Our marriage “problems” are only symptoms of the actual problem in our relationships with Christ. In my own marriage, for instance, the “problem” looked like I did not have enough time for my wife and children, but that was only a symptom. The problem was that I would not obey the Holy Spirit’s conviction to put my family ahead of the church, make my wife a priority, spend more time with my children, etc. Plus, I was being consumed with anxiety, versus trusting Christ like I should have. In other words, the marriage problems I was experiencing were directly connected to my relationship with Christ.
A couple’s marriage problems can only be fixed by focusing on their relationships with the Lord
This is why any biblical marriage counseling must address the husband and wife’s relationship with Christ. Couples I counsel are often confused when they share marriage problems they are experiencing and I respond by asking:
“What does your time in God’s Word look like?”
“How is your prayer life?”
“Tell me about your involvement in the church?”
A wife will say, “I just told you my husband yells at me. Why are you talking about his time in the Word?” Because the hope is that as a husband reads God’s Word he will become convicted of his sin and repent. He will become a more patient and loving leader. I do not have the power to change a husband’s heart (and apparently neither does a wife or there would be no need for counseling). A husband can only become a new man through a relationship with Christ.Continue reading Marriage problems are really only symptoms
16:07-19:27 Update on Marriage God’s Way Workbook and closing
Question for Scott: “Should we leave this church?”
I wanted to ask about leaving our church because of their misunderstanding of some doctrines. I don’t think I’ve handled the situation well. We’ve been checking out other churches, so instead of being a voice of reason the awkwardness has us not going there at all. My desire has been to continue going there, but my wife does not enjoy it. Though the people are sincere, the church is dead and there is a heavy spiritual attack going on. Another reason my wife doesn’t want to attend is my former fiancé from three years ago is there. The girl and I have no interest in each other, but it’s still hard for my wife to see her.
Every church we visit there is a lack of sobriety, or the they seem to be off base somewhere important. Perhaps they allow female teachers or there’s a “pop Christianity.” I’ve suffered way too much to attend a ho-hum church. I want seriousness, Scripture, and the life of Christ.
I met with the pastor a few times to reconcile our differences. He’s a very intellectual person and familiar with Scripture. But he’s come to a different interpretation of almost everything I believe God has taught me. I don’t see the pastor changing his mind, and I don’t know if I should bring up to the rest of the church the things I think are wrong.
“Hi Pastor Scott, You talked about people having spiritual gifts and using them in the church. Do you have insight into determining your spiritual gifts? Thanks!”
Here’s my response…
This is such a common question people have developed surveys to help determine spiritual gifts. Ephesians 4:7-8 says God has given at least one gift to each person, but Scripture doesn’t provide any strategies for determining those gifts. So to be clear, these are my suggestions but I can’t support them with verses.
1. Learn the spiritual gifts in Scripture.
There are two primary passages listing the gifts (Rom 12:6-8 and 1 Cor 12:4-11). Unless you have some familiarity with the gifts, you’ll never know what gifts you have. As you read the passages, pray God reveals how He’s gifted you.
These passages aren’t exhaustive lists so much as they’re palettes helping us understand what the gifts look like. For example, some people are gifted musically, but even though music is prominent in the church it isn’t listed as a gift. We shouldn’t assume that just because something isn’t listed it isn’t a ‘real’ gift.
Divisive people should be avoided, because of the problems they cause. Sometime time back I found myself dealing with a divisive person. I went to God’s Word to see how to respond and my studying produced two posts:
Scripture makes it clear the correct way to deal with fools is by not responding. The main reason is that they’re too prideful to receive correction well. The same is true with divisive people. In my studying, I learned six reasons they should be avoided…
1. Avoid divisive people, because that’s what God commands.
If this was the only reason it would be enough:
Romans 16:17 I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.
Titus 3:10a Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition.
Divisive people are such a threat they have to be “noted” or watched, and then “avoided” or “rejected.”
2. Avoid divisive people, because they destroy a church’s unity and witness.
When people think of the “worst sins” divisiveness probably doesn’t come to mind, and this is unfortunate.Proverbs 6:16-19 lists six sins God hates, and a seventh that is detestable to Him: “one who sows discord among brethren.” Most other translations say “brothers” (ESV, NASB). These are ways to refer to God’s people.
Even if you’ve been trained to think church is only about showing up Sunday morning and leaving when service is over you need to know that’s not what God wants! God’s plan is the opposite of shallow, superficial involvement with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The church is a family where we’re expected to be involved in each other’s lives and have people involved in our lives. The church is described as a body where every part is important:
“If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?” (1 Cor 12:15-16). Every part is important!
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ Those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” (1 Cor 12:21-22) Each part needs the other parts! Every part has to be involved and working together to have a healthy, efficient body.
An interesting consideration is that although corporate worship on the Lord’s Day is important, if that constitutes your involvement in the church you’ll be unable to obey many commands:
Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification (Rom 15:2).
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Phil 2:4).
Comfort each other and edify one another (1 Thes 5:11).
Exhort one another daily…and let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good words (Heb 3:13 & 10:24).
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another (1 Pet 4:10).
If you think your responsibility toward the body of Christ ends at showing up Sunday morning and leaving when service is over, you’re going to disobey most of these commands. The level of involvement God wants us to have in each other’s lives is much deeper than what can take place when churches don’t challenge people to love and service.
Woodland Christian Church is growing, which is a good thing, but we want to make sure we maintain a family feel. That happens as people get to know each other and develop relationships. Attend church events and activities, but also invite people over to your home.
Nobody’s spiritual heritage compares to that of the Jews. Paul lists some of the blessings unique to them as God’s people: the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came(Rom 9:4, 5). When John the Baptist came on the scene though he told them, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance (meaning produce fruit that shows you’ve repented), and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Matt 3:8, 9).
Basically, the Jews thought they were saved BECAUSE of their spiritual heritages; in that sense it actually became a stumbling block for them. They were trusting in that more than they were trusting in repentance and faith in Christ; therefore, John told them, “God could turn these rocks into children of Abraham” meaning being a physical descendant of Abraham doesn’t cut it.
Jesus had to contend with this too. The Jews told Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants…Abraham is our father” but Jesus replied, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me…You do the deeds of your father” (John 8:32-41). Abraham was their father physically, but spiritually their father was the devil.
Here’s what’s interesting: Jesus said “If you were Abraham’s children…” butthey were Abraham’s children! This makes sense if we understand Abraham had two types of children:
Physical or biological children: the Jews.
Spiritual children: people who have put their faith in Christ. There there were lots of Jews who were physical children of Abraham, but not spiritual children of Abraham, and there are lots of non-Jews, or Gentiles, who are not physical children of Abraham, but are spiritual children of Abraham:
Romans 2:28 He is not a Jew (or child of Abraham) who is one outwardly (or biologically)…but he is a Jew who is one inwardly (or spiritually)
Galatians 3:7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. That’s talking about spiritual sons of Abraham.
Jesus and John’s point is the Jews needed to move from being physical children of Abraham to spiritual children of Abraham.
There is tremendous application in this for children today with great spiritual heritages…
The Jews thought they were saved because they had a great spiritual heritage, and many times children that grow up in the church think they’re saved because of that spiritual heritage.
The Jews thought they were saved because Abraham was their father, and many times children think they’re saved because their parents are Christians.
And there’s just as much application in this for parents as well:
Sometimes parents think their children are Christians just because they have Christian parents. Just as frequently as you hear children say…
“Oh yeah, I’ve always been a Christian. I grew up in a Christian home. I’ve always gone to church.”
You’ll hear parents say…
“Oh yeah, my kids have always been Christians. They grew up in a Christian home. They’ve always gone to church.”
Nobody has always been a Christian any more than the Jews were born spiritual children of God. Every Christian is an individual who at some point surrendered his or her life to Christ, and anyone who hasn’t done that isn’t a Christian.
When John the Baptist came on the scene he told the Jews, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance (meaning produce fruit that shows you’ve repented), and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Matt 3:8, 9).
It’s interesting John told the Jews, “Do not think to say to yourselves…” It sounds like the times in the New Testament we’re told, “Do not be deceived.” That’s a phrase we see when there’s a strong tendency for us to be deceived in a certain area. For example:
1 Cor 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” There’s a tendency for us to think we can hang out with the wrong people and not suffer as a result.
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. There’s a tendency for us to think we can “get away with sin.”
There was clearly a strong tendency for the Jews to think they were saved because they were Jews, and there’s a strong tendency for the children of Christian parents to think they’re saved because they’re the children of Christian parents.
This all looks to why the statistics are so alarming about young people leaving the church: they never develop their own faith. They only had a relationship with God through their parents and when their parents were out of the picture they had no relationship with God themselves. Their parents were their connection to God and without them there was no connection. The Jews had to make a willful, deliberate decision to repent and follow Christ, and the children of Christian parents need to make a willful, deliberate decision to repent and follow Christ.
Although it might look like the real application in all this is for the children of Christian parents, there’s as much application for Christian parents themselves. Christian parents can’t trust that their children are saved because they grew up in Christian homes. They can’t trust that because their children went to church every Sunday for years or sat in on countless family devotionals that they’re born again. They need to fervently pray their children to surrender their lives to Christ.
This hits especially close to home for me as a pastor as my children spend more time involved with church activities than anything else in their lives. I know they need to recognize their sinfulness and need for forgiveness through Christ. I know they need to repent and surrender their lives to the Lord.
Let me conclude by making two points…
When John told the Jews they needed to be baptized, that was terribly shocking for them because only Gentiles were baptized when they wanted to proselytize to Judaism (you can learn more about this in a sermon I preached on Luke 3:1-6 titled Preparing the Way for the Lord). Basically, they learned they were as filthy as the Gentiles and needed to repent and be spiritually cleansed just like them. The children of Christian parents are as filthy as the children of non-Christian parents and they need to repent and be spiritually cleansed as much as children that have never set foot in church.
The Jews had an amazing spiritual heritage. No nation in history has experienced the blessings they’ve experienced. But that spiritual heritage meant nothing (and was even a stumbling block for them) if it didn’t lead to repentance and personal faith in Christ. Similarly, a child could have the greatest spiritual heritage in the world, but a spiritual heritage means nothing if it doesn’t lead to repentance and personal faith in Christ. Here’s a sermon I preached related to this subject.
When I was at camp, Jim shared with me that it’s been his “heart’s desire for years” to see his children going to the same church, having children that grow up together. He was sharing how blessed he feels seeing that happening, and that really captures a vision we have at WCC. When people ask me about our distinctions, second only to being a church that strives to teach and follow God’s Word, I tell people we’re a family church. And we mean that in two different ways:
We want all the families at WCC to feel like part of one big family. We want to go through things together. We want to live out 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 where Paul says the members should have the same care for one another, and if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice. This past week I was talking to an unchurched person who felt like she didn’t really have a biological family, and I told her she should get plugged in to a church where her brothers and sisters in Christ can become her family. It’s been a great blessing for me as the pastor to hear people (and there have been a number of them) describe WCC as their family.
We want families to come to WCC and stay together as families and watch their children grow up and have children and then watch their grandchildren grow up. That’s what Jim was describing seeing. This all relates to us striving to engage in so many church activities with the family units staying together. We have a number of families with three generations attending, and the Cunninghams even have four generations. All of this is significant to me because of the strong desire I had for years for my parents to be Christians. Now having them at church with me, where I pastor, is beyond anything I ever would’ve imagined. Ephesians 3:20 says God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think and my parents are an example of that in my life. I’m filled with joy every time I see my kids with them, and I’m happy to see many others in our body experiencing the same blessing.
In summary I’d say it like this: we want to be a number of families following the Lord, that feel like one big family.
Sunday’s sermon, 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 Fruit Worthy of Repentance – Part III, can be found here.
Why do we worship corporately on Sunday instead of Saturday? I’ve been asked this a number of times.
With Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, a transition took place between the Old and New Covenants. Both covenants were instituted with blood. The Old with the blood of an animal and the New with the blood of Christ. Consider the parallelism between describing the instituting of both covenants:
Exodus 24:8 Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”
Luke 22:20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
With the institution of the New Covenant, a transition took place. From the seventh day of the week to the first. From Saturday to Sunday. Primarily this happened in honor of Christ’s resurrection.
Sunday is emphasized in the New Testament.
The phrase “first day of the week” occurs eight times in the New Testament:
Once in Acts identifying the day the early church met. Acts 20:7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.
Once when Paul encourages believers to set aside something to give financially. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. More than likely Paul told them to set their collections aside on the first day of the week, because that’s when they gathered for worship.
If all we had was Acts 20:7 saying the early church met on the first day of the week, that alone would be enough to encourage corporate worship on Sundays.
John MacArthur said, “The writings of the early church Fathers confirm the church continued to meet on Sunday after the close of the NT period.”
Matthew Henry said, “The first day of the week is to be observed by all the disciples of Christ; and it is a sign between Christ and them.”
The Sabbath is not emphasized in the New Testament.
But there’s also the de-emphasizing of the seventh day in the rest of the New Testament. “First day of the week” occurs eight times in the New Testament, but “seventh day of the week” never occurs. But understandably we’d expect it to be called “Sabbath” instead. Consider:
The Sabbath is mentioned in the Gospels, because the transition to the first day had not yet taken place.
When the Sabbath is mentioned in Acts it’s associated with the practice of Jews who have not yet embraced Christ, but it’s never associated with the practice or worship of the church.
After Acts, there’s only one mention of the Sabbath:
Colossians 2:16-17 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
This is the only time the Sabbath is mentioned – say nothing about commanded – after Acts. This fact alone would be unimaginable if believers were expected to keep the Sabbath. The epistles are the letters of instruction to the church. Wouldn’t there be at least one command for Christians? Instead, the one verse mentioning the Sabbath identifies it as a shadow pointing to Christ, while making the point you can’t judge people based on their view of it. Consider the absence of a verse saying, “Let no one judge you regarding forgiveness…love…prayer…service.” Why don’t we see verses like that? Because forgiveness, love, prayer, and service are commanded. The Sabbath is not.
Paul also downplays keeping the Sabbath in Romans. “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.” (Rom 14:5-6b).
If Paul thought the Sabbath should be observed, two things are inconceivable:
That he would write these verses in Romans and Colossians.
That there would be no verses mentioning the Sabbath elsewhere in the NT. Contrast the amount of instruction on prayer, love, forgiveness, serving, with the silence regarding keeping the Sabbath.
Gather corporately on the Lord’s Day.
Why is Sunday known as “the Lord’s Day”?
In Revelation 1:10 John said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” He’s probably referring to the first day of the week, which is why Sunday gained this title.
The more obvious reason is this is the day of the Lord’s Resurrection.
The early church met “on the first day of the week…to break bread.” The words “break bread” refer to communion as opposed to simply fellowship together. As much as communion looks back to Christ’s death, it also looks forward to His return: 1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
Why would they celebrate communion on the seventh day of the week when Christ was resurrected on the first day of the week? They wouldn’t. This is one other reason for meeting on the first day of the week.
With the transition from the Old to New Covenant, the Sabbath was fulfilled in Christ. The same with other ceremonial portions of the Law, i.e. sacrifices, circumcision, festivals. The early church gathered on the first day of the week in honor of Christ’s resurrection, and we should too!
When you worship on the Lord’s Day, are you reminded of the Lord’s Resurrection? Do you have any questions about the Sunday worship, the Sabbath, or a believer’s relationship to the Law? Share your thoughts or questions below!
Matthew Henry’s Commentary: In One Volume, p. 1716.
 You can see the that “breaking bread” is not the same as fellowship in Acts 2:42 where the two actions are distinguished from each other: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. In this verse “breaking bread.”