Greg Laurie — Four Words that Can Change Your Marriage
Now listen. I don't know what kind of shape your marriage is in as you are listening to this message. Maybe it is great. It is strong. It is vibrant. I hope that my message today encourages you and makes it even stronger. There might be some of you that on the outside you look to have a happy marriage but underneath there is big time trouble. There is a communication breakdown. There are a lot of arguments even yelling. I hope this will be a time where you will maybe shore up your foundation. Then there are some others that maybe have a marriage that is hanging by a thread. You even use the word divorce. You have even gone to a lawyer. It has gotten that bad. What I want to say to you is God can restore your marriage. There is hope for hurting marriages. Don't give up. HOPE. It is an acronym for Holding On with Patient Expectation. Hold on.
I received a letter from a listener to our radio broadcast who actually listens to our program through her app on her iPhone. I don't know if you know but we have a harvest app that you can download for the iPhone, the iOS system, the Android system. It even works for the eight people who have windows. We have one of those as well. You can watch our messages and read our devotions and a lot of other things and it is free. But anyway she says, "I listen to your radio program on my iPhone through the harvest app. Your sermons and devotionals have kept me afloat during a really dark time in my marriage. A time where I felt as though my life was crumbling and I had no idea how it could be rebuilt. While driving to work back and forth every day I listened to you and felt God speaking to me. Through your teachings I was able to get through the dark times and see God's amazing light and love that he had for me once again. Now by grace my marriage has turned around. My husband is seeking the Lord with all of his heart".
Those were not my words. Those were God's words that helped this lady. These are God's words that will help you as well. Let's come to our texts. Ephesians 5 is the first one. We are going to identify four words that can change your marriage. A couple of people opined on this on my Facebook page. I asked if people could guess what they are. One guy said, "Sorry honey you're right". That is not bad. Another said, "Here are four words that can change your marriage". Only a guy would say this. "Make me a sandwich". That will not change your marriage. Let's see if we can find them now.
Ephesians 5:25. Here they are really. "Husbands love your wives". Those are the four words. "Just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her, that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies: he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. 'for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' this is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband".
We will stop there. Notice four times in eight verses men are simply told to love their wives. How are we to love our wives? As Christ loved the church. You might say, "Greg that is kind of a tall order isn't it"? Yes it is. It is not something I can do humanly. It is not something I can do in my own strength. I want you to notice when God directs his words to a marriage he starts with the man.
Proverbs 5:15 says, "Drink water from your own well. Share your love only with your wife. May your fountain be blessed and may you rejoice with the wife of your youth". Here is the problem with eros. It is basically a selfish love. Eros says I love you because I find you attractive. You do something for me. I want that something from you. That is eros love. It is not a giving love. But phileo. Let's say it is love on a higher plane. The word phileo is translated into the English words philanthropy, philanthropic, and Philadelphia. These are all words that express brother love or love that expresses itself and shows itself. In fact even in Titus 2 wives are told to specifically phileo their husbands. It is a word that is used in this way. What is phileo? It is a love that comes as a result of the pleasure or delight one draws from the object loved.
In contrast to eros which says I want this from you phileo says you know you bring something to me that I like. Because of this I am going to bring something back to you. As I said it is a give and a take love. Agape is different. Agape says I love you regardless. Eros says I love you as long as you are attractive. When you cease to be attractive I may not have much left. Phileo says I love you because you are attractive and you bring something to me. Agape says I love you no matter what you look like. Agape says I love you no matter how you behave. Phileo says I love you if you treat me nicely. Then I will treat you nicely. Agape says even if you don't treat me nicely I will still show kindness toward you. Even if you have lost that loving feeling I will still love you.
This is not the way culture works. This is not the way the world works. The world's love is object oriented. A person is loved because they are attractive or because they have a personality. Maybe a particular talent. Something about them we find appealing. People Magazine does not have a special issue every year the world's most unattractive people. That would really be depressing to be called and asked to be on the cover of that. You would say to your wife I just got called by people and they want me on the cover. Wow. What is it about? The world's most unattractive people. Then they have the sexiest man alive. I am so sick of them calling and asking me. I thought go call Clooney or Brad Pitt. What is this? Leave me alone. It is really embarrassing. I made that up. I think you knew that.
It is only the sexiest. It is only the most attractive. It is only the most appealing that we will love. But God loves unlovable people. God loves unattractive people. Look. In your marriage time is going to bring about changes. Something called gravity is going to kick in. Just telling you. You don't want to be the person that says I will trade them in on the 2017 model. Remember I told you that you want to take that original car and turn it into a classic so it is still on the road 50 or 60 years later.
In his excellent book Love Life for Every Married Couple Dr. Ed Wheat writes these words and I quote, "Even in the best of marriages unlovable traits show up in both partners. In every marriage sooner or later a need arises that can be met only by unconditional love. Agape is the kind of love we need in those situations. This love" writes Dr. Wheat, "Has the capacity to persist in the face of rejection and continue where there is no human response at all. It can leap over walls that would stop any human love cold. It is never deflected by unlovable behavior and gives gladly to the undeserving without totaling the cost. To the relationship of husband and wife which would otherwise be at the mercy of fluctuating emotions and human upheavals agape imparts stability and a permanence that is rooted in the eternal".
He concludes, and I love this statement, "Agape is the divine solution for marriages populated by imperfect human beings". Oh my. That is us isn't it? We have marriages populated by imperfect human beings. We all fall short. That is why we come back to these words husbands love your wives. Four words that can change your marriage. If you were to boil down the problems in most marriages or the problem I might say in most marriages I would identify it as one word. Selfishness. If you want to know the solution to most marriages that are having problems I would put another word in its place. Selflessness. That is what we are talking about here. Substituting selflessness for selfishness. What do we learn here from what Paul has written in Philippians?
1. Don't allow your marriage to be driven by selfishness. Verse 3. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit". Most conflicts are a result of this. James writes in James 4, "Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come". Listen. "Because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves". We are prewired that way. I want my way. It goes back to childhood. Look at kids. One of the first words they learn is mine. Put a toy on the ground. Nobody cares about it. One kid picks it up. Now the other one wants the same toy. They are literally pulling on the same toy. Look. There are other toys. They want that toy. They want their own way. That is how we are. Don't let that dominate your marriage.
Think of immorality and all of the ways that it shows itself. Premarital sex. Selfishness. Extramarital sex. Adultery or affairs it is sometimes called. Selfishness. Making decisions without consulting your partner. Selfishness. Marriages falling apart. Selfishness. We want what we want. It is not always an issue of one wants what is right and one wants what is wrong. Though it sometimes is that. Or we are violating what the Bible says. It is difference of opinion. She wants to paint the walls white. He wants to paint them black. He sees a red room and he wants to paint it black. Because he just listened to the rolling stones.
I don't know. But here is what I do personally in my house. My wife. She rules. So she will say what do you think I should do over here. I am thinking of doing this. I will say I think this. I don't really agree with that. Ok. Whatever. I gave you my opinion. Sometimes she will do what I said. Sometimes she won't. I let her decide. I say Cathe inside the house anything you want to do, that is for you to decide. That is her domain. That is one way to approach it. The point is you need to learn how to negotiate through these things because it is not always black or white or right or wrong. It is just a difference of opinion.
2. Put your mate above yourself in marriage. Put your mate above yourself. Verse 3. "Be lowly in mind and esteem others better than yourself". Another way to translate this is, "Be humble thinking of others as better than yourself". This is interesting because the word used here for thinking doesn't mean to pretend others are more important. It means to actually believe others are more important. Interesting. We don't generally think that way. We think we are the moral center of the universe. Right? We have it all wired. We have it all figured out. We think we are all that and a bag of chips. Now we marry someone who has a different opinion than we have. They want to do it a different way than we want to do it.
The Bible says think of them as better than yourself. They are not better than me. Really? Do you think you are that great? Seriously? Just go back 24 hours and think of some of the thoughts that have popped into your mind. Think about some of the things you have contemplated and you are telling me you are so good. Listen. You fall so short. Are you sitting there right now husbands and saying I am a better husband than she is a wife? Wives are you sitting there saying I am a much better wife than he is a husband. You need to do a little self-check for a moment and realize that others should be put in the position of better than you. Especially your spouse in your marriage.
Cliff Barrows. You have probably have heard of him. A longtime associate of Billy Graham. Leads worship in the Billy Graham crusades or has led worship for years. In an interview he was asked the secret to a long and happy marriage. I like what Cliff said. Here is what he said. "I think there are nine words we should be willing to say every day. Here they are. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you". That is good advice. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Then he adds some additional four words that are often helpful too. It was my fault. How many of you are married? Raise your hand. Turn to your spouse. Turn to them. Say this to them. It was my fault. I am sorry. I love you. See. It helps doesn't it? You can be in a big conflict. She is yelling. You are yelling. Whatever it is. Then you just look at them and say, "You know what? I was wrong. I love you". Diffused. Didn't take you that long did it?
These are simple truths that we can apply in our lives to love as God wants us to love. Love your mate. Honor them. Live selflessly. Not selfishly. Who is the greatest example of this? Who is the greatest example of loving as we ought to love? Well I am. I have just written a new book. Humility and how I found it. No. I made all of that up. Get it. Humility and how I found it. Forget it. No. Clearly. We laugh because it is absurd. But I will tell you who the person is. You already know. Who is the greatest example of humility and love? Who? Take a guess. Jesus. Perfect.
Let's read on in Philippians 2. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men: and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross".
Jesus was God among us. He was not man becoming a God. That is impossible. He was God becoming man. He never voided his deity. But he veiled it. He sort of hid it but he still was God. Which is so amazing when you look at how he served others. Always had time for others. Always helping others. Even in the upper room he got down on his knees and he washed the disciples' feet. That is normally what a servant would do. That is incredible. By the way, he also washed Judas' feet. That is right before Judas betrayed him.
If I were Jesus, I would not have washed Judas' feet. I would have broken his feet. Then I would have said, "Try betraying me now. See how that works out". He washed his feet. He was humility. Loving. A servant. Then he made the ultimate sacrifice by going to the cross and dying there for our sin. Yes we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. There is no greater example of love ever shown in the universe than the love of God for humanity by sending his Son to die on the cross in our place. The Son willingly going and taking the sin of the world.