Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Please forgive me (John 6:63)

Please forgive me. The other day I read an article in the Gospel Coalition. In this article, the woman gave her testimony of her marriage and her total reliance on the grace of Christ to remain in covenant with him. Please read the whole story here. “I Still Do”

If I could use one sentence to describe the tone of the article it was this:
  “Death granted me an unlikely gift. I saw my marriage through the lens of eternity where my “sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed” (Rom. 8:18).”

When I first read this article I immediately began to question how a ministry such as The Gospel Coalition could share this article and still believe that scripture allows loopholes for divorce and remarriage. How can they not see the correlation of this woman’s testimony and the fact that those who believe in Christ will live, view and believe all things in light of eternity? In fact, every article I read on divorce and remarriage I compare to what they write to what I believe God says in His word is truth. I also must be clear that I only respond to “Christian” articles when it comes to defending the covenant of marriage. However, sometimes I respond without first considering how others will take my comments. I often categorize “Christians” and question their faith if they believe that there are loopholes out of marriage.   
In this particular case, the author of this article displayed the spirit indwelled life of a regenerated believer, and I believe that her actions should be the actions of every spouse in any situation of marriage. She shined the love of Christ, and this was impossible without first loving Christ first, even before her husband, and before her marriage. Marriage is a gift, and a new life in Christ is a gift. However, it takes a new life in Christ to love like Christ even when our spouse does not reciprocate the love of Christ to us.
I think what I fail to do sometimes is to heed the word of the Lord.

 John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

When I read an article such as this, on a ministry page such as this, immediately the word “hypocrisy” comes to mind. How can a ministry that stands for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ post this article of a Christ-filled woman who remained in a seemingly hopeless marriage, and then tell their readers that there are loopholes in marriage, and that divorce and remarriage is acceptable by the Lord in some cases? (Here and here are examples of such articles. I must note that I did respond to both of these here and here, respectively.)

 It’s as if only certain kinds of believers can remain single, be led by the Holy Spirit, have the faith to remain obedient to God, honor the vow of marriage, and be the light of Christ (such as the case of this article)…The believers who can’t remain single, or remain in covenant and love like Christ, they have the freedom to divorce and remarry? Now either it is one way, or the other….
 I can honestly tell you that my faith in Christ sustained me in the most difficult times and I will honestly tell you that it was the power Holy Spirit, and not me.  I just get angry when there appears to be loopholes for some, and others tend to not need loopholes, they just need the Lord. I can assure you it is the later person that blesses me, and not the one who leaps for the loophole. The one who leaps for the loophole does not need Christ, they prove to me that they need gratification of the flesh and that holiness, faith in Christ, and the love of Christ play second fiddle to what they believe ought to be true. 

This makes me angry. Righteous anger, or anger in the flesh? Did the Lord throw tables, and issue scathing remarks at the scribes and Pharisees in the flesh, or was it righteous anger when he called them serpents and vipers, asking them how they would escape the damnation of Hell? (Matthew 23:33) Looking back in some of my comments, I would like to think it was righteous anger.  

Will I lose my own joy of Christ, and then write in response to these articles, or is it profound sadness for the lost, knowing that lack of repentance from the sin of adultery brings judgment? 

Instead of posting simple verses that only require the promptings and truth of the Holy Spirit, I often expound upon this, and add my own take on the matter…as if the Holy Spirit is absent, or God’s word is not significant enough. Why should I try to convince someone that they are going to Hell if they do not repent of sin?

Is it the love of Christ to warn others that unrepentance of sin leads to judgment, or is this using verses to condemn others? Or, do the verses such a Luke 16:18 bring conviction, thus adding my two cents makes me appear self-righteous, or judgmental? 

Of course this is when I often make the claim that these false, but very popular views on divorce and remarriage are eternal issues, thus I am warning those who believe, approve and participate in remarriage after divorce. I am warning them to repent and dissolve these adulterous unions, or remain in these unions and face God’s wrath against unrepentant sin. I believe Christ came to save the lost, not the righteous. After all, it was the Pharisees who permitted both divorce and remarriage, and the Lord called one the actions of the hardhearted, and the other, he simply called this adultery.  

I will tell, and you may not believe me, but what is really behind this is a very genuine love for people, and that I sincerely believe that many are deceived by those who support and approve loopholes for the false interpretations of the exception clause (Matthew 5:32 and 19:9) and the Pauline privilege. (1 Cor 7:15) I sincerely believe that the early church taught the truth of marriage, divorce and remarriage and that the modern church has fallen victim to believing that culture, feelings, emotions, and worldly lusts of the eyes, and lust of the flesh, and the pride of life trump and supersede God’s word. But how do you come across as being “loving” when you tell someone that they are in adultery, and their “remarriage” is not a marriage in the Lord? 

I must admit that I often ride the coattails of truth, and leave grace behind. Surely there is grace in marriage, but why would I neglect grace for those who want to validate their second, third, or fourth marriage after their first, second and third divorce? Is there grace to remain in what God calls adultery? Or is it “ok” to say I am sorry that I divorced my spouse, so I can remain with a person who is not my spouse? 

The grace I offer, is to those who repent of adulterous remarriages, and those who repent of teaching loopholes to exit a one-flesh covenant marriage. Repentance is first acknowledging sin, and then never calling that sin anything other than sin. Thus, grace is for the penitent adulterer who ends the adulterous union by “divorcing” from the “remarriage.” God forgives and forgets the sin of adultery when we ….go and sin no more.   

Still others who think they know me will say…”Neil, you have to get over the fact your wife left you for another man.” That is until I tell them that I was not married, but in adultery. or…”You are bitter and misery loves company…you are miserable, now you want everyone to be miserable too.” Then I tell them that if what I am writing and saying is truth, everyone you know who is in a “remarriage” after a divorce of living spouse is in adultery. Is it bitterness, or is it a fear of God that I will stand responsible for not telling others the truth about divorce and remarriage?  Then there is…”Neil, you are only doing this because of your circumstance.” That is until I tell them that those who divorced and remarried did so only because they believed they could remarry. Their circumstance of divorce gave them the option to believe that they could remarry, even when the Holy Spirit was convicting them that God’s word said that they could not. 

Then there are those who say…”You have no idea what it is like to go through divorce.” Where is your compassion?” Well, I have gone through the effects of divorce, only because I believed for 20 plus years that I was married. Therefore, I know exactly what it is like to experience the pain, rejection, humility, and isolation of divorce. I do have compassion for those who go through divorce, but never at the expense of God’s word. I do know that I believe there is an injustice to those who believe in loopholes to divorce and remarry, because I know there are brothers and sisters out there that despite the injustice, they remain in faith to God and His word, even when their spouse, their family, their pastor, and the majority of the evangelical church, will not.  

Rarely do I get…”You know what Neil, you might be right about this.” It just so happens that this time I did get words of encouragement, (but mostly words of exhortation) after responding to this article. Someone responded to my comments, and I thank God for this. You can read this here, or read the entire comments section of the article.

Proverbs 17:27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.

Which brings me to an apology. I know I have responded to posts in the flesh. I will say I have tried to respond in a timely manner carefully selecting words that glorify the Lord. I have tried to convey my love for God, and the love of Christ for people. I know God loves everyone, and He does wish that none would perish, but that they would come to repentance. I believe this. I believe that God hates divorce and that scripture points to a life in Christ to remain in marriage, no matter the circumstance. I know that we are called to plant and water, and that God provides the increase.    

But I know I have responded with anger in the past. Please forgive me if it was not righteous anger, seasoned with grace humility and a gentle spirit. Please pray that I would seek and remain in the spirit of Christ so that He will get the glory. I pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that His institution of marriage will not be compromised, that I will always reflect the truth of the Gospel, as it applies, mirrors and reflects in the sacred covenant of marriage, and that others will be edified for the sake of the Kingdom.  

In Christ’s love,


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