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Rescue, repair, rekindle or refine your marriage
When we hear the siren of emergency vehicles, we move to the side and focus and clear a path—we know that lives are at stake. Sometimes marriage requires rescue. Everything else needs to move aside. Time is needed for emergency repair. All the time, marriage needs rekindling and refinement–reading the map and getting back on course, looking at the low battery light and plugging back in, getting your eyes checked and getting new lenses, tweeting/FaceTiming your favorite friend, but making certain it makes sense.
For some of you here we are tweeting, adjusting, refocusing, and recharging marriage. All singles need to see what marriage is and what marriage requires–to appreciate marriage, to prepare for marriage, and to count the cost of marriage. Widows and children all desperately need to know how to develop relationships. And foundational to all relationships is marriage.
Today, since a chunk of our church is at the marriage conference, we are having our own special couples’ day—a treat and an encouragement for you to go to lunch and talk. Drop your kids off at FBCT starting at noon and pick them up at 2—free! After 2, it’s a dollar per minute. If you can’t pay, we sell your kids.
#1 FOCUS on the SPIRIT, not your SPOUSE
The most important truth for you to embrace in marriage, and the most important truth you must embrace in life is this–you can’t, He can. You cannot rescue or repair your marriage. You can’t rekindle or refine your marriage. You can’t make your marriage better, nor enjoy a great marriage in your own strength. You can’t, but God can.
That is why it is foolish to spend all your time trying to fix your spouse. That is why it is dumb to focus all your energy on your marriage. That is why it is idiotic to complain to all your friends about the weaknesses of your mate. You can’t, but God can.
Your energy, your focus, your time, your efforts to have a biblical marriage is to depend on the Spirit and not your spouse. And non-married friends, your focus on friendships/relationships is to depend on the Spirit and not that friend or person. Turn to Ephesians 5:18 and embrace your inability and God’s great ability.
Ephesians is about practicing your position, meaning God did amazing things on your behalf, then enables you to enjoy what He did. The practice of the Christian life is described in chapters 4 through 6. And Paul describes that practice as a walk—and walk is describing your lifestyle.
Starting in chapter 4, Paul tells you your lifestyle is to be a 4:1–worthy walk, 4:17–holy walk, 5:2–love walk, 5:8–light walk and 5:15–a wise walk. And a big part of the wise walk is 5:18, to “be filled with the Spirit.” You cannot be wise if you are not filled with the Spirit. Look at what God says in Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Filling means to be saturated, controlled and guided by the Spirit. The verb “filled” makes it clear every born again Christian is to be filled. Being filled is not an option–not for the spiritual, not for the mature, but for all. Filling is to be every moment of every day in every task, believers are to be filled. And filling demands you live saturated in the Word of God, dealing with all known sins of omission and commission (by confession and repentance).
It is being aware you are unable to live for God without dependence upon the Spirit and focused on serving others in the church and sharing the Gospel with the lost. Being filled is living like a child walking through life holding his father’s hand. Children of God live moment by moment depending–holding the hand of the Spirit.
To live filled with the Spirit, you live your entire life dependently upon the Spirit while being led by God, by stepping out in obedience upon the Word of God in everything–saturated in the Word with a lens of walking dependent, confessing, serving, sharing and giving. To be filled with the Spirit is to empower you to live the Word of God.
To be filled with the Spirit is to live by faith in God according to the Bible. To be filled is to live dependently upon the Spirit in order that the Spirit might live through the believer and manifest His fruit, which is love, joy, peace, self-control, submission, thankfulness and more.
You can’t change your spouse, but God can change your heart. You can’t make your marriage work, but you can be empowered by God in order to invest into your spouse, give to your spouse, serve your spouse and impact your marriage. You can’t find satisfaction in your marriage, but you can find satisfaction through the Spirit. You can’t make your spouse please God, but you can glorify God by being filled with the Spirit.
Do you understand how crucial this is? Most marriages and too many friendships are just like two ticks and no dog–you meet my needs and I meet your needs. But there is no blood source. I don’t look to my spouse to meet my needs–that train has left the station. You say, “Chris, I am beyond that, I have moved on–I don’t look to my spouse to meet my needs. No . . . I look to my girlfriends, I involve myself in ministry, I focus on my body at the gym, I give myself to my career, I focus on my kids, I keep busy with entertainment or I live for sports.”
Sadly, that is the wrong focus. It is a mistake, a huge error. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Be filled with the Spirit. When you live filled with the Spirit, you’re dependent upon Christ–He is your life, your first love and your Lord. You recognize you don’t have the resources, but you know the One who has all the resources. Christ will transform you, He will empower you, and He will use you. And catch this–Christ will turn you into the only kind of tool He can use to impact your spouse.
The biggest hope for your spouse is for the Spirit to work through you. Never minimize the incredible life-changing power of living with someone who is filled with supernatural, divine, continual love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. But note, there are some behaviors, words and attitudes we must avoid to see our marriages (and our friendships) be biblical, healthy–that is why the second step is . . .
#2 FLEE actions which DAMAGE marriage (and relationships)
What kind of actions damage marriage?
First FLEE everything which violates SCRIPTURE
That includes sins of omission. Not faithful to attend regular worship–not attending cause Christ is not first. Christ is not first because my desires and feelings are my master. Not faithful to give sacrificially–not giving cause it’s not in the budget. It’s not in the budget cause money is out of control, with massive credit card debt and inability to pay bills.
Not faithful to serve regularly–not serving cause you don’t have time. You don’t have time cause you have given yourself to lesser priorities, busy with children’s commitments, you’re gone on weekends everywhere but church. And of course sins of commission–like lying, stealing, laziness, anger, shouting, verbal abuse, hostility, unwillingness to forgive, to make things right and more.
Second FLEE any misuse of WORDS
Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Unwholesome means rotten. Your words are never to be rotten, decaying, or harmful. But your words are to edify, be timed correctly, and give grace to the listener, including your spouse and your friends.
Stop the argument–when you’re hurt, cool down silently. Never allow yourself the freedom to speak your mind, to yell to tear each other down. That is not a freedom, that is foolish. Stop saying damaging words to each other.
You refuse to use the word “divorce”. You should also refuse to speak words like “always”, “never”, accusing, tearing, or harsh words. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Never allow yelling–never. Never allow accusing. Never allow silence. Never allow dishonesty.
Third FLEE a focus on your spouse’s WEAKNESSES
We tend to focus on what our spouse (or friend) is not–like putting a dot on paper for each weakness and shortcoming, we end up with a lot of dots on the paper and start focusing on the fact that there are a lot of weaknesses. What we forget is there is much more white paper than there are dots. Where is your focus? Like the hummingbird and vulture flying over the desert—do you focus on the flowers or the carcasses?
Fourth FLEE useless DISTRACTIONS
Couples fall into habits that are not evil in and of themselves, but they end up destroying a relationship because they keep you from working on your marriage or friendship. They are non-essentials, non-priorities, lesser commitments which distract you from being a husband and a wife.
They might be hobbies, freedoms, or income producing. It might be important commitments–but because it actually keeps you from working on your marriage, it becomes a distraction. It can be good things. Golf is good, but if your life is so tight that you only have four hours and you choose to use that four hours to play golf instead of investing into your wife and kids, it’s bad.
Movies are great, but if you’re going separately–not so good. Sports are fun, but if it promotes distance and not togetherness, again not good. For some couples, even rooting for opposite teams is fun—great. But if the rivalry harms your relationship, it is not good. Separate time, separate hobbies, separate banking accounts–all not good.
Those who need rescue or repair, get serious about this. Those who need to rekindle and refine, consider dropping anything that will give you time to focus on your marriage. Next to Christ, he or she is the love of your life. But it is not merely what you don’t do, but what you do. It is not just flee, but pursue. Not just turn from sin, but pursue Christ.
#3 FOLLOW after actions which BUILD marriage
What do we pursue?
First Pursue your mate as your SECOND priority
Next to Christ, no one should get more attention. Never do anything without considering your spouse. In all you do, promote oneness and togetherness. Resist doing things separately. Delight in them the most, talk about them the most, boast in them. Just like Proverbs 31–right? “Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: 29 Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all” (Proverbs 31:28b to 29).
Focus on their strengths. Enhance their created beauty. “My wife has the prettiest eyes of any woman. She has an hourglass figure. Her lips–never mind, it’s none of your business.” Rehearse their many qualities. My wife is my safest steward–I never fear for her spending—never. My wife is grounded in reality.
Second Pursue trusting and RESPECTING your spouse
Never do anything in your marriage (or friendships) to undermine their trust. Never say anything in your marriage to undermine their respect. You can love someone you trust. You can love someone you respect. Proverbs 31:11, “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”
Third Pursue bearing BURDENS and bearing your own load
Galatians 6, in the context of dealing with sin in our lives, Paul reminds us to, ”Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (verse 2). Then in verse 5, “For each one will bear his own load.”
There is a balance here–you took a vow, “For better and for worse, for richer and for poorer.” Sometimes it’s worse–you bear the burden of your spouse. But it is also the goal of the spouse to not be a burden to their spouse, but to bear their own load . . .
Overspending so your husband has to work more. Over demanding of time, attention, compliments, yet expecting focus, attention and delight is a difficult balance. Having an injury or illness and not doing all you can to grow healthy for them. Being overly needy, cutting them off from friends or family. Not sacrificing your wants and seeking to meet their needs.
Keep that in tension—help each other and try not to be a burden to your spouse. Over the things you can’t control, care for each other, hold each other up, never resent the other for health issues, injuries or traumas. But never allow your health issues you can grow out of, or injuries you can recover from or traumas you can overcome become an excuse or a burden.
Fourth Pursue your ROLE–submit and servant leadership
Ephesians 5:22 and 25, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord . . . 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
1 Peter 3:1 and 7, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands. 7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
Colossians 3:18 and 19, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.” Make a practice, wives, of asking your husband about decisions and directions. Make a practice, husbands, of asking your wife, “How can I best serve you?” Live out your role–do it well. Fight for it. Be responsible for it. Talk about how it works.
Fifth Pursue your physical RESPONSIBILITY
Before intimacy, there is affection–kisses, holding hands, hugging and touching without expectations. You work at liking each other. You make the other the standard of beauty and handsomeness and you work hard to remain beautiful and handsome to your spouse. Before intimacy, there are words of affection, words of play, words of compliment.
Then with intimacy, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 7:3 to 5, “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Make your intimacy fun, loving, pleasant, exciting, surprising, selfless, and romantic. Clean up for it. Destinkify yourself, dress up for it, plan it, schedule it, plus surprise each other on occasion and focus on the needs of your spouse.
In marriage . . .
1 Work on being one–getting on the same page
Communicate means listening and repeating back what you think you hear.
2 Pursue maturing together, but never expect perfection
Read a marriage book. Talk with another couple about marriage. Come up with a list of questions to ask an older couple in community group. Have date times when you intentionally ask each other about how to improve.
3 Choose to love
Give, serve, surprise, delight, cook, minister once a week. Don’t stop pursuing your spouse. Don’t buy the lie that your marriage will be okay without your weekly effort.
4 You can’t, Christ can
Salvation—you must turn to Christ. You can’t have a Christian marriage without Christ.
Sanctification–you must rely on the Spirit by the Word.
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