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Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Fresh Vision of Marriage

It’s not for nothing that traditional marriage vows state “for better or for worse” because there may be nothing like a marriage that has the potential to bring out both the best and the worst in a man and a woman. Most every human relationship can be faked in some way, but marriage simply cannot. There was a very funny movie in the late 90’s starring Tim Allen & Christie Alley called For Richer for Poorer. The first scene shows the husband and wife, played by the above actors, celebrating their anniversary with many friends in their swanky New York apartment. It’s evident that their affection for each other and “great marriage” is admired and envied by their friends. However, once the crowd leaves, it’s immediately evidently that they actually despise each other and are headed for disaster. All that is played out for great laughs, though of course there’s nothing funny about real marriage disasters.

In some respects marriage is like a really challenging academic test designed to be beyond everyone who will take the test to measure the real limits of their academic ability. Or perhaps you could relate marriage to the training of special forces personnel where candidates are thrown together in very close proximity and stressed in every imaginable way to determine whether or not candidates will be emotionally, mentally and physically up to the extreme circumstances they will later face.

But I don’t mean to give an overly pessimistic view. As I often tell my kids, anything worth doing that has the potential to deliver great good is also likely to be very challenging and demand your best. Marriage is a great good, but it places incredible demands and exposes any character weakness in both partners.

I’m reading The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller. I highly recommend both to those married and those who hope to be married at some point. In the second chapter, which is worth the price of the book, Keller relates that in spite of the tremendous challenge of marriage the majority of people are happy in their marriage:
All surveys tell us that the number of married people who say they are “very happy” in their marriages is high— about 61– 62 percent— and there has been little decrease in this figure during the last decade. Most striking of all, longitudinal studies demonstrate that two-thirds of those unhappy marriages out there will become happy within five years if people stay married and do not get divorced.
Next week at Bethany Place I will directly address the need to support and encourage those who are divorced. This week in the 3rd message of the series Applying the Gospel to the Family Circus, I will directly challenge the conventional views of marriage in a way that I’m praying will provide a fresh vision for marriage and reveal what scripture says God’s ultimate purpose for a marriage is. I have no intention of ignoring the needs of those who are single, divorced, or widowed, which I hope is evidenced by last week’s sermon and next week’s. However, my desire to encourage and support those folks does not diminish the real need for us to do all that we can to challenge and strengthen existing marriages. The well being of our children, families, churches and society is directly affected by the well being of the marriages in our midst. Once again, I am preaching from a passage that does not directly address marriage, but the application works, i promise. You can see the scripture, outline and prayer guide for this message below.

A Fresh Vision of Marriage
Philippians 2:1-11
Applying the Gospel to the Family Circus, Part 3

You will move toward fulfilling God’s intent for your marriage when you
1.    Seek genuine transformation through the gospel
Philippians 2:1 (ESV) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,

2.    Pursue the same purpose
Philippians 2:2–4 (ESV) complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

3.    Move toward expressing stunned worship and adoration to Jesus
Philippians 2:5–11 (ESV) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Some suggestions for praying through this passage
Pray for God to develop in you through his grace encouragement in Christ,  comfort from love,  participation in the Spirit, and affection and sympathy for other people, especially your spouse if you have one. 

Pray that God would grant you the strength to comprehend the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. (See Ephesians 3:16-19)

Pray that God would reveal to all of us the ways in which we act from selfish ambition and conceit. Pray that God would help us to practically see how to act in humility toward others, putting their needs above our own. 

Pray that God would awaken all of us to the glory of Jesus' act in leaving heaven to come to earth and that we would be led to increasingly stunned worship and adoration of him through that.

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