What did Jesus say about divorce and remarriage?

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It is now often said that 50% of marriages are likely to end in divorce. While recent research (like the ones referenced by Christianity Today) shows that, the numbers are not as bad among christian marriages; it is useful to ask what the Lord taught about this, and, to seek grace to be able to live out his teaching.

Once a group of Pharisees came to Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” We have to admit that the attitude towards marriage today isn’t too different from the one the Pharisees displayed in this encounter. Too many people are so flippant about marriage today, that they get divorced for the most flimsy reasons; men and women go their separate ways for just about any reason under the umbrella reason of “irreconcilable differences”.

Well, Jesus instead identified unwillingness to be reconciled as the root cause of divorce. Here’s how he put it;

 “Don’t you read the Scriptures?” he replied. “In them it is written that at the beginning God created man and woman, and that a man should leave his father and mother, and be forever united to his wife. The two shall become one—no longer two, but one! And no man may divorce what God has joined together.” 

“Then, why,” they asked, “did Moses say a man may divorce his wife by merely writing her a letter of dismissal?”

Jesus replied, Moses did that in recognition of your hard and evil hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. (Matthew 19:4-8, emphasis mine)

So the fundamental cause of divorce is not irreconcilable differences. There is no such thing; there is just an unwillingness to reconcile.

 

What if there is infidelity?

Oh, infidelity is forgivable. God shows us the example of forgiving infidelity by giving us the life of Hosea who He instructed to marry a whore, and repeatedly forgive her serial adultery.

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“But” you might say, “didn’t Jesus say that if one’s spouse was unfaithful, then one is justified in getting a divorce?”

I do not think Jesus said that at all. here’s what he said.  And I tell you this, that anyone who divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)

Some have explained, and I completely concur with their explanation that, the use of fornication and adultery in the verse is deliberate because the Lord was communicating two different things.

Under Jewish custom at the time, a woman was expected to be chaste at marriage. If she was found to not be a virgin on her wedding night, her husband was to bring proof (an unstained bedsheet) of this to the elders, and the brides family. He was then allowed to divorce her, and she was punished by death. (Yes, I know, those laws were grievous, which is why God’s plan was always to repeal them).

When Jesus was talking about fornication, this was what he was referring to: a woman who had lost her chastity before marriage. This was the scenario with Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus.

 

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Note that, in the traditions of the time, engagement was a much more stronger status than currently is. It was considered essentially same as marriage, as the NKJV rendering shows. So when Jesus was talking about fornication as basis for divorce, he was talking in the sense of the Jewish tradition which viewed what Joseph was trying to do as just.

 

So what about remarriage?

Jesus said, “a man should leave his father and mother, and be forever united to his wife. The two shall become one—no longer two, but one”. God did not ordain for a person to be married to more than one person except their first spouse dies. Jesus says that when that happens, the person is living in adultery. Whatever ambiguity that Matthew 19 may leave in anyone’s mind about this, Luke 16:18 clears it up.

“So anyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

 

Paul the Apostle wrote about this in Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7. More as an illustration in the former as against the latter where he does an elaborate, and sometimes misunderstood teaching.

As God consistently uses the marriage relationship to illustrate our relationship with him, he does same in Romans 7:2-3.

Let me illustrate: when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, she is no longer bound to him; the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. Then she can marry someone else if she wants to. That would be wrong while he was alive, but it is perfectly all right after he dies.

 

Clearing up the Confusion

In reading Paul’s fuller teaching on the subject of remarriage in 1 Corinthians 7, some confusion does arise as to what is actually being taught regarding people who are married to unbelievers who elect to leave the marriage. The portion is often used to justify remarriage, but I do not think it does so at all. Here it is, set in context.

Now, for those who are married I have a command, not just a suggestion. And it is not a command from me, for this is what the Lord himself has said: A wife must not leave her husband. But if she is separated from him, let her remain single or else go back to him. And the husband must not divorce his wife.

Here I want to add some suggestions of my own. These are not direct commands from the Lord, but they seem right to me: If a Christian has a wife who is not a Christian, but she wants to stay with him anyway, he must not leave her or divorce her. And if a Christian woman has a husband who isn’t a Christian, and he wants her to stay with him, she must not leave him. For perhaps the husband who isn’t a Christian may become a Christian with the help of his Christian wife. And the wife who isn’t a Christian may become a Christian with the help of her Christian husband. Otherwise, if the family separates, the children might never come to know the Lord; whereas a united family may, in God’s plan, result in the children’s salvation.

But if the husband or wife who isn’t a Christian is eager to leave, it is permitted. In such cases the Christian husband or wife should not insist that the other stay, for God wants his children to live in peace and harmony. (1 Corinthians 7:10-15 TLB)

emphasis mine

 

As we see here, Paul correctly quotes what the Lord has said in the first portion i.e. stay in your marriage. He then goes on to offer a suggestion for situations where the individual trying to leave the marriage is the unbeliever. He recommends that the Christian avoids getting into a tussle of trying to keep them in the marriage by force as we are called to peace and harmony. Nothing in this can be construed to be saying that the person can then go on to remarry while the other spouse is alive. To say so will be implying that Paul the apostle is contradicting what he himself has taught earlier, and more critically, what he clearly says the Lord has taught in just the preceding verse.

Perhaps for emphasis, and clarity, he then closes the teaching on marriage by saying:

The wife is part of her husband as long as he lives; if her husband dies, then she may marry again, but only if she marries a Christian. (1 Corinthians 7:39 TLB)

 

What about separation?

Yes, sadly, there are many people living in completely intolerable marriages, sometimes with physical, life threatening abuse. It is in such situations that I think Paul the apostle was allowing for a separation, to keep the peace. That’s what I think he meant by:

“But if the husband or wife who isn’t a Christian is eager to leave, it is permitted. In such cases the Christian husband or wife should not insist that the other stay, for God wants his children to live in peace and harmony.” I Cor 7:15.

 

Hate is a strong word!

Hate is a strong word, and God never uses it lightly. But he did say, “I hate Divorce”. God views a married couple as one flesh, and when they get a divorce, that’s literally like violently sawing them into two.

If for some reason that ever happens, the instruction is “But if she is separated from him, let her remain single or else go back to him.” (1 Cor 7:10)

 

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Forgive our trespasses, as you destroy those who trespass against us.

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picture credit: http://wildmenofgod.com/2014/02/evil-for-good/

 

If you know the Lord’s prayer, you will know that this blog title is not what it says. The reality for many of us however is that this is our preferred version, because we live out those words exactly. We want God to forgive our sins, even as we commandeer him to destroy our unrepentant (we like to add that detail to justify our actions) enemies.

The Bible is quite clear about what kind of prayer we are to pray for our enemies. If someone mistreats you because you are a Christian, don’t curse him; pray that God will bless him.” (Romans 12:14 Living Bible). In spite of the many very clear instructions to do this, it is surprising to find that many believers still continue to treat the Holy Ghost like a flame-thrower to be used to cremate our enemies.

It is important to realize that this matter of loving one’s enemies is so central to the Christian faith that Jesus describes it as the very proof of our sonship of God.

But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too.

(Matthew 5:44-45)

Surely, we must desire to be considered true sons of our father in heaven. Well, it all hangs on how we treat our enemies.

Understandably there are portions of the bible that make it seem like it is ok to pray for our enemies to fall and die. Please read up on my responses to those on twitter and chime in.

 

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What is your Return on Endowment?

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This graph that shows the Return on Endowment for Ivy League Schools in the US, makes the important point that, the person who gets the largest endowment doesn’t always produce the highest return. While Harvard had about $15b more in endowment than Princeton, the latter had a larger return in absolute terms, and more than twice the percentage return of the former.

The information illustrates how God views our Return on Endowment. There are many who are punching well below their weight: achieving far less than God expects from us.

…For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required; and of him to whom men entrust much, they will require and demand all the more. Luke 12:48

 

This idea occupies the core of a proper understanding of prosperity. God only considers us to be truly prosperous when we bear much fruit to his glory, in contrast to the rich man who got a huge harvest, and decided to upgrade his lifestyle with no thought for how God might want him to use those resources to impact the world for him.

God’s decision to bless us with material wealth is hinged fundamentally on his need to spread his goodness upon the earth through his children. In blessing Abraham, God said; “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you [with abundant increase of favors] and make your name famous and distinguished, and you will be a blessing [dispensing good to others].” Gen 12:2

It is to this covenant God refers when he exhorts the children of Israel to remember the Lord their God who gives them power to get wealth that he may fulfil his covenant with their fathers. (Deut. 8:18). The covenant was to bless them in order to make them a blessing.

 

Rich and Wretched

Avoid the temptation to measure your life by the world’s preferred metric; Net worth. The Church in Laodicea had fallen into this temptation. When they looked at their net worth, they had this exchange with God.

Laodicean Church: I am rich; I have prospered and grown wealthy, and I am in need of nothing;

God: you do not realize and understand that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Revelation 3:17

Jesus taught that a man cannot measure his life by his net worth. “ Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” (Luke 12:15)

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that prosperity is fundamentally about what you have. Joseph was described as a prosperous man long before he owned anything. In fact, he was owned as a slave when he was described as a prosperous man.

True prosperity is about what returns God derives from the gifts, and material things that he has blessed us with. The more he gets, the more prosperous he considers us to be. The less, the more wretched we are in his sight.

 

What is your return on endowment?

 

Follow/join the conversation here

 

 

Two keys to living a contented life.

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It is a wise man that does know the contented man is never poor, whilst the discontented man is never rich ~ Frank Herbert

 

When thinking about contentment, the knottiest question that needs to be answered is, “how much is enough?”.

While Paul wrote that Timothy should be contented with having food and being clothed (1 Tim 6:8), it has to be acknowledged that, what constitutes food can range from couscous to caviar; and clothing can vary in price in the thousands of dollars, even though they are essentially different only in the brand label.

Clearly, even when you reduce it to just a matter of food, and cloths, there is still such a massive range of possibility that, deciding what is enough has to take in other considerations. So here are two things to help reach the contented life.

 

Living Purposefully

One way to answer this question is using the principle of fitness for purpose. This recommendation relies on the idea that if we have a proper definition of what we are trying to accomplish, deciding on what is enough becomes a much more easier thing to do.

With regard to food for instance, if our purpose is to eat for strength as it should be, it becomes easier to make choices that support a lifestyle of contentment. If food however represents something different to us, we will inevitably succumb to the idea of gorging on the finest offerings available.

Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child and when your [incompetent] officials and princes feast in the morning. Blessed [prosperous and admired] are you, O land, when your king is a man of noble birth, and your princes and officials feast at the proper time—for strength and not for drunkenness. (Eccl. 10:16-17 AMPC)

 

Deriving your self worth from God

The second thing to note is that, contentment reaches all the way down to where we derive our sense of worth from. Discontent is very often a mask for low self esteem. The reason many people hanker after stuff is because they somehow think that those things will improve their worth. For many, especially celebrities who spend their entire life pursuing things, it ends sadly (sometimes in suicide) when they realize it doesn’t.

Paul wrote that “But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God]” 1 Tim 6:10. When we base our sense of well being on the sufficiency of God rather than our present circumstances, what results is the contented life.

Unfortunately, society is often structured around the idea that a person’s worth is the sum of the things that he owns. Addressing this mindset, Jesus said …

Beware! Don’t always be wishing for what you don’t have. For real life and real living are not related to how rich we are.” (Luke 12:15 TLB)

Then He said to them, “Watch out and guard yourselves against every form of greed; for not even when one has an overflowing abundance does his life consist of nor is it derived from his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 AMPC)

 

In summary;

  1. Purchase/consume things with purpose in mind.
  2. Derive your sense of worth from who you are in God.

 

Christians Wanted?

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“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”. ~ Jesus (in Matthew 5:13)

When the believer loses his savour, he is unable to serve God’s purpose in this world and is of no redeeming value to men, except to be metaphorically thrown out into the street to fill pot holes.

As salt, our role here is to tinge the bitterness of this world with the flavour of heaven. We are here as light; beacons of hope in a sin darkened world. God forbid then that we lose our saltiness. God forbid that our light be hid under a basket.

A key way in which the believer ought to be salt in the earth is to hold aloft the standard of integrity in the public space. This is an acute need in a society like ours where we appear to be fighting a losing battle with corruption. In light of the daily revelations of the massive looting of the public treasury, one is forced to ask, where are the Christians in this country?

Aside the importance of our personal testimony as believers, it is necessary to note that living a life of integrity is critical to the believer’s safety in spiritual warfare. In reality, the breastplate of righteousness (integrity, moral rectitude and right standing with God. Eph 6:14 AMP) is our main protection against our hearts from which all issues of our lives flow.

 

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Have you struggled with living a life of integrity? Do not fret. If you make up your mind today to start to pursue integrity, the Holy Spirit will be there to help you every step of the way. As God assures us…

For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13 (AMP)

 

Want some more encouragement and insight on how to start? Read this thread.  https://twitter.com/woleolabanji/status/952528968313339904

 

 

 

You caught the prophecy, but have you read the fine print?

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You’ve probably caught some prophecy for the new year. Your church may even have a buzz word for the year. Maybe this year has been declared as your “Year of Uncommon Breakthroughs” or something along those lines, but have you read the fine print?

Many times, prophecies are conditional grants. God will do this if you do that. Too often, all we are ever told is God will do this. Invariably, very many people will come to the end of 2018 wondering “who lied”? God, or Man of God?

The Prophecy you have received for the year may require some working out. Here’s what Paul wrote to Timothy about working out prophecy in his life.

This charge and admonition I commit in trust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with prophetic intimations which I formerly received concerning you, so that inspired and aided by them you may wage the good warfare. (1 Timothy 1:18AMPC)

 

Do not neglect the gift which is in you, [that special inward endowment] which was directly imparted to you [by the Holy Spirit] by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you [at your ordination]. Practice and cultivate and meditate upon these duties; throw yourself wholly into them [as your ministry], so that your progress may be evident to everybody. (1Timothy 4:14-15AMPC)

 

In my personal life, I have come to realize that working out prophecy requires among other things, a considerable level of diligence. Diligence is one critical factor that will separate the winners from the also ran. To quote Paul the Apostle, “don’t you know that everyone who runs in a race actually runs, but only one wins the prize. Therefore run as someone who wants to win the prize” 1 Cor 9:25.

There’s a way to run if you want to win the prize. If you want prophecy to come to pass in your life, you have to learn diligence. Peter the apostle writes for instance of our awesome promise of being partakers of the divine nature, but also put in bold print that it will come about by diligent pursuit.

For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature. For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence). (2 Peter 1:3-5AMPC)

Actually, prophecy is not a free pass. On the contrary, he say, because we have been given promises, we should be diligent to see them come to pass.

What then is diligence?

Looking at the life of Nehemiah, who returned from captivity to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem, we learn that diligence is a mix of burning PASSION, deployment of methodical PROCESS, a focus on PERMANENCE (sustainability of impact), and complete reliance on God in PRAYER.

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So if prophecy has come that you will be lifted this year, note also that the fine print says: “Do you see a man diligent and skillful in his business? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” Proverbs 22:29

If you have received a “thus says the Lord”, declaring that you will become a billionaire this year, here’s the fine print: “He becomes poor who works with a slack and idle hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Proverbs 10:4

In case you have been told that this is your year of deliverance from servitude, do not rejoice too quickly. Read this first: “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slothful will be put to forced labor.” Proverbs 12:24

But fret not, diligence can be learned. This link has some useful guides. It is my prayer that as you imbibe diligence, every word of God will manifest in full in your life this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Real Singularity: Abiding In Christ

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Scientists envision a future in which man, and computers will merge to create a new specie with perpetually exploding intelligence. They postulate that somewhere along the line, that intelligence will create immortality.

Actually, when you strip it down to it bare facts, this idea is something God has been trying to tell us for a while in the Bible. The scientists have however misread him; we are not merging with the computer. Instead, God invites us to merge with him, tap into all that is knowable, and live eternally.

That is what Jesus means when he invites us to “Abide in me and let my Words abide in you”. That is exactly what it means when He says:

But as for you, the anointing (the sacred appointment, the unction) which you received from Him abides [permanently] in you; [so] then you have no need that anyone should instruct you. But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in (live in, never depart from) Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him], just as [His anointing] has taught you [to do]. 1 John 2:27(AMPC)

Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed them by and through His Spirit, for the [Holy] Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God [the [f]divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny]. 1 Corinthians 2:10(AMPC)

And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever. 1 John 2:17 (AMPC)

 

The best part about abiding in him is that, it doesn’t promise us singularity sometime in the future. If we make that decision today, we are instantly entitled to the downpayment who holds the key to unlock all of the wisdom and treasure in God’s word for use in our daily walk.

[He has also appropriated and acknowledged us as His by] putting His seal upon us and giving us His [Holy] Spirit in our hearts as the security deposit and guarantee [of the fulfillment of His promise]. 2 Corinthians 1:22 (AMPC)

The singularity is already here. Has been here for a while actually. Jesus invites you to Abide in him. Like the blind runner who merges with his sighted guide to run the race, Jesus wants to come by your side and hitch himself to you and race with you to the finish line… and then some infinite more.