Friday, April 20, 2018

Two Challenges to Men...


This week we have been focusing on the men because there is a fundamental question that every man who desires to experience a lasting relationship has to ask and answer. And that question is this: how do you as a man view women? We discovered that the reality is that in our culture, women are more often than not viewed as a possession that provides a service.

Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon; this view of women as a possession has been around for thousands of years. We then looked at a section of a letter that is recorded for us in the New Testament of the Bible, called the book of 1 Peter. In 1 Peter 3:7, we see Peter reveal for us a timeless truth when it comes to lasting relationships in that lasting relationships are the result of men treating women with honor and respect instead of a possession that provides a service.

While that could be received as being “old fashioned”, what is old fashioned is men treating women as a possession that provides a service. What is old fashioned is men looking for a servant instead of a spouse. You see, Jesus began the women’s liberation movement and Christianity has been the biggest proponent of women’s rights throughout history. It was early followers of Jesus that adopted baby girls that were left out to die of exposure. It was Christianity that has promoted the position that men and women are of equal value and worth in God’s eyes. It was Jesus and the message and teachings of Jesus that called for men to renew their minds and get rid of their stinking thinking when it came to how women were viewed and treated.

So today I want to challenge men to renew your mind when it comes to how you view and treat women with your entertainment time in two specific areas. And in doing so, I will treat you like a thermos and not a crystal goblet.

First, I want to challenge men to, by sunset tonight, remove from their I Pod playlist or music library any and all music that refers to women as bitches, whores, or sluts. I challenge you to remove any and all music that promotes the view of women as possessions or commodities that provide a service.

Now, some of you men might be thinking “well Dave, that is just the culture we live in. That’s just how we express ourselves”. If you are a man and that thought is running through your mind, here is my response. You are influenced by what influences you. What you allow to influence your life will influence your view of life and in this case woman. And by the way, how is that great culture working out for you? approximately 46% of marriages end in divorce. The group entitled “divorced” is the fastest growing segment of the population in the U.S.  Finally, 1/3 of divorced women live below the poverty line. 

Second, I want to challenge men to stop engaging in the use of pornography for entertainment. If this group is representative of men in America, then 79 percent of men between the ages of 18-30 have looked at internet porn at least once this month.

Now, some of you men might be thinking “well Dave, looking at porn really is not that big a deal. I am not harming anyone. It’s just for entertainment”. If you are a man and that thought is running through your mind, here is my response. Men, when you look at porn you are revealing three things about yourself.

First, you are revealing that a physical relationship with a woman is not enough. Second, you are revealing that a physical relationship with one woman is not enough. And third, you are revealing that a physical relationship with your wife is not enough. That is what you are revealing about yourself when you look at online porn.

And unfortunately, right about now, there are many women in this room who are thinking to themselves “that explains a lot. That explains the distance between me and my husband. That explains why so many guys act the way that they do”. You see, looking at porn really is a big deal. Looking at porn not only results in you treating the image on the screen as a possession that provides a service. Looking at porn result in you treating the women in your life as a possession that provides a service. So, men it is time to renew your mind. Men, it is time to leave behind the things that influence you into viewing and treating women as a possession that provides a service.

So men, how do you as a man view women? Do you view women as a possession that provides a service? Do you view women as a potential servant that meets a need? Do you view women as a commodity that decreases in value and worth over time? Or do you view women as a being worthy of honor and respect as an image bearer of God? How do you as a man view women?

And what does what you view when it comes to women reveal about how you view women? Because, the timeless reality is that lasting relationships are the result of men treating women with honor and respect instead of a possession that provides a service…

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Lasting relationships are the result of men treating women with honor and respect instead of a possession that provides a service...


This week we are examining how our culture often views and treats women. Yesterday, we discovered that in our culture, women are more often than not viewed as a possession that provides a service. Popular culture views women as a commodity and places enormous pressure on women to raise their value in the eyes of men by how they look and how they perform.

Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon; this view of women as a possession has been around for thousands of years. As a matter of fact, in the Jewish culture of the first century, women were viewed by men in an incredibly negative manner. And then there was how women were viewed in the Roman culture of the first century. The Roman culture of the first century was male dominated culture where women were treated as possessions.

And it was into the male dominated culture that treated women as possessions, and in some cases, less than human, that Jesus entered into humanity. It was into this culture that Jesus began to engage and treat women in ways that left his disciples scratching their heads.

That is why when Jesus engaged in a conversation with a Samaritan woman in John chapter four, his disciples were so confused. Why would Jesus even take the time to engage a woman in such a conversation? I mean, just look at her; she’s a woman. That is why the Jewish religious leaders were so offended when Jesus engaged a woman in Luke Chapter 7 who was caught up in a lifestyle of sin.

They were offended because no self-respecting man would let a woman enter into their party, especially one who was used over and over again by men as a possession. They were offended because no man would extend grace in such a way to such a woman. No self-respecting man would allow a woman to provide financial support and be a part of His movement. And then Jesus called His closest followers together and said the following in John 13:34-35:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

To which His Jewish disciples probably looked around and asked “what do you mean you want us to love one another as I have loved you? Does that include the women? You mean you want us to treat the women like you have treated the women? Yes, you are to treat the women just like I treated the women. Jesus, when you say all men will know, you mean just the men right? You mean the women to? Yes, the women too”.

Then after Jesus died and was raised again; after the birth of the church at Pentecost, early followers of Jesus began to proclaim the claims of Christ and message of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. As the church began to spread throughout the empire, letters were written to these early churches. In one of these letters, which is in our Bible today as the book of Ephesians, a man named Paul said the following in Ephesians 5:25:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church

To which these early followers of Jesus, who lived in a Roman culture that dominated and subjugated women probably said “wait a minute, I have a question. What do you mean that we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church? Didn’t Christ die for the church? So are you saying we have to be willing to die for our wives? I can’t treat them as a possession that provides a service? I can’t treat them like a servant that meets a need? Yep. That’s what I am saying”.

Then, Peter, who was the leader of the early followers of Jesus, wrote a letter to followers of Jesus that were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. And as part of this letter, Peter makes a statement to early followers of Jesus that best summarizes how we are to view women. So this morning, let’s take a few minutes and look at this statement together. This statement is found in 1 Peter 3:7:

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

In this single statement, we see Peter provide two timeless commands as to how, as followers of Jesus, men are to view and treat women. First, Peter commands followers of Jesus throughout history to live with your wives in an understanding way. Now when Peter uses the phrase, live with your wives in an understanding way, this phrase conveys the sense of gaining an intellectual grasp of something.

Peter then unpacks what husbands are to gain an intellectual grasp of when it comes to their wives, with the phrase as with someone weaker, since she is a woman. Now it is important to understand that when Peter talks about women being weaker, he is not saying that women are less valuable than men.  Peter is not saying that women are of less worth than men. What Peter is saying with this phrase is that women are different than men. What Peter is saying with this phrase is that men and women have been created and wired differently to fulfill different roles and responsibilities. And intuitively we know this to be true, don’t we?
           
For example, while men and women have been designed by God with equal value and worth before God, they demonstrate strength in very different ways. As a general rule, men are physically stronger than women. As a general rule, men tend to bench press more than women. However, while men can bench more than women, women demonstrate and display strength in areas that make men shrivel and shrink. And men, if you don’t think that is the case, then you have probably never been in a room when a woman gives birth.

Another example involves how men and women relate to one another. Mark Driscoll once illustrated the difference between men and women by explaining that men are like a thermos, while women are like a goblet. Men are like a thermos: a thermos you can place in the back of a pickup truck and let it get tossed around; a thermos you can drop from a second story building; a thermos is designed in a way that it responds to circumstances in certain way. However, if you were to take a goblet and place it the back of a pickup truck; if you were to drop a goblet from a second story building, the goblet would respond to those circumstances much differently, wouldn’t it?

It is not that the goblet is less valuable than the thermos; as a matter of fact the opposite is the case. Instead, the goblet is different than the thermos; it has a different role and responsibility to fulfill. You see, men are like a thermos and women are like a crystal goblet. Both men and women are created in the image of God and have equal value and worth in God’s sight. Men and women are just created and wired differently.

Which is why Peter, in the second half of verse 7, provided a second command to followers of Jesus: show her honor. Now when Peter uses the word honor, here, this word refers to honor as a possession. In other words, honor here refers to the respect that one is to enjoy. So Peter here is commanding husbands to give their wives respect as a result of the commitment that they had made to their wives to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Peter then explained that the reason why they were to give their wives respect was due to the fact that she is a fellow heir of the grace of life. But that does that mean?

With this phrase, Peter is referring to God’s transformational intervention and activity in the world through Jesus that results in one experiencing eternal life in relationship with God.  Peter’s point is that both men and women are equal recipients of the inheritance that comes as a result of being a part of God’s kingdom community called the church. Both men and women equally have a new identity as a part of God’s kingdom community as a result of God’s transformational intervention and activity through Jesus in their lives.

Peter’s point here is that both men and women are equally valuable in God’s sight. Jesus entered into humanity and allowed Himself to be treated as though He lived our selfish and sinful lives so that God the Father could treat both men and women as though we lived Jesus perfect life. And because of the reality, we are to grant honor to women and treat women with respect.

But here is the part of this statement that we can pass over or overlook. Peter commands men to grant honor to women and treat women with respect so that your prayers will not be hindered. Here we see Peter reveal for us the reality that our relationship with God is impacted by how we treat women. Our vertical relationship with God is influenced by our horizontal relationship with women.

Men, do you feel like God is distant and disinterested in you? Men, do you feel like you have not experienced God’s presence or activity in your life for a while? Here’s the thing; God is not going to be present and active in your life as you are looking at porn on your computer. God is not going to be present and active in your life when you treat your spouse like a servant. God is not going to be present in your life when you treat women like a possession that provides you a service.

When we fail to give women the honor and respect that they deserve as an image bearer of God, then our relationship with God will suffer. And it is here that we discover another timeless truth when it comes to lasting relationships. And that timeless truth is this: Lasting relationships are the result of men treating women with honor and respect instead of a possession that provides a service.

Now I recognize that almost everything that I have written could be received as being “old fashioned”. Actually, what is old fashioned is men treating women as a possession that provides a service. What is old fashioned is men looking for a servant instead of a spouse.

You see, Jesus began the women’s liberation movement and Christianity has been the biggest proponent of women’s rights throughout history. It was early followers of Jesus that adopted baby girls that were left out to die of exposure. It was Christianity that has promoted the position that men and women are of equal value and worth in God’s eyes. It was Jesus and the message and teachings of Jesus that called for men to renew their minds and get rid of their stinking thinking when it came to how women were viewed and treated.

Friday, I will challenge men to renew their mind when it comes to how they view and treat women with their entertainment time in two specific areas...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The historical view of women as a commodity...


At the church where I serve we are in the middle of a sermon series entitled Relationships or Relationsinks. During this series, we are discovering what the letters that make up the Bible have to say about relationships. Regardless of your age and stage of life, regardless of your marital status, this series is designed to bring people to the place where they are better equipped to experience love and lasting relationships.

This week, I would like for us to spend our time together by focusing on the men. And the reason that I want to focus on the men is because there is a fundamental question that every man who desires to experience a lasting relationship has to ask and answer. And that question is this: how do you as a man view women?

Do you view women as a possession that provides a service? Do you view women as a potential servant that meets a need? Do you view women as a commodity that decreases in value and worth over time? How do you as a man view women? Now if I was to ask every man to answer that question our loud, I am almost 100% sure that not a single man would answer yes to any of those questions.

But what answer would I receive if I looked at the playlist on your mobile device, or on Spotify or Pandora? What answer would I receive if I looked at the cookies on your computer? What answer would I receive if I looked at the last ten movies that you rented?

You see, the reality is that in our culture, women are more often than not viewed as a commodity. More often than not, women are viewed as a possession that provides a service. Now if you do not think that is the case, then just spend a few minutes thinking back at the commercials that were portrayed to men during any sporting event on TV. If you do not think that is the case, just take a minute and look at the magazines as you check out at the local grocery store.

Are not those magazines dominated by articles about how a woman can provide the best service to her man? How you can look your best? T.V. and magazines portray women as possessions that provide a service to men. Popular culture views women as a commodity and places enormous pressure on women to raise their value in the eyes of men by how they look and how they perform.

Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon; this view of women as a commodity; this view of women as a possession has been around for thousands of years. As a matter of fact, in the Jewish culture of the first century, women were viewed by men in an incredibly negative manner.

Josephus, who was a first century Jewish historian, stated that women were to be held to be inferior in all matters. Philo, who was a Jewish philosopher, refers throughout his writings to women and female traits as examples of weakness. A Jewish literary work of the times states that “better is the wickedness of a man than a women who does good”. And one of the Jewish prayers of the day included one in which a Jewish man thanked God that he was not a woman.

And then there was how women were viewed in the Roman culture of the first century. The Roman culture of the first century was male dominated culture where women were treated as possessions. Roman law did not regard women as equal to men. Women in Roman culture could not vote or hold political office. Women were treated as servants who were expected to obey their husbands in almost every aspect of their lives.

Women received only a basic education, if any at all, and were subject to the authority of a man. Traditionally, this was their father before marriage. After marriage, authority switched to their husband, who also had the legal rights over their children. Women were viewed as a possession that was responsible to provide a child for heir, but not too many children.

As a matter of fact, the birth rate among the ruling class declined to such an extent that the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus, who is mentioned in the accounts of Jesus birth, passed a series of laws intended to increase it, including special honors for women who bore at least three children. Those who were unmarried, divorced, widowed, or barren were prohibited from inheriting property unless named in a will.

In the culture of the 1st century, it was not unusual for men to have multiple mistresses or for men to engage in sex with prostitutes so as to avoid the responsibility of having children or raising children. In addition, unlike today, most adoptions in Roman society did not occur when children were babies. In Roman culture, you would never adopt a baby. So, in the Roman Empire, female babies were often left on the street or taken to the garbage dump after being born to die of exposure.

And it was into the male dominated culture that treated women as possessions, and in some cases, less than human, that Jesus entered into humanity. It was into this culture that Jesus began to engage and treat women in ways that left his disciples scratching their heads.

Tomorrow, we will begin to look at how Jesus engaged and treated women in a way that left men scratching their heads…

Friday, April 13, 2018

The qualities that characterize the life of a person who is walking in love...


This week we have been addressing and attacking perhaps the most prominent and powerful myth about relationships, which is the right person myth. After exposing the right person myth, we looked at a section of a letter that is recorded for us in the New Testament of the Bible, called the book of Ephesians, where we discovered a timeless truth when it comes to love and lasting relationships in that lasting relationships are the result of becoming the right person, not finding the right person.

Unlike the right person myth that is celebrated by our culture and spread by Hollywood, the letters that make up the Bible reveal for us the reality that lasting relationships are the result of becoming the right person. Lasting relationships are not the result of people falling in love. Instead, lasting relationships are the result of people who walking in love by giving those who they are in relationship with what they need most when they deserve it the least. 

Now you might be thinking to yourself “well Dave, how do I know when I am becoming the right person? How do I know when I am walking in love? How do I know that I am giving someone what they need most when they deserve it the least?”

If those questions are running through your mind, I have some more good news for you. In another letter that is recorded for us in the New Testament of our Bibles called the book of 1 Corinthians, we see the Apostle Paul unpack what walking in love practically looks like in our day to day lives. So, let’s look at this section of this letter together, beginning in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

In these verses we see Paul reveal the qualities that characterize the life of a person who is walking in love. When Paul states that love is patient, the word patient literally means to bear up under provocation without complaint. A person who walks in love is longsuffering in their dealings with those around them.

When Paul states that love is kind, he is revealing for us the reality that a person who walks in love is positively gracious and generous as they serve others. Instead of rivaling for position or recognition; instead of wanting what others have or not wanting others to have what they do have, a person who walks in love focuses on reflecting Christ’s grace and generosity to others.

When Paul states that love does not brag and is not arrogant, he is explaining that a person who walks in love does not have an exaggerated self concept that results in one being full of themselves and in one taking pride in their own accomplishments. Then, in verse 5, Paul explains that love does not act unbecomingly. In other words, a person who walks in love does not behave disgracefully or dishonorably with poor manners.

In addition, a person who walks in love does not seek its own; it does not seek one’s own advantage or benefit by being insensitive and careless. A person who walks in love, Paul explains is not easily irritated or provoked into sudden outbursts of anger.

When Paul states that love does not take into account a wrong suffered, he is painting a word picture of a scorecard. Paul’s point here is that a person who walks in love does not keep a scorecard as to keep track of all the times that one has been offended.

Paul then continues in verse 6 by explaining that love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. What Paul is communicating to us in this phrase is that a person who walks in love is driven to be excited about the truth of the Christian life and to rejoice in what is good, proper, and right when it comes to how they relate to God and one another.

Paul then concludes his description of the qualities that characterize the life of a person who is walking in love in verse 7 by stating that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. To bear all things means to protect and guard others from exposure to harm.

When Paul uses the phrase believe all things, he is revealing the reality that a person who walks in love has no suspicion or cynicism. To hope all things, for Paul, involves having a positive outlook on the future, regardless of our current circumstances. Paul then concludes by explaining that Biblical love endures all things. In other words, a person who walks in love is not fickle, but instead holds on and remains faithful.

So, with all of this in mind, here is a question to consider: Are these the qualities that characterize how you conduct your life when it comes to your relationships? Would the person that you are seeking to experience a lasting relationship with say that these are the characteristics that mark your life? Would the people around you that know you best say that these are the characteristics that mark your life?

Because these are the characteristics of a person who is focused on becoming the right person and that conducts their day to day life that reveals and reflects the love of Christ in their relationships with others. And the timeless reality is that lasting relationships are the result of becoming the right person, not finding the right person.

So how are you attempting to experience love and lasting relationships?  Are you attempting to experience a lasting relationship through the right person myth that is celebrated by our culture and spread by Hollywood? Or are you attempting to experience a lasting relationship by becoming the right person that the person you are looking for is looking for?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Lasting relationships are the result of becoming the right person, not finding the right person...


This week we are addressing and attacking perhaps the most prominent and powerful myth about relationships. This myth is celebrated by our culture and spread by Hollywood. The myth that I would like to address and attack is the right person myth. Yesterday we discovered that, as far as our culture is concerned, the secret to finding a lasting relationship is to find the right person. In other words, if you would just find the right person everything else would fall into place.

According to the right person myth, the first step to love and lasting relationships according to the right person myth is that you have to find the right person. Then, according to the right person myth, once you find the right person, the second step is to fall in love. Then, according to the right person myth, after you find the right person, after you fall in love, the third step is to fix your hopes and dreams on that person for fulfillment.

However, what happens if the person you are with does not meet all your needs and fulfill all the deep desires of your life? Well, according to the right person myth, then you have not found the right person. So, if the relationship does not work out, then you simply go back to step one and begin to search again for the right person.

Unfortunately, the right person myth is just that, a myth. And the reason why the right person myth is a myth is in the results. Here are some statistics that bear out the utter failure of the right person myth: According to the most current statistics, approximately 46% of marriages end in divorce. In addition, the group entitled “divorced” is the fastest growing segment of the population in the U.S.  Finally, 1/3 of divorced women live below the poverty line.  

Now a natural question that comes to mind is “well Dave, if the right person myth is a myth, then how am I supposed to go about dating so that I can experience a lasting relationship? If the right person myth is wrong, then what is right? Is there an alternative?” If those questions are going through your mind, I have some good news for you.

And that good news is that in a section of a letter that is recorded for us in the Bible called the book of Ephesians, we see a man named Paul provide for us an alternative to the right person myth. So, let’s look at that alternative together, beginning in Ephesians 5:1-2:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Here we see the Apostle Paul command the members of the church of Ephesus, and followers of Jesus throughout history, to do two things. First, Paul commands followers of Jesus to be imitators of God. In other words, as followers of Jesus we are to reveal and reflect Christ in our character and conduct. Paul then provides a second command that unpacks specifically how followers of Jesus are to reveal and reflect Christ: and walk in love.

Now when Paul uses the word walk here, this word, in the language that this letter was originally written in, literally means to live out or conduct one’s life. In other words, Paul here is commanding followers of Jesus to live lives that are characterized by a selfless and sacrificial love that places others before ourselves. Just as Jesus placed fallen and broken humanity before Himself and allowed Himself to be treated as though He lived our selfish and sinful lives, so that God the Father could treat us as though we lived Jesus perfect life, as followers of Jesus we are to live lives that are characterized by a selfless and other centered love.

And it is in Paul’s commands that we discover the alternative to the right person myth when it comes to lasting relationships. First, we see that instead of focusing on trying to find the right person, the letters that make up the Bible calls us to focus on becoming the right person. As followers of Jesus, we are to focus on becoming like Jesus in our character and in how we live out our relationships with God and with others.

Second, as we are focusing on trying to become the right person, instead of trying to fall in love, we are to walk in love. You see, unlike our culture, which views and talks about love as though it were a noun, the letters that make up the Bible talks about love as a verb. Here is a clear and simple definition of love that the Apostle Paul is talking about here: Love is giving someone what they need most when they deserve it the least. Biblical, selfless, sacrificial, other centered love actively gives someone what they need the most when they deserve it the least.

Third, we see that instead of fixing your hopes and dreams on the right person for fulfillment, we are to fix our hope and dreams on Christ for fulfillment. You see, if I were to fix all of my hopes and dreams on my wife Julie to meet all of my needs; if Julie was to fix all her hopes and dreams on me to meet all of her needs, we have set one another up for failure. We have set one another up for failure because both Julie and I are flawed, broken people who will fall short.

There is only one person who can meet your deepest needs and bring fulfillment to your life, and that person is Jesus. To place any other person in a position where they must meet all of your needs is to make them an idol and is to set them up for failure. But what happens if you follow these steps and the relationship does not work out? What if you are focused on becoming the right person, walking in love, and are fixing our hope in Jesus to meet our needs and the relationship does not last?

Well, according to the message and teachings of Jesus, then you have not become the right person. Instead of thinking the right person was really the wrong person, the key question becomes “Am I the right person?” Instead of pointing the finger at someone else, the Bible calls us to point the thumb at the person in the mirror. So, if the relationship does not work out, then you simply go back to step one and begin to the process to become the right person.

And it is here that we see revealed for us a timeless truth when it comes to love and lasting relationships. And that timeless truth is this: Lasting relationships are the result of becoming the right person, not finding the right person. Unlike the right person myth that is celebrated by our culture and spread by Hollywood, the letters that make up the Bible reveal for us the reality that lasting relationships are the result of becoming the right person.

Lasting relationships are not the result of people falling in love. Instead, lasting relationships are the result of people who walking in love by giving those who they are in relationship with what they need most when they deserve it the least.  Andy Stanley conveys this timeless truth this way: “You need to become the person that the person you are looking for is looking for”.
Now you might be thinking to yourself “well Dave, how do I know when I am becoming the right person? How do I know when I am walking in love? How do I know that I am giving someone what they need most when they deserve it the least?”

If those questions are running through your mind, I have some more good news for you. In another letter that is recorded for us in the New Testament of our Bibles called the book of 1 Corinthians, we see the Apostle Paul unpack what walking in love practically looks like in our day to day lives.

Friday, we will look at this section of this letter together...

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Right Person Myth...


As a culture, we crave the concept of love. As a culture, we are driven by a desire to experience lasting relationships. This reality is evidenced by the programs that have dominated television in recent years. Whether it is "The Bachelor"; whether it is "The Bachelorette"; whether it is “This is us”, television is dominated by shows surrounding the theme of experiencing love and lasting relationships. The same can be said for movies and music.  

This is the case because there is something within every human being that desires to love and be loved. You see, human beings are relational beings. All of humanity was created for relationships; we were created for a relationship with God vertically and for relationships with other horizontally. That is why the most painful emotion is loneliness. Loneliness is the most painful emotion because when we are lonely we are outside of what God designed us to be. Our hearts are designed to love and be loved. Our hearts were created to experience lasting relationships. And deep in the core of our beings, we crave love and lasting relationships.

Yet, while our culture craves love and lasting relationships, there is an increasing sense in our culture that love and lasting relationships are unattainable. There is an increasing sense of skepticism that one can truly experience a loving relationship that will last a lifetime. This is especially the case amongst those in the gen x or millennial generations, who have looked on as their families were negatively impacted by the increasing rates of divorce. Those who are in their 40’s or younger have seen the devastation of the decline of healthy, lasting marriages.

As a result, many have come to the conclusion that it is better not to marry than go through the pain and strain that comes from the broken marriages that they have witnessed. So, on the one hand, while people try to avoid the commitment that comes with marriage, on the other hand, they desperately desire to experience a committed relationship with another person that is marked by love. However, while avoiding marriage, those who avoid marriage are unable to avoid the hurt and pain that comes from a relationship that do not last.

So, are lasting relationships no longer possible? Are love and lasting relationships attainable anymore in the fast paced, short attention span culture that we live in today? What chance do singles have when it comes to experiencing a lasting relationship?  

To answer these questions, we are going to spend the next four weeks discovering what the letters that make up the Bible have to say about love and lasting relationships. We are going to discover how we can experience love and lasting relationships. We are going to discover how men and women are to treat one another when it comes to love and lasting relationships. We are going to discover the role that sex has in love and lasting relationships. And we are going to discover what we need to know before we make decisions regarding love and lasting relationships.  

And my hope and prayer is that God would move in our heads, our hearts, and our hands, so that we would be able to experience that love and lasting relationships that God has designed us to experience. In addition to what the letters that make up the Bible have to say on the issue of lasting relationships, this series is influenced by the contributions of two individuals to the discussion of dating and relationships.

The first individual is a man named Chip Ingram, who wrote a great book on the issue of dating and relationships called “Sex 180”. The second individual is a pastor named Andy Stanley, who, also influenced by Chip Ingram, preached a sermon series on the issue of dating and lasting relationships. And much of what we will talk about during this series is influenced by their contributions to the discussion of dating and relationships.

This week, I would like for us to spend our time together addressing and attacking perhaps the most prominent and powerful myth about relationships. This myth is celebrated by our culture and spread by Hollywood. The myth that I would like to address and attack is the right person myth. You see, as far as our culture is concerned, the secret to finding a lasting relationship is to find the right person.

In other words, if you would just find the right person everything else would fall into place. And this myth is the central theme to almost every romantic comedy made in Hollywood. So let’s take a minute and expose the myth of the right person. To help us do that, I just want you to take a minute and think of your favorite romantic comedy movie. Guys, if you are like me and are not into chick flicks, think of the last romantic comedy movie that you were forced to watch. Do you have a movie in mind? Now think of the plot of that movie as we look together at the right person myth.

The first step to love and lasting relationships according to the right person myth is that you have to find the right person. You need to be on the lookout; you need to be on the hunt; you need to be scoping out all the potential candidates. You need to be at the right place at the right time to find the right person. You need to be wearing the right clothes, you need to work out and stay in shape, you need to look and act the right way.  

Then, according to the right person myth, once you find the right person, the second step is to fall in love. For the right person to be the right person, there has to be love there; there has to be that ooey, gooey feeling; you heart just beats faster around them; you can’t stop thinking about them; there just has to be that chemistry. There has to chemistry emotionally. And there has to be chemistry physically. You know that chemistry that you just can’t keep your hands off of one another. There is an uncontrollable passion to be together and to “be together”.

Then, according to the right person myth, after you find the right person, after you fall in love, the third step is to fix your hopes and dreams on that person for fulfillment. Because the right person will meet all of your needs. The right person will be that knight in shining armor that will fill that empty space in your life and satisfy the deepest desires in your life.

But what happens if the person you are with does not meet all your needs and fulfill all the deep desires of your life? Well, according to the right person myth, then you have not found the right person. Who you thought was the right person was really the wrong person. According to the right person myth, the key question becomes Is he/she the right person for me?”.

And if it was not the right person, then according to the right person myth, the relationship “was just for a season”, “guess it was not the right one”, or “he or she’s not coming through for me”. So, if the relationship does not work out, then you simply go back to step one and begin to search again for the right person. Now, let me ask you this question: Have I just described the plot of the romantic comedy that came to your mind? Is that not the plot of almost every movie from Hollywood? You see, this myth is celebrated by our culture and spread by Hollywood.

But unfortunately, the right person myth is just that, a myth. And the reason why the right person myth is a myth is in the results. Here are some statistics that bear out the utter failure of the right person myth: According to the most current statistics, approximately 46% of marriages end in divorce. In addition, the group entitled “divorced” is the fastest growing segment of the population in the U.S.  Finally, 1/3 of divorced women live below the poverty line.  

Now a natural question that comes to mind is “well Dave, if the right person myth is a myth, then how am I supposed to go about dating so that I can experience a lasting relationship? If the right person myth is wrong, then what is right? Is there an alternative?” If those questions are going through your mind, I have some good news for you. And that good news is that in a section of a letter that is recorded for us in the Bible called the book of Ephesians, we see a man named Paul provide for us an alternative to the right person myth.

Tomorrow, we will look at that alternative…

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Is what Christians celebrate on Easter just one big April Fool's hoax?


This past Sunday, followers of Jesus around the world gathered together to celebrate the closed handed and non-negotiable center of the Christian faith, which is that Jesus Christ, who is God in an bod, entered into humanity and allowed Himself to be treated as though He lived our selfish and sinful lives so that God the Father could treat us as though we lived Jesus perfect life by dying on a Roman cross, was buried in a tomb dead as a door nail, and was brought back to life as a result of God’s transforming activity on that first Easter Sunday.

And regardless of whether or not you buy the whole Bible, Jesus, or church thing; regardless of how often you have attended church in the past; regardless of the fact that you may feel like you do not know and do not feel that you can ever know about whether or not the Bible or church is real or relevant; regardless of all the bad experiences that you may have had with Christians and churches, we all have seen a cross attached to a building or around someone’s neck. We are all at least somewhat familiar with the Easter story. We are at least somewhat familiar with a garden, a courtyard, a hill with three crosses, a tomb guarded by soldiers, an empty tomb found by women.

What was so interesting about this Easter Sunday is that this year Easter fell on April 1st. And in our culture, April 1st is not just any day; instead April 1st is April fool’s day. Culturally, April 1st is a day where people attempt to play practical jokes and spread hoaxes in hopes of fooling people. On April fool’s day, some newspapers, magazines, and other media will report fake stories, which are usually explained the next day or below the news section in small letters. Those who fall victim to the practical jokes and hoaxes are referred to as “April fools”.

And for some, that is how you feel about what Christians celebrate on Easter. You may feel like Easter is the biggest April fools hoax in history. And if we were to have a conversation out in the courtyard coffeehouse, the conversation might sound something like this: “well Dave how do we know that the resurrection is a historical reality and not just a hoax? How do we know that the resurrection wasn’t just a big lie? How do we know that what we celebrate on Easter isn’t just on big April fools hoax?”

If those questions are running through your mind, I just want to let you know that those are great questions to be asking. And I want to let you know that you are not the first person to be questioning whether or not Eater isn’t just one big April fool’s hoax. As a matter of fact, in a section of a letter that is recorded for us in the New Testament of the Bible called the book of 1 Corinthians, we see a man named Paul, who persecuted early followers of Jesus until he had an encounter with Jesus after He was raised from the dead, address these very questions. So, let’s look at how the Apostle Paul addressed these questions in 1 Corinthians 15:12-14:

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.

The Apostle Paul begins this section of this letter that was addressed to a church that was located in a city named Corinth, Greece, by confronting some of the members of the church who were rejecting the reality of the resurrection of the dead. You see, just like today, there were some members of the church that did not believe that there was a literal resurrection of the dead. There were some members of the church that believed that the resurrection of Jesus was an April fool’s hoax.

Paul responded to this situation by providing four results that would be the natural consequences if the resurrection of Jesus was an April fool’s joke. First, Paul states that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Jesus was not really raised from the dead. And if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, Paul explains that his preaching is vain and their faith also is vain.

In other words, if Jesus was not raised from the dead; if the resurrection of Jesus was just an April fool’s joke, then the message of the gospel and Christianity in general is devoid of value and meaning. I mean, the whole point of Christianity and the gospel is Jesus life, death, and resurrection, isn’t it? Paul then reveals a second result that would be the natural result if the message of a resurrected Jesus and an empty tomb was an April fool’s hoax in verse 15-16:

Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;

Here we see Paul explain that if the message of a resurrected Jesus and an empty tomb was an April fool’s hoax, then they and all the other early church leaders were false witnesses of God. If the tomb was not empty, Paul and other early followers of Jesus would be revealed as liars and twisted manipulators who misrepresented the nature and character of God by saying that He raised Christ from the dead when He really didn’t. They were liars and manipulators because if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Jesus is still dead.

Paul’s point is that you can’t have one without the other; either there is a resurrection of the dead for everyone, or there is no resurrection of the dead for anyone, even Jesus Christ as God-in-a-bod who was 100% God and 100% human. Paul then reveals a third result that would be the natural result if the message of a resurrected Jesus and an empty tomb was an April fool’s hoax in verse 17:

and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

In this single verse, we see Paul reveal for us the reality that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Paul’s point here is that if the message of a resurrected Jesus and an empty tomb was an April fool’s hoax, then all of humanity is still separated from God as a result of their selfishness, rebellion, and sin. Now a natural question that could arise here is “But why would that be?”

You see, the resurrection from the dead provides the proof that God accepted Jesus willingness to be treated as though He lived our selfish and sinful lives so that He could treat us as though we lived Jesus perfect life. This morning, the reality is that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then we have not been rescued from our selfishness and sin. For while there have been other people who were brought back to life in the Bible, Jesus is different for two reasons.

First, Jesus is the only person in the letter that make up the Bible who predicted that he would die and be raised from the dead before the event actually happened. The resurrection proves that Jesus was who He said He was as our Lord and Leader. Second, while other people in the letter that make up the Bible were brought back to life, they eventually died again. Jesus, however, was raised from the dead never to die again.

The Christian faith and our forgiveness is centered on the resurrection; without the resurrection Christianity and our faith is devoid of any value to rescue and restore us to relationship with God and one another. Paul then reveals a fourth result that would be the natural result if the message of a resurrected Jesus and an empty tomb was an April fool’s hoax in verse 18-19:

Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

Paul explained that that if the message of a resurrected Jesus and an empty tomb was an April fool’s hoax, then those who have believed, trusted, and followed Jesus throughout history and who have died physically will only experience eternal separation from God and an eternal sentence to hell. And because of that reality, Paul explains in verse 19 that if we have placed our confident trust in Jesus without the reality of the resurrection, then we are of all men most to be pitied.

Now the word pitied here, in the language that this letter was originally written in, literally means to be deserving of sympathy for one’s pathetic condition. Paul’s point here is that if the message of a resurrected Jesus and an empty tomb was an April fool’s hoax, we are pathetic. We are pathetic because we have leveraged our lives for a lie.

So, Paul has basically argued that if the tomb wasn’t empty; if what we celebrate on Easter is just one big April fool’s hoax, then followers of Jesus are pathetic people who have either been deceived or are knowingly deceiving others. But is that the case? Are followers of Jesus pathetic people who have either fallen for an April fool’s hoax or who willingly perpetuate an April fool’s hoax?

Friday, we will see Paul provide the answer to those questions…