The Grace-Filled Marriage - Week One,
Growth Principle One:
This morning we begin a new series on marriage that I am
calling, The Grace-Filled Marriage. This series is going to last
about eight or nine weeks, and during this series I want to lay
out what I think will be a very encouraging vision for your
relationship with your spouse.
Now, I've consciously chosen the title Grace-Filled Marriage
because of my conviction about what marriage ought to be. At the
core of an authentic Christian marriage is God's grace. It's a
commitment to treat your spouse the way Jesus treated people
during his ministry: he was full of grace-and truth.
But if you look at the books on Christian marriage over the past
thirty-years, you discover they don't necessarily emphasize
grace as the core the vision for marriage. In fact, I'd argue
that Christian books on marriage generally fall into three
SOME ARE WRITTEN TO HELP YOU DISCOVER HOW YOU CAN GET YOUR NEEDS
MET. The idea is that if you just apply these seven principles,
you'll have a romance that sizzles. Your wife will be
attractive, fun and happy. Your husband will be tender and kind.
It's a needs-oriented approach to marriage.
That approach isn't all bad. There are some really good
principles out there that help couples meet needs and get needs
met. But getting needs met is not the core of what Christian
marriage ought to be.
ANOTHER CATEGORY CONSISTS OF THOSE BOOKS THAT EMPHASIZE
DIFFERENT ROLES IN MARRIAGE. The concept here is that if you
just embrace your God-given role, your marriage will improve;
you'll move toward intimacy and oneness.
On the surface, this approach is quite biblical. The Bible does
spell out male/female roles in marriage. But many couples do the
roles thing for the wrong reasons. Men will say, "I've led her
consistently for six months, and she's not changing! So
spiritual leadership doesn't work." Or a wife will say, "I've
tried submitting to him, and he just gets worse. He's more
withdrawn and passive than ever. I'm giving up on this
submission stuff." Learning roles is important, but Christian
marriage is not just about doing the roles.
THE THIRD CATEGORY CONSISTS OF BOOKS BY CHRISTIAN PSYCHOLOGISTS.
Some of these books are very good, with insights that are hugely
helpful to your marriage. But sometimes you get the impression
that good marriages are mostly about getting psychologically
healthy, and the transcendent spiritual nature of marriage is
lost in the process. I've known couples who were a mess
psychologically, and yet they had a reasonably good marriage.
I think the implicit promise in much of the Christian literature
on marriage, and the promise goes like this:
"Finally, we have a secret for getting your needs met in you
marriage! And the secret is contained in this book; or this
seminar; or this set of tapes." Of course they don't say this,
but it's the underlying tone.
And there is a bit of spiritual idolatry in that approach,
because God never intended for marriage to meet all your needs.
What I'll argue in this series is that it's better for you to
feel some pain of an imperfect marriage and have passion for
God, than to have a near perfect marriage and harbor complacency
So let me lay out the ultimate vision.
The biblical vision for marriage is that you would glorify God
by being a person of integrity, irrespective of whether your
mate cooperates or not. The focus is on what you can do to serve
and grow, not on how you can be served.
This is why the idea of a grace-filled marriage is so important.
How did Jesus relate to an undeserving sinful human race? He was
full of grace and truth! What should our vision be for marriage?
To glorify God by being full of grace and truth with our
partner…no matter what we get - or don't get - in return.
Now this morning, as we begin the series, I want to start in an
unlikely place. I want to start with the passage immediately
after Adam and Eve fell into sin. We begin here, because more
than any other passage in the Bible, this passage tells us the
three purposes in marriage in a fallen world.
So please turn to Genesis 3. And this morning I want to look at
three clues that reveal the purpose of marriage in a fallen
1. THE 1ST PURPOSE IS CONTAINED IN GENESIS 3:1-11, AND THE
PURPOSE IS THIS - Marriage after the fall is designed to expose
you to your sin.
A. Now I realize this isn't a very romantic way to begin, but
to understand why this is true, we've got to go back the
watershed incident in the entire history of the human race: The
You'll remember that after God established the institution of
marriage he placed the first couple in the Garden of Eden. For a
period of time they enjoy blissful/flawless harmony; they enjoy
a challenging occupation: subduing the earth. The Garden of Eden
was the beachhead from which they would fill the earth and
provide leadership over the race.
But this first couple was also untested, so God gives a very
important command. He said, "You can eat from any tree in the
Garden of Eden, but there is one tree that's totally off limits.
You cannot eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."
Now this was no arbitrary command. That tree represented the
moral test that would determine their nature. If they obeyed
God, they would be confirmed in righteousness and live in
harmony…both with God and each other. If they disobeyed, they
would receive a sinful nature and live in estrangement both from
God and each other.
But the stakes were even higher than that. Their decision would
determine the fundamental moral and spiritual nature of the
entire human race. All of human history - yet future - hangs in
the balance as Adam and Eve grapple with their responsibilities
in the garden. What are they going to do with the command of
Now the serpent comes on the scene. He cunningly entices Eve. He
twists the words of God. He casts doubt on the character of God.
And he appeals to the sensual delight of determining good apart
Within a short time, Eve is convinced, and she gives in. She
takes a bite, and savors the flavors that explode onto her
tongue. Then she gives it to Adam. He bites, and he's blown away
by this new experience.
Why didn't Adam stop this? Where was he when the conversation
was taking place? He was right there with her. Genesis 3:6 makes
this very clear; Adam was by her side, listening to
everything…saying nothing. There's not even a hint of
leadership, nothing like, "Honey this is not a good idea," or
"Honey, let's seek God on this." Total silence! And Adam's guilt
is greater, because God had given him the greater
Now at one level, it's probably hard for us to grasp the immense
guilt that washed over them in the aftermath of that bite. They
were flooded with remorse. They had violated the trust of one
they loved immensely.
But something else happens. A silent invisible change takes
place deep within their human hearts. They receive a sinful
nature. Rather that automatically seeking God, they shun him.
Rather than automatically obeying God, they crave independence.
And with their sinful nature, they become very self-conscious.
Their nakedness had been a wonderful thing. It was far more than
just physical. There was emotional and spiritual transparency,
and it was exhilarating. It led to the deepest intimacy
possible. But suddenly they felt exposed, and evaluated, and
judged by the other. So now they hated their nakedness, and they
wanted to cover up. They sowed fig leaves and made coverings.
And when God showed up they bolted, running as fast as they
could in the opposite direction.
And this is the important theological truth that flows from
Genesis 3:1-7: Marriage after the fall is not what it was
originally created to be. Marriage is fallen. It's still God's
institution. It's still a wonderful blessing from God. But it's
been blemished and marred by sin. If you think your marriage is
going to somehow fulfill all your needs and take you back to
this blissful Edenic experience, I've got bad news for you. It
Marriage will do the same thing to you it did to Adam and Eve:
It will expose you to your sin. There is no other relationship
on earth where personal habits and idiosyncrasies will be so
exposed and scrutinized. And this stark reality is this: your
mate will sometimes understand your sin patterns better than you
When sin is exposed your response is going to be the same as
Adam and Eve's: You'll attempt to hide. Of course, doesn't work
very well, because marriage is too intimate a relationship, but
you'll try anyway.
So what do you do when your sin his just been exposed and
there's no place to hide? There are two responses, a right one
and a wrong one, and Adam and Eve - immediately after the fall
-typify the wrong response.
B. They respond with blameshifting.
Let's look at how this worked with Adam and Eve. God confronts
Adam. Verse 11: "Have you eaten from the tree of which I
commanded you not to eat?" This is a very strong confrontation,
and the couple responds like many when a flaw has been exposed:
they shift the blame to avoid pain.
So Adam talks back to God, "The woman you gave to be with me,
she gave me from the tree and I ate." Notice that Adam is
simultaneously blaming God…as well as his wife. Then God
addresses the woman, and she blames the serpent. "The serpent
deceived me and I ate." So now Adam and Eve are caught in a
triangulation of blame, desperately trying to avoid personal
You know, blameshifting is a fairly typical scenario in marriage
when sin is exposed in marriage. It develops in three phases.
IN PHASE ONE, A WIFE HAS A PROBLEM WITH HER HUSBAND'S BEHAVIOR.
She wants him to come home on time for dinner, so they can have
quality time as a family. She addresses the problem nicely and
politely, but he just can't seem to make it home on time.
Now this is a perfectly fair complaint, and she has every right
to state it. In fact, healthy couples are constantly addressing
disagreements and things that need to be changed in the
marriage. You've got to do this to work out differences. But
when this doesn't work, phase two kicks in.
IN PHASE TWO, SHE GIVES IN TO HER FRUSTRATION, AND SHE MOVES
FROM COMPLAINT TO CRITICISM. "You always come home late. You
never give preference to our family. You're always so selfish
about your time. You never care about us, just your work."
And here's the problem with phase two communication. Whenever
you use words like "always" or "never" you've just moved from
complaint about behavior into criticism about personhood.
And what are most people going to do when they feel their
personhood has been attacked? They're going to become very
defensive. They're going to shift the blame to attack the
criticizing partner. "Oh yeah, we'll if you'd make something
worth eating, I might come home on time."
SO THEN COMES PHASE-THREE COMMUNICATION, WHICH IS CONTEMPT. And
I would define contempt in marriage this way; it is an intense
feeling of disrespect that makes you want to inflict hurt on
your partner. In this scenario, the husband feels contempt for
his wife because she is constantly nagging about coming home on
time. And the wife feels contempt for her husband because he's
blowing her off. In general, women express contempt with
nagging. And men express contempt with anger or stonewalling.
This three-phase cycle is extremely common in marriage. Even
healthy couples will have some area of their marriage where they
harbor feelings of contempt for their spouse, and they engage in
blameshifting in that area.
If that's the wrong response when sin is exposed, then what's
the right response?
C. If you find that some weakness or some sin has been
exposed, the right way to respond is in humble self-discovery.
HERE'S WHAT SELF-DISCOVERY IS: IT'S THE COMMITMENT TO LEARN FROM
YOUR MISTAKES WHEN THEY ARE BROUGHT TO YOUR ATTENTION. It's like
what happens in the aftermath of a plane crash. When there is a
crash, the FAA moves in to investigate. They secure the black
box containing the electronic data. They interview witnesses.
And in some cases, they reconstruct the wreckage. Why do they do
this? The FAA wants to learn as much as they can to minimize
future plane crashes.
This is what you need to do in marriage: when sin is exposed,
engage in self-discovery. Healthy self-discovery always looks at
the possibility that there is something you can learn when a
weakness or sin is exposed. Of course it's a painful process,
but this is what God uses to form integrity in you as a marriage
THE KEY TO SELF-DISCOVERY IS HUMILITY. There are some people
whose self-esteem is so fragile they can't bear the thought of
self-discovery. Exposure crushes them on the inside, so they
bitterly deny their faults.
There are others whose self-esteem is quite healthy, but they
can't bear the thought of self-discovery because it offends
their pride. So in the face of complaints, they rarely examine
themselves. They deflect and deny.
But this skill is foundational to a healthy marriage, and God
gives a great promise to people who practice it. James 4:6 says,
"God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble." If
you want the grace to grow when sin is exposed, you need the
discipline of humble self-discovery.
BUT YOU NEED MORE THAN SELF-DISCOVERY. YOU NEED TO TAKE THE NEXT
STEP OF SELF-CONFRONTATION. Self-confrontation is the skill of
being able to talk yourself into doing the right thing in the
heat of the conflict, even when you're under pressure.
This is a spiritual discipline that all the great men and women
of the faith used. The psalmist uses it in Psalm 42. He says,
"Why are you in despair, O my soul? Why have you become
disturbed within me? Hope in God!" This psalmist is devastated
by some painful set of circumstances. He's so disturbed he's
losing hope. But he confronts himself, and instructs himself to
trust in God no matter how bad it gets.
Think about how this might work in marriage. Couples go through
seasons where they harbor negative feelings toward their spouse.
As communication shuts down the negative thoughts become more
intense. Self-confrontation is the ability to say to yourself,
"Quit going down this mental path. You made a commitment to love
unconditionally. You made a commitment to trust. Deal with this
in reliance on God."
Let me give you an example of self-confrontation in our
marriage. Cindy and I operate on two different time clocks. When
I come home at night I'm ready to talk, and I'm ready to listen,
and my idea of a good evening is getting into a really great
conversation over the dinner table. But Cindy works full time
here at the church. And when she comes home she's usually been
talking all day, and she's spent; she doesn't want to talk all
that much. But when she doesn't talk, I get frustrated.
On the other hand, she likes to talk in the morning. She'll make
her coffee. She'll dig into the word. And then when I come down,
she'll put everything away and want to relate. But I don't like
talking in the morning. I either want to get to the office
early, or study, and I don't like to be disturbed. So we have a
Several months ago I noticed that when I came home in the
evening. I would immediately get irritated that we weren't doing
the conversation thing like I wanted, and I had to confront
myself. "Rod," I would say, "you have a responsibility to work
this out so that it's a win-win for both of you…not just you."
So what I'm saying is this: Every marriage since Adam and Eve
has exposed the weaknesses and the sins of the spouses, yours
included. When this happens you have a responsibility. Resist
blameshifting. Instead engage in self-discovery and
self-confrontation for the purpose of your growth as a marriage
Now, let's look at the second purpose of marriage after the
2. THE 2ND PURPOSE IS THIS - Marriage after the fall is
designed to include significant levels of personal pain. Gen.
Shortly after Adam and Eve consume the forbidden fruit, God
confronts them, and spells out the natural consequences of their
sin. And those consequences include three sources of pain.
A. The first source is spiritual warfare. 3:14-15
Notice who God addresses first: he addresses the serpent, and in
Genesis 3:15 God says, "I am declaring war between you and the
woman, between your offspring and hers. He'll wound your head,
you'll wound his heel. " This is the first verse in the Bible
that portrays the conflict between good and evil that rages in
the human race. We have an unseen spiritual enemy who is
hell-bent on finding weak spots and luring us into sin.
And Satan has an easy job of it. Each one of us has a sinful
fallen nature that is temptable. Each one of us lives in a
sinful fallen world that looks so alluring and exciting. Satan
hardly even needs to tempt us directly. He makes the world look
seem so attractive, and he makes our flesh seem so hungry that
it's easy for us to slip into sin.
It's hard enough to do spiritual warfare when you're single, but
when you're married it becomes even more challenging. You not
only have to be alert for yourself, and you have to be in prayer
for your spouse because spiritual warfare in them will directly
And spiritual warfare shows up in three common ways in marriage.
IT SHOWS UP IN THE MISHANDLING OF ANGER. Paul says, "Be angry
but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do
not give the devil an opportunity." If you mishandle conflict,
you open the door to spiritual warfare in your marriage. Dr.
John Gottman is a widely respected researcher in the field of
marriage, and he's done multiple studies predicting divorce.
According to Gottman, the greatest predictor of divorce is
feelings of contempt that spouses harbor against each other
because the mismanagement of conflict.
ANOTHER WAY SPIRITUAL WARFARE SHOWS UP IS IN THE AREA OF MONEY.
I say this because Paul makes it very clear in 1 Timothy 6:10
that "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil." Notice
he doesn't say that money is the root but a root; and it's not
just money, but the love of money that's the root of evil. Every
year, thousands of marriages are shipwrecked on the rocks of
debt and greed. When finances are out of control in your
marriage, Satan has beachhead from which to divide you.
ANOTHER WAY THAT SPIRITUAL WARFARE SHOWS UP IS IN THE AREA OF
SEXUAL IMMORALITY, SPECIFICALLY PORNOGRAPHY AND ADULTERY. I
won't give you a specific verse on this one (although there are
some great ones from Proverbs), but just look at world history.
Whenever a religion or philosophy deviates from the truth, that
belief system almost always incorporates sexual immorality as a
way of worship. This is even true in our postmodern secular
culture. What is the predominant marketing tool in today's
world? The female body! What is the predominant entertainment
tool in today's world? Sex!
One of the hottest battlegrounds wreaking havoc on Christian
marriages today is the sexualization of the culture. It draws
men into pornography and immorality. But more and more women are
being drawn into Internet chat rooms and porn sites as well. If
Satan can lure you into sexual infidelity, he can divide you
with massive feelings of bitterness.
But let me give you another source of pain. We don't just
contend with spiritual warfare, but…
B. In a fallen world, male-female differences will frequently
be a source of deep frustration. 3:16a, 17-19
AFTER GOD SPELLS OUT THE CONSEQUENCES TO THE SERPENT, HE
ADDRESSES THE WOMAN. And the consequences for her will show up
in her closest relationships. Verse 16: "To the woman he said,
"I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you
will bring forth children."
It sounds as if the only consequence for the woman is pain in
childbirth, which, of course, is certainly significant. But the
Hebrew construction broadens the meaning. It's literally, "pain
in your conception," which means there is pain - not just in
labor and delivery - but in the entire process that begins with
conception. In other words, from conception to adulthood the
mother experiences a certain kind of pain within her family.
What kind of pain is that? Pain in relationships!
She is more susceptible to experiencing unmet expectations in
her closest relationships. She'll have expectations for her
children, and for her husband, and for her friends, and she will
frequently be disappointed.
THEN GOD ADDRESSES THE HUSBAND. His pain isn't going to come
from relationships but from his work. In verse 17 God says,
"Cursed is the ground because of you. In toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life." God goes on to say that the husband
is going to find work difficult and exhausting because the world
Now of course, Moses is writing to people living in a farming
economy, and farming has always been a tough occupation. But all
of work is fallen, especially today: Computers crash. Networks
go down. Real estate deals go sour. Employees get dissatisfied.
Vendors don't deliver. And sometimes people get laid off.
SO NOW WE HAVE A BIG DILEMMA: The wife's emotional energy is
wrapped up in relationships, and she feels pain because
relationships are fallen. The husband's energy is wrapped up in
his occupation, and he feels pain because work is fallen. So
there is an automatic disconnect in marriage.
This dilemma is expressed in a common refrain that I often hear
from couples. She says, "My husband just doesn't get it. The
kids and I don't just want his money or his great career. We
want him. We want him to be with us and spend time with us."
The husband on the other hand says, "My wife just doesn't get
it. I spend all this time working and providing for the family,
so that she can buy nice clothes and take nice vacations, and I
don't get one word of thanks just a lot of nagging that I'm not
spending enough time at home."
Now what does this disagreement reflect? Men and women after the
fall have completely different outlooks on life and completely
different needs, and they're going to be frustrated that the
other doesn't understand. It's like we're living in two
completely different worlds with radically different worldviews.
Where does this come from? It comes from the fall. God has made
it so that male-female differences are going to be a source of
frustration. Now did he do this to be mean? No! He did it so
that we would trust him for the unity that we so desperately
want in marriage.
These differences forces us into a posture of humility, so that
we will enthrone God is at the center of our relationship, where
And that leads to a third level of pain?
C. 3rd source - Husbands and wives will deal with painful
power struggles. 3:16b
WHEN GOD CREATED ADAM AND EVE HE MADE THEM CO-RULERS OVER THE
CREATION. They had the same mission: to rule. But they would do
it differently. Adam would rule by investing his masculinity
into his work. Eve would rule by investing her femininity into
her work. And this complementary male-female harmony would cause
the image of God to be powerfully expressed in the world.
But after the fall the desire to rule becomes corrupted. Rather
than being a help it becomes a hindrance.
AT THE VERY END OF GENESIS 3:16 WE DISCOVER THAT A WIFE IS GOING
TO TRY TO CONTROL HER HUSBAND. God says, "Yet your desire will
be for your husband." That word desire is not a reference to
emotional desire or physical desire. It is the desire to
This is how it's used in Genesis 4:7. God addresses Cain and he
says, "Sin's desire is for you (to control you) but you must
master it." So a woman is going to want to control her husband
so that her relational needs get met.
BUT HUSBANDS AREN'T GOING TO LIKE THIS. And so in Genesis 3:7 it
says, "And he will rule over you." Most men hate being
controlled by their wives. They'll resist it and buck it all day
long until they get free. Sometimes they'll resist passively by
stonewalling their wives. So she talks and he just stares off
into space as if she's not there. This infuriates her, but he
loves it because he's in control. Sometimes men will do this
actively by controlling what their wives do and think and feel
So marriage has built in power struggles. And again, we have to
ask the question, "Why would God do this?" Power struggles can
have a profound impact on our character if we handle them well.
And New Testament antidote to power struggles is to be subject
to each other.
This is the great command of the apostle Paul before he launches
into his teaching on marriage. He says, "And be subject to one
another in the fear of Christ." Ultimately in a Christian
marriage there is one role: servant. The husband exercises his
servant role by acting like Jesus. The wife exercises her
servant role by acting like the church. So there is an equality
of value but diversity of roles.
Now let me recap where we've been. Marriage after the fall
includes significant levels of personal pain. There is spiritual
warfare, infuriating male-female difference, and power
D. And what should we do with the pain of all this?
Remember the purpose. The pain of marriage is designed to
construct a Christ-like character that can be formed in no other
You know, in life, there is a pattern that broken things
sometimes come back stronger than before.
What happens when you break a bone? That bone becomes stronger
in the very place that it was broken. What happened after Peter
denied Christ three times out of fear? God made him
fearless…able to speak boldly to hostile crowds. What happened
after Paul received the thorn in his flesh? God gave him the
grace to be stronger than before.
The same is true in marriage. When marriage brings pain, and you
hang in there out of commitment, you go through a kind of
brokenness. But God will make you stronger in the very area
where you felt broken.
Now, let's look at the third purpose of marriage.
3. 3RD PURPOSE - Marriage after the fall is designed to be
redemptive, provided God is at the center. Genesis 3:20-21
I believe that once you're married you have to make a choice
every day to place God at the center of your marriage. This is
not just something you do on your wedding day or when things get
tough; you do it everyday.
And you do it through prayer. You can say something like this:
"Father, again today I submit our marriage to you; I want to
love my spouse with your love." When this becomes the pattern of
your, God will use your marriage to bring growth.
Now in the final verses of Genesis 3 we see two specific things
that it means to have God at the center of our marriage.
A. It means that you act in harmony with God's word. 3:20
Look at Genesis 3:20. "Now the man called his wife's name Eve,
because she was the mother of all the living." What a gracious
response! Adam could have responded in several ways after the
- He could have kept on blaming her, saying this whole
thing was her fault.
- He could have been bitter.
- He could have sought revenge.
Adam does none of those things. Instead he chooses to see his
marriage in light of God's word. God had said two things about
Eve…first that she would bear lots of children and second that
in the cosmic battle with evil, Eve would produce a child who
would win the battle. This is the first veiled reference to the
coming of the Messiah.
And in faith, Adam chooses to believe all this. She sees Eve in
light of God's word. And this is a hugely important principle
for marriage; you must learn see your husband or your wife in
light of what God says about them.
And what does God say about your spouse? One of the things he
says is this: The very moment your spouse became a Christian,
God the Father justified him (or her). Let me remind what
justification is. In justification God does two things; he
declares you not guilty and he declares you righteous.
But it's more than that. God actually imputes the righteousness
of Jesus Christ to your account. Know how Jesus lived a perfect
life…always fulfilling the commands of God…always pleasing the
Father? Well, God imputes all of that righteousness to your
life. That doesn't mean you're actually righteous; it means God
regards you as possessing the perfect righteousness of his Son.
Now that's a very sobering concept when it comes to marriage.
You can be spitting mad at your spouse. They may have offended
you in the worst way, and you feel absolutely justified in
harboring feelings of bitterness and contempt.
And when you see them walk into a room, feelings of angry
judgment burst forth. You think, "I deserve to feel this
way…after what they just did!" But how does God regard your mate
if he or she is a Christian? God has already forgiven them. God
has already imputed the righteousness of Jesus Christ to their
account. He sees them as being not guilty of the sins committed
against you on the basis of Christ's death.
Now if God is willing to do that, don't you think you should
too? Godly marriage partners are always trying to view their
spouses in light of God's word.
And this is why Adam is able to offer incredibly gracious
leadership. He names her. Part of leadership in Hebrew thought
was granting names to others. Adam has already done this with
the animals in Genesis 2:18 ff. And now he exercises leadership
again. He calls his wife's name Eve.
This is a very noble proper name: Eve means life-giver. What
grace! He could have sarcastically called her "death-maker",
saying, "You got us into this mess and I'll hold it over you the
rest of your life." He calls her life-giver.
If you see your spouse in light of God's word. You will not hold
on to all their faults and failures. Rather you will treat them
with dignity, honor and value. So here's my challenge. If you
make God's word a priority in your marriage, you'll be able to
give great blessing to your mate.
And here's a second thing it means to have God at the center.
B. You are a conduit of grace. 3:21
Look at verse 21. "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam
and his wife, and clothed them." Adam and Eve were shocked when
God took two beautiful animals, with sleek and beautiful skins,
and killed them in their presence. They had never seen death
before. The violence and finality of it must have shocked them.
But God was teaching them an important lesson. Sin can only be
forgiven when a substitutionary-sacrifice is made on behalf of
Then God skins the animals; he sews the skins together; and he
makes clothing. With great love, God covered the shame of their
nakedness with skins from the sacrifice. Of course this is
precisely what Jesus did for us.
When Jesus comes the Jordan River for baptism, John says,
"Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."
Three years later Jesus went to the cross. He died in our place
and rose from the dead.
The very instant you receive Jesus, he clothes you in his
righteousness. And listen to the completeness of that
forgiveness. Colossians 2:14: "He canceled out the certificate
of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to
us; and he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the
cross." God granted forgiving grace to you, and God expects you
to extend forgiving grace to your spouse.
Paul said, "Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving
one another, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." It's
all about being a conduit of grace.
- When you're a conduit of grace you overlook sin.
- When you're a conduit of grace you give your spouse what
they don't deserve.
- When you're a conduit of grace you persevere through
problems for as long as it takes.
- When you're a conduit of grace you have an eternal
Cindy started our marriage by showing me grace. For the first
two years she worked at Arco as an accountant, and I was a
full-time student. Then she got pregnant with Sarah. My first
job was with UPS. I would get up at 3:30 in the morning and work
the early shift until 8:00.
About one month into the job I got the stomach flu. I missed a
day of work, and the rest of the week I was so sick couldn't
keep up with loading boxes onto the semis at the hub. At the end
of the week, the supervisor shook his head and called me into
his office, and I got fired. Here I am 21 days into my first
job, and I got fired.
I was so upset I decided to call Cindy from a payphone by the
side of the road, wanting to tell her as soon as I could, not
knowing exactly how she'd respond.
But she responded with pure grace. And I'm still grateful.
Marriage is a wonderful blessing, but it's fallen. And if we
have any hope for going the distance we need a grace-filled
marriage with a healthy dose of realism. And in that realism we
need to remember...
- Marriage will expose you sins and weaknesses.
- Marriage will contain significant levels of pain.
- But it will be redemptive if God is at the center.
Now, next week I want to balance this out. We talked about
healthy realism this week. Next week we'll talk about healthy