Together for Life, Pt. 1

Scripture: Genesis 2:24, 1 Peter 4:8, Proverbs 31:28
Date: 09/12/2015 
Marriage is one of the most important covenants we can make. It is a public commitment before God. Nurture that love every day.

Keys for a Happy Marriage - Paper or Digital (PDF)

Keys for a Happy Marriage - Paper or Digital (PDF)
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Marriage is among the most important covenants - or promises - that are made. Some people look at divorce as an escape hatch. I'd like to recommend, if you're a Christian, shut the hatch, weld it, lock it, throw away the key.

Our message for today, and it's going to be maybe a two or three-part message, is going to be called together for life - together for life: Bible keys for a happy marriage . In our world today, divorce is epidemic. You've probably heard the statistics that somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. The reason those statistics are so sloppy is because so many people live today, without even the benefit of marriage, it's hard to really measure it. I believe it was - someone thinks maybe, 'Well, maybe the second marriage'll be better.’ 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce and it's even worse for third marriages. Paige Patterson, who was the president of the Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, citing the demise of twenty-one of the world's great civilizations. Actually, the historian who wrote about this was an atheist, but he said that he discovered that among the 21 of the world's greatest civilizations, part of their breakdown was the breakdown of the home. Adding to that he said, 'America could be living out its final chapters in the annals of history unless the biblical model for the family is restored.'

James Dobson said, in May of this year, I do not recall a time when the institutions of marriage and the family have faced such peril or when the forces arrayed against them were more formidable or determined. Barring a miracle, the family that has existed since antiquity will likely crumble foreshadowing the fall of Western civilization itself. And many are wondering if what happened with the Supreme Court at that recent ruling on marriage was driving a silver spike in the heart of American marriage altogether.

Now I don't want to dwell too much about this, but it's something that we probably are going to have to talk about. What are the main reasons that divorce happens? I'm just going to give you 24 of the top reasons that are listed when people cite the reasons for divorce: financial problems - you know, a lot of people, they think, 'Well, before we get married, we should live together so we get to know each other to find out if we're compatible.' Have you heard that one before? 'You guys aren't married, why are you living together?' 'Well, we're just - we want to make sure we're compatible before we, you know, make it official and...' And I heard a pastor say, 'If you want to find out if you're compatible, you don't need to share a bed, share a checkbook.' Because the number one reason that people get divorced is not because they are sexually incompatible, it's they're financially incompatible.

Financial problems - number one. Inability to manage or resolve conflict. Infidelity. Cultural and lifestyle differences. Now that, sometimes, is bigger than you think. People, you know, they grow up in a whole different culture with different expectations and different patterns and traditions that can seem so bizarre to people from a different culture. A lack of commitment is put down. Lack of communication between spouses. Abandonment. Alcohol or drug addiction. Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Personality differences or irreconcilable differences - have you heard that before? Differences in personal or career goals. Different expectations about household tasks. They get divorced because she thought he was going to do it and he thought she was going to do it. Different expectations about having or rearing children. That's a big one. Interference from parents or from in-laws. Lack of maturity is listed as a difference. Intellectual incompatibility. Sometimes just the educational level can become a problem. Sexual incompatibility is listed, but it's pretty far down the list. Not allowing room for personal growth. Falling out of love. Religious conversion or religious beliefs - I’ve seen that become a serious issue. Mental instability or mental illness. Criminal behavior and incarceration for crime. It's very hard on marriages when one spouse is incarcerated for a long period of time. Inability to deal with each others' petty idiosyncrasies.

Now, you might find that some of these are issues in your marriages - those of you who are married here, but none of them needs to be the reason for divorce. And I'm going to go through a list of maybe 18 different subjects that are Bible secrets. And if we understand these things, they can really contribute to healing a marriage and making a good marriage better if we follow these principles.

First of all, 1) remember that marriage is a divine covenant. We are saved. You're in church today because, ostensibly, you want to be or are a Christian and we are saved based on a covenant - a promise - that God has made to us. He gave His son to save us and we, by faith, accept His word and we make a pledge that we're going to commit our lives to Him. A covenant is made - covenants - agreements - promises - very important. Marriage is among the most important covenants or promises that are made. You're making vows in the presence of God and other witnesses. It's a covenant that's not only something that is done before you and God It's something that is done socially. It's a commitment - a covenant that makes - for one thing, it is saying publicly 'We are officially committing ourselves to each other. She is off the market for anyone else that might be interested.' She's saying 'He is off the market. We are a new family unit that is to be guarded and respected by the culture and society.' It is a public commitment.


>>And it used to be the reason the government is involved is because there was offspring that was the product of those unions and if one of the spouses died or both spouses died, they needed to determine how to deal with the children. And then, sometimes, the government would have to step in to care for those things - and there were laws involved. But it does matter that you are legally married. Is it required that you are married in a church? No, it doesn't say so in the Bible, but I think if you're a Christian you would want it to be a religious service because it's a covenant in the presence of God and you want to commit your lives to God Jesus said - Matthew 19, verse 5 - "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife: and the twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore...what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

The disciples came to Jesus and they said, 'Well Moses, he gave us a law about divorce and how we accomplish a divorce and you're teaching something different.' And Jesus said, 'Yes, because of the hardness of your hearts Moses made those laws.' They actually had a law that, by the time of Christ, a man could divorce his wife if she burned his food. I mean, they kept expanding what the excuses for divorce were because of the hardness of hearts. And, God says, ‘I hate divorce.' and that translates about the same in any version of the Bible that you have. Now I know that a lot of people here are affected by this and I need to let you know there are times when, biblically, it is appropriate to divorce. As much as God hates divorce it was God who told Abraham to divorce - put away - Hagar. Of course, he had one wife too many at the time and he had to deal with that. But look at all the heartache that it brought. It's dangerous to go into marriage thinking that divorce is an option because if you, in the back of your mind even think it, then you can end up having problems. Some people look at divorce as an escape hatch. I'd like to recommend, if you're a Christian, shut the hatch, weld it, lock it, throw away the key.


>>As soon as you know it's not an option and you realize that you're on a deserted island with this person called your husband or your wife, you've got to get along. Then you start doing your best to make the best of it. Now, again, I recognize there are some, even biblical, grounds for divorce. Do you know what they are? There are two reasons that are really given in the Bible when it's appropriate to divorce - and not just divorce, because you can separate, you know, if there's abuse in the marriage you should separate. But to divorce, often people are thinking divorce is designed to put them back on the market so they can remarry. One is for the cause of fornication, Jesus said. If one spouse or the other violates those sacred vows and commits that intimate act with another person, they biblically have grounds - they have broken the covenant - they have grounds to divorce and then to remarry. It doesn't mean they have to. Nowhere is Jesus saying that you have to divorce. Reconciliation is always much better. And let me ask you, does the Bible sometimes use the expression that the Lord is our husband, the church is the bride? Does God say that sometimes His people, whether it was Israel or the church, has played the harlot and committed adultery? Does the Lord forgive - read the book of Hosea - and take her back? If there has been infidelity, it doesn't mean you have to get divorced.

And I told you there were two reasons. In 1 Corinthians chapter 7 another example is given. Paul is talking to pagans - there were people out there that worshiped the Greco-Roman array of gods, and one of them accepts Jesus - let's suppose the wife then accepts Jesus. And the husband says, ‘I didn't sign up for this. I don't want to be a Christian. I don't want to follow your laws. I'm leaving.’ If that husband abandons the wife because she has accepted Jesus - they both got married as pagans - then, Paul says, she is free in that regard, let him depart. But he says, 'If your husband is willing to stay married, stay married that the husband may be converted by the behavior and conversation of the wife - or vice versa. But that was sort of a second clause where Paul said 'In the event that you've got two pagans that one of them converts and the pagan spouse says, 'Well, I'm leaving' - does that mean, now the person who's newly converted can never remarry? No, Paul says they are not under bondage in such cases.

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Marriage has to be a covenant where you stick with the person - in sickness and in health. I remember hearing about this lady that was at her husband's bedside in the hospital as he was kind of slipping in and out of a coma during what was to be his final illness. And during one of his lucid moments she was at his side and he said, 'Honey,' - she drew close when he was talking - he said, ‘I remember. You've always been at my side.' And he said, 'When I lost my job you were there. When the business failed, there you were.' He said, 'When I broke my leg you were there.' He said, 'When I got sick you were there.' He said, 'You know, dear, I just wanted to tell you, I realized something.' She drew close and her eyes were all misty. He said, ‘I think you're bad luck!' (Raucous laughter)

>>Oh! That's so bad!

>>Oh come on. The guys think it's funny. (Laughter) Now that was just the first point - it's a covenant.

Point number 2: Establish your own private home. I’ll read it to you again - Genesis 2:24, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave" - it's called leave and cleave - and that word, cleave, it actually does come from that - an ancient Jewish word where they made glue out of horse hooves or sheep hooves and it was glue - it means be attached. It says you're to leave - it's important to establish your own home. If you have too much of the in-laws and the out-laws all there when you're trying to establish your family - the first couple of years are tough and you need to have some privacy because you're taking your whole scenario of what life's about, and all your experiences and your expectations and you're bringing them to the marriage.

And then your wife is taking her experience and bringing it to the marriage. And Karen and I knew we were going to have some challenges because Karen went to the same school twelve years and then went to Christian college. I went to fourteen different schools. She grew up in a Christian family. I grew up in a pagan family. And - just the way you think and you communicate and your expectations - we knew there were going to be differences. And it's important that you're able to bring those things together so that you can coalesce your lives without outside interference. And if there are third and fourth parties in the home - and I realize, sometimes in some cultures it becomes - it can become difficult, but God said 'A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife.'

The other thing is, if a man has his father and mother living in the house, he's always comparing his mother's cooking to his wife's cooking and that may not be good for his relationship with one or the other. Establish your own home. Don't let third parties come between. Spouse should be the best friend.

Point number 3 in a marriage, it says, 'Above all things, continue your courtship. What brought you together in the first place needs to go on. 1 Peter 4:8, "And above all things be unfailing in your love for one another since love covers a multitude of sin." You know where Jesus says in Revelation, 'Nevertheless I have this against you' - because what? You've lost your first love. And how many times have people thought, 'What in the world was I thinking. I love this person. Where'd that love go? We fell out of love. We drifted apart.' Well, the things that brought you together in the first place must be continually nurtured and fed and encouraged and revived. Someone said, 'Marriage is like running a farm - you've got to start over every day.' (Laughter) And you don't really get a day off. Every day there needs to be things that nurture that first love. Proverbs 31:28, "...her husband also, and he praises her." You notice that's an ongoing verb? You continue to encourage and to praise. We need those things. We appreciate it. 1 Corinthians 7:34, "...she who is married she may please her husband." And so it's an ongoing concern - praise, caring about pleasing this person. When you start taking the person for granted, then you have a lot of problems.

You need to show affection and it - it needs to be conscious. You might say, 'Well, but I don't feel love.' Do it anyway and you'll be surprised, you might start feeling the love again. 'Do the first works', Jesus said. 'Remember from where you have fallen. Repent and do the first works.' Romans 12, verse 10, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;"

Billy Sunday said, 'Try praising your wife, even if it does frighten her at first.' (Laughter) And you've heard the expression before, 'Treat her like a queen and she will treat you like a king.' And sometimes you will get, from the other person, what you've always been wanting to get, when you treat them the way that they're longing to be treated. And so it's through the cooperative nurturing of each other in the relationship. Don't overlook the little courtesies, encouragements, and affectionate acts. Don't take each other for granted. What you did when you courted each other - the excitement, the love - you need to have date nights where you go out and you do things together.

And then, maybe I’ll pause with this thought after - I’ll do point number 4 and we'll take it up when we begin next time - guard your thoughts. Don't let your senses trap you. Now you'd be surprised how many marriages are destroyed because of bad thinking. Proverbs 23, verse 7, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." A lot of adulteries begin with thoughts. You know one of the number one things that contributes to divorce may not be the act of adultery but it's mental adultery that's happening either through pornography on the internet or soap operas on television. And I'm not saying they're exactly the same thing but, you know, when every day wife or a husband - it's not typically the husband - is watching other people, vicariously, having affairs, then you're rejoicing in those that do it.

It's something that's happening in the thinking and what's happening is people looking at these unreal images on the internet, on TV, on their computer - or television programs that are giving a counterfeit Hollywood version of what marriage is supposed to be. And totally unrealistic, sappy love stories that are so far-fetched from any real life that people can start to be dissatisfied and think - yeah, they got some debonair actor that's just - 'He's the most thoughtful guy in the world and he's doing all these things, and he's so romantic, and he's got lots of money and fancy cars, and he always looks buff and working out and he's just - every hair's in place and...' How can you compete with that? (Laughter)

And then she - you know, you come home from work and she looks at you and goes, 'Oh brother, he doesn't look anything like that guy.' (Laughter) And so, in the mind, guys are looking at these girls that have got these perfect bodies - airbrushed, Photoshopped - and then they see, you know, a couple of wrinkles and a little cellulite and they start thinking - and things start happening in the mind. Now we're kind of laughing because we know it's true, but television has contributed a great deal to destroying marriages. Turn off the TV. In an article by Dr. Armand Nicholi, who is a psychiatrist and a medical doctor in the facility of Harvard Medical School, he said, "Another trend that is going to destroy the family as we know it and cause emotional cripples, is the invasion of television into the home." One-fifth of the lifetime, in the next generation, will be spent watching television. If you live to be 80 years of age, which is your average, you'll have watched television a total of four thousand days, creating a tremendous impact. And since we know that television is part of a system that tears down the family, you'll have a total of 4,000 days of anti-family programming on one level or another.

And so, everything from what we read to what we watch and what's on the internet, it is affecting the thinking and people bring these unrealistic expectations into real marriages. They bring these unrealistic images into real marriages and they are dissatisfied. And then thoughts come into the mind and they start having second thoughts and they start having doubts and they have unrealistic expectations and - the impurity in the mind. Keep your mind - keep your heart - let the Bible and the Word of God and the things of God be the catalyst for your family and you'll find that that love and appreciation for that person that God has for you - that you are - you've become one with through marriage, will be restored and revived.


>>A couple was - they were having daily bickering, arguments, often over little things. They realized that every day they were at each other. And the wife came up with an idea. She said, 'Look, you know, this is silly. It's immature. If we have differences - if there's things we want to communicate, let's give each other a break. If there's something I'm doing that's bothering you, write it out on a slip of paper. Put it in this box here on the kitchen counter. If I’ve got something, I’ll write it down, I’ll put it on the kitchen counter. At the end of the month, then we'll talk through it. We'll have one big argument and get it over with.' So he said, 'Okay, dear.' So each day she'd make an observation, she'd write it down, she'd put it in the box and wouldn't say anything. He'd write something down, he'd put it in the box and wouldn't say anything. This went on for thirty days. At the end of thirty days she said, 'Okay, let's sit down. Let's open the box.' She took out the box and she pulled out her pink papers. It said, 'Leaving the lid off the jelly jar again.' 'Dirty socks on the floor.' And she just was going through her litany of - just all these things and finally she said, 'Okay, you can read your blue ones now.' His said, I love you.' I love you.' I love you.' and she began to feel a little bad. The things - by the way, that story can be told either way. Love covers a multitude of sin.

You know, we naturally are not lovable. God didn't die for us because we're lovable. It's easy to love the lovable. While we were yet sinners, Christ loved us and died for us.


>>And if the Lord can love us and the love of Christ can be shed abroad in our hearts - you know what one - what's the great commandment in the law? 'Love the Lord with all your heart and love' - what?

>>Your neighbor.

>>Love who?

>>Your neighbor. Who's a closer neighbor than your spouse?


>>It's interesting. The Bible says you need to love your neighbor. It says you need to love your enemy. Someone brought out it's often because your neighbor becomes your enemy. And if we can't love our spouses, how are we going to love our enemies? How are we going to love our neighbors? That's where it starts. And it's a choice that needs to be made.

Now there's a rule in life - it's says there's a simple rule of physics - that the closer that two objects come to a common destination, they will invariably come closer to one another. And if Christ is at the middle of your life - if you, personally, have surrendered your life to Jesus, the closer you are coming to Jesus - and if your spouse is coming closer to Jesus - you will invariably be coming closer together.


>>God is love and if He is the center of our lives, He will draw our hearts together and our families and our marriages. Do not let the world define what marriage is for you. God has given us a definition, amen?

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