August 27, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
Here’s the truth: People in our community are struggling with marriages all over the place. I mean, this is a terrible privilege that I have as a pastor, and I say this “terrible privilege”, because it’s an honor; it’s a privilege when a couple comes in to sit down and to open up their heart and from the depths of sincerity in their heart, they start to share some of the greatest struggles of their life in marriage together with me. That’s an honor.
It’s also terrible. -the kind of conversations that I get a chance to hear, and I’m overwhelmed sometimes, just exhausted, by the conversations that I have about marriages in our church and in our community. It’s been my privilege for almost 20 years now as a pastor to go through this terrible honor of listening to marriages and trying to invest in marriages around me.
Here’s the truth: A lot of people are just struggling, and they have no idea where to go for the answers. It’s almost as insane as getting on Google and trying to figure out how to make your marriage better. “Okay Google, how do I fix my marriage? Hey Siri, how do I make my husband become the man that he’s supposed to be?” This is as insane as going to the magic eight ball and asking the question, “How do I fix some of the greatest pain in my life?” The answers that you’re going to get there are insane. You’re listing to the wrong advice.
You have a chance today to ask an honest question, and as we’re able to, as God gives us the ability, we’re going to try to give you some honest answers to honest questions about marriage. Now, in order to set the foundation, or framework, for what you hear from us about marriage today, we’re going to go back to the beginning of the Bible. We’re going to go back to God’s original blueprint for marriage, his original creation, this thing called marriage, back in the Garden of Eden, and we’re going to pop the hood and look at the original design, and then maybe by looking at the original thing called marriage, we can diagnose what’s wrong with marriages in our church or in our community today.
So, here’s the foundation to set up what we’re going to talk about today. Genesis chapter 2 is the beginning of the first marriage in the Bible. Genesis 1 and 2 describe God creating all of the Heavens and the Earth. God creates animals. He creates the plants. He creates a man, and a Genesis 2:18 (God’s words; not mine)
Genesis 2:18; 23-25
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”
Those of you who know the Bible, you know that God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. He took one of his ribs. He fashioned this rib into the perfect companion for Adam. Her name was Eve. And then God brought Eve to Adam and in Genesis 2:24 and 25, God performs the first wedding ceremony. This is the creation of the institution of marriage. You’ve probably heard these verses read when you went to a Christian wedding ceremony. Here’s what the Bible says:
23 “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’ ” 24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. 25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.
Very briefly, let me describe what’s happening in verse 24. God walks Eve down the aisle. God is the pastor who presides over this first wedding ceremony between Adam and Eve. God is creating an institution called marriage, because Adam doesn’t have a father or mother. What God is creating in the Garden of Eden lasts today. And then verse 25 tells us, “Now the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame about it.”
Listen very carefully to me, church, because what I’m going to say next is going to describe everything about marriage, but it’s also going to set up for you what you’re going to hear next week and a few weeks later, and a few weeks after that. This thing called marriage is God’s design, God’s creation. It is a biblical word, and the implications to what I just said are this: that because God created it, because God designed it, only God has the authority to define what a marriage is. That means I categorically reject any form of society that tells me, even if they agree with me, I reject anything in society that takes the authority to define marriage. You can’t define something that God has already defined. Supreme Court of the United States, you have no authority here. This is God’s territory, and here’s God’s design for marriage: One man, one woman, both believers, coming together in a union that lasts for a lifetime.
God does something sacred. God does something spiritual in verses 24 and 25. One man and one woman, both believers, coming together in a union that lasts for a lifetime. That’s what the Bible defines as marriage for us, and anything outside of that just simply doesn’t meet the Bible’s definition when it comes to the word marriage. Now, let’s just be honest; marriage is tough, and the reason marriage is tough, is because the person who is entering into the relationship with you in a wedding relationship is a sinner, and so are you. And when you put two sinners together in the most intimate of all human relationships, sparks are going to fly. So, if you want to know where I’m going with the sermon today, if you want the general overview of this entire sermon this morning, I’ll give it to you in two sentences. Here it is. You can write this down and put it on your refrigerator door next time you two are fussing with each other. Here’s the truth: You don’t find a great marriage. You don’t just stumble into this thing or fall into it, because that implies you can just stumble out of it or fall out of it. You don’t find a great marriage; you have the fight for a great marriage.
Listen, I’m not talking, put on the boxing gloves -Mayweather/ McGregor fight- today or something. Look up here carefully. I’m not talking about him-versus-her fighting today. What I’m describing for us today is, you fighting against you. You are the problem in marriage, and they are the problem in marriage, and if you’re going to have a great marriage, you have to fight against you, and that fight never ends. You never stop fighting against you to have a great marriage. They’re going to have to fight for their marriage as well.
If this thing is going to be great, if your marriage is going to be glorious, if your marriage is going to give God the glory that He deserved, you’re going to have to fight against you, and they’re going to have to fight against them. That’s true of all marriages.
I. We’re gonna live happily ever after—Not!
So, we’re going to look at a couple of common misconceptions about marriage today. I will try to set the record straight on a couple of these misconceptions. Here’s the first one. You’ve probably heard somebody say this to your face, and if you were really polite, you didn’t laugh in their face when they said this. The first misconception is “We’re going to live happily ever after”. Go ahead. You can give a big belly laugh to this one. Ha ha! No, you won’t. There is no happily-ever-after. I could punch Hans Christian Anderson in the face for ending his fairytales this way, because he just set every child in the world up for a soul-crushing disappointment – ‘cause there is no happily-ever-after. There’s nothing but a lot of hard work after this.
I’m being totally honest. I’m not trying to be irreverent here. I am convinced people weep at weddings, the families weep at weddings for one of two reasons: One, because she’s so beautiful. But the second reason is because they know something the happy couple doesn’t know. They know how hard this is about to be, and they’ve tried as much as they can to convince the couple this is going to be a lot of hard work, but the couple is so in love with each other. “We’re going to have the marriage that nobody else ever had before. We’re going to have happily-ever-after.” And everybody else in the room who’s wiping their eyes is saying, “No, you won’t. -because I don’t have happily ever after, and you’re not going to have happily ever after. This is not going to be easy if you want it to be great.”
Here’s the bottom line: The deeper relationships go, the more difficult they become, because you’re in love with a sinner, and that partner in marriage is also in love with a sinner. And when two sinners come together in the most intimate of all relationships, sparks are going to fly. The chapter in the Bible that describes love is found in 1st Corinthians chapter 13. If you were to take a half-step back as you read 1st Corinthians chapter 13, if you were to just summarize what you’re hearing in this chapter in the Bible, you would have to say the guy who wrote this chapter has to believe that it’s hard work to love somebody deeply. Here’s the language from 1st Corinthians chapter 13:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
At the macro level, those verses say love is hard, and you’re going to get hurt a little bit, because the person that you love is so different from you. The person that you love is imperfect. The more that you let your guard down, the more that they’re going to hurt you.
I’m going to just shoot straight with you. Genesis chapter 2 says the man and his wife, before sin entered into the equation, were both naked, and they felt no shame. Well, here’s the truth today: It takes a lot of courage to get naked in front of somebody else, because when you get naked in front of somebody else, they can see all of your flaws. They know all of your imperfections, and if they wanted to, they could say some things that are going to hurt you really badly. So, in order for us to let our guard down in marriage, to get naked in front of each other, (I’m not just talking physically, but emotionally in front of each other) you open the doors up to get your heart hurt really badly. That’s why love takes so much work.
There is no happily-ever-after. To quote Wayne and Garth, “Not!!” There is no happily-ever-after, because you’re different from her, and she’s different from you, and love takes a lot of work.
First, what kind of a sick, twisted person doesn’t put the cap back on the toothpaste all the way when they’re done? That was literally the reason why the Roman Empire fell. -because the toothpaste cap didn’t get all the way on the tube. Look, we’re laughing, because this is your marriage too. I know it is. This is true of all couples when they come together. I’m going to do you a favor right now. Why don’t you just go ahead and look over the couple next to you and say, “Don’t even act like you have the perfect marriage. You don’t, and neither do I.” Go ahead. You can say it to them right now.
The truth is that where there is depth in relationships, and nothing is deeper in human relationships than marriage, where there’s depth, there’s difficulty. And because the two of you are both sinners entering into this human relationship, there’s going to be challenges. Marriage shows us that we need Jesus. There is no happily-ever-after until Jesus enters into the equation.
II. You complete me—Really?!?
Let me tell you the second myth that we often hear about marriage, and sometimes it’s different language, but this myth comes directly from the movie, Jerry Maguire. It’s the myth that “You complete me”. It’s kind of the idea that this person over here is exactly what I needed, and with him, he’s going to make me perfectly happy. He’s going to make me into the complete human being. I want to tell him “Shut up” too when he says that because here’s the truth: The statement “You complete me” is dangerous. The statement, “You complete me” means I’m more focused on me in this relationship than I’m focused on the we in this relationship. I’m only interested in you because of what you can give me or what you do for me, and the me relationship is never a healthy relationship. The we relationship is the only healthy relationship, but it’s even more dangerous than that.
You see, the statement “You complete me” at its face value puts your spouse in the place of a savior, and they can’t possibly do that for you. They can’t give something to you that only Jesus can give to you, and when you look to your spouse to be a savior, they’re going to let you down. Here’s the way that you and I are supposed to be completed. Here’s what’s supposed to fill our greatest longing, supposed to meet our greatest need:
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?
The deer needs something that the deer doesn’t have inside, so the deer needs water, and like the deer needs water to survive, the guy who writes this says, “God, I need you that badly.”
God designed you so that only He can complete you. Yes, your spouse can complement you. Of course, they’re supposed to come alongside you, but they don’t have the ability to complete you, and when you look to them to complete you, you’ve turned your spouse into a savior, and they’re going to let you down every time.
One of the most important books I’ve ever read on the subject of marriage, Christian marriage, was written by a guy by the name of Gary Thomas. He wrote the book, Sacred Marriage, and in the book Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas said this: “What if God didn’t make marriage to make you happy? What if God’s original goal (This was the thesis behind the book Sacred Marriage) What if God created marriage to make you holy, not to make you happy?” -if it was God’s design from the beginning to show you that you needed Jesus, and this spouse that you have is the one that shows you how much you need Jesus.
Some married couple Christian counselors make the statement this way: When you got married, those of you who are wed in this room, God gave you a wedding gift on your wedding day, and that wedding gift is a full-length mirror that shows you all of your flaws and all of your failures. That spouse is the full-length mirror that shows you that you need Jesus. Your spouse really can’t complete you.
III. Marriage is gonna make my life better—Seriously?!?
Here’s the third myth that people often use when it comes to marriage: Marriage is going to make my life better. Seriously?! You really think that marriage is going to make your life better? By the time that we get done today, most of you that are single in this room should be thinking to yourself, “It sounds to me, Jeff, like it would be a whole lot easier to remain single. ‘You know what? By the time we get to the sermon on singleness, you’re probably going to feel that way, because marriage takes a lot of hard work.
Are there any philosophers in this room? ‘Anybody gets paid to write and do research in philosophy? Good. You won’t get your feelings hurt by what I say next. One of the greatest philosophers was a guy by the name of Socrates. Socrates knew a thing or two about life, and he knew a thing or two about marriage. Here’s what Socrates said: “By all means, get married. If you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad wife, you’ll become a philosopher.”
A strong marriage is going to take a lot of hard work. It’s going to be messy. It’s like road construction. You have to dig way down into the deep foundation in order to make this marriage ready to handle all that life is going to throw at it, and it’s going to be messy. It’s just what happens when you bring these two imperfect people together in this relationship.
There was a guy who tried everything in life to make him happy. He tried to do this. He tried money. He tried power. He tried marriage. In fact, he tried a lot of marriages, hundreds of marriages. The guy’s name was King Solomon, and after money and power and marriages, he realized, “None of this stuff can make me happy.” Here’s what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes chapter 1:
Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
Your spouse cannot make you happy. Jesus, and Jesus alone, can satisfy you and fill you up at your deepest core level. Look, let’s just be honest in this room. We live in a society where the deck is stacked against a Christian marriage, and many people are just hanging onto the marriage relationship by their fingernails, and they’re struggling just to make it through another day. I’m convinced that God wants marriages, Christian marriages, to not just survive; He wants them to thrive. But if you’re looking for marriage to make you happy, you’re looking for your spouse to be a savior instead of Jesus, if you’re hoping for happily-ever-after, you’re going to get your heart broken in marriage. That’s not what marriage is intended to do. Marriage can’t do that for you. Only Jesus can do that for you, and perhaps, God created this institution of marriage to show you something about you and to show you how much you need Jesus. The truth is, if you want your marriage to be great, you’ve got a lot of hard work to do, a lot of fighting, and that hard work and fighting is going to be against you. ‘You want there to be a change in your marriage? You’re going to have to change you, because without that, I’m not sure you’re going to find a great marriage.
I’m going to make a confession to you. It’s absolutely true. I’ve made some mistakes in my marriage. In fact, I’ll be honest. I’ve made this mistake in my marriage. I’ve asked my wife to do something for me that she can’t possibly do. I’ve asked Dawn to try to make me happy, so that when I come home, all the pain and all of the frustration goes away, because she’s such an awesome wife. But the truth is, nobody can live up to that. It’s an impossible standard, and to expect that of any human being is unfair. So, I’ve made some mistakes in my marriage, and I don’t even need to know you to know you’ve made some mistakes in your marriage too. I’ve asked my wife to do something that she just can’t do in marriage, and chances are, you’ve expected the same thing from your spouse if you’re married too.
Only Jesus gives happily-ever-after. Only Jesus completes you. Only Jesus offers you a better life. In fact, the life that Jesus offers you is the abundant life. You can’t find that from somebody else here on Planet Earth. Here’s the truth: ‘You want to find a great marriage? It’s never going to happen. But if you’re willing to fight for a great marriage, if you’re willing to fight against you for a great marriage, then maybe you will have the kind of marriage that others will look up to. It’s a fight against self. It’s even a fight against our society.
Here’s my hope for you as a couple. -that if you’re married, you will find the kind of marriage that the people you work with or your next-door neighbors say, “You two have something that I don’t have. You two have something that I want. What is it?” And by your marriage, it becomes a testimony to the goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what I hope for your marriage. -that you have the privilege of saying, “Let me tell you what, we couldn’t do this on our own. It’s because Jesus is in the center of our marriage that we have this kind of relationship, and without Him, our marriage would be a struggle like everybody else’s marriage.”
With Jesus in marriage, it can be a glimpse of Heaven. Without Jesus in marriage, it can be a glimpse of Hell. -if a couple is only focused on them and me and not on we.
• Today, I learned for the first time that Jesus created me to be in a relationship with him. I want to turn from my sins and surrender to Jesus for the first time.
– I have allowed selfishness to affect my relationships. Pray for me to put others before myself this week.
+ I want my marriage to point people toward Jesus. This week, I’m going to invest more in my spouse and our relationship.
- Who has the “best” marriage you’ve ever seen? What made their marriage stand out in your mind?
- What makes a Christian wedding different from a ceremony in front of a judge?
- Is it possible for another human being to always make you happy? Explain your answer.
- Read Genesis 2:24-25. What does the Bible mean by the statement “naked and felt no shame”?
- Why do relationships get harder the deeper they go?
- Describe the thing in our society that seems to be working against strong marriages.
- Pray that the way we live and love one another would honor Jesus this week.