By the way, this is the last study on divorce. Praise God (laughter). Whew. If somebody said, "Skip, I want you to come and do a conference. Pick any topic. This would not be it. And yet, it's been a necessary to deal with it. I was raised Roman Catholic and there's some things that I disagree with, but I'll tell you one thing I respect about that system. And that is the stress of the marriage relationship. The divorce rate is lower amongst that denomination than most others. It's caused me to really wonder and question why Protestants don't hold the same high view of relationships and why the divorce rate is so high in Protestant churches. I am so glad, folks, for this Book that God wrote, and that His word is clear and God has provided ways to make relationships blissful and fulfilled. And yet as we've said before, if you put a bunch of Bible students or scholars in one room for weeks to discuss this issue, they'd all come up with different opinions, they'd all disagree, and that's okay. Many of us will, after these studies, disagree. That's okay. But let's, as we've said, agree to disagree agreeably (light laughter).
"But Skip, why three weeks on divorce? I mean why, why not just one week and let's get on with it?" We could spend thirty weeks on divorce and still come up with confusion on the issue. Not because God's word is confusing but because sin has entered into the human picture to the extent that it's clouded God's picture of relationships and marriage and divorce. And the reason we have spent three weeks is because of the letters I've received, the questions on the issue. Most of them have dealt with divorce and remarriage. Without reading them all to you, because we could probably spend half of our time today reading the list of questions that I've received, one letter in particular that I'm recently received says, "Skip, tomorrow I'll be married for six years, but it's not a happy occasion because we are going through a divorce. Well, when I first met my husband, we met at a Bible study. We would study the Scripture together, pray together, go to Christian activities. But then we got married, and things changed. "She goes through the list of problems, which I'm not gonna read today. "If this divorce does go through, I probably will not remarry again, mainly for the kid's sake. And also to follow the Lord's way. But I'll be honest, deep down in my heart, I wish I could find a good man who loved the Lord and lived as the Lord commands. I really yearn for companionship, even if it's just friendship. I've been married three times, and I had to support them all."I've received other letters like that. Some from husbands. But that's why three weeks. Three weeks because divorce is a fact in our churches. I hate to admit it, but it's a fact and we need to deal with it. We need to deal with it head on and we need to go into every little nook and cranny that deals with this to deal openly and honestly so that we know what the Bible teaches.
Also, we have dealt extensively with it because, frankly, I wanna see healing in this area. I wanna see people who are contemplating a divorce cease contemplating the divorce. And in the last few weeks, I have seen those results, either by letter or personally, people have contacted me saying, "We were going through a divorce. We've stopped." That's good news. That's what I like to see. And also, I want to see divorced people helped. I wanna see divorced people being taken with arm around their shoulder, whether they have sinned, whether they have blown it, and see the body of Christ begin to pour in the balm of God's forgiveness into those wounds, instead of the Church shooting it's own wounded. I wanna see healing taking place. Am I soft-stepping divorce? Am I just glossing it over with grace and forgiveness? Well, if you've been here for the last two weeks, you know I've done everything but that. But I've advocated forgiveness in lieu of sin, and hopefully that will take place.
Today I wanna deal with not only divorce, but remarriage. In the background, that's the question that's been going through many people's minds, and I wanna sum up our teaching that way today. However, I gotta warn you that this morning, I'm going to be rather technical in our study. I'm gonna give you some Greek words and meanings, and you know from my studies in the past that usually I don't give you the Greek words and all the different Greek tenses and stuff because, for the most part, I think people want the meal, not the recipe. However, I'm going to give you part of the recipe today because the more confusing an issue, the more tech you have to get. So I'm going to be a little bit tech on you today. And, uh, I'm gonna answer the question, "Who can remarry?" by going all the way around the block to get next door by dealing with some of the other issues and finally ending up with that.
Um, I wanna clear up an issue first. And that's why I've had you turn to Matthew 19. Cause I wanna deal with an issue, an alternate view by those people who will not allow divorce at all in the scripture by their interpretation. Not to slam that view, but because I believe that view has done damage to the body of Christ, and I simply wanna clear up the issue. Now, as we've said, all divorce stems from sin. And that sounds kind of fiery and brim-stoney, doesn't it? (Growls) All divorce stems from sin. But let me put the other side of that statement together with it. All divorce stems from sin, but not all divorce is sinful. Jesus taught that, and that's one of the main messages I've been wanting to get across. I had a well-intentioned, well-meaning, beautiful person come up to me last week. Said, "Skip, I've gotta bring something up to you in an area where I feel you are unscriptural." "Great, I'm open." "You said last week," which is two weeks ago from today, "That God is a sinner." I said, "I beg your pardon. I did not said God was a sinner. I said God divorced Israel. He is a divorcee prior to His reconciliation. That does not classify God as a sinner. Your presumption classified God as a sinner. I never said that."She equated that divorce is always sin, under any circumstances. Divorce involves sin, but divorcing is not always sinful. And that's what we wanna talk a little bit about as we clear up this issue.
Now, in Matthew 19, let's just brush up a little bit of background. Uh, verse 7, "They said to Him, 'Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?' He said to them, '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.' "The alternate view is that Jesus was not dealing with marriage at all. They say Jesus was dealing with an engagement period, a broken betrothal. Since you remember, the Jews had a year of engagement that was binding before marriage- lasted a year. It was called the betrothal period. And so they say Jesus was not dealing with the consummate of marriage, he was dealing with the betrothal period. Or some people will even say he was dealing with the separation, but not a divorce. There's several ways that people have viewed this. The force of their argument is the word Jesus used down in verse 9 for sexual immorality. King Jimmy, the Old King Jimmy, translates this fornication. The Greek word is porneia. That's why I like some of the better translations like the New King James, which says sexual immorality, not fornication. Or the New International Version which, I believe, says marital unfaithfulness, if I'm not mistaken. That's a better translation of the word. Now, the Greek word, one of the Greek words, and the Greek word that is used in this text and in all of the gospel texts relating to divorce, the word that is used is apoluo. Apoluo, which means, "to release someone by divorce." According to every Greek scholar that I could get my hands on, he said this is a word that refers to a consummated, one-flesh union that has been broken off, not an engagement period. Out of the Bible, the Greeks, in their literature, use the same word to refer to a one-flesh, consummated marriage, and a divorce that occurred. A divorce for a consummated marriage. It came from the lips of Jesus, it came from the lips of the, the Pharisees when they questioned him about apoluo, about divorce. Is it lawful to apoluo, to divorce your wife? When Jesus and the Pharisees discussed it, in the context of their conversation, they did not have to settle what the term meant. They knew what it meant. They didn't have to discuss whether it meant a separation, a broken engagement betrothal period, or a marriage. They knew that it meant a marriage. In the context, it is clear. Apoluo. To separate or to release by divorce. Twelve Greek lexicons, as well as Kittel's New Testament Dictionary, Vines, A.T. Robertson, I could go on, say that apoluo that is used here, it's used Matthew 5, it's used Mark 10, Luke 16, apoluo is a strong word for divorce of a one-flesh, consummated marriage, not an engagement, not a betrothal period. Secondly, not only the text or the words itself, when the Pharisees came to ask the question to Jesus, when they brought up the issue, as they brought up the issue in Matthew 19 as you read from the beginning, the issue that they brought up was the issue, not of broken engagement, but the issue of marriage. Furthermore, the background passages that formed this passage refer to marriage. Jesus speaks about Genesis, Chapter 2. "From the beginning it was not so. For this reason a man shall leave father and mother, be joined unto his flesh." He was not quoting Genesis 2 speaking of engagement. Genesis 2 speaks of a consummated marriage put together by God. Furthermore, he spoke about Deuteronomy 24, setting the record straight, as we saw last week. Deuteronomy 24 does not speak of a betrothal period, an engagement period. It speaks of a consummated marriage and a divorce of a consummated marriage. To impose the meaning, and I've read the books, I've heard the seminars. To impose the meaning that this means an engagement period is not sustained by the context or by the Greek text or by the background, itself.
There's two ways to approach the Bible. Let me tell you what they are. You can approach the Bible with, let me give you two fancy terms. Just, if you wanna remember them. Eisegesis and exegesis. The first, eisegesis, is you approach the Bible with what you believe, you're sure, you're confident that it must teach that, and so you find a text to prove that. That's called eisegesis. "I know it teaches that and I'm gonna find something to back it." They most faithful way to approach the scripture is Exegetically. Exegesis, which means you come nakedly, you come openly and you say, "What does the Bible teach on this?" Without any presupposition, without any predisposition toward it's meaning. And many people will not allow divorce at all in the Bible, and hence they come up with this interpretation. They are well-meaning, they love the body of Christ. In fact, they see that the sin has entered the church so much, it is so disgusting, they wanna make no allowance for divorce at all. You just can't do that. It's not sustained by the grammar, it's not sustained by the context, it's not sustained by the background. In fact, if this was speaking of a broken engagement, where a fellow breaks his engagement to somebody and goes off and marries someone, why would he be an adulterer? If he broke an engagement and then consummate a marriage somewhere else, the scripture calls him an adulterer. There's another word in the New Testament. In fact it's right here in Matthew 19 and elsewhere. It's the Greek word chorizo. Down over in verse, uh, 6, "They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man chorizo," or put asunder, or separate by divorce. It means divorce here. It's a technical word in 1 Corinthians 7 for divorce. It means divorce in every place that it's used. Why would all of a sudden in Matthew 19, it speak not of divorce of a consummated marriage, but of a betrothal period? It would be out of context, it would be inconsistent with the rest of scripture. There's a third word. See? This is a technical, heh, beginning. The third word is aphiemi, and we're going to see where it's used in 1 Corinthians. It speaks of sending someone away by a divorce, or leaving yourself. All of these are technical words that all of the best Greek scholars refer to the divorce of a consummated, one-flesh relationship, not a betrothal, not a separation or an engagement.
Now, in Matthew 5, in Matthew 19, which we've turned to, Jesus says the phrase, "Except for the cause of fornication," or better translated, "Whoever divorces his wife except for sexual immorality and marries another, commits adultery." It says it in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19. "But it doesn't say it in Mark!" they say. "And it doesn't say it in Luke." But it does say it in Matthew, twice. Listen. How many times does God have to say something before it's true? He just has to say it once, right? It's valid, even through it's not in every- listen. You cannot make God say everything that there is to say on a subject every time it's brought up. In all of those passages, God does not say everything on marriage and divorce in that instance. In every gospel writer, they take different angles, depending on portraying Jesus as the Messiah, or Jesus as the servant, or Jesus in His deity, or whatever. The Holy Spirit, through the context of the words, is dealing with marriage and divorce on an entirely different issue as the other ones. And, let me tell you, give you an example of how this works. Okay? The sign was put over the cross of Jesus when he was crucified. Do you remember what it said? Well, it depends which gospel you read. The gospel of Matthew says that Pilate put a sign over the cross of Christ that says, "This is the King of the Jews." You turn to the gospel of Mark, and the sign said, simply, "King of the Jews." You turn to the gospel of Luke and it says, uh, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." Something like that. You turn to the gospel of John, it says, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." And so you think, "What did the sign say?" Well, you put 'em all together. It said, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, who was the king of the Jews." That's what the sign said. Why did the gospel writers select those phrases of that? Because they were looking at Jesus through a unique angle. Matthew, as the Messiah. Mark, as the Servant. Luke, as the Son of Man. John, as the Deity of Jesus Christ, God made flesh. They had a different perspective of writing about the same issue. You cannot force God to say everything about every issue every time it's brought up.
Now, there's a word in verse 9, the word porneia. "Except for sexual immorality," and I like that translation. I also love the NIV, which says, "marital unfaithfulness." Am I right on that, by the way? Does it say that? Okay. Now, the Greek word is porneia. The King Jimmy, again Old King James, says, "fornication." So the argument goes like this, "Aha! The word is porneia, fornication. Not adultery, fornication. Oh, that word then refers to sex before you're married. That's fornication. Sex after you're married is adultery. If the writer intended to speak about adultery, he would've used the word moicheia, which is the Greek word adultery. But, the word fornication is used." Wrong. Every scholar I've gotten my hands on that I've just previously quoted says the word porneia, is the broad term that covers every single kind of illicit sexual intercourse, or sexual immorality. Porneia covers all kinds. Why is porneia used and not moicheia? Simple. Moicheia is one kind of illicit sexual intercourse. There's also homosexuality, there's child molestation, there's bestiality, which the Bible condemns all of them. So that a person couldn't focus on one little area and say, "Oh, well this was a homosexual act, I didn't commit adultery."It's a broad term that covers all of them. And all of the Greek scholars agree that this refers to any, including adultery, sexual immorality, both in the Old and in the New Testament. Let me give you another example of how this works. In the Old Testament, do you remember the children of Israel as they were cruising through the desert, and the women of Moab came into the midst of the camp and seduced the men and they committed sexual immorality and bowed down to Baal? And do you remember God's reaction to their sin? It says 23,000 died in one day. Because of the Hebrew word, because of their zanah, which is Old Testament for fornication. The Old Testament equivalent of porneia. The interesting thing is it wasn't just single men who committed zanah, but married men who committed zanah, as you read the Old Testament. You turn over to the New Testament, to 1 Corinthians 10, and Paul says, "Because of the sin of Israel, because of porneia, 23,000 fell in one day, both married and unmarried." As you read the context of the Old Testament. The word is porneia. In the New Testament, it's used for incense, incense- incest (laughter). Same word, porneia. Sexual immorality. It's used for homosexuality. Same word- porneia. It's the broad word so that no one can narrow it down to one act, it's the broad word that covers illicit sexuality between man, woman, or animal. It covers all of them. That is why the word is used.
Now, Jesus is not advocating divorce. He's not saying, "Thout shalt divorce." You'll never find that. He's not advocating and he's not saying, "Go for it." He is simply admitting that there are times when divorce does not lead to sin, or that you, it's not sinful to divorce. On that grounds, he simply admits that it doesn't lead to adultery all the time. Now turn with me to 1 Corinthians 7. 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7. Let's interview Paul the Apostle. We've interviewed Jesus. Paul has some things to say on the issue. Paul is writing to a group of Christians that lived in the Hollywood of the ancient world. The sins of Corinth were, at least in their widespread sense, unique to Corinth. Corinth was so wicked that it became an idiom, it became- in fact to say, "You're a Corinthian" to someone is like cussing them out. It's saying, "You drunk, debauched lowlife."Because of the connotation of how the Corinthians lived. Um, now a lot of people were getting saved in the midst of that kind of blackness. The Corinthian church. They were getting saved with a backdrop of homosexuality, promiscuity, bestiality, as well as rampant prostitution. They had a lot of questions. They wrote Paul a lot of questions, Paul writes a lot of answers back. Man, God gave Paul a real doozy when He laid on him the Corinthian church to deal with. They had a lot of questions about marriage, divorce, and what about being married to a nonbeliever, married to a believer? And he deals with that. Three specific groups. In verse 8, "To the unmarried and to the widows: It is not good for them to remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, then let them marry. For it's better to marry than to burn with passion."We've dealt with that weeks ago. Second group, speaking of a believer married to a believer. Third group, a believer married to a non-believer. Verse 10, "To the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce (aphiemi) leave or send away his wife." Back in verse 10 where it says, "A wife must not depart," it's the word chorizo, to separate by a divorce, or to put asunder. A wife is not to depart, to chorizo from her husband, and a husband is not to aphiemi, to leave or to send away his wife. Now, in those verses, notice what Paul says, and how he phrases it. He said, "This I command, yet not I, but the Lord." In other words, "I am simply quoting or repeating what Jesus said. He already said it to you back in Luke, back in Mark. You're not to get a divorce. I'm simply repeating the teaching of Jesus in the gospels. He's already said it. That's it. No divorce, baby." Is the basic rule. I've already, he's already said that. You're a believer, you're married to a believer, you do not separate, you do not send away. You stay married. But, even if she does chorizo, put asunder, separate by divorce, two options for that person. If that person is divorce for any other reason expect porneia, any illicit sexual immorality, two options: you can remain single the rest of your life, you can be reconciled to your husband or to your wife.
Now, again, last week, and I'll repeat it this week, when I'm speaking about he or she, I'm not narrowing it down. I'm sure you are mature enough to, when it says, "Don't put away your wife, don't divorce your wife," on the opposite it's true also, "Don't divorce your husband." Can't say, "Yeah, but he said wife, he didn't say husband." You can see that the reverse is true, and I think you're mature enough without me saying every time "he or she, uh, her or him" okay, and so I won't do that. Now, verse 12. Oh, by the way. Question could come up, I could hear it. "But what if this happened before I became a Christian. Now, he's dealing with Christians, what about before I became a Christian?" We're going to deal with that toward the end. But you'd sort of expect that from a non-believer. I don't expect a believer anytime to be righteous. I don't expect a sinner to do anything but sin. But, for the Christian, the ideal is different, it's higher. We live in the light of 1 Corinthians, 7. We live in the light of the gospels. We are different. After, now that you're a Christian, the ideal is following and obeying God's order.
Verse 12, we deal with a situation of a believer with an unsaved spouse. And that was a problem back then. Because these Corinthians were realizing, "Hey, wait a minute. I'm, I'm married to a pagan. This is an unequal yoke. Didn't Paul say something about an unequal yoke. Now that I am a Christian and I'm married to a pagan, shouldn't I divorce that unsaved person, especially if he's an idol worshipper, because it's an unequal yoke? Shouldn't I leave? I'm gonna leave. And besides, there's a foxy little Christian gal who would meet my needs just fine. Bye, I'm an unequal yoke person now. Gotta make it right."Paul says, "No way." The other problems that arose in the church of Corinth were unsaved spouses angry with their saved wives or husbands, thinking, "You know, I didn't bargain for this when I married this gal. She's always reading her Bible now, praying. She won't get drunk with me anymore. She won't go to the wife-swapping parties down at the temple of Aphrodite (light laughter). I wanna let her go. I don't like this business." What do they do in that situation? Paul deals with both of those situations here. Verse 12, "To the rest I, not the Lord, say,"now, he's not denying inspiration. He's not saying, "Now, I just wanna tell you something of my own opinion. God isn't in this at all, I just wanted to spit out my own opinion." No. This is what he's saying. He said over in verse 10, "I'm reiterating what Jesus said." Now he's saying, "Jesus didn't talk about this. These situations, Jesus didn't deal directly with in the gospels. He didn't hit on these issues. This is what I'm saying. This is further revelation from God, but the Lord Jesus didn't teach on that in the gospels." "If any brother has a wife who does not believe," an unbeliever, "and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her." Clear, simple. "And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the believing wi-unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy." Sanctified does not mean they are saved, because if it meant they are saved, Paul would not call them an unbeliever. He calls them unbelievers, unbelieving. It is speaking of the fact that God can bless that family because of the sanctifying influence that the saved spouse has. Example, Sodom and Gomorrah. God said, "I'm sick of their sin. I'm gonna destroy them." Abraham bargains with God, remember? Like any good Jewish person would. "Wait a minute, God. Have I got a deal (light laughter). Tell you what. If I can find fifty people in this city, will you spare it for the sake of fifty righteous people?" "Abraham, you gotta deal. You find me fifty, I'll spare it." "How about forty-five?" "Forty-five." "How about forty?" All the way down to ten. "Can I find ten people? If I do, will you spare the city?" "I will spare the city for ten." God was willing to allow His blessing to pass on many wicked people for the sake of a handful of his own people. They were the salt of city of Sodom and God would preserve them. They, their presence, was a sanctifying influence. The best things that you can do for your unsaved children, an unsaved husband or wife, is to stick it out and to be that influence. Why? Verse 16, "For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?" That is, be that instrument of salvation. "Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" Back to verse 15, "But if the unbeliever chorizo," put asunder the relationship, separates by divorce. "If the unbeliever chorizo, let him chorizo;" let him divorce, let him depart, "a brother or a sister is not under bondage," literally, not of slave. Uh, New International says, "not bound in such cases. But God has called us to peace." The Moffatt translation says, "He is not tied to the marriage bond any longer."Kenneth Wuest, who is a Greek scholar, one of the best that this century has known, says, in his translation of the Greek language, "A brother or sister is free from the indissoluble union of marriage." He's speaking of being bound in a marriage union relationship. That's what Paul is referring to, according to the language. He's not under bondage, he is not bound in such cases. The reason God has called us to peace. Same word over in verse 39, the woman is bound in that indissoluble union as long as her husband is alive.
Now, the big question that we wanna end with in lieu of all these teachings is, who, then is free to remarry? And here's my conclusions. After reading the pamphlets, listening to the material, reading the scripture, doing the research in the Greek and Hebrew myself, my conclusion is that a remarriage is permissible when a divorce has taken place in one of these three situations. And we've covered the first one and the second one. A sexually immoral, unrepentant spouse because of porneia, any illicit sexual intercourse, as we've discovered this morning and last week. That's ja- Jesus Christ's counsel. By the way, the only cause for you going out and getting a divorce, an apolluo, a chorizo, an aphiemi, whatever you wanna call it in it's context, the only just cause for you going to get one is for this cause. "Except for the cause of porneia." And I wanna say, also, that it is an option, it is not a commandment. It was a permission. It is a divine concession to human sin. Jesus isn't saying, "Go, come one, go get a divorce. They did it, go, go get divorced." It is an option. Indeed it is an option because Jesus knows sin, He knows the effect and it's a preservation of the innocent party. But it is an option, not a command. And I have watched God patch together even situations like this, where it seems irreparable. I have a lady that I know in California, beautiful gal, who had problems with her husband. He was an unbeliever. He, as a husband, went out and had an adulteress affair with another woman. He was an unbeliever. Had a child outside of marriage. And then he divorce her. He departed, he left. And she was free. She was even counseled, "Cathy, come on, it's been four years since he divorced you. It's gone. You know what the scripture says. Cathy, you're wallowing in this. Let's move on." She says, "I'm just going to wait a little longer. I'm just going to trust God a little more." A few years ago, I had the privilege of marrying them after he genuinely repented, genuinely turned to God in a crisis situation, came back to his wife. He is not only the spiritual leader of the home, but that home is a blessed, happy family today, and there's been reconciliation and forgiveness and they're back together. So, it's an option, but certainly not a command.
Second, desertion by an unbeliever. The unbeliever leaves, puts asunder, chorizo. If the unbeliever departs, it says, "Let him depart." Member Jesus said, "I did not come to bring peace but," what? "A sword that there will be division in the family because of Christ."He recognized that this is gonna be a problem. That a son is going to be divided against his dad and a daughter against the mom and a brother against the sister and the sister against each other and the husband against the wife. That's gonna happen sometimes as one person comes to know the Lord. It says, "let him depart." Now, this is voluntary, I believe, and I believe it's permanent. Doesn't mean you force the person out. Let me warn you that you are, we are well aware of our human nature and our tendency to rationalize in difficult time. Rationalize to the point where the easiest way out, the path of least resistance is chosen. And so we could finagle, or hassle that person till he gets so, or she gets so fed up that that person leaves, and then you've got technical grounds, because that person divorced you, maybe he or she was driven to it. And this is not a temporary thing. It's not, "You were gone for the weekend. You said you were going to leave. You can't come back now, you're gone." I believe this is a permanent, voluntary separation of the unbeliever making way to divorce his believing spouse.
And finally, a marriage and divorce occurring before conversion. 2 Corinthians 5, verse 17, "If any man is in Christ, he is a," what? "New creation. Old things are passed away, all things become new." I love what the NIV says, "The old is gone, the new has come." I believe it literally. I believe that when a person accepts the Lord, he is a new, fresh creation unlike before. It's the same word Jesus used when he said, "I will make a new covenant with you." You are a new, fresh creation. And new covenant, a new creation, unlike the past. New, fresh, starting all over again. After the fall, the reverse of God's order came into play. The spirit was no longer in control, the flesh was dominating. When a person is born again, God wipes away the past and restores his position with God. And I love what Isaiah says. "Come, let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow, white as wool." I don't think that means every sin except divorce. Cause that means that would then be the only sin that the blood of Christ cannot wash away. And I believe he washes away every sin. When a person does not come under the rule of God and the authority of the Holy Spirit, he's not following, he has no power to follow, he has no vision or sight to follow, he's apart from Christ, he makes mistakes, God gives him a new start. God doesn't say, "Well, you've murdered in the past, I'll forgive you now that you're a Christian. But you divorced in the past, I will not forgive you for that." Every spot is washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. Every stupid, filthy thing you've done is washed away. That's the good news. When Nathan was being born, and he came out of the womb red and wrinkly and whining, but so beautiful, a thought occurred to me that that little baby has no past. That little baby has only a future. He could never say, "Dad, forgive me for all the past that I've done." You don't have a past, son. You just came out of the womb. You only have a future. You're a new creation. Like a new covenant. Like the new creation in 2 Corinthians.
May I read to you a psalm that David said in Psalm 103? He said, "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever." Listen to this, "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, far He has removed our transgressions from us." Now, I also recognize that there are people who will still disagree- that's okay. Be patient with those who disagree with us. Don't just slam them. They're not heretics. I think they love the body of Christ. And you're not a heretic because you don't agree with my position. You're inaccurate (laughter), but you're not a heretic. No, really folks, we need to tolerate the variances that occur. Love one another and say, "Good, okay, we disagree." Let's work on restoring marriages instead of nitpicking on this. Let's just work together. You know your position, we know our, this position. Let's work together on healing marriages now. Forgiving one another, loving one another.
I wanna conclude this whole series of relationships, of dating, engagement, marriage, divorce that we've done over the past couple months by stressing something. No matter where you find yourself, be it a young single who's never been married, be it a single again who's been divorced and possibly open for remarriage, be it a married person, whatever station you find yourself in, be determined to obey God and let God raise you to the highest wherever you're at. Beautiful Old Testament scripture, when the children of Israel have blown it and taken second best, God says, "If from here you seek My face, I'll make your life good. I'll bless you. I'll raise you to the highest that you'll allow me to. Even if, from here, you do that." So be determined to obey. Whatever information you find out, whether you can remarry, you can't remarry, or whatever, say, "Lord, whatever I find out from all of these studies together, I am determined that I'm gonna obey You because I love You above all."I wanna conclude with this story. Please listen.
It was a summer holiday and a city boy went for the first time to a farm in the country. He found a lot of things to interest him. And in particular, he always liked to watch the farm servants going to the well for water at the bottom of the field. They put on a kind of wooden yoke which fit on their shoulders with two large buckets that could be hooked on each end. The weight rested on the yoke and the servants just had to steady the buckets with their hands. One evening he asked if he could put on the yoke and try it. He tried to carry them when full, but he had to give it up. But still he felt proud for having worn the yoke even for a little while. It made him feel grown up.
This boy, like a lot of others, found it very hard to obey. He was always happy when the holidays came because now he could be his own boss for a while. But he found that even in the country where there was no homework and no teachers, that he still had to do what other people told him to do. That night, when he came back from the well, he wanted to stay up, but he was told that it was past his bedtime and he had to go upstairs. So he went, grumbling to himself, "I'm always being bossed around. Wait 'til I grow up. I'll do what I want to do. I'll be my own boss and nobody will tell me what to do."
But the next morning, to his surprise, he seemed to be back in the city again. As he dressed, and he went to put on his jacket, he was amazed to find that it had a wooden yoke in the shoulders that he couldn't take off. Just then, the maid walked by and she, too, had a yoke of wood on her shoulders. He went down to breakfast, and his mother had one, also; it was more ornamental, in a pretty pattern. And when Dad came downstairs, sure enough, he had the heaviest yoke of all. The world seemed very strange that morning. Before school, the boy sat down with a picture book that was very fond to him, but, somehow, the pictures looked different today. Everyone appeared to wear a yoke: soldiers, sailors, drivers, shoppers, policemen. At last he came to a portrait of a king and queen and looked carefully at it. Yep, even the king had a yoke on his shoulders. It was made of gold and adorned with diamonds and rubies- it looked very heavy. Then suddenly a thought struck him. I guess even grown-ups have to obey, too. Even kings and queens. That's why they have a yoke on their shoulders like the rest. The next picture that the boy looked at represented the Lord, standing with a multitude of sick people. On Jesus' shoulders there was also something. At first glance it looked like a heavy yoke. But it also looked sort of like wings, folded up. Perplexed, the boy muttered to himself, "A yoke—wings? Wings- a yoke? I don't get it." Slowly, a thought dawned on him. "I wonder if a yoke does not get to be like wings? I wonder if when we serve and obey we are happier and do our work more easily like the little birds?" Well it was now time for school. As he walked down the street, looking at the people, he noticed another strange thing. There were some people who didn't have a yoke on their shoulders. "Aha!" he cried. "There are those who don't need to obey!" But, as he looked again, he saw that none of those people could move freely because they were dragging a very heavy weight after them, fastened to their ankles. It was much worse to bear than any yoke. They had escaped the yoke, but they were prisoners. At last, it all became quite clear to him. "I see!" he cried. "People who will not obey and do not serve they have a weight to drag because they are idle, or they have chains to carry because they are so selfish." In his excitement, he turned to hurry home and in a moment he awoke. It was only a dream. He was lying in the little farmhouse bedroom. There was no wooden yoke on his jacket, but he woke up a little wiser and began to understand that even the greatest and bravest people had to obey so that they might serve others and serve God and that they were both greater and nobler because they did obey. And as he prayed that morning, he said, "Oh, Lord Jesus, help me to be quick to obey and glad to serve and someday let my yoke be turned into wings, Amen."
Whatever station in life we find ourselves, if we are determined to obey God based on the information that He has given to us in this book that He wrote, we will be happier for it. If we decide not to, we have a better idea, "I'm going to do it anyway," we will be chained and it will be much more difficult the sin, then simply bearing the yoke of obedience. See, God has designed a happy, fruitful life, filled to the brim. Don't settle for second best. Let's pray.
And now, our Father, I would pray this morning for this entire body. For all of the relationships represented here. Singles, people who are spiritually single, with unchristian, unsaved, unbelieving spouses, those who are married with believing spouses, those who are divorced, who are contemplating, may we simply seek to obey You in whatever station in life that we find ourself, Lord. Pour out Your mercy, Your grace, and Your forgiveness because we are a people who desperately need it. We are the people who need the promises that You remove sins as far as east is from the west. And we rely upon You to do that. In Jesus name, Amen.