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Watch 2022 online sermons » Levi Lusko » Levi Lusko - The Secret to a Fruitful Marriage

Levi Lusko - The Secret to a Fruitful Marriage

Levi Lusko - The Secret to a Fruitful Marriage
TOPICS: La Familia, Marriage

We're in Psalm 128 this weekend, and we are in a three-week-long message that will wrap up next week. So you've got to come back, especially if you're a parent or you ever want to be. We're going to talk next week about some of the nuts and bolts of parenting. But today we come to the subject of marriage and the title of my message is "The Secret to a Fruitful Marriage". The secret to a fruitful marriage. And what we're doing in this message series is we're basing our time and attention on Psalm 128. It's one of the psalms that we know for a fact, like we know Jesus has read all of the Psalms. But we know this is almost positively one He had committed to memory because it was one of the Psalms that the Jews would sing coming and going from Jerusalem when they would travel there three times a year for the feasts that Jesus, we know, and His disciples would go to. It was just a part of the cultural life of living in Israel.

And so this is a song that was in the mouth of Jesus. We've committed to memorize it as a family. I'm trying my absolute hardest to see how I could do today. I'm not all the way there yet but we're most of the way there. I think you could follow along, see how I'm doing. Blessed is everyone... you probably think I'm watching on an IMAG or a teleprompter. I know the comments I'll get on the YouTube, right? No earpiece is in, no witchcraft, no Wikipedia, all right? Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine in the heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table.

Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you out of Zion. May you see the goodness of Jerusalem all your days. Yes, may you see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel. These are words that were in the mouth of Jesus, words written by the mouth of Jesus. And when we focus our attention on them, we get a glimpse of the bright vitality that God intends to be our experience, all of us, in this gift of marriage. And it's almost deceptively simple because in this, it seems like this is just, oh, this is a cute marriage thing. This is a cute family thing. But we have to understand is you're getting a sneak peek into the playbook of how Jesus wants to change the world.

Don't mistake what you're seeing here. He is giving us the tools, giving us the building blocks to see the world changed when He tells us how to grow in our family relationships. And I love this series because it was born out of me listening to the Holy Spirit while groaning through yet another school shooting, yet another issue, yet another catastrophic thing. As I began to prepare the series, it was in the midst of the paralyzing grief we all feel when confronted with pain that we don't know how to do anything about. I mean, I know I can pray. And I know if there's an opportunity to support one of the families that have gone through a thing, I can give. I can GoFund. I can do all those things. But a lot of times when we're seeing yet again something on the news that breaks our hearts, we go, what can I do to actually change that? Besides just get outraged for 15 minutes, which is the world's reaction to most things. Just get outraged about something. Well, somebody's got to do something about that.

That's the government's job to fix. Or point fingers. It's because of this. It's because of this. But God wants us to know that we can do something about these things that break His heart and break our hearts. So really kind of the thesis or the heartbeat of this collection of messages that I wrote in Mexico, so I called it La Familia. It's as simple as that. Like is there a deep meaning to it? No, just hola, mostly, is this, that the greatest thing you can do for your world is to have a strong family. The greatest thing you can do for your family is to have a strong marriage. And the greatest thing you can do for your marriage is to have a strong soul.

So in focusing on our souls and then on our marriages and then on our families and then on our cities as we get there, and then on the country, we will see those, as it ends, shock waves and blessings. Peace be upon Israel. Shalom upon all kind of people. How? Because you did what you were supposed to do. You tapped into the blessings that belong to the person who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. So I see something on TV. I see something on social media. I get yet another breaking news alert. I'm going, what do I do about that? I can change the world through focusing on the godly eternal legacy that He wants to build through my family. Because as goes the home, so goes the nation. As goes the nation, eventually so goes the world. So what we do when we get stressed out there is we focus on what we can control in here. We shrink that change down.

So how's your soul doing? And is your soul full of the fear of God? We have such a funny complicated relationship with fear. When I was a kid, this is one of those old people things they say. When I was at your age, right? Everyone wore these shirts about fear, which is hilarious because today the hottest thing you'll see on shirts today is the fear of God. Only when I was in middle school, it was "no fear". Anybody remember those shirts? "No fear," right? Big dogs, no fear, right? And now it's the fear of God. So it's funny because this exposes the complicated relationship that we are supposed to have as Christians to fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear. That's from the devil. But we are supposed to walk in the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of knowledge, the beginning of wisdom.

And as our text says, it's the portal to the blessed life that God wants for you. And if you weren't with us last week, we spent some time trying to understand what the fear of God is all about. And we got, if you were paying attention to the news this week, it's not often that the news will do something great for your soul, but this week it sure did with the first images beamed back to our planet from the James Webb Space Telescope. It's been the best week of my entire life, people. Did anybody get to see any of these images? Raise your hands up. A few of you? Anybody did not, all of our locations, you've not seen any of these images at all this week, I pity you. But I got you. I got you. I got you. I'm going to show you the first image that got beamed back. This is the first image that got sent back to us here from the James Webb Space Telescope. Somebody saw this photograph.

Now, what's of course amazing about this, well, it's a long list. It's a telescope that launched on Christmas Day and is sitting 1 million miles away from our planet, and it's taking pictures of the heavens the likes of which and in the detail in which we've never seen. Now, someone I was talking to this week goes, what's the big deal? We've had Hubble up there since the '90s. And I was like, Hubble is now made by Fisher-Price, OK, people? Hubble is taking blurry Polaroids. They go, Hubble is so far away. I said, no, it's not. Hubble is 366 miles away. This is a million miles away. Hubble could fit in an 18-wheeler, in a semi. This is the size of a tennis court and it unfolded like origami on its way to its million-mile journey to where it now sits taking pictures of the heavens. And this photo, the first photo that got released to the public, the president said, here's the first image, amazing, is, as you've heard in some of the news reports, a size of the sky as small as if you held one grain of sand as far as your arm can reach away.

So reach up your hand, pretend you're holding a grain of sand. How small is that spot that you see in the sky? That's what we found out is in that spot. Which the answer is, galaxies-big worth of things. These are not just individual stars. The really bright, blown-out ones, the beautiful ones, those are the stars we can see. You have seen stars like that. So it's looking past those. Those are in the foreground. Ignore those. It's beyond them that we're seeing. Some of the curved ones, some of the bent ones, these are galaxies.

Now, in case you haven't been in science class for a while, a galaxy is a collection of stars and planets and heavenly bodies that's anywhere from million to 100 billion. That's a galaxy, like our Milky Way galaxy. And here's a bunch of them that all exist in a section of the sky as small as a grain of sand at arm's length. And 100 years ago, we knew there was one galaxy. And we just found a crap-ton of them just this week. And this thing is just getting warmed up. It's just getting started. And Colossians 1 says that this all was made by Him, through Him, and for Him, and He sustains all things.

So before July 12, we didn't even know that stuff was there. But He has been taking pleasure and receiving glory from it from creation until now. Day unto day, world without end, He measures it with the span of his hand. He calls out every star by name. And the God of wonder beyond our galaxy, He's got your name on the palm of His hand. He knows how many hairs are on your head. He has more thoughts towards you than there is sand on the seashore. And that revelation, friends, will lead to a sense of fear if you're doing it right. A holy ah; a terror at the thought of a being so vast, so immense, so beyond what we could think or even entertain, and yet to know that He came near in the person of Jesus. Someone that powerful you should be afraid of. But you don't need to because He loves you.

And when everything was lost for you, He put Himself in harm's way. He strapped himself into your electric chair, that's the gospel, and He died. Take up the cross. That's where... He took up your cross. That God of power, He shrunk Himself down, became one of us, lived on this tiny planet, the only planet we've ever found or even known that can contain life. It would seem, and maybe we will find life somewhere else, but it would seem that all of that was created just to be the beautiful view for life here on this planet. That should make us at the same time feel small but also in His mind important. And I think that's something of what it means to fear God. And that's where we begin if we want to see change in the world. We fear the Lord. And the fear of the Lord, that is something anybody can do.

How inclusive is this verse? Blessed is everyone who fears, God's blessing isn't for a select few or a rare lucky bunch. God's blessing is for you. God's blessing is for your family. God wants to use you to meaningfully change the world. But where does it begin? Well, after you've begun first and foremost to seek the Lord yourself, to fear God yourself, hopefully you select someone to do life with and to marry who also has that similar heart drive, also has that similar desire. If you fear God, you want Him to be pleased with you more than anybody else. You want to walk in His ways because you fear Him. So you're saying, the goal and outcome of my life isn't just to have more money, isn't just to be famous, isn't just to do a lot of awesome things, because I don't live for me anymore. I've bent my knee to the God who created what James Webb sees. The God of spinning galaxies and nebulae. The God who speaks stars into existence. I bow my knee to Him. He's revealed to us in the person of Jesus.

So I want His kingdom to come. Dude, His kingdom is so much better than yours. Like I know you got a Corvette and stuff, but His kingdom is better. It's bigger. It has no end. I've read the back of the book. In the end, He wins. So I'm on His team. Like that's my goal, right? There's one name. There's one name that gets praised forever. There's one name that gets all glory. There's one name and it's the name of Jesus. So if you've bent your knee and you live for that name, then why would you want to marry someone that that's not the thing? But he's hot, Levi. So is hell, you know what I'm saying? Like at the end of the day, there's got to be something more than biceps and breasts and bank accounts. Like we're looking for something deeper.

So that's Christian dating. You're trying to find someone who has that name written on them like you do. And then together, you charge and blaze toward that story. You blaze toward that being a part of what God... I want to walk, you want to walk in God's ways? I want to walk in God's ways. You fear God? I fear God. Great, let's do that together. And then as we continue it, it just stands out from there. Other kids get added to the crew, and now there's more of you to move towards that. And on and on it goes. That's the picture. That's the vision. That's the electrifying, beautiful portrait and vision that God has for your marriage and for your home. And today, we want to continue to talk about the secret to it, which really is more of that. You're like, Levi, you're oversimplifying it. Am I?

God actually said in Psalm 25:14, "The secret of the Lord belongs to those who fear Him". It's to those that He will reveal His covenant. So if you want to understand God's secret, the secret for fruit in your marriage, in your family, in your parent... if you feel overwhelmed today, approaching life as a single mom, if you feel overwhelmed because your marriage is a long way from where you feel like it should be, or if you feel discouraged and excluded today because divorce is in your story. And here you see God's plan for flourishing and you've disqualified yourself because of what's in your past, let me tell you something. God never shames you for your past. He always fights for your future. And flourishing and fruitfulness can be your reality. There are, spoiler alert, no perfect parents. There are no perfect marriages.

I was reminded of that this week, a bunch of times, really. How long do you have? We had two birthdays in our home this week. Lennox turned 5. And Daisy, who's in this worship experience, turned 12. Happy birthday, beautiful girl. And you know, so one of the things we love to do is we sit around and we harass each other and tell stories. And we go around and speak life, what we've seen in this past year, favorite moments, what we're excited for about the new year. We always lay hands and pray on each of us that... are these special moments, you know? And so we're doing that and going around. And someone remember, oh, remember when you were this age? And we keep, in our phones, these little lists of the ridiculous things our kids say.

My wife and I always write them down. Livi, we all write them down, like funny things. Like Clover called hypocrites "hippo cramps" because she was very confused, the parable of the hypocrite who prayed. Like, how did the hippo get the cramp and why is he doing it in the Bible, right? The hippo cramps. And you remember that because you wrote it down. Of course, it's like fodder for like the speech before the wedding at the rehearsal dinner and all the things, and where I'll be weeping under the table. And so we're reading this list. And you know, it's like, I mean, Clover has a very long list, actually. Like when Lennox was first born, she said, I never knew I would see your breasts so much, Mama, as when you had a baby, right? I said, never knew. I never knew. Horrified, shocked, and need counseling. Never knew. But we're looking at the list and there was the funniest one that Daisy said.

Daisy, apparently the conversation had been about how opposites attract. You've heard that, right? Usually that's during the engagement. Then you get married in opposites attack. Anybody with me on that one? But it's so cute. They're so different from me. And it's so cute, and all the things. And so we were having a chat about that. I'm sure it was in the aftermath of her and Clover fighting, Daisy and Clover, like oil and water, right? We said, that's because you love each other. That's because you're around each other a lot. That's the price to pay for relational growth, is conflict. And so I apparently had said to her, Daisy, that's how your mom and I do so well together. That's how your mom and I get along so well together, because we are so different from each other. And her exact response, and I quote, was, "You and Mom get along"? Happy birthday, honey. Thanks a lot.

So cat's out of the bag. Elephant's exposed. There are no perfect marriages in this church. And God's not asking for your relational situation dynamic or family environment to be perfect. But what He does want is fruitfulness. And there can be fruit if you fear God and walk in His ways. So let's talk about it. In verse 2 He says, "When you eat", look at it with me one more time. We're focusing in here today. This is our way to happy-happy, which is what blessed means. "When you eat the", say the next word out loud with me, "labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you". What will the marriage be like? "Your wife shall be like", everyone say "like". Like. It's a metaphor, "a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house".

I want to talk for just a little bit of time today about how, when we fear God and walk in His ways, one of the things that's going to be an outcome of that, as we do that with another person, is we're going to see our marriage become in time like a fruitful vine. That that's going to be the end result of the labor of our hands and the fear of God in our hearts. Why is marriage like a fruitful vine? Of course, specifically the wife is the heart of the home. The wife is this fruitful vine. But it begins with, blessed is everyone who fears God. So everybody gets to fear God. And as we walk with Him, I believe there's ways in which our marriages, and single people take twice as many notes as anybody, right? I like to say, when you're going to fly a helicopter, when is the right time to figure out how to fly a helicopter? When you're in one or before you get in one?

Single people take twice as many notes as anybody, right? So why would the author of this psalm want us to have this picture in our mind of a lush, beautiful, thriving, growing grapevine in the heart of the house? And the courtyard that the house is built around, perhaps; this beautiful scene, this tranquil imagery. Everybody wants to be near a vineyard. How hot is it, the idea of a marriage in a vineyard and a vacation going to a vineyard? People want to go to Tuscany. People want to go to Napa. Why? Because we see the beauty. There's a magnetism to being near the grapevine. First time I ever got asked to go and speak in Sacramento, I was giving a devotional for the staff of K-LOVE. We are really grateful for our relationship and connection as a church to K-LOVE and Air1. They've come along as a title sponsor for our conference and they've allowed us to preach the gospel, literally all around the world on their radio stations, presenting 59 seconds of hope.

And so they said, hey, would you come in and give a devotional to our staff? And while we were in the area, we tagged on a little time and wanted to see Napa, see what the fuss was all about. Had never been there. And I told my wife, I said, first of all, I feel like my blood pressure just went vvzhew. Maybe it's just because all the oxygen and everything growing. But the way you drive around, the grips, and I think it's partially just because you just see how hard the vines are not working to produce fruit. There's no... you walk around these vineyards and you don't hear anyone going... Just hanging around. Just literally is, heh, how you doing? Hm. Very good. It's very peaceful. It's very pleasant.

Now I understand why Jesus wanted us to understand why being a Christian is like being a grapevine. It's like being a branch connected to a vine. He literally said that, John 15:5. He said, I'm the vine. You're the branches. Just hang with me. You'll grow some fruit. Hang with me. You'll grow some, fear God. Walk in His ways. What's going to happen? Fruit's going to be the result of it and not something you have to white-knuckle. You don't have to worry about getting hemorrhoids walking with Jesus. He does all the heavy lifting. We just get to walk with Him. He literally said that. I mean, not exactly in those words. He said, are you stressed out? Are you worried? Walk with Me. Take My yoke upon you. It is easy and it is light.

I think at its best, walking with Jesus is something born of beauty and not of duty. Moses is all about that duty life, isn't he? How many of them Ten Commandments you been keeping? Hope you're doing good, or you're going to H-E double hockey sticks. That's what Moses wants us to know. That's coming to Mount Sinai. But we don't come to Sinai. We come to Zion. Zion. Hebrews 12 says is walking with Jesus, being a part of the church, seeing thousands upon 10-thousands of saints and knowing there are innumerable angels giving Him praise. We have come to Mount Zion, the likes of which is adorned with a cross where your Savior died to pay for the bill for all your sins. And He says, come to Me. I've got nail-scarred hands that is the price of your admission. You don't have to walk out of a sense of great duty. You get to walk in the beauty of knowing Jesus. And when that's in your spirit, when that in your soul, it's going to lead to grapes. It's going to lead to fruit. It's going to lead to a thriving, healthy growth.

And so I jotted down, as I considered, what does it mean to be a grapevine? And what does it mean to be in marriage? And how are there perhaps parallels, four different things that we have in common if we want to grow in marriage and if we want to be like a grapevine? And the first is, vines need to be cultivated. Vines need careful cultivation. You want to jot them down? They all start with the letter C, like my high school report card. I wish. Honestly, that would have been a great day. I would have run home, you know, screaming and hollering, tell my parents all about it. Cultivation, though, the definition (I looked it up in the dictionary) of "cultivation" is to promote growth with labor, skill, and attention. To prioritize and promote growth with what? Labor, skill, and attention. Meaning you can't force fruit. You have to carefully make sure the circumstances for fruit are put into place, and then you just watch the magic happen.

So you carefully study with skill, labor, and attention. And what's the outcome? Growth. And isn't that what Psalm 128 says? When you eat the labor of your hands. That means that there's something you need to do. Didn't Rihanna once say that the secret to a good marriage is work, work, work, work, work? That's not how the song goes, but it is how you spell a thriving marriage. You have to work. You have to care. You have to assess the situation. I spent some time this week studying how vines grow and what husbandmen, that's literally the technical definition of someone who takes care of vines, have to do to make sure there's growth. Turns out it's a three-year-long process to even get functioning grape vines. That means you have to have a mentality. I'm doing work now I may not see the result of until years from now. I'm taking care of the soil. I'm testing for acid in the soil. I'm making sure this is here. I got to have posts here. I've got to have that here. I have to have all this in place.

You have to decide, am I going to use people to pick the grapes or machines? Of course, there's advantages to both. And some of the hottest vineyards still pluck by hand, even though it takes 80 people an entire day to do what one machine can do in one hour. But of course, you know, a machine is not going to always discern between the best grapes. And so there's so much involved in the whole process. So let me ask you this question. What are you doing to cultivate your marriage? Are you putting that hard work in? Are you putting the time in? Are you putting the care in? Or are you just simply stepping back and saying, my marriage isn't doing so good? Hey, now I don't understand it. As though it's some sort of inanimate object that you just get to say, it's good or bad; I'm taking its temperature, as opposed to seeing yourself a part of it. Hands dirty in it. Giving yourself over to the growth of it.

Are you putting the skill and the attention and the labor so that there can be something you can eat that springs forth from the labor of your hands? Anything in life we care about, we give attention to it. We give resources to it. We get up on YouTube and we look into how to do it, how to figure it out, how to get better at it. Well, our marriages are just the one thing that we tend to, when they're not doing good, just complain about the fact that they're not doing good. And then consider, maybe, just maybe I need a different marriage because this marriage isn't going so good, as opposed to cultivating. So what does it look like to cultivate your marriage? Well, I think first of all, it starts with studying your marriage.

Did you know that Napa Valley literally hires NASA companies? NASA subcontractors. Y'all, NASA's meeting Napa up in here, up in here, that's a chapter title in my book, "NASA Meets Napa". NASA Meets Napa. Anyhow, they literally will hire us, watching this video. They will hire these companies that normally are studying the surface of Mars and the surface of the moon with thermal and all this other technology. They're looking for water. They're looking for this in the planets. And so they send these planes up to 10,000 feet, and they take these incredible pictures of Napa Valley. Why? To better understand the soil. To better understand what's under the ground. To better understand how topography and exposure to sun changes the grape-growing dynamics. And they said, this is my takeaway.

One husbandman, vine dresser, he said, I got 800 acres, but I don't think about it as one vineyard. I got 800 acres, but it's broken up in my mind into 167 different blocks. And a block is a collection of rows, right? And the vines on each row, and you can see them in your mind. He said, the 167 different blocks all have different needs through different seasons in different climates. So as the year unfolds, this block, block 26, has different needs than this one over there. And your marriage similarly has different blocks. It's not just one thing, your marriage. There's different components to it, different aspects of it. And in different seasons and when life has different demands, the needs of different blocks, they drastically change.

So you can't have a "one size fits all" approach to improving your marriage. And you can't also look at what's working for another couple as to what's working for you. You have to hear the spirit of God speaking to you. You have to know what your marriage needs. And it starts, I think, honestly, by just like sending that plane up to see what's going on underneath. How do you figure out what's going on underneath your marriage? You ask about it. So when was the last time you've checked in with your spouse? And a little pro tip. Jennie and I, our marriage counselor, for what it's worth, she told us to never ever, ever do the check-in during date night. And this has been revolutionary for us. We used to just literally have a fight every single date night because that was our check-in.

One of us would be dumb enough over appetizers to go, well, what's going on in your head, which is usually code for, please tell me the five things I'm doing wrong this week. You know what I'm saying? And so now, I'm like, I'm pushing the cauliflower away because I'm feeling hot and angry. And you know, and then we get in this big fight. It was like, and she goes, oh, gosh, you're doing it wrong. Date night's joy. Date night's fun. Just keep it light. Put a pin in stuff that's going to give you stress on the date night. But you got to have the check-in too, right? Because the mistake you could make is just, well, no, no, no, we'll talk about it later. And then you never do, right? And then that bin just gets bigger and bigger. And then all of a sudden, Mount Vesuvius, right? And that's a real thing too. And so to have a time weekly, even if it's 15 minutes, to check in. We're going to talk about these things.

How are we actually, what's under the soil? What needs more water? What needs tweaking? What needs adjusting? What needs in your life are not being met? How could we get better? I love that you can't spell "culture" without using some of the same letters involved in "cultivate". What's the culture of your home? You go into hotels, you go into restaurants, you go into businesses, you feel the culture. You feel what they've carefully cultivated, down to what you smell, down to what you hear, down to what you feel. So what's the culture of your home going to be like? If and when you have kids one day, what's that going to be like? Have you given some thought to what the culture you're called to create would feel like? Is it going to be a generous culture, a fun culture, a culture of laughter?

I hope it's not a culture of passive-aggressive. I hope it's not a culture of tiptoeing on eggshells because so-and-so is going to explode, should this come up. Is it a culture of fear? Is it a culture of anger? You've got to decide and you've got to re-up on it. Jennie and I sat down a long time ago and prayed about what we want the culture, the values, the vision of our home to be like. And these things, over time, you've got to continue to hear what God's doing, adjust, and adapt. You get the idea. Cultivate, therefore flourishing, can come to pass.

Secondly, we got to learn that the vines know the power of clinging. Vines cling. And they cling to what they hold onto so they can continue to grow. You stretch out wire between posts. One popular YouTube video by Wine Guy 774 said, you take a redwood post and you put it about 31 inches down. And you can do concrete, but in certain soils there's enough clay content that if you pack it down hard enough, you won't have to really worry about it falling over. But these redwood posts, you stretch out the eye hooks with the little buckle, turnbuckle things. And now you got this wire, and now the vine can literally cling to it. And the vine will do just that. It will cling to what it's growing on. And so there's a staying power to a vine because it clings. It clings, of course, to the wire, but it's clinging to the branches. And the branches that spread out is what the grapes actually grow on.

And so when it comes to marriage, there needs to be some staying power. There really does need to be in your spirit till death do us part, for better or for worse, richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. Because when you step into marriage, according to Genesis 2:24, you are leaving your father and mother, being joined now to your wife or to your husband, and these two become one. So when it comes to the cleaving, you left Mom and Dad, are cleaving together, that's really clinging. That clinging, that spirit, that covenant that we're not messing around. We're in this for the long haul. This never-say-die spirit should be a part of what God's doing inside of your family.

Now, how do you get there? Because that's overwhelming. The answer is one psalm back. So if you turn your attention from Psalm 128 to Psalm 127, you're going to hear that unless the Lord builds the house, the builder builds in vain. And unless God guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. So here's the beautiful thing. You're not relying on willpower in a marriage; you're relying on God's power in your marriage. How do we get to that clinging? How do we get to that staying put? How do we cleave together and do so till death do us part? We need the Holy Spirit and we need each other. And that's why I love that the church is right here in this psalm. Literally, the Lord bless you out of Zion.

And as I referenced a moment ago, Hebrews chapter 12, and the reference is verse 22 and 23, uses the phrase Zion as a picture of the church of the firstborn, that we are a part of the church, and when we commit together, to see marriage differently than culture sees it. Because in culture, you can consciously uncouple when it no longer is meeting your needs. But in this house, we believe. We want to see the change in the world. This is going to come from strong and healthy marriages as productive greenhouses for strong and healthy children, like little olive plants to be shot out, using language of Psalm 128, like arrows in the hand of a warrior. And we're going to see that blessing ripple out of the strong marriage. But we don't do so in our own strength. We do so through the Holy Spirit's strength and with each other. The blessings come out of Zion.

And it's an amazing thing to see secular studies bear witness to what scripture says. That is to say, people do better in marriage when they are actively engaged in the local church than when they do not. Google it. According to the University of Virginia and a study done under the name the Human Flourishing Project out of Harvard University, divorce rates go down on the low end by 35% but as you get older, in later life, by as much as 50%. You are as much as 50% less likely to divorce if you are actively engaged in a church. To use language from the study, if you are an active, conservative Protestant. That would be another way of saying, you don't just attend church flippantly here and there. You don't just turn it on once in a while to get a little blessing or engage when it's Easter or Christmas or you need a little spiritual pick-me-up. But instead, you are not just coming to church; you see yourself as the church. You are giving. You are serving. You are known. You're being held accountable.

When that's your normal day-in and day-out experience, you literally can have confidence you are doing something to divorce-proof your marriage and safeguard your legacy going on into future generations. And it's astounding to watch. Like the Harvard article, to see them have to wrestle with, like, why could this be? It's like, well, some people think it could be because when you're a part of a church, you're being told that there's meaning to life. I don't know why that would help but it would seem to be. And then there's like... and another person in the study found that it could be because then when you're in hard times of crisis, there are other people in your life who are similarly minded there to encourage you.

But why would you want that? And other people still yet think that it might be because the worldview in these active conservative Protestant churches tends to be that pornography is not great for the soul and that unfaithfulness in the marriage would actually be destructive to the union. But I don't know if you need all that moral mumbo jumbo because it's so much better to be miserable. And how incredible is it that father knows best and that his rules are put in place for a reason? And when he says don't, he always means don't hurt yourself and that we don't have to be worried that when he tells us to do something or to not do something, that he's trying to keep us back from blessing, to keep us back from happiness.

And we need to always be suspicious that maybe, just maybe there's something out there that's good for us. But we can be confident that if he says no, he has our best in mind. He wants to give us good things. He wants you to be blessed. He wants you to be able to say happy, happy. That's what behold thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. So we cling. We cling to God. We cling to our spouse. We cling to the local church because we're vines and we want our marriage to be like a fruitful vine in the heart of our house.

Thirdly, we can know that vines climb. Once they cling to the right thing, they can continue growing almost infinitely. And that really is the cool thing about a vine, isn't it? I mean, who doesn't love seeing a building and you see vines just climbing up the thing? It's wonderful. If they're attached to something right and they're given the right tools, a vine's growth, even in harsh circumstances, grapevines are tough, resilient suckers. They can grow where many of the things could never grow, they can continue to climb almost without an end in mind. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest vine in the world is in Surrey, England, in the Hampton Court Palace. I think we have a photograph here. This is all one vine, believe it or not. The actual main trunk's diameter is 13 feet around. And its longest branch, of which you see many of them here, is 100 feet long. Branches 100 feet long.

Why is this so long? How did it get so big? It has been carefully cultivated and given something to climb on for 250 years. And in this royal palace... by the way, one of the first environments where pineapples were ever successfully grown in Europe, free tidbit for those of you who have read Swipe Right, in this very building, the vine has been given the tools to continue to grow. And I love this, and I want this vision in your mind. I want this vision in your heart. If you're empty nesters, if you've been married for 40 years, I want you to have this vision, young people, that you don't have to fear a marriage getting stale. You don't have to fear getting trapped into something, I need to experiment and keep my options open. I am telling you, so long as you focus in, cling to the right vine, cling to the Lord, your marriage's growth can be infinite.

There is literally no end to what can happen as you continue to get to know each other, as you continue to die to yourself. Why? Because marriage is a tool for you to grow. Marriage is a tool for you to become the me that you were born to be. Partially just because marriage is a great opportunity to realize how selfish you are every day. And so you're constantly given chances to see your need to grow. And if you humble yourself under that and listen to the Holy Spirit in the midst of it, you two get to grow together. And I love the idea of this vine just keeping on growing, keeping on growing, keeping on growing. Not unruly growth. Not unruly growth.

If you've ever seen a grapevine that didn't get a wire to stretch across, didn't get guidance, didn't get direction, didn't get the proper trellis, what is it? It's just a mush bush. Literally just a mush bush. It's like there are some wild grapes on it, but man, you give a vine something to grow on, it's powerful. And I think that's why our marriages need to be attached to the marriage, the church. This is Ephesians 5, right? The passage that is considered by many to be the principal teaching on how the marriage should function, Ephesians chapter 5. How does it begin? It actually begins with, "do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit".

That's the beginning of Paul's argument. And then he goes on from there to say that we both submit to one another in the fear of God. I love this because what is he doing? He's saying there's a potential for marriage to be like wine, marriage to be like the Holy Spirit. What he actually wants to produce in your life, which is what? The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. So don't get distracted by cheap wine. Don't be distracted by two-buck Chuck. Don't be drunk with wine. Be filled with the Spirit. This is way better. It's something that God wants to do in your life that will blow your mind. So how do we get there? Submit to one another in the fear, same phrase. So it's not just some Old Testament thing, the fear of God. Submit to one another in the fear of God. And it continues. And this is every husband's favorite verse. "Wives, submit to your hus...", eh! The original Greek is "wives... to your own husbands". Because the thought was introduced in the last verse, "submit to one another". Submit to one another. And then he says, wives to your own husbands.

And then husbands, he shows what that submission is going to look like to the wife. Mutual submission is the biblical idea in marriage. We both have so yielded to the Holy Spirit that we submit to one another in the fear of God. And we both then do what God has called us to do, which does involve some unique leadership aspects for the husband and some other ones for the wife. And yielding is a part of the process. But when someone says submission is the wife's role in marriage, I would say, eh! Submission is the job of every Christian. And within the marriage, there is a mutual submission under the headship of Jesus Christ, which does include unique leadership responsibilities according to the New Testament for both in the union. But it starts with a fear of God. And when we keep our vine attached to that trellis, the end of that? Infinity and beyond.

There is no end to what God can do, should we continue to want to advance the kingdom within the church. What I'm trying to say is, your marriage, it needs a mission. Your marriage, it needs a goal. Your marriage, it needs an agenda. And it's got to be bigger than just what you're doing in the house and getting Billy into college and the soccer game. I'm telling you, it's got to be a part of God's kingdom. And that's why you want to find someone who lives their life with a heart beating about the fear of God. Because to try and do that with someone who just wants a house that looks good on Instagram and a vacation in Aspen, right? I mean, that's not the same thing. That's what the Bible calls being unequally yoked. So hear me carefully, young people. And the Bible, of course, to those of you who are unequally yoked, has a lot to say to you as well.

So take heart. You can have fruitfulness in your life as well. But your marriage is meant to climb. Your marriage is meant to grow. Your marriage is not meant to get stale and flat. And take it from someone who's 18 and 1/2-some some years into this marriage, it has never been better. It has never been more wonderful. And I can't wait to see what God has next. It's exciting. It's fun. It's full of friendship. It's full of laughter and ridiculousness. And when one person falls down, the other one gets to pick them up. And when your dreams are scattered and your heart's broken, you have someone there to suffer with. So marry someone not just for better in health and richer. Marry someone for sickness. Marry someone who it would be an honor to suffer with, to grieve with, to cry with, to have a broken heart with, and to watch God meet you in the midst of all of it.

All right, so we cultivate. We cling. We climb. And why do we do it? Because we believe that God wants there to be clusters. God wants there to be fruit. There's an end in sight. We labor. We labor. We labor. We can believe in our marriage for fruit. And that is what God wants to be produced through it, both the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of passion, and the fruit of fun and romance and companionship, and all those things that caused God to say something was not good in the Garden of Eden. And that was man's aloneness. And so marriage was launched so the fruit of marriage could be felt in the heart of our homes, that God might use us to change the world and bring peace all over the place.

Now, in even holding this up, the fruit, which is how, of course, you get wine, you have, I mean, I think, what is it? 3 million tons of wine produced every year just in Napa Valley alone? It comes from lots of fruit, and the fruit gets crushed. In the old days, they used to actually literally crush it underfoot. But you can't get this without this being crushed. And so even in the brokenness, even in the hard times, it's all a part of the process. And if you hearing this message today feel like, man, my marriage has got a long way to go, just be encouraged. Even the most thriving vine in the world only produces fruit 150 to 100 days of the year. That is to say half the year, over half the year there's no fruit on the vine. And what's done in drought seasons, what's done in dark seasons, what's done in hard seasons, it all paves the way for the fruit.

So it might be that you need a lot of work today and a lot of old tilling, a lot of changing. A lot of priorities are going to have to move around; schedules, all these things, maybe some hard conversations. But fruit is possible in your future. And little things add up over time. Did you know that the average bottle of wine in America has 1,402 grapes in it? And that's a lot of grapes. So one little thing today that you can do, one little conversation, one little prayer you pray for your spouse, one little thank you, one little act of service. I'm telling you, one grape at a time, there can be something that can gladden the heart of your home if you just don't stop, if you just keep going. And it really is this picture, I love that God chooses wine to be this picture of what can be the result of marriage, through grapes growing. Because wine does just get better with time.

Interestingly enough, 90% of every bottle of wine sold in the United States of America is drank within 24 hours of the moment it was purchased. Isn't that weird? What a funny little tidbit. The next party you go to, did you know that 90% of the wine in America is drank within 24 hours of being purchased? That's because most people buy it because they want to drink it right then, right? But wine is one of those things that, unlike your cologne from the '80s; please throw that away, that just gets better with time. I mean, literally, there's no end to this. There's a restaurant in Paris. It's the oldest restaurant in Paris.

Now, I'll butcher it if I try and say it in French, but it's overlooking the Notre Dame. And it's like the Tour de La Targe? Le Targe, or something like that? Terrible. I can't speak French. I mean because honestly, I don't like when I have hair in the back of my throat and that's what French sounds like to me. And in the wine cellar below this restaurant, there are at this moment 320,000 bottles. It's one of the most sophisticated, one of the most carefully controlled wine cellars on Earth. And there are bottles of wine going all the way back to 1845 in this wine cellar. They did have an 1811, but someone broke one on accident. That guy is looking for a new job., "used to work at a winery," you know what I'm saying? But these are precious, these dusty bottles, I mean what they've been through.

This particular wine cellar, when the Germans invaded France in 1940, the owner of this restaurant flew back to Paris and walled over one of the tunnels leading to the section that had the most expensive old bottles. And then he made it all look old and scuffled because the Germans were notorious when they occupied a country for demanding all the best wine, all the best jewelry, all the best food. And they would have much of it exported to Germany for the fuhrer and his parties and his friends and all the SS troops. And so they would take the best wine, best champagne, best of everything. And this guy had some of the best, some of the oldest on Earth. And so by walling over the older section, when the SS guys went down into the wine cellar, they only found the new stuff, which was at the front. And they were fooled. They never knew there was a section walled over.

And so when the war was over, and where did the war technically end? It technically ended in Champagne. For it's not just a product, it's a place. And Dwight Eisenhower was technically in Champagne, France when the Germans came and signed the papers ending officially the European theater of World War II. And so from Champagne, this ending of the war. I love this idea in our hearts as we close this time together, because what God wants to produce in your heart, what God wants to produce in your home, in your marriage, in your sexual relationship with your spouse and how you raise your kids and how you approach life, it literally is something that can get better with time and be more valuable. You don't get old and become unvaluable in God's kingdom. You have wisdom to offer.

There's so much God wants to do through you, so much you have in your heart that we all need, the next generation coming up behind you. It's something worthy of being walled over to keep from the enemy, this treasure that is aging and becoming more sophisticated. I'm told that a bottle of wine, properly aged, can have as many as 50 different unique flavors that a properly trained sommelier can detect on the nose, in the mouth, that are brought out by different fruits. I'm telling you, these are the God colors that God wants to bring out in your kids, the God colors God wants to bring out in you as you grow in maturity and in wisdom and in faith and in the fear of God. This is this rich heritage that God has for you.

Now, let me end our time, I'm well over my clock, by saying that you're going to face hardship. It goes without saying that you're going to bump into difficult things. But you have the promise and the power of claiming the truth and the reality, the promise from God's word that even when you pass through waters, you will not drown. Through fire, you shall not be burned. Last few years we've been seeing on the news this calamity. I mean, I have a photo here. This is the Napa Glass Fire of 2020. It's estimated that over $1 billion of wine-producing grapes were damaged by these flames. And we talked to some of the vine dressers, some of the people involved, how scary it was.

But one of the most interesting things to me was long after the fire was done, there were grapes that were having to be tossed out because of something called smoke taint. Not just flames can touch grapes but smoke can too. And $600 million worth of wine was filed with insurance companies for grapes that never got burned. The fire never touched them but the smoke did. And to the trained nose and trained palate, you can discern when drinking wine if the grapes were grown in the presence of smoke. And I was thinking about that this week. And God's Holy Spirit immediately took me to the Book of Daniel where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fire and the fire had no power over them.

Daniel 3:27, "the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them". And I believe that through the Holy Spirit's work in your heart, not only can the fire have no impact on you that the enemy brings your way, but you don't even have to smell like smoke. You don't have to have a victim mentality. You don't have to be defined by the worst thing that you went through. You can have the blessing of Joseph on your life. You know Jacob had 12 sons, 12 sons of Israel? And he blessed each of them in Genesis 49 just before he died?

My friend, pastor Jentezen Franklin, was preaching on this verse this week. My wife and I were working out together, it was a fun little moment. We were working out and the verse came on the lower third of the screen. I glanced at it while doing back squats, and I almost fell over because it was exactly the phrase that I'd had in my heart all week, a fruitful line. Jacob said to Joseph, your blessing is you're going to be like a fruitful vine that goes over a wall from a spring. Why? He said, because the archers shot their arrows at you, but you never returned fire. My paraphrase, of course. And isn't that Joseph's story? His brothers took him, betrayed him, sold him. The people he helped in the prison did him no good. Potiphar's wife, she tried to attack him, lied about him. Then he helped interpret their dreams. Didn't come through in their promises to him.

Many archers shot their arrows at you, Joseph, but you didn't return fire. The end of Joseph's story, he says, you all meant it for evil but God meant it for good. This hardship, this pain, the sexual assault, this divorce, this hard season, man meant it for evil. But I'm not going to smell like smoke. This fire can't touch me, but it also is not going to get in my spirit. I'm not going to be tainted by this hardship. I'm going to have a sweet spirit.

Let me tell you something. If you want to have a fruitful marriage, you need to get the revelation of your Savior who forgave you so you can have a forgiving spirit. Because again, we don't muster up the courage to forgive our spouse, to forgive each other, to forgive even our worst enemy. That comes from Jesus, who, like these grapes, became crushed so there could be wine in our communion cup. And we look at that and go, if You forgave me, how can I not extend that forgiveness? And I'm telling you, when that's in your mind, when that beauty is in your mind, it'll change things in your home. Amen. So Father, we believe for the blessing of Joseph. If you're receiving this, just raise up a hand, all across our church, church family. A blessing of Joseph.

Many archers will shoot their arrows at us, but we shall not return fire, for we will be like a fruitful vine springing forth from living water that climbs over a wall. May the blessings done in this church, on our hearts, ripple and shockwave out, touching Montana and Utah and Oregon and Wyoming and Idaho and this country. And may we be able to see these blessings we're tasting out of Zion. They bring peace to the whole world. And we literally know we are a fulfillment of the prophecy as this church. We've had the chance to plant churches and participate in Your work, even happening in Jerusalem and Israel. And we pray for the peace of that city and this world. Thank you, Jesus. Bless our hearts, our marriages; the single people, their future marriages; the hurting, broken hearts. God, I pray You would take that smoke taint off of them even now.

Even now, you're released from that bondage. You're released from that bitterness. You're released from carrying around that heavy burden.

In Jesus' name, whom the Son sets free, you are free indeed. He breaks the heavy chain. I pray for a spirit of rejoicing in this house, that we would be refreshed so we could refresh. And may the change in here lead to life out there.

You could put your hands down. I want to close this time out by extending an invitation. If you've never yet made that scary, trembling, wonderful decision to give your heart to Jesus, this is no small thing. You are not inviting Him into your heart to be your personal assistant. He is a star breeder and a savior. He is both love and thunder at the same time. But He will come into your heart if you invite Him in to be your Lord, to be your savior, to be your friend. And if that's what you would like to do, if you would like to make that decision today, I'm going to pray with you, giving you the words to say as you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth, and both are significant, that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead.

So if that's you, I'm going to invite you to pray, to mean it, to say it. The church family is going to say it with you because these blessings come out of Zion. We're together, here, in on this, cheering you on as you make this decision. Clearing some more room at the table for there to be a seat for you in our family. Say this to God:

Dear Lord, I know that I'm a sinner. I've done wrong things. I can't fix myself. And I'm dead on the inside. So I put my faith in Your hands. I open my heart to You. Come into my life. Be my Lord and my savior. I turn to You, In Jesus' name.

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