Sunday Devotional – 1/3/20

Sun 1 March
Matt. 5:32 – but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Jesus continues to address the issue of opting out of things (in this case marriage) just because things get tough. Divorce has become way too prevalent in the Body of Christ today. This is the result of the mindset that we should avoid disappointment and suffering at all costs. Jesus ups the requirements for staying together, based on the fact that under the New Covenant we a new heart and the power, in Him, to overcome rather than quit. This applies to all things.

Most marriages face some tough times or dry moments at least some time in their journey. These are not reasons for divorce – instead, the principles of the Kingdom of God urge us to get on our knees, die to ourselves, and seek to work harder for the well being of our spouse, despite what he or she may be going through. To divorce, for any other reason than adultery, is grevious to the Lord.

Jesus presented marriage as a sacred covenant. This is what God always intended it to be. When two people become one flesh, it is a lifetime commitment despite what may develop in regard to the relationship. There is no guarantee that every marriage will be deeply fulfilling for every person. That is something to strive for but it is not guaranteed. The many and varied reasons for this are much complex to cover here – but if things cannot be changed, at least in the now, the grace of God is available for them to be endured. This should be our first response and what we commit ourselves for at the feet of the Lord.

Of course, this does NOT mean that any spouse should tolerate abuse of any form – physical or verbal. Our marriages should at the very least, be a safe place for us. I have done extensive marriage counsel over the years, and although I believe most problems can be solved if both partners are prepared to submit to the Lord, any person has the right to leave the marriage if they are subject to abuse. Abuse of any form is a violation of covenant and can certainly be grounds for divorce. This is made clear elsewhere Scripture.

The key to any successful marriage begins with self-denial. Your good at my expense (1 Cor 13) is a great place to start and constantly revisit. Another powerful key is not to try and meet one another’s hopes, dreams and desires in your own strength. Remember, to really make a marriage work, Jesus needs to be in the middle and we seek to minister to one another in and through Him, not ourselves.

If you marriage is good, work hard to make it better. If it has become a little stale or routine, make an effort to change or recover some things that have got lost. And if it is not what you hoped it would be, get before the Lord and seek His help before making further demands on your spouse. The best question to ask is “what can I change” rather than “what should you change.”

Finally, if things are not working, seek counsel. Often we are blinded in our own situations, where those outside of it can see how changes can be made.

Jesus intended marriage to be a most blessed institution – but remember – it is not the ultimate in life. Many people who have done incredible things in the Kingdom of God have been single. Whatever your situation, married or single, remember that fulfilment can only ever be found in Christ – if you have a relationship with Him you have all you need to “fare well”.

God bless you.

Sunday Devotional – 23/02/20

Devotional for Sun 23 Feb

Matt. 5:29 – “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Matt. 5:30 -“If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

It seems Jesus is not making things easy for us here. More hard sayings. However, if we dig into it a little deeper will see why. Although we must see the seriousness of His warning here, we cannot possibly take the action He suggests, literally. The first clue to this is that both our eyes see the same thing so we would have to remove both eyes to fulfil this requirement. Just removing one would not help. So what really, Is Jesus going after here?

Jesus is expanding on the 7th commandment and as usual, goes to the heart of the matter – where such sin begins. His command not only covers the acts of fornication and adultery, but goes after the very appetites that lead to them. If lust is dwelt upon and given room to grow it will conceive and bring forth sin as we covered last week in James 1:14-15. So Jesus is urging us to refrain from feeding our eyes on things that lead to lust, and certainly not seeking to entertain or gratify it. It means realising when lust is beginning to rise up and looking elsewhere, replacing the thoughts and the vision we are seeing with something else.

Obviously there are many other things we could be looking at that glorify God. The world around us is full of the glory of God – the beautiful creation, the life around us – both people, birds and animals, the stunning architecture and even the weather – all surround us and reflect His glory and majesty. All these things bring pure and edifying thoughts to us – and as Paul says, we should let our thoughts dwell on them (Phil 4:8).

However, we must not seek to minimise what Jesus is saying here. His language is very strong. If we don’t get control of these areas of life, the damage to ourselves, those around us, and the Kingdom of God, can be incredibly destructive. That is why He warns that it is better to lose an eye or hand than give way to such sin. If we allow these things to get in they will quickly gain a foothold in our life which will always “bring forth death.”

The Kingdom of God is undergirded by sacrifice and self denial. We must resolve to bring our body and its lusts into subjection by keeping a constant watch over our own hearts, and to suppress or better, eradicate lust and corruption at its very first instance. The key to doing this is to seek God for His grace, depend upon that grace daily, and to walk in the Spirit, so that we may not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. As we do this were are assured that this will overcome the will of the flesh and glorify and carry out the will of the Holy Spirit. Failure to do this can result in our being drawn out from the Kingdom of God and back into the kingdom of darkness – which ultimately may result in a lost eternity. This is why Jesus gives such a stern warning – facing a lost eternity is worse than losing an eye or an arm and this can well be the result of unchecked lusts in our life.

Matthew Henry makes a great comment when he says “our Master requires nothing from us but what he knows to be for our advantage.” This is not a warning from a punitive God – it is a severe appeal for us to guard our souls as we journey through life and avoid such catastrophic circumstances.

Let me finish with quoting in full, Paul’s advice here.

Phil. 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

God bless you.