Broadcast

God’s Dream for Your Marriage

From the series Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage

Would you like your marriage to be better, more fulfilling, more intimate? The truth is, God designed marriage to be the most important and fulfilling human relationship on earth, but for many of us we can’t figure out what went wrong or how to fix it. Join Chip as he begins this series to discover God’s design for making your marriage the best it can be.

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Message Transcript

We are going to begin a journey together. And the journey is called Experiencing God’s Dream for Your Marriage. It’s not just that God has a dream. It’s about experiencing it.

Some people don’t have any idea how God designed marriage; other people have a very clear idea. But what they know about marriage in their head and what they’re experiencing in their heart and their relationship, it just doesn’t add up.

And one of the questions I’d like to start with, in this first session, we’re going to spend six sessions together, is why do our dreams about marriage so often end in nightmares? I mean, we all have dreams. No one married someone thinking, This probably isn’t going to work out very well, right?

And so, God has a dream. And He plants it in our heart because we all have these things that we say: That’s what I want it to be like. And what I want to talk to you about is how you can experience God’s dream for your marriage.

I’ve learned there are seasons and God gives grace through each season. And there are things you got to work on, and until Jesus comes or you die, there are always going to be areas.

You’re never going to be fully satisfied. The idea that there’s this perfect person and perfect marriage and that you’re totally fulfilled and never have a problem is a lie from the pit of hell.

And as Francis Schaffer once said, “Sometimes the greatest deterrent to a very good marriage is believing that you ought to have a perfect one.”

And so, I want to encourage you to start looking at what you do have instead of complaining in your heart and in your mind about what you don’t have. And then go to work together to begin to experience what God wants to give you. So are you ready to dig in? Okay, let’s go for it.

You’ll notice there is a picture. And the picture is that equilateral triangle. It has God at the top, on one corner we have man, on the other corner we have woman. And then, you’ll notice there are arrows that go up toward God. God created marriage. And then you’ll notice there are arrows that go toward one another. This is the blueprint that God has for marriage.

He gives it to us in Genesis chapter 1. If you have your Bible with you, open to chapter 1 and I just want to read a few verses and then I want to just overlay that over this blueprint so you get a picture from God’s perspective.

As you open your Bibles, you remember that Genesis chapter 1 is like the wide-angle lens of creation. And God goes, Whoo. “Here it is.” And then after He gives us chapter 1, He doesn’t give us another story of creation, He takes that lens and says, Now, I gave you the big picture of what I have created. Now with the zoom-in lens, let Me tell you specifically how it happened.

So, you know the story. There was darkness and it hovered over the earth and God spoke and, “Let there be light,” and all of creation occurred. And then skip down to verse 26 when He gets at the pinnacle of creation.

He says, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image.’” The idea of mankind. “According to Our likeness.” And then notice, there’s this dream. “‘Let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle in all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ And God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female He created them.

“And God blessed them and He said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves.”
And so, first of all, I just want you to see: God is the author of marriage. God has a plan. He has a blueprint. It’s not just haphazard, it’s not just hormones, it’s not just animal instinct. God has made us in His image – male and female – and He has a plan for us to come together. And He has a plan for us together to have purposes on the earth.

Now, skip over to chapter 2 because then He begins to describe specifically the reason and how it actually occurred.

In verse 18 we pick it up, “Then the Lord God said” – Adam has experienced creation and

he’s been given a little job assignment and he’s been told about how he should work and in the wisdom of God, God wants him to name these animals and Adam is the smartest man who’s ever lived at this point. There’s never been sin, right?

And God has this little thing that happens and two of these animals go by and then two of those animals go by and two of those animals go by. Names them, names them, names them, names them.

And since he’s so very smart, he makes this deduction: two of them, two of them, two of them, two of them, two of them, two of them, one of me. Right? See, God wanted to create need. God wanted Adam to know that there’s something missing.

Pick it up in verse 18 where God tells us one of the primary purposes of marriage. “Then the Lord said, ‘It’s not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him.’”

By the way, that word helper is not a low word. That’s not like a derogatory, second-class. This same word means a “corresponding part.” And this Hebrew word, actually, is used of God in the Psalms of being the helper of His people.

So it’s about God doing something that will meet the deepest needs of man and by contrast, correspondingly, will meet the deepest needs of woman.

“And out of the ground the Lord brought forth every beast of the earth and bird of the sky. And he brought them to man to see what he would call them and whatever the man called them, the living creature was its name.

“And the man gave the names to the cattle and to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field. But for Adam there was not a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man and he slept. And he took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. And the Lord God fashioned. And he took out the rib, closes it up, and the rib which he had taken from man and he created Eve and he brought her to the man.”

God brought the woman to the man. And then the man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. And she shall be called ‘woman’ because she was taken out of man.”
And as one Hebrew scholar said, it’s hard to translate this response but it’s kind of like, “Wow-ee!” So it’s kind of hard to get that through. This is not like he’s, this woman comes and he has had this experience and he’s living in this perfect environment and the woman comes. And this is not like Adam going, “[Yawn] Oh man, that was a pretty good nap. It felt pretty good. Oh, hi, who are you? Not bad.”

This is not – it was like “Whoa! Whoa, ho, ho ho! Thank you!” I mean it was like something kinetic inside of him said, “Tchoo, tchoo, tchoo, tchoo, tchoo. Oh wow.”

He was now experiencing what he observed with the animals but at levels beyond anything they could. Because he’s made in the image of God. He has a mind, a will, and emotions. He can feel; he can think and create.

And then notice, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were unashamed.”

Notice, first and foremost, that God created man and He created woman first for Himself. And that’s the arrow. So, He creates the equilateral triangle. God created marriage. Okay? Second, those lines go toward one another. God desired a special relationship. In the middle of your triangle write the word “oneness,” write the word “oneness,” and underneath of it, write Genesis 2:24.

It is the pivotal passage in all of the Bible concerning marriage. It happens here. Jesus will quote it in Matthew 5; Matthew 19. The apostle Paul will quote it when he talks about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7. This will be quoted later when he talks about: even when a man comes and connects to a prostitute in 1 Corinthians. This is going to be the core passage on marriage. God’s desire is for oneness.

Here’s all I want you to know. The whole world is going to tell you there’s someone out there and they look different or they have this or they own that or they’ll provide that. God says: I created marriage and I made you for oneness. But the route to oneness is not out there. The route to oneness isn’t even here. The route to oneness first starts with Me. And the greatest thing you’ll ever do in your marriage is walk with God.

See, what you need in your marriage is the ability – are you ready for this? To not need your mate. See, if I demand, Theresa, come through for me. Theresa, come through for me. I put all this pressure on her. When you put pressure on people what do they do? They feel overwhelmed. They know they’re inadequate and so they run away.

And so, God says, What I want you to know is you need to find your sufficiency in me so you can be a giver in the relationship and when you’re a giver in the relationship that person responds. And you have this growing closer, closer, closer.

And notice in what areas: notice, spiritually first.

God wants us to have this unconditional love. This isn’t ooey-gooey love. This isn’t Hollywood love. This isn’t romance novel love. This isn’t feeling love. God’s first priority is that you’re fellow worshippers.

Agape love – God’s plan is you are fellow worshippers. First and foremost, as a man and a woman, you come before God together and you worship Him in spirit and in truth. And that is why praying together has such a powerful impact in a marriage.

Then, God has made you, not only we are in His image, right? Spiritual beings: body, soul, and spirit. Your soul is your mind, will, and emotions.

And that’s Phileo love. That’s the the Greek word for “best friends.”

He wants you to have fun. He wants you to enjoy one another. He wants that person that you live with not to be just someone who cooks over here or who you go to activities over here, or you’re both juggling jobs and having kids.

He wants you to be fellow worshippers and he wants you to be best friends. See, that’s oneness of spirit, oneness of soul. And, by the way, He wants you to be passionate lovers. That’s oneness of body. That’s eros love.

And by the way, for some of you in your backgrounds, one out of four ladies in the United States has been sexually abused. I hope that statistic is absolutely wrong, but I don’t have any reason not to believe it.

There are an awful lot of Christians that when this idea of eros or sex comes up, they divorce it from all the rest.

This is how God created us. He created us to have spiritual unity: fellow worshippers. He created us to have soul unity: best friends. And, He created us to have physical unity to be passionate lovers.

Now, here’s the deal. All three of those things go together or they don’t go together. Let me give you that again because some of you are thinking, “I think I got that.” No, you sort of got it.

All three of those things go together or they don’t go together. And if we interviewed all the women, this isn’t true. There’s a wide variety between men and women, but if we interviewed all the women, statistically; and all the men, statistically; the men would come out on: “What I need more in my marriage is a lot more eros.”

And the average woman would say, “What I need a lot more in my marriage is a lot more spiritual leadership and best-friendness.”

And so, what we tend to do is play the game where: when I start getting this, I’ll start giving that. When you start giving this, I’ll start giving you that.” And it’s kind of like the classic stand-off.

This is God’s blueprint. His dream and design for you and for me is that we would be one. One of body. One of soul. One of spirit. Do you get it?

Now, let’s look at His game plan. How does it work? How do you get there? How in the world can you become one spiritually, emotionally, physically? This is God’s game plan or the process.

Verse 24 says, “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and his mother, shall cleave to his wife, and shall become one flesh.”
I want you to circle the word “leave” in your notes. I want you to circle the word “cleave” in your notes, and I want you to circle the phrase “become one flesh.”

Notice the first phrase is: “for this cause.” It’s a response to God. It’s obedience. And all I want to say here is that marriage is God’s idea, and marriage and living together are not the same thing. Marriage is a volitional, legal, public, and spiritual commitment to another person. And living together is not the same thing. Notice now then, he says, “A man shall leave his father and a mother.” The first is a response to God. We say marriage, it’s God’s way, let’s do it God’s way.

Our response to parents is independence. There has to be an emotional and financial detachment from parents.

There’s no lack of respect. They’re still your mother and your father. You honor them. But the relationship changes.

And by the way, many a marriage does not work because emotional and financial detachment hasn’t occurred. You’ve got to break the former in order to connect with the new.

Because if you don’t leave financially, there’s always strings and manipulation. And if you don’t leave emotionally, then your heart isn’t free to connect with your mate.

And she said, “I was married about six months and it was going really well. And then we had our first knockdown, drag out, up all night, vein popping, eyes bulging, screaming at one another: ‘I can’t believe I married you! I can’t believe I married you!’ We started talking about our heritage and our parents and our backgrounds and I was in tears. And he slammed the door. And finally, in my nightgown, I got in my nightgown and my robe, I got in my car and I drove to my mother’s”

She tells the story, it’s great.

And, she says, “It’s like six a.m. It was about a forty-five minute drive and the whole drive, just tears flowing down my face and how did I marry this guy? It’s the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. It’s the biggest fight. I can’t believe it.”

And she goes, “I rang the doorbell. I know my mom’s an early riser and then I knock on it and where is she?”

And you’ve got to picture this. She said, “It was one of those doors where they have the little curtains where you can pull the curtains and see who it is?” And so she says, “She heard the knock and she pulled the curtains and she looked at me. Then she put them back.”
And she said, “‘Mom! Mom! Open the door!’ Then she pulled the curtains almost like, I want to make sure it’s my daughter and looked again. And then she opens the door but she put her foot in it. And she leaned out, she said, ‘Honey? Did you have a fight with your husband?’ Yes! And you can’t believe what a…”

She said, “Honey, go home and make it right.” And she shut the door and locked it and went upstairs.

And that lady said, “My mom gave me the greatest gift in the first six months of our marriage we ever received.”

Because, see, when you get wounded and you get hurt, it’s easy to run back to mom or run back and to dad to make them your emotional base of how you resolve issues and hurts and pains and conflicts.

And so, there has got to be emotional and financial detachment. And I would say to some of you that are a little bit older and you have, like I have, I have grown kids that are married, be careful with your money. Don’t help them too much.

When you look back on your life, you think of – those, you talk to people who have been married twenty-five, thirty-five years, “Boy, those early years, they were tough. They were difficult,

but that’s what made us.” And so, what do you want to do?

You want to relieve all that pressure from – “Oh, here’s a house. We’ll give you the down payment for this. We’ll take care of this. Oh, your car is broken? We’ll repair it.”

And you have parents now, because we’re more affluent than ever before coming in and solving problems for their kids that were God-given and designed for them to learn to trust and come together.

Does that mean you never help? Absolutely not. It means when you give there’s no strings and you be very careful what you give and how much. Because if you create any dependency or you put a block between them and their mate, you destroy.

Second, He says, after leaving, “And shall cleave to his wife.” That’s a strong word. This is an idea, in the old days when I was a kid, in fact, I found it in the hardware store still, it’s called epoxy. Have you seen it? And it’s the little tube that has an orange cap and then the little tube that has a blue cap.

And if you really want to glue something is you get a little piece of cardboard and you pour a little of the blue and a little of the orange and then you take a toothpick and you stir it around. And then this chemical bonding occurs that you basically realize you got thirty seconds to get it on that stuff it or it hardens. And then it gets on your finger and it’s there for thirty years. Right? That’s this word!

This is you leave and then you bond. You cleave. Where? Every level. It is an intermeshing of one another at a deep, deep level physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.

It’s your souls connected. You leave and you cleave. And the implications of cleaving is, our response to our spouse: My allegiance and loyalty to them and them first. Not the kids, not the job, not our parents. It’s recognition of my need for my spouse. “I need you.”

Sometimes we never just verbalize that. “I need you.” And some of us that try really hard in our marriage – the first five years or so, I tried to be such a super husband.

I’ll never forget the time: we were out of money. I’m in seminary. I’ve done everything I can. I was selling insurance at the time and the guy failed his physical. I have got no money. I’ve got ten dollars in my checking account; I’ve got three kids; I’m working full-time; I’m going to school full-time. And I’m sitting at the kitchen table and I’m working until about midnight every night and leaving at four o’clock to study Greek for two hours. So, after about two and a half years of four hours of sleep, I don’t care who you are, you look like an idiot.

And my emotions were frayed and I’ll never forget sitting at the kitchen table and I just broke. And as a man, most of you understand, I bawled like a baby. And I’m just crying and I’m thinking, “Oh my. Oh my. My wife’s going to think she married a weenie. My wife’s going to think, you know…” But, I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

And a day or two later when you go out for coffee and you talk? And so, Theresa says, “Chip? You know in the kitchen?” And I said, “Yeah.” And I felt kind of ashamed.

She goes, “In this first five years of our marriage, I have never felt closer to you than when you were crying at the kitchen table, and I put my hand on your shoulder and I prayed for you.”
You know what she was saying? You’ve been trying to be such a superstar husband; it’s nice to see you have need. It’s nice to know I bring something that you desperately needed.

And it can be the man or it can be the woman but some of us that work so hard and try so hard, we never let the person know: I need you.

See, that’s what it means to cleave. It means decisions are made – not I do my thing; you do your thing. Let’s balance our separate accounts. It’s us in focus and it requires a death blow to the self.

The only way you cleave is that’s why God makes marriage first in relationship with Him and then with one another. For me to cleave to you, then I’ve got to give up some of that: my way. My time. My opinions. And I’ve got to ask what’s best for us. What do we do? Do you understand?

This is the process. And you know what? All the rest of your life, progressively leaving. There’s a point in time you do it – progressively leaving. Cleaving. And then notice there’s the break, there’s the bond, and then now, the blend. You shall become one flesh.

Notice the verb. It’s a process. This is a response to life’s pressures and demands. This is putting your relationship ahead of others and other things.

As you get married, this becoming one flesh means: your relationship matters more.

Ladies, take this. Lean back, please. Put your pencil right here. Lean back. Those that have kids, this means your marriage matters more than your kids. And guys, you can lean forward.

This means your marriage matters more than your work and your hobbies and who’s playing and who’s winning and how your fantasy team is doing.

You’ve got to become one flesh, it means you take time and prioritize – what? Time for spiritual oneness to occur; time for soul oneness to occur and time for physical oneness to occur.

And you, when you put down your schedule and you see how you’re going to do life, you say: the greatest thing for our kids is a great marriage so we need to work on us first.

And the greatest thing for my job is the kind of guy that shows up with his tank full in line with God and in line with his wife. And after that, enjoy the hobbies and have the fun.

But under pressure, what we tend to do is instead of becoming one flesh, we learn to manipulate and we come to a legitimate stand-off of: I’m going to get this close but the next steps will be too painful.

Let’s just, sort of, live together, say we love one another, have little times like this, but let’s not talk about the finances because that always brings problems.

Heaven forbid, let’s not talk about sex. Let’s just argue at Thanksgiving and at Christmas about whether we go to your parents’ house or my parents’ house. Let’s…

And so, what we have is people that get in these rhythms that can last ten, fifteen years where you just co-exist. It’s pretty decent.

But we’re talking about God’s dream for your marriage, not what can work for ten or fifteen or twenty years. Because by the way, you play that out, the frustration level keeps growing, doesn’t it?
It keeps growing, keeps growing, keeps growing. There’s a reason why when those kids are out of the house, the affairs skyrocket.

Everyone’s getting a blonde, a red sports car, and going to Curves. All right? The surgery over here and the younger woman over here and everyone is trying to figure out how to turn back the clock twenty years because some of those unresolved issues.

And I’m just telling you, by the way, the next round is usually more painful than the first. The third round is far more painful than the second.

And this is – hear God’s heart. I love you. I care for you. There are seasons that are tough. They’re painful. You don’t want to go through them. I want to help you. Okay?

So, we’ve got the blueprint. It’s a triangle. God created marriage; the goal is oneness. The oneness occurs as we walk with God and learn to have intimacy with one another. The process to develop that is three part. One, we obey God and how we do it is we leave, we cleave, and then we become one flesh.

And then He says there’s a reward. Notice verse 25. 25 says, “And the man and his wife were both naked and they were unashamed.” Spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and physically. I’m going to tell you, I long for and I’ve had tastes of it and on this side of heaven I’ll only have taste, but I want deeper and deeper and more tastes. I  want to look into another human being’s eyes who sees my good, who sees my bad, and even sees my ugly and look into their eyes and see: I love you. I’m for you. I appreciate you. And I accept you just the way you are. And that’s what I’ve experienced with Theresa.

Have we had fights? Absolutely. Disagreements? Unbelievable. Seasons where it’s been up? Oh, this is great, I guess this is what it’s like. Five months later, seasons where it’s down. Man, how do you get through this? That’s normal.

But God’s reward is intimacy or oneness. Those times where your heart wants to explode because who you are has been accepted and you know that it doesn’t measure up. That person becomes an agent of grace and looks at the ugliness in your life and the selfishness in your life and the hurts in your life and expresses the love and the compassion of God.

And it happens at the spiritual and the emotional and the physical level and we get tastes of it this side of heaven and that’s God’s reward in marriage. He wants you to experience it.

Just don’t get thinking you’re going to get that 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s those kind of expectations that will thwart real intimacy.

Because intimacy means – what? Iron is going to sharpen iron and as two people move closer and closer together, the conflict increases, not decreases. So, what we tend to do is pull apart and just live like this.

Because the conflicts increases – why? You’re invading her space! She’s invading your space. When my wife starts invading my space, I don’t like it.

But the little clue is, down deep in my heart I’m desperately insecure because of the fall. And down deep in your heart, you’re desperately insecure.

And even to the woman that I’ve spent almost three decades with, there is a deep-seated fear that if she really saw all of who I really am, she’d reject me. And it is that fear that causes me to play games and put up barriers so she doesn’t get too close, but those protective walls also keep her love out.

And so, let’s do a quick, little intimacy test. I want you to do this little test and I want you to do it just saying to yourself, we’re doing a little evaluation, we’re going to look at some sensitive areas, I’m going to be perfectly honest. By the way, you can put your hand over it so your mate doesn’t see it because you may want to process this later. That’s okay. All right?

And I’m going to give you three questions in each area, and let’s see, it says here a five means that you strongly agree; a one represents strong disagreement. And my personal rule is no threes. Okay?

Because I’ve done this before with Theresa. I gave a three, three. Three means: I don’t want to admit I think it’s going really good and I don’t want to admit it’s really going bad. So, twos, fours, ones, and fives. Start your engines.

Evidence of Spiritual Intimacy: Question one: My spouse and I often tend to agree in many of the important issues concerning values and beliefs. Whatever comes to your mind. Just put…don’t, “Oh, let me think. Do we really…?” Just your initial reaction. One, two, or a four and a five?

We seem to practice honest confession followed by genuine forgiveness when one of us has hurt the other. Strongly do that? That’s pretty much it, or not?

Third: As a couple, our spiritual closeness through prayer or sharing Scripture insights is quite good. Strongly agree? Disagree?

Evidence of Emotional Intimacy: I remember special times when my spouse and I shared strong emotions like grief, sadness, joy, or brokenness.

Next: We seem to be good at giving one another undivided attention when listening or talking. Does your mate give you undivided attention? You agree with that, or disagree?

Next: Verbalizing my needs and desires concerning our relationship to my spouse would be normal for me. I mean, you feel comfortable. It’s just normal. Hey, this is what I have needs. I have struggles in these areas. Is that normal or I’m fearful? We don’t do that.

Evidence of physical intimacy: We seem to prioritize frequent times of quality talking and having dates together. Strongly agree? Strongly disagree?

I’m comfortable communicating my sexual desires and preferences to my spouse. Is that, like, an open area that you can talk about or kind of uncomfortable?

Third: I’m very satisfied with my spouse’s sensitivity in meeting my sexual needs. And by the way, it’s interesting. With all the developments we’ve had of sexual freedom and openness and what’s happened on TV and cable,

I’ve done a number of these kind of conferences with my wife and I will tell you,

if you’re thinking, Gosh, I don’t really want to talk or bring this up.

In Christian circles, this is one of the biggest issues and biggest needs I’ve ever seen.

Usually, my wife and I do a deal where she does about an hour and a half with the women and I do about an hour and half with the men and we just, kind of, talk real straight.

And I know when she gets done with that session I’m not going to see her until supper because she’s going to have women lined up for about three or four hours to talk about: part of it’s baggage, part of it’s struggles, part of it’s uncomfortable, part of it’s a warped view of sex.

We had a couple come up to us. And he was a gray-haired gentleman, he looked to be in his seventies. And we had done this. And you know when you’re walking in a room like this, He grabs my arm like this. He goes, “Could I just talk to you for a second?” And I said, “Yeah.” And I’m sitting here. He goes, “No, over here.”
I’m thinking I don’t know what we’re going to talk about. And he had this big grin on his face. And he said, “I’m a leader in my church and I’ve walked faithfully with the Lord for over fifty years. I’ve been married forty-two or forty-four, I can’t remember.”

And he said, “You know those assignments you gave? And talking and all the rest?” He said, “We come from a different era and we came because we wanted to bring some young couples. And we thought, Forty-four years - what are we going to learn?”

He said, “We talked about things we’ve never talked about in forty-four years about meeting one another’s sexual needs because it was just, kind of, taboo. And those little questions helped us to get something and we realized that is as spiritual as the emotional, the mind, or the heart. And he said, “I’ve just got to tell you, it’s really been a neat weekend.”

God has a blueprint. It’s the triangle from Genesis. He has a process. Leave, cleave, and become one flesh. He has a reward. It’s going to take a journey and a lot of hard work and tons of grace. But He wants you to have oneness and intimacy in all three of these areas.

And then, finally, He has a purpose. And I’ll ask you just to just to fill these in. They’re very obvious, but I want you to know it’s just more than about you.

Purpose number one for marriage is – for impact – is physical reproduction and pleasure. Genesis 1:26, 28 says, “Be fruitful and multiply.” And then, if you’re a little uncomfortable about sex, read Proverbs 5. This is right out there.

He says to the man. Solomon, in all of his wisdom, “Don’t let your fountains go out on the street. Let your wife’s breasts satisfy you.” God wants marriage to have sexual pleasure. So, physical reproduction and pleasure.

The second is relational intimacy. It’s not good for a man to be alone. It’s not good for a woman to be alone. God gives the gift of celibacy to some. For the rest, he has a partner.

And third, spiritual impact. I believe, with all my heart, if we’re going to revolutionize the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, what we need to do is live out these kind of marriages in a way where people see the gospel in how we treat one another.

I was living in Texas and there was a young, very beautiful gal who went through a very messy divorce followed by a live-in boyfriend that didn’t work out, followed by she hated men.

And we never got to know her all that well because she wasn’t home very often. But we were cutting the grass and the little kids and we’re playing basketball in the driveway.

We’re, just sort of the little family. And as many of you know our background. Theresa came from a pretty rough childhood and I didn’t grow up as a Christian.

So, we’re kind of like two pagans reading the Bible and trying to learn to have this kind of marriage with all the normal ups and downs and kids and struggles.

And I remember the moving van came. And she was leaving after being next door for five, six, seven years. And we never really got to know her. And invited her over a couple times but still was pretty surfacy.

And we had this window of just, it was really neat. And we said, “Well gosh. We’re sorry you’re leaving and we wish we could have gotten to know you better.” And she goes, “Well you kind of know,” because we knew two of the men that she had been involved with and how it all happened. And she goes, “Well, you kind of know my story, don’t you?” I said, “Yeah.” She goes, “Well I don’t think I ever want to get married ever again. I think men are rotten.” I said, “Well, you know…”

I didn’t know what to say so I kind of change the subject or something. What do you say? “Yeah! They’re rotten!” I didn’t know what to say. So, I kind of, “Oh, well…I’m sorry,” and things like that.

And then she said something that was really powerful. She said, “But if I ever decided or ever wanted to get married, I’d like to have one like you and your wife have.” I said, “What?” I mean, it’s not like we had these deep talks.

She goes, “When I see how you guys treat one another and I see you out in the yard with your kids and as I hear what happens.” Because the houses were real close – you didn’t need radar.

And I thought to myself – she goes, “My only hope, if I’m going to do any relationship again, is that I guess people that really love God and are committed to it have the best chance of making it work.”

And I want you to know that your marriage is more than physical pleasure or having kids or even solving your loneliness problem. But when you start thinking about working on your marriage and wanting to experience God’s dream, it may be the most powerful testimony. You need to sign up for that so that your marriage life reflects the relationship of Jesus and His Church.

He could have decided on any number of metaphors to describe his relationship with the Church. But, what did He talk about? The bride and the bridegroom.

And other than the body of Christ living out the truth, I know nothing more powerful in all the world that will say Jesus is in fact God, that He died for our sins, that He rose from the dead, and there’s hope than when He redeems broken people like us, and takes people whose marriages haven’t worked here and have struggled here and brings them together and makes it new.

He is a Redeemer. He is a Lover of our souls and no marriage is beyond hope. You may be here thinking, we’re fifteen feet in the hole. Well, God has a sixteen-foot rope to give you. Well, we’re a thousand feet in the hole. Well He’s got a thousand-and-one-foot rope to lower down. That’s what grace is. Where sin abounds, grace super abounds.

No one is beyond hope. Will it take a lot of work? Will it take a real commitment? Absolutely, but there’s a lot at stake.
Second, He says, after leaving, “And shall cleave to his wife.” That’s a strong word.

This is you leave and then you bond. You cleave. Where? Every level. It is an intermeshing of one another at a deep, deep level physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.

It’s your souls connected. You leave and you cleave. And the implications of cleaving is, our response to our spouse: My allegiance and loyalty to them and them first. Not the kids, not the job, not our parents. It’s recognition of my need for my spouse. “I need you.”

Sometimes we never just verbalize that. “I need you.” And some of us that try really hard in our marriage – the first five years or so, I tried to be such a super husband.

I’ll never forget the time: we were out of money. I’m in seminary. I’ve done everything I can. I was selling insurance at the time and the guy failed his physical. I have got no money. I’ve got ten dollars in my checking account; I’ve got three kids; I’m working full-time; I’m going to school full-time. And I’m sitting at the kitchen table and I’m working until about midnight every night and leaving at four o’clock to study Greek for two hours. So, after about two and a half years of four hours of sleep, I don’t care who you are, you look like an idiot.

And my emotions were frayed and I’ll never forget sitting at the kitchen table and I just broke. And as a man, most of you understand, I bawled like a baby. And I’m just crying and I’m thinking, “Oh my. Oh my. My wife’s going to think she married a weenie. My wife’s going to think, you know…” But, I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

And a day or two later when you go out for coffee and you talk? And so, Theresa says, “Chip? You know in the kitchen?” And I said, “Yeah.” And I felt kind of ashamed.

She goes, “In this first five years of our marriage, I have never felt closer to you than when you were crying at the kitchen table, and I put my hand on your shoulder and I prayed for you.”
You know what she was saying? You’ve been trying to be such a superstar husband; it’s nice to see you have need. It’s nice to know I bring something that you desperately needed.

And it can be the man or it can be the woman but some of us that work so hard and try so hard, we never let the person know: I need you.

See, that’s what it means to cleave. It means decisions are made – not I do my thing; you do your thing. Let’s balance our separate accounts. It’s us in focus and it requires a death blow to the self.

The only way you cleave is that’s why God makes marriage first in relationship with Him and then with one another. For me to cleave to you, then I’ve got to give up some of that: my way. My time. My opinions. And I’ve got to ask what’s best for us. What do we do? Do you understand?

This is the process. And you know what? All the rest of your life, progressively leaving. There’s a point in time you do it – progressively leaving. Cleaving. And then notice there’s the break, there’s the bond, and then now, the blend. You shall become one flesh.

Notice the verb. It’s a process. This is a response to life’s pressures and demands. This is putting your relationship ahead of others and other things.

As you get married, this becoming one flesh means: your relationship matters more.

Ladies, take this. Lean back, please. Put your pencil right here. Lean back. Those that have kids, this means your marriage matters more than your kids. And guys, you can lean forward.

This means your marriage matters more than your work and your hobbies and who’s playing and who’s winning and how your fantasy team is doing.

You’ve got to become one flesh, it means you take time and prioritize – what? Time for spiritual oneness to occur; time for soul oneness to occur and time for physical oneness to occur.

And you, when you put down your schedule and you see how you’re going to do life, you say: the greatest thing for our kids is a great marriage so we need to work on us first.

And the greatest thing for my job is the kind of guy that shows up with his tank full in line with God and in line with his wife. And after that, enjoy the hobbies and have the fun.

But under pressure, what we tend to do is instead of becoming one flesh, we learn to manipulate and we come to a legitimate stand-off of: I’m going to get this close but the next steps will be too painful.

Let’s just, sort of, live together, say we love one another, have little times like this, but let’s not talk about the finances because that always brings problems.

Heaven forbid, let’s not talk about sex. Let’s just argue at Thanksgiving and at Christmas about whether we go to your parents’ house or my parents’ house. Let’s…

And so, what we have is people that get in these rhythms that can last ten, fifteen years where you just co-exist. It’s pretty decent.

But we’re talking about God’s dream for your marriage, not what can work for ten or fifteen or twenty years. Because by the way, you play that out, the frustration level keeps growing, doesn’t it?
It keeps growing, keeps growing, keeps growing. There’s a reason why when those kids are out of the house, the affairs skyrocket.

Everyone’s getting a blonde, a red sports car, and going to Curves. All right? The surgery over here and the younger woman over here and everyone is trying to figure out how to turn back the clock twenty years because some of those unresolved issues.

And I’m just telling you, by the way, the next round is usually more painful than the first. The third round is far more painful than the second.

And this is – hear God’s heart. I love you. I care for you. There are seasons that are tough. They’re painful. You don’t want to go through them. I want to help you. Okay?

So, we’ve got the blueprint. It’s a triangle. God created marriage; the goal is oneness. The oneness occurs as we walk with God and learn to have intimacy with one another. The process to develop that is three part. One, we obey God and how we do it is we leave, we cleave, and then we become one flesh.

And then He says there’s a reward. Notice verse 25. 25 says, “And the man and his wife were both naked and they were unashamed.” Spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and physically. I’m going to tell you, I long for and I’ve had tastes of it and on this side of heaven I’ll only have taste, but I want deeper and deeper and more tastes. I  want to look into another human being’s eyes who sees my good, who sees my bad, and even sees my ugly and look into their eyes and see: I love you. I’m for you. I appreciate you. And I accept you just the way you are. And that’s what I’ve experienced with Theresa.

Have we had fights? Absolutely. Disagreements? Unbelievable. Seasons where it’s been up? Oh, this is great, I guess this is what it’s like. Five months later, seasons where it’s down. Man, how do you get through this? That’s normal.

But God’s reward is intimacy or oneness. Those times where your heart wants to explode because who you are has been accepted and you know that it doesn’t measure up. That person becomes an agent of grace and looks at the ugliness in your life and the selfishness in your life and the hurts in your life and expresses the love and the compassion of God.

And it happens at the spiritual and the emotional and the physical level and we get tastes of it this side of heaven and that’s God’s reward in marriage. He wants you to experience it.

Just don’t get thinking you’re going to get that 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s those kind of expectations that will thwart real intimacy.

Because intimacy means – what? Iron is going to sharpen iron and as two people move closer and closer together, the conflict increases, not decreases. So, what we tend to do is pull apart and just live like this.

Because the conflicts increases – why? You’re invading her space! She’s invading your space. When my wife starts invading my space, I don’t like it.

But the little clue is, down deep in my heart I’m desperately insecure because of the fall. And down deep in your heart, you’re desperately insecure.

And even to the woman that I’ve spent almost three decades with, there is a deep-seated fear that if she really saw all of who I really am, she’d reject me. And it is that fear that causes me to play games and put up barriers so she doesn’t get too close, but those protective walls also keep her love out.

And so, let’s do a quick, little intimacy test. I want you to do this little test and I want you to do it just saying to yourself, we’re doing a little evaluation, we’re going to look at some sensitive areas, I’m going to be perfectly honest. By the way, you can put your hand over it so your mate doesn’t see it because you may want to process this later. That’s okay. All right?

And I’m going to give you three questions in each area, and let’s see, it says here a five means that you strongly agree; a one represents strong disagreement. And my personal rule is no threes. Okay?

Because I’ve done this before with Theresa. I gave a three, three. Three means: I don’t want to admit I think it’s going really good and I don’t want to admit it’s really going bad. So, twos, fours, ones, and fives. Start your engines.

Evidence of Spiritual Intimacy: Question one: My spouse and I often tend to agree in many of the important issues concerning values and beliefs. Whatever comes to your mind. Just put…don’t, “Oh, let me think. Do we really…?” Just your initial reaction. One, two, or a four and a five?

We seem to practice honest confession followed by genuine forgiveness when one of us has hurt the other. Strongly do that? That’s pretty much it, or not?

Third: As a couple, our spiritual closeness through prayer or sharing Scripture insights is quite good. Strongly agree? Disagree?

Evidence of Emotional Intimacy: I remember special times when my spouse and I shared strong emotions like grief, sadness, joy, or brokenness.

Next: We seem to be good at giving one another undivided attention when listening or talking. Does your mate give you undivided attention? You agree with that, or disagree?

Next: Verbalizing my needs and desires concerning our relationship to my spouse would be normal for me. I mean, you feel comfortable. It’s just normal. Hey, this is what I have needs. I have struggles in these areas. Is that normal or I’m fearful? We don’t do that.

Evidence of physical intimacy: We seem to prioritize frequent times of quality talking and having dates together. Strongly agree? Strongly disagree?

I’m comfortable communicating my sexual desires and preferences to my spouse. Is that, like, an open area that you can talk about or kind of uncomfortable?

Third: I’m very satisfied with my spouse’s sensitivity in meeting my sexual needs. And by the way, it’s interesting. With all the developments we’ve had of sexual freedom and openness and what’s happened on TV and cable,

I’ve done a number of these kind of conferences with my wife and I will tell you,

if you’re thinking, Gosh, I don’t really want to talk or bring this up.

In Christian circles, this is one of the biggest issues and biggest needs I’ve ever seen.

Usually, my wife and I do a deal where she does about an hour and a half with the women and I do about an hour and half with the men and we just, kind of, talk real straight.

And I know when she gets done with that session I’m not going to see her until supper because she’s going to have women lined up for about three or four hours to talk about: part of it’s baggage, part of it’s struggles, part of it’s uncomfortable, part of it’s a warped view of sex.

We had a couple come up to us. And he was a gray-haired gentleman, he looked to be in his seventies. And we had done this. And you know when you’re walking in a room like this, He grabs my arm like this. He goes, “Could I just talk to you for a second?” And I said, “Yeah.” And I’m sitting here. He goes, “No, over here.”
I’m thinking I don’t know what we’re going to talk about. And he had this big grin on his face. And he said, “I’m a leader in my church and I’ve walked faithfully with the Lord for over fifty years. I’ve been married forty-two or forty-four, I can’t remember.”

And he said, “You know those assignments you gave? And talking and all the rest?” He said, “We come from a different era and we came because we wanted to bring some young couples. And we thought, Forty-four years - what are we going to learn?”

He said, “We talked about things we’ve never talked about in forty-four years about meeting one another’s sexual needs because it was just, kind of, taboo. And those little questions helped us to get something and we realized that is as spiritual as the emotional, the mind, or the heart. And he said, “I’ve just got to tell you, it’s really been a neat weekend.”

God has a blueprint. It’s the triangle from Genesis. He has a process. Leave, cleave, and become one flesh. He has a reward. It’s going to take a journey and a lot of hard work and tons of grace. But He wants you to have oneness and intimacy in all three of these areas.

And then, finally, He has a purpose. And I’ll ask you just to just to fill these in. They’re very obvious, but I want you to know it’s just more than about you.

Purpose number one for marriage is – for impact – is physical reproduction and pleasure. Genesis 1:26, 28 says, “Be fruitful and multiply.” And then, if you’re a little uncomfortable about sex, read Proverbs 5. This is right out there.

He says to the man. Solomon, in all of his wisdom, “Don’t let your fountains go out on the street. Let your wife’s breasts satisfy you.” God wants marriage to have sexual pleasure. So, physical reproduction and pleasure.

The second is relational intimacy. It’s not good for a man to be alone. It’s not good for a woman to be alone. God gives the gift of celibacy to some. For the rest, he has a partner.

And third, spiritual impact. I believe, with all my heart, if we’re going to revolutionize the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, what we need to do is live out these kind of marriages in a way where people see the gospel in how we treat one another.

I was living in Texas and there was a young, very beautiful gal who went through a very messy divorce followed by a live-in boyfriend that didn’t work out, followed by she hated men.

And we never got to know her all that well because she wasn’t home very often. But we were cutting the grass and the little kids and we’re playing basketball in the driveway.

We’re, just sort of the little family. And as many of you know our background. Theresa came from a pretty rough childhood and I didn’t grow up as a Christian.

So, we’re kind of like two pagans reading the Bible and trying to learn to have this kind of marriage with all the normal ups and downs and kids and struggles.

And I remember the moving van came. And she was leaving after being next door for five, six, seven years. And we never really got to know her. And invited her over a couple times but still was pretty surfacy.

And we had this window of just, it was really neat. And we said, “Well gosh. We’re sorry you’re leaving and we wish we could have gotten to know you better.” And she goes, “Well you kind of know,” because we knew two of the men that she had been involved with and how it all happened. And she goes, “Well, you kind of know my story, don’t you?” I said, “Yeah.” She goes, “Well I don’t think I ever want to get married ever again. I think men are rotten.” I said, “Well, you know…”

I didn’t know what to say so I kind of change the subject or something. What do you say? “Yeah! They’re rotten!” I didn’t know what to say. So, I kind of, “Oh, well…I’m sorry,” and things like that.

And then she said something that was really powerful. She said, “But if I ever decided or ever wanted to get married, I’d like to have one like you and your wife have.” I said, “What?” I mean, it’s not like we had these deep talks.

She goes, “When I see how you guys treat one another and I see you out in the yard with your kids and as I hear what happens.” Because the houses were real close – you didn’t need radar.

And I thought to myself – she goes, “My only hope, if I’m going to do any relationship again, is that I guess people that really love God and are committed to it have the best chance of making it work.”

And I want you to know that your marriage is more than physical pleasure or having kids or even solving your loneliness problem. But when you start thinking about working on your marriage and wanting to experience God’s dream, it may be the most powerful testimony. You need to sign up for that so that your marriage life reflects the relationship of Jesus and His Church.

He could have decided on any number of metaphors to describe his relationship with the Church. But, what did He talk about? The bride and the bridegroom.

And other than the body of Christ living out the truth, I know nothing more powerful in all the world that will say Jesus is in fact God, that He died for our sins, that He rose from the dead, and there’s hope than when He redeems broken people like us, and takes people whose marriages haven’t worked here and have struggled here and brings them together and makes it new.

He is a Redeemer. He is a Lover of our souls and no marriage is beyond hope. You may be here thinking, we’re fifteen feet in the hole. Well, God has a sixteen-foot rope to give you. Well, we’re a thousand feet in the hole. Well He’s got a thousand-and-one-foot rope to lower down. That’s what grace is. Where sin abounds, grace super abounds.

No one is beyond hope. Will it take a lot of work? Will it take a real commitment? Absolutely, but there’s a lot at stake.