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By Dieudonne Tamfu — 1 year ago
Family dysfunction is often more spiritual than relational, despite how regular tension and conflict might make it feel. Satan rejoices when homes are ruined. He fights to make families feeble. The weaker the family, the stronger his rule and the more his course advances.
Satan uses instruments, human means, in the battle. He often works through flesh and blood. Nevertheless, we do not fight against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Instead, we rely on flesh-and-blood relationships as we fight against him in our homes.
Corporate Worship and Warfare
Which relationships do we need to rely on? What alliances will help us defeat Satan as he attacks our homes? Our great alliance is with our brothers and sisters in the church. They are our fellow soldiers fighting the same war — and unity is key. We work together and depend on each other for lasting triumph.
“Satan rejoices when homes are ruined. He fights to make families feeble.”
The church is the army in the great spiritual war. While every family faces its individual battles, warfare is also a corporate endeavor. We wrestle together against a common enemy, Satan. We can see this reality especially in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where the apostle envelops instructions about family relationships (Ephesians 5:22–6:9) between corporate worship (Ephesians 5:18–21) and corporate warfare (Ephesians 6:10–20). This structure shows that family relationships flow from, and depend on, the corporate worship and warfare of God’s family.
God’s family, the church, provides the source of power, the pattern, and the means of protection for our individual families. If we want to guard our families from the attacks of the devil, we will find our shield in the church.
Walking Home in the Spirit
Prior to his instructions on the family, Paul explains how we are to live and worship corporately (Ephesians 5:15–21). Walking in wisdom, he writes, entails being filled with the Spirit by speaking and singing truth to Christ and one another in corporate worship. In this way, the Spirit fills God’s gathered family and empowers them to live out the gospel, claiming victory in their homes. When God’s people are filled with the Spirit through corporate worship, wives submit to their husbands, husbands love their wives, children obey their parents, fathers tenderly train their children, servants obey their masters, and masters do good to their servants.
“If we despise the family of God, we will not survive in the effort to establish ours.”
The connection between the sections on corporate worship and the home is even clearer in the Greek. Ephesians 5:22 does not have the word submit; we only understand the implied verb by looking back at verse 21, where Paul uses the participle submitting. Paul uses unusual grammar to tie the two sections together, thus linking the family relationships in Ephesians 5:22–6:9 to the gathered family of God, the church, as the source of families’ strength. In other words, our individual family lives are an overflow of the life in the gathered family of God.
When filled with the Spirit, God’s family becomes not only the power but the pattern for our own individual families. Wives submit as the church submits to Christ. Husbands love as Christ loved the church. Children obey parents in the Lord, as God’s children also obey him. Fathers take their cue from the heavenly Father in exercising gentleness. Servants obey as they would Christ. Masters treat their servants respectfully because both masters and servants have one Master. Thus, the church’s relationship with her Lord and heavenly Father becomes the pattern for a Spirit-filled family. Sinclair Ferguson rightly says,
My family needs the church family for its own growth and health. No single family possesses all the resources it needs to be a truly and fully Christian family. We need support, friendship, example, wise counsel and much else from the church family. . . . Two Christian parents are not in themselves adequate to rear one child for Christ — they were never meant to be. (Devoted to God’s Church, 7)
Beyond Flesh and Blood
Having called specific members of the church to walk by the Spirit, honoring Christ in their respective callings, Paul draws the church to the armor that will keep its individual families firm in the path before them. Every family member — husbands, wives, parents, children, servants, masters — must be strong in the Lord to “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) and “withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:13), clothed with the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:14). Throughout this section, Paul uses the second person plural, referring to the entire church. Corporate war is the means by which individual families stand against the schemes of the devil.
One of the devil’s schemes, against which the church must stand, is the temptation to devalue the place of God’s family for our individual families. Many Christians today fail to see corporate worship and warfare as indispensable. The gathering of the church is optional; we easily forsake the gathering for other pursuits, when we should let go of every other pursuit to gather with the church. When the devil separates us from the army of God, he has better chances for victory against our families.
Any military commander would be a fool if he sent his men into battle detached from each other. A commander who separates one man from the team may, in effect, send that soldier to his death, as David did to Uriah (2 Samuel 11:15). If an army is divided among itself, how can it stand? It can be a crime in the military to desert your team or to forsake a wounded member of the team. You fight for your country; you fight with each other; you protect each other. Care for one another is central. When believers forget and forsake the rest of the military, the church, they give an advantage to the devil.
We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but we need flesh and blood for the war against the devil. No family feud is only relational; there is always more going on than meets the eyes. Eve’s disobedience and Adam’s passivity may have appeared as just as a flesh-and-blood issue if Moses had never led us behind the scenes to see the schemes of the devil. The counsel of Job’s wife, as the waves of trials swept over them, may have seemed simply like the words of a troubled soul (Job 2:9). But the author of Job lifts the curtains and shows us that behind those words lay an evil force. Job’s battle was not against flesh and blood; it was spiritual.
Full Armor for the Family
How do we fight these spiritual wars? In part, we do so corporately. We stand in whole armor Christ has won for us, and we fight with the word of God (Ephesians 6:13–18). The pieces of armor Paul lists are not different from the truth we corporately confess and sing to each other in corporate worship. Being strong in the strength of the Lord is similar to being filled with the Spirit, who “strengthens with power” in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16). We put on the whole armor when we address each other with the truth of the gospel, our true righteousness in Christ, and the gospel of peace, strengthening each other’s faith in the gospel, singing of our great salvation, joining in songs that are rich with the word, which is the sword of the Spirit. Corporate worship itself is corporate warfare.
While these pieces of armor can be put on at the individual level, the corporate dimension is vital. For example, as individuals, we may not always have our shields up. But in corporate warfare, when a husband’s shield falls, others can gather around him and protect him with their own shields, praying and encouraging him back to the battle. Victory for individual families comes as we are engaged in God’s local family, where we wage the war with others against the schemes of the devil.
This reality also places a burden of responsibility on local churches, since the health of her families, in large measure, depends on the strength of a church’s worship and warfare. What the gathered family does with the truth determines the health of its individual families.
We Fight Together or Fail
Corporate worship and warfare are indispensable for our marriages and families. If we despise the family of God, we will not survive in the effort to establish ours. Your family needs God’s family. Your marriage needs God’s marriage. Your parenting needs God’s fatherly relationship with his people. We fight together or we fail.
If we isolate ourselves from the community of God’s people, we will inevitably fall in the battle, with none to lift us up. God has not designed us to live that way. The health of your family is the project of God’s family. We worship together, we war together, and by God’s grace, we will win together.
By John Piper — 10 months ago
http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/15208352/how-are-we-empowered-with-gods-powerPost Views: 219
By John Piper — 1 year ago
Today’s question comes to us from Austin, and it’s a trio of questions really. He writes, “Pastor John, hello, and thank you for the podcast. My question is whether or not we should be praying for healing for our friends with physical and cognitive disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, or cerebral palsy. We see Jesus heal people with physical disabilities in the Gospels. So should we pray for similar healing? If not, how should we encourage our friends with disabilities with the truth that they are made in the image of God? And will individuals in heaven still have their disabilities? Thank you for your insights and your help.”
There are three questions here, aren’t there?
Should we pray for healing for our friends with physical and cognitive disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy?
How should we encourage our friends with disabilities with the truth that they are made in the image of God?
Will individuals in heaven still have their disabilities?
Now I’m going to save that first question about prayer for last. I think how we pray is affected by how we answer these second two questions. So let’s start with number two.
Conformed to a Greater Image
How should we encourage our friends with disabilities with the truth that they are made in the image of God? Now my response may be surprising. My response to this question is that I don’t devote much effort to this because I think Christians have a far, far greater gift to give to the disabled than to help them know they are made in the image of God.
If I were to try to encourage people that they are made in the image of God, I would say it involves two things: (1) speaking the truth of God’s word to the effect that all humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26; 5:1; 9:6; James 3:9), and (2) by treating people — disabled people — as persons, not projects. That would be my answer to the question.
But let me encourage Austin, and everybody else, that focusing on helping people feel good about being created in the image of God is not a very high goal, and in the end, not a hopeful goal. Think of it. There are two reasons for why I say this.
One is that every human is made in the image of God, which means that God’s enemies are created in his image, unrepentant rebels are created in God’s image, people who are under God’s wrath are created in God’s image, people that God sends to hell for unbelief and disobedience were made in his image. Being in the image of God is not a hopeful condition. To focus on helping people feel created in God’s image is not a saving effort.
A second reason why helping people know they are created in God’s image is not a high or hopeful goal is that Christians have a spectacularly higher, more hopeful message. When we offer Christ, we invite people to be, not the created image of God, but the recreated child of God — a new creation in Christ. We don’t offer the experience of a doomed and defaced image. We offer Spirit-given conformity to the image of God’s Son, wrought by the Spirit.
We offer the forgiveness of sins, the removal of divine wrath against his image-bearers, the escape from all condemnation, the triumph over our sinful nature, the defeat of death, the hope of eternal life with God — not merely as his image-bearer, but as his loved, adopted child. That’s what we offer to disabled people, and with it, a dignity far beyond being created in God’s image.
If the cognitive impairment — this is important; this not just an afterthought. If the cognitive impairment is so severe that we can’t tell if our message of hope is getting through, we remain faithful to their care, and we entrust their souls to the mercy of God the way we do our children who die in infancy.
Foretaste of Heaven
Now, the third question. (We did the second question first and now the third question second.) Austin asks, “Will individuals in heaven still have their disabilities?” The answer is no. You might wonder, “Why did he ask that? Isn’t that obvious?” I think there’s more behind this question, and I’ll get to that in just a minute. My answer is no, they won’t.
“The ministry of Jesus is a beautiful trailer, a foretaste of what the new heavens and the new earth will be like.”
My reason for saying so is twofold. One part of the reason is that Jesus’s ministry was a foretaste of the kingdom. He said, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). The same thing is true when he healed people’s disabilities, like being blind from birth or being unable to stand up for eighteen years. So the ministry of Jesus is a beautiful trailer, a foretaste of what the new heavens and the new earth will be like. He will do away with all sickness and disease and disability.
Now the second part of the reason I think disabilities will be done away with is because Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” The things that brought painful crying in this world — whether in parents or in the disabled child or a community, whatever brought painful crying into this world will be removed.
Now it may be that Austin asked whether people would have their disabilities in heaven because he sees that in some cases, the so-called “disability” — for example, with a Down syndrome person — is so interwoven with the limits and beauties of the personality that it is scarcely imaginable that such people would be the same person if the disability were removed. That might be what’s behind his question, which is a very, very good question.
Now my answer to this is that God is God. That’s the short answer. God is God. In his infinite capacities of preserving true personhood and making new personhood, he will preserve everything good that he created, and he will remove everything that the fall distorted, and we will know each other with the precious old preserved but radically renewed. Somehow he’ll do it.
Always Ready to Give
Which brings us now to the last question (which was really the first question): “Should we pray for healing for our friends with physical cognitive disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy?”
My guess is that when a couple hears a doctor say that the baby in the womb has a genetic disorder that will result in a disability, they do pray, and they should pray, that God would intervene and heal that genetic problem, so the baby is born without that disorder.
But in many cases, and I suppose we’d all agree that in most cases, disabilities are sooner or later perceived by the parents, by the community, by the church, by the child, to be God’s sovereign will for the family. They come to the conclusion, and it’s not a sinful conclusion, “This is God’s appointment for us and for our child.” It would not be sin, I don’t think, to pray at any given point along the way for a dramatic transformation. But neither is it a sin to hear the voice of God saying, “I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10), and “I will do more good through this painful providence than you can even imagine.”
“God is in the business of providing shelter in the storm — the storm that he himself has sent.”
But then the question becomes not whether we should pray for the disabled, but rather how we should pray for them and their families. Because the fact that God says no to the genetic reordering in the womb does not mean he says no to a thousand other prayers for this child, for this family. In the mystery of God’s providences — call them severe mercies — there is a lavish willingness on the part of God to help in ways that, at the beginning, the families can’t even imagine that they will need. So, the answer is yes, yes: pray, pray, pray for the disabled and their families. God is in the business of lifting burdens through his people and through the prayers of his people. He is in the business of providing shelter in the storm — the storm that he himself has sent.
When you stop to think about it, most of us live under the cloud of some great unanswered prayer — that is, a prayer for some conversion, a prayer for a rescued relationship, some healing, some calamity that didn’t get removed. And God said, “No, my grace is sufficient for you,” like he did to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9. We know that under that cloud of no, no, there are hundreds of yeses that God is ready to give to those who trust him and ask him for help.
So I say that just to point out that we’re all in this together with the disabled. And the answer is yes, let’s pray for each other. Pray for each other.