Friday, 20 April 2018

T The restoration of God's people

Restoration of marriages

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Each and every relationship is extremely important to God. That is why He longs to bring restoration in relationships. However, after our relationship with Him, there is one other form of relationship that is being described as a covenant. That is the marriage. To some this may not be applicable (yet), but it is too important to leave unmentioned. Both the first covenant (with God) and the second covenant (our marriage) are covenants of the heart in the first place. In regard to God, there is no sin or fault to be found in Him. But whenever there are people involved, we’re dealing with the issues of the heart as well. That means we’re up for trouble. Expecting a faultless relationship is not realistic as long as there are human hearts involved. Somewhere somehow you will be confronted with one, some or all of the fruits of the heart. A Godly marriage is not signing up for a perfect partner. It is signing up for accepting the Word of God as the standard for your marriage, to work through problems and to deal with sins in a Godly manner. 

In a marriage, reconciliation works pretty much the same as in any other relationship, as described earlier. However, there are two exceptions. The first exception is that you can’t distance yourself from your partner, when he/she is not sincere in their willingness to repent and reconcile. After all, you’re married, so you’re bounded together in a divine covenant. The second exception is the sin of adultery, in which case the law allows you to divorce. 

In the first exception, you can’t distance yourself from your partner, but you’re facing a problem. In such cases it may be very inviting to divorce, for restoration and reconciliation are only possible when the heart is in it. And I’m not saying this is an easy thing. It may feel like you are trapped in a marriage and cannot escape it. But the covenant that you have is one from heart to heart and flesh to flesh. The Bible says that husband and wife are one flesh (Mark 10:8, Ephesians 5:31, Genesis 2:24) and that includes the heart. That means that you can act on behalf of your partner, since you are one. And that means that your prayers for your partner are much more effective. Since you are one with your partner, you can start (and keep) asking God to draw the both of you in conviction and repentance. 

Keep in mind, anything you ask God for your partner, you ask for yourself as well, since you are one. So be careful what you ask for and make sure that what you ask is in line with God’s perfect will. The aim of God is always restoration and reconciliation. These prayers will eventually result in one of two options. Either your partner responds to the work of God and ‘changes his/her mind’ after all, which opens the door to reconciliation, or he/she can’t stand the Light of God and chooses to leave. Although the last option is not what you wish for, it is not your decision then and you’ve kept the door open for reconciliation. But when both you and your partner are responding to the work of God in your lives, the restoration in your marriage will contain an increase. It will be better than before.

And then there’s the second exception: adultery. But the exception may be different then you expect. Instead of every other sin, every form of sexual sin is done in our own body. We know that the wages of sin is death, that is regardless which sin. No matter if the church considers it big or small. When you break God’s law, the sentence is death when we are not in Jesus. But in this life there are also consequences, such as curses, sickness, demonic bondage etc. The sins outside of our bodies are already causing these consequences, but inside our body is way much worse. 

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20

In the case of sexual sins, we first sin against God, then against ourselves and then against our partner. It involves much more than any other sin. But by doing so we also invite other spirits to join the temple of the Holy Spirit. You then use God’s property to defile it. In the case of sexual intercourse, there is always a bondage that comes about, in which case you need deliverance of those evil spirits. This is the type of sin that limits the Holy Spirit to work in you. Each area in your life that is controlled by other spirits, is not controlled by the Holy Spirit. Although He doesn’t like it, He respects our choices. The only way back is to repent, by changing your mind about the sins and to be delivered by Jesus. 

Since you are married, you are one with your spouse. That means that when you have sexual intercourse with someone else, it doesn’t only has consequences for you, but for your spouse as well. It is an open door for the enemy to destroy all lives that are involved and bound together. It was in this light that Jesus said the following:

Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.
Matthew 19:8-9

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to know the “why” behind the “what”, or the motivation behind an action or statement. We know that the motivation of God, His ultimate aim, is to safe, heal, deliver and to restore. But here Jesus suddenly seems to deviate from His aim. All sins can and should be forgiven, but once your partner commits sexual immorality, then you should divorce. Now let’s take it a step further and really look at it the way Jesus does.

But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:28

This is how bad it is. According to this standard, almost all of us have fallen. Do you realize that this would mean that only a very few would stay married? Especially in this era. Every congregation would be filled with a majority of divorced people and many would grab the opportunity to “escape” from the marriage. But knowing the motivation of God, where is the restoration in all of this? Knowing His attitude of grace, where is the reconciliation? 

Jesus did not throw us a “carte blanche” to divorce in case of sexual immorality. He pointed out that all of this is an issue of the heart. We are so often aimed at what happened, that we never wonder where it came from in the first place. We rather deal with the fruit than with its root. But Jesus went straight to the root problem. First he started by saying that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. That’s a bad thing. It’s also a heart thing. Then He continued by saying that divorce is only an option in case of sexual immorality. But what is considered as sexual immorality? In Matthew 5, Jesus said that as soon as we even look at a person to lust him/her, then we have already committed adultery. Just one look and one thought. What does that take? A second? The moment you realize it, it’s already done. Not only that, Jesus also said that the adultery takes place in your heart when that happens. So again, it’s a heart thing. 

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
Matthew 15:19

And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 3:10

With the standard that Jesus has set, and knowing that our heart is the cause, that is an issue. It shows our desperate need of a solution, which was exactly what Jesus clarified. While the Scribes and Pharisees tried everything they could to categorize people and sins, to justify themselves, Jesus brought it all back to one category: sinful because of the heart. That is the problem and that is where the solution is needed. 

So what do we need to do in case of sexual immorality and what is the exception? In these situations the heart of God towards the situation is the same. He wants to safe, heal, deliver and to restore. But the fact is that that is not always possible, because of the attitude of our hearts. So what needs to change? God? The actions? Or the heart? God is and will remain the same. The actions will not change, unless the heart changes. So the only thing left that needs to change, is our heart and the hearts of the people involved. Every marriage contains two hearts. 

Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Do we want to forgive, or do we want to stay in unforgiveness and bitterness? Are we aimed at restoration or at punishment? The aim of our heart should be to forgive and to be restored. So from our side, the door to reconciliation and restoration should always be open. That is a choice, not an emotion. It is a choice based upon the will of God for our lives and based upon the grace that He gave us. But it is also a choice we make, knowing that we can’t accomplish that and that it is Jesus Who does that work in your life and in the life of your spouse. 

The cause of the sins is the heart. What is needed is repentance, with which I mean “changing the way we think”, as I’ve described in chapter 8. Although God wants to restore everything, that is only possible when we reply to His calling for repentance. We therefore must acknowledge the sin as a sin, plead guilty to it and allow the Holy Spirit to take over in order to change our hearts, the root problem. It basically comes down to reinstating the Word of God as the standard for our lives on all areas. We consider God’s Word as the Truth and the Standard. Everything that deviates from that we consider a lie. 

Now here comes the exception. When one of both is not willing to change his or her mind in regard to the sin, restoration becomes impossible. It is not an option to just deny the sin, to deny it is a sin and to continue as if it is normal. Where there is no acknowledgment, there can’t be reconciliation. We should be aimed at restoration, but since you are one with your spouse, both need to do the same. As we’ve seen in Matthew 19, Jesus pointed out that there can be such a thing as hardness of heart. Whether that is the perpetrator, not willing to call his/her sin a sin and not willing to be changed, or whether that is the victim, not willing to truly forgive and to be restored. Those are all issues of the heart.

When the perpetrator is not willing to acknowledge his/her sin as a sin and/or not willing to be changed by God, that closes the door to reconciliation and is to be considered as persisting in sin. This is hardness of heart. The Holy Spirit convinces, but the perpetrator chooses to deny His voice. The perpetrator became one flesh with someone else and he/she is one flesh with you. Since you are one flesh, that means there is a huge open door for the enemy to destroy both the life of your spouse and your life. That is a serious threat and a legal ground for the enemy. In such case there is no other option then to divorce and to break all the (spiritual) ties, in order to protect yourself and the work of God in you. But when the perpetrator does acknowledge the sin and is willing to be changed, that already is a fruit of the Holy Spirit working in him/her. This is the fruit of conviction and the acknowledgment and willingness to change are a fruit of repentance. These fruits open the door to reconciliation and full restoration, if we allow the work of God to have its way.

When the victim is confronted with the sexual immorality, that is a very painful moment. No doubt about that. But as in any other situation of life, our attitude should be to forgive by choice and to allow Jesus do deal with the brokenness and pain in us. True forgiveness will result in restoration and reconciliation. That is the moment where the forgiveness reached its destiny. But on this side there can be hardness of heart as well. Our desire to see someone punished and pay for what he/she did can grow bigger than the desire to respond to the voice of God. It is a battle of the law against grace. 

In every marriage where two hearts are focused on Jesus, where there is repentance, forgiveness and surrender, there is hope. We have nothing left to offer then our brokenness and the willingness to let God work through us, to create the character of Jesus in us. When both are allowing the work of God to have its way, this will not only lead to restoration. Your marriage will not just be patched up. It will be made new. And as mentioned before, God will add an increase to that ‘newness’. Jesus will make your marriage much more stronger and significantly better than before. That is His character. He is the One Who makes everything beautiful again. This makes me think about a song by the David Crowder Band, called “Stars”. This song ends with the following lyrics:

How could such a King
Shine His Light on me
And make everything beautiful
And I wanna shine
I wanna be Light
I wanna tell you it will be alright
And I wanna shine and I wanna fly
Just to tell you now
It'll be alright, it'll be alright
It'll be alright.

‘Cause I’ve got nothing of my own to give to you
But this Light that shines on me shines on you
And makes everything beautiful, again.
It'll be alright, it'll be alright.

The only thing I can add to that is: Trust Jesus with all your heart.

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