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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
Notice in your notes, the principles. Three principles flow out of this passage for us.
The first one is Jesus meets us where we are. The unspoken lie is somehow, if you can be or do or have something different, then God will accept you somehow, someway. I don’t know where you’re at, I don’t know how broken, how much denial, I don’t know how numb, I don’t know how you’re compensating. But Jesus says, “I want to meet you today just right where you’re at.”
Second thing that comes out of this passage is He gently demands that we face the truth about ourselves. Did you notice He was as gentle and He had a meal and He reminded him, but did you notice, it wasn’t words of condemnation, they were questions of discovery. “Do you love Me? You said you did before, right? Do you love Me?” He kept asking questions so Peter had to go from denial to, “Well,” to, “Yes,” to, “You know what? I’m going to own this happened in my life.” And he faced it.
The third principle that comes out of this is that he affirms, Jesus affirms our value and our worthiness by commissioning us to service. It’s one thing to hear words, it’s, “I want to use you.” He wants to use you. Your horrendous difficulty, experience, betrayal, sin, a lie that you committed, a crime that no one knows about.
I always wish sometimes, especially in church, when people, they look so cleaned up on the outside. And I get to know them all through the week and I would just love, like, their top five sins without their names – have this huge board behind me and, tchoo, and all of our sins go up in multi-colors. Wouldn’t that be cool?
And then maybe have, you know how they do those visuals? Or maybe red would come over and it would be the blood of Christ and the cross would emerge. And it would just go down through and cover them. And then we would look at each other and say, “I guess we don’t have to pretend anymore. I guess we can just be ourselves. I guess we are all now saints, children of God, forgiven with wounds and scars and pain and difficulty and brokenness.”
And what if God actually causes His power to be perfected out of our brokenness and out of our hurt and out of our failure? Because that’s where He takes us and puts us on the mantel of His grace.
Practical implications, and this gets to your marriage is that you can’t forgive your mate until you have received both forgiveness and restoration. There’s something, I don’t know, about the human psyche, when you got unresolved issues in you, when it’s the classic parable, the log in your eye, the speck, right? Man, it is amazing, when we have stuff inside, it is so easy to see in someone else and the person that lives close to you, right? You nag and she does that and he does that and he’s like that. A lot of our anger and a lot of that outward focus is because of the big log that we don’t deal with.
And you would be shocked at what would happen if you received both God’s forgiveness and His restoration of how that would allow you…remember what Jesus said to the disciples? “Freely you have received, freely give.”
But, see, if you haven’t deeply and fully received, you are pretty judgmental. You’re pretty high on the truth and the judgmental instead of the mercy. I don’t know if you pray the Lord’s Prayer, I pray often, when I wake up I kind of go through Psalm 23 before I get out of bed and I ponder what that is. And then I, phrase by phrase, often as I lay there, because I want to before I get bombarded and email or thoughts or problems I want to, “Our Father,” God, You’re my Father today. You’re in heaven, You’re a sovereign God. “Holy,” God, I want Your name to be cherished in my mind and my thoughts. “Give me this day,” what I need. Not just physically, but the daily bread of truth and everything.
“Forgive me of my sins,” please today, “as I forgive those who have trespassed against me.” Lord, please, You know the meetings, You know the places. Guard me and lead me away from temptation. And I pray through that. But what’s one of the big prayers?
You’re going to forgive as you have been forgiven. For some of you, the reason you are so critical and you can’t resolve conflict in your marriage is you’ve got stuff. You are holding on to all kinds of stuff.
You must learn to receive and grant forgiveness as a regular rhythm of your life.
And if you’ll turn on the back of your notes, I want to give you a tool.
Ephesians 4:32. You’ll need to look that up. I highly encourage you to memorize it.
“But be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another also, just as Christ forgave you.” Be kind. Here’s the key. Tenderhearted. Forgiving each other – how? Just as Christ has forgiven you. You know how He forgave you? Exactly the same way He forgave Peter. And until that happens, you will not release and forgive your mate.
Dealing with your own guilt and shame, under practical steps number four, it says, “What do you need to do to fully forgive your mate and put the past behind you?” You can write this under here, is, deal with your own guilt and shame. I don’t know what that looks like, and it might be a tough journey. It many cases, it will require some professional help.
Second is experience God’s forgiveness and restoration. Only you know where you’re at on that.
And then as you do that, freely give what you have received. The reason I don’t want to forgive my wife or anyone is I feel like if I forgive them, I’m letting them off the hook, and I want them to pay for what they did to me.
At the heart of the lack of forgiveness is vengeance. And God says, “‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” That’s the end of Romans 12.
And when you can realize, Oh, ask, Has God given you what you deserve? And you think, Oh no. He has been merciful. Then you can’t turn around and do anything but give mercy, first to your mate and others what they don’t deserve.
The whole book of 1 John is whatever is true vertical, if it’s not true horizontal, then it’s really not true vertically. “You say you love God and hate your neighbor, you’re a liar and the truth isn’t in you.”
Let me give you a very specific game plan to take next steps. Notice where it says, “Is there an issue you need to diffuse?” Because this is unpacking something. So this is a D-E-F-U-S-E. And I’m going to give you just a little acronym.
Because we have talked about the truth, we have talked about the grace, we have talked about you reentering this. I just want to give you a little step-by-step plan that you say, Okay, Lord, this is going to be hard, it’s going to be painful, I’m going to have to address some issues. I’ll need help. I’m going to go through this with my mate, because I’m not going to let either what I have seen or what I have done in the past define me any longer and I will not allow it to ruin my marriage.
And, by the way, as a child of a World War II vet who never dealt with this, I’ve got news for you, man, I was one messed up guy for a long time. And despite as much, I came to Christ as a young adult and as much as I worked really hard and renewed my mind, I have had some very significant conversations, especially with my older boys who said, “Hey, Dad, I’m glad you made a lot of progress, but I’ve got news for you, Dad, you passed on a lot of that stuff. That bad stuff that your dad, that he didn’t deal with, some of your wounds, you passed on to us.” And we have had some very honest conversations.
There’s a lot on the line, people. There’s a lot on the line. No little boxes that get hidden, no more numbness, no more saying, “I’m not going to engage. I’m not going to let my mate in.” “Oh, I don’t want to go to a counselor. I don’t want to deal with this. It’s too painful. I’m just going to bury it.” Stop it.
The God of grace brought you here to reengage in the most painful things in your life and it will be the salve of both truth and looking at things and facing them honestly and receiving grace at the same time that’s the heart behind a new beginning.
Here’s how you do it. “De-fuse.” The “D” stands for: define the issue clearly. I don’t know what yours is. It could have been an event, it could be something you did, it could be a lie, I don’t know what it is. But I’m going to take a wild guess that a lot of you are not thinking, Oh, gosh, I wonder what that is. I’m thinking it’s coming to your mind.
The “E”: enter the pain and hurt. Just decide: no more denial, no more blaming, no more criticizing, no, “I don’t need that help.” “Oh, that psychology, that counseling stuff.” No, no, no, no. I’m going to enter the pain, I’m going to enter the hurt, I’m going to go back to where the coal was burning when it happened. I’m going to go back to when I was called. And I’m going to go right through that, but this time I’m going to go through it with a God who loves me, who has paid for it, who cares for me, and He is going to give me grace.
The “F” is ask for forgiveness if you haven’t. I’m amazed at the number of people I meet who have things and some of it is like, I got thrown into a situation, I feel overwhelming guilty, I needed to do, I had to do what I did. And, yet, I feel overwhelmingly guilty. Well, just take it to God and say, I didn’t sign up for this or this or that. But let’s just get it clear. Just forgive me and cleanse me. David prayed that. He said, “God, forgive me for the stuff that I don’t even know about, even for presumptuous sin or stuff in my heart.”
Just once and for all, draw a line in the sand and ask God to help you and forgive you for anything done or anything done to you or any shame that you feel or any acts or acts of omission.
And then the “U” is understand the process. I think people get very confused about forgiveness, whether it’s forgiving someone else or even, at times, how God forgives us. There are three phases to forgiveness. There are three tenses of the verb.
When I am going to forgive someone, it’s a choice. By the way, it was a choice. Jesus chose to forgive you. It was an event. When He died on the cross, He forgave you. “God spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all.” He forgave you when He died on the cross. “For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever would believe in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.”
1 John says, “He died for us, not only for us, but for false prophets.” He has died for all people of all time. The only question is is will you receive it? So, forgiveness is, say my wife does something, hurts me very deeply, I choose to forgive her. That’s phase one.
Phase two is a process. Forgiving. Some of you have been betrayed or hurt or had horrendous things happen or been abused. And you forgive, but then there’s a flash or there’s a song or there’s an event and it stirs up the emotions and it feels like the scab gets pulled off and the anger flares up and you feel like, “Well, maybe I haven’t forgiven them.” No, no, no, no.
You’re in the process. So, once you choose to forgive, then you start to pray for the person who hurt you. It says, “Bless those,” remember Jesus? What do you do to your enemies? “Bless those who persecute you. Bless and curse not.” Romans 12. “If your enemy hurts you, pray for him.”
All I can tell you is it will release your anger and free you. I have been betrayed most painfully in ministry situations. Won’t go into any of the details, but some of you would understand, when you’re so livid you could do some things to a person because it’s so unfair and so bad that you would regret the rest of your life. I’ve been there.
And I don’t want to forgive. In fact, for a few weeks, I refused to forgive. I’m not letting them off the hook. And then I came to the realization, So, would you like Me to not let you off the hook? No. Well, then read the Lord’s Prayer a little more carefully, Chip. Because if you don’t forgive them, I don’t forgive you. Okay.
So, it’s a choice. By the way, you don’t have to feel it. You choose it. I choose. I would write it down. Here’s the date. Well, then my emotions – forgiveness is an act of the will. But your emotions are a process. And so then I began to pray for this person. Lord, help him see what a jerk he is. Lord, I pray that You would help him to see what he did, how bad it was, and that he would publicly say it and come back and apologize to me.
Those were my early prayers. And the Lord said, Well, that’s really not the blessing that I have in mind. And reluctantly. I’m talking a two-year process. And so, now, I’m, Lord, would You, would You bless his marriage? Okay. Would You bless his marriage? Would You help his children?
He happened to be someone that was in ministry. Lord, oh gosh, this is painful, would You bless the work of his hands? Would You cause good to come to him? And all I can tell you is every time I took the Lord’s Supper, I made a vow, and I don’t make many vows at all before God. I will never take the Lord’s Supper until I go through, again, the process of blessing and calling down Your goodness upon this person who did this to me.
And little by little by little, you know what changed? My emotions. And then it was about a year in, someone came and just was from another town and visited this person and said, “Oh, hey! Did you hear about so-and-so?” and told me something good about him.
So, being the semi-hypocritical pastor that I am, I smiled and said, “Oh, wow! That’s great!” My insides were, “That is such a bummer.” God is answering my prayer! Down deep, I don’t want Him to answer my prayer. I want him to get what he deserves! See, I still had the payback. So I forgive, a choice. Forgiving is the emotional journey.
I kept praying. Every Lord’s Supper. And every time he came to mind or when I would have a, I call it a flashback. I had anger fantasies. I had images of different things I was going to do to embarrass him and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And every time those would come, I would start praying for him. And it was about, right around two years, someone came in again, had visited where he was ministering, and said something good about him and what the blessing of God on his life and how well something was going. And before I could even think, my immediate reaction was joy. I was grateful.
Phase one: forgive. Willful choice. An event on a certain day and time. Phase two: forgiving. A process and a journey. Every time your emotions go up and down, when you feel anger and the things come back up. Phase three: forgiven. You actually can rejoice that the person who hurt you is doing well.
Because ultimately, isn’t that what God wants for everyone? Restoration. Some of you need to remember that’s how it works with you. So, you have asked God to forgive you and you have emotional times where you feel overwhelmed and guilty and you still struggle. Guess what, then you just reverse it.
And so, God, thank You. Thank You that You forgive me. Thank You as far as the east is from the west, I may be bringing this up in my mind, but it’s not in Your mind. God…
And you, so, gratitude and you pray and you ask. And so, you begin to do for yourself exactly what we do with someone who had hurt you.
And so “D” is: define it clearly. “E” is: enter the pain and the hurt. “F” is: ask forgiveness. “F” is just forgive. “U” is understand the process. And then now we shift to our horizontal relationships. The “S” is: set things right between you.
Okay, now this was a lot of personal work up to now. Some of you have issues in your relationship that are unresolved and you have not forgiven your husband or you have not forgiven your mate. Okay? Now, a lot of it has to do with all this, but here’s the “S”. Set things right between you.
Own your responsibility. If I told you how many times in my mind, yes, we have a disagreement, we have a problem, but it’s ninety percent Theresa’s fault and ten percent mine. And when she changes, then things will be fine.
There’s a lot of things, right? Matthew 5:23 and 24 says, “If therefore you come before the altar to give your offering and there remember your brother has something against you, leave your offering at the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then return and make your offering.”
In other words, being right is far less important than a right relationship. If you are convinced that it’s ninety percent his fault and ten percent yours, and you know there’s a conflict, you go and own your ten percent. “Honey, I am so sorry that when you did this, I responded in this way.”
You go own your ten percent because it causes the beginning to start. So you own your part. And then are you ready? This is a bit odd. Confess. These are – “I was wrong.” When was the last time your mate heard that? I want to own my part; I was wrong.
And the third phase, will you forgive me? And here’s the response. The response is not your eyes going to the left or the right, your eyes looking down, your eyes wandering. Here’s the response. You look them right in the eye and you say, “Yes. I forgive you.” And it’s a choice. And it may take your emotions a while to process that.
But you set things right. You own your responsibility. You confess, “I was wrong.” You ask for forgiveness.
And then the “E” is: establish a specific game plan of action to move forward. Okay.
One of the other questions was, it just described how Theresa and I spent the first few years of our marriage. Big disagreement, you have an argument, then you don’t say anything for two or three or four days. And then you just pretend it didn’t happen. And then you move on. And you know what you do? You just plant little seeds and you push them down into your soul.
And it builds what is called a root of bitterness. And then you don’t say anything, but the last thing in the world you ever want to do is make love with that person because your heart is getting hard. And you go through the motions, but your emotions, the tenderness, the connection, the joy.
Because you know what? Think of thin, little layers. Unresolved conflict. Thin little layer of resentment. Thin little layer. Thin little layer. Thin little layer. Thin little layer. You don’t forgive, you don’t set things right. Thin little layer. You know what it’s called? Calcification.
And then, pretty soon, Jesus said there’s only – you know there’s only one reason why people get a divorce, according to Jesus? Moses gave the certificate of divorce because of the hardness of your heart.
This topic on the front of your notes, if you turn it over, it says, “Four biblical practices great marriages have in common.” And we have talked about serving and planning, we talked about connecting. Forgiving and notice why. It’s restoring your peace. You don’t have peace when there’s unresolved conflict in your heart towards your mate, and you don’t have peace when there is unresolved conflict with you and God, and you don’t have peace when you have unresolved conflict in your own life.
And so, all those things come together – great marriages practice forgiving in a rhythm. You practice it with you and your Father, you practice it in your own journey in your own heart and life, and you practice it with your mate.
I’d like you to think about, just in your marriage relationship, is there anything that you need to make right with your mate? Just pause quietly. And if not, great. Just say, Lord, is there anything I just need to tell her, or, tell him, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” It could be little, it could be big. If it’s a super heavy, heavy thing, get some counsel before you talk with your mate. Dropping bombs without a game plan is not a good plan.
Lord, thank You that You will heal everything in our hearts personally and in our marriages. Lord, together, we covenant before You to have marriages that reflect Jesus and the Church. We are asking You now for the courage to face hard things. We ask for the faith to believe that You love us as much as You do. And, God, we ask for the grace to treat our mates the way that You have treated us.