probably none of you. Why? Because he is an emperor only in name.

Many people today treat Jesus just like that, as a king in name only. When it comes to their everyday life, they treat him as anything but a king. That’s why when he gives them commands that they read in the Bible, they can so easily dismiss them.

Do you do that? Is Jesus merely a king in name to you, or is he truly your king? Jesus said that on judgment day there will be many people who will say, “Lord, Lord. Didn’t I do this for you and that for you?” But because to them Jesus was only king in name, Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:22) What would Jesus say to you if he were to return today?

Second, it means what we do on this earth matters. Because we will be judged. We’ll be judged for if we truly had accepted Jesus as our king. And if we have, we’ll be judged for how we served him. What did we do with the gifts and responsibilities he has given us? Did we use our time well? What were our motives behind the things we did? All these things will be judged. If we did well, Paul tells us in chapter 3 we will be rewarded. If not, we’ll be saved, but all that we ever built in life, all that we treasured, all that we labored for, will be burned to dust. What will happen to your life’s labor when Jesus judges it?

But ultimately, what the resurrection shows us is that God loves us. And that he has awesome plans for us. And above all, the love God has for you should drive all that you do. Not fear that he will be disappointed in you. Not fear that he will punish you. Christ has already taken your punishment. And our resurrection from the dead will be the final proof of that. Remember, we deserve death and hell for our sin.

But Paul now says in verse 54,

Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, death, is your victory?
Where, death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (54-57)

When sin came came into the world, death came with it. And death had a terrible sting because we saw where it was taking us. God’s law was good and perfect, but it condemned us all to hell because none of us keep it perfectly. But Jesus lived a perfect life, and then died on the cross for our sin. And by doing all this, he fulfilled all the requirements of the law for us. Now when we put our trust in him, he not only takes away our sin, he gives us his righteousness, and we stand perfect in God’s eyes. That’s the love of Christ. That’s the love of God. And because of that we can rejoice. We can sing, “Death where is your victory? You have no victory over me. I may die here on earth, but I will be raised and live with my Lord forever.” Death has no sting anymore. Death is only the doorway to hope now.

And so Paul concludes,

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (58)

God never promises us an easy life. Sometimes it’s very hard. But when you go through the hardest times, remind yourself: “God loves me. He proved that by sending Jesus to die for me. I am no longer condemned. I know I’m not condemned because God raised Jesus from the dead. And one day God will prove his love for me once and for all, by raising me from the dead, just as he raised Jesus.”

So don’t give up. Keep doing what you’re doing for the Lord, no matter what you’re going through. Because in the end, it will all be worth it. That’s the meaning of the resurrection. That’s the meaning of the gospel. Let’s meditate on that meaning everyday, until it really hits home with us. Because when it does, it will transform your life.

How about you? Do you really know the gospel? Has it really hit home with you?

Small group questions:

  1. When people go through hard times in life, they often question if God loves them. How does understanding the gospel message help us to see God’s love better? Think about what we deserve and don’t deserve from God.
  2. When you think about what you deserve and don’t deserve from God, how should it affect the way you treat people who annoy, anger, or hurt you?
  3. Read Luke 6:46. In your everyday life can you say Jesus really is your king? Or is he just a king in name? Why do you say that?
  4. For many Christians, their lives are driven by fear that God will be disappointed in them, or that he will punish them. What does the resurrection say about that way of thinking? What should drive your life? What drives your Christian life?
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The “god” of Me. The God of me.

Today we’re taking a break from our series in Corinthians, and we’ll be looking at the life of a man named Jacob. And I’ve titled this message, “The ‘god’ of Me. The God of me.”

Recently, someone at Crossroad asked me, “What are you doing when you make this gesture? What does it mean?”

Well, we call them air quotes. And this gesture is really useful especially when we want to use sarcasm, or irony. For example, “He’s a really ‘nice’ guy, huh?” Which really means we don’t think he’s nice at all.”

In this case, we have the “god” of Me. Now are you really a god? Of course not. But so many people live for the “god” of Me. In other words they live their whole lives solely for themselves. They make themselves the center of the universe.

But that’s not the way we were designed to live. We were designed to look to God and say, “You are the God of me.” Or in better English, “You are my God. I live for you.”

I grew up in a Christian family, and I made the choice to become a Christian at a pretty young age. But it really took me a while to get to the point where I stopped following the “god” of Me, and started saying to Jesus, “You are the God of me.”

You see, although I said I was a Christian for many years, I was still only living for myself. And it was only when I hit my teen years, that I really started to say, “Jesus, you truly are my God. And I want to follow you.” How about you? Can you say that? Or are you still following the “god” of Me.

Now as I said, we’re going to look at the life of a man named Jacob. Usually, I like to take one main passage, and focus on that, but today we’re going to basically cover 25 chapters in one day. Which means we’ll be probably be here until 9:00 tonight. Just kidding. We’re only going to do an overview today. But I do encourage you to take the time to read this story when you go home.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a reader. I like reading. And it used to be that I would read a lot of fiction books, including books like this. This book is a monster. It’s over 900 pages. But I probably read this through in 3 or 4 days. And over the past couple of years, I’ve started to think, “Why can’t I read my Bible this way?” So often, I used to read one or two chapters of the Bible a day, and say, “Okay that’s enough.” But what I’ve found is that as I’ve read more at one time,  as I read whole books or at least whole stories at one time, I’m starting to understand my Bible better. So let’s try reading the Bible that way today.

Just to give you some background, Jacob lived around 4000 years ago. And his grandfather was a guy named Abraham, who was the father of the Jewish nation. God told Abraham, “leave your country and go to the place I will show you.” And then he made Abraham these promises:

I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:2-3)

Abraham obeyed God and eventually, God gave him a son named Isaac. Isaac grew up, got married, and that’s where we pick up the story today.

Take a look at Genesis chapter 25, starting at verse 21.

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. (Genesis 25:21-26)

Jacob got off to a very interesting start in life. He was a twin, and when he was born, he was too lazy to come out of his mother by himself, so he just grabbed his brother’s heel and took a free ride out. Of course, I’m just kidding, but it was symbolic of how Jacob lived his early life. He lived for the “god” of Me. He was someone who often took advantage of other people for his own good. In fact, his parents named him “Jacob,” which meant “he grasps the heel.” And in their language, it was often used as an idiom that meant, “deceiver.” Not the best name to have. But Jacob certainly lived up to it.

In short, Jacob was a con man. And when you read his story, what you find was that he was willing to deceive his own father and brother to get what he wanted. “Nice guy,” huh? But while his father proved to be a forgiving man, his brother was not, and Jacob was forced to flee for his life.

That’s the problem with the living for the “god” of Me. Not only do you hurt those around you, but you can make an utter mess of your life. I have seen people wreck their marriages. I’ve seen them wreck their relationships with their kids. I’ve seen them wreck their health. I’ve seen them wreck their entire futures. And probably you have too.

But you know it’s so easy to point the finger at other people. To look at their failings and blame them for their stupid choices. But how about you? For many of us, the god of Me can be a tricky thing to detect. But how often do we end up serving it?

For the past several weeks, we’ve looked at I Corinthians, and when you think about it, one of their biggest problems was that many of them were serving the god of Me. For many of them, they were constantly thinking “My position. My rights. My life.” Because of that they could badly wound other people in the church, and they either didn’t notice or they didn’t care. And the church was a total mess because of it.

How about you? How would you describe your way of thinking? Are you constantly thinking of your position? Are you constantly worried about the respect or lack of respect you get from others? Are you constantly worried about your rights? Are you constantly offended when you feel like your rights are infringed upon? Are you constantly focused on your life? Are you constantly focused on what you need and want from the people around you. That’s serving the god of Me. Is that who you’re serving?

That’s who Jacob served for a very long time. But the amazing thing is, God never gave up on him. And as Jacob headed off to his uncle’s place to flee for his life, he had his first encounter with God. One night, he stopped for a rest, and while he was sleeping, he saw a dream. He saw this huge stairway stretching down from heaven to earth. And he saw angels going up and down this stairway, probably going off to do some errands.

Sometimes people think that God is not very active in this world. But one thing that we see in the Bible is that God is active. Though we may not see him, he has his angels doing his work here on earth. And he himself is active here on earth. He reaches down to us in love, working in our lives to achieve his purposes. And here we see him reaching down to Jacob, messed up though he was. Look at what God said.

“I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (28:13-15)

Here, God gives Jacob the very same promises that he gave to Abraham. You know what’s amazing about that? Jacob deserved none of that from God. He was still a very selfish, me-centered person. But that’s what grace is about. It’s God reaching out to us when we deserve nothing from him.

What was Jacob’s response?

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (28:20-22)

Do you notice something interesting about this response? Jacob doesn’t say, “God, your grace is incredible. I can’t believe you would do this for me. So from now on, you’re my God and I will follow you.” Instead he says, “Well God, I’ll wait and see. If you really do look after me, then I will follow you.” Despite all the grace God shows him, Jacob still is following the god of Me.

Many people today take this same kind of attitude when it comes to God. They say, “God if  you do this and this and this for me, then I’ll follow you.” But that’s not really following God. It’s following yourself. How about you? Is that your attitude toward God? Do you ever carry the attitude that God owes you something? A happy life. Money. A wife. A husband. A good job. God doesn’t owe you a thing. And as long as you believe God owes you something, and you condition your following him on whether he meets your demands or not, you’re not following him. You’re following the god of Me.

Anyway, Jacob goes to his uncle’s place, pretty much with the same selfish and self-sufficient attitude he always had. But there was a problem. His uncle was even more a con man than Jacob was. And because of that, Jacob had a lot of struggles during the 20 years he was with his uncle. But because of God’s grace, Jacob prospered and became very wealthy despite all his uncle did to him.

Then God said, “Jacob, it’s time for you to go back home.” Jacob obeyed, but now Jacob had to deal with his brother Esau. And Jacob, being the schemer he was, tried to smooth things over on his own. He tried to bribe his brother by sending him all kinds of things, but the next thing he knew, his brother was coming with 400 of his men, and now Jacob was panicking. “Esau’s coming to kill me!”

And so he prayed to God for help. And it’s very interesting how he addresses God here. He says, “God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac.” (Genesis 32:9). He still doesn’t call God his God. Even so, God in his grace answered him. Not only that, God appeared to him personally. And in that meeting, Jacob finally realized, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep fighting God and living my own way. I need him. I need his blessing in my life.” And for the first time in his life, he truly surrendered to God.

And God gave him a new name. He said, “Your name is no longer ‘Jacob.’ Your name is no longer ‘deceiver.’ From now on, you are ‘Israel.’ This is the first time we ever see the name “Israel” in the Bible. It wasn’t given to a country. It was given to a man. One possible meaning of the name is, “He struggles with God.” And God said to him, “You have struggled with me, and with man. And now you have finally overcome. You’ve finally found the key to victory in life. The key is to victory is not constantly fighting me and those around you. The key to victory is surrendering to me.”

God then brought peace between Jacob and Esau, and after they had parted, Jacob built an altar and worshiped God. He called the altar, “El Elohe Israel.”

Let me ask you a quick question, how many of you want to understand your Bible better. If you really want to understand your Bible better, I’ll give you a couple of  secrets right now. The first secret is to read the footnotes in your Bible. How many of you have ever taken the time to look at the footnotes in your Bible? I know they’re really tiny, but they give you some valuable information. And if you look at your footnotes, this is what you find: El Elohe Israel means, “God, the God of Israel.”

The second secret to understanding your Bible is: read your Bible. Then read it some more. And then read it some more. And like I said before, when you read it, don’t just read one or two chapters at a time. Try reading whole books or stories at one time. And if you do, you’ll start seeing things you never saw before. For example, if you read only chapter 33 of Genesis, even if you looked at the footnotes, you’d probably miss out what Jacob was really saying here. He wasn’t saying, “God you are the God of the nation of Israel.” Israel wasn’t even a nation yet. But if you read the whole story, and you realized that God had renamed Jacob “Israel,” you’d realize that Jacob was really saying, “God, you are the God of me. You’re my God now.”

How about you? Can you truly say, “God you are the God of me?”

Your God?

What does it mean when we say, “God you’re my God?” I think it’s important to know that it starts not with what we do, but with what God does. What does he do?

First, he saves us. Just as he saved Jacob from Esau, he saves us. Like Jacob, we brought a lot of trouble on ourselves through our own bad choices. In fact, we were headed for hell because of all the bad choices we’ve made that wounded God and the people around us. But God reached down, and he sent his Son to die on a cross and take the punishment we deserved for our sin.

More than that, he gave us a new identity. He did that for Jacob. He said, “You’re no longer what you used to be. I’m making you something new. You’re no longer a deceiver. You’re the one who struggled with God, and have now overcome. In Revelation 2:17, it says that to those Christians who overcome, God will give them a new name too. You’re no longer what you used to be. You’re something new.

And because of all that, we now have a future hope. In chapter 35, God reaffirmed all his promises to Jacob. He even expanded on them, saying, “Kings will be among your descendants (35:11). It’s interesting. Like I said, one possible meaning of “Israel” is “He struggles with God.” Another possible meaning is, “Prince with God.” And we see that in this expanded promise that God gives Jacob. He promised him hope. And he promises us hope too.

So in light of all that God has done for us, what should we do? What does it mean to call God your God?

First, stop fighting him. Stop trying to do things your own way, and surrender your life to him. Recognize that more than anything else, you need him. That’s the lesson that Jacob had to learn.

Second, make him the center of your life. Worship him alone. That’s what Jacob started to do. In chapter 35, God told Jacob to go back to the place where he had first met with Jacob and to build an altar to him. Jacob went, and look what he told his family.

Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone. (35:2-3)

It was really important to Jacob that he and his family separate themselves from any kind of idol worship and to serve God alone. So Jacob and his family threw away not only their idols but certain earrings they had as well. Not because jewelry is bad, but because those earrings were probably used in idol worship.

This is an issue we face even today in Japan. It was an issue that the Corinthians faced as well.

Last week, Fumi taught from I Corinthians 10. He didn’t have the time to talk about this last week, but it seems that one of the problems that the Corinthians had was that some of them thought that it was okay to go to pagan temples and participate in their religious feasts. Their excuse was, “Hey these idols are really nothing. They’re just wood or metal statues.” But Paul told them, “You can’t do that. The idols may be just wood or metal, but behind them stand demons. And you can’t on one hand have communion with the Lord one week, and then participate with demons in these pagan feasts and rituals the next.”

That’s why I think it is wrong, for example, to offer incense at Buddhist funerals. It’s why some Christians don’t even feel comfortable going to Buddhist funerals at all. But if you do go in order to show respect to your relatives, (and I personally will do that), I think it’s important to keep that point of separation in not offering incense, using Buddhist prayer beads, chanting the sutras, or anything like that. It’s one thing to passively attend and pray for those who are there. It’s another thing entirely to actively participate with spiritual forces who hate the God you love.

That’s said, it’s a very difficult choice to make. It’s something that you would have to talk to your relatives about before the ceremony. You would have to explain why you feel the way you do in a loving way. Hopefully, they would understand. I’ve been fortunate. Both my relatives in Hawaii and my wife’s relatives in Japan have been very understanding.

But some relatives may not be so understanding, and it can be a very painful thing. But remember this: Jesus understands. Jesus understands what it means to be rejected by those he loved. His own family rejected him when he was on earth. His brothers mocked him. And the people he loved, nailed him on a cross to die. He understands, so take your pain to him. Cry out to him, “You’re my God.” And he will remind you, “You are my child.”

Finally, calling God your God means being a blessing to this world. For many years, Jacob wasn’t a blessing to the people around him. But I find a scene at the end of his life very interesting. His son Joseph became prime minister of Egypt, and was responsible for the saving of many lives during a great famine. And when Jacob came to Egypt to see his son, Joseph introduced him to the Pharaoh. Look at what happened.

Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?” And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.” Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence. (47:7-10)

Here Jacob blesses one of the the most powerful men in the world at that time, not just once, but twice. Now if you read chapter 47 in Japanese, you might see that it’s different from the English. It says “Jacob greeted Pharaoh.” But remember what I said about footnotes? If you look at your Japanese Bible, it gives another possible translation in the footnotes: “Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” And I think that’s the proper translation here, because it is the same word God used when he told Abraham and Jacob, “This world will be blessed through you.”

When we call God our God, it’s not just so that God will bless us. Rather, it’s so that we can be a blessing to those around us. How about you? When you encounter people, do you leave them touched by the hand of God?

One warning before I close today. Following God doesn’t mean that your life will always be happy happy, joy joy. Jacob’s certainly wasn’t. After his decision to make God his God, he experienced many hardships. His daughter was raped. Two of his sons committed murder. His wife died giving birth. Then his favorite son was taken from him, he thought, forever.

But even in the midst of all that, God never abandoned him. Even when God seemed silent, God was working behind the scenes for Jacob’s good. So at the end of his life, when he looked back, Jacob could say this: “God has been my shepherd all my life to this day.” (48:15). This same God is our shepherd too. So let’s trust him. Let’s follow him. And make him God in our lives.

 

Posted in 2017, Genesis | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cleaning house (August 6, 2017)

How many of you enjoy cleaning? I really hate doing it. There are dozens of things I can think of that I’d rather do than clean. But it’s one of those things we have to do, don’t we? If you don’t clean, pretty soon, you’ll start having uninvited guests to your house. Guests about this big (5-6 cm), have six legs, and fly.

I was also reading about some research recently that shows that dust can make you fat. So if you don’t want to gain weight, make sure that you dust your house regularly.

Anyway, as important as cleaning our homes is, it’s important to make sure that we clean our spiritual homes as well. That means our individual lives as Christians. And that means the church. You see one of the themes that we see throughout the Bible is that God dwells among us and within us.

As individual Christians, God dwells within us. God calls us his temple, his home. And if God is going to dwell within us, then that home needs to be pure. We need to live lives that are pleasing in God’s sight.

But as God’s church, we are also God’s home. When we think of church, we often think of it as a place we go on Sunday. But God looks at all Christians together, and says “This fellowship of people is my temple. I choose to dwell among them.” And so as his dwelling place, we need have lives and relationships that are pure and right in his sight.

But too often, that doesn’t happen. Our lives get stained with sin, and instead of getting it cleaned up, we just leave it there. And that not only affects us personally, but it starts to affect our relationships with our brothers and sisters in the church. We start fighting. We start gossiping. We hurt one another. Anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness start to spread. And if we don’t clean things out, it can destroy the church.

That’s the problem that the Corinthians were facing. And so we saw last week, the apostle Paul telling the Corinthian church,

Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch. (5:6-7)

Fumi taught us last week, that in the Bible, yeast is often a picture of sin. And just as a little yeast can spread throughout and affect a whole loaf of bread, a little sin can spread very quickly and affect the whole church.

And so Paul said, “Get rid of the yeast in your church. There is someone in your church that is blatantly committing sexual sin, and you’re not doing anything about it. Deal with him. Kick him out of the church, so that he might recognize his sin, repent, and be saved.”

Often times, though, we see these big sins, and think, “Well, I’m not doing that, so I’m okay. But there are other sins that if left unchecked can spread and cause great damage in your lives and in our church.

That’s what we see in chapter 6. Let’s take a look at verses 1-8.

If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.

It’s really easy to look at this passage and see Paul only criticizing the issue of Christians suing one another. But the issue goes much deeper than that. It goes back to an issue we saw earlier in this letter: division in the church.

Earlier we saw that people were arguing about which leader in the church was the best. One person was saying, “I follow Paul,” another, “I follow Peter,” and another, “I follow Apollos.”

But here we see division in a much worse way. People actually deliberately cheating and hurting one another. In this case, it probably had something to do with cheating someone out of money or property. And this was Christians doing this to other Christians. It’s unthinkable!

But that’s what happens in the church sometimes. Oh you may not cheat other people, but you hurt them in other ways. You lie to them. You talk behind their backs. Or you say or do things that hurt them.

And the problem is that many times, we never deal with these issues. Instead, when people hurt us, we hold the hurt within us. Or even worse, we start gossiping. We start badmouthing people to others in the church, and we start making cracks within the church. They may start small, but eventually, they become bigger and bigger, and can even threaten to destroy the church.

But do you know what’s even worse than backbiting within the church. It’s taking our “dirty laundry” outside of the church. That’s what the Corinthians were doing. They were taking their Christian brothers and sisters to court, and suing them before non-Christian judges.

And Paul gets really upset with this. He says, “What? There’s no one wise enough among you to settle these matters that you have to air your dirty laundry before non-Christians?”

Now remember: the Corinthians were people that prided themselves in their wisdom. Yet by suing one another, they showed a complete inability to handle something that they should have been able to handle easily.

Paul tells them, “Look, we are going to judge this world someday. When Jesus returns, we are going to be put in a place of authority. We’re even going to judge angels. And you can’t even settle these petty little disputes?”

Now some of you may be thinking, “Well, this has nothing to do with me. I’m not suing anyone.” That may be true, but how are you dealing with your dirty laundry in the church? When people hurt you or wrong you, do you do what Jesus commands us to do?  What did he command us to do?

1. First, confront the person face to face. Talk to them about what they did to hurt you.

2. And if they don’t listen, bring another Christian or two, to talk with that person.

3. And if they still don’t listen, bring it before the church.

Now this doesn’t mean that you interrupt the church service and tell everyone, “Hey Hide really hurt me. Do something about him.” But it means bring it before the leaders of the church. Hopefully, they can resolve the situation, or at the very least, they can bring discipline upon the person who did wrong.  (Matthew 18:15-17)

That’s what Jesus commands. Do you do so? Or do you just complain to other people in the church? Even worse, are you airing your dirty laundry to your non-Christian family and friends?

Think about this: If we are airing our dirty laundry to our non-Christian family and friends, what are they going to think? Do you think this is going to attract them to Christ? Do you think this is going to make them want to become Christians? No way. But how often do you do that?

Let’s get very practical: Is there someone that you have a problem with in this church? And if so, have you followed the steps that Jesus has laid out for us? If we are going to clean house in the church, we need to follow the steps Jesus has laid out for us. And if we don’t, we can cause great damage to God’s church. We defile this place that God calls his dwelling place.

That’s what the Corinthians were doing. And Paul tells the victims, “Look, if there is no one wise enough in the church to deal with the problem, it’s better to just let yourself be wronged. Leave the situation in God’s hands. But instead, you fight fire with fire. You get hurt, so you hurt others back (8). And you do this to people who are supposed to be your brothers and sisters.

Then Paul tells both sides, both the wrongdoers and the victims in verses 9-11.

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (9-11)

In other words, “Don’t kid yourself. You call yourself Christians, but you commit sexual sin? You set up idols in your life? Paul was probably talking about literal idols here, but do you set up money, your job, your love life, or other things as idols in your life? Are they more important to you than God?

Paul continues, “You say you’re a Christian, but you commit adultery? You commit homosexual acts? You steal? You are always greedy for more money or more things? You get drunk? You slander other people? You cheat other people? Don’t kid yourself. You cannot do these things, you cannot live this way, and claim to be a Christian. These kinds of people will not inherit God’s kingdom.

Now is he saying that true Christians will never sin? No. We all sin. Paul himself admitted that (Romans 7:14-20). But as I’ve said before, there is a big difference between someone struggling with sin, and someone who simply does not care what God has said and just lives how he or she wants to. A true Christian repents. A true Christian flees from sin. Why? Because of what Jesus did for us. What did he do?

He washed us from our sins with the blood he shed on the cross for us. He took the punishment that we deserved for our sins on himself. He then sanctified us: he set us apart for himself as his beautiful bride, and made us pure and clean of our sins. And then he justified us. He says to us, “I no longer judge you guilty for your sin. I consider you righteous in my sight.” And because of what he’s done, every true Christian responds in love and seeks to please him. And if love is not your response, if you’re not seeking to please God in your life, but are still only seeking to please yourself, then you need to ask yourself, “Am I really a Christian?” Because if you think God will accept you even though you don’t care about what he thinks and are indulging yourself in your sin, you’re only fooling yourself.

Now those are hard words. They’re difficult to accept. and quite frankly, the Corinthians had trouble with them as well. Look at what they said.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.” (12)

Now this appears much clearer in the English translation, but it seems that Paul is talking about a slogan that the Corinthians had. And so the English translation puts the slogan in quotation marks, and adds the words “You say.” So the words, “I have the right to do anything,” are probably not Paul’s opinion, but the Corinthian’s argument.

They were saying, “I’m a Christian so now I’m free from God’s law. That’s what you told us Paul. So that means I can do whatever I want to now.” But Paul says, “You may be free from having to keep all of the laws God gave the Jews, but that doesn’t mean every action you take is beneficial. There are many things that can hurt you or hurt others. And there are certain things that can start controlling you if you don’t watch out.”

A lot of times we take the first step in choosing to sin. But once we start, we find that we are no longer in control. Rather, our sins start to control us. For example, many guys start out choosing to look at pornography. But then they find that they cannot stop.

And that’s true about any sin, whether it’s something as small as overeating or as big as sleeping with another person’s husband or wife. If you constantly give in to sin, it will control you. And there is only one person who is supposed to be Lord in your life, and that’s Jesus. We see this in the next couple of verses. Take a look first at verse 13.

You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” (13a)

This was another slogan the Corinthians apparently had. And essentially, they were saying, “But we were made this way. We were made to eat food, so why not eat. Food is just a temporal pleasure. When we die God’s getting rid of food and we won’t have stomachs in heaven, right? Why not just enjoy it while we can?”

But they didn’t just use this slogan when talking about food. It was also their view on sex, and it’s a very prevalent view today. What is that view? “We are sexual creatures. We were made this way. So why not fulfill our sexual needs anyway that we want to and enjoy sex while we can?”

What is Paul’s answer?

The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. (13b-14)

What is Paul saying? He’s saying what we said before. Our body is the dwelling place of God. We were made to be his dwelling place. And God has a higher destiny in mind for this body he has given us. Someday, God will raise us from the dead, just like he did with Jesus and he will make our bodies into something glorious. That’s our destiny. And if that is the destiny for this body God has given us, how can we then defile it with sexual sin?

Paul then says this:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (15-17)

We’ve talked before about each of us who are Christians are part of Christ’s physical body here on earth. When we speak words of encouragement to others, we act as his mouth. When we help someone in need, we act as his hands. Paul then gives us a very ugly picture. He says, “Shall we take members of Christ (you and me) and join them to a prostitute?”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t even want to think of Jesus being joined to a prostitute. But when we engage in sexual sin, that’s exactly what we’re doing. If you are a Christian, Christ’s Spirit is living within you and you are a part of his body. Are you then, as a member of Christ’s body, going to join yourself in sexual sin to another.

You see sexual sin is different from any other sin in that it joins you to the person that you have sex with. That’s why as bad as breaking up with a person can be, it’s even worse when you’ve had a sexual relationship with them. When you had sex with them, you were joined to them not only physically, but emotionally. It’s also why sexual crime like rape is as awful as it is. It is deeply, deeply personal.

And so Paul says,

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. (18)

Now those of you who are bilingual may have noticed a difference in the Japanese and English translations. The Japanese says, “All sins are outside the body.” The English says, “All other sins are outside the body.” Why is that? Well, the truth is, the Japanese is more accurate here. Paul never wrote the word “other.” So why did the English translators put it there? Many people here think that Paul is comparing sexual sin to other sins. That’s very possible. Like I said, sexual sin is different from other sins. But if that’s what Paul meant, than we need the word “other” there to make his point clear. But I hold to a second possibility. I think the Corinthians had another slogan they often used. I think they were saying, “All sins are outside the body.” Put another way, they were saying, “Hey, sin doesn’t really affect you. If you sleep with another person you’re not married to, it won’t have any real lasting effects, so just do it.”

But Paul says, “No, when you sin sexually, you sin against your own body. Your body wasn’t meant to be joined sexually to just anyone. It was meant to be joined to one man or one woman in marriage. Sex between husband and wife is a beautiful thing before God. But sex outside of marriage defiles the body that God gave to you.”

He then concludes:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (19-20)

And so we come back to what we said at the beginning. We were meant to be the dwelling place of God. Our very bodies are meant to be his dwelling place. He sanctified us for himself. Jesus purified us of our sin, and set us apart for himself as his bride. We belong to him now. He paid a horrible price on the cross so that we might be his.

So often people say, “It’s my body. It’s my life. I can do with it as I wish.” But those words have no room at all in the mouth of a Christian. You are not your own. You belong to him. So honor God with your body.

How about you? When you look at your house, what do you see? When you look at this church, are you helping to keep it clean. Are you keeping it clean by keeping your relationships right? Are you keeping it clean by following the commands of our Lord when you’re having issues with others in the church? Or are you holding on to bitterness? Are you gossiping to your other church friends. Even worse, are you airing your dirty laundry to your non-Christian family and friends?

Are you keeping this church clean by treating other brothers and sisters right? Or are you hurting them by your words or actions?

And as you look at your life, what do you see? Do you think your body is something that God is happy to dwell in? Is he happy with what you let into you eyes, ears, and mouth. Is he happy with what comes out of your mouth? Is he happy with what you do with your body that he’s dwelling in?

This has been kind of a heavy message. But I want to leave you with this word of hope.

In I John 1:9, it says this,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

You may have messed up your life. You may have messed up your relationships in this church. But if you will repent, God is faithful, he is righteous, he’ll forgive, and he will cleanse you. He’ll make you that beautiful bride of Christ he made you to be. He’ll make you that pure and holy dwelling place that you were meant to be.

Let’s take some time in silence before God. And think: “Are my relationships in this church right? Is my personal life right before God. And if it’s not, talk to God about it. Confess your sin, and ask him what to do.

Small group questions:

  1. Read I Corinthians 6:1-8 and Matthew 18:15-17. Have you ever had a problem with someone in this church? What did you do to resolve it? Do you think you did things the right way? Why or why not?
  2. A lot of people think, “I know I’m sinning, but that’s okay. God will forgive me.” Read I Corinthians 6:9-11. According to Paul, why is this way of thinking wrong?
  3. Read I Corinthians 6:19-20. A lot of people think, “It’s my body. It’s my life. I can live how I want to.” Have you ever felt this way? According to Paul, why is this way of thinking wrong for Christians?
  4. What sins are you struggling with now? Do you have any relationships in this church that are bad right now? Pray for each other about these things.
Posted in 2017, New Testament | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

父との関係(6月18日2017年)

皆さんはどうかわからないけど、私は昔、父親との関係があまり良くありませんでした。理由は幾つかFatherあります。一つには、子供のころはお父さんが死ぬほど怖かった。お父さんは若いころはすごく短気で、いつ怒り出すかわからないから、私はビクビクしていた。

お父さんは歳をとってちょっとは丸くなったけど、でも決して優しい、暖かいパパという感じの人ではなかった。彼は日系の二世でしたけど、昔ながらの、日本のザ・典型的お父さんでした。多くを語らず、愛情表現をすることは少なかった。時間が経って、私たちの関係が良くなった後でも、お父さんとハグをする時は、気恥ずかしさと照れくささを感じました。

何年もかけて、話をして、どうしてお父さんがそういう風になったのか、理解することができました。私のお父さんの両親は、特に母親(つまり私のおばあちゃん)は私の父にほとんど愛情表現をすることのない人だった。だから私のお父さんも、自分の子供にどうやって愛情表現をしたらいいのかわからなかったんですね。

私は、自分の娘との関係はそうしたくはなかった。娘には私と一緒にいる時ハッピーを感じてほしいし、「ダディはあなたのこと大好きなんだよ」というのをちゃんと伝えたいと思ってる。今のところ、それはいい感じで伝わってると思います。もちろん、娘が10代になったらどうなるかな、という一抹の不安がありますけど。でも今の所、僕と娘の関係はいい感じです。

でも残念なことに、たくさんの人がお父さんとの関係に問題を抱えています。アメリカではたくさんの人が、父親の顔を知りません。離婚とかがあって。日本でも、父親があまりに仕事で忙しすぎて、一緒に過ごす時間がないから、親子関係に距離がある。。。という話はよくあると思います。会社から単身赴任を命じられて、家族と何年も離れて暮らすというのも残念ながらよく聞く話です。

実はそのことが、私たちと神様との関係にも影響を及ぼしています。特にクリスチャンにとってはそうなんです。だって、私たちは神のことをなんて呼びますか? “Father” お父さん、ですよね。
今日は父の日ですね。だからそのことをお話しします。神様を「お父さん」と呼ぶことはどういう意味があるんでしょう。私たちとお父さんの関係ってどういうものでしょう。

ルカによる福音書の11章を開きましょう。

今日読む箇所はイエス様が地上でどのように生きていたかが書かれています。イエス様の弟子たちが、イエス様と共に過ごしてわかったことは、それはイエス様はいつも祈っておられたということです。朝には一人で出かけて行って、祈りました。夜には群衆を離れて、一人になって祈りました。イエス様が神様と繋がろうとする姿には、人とは違う何かがありました。だから弟子たちはそれが何なのか、その秘訣をを知りたかった。そこのストーリーを見ていきましょう。

1節を読みましょう。

また、イエスはある所で祈っておられたが、それが終ったとき、弟子のひとりが言った、「主よ、ヨハネがその弟子たちに教えたように、わたしたちにも祈ることを教えてください」

ここでのヨハネとはバプテスマのヨハネのことです。バプテスマのヨハネはイエス様が現れることを民に告げ知らせた人物です。イエス様の弟子のうち二人はもともとはこのバプテスマのヨハネの弟子でした。(ヨハネ1:35-41).一人はアンデレでした。もう一人は100%確実ではないけど、おそらく使徒ヨハネであった思われます。だからここでイエス様に質問したのはアンデレかヨハネのどちらかであったと思われます。

「イエス様、ヨハネさんは私たちに祈り方を教えてくれました。でも、私たちが知りたいのは、あなたはどうやって祈るんですか?ってことです。」この質問の意図はこうです。「イエス様、あなたと神様との関係ってどんな風につながってるの?」

皆さんに質問です。皆さんの心の中に、神様との関係についての飢えかわきはありますか。神様とのもっと深い関係を持つためにどうすればいいかを知りたいと願っていますか。それとも神様と、適度な距離で付き合うのがいいと思っていますか。神様とは、一歩分の距離をおいておきたいと考える人が、教会にもたくさんいます。こんな感じです。「神様の事を知れてよかった。でももう、このあたりでいいかな。もっと近く深くっていうのはプロの人たちのすることだよ。そういうのはふみ先生とか、ダニエルさんとかブルースさんに任せとけばいいんだよ。私?私はいいよ。これ以上神様と近づかなくてもいいよ。このへんで十分満足してますので。」

どうしてそんな風に感じるんでしょうか。人は熱狂的になるのを怖がるんです。「多少信心深くなるのはいいけど、でもあまり行き過ぎてしまいたくない。神様に近づきすぎたら、神様にとんでもないことをさせられるかも。例えば日本に行って宣教師になりなさい、とか!」

もしくは、神様のことを怖がっている人たちもいます。聖書を読んでこう考えます。「神様ってきっと怖い方なんだ。短気だし。私は、神様とは距離を置いたおつきあいをしよう」

でも皆さんにわかってもらいたいことがあります。前も言ったことがあります。神様がいのちの源のお方です。神様があなたを作られたお方です。神があなたをデザインしました。あなたがどうやって生きるかも計画されました。何よりもなお、あなたのことを愛しています。あなたの最善を願っておられます。だから神様に近付いても、失うものはないんです。むしろ、いのちを見出します。いのちが欲しいなら、その源である方に近づきましょう。愛を見つけたいなら、愛の源である方に近づきましょう。それ以外のものをいくら追い求めても、最終的には虚しさしか残りません。

イエス様の弟子たちはいのちを求めました。だからこう訪ねました。「イエス様、あなたは神様と本当に親密な関係を持っておられます。私にも、どうやったら、神様と親密に近づけるのかを教えてください。」

イエス様はどう答えたのでしょうか。

そこで彼らに言われた、「祈るときには、こう言いなさい、『父よ』 (2a)

父よ、ってすごくシンプルな言葉ですね。でも実はすごく深いんです。考えてみましょう。ユダヤ人たちはどのように祈っていましたか。例えば旧約聖書に出てくる、預言者ダニエル。彼の祈りだしはこうです。「ああ、私の主、大いなる恐るべき神」(ダニエル9:4)

ネヘミヤという人もこんな感じで祈りました。ああ、天の神、【主】。大いなる、恐るべき神」(ネヘミヤ 1:5)

ヒゼキヤ、この人は王様でした。彼のお祈りはとても華やかです。「ケルビムの上に座しておられるイスラエルの神、万軍の【主】よ。ただ、あなただけが、地のすべての王国の神です。あなたが天と地を造られました」(イザヤ37:16)

このようにに祈ることって何かまずいことありますか?全くありません。神様がいかに素晴らしく、偉大な方かっていうのを再度自分に確認するためにもいいことだと思います。ビルダーズルームというバイブルスタディーのセッションをやっています。前回のセッションで、神様のことを表現する言葉を一つ学びましたそれは「transcendent」超越しているという言葉です。その意味は、神様はこの世界の何より誰よりもはるかに偉大なお方だということです。何も誰も太刀打ちは出来ません、なぜなら神様が創造主で、私たちは作られたものだからです。

でもここでイエス様がこのシンプルな言葉 父よ、という言葉に込めておられるのは、同時に「immanent」そばにおられるお方だということです。つまり神様は私たちとともにおられて、私たちの人生の深く関わろうとしておられるということです。実際、私たちは神様無しでは生きていけません。トライしてみてもいいでしょう。でも最終的には神様無しではめちゃくちゃです。

この「Father」、お父さんっていう言葉を考えてみましょう。イエス様は他の言葉を使うこともできたはずです。それこそ、神よ、主よ、支配者なる神よ、とか。だって神様は実際そういうお方です。間違ってない。でも、間違ってはいなけど、なんとなく距離を感じてしまう言葉ですよね。神様は創造主、私たちは作られたもの。神様は主であり、支配する御方。私たちはしもべ。でもイエス様は、ファミリーワードを使いました。「お父さん。」それって私たちにどんな意味がありますか?

それは、私たちは神様の事を、怖がらずに、近づくことができるということです。だって、神様は私たちのことを子どもとして愛してるから。でも多くの人が、そう考えることができません。

時代劇のことをちょっと考えてみましょう。私が一番好きなのは「暴れん坊将軍」です。みんなは暴れん坊将軍知ってますか?ハワイでも、土曜日の夜は放送されていて、毎週見てました。毎回、途中までは将軍は自分が将軍であることは隠しています。でもクライマックスになると、悪者に対峙して、こう言います。「奉行よ、余の顔を、お前の主人の顔を見忘れたのか?」 悪者は、「な、何だと?」と訝しむ。でもよーく顔を見て、気づく。「う、上様!」 そして慌てて、へへ〜って地面にひれ伏す。(1分後には、やけくそになって、「ええい上様がこの様なところにおられるはずはない、切れい、切ってしまえい!」って飛びかかってくるんだけどね)。でも最初の瞬間は、相手が将軍だとわかって、腰を抜かすほど、完全に恐れおののくんです。そして実は、私たちの多くがそういうふうに神様を見ています。

真実は、確かに、神様はその様に、恐れ讃えられるべきお方です。私は正直にこう思います。私たちが、いつか神様と「face to face」で向きあうとき、誰もその場に立っていることはできないと思う。でもこうも思います。神様はきっと私たちを抱き上げて、微笑んでこう言って下さる。「よく来たね、私の子よ。お前がここにいて嬉しいよ」って。

これが、神様が私たちとの間に願っておられる関係です。

もちろん、問題は、私たちの多くが、この世界での自分の父親と、そんな関係を持てていないということです。だから想像することが難しい。最初に話しましたけど、私と同じようにお父さんの事が怖い人もいると思います。 お父さんの顔を知らない人もいると思います。お父さんはいても、自分のことを全然気にかけてくれなかったかもしれない。だから、神様のことをお父さんて呼んでいいんだよ、って言われても、全然いいイメージが持てない。

ある日本の有名な作家さんの記事にこう書いてありました。日本人は父親に対するイメージが良くないから、神様のことはお父さんじゃなくてお母さんになぞらえた方ほうがイメージしやすいんじゃないかって。もちろん、お母さんはお父さんと等しく素晴らしいものです。けれども、それでは神様の間違った印象を修復する解決にはならない。変えないといけないのは、私たちの頭の中にある父親っていうものに対するイメージ像、こっちです。本当のお父さんとは、どんなイメージなんでしょうか。

1. 私たちを愛し、大切に思ってくれている。 第一ヨハネ3:1.

私たちが神の子どもと呼ばれるために、‐‐事実、いま私たちは神の子どもです‐‐御父はどんなにすばら しい愛を与えてくださったことでしょう。

2. 私たちのそばにいつもいてくれる。

私の父、私の母が、私を見捨てるときは、【主】が私を取り上げてくださる。(詩篇27:10)

3. 私たちを気にかけ、訓練してくれる。

「わが子よ。主の懲らしめを軽んじてはならない。主に責められて弱り果ててはならない。
主はその愛する者を懲らしめ、受け入れるすべての子に、むちを加えられるからである。」(ヘブル12:5-6)

この言葉をうまく飲み込めない人も多いでしょう。なぜなら、父親がしつけるとき、それが愛からではなく怒りからの行動に基づく場合が多いからです。往々にして行き過ぎた罰を与えてしまうことがあります。でも、神様の訓練はそうではありません。神様が私たちを訓練するのは私たちの益のためです。私たちがあるべき姿に成長することを神様は願っておられます。(ヘブル12:5-12)

4. 私たちに必要なものを与えてくれる。

空の鳥を見なさい。種蒔きもせず、刈り入れもせず、倉に納めることもしません。けれども、あなたがたの天の父がこれを養っていてくださるのです。あなたがたは、鳥よりも、もっとすぐれたものではありませんか。(マタイ6:26)

だから、イエス様は、私たちがこう祈って良いのだと言われます。

「 私たちの日ごとの糧を毎日お与えください」(ルカ11:3)

私たちの必要のために祈るのは決してわがままではありません。私たちがお父さんに頼ることができることを表しています。神が信頼に足るお方だということを表してします。そして、もう一つ私たちが神様について知ってることを表しています。

5. 私たちの最善を願っておられる。イエス様は言われます。

あなたがたも、自分の子がパンを下さいと言うときに、だれが石を与えるでしょう。また、子が魚を下さいと言うのに、だれが蛇を与えるでしょう。してみると、あなたがたは、悪い者ではあっても、自分の子どもには良い物を与えることを知っているのです。とすれば、なおのこと、天におられるあなたがたの父が、どうして、求める者たちに良いものを下さらないことがありましょう。(マタイ7:9-11)

他にも、もっともっと挙げることができます。でも、覚えておいてほしいことは、あなたの持っているお父さんというものに対するイメージがどうであって、 あなたのお父さんがどんな欠点もしくは良いところがあったとしても、それは、天におられる私たちの本当のお父さんの、ぼやけたイメージに過ぎないんです。あなたが、たとえどれだけ、この地上でのお父さんに傷つけられたとしても、神は、本当のお父さんは、良いお方です。だから神さまに近づきましょう。神様をお父さんと呼ぶことを躊躇わなくていいんです。

イエス様のお祈りの続きを読みましょう。

御名があがめられますように。(2b)

どういう意味でしょうか。私たちは何を祈っているんでしょうか。神様の御名が讃えられます様に、と祈っています。でもどうやったら讃えることになる?周りの人が私たちクリスチャンを見るとき、私たちは私たちを通して神様を映し出すべきです。そして、人に、私も神を讃えたいという気持ちを思い起こさせるべきです。でも私たちがまず神様を讃えていなければそれは起こらないですよね。じゃあ問いかけないといけないのは、「あなたは神様を讃えていますか。あなたの言葉だけじゃなくて、あなたの生き方で神様を讃えてますか?

神の子どもである私たちにそれができないのであれば、どうして他の人たちにそうしてもらうことができますか。

私たちはではどうやって神を讃えますか。この祈りの中に実はヒントがあります。イエス様はこう言われます。

御国が来ますように。(2c)

知ってましたか?神様は王国を建てようとしておらえます。そうなんです。この世界の始まりは、王国に3人の人物がいました。王なる神さまと、最初の人間であるアダムとイブが、神の民でした。けれどもアダムとイブは神様に背を向け、それからというもの人間はなんとかして神様抜きで、人生を築き、自分の王国を作ろうとしています。その結果どうなりましたか。戦争です。人が傷つけあう世界が生まれました。戦争だけではなく、家庭の中でも、友達の中でも、人との関係の中に争いがあります。

でも神様は全く新しい王国を作ります。あなたが神の子どもなら、あなたもその計画の一部です。イエス様を信じてイエス様があなたの罪を許してくれたことを信じるなら、あなたは神の御国の一部です。神の御国の一員として神はあなたに、お父さんの計画に参加することが求めらておられます。

昔は、息子っていうのはだいたいにおいてお父さんの後を継ぐものでした。漁師の息子は漁師になったし、大工の息子は大工になりました。それは自然なことです。

神様は王国を建設しておられます。そして神はあなたにもその働きに加わるようにと言っておられます。それは、あなたの周りの人に、あなたが神の愛でタッチすることです。以前のメッセージでも言いました。私たちはこの地上での、イエス様の、体です。こういう人がいます。「なんで神様はもっとこの世界をなんとかしてくれないの? 食べるものがない人たちに、神様が与えればいいじゃない! 傷ついてる人たちを神様が助けてくれたらいいじゃない? 」こういう風に言ってしまうことありませんか。問題はなんですか。問題は神様じゃない。それは、 あなたの、私のやることなんです。私たちはキリストの体です。あなたが、変化をもたらしなさいとを神様は命じられているんです。

ミニストリー、っていうと、私たちは、教会で何らかの奉仕をすることを想像しますよね。サンデースクールの先生とか、カフェチームとかウェルカムチームとか。もちろんそれらもミニストリーです。でもそれはミニストリーに関わるということの、小さなパートでしかない。こういう人もいるでしょう、「いや、私は残念だけど教会であれこれする時間はないの。」それはいいんです。考えてください。でも神様はあなたに、あなた自身の周りの人を助け導くために、何かをするように言われていませんか。あなたの家族に、友達に、会社の同僚に?あなたは神様の手であり、足であり、口であり、目であり、耳です。. 神様は、あなたに周りの人たちの人生に変化をもたらす役割を与えておられます。福音を伝えること。必要を満たすために、神様の愛を届けてあげること、その真実に気づいた時、私たちは本当に神様の働きに加わることになります。

他には、どうやって神様のこと讃えますか? 私たちは神のようになりたい、近づきたいと願います。一つ大事な、大きなことは、私たちは神様が許してくれたように、私たちも人を許すということを学ぶ必要があります。4節をみてください。

私たちの罪をお赦しください。私たちも私たちに負いめのある者をみな赦します。(4a)

皆さん、この通りに祈るとき、あなたは何を祈ってるんでしょうか。こう想像してください。「主よ。僕はカズエにめちゃくちゃ傷つけられました。神様、カズエを許さなくちゃいけないですよね、それはわかってる、わかってるけど本当にひどいことをされたんです。どうやっても僕には許せないです。だから神様。私が許さない心と怒りを彼女にぶつけたように、あなたの許さない心と怒りを私に注いでください」

それがあなたの求めるものですか?神様の目には、許すことはオプションではないんです。誰かを許さない心を抱えたまま、神様の恵みを憐れみを期待することはできません。どうしてできない? 神様があなたのことをどれだけ許してくれたか考えてみてください。

誰かを許さないままでいることは、あなたは自分がどれだけ許されてきたか全く理解してないってことです。それはあなたの罪を過小評価し、またこうも言っています。「私の罪はそんなにひどいものじゃなかった。だから神は私を許すことができたんだ。」

あなたの罪がどれだけひどいものか、知りたいですか?それはあなたを神様から永遠に引き離し、地獄に送るほど、悪い、ひどいものです。あなたの罪は、イエス様を十字架につけました。イエス様はイエス様の命であなたの罪の代価を支払てくれました。あなたは、それを知ってなお、「私の罪はそんなにひどいものではなかった。って言えますか。」

だから、もしあなたが、あなたを傷つけた誰かを、あえて許さないでいるのなら、私がこういうのは間違いじゃないはず。あなたはあなたの罪を軽く考えている。自分の罪の深さと、それでもその罪を許してくれた神様のことをはっきりと知りながら、それでもなお、あえて他者を許さないでいる人、その人はクリスチャンでしょうか。

今すごく強い言い方になりましたけど、注意して言葉を選びました。キーワードは「willfully」 あえて、です。許そうとするけど、そのことに葛藤を覚えて苦しむ人と、あえて、「私は許すことを拒みます」っていう人は、違いますよね。

あえて許さないでいる人はつまりはこう言ってるんです。「神様、あなたが何を言おうと知ったこっちゃありません。私は許しません」これは逆らうこと、反抗です。それは本当の神の子どもから発せられるべき言葉ではありません。

でもこういう人たちももちろんいます。「天のお父さま、あなたが私に許しなさいって言ってることよくわかってます。でも、今どうしてもそれができないのです。傷が苦しすぎるんです。自分ではどうしても手放せない、どうしたらいいかわからない。でもこのままではいたくない。どうか許せるように助けてください。」

これが、神の子どもです。父のようになりたいと願う叫びです。そう祈るなら、神はその祈りに必ず答えてくださると思います。

時間はかかるかもしれなない。実際にカウンセリングとかに通う必要があるかもしれない。そして何より祈る必要があります。

そんなに深い傷でなければ、許すとは難しいことではないでしょう。でも時としてそれはとてもとても難しいことです。それは自分の力ではできません。神様があなたを作り変えてくれるその力がなければ、許すことはできません。

でも神は必ず答えてくれます。なぜなら、天のお父様ご自身が、あなたが神のようになることを一番願っておられるからです。

同じ理由で、神様はイエス様の祈りの最後のパートに答えてくれます

私たちを試みに会わせないでください。(4b)

言い換えると、「主よ、私は悪いものに染まりたくありません。だからどうか私がそれらにとらわれてしまわないように遠ざけてください。私があなたの名を汚す可能性のあるどんなことからも私を遠ざけてください。父よ、あなたを愛しています。あなたのようになりたいと願っています。

それが私たちと神様との関係です。父を讃えること。父の働きに加わること。父のようになりたいと願うこと。

でもさっきも言ったように、それが本当に難しいって人がいると思います。地でのお父さんにたくさん傷つけられきて、その傷があまりに痛むから。それがあなたの神様のイメージを歪めてしまった。同じように、そんな虐待を受けた経験を持つある男性が歌った歌を聞きました。彼は子どもの時お父さんから虐待を受けていていて、 危うく殺されかけたことすらありました。彼は思い出の一つを書きました。

ある時、彼の両親が離婚してしばらく後、家の外で車を止める音が聞こえました。彼は彼の父親に散々虐待されていたにもかかわらず、心のどこかでこう願っていました。いつかお父さんが戻ってきてくれるんじゃないか、お酒もドラッグもやめて、普通のお父さんになってくれて、普通の家族になって、幸せに暮らせるんじゃないかって。でもその車の音は、お父さんのじゃなかった。お隣さんの家の車の音でした。そして、かつてお父さんが座っていた椅子が目に入った時、強烈な寂しさに襲われました。ずっと後にになって、その時のことを歌にしました。

誰もいない部屋にお父さんの椅子があった。
悲しみのシーツのカバーが掛かったお父さんの椅子
お父さんの椅子。何年も何年も僕は空しく涙を流し続けた
お父さんの椅子には、誰も座っていなかったから。

そして今度は、自分が父親となって、考え始めました。自分の子どもたちに、父親としての自分をどう捉えて欲しいかと。それはいつか、私がにそう言って欲しいと、私が願うことです。

愛に溢れた部屋にお父さんの椅子がある
お父さんの椅子、いつも、どんなことがあっても
悲しいことがあっても、私は恐れなくていい。
お父さんの椅子、そこはいつも愛があるから。

そう書いた瞬間、彼はあることに気づきました。自分のお父さんはアル中でも暴力的でもなかったんだ。自分のほんとうのお父さんは天におられるお父さんだ。天のお父さんは椅子から離れて1秒たりとも自分を一人ぼっちにはしなかった。そしてこう書きました。

夜に、神の御座の夢を見る。
愛の神様がこっちにおいでと呼んでくれてる。
僕が近づくと、神様が抱き上げて笑いかけてくれる。
手を伸ばして愛しい子どもを抱きしめるように。
悲しむことも恐れることもない、だって神様の腕の中では安心安全だから
お父さんの椅子が王の部屋にある
お父さんの椅子、死に打ち勝った栄光とともに
お父さんの椅子、僕の神がそこにいる
そして僕は彼の息子である
いつか私は父とともにお父さんの椅子に座る。

スモール・グループの質問
1. あなたとのお父さんとの関係はどうだった?ことばでどう表現する?良い(良かった)悪い(悪かった)?それはどうして?
2. 私たちの本当のお父さんの性質(私たちを愛し、そばにいて、訓練し、必要なものをあたえ、最善を願っている)を考えるとき、どれがいちばんあなたの胸を打つ?それはどうして?
3. あなたはどんなやり方で、神の国の働きに参加できる?あなたの前には誰が置かれている?あなたはどうやって、その人(たち)にとっての神様の手、足、口、目、耳になれる?思いついたことを神の国のために実行できるように、お互いに祈ろう。
4. 天のお父さんのように~できるようになりたいと思うことを挙げてみよう。それは難しいこと?どうして?神様のようになれるように、お互いに祈ろう。
5. 特別な質問 父親である皆さんへ。:あなたはどんなふうに、天のお父さんのようになりたいと願っている?そのためにお互いに祈ろう。

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Relating to our Father (June 18, 2017)

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, I didn’t relate to my father very well. There were several reasons for that. One was I was scared to death of him for most of my childhood. He had a pretty quick temper in those days, and so I often felt like I was walking on eggshells when I was around him.

He eventually mellowed out quite a bit, but he still wasn’t the most affectionate father in the world. Even though he was a second generation Japanese, he was very much the stereotypical Japanese father. He didn’t say much. Didn’t really show much physical affection. It always seemed kind of awkward to give him hugs even when our relationship was much better.

As I talked to him over the years, I found out why he was that way. His parents, particularly his mom never showed that kind of affection to him. So for him, he was never quite sure how to show love to us kids.

It was something I always hoped would be different in my relationship with my daughter. I want her to be happy when she sees me, and  I want her to know that I love her. And so far, I think I’ve been pretty successful. Of course, the big question is what will happen when she becomes a teenager. But for now, things are cool.

Unfortunately, for a lot of people, they don’t have very good relationships with their dads. For many people in the United States, they don’t even know their dad because their parents got divorced. Even in Japan, there can be a distance between a father and his kids because of work. So often companies send the fathers away from their families and they can be away from each other for years.

And one of the results of all this is that it affects our relationship with God. That’s particularly true of Christians because of what we call him. What do we call him? “Father.”

So today on Father’s day, I want to talk about that a bit. What do we mean when we call God “Father?” And how are we to relate to him as our Father?

Let’s take a look at Luke chapter 11.

We’re looking at the life of Jesus today. And one thing his disciples noticed after being around him for a while was that he always praying. Early in the morning he would go off to pray by himself. And in the evening, after all the crowds had left, he would go off again to pray. And there seemed to be something different in how he related to God. And his disciples wanted to know what it was. That’s where we pick up the story today.

Look at verse 1.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

The John that this disciple mentions is John the Baptist, who prepared the people of Israel for Jesus’ appearance. And we know for certain that two of Jesus’ disciples were followers of John before they met Jesus (John 1:35-41). One of them was Andrew. We’re not sure of the second one, but it’s possible it was John. So most probably it was one of these two that asked Jesus this question. “Jesus, John taught us how to pray, but we really want to know: how do you pray?” Put another way. “Please Jesus, teach us how to relate to God.”

Let me ask you something. Do you have that hunger in your heart? Do you really want to know how to relate to God? Or are you satisfied keeping him at a distance? Too many people in the church today are satisfied keeping God at arm’s length. It’s like they’re saying, “I’m glad to know God, but I don’t want to get too close to him. That’s for the professionals. It’s okay for people like Fumi or Daniel or Bruce to get close to God. But me? No thank you. I’m fine as things are.”

E. Why do people feel that way? Sometimes people are afraid of becoming a fanatic. “It’s okay to be a little religious, but I don’t want to get too religious. If I get too close to God, he might ask me to do something weird! He might ask me to leave Japan and be a missionary.”

Other people are afraid of God. They read the Bible and think, “You know God seems a bit quick-tempered. Maybe it’s best to keep my distance from him.

But here’s what I want you to understand, and I’ve said this before. God is the source of life. He is the one who created you. He knows how he designed you and how you were meant to live. More than that, he loves you, and wants your very best. So you don’t lose by drawing close to him. Instead you find life. So if you want life, draw near to the source of life. If you want love, draw near to the source of love. Anything else will ultimately leave you empty.

Jesus’s disciples wanted life. And so they said, “Jesus, we see how intimate you are with God. Please teach us how to be intimate with him too. Teach us how to relate to him.”

Let’s look at Jesus’ answer.

He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father…” (2a)

You know that word, “Father,” is a very simple word. But it has a lot of depth. Especially when you think of how the Jews often prayed. If you look at the prayer of prophet Daniel, for example, he started by praying, “Lord, the great and awesome God.” (Daniel 9:4).”

Another man named Nehemiah prayed in a similar way, “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God.” (Nehemiah 1:5)

One king named Hezekiah was very flowery in his prayer. “Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” (Isaiah 37:16)

Is there anything wrong with praying that way? Absolutely not. Sometimes it’s good to pray that way because it reminds us how great God is. In our last Builder’s room session, we learned the word “transcendent” in describing God. That means God is so much greater than anything or anyone else in this world. Nothing or no one can compare to him because he is the creator and we are not.

But what Jesus teaches us here in this simple word, “Father,” is that God is also “immanent.” That means that God is close to us, and wants very much to be a part of our lives. In fact, we can’t live without him. We can try, of course. But if we do, in the end, our lives blow up.

But think about that word, “Father” for a minute. Jesus could have used the word, “God.” Or “Lord.” Or “Master.” And all of those words would be appropriate because he is all those things to us. But at the same time, they also put a feeling of distance between us and God. He is God; we are the creature. He is Lord and Master. We are his servants. But Jesus chooses to use a family word. “Father.” What does that mean for us?

It means that we can draw near to him without fear, because he loves us as his children. But not all people see God that way.

Think about the samurai shows for a moment. One of my favorites growing up was Abarenbo Shogun. Does anyone still know that show? I used to watch it every Saturday night in Hawaii. And throughout the show, the Shogun would hide his identity, but at the climax of the show, he would tell the bad guy, “Don’t you recognize your master?” And the bad guy would answer, “Huh? What?” And then suddenly he would recognize the Shogun’s face, and fall on his face before his master.” Of course a few minutes later he would be trying to kill the Shogun, but in those first few moments, he would be in utter fear and awe of the Shogun. And that’s how many see God.

The truth is God deserves to be honored that way. And I honestly think that when we finally meet him face to face, every single one of us will fall on our face before him. But I also think, that he will lift us up, smile, and say, “Welcome my child. I’m glad you’re here.”

That’s the kind of relationship he desires with us.

Of course, the problem for many of us is that we don’t have that kind of relationship with our own earthly fathers, and so we have a hard time imagining that. Some of us feared our fathers like I did. Some of us had fathers that were just never there for us. Some of us had fathers that just never seemed to care. And so when we hear that we can call God “Father,” all the wrong images come to our minds.

I remember reading one famous Japanese author saying that Japanese people’s images of fathers are often so bad, it’s better to compare God to our mother, because we have a much better image of them in Japan. But as much as mothers are precious too, that’s not the answer to repairing our view of God. Rather, we need to change our image of what a father is. What is the image of a true Father?

1. He loves us and treasures us. Look at I John 3:1.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

2. He is always there for us.

Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. (Psalm 27:10)

3. He cares enough to discipline us.

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. (Hebrews 12:5-6)

A lot of people have trouble with this one. The reason is that when their fathers disciplined them, it was often done in anger and not in love. Often times, it was done much too harshly. But that’s not how God disciplines us. When he disciplines us, he does it for our good. It’s his desire that we grow and become the people we were meant to be. (Hebrews 12:5-12)

4. He provides for us.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26)

That’s why Jesus tells us we can pray, “Give us each day our daily bread.” (Luke 11:3)

It’s not selfish to pray for our needs. It’s showing our dependence on our Father. It’s showing that we trust him. And it’s showing us that we know one other thing about our Father.

5. He looks out for our best. Jesus says,

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

I could go on and on. But I want you to remember, whatever your image of your father may be, whatever flaws or good points he may have, he is only a blurry image of what our Father in heaven is really like. And no matter how much you’ve been hurt or let down by your earthly father, God is a good Father. So draw near to him. Don’t be afraid to call him Father.

Take a look at the second part of Jesus’ prayer.

Hallowed be your name. (2b)

What does that mean? What are we praying here? We’re praying that God’s name would be honored. But how does that happen? When people see us. When people see us, they should see God in us, and that should give them a desire to honor him. But that won’t happen unless we honor God ourselves. So the question is, “Do you honor him? Do you honor him not only with your words, but with your lives?”

Because if we, God’s children, fail to honor our Father, how can we ever expect the world around us to do so?

How do we honor our Father? I think we get some hints in this prayer. Jesus says,

“Your kingdom come. (2c)

Do you know that God is building a kingdom? He is. This world started out as a kingdom of three. God was the king and Adam and Eve, the first humans, were his people. And then they walked away from God and ever since then, people have been trying to establish their own lives, their own kingdoms apart from him. And we’ve seen the result of that haven’t we? War. People hurting other people. Not just in battle, but in families, in friendships, in relationships.

But God is building an entirely new kingdom. And you are a part of it if you are God’s child. If you have put your faith in Jesus to forgive your sins, you are part of his kingdom. And now as part of his kingdom, God asks you to join in your Father’s work.

Back in the old days, sons always used to follow in their father’s footsteps. If their father was a fisherman, they would become a fisherman. If their father was a carpenter, they would be a carpenter. It was only natural.

Well, God is a kingdom builder. And he asks you to join with him in building his kingdom. And that means touching the people around us with his love. I’ve said this before: We are the physical body of Jesus Christ here on earth. Sometimes people wonder, “Why doesn’t God do more in this world? Why doesn’t he feed the hungry? Why doesn’t he help all those who are hurting?” Do you know what the problem is? It’s not him. It’s us. We are his body. We are the ones he is calling to make a difference.

So often, we think of ministry as a serving in the church, as teaching Sunday school, as helping with the coffee ministry, or joining the welcome ministry. But while those are ministry too, they are only a small part of what it means to be involved in ministry. You might think, “I don’t have the time to do all that stuff in the church.”

That’s okay. But what has God called you to do to minister to the people around you? To your family? To your friends? To your coworkers? To the people at church. You are God’s hands, feet, mouth, eyes, and ears to them. And he calls you to make a difference in their lives. To touch them with the gospel. To reach out with God’s hand of love to help meet their needs. And when we see that truth, that’s when we truly begin to join in with his work.

How else do we honor our Father? We desire to become like him. And one big way we do that is we learn to forgive as he forgives. Look at verse 4.

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. (4a)

Have you ever thought what you’re praying when you pray this prayer? Let’s put it this way. “Lord, Kazue really hurt me. Now I know you said I should forgive her, but there is no way I am going to forgive her for what she has done. So Lord, please, please, in the same way that I am pouring out unforgiveness and anger on her, please pour out your unforgiveness and wrath upon me.”

Is that seriously what you want? You see, in God’s eyes, forgiveness is not an option. You cannot hold on to unforgiveness in your life and expect God’s grace and mercy in yours. Why not? Because of how much God has forgiven you.

To withhold forgiveness from others means that you truly don’t understand God’s forgiveness in your life. It’s to downplay your own sin and to say, “My sin wasn’t so bad; that’s why God could forgive me.”

Do you want to know how bad your sin was? Your sin was bad enough to separate you from God for all eternity in hell. Your sin was so bad, that it cost Jesus his life on the cross to pay for your sin. How then can you say, “My sin wasn’t so bad?”

So if you willfully refuse to forgive the people who have hurt you, I think it’s fair to say you are taking your own sin far too lightly. No Christian who has a strong sense of just how bad their sin is, and how much God has forgiven them can willfully withhold forgiveness from another.

Now those are strong words, but I choose them very carefully. The key word is “willfully.” You see there’s a difference between someone who is struggling to forgive, and the person who willfully says, “I refuse to forgive.”

The person who willfully refuses to forgive essentially is saying, “God I don’t care what you have said. I will not forgive.” Do you know what we call that kind of attitude? It’s called “rebellion.” And they are not the words of a true child of God.

But there are people who cry out to God and say, “Father, I know you want me to forgive. But right now I just can’t. The hurt is too deep. I can’t let it go. I don’t know how. But I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to live this way. Help me.”

That’s the cry of a child of God, wanting to be like their Father. And if that’s your prayer, I believe God will answer. It may take years. It may take counseling. It’ll definitely take prayer.

You see, sometimes, it’s very easy to forgive if the wound is not so deep. But other times, it can be very difficult. And only by God’s transforming power in your life will you be able to forgive.

But if you pray and ask for his help, God will answer. Because your Father desires that you become like him.

It’s also the reason he’ll answer the last part of this prayer as well.

And lead us not into temptation. (4b)

Put another way, “Lord I don’t want any part of evil. So keep me from anything that would lead me to fall. Keep me from anything that would cause me to dishonor your name. Father, I love you and want to be like you.

That’s how we are to relate to God. Honoring him as our Father. Desiring to join in with his work. And longing to become more like him.

But again, for some of you that may be difficult. Your own experiences with your earthly father were too hurtful. And they have stained your view of what God is like. I heard a song once by a guy who had that kind of experience. He had been abused and nearly killed by his father when he was very young. And he wrote about one of the memories he had.

One time, after his parents got divorced, he heard a car outside his house, and he rushed downstairs because he thought it was his father’s car. You see, despite all his father had done, there was a part of him that still wanted his father to come back, to stop drinking and doing drugs, and to be a normal father. But when he got downstairs and looked outside, it wasn’t his father’s car he had heard. It was a neighbor’s car. And as he looked over at the chair where his father used to sit, he felt very, very lonely.

Years later, he remembered that time and he wrote this.

My father’s chair sat in an empty room
My father’s chair
Covered with sheets of gloom
My father’s chair, through all the years
And all the tears I cried in vain
For no one was there
In my father’s chair.

Then he started to think about himself as a father, and what he wanted his children to say about him. It’s what I hope my daughter will say about me someday.

“My father’s chair sits in a loving room
My father’s chair, no matter what I do
My father’s chair, through all the years
And all the tears, I need not fear
Love’s always there in my father’s chair.”

And then, as soon as he wrote that, he realized something. His father was not the alcoholic, abusive father that he had grown up with. Instead, his father, his real father was his Father in heaven, and God had not abandoned him or left his chair for one second. And so he wrote this:

Sometimes at night, I dream of a throne
Of my loving God calling me home
And as I appear, he rises and smiles
Reaches with love to welcome his child
Never to cry, never to fear
In his arms; safe and secure

My Father’s chair sits in a royal room
My Father’s chair
Holds glory beyond the tomb
My Father’s chair, my God is there
And I am his eternal heir
Someday I’ll share my Father’s chair.

That’s what our Father is like. Let’s pray.

Discussion questions:

  1. How would you describe your relationship with your father? Is/Was it good or not? Why?
  2. When you think of the different ways God is our Father (he loves us, he’s always there for us, he disciplines us, he provides our needs, he looks out for our best), which one strikes you the most? Why?
  3. Think of one way you can join in God’s kingdom work. Who is in your life? How can you be God’s hand, mouth, etc in their lives? Pray for each other that you can join in God’s work that way.
  4. What is one way you want to be more like your Father in heaven? Is it hard to be that way? Why or why not? Pray for each other that you can be more like him.
  5. Special question for fathers: How do you want to be more like your heavenly Father to your kids? Pray for each other about this.
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従う(5月14日2017年)

今日はメッセージのシリーズ ”I do” の4回目です。このシリーズでは結婚とは何か、そして結婚が実は指し示しているもの:私たちとキリストの関係を見てきています。

今日はより実践的な現実的なところまで突っ込んでいきます。私たちとイエス様の関係ってなんなんだろう。そしてまた夫と妻ってどういう関係なんだろう。 今日お話しするテーマをもし一言で言い表すとしたら、それは「従う」です。

日本語の「従う」はどうかはわからないけど英語では、このSubmitted っていう単語のニュアンスがあんまり好きじゃない人が多いです。その人たちにとっては、自分を低くするみたいな意味に聞こえるからです。誰かの前で這いつくばるような、屈辱的な姿を連想させるからです。自分よりもはるかに優れた存在がいるんだっていうのを認めさせることになるからです。なぜなら、私たちは誰にも従いたくないんです。 私たちは自分の人生は自分のものでなんでも好きにしたいって考えています。でももし本当に喜びのある人生、そして喜びのある結婚が欲しいなら、従うと言う言葉は私たちが学ばなければならない言葉です。それはどうしてか。従うことの中にのみ、喜びはあるからです。

エペソ人への手紙5章22-33を見てみましょう。

妻たちよ。あなたがたは、主に従うように、自分の夫に従いなさい。なぜなら、キリストは教会のかしらであって、ご自身がそのからだの救い主であられるように、夫は妻のかしらであるからです。教会がキリストに従うように、妻も、すべてのことにおいて、夫に従うべきです。

夫たちよ。キリストが教会を愛し、教会のためにご自身をささげられたように、あなたがたも、自分の妻を愛しなさい。キリストがそうされたのは、みことばにより、水の洗いをもって、教会をきよめて聖なるものとするためであり、ご自身で、しみや、しわや、そのようなものの何一つない、聖く傷のないものとなった栄光の教会を、ご自分の前に立たせるためです。

そのように、夫も自分の妻を自分のからだのように愛さなければなりません。自分の妻を愛する者は自分を愛しているのです。だれも自分の身を憎んだ者はいません。かえって、これを養い育てます。それはキリストが教会をそうされたのと同じです。私たちはキリストのからだの部分だからです。

「それゆえ、人は父と母を離れ、その妻と結ばれ、ふたりは一体となる。」

この奥義は偉大です。私は、キリストと教会とをさして言っているのです。それはそうとして、あなたがたも、おのおの自分の妻を自分と同様に愛しなさい。妻もまた自分の夫を敬いなさい。

 普段ははこんなに長い箇所を一度に読むのって好きじゃないんです。でもまずパウロが言おうとしていることの全体像をつかんで欲しいので一気に読みました。それからパウロとはちょっと違うやり方で細かく見ていきます。気づいたと思うんですけど、パウロは結婚のこととキリストとの関係を並行して話してますよね。 でも今日はこの箇所を砕いていって、二つのコンセプトに分けてみます、そしてそれを後でどう組み合わせることができるかを見ていきます。まず私たちとキリストとの関係を見ていきましょう。それはどんなものであるべきでしょうか。

まずは、私たちは、教会はキリストのからだと呼ばれています。言い換えると、私たちはこの地上においてキリストの代理人です。 私たちが神のことばを語る時、私たちの唇はイエス様の唇として語ります。

私たちが出て行って誰かの人生にタッチする時、私たちはイエス様の手としてタッチします。パウロは少し前でも、同じようなたとえをしています。エペソ人への手紙1:22-23を見てみましょう。

また、神は、いっさいのものをキリストの足の下に従わせ、いっさいのものの上に立つかしらであるキリストを、教会にお与えになりました。教会はキリストのからだであり、いっさいのものをいっさいのものによって満たす方の満ちておられるところです。

パウロが言ってるのは、神様は、この世界全てを神の臨在で満たしたいと願っておられる、ということです。そして神様はそれを、私たちを通してなされるんです。それは私たちが世に出て行き、神様の福音と愛を、出会う人々に伝えることです。

でもこの箇所で今日いちばん注目したいのは、父なる神様はイエス様をすべての上に立つかしらとして、教会に与えたということです。つまり、イエスさまが正当な、またふさわしいリーダーということです。キリストが私たちのリーダーだから、私たち、教会はキリストに従うんです。だから私たちはイエス様を”我が主”と呼ぶんです。ただの友達じゃない。ただの救い主でもない。私たちの主です。この主という言葉そのものに、私たちはイエス様に従うべき存在であるという意味があります。

でも私たちはよく、“我が主”と呼ぶ時、もうそれが名前みたいに呼んじゃって、本当はどんな意味か忘れてしまっていないでしょうか。“主”とは名前ではないです。それはタイトル、肩書きです。それでいうと、”キリスト”も名前ではありません。それは肩書きであり、「油注がれた者」という意味です。前もお話ししたことありますけど、イスラエルで王が王冠を受け取る時、その人は油を注がれます。イエス様は究極の油注がれた王です。全てを永遠にわたって治める王です。だから私たちが「主」、や「キリスト」という言葉を読む時、それを脳内でこう変換していいんですね。私たちが「従うべきお方」  と変換してみましょう。

実際やってみましょうか。エペソ人への手紙5章8節から10節

 光の子どもらしく歩みなさい。‐‐光の結ぶ実は、あらゆる善意と正義と真実なのです‐‐そのためには、[従うべきお方]に喜ばれることが何であるかを見分けなさい。

15節から17節

そういうわけですから、賢くない人のようにではなく、賢い人のように歩んでいるかどうか、よくよく注意し、機会を十分に生かして用いなさい。悪い時代だからです。ですから、愚かにならないで、[従うべきお方]のみこころは何であるかを、よく悟りなさい。

 21節

[従うべきお方]を恐れ尊んで、互いに従いなさい。

 こうするとちょっと違って聞こえません?でも、これがイエス様を主と呼ぶという意味です。

キリストの御国は民主主義国家ではありません。それは王が治める王国です。そしてイエス様が私たちの従う「王」です。

三つ目に覚えておいて欲しいことはこれです。イエス様は私たちの益のために 教会のかしらとして与えられたということです。父なる神のくださったプレゼントです。聖書で最も有名な箇所はどこですか?おそらくヨハネ3章16節です。

神は、実に、そのひとり子をお与えになったほどに、世を愛された。それは御子を信じる者が、ひとりとして滅びることなく、永遠のいのちを持つためである。

 私たちは本当は神に逆らった存在として、死刑宣告を受ける身でした。でもイエス様が私たちの身代わりとなって、十字架の上でその罰を受けられました。それは神様がイエス様に無理やり負わせたものではありません。さっき読んだ5章25節にはこうあります。イエス様は私たちを愛するがゆえにご自身を捧げられた、とあります。イエス様はご自身を愛するように私たちを愛されました。そんなことってありえるだろうか。イエス様は神です。私たちはただの神に創られた被造物です。でも、ご自身を愛するように私たちを愛すると言われます。私たちをご自身の重要な一部なんだと言われます。

なので私たちが自分の罪のために苦しんでいる姿を見て、天での栄光の座を離れて、私たちと同じ人となって降りてきてくれました。そして十字架で私たちのために死なれました。そうすることで、イエス様の血でもって罪の代価を支払うためです。そしてもしイエス様の救いの言葉とみわざを、ただ信じさえすれば、私たちの罪は清められるんです。神様は私たちの醜い罪をもう見られない。むしろ神の前に光とされるんです。シミやシワのない。けがれもない。きよく傷のないものとして。私は先月のメッセージでも語りました。私たちがキリストを信じる時、神様が私たちを見てこう言ってくれます。「私の目にはあなたは美しい。」

イエス様は私たちのためのかしらです。そして私たちが知るのは、イエス様に従うことで、人生は価値のあるものになるということです。イエス様に従うことで何か大事なものは失うことはありません。むしろ逆です。愛を見つけ、喜びを見つけ、いのちを見出します。でも私たちがイエス様に従って初めて、それらを見出すことができます。結婚でも同じです。もし結婚の中に愛と喜びといのちを見つけたいなら、鍵は従うこと、にあります。22節から24節を読みましょう。

妻たちよ。あなたがたは、主に従うように、自分の夫に従いなさい。なぜなら、キリストは教会のかしらであって、ご自身がそのからだの救い主であられるように、夫は妻のかしらであるからです。教会がキリストに従うように、妻も、すべてのことにおいて、夫に従うべきです。

キリストは教会のかしらである。夫は妻のかしらである、と言ってますね。つまり、結婚生活の中で、夫が妻をリードするのは神の御心です。妻は主に従うように、妻は夫に従うべきです。

さっきの言葉を変換して読むやり方で、22節を読んでみましょう。そうすると、「妻たちよ。あなたがたは、[従うべきお方]に従うように、自分の夫に従いなさい。」ですね。

この節をこうやって読むと、大きな質問に直面します。妻である皆さん、イエスキリストに従っていますかか。全てにおいてイエス様に従っていますか。もしイエスキリストに従っていないのなら、自分の夫に従うのはとても大変なことだと思います。もしあなたが主と呼ぶお方にさえ、自分の人生を委ね切ることができていないなら、イエス様の様に完璧で愛と思いやりがある方とはほど遠い誰か、に従うことはめちゃくちゃ難しいこと、でしょう。

だからあなたが夫のリーダーシップに従うかどうかより、その前にあなたはキリストのリーダーシップに従っているか、それをまず考えないといけない。あなたがイエス様に従い切れていないことって、ありますか。経済のことでしょうか。時間のことでしょうか。人間関係のことでしょうか。聖書を開いて、そこにあなたがどう生きるべきか書かれているのを見たとき、あなたは神様にへ理屈を言いますか。それとも、あなたの御心がなりますように、と言いますか。

昔、私は神様とたくさん口論をしました。一番長い口論をしたのは大学生の時でした。友達とこう言う会話をしたことがありました。「神様は僕に宣教師になるように言ってるとは思えないなあ」友達はこう言いました。「ブルース、なんでそんなことがわかるんだよ。神様に尋ねたことあるのか?」 「な、ないけど」

その夜かその次の夜に、神様にその会話のことを話しました。そして神様がはっきり私の心にこう語りました。「そうだよ、私に尋ねなさい。」 それは絶対自分から出てきた考えじゃないことはわかってた。だって一回もそんなこと考えたことなかったから。だからすぐ神様に言い返しました。「神様あなたに僕が宣教師になるべきかどうか尋ねたくはないです。だって、もし答えはイエスって言われたら!?」そこからは、自分がどうして宣教師なんかになりたくないのか、大演説をしました。自分が何を言ったのかは全部は覚えてないです。でも神様はそれを黙って聞いておられました。神様はよくそうされますね。神様があなたに何かを語る。あなたはそれにいい返す。でも神様はそれに対しては黙っておられます。 あなたが自分の心の中を全部さらけ出すまで、黙って聞いておられます。私も、もう言うことがなくなるまで、全部出した時、神様はまだ私のことを見つめおられました、だから、最終的に「我が主よ、わかりました。あなたは僕に宣教師になってほしいんですね。」と言いました。神様はその夜には答えてくれなかった。でも、ついには神様を私を日本に導いた。そしてどうなったからわかりますか?日本が好きになったんです。ここですごした20年を何とも取り替えたいとは思わない。神様が祝福してくださったから。

それでもなお、私は時に神様と口論することがあります。でも最近はその口論にかける時間が短くなってる。「主よ、わかりました」ってもっと早く言うようになってきた。どうしてでしょうか。なぜなら、何年もかけて学んできたことは、神は私のために私の益のために、そのひとり子を私のかしらとして送ってくださった。ってことだからです。そして私が神様に従う決断をするたびに、神様は私のことを祝福してくださった。妻である皆さん、そのことは、あなた自身と神様の間ではどうですか。そしてあなたは神様に従っていますか?

もしそうなら、次にステップにいけます。キリストに従うように、あなたの夫に従いなさい。これはどういう意味でしょうか。夫のリーダーシップに従う、ということです。それは神が夫にその家族の中で与えた役割を尊敬するということです。

これの何が大変かって、そもそも私たちのうちほとんどの人が従うっていうことを素直にできない。抵抗感がある。その上、夫っていうのはイエス様の様に完璧ではないんです。間違いを犯す存在です。しかもさらに、たとえあなたが、あ、これはうまくいかないかなもなって思って、それを伝えてもなお、夫についていかないといけない時ってきっとありますよね。そしてやっぱりうまくいかないかったりすると、こう言いたくなっちゃいますよね。「だから言ったじゃない!」  でも夫をリーダーとして尊敬するっていうのは、たとえ夫が間違えたりしても、尊敬し続け、ついていき続けるっていうことです。

私が奥さんのさとこさんににすごく感謝していることの一つは、彼女は「だから言ったじゃない!」って決して言わないところです。私は英会話のNOVAで長いこと働いていました。最後の数年のうち、さとこさんは私に「ブルース、そこを出たほうがいいかもしれないよ」って言いました。でも私は留まり続けた。そしてNOVAは倒産して、それからしばらくは経済的にすごく大変でした。、彼女は決して「ブルース、だから言ったじゃない」とは言わなかった。私の選択を責めたことは一度もなかった。そうじゃなくて私のことを支え続けてくれた。それが実際にどんなに大変なことか、正直想像もつかない。多分すっごく大変だったと思う。でもついてきてくれて支え続けてくれた。すごく感謝しています。私はまだあるべきリーダーの姿にはたどり着けてない。でも私はイエスキリストに従い続けようとしています。目指すゴールはイエスさまのようなリーダーになることです。 生きてるうちにきっと完璧になることは不可能だと思う。でもトライすることをやめるつもりはない。そんな私のことをまた諦めないでいてくれる奥さんがいてくれることをとても嬉しく思います。

次に進む前に、一つ言っておくことがあります。キリストに従うように夫に従うというのは、夫があなたに罪を犯させようとしたり、みことばに反することをしても、ついていかなければならない、ということではないんです。忘れないでください。あなたの夫よりも、あなたが従わなければならないのはイエス様です。でもたとえ、イエス様に「はい」と言うために、夫に 「いいえ」と言わなければならない時があっても、それを夫には丁寧に敬意を表す態度で伝えてください、そして夫を尊敬し続けてください。

ところで独身女性の皆さん、このキリストと夫に対する忠誠の葛藤の問題は、前回のメッセージで語りました。もし誰かと結婚を考えているなら、第一に自分に聞かないといけない質問はこれ。「この人はイエス様に従っているだろうか?」キリストに従おうというベストを尽くしている男性に従うだけも、大変なことです。ていうことはキリストに従っていない男性に従うことはどれだけ大変なことか。想像できますよね。

今度は男性の方。中にはこういう気持ちで聞いてる人がいるかも。「ブルースさん、もっと言ってやって」そして奥さんを、「ちゃんと聞いといてね」って思って見てませんか。

でも夫である皆さん、神様はキリストを教会に与えた、といったのを忘れないでください。神はイエス様を私たちの益のために私たちのかしらとしてお与えになりました。そうです、神様はあなたを妻のかしらとして妻に与えました。でもそれをあなたために、あなたの益のためにされたのではありません。あなたが妻に対して威張り回したり、好きに扱うために神はあなたを妻のかしらとしたのではありません。そうではなくて、妻のために、妻の益のために、あなたを妻のかしらとしたのです。夫である皆さん、自分のリーダシップは妻のためになってると言えますか。あなたがあなたの思うリーダシップを用いるとき、そのフォーカスはあなたのエゴではなくて、彼女のためにであるとはっきり言えますか。

それを頭に入れて、パウロの夫に対する教えを読みましょう。さっきと同じように、「キリスト」を「従うべきお方」と言い換えて読んでみましょう。

夫たちよ。[従うべきお方]が教会を愛し、教会のためにご自身をささげられたように、あなたがたも、自分の妻を愛しなさい。[従うべきお方]がそうされたのは、みことばにより、水の洗いをもって、教会をきよめて聖なるものとするためであり、ご自身で、しみや、しわや、そのようなものの何一つない、聖く傷のないものとなった栄光の教会を、ご自分の前に立たせるためです。

そのように、夫も自分の妻を自分のからだのように愛さなければなりません。自分の妻を愛する者は自分を愛しているのです。だれも自分の身を憎んだ者はいません。かえって、これを養い育てます。それは[従うべきお方]が教会をそうされたのと同じです。私たちは[従うべきお方]のからだの部分だからです。

「それゆえ、人は父と母を離れ、その妻と結ばれ、ふたりは一体となる。」

この奥義は偉大です。私は、[従うべきお方]と教会とをさして言っているのです。

 いくつか気づくことありますね。夫である皆さん、あなたはこれまでに、妻が家庭におけるあなたのリーダーシップに従ってくれないことに、ストレスを感じたことありますか。じゃあ質問しますね。あなたはイエスキリストに従っていますか?もしあなたがイエス様を主として従っていないなら、あなたの奥さんにあなたに従うようにいうことは、全くもって偽善です。

この箇所では、パウロが言っているのは、私たちはイエスキリストに従い、またイエス様を手本として、イエス様が教会を愛するように自分の妻を愛しなさい、ということです。もっと具体的に言うと、イエスキリストに従うとは、イエス様が愛するように、自分の妻を愛するということである。

考えてみてください。イエス様はご自身の命を捧げられました。そうすることで、教会が、妻が、栄光の、しみもしわも、その様なものも何もない、聖く傷のないものとなるためです.どうしてか?イエス様は私たちをご自身の重要な一部と考えました。だから私たちもそうするんです。

夫である皆さん。あなたは妻の事を自分の大事な一部分として考えていますか?奥さんの喜びがあなたの喜びですか。奥さんの悲しみはあなたの悲しみですか。奥さんの必要があなたの必要ですか?イエス様は私たちをそういう風に見ていました。私たちが自分のたちの罪のために苦しんでるのを見て、こうは言われなかった。「ふん、私の民は助けを必要としているようだな、でも知ったことではない。自分の罪が蒔いた種じゃないか。放っておけばいい」そうは言われませんでした。私たちを愛するがゆえに、私たちのために自分の命を捧げました。イエス様がしたことと同じことを夫は妻にするべきです。 あなたはどうですか?

多くの夫にとって、私ももちろん含めてです。私たちはあまりに自己中心的なんです。自分の願いや自分の必要のことばかりにとらわれすぎて、あまりにも奥さんの願いを想像することすらしません。でもそれが真のリーダーの姿でしょうか。これを考えてみてください。もしあなたの上司があなたのことをまったく気にかけないで、自分のことばっかり考えてたるような人だったら、どう感じるだろうか。そんな人についていけますか。その職場に何年留まることができるかな。じゃあ今度はこの質問です。あなたは奥さんに取ってもしかしてそんなリーダーになってしまっていないでしょうか。

私が結婚を通して、一つ学んだことがあるとすれば、いかに自分が自己中心的であるか!っていうことです。でも神さまが命じるような夫になるために、自分の妻を自分の大事な一部として扱わなければいけない。結婚において神は私と妻を一つにされました。神の目には私と妻は一つです。私も彼女を同じように見ないといけない私はキリストに従い、キリストがそうしたように妻のことを愛さなければならない。

あなたはどうですか?あなたはキリストに従っていますか?キリストが命じたようにあなたの妻を愛していますか?   あなたのリーダーシップはキリストが美しく作られたものに何らかの形で傷をつけたり、汚したりしてはいませんか。それともあなたのリーダーシップがあなたの妻を聖く、あなたの前でだけではなく、主のみ前でも輝かせていますか。夫である皆さん、あなたが、あなたの妻を雑に扱うなら、彼女の人生におけるキリストの御業に傷をつけるなら、はっきり言います。あなたはキリストに従っていません。あなたはキリストがそうしたように、あなたの妻を愛し、大事にするべきなんです。

今日たくさんのことをお話しましたけれど、最後にもう一つだけ伝えたいです。パウロは33節でこう言いました。

それはそうとして、あなたがたも、おのおの自分の妻を自分と同様に愛しなさい。妻もまた自分の夫を敬いなさい。

多くの結婚における困難の一つに負のスパイラルっていうものがあります。どういうことだろ。

夫が妻に愛を示さないので、妻も夫に敬意を示さない。そうすると、妻が夫に敬意を示さないので、妻も夫に愛を示さない。 そうすると夫はさらに愛を示さなくなって、そうすると妻はもっともっと敬意を示さなくなる、そうやってどんどん悪いスパイラルに陥ってしまう。

どうやってこのスパイラルを打ち破れるでしょうか。あなたは誰に従うんでしたっけ。そして私たちがその従うべきお方に敬意を示したり愛することに失敗した時に、そのお方はどうしましたか。ローマ人への手紙5章7-8節でパウロはこう述べています。

正しい人のためにでも死ぬ人はほとんどありません。情け深い人のためには、進んで死ぬ人があるいはいるでしょう。しかし私たちがまだ罪人であったとき、キリストが私たちのために死んでくださったことにより、神は私たちに対するご自身の愛を明らかにしておられます。

私たちの誰も神様を探していませんでした。私たちの誰も神を讃え愛することをしていませんでした。でも神様は私たちが、罪と死のサイクルの中にいるのを黙って待たれたわけではなかった。ご自身のひとり子を罪の代価を支払わせるために送ることで、そのサイクルを打ち破られました。神様がそのサイクルを破るべき方でしたか。いいえ、神様には何も悪いことはしていない。それは私たちでした。でもそれが恵みというものです。私たちは何を受けるにも値しない罪人でした。でも私たちが神との関係を壊し背を向けたのに、神様が手を差し伸べてその負のサイクルを打ち破って、私たちと神様の関係を直してくれた。もし神様がそうしてくれなかったら。私たちのことを黙って見ていたら。私たちは地獄への道しかありません。でも神様はそうされずに、私たちが壊したものを直してくれた、その最初の一歩を神様から取ってくれました。

もし神様が最初の一歩を取ってくれたなら、私たちも自分の夫に、自分の妻にそうするべきではないでしょうか。私の夫は、私の妻は、それに値しない。。。と思っていますか?なおさら、最初の一歩はあなたがふみ出しましょう。あなたの妻が、たとえ今あなたに敬意を示していなくとも、キリストが愛したように彼女を愛を示すことを始めましょう。あなたの夫が、たとえ今あなたに愛を示してくれていなくても、キリストを尊敬するように夫に尊敬を示すことを始めましょう。負のサイクルを打ち破るんです。相手が変わるのを待つのはやめましょう。相手がキリストに従うなら、私も考えてやってもいい、っていうのはやめましょう。まずあなたが、キリストに従って主に命じられたことを実行するものになりましょう。あなたがファーストステップを取れば、あなたの結婚は守られるよ、私はそう保証しているんでしょうか。

残念ながら違います。死にかけた結婚を守るのは一人ではできません。二人が必要です。あなたのパートーナーがどうするか、コントロールすることはできません。でもあなたは、あなたがどうするかをコントロールすることができる。あなたがキリストに従うなら、あなたの結婚には希望があります。従わないなら、希望はありません。それはあなたの選択です。

Posted in 2017, Ephesians | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Submitted (May 14, 2017)

Today we are on part 4 of our series called, “I do.” And throughout this series, we have been looking at marriage and what marriage points to: our relationship with Christ.

And today, we get really practical. How are we to relate to Jesus? And how are we to relate to each other as husband and wife. If there is one word that sums up what we’re going to talk about today, it’s the word: “submitted.”

I don’t know about the Japanese word 「従う」, but in English, many people think that “submitted” is kind of an ugly word. To them, it’s a degrading word. It’s like saying we have to grovel in the dirt and humiliate ourselves before another person. That we have to admit that they are so much better than we are. And because of that, we don’t want to be submitted to anyone. We want to have control over our own lives and do whatever we like. But if you truly want to have a joyful life, and a joyful marriage, it’s a word you have to learn. Because we only find joy in submission.

Let’s take a look at Ephesians 5 verses 22-33.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

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 their own body, but they feed and care for their body, 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, and the wife must respect her husband.

I don’t usually like to read such big chunks at one time, but I wanted us to get the big picture of what Paul is saying and then break it down in a slightly different way from how he presents it. You notice he’s constantly jumping between the parallels between marriage and our relationship with Christ. But what I’d like to do is break up the passage a bit, separate the two concepts, and then see how they fit together. Let’s start with our relationship with Christ. What should it look like?

The first thing to notice is that we the church are are called the body of Christ. In other words, we are the physical representatives of Christ here on earth. When you speak the words of God, you act as Jesus’ mouth. When you go out and touch the lives of others, you’re acting as his hands and feet. And this is not the first time that Paul uses that metaphor in Ephesians. In Ephesians 1:22-23, it says this:

And God placed all things under his (that is, Jesus’) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (1:22-23)

Paul is saying here that God desires to fill this whole earth with his presence. And how he does it is through us, as we go out into this world touching everyone we meet with his gospel and his love.

But the most important thing I want you to notice here is it says that God the Father has appointed Jesus as the head over everything for the church. In other words, Jesus is our rightful leader. And because Christ is our leader, we, the church, are to submit to him. That is why we call him “Lord.” Not just friend. Not just Savior. But Lord. That word “Lord” itself has the idea that we are in submission to him.

But so many times when we call him Lord, we treat it like a name, and we don’t think about what we’re really calling him. But “Lord” is not a name. It’s his title. For that matter, “Christ” isn’t a name either. It’s a title that means “anointed one.” We’ve mentioned before that when kings received their crowns in Israel, they were anointed with oil. And Jesus is the ultimate Anointed One, the King who will reign for all eternity. So whenever you see the words “Lord” or “Christ,” you can substitute the words, “The One we are to be submitted to.”

In fact, let’s do that with a few of these passages in Ephesians 5. Take a look at verses 8-10.

Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the [One you are submitted to]. (8-10)

Take a look at verses 15-17.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the [One you are submitted to] is.

And verse 21.

Submit to one another out of reverence for [the One you are submitted to.]

It sounds a bit different doesn’t it. But that’s what we mean when we call Jesus “Lord.” That’s what we mean when we call him “Christ.”

Christianity is not a democracy. It’s a kingdom. And Jesus is the king we are submitted to.

But the third thing I want you to understand is this: Jesus was given to us as head of the church for our benefit. He is the Father’s gift to us. What is the most famous verse in the Bible? John 3:16.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

We were under a death sentence from God because of our rebellion against him. But Jesus took our punishment for us on the cross. And it wasn’t like God the Father had to twist Jesus’ arm to do it. We read in Ephesians 5:25 that Jesus did it because he loved us. He loved us as he loved himself. That’s an amazing thought. He is God. We are mere creatures. And yet he loved us as himself. He considered us as an essential part of himself.

And because he did so, when he saw us in trouble because of our sin, he gave up the glory he had in heaven and became one of us, dying for us on the cross. He did it so that through his blood our sins could be paid for. And now if we will only believe his words of salvation and believe in the work he has done for us, we will be washed clean of our sin. No longer will God see the ugliness of our sin. Instead, we will be radiant before him. Without stain or wrinkle. Without any blemish. Holy and blameless in his sight. Like I said a few weeks ago, when we put our faith in Christ, he looks at us and says to us, “You are beautiful in my sight.”

He is our head for our benefit. And what we find out is that as we submit to him, we find a life that’s worth living. We don’t lose anything important by submitting to him. Instead we find love, we find joy, we find life. But these things only come as we are submitted to him. It’s the same in marriage. If you want to find the love, and joy and life that comes from marriage, the key is found in submission. Take a look at verses 22-24.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (22-24)

It says here that as Christ is the head of the church, the husband is the head of the wife. In other words, it is God’s will that the husband lead in the marriage. And just as wives follow the Lord, they are to follow the lead of their husbands.

Let’s reread verse 22 with the lenses we used earlier. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the [One you are submitted to].

When we read the verse this way, it brings up a very big question doesn’t it? Wives, are you submitted to Jesus Christ? Are you submitted to him in everything? You see it’s going to be very hard for you to submit to your husband if you are not submitted to Jesus Christ. If you are fighting for control over your life with the One you call your Lord, you’re going to have an incredibly difficult time submitting to someone who is not nearly as perfect, or loving, or caring as Jesus is.

So before you address the issue of submitting to your husband’s leadership, you need to address the issue of submitting to Christ’s leadership in your life. Is there something you are not submitting to him? Your finances? Your time? Your relationships? When you read things in his Word as to how you are to live, do you argue with him? Or do you say, “Your will be done?”

In the past, I used to argue with God a lot. My longest argument came when I was in university. I had been talking with a friend and I told him, “I don’t think God has called me to be a missionary.” He said, “How do you know? Did you ask him?” “Well, no.”

Later that night or the night after, I told God about our conversation and I clearly heard him speak to my heart. “Yeah, ask me.”

I knew that wasn’t my thought because I would have never thought that on my own in a million years. And I immediately started to argue. “I don’t want to ask you. What if you say yes?”

And I went into this long rant of why I didn’t want to be a missionary. I can’t remember at all what I said, but God never said a word. That’s typically how God works. He’ll tell you something, and if you try to argue with him, he won’t argue back. He’ll just look at you and wait until you run out of words. Finally I ran out of words, and he was still looking at me. So I finally said, “Okay, Lord, do you want me to be a missionary?” He didn’t answer that night, but eventually, he led me to Japan and do you know what I found out? I like it here. I wouldn’t give back my 20+ years here for anything. God has blessed.

Even so, there are still times when I argue with God. But nowadays those arguments tend to be much shorter. And I’ve learned to just say, “Yes, Lord,” much quicker. Why? Because the thing I’ve learned over the years is that God gave his Son as my head for my benefit. And as I’ve learned to submit to him, God has blessed me for it. Wives, have you settled this issue with God yet? Are you submitted to him?

If you are, then we can look at the next step. What does it mean to submit to your husband as you to do to Christ? It means to follow your husband’s leadership. It means to honor that role God has given him in the family.

The most difficult thing about that, besides the fact that most people don’t like to submit in the first place, is that husbands aren’t as perfect as Jesus is. They make mistakes. And sometimes, you’ll go along with them even though you warned them that you think it’s a bad idea. Things then blow up in their faces, and it becomes very easy to say, “See! I told you so!” But to honor your husband as leader is to keep respecting him and following him despite his mistakes.

One thing I really appreciate about my wife is she rarely if ever tells me, “I told you so.” I was working for NOVA for a long time, and for the last several years I was there, she told me, “You should get out.” I didn’t, it went bankrupt, and things were pretty hard for a while. But she never told me, “I told you so.” She never criticized me for my choices. Instead she continued to support me. I have no idea how hard that was for her to do. Maybe it was really hard. But she did. And I’m grateful. I’m still not the leader I should be. But I’m trying to submit myself to Jesus Christ too, and my goal is to become the leader he is. I’ll never reach it perfectly, but I won’t stop trying. And I’m so glad I have a wife that won’t give up on me in the meantime.

Now a quick point before I move on. To submit to your husband as you do to Christ does not mean you have to go along with your husband when he asks you to do something sinful or contrary to scripture. Remember: the one person you are submitted to above even your own husband is Jesus. But even if you have to say no to your husband in order to say yes to Jesus, you are to do it with a respectful attitude, and you are to continue to honor your husband.

By the way single women, this issue of conflicts in loyalty to your husband and to Christ is the reason why I said what I did last time. When you are thinking about marrying someone, the number one question you need to ask yourself is this: “Is this man submitted to Christ?” It is tough enough to submit to a man who is doing his best to submit to Christ. It becomes much more difficult when that man is not submitted to Christ at all in his life.

Now men, some of you are listening to what I’m saying, and you’re saying “Preach it Bruce.” And you’re looking at your wife from the side and you’re thinking, “I hope she’s listening to this.

But husbands, remember what I said about God giving Christ to the church. He gave Jesus as our head for our benefit. And so yes, God has given you to your wife as her head. But he hasn’t done so for your benefit. He hasn’t made you her head so that you can boss her around or abuse her. Rather, he has given you to her as her head for her benefit. Men, can you say that your leadership has been a benefit to your wife. Can you say that when you exercise your leadership, your main focus is not your ego, but her good?

With that in mind, let’s now look at Paul’s instructions to husbands, and again, let’s reread it through the lenses we used before.

Husbands, love your wives, just as [the One you are submitted to] 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 their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as [the One they are submitted to] 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 [the One you are submitted to] and the church. (25-32)

Okay, some notes here. Husbands, do you ever get frustrated when you feel that your wife isn’t submitting to your leadership in the family? Let me ask you something. Are you submitted to Jesus Christ in your life? It is utterly hypocritical of you to ask your wife to submit to your leadership as husband if you are not submitted to Jesus as your Lord.

And in this passage, the main way Paul says we are to be submitted to Jesus Christ is to follow his example, and love your wife as he loves the church. More specifically, to be submitted to Jesus Christ means to love your wife as he loves her. Think about this men: Jesus gave himself up for your wife so that she might be radiant, without stain, or wrinkle, or any other blemish, but holy and blameless in his sight. Why? Because he considered her as an essential part of himself. And we are to do the same.

Husbands, do you consider your wife as an essential part of yourself? Is her joy your joy? Is her hurt your hurt? Is her need your need? Jesus was that way with us. When he saw us hurting because of our sin, he didn’t say, “Well, my people need help, but that’s none of my concern. They dug their own grave. Let them lie in it.” Instead, he loved us so much that he laid down his life to meet our need. And we are to do the same for our wives.

The problem with many husbands, and I include myself in this, is that too often we are far too selfish. We’re so wrapped up in our own needs that often times we don’t even think about our wives’ needs. But is that a true leader? Men, ask yourself this question: How would you feel about a boss that cared only about himself and nothing about you? How easy would it be for you to follow him? How long would you stay at that job? Then ask yourself this question: Are you that kind of “leader” to your wife?

If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself since getting married, is just how selfish I can be. But if I’m to be the husband God calls me to be, I’ve got to treat my wife as the essential part of me that she is. God has bonded her to me in marriage. We are one in his sight. And I need to see her in that way. I need to be submitted to Christ, and love and value her as he loves and values her.

Men, are you submitted to Christ? Are you loving your wife as he has called you to? Does your leadership in any way soil or stain what Christ has made beautiful? Or does your leadership help keep your wife pure and radiant, not just before you, but before her Lord? Because husbands, if you’re treating your wife like dirt, and you are sullying Christ’s work in her life, I’m telling you right now, you are not submitted to Christ. You are to love and value her as Christ loves and values her.

We’ve talked about a lot of things today. But I want to address one last thing. Paul says in verse 33.

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (33)

One problem that many marriages have is that they seem to be trapped in a downward spiral. What do I mean? The husband doesn’t show love to his wife, so she shows him less respect. She shows him less respect, so he shows less love. He shows less love, and so she shows even less respect, and the relationship spirals down from there.

How do you break the spiral? Remember who you are submitted to. And remember what the One you are submitted to did for you when you failed to love or respect him. In Romans 5:7-8, the apostle Paul says this,

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)

None of us were seeking God. None of us were honoring him or loving him. But God didn’t wait for us to break out of the cycle of sin and death we were in. He himself broke the cycle by sending his Son to pay the price for our sin. Was it fair that God had to be the one to break the cycle? No. He did nothing wrong. We were the ones who were wrong. But that’s what grace is all about. That though we deserved nothing from him, he took the first step at breaking the cycle that was destroying our relationship with him, and reconciled us to himself. If he had never taken that step, if he had waited for us, we’d all be on our way to hell right now. But instead he reached out first to repair what we had destroyed.

And if God did that for you, shouldn’t you do that for your husband or wife? Though they don’t deserve it? So take the first step. Even if your wife is not showing you respect and honor, start showing love to her as Christ loves her. Even if your husband is not showing love to you, start showing him honor as you honor Christ. Break the cycle. Don’t wait for them to change. Don’t wait for them to submit to Christ. You submit to Christ and do what your Lord has told you.

Now am I guaranteeing that if you take the first step your marriage will be saved? No. It takes two people to save a dying marriage. You can’t control what your partner will do. But you can control what you do. And if you submit to Christ, your marriage has hope. If you don’t, your marriage has no hope at all. What will you choose?

 

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