Thursday, December 1, 2016

You do not have a soul


"You don't have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body."  This quote has been attributed to C.S. Lewis, but many have searched in vain for it in his writings.  Rather, "Never tell a child", said George MacDonald, 'you have a soul.  Teach him, you are a soul; you have a body."  However, C.S. Lewis was a great admirer of the Scottish minister George MacDonald, who wrote many wonderful books in the mid to late 19th century.  That may possibly explain how this quote came to be attributed to the better known C.S. Lewis instead of to the more obscure writer, George MacDonald.

Initially, the reaction to this quote may be, "I don't have a soul?  What?"  But then the next bit of the quote, "You are a soul." may trigger a "light-bulb" moment. "Oh, oh course.  My soul is not a belonging of which that I can put off or on.  My very essence is a soul, created by God, an eternal being."  The last phrase of this quote could be a real eye opener.  "You have a body." With that declaration, all three of these thoughts are woven together into one glorious conclusion:  we are spiritual beings, who are housed in bodies.  We are spirits.  We are not our bodies.

However, this world we live in seems to say that we are our bodies--that our self-worth should equate to what we see in the mirror.  We don't belong to this world since as God's children we have been set apart from it; we have been made a "peculiar people" after giving our lives to Christ. We are not to be like, or "of", this world.  When we slide into a bathtub of hot, steaming water, we are in the tub, but we are not one with the tub.  We are separate beings, we are not part "of" the tub!

That being said, it can be very difficult to remember that we are called to be separate from this world and its beliefs.  Perhaps as women, it may especially be difficult to always be fully aware and cognizant of the powerful deception that our physical appearance equals our worth. We tend to cringe when we see ourselves in photos.  Nothing looks exactly "just-so."  Our hair looks wrong, our bodies are too heavy, our smile looks funny, on and on.  We judge ourselves based on our physical appearance just as the world does. 

We get on the weight scale and see a number which is rarely satisfactory or pleasing.  Or at least, the number rarely satisfies my desired range!  We tend to equate ourselves with that number, don't we?  The scale may even determine our self-worth to one degree or another.  "I" am 120, 160, 200 pounds, or whatever the scale reads on a particular day.  Wrong!  Our bodies weigh a certain number.  WE don't.  Our  eternal souls in Christ are worth just as much at 120 pounds as they are worth at 150 or 250, or any other number, up or down.  We possess bodies; we are not our bodies!

Youth, vitality, and beauty are highly worshiped.  There seems to be much less emphasis placed on our souls and on spiritual growth than on physical beauty: gorgeous hair, flawless skin, and perfect body shapes.  It can be easy to believe the deception that we must measure up and to condemn ourselves when we don't measure up to the world's standard of beauty.  Yet we know that what God values is our inner beauty and that He only looks at our hearts. He is not nearly as concerned about our physical appearance as our spiritual maturity.

Praise God, He uses a much different scale than the world does to measure our worth to Him! When Samuel was evaluating Jesse's sons for kingship, God told him, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart," I Samuel 16:7.

We are to treat our "jars of clay" with great respect and to care for them since they are the temple of His Holy Spirit. We were formed in the womb by His very hands, and our bodies are a precious creation. And yet, we are to focus more on our spiritual  identity, who we are in Christ and our spiritual maturity than on these temporary shells. "Dear brothers and sisters...Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you." 2 Corinthians 13:11

We are in these earthly tents such a short little while.  Time flies whether we are having fun or not!  Incredibly to me, I am over 50 years old.  My body will have as many years as the Father decrees, yet realistically that may only be 30-40 years at the most.  Each day rushes by as if it is in a hurry for the sun to set, and the days add up to years...  we have such a short time here on this earth.  Our earthly lives are merely a vapor before our spirits fly away to be with the Lord.  The flower fades and the grass may wither away, but God and His Word lasts forever.  And if we belong to Him, we and our new forever bodies will be with Him for always and always!  

"But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? ...so will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15: 35, 42-44)

Our souls are highly esteemed, seated with Christ in the Heavenly realms, loved with an everlasting love, we are heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ, and covered in His righteousness. We are chosen by Him, born of God and overcome the world, have a guaranteed inheritance and always triumph in Christ.  (1 Peter 2:9 )  We are holy, without blemish and free from accusation.  (Colossians 1:22)

No matter what these bodies that temporarily clothe us look like in the mirror, in pictures or on the scale, they are not who we are.  We are eternal souls. Our identity is in Christ, not in our appearance.  As His bride, we are clothed in His righteousness and covered in His blood; we are flawless.  This is how our Father views us:   "You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you." Song of Solomon 4:7)  I believe that He wants us to rest in this knowledge.  
He created physical bodies that temporarily house the spirits He created which possess infinite worth.  We are not our bodies. We are amazing spirits who merely have temporal bodies!



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stop, in the Name of Love!

 
What is this hesitation, reluctance, this near-repugnant feeling of some (including me), to approach the subject of abortion?  Is it because, in some part, because of a feeling that we are being intrusive, telling women what they can/can't do with their bodies, that it really is only their business?  Even though I know that babies lives are being abruptly, often cruelly, ended before they even begin outside the womb, which is a severe wrong and injustice, I still have this unwillingness. 


It seems very rude and in-your-face to tell people that they must take responsibility for their actions instead of trying to escape from the consequences.  It even seems unloving.  If someone doesn't want to deal with pregnancy, which nearly lasts a year and can have much emotional and physical hardship even when the baby is wanted, who am I to tell someone they must choose to carry the baby to a natural birth?

However, there is an additional view on abortion.  I can take the approach of love, realizing that there are even greater spiritual and emotional consequences for those who end their developing baby's lives than for the innocent baby.  Walking in the Spirit I can be moved with concern for these expectant women and couples to do all I can, with grace and love, to convince them that abortion will cause them more long-lasting emotional and spiritual damage than they can even imagine.

This verse is a common one used among pro-life:

 "Rescue those being led away to death;

    hold back those staggering toward slaughter,"  Proverbs 24:11.

We typically think of this verse as the unborn being led away to death.  Maybe if we think with compassion of the expectant parents as being included in this rescue, focus on rescuing them (along with the baby), from emotional and spiritual death, that may help end our reluctance to act.

 

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Greatest Gift of All

John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. “
The wonder of Creator God inhabiting flesh—it is too much for us to grasp!  Motivated by His love for us, Jesus, “who being in very nature God”, humbled himself and came into frail, sin-ridden human form so that He might show the depth and breadth of the Father’s awesome love for us.  How can we doubt His love? 

He did not come in power and majesty, as befits a King, but as a servant to all.  He revealed Himself not to the powerful, but to the humble and needy—those who acknowledged their want for Him.  He could have come demanding His rights since as Creator God He alone is worthy of praise and worship.  Instead He was entirely selfless, pouring out His life in service and sacrifice for His creation, for those He loves.

Before Jesus came to the world God’s people could only worship Him with a reverent fear—the Almighty God, whose holiness requires an impossible holiness from us.  In the presence of Almighty God Isaiah cried 6:5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”  Who can stand in Holy God’s presence without being destroyed by the stark comparison of His holiness to our abject sin?

When the Son of God made his residence in flesh, coming to live with us, He became touchable and approachable.  Jesus became “the one who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), the One who “calls us friend” (John 15:15), and the One who remains constantly in us through the Holy Spirit (Heb. 13:5).

Now His children have access through Jesus to our Father, Holy God.  The writer of Hebrews proclaims, “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.”

The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”,  Hebrews 12:18-24.

This season let us join in praise with the angels who observed Jesus’ departure from Heaven and appearance in the flesh on earth, proclaiming with wonder and great joy, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  Jesus, lover of our souls, the spotless Lamb of God and King of glory, came to live with man, becoming one of us.  Could there ever be a greater gift?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Judgment of Mercy






Perhaps it's a knee-jerk reaction to be critical and judgmental towards those who have been entangled and overcome by sin. We sometimes tend to forget  that we are all sinners saved by grace.  Responding with self-righteousness and condemnation is easy.  However, God rarely calls us to do what's "easy".  He demands un-natural and other-worldly actions from us such as mercy and compassion, and modeled it Himself.  Jesus is all-merciful. Why does He extend mercy to sinners?  Why should we?
 

While sitting in the temple teaching his disciples, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees  thrust the disheveled woman at Jesus, in order to test Him. Her disorderly hair streamed around her face.  Her downcast eyes broadcast guilt and shame.  "This woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

 

Jesus responded by deliberately bending over and silently writing on the ground.  They angrily demanded an answer to their accusation, so He stood up and said to them, “ 'Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 






At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' "

 

 “No one, sir,” she said.

 
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:2-11)

On the floor of the temple was written these words: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and compassion on whom I have compassion."  (Exodus 33:19.)  Actually, that's just part of my flight of imagination.  We don't have a recording of what Jesus wrote on the ground.
 
 It's a bit puzzling why Jesus reacted to her the way that He did.  The Jewish law was clear. She had been caught committing adultery, so she must be stoned.  Why then did He discourage her accusers from doing so?  Why instead did He have a merciful and compassionate response towards her?



 
Instead of spurning sinners, Jesus had a history of spending time with them.  So much so that He was criticized for his behavior.  "While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
 
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:10-13
 
Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice",  to the Pharisees, which is a verse with which they would have been very familiar.  He wanted them to respond with mercy, not scorn, to tax collectors and sinners.  Why did Jesus invest His time and energy in sinners?  Luke's gospel fills in the answer for us.  Jesus declared, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:32)

The fundamental reason He came to Earth was to call sinners to repentance.  When tempted and snared by sin, He woos us to Him with loving kindness and mercy.   By extending mercy (instead of judgment), His loving-kindness is meant to draw us to Him and lead us to repentance. (Romans 2:4) Showing mercy is the means to calling sinners to repentance.  Our Father God loves us so dearly.  He wants His children to have a close relationship with Him, with no barriers.  Because He is holy God, sin creates a barrier between Him and His beloved.  Repentance enables us to be in right relationship with Him, which is His ultimate goal.

 
After rescuing this woman from an awful death, Jesus didn't stop there.  He didn't tell her, "You messed up but that's OK.  Go and be blessed."  He gave her mercy and kindness to draw her to Him.  Then He gave her a command, "Go and don't commit this sin anymore."  He wanted her to turn from her sin and repent from it, so that she could come to know Him as Savior.
 
We don't know what happened to this woman, but what if...
 
The woman fled, incredulous and in shock that she was still alive. In the midst of the accusation she'd stood immobile with fear, waiting for her accusers to pick up stones and start pelting them at her. It was so odd how they'd all left instead. When the strange rabbi had told her with such gentleness that she had escaped judgment and was free to go, she'd gathered up her robe and run home.  She would never see her married lover again.

 
She couldn't stop thinking about Jesus and how He'd treated her with such compassion and mercy.  The next day she found Him again teaching in the Temple.

 
She sat down to listen, and stayed.  From that day on, she never left the presence of the One who'd given her a judgment of mercy.

Or... she may have simply gone home, been glad she'd stayed alive for another day, never repented of her actions and never turned to God.

If we reject His mercy and refuse to repent, we are "storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed....for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." (Romans 2:5)

  
Father God wants His children to extend mercy and compassion towards fellow sinners, and to stay in the awareness that we are all sinners and all have need of a Savior. When we inevitably fall into sin, He doesn't turn His back on us. Instead His loving kindness draws us to Him. His mercy is meant to lead us to turn away from our sin and give our lives over to our Holy, compassionate and merciful God.

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy..."  (Micah 6:8)  Jesus wants us to extend the same mercy and compassion we have received from Him, to others who fall into the pit of sin, thus helping to lift them out and set their feet on solid ground.


Jude 1:22-23 And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
 

 

 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Adam, where are you?

Genesis 3:8-9 "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?'"

 God is sovereign.  He is over all, knows all things, and nothing and no one can be hidden from His sight.  He knows exactly where we are each second, knows our thoughts, knows what we are going to do and say beforehand.  He knows us intimately. He encompasses us all around; He hems us in behind and before; He "girds" us.  He is our holy girdle!  See Psalm 139.

Knowing this--why then does God ask, "Adam, where are you?" 

My Mom was on heavy painkillers the last month of her life.  Much of that time she was not "with" us.  Her body was there, lying in the hospital bed.  But who she was, her essence, was imperceptible-- buried under soul-altering drugs. 

One day I went to see her.  She'd been "gone" for several days.  Looking into her eyes it was instantly apparent that today she was "there"--she was herself, the Mom I loved.  I was overjoyed.  "You're back!", I exclaimed.  (She didn't have a clue what I meant, but that's OK.)

God created Adam; body and spirit.  He was intimately familiar with and adored every facet of Adam's character. God delighted in their close fellowship, mutual love and trust.  

He gave Adam one "Don't".  When Adam disobeyed, he betrayed God.  He distrusted the One who made him, and broke their flawless fellowship. 

With that act of disobedience, he changed from a trusting, innocent man to a sinful man with a newfound knowledge of evil.  Adam was, in his very essence, changed. Adam's sin was soul-altering. 
Many times possibly we've been deeply disappointed by those we love dearly. Someone we thought we knew intimately and had a strong soul/heart connection with, may act in a way that is incomprehensible to us.  We feel betrayed.  We don't just feel betrayed by their contrary actions, but also betrayed by our own understanding of them.  We wonder if we ever really knew them at all. They seem changed to us.  Where did the person we loved so dearly "go"? It's heart-breaking!

God was very aware of Adam's location in the garden, his hiding spot behind some trees.  He was constantly surrounded by the Spirit of God.  Because Adam was now a vastly altered man, God may have been deeply mourning for him when He called out, "Where are you?"

"Where is my beloved child, the one with whom I had unbroken fellowship and constant delight?"  The Adam whom God created and adored was no longer the same Adam.  He was gone.

However, God is the way-maker.  He made a way to restore His original creation.  After
the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God He was able to look into Adam's eyes, see that he was himself once again, and say with elation, "You're back!"

Friday, July 20, 2012

Suit up!


"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:11-17 
According to this verse, the unseen spiritual world is very real and even more threatening than the world which we can see. There are rulers, authorities, dark powers and spiritual forces of evil that we cannot presently see, all around us! If we really believe this, we will daily seek to consciously clothe ourselves with the full armor of God. All of the spiritual pieces of armor: helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, belt of truth, shield of faith, sword of the Spirit, and feet coverings, are crucial to our victory over darkness. They each have a direct link to "putting on Christ."  What significance does each piece have for believers? What connection do these pieces have to Christ?

The helmet of salvation is especially vital.  Not only is it crucial because of the irrefutable significance of eternal salvation, but also because of the effect the helmet has on our thoughts, spiritual sight and speech. The meaning of the name Jesus is salvation. When we put on the helmet of salvation, we put on the mind of Christ. The implications of the mind of Christ influencing and guiding our every thought are staggering!

Besides having His mindset on everything going on in our lives, the helmet of salvation guards our minds from the attacks of the enemy–condemnation, guilt over forgiven sins, insecurity, etc. Satan is the believer's accuser. He is constantly at work in our consciousness accusing us in our thoughts: of not having done or said the right thing, of being inadequate. He attempts to oppress us with fear and worry, depress us with guilt and shame, and swell our egos with pride. The helmet, the mind of Christ, combats these attacks.  It enables us to "...demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Putting on the helmet of salvation is putting on the mind of Christ.    

Two other key mechanisms of the helmet of salvation are that it covers the eyes and mouth.  By putting on the helmet, we see as Jesus does.  We hurt when He hurts, rejoice when He rejoices.  We are joining in agreement with King David's Psalm 141:3:  "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;  keep watch over the door of my lips."  Our desire to speak is now put under the control of the Spirit of Jesus.  Under His submission, we will speak what He wants us to speak, and remain silent when He wants us to remain silent.  What an incredible gift--to speak blessing into the lives of others, by His Spirit!

The breastplate of righteousness protects our hearts, which is "deceitful above all things."  "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life," Proverbs 4:23. When we accept Christ as Savior, we are clothed in His righteousness.  II Cor. 5:21 reads, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."  He is Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord our righteousness! The breastplate enables us to "do the next right thing", minute-by-minute.  Jesus is all our righteousness. 

Putting on the belt of truth enables us to discern truth from lies, both untruths in our thoughts, and lies that constantly surround us in the world.  This gift of discernment helps us to throw off the untruths and embrace truth.  Jesus proclaimed Himself as being truth. We cannot trust others or ourselves because our hearts deceive us.  As the son of the Most High, He alone is Truth!

 The sword of the Spirit is the word of God.  How do we use this sword in attacks from the enemy?  Proclaim the Word, aloud, in the hearing of the invisible spiritual world.  Evil cannot stand in the presence of the power of the word of God. God has provided a word for every spiritual attack that can come against us!   When we are feeling inadequate, we can declare, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength," Philippians 4:13.  When feeling fear, proclaim "I will not fear, for God is with me; I will not be dismayed, for He is my God. He will strengthen me and help me; He will uphold me with my righteous right hand,” Isaiah 41:10.  If feeling guilty or shame over confessed, ( and thus forgiven), sins, assert to the darkness, "...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death," Romans 8:1-2.  If feeling prideful, state "Jehovah Tsidkenu--the Lord is all my righteousness."  A very powerful declaration over darkness is "Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world!"  This is from I John 4:4, a verse about dealing with false spirits.  "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 

God affirms in Isaiah 54:17, "...no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,  and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.  Jesus is the embodiment of the Word made flesh.  He is our sword of the Spirit.

The shield of faith "extinguishes all the flaming arrows of the evil one." What an image!  Fiery arrows are being loosed upon us as God allows, but with the shield of faith in place, their burning sting is doused.  They fall uselessly to the ground, missing their mark.

Our faith--believing God is who He says He is and that His word is true--acts as a shield when we are under attack.  Moses perfectly expressed the relationship of God as our shield and sword in Deuteronomy 33:29.  "He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword.  Your enemies will cower before you..." Jesus is our shield, and very great reward.  (Genesis 15:1)

The last piece of God's armor listed is "your feet equipped with the readiness of the gospel of peace."  Our feet must go where Jesus leads, and be willing to share the gospel of peace--reconciliation between God and man.  As with all the other pieces of armor, God supplies this readiness.  Jesus moved from town to town and to the cross, as the Spirit led him.  So must we, led by the Spirit, be ready to share Jesus at any place with anyone to whom He wishes us to speak.

God has provided us His Son as a covering to protect and strengthen us in our walk with Him here on earth.  Each piece of armor is critical to our success in the battle over darkness and is an inextricable link to Christ.  Let us seek each day to put on Christ and be clothed in the full armor of God so that we may be able to stand unswervingly against the spiritual attacks of Satan, and "after you have done everything, to stand."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Awful "A" Word

The awful "A" word is a word we don't hear alot today. In the world it's rarely spoken. Among believers, the awfulness of this word causes it to be spoken in shocked whispers. Why? Adultery is an extreme betrayal of the covenant of marriage, of the first order of betrayals. It is right on up there along with murder, in terms of its destruction. In His Word God shows without a doubt that He takes adultery extremely seriously. 


The best place to begin is at the beginning; we'll start with Adam and Eve.  God created Adam first, let him hang around by himself with no other humans long enough to figure out he was lonely, and then He created Eve.  I have the feeling when God presented Eve to Adam that He was rubbing His hands with glee, in great anticipation of Adam's reaction to this exquisite, beautiful creature, created just for him.  I love that the NIV reads that God brought her to Adam.  "Ta-da!  Look what I've made for you!" 

God apparently meant for them to be committed, lifelong companions.  Some period of time down the road He didn't go back to Adam and declare, "Here, Adam, I made another woman for you.  I know you were tired of Eve and she didn't meet all your wants and needs, so here, try this new woman."  To quote a well-used phrase in one of our children's books, "That's NOT what the Bible says!!"  (Nor did he offer another man to Eve, for that matter.) 


When God took the time to write the Ten Commandments with His own hand, twice, one gets the idea that He was serious about those commandments.  The seventh one, "You shall not commit adultery", is pretty straightforward. 
Twice in the NIV the phrase "the wife of your youth" is used.  The first incidence is used in Proverbs 5, delightfully so.  This proverb is rightfully entitled "Warning against adultery", as verses 15-18 illustrate:
     "Drink water from your own cistern,
      flowing water from your own well.
      Should your springs be scattered abroad,
      streams of water in the streets?
      Let them be for yourself alone,
      and not for strangers with you.
      Let your fountain be blessed,
      and rejoice in the wife of your youth."
 

The writer exhorts husbands to be faithful to their wives, and continue to rejoice in and be content with the wife they were given in their youth.  The implication is that the couple had been together for some amount of years, long enough to have aged together. 
The other occurrence of  this phrase occurs in the NIV have no poetry in them, just straight exhortation.  Malachi addresses some who were wondering why God was ignoring their tearful pleas and requests:  

"You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his...So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth."  (Malachi 2:13-15) God is witness to our marriage vows and expects us to be faithful to our spouses, as He is always faithful to us.  He is faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to Him. 


Perhaps the most serious verses against adultery are in I Corinthians 5.  Paul was appalled that a man in the congregation was involved in adultery--with his father's wife no less.  Not only does he chastise the Corinthians for not putting the offender out of fellowship, but he also exhorts them to deal with this offense in a very serious manner.  He charged them:  "When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." 


Adultery is a grave offense.  Apparently this sin, and the prideful attitude of the offender, was so serious that the Corinthian church deliberately involved the unseen spiritual world in the destruction of his sinful nature for the salvation of the offender's spirit.  The offender had to go through a purging and refining fire for the adultery. 

Paul goes on to say that Christians should not even associate with someone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral, and "With such a man do not even eat."  This is sobering!  Paul wrote a similar thing in II Thessalonians 3:14-15, "Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother."

The good news is that if adultery is repented of, like other sins, it is forgivable.  In John chapter 8, a woman was brought before Jesus by the Pharisees with the charge that she had committed adultery.  They seemed eager to stone her for the offense.
 
However, Jesus, seeing her shame, had mercy on her.  Instead of picking up a rock to throw at her, he told the crowd that anyone who was sinless could throw the first stone.  They all admitted to themselves that none of them were without sin and left.  Jesus then told her she was free to go, and charged her, "Go now and leave your life of sin."

Even though adultery severely betrays the marriage relationship, God is able to bring restoration and redemption of a damaged marriage and also to the offender.  God takes adultery very seriously.  If you're currently engaging in this sin, remember His faithfulness to you, and repent.  Ask Him to enable you to extricate yourself out of this wrong relationship.  "The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it," I Thessalonians 5:24. 

Although adultery is a serious offense, if you've repented from it, you are forgiven!  God is faithful when we ask Him to forgive. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness," I John 1:9.  He puts our sins behind His back and remembers them no more.  If God, very God, can do that, then we can accept and live in His forgiveness.  Then we can claim the promise, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus",  Romans 8:1.