February 18, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
I want to start with a true story. I could give you 50 examples of this, but here’s 1 true story. A guy I worked with in the Army. He was a believer, and he met this gorgeous woman. She had everything going for her. -She was smart. She was attractive. They had this incredible relationship. Sparks started to fly almost as soon as they started to get serious with each other, and then they got married.
For a while, they had this ideal relationship with one another, and then over time, they started to drift apart. It wasn’t really anything in particular that started to cause this relationship to drift apart, but eventually, not only did they drift apart, but one time on a deployment with me overseas, he gets the “Dear John” email. It wasn’t a letter; it was in the form of an email, and here’s the content of that email. It basically said, “Hey, I found somebody new. I’ve already gotten involved with this guy personally, and I cleaned out the bank account. I’ve sold everything that we own at auction. I paid for plastic surgery, and I’ve already filed for divorce. It’s over.”
As soon as he gets this email, you can’t even imagine how devastated this guy is, and he comes to me, and he’s broken about the affair. He’s furious about the money. But this guy’s really just looking for some advice from me on, “How do I get her back, Jeff?” And I said, “You don’t. In fact, not only don’t you, but according to Scripture, you shouldn’t try to get her back. You have just learned a really painful lesson in relationships.”
Now, I want you for just a second to play Dr. Phil with me. There are a lot of things that went wrong in this relationship. There were subtle points along the way. Words started to go south. I want to ask you, where did it begin to go wrong? Where did this train start to derail? You tell me. Where did this mistake begin? Where did this relationship start to go wrong in the very beginning?You see, this guy was a believer, and she was not. So where did it begin to go wrong?
They went wrong right there at the faith level, and I can’t tell you the number of couples I’ve done pre-marriage counseling for in this situation. Look, I don’t marry a couple, or I only perform the wedding ceremony if both of them are very committed believers, but I’ll do the pre-marriage counseling for just about anybody, and I can list for you 100 couples who one of them was a believer and the other one wasn’t, and they basically said, “Hey, it’s not that big of a deal, Jeff. We’re going to make this thing work.”
And I want to say to them, “Are you crazy?! No, you’re not going to make this thing work. At some point, it’s going to go wrong and when it does, it will ultimately undermine your faith all along the way. So, we really shouldn’t be surprised when a lady like this who just doesn’t know Jesus Christ, when she acts like a sinner. That’s just normal. What we should be surprised about is, when this guy who knows Jesus, why would he fall in love with this girl who doesn’t know Jesus? It’s pretty obvious from the Bible, that was a mistake.
I want to tell you the whole sermon today in one sentence. Here’s what I want you to hear from me today. This is the way weird people (I’m going to describe that were weird in just a second). Weird people, when it comes to human relationships, we give our faith away to strangers (I’m talking about people who don’t share your belief in Jesus), we give our faith away to them, but we don’t cross over this line. We don’t give our hearts to them, because we know in the end, it’s going to really, really hurt your faith.
By the way, we have many examples of this from the Scriptures. Now, if you’re sitting there trying to figure out for yourself, What you mean by this word weird, Jeff? Well, we’re in this sermon series where we’re saying as followers of Jesus Christ, we’re not just supposed to be different; we’re supposed to own it. We’re supposed to be proud of the fact that we’re different.
I just want to ask: How many of you would call yourself a weirdo? It’s okay. It’s alright. For all of you weirdos, this sermon is for you, especially if you’re not married. If you’re still single and you’re trying to figure out who God’s mate for you is, let me give you a piece of advice. Christians (we who follow Jesus Christ, who call ourselves weird) don’t get involved with wicked women or with bad boys. And I’m talking not about the actions right now. I’m talking about the soul. We set a line, and we don’t cross over that line, because we know it’s dangerous. If you cross that line, it’s going to be destructive to your faith. It’s like playing with the Acme dynamite kit. At some point, it’s going to go off in your face, and I want to give you three examples today of what it looks like when somebody just blatantly ignores the signs and starts to rush heart-first into a relationship with a person who doesn’t share his faith.
I. Stronger than Samson
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Jeff, that may be true of other people, but you know what? We love each other so much, we’re going to make this thing work out,” I would say, “Oh really?” Well, if that’s what you’re thinking right now, here’s my first warning to you. You really think you can pull this one off? You’re going to have to be stronger than Sampson, God’s original superhero in the Bible. -because he tried this, and it didn’t work out too well for Samson.
In fact, what I want to argue today is that everybody should have 1 or 2 of what I called “gospel friendships”, relationships with people who don’t share your faith. That’s important, but there’s also a line that you draw, and you don’t cross over that line, because you know, I know I’m not strong enough to cross that line without getting hurt. I’m not stronger than Sampson is. Here’s the story from Samson back in the book of Judges, chapter 14. Here’s what the Bible says:
Samson went down to Timnah and saw a young Philistine woman there. 2 He went back and told his father and his mother: “I have seen a young Philistine woman in Timnah. Now get her for me as a wife.” 3 But his father and mother said to him, “Can’t you find a young woman among your relatives or among any of our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines for a wife?”
In Samson’s day, the father of the groom and the father of the bride had to negotiate the terms of the relationship. There was almost always a dowry involved, and so the guy didn’t really propose himself. The girl didn’t really accept herself. It was the two fathers who made these arrangement, and Samson sees this woman. She doesn’t share his faith. He doesn’t care. He thinks she’s hot. He wants to marry her. “Hey Dad, would you go see if we can arrange a wedding between me, a good boy, a son of Israel, and this girl, this Philistine girl?”
Do you know what the Bible is teaching here today? Don’t marry her. Don’t fall in love with him just because he’s hot. That’s basically what the Bible is saying today. Ladies, I want to warn you. The Bible is saying, just because he has six-pack abs doesn’t mean he’s the kind of guy you should spend the rest of your life with, because let me tell you what’s going to happen over time. Eventually, that’s going to be a one-pack. Pretty soon, it’s going to be no-pack abs. If that’s what you’re looking for in a mate, you’ll lose that.
Guys, you think she looks like Miss Universe? You want to marry this trophy wife? The Bible would say to you, let me remind you; gravity is going to take its toll over time, and beauty is only skin-deep, so if she doesn’t have the character, if she doesn’t have the faith that you have, pretty soon you will be married to ugly on the inside and ugly on the outside. Why would you do this to yourself if that’s what you’re looking for in a mate?
But really, the Bible is taking this a step further. It’s saying, “Don’t even look through physical eyes. You really want to know who to pursue as a husband or wife? Look through the eyes of faith. If you don’t look through those kind of eyes, you’re headed for a heartbreak. You’re headed for soul-crushing heartbreak at some point along the way. And Samson was a guy who just looked with his eyes. He wasn’t willing to consider; this woman doesn’t share my faith. She doesn’t share my values. What’s most important in my life is not most important in her life. How on earth are we going to make this thing work?
And this Philistine wife of his was the first step that eventually led to Delilah. Delilah was the step that eventually led to God taking away from Samson the very thing that he was using to see women in the first place. I’m going to skip a couple of chapters in the Bible and jump to Judges chapter 16. I want you to see what happens when Samson pursues women just because they’re hot, just because of the way they look, just with his eyes instead of listening to his heart and instead of measuring her faith. Judges 16:21:
The Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles, and he was forced to grind grain in the prison.
Samson wasn’t willing to listen to Mom and Dad’s advice. He wasn’t willing to learn the lesson from this Philistine wife. He eventually gets in relationship with this woman, Delilah, and this is what the Bible says the results of that relationship are. Samson was unable to view relationships through the lens of faith. He didn’t put his relationship with God first and then let that influence all of the other human relationships in his life, and it was very, very costly to Samson.
You think you’re strong enough to pull this one off on your own? You think, that’s not going to happen to me. You have to be stronger than Samson if you as a weirdo, a follower of Christ, get romantically involved with somebody who doesn’t know Christ.
II. Smarter than Solomon
But maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “Jeff, I read the story from Judges. Samson’s an idiot.” I would agree. But in case you’re thinking to yourself, “You know what? I’m smarter than Samson. I could pull this one off because Samson just didn’t listen to the clues. Samson wasn’t smart enough to figure out what I figured out along the way”, I would say, “Oh really?”
Well then, let me ask you this question: Are you smarter than Solomon, who the Bible describes as having God-given supernatural wisdom? Short of the Lord Jesus Christ, he was the smartest man who’s ever walked the earth. No one will ever have the kind of supernatural wisdom that Solomon had, and Solomon wasn’t smart enough to pull this kind of relationship off.
I’m going to read a couple of verses. It’s a pretty long passage from 1st Kings Chapter 11, but I want you to pay close attention to a phrase that’s repeated over and over again about Solomon in 1st Kings 11, starting in verse 1. Listen to what the Bible says.
1 Kings 11:1-11
King Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to Pharaoh’s daughter: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women 2 from the nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, and they must not intermarry with you, because they will turn your heart away to follow their gods.” To these women Solomon was deeply attached in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives who were princesses and three hundred who were concubines, and they turned his heart away. 4 When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away to follow other gods. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been. 5 Solomon followed Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the abhorrent idol of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and unlike his father David, he did not remain loyal to the Lord. 7 At that time, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the abhorrent idol of Moab, and for Milcom, the abhorrent idol of the Ammonites, on the hill across from Jerusalem. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who were burning incense and offering sacrifices to their gods. 9 The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 He had commanded him about this, so that he would not follow other gods, but Solomon did not do what the Lord had commanded. 11 Then the Lord said to Solomon, “Since you have done this and did not keep my covenant and my statutes, which I commanded you, I will tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.
The Bible rarely ever does this. God gives some instructions to ancient Israel back in the Old Testament. He carries those instructions through to you and me as followers of Jesus in the New Testament, but here, he does something very unusual. He not only tells you what his command is; he’s telling you why. Let me tell you why this matters to you, why this is important. You must not intermarry with them. They must not intermarry with you, because “they will turn your heart away to follow their gods”.
Now, Solomon should have known better. In fact, Solomon didn’t even need God to describe this to him because he had an example in front of him. His father, David, made a colossal mistake with women. He’d made this huge mistake with Bathsheba that would haunt David for the rest of his life. Solomon should’ve learned from that mistake, but God warns Solomon, “Solomon, don’t go down this road with these bad girls. Don’t get involved with somebody who doesn’t share your faith. Solomon, you’re not smart enough, and I will tell you what’s going to happen. They’ll turn your heart away.”
Solomon didn’t listen, and he just subtly became unconvinced over time. He just fell into this deeper and deeper rut with these women. Now, if you were in Solomon’s kingdom, I think it would’ve been almost imperceptible, but if you left and then came back much later, you would say to yourself, what happened here? How could this man make this mistake?
The Bible doesn’t say this, but I’m pretty sure this is probably what happened: If Solomon really loved these ladies (and the Bible says that he did), for months or for years, they were begging him to come to church with them, and Solomon probably said to them, “Look, I don’t believe any of that stuff, and that’s that.” It’s fine for you. You can go ahead and practice whatever you want. I don’t believe that.”
You see what the problem here is? Two different faiths in the same intimate relationship. Then probably over time, just to get them off his back, Solomon got up and he went to their pagan temples, but in the back of his mind, I’m convinced Solomon was thinking something like this: “You know what? I don’t believe any of this junk. She can believe whatever she wants. I’m just here to the let her know that she’s important to me. And then Solomon probably just felt guilty about it when he went home. No big deal, right? And then he went again and again and pretty soon, not only did Solomon not feel any guilt about going to these temples; pretty soon Solomon probably started to feel good about going to these pagan temples, and eventually, Solomon took a little pinch of incense, threw it on the burning coals on the altar and practiced idol worship.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Bible says that Solomon took God’s money, God’s taxes on God’s people in God’s land, and he built places of worship for these false gods, these false idols literally in the capital city of Jerusalem. Solomon, how could you be so foolish? How could you do this? And the truth is, this math formula plays out thousands or millions of times when a believer gets romantically involved, starts to give their heart away in a level that they never should with somebody who doesn’t know Jesus Christ. And eventually, Solomon loses everything. He loses the kingdom because he wasn’t faithful to God first by putting all other relationships through the lens of faith. God warned Solomon. Solomon should’ve listened to his daddy, but he didn’t. Solomon should’ve listened to the Lord, but he didn’t.
You see, I’m convinced we are very much like Solomon in our day. We live in this culture that’s obsessed with passion, and we’re looking for this “50 Shades of Gray” kind of relationship where there’s just physical attraction and sparks flying between the two. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that a Christian couple shouldn’t have that. In fact, I would argue you should have the kind of passion that other people are looking at saying, “Man, I wish I had what those 2 have.” But I’m also suggesting we don’t allow physical attraction, or just the passion between 2 people, to cause us to miss the most important factor, the relationship that you have with Jesus. And if that’s not in common, how can we have other stuff in common?
III. Scrimmage with Satan
You see, I’m trying to overwhelm you with the evidence. You think you can pull this one off on your own, that this doesn’t apply to you? Well, you’re going to have to be stronger than Samson. You think you’re smart enough that you can make this one work when other people can’t? You’d better be smarter than Solomon. The truth is, if you go down this road, ultimately here’s what’s going to happen: You’re going to end up doing battle with the enemy of your soul personally. You’re going to end up scrimmaging with Satan if you walk down this road. Those aren’t my words. Those words come directly out of the New Testament. That’s what you’re doing when you as a weirdo (a follower of Jesus) get involved with somebody who’s not a follower of Jesus. 2nd Corinthians chapter 6, verses 14-18 puts it this way. This is the Apostle Paul speaking to some people who are new Christians in a Greek pagan culture in a city called Corinth, and this is what he says:
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. 17 Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. 18 And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.
Why do we examine all relationships through the lens of faith? It’s because the relationship that’s supposed to describe every other relationship (define it and set parameters for it) is my relationship with God, and that relationship impacts every other relationship. This passage that were looking at in the Bible, let’s just set the context for just a second. Corinth was a very powerful, very influential, very pagan city, and the guy who was writing this is writing to Christians who are relatively new to their faith, and they’re trying to figure out How do I do this? -because almost everybody in my city doesn’t know Jesus. How am I supposed to live in a city like that?
I’m telling you, the Chattahoochee Valley where we live is not much different today than Corinth was 2000 years ago, and 60,70, perhaps 80% of our city shows absolutely no care or no focus on Jesus Christ at all. They may call themselves Christians, but let’s just be honest. If you don’t have any passion for a relationship with Jesus Christ, I don’t know that it’s accurate to call yourself a Christian.
So, we live in this culture where 60,70, 80% couldn’t care less about Jesus. How do we do this? Well, you do it the exact same way that they were supposed to do it in Corinth, and it’s hard; let’s just be honest. And what the Bible is really saying is, “I need you, Christians, to live among them but to live separate from them. I need you to be in and among them, but I also need you to be out from among them and separate from them.”
The phrase that’s often tossed around in churches is that we are supposed to “live in the world, but not of the world”, not like the world, not fall in love with the world, which is the danger that we’re looking at today. I think it’s so important, that I put a blog on her church website. -why everyone should have 1 or 2 “gospel friendships”, a relationship that you’re developing with somebody who doesn’t share your belief in Jesus. They need that; you need that. But there’s a line in this gospel relationship that you don’t cross. There is a part of your heart that you hold back and you don’t give completely over, because you can’t; it’s dangerous if you do it. It will undermine your faith, and the Bible’s challenge to us today is that we give our faith away to strangers, but we don’t give our heart away to strangers.
This week I was thinking about it, and most of my family doesn’t know Christ personally. I’ve had the privilege of leading some of my family to faith in Christ, but most of them don’t know Christ, and I was doing the math in my head this week. I think for 27 years daily, every day of my life for 27 years, I’ve been praying for some members of my family by name. God, bring them to salvation. I will pray for them until they die, until I die, or until they become followers of Jesus, whichever comes first, but I’m not giving up on them.
To be honest with you, I love my family equally, but I don’t have the same relationship with those in my family who don’t know Christ as I do with those in my family who do know Christ. I love them both the same; I love them at the same level. The reason I don’t have the same relationship is because I can’t. We don’t share the most important thing in common, and because we don’t have the most important thing in common, there’s a whole lot of other things that we don’t have in common. I still love them. I would give my life to see them come to faith in Christ, but I can’t have the kind of relationship with them that I have with others in my family who do know Christ, because we don’t have that in common.
So, one of my challenges today is for you who are not yet married who are starting to go down a dangerous road with somebody who doesn’t share your faith, my challenge for you today is, break it off today. I’m serious. It’s way too important to protect your heart and to not go down this road with them. It will undermine your faith. You’re not stronger than Samson; you’re not smarter than Solomon. You’re not good enough to constantly do battle with the enemy of your soul and not let it affect your faith. It’s going to affect your faith. But also want to challenge those of you who know Christ personally. Maybe you can’t think of one person in your life who doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus. It’s time for you to get outside of your comfort zone and to develop some gospel friendships with people who don’t know Christ personally. And don’t use them; don’t make them like a little notch on your belt. Go deep with them, but not so deep that you cross this invisible barrier and that you give your heart to somebody who doesn’t share your faith. This is hard to do, but it’s extremely important.
• I need Jesus to change my heart. Today, I surrendered my soul to Jesus for the first time.
– I have let someone become more important to me than Jesus. Pray for me to put Jesus first.
+ I will give my faith to someone who doesn’t know Jesus, but not my heart.
1. What human relationship is the most important in your life right now? Why that person?
2. How different would that relationship be if that person didn’t know Jesus as Savior?
3. Did someone break up with you in the past, and you were grieved at the time, but you learned later that you’re better off without him/her?
4. Why do marriage relationships have such an impact on a person’s faith?
5. If God’s people had no connection with people outside the faith, how would the gospel spread around their city and the world?
6. Do you have a friendship with someone who is not a Christian?
A. If so, how do you keep the relationship from hurting your faith?
B. If not, how are you sharing your faith right now?
7. Pray that our relationship with Jesus would influence every other relationship in our lives.