One: Protect and Pursue

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  As one of the pastor’s here at Journey it’s always a pleasure to be able to speak with you.  For some of you this might be your first visit to Journey, and perhaps your first time at church ever, and part of you wants to run out the door because you aren’t so sure about this whole God thing.  And I will tell you that we understand that – and we understand that there’s plenty of legitimate reasons to not believe in God.

But we also know this.  If you thought about God the way Jesus thought about God – you wouldn’t want to run away – you would want to run toward Him.

There are many wrong views about what God is like out there.  Which is why we try our best to let Jesus inform us about how we should think about God.   And so all I’d ask is that you give yourself a chance to believe.  Allow yourself to be open to the notion that perhaps what Jesus teaches us about God is true.  And if it is true then it’s gloriously true.  Because Jesus came to teach us about a God who cares deeply about each of us personally.

We are in our last week of a marriage series here at Journey and one of the things we mentioned a couple of weeks ago is the idea that hopefully, in a marriage, we find a spouse who fully knows us, and fully loves us.  Isn’t that what we deeply desire – whether we are married or not – is to be fully known and fully loved.

Well Jesus tells us that God is that kind of God.  He fully knows us, and yet – fully loves us.  And that knowledge actually makes it possible for us to become the kind of people who can, in turn, fully know our spouse and fully love them.  We can with God’s help, become that kind of spouse.

As we wrap up our short series today, we are going to talk about two very wise, very important decisions you can make that will make your marriage strong and healthy.  The two decisions are to Protect your marriage, and Pursue your spouse. 

We’ve been reading through the book of Ephesians- which was actually a letter written by a man named Paul – who became known as the Apostle Paul.  He was an important leader in the early church.  And traveled around the Roman world starting churches and teaches people about Jesus.

And often he would write letters to these churches that he started to instruct them or encourage them and sometimes correct them if they got a little off course.  And so he wrote a letter to the church that met in Ephesus, which is located in Modern day Turkey.  And after reading the letter the church said, this is good stuff – let’s make a copy of it and send it to the church meeting in Thessalonica – and pretty soon all these letters were getting passed around to the churches – until one day someone said, let’s collect these letters and make a book out of them.  And that is now known as the New Testament.

The amazing thing about these letters is that they are filled with very practical and godly instructions.  And even now, two thousand years later we read stuff from this letter and say, Yes!  That totally right!

For instance, here in the book of Ephesians chapter 4, we read Paul saying, “Don’t let anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”  26 And we say Yes!

And then he writes, “Don’t use abusive language, but rather use your words to be an encouragement to all.”  29 And we say yes!  Nailed it!

and “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” 32

And then in chapter 5 he writes, “A man leaves his father and mother in order to be united with his wife.”  And we say yes!  That’s right!  You can’t become one with your spouse if you can’t separate from your parents.

And then we read in Chapter 5, “Husband, love your wife!  As Jesus loved the church – he laid down his life for her!  And we say Yes!  Can I get an Amen!  Is there no end to the wisdom of this book!

And then we read where it says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord!”  And we say, Wait a minute.  This book is ancient.  It’s old.  It’s oppressive!  It’s stupid!

Well, wait a minute now.  I’d say that if the book is filled with wisdom, then it’s filled with wisdom, and we have to ask ourselves – is there something in here I’m missing?  What does Paul mean when he writes this?

And I feel like I have to talk about this because people like to pluck this verse out and declare it means something it certainly does not.  And without looking at the further context of the passage, it might easily be twisted by people who seek to oppress.

So let’s seek to understand this verse.

The key to understanding this verse is to read the verse directly in front of it.

21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.

Submit to one another.  Both husband and wife – selflessly seeking the good of the other.  Neither husband nor wife demanding their own way – because love is not self seeking.  Rather, out of love for God and for one another, both spouses work together, in humility, making decisions together for the good of each other, and for the good of their marriage.

This makes Marriage a 100/100 deal.  Not a 50/50.  A fifty fifty deal says, I’ll do my part if you do yours.  But there becomes a gap at the first failure and quickly widens as one partner says, well, if you aren’t going to do your part, then why should I do mine.

You can try a 50/50 partnership and if all goes well you can have a good roommate.  But you will never be truly one until you learn 100/100 – unconditional fully loaded love.  I will love you with all I’ve got.

And so Paul teaches the key to this is mutual submission. And guess what?  That includes wives – submit to your husbands.  We can’t cheer when Paul says – both of you submit to one another, and that includes wives.  Boo!  It includes wives.

Now it’s true that Paul is going to emphasize one aspect of his teaching to women and one specifically to men.  Both husbands and wives are to treat one another lovingly and both are to submit to each other.  But he is going to pull the women aside for a minute and talk to them about a concern that he see frequently enough in women that he feels it deserves extra attention.

He says wives; don’t treat your husbands like he’s one of the kids.  You’re his wife, not his mother.  Don’t we see this displayed in almost every sitcom?  The husband is an incompetent, doddering fool – stumbling and bumbling his way cluelessly through life.  Thankfully he is married to a smart and strong wife who is willing to slice and dice him into shape.

Last week I talked about the dumb farmer who reaps what he sows.  If you treat your husband like he’s a kid.  And if you nag him – yes I said it – nag him to get his chores done – you are the dumb farmer – you are reaping a man who has resigned adulthood to you.  How can you respect a man like that?  Well, you helped create him.

Then Paul takes the men aside and emphasizes one portion of his teaching to them.  He says, Love your wife.  You didn’t marry one of your buddies.  She deserves to feel cherished.  To feel your love.  Don’t fall down on the job.  Don’t take your wife for granted.  You are God’s appointed person on earth to make your wife feel honored and loved.  Don’t take her for granted.  She is not your roommate with benefits.  She is your wife, and so – husbands – love your wife as Jesus loved the church, laying down his life for her.

That’s all I’ll say about Ephesians 5 for now.  I’d encourage you to not be offended by it at all.  Paul says both of you submit to one another -and wives, I really mean it.  And both of you love one another, and husband, I really mean it.

And there’s nothing ancient about any of that.

Okay – let’s move on now to the big idea for the day.  I want to talk about two decisions that will make your marriage stronger and healthier.  I want you to protect your marriage and pursue your spouse.

5:15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.

A wise spouse protects their marriage.

I’ve had the pleasure of officiating quite a few wedding ceremonies in my life, and you know what’s interesting?  No one I ever married pulled me aside and said, in a few years I’m thinking I’ll have an affair and potentially wreck my family.

No one I ever married planned to have an affair with someone.  Then why do so many end up doing that?  Because, they didn’t protect their heart, and therefore didn’t protect their marriage.

No one plans on having an affair.  But here’s the deal, no one is above being tempted by it.  The heart is easily deceived.  It can easily be led to a place where it feels that things what it really needs is, often, another person’s spouse. The grass is always greener on someone else’s Facebook page.

Oh look, I looked up my boyfriend I date in 8th grade.  He looks like he turned out to be a great husband.  If only I hadn’t dumped him – my face could be in those pictures living such a wonderful life.  Maybe I’ll see if he wants to have a cup of coffee and if everything goes right I could be in those pictures.  BLECH!  PLEASE SLAP YOURSELF RIGHT IN THE FACE!  It will be far less painful then if you keep feeding that nonsense to your heart.

There is a reason why two of the ten commandments deal with adultery.  20 percent of the ten commandments.  Thou shalt not commit adultery.  And thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife.

I am pleading with you today to recognize that if you don’t protect your marriage from sexual immorality, you just might be setting yourself up for a devastating trouble in your future.

Listen, I’m going to tell you something that I want you to hear. I want you to listen to every word from my rosy red lips.  There are people in this world that could care less that you are married.  They don’t have any respect for your marriage.

Your wedding ring means nothing to them.  They are just looking for a hookup. They don’t care about your spouse or your kids or you, for that matter.  They don’t care about the consequences.  And they don’t really care about you.  They just want to conquer you.

This world is filled with narcissists.  They worship themselves.  They hang out at the gym and walk real slow in front of the mirror and think they are really something.  They walk around in their medium t-shirts that are so tight you could tune a guitar with it.  DING!

They really think they are something – and if they could sleep with themselves, they would.  And they are looking around and they are asking themselves, who around here thinks as highly of me and I think of me?  No one of course.  But that doesn’t stop them from thinking they can take whatever they want.

Others are just jealous.  They envy your spouse.  They covet what they think your spouse has, or they covet what you have and want to take it for themselves.

They say things like, “You’re such a good guy.  I wish my husband was more like you.  Does your wife know how lucky she is to have you as a husband?”  Oh Don’t.  Stop!  Seriously don’t stop, I’m eating this up – do you know why rat eat rat poison?  Because it tastes delicious.

I hope your husband knows what a great wife he has.  You are really an amazing person.  Not only are you stunningly beautiful on the outside, but you are so kind and loving in here.  I could only hope to be so lucky as to find someone half as amazing as you.  “Oh really?  Come on – you are so sweet!”

No he’s not – he’s poison.  He’s evil and he wants to kill you.  Because that’s what poison does – it kills.

Look I want to show you – these are the words of Solomon – who wrote the book of Proverbs as a gift to his son – he wanted to teach him about life, about wisdom and a large part of the book is also about marriage – In proverbs chapter 5, Solomon writes….

My son, pay attention to my wisdom;
listen carefully to my wise counsel.
Then you will show discernment,
and your lips will express what you’ve learned.
For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey,
and her mouth is smoother than oil.

But in the end she is as bitter as poison,
as dangerous as a double-edged sword.

Let’s be honest here – there is something very flattering about being liked by someone – by being wanted by someone.  And there may come times when the words of someone who wants to have an affair with you might seem as sweet as honey.  But what is it, really?  Poison.

Can I tell you an important secret?  I rarely hear anyone talking about this.  But you do know, I hope, that there are going to be other people in your life that you meet that you are attracted to.  There are going to be people in your life you think are really awesome people.

There are going to be people in your life that you think to yourself, if I were single, and He or she were single, I think I could see us together.  That happens.  That’s normal.  But it’s NOT a sign from heaven that somehow God has greenlit you to cheat on your spouse.

Now I want to go back to Proverbs again.  And I want us to see how Solomon is going to encourage his son. After he warns his son about the sexual immoral person, he is going to get very positive.  He writes,

15Drink water from your own well—
share your love only with your wife.

18Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.
Rejoice in the wife of your youth.

Solomon is giving us good advice.  Want to have a long and strong marriage?  Protect yourself from the poison of immorality, and secondly, pursue your spouse.

So today, what I want to do is quickly mention three types of fun that every couple must have, and for the record I am borrowing these from a pastor named Craig Groeschel and my guess he borrowed them from someone else.

But three types of fun you need to have in your marriage.  Ready?  Take notes.

  1. Face to face fun.

Date nights.  Date nights men!  Date nights!  Take your wife out.  Talk with her.  Face to face talking time.  No kids.  No television.  Just the two of you.

If you are married with a bunch of young kids running around?  Budget money for a babysitter and a date night.  When our kids were young – Jody and I made a deal with two other couples where on Friday nights we would all take turns babysitting the others kids.  So one Friday night the other two couples brought their kids to our house and we watched them for two hours while they went out for date night.  The next week we brought our kids to one of their homes and Jody and I had two hours of free babysitting to go to dinner together.

It was a great deal for us – and our kids really enjoyed hanging out with the other kids too.   It was a win win win win.

Face to face time.  Date nights.  We have friends and she tells her husband that on Friday nights the kitchen in their house is closed.  It doesn’t have to be much – but get out and spend some face to face time with one another.  Date night.  Date night!

That’s face to face time.   How are you doing here?

The second thing we need is what we will call “side-to-side” time

This is time spent just hanging out with each other.  Maybe it’s through a shared common interest.  You both like to run or walk together, or work out together, or garden together, or watch movies together, or do puzzles together, or shop together, or play golf together.  Whatever it is – it’s important to find some shared common interests that you can do together.

It doesn’t require a ton of face to face talking.  Not necessarily deep conversations.  Just being next to one another.  Doing something together that you both consider fun.

This summer I bought Jody some sunglasses reading glasses – and she went with me and I played Golf and she sat in the car and read a book, and every once in a while she’d say, wow, that was a great shot!   And I’d say – you look hot in those reading glasses.  And it’s side by side time.

I was talking to Kyle this week and he said he and Rachel make sure they have fun together, and one time they made a mini-golf course all throughout their house – down the steps – just laughed and had a good time.

So there’s face to face time (Date night), and there is side to side – hanging out with one another time.

And then lastly – are you ready for the third one?

It’s belly button to belly button.  Oh my goodness this sermon just took a wrong turn.  Where are my kids?  Heading for the doors.

Some guys just woke up.  They were sound asleep and their brain subconsciously just figured out what is going on here and the brain is like, wake up man!  This sermon is about to get applicable.

Here’s the deal.  These three things are all connected.  Face to face time is an important part of the belly button to belly button time.

In other words there are some guys who don’t want to concern themselves with face to face time but then get all worked up when their spouse isn’t clawing at him when it comes to bellybutton time.  Well guess what?  They are connected.

Listen guys.  You are the only person in the universe who can rightfully romance your wife.  It’s you.  You are the only person who can take your wife on a date.  Who can make her feel special and who can tell her that she is beautiful.  It’s you.  Date night is very important for your marriage because it helps fill the emotional tank in your wife.  And if that tank is empty than you are asking a lot of your wife to jump into belly button time.

So don’t fall down on the job.  Your wife is counting on you, man!  Date her!

And wives, if your husband is a typical guy, he is ready for belly button time anytime, any place.  He will make anything into innuendo.  You’ll be like, let’s grab a some coffee before going into church and your husband is like, I’d like to grab some coffee with you right now!  And you’re like, that doesn’t even make sense!  Am I supposed to know what that means?  But you do, don’t you?

But listen, I just want to remind you.  You are the only person in the universe that your husband will be looking to for some belly button to belly button time.  And it is more important than you can probably understand.  But nothing you can do for your husband will make him feel more like a man, than belly button time.

So, in conclusion, protect your marriage, and pursue your spouse.  Two wise decisions that will lead to a stronger and healthier marriage.

And so plenty to digest and what I want you to do now is highlight in your head –

Is there anything you need to change to better protect your marriage, and then decide what you will do.

And secondly, which of these three ways of pursuing your spouse will you work on this week.

Now we’re going to celebrate communion, and I don’t know if there’s ever been a worse transition to communion.  But let’s say this.  Communion is a celebration of the forgiveness offered by Jesus in order to give us a fresh start.

And I want to encourage you as well – a healthy spouse knows how to forgive.  And you might need to do some forgiving this morning.  Maybe you need to forgive yourself for not being the spouse you thought you’d be and you are ready to make a fresh start with your spouse from this moment forward.

Maybe you need to forgive your spouse for their failures in a marriage.  Together – as you come up to take communion – celebrate that in Jesus – forgiveness is available – and that through Jesus – a fresh start begins today.



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