I am actually attempting to recapture blogs I have written and consolidating those here. This one hails from June 10, 2011.
In John 17 Jesus is recorded praying a dynamic prayer for believers and unbelievers. Our heart is to help the Church experience a dynamic oneness that will announce the reality of the Gospel.
In the 17th chapter in the Gospel of John we get to be a fly on the wall of Jesus’ prayer life. The Gospels record Jesus pulling away to be alone with the Father. This prayer flows powerfully from the well of Jesus’ deep heart for those who believe and those who will one day finally rest in the cosmic reality of God’s great invitation into holy brotherhood and sonship.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Last weekend I had the opportunity to officiate my fourth wedding. The words I crafted flow right from an ongoing interest of mine in the connection between Trinitarian relationship and Christian marriage. Within the personality of God we see a “oneness” that we are invited to experience when we bind our lives to another person. Speaking to the primary purpose of marriage at a wedding seems like a very relevant direction to head. Even as I was looking this young couple in the eyes as I spoke, tears formed in theirs (and mine) as I charged them to chase oneness every minute of every day. Oneness with God. Oneness with each other. During this message I was at one point very aware that I had not referenced my notes once. This message was flowing right out of my own life and marriage. Probably because this has been a place of radical challenge and change for me.
The morning after the wedding I spoke to about fifty students at my church. All week I prayed about what God might like me to share. Lots of topics floated through my mind during daily prayer times as I considered before God what direction He might like me to head. At least ten times throughout the week I had this same recurring thought that I should speak on marriage but each time dismissed it saying, ‘What would a middle or high school student care about marriage? Isn’t it a bit premature to teach on marriage? Do you really want to encourage students to know this information when they can not or should not access it for themselves?” After the wedding on Saturday night I sensed the Lord really press me hard to teach on Oneness and specifically related to marriage. So I crafted my message preparing to dive wholeheartedly into the Biblical purpose of marriage which is “Oneness.”
On Sunday morning as students were seated after worship I made a few introductory remarks to lighten up the mood in the room and then asked students to raise their hands if they have ever heard anyone teach on the purpose of marriage specifically to students. Not one single student raised their hand. I asked them a follow up question. “How many of you are interested in what the Bible says about marriage?” Every hand was raised. Interesting.
Clue #1 - Teenagers care about what God thinks about marriage.
I laid down a foundation for students to understand Trinitarian relationship. I then shared with them the words that I had spoken the night before to this young Christian couple who were surrounded by their family and friends. Here is what I shared…
Each member of the trinity exists to amplify the strengths of the other members. Were any of the other members to to exalt itself above the others it would destroy the perfectly submitted relationship that they share together. Their oneness would be compromised.
Here we have the image of God modeling for us the true purpose of marriage - Oneness.
Each member of the one plays a critical role in the fellowship and to the degree that they are faithful to pursuing oneness, maintaining this oneness will be blessed by the experience of oneness.
So God in His generosity, created us and He invites us into relationship for the primary purpose of experiencing perfect submission - first to Him and then with one another.
“Perfect submission” looks very different than we would even imagine in our post modern culture today. The word submission conjures up images that have very little to do with Biblical submission at all.
Submission is not one member being stronger and another weaker
Submission is not one member being more and another less
Submission is not one person losing their voice
Submission is not one person making all of the decisions
Submission is not one person standing center stage while the other member lurks in the shadows.
Remember, all of the members exist to amplify the strengths of the other members.
Peter a disciple hand picked by Jesus writes to us about what perfect submission looks like. It has often been a text widely misunderstood and ripped out of context. The central image that Peter uses in the context of submission is “power.”
Basically you both want the other to win.
1 Peter 3 has this to say about “perfect submission.”
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands.”
Our culture supports the lie that would tell us that the strength of a woman is completely external or that a woman’s power derives in her outward beauty alone. Look on the cover of any magazine targeting women (or men) and you will see the lie being perpetuated.
Does that mean that a woman can not be beautiful? No. Does this mean that these fine clothes are worthless or fundamentally wrong? Absolutely not. This passage simply amplifies the truth that aims at where really beauty and strength are formed in a woman. From the inside out.
Jess, you look absolutely beautiful. Everyone is in awe of you today. But I know this about you. You are a strong woman not because of your beauty but because of what God has done and continues to do inside of you. You have heard God call you His beloved and you have allowed him to resonate and renovate every fiber of your character and your heart. That is what drew David Hutton to you. Now, your outward beauty may have made him do a double take but it is your character that leads him to stand so resolutely beside and with you today.
Peter then addresses the husband.
Husbands in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives. Treat them as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing can hinder your prayers.
Our culture is just as quick to offer up their perspective as to where the strength of a man lies or does not lie.
In commercials men are often portrayed something like this…a woman is standing in the forefront shaking her head saying something like, “My husband is so stupid. He doesn’t even have a brain.” In the background the husband is all wound and wrapped up in the blinds like a fool, probably because he attempted some simple home repair project that failed and he can’t seem to find his way out of the blinds.
There is no doubt a real misunderstanding where the power and lie for us as men and women.
Men get a bad rap when it comes to these passages on submission because they were penned by the hand of man. But the next passage was penned by Paul, a single man who went on to write most of what is called the New Testament in the Bible.
Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and gave herself up for her (1) to make her holy (2) cleansing her by the washing with water through the word (3) to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands out to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all noone ever hated his own body but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the Church - for we are members of His body.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.
What men are being called to as husbands is a dramatic surrender in order to amplify the holiness of their wife. It is compared to Christ and his sacrifice - which was a complete physical death to himself for his bride the church. That is an image of real power and real strength.
David, you are an incredibly strong man. Not because of your physical stature or your ability to strike fear into the heart of another person. You are strong because of your character that is reflected in your love for Christ. It is not your brawn that attracted Jess to you, it is your character. That is why she would risk in such a substantial way to stand here and unite herself with you for the lifelong adventure of pursuing oneness.
I concluded my thoughts with a couple of anecdotal comments and prayed for students before they departed. A few minutes later I bumped into one of the high school guys I have come to know and love as a member of our Discipleship Group. Evan is an encourager by nature but is never afraid to let us know when things do not “land” on his heart and mind. He thanked me for the message and then proceeded to tell me that he wished we spoke about this topic more often saying, “We just can’t talk early enough about it. ” What Evan is saying here is powerful. The earlier the better. The more the better. That is when and how often he would like to learn about how to prepare himself for the holiest relationship we could ever experience with another person on this planet.
Clue #2 - Teenagers really want to know what God thinks about marriage.
Are you teaching on this topic to students? If you are considering it, please make sure the person you elevate to communicate shares Jesus heart expressed in John 17. That as the world would notice oneness in a marriage that they would know that God is real and that God is great.
We do a substantial amount of teaching on abstinence. Have we really helped students see that oneness is at stake when we sin sexually. The bottom line is that your student want to hear about it. They are longing to know God’s heart on this issue. Let them know yours in the process as you lead them and love them.