Our sermon series which started last week and will continue for the next two weeks is Daily Discipleship, and this week’s talk is titled Marriage guidance. So first what do we mean by daily discipleship? Well if we call ourselves a Christian then is a life of following Jesus, it is a Journey and it’s up to every believer to make the right choices to learn to become stronger & more committed to be like Christ.
A tough call but I did say more Christ like, God knows us and He knows we are only human and he accepts that and we will come back to our failings later.
Jesus said the first commandment is this to love the Lord your God with all your heart all your soul and all your strength. So what does it mean to love the Lord our God with our heart, soul, mind and strength? How does that look for us each day? Over these four weeks we hope to help us all in growing our relationship with the Lord Jesus. We are doing this by looking at what Jesus said in his talks on the sermon on the mount and putting them into context for us today in our lives.
So as I said today we are looking at what Jesus and the bible has to tell us with regard to marriage and in particular how God can guide us in our marriages. I would like to point out that like most people I am a work in progress epically in this regard and thanks be to God
I have now been married to my wonderful wife Chris for 32 years. Chris on the other hand is an absolute Saint, well she has to be to put up with me for 32 years. Now we have just heard our reading from Matt 5:21-26 from the NIV version but I would just like to read it from the message version which I feel is a bit more to the point.
“You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt. “Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump. “Remember the Scripture that says, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights’? Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are ‘legal.’ Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you’re responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you’re automatically an adulterer yourself. You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure.”
Ok so the Message version pulls no punches. This for many can be a very touchy subject and I respect that, I would like to say that I have tried to deal with this subject with a great deal of love, please talk to Phil or myself if something in this sermon touches or troubles you.
As I said this is Jesus talking to us from the famous sermon on the mount series of talks so, last week I gave some background to these talks if you were not hear you can catch up with the talk on our web site.
The message of Jesus is one of humbleness, service, and love. Jesus teaches transformation of our inner being. Jesus is showing us just how much damage our bad thoughts, words and deeds can cause, Jesus is pointing out to us where some of us are going wrong and that if we take note of His teachings then it will lead to a better life here and now and it will also lead to us spending eternity with the Father Son and Holy Spirit.
As I said last week and it is worth repeating, at the centre of Jesus teaching is love the Love of God for us and the love we should have for everybody. Love should be the motivation for all Christians. Through His talks Jesus is offering us salvation. Jesus is also saying that if we follow him and love one another then we will inherit the Kingdom of God and through Jesus we can experience some of that Kingdom now. So the Kingdom of Heaven is yet to come but can be here now in our everyday lives. The love and fellowship that is shown in this church can be transferred to our whole lives at home at work to all who we meet. Jesus teachings on marriage can be transferred to other parts of our lives.
So let’s go back to our reading verse 27 Jesus said, 27 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.The first part is quite straight forward you shall not commit adultery, I find it hard to imagine that anyone who truly loves there bride or bridegroom on their wedding day would be thinking about going to bed with someone else, I know it happens, I do read the papers and I do hear the stories and I still find it unbelievable. Maybe because under this crusty exterior there is an old romantic.
For those of us who are married, I have a question who remembers their wedding day and the honeymoon. I do, a great day the wedding day, but the honeymoon well, half way through the honeymoon it turned from lovely to a nightmare, to cut a long story short, Chris and I got food poising, it was bad very bad and I was blacking out, big tough me the man the husband and after I blacked out and hit my head of the head board after another visit to the toilet, I remember thinking I am going to die and I have just got all I ever wanted to marry the girl I loved.
Well as you can see I did not die but I am sure most of us can relate to that feeling of a deep wonderful love. So what happens to that feeling, for some it is what Jesus talks about next in verse 28 were he says 28 “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Jesus is talking to the men here, as in the society of that time it was the men who had the freedom, women had very little freedom, but this applies to both women and men today. I was reading in the news that the actor who plays Poldark caused a stir when he striped to the waist, A Guardian newspaper reporter said this after the scene of Aidan Turner stripping of and then swimming in the sea they wrote. Oh, Lord. There isn’t enough sea off the coast of Cornwall to cool a woman down after that.
In a society that is obsessed with the body and especially those with what is called a beautiful body it is very hard to ignore what is before our eyes, but we can train our thoughts from wanting to be with Ross Poldark or Selena Gomez or Pixie Lott or whoever. Christian Vision For Men recommended for men a 3 second rule, look for 3 seconds and look away, but the battlefield is really in the mind, not the eyes.
The key word hear is lustfully, wanting, wanting to be with that person in fantasy or in real life, thinking the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I will be honest here I have been there and although it never went further than lustfully thoughts, it was not good for my marriage not good for me and certainly not good for Chris, there was a ton of guilt and with me guilt led to a grumpy husband and that was before I was a believer.
What are we doing, comparing our spouse to someone else? To be honest I find it shameful now. Chris and I both agree that our coming to faith saved our marriage. Coming to faith in Jesus saved me from myself and through the grace of God saved our marriage, because wanting things you can’t have or should not have will destroy the relationship you have with the love of your life.
Jesus says in verse 29 and 30 “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Now Jesus is not really asking us to rip our eye out or cut of our hand, He is telling us if we cannot control our thoughts then don’t look don’t do that thing that is causing the problem. In our modern day hi-tec world access to porn is so easy and we in the church are not exempt from this, a report I read from Charisma News said
- 68% of church going men view pornography on a regular basis
- 76% of Christian young adults actively seek out porn
- 49% of Christian young adults say all or most of their friends seek out porn
- 62% of Christian teens say they have received nude images
- 40% of Christian teens have sent nude images
- 33% of Christian females use porn regularly
Jesus is saying if it is porn or any other sort of lustful thoughts stop it at the sources, these things can and will damage your relationship with your wife or husband and with Jesus, guilt will came and it will cause havoc in our lives. And yes I do have personal experience of this.
Then in verse 31 Jesus goes on to talk about divorce Jesus says: “It has been said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.” 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Verse 31 is talking about what was happening at that time as people about how Jewish men divorced their wives, if fact if you look at what Jesus is referring to hear it is Deuteronomy 24:1, where it says - If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house.
Seems to me more like discarding a wife. If a man becomes displeased with his wife he could and did just get read of her. It seems to me the same as when I became displeased with my mates bike I was using, I sent it back to my mate. Is a wife a piece of property, not today and Jesus is saying not any day, the religious leaders of that time had turned the law around to suite themselves. It was and is impossible set of rules for a woman to live under. Jesus recognises the problem that the Jewish people had got themselves into and He was trying to give them guidelines to sort it out.
I understand that under Islamic law you can still divorce your wife with what is in effect 3 strikes and you’re out, I heard recently of a man in Dubai who came home from work and because his dinner was not ready for him sent is wife a text telling her it was the 3rd time and she was now divorced and not to return to the house. Divorce by text.
For believers and followers of Jesus today divorces is a complex issue - within the Church of England there are many points of view. We have not got the time to look at the whole issue hear but I personally accept that there may be reasons for divorce other than just adultery. I do not belittle divorce, divorce is very painful, it is often long years of pain in the coming and then it is long years in the healing and then often, there is also the issues of the children and the hurt it cause them.
But it does led me on to my final concluding point and that is how can we look to God Father Son and Holy Spirit for our marriage guidance.
Marriage guidance from God is to love your spouse, they are not perfect and we are not perfect, Gods guidance is about forgiveness, as He God has forgiven us so we should forgive others, even more so our spouse. Do not hold on to hurt, left inside of us hurt festers it will get deeper and it will consume us, forgiveness is a wonderful healer. The way to achieve this is through God’s grace. It is thanks to God’s grace that we can all achieve what Jesus is asking us to do. To love and forgive one another. Grace is the unconditional love of God for us, exactly as we are, warts and all. It is not based on our own efforts.
But God’s grace has to be accepted. What do we have to do we have to recognise our faults and recognise our sin and ask God to forgive us and then we have to forgive others, we also have to forgive ourselves, God is always there with arms open wide waiting to hug us, waiting to welcome us back to Himself, to walk with us, to be with us.
We just have to remove the barrier of not trusting Him by saying I am sorry for all I have done, for all that I have done that kept you away from me. And if we accept this free gift of grace through a relationship with Jesus then as in all relationships we will find that it is a win, win situation. We will find that we are loved by our Heavenly Father and that life is better for that knowledge and for how that love changes us.
We must do what Jesus said was the second commandment to love our neighbour and our spouse as ourselves. And to help us with this Jesus said he would send his Spirit what we call the Holy spirit, the Holy spirit is inside all who believe, it is that little calm voice telling us we should do the right thing.
All that I have said is summed up by the apostle Paul said in Galatians 5. This is my translation of what Paul said in verses 13-25, please look them up when you have a chance, that’s Galatians 5:13-25:
My friends, Jesus called us all to be free in His love, but do not abuse your freedom by forgetting the teachings of Jesus, help your neighbour respectfully in love. As Jesus said there is only two commands Love the Lord your God with all your hearts and soul and the second is to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ If you are against your neighbour be careful because this will come back to destroy you in this world and the next. So please live by the Holy Spirit and you will be better off for it. If we do not live by God’s Spirit then we will be like those who do not know God, fighting each other anger with each other and without forgiveness for each other, wanting what is not ours to have. If we are led by the Spirit then we will be connected to Jesus and God will be with us, you know what the world is like you see it every day, please do not be like the world ‘those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God’.The evidence of God’s Spirit within you is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Against these qualities the world has on response, all those who belong to Jesus have given up the selfishness, greed and Un-forgiveness of the world. Since we know Jesus and His Spirit lives within us let us listen to His Spirit. So marriage guidance is to love each other and our neighbour, to forgive, and to listen to God through His Holy Spirit that is within us all.