One Marriage, Under God

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here.  My wife and I moved to Omaha in 1998 from Massachusetts, and one of the things we learned to love about the Midwest was the affordability of it all – we were able to actually buy a house – we never dreamed we’d be able to buy a house on a pastor’s salary.  And so we were thrilled to buy our first house in 1999.

And one of the things I was a little nervous about was learning how to care for the lawn.   Neither Jody nor I really had lawns growing up – Jody grew up in the desert of Southern California and I grew up in a house that didn’t have a lawn to speak of.

And I was nervous!  I wanted the lawn to look good but didn’t know how to do it – so I tried to take the easy way out.  I called a company called Chem-Lawn!  After all, I had three little kids – and I wanted them to have fun in the grass, right?  So why wouldn’t I call a company called Chem-lawns!

And this guy shows up in like surgical scrubs and a mask and gloves and goggles and he’s spraying chemicals all over my lawn to make it look green!  And the kids are like, Yay!  This is fun, I’m playing in the sprinkler!  But my eyes are burning daddy! Well Daddy wants a nice lawn, kids – you’ll get used to it.  But my feet are fire!

Okay – well – for the sake of the kids – (And because when I got the bill I was like – fuggatabout it!)  I decided that I would take care of my lawn!

Well, I quickly discovered that it takes work to have a nice lawn.  That thing – that grass – it’s a living thing.  And there’s a long list of ways to kill it!

You gotta mow it – but not too low or you’ll kill it!

You gotta kill the weeds – but you better use the right stuff – don’t go spraying round up on your grass, I learned, because it kills everything!

You gotta water it – not enough water – your grass dies!  Too much? You’ll kill it!

You gotta put fertilizer down – but not too much or you’ll kill it! Don’t go Johnny appleseed – you gotta get the number right!

Once you find out the right amount of fertilizer to put down – don’t put it down on a day that’s really hot!  You’ll kill it!

Listen – you know what, your marriage is like that lawn.  It’s living.  It’s breathing.  Your marriage is alive – and if it’s going to thrive it is going to take work.  And guess what, you can’t call Chem-marriage – there’s no shortcut – no one will do the work for you.  It’s on you – you have got to take care of your marriage.

But here’s the great thing – if you are willing to invest time and energy into your marriage – you can make it stronger and healthier than it is right now.  And I don’t care what state it’s in right now.

You might feel like your marriage is hitting on all cylinders and running great – well good – put some time and energy into keeping it tip top condition.  And I bet it can be even stronger and healthier.

Or, your marriage might be struggling right now.  Well, good news for you.  You can make it better.  You can make your marriage stronger and healthier all by yourself.  Yes, you can.  You and God together – yes you can.  But it will take work!  Energy. Planning.  Intentionality.

In fact – this sermon today is really directed at you and you alone.  No nudging your spouse.  Don’t sit there and hope they caught that.  Save that for the next two weeks – today – I’m talking to you about how you can make your marriage stronger and healthier.

It’s hard work, but here’s the deal – it’s worth it.  So here’s the deal – for the next three weeks we are talking about how to have a healthier and stronger marriage.

Today we are going to use that imagery of weeding and feeding- we are going to apply weed and feed our marriage to make it stronger and healthier.

Your marriage is a living and breathing thing and it will either become stronger or weaker or it will stagnate – And stagnate always end up stinking.  So really, there’s only one option – we should want- better, stronger, healthier marriages.

So today I am going to talk about three things. But first – we pray…………..

Let’s begin by talking about the purpose of marriage. What’s the purpose of marriage?  Why did you get married?

Throughout history there seems to be two answers.  Throughout most of history, up to a couple of hundred years ago perhaps – the purpose of marriage was to strengthen their position in society, or to stabilize their stature in society.

In many places in the world this is still the case, by the way – many places in the world have arranged marriages.  Parents make the call based on financial security or family standing – it has almost nothing to do with “falling in love.”

That just sounds so creepy to us, in our culture.

Why do we marry?  We marry for happiness.  We meet our soul mate.  We fall deeply in love.  And then we live – what?  Happily ever after!  Right?  We’ve solved marriage!  What could go wrong if we marry the person we think will make us happy?

But has marrying for happiness really worked out?  Happiness is real fickle!  I mean, when something as small as someone leaving their blinker on too long makes me unhappy?  Or if I get some bonus fries on the bottom of my McDonald bag makes me happy?  Happiness is a fickle beast.

And so marrying someone with the idea that they will provide me with happiness?  Well that’s suspect from the get go, isn’t it?   What do you do when the person you pledged your vows to no longer makes you happy?   Don’t you deserve to be happy?  Right?  How many terrible decisions began with an appeal to your happiness?

You deserve to be happy.  Well, good luck finding it in the next person:  Good luck finding the source of happiness in any person – It’s like two ticks without a dog – you make me happy – no YOU make me happy.

In contrast to both of these examples may I propose a biblical reason for marriage?  Your marriage becomes the primary place where your faith is lived out. 

Jesus promises to transform anyone with the guts to follow Him into the Salt and Light of the world.  What does that mean?  It means that we make other people’s lives better.  That what it means.

And your spouse?  They are fortunate enough to be the primary beneficiary of the love and grace and goodness that is flowing out of your life.  Your marriage becomes the primary place where you live out your faith.

After all – what difference does it make if you are a blessing to your neighbors, if you are a curse to your spouse?

May it never be!  Because – that’s called “acting”.  And one of the realities of marriage is that you can’t fool your spouse – the real you will make an appearance eventually.  Thank God!  Thank God!  Because the real you is the one that needs to be overhauled with the good news of Jesus.

And the deep-seated desire we all have is to marry someone who knows us fully and still loves us.   And we all want that – but the real question is – are YOU that kind of spouse?  The kind who knows your spouse fully and loves him or her anyway?

Marriage becomes the primary place where faith is lived out.  Where we get to practice forgiveness and mercy and compassion as well being the kind of person who can speak truth to a spouse in love.

But – listen to this now – not only is marriage the primary place our faith is lived out.  But Marriage is the primary tool God uses to transform us into the image of Jesus.

If we have made the decision to follow Jesus – to allow Him to transform us into different kinds of human beings – then marriage becomes a tool in God’s hand to shape and mold us into the image of Jesus.

And that works both ways -okay?  God allowed you to marry your spouse because He wants to accomplish something inside of your spouse, and He intends to work in you and through you to be a helper – an instrument of grace to help the transformation in your spouse.

Now that requires, of course, that you be loving above all else.  If you are not loving, then no words of truth will pierce your spouse’s heart.  If you are not gentle and kind, then you are a blunt instrument indeed.

But it goes the other way too.  If you are married – think about this – God allowed you to marry your spouse because God wants to do something inside of you; He wants to transform you into the kind of person Jesus was – and He wants to use your spouse to accomplish it.

Now I can imagine there’s someone in here thinking to themselves – yeah – God wants to use my spouse alright.  He wants to use my spouse to make me nuts!  God allowed me to marry that person because God wants to make me nuts!

Well, I got news for you – you ain’t no picnic either.  And that’s why marriage is difficult.   And maybe this is your first time here and you are like, “You don’t know me!”  And all I can say is – no I can tell from here you ain’t no picnic.

I joke, but not really.  Because here’s the truth – the main barrier to healthier and stronger marriages is the radical self-centeredness of the human heart.

Which brings us now to the How to Weed and Feed your Marriage to make it stronger and healthier.

So what are we weeding?  We are weeding self-centeredness from our heart.  We are pulling it out of us and killing it.  Jesus calls us to die to ourselves – and dying to our own selfish desires will bring life to our marriage.

We simply cannot be ONE with our spouse if we are unable to escape the gravitational pull of our own self-centeredness.

We might have two people living under the same roof.  But we will not be ONE.  We can be roommates – but not ONE.  ONE requires work, and the work starts with me!

See – and I’m not trying to be harsh, but if you heard me say that we need to stop being self-centered and we thought to ourselves – I hope my spouse is listening to this!  Then you are sadly illustrating the point.  It is probably a sign of the havoc-wrecking existence of the ever-present enemy of ONENESS.  And that is ME-NESS. The enemy of One-ness is Me-ness.

So with God’s help We are going to weed the ME-Ness out of my marriage.

One summer when our kids were smaller we decided we would buy the kids an inflatable swimming pool.  And we filled it up and the kids played in it and at the end of the day I drained the water out of the pool and moved the pool because I didn’t want to lawn to be injured.  But I discovered that it didn’t matter.  The weight of the water –  on top of the grass suffocated the lawn and even though I tried to protect the lawn – the grass died underneath it – and it was a perfect brown circle that never came back to life.  It was dead, dead, dead.

Well self-centeredness is like that pool – it sits on top of your marriage and it is suffocating it – self-centeredness chokes the life out of marriages.

Many marriages have died – because self-centeredness is the exact opposite of love.  1 Corinthians 13 says that love is not self- seeking.  It does not demand to have its way.

Are you a self-centered person?  If so, you need to know it’s disintegrating your marriage.  It’s suffocating it.

Because – the moment one spouse’s self-centeredness asserts itself – what happens?

It awakens the self-centeredness of our spouse.  And then it’s a game of thrones.  My Kingdom versus your kingdom.  Which will dominate the other!

Instead of the two of us living under the protection of God’s Kingdom, (Oneness) we get two tiny serfdom’s battling it out to see who will control the other.

The result is a downward spiral into self-pity, or anger, or even despair.  And the relationship disintegrates.

If we want a stronger and healthier marriage, it requires a willingness to pull the killer weed of self-centeredness out of our own life before we start pointing out the weeds in our spouse.

We want to get to the place where we think rightly of ourselves.  Timothy Keller writes that our goal is Not thinking too highly of ourselves.  Not thinking less of ourselves.  But rather, thinking of ourselves less often.

Marriage is hard.  And can we be honest for a minute?  I personally had no idea just how self-centered I was until I got married.  And then when we had kids my awareness reached deeper – and it’s tough to face.  But unless we face it – our marriage cannot grow.

As the same author put it, “Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse – but confrontation with yourself.”

But if we are willing to put our self-centeredness to death, well wonderful things happen.

Story of Josh running to the car – Marriage is a race to the bottom.  Dying to self – elevating the other.

Some will ask, “If I put the happiness of my spouse ahead of my own needs— then what will I get out of it?” The answer is— happiness.

Which brings me now to our second point.  We are talking about weeding and Feeding our marriage.  We are going to weed self-centeredness out of it.

What are we going to feed it?  A stronger personal walk with Jesus.

See – what happens when we invite God to be part of your marriage is that our marriage then begins to resemble the relationship that occurs within the trinity.

The trinity is a beautiful picture of loving relationships.  For all eternity the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been dancing together in love and harmony.

The three of them in a union meant that there was always a situation where I love you, you love me, and together we love another.

When you bring God into your marriage, it’s the same dynamic.  You love God, God loves you, and together you love your spouse.

And if your spouse loves God – well then you love your spouse, and your spouse loves you and together you love God.

And then not only are you loved by your spouse but it is your spouse working in partnership with God to become the best spouse, the most loving spouse they can be for you.

And maybe your spouse hasn’t yet chosen to follow Jesus, well, you can invite God into the marriage, and you and God together can love your spouse – you and God alone can make your marriage stronger and healthier.

Isn’t that a beautiful picture of marriage?  Isn’t that so much better than – well, I’ll love you providing you love me.  I’ll love you on the condition it makes me happy?

In Ephesians Chapter 5 Paul is going to address Husbands and wives, but first he prays for them.  And this is Paul’s prayer for the individuals in the church, back in chapter 3 – and I read it because I think it shows us the source from which spouses find the love and respect they need to be able to show one another – it comes from God himself.

16 I pray that from the Father’s glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 

Now can I just stop and say – I don’t know what your marriage looks like today – it might be in serious trouble.  I just want to encourage you first of all – that God has glorious and unlimited resources available – it’s at the ready to empower you with inner strength through the spirit.

You might be feeling tired, weary, holding on by a string – but with Jesus by our side – we lack nothing.  We fear nothing.  We can do anything. So go to the source and walk closely with your God.

17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  

If you are counting on your spouse to fill your need for love, then you’ve been looking in the wrong spot.  Spouses are great but they make lousy Gods.  Only our Father in heaven can provide for us a limitless supply of love.  From the overflow of His love we can then love our spouse.

Are you investing as much time and energy into your walk with God as you are investing time and energy into worrying about your marriage?  What are you doing to intentionally invest time in your own spiritual well-being.

Feed yourself – invest yourself in God.  So here’s some homework for you this week.  We are looking at Ephesians – you can read Ephesians chapters 4-5.

And when you come to the lists – about the two kinds of people – don’t read the lists as a checklist of things to do – read them as a description of the kind of person you want to become.  Especially in your marriage.  And ask God for his help.  You and God together loving your spouse.

Ephesians 4:2, for instance – Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

And your prayer?  Lord, help me be this – help me become this kind of person.  Alert me to the times when I am not these things.  I give you permission Lord to show me – and teach me to become this.

The kind of person who doesn’t sin by letting anger control you. 4:26 

You want a challenge?  Memorize these two verses and begin to pray that God would make you the kind of spouse you are reading about here.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Oh Lord, help us be these kinds of people.  Help us be these kinds of spouses.  Help us to weed out Self-centeredness and instead feed upon you Lord, fill us with your love and transform us into a different kind of human.  And transform our marriages into different kinds of marriages.

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