Priorities in Marriage (2)
July 18, 2004 / No. 3211
Dear radio friends,
Last week we were privileged to hear the first part of a message entitled “The Biblical Priorities of a Christian Marriage.” The message was originally given at a marriage conference held in the Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan in October of 2003. This afternoon we are going to be airing the second half of that timely message.
We saw last week that Prof. Gritters pointed out clearly from the Word of God that marriage can, along with all things, have but one ultimate purpose: the glory of God. In his remarks today he is going to point out that this is most practical and has tremendous implications for our marriages. If a Christian couple comes to understand that the ultimate purpose of their marriage is indeed to glorify God, then, in the words of Prof. Gritters, they have taken an important first step in living a happy, Christian life in their marriage. Things, so to speak, will begin to fall into place. The ideas of sacrifice and the ideas of the goal and purpose of every day of their marriage will become very plain to them.
In the second half of his speech, Prof. Gritters is going to draw out in a very practical manner some of these implications — exactly what does it mean for us in our daily life and on a practical level that our marriages are to seek the glory of God?
I cannot help but stress again the importance of the subject that we are considering today and the importance of the speech that we are about to hear. Anyone who has taken a walk through the family section of the local Christian bookstore will readily see that modern Christians have become tremendously interested in the subject of marriage and the family. In fact, it is becoming booming business — books, conferences, seminars, and marriage conferences. But much of this is not a sign of health in the Christian church but a sign of disease. It is almost like a terminal cancer patient fervently researching alternate treatments, hoping against hope that something can be done. More and more, men and women are desperate for their own happiness in their marriage or in their relationships and are attempting to find what might be called a “quick-fix,” or some magical formula, to solve all of their marriage problems.
Prof. Gritters is going to point out to us that this is hopeless unless God is our priority, that is, that we glorify God and obey God and serve God in our marriages. The most important thing, for a Christian husband and a Christian wife, is to know that God is the Lord. He is central to everything in their marriage. He has pre-eminence over all things. Therefore, only when a man and a woman, a husband and wife, have that as their one priority will all things in their marriage also fall into place.
So we want to hear the second half of Prof. Gritters’ message today. Prof. Barry Gritters is professor in the Protestant Reformed Seminary in Grandville, Michigan. We are hearing the second half of a message that he delivered in October of 2003 entitled “The Biblical Priorities of a Christian Marriage.” Let us listen carefully as Prof. Gritters concludes his remarks.
Very practically speaking, my life is not my own. It is for my spouse. Her life is not her own, but it is for her spouse. I am going to die to serve her. She is going to spend her life until it is all gone for my sake. That is what marriage is all about.
For God’s glory and not for my joy and my pleasure. When I live that way in marriage, and when spouses live that way in marriage, then that kind of conduct and that kind of attitude is going to go in all directions, radiate in every part of our life. It is going to radiate in this part of our life, that that is why we want to have children. Not to satisfy me but to glorify God, because the product of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church is children. Not just one or two, so that when we get old we might have someone to take care of us, but so that God may be glorified by a fruitful church, by a growing church, by a church of families if God is so pleased to bless our marriages.
That attitude will reflect in all kinds of areas. It will reflect in how we spend our money, what we spend our money for. It will reflect in what we do on a Friday night. What we do with our spare time. Where we go on our vacations. How often we visit the sick, the nursing homes, the hospitals. We are not here for us. We are here for Him. Selfless, sacrificial, self-denying giving of a husband to a wife and a wife to her husband so that God may be glorified — and it is not for our joy.
One of the nicest illustrations of that: When a man sins against his wife, then this needs to happen, “Honey, I’m sorry.” And then this: “Hon, I forgive you.” Easy enough? Anyone who is married knows how hard it is to choke out those words! So important for a godly marriage, but so difficult. Why is it so important? Because that is the way it goes between Christ and us. Why so difficult? Because I have to die to say I am sorry, to admit I was wrong, that I sinned, that I blew it. And my spouse has to die to let me go and say “I forgive you,” instead of allowing that to be an opportunity to do what she would like to do or he would like to do back, freely. Not because I deserve it, not because she deserves it, but freely. Why? So that we may learn something about the relationship between Jesus Christ and us who forgives us freely. As we repent and as we say we are sorry, He comes and says, “You don’t deserve it, but, for My sake and for My glory, I forgive you.”
Learn, see, come to know and love what it is like to live with Jesus Christ. And let your marriage conform itself more and more and shape itself more and more so that when someone looks at you, he says, “I’ve learned something about Jesus Christ and His church.”
That is what we need to maintain in this world. That is the kind of witness that we need to have in our marriage conferences. Anyone, then, who is not Protestant Reformed here tonight, you may know this: that our love for you is such that you learn this about us: we are not interested in our joy, we are not interested in our glory; in obedience to Jesus Christ we want to be, and we want you to be with us, serving Him and Him only.
We need to be that kind of a light in the darkness. We live in a dark, dark world. One of the backgrounds to President Bush’s declaration of a marriage protection week in 2003 is that he knows what is going on in the homosexual agenda and the anti-marriage agenda and lobbying. In Washington, D.C. and all throughout our country we live in a vile, wicked world. The purpose of the devil behind those movements (the homosexual agenda, the anti-marriage agenda, and the rest — whether that is the explicit purpose of the people involved or not, we cannot tell, though usually it is) is to destroy marriage so that that relationship of Christ and the church is dishonored, and we must be at the forefront in the world making a loud declaration: “This is why we want marriages preserved! Not because we want the happiness of people, but because we are the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ we must honor Him in our marriages too, in our earthly relationship of husbands and wives.”
In a world where marriage is for self and our own enjoyment and pleasure, and because it is for ourselves in this world, there are quick, easy divorces, so that you can be happy, perhaps, in the next marriage that you have. That is not what it is all about. But that is what the world’s agenda is. The world’s agenda is lust and sex. And that is why the television, or most of what is on television, is an enemy to the church of Jesus Christ. It is an enemy of the church of Christ because it is an enemy of that relationship — the holy union of Jesus Christ and His bride reflected in the holy union of one man and one woman for life, sacrificing themselves for each other. There is nothing of that in the television culture and the culture of our land.
And at the very pinnacle of the vileness of our country is the sin of homosexuality, where there is nothing but one sin: self and pleasure for myself.
The church needs to be a light in the midst of that dark, dark world. It needs to be a light in two ways. One, that we live in such a way that our neighbors can see (we may never have opportunity to speak to them, though we ought to), by our marriages, and then by the marriages of our children if God so blesses us with children, what the relationship is between Jesus Christ and His church — a holy union for life. Second, then we speak and witness first from the pulpit, inviting all the neighborhood to hear what we preach and teach about marriage — God-glorifying marriages. But do not let it stop there. Continue speaking. Take the pamphlets in the back. I hope many of them are free. Give them to your neighbors. Give them to your friends. Tell them this is what we believe about marriage. This is how we want our marriages to be. Not because we want to be happy, but because we want to honor our Lord Jesus Christ.
Be lights, people of God. Be shining, bright lights in the middle of a dark, dark world. And so conform your marriages, if God has given you the opportunity to be married, to reflect that marriage.
And then (here’s the icing on the cake) in your marriage you will be happy.
Now do not say that I am taking back at the end everything I gave at the beginning. Now you will be happy if you do that, there will be joy in your marriage if you live that way. I want to be very, very clear here. Understand, your happiness is not the goal. My happiness is not the priority in my conduct in my marriage. But happiness is God’s reward and the by-product of living in the way that we ought to live in marriage. I and my spouse will be happy. And you will be, too.
Be very careful here as to the order. The order is not, “I’m going to live that way because in the end I’m going to be happy in my marriage.” To say that would be like saying after you have read Matthew 5-7, which teaches us to seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness and all these other things will be added to us, “Well, I’m going to seek the kingdom of heaven first because I’m interested in all of these things that God is going to add to me. Food, good food. Drink, fine drink. Clothing and shelter. I’m not going to tell anybody, but my goal is to get all these good things. And God says that the way to get these good things is to seek first the kingdom of heaven.” You say, that’s backwards. Of course it is backwards. That is the by-product. That is the reward. Usually our goal is to seek first the kingdom. And now in marriage, too. Seek first the glory of God in our marriages, and the God-given reward and by-product will be, usually (maybe we can talk later about what that usually means) will be, that we will be happy in our marriages.
Is that not the paradox of the Christian life in play again? You have to lose your life to gain it. And only those who lose their lives will, in the end, gain. But what a gain to have that joy in marriage. What a joy to live that way in marriage. You know what kind of joy it is to be with Christ, do you not? To have Him speak to you and say to you so that you know without a doubt, “I love you.” To know without a doubt the testimony of Jesus Christ, “I’m always going to love you. I’m never going to let you go”? To live with Him in such a way that you feel His strong embrace. To live with Him intimately. To hear Him tell you all the secrets of His counsel. To hear Him say, “I want to be with you all of the time. I never want to leave you. I never want you to leave me. We’re going to be like this for ever and ever and ever.” Is there any greater delight for the child of God than that, to have Jesus Christ say that? That is the kind of joy that you will experience in your marriage when you live your lives in marriage to His honor and His glory. There is very little better than that in marriage.
Delight in your spouse. Be ravished with her love and his love. But the main thing: our marriage to Christ.
Married or unmarried, we have that. And that will never end. Priority. One of them.