Serious Dating and Marriage

Serious Dating and Marriage

from a sermon by Howard Wilson on July 15, 2005

The basis for the union of marriage is found in Genesis 2:18-24 which reads, “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

Man and woman became one flesh. Adam and Eve did not have a long courtship; Eve was only about four verses old when Adam married her. She was the only woman on the earth and he was the only man, so it was quite obvious they were a couple, was it not? God has a plan for each one of our lives. If you are single and are pursuing a mate, God has just as definite a plan for your life as He did for Adam and Eve. There was no question who would be the first couple, and I assure you upon God’s Word, God’s plan for you can be just as definite.

God’s plan for marriage is under attack today. Let us read Romans 1:18-25. We need to read this entire passage to understand the full context for this Scripture. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” (Paul is setting a background to say that people have chosen deliberately to look away from God.)

We continue with verse 21, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing  themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” (Paul goes on to emphasize this by saying not only have they disregarded God as Creator, but have begun glorifying things we see around us.) Verse 24 reads, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”

This passage could have been taken off the front page of any one of the major newspapers this morning—the worship of the creature rather than the worship of the Creator. But there is a penalty to pay for doing this, and that is what verse 26 goes on to explain, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.” This is a very strong position here, but it is straight out of God’s Word. You can find the backup to this in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.

I really detest the term, traditional marriage, and I mean to be just that blunt. When I married my wife, Gale, I married a woman, and now the world wants me to define that relationship as a traditional marriage—adding a modifier that qualifies the word marriage. I do not have a traditional marriage and neither do you. You have a marriage, and any attempt to define this union another way goes against God’s plan.

God created one man and one woman. He put them together in the Garden of Eden, blessed them, and through them all of us have life. For us to define a man and a woman as a traditional marriage and all other carnal couplings as marriage is not right. We have marriage—as God established and planned for it to be—and we have sin. When I hear the media trying to define traditional and non-traditional marriage, it grieves me and Christians throughout the world. That is not according to God’s plan. Marriage actually predates the Levitical law by several thousand years. Marriage predates any civil law on the books today. Any group of legislators that tries to redefine marriage is basically the creature telling the Creator His plan was wrong.

In Luke 16:18 we read, “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” If we or the person we marry has a living spouse, we are committing adultery; those are Jesus’ words. He says if we have a living spouse and we remarry, adultery is involved. We can debate this. We can ask, “What about this situation?” or “What about that situation?” It is much simpler to go with what thus saith the Lord. If a man puts away his wife and marries another woman, that is adultery. If a woman divorces her husband and marries another man, that is adultery. That is the way Jesus defined it and that is the way we must define it. The Gospel and Jesus’ teachings are not complicated to figure out. I agree that some of the writings of Paul take a little bit of deciphering—you have to stop and think after reading a verse or two. But Jesus spelled it out here, and it blesses our souls to follow His commandments.

Some time ago I ran across a concise list of how to have a successful marriage. It is short and to the point, and straight out of God’s Word. I believe if a couple who is serious about getting married implements these suggestions, they will have a strong relationship from the very beginning. Even those of us who have been married a little longer can benefit from implementing into our marriage some of these suggestions that we either have forgotten or maybe never knew—things that make a marriage strong. This four-point list is based on the acronym LAST. Each one of these letters, L-A-S-T, makes a point and we will go through them one by one. At the conclusion, I believe you will agree that it is a very good list for nurturing strong marriages.

The first letter (L) stands for Loving Communication. This next passage of Scripture has been used as an illustration of seeking God’s will. For this study, let us use it as instruction for communication between a man and wife or between a man and a woman who are close to becoming engaged or married. That is the beauty of the Word of God. We can read it one way and it fits a certain situation perfectly. Later we may read it from another angle and it fits perfectly there as well. That is not by accident, and it is one reason why the Bible is called the living Word of God. It is for our benefit and admonition, and when we follow His guidance, the Scriptures come alive.

In James 3:13 we read, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” We see how these words could apply to a husband and wife, or to an engaged couple. In either case, there is a need for loving communication when the two are talking to one another.

This verse focuses on the negatives that adversely affect communication. The positive attributes are listed in verses 17-18: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” Many issues can be resolved with respectful discussion.

Can there ever be too much communication in a relationship? I think not. If we let situations grow, they can evolve into really big issues that are difficult to resolve. It is better to talk a little too much and reach an understanding than to not talk it through and deal with the issues later.

We know that having a good marriage does not mean there will never be disagreements. But with this godly principle that James illustrated for us in Scripture, we find we can work through our disagreements, and have a stronger marriage because of it. God wants our marriages to succeed. God wants us to live in happy relationships. God designed marriage to be good and a blessing to us, and if we follow His way, it will work.

Perhaps one reason that there is not enough loving communication is because men and women communicate differently. I am sure this statement is not a surprise! Most men talk factually all day long. Whatever a man’s job or business is, he tends to be short, clipped, and to the point—fast communication back and forth.

I used to work in construction before I went to work for the church full time. A common type of phone call I might receive might go this way: “The Mt. Baker water project is a go. Do you need anything from me at this point?” The Mt. Baker water project might be a two-day, $500 job, or it might be a two-year, five-million dollar job, but it is going to be communicated in a short, direct way. The bigger the job, the more communication will happen later, but that is the way men talk.

When a man arrives home from work, he is probably still in that short, factual, to-the-point mode unless given some time to unwind, because that is what he has done all day. That is where he still is at the moment. The wife, on the other hand, tends to talk more in terms of feeling and emotion. She will address the facts, but they will be interspersed with an abundance of why she feels the way she does. Men tend to not talk that way, so you can see how even though we speak the same language, we are not communicating in the same way.

Men, this can be a problem for us if we do not practice making a point of tuning in, because we can really miss things. Ladies, you need to understand that if we are still in our business-as-usual mode, a ten-minute conversation would be difficult. At the end of that, we likely will have a hard time remembering what was said in the first minute. That’s because we are accustomed to communicating in a fast, clipped, and direct way. Your method of communication is more detailed, and we have to focus on what you are saying. But we will get it if both parties make an effort.

Probably one of the most important things a couple can do, besides establishing a family altar, is to take time to have relaxed conversations. In our busy world it can be hard to do this. We might have to make an appointment with our spouse or the one we plan to marry. Without time set aside for this, misunderstandings can arise and things can start falling apart. A couple of days a week, my wife and I walk on a nice exercise path around a lake not too far from where we live. That is our talking time. It takes us about a half hour to make the circuit, and we talk about everything. It is private. In fact sometimes I wonder about the people that we overtake. If all they hear is a minute or two of our conversation, it may not make sense. But we have to make the time to make sure that we communicate with our spouses.

I had to learn my wife did not want me to solve her problem for her as we conversed. At times she would bring up a work situation or a school issue with the kids. Now, for the most part, guys are linear. They focus and they move forward. When I would come up with a quick solution, I could almost see my wife’s face fall. I realized I was missing something. My wife did not want me to give a solution. She wanted me to listen and be supportive as she verbalized her concerns. Once I found that out our discussions got a lot easier and my frustration level dropped to about zero.

I also could not figure out why we would deal again with some issue that I had “solved” the day before. Well, that is a woman’s way! They want to work at solving issues. They may need to revisit it. As guys, we like to give whatever is on the plate all of our attention and come to a solution before we stand up from the table. That is a difference between men and women in many cases. If we understand some of these differences, we can have loving and careful communication. Learn to speak your spouse’s language! That helps a lot, believe me.

God put us together for a reason. He did not make a mistake when created Adam and Eve as non-identical individuals. He created one to be more nurturing, and the other to be more the warrior, the guarder, and the provider—and the two together are perfect complements.

The second letter of our acronym (A), stands for Agreeing Spiritually. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 we read, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” The Apostle Paul visited Corinth on his second missionary trip and wrote the believers there some letters. It might be helpful to establish the setting for these letters. Corinth sat on a strip of land about five miles wide that connected a huge peninsula to the mainland of Greece. Because of its unique location, Corinth could charge whatever the market would bear for cargo service, and the people there had become immensely wealthy. The city had two harbors, and was well situated to monopolize cargo shipments that often went through Corinth to avoid the hazards of the Mediterranean Sea.

History tells us there was a time where Corinth actually rivaled Athens in glory, splendor, and wealth. Some estimates say its populace was 700,000 when Paul arrived, and it was very worldly. Life in Corinth compared closely to our world today. In that prosperous city was one of the largest and most ornate temples built to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The whole city worshiped this goddess and performed sensual and devilish rituals. The debauchery of Corinth was so well known that there was a saying, “living like a Corinthian,” which meant someone whose morals were so low or nonexistent that they just did not care.

This was the city where the Apostle Paul, at God’s leading and admonition, was shepherding a little flock of believers into an understanding of Christianity. While written around two thousand years ago, this passage that we are about to read could have been written yesterday and directed to us. It is still necessary to separate ourselves spiritually from those who are opposed to the Gospel. We read in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

When we understand the uncleanness that the Corinthians were challenged to leave behind, we can begin to understand the first simple statement in verse 14, “Be ye not unequally yoked.” Paul is saying you cannot mix it up. There has to be a separation between the Christian and the sinner. You will not be a success in your Christian walk if you closely join with an unbeliever. Paul also addressed this issue in other Scriptures. In 1 Corinthians 10:21 we read, “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.” This is similarly addressed in Ephesians 5:7.

Picture for a moment the yoke around the neck of two oxen. When they are yoked together, they pretty much have to be doing the same thing with the same purpose in order to have a positive outcome. As Christians, if we want to be victorious, we cannot be unequally yoked.

Our spirituality and level of godliness is often indicated by our closest friends. For example, if a friend tells an off-color joke in your company, what does that do to your soul? Something in you withdraws. Backing off from that kind of friendship is where separation begins. In contrast, you may have a need for the deeper experiences of God and see your friends praying at the altar. A tug in your heart brings you to the same altar of prayer to join them. Do you see how your friends are an indicator of where you are spiritually? The people you are comfortable with, who you associate with, say something about you. Paul was telling these believers, “Do not be unequally yoked.” We need to maintain a close connection to God, and we need to maintain friendships with those who are close to God as well.

In 1 Corinthians 5:9 we read, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.” What Paul is establishing here is that you cannot take these kinds of people into close friendship, but you cannot completely avoid them either—you would have to leave the world to make that happen. He further states in verse 11, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” In other words, if someone in the church claims to be a Christian but has sin in their life, avoid close friendship with them. Pray for them and encourage them, but do not make them your closest associates until they get their spiritual relationship settled with God.

This offers a word of warning. When two people draw close together, emotional and even spiritual bonds begin to form. It is just a fact of life. That is what happens between men and women. If we have a relationship that comes apart later or that we must dissolve because it is with the wrong person, breaking those emotional and spiritual connections will leave scars. It would be much better to not date a person if you cannot see yourself marrying them, because there are repercussions.

Whom should we date? (We will define dating as a couple that is starting to commit their lives one to another and looking forward to engagement and marriage.) The Bible is full of admonition in this regard, but I think the fruit of the Spirit is a very good place to begin. When we think of a person with whom we want to spend our lives and with whom we may want to raise a family, he or she should possess the fruit of the Spirit, at least to some degree. If some of that is missing, a red flag should go up. It is really vital to know the person whom you are dating or are interested in, because courting is designed to hide things. You put on your best clothes. Even if it is a casual date, you put on your best casual clothes! Your grooming is impeccable—every hair is in place. Negative circumstances are minimized or avoided altogether.

What happens when the negative feelings and circumstances come along in a marriage if they have not been addressed during the courtship or the engagement? We can be floored, can we not? Premarital counseling helps because it directs a couple to look beyond the romance of the moment to future issues that may have not been considered. Questions need to be answered about budgeting and who will be responsible for paying the bills—all of those issues that romantically are the farthest thing from our mind.

I was in love that way one time. I said “one time.” Yes, I am still in love with Gayle, but it is not that way. Our relationship and connection is more mature now. When you are completely swept off your feet, sometimes you do not even want to consider these other issues, but you must know what is coming down the road.

Moving on, the third letter (S) of our acronym L-A-S-T stands for Strict Financial Responsibility. In Proverbs 22:7 we read, “The rich ruleth over the poor, the borrower is servant to the lender.” Materialism and debt is a trap that ensnares many newlyweds. Sometimes there is educational and career training debt as well as monetary outlay for first time home expenses. It may be easy for a new couple to expect to have a home, a car, and furnishings like their parents have. Remember, those parents likely have been working, earning, and saving for years to get to where they are now. Many years ago, beginning married life with so many “things” was not possible, but today’s economy has changed from a pay-as-you-go mindset to a buy-now-pay later mentality. Credit lines have gotten easier and easier to obtain.

I remember trying to get a credit card as a young person. I was out of high school and had a job, but could obtain buy a credit card. My children’s mail reflects a totally different financial culture today. When my middle daughter graduated from high school, she and my older daughter, who was in college, were getting credit card applications sent to them by the bushel load, so it seemed! America has changed and people think that if they can charge it, it is okay. It is not okay—the yawning chasm of debt is a horrible pit to fall into. Statistics show that one of the leading causes of marital breakup is money issues. It can destroy the marriage. It can destroy the home. So it is important to maintain Strict Financial Responsibility.

Finally we will address the last letter (T) of L-A-S-T, which stands for Thriving Unshakeable Commitment. In James 1:8 we read, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” A double minded man might have a hard time committing to his job—perhaps calling in sick to pursue another activity. This approach can filter down into marriages. The Scripture says such an individual is “unstable in all his ways.” Commitment and God’s help make marriages last.

A lasting marriage in most cases involves a couple whose commitment started before they walked down the aisle as man and wife. A purpose was made that failure, or dissolving the union, was not an option. However, I realize we do not see the end from the beginning. Perhaps a spouse backslides and there is no way to keep the marriage together. That happens. That is the world we live in, but if two people are saved and following God, a high level of commitment will make almost any marriage work.

When two Christians ask for God’s will in whom they should be dating, every aspect of their relationship comes under His control. Questions such as “What do You want us to do as a couple? Where do You want us to live? How are we going to serve You?” can all be brought to the Lord. Also understand that some individuals have a call from God on their life even before they get married. It is wise to make sure that the person you marry accepts and supports your call. If not, difficulties will arise. Hardship and difficulties and challenges come into all relationships sooner or later, but with unshakeable commitment and the power of God, our marriages will survive.

The definition of marriage is under attack. Who is the world going to turn to for a definition of marriage if it is not the Word of God? Who will model a lifelong commitment to one another “until death do us part” if it is not the Christian? Perhaps the movie stars?—hardly! There are a great many organizations now, preachers included, that say divorce and remarriage is okay if . . . , if . . . , and if. . . . That is not what God’s Word says. Divorce and remarriage is not okay. God said it and we believe it.

What did Christ tell us to do? So often we think in terms of evangelizing our world and witnessing to what Christ has done in our life and what He can do for others. What about marriage? Your marriage can be a testimony. People pay attention. Some years ago, I mentioned to someone I was working with that I had been married a certain number of years…eight or so at that time, if I remember correctly. His unsmiling and completely serious response was “All with the same woman?” Is that not horrible? It did not enter his mind that a marriage of that length was possible. My marriage became a witness and yours can, too.

Young people, make God the center of the relationships that you are establishing. Continue with God as your Pilot through engagement into marriage. Follow the precepts that God has laid out. Do not let the world sway you with relationship advice and turn you in another direction. God has a plan and if we follow it, it will work.