Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
A Spiritual Marriage
Mark 10:2-9; 1 Peter 3:1-7; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Earlier in the spring, we had a heart-to-heart regarding church-life. This morning I wish to have a heart-to-heart regarding marriage and the home. This will be our last Sunday on 1 Pet 3:1-7 before we move on in our sermon series of 1 and 2 Peter. But first, turn to Mark 10. And I wish to say again that if you are not married, do not think that this is not for you, as the spirit of this message is for all believers, as it focuses on such biblical behaviour and character in all our lives. So let’s pray before we begin. Father, we need You, we need Your Word. For we as humans wander from biblical truth, as we stray from its meaning and depth, and therefore we are the ones who are hindered in our walk, and it often begins in our homes. So Lord, would You convict us, as we search Your wisdom this morning, amen.
Sometimes I smile when unmarried couples while dating spend considerable time evaluating whether they will do well as a couple. And the reason I smile, is because I was married when I had just turned twenty-two, and Anne had just turned nineteen, and I have to admit, it was not a huge thought-out plan. Now I do not say this to discredit Anne or our marriage to any extent, but because we have talked about this, and Anne would say the same thing. It was just that I wanted Anne, and nothing was going to stop me. Sort of sounds like a caveman mentality.
Well we have been looking at some of the principles of marriage over the past two weeks. But this morning I would like to focus maybe a little less on the do’s of marriage, or the leadership role of the husband, or the following role of the wife, and focus mainly on the attitudinal element of a marriage. The attitudes of both the husband and the wife. Growing up in a home with a Christian Mom and Dad, certainly has influenced me in regard to many of the things which I do. I can still hear my Mother say, “I don’t know how your Dad can be so smart in some things, but so stupid in other things.” And before you wonder how my Mom could say that, you need to understand that my Mom and Dad had a very fun relationship together. And I recall both of them laughing at many things. But thinking back, likely the greatest positive influence on me, would have been the attitude of my Mom and Dad, and not only what was said.
Looking back, there was a spiritual element to our home, and it was conveyed by what we talked about, by the music we listened to, the commitment to ministry and church-life, the concern for others, as well as the impact it had on the atmosphere of our home. As there was a spiritual element to our house, that could not be dictated or regimented or forced, but was present. It was warm, loving, kind, joyful, thankful, and reinforcing. And the obvious reason for this spiritual condition in the home, was due to the presence of the Holy Spirit, as much of the qualities that were present in the home were fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. And interesting to those of us who are older, the spiritual impact to me from my Mom and Dad, much of it was when they were older and I was an adult. So if I was asked of how to groom this kind of attitudinal response in my marriage, I would suggest 3 headings, a spiritual understanding, a spiritual leadership, and a spiritual love. So to begin, let us talk about:
- A Spiritual Understanding
2 “And some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife.
3 And He answered and said to them, ‘What did Moses command you?’
4 And they said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’
5 But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote for you this commandment.
6 But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother,
8 and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.
9 What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’”
Mark 10:2-9 (LSB)
This first point is something I heard from Rick Reed, who is the president of Heritage Bible School in Cambridge and has been an excellent teacher over the years. Here Jesus points out that one of the greatest barriers to a great marriage is what? A hard heart. On a few occasions prior to this some who were following Jesus did not understand either what He had done, or what He was teaching. But it was not because they didn’t have the intellectual ability. And Jesus responds to them in Mark and Mark 8 saying that it was because of the hardness of their hearts, or an unwillingness to have a teachable spirit. In fact, it says in both in Mark 6:52 and Mark 8:17, that they did not understand. In other words, the hardness of their heart, their unteachable spirit caused them to lack the ability to really deepen their spiritual understanding. We may think that the shallowness of my spiritual depth has something to do with my brain. And it does, as there is a great need for us to gain more and more biblical knowledge. But Jesus is hitting on something else here this morning, that even with information going in, gaining knowledge, the hardness of our hearts can cause us to resist that knowledge. And in this case, Christ speaks specifically of marriage. Now keep that thought in mind and turn to 1 Peter 3:7.
“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, 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.
1 Peter 3:7 (LSB)
Here we find from Peter, a direct command for husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way. Now if a husband does not understand his wife, or he does not intend to understand her, this will alienate, and place a distance between them, in their relationship. Husbands can do a lot of things well. I might be quick to say that husbands are quick fixers, but Anne might argue with that, as Anne is definitely more the fixer-upper in our family. But men can often want to be quick fixers, whatever it is. But it is no secret that for the most part, our wives are far more sensitive to the feelings and hurts of others. And many times as men we can fix a car, build a barn, lead a camping trip, or preach a sermon, but often struggle with giving care and understanding. But this is Peter’s charge to us husbands, that we would live with our wives in an understanding way. Anne often reminds me that she does not always want me to fix the problem, but just wants me to listen
And so much of living with someone in an understanding way is communicated by our spiritual attitudes. And is dependent upon the spiritual growth of the husband. In other words, as the husband grows spiritually in Christ, he begins to better understand his wife. Remember last week I said to wives, that the greater you lean on your husbands, the more you are learning to trust Christ. Now I would say to husbands, that the deeper a husband’s relationship with Christ, the greater a husband will be able to understand his wife. John Piper said this to husbands, “Everything you learn about God affects how you treat your wife.” And this growth is not a light you turn off and on, but becomes more of a lifetime pursuit. And this is why some marriages over time grow deeper, and become more intimate, and experience more joy and closeness. While others become more distant and cold and less loving, as it is in direct relationship often with the spiritual growth of the husband. And this spiritual depth and understanding brings with it a spirit-filled attitude into our homes, that promotes things such as kindness, gentleness, love, thankfulness, and joy, that frankly makes for a very attractive home for our wives and our children.
And the opposite of that is a hardness, which brings with it a lack of understanding, and tends to over the years bring with it a dryness and a hardness to our relationship. And it ultimately limits the growth possibilities in the home, and therefore the goals of the home are more earthly, temporal, and self-ward. And many choose to live with this dryness. So instead of the home being a place of love, peace, joy, and kindness, it becomes a place of rigidness, hardness and a lack of growth, and causes us to become less attractive to one another. And the character qualities of the Spirit gets turned off and we begin to blame each other. So I am going to be frank here this morning. And we have been addressing the need of men to be understanding. But let us ask both husbands and wives, and all of us this question, how is your spiritual growth? Because it is spiritual growth in our relationship with Christ, which enables all of us to react well and right and biblically with all people. And on the flip side of that, is that our failure at responding well with people displays a spiritual immaturity in our lives.
Now secondly, I wish to address about spiritual leadership to husbands. But wives, don’t tune-out here or nudge your husband and say, are you listening? Because these same principles can be displayed in your life before your children. And grandparents before your children and grandchildren.
- A Spiritual Leadership
Often our lives are characterized by problems we must overcome. Problems at home, work, finances, health, and relationships. And we place great energy into working to solve many of these problems. Yet listen to what A. W. Tozer wrote:
“All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him.”
- W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy 2
There has been placed upon man the great obligation to know and acknowledge God. And what Tozer is emphasizing here is that our lives need to be characterized by thinking deeply about the things of God. And I wish to focus on this because we often associate leadership with guiding through problems in life. Yet our greatest focus, husbands, is what do we do with God? So, if I am keeping that pursuit of an intimate relationship with God somewhat on the sidelines, there are going to be some major deficiencies in how I am able to do well as a husband and Dad. Because I may be tackling problems, but nowhere near giving the kind of spiritual guidance I need to give within my family. And this takes much leaning on the work of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit upholds believers, strengthens believers, gives boldness to believers, helps the believer to pray, and brings joy and hope to the believer. But know this, and getting back to where we started, that the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer can be hindered. Paul wrote to the Ephesians just prior to addressing husbands and wives this:
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Ephesians 4:30 (LSB)
Now there are certainly times in our lives when we do not act in obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit. And we would often think of this as those times of sin, or times when we know we have disappointed God. But I believe there is more than that here in this passage. For it is obvious that we have not been obedient when we sin against God and we know it. But this word translated grieve is the Greek word “lü-pe’-ō” which means to bring a heaviness or to distress passively. Therefore, this grieving is not only outright sin, obvious sin, but can also be an ongoing unwillingness to deepen one’s faith, as it would seem that in our spiritual growth, in our sanctification, the process can be slowed by our own human stubbornness and unwillingness. And this grieves and brings heaviness to the Holy Spirit. Well here is the point about our marriages. When you have a husband, or both a husband and wife who are resisting and grieving the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, this too will bring a dryness to your marriage. This is a Mark Ottaway quote, not very famous, as no one else has quoted it:
“The freshness, joy, well-spring of a marriage relationship is directly proportional to the willingness of a husband and wife to be fashioned by the work of the Holy Spirit, because the work of the Spirit brings with it a spiritual presence and a spiritual attitude in a home.”
Do you understand that? That when you have two people growing in Christ, all the characteristics, all the benefits of the Spirit are present in the marriage. So within this area, I wish to give you two vital areas of leadership.
- Attractive Leadership
See when I am growing in Christ as a husband, what accompanies me when I come home are joy, peace, love, kindness, and patience. But when I am grieving the Holy Spirit, I bring home none of those things. So wives, what kind of husband do you want to walk in your door? A husband who is filled with the Spirit or grieving the Spirit? Or husbands, what kind of wife do you want to come home to? A wife who is allowing Spirit fruit to flow or a wife who is resisting that?
When we lived in Blind River, Elliot Lake was about forty minutes northeast of us. And we see often the pictures on TV of Elliot Lake being this wonderful retirement place to go and live. Well, I can tell you right now that unless the Lord intervenes, I will not retire in Elliot Lake. And if you have a great aunt or uncle who live in Elliot Lake, don’t get mad at for this, but it was about the saddest place I’ve ever been, as there is very little evidence of joy in couples. I felt like saying many times to them, hey, common on! Smile couples! As much of their demeanor was saying, put me out of my misery now! I always joked to Anne that I think people came to Elliot Lake to die, at least that is what it looked like! Because for the most part and not just in Elliot Lake, couples never will get to the point will they will know and live and experience the joy of a biblical marriage. And this is so vital, as this kind of spirit-filled home is so essential and attractive to your family. It is attractive to those who walk into your house. And it is not faked, but is the real result of people who are being changed by the work of the Holy Spirit. The result of people who are allowing the Spirit to work and not grieving Him. Attractive leadership, but there is also another side.
- Responsible Leadership
Peter nails it here with his teaching, as he is speaking about a husband who is to be growing in his spiritual walk, which enables him to understand his wife. But, but if he fails in this, there is a great hindrance in his life.
“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, 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.
- Peter 3:7 (LSB)
What is it, if he fails in his role? His access to blessing from God is hindered. Do you see that? In other words, he may be working hard, trying his best, yet is a sense God is not favouring him, for his prayers are not being answered. Therefore for the husband to fulfill his role he must be deepening his spiritual walk with Christ and be leading in a way that honours the spiritual growth of his wife and ultimately his family. Verse 7, “show her honour as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” In other words, he understands his responsibility to nurture that growth in his wife. Therefore, he must prioritize his own spiritual life, his learning, study of the Word, and prayer-life. Yes, he must speak the words of truth, but our actions and character reinforce that same truth.
He must see himself as responsible to have everyone in church, when often it is the wife. He must see his role as the one who should be the primary discipline guy in the family, gentle, loving, but firm discipline. For when husbands do not take this kind of leadership, it is often left to the wife. And I do not believe wives are as gifted in this, as it leaves them in a state of anxiety and they become nags to their families. And he is growing in his Christian character, for we cannot be leaders without spiritual character. In other words, we cannot legislate right thinking, right living, and right direction, without right character and attitude. For we cannot yell at our kids or scream at our spouse and get angry with them over the right spiritual direction. We are not football coaches. No, spiritual leadership, it is a whole package. It is the spiritual words, with the spiritual attitude, said with the spiritual character, and acted out in the right spiritual way. Finally:
- Spiritual Love
There are certainly non-Christian marriages that do well. Marriage is not “Christian” in the sense that it was only meant for Christians, as it is a blessing that all people are able to enjoy. Yet spiritual in the sense that marriage is an institution by God and clearly defined in the Scriptures. For we live in a culture that has taken marriage and created their own definition. It is interesting that even as late as 1990’s, when the same sex movement began to force government to redefine marriage. This statement was made in 1999, only 23 years ago!
“… marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament will take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.”
Well we know that this protection that was spoken of in 1999 was soon challenged and changed in the 2000’s. Yet we as Bible-believing Christians understand from the Scriptures that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. As the Bible could not be any clearer, as it says that a man shall leave his Mom and Dad and be joined with his wife. Another thing to consider when we think spiritually about marriage, is that it is only a temporary relationship. So though it is until death do us part, that is what it is, until death. As any thought of a special relationship in heaven with our spouse is nice to think about, but Jesus said otherwise, “that for believers in the resurrection we will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” Yet our humanness wants desperately to fight against this, as even myself would wish that Anne and I would always be together. Yet there are two problems with this kind of thinking. One, it is an overestimation of marriage. As marriage is an earthly relationship, given to us as a gift from God to enjoy while we are here on earth, yet it is not a forever relationship. As ultimately the focus of an earthly marriage points to the marriage of Christ, the husband; and His church, the bride. So one problem is an overestimation of marriage.
And two, it is an underestimation of heaven of eternity. Of believing that the things of earth are actually comparable with the riches of heaven. This is wrong. The Apostle Paul teaches that life on this earth cannot compare with the glory that will someday be revealed to us, as heaven will be vastly greater for us, as our life with Christ will be something that we cannot even imagine from an earthly perspective. “Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things for which God has prepared for those who love Him.” So where does this leave marriage? Well marriage provides for us one of the deepest opportunities we are given to love, as it says that love is perfected in us. The Lord has given us the opportunity in this life to be able to look at our spouse, and not demand from, but give, with a depth of love that is truly defined by God. That screams, I love you! I choose to love you! And this joyous kind of love, the only true love, can be enjoyed by us in our marriage relationship, until we are gone from this life. Where in heaven whatever it holds to us, by faith we know that it will be far greater. Listen to these words of Paul:
“4 Love is patient, love is kind, is not jealous, does not brag, is not puffed up;
5 it does not act unbecomingly [a lack of care for those whom someone lives with], does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered;
6 it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 it bears all things, believes all things [a husband who assures his wife that they will get through trials], hopes all things [not cynical], endures all things.
8 Love never fails.”
- Cor 13:4-8a (LSB)
Now this is a difficult level to attain. And the key here is that as the godly love is described to us here, our desire would be to continue to reach towards this type of love in our marriage relationship, for these short years we have been given. So what is it we are waiting for? And to be disrespectful, unkind, and impatient with my spouse with no desire to change, means that I may have what the world calls love to some degree, but no resemblance of a true, biblical, spiritual love. See there are no strings attached to this kind of love. This is why when we understand that marriage is a covenant, not a contract. A contract says that if you do this, this, and this, I will love you. But a covenant says, not matter what, I will always love you. It is an unending love for the husband and an unending devotion for the wife. This kind of love is not an easy love, it is not a natural love, but this kind of love is the deepest love, spiritual love.
The Apostle Peter, who was married is trying to get our attention this morning. He is really teaching that if we do not get Christianity right in our homes, you do not get Christianity right! Because if children grow up in our homes that do not make sense to them spiritually, in other words, if they hear a Christian message in the home in which they grow up, but live in that same home knowing anger, yelling, impatience, lack of love and care, a lack of joy, they soon begin to learn that Christianity has no transforming effect on the heart. And if we do not teach “heart change” we teach nothing. But if they both hear the message of Christ through the things that are talked about, through the Spirit-filled home, through the music they listen to, through the church they attend, and they experience a mother who greatly respects her husband, a mother who leans on her husband to lead, and a father who without question loves his wife, and spends time to care for and understand her, they will see true Holy Spirit transformation in a life.
It is never too late Christian. Would it not be sad to someday look back on your life and not have pursued such a good, strong biblical marriage? I was thinking that there is no “been there, done that” with the Christian faith. No for us believers it’s always “being there, doing that!” Even if you are older, why not make it a great marriage? Let’s pray. Father, help us with this great task, as this endeavour is the result of the work of the Spirit in our lives to husbands, but also to wives, grandparents, aunts, uncles, all of us. May we not resist the Spirit’s work. Give us the courage, strip away any pride, that our homes would broadcast truth in action. And might we be known by these things as a church family, as a people who both know about Christ and who passionately love and serve Christ. And all God’s people said, amen.