May 25, 2014     Ephesians 5:22 – 33   Marriage  


    I want to share some thoughts on marriage today and as I do that I do not want the single folks to tune out of the message thinking that none of it applies to them.  Scriptures apply to our life.  We often need to be reminded that we are married to Jesus.   Revelation gives us a great picture of that in the New Testament.  Revelation 19:7 for the wedding of the lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready   Verse 9 blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb.  Revelation 21:2, I saw the Holy City the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  I love Revelation 22:17 the Spirit and Bride say come.   The bride is to invite them to come.  This is a great place come.   There is room for more and there is room for you. 

     There is a theme that runs through the Old Testament that we are married to God.   God tells his people over and over again that God chose them.  God says I planted you and you are my vineyard.  Jacob is the apple of my eye.   I have been reading in Jeremiah this week and in chapter 3 God talks about his relationship with his people and God is very upset because his people had turned away from God.   There is a lot of good stuff in the chapter which we cannot cover today but you can read it on your time.   In verse in verse 9 God tells them because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her she defiled the land and committed adultery with wood and stone.  God said they committed adultery when they worshipped gods of wood and stone.    That worship was adultery – they were putting other gods before God.  They were married to God but committed adultery by worship of idols. 

      So Christian are we committing adultery in our relationship with Jesus?   How is your devotion to Jesus?  Christians are married to Jesus.  Is he your first love today or are there gods of the things of this world?   Maybe you do not feel like you are married to Jesus.     Sometimes we need to make ourselves do things that we normally would not do.  You can develop that love relationship with Jesus and feelings will follow.  Do the right thing and let the feelings take care of themselves.   The feelings will come.  God is the lover of your soul. 

    Marriage calls for a commitment.  I think a number of folks enter marriage with too little commitment.  Chuck Swindoll, in his book, "Living Above the Level of Mediocrity," tells about a church in the Soviet Union a few years ago that was forced to meet secretly because the holding of house church services was illegal.   They tried to be as inconspicuous as possible as they gathered on Sunday to worship the Lord, so they came at different times & casually walked into the house until they had all arrived. Then they would close the doors, pull the curtains, & quietly worship the Lord.   But one Lord’s Day, right in the midst of their worship service, two soldiers broke into the room, & at gunpoint lined the Christians up against the wall. One shouted, "If you wish to renounce your faith in Jesus Christ, leave now!"   

      Two or three quickly left, then another, & then two more. Again the soldier spoke, "This is your last chance. Either leave now & renounce your faith in Christ, or stay & suffer the consequences" and then another left, & then another, almost hiding their faces in shame as they went out.   But the rest stood their ground, children standing beside their parents, trembling, some even crying as their parents stood with their hands in the air, fully expecting to be gunned down or imprisoned.   After all had left who chose to flee, the other soldier closed the doors, looked back at those who stood against the wall & said, "Keep your hands up - but this time in praise to our Lord Jesus Christ.   We, too, are Christians."    The two soldiers explained that some time earlier they had been sent to another house church to arrest the Christians there. But in the process, they had heard the gospel & had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, too.    But they explained, "We have learned that unless people are willing to die for their faith, they cannot be fully trusted."    Well that is a good picture of commitment.      Marriages are under fire today. 

      McKinley Irvin law firm posts that in America, there is one divorce approximately every 36 seconds*. That's nearly 2,400 divorces per day, 16,800 divorces per week and 876,000 divorces a year.  The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years.  Another group had that the average length is 11 years.   McKinley posted that most people already know that around 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. A number of folks believe that it is about 50 % but others feel that number is too high and one source said 40 to 50%.    The blog goes on to say that when you break that down by number of marriages: 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce.60 percent of second marriages end in divorce and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce.   According to Center for Disease Control and National Vital Statistics System the divorce rate in New Hampshire is dropping.  In 1999 it was 5.1 divorces per 1,000 people and in 2011 it had dropped to 3.8%.  The rates had dropped for most of the states.  That is good news.  I scanned it and only saw a couple of states where the rate was higher in 2011 compared to 1999.  In 50 years that would make a divorce rate of less than 20%.  These statistics do not address the abuse in families and single parent families and the issue of same sex relationships nor those who live together and do not marry   From what I read the break up rate for same sex couples is high.   I think that we all know that the marriages today are stressed and under fire.  I do not know about your family but in mine I had one older brother who has passed away and have two sisters.   Among the 4 of us there have been 10 marriages and one more coming next month.  One of those marriages ended with death and not divorce.  Six divorces for 4 people.  I suppose that speaks somewhat of the family I was raised in. The good news is that Jesus does make a difference.   There is hope. 

    I read about a husband who decided to make an appointment with a marriage counselor because his marriage was on rocky ground. His wife was hurt and upset and as she began to talk, she crossed her arms and recounted her loveless life. Tears filled her eyes and her lips started quivering. It wasn’t long before the wise counselor realized what the problem was. So without saying a word, he took her by the hands, looked in her eyes for a long time, smiled, and then gave her a big hug.  A change immediately came over her face.    She softened and her eyes lit up.   Stepping back, the counselor said to her husband, “See, that’s all she needs.”   The husband checked his Day timer and said, “Great. I’ll bring her back to see you every Tuesday and Thursday.”   Well while that is cute that will not solve his marriage issues.  That is not the kind of commitment that is going to bring joy and love in his marriage.   This passage talks about love and respect.  I preached on respect last week but love and respect are two critical words for marriage.  

     I think that marriage counselors can be very helpful for couples that are struggling and we all struggle some.    For those that want their marriage to improve I know books especially Christian books can help marriages.  Christian conferences are good.  I have heard that Christian couples that read a book on marriage and go to a conference every year have a lower divorce rate than others.   I believe that fervent and desperate prayer is very important in a marriage and in life.    Fervent prayer is a much deeper commitment than the man above who was willing to take his wife to the counselor a couple times a week.  

     Look at how David prayed in Psalm 69 Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.   I trust that is not your marriage.    I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.     I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.  When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn; when I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me.    Those who sit at the gate mock me, and I am the song of the drunkards.    But I pray to you, Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. Do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters.     Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me.  Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me.   Do not hide your face from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.   Come near and rescue me David prays.   There is fervent prayer and God honors that kind of praying.  I think a marriage that is based on solid prayer is on pretty solid ground.   It is not the only needed thing but it is a great place to begin. 

     I really like the Fireproof your marriage DVD.  The young man reaches out to his father and the first thing that he was told to do was not speak anything negative to his wife.  That is so powerful.  Every husband and wife needs to apply that in their marriage.  When the communication becomes negative it soon destroys the marriage.  The wife is supposed to be a help mate.  If she is constantly picking or nagging on her husband she is not fulfilling that God given role.  Often it does more damage than good and in time husbands tune out their spouse.    Husbands and wives your job is not to nag. It is not to pick.  Pray and let God do the changes in his or her heart.  Sometimes we like to be the junior Holy Spirit.   The Holy Spirit can do much better than we can.     If you are not under the Spirit’s guidance do not say anything. .  If you are not led by the Spirit do not say anything.  You often will do more damage than good.  Men this passage says love your wives.   That means you die for her.  You die to your own wishes and desires to bless her and to minister to her.  

    It is really interesting in this passage that children are to obey their parents.  Slaves are to obey.     It does not say wives obey.  In fact I do not know any verses in the bible that say wives obey.  We infer that there is obedience because the bible says wives submit but in Ephesians 5:21 the bibles also says all of you submit to one another.   We submit out of reverence for Jesus.  It certainly is not God’s idea that the wife is inferior or a slave in any way.   Women are equal to men.  Their role is different though and women are different than men.  Women are not second class citizens.  Women have a different role in life than men.   God is the God of order and structure.     Some men like to think of women as inferior and some women like to think of men as inferior but that is not how God sees things.    Some women would like to make the husband inferior and a slave to them.

      God helps us and that does not make him our slave.   It does not mean that we are greater than God and that God is less than we are.    God is certainly a God of order and structure and maybe that is what God is communicating here in this passage.  God wants order and structure in the family.  It is not the matter of who is greater and lesser because both are equal.   It has to do with structure and order I believe.     Jesus said he would send the Holy Spirit.   Is Jesus greater than the Holy Spirit?  No   Is Jesus less than God because he became a human being and died on a cross?  No.   But within the God head relationship there are different roles there is structure and order.   There is wonderful structure, unity and submission and that should be the case in families also.   

     Marriage can be great when men and women pull together to fulfill the common goals that God has given them as a couple.  That marriage will be challenged by the enemy and the world.  At times there will be frustration and challenges and you may not feel the love.   Keep doing the right thing and the feelings will follow.  If he or she is not doing the right thing the Christian spouse can pray not in a negative way but lift the need before the Father.  Father help him or her with that problem so that you can glorified in their life and in this marriage and before our children.      Parents are you giving you children a proper picture of how God wants a family to be?   Are you submitting and serving one another so that your children can see that they need to submit and serve in the home?   Marriage is not perfect but there is hope in Jesus and there is great blessing and joy in the Lord as we put Jesus first in our life and in our home.  Pull together folks.   Sometimes you will take it on the chin.   Some probably feel they take it all the time on the chin.  God allows trials in our life.     It is not easy to grow in humility.   God wants to help you.  God wants to be involved in your life and God answers prayer.  

    God created eve men.  Marriage was God’s plan and everything God does is good.   Marriage in the Lord is good and a blessing.  Marriage is God’s plan.  Amen.