One of the things that Christians are prone to do is engage in what is known as “hagiography.”
You probably know what a biography is. It is a writing about someone’s life. A hagiography is similar. It is a writing about someone’s life, the difference is in the way that writing takes shape. Hagios is the Greek word for saint. And in a hagiography, as you write about the person, you tends to idolize or idealize the person.
In a biography, you talk about someone as they are, even with all their flaws. In hagiography, you ignore people’s flaws and inflate their good qualities.
This is something that Christians sometimes do. We tend to engage in hagiography when it comes to our forefathers in the faith or the martyrs of the church.
For instance, we might do this with regard to Martin Luther. People will talk about Martin Luther as if he had the boldness of a lion. We think of him as one who has veins of steel. Like when he stood his ground at the Diet of Worms and making his famous profession, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
But few actually know that this is not what he said at first. Luther appeared before the counsel twice. The first day he appeared, he was asked if the books that had been laid out came from his pen and if he was ready to recant them. He didn’t answer right away. Instead he asked for more time to deliberate. So the counsel was adjourned until the next day.
We don’t know what might have possessed Luther at that moment. I don’t doubt though that he might have been touched with a bit of fear. For to answer in a way that the Church didn’t like could likely mean death. Luther might have employed a stall tactic and may have seriously been questioning whether or not he should recant & spare his life.
But we don’t talk much about that. We like to focus on the second day where he made his bold declaration that he wouldn’t recant.
The same is true when it comes to things like “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” or the stories that are put out by “Voice of the Martyrs.” They put forth stories about fearless men and women who stood courageously in the face of persecution.
The problem with this is that we hear of these bold stands for Christ and we begin to think that there is no room for fear among the believing. What we are going is engaging in hagiography; make men into angel like warriors in the face of persecution.
And we do a great injustice to many believers. We’d like it if it were true. We’d like to say that fear is something that isn’t a reality. But it simply isn’t the case. We need to admit and say, “Persecution can be scary.” While there may be some people who don’t blink an eye when faced with it, that isn’t the norm. Most people will experience some degree of fear. It could range from a slight alarm to outright terror.
Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t do hagiography. The Bible portrays man in all his weakness. They say that is one of proofs for the inspiration of Scripture; there is perhaps no other book that is so honest about how feeble and pathetic men can be.
As we come this morning to Psalm 56, we see one such text. Here in this passage David writes about his fear. There is no hagiography here. David is willing to give up his man card and say, “This situation is not good and I’m terrified.”
Look at verse 3. Verse 3 begins by saying, “When I am afraid.” Now I want to pause there and let that sink in. I think it is important that we acknowledge the fact that fear may very well come upon one’s faith.
I. The fear that may come upon one’s faith
I really appreciate David’s candor here. David may very well be a mighty warrior who demonstrates great valor. He goes into war, he fights his enemy in hand to hand combat. He’s a guy who has fought the lion and the bear and tangled with a 9 foot freak of nature named Goliath. He’s a guy who had extra-ordinary amounts of courage, but he was still a man. And there were times where even he had bouts of fear.
And on this occasion he admits that his emotional state is not altogether where it needs to be. His enemies have him in a bind. His life is threatened, and he is afraid.
What I want you to understand is that this is a valid reaction. We shouldn’t think that stoicism is some sort of Christian virtue and there is nothing inherently wrong with being afraid when a real threat to your life or job or reputation presents itself. Good Christian people can experience fits of fear.
Fear is simply that emotion that arises out of a sense of personal harm. It is typically the natural reaction one has to a situation where there is a real and present danger. And we should not think that this sensation is sinful.
As David admits his fear, we should be comforted in knowing that this is not in and of itself a bad thing. I say this because some people think that it is. Some people are actually afraid of being afraid because they think that this is somehow sinful or dishonoring to God. That’s not true though.
To be sure, there are situations where fear can become sinful. When fear escalates and turns into panic or gives way to sin, that’s when we have a problem.
In this regard we might think of Peter as good example of how fear gave way to faithlessness and evil. Remember how Peter was confronted by the little girl when Christ was taken captive and was being tried. She said, “Hey, you are a Galilean. You must be one of his disciples.” What happened to Peter? Peter was stricken with fear, wasn’t he? And that fear got the better part of him. He ended up denying Christ saying, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
Now, that first moment of fear, was that altogether wrong? Not necessarily. But that fear dominated him. It became the controlling force driving peter’s reaction. In fear Peter chose self preservation over and against affiliation with Christ. That his fear gave way to panic, that was not right.
So, yes, fear can become sinful and it can result in sin, but the fear in and of itself does not necessarily have to be sinful.
As David shows us here, fear is an emotion that any God honoring Christian can experience. Even Jesus dealt with fear. I think that it is safe to say that when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was dealing with a little bit of fear. He was terrified and overrun with fear because the fury of the wrath of God loomed over him. So much was his fright that blood formed on his brow. The blood vessels in his forehead burst because of the terror that had gripped him and the blood seeped from his pours.
Why do I point this out? Because I don’t want anyone here thinking that because they fear death or fear being put out by their persecutors, that they have committed a great sin. I want you to understand that is perfectly normal.
Some people can really beat themselves up over this. They’ll worry and fret because they are afraid and that’s all due to the fact that they think they are supposed to have veins of steel. They think that they are failing God because they think they are to have nothing but courage.
But that’s not true. Fear and faith are not mutually exclusive concepts (not necessarily, anyway).
Fear is an emotion that good Christians can have this side of heaven. There will come a time when all our fears will subside. When Christ comes again, we will bid these feelings farewell once and for all. But until then fear may come upon one’s faith.
But our text does not just show us how fear may come upon one’s faith. It goes on to show us how faith may rise out of one’s fear.
II. Fear’s faith
Look at the rest of verse 3. David does not say, “When I am afraid, I run and hide and cower and put my tail between my legs and a pillow over my head.” He doesn’t say that he shrinks back from my foes and ends up despairing and denying his faith. No. He says, “When I am afraid, I trust in you.”
His fear doesn’t consume him. Instead his fear leads him to greater faith. Even though the conditions are adverse—even though his enemies might very well take his life, he resolves to rely on God and trust that God’s way is best.
David is not like Cain and Peter, who we talked about just a second ago. David’s fear does not give way to faithlessness. Out of his fear springs forth faith a sure and true belief in God.
Sure, fear may come upon his faith, but faith comes forth from his fear.
And notice what motivates him to put his faith in God. In verse 3 he says, “When I am afraid, I trust in you. In God whose word I praise, will I trust.” Now, some of you may have something slightly different. This part of the verse can be translated differently. But the sum and substance of it is that God’s word is praiseworthy. God’s word is worthy of praise.
Why is david trusting in God? What makes him put his faith in God in the face of fear? It is because God’s word is praiseworthy.
Why is God’s word praiseworthy? It is because it is perfect in what it reveals.
Think about it this way: What makes for a praiseworthy apple? If I pulled out an apple that was rotten, would that be a praiseworthy apple? Of course not. How about if I pulled out an apple that was perfect on the outside, but had a worm on the inside. It’s only one worm, so it’s not that bad. Well, that’s not a praise worthy apple either, is it?
What makes for a praiseworthy apple? It’s an apple that is perfect.
That’s what I think David is saying here. I trust in God because he has given us a perfect revelation of truth. We have a perfect revelation of who God is, what we are to believe, and our hope for eternal life.
One of the reasons our faith can rise out of our fears is because Scrpture gives us a perfect revelation of who God is. God is revealed to be kind and mighty. He’s one who will be our defender. This Psalm shows us that.
Look at verse 8. It says that God has all our tears held up in a bottle. Isn’t that a picture of a God who cares deeply for us? It is a way of saying that God is one who loves us so much that he will take care of us.
But not only does scripture give us a perfect revelation of who God is, it gives us a perfect revelation of what we are to believe. The scripture is praiseworthy because it reveals a perfect system of belief.
Now, one of the things that Jim asked me to speak on this summer was the topic of apologetics. Apologetics is the art of defending your faith. God’s word calls us to give a reason for the hope within us. So we are called to defend our faith.
How do we do that though? Well, I think we have a tip right here. We defend the faith by showing off its “praiseworthiness.” If I might return to my apple analogy: We show how all the other faiths are flawed (i.e. they have worms all in them) and not worthy of praise.
Those who persecute you? They do not have the truth. They are living a lie. And we should expose that. Every other holy book and religious text is not praiseworthy because it does not give a sound, comprehensive revelation of the truth. Every other religion, being based on lies and false assumptions, will eventually contradict itself and reduce to absurdity.
So, one of the ways we prove Christianity to be true is by showing how it is the only religion that stands up under serious scrutiny!
Take atheism for example. Atheism is a major philosophy today. But atheism is completely illogical. It is nothing but foolishness. One of the main objections atheists have to Christianity is the so called “problem of evil.” They say, “If God is good, how can there be evil?” And they think that is just a hum dinger of a case against Christianity. But it is the silliest thing an atheist can say!
This is what we say, “As a Christian, we can believe that God is so great that he can ordain, permit, and use evil for his good purposes and still not be the author of it. Just because evil exists, doesn’t mean God isn’t good. As a matter of fact, you need God to even comprehend what evil is! As an atheist, how is it that you can even distinguish between what is good and what is evil? If you deny God, you erase any absolute standard for determining morality. If we are all just accidents of random chance and highly evolved germs, who’s to say what is right and wrong! Really, if I live my life by the motto ‘Survival of the fittest’ then any thought of what might be evil flies out the door!”
You see! God’s word is to be praised because it gives us a sure way of distinguishing between good and evil. It reveals the truth about God, reality, and ethics. It reveals that there are no other options out there when it comes to faith.
Scripture reveals a God who is true and it reveals a system of belief that is true. But there is another reason our faith should hold fast in persecution. It also reveals promises that are true.
God’s word is praiseworthy because it reveals the promise of eternal life.
Our verse goes on to say, “What can man do to me?” Well, the answer to that question is, “A lot of things.” As a matter of fact, verses 5-6 list a number of things: they can twist your words, plot harm, they can lurk around and watch you steps. And they can take your life!
But ultimately, they can’t do anything. Look at verse 13. It says, “You have delivered me from death.” Sure, God has the power to stop them in their tracts. But even if He doesn’t, He has promised us eternal life. Our persecutors do not have that luxury. They may live for a while, but justice will come to the earth. And in the end, we will stand because Christ has given us the promise of salvation.
In the end, you know that there is no hagiography. For there is nothing in us that is ultimately worthy of praise. The only thing that is truly worthy of praise is our God. Our faith in fear is not due to any great thing in us. It isn’t because of any courage that we can muster or boldness that dwells naturally in us. Our ability to face our fear is solely based on who our God is and what he has revealed to us in His word.
And, my friends, this is to be your comfort. Let us never think that we are required to be immune from any and all fear. Let us understand that fears may come. Fears can seize us, even as they fell upon our dear Lord. But may those fears turn us to the only place where we have refuge.
As a frightened child runs to his parents for solace, let us run to the only place that offers us relief. Let us run to the Scripture and to the God who is revealed therein.
The verse before us this morning is perhaps one of the most difficult verses in the entire Bible. And I am not alone in saying that. In going through the commentaries in preparation for this message, I found them saying the exact same thing.
It is a tough one because it commands something that is 100% contrary to our natural instincts. This verse commands us to do something that goes against every inclination of our human nature.
If we are even going to begin to think about living out this verse, we need Christ to subdue our hearts and bridle the bitter inclinations that abide there.
Now the theme of the verse is easy to pick up because the word bless is used twice. And when you think of blessing others, you might initially thing, “Yeah, sure. No problem.” But when you consider who we must bless and how we must bless them, then your attitude quickly changes. And you understand how much you need the divine hand of God.
The passage says, “Bless those who persecute you.” Right away you see there how extreme this is. The difficultly of this verse becomes immediately obvious because of who it tells us we must bless.
I. It is difficult verse because of who it tells us we must bless.
The objects of our blessing are to be the people who have made us objects of their hate.
The language here is so vivid too. The word for persecute means “to pursue passionately.” It is the idea of being hunted. It is like a lion going after his prey. And those are the people who we are to bless. The people who are pursuing us—those people who are hounding us, these are the people we are to bless.
And you need to remember that the persecution being talked about here is persecution for our faith. It is persecution because our Christ-likeness is impinging on someone else’s life. It is persecution because we have been standing up against someone and speaking out against the life they have been leading or the things that they have been doing that have been wrong.
A lot of people think they are being persecuted because they have all kinds of people speaking harshly to them or harshly about them. But the fact is that they are not really undergoing persecution at all. What they are experiencing is the reaction of somebody to their sin. They have acted, not in a righteous way, but in a foolhardy way. So they are feeling the heat for it.
You can easily see someone who makes this mistake, can’t you? The man who goes to work and whose boss is always nagging him because he isn’t doing his work quick enough or well enough. You can hear the guy saying to one of his Christian friends, “Well, I really need your prayers. I’m really taking a lot of heat from my boss. He’s really coming down on me and he just won’t get off my back. He is always dogging me and just won’t stop.”
That isn’t persecution. That is discipline. What that person is experiencing is correction. The thing is that he isn’t responding properly to the correction. His unrighteousness has brought the wrath of his boss upon him.
But that is often the case with people. They think that they are being persecuted, but in all reality they are really being hounded because they are not living the way God wants them to. They are offending other people because they are not showing the honor or the deference that they should be. As a result they have all sorts of people coming down on them.
But what this verse is talking about is true persecution. It is talking about being hounded because you believe in God. This is someone who is being hunted because he is actively living out the law of God and promoting God’s ways. It is this kind of situation that is being talked about. And those people who are hounding and hunting us are to be the people we bless.
And that’s what makes this verse such a difficult verse. It is easy to bless those who are our bosom buddies. It is easy to bless those who bless us. I would even say it is not all that difficult to bless those people who come down on us because of the wrong we do. We might not want to. But it is a lot easier than blessing those who despise you when you’ve never done anything wrong. To bless someone who is attacking you simply because you are doing what is right, now that is hard.
But the law of God calls us to it. We are to be giving the highest respect everyone. And our love and respect is to extend even to those who would be qualified as the worst enemies of God! Even to those who mistreat us unjustly.
I know that this is hard, and the next part of the verse doesn’t make it any easier. Because it not only tells us who we should bless, it tells us how we must bless them.
II. How we must bless them.
And it tells us that the blessing that we bless them with must be both pure and positive.
A. This blessing must be a pure blessing.
Paul specifically says, “bless and do not curse.” In other words, you may not permit one drip of cursing to be pronounced. If you do, your blessing has just been defiled, and you’ve just broken this command.
Now remember what a curse is in this instance. This is not just cursing in that you say a bad word; what we typically think of as cussing. That’s not what this means. This cursing is the biblical kind of cursing where you call down evil upon someone. And he’s saying, no matter how harshly someone treats you, you must not do that.
How hard is that? This is so extreme! Part of the reason it is so hard is because it is so radically opposed to our natural instincts. When we are mistreated, our natural reaction is to get back at that person. That’s most especially true when we are filled with righteous indignation. We just become so inflamed and want to ring that person’s neck.
Here you can think of the disciples when they were rejected by the Samaritans. I’m sure you can sympathize with them. Jesus and his crew were on their way to Jerusalem and they had to go through Samaria. And Jesus sent some of his band ahead to a certain village to make preparations for them so that they could be provided for along the way. But the people of the village wouldn’t allow for it. The disciples were aghast! Who do these people think they are treating the Son of God like this. This is preposterous! They knew who Jesus was. They had heard of his miracles and his teaching. Now they are giving him the cold shoulder. They are slamming the doors in his face. The disciples are filled with righteous rage. So they turn to Jesus and say, “Lord, do you want us to curse these people? Do you want us to call down fire from heaven?”
But Jesus said, “No!” Actually the Scripture says that he rebuked them. In other words, he really came down on his disciples and let them know that that is not the way they are to act.
Now you have to wonder about this because the disciples had some biblical precedent for their actions. We read in the OT about how Elijah called down fire from heaven, which came down and licked up 100-150 soldiers. And you might ask, “What gives?”
Well, in Elijah’s case we have to remember that he was a prophet. He knew what God’s will was, and really it was God who was calling down the curse upon those soldiers. Elijah was just God’s mouthpiece at that moment. Moreover, Elijah’s curses were not done out of a vengeful spirit. The cursing at that moment was intended for the wider body of Israel. The curses that Elijah called down were so that the rest of the people of Israel would turn to God and fear Him.
When you read the passage with the disciples, you get the sense that they were not concerned at all for the Samaritan people. They merely wanted revenge! They just wanted to teach those spiteful Samaritans a lesson.
And that is typically what we want, isn’t it? We most likely do not care about that person’s soul or anyone else’s soul. We just want justice. We just want that person hurt because they have hurt us. But God doesn’t want us to lash out at our enemies. He doesn’t want us to curse them. He wants us to give them nothing but pure blessing.
And if it is going to be a pure blessing, it needs to be a positive blessing.
B. Our blessing must be positive
In other words, we must really and truly “bless them.” The word bless is from the Greek word “eulogeo,” which literally means to “speak well of.” You know when you go to a funeral you may have to give a eulogy. And in the eulogy, you speak a good word about the person who is laying in the coffin beside you.
That is what God wants us to do with those who persecute us. Though they be dead to the things of God, God wants us to speak well of them and treat them with kindness. That means we have no right to speak in a disrespectful manner to them or to slander them. We never have that right. Rather we must continue to treat them with the highest esteem and in accord with the law of love.
Perhaps an illustration from Paul’s own life might be good here. Remember that toward the end of the book of Acts Paul is imprisoned for his faith by the Roman officials. And once he was brought out to speak in behalf of his defense. As he talked he spoke with the utmost respect, even addressing the scoundrel that held him captive without cause as the “‘most excellent’ Felix.” Paul continued to honor his civil superior, even though Felix wasn’t worthy of much respect.
This is how God calls us to act. To be positive in our blessing. We are to commend the good things about them. Or, if we cannot find anything of good report we are to remain silent and only let prayers be offered up on their behalf, that God would bless them.
And this really begs the question of how do we pray for our enemies? I mean the greatest blessing we can offer them is our prayers, isn’t it? The greatest thing we can do for our enemies is speak favorably of them to our God. So how do we pray for them?
When we pray for our enemies we should pay that God would pour out upon them the greatest blessing he could ever give someone: a spirit of repentance. We pray he would bless them by putting a stop to their wicked ways.
You will notice that I didn’t say that he would bless them and prosper them in their wicked ways. That would be no blessing at all to them, would it? That would be a curse to them. That would only mean letting them heap misery upon themselves and the others around them. What we want is a positive prayer, a prayer that seeks their welfare. So when we pray for our enemies, we should pray that God bless them by correcting them and causing their wicked ways to cease.
This week I was doing some research and I came across a good quote from Martin Luther on how to pray for our enemies. Luther said, “We should pray that our enemies be converted and become our friends, and if not, that their doing and designing be bound to fail and have no success and that their persons perish rather than [infringing upon] the Gospel and the kingdom of Christ.”
That is a great prayer for our persecutors. We should pray that they be converted and be our friends, or that their plans would fail rather than letting the gospel be perverted or hindered. Luther went on to give the illustration of a Christian woman named Anastasia. Anastasia was married to an idolatrous man who was a notorious persecutor of Christians. He had hated them so much that he even threw his own wife into a horrible prison, in which she had to stay until she died. But despite being treated in such a way she sought to bless her husband. She wrote to a Christian friend and asked him to pray for her husband that, ‘if possible, he be converted and believe; but if not, that he be unable to carry out his plans and that God soon make an end of his ravaging.” And Luther says, “Thus she prayed him to death, for he went to war and did not return home.”
“So we, too, pray for our angry enemies, not that God protect and strengthen them in their ways, as we pray for Christians, or that He help them, but that they be converted, if they can be; or, if they refuse, that God oppose them, stop them and end the game to their harm and misfortune.”
But Matt, it’s like you are praying imprecatory Psalms. How is that positive? How is that pure? It seems like you are cursing them more than blessing them. I admit that if you are doing that with a spirit of revenge and no care for the gospel ministry, then that is wrong. But if you are seeking their welfare and the welfare of the gospel, then such a prayer is warranted. If any harm comes to them, the blood is not on your hands. It is God who is breaking out against them.
Our problem is though that most likely we would use such a prayer in the wrong way (with the wrong motive). Most likely our desire for revenge would cloud our minds and we’d simply want the person injured, rather than converted.
That’s why we must deal with our own hearts before we deal with our enemies. That’s why we must go to Jesus and seek the power of God. Because God always calls us higher; and this is perhaps the highest of our callings: to bless, and not curse our persecutors.
When in Egypt some years ago a minister held a service for some soldiers who were in the area. The minister asked a big sergeant who was a bright and shining Christian to tell the rest of the men how he came to know the Lord.
As he recounted his testimony he said this, “There was a private in the company who had been converted before his regiment came to Egypt. We gave that fellow a terrible time. The devil got possession of me, and I made that man’s life a positive burden to him. Well, one night, a terribly wet night, he came in sopping wet and tired. But before getting into bed he got down on his knees to pray. My boots were heavy with wet and mud, and I let him have one on one side of the head and then on the other side. But he did not retaliate. He simply continued on with his prayers. The next morning I found my boots at his bedside. The night before I had just kicked them off and let them sit, caked in mud. But I found them cleaned and beautifully polished. That was his reply to me, and it just broke my heart.”
The sergeant was so amazed that his foe would respond in such a way, that he ended up giving his life to Christ. I’m sure loving that sergeant wasn’t easy. But the love that he showed was certainly the power of God.
May the same spirit fill our hearts and may God give us the power to bless and not curse our enemies.
Tiger Woods is not only known for his abilities as a golfer. One of the things that sets him apart on the green is his mental toughness. His ability to focus and mentally battle through is evident when you watch him. But that edge did not come naturally. A reporter from the New York Times has told where it came from:
That became apparent when things weren’t going his way. As things began to go badly for him, he began to pout. As his game continued to droop, he stopped trying altogether.
His father, a former Green Beret, chewed out his son. “I asked him who he thought he was. I told him golf owed him nothing and that he had better not ever quite again.” The way Earl remembers it, Tiger never said a word, and he never quit again.
The best things in life don’t come served on a platter to those who think they deserve it. They come to those who know they must persevere no matter who they are and now matter what happens.
The same is true for us as Christians. We should never think that we are kings that should be served. No. We must always remember that we are servants to the king. And because we are his servants, we must diligently look to fulfill our calling—no matter what faces us. In this world we must, like Tiger Woods, persevere—seeking to grow up to full maturity.
As we come to this passage this morning we see that that is the Apostle Paul’s burden. He writes to Christians living in a tough environment. Ephesus was one of the most prestigious cities at that time. It was filled with paganism which the Ephesians had been converted from. There were many obstacles before them. That is why Paul bows his head and offers this prayer. He prays that the flock of God may persevere in the Christian life.
I. The motive for his prayer: 
We should ask, “What makes Paul pray for these Ephesian Christians?” Sometimes ministers have to pray simply because there is nothing else they can do. They have to pray because everything seems to be going wrong. But that is not the case here. Paul is moved to pray because everything is going right! Look at what it says in verse 15, “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”
Somehow Paul has received a report about how things are going (he is probably in Rome when he wrote this letter), and their report card has superior marks! Their faith in Christ is excellent and their love toward the saints is just as good.
Here you find the two parts of the Christian life. Our Catechism asks the question, “What does the Bible teach?” And it answers, “What we are to believe about God and what duty God requires of us.” In other words, the bible teaches faith in Christ and love toward others. So you see that the Ephesian Christians were excelling in the Christian life.
Let me just say that both of these are so important. Faith and love: they are compliments to each other; they go hand in hand. If you have one without the other—if you become lopsided—then you’re not living the Christian life. You’re falling into error.
For example: If you have love without faith, then you are just being moral people. This is a lot like what liberal churches are like. They have great love for other people—they try to do lots of good works, they try to express compassion for the needy and such—but their theology is all goofed up. They’ve distorted who God is and they don’t see a need for faith in Christ because there is no need for his redeeming work.
On the other extreme there is faith without love. There is the orthodox church—the church with all the right doctrine—but no love. It is as cold as ice. This is the error that the Ephesian church would later slip into. In the book of Revelation the church was commended for being staunchly orthodox. They couldn’t stand evil people and they wouldn’t tolerate false teachers. But Christ said, “this one thing I have against you, you have abandoned the love you had at first.”
“You’re not being hospitable to each other anymore. You’ve become only focused upon yourselves. You’re not seeking to care for each other anymore.” Christ can’t approve of that kind of church either.
We might think that way. We might think that, as long as we have our confessions and we’re holding fast to our Reformed doctrine, we’re doing good. But that’s not true.
Yes, we need solid doctrine. But we need love too. A spiritual church doesn’t sacrifice one for the other. A spiritual church knows that both, faith and love, are of the utmost importance. That is a successful church.
I want you to understand that too. I think we are too much confused on what makes a successful church. A successful church is not successful when it has a lot of people. A business downtown can be considered successful when it has a lot of customers. But that is not the way you grade a church.
A church is successful when it pleases God—when it is excelling in faith in Christ and love toward others. Let’s keep that in mind. We might begin to think that we are not a successful church because we do not have 100 members. Get that out of your mind. You are successful as a church when you are obedient. When your report card says A+ in Faith and love.
Paul prays because of the revelation he had of the church’s success. But what does Paul pray for? If their spiritual success is motive for his prayer, what is the essence of his prayer?
II. The essence of his prayer: [16-18a]
In verse 17 we find that he prays “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”
Let’s think about this for a second. Let’s clarify what Paul means. What is a “spirit of wisdom”? In our study in Proverbs we have said that wisdom is “skill in living.” It is being able to live by God’s law, being able to take the principles of Scripture and apply them to life. May I say then, that Paul is praying for them to have a spirit of love. If God’s law teaches us how to love, and wisdom is applying God’s law to life, then the spirit of wisdom is basically a spirit of love.
And what does Paul mean by “a spirit of revelation in the knowledge of him”? We talk about the Bible being the “revelation of God.” We would not know who God was unless he revealed himself to us. We gain knowledge of God when he reveals himself to us.
So if I might summarize Paul’s prayer: Paul is praying for the same thing that causes him to pray! He is praying that we grow in faith in Christ and love towards others! In other words, Paul basically says, “I pray that you keep doing what you are already doing! Keep being a successful church!”
You see, there is a tendency for us to grow complacent. For instance, if a student gets a good report card—let’s say that he got all A’s—he can think that he can relax. He can say, “I’ve worked hard these last few weeks, I’m doing pretty good, I think I’m going to take it easy for a while.”
That can happen in our walk with Christ too. If we think that we are doing well in the Christian life—we have been working hard to study the Bible, we have really been trying to help out our friends—you might start to think I’m just going to relax a bit now—just take a little break.
But the Christian life is to be full speed ahead! There are not supposed to be any pit stops along this road.
But that isn’t our nature. We want to slow down. We want to be selfish. That’s why the essence of Paul’s prayer is “that God may give us that spirit”. It is not something that we can churn up in ourselves. It is not something that we can fuel or keep going. A fire cannot keep itself going. It needs someone to keep putting logs on it and keep fueling it. And we can’t keep ourselves growing in the Christian life. If you think about it we’re a grumpy people, we are a selfish people. It is only if God puts it in our hearts that we will flourish in faith and love.
It’s that wonderful conundrum of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility. We are to keep striving in the faith, but only God can make it happen.
I once heard someone say that as a minister I am to “preach like a Baptist and pray like a Calvinist.” I’m to call you to grow in faith in love, but run back to my office and pray that God will cause you to grow.
Ø We’ve seen the motive and the essence of the prayer. We’ve seen that they have a divine fire, and he asks for divine fuel. But what is the purpose of his prayer. What does he want them to get out of it.
III. The purpose of his prayer: Confirmation [18b-21]
In verse 18 you see that Paul prays this prayer, “that they may know.” He prays for confirmation—that they may be fully assured. He prays that they may know 3 things. The first thing he wants us to know what is the hope to which he has called you.
Paul is very pastoral here. He knows that we are going to encounter an overwhelming amount of misery in life. But he wants us to be assured that we will one day arrive at our final destination. You could say he wants us to be equipped for the journey.
In John Bunyan’s famous work, “The Pilgrims Progress”, the main Character, whose name is Christian, comes to a resting point along his journey. He takes up lodging at this house there so that he might be renewed for his journey. Just before he was to leave the people of the house took him up to a high point and gave him a glimpse of his final destination, the Celestial City. With that vision burned in his mind he is eager to set out again on his pilgrimage.
In life we must remember that God has a plan. He intends that you will one day enjoy perfect bliss and happiness with him in glory. That is your hope. That is the hope to which he has called you. And that hope can help us persevere in life.
The second thing Paul wants us to know is what is found again in verse 18. It says he wants us to know “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”
Now let’s be clear. He does not say what is our inheritance. Our inheritance is heaven and eternal life. That’s what we just talked about. He says he wants us to know what are the riches of HIS inheritance. What is God’s inheritance? It is his people. We are God’s inheritance!
Paul wants us to know what a great treasure it is to have one another. He wants us to know the blessing of being joined to and having fellowship with his family. This is a community unlike any other. It is a treasure that supersedes any other relationship.
Just last week Elizabeth’s parents told us that a Buddhist fellow happened to come to their church. The people in that church showed great interest in him. They welcomed him, they talked with him, someone even had him over for lunch after church. The man was amazed at the experience. He kept saying, “I feel loved here. I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”
We might not know it. We might simply have become too accustomed to it. But what we have here is a special union. The communion of saints is a glorious thing.
Paul wants us to know the hope to which we are called and the wonderful riches there are in our union. The last thing Paul wants us to know is found in verse 19. He wants us to know “the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe.”
It goes on to tell us how great God’s power is: he raised Christ up from the dead, raised him up into heaven (20), and he has authority over evil spirits (21).
One thing that we often come to grips with real fast is how powerless we are. All around us are the influences of the world. Satan and his minions are out to get us. It can be intimidating. That’s why we need to remember God’s power.
You know we have advanced in medical practices in amazing ways. We have now have surgeries – what were once significant surgeries—they are now done on an outpatient basis! You don’t even have to stay the night.
We have the ability today to give someone a heart transplant if they need it. That was something unheard of just a generation ago. As a matter of fact, we are now coming to see that we are advancing beyond heart transplants. A few years ago they tested the first artificial heart. Somebody created an artificial heart, and it was placed in a man who needed a new heart. It was an incredible breakthrough. I don’t know how the man is doing, or if he is still alive, but what an amazing breakthrough!
But medical technology has not been able to overcome death. There have been incredible breakthroughs, but they don’t have that kind of power.
But God does. He raised his Son from the dead. He even raised him into his presence. All that power is on our side. We might be weak. We might be outmatched. We might be surrounded on every side. But God is with us. And with him we can’t lose.
During a Monday night football game between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, one of the announcers observed that Walter Payton, the Bears’ running back, had accumulated over 9 miles in carreer rushing yardage. The other announcer remarked, “Yeah, and that’s with someone knocking him down every 4.6 yards!”
Walter Payton, the most successful running back ever, knows that everyone—even the best—gets knocked down. The key to success though, is to get up and run just as hard again.
As Christians, we need that kind of perseverance. Whatever obstacle we face in the Christian walk, we must seek to overcome. We must always be seeking to push forward—growing in the faith.
One of the tenets of Reformed theology is the doctrine of eternal security. We often call it “the perseverance of the saints.” If you are familiar with the TULIP acronym which outline the 5 points of Calvinism, it is the “P.”
We believe that God elects those who would be saved from eternity past, and we also believe that he will bring them safely to heaven. No matter what trial or tribulation may assail us, God will preserve us and enable us to persevere unto the end.
In everything we are, as Paul says, “more than conquerors.” But we conquer because God sustains us every step of the way. And he sustains us by means of the truths he gives us in Scripture.
You might liken it to what Paul experienced when at sea in the book of Acts. A storm came upon them and threatened to take their lives. Paul had a vision where God said they would all persevere through the storm. But did they just sit back and have a smoke? Not at all, they worked diligently, using the means necessary to save their lives. They dumped the cargo. They put ropes around the haul of the ship. They held on to pieces of wood while adrift in the water. There were helps that God used all along the way to sustain them.
That is essentially what a lot of these Psalms are like. In these poems God lays out truths that help us persevere to the end. The Psalms we’ve been looking at are sort of like the “driftwood” that will help bring us to shore in times of persecution.
And in Psalm 37 we find several of these truths that aid us in our perseverance. In these words David helps fortify our faith by pointing us to the grand plan of God. He points us beyond our current situation to the fuller outworking of God’s providence.
And if we want to persevere through persecution, we would do well to reflect on the truths contained in this poem. And the best place to begin is with the focus of our faith.
As we prepare for persecution, we must make sure our faith is focused on what God will do down the road. The very first verse sets the tone by pushing the focus of our faith to the future.
I. Faith’s focus
It says, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers, be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.”
Now think about your yard right now. We’ve come through spring and we’ve had a pretty good start to the summer. So it is probably nice and lush right now. But what’s going to happen in a few months. Come October or November, it is going to die off.
Tomato plants have always been kind of interesting to me. Tomato plants grow all through the summer. But as soon as the tomatoes ripen, they die. It is amazing how fast they brown over after the tomatoes are picked.
That’s what this verse says is going to happen to the unbelieving. Their reign isn’t going to last. The kingdoms of man and the powers of evil have no real sovereignty. And as a result, they are going to vanish rather quickly.
You can see this repeated throughout this psalm. In verse 9 it says that the “evildoers will be cut off.” And in verse 10 it says, “In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.”
I like how verses 12-13 puts it, “The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.” All God has to do is look at the calendar. He can’t help but chuckle because the hours are counting down for his enemies.
Verses 14 and 15 give us another picture of the limited time that unbelieving people have in power. “The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.”
Last week we talked a little about how the wicked fall into their own schemes. The things that they plot not only cave in, but they end up trapping themselves. Here you see something of that same thing. One wonders if Saul is in view here. Saul had pointed his sword at David many a time and chased him often with it. But what happened in the end? Saul committed suicide by falling upon his own sword.
Finally, verse 20 tells us that the wicked are like smoke that quickly vanishes.
Young people, a lot of you went camping with us a few weeks ago. You saw the fire and the smoke that it produced, didn’t you? How long did that smoke linger? Not long, was it? It might have stung your eyes for a moment, but it quickly disappeared, didn’t it?
That’s what the Lord says about those who are unbelievers. Their power will soon fade away. Though their plans may succeed for a while and though they may have the upper hand for a time, it won’t be long until they are completely gone from this earth.
History backs this up. Who might have been the most wicked men on earth? How about Nero. Nero is sometimes touted as the most evil man who ever lived. He persecuted Christians with an intense hatred. It is said that he lit them like torches for his gardens and committed all kinds of atrocities against them.
But do you know how long Nero was the Roman Emperor? The way some people talk about him, it makes it seem that he was in power for a long time. But its not so. His rule lasted for only about 14 years. By comparison he wasn’t even a cloud of smoke. He barely rates as a small puff.
Or how about Mao Tse-tung? He was the chairman of the communist party in China. And there is no doubt that he was a wicked, evil man! Conservative estimates say that he is responsible for killing 50 million people. He was an atheist and a raging madman when it came to advancing the Marxian worldview. We don’t downplay the impact he had on the world (and especially China), but how long was he in power? Just over 25 years. He did a lot of horrid things in those 25 years, but in the grand scheme of things that’s not that long.
And the best part about it is that the Christian faith is exploding in China, despite the wishes of the communists. It is believed that it will not be long until there are more Christians than communists in the land. In all reality, we are on the precipice of seeing another revolution in China. This time a Christian revolution.
What’s more important though, is the eternal perspective that this passage gives us. This is not just saying that our enemies will be gone from power. But they will not have eternal life. That’s the other side of this point. God not only focuses our faith on the temporary nature of our tribulation, but he gives us an eternal focus. In time, the enemies of God will be no more and on top of that, verse 11 tells us that the meek will inherit the earth.
That’s, of course, talking about those of us who are Christians. To be meek is to be humble & submissive to God. As we are submissive to God and patiently endure the tribulations that come our way, we have the promise that we will have eternal life here on this earth.
Again, this focus is repeated throughout the passage. Verse 18 says, “The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever;”
That is to be our focus. Part of what helps the body of Christ in times of persecution is the perspective that are given in the Scripture. We see the grand story. We see that trials and tribulations are ultimately just a passing wisp in comparison to eternity.
But, again, once our faith has this focus, our faith can express itself in the way it ought. Our belief system impacts our life system (i.e. our ethics). And in this passage you see the kind of faith that we are to have. It outlines for us the character of persevering faith.
II. Faith’s form
The first 11 verses contain about 8 exhortations, all of which define for us how we should be living before the Lord through these persecutions.
The first one is “fret not.” It is found in verse 1 and in verse 7. It literally means “to burn.” And it is basically saying, “Don’t let yourself get overheated.” Isn’t that what you do when you are afraid of something or you are overly worried? You get yourself all heated up. God’s telling you here, you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to worry. God’s got it all taken care of. To put it another way, you can be cool in the midst of persecution because the Lord is working out his plan.
The second thing he says is in verse 3. Trust in the Lord. Really this is the flip side of “fretting not,” isn’t it? Why do we get all in a tizzy? It’s because we do not trust the Lord. He says, “Just trust me and do good.” Stop your worrying and continue doing what you are supposed to do.
Verse 4 tells you to “delight yourself in the Lord.” Let God be your source of pleasure and take great joy in him. This is the way you express your faith. Just like Paul and Silas, as they were sitting in the jail. Were they grumbling and complaining? Nope. They were singing songs and worshipping the Lord.
I should add a quick little comment on this verse. Why does it say to delight yourself in the Lord? Because he will “give you the desires of you heart.” Now there are some people who take this as health and wealth gospel. Delight yourself in God and he will give you that 1 million dollars you want. That’s not true, of course. Others take it to mean that your will will conform to God’s will. That’s true, but I don’t know that that is what is being said here.
What is it that the Psalmist wants in this passage? It’s justice, isn’t it? He thinks its unfair that the wicked are succeeding and getting away with all this evil. He wants it to stop! That’s why David tells us to delight in the Lord. God’s going to give us that!
The passage goes on to tell us more about how our faith should be expressed. In verse 8 it says that we should cease from anger and forsake wrath. Now, this is talking about unrighteous anger of course. It is the anger that “tends towards evil” as it says. In other words, don’t get vengeful or don’t let anger cloud your mind so that you cannot love your enemies.
What is interesting to see is that this passage commends charity and being generous. Look at verse 21. It says, “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.” Then in verse 26 it says, “26 He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing.”
Now, there are certain cautions to take with this. We grant that there is a limited perspective here. David is speaking from his point of view. And he says that “he never sees the righteous begging bread.” Well, there are times when the righteous are reduced to begging, isn’t there. In times of war and persecution, that happens.
But I’ve witnessed that even in the most desperate times Christians still lend and give. When I was in seminary I had a classmate from India. He once scolded us Americans for being so tightfisted with our money. He said that in India, people have virtually nothing. Yet the Christians there always are sharing what they have with one another.
We might even look at Nang Taing, our missionary friend from Myanmar. How many children are they taking care of? 20? It’s not like they have a mansion that they are living in. Their house is a lot like one of our garages!
That’s something we should take note of. God wants us to remember that we should not be materialistic little Christians. What we have we are to be stewards of for his glory. And when desperate times come, we should still be willing to give.
There’s more we could say here. We’ve only touched on a few of the 10 of the traits that should characterize our faith. But I think you get the picture. God wants us to continue living a godly life and demonstrate Christ likeness.
But before we end, I want to stress one more thing. I want you to be sure to see how important each of you are to one another.
III. Faith’s friends
You’ll notice that David is the author of this psalm, but did you notice to whom he is writing. He’s writing it to other people. It’s not about David. A lot of the time david addresses God in his psalms. Or maybe he writes to himself; describing his situation. But he’s not doing that here. He’s writing to other people. He’s writing an exhortation to his brethren to help them keep their faith and persevere.
That’s really important to point out. That’s really something that we need to remember. If we are going to make it through persecution, we need each other. We need to have the mutual encouragement of one another so that we don’t lose sight of the future.
This reminds me of what it says in Hebrews 10:24-25. Sometimes we quote that verse which says, “Do not neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some. And we use that as a way of saying how important it is to be in the habit of coming to church each Sunday. But the context is really key. It says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Why was worship and faithful attendance in church needed? In Hebrews its because you need the mutual encouragement that you get here. You stir one another up and encourage one another.
That’s exactly what David was doing here in this Psalm. David was used of God to minister to his friends. It is through his counsel and his exhortations that their faith was upheld.
Think of this church as a long line of freight cars on a train. Have you ever wondered how that one locomotive engine can move hundreds of freight cars loaded with cargo? Its because there is a little bit of slack in between each car. When the engine starts off, that slack allows the engine to give a sudden jerk to the car behind it. That blow creates some inertia to get every car moving.
That’s essentially how the church continues down the rails of faith. Each of us is like one of those freight cars in that we are all linked together. And you can think of persecution as the weight that bears down upon us. That load would be too much for us to bear on our own. But because we are linked together, we are able to bump each other down the road of faith. As we rub shoulders with each other from week to week we create spiritual inertia which enables us to persevere on in the faith.
It is so important to point that out in our day and age because it reminds us of our duty to covenant with one another. It reminds us how strong the bond that knits us together is to be. If we do not have a robust unity, we will not have a strong witness down the road.
Here is where Satan has really set things up well in our contemporary society. We might think that the American church has become nothing more than church hoppers. People who have not sought to cultivate deep relationships with other brothers and sisters will find themselves in a great deal of distress when the tides of persecution rise. They won’t have other brothers and sisters who can help bolster their faith.
The unity of this church is so important. We need one another. We need the encouragement that each one of you provides. And I want to encourage you to never forsake meeting together. Because church is not just about your needs or your personal religious experience. It primarily about the worship of God. And right behind that is the blessing you afford to those who sit around you.
You are a vital means to my perseverance. You are the seedbed for each other’s encouragement. As you sing and as you pray, you are providing the necessary resources that stir my faith. And as we grow in our relationship we are preparing the ground for our future faith together. When harder times arise the bond that we’ve created here and now will allow us to push each other on and to exhort one another to maintain a sound faith and faithful witness. We will be able to be like David, pointing each other to the glorious end that we expect and to the life that we ought to live in view of it
During China’s Boxer Rebellion of 1900, insurgents captured a mission station, blocked all the gates but one, and in front of that one gate placed a cross flat on the ground. Then the word was passed to those inside that any who trampled the cross underfoot would be permitted their freedom and life, but that any refusing would be shot. Terribly frightened, the first seven students trampled the cross under their feet and were allowed to go free.
But the eighth student, a young girl, refused to commit the sacrilegious act. Kneeling beside the cross in prayer for strength, she arose and moved carefully around the cross, and went out to face the firing squad. Strengthened by her example, every one of the remaining ninety-two students followed her to the firing squad.
How did those students persevere through the persecution? It was because one girl had her eyes fixed not on this life, but on the life to come. She understood that the Lord, through the cross, had given her a promise of eternal life. And because she had a future oriented faith, she was not only able to stand up to the threats of her persecutors but she was able to stir up the others to do the same.
May we too have that same attitude. May we focus our faith on the promises of God and the life we have through Him. And by doing so, may we be that which emboldens each other.
 Today in the Word, Feb. 89, p. 17
I recently came across a Huffington Post article that was published last year. It was about a woman from North Dakota who supposedly married herself.
Her name was Nadine Schweigert. She was 37 years old and, yes, there was a ceremony with friends and family in attendance. All of them were encouraged to “blow kisses to the world” after she exchanged rings with her “inner groom.”
She said, "Six years ago I would've handled a problem by going out and drinking," "I smoked, I was 50 pounds overweight ... this is just celebrating how far I've come in my life."
Schweigert (do you call her “Mr. & Mrs.?) said she came up with the idea through a friend. "I was waiting for someone to come along and make me happy," Schweigert said. "At some point, a friend said, 'Why do you need someone to marry you to be happy? Marry yourself.'"
You know, there are a lot of people out there in the same shoes as Nadine Schweigert. They may not be marrying themselves, but they are waiting for other people to come along and make them happy. That is the way a lot of people look at relationships.
While her marrying herself is a bit bizarre—and likely blasphemous—I’m actually glad for her honesty. She expresses what most people actually believe, but won’t say. When it comes to relationships, most people have a rather selfish attitude. They are seeking their own gain; their own pleasure; their own benefit; rather than the welfare of their spouse.
But that’s not the way relationships are to operate. A marriage is to be based on love. And one of the facets of love is that it “seeketh not its own.” That’s what Paul says in this passage in 1 Corinthians. As Paul unfolds the characteristics of love he says, that it is patient, it is kind, it is not arrogant or rude. And then he says that love seeketh not its own.
Of course, this does not mean that we set aside all of our needs and destroy all regard for ourselves. It’s talking about the excessive focus on yourself. What Paul is aiming at is that overly self centered attitude that we each have by virtue of our fallen nature.
I actually like some of the nuances of the original language. The word for “seek” here could actually be translated “worship.” That, I think, really helps us to understand what God wants out of our relationships. “Love worships not its own.” Or, to put it another way, “Love renounces self worship.”
You know, when you worship something, you are seeking it with a tenatious passion. Every ounce of your being is focused on that one thing, and nothing else. When you go to church to worship God, you are seeking to focus on Him and nothing else. You are seeking on his glory, his word, his praise.
Paul wants us to understand that each of us has our own little cult. We worship ourselves. You might say that we put the “I” in idolatry. We are always seeking the fulfillment of our own glory, our own satisfaction, our own happiness over and above everyone else’s.
And as you begin this marriage, each of you has to understand that this selfish spirit has to be suppressed. The orbit of your love has to extend much further now. And no longer can you be living for yourself and yourself alone. As a matter of fact, you are now called to a life of self denial. You have to sacrifice some of the happiness that you want in order to please each other. You have to be willing to seek her happiness above your own and vice versa.
In our counseling we talked a lot about the different roles that each of you will have as a husband and wife. Brian’s role is to lead. Faith, your job is to help and submit. And, we didn’t talk about this, but…sometimes it’s not going to be easy. There will be times where you disagree, and you are going to want to insist on your way. You are going to want to seek to gratify your desire to win the argument and have the decision work out the way you want it too.
You know what we call that? The technical, theological word that that scholars use is “nagging.” That’s all that nagging is. It is the insistence of one’s own way and a woman’s seeking her own.
Sometimes you will be called by God to give up that desire and leave it all in God’s hands. You are going to have to say to yourself, “I am going to trust God and let my husband be the leader God has called him to be.”
The same goes for you too, Brian. You can easily imagine having a tough day of work. Then you come home to mow the lawn. After that you’re wiped out. You are going to simply want to sit down and revert to your man cave for the rest of the evening. But there are going to be diapers to change, toys to clean up, and a wife who’s going to want to have some meaningful grown up conversation.
You are going to say to yourself, “I don’t want to do any of that.” I just need some me time. But that’s when the Lord calls you to sacrificial love.
The best way to put it, of course, is to simply say that you guys are called to imitate the love of our Lord Jesus. If there ever was a self renouncing love it was the one that Jesus had for us. Think about it: He could have easily said, “Let them burn in hell.” He was perfectly comfortable there in heaven. But he didn’t do that, did he? I’m sure he would have preferred to stay in heaven. The pleasures he had there were infinitely sweet. Yet, he humbled himself and took the form of a man. And he was obedient unto death, yea, even death on a cross.
Think about how he did not insist on his own way. Perhaps it was most evident in the Garden of Gethsemane. Some theologins actually say that his passion actually started there. Because he was obviously in a great deal of agony. He was tortured in spirit because he knew all that he would undergo in the upcoming hours. He was in such distress that it says blood began to roll down his face. I think it was safe to say that he didn’t want to do it. But as he prayed he said, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus sought not his own. He renounced any inkling of self worship so that he may lay down his life for us and become our Savior. Really, he gave up his own happiness so that he might bring eternal happiness to his bride.
Truly, that is love. And I pray that the selfless, self-sacrificing love that Christ has shown for sinners like us might stir you to do the same for each other.
 Huffington Post, Woman Marries Herself.
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