Relationships – God

Today, we will wrap up our series on Relationships by looking at Hebrews 8. Ultimately, the most important relationship any of us has is with God. Hebrews 8 begins, “Now the main point of what is being said is this…” (v. 1), and then the writer points to Jesus. Our relationship with God affects all other relationships. Jesus summed up all the commandments in two: love God and love others. The vertical impacts the horizonal. If you want your relationships with others to work, you need to work on your relationship with God. They are inseparable. What is required to have a relationship with God?

 

A High Priest

The second half of verse 1 says, “We have this kind of high priest….” To have a relationship with God, we need a go-between. There is only one mediator between God and man. That’s Jesus, the main point. The whole message of Hebrews is Jesus is greater, superior. He is King of Kings, Prophet of Prophets, Minister of Ministers, High Priest of all Priests. What we need is not religion but relationship, not death but life. We have everything we need in Jesus. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).  On the cross He said, “It is Finished.” He did not say He was finished. You do not have to clean up your life to come to Jesus. Come just as you are and He does the rest. Verse 2 refers to Jesus as a minister. Jesus, in an atmosphere of worship, continues to intercede for us. He pleads our cause every time the devil accuses, and He never tires of praying for us.

 

A Heavenly Place

Verses 2-5 talk about the “true tabernacle” in Heaven. The earthly temple and tabernacle were just copies, shadows of the real thing. A copy is good, but it’s not as valuable as the real thing. Think about it. If your loved one is deployed, you may keep a picture of them as a reminder. When they get home, you don’t hold on to the picture. You hug the real thing! There is a real place called Heaven. It’s as real as the address you live at on earth. It’s a place where He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain.

 

A Horrible Past

We’ve all sinned and fall short of God. Verse 7 says, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one.” Today, we are under the new covenant. We can be saved from our sin because of what Jesus did on the cross. There are eight covenants mentioned in Scripture: Edenic, Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Land, Davidic, and New. These are covenants God made with sinful man. Some characteristics of covenants are – bloodshed (animals sacrificed), name change (God changed Abram’s name to Abraham), an outward sign (a rainbow), a meal (a wedding reception), and a gift (parties would exchange gifts). When it comes to us, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Lk. 22:20). We can enter into a relationship with God because Jesus’ blood paid for our sins. When we do that, we bear the name of Christ, Christian. There is an outward sign to show others we’ve been changed, baptism. We are promised eternity in Heaven and the first thing we are going to do there is eat at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Finally, when we become God’s, everything He has belongs to us. We get His righteousness, peace, victory, etc.

 

A Holy Promise

Verse 6 says Jesus “is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been established on better promises.” The law condemned but it could not convert. The law was not given to merely be obeyed; it was given to reveal we can’t do it. This new, final covenant will never be broken. It all depends on God, not on us. Notice the number of times God says “I will” in verses 8-10. Our salvation is not based on a merit system, all that we can DO. It is based on what Jesus has DONE. All we have to do is believe. The new covenant is inward not outward. It is a relationship not a ritual. Verse 12 says, “For I will forgive their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.…” The new covenant is about irrevocable forgiveness. It’s not that God is forgetful, but He chooses to forget because grace chooses to forgive. He holds it against us no more. A covenant is an unchangeable agreement between God and man that stipulates the relationship. Define the relationship. Do you have a relationship with God?

 

Relationships – Marriage

Next in the Relationships series we will look at what the Bible has to say about marriage.

 

Priority

Genesis 2:24-25 says, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.” That is a great definition of marriage! Two become ONE. They are not naked and afraid, but naked and unashamed. Marriage is one man, one woman, worshipping one God, in one church, living in one house, sleeping in one bed, sharing one bank account, loving each other for one lifetime. Just like we read about singleness in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul also talks a good bit about marriage in that chapter. First he says, “it is good for a man not to use a woman for sex” but that each man and woman should have sexual relations with their own spouse (v. 1-2). If she is your girlfriend, she is not your wife. If he is your boyfriend, he is not your husband. We aren’t to exploit, use, or abuse people. Marriage turns ME into WE. It’s not HIS and HERS, but OURS. Your spouse should be priority. Don’t give your best to work, hobbies, your kids, etc. Give your best to your spouse. Surrender your rights and take up your responsibilities. Verse 3 says that “a husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband.” The context is sex. I heard a preacher say one time, “Desire can light a fire but only duty can keep it burning.” Marriage is not always picture perfect. It is not based solely on desire but on duty. Go to work. Come home and work. You have to work at your marriage! It is not about what we get out of it, but what we give to it. Marriage is where romance meets reality. It requires givers not takers. This is the delight of duty! Are you trying to please everyone? We are not called to that! We are to please God and our mate (v. 33-34).

 

Privacy

“A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does” (1 Cor. 7:4). Paul is not saying that you have the right to demand and the other must comply. Never use this verse to demand, but only to give away. The first sentence would be no surprise in Paul’s day. Men treated women like property. Women had no rights. But the next sentence was totally counter-cultural in a misogynistic society. He flipped it to mutual submission, satisfaction, and fulfillment. This gave wives equality, equal say and authority. Ladies, if he is beating you, harming your body, don’t just call on Jesus, call the police! A husband and wife are life partners. “Miss” Tammy and I are in this together. There are no secrets and there is no restricted access. Tammy has access to everything of mine – my phone, computer, etc. In Ephesians 5 we read that a husband is to love his wife unconditionally. Love is not conditional – “You can have this but not that.” In marriage you share the bed and bank account! 1 Corinthians 7:5 says we are not to deprive our spouse. Stop depriving each other. Again, it is not about getting but giving.

 

Permanency

The world views a marriage license like a hunting, fishing, or driver’s license that expires in a few years. Dating is, “I can still dump you,” but marriage is, “I am not going anywhere regardless of what has happened.” 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 makes it clear that God’s plan for marriage is for life. You can’t kick out your spouse when you are tired of them or move on to someone new when your marriage feels old. It is hard for God to bless your present season when all you are doing is trying to get out of it. God can’t bless a lack of commitment. The Hollywood perspective of marriage is romantic. The Holy Word perspective is realistic. Paul says there will be trouble in marriage (1 Cor. 7:28). Relationships are complicated. Men and women are wired differently. You are going to be miffed, aggravated, and irritated. Remember though, no spouse gets up every morning with the goal of seeing how many things they can do to drive their mate crazy. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. Recognize it, stop and apologize. No marriage is perfect or 100%. Marriage will not keep you from ever being lonely, being tempted, or having problems. Don’t try to make it something it’s not. Marriage is good but it is not God. Marriage cannot give us what only God can give us. Don’t make an idol out of any earthly relationship. Marriage is “till death do us part,” not “till he does this or till she does that.”  What are the conditions to your love?  Remember that God loves us unconditionally and we love because He first loved us.

 

 

 

 

Relationships – Singleness

We are in a series on Relationships. We are all born into a family, then we made friends outside the family. The next stage is singleness. We are all born single. Today, almost 50% of adults are single. They’ve either never married, are divorced, or are a widow or widower. If you are married, you were single first and there is a good chance you may be single again one day. We can all learn from this topic.

 

The Significance of Singleness

In Genesis 2:18, God said that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. God’s command to Adam and to Noah was to be fruitful and multiply. Malachi 2:15 says that God seeks godly offspring. Marriage and children have always been the blessing of God. This is how the people of God were growing. Singleness in the Old Testament was discouraged. However, look at Isaiah 53:8-10 and 54:1. For those who struggle with not having children because of singleness or because of infertility, this is a picture of reproduction that supersedes natural childbirth. Jesus wasn’t single, yet He would have many children. “Godly offspring comes through spiritual regeneration not physical procreation.”

 

In the New Testament, right in between Jesus’ teaching on divorce and where he blessed the children, His disciples concluded that it is better not to marry than to have a bad marriage. Jesus then shocked them by saying some will choose to be celibate for the sake of the Kingdom (Matt. 19:10-12). Paul also talked about singleness. We know that he was not against marriage (1 Tim. 4:1-3, 5:14), and in fact, probably was married at some point. (He was a member of the Sanhedrin so scholars believe that his wife probably died and he was a widower.) However, Paul does give words of caution. In 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, he says it’s good to remain single but better to marry than to burn with desire. Passion and attraction are from God. No one says, “That is the ugliest person I have ever seen, I think I will marry them.” Fire can be good or bad, it all depends on the placement. In a fireplace it brings warmth, happiness, and light. In the middle of the floor, it will burn down and destroy your house. The only relationship that can keep the fire of passion contained is marriage. Later in that chapter, Paul says it is because of the “present distress” that he thinks it’s good to remain single, and that there will be added “trouble” for those who marry. Paul is being a realist. Marriage and singleness both have their own set of benefits and burdens. If you are single and you think getting married will solve all your troubles, think again! You are going to have a whole new set of troubles, being concerned about your spouse and your kids. Paul did not want singles to miss the blessing of singleness while waiting to be married. You can be frustrated in your singleness, or you can take advantage of the season and maximize your time for the Kingdom. The world acts like the solution to singleness is marriage and the solution to marriage is singleness. The Bible certainly shows the benefits of marriage and of singleness. Marriage is awesome. It is God’s plan, but so is singleness. Singles should not feel like they are missing out on something or are second-class citizens. Singleness is hard. So is marriage, college, grad school, work, and parenting!

 

The Door of Dating

From a young age, there is such pressure to find a date. You hear people asking children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. It is like our identity is in our status. You can be single and be complete! Our identity is in Jesus, not people. I am not against dating God’s way, but I am against dating the world’s way. In Song of Solomon 8:8-9, an analogy is given of a wall and a door. Morally you are either a wall or a door. Don’t open the door of your heart to anyone or everyone. Dating the world’s way gives you the world’s results. Hook up, shack up, and break up does not lead to a great love life. The devil is a liar. 1 Corinthians 6:16-18 says sexual sin is like no other sin. You hurt yourself at the deepest level. Misplaced passion can be destructive in your life. Satan wants you to burn out and burn up, but God wants you to burn bright for Him. Fight fire with fire, not with shame. Our God is a consuming fire. Whether you are married or single, be on fire for God. God made us to give ourselves away, but His way – in marriage.

 

The Gift of Grace

When talking about marriage and singleness, Paul says, “…each has his own gift from God, one person has this gift, another has that” (1 Cor. 7:7). Singleness is not a curse. Marriage is not a curse. Both are a gift. The word for gift is the word grace. God’s grace is all-sufficient. It takes grace to be married, to come home to the same person every day, and it takes grace to be single, to come home to an empty house. Whatever your status, you have a gift and you have grace. Everything on earth passes away. Marriage is not eternal (Matt. 22:30). Keep eternity in mind. Use your marriage to advance the Gospel. Use your singleness to advance the Gospel. You may say, “Preacher that’s good, but it is too late for me. I’ve messed up. I don’t deserve a godly mate.” Jesus said, “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” We all need Jesus. God will remove the stain of shame. Grace is greater than all our sins.

 

 

 

 

Relationships – Friendships

Friendships
We live in a day of misunderstanding about friends. The world has dumbed down friends to be followers on Facebook. You may have many fans and foes, but you will have few friends. In John 15:12-16, Jesus says, “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you.”
 

The Categories of Friendship
We all have a variety of friendships – acquaintances, close friends, best friends. There are friends for a reason, like your neighbors or co-workers. There are friends for a season, like high school or college. You may not see them again, but they were there for a chapter of your life. These are not failed friendships! Thank God for the joy they brought you during that time. There are also friends of treason – they betray or fail you. There is no need to be angry over these. Jesus was closer to the twelve than He was his own family. Judas betrayed Him but He did not let that distract Him. When Peter denied Him, he forgave him.
 

The Choice of Friendship
In verse 16 Jesus said, “I chose you.” You know the old saying, “You don’t get to choose your family, but you do get to choose your friends.” Friendship is a choice. Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Show me your friends and I will show you your future! Friends are like buttons on an elevator; they either take you up or they take you down. Wake up! We make wrong choices when we listen to wrong voices.
 

The Confidentiality of Friendship
You can confide in a friend. If you tell everyone all your secrets, don’t be surprised when they talk about you. All the people you are with are not with you. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends.” If they talk about others to you, they will talk about you to others. Jesus taught the multitudes, sent out 70, traveled with 12, but only let 3 in His inner circle.
 

The Cost of Friendship
“No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” That is what Jesus did for us so we might be saved. Most friendships fail because of a lack of commitment. You don’t put the time and energy into it. Friendship is expensive. You must lay down your selfishness, pride, personal preferences. Making friends is one thing. Maintaining friendships is another. It is so easy to take friends for granted. Good friends keep their word and their promises. They don’t abandon you. Friends disappoint you and you disappoint them. The friends we keep the longest are the friends we keep forgiving.
 

The Circle of Friendship
Jesus said that we are to love as He has loved us. Tammy and I have a video called Circle of Friends. It was given to us by a couple who are friends for life, and has pictures of the memories we’ve made together. No matter how many miles or months are between us we pick right up where we left off. Friends for life know more about you than your blood kin. They are your best friends. No matter how many months or miles come in between, your friendship endures the test of time.
 

Every time you are around a godly friend they make you a better person. I married my best friend. She makes me better. The devil does not want you to have godly friends or to be in church. God created us to have friendships. Jesus is the ultimate example. He took the time, energy, and effort so we can too.

Relationships – Family

We started a new series on Relationships. Successful relationships don’t happen by accident.  What makes us most happy in life? More than money, success, or achievements it is relationships. Happiness was made to be shared. God never intended us to live life alone. We all long to belong because God made us that way.

Healthy Relationships make us happy and unhealthy relationships can make us miserable. Over the next five weeks we are going to talk about: family, friendship, singleness, dating, marriage, and your relationships with God. You were born into a family. Ephesians 3:14-15 says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” You were not born knowing God, but He knew you. He knew you when you were in your mother’s womb.  Jeremiah 1:5, “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born.” Psalm 139:14 says, “For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” The ultimate goal in life is a loving relationship with your creator. Your relationship with God will affects all your other relationships. It starts with God and ends with God.

The first relationship you had was with your parents. Below are the four areas of family that we looked at Sunday. Rules: Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right.” Obedience has to do with actions. Obey when young.  The goal is for them to obey God.  Children need boundaries and structure. God is a God of order. Is your home orderly or disorderly? Some parents are too authoritarian and do not exercise love. Other are too permissive and do not exercise discipline. A child’s spirit must be conquered not crushed. The ABCs of parenting: A- Authority over their attitude / actions. The family is not a democracy. Obedience is not optional.  B- Boundaries for their behavior. Don’t be the overprotective helicopter parent. Don’t be the permissive parent who avoids conflict at any cost.  Be a responsible parent who build fences around your family. C- Consequences with consistency.  This one is self-explanatory. Josh McDowell said,Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.”

Respect- Ephesians 6:2 says, “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise…” Obedience has to do with actions. Honor is an attitude. The book Love and Respect says to set this goal: We must treat each other respectfully even when someone does something that is not respectable. Respect is the core of family relationships and harmony.

Roles- Ephesians 6:3 says, “So that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land.”  Your relationships can only be as healthy as you are and no other relationship shapes who you are more than family. What role did you play in your family growing up? Where you the problem solver, peacemaker, troublemaker, rebel, victim, rescuer, comedian, mediator?  We are all homeschooled whether we know it or not.  The home is the university of relationships.

Responsibilities- Ephesians 6:4 says,Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” This does not mean you are never to make a child mad. If you are a good parent your child will sometimes be angry with you.  This is a divine prohibition against verbal, physical, and sexual abuse against children. How often did you encourage one another in the family this week? How many times did you stir things up to anger? You are either bringing each other up or tearing each other down.

Family is complicated. Parenting is messy. You are going to make mistakes.  Jesus paid for all our sins we would ever commit, and every sin committed against us on the cross. The greatest need of the children born into our family is to be born again into God’s family.