by Jack Arrington
That’s the mission of our church. Right?
To partner with God in transforming people into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Shouldn’t that also be our personal mission? That in some way or another each one of us grows to be more and more like Jesus during the coming year? Of all New Year’s resolutions and personal mission statements, I couldn’t think of another that would be more important, more meaningful, or more eternal.
If you are open to suggestions on good books to assist you on that journey, I have a suggestion. It comes from an unlikely direction. It comes from my reading for the Marriage by Design series we did most of this past fall. The by-line of Gary Thomas’s Sacred Marriage is this: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?
Holiness: not a common word. Maybe even a scary proposition. But I can think of one word that sums up the concept of holiness, and that word is Jesus. To be holy is to be like Jesus. To be Jesus is to be holy.
To be holy like Jesus is our mission. As a church. As individuals.
So let me give you a few quotes from Sacred Marriage, along with a few personal comments. I believe every person—married or not—would profit greatly from reading this book. And I hope these words encourage you to get and to read this book. (SM = Sacred Marriage; JA = me)
Here’s the opening salvo:
Why would we expect marriage to be any different than the rest of life? There will be some really good times and there will be some really hard times. There are no spiritual life keys that make everything smooth and pleasant if we would only follow them. All of life and marriage is filtered through the loving purposes of God who intends us “to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (JA)
According to pollster George Barna, self-described “born-again” Christians have a higher rate of divorce than nonbelievers (twenty-seven percent to twenty-three percent)…Those who adopt the label “fundamentalist Christian” have the highest divorce rate of all (thirty percent)…What most divorces mean is that at least one party, and possibly both, have ceased to put the gospel first in their lives. (SM)
For me, this is where the book pushes way beyond the boundaries of marriage into every corner of our own lives. What does it mean to put the gospel first in our lives? (JA)
John Owen, one of the greatest Puritan scholars ever: “The person who understands the evil in his own heart is the only person who is useful, fruitful, and solid in his beliefs and obedience. Others only delude themselves and thus upset families, churches, and all other relationships. In their self-pride and judgment of others, they show great inconsistency.” (SM)
What marriage has done for me is hold up a mirror to my sin. It forces me to face myself honestly and consider my character flaws, selfishness, and anti-Christian attitudes, encouraging me to be sanctified and cleansed and to grow in godliness. (SM)
Lasting relationships require God’s grace whether in the home or in the church. We will see the other’s sin. Will we forgive? We will see our own sin. Will we repent? Repentance and forgiveness are required of any meaningful relationship. (JA)
If we live without an eternal perspective, earthly trials become larger than life. Without the hope of heaven or the sense of the importance of a growing character and refinement, there is nothing to prepare for, nothing to look forward to; it is like practicing and practicing, but never getting to actually play a game. Life gets boring, tedious, and tiresome. If we are seeking glory, honor, and immortality before God, daily and quiet persistence, faithfulness, and obedience is the road to get there. (SM)
That’s why you and I need to read books like this. In our flesh we long for ease and comfort. But reborn spirits yearn for Christ.
Make that your mission in 2012.