Wow! Man, have I told you lately that I LOVE our band? Last week it was Tim McGraw. This week it’s Jordin Sparks. That’s about as diverse as it gets. And you’re going to see exactly why we rolled out that song today as we get into this message.
My name is Mike Edmisten. I’m the pastor here at Connect, and I’m so glad you joined us today on Mother’s Day as we jump into the second week of our series called I Want A New Marriage.
Like I said last week, I know that not everybody here is married. And I know that a marriage series isn’t exactly what you’ve been jonseing for. But I also realize that a lot of folks who aren’t married aren’t going to stay that way forever. A lot of you single-types will eventually become married-types. Maybe again. Maybe for the first time. And so in a very real way, this series is as much for you as it is for anybody who is married right now.
So let me set up where we’re going today in the second week of this series. Here it is…almost every long song you’ve ever heard, is wrong.
Love songs are always giving us wrong ideas about what love is. If you listen to most love songs, here’s what you’ll come away with.
Love is a feeling.
Love is something we fall into.
Love is sex.
Love is all about fulfilling my needs.
That’s not what love is. The love songs are wrong.
If love is a feeling, then what happens when feelings change? Because that’s exactly what feelings do. They change. Feelings come and go, and if love is a feeling, that means that love comes and goes, too.
If love is something you fall into, then this is the logical conclusion: it’s also something you can fall out of. How many marriages ended because, “We just fell out of love?” You know the problem with that? The problem is that you can’t fall in love in the first place.
If love is sex, if it’s all about a hot, physical attraction…what happens when we get older? Or gain weight? Or lose that youthful beauty? What happens when our sex drive diminishes as we get older?
And if love is all about fulfilling my needs, then who am I really in love with? I’m in love with myself. If I want this relationship to meet all of my needs, then the person that I really love is me.
That’s what a whole lot of love songs teach us. And the love songs are wrong.
But that song that our band just played is actually pretty right, isn’t it? A lot of times, love really does start to feel like a battlefield. We think it’s just going to be wonderful, it’s just going to be absolute bliss. But that bliss can turn into a battlefield, can’t it? That’s possibly the most honest love song I’ve ever heard.
And the song asks a great question: why? Why does love always feel like a battlefield?
One of the main reasons why love feels like a battlefield is because we don’t really know what love is. If culture and love songs are our definition of love, then it’s always going to feel like a battlefield because we don’t understand what love actually is.
But when we open up the Bible, we see something very different. We see God telling us what love really is.
And here is the truth that we see in Scripture: love is a decision.
You don’t feel decisions. You don’t fall into decisions. You decide decisions.
That might sound incredibly unromantic. And it probably doesn’t make for a very good love song. But it’s the truth. And it’s a much more realistic view of love.
The stuff that that love songs sell you is really a fairy tale. It’s an impossible standard of everyday life. You may have love song moments. In fact, I hope you do. I hope you have moments when you feel like you’re living out the words of a love song. Every marriage needs those moments.
But they are just that…moments. They aren’t a daily reality. But the good news is that the truth about love is much more practical. It may not feel as romantic, but it’s definitely more realistic.
Love is not an ooshy-gooshy feeling. Love is a decision.
That’s what we see in 1 Corinthians 13. The Apostle Paul gives us what is possibly the most detailed description of love in all of Scripture.
Starting in verse 4, he writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, NIV)
Can I point out something? There is not a feeling or an emotion on this list. This is all about decisions, because that’s what love is. Love is a decision.
And if you want a new marriage, it starts by making new decisions. If we start making decisions that line up with what Paul outlines for us here in 1 Corinthians, then we will have a new marriage. New decisions create a new marriage.
So let’s explore a few of the decisions that Paul talks about in this text.
The first thing I see when I read this is text is that love decides to serve.
Think about some of what Paul tells us. He wrote that, “Love is kind. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not proud.”
Put all that together, and what do you get? A servant. Love decides to serve.
That really hit me when I heard some of the words in the song our band played earlier. “Can’t swallow our pride, neither of us wanna raise that flag. If we can’t surrender, then we’re both gonna lose what we have.” (Battlefield, Jordin Sparks)
Like I said, this is one love song that gets it right. This is dead on, 100% truth. If a husband and a wife can’t surrender to the needs and desires of their spouse, if they can’t swallow their pride and become a servant, then they really are going to lose what they have.
Because spouses are servants. It really is that simple. Spouses are servants.
Serving is at the very core of what marriage is. So if you’re single, listen up, because this is crucial. If you don’t want to serve, don’t get married. Ever. Never ever.
And if you’re already married, you’ve got to embrace this truth. Spouses are servants.
Last Sunday evening, I was pretty beat. Sundays are long days for me, and they’re even longer when I have a meeting after church and then we have soccer games. And that all happened last week.
It had been a long day, but there was some yard work at home that I needed to do. But Nicki said, “I think you should go fishing.” Seriously, that’s what she said. And she said that I should go fishing alone. Normally if I’m fishing, I take one or both of our boys with us. But anybody who has done that knows that you can either go fishing or you can take a kid fishing, but you can’t do both. I took Brock fishing a few days ago, and all I did was bait hooks and take fish off the hooks for him. Never fished myself at all.
But anyway, last Sunday, my wife told me to go fishing by myself. And I thought, “You know what, it’s still early. I can go fish for a while and still have time to do the yard work before dark.”
So I went.
It was peaceful and relaxing and just what I needed. Then when I got home, I noticed something. The yard work was finished.
My wife told me to go fishing, by myself, and then did the yard work while I was gone. It was amazing. And there’s not a guy in this room who doesn’t wish that the exact same thing would happen to him.
And that’s exactly the point.
My wife went above and beyond to serve me, because she saw that I needed it. I didn’t ask her to do it. She volunteered. And I can’t even express what that did for me.
Now, let me ask you something. How do you react when you hear this story?
Does it kind of frustrate you? Maybe even make you a little mad? I know you won’t ever admit that it made you mad, but honestly…deep down…did it? Are you feeling a little resentful?
Men, are you feeling a little resentful toward your wife right now? “Why can’t she be more like that? She never tells me to go do something I enjoy while she does my work.”
Well, let me ask you something. Do you ever do that for her? Because guess what? A few days before my little fishing excursion, I told my wife to go see a movie with her friends while I stayed home with the kids. And you know what I did while she was at the movies? I did the dishes and I did laundry and I put the kids to bed.
So guys, before you start thinking, “Why can’t my wife ever do that for me?” I’ve got a better question for you to ask. The better question is, “When is the last time I did anything like that for her?”
Now, ladies…be honest. Do you kind of feel a twinge of resentment toward my wife after you heard that story? Are you feeling a little anger toward Nicki? “Oh sure, the super perfect pastor’s wife is making me look bad.”
Well, first of all, Nicki isn’t perfect. She’s not.
But secondly, if you’re feeling some anger and resentment, that doesn’t say a thing about her, but it says a heck of a lot about you.
If hearing about a wife serving her husband makes you uncomfortable and resentful, then you’re the one with the problem. And the problem is probably that you know you’re not being a servant in your own marriage.
Spouses are servants. And when one or both spouses refuse to serve, that’s what it stirs up. It stirs up anger. It stirs up resentment. It stirs up hostility.
But serving diffuses all of that, and replaces it with better things. Things like understanding and romance and intimacy.
That’s not our culture’s definition of romance, but how much is our culture ever right about?
I know that most people believe that a man’s idea of romance is all about what happens in the bedroom, and that is a big part of it. And we’re going to talk about that a lot more next week.
But last Sunday, the most romantic thing my wife could have done is to tell me to go fishing. The most romantic thing she could have done is serve me.
This might sound a little weird, but it’s absolutely true.
Serving is sexy!
It really is. Next month, Nicki and I will celebrate our 18th anniversary, and I’m telling you, serving is sexy. I’ve learned that firsthand in 18 years of marriage.
My wife and I are closer and more romantic and more intimate when we serve each other than anything else. It’s just the truth.
But, that still doesn’t mean that we always feel like it. Don’t get me wrong. We don’t always feel like serving.
But that’s ok, because serving is not a feeling. Serving is a decision, because love is a decision. Love decides to serve.
Some of the absolute best marriage advice you’ll find anywhere is in Galatians 5, where Paul writes, “serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13b, NIV)
This isn’t the picture of love that most people have. When it comes to love, most people want a song. But God wants a servant. And God’s way works much, much better. It just does.
I’m telling you, when two people decide to be absolutely committed to serving each other, nothing can stop that marriage. If you want to affair-proof your marriage, serve. If you want to divorce-proof your marriage, serve.
No one ever went to a marriage counselor and said, “He just won’t stop serving me!” No divorce attorney ever heard the words, “I want a divorce because she just serves me too much!”
I’m telling you, it works. When two people decide…and that’s key…when two people DECIDE to be absolutely committed to serving each other, nothing can stop that marriage.
Let’s go back to our text in 1 Corinthians 13, because there is another decision that Paul talks about that is absolutely crucial.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, NIV)
Think about these truths. Love is patient. Love is not easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs.
They all highlight this critical truth: love decides to forgive.
We talked about this last week, but I want to remind us all of it again. You know that person you’re married to? You know what he or she is? A sinner. An imperfect, flawed, broken sinner.
So this should come as no surprise. That person is going to let you down. They are going to disappoint you. They are going to discourage you. They are going to hurt you.
It is going to happen. And then after it happens, it’s going to happen again. And then it will happen again after that.
That’s the pattern you’re going to live in until the person you’re married to stops being a sinner, and Scripture clearly teaches that that won’t happen in this lifetime.
So, there’s your happy thought for the day. You’re spouse is going to disappoint and discourage and hurt you over and over and over again, for the rest of your life. Aren’t you glad you came to church for that?
We’re told that once we find “the one,” that they will complete us. And that’s exactly why so many marriages are floundering and failing. Because no human being can complete you. Your husband or your wife is just not set up for that. They are not capable of that. But when that’s what you expect of them, they are crushed under the weight of it and you are crushed by disappointment and hurt that they could never live up to that.
But there is a better way. There is a healthier way. There is a more realistic, and more fulfilling, way. And that is to understand that Jesus is the One who completes you, not your spouse.
That’s why being single is ok. It’s more than ok, it’s good. So many single folks are made to feel like they are somehow less than complete. That is cruel. That is hurtful. And that is definitely not biblical.
If you’re single and you want to get married, that’s awesome. I want that for you, too. But not because you’re somehow incomplete now. You’re not. Jesus is the One who completes us, and that means it doesn’t matter if we’re single or married. His death for our sin and His resurrection to give us new life is what makes us complete. Nothing more, nothing less.
So if you’re single, maybe you need to take a different approach. Because if you’re convinced that you’re incomplete, that will turn your desire to get married into a desperate search for anybody. And listen to me…desperation does not lead to good decisions.
Instead, try this one for size. You are whole, right now. You are complete, right now. You have it right now, in Christ.
And once you embrace that…once you learn to be complete and satisfied and whole in Christ alone…you never know what other blessings might come your way. Blessings like a husband or a wife.
And when you finally do meet this person, you won’t look at them and say, “Finally. You complete me. You make me whole.”
Instead, you can say something much better. “I was whole before you. I’m a whole lot better with you.”
In fact, those of us who are married right now need to adopt this same principle. Too many of us are looking to our spouse to complete us, and they just can’t do it. That’s because you married a spouse, not a savior.
This approach is much better, because it lets your husband or your wife be human. They don’t have to be your Jesus, and there is great freedom there.
They don’t have to be your savior. They can just be your spouse. They don’t have to be your messiah. They can just be your mate. It sets them free to be human. To be imperfect. To make mistakes. That is a loving gift to give them.
And then, when the inevitable mistakes come, you offer them another loving gift: forgiveness.
Go back to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13. “[Love] is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5b, NIV)
Let me ask you something. In your marriage, do you keep score? Do you keep a running tab of the ways that your spouse has let you down? How they have disappointed you? How many times they have failed? And do you hang that over their head? Or maybe in the heat of an argument, you whip out all these failures to use as a weapon to use against them?
If that’s you, then what are you going to do with this? “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
If love keeps no record of wrongs, then what you’re doing is not love. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s selfishness. Maybe it’s vindictiveness. Maybe it’s pettiness. Maybe it’s immaturity. But whatever it is, I can tell you what it’s not. It’s not love. And it’s definitely not going to help your marriage get better.
I’m not trying to minimize the hurt. I’m not talking about the petty annoyances that just come with married life. Sometimes the person we’re married to REALLY messes up, and we REALLY hurt. I’m not making light of that. And I’m not suggesting that it’s easy. But I also don’t remember anyone saying that marriage was easy.
At times it can be incredibly difficult…even gut-wrenching…but unforgiveness is not an option. You can’t play that card. That card isn’t even in your deck. Unforgiveness is not an option.
Listen to how Paul describes it in Colossians 3. Take these words and apply them to your marriage.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14, NIV)
“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” When God forgave you, it wasn’t because you deserved it. You didn’t have to earn it. You didn’t have to be worthy of it. It was a free gift of love. And the forgiveness was total. Complete. Nothing held back. And it means that God will never again throw your past failures and mistakes and sins in your face.
That’s how God forgave you and me. That’s how we’re called to forgive others. And that’s absolutely how we’re called to forgive our husband or our wife.
In fact, if forgiveness is not one of the core truths of your marriage, you won’t have a marriage for the long haul. It’s true.
I love celebrating marriages that have lasted for the long haul. In fact, I got to do that last year for a couple of people here at Connect. I got to attend a party celebrating the 50th anniversary of a dear couple named Jim and Judi. Judi had cancer and she has since gone to be with the Lord. And man, we miss her terribly around here. But one of her lasting legacies is the marriage that she and Jim shared for 50 years.
And when I was talking to Judi about how the marriage lasted so long, she said something so simple, but so incredibly powerful. She said, “Always forgive.” And if you talk to Jim today, I’m sure he would tell you the same thing. I think he would tell you that whatever disagreement or argument you’re having…however your spouse has fallen short or failed…it’s not worth injecting the poison of unforgiveness into your marriage. It’s just not worth it.
Any time you see a marriage that has lasted for a lifetime, you can be sure of one thing. That marriage is made up of two great forgivers.
Forgiveness is the lifeblood of your marriage. And when it is offered, it changes everything. It really does. It strengthens the connection. It kindles the fire.
But keeping score of all your spouse’s failures has the exact opposite effect. You know how we said that serving is sexy?
Well this is also true. Scorekeeping is NOT sexy!
Scorekeeping…keeping a record of wrongs…withholding forgiveness…not sexy. It’s just the opposite, actually. It pours water on the fire. It doesn’t make you feel close, it creates great distance. And if it’s left unchecked, you’ll start to feel like you’re a million miles away from the person that is sharing your bed.
But let me just ask you this…if you keep score against your spouse…aren’t you glad Jesus doesn’t do that to you?
Love decides to forgive. It’s not a feeling. You don’t have to feel like forgiving. You just have to decide to do it. And if you do, here’s the awesome thing. The feelings will follow. Feelings follow decisions, but decisions don’t follow feelings. See the difference?
But that’s all because of this truth. Love is a decision. Maybe when you first heard that this morning, you thought that sounded cold and unfeeling and unromantic.
But how, do you see how this is better? This is so much better than basing love on emotions or feelings. It’s more realistic. It’s more honest. And it’s more Biblical. And it can lead us to a new marriage.
If you want a new marriage, make new decisions. Decide to serve. Decide to forgive. If you just do those two things, I promise that you won’t even believe what will happen. If you make those two decisions consistently, your marriage is going to transform. It really will. You will have a new marriage with the person you’re already married to.
Love is a decision. Love decides to serve. Love decides to forgive. And Jesus decided to do them both for us.
He served us by giving up His life on a cross for us. And it is through His sacrifice for our sin that He forgives us. He took the penalty for our sin so we would never have to.
He didn’t FEEL like doing that. Jesus didn’t FEEL like going to the cross. But he DECIDED to do it. And aren’t you glad He did?
Jesus decided to love us. He decided to serve us. He decided to forgive us. But the next decision is ours. That’s what He decided about us. What are we going to decide about Him?
If you have never decided to make Jesus the Savior and Lord of your life, we’ve got some people who would love to talk with you and pray with you about that. If you’ve never decided to surrender to Jesus in baptism, we’d love to meet with you today. If there are any questions or doubts that you have, anything you want to talk through, or anything you need prayer for, we’ve got a team of people ready to meet with you today, after we sing this last song.