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Why Your Marriage is Someone Else’s Business

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Well, its wedding season.

Being a pastor, for better or worse (no pun intended), I have become a necessary part of most people’s idea of a successful wedding. That means that over the last 8 years and the 20-some odd weddings I’ve officiated, I’ve been able to have an inside look at this relatively new thing that’s called “The Wedding Industry.” Weddings generate about $50 million a year in our economy. What in the world are we spending all that money on?

Recently, I read a great little book called You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith. In it, Smith paints a pretty spot-on picture of a stereotypical wedding in our culture today:

“Tis the season to make weekend forays to events that will light up Facebook and swamp Instagram with a deluge of sepia-toned photographs. Years of hopes pinned on Pinterest will become a reality as we dance long into the night. It’s not Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo: it’s your cousin’s wedding. The excitement has been building ever since that first Facebook post – the one with the video of him proposing to her against the industrial-chic backdrop of the Brooklyn Navy Yard while a band whose members have beards and lots of banjos “surprised” them with a serenade. The video went viral, of course, so the bar was raised for the wedding itself. The invitations arrived encased in 1950s cigar tins and featured overlapping images of their tattoos on handmade paper, complete with vintage postage stamps for the RSVPs. The wedding reception will be catered by Korean taco food trucks, and the band from the engagement is going to play an encore, only with more mandolins, under candlelit canopies draped with hops as everyone enjoys the groom’s craft beer. The wedding has its own tumblr and, of course, its own hashtag. And everyone goes home with their own mouth organ inscribed with the bride’s and groom’s names. No one will forget this day, mostly because it will be scrupulously photographed, posted, shared, tweeted, and uploaded. And we all know: the internet never forgets.”

So, does all this prove that our society values marriage more than ever? Not exactly. In fact, the revenues of the divorce industry closely follow those of the wedding industry.

See, its not that our culture really values marriage. I think the very opposite is true. The truth is, we love the spectacle of the wedding. We love for our weddings to be seen. We need our weddings to be novel, exciting. Super-trendy and special. We want people to remember our weddings…for all the wrong reasons.

Most of us, at some level, want people to remember our weddings for our sake, for our glory. We want our weddings to stand out from the crowd so that people will say, “that was a spectacular wedding.”

We see our weddings as spectacles, so the people we invite are spectators instead of participants. The people at our weddings are there to witness our vows, with the intent that they hold us to our vows when the marriage gets difficult and we want out. Unfortunately, we invite people to “watch our weddings”, but rarely to “participate in our marriages”.

We are begging people to look at the spectacle of our special weddings on every avenue of social media we can find, while behind closed doors—when our marriages are failing -- we’re saying, “Stay out of our business.”

However, God’s design is that your marriage is very much so everyone else’s business. The most important statement on marriage in the history of the world is found in Genesis 2:18-25. It shows us that…

Marriage is public mission, not private feelings.

God’s design for marriage is very much a public thing. Though feelings are involved, they are not at the heart of marriage. The heart of marriage, from the beginning, is mission. Remember, God created man with a purpose. To work and keep. To make culture and ensure that it glorifies God.

This first marriage is not created for Adam’s feelings. Its not created to fill a relational hole he has in his heart. His heart is full. He is with God and God is with him. Notice, the woman is created as a “helper”—a helper to cultivate and protect, work and keep. And, as Genesis 1 says, God wants them to “be fruitful and multiply” God’s image across the earth.

God does want the man to have feelings for his wife, to be excited about their relationship, but he wants him to want marriage because she will finally be a partner he needs for this global mission to love God and love others by cultivating and keeping.

Likewise, as marriage partners on a mission, we are to go about creating culture that benefits others and shows off God’s character. It's a public mission. Husbands and wives should be cultivators working to bless others and show off God’s love instead of consumers simply seeking to drain their communities of its resources to please themselves.

This means that you’re not mainly satisfying feelings when you get married—you’re looking to serve others, and serve our society as a whole. So don’t close off your homes. Don’t tape up your wallets. Don’t shut the garage and avoid your neighbors. Your marriage is for your neighbor’s good. And that means that our marriages are each other’s business, because when your marriage is healthy…its good for me, and when mine is healthy, its good for you. 

Let your marriage out into the publicBless others through it. Let others speak into your marriage. Don’t hide sin. Don't put up a perfect front…on social media or otherwise. Instead, find people that see marriage as a part of God’s mission in the world…and ask for help.

For more on this topic, listen to our sermon on marriage here.

in Heaven

Urban Planning

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“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Revelation 21:1-3.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of how I’ve understood heaven over the years many ideas and images come to mind that I simply I cannot find in Scripture. You know for every correct idea we have of heaven there may be three or four that are completely absurd. Clouds. Harps. Wings. Choirs. I think of Chubbs from Happy Gilmore and somebody’s Uncle Charlie at the Crossroads. And maybe Belinda Carlisle was somewhat correct in saying that “heaven is a place on earth.”

So what are we to do and how are we to understand God’s heaven?

1. We need to excavate the heaven we’ve built in our minds and rebuild the heaven we find in scripture.

Now let me say this before I go any further. From pop culture to sentimental ideas of family, we’ve been influenced more by ideas outside the bible than inside it. Nevertheless, I realize there are many in this room who have lost loved ones to death. I want to be careful to not disrespect the lives of those you’ve lost, your memories of them, and the hope you’ve had for them in Christ.

While heaven is a place where those we’ve lost in Christ can reside pain free, that is not our only comfort. Most of all we cannot diminish our understandings of heaven to thinking only of lost loved ones only while never considering the very presence of Jesus. So if our understanding of heaven has been shaped by pop culture and sentimentalism, where do we go to correct it? Where do we go to check it?

Why not go to the book of Revelation?

And of course that’s intimidating. There’s lots of bizarre stuff in there like baby-eating dragons, creatures with lots of heads, and bowls that aren’t used for cereal or ice cream but for pouring out God’s wrath. It’s easy to get confused and be like, “What’s this about again?”  

You see, the original readers of this revelation needed a future hope beyond their present circumstances because they were being persecuted. John recorded this revelation to be a promise of present and future hope. And from this standpoint we can begin to understand the next point.

2. God is preparing a city for his people to call home.

Isn’t it interesting how we get so fired up about where we’re from? People take pride in identifying themselves with a place. “I’m from the Steel City. Chi-town. The ATL. The Metroplex. Music City. The Boro.”

In the Bible cities are mentioned throughout, and with them we find people identifying themselves by that identity. Of course Jerusalem is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments as being a kind of center point for God’s activity. So we should not be surprised that this new city of God would carry the same name- the New Jerusalem. 

But to understand the last city perhaps we should look at where the first city was in scripture. It is found in Genesis. But it is not found in the creation account nor is God the city planner. Rather, it was built by Cain. 

Yes, Cain. The guy who murdered his brother. That’s right. The first murderer in the bible was also the first city builder. 

In Genesis 4 as God confronts Cain for murdering Abel he declared him cursed and that he would be a fugitive and wanderer the rest of his life. 

But rather than striking down Cain, God extends grace to him by marking him in a way so that no one would kill him. Cain’s first response was complaint; his second was to settle down. He starts a family. And the later builds a city and names it after his son. He attempts to redefine his identity in his family and his in city. 

What’s interesting is that identity, especially in the Old Testament is tied to those very things: people and place. Who is your family and where are you from? He establishes a family and then he builds a city around that identity, in spite of the fact that God declared him a wanderer. The wanderer wanted to find a home.

So what’s different about this city, the New Jerusalem? Well a lot really but I’ll limit it to just two. 

First, no stairway is built to heaven. No achievement of nirvana. It isn’t an other-worldly planet that you inherit. God brings heaven DOWN to us. It’s massive and radient. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Second, every tribe, nation, and tongue will be there. That idea is directly and indirectly mentioned many times in the Bible, even by Jesus. In fact, that’s why we partner to do mission internationally. We don’t just dig wells and build buildings for people. We want unreached people hear and believe in Jesus and his gospel. 

John also recorded Jesus’ words in John 14:2 where Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us. And if Jesus didn’t spare the expense of his own life to pay for our sin, then why would he building this new city to minimum code requirements? 

But in all this I haven’t gotten to the best part. 

3. Through Christ, the curse of Cain is broken. 

The best part of heaven is not that we’ll be there with others. Though that is cool. We’ll probably meet somebody’s Uncle Charles. And Chubbs will have a new hand. Everything will be restored. And those you’ve actually lost on this side of heaven who have believed in Christ will be there. And that’s certainly a beautiful hope.

But the most amazing thing is that God will dwell there with us:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’” (Rev. 21: 3)

That should astound us on many levels. 

I’m not going to lie: it both scares me and excites me. It scares me because I realize how perfect and holy God is. You see, elsewhere in Scripture that God says he cannot reside near evil.

The justice of God can’t allow evil into his presence. And why it scares me and probably you too is because we both know we aren’t perfect. In fact, if we have a little bit of evil in us we’re doomed. And if we’re a little evil, then that is evil enough to not be near God. Keep reading in Revelation 21 down to verse 8. The fate of those who may not dwell with God is made clear. Eternal punishment in hell awaits those who find themselves in this list.

Sometimes people ask, “Well, why God would send good people to hell?” I’d ask in response, how are you defining good? And why should God let anyone into heaven? We all fall short of God’s glory.

But here’s what excites me: Cain built the first city, but God is building the last one. 

The pain that Cain (and we feel) from our separation from God’s face is the pain that Christ bore upon himself on the cross so that we could dwell with him in the New Jerusalem. 

Though Abel’s blood cries out from the ground for the guilt of Cain by faith in Christ’s resurrection life we have a bloody cross that declares our innocence. Not for things we’ve done but for what Jesus has done. Christ was murdered outside the old Jerusalem in order to bring murderers like us into the New Jerusalem. We’ll no longer be wanderers, fugitives, or exiles—we’ll have a home with God forever.

Our separation from God will be completely done away as Paul reminds us: 

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

God’s Urban Planning conference was with himself as Trinity, where he declared to resolve the problems of our world through the beauty of the gospel, the wholeness it brings to us, and the safety it preserves for us in a future City he’s created. There will be big buildings, no more health problems, and safe neighborhoods for immigrant children like us to play in complete safety. What a blessed hope.

But this is not to be applied abstractly but practically. Not just for the “by and by” but for the here and now.

This should increase your faith. If you’re not a Christian then you should see that there’s room in the New Jerusalem for you. If God’s redemptive plan includes undoing the curse of Cain then surely he can remove the curse of sin that hangs over your life as well. We’re all guilty. No one deserves heaven. But by faith in Christ you can find your future address in the New Jerusalem. Today will you claim the peace of God as your own in Christ Jesus? Will you put your faith in the blood of Christ and his resurrection life to bring you into an eternal dwelling with him?

Christians, we should be diligent to declare and demonstrate the gospel to the world around us now so that we affect the world to come. Our work should point others to the work accomplished by Christ for us. And our even in our lifestyles we should live sacrificially so that we can give generously of our time and money to to fuel this mission. 

In short we should find our citizenship in the New Jerusalem through Jesus Christ. We should rest from our wandering now by meditating on the city we’ll one day call home. Remember, God through Christ is the remaker of beauty, wholeness, and eternal safety. Let’s look to him as our great and mighty Savior.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)

Let the church say “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!”

Posted by Dustin Walker with
Tags: city, heaven, new