What the Church Expects of Newlyweds, Part 1

I’ve had the joy of doing pre-marital counseling for over 20 couples. We cover a host of topics like communication, intimacy, submission, love, conflict, finances, etc. On the last session, I’ve developed a category called, “What a Church expects from newlyweds.” For most, this is a topic they’ve never heard discussed before, and one which I think is of fundamental importance at the beginning of a new life together as husband and wife. In this session, I provide ten things that a church should expect from newlyweds. Most of these are incremental steps. Most of these are things to be developed in a lifetime. I will try to offer a basic summary of each category once or twice a month and then attempt to gather all these things together into an article that pastors or parents can give their sons and daughters as they prepare to get married.

I will begin with the first (additional elements include, “public life of faith,” “hospitality,” “Christian charity,” etc.

a) Church Attendance (Ps. 122:1; Heb. 10:25)

The word “attendance” doesn’t exactly capture this first point, but it is used due to its common usage in church life. When a pastor says that church attendance is important, what he is really saying is that you attend church to be formed by its worship. Being in church is not just to be physically present, but to be willing to be transformed by something and Someone outside of yourself.

Newlyweds cannot grasp the significance of marriage unless they are in submission to a ritual that they themselves cannot perform outside of a corporate gathering. As a newly married couple, you are to make the decision of going to church once in your life, not every Saturday night. To be a responsible couple before God and his Church, you need to commit with one another that outside of unexpected circumstances, the act of being in church and your willingness to be transformed by worship through the renewal of the mind is of utmost importance.

There can be no faithful marriage outside of participation in the great marriage renewal that occurs each Lord’s Day between our Lord Jesus and his Bride. Any idea that conveys to newlyweds that marriage is about making independent choices outside any authority structure is destructive. In fact, newlyweds can hope for a fruitful marriage only within the bounds of regular church life, which begins with the worship on the Lord’s Day.

Remembering 9-11

I was in a theology class on September 11, 2001. A frantic young lady rushed into the room and informed the classroom that something terrible had happened in New York City. We sat there speechless. Our professor, a godly man, led us in prayer for protection. We did not know what had happened and how what happened would affect us. That uncertainty followed us for the next hour until lunchtime when we entered the cafeteria and watched that dreadful scene again and again and again on TV. Something powerful had happened; powerful enough to shake a nation and push our emotions to places it had not gone before.

In a very tangible way, evil showed up with all its might and fury. In a very objective way, evil was incarnated in devilish men. So much has transpired since that day, but we memorialize that ill-famed day as a day when the corporate reality of a nation shook at its very core; when we awoke from our slumber to see that the opposite of the good was alive and well. We mourn and remember. That’s what we are created to do. We mourn and remember because we are ritualized beings. Let us never forget. Let us never cease to be amazed at the ways of evil men. Let us never stop to pray for their ultimate destruction! Arise, O Lord, defend us! Arise, O Lord, and we will be saved!

The Jonah Project

Well, the cat’s out of the commentary bag: Rich Lusk and I are working on another commentary. Observers may have noticed my tweets or random notes on Jonah. I have been preaching through it and also writing and editing some of our joint efforts. As always, I like to say Rich Lusk is the exegetical genius and I am the fortunate guy who has the joy of working with him in these endeavors. The added benefit is that he and I share a lot of presuppositions about hermeneutics and general biblical exegesis which afford us an awful lot of common ground when we do these projects. In fact, if this is published it will be the third work I’ve done with Rich.

I will be posting occasional quotes from our future commentary. Here is a fairly descriptive summary of the Assyrians to whom Jonah was called to minister:

The ancient Assyrian emperor–just to give you one example of the wickedness that characterized the empire and the city — after a military victory would put giant fishhooks in the mouths of the vanquished and march them down Main Street in a kind of victory parade. And then he would impale them, he’d lift their skin off, and after skinning them alive, he’d cut off their limbs and throw them to the wild animals to be devoured. Now that’s wickedness. That’s what paganism looks like in the raw; paganism when it hasn’t been tamed in any way by the subduing grace of God. Nations that have been influenced by the gospel, even if they aren’t any longer officially Christian, even if they aren’t all that faithful, usually know better than to fight their ways in that way.

About Celebrities Leaving the Faith

Dear friend,

I am sure you are hearing about all these celebrities abandoning the faith. Some say it’s the contradictions in the Bible. Well, rest assured that supposed contradictions in the Bible have been addressed ad infinitum in the last 2,000 years of Church History. Contradictions only exist if someone denies that God is all-powerful and if they deny that the Spirit inspired men to write accounts that preserve the integrity of their humanity and their perspectives on events. Assume someone says, “Hey, I can’t believe a man would live in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights. That’s just impossible.” In this case, he is denying that God is all-powerful. After all, if God created the world out of nothing, then for a sea creature to swallow a Hebrew prophet is actually a playground miracle in God’s repertoire.

If someone says, “But the Gospel accounts are different from each other.” In this case, they are denying the humanity of the authors. If these authors wrote identical accounts, then we should be skeptical. But they added their individual nuances to the narratives which prove indisputably that we are dealing with a reliable source.

I say all these things because when someone leaves the faith because they cannot “reconcile,” for example, Judas’ death in Matthew and Luke, they are actually using such silliness to justify some kind of moral and ethical decision they have made and the Bible is used as a scapegoat for their validation. Ultimately, what they really want is a way out of obeying God and following Jesus. The road to the cross can be difficult; self-control is hard; repentance is not for the weak. So, why not use the fallibility of God’s word to make a case for your fallible actions, they think.

Don’t be sucked into this chaos! Those who leave Jesus are leaving true life. You keep pressing on! The cross leads to an open tomb!

Sincerely,
Pastor Brito

A LayMan’s Introduction to Theology

Bad Theology

Bad theology has severe consequences in our culture. The statistics tell the truth: young men and women are leaving the Church after they leave home. They have been fed a steady diet of pizza and party theology. In his 2005 book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Christian Smith writes:

The majority of teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their faith, religious beliefs and practices, and its place in their lives. The de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what they call ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’: A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth; God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions; the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself; God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem; and good people go to heaven when they die.

This description doesn’t simply lead to bad theology, but to disastrous personal and corporate consequences. The worldview described is informed by the latest trends, and not by the text. Their authority is not the voice of Yahweh (Psalm 29), but the voice of man-made reason.

In order to avoid this, parents and parishioners need not think of theology as a scary word, rather we need to embrace our role as theologians and seek to think more deeply and consistently about the world God made and our responsibilities in it.

One Agenda of Theology

Where do we begin to do the important task of theology? If you pursue a seminary education, you may be overwhelmed by the many types of theologies available to study. There are departments of Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, Pastoral Theology, Liturgical Theology, Sacramental Theology, and so on. The list continues to increase because the Bible is so vast and God’s revelation is so glorious that there will be always new areas to pursue as an academic.

But for our purposes, since most of you will not pursue the pastorate or the goal of being a seminary professor, we want to consider theology at its most basic level. And I say basic not because it is easy, but because we are dealing with the fundamentals of our faith.

There are levels of importance when it comes to discussing theology. One writer summarized it best:

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.

In other words, there are things that are of primary importance. These are issues worth fighting and even dying for in our day. They are essentials: The Trinity, the death, burial, and physical resurrection of Jesus, and other matters contained in our great creeds are essential issues. But there are also issues of secondary importance. And because they are secondary does not mean we should not discuss them and have vigorous debates over them, but it does mean that we should allow a certain amount of liberty on these topics. A classic example of this is the debated topic of eschatology. Do you subscribe to a dispensational view of the end of the world or a covenantal view? There is no doubt that these issues will have an effect on how you think about the world and the future, but these are not salvific issues. No one will be saved because of his belief in postmillennialism unless he is also trusting in Christ alone for his salvation.

When you no longer think you can be pure

Dear friend,

I have been fairly open about my concerns for the sexual problems in our culture, especially in the evangelical church. After all, judgment begins in the house of God. I spoke recently about the pressures young Christian ladies face (and let us not forget the godly men) to view sex as just an ordinary act in any relationship. “Purity before marriage is a Puritan thing, antiquated, fit for a legalistic society,” they say.

I want you to oppose that mindset at all costs, but I also want you to know that purity is not defined by one consequential sin. In other words, if you have lost you virginity due to naivete or deceit or for any other reason, you are not therefore branded with an impurity mark forever. This would be the most anti-Gospel message one could ever hear. Your purity is given by Jesus who is altogether pure. He died for all your impurities. So, acknowledge your sin to God. Seek wisdom from those who most care for you. Seek counseling and accountability as a young couple, or perhaps move to better relationships or remain single for as long as it takes. But don’t allow those mistakes to take you to dark places. Yes, there may be consequences. And why wouldn’t there be? Your body is the temple of the Third Person of the Godhead! However, it’s not what you did that will define you, but how you choose to deal with that decision that purifies you or leads you to more impure acts.

I know adults who had terribly impious and immoral college years, but they have learned from those mistakes and now live fruitful lives filled with joy. So, I want you to be aware of how both of these ideas function. The value and goal of sexual purity are good and beautiful, but to idolize such things and to treat those who have failed to maintain those goals as secondary citizens is…let’s say, impure.

So, treasure purity. But purity is not a once-for-all thing, it’s more like sanctification. Impurity should propel us to repentance which should propel us to purity in life and with one another.

I hope this helps balance the conversation in a positive way.

Yours truly,
Pastor Uri Brito

When Tempted to Approve of Homosexual Relationships

Dear friend,

It is a hard saying in our culture, but homosexuality is a sin. It is so clear that the entirety of biblical revelation negates the very possibility of a man and a man or a woman and a woman being together sexually or for any romantic purposes. In the culmination of history, Christ marries the Church. That fact is sufficient biblical theology to make the case since that relationship is the primary pattern of human history from the Garden to the Resurrection of the Dead.

But you are tempted to endorse such relationships because they are close friends. They are kind and gracious; they even are careful to respect your Christian beliefs. You feel yourself when you are with them and their sweetness has taken you to a completely emotional place where you can’t stand with the historic church but must support their decision to love one another. After all, what kind of human being would you be if you didn’t support this cause?

I don’t wish to impugn the character of these friends. I am certain they are kind to their neighbor and even serve the poor with greater fervency than many Christians. But I urge you to think as God would have you. Any virtues you may see in these people that compels you to support their lifestyle–which is incompatible with the Christian view–is a form of deceit. Don’t allow “niceness” to inform your view of the world. It may appear nice and innocent to like an Instagram photo of a sweet homosexual couple, but remember in doing so you are making it harder for them to know and face the truth. C.S. Lewis opined about niceness once. He said:

“A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world — and might even be more difficult to save.”

When you endorse their way of life you are endorsing the theology of niceness. Jesus did not die for the sake of niceness. He died to change our niceness to God-honoring men and women who give our wants and desires over to Jesus’ flesh, not our flesh. After all, if we did whatever our hearts and flesh desired, then Jesus’ blood and righteousness were in vain. Think about these things carefully.

Sincerely,
Pastor Uri Brito

Catholicity, Orthodoxy, and Lordship