Christopher C. Warren
Marriage is a sacred institution initiated, blessed and protected by God. Increasingly, though, it is regarded as just 'one way' for members of the opposite sex to live together.
There are usually five or six main reasons why people get married:
- they are lonely and want companionship;
- they want money and financial security;
- they want love;
- they want sex; and
- they think marriage will solve their personal problems.
Some of these reasons are conditionally valid and others are definitely not. Marriage can certainly give us companionship, financial security (sometimes but not guaranteed by any means), love, sex, and solve our personal problems (sometimes). But the primary purpose of marriage is not any of these things.
God created the first marriage in a world that was innocent, pure and holy -- the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:21-25). He did not institute it in the fallen world after Adam and Eve had transgressed. This is an important point. He instituted it under the conditions in which it was supposed to thrive, in a world where God was worshipped, loved and honored. Marriage was therefore created so that man could better fulfil the purpose for which he was created.
Marriage is holy before God. The adversary wants to destroy it and has been doing his utmost to overturn marriage and true male-female relationships. His first two acts of temptation were (a) to get woman to rebel against God, and (b) to tempt her husband to follow her in her rebellion (Genesis 3:1). His reasons, which are basically the same advocated by militant feminists, had as their purpose the destruction of marriage and of life (John 10:10).
Estrangement (separation) from God is the main human problem. Until that problem has been dealt with, men and women are going to be estranged from one another, no matter how clever they are in finding a "working harmony" or "equilibrium" without Him. Maintaining that balance can be a nightmare and what turned out as a passionate love affair can so easily end up in anger, hatred, bitterness and resentment.
I know of one couple who come near to divorce at least once a year. There are fundamental differences between them in many areas and the only way they are able to resolve the conflict is to maintain a 'healthy distance', leaving each to get on with their own lives until they cannot bear it any more and try to thrash out the differences again, always with the same result -- disagreement and estrangement, a truce, distance, and so on. That is not how God intended marriage to be and He has the solution to this kind of alienation.
The break up of any marriage is a tragedy. But a breakup with God is even more tragic and its effects filter down to every aspect of life. The same problems that cause a marriage to fail will cause a soul in its relationship to God to fail as well because human marriage is a reflection of the kind of intimate spiritual relationship that God wants us to have with Him.
The moment we neglect sound biblical principles two relationships are in jeopardy -- our relationship to our marriage spouses and our relationship to God. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:1-3). Peter knew what it was like to deny true principles (Mark 14:69-72) and he knew the joy of what it was like to do what was right (Matthew 16:16). And what a blessing he received when he did what was right! (verse17). So, what led Peter down the path from revelation to rebellion and defeat?
Strange as it may seem, it started right after his victory! What sent him down the wrong path? When Jesus said that He was going to die. "No! No! No!" said Peter. "Never!" And Christ rebuked him and called by "Satan" (i.e. the adversary) and told him to get away. So what had Peter rebelled against? Wasn't he showing true affection by wanting to defend the Master he loved, by keeping him away from death? Noble though such a sentiment might seem to be in the eyes of the word, in the eyes of God it was adversarial.
Now if you want to understand why so many marriages fail you must grasp this. Peter rebelled against the idea of a cross. And what is the cross? The cross embodies within it the concept of a personal surrender of will, and Peter was a very willful person. The moment Peter challenged the Word of God the process of personal estrangement set in. He began to be progressively cut off from God.
This is the lesson that fallen, rebellious man finds so hard to accept -- he trusts his own feelings more than he trusts the Word of God, and therefore he resists God.
This is why I feel great anguish in my soul when Christians start challenging the Bible and selectively remove those parts they do not like. To do so automatically puts a soul into estrangement with God and leads him down the slippery slope of apostasy. Why not just accept what God says? Don't you think His mind and heart are superior to your fickle feelings and imperfect vision of the whole? When you challenge God's Word you set yourself above Him. You make yourself into God, just as the serpent tempted Eve to do, and as rebellious men and women have been doing ever since.
Men and women must learn the lesson of King David who chose the hard way into obedience to God: "Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (Ps.119:11). He knew, but what a price he had to pay (the punishment of murder, adultery and disobedience). Without God's Word you will sin. You can be sure of it. And without God's Word no marriage can find its completion, perfection and joy.
Christians are as liable to mess their marriage as unbelievers, though really they ought to have the advantage. The problem lies in the proper conception of the Kingdom of God. When Jesus talked about building the Church Peter was on fire, but when he started talking about the Cross he went into automatic rebellion mode. Peter was ready to fight for the Church but not ready to fight for the Cross. He, like so many, thought he knew more about the Kingdom than Jesus did. And so, when the cock crowed three times, he fell. And he knew what he had done. He repented and became one of the greatest bearers of the message of the Cross ever (read his two Epistles). And he went the way of the Cross too, dying for His Master and showing what suffering love is really about.
The moment a man or woman thinks he or she can run his or her life better than God then he or she is drifting away from God and into darkness. The reason why the servants of Christ have hope in the most apparently hopeless situations is that we are not relying on our own ways or power. The secret of success in marriage is, quite simply, obedience to God.
The vast majority of self-styled Christians do not know God because they in truth worship only an image of Him which they have created in their own minds and hearts. They have taken the Cross out of God's Word and replaced it with the lust for health, wealth and power.
The answer to the question about how to create a successful marriage lies in one uncomfortable, though utterly undeniable, truth: death to self.
Philippians 3:10, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;"
1 Corinthians 15:31, "I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily."
Talk about power, miracles and the like, and people flock around you -- talk about the Cross and they shrink away. That is why this Church was so devastated in its three rebellions -- the people flocked in for the revelations and new spiritual truths but fled when they saw it would cost them something -- the Way of the Cross. So where do they go? To the fallen Churches who teach power (and imitate it with false gifts) and who rarely talk about the Cross. They are doing just what Peter did before he finally came to his senses and repented.
Jesus said that His disciples, attracted for the wrong reasons, would be offended by the fullness of His teaching about suffering and self-death (Mark 14:27-29). They still are, so they invent their own "Jesus" and preach their own private "gospels", convert thousands, and lead them right down into the grave!
And marriages built upon exactly the same premises end up dead too. People enter marriage because they want or expect companionship, money, love, sex, etc., but not because they have come to give these things to their spouse. So both husband and wife sit around waiting for their companions to give them companionship, money, love, sex and solve their problems, get angry when they don't get them, quarrel and become estranged.
False Christians and unbelievers do the same with God. They sit around waiting for x, y and z and get resentful when they aren't forthcoming. Ought we to be surprised by such a selfish attitude? Return to God's Word and don't let it slip (Hebrews 2:1-3). Watch out for headed pride and self-will. Be leery of someone always telling you of their accomplishments (Proverbs .16:18) -- it is God who has accomplished all that is praiseworthy.
Failure in marriage and in our relationship with God is usually slow and gradual...until one day Jesus says, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:23).
Consider the contrast -- the passion of the revelation of heaven: "Thou art the Christ!!!" You were an active missionary, busy in Church, actively engaged in building up the Kingdom. And where are you now? Sitting at home looking after personal interests and perhaps calling these "works for Christ"?
Here are some of the signs of widening estrangement:
- praying becomes tedious, and slowly gets less and less;
- the Bible ceases to be interesting and it is studied less and less;
- the desire to witness fades and so interest in those beyond our inner circle of family and close friends evaporates.
The same symptoms appear in marriage too:
- husband and wife stop talking to each other;
- they stop finding out about each others hopes and fears;
- their family circle shrinks in size -- no longer are rings of inclusive friendship thrown around strangers seeking after close friendship and spiritual intimacy because the power to do the same has vanished.
When Peter lost the fire of his original faith he sought for substitutes. When Jesus was arrested, what did he do? He took up the sword and cut off Malchus' ear -- he tried to substitute faith with works -- he became a social Christian instead of a salvation Christian. Peter had never got over his original problem of resisting the Cross -- he was now actually about to kill to keep Jesus from the Cross. His Jesus wasn't going to die but stay around and spoon feed him!
Isn't that what husbands and wives want of their spouses? They want to be spoon-fed with companionship, love, sex, money, entertainments, etc.. But what does God want? He wants the husband to serve Him and his wife to be her husband's helpmeet. That is why marriage was created, not for personal selfish, gratification! But that's what the world teaches you.
Peter is a classical case of zeal without knowledge. And worldly marriage is similar -- passion without Christ. "No cross for you, Lord! We're going to crown you King (and by Jove we're going to push until we get it)!" And marriage is no better: "No godly fellowship for you, husband! We're going to get lots of money and have fun (and by Jove I'm going to push until you give me all these things I want)!"
Mark 14:53-54, "And they led Jesus away to the high priest...And Peter followed him afar off...and warmed himself at the fire."
Isn't it nice and cozy? Here we are around the comfortable fire of our own personal plans, our family and career ambitions, our entertainments, our social gospel...and there is the crucified Jesus afar off. So many follow "afar off" these days -- they're no longer right up by Jesus' side. And wives are no longer up by their husbands' side because they're too busy with their own programs.
They fellowship with other believers (when they do)...half-heartedly. They give alms (when they do)...semi-faithfully. They pray (when they do)...in a crisis...enough to slip into heaven? But not to cramp their lifestyle. Jesus is welcome to come...so long as He doesn't spoil our fun and way of doing things, our routine, our thoughts, our feelings, nudge unrepented sins into remembrance...
When you grow cold, you go to the enemy's fire. What's the next step? You deny, and say: "I don't know what you mean!" So what has happened? Denial is a long way from declaring Jesus to be Christ. How can you, when you have deserted the Gospel and your marriage? How can you say you are a Christian? Impossible!
But thanks to God, no matter how far you have drifted from your spouse in your marriage or from God by deserting the Christ's assembly, it is only one step back to your spouse and one step back to God.
Matthew 26:74-75, "Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly."
The way back is simply: Remember, Repent, Weep. It's a death- blow to pride but it is living, loving salvation. It's the way home. It's the way of Peter who saw his folly and came home. Please -- husbands and wives, brothers and sisters in Christ -- come home!
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