Saturday, October 12, 2013

Wanna Save Your Marriage? (Part 1) An Introduction

When I was was in college and shortly there after, there were a number of us whom for one reason or another, and some much earlier than we would have liked than others, found ourselves married.  Of those, I only know of a couple of marriages that are still in tact. Different influences, some more legitimate than others, destroyed those marriages and it is still happening today. I am sick of it.  Yet, I have also heard many a testimony of failing marriages renewed and divorced marriages restored. That's right, you can be on the road to divorce or already there and still have a shot at happiness with that same spouse.

This may seem a little long, but I beg of you to stick with me.  It is an intro or overview of sorts, that will be a multi-post topic and the other posts should be shorter. The sanctity of marriage has been under attack for some time and the enemy is not letting up.  If it does not mean much to you, you have only lost maybe ten minutes.  If it speaks to you, it could mean a not perfect, but stronger marriage for the rest of your life.  I pray, by God's grace, that the second will be true for you.  Keep reading, pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaassssse!

Is the commitment real?
Here's the thing.  We live in a post-modern age and culture that has become so increasingly relativistic that you don't need to commit to much of anything.  Truth is relative.  Right and wrong are relative.  Everything is acceptable because everyone is entitled to their own view and beliefs.  Whether it has any substance behind it or not.  Do what  feels good.  Do what makes you happy.  Thus, well before gay marriage was an issue we were throwing away heterosexual marriage.  If couples were marrying at all, statistics show that upwards of fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce and that this number is almost as true of the "church" as it is of the world.  That of course presumes that everyone in the church who got divorced was a "true convert" and should have known better.  I would venture a guess that many who would argue against same-sex marriage are divorced and did not try nearly hard enough to save their opposite-sex marriage.
We have got to fight harder for commitment to God and our spouse in marriage.

God is a fan of marriage!
Before I go any further, I want to clarify that my goal is not to beat up those whom have gotten divorced nor is it to assume that every divorce is unjustified.  My goal is to challenge  those who are thinking about divorce or maybe even simply feel stuck in a marriage that they are committed to on principle, but miserable in.  In  these cases, often times if you are committed and really trying to stick it out, someone is asking you why, telling you your spouse is not worth it, and that you deserve better. Taking your side on every gripe you have.  Hearing that kind of thing makes it even harder.  My first suggestion would be to change your council.  You will not succeed if you continue to listen to that.  Second, make no mistake, GOD IS A FAN OF MARRIAGE.  When asked about divorce in Matthew 19:3-9 Jesus makes it very clear what his stance is regarding divorce and what His definition of marriage is.  It goes like this:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him.  They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"  "Haven't you read", he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"
Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.  But it was not this way from the beginning.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. 

Divorce is an attack on Christ's glory!
If you have been divorced, then you know how much it hurts, know matter how justified you think it was.  I would ask you to stick with me and perhaps you will hear something that will encourage you, should you ever be married again or even if you are already remarried.  You may also hear something that you can use to help others to save their marriages rather than encouraging them to abandon them.  As I said, my goal hear is to deal with the self-absorbed culture that we live in and the stinkin thinkin that plagues our attitudes toward marriage today..  In a sense I am attacking divorce itself, not any one divorcee.  So please know that while I may be direct at times and the truth may be tough to hear, that I am genuinely writing these posts out of love and because I am tired of seeing so many people hurt and failing in their marriage.  To say nothing of the glory that is stolen from God by divorce.  Marriage is intended to be a representation of Christ's relationship with the church(Ephesians 5:32).  Every time a marriage fails, it puts a blemish on the pure and blameless relationship that Christ has with His church.

Marriage is hard.
My marriage is not perfect.  I have been married to my beautiful wife for twelve years and we dated for six years.  We did not have the perfect relationship before we got married and we don't have it now.  The truth is, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship.  Even for Christians, only one side of the relationship is handled perfectly and it is NOT the human side.  There is also no such thing as an easy relationship. Marriage can be really difficult.  You may even think, "it's not worth it" or "I don't have time for this".  Any relationship takes a lot of work to sustain, especially a marriage.  It is challenging because we are imperfect beings prone to selfishness and unforgiveness.  This selfishness and unforgiveness, if unchecked, creates strife in many ways because we are putting ourselves before our spouse.  We are often holding on to past offenses or wounds in the relationship which creates bitterness and resentment.

Christ gave his life as an eternal commitment!
If you are a believer who's marriage is struggling and you are battling with wounds and offenses, I invite you to consider something.  Consider the grace that was poured out on you when Christ saved you.  Were you perfect?  Were you not offensive?  Were your sins not responsible for the death of God's only Son on the cross?  If you are not a believer then the same is true of you.  You are imperfect, offensive, and guilty of rejecting God the Father and crucifying God the Son.

But consider this.  Romans 5:8 states this, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  This is true for the unsaved sinner and the sinner saved by grace. The difference is, as a believer, you are called to recognize this great love demonstrated for you and, by God's grace, demonstrate that same self-sacrificial love to your spouse. God committed to those he saves for eternity knowing full well they were still going to struggle with sin and disobedience, remaining imperfect until we are glorified in eternity.  We owe our spouses no less.

Good News!
If you are an unbeliever let me share with you, perhaps for the first time, or as a believer let me remind you, of the most wonderful news.  There is an answer to the dilemma of divorce.  There is a love that knows no limits for you or your spouse.  It loves you through all your failures no matter how big, small, or multitudinous they may be.  This love does not give up and is always faithful.  This love is always unselfish(1 Corinthians 13).

It is the love of the cross.  The love that Jesus showed when he gave up a perfect, heavenly dwelling to come clothe himself in this jar of clay.  This earthen vessel of flesh that is broken from the moment it enters this world.  The difference is that the flesh isn't the only thing that is broken in our case.  Our souls and spirits are broken from day one.  Genesis 8:21 says God knows that "every inclination of our heart is evil from childhood".  We are not able to make one pure decision that is pleasing to God from the day we are born.  We are prone to selfishness and self preservation from day one.

PRAISE GOD that Jesus came into this world perfect and remained that way until His death on the cross(1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5).  He was tempted in every way and remained without sin(Hebrews 4:15).  He committed the most unselfish act ever committed when He lived the perfect life that we cannot live and then died the death that we all deserve.  He achieved for us what we could never do on our own so that we could have unity with the Father and the opportunity to spend eternal life with Him in glory.  Not only that.  He sent the Holy Spirit to come and dwell in us and with us in order to regenerate our dead souls, justify us by faith, and enable us to be sanctified, which is to be changed from glory to glory(2 Corinthians 3:18).

Something is wrong!
So why is all this important?  It is important because if you are struggling in your marriage and feel that you are incapable of loving your spouse then you need this love.  If you feel you have nothing left to give then you need Jesus to give through you.  As a believer it is difficult because you must maintain a healthy relationship with Jesus in order to truly love your spouse appropriately.  If you are not a Christian then you are trying to give something to your spouse that you do not have.  In fact you have never experienced it.  Unconditional, self-sacrificial love.  That, ONLY comes from Jesus.  Any love that is given out of your own efforts will be flawed and quite likely run out at some point out.  For the believer, in that moment of weakness, when we feel we have nothing left to give, that is when the love of Christ shines through(2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  If that is not happening for you then you need to evaluate your relationship with Christ.  I am not saying that you are not saved however, something is wrong!

I am going to strive to flesh out biblically based thoughts paired with personal experience to work all this together in a way that I pray will be a blessing and will draw you into a relationship with Christ that makes loving your spouse through the difficult times that much easier to do.  I am probably going to do it over at least 3 posts, if not more, because I don't want to sell this short and I still need to try to do it in digestible portions.  So stick with me and see where I go with it.  Even if you are skeptical you may find a blessing in it that you weren't expecting.  Jesus loves you and He wants your marriage to succeed!

I love you all very much which is why I put myself out there on difficult subjects knowing I may have critics.  I believe that your joy and eternal well being is worth the time and effort it takes to do this and worth the risk of criticism.  Hope to see you back.


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