GOSPEL OF INTEGRITY:
You were saved by grace; now you need to live accordingly because you wouldn’t want to risk losing your salvation. Go to church on Sunday, read the Bible every day, stop smoking, stop swearing, don’t sleep around, don’t get a divorce and be sure to evangelise your friends. All these things will make you look like a good churchy-Christian, and no one will question your salvation.
GOSPEL OF GRACE:
Jesus did it; now believe it! You’ll live accordingly – gradually – as God works in you to naturally produce fruit, BUT DON’T TRY. The more you try to follow the law, the more you WILL FAIL. Let Jesus do it for you and in you. Your only role is to believe and therefore receive – and if you feel like you can’t believe, ask Jesus to believe for you and in you, because even BELIEF IS NOT A WORK!
Marriage, Sex and Babies VS Singleness, Celibacy and Barrenness
It is scary approaching another birthday as a single woman. This Boxing Day (2011) I will be 29 and the countdown to 30 will begin.
I have wanted to get married since I was about 9. And I always imagined I’d have children in my twenties. That’s nearly impossible now. If I’m not pregnant in about three months, my dream of bearing children in my twenties will fail and I will have to settle for having them in my thirties. (Considering that I am single and a virgin who is trying to wait until marriage; falling pregnant is highly unlikely.)
Personally I’ve really struggled to enjoy being single. I have dreamt about having someone there to talk to; to share my life with; to laugh and cry with. I imagined dates to places like the rotating restaurant in Sydney; to the movies and the beach. I longed for a man’s affection, to be held in his strong arms and feel safe there.
In my adulthood, as I have shared this struggle to remain single, I have felt very misunderstood many a time and been given contradictory advice. Here are some of the things I’ve heard over the years:
If you didn’t want it so much, it would just happen.
Stop looking for it and it will find you.
On the other hand: You could pray harder: bang on the door: be persistent!
Maybe you should put yourself out there a bit more.
It’s possible you’re giving off the vibe that you are too desperate!
I met my husband when I was disillusioned and angry at men – I have experienced both of these emotions to no avail.
I rejected my husband numerous times but he just kept pursuing me and then I finally fell in love with him! – No one has pursued me like that.
Maybe it’s what you want that’s the problem: my husband is nothing like I imagined he’d be.
Others say they had a list and got exactly what they wanted.
You just need to focus on God – I do believe I have done this too.
You don’t need a man! – What do you say to that one?
God is all you need …
The first and last sayings are the ones that have frustrated me the most. In a nutshell: Try not to want it. Try not to need it. That is the message I have received. I have particularly heard this from my Christian friends, most of whom married extremely young, probably to quell their own marital and sexual needs and desires. My own mother for example, who married at nineteen, told me I wanted it too much. She didn’t understand my loneliness.
Sometimes it’s really hard to be single or alone. It’s difficult to watch friends get married and feel like you’re being left behind. It’s painful to be told that you are supposed to be an independent career-driven woman! It’s a struggle not to have sex before marriage when you’re a 29 year old virgin – or perhaps you’re a 40 year old virgin – or maybe you’ve had sex before, found that wasn’t quite the answer you were looking for, and then commenced the struggle to remain celibate for the last five or ten years as you waited for a spouse – then again you could be sexually active and currently single, reading this in the hopes that I have something useful to say. Well I hope for your sake I do and I don’t pass judgement on your sexuality since I am a sexual being myself.
Not only am I single, not only am I a virgin (albeit not a sexually perfect one), but I am also a Christian and I have felt all my life that the church expected me to be happy to be single and not to express my desires or needs in this area … because God is apparently: All I need … Churches sing these very words over and again, and I feel condemned because I want and need a companion. Did not God himself create me to need one?
Let’s look at the Bible shall we:
Genesis 2:18 It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.
Proverbs 12:4 A worthy wife is a crown for her husband.
Proverbs 14:1 A wise woman builds her home.
Proverbs 18:22 The man who finds a wife finds a treasure and receives favour from the Lord.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two people are better off than one for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls the other can reach out and help.
Song of Songs 8:6-7 Love is as strong as death its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.
Isaiah 62:4 You shall no longer be termed forsaken … For the Lord delights in you and your land shall be married.
1 Corinthians 7:2 Each man should have his own wife and each woman should have her own husband.
It would appear that God is all for marriage.
Then there is our desire for sex that is shamed as well. Please pretend you are not a sexual person, you neither want sex nor need a sex-life to make you happy.I suppose this is true – a person can lead a fulfilling life without ever experiencing the most physically intimate connection of love-making. But an obvious majority of the world ‘want’ it and many desperately so. People have been known to kill for it, abuse it, become addicted to it, buy it, sell it, share it, give it and some even to wait for it!
Here are a few verses pertaining to our sexuality:
Genesis 2:25 The man and his wife were both naked but they felt no shame.
Ecclesiastes 4:11 If two lie down together they will keep warm.
Song of Songs 1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for your love is more delightful than wine. (I’ll make an assumption here that the word for ‘love’ in this context is ‘eros’ pertaining to sexual love.)
Song of Songs 5:1 Eat, friends, and drink, drink your fill of love!
Song of Songs 3:1,4 One night as I lay in bed, I yearned for my lover … when I found my lover I caught him and held him tightly.
(Not to mention the numerous other verses in Song of Songs that depict breast, ‘mandrakes,’ ‘opening the door’ and ‘dripping with myrrh.’)
1 Corinthians 7:9 It is better to marry than to burn with passion
I am single but I desire to marry. I am celibate but I desire to have sex. I am childless but I desire to procreate.
I don’t doubt that there are many married couples who desire to have children with as much desperation as I have desired to get married. I too desire to be a mum. To have a baby look me in the eyes and love me simply because we belong to each other. To know that I helped create that little person and share unique and intimate bonds with them. Even to have those sleepless nights where my nipples become a suckling tap for my hungry, needy, baby who desires to be fed with the same urgency that I desire to someday fall pregnant.
Many barren women have undoubtedly been given contradictory advice too:
I fell pregnant when I gave up trying.
Give it some time.
Try a new position.
Maybe there’s something wrong with you – you should have yourself looked at!
You should be grateful you don’t have children – they’re hard work!
But no matter how many times you are told not to want it or not to need it, or that there is something wrong with you or that you should be grateful for what you’ve already got, the desire for a child only grows within your bosom and you want it more with every tick of the clock! As a 29 year old woman, I have certainly thought about my expiring body clock.
Be assured that God is all for procreation:
Genesis 1:27-28 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them: be fruitful and increase in number.
Deuteronomy 28:11 The Lord will give you prosperity … blessing you with many children.
Psalm 112:2 Their children will be successful everywhere. An entire generation … will be blessed.
Psalm 113:9 He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother.
Psalm 127:3-5 Children are a gift from the Lord … How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise and call her blessed, her husband also and he praises her.
Isaiah 54:1-3 Sing O childless woman … for the desolate woman now has more children … enlarge your house; build an addition … for you will soon be bursting at the seams!
So many barren women in the Bible were healed: Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel in Genesis; Hannah in the book of 1 Samuel; Elizabeth in Gospel of Luke.
I want to give us permission to desire and to need these three things: marriage, sex and babies. By receiving this permission, we can be set free from the lies that keep us bound in fear that God doesn’t want us to marry, doesn’t want us to have children, or tempts us with sex without fulfilling our sexual needs. Many of us fall for the ill-conceived idea that we are not really loving God enough, because if we did, we wouldn’t want these other things so desperately. This is simply not true.
God created us with needs and desires:
Psalm 20:4 My he grant you your hearts desires and fulfil all your plans!
Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 84:11 The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.
Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Bask in your permission to want. To need. To desire. Even to long. But don’t let the emotion overtake you. Sometimes in our lack, we can become out of balance in our desires. Sometimes they rule over us.
A friend said to me recently that I needed a new mantra. So he gave me one:
It is painful to be single but not unbearable.
This simple sentence has set me free. This sentence gives me permission to admit that it is a struggle to be single – to admit that I lack and I long. Singleness is not want I want or what I need. But also to keep in mind – in balance – the fact that I have survived 29 years and I will survive as long as I have to.
Now, I don’t believe that God just wants us to survive life or to accept defeat. I wouldn’t have poured out an offering of promises above for us who await the fulfilment of our desires if I believed that desire served only to taunt us. I understand that not all longings will be fulfilled this side of heaven as we live in a sinful world and we will all suffer many things in our lifetime.
Conversely, hope is what keeps us alive. Hope in God’s promises, that he understands our suffering, that he gave us desires, that he longs for our fulfilment – though sometimes not in the ways we expected it – this hope keeps us from drowning in self-pity, condemnation and unrequited longing.
Hope can set us free from worrying about all the things we might be doing wrong – scaring potential relationships away, feeling ashamed over past sexual mistakes, using the wrong sexual position to fall pregnant, or this concept that God is all we want/need and we mustn’t be loving God enough if we have other wants and needs.
Be released from the heaviness of your desires. God has given you permission to need and to want. Place your hope in His promises. Remember how far you have come already and that you can make it in His strength. And let go of the guilt of your failings. He forgave them before you were sorry!
My advice is that you claim some the promises above for yourselves. Speak them over your life – type them up and read them regularly. Find a new mantra if you need one. Speak other positive words over life such as:
I accept that singleness / celibacy / barrenness is a season that will not last forever.
I do not have to pretend to be fully content in my loneliness / lack / longing / need.
I receive God’s contentment as I wait.
God does not punish me with loneliness or want me to be alone forever. I am never alone because I have God and God will provide a husband for me.
God does not punish me for my past, present or future, it is all forgiven.
I accept that I have sexual needs and desires.
I accept that it is not a sin for me to want to get married / have sex / fall pregnant / adopt.
It is painful to be single / celibate / childless but not unbearable.
I hope this is helpful to you. I can’t promise anyone that we will always get what we want or need … but have hope that God understands the struggle. Let him guide you in what verses and mantras to claim over your life. And know you are not alone in your struggle …
How many times did Jesus sit with sinners and SAY NOTHING about their sin? He had lunch with tax collectors. He didn’t tell them to stop taxing or ripping people off.
A prostitute washed Jesus feet and made a pass at him and Jesus treated it as worship. It looks to me like she was trying to seduce him: let her hair down and cry on his feet – in that day and age, it was like what Ruth did with Boaz and some say that Ruth would be considered very sexually promiscuous to have uncovered Boaz’ feet! Jesus understood that Mary didn’t know any better. She was expressing love the only way she knew how – sexually. And he loved her for it (not sexually, but in his gracious words). (Luke 7:36-50)
Jesus drank with his friends who probably got drunk and rowdy, and he was accused of being a drunkard just like them. I don’t see him telling them not to get drunk. (See Luke 7:33-34)
Jesus healed on the Sabbath!!! He broke the Pharisaical law! He stuck up for the disciples eating corn on Sabbath – but we don’t understand, we think this is a joke because we don’t really have a Sabbath in the Western world – we are hustle and bustle work-a-holics! (Luke 6:1-11)
Jesus was seen AS a sinner. Not standing against sin.
In his sermon on the mount Jesus said that the self-righteous Pharisees didn’t know what sin was! They were already committing murder and adultery in their hearts but thought that their outward appearance of goodness was enough. Jesus’ sermon on the mount is declaring to the world: YOU ARE NOT RIGHTEOUS!!! NOT EVEN ONE OF YOU!!! (Matthew 5-7)
He told the rich man to sell all he’s got and give his money away – why? Because the rich man asked Jesus to show him any law he had broken: so Jesus did. Jesus was saying to this man: you are a sinner just like everyone else. Stop thinking you are so perfect!!! And then Jesus said it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than you to enter the kingdom of heaven WITH MAN THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE BUT WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE! (Matthew 19:26)
Matt 20:16 Jesus told a parable of late workers being paid the same as those that had done more work. “The last will be first, and the first will be last”
Matt 22:10 Jesus invited “the bad as well as the good” to the wedding banquet.
Matt 25 Jesus separated the sheep and the goats. What are goats? They have horns of self-righteousness to head butt sheep with! What are sheep? Weak, practically useless followers who NEED a shepherd/saviour who can’t get in based on works; only grace.
John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did NOT send his son into the world to CONDEMN the world but to SAVE the world through him.
I am not denying that Jesus hates sin. He hates sin so much that he came and destroyed it in his own body on the cross. But the only sin I see him standing against is the sin of self-righteousness. Jesus’ action was to constantly frustrate the self-righteous. He kept telling them that they were the ones who were unrighteous. He wanted them to stop accusing everyone else and admit that they themselves didn’t have it all together.
This is why I do not stand in condemnation of other people’s sin: I know I AM JUST AS BAD!
Is Satan Religious?
The book of Job was apparently the first book of the Bible ever to be written. In the book of Job, Satan approaches God and God says “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”(Job 1:8)
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything that he has and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1:9-11)
Satan is convinced that no one truly loves God. He accuses Job of loving only what God gives him: God’s blessing. In essence, Satan is saying to God that people love religion more than they love God.
A religion is a set of beliefs about God. With any set of beliefs there are actions or behaviours that follow. In fact, there are rules. From my own experience with religion, it would seem to me that most people approach God with this idea: if I am a good person, good things will happen to me; if I behave badly, I will be punished.
Satan is accusing Job of believing exactly that. If God takes away Job’s blessing, Job “will surely curse” God. If you read the book of Job, you will discover that even when Job is stripped bare, he does not curse God. Certainly, he questions why, but his mantra is: “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15)
Interestingly, Job’s friends accuse Job of evil doing. They have the religious mindset that Satan accused Job of having. They believe that curses have fallen upon Job because of his behaviour. (Example: Job 8:3-4)
Job’s wife is also religious. She knows Job has done nothing wrong, but she too believes that God has no right to treat them badly when their behaviour is so religiously upright. She tells her husband to “curse God and die.” (Job 2:9)
I believe that Satan too, approached God in this way. If indeed Isaiah 14 refers to the story of the fall of Satan, it would appear that Satan thought he deserved a reward – a throne; a crown – for his good deeds in heaven. He thought he deserved to be worshipped like a God. This is self-righteousness and pride: the truest pictures of religiosity. And yet this is anti-Christian and the only way God can purge this evil is to hand Satan over to his own desires and his own religion.
In my novel ‘Victori Song,’ I have depicted my understanding of Satanism based on the research that I have done. It would seem to me that even Satan rewards his followers according to their works. He rewards obedience, dedication and sacrifice. He punishes disobedience, betrayal and selfishness.
Later in this same series: Covenant-999, my opinions about the Satanic and Christian ‘religions’ will become overt. The real question here is not whether or not Satan is religious. The question is: do you approach God religiously?
I have approached God religiously all my life. Even today. I still want him to reward my hard work with success. I still want paedophiles to go to jail for their crimes. I still feel like I’m being punished for some hidden sin in my heart, when things in my life don’t go the way I them to – so I try to be perfect and appease God.
This year, to some degree, I feel I have been stripped naked like Job. My mother passed away. The dream of having my mother attend my wedding is now an impossible dream. I failed an important exam. I’m trying to sell my novel in my own strength and it doesn’t seem to be working. I’m still single at age twenty-eight and that is not how I expected life to pan out.
If I approach God with this idea that he owes me something; that he has to reward me for my good works … am I any better than Satan? On the one hand, grace is amazing because it is total freedom from sin and punishment! But on the flipside it is offensive to people because we feel that reward and punishment are necessary. If people are completely free, then they are free to hurt us and get away with it.
Maybe – just maybe – Satan’s most effective tool against Christianity, is in convincing people that we must still approach God religiously even after we have been made completely free. He makes us afraid of anarchy and drowns us in religious works to appease a God who is already appeased.
I want to embrace grace. I want to love God like Job did, just for being God – for being gracious and forgiving and loving even toward people who have hurt me. The God who died at the hands of religious Pharisees because his grace offended them.
Here again, I repent of my religion – even though I know I am already forgiven – and I pick up the offensive gospel of grace.