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The Secret to a Lasting Relationship, Part 2

From the series Love Sex and Lasting Relationships

Are you in a relationship that is frustrating? A relationship that’s going nowhere? Has the pattern gone on over and over again with different people but no intimacy, no rich connection? Then join Chip as he talks about the secret to a lasting relationship.

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Message Transcript

Ephesians chapter 5, verses 1 and 2. And I put the text in your notes. In the first half of that book, he tells us who we are in Christ, and how precious we are, how loved we are, what He’s already done for us, that you are a son of God because of Christ, and that you are adopted, and He cares for you, and it doesn’t matter how you look, and He actually wanted you to be exactly the height that you are, with the personality that you have, with the eye color that you have, with the personality that you have, and He actually likes you. And you don’t have to be this skinny, or this hard-bodied, or wear these kinds of clothes. He loves you, just the way you are.

And, by the way, that is the key to experiencing great love with other people. Because until you understand how deeply loved you are, you will try and find that love, and make someone else the completion to make your life work, and it always ends in disaster.

And so, he says, “Therefore be imitators of God” – how? – “as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”

Now, pull out a pen. I’m going to ask you just to make a couple of observations. This will really help you. Put a line under where it says “be imitators of God.” Just put a little line under it. And then, above it, write, “Command number one.” There are two commands in this passage.

The word is mimic. Literally, it’s – command – mimic God. Do in relationships with others what God does to you. Mimic Him. Now, notice, I want you to put parentheses around the next phrase. It’s “as beloved children.” So, put a parenthesis.

So, I’m to mimic God. I’m to love the way God loves in relationships with other people, but I’m to do it as someone who is already dearly loved, and accepted, and precious to God.

Command number two – underline “walk in love.” “Walk in love.” It’s a command. Notice, the line that comes up next describes what it means to “walk in love”: “just as Christ also loved you.” Put parentheses around that.

So, command number one: I am to imitate God. How? As someone who’s deeply loved and accepted just for who I am. Command number two: I’m to walk in love. Walk is a choice. Walk is progressive. Walk is steps. Sometimes you fall down. But I walk, how? Just as Christ loved me.

The rest of the verse says, well, how did Christ love us? “Who gave Himself for you.” It’s a picture of, in all the portal of all time and all humanity, God saw you, and He saw me, and when Christ was hanging upon the cross, He died in your place, and in my place, to pay for our sin.

And then, He rose from the dead to prove that it was true, to offer spiritual life – just as we’re physically born, to offer a spiritual birth, and a new relationship with God.

Question: He does it to God. It’s an offering; it’s a sacrifice. When Jesus was praying through – For those of you with a little Bible background, remember the Garden of Gethsemane? Did He, emotionally, want to go to the cross? Yes, or no? Emotionally. I didn’t hear you. No.

So, He is agonizing, why? He understands separation from the Father, He understands the cross, He understands the thorns, He knows He’s going to get beaten within an inch of His life – all those things. But He looked at you, and He looked at me. And here’s what love is: Love is choosing to give another person what they need the most, when they deserve it the least, at great personal cost. That’s what He did.

And, see, it changes your relationships. It’s not, “Well, how do I feel? Is she meeting my needs? Are things going well?” You know, “Our sex isn’t as hot as it used to be.” “He’s gained a couple of pounds.” “This is really difficult with our kids right now.” “There’s a lot of pressure in our jobs.” “I don’t think she…” “I don’t think he’s really the right person.” “I think we’re growing out of love.”

No, no, no, no. Those are feelings. And those are movies playing in your head. Love is a commitment. Love is a choice to give another person what they need the most – not when they’re being good – when they deserve it the least, at great personal cost.

Now, notice, if I could take all this passage and put it in four steps like Hollywood’s formula, it would look like this. Number one, become the right person. That’s what God is saying. Become the right person.

If you have your Bible or mobile device, open up to Ephesians chapter 4, because it says “therefore,” right? It says, “Therefore, be imitators of God.” You need to look behind it, because what he is going to say is, there are certain attitudes that you need to get rid of that are poison in relationships, and there are certain attitudes that are like God’s that will transform relationships.

So, notice, Ephesians 4 – pick it up with me at verse 31. It says, “Get rid of” – what? – “all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, and slander, along with every form of malice.”

Any of you ever struggle with having some of those attitudes, actions, or words come out of your mouth in your relationships with the opposite sex? Oh, good. I do.

But notice, look at verse 32, “But be kind to one another, compassionate” – or “tenderhearted” – “forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” When he says, “Mimic God,” he says, “Become the right person.” You become a person who is kind. What is “kind”? You do nice things for other people, just to bless their life.

Compassionate – that means you’re tenderhearted, and you walk in their shoes, and you’re empathetic, and you understand where they’re coming from. And it’s not demanding about, “What do I get?” but it’s, “How do I give?” When they blow it, you’re forgiving.

It’s not that you become a doormat. It’s not that you’re doing that. And there are boundaries, of course. But when they blow it, just like you blow it, you don’t hold it against them. You get it on the table, and you forgive them. Mimic God.

And, see, the thing is, the people who are really kind, and very loving, and forgiving, and godly – guess who they’re looking for? They are looking for other people who are very kind, and very loving. Right?

So, the way to get the best is to become the best. You need to become what you want. And you can work on that every day. That’s why the greatest thing I do for my wife, every single day, is pursue, passionately, my relationship with Christ, so I can become more like Him, as His Spirit creates in me, through His Word and community, the living Christ in me.

The second thing is, rather than finding the right person, you become the right person. And then, it’s, you don’t fall in love, you walk in love. You walk in love. So, it’s a choice. And we have defined it. It is – you got it yet? Love is giving another person – what? What they need the most, when they deserve it the least, at great personal cost.

Think about this: Walk in love, as someone who feels God’s love and acceptance pouring over your mind, and your heart, and your soul, so at some level, you don’t care what anyone on the whole earth thinks about what you think, what you wear, what your body is like, because you are so precious, and so loved, and you are someone’s son, or someone’s daughter, and He made you special. And when you get that, now, instead of needing, you can give.

The third is, you not only become the right person, and walk in love, but you fix your hope on God. And you seek to please Him through this relationship. So, see, at the heart of all of Hollywood is narcissism. We will be nice to people, we will do things, but there is always sort of a, “I’ll do this, if you do that. I’ll act like this, if you’ll do that. I’ll give this, to get that.” That never is sustainable.

And then when you put your hopes and dreams on this person, and then things break apart, you’re devastated. God is the only one that can make this work, and until you are whole with Him, you don’t have the ability, or the capacity, to really love.

And the paradigm is: I am going to become the right person. I am going to walk in love with my heavenly Father, so I can choose to give what only He can give me. And I am going to fix my hopes and dreams not on this person, because they are going to let me down, but this marriage – as much as I want to be fulfilled, and that will be a nice byproduct – I want this to be an offering to God.

And God wants you to know, if you could but grasp that in a fallen world, you will always have difficult times, but if you become the right person – if you walk in love, and you set and fix your affection on Him – He will take the difficult times, like a piece of sand that rubs the wrong way in the oyster of your heart, and you’ll create a pearl. And you will end up, if you persevere – like, I have hit a window that I never dreamed was possible.

The intimacy in the marriage that I have is beyond anything I dreamed. Every area of my marriage is better than I thought it could be. And every area that you can imagine, we have struggled in. And then, the best we could, out of all of our dysfunction, we tried to model for our kids, “This is the direction to go.” And they grew up, and they said, “You know what? I think I’m going to do relationships God’s way.” And they found mates who love God, and now they’re raising kids like this. And adult kids who want to be around you. It’s like, are you kidding?

And here’s what I will tell you: The rewards that God has for you are beyond your wildest dreams. And the great majority of people, and the great majority of Christians bail out too soon, too early, because, basically, you’ve been believing this stuff. And these are just magazines.

God’s plan is, you become the right person, you walk in love, you set your affections on Him, and when failure occurs, repeat steps one, two, and three. And it will. I mean, does anyone think Theresa and I ever have an argument? Raise your hand. Yeah. Put them all up. Of course! Does anyone think that she disappoints me, or I disappoint her, and we hurt each other’s feelings? Yeah.

So, in the old days what I did was, Man, this, you know what? This is what she’s doing. And when she changes, then… And she was going, Well, I’ll tell you what. I’ll change when you change. Because it was all about finding the right person, falling in love. And now, when that happens, I’ll go back to step one. The grammar actually isn’t just, “Become the right person.” It’s, literally, not just, “Imitate God.” The grammar is, “Demonstrate yourselves as imitators of God.”

And, now I’m going to walk in love. And I’m going to give her whatever she needs, and I don’t feel like she deserves it. And I’m going to choose to do that, not even for her. I’m doing that for You. And I will tell you – whoo! – power. Forgiveness. Breakthrough.

And so, I want to take everything we have said about God’s way of doing relationships, and put it on a little pyramid. If you are single, or if you are divorced, and feel like there is a freedom to pursue a relationship, if you’re a widow. Now, by the way, if you’re married, you can say, “How am I doing at this?”

Here’s where you want to start. The issue is not, Does she look good in tight jeans? or, Does he look good in a tight t-shirt? and, What does he drive? The issue is spiritual. Is he a godly person? Is she a godly person? Integrity. Character. That’s what you’re looking for, number one. Regardless of if the little electricity goes through your head. You can hold off on that.

Secondly, you want to see them in a social situation, with no dating. You want to see how they treat friends, and people. And you go out, and you hang out, and you see them at work, or see them with friends. You want to see them socially, so they don’t put on their “I’m trying to get you” face. The moment you start dating, you paint your face, he paints his, and you play a game.

Third, then, you want to really get to know the person, more beyond a little psychological profile that’s on the Internet. You want to get to know his heart, her heart, dreams, personality, what they want, kids, finances. You want to really get to know them.

Then, you hold back those emotional feelings, and as God gives you green lights, then you click in on the emotion.

And then, are you ready for this? As these things line up, you get married. Okay? You get married. And then, the spiritual, and the social, and the soul, and the connection. And you don’t just have sex. You make love. And the angels in heaven and the God of heaven, far from being dirty, says, “This is a holy and pure thing.”

Now, that little pyramid that I gave you? I did, for a number of years, a divorce recovery program in our church. About eighty percent of the people would be people who were not Christians, but they’d been divorced, and they’d found out this was a really good place. And so, they would come. And I thought showing them that pyramid, and what they ought to do, would probably not go over real well.

So, here’s the one that I showed them. I put it just on a big sheet of paper, and I put it up. And I said, “Hey, you probably think I’m a pastor, and I’m going to really shove Jesus down your throat, and tell you how terrible you’ve been, and what you need to do.”

And I said, “Actually, I’m pretty new. I just became a Christian in early adulthood. Let me just talk about relationships. This is how I learned to do relationships, and just let me walk through this. I learned to do relationships: I was looking for a hot girl – maybe you too. And I would go to bars, and then, like most of you, probably within at least a week, if not that night, you hook up, and you get involved sexually, or at some level. And then, pretty soon, you have the dropping of thirty points of IQ, and you have these overwhelming feelings of, Oh, I’m in love, and I’m loved!

And then, you kind of get to know them. And sometimes you start to get to know her, and you go, Oh my lands. She is so hot, but there is zero between her ears. Right? Or, This guy, he is a hunk! And he’s into self-worship. He kisses his own biceps all the time. He’s a narcissist! It’s sickening being around him! He looks good from a distance. And so, you go – what? – “Ah, that’s not the one for me.”

So, what do you do? You go back fishing. Physical, emotional – and then, you find someone: Hey! We really connect. And as you really connect – and, for many people, you’ve already started living together.

And then, you get social. You’re around his friends, your friends, even family. And then, you usually move in together, and you do it for three months, or eight months, or a year or two.

And what is it about all the celebs, and all people – at some point, there is this sense, There’s more to marriage than just cohabitation, and having kids, and sharing jobs. And it’s like – because God has put it in the DNA – it’s a spiritual moment. And what do they want to do? They call people like me and say, “Would you marry us?” Right?

And so, I asked them, in the divorce recovery, “How many of you did relationships that way, like I did?” Whoo! A hundred percent of the hands. And then, this was before Dr. Phil, so I feel very proud of myself at this moment. I said, “Let me ask you. So, how did that work for you?” I mean, we’re in the divorce recovery class. And they’re going, “It didn’t.”

And so, what I did, I said, “Okay, are you all ready?” It was on a sheet of paper. I said, “Ready? One, two, three – turn the sheet of paper over.”

And I said, “If the pyramids were made like that, they probably wouldn’t be here today.” And then, I said, “Look at how they’re made. This is God’s design. If you really want help, first, get right with God. He loves you. And go on this journey. And it’ll transform your life.”

And for some of you, that’s the message He has. In fact, let me give you a couple “to-go” thoughts, and then we will wrap things up here. Three or four quick questions.

Question number one – sort of an honest moment, just between you and yourself: Which triangle most represents your approach to building lasting relationships? Whether you’re married or not. If you were honest. Don’t tell anybody. But which one? Hollywood’s, or God’s?
Second, what would your present and/or future relationship look like? What do you want it to look like? God’s, or Hollywood’s?

Third, what specific steps do you need to take to begin implementing God’s secret to a lasting relationship? And let me do a little coaching here.

If you’re an uninvolved single – what I mean is, you’re not in a deep relationship. Don’t do the dance. Don’t do the little thing, the little – you know? Go through that process. Hold your emotions back – we’re going to talk about – until a green light comes on.”

Second, if you’re an involved single – you’re dating someone, or maybe you’re living with them right now. Let me encourage you to take that triangle out and say, “Where are we? What did we skip? What would we need to do to get this relationship where it really functions the way we want it to, and God wants it to?”

If you’re married, I encourage you to sit down over a cup of coffee this afternoon, and look at that triangle, and look at each area, and just say, “How do you think we’re doing? On a scale of one to five – ‘one’ maybe not so good, ‘five’ awesome. How are we doing in spiritual, social, emotional, psychological?”

Take that sheet of paper, and a cup of coffee, and say, “You know something? We all struggle. Let’s just talk about – where do you sense we’re at with the gentleness? And what would it look like to maybe just – maybe you choose an area that we could make some baby steps toward, and I’ll choose an area. And could we talk about what it would look like to live before God, and to be kind to each other, to forgive each other, and to make progress?”

We’re going to help you discover, both inside and outside of marriage, how to know, with absolute certainty, if you’re in love, and the difference between love and infatuation.