Tag Archives: evangelism

The Gospel of Marriage and the Glory of Gender

How significant are individual marriages to the Body of Christ?  How important is a Biblical understanding of gender?

Many Christians believe that marriage and sexuality are private issues which often distract us from the more important matter of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But could it be that when we bypass doctrines of sexuality, we throw out critical evangelistic tools? And could it be that when we embrace God’s gifts of gender and marriage, we create compelling revelations of God?

Revealing God

In the beginning, God sculpted the cosmos as a stunning revelation of Himself. And then, God designed men, women, and marriage to tell us even more about Himself.

God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, NLT)

marriage and gender

We know that God is neither male nor female. Yet there is something unique about our being male or female that is unlike that of the animals, for only people are created in the image of God. Imago dei is stamped into God’s design of men, shaping them to reveal the divine attributes of masculinity in glorious ways. And imago dei is stamped into God’s design of women, shaping them to reveal the divine attributes of femininity in glorious ways.

While being male or female is a component of physical biology, masculinity and femininity are components of personal relationship. They are profound reflections of the triune God, whose very nature is rich, full relationship.

Our gender is a divine commission to reveal the greatness, the beauty, and the strength of God in compelling ways. The DNA of our assignment is written into every cell of our body; it is printed across the fibers of our being several trillion times.

“… maleness and femaleness are objectively rooted in biology, and should be valued and affirmed, not rejected or altered.”1

Although we often struggle to flesh out the glory of God in our daily lives, we can embrace this sacred calling to live fully and faithfully as imago dei. This high calling is one which extends to every part of our lives, including our sexuality. Ravi Zacharias points out that when we deny the sacredness of our sexuality, we deny the sacredness of human life itself.2  Although our bodies are physical and temporal, they have spiritual and eternal purpose.  Our material bodies are knit with our nonmaterial spirits so that together they share in the dignity and worth of human life.³

Telling the Truth About God

It is the goal of evangelism to tell the truth about God. The psalmist marveled at the power of the natural universe to tell the truth about God:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.

gospel of marriage and gender

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalm 91:1-4, NIV)

Are the voices of God-created gender and God-designed marriage any less persuasive or wide-reaching? First, creation tells the truth about God’s existence and power, and then marriage tells the truth about God’s loving nature and faithful character. When we “preach” this good news through our relationships, we are laying the groundwork for sharing the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Masculinity

God initiates the relationship with His beloved, the people of God. At immense cost to Himself, He pursues her; and having won her heart, He commits Himself to her. With self-sacrificing love, He cares for her. He ministers to her needs with gentleness and humility. He desires her, cherishes her, and delights in her.

the gospel of marriage and gender

A man reflects his Creator well when he demonstrates this same faithfulness and nurturing with his own bride. But when men fail to reveal these truths about God, then masculinity fumbles its “good news.”

Because masculinity reflects God, a demeaning of masculinity becomes a suppression of the truth about God. If masculinity does not represent success or trustworthiness to us, then it is difficult for us to see God as Someone we want to imitate or to follow. If masculinity is not great, then God, who encompasses masculinity, is not great, nor can He show us how to be great. When we denounce masculinity, we are left with a God who does not pursue our hearts, does not protect us or provide for us, and does not cherish us.

It is a man’s greatness and significance to tell the gospel through his masculinity. He tells the truth about who God is as he takes action, repels passivity, and carries responsibility for the well-being of another.

This is effective evangelism because we long to know the God of a man who is masculine in these ways. God-reflecting masculinity gives us hope that there is a God who will shelter us with His own life, care for us, and love us well.

We must teach our sons the glory of being men who specialize in revealing God through masculinity. When men do not know the glory of being masculine, they may become violent abusers or passive consumers instead of responsible, self-giving lovers.

The Gospel of Femininity

Femininity is the relational expression of warm welcome and genuine acceptance. A feminine woman shares her strength to build her husband up. As a life-giver, she energizes others. Her honoring, serene spirit is a fragrant invitation to know her God.

gospel of marriage and gender

Femininity gives us hope that there is a God who will receive us with open arms, who will accept us, and who will support and strengthen us.

We must teach our daughters the glory of being women who specialize in revealing God through femininity. When women do not know the glory of being feminine, they may demean themselves; they stoop to merely flaunting their femaleness. Instead of contributing strength to their relationships, they may compete for control.

The Gospel of Marriage

Through the amazing creation of marriage, God reveals the essence of His nature, which is love. Far more than a feeling, love is the decision to give to another. Love cannot exist within a relational vacuum. Marriage reflects the vibrant fellowship within the Trinity, a union which has eternally accommodated love.

Marriage reflects not only the relational nature of God, but also the diversity and the unity within the Godhead. Only the marriage of one man and one woman can do this. The rich distinctions between the man and the woman are not obliterated in their union; instead, they are celebrated as delights of communion.

Marriage also illustrates the very holiness of God, for marriage is an exclusive relationship. Holiness requires perfect belonging—complete and undefiled. A marriage is holy when 1) the man and woman belong fully to one another as husband and wife, and when 2) nothing is present to defile that woven-together relationship. This reflects the holiness of God, in whom all that belongs is present, and all that does not belong is absent.

the gospel of marriage and gender

Marriage tells the gospel like this:

  • To know God, we must renounce spiritual singleness. In order to accept God’s proposal of spiritual union, we must forsake all other spiritual lovers (such as possessions, pleasure, prominence, or power).
  • To be in relationship with God, we agree to belong fully to Him as His people, and He promises to belong fully to us as our God.

Christian marriages are designed to be pictures of the gospel. When we keep our vows to love, honor, and cherish, we are telling the truth about who God is.

Marriage reveals that God is a trustworthy, promise-keeping Lover. Our marriages are not merely private affairs, incidental to the great work of evangelism. Instead, our marriages create a platform upon which evangelism advances … or falters.

Strengthening Evangelism

In the disorienting chaos of our culture, we have forgotten our glory as men and women. Many have exchanged the great honor of revealing the Almighty for a self-destroying drive to replace Him.

When we tell the truth about God through our masculinity or femininity and through our marriages, then the world will see this good news:

God loves us.
He sacrifices Himself in order to benefit us.
He welcomes us.
He accepts us.
He protects and provides for us.
He cherishes us.
He keeps His promises.

That is a glorious gospel to preach!

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1 Ryan T. Anderson. http://dailysignal.com/2015/10/30/houston-ballot-measure-on-sexual-orientation-gender-identity-threatens-privacy-religious-freedom-and-businesses

2 “When you de-sacralize sexuality and the body, you will de-sacralize life itself.”  http://rzim.org/just-thinking-broadcasts/india-vision-qa-part-2-of-4-3

³Nancy Pearcy explains this integration of body and spirit in her latest book, Love Thy Body.

 

Forgiveness: A Powerful Way to Hold Out the Cross

Bitterness can destroy us.

We understand that.

But do we understand why? Why does our refusal to forgive cause such serious harm to us?

Unforgiveness deforms us because it is rooted in a lie.

As with all sin, it binds us in spiritual enslavement because bitterness denies the truth that sets us free.

Resentment denies the truth of Deuteronomy 23:5, which says that God turns curses into blessings for us because He loves us.

forgiveness

It denies the truth of Jeremiah 29:11 and Job 42:2, which assure us that God’s plans for us are good and that they cannot be thwarted.

forgiveness

Bitterness also denies this startling truth: as forgiven Christ-followers, we do not have the right not to forgive. The liberating truth is that the spiritual work of atonement is finished. Physical consequences may still apply, but spiritual justice has been satisfied.

Bitterness cries out for justice. Forgiveness recognizes that spiritual justice has been served.

Forgiveness is not a matter of deciding not to press charges; it is a matter of recognizing that charges have already been settled. As I recognize that a penalty has already been paid, I can say to the one who has wronged me, “You do not owe me.” Spirit to spirit, there is no debt. Insisting on payment would actually be further injustice.

At the foot of the Cross, I stand next to those who have wronged me, for we are all sinners alike. If the blood flowing down from the pierced body of Christ is insufficient to reach my debtors beside me, then it does not reach me, either, for my sins against God far exceed the sins committed against me.

forgivenessForgiveness is full of power because it is full of truth: it is agreeing with God that the debt has been paid.

Justice has been written with whips and nails across the flesh of Christ. The full wrath of God poured out at Calvary even as red blood poured out.

Forgiveness is not something we choose to do as much as it is something we acknowledge: we recognize that the punishment for every wrong and every evil has been lashed and deeply striped across the back of Jesus.

The choice we must make is not whether or not we will forgive:

The choice we must make is whether or not we will be people of the Cross. If we choose to stand in the shadow of the Cross, then every facet of our lives also comes under that shadow of atonement.

Forgiveness, then, is not an isolated event or an extraordinary choice that we make. It is the air we breathe as believers; it is the rule of the Kingdom. It is the seamless way we live, for the Forgiving God lives within us. To deny forgiveness to someone else is to quench the Spirit within us.

It is not being wronged that disrupts the well-being of our spirits; the festering infection within us is our refusal to forgive. When I struggle to forgive someone, I am not wrestling with the one who wronged me as much as I am wrestling with the God who forgave me. My bitterness is my own rebellion against God.

God forgives us not because He denies our wrong or excuses it. He forgives our evil because He has paid the price for it. In fact, Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Every time we forgive, we are holding out the Cross and saying again, “It is finished.” The paying is finished.

It is the power of the Cross of Christ to move us from a place of punishment to a place of redemption. The work of transformation and restoration remains, but the work of atonement is finished.

forgivenessAs we forgive, we move from seeking punishment to seeking redemption.

Forgiving is the stamp of the Spirit upon our spirit, and it a powerful new proclaiming of the gospel. This “good news” declares that, although evil has been committed, justice has been satisfied. What remains is an invitation to healing and restoration.

Forgiveness says, “Although I have been hurt, I will not hurt you back.”

Forgiveness also says, “I will not feel sorry for myself.” This is possible because we know that God redeems our pain fully. “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17, HSCB).

I do not have to deny my pain or someone else’s evil in order to forgive. I do not have to wrestle with my emotions. Instead, I simply lay down the stone that I had wanted to throw in punishment, I walk away from my pity party, and I stand in the shadow of the Cross. And suddenly, I realize that I have forgiven.

The apostle Paul asked his friend Philemon to forgive Onesimus, the slave who had stolen from Philemon. Paul made this remarkable promise to Philemon:

If [Onesimus] has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL![i]

Paul was saying, “You can forgive this debt, Philemon, because I will pay it.” Paul said this because he knew that God had said the same thing to him.

When we are wronged, we can hear God say these very words to us, too. We can forgive our debtors because God has promised to repay us. He will repay what has been taken from us—and even more.

(This is the third in a series on forgiveness.  You can read Part One here: A Spiritual WMD, Part Two here: Forgiveness as Self-Help?
and Part Four here: Forgiveness as Resurrection.)

 

[i] Philemon 18-19, NLT