I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.
– Psalms 32:8-10
Is the following reasoning not true in the carnal estimation of our contemporary “me”-vangelical culture?
“Legalism“ is the unpopular belief that man’s divorce and remarriage while an estranged spouse remains alive is immoral. (Malachi 2:16)
“Fundamentalism“ is the far more unpopular conviction that man’s divorce and remarriage while an estranged spouse remains alive is impossible. (Matthew 19:8)
Anyone who has an unconditional love relationship with Jesus Christ, and who continues to be led by the power of the Holy Spirit, instantly sees the self-righteous fault in both of the above presumptions. Those whose love of Jesus is merely conditional will eventually wear down and will go their own way, espousing both fallacious attitudes. Are such people lost forever? Mercifully, no, provided they live long enough to fully surrender to His rule and unconditionally repent. If their conversion was false, they will have a much more uphill battle to true faith from apostasy, because the Holy Spirit only indwells those who truly did die to self when they once embraced Christ. Both the false convert and the backslider are equally lost at this point. If their initial conversion was the real thing, His indwelling Holy Spirit, now grieved and quenched, will make them miserable on a daily basis until they forsake all of their self-worshipping ways, including faux spouses. Either way, God’s faithful chastisement can be counted on, despite external appearances.
Actual legalism can be observed in such people long before the outright apostasy manifests in their actions and choices. This legalism can also ripen into actual fundamentalism if it continues to grow in the heart of such a person, and this can be readily observed externally in visible elements such as the mode of dress adopted over time. Their lack of unconditional love for Jesus often either results in a reverted desire to become indistinguishable from the surrounding lost culture in all their ways, or it can swing to the other extreme of a loss of desire to be both salty and attractive in the culture, instead becoming a walking caricature.
There was a marriage permanence retreat in Ohio Amish country recently, coincidentally timed in the aftermath of one such highly visible fall from grace of a stander who was very prominent on social media. This retreat drew several leaders of our movement, and discussion of that overshadowing incident seemed to be everywhere in that gathering, despite a great move of the Holy Spirit that weekend. The hosts for that annual recurring event are gracious people of Amish heritage who sensed that their former community did not uniformly consist of true Christ-followers. Many had come out of those Amish communities (typically, being “shunned” in the process) in order to more fully follow Christ without the legalism or fundamentalism that it becomes so easy to hide behind as a substitute for that love relationship with Him. For the most part, this coming out did not fundamentally change their mode of dress or their characteristic reverence for holy matrimony. It did not change their wonderful ethic of ministering to others. They formed churches around similar values, but with Jesus firmly at the center. Here they made traveling to participate in this retreat affordable for standers of limited resources by putting us up in their homes, where they soaked our families in prayer. Non-standers in the community spent hours preparing and serving the meals so that standers could focus on the retreat sessions. Former prodigals and their standers from within that community were wonderfully transparent with us about their journey, and some of the waiting standers themselves are also from that community. This was a truly refreshing time for emotionally-battered covenant spouses who bear the tremendous burden for souls in their own family members. Legalism and fundamentalism have little to do with our outer circumstances, and everything to do with whom or what is sitting on the throne of our individual hearts.
Early on, people who eventually fall away adopt (and make highly public) an attitude that treats peripheral matters, such as the observance of popular holidays, the day Sabbath is observed, the name by which God is referred to (etc., etc.) as heaven-or-hell issues.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1
They fail to “keep their powder dry” for the relatively few actual heaven-or-hell issues. They use harsh language and subjective name-calling that should only be reserved for backsliding issues that harden hearts and pose a true danger of falling away, or leading others away. If such a person is a covenant marriage stander, they structure their home in a way that is so drastically different from the best of what the home their prodigal once shared with them brings to remembrance, that returning and reconciling looks increasingly unattractive to their true one-flesh, especially in comparison with the material rewards that our culture (and church) heap on legalized adulterers. As time goes on, the floundering stander become less and less Christ-like, less ready to go the distance with a suddenly-returned prodigal, and perhaps even eventually repelling their own children from faith as they come into adulthood. At this point in the progressive hardening of their heart, they become actual fundamentalists. This earned label, “fundamentalist”, is no longer a badge of honor for them, but a badge of dishonor.
Sadly, such people may have tens of thousands of social media followers when they finally, publicly fall away from heart-driven obedience to Jesus, potentially taking many with them into apostasy. Ironically, these people lose (or never actually had) the only valid motive for standing, aside from loving obedience to Jesus….deep care and burden for the eternal soul of their prodigal spouse and children.
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. – James 3:1
Those of us who love Jesus, without any reservations or conditions, will learn from witnessing this fall…in an edifying way that sharply contrasts with those who follow them into apostasy. “But for the grace of God, there go I. “
The heresy adopted in any particular case that becomes the deceitful rationalization for “marrying” another’s spouse must be uniquely creative, because if it is not highly subtle, the appearance that their own personal standards of holiness have not slidden cannot be maintained, and outright rebellion against God’s word must then be admitted. A good rule is that any rationale for “remarrying” while having a living, estranged spouse which departs from the unchangeable principle in Matthew 19:6, 8 is automatically a heresy which results in what Jesus repeatedly called adultery. However, there are clever ways to attack this foundational truth, and satan will not hesitate to use them. The current popular heresy is that what Jesus said in Matthew 19:6,8 “does not apply to unbelievers”, claiming that “God does not join” those marriages into an inseverable one-flesh entity if one of the spouses was an “unbeliever” at the time of their vows. Ironically, there is a mountain of biblical evidence against this claim in dozens of Old and New Testament couples who illustrate God’s recognition of their state of holy matrimony – without applying any religious test. Logically, this assertion would require intact one-flesh spouses to repeat their vows after they both come to Christ, in order to not be living in “adultery”. We see no illustration of such in all of scripture. Only lust and idolatry make this theory appear “valid” – we readily believe what feeds our flesh if Jesus isn’t everything to us; if He isn’t truly sufficient for us.
Those of us in the marriage permanence community who stand firm should not be surprised or discouraged by any of this. First of all, the battle is the Lord’s. Secondly, satan’s intensified rage that we’ve recently witnessed is a testament that light always overpowers darkness, and not the other way around. The very reason that Jesus likened us to “salt” in the first place is because salt is a preservative, of society, of our covenant families and the of the church. As nice as a lengthy vacation from Ephesians 6 might seem to most of us, satan is not going to take his ball or his bat and go home until Jesus comes back for the third time. We all know he is actually going to gain power for seven years after Jesus comes back for the second time. If we don’t learn this while dealing with various and sundry apostates in the movement today, including the high-profile ones, we can’t expect to learn it in time to be effective when our repenting prodigal suddenly returns home to our families.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. – Matthew 7:24
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
– Hebrews 10:35-38
7 Times Around the Jericho Wall | Let’s Repeal Unilateral Divorce!