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About this series
Keeping Love Alive
Four Biblical Practices Great Marriages Have in Common
How do you keep love alive when you see your marriage starting to teeter, or crumble, and everything in you wants to give up and get out? In this series, Chip provides four biblical practices that all great marriages have in common. For each one, he provides key principles, then practical implications, and finally, super practical tools to make those practices a reality in everyday life. This is a no-holds-barred, candid look at the way marriage really works and how to make yours better. If you’ll invest the time, what you’ll find in the end, are love, hope, joy, and peace - for you, and the one you love.More from this series
If you’ll get out your notes, we are in session three, and let me give you two quick pictures. I’m driving in the car with my wife, I have been, in my case, I travel quite a bit. So this last year, I think in about fourteen months I was in China three times and in the Middle East and then some domestic travel.
And you all probably understand this more than others and I come home and she has had a busy life and I have had a busy life and I have really missed her and she has missed me.
And I come home and it’s weird. Okay? I don’t know how to say it. It’s just weird. I love her, she loves me, we told each other for two weeks how much we miss each other. And then I come home and then it’s like, “So, how did it go?” And how do you tell someone what happened over the last two weeks and where you were? And then you’re trying to catch up and she starts telling me about which grandkids came over and what they did and something.
And you sort of try, but it’s just, the word I use is you just don’t connect. Anybody get that? And you’re not mad at each other, but you so want to be connected, but you’re not.
And so, you try to have a conversation and me, I want to go deep fast. Let’s get connected now. And this will be a shock, but it doesn’t work. And so, we have had to learn different ways to sort of ease into when one of us has been away and reconnect.
And so, the question is: how do you get connected and how do you stay connected? Because we are talking about four biblical practices that great marriages have in common.
Biblical practice number one is you, with full-court press, serve your mate. John 13. You humble yourself, find your security in Christ, and you serve your mate.
The second biblical practice is about hope. And you plan. You plan little times during the week, little times for the month, bigger five and ten year – you plan. God can change your plans, but there is hope. There is: this is where we are headed, this is what we are going to do, this is what we feel called by God, here’s how we are going to build our relationship.
And the third thing that you see is connecting. Great marriages connect. And it’s interesting to me that when Jesus, with His bride, He serves – John 13. Then He gives them the plan of heaven, and then what is going to happen until He comes back for us, or until we go to be with Him. And then in John chapter 15, He asks and answers this question. “I am leaving and you’re not going to see Me. How do we stay connected?”
How do we stay connected? How do we keep our love flowing back and forth? How do you hear My voice when I’m not here physically anymore? How do you get direction from Me when I’m not here physically anymore? How are you going to feel My love and experience My love, because I’m not here physically anymore?
And the answer to that is in John chapter 15. So, open your Bible if you will.
The Supper is over; they have sung a hymn. And as they have gone out, they are passing through a garden. And in John 15, He takes the opportunity to give them a very clear picture from their day about a vine and a branch and He gives them this metaphor. And the entire purpose is to teach them: this is how our hearts are going to stay connected, even though “geographically” God the Son in His resurrected body, will be at the right hand of the Father. And all these disciples and all those who will come after Him, including us in the body of Christ, will be here on earth.
And so, this is what He says to them and what He says to us. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away,” literally it’s He lifts up, “and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it bears more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
Command. “Abide in Me,” it means continue in, stay connected to Me, “and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine,” stays connected, “so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Repetition, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him,” notice two-way street, “he bears much fruit,” why? “for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, cast them into the fire and they are burned.”
By contrast, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you can ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Verse 8, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear,” not just fruit, “much fruit, and so prove,” or, “demonstrate that you are My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” Well, how? “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”
Purpose clause – why are you telling this whole story about vines and branches and abiding? Answer: “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another,” how? “just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command.”
And then this is an amazing, amazing passage. “No longer do I call you slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and I appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” And just in case you missed the core of this, “This I command you, that you love one another.”
Now, we could spend an awful lot of time on this passage and I have in the past and we have a series talking about Jesus Unfiltered where we go through every chapter of John. But let me just give the highlights of what this passage teaches.
Number one, Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches. Okay? First of all, in other words, “I am the true vine,” I am the source of life. I give life. My Father is sovereignly orchestrating – the vinedresser. The Father positions and prunes us for fruitfulness.
That little word take away, if you know anything, in Napa, they have a lot of vines and when I studied this, I did a lot of research about how they do it. And if a vine gets on the ground and it’s not producing any fruit, what they do is they have a little pitchfork type thing and they lift it up and they reposition it so it can bear fruit.
Other times, you get too much growth and the energy doesn’t go into the fruit and so they prune it. And it looks pretty painful, but it produces a lot of great fruit.
Jesus is the vine, but God the Father is sovereignly orchestrating, positioning, and sometimes repositioning our life. Sometimes it feels kind of painful, but the whole goal is to produce fruit.
And the fruit I think He’s talking about here is primarily, first and foremost, character. How many times did the word love come here? Right? You abide; you bear much fruit. “Keep My commandments.” “Abide in My love as I kept My Father’s commandments.” “Abide in His love.”
He’s talking about the very life of Christ being formed in you. You do understand that’s the agenda? Jesus didn’t come and die upon the cross and raise from the dead to make you a little bit better moral person who goes to religious services and hears someone talk once a week and sing a few songs. That is not the agenda. Okay? There is a role for that.
Jesus came because you were lost and far from God in and of yourself, and He paid the price for your sin and then He rose from the dead and He offers as a free gift, He paid for the sins of the whole world, and whosoever would repent and turn from your sin and receive that gift, He takes up residence in you, takes you out of the kingdom of darkness, places you in the kingdom of light. His Holy Spirit comes in and it seals you. He deposits spiritual gifts inside of you. He gives you an inheritance. He has a purpose for your life. And His whole goal is to make you more and more like Himself so that you are the salt of the earth and the light of the earth. So there are little Jesus or Christlike ones everywhere.
The word Christian was a negative connotation and it started in Antioch. It was when the Gentiles came to faith and they lived such radical lives, the only explanation, they are as weird as their founder! They greet one another with a holy kiss. They take worthless kids off the ash heap and they rescue them. They share their property with one another. They forgive their enemies. I mean, we try and kill them off and they go arm-in-arm and sing praises to their God. They are idiots. And by the way, they are cannibals as well. They talk about someone’s blood and they drink blood. And they are atheists. They don’t worship the emperor. They are little Christ ones.
And that was, that’s the goal. And the means by which you become more like Christ are certainly the raw material of God’s Word, but the only one that can live the Christian life, are you ready? is Jesus. But if you have trusted Christ, Jesus lives in you. How? By the person of the Holy Spirit.
So, really, are you ready? The Christian life gets super simple. Your only real job is to figure out how you can stay connected to Jesus so His full access can have control in ways where He can produce His life through you. Through your personality, your uniqueness, just the way He made you.
And Jesus is explaining by way of the metaphor of this vine how that works. Our sole responsibility is simply to abide. Stay connected. How do you stay connected to a best friend? Let’s get this off the theological realm and I want you to think of maybe a buddy, a girlfriend, or if you’re a guy, a guy. Someone that you’re really close to that no matter what, you have stayed in touch. Maybe even when you’re far apart, it’s like three minutes and you reconnect.
How do you stay connected like that? What do you do? Why is it? You have a common heart, you have common values, you stay in touch, you communicate, you share your heart. They are the person that you can share what is really going on, where you’re afraid, where you blew it, maybe a big mistake.
See, what God is saying is, What I really – that’s what want with you. I want you to stay connected to Me. I don’t want you over here thinking that I need to do certain things to try to earn God’s favor. I want you to understand that if you would allow your heart and My Word to reconnect, and if you would keep your mind renewed so that you begin to take in your mind and your heart exactly what the truth is, that that truth, as you ponder it and think about it and put it into practice would actually do – what? It would set you free. Free to be who I made you to be. Free from addictions, free from pleasing people, free from codependency, free from getting your identity in work or looks or money or accomplishments. Free to be My son or My daughter.
See, that’s the agenda. And He says, I want you to stay connected. The consequences or the results of being connected are access with vivid answers to prayer. Did you notice that? When you’re connected to Him and He’s connected to you, your desires start aligning to His desires and you can ask whatever you want, because what You’re going to want is what He wants.
The second thing is fruitfulness: an extraordinary life with extraordinary impact. You just become one of those people. Don’t we all have people like that? Like, “She is the most loving person in the world. He’s like, someday, somehow, someway, I would want to be a dad like a him or a friend like him.” Don’t we all have some people like that? That’s just the life of Christ that has been manifested.
The third thing is that love, it results in heartfelt obedience. When you’re connected, I don’t know about you, there’s a little verse in 1 John and 1 John says, “And His commandments aren’t grievous unto us.” Has anyone ever read that one? I read that for years and I thought, It may not be grievous to you, but they are very grievous to me. I’m just being honest. It’s like, at the time I was single and no sex before marriage? That’s grievous. I’m supposed to be in Your Word? That’s grievous. I’m not very disciplined.
It wasn’t until I experienced the heart of God and understood the goodness of God and really grasped the grace of God that I realized that every single command in Scripture is designed to keep me on a path so that I get the very best – the very best decision, the very best friends, the very best mate, the very best job, the very best future.
All of a sudden I got this word picture of, imagine there’s this beautiful house up on this high mountain and there are all these windy roads, right? And on the roads, there are drop-offs of a thousand feet, but there are guardrails.
And you’re in this car, and this car is your life. And there are a lot of twists and turns and you know what? If you go over the side, you’re in trouble. You know what the guardrails are? God’s commandments. See, they are not grievous.
It’s like, you know what? It’s like: I don’t want you to get AIDS. I don’t want you to have the memories of seven or eight other partners to take into your marriage. It’s like, I don’t want you to experience the loneliness and the emptiness of greed dominating your life and accumulating things only to find out that what you have done is alienated people that really matter. I don’t want you to be old and lonely and have mortgaged relationships and have kids that are grown that don’t even like you. And so I have commands, and if you’ll obey the commands, see, they are not grievous because what they do is they allow you…
Don’t you do this with your kids? Do you give them all kind of grievous commands like, “Don’t touch the stove!” “Don’t run into the street!” “Why are you so restrictive?” Right? “How come I can’t play with a gun, dad?” “You’re just, what kind of parent are you?”
And why? Because you want the very best for your kids. Sometimes, the commands are hard to swallow and so we, by faith, have to say, “Lord, the whole world is telling me that this is really a good thing and You say it’s not. So, I’m going to trust You.” And what you’ll find, as time goes on is that God’s ways are not our ways, but they are way, way better.
Final thing He says is the result of this abiding is intimacy and it results in supernatural joy. Isn’t it interesting that in John 13, He serves them to demonstrate and they experience love? In John 14, He gives them the long-term plan and the intermediate plan, and what to do next. And planning produces hope. They know, You know what? We’re not left alone.
And now the reason He wants them connected is He wants them to experience, not just joy – what does it say? Verse 11, “These things I have written unto you that My joy might be in you and that your joy might be made full.”
See, the joy of the Lord is your strength, but that comes when you’re connected and abiding in Him. And in this passage, He is going to tell us exactly how to do that.
So with that, let’s go from the teaching to the principles.
Principle number one is you can’t impart what you do not possess. We must abide in Him to have His love to give to our mate. Right?
I don’t get up and read a couple chapters or three chapters or a small book or a little paragraph of the Bible in the morning to go, “Wow, man, two chapters a day keeps the devil away. Glad I got that done. Okay, let me think. I’m going to set my watch. I prayed for seven minutes yesterday; I’m going to go for nine today. Someday I’m going to pray for twenty-three minutes.”
Is that how you sit with a best friend? I want to – I open the Bible because God wants me to see myself, He wants to feed my soul, He wants to renew my mind, and are you ready? Conversation is about two things, right? Listening and talking. This is God speaking to you and to me. This is our lips speaking to Him and sitting quietly, very, very often the Holy Spirit will take His Word or something He wants to say to you if you’re open and strongly impress upon you so you can stay connected to Him.
And it can be, sometimes it’s just a little thing like a little prompting. I want you to give so-and-so a call. That’s out of the blue. And you call them and you find out they are really struggling.
Or, in my case, sometimes it’s a little prompting that, Remember yesterday when you guys were doing this and doing that? Yeah. Did you realize you hurt Theresa’s feelings? Huh-uh. You need to apologize to her. Are You sure? Right?
And it’s amazing. When God asks you to do something that you’re uncomfortable that’s very helpful to another person that will embarrass you, there’s a good chance it’s the Holy Spirit, it’s not you. Right? And so, my point is, as you stay connected, as you’re in His Word, as you talk to Him from the heart, as you have some guy friends if you’re a guy, and some girlfriends if you’re a gal, and if you have some couples if you’re a couple that you build into one another’s lives so the Jesus living in them – right? Faith is as much caught as taught.
And as you abide, then you have this capacity, because you’re receiving His love to give it away.