My name is Joe Stearns and I serve as one of the elders and one of the ministers here at the Broward Church, and I’m really excited to do part two of our family series, if we are up and running.
Last week we talked about the idea, we introduced the idea of the church as a family. And I know for some of you that might be kind of a new idea.
But everyone has some sort of physical family that at least they started with Bible introduces is the idea that the church can be a second family for each one of us. So you can have a physical family and you can have a spiritual family?
Well, today we’re going to look at marriage as part of our family series and we’re going to introduce a very similar idea, and that is that there’s a spiritual metaphor of marriage in the Bible and then many of us are also physically married. And so what we’re going to do today is we’re going to explore this idea.
Of marriage as a as a as a spiritual thing, God being like a husband to us, and then at the end we’re going to give some practical advice. So the message today will be this. I’m going to give you two questions to consider primarily about spiritual marriage. And then we’re going to end our lesson today, our message today with four biblical principles on marriage. For those of you in the congregation who are married and for those of you who are listening with us today.
So, what is marriage? Marriage is a is a civil organization, marriage is a financial entity, you and your spouse can own a home together. You can own cars together. Marriage is a social institution. But what I wanted to show you first and foremost is that marriage started as as God’s gift to man. So Jesus talks about this in Matthew Chapter 19. And before we read that, I wanted to let you know the two questions that I’d like you to be thinking about as we go through this marriage I want you to be thinking about this question.
How much does God value you?
Or another way to put this is how does God feel about you? How important are you to God and the second question that I’d like you to consider as we go through these messages. How much do you value God? How do you feel about God? How important is God to you? So let’s look at what Jesus says about marriage here in Matthew, Chapter 19, he says:
“Haven’t you read that at the beginning, the creator made the male and female and said, for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
So for many of us, we feel this this powerful desire to have another person that we’re married to, and even if you’re single and you decided to remain single, you know what I’m talking about, that God has put in as this desire to participate in something from God, and that is the relationship of marriage.
Now, Pam and I, my wife and I committed to this almost thirty nine years ago. So I’m going to show you some photos from the Stearns family album.
This is a faded photograph, as they say.
This is Pam and I on July 17th nineteen eighty two. We were married in Gainesville, Florida. We met in a church that had an active campus ministry that reaches out to the University of Florida. We dated and we got married there in Gainesville. Pam and I have three adult children. All three of them are married. So I hope you’ll bear with me as I show you a photo from each of their weddings.
This photo right here is our oldest child. This is Tiffany Chicon. She’s thirty two years old and she’s doing the tradition of taking the wedding cake and smearing it on her husband, Tyler. This photo was actually taken right here in this wing over here, which is adjacent to our kitchen. We call it our kitchen wing. She got married twelve years ago to Tyler. They have two children now. Our next child is Joey and he’s twenty nine years old. And Joey got married to a disciple from Toronto, Canada. And this photo was taken on the shores of Lake Ontario, just outside of Toronto. It was a beautiful, beautiful day when they got married. His best man is our third child our youngest, Daniel and Daniel got married four years ago. I had the honor of officiating in their wedding and they’ve now been married as of December. It’s been four years.
What we’re seeing come true is this institution, this relationship that God has given us of marriage, but now we have become an extended family. The family has become an extended family and our offspring are even beginning to produce offspring of their own. As a matter of fact, a little sign that our oldest grandson is holding says, I’m going to be a big brother. And so this is an announcement of another grandchild that’s coming. So we went from two grandchildren in this photo and we now have four.
In the metaphor of marriage in the Bible, there’s an interesting phenomenon, and that is that God is described and describes himself as a husband, but he describes himself as a husband to a group of people.
And now that I have an extended family, I think I can begin to identify a little bit with how God feels that I not only love all of these people as individuals, but I love them collectively as a group. And that is how the Bible describes this in Isaiah fifty four.
We’re going to read this. We’re going to read three passages where the Bible describes God or Jesus Christ as a husband.
So in Isaiah fifty four, it says: “For your maker is your husband. The Lord Almighty is his name. The Holy one of Israel is your redeemer. He is called the God of all the Earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife, deserted and distressed in spirit. A wife who married young only to be rejected, says the Lord. For a brief moment, I abandoned you, but with deep compassion, I will bring you back, in a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you, says the Lord your redeemer.”
So there’s an idea here that God is married to the nation of Israel and what God is doing. I hope that you’re catching this. What God is attempting to do is open up his heart and tell you, this is how I feel about you. I feel like a husband to you.
And so, as you consider, how does God feel about me? I want you to see that God is trying to give us a metaphor about how he feels.
And how he feels in this situation is that tortured state where a husband has a wife, that is unfaithful, an adulterous wife and God is wrestling, what am I going to do with this woman? What am I going to do with this wife that has committed adultery on me? And what it says is that he was angry and then he turned away, but that he has decided to take back the wife and he has feelings of deep compassion for her.
As we move to the New Testament, we see this illustration used with Jesus Christ. And so this speaks to the idea of the Trinity, because in the Old Testament, we see God, the father as the husband, and in the New Testament, we see Jesus Christ as the husband. And this is what the apostle Paul says about this arrangement between God and us. He says, I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband to Christ so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the Serpents cunning your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
So what we see here is that the apostle Paul is describing the action of starting the church in Corinth. Paul was the apostle who began Christianity, started the church in Corinth, and he’s saying my sharing of my faith with you was like matchmaking. What I’m going to do is I’m going to bring you to Jesus Christ so that metaphorically speaking, figuratively speaking, you guys can get married. And now he fears that what might happen with these church members is what had already happened with the Old Testament Israelites, and that is that they might lose their faithfulness.
They hadn’t yet. But he’s like, look, I’m I’m concerned. I want you guys to have a ship. And it’s not going that well. And that’s why I’m writing this letter of Second Corinthians, is to help you in what could be viewed as a marriage relationship.
I want your relationship with God to go well. And the third of these three scriptures I wanted to read to you about the idea of marriage and by the way, there are probably hundreds of scriptures that use this metaphor. But for the sake of time, we’re just looking at three.
But in Ephesians Chapter five it says: “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I’m talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband.”
So in this, we see two ideas woven together, the idea of Jesus Christ being married to the church and the idea of physical marriage, of a man being married to a woman.
And so that’s what we’re doing in our message today, we’re looking at this metaphor and we’re also looking at us being married in a way, figuratively speaking to God.
How much does God value you?
How does he feel about you?
Maybe you haven’t thought about it, but God feels about you like someone who wants to get married, that’s how he feels about you. You know, when somebody likes you, when somebody expresses a romantic interest in you, there’s now been a demand placed on you, like, do you remember back maybe in high school or college or maybe at the workplace, wherever you found out that somebody like you, they had a romantic interest in you.
Now you’re not a bit of a fork in the road. You have to decide, well, if they like me, are they a suitable or an unsuitable partner? And if they’re not a suitable partner, then you have to decide how do I deal with this like this? This person likes me. And then you have decisions like, am I going to be rude to them? Am I going to ignore them? Am I going to ridicule them or am I going to write them a Dear John Dear Jane letter and say you’re not the one for me. Are you going to text them, have a face to face conversation with them? Look, I just like you as a friend. I don’t think this is going to work out for us as far as a romantic relationship. Or there’s a lot of people who are married because somebody expressed an interest in them and they’re like, hey, I, I, I think this person could be a suitable partner for me. I think I think this could work. And the fact that they expressed an interest in you begins to increase your interest in them you like, this could work.
How do you feel about the fact that God has expressed an interest in you? God has expressed an interest in you? Some of you may have not known that maybe some of you believed about God that God is like this uninvolved, detached creator of the universe. And he took the universe and spun it into motion. And now he’s hands off. But nothing could be further from the truth. God is trying to express us how he feels by using the metaphor of marriage.
And he’s saying, I want a lasting, here’s a biblical word, a lasting covenant relationship with you, which means a sober, serious, permanent, lasting bond between you and me.
Listen to this beautiful passage of scripture from the song of songs that expresses what it’s like for a married person, their feelings towards the person that they’re married to. Which also expresses how God feels about us.
“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm, for love is as strong as death. It’s jealousy, unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love. Rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love. It would be utterly scorned.”
You know, Pam is the seal over my heart, nothing’s going to separate me from my wife and we’re time tested. I told you it’s going to be thirty nine years this summer. She is the seal over my heart.
But what’s being communicated here from God?
Think about this, Jesus Christ died on the cross to create a marriage between us and God like this is not this is not just theory. Jesus went to the cross to bring us to the father. God feels like this about you. And the question is, how will you and I feel about him?
So God values you like a godly husband, values his wife. So the question is. How much do you value God, how are you going to respond to God?
You know, when I was 18 years old, I became a Christian and it was like getting married, it was as a matter of fact, I put this on a slide. I’ve been married once, but I’ve been married twice.
Because when you get married, any of you who have been married, you know what I’m talking about, when you get married, it changes your life completely where you live, what you do with your time, who you are around, how you spend your money, everything in your life changes socially.
Often things change your attitude about building a family or having a home or what you’re going to do with your career. Everything changes when you get married. And I tell you, when I became a Christian on January 30th in seventy seven, it was like I got married. But it was an even bigger change, my life completely changed when I became a Christian. It was like I got married times 10. By the time I’ve been a Christian three months or six months, it was beginning to become hard to even remember what life was like. As a non Christian, I was like, whoa, how did I think?
How did I feel? Because the way I viewed life, how I felt about things, how I felt about God, what I was doing with my life, the goals of my life, they all changed on that day and they’ve changed. I’m sixty two. I’m about to turn sixty three. And like my marriage, I ain’t looking back. It’s going to take death until we part except as a Christian, we have the hope of the resurrection and eternal life. If this was not your experience in becoming a Christian. I want to see this sensitively, but I want you to reevaluate whether you became a Christian or not, because the way the Bible describes becoming a Christian is a is a level of commitment, a level of devotion that is like getting married.
This is how the Book of Romans describes it says: “don’t you know that all of us who are baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We were therefore buried with him through baptism, into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father, we to, listen to this phrase, we, too, may live a new life. When you become a Christian, your life has changed. It’s a new thing. There are many ways that the Bible describes for becoming a Christian. One of them is to start a new life. That’s what we just read in Romans, or we’re about to read a passage of scripture that uses these two next points. Becoming a Christian can be described as losing your life in order to gain life. It can be described as loving Jesus more than anyone else. It can be described as a dozen Second Corinthians five as becoming a new creation, the oldest gone. The scripture says the new has come.
Jesus makes us really clear. And what is our main scripture today, which is Matthew? Chapter ten. This takes up three slides and we’re going to go through this.
Jesus outlines for us what it takes, figuratively speaking, to get married to him, to become a Christian, to be a follower, to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
First. In this passage, he expresses his love for us, he says. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny, yet not one of them falls to the ground outside your father’s care and even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
I love Pam with all my heart, but I have never tried to count the hairs on her head. But God loves us so that he even has the hairs of our head numbered. What that saying poetically is God is deeply engaged in your life, deeply involved. He may not feel at times that God is involved because he does give us our freedom. But he knows every little thing going on in your life.
He said, don’t be afraid. You’re worth more than many sparrows. And then Jesus begins to describe what he asks of us.
Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my father in heaven, but whoever disowns me before others, I will disown, before my father in heaven. I don’t know if you’ve thought about your relationship with God like this or if you knew this, but Jesus Christ requires that you are proud of him, not ashamed of him. Jesus Christ requires of us loyalty.
He’s like if you disown me, I will disown you. And he says, if you’re afraid to acknowledge me, I’m not going to acknowledge you before my father in heaven. A lot of people don’t know this about being a Christian because these words are challenging. But this is what Jesus is trying to make clear and as we continue in this passage, he says.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the Earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword for I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter in law against her mother in law. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”
Now, this this might be a confusing passage to you, but what he’s trying to say is he’s trying to say, you need to consider me more important than your physical family. A lot of times when a man or a woman decides to become a Christian and give their life wholeheartedly to Christ, their strongest opponents are their family. Often it’s the mom and dad or it’s the brother and sister, or it’s the person who raised you.
And they’re like, you’re going way overboard with this religion thing. You’re just taking this too far. They used lines like everything in moderation. And when Jesus is like this is in moderation, this is marriage. This is all the way in. This is complete devotion. This is being wholehearted.
And to make it even more clear on this family issue as we finish the scripture, he says he makes really clear. He says:
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, any anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. And here’s this line. Whoever finds their life will lose it. And whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
And so, as you can see, we already saw this, but when a person becomes a Christian, there’s a lot of different ways to describe one phenomenon, the phenomenon of becoming a Christian. But but one of the many ways the Bible describes it is losing your life to gain it, or loving Jesus more than anyone else, or becoming a new creation or starting a new life. Now, I’m going to use a fancy word for you, it’s the word soteriology, soteriology, is the study of what the Bible says about being saved. It’s the study of salvation.
And from the apostle Paul, primarily, we learned a very important truth. And that truth is that we are saved by grace, through faith. You cannot earn your salvation. The the the structure of getting saved is not based on do your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds?
It doesn’t work like that. What it works like is when you have faith in Christ, then then God gives you salvation as a gift. But what’s added to that is what Jesus talks about.
And there’s a lot more people talking about what Paul teaches than about what Jesus teaches, because what Jesus teaches takes this faith to a higher level. It doesn’t change what Paul said. What Paul taught us is foundational to the Christian faith. We are saved by grace, through faith. But what Jesus says is that faith. It’s going to result in you following Jesus, that that’s what faith looks like, what it doesn’t look like is an intellectual position.
So if you’re like, I believe in my mind that there’s a God, the Jesus Christ is the son, I must be saved.
And what Jesus is saying is. Actually, we need to get hitched. He’s seeing you and me, we need a committed covenant relationship, that’s what faith should produce in your life. And so there’s a doctrine of salvation that a lot of people don’t express. And it’s this salvation requires commitment. It requires commitment to Christ. Once again, this is not work salvation. Let me give you the illustration once again of marriage, not a single one of us can be a perfect spouse.
I’m not a perfect spouse to Pam. She is not to me. But what I can be to Pam and what she is to me is a committed spouse. I may blow it all the time and I may hurt her feelings and she might get really exasperated with me, which she does from time to time because of my own shortcomings. But I am devoted to that woman, and you, God does not ask perfection of you, but he does ask devotion to you. What kind of devotion, what does that devotion look like? It looks like marriage.
So my encouragement to you is this if you have not become a Christian, I want to encourage you to begin a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ and Revelation Chapter twenty two. It says, “The Spirit and the bride say, come and let the one who hears say come. Let the one who’s thirsty come and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”
The invitation for you to become a Christian is always open till the day you die. No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve been through, God is not asking perfection of you. He’s just asking for you to love him back, for you to commit your way of life to him. I’m not asking you and the Bible is not encouraging you to make a decision based on emotion. When I became a Christian at the age of 18, I started visiting a church with this campus ministry and some of the young men in that campus ministry studied the Bible with me.
And it still took me four months of coming every Sunday. I even went to their Wednesday midweek and they had a small group Bible discussion. And I got very, very involved in the church. But it still took me four months before I decided to become a Christian.
And look, whether it takes you a day, a week, a year or a decade. Or decades. I hope and pray that you will listen to the invitation to come to Christ and then you will soberly, seriously decide to enter in a covenant lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now, I’m now going to go on to just finish up our time together, talking to those of you who are physically married about four principles that will help your marriage. We will go through this kind of quickly. If you’re taking notes, then please be alert, because we’re going to go pretty quick here.
But first, I wanted to point out to you that the general teachings of the Bible, the general teachings of the Bible, are sufficient instruction for marriage and parenting for those of you who are students of the Bible. Have you ever noticed that there’s not a lot of passages of scripture on marriage and there’s not a lot of passages of scripture on parenting? There are certainly scriptures on marriage and parenting, but it’s not like the Bible has a whole two hundred page section. That’s a marriage and parenting manual. The reason for that is this.
The general teachings of the scripture speak fantastically to two subsets of our lives, like marriage or parenting or friendships or how to act on the job place. Every imaginable type of relationship is addressed in the general principles of the scriptures.
Principle number one, put Christ at the center of your marriage. And if this a little bit like last week, that’s because I am making the same point. Last week we talked about putting Christ the center of your family, put Christ at the center of your marriage.
In your marriage do you guys pray together? Do you guys talk about the Bible from time to time, something that would be wonderful to do for you in your marriage is as a married Christian couple to share your faith with a couple that’s not yet a Christian and reach out to them and try to help them come to the same saving relationship that you have with Jesus Christ. You, as a family and as a marriage can worship God together. You can fellowship with other Christians together.
Put Christ at the center of your marriage. I love this passage of scripture. Many of you are famous, are familiar with it, but it says. “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either one of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if to lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone, though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” And listen to this line. “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Please make your marriage a cord of three strands. You, your spouse and God put him at the center of your life.
Principle number two, interact with your spouse, with the fruit of the spirit. In other words, act like a Christian towards your spouse, act like a Christian towards them. So when I use this kind of biblical religious phrase, the fruit of the spirit, I want to show you what I’m talking about. It says here in Galatians five, this is the fruit of the spirit or substitute this.
I treat my wife. I treat my husband with. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control against such things, there is no law. You see, the general principles of the scriptures are helping us to realize in our marriage to treat our wife with those qualities. Here’s some other general principles that speak to the same idea in the Bible says keep no record of wrongs with that apply to marriage. It says not to be quarrelsome and 2nd Timothy’s says: “the Lord’s servant that would be a Christian must not be quarrelsome.”
It’s not OK to be argumentative all the time with your spouse. Don’t be a quarrelsome person. Your gentleness should be evident to all. Look not only to your own interests, but also to those, also to others. Don’t be selfish. Do not let the sun go down on your anger, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
My encouragement to use this, don’t leave your Christian life at the front door, when you get home, when you come home, don’t quote unquote let your guard down. Well, now that I’m home, you know, all that Christian stuff, it’s not so intense. Like, I can just treat my spouse and my family however I want. Listen, please don’t be in this position where you’re treating other people better than your spouse. We are treating people at church or your colleagues at work or even perfect strangers with better courtesy and respect than you treat your spouse at home.
Please, if you’re like this, I want to encourage you. The scriptures are encouraging you to repent. Treat your spouse like a Christian ought to treat another Christian.
Principle number three, be open about your marriage with other Christians. In 1st John 1, it says:
“If we claim to have fellowship with him, that’s with God and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his son purifies us from all sin.”
Look, I get this. It is a natural temptation if you’re married to hide your problems, to save face. We’re good, we’re a happily married couple. And then to take those problems and keep them in the dark, but we know what happens, those wounds fester, those wounds get worse, bring it out into the light by sharing the difficulties, the problems, the obstacles, maybe even things that are more neutral, like decision making or goals, share them with another strong Christian couple or two couples or three couples, get other people involved in your marriage.
I promise you, this is a great idea unless you pick a couple that’s not doing well spiritually. But if you find another couple that’s strong, build friendships with other married couples so that you can help each other in your marriage. And as we wrap up our lesson today and we move towards taking the Lord’s Supper, the last principle I wanted to share with you out of the scriptures is husbands love your wives. Wives respect your husbands.
We looked at that once, but here’s what it says in Ephesians five it says, “However each one of you must also love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband.”
And so there is a trend in the world outside of Christianity where people do exactly the opposite of this. Husbands often neglect or ignore their wives and wives often disrespect their husbands. Now, a lot of the needs of a husband and a wife are the same. They have the same needs. But the Bible is making a statement about the differences in our genders. And what it’s saying is specifically, women really need their husbands to attentively and reactively love them, to be considerate, to pay attention to them, to love them. And men need the respect, the admiration of their wife. It’s just a need of a man and in need of a woman that the Bible is trying to help us with.
At this time, we’re going to share communion together, and I wanted to share a passage of scripture with you to close out our message today, and it’s about it’s the Lord’s Supper, a communion scripture, but it’s about matchmaking.
And what it says is that: “For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.” Why to bring you to God, why did Jesus even die on the cross in the first place? It was to create a relationship between us, Jesus Christ himself and God, the father and Jesus on the cross.
Remove the barriers so that we can have a relationship with him. It says he was put to death in the body, but made alive in the spirit. So as we go to take the Lord’s Supper together, let us remember that God’s love for us is so strong that he gave his life for us through his son. Let us value God and love him back as he is initiated with us.
Let’s pray together. Holy Father, we we praise you that you love so deeply. Father, forgive us for the times that we forget of the greatness of your love for the times that we are ungrateful. And please, Father, help us to be grateful. Father, we do thank you that you gave your son for us and then you made a way for us to have a relationship with you. We pray in your son’s name. Amen. Thank you.