“So we will be glad and happy and give him praise. The wedding day of the Lamb is here, and his bride is ready. She will be given a wedding dress made of pure and shining linen. This linen stands for the good things God’s people have done.”
—Revelation 19:7, 8
The last two years have been a wonderful experience serving the churches of the SBTC. As I write this final article, allow me to encourage our churches to keep the faith because we win in the end. While I have watched the morality of our country plummet and the values of home and married life decline lower than I ever thought possible, I have questioned where the Christian morals have gone that once existed in homes and churches across America. How did we get to the state where couples would prefer to cohabitate than marry? Why didn’t the church take a stronger stand against the gay and lesbian marriage agenda? How can some Christian families and churches do nothing while 55 million unborn babies are aborted?
These last two years I have fought the things that the Bible tells me God is against and embraced the things that God loves. Although my time as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is ending, my fight continues for the family, traditional marriage and biblical morals. So please allow me to encourage you to keep the faith and stand for Christ. He’s coming back for his bride for whom he gave up his life to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s Word as described in Ephesians 5:25b-26.
I believe that the church must do all she can to fight the moral ills of society and keep the church and marriage a representation of the bride’s relationship with Christ. We must continue to raise our children to love the Lord and know that the battle is not over until the marriage feast of the Lamb. It is highly important that believers understand how essential it is that the Christian home becomes the subject and object of evangelism. The function of religious centers and churches is to bring families together for fellowship with other believers, sharing in God’s Word and worship, and in cooperative ministry. However, God was intentional when he created families and homes to become discipleship centers. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6–9). The family is a discipleship small group and small groups are about relationships. The biblical purpose of parenting and grandparenting is to impress the hearts of children with the love of God—he has given us children to raise them with the Word of God. Richard S. Hess and M. Daniel Carroll, in “Family in the Bible,” state, “The family is God’s primary engine for world evangelization, through the power of multi-generational faithfulness.”
A report on spiritual formation in the home by Strong Families Innovation Alliance (available at homepointemodel.com) says evangelical families are failing to win and keep their children in the Christian faith. This is a strong statement that causes us to examine our commitment to the Great Commission. With this in mind, it should be the aim of local congregations to transform their churches into ministries with an emphasis on becoming intentional in strengthening strong home ministries throughout all their church departments. This will ensure that, as churches, we are fully committed to continue our efforts to impact the next generation of Christians and build strong families.
When 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce it’s essential that one goal of the church must be to provide tools that will mature marriages. When couples believe that their marital relationship can draw them closer to God, they are on the road to marriage maturity. Accepting one’s spouse as a gift from God allows a couple to observe the value that God places on marriage. This will also help couples understand that they will never be able to love one another as God loves them. Every couple should know that God appreciates their mate more than they ever could, and he understands our spouses in a way that a human partner is incapable of perceiving. If a couple is going to develop a mature marriage, they must find the heart to change themselves for God. In order to be happy in marriage, one has to realize that our spouses cannot provide total happiness, only God can provide a life of true happiness. It is important for churches to educate couples with this biblical truth. In spite of the many good times that are shared in married life, there is a void inside every person that only God can fill.
Gary Thomas also promotes the effort of improving marriages and homes when he writes, “The holy place of God is where humans discover each other in love. Marriage should be viewed as a Holy institution.” Within this divine institution (marriage), the Bible has established the foundation for loving our spouses through all the joyous and difficult times of married life.
Marriage, as God intended between a man and woman, is a symbol of Christ’s marriage to the church and God’s marriage to Israel. It’s a masterpiece to be celebrated—that God created on earth to give us a heavenly glimpse of the great day when we celebrate the wedding feast in heaven. Marriage was the first human event to take place on earth, with God serving as the officiating minister and witness. Al Janssen, in “Marriage Masterpiece,” says, “From the moment God created the first man and woman and joined them in marriage, it was his desire that through this union all of creation would gain a little understanding of the Lord’s immeasurable love for mankind.” Every marriage on earth was intended to be a foretaste of this great day. Holy marriages are gems that reflect facets of the incredible love of the Lamb and his bride. So we will be glad and happy and give him praise. The wedding day of the Lamb is here, and his bride is ready. She will be given a wedding dress made of pure and shining linen. This linen stands for the good things God’s people have done (Revelation 19:7-8). The Bible teaches how marriage is a culminating act in our earthly environment and is the source of our eternal heavenly existence. Although some Americans no longer consider sin shameful, the church must remember that there is a day when all who are not God’s will be judged. On that day all who have lived according to God’s will are invited to enjoy the marriage supper of the Lamb. Stay with Jesus—we win in the end!