Love Never Fails
Love Never Fails
Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday, 17th March 2019
Last Tuesday night was an extraordinary moment of worship right here…
It’s like we simply gathered together to bring a gift to God, for no other reason than to bless and glorify Him.
The plan is that we will continue to open these nights each month to anyone who has a heart to worship. It doesn’t matter what church the people come from good on you Amanda for inviting your Uni friends. All that matters is that we surrender our own agendas, and humble ourselves before God’s throne of grace, and bring a sacrifice of praise.
I wouldn’t be surprised if something very powerful is birthed out of these nights. Already it is building. Already the Anointing is building…
Anyway, the reason I mention that is because Tuesday night, in the midst of this Anointed worship, Fiona shared something prophetic that flowed from my sermon last Sunday.
A really quick summary of my message from Sunday is this:
When the Jews returned to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon, they quickly redug and rebuilt the foundations of the temple. King Cyrus, who had delivered them from captivity, also gave them everything they needed to rebuild the temple – including all the cedar, precious stones, gold, etc. that would be required.
When the foundations were completed, the priests came out in all their beautiful garments… the trumpets played, the people sang praises to God… and it was an incredible spectacle of celebration and joy, standing on the foundations of the future…
But soon after, opposition came, discouragement came… and the rebuilding of the temple itself was left abandoned for 16 years. In that time, it seems that the people lined their own houses with the cedar panels that were meant for the temple.
And God says through the prophets, (Haggai 1:4-5) “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!”
And Haggai brings a strong word – telling the people that the reason they are not prospering is because they have made their own houses and their own lives their main priority – while God’s house lies in ruins.
It challenges us today to make sure we are not just lining our own houses and taking care of our own lives, using our gifts, resources, talents for our own benefit – becoming primarily self focussed, when God says, I want you to put the kingdom of God first… then all the things that you need personally will be added to you. Surely, the temple of many people’s lives, or at least the potential temple of people’s lives, lies in ruins… and what are we doing about it? We are all called to be a temple for the Holy Spirit to dwell in – and many are yet to become His temple.
So with that in mind, Fiona shared this word that when foundations are being laid for any building, there’s always a lot of churned up dirt around, the site becomes messy… there’s often left over steel and timber and rubbish laying around… It’s just an inevitable part of putting down deep, secure and solid foundations. It can be a messy job!
I’ve been talking a lot about foundations this year. It’s so important that we are building on something solid, something strong… and not something flimsy and shifting like sand, just as the parable in the bible speaks about.
And so I can understand why there should be a great celebration when the foundations are completed.
And this word that Fiona shared brought our attention to the fact that even though a building site that only has foundations laid, is often a mess of dirt and mud and rubbish, there’s still great reason to celebrate and praise and worship.
And when we relate this to our own lives, if we at least have strong foundations in God, in His presence, in His Holy Spirit, and even though our lives might seem like they are a mess in some respects, it’s still important that we worship and that we celebrate Him amidst that stuff that yet needs to be cleaned up.
Ezra 3:10-11, “When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord , according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.”
Well, I thought that was a profound word, because I know that some of us do struggle with the fact that there’s mess around our lives. We are not yet perfect – and yet we keep running towards that finish line – when we will cross the line into the fullness of our identity as sons and daughters of God.
But don’t wait til then to worship! Don’t wait til then to give thanks and to celebrate. Stand on the solid foundation that you have in Christ – of who you are in Christ – the truth, the grace, the strength… and boldly put on your beautiful garment of praise. Worship Him with your whole being – your whole life!
Now this brings me to what I really want to encourage you with this morning. I love it how one word bounces off another… that’s how the Spirit works…
This might seem random… but I believe it’s exactly what the Holy Spirit is wanting to encourage us with today… I want to speak into the heart and soul of marriages this morning – because marriage is one of the God given, God designed foundations of our society.
If we are shoring up our foundations, then our marriages would be a perfect place to start.
There are gems here also that apply to all relationships… but primarily I feel that we need to come back to stand on and celebrate and worship God on this enduring sacrament of marriage – because it’s an area of life that is under attack… it’s facing tremendous opposition from a worldly viewpoint… and there is so much discouragement, intimidation, fear, insecurity, uncertainty… And I want us to stand up spiritually and make a stand for marriage! Stand up and celebrate the godly potential that every marriage has in this place. Let’s put on our apparel like the priests, and let there be a trumpet blast over every marriage in this place today!
I want to say to you this morning that the foundation of marriage itself is meant to lead us into an extraordinary and powerful act of worship.
So there’s some dirt and mud around… there’s some rubbish happening. There’s a bit of a mess to clean up… Welcome to the building process!
But let’s not focus our attention on the messes. Let’s focus our attention of what God says about marriage – what He calls us up into…
I want you to lift your vision for your own marriage. You single people can even do this for your future, if that’s your desire…
We’ll never step into the glorious, worshipful place of marriage that it is meant to be, by keeping our eyes on the struggles and the difficulties.
I read this story of a pastor who was visiting a Sunday School class of primary aged kids. He asked the class, “What does God say about marriage?”
Immediately one little boy shot up his hand and said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
I’m not sure the context was quite right – but unfortunately, the world is full of people who know not what they do in regards to marriage – especially marriage as it was originally designed to be!
The covenant love and bond between a man and a woman is not defined by a wedding. It isn’t even about the romance. All that is great and meaningful and special… but marriage is about a whole life of being together.
In fact, it’s learning and growing together to such a point that you become one.
Listen to the words of Jesus. This is not just some Old Testament, patriarchal concept… this is Jesus… (Mark 10:6-9), “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
To become one flesh is not only about sexual union. It means becoming “one after another…” becoming so committed to the other, so one with them, that only death can truly bring about separation. That’s the design… and yes, humanity has fallen short, just as it has in many other areas.
But God’s plan includes a spiritual oneness. And that’s why any break in a marriage covenant is such a big deal… the oneness was never even meant to become twoness again.
For those of you who are looking to be married, and those of course who are already married, we need to understand that our marriage is patterned after one of the most sacrificial, intimate, glorious marriages of all time.
It’s patterned off a marriage where the groom is so committed, so in love, so ready to lay down His life for His Bride, completely and utterly determined to make it work… and has made a vow – that He will never ever, ever walk away…
We’ve heard this next scripture many times at weddings. Certainly, if you’ve been to any of my weddings, you’ll always hear it. I don’t want anyone walking back down the aisle fitting the description of the little primary school kid – “not knowing what they are doing!”
Ephesians 5:25-33, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Every time I read this through, I realise, there’s not much room for self centredness. There’s not much room for a slack, complacent, “she’ll be right” attitude toward marriage.
Husbands have a massive amount of responsibility to make sure their wives are loved sacrificially – even to the point of laying down his own life for her. He has the job of sanctifying her and cleansing her with the Word of God. At the very least, he positions her in a place where the Word of God is a big part of their lives together – and they are sanctified under the Word together.
Jesus will present His bride, the church, as glorious – displaying the glory of God. And our marriages should display and bring glory to God as well.
Then there are those two words – nourish and cherish.
Nourish means to bring to maturity…
To cherish means to keep warm… to show tender love and tender care…
So my own paraphrase here is this: as husbands, we are meant to help our wives become everything they were created to be, to grow and mature into their true identity and destiny. And we are to bring warmth and comfort to their souls through gentle, tender love and care.
And I know what you’re thinking… you think that sounds great in theory… but now let’s look at the real world…
I’ve got some news for you. This is the real world! God knows how real it is.
Our broken world that we live in is not what God designed as real.
We’ve been given a blueprint for life based on how Jesus loves the church… and I couldn’t think of any better pattern to try and follow.
And when a man loves a woman – just like this – she will respond. She’s designed to respond. And she will respect you.. she will be devoted to you.
Let me share a couple of simple things that John Eldridge says that men and women have a tendency to do because of their brokenness.
He says that deeply embedded in the heart of a woman right from the time they are little girls, is the question – “Am I lovely?” In other words, will someone want me? Will someone pursue me and chase after me? And love me? Am I loveable? Do you see me? Are you willing to fight for me?
He says the question in the heart of a boy – and a man – is, “Am I adequate?” Do I have what it takes? He fears failure. His secret dream is to be a super hero. To fight a battle, to live an adventure and to rescue a beauty. But inside there’s also a fear that he won’t be good enough to fulfil the dream.
This is one man’s summary of the roots of our brokenness and fears. But whether he’s nailed it or not, it’s true that we have to push through the broken aspects of our lives… and learn to come into such a place of worship and surrender, that the template of true love that Christ reveals to us, becomes ours.
The question for all of us this morning is, are we moving towards oneness? Are we moving towards worship? Are we willing to lay aside the fears of abandonment, isolation, failure, rejection… and trust God to help us follow His pattern?
Psalm 127 comes to mind.
Psalm 127:1, “Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.”
Our marriages are a house that is being built upon a foundation – but what foundation?
As men and women – but especially as men, we need Jesus to be with us as we build our marriage. Without Him, we labor in vain.
Labour here means: toil, i.e. work severely and with irksomeness…
What on earth is irksomeness? It means irritation… annoyance… weariness… exasperation… aggravation…
Anybody experienced any irksomeness in their marriage lately?
And not only do you experience these things without the Lord being the builder, you do it in vain… in other words… with nothing to show for it.
I’m not saying you don’t have Jesus – but He needs to be the head of your house and the builder of it… He needs to be the strength and grace and wisdom that you run to in all things related to your marriage, your home, your children… whatever house you are building and guarding.
This surely applies to those who are single as well, who are building their own house and life and relationships. Jesus is always the foundation to build upon wherever you are at on the journey.
Don’t allow discouragement or weariness to overtake you. Stand on your faith! Stand on the Rock of Jesus. Run to him for all things…
Men have a tendency to run into a cave when it all gets too hard. Aieutu stole my thunder here… she spoke about some of this yesterday at the Women’s event. Not that I listened in to secret womens business – but I heard about it.
Men look for an escape. But all that does is bring abandonment to the very person in their life that fears it the most. Sure, we all need space sometimes – but to to the extent that it causes grief to the one we love.
I know what I’m talking about. That was me! My coping mechanism was to withdraw emotionally, to go into an emotional cave… And whatever issues Venese and I were trying to sort out… this only made it ten times worse, because Venese would then struggle with abandonment, even more than whatever the issue was in the first place.
And her trying to dig me out of the cave with a crowbar didn’t help the situation.
But hopefully we’ve both become better than that. Venese can verify if I’m better than I used to be – or not!
Let me finish with the qualities of love that will undergird and bring strength and endurance to any marriage – and I’m going to add a few thoughts from the James White Commentary as we go through.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love suffers long and is kind;”. We’re talking about Patience and kindness here. Thank God He has been patient with me – and you. Without patience from God and from others, we’d all be doomed. And kindness – it’s so underrated. Being kind, especially to those we love and cherish, is powerful in turning things around.
“love does not envy;” “love does not parade itself,” This literally means, love does not make a parade. If you’re a Facebook user, you’ll know how much love can get paraded – including love of self, by the way! But I have found that the more couples make a show and a parade of their relationship… all the selfie snaps, etc., the more likely it’s actually struggling. Real love between a husband and wife does not try and draw attention to itself. It just is…!!! And the mystery of it draws others to seek its foundations.
Love “is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;”
Genuine love will always seek the truth – even when the truth is hard to receive – and even when it hurts. The love within a godly marriage will uphold truth as higher than emotional discomfort. Because that’s what real intimacy is.
It “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
There’s something very vulnerable, innocent, pure and trusting about a marriage that puts the glory of God first.
I want to encourage everyone who is married this morning, both men and women, to gently take down any walls, fears, rejections, feelings of abandonment or fear of abandonment, feelings of inadequacy, or fear of failing…
Do as Jesus says in to His bride, His church in these last days… come back – return to your first love.
Remember, the relationship that Jesus has with the Church is our pattern – our template for our own marriage. He asks His church to lay down those things that have caused estrangement, caused distrust… and come back to the joy and faith that you had at the beginning.
Come back again to the foundations, where God Himself called you into covenant with Himself.
Come back to the foundations and worship again… Give thanks again…
If necessary, begin to rebuild the house with the Lord… with kindness, with appreciation, with patience, with truth… begin again to nourish and cherish one another…
Maybe you have to hit the rest button again, and begin the journey afresh to become one… to grow as one from a new and fresh foundation…
I know I’m speaking to some people this morning.
Your marriage has the very real potential to become a beautiful act of worship, if it isn’t already.
Believe, Hope, endure again. Love never fails!