What Constitutes a Biblical Marriage?

As a minister of the gospel one of the joys of my job is being able have a part in so many weddings of my congregants. This weekend I get the special pleasure of officiating my very first wedding.  As I have studied and prepared for this extraordinary day the question popped into my head, “What constitutes a biblical marriage?”  The Bible is clear on the role distinctions in marriage.  It is clear that marriage is meant to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life.  Yet, when does a marriage actually start?  What elements are involved in the beginning stages of a marriage?  What seals the marriage to say, “This is when my covenant and union began”?  The Bible is not silent on the matter, but it doesn’t speak definitively either. Thus, identifying the precise moment a man and woman are married in God’s eyes is a bit difficult. Yet, after much study and meditating I believe the answer lies, at least in principle, with three “C’s.”         

Ceremony

            While a wedding ceremony is not prescribed in the Scriptures, we most definitely see it described and illustrated in several places.  A wedding was very much a community and social event.  In Psalm 45 we find the sons of Korah explaining what a royal wedding ceremony looked like.  It was filled with festivities, beauty, gifts, and feasting.   In John 2 we find Jesus performing his first miracle at the wedding ceremony in Cana, a social event.  In John’s Revelation, chapter 19, we find the marriage supper of the Lamb.  This is the symbolic meal culminating and celebrating the marriage of Christ and the church.  In Matthew 25:1-13 we find Jesus telling the parable of the ten virgins.  In verse 10 He says, “And while they went away to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast . . .” Thus we find here and in all of these verses the idea of some sort of ceremony being part of a Christian wedding.  The point that I am making is that it was a common practice for there to be a celebration or a ceremony for the wedding couple.  We find this all over the Old and New Testament.  For that matter, we find it in every culture throughout history.  The ceremony seems to be part of the expectation of a marriage. The festivities that we find in Scripture would often last for days (Matthew 22) and would ultimately culminate with the vows and the giving of blessings.  Thus, for a marriage to take place it seems fitting that there would first be a ceremony.

Covenant

            Besides the ceremony, the most important aspect of the wedding festivities was and is the exchange of the vows, the promise and covenant.  When we look at the biblical record we find that God established marriage in the beginning.  He instituted it in the garden with our first parents, Adam and Eve. The first marriage was based on a covenant promise (Genesis 2:24). The act of marriage consisted of three things: leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh. The Genesis 2:24 commandment was repeated by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7-8.  The Apostle Paul also used this covenant format in Ephesians 5.

            We find other references to the marriage covenant all over the scriptures. Yet one of the most prominent is found in Malachi 2:14.  The prophet writes, “But you say, ‘Why does he not?’ Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.’”  Here the prophet explains that a marriage covenant is not just “between you and the wife of your youth” but also with “the LORD” who was a witness of this solemn promise and vow.  While we do not have examples of the exact words that were spoken in a marriage covenant we do find certain promises that are to be made between a man and a woman in their covenant.

For the Men:

  • It is a promise to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25)
  • It is a promise to live sacrificially for his wife (Eph. 5:25)
  • It is to lead his wife spiritually (Ephesians 5:26)
  • It is to leave his parents and cleave alone to his wife (Ephesians 5:31)
  • It is a promise of monogamy (I Corinthians 7, Hebrews 13:4)

For the Woman:

  • It is a promise to joyfully submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:22)
  • It is a promise to respect her husband (Ephesians 5:31)
  • It is a promise of monogamy (I Corinthians 7, Hebrews 13:4)

Therefore, for a marriage to be a marriage in the eyes of God a covenant must be part of the process. 

Consummation

            While this aspect of a Christian marriage and wedding was not public it was expected.  Sexual intimacy between a husband and wife is the ultimate fulfillment of the “one flesh” principle found in Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, and Ephesians 5:31.  This act is the final seal on a marriage covenant.  Paul P. Enns remarks:   

“On the first night, when the marriage was to be consummated, the father escorted his daughter to the bridal chamber (Gen. 29:21–23; cp. Judg. 15:1). The bride’s parents retained the bloodstained bed sheet to prove their daughter’s virginity at marriage in case the husband attempted any recourse by charging that his bride was not a virgin (Deut. 22:13–21).”[i]

While consummation closes the wedding, it also marks the beginning of the marriage.  The “two becoming one” motif does start with the sexual union of the married couple but this “one flesh” union is much more than a simple act of sexual intimacy.  Notice the Matthew 19 progression: the man leaves his parents, the man joins (marries) his wife, the two individuals become one.  The last step is what consummates the marriage, but there is much more to it than this. The two are to be so knit together that they behave as one person.  While they are two separate people, this “one flesh” union makes them one, together.  Consummation marks the end of the old individual life and the start of the “one flesh” union that will continue through marriage for the couple.  Therefore, if the couple is biologically able to consummate the marriage, this should be the final seal of the wedding.   

The question may arise, “what about cultural and governmental expectations in marriage?”  Time would fail me in parsing out all of the nuances that are involved in the question.  But in short, while I believe the government has no place in the marrying business, a Christian should do all that is possible to live within the government guidelines for marriage in its land (Romans 13).  Thus, if possible, a couple should follow whatever cultural practices are required by law for them to be recognized as a legally married couple.               

For this article today, I have sought to answer the question, “What constitutes a biblical marriage?”  I believe the biblical evidence, in principle, points to these three C’s: Ceremony, Covenant, and Consummation.  If these things are present and true, then in the eyes of God I believe this constitutes a genuine marriage before the Lord.


[i] Enns, P. P. (2003). Weddings. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1664). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

“How I trained my little ones to sit still and quiet” (by Jessica Burrell)

This is a follow-up post to my previous post Help, The Church Nursery is Closed! in which I reference training your children at home to be content to sit quietly.  Once you are out in public, it is too late to ask them to behave in some new way that you have never taught them.  This post is an effort to convey how I trained my little ones in the peace and comfort of our home.  The Lord says to train up our children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6), to train them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4), and to teach them to have a quiet and gentle spirit, which the Scriptures say is “precious in God’s sight” (1 Pet. 3:4).  I have tried to apply these Scriptures in some practical ways at home while teaching my children to sit quietly and respectfully.

So how do you start? Start slowly.  Start with 5 minutes, maybe less.  Sit on the couch with Mommy and children together reading a book or singing a hymn, all engaged in the same activity.  The purpose is to stay in the designated place for the duration of the time.  Most children love this quality time of having Mommy’s attention to themselves, and they rarely have any trouble complying.  The next step is to tell the child that they must read (or look at) their own book while Mommy reads a book separate from the child or works on something independent from the children, while still sitting on the couch right beside them.  In the first step, the child is the central focus.  In this second phase, the child will begin to realize that the point of being on the couch is not for Mommy to cater to their wishes, but rather for them to find contentment on their own.  While you need to be instructing the child in step one, this second step is more where reinforcing and teaching the child your expectations really comes in.  Tell the child “you may not squirm around and climb down to the floor.” And “Mommy has a timer set for 5 minutes. When it beeps, we will be all done.  Then you may get down and play.”  The child may not ask “how much longer” or similar questions.  The child must learn to be content to wait patiently until the time is done and Mommy says that it is time to get down.

I should clarify that “Still and quiet” time in our home meant no talking or moving around.  You stay in your place and entertain yourself with one quiet toy or book.  If this object was used to harass a sibling, it would be taken away, and the remainder of the time would be spent with hands folded neatly in the lap.  I do not exaggerate when I say that I can count on one hand how many times objects had to be taken away from my children in public.  They learned this lesson very well at home!  Consider anything a small child will normally do when they do not want to be still…roll around on the seat, scoot down to the floor, then they end up under the seat, or army-crawling to a nearby location.  Their innate intent is to push the limits and see how far is too far.  You as the mother need to decide what will be acceptable for your children while in public.  Are you okay with them sitting on the floor at the doctor’s office or crawling on the floor down to the end of the pew at church?  If not, be sure that you are firm in your training at home.  For us, no arm waving, clapping, or moving off the seat was permitted.  Depending on age, lying down quietly in one’s spot (not rolling) was permitted.

After the children have gotten the hang of a 5-minute interval of being quiet and occupying themselves with Mommy on the couch, the next step is to have Mommy get off the couch and do something else nearby, while leaving the children on the couch having their “still and quiet” time.  For example, I will tell the children to come and sit. Then, once they have been reminded of the rules of “still and quiet” time, I will step away while warning the children that I will be watching to make sure they do a good job.  I might sit in another area of the same room and make a call to schedule dental cleanings, while maintaining frequent eye contact with the children so they know I am paying attention to their behavior.  If a little one decides they aren’t interested in the training session, their behavior is quickly dealt with and they resume their time on the couch.  Quick and consistent discipline is necessary in this training time.  You will be training your children regardless of how you handle the situation.  While they are in the living room, it might be easy to warn them, “Mommy said get back on the couch… I mean it!”  But consider if this method will be an option in church or in the doctor’s office.  You want to train them to listen the first time, not the second or third.  They must learn to obey immediately and to realize that there will be swift consequences when they do not.  There will be no “easy out” if they disobey.  The training session will continue on after discipline has been handed out.

Once the children are able to sit quietly while you perform other tasks in the same room, the real test comes.  “Still and quiet” while Mommy leaves the room!  This was always our children’s favorite part of the training times.  I would have the children sit (they were permitted one quiet toy) while I left the room to set a timer and then come back in to check on them and see if they were still in the same place and quiet.  I might go put a letter in the mailbox but quickly return and pop in the room to surprise the children.  This can be a very fun activity.  The children never know what corner you might pop out around or what you might be wearing on your head when you return.  The “away” might be anywhere from 5 seconds to 15 seconds to begin with.  You want to help them keep their attention on the task at hand.  Don’t make this sitting session a miserable thing for them.  My children would often forget the toy they had in their lap and prefer to watch out for when I would pop my head back in the room to see how well they were doing.  I would give silent accolades whenever I peeked in and saw that the children were still doing as I had asked.

You may notice a natural progression in this: very small and familiar steps to begin with, then moving up to bigger steps.  This will not happen overnight.  I would recommend having a practice session every day, or a five-minute session in the morning and another one in the afternoon, depending on the age and personality of your child.

After the children can manage a 5-minute segment of time on the couch on their own with Mommy in and out of the room, it is time to add more time to the clock.  I would graduate them to 10-15 minutes on the couch with one quiet activity of their choice, whether it is a toy, a reading book, or a notebook with a pencil or crayon.  If the children are misbehaving or not obeying the way they should, the offending child must be removed and disciplined and brought back to resume their sitting time.  Meanwhile, the other children are expected to continue sitting quietly.  This has helped immensely during the years that my husband has been in a pastoral position and has been unable to assist me in the pew with the children.  I have been able to take the rowdy child out of the service to address behavior while leaving all of the other children (yes, even a two-year-old) sitting quietly in the pew without me in the room, knowing that they would sit still because they dare not be the next one leaving the sanctuary with me.

I have one last comment on praising your little ones for doing well.  Rewarding our children when they do well is not the same as bribery.  Bribery is a parent’s last attempt at getting what they want from their child.  It is a negotiation that puts the child in control of the situation and puts the parent at their mercy.  Rewards and positive affirmation for good behavior are very different than that.  When I ask my child to do something and they do it right away and with a cheerful heart, rewarding them in some way is a great way to help encourage and motivate the child to do it again.  They have honored me, and I want to bless them because of it.  This is a good and wholesome way to encourage good behavior in our children.

In my other post, “Help, The Church Nursery is Closed!” I talk about preparing for Sunday morning by starting on Saturday.  I mention that “less is more” when packing activity bags for kids in church or the doctor’s office, and I give a few other ideas like finding a seat near the exits and arriving early to claim it.

I hope this post has been an encouragement to you!  It is not always easy, and it is never a fast process to train up our little ones in the way they should go.  But, as the Lord commands us to do it, I hope this will be of some small encouragement to you as we strive to please Him!

Jessica E. Burrell

“Help! The Church Nursery is Closed!” (by Jessica Burrell)

Today has brought about many changes in our culture: schools shutting down and mask-wearing becoming a requirement in most establishments, to name a few.  Many of these changes in recent days affect our everyday life, even for the stay-at-home mom.  While we may be inconvenienced by some of the new CDC requirements, like trying to keep masks on our squirming children while in public, there are some challenges that prove more difficult than others.  As Christian mothers, one of the greatest difficulties we face may be that of the closing of the church nurseries.  Due to the light-speed way that children can transfer germs from one person or surface to another, most churches have closed down their nurseries for the time being.  This leaves parents with younger children only two options: stay home and live-stream the service from the living room, or attend church as a family, all in one pew, squirming children and all.  I will be approaching this issue as a sister in Christ, loving mother, and wife of a pastor.  This is a difficulty facing many young families today, and there is no easy answer.

Don’t Stop Going To Church

As hard as it may seem to take your family to church and sit in the pew with the entire family while you try to keep the young children quiet as the pastor preaches, this is your calling from the Lord.  Whether you are a pastor’s wife and your husband has to sit on the front row or stand in the pulpit while you try to manage the children in the pew alone, or whether you have two parents with grandparents able to help share the load, whether you are a single mom or dad bringing your children to church who have never once sat through a church service because they always go to nursery or children’s church, your God-given calling and obligation is to have your family in church – assembling together with the saints.  We might think that live-stream is an easy “out,” or a suitable alternative, but I would suggest that this is not the case.

Many churches are re-assembling with caution and are keeping live-stream available for those who are at risk and for those who are maintaining a “shelter-in-place” lifestyle.  For the rest of us, families included, we are in some part back to the grocery stores, vacations and outings.  If this is the case for your family, it stands to reason that you should be back to church as a family, as well.  There are many factors that could cause difficulties with bringing children into the church who are not used to sitting in the pews.  Regardless of the factors involved, this is no excuse to forsake God’s commands (Heb 10:25); this is simply a new growth opportunity that the Lord has placed in your path.  There is nowhere in the Scriptures that makes provision for the church to forsake the assembling together until nursery or children’s church is available.  No matter the age of your child or children, you need to be in church, and so do they.  As much as it is difficult to adjust to this (whether by choice or for lack of any other options), many of us are being required to turn “family integrated” for a time.  I know these are not easy words to speak, and I can say from experience that it is even harder to live out.  It can be a very difficult thing to adjust to, but just because it isn’t easy, doesn’t make skipping church an option.

How I Got Started on this Journey

For me, this journey started when I had four young children.  Our oldest was 6 years old (a girl). After her, we had three boys in a row (5, 3, and 16 months).  Our youngest son had seriously injured his hand and was in need of multiple surgeries and frequent doctors visits.  It was an hour drive to the Pediatric Hand Specialist’s office, and after having four young children strapped in their car seats for an hour, they were then expected to wait in a waiting room and accompany me into the patient room where the three oldest would have to be left without my watchful eye as I took their little brother to a nearby room for x-rays.  After we returned to the patient room, we would wait until the doctor arrived to discuss this very serious situation with me.  All the while, there were four children, 6 and younger, going completely stir-crazy and one frazzled Mommy trying to control the situation and have a coherent conversation with the doctor.  This was a very rude wake-up call for me when I realized that I had no choice but to somehow survive this situation again and again at every doctor’s visit, every x-ray, and every consultation.  It was impossible for my husband to take more time off work to help me after he had already taken time for two hospitalizations and hand surgeries for our little guy.  My only option was to train my children at home to behave the way I needed them to so that we could make it through all of these trips without chaos and tears for all five of us!

It may sound crazy to expect so much from a little one who many say can’t even reason yet, but there is nothing ridiculous at all about teaching your child to sit relatively still and occupy himself quietly for a little while.  As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that the parent who never trains their child to be still for a length of time is actually depriving their child of learning self-control at a younger age when it comes a little easier.  The practice of sitting “still and quiet,” or whatever you will call it, will be a blessing to you as the parent, as well as anyone you encounter.  You will also find that God rewards your child with a more content spirit when they are taught to be still for short periods of time.

Trust me when I say, “You can do this.”  But while you are sitting in a church service with 100 other people trying to listening to a 30-45 minute sermon, you will realize that this is NOT the time to teach your child how you expect them to behave.  This will only frustrate you and your child (Eph. 6:4).  You must work on training your child to sit quietly while in the comfort and safety of your own home.  If you are interested in the way I trained my children at home, please look for my follow-up post.  “How I trained my little ones to sit still and quiet”

Keeping Your Kids in the Pew Begins At Home

I would like to give a few practical pointers to help you wrap your mind around this concept.  From the early infancy age through toddlers and preschoolers with the wiggles, it is not easy to ask children to sit “still and quiet,” as we say in my home, for an hour-long service.  But they can do it.  It is also important to be considerate of those around you and not insist on keeping a screaming toddler in the service during his entire tantrum.  My first suggestion would be to find an area in the church that has easy access to one of the exits.  Next, plan to arrive at church early enough to claim this area for your family so that you ensure an easy exit if someone gets too rowdy or disruptive.

Next, you must plan for Sunday morning the night before.  You don’t want to show up to church frazzled and frustrated before the service has even started.  This will not help you to have the patience and grace needed to guide your children through the worship service.   Saturday night, be sure that all baths are taken care of, clothes are picked out and ironed if needed, shoes are found and matched, hair bows are selected, etc.  In our home, everyone must have Mommy approve their outfit before dinnertime on Saturday so that there is not “whoops” on Sunday morning.  Sunday morning your only goal should be to make sure everyone is clothed, fed, and ready to leave.  Once in the pew, I have found that less is more as far as busy activities go.  I used to pack a full bag of books, toys, snacks and crayons, only to find that at the end of the service I had an entire half-acre of mess to clean up.  Not to mention needing to offer apologies for the new “art” on the underside of the pews.

When thinking about your child’s needs for the service, pack appropriately according to their age.  If your child is able to write, give them a few writing tools and a notebook.  You can draw a word, for example: “God,” and your child can copy it.  Then you can draw a picture on one side of the page and your child can write it on the other side.  At this point their imagination usually takes over and they will doodle quite happily for a while.  If you have a young child, be sure that you pack pacifiers, quiet (and not messy) snacks, and a select few books and toys in a small bag that the child can access easily on their own to play with quietly.  As you make all of these preparations on Saturday night, remember that your training begins at home.  Be sure that your children understand your expectations before you get to the church.  We now have seven children in our home and can easily fill an entire pew.  There was a season when we had to assign each child their “spot” and tell them which siblings would be sitting on either side of them so that we would not have any arguments or disruptions in the pew.

Don’t Grow Weary – You Can Do This

Last of all: do not grow weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9).  There have been Sundays in church or weekdays in a doctor’s office that I wanted to throw my hands in the air and say, “I’m done training today!  We’ll be waiting in the car!”  We have had a few days when I had to abandon the grocery cart in the middle of the store and head to the van to deal with behavior that couldn’t wait.  What I came to realize was that the grocery shopping was not my highest priority.  Taking that moment to train my child would last a lot longer than those groceries did.  I would encourage you to keep the same perspective when sitting through worship.  Is it fun to take a child out and deal with behavior, walk back into church, only to have to leave and deal with them again?  No.  But what you are doing is training your child that this behavior is not an option.  No matter how many tantrums he throws, the result will be the same: correction and re-entering the service.  I would caution against staying in the foyer to allow the disruptive child to play for the rest of the service.  If your child is having a day where he is completely uncooperative and is a distraction to everyone else in the sanctuary, look for a bench in the foyer to sit on.  But still practice sitting quietly during this time so he sees that his defiant behavior is not rewarded with playtime.  If this level of disobedience in public is common, maybe this is a sign that more time needs to be dedicated to training at home.

Although this task seems at times insurmountable, it is doable!  Trust me; I didn’t start until I already had four children.  Talk about challenging!  There were many times I wanted to give up.  I often felt as though there would never be a break and that I could never get a thing out of the worship service unless all of my children were tucked away in their classes and I could just focus on the pastor alone.  This is not true, though.  And as soon as we thinking that “just one thing” will make it all better, we need to make sure we aren’t manufacturing an idol in our hearts.  God didn’t give you a quiet pew without children.  God gave you those adorable rowdy children to love and care for, and He still requires you to come and worship Him.

I know that this may only be a short-term goal for you.  Perhaps you are only going to keep your children in the service until nursery becomes available again.  You must understand that this is a worth-while effort and a God-required effort you must make to bring your children to church.  We have to expel the notion that we are coming to church for our own selfish good.  First, we do this because the Lord commands it (John 14:15).  He gives us the desire for it, which is a blessing, but more than that, He requires it.  If it’s “no fun,” or “I don’t get anything out of it right now,” that’s okay.  You are honoring the Lord with your self-sacrifice.  Just remember that it’s not all about you.  It’s hard to live this out, but it’s true.  And for most of us, this season will get easier.  Our children don’t stay little forever.

We don’t have it all figured out.  And if you come to the church where we worship, you will see squirming kids, hear rustling papers, and probably even see a little one being taken out for a “talk.” And that’s a good thing.  Actually, if you were to come to church this week, you wouldn’t even see our whole family in the pew.  One of my children has a medical condition that has prevented her and me from returning to church yet. It is at this time more than ever I am so grateful for the Providential situation all those years ago when I was forced to teach my children how to be content to be still.  My husband is a pastor and elder in our church and cannot sit with our children during the entire service.  When he is on the platform, it is such a blessing to us both to know that our children have been trained to obey us and sit still and respectfully while he does what he needs to do.  That little 16-month-old with the hand injury is now six years old and sits quietly, taking what notes he is able to, or drawing a picture of his Daddy reading Scripture from the pulpit.  We don’t have it all together, and we never will.  But God has been faithful to do a work in our children, little by little.  We are weak vessels through whom the Lord has been pleased to exhibit His strength.

I hope this article has encouraged you and caused you to consider your responsibility for raising your children before the Lord.  If you are interested in a more how-to based article where I describe how I practically trained my children in these concepts at home, please look for my follow-up post.

Jessica E. Burrell

Why We Are Going Away From AWANA

If you have been a Baptist in the United States over the last 50 years, it is likely that you have heard of the discipleship organization known as AWANA.   Not only are they a popular discipleship program for Baptist churches, but according to their web site they are used in over 100 denominations worldwide.  Pray’s Mill Baptist Church in Douglasville, Georgia (where I am the pastor of families), has used AWANA for some two decades.  Hundreds of children have learned the Roman’s Road, John 3:16, Genesis 1:1, Psalm 19:1, the books of the Bible, the 10 Commandments and a whole host of other biblical information during this time.  What a blessing to have God’s Word hidden in the hearts of so many over the past 20 years.  However, as is with every good program, they should regularly be reevaluated.  We shouldn’t just do something because “that is the way we’ve always done it.”  Every program or every tool that we use needs to be measured by its usefulness in any given season.  There are times when a once good tool is found to no longer be as effective as it once was.  This is part of the reevaluation process.

As I, as well as other pastors and key leaders, have been thinking, evaluating, and praying about our discipleship and family ministry we have come to the decision that it is time for a new season in the life of our church.  As we looked at the scope and sequence of what we believe would be the best for our kids and their families we came to the conclusion that it was time to retire our AWANA ministry.  Our next season of ministry will focus not just on scripture memory but theology as well.  Instead of simply memorizing scriptures from different parts of the Bible each week, we want to help our children know the Word in a more systematic way. . . . in a more historical way.   We want our children to understand the “whole counsel of God.”  Our new ministry will help them to do that as well as teach them how to rightly interpret the scriptures in their context.

So, what caused us to make this shift away from AWANA? Well, there are some practical reasons and some theological reasons for making the shift.

The Practical Reasons:

Just to be honest, this pandemic has hurt us.  We knew that this year was going to be very difficult on our Wednesday ministries because some of our volunteers are not even back at church yet.  There are a variety of reasons for this, but it is simply a reality. Because of this reason, in God’s providence, we felt like this was the right time to make the changes that we had been talking about for a few years.  The pandemic has caused us to fast-forward those plans.  As we looked at our children’s ministry landscape, we noticed a few things that have led us to this point that I would like to share.

  1. The sheer number of volunteers needed to make this ministry run smoothly.

We are not a massive church.  On any given Wednesday night we run 100-125 total people.  On average there are at least 25 volunteers needed for AWANA.  Many have been working in AWANA for two decades (what a blessing).  Yet, in that time some have expressed their desire to also be in the adult class.  Many of our AWANA workers also work with children on the Lord’s Day and this keeps them from any meaningful small group opportunities with adults.  With our new format, we will likely only need half the number of volunteers.  We consider this to be a win for our people in light of our current circumstances.

  1. We desire to streamline our children’s ministry so as to be intentional about connecting what they are learning.

When we looked at what all our children were learning we saw a very sporadic approach to their learning. There was intention behind it, but it was a very broad approach.  There is a disconnect between what our kids are learning in AWANA and in their Sunday School class.  If they went to Children’s Church (K – 2nd grade) they got something different. When they were in corporate worship and or family worship . . . you guessed it . . . all different.   We understand that children are able to take in a lot of different information on different subjects.  They do it all the time in school.  However, it is our desire to streamline this for our children.  We want to connect what we are doing on Wednesdays to what they are getting in our sports ministry, our Wednesday night ministry, and in the home for family worship.  We want a more systematic approach for our kids and families instead of a more sporadic approach that we have been doing.  While these are some of the more practical reasons, there are also theological reasons for this shift away from AWANA as well.

The Theological Reasons:

  1. A doctrinal shift

Over the past few years, we have seen that some of AWANA’s convictions do not line up with ours.  Are they heretical positions?  By and large, they are not.  Yet, they are some concerning secondary doctrines that we very much disagree with.  Though their “What We Believe” section on their website seems to be broadly orthodox, their social media presence appears to be heading into the deep waters of the Social Gospel movement. One article that sheds light on this subtle shift was entitled, “How to Talk (With Our Kids) About Racial Equality.”  In this article, the author props up Martin Luther King, Jr. as a near hero of the faith.  While I am grateful that the Lord used King for some much needed social reform in the United States, I cannot, as a Christian, look at him as a hero of the faith due to his liberal theology and his known marital infidelity.  Even more troubling than the lauding of King is the suggested reading at the end of this article.  The author, and AWANA (by virtue of allowing the article to be published), believes that James Cone’s book “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” is quality Christian literature.  The truth is – it’s heresy.  James Cone is the founder of the modern “Black Liberation Theology,” which is a false gospel, and antithetical to the true gospel.  It is troubling that AWANA would tout this as something profitable for Christians to glean from.  This is just one example of why we cannot support these decisions and this new direction from AWANA.

  1. We want our kids to not just know the Bible, but the God of the Bible.

We are told that it is good to “hide the Word in our heart” (Psalm 119:11), but we are told to do more.  In 1 Corinthians 14:19 Paul says, “In the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”  In Acts 18:25 Apollos said that, “He had been instructed in the way of the Lord.”  The word “instruct” in the Greek is katecheo. This is where we get the word “catechism” from in English. Catechism simply means to teach Biblical truth in a systematic fashion in the form of a list of questions and answers to be memorized.  If we put the commands of Paul together and marry them with his admonition to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:13, (“Follow the pattern of sound words which you heard from me“), we find the purpose of the catechism. We want to help our families to hide the word of God in their hearts, but we also want them to be “instructed in the way of the Lord” in light of the whole counsel of God.

  1. Catechisms have long been used by the church to teach the Word and theology.

There are several historic catechisms that we could choose from.  Have you ever heard the question asked, “What is the chief end of man?”  The answer is, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  Many Christians over the past 300 plus years have answered this question in the same way.  Why do so many know this answer?  It is because it is the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism (one of the most popular catechisms ever written for Protestants).  There is a reason why the church has used this method of teaching and Bible study for hundreds of years.  These catechisms are great tools for helping to hide God’s Word in the hearts of God’s people and they provide a means of understanding deep theological truth in a methodical way. Our plan is to use them in this way as well here at Pray’s Mill.  We will use, “A Catechism for Boys and Girls” for our K – 3rd-grade children and the “The Baptist Catechism” for 4th – 6th grade as we start our new season of discipleship on Wednesday nights this fall.

AWANA has been good for us over the past two decades.  Yet, in God’s providence, we believe that it is time for something new for our families.

The New Season: T&G Kids  

Our new Wednesday class will be called T&G Kids.  What exactly does T&G Kids stand for?  T&G stands for “Truth and Grace.”  Founders Ministry produced three books called Truth and Grace.  These three books are meant for three different age brackets.  Our plan is to use book 1 and 2 for kindergarten – 6th-grade children.  Each book has, the catechisms (with scriptures that coincide with the catechisms), selected Bible memory verses, Bible basics (10 commandments, Lord’s prayer, historic creeds), hymns (old and modern) for use in family worship, and a worksheet to track the children’s progress.

Our plan is for each child to receive a book.  Each Wednesday the child will come prepared with their Bible, book, memorized catechism question and answer, and their verse memorized as well. Each Wednesday we will meet for an exciting time filled with interactive games, Bible lessons based on the catechism question, and a time for our adults to hone in and help our kids learn their catechisms.  As we do all of this it is our hope that in this process our parents will use this opportunity to ask these catechism questions to their children during family worship each week.  This will not only help the child to memorize the catechism but it will help the parents as well. Part of our jobs as pastors is to “present every person mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).  We believe that T&G Kids will help us to accomplish this for our people.

At the end of the day, our job as the church is to do our part in fulfilling the Great Commission.  Part of that commission is the maturing of disciples (“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. . .”).  There are a variety of tools that can help us accomplish that goal.  AWANA was a successful tool for many years in the life of Pray’s Mill to do just that.  However, it is now time for us to walk away from AWANA as we seek to continue to fulfill the Great Commission.  The right tool for this season we believe is an old tool . . .the tool of the Q&A session . . . the tool of the catechism.  It is now time for T&G Kids to be used to help our families grow in the knowledge and holiness of God.  May the Lord use it for his glory, the growth of our families spiritually, and the Kingdom of God as a whole.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

T&G Kids Slide (Blog)

Husbands, Are You Willing To Die For Your Wife?

I know I am going to date myself, but at one point in time I was a young starry-eyed romantic.  At 14, 15, and 16 years old I would stay up listening to the “soft rock” station so as to be able to tape-record the love songs that I liked (Yes, that is the way we once had to record songs . . .  on a blank cassette tape, before there was online file sharing).  One of my favorite songs was by the early 90’s Canadian star, Bryan Adams.  The song’s title was “Everything I do, I do it for you.”  Some of my favorite lyrics, “Yeah, I would fight for you. I’d lie for you. Walk the wire for you. Yeah, I’d die for you. You know it’s true. Everything I do. I do it for you.”  As a teenage boy, there didn’t seem to be anything more romantic than a song like this.  Yet, now as a married man, and having a much more sensible idea of romance I ask myself, and to those reading this, “are you really willing to die for your spouse?”  Now that the feelings of romance are much less than they might have been before.  How about now that life seems to just be routine?  Are you stilling willing to say words like the above mentioned with as much enthusiasm as a young teenage romantic?  If you truly have a Christ-centered marriage, I would hope the answer would be yes . . . though not in the same way as you would have as a freshman in high school.

I have heard it said, “It is harder to live as a martyr than to die as one.” I believe the same is true when we think about our marriages as well. A one time major sacrifice can be easier than a life filled with little ones.  So, my question is, “Are you willing to die for your spouse daily?”

Dying According to the Scriptures

Our daily Christian life is to be one filled with dying to oneself (Matthew 16:24-26).  It is to be one about putting others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3).  It is about doing unto others, as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31).  As we look to Christ, and worship him, this is the task that he assigns us to.  In other words, Christianity is not a self-centered religion.  It is not a religion of romance.  It is to be Christ-centered, which leads us to have a love for others.  Dying to oneself is to be the daily habit of the Christian.  Are you willing to die daily for your wife’s needs?  Are you willing to put her desires before your own?  If we truly desire to keep the Lord’s commands there is no better place to start than with the one you made a covenant with.  Are you dying for your wife according to scripture?

Dying as Christ Died

You are likely aware of Ephesians 5 where Paul speaks of a Christian marriage in terms of the covenant between Christ and the Church.  Husbands are told to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”  We don’t see this sacrificial covenant love through the eyes of a Greco-Roman romanticized understanding of love.  No, we understand and see this sacrifice that was filled with blood and wrath.  It was a love that led to a substitutionary death and Paul says that this is how we as men are to love our wives.  So men I ask you, “Are you willing to die for your wives?” Christ died for his bride when his bride deserved to die.  If this was some Hollywood tale it would have made for a great romantic movie.  However, this is not a Hollywood tale.  This is the truth about a holy God sending his holy son to die for an unholy bride which he in turns makes holy.  Christ didn’t die for her out of a desire to be romantic instead he died for her in order to make her righteous.

Romance is a wonderful thing.  If I am honest, I would say that I still enjoy going back from time to time and listening to some of those sappy romantic songs from my youth.  They are good for nostalgia and date nights with my wife.  However, when I hear that old Canadian pop-star sing “Everything I do, I do it for you” it speaks to me in a much different way today.  After being married for 12 years I hear, “Am I willing to die to my desires to have a little free time in order to be there for her?  Am I willing to free her to go to Bible study on Saturday while I watch our 7 kids?  Am I willing to lose sleep to take care of our sick 2-year-old so she can catch up on some sleep?”  My understanding of dying for her has changed a lot over the past 12 years.  I can safely say that I love my bride more today than I did the day we said our vows.  I really had no clue what being willing to die for her meant back then.  It looks much different now.  Yet, when I look to the Lord and His Word I start to see it a little better as each year passes.

Husbands, were you once a romantic but now that your wedding day is over a decade or a quarter century ago have you lost that loving feeling?  If you were once willing to hang the moon, climb the highest mountain, swim the widest ocean, or even die for your love back then, are you still willing to die for her today?  I would encourage you to look to the scriptures and to Christ to see what this looks like in the mundanity of life for your wife.  Christ died for his bride, and as long as we live we should be willing to die for ours as well.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

The Family Toolbox (April 2020)

A Guide To Family Worship – Ryan Bush

“This guide is simple, approachable, and repeatable for families of any makeup and age. Do not feel as though you must reinvent the wheel when it comes to family worship. In this guide, Ryan Bush compiles help from hundreds of years of Christian history to help you and your family read, memorize, catechize, pray, and sing.”

Dad’s Role in Homemaking –  John Piper

“This oversight involves primary responsibility for protection in the family — physically, morally, and spiritually. It involves the primary responsibility for providing for the family. It involves a servant heart that leads by modeling rather than mere commanding.”

Epic: An Around-The-World Journey Through Christian History – Tim Challies

In his new book and video documentary Tim Challies, “explores the history of what God is accomplishing in this world, whether through princes or peasants, triumph or trial. Each object offers a tangible link between the present and the past, between the Christians of the 21st century and those who lived and died in centuries past.”

Parenting with Patience: Overcoming Anger in Your Home – Chap Bettis

“Ashamed of your yelling? Embarrassed by your outbursts at your children? There is hope! Parenting with Patience is a five-week video-driven Bible study. It includes five lessons in online streaming videos and a participant’s workbook.”

Studies in Proverbs – Paul Washer

This new, FREE, online study is called “Studies in Proverbs.” Each study consists of a 20-minute lesson in which Paul Washer teaches through the book of Proverbs. These lessons are made with children and teenagers in mind (though adults can certainly learn from them as well!) and can serve as a school course.  It is their hope to be timely help for families! A new episode is released every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (which started on April 20th, 2020).

The Dad I Want to Be – Daniel Darling

“God calls us to something better and empowers us. We can’t change where we’ve already failed, but we shouldn’t let past failures paralyze us. Right now, in this exact moment, I can be faithful. I can put down my phone. I can seek peace in this conversation. I can turn away from selfishness and toward service.”

Your Family Is the Frontlines: Three Ways to Recover the Christian Home Steven Wedgeworth

“In all of this, the Christian family will learn to just be a Christian family. As all the members come to really believe what they say and hear, the home will be characterized by a constant Christ-filled aroma. Parents will teach their children to believe and not to doubt, and the whole family will order their affairs toward the glory of God. This should not be a temporary measure during emergency times, but a lasting vision for the Christian life, to reclaim the home, build the home, and consecrate the home to our master, Jesus Christ.”

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

The Family Toolbox (March 2020)

A Theology of the Family  By Scott Brown and Jeff Pollard

“This book presents a perspective on the family largely forgotten by the modern church. There are fifty-six authors featured in this volume; authors such as: John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, William Gouge, Matthew Henry, Martin Luther, A.W. Pink, J. C. Ryle, R. C. Sproul, Charles Spurgeon, and Thomas Watson. Each of them give a powerful testimony that the twenty-first-century church needs to be reminded of what she used to believe about family life. These authors bring a measure of the correction and the balm necessary to heal our amnesia and return us to biblical order.”

The Best Parental Control Software for 2020  by Protect Young Eyes

“We tried really hard to beat them. Thinking like a motivated, hormonal, tech-savvy, social media addicted, a 13-year-old teen who wants to evade all blockades that “the parentals” have put in place. Keyword searches. Circumvention. Backdoors. Even though we believe that 90% of kids aren’t like this, we know that “10% kid” pretty well.”

How Do I Bless My Children Before Bed?  by John Piper

” . . . look your children in the eye, and speak grace and peace into their lives based on the gift of God in the death of Jesus. And make plain the central blessings that Christ has purchased for his children: freedom from sin, everlasting life, everlasting joy, the personal presence of God — of Jesus — keeping them through all the hardships of life and suffering.”

Is Secondhand Screen Time the New Secondhand Smoking?  By Joelle Renstrom

” . . . I began researching screen addiction and conducting my own surveys. Roughly 20% of my students have used the word “addiction” when describing their phone habits, and many more have expressed misgivings about their phone use. While I encourage them to examine their habits, I blame students less for their tech addiction than I did a decade ago. They’ve learned this behavior from adults – in many cases since the moment they were born.”*

            Here is a book suggestion, and a review of the book, that may be helpful when thinking about our smartphone habits.

 Teens Need to Know They Can Make Money in Trade Careers  by Katie Bingham-Smith

“The trades are such a wonderful option for our kids. They are needed, they pay well, and the skills learned will be carried throughout a lifetime. The facts should be presented to them earlier in their life so it at least gets their brains wrapped around what a great way the trades can be to make a living.”

When Church Is Optional, You Set up Your Kids to Fail   by Blake Laberee

“It is a sad day when spiritual care of kids is pawned off onto the church, who having them for an hour or two each week is supposed to make up for the lack of spiritual vitality and leadership at home. Is it any wonder that kids get “bored” and fall away? It is even less of a wonder that upon the child falling away the blame is often placed directly on the lap of the church. Imagine if parents took to regularly praying with, studying with, and investing spiritually into their kids!”

Wise Counsel for Parents & Teens Mini-Conference  by Faith Bible Church

Faith Bible Church is pleased to host this one-day seminar Saturday, April 25, 2020, from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM on “Wise Counsel for Parents and Teens” with Lou Priolo.  Topics that will be discussed: 1) What Does It Mean to Be a Teen, 2) Helping Provocative Parents, 3) Bitterness: The Root That Polutes, 4) Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship.”

 Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

 

*While I do not agree with every philosophy found in this research, this is a lot of good data that should help us to think about how much screen time we have and how much we allow our children to participate in.  

“The Family Toolbox” (January 2020)

Dads, Your Children Need Both Quality and Quantity Time with You

“So dads, there’s a biblical mandate to raise your kids and invest time in them to do so. And there’s a biblical mandate to work hard to provide for your family. Just make sure that your work commitments don’t overshadow your need to be there for your kids.”.

Dear Church—Please Don’t Overlook or Undervalue the Young

“Expect wiggles, potty breaks, and the occasional outburst of a young child. It happens in your home (or did once upon a time), so you can expect it to happen on the church campus too. It may not be your conviction to have your children with you during the worship service or small group discipleship class. Some churches may offer various discipleship classes or nurseries for younger children and you may choose to use such resources for your children. However, don’t look down upon mothers who have different convictions. Furthermore, don’t become frustrated with children and babies near you during a worship service. Consider the sound of babies among your church as a sign of health and the blessing of God.”

Parental Controls We Recommend (For Internet and Smartphones)

“Parental controls are NOT a replacement for parenting. Parental controls are NOT ‘set it and forget it.’ Parental controls ARE a great way to minimize accidental exposures to inappropriate online content. The right parental control solution is going to be different for different families. We believe that the parental control and monitoring solutions above should work for MOST families.”

The Counter-Cultural Vocation of Homemaking

“We recently received an email from one of Nick’s tenth-grade [public school] teachers, sent to all the parents: “I would like to invite parents to come to our class to speak about the career they chose. I want to expose the student to a variety of careers and experiences. Would you like to come and speak to us?” My very first thought was for Aileen: “I think you should go as a stay-at-home mom.”

The Most Dangerous Temptation That Faces Our Youth – Choosing their Friends

“Social media is not the culprit. Traditional media, in general, is not the culprit. Music is not the culprit. Yes, those outlets can be horrible, immoral, and soul-crushing. But the real culprit lies in the quality of the friends we choose both within the media and in real life. Choose good friends on social media and you’ll have a good feed. Choose good friends in real life and you’ll probably stay away from bad movies, TV shows, music.”

*While I don’t agree with every conclusion that is made here, I do believe that there are some good bits of wisdom to be had when thinking about our children’s friends.

TikTok Is A Pedophile Magnet And Unsafe For Kids

“If your child is using Tiktok, one of the most popular video-sharing apps, they might not be safe as many have regarded it as a pedophile magnet.”

What Every Marriage Needs Most

“Forgiveness is an awesome and wonderful thing. Every spouse needs to make a vocation out of asking forgiveness and giving forgiveness. It has to happen almost daily, I would say.”

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Why I Love the G3 Conference

In January 2013, in Douglasville, Georgia a conference was born.  Now there were many other conferences that one could attend in Reformed circles.  At the time there was T4G, Shepherds’ Conference, Bethlehem Conference, and Ligonier.  Those were (and still are) all fine conferences, and truth be told, G3 was never formed to compete with them.  It was formed with the purpose of having a solid, theologically rich conference in the southeast which hoped to strengthen the local church.  I first heard about the conference while attending the Ligonier Conference in 2012.  At that time I was on staff at a Baptist church in the Atlanta area, and when I saw that there was going to be a conference this close to me, I knew that I wanted to attend.  When January rolled around, two friends and I descended on the little town just west of Atlanta and my life has forever been changed because of it.

When I think of G3, I always think of it with fond memories.  I have yet to miss a single conference in the last seven years and Lord willing, I will continue on with that trajectory.  With the 8th annual conference beginning this week, I wanted to express why I think G3 is special and why I love G3 so much.  And like any good Reformed guy, I have 5 points or reasons why.

The Fellowship

I have heard many people say that meeting each year at G3 is like having an annual family reunion.  Getting to see old friends in the vendor hall or meeting someone new while waiting in line for lunch and talking about the glories of God is just one of the benefits of the conference. This conference provides a place of genuine love, genuine friendship, and genuine worship all in one place.  It is where so many of the “one another” passages are able to be applied.  One of the reasons I love G3 is simply because of the fellowship of both the local church and the church universal.  It is indeed a sweet fellowship shared by all.

The Singing

One of the first things that struck me at the very first conference in 2013 was the singing.  I have been to a lot of concerts and special church singings in my life, but there was just something different about the singing that first year.  There were 700 voices lifted as one.  The music was good, but it was the voices of the congregation that carried the songs.  It was a mix of old and new hymnody, but every song was dripping with theological truth.  Every year it is the same . . .  Christ-centered, robust singing. This year we are expecting over 5,000 in attendance.  What a joy it will be to sing with so many, lifting praise and making melody in our heart to the Lord.

The Accessibility

One of the unique things about G3 is that there is no fencing of the speakers.  At many conferences, the preacher often stays in the green room while they are not speaking.  The attendees do not really get a chance to interact with the speakers.  This is not the case at this conference.  It is common to see many of the speakers out and about roaming the vendor hall, or sitting in the back of the conference center listening to one of the other speakers.  Many will stand and talk to conference-goers after their sessions or during the break.  The speakers are human.  They are not superhuman and untouchable.  At G3, one is able to speak with a Tim Challies or a Paul Washer just like you would your own pastor after the morning service.  It is a unique feature that I am thankful for.

The Church

Long before I became an elder at Pray’s Mill Baptist Church I was attending the conference.  There has always been a heavy emphasis placed on the local church.  It is always stated each year, “This conference is not a reality.  This is a taste of heaven where every one of like-mind gathers to worship.”  These words are true.  We gather to be encouraged, but then scatter to go back to our own local place of worship.  The hope is that when you leave you will be encouraged to go back to serve the Lord through your local church.  Pray’s Mill members love to serve the attendees of the conference.  Over half of our congregation helps serve in some capacity.  The very genesis of this conference was by a local church with the purpose of strengthening the local church and you can see how the Lord has done just that over the years.  If you look over the audience you will find young and old, black and white, yellow and red, pastor and janitor, men and women.  This is the church.  I love the emphasis on the local church while gathered with the church universal.  This is just another reason that I love G3.

The Preaching

By far the best part of the conference is the preaching.  There is a wide diversity of preachers who stand in the pulpit each year, but one thing that has always remained consistent is the quality of the preaching.  In my 7 years of attending this conference, I have to say that I cannot remember a “bad sermon.”  Richard Baxter has famously said, “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”  This is what it seems like is being done sermon after sermon at the conference.  The Lord is magnified.  The Scriptures are held high and exposited.  The listeners have no choice but to respond to the heralded.  Over the years I have wept, laughed, been deeply moved by my own sin, and rejoiced in the truths of the gospel, all of this because of the Spirit’s work in me through the preaching of the Word.  Bar none, the preaching at G3 is at the top of the list of why I love G3.

I don’t love G3 just because the Lord used it to move my family to Douglasville, Georgia.  Long before I ever became a pastor at Pray’s Mill I loved this conference.  I have long called this week in January “my second Christmas.”  Now I get the pleasure of working alongside an amazing church that is made up of some amazing people to help put on the conference.  What a joy and a blessing.  I love G3 because for three days I get to worship the Lord through the preached Word and sing gospel-rich songs with some of my most favorite people on the planet.  The Lord has used this conference to enrich my soul over the years.  I have no doubt that he will do the same this week. I have made many friends because of this conference.  I have many memories because of it as well.  Yet more than that, I have grown to love the Lord more because of it . . . and that is truly why I can say, “I love the G3 Conference.”

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Don’t Let Satan Rob You of Your Repentance

Repentance is one of the greatest gifts God has ever given His people.  While repentance is something that is a command (Acts 17:30), we also see that it is a generous gift (Acts 11:18, II Timothy 2:25) as well.  A few years ago, I was reading a book by the late Dr. RC Sproul.  In it, he provided an illustration that has profoundly impacted my way of thinking about repentance.  He wrote about an encounter that he once had with one of his parishioners.  He explained:

 “A man distraught about a guilt problem once came to me saying, ‘I’ve asked God to forgive me of a sin over and over, but I still feel guilty.  What can I do?’ This situation did not involve the multiple repetitions of the same sin, but the multiple confession of a sin committed once.

‘You must pray again and ask God to forgive you,’ I replied.  A look of frustrated impatience came to his eyes. ‘But, I’ve done that!’ he exclaimed.  ‘I’ve asked God over and over again to forgive me.  What good will it do to ask him again?’

In my reply I applied the proverbial firm force of the board to the head of the mule: ‘I’m not suggesting that you ask God to forgive you for that sin.  I’m asking you to seek forgiveness for your arrogance.’

The man was incredulous.  ‘Arrogance? What arrogance?’ the man was assuming that his repeated entireties for a pardon were proof positive of his humility.  He was so contrite over his sin that he felt he had to repent for it forever.  His sin was too great to be pardoned by one dose of repentance.  He was going to suffer for his sin no matter how gracious God was.   Pride had fixed a barrier to this man’s acceptance of forgiveness. When God promised us that He will forgive us, we insult His integrity when we refuse to accept it.  To forgive ourselves after God has forgiven us is a duty as well as a privilege.[1]

I don’t think this man’s experience is unique.  Indeed, I think it is actually very common. However, it is thinking like this that has allowed Satan to rob us of the joy of repentance.  This should never be the case for the believer. There are two ways that Satan can rob a Christian of their repentance, yet we don’t have to let him.

Don’t let him trick you into thinking you don’t need to repent of the “small” sins.

“Little sins” can often go unnoticed by the human eye and heart.  Let’s say that you didn’t pay enough money at the parking meter today, and you ended up getting a ticket.  Truth be told, it kind of frustrated you and Romans 13 doesn’t really feel like it applies here right?  Your husband did something to hurt you, though he didn’t even know it.  You go to bed angry, but by the next morning you just brush it off and go on.  Your child has talked back for the third time today, and that was the last straw.  You discipline them, but you did so in anger.  You justify your over-reaching discipline by saying to yourself, “They were in the wrong.  They didn’t honor me.”  It seems like small stuff to many, but it is not in the eyes of God.  Though it may seem insignificant, it is the local government’s right to put in parking meters on their property.  And as Christians, we are called to “obey the government” and “those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God” (Romans 13:1-2).  Even though your husband may have frustrated you, it was your responsibility to “not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).  While your children needed discipline for their dishonor, we as parents are to discipline them in love, and not out of anger or done so out of control (Ephesians 6:4).  When we let these “little sins” go unrepented, we are robbed of our proper communion with the Lord.  Don’t let Satan convince you that those “small” sins are not worth praying about.

Don’t let him drag you down with guilt from past sins if they are forgiven sins.

Guilt and shame have their place. The Holy Spirit uses them to bring a person to repentance (II Corinthians 7:10). Yet, once a person repents of their sin, then their guilt and shame are removed (Romans 8:1). This is the beauty of repentance.  The psalmist reminds us of a great truth when he wrote, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).  When we sin, we must repent.  When we repent we must realize that God is the one to whom we have offended.   And while there still may be earthly consequences for our sins, we can rest in knowing that our standing with God is righteous.  We do not have to crumble under the weight of guilt and shame the way Dr. Sproul’s parishioner did.  Satan would love to do this to you.  If he can rob you of your joy and freedom in Christ by reminding you of your past sin, he will do so.  Yet in Christ, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).   Let us all remember as Dr. Sproul has said, “When God promised us that He will forgive us, we insult His integrity when we refuse to accept it.  To forgive ourselves after God has forgiven us is a duty as well as a privilege.[2]

When we turn away from our sin, we are to turn to God.  When we do this, he accepts our repentant plea.  When God says that something is good, we must believe it.  Repentance is a gift from God to his people. So, next time you want to forget about that little sin, DON’T.  Repent of it, and be freed from the guilt of it.  The next time you want to fall to your knees under the weight of a past sin that Satan brings to your remembrance, DON’T.  Plead the blood and know that God has forgiven you of that sin, and in that forgiveness, you no longer must bear the weight of guilt and shame.  Jesus took it for you.  You bear it no more.   Don’t let Satan rob you of your repentance.  If you are the Lord’s, you are free in Christ, so matter what Satan may try to make you think.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

[1] Sproul, R.C. Does Prayer Change Things. (Lake Mary: Ligonier Ministries, 2009), 39-40.

[2] Sproul, R.C. Does Prayer Change Things. (Lake Mary: Ligonier Ministries, 2009), 40.