Tues, July 7, 2020
In Truth and Love
Good morning Anthem family! I’m guessing that it’s been challenging to see the news and understand that the world is continuing to struggle a bit... One of our great challenges (in general, but especially in pandemic) will be endurance. Our ability to stay focused on Jesus, to continue to serve him and live on mission will be tested with each week that this “quarantine” life continues. Today we have a devo from Caleb and Deb Womack on “contending for your marriage”. My hope is that as we look at specific areas of life and apply the Gospel to them, it shapes a whole life of focus and diligence. If this devotional strikes a chord and you’d like to jump in on our marriage summer school class, head over to anthemto.org to get the details and register!
Hello Anthem Family,
We are the Womacks and we have been praying peace and health over each of you during this season. We miss being with you all very much. For those of you that don’t know us, my name is Caleb and my wife is Deborah and this August we will be celebrating thirteen years of marriage. We are a family of five and have been attending Anthem for the past five years.
Let me start with quoting Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage and then we will work through a few questions and scriptures:
“…there’s no relationship between human beings that is greater or more important than marriage. In the Bible’s account, God himself officiates at the first wedding (Genesis 2:22-25). And when the man sees the woman, he breaks out in poetry and exclaims, “At Last!” Everything in the text proclaims that marriage, next to our relationship to God, is the most profound relationship there is. And that is why, like knowing God himself, coming to know and love your spouse is difficult and painful yet rewarding and wondrous.”
“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the Gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy.
The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level. The gospel can fill our hearts with God’s love so that you can handle it when your spouse fails to love you as he or she should. That frees us to see our spouse’s sins and flaws to the bottom—and speak of them—and yet still love and accept our spouses fully. And when, by the power of the gospel, our spouses experience that same kind of truthful yet committed love, it enables our spouses to show us that same kind of transforming love when the time comes for it.”
Applying the gospel in our marriage is the most important and effective way to contend and fight for strengthening our marriage and glorifying God. My wife and I know personally that life is hard, marriage is hard, raising kids is hard and walking in the knowledge and truth of the gospel can be hard. In almost thirteen years of marriage my wife and I have been through life threatening sickness and surgeries, miscarriages, addictions, career fall outs, bankruptcy, multiple rounds of counseling, and many other moments of seemingly crippling defeat. However, none of those challenges define our story. The power of the gospel is our story and nothing we have faced is bigger than our God. Nothing the enemy threw at us had the final say. He always rescues, He always loves, and He always wins. He invites us to use our marriages as an example of his love. Walking through all of those challenges required a commitment to contend for the marriage God wanted us to have. It requires us to continue to contend.
Thought #1 – All throughout scripture God uses marriage as the symbolic image of his relationship with his people. The concept of marriage is used to describe Israel’s relationship with God and the Church’s relationship with Christ (Isaiah 54:5-6, Jeremiah 2:2, Hosea 2:14-23, John 3:29, Ephesians 5:23-27).
Pause – Take a moment and think through the stories and relationship between God and the Israelites and Jesus and the Church. Reflect on what kind of sin caused God’s people to turn away from him? Fear, selfishness, lust, power, idolatry, cultural influences?
Discuss – Think about what Tim Keller wrote on the power of the gospel, “The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent”. What types of things are straining or attacking your marriage? Ask God to give you the eyes to see and the courage to name and speak those things in truth. Take time to identify situations and sinful behaviors like fear, selfishness, lust, control, finances, cultural influences, etc. and talk together about them. Finish by approaching God together in repentance and inviting him to be a part of what you are facing.
Thought #2 - Talking through your marriage and repenting can be a lot to process. However, it opens the door to powerful and meaningful transformation. Contending for your marriage and experiencing transformation comes with work. It starts with the gospel-transformational love of Jesus. We are commanded to love our spouses in that same way (Ephesians 5:18-33). We must next move into action and put in the work to reconcile the areas we have identified as sinful.
Pause – Spend some time writing down what is needed in order to put your marriage first, to love each other like Ephesians 5:18-33 outlines. Do you need to pray regularly together more? Do you have healthy amounts of time together for friendship and fun? Do you need to pursue counseling and grow together through some challenges? How can you put each other before yourself and demonstrate love in a way Christ did?
Discuss – Share with each other your thoughts. Commit to be a gospel centered marriage and outline some simple next steps. Talk about how your marriage can be a testimony of God’s love and grace to others.