Counseling One Another

Helping you grow in God's all-sufficient truth and grace

Counseling One Another

January 26, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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How Do I Find a Biblical Counselor in My Area?

This is probably the most common question I receive when people contact me through this blog. Therefore, I was pleased to see my friend Bob Kellemen answer it pretty much exactly the same way I have for years, and would like to share his recent post with you (and Bob’s permission). Here it is:

Where do you turn when you or someone you care about is hurting?

Finding a biblical counselor who will minister God’s truth to you in Christ’s love is vital. If you are searching for a biblical counselor, I recommend that you visit the following biblical counseling organizations.

  • ABC (Association of Biblical Counselors) maintains a list of vetted biblical counselors that you can find at The Biblical Counseling Network.
  • CCEF (Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation) can be contacted at for information regarding CCEF trained biblical counselors. You can also visit their Counseling Services page to get counseling through CCEF directly.
  • IABC (International Association of Biblical Counselors) maintains a list of certified biblical counselors. Their list is searchable by states and includes 8 countries. You can visit it at Find a Counselor.
  • The ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) maintains a list of certified biblical counselors. Their list is searchable by zip code. You can visit it at Find a Counselor.

You can find these lists and additional information about finding biblical counseling help at the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Find a Biblical Counselor Page.

While ABC, CCEF, IABC, and ACBC work diligently to screen any ministry or individual in their list:

  • It is important for you to personally research the church, ministry, or individual listed.
  • If you search these recommended links and find a biblical counselor in your area, please exercise due diligence and contact them with pertinent questions.
  • The Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Confessional Statement is a good starting place as you seek to find a qualified biblical counselor who is a good match for your convictions.
  • I also recommend the ABC’s document: Questions to Ask When Choosing a Counselor.

[Originally posted by RPM Ministries.]

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January 25, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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What Is Friendship?

Reading Tim and Kathy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, is proving to be quite a blessing. This morning, while reading the chapter on the mission of marriage, I was encouraged by the following paragraph which speaks to the character of friendship—in general—before describing it further and applying it more deeply to marriage. Keller asks the question, “What is friendship?” and then answers with this description of its character.

The Bible, and particularly the book of Proverbs, spends much time describing and defining it. One of the prime qualities of a friend is constancy. Friends “love at all times” and especially during “adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). The counterfeit is a “fair-weather friend” who comes over when you are successful but goes away if prosperity, status, or influence wanes (Proverbs 14:20; 19:4, 6, 7). True friends stick closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). They are always there for you. Another of the essential characteristics of friendship is transparency and candor. Real friends encourage and affectionately affirm one another (Proverbs 27:9; cf. 1 Samuel 23:16-18), yet real friends also offer bracing critiques: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:5-6). Like a surgeon, friends cut you in order to heal you. Friends become wiser together through a healthy class of viewpoints. “As iron sharpens iron, so friend sharpens friend” (Proverbs 27:17).

Do you have at least one friend who fits this description? If so, thank the Lord for him or her and let them know how much they mean to you. If not, become this kind of person and pray the Lord leads you to someone who needs you.

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January 24, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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The Choice to Rejoice

In 1980, when I was a sophomore in high school, Johnny Lee topped the charts with his catchy song, “Lookin for Love in All the Wrong Places.” That is still true. Mankind is still looking for love in all the wrong places. But what is also true is that we are lookin for joy in all the wrong places. People are looking for joy; everyone wants to be happy. Prescriptions for mood enhancers are at an all-time high, and Amazon now offers over 23,000 book titles on the subject of happiness. People are looking for joy in the midst of a negative, complaining world.

One example of the epidemic of negative thinking is found in the workplace. Recently, Forbes magazine published an article entitled Why Complaining Is Killing Your Reputation At Work. The author writes,In today’s typical workplace, disengaged employees are the norm. In fact, research conducted by Gallup shows that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged in their work. And as we all know, where there are disengaged employees, there’s usually complaining, gossiping, and griping that follows.”

The author then gives six conclusions people make about the negative person, all of which hurt their reputation, and then concludes with these words for all of us: “When you complain, you’re not endearing yourself to anyone. Whether you occasionally struggle with a victim mentality or have had your fair share of true bad breaks, it’s reassuring to remember that when it comes to your own behavior, you hold all the power and you always have a choice.”

“You always have a choice.” That’s counsel from a secular magazine. How much more should the admonition of Philippians 2:14 grab our attention and convict our conscience? “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Though complaining exists in epidemic proportions in today’s world, this is not a new problem. From the Israelites in the wilderness, who complained about the food that God gave to them, to the 10 spies who believed there was no way the nation could possibly conquer the land God had promised, a negative spirit has always been part of our sinful flesh. And we all battle with it to one degree or another.

Yet, what an opportunity God has given for our gospel witness to shine brighter if we would daily make the choice to rejoice. This is what the apostle says, Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

If you are a business owner, or in any level of management in your workplace, you know this to be true. People with positive attitudes are rare. They shine brightly in a negative world. As believers in Jesus Christ, we should be the most positive people in the world. Yet, too often, we are the ones moping around, whining about how things are sooooo bad.

You may remember the theme of Philippians is Rejoicing in the Lord. The key verse is found in 4:4, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Fifteen times we find the words Joy, rejoice, rejoicing. The repetition of these words means…

  • Rejoicing is intentional work. It is a discipline. It is a choice.
  • As believers, this is not what some religious people call “The Power of Positive Thinking” where one’s reality is created by their thinking.
  • No, the Lord is the object of our joy. Rejoice in the Lord. Every moment of every day we are given the opportunity to either focus on our life’s situation or to focus on Christ.
  • Christ-centered thinking is the key! We must choose to rejoice in the Lord.

A quick survey of the book of Philippians reveals four results of the choice to rejoice. Rejoicing in the Lord…

Prioritizes gospel preaching above our personal differences (1:15-18)

While the apostle was in prison he received word that others were preaching the gospel, but some had less than worthy motives and methods. But rather than becoming angry and resentful, the apostle chose to rejoice that Jesus was being preached. The personal takeaway is this: I must choose to rejoice in the Lord when the gospel is preached, even if all of my personal preferences are not satisfied.

Preserves our soul while we suffer (2:17-18, 27-30)

Though he suffered, the apostle could honestly say, “I am glad and rejoice with you all.” How did the apostle get to this point? Did it happen overnight? No, he practiced the put off/put on principle of Scripture. He put off complaining (vv. 14-16), and put on rejoicing (vv. 18, 27-30). And we must do the same.

But how? How do we rejoice in suffering? By focusing on the Lord and His promises. For example, meditate on Romans 8:18 or 1 Peter 1:6-7. Scriptures like these will help you to consciously shift your focus from your trial onto the Lord. The personal takeaway is this: I must choose to rejoice in the Lord, knowing God can be trusted to use suffering for my good and His glory.

Protects unity in our church and peace in our hearts (4:1-7)

After exhorting the believers to help two women be reconciled, the apostle exhorts them to rejoice in the Lord (v. 4). Whatever issue separated these two ladies, one thing is clear. They took their eyes off of the priority of Christ and placed them onto something of lesser importance. The choice to rejoice in the Lord protects the unity of our churches, which is so dear to God.

Also, rejoicing in the Lord is evidenced by prayer with thanksgiving (vv. 6-7). As a result of this discipline of prayer, our hearts are guarded from the anxiety that constantly threatens to overwhelm us. The personal takeaway is this: I must choose to rejoice in the Lord while working to preserve relational unity, and praying for inner peace.

Produces contentment in our changing circumstances (4:10-13)

The key to the apostle’s contentment was learning to rejoice in the Lord regardless of whether he had abundance or was in need. In Christ, he was strong and, therefore, able to learn to be content even in difficult times. The personal takeaway is this: I must choose to rejoice in the Lord, knowing the Lord desires for me to learn contentment.

The more we choose to rejoice in the Lord the more we will walk in a manner pleasing to Him. We will maintain gospel priority, preserve the health of our soul when trials threaten us, protect peace in our church and hearts, and learn to be content. May the Lord be pleased to change the attitude of our hearts so that we will become people who habitually make the choice to rejoice!

[Adapted from last Sunday’s sermon]

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January 21, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS (January 21)

Here are a few articles that I found helpful this week:

What does the Bible say about criticism? – “If criticism cannot be expressed in keeping with the fruit of the Spirit, it’s better left unsaid.”

What does the Bible say about resentment? – “Resentment is the cheapest and least legitimate form of anger.”

Choose to Sing into the Darkness – from the True Woman blog

Should Christians ‘Disown’ Gay Sons and Daughters – In his typical manner, Jonathan Leeman offers a wonderful blend of grace, truth, and wisdom.

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January 20, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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How to Pray on Inauguration Day

When we commit to praying for our leaders (whether or not we agree with them), God is pleased with us and is pleased to work in their hearts according to His will. In relation to this divinely given duty, one passage in particular contains fundamental principles every believer needs to understand. Paul says in 1 Tim. 2:1–4:

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

In these verses we hear the apostle’s plea to us to be obedient to God by praying for our leaders. Continue reading…

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January 18, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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What Is a Saint?

If you were to ask the average person to name someone in their lifetime whom they considered to be a saint, one name that you would surely hear is Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun who dedicated her life to helping the poor, especially in Calcutta, India. Last September, 19 years after her death, she was canonized a saint by the Pope. But was she a saint? The Roman Catholic Church says Yes, as would most people of any religion. But what does the Bible say?

In Philippians 4:21-23, the apostle closes his letter with three simple sentences. He greets those who are in Christ and the family of God, and wishes them grace, and then wrapped up his letter the same way he began (1:1), by calling them “saints.” But what is a saint?

The word “saint” is from the word from which we get “holy.” The word means to be set apart. Therefore, a saint is a person who is set apart in Jesus Christ. Biblically, a saint is a sinner who has exchanged his faith in himself and his good works for the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Biblically, a saint is a person who is trusting in Christ alone for the forgiveness of his sin and the salvation of his soul. This then results in a corresponding pursuit of holiness in life. None of us, no matter how kind-hearted or well-intentioned we may be in our service to God and others, can earn sainthood. It is a gift of God’s grace received through faith.

Since that is true, we ought to be concerned about what Mother Teresa believed about the gospel, and how she described her own faith. Mother Teresa was a universalist; she believed that all religions eventually lead to heaven. For example, in her book, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, she says:

“We never try to convert those who receive [aid from our mission of charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied. It matters to the individual what church he belongs to. If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.”

Elsewhere she wrote: “I love all religions. … If people become better Hindus, better Muslims, better Buddhists by our acts of love, then there is something else growing there.” Or in another place, “All is God — Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, etc., all have access to the same God.”

Clearly, Mother Teresa did not believe Jesus Christ is the only way for sinners to be reconciled to God. But what did she believe about her own salvation? In a collection of personal letters published after her death, she wrote: “Where is my faith? Even deep down . . . there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. . . . If there be God—please forgive me.” According to the letters compiled by the Vatican, Mother Teresa’s doubts continued until her death.

In light of this and the almost universal exaltation of her life and faith as an example (even, sadly, among evangelicals), we need to ask and answer the question: What is a saint? Let’s answer that question by considering three truths about what it means to be a saint.

The Bible teaches that every true believer in Jesus Christ is a saint and, therefore, is…

Set apart by God

The book of Romans was written to “all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7). The book of 1 Corinthians begins with these words: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:2). Believers are saints by calling, not by deed. When God saves us from our sin, He at the same time calls us to Himself. He sets us apart. Alva McClain: “God never goes to a sinner and tells him to try to attain to sainthood. He picks us out of the mud, and He says, ‘You are a saint.’”

Consider the apostle Paul’s testimony in Galatians 1:11-17. God’s choice to set apart Paul unto the gospel was purely by God’s grace. We know this because Paul said he was set apart before he was even born. How then could God’s choice have had anything to do with Paul? It could not have. It’s that simple. According to Ephesians 1:3-4 this is true of every believer. We are set apart by God for His purpose and glory.

Set apart from the world

According to the Bible, a saint is a sinner whose relationship with the world has changed because of the transforming work of God’s grace. But this is an unpopular message today. In his book Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life, Kent Hughes writes, Our own time and place require that we take stock of what is actually happening in our culture and in the church. The evidence is pretty clear that we do not understand either of these as well as we should. Among evangelicals, there is a great disconnect between (on the one hand) what Christians believe and assimilate from sermons and Christian sources and how (on the other hand) they actually live … The contemporary evangelical church is not lacking for moral and spiritual instruction. It is lacking in its ability to remain uncontaminated by the unchristian thinking and morality of contemporary culture.

Yet Scripture calls us to live differently because of who we are—holy ones. Consider what 1 Peter teaches us. Since we have been chosen by God and born again through the Spirit and the Word, we should be holy in mind (1:13), holy in desires (1:14), and holy in the habits of our life (1:15-16). Why is this? Not only because the God who called us is holy, but also because we are part of the holy priesthood of God (2:5). A believer is one who is part of the holy priesthood of God and, therefore, has rejected the ways of the world.

Set apart unto Christ

Ephesians 5:1-5 teaches us that we are to imitate God, not only because He is holy, but also because, as children of God, we are called reflect our heavenly Father. We are to walk in love, as a living sacrifice, and avoid sinful lifestyles since they are now “out of place.” That is, these sins are out of sync with who we now are in Christ.

Why is holiness a fitting calling? Colossians 3:1-4 teaches us that we are no longer our own, but we now belong to Christ. Our old life is dead. The only life we now have is hidden with Christ in God. Since this is true, we should set our mind on the things above.

So what do we conclude?

  • Sainthood is not a title obtained through selfless service and good works. It is a privileged position received as a gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Every believer is responsible to progressively become holy in mind, heart, and lifestyle.

Therefore, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I a saint? Is there evidence I have been personally set apart by God to be His own possession? Or am I merely a religious person living on the power of my own selfish pride?

If you answered yes to the first question, “Am I a saint?” then you must also answer the second question.

  • Am I living like I am set apart? Is there a progressive movement away from sin and worldliness toward holiness and Christlikeness? Or am I merely living for myself, one foot in the world and the other with God?

Are you a saint? Are you called by God through faith in Jesus Christ? If so, are you living like one?

[This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon by the same title.]

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January 16, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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20 Questions to Expose Your Idolatry

The more we progress in the sanctification that is promoted by exposure to the Word of God, the more we see the hidden motives of our heart. Indeed this is one of the purposes of Scripture: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to perform heart surgery, which exposes the whys behind the whats of our behavior.

In addition, questions stir the conscience. Therefore, I have found the following 20 questions helpful as the Lord continues to do His patient work of conforming me to the image of Christ. These questions are drawn from Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller. Ask yourself how you would complete this statement: “Life only has meaning/I only have worth if…

  1.  I have power and influence over others.” (Power Idolatry)
  2. I am loved and respected by _____.” (Approval Idolatry)
  3. I have this kind of pleasure experience, a particular quality of life.” (Comfort idolatry)
  4. I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of _____.” (Control idolatry)
  5. people are dependent on me and need me.” (Helping Idolatry)
  6. someone is there to protect me and keep me safe.” (Dependence idolatry)
  7. I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone.” (Independence idolatry)
  8. I am highly productive and getting a lot done.” (Work idolatry)
  9. I am being recognized for my accomplishments, and I am excelling in my work.” (Achievement idolatry)
  10. I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom, and very nice possessions.” (Materialism idolatry)
  11. I am adhering to my religion’s moral codes and accomplished in its activities.” (Religion idolatry)
  12. This one person is in my life and happy to be there, and/or happy with me.” (Individual person idolatry)
  13. I feel I am totally independent of organized religion and am living by a self-made morality.” (Irreligion idolatry)
  14. My race and culture is ascendant and recognized as superior.” (Racial/cultural idolatry)
  15. A particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group lets me in.” (Inner ring idolatry)
  16. My children and/or my parents are happy and happy with me.” (Family idolatry)
  17. Mr. or Ms. “Right” is in love with me.” (Relationship Idolatry)
  18. I am hurting, in a problem; only then do I feel worthy of love or able to deal with guilt.” (Suffering idolatry)
  19. my political or social cause is making progress and ascending in influence or power.” (Ideology idolatry)
  20. I have a particular kind of look or body image.” (Image idolatry)

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January 13, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Gender as a Spectrum – Moral Chaos for Children

[Today’s guest post is written by Jay Younts, author of Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage, and is re-posted here with permission.]

The January 2017 issue of National Geographic examines the issue of gender. The editor of the magazine believes gender is not an issue of male and female, but that gender is best understood as numerous points along a spectrum of possible identities. As this special magazine issue indicates, the idea of gender as a spectrum is a recent concept and rapidly changing the way culture and science view the sex of humans.

According to National Geographic, gender identity and sexual orientation are fixed realities that are determined by children as they grow. The idea that humans are created male and female by God has been been discarded. The notion that gender can be determined at birth is also dismissed. Note this quote from an article in this issue entitled Helping Families Talk About Gender:

“There is no way to predict how children will identify later in life. This uncertainty is one of the hardest things about parenting a gender nonconforming child. It is important for parents to make their home a place where their child feels safe, loved unconditionally, and accepted for who they are. Research suggests that gender is something that we are born with; It can’t be changed by any interventions.”

When God’s order and plan are rejected, uncertainty is the result. Taking the article and the theme of this issue at face value, the physical anatomy of children at birth is not a reliable indicator of the sexual gender and orientation of that baby. To be sensitive to what the child determines, parents must wait until the child declares for themselves what their gender is and then what sexual orientation they will pursue. The article continues:

“While gender identity typically becomes clear in early childhood, sexual orientation — which refers to the person one falls in love with or is attracted to — becomes evident later. Research suggests that like gender identity, sexual orientation cannot be changed.”

The social chaos that will result from this thinking is impossible to calculate. A baby who looks like a boy, may actually identify as a girl or a mix of girl and boy who may determine to engage in a range of sexual activities that is consistent with an emerging orientation that is yet unknown to that child. One final quote from the article:

“When your child discloses an identity to you, respond in an affirming, supportive way. Understand that gender identity and sexual orientation cannot be changed, but the way people identify their gender identity or sexual orientation may change over time as they discover more about themselves.”

It is up to the child to determine, to discover, what sexual gender he or she will be and the mix and gender of the sexual partners she or he will have in life. The choice is totally up to the child and how he or she identifies with who she or he thinks she is. Chaos awaits.

Humanity is perceived by this article to be an emerging evolutionary flow where each person is his own point of sexual self-reference. There is no proof given tor this assertion. Note the highlighted portions in the three quotes above. In the first two quotes we read that “research suggests” identity / orientation cannot be changed. But then just a couple of paragraphs later in this short article we read that we must “understand that gender Identity and sexual orientation cannot be changed.” No references are given for this research. No other sources are cited. The suggestions have become absolute. The term “research suggests” has replaced the purpose and plan of God in determining issues regarding human sexuality.

The truth of God has been exchanged for unfounded assertions. By disregarding the truth of God’s word, culture is plunging itself into a sea of uncertainty. Personal choice is everything. In this context there can be no sexual immorality except the immortality of denying personal choice in sexual behavior. Your two year old boy may decide to identify as a girl who desires both male and female sexual partners. And it is your job as a parent to show unconditional love, acceptance and affirmation of this self-determined gender and orientation.

Moral chaos will result. Indeed, if you examine the contents of this issue of National Geographic you will see that moral chaos has already arrived.

What is God’s answer to this chaos?

First, you must believe that gender is not a matter of human choice. Genesis 1:27 says,
“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.”

God did not create more or less than two genders of humans. As it was at the beginning, so it is now. Because of the impact of sin there are places where cultural traditions produce behaviors that accommodate a distorted view of human sexual practice. But these distortions do not change the reality that God created two genders. Also because of the impact of the fall of man, there are rare occurrences of children born with a combination of male and female physical characteristics. But, as with any number of other congenital conditions, these occurrences do not constitute a change in the created order.

With regard to sexual behavior, marriage remains the one social construct where God says that sexual activity is appropriate. The fact that people rebel against what God has commanded does not change what is honoring to God.

The teaching of the Bible is sufficient to address the radical assertions posed by National Geographic. But you must be aggressively faithful to God and his word if you want to lead your children to clarity of thought and purity of sexual practice. God, not a developing human child, is the one who determines gender and what is healthy sexual behavior. His word fully discloses all that you need to know. Don’t be taken captive by the impending moral chaos. I discuss these issues and more in my new book, Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage: a biblical handbook for parents. It will be available from Shepherd Press in February.

There is much more that needs to be said. This is why I am grateful to Cornerstone Community Church for hosting a conference that brings the light of Scripture to these dark times. This February 17&18 are the dates for the conference. It is called Redeeming the Gift, God’s Design for Sexuality. I am honored to participate in this conference along with Tim Challies and Paul Tautges. Here is a link to information about this important response to the gender and sexual chaos of our culture.

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January 12, 2017
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Power and the Pattern for Marriage

The Power and the Pattern for Marriage

A few days ago, I began reading Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. The conclusion to the first chapter is so well written and compelling that I wanted to share it with you.

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level. The gospel can fill our hearts with God’s love so that you can handle it when your spouse fails to love you as he or she should. That frees us to see our spouse’s sins and flaws to the bottom—and speak of them—and yet still love and accept our spouse fully. And when, by the power of the gospel, our spouse experiences that same kind of truthful yet committed love, it enables our spouses to show us that same kind of transforming love when the time comes for it.

This is the great secret! Through the gospel, we get both the power and the pattern for the journey of marriage.” (pp 48-49)

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January 10, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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4 Conclusions Concerning “God Is Love”

Many times, it is the simplest truths that are the most profound and the simplest truths that are most easily forgotten, such as the truth “God is love.” The truth is so simple that people hear it and ignore it. “Of course, He is,” they say, “What else would He be?” And yet it is profound to think that the holy God could love sinners.

What does it mean that God is love? How do we know that this is true? What has He done to demonstrate it? And what does it mean for you and for me, as sinners? As believers in Christ? These are important questions, which 1 John 4:7-11 answers for us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

So, here are four conclusions concerning the truth that God is love.

God’s gracious, saving work in the heart of a sinner is the only means to true love (vv. 7-8a).

In the New Covenant, which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus, God gives us a new heart at the moment of our conversion. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Because we are born sinners we are spiritually dead. Only by the miracle of the new birth can we be made new. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” This new birth takes place by means of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (John 3:8; 1 Peter 1:23).

God’s nature is to love (v. 8b).

Love began with God and ends with God. Without God, it is impossible to even have love present anywhere in our world. Love is part of God’s essence, an integral part of who He is. Love is what moved God to initiate His rescue plan for sinners: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18). God takes no pleasure in the death of sinners (Ezekiel 18:32). Instead He patiently waits, calling them—calling us—to repent of our sin and believe in Jesus as the only Savior (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s love has already been shown and proven to us (vv. 9-10).

Scripture makes it clear that the Cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest demonstration of the love of God for sinners. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). By means of Christ’s death on the cross, God manifested both His love and justice at the same time. He punished sin and provided the one and only way for us to be reconciled back to Himself. This is love.

God’s expectation for believers is that we love one another (vv. 11-13).

God’s command to believers to love one another is one of the most important themes in the book of 1 John. For example, see 1 John 3:11-18.

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (See also 1 John 4:7-12).

This love for one another is a fruit of God’s grace in our lives and one of the means by which God is made visible. It is one of the most powerful elements of our gospel witness to the world (John 13:35).

The central message of the Bible is actually very simple, yet profound. God loves sinners and has done everything to rescue us from the eternal consequences of our sin. As the angel announced, there has been born for us a Savior. He is Christ the Lord. In His great love, God has given to us Jesus Christ. He and the salvation He brought are God’s gifts to us as sinners. Have you responded to God’s love? Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you have not repented and returned to God by faith in Jesus Christ, please come to Him today.

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