Jack Graham - Going the Distance
So often in the culture today we have disposable families and disposable marriages. And yet the Scripture is clear that God has called every one of us to go the distance. No marriage is easy! When you put two people together of different backgrounds and different lives, then bringing them together, merging them together, especially if you don't have Christ, is next to impossible. So that is why Jesus said in Matthew 19, as the Pharisees came up and tested Him... They were seeking to trap Him regarding the law and the interpretation of the law, and asked, "'Is it lawful to divorce one's life... wife for any cause?' And He answered, 'Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and the two shall become one flesh... hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh".
One plus one equals one in God's mathematics... with marriage. One plus one equals one. "They shall become one flesh"! So they are no longer two but one flesh! And what therefore, watch this, "therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate". The old King James as we used to quote it in weddings years ago, says, "And what God has joined together (I mean, this sounds really powerful. Get ready for this. This was at your wedding maybe.) What God has joined together, let no man put asunder"! I mean, asunder! I don't know what that is but... Well it means to separate. Let no man separate or pull apart. Don't let the world or anything in this world pull your marriage apart because your marriage is a promise to God.
"They said to him, 'Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?'" They were always looking for loopholes in the law. "And He said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning...'" God's intent, God's pleasure, God's plan, God's perfect pattern for life, from the beginning, the way God designed it, "'it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.'" That's going the distance, according to Jesus; that when you are married in Christ that it is a lifetime, lifelong love that lasts. It's not easy. Without God, impossible, but with God all things are possible. God will give you this kind of life and this kind of marriage.
You may be thinking, "My marriage isn't bad. It's not on the brink, but it's just boring, it's just bland! We're just empty". Or maybe you have a really good marriage, but may your marriage not only be a good marriage, may it be a great marriage for the glory of God. The key word here is commitment. It's a word we throw around a lot, a word we throw away commitment. If we're not careful we can make commitment about us. It's what I commit, as if we can give it and take it back. But commitment to God is a matter of yielding our lives, giving our lives unconditionally to Him. Psalm 37, one of my favorite psalms, verse 5 says, "Commit your way unto the Lord". And as we commit our way unto Him, to His will, to His Word, we find that we will go the distance.
What kind of commitment is this? Very briefly: It is a commitment, number one, to God's purpose in your life. That's why Jesus referred to Scripture. Jesus is actually quoting Scripture here. The original intent of marriage given to us in the book of Genesis when God designed the man and the woman. "From the beginning male and female". So Jesus takes us back to the Word, back to the truth, back to the Garden, and says, this is the design, to become one in body and soul and spirit! We have physical life, we have psychological life, we have spiritual life when we know Christ. Therefore, this is a tri-unity. And together in Christ we are one body, soul and spirit.
This is a commitment to this purpose to God's design. And while many of us have heard this again and again and again and again and again and again... it's commitment, it's about being one, it's about that God is the designer, that God has a plan, God has a will for your marriage. While we think everybody knows that, not everybody knows that. A lot of folks listening to me who don't know that. You have the idea that your marriage is just that thing you do. You got married. It's a social construct or it is a religious vow that can be broken, or it is a promise to the state or even a promise to one another, but marriage is a promise, a vow before God that we would be one; that God's love will unite us which is eternal. "I've loved you with an everlasting love, therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you" - Jeremiah 31:3.
When we love with the love of God our faithfulness to Him and to one another continues. Love is not all about the emotions, though certainly we love to talk about the rekindling and the revitalizing and romancing and the excitement of marriage and the thrill of marriage, all of that! But to love one another is to act in a loving way towards one another, to act lovingly. Paul breaks this down for us in Ephesians, chapter 5:22-23, when he says, "Husbands love your wives enough to die for them... sacrificially as Christ loved the church and wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord, lovingly, respectfully unto him". "Male and female he created them". But to become one is to bring together the difference that makes the difference. To become one is to stay together, to stick together and to fulfill our greatest human need and that is for a human relationship, for a life partnership.
Permanent, Jesus said marriage is permanent. It should not be severed or it should not be separated. It is a commitment to permanence. To leave mother and father and cleave unto your wife or your husband. Leave your mother and father! That would include don't call your wife mama! Alright? She's not your mama! He's not your daddy. Unless you just want to splash cold water all over the romance of your marriage. Leave mother and father! Cleave unto your wife as one together, one flesh.
This is why divorce is so devastating. It's not just signing papers, it's not certainly, you know, getting your letter jacket back. It is the separating of two lives. It is the tearing apart of a love that should last! It is the ripping of the relationship and of the soul. No wonder God says in Malachi, chapter 2 and verse 16 that "God hates divorce". Why? Because it is so hurtful, it is so harmful. It's another message, another time to talk about the issue of divorce and the causes and the reasons and so on, but the fact is, let's hold the standard high. Anyone in here who's been through a divorce, and we recognize there are many in this culture who have been through and in this church that have been through this.
You would say, "Pastor, hold the standard high", because really, you never get over a divorce. It never really gets settle. There's still issues and there are kids and there's... well all kinds of circumstances. And just then the emotional scars that it leaves behind. We're not smarter than God. And God says... the Lord Jesus affirms that we are one together for life. So it is only because of the hardness of hearts, because we don't listen to God that we're not sensitive to the work of His Spirit, that we're disobedient to God, that we're going our own way or maybe, you're the total victim of a divorce. I understand that some people didn't want a divorce and you got divorced anyway. Your partner wanted a divorce. I get all of that, but I'm raising the standard high for these students, for these boys and girls, for these young couples and for all of us to say in life and in legacy of life let us commit together, let's commit together for one purpose and for permanence.
A commitment to permanence. Sometime today or maybe this week I want you to look at each others as husbands and wives, hold one another's hands and say to each other, divorce is not an option in this household. And if you can't say that and mean that, then go and get some help with a biblical counselor and pastor who can help you get to the place that you can say that, and that you will say that and mean it! My friend, Greg Laurie says wedlock is a padlock. In other words, turn the lock and throw away the key. Eliminate the word divorce from your vocabulary and never, never, never give up! Honor Him with your marriage in your faithfulness to each other.
Thirdly, it's a commitment to purity. Jesus is dealing with issues of purity and adultery here. Marriage is a pure relationship. This is in direct , of course, to the view that the world takes on human sexuality. Remember, I said it many times. God is not keeping sex from you; He's keeping it for you in the context, the beauty, the blessing of marriage. Sexual activity outside of marriage either before or during marriage is not harmless recreational activity, but rather it is the purity and purpose of God in your life.
Proverbs 16:25, "There's a way that seems right to man but the end thereof is death". Over and over again we find in the Scripture the call to purity in our lives. Not what your flesh says, not what the world says, maybe not what your friends say, but God says it very clearly. Let me give you just a few examples: First Peter 2:11, "Beloved, I urge you to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against the soul". Talk about an internal civil war, a war of the psyche... that's the word psyche, a war on the soul. That's impurity. First John 3:3: "Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself". If you really believe that Jesus is coming again and coming soon, it will change the way you live your life.
Paul says the same thing in Titus, chapter 2:11-13: "For the grace of God has appeared", this is verse 11, "bring salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, waiting for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ". How about this one? First Thessalonians 4:3: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: (that is to become more and more like Christ by the power of His Spirit in you) that you abstain from sexual immorality".
Is there anything we don't understand about the word abstain? Same book, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (one of my favorites): "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may you be whole; spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". First Corinthians 6:18: "Flee from sexual immorality". It goes on to say, verse 20: "You're not your own; you are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God with your body and your soul which belongs to Him".
Now here it is: motivation for purity in a life, the motivation for marriage, getting together, staying together, even getting back together: not about us, it's about Him, to glorify God, to glorify God with our lives. First Corinthians 6 again: "Flee sexual immorality". Run from temptation and don't leave a forwarding address. Like young Joseph, when he was seduced by Potiphar's wife; he ran from the room. He didn't stay around to discuss it or pray about it, talk about it, work it out. He put on his PF Flyers and he hauled right out of there. Say he was a coward. Well his courage was strong and his character was in tact.
Don't give the devil a stick to hit you with. If you're having problems in your marriage, it's a really, really, really, really bad idea to discuss it with somebody at your office who's also having problems in their marriage. Don't be discussing the problems of your marriage with someone of the opposite sex. That's just... can I just say that's really dumb because guess what can happen and does happen again and again and again. If you have problems in your marriage, you discuss it with your husband, your wife, a trusted friend, a trusted spiritual friend, an advisor or counselor or pastor, someone who will give you good advice and will not be seducing you along the way. Is that straight up enough, by the way? Bad companions corrupt good morals.
Proverbs 13:20: "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm". Students, watch the crowds you're running with. You show me the people that are your closest friends and advisors and I'll show you the kind of person you'll be soon if not already. Realize the terrible consequences of sexual sin and the reward and the promise and the riches of living life God's way. I have loved one woman in my life for all these years and I am exceedingly happy in our life and in our love together.
Number four and lastly, a commitment to priority. Jesus is first. That's what Jeff Scruggs said just a moment ago, that Jesus is first in your life. And when Jesus is first you're mate will be second. Deb Graham knows that she is second in the priorities of my life, but listen to this: she also knows that I love her more and better and stronger, longer because of my love for Christ, and I can love her with a love that is unlike anything in this world if I first love Christ. It's a greater love! And when Christ is in control of your life, you will be filled with God's Spirit. In the same passage in which the Apostle Paul describes the relationships of marriage between husbands and wives, in Ephesians chapter 5, it's right in the context of verse 18 which says: "Be ye constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit in your life".
Be filled with the Holy Spirit. If you want to possess and to profess the life of Christ in you, this is by being filled with God's Spirit. Marriage is hard work and it demands God's power if you find the marriage is running on low, running on empty, you need renewed fuel, and that fuel to the believer in Christ is the Spirit of God. The fruit of the Spirit which is love... Think about this in your marriage. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control. How would that work in your marriage? That's the work of the Holy Spirit as we yield to Him. So you're marriage can be renewed. You've got a bad marriage, a broken marriage, it can be renewed.
If you have no marriage, you can be rescued, even your marriage. There's no one too far from God. I want to say to those of you who have messed up along the way, it's never too late for a new beginning. In my attempt to elevate life in Christ in the Christian marriage, that does not mean that we don't love people who are going through hard times and tough times, and even going through the wrong times in your life. Jesus loves you and so do we! And you can find renewal here. If you will give your life unconditionally to Christ, your life can be reborn, your marriage can be rebuilt, even rescued! And your home can stand as a household of faith. And you can say with Joshua, that saintly old man who's legacy was left behind with these words, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord". Amen?