warrning on marriageSo last week we started a new series called on relationships…more specifically, marriage called “Marriage Warning” and frankly that sounds a little ominous doesn’t it?  It may even sounds a little negative or gloomy for church right?  I mean we really don’t want to hear about the challenges of something that is supposed to be so beautiful and romantic right?  It’s funny when we grow up and find that special someone we begin to dream of what life would look like with them the last thing we would want to hear is that it can be tough, right?  We certainly don’t want to hear that this marriage thing may not go as planned.  Especially at church!  I mean if I want to hear something negative about marriages I can just go to work and listen to the guys on the jobsite complain about the “old ball and chain” or I can just go hang with the girls and hear all the things there husband is not doing for them but here at church I don’t want to hear anything negative about marriage.  I certainly don’t want to hear that it is difficult or challenging in any way!  We just want to hear about the good stuff!  Well here is the deal, I have been married to my best friend for 15 years and there is so many life giving and amazing parts of marriage…and when you put God first in your marriage it is the greatest thing that could ever happen to you.  But there are a lot of things that can be challenging too, especially when you bring two imperfect people who have spent most of their lives living for themselves and you bring those two people together, then you add stress, financial challenges, children, busyness, and well just life in general and things can get complicated pretty quickly!  I want you to hear something today.  A Godly Marriage is a beautiful and amazing thing, and something that can be so rewarding.  Believe me it will teach you a lot about who you are as a person which I thought Ken did a great job of bringing out last week!  It will reveal your own heart condition along the way.  You know what, marriage is an amazing gift from God that really started all the way back at the beginning of time…

Genesis 2:20 But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. NIV

So there it is, a gift from God that we see created at the very Creation of all living things!  It’s a big deal!  So marriage is God intended, it is a gift, and it took God making one person to see the need for it.  So it can be a huge blessing in our lives but and it is a pretty big but over 50% of marriages in and out of the church fail so it isn’t all happily ever after stories.  The reality is that marriage can be hard but what is really important for me to tell you today is that two very different people living together will take work, and it is hard,  it doesn’t have to be.  You see we live in a culture today that tends to skew our view of marriage and there are some real misconceptions about it that I want to show you today, but before we do I want you to see something that I think is pretty neat.

I find it amazing how God really pulls everything together in our teaching series here at MRC.  We just spent 6 weeks of the summer studying the book of James, which really is all Spiritual Maturity.  Six week’s reading through a book that is all about us growing up in our faith and then we head right into a series on Marriage and it didn’t take Ken long last week to come right back into the idea of Spiritual Maturity!  Do you remember Jesus’ words on marriage in Matthew that Ken started with last week?

Matthew 19:11 But Jesus said, “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone. MSG

Isn’t that interesting!  Jesus would say that not everyone is mature enough to live a married life!  Well why would maturity be so important to make a marriage work?  Well I actually think Paul helps us see this…ironically I have brought this up every time I spoke in the “Grow” series this summer…

Ephesians 4:15 God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love — like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. 16 He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.  (MSG)

So Paul tells us that God wants us to grow and I want you to really see something here…Paul says that we grow up healthy in God, robust in love through Jesus!  We are to take our lead in Jesus, who is the source of everything we do.  He keeps us in step with each other!  Basically we are to allow Jesus into our life, and we are to follow his model of relationships with God and others…when we do, we stay in step with one another…we get along!  I find it really interesting that just one chapter later Paul explains that Jesus models to us what marriage should look like in his relationship with the church!  So we are really on to something here, which we will dive into in a little bit!

God’s deepest desire is that we grow up, that is his primary goal for you and I and I think this was something Ken really hit well last week.  God’s goal for you is that you become mature and complete not lacking anything.  It isn’t necessarily for you to have happy moments!  Happy moments come and go…it is so much bigger than that.  God wants us to grow up and this happens as we begin to give Him control of our lives.  It is a process that starts with asking Jesus into our lives and is shaped and molded for the rest of our lives through our relationship with God.  That is the goal that we grow up and what is cool, is that Paul shows us what growing up looks like…this is beautiful!

Galatians 5:22-23 What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, 23 not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. 

So as you grow, and live God’s way we start to see some really important things come out of us.  We have a love for others and a compassion in our hearts!  Can you see why that would be a big deal in your relationships?  We also develop a willingness to stick with things, and find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, and to reference back to Ken’s talk last week, that really is what marriage is all about right there!  We also see ourselves not pushing through life but being able to focus and direct our energy wisely.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to live this way?  These are very important gifts that Paul shows us that begin to come out of our lives as we grow up.  Interesting that we would all say these are good things to have in our lives but if you thing about it, none of these things are really popular in the world today are they?  Think about the culture of today.  Do you see a lot of people out there loving others?  Having a genuine compassion in their hearts for those around them?  How about this one…do you see a lot of people out there today developing a willingness to stick things out?  No!  More and more it seems like we are looking for the easiest way through everything.  The moment something gets hard we just move on to something else!  I see more and more youth growing up not understanding that they actually have the ability and should push through adversity from time to time!  Young people today talk of anxiety, and stressful situations like they are a bad thing and frankly the things that are stressful to them aren’t half of what will be stressful down the road!  It’s like we are afraid to feel weight, and here’s the deal, pushing through difficulty is not only a good thing but at times is a necessity!  Remember how we started the James series?

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. NIV

We live in a culture that says the moment something is hard, we should move on and sadly that has translated into empty relationships and a lot of broken marriages because marriage is going to take work, and there will be some hard times in it because again, you are two imperfect people having to try to grow up and live for someone other than yourself…it’s messy.  Culturally we have lost the idea of stepping into loyal commitments!  I find it amazing that all these qualities that Paul show us that come out of our lives as we grow spiritual are just so opposite of the way people live today.  It is just so counter cultural to live God’s way, right down to Paul saying that as we grow spiritually we are more direct with how we live, and are wise about where our energy is going…think about that culturally today.  Do you see a lot of people with strong boundaries, living out true priorities in their life?  No we are busier than ever, with little to no margin, unable to focus on anything as we run, and run, and run our way through life.  We can’t focus on God at all, let alone our marriage or our own heart condition…and all of these things really show us something really important.

Our Spiritual Maturity will have a large say on our relationships and our marriages do a great job of squeezing a lot of things out of us!  There truly is no better place to learn how to grow than through your relationships especially when you live with someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for years and years and years.  While it does some gloomy to say, there is something you just need to have your mind wrapped around going into your marriage, and that is that it’s hard.  Marriage takes some work on your part.  Marriage can be a challenge and today I would like you to see some of the reasons that I think marriage is so difficult.  We live in a world today where over half the marriages fail.  We have already discussed today that living God’s way is really the opposite of the popular ways of this world today.  You know, as I was preparing to talk to you about this idea that marriage is hard I started to realize that it’s not a coincidence at all that Godly marriage is so counter cultural, and that marriage today is so difficult.

So yes I think it does have a lot to do with our spiritual maturity level but it ties into something else too.  We are being fed a lot of lies about what marriage is and what marriage isn’t by this world that we live in today.  There is a very popular message from the world today about marriage.  There is a major pull on us away from all God’s desires in every way.  Let’s face it, whether you have really identified it or not, the world sends some very clear and very wrong messages to us about what marriage is and should look like, and I wanted to look at a few of the more popular lies in our culture today about marriage.  Here’s the first one and I have brought this up before here at MRC.

Lie #1- “The Mythical One Is Out There Who Completes You!” I have brought this up a lot, and I think this one in particular really becomes a barrier that keeps us from a healthy marriage.  We watch movies, and TV Shows and they all set up this idea that there is someone out there who completes you in every way.  Now I truly believe in love.  I believe that Mashawn and I have been brought together by God…but Hollywood, and TV, and just our culture in general can really set us for a massive fall when we start to believe that our special someone completes us in every way.  So here’s the set up…we watch movies and tv and they encourage this idea that we should life our spouse in the wrong seat in our lives.  It is so easy for us to get so caught up in our significant other that we begin to build our foundation around them, and that simply isn’t fair to them in anyway.  We simply cannot build our foundation of life on imperfect things.  I know, I know, you have watched all the movies and you know that you are dating that one special person that you now know in your heart “completes you.”  I saw Jerry McGuire too, I heard the music is playing, the rain is falling and it is all so perfect, and it brought me to tears watching that huge moment when Tom Cruise says the line…”You complete me!”  Listen, it tugs on our romantic heart strings, but can I tell you something.  That special person is dreamy, and cute, and you do love them which is a powerful thing but they do not complete you!  You have to be very careful here.  I know you love your husband or your wife but your spouse makes a terrible god.  I know you see Pastor Ken or myself on this stage and we preach to you, but let me be the first to tell you…we make terrible gods.  We are all people, and we will absolutely let you down at some point, and it is so easy to elevate someone to the place in your life and frankly that spot has to be filled by God.  He must be the foundation stones of your life, so yes I love my wife with all my heart, but she cannot be in God’s seat in my life.  She doesn’t complete me, God does.  It’s a big time set up, and I think it leaves a lot of people really disappointed, as they think this mythical someone is going to do things in their life that only God can do.  It is the ultimate set up, and it isn’t fair to your spouse who again…makes a terrible god.  Really takes me to Jesus popular teaching…

Matthew 7:24 “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. 25 Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit — but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. 26 “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. 27 When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” MSG

We must keep God first, building our lives on Him not on that special someone in our lives!  When we elevate that person to the wrong spot in our life, it isn’t fair to them because they can’t live up to it and it puts you on shaky ground and the house can collapse like a house of cards.  So while the world would say, that He or She completes you, here’s what we know.  God completes us and makes us whole again.  He does that through sending His son Jesus to take care of all the things in our life that we cannot.  So the world screams he or she completes you, while a disciple of Christ understand that reality is the opposite.  We love our spouses with all our hearts but we keep God first in all we do…see it?  It’s the opposite of our world today…counter-cultural.

Lie #2- Once I’m Married My Life Is Over.  This to me is another popular message being pushed by the world today.  You have heard it, and it sounds right doesn’t it?  We need to have our fun and all of that before we get married because that is when life ends.  I need to go out into the world and experience everything possible and then turn around someday and settle down, or throw in the towel on life!  That  is all about feeding my cravings and desires of my flesh isn’t it?  Again this goes back to our spiritual growth.  My life didn’t end when I married Mashawn in most ways it feel like that was when my life actually began.  Now do I have to “sacrifice” some of my wants for what her and my four children “need”…absolutely, but it doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice when you are living your life God’s way.  You know, running around partying, doing whatever you feel like doing whenever you feel like doing may sound nice to someone who needs a break from all the pressures and stress of life, but it is a very empty way to live.  Buying everything your flesh pulls on you to buy isn’t the answer either and while we all want new things, we at some point realize that they are just things.  This really goes back to the concept of Spiritual Growth that Paul talked about in Galatians…

Galatians 5:22-23 What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, 23 not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. MSG

There was a young couple in our church that asked me to be part of their wedding last year.  They wanted me to say something meaningful, and I prayed a lot about what I would say to them…what my advice for them would be, and I believe what God gave me is something all young people should know and understand heading into this marriage commitment.  It’s funny they were all dressed up and into their day, and I’m not sure if they could even hear me, but as simple as this statement is, I think it is the secret to a Godly marriage.  Here it is, “Be Married.”  The best thing you can do is stop looking over your shoulder and “Be Married.”  I know it doesn’t sound like the most profound thing we can say but this really is a big issue.  Our culture tells us that life is over when we get married, and we keep looking over our shoulder at all the fun we are supposed to be having or could be having, so we get married and treat it as if we were still dating, and keep living how we always lived.  Marriage is a big step, and it is a loyal commitment to that person…so we need to take a mentality that from that point forward we are going to “be married.”  There are so many marriages that get into trouble because one or both of them just can’t stop living the life they lived before…they continue to put themselves in positions they should not be in, because they don’t find themselves in those loyal commitments.  Physically or on the internet placing themselves where a loyally committed person should not be.  We must take the mindset that from that day forward I am going to “be married.”  Just like when you have children, you decide to “be parents!”  Not just have kids, but to actually be parents!”  When you understand these little phrases, your spouse and your children aren’t a nuisance to you or in your way from having fun, they are a huge and important and valuable part of your life.  Life isn’t over when you get married it begins…and it is an amazing ride.  But you need to commit to it, and live it out.  You must be married…when you have kids you need to “BE Parents.”  It’s a very rewarding way to live!

Lie #3-Biblical Marriage is from the Stone Ages it’s Chauvanistic at best!  Ok, so I am not going to make fun of us who believe we live in “The Enlightened Era” or anything like that but we have come to this place where we think Biblical Marriage is something archaic for like cavemen and I want to look at this today, because people take something from Scripture and really twist it up here and I will say this text is something that most women don’t want to look at, and frankly neither do the men for some reasons of their own!  So this should be fun, but again I think we need to look at this and see the beauty of the truth of God’s word here…so everyone take a deep breath, because we are going to hit a scripture that has become a touchy subject here so stay with me!

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Can anyone else feel the tension building here?  Well I think it’s time we see the beauty of this relationship for what it is and stop worrying so much about this whole chauvinistic mindset that people place on Paul here.  Check out this same verse in the Message…

22 Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. 23 The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. 24 So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. MSG

Now I know ladies I’m treading on thin ice here but it doesn’t have to be that way.  I know we don’t like the word ‘submit.’  We don’t like the idea of submitting to God let alone your husband (which could lead us into a whole other sermon on woman’s curse from sin in Genesis 3 but we don’t have time!) I really want you to see something here, look at the way it’s worded in the Message version.  Wives, support your husband the way the church would show support of Christ!  Then it tells the husband to lead (again this could take us to man’s curse from sin all the way back in Genesis 3!) as Christ leads the church which we will come back to in a moment…and then we come back to the wives…so just as the church submits to Christ’s leadership, wives should submit or allow their husband to lead.  Now I want you to think through this, the illustration is husband and what is Paul drawing the comparison too?  It’s to Jesus and the church.  So this idea of submission needs to be understood.  This is the calling of the wife to honor her husband’s leadership AND to help carry his leadership through with her gifts, her stengths and her intelligence!  Just as the church carries forward the leadership of Christ on the mission it is on!  That is very different than this idea that a wife has to submit meaning she is bare foot and pregnant and in the kitchen, and unable to think or use her intelligence or strength that God has given her too!  That isn’t it at all!  Does Jesus dominate the church and not allow us to use our skill sets to carry out his leadership…no!  He empowers the church through the Holy Spirit to engage his mission!  So ladies when you understand the beauty of the relationship between Jesus and the church, this isn’t about male chauvinistic world, this is a beautiful thing.  The challenge for you ladies is often allowing the husband to lead part…and supporting him in it.  Let’s face it if we had time that would be a whole other cultural lie, that men are complete idiots unable to lead or do anything other than eat, drink, and watch TV.  Just watch a sitcom or movie today. (This again stems from the curses put on us by the sins committed back in the Garden of Eden, all the way back in Genesis 3 but we just don’t have time to go there today!)  So while we are here, let’s look at the husbands role now, Paul has a lot to say to us men.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior…25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church- 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”   32 This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.  NIV

Men, let’s look at some of this in the Message version as well…

Vs 23 The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing…25 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church — a love marked by giving, not getting. MSG

So again when we understand the relationship between Jesus and the church this becomes a beautiful thing.  We are not called to push our wives around and lord a leadership position over them, not allowing them to think or use their gifts…NO!  It’s amazing how focused us humans are on positions and rankings…and it can even show up here in our marriage if we aren’t careful.  We are called to take primary responsibility for the Christ-like servant leadership of the home!  Just as Jesus took that servant leader spot for the church!  We are to go all out in love for our wives, exactly what Jesus did for the church.  Now here is where what the man is asked to do really becomes a challenge.  Your love is marked by giving and not getting.  I want you to think this through husbands.  That means we are to love our wives regardless of what comes back to us in return.  Jesus loved the church and the church didn’t exactly love Him back did it?  No it didn’t.  Jesus gave up his life for the church.  He sacrificed His life so that the church could be made pure again, regardless of how they responded to Him.  So Jesus goes all out in love for the church and the churches response is what?  Was it to love him back?  No, it was to kill Him!  Loving your wife regardless of what is returned is a challenge.  Men this is not for the faint of heart!  You are to love your wife regardless of what you get back from her…and ladies you are to support his leadership with your strength and your love and your giftings too!  This is not some goofy man vs woman thing, or some goofy ranking thing, this is a beautiful relationship that as you walk in it draws you closer to God.  It helps you understand the Gospel in a whole new way!

You know there are so many things that make marriage difficult and I find it amazing how hard it is to live out the principles so clearly laid out for us in scripture that would allow us to enjoy marriage in a whole new way.  Marriage can be such a beautiful thing, and I really wanted to show you just a few of the way that the world has twisted up what a Godly marriage can be!

Listen marriage can be hard and it’s hard because we all need to grow up enough to live for someone else!  But here’ the thing, it is also so rewarding and will teach you so much about who you are, and so much about the Gospel and who Jesus is but none of that happens until we begin to live out our own personal relationship with God.  You see without God you can’t develop the kind of life giving relationship with your spouse with the kind of depth and life it can have with God in it!  Without God’s guidance we will listen to the popular ways of the world that seem so right, but lead your marriage down the paths you’d never want it to go.  You see it all through scripture as we grow in relationship with Christ we grow up spiritually and we develop the ability to love others, to commit to someone and something bigger than us, and to have the kind of focus necessary to live wisely.

So yeah marriage is hard, but it’s hard because we are selfish people living for ourselves who have promised to now live in relationship.

So marriage is hard because we make it hard, but it doesn’t have to be.