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« The Alabaster Box | Main | Are We Coming to the End of the Age of Grace? »

Christ and the Church

21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:21-27

One of the most frequent topics in the world today focuses on relationships. People want to know what they are, how to get into them, how to fix them, how to improve them and how to get out of them. This is because most of us know how important relationships to the entire fabric of life.

How much do your relationships affect you? All of us understand the reality and need for relationships in our lives, but few of us understand the impact they make on us.

Maybe an illustration from the world of physics will help us grasp this idea. We know that the gravitational force on Earth pulls everything toward the ground. This concept was formulated by Sir Isaac Newton, the renowned scientist of the 1600’s, who observed an apple falling from a tree and began to wonder why. He determined that a universal attraction affects all masses of matter through the force of gravity. This is called the Theory of Universal Gravitation.

He posited that not only does the Earth propel the apple toward it by the force of gravity, but the apple also pulls the Earth toward it by that same force. In the same way, every person in one’s circle of family, friends and acquaintances affects that person.

Conversely, that same person also has an affect on every other person in his or her universe. This creates an enormous and complex network of interdependent people, all of them connected to each other in some way, whether directly or indirectly. The things we hear, see and feel in other people in our network exerts either a positive or negative force on us.

There are many ways you can test this concept. You can start with the impact your parents had on you. Your physical appearance, behavior and personality were directly produced by your mother and father through your DNA . The primary way that babies and toddlers learn is by imitating others. Your accent is the product of the speech brogue in the locale in which you were raised. Your loyalties and preferences are most likely shaped by the people, groups and institutions in your same city or state. Social scientists have coined terms like acculturation and socialization to describe how people come to hold views espoused within the norms of their particular culture.

The noted criminologist Edwin H. Sutherland formulated the theory of differential association based on his findings that people develop criminal minds through associating with other people of similar backgrounds and experiences. Groupthink, gangs, peer groups, classes, schools, cadres, political parties, clubs, factions, denominations and wings all testify strongly to the behavior of people in groups.

The old saying, “birds of a feather flock together,” refers to the fact that people tend to stick with those who most likely resemble themselves. The Bible says, “Evil communi-cations corrupt good manners.” Based on the realities of social development outlined above, we can readily see the powerful truth contained in this scripture.

A person who does not think in evil ways can grow to be evil through the company he or she keeps. A pure mind and heart can be corrupted by associating with people who have evil hearts. This means that a person’s life is not merely a function of his or her own internal thought processes. We often make huge decisions, not by intellectual musing, education or thoughtful analysis, but by the innate desire that we possess to conform to our group. Moreover, this pressure can be exerted upon us by even one significant person in our lives.

To put it bluntly, you do not make up your own mind. A little of what this person thinks and a little of what that person thinks become influential factors in your final decisions. Added to that, a desire to please one person or a strong resistance to one person contributes to the end result as well. Deny it if you want, but you are extremely interested in what people think about you. Even when you boast of your independent spirit, you are playing off of some person or group. You use people, good and bad, as your reference point in establishing your identity. Whether you seek their approval or you reject their control, you end up judging yourself by what they think.

Even though I am of a certain age, I still wonder what my father would think of decisions I make or developments in my life, twenty-five years after his death. In my mind, I have carried on conversations with him and imagined what he might have said. My ability to do this is based on my familiarity with his values and opinions, my knowledge of similar decisions he actually made, and my deep respect for him as a man. In a very real sense, he continues to influence my life today.

Other people who played a major role in my life also continue to speak into my life. High school teachers, college professors, bosses, ministers, coaches and relatives still govern my thought processes because of their words and examples. Psychologists believe that older adults often live their lives in quest of the approval of their parents—even after their parents are deceased!

Nothing else gives life as much fulfillment as a loving relationship between a husband and wife, but nothing causes as much misery as a hateful relationship in marriage.


A husband was advised by a psychiatrist to assert himself. “You don’t have to let your wife henpeck you. Go home and show her you’re the boss.”

The husband took the doctor’s advice. He rushed home, slams the door, shakes his fist in his wife’s face, and he growls, “From now on, you’re taking orders from me. I want my supper right now! And when you get it on the table, go polish my shoes. Tonight, I’m going out with the boys. And you are going to stay at home where you belong.

And another thing! Guess who’s going to comb my hair, give me a shave, and tie my tie?”

His wife says calmly, “The undertaker.”

The real topic Paul was addressing here was not marriage, but the relationship the church was to have with Christ. He was establishing the right premise, the right attitude and the right response of the church toward Christ within the given parameters of our walk with Him.


Think of the different levels of relationship a man and a woman can have.

  • Friendship.
  • Possible relationship.
  • Interest in a relationship.
  • Occasional date.
  • Steady date.
  • Boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Engaged.
  • Married.


The dynamics change at each relationship level. The range spreads from no commitment or interest to total commitment.


The reason people must be very careful about how far they allow this relationship to progress is that you cannot be in a relationship without having the other party to fundamentally change your life, your goals, your welfare and your future. That’s why I counsel people to take it very slow and be very sure before they go to the next level.


Love-struck romantics often cast all care to the wind when they profess their love and commitment to each other. Unfortunately, their naiveté tanks all too quickly when they really learn what each other is made of. In pre-marital counseling, I take the lead in asking probing questions, like:


“Are you in debt?”
“Are you in trouble with the law?”
“Are you on parole?”
“Have you been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor?”
“Have you ever been committed to a psychiatric facility?”
“Do you have serious health issues?”
“Have you discussed your health records?”
“Have you been honest about previous relationships?”
“Have you been a user of illegal drugs?”
“Do you have any dependents that you have not mentioned?”
“How secure is your job?”


Questions like these—and many more—are not only difficult to ask, people who want the relationship badly enough will consciously avoid asking them for fear that they will get the wrong answer. If this happens, they may forever rue the day that they put their heads in the proverbial sand and chose to be willfully ignorant. Pay now or pay later…that’s my advice.


This past Friday, my wife and I celebrated thirty-eight years of marriage. If you are looking for it, you do not need a greater testimony to her endurance and commitment than that!


When I said “I do” on that fateful day in November, 1970, I basically ceded control of my life over to her. It meant that I had to say no to the prospective list of young ladies who were possibly interested in me. It meant that she now controlled my check book and my bank accounts. It meant that she now had my name and could sign legal documents that would obligate me forever. It meant that all the legal, moral, social and spiritual obligations of marriage were now share between the two of us. Listen to these vows again:


“to be my wife (husband); to have and to hold, from this day forward; for better for worse; for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until we are separated by death; as God is my witness, I give you my promise.


Better or worse; richer or poorer; sickness and health.


Those are huge stakes. They basically say that whatever…WHATEVER…the future holds, she and I are going to face it together. We are forever changed.


Jesus confirmed the concept. “Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father and cleave unto his wife and they two shall be one flesh.”


Relationship with Christ:


Many people enter into this relationship with a pie-in-the-sky illusion that it is absolutely free of cost, non-binding, fully-refundable, no-obligation kind of arrangement. Then, all of a sudden, they run into problems with their flesh, with the world, with their friends, with the devil. Things spin out of control and they think they have a faulty Bible and a non-performing Christ.


Salvation is not a pre-nuptial agreement.


This is the precise place where many people think about divorcing Christ before the ink is dried on the marriage contract. They have this notion that the wording was better, not worse; richer, not poorer; health, not sickness. They cannot believe that they cannot continue on living like they are single when, in fact, they have entered into a binding relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.


A relationship, by definition, has a life-changing impact on a person.


2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”


If you truly want to walk with Christ, you have to understand the dynamics of the relationship. Living for God and walking with Christ does not fit well with a self-designed contract. No. There are not different versions of Christ. People may try to sell you knock-offs or imitations of the real thing, but they will not stand up in the heat of the day.


Ruth and Naomi


What kind of commitment level is there in walking with God? Pay close attention to the story of Ruth.


Ruth 1:12 “Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; 13 Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. 14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. 15 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. 16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. 18 When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.”


What does this mean to us?

My relationship to Christ is so pervasive, so all-inclusive, so permanent that wherever he goes, I go; wherever he stays, I stay; whoever his people are, they are my people; whoever he says is God, I say is God.

Let’s put it in context:

1 Corinthians 1:23-31

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”


Christ effects my education.

Christ effects my social status.

Christ effects my strength and security.

Christ effects my value system, my politics, my commerce, my job.

Christ effects my dreams, my ambitions, my hopes, my ideals.


All things are effected by your relationship with Christ.


Galatians 5:16-25 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Your marriage status serves your flesh notice that it is not free to act the fool anymore. You are no longer in a vulnerable or potential state. You cannot to the things that you once did without thinking.

18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

“Led of the Spirit” means that you are now operating within a new relationship dynamic. You have been impacted by another force. This new force has knocked you out of commission with the world.

It is time for you to throw away your little black book. It is time for you to change your cell phone number. It is time for you to notify the world, the flesh and the devil that you are no longer available.

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

The marvelous thing about this new relationship is that once you begin to understand the depth of it, the width of it, the height of it and the breadth of it, you will realize how shallow and silly all of those other relationships were.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

The best thing about Christ is that we have heaven here to go to heaven there! After we enjoy this wonderful relationship with him in this life, we have a home prepared for us up there that has no comparison to anything we have ever imagined!

Revelation 21

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away

9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. 10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; 12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel


21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. 22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. 24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. 25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. 26 And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. 27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.


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