I have never seen two truly spiritually healthy people with a bad marriage. What can we learn from this? What does this say about the ultimate answer for our marriage problems today? Below are a few thoughts that should help us in this matter.
Religious or Truly Christian?
I find that the simplest of doctrines and principles that we feel we have down are usually the very teachings that we have missed. These teachings include:
Truly being born again
Knowing how to walk in the Spirit
Meditation in the Word
Understanding how to love unconditionally
From experience, I find that many assume that they walk in the Spirit because of their rote knowledge of the Bible, church involvement, tithing record, or religious fervor. However, it is very clear from the scriptures that a person can enjoy religion, intellectually believe in God, and even recite the scriptures, yet still fall short of a true walk with God.
Here are a few scriptures that validate these points:
Isaiah 58:1-2 – “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.”
2 Timothy 3:5 – “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
Ephesians 3:19 – “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
II Timothy 3:7 – “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Titus 1:16 – “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”
Been There Done That
Some seem to possess a sort of “been there and done that” attitude when I encourage them to seek after Christ in relation to their marriage problems. However, if this occurs, usually one or more of the following has happened in the past:
1. They sought the Lord in the past, yet their marriage problems were not fixed.
In chapter 6 of our marriage book, I discuss how we should be careful not work on our marriage for the sake of obtaining results as much as for the sake of obedience to God. I call this being right-driven instead of results-driven. In fact, if someone has applied Biblical principles simply for the purpose of getting better results, then they have distorted motives at best.
I call this picking up 5 smooth stones only to place them in a sling of selfishness. Honestly, according to my understanding of the scriptures, God is never obligated to help us when we are simply using His Word as a means to our own end.
2. They filter the phrase “seeking the Lord” through their religious past.
Ian Thomas once said, “There are few things in life as boring as religion, but there is nothing more exciting than true Christianity.”
I am not sure what seeking the Lord means to you, but to me it is an exciting relationship with Christ no matter what the results may be. But, for others, seeking the Lord reminds them of dead and boring church services, abusive pastors and churches, strict parents, or religious acts based in feelings of guilt and duty.
Some people need to get over their past and realize that every true Christian has had to move through the maze of religion in order to find the true Christ. Stop blaming your lackluster faith on dead and misguided churches in your past. In the end, the only loser will be you and your spiritually starved family.
What to Do About It
I am a firm believer that a number of individuals with marriage and family problems would do well to lock themselves in a cabin with a Bible and a hymnal (if you can find one) and seek the Lord like they never have before.
Though seeking the Lord does not mean that your marriage will become a paradise overnight, it does mean that by learning to walk in the Spirit you are creating the atmosphere so that change has a much better chance of happening.
Let’s face it. If every couple that has marriage problems would simply start exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23, how many of those couples would still be having marriage issues.
Just in case you are not familiar with Galatians 5:22-23, God tells us through these verses that Christians that walk in the Spirit will exhibit the following behaviors:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
I purposely read from authors that lived fifty to two hundred years ago. These authors include Oswald Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, Matthew Poole, Matthew Henry, Andrew Murray, John Bunyan, and A.W. Tozer to name a few.
Why do I read from such authors? Here are a few reasons:
1. Every church generation has found a way to miss major doctrines of importance.
Reading outside of your era causes one to see which doctrines we may be overlooking.
2. Our modern day approach is more about felt needs than God’s glory.
It is hard to make a self help book out of the Bible. Though the Bible helps us, it is not a book about merely living a better life. It is centered around one primary concept, the glory of God. Many of the old time authors that have withstood the test of time understood the element of God’s glory.
3. When you read outside of your era you find that authors present a different angle on life and God.
I read from the Matthew Henry commentary every day of my life. It is more than common for me to find myself thinking, “Hmmm. I never thought of it that way.”
Spiritual is Practical
Our main emphasis in our ministry is not to simply provide marriage tips and better techniques. Though many of our teachings in our marriage book are practical in nature such as our teachings on the Bridge, the Top Mistake Couples Make in a Fight, and the Cold versus the Snow principle, our primary concern is moving people toward a better walk with God.
Though I understand that there are people that are so heavenly minded that they are of little use on earth, I would contend that those people are not so much heavenly minded as they are religiously minded. For to be truly heavenly minded will cause one to be of earthly use.
True spiritual development should manifest itself in a practical way. In fact, in our church, I often say that if our conservative approach to the scriptures does not cause us to be a more loving people, then we are not truly a conservative people as much as self-deceived.