29 Mar A love to remember: Gospel to self
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Before I start, let me just make it clear that this series is not your typical relationship series. I have no intention in giving you 10 steps on how to have the best romantic relationship in your life. Two reasons. First, I’m a single man. All the single ladies make some noise from wherever you are watching. Wow, that is a very loud noise. I can feel the heaven shakes in my spirit. Kidding, I feel nothing. Second, many years ago I took the 16 personalities test online. Maybe some of you have heard of it before. It is a free test online to discover your personalities. All you have to do is answer sets of question and they will tell you your personalities. Mine is INTJ. And in the section that talks about the weakness of my personality, they said that one of my weakness is clueless in romance. As if that’s not self-explanatory enough, they feel the need to add this description to my personalities: “Needless to say, finding a compatible partner is the most significant challenge most INTJs will face in life.” Enough said. I hate this test.
So, let’s be clear on that. I’m not here to lecture you on how to be the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend. My goal for this series is to help you see God’s design and purpose for marriage and how the gospel shapes the way we view marriage. And I am using the word marriage intentionally. I’m not sure if you are aware, but we won’t find the concept of dating in the Bible. What we see in the Bible regarding a romantic relationship between man and woman is all said in the context of marriage. One of the questions that I often received is, “When can I start dating?” Over the years I keep changing my answer. It used to be 20 years old back in the days. Then I change to 21 for guys and 20 for girls. Then I realized that most guys mature slower than expected so I raise the bar to 22 for guys and 21 for girls. And today, it’s like 30 for guys and 25 for girls. Kidding. Most of you hate this sermon already. It’s okay I still love you. But if I can be honest, I don’t think age is the issue. The only reason I throw that number into the equation is simply that I don’t see many young people, especially guys, ready to take their God-given role in a relationship. The Bible has one clear goal for every romantic relationship between man and woman – marriage. To answer the question when can I start dating, this is my answer. If you agree with me say amen at the end of it. You are ready to start dating when you know that marriage is the goal of pursuing a relationship. If you are not ready, then leave him or her alone and come back when you are ready. Amen? Anyway, more on that in the coming weeks.
Let me give you outline of the series. Today we are starting a relationship series that is titled, “A love to remember.” Today we I’ll talk about Gospel to self. It is the key to every healthy relationship. It is the most foundational and the most important. Without it, every relationship will crumble. Next week, I’ll talk about Gospel to the unloved. How every earthly relationship will fail us the moment we put too much hope in it. Then on the third part of the series, I’ll be speaking on Gospel to husband. We will discuss the struggles every man faces in living their God-given role. Ladies, you don’t want to miss it. You need to know what to expect from your husband or future husband. And on the fourth part, I’ll be speaking on Gospel to wife and the struggles every woman faces in a relationship. Tough, I know. Please pray for me that no girl will crucify me after the sermon. We will then continue to the fifth part, the Gospel and marriage. We will look at how the gospel radically changes the way we look at and think of marriage. And finally, we will talk about Gospel to the single. I am very excited about this one. I think this is one of the most neglected topics when we talk about relationship. I think church often focus so much on marriage that it often makes those who are single think that they are not living God’s purpose for their life unless they are married. We need to change that because it is not true. The Bible has a lot of wonderful things to say to singles. Single people are not less than married people in the economy of God. In fact, Christianity is started by a single person. And the person who has the most influence in the writing of the New Testament is also single. That is why we need to have a healthy Biblical view on singleness.
And here is my goal for this series. I hope that by the end of this series, whether you are married, in a relationship, single for now, or forever single, that you will be one step closer in becoming the husband, the wife, the single that God desires you to be. That you will be able to live the life that God has called you to and flourish. Are you ready? We are going to start at the very beginning of it all, the book of Genesis.
The original design
Genesis 1:26-28 – 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
In Genesis 1, we found a rhythm where God created everything by the sound of his voice, and it was so. There is certainty in his words. God created everything out of nothing. Whatever God said, it was so. And then God created man in his image and likeness. For centuries, many theologians have debated what it means to be created in God’s image and likeness. But one thing for sure, you create an image or statue of yourself because you want to be remembered. We are statues of God. So, from the very beginning, we were created to reflect God’s glory and to find our value in that glory. Ultimately, our worth is found in the worth of God, not of ourselves. And if that’s not enough, verse 27 repeats the fact that we are created in God’s image!
What do these verses teach us about men and women? Few things. One, we are created with intrinsic value. That means we don’t have to look at other people to tell us what we are worth. Let me give an example. When I was on my early teens, my face was pimples free. I was praised a lot for my smooth babyface. But then puberty hit a bit late and pimples started to show up on my face. And this is what I did. I covered my pimples with Band-Aid. I thought it was better to look naughty than to have pimples on my face. True story. Why? Because I look to other people for affirmation. But Genesis tells us that we are created in God’s image and likeness. We are not valuable because we are pimple-less. We are not valuable because we have many followers on Instagram. Our values do not depend on our hairstyle; what we wear, our appearance, school, work, possessions etc. We are valuable simply because we are created in the image of the most glorious God. This is a simple basic truth. To not understand this is to spend our lives chasing after the value that never satisfies us. We began to look to relationship to tell us that we are valuable. Our heart screams for acknowledgement that we do not receive. The truth is that we already have an unsurpassed value built inside of us already! I have talked to many couples and one of the greatest frustrations they faced in a relationship is they did not receive what they wanted to receive. They wanted to be acknowledged, affirmed and appreciated and they were looking to one another to give it to them. But if we understand that we are created with intrinsic value, it changes the way we approach a relationship. Rather than seeking to receive, we give.
Two, we can reflect God’s glory to one another. Let me explain. Single guys, what do you do when you enter a room filled with single ladies? I heard that inside every guy there is a built-in-hot-meter. Guys have a hot meter that can detect the level of hotness of the girls around them. And their head spins faster the higher the level of hotness. So, when they walk into a room, their hot meter quickly tells them, “There is a super-hot girl at the corner of the room, but you have no chance. There is a not hot girl on the other side of the room, but you can do better. Let’s try to find the so-so hot that fits you.” By the way, my hot meter is broken. I have to be told by others when there is a pretty girl in the room. I think God knows that I am going to be a pastor, so he broke my hot meter intentionally. Otherwise, my head might spin all the time when I am preaching. But this is not only true of guys. This is also true of girls. Girls, you also quick to rate the guys around you. Right? And no, I do not have an issue with guys and girls appreciating God’s wonderful creation through each other. But we need to realize that everyone is created in God’s image and every single individual is valuable. Doesn’t matter what they wear. Doesn’t matter what their past, doesn’t matter how they act, they are created in God’s image. So we will honour them and value them not because they earn it nor because they deserve it but simply because they are created in God’s image. As much as our value is not defined by anything we do, others value is not defined externally. They are the reflection of God’s glory as much as we are. Therefore, we should respect and honour each other, looking through everything through God’s lens. It means that in our relationship, we give life to another rather than suck life out of one another. Our relationship is marked with gratitude and thanksgiving toward one another. Don’t you want to be in this kind of relationship?
Three, we are created male or female. This is crucial. God created both male and female in his image and likeness. Which means that male and female have equal dignity. There are only two kinds of human. Male and female. And this is good news. If the verse said God created male and male or female and female, that’s not good news. Male and female are the representation of the image of God. There is no such thing as male trapped in a female body and vice versa. You are either male or female. And pay attention to this. It is to male and female that God gave the commands to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion. These commands can mean a lot of things but at least in the most basic meaning, it is a command to reproduce and make babies. And it takes male and female to do so. This is the natural order of creation. Male and female join together to reproduce the image of God on earth. I know it is against the current of our culture to say this, but it means that homosexuality and transgender are not part of the natural order. Homosexuality and transgender are not part of God’s original design; they are the product of sin. We’ll talk more about it as the series progress. Let me say another unpopular truth. Male and female have equal dignity but they are different. They are not the same. And again, this goes against the stream of our culture. We live in a culture that tries to eradicate all differences between male and female. Praise God for the feminist movement. They did a lot of good to raise the dignity of women. However, what some of the feminist try to do in removing all differences between male and female is not Biblical. They argue that the only difference between male and female is our physical make-up. And because of it, now we live in a generation that is confused about what it means to be a man or a woman. But the Bible is very clear on the subject. Male and female are equal but they have different roles. They are not only different in their physical make-up but they also have different role and function. And when both male and female play their part, society flourishes.
Four, we are created for a personal relationship with God. I am not saying this because I am a pastor. Look carefully at the text. It is very strange. It says, “Let us make man in our image…” Wait. Who is us? There is an important change that happened in this verse. Before this verse, you find the rhythm that God created everything out of nothing. God says, “let there be light” and light shows up. God says, “let there be animals” and animals come to existence. But when it comes to humanity, the rhythm changes. Suddenly God refers to himself in the plural. “Let us make man in our image.” What does it mean? It is what we call the Trinity, God is three persons in one. There is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. They are all different person, yet they are one. Some of you start to have a headache already. If you have any question about the Trinity, you can message Edrick after the service. He would love to explain the Trinity to you. But watch this. In the past, when I think about creation, the image that comes to my head is an old man with long a long grey beard who spins his stick around and create everything with his words. But that is not right. The image of God that we have in Genesis is a community. From all of eternity, God has been a community of persons delighting, loving and communicating with each other. God is never alone or lonely. He is always a community. That’s why the Bible says that God is love. It does not say that God has love or God creates love. But God is love because love always existed in the relationship between the triune God. If God is alone, then love and relationship are only secondary to who God is. You cannot have love and relationship if you are on your own. But because God is triune, love and relationship is part of the ultimate reality of what it means to be God. I love the way Keller puts it. He says that the Trinity is like an eternal dance between the triune God where there is perfect harmony and laughter. They are in a perfect dance where they love, honour, and delighting in one another.
Why am I saying all of this? Here is why. If God is a triune God, that means for us to be created in the image of God means that we are created for a personal relationship. We cannot thrive without it because we were made in the image of God who is a community. To be human is to have a personal relationship. This explains why later God says that it is not good for man to be alone. But more important than that, it means that we are created to join God’s dance. That is why we are created in God’s image. So that we can love and be loved, known and be known, praise and be praised, enjoy and be enjoyed. We were created to have a personal relationship with the triune God where love and delight is the mark of the relationship. A lot of time, when we think of a personal relationship with God, we think of coming to church, sing a song, listen to a sermon, read your Bible and pray. And occasionally, we get this sense of a vague presence of God. But that is not the picture that we have in Genesis 1. To have a personal relationship with God is to experience his love and delight for us. It is to join the dance of Trinity. It is to be loved by God and to love him. It is to be known by God and know him. It is to be praised by God and praise God. It is to be enjoyed by God and enjoy him. This is what we are created for.
The complementary role
That’s Genesis 1. But then in Genesis 2, something else happened. Please note that Genesis 2 is not the continuation of the creation story in Genesis 1. Genesis 1 tells us the big picture of what God did in the creation. Genesis 2 is different. Genesis 2 zooms in on the creation of humanity. It tells us the detail of what happened on the sixth day of creation. We’ll pick it up in verse 18. This is very deep. Genesis 2:18 – Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” And all the men say, “Amen.” Now, think about it. What God is saying here has a massive implication. At that time, Adam is in the garden of Eden. He is in a perfect environment. Think about the best food you ever tasted. Adam has better food. Adam has dominion over creation. Adam has power. And most importantly, Adam has a relationship with the triune God. Adam has everything. He has the delight, pleasure, and the love of God. Yet God says that it is not good for Adam to be alone. This is the first “not good” in the Bible. And this “not good” is not accidental. This “not good” is by God’s design. God does not make a mistake when he created Adam. God intentionally created Adam with a deep need that even the perfect garden of Eden cannot satisfy it. Let me take it a step further. God created Adam with a deep need that even a perfect relationship with God cannot satisfy it. Before you throw a stone at me and call me a heretic, think about it. Because God is a communal God, you and I are also designed to be in community. God is “us.” We cannot grow in the image of “us” on our own. We need other people. So, we are not only made to have a relationship with God, but we are also made to have a relationship with one another. Only together we can reflect the image of the triune God. I’ve said this a lot of time. Christianity is not an individual project; it is a communal project. Christianity is not only about me and God but it is also about us. You and I need one another to grow in the image of God and reflect the image of God. That is why I am going to continue to push you to seek creative ways to engage with your community in the midst of covid-19. Praise God for social distancing but there is only so much Netflix can do for you. It won’t be long before your soul feels the angst for community.
But let’s be more specific. Not only you and I need one another, but we also need someone different from us. God says that Adam needs a helper fit for him. The word fit means that it is not the same but is different by purpose. It is like two pieces of a puzzle who are very different from each other, but they fit together. They complement one another. So from the beginning of creation, we already have this image of equality between male and female but they are also different at the same time. We can’t do life on our own. As awesome and capable Adam is, God says that it is not good for him to be alone. Let me tell you a story about my parents. My dad is a capable man in many ways. He is the leader of my family. One day, my dad was driving, and my mom was next to him, and GPS was giving him the direction. But then they reached a point where my dad was kind of familiar with the area. And because of it, my dad chose to ignore the GPS. When GPS said to turn, he chose to disobey GPS because his instinct said otherwise. To which my mom said, “Pap, we should have turned left.” And my dad replied, “Nah, this is the right way. GPS is wrong.” A few minutes later, it happened again. GPS said A and my dad chose B and my mom said, “We should go A.” And Dad replied, “Nah, this is the right way. GPS is wrong.” 10 minutes later, they were lost. It is a classic story that happened to every man. The point is men need help.
So God brought every animal to Adam for Adam to name them. What a cool job description. Why did Adam get to name all animals and not God? Because Adam was given dominion over creation. To name something is to have authority over it. Are you with me on that? I did not name myself. I did not choose my name. I did not come out of my mom’s womb and tell her “My name is Yosia.” Who named me? My parents. Naming is a sign of authority. So Adam began to name every animal. “T-rex, lion, butterfly, cockroaches, ants” etc. But here is the good news. Genesis 2:20 – “But there was not found a helper fit for him.” Imagine what happens if God finds a suitable helper among the animals. That is not cool. Then God said to Adam, “Why don’t you take a nap? You must be tired after all those works? Get some sleep.” So, Adam knocked Adam out and God took a rib out of Adam and created a woman. This is good news for man. If ever come a time where your girlfriend or a wife complains to you, “After all this time, why did you still not understand me?” All you have to say is, “Beb, when God created you, I was knocked out.” When Adam woke up, he saw his rib (Eve). And the moment he saw Eve, he started writing poem. “Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.” Love does that to you.
But don’t miss this. Genesis 2:23 – Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Who got to name woman? Not God. It is Adam. And later in Genesis 3, it is also Adam who gave the name Eve to the woman. What does it mean? Hear me. It means that the husband is given authority over his wife and the wife is created to be a helper fit for her husband. Now, the moment I say that every feminist is ready to stone me. If you are a feminist, I know what you are thinking right now. “I can’t believe this guy! What era does he come from? Is he from stone age or something?” I get it. I feel you. This goes against what our culture believes. But I cannot and will not change what the Bible says on the matter. More on this in the fourth part of the series. For now, it is important for us to know that the word “helper” does not in any way make a woman less than a man. Male and female are created with equal dignity. And the word helper means that you use your power to enable and empower someone else, instead of replacing him. For example, when I help Edrick and Ellis with their sermon, I do it because I know more about the Bible and preaching than them. Correct? So, when a woman becomes a helper to her husband it means that she has something that her husband does not. But then when I help Edrick and Ellis with their sermon, I am not writing their sermon for them. Nor am I preaching their sermon for them. In order to help them, I am empowering them with what I have for them to do better with their sermon. I am not replacing them. That is the image given to us. Women are superior in certain ways than men but she ought to use that power to enable and empower him, not to replace him. Are you with me?
Now let me speak to the men. Yes, man is given authority to lead but man is also called to use that authority to sacrificially love his wife. Man is called to make the sacrifices needed to make the marriage flourish. Genesis 2:24 – Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. The main responsibility for marriage lies on men. So even though man is called to lead, man is responsible before God for their marriage as well. Relationship requires a lot of hard work from both men and women. Amen? But the weight of that responsibility falls on the man. And the result of that relationship is beautiful. Genesis 2:25 – And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. There is joy, delight and love in the relationship between husband and wife. They are naked which means that they know everything about one another and they are not ashamed. There is a relationship where they are fully known yet fully loved at the same time.
The broken design
So this is what we have so far. God has ordained a certain system in which relationship can flourish. Men and women are created with equal dignity but different complementary roles. This system requires husbands to loves wives sacrificially. This system asks wives to submit to the husbands’ leadership willingly. This system is so radical and goes against everything our culture is teaching us. But this is a system that God has ordained and if we trust and follow the system, relationship will flourish. There is a harmony, joy and delight in the relationship as each one plays their unique roles.
Here is the problem. We suck at submitting ourselves to the system. In the very next chapter, Adam and Eve destroyed the system. They decided they know better than God and walked out of the system and rebelled against God. Eve was tempted to eat the forbidden fruit and she did. And she gave some to Adam. And rather than fulfilling his responsibility as a leader, Adam followed his wife and ate the fruit. They ate the fruit that God had told them not to touch. At that moment, sin entered the world and began to corrupt the system. And ever since that day, the world that we lived in no longer follow the system that God has ordained. Instead of naked and unashamed, we are doing everything we can to cover ourselves because we are ashamed. We know there is something wrong with us and that is why we have to find cover. We do not believe that we can be fully known and loved at the same time. That’s why everyone struggles in a relationship. Because we rebelled against God and his ordained system. We decided that we know better than God and we lived in the consequences of our action. We are sinners. And that’s why we struggle relationally. We lost our relationship with God and we are unable to have a healthy relationship with other people. All of us experiences struggle in a relationship because all of us are sinners without exception. We fail to submit ourselves to the system and that is why relationship is hard and filled with brokenness.
But when Adam and Eve sinned against God, do you know what God did? God went looking for them. God knew exactly what they have done but he came and seek them. And did you know whom God holds to be primarily accountable for this sin? It was Eve who ate first and influenced Adam to eat. But when God came and seek them, God went directly to Adam. “Adam, where are you? What have you done?” God held Adam responsible for what happened. And rather than admitting his responsibility and owning his sin, Adam blamed the woman and the woman blamed the serpent. This is the effect of sin. The system that God has designed for husband and wife to flourish is now tainted with sin and that is why today we see much abuse in the roles of men and women. Rather than leading the wife sacrificially, husband abuses his authority over his wife. Rather than submitting to the husband’s leadership, the wife takes over the authority of her husband.
Praise God that is not the end of the story. Amid God’s anger toward Adam and Eve’s sin, he gave a promise of a future restoration. Genesis 3:15 – I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. This is the first promise of the gospel. God promised that a day will come where the woman’s offspring will crush the serpent’s head. And the word offspring is singular, a single person. But that is not all to it. God also said that the serpent will bite his heel. With another word, there will be a battle. The poison of the serpent will hit this offspring and he will die. But that is not the end of the story because the offspring will also destroy the serpent’s head. This is the good news of the gospel. Where the first Adam failed to protect his wife, the second Adam, the seed of the woman, Jesus, gave his life for his bride. Where Adam blamed his wife, Jesus took the blame for his bride. Jesus came to earth and he was stripped naked at the cross for his bride. Why? So that you and I can be naked and unashamed. When Jesus is stripped naked for you, it is proof that he knows everything there is about you and he loves you. If you believe this, you are free to confess, “I know I am a sinner but I am fully loved and covered by Christ.”
When you know what Jesus has done for you, you can come into a relationship to give instead of take because everything you need, Jesus has restored for you. Jesus is the reason your relationship can flourish. Because of Jesus, your relationship with God is restored. Now you no longer go on glory hunt seeking affirmation from others because you already have his affirmation in you. You are created in his image and you are clothed in Jesus’ righteousness and you are part of the dance of the Trinity where God’s affection, delight and attention are yours. Because of Jesus, you can see yourself rightly. You can play the role that God has designed for you with freedom because you already have everything you need. Husbands, you are free to love and lead your wife sacrificially and wives you are free to submit willingly to your husband’s leadership. We do not define our worth in our role, but we define our worth in the fact that we are created in the image of God and we are loved by him.
Quick words for the singles. I know what you are thinking. “That means I am incomplete until I get married. I better find him or her quickly.” That is not true. For the detail, you have to wait for part 6 but Paul refers to singleness in Christ as the better option than marriage. In marriage, you get to experience the depth of Christ’s love but in singleness, you get to experience the breadth of Christ’s love. You get to interact and being shaped by the community in the church in a way that you cannot once you are married. So being single is not a second class in the kingdom of God. Whether you are married or single, we have the love of our ultimate husband. And this is our confidence. The first Adam failed in his marriage. But the second Adam, Jesus Christ, will never ever fail his wife.
- “Marriage is the goal of pursuing a relationship.” How does this truth changes the way we view modern dating today?
- How can we better reflect the image of God in our relationship with other people? Give some practical examples.
- What does it mean to have a personal relationship with God and why is it extremely crucial?
- The Bible puts a very high emphasis on the importance of community. How can we grow stronger as a community in the midst of covid-19?
- Explain the similarities and the differences between Biblical Complementary role of male and female with Gender Equality movement. (This will get clearer as the series progress. But it is good to start thinking about it from now).
- What is the effect of sin on God’s design for relationship?
- How does the Gospel restores us as an individual and what effect does it have in the way we approach relationship?