Warning: This Post is PG-13
Recently I've been mulling over an idea that seems to shock some people, thus the PG-13 rating of this particular post. I've been thinking about how we - and that includes me - need to grow up spiritually if we really want our witness to count for anything. As I look around sometimes I am surprised by the spiritual immaturity in parents who think if they take their children to church and if they read Bible stories at night, then spiritual parenting has been done. It is time for some mommas and daddies to go through "spiritual puberty." (Excuse me while I climb off my high horse and step on my own toes too for a while.) Then I look at myself and realize I'm not much better at modeling what I want my children to become. Good grief! How will they ever get it right if I can't? We must be living out our faith and pursuing Jesus with the passion of a bride after her groom....now that is a mature faith, driven by love instead of a checklist.
Jesus is described as the bridegroom several times in the New Testament. (Matthew 9:15; 25:1-13; John 3:29) In today's culture, we just say groom. Is that kinda weird to you? That whole idea really grossed me out until I took sex out of the equation. Sex is how we become intimate physically in marriage, but following the Holy Spirit's leading is how we create spiritual intimacy.
What was your marriage proposal like? Mine was fool-proof, according to my husband. On our way back to the dorm in Searcy (at Harding University) from a date in Little Rock, AR, John casually asked, "So when do you think would be a good date for us to get married?" (Note: He never asked me if I would marry him, thus eliminating the risk of rejection. Genius!)
My heart was beating in my chest as I quickly calculated when a good month would work. Then I calmly replied, "Well, I graduate in December. So I guess December or January would work."
To this John answered casually, "Okay."
On the outside I seemed calm. On the inside my brain was racing.
Okaaaaay? So are we engaged? What was that? Do I start planning a wedding? If I ask too many questions, he might tuck tail and run. Just be cool. There are plenty of months between now and December. Breathe!
Jesus, on the other hand, proposed to us with such sweeping grandeur that no romance novel, no romantic comedy, and no theatrical performance could ever do it justice. You see, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) We weren't even nice to Him or attractive. There was nothing "redeeming" about our character to cause Him to want us, except that His Father created us in His image. We were helplessly lost in our own filthy sins. (Ew!) This amazing Jesus came like a Knight in shining armor to defeat Satan by rising from the dead after suffering on the cross so that He and I (and you) could be together forever. Now, my friend, that is a proposal that makes my head and whole heart swoon! (And bless my husband's heart, he can't compete with Jesus Christ Himself, and shouldn't have to. John's question got the job done though, didn't it?)
Let's be clear. This is not an arranged marriage situation. I accepted this proposal on the day of my baptism. I made a choice to say, "YES!" to Jesus' proposal. However, I often live like He forced me into some sort of a horrible life. Yikes! Sometimes I live like an episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding....don't judge me that I know about this show. (It is like a train wreck when I'm flipping the channels. How can you turn away from the craziness?) Jesus gave me freedom from death and sin; so why do I cling to immature behaviors? Why do you?
My Fiancé has gone to heaven to prepare our home where we will live together. (John 14:2-3) I just need to honor His name and to be ready for His return. Honoring Jesus' name until He returns for me takes spiritual maturity. If I haven't allowed myself to go through spiritual puberty, then I'm going to stay stunted and immature - to the detriment of myself, and sadly, my family. (The difference between physical puberty and spiritual puberty is that I get to choose to progress through spiritual puberty, unlike physical puberty that comes whether or not I'm ready.)
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
I Corinthians 3:1-3 (NIV)
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV)
What does stunted immature spiritual behavior look like? I'm guessing if you or I begin with justifying our choices, then we are behaving immaturely. I'm going to be Super-Real now: Anything that comes before my pursuit of Jesus is an idol....period. I need to be careful that I don't put myself in a position of worshipping myself because my choices have become all about what pleases me. The last thing I want is for my Groom to change His mind about me!
The most exciting part about this engagement is that for those of us who accepted Jesus' marriage proposal Judgment Day won't be a terrifying time because it will be our Wedding Day. On that day we will finally have complete and absolute oneness with God in such a way that the resulting JOY can't be described with words. The apostle John tried in Revelation, but I suspect that is why it is so difficult to understand. He was at a loss for words to aptly describe the FABULOSITY-LOVING-JOYFULNESS-HAPPY-DANCE-SINGING that will be the feelings we will have in heaven with our Lord Jesus forever.
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
Revelation 19:6-8 (NIV)
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
Revelation 21:3-9 (NIV)
Now I ask you, don't you want that? Why wait for the joy that living for Jesus on earth can bring? Don't wait! Let's put those childish ways behind us and live for Jesus now - since He died for us while we were still gross.