One Flesh

Sexuality is a mystery; it isn’t merely biological, for humans at least: there’s a spiritual dimension to us being male and female.

In men, there’s typically a longing to be permanently and intimately connected with beauty, to have unrestricted, exclusive access to their own delightful portion of humanity. In women, there’s often a longing to be discovered and valued, enjoyed and cherished. Both are hints at spiritual fulfillment in God, windows to a world of spiritual reality of which courtship and marriage are merely shadows. (Ep 5:32)

As Man seeks to explore and enjoy the beauty of Woman, and to connect with her in the most intimate way possible, this is a faint hint at the pleasure of finding, beholding and enjoying the beauty of God, the One who makes Woman beautiful, and Whose delightful nature can never be fully fathomed. This is our privilege and purpose, and all sexual desire is a gift to remind us of this.

As Woman goes to great length to be attractive to Man, to catch his eye, arouse his interest, and to enjoy his protection, love and affection for herself alone, she reflects our intense desire to be recognized and valued by God, to find our unique purpose in God, and for Him to take pleasure in knowing us, in being ever mindful of us and watching over us, enjoying us and fellowshipping with us throughout our days.

When a man and a woman become intimate, this is much more than a physical experience; together they become a single metaphysical being: one flesh. (1Co 6:16) They’re joined together in an eternal mystical union that can never be broken; it’s evidently an expression of how God and His chosen are inseparably connected (1Co 6:17), not something to be taken lightly.

God seems particularly interested in each of us respecting and fulfilling the spiritual dimension of our sexuality, remaining in monogamous, committed, heterosexual relationships. (Mt 19:4-5) He calls each gender to walk in a way that the other deeply desires: the husband to love and cherish his wife (Ep 5:28-29), to dwell with her according to an intimate knowledge of her frame and disposition (1Pe 3:7), to cleave to her (Ge 2:24), and to put her needs before his own. (Ep 5:25) He calls the wife to treat her husband with honor and deep respect (Ep 5:33), to be in subjection to him, seeking to obey his every desire (except that which violates God’s Law), as if he were God himself. (Ep 5:24) Violating marital roles is not only harmful physically and psychologically, but also spiritually. (1Co 6:18)

For husbands, it’s sometimes as simple as just showing up. We don’t need to be perfect and flawless, to have all the answers and make everything right. Often, just being present and available to our wives, joining them in the journey, letting them occupy our minds and hearts as we walk through life with them … it’s what they’re looking for in us.

For wives, sometimes it’s as simple as being silent when we’d rather criticize, trusting God and saying, “Yes Sir!” when he asks something non-sinful of us and we’d rather not. Think of God saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” (Mt 25:23) rather than short-term inconvenience.

Many, if not most of the problems I see in our world stem from us rejecting our God-given roles in marriage. Just imagine the blessed world God’s called us to, if we all did what He says. Ponder the life He desires for us, if we were all found faithful here. Wouldn’t it be awesome?

Yet seldom do both husband and wife both walk out their calling in God together. Are we willing to be the one, if need be, to walk it alone? To carry our light affliction for a season, for the love of God? Here and now is the only chance we have to live sacrificially for Him. Once we’re with Him, that will be gone forever.

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God is Light

Light: electromagnetic radiation from our sun that’s constantly bouncing off the world around us and illuminating it. To perceive this we need special organs to translate the waves into images within our brains: eyes. Without the ability to see, we’d have very little awareness of light, and even less interest.

When God says He is light (1Jn 1:5), perhaps He’s telling us that He’s not only truth, but also the means by which we perceive it.

God defines reality, both in the physical and metaphysical. He is not only truth itself  (Jn 14:6), but also the ultimate standard by which everything has measure and is measured.

As each aspect of the spiritual dimension reflects the streaming revelation of God, its nature is revealed. In reacting to His Word, God exposes, illuminates, and reveals the spiritual detail of every sentient being (Is 8:20), and the color and texture of every moral choice we face, if only we have eyes to see. (Ps 119:105)

As C.S. Lewis said so well, let us believe in God as we believe the sun has risen, not only because we see it, but also because by it we see everything else.

Asking God to open our eyes is wanting to see the Light, to see Him in all things, and how all things relate to Him. It’s wanting to be aligned with, connected and engaged with Him. Once we can see, walking in the light with God is natural. (1Jn 1:7)

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God is Love

God is love, and those who know Him are like Him (1Jn 4:7-8); we love God, and our neighbors as ourselves (1Jn 3:14), even our enemies. (Mt 5:44)

Love isn’t about liking everyone, or even anyone; it’s about seeking the welfare of others, wanting their ultimate good (Ro 13:10); it’s being longsuffering, benevolent, kind, unassuming, unselfish. (1Co 13:5)

This is the essence of the character of God: benevolent concern for others. He doesn’t need us to make Himself feel good; He is perfectly complete in and of Himself; we can add nothing to Him. Every aspect of His dealings with us is for our own good, not His. He isn’t trying to keep us from having fun, or bully us into following a set of arbitrary rules. God’s Law is the perfect expression of what it means to care. Everything God does is aligned with love, both for Himself and for His creatures.

What makes God’s love profound, in my opinion, is the magnitude of it, its depth and breadth and length and height. (Ep 3:17-18) This is known by who God loves, us, His enemies, desperately wicked people, and how He loves us, sacrificially, willing to suffer infinitely for us, to become our sin so that we might be made His righteousness (2Co 5:21), enter into His rest, and become part of His immediate family. (1Jn 3:1)

This is infinite love – only known against the backdrop of sin. Without God allowing sin, and without us knowing how holy He is, how much He hates sin, how He suffers by allowing sin, much less becoming sin for us, we can have no clue of His love, of His essential character and nature.

As God calls us to walk in His steps, to live as He does, we must know God’s own love as the source of our love. (1Jn 4:19) As we begin to realize what He is like, and comprehend the depth of His concern for us, we can begin to care for Him and others in the same way, trusting Him to care for us (1Pe 5:7), and be filled with all His fullness. (Eph 3:19)

We can experience many different facets of love: romantic, brotherly affection, neighborly concern. In the end, what defines our own attitude as love or not is whether we genuinely have another’s best interest in mind, or whether we’re trying to use them to promote ourselves and make ourselves feel good. Perhaps there’s very little love in this world (1Jn 5:19); either way, it could always use a little bit more.

As we grow in love, increasing and abounding yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment (Php 1:9), we begin to see that all our desires and affections, what we’ve been wanting for ourselves, can’t be satisfied in those we’ve been trying to use, but only in God Himself. Every craving, every longing … is a shadow to remind us to behold the beauty of God, to rejoice in Him as the ultimate fulfillment of all we could ever want.

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Male and Female

When I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, life was a bit simpler. We understood gay/lesbian/bi, and I instinctively sensed it was all unnatural. But I never dreamed of something like gender self-identification. I don’t think it’s a confusion about the biological definition of male and female, but a claim that gender is independent of biology, that one can be in the wrong kind of body.

Yet claiming we belong in a different body implies we’re distinct from our body, that we’re more than flesh and bone. This is in fact a profound step: it’s admitting we’re spiritual beings, implying we’re created by God, formed in His image.

It’s also an assertion that God’s made a grand mistake in our case, that our unnatural passions (Ro 1:26) aren’t perverse, but God’s fault for putting us in the wrong body. (Jud 1:15)

Yet God doesn’t make mistakes. How could He? He’s made us as sexual beings, male and female (Mk 10:6), amazing and beautiful. (Ps 139:14) Perversion is what it is: a twisting of God’s design, and our inclination to harm ourselves and others is particularly visible here. Our desires aren’t king, God is king, and He knows best. As difficult as this may be to accept, it’s in our best interest to submit to His one-flesh design, tame our passions, and channel our energies in healthy ways.

Being indignant and offended when anyone dares call perversion what it actually is (Ge 19:9) is admitting we’ve nothing but raw presumption to support our claims. It’s demanding freedom to make up Moral Law as we go, while forbidding others to do the same, a blatant inconsistency. Yet giving ourselves to sin like this leaves us no other choice: the sting of our shame is simply too painful for most of us to bear.

Silencing those who oppose us isn’t going to heal us, nor make it any easier to face God in the end. This will only sear our conscience and harden our hearts, which can’t end well.

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In Your Presence

Being in the presence of Almighty God is amazing, and we’re all continually in His presence (He 13:7); there is no place or time where God’s not fully present (Ps 139:7) or His glory hidden. (Is 6:3)

We’re instinctively aware of His presence: we know He hears us as we pray, any time, anywhere. So, if we aren’t enjoying God it isn’t because He’s far away, it’s that we’re ignorant (Ep 4:18) and blind(2Ki 6:17)

It’s impossible to be physically separated from God, to create any space between Him and anyone else. Anyone who desires the infinite God is invited to continually enjoy His glory (2Co 3:18), basking in His immediate presence and feeding in His majesty, in unbroken fellowship with Him. (Ps 16:11) The question isn’t, “Where is God?” but “Where are we.” (Ge 3:9) Do we want Him?

We may think we do, that we’d simply love for Him to reveal Himself to us … but if we aren’t already enjoying Him all the time, cleaving to Himdelighting in His Law and rejoicing in Him every hour of the day, when He’s right beside us, in and through us (Ac 17:28) … if we aren’t avidly internalizing the written revelation in which He’s already revealing Himself (Col 3:16), continually hiding it in our hearts so we won’t offend Him (Ps 119:11), and systematically meditating on it so we’ll know Him (Ps 119:99), it should be obvious that we’re not after God Himself.

I think what most of us are really after is an image we’ve constructed of God in our own minds, an idol in every sense: we’re making a god up as we wish him to be, like ourselves: aloof, uncaring, capricious, unjust, hard to reach and connect with. But God isn’t like that: He’s anything but that.

Let’s face it: the problem isn’t God … it’s us. The problem isn’t finding God, it’s wanting Him. Being with God isn’t an option; no one will ever be separated from God, not now, not ever, not even in Hell. What makes Hell unbearable isn’t the absence of God, but His holy, terrifying, indignant presence, as He unveils His infinitely holy nature to the desperately wicked, who genuinely hate and despise Him, which is, evidently, almost everyone. (Ro 3:11)

We can choose to seek God (He 11:6) until He transforms us into beings who enjoy Him, drinking Him into our innermost being, or we can continue trying to hide, lurking in make-believe shadows, hating the light (Jn 3:19-20), as we did in the Garden in our primal father, Adam. (Ge 3:8) Either way, we’re all going to spend eternity with Him, and He’s spending eternity with each and every one of us, right now.

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Fiery Darts

The shield of faith enables us to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (Ep 6:16) These fiery darts aren’t physical, but they’re very real. What are they? How do we quench them?

The wicked shoot fiery darts and arrows at us with their words: sharp, biting, cutting remarks designed to wound and scar us. (Pr 12:18) The poison and fire they carry are lies intended to make us feel unimportant and inferior, ashamed, rejected and unloved, isolated and vulnerable.

The wicked are prompted to speak these words by their father (Jn 8:44) the enemy, who works in them (Ep 2:2) to steal our joy, kill our passion and zeal, and destroy our witness. (Jn 10:10) As we receive these words, the enemy injects the emotions of fear, rejection and shame into our minds and hearts, lending supernatural, debilitating force to the jabs. It is an all-out, frontal assault on our spiritual life, from which we must be quick to defend ourselves.

When our faith shields are down, and we aren’t being mindful of the precious promises and faithfulness of God, we let these darts through to wound us. They continue to afflict and harm us until we engage our faith, lifting our shields to heal our minds and hearts, by reminding ourselves of the three basic truths:

  1. We’re loved infinitely by God (1Jn 3:1), Whose love is all we’ll ever need; we’re totally accepted by Him in Christ (Ep 1:6), and for Christ’s sake. (Ep 4:32)
  2. God is in control of all things at all times (Da 4:35), and He has a glorious purpose in all our suffering (Ro 5:3-5); nothing is out of order or amiss in His plan (Ep 1:11), and
  3. We each have a unique purpose in God’s eternal plan (2Ti 1:9), and He’s working everything out for our good and for His glory, all the time. (Ro 8:28)

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Ro 8:31) We thus dismiss these fiery darts as the nothings that they really are, ignoring them as lies with no substance, and continue rejoicing in God.

In understanding that those delivering the enemy’s darts are lost, or perhaps that the enemy’s exploiting the elect as they walk out the mystery of faith, as they reach out to us in love and good conscience as best they can, we’re free to look for and receive any constructive criticism or wisdom to strengthen our walk with God, without any threat to our souls, and be the better for it.

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The Mystery of Faith

There are mysteries in our faith, genuine paradoxes. There’s a mystery of iniquity, that anyone would ever deliberately choose to sin against God, as most everyone does as a manner of life, and also a mystery of faith (1Ti 3:16), how salvation can be by faith while God judges us by our works.

On the one hand, we’re justified before God by faith, by believing on Christ (Jn 3:18) and not by works. (Ro 3:28) On the other hand, on Judgement Day, we know God will render to everyone according to their deeds: those who’ve patiently continued in good works as a manner of life will be saved, and those who haven’t will be damned. (Ro 2:6-9) How can both be true?

The answer lies in seeing salvation as the work of God (Jn 6:29), where He regenerates the human heart (Col 2:13) and begins working in us to will and to do according to His pleasure. (Php 2:13) As God so works in our souls, we actually do persistently try to obey Him as a manner of life; we cannot live otherwise (1Jn 3:9), and no one else can live like this. (1Jn 3:10)

So, those who say they know God but aren’t, as a rule of life, trying their best to do what He says, are simply lying. (1Jn 2:4) While there are countless ways to deceive ourselves (Ja 1:22) into thinking, “carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done,” it’s hoping in Satan himself. There’s no safe place outside a life pattern of obedience to God.

Whether we live in a way that’s morally acceptable to society or not isn’t the point: neglecting God’s laws and living life our own way makes us God’s enemies. (Ro 8:7) Nearly everyone lives like this. (1Jn 5:19)

As saints, we know that we still sin (1Jn 1:8), and that our works will never be good enough for God (Ga 3:10); we find our only rest in the finished work of Christ. Yet even though we know we can’t lose eternal salvation, we won’t sin willfully, on purpose, thoughtfully, deliberately, as a manner of life. (1Jn 3:8) We’re new creatures (2Co 5:17), always trying our best to obey God, even though that may not be very good.

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