Acts 17:11 Archives

Idolatry and Marriage

In response to an email that stated, "I feel like I need major surgery to get all the idolatry out of me" concerning marriage, by Dean VanDruff.

The teachers at Peninsula Bible Church (in Northern Cal) are very keen on the idea that inordinate sexual attraction and lust are manifestations of a broken relationship with God, and can never be satisfied unless the source of the problem is fixed. They suggest that single people can and have found complete peace and control by simply rejoicing in and enjoying the fellowship of God in the Holy Spirit. I can see how this might be true, but I can't say I ever really experienced it while single. I experienced something else entirely, where God completely took away all sexual desire, making me a eunuch--I feared permanently--but that is a different story. I would not offer my situation as a normal or proper solution, but rather as a desperate measure for a very perverted person like myself. For people not as fundamentally debauched as I was sexually, I can actually see the wisdom of what PBC teaches (and others), that wanderlust is a symptom of a deficiency in our most fundamental relationship: with God. They actually teach and claim that it is possible to short-circuit sexual desire and attraction by simply being absorbed in God as single people. It makes sense, theoretically, although I can't say from personal experience.

But perhaps this is not what you meant; rather you are more concerned with the "idolatry" aspect that can tempt married (or for that matter, just sexually involved) people to take their other-flesh too seriously.

I term this the "looking up the sunbeam" problem. Sunbeams are not "real", they have no "body", they are just the effect of a real sun going through a crack and illuminating dust particles. Imagine trying to grasp a sunbeam, being deceived that it had substance in itself; this would be a bit silly, no? It is just floating dust.

God is the source of everything cool, great, glorious, worthy, awesome, or any good word you could find. His glory reflects off of things, shines though things, etc., but these things are not "real" in the same sense, and they would not exist at all except for His radiant beauty. Thus, we need to "look up the sunbeam" real fast, else we will find ourselves "worshipping the created things" rather than the "creator", as in Rom 1:25. Interestingly, this text tends to support PBC's spiritual insight: that God sends sexual lust as a judgment to those who refuse to properly give Him credit, honor and praise. Fascinating, eh?

Along this line, if you have not seen it already, there is a bible study on "Glory" which deals with this in more depth.

There has never been anything in my life that has caused me to praise God more--and more genuinely--than my wife. She has been a very good "agent of grace" to show me the goodness of God in the physical world, and somehow my basic instinct is to give God credit, not her; and she does not seem to mind and does the same thing with me. Perhaps this proper regarding comes from our courtship, where we both realized we were marrying complete loser/sinners, and thus we now find ourselves consistently shocked when good things happen. With low (and realistic) expectations based on a perception of what flesh is capable of, the Spirit shines through all the more vividly when present, and when not there is no idolatrous "shock" to suffer of being "let down". This is a narrow path, and recounting it makes me thankful for the guidance of the Lord through what seems a miraculous and impossibly dangerous course.

The fear of the Lord also motivates me as well. I am convinced that God will take the dangerous thing from my hands, as He has proven over and over He will. If I begin to idolize Laura, I might well be calling judgment onto her, or me, or both. Rather, it seems more fit to just thank and enjoy Him, and His agents--especially this one agent. <smiles>

Col 2:17 (NIV) These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Finally, consider that of the old covenant rituals, only marriage remains as not being made "obsolete" by the New Covenant, since it alone has yet to be fulfilled. We no longer kill bulls or birds, for example, as this would be profane considering these were only a "shadow of what was to come" in Christ, and now we have the reality. We no longer observe the Sabbath as a day for the same reason, as there is a perpetual "Today" (Heb 3) of rest found in Christ, who is the "Lord of Shabbat". Again, there is no longer a physical temple, as we are the place where the Holy Spirit longed to dwell all along, not in some box in a curtained room. Seeing this rather obvious dynamic, you can see why Jesus seemed a bit miffed that the "teachers of Israel" did not know that marriage was also only a temporary, shadow ritual, and would not extend into heaven. When what marriage is "pointing to" occurs--the real and eternal marriage from which our marriages are mere shadows and from where they gain their legitimacy--then continuing on with the shadow would be like sacrificing a lamb after Jesus died: there is something blasphemous about it. So, of course it will not continue in heaven. All that marriage reflects now will be consummated in Christ and us.

To be sure, until Jesus came and died it would do you no good to flout the law to sacrifice, circumcise, and sabbath; for these were His orders in the meantime. In the same way, we need to take serious the marriage covenant till what it points to cascades upon us.

Still, you get the feeling at times that David and others in the old covenant were piercing through, seeing past disemboweled goats and human priests and painful circumcisions to the reality of Jesus; even if dimly. Perhaps we, too, can see past what marriage is merely a hint of. Perhaps we can be "firstfruits" of that celebration, that ecstasy, that glory, here and now, and thus not find ourselves taking these "types", shadows, and pointers too seriously. This is not quite "surgery", but a recognition of what God is up to. It is getting the point of the sermon of marriage. But it is a sort of surgery, as what is carnal in us wants to cling to idols, and not "look up the sunbeam" to its source.

Rather, "All things Christ", including marriage. In Him, and to Him, and through Him are all things.

C.S. Lewis likened marriage and sexual consummation to a candle in a dark room. It looks so bright and luminous, casting its light in flickers all about. But now imagine this same candle in a field with the blazing noon-day sun burning down all around it. It would not seem so bright then. In fact, it would be "swallowed up" in the greater light to the point that it would be unnoticeable.

The intimacy we feel towards our spouses, as opposed to everyone else, is God's ordination of covenant to preach us a "sermon"--if you will--of the Kingdom to come. There will be no marriage in heaven, Jesus said. With one person (at a time, until death) marriage is a taste of heaven. But that taste is like the difference between a puny candle in a dark room and the overwhelming and majestic heat of the sun, hardly comparable except that both give light.

Get the most out of the sermon, but do not take it too seriously. This life is but a vapor, and the glory of it is fleeting. Let us "exchange" our human, carnal glory for the immortal glory of God that is offered us

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