Craig Groeschel - Christ-Centered Relationship Goals
Well, I'm excited that you're at church today, and I'm excited to start a brand new message series. It is called Relationship Goals, and I would love to set the tone for this four-part message series by starting together in God's Word. We'll be in Genesis chapter two. God had created man, but at this point, man was still alone, and this is what scripture says. "Then the Lord God said, It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man's ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and He brought her to the man, and the man exclaimed, At last"! That's funny to me. God, the giraffe, that was cool. The porcupine, confusing. "The woman, at last"!
Adam says. "This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh. She will be called woman because she was taken out of man. This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one". The two will become one flesh. Today we are starting a message series called Relationship Goals. If you're on Instagram, you've probably seen the hashtag #RelationshipGoals. It's been used about 11 million times. I have my own Instagram hashtag I use whenever I show a picture with Amy. I always call her my bride. She, being technical as she is, says, "Technically speaking, I'm not a bride. That's a woman who gets married on a wedding day". But I will say until the day that I die, she is my bride, she is my bride, she is my bride, and so I use the hashtag #MyBride.
If you look at the most popular #MyBride hashtags, you'll notice we dominate the page. We crush it. We're everywhere. I love showing off my bride. Inevitably, whenever I post a picture with Amy, a bunch of people will comment, "Relationship goals," "couple goals". In other words, we want some version of that. Whatever we see, that, I want that. I want that. What I see is I want that. I want that. There's so many classic images of relationship goals. In fact, I found a photographer that has just amazing relationship goals photos. I wanna show you one of them, and people may look at this one and say, "Oh, that's what I want. That's what I want". I'll be completely honest with you, even though that is an amazing photo, I have never, ever wanted that. Ever. I have never been driving in a completely warm car, on a very cold day, and said, "Amy, let's stop. Let's get out of our warm car. Let's go sit on cold, snowy concrete. We'll get a kid to go get out our iPhone, and move us around in the cold until we're just right, and then you could take the picture".
So many people see glimpses on social media and say, "I want that"! But all I wanna tell ya is that's not always real. Sometimes, it's a very carefully edited, crafted moment in time that is not exactly what we want. "But I want that"! If we ask him to explain what is that that they want, they get fuzzy. "I don't know, that. You know, like, love. Walks on the beach, romantic photo shoots in our bedroom with our new Pottery Barn comforter before we slow dance by the fireplace, I want that"! So if you ever look at our marriage, an image, and say, "I want that," what I wanna do is I wanna be very clear what that is that you want. What do we have that you may want? What we have, honestly, is an absolutely, completely incredible God-ordained relationship that is far better than I ever, ever imagined that marriage could be. I promise you with all my heart, my bride is my best friend. I would rather be with her than anybody in the world, especially guys.
I want to be around her as often as I can. If we spend three days together on a little getaway, when we come back, I'm miserable going to work, being away from her. I'll text her four or five times a day, "Miss you, miss you, miss you, I wanna be with you". We have incredibly genuine and intimate conversations. Our deal is walks. When the weather is nice, we'll go on three or four walks a week, hour or longer, talking, sharing our hopes and dreams, talking about our kids, talking about ministry. We serve God together. We're blessed in ministry. There's a unified vision. We have a rich spiritual life together. It is better than I could ever describe. That's what you want. But before you gag at our Hallmark love story, that's just part of it. What we have in our marriage, it's a journey, it's not a destination.
In other words, we haven't arrived, and that is all that we ever have. What we also have is we have challenges, hardships, and struggles to overcome. I will say with complete integrity before God and all of His people that Amy can be really stubborn. Don't you let that pretty little face fool you for a moment. The chick can stand her ground. I can be very demanding, controlling, and at times harsh. Our marriage is filled with massive miscommunications, painful misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and what I would call intense conversations. Intense conversations, that's preacher language for fights. Last time we had a fight, Amy came crawling to me on her hands and knees, and said, "Get out from under that bed, you coward, and fight like a man"!
Do you want that, to know what that is? One time, she might have thrown a shoe, which I caught with one hand and put on, which made her even more angry. I've slammed doors, she's hung up phones on me. Once, maybe twice, perhaps three times in our 28 years of marriage, she tried to get out of a moving vehicle, she was so mad at me. I'm like, "No, you're not getting off that easy. You're not gonna die doing that. Get back in here. We're gonna finish this thing off". Lemme tell you what we fought about. We fought about the house, how we keep the house, what we put in the house, her piles, my messiness in the house. We've fought about how to load the dishwasher in the house. We've fought about how I drive, how she drives. We've fought about how long I run the water.
You wanna see her come unglued? Just watch me leave the water on. If I walk away, demons come out of that Godly woman. We fight about the temperature in the house. We fight about what we're gonna watch on TV. We fight about her unwillingness to turn the lights on inside of our house whenever we entertain. She thinks it's romantic and mood-setting. I think it's dark. We've got company over, I'm turning 'em on, and she's turning 'em off, I'm turning 'em on. We're giving each other this look and they're like, "Why are you... I thought you had a good marriage"? It's like turn the lights on, turn 'em off, and she does this. We fight about whether I tuck my shirt in or leave it untucked when I preach messages. We fight about how to discipline our kids. We fight about the worship style at church. If you've ever said, "I like that song," Amy didn't, either, but I did, so we did the song at church, just so you'll know. We'll fight about what to watch, who to hang out with. We fight about what I eat, what I don't eat, when I eat, how much I eat, how much I should eat.
In fact, when I did eat pancakes and Amy was making them the wrong way, I tried to bring loving correction in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. She put her shoulder into me and physically removed me from her kitchen like a linebacker would push off some kind of rookie. And she told me not to come back in her kitchen for six months, and I did not. So if you ever look at us and say, "I want that," I hope you'll understand exactly what that is that you want. Relationship goals. Relationship goals. What I like is, I like that people want something different. I like that people are craving something better, because what normal is today isn't something that I really want. When you look at normal relationships today, you see a lot of theory, you see a lot of hurt feelings, you see a lot of anger. You see a lot of bitterness, you see a lot of mistrust. You see a lot of fights about money. You see a lack of unity about how to raise our kids. You see two people doing their own thing without any kind of common vision, so I hope that you do want something different and something better, and that's why today, we're starting a message series called Relationship Goals.
We're gonna look at four goals, that I believe that we should all have in order to have the relationships that truly honor God. Week number one, today, we're gonna talk about our first goal, and that is to be Christ-Centered. Everybody say, we're Christ-Centered. Being Christ-Centered is a lot different than just calling yourself a Christian. You can have two people in one marriage that call themselves Christians, and just because you call yourselves Christians, does not mean that you're Christ-Centered in the way that you live. I'm gonna say this again. Just because we call ourselves Christians does not mean that we're Christ-Centered in the way that we live. We've gonna be Christ-Centered. When we're Christ-Centered, we tend to become Mission-Driven. The problem is, so many of us are driven by the wrong things, we're driven into separate ways. We are gonna be led by the power of God into caring about what He cares about. Our second goal is to be Mission-Driven in our marriages. The third week, we're gonna talk about being devil-kickin'. Everybody say it with an attitude, we are Devil-Kicking.
We need to understand that we are in a spiritual battle, and our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities of this dark world, and that our spouse is never, ever our enemy, but we do have an enemy that hates everything that matters to God, and he hates marriage because God ordained marriage, and we're gonna learn to stand together and fight against the schemes of the evil one. We are going to be Christ-Centered, Mission-Driven, Devil-Kicking, and we are Covenant-Keeping. Everybody say, we are Covenant-Keeping. Because we don't enter into a contract, we enter into a holy covenant, and we're gonna learn what that means and how we honor God. Let me give 'em to you again, then I want you to say them together. What are we going to be? We have relationship goals. We will be Christ-Centered, Mission-Driven, Devil-Kicking, Covenant-Keeping.
All of our church say aloud with me. What are we? We're gonna be Christ-Centered, Mission-Driven, Devil-Kicking, Covenant-Keeping. One more time. I need you with me. It's not fun without you. What are gonna be? We have goals. We're gonna be Christ-Centered, Mission-Driven, Devil-Kicking, Covenant-Keeping. What does it mean to be Christ-Centered in our marriages? What does it mean to be Christ-Centered in our lives? It's a very, very fair question, and we need to start with the understanding that no matter who we are, no matter what our relational status is, our lives are centered around something. If you are married, your marriage is centered around something or some things. If you're not married, your life is centered around something. What is your life centered around? Those of you that are married, you may be married to somebody else, but your marriage is really centered around you, self. What I want. You're not meeting my needs. I'm upset with you. You're not doing what I wanna do. It's centered around self. Many marriages are centered around children. We're gonna do what you want, go wherever you want, we don't invest in our marriage because we're invested in you. It's all about you, kids. It's all about you. We take 'em to all these activities.
And then one day, when your kids are gone, you wake up and wonder, "Who the heck is this person living next to me in my house"? because you had no time with them because you were so centered around your kids. Some, it's centered around money, or material things, or success, or your career, or your image. We wanna show everybody, from the outside, that we look like we're good on the inside. On the inside we're really messed up, but we're gonna try to show you that we have this amazing, happy marriage, with this materially blessed life. It's centered around something. The problem, in my opinion, with the whole idea of relationship goals, "I want that, I want that," is this idea. It ends up thriving in this myth that I call the myth of the one, the myth of the one. So many people today wrongfully believe this cultural truth that to really be fulfilled in life, to really be happy in life, to really do all that you're supposed to do in life, and have all the meaning you're supposed to have, you have to find the one.
To be really happy and fulfilled in life, you have to find the one, perfect one, that makes you goosebumply and tingly-wingly and all the love songs on the radio make sense. And every time you're together, you feel that special little bond. So you've gotta find the one. And so a girl meets a guy and he's kinda cute, and he opens up the car for her, and gets the door, and she's like, "I think I've met the one"! She says, "I think I've met the one! He's so amazing, I mean, this guy, like, he went to church one time back in the '80s, and he has a job, you know, and my last three boyfriends were unemployed and wanted to be professional video game players, but this guy has a job from nine to five. I think I met the one"! What I would love time is for people to recognize and realize that you do not need another person to complete you. Single is a whole number. Jesus had a pretty good run without needing a wife. He pretty much pleased God in a massive way. We don't need another person to complete us. Christ completes us, and we can do what He calls us to do.
Therefore, I would love it if one day, when you meet that amazing perfect guy, instead of saying, "I think I met the one"! You would, instead, say, "I think I met the two! I think I met the two"! Because, in a Christ-Centered marriage, Jesus is your one, and your spouse is two two. When our marriages are truly centered around Christ, not just in word, but in the way we live, we're all about Jesus, and all the rest comes under Him. In fact, this is what Jesus said whenever a guy asked Him, in Matthew 22, "What is the greatest commandment of the Law? If we're gonna know one thing, Jesus, what's most important"? And He said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind". In other words, we're gonna put our God first. He will be the center of all we do. That is the most important force in our life.
Why does this matter? Why am I talking about being Christ-Centered? Lemme just say again that all of you, something is in the center of your life. I'm gonna show you some diagrams that'll help maybe bring this into better understanding. There's something in the center of your life. I'm gonna ask you, what is it? Whatever goes in the center of your life, it always influences what? Your values and your beliefs. Your values and beliefs are driven by what is in the center of your life, which then influences your actions and your decisions, which ultimately influences your influence and impact. In other words, the difference you make in this world, and the fulfillment that you feel honoring God, is all a result of what your life is centered around.
What is your life or your marriage centered around? It could be yourself. If it's centered around self, I promise you, your influence and impact will be incredibly limited. It could be around your kids. If it's all about your kids, your marriage will suffer, and you will never please God, ultimately, in an expression of your family the way you could otherwise. It could be about your lifestyle. Or, for those of you that want something better, even deeper relationship goals, your life could be centered around Christ. When you are Christ-Centered, then Jesus, the Son of God, influences your beliefs, which influences your actions and your decisions, which ultimately leads to a life of impact and fulfillment. If it's not centered around Christ, then you've got the wrong goal driving your relationship.
Now, to those of you that are not married yet, if you have relationship goals, "I want that, in the future". Lemme just say this to you. If you want a Christ-Centered relationship in the future, live a Christ-Centered life today. If you wanna honor God with putting Him first in a future marriage, honor God by putting Him first today. What are you waiting for? What I see all the time, unfortunately, is someone who says, "Yeah, one day, once I find that person, that special I love muffin, my snuggle-bubbin', my soulmate forever, then we're gonna serve God in church, and then we're gonna get our lives together and such, but this is my time, and I'm gonna do what I want. My time, and I got my needs, and I'm gonna party right now. I'm gonna do my thing". Listen to me. Any time you do your thing apart from God, that's always called sin. It's always called sin. And you don't build a life of righteousness in the future on a foundation of sin today.
Thank you, Chris. I don't know if you're gettin' this. If you want that in the future, embrace that today. I'm not waiting for someone to finish me, so I can start serving Jesus then. I am serving Him, following Him, Christ-Centered, loving the Lord my God with all my heart and my mind and my soul and strength today. There's a big difference between calling yourself a Christian, and living a Christ-Centered life. "Hey, I was born in the U.S.A., I'm not Muslim or Buddhist, so yeah, I guess I'm a Christian". No, no, no, no, no, no. That's a word. Christ is Lord. He's first. He's the Savior of my life. You don't build a life of righteousness in the future on a foundation of sin today. So how do we do it? If we wanna be Christ-Centered in all that we do, how do we become Christ-Centered in our marriages? Had I taught this maybe 10 years ago, I would have given you a whole list of really good things, good ideas, good suggestions, but there would have been a problem.
If I give you a bunch, you're gonna do none of them. I would have said you need to read your Bible together, which is important. You need to go to church together, you need to serve in church together, you need to learn to forgive one another, you need to learn to submit to one another in love, and you need to learn to forgive each other, you need to rejoice in each other, you need to show love and respect and blah, blah, blah, blah blah. And I'd give you a whole list, and you wouldn't have done any of those. I've learned that a better strategy is to ask for one thing that has the highest impact, the highest value, that tends to lead to the other things, and then you might just do that. So what I'm gonna do today is give you what is my opinion of the highest return action that can help you be Christ-Centered in your relationship.
If you do one thing that I believe will help you become Christ-Centered in your marriages, I would suggest that you very simply commit to pray together daily. Just pray. Short prayer every single day. One action that I believe can lead to all the other actions that will help really, truly give you a Christ-Centered relationship. Now, in this holy moment, as we're talking about prayer, let me just acknowledge that some of you are thinkin' right now, "Oh, crap. I don't wanna pray with my spouse. Shoulda skipped church today". It's what some of you are thinkin'. It's too personal, too intimate. Prayer life, that's private. What I wanna promise you is if you're both followers of Christ, you can pray together. That's too private. May I remind you, and it's kind of embarrassing to say this out loud, but it's incredibly true, but chances are, if you've been married any time at all, you probably go to the bathroom in front of each other. Maybe you don't. Most of you do. That's private. Most of you probably had babies together. That tends to get a little bit intimate.
You know, you swap spit. Whatever. And other stuff. That's intimate. I promise you, you can pray together. You can. I think this is one of the most under-utilized tools to create true spiritual strength. I think if I were the enemy, I would try to keep every Christian couple from ever praying together, because if I can keep them from praying together, I can keep them from bonding spiritually. I can keep them from becoming more Mission-Driven. And since they're not going to God together in prayer, they probably won't be Devil-Kicking. They're gonna be getting their tails kicked by the devil. And then, ultimately, they won't be Covenant-Keeping. You see, when you pray together, you bond. It's hard to do really bad things and hate each other when you know you're gonna have to pray. Think about this. You're praying later in the day, you can't really fight and pray. You kinda gotta resolve things.
If you've got an ongoing battle with some sin issue, lust, it's really hard to go look at porn, and then pray with the person who's being incredibly faithful to you. Somehow, it empowers you, emboldens you, maybe, to work through some issues, so you can truly have that intimacy together. When you do pray, lemme tell you what, it generally leads to other things that help strengthen your marriage around Christ. You may end up talking about spiritual things because you prayed together. You may end up moving your kids toward spiritual things because you prayed together. You might start sharing what you've done in the YouVersion Bible planner, even start doing the same plan together, because you prayed together Chances are pretty good that you're going to be the church together, because there's a big difference between going to church and actually being the church. That you might start serving together. You might start being mission-minded together. Whenever you're under attack, you're gonna realize, "We're under spiritual attack," and you fight back together.
It's amazing, what tends to happen when you truly pray together. If you're hesitant, I'll tell you right now, I didn't pray with Amy for a long time. Every day, regularly, we didn't. Part of the reason was it takes her so long to get warmed up. I mean, a long time. Like, warm up breathing and praises to God for a long time. Like, He knows He's good, let's just get on with this. But if there's one thing that's helped us be Christ-Centered it's praying together. So how do we do it? If you're willing to give this a go, where do we start, how do we do it? I'll give you three thoughts about how to pray with your spouse. The first thing is, let me make it easy for you. Keep it short. This isn't an hour-long intercessory prayer thing, so just get that out of your mind. How about pray 60 seconds? Hey, if that's gonna push you, let's pray 30 seconds. You do that enough, it may grow to two minutes, then five minutes. You may end up praying together for an hour sometime, but you'll never pray for an hour if you don't start with 30 seconds.
Let's just take the pressure off. This isn't fancy. Let's just join hands for 30 seconds a day, a minute, whatever you want, and say, "Jesus, help us center our relationship around you". Keep it short. Keep it consistent. In other words, we're gonna do it at a certain time of the day. This is our prayer time. And then, if you miss a day, because you probably will, don't miss two. Don't miss two. Keep it short. We're uniting. Keep it consistent. I would suggest you pray before something. This is the cue that leads to the habit that leads to other good things. We pray before we start the day. I'm walking out the door, we join hands, we pray before we start the day. You might pray before you enjoy a meal. "God, we thank you for this meal," and you pray before you start it. There's your cue.
Maybe you pray before an event, a something, a conversation with a kid, a difficult presentation at work, a new job interview. When you hear bad news, before you face the bad news, we pray together, because that's what we do. Make it simple. You may say, "I don't really know what to pray". Well, I will give you a very simple prayer. I'll post this in different places on social media so you can have this and pray, and you may just wanna go ahead and pray it aloud with me. Here's the prayer, just say it with me. Everybody say:
Dear God. Give us wisdom and clear direction in all we do today. Help us to show Your love to each other and shine Your light into the world. Keep us close to You, away from temptation, and always in Your will. In Jesus' name, Amen.
There you go. Every single day. Before long, you may add a few of your own words, and before long, you're gonna wake up and realize, "Oh my gosh, we are more Christ-Centered, which has empowered us to be more Mission-Driven, which has enabled us to be more devil-kickin' and all the way through and through, we are Covenant-Keeping. We pray together". Those of you that are not married, you may say, "Well, what do I do"? Well, if you want a Christ-Centered marriage in the future, you might as well have a Christ-Centered life today, you pray. You pray wherever you are. One of the things I did, is I came out of the party scene, and Saturday night was the big party night, so I devoted Saturday nights after I was a Christian to seeking God, and I used to listen to cassette tapes on marriage.
If you don't know what a cassette tape is, just go to Wikipedia, and it'll help you know what a cassette tape is. And I would journal about the man of God I wanted to be for my future wife, and I would write down my prayers for the woman that would one day be my wife. I'd never met Amy, but I knew, one day, God would bring me somebody, and so I wrote down prayers and love notes and I had a whole shoebox full of them. And when I was dating Amy, and I realized that she was my two, I took out my shoebox and said, "Hey, just want you to know, long before I met you, I was praying for you, and here's a reflection of my heart in prayers for you". She read through those and cried all the way through, and that is the very reason why we have six kids today. And I told her, "These are for you, and if for any reason, you break up with me, I need those back, because", Hey, Amy, why don't you come up here with me, if you don't mind. You guys wanna just show a little love for my bride? Hashtag #MyBride?
I wanna try to tell you one reason this is so important to me, and I love you. We've a very blessed life, and there are parts of it that are very difficult, just like yours. What makes ours a little bit different, is that there are so many people that we're involved in their lives. We had our staff, all of them gathering, 700 and some-odd staff members, and the burden that some of our staff members are carrying, that alone keeps us praying like you wouldn't believe. Really, really big spiritual challenges. Our life group, our family, our friends, personal issues. We hurt and are burdened, and pray, and pray, and pray, and pray, and pray. We have to. Last week, we got another blow. We heard more sad news about someone that we love, and we stopped to pray, and it looks like this. When we gather, we join like this, and we knew how to stand together, and we knew who to go to, and where to go. If we were not Christ-Centered, we would be, like, hoping? And hoping? That'd be it. But we know how to stand together.
If there's one thing, there's one thing, that could help you become Christ-Centered, which will lead to being Mission-Driven, which will empower you to be Devil-Kicking, which will help you to be Covenant-Keeping, it's learning to lock hands one time a day. Short prayer. Simple, consistent, authentic, and real, and that can be the beginning, of not just calling yourself Christian, but being Christ-Centered in all that you do. So with that, let's pray. I'm gonna ask you to pray, just don't do that long warmup thing. Father, thank you for our church family. We ask, God, that you would help us be Christ-Centered. At all of our churches, whether you're in a relationship, not in a relationship, no matter if you're young, you're old, wherever you are, if you're a follower of Christ, you say, "I want to be more centered around Christ". Would you lift your hands right now? Just lift them high. All of our churches, people saying yes. Amy, would you do the honor of simply praying over our church family?
Heavenly Father, Lord, we thank You that we're here today to hear such an amazing, powerful message. Father, stir our hearts even more, so that we cannot let go of what You're drawing us to, to You, Father, to Your heart. I pray that everyone here, as they've raised their hands, that we would lean more and more into You, that we would love You with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Father, forgive us for when we put ourselves first, for when we put other things first, other than You. Lord, we commit ourselves to You afresh. We return to You with all of our hearts. Set us on fire for You. May we hunger and thirst for You. May our relationships be centered around You in all that we do. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Amen.
Amen, and thank you. Thanks, babe. Alright, campus pastors, I'm calling an audible. Every head up, every eye opened, all of our churches here. Those of you, you're gonna recognize right now, you're not Christ-Centered. Lemme just be real clear, what does it mean to be made right with God? We are not made right with God by our good works. We're only made right with God by His grace. Who is Jesus? He is the sinless Son of God who is perfect in every way. He was obedient to His Father even to death on the Cross. On the Cross, Jesus became sin for us. He died in our place for the forgiveness of our sins. On the third day, when the stone was rolled away, Jesus was not there. He was risen from the dead. Why? So that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on the name of the Lord would be saved, would be forgiven.
If I can be so bold to say there are those of you watching right now online, there are those of you at Life.Churches around the world, who recognize your life is not Christ-Centered. There are gonna be married couples today who recognize, you call yourself a Christian because you went to church. You can call yourself a duck, but you can't fly. You're no duck. You need your life centered around Christ Jesus, the Son of God, not in name only, but in the way you live. Because of who He is, our only reasonable response is to give Him our life. Not to earn His love, but because of His love, we say, "I need you, I surrender to you". At all of our churches, those who recognize, "I'm not a follower of Christ". Yes, everybody's looking, and we're gonna confess boldly. When you confess Him before people, Jesus says, "I will confess you before my Father in Heaven".
So let's just call it what it is, and let's just get bold, and say, "I need Christ. My life is not centered around Him, so I turn from my sin, I turn toward Him right now, at this moment, publicly. I don't care who sees. I surrender my life to Christ". That's your prayer. Lift 'em high right now all over the place. Let us celebrate you right now. God bless you. And right back over here, and here in this section. In front of everybody, "I need Jesus, I need His grace". Oh, church, would you thank God? Right back over here. Coming to Christ together. Right back over here, both of you together. "I need Jesus, I need His grace, I need His love". Church online, you click right below me. Church, would you celebrate a little more? A little louder? Help them feel loved. Help them fel welcome. We're all gonna pray together. Simply pray aloud.
Heavenly Father. I give you my life. Jesus, save me. Forgive my sins. Be my Savior. Be the Lord of my life. Be the center of all that I do. Fill me with Your Spirit. So I could follow You. My life is not my own. I give it to you. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus' name I pray.