Pastor John's Blog

Relationships to your Married Children

There are many texts in the Bible that describe the relationship of parents towards their children.  One of the earliest texts on marriage and children is found in Genesis 2:24 where we read:

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined (cleave) to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).

This text was before man’s fall into sin – and is often considered to be when marriage was instituted by the Lord.  It is repeated at least three times in the New Testament emphasizing the permanence of marriage in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 and the beauty of marriage in Ephesians 5.  Interestingly God made this statement about leaving father and mother even before Adam and Eve had any children! God gave this marriage blueprint before there were children in order to remind them of the nature of their relationship to their children.

There are also a number of texts that speak about the importance of honouring one’s parents such as:

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1).


"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12).

Both Christian parents and their married children can have difficulty with the balance between the concept of “leave and cleave” and honoring parents.  This is a topic that is addressed in premarital counseling with engaged couples.  However, it is also an important for older parents as they consider their relationship towards their married children.  The reality is that many parents have broken relationships with children that can be prevented when we are wise in the relationships we have with our married children.

Genesis 2:24 instructs children to leave their father and mother and to cleave to their spouse and they are to be one flesh.  There are principles that can be derived from this text concerning our relationship to married children.  Then from those principles we can flesh out some practical advice concerning our relationships to our married children.

Principles

  1. The parent-child relationship is the temporary one and there will be a leaving. While we have a responsibility towards our children – and they towards us – recognize that for the most part the parent-child relationship is temporary.  As parents we need to prepare our children for their future spouse when they will be leaving our home.  When the meddling of a parent violates the “leaving” because it is treating the parent-child relationship as primary (demanding obedience, dependence, or emotional oneness over the desires of, dependence upon, or oneness with the spouse), it can cause challenges in their marriage relationship.
  2. The fact that the husband and wife are to cleave to one another teaches us that this relationship becomes the most important human relationship they have on this side of eternity.  Literally this word translated cleaving in some translations refers to be glued together.  This cleaving indicates such closeness that there should be no closer relationship than that between the two spouses, not with any former friend or with any parent. Problems occur in family life when these two roles are reversed and the parent-child relationship is treated as the primary relationship. 
  3. And they shall become one flesh - Marriage takes two individuals and creates a new single entity. There is to be such sharing and oneness in every aspect (physical, emotional, intellectual, financial, social) that the resulting unity can be best described as “one flesh.”  This again emphasizes the priority of the marriage relationship over every other relationship.

With these three aspects of Genesis 2:24 in mind, there are also the scriptural admonitions to honor one’s parents. This includes treating them with a respectful attitude (Proverbs 30:11,17), obeying them when their commands are in keeping with God’s laws (“in the Lord” Ephesians 6:1), and taking care of them as they get older (Mark 7:10-121 Timothy 5:4-8).

Advice

1. Leave them alone to form their own family unit.  Accept the reality of the situation that your children are grown up and they have a new family unit. The Bible (Deut. 24: 5) did say newly wed should be left alone for a year and the principles behind it, rings true today. When two people from separate backgrounds come together they need to figure many things out and when the extended family interference is added to the mix, it creates undue pressure on both the newly wed and the extended family.

2. Have low expectations of them! I have seen many parents deeply hurt because they had expectations (sometimes unreasonable) of their children which remain unfulfilled. Some parents might start exacting undue pressure on their son or daughter.  For instance, they put pressure for more visits not giving their child and their spouse any space.  It is best to have an open door policy for your children to come into your home – but don’t explicitly or implicitly develop expectations for certain times and/or occasions.  Remember that your sons/daughter’s devotion and affection is now primarily towards their spouse.  This means they need the most time for developing their own home life.  Further, remember that when they visit family they have two families (your’s and their inlaw’s) and between whom they have to divide their time.

3.  Don’t give any unsolicited advice –ever!  Only give advice when it is solicited and keep it to that occasion! Trying to impose your will in your “cute little daughter’s” new marriage or dictating to your son what to do in his new marriage, would only create problem for them. Do not put your children in awkward situation of having to make a choice between you and their spouse after marriage.  Understand that they will make their mistakes and your role is now to advise when it is sought and perhaps refer them to where they can get help. When you advise, they don’t have to take it. Not doing things the way you taught or brought up your children, does not mean they are doing bad, it means they are forming their own unit.  At some point in our parenting life, we can only pray and hope that the principles we have taught our kids in their formative years would make a huge difference as they make life decisions when we are not there with them.

4. Do not allow your children to be emotional dependent on you rather than their spouse. When there is greater sharing and emotional support gained from a continuing parent-child relationship than from the husband-wife relationship, the oneness within the marriage is being threatened, resulting in an unbiblical imbalance.  While there is a place for our children to share their struggles with us we should always make sure that they are going to their spouse first!  When they speak to us about the decision they need to make we should ask them what their spouse thinks about it before we give an opinion.  In every instance give priority to the relationship of husband and wife over their relationship to us.

5. Respecting their domain – let them rule their own house.  They are going to have rules in their household that might be different than your home.  Don’t feel you should input – positively or negatively – on their standards.  Let them make their own decisions. Listen politely and very carefully to what their decisions are.  This means that you respect their decisions in regards to child-rearing etc.  We should never go against their wishes in regards to their children nor contradict their wishes. Treat them like adults and affirm their decisions if at all possible.  This will encourage them. 

6. Don’t lend them money unless terms are clearly defined! I can tell you stories about how parents tried to retain the control on their children by lending them money in an open-ended arrangement.  Money is often used for control of other people for the borrower always becomes a servant to the lender.  Ideally don’t lend them money at all.  If you son or daughter is in such circumstances that they require help give them money rather than lend it to them if you are able.  Sometimes children can have the expectation that they have a ‘right’ to all that you have acquired through the years.  On other occasions parents can think that their children – also as married children – need all the comforts and luxury that our society offers in the sense of cars, houses, vacations etc.  Don’t fall into this trap. 

7. Do not get involved in any disputes/disagreements between your child and their spouse.  The reality is that we can never be objective when there are disagreements in our children’s relationship with their spouse.  Further, even if we can be objective we will be perceived as ‘taking sides’.  If our son or daughter asks for help in this area you should simply say to them that you can’t really advise them in this matter and point them to someone who could help them.  Avoid almost any discussion about the relationship they have with each other.  Do not complain to your children about the faults of their spouse – ever!

8. Keep your relationship warm, friendly, loving & caring.  Emphasize the positive in dealing with your child and their spouse.  Accept them for who they are, recognizing that they need to ‘put up’ with us as well.  Develop a relationship so that they are glad to see you coming not leaving.  Make them realize that you enjoy spending time with them and their family and are thankful for them.  Already when they are dating confirm the positive aspects of their choice of partner.  Accept your children’s spouse as your children.  Be a caring person and do kind gestures.

Now we must recognize that we can do everything right with our married children and still have a strained relationship with them.  This is particularly true when they choose the way of sin and ungodliness.  This is the result of living in a broken fallen world.  This teaches us of the need for the gospel in all our relationships.  Therefore we must practice the spirit of charity and forgiveness as much as possible. 



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An Eternal Rest

"There remains therefore a rest to the people of God" (Heb. 4:9).

Read that verse again. Do you understand what the Lord offers in Hebrews 4:9?  He offers to us that which we don’t deserve; what we cannot attain; what is beyond our full understanding.  He offers us a rest for all eternity! He offers us eternal happiness, but we blink blindly and stare at Him with disbelief. As the poor man who refused to believe that he could have a million dollars because that more than he himself had ever seen, so he could not believe that it could be his possession.  So when Christ comes offering us heavenly treasures, it seems beyond belief.  It is so foreign to our natural state. 

When God wanted to give the Israelites their rest in the Promised Land, it was harder to make them believe it, than to overcome their enemies and give it to them. You remember the report of the 10 of the 12 spies who came back from the Promised Land.  They gave the children of Israelites a bad report saying…there we saw the giants and we were like grasshoppers in their sight.  (Numbers 13:32-33)  It was more than the Israelites could imagine; the barriers were too large so they that they cried and wept that night and said: If only we had died in the land of the Egypt!  Or if only we had died in this wilderness!  (Numbers 14:1-2)   Only Joshua and Caleb had faith so they spoke to the children of Israel saying: If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey.  (Numbers 14:7)  Yet the Israelites responded in unbelief so they did not enter the land, but perished in the wilderness. 

When, at last, after 40 years the Israelites possessed the land, they had only a "cash advance" on a much greater inheritance to come. Yet they could not believe God for more than they already possessed. If they expected more from the Messiah at some future time, they envisioned only an increase of their earthly prosperity. Even after they entered their hopes were largely on the physical aspect of God’s blessing.  However the rest provided in the Promised Land of Canaan was intended to teach God's people to look for a further rest in Christ.

"There remains therefore a rest to the people of God" (Heb. 4:9).

This conclusion contains the basis of all the believer's comfort, the purpose of all his service and suffering, the sum of all the Gospel promises. The writer of Hebrews is reminding us that we have here no continuing city but we seek on to come!

Richard Baxter in his book, The Saints Everlasting Rest reflects on what it will be like in that eternal rest.  He writes:

"Is this the inheritance that cost so much as the blood of Christ? No wonder! O blessed price! Is this the result of believing? Have the gales of grace blown me into such a harbor? Is this where Christ was so eager to bring me? O praise the Lord! Is this the glory of which the Scriptures spoke, and of which ministers preached so much? I see the Gospel is indeed good news!

"Are all my troubles, Satan's temptations, the world's scorns and jeers, come to this? O vile nature, that resisted so much, and so long, such a blessing! Unworthy soul, is this the place you came to so unwillingly? Was duty tiresome? Was the world too good to lose? Could you not leave all, deny all, and suffer anything for this? Were you loathe to die to come to this? O false heart, you had almost betrayed me to eternal flames and lost me this glory! Are you not ashamed now, my soul, that you ever questioned that Love which brought you here? Are you not sorry that you ever quenched His Spirit's prompting or misinterpreted His providence, or complained about the narrow road that brought you to such a destination?

What shall life be like in heaven?  The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of particulars but primarily speaks of its glory.  Scripture often speaks in negative terms describing what heaven is not like: there will be no sin, no sorrow, no pain, no tears, no night, no death. (Revelation 21:4, 27; 22:5)  Peter’s classic description is similar when he writes of the inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:4)  He does not tell us directly what heaven is like, but describes it by listing the disadvantages for which it is free. 

Ted Donnelly states:

Now this is perfectly appropriate language for anything that is beyond description.  When a young man falls in love, he does not provide his mother with a clinical summary of his beloved’s height, weight, body type, and distinguishing marks.  ‘She’s just the most amazing girl!’ he babbles.  ‘I’ve never met anyone like her.  She is absolutely indescribably.’  … This is why scripture pictures heaven as it does.  Such language is not negative in the least.  It expresses wonder and awe, transcendent amazement and delight.  It alerts us to the truth that heaven is thrilling and glorious beyond comprehension, far beyond the utmost grasp of our powers of speech. 

But what now are a few of the descriptions of this eternal rest?  We only have time to consider three, but they will most certainly whet your appetite for more.

First, we shall be eternally in the presence of Christ!  Is it not proper that we begin with this characteristic of heaven?  Yes, is it not true that every Christian will long first to see Him?  Is it not proper that our first longing would be to see the One who has purchased it all for us by His blood?  And when we see him we’ll be overwhelmed with love, admiration and worship!  We will cry out adoringly: My beloved is…chief among ten thousands…he is altogether lovely! (Song 2:14; 5:10, 16)  Samuel Rutherford compares our experience in heaven with a bride’s delight on her wedding day.  What is it that thrills her most?  Is it her dress? Is it the flowers?  Is it the guests?  None of these.  The bride taketh not, by a thousand degrees, so much delight in her wedding garment as she doth in her bridegroom; so we in the life to come…shall not be so much affected with the glory that goeth about us, as with the bridegroom’s joyful face and presence.  (Letter 21 in Andrew Bonar Edition of Rutherford’s Letters) 

Second, in heaven there will be no more struggle with sin!  The burden of the guilt and grief over sin will be gone forever!  Isn’t the presence of sin in our lives and heart that which brings the most sorrow upon us as Christians?  Doesn’t our daily struggle against the presence of sin in our lives burden us so that we long to be freed from it?  The most sensitive saint will be the most burdened by sin, will he not?  Isn’t this Paul’s struggle in Romans 7?  The good that I will to do I do not do….evil is present with me…O wretched man that I am! (Romans 7:19, 21, 24) As Christians we have been set free from so many wicked deeds, but is there not this longing to be done with this struggle against our sin?  What a struggle it can be for us! 

Are we not still so self-centered, impure, impatient, dishonest. We can be cruel to those we know best, snapping at our children, deliberately choosing the words best calculated to hurt others.  When we feel that we have been wrongly treated we can cherish resentment for hours or even days and in some cases years!  Sometimes we know we are wrong and it almost chokes us to utter the little word: Sorry! 

Nor are we any better when those positive graces.  We can read the Bible – the very words of life – and it can leave us untouched!  We can come here into this place of worship, sing psalms of praise to God, and never reflect on the words we’ve sung. Instead of rejoicing in other believers we look for their vulnerabilities stirring up negative thoughts as our gaze falls upon them.  We’re ashamed of ourselves – we hate ourselves for these sins.  We know we’ve been forgiven in Christ; that we’ve been washed in the blood of Christ!  But how there is this ache; this longing to be done with this struggle against sin!  It is heavy burden, until heaven!  There will be no more struggle with sin! 

Third, not only will there be no more struggle with sin, there will be no more consequences of sin! 

…God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away! 

These words really need no further explanation, do they? 

there shall be no more death – never separation from the ones we love – only life!

there shall be no more sorrow – never a reason for sadness – only joy!

there shall be no more crying – never a reason for crying – only rejoicing!

…there shall be no more pain – nothing that brings pain – only pleasure! 

Such is heaven!  Such is that place of eternal rest.  It is when we live with this hope that we can endure affliction and trouble in this life.  Then we can say with the apostle: …I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!  What a hope this is for us!

 



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Pastoral Thoughts on Depression

There is a great deal of debate in Biblical counseling circles on how depression should be addressed.  On the one extreme there are those who claim that depression is simply a disease like cancer – and expressions have been used like ‘cancer of the mind’ and so on.  On the other extreme are those who claim that it is simply a lifestyle choice; a lack of discipline; stressful circumstances – and they usually point out that this is a the result of sin – perhaps not exclusively but for the most part sinful. 

The individuals in these two extremes – often godly and caring people – want us to choose either one or the other extreme. As a result they are often intolerant to individuals who are of the other extreme.  Most of us don’t fall into either of these extremes.  Those who have personal experience with depression – either themselves or their family members – tend to be more sympathetic to the medical model.  Those who have little or no personal experience tend to be attracted to the ‘it’s a sin’ model.  We do need to recognize that it is our own personal experience which taints our perspective on this issue.  However, as a pastor I don’t want to choose either extreme – nor does either have a huge impact on how I care for someone pastorally.  Pastoral care of them doesn’t depend on the reason for their depression. 

Personally, I think we need to be very careful and look at each case individually.  Further, I don’t like to be forced to take an either/or approach but prefer the both/and approach when dealing with someone who is depressed.  Even with sickness like cancer there are always spiritual aspects to this physical disease.  The reality is that regardless of the reason for their depression the person needs help.  What do I do when someone calls me (actually they don’t usually call but I become aware) that they are depressed?  How should we respond to someone who is depressed? 

First, we need to be compassionate regardless of the reasons for their depression.  For arguments sake, even if the depression is a result of someone’s sin or circumstances (even if those circumstances are of their own making) we need to show compassion.  Unfortunately some who have taken the ‘sin model’ have used the approach of the Pharisees in addressing the woman caught committing adultery. (John 8) We must show compassion to all individuals who are suffering from depression regardless of the origin.   

Second, we need to recognize that man various parts (physical, spiritual, emotional) cannot be compartmentalized but must be considered as one whole person.  Therefore, I always recommend someone who suffers from depression to make an appointment with their family physician.  In the case where it is a ‘disease of the mind’ medication may be necessary to give stability for the rest of their life.  This is clearly the case where genetics are involved – where because of man’s fall into sin the mind has fallen as well.  Hopefully these treatments will become more precise over the years as they continue to study the brain.  In the case where there the depression is largely the result of personal sin (and I do believe there are such cases) medication is often needed to give stability so that the depressed person will begin to hear counsel that is given to them.  To try to counsel someone who is depressed is very ineffective if their mind is not functioning well.  These individuals may only be on medication for a period of time until stability is restore in their lives. 

Thirdly, when there is stability continue to show pastoral concern and give appropriate counsel in a kind gentle manner.  Often the promises of scripture are most helpful in this regard rather than the exhortations.  To lay further obligations on someone who is already depressed will only lead to a heavier burden being laid upon them and actually increase their depression.  There may be times that sin needs to be addressed (regardless of the origin of their depression) but that is best done by showing them a better way – the way of life in the gospel!  Be on guard because our natural tendency is to judge.  Be very careful that you understand their life!  Some of these people have struggled for years with something you have only heard second hand.  Think about living in their situation – and be compassionate! 

In conclusion I’d say that the fact of the matter is that some depression can be mainly physiologically (although perhaps include sinful responses) since depression very clearly runs in families who members live in different settings.  Therefore, to deny a link to something genetic or physical in all cases is absolute nonsense in my view.  However, to make the argument that depression is always physiological is equally nonsense.  I have frequently dealt with people whose sinful circumstances or responses to their circumstances have led to depression.    Both are cases that require our pastoral care and sensitivity.  The one may be the ‘blind man’ of John 9, while the other might be the ‘woman caught in adultery’ of John 8.  Both need our help, although in a different way.   As a pastor I often cannot distinguish into which of these two categories a depressed person belongs – but I don’t need to put them in one category or the other, nor do I need to change my approach to them.  Each requires our pastoral compassion, sensitivity, and counsel. 



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Psalm 67 - A Passion for Missions

Read Psalm 67 here.

While reading this psalm, you recognize what the Psalmist is praying about, don‘t you?  He is praying for a blessing that we might be a blessing – praying for a blessing that we might be a blessing! Notice the link between verses 1 and 2 found in the word "that." He prays, "God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us; that your way may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations."   Our prayer must be that God will bless us so that we would be blessing to others!  This really is a foundational truth of the gospel.  The Lord saves his people that they might be used of him to bring the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone to the nations!

The psalmist shows a passion for missions in the second stanza: Let the peoples praise you, O God!  Let all the peoples praise you, Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy!  And then he ends this stanza repeating what with the same words he began: Let the peoples praise you, O God; Let all the peoples praise you!  Do you sense his passion? Notice that the passion of this psalmist is not simply for the spread of the Christian religion in the world as another option alongside of others.  His passion is not a type of religious imperialism – another religion looking for its market share of the population.  The industry of ‘Christianity’ is so much alive with its trinkets; and books; and religious tours; and its figurines. His passion is not even simply for the salvation of people – as if that is an end in itself. He is not simply praying for the salvation of souls.  This can be so man-centered when people are primarily concerned about their own religion; their own faith and so on. They often lose sight of the purpose of salvation.

What then is the passion of the Psalmist?  His desire is that the peoples would know God; that the nations would worship God; that all men would praise God!  His desire is for worshippers of the Lord.  This petition for missions highlights the fact that not only do men need to be saved but that God is known!  And even more than that, this petition expresses his passion that God is to be worshipped!  The passion of the psalmist is that all peoples of the earth; all the nations of the world; that men and women and boys and girls everywhere would bow down and serve our God!  It is a passion for worshippers to be gathered together to praise and magnify our great and glorious God! 

Do you share that same passion?  Now notice that his passion is expressed in a prayer to God.  This is important, isn’t it? You can tell what you are passionate about when you examine what you are praying about!  What do your prayers reveal about your passion?  Do you pray for the nations?  Are you praying for the salvation of people of your community that God would be worship? 



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Christian Sportsmanship

The chief end of every athletic endeavour is "to glorify God and to enjoy him forever." This simple goal directs every aspect of our participation in sports. Although, as Christians, we can compete to win, our highest goal which overarches every goal, is to please our Heavenly Father in all that we do, also as athletes.  Although the objective of competition is to win, the more important overarching goal is to compete in a manner that brings honor to the name of Christ. We should use the opportunity of competition to draw the attention to the more important "crown that will last forever," the prize of competing in a manner that pleases our Heavenly Father. Sports activities are given by God as an opportunity to bring glory to him.  It is interesting to note how frequently the Apostle Paul used athletic competition as a metaphor for the rigors of the Christian life.  Spiritual lessons can be learned through involvement in sporting activities. 

Everything done on the field of competition by athletes, parents, coaches, spectators and all other participants should "testify to the gospel of God's grace." As such, in all our athletic pursuits we should reflect our gratitude to God. [Colossians 1:12-14] This gratitude should be shown in a love of competition and a pursuit of athletic excellence, in good sportsmanship towards opposing teams, in a respect for the authority of officials, in a willingness to sacrifice individual aspirations for the good of the team, and in a multitude of other ways that bear witness to Christ before the world. 

Christian athletes are given the high calling of bringing honour to Christ in all that they do while engaged in athletic competition.  We live in a culture which idolizes athletic ability and accomplishment above the development of Christ-like character.  As Christians we should compete with Christ-likeness in both our conduct and our attitude towards teammates; opponents; and game officials.   This means that we treat fellow teammates in an encouraging and upbuilding manner; opponents with the utmost dignity and good sportsmanship; and game officials with the utmost deference and respect. Participation in sports can be a wonderful opportunity to display Christian characteristics. [Galatians 5:22-24; Mark 12:29-31; Matthew 7:12]  Participation in sports provides excellent opportunities to teach lifelong lessons.  There will inevitably be officials who make calls with which we do not agree.  There will be disappointments that we need to deal with as a team.  These are opportunities which can be used as teachable moments and opportunities to implement Christian principles.

Further, we should through practice and hard work develop God-given abilities not to attain glory for ourselves, but for our God.  If we are given particular gifts remember what Paul states in 1 Corinthians 4:7 - For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?  This is not meant to diminish the contribution of every team member, but is a reflection of the reality that the Creator has distributed talents and abilities differently among his people.  However, there needs to be a humble acknowledgement that gifts have been given by God.  It is important to remember that the manner you participate in sports as a Christian reflects your heart before God. 

Play ball to the glory of God!



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The Ten Commandments Show us Christ!

John 14:15
 

Are the Ten Commandments still relevant for the life of the Christian?  Obviously there is considerable discussion about this very point in Christian circles.  We do not have time in this short article to deal with these theological differences; but our catechism clearly teaches us that the Ten Commandments are the rule of our sanctification in the Christian life.  They are the rule for our life of sanctification because the better we understand the Law the more we will love and serve our Saviour!  The Ten Commandments teach us something of Christ! (Luke 24:27)

First, as a Christian, the Ten Commandments reveal the extent of Christ's atonement for us!  The Bible teaches that the Lord Jesus died for our sins. (1 Corinthians 15:3) If we neglect God's Law we might think that we do not have many sins at all, falsely believing then that Christ's death was not really that necessary.  However, when we realize the full implications of the Law we then understand more clearly what Christ endured for us on the cross!  Christ died for all our sins, suffering the full penalty that our guilt deserved.  Therefore the more clearly we understand the implications of the Ten Commandments, the more grateful we will truly be to God for our deliverance through Christ's death! 

Second, the more we understand God's Law the more clearly we view the full extent of Christ's perfect obedience!  The Bible assures us that although the Lord Jesus was made under the law (Gal. 4:4), He fulfilled all righteousness (Matt. 3:15), and did no sin. (1 Peter 2:22)  This was no small accomplishment! The Ten Commandments also show to us the perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  As you consider the Ten Commandments in their perfection consider Christ as the perfect Law keeper!  He is the One who lived in perfect obedience to God’s holy law – in thought, word and deed!  His life was in perfect harmony with all the Commandments of God!  Every action of our Lord Jesus was perfect in accordance with that Law!  Every thought our Lord Jesus had never contradicted the Law of God at all.  Every word He spoke was the perfect Word of God.  Such was the perfection of Christ.

Third, the law teaches us the perfect righteousness that is imputed to us!  Further, if we are joined to him by faith, then God regards us as if we kept the whole Law!  Therefore the Law of God shows us the perfect righteousness we have in Christ. You see, upon faith in the Lord Jesus, our transgressions of the Law are laid upon Him – and He atones for those sins by His suffering and death.  But also by faith in Him, His perfect obedience of the law is imputed to us – so perfectly so that God looks upon us as cloaked in the perfection of Christ!  Our catechism states so beautifully in answering: How art thou righteous before God? By stating: “God, without any merit of mine, but only out of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor commited any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me.” (Q&A 60)

Therefore when you hear the Ten Commandments think of the Lord Jesus Christ.  First, think of your transgressions of the Law and how Christ atoned for them.  That will give you a grateful heart towards Him!  Second, think of the perfection of Christ as He lived perfectly in accordance with the Ten Commandments.  This will make you love Him more! Third, think of the perfect righteousness of Christ this has been imputed to you by faith!  This will make you realize that your all in all is in Christ!  

 



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Emmanuel - God With Us

Matthew 1:23b

Personal and official titles of our Lord Jesus, unlike most of our names, have profound significance and speak of His unfading glory.  His names describe to us His character and work – to enhance our understanding of His person and purpose. Octavius Winslow said: “Each title embodies a distinct meaning and illustrates a particular truth, the significance and preciousness of which the Holy Spirit can alone unfold and the believing heart alone appreciates.” Before our Lord was born, Joseph was told in a dream to call Him Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). However, Joseph was also told “they shall call His name EMMANUEL which being interpreted is, ‘God with us’.  There is perhaps no other name or title belonging to our Lord which highlights the greatness of His being; shows to us the preciousness of our relationship; and gives more practical helps for Christians, than the name Emmanuel! 

Emmanuel is GOD WITH US.  Immediately we are confronted with the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ, when He was born, was Deity in the flesh! He was a baby, yes, but a baby like no other!  This had never happened in the past – He took with His divine nature a human nature.  It was not an angel with us – it is not even God looking like a man (that’s heresy) – but God is a man! The name – Emmanuel – God with us – speaks of the fact and manner of Christ’s incarnation.  Our Lord Jesus  took upon Himself the human nature with His divine nature – but was yet one person.  He has not simply come to be near us – nor over us – but with us! 

So He is God with us!  This is profoundly significant in the history of redemption.  If you remember back to the beginning of creation, you may remember that then God was with us in the sense that He came and had communion with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  However, after Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God, that all changed!  No longer was God with us but then He was God far from us!  Yes, that is true!  That communion with the Lord had been broken – man could no longer have such intimate fellowship with God!  God struck terror in his heart – Adam and Eve fled from God’s presence – they were afraid.  Never before had they been afraid of God’s presence, but now there was a break in the communion with God! They were thrown out of the Garden of Eden symbolizing that they were cast from God’s presence – and at the entrance of the garden God placed an angel with a flaming sword.  Never would they on their own ever be able to enter into the garden. From man’s perspective, their fellowship with God was over forever!

But that all changed with the birth of Jesus Christ – Emmanuel – God with us. Again, because of the grace and mercy of God He was with us once again.  But what humility was required on His part to be with us.  He had to stoop to our level and take upon Himself our sinful flesh. He needed to come down to bring us up again!  What a glorious truth that God Himself has stooped so low as to come in sinful human flesh to restore us again into fellowship.  God has seen your need and has provided for you a Saviour. Now you may freely come, even you who are sinners living in darkness!  God alone should strike terror in your heart because of His holiness and righteousness – but God with us – inspires hope and confidence.  It is in the Lord Jesus Christ that we can have hope!  Do you see how the prophecy of the Emmanuel child was fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ? It was the good news - we all know it - but can we not rejoice in it? That Christ Jesus came into the world, Emmanuel, God with us, to save us from our sin! He came to save His people, didn't He? Oh, Emmanuel, what a wonderful truth this is to us! It reveals to us a wonderful person! Do you recognize that if the Christ-child had not been born that all would have been lost?  If God, in Christ, had not come to be Emmanuel – God with us – God would have forever been against us!  We could never have returned to Him  if He had not come to be with us!  We would not even have wanted to return to Him  if He had not come to be with us!  Emmanuel was the only way that salvation could have been attained for us! 

No other way to acquire the salvation of His people than for Him to become man in the flesh.  Emmanuel – God with us - bearing our sins; paying our sins by "giving Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour." (Ephesians 5:2) The Lord Jesus was with us presenting such atonement to God in the way of obedience and death as He met all the demands of the law, and satisfied all the claims of justice, and has reconciled us forever unto God. "In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Ephesians 1:7). Do you see that your hope can be built on nothing more – or nothing less – than Jesus Christ and His righteousness?  You can only stand before Him in the garment of His righteousness!  It is only through the saving work of the Lord Jesus that your sins can be forgiven by God!  It is only through Him that you can be restored in fellowship with God!  Your sins – both original sin and actual sin – has left you estranged from God – separated from Him – driven from the garden – kept out by the flaming sword of the angel!  The only way that you can ever be restored to God is through Emmanuel! 

But now the wonder of wonders – God looked upon us in our low estate – He considered our awful state – He had pity and compassion upon us – and He came down to be with us!  He entered our world – took upon Himself our humanity – suffered for our sins – identified so fully with us – he became one of us – so He was with us – so He identified with us – that our sins He took – His righteousness He gave to us.  He was baptized in the Jordan – identifying with His people – He wept at Lazarus’ tomb knowing of the grief of death – He in the garden of Gethsemane was filled with holy dread – He on the cross experienced the utter forsakenness on account of our sins.  He was our Emmanuel – God with us!  He is with us like no other – entered our grief and sorrow and pain – but even more so our sin – to deliver us!  All this included in the name – Emmanuel – God with us. Can you then in any way doubt the willingness of our Saviour to deliver you?  What more does He have to do? 

Emmanuel – God with us – does that not encourage you to find refuge in Him?  Does that not assure you that when you come to Him, He will receive you?  He has come down to you – will you scorn His mercies towards you?  Will you reject His appeals?  To reject Him is to reject His salvation – and to face the eternal prospect of God against you in hell! Come believing; come without hesitation! Respond now to the message of the Gospel. "Him that comes unto Me, I will in no way cast out." "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." "The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son, cleanses us from all sin;" and you shall know the "blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, unto whom the Lord shall not count iniquity."  Rest assured – by virtue of this title Emmanuel  that God does not delight in the death of the wicked but that they would turn from their evil way and live! 

Further, doesn’t this name Emmanuel also encourage us in our daily Christian walk? His name Emmanuel speaks of His continual presence in this life for every Christian. This is most comforting when passing through a season of adversity, trial, sorrow, or need. Are you burdened with anxious care in this journey of tears?  It is a wonderful truth to know that our God is with us as we go through troubles in this sin-cursed world.  How can one make sense of anything without the knowledge of this truth?  Emmanuel – God with us!  What a depressing life this would be if we were alone in our troubles! How useless it would be if we had only human comforters but no presence of almighty deity!  Are you being tempted by your own flesh, the world, and the devil?  Our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted in every way that we are tempted – yet without sin.  He knows what it is like to live in a broken world so under the dominion of sin – He was tempted – God with us!  Are waves and billows over you rolling – what a comfort to know that our Lord Jesus is the one who is in the boat with us – He controls the winds and the waves. Emmanuel – God with us! 



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