On Intercessory Prayer

As Christians, we’re often asked to pray for someone. That’s called intercessory prayer and it’s kind of like having your co-worker go to your boss to ask him (or her) to give you a raise. You might get that raise, but it would be a longshot at best. It’s far better if you ask for yourself. I used that illustration to give you an idea of what intercessory prayer is. I’m not saying we should not pray for others.

Also, to avoid any misunderstanding, I’m not talking about Christians who ask other Christians to pray for them. That’s something that God’s people naturally do for each other. The people I’m talking about are the unsaved. You work with them. You go to school with them. You live next door to them. They know you’re a Christian. You may have shared your faith with them at some point, or maybe they perceive that something is different about you because of your relationship with God. And now, something has happened in their lives, an illness, family troubles, financial troubles, or they’ve received some sort of bad news. So knowing your relationship with God, they come to you and say, “I need you to pray for me.” This happens a lot.

By all means, pray for them! Pray for their needs and pray that God will reveal Himself to them through His answer. We should do that. But use their prayer request as an opportunity to tell them how they can have their own special relationship with God.

Gently, respectfully, and in the spirit of God’s love…………… tell them that they’ve already taken an important step by acknowledging the existence of an almighty God who hears and answers prayers. When an unsaved person says to you,“Please pray for me.” they are effectually saying, “I believe that God is real, but I’m just not good enough to go to Him myself. I need one of His people to pray on my behalf.” Tell them they can open the door and have direct access to God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and when they accept Jesus Christ as their savior, their prayers will be far more personal and might be more effective than they would be by having someone else do their praying for them.

Yes, God does hear intercessory our prayers. I cannot overemphasize that. Abraham prayed an intercessory prayer for Sodom which is the first intercessory prayer recorded in the Bible. Moses prayed intercessory prayers for the Israelites countless times. Paul described in the book of Romans how the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray for. And in his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…..”.

I have no doubt then that God calls us to make intercessory prayer for others, saved and unsaved alike. But when it comes to the unsaved, we must teach them, ever so gently, not to become dependent on the intercessory prayers we make on their behalf. No matter how strong our own relationship with Jesus Christ is, the power of intercessory prayers we make on behalf of the unsaved does have limits. While God may very well intervene for someone at our request and help them through a difficult ordeal, when it comes to their salvation, that’s another matter. We can pray that an unsaved person will respond to the gospel, that he or she will choose to accept Christ, but if they choose not to accept Jesus Christ, God will not intervene and save them from condemnation….no matter how hard we pray for them. Every person individually must pray the prayer that invites Jesus Christ to be the Lord of his or her life. We cannot do that for them. And that is our ultimate goal, to show them the way to God through Jesus Christ, so they can experience the power of God through prayers of their own.

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Cutting Ourselves off From Sin

Matthew 18
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Did Jesus mean that literally? Did he really mean for us to cut off a hand or gouge out our own eye? Actually, Jesus was speaking in hyperbole. He said that to show how much God hates sin and how serious we need to be when it comes to dealing with the problem of sin. The expectation is not that we should cut off parts of our bodies, but that we should do whatever it takes to cut ourselves off from whatever it is that entices us to sin.

In Colossians chapter 3, Paul put it another way, but the message is the same; cut yourself off from sin by any and all means:,

Colossians 3
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Some believers are more mature in the faith than others. And many have grown so strong in their faith that they are now able to resist the temptations that once ensnared them. But what about new believers and those who are less mature in the faith? What Jesus said and Paul affirmed is that we need to part company with the things we cannot keep without being entangled by them. Simply put, a Christian who once struggled with alcohol before coming to Christ should probably avoid going to a sports bar to witness to his friends. One who struggled (or still struggles) with lust should probably not go to the beach at spring break to share Christ, and he certainly needs to stay away from topless bars and strip clubs. A believer who used to have a gambling problem should probably not go to Vegas for any reason.

While we may or may not be expected to cut off a hand or a foot, we are expected to cut ourselves off from whatever it is that corrupts us and causes us to stumble. God is serious when it comes to sin. It’s nothing to be laughed at or laughed off. Though we will stumble occasionaly, we have a Savior to defend us when do sin. Even so, we have an obligation to the Almighty God to take seriously what His word says about doing whatever we have to do to avoid the temptations that drag us down into sin in the first place.

Romans 5 – Journey of Suffering

After the death of our three year old grandson Ian in early 2007, my wife, our son,  and I found healing through our Savior Jesus Christ. Even so, that sort of pain does not heal quickly and when you lose a child or grandchild, there’s going to be a small amount of pain that always lingers and probably will stay with you until the Lord calls you home. God knows and understands all this. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He created us the way we are both physically and emotionally, and He created within us the mechanisms of grief and mourning that are part of the healing process when we suffer a loss like the one we suffered. Had we had not given our pain over to Him, I can only imagine the feelings of bitterness and anger that we would probably still be feeling. It was through faith and prayer and the study of His word that made the pain and hurt bearable.

And as I began reading and studying God’s word in those months after Ian’s death, I found comfort in numerous passages of scripture but there was one in particular in the fifth chapter of Roman that especially spoke to me. Paul was writing to Christians about the promise of God’s saving grace through faith in Christ. He wrote about our need for a savior and went on to explain how Old Testament saints like Abraham and David were saved through faith in Christ even though for them, their faith was grounded in the promise of the Messiah who was to come. This theme carries over into chapter five of Romans which begins by affirming some of the benefits that believers receive as a result of God’s grace.

Romans chapter 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

The word justified in that first verse means “to be made right.” We have been made right with God through our faith in Jesus Christ, and the first and most immediate result is……….peace with God. As Paul reminds us a few verses into this same chapter, prior to our conversion we were enemies with God. But now we are at peace with Him. When you begin the healing process after a traumatic loss or through some great suffering in your life, being at peace with God is an absolute must.

Paul went on to write:

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 

When God saved us from the fires of hell through the blood of His precious Son, it gave us a reason to rejoice, wouldn’t you agree? And it’s easy to rejoice when all is well in life, but when trouble comes, that’s when the test comes and Paul reminds Christians in the next few verses of the need to endure in the faith in the face of suffering.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Paul was not in any way suggesting that we should rejoice because of whatever it is that has brought pain and suffering into our lives. Rather, he was saying that Christians must remember to take heart in the promises of God when we we’re caught up in the midst of suffering.  We take joy in our Lord Jesus even when we’re in pain. When I first read those verses, they seemed to describe a journey, because in those words I saw a beginning and an end. The beginning point in the journey is suffering. Any number of things can bring suffering into our lives and of course for my family and me, it was the loss of our grandson. That was the beginning point of the journey.

Paul said suffering produces perseverance. Another word for perseverance is patience. Suppose one of you is on this journey. Something has happened in your life that is causing some sort of pain and suffering. Very seldom is suffering over with quickly. It will usually be something that stays with you for a while, maybe even for the rest of your life and your only choice is to go through it. It’s like coming upon a huge mountain. The mountain is not going away. You can climb over it, go around it, or dig through it. Either way you choose takes time just as we often endure suffering over great periods of time. But that’s what develops in us the perseverance Paul wrote about.

The next step of the journey after perseverance is character; perseverance produces character. Someone once said whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I don’t know about that, but I do know that, when it comes to faith in God, people choose one of two paths when they go through some sort of extreme difficulty or sorrow. They will either turn to God or they’ll reject God. They’ll either seek healing and comfort through faith, or they’ll blame God and shake their fist at Him and ask why He allows bad things to happen. So the sort of character Paul wrote about is Godly character. Godly character comes from seeking God first, and then accepting God’s will in the matter, no matter how difficult the circumstances are or how bad you’re hurting. In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul said he had learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, or whether he had plenty or was in poverty. That’s Godly character.

And that brings us to the last step of the journey, hope. Character, Godly character that is, produces hope. God’s word tells us in the book of Revelation that a day will come when God Himself will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain. As painful as our journey of suffering has been, there are some of you who’ve experienced even greater suffering. I know of some who have lost multiple children and grandchildren. I know some who have watched family members deteriorate as diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s ravage their bodies. I know of some who have lost family members due to acts of violence. Even so, even with all the pain and suffering in the world, God is good. His love is greater than our pain and all the pain and suffering we’ve endured in this world will be washed away in the flood of God’s great love that, as Paul wrote, will be poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

So that’s the journey of suffering. You may have suffered pain or endured some hardship in the past. Or you might be going through something right now. Whatever it is, God is greater. He will restore you in this lifetime, and you’ll know even greater joy for all eternity when you seek His kingdom and bring your pain to the foot of the cross!

Our Legacy

One time there was this young father who would come home after a hard day’s work, he’d eat dinner, and then he and his little son would go for a walk. And every day when they passed by the house of a certain neighbor, the man would pick up a rock and throw it at the neighbor’s house as his young son watched. This went on for years from the time the little boy was toddler. Every day the boy and his dad went for a walk, and every day the dad would throw a rock at that neighbor’s house.

One day, when the little boy was about six, he asked his dad about it. “Daddy.”the little boy said, “Why do you throw rocks at that house?”

“Because.” the dad answered, “I hate the people who live there! I hate them all!”  And that was all the dad ever said. He never talked about it again. He never told his son why he hated his neighbor so much. Their daily routine continued.

About a year later, the little boy was out riding his bicycle around the neighborhood. He happened to ride by the neighbor’s house. His dad was still at work, it was early afternoon. He stopped his bike and got off. He remembered all the years that he and dad had walked by that house and he remembered all the times his dad would stop and pick up a rock and throw it at the house. He didn’t understand why, but the little boy felt an anger welling up inside of him. Not once in all those years did the father ever encourage his son to throw a rock at the house, but the little boy figured if his dad hated the people who lived there, it must be for good reason. His dad was never wrong! And since dad hated those people so much, the little boy decided to hate them too. So of his own will, without ever being told to do so and without really knowing why he was doing it, the little boy picked up a rock and threw it the neighbor’s house. In that moment, the dad’s hatred had passed to his son.

In that fictional account, the dad passed a legacy to his son, a legacy of hatred.The little boy had watched his father express his hatred for the neighbor until one day, the father’s hatred became the little boy’s hatred. Whether we realize it or not, we will leave a legacy to our children. It should be the hope of every Christian that our legacy will be one that reflects our faith in Jesus Christ. But if we’re not careful, the legacy we leave our children will be whatever vice, prejudice, hatred, or attitude they see in us. To our sons and daughters, we are far more transparent than we realize. Even though we’ve been saved and the Holy Spirit resides in our hearts, there is still a battle going on between the flesh and the spirit.

I’m not questioning anyone’s parenting skills. I’m not telling anyone how to raise their kids or suggesting that we must live perfect lives in front of our kids because none of us can do that. We’re not perfect. We’re going to make mistakes. And some days are more of a challenge than others. I’m simply saying our kids and grandkids will learn much from us just by watching and listening, and we may not always be aware of it. Remember Jacob from the book of Genesis? He was a deceiver who in turn was deceived by his own sons. Eli the high priest from the book of 1 Samuel had no regard for the gifts the people offered to the Lord, and neither did his sons. David’s sons may have learned a thing or two from their father’s behavior. And then there was the succession of wicked kings over the northern kingdom of Israel. Many of those kings had watched their fathers in action.

There were some exceptions. On the plus side, Saul’s son Jonathan didn’t share his father’s hatred for David. But on the down side, Samuel’s sons did not follow the Lord as he had. The exceptions are few and we shouldn’t count on being an exception. While there’s no guarantee our kids and grandkids will emulate a God honoring lifestyle, it’s almost a cinch that they WILL imitate any ungodly behavior or attitudes they witness. That’s the sin nature at work. Even so, if we make the commitment to live for Christ and to live in a way that honors His name, the odds will be in our favor. Sure, we’ll mess up at times. But our children will be far more likely to love their neighbors as they love themselves, than to pick up rocks and throw them at their neighbor’s houses!

Inoculation Against Disease

In 1952, the United States suffered the worst polio outbreak in its history. Some 58,000 cases were reported that year, resulting in over 3000 deaths. Approximately 21,000 others were left with some form of paralysis, most of them children. Up until that time, polio was the most dreaded and feared disease in the world. It struck without warning and it was impossible to tell who was susceptible to the disease and who wasn’t. But between 1957 and 1962, research physicians Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin developed vaccines that all but eradicated the disease.

As most of us learned in high school science class, a vaccine works by introducing a killed or weakened virus into our bloodstream which in turn, stimulates our immune system to produce the antibodies that are needed to target and destroy the real virus should we be exposed to it.

In simple terms, inoculation introduces just a little bit of a disease into our bodies so that our immune systems can build up resistance to that disease. That works fine when it comes to preventing disease, but when it comes to our faith in Christ, it’s an entirely different matter. It takes more than just a little bit of Jesus on Sunday morning to help us build up resistance to the sin and temptation and evil that are in the world. Yet there are people in the church who believe that a little bit of Jesus is all they need.

I know what someone will say; that a little bit of Jesus is better than none at all. That might be true when introducing a lost person to Christ because sometimes it takes as little as one Bible verse or one Christian sharing a sixty second testimony for someone to led to the faith. But I’m not talking about lost people. I’m talking about those who have professed their faith in Christ; maybe they’ve been members of a church for years, yet they believe that all they need to do is just show up on Sunday morning and show some passing interest in what the pastor is saying and call it good for the rest of the week. Because they only have a little bit of Jesus, they seldom share their faith, if at all. Because they only have a little bit of Jesus, they only read the Bible occasionally, if they read it at all. Because they only have a little bit of Jesus, it’s hard to see the joy of Christ in their hearts and even if you look closely, it’s hard to distinguish them from the rest of the world.

Just so we’re clear and so no one takes offense, I’m not talking about people whose work schedules prevent them from being more involved in the church. I realize there are people, myself included, who would love to do more to serve God in the church but can’t because of their hours or the demands of their jobs. We all have to make a living. No, the people I’m referring to are the ones who legitimately believe that all they need is just a little bit of Jesus on Sunday morning to get them through this life. Unfortunately for them, that’s contrary to what the Bible teaches us.

When Jesus told the rich young man to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor and then follow Him, He was not asking for half-hearted commitment. Likewise, when he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.“, He wasn’t suggesting that we only need to follow Him for an hour or two every Sunday. We’re not to take our commitment to following Christ lightly.  
While introducing a little bit of disease into our bodies prevents us from contracting a virus, limiting ourselves to a little bit of Jesus also prevents a few things. It prevents us from growing in our faith. It prevents us from knowing God in accordance with His desires. It can prevent us from knowing His plan for our lives. It prevents us from building a proper foundation for our lives and it prevents us from serving God as He has called us to do. And in the end, it will prevent us from receiving the reward that God has promised to those who serve Him faithfully here on earth. To paraphrase what  Paul wrote in his first letter to the church at Corinth, someone who only has a little bit of Jesus might be saved, but only as one escaping the flames. And what a shame that would be; to look back on our lives and know that we could have had more than just  a little bit of Jesus.  But do you know what would be even worse than losing out on any potential reward in Heaven because we were willing to settle for only a little bit of Jesus? It’s settling for a little bit of Jesus with the knowledge that Jesus didn’t limit what He gave us. When He died on the cross, Jesus didn’t give a little. He gave us His all. He gave His very life.

What a shame it would be, then, to look back and see that we could have had so much more, but settled for so little.

What Makes Wives Feel Like They’re Not Good Enough

I think we’d all agree that the most important relationship in our lives, apart from our relationship with God, is our relationship with our spouses. (If you’re single, read on anyway because you might not stay single). Shortly after God created the first man and first woman, Adam and Eve, He laid out the blueprint for marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two of them shall become one flesh.” Defining the marriage relationship was one of the first ordinances established by God. And as Mathew Henry pointed out in his commentary, the marriage between Adam and Eve was almost literally a marriage made in Heaven, as God Himself directly orchestrated it. It was a perfect union, created in perfect innocence, like no marriage since.

But over time, people’s perceptions of the marriage relationship changed. New marriage customs and traditions emerged, many of which God never intended (such as polygamy). And the way women were viewed changed as well. In Old Testament times, wives had no real rights to speak of. If a man was unhappy with his wife for any reason, say for instance she prepared a meal that was not to his satisfaction, or if he just didn’t find her attractive anymore, the husband could send her packing and there was nothing the wife could do or say about it. If they didn’t have a family to go back to, many women would be left destitute and often had to turn to prostitution just to survive. By the time Jesus came into the world, women had come to be regarded as little more than cattle and quite often, even less.

According to Jewish historical accounts, Hebrew men began their day with this prayer: “Thank you God, that I’m not a sinner….or a woman.”  Not all husbands in Old Testament times mistreated their wives. Ruth’s husband Boaz was an honorable man. Samson’s father Manoah was a God fearing man and from all accounts in the book of Judges, he was kind to his wife. Even so, women who were married to righteous God fearing husbands considered themselves to be fortunate. Being in a loving marriage to a good and righteous husband was almost the exception rather the rule. For the most part, women were looked down on and viewed as inferior, a view that’s still held in many middle eastern cultures today.

But Jesus made it clear that was all going to change. When asked if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife In Matthew 19, Jesus repeated the words from Genesis, thus reaffirming the blueprint for marriage as established in the beginning by God. Jesus answered, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? And as He so often did, Jesus set an even higher standard when He concluded, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.” The marriage institution was ordained by God, intended as an expression of love and commitment between a man and a woman. Jesus not only reaffirmed the original ordinance, He declared it to be a sacred institution.

In God’s original blueprint, wives were to be our helpers. God never meant for wives to be oppressed by their husbands. But unfortunately, that’s how it was in Old Testament times. However, Christianity would set new standards for Christian husbands and wives, and in letters to three different churches, we’re given instructions that specifically address how Christian husbands and wives are to treat one another. The matter was so important that both Paul and Peter wrote to the church about it.

In the book of Ephesians in the fifth chapter, after Paul instructed wives to submit to their husbands, he had a little something to say to the husbands. Paul wrote:  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

In his letter to the Colossian church, Paul was a little more  direct. To that church he wrote: Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

 

Peter echoed these instructions in his letter to the church. After giving instructions to wives, Peter, like Paul, had a message for husbands:  Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

“Husbands, love your wives. Do not be harsh with them. Be considerate of them. Treat them with respect.”   Jesus declared the institution of marriage to be sacred and as such, the harsh treatment of wives that had been so common in the ancient world would not be acceptable behavior for Christian husbands. And even though Paul and Peter instructed wives to submit to their husbands, in no way were they suggesting that it was because wives are to be treated as though they’re inferior to their husbands, nor were they opening the door for husbands to abuse their position. Husbands and wives have distinctly different roles in the home and in the church according to the Bible, but as Peter pointed out, our wives are heirs with us of the gracious gift of life. Christianity set higher standards for the way wives are to be treated, which is contrary to the world view that says Christianity oppresses women. Quite the opposite is true. Jesus Christ elevated the status of women by making it known that the sort of oppressive behavior that made wives feel inadequate or inferior would not be acceptable in the Christian church.

And that brings me to my point. Most men today would probably say, “I would never treat my wife the way men treated their wives back then.” But you know what? It does happen, even in our time. I’m not pointing an accusing finger at anyone, just so we’re clear. I’m just pointing out the fact that Christian households are not immune to the world’s problems. There are things men do today that can make their wives feel every bit as degraded and inferior as a wife in Old Testament times. For instance, and I know this may sound unbelievable to some, domestic violence does touch some Christian homes. Wives of men who get involved in pornography or who get involved with another woman often talk about how degraded and inadequate it made them feel when they found out what their husbands were doing. Unfortunately, thanks to the internet, pornography is more easily accessible than ever and attitudes toward the act of adultery are becoming as casual as attitudes toward polygamy were in ancient times.

Guys, I think it’s safe to say that most of us were initially attracted to our wives because we liked what we saw. But when a husband gets into pornography or has an affair, it sends the message to his wife that he’s found someone else he’d rather admire, or someone else he’d rather be with. We all change as we grow older and I’ve heard men who say that their wives don’t look as good as they did back in high school or college, and that’s why they say they view porn sites on the web or that was why they had the affair. Here’s a news flash men, we don’t look like we did back then either!

Proverbs 5:18 tells us: Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. In that chapter of Proverbs, Solomon admonished men not to stray. And in that verse he urges us to take joy in the wives God gave us. Speaking through the prophet Malachi centuries later, God took to task all the men of Judah who had abandoned their wives late in life. In the second chapter of Malachi we read, “And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 

I said earlier a Hebrew man could divorce his wife for nothing more than preparing a meal that was not to his liking, but he really didn’t much of a reason at all. Hebrew men in ancient times needed very little reason to divorce their wives. They could find something seemingly trite and petty and send them on their way. (Of course today we have no fault divorce, so I guess we really haven’t changed that much). So again, if you want to bring your wife down and make her feel unimportant or inferior, just find something really insignificant or petty about your wife and start nitpicking her to death over it. You can also bring her down by never giving her a kind work or telling her how much she’s appreciated. Things like that will wear anyone down.

I want to pause here and clarify that this is no t in any way meant to be a condemnation of any of you who have been divorced and remarried. Things happen. Sometimes a mate leaves even when the other partner does everything right. Like I said earlier, I’m just pointing out the fact that, even though we’re Christians, we are still susceptible to certain temptations and we can fall into certain patterns of behavior if we’re not careful. Christians can and do stumble.

While most of what’s written here is geared toward husbands, we can very easily reverse the roles and apply all of this to wives. Wives are susceptible to many of the same temptations as husbands. God created the institution of marriage and holds it sacred, and Satan would like nothing better than to destroy everything God created, including your marriage. It really doesn’t matter to him if he destroys your marriage through you or your wives. Paul wrote in the third chapter of Colossians, “Think about the things of Heaven, not on things of the earth”. It’s those earthly things that tend to distract us and get us into trouble, and that Satan uses to tempt us. Don’t let the enemy in, and don’t let the enemy win.

None of us are perfect. We all have good days and days that are not so good, and so do our wives. There will be occasional arguments and we all have days when we’re not at our best. Good marriages take work and we have to work through those times. My wife and have been married for 39 years. We’ve had our ups and downs and still do. But I know this for certain; God went to great lengths to bring us together. We were born three states apart yet God directed both our paths and brought us together. And God did the same for all of you. God set all the wheels into motion that eventually brought you together with your spouses. So take care to love them and treat them with respect as God’s word instructs us, and be careful not to do anything that would make the wife God gave you feel like she’s inferior, second rate, or just not good enough for you.

Memories of a Lifetime

We’re all familiar with the story Jesus told His disciples about the rich man and the  beggar named Lazarus from Luke chapter 16. During his life, the beggar Lazarus knew nothing but poverty and misery, while the rich man enjoyed a life of wealth and ease. Eventually both men died. Lazarus was taken to Heaven. The rich man was taken to the place Jesus called Hades where he was in anguish and torment. The scripture says the rich man lifted his eyes and spotted Abraham and Lazarus far off in the distance. He begged for relief and when that request was refused, he asked Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his family about the destiny that awaited them. In verses 27 and 28 the scripture tells us: Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

Even though his earthly body had died, he was still conscious and fully self aware. And it’s apparent that he had retained his memories from his life on earth. He knew he had five brothers. And he was fully aware of the danger they were in, that unless they repented and turned to God, they would join him in the “place of torment”. I don’t know if the same holds true for believers, but it’s apparent from that passage that unbelieving people will remember most, if not all, of their lives here on earth. They’ll likely remember all the times they scoffed at God and sneered at Christians. They’ll probably remember every single sin and every act of disobedience they committed. In fact, they will be judged on the basis of those sins.  And they’ll remember every time they passed on an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ.

It could be that unbelievers are doomed to remember every detail of a life that was lived apart from God. Maybe that’s part of the punishment God has in store for them. That certainly seemed to be the case with the rich man in Jesus’ story. He was tormented by the prospect of his brothers joining him in that place of torment. But what about believers? How much will of our memories will we retain? In Hebrews 8 we’re told that God will be merciful toward our iniquities, and He will remember our sins….no more. The writer was quoting Jeremiah, but if God promises not to remember our sins, does that mean they will be erased from our memories when we go to be with the Lord? I’d like to think so. God’s word does tell us in Revelation 21 verse 27 (depending on your particular translation) that nothing unclean, impure, or defiled can enter Heaven. That makes me think that even the very memories of our sins would qualify as unclean, impure, or defiled. In 2 Corinthians chapter 5, Paul wrote about the new bodies we will put on when God calls us home. Those new bodies will be perfect and undefiled, so the idea that we’ll still be able to recall the unholy things we did in our present bodies just doesn’t make sense. And since our sins were washed away by the blood of Jesus, and God promises to remember them no more, I don’t think we’ll remember them either. Personally, I hope that’s true because there are some things I’ve done and said that I wish I could forget.

I’m just brainstorming here and I could be wrong about all this, though we can be sure God already knows the answer to this question. But here’s the point I’m driving at: Since nothing unclean, impure, or defiled can enter Heaven, and I believe that includes the very memories of all our past sins, I also think it’s very possible that we may not remember our friends and loved ones who were not saved. God considers unsaved people to be unclean, impure, and defiled and for that reason, they will not be allowed into Heaven. And since they will not allowed into Heaven, is it even possible for believers to carry the memories of unclean, impure, and defiled people into Heaven? I don’t know. I’m sure that’s getting into some very deep theology. It could be that we won’t know that they ever existed. We may not remember our unsaved family members. We may have no knowledge of a spouse, parent, child or grandchild who was not saved. Either that, or God will somehow remove our emotional attachment to them.

Regardless of how God works all of this out, this is why it’s so important for us to reach out to our family and loved ones who are not saved, while we still have time, and do everything we can to win them to Christ. We may or may not remember loved ones who end up condemned for eternity, I just don’t know, but we will remember what we did or failed to do to show them the way to salvation through Jesus Christ. That will be the basis of OUR judgment at the mercy seat of Christ. We may not be successful, but we have to try, because when we stand before Christ, it will be far better to remember how we tried to reach out to our loved ones, even if we were met with failure, than to live for all eternity with the memory that we failed to try.