Matt Hagee - The Broken Borders of Marriage
The reason that the biblical borders of marriage are broken is because individuals, men and women, have refused to take the responsibility that is upon them to maintain a healthy marriage. It's not that we don't know what to do: it's that we've not willing to do what God's asked us to do. In the United States, we've got marriage books. We've got marriage seminars. We've got marriage podcasts. We've got marriage Sunday schools. We've got marriage groups. We've got all of these things to support marriage. And when it comes to having a healthy marriage, we're just not willing to do the work. You need to know that anything you're going to be good at in life requires effort. Good golfers are good golfers. Why? Because they work at golf. They don't hit 30-foot putts on accident: they practice that. Good musicians are good musicians because they practice their instrument. Good businessmen are good businessmen because they work at being good businessmen. Good husbands and good wives did not become good husbands and wives because they were the lucky ones. They worked at doing what was required in order to build a good family.
So in order to help us understand the broken borders of marriage and what we need to do, I'm not going to go to the song of Solomon. I'm not going to go to Psalms or Proverbs where all of the love verses are found. I'm going to look at the life of Nehemiah, because he was a wall builder. And I want you to see the principles that he used in his construction project and allow them to bless you in your construction project when it comes to building a good family, because the borders of the family in this nation are broken. And by God's grace, by the time this service is over, we will all understand what our responsibility is to see them rebuilt in America today.
Let's read Nehemiah 2:17. If you're there, say, amen. "Then I said to them, 'you see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste and its gates are burdened with fire. Come let us build the wall of Jerusalem: that we may no longer be a reproach'. And I told them of the hand of God, which had been good upon me, and also of the king's words that he had spoken to me. So they said, 'let us rise up and build'. And then they set their hands to do this good work".
Heavenly Father, let your word come alive in us today: that we, like the people in Jerusalem in Nehemiah's day, would set our hands to do the good work of building godly families. Let the power of the Holy Spirit carry this word past this sermon and this sanctuary into our hearts and lives: that we could change the future of this nation for the cause of Christ' and righteousness' sake. It's in Jesus' name that we pray and ask.
And all of God's children said, praise the Lord. You may be seated. I like what Nehemiah 2:18 says. It says, "They set their hands to do good work". "Good work". Notice that there's a distinction that Nehemiah makes about the work that's being done. It's not just any work: it's good work. One of the things that I believe is important, before we can even begin to expect marriages to get better, is that we have got to make a decision that we are going to do good work. Because whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, right now each and every one of us are working on our marriage relationship.
You say, "Well, I'm single". Don't worry: you're still working on your marriage relationship. You're either doing good work, getting ready to be a good spouse: or you're doing bad work, getting ready to be a problem for somebody else. Single people say, "I'm waiting for marriage to complete me". Believe me, Jerry McGuire lied. If you are a broken person before you get married, marriage is not going to fix your brokenness. It's just going to break down what's already broke. So when you listen to this message today about marriage, don't tune me out because you don't have a ring on your finger. Recognize that these principles are required of all of us.
Some of you say, "Well I've been married 40 years". Hallelujah. You have the secret to helping others succeed in their marriage. Don't tune me out because you think you've already got this thing fixed. You're surrounded by people who need your help getting things fixed. So make yourself available to them. But we're going to understand, through Nehemiah's life, the principles that God wants us to apply to our life. But the first principle is we have got to do good work. Say that with me. Good work. Because if we don't do good work, we're going to tear down instead of build up. We're going to use our words, not to encourage, but to create bitterness and strife. We're going to weaken rather than strengthen the relationships that God has given us.
When we commit ourselves to doing good work, we give our marriages the priority that they deserve. The national health and science center did a study. And it said that 80% of married couples today will not celebrate their 20th anniversary. Think about that. When we gather at a wedding, do we toast the bride and groom because we believe that for the next 19 years, they're going to make each other miserable? No. We toast their potential. We toast what we believe we see in their future. We talk about the good things that are to come. We don't flip a coin and say, "Which one will you be? Divorced or together"? The thing that requires your marriage to continue is your willingness to continue to do good works.
When people stop and they see all of the damage that's been done in their relationship, rather than start to rebuild the broken barrier of their marriage, they think it's just easier to start over with a brand new construction company. But guess what they find when they get there? More work. We've got to do good work. And Nehemiah gives us principles for doing good work. And the first principle that he gives us goes right back to talking to single people, and that is this: before you begin the work, you've got to have a permit. Think about that. Nehemiah is the cupbearer for king Artaxerxes. Now these might sound like insignificant names. But in their day, they were very important. Why? Because king Artaxerxes was the ruler of the known world. He was the king in Babylon. And Babylon had conquered pretty much all of the civilized world. Nehemiah stood in front of him on a daily basis as his cupbearer.
When you're a cupbearer, you have got a pretty pathetic existence. And the reason you've got a pathetic existence is because your job is to bring the king his wine. And your purpose is not to be the sommelier that tells him all of the wonderful flavors he's about to enjoy. Your job is to sip the wine before the king does so that if anybody's trying to poison the king, you die. So Nehemiah knows that with his next sip, he could take his final trip. Now I know some of you think you've got stressful work environments, but think about his job. If Nehemiah dies, they just drag him out and they bring in a brand new cupbearer. Not only is his job stressful, but the men he's working for is temperamental.
King Artaxerxes is not known for being a mild-mannered kind of guy. As a matter of fact, one of the edicts that Artaxerxes wrote is recorded in the book of Ezra. And in the book of Ezra, he writes in 7:26, "Whoever does not observe the law of the king, let judgment be brought upon him speedily, whether it be death, banishment, confiscation of goods, or imprisonment". How many of you see a little bit of type a in Artaxerxes? Here's Nehemiah's problem: in chapter 1, his brother comes from Jerusalem, his hometown, and he tells him, "The walls are broken down. The gates are burned". It breaks Nehemiah's heart. He goes before the Lord with fasting and prayer. He asks the Lord to do something on his behalf. And if his outside situation wasn't bad enough, Nehemiah has got to go to work. So he gets up and he goes before the king. And he says, "I took the king his wine and I had never been sad in his presence before".
Now this is a big deal. Why? Because if Nehemiah, the cupbearer, looks sad, Artaxerxes wonders what's wrong with the drink. And if Artaxerxes suspects that Nehemiah is a part of the conspiracy, he'd just have him killed. So going to work with a bad attitude for Artaxerxes doesn't get you time off: it gets your head off. And Xerxes looks at Nehemiah, and he says, "You have never had a sad countenance before. Are you sick or is this sorrow of heart"? And Nehemiah says, "I became dreadfully afraid". And Nehemiah gives him the answer. He says, "The gates of my city are burned. The walls have been torn down". And Xerxes responds. He says, "What do you request"? Say that with me. "What do you request"?
Now that's a sermon for another day. When the king asks you, "What do you request," don't waste it. But Nehemiah looks at him and he says, "I need two letters. I need a letter that I can take with me to the governors in Judea so that when I rebuild these walls, they know I'm doing so with your blessing. And I need a letter that I can take to Asaph, the keeper of the forest, so that I can get the timber that's necessary to rebuild the gates". You see Nehemiah knew what needed to be done before construction could begin. He had to get a permit. So here's what I'm saying to single people: before you move in and start playing house with somebody, you've got to get a permit. You have got to get permission from God Almighty to be married. The Bible says, "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it".
When it comes to marriage, you've got to have a permit before you start building. One of the problems that we have in America today is that 49% of couples in the United States are living together outside of marriage. When those couples get married, only 60% of them stay together for three years. Why? Because when they're living together, it's selfish love: and when they're married together, it's sacrificial love. And you can't have both of those in the same sentence. Biblical marriage is built upon sacrifice, love for one another. Selfish relationships are built on what you do pleases me. Here's what the Bible has to say about it.
Exodus 20:14: "Thou shalt not commit adultery". That's still in the book, folks. "Marriage is honorable". Say that with me. "Marriage is honorable". Why is that important? Because a lot of young people, who are living together, say, "What's the point of getting married"? God said, "Marriage is honorable. Among all, the bed of marriage is undefiled". But here's how the rest of the verse reads. "Fornicators and adulterers, God will judge". Those are people who are engaged in sexual relationships outside of marriage. The bottom line is that the only relationship that God endorses for two people to share a bedroom in is the relationship of marriage. That's his policy. And before you begin your relationship, you need his permission.
Nehemiah wants two permits. And you need two permits. One, you need a permit from the king. You need permission from God. Two, you need permission from the girl's spiritual authority. Don't show up at his house and introduce yourself for the first time as her fiance. You ask that man for her hand. Why? Because he is the reason she's here. You don't get her without him. And I'm saying this, not only as a young man who asked for my wife's hand, but I'm saying this, as a man, who has two daughters, that will remove your hand from your body if you don't do that. The same way that Nehemiah gets two permits that allows him to make progress: you've got to make sure that you've got God's permission. "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it". People who've been living together, say, "Well we've been doing this for a long time". Let me give you some free and simple advice: stop it. Your behavior does not cause God to amend or alter his policies. You correct yourself according to his word. His word does not correct itself to make you comfortable.
Principle two, just because you've got permission doesn't mean you get a day off. Nehemiah got permission to go cut the timber. What does that mean? That means he had to go to work. Nehemiah got permission to rebuild the walls. What does that mean? That means he had to go to work. He didn't get the permits and outsource the work. He got the permits and he went to go do the work. The second principle that Nehemiah teaches married people is that once you get married, go to work. When you say that I'm dating and this is a preview of things to come, make sure that what comes next is better than what was. People work like crazy at being Romantic. And then when they get married, it turns into, "He used to bring me flowers. He used to write me letters. He used to tell me he loved me. He used to pick up the phone and call me just to hear me breathe". Now when the phone rings, he picks it up and says, "What do you want"?
The third principle that Nehemiah teaches us is that whenever you recognize that there's damage, evaluate your problem privately. You see the Bible says that Nehemiah, in chapter 2:11, he went to Jerusalem with the permits. And before he told anybody why he was in town, before he showed anybody the permits, before he made it known that his purpose was to rebuild the walls, for three days, he rode around and he surveyed the damage, but he didn't speak to a soul. There's a lesson there. In your marriage relationship, there will be seasons where things will get difficult, and damage and harm will come to your relationship. It's just part of life. It's part of humanity.
Two imperfect people being married to each other, sooner or later, they're going to hurt one another. When that happens, survey your damage privately. Don't tell every third person, "We've got a problem". Don't update your Facebook status with "Have a marriage question". Don't walk into church and look at every other person, and go, "Unspoken: just pray". No! Survey that problem all by yourself and consider what role and responsibility you have in solving it. Don't ask everybody else to help you solve that problem. And then whenever you go about solving the problem, solve it on purpose. Consider the strategy and the wisdom of Nehemiah's plan. He didn't come to town and tell anybody why he was in town. Why? Because as soon as he would have, everybody would have had their opinion about how to best proceed.
The Jews would have said, "Well let's rebuild this neighborhood first". The priests would have said, "Well let's rebuild the temple first". The nobles would have said, "Well let's rebuild this area of town first". But rather than let everybody's opinion get involved in the process, he surveyed the damage, he made a plan, and then he went to work on how to get that plan fixed. Take a journey of self-examination and understand what needs to be fixed. Ask the Lord to lead and guide you. And I assure you, his Holy Spirit and his word will help you fix a lot more problems than the unqualified experts around you. When you, in your marriage, walk away from God's principles, suddenly outside attacks now have value. When you survey your damage, make sure that you are walking in the right path of God's word.
The fourth principle that Nehemiah gives us is work with those you trust. Nehemiah saw what needed to be done. And he gathered the people and he told them the verses we read. He says, "You see the distress we're in, how Jerusalem lies waste. Let us build the wall so that we'll no longer be a reproach". When it comes to rebuilding the walls of your marriage, you need to work with those you trust. Who are the people you trust? The people you trust need to be people who talk to God more than they talk to others. The people you trust need to be the kind of people who have no personal opinion about how your relationship should work: they just want to see it restored for the glory of God. The people you trust need to have more experience than you. Don't ask somebody, who's getting their third divorce, how to fix your marriage. And as silly as that sounds, that's what some people do. People in this congregation, who've been married for decades, need to invest themselves in helping people, who've only been married a few days, how to survive through those decades. They're people you trust.
The last principle that Nehemiah shares with us is that he kicks the outsiders out. As soon as he begins building, in verse 19, he has three adversaries, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. These three individuals came to Jerusalem after the walls had been torn down, after Babylon had taken over. And they begin to create all kinds of trouble for Nehemiah. They don't want the walls rebuilt. And the first thing that Nehemiah tells them is, "The God of heaven will prosper us". Say that with me. "The God of heaven will prosper us". He was letting his enemies know, it doesn't really matter to me what you say, it doesn't matter to me what you do. What you say and what you do has no bearing on my outcome. My outcome is determined by the God of heaven. He's the one who's going to prosper me. And then he let these outsiders know, "You have no heritage".
The Bible says, in Nehemiah 2:20, "You have no heritage or memorial in Jerusalem". He was saying, this is a covenant land. This has been given by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their generations forever. I, Nehemiah, am a part of that covenant. But you outsiders have no role in that covenant. So you need to leave town now. This is the purpose of rebuilding the borders in your marriage. There have been a lot of marriages destroyed by outsiders. There have been a lot of families ripped apart, because people, who had no part in that covenant, came into that relationship, and they scattered it like straw in the wind. You have a biblical place to take a stand and let them know, if you are not a part of this covenant, if you are not a part of this relationship, if you are not a part of this family, you need to leave town now!
Right after Nehemiah built the walls, he rehung the gates. And there's a distinction between walls and gates. They work together but they don't have the same purpose. You see walls are for protection, but gates are for access. And Nehemiah knew that gates were no good if the walls were broke down. So he rebuilt the walls to protect the city. And then he put up gates so that the right things could come in and the wrong things could go out.
And I want to close this service this way: by asking you in your role as a husband, by asking you in your role as a wife, but asking you as your role as a child of God: to allow the Holy Spirit to show you the things that need to go out and the things that need to come in. For some of you in this place today, the things that need to go out are the bitterness, and the hurt, and the pain of your past. For some of you in this place today, it's a grudge that you're holding onto: that until you let go of it, God can't send in peace, and God can't send in joy, and God can't send in mercy. For some of you, it's behaviors, and it's habits, and it's problems that you just don't want to address.
You're ignoring them, hoping they'll go away. You need to open up the gates and get that problem out so that the power of God can come in and rebuild the broken borders in your family. Church, we can't fix every family in America. But we can certainly do our part to fix every family in this church, which requires that each of us are willing to do our part. Your commitment in your house does not impact my house. But my commitment in my house can change my house and change this church, just like yours can change your house and change this church.
Right where you are, I want you to stand to your feet. And with your head bowed, you're in this place today, and you say, "Pastor, there are some broken borders in my marriage relationship. There are some boundaries that I need the Holy Spirit of God to rebuild. I need to open up my gates today and let bad out: and bring in the love, and the joy, and the peace, and the power of God". If that describes you in any way, right where you are, I want you to hold your hand up as a sign of confession before the Lord that this is what you need. And with that hand raised, this is a hand of confession. Now I want you to receive. Raise a hand of submission. Put that other hand in the air to say, "Lord, I'm submitting to your word for my life". And I want everyone in this room to repeat this prayer with me:
Lord Jesus Christ, today I thank you that your word will not return void. Your promises endure and are for me. Today I receive your word to rebuild my marriage, to rebuild my family, to open up the gates of your joy, to open up the gates of your mercy, to open up the power of your peace. And reconstruct my home: that bitterness, that anger, that envy, that pride, and selfishness, would leave, in Jesus' name, so that my house. Will be a house of God's presence, his power, and his peace, in Jesus' name. Amen.