Wednesday, August 8, 2012

First things first

On occasion as the need has arisen, I have had the opportunity to preach at my church.

One of the challenges with preaching one Sunday on rare occasions comes in seeking the passage upon which you will preach. The expositional pastor, the man who goes through a book of the Bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, doesn't have to worry about what he's preaching Sunday; he follows the flow of the text. Yes, this is gross oversimplification because much goes into God-honoring expositional preaching. To my mind, it is the best preaching. Still, the passage does not have to be chosen. Pared down and poured over, yes. Chosen, no.

The guy who has one Sunday would be hard pressed to get through 3 John in three, which leaves him to search for a small passage or small topic that he can treat with respect and honor in a single Sunday. God burdened me with "The Greatest Commandment."

As I poured through the text, Mark 12:28-34 and its myriad of byways, I wondered about this blog. Jesus said with unwavering clarity,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Do I over emphasize the need for husbands to love their wives? Am I encouraging you to set your bride up as an idol? My heart leaps up in defense, "Certainly not!" That is not my intent.

I began this corner of the universe to encourage men, Christian men specifically, to love their wives because I have seen too many men junk their marriage. Honestly, they first have to junk God before they get to their wives. If my relationship with him is in tatters and his voice has no sway in my life, my bride stands vulnerable to my every whim and idiosyncracy.

The Greatest Commandment must impel me in all things.

And really, it is no contradiction to impel you and others toward loving your wife. Peter did this very thing. As did Paul. So, too, did Jesus Christ when he did not stop with the greatest commandment-- though that is what he was asked--but continued into the second which he said was like the first:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Indeed, on these hang all the law and the prophets. Our vertical relationship with God must be right, I must love my God above all things, and yet God makes plain in the pages of Scripture that our love for him must bear out in our love for one another. Our sacrificial laying down of ourselves to God, our willingness to see his name glorified at any cost to our lives, is most vividly seen in our love for our neighbor. You have no neighbor closer to you, husband, than the beauty who sleeps at your side.
  • Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness...whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9, 11)
  • Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)
Hate is a strong word. Were I to ask you point blank, "Do you hate your wife?" you would look at me as if I'd just sprouted eight-legs. While we might not confess such a thing, do we live it in practice? Neglect. Biting words. Stilted conversation. No conversation. No tenderness. No nurturing. No leading. Do our actions betray us?
  • If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? (1 John 3:17)
Great question, John. Husbands?

If we do love God, it will blossom in our love (care, concern, affection, etc.) for others. So says the word of God.
  • Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
  • Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (4:11)
  • If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (4:12)
  • He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (4:20)
  • And this is the commandment we have from him, whoever loves God must also love his brother. (4:21)
C.S. Lewis summed it up with his usual incisiveness:
When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.  In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all.  When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.
The priority remains: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength. If you find me deviating from the course in these proddings, prod back. Let me know if the supremacy of Christ is lacking in these things.

Since you cannot have the one without the other, I pray you will understand what I mean when I spur you on with, "Husband, love your wife!"

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