It doesn’t take a social scientist to figure out that marriage today is in trouble. Adultery, divorce, depression, alcoholism, work-alcoholism, and a host of other “isms” have reached epidemic proportions. It may have been Benjamin Franklin who said, “A disease is never brought under control simply by treating the casualties.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could prevent some of these spiritual diseases from claiming casualties in our marriages? Which causes me to ask the next question.
Is it possible to build a healthy marriage from the inside-out and prevent such devastating problems? Can we create marital dynamics that break with the patterns that perpetuate hurt and sin? I believe the answers to these questions is yes! Now, it’s not my intention to offer the next and latest formula for having a Christian marriage. I want to talk about our hearts. It’s about our opportunity to examine the state-of-heart with which we approach the task of building healthy marital relationships. This message is about getting back on course.
The only way of getting back on course in Christian marriage is to apply the spiritual principles upon which marriage was founded. My prayer is, that as you hear and see today the Holy Spirit will bring to light ways that you can apply what you learn. And as you become rightly related to God, by His grace He will lead and empower you to get back on course in your Christian marriage. So, to get back on course in our Christian marriage let’s look to:
I. Getting at the Heart of God’s Plan for Christian Marriage
Most Christian husbands and wives are trying to do their best with God’s help. However, when it comes to troubled marriages, Christ is always the missing ingredient. That’s the root of the problem. It then becomes a matter of understanding how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit so He can freely work through each of you. So, rather than using the “wife verses” or the “husband verses” I’m going to use the “Context verses” this morning. To get at the heart of God’s plan for marriage we need to take a look at the context of this passage.
For a long time these seemed like disconnected verses. But, it’s become apparent that Paul began his teaching on marital relationships with the command to “be filled with the Spirit.” So often husbands are trying to get filled from their wives and wives are trying to get filled from their husbands. We’re empty because of the curse, because of sin and Paul is reminding us as Christians to turn to the Holy Spirit as our source of filling. He’s telling us where our filling is to come from and that’s God – He is your source of life and empowerment and meeting needs.
Paul says in verse 18, “be filled with the Spirit.” Now, he’s not talking about quantity, about how much of the Spirit we have. He’s not saying, “you’re only half full, like a glass of water and you need to be completely filled.” Romans 8:9 indicates that if you belong to Jesus, you have the entire Holy Spirit dwelling in you. He means more like be permeated with the Spirit, like what happens to a glass of water when an Alka-Seltzer is dropped into it. There’s no part of the glass of water that doesn’t have Alka-Seltzer in it. The Greek form of this phrase is in the present, passive, imperative. Imperative means it’s a command. The one commanding assumes you have the power to carry through. However, the passive voice, means it’s not something you can do, rather it’s something that must be done to you or for you. What he’s saying is, “allow yourself to be filled.” The present tense means “whenever it is now,” always or continuously. So, a literal rendering is this, “Allow yourself to be continuously filled with the Spirit.” It’s not something you should, or even can do. It’s something you should and can allow to be done to you, whenever it is now!”
To get your marriage back on course, you must get at the heart of God’s plan for marriage. And Paul says, “get your life from God.” Remain in a continuously dependent relationship with Him in order to meet your needs, then you’ll be filled to meet the needs of your spouse. Just do it! In fact, if Adam and Eve had remembered to do this, we wouldn’t be having this little talk right now. Secondly, we can get our Christian marriages back on course by:
II. Being Mutually Submissive in Christian Marriage
When we depend on God to meet our needs, it sends ripples through every relationship we have. We’ll be “speaking in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. . . “ All of these things are what results when we allow ourselves to be filled by God. Even the admonition, “be subject to one another” is best read as a result of this filling from God. And this is what we want to look at here in verse 21. The KJV says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God; The NASV says “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ;” NIV and RSV say “be subject to one another.” Here Paul tells ALL Christians to be subject to one another as a result of being filled with the Spirit. The word “being subject’ means arranging yourselves underneath, putting yourself under the authority of another based on the worthiness and devotion of the one in authority. The idea is voluntary, free and joy-filled submission. It’s also out of reverence for Christ, out of the fear of Christ and based upon our relationship with Christ. Submission doesn’t make you less of a person. Submission never detracts from your personhood, it enhances it. And mutual submission in marriage enriches the relationship.
In this passage, Paul is actually presenting a major concept that empowers us to live the Christian life and then illustrates how it works with all kinds of relationships: wife/husband, parent/child, employee/ employer. In every instance he talks about what it means for two people to place themselves under one another. Both husbands and wives are to be submissive to each other. You see, the teaching about submission only begins with wives. If husbands aren’t to be submissive to their wives too, then there’s no “being subject to one another.” Of course, no person has the power to voluntarily, willingly and joyfully put themselves under another apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. Filled with the grace of God, a wife can come under her husband and offer to his service everything about herself that’s female to enable her husband to become everything God created him to be. And a husband can come under his wife, bringing to bear everything about himself that’s male and in doing so he will enable his wife to become everything God created her to be. When we come under someone, we’re loving them and supporting them (agape). And in so doing we allow God to take the lead in changing and directing our lives and our marriages.
If we obey the scripture to be submissive to one another, we’ll have a relationship in which Jesus can be seen, an image-of-God relationship. When our filling comes from the Spirit and not from ourselves and when we’re mutually submissive to each other our marriages will get back on the course God designed. Finally, in getting our marriages back on course we must be:
III. Leaving and Cleaving in Christian Marriage
In last week’s sermon, I noted that the first two chapters of Genesis present God’s original plan for marriage as a relationship in the image of God, “becoming-one-flesh” relationship, co-ruling, co-subduing. In fact, Genesis 2:24 indicates that it’s imperative that we “leave and cleave” in order to build this relationship. Here Paul reiterates this truth in verse 31. . . What does it mean to leave cleave?
The word translated “cleave” means to cling, or stick to, like glue. The ability to do this with your spouse is determined by the degree to which you have left your parents. Webster’s Dictionary says that “leave” means to “depart or go away from” on the positive side, and it indicates “abandon or desert” on the negative side. But we know this is not always easy.
Under normal circumstances, when an unmarried person is in a dependent relationship with his/her parents, a primary relationship exists between them. I’m using dependent as on your income tax return, not in reference to some emotional weakness. So when a son or daughter grows up and begins a relationship with the person he/she is going to marry, the relationship with his/her parents is supplemented by another, new secondary relationship. In addition, each person also acquires secondary relationships with the family members of their spouse-to-be. When they get married, however, things change drastically. Their relationships with the spouse’s family members remains the same (secondary), but their relationship with their own family members becomes secondary now.
On the surface, leaving implies some kind of geographical change. And it does mean that. However, just because a couple goes away from, departs, even abandons or deserts their mother and father, doesn’t necessarily mean they ever really leave. In other words, they may be present with their spouse, but they’re stuck to their parents. That’s because they’ve not really left emotionally, socially, psychologically or financially. Their allegiance and energy is toward their family of origin and not toward their spouse. This always sends shaming messages to the spouse.
Sometimes in-laws make the situation worse, albeit unintentionally at times. They offer help that bails the couple out of every jam instead of offering to encourage them as they grow through it. They offer unwelcome advice and act hurt or insulted if it’s not taken. Or efforts by the couple to leave and cleave are taken as rejection. These parents control instead of support. It’s hard to leave your parents if doing so means you’re a bad child. Now, I’m not saying to break off your relationship with your parents. I’m not saying that you should never socialize with your parents or accept help or support from them. But I am encouraging you to do what it takes to leave your father and mother and cleave to your spouse. You need to do so, whether or not your parents take it personally, if you’re going to get your marriage back on course!
There’s no way we can get our marriages back on course by ourselves, in our own power. When we’re off course, Christ is the missing ingredient. He must be the center. So to get back on course we must be Getting at the Heart of God’s Plan by being filled with the Spirit. We must be Being Mutually Submissive in our marriages and we must be Leaving and Cleaving in our Christian marriages.
Much of the content of this message came from the study of the book “Families Where Grace is in Place” by Jeff Van Vonderen interventionist on the A&E Television Program “Intervention.”