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The Cross-Based Devotion of Singles/Couples

Let's Be a Christ-Centered Church  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Title: The Cross-Based Devotion of Singles and Couples 

Text:  

Series: Let's Be a Christ-Centered Church

Introductory thoughts:
Illustration:
I was weed-eating one day. Since I could not find the protective glasses that I usually wear, I decided to try to squint and weed-eat. That did not work. Not only was my vision impaired but I really was not protected at all. In like manner, the wisdom of the cross liberates us by changing the way we view everything in life.

How has the cross of Jesus Christ changed the way we view everything [incl. marriage & singleness]? ()

The cross shows that God worked towards us and not we towards God - ,
This eliminates all earthly, ethnic superiority -
This eliminates all that the world thinks is wise -
The cross shows that God’s work in Christ Jesus is absolutely complete -

The cross brings us to some undeniable conclusions:

Men are perishing -
Men are perishing in their ignorance of God -
God has chosen preaching to communicate to men the message of God
The message that is being preached, so that men might know God, is the cross - - How does the cross show the knowledge of God?
It shows forth the penalty for sin
It shows forth the sacrificial lamb
It shows forth blood
It shows forth death
It shows forth love & justice
When someone comes to the Lord, ethnic boundaries are eliminated -
It brings the believer into a place where now they see how wise God is in the cross -
It is through this recognition of God that God is glorified -

is a good comparison passage to show how man had refused to glorify God in what was manifested; but now having manifested Christ crucified, he calls men to repent and glorify him.

The implications for this are massive:

We see the barriers that the wisdom of the cross has overcome, so we don’t seek status or title
We see the barriers that the wisdom of the cross has overcome, so we don’t glory in the work of saved spiritual leaders
We see the barriers that the wisdom of the cross has overcome, so we don’t glory in open sin
We see the barriers that the wisdom of the cross has overcome, so we don’t take a brother/sister in Christ before the lost world for judgment in legal matters
We see the barriers that the wisdom of the cross has overcome, so we see our bodies as temples of God and we see our church as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit
We see the barriers that the wisdom of the cross has overcome, so we don’t make more of temporary relational status than we should: whether single or married

Proposition: 

Because of the cross of Christ, we must assess life and make decisions that honor the Lord with undistracted devotion and service.  

(1) A noose that singles and couples must avoid 

(a) The admonition about the noose of cares (v. 32, 33, 34, 35)

Note how many times the Apostle Paul uses the word “care”. This word is used for anxiety. In this context it is both positive and negative. There is a care for the practical matters that come with marriage, and there are cares that come with devotion to the Lord. Paul is not being critical of marriage. He is simply pointing out the obvious truth about marriage.

(b) The assumption about the cares that bring control (v. 35)

What do we mean by control? What would Paul’s assumption be? Let’s be on the same page about control. An unhealthy control, anxiety, or care is anything that distracts us from what the cross of Jesus Christ has made clear. The cross of Jesus Christ has made clear that the things of this life are growing strangely dim. As Garland suggests, The problem for Paul is not marriage but the danger of becoming too distracted in trying to please a wife or a husband.

(c) The admonition should be viewed from two primary perspectives:

(1) A single individual who doesn’t have the gift of singleness should not create anxiety in his life by trying to gain a more righteous standing through singleness. This leads to uncalled for anxiety.
(2) A single individual who does have the gift of singleness should not be looking for the “one” in order to meet the expectations of family and/or culture. This leads to uncalled for anxiety.
Illustration:
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas
A 14-year-old boy in Texas could be labeled a sex offender after he was arrested for allegedly having sex with his 12-year-old girlfriend. 
The seventh-grader faces charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child, the Houston Chronicle reports. If he is convicted, the state would register him as a sex offender.
The teen’s mother said the sex was “consensual and he loved her,” the Chronicle reports.
The behaviors of people, including Christians, show that there is an ongoing search for meaning and fulfillment. Men and women will stop at nothing.
Middletown Woman found overdosed:
Chelsie Marshall, the Middletown mother found overdosed Thursday with two children in her Hill Avenue home, has pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor child endangering.
Marshall was arraigned this morning in Middletown Municipal Court along with Lee Johnson, who was also allegedly overdosed in the house and is facing child endangering charges. Visiting Judge Robert Messham Jr. upped bond against both to $50,000.
After consulting with her court-appointed attorney, Marshall pleaded guilty to both child endangering charges and was sentenced to 180 days in the Middletown City Jail, according to court officials. She was also fined $200. A disorderly conduct charge was dismissed.

(d) Application:

(i) If you are an unbeliever, you cannot be committed to anyone or anything that will ever truly satisfy your deepest longings of acceptance.
You cannot be married to a successful, smart business man who will provide for you financially and hope that your deepest longings will be fulfilled.
You cannot be married to excessive recreation and hope that your deepest longings will be fulfilled.
You must lay down all of your foolish identity pursuits. You must come to the Lord. Recognize your accountability before the almighty Creator. Believe that you have deeply offended the eternal God by your very nature. Believe that your Creator became flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ. See Christ crucified. Believe that the value of Christ’s death and resurrection far supersede anything relationally or recreationally that you could every have. Declare Jesus as your Master, thereby rejecting your attempts to find fulfillment in any other master.
(ii) If you are a married Christian, please be warned about how good we have become (in the church) at teaching acceptance based on a temporary identity.
We jokingly ask singles if they have found someone.
We
Rather than force marriage, we should encourage singles to greater devotion to Christ and be more understanding about their potential gift of singleness.
(iii) If you are a single or dating Christian, please know that you are not called to be distracted by relationships with people or things.
If you are spending every waking moment, on the phone or in someone’s face - as if that is all there is to life, you may be distracted.
If your life is characterized by excessive spending on entertainment and recreational activities, you may be distracted.
If you cannot remember that last time you sacrificially gave for the edification of your local body, you may be distracted.
If you cannot think of a time when you recently spoke of the cross of Christ to someone, you may be distracted.
If you cannot remember one truth the Lord has taught you recently from his word, you may be distracted.
If your life is prayer-less, you may be distracted.
The cross of Jesus Christ speaks greater things than any word or message of anything in this life, and our living should reflect that the “time is short.”
(1) A single individual who doesn’t have the gift of singleness should not create anxiety in his life by trying to gain a more righteous standing through singleness. This leads to uncalled for anxiety.
(2) A single individual who does have the gift of singleness should not be looking for the “one” in order to meet the expectations of family and/or culture. This leads to uncalled for anxiety.
Recap: The noose to be avoided...

(2) A necessity that singles and couples must accept  

Police officers in our midst understand necessity all too well. Today, addiction is a serious problem. The obvious addictions that are prevalent are those who have the need to get drugs. Note:
Sometimes the need is caused by a medical issue
Sometimes the need is caused by someone trying to escape emotional trouble
The need is then fed continually until the point where there seems to be an involuntary necessity - often called an addiction. If the person does not have it, their body goes through withdrawal.
In many ways, we see this faux need in how people view the pursuit of relationships as if they are a necessity.
We excuse away boy-craziness in our jr. high young ladies
Our culture sees the draw in this, so they put forth shows like “Big Brother”, the “Bachelor” and the “Bachelorette” which draw so many people who already have a NEED for this kind of stimulation.
Suicide: Young people take their lives when they lose a relationship.
In Memphis, TN (last week) a man set himself on fire on live Facebook and entered the bar where his ex-girlfriend worked...
We need not pretend as if we in the church have not accepted the cultural perspective on relationships.

(a) The necessity to marry is not a sin (v. 36)

The controversy over this passage is whether the “he” is addressing the father of the young woman. Here are some reasons I have compiled for why I don’t believe that Paul is speaking about the father of the bride here. Garland is worthy of credit for some of these:
(i) Nothing in this passage prepares for the interjection of parents
(ii) An abrupt addition of a third party does not fit the context of “them” dealing with two in marriage.
(iii) It is irregular to refer to the father’s daughter as “his virgin”
(iv) The apparent imposed tyranny is contrary to the rest of the passage with seems to give equality to the female.
(v) The sense of the entire passage would seem to fall apart. In other words, it would seem that Paul is telling the father that it is better to be single than married, even though the father is already married.

(b) The necessity to stay single (v. 37 - 38) is better

Note that even for a single person, it would seem that he or she still have to have certain discipline or will to overcome in remaining single. The gift of singleness does not automatically take away all desire. The reason this is better is purely for practical reasons in view of what has been made clear eschatologically.

(c) Application:

Sometimes it would seem that “super” spiritual people get upset when someone gets married or they get upset when someone is single late into adulthood.*
(*) To the parents & grandparents - Please do not treat an older single as if they are sinning to still be single. The priority of you having grandchildren does not supersede the priority established by the cross. If anything, encourage devotion to the Lord and rejoice when you receive “spiritual” children because of their devotion to the Lord.
The wisdom of the cross should so capture your life that you would rather have a child devoted to the Lord, bearing spiritual fruit than a child who is married, bearing physical children who have no devotion to the Lord.

(3) A norm that singles and couples should apply 

(a) A widow should not give cause for anxiety by marrying an unbeliever (v. 39)

In the cultural context, there were several who found themselves in mixed marriages. It is unthinkable that some who were freed from those mixed marriages would enter into another covenant with an unbeliever. This serves to only bring about more anxiety by distractions. The principle here is good for all who are going to marry. They should marry “in the Lord.” There is a stronger case for the principle in this passage than the passage of .

(b) A widow should not give cause for anxiety by marrying when she really does not need to (v. 40)

When there is truly no need, a widow can be happier in her service and devotion to the Lord when they are single than when they put themselves in the place of temporary distractions. Notice that the emphasis here is not that the widow should be looking for what will make herself merely happier, but what is it that will allow for happy devotion to the Lord? That is the context.

(c) Application

It should be the expected practice that widows / widowers should remarry, but if they have to, they should marry/remarry those who are believers.
Secondly, this marriage should be for the purpose of being devoted to the Lord in the temporary relationship of their marriage. This means that the primary purpose of remarriage is not first and foremost about companionship, though that is a wonderful benefit. The purpose of the marriage is to be devoted to the Lord together, in light of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Concluding thoughts:

Because of the cross of Christ, we must assess life and make decisions that honor the Lord with undistracted devotion and service. 
(1) There is a noose to be avoided - both ways
(2) When there is necessity to marry or stay single - this should be accepted
The
(3) If a single needs to marry, it should be “in the Lord”
There is no righteousness to be gained by forcing or changing your marital status. Why? If we could gain or lose righteousness by marital status then man would get then the cross is become of no effect. When man is made righteous before God by accepting the cross, then this means that God gets all of the glory. When we view marriage as the ultimate ideal, we are impugning the power of the cross. When we view the independence of singleness as the ultimate freedom, then we are impugning the power of the cross.
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