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Posts Tagged ‘young people’

God & Dating

I think it’s good that we talk frankly in the church about sex and dating. Because apart from parents teaching these things (and I certainly hope that you are!) the only places young people learn about these things are from school, friends and Hollywood, none of which are really trusted conduits of Christian values.

Besides, with today’s TV and internet it has never before in history been easier to get involved in sexual immorality. And so the need to speak out is all the more urgent.

Now, Scripture doesn’t talk about dating. It tells us that some marriages were arranged and some weren’t. All it talks about is “betrothal” – which is more like what we call engagement – but a bit more serious. We don’t really know what courting rituals were involved in any of this, and no specific instructions are given. So we will look at some things Scripture says about different topics that relate to what we call dating.

Only date fellow believers

Scripture teaches that we are only to marry Christians. And since dating is a form of courtship for marriage and is a serious relationship, this certainly applies here too.

Paul tells the widow who is considering remarrying, “She is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” – 1 Corinthians 7:39, that is to another believer.

Paul also says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-15. Although he isn’t just talking about marriage, this does pertain to marriage and by extension to dating.

To be married to an unbeliever is to yoke yourself together in the most intimate way possible with someone who does not share your faith; your deepest life values. It is to be “unequally yoked.”

It is to partner yourself with or to become one with someone who is, spiritually speaking, on the other side. Paul asks, “what fellowship has light with darkness?” And this is true even if they aren’t openly hostile to your faith.

Indeed the difference is so great between the Christian and the unbeliever that in 1 Corinthians 7:12 – Paul classifies these marriages as something less than ‘what God has joined together.’ And they are governed by different rules than Jesus’ teaching on Christian marriage.

The danger for you in all this is that they will pull you away from your faith. This concern is expressed in Deuteronomy 7:3-4 – “You shall not intermarry with them (that is, those outside the faith of Israel), giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.” The issue is that they will be a stumbling block for you.

Even short of open disapproval of your faith, you know, if they are ‘tolerant of your faith they will most likely put implicit pressure on you to tone things down; to be lukewarm, as opposed to full devotion and commitment to Jesus. And they will not be particularly interested in giving you encouragement in your Christian faith

So, if you take your faith seriously, you are signing up for a life of disappointment. Think of two oxen yoked together who are trying to go in different directions. It won’t be pleasant.

Here are just a few examples from married life:

  • When there is a life crisis and you need to look to Scripture for help, will they encourage you in this? Not likely.
  • When there is a question of where to send extra money will they like it that you want to give it to mission work? Probably not.
  • When there is a death in the family will they be able to comfort you with Christian hope? They will not.
  • When you are struggling with temptation will they be able to give you wise Christian counsel? They will not.

And perhaps most seriously, how will you raise your children? Whose values will be taught? One of the purposes of marriage, according to Malachi 2:15, is to raise godly children.

Will your unbelieving spouse consent to this? And if they say they will, will they change their mind later? And what will it mean to the child to see that one of their parents doesn’t accept Christian faith?

These tensions are real, and at least in part, they are why such relationships don’t last as long. The divorce rate for mixed-religion marriages is three times higher than the average. (The Washington Post, June 10, 2010)

In terms of dating the fundamental question is – Do you value your faith more than any potential relationship? Another way to put it is – Do you love God more than any person who has caught your attention? If you don’t, you have already begun the journey away from your Christian faith.

Look for someone with real faith and commitment. I don’t mean the rationalizing that we so often do – he went to church once; or she said her family used to be Christian. I mean someone who is a solid Christian, who will be able to encourage you in your Christian faith and walk with you in this for a lifetime. Pray for someone like this and trust God for an answer

A word of advise here. To put this teaching into practice, you have to make the decision up front. If you allow yourself to get emotionally involved with an unbeliever, it’s going to be really hard.

Maintain your sexual purity

We talked about this last week, so just a bit of a reminder. Yes, premarital sex is sexual immorality, even if our society doesn’t think so or all your friends don’t think so.

And like all sexual immorality we are to flee from it, not run to it and embrace it as the world does. Paul says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his/her own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5.

Speaking of lust, let’s talk for a minute about making out. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Is this not being sexually active outside of marriage, which Jesus forbids?
  • If we are not even to look at another with lust (Matthew 5:27-28) can this possibly be acceptable?
  • Is this an expression of the fruit of the Spirit of “self-control” as Paul talks about in Galatians 5:23? Or is this an expression of “the passion of lust” as Paul talks about in 1 Thessalonians 4:5?

Receive these words from 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Choose someone according to the values of the kingdom of God

– not the values of the world. Who does the world exalt? Those with power, status and wealth; those who make you feel good; those who look good. I will just focus in two examples.

Look for true love – that is, according to the Biblical definition. The world portrays love in a distorted way. And we often get caught up in this. But love is not lust, and love is not emotion, although it involves this. And so much dating is about these two things.

But emotion and sexual attraction can fade. And in the world this means it’s time to move on. Just this week I saw a celebrity that said she was getting divorced because it wasn’t fun anymore.

But scripturally love is fundamentally commitment to someone; to their well being; caring for them whether you feel like it or not, whether they turn you on or not – Matthew 5:44-47.

And so if you date you need to think:

  • Is this someone I can love for the rest of my life?
  • And is this someone who will love me for the rest of my life?

Even after the romance fades? Even when the ‘honeymoon’ is over and you are both acting more like your true selves with each other?

Find someone with true beauty. The world emphasizes outward beauty. The kingdom of God emphasizes the inner beauty of godly character.

Peter says this to women, “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” – 1 Peter 3:3-4.

So gentlemen, listen up. Outward beauty by itself is useless. Proverbs 11:22 says, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” It’s a waste and it’s not what you want.

And also outward beauty fades with age.  Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Ladies we could say the same for men. Their handsomeness, physical strength and yes, their hair is fleeting over time.

Both men and women need to look for the true beauty of a godly heart that fears the Lord, and not get caught up in the glamour culture that we live in that worships outward beauty. And in turn you need to focus on being beautiful within, and not outward beauty.

Finally

Having said all this about dating, let me end by saying that you are perfectly fine if you don’t date. You have to remember that Jesus was single and so was the apostle Paul. And remaining single for life is always an option. And it can free you up to have more time to serve the Lord – 1 Corinthians 7. You can be both fulfilled and faithful to God without marriage.

But even short of this, you don’t need to feel pressured to date, just because everyone else seems to be dating. It is fine to wait until you are older; to wait until you are ready; to wait until there is someone you truly want to date, for all the right reasons.

William Higgins

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We are beginning to draw to a close our ‘on again, off again’ series on the kings of Judah from 2 Chronicles. To give us some perspective on where we have been, we have looked at: Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Manasseh and now Josiah. We will have covered 300 years of history.

Josiah – the basics

  • He began to reign at eight – 34:1. His father had been assassinated, which is why he became king so young.
  • He reigned thirty one years – 34:1.
  • He was righteous. As 34:2 says, “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.”
  • He began to seek the Lord when he was 16 years old, in the 8th year of his reign. As 34:3 says, “while he was still young, he began to seek the God of David his father” (NIV)

The 12th year of Josiah reign

This is when he begins to reform God’s people. Remember, Manasseh, his grandfather spent most of his time as king, 55 years, promoting various forms of idolatry. And his father Amon also took this policy. So idolatry was deeply ingrained throughout the land of Judah and the territory of the former northern kingdom of Israel, which had been destroyed by Assyria. Now here Josiah is, 20 years old, trying to set things right.

First, he destroyed Judah’s idols. “He began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them.” – 34:3-4.

The story goes on to tell how he scattered the dust of the idols over the dead idol priests graves and he burned the bones of the priests on their altars – thus defiling the altars.

Next, he destroyed Israel’s idols, that is, the territories north of Judah. 34:7 says, “he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel.”

The 18th year of Josiah’s reign

This year is the focus of the rest of our story today. He is now 26 and he accomplishes more in this one year, than any other king in terms of reform (only Hezekiah comes close).

Five things need to be pointed out here: 1. The temple restoration. It needed repairs – 34:8. As it says in v. 11, the previous kings had let it go to ruin, presumably Manasseh and Amon.

A collection from both Judah and Israel was given for the work – 34:9-11. So we again see that some in the former kingdom of Israel were connecting with Judah.

The Levites oversaw the work – 34:12-13. It notes in particular the Levitical musicians, who it says, “were over the burden bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service . . ..” This is interesting. Were they simply supervisors, or did they play music at the work site to set the pace? Its not clear.

2. The “Book of the Law” is rediscovered. 34:14-15 says, “While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord given through Moses. Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.’”

It may have been hidden in the temple during a time of invasion or threat from an unfaithful king, like Manasseh or Amon.

This could refer to all five of the books of the Law, from Moses, the first five books of the Bible. But most think that this refers to a particular part of the Book of the Law, that is, the book of Deuteronomy.

The book was read to Josiah – 34:15-18. Deuteronomy is clear that breaking the covenant, as they had done, would bring judgment and exile. 34:19 says,  “And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes.” As Josiah says, “For great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.” – (v. 21). He knew they were in serious trouble.

So he sent messengers to see if this would indeed happen – 34:21. They found a prophetess named Huldah, who gave them . . .

3. A prophetic word. She said that, because the people had forsaken God (v. 25) and committed idolatry, judgment would come. “Thus says the Lord, behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah.” – 34:24

She goes on to speak out God’s word in v. 25 – “. . . my wrath will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.”

But she also had a word for Josiah. Because his heart was tender and he humbled himself before God when he heard the Book of the Law (v. 27), “Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.” – 34:28.

So he got mixed messages. Unstoppable judgment for the people. But kind regard for him as king.

After hearing all this, Josiah didn’t despair, but acted to do what was right. He gathered everyone together at the temple, to carry out a . . .

4. A covenant renewal ceremony. He read to them the book of the Law – 34:30. And then he recommitted to following God’s covenant. It says, “And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.” – 34:31.

He also led the people to recovenant – 34:32; to be faithful and to do God’s will as well. And he also “made all who were present in Israel (the northern territory) serve the Lord” – 34:33.

The rest of v. 33 sums up, “All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.”

Finally, 5. The celebration of Passover. We won’t get into all the details of this. We looked at Hezekiah’s Passover celebration several weeks ago.

Suffice it to say that Josiah’s was even more grand. For instance, they had nearly twice as many sacrifices at this celebration.

35:18 says, “No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah . . ..” A sweeping statement!

On this high note, Josiah ended his 18th year as king – 35:19.

Lessons from our story

1. Young people can do great things for God. When he was 16 he began to seriously seek after God for himself. Not because of parents, or circumstances, but from his own heart and desire.

And this is what we look for in those who come for baptism. But this is a call to all our young people whether you are baptized or not. Are you seeking after God? There are so many distractions in the world. Give yourself fully to seeking after God and you can do great things for God as well.

When he was 20, he was a leader who began to act as a reformer. Do we as a congregation have room in our midst for young people to serve and to lead?

When he was 26 he accomplished all his great reforms. At 26, he was one of, if not the greatest of all the descendents of David. So, yes, young people can and should be serving and leading and doing great things for God’s kingdom.

2. How to respond to God’s word. Josiah was walking in the light he had. But then they found the Book of the Law and read it to him, he responded immediately to all that was new to him, to obey God’s word. He sought to make things right, when he learned how far off track they were.

When we read the Scriptures, when we hear the word, when we learn something new – we also need to respond immediately to obey God’s word in our lives. When we find out that there are things in our lives that need to change, may we act like Josiah, with humility and speed to make things right.

Finally, 3. How to go about covenant renewal. This is one of several examples of this in 2 Chronicles.

What I want to say is that, since we are in a process of covenant renewal, we can learn from Josiah how to do this the right way.

34:31 says, he “made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.”

Our hope, as Elders, is that as we go through our covenant renewal that each of us will take it seriously. And that we will all reaffirm our trust in and obedience to our Lord Jesus. And that it will come from our heart, and that we will make it with all of our heart and soul, like Josiah.

William Higgins

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