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Keeping Love Alive - Volume 4
Four Relationships Great Marriages Have in Common
We’ve all heard or read news stories that celebrate couples who’ve been married for 5, 6, or even 7 decades. So how did they stay together that long? What’s their secret? And better yet… how can we build those types of lasting bonds? Through the 4th volume of our Keeping Love Alive series, Chip’s identifying 4 relationships great marriages have in common. Learn why these connections are critical to every relationship and how you and your spouse can better prioritize them in your marriage - starting today.More from this series
I had just graduated from high school, I had a basketball scholarship. Those of you that maybe have an athletic background, I was a gym rat. And all I cared about was sports. And a coach said, “There’s a conference. It’s not too far from here and all the best players from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia will be there. And I’ll pay your way.”
And I show up and it was like I got dropped, this was 1972, and I thought I got dropped into the land of Jesus freaks. It was like, oh my gosh. I had pretty much rejected the Church, didn’t – assumed there is some being that created everything. I don’t know who He is, if He was like the people in my church, I didn’t really want to get to know Him very well.
And so, I thought these religious freaks, they would have a time in the morning, twenty minutes, and you got a Good News Bible – later I realized was pretty easy to understand. And you were supposed to read the Bible and I guess talk to God. And then you had breakfast and then you had a speaker and Tom Landry came. That was part of the thing, I thought, I was a Cowboys fan. How bad could it be if Tom Landry is there?
And then I met all these professional and college athletes that were talking about Jesus like He was a person. What? And then – I had never heard the phrase, “A personal relationship with God.” To me it was, you know, you go to church, good; you miss church, bad. Keep missing a lot of church, you go to hell. If it’s fun, it’s wrong. God is mad. You know? From Sunday school, Jesus seems kind of okay, but His dad seems like He’s really ticked off most of the time. You know? I mean, I had a completely warped view of God.
And I went to that camp and for three days I would not open that Bible because these dudes are not going to indoctrinate me into their Jesus stuff. But I saw their life.
And I remember just out of peer pressure, like, day number four, I just opened the Bible. And the Good News, my question: If God exists, what does He really want? “I urge you, therefore, my brothers and sisters, in view of how much God loves you and all that He has done for you,” what He really wants is for you to give all that you are and all that you have to Him, because that’s what’s really on God’s heart.
“And don’t be conformed to this current world and all its hypocrisy and all of its lust, but instead let your mind be renewed with the truth, that your actual life could prove and demonstrate what God’s will is, that it’s actually good and acceptable and perfect. And then through the grace given to me, I say to every one of you, don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but think of yourself the way God sees you, with sound judgement.”
And I had never heard of the Holy Spirit, or at least I didn’t know anything about it. But as I read those verses, literally, a video went on in my mind. And it was like I saw myself in my bedroom praying that prayer and verse 1 answered it. And then the video continued, “Don’t be conformed.” I saw myself, just in my mind in a little video of sweettalking a girl here and acting like a jerk in the locker room here and acting like the American boy over here and just…
And then, “Don’t think too highly of yourself.” I was pierced. That was the summer of 1972.
And then what happened is I went away to school and some radical changes. Two weeks into it, I have no explanation, because my mouth, I just stopped cussing and I couldn’t understand it.
And I came to the conclusion, the most miserable people on the face of the entire earth are not lost people. When I was sinning and when I was lost, I didn’t feel guilty. In fact, I mean, people who say, “Oh, all those terrible things,” I’ve got news, I really enjoyed a lot of those terrible things. I mean, the consequences are terrible, but I wasn’t going, like, “Oh, man, I feel so terrible about…” No.
But now that the Spirit of God was living inside of me, it was like I had one foot in the world and one foot – it was like this. And I think the great majority of Christians in our day are living that life.
One person at the base, another person at home, one person at church, another person on the Internet, a different person shopping, a different person drinking, a different person’s language. Guilt, shame, repeat, rinse, guilt, shame, repeat, rinse. Start not liking yourself.
And then at some point you either just fake it or you change your beliefs. That’s what is happening in our colleges. When you go away to school and everyone is sleeping with one another and smoking dope and drinking and having fun…”I’m not sure I believe in God.” You know why? It has nothing to do with intellect. It’s the tension in your mind and heart when you know this is right and you’re doing this. It’s crushing, as it should be, because that’s grace.
And it requires a radical decision and about two years in, I understood this verse and I got on my knees like this and it was basketball and a girlfriend and I said, “Father, I know I’m saved and on my way to heaven by Your grace. And on this day, in this moment, I want to offer my body as a living sacrifice. All that I am, all that I have, all that I’ll ever have. I don’t want You to be first place, I want You to be everything. If You say it in Your Word, I’ll do it. If I get flack for it, so be it. I can’t live a double life.”
What happened in my life afterwards and what I have seen happen in literally tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people is they experience a power in their life like never before. There are so many anemic Christians. The reason a lot of people don’t want to be Christians is they have met a lot of us. I’m dead serious.
But what I will tell you is, you find someone who literally, in the words of the great theologian, Texas Hold ‘Em, “I’m all in,” that’s what God is looking for. By the way, that’s not for pastors or missionaries. That’s for every single believer. You will never experience God’s power, you’ll never hear His whisper, you’ll never see dramatic, supernatural answers to prayer. You’ll never see the trajectory of your life or He use you in ways that you never dreamed until you say to Him, “I’m all in.”
The disciples changed the course of the world, not because there was a lot of them, but they were all in. “If any man will come after Me,” Jesus said, “let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me. For if you seek to save your life, you will lose it. But if you will lose your life,” let go of it, “for My sake and the gospel, you will find it.”
And so, if you want to have a life-giving relationship with God, it’s going to start with a spiritual birth and then a radical dedication.
And the question I have for you, are you all in? You! I mean, and you know what? This isn’t like on a scale of one to ten. It’s just, “Yes, I am.” Or no. And I think it’s good to be honest. I mean, I think the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit. The Lord is near to those who call upon Him, to those who call upon Him in truth.
I think we have really overrated having your life together and being moral and all this stuff. Jesus is looking for a man or a woman that you would just come and be ruthlessly honest. “This is where I’m really at. I’m not all in.” Well, why? “Because I’m afraid if I was, this and this and this and this would happen.” And Jesus would say, “Let’s talk about it.”
Really. Let’s really talk about it. Stop faking it. Stop acting. Stop. Get down to the core. Meet the person of Jesus.
Finally, there’s a daily battle, and I’ve already alluded to this. “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you’ll be able to test and approve, what is God’s will, His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” It’s a daily battle, right?
Do you remember when Jesus went out and He was tempted by Satan? It’s the very same three things that Satan tempted Adam and Eve and it’s the very same three things that 1 John tells us. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. In our vernacular, it’s sex, status, salary. Pleasure, power, position.
The world says those things will make you significant, make you secure, and give you happiness. And all I would say is let’s go to all the top athletes that we can think of and all the movie stars that we can think of.
If being pretty, being powerful, having lots of money would fulfill you, they would be the happiest people on the earth. Why do guys throw away twenty, thirty, forty million-dollar contracts to do absolutely stupid things? It’s because the enemy has a world system and none of us are immune and we are bombarded by it all the time and what I want to tell you, this daily battle is renewing your mind, putting good things in your mind, and recognizing it’s a struggle for all of us. But you progressively change. There’s power. And that God really wants to give you something very, very, very good.
But what do you need to believe about God’s character to experience His love and power? I’m going to suggest it’s His goodness. When I got on my knees and said that and meant it, here was my concern. If I do this it means this relationship I have with my present girlfriend needs to go. If I do this, I have spent my whole life trying to be this basketball player. What if, what if God says I can’t play basketball anymore? And you’ve got yours, right? I mean, if you’re all in, don’t you think of all the things?
You know, in my mind it was like, If I’m all in, God will make me be a missionary and go to some country where there’s a lot of snakes, and I hate snakes, right? I mean, here’s the premise. The premise is if you would turn with all your heart and all your energy and make Him the absolute focus of your life, bar none, that you are really going to miss out.
Fear of missing out. It’s the big FOMO. You know what’s behind your FOMO? A warped view of God.
Psalm 84:11 here, I memorized this verse and every time it was like, you know, okay.
And all I can tell you is I ended up being an RA and I ended up doing it God’s way and I watched the chaos and the shame and the brokenness and I had those guys come into my room asking me, “What do I do? I got her pregnant and now she is overwhelmed. Now she has had an abortion. When you go outside God’s bounds, hey, front end: pleasure. Back end: pain. When you do it God’s way there’s always front-end pain, long-term pleasure.
“The Lord God is a sun and a shield.” What is a sun? Source of energy and power. A shield: protection. “The Lord gives grace and glory.” What is grace? God pouring out what you don’t deserve – goodness. He knows your dreams; He knows your desires. And glory. The word literally, He wants to lift you up. Look at the last line. “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Man, I hung onto that, so I lived that out and made some hard decisions and, boy, took a pretty big dip in my little basketball journey because of some of those things.
And then it played out. And I got a letter from some group I had never heard of who asked me if I could join some other guys and I played more basketball in two summers in every country in South America and all throughout the Middle East with Olympic teams all over the world from a guy who was a skinny little point guard at an NAIA school.
God was saying, “It was never basketball, Chip.” And I got to share Christ. And after I broke up with that girl, yeah, I cried and, you know, and it was emotional and I thought I was going to marry her. And she was on this path and I was on this path.
And for about a year, a year and a half, I actually got to know women as sisters in Christ that I didn’t have to lust for, that I learned to be friends with, that I understood how women think and it prepared me to be a good husband.
And God brought me the best. God’s got your best in mind. Your very, very best. But what does it require? Faith. An invisible promise over against a lot of temptation.
The second thing you have to believe about God is His, are you ready for this? His gentleness. And the context of all these things, Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened.” Anybody weary and burdened with shame and guilt and struggle and fights and, you know, junk in your marriage and some with your kids and some with where you are stationed and some…anybody have any of that?
Man, I have. What does He promise? “I will give you rest.” Christianity isn’t a set of principles to try hard, to be nice and be moral. It’s a person! God sent God the Son for you. He loves you! It’s a personal relationship. And the only requirement, “Come.” And it’s not clean your life up and come. It’s just come with your weary, your burden, your shame, your junk. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” In other words, let’s do life together like two yoke of oxen. And then what He says – this is the only time Jesus describes Himself. He says, “For I am gentle and humble.” The word “gentle” here is a fascinating word.
Have you ever had a moment where you shared where you have really, really blown it with someone and looked into their eyes and instead of getting judgement, get understanding? I mean really get, “I get it. I get it. I understand. Now, it doesn’t mean it’s right and there is stuff, but I…and it hasn’t changed my opinion of you that much.”
This word “gentle” means that when you come to Jesus and you are just honest, you’re not going to get, “Why didn’t you come earlier? You did this.” Your sin and your suffering– the heart of Christ, it is just drawn to your pain. It’s drawn to the things that you have never told anyone. And He’s just saying, “If you would just be real and come to Me, “I’ll lean in. I will be with you in the nightmares, I’ll be in with the shame. I understand where you were wounded, I understand where you have wounded other people.
And you know something? Bring it. Bring it. You’ll find rest for your soul.” And He’s not only gentle but He is humble. The word means lowly. Did you notice in the New Testament how often He is helping people that no one cares about? You know, five husbands here and the one you are living with. The prostitute here, the person who is marginalized. He understands you and loves you.
And the only prerequisite is to come. Where He says, “My yoke is easy.” That word is not easy as opposed to, like, “Oh, there’s nothing to do.” The word means delightful. “My yoke is fitting.” It’ll wear well. It’ll be when you and I do life together, I think the best translation I could give you is it’s pleasant.
“And My burden,” not your burden, He says, “My burden is light.” In other words, God has unlimited power, unlimited love. He is infinite, He spoke the galaxies and the universe into existence. And for reasons I don’t know, His heart, His initial response to your hurt and your suffering and your sin and your shame is just to want to help. And I don’t think most of us see Him that way.
And if you don’t see Him that way, you won’t go to Him. And if you don’t go to Him, you’ll have to make up your own little story and cast your – create your own little hologram. And maybe have a little religion mixed in, try hard to be sort of this good person, and even if you are successful, you will find yourself empty and hollow and broken, because as one great theologian said, “You have been made with a hole in your heart, a vacuum in your heart that only He can fill.”