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Marriage - A Holy Covenant, Part 1

From the series Marriage that Works

Chip begins this series with a fresh look at marriage - the way God intended it to be and the way you long for it to be.

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Message Transcript

Well, there is no doubt about it, weddings are awesome, right? The dress, the food, the family, the dreams fulfilled. But the statistics say that as wonderful as weddings are, most marriages are awful.

I went on the web and I found some research that said, “The American family, as we’ve known it, as in a husband and a wife, married with kids from their union, is less than twenty-five percent of all the marriages now in America.”

It gets beyond that. The poll, in the Harris poll, was a very interesting. They asked college students, about eight or ten years ago, to, “Do you agree with this sentence?” And the sentence was, “Having a close-knit family is the key to happiness.” Ninety-seven percent said, “That’s what I really want.” Almost all of us want that. And very, very few people will experience it.

As a result of the breakdown, the family, in one word, is disintegrating. It’s imploding right before our eyes.

All I want to tell you is, the family as we’ve known it and the hopes that we have are crumbling before our eyes. Forty percent of Americans right now think that marriage is obsolete and in Europe they’ve almost completely done away with it. In terms of the Christian family, it’s in demise.

And you go to, well, what’s the cause of that? And so I went just some secular research. This is not what Christians or pastors or para-church organizations say. But secular research in religion and sociology say, “The primary cause of family disintegration is the increasing failure to hold marriage, and marriage commitments, in high esteem.”

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.