Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Greater Gospel

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a two day seminar over the Biblical Narrative and the Christian story. It was amazing, in so many ways. Dr. Barry Jones (who is a professor at DTS- if you're ever a student there, take his classes!) led the seminar- and he had so much wisdom to share with us. At one point when discussing the creation narrative, we got into a pretty hefty discussion on sexuality and God's design. It was good, right, and really just beautiful. God created sex, and it is good. When experienced within the bounds He's given us, it is so good and is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated.

I've spent a lot of today thinking over all of it; meditating on the truth he shared, considering my place in it, dwelling on truths in Scripture, and figuring out where to go from there. There's always a tendency in singles to hear talks like that and want to just shut down, turn it off, and numb yourself to the reality that what's being offered is not something you can partake in. I get it; I've been there. But that's not the right response, and I'll keep arguing to that end.

One thing Dr. Jones mentioned, that I whole-heartily agree and believe, is that the Bible never elevates marriage as the highest calling. Let me say it again; The Bible never elevates marriage as the highest calling.

Without quite knowing where that belief came from, we believe it. As a young teenager, I remember telling people that I was confident I would either die young or be married, but there was no way I could "handle" singleness. I didn't believe I was equipped for it, nor had the strength to endure it. I looked at marriage as this beautiful vessel of understanding the gospel. And it is! But the gospel does not equate marriage. It is not the only avenue of understanding the gospel or experiencing the beauty of love, pursuit, intimacy, and community. The gospel does not equate marriage, the gospel is not marriage, the gospel is not void without marriage- the gospel stands alone as the gospel.

The word gospel means "good news." We all believe in a gospel, whether it's the true gospel or not. If you're single, you may believe the gospel of the goodness of marriage; the gospel that sexual union is beautiful and exciting and awesome. That is your hope, your greatest desire; that's what you dream of and are anxious for. If you're married, you may believe in the gospel of having a peaceful, perfect, and passionate marriage, of family, the right career, the Instagram life that is good and right and beautiful. That is your hope. But the thing is, there is a greater gospel. And it's in the word and work of the Triune God.

The gospel is that God the Father provided a way of redemption through the sending of His son, Jesus Christ. The gospel is that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, through Jesus bearing the wrath of the Father on our behalf, we are adopted and called children of God. The gospel is that Jesus ascended into heaven, but left a Helper, God the Holy Spirit, to indwell us and teach us how to look like Him. That is the gospel. That is the good news. The Triune God has entered into our sin wrecked world and is continually reconciling us to Himself.

That is the gospel. Being married doesn't mean you get a superior gospel. Being able to have sex doesn't mean you have a deeper and more intimate understanding of the union of Christ and the church. It just doesn't. Marriage is not better. Singleness is not better. GOD is better. He is best.

Submitting my desire for marriage and suppressing my physical appetite for sexual intimacy have been the most sanctifying and difficult acts of obedience in my life. I'm not writing this saying I've always had this strong and firm belief that the gospel is the gospel, regardless of where you are. I've struggled, I've doubted, I've wrestled, I've accused God, I've wept, I've yelled, I've disbelieved. ("I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!" Mark 9:24)- I've felt hopeless, isolated, unheard, and alone. I just told my roommate that I may be writing this today, but crying in two days because I'm lonely and feel like I'm unworthy of pursuit.

But it's there, in the deepest yearnings and disappointments, that I've met with the Triune God in the deepest, most intimate of ways, that marriage doesn't hold a candle to. There is a very real possibility that I may never experience the joys of a marriage covenant under God, which means I may never know the sexual intimacy of that covenant consummation. But the thing is... my happiness, and your happiness, that's not the point.

God's glory is the point. His renown is the point. The new heavens and earth colliding in the radiance and power of Christ's return is the point. God once again dwelling among His people is the point. All peoples, ethne, nations, tongues hearing the good news is the point.

There is a greater gospel that goes beyond the temporary. It goes beyond the pain and loneliness of singleness. It goes beyond the yearnings and cravings for a food that is not ours to take. It goes beyond the insecurities and fears in marriage. It goes beyond the unmet expectations and the disappointments. There is a greater gospel that goes beyond this life.

  • There is a greater gospel that points to the fullness of the Triune God. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
  • There is a greater gospel that celebrates in our weaknesses, because that's when He's strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
  • There is a greater gospel that rejoices in our sufferings, knowing that the glory to be revealed is not worth comparing to the temporal. (Romans 8:18)
  • There is a greater gospel that enables us to live our lives for His glory, not our own. (Psalm 115:1, 2 Corinthians 10:31)
  • There is a greater gospel that so radically changes our hearts that we look to the future with hope, knowing that we will one day stand face to face with Him, because He will be dwelling among us, and it's then and there that we will know fullness of joy, intimacy, love, companionship, hope, freedom, and life. (Revelation 21-22)