Open Doors

open doors

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

Denying ourselves is a voluntary and conscientious act. We make a definite decision which is equivalent to a complete and absolute surrender to our God. In doing so, we accept His plan for our lives and hand over the control to Him. He can make changes in accordance with His plan and purpose for our lives. To deny oneself and follow Jesus does not signify losing or winning. It does not nullify oneself but rather opens the way to be raised to the most noble standard of God’s plan for our lives. To follow Jesus has consequences. To take up a cross involves struggle. “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you,” Jesus said. (John 15:24)  It means identification with Him who was crucified. But there is also another truth involved. “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you will be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.”

The ultimate consequence of following the Lord is not death by crucifixion, but life eternal through resurrection.

I am the resurrection and the life … and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 22:25)

Andrés Noriega, from Cuba

Facebook and Adultery

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What to do if social media is causing you to covet?

She was wearing a black fleece and jogging pants the last time she saw her ex-boyfriend in person. He came over to her townhouse to break the news gently. As he walked out the door she thought she’d never see him again. Then he showed up in her living room five years later – this time on her computer screen.

Social media was becoming popular with people of all ages – not just the college crowd – and she decided to open a Facebook account. Suddenly, she had direct access to almost anyone from her past. She spent hours searching names of childhood friends, old teachers, and yes, even ex-boyfriends. Their lives were like murals on a wall displayed for anyone to see and for anyone to join, if only in their minds.

Sometimes she would click on her ex-boyfriend’s page when she was bored at work or tired of doing housework. She would also click on the days when her mind whispered “What if?” or “If only.” And other times she clicked when she was just fed-up with her marriage and wished for something different.

She critiqued her ex-boyfriend’s home, compared herself to his wife, and examined pictures of his kids. At the same time, she remembered all the good memories with him. She told herself that their differences weren’t that big-of-a-deal. They could have worked through their issues. She convinced herself that she was the one he was supposed to have married.

No longer was her ex-boyfriend only a part of her past. He was now a part of her present. She could enter his world whenever she wanted with just a click on the keyboard – and pretend. Pretend there could have been a happily-ever-after.

Has this woman ever described you?

No other time in our culture’s history has our past remained a part of our present like it does today with social-media. Before, when your ex-boyfriend walked out the door that final time, it was the last time, and he became nothing but a memory that eventually faded. However, now with social media, memories of past romantic relationships never fade. They’re always one click away.

Of course this becomes a problem when it affects your current marriage or dating relationship. According to research from the University of Missouri, “individuals who use Facebook excessively are far more likely to experience Facebook–related conflict with their romantic partners, which then may cause negative relationship outcomes including emotional and physical cheating, breakup and divorce.”

However, for a Christian there’s an even deeper issue. What if it doesn’t directly affect your marriage? What if no one ever finds out you search your ex-boyfriends, scouring their pages over and over again? What if it’s just between you and the computer screen? Is entering your ex-boyfriend’s world through social media then okay? Or what if it’s not an ex-boyfriend but just a guy you have a crush on? What’s the harm in just looking?

Social media creates façades for people’s lives and presents them as reality. Looking at that two-dimensional screen, our imaginations take us to places we think will make our lives more exciting, romantic, and less mundane. We begin to resent the life God gave us and instead dream an imaginary story of what could have been. This is the start of a hidden adultery that, even if it never becomes anything more than searching, has the ability to wreak havoc on women’s emotions.

Although there are no direct instructions in the Bible in regards to social media, God gives us wisdom for us to use in this context. It first begins with His command against covetousness. “And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Deuteronomy 5:21).

We may be tempted to dismiss this ordinary command since it’s a part of the Old Testament and it’s obvious that wanting other people’s blessings is not God’s will for us. But let’s look a little deeper at the reason God instructed us to not covet. The word “covet” means to desire what belongs to another in a way that is not usual, normal, or proper and exceeds reasonable limits. Covetousness is thoughts, excessive thoughts, and these thoughts lead to the actions in the other nine commandments. Covetousness is a root sin of all other sins – including adultery.

Adultery is most often thought of as lust manifested either emotionally or physically with someone other than a person’s spouse. When you search other men’s social media profiles, you are involving yourself with emotional adultery because you are lusting after a life God has not given you.

However, there is a hidden adultery that also takes place. Because Jesus died on the Cross so that we could become His bride (Ephesians 5:25-27), anytime our affections are taken off of Him, His blessings, and His will, we are committing adultery against God in the same way we commit adultery against our spouse through an emotional relationship.

This is how adultery against God takes place:

Our thoughts convince us that we have the right to whatever it is we desire. We tell ourselves that we deserve her life, that husband, and those children. Then we begin to question God’s goodness, which leads to distrusting Him. Finally, we focus on ourselves instead of God. We think we must take matters into our own hands because doing it God’s way hasn’t brought us any good. Anything that consumes our thoughts, emotions, or desires becomes a god to us. We say to God, “I want all of these other things rather than You and what You have given me, and I think these things will meet my needs more than You will.”

Even if your marriage does not seem to be affected, or even if you are a single woman, there is still a break in your relationship with God when you misuse social media because you are not trusting God’s goodness in your own life. The “death” that James talks about describes this break in relationship. “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

So what do we do to protect ourselves from adultery against our spouses and God? In some cases, you may need to stop using social media completely, per Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:30. It is also wise to not become “friends” with past boyfriends, to block updates from men in your newsfeed, or, if you are married, to get a joint account with your husband. Regardless of what works best for your situation, go to whatever extent necessary to guard your heart from the temptation of hidden adultery.

Brenda Rodgers

4 Answers to 1 Important Question

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Jesus could have written His own autobiography had He wished. As the Son of Man, Jesus of Nazareth was literate, intelligent and a brilliant orator. As the Son of God, Jesus Christ was all-knowing and all-powerful, capable of speaking His story into miraculous form—moment by tiny moment, complete in every detail.

And yet, He chose not to do that. Instead, He left the Holy Spirit to “carry along” (2 Pet 1:21) the four evangelists—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each of these biographers tells Jesus’ story in his own way, bringing his own viewpoint, intent and agenda. Each evangelist includes or omits details according to his own purpose. Though the plot remains the same, the subplots differ. If the central question of each Gospel is “What do I need to know about Jesus?” each evangelist answers it differently:

Matthew’s Jesus is Messiah, teacher, and fulfiller of the Law.

He has come like a prophet to tear down the old institutions and bring in the new. He will expose the hypocrites (seeMatt 6:1–1823) and re-establish the link between the Holy God and His people through His own self-sacrifice.

Matthew focuses on the legitimacy of Jesus as the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. He begins his Gospel with a genealogy (1:1–17)—not to reassure us that Jesus comes from a good family, but to establish Him as the reinstatement of the Davidic line of kings and the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham. Only Matthew tells of the adoration of the Magi (2:1–12), the slaughter of the innocents, and the flight to Egypt (2:13–18). To Matthew, these events are explicit fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy. Even where Matthew narrates the same events as Mark and Luke, he is far more likely to explain exactly how the Scriptures are being fulfilled (e.g., Matt 1:22–2312:17–21;27:9–10). In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says that to “fulfill” the “Law and the Prophets” is central to His mission.

For Mark, Jesus is an inscrutable stranger.

He walks among us but is not really one of us—selectively disclosing Himself as He sees fit. Jesus has come to do a great work (in secret), knowing that He will be misunderstood, persecuted, and rejected. Mark aims to answer: Who is this Jesus (Mark 1:1)? Who is this who teaches with authority? Who is this, that demons flee before Him (1:21–28)? Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey Him (4:41)?

Luke paints a picture of a kind, gentle Jesus

He is a great physician dispensing both wisdom and acts of kindness, brimming with compassion. He is a prophet who lays down His life for His people, like the suffering servant (Isa 52:13–53:12). Only in Luke does Jesus tell the story of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son (Luke 10:30–3515:11–32). Luke’s aim is to write an “orderly account” so that his audience “may have certainty concerning the things [they] have been taught” (1:4).

John’s Jesus is complex

On the one hand, Jesus is very human: He gets tired, hungry, and thirsty (John 4:6); weeps for a dead friend (11:35); and even lets Thomas feel His wounds (20:24–29). On the other hand, He is the Creator God (1:1–3), a full and perfect manifestation of Yahweh (1:14, 16–18), no less than the fundamental element of the universe (1:98:12)—barely contained by the humanity He pours Himself into. While the other three evangelists tell the story of Jesus from the bottom up, John starts at the throne of heaven and works his way down. His hope is that we would read his book and believe (20:30–31).

Jesus was all of these things and more. John ends his Gospel by telling us that if everything Jesus did was written down, “the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

In the Gospels, we see Jesus through the eyes of four of His most faithful followers. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, this is like looking at Jesus through an unpolished window: We can see Him, but not in person. Then again, maybe what we see in the four Gospels is like looking through a kaleidoscope—split, reflected, refracted, and all the more beautiful for it.

Eli Evans