Broadcast

Marriage – A Holy Covenant

From the series Marriage that Works

Marriage is God's idea. Since He designed it, it's probably a good idea to know what He intended it to be. What does it take to build a healthy marriage? Communication? Trust? Respect? Love? Chip begins this series by explaining that there’s something more foundational and more essential to a strong, lasting marriage than all those other aspects.

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Message Transcript

This is not a series to how to make your marriage a little bit better, okay?

Now, it will do that. But I want you to understand, we are looking at a catastrophic movement of the disintegration of the family and marriage that has unbelievable implications.

One third of all the people who are divorced end up below the poverty line. There’s economic ramifications, there’s just huge issues in what happens to kids, and grandkids, and culture.

[Carle] Zimmerman, Harvard sociologist, studied every major empire and its fall and more specifically, he evaluated and traced the role of the family in each empire.

He concluded that families go through three distinct phases. The last occurring just before each major empire fell.

In his book, Family and Civilization, he listed these characteristics of families in the final stage. So, you listen and then you tell me, where you think we are and how important this is.

One, marriage lost its sacredness and alternative forms of marriage were advocated. Two, feminist movements flourished. Three, parenting became more difficult. Four, adultery was celebrated, not punished. Fifth, sexual perversion abounded, including bestiality, but especially incest and homosexuality.

It just goes on to say that when these things occur in a culture, you see, not just a decline, but the fall of an empire. So, if you didn’t feel like we have some issues, hopefully you do now.

So, lets talk about, what’s God’s design? let’s go back to…this is my old, little paperback Bible. What does God say?

If you are an engineer and you spent years and years, creating, refining and defining the best BMW or the best Mercedes or the best Lexus or the best Ferrari, and you knew that it needed this kind of gas, it needed to be run like this, it needed to be set like this, and people were putting a little bit of gas and a little bit of water in it and they were driving it crazy and they never changed the oil, you would go nuts!

And then people would come in and complain, “My Ferrari’s not working the way it’s supposed to. And where’s my Mercedes?”

God is the Designer and created a blueprint for how marriage and families work. We’re not following it and we’re receiving the consequences of that.

We’re going to look at that blueprint.  We’re just going to look at it and say: this is how the Creator, who loves you, who wants you to have this deep, meaningful relationship, this is how He designed it. So, are you ready? Open your Bibles, if you will, to Ephesians chapter 5.

And what I want to do is give you an overview of God’s instruction for marriage. Now, I’m just going to read it and make three observations and then I’m going to unpack it.

We’re going to talk about what is a man to be? What is a woman to be? What is a man to do? And what is a woman to do? We’re going to talk about, very specifically, how to love one another and follow God’s design in a way that I can testify actually works, even if you come from a dysfunctional past.

So, with that, we pick up His instruction in verse 21. He’s talked in verse 18 about how to be filled with the Spirit, or allowing God to control your life, and then He begins to apply it to specific relationships.

Verse 21: “And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” This idea of mutual love, mutual submission, mutual concern, radical sacrifice. He’s saying, the only one and the only way that marriage can work is, first and foremost, each party needs to understand God is in charge of it.

And so you submit and care and are selfless to one another. It’s not about me and mine and getting my way. It’s about how does this relationship honor God? And I will receive from Him and do what He says to give my mate what he or she needs.

And then he says, okay, well, what would that look like? “Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is also head of the Church. He himself being the Savior of the body. But as the Church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be to their own husbands in everything.”

And then if that doesn’t sound ridiculous enough, like, are you kidding me? He says to the husbands, “Husbands, love your wives.” Well, how? “Just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for her that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the Word, that He might present to Himself the Church in all of her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing. But that she should be holy and blameless.

“So, husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it, and cherishes it, just as Christ does the Church. Because we are members of His body.”

And then this passage from the Old Testament that is God’s core design for marriage, Genesis chapter 2, he quotes, “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great but I’m speaking with reference to Christ and the Church.

“Nevertheless, let each individual among you love his own wife as himself and let the wife see to it that she respects her husband.”
Observation number one, it requires mutual submission to God and to each other. God designed marriage. He has a specific role in our relationship with Him and a specific role in our relationship with one another and I need to submit to that.

I need to say: this is really, really hard and I don’t get how to love my mate in a way that’s meaningful to them. And whatever the engineer or designer, whatever the blueprint is, that’s the way I want to do it.

Second observation is you need to learn how to love your mate. Now, you need to love them in a way that God designed them to receive it. And so, there are roles for the husband and things for the…

As a husband, I’m given this absolutely impossible job of loving my wife to the degree that I would actually give my physical life to die in her place. That I would nourish her, cherish her, be sensitive to her needs. Create a world, and an environment, where she would flourish. I can’t do that on my own.

And then she’s – “So I’m supposed to step up.” And then she’s told this ridiculous commandment that she needs to step in, and meet needs in my life, and love me, and partner with me in a way that, to her, says, “That sounds scary, I can’t trust that guy. He’s a flake.” And she’s been married to me for a while.

And so, she says, “But God, if You will give me the strength, I will give. Because my husband is desperate for respect. You knew long before all the books were written, these male egos are very, very fragile. And I need to be to him and love him in ways that will help him be the man that You created him to be and as he does what he’s called to do, and as I do what I’m called to do, we learn to love in ways that build a bond and that creates stability.” And it’s what God says.

The third observation is your marriage has even a bigger purpose than your happiness. And I’m all for happiness, believe me. But did you notice that there’s these multiple references to Christ and the Church?

God instituted a couple things, historically, that are very important. One, He instituted the family. It’s an institution that is for offspring, and for stability, and for culture.

And so, what he says is, yes, it’s about your fulfillment and your happiness and pleasure and so you’re not alone. There’s lots of reasons for marriage. But he says, when your marriage follows His design, you will reflect Christ’s relationship to His Church. He uses that metaphor.

When your Ferrari or BMW or Lexus runs like a fine-tuned machine and takes corners like crazy and just, runs in a way it sends a compliment back to the designers and the engineers. And that’s what God wants for my marriage and for yours. So, it’s not just about our happiness.

Now, let’s talk about the design or the blueprint. And what I’ve read, what I want to give you now. Did you notice the little equilateral triangle?

I wanted to give you the blueprint in a pictorial form. Instead of just words, I want you to get a picture. And notice at the very, it’s an equilateral triangle, God is at the top, woman is on the right, man is on the left. Would you take your pen out and circle the word “God?”

And next to it, just write, “It’s His idea.” In other words, marriage just isn’t, like, some cultural, sociological phenomena that someone said, “Hey, why don’t we try this one out?” Marriage is God’s idea. It’s really important.

Second thing I want you to notice, at the very bottom, if you put a little box around where it says, “Genesis 2:24.” And then right above it, the word “oneness.” The goal of marriage is oneness.

If you come from a psychological background, write the word “intimacy.” The goal is to connect your heart.

God created marriage when He said, “It’s not good for a man to be alone.” It was to solve the aloneness problem.

There’s something in, there’s a reason ninety-seven percent of all college students say, “Someday, someway, I want to find Mr. Right or Miss Right. And our souls are going to come together and we’re going to have this amazing relationship.”

Eighty-eight percent of the people in America believe that there is a soul mate out there somewhere being prepared for them.

So, nine out of ten people believe someday, someway, I’m going to find that person. That’s in your DNA. That’s in your soul. You long for it. I long for it. And God says, “You know what? That’s the plan. I want you to be connected.”

But notice, there’s three levels of connection or oneness. At the bottom of the equilateral triangle, it says “spiritual.”

And what I’d like you to do on the right, put a little line, and write, “soulmates.” S-O-U-L. Soulmates. God wants you to have a connection spiritually. A connection that has to do with your relationship with God and, in my case, her relationship with God, where there is a unity, or a oneness, of your spirits. And you’re soulmates.

Now, this is completely foreign to some of us. I never saw my parents kiss growing up, let alone I never saw them pray.

My dad was an alcoholic and he was a great guy, a good alcoholic, but we were dysfunctional. I just didn’t know how dysfunctional until I got married. And I brought my baggage. And then I find I wanted to make it really hard so Theresa’s dad was an alcoholic. So she brings her stuff.

And then we thought, well, let’s up the ante so, in light of some difficult, she came to Christ after being abandoned as a non-Christian, and so, let’s, when we got married, I had two small kids. So we have a blended family.

So we have alcoholic pasts, I get married, I got two four year olds. And I don’t have a clue. And I feel called to ministry after being a basketball coach for a while. And a year into our marriage, I’m thinking, “This is crazy. She really loves God but she makes me nuts. Really makes me nuts. We can’t resolve conflict. She rolls to the right, I roll to the left. She deals with her anger in a really unique way. She doesn’t talk to me for two days.”

And being the Pharisee that I was, I would walk around until two in the morning saying, “We need to talk about this. We’ve got to talk. We’ve got to talk. We’ve got to talk because the Bible says, ‘Don’t let your anger go down on you.’” And she’d put the pillow over her head.

And so, the greatest thing that happened to us is we went and got counseling. I’m making a thousand dollars a month. Big money back then. Going to school full time.

And I find myself in counseling paying ninety bucks a crack every week. The best money I ever spent.

I share that just so you know that if you’re having troubles, welcome to the NFL. Everybody has troubles. It’s what you do with them. But there’s a plan and there’s a design.

We don’t do it every morning because sometimes I need some time alone first, but nearly every morning, whoever gets up first in my house makes the coffee. And we’re early risers. And so, then we get a cup of coffee and, more than likely, maybe it’s ten minutes, sometimes it’s a half hour. “What’s going on with you today? Where you feeling the pressure? What’s coming up?”

And we’ll just talk back and forth, and then I just grab her hand, and we just talk to God together. And we just pray together.

And here’s what I can tell you is there is a closeness that ranks up there with sexual union. When your spirits come together before God, God does something that draws you together.

Well, that just became a part of our relationship, it took time. It was very awkward early on.

Second thing God wants is, notice, not just spiritual oneness but soul oneness. Put a little arrow out from that and write “best friends.” God wants your mate to be your best friend. The goal was never that you get married and she gets involved in the kids and you get hopped up on your work, and then she hangs out with gals, and you watch ESPN. Or read the Wall Street Journal with your face in it. That was never God’s plan.

God wants you to talk and walk and have fun and have hobbies. Remember for some of you when you dated? Or those of you that are dating now? It’s about being friends. That’s God’s design. And so, there’s talking and there’s communication, and you learn how to resolve conflict.

And then, finally, notice the oneness goes to the body. Put a little dash – passionate lovers. Sex is holy. We’ll read a little bit later in Hebrews chapter 13, God says He wants the marriage bed to be undefiled.

God created sex. In fact, especially in men, there’s a hormone that’s secreted during and after sexual activity that creates a sense of bondedness with their mate. It’s one of the windows of time, researchers have told us, when a man wants to open up and share what’s going on inside. And God has connected that to this very important part of union.

But sex, instead of something that’s over here, something that’s just physical, becomes the culmination of a spiritual, soul, mental, emotional. So it’s the expression of your union, your commitment, and your freedom, and your love for one another. And what we’ve done in our culture is we’ve separated sex from love.

And so, the false intimacy is going on the internet and looking at pictures of naked people. That’s a false intimacy. That’s trying to fill a hole that is here. Or reading romance novels and imagining that life would be so much better.

Or worse, a statistic that I read recently were, sixty-eight percent of the people that get involved in extramarital affairs often start on a social network. Where all of a sudden, you have struggles, and an old flame from high school, or college, and people start chatting and talking. And you know what? The journey is so painful.

How’s that working for you? What if we just asked that question. So how is the way we’re living our lives, and treating our marriages, how is that really working for us? How’s that working for our kids? How’s that working for our finances? How’s that working for our intimacy? How’s that working for our fulfillment? I will tell you what, it’s overwhelming. Not well. God wants oneness and intimacy for you.

Now, I want you to, if you would, this is, I want you to take your notes and put them on your lap and then I want you to put one finger where it says “man” and one finger where it says “woman” right on your notes, on the triangle, okay? Humor me. You’ll get a lot out of this. The people who do this will be deeply blessed. Okay.

Now, what I want you to do is I want you to move your fingers halfway up the triangle, alright? Now, for those who majored in geometry, you can really help us. Are our fingers now closer together or farther apart? Do you see a correlation?

Now, okay, we’re going to…now I want you to move it up to about one eighth or one sixteenth of an inch below where it is says “God” but you’re still, okay? Now, where are your fingers now? Are you closer or farther apart?

See, God created marriage. He created marriage to solve the deepest emotional, spiritual, and physical needs you’ll ever have while you take a breath on this planet. And He actually deigned it in such a way that apart from Him, it doesn’t work.

And the reason He did that is because He is so concerned, not just your marriage working, but He wants to have a relationship with you. And that’s why the greatest thing you’ll ever do for your marriage is to become a committed, passionate follower of Jesus.

Because He gives you the power and the freedom and the grace to give your mate what you can’t give on your own.

See, a problem in our marriage is I married a selfish person. You’re not laughing because you know it’s true. But the problem in our marriage for her was she married a selfish person. And when I want mine, and she wants hers, and we play this game, “Well, when she starts doing this or if she’ll stop doing that.” Or, “When he gets on the ball and if he will…”

I’ll tell you what, that never ends. What happens when that gets turned around? Whether she responds or not, God’s design: “Chip, you know what a man does? You lay down your life for your wife and you love her regardless of whether she responds or not.” “That’s not fair!” Of course it’s not fair. We’re not trying to do fair. We’re trying to make a great marriage.

“You want oneness or not, Chip?” “Yeah, yeah, yea.” “Well then shut up and do it My way.” I don’t have the power to do that.

And so I don’t get up in the morning and read the Bible, and talk to God about my struggles because I think, “Oh, gosh, got those check boxes off, I’m doing so good.” I do it because I’m a desperate man in need of power and grace to give my wife what I don’t have to give her.

And all I can tell you is, after thirty-two years and multiple struggles, and a lot of hard work, as I give that to her and then she gives back to me, a system has occurred where, instead of trying to get, get, get, you learn, over time, to outdo one another in giving, and you have spiritual oneness. And then you have best friends. And then you have deep, intimate, physical union that expresses what your heart, in words, can’t say. That’s God’s design.

Now, let’s look at a very important thing that’s missed in our day. Is let’s look at what, when you say, okay, marriage, what is it? In our day, it’s sort of a conditional contract. I will marry you, we may make up our own vows, we can say whatever we want. But in terms of pragmatism, in our day, marriage is, “I’m absolutely committed to you, no matter what, until I’m not fulfilled or it gets very hard.”

Let’s look at what marriage is from God’s perspective. His design demands that marriage is a holy covenant.

Malachi chapter 2 verse 14. This is a group of people that has strayed far from God. It says, “You ask, ‘Why?’ It’s because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.”

And the context here, you can read Malachi, if you go to Matthew, just go left, it’ll be right there. God is explaining why there’s judgment. Why their fields aren’t producing crops, why their animals are miscarriaging, why their enemies are winning.

And they say, “Why, God? Where are you? How come my life doesn’t work?” God says, “Because you’ve forsaken the marriage covenant.”

So, let me tell you what a covenant is. Marriage is a holy covenant. A covenant is an agreement and guarantee one person makes with another. It’s a solemn agreement with binding force.

Jot in your notes, Ecclesiastes 5 verses 4 and 5. Very powerful. The wisest man in the world said this, “When you make a vow, do not be late in paying it. For God takes no delight in fools. It is better not to vow than to vow and not pay.”

The idea of a vow? When you said, “Before God and these witnesses, ‘til death do us part, in sickness and in health.” That’s a vow before God. That’s very serious business to Him.

Now, we may redefine it and say, “I was only kidding.” Or, “I feel not emotionally, like, my needs aren’t really feeling very good. And things are really hard.” The vow is what keeps you in the relationship to work through those things.

It goes on to say, we see that in the Bible, God made a very serious agreement when He established a covenant, which represents a serious occasion where the parties involved seal their promises by the midst of a cutting.

And the idea of a covenant, literal word in Hebrew, means “to cut.” And the idea was there’s blood. In other words, blood, there’s life in the blood. So, there’s blood here and blood here and they come together and it’s like an all or nothing, most serious commitment. We say, we make a commitment to one another and no matter what, no matter who, no matter circumstances, we will never violate this. That is a holy covenant.

And I’ve given you four examples in Scripture. Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. And if you study all four of those covenants, what you find is they have four characteristics. One, it’s initiated by a vow. You can jot this down if you want or just remember.

Second, the conditions of the relationship are outlined. Then, it is ratified by blood. And there’s a symbol, then, to remind you that forever, and ever, and ever, this is an unconditional, unconditional, irrevocable commitment that you’ve made.

And, so, through Scripture, the very first time we find it is with Noah. And God says, as He’s judging the earth in violence and sin, He says, “I’ll make a covenant with you.” And the conditions are, “Noah, you worship Me and you do it in this way.”

And then, as soon as he gets out of the ark, he slaughters some animals. There’s blood, he builds an ark and then there’s the sign of the rainbow. “I’ll never ever judge the world by water again.”

Or Abraham. God makes this outrageous. He says, “Abraham, I want to have a special relationship with you. I want to take one man, create a nation, I’ll make it as vast as the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea. I’m going to do something supernatural and amazing because I’m going to create out of you a, sort of a, nomad, nothing type person that one of the greatest nations on the earth, so people will see who I am.

And then, here’s the conditions: “You must follow Me, and obey Me, and keep My law.” And Abraham agrees. And then he has this amazing experience, in Genesis 17, where God tells him to take these different animals and he cuts them in half. And there’s a dripping of blood between them.

And he sits down and he waits until sun sets and then a fire comes and the Spirit and the presence of God burns through. And He seals this covenant. And then, here’s the sign. “Circumcise all your males. This day forward, it will be a sign that you are My people and I am your God.”

And we have then the same thing happen with Moses and the Law. And the sign is the Sabbath.

And then, when you hear the word “New Testament” you know what “testament” means? It’s a synonym for “covenant.”

God made this vow: “I so love everyone who breathes upon the earth that I’m going to send my only Son, fully man and fully God, to come and live a perfect life and teach, and heal, and raise people from the dead, and authenticate, and reveal who I am, the Father, full of grace and truth.”

And after He does that, He’s going to die upon a cross and He would be raised from the dead and whosoever would believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. There’s the vow.

The condition? You must receive. Turn from your sin and receive Christ as your Savior to have eternal life. It was ratified, how? Jesus shed his blood. The symbol? The moment a person turns from your sin and receives Christ, the Spirit of God is a down payment.

Actually, the Bible calls it a deposit. A guarantee living inside of you. And so, this is very, very serious stuff.

A lady came up and she was sharing her story last night. And it went something like this. She felt really bad about it, and she’d been married a long time, and she eventually filed for divorce. And as she sat last night, she realized, “I didn’t have any biblical grounds for divorce.” And she wanted to work through it a little bit and came up and basically had a lot of mild excuses of how unfulfilled she was. And I thought, I’ve been there.

And then it was like, “But I know God’s just a really nice guy and He probably is winking at this one and it won’t matter too much, right?” And I would have loved to have said, “Right.” But I can’t.

In Leviticus, God, after making the covenant says, “If you follow My decrees and are careful to obey My commands, I will send you rain in season and the ground will yield its crops and the trees in their fields will have fruit. I will grant peace to the land. No one will make you afraid. I’ll remove the savage beast from the land and the sword will not come near you. I will look upon you.”

He says, “If you keep the covenant, I’ll look upon you with favor and I’ll make you fruitful and increase in numbers. And I will keep,” this is God speaking, “I will keep My covenant with you.”

He goes on to say, “And then I will walk among you. I will be your God. You will be My people. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt so that you can no longer be slaves to the Egyptians. I broke the bars of your yolk, I enabled you to walk with your heads held high.”

This is God saying, “I had a plan, had a design, I’m the engineer, I love you, I delivered you, I want to be with you. Now, we made a covenant about how we’re going to do life together. And if you keep it, woo! And because I love you, I’ve got some restrictions and some things to follow, that allow you to get the highest and the best from Me.”

But then it goes on, “But if you do not listen to Me, and carry out all these commands, and if you reject My decrees, and abhor my laws, and fail to carry out all My commands, and so violate My covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror, and wasting disease, and fever that will destroy your sight and drain your life.

“You’ll plant seeds in vain because your enemies will eat them. I will set My face against you and you’ll be defeated by your enemies. If after I do this, you still will not listen, I’ll punish you for your sins seven times over and I will break your stubborn pride and make the skies from above like iron and the ground beneath like bronze.”

In other words, life’s going to be hard and it won’t work. “And if you still remain hostile toward Me and refuse to listen to Me, I’ll multiply your afflictions seven times over.”

And it goes on. He says this two or three more times. Some of you sitting in this room are thinking, You know what? I think I love God, how come my life’s not working? How come my job’s not working? How come this is going wrong? How come my kids are going that direction? How come this has happened this way?

I got news for you. You violate God’s covenant – is He loving and kind and willing to forgive? Absolutely. He’s also just and holy. And we have a generation of Christians that have blown off. There’s not a nickels’ worth of difference between the Christian marriage and non-Christian’s marriages.

And if you can’t figure out why you’re having a lot of problems, maybe today the lights come on.

But here’s what you’ve got to know. There’s hope. But the hope isn’t trying harder. The hope is getting back to the designer, the engineer, the blueprint and saying, “God.”

For some of you, you don’t even know what the design is. If someone gave me a Ferrari, I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t know what to put in it other than gas.

And so, God is going to help you and me understand, this is how I designed it because I want spiritual, soul, and physical oneness and intimacy at such a level that your neighbors, and your friends, and co-workers would say to you, “Like, man, you’ve been married quite a while?” “Yeah.” “You’re going on a date? Why? You pray together?” “Yeah.” “Your kids actually like you? You talk about your wife like you’re hot for her! Why?” “Because I am.”

Where do you get that? Everyone else is trading in new models. Everyone else is just trying to figure out how to get for them, only to find out that the outside isn’t nearly what it was promised to be.

Marriage is a holy covenant initiated by a vow and ratified by blood. Let me give you a definition for marriage. Are you ready? Marriage is an irrevocable commitment, of unconditional love, toward an imperfect person.

Whew. That’s what marriage is. That’s what a holy covenant is. An irrevocable commitment.

Well, what’s it look like? Three distinct aspects of this. And we’ll develop these later but I want to give you the picture of, okay, then how does it actually work? It’s real serious. Genesis 2:24: “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, will cleave to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

The “leave” is a separation from. God’s blueprint is you leave former relationships, former family, financial strings, emotional strings, and when you have a problem, you don’t run to mommy, you don’t run to daddy, you don’t run to friends. You say, “This is really, really hard but I’m going to leave them and my new focus is you.”

In Indonesia, when a young woman is going to get married, she takes her dolls and she takes the things of her childhood, and she invites all of her girlfriends, and they have a little party. And she looks at all the different things that she had.

And then there’s a bonfire and she burns it. And she realizes her old life is gone and there will be a new life where she’s leaving her family and there’s a new family that’s going to be created.

So, you leave and then you cleave. The word is a picture of epoxy glue. It’s a picture of a coming together where you are stuck together. It’s where, if you took a pint of my blood and a pint of Theresa’s blood and put it in a beaker and then mixed it up, you’d be hard pressed to know whose is whose. Right?

That’s a picture of this. It’s your lives. It’s not just that you live together. It’s that you actually become one. And so, there’s no more me, or her. It’s always us. There’s no more I. I cleave together with her.

And then the result is, you become one flesh. And notice the tense of that verb. It’s a process. I’ve been to counseling to become one flesh. I read books to become one flesh. I’ve had to stop at different intervals of my life and been totally stuck and not known what I need to do to go to a mentor to become one flesh.

Becoming spiritually, soul, and physically one flesh, when you come out of baggage, let me just tell you this. It’ll be the hardest work you’ll ever do in your life with the greatest reward. The hardest work.

Ninety-nine percent of the marriages in this room would be amazing eighteen months from now if you said, “You know something? I know I’ve got to put bread on the table but this one thing I’m going to do. I’m going to figure out how to get close to God and I’m going to figure out how to get close to you. And whatever we need to deal with, we’re going to deal with.

“We’re going to learn to resolve our anger, we’re going to learn to communicate, we’re going to talk, we’re going to read books together, we’re going to take walks. Whatever we need to do, that’s what we’re going to do.”

And I’ll guarantee this: you do that for eighteen months and you’ll come back and you’ll say, “I cannot believe what we now experience.”

And instead what we want is a shortcut. Instead what we want is a quick fix. It doesn’t work that way.

Because marriage is a covenant and not merely a contract, there’s four very specific implications. Number one, divorce is not an option. Malachi 2:14 we’ve read. In verse 16, God goes on to say, “I hate divorce.”

Now, I do understand that there are times, in fact, I’m one of those people. There are times when divorce is unavoidable. I think there’s two very clear biblical times when God allows for divorce.

And I do understand this, okay? I understand there’s a lot of people sitting in this room that you’ve had a divorce and you’re thinking to yourself, “My mate wasn’t sexually unfaithful, and they were not an unbeliever who abandoned me. And if those are the two stipulations for divorce, then I messed up.”

And what I want you to know is, when you divorce without biblical grounds, of course there are consequences. But it’s not the unpardonable sin. And God forgives that just like He does affairs, and sexual sins, and stealing, and lying, and murder. And I have a whole book of men and woman who’ve done really not healthy, things that have been forgiven and then been greatly used and greatly loved by God. But I will tell you, divorce is not an option.

I remember my very first difficult, painful, you know that moment and if you’re married you know and if you’re not married you’ll get this later as God would allow. But it was the first big, major, whoo, that Theresa and I had.

And I was hurt, and wounded, and angry and I slammed the door and I got in my car and I drove out there and I thought, “Man, I’ve got the wrong person! I can’t believe she said that! I can’t believe she did this! What’s wrong with her?”

And, I just wanted out. And I thought, “These are terrible feelings that, well…” But when I’ve gotten real close, especially to men and we’ve talked deeply, I don’t know a man I’ve ever met that someday didn’t feel like, “Man, I want out of this.”

Man, I got so angry and so hurt. And what happens is, the moment you start thinking of that, options start coming to your mind. Other people start looking better. You stop working as much.

And I remember God brought a picture to my mind about covenant and what it meant. And I had a friend who discipled and helped me who was a bricklayer. And I had this picture where my wife lives. It’s a mountain. You walk right out of the door and, it’s all rock. And someone cut out all the rock and it’s like a room 10 x 10 and there’s a little spring of water and there’s an exercise bike. There’s no TV. And there’s plenty of food.

And then Theresa and I walked into this 10 x 10 room and my friend, the bricklayer, with big hadite block, he just started filling in the doorway. And then he waved. And then he just filled it in.

And I’m in this 10 x 10 room with Theresa. And yeah, I can sulk. I can go to this corner. And she can go to that corner. There’s plenty of food. I can even get a workout if I want to. And I can spend my time going, “She’s not very sensitive to me and she’s not very affectionate and I don’t know what do.”

And she can be over here going, “Boy, he’s not very sensitive and all he does is think about sports and this and that. And I can’t believe…”

But you know what? When you’re stuck in this room, at some point you say, “This isn’t any fun.” So, whatever it needs to do, I guess we better sit down and talk about how we get this resolved.

And I remember that word picture became covenant for me. And what I know, I can share anything with my wife, and she can share anything with me, because what we both know is, no one’s going anywhere. That’s why living together doesn’t work. That’s why intimacy can’t happen if you think there’s an exit clause. Divorce is not an option and it’s the key to intimacy.

Second, adultery is a serious covenant breaking offense. Proverbs 2 talks about it’s where people end up on a pathway to death. No one wins when there’s adultery.

Third, sex before marriage is a violation of His holy covenant. Marriage should be held by honor, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral.

And so, if you’re living together, or if you’re single and sleeping around or if you’re not single and sleeping around, or if you’re logging onto websites, stop it. “So, I need to know God’s will.” Here’s God’s will, stop it. And then repent.

That kind of sex is not about love, it’s about you. It’s about lust. It’s about things that are broken inside of you.

And you just need to say, “Okay.” And is it hard? Really hard. Some people will need to go home, and by the way, you don’t have a meeting to break up. You call and say, “This is over.”

And that’s, is that hard? Is there security issues? Is there what about, what about? Absolutely. You just have to ask: what kind of marriage do you really want?

And, finally, same sex relationships are forbidden as a violation of God’s design. 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 10 says, “Do not be deceived, neither the sexually immoral, or idolaters, or adulterers, nor men who have sex with men will inherit the kingdom of God.”

God has equal opportunity judgment on heterosexual and homosexual sins. That’s not what’s best, that’s not what delivers intimacy, and grace, and the kind of relationship He wants. So any type of sexual activity that will harm you and keep you from getting the best, God says, “Don’t.” And there are guardrails because He loves you.

And the first step is always to turn and repent. And say, “God, I need help.” And you won’t be able to do it on your own.

And if some of you just feel like, “Oh my lands. I’m so far away.” Could you please hear God’s heart? He didn’t bring you here to make you feel bad. He brought you here to make you aware so you could stop, turn, be forgiven, and get on a new path.

If you’re single, to prepare for the kind of relationship He wants that’s great. If you’re married, to keep working at it. And, if you’re divorced, if there’s any possibility of reconciliation, to even ponder that.
Marriage, what is it? In our day, it’s sort of a conditional contract. I will marry you, we may make up our own vows, we can say whatever we want. But in terms of pragmatism, in our day, marriage is, “I’m absolutely committed to you, no matter what, until I’m not fulfilled or it gets very hard.”

Let’s look at what marriage is from God’s perspective. His design demands that marriage is a holy covenant.

Malachi chapter 2 verse 14. This is a group of people that has strayed far from God. It says, “You ask, ‘Why?’ It’s because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.”

And the context here, you can read Malachi, if you go to Matthew, just go left, it’ll be right there. God is explaining why there’s judgment. Why their fields aren’t producing crops, why their animals are miscarriaging, why their enemies are winning.

And they say, “Why, God? Where are you? How come my life doesn’t work?” God says, “Because you’ve forsaken the marriage covenant.”

So, let me tell you what a covenant is. Marriage is a holy covenant. A covenant is an agreement and guarantee one person makes with another. It’s a solemn agreement with binding force.

Jot in your notes, Ecclesiastes 5 verses 4 and 5. Very powerful. The wisest man in the world said this, “When you make a vow, do not be late in paying it. For God takes no delight in fools. It is better not to vow than to vow and not pay.”

The idea of a vow? When you said, “Before God and these witnesses, ‘til death do us part, in sickness and in health.” That’s a vow before God. That’s very serious business to Him.

Now, we may redefine it and say, “I was only kidding.” Or, “I feel not emotionally, like, my needs aren’t really feeling very good. And things are really hard.” The vow is what keeps you in the relationship to work through those things.

It goes on to say, we see that in the Bible, God made a very serious agreement when He established a covenant, which represents a serious occasion where the parties involved seal their promises by the midst of a cutting.

And the idea of a covenant, literal word in Hebrew, means “to cut.” And the idea was there’s blood. In other words, blood, there’s life in the blood. So, there’s blood here and blood here and they come together and it’s like an all or nothing, most serious commitment. We say, we make a commitment to one another and no matter what, no matter who, no matter circumstances, we will never violate this. That is a holy covenant.

And I’ve given you four examples in Scripture. Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. And if you study all four of those covenants, what you find is they have four characteristics. One, it’s initiated by a vow. You can jot this down if you want or just remember.

Second, the conditions of the relationship are outlined. Then, it is ratified by blood. And there’s a symbol, then, to remind you that forever, and ever, and ever, this is an unconditional, unconditional, irrevocable commitment that you’ve made.

And, so, through Scripture, the very first time we find it is with Noah. And God says, as He’s judging the earth in violence and sin, He says, “I’ll make a covenant with you.” And the conditions are, “Noah, you worship Me and you do it in this way.”

And then, as soon as he gets out of the ark, he slaughters some animals. There’s blood, he builds an ark and then there’s the sign of the rainbow. “I’ll never ever judge the world by water again.”

Or Abraham. God makes this outrageous. He says, “Abraham, I want to have a special relationship with you. I want to take one man, create a nation, I’ll make it as vast as the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea. I’m going to do something supernatural and amazing because I’m going to create out of you a, sort of a, nomad, nothing type person that one of the greatest nations on the earth, so people will see who I am.

And then, here’s the conditions: “You must follow Me, and obey Me, and keep My law.” And Abraham agrees. And then he has this amazing experience, in Genesis 17, where God tells him to take these different animals and he cuts them in half. And there’s a dripping of blood between them.

And he sits down and he waits until sun sets and then a fire comes and the Spirit and the presence of God burns through. And He seals this covenant. And then, here’s the sign. “Circumcise all your males. This day forward, it will be a sign that you are My people and I am your God.”

And we have then the same thing happen with Moses and the Law. And the sign is the Sabbath.

And then, when you hear the word “New Testament” you know what “testament” means? It’s a synonym for “covenant.”

God made this vow: “I so love everyone who breathes upon the earth that I’m going to send my only Son, fully man and fully God, to come and live a perfect life and teach, and heal, and raise people from the dead, and authenticate, and reveal who I am, the Father, full of grace and truth.”

And after He does that, He’s going to die upon a cross and He would be raised from the dead and whosoever would believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. There’s the vow.

The condition? You must receive. Turn from your sin and receive Christ as your Savior to have eternal life. It was ratified, how? Jesus shed his blood. The symbol? The moment a person turns from your sin and receives Christ, the Spirit of God is a down payment.

Actually, the Bible calls it a deposit. A guarantee living inside of you. And so, this is very, very serious stuff.

A lady came up and she was sharing her story last night. And it went something like this. She felt really bad about it, and she’d been married a long time, and she eventually filed for divorce. And as she sat last night, she realized, “I didn’t have any biblical grounds for divorce.” And she wanted to work through it a little bit and came up and basically had a lot of mild excuses of how unfulfilled she was. And I thought, I’ve been there.

And then it was like, “But I know God’s just a really nice guy and He probably is winking at this one and it won’t matter too much, right?” And I would have loved to have said, “Right.” But I can’t.

In Leviticus, God, after making the covenant says, “If you follow My decrees and are careful to obey My commands, I will send you rain in season and the ground will yield its crops and the trees in their fields will have fruit. I will grant peace to the land. No one will make you afraid. I’ll remove the savage beast from the land and the sword will not come near you. I will look upon you.”

He says, “If you keep the covenant, I’ll look upon you with favor and I’ll make you fruitful and increase in numbers. And I will keep,” this is God speaking, “I will keep My covenant with you.”

He goes on to say, “And then I will walk among you. I will be your God. You will be My people. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt so that you can no longer be slaves to the Egyptians. I broke the bars of your yolk, I enabled you to walk with your heads held high.”

This is God saying, “I had a plan, had a design, I’m the engineer, I love you, I delivered you, I want to be with you. Now, we made a covenant about how we’re going to do life together. And if you keep it, woo! And because I love you, I’ve got some restrictions and some things to follow, that allow you to get the highest and the best from Me.”

But then it goes on, “But if you do not listen to Me, and carry out all these commands, and if you reject My decrees, and abhor my laws, and fail to carry out all My commands, and so violate My covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror, and wasting disease, and fever that will destroy your sight and drain your life.

“You’ll plant seeds in vain because your enemies will eat them. I will set My face against you and you’ll be defeated by your enemies. If after I do this, you still will not listen, I’ll punish you for your sins seven times over and I will break your stubborn pride and make the skies from above like iron and the ground beneath like bronze.”

In other words, life’s going to be hard and it won’t work. “And if you still remain hostile toward Me and refuse to listen to Me, I’ll multiply your afflictions seven times over.”

And it goes on. He says this two or three more times. Some of you sitting in this room are thinking, You know what? I think I love God, how come my life’s not working? How come my job’s not working? How come this is going wrong? How come my kids are going that direction? How come this has happened this way?

I got news for you. You violate God’s covenant – is He loving and kind and willing to forgive? Absolutely. He’s also just and holy. And we have a generation of Christians that have blown off. There’s not a nickels’ worth of difference between the Christian marriage and non-Christian’s marriages.

And if you can’t figure out why you’re having a lot of problems, maybe today the lights come on.

But here’s what you’ve got to know. There’s hope. But the hope isn’t trying harder. The hope is getting back to the designer, the engineer, the blueprint and saying, “God.”

For some of you, you don’t even know what the design is. If someone gave me a Ferrari, I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t know what to put in it other than gas.

And so, God is going to help you and me understand, this is how I designed it because I want spiritual, soul, and physical oneness and intimacy at such a level that your neighbors, and your friends, and co-workers would say to you, “Like, man, you’ve been married quite a while?” “Yeah.” “You’re going on a date? Why? You pray together?” “Yeah.” “Your kids actually like you? You talk about your wife like you’re hot for her! Why?” “Because I am.”

Where do you get that? Everyone else is trading in new models. Everyone else is just trying to figure out how to get for them, only to find out that the outside isn’t nearly what it was promised to be.

Marriage is a holy covenant initiated by a vow and ratified by blood. Let me give you a definition for marriage. Are you ready? Marriage is an irrevocable commitment, of unconditional love, toward an imperfect person.

Whew. That’s what marriage is. That’s what a holy covenant is. An irrevocable commitment.

Well, what’s it look like? Three distinct aspects of this. And we’ll develop these later but I want to give you the picture of, okay, then how does it actually work? It’s real serious. Genesis 2:24: “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, will cleave to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

The “leave” is a separation from. God’s blueprint is you leave former relationships, former family, financial strings, emotional strings, and when you have a problem, you don’t run to mommy, you don’t run to daddy, you don’t run to friends. You say, “This is really, really hard but I’m going to leave them and my new focus is you.”

In Indonesia, when a young woman is going to get married, she takes her dolls and she takes the things of her childhood, and she invites all of her girlfriends, and they have a little party. And she looks at all the different things that she had.

And then there’s a bonfire and she burns it. And she realizes her old life is gone and there will be a new life where she’s leaving her family and there’s a new family that’s going to be created.

So, you leave and then you cleave. The word is a picture of epoxy glue. It’s a picture of a coming together where you are stuck together. It’s where, if you took a pint of my blood and a pint of Theresa’s blood and put it in a beaker and then mixed it up, you’d be hard pressed to know whose is whose. Right?

That’s a picture of this. It’s your lives. It’s not just that you live together. It’s that you actually become one.

And so, there’s no more me, or her. It’s always us. There’s no more I. I cleave together with her.

And then the result is, you become one flesh. And notice the tense of that verb. It’s a process. I’ve been to counseling to become one flesh. I read books to become one flesh. I’ve had to stop at different intervals of my life and been totally stuck and not known what I need to do to go to a mentor to become one flesh.

Becoming spiritually, soul, and physically one flesh, when you come out of baggage, let me just tell you this. It’ll be the hardest work you’ll ever do in your life with the greatest reward. The hardest work.

Ninety-nine percent of the marriages in this room would be amazing eighteen months from now if you said, “You know something? I know I’ve got to put bread on the table but this one thing I’m going to do. I’m going to figure out how to get close to God and I’m going to figure out how to get close to you. And whatever we need to deal with, we’re going to deal with.

“We’re going to learn to resolve our anger, we’re going to learn to communicate, we’re going to talk, we’re going to read books together, we’re going to take walks. Whatever we need to do, that’s what we’re going to do.”

And I’ll guarantee this: you do that for eighteen months and you’ll come back and you’ll say, “I cannot believe what we now experience.”

And instead what we want is a shortcut. Instead what we want is a quick fix. It doesn’t work that way.

Because marriage is a covenant and not merely a contract, there’s four very specific implications. Number one, divorce is not an option. Malachi 2:14 we’ve read. In verse 16, God goes on to say, “I hate divorce.”

Now, I do understand that there are times, in fact, I’m one of those people. There are times when divorce is unavoidable. I think there’s two very clear biblical times when God allows for divorce.

And I do understand this, okay? I understand there’s a lot of people sitting in this room that you’ve had a divorce and you’re thinking to yourself, “My mate wasn’t sexually unfaithful, and they were not an unbeliever who abandoned me. And if those are the two stipulations for divorce, then I messed up.”

And what I want you to know is, when you divorce without biblical grounds, of course there are consequences. But it’s not the unpardonable sin. And God forgives that just like He does affairs, and sexual sins, and stealing, and lying, and murder. And I have a whole book of men and woman who’ve done really not healthy, things that have been forgiven and then been greatly used and greatly loved by God. But I will tell you, divorce is not an option.

I remember my very first difficult, painful, you know that moment and if you’re married you know and if you’re not married you’ll get this later as God would allow. But it was the first big, major, whoo, that Theresa and I had.

And I was hurt, and wounded, and angry and I slammed the door and I got in my car and I drove out there and I thought, “Man, I’ve got the wrong person! I can’t believe she said that! I can’t believe she did this! What’s wrong with her?”

And, I just wanted out. And I thought, “These are terrible feelings that, well…” But when I’ve gotten real close, especially to men and we’ve talked deeply, I don’t know a man I’ve ever met that someday didn’t feel like, “Man, I want out of this.”

Man, I got so angry and so hurt. And what happens is, the moment you start thinking of that, options start coming to your mind. Other people start looking better. You stop working as much.

And I remember God brought a picture to my mind about covenant and what it meant. And I had a friend who discipled and helped me who was a bricklayer. And I had this picture where my wife lives. It’s a mountain. You walk right out of the door and, it’s all rock. And someone cut out all the rock and it’s like a room 10 x 10 and there’s a little spring of water and there’s an exercise bike. There’s no TV. And there’s plenty of food.

And then Theresa and I walked into this 10 x 10 room and my friend, the bricklayer, with big hadite block, he just started filling in the doorway. And then he waved. And then he just filled it in.

And I’m in this 10 x 10 room with Theresa. And yeah, I can sulk. I can go to this corner. And she can go to that corner. There’s plenty of food. I can even get a workout if I want to. And I can spend my time going, “She’s not very sensitive to me and she’s not very affectionate and I don’t know what do.”

And she can be over here going, “Boy, he’s not very sensitive and all he does is think about sports and this and that. And I can’t believe…”

But you know what? When you’re stuck in this room, at some point you say, “This isn’t any fun.” So, whatever it needs to do, I guess we better sit down and talk about how we get this resolved.

And I remember that word picture became covenant for me. And what I know, I can share anything with my wife, and she can share anything with me, because what we both know is, no one’s going anywhere. That’s why living together doesn’t work. That’s why intimacy can’t happen if you think there’s an exit clause. Divorce is not an option and it’s the key to intimacy.

Second, adultery is a serious covenant breaking offense. Proverbs 2 talks about it’s where people end up on a pathway to death. No one wins when there’s adultery.

Third, sex before marriage is a violation of His holy covenant. Marriage should be held by honor, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral.

And so, if you’re living together, or if you’re single and sleeping around or if you’re not single and sleeping around, or if you’re logging onto websites, stop it. “So, I need to know God’s will.” Here’s God’s will, stop it. And then repent.

That kind of sex is not about love, it’s about you. It’s about lust. It’s about things that are broken inside of you.

And you just need to say, “Okay.” And is it hard? Really hard. Some people will need to go home, and by the way, you don’t have a meeting to break up. You call and say, “This is over.”

And that’s, is that hard? Is there security issues? Is there what about, what about? Absolutely. You just have to ask: what kind of marriage do you really want?

And, finally, same sex relationships are forbidden as a violation of God’s design. 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 10 says, “Do not be deceived, neither the sexually immoral, or idolaters, or adulterers, nor men who have sex with men will inherit the kingdom of God.”

God has equal opportunity judgment on heterosexual and homosexual sins. That’s not what’s best, that’s not what delivers intimacy, and grace, and the kind of relationship He wants. So any type of sexual activity that will harm you and keep you from getting the best, God says, “Don’t.” And there are guardrails because He loves you.

And the first step is always to turn and repent. And say, “God, I need help.” And you won’t be able to do it on your own.

And if some of you just feel like, “Oh my lands. I’m so far away.” Could you please hear God’s heart? He didn’t bring you here to make you feel bad. He brought you here to make you aware so you could stop, turn, be forgiven, and get on a new path.

If you’re single, to prepare for the kind of relationship He wants that’s great. If you’re married, to keep working at it. And, if you’re divorced, if there’s any possibility of reconciliation, to even ponder that.