Thursday, 14 July 2011

Whole of life as... premarital counselling

There's a strange phenomenon around: people being engaged for ... 5, 10+ years. No wedding in sight, apparently. Now, whatever the sociological reasons for that, it's not unlike a lot of us Christians live. We're engaged, but sort of forgetful that we've a wedding ahead - we live as if we're not planning or looking forward to anything.

In these very helpful paragraphs, from 'Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands', Paul Tripp explains that the only way to go through life properly is to understand we are engaged:
Keeping the final destination in view is the only way to solve the problems of today. ... Paul captures this principle of 'long view living' in 2 Corinthians 11:1-3.
I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Paul understands the Christian life eschatologically. This means that today is preparation for tomorrow, and tomorrow is preparation for something else to come. Paul is saying, 'I know I have hovered over you, but you need to understand why. I am afraid that you will forget who you are and to whom you have been promised.' To Paul, the only way to go through life properly is to understand that we are engaged. We have been betrothed to Christ, and our life now is preparation for the great wedding to come.

The difficulties now, the suffering now, the disappointments now, and hte blessings now are all preparation fo the wedding then. Our experiences today do not reflect God's inattention or unfaithfulness, but his jealous love. He is exposing our wandering hearts and foolish minds and the ways we trust our passions more than the principles of his Word. He is calling us to forsake our own glory for his, and teaching us that the idols we pursue will never satisfy us. He is making us wise to temptation and aware of a lurking enemy. He is teaching us to live for treasures that moth and rust can't destroy and that thieves can't steal. He is teaching us what it means to live in a way that recognises our identity as his children. He is teaching us to live open, approachable, and humble lives.

In other words, your whole life is premarital counselling! You belong to a groom whose name is Immanuel, and God is preparing you for the wedding for which you were created and redeemed. Everything you face today is premarital preparation - living now with then in view.

In contrast, sin produces in all of us a tendency toward 'now-ism,' which means we forget three things: who we are (betrothed to Christ); what he is doing now (preparing us for the final wedding); and what we are supposed to be doing (remaining faithful to him). When we focus only on what we want now, we fail to solve our problems and we also cause more difficulties. A common factor in depression is self-absorbed now-ism. Anger is often fuelled by a self-righteous now-ism. Fear and anxiety are strengthened by an obsession with the here and now. Maturity and perseverance are weakened by a 'now' mentality.

Teaching others how to solve now problems with then in view is one of the most important things we can do, because it is not something we sinners do well on our own. We tend to be short-sighted and self-absorbed. We forget that God's primary goal is not changing our situations and relationships so that we can be happy, but changing us through our situations and relationships so that we will be holy. We need people who love God and us enough to come alongside and help us deal with our spiritual myopia.

1 comment:

Claire Musters said...

Thanks for this - really thought-provoking.