Monday, July 27, 2015

A Call to Single Service

Below is the draft text of a sermon I hope to deliver later this year. Please check it out and let me know if you have any suggestions!

In this message I primarily want to encourage those of you who are single to remain single, if you can.  But first I want to speak to those of you who are already married.  When I speak about the benefits of singleness, you may start to think, “Oh, I wish I were not married!”  Do not let satan plant seeds of discontentment in your mind.  To be married is not a sin.  In fact, marriage is good.  Proverbs says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and receives favor from the Lord”.

As a married person, you have 5 blessings that a single person does not have.

Married people have balance.  God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make him a helper suitable to him.”  (Genesis 2:18) That’s why God created women.  Men and women see the world differently.  They have different emotional habits.  They have different physical characteristics.  Usually men are more courageous, and women are more kind.  When you get married, you become connected to another person who has strengths that match your weaknesses.  Your spouse will balance you.  Together, you will make wiser decisions than either of you would make alone.

Married people have holy, God-honoring sex. Marriage is the only way to have sex that is good and pleasing to God.  All sex outside marriage is sin, and brings God’s judgment.  Sex is a good gift from God; if you want to have sex, get married.  Paul said it’s better for unmarried people to remain single, but “they do not have self control, let them marry, because it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”  (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)

Married people can have children.  The Bible describes some disadvantages to getting married, but it shows no disadvantages to having children.  The Bible consistently speaks of children as a blessing from God.  If you are married, have as many children as you can.  Then work hard and long to train your children to know and love and follow Jesus.  You can disciple your children in a way you cannot disciple anyone else.

Marriage gives men preparation for church leadership.  A church leader must manage his family well, and train his children to be obedient and respectful (1 Timothy 3:4, Titus 1:6).  Paul says, “If a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?”  (1 Timothy 3:5)  Leading a church is like leading a family.  Children need love and time and discipline and food.  Church members need love and time and discipline and food.  I was an elder in my church for 3 years.  If I had been a husband and father, I would have been better prepared for the hardships of church leadership.  I believe single men can be church leaders (look at Paul!) but they will have extra work to learn to lead.  Being an unmarried church leader is like trying to go to college without going to high school first.

Married people can also demonstrate the relationship between Christ and the church.  Human marriage is designed by God as a temporary picture of an eternal reality.  The way a husband cares for his wife is supposed to show how Jesus loves His people, the church.  The way a wife respects her husband is meant to display how the church should honor and obey Jesus.  (Ephesians 5:22-33) As a single, I can tell a husband, “You must love your wife in the same way that Christ loves the church.” But only a married Christian man can show him what that looks like in very practical ways.

Those are 5 good reasons to marry. Now I will tell you two bad reasons to marry.

Don’t get married because you’re lonely.  Many married people are lonely too.  Don’t expect your spouse to fill the emptiness in your heart.  Only Jesus can do that.

Don’t get married because of social or family pressure.  Marriage is a very serious decision.   When you are single, you can decide to get married, but when you are married, you cannot decide to get single!  When you die, your decisions will be judged by Jesus, not by your family and friends.  

Marriage for the right reasons is very good.  But now I will tell you why I think it is better for single Christians to stay single, if they can.  

I say “if they can” because not everyone can stay single.  The disciples asked Jesus if it is better to remain unmarried.  Jesus said, “Not everyone can receive this, but only those to whom it has been given… If anyone can receive it, let him receive it.”  (Matthew 19:10-12)

How do you know if you should get married?  Try staying single!  If you discover that remaining celibate seems too hard, if your sexual desires are too distracting, then find a wife and enjoy God’s gift of marriage.  Just marry someone who loves Jesus as much as you do.   

Open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 7.  I want to show you two facts which explain the value of singleness.

First, time is short.  Look at verse 26.

I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.

In other words, if you are married, stay married, don’t get divorced.  If you are unmarried, don’t get married.  Did you notice the reason?  “The present distress”.  What is that?  Let’s keep reading.

28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. 29 But this I say, brothers, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.

Paul described the “present distress” with two more phrases: in verse 29, “the time has been shortened” and in verse 31, “the form of this world is passing away”.

Paul expected Jesus to return very soon.  Paul lived, and we live, in what the Bible calls “the last days”. When Jesus returns, this world will be destroyed.  Sinners will be thrown into hell.  Christians will be with Jesus forever.  We have only a short time to preach.  Because of this, life cannot go on as normal for us.  We do not have time to get busy with marriage and buying and rejoicing.
Second, marriage brings concerns.  Look at verse 32.

32 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

When you are unmarried, you can spend more time praying and reading the Bible and serving the church and preaching the gospel.  When you are married, you need to take care of your wife and your children.  A single person can take bigger risks, and go to more dangerous places.  Single people are more expendable.  I can die, without worrying about what will happen to my wife and children.

Wars have usually been fought and won by single men.  They can die more readily, and therefore fight more bravely, than married men.  When you are a single young man and your country is fighting an evil enemy, you do not look for a wife.  You look for a military office and enlist.  The pleasures of marriage can wait until the war is over.  

The church is at war with the world and the devil.  We will fight until Jesus returns.  We fight to win sinners to God.  We fight to see people of all nations bow their knees before Jesus.  We fight with prayers and preaching, not with bullets and bombs.  We fight to save, not to kill.  But our fighting requires real sacrifice and real suffering.  One of the things that sometimes gets sacrificed is marriage.  

Soon we will be married to Jesus forever.  Why not give up your dream of 50 years of human marriage, and use the freedoms of your singleness to preach Jesus and serve His church?

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