We are kicking off a brand new series today, and it’s a beast. Normally our message series here at Connect will last 3-5 weeks. This series is going last into early October.
The series is called Nuptially Challenged. We are going to spend 8 weeks talking about marriage. Because let’s face it…a lot of us are nuptially challenged, aren’t we? If I asked all our married people, “How many of you are really struggling with some challenges in your marriages?” hands would go up all over the room. Well, hands would go up all over the room if everyone was honest.
And that’s part of the problem. It seems like a lot of religious people believe that they’re not allowed to struggle. They’re not allowed to have challenges. They’re not allowed to admit that, sometimes, their life is just a mess.
But that’s the difference between religious people and Jesus people. Jesus people are willing to own up to their flaws, their struggles, their challenges, and their sins. Because Jesus people know that they don’t have to be perfect. Jesus lived the perfect life that they couldn’t live, and it’s why He could be the perfect sacrifice for their sins when He died on the cross.
And that’s why I love being part of a church that isn’t filled with religious people. The people of Connect are Jesus people. We know that we can be honest about our struggles, our flaws, our challenges, and our sins. And instead of judgment, we know that we’ll receive grace. We’ll receive prayer. We’ll receive love. That’s the kind of church that Connect is. That’s the kind of church we always want to be.
And that’s why we’re going to spend so much time in a series called Nuptially Challenged. Because most of us who are married realize that our marriages are not all they could be and should be. There are parts of our marriages where one or both spouses need to change and grow. And through the power of Christ, that’s what we believe is going to happen throughout this series.
Now, I also need to tell you this upfront. I fully realize that not everyone in this room is married. We have a lot of single people in our Connect family. We have widows and widowers. We have people who are divorced. And we have people who have never been married.
And if you’re in one of those camps, you’re probably not too happy with me right now. You’re probably thinking, “So the messages aren’t going to apply to my life again until October? Thanks a lot!”
Not so fast there, Chief. Or Chiefette, as the case may be. Let me give you one of the core Scriptures behind this entire series.
In Hebrews 13, we read these simple words. “Marriage should be honored by all…” (Hebrews 13:4a, NIV)
Marriage should be honored by who? All. It doesn’t say that marriage should be honored by married people. It says that marriage should be honored by ALL. Marriage should be honored by singles. Marriage should be honored by married folks. Married should be honored by all.
And that’s what we’re going to do in this series. We’re going to honor marriage. We’re going to cut through all the cultural crud that surrounds us and we’re going to listen as God teaches about His plan for marriage.
And here’s another reason why singles shouldn’t check out in this series. Because a whole lot of you aren’t going to be single forever. A whole lot of you are going to cross over into married life. And you want to know the absolute best way to have a successful marriage? Prepare for that marriage before you get married. Learn and understand God’s plan for marriage while you’re still single.
Now, if you’re divorced, I’m not going to lie to you…there will be parts of this series that will be tough for you. But if you humble yourself, God will use this to help you heal. You’ll realize where things went off the tracks in your marriage. And if you are given another chance at marriage by God’s grace, it will help you be better positioned to meet the challenges that are present in any marriage.
Alright, there’s the long introduction to a long series. Now we’re finally ready to jump in. Let me pray for us and we’ll start listening to God as He leads us through our nuptial challenges.
When my family went on vacation a few weeks ago, we drove past a car dealership that had a huge sign out front. The sign had the name of the dealership, and then under the name it said, “Where it’s all about you!”
My first thought was that this sign is kind of like a Jedi mind trick. It only works on the weak-minded. If you really believe that any car dealership is all about you, then seriously…these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along.
But the more I thought about it, I realized something. A lot of people seem to believe that marriage comes advertised in the same way. Marriage…where it’s all about you.
And this is a foundational reason why so many marriages are struggling and so many people are hurting. It’s a foundational reason why the divorce rate has doubled in the last 50 years. Because so many people buy into the lie that marriage is all about them. And then one day they wake up and realize that their marriage isn’t living up to the hype.
So as we kick off this supersized series, we need to lay down this truth as the foundation that everything else is built on.
My marriage is not about me. Everybody repeat after me. “My marriage (repeat), is not (repeat), about me (repeat).” Now I know some of you cringed when you heard those words. I know some of you had a hard time saying those words, so we’re going to do it one more time. Repeat after me. “My marriage (repeat), is not (repeat), about me (repeat).”
A lot of us are Nuptially Challenged because we don’t understand this truth, or we don’t know how to apply this truth, or we simply don’t like this truth. But somehow, in some way, every marriage issue and problem and struggle that we ever have is rooted right here. At some level, one or both spouses are living in opposition of this truth.
In reality, we could trim this 8 week series down to just a few minutes. “My marriage is not about me. Believe it. Go home and do it. Band, come on up and lead a closing song.”
And some of you are thinking, “I could handle that kind of sermon.” Well maybe you could, but it’s hard to justify my paycheck if I do that, so we’re going to keep going. And if you don’t like that…well…it’s not about you!
Seriously, isn’t this the lie that our culture is always trying to sell us? It comes from car salesmen, it comes from advertisers, it comes from media, and it comes from politicians. Everywhere we turn, somebody is smiling and saying, “It’s all about you!”
We are so inundated with this message that even the best of us can start to believe it. And then it comes as no surprise when this “all about me” belief system gets transferred into our marriage. But this kind of nuptial narcissism is nothing but a shortcut to frustration and discouragement and pain. Because the truth is that my marriage is not about me.
Tyler McKenzie wrote, “For quite some time now, there has been a myth floating around our idealistic individualistic society. A myth that claims that marriage will only work when you find your “smoking-hot, high-class, filthy rich, love-at-first-sight, sexually compatible, accept-me-as-I-am, Titanic-Notebook-Sweet-Home-Alabama-Twilight-esque, soul mate.”
Good luck with that. It’s never going to happen. If you’re single and this is what you’re looking for, you need to know that it is a myth. And if you’ve been married for more than a week, you know it’s a myth, don’t you?
Marriages are made up of husbands and wives. Marriages are not made up of soul mates, because soul mates don’t exist. The whole idea of a soul mate is not a Biblical concept. I know this sounds horribly unromantic. And I’m all for romance. We’ll talk about that a lot in this series. But romance also has to live in reality, and the whole soul mate deal just isn’t real.
It’s actually a concept from Greek mythology. The ancient Greeks believed that people used to be bound together. Four arms, four legs, two heads, etc. Until one day, Zeus got mad and separated people so they would never be happy.
The Greeks believed that people spent their lives searching for their other half, their soul mate…the person who would complete them.
That’s the myth. Now let’s talk about the truth.
You are already complete in Christ. If you’re looking for a soul mate to complete you, you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re waiting on your husband or your wife to complete you, you’re never going to be satisfied. If you think a flawed, screwed up, sinful human being is going to complete you, get ready for a lifetime of disappointment and misery.
The reason it can never work is because we’re looking to another person to do what only Jesus can do. Your spouse can’t be your savior. Your marriage is not your messiah.
Listen to what Jesus said to a woman He met at a well. “Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14, NIV)
A lot of people have lowered their bucket into the well of marriage, and the water didn’t satisfy them because their foundational understanding of marriage was all wrong.
Your spouse is designed to complement you, but they were never designed to complete you. Only Jesus can do that. Jesus is the One who can actually quench your thirst. He is the One who completes you.
If you’re single and you desperately want to find someone, this is so crucial for you to understand. Take this time and learn to be content in Christ. Realize that He is the one who completes you. And in time, when God does bring someone special into your life, you’re going to be healthy and whole, and that sets your marriage up for incredible success.
If you’re married and you are constantly disappointed and discouraged with your spouse, maybe the problem isn’t your spouse. Maybe your problem is the expectations you have placed on your spouse. “Your spouse is supposed to complete you. Because, after all, your marriage is all about you.” That will never, ever work. It just won’t.
Now, I’m not suggesting that your spouse won’t disappoint you. They will. They’re human, which means they are far from perfect. But if you live in a state of constant disappointment and discouragement, you have to at least consider the possibility that the problem might just be you. The problem might be the crushing expectations that you have placed on your spouse. Expectations that they can never live up to.
The better way is to realize that you are COMPLETED by Christ and you are COMPLEMENTED by your husband or your wife. In that scenario, when your spouse fails you…and they WILL fail you…your world doesn’t fall apart. You are quick to forgive. You willingly give them grace.
Saviors aren’t supposed to fail you. Spouses will undoubtedly fail you. But as long as your Savior and your spouse aren’t the same person, you’re going to be okay. But if your marriage becomes your messiah…if you look to your spouse to complete you…if you approach your marriage like it’s all about you…things are not going to be okay. They just aren’t.
The key is realizing all the lies that our culture is selling us. The “it’s all about you” and “your spouse is there is fulfill you and satisfy you and complete you” lies.
In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2, NIV)
We get to choose to conform or to be transformed. We can conform to our culture and the “it’s all about you” lies. Or we can be transformed by the will and the Word of God.
God has told us that we are complete in Him. His love, His presence, His grace are what heals us, frees us, and completes us.
Ladies, no husband can do that for you. And there is nothing more unattractive that a princess-style wife who keeps raising the bar higher for her husband because she can never be satisfied. And it’s all because she is living in a state of perpetual incompleteness.
Guys, no wife can fulfill you and complete you. And there is nothing more infuriating than a jerk who treats his wife as just a means to an end. She is simply there is satisfy him. In the bedroom, in the kitchen, whatever. She is there to complete him because he is an immature, incomplete man-child.
On the other hand, there is nothing more beautiful that a godly woman who knows that she is complete in Christ. She is a gift to her husband because her husband knows that she hasn’t set impossible, fairytale standards that he can never reach.
And there is nothing more honorable than a godly man who knows who he is in Christ. Instead of placing a crushing burden on his wife, he sets her free because she realizes that she doesn’t have to raise him. She is free to be married to him.
The lies that our culture sells us will keep us living in a state of perpetual immaturity and incompleteness. The truth of God will transform us and heal us and free us to have the healthy marriage relationships that God desires for us.
Think about it this way. If you rewind all the way back to the first marriage, you see this truth. The first marriage was the marriage of Adam and Eve. And their marriage began before sin ever entered the world. In other words, God’s perfect creation hadn’t been ruined by sin yet. Everything hadn’t gotten all screwed up yet.
When their marriage began, everything was still in its state of created perfection. And in that state of perfection, the first marriage was born, which tells us a lot about what God thinks of marriage. Marriage wasn’t a backup plan after sin came on the scene and messed everything up. Marriage was part of His perfect creation.
In Genesis 2, we read, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7, NIV) God formed Adam, the first man.
But then later on, we read, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18, NIV)
Again, we see what God thinks of marriage. In the Garden of Eden…God’s perfect creation…where God Himself was present…He still said, “It’s not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper for him.”
Not a messiah. Not a savior. A helper. The design was for the woman to complement the man, not to complete him. And vice versa.
And later on, we read, “So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:21-22, NIV)
What’s the point here? The point is simple. Adam and Eve were both formed by God before they found each other. They were completed by God before they could complement each other.
If you’re dating, if you really, really, really want to find someone, let this truth sink deep into your mind and your heart. You need to be formed before you are found. Let God form you. More than that, let Him transform you. Understand the truth that Jesus is the one who completes you. Then, when you do meet someone, you’ll be in a healthy place and you’ll be ready to complement them because you are already complete.
And if you’re already married, the same truth applies. If you want to be the husband or the wife that God has called you to be, if you want to have the marriage that God has always desired for you to have, allow Him to form you and transform you. Humble yourself. Open yourself up to what God wants to teach you. Allow His love and His grace to heal you and change you. Listen to the wise counsel of other godly people who have your best interests in mind, even when what they say is hard to hear.
So often in our marriages, we focus on how our spouse should change. If he would do this…if she would do that…then I would be happy. Then our marriage would be good.
I’m not suggesting that your spouse doesn’t have room to grow and change. They absolutely do. But you absolutely do, too.
One of the pictures that the Bible uses to describe marriage is being yoked together. The picture is of two oxen being yoked together to pull a plow or a wagon. These oxen are used to pull great weights for long periods of time, but if they don’t work together they can’t get anything done.
In a very real way, a great marriage is about being a good ox. And it’s about being yoked together with another good ox. Ladies, if you really want to turn your man on, just look at him with those dreamy eyes and say, “You’re the only ox for me.” That’ll do it. And guys…well, never mind. I’m not sure there is any good way to call your wife an ox.
But you get the point. A great marriage is two oxen that are yoked together. They’re working together. They’re going the same direction. They are working toward the same mission and vision.
But then, there is also a different picture that the Bible gives us. And it’s the picture that applies to a lot of marriages today.
Now, I’ll be honest, I don’t use the King James Version of the Bible very much. It’s language is old and antiquated and it can be pretty tough to understand. But then, there are times when the King James Version paints a better picture than any other version on my bookshelf. This is one of those times. So I’ll just let the King James Version of the Bible speak for itself here.
In Deuteronomy 22, it says, “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.” (Deuteronomy 22:10, KJV)
You get where we’re going here, don’t you?
Marriage is all about two good oxen being yoked together. But yoking an ox with an ass is never going to work.
So the question is…and I’m dead serious about this…the question every married person has to ask is this. Am I an ox or am I an ass?
The whole point of this weird verse in Deuteronomy was so God could teach His people the principle of being unequally yoked. It’s not fair to yoke an ox with a donkey. A donkey can never keep up with an ox. Plus, donkeys are more stubborn and unruly than oxen. It just doesn’t work to yoke them together.
Marriage is a yoke. It joins two people together for a common mission and vision. But if you’ve got an ox that is going this way and a donkey that is going that way, it’s never going to work.
But two oxen that are yoked together understand this simple truth: it’s not about me. I’m not going to try to design it so we go my way. We have a shared direction. We have a shared vision. We have a shared mission. And I’m going to make sure that my handsome or beautiful ox isn’t yoked to an ass!
Our culture tells us the exact opposite. Go your own way. Look out for your own needs. It’s all about you.
So one more time, let’s listen to the Apostle Paul. Take this truth and lay it over every aspect of your marriage. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2, NIV)
This message, and this entire series, is not about a fairy tale marriage, because fairy tale marriages don’t exist. This series is all about God working in us so our marriages survive and thrive in a broken and fallen world.
Marriage still works in the real world. That’s what God wants for you. God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will for your marriage is that it would be filled with joy. And because that is His will, He also tells us how it should be done. And His truth for marriage isn’t for wimps. It’s hard.
But when we submit to the truth, especially when it’s hard, that’s when we are set free to receive the blessings that God has in store for us.
And it all starts with living out this hard truth: my marriage is not about me. Let me pray for us.
We’ve talked about some tough stuff today. And in some ways, it’s tempting to think, “This is impossible. I can never live up to this standard.”
And you’re right. You’ll never have the perfect marriage because every marriage is made up of imperfect people. But when imperfect people meet a perfect Savior, incredible things start to happen.
Jesus is a safe place to bring your failures, your shortcomings, and your sins. In fact, He is the only place to bring that baggage. The cross takes all comers. You have not screwed up too badly, you have not sinned too greatly to come to the cross.
Jesus died for that very reason. Because our sins were so great, because there was nothing we could do to make ourselves right, Jesus did the work for us. He lived a perfect life so He could be our perfect sacrifice when He died on the cross. And then, when He was raised to life again, He walked out of that tomb with a promise in His hand. A promise that second chances are possible. New life is available.
And that’s the life He offers us. And that’s why we offer you a chance to respond to that offer every week here at Connect. If you have questions or you need prayer, come to the back. We’ve got people ready to talk with you. If you’re ready to take that step of faith, if you’re ready to give your life to Christ, if you’re ready to surrender to Him in baptism, we’re ready for you.
We have a Savior who did it all for us. When we succeed and when we fail, His love for us is unchanging. His Name is Jesus. Let’s worship Him now.