The Mingling of Souls

#Minglingofsouls

There are a dizzying number of marriage books available on the market—well over 150,000, in fact. And a few of them are even good.

Clearly, we have a lot to talk about. With so many titles available, one has to wonder: what else is there to say? Can an author write a book on marriage that genuinely adds something of value? Thankfully, the answer is yes. And Matt Chandler’s latest, The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption, is a great example. In its eight chapters, Chandler (assisted by Jared C. Wilson) offer readers biblical and helpful principles for love, marriage, and life together from the Song of Solomon.

Though it is not as thorough in developing a theology of marriage as Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, and is more typical in its approach than Chan’s You and Me Forever, I was surprised by The Mingling of Souls for four reasons:

1. Chandler always—always—speaks well of his wife. You can tell a great deal about a man’s character by the way he speaks of his spouse. I’ve read so many books and articles on marriage where the (male) author paints himself as the victim, the faithful husband dealing with an unpleasant wife undeserving of his love. When he confesses sin in the marriage, it’s usually her sin he confesses.

Friends, that’s probably not the person we want to go to for marriage advice.

This is emphatically not Chandler’s approach. As I read the book, I was consistently impressed at how Chandler avoids putting himself in the position of the victim. He lays the problems in his marriage at his own feet, rather than at his wife’s. And even where he does bring up an example of something she did that was wrong, he doesn’t focus on her action, but on his own ungodly response.

“The first seven years of our marriage were very difficult,” he writes. “I remember one occasion in particular because it marked a real turn in our marriage. I had said some very cruel things to Lauren that day. I was frustrated; I was angry. I thought she was selfish and self-absorbed, and I told her so. I admit with shame that I wanted to wound her” (202)

I’ll never forget this: Lauren came around the corner… and grabbed me. Then she pulled me really close to her, and she began sobbing. She cried and cried as she held me. She said, “I don’t know what happened to you, but I’m not going anywhere.” … It broke me. It wounded me in the good way, in the right way. It startled me and helped me in a way I could never foresee or imagine.… and that’s when I said, “I’m going to get help.” (203)

It’s easy for so many of us to point outside ourselves and treat our spouses as the problem in our marriages. It’s easy to play the victim. But to show the ugly side of yourself, to say, I was wrong or the problem is me, takes a great deal of courage and a tremendous amount of humility.

2. Chandler spends more time on teaching us to fight fairly than on sex. The chapter on sex clocks in at 24 pages, where the next one on fighting fair is 33. So why spend so much time on the subject? Because we’re going to spend a lot more of our waking time disagreeing with one another in our marriages than we are going to in our bedrooms. Sorry for shattering the glass, there, newlyweds. And let’s be honest, most of us don’t know how to fight fairly. Most of us have never even seen a married couple fight well.

And this is why we need to pay careful attention to the principles of fighting fairly presented.1 We need to be sure we’re fighting fair—we’re not speaking rashly or shaming our spouses, bringing up baggage or using children as leverage. And most importantly, we should strive for reconciliation—genuine, heartfelt reconciliation—as quickly as possible. “I’m not naive about the nature of some conflict… But as much as you are able as soon as you are able, make an effort to take at least part of the responsibility for the conflict, no matter how small that part may be” (167-168).

3. Chandler writes as if the marriage bed is to be kept holy. Because, y’know, it is. Rather than following the now all-too-common approach to the Song of Solomon and treating it as a ham-fisted sex manual (there are no edicts issued about what you “should” do, you’ll be pleased to know, ladies), Chandler emphasizes the fact that sex is holy and should be treated as such. This, again, is extremely helpful because it redirects our attention.

Rather than asking what we can or cannot do, Chandler encourages us to consider what does or does not bring God the most glory. And when God’s glory is our focus, a lot of our “can we” questions, are left behind.

[Sex] is meant to remind us of the God who gave it to us, who takes joy in unison with his people. We don’t need to overspiritualize sex to see it this way; we just need to approach it the way the Bible ordained and be grateful for it. Seeing sex as holy will also help us love our spouses more greatly. (133-134)

4. Chandler doesn’t write as one who’s got it all figured out. This is probably the most important thing about the book: Chandler’s tone is not like that of many books written by his contemporaries. He’s not the expert saying, “my marriage is great,” or even “my marriage used to be terrible, but now it’s awesome so go and do likewise.” Instead, he writes as one just like the rest of us—a man whose marriage has ups and downs, who is guilty of sinning against his wife, who frequently needs to ask her forgiveness, and who leans on the grace of God to be a good husband. And this, perhaps even more than its good teaching, is what makes the book worth reading.

It’s tempting to take the easy path when writing about marriage, to only confess the “safe” sins. But to reveal serious sin, to continually point to yourself as the problem in conflict… This is fairly uncommon, even among Christian authors. Yet, it’s only when we do this that we really get to give thanks to God as we see how the gospel has been at work in the author’s life. For him to be able to say, “All the time, I find so much new sin in me of which I need to repent.… But I know that Go dis faithful and that he will get the glory” (197), and know that the author actually believes this to be true. That is what we need more of in our marriage books—and more importantly, in our marriages. And if there’s anything that makes The Mingling of Souls a valuable read, it’s this.


Title: The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption
Author: Matt Chandler (with Jared C. Wilson)
Publisher: David C. Cook (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon

Links I like

Beware of self-appointed pastors

Denny Burk, commenting on a recent NY Times article:

The pastoral office is reserved for those who are gifted for the ministry and who meet a defined set of character qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The men who meet these qualifications are not self-appointed. The church is to recognize and set these men apart for the ministry (1 Tim. 4:14). The issue is not whether one recognizes his own giftedness and qualification. The issue is whether the people of God recognize it as well.

Former Pastor Experiments With Atheism for a Year

Heather Clark:

Ryan Bell, 42, led Hollywood Adventist Church until March of last year, when has was asked to resign over his increasingly liberal views and his disagreements with Adventist theology. Bell says that he expressed support for female ordination and the inclusion of homosexuals, and took issue with the literal six-day creation outlined in Genesis.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Actively engaged in the abortion battle

Matt Chandler:

When I begin to have conversations with some of my aunts and uncles and how they wish they would have marched with King but they were just indifferent, they just thought it would work itself out. How they wish they could get back into time and fight the noble fight. Instead, they were quiet. … I think [abortion] is going to be one of those issues for us.

Antinomianism, Legalism And The Relationship Between Law And Gospel

Tullian Tchividjian:

One of the problems in the current conversation regarding the relationship between law and gospel is that the term “law” is not always used to mean the same thing. This is understandable since in the Bible “law” does not always mean the same thing.…

So, it’s not as simple as you might think. For short hand, I think it’s helpful to say that law is anything in the Bible that says “do”, while gospel is anything in the Bible that says “done”; law equals imperative and gospel equals indicative. However, when you begin to parse things out more precisely, you discover some important nuances that should significantly help the conversation forward so that people who are basically saying the same thing aren’t speaking different languages and talking right past one another.

Are Multisite Preachers Losing the Value of Being a Shepherd?

Interesting commentary from Perry Noble and Matt Chandler:

(RSS Readers: Can’t see the video? Click through to the site.)

Chandler’s point is particularly interesting: Because preachers can become disconnected regardless of the size of the church where they serve, the question is not so much a multisite one as a pastoral-shepherding one. If so, it leads to a couple of questions to consider (and ones I’d love to get some feedback on from a few of the pastors reading):

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the assessment that it’s not so much an issue of the multisite model as it is the temptation for pastors to disconnect from one-to-one shepherding?
  2. Is the question, even if viewed as a pastoral-shepherding one, even the right question? Does it create a division between shepherding and preaching that doesn’t necessarily need to exist?
  3. How do you structure your time to “balance” one-to-one and congregation-wide shepherding?

Following God May End Badly

(Can’t see the video? Click through to the site.)

Seven Miles

From Matt Chandler’s sermon, “The Call to Mission:”

Download to the full message or listen here (if the audio’s working):

An excerpt from the transcript:

“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.” Jesus kept up with them for seven miles. Let me tell you why this is important. The resurrection of Christ historically causes a lot of trouble for the secular mind. So there’s all these theories about how do deal with it. One of the theories is that when they arrested Him, beat Him a dozen times, yanked the beard out of His face, drove nails through His hands and feet, after they yanked the skin off His back and left Him hanging there for six hours and then took a spear and drove it under His ribcage through His lungs and back out, spilling and water all over the cross, maybe they didn’t kill Him.The theory is that they put Him into the ground, and two days later He’s jogging to Emmaus with two guys seven miles after being crucified and beaten for close to 20 hours. That’s ridiculous. You’d have to be an idiot to believe that theory. I’m not trying to offend you. Have you ever broken a toe and tried to walk without looking like your hips have exploded inside of your pelvis? And the historical Discovery Channel theory is that, two days after this unbelievable beating, Jesus is walking to Emmaus for seven miles. That’s just silly. So for all the goofiness that is Christianity, that’s right up there with the dumbest things you could say we believe. It’s silly to believe that, two days after having your full body weight bear down on a nail driven through the center of both of your feet, you’re jogging a seven mile jaunt to Emmaus.

He Will Be Holy To Make You Holy

Matt Chandler on the power of the resurrection:

[tentblogger-youtube p1U62GMO2pY]

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

#TGC11 Day 2 Reflections

Emily and I took a few minutes last night to talk about some of the highlights of day 2 of the Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference. Check out the video below for our thoughts:

 

And just a reminder—the Don’t Call It a Comeback giveaway is still on until Friday afternoon. If you’ve not entered already, now would be a great opportunity. Go here for more details.

Matt Chandler: Youth #TGC11

Matt Chandler is the senior pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, TX. He is expounding on Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8.

The audio is available for download here. Video footage can be viewed below:

 

My notes below:


I pastor a church where there’s a lot of young people. In nine years, I’ve done one funeral for a person over 30, but I’ve done dozens of for people under the age of 30, and many under 10.

I wanted to be faithful to the Lord and the people He’s given me to shepherd to prepare them for this suffering, and one of His great mercies on Him was that as I was preparing them, He was preparing me.

When I read this text, I feel it, because here’s what I know that you don’t:

Some of us who are here aren’t going to be here when we do this again. Nobody thinks it’s coming for them. So when I read this text, the weight of it, the pain of it, it’s honestly a beautiful thing.

Ecclesiastes 11, beginning at verse 9:

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low—they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. (Eccl 11:9-12:8)

There are a lot of imperatives in this text: [Read more…]

He Delights in the Asking

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7)

Seeing the World through a Biblical Lens

Yesterday, my friend Amber asked a great question:

What has led you (or others) to believe that biblical illiteracy is such a widespread problem? What has led you to believe that it’s any worse now compared to other times?

I gave a lengthy answer in response (because I’m a bit long-winded, I suppose); but I as I was writing, I remembered a great point from a recent sermon by Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor of The Village Church in his October 10 message, Ultimate Authority 3: Government and Institutions. I pray you’ll find it helpful as we all continue to pursue a deeper knowledge of Christ.

Audio (excerpt starts around 38:20): : Matt Chandler: Ultimate Authority 3

Here’s the transcript if you’d rather not listen to a six minute rant:

You and I, as believers in Jesus Christ, should be looking at the world through a biblical/gospel lens.

Now this creates two huge frustrations in me. Because of what God has done here, I get invited to speak at pastors’ conferences all over the world. So I’ve been to those pastors’ conferences where the men sitting in the seats are pastors. They are preachers like I am. I will see a guy stand up in front of pastors and they’ll open up the Bible and they’ll teach something contrary to the Bible. And because they can do it in a way that’s entertaining and their church has grown, the pastors will applaud them. So that, like Paul in Athens, provokes me, and so I get up and say they’re not saved, they don’t know their Bibles, they should never preach again and that their churches aren’t actually churches. And then they applaud me.

It’s like they can’t tell the difference.

One guy actually got up and said that the gospel can’t be defined outside of your individual communities in front of twelve thousand pastors. He’s saying that the gospel is for you whatever you want it to be.

This is heresy. And nobody said anything. They took notes. God help us.

How in the world are we supposed to see through a gospel/biblical lens when our pastors can’t do it?

So if you’re a pastor reading this, know your Bible.  What are you shovelling to your people if you don’t know the Bible? What are you talking about? I don’t care if your church is growing. Might does not make right. God simply moving in a place always happens despite men. [Read more…]

Around the Interweb (11/07)

Don’t Use Email for Correction

C.J. Mahaney and James MacDonald discuss why email isn’t the best way to offer correction to a brother or sister:

HT: The Gospel Coalition Blog

In Other News

Prayer request: I’m preaching tonight as part of Harvest Bible Chapel London’s first service night at the Men’s Mission in town. Please pray for gospel fruit.

Health: Justin Taylor interviews Matt Chandler about how life has changed in the year since he learned he has cancer.

New Websites: The new Crossway.org and ESV.org have launched; go check them out.

Audio: This month’s free audio book at ChristianAudio.com is Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper.

Free Book: Grace to You is offering John MacArthur’s next book, Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ, free in exchange for a bit of info. Here’s the book trailer:

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of John Sowers’ Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story.

The fear of man vs. the fear of God (vide0)

On Christians using the f-word (fundamentalist, that is).

Think Biblically: J. Gresham Machen on pragmatism and the (post) modern preacher

Don't Be Who You're Not

As I’ve been continuing to develop as a preacher (albeit slowly), one of the great temptations I’ve come across has been imitating other men. I mean, seeing these guys who are extraordinarily gifted by God to preach His Word—guys like my  pastor, Norm Millar, and guys like Driscoll, Chandler, Francis Chan, Piper, MacArthur, Platt—and it’s really tempting to want to be like them.

To say things the way they would say it. To act the way they would act.

But isn’t that dishonoring to God?

The other day, I came across this video where Matt Chandler reminds us of the danger of trying to be who you’re not:

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim 4:5)

Fulfill the ministry God has intended for you, not for someone else. Don’t be who you’re not.

HT: Zwinglit

An Epic Beatdown

In this video excerpt from his message at the recent 9Marks conference held at Southeastern Seminary, Matt Chandler describes “an epic beatdown”:

Here’s the story from Acts 19:11-20:

And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

As Chandler notes, it’s interesting that the demon responds to the sons of Sceva, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”

The question is revealing. Demons know Jesus—and shudder (cf. James 2:19). They know He is the Sovereign one who will, on the day of judgement, cast them all into hell.

They also recognize Paul. As Christ’s chosen instrument to reach the gentiles (cf. Acts 9:15), he is a known entity in the spiritual realm. He has power—because He believes.

But these guys…

They are sons of a Jewish high priest and itinerant exorcists.

Who don’t believe.

“I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims,” they declare; they treat the power of Christ in the life of a believer like a magic spell.

And the demons, instead of turning tail, turned on them.

And after that, by God’s grace, the gospel exploded in Ephesus.

When you look at a passage like this, it can be challenging to see what application we can make. As I’ve been reading it, one clear, practical application jumps to mind:

In our pursuits, in our passions, are we really, truly all about Jesus—His glory, His fame, His majesty, His gospel—or do we use His name like an incantation?

Do you want to use His name to further your agenda…

Or is He your agenda?

The challenge here is that the answer reveals something of our hearts. If we’re using Christ’s name to further our agenda—even for a great cause like helping people who live in poverty, freeing young girls from the sex trade or setting up an after-school program for kids in inner-city neighborhoods—and the agenda is not, clearly, overtly that we want people to love and serve Jesus… we might wind up no better off than the sons of Sceva.

It’s scary to think about, but we can pursue God-honoring things in a way that is insulting to Him. When we rely on our own ability, when we make our cause, our movement, our agenda the main thing. When we pursue our glory instead of God’s.

So, today as you go through the day, rely on Christ, not on your own ability.

Glory in Christ, not in your own cause.

You never know, you could see the gospel explode where you are.

Matt Chandler: We Fail at Kindergarten Morality, But God…

HT: Z