Come with me to a passage that is often used about marriage, Ephesians 5. Wives I want to ask you to not be examining your husband as we walk through this passage.
Instead, let the foundational relationship described here ring out.
He is grinning from ear to ear in anticipation, wistful, unspeakably happy, lost in love for the one who is coming to pledge herself to him.
Now listen, if you can see that look on the groom's face, then you have a small understanding of the intensity of Christ's love for His church. "What stands out [here]," writes John Stott, "is the sacrificial steadfastness of the heavenly Bridegroom's covenant-love for His bride." What makes this passage even more striking for me is that I am part of His church.
The marriage I have in mind is not my marriage or yours.
Nor is it the institution of marriage, which seems to be moving in dishonorable and God-ignoring directions at every turn in our country.
The whole context of this passage about marriage has this model of Christ's passion for His bride, the Church, as its foundation.Around 80 percent of American evangelical churches are plateaued or declining.When asked, people give the standard answers: church is irrelevant, boring, hypocritical, after my money.Now, maybe that sounds a little self serving for me to include this in a list titled six vital, lifesaving things you will want in place before the crisis comes.I mean, I am a pastor and we're gathered with the Church now, and I'm here saying that it is vital to have a strong, growing relationship with the people of God, where you can encourage each other in Christ and pray for one another and bear each other's burdens and intervene when you see a brother or sister lapsing into sinful patterns.
And I want to argue that if the church means this much to Jesus, it ought to mean that much to you and me.