warrning on marriageWell today is the finale of the marriage series and I am just going to come right out and say it, this series has been a really big deal.  It has been a big deal to my wife and I in our marriage, and as I have spoken to many of you over the last few weeks I’m realizing that I am not alone in that…this series has been special, and it has shown us so much about God’s plan for marriage and just what a big deal that really is.  We have learned that through our marriages God is shaping and molding us into the people He has created us to be.  It’s a move to love someone, to live with the knowledge that you aren’t the only person in the universe…it’s a move towards holiness as we grow as people in relationship.  We grow not towards happy moments, but to something far greater, we move towards holiness.  We learn so much about ourselves through how we relate to our spouse and we gain a greater understanding of the Gospel message itself through our marriage relationship.  Marriage God’s way is a big deal which is why this series was so important to us.  We weren’t going to come up here and give you some fairy tale version of what people would like to think marriage is, we have tried to really expose the reality of marriage.  That it is a challenge, that there are hard times, and that there actually is a Biblical plan to see through the challenges of two imperfect people coming together in relationship.  I believe that is why this series has really hit our hearts.  It’s because it is so real and we all feel and experience the war that is being waged over our marriages and today we are going to get to the actual source of what pushes against our marriages and I will tell you, it is profoundly spiritual.

You know it’s amazing to think that over half the marriages in today’s culture both inside and outside of the church fail today.  That is a startling number to say the least, and it should really send up a big warning to us that a Godly marriage is under attack.  I want you to think about that for a moment.  Do you think I’m just being dramatic?  In reality this entire series has been exposing something to you that today will just come right out in full force.  Your marriage is at the center of a spiritual attack.  I want you to think back to a couple of weeks ago…do you remember me talking about the pull of the world?  How our culture really pushes in on us, telling us many things about marriage, relationship and our self that are just so opposite to the clear direction of God through scripture?  It’s amazing the world pulls us one way, and God is clearly guiding us the exact opposite way.  Now think about this, who controls the world?  Well, we will get into that in a little bit.  It’s amazing, everything, everyone, and everything of this world seems to pulls us away from God.  People, culture, the popular ways of the world, the media, clutter, busy lives, the pace of life grows faster and faster and all of it challenges us, pushes in on us and frankly can crush us personally, and think this through all of it can crush your marriage.  What we often do is pass it off, as well, this is life and it’s just hard.  What we need to do is recognize is that this is war.  Living out a God centered life and marriage is extremely hard in a world that wars against you.  The proof is in the hurts, the struggle of living for God, and the fact that we are seeing over half of the marriages of today fail.  Everything seems to push against us living God’s way.  Well here’s the deal, we need to get to the source of all this opposition to our marriage and I think what makes the opposition so good is how overlooked he becomes.  We can’t physically see it, so we don’t think through it.  Make no mistake about it your marriage is spiritually opposed.  The war against your marriage is a spiritual war and it’s time that we have eyes to see it for what it is.

So today I really want to get rolling by helping you understand just how profoundly spiritual this is…and I think to do that we have to go all the way back in the beginning.  When God created everything.  It’s always amazed me how awesome his creation was…for all of two chapters of the Bible.  That’s it, just two chapters of perfection and then it all goes crazy.  So we see that by the end of the very first chapter of the Bible that God creates the perfect environment and we know that He loved it.

Genesis 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day. v 2:1  Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. NIV

This is creation as it was made to be, it is pure.  There’s no sin.  By the end of the second chapter of Genesis we see that God has created marriage and everything is as it should be.  It’s perfection.  We literally see that these two people are in a holy marriage union, they are free and pure.  They aren’t even worried about clothes.  There is no guilt, no insecurities, isn’t that awesome.  They are completely free.  Think about that.  This is relationship in its purest form as husband and wife and with God.  They literally walked with God the Creator of the Universe in his beautiful garden every evening.  Think that about that!  They walked with Him and talked with Him.  It was perfect.

Genesis 2:24-25  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. NIV

So in the first two Chapters of the Bible we see God’s perfect creation as He desired it to be.  We see marriage as He desired it to be…and it’s at this point on, EVERYTHING goes wrong!  Why is that?  It’s because we meet the opposition in Genesis 3 and what does Satan do?  He begins a relentless assault on these two pure hearted people with horrific ramifications, and what is amazing is that you still feel the punishment for their sin today.  We have two chapters of our Bible before we are introduced to the enemy, and to sin.  Satan enters the scene in the form of a serpent in Genesis 3, and begins his attack.  How does he do it?  Does he physically hurt them?  Does he shoot them with guns, or attack them with sword and spears?  Nope it’s sneaky, and it is so much worse.  He attacks with lies, he begins to cast doubt, and literally begins to cause them to question God, the Creator that they have enjoyed such a pure relationship with.  So this next moment, just moments into creation becomes THE moment…the enemy brings something new to the table that changes the course of reality…SIN.

Genesis 3:1-13  The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal GOD had made. He spoke to the Woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?” 2 The Woman said to the serpent, “Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. 3 It’s only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘Don’t eat from it; don’t even touch it or you’ll die.'” 4 The serpent told the Woman, “You won’t die. 5 God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.” 6 When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it — she’d know everything! — she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate. 7 Immediately the two of them did “see what’s really going on” — saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves. 8 When they heard the sound of GOD strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from GOD. 9 GOD called to the Man: “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid.” 11 GOD said, “Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?” 12 The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.” 13 GOD said to the Woman, “What is this that you’ve done?” “The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.” MSG

I wanted to read this in its entirety to you because it is so important to see, and frankly we could spend an entire series on Genesis 3, but I wanted you to see this moment.  Because it has huge implications on your life today.  Do you see it?  A spiritual assault on God’s perfect creation, tricking humans to question God and His plan for our lives and to get us to accept something false.  This is what our enemy does and from this moment on our lives changed forever.   Do you remember a couple of weeks ago I was talking to you about the idea that wives don’t like to hear the word submit and that husbands really don’t like to be pushed to lead?  Do you remember that moment?  Well I kept pointing back to Genesis 3, stating that all of these issues, wives submitting to their husbands, and husbands standing up and leading all points back to this moment.  There is huge ramifications for this crushing sin in the garden and you still feel them today.  Look at how God responds to this crushing, sinful moment.  Look at what happens to the women…

Genesis 3:16 To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” NIV

So ladies, because of this initial sin childbirth is extremely hard, and your struggle will be following your husbands lead.  Amazing isn’t it?  You feel this don’t you…it is a challenge to submit to your husband the way the church does to Christ and why is it so hard?  It all boils down to Genesis 3.  Men check out what you get to deal with because Adam sinned in the Garden.

Genesis 3:17-19 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” NIV

So guys, you get to work and work and work and have the entire world push against you.  Your ability to provide for your family, your ability to lead your wife, everything in this world right down to keeping your lawn nice will push against you all of your days.  Adam’s sin was a sin of passivity.  It was one of not standing up and leading well, and because Adam struggled to lead you still feel this curse today.  It truly all boils down to Genesis 3.  So in just three chapters of the Bible we see get to see God create perfection and our enemy working to destroy all God created through deception leading to sin, and then we see the ramifications of that sin.  This is war, and it still wages today, and the pattern is still the same.  It’s amazing isn’t it?  We live in a world today that still feels this moment from all the way back at the beginning of everything!

Here at MRC we talk about spiritual warfare, and when we do we are very quick to tell you that you do have an enemy and you need to know a couple of things about him.  He is a liar, a thief, a deceiver.  He comes to rob and steal and kill.  He follows the same pattern shown in the Garden of Eden.  But there is something else I want you to see here…twice Jesus refers to him the same way in the book of John.

John 12:30 Jesus said, “The voice didn’t come for me but for you. 31 At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. MSG

John 14:30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. ESV

Jesus lets you know that for now Satan is ruling this world.  Isn’t that interesting that you live in a world that is pushing against you.  A world that is on a full on assault on Biblical marriage and pushes in every way against you living God’s way.  It’s so subtle, it comes across as just seasons of life…but it takes from you doesn’t it.  We have exposed the world and how it really lies to us about what is right and what is wrong.  Well why would that be?  It’s sneaky but you need to see it…the worlds ways are controlled by your enemy.  This is why the world pulls us away from God’s desired life for us.  God’s ways are opposite his ways and now again we see the source of why this happens.  Satan is the ruler of the world right now and it’s something we must begin to understand.  The source of why marriage is so difficult is profoundly spiritual.

So we have established you have an enemy.  He rules the world that pushes against you, and I always like to add something at this point of a talk on Spiritual warfare.  You are fighting against a defeated opponent.  He is good at what he does, but Satan has no power over you through Jesus and His amazing and final work on the cross you are fighting a defeated opponent.  So this is a very different type of war.  You can’t see it, and you are already fighting from the winning side!  So because your enemy has no power over you he resorts to tricks, lies, and deception.  He does the very thing he did to Adam and Eve in the garden, and it’s amazing the only ground Satan gets in our lives is what we give him and he good at getting us to give ground.  He hits us where it hurts the most.  He wants to steal your identity from you…he wants to ruin everything God is doing in your life.  Now think this through, where could the enemy hit you the hardest?  Where could he cause the most pain?  What better way to cause chaos and pain then to attack your marriage.  You are married to the person you love.  In your marriage we are learning that we are growing up, it helps us move towards holiness.  Biblical marriage is a large part of God’s plan and is an enormous part of your life, so why wouldn’t this be a prime target of your enemy.  Your enemy wants to crush your marriage because it hurts you, your spouse, it stunts your growth towards holiness, skews your understanding of the Gospel…and if there are children involved, they feel the hurts too.  Which can lead to so much more collateral damage than just picking at you and messing with your identity.  Your enemy hates your marriage, and wants to take it out.  He knows full well that he can cause maximum pain if he does this, pain that can flow through generations of your family.  So we need to understand this going in.  You do have an enemy (a sneaky, deceiver who has no power over you) and he wants to take out your marriage.  The source of all of the challenges involved in our efforts to live out a Godly life and marriage is profoundly spiritual.  There may be no more strategic place for your enemy to attack then in the area of your marriage relationship…and we really need to understand this, identify it, and then move forward deliberately.

So today we come to the conclusion of the marriage series.  And I wanted to talk to you about something that has really impacted my heart as we have walked through the entire summer of teachings here at MRC long.  There has been an awesome progression that we have seen.  We spent 6 weeks working through the book of James and the idea that we need to grow up.  Then we have spent the last few weeks in a series on Marriage which concludes today looking at the Spiritual war that wages against you.  It’s a beautiful progression, and it isn’t a new thought.  In fact this is the exact progression that Paul walks us through in Ephesians.  This has meant so much to me, and I want you to see it today.  Paul says something very important in Ephesians 4…that we all need to grow.  That growing into the people that God wants us to be is God’s deepest desire for us.  We are to grow up, becoming more like Jesus in all we do.  This is a beautiful progression that Paul lays out for us.  Check this out…

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 this is pretty clear, as we grow up and mature into the people that Jesus wants us to be we can get along with each other.  Healthy in God, robust in love!  This really has been a big focus on our entire summer at MRC, growing up spiritually just as God desires.  So Paul lays this out for us very clearly…and after he talks of the importance of growing up, he heads right into relationships…

Ephesians 5:21 Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. 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. 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. 26 Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, 27 dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. 28 And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor — since they’re already “one” in marriage. 29 No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, 30 since we are part of his body. 31 And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” 32 This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. 33 And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.  MSG

We spent a lot of time really breaking down the type of love that is produced in us as we allow God into our lives.  Do you see the progression?  We grow up.  We then can enter into marriage God’s way.  But Paul doesn’t stop there, he helps us see just how profoundly Spiritual the challenges in relationship and life really are.  This is the step that many don’t recognize, or don’t want to acknowledge at all…and I have told you this before.  Whether you want to engage into the spiritual battle or not, it is our reality, and your enemy doesn’t give you a time out for not engaging.  It just makes you an easier target.  So check out where Paul goes next…

Ephesians 6:10 God is strong, and he wants you strong. 11 So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. 12 This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. 13 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. 14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. 18 In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. MSG

So Paul is saying hey, there is an undermining force behind all of the conflicts we are facing in relationships.  So we have seen the importance over the summer of our lives, our growth, and our loving relationships.  In all of it, we reflect God and grow into the people He has ultimately designed us to be.  Make no mistake about it, your enemy is coming after your heart, your home, and your marriage.

So when it comes to Spiritual Warfare we humans are kind of all over the map.  We have some who don’t believe in it at all…which is scary because again (no time outs!)  We have others who make everything the devil and that can get a little crazy too.  But those are the extremes, I tell you often that I think we people fall into extremes pretty easily.  But there are something you must know.  You do need to understand a couple of things about the world that you live in…it is opposed.  You do have an enemy who has been working since the beginning of time (Genesis 3) to destroy God’s creation.  You also need to understand that this enemy of yours has already lost this war.  So this is very different warfare.  You are fighting from the stance of victory not for it.  So you fight a defeated opponent who has no power over you…which means the only ground he can take in your life, is the ground that you give him.  But he is very good at deception, tricks, and schemes.  He is a liar and a thief, and he is very good at what he does, so we must be prepared to defend ourselves which Paul helps us see so well here…

Step 1- Understand that you are at war! 

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. NIV

The first thing is understanding that you are at war.  Your enemy has done a phenomenal job of becoming so covert that we don’t see the battle for what it is.  Remember how hard the world pulls on you?  It changes your priorities.  It clutters your mind.  It keeps you focused on everything and anything but God.  You need to understand that this is war.  It is intentional.  You are being lulled to sleep by the roaring lion.  Your heart, your family, and your home are his target…and we must get to the point where we see it.  We are in a spiritual battle.

Step 2- We suit up and we stand our ground!

Ephesians 6:13 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. NIV

Paul is very clear…yes you fight a defeated opponent but this doesn’t mean we do not need to defend ourselves and he shows us the armor that we need to where.

Vs 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. NIV

So you have probably heard this before.  If you have spent any time in church you have heard of “The Armor of God.”  And I think for a lot of us we get it…but what would this look like as we apply it to our marriage?  I want to walk you through a couple very important things that can swing the battle over your home and your marriage 180 degrees!

  1. Your heart condition.  It starts with you.  Your heart condition is the first domino that must fall.  You engaging into your own deep and personal relationship with God.  You spending time each day with God.  It always starts with your time, your heart condition, and your foundation and then from there it flows into your relationship with your spouse.  So priority one is you and your heart condition.
  1. Your priorities.  As you begin to spend more and more time with God I think your priorities begin to change.  You begin to put a greater value on eternal things rather than the things of this world.  Remember you live in a world that will tell you where your time and energy will go if you don’t live intentionally.  This is part of the enemy’s schemes.  You begin spending time with God, then you begin to layout different priorities.  Your energy and your time will begin to go towards things that matter greatly…like your marriage.  So step one is your heart condition.  Step two is setting new priorities which clears the schedule from the frantic way we live and puts God and your marriage as the highest priorities in your life.
  1. You engage God together.  I think this is a challenging step…especially if it’s something new to your relationship.  You engage God together.  You read scripture together.  You pray together.  Let me tell you, this will be a little clunky at first, and there will always be a reason why you don’t want to do this…but it is a huge step in guarding ourselves from the evil one.  Engaging this war together as a couple and as a family.  So it starts with your heart condition and the time you spend with God.  As we engage Him our priorities change.  The ways of the world start to grow strangely dim…and then we can engage God together as a couple.  This is what it looks like to put on the full armor of God in our marriages.  This is huge because as Paul says…

Ephesians 6:13 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. MSG

So yes marriage can be hard.  Especially when we try to go it alone.  We need to understand something very important…we live in a world at war, and at the very center of all of our challenges there is an enemy.  Make no mistake about this your heart, your home, and your marriage are under attack.

This is profoundly spiritual.