"GROUP MARRIAGE COUNSELING" Part 3
1. I don't know whether you have consciously realized it or not, but I strive, by the grace of God, to give sound Biblical counsel and advice from this pulpit.
2. I do this for a number of reasons. First, I counsel from the pulpit because the Word of God is supposed to be preached in a counseling and corrective way. Let me establish that to you by reading Second Timothy 3.16-4.2: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."
3. Pastors who do not preach so as to correct and guide from the pulpit are simply not declaring the whole counsel of God's Word. Amen? I mean, there is a great deal more to the Bible than the plan of salvation. And God wants His people taught how to live after they come to Christ.
4. Second, I counsel from the pulpit because so many people are reluctant to come to me personally for counseling. I don't know why, since I'm such a Teddy Bear. Perhaps people think I counsel like I preach, and they're afraid they're going to get blow torched in my office. Please be advised that I am much more gentle face to face than I am when I am preaching against sin from the platform.
5. Seriously, there are a myriad of reasons why people won't come in for counseling: Pride, fear, ignorance, apathy, or perhaps just forever putting it off.
6. But whatever the reason may be for folks not seeking private pastoral counsel, I counsel from the pulpit to help meet the needs of people who will not come to me personally . . . privately.
7. Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that I aim sermons at people. I avoid that as being both obvious and ineffective. But I do preach as though my text has something just for you, whether I am aware of your specific need or not.
8. The third reason I counsel from the pulpit is to arm you with tools for counseling. Hopefully, your marriage will never be on the rocks. But perhaps you will be better prepared to counsel a Christian friend whose marriage is on the rocks as a result of such messages which I preach. Such preparation will help, I believe, in getting people under the sound of the Gospel in an effort to see them genuinely converted.
9. The fourth, and final, reason I counsel from the pulpit is so you will back me up. I need for you folks to back me up when I counsel, whether it's counsel from the pulpit or counseling done in my office.
10. You see, there will be instances in which my counsel is rejected by someone and they will certainly let you know about it. What should you do? Well, if they come to you with a bad spirit, my suggestion is to refuse to talk to them. Don't give them an opportunity to commit sin with your cooperation.
11. But I think that we can agree that some of the differences which may arise from a counseling situation can be traced back to a communication breakdown or the fact that the counselee simply does not know the Word of God like I do.
12. In that kind of a situation, when the distressed person I am counseling comes to you, and he is unwilling to talk to me any longer, you can more effectively minister to his needs when you are aware of the counsel I generally give to people. When such a person begins inventing things that you know to be contrary to the counsel I give you can just shut him down and turn him back to me.
13. With what I have shared with you, this evening we will study a portion of Scripture which perhaps applies directly to none of you, but which is important, nevertheless. Please pay attention so you can help me and help those I may someday counsel with this portion of God's Word.
14. I begin with a real life illustration: Several years ago a member of the Church I pastored called me on a Tuesday morning. She was only mildly upset.
15. Her son, who was a nineteen or twenty year old Church member, but who rarely attended, was living with his girlfriend, she informed me for the first time, who had just found she was pregnant. The mother's question to me was, "Will you marry them?"
16. Declining to give her an immediate answer, I told her that I would have to talk to both her son and his girl friend before I made any decision. Mommy said that junior and his honey would come by my office on Thursday.
17. So, on Thursday the young man and woman came in for counseling. It was obvious their heart wasn't in it and they wanted me to marry them the day after tomorrow, which would have been a Saturday.
18. I counseled each of them privately, deciding to perform the ceremony if I couldn't lead them both to Christ. Why? Because it's better for unsaved people to marry than commit fornication. Amen?
19. Further, I decided that if I was able to lead either one of them or both of them to Christ, my answer for Saturday would have to be "No."
20. Well, as it turned out, as near as I could tell at that time in my decisionist period of life, the young woman trusted Christ as her personal Savior. But when I talked to the young man he maintained that he was already a Christian, even though he admitted that there was not nor had there ever been any evidence to substantiate his claim that he had been born again.
21. After dealing with them individually I brought them into my office together and told them that I would not perform the marriage ceremony without extensive counseling, aimed at leading him to Christ. Further, I wanted to give her some time following her salvation to really see if it was God's will for her to marry anyone, him or otherwise. Do you agree with my counseling?
22. Let's open our Bibles to First Corinthians 7.17-24, and then stand for the reading of God's Word: "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."
23. Friends, new Christians should not rush into marriage. In our text, three points to pay attention to to show this statement to be true.
1A. POINT ONE IS THE WALK OF A CHRISTIAN (7.17)
"But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches."
What do we see in this verse? Three Rs that give insight into the mechanics of God's workings in a Christian's life.
1B. First, We See The Role Of God
Ever wonder what role God is supposed to play in your life? Unfortunately, many professing Christians never think about the role God should play in their lives. Two things to consider:
1C. First, God distributes
1D. Remember that we are right smack in the middle of an entire chapter that deals with marriage and the meeting of God-given physical needs and desires.
2D. For that reason, the context of this passage demands a certain interpretation of just what God is distributing.
3D. If you notice back to verse 7, Paul refers to a gift. It is the gift of a single lifestyle or the gift of a married lifestyle, as a servant of God.
4D. This means that it is properly God Who decides whether or not you and I will be enabled, gifted if you will, to serve Him as a single person or as a married person.
5D. And I dare say that anyone who has only been converted for a few weeks or months really has no idea which gift God has distributed to you, so far as this matter is concerned.
6D. And as I am aware from the tragic experiences of others, to marry without being distributed the gift of serving God married can only end in great tragedy for you and your spouse and others.
2C. Second, the Lord calls
1D. This refers to the salvation experience of a person. Let's read Romans 8.28-30 in this regard: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."
2D. What Paul is pointing out, so far as God's role in our lives is concerned, is this: It is God Who saves us and it is God Who equips us, either to be a single servant or to be a married servant.
3D. And one must be very careful to properly discern which gift the God Who saved you has decided to give you.
4D. By the way, if you were married at the time you were saved, you already know what gift God gave you.
2B. Second, We See The Response Of Man
1C. Paul then writes the phrase "so let him walk."
2C. The word "walk" does not refer to how you stroll down the sidewalk, but to how you live your life. The Greek word is a common one, "peripatew."
3C. Quite frankly, the way we live our lives ought to be a response to God's work in our lives. That's what Paul means with the phrase "so let him walk," or to paraphrase, "so let him live."
4C. And again, let us remember, this relates to the subject of marriage, if we allow context to speak to us. Paul is telling his readers that they ought to marry or not to marry according to God's will.
3B. Finally, We See In This Verse, The Remark Of Paul
"And so ordain I in all churches."
1C. This is a very straightforward comment. Paul is telling them that what he has instructed them he instructs everyone. What applies here applies everywhere.
2C. This, then, is Paul's statement concerning the walk of a Christian.
2A. THE NEXT POINT, IN VERSES 18-23, IS THE WARNING TO CHRISTIANS
Two illustrations and then an implication.
1B. First, The Illustration In Religion (7.18-20)
"Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called."
1C. To understand what he is driving at you must realize that in Paul's day it was not at all uncommon for a newly saved Gentile believer to seek to become Jewish in order to please God. And the way in which the new Christian would seek to please God? By being circumcised.
2C. Paul told new Christians, whether they were Gentiles who tried to be Jewish or Jewish converts who strove to become Gentile in their ways, to forget that stuff. All that matters is obedience to God.
3C. Jewish believers should not seek to become Gentile believers or visa versa. Just serve God as you are.
4C. Should a believer change his entire cultural and racial orientation when he gets saved? Should Priscilla and Dali try to stop being a Filipina and strive to become white? Should Fred Chavez divest himself of his Hispanic culture? Should I strive to become culturally black? Of course not. Just stay within the God-honoring limits of your own culture.
5C. We can be what we are and still serve God and fellowship as Christians. Amen? That illustration is pretty easy to follow.
2B. Next, There Is The Illustration In, What Shall We Say, Vocation (7.21-23)
"Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men."
1C. So, in a similar kind of situation we find Paul dealing with slaves.
2C. Slave? If you are offered freedom, take it. But if you are not offered freedom from your slavery to another man, don't worry about it.
3C. Why? Because you are free in Christ to serve God, even as a slave. And because your bondage to Christ is infinitely more significant than your bondage to any mortal man.
4C. What is Paul saying? Again, stay where you are unless someone offers you freedom from your slavery on a platter. Then it's okay to take it.
3B. Finally, There Are The Implications
1C. Folks, the kind of headstrong and rash behavior that Paul speaks against in these two illustrations is demonstrated by only one kind of person . . . the new Christian.
2C. It is the immature but zealous believer who would be circumcised, thinking it was God's will, but never considering how profound his ignorance in such matters might be.
3C. And a slave would try to break the yokes of bondage, simply assuming that it must be God's will for him to be free, only if he happened to be a new Christian who did not know what he did not know.
4C. The will of God in both situations, some are profoundly surprised to discover, is to stay put and change nothing!
5C. But remember, these are merely illustrations that Paul is using to teach his readers a lesson about marriage. And what he is using these illustrations to tell the newly saved person is, "Don't change your marital status! You don't know God's will yet!"
6C. This is Paul's warning.
3A. NOW, BEFORE YOU OBJECT, SHOULD YOU OBJECT, EXAMINE PAUL'S FINAL POINT. IN VERSE 24 WE SEE HIS WARRANT
"Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."
Two things to note.
1B. First, Note The Subject
1C. Let us keep in mind that we have no evidence whatsoever that Paul has left his main subject of marriage in order to deal with another subject.
2C. Everything we have seen in verses 17-24 points to Paul now dealing with yet another special group of people.
3C. Is this passage devoted to people who are about to change their status by divorcing? No. That group was addressed in verses 8-17.
4C. These are those who are about to change their status by marrying. And Paul wants them to put everything on hold for the time being. Why? Because they are new believers.
5C. So, we are still on the subject of marriage.
2B. Now, Note The Sentence
1C. The word "called" again refers to salvation. This means that what your marital status was when you were saved . . . KEEP IT THAT WAY!
2C. Not forever. Just until you are spiritually mature enough to really discern God's will for your life.
1. The point of our text is this: When you're a new Christian you have no idea whether God wants you to be single or married, unless you are already married when you get saved.
2. You certainly couldn't discern God's will before you were saved, could you? Of course not. And now that you are a new creature in Christ there are too many complications of the old life that God must deal with before you will have any idea what "gift" God has given you.
3. Was my decision to not marry the young couple who came to me appropriate? I believe it was. As I look back on the situation, I am convinced my decision was the correct one.
4. What about the fact that she was pregnant? Irrelevant. The fornication had occurred. Nothing could be done about that now.
5. But she was now, apparently, a new creature in Christ. Paul's counsel to her, therefore, is to stay unmarried until she knows, for sure, whether God has equipped her to be married or to be single.
6. "But pastor, she was going to have a baby." Yes, that was the consequence of their sin. But why risk an entire lifetime of misery by marrying someone you are not positive is God's mate for you? And why risk an entire lifetime of misery when you are not yet sure that God has enabled you to be either a good husband or a good wife?
7. Folks, I was not trying to be nasty to those young people. I had not become their enemy by telling them the truth. I simply told them of my decision, based upon what I understood was taught in God's Word.
8. Did they understand my decision? No. Did they agree with my decision? No. They were married about a week later.
9. But that young lady ended up marrying a lost man because she would not accept the counsel of the Bible, or of me. If only the boy's mother had seen things from God's perspective.
10. He might have received Christ and his child might be in a Christian home right now had that young mother gone about things the Bible way.
11. Christian, be very careful around new Christians. Things are in a real turmoil as God settles them into the new life He gave them the instant of their salvation. You watch over them. You help them. And you back me up as I counsel them.