West Africa Times | Serving The Community Since 2001 | Page 26

by me, but by Jesus. That’s the deepest issue. How can the heart of a believer embrace Jesus as its supreme treasure and satisfaction, and reject the words of Jesus in order to be in the arms of one who has no faith and no true affection for the believer’s most treasured possession? It’s inconceivable to me. I’ve always found that incomprehensible. Something is deeply, deeply wrong with the heart’s affection for Christ. That’s the second layer of sinfulness. And third, if faithful leaders in the church have lovingly explained God’s will based on God’s word to the believer, and have told the believer not to move forward with this illicit marriage out of obedience to Christ, then the marriage is not only rebellion against the explicit biblical c o m m a n d a n d n o t only a revelation of an idolatrous heart that puts a human above Christ in the affections, but also a spurning of the authority of the elders, which God gave to protect the sheep from sin. N ow t h a t ’ s t h e situation, and I start there so that the rest of what I have to say will sound appropriately serious. My answer is that the elders plead, they pray, they teach, and then, if all of that is rejected, you remove the believer from membership in the church, for moving ahead with the marriage. The aim of this removal is to sober the disobedient believer, wake them up, and win them to a repentant and obedient heart and restoration. Many people do not take the Bible seriously. They are baffled and angry by churches who take the Bible as seriously Cont’d on page 27

Sometimes, we come to God with nothing but broken hearts and broken dreams. In these days of a pandemic, some of us have lost our jobs, some have endured a broken marriage or a broken relationship, and yet others have lost loved ones to Covid-19, and we are left poorer and broken.

 Yet, we are reminded in this holy season that, “Even the humblest gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in God’s eyes". The truth is, we do not need to make any good impression at all because it is God who gives himself to us as a gift.

  G o d k n o w s u s intimately, and loves us, even in our brokenness. And God is able to take our broken lives and make something beautiful to God’s own glory. T his is the real m e a n i n g o f t h e Christmas story; that God comes to us with nothing but pure love, in the form of a helpless baby to transform our lives and our world! May each of us find the humility to present ourselves at the creche, just as we are! All we can give God is our hearts!

M E R R Y CHRISTMAS!!!!

To answer this, let’s clarify how many layers of sinfulness there are when a professing believer rejects the counsel of the church elders and marries an unbeliever. I’ll just mention three layers. There are others, but this will help us feel the seriousness of it. Layers of Sin First, the professing believer is defying and rebelling against an explicit command of the New Testament of God. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:39, “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” “Only in the Lord” means only to a person who is in the Lord — a believer, a follower of Jesus. So, if this teaching is made clear to the believer, and the believer rejects obedience to this command, she or he is acting in open defiance of the teaching of the apostles and of God. Second, probably even more important, because it gets to the heart of the matter: a believer who chooses to marry an unbeliever s h ow s h ow d e e p l y c o m p r o m i s e d t h e believer’s love for Christ is. Jesus said, in essence, “Unless you love me more than you love your closest human loved one, you’re not worthy of me” (see Matthew 10:37). That’s an amazing claim that Jesus lays on our hearts. But if the believer enjoys the presence and the friendship and the intimacy of a Christr e j e c t i n g p e r s o n (boyfriend or girlfriend) more than the presence and the fellowship of Christ, their very faith and love for Jesus is in question by Jesus — not

Being too poor, this peasant girl could not afford to buy anything. Wor ried about her situation, she found no joy in going to Church that evening. But her little cousin convinced her that even though they had nothing to give baby Jesus, they needed to go and worship at the crèche. Her cousin told her, "Even the humblest gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in God’s eyes". And so, the little peasant girl knelt by the roadside and gathered a bunch of weeds which she fashioned into a small bouquet. When they entered the small village chapel, she carefully placed the bouquet of weeds on the straw in the nativity scene. S u d d e n l y , i n plain view of all the worshippers, the weeds burst into star-shaped flowers of brilliant red color, and soon, the entire crèche was covered by the same beautiful crimson star plant! The entire church witnessed a miracle! And from that day on, the villagers called the poinsettia plant, Flores de Noche Buena (flowers of the Holy Night). This miracle is a reminder to all of us that God is capable of doing beautiful things with the poorest gifts.

These words a r e t h e opening lines to the final verse of a very popular hymn, “In The Bleak Midwinter”. They were penned by the English Poet, Christina Rosetti in the mid nineteenth century. Christmas is one of the occasions when gifts are given and received. So as Christmas draws near, and we are all preparing for the special miracle of God coming into the world, I wonder what gift we have to offer. When an important person is coming into our home, we try to make a good first impression, so we go out of our way to wash and clean all that needs cleaning, so that our guest will find our home worthy of habitation. But what can we give God to make a good first impression? I am reminded of a Mexican legend about the poinsettia plant. In this story, a little peasant girl from a poorer town in Mexico was brokenhearted on Christmas Eve because she was not able to buy a present for baby Jesus. [It was the tradition that everyone brings a present for baby Jesus to be presented at the Nativity scene on Christmas Eve.]

Christian Marries Non-Christian How Does A Church Respond?

John Piper Modal, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

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