Marriage: A Beautiful Shadow of a More Excellent and Certain Reality

pexels-photo rings
by Kaity Glick
I wait with eager expectation for my wedding day. The day when my friends and family gather to celebrate with me God’s faithfulness and love through the good gift of marriage.  The day when my future husband and I will enter into a covenant before God that by his grace we will be committed to one another for the rest of our lives. The day that we will begin our marriage and our relationship will become a picture of Christ and his bride the church.  The day for which we have been planning and hoping for months and even years. It will indeed be a joyous day that is worthy of celebrating.

But the joy of my earthly wedding day will pale in comparison to the day Christ returns: the wedding day of Christ and his bride the church. This joy will pale in comparison not because earthly weddings are not rightly to be celebrated as a good gift from the Lord, but because of the surpassing greatness of Christ’s union with his bride. Because on this heavenly wedding day, the church will finally experience what earthly marriage has been pointing to for all this time. Instead of having the picture or shadow of what is to come, we will experience the real thing. We will experience intimacy and union with Christ that is beyond what we could ever hope or imagine. This heavenly wedding day is recorded in Revelation 21:1-7. According to this passage there are two future realities that Christ’s bride has to look forward to: perfect union with God and God doing away with sadness and sin.

We will finally experience perfect union with God. Revelation 21:3 says, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” In the Old Testament, the tabernacle served as a picture of the presence of God (Ex. 40:34). But while the presence of God rested upon the tabernacle that was in the camp of his people, he did not fully dwell among his people. They interacted with God in the way he prescribed through sacrifices mediated by the priests and through Moses, but the people themselves could not enter into God’s presence. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, in the New Testament era, Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them and are able to enter into the presence of God (Matt. 27:51).  But we still do not have God dwelling among us in a physical sense. In Revelation, the presence of God actually dwells among his people in both a physical and a spiritual sense. God’s people will no longer need to approach God through the mediation of a priest, but will instead dwell with Him. We will have perfect union with God both physically and spiritually.

Along with dwelling among his people, God will also “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4a). We will no longer experience the pain and heartache that comes from living in a world that is broken by sin. There will be no more physical pain of injury or disease. No more emotional pain of broken relationships and difficult circumstances. The reason that God will be able to do away with sadness is because he will completely do away with sin. Revelation 21:4b says, “there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” No longer will we fight against a sinful nature. No longer will sin bring about death and pain. No longer will our relationship with God and our relationships with others be torn because of our sin or because of the sins of others. We will live in perfect peace with God and with his people. We will no longer have the ability to do, say, think or feel anything that is displeasing to God. Because there is no sin, we will be able to fully experience union with our creator.

So as I long for my earthly wedding day, I seek to allow this yet unfulfilled longing to point my mind to a higher and more certain reality. Not just the fulfillment that may come if God allows me to marry, but the certain fulfillment that will come when Christ returns and is united fully and perfectly to his bride the church. Beyond the unfulfilled longing of earthly marriage, I should fight for this mindset in the face of any unfulfilled longing on this earth. My ultimate satisfaction will come when Christ returns and I dwell fully with the Lord and experience the end of sin and sadness. This reality is greater and more precious than any good gift God may choose to give on this earth.

Kaity Glick is a graduate of Boyce College and is getting married July 29th.


For more information on relationships and romance, be sure to find Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon’s new books Letters to a Romantic: On Dating and Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement, (P&R, 2017).

 

My Wife Has Tattoos: Marriage, New Birth, and the Gospel

 

Image
Photo credit: Todd Balsley

by Spencer Harmon

 

Today is the day of my wedding.  And I am not marrying the girl of my dreams.

If you would have told me when I was a teenager that my wife would have seven tattoos, a history in drugs, alcohol, and attending heavy metal concerts, I would have laughed at you, given you one of my courtship books, and told you to take a hike.  My plans were much different, much more nuanced with careful planning, much more clean-cut, and much more, well, about me.

You see, it wasn’t my dream to marry a girl that was complicated.  I never dreamed that I would sit on a couch with my future wife in pre-marital counseling listening to her cry and tell stories of drunken nights, listing the drugs she used, confessing mistakes made in past relationships.

This isn’t my dream – it’s better.

Many people wouldn’t put Taylor and I together.  In high school, we probably would not have been friends.  She probably would have thought that I was a nice, boring, judgmental Christian kid; I probably would have thought that she was a nice, lost, party-scene girl that guys like me are supposed to stay away from.  People like us, with our backgrounds and histories are not supposed to meet, fall in love, and covenant their lives to each other.

But everything changes when people meet Jesus.  Jesus takes people like rebellious teenage partiers, and goody-two-shoe homeschoolers and puts them together in marriage to put something on display much bigger than their own hand-crafted, perfectly planned love-story.

Right in the middle of the mess of life, Taylor met Jesus, and he planted his flag in her life, and she believed in him and he transformed her.  The Taylor who spent her life living from one pleasure to the next died, and a new person was born.  A new person with new desires, and a new heart that longed to please God, serve people, and treasured Jesus Christ above all other pleasure.

And this is how I see Taylor.  She is completely new, completely transformed, and completely clean.  This is not because she became a part of a helpful program, or because she really “pulled herself together.” It’s because God, in his incredible, infinite kindness, took Taylor’s dark, crimson life, and made her as white as a snow.  He took all of her sins on placed them on his Son, and then gave her Jesus’ righteousness to wear like a perfect white wedding dress.

In reality, Taylor’s story is my story as well.  As Taylor walks towards me today, I will be reminded of how much I do not deserve the precious gift she is to me.  I have spent much of my life singing a self-centered siren song.  Nothing about my life cries for blessings; it calls for curses forever.  Yet, God has dressed me in white, put my sin upon his Son, and given me a heart that loves him.

I love Taylor with all that I am.  She is gentle, kind, patient, joyful, beautiful, and loving.  I don’t deserve to marry someone like her.  I didn’t plan for this, but I’m so glad I am not getting what I planned for.

So, today when she walks down the aisle to me, I will be reminded of the beautiful reality that God exchanges that sin of our past in exchange for the perfect righteousness of his Son.  Contrary to popular opinion, our wedding day is not our wedding day; it is the display of the most stunning reality in the universe: that God sent his Son to die to redeem a people for Himself made clean the blood of his Son.

God’s ultimate plan in putting Taylor and I together is that he wants to uniquely put his grace on display so that other people will praise him (Ephesians 1:5-6).  That’s his purpose for our marriage, and that’s his purpose in the world at large, and Taylor and I are taking part in that, and hope you will too.

 

The content for this post has been updated and expanded in Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement which will be released September 29th, 2017 by P&R Publishing. Spencer Harmon is also the co-author of the forthcoming book Letters to a Romantic: On Dating.

Four Chemicals for Christian Chemistry: How do you know who you should marry?

 

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

 

How should a Christian think about another Christian when it comes to a potential romance? Perhaps you are considering pursuing someone or allowing someone to pursue you. Although these categories are probably not exhaustive, they may be helpful as you think about a potential mate.

 

Four Chemicals for Christian Chemistry:

 

1. Character

It need not go without saying. When it comes to marriage, godly character is not just a deal breaker; it is what the game is all about. This is first on the list because without it nothing else matters. This is the sun all planets orbit around. The rings of Saturn don’t matter without Saturn. Without a deep love for Jesus, marriage will be miserable. The potential wife should be maturing into a Proverbs 31 woman and the potential husband should be a Psalm 112 man. It also should be noted that there is a difference between potential godliness and actual godliness. A wise man pointed out to me that potential godliness does not exist. It is simply “potential.” The person you are considering for marriage must have real visible godly character in order to qualify for the picking.

If you are a woman, you need a husband who is maturing in the faith in order to lead you closer to Jesus. Perfection is not required, but pursuit of holiness is mandatory. If you are a man, you should be seeking a woman who is already exhibiting love, compassion, wisdom and gentleness. Look for the girl who is already serving in your church and washing the feet of the saints. She will be a keeper. Questions to ask include the following: Do I want this man to teach my children the Scriptures? Do I want this woman to raise my children to love the Lord? Is this man a role model I want to follow? Is this lady someone who can show me more of God’s heart and push me closer to Christ?

 

2. Personality

Not everyone is meant to get along all the time. It is a sin to have ungodly character (1 Timothy 3) but it is not a sin to be socially incompatible. Perhaps you are an extrovert and can’t help but be the life of the party. You may or may not mesh with the introvert who loves to study instead of playing Quelf. If wakeboarding gives you a high and you are the president of the local rock climbing club, you might jump off a cliff if you marry someone who is content to never see sunlight. Then again, that kind of thing just might stoke your fire. To each his own. The point is that you need to marry someone you can have a happy conversation with and that enjoys at least some of the things you do. Not all the pistons need to fire, but you at least have to have a motor that runs. Marriage is not meant to be miserable. You should marry someone who compliments your personality. The best way to figure out if your personalities mesh well together is to spend time together in as many appropriate settings as possible.

 

3. Trajectory

It is not just enough to be godly and personable. You need to be on the same tarmac. The man needs to have a plan. What will you be doing in the next 5 – 10 years? You need to be seeking the Lord and know the direction you are traveling. How are you going to turn the world upside down with the message of the gospel? How are you going to bring glory to Jesus with the days he has given you? This does not have to be anything spectacular – it can actually be rather simple. But it needs to be there. And it needs to be going some where.

 

A woman should not marry a man who is simply blowing in the wind. As a woman, do you want to follow the man you are interested in? Do you want to submit to his leadership and pursue magnifying Jesus together? If he wants to be a construction worker that shares the gospel while on a forklift, are you okay with raising his hard hat family? If he wants to be a missionary to Alaska, are you kosher with seal blubber boots?

If a potential wife wants to be a CEO of Google and a potential husband wants to make farm in Pennsylvania, these lovers need to chat before sailing off into the romantic sunset. These are conversations that need to be had and they can be determinative. Do your visions of life align with each other? (Philippians 1:17)

 

4. Attraction

Your future spouse will be your best friend on the planet. But they need to be more than this. If you come home from work and only want to play checkers together, we have a problem. The Bible commands spouses to delight sexually in each other and this requires a level of physical attraction (Proverbs 5:18-19).

Notice that attraction is last on this list. I place it last because attraction can be automatic or it can be cultivated. You may be interested in someone simply because they caught your eye. No problem here necessarily. However, don’t underestimated the reality that physical attraction can also be cultivated. Its funny how this works. Attraction can blind people to ungodly character, yet godly character can open eyes to see beauty. That beauty can spill over into physical interest. You may not be swooning over someone the first time you see them, but after you notice their character, personality and trajectory in life… you might be surprised to find yourself growing in affection for them. Perhaps they are a rare gem in the rocks that need a closer examination to see its value. Perhaps we all need to die to self and acknowledge true beauty.

You may be wondering how these things practically work themselves out. How can you actually use these four criteria? The church is essential. To quote one of my good friends:

 

Dating is a team sport. It is hard to determine this for yourself.  The heart is deceitful above all things.  And there’s hormones.  And emotions.  And social pressure to get married.  Or at least date.  When you get to be older, people start wondering if there’s extra marshmallows in your lucky charms if you’re not dating anyone.

 

Courtship is a community event. Invite your church into your life and don’t be afraid to ask them whether or not you are concocting the right chemicals in your Christian chemistry.

 

The content for this post has been updated and expanded in Letters to a Romantic: On Dating which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing. 

Letter To A Young Engaged Man: The Marriage Bed

Dear Young Engaged Man,

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes sex.

I am frustrated by most churches who neglect this topic and do the body of Christ great harm. Simultaneously, I am frustrated with other churches who are explicit with sex and talk about it in very unhelpful ways; nevertheless, Jesus wants Christians to think biblically about this topic.  Many things could be said here but I want to focus on the attitude that should shape the way we view sex.

The gospel has no bounds and is not privy to categories of “public” or “private.” Jesus is the God of the living room and of the bed room. God will not let you be selfish in any area, including your most intimate endeavors. Our sex drive should be selfless. Your pleasure must be rooted in God and in bringing your spouse pleasure.

On your wedding night and then every night after, your mind should be that of Christ Jesus, who, although being in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2:5-7). Before lying down in bed with your wife, you must be willing to lay your life down for her.  We need the grace of Jesus to do this.

The Christian must not do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. The marriage bed must remain undefiled by lust and selfishness.  This is why only Christians can have truly satisfying sex. Only the Christian couple can find their delight in selfless service. It is only the Christian husband or wife who can satisfy both their body and heart in the marriage bed.

Remember to love your neighbor as yourself, especially the one who will sleep next to you. Settle it in your heart now to make your marital bliss complete by being selfless. Purpose to do whatever you do, whether you eat, drink, or have sex, to do it all for the glory of God.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: A Wedding is a Community Event

Dear Young Engaged Man,

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

As my wedding approached, the amount of generosity my friends and family showed my wife and I was overwhelming.  You would not believe some of the stories: A couple of my friends came over one evening to cook for me while another friend feverishly moved my fiancées possessions into our future home; other friends poured out the love of Christ by addressing wedding invitations, wrapping party favors, and compiling power points; parents shopped for us, planned for us, and provided for us all along the way. Every hole was patched and every loose end was tied by the love and affection of our neighbors. I cannot tell you of all the instances of kindness we experienced.

The climax of this relentless hospitality was during the few days before the ceremony.  Over and over again the words “what can I do next?” graciously found their way to us.  Some did not even ask because they had already thought of projects to tackle.

A wedding is truly a community event. Our brothers and sisters washed our feet with joyful smiles and reflected a deep love for Christ and His bride.

What is hospitality?  Jeff Dalrymple often summarizes hospitality as anticipating the needs of others. This is an excellent definition. Anticipating the needs of others and joyfully meeting them for the glory of Christ.  What separates secular hospitality from Christian hospitality? Genuine joy.  Our wedding party exhibited a deep fountain in Jesus which overflowed into the basins where they placed our feet. Our family had their finger on our pulses to continually check our needs and meet them.  Their example is a letter about hospitality that continues to be circulated.

May we emulate them as they emulate Christ.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: The Weighty Thrill

Dear Young Engaged Man,

When the time comes for you to stand before your bride and say your vows, a mix of emotions will flood your soul. The exchange of vows is a weighty thrill.  You are thrilled by your deep love for her and the weight of your promise is sobering.  The line in your vows that perhaps carries the most weight is “Till death do us part.”  Not many couples realize the significance of this short phrase.

If you say this phrase, you will be committing to never leave nor forsake your bride until the day you breathe your last. You will be committing to be a one woman man until you behold Jesus face to face.

Be warned. The promise is not “Till adultery do us part.” Nor is it “Till abandonment do us part.”

I am convinced that the Bible teaches believers should not divorce under any circumstances. We can discuss that later if you like, but even if you disagree, I plead with you to discard any “parachute cord” from your marriage. Remove from your mind all reasons for divorce and live as Christ does with his bride. Irrevocably committed.

Christ will never leave nor forsake his bride, even when we commit adultery against him.  Christ will never abandon his wife, even when we abandon our first love.  The vows are weighty and before a holy God.  Our “yes” must be “yes” and our “no” be “no”. Heath Lambert helped me realize the seriousness of the wedding vows. He has pointed out that if you are going to hold to legitimate exceptions for divorce in your marriage, then you must include them in your vows or completely leave off the phrase “Till death do us part.” You can’t have your exception and eat it too.

Ephesians chapter five calls us to love our wife as Jesus loves us. Make a fundamental commitment to never separate what God joins together. (Mark 10:9)  God calls you to be a Hosea even if you marry a Gomer.

I am praying for you as you prepare for the weighty thrill of covenanting together with your bride.  May your marriage oaths be true until either you or the heavens and earth pass away.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To a Young Engaged Man: One Day Closer

Dear Young Engaged Man,You are one day closer to marriage and you are one day closer to the return of Jesus.There is a link between these two things: Just as you long to be with your bride in an unhindered and unrestrained way, you should long to be with your Savior free from sin and unrestrained by the flesh.  Just as you have waited all these years for your wedding day and life together, I pray you have waited all of these years to behold the face of Jesus and spend eternity together.  Your bride is going to walk down the aisle to meet you – the one who loves her and has longed for her.  Jesus is going to descend from the sky to meet those who have loved him and awaited his return.

Many times at the beginning of engagement people asked me, “What day are you thinking about getting married?” I would respond “tomorrow” or “yesterday.” I assume you are like me and can hardly wait.  Towards the end of engagement people have cheerfully asked, “Are you excited?”
This question became wonderfully foolish because the answer was so obvious. I assume the same will be for you.

Brother, I do not say this to be overly spiritual or to sound puritan. The only thing more exciting than the upcoming wedding day is the return of Jesus.  I say that because Jesus has been kind to my heart and I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. His steadfast love is better than marriage.

Now you might be tempted to think, “If Jesus comes back before I am married, then will I have missed out?” Or you might be tempted to feel depressed that you did not get to experience the joy, friendship, or intimacy of marriage.  Take heart. “Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key.” (This Momentary Marriage, pg. 15)  Or to think of it visually, we would never trade a person for a photo.

Marriage is simply a picture of the person and work of Jesus Christ; marriage is only a mirror that reflects the relationship of Jesus and His bride; marriage is merely a good gift to glorify a satisfying God.  Enjoy marriage, but only as it submits the the supreme pleasure of knowing God.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but soon we shall see face to face.

Until then,
Sean