Robert Jeffress - Good Grace Marriages - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. God holds his children to a higher standard than the rest of the world, but sadly, too many Christians behave just like their non-Christian neighbors, especially when it comes to marriage. Today, I'm going to share with you three common misconceptions about marriage that stem from a misunderstanding of grace. My message is titled, "Good Grace Marriages" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
For the past 50 years, biblical teaching about marriage and the family has occupied more print space, more radio and television air time than perhaps any doctrine in the Christian faith. And while I'm certainly as a husband, father, grandfather, grateful for any help I can get on how to have a more blessed family, I do question how much good all of this information has done. I mean, especially when you look at the statistics. Some of the statistics I've seen recently suggest that those who claim to be born again Christians actually divorce more frequently than unbelievers. And when you delve down into the figure, at the top of the list of born again Christians who tend to divorce the most often, it's those who identify as fundamentalist Christians. There's something fundamentally wrong about that, don't you think? I mean, people who say they believe the truth of God's word and yet ignore it without any thought whatsoever? How do you explain that? Why do Christians so wantonly and blatantly violate God's teachings about marriage? Two words, bad grace.
Christians taken the doctrine of grace and perverted it, especially in the area of marriage and the family. A lot of Christians tend to take the biblical commands about the family, well, kind of like they do the instructions in their owner's manual about how to operate their automobile. They think it's kind of like a suggestion. If you want optimum gas mileage, inflate your tires to a certain level, drive under 70, then you'll have the optimum gas mileage. But if you don't do it, no real harm done whatsoever. We tend to take instructions about marriage the same way. We say, "Oh yeah, in an ideal situation, Christians should only marry Christians. You shouldn't have an affair. You shouldn't get divorced. But, you know, if you do those things, no lasting damage". Grace is like God's magic wand he can wave over all of those acts of disobedience and that magic wand will cause all the consequences, all the hurt and emotional pain of spiritually mixed marriages, sexual immorality, divorce to disappear instantly and everything will be perfect again. That's what you call bad grace.
Good grace recognizes that while every violation of God's commands, even in the area of marriage, while those violations are forgivable, they still have consequences to them. And nowhere in scripture do you see the relationship between obedience to God's commands and God's blessing than in the passage we just read a few moments ago from Deuteronomy 11:26-28. Remember, the children of Israel were standing on the precipice of entering into the Promised Land. And Moses warned them about a choice they needed to make. He said, "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God which I'm commanding you today and the curse if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God but you turn aside from the way that I'm commanding you today".
It's very simple, if you obey, you experience God's blessing. If you disobey, you experience God's curses. And nowhere is that corollary between obedience and blessing seen more clearly than when it comes to the family. Today and next time, this is such an important topic I'm gonna devote two weeks to it, today and next week we're going to expose the three lies about marriage that bad grace promotes. There are lies about the formation, about fidelity, and about the finality of marriage. And today we're going to look at the first two of those three lies. Lie number one has to do with the formation of a marriage. And lie number one says grace means I can marry whomever I want. Grace means I can marry whomever I want. Whenever I'm invited to speak to high school students or college students, I don't even have to pray about the topic I'm going to talk about. I know exactly what they want to hear about. How do you find a mate? I mean, the greatest fear among single people is that they will remain single and won't find a mate, or find the right mate.
So I like to talk about that topic and expand it to a broader topic of how to discover God's will for your life. But when I talk about finding a mate, I always go back to Genesis 24. You remember the story, Abraham was advanced in age. God had promised to make him the father of a great nation. He had said the promise would go through his son Isaac. The only problem was Isaac was still at home. He didn't have a bride yet. So Abraham said, "Look, time is getting short. We need to find a wife for Isaac". So he sends his servant Eliezer back into Canaan to find a wife for Isaac. And I always explain to teenagers that in those days in the Middle Eastern custom parents were the ones who chose your marriage partner for you. It was an arranged marriage. And you can hear the collected, "Ew, you've gotta be kidding"! They'd rather remain single than have their parents pick out their mate for them.
Of course, today we don't do that. But you know, you still wonder, could things be any worse if we had parents still picking out mates for their children? We're not doing so well when we allow people to pick their own. But that's another sermon for another topic. In this day, Eliezer, the servant went to pick the bride for Isaac. And Abraham gave him some instructions about the kind of wife that he needed to look for. There were boundaries about the person that could be chosen. It wasn't anybody Eliezer chose. There were some requirements. And the same thing is true today. Good grace understands that we have to follow God's commands about whom to marry. And specifically, God gives two boundaries about the formation of a marriage, the selection of a marriage partner. Write these down, number one, good grace recognizes that marriage must be with a member of the opposite sex. First requirement, they have to be a member of the opposite sex.
Now, you may be thinking what my teenage girls used to say when they were at home, "Thank you, captain obvious". You know, such a statement wouldn't have even needed to be made several years ago. But now with the preponderance of same-sex marriage and the ruling in 2015 by the supreme court that's expanded the definition of marriage to include homosexual marriage, we need to say that. We need to say clearly. Look, the supreme court is the highest court in the land, but there is a court that is higher than the supreme court. It's the court of all heaven. And the judge of all the universe said, "I beg to differ. No, marriage is not whatever you want it to be. Marriage is between a man and a woman". And the reason God can say that is God is the one who designed marriage, it was his idea.
You say, "Pastor, where do you find that? Where do you find that in the Bible? God never condemned homosexual marriages". Oh, yes, he did, Jesus did. Have you ever heard, "Jesus never talked about homosexuality". Of course, he did. Turn over to Matthew 19. Matthew 19. We're gonna look at Matthew 19 in more depth next week when we discuss the issue of divorce, because everything you've ever wanted to know about divorce and remarriage is found in Matthew 19. The pharisees were trying to trip Jesus, like they did. So they got involved in a controversial topic, which happened to be divorce. And they said, "Jesus, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all, as Moses taught"? Well, Moses didn't teach that, but that's another story. But Jesus said, "Hey, everything you want to know about divorce is answered when you go back to God's original plan for marriage". Look at verse four, "And he answered the pharisees and said, 'have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female'"?
Now, I want to stop there and again point out something that should be obvious to everybody. There is not one sex, one gender, there are two. And God is the one who created genders. God is the one who made people male or female. You don't get to choose your gender. God has chosen it for you. Isn't it interesting that these people who go around talking about, "Oh, we need to be people of science, we need to be people of science," deny the most basic scientific proof of all. Our gender is not a matter of our choice, it's a matter of chromosomes. It's a matter of science. You're either male or female, and God is the one who determines that. And yet today in the gender fluidity culture, we're told, "Well, you can't impose your culture or gender on somebody else, they get to choose".
Just this week, I had mentioned this last week, did you see just this week one of the first executive orders the new president signed is an executive order that basically says, in schools, a 16-year-old boy who is confused about his gender and may think he's a girl has the right to go into the girls' bathroom, locker room or shower room where your 13-year-old daughter goes. That is a right now under the federal government. That is complete insanity. The fact is gender fluidity, people who are confused about their gender, I'll say it again, they need to be treated compassionately, but they must be treated. It's an emotional disorder to be confused about your gender. Just suppose your teenage son came into you, parents, and said, "You know, I've been thinking about this. I've decided that I'm not a boy, I'm a kumquat. And I'm gonna identify as a kumquat from this point on".
What would you do? Would you say, "Oh, well, honey, let me start dressing you like a kumquat if that's what you want to be"? Or what if he said to you, "You know, as a kumquat, I don't feel comfortable going to the bathroom and sharing a bathroom with other boys. I want my own restroom to go to, a kumquat restroom". What would you do? You would get that child to the psychologist as soon as you possibly could. They need help, they need therapy. It's the same way with people who are confused about their gender. When you say, I am not going to identify any longer with the gender that God made me, that is the ultimate rebellion against your Creator, to say you don't get to choose, God, I'm gonna choose. And you know, Romans 1 tells us that whenever we harden our heart against God, we reject whatever truth God has given us, that leads to mental confusion. They became darkened in their understanding, Paul said, because they did not receive the knowledge of the truth.
We need to have a clear word as God's people in this decadent culture today, that God is the one who has made us. He has made us either male or female. That's the basic teaching. God made them male and female. What does that have to do with marriage? Verse 5, "And God said, 'for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'". Jesus is reiterating what every plumber knows, sex is to be between opposites, not two people who are the same, between male and female. In Genesis 2:18, before God made Eve, remember what he said to Adam? He said, "Adam, I'm getting ready to make a helper suitable for you". That word suitable in Hebrew literally means opposite you. God didn't intend your spouse to be a duplicate of you. God made your spouse to be an opposite, so that that man or woman could complement, E-N-T, fit together with you to make a more powerful union.
Now, there's one area that a husband and wife need to be the same in, but quit trying to force your husband and wife to be like you in every way. God meant your mate to be opposite you to shore up the weaknesses, to be opposite in every way, including in your gender. Theologian John Piper explains it this way. He said, "By creating a person like Adam yet very unlike Adam, God provided the possibility of a profound unity that would otherwise have been impossible," talking about the creation of Eve. "A different kind of unity is enjoyed by joining of diverse counterparts than it is joined by joining together two things that are alike. When we all sing the same melody line, it's called unison, which means one sound. But when we unite diverse lines of soprano and alto and tenor and bass and call it harmony, and everyone who has an ear to hear knows that something is touched in us more deeply by great harmony than by unison. So God made a woman and not another man. He created heterosexuality, not homosexuality. God's first institution was marriage, not a fraternity".
That's God's plan. God's boundaries for marriage begins with, first of all, we must choose a mate who is a member of the opposite sex. Secondly, good grace recognizes that our mate must be a believer. Are you free to marry anybody you want to? No, according to God's word. A member of the opposite sex. Secondly, they have to be a believer. That's a requirement, by the way, you find in both the old and the New Testaments. Again, going back to the book of Deuteronomy 7. Moses told these Israelites before they went into Canaan, the Promised Land, "You're gonna be tempted to marry these pagan women, the Canaanites, don't do it". Why? Look at verses 3 and 4 of Deuteronomy 7. "Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them. You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other Gods. Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and he will quickly destroy you".
Now, will you notice the prohibition here is not against marrying somebody of another race? Let's say this clearly, there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits intermarriage between races. That's not what this is about. The prohibition was not because the Canaanites were of a different race, it's because they were of a different religion, they were of a different faith. If you're a Christian, it doesn't matter what the skin color of your mate is as long as they're a Christian as well. That has nothing to do with it. What God cares is about the faith. That's right, that's worth applauding. We need to say that, because we've, we have misapplied scripture in this area. What matters is the faith of that other person. We're to only marry believers, why? First of all, to marry an unbeliever, Moses said, will damage your relationship with God.
Notice verse 4, "They will turn your sons away from following me to serve other Gods". May I tell you something from my experience? I've been doing this a long time. In 40 plus years of observing couples and marrying couples, whenever a Christian marries a non-Christian, maybe one time out of a hundred that Christian will lead his non-Christian mate to faith in Christ. One time in 100. 99 times out of a hundred that non-believing mate will bring down that believing mate, just bring him down or her down. There'll be such bickering in the marriage over things like church attendance or how you're gonna rear the children or giving to God's work. There'll be such bickering and friction that the believer who is the mate will just say, "I'm tired of all this turmoil, I can't put up with it. I'll give in," that happens 99 times out of a hundred.
You may think as a Christian you're gonna bring that non-Christian mate up to where you are in your relationship with God. Most of the time they will tear you down and bring you down to where they are. That's why we're not to marry an unbeliever. But not only does it damage your relationship with God, it disrupts your relationship with your own mate. It's impossible to have true unity when you have a spiritually mixed marriage. Paul alluded to that in 2 Corinthians 6:14. He said, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness"? That phrase "Don't be bound together," it literally means don't harness together with an unbeliever.
In Paul's day, in an agricultural society, farmers would take a harness with two holes in it and they would put two animals to work together to accomplish a task, maybe the plowing of a field, for example, but you never mixed animals. You didn't put a mule and a donkey or a mule and an oxen under the same harness, because what happened would be the animals would go in opposite directions. They weren't used to working together. You want animals that are the same, that will go in the same direction together. And Paul is saying here, whenever you mix a marriage, it's like putting an ox and a mule in the same harness. Somebody asked me this week, "Pastor, do you believe our nation will finally have unity? Everybody's talking about unity right now. Can we have unity as a nation"? I said, "I wish we could, but the answer is probably not". Well, why do you say such a thing? I said, "You know, you can take the tails of a cat and a dog and tie those tails together. Those animals will be united, but they won't be unified. There's a big difference. To be unified means to be going in the same direction".