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Craig Groeschel - Covenant-Keeping Relationship Goals

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Hey, it's great to have you with us today at all of our Life.Church locations. We are in week number four of a message series called Relationship Goals. If you've been with us in the previous weeks, I've told you how I love to post photos with my bride, Amy, and when I do that I use the hashtag #MyBride. In case you're wondering, there's been about 91,000 different people who posted photos with the hashtag #MyBride but I wanna show you, we actually dominate that hashtag. If you'll notice this, my bride and I have the top 10 photos of 95,000. Just sayin'. Any time I put a picture up with Amy, it's always fun because somebody will put hashtag #RelationshipGoals. Hashtag #RelationshipGoals. I want something that looks like that. If you ever click on the hashtag #RelationshipGoals, which I do not recommend that you do, because there's some weird ones, but there are some amazingly beautiful, creative photos that people have done with professional photographers. They show just how amazing their relationship is. In fact, I wanna show you that Amy and I actually have relationship goal games.

Let me show you a few of the photos that are really, really good, people made. There's a couple in the back of some type of an SUV, kissing very romantically. In case you're wondering if we have game, this is actually Amy and me in the back of our Suburban, kissing. The thing you might not realize is it's really difficult to get in the back of a Suburban like that with somebody else when you've got boots on. So lemme show you another photo. This is an adorable couple flying through the air, notice she has no socks on. This is the upgraded version taken from my house. But you might notice I do have socks on, and that is because I love you and did not want you to have to see my feet. This next one is my favorite. This is a... Oh! Some guy that doesn't doesn't really love his girlfriend or wife, whoever she is, 'cause they're hanging off a death-defying feat. This is all I could get Amy to do. It was the best I could do. She does have her coffee, and there was at least a two-and-a-half foot drop. She could've twisted her ankle or something if I had not held onto her with such great love.

It's funny, when you look at the photos, you're, "Oh, I want something like that," and then you get married and you realize, "I don't have something like that". Sometimes things don't end up exactly as you hope they would in relationships. In fact, those of you who are married, how many of you married someone very opposite from you? Raise your hand at all of our churches, all of our churches. Isn't it interesting how, when you're dating, opposites tend to attract, right? Then you get married, and opposites tend to attack? Have you noticed what's cute and adorable when you're dating becomes incredibly obnoxious when you're married. It's so sweet and great that he's like so laid back. I just love him, he's so lovable, then you get married, like, "Get a job! Get off the couch"! How many of you, when it comes to money, you're a saver. You're tight, you're wise with your money? How many of you didn't know that saving was actually an option when it came to money? It's opposites.

Some of you, you're very punctual when it comes to being on time. Punctual? Those of you who are more flexible at arrival time? You often are different, you're opposites when you are married. Those who are very organized. I'm very organized. Everything has a place. How many of you, you're more creative? You can put things in different places, and it's absolutely okay. It's funny how opposites will attract. Then one day you get married and you realize, "How come we're struggling so much? I never thought we'd end up there". I hope you have some relationship goals. As followers of Christ, we have some goals that are different than normal. If you've been with us for the last few weeks, what are our goals? We have goals to be Christ-Centered in all that we do. Being Christ-Centered is different than just calling yourself a Christian. It takes effort to follow Christ and to be Christ-Centered. We are Christ-Centered, we are Mission-Driven, we are Devil-Kicking, and we are Covenant-Keeping.

I need all of our churches to work with me today. What are we? We have some goals. Our goals will be to be Christ-Centered, Mission-Driven, Devil-Kicking, and Covenant-Keeping. Today, I wanna talk to you about being Covenant-Keeping in our relationships. What does that mean, and how do we live this out? Matthew's Gospel, chapter 19. We'll start in verse three. A conversation some Pharisees had with Jesus when Scripture says this. "Some Pharisees came to Jesus to test Him. They asked, Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason"? Sounds like these guys were looking for a loophole in their marriages, if you ask me. "Haven't you read, Jesus replied, that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and He 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". Look at what Jesus said. "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate". If you were with us in previous weeks, we looked at the truth that our God unites. What God unites, our spiritual enemy schemes to divide. What does it mean to be Covenant-Keeping in our relationships?

Well, before we dive into that truth, I wanna bring up three different approaches to marriage. You'll see these all around you, when you look around in culture, in the relationships that you have. Let's talk about three different approaches to marriage. The first is what I'll call a casual approach to marriage. Marriage isn't that big of a deal. It's really just a piece of paper. A casual approach to marriage. Then there's what I call a contractual approach. Marriage is a contract, we sign on the dotted lines, and here is our agreement. There's a casual approach to marriage, there is a contractual approach to marriage, and then there is a third approach I would call a covenantal approach to marriage, and this is the idea that marriage is a holy covenant established by God. Let's talk about these three and unpack them for a moment. What is a casual approach to marriage? A marriage isn't that big of a deal. I mean, I might get married, I might not. I might get married somewhere in the future.

Marriage is just a piece of paper anyway, it doesn't really really matter. Whenever we have a casual approach to marriage, it also generally leads to a casual approach to sex, right? If you look at someone with a casual approach to sex, they would probably say something like, "As long as two consenting adults agree, it's really nobody's business anyway. We're not hurting anyone. Last time I checked, sex feels pretty good, so we might as well do it whenever we want, with whomever we want, because, after all, it's really no big deal". Then the thinking tends to evolve. Since marriage isn't that big of a deal, and sex isn't that big of a deal, if we love someone, or at least like them a lot, and it's relatively convenient, we might as well move in together, because, after all, none of it matters that much at all.

It's interesting, they've done some recent research on living together, and Barna studied this in 2017. The reports are that 57% of people said they've either currently or previously have lived with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and it kinda makes sense in our culture today, if you talk to people, because if you're kinda with somebody, it's really easy to say, "Well, we might as well move in together because it's incredibly convenient, and we can save money, it seems to make sense, and we're testing things out". Now, if you're living together, my goal is not to bring shame upon anybody, embarrass anybody, or make 'em feel like running out of the door and saying, "I could never come back to church again". Let's just kinda call it what it is. You have, to some level, made a commitment to someone, enough to share an address together, but let's just kinda talk it through, what it could end up meaning if we really think marriage is no big deal.

Let's say we're gonna live together, and let's just say we're gonna do some things that are typically reserved for married couples. You move in with somebody, you put your toothbrush in the little toothpaste holder, you put your clothes in the little drawer, you share the bills, you share an address, you might share a sandwich, and you might share the bed. Essentially, you do married things even though you're not really married. If things don't work out, you take your toothbrush, your clothes, and your half of the sandwich, and you break up and you go along with somebody else, and if things work out with them, you might move in with them one day. Then, weeks, months, years from now, you meet that perfect someone. All the love songs on the radio make sense. You realize this is finally that special someone you wanna settle down and get married, and you do. Opposites attract, and then you get married. And suddenly things get complicated. She squeezes the toothpaste from the middle, he leaves the toilet lid up, and he doesn't put the ketchup back in the right place, and he doesn't breathe right. Had to be at church last week to know what we're talking about.

So I just stopped breathing, that'll teach ya. And so when things get difficult, so many people today say, "Let's just break it off. Let's divorce". Why is divorce so common? Because a lotta people played house, pretended to be married, and practiced divorce on person after person after person. And so if marriage is only a piece of paper, and sex isn't that big of a deal, and we can live with multiple people as we go through life, why would we not end up divorced? This could be a consequence of a casual approach to marriage. Then, there's what I'll call the contractual approach, and admittedly, if you get married, I'm assuming in most or all states, you sign a marriage contract, at the end you put your signature on it, which I think is a good thing. The problem with a contract, if that's all that marriage is, is this: what is a contract based on? A contract is based on mutual distrust. Think about it. If we're gonna enter into a deal with each other, and we trust each other, we might shake on it, we might elbow-bump on it, we might just give our word, because we trust one another. If I don't trust you, we're not shakin' on it, you're singing on the dotted line.

What do we know about a contract? Well, a contract is generally temporary, meaning until you pay up, or until a certain amount of time expires, and a contract is almost always to protect the rights of the person signing, and to limit their responsibility. For example, I started doing rental properties back when I was in college, and so for three decades I've had rental properties that I've rented out to people that I do not know and, essentially, since we do not know each other, we don't trust each other, so we're going to document the contract, which limits my responsibilities. I'll fix this, maybe, and not that, and if you don't pay, you don't get to stay. What does it do? It limits responsibilities and it defines responsibilities. So if we enter into marriage and say it's a contract, then as long as you live up to the agreed-upon terms, we have a deal. But if you don't live up to the agreed-upon terms, meaning you call me a name, you betray me in a certain way, or, perhaps, you don't make me happy, then I feel like, since you broke the contract, now I'm not bound to the contract, and we will go our separate ways.

There is a casual approach to marriage. It's not that big of a deal. There's a contractual approach to marriage. I'm in as long as you're in. We sign on the dotted line, and as long as we live up to the standards, the agreed-upon terms, then we're in this together. There's a third way to approach marriage, and that is a covenantal approach to marriage. A covenantal approach is not based on mutual distrust, it's not temporary, and it's not motivated by selfish preservation, self-preservation. Instead, a covenant is based on mutual commitment. It's unconditional commitment motivated by a sacrificial love for the other. Let's talk about what a covenant is. Most of you don't go around going, "Hey, I'm entering into a covenant today". It's not a commonly-used word, but it's a very important and spiritual word that we need to understand when we talk about marriage.

The word covenant comes from an Old Testament Hebrew word, briyth, briyth. And briyth, it means a cutting. When you see a covenant established, there's always a shedding of blood. In the Old Testament, if two people were to enter into a covenant, there would often be a shedding of blood of a bull, or maybe of seven lambs. If two people were entering into a covenant with a bull, they would kill the bull, cut the bull in half. This is gross, but just stick with me. This is what they'd do. There'd be half a bull and half a bull, and then two people would walk around the bull, both of them, seven times. I'll do it two, because if I do it seven, I'll get dizzy. Seven times, and essentially saying, what happened to the bull should happen to me if I don't live up to my oath. This is a covenant, a shedding of blood, giving my word that this is a commitment that I will stick by.

If you go to an Old Testament Hebrew wedding, what you would see is, you would see a powerful covenantal ceremony. Occasionally, what the priest would do, is ask for the hand of both the groom and the bride, and the priest would, occasionally, take a knife, and cut, nick, the hand of the groom and the hand of the bride, so that blood would emerge from their hands, a shedding of blood. Then the priest would join the bride and the groom's hands together so that the blood would mingle. This was signifying that, what Leviticus says, the life of the person is in the blood. We are exchanging life. Then the priest would bind their hands together, showing outwardly that the two are in the process of becoming one. Then they would share their covenant vows, both before family and friends, and before God.

Then what the couple would do is they would depart for a time. They would go to a place called a chuppah. Everybody say chuppah. You kinda have to sound like a cat getting a loogie out of your throat when you say it. C-H-U-P-P-A-H, chuppah. We get our English word hubba-hubba... Not really, we don't. But that's... We could, maybe. Hashtag #DadJoke, there it is. It just happens when you turn my age. It comes out of nowhere. You can't help it. Dad jokes everywhere. The chuppah was like the bridal suite. It was kinda like the honeymoon room, and the couple would leave the wedding ceremony and everyone else would wait while they go to the chuppah, and in the chuppah, they would chuppah. In theory, the virgin groom would enter into the virgin bride and there would... I'm not gonna use hand signals any more. And there would be a shedding of blood, and physically they would become one flesh, representing what has happened in the spirit. Then, once they've sealed their holy covenant, they would come back to the party that was waiting for them.

Imagine how awkward that would be. Good thing is, if you're in the wedding party and they're like 22-year-olds, they're virgins, they'll be back in like four or five minutes, you know? Like, yep, they're back. So that's, I'm just saying, you know. Oh, you're back already. Welcome back. Hang in there, it gets better with time. No hand motions for that either, just sayin'. What I hope you'll understand, that you will embrace, and you will take to heart, is the truth that marriage matters. Marriage matters to God and marriage should matter to us. So does the gift of lovemaking, which is a gift from a good God to His children. Hebrews chapter 13, verse four, says that, "Marriage should be honored by," whom? Could I get somebody to help me out today? "Marriage should be honored by all. nAnd the marriage bed", should be what? It should be? Kept pure. Marriage should be honored by all.

Who does all mean? In the Greek, all means all. It means if you're a kid, you honor the covenant of marriage. If you're a teenager with raging hormones, you honor the covenant of marriage. If you're 22 and single and you still have your needs, you honor the covenant of marriage. If you're 31, waiting, dating, and the deep desire for mating, you honor the covenant of marriage. If you're 47 and divorced, the marriage bed should be kept pure because marriage matters to God, and the gift of lovemaking matters to God, and that why I believe with all my heart that the way we talk about sex in the church leads to shame, because so often the message is to the kids, "No, no, no, no, no, don't do that. Don't do sex, no sex, no sex. Go on your honeymoon," and then you immediately go, 'cause you have said no for your whole life. Now we're supposed to party, and it's really not that easy. It's a little like my boxers. Not my boxers now, but the boxers that I got when I was engaged to be married to Amy.

We were waiting. We were honoring God. We were not sharing in the gift of lovemaking until we were married, which is why we moved our wedding date up 17 times. And the boxers that my groomsmen gave me had the letters, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no," printed all over the outside. "No, no, no, no, no, no, no," until you turned the lights off, then it would glow in the dark, and they'd say, "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes". Dark, okay! Instead of telling our kids, "No, no, no, no, no, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes," what we say is, "Wait, wait, wait, wait," because something holy is coming, something God-honoring is coming, something special is coming, something holy is coming. Now, for those of you that are saying nothing but, "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes," right now, and suddenly you feel a little bit of that conviction, what do you do with it? What do you do if you're not marriage, or if you are married you're just living in a lust-filled life that's displeasing to God? Well, the good news is Christ makes us new. And my past before Christ was not clean in this way.

When I was born again spiritually, I would argue I was also born again sexually. In other words, my past was forgiven, it was transformed. Now, who I am is different, and no matter what you've been doing in the past, no matter what you did last night, with the grace of Jesus, you can be forgiven, and you can decide from this moment forward, "I will honor the covenant of marriage". The marriage bed should be kept pure. Then, if you're not dating anybody. If you're not married today, and you hope to be married one day, you just decide, we're going to wait, we're gonna wait. And then one day you will stand before God, and before your closest family and friends, and the two will become one flesh both spiritually and then physically. You will honor God. This is a story no one can take away from us. No one can take away from us. We waited and we honored God. And you seal that covenant, and it is holy and right. Or, let's call it what it is. You can just do your thang, and then get married. It's just a piece of paper. And then go on your honeymoon, and it's just another day at the office. Business as usual. Just another round in the sack.

The choice is yours. The choice. You choose, what do you wanna be? I wanna choose to be Christ-Centered. There's a big difference between calling yourself a Christian and being centered around Christ. I want, in our relationship, to be Mission-Driven. We're united for a higher calling. I wanna kick out all of the forces of darkness. We are Devil-Kicking, why? Because we are Covenant-Keeping. This isn't a casual approach. It's not just a contract. It's so much more. Some of you might say, "Well, it's easy for you, Pastor Craig. Married to Amy, Miss Perfect. You have no idea how bad my marriage is". And I just wanna acknowledge that I know, for some people, it's incredibly complicated. I know that some of you are dealing with massive betrayals, hurts beyond measure, dysfunction, pain, perhaps different levels of abuse, and I just wanna acknowledge that it's complicated. But I'll tell ya right now, it's complicated in our world, too. We've got crazy people around, nothing easy about raising six kids.

I promise you, our schedule is as difficult as anybody's, and I can guarantee ya, there's as many spiritual attacks on our life as there is on anybody else's. It's not easy, it's not easy for any of us. But years ago, what Amy and I decided is something that we look to through to this day. We decided this and we say it often. Our marriage is as good as we want it to be. It's right there. Every word's important. Our marriage is as good as we, not me, not her, but we choose for it to be. I'll tell ya there, sometimes, we don't feel like being loving. We don't feel like forgiving. We don't feel like working on it. We may not feel like expressing love and being Christ-Centered. Lemme ask you this. How many other areas of your life can you not do what's important when you don't feel like it? Not gonna feed my baby today. Not in the mood! Don't feel like feeding my baby. I'm not gonna go to work for the next three months, 'cause I don't feel like it. I'm not gonna pay my taxes. I'm not in the mood to pay my taxes. No, you just do it because it's right. It's right.

We choose to be Christ-Centered, Mission-Driven, Devil-Kicking, and Covenant-Keeping. The big problem so many of us have, that throws everything off, is we have a misunderstanding of the character and the nature of God. Here's the root. Many of us think that when we go to God, it's a casual deal with God. I do whatever I want, it doesn't really matter, He's gonna forgive me anyway. It's a casual approach to God. Some people, though, they think it's a contractual approach to God. If I live up to my part, then He'll live up to His. The problem is, we don't always live up to ours, so we're afraid to go to Him for His, because we don't feel like we're worthy of it, 'cause we contractually didn't do what we're supposed to do. The truth about God is it's not casual, it's not contractual, it is covenantal in relationship. Old Covenant, they would take a lamb, once a year, and sacrifice the lamb. The blood from the lamb would flow into a bucket. They would take a sponge, dip it into the blood, put blood on the top of the doorpost, and on both sides of the doorpost, and when they would do that, the death angel would then pass by, because the home was covered with the blood of the lamb.

What's so amazing to think is you put blood on the top of a doorpost, and on both sides, what would happen to the blood on the top? It would drip to the bottom. And there, in the Old Testament, you have a foreshadowing of the New Testament Cross of Jesus. In the Old Covenant, it was temporary. The way you live under the New Covenant, who is Jesus? Jesus is the lamb of God, who was slain. He shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins. The briyth, the cutting. So that, because of His gift, because of His resurrection, whoever calls upon Him will be forgiven, will be made new. It is the New Covenant. And here's the great news. Even if we are faithless, Scripture says, "our God remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself".

It's not casual. It's not contractual. It is a covenant. Our relationships will be as good as we choose for them to be. We choose... Say it with me. Christ-Centered, Mission-Driven, Devil-Kicking, and Covenant-Keeping. We choose to honor God and He will always be faithful to us. I'm gonna ask, if could get a little help, on week number one, I invited Amy to come up and pray to start our series. I'm gonna invite you to come up again to close us out in prayer, if you guys wanna welcome my bride. Hashtag #MyBride. You're the best prayer warrior that I know, and it would be my honor if you would call Heaven down for our church. Let's pray.

Heavenly Father, we come before you and, Lord, we humble ourselves, just in the goodness of your love, that you are our Covenant-Keeping God, showing us, by your very life, giving us everything through yourself, giving us a way for salvation, and showing us how to have covenant with one another in marriage. Father, I just pray for all of us, whether we're married or not, that we would honor marriage, that we would honor marriage at any age, at any stage of life, because you have ordained it, and it represents the beauty of our oneness with you as your bride. And, Father, I thank you that the married couples have heard this message, and we have it planted in our hearts, and, Father, we commit ourselves. We commit ourselves to the covenant that we have said yes to, and no matter how hard it is, Father, or how good, or whatever, we say yes to the commitment to covenant, because you said yes to us. We know that you empower us to do this, and we thank you in Jesus' name. Amen.

If you guys will keep praying today, just, and add to the prayer, nobody just looking around for a moment. There are those of you that God brought here today, because it's time to enter into the grace of His New Covenant. I hope you'll recognize the amazing truth that we're not made right with God by our own good works, but it's only by the grace of God and faith in the perfect work of His Son. Let me explain it again, as simply as I can, who is Jesus? He is the sinless Son of God, He is the Lamb of God, who was slain for the forgiveness of sins. It's not a temporary covering, it's a permanent forgiveness. We're made new in Christ, the old is gone, and everything becomes new.

At all of our churches, there are many of you right now, you may be feeling a little bit guilty, you may feel the weight of your sin is heavy upon you. When you call on the name of Jesus, He forgives every sin you've ever committed. You're not just like a better version of you, you're new, you're different. The old is gone, the new has come. At all of our churches today, those who say, "I need Christ, I need His forgiveness. I turn from my sins, I turn toward Him, because of who He is, and because of what He's done. Today, by faith, I give my life to Him," that's your prayer. Would you lift your hands high right now? Just all over the place say, "Yes, Jesus". As we've got hands going up at all of our different churches, those of you at Church Online, if you can simply click right below me, we've got people today coming to faith in Christ all over the world at Church Online. Would you do the honor of praying with those around you? Just pray aloud, pray,

Heavenly Father, forgive all my sins, make me new. Jesus, save me. Fill me with your Spirit, so I can follow you always. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus' name I pray.

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