Paddling forward in marriage

The institution of marriage has come under attack in so many ways lately, and in some cases, under the unforgiving glare of the media spotlight.  How these marriages survive, I don’t know.  But it certainly makes me think about my own marriage, and warns me to guard my heart, as well as to put in effort cos it’s so easy to forget that marriage is hard work.

Here are some thoughts from a Christian perspective, which are helpful reminders to me.

I read these two books that were recommended on the Gospelcoalition website.  This one by Dave Harvey I thought was quite good, in the sense that it set the whole premise of marriage right. And I was completely sold when I saw that his book cites wisdom from John Piper, Don Carson, Graeme Goldsworthy and C.H. Spurgeon. Anyone who reads these guys must have pretty decent basics. I have a friend who gets annoyed at christian weddings because verses are plucked as themes out of context, and the wedding sermon is either maudlin or off-tangent. “Marriage is a reflection of Christ and the Church!” he’d humph.

So this book gets it right, right from the start. Instead of a list of how-tos, it says that we have to get our theology of marriage right first. “What we believe about God determines the quality of our marriage”. Here are some other excerpts of the book I found helpful, and am listing as a note-to-self for future reference.

“The gospel is the heart of the Bible. Everything in Scripture is either preparation for the gospel, presentation of the gospel or participation in the gospel.

The gospel explains our most obvious and basic problem – sin has separated us from God and from each other… The gospel is the overarching reality that makes sense of all reality. Never make the mistake that the gospel is only good for evangelism and conversion. By the gospel we understand that although saved, we remain sinnners. Through the gospel we receive power to resist sin. Accurately understanding and applying the gospel IS the Christian life.

Without a clear understanding of the gospel, you cannot see God, yourself, or your marriage for what they truly are.

Marriage belongs to God. It exists for Him more than it exists for us and our spouses. Marriage is for our good, but it is first for God’s glory. A church service can inject religious formalities into a wedding, but to make God the authority for marriage is a daily reality.

Marriage is set within the world and within our homes as a reminder, a living parable of Christ’s relationship to the church. When a man and woman are joined in marriage, a new and lifelong model of the relationship between Christ and his church is launched. Marriage is ultimately about God. Marriage is awesome because God designed it to display His glory. The focus of a thriving marriage is the glory of God.

The daily struggle with sin by genuine Christians underscores the fact that while Christ saved us, He does not transform us instantly and completely into non-sinners. The glorious process begins at conversion and continues throughout our life on earth, but it will only be finished when we leave this fallen world.

Without biblical clarity, we have no context fo the cross and no ongoing awareness of our need for grace and mercy. Without a full disclosure on sin, blind self-confidence will compel us to try to make our marriages work on our own strength. And whatever we try to do in our own strength does not have as its goal the glory of God and does not get its life from the fountain of the gospel.

When we apply the gospel to our sin, it gives us hope in our personal lives and in our marriages.

We face the sad, painful, undeniable reality of our own remaining sin… and we see it for the bitter, hateful thing it is… We then flee to the gospel as our own remedy. Then we begin to realise that there is new hope, a lot of hope for our marriages. Hope that emerges from the power of the gospel, the very power that raised Christ from the tomb. “

The rest of the book then tries to show that “sin, although deceitful, is surprisingly predictable. We will probe the glorious mysteries of mercy, grace and forgiveness, and see how these can become practical, powerful tools in the hands of a good spouse-theologian.

God knows we are sinners, yet gives us everything we need to build a thriving marriage anyway! God is completely, totally, enthusiastically supportive of your every effort to build a strong, God-glorifying marriage. He wants us to delight in marriage. “

So we pray and trust, for strength, wisdom as well as perseverance, to live out God-glorifying marriages. Everything in our world, the flesh and the devil works against marriage. Complacency does too! So let’s paddle forward, without which we will most certainly be swept back.

Since March 2007

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