June 28, 2012
What Does Marriage Mean? Part 4 w/Tim and Kathy Keller
If it’s not fire then it’s water. If you were forced off Interstate 10 or had to evacuate because of the storm named Debbie, this was much more than a soaking. If you were forced to flee your home in Colorado the wild fires are more than a nuisance.
This year is an early year record for Atlantic storms like “Debbie” forcing thousands to flee. People in Georgia and Florida taking the brunt of a storm that just stalled out while continuing to dump inch after inch of water. It’s the opposite in Colorado where the tender, dry forests have been burning for weeks, thousands forced out of their homes and a ministry like the Navigators was forced to shut down Nav Press at world famous Glen Eyrie. Storms and fires can work into all our lives, at least metaphorically. In these moments of cloud bursts or firestorms, isn’t it nice to know that we can seek and find the Lord together? Welcome to Haven Today. I’m Charles Morris telling the great story that’s all about Jesus on a program called “What Does Marriage Mean?” This is part 4 and we’re going to be talking in the next few minutes in particular about the covenant of marriage. Earlier this week we were joined on the program by Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in New York City. Tim, what is the definition of marriage as the Bible lays it out?
TK: Well, I think the essence of marriage, which you find in both, both the Genesis 2:24, which is the main Old Testament text and Ephesians 5, which quotes Genesis 2:24, is that marriage is a covenant. “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” And the word “cleave”, that old word “cleave” means to embrace. It is a covenantal word it’s not just “they love each other”. They really commit to each other in every way, legally, personally, they give up their independence and they become one flesh means one new unit. Again it’s not just talking about an emotional or physical “one”. This is talking about complete oneness and that’s the essence of what marriage is. If you haven’t done that you’re not married.
CM: Thanks Tim, for sharing with us how God has defined marriage as a covenant. Now, let me just mention also, Tim and his wife Kathy have written a new book called “The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the complexities of commitment with the wisdom of God”. Now modern culture would have you believe that everyone has a soul mate, that romance is the most important part of a successful marriage, that your spouse is there to help you realize your potential, that marriage doesn’t mean forever, but merely for now and that starting over after a divorce is the best solution to the seemingly intractable marriage issues. Now all those modern day assumptions are, in one word, wrong. And that’s why I so appreciate this new book by Tim and Kathy Keller where they use the Bible as their guide. Now they’ve been married 37 years and Tim in this book shows that God created marriage to bring us closer to him and to bring more joy into our lives together as a couple, as a man and a woman. I’d like you to get a copy of the book “The Meaning of Marriage” so why don’t you call us after the program? Make the best gift you can to the ministry but be sure and ask for a copy of “The Meaning of Marriage” when you call 1-800-654-2836, that’s 1-800-65-HAVEN. Or go online, read a sample chapter of the book and then send your gift to the ministry and ask for a copy of “The Meaning of Marriage”. Just go to haventoday.org, that’s haventoday.org. Let’s start our time together now with a program that’s all about Jesus with a song that is about Jesus.
Song: Jesus Messiah
Performed by: Chris Tomlin
Chris Tomlin opening Haven Today and a program called “What Does Marriage Mean?” and his song “Jesus Messiah” from his “Hello Love!” album on a program focusing on marriage as a covenant. Marriage starts, hopefully, with romance but it will end up in despair unless at some point you decide to make an investment. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be.” Jesus said that in reference to treasures in heaven as opposed to treasures on earth but this is true of marriage. If you treasure yourself and your own desires first how can you truly love another person? If you’re just thinking of what you can get and not what you can give, your priority is backwards. Marriage problems always start by thinking about yourself first and I’m thinking of Ephesians 5. We’ve been delving into this text all week. It’s the longest passage on marriage in the Bible and it’s about God’s instituting marriage. Now you can’t read this passage without concluding that marriage is a priority to God so it better be a priority to you and me! And this is clear in Ephesians 5:31 where Paul has been comparing Christ and the church to a husband and wife. In verse 31 he says,
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.
Separate but one and together. There’s something that you perhaps have heard if you’ve been around the Bible for any length of time. It’s called “leave and cleave” and it is involving marriage. That’s a priority outlined in scripture and I’ll give you the verse setting in just a moment but let me say first, in any point in history, and still in many cultures today, a son or daughter’s obligation to their mother and father is huge. It makes sense. You’re shaped so much as a child by a relationship with your parents. In your formative years growing up it’s something you need. There’s love and respect that flow both ways. It’s important and foundational. It’s true because it’s biblical. It’s biblical because it’s true, that’s because it was ordained by God. But if you come from an Asian or maybe Latin culture you understand maybe even more of what I’m about to say. I know of no culture such as mine in North America, that de-emphasizes the relationship of children to parents and parents to children. Notice though, in Genesis 2:34, way back at the beginning, and it’s repeated again in Ephesians 5:31 that while honoring one’s father and mother has not gone away, when you get married there’s a new relationship and that new relationship between a man and a woman comes first. He didn’t create a parent and child in the Garden of Eden. He created a man and a woman and conducted the first wedding ceremony. God married them. Now if you come out of a culture that puts parents above all else you might have just as much trouble with this as the person from North America who believes he or she individually comes first. If you are married your spouse takes priority above all other human beings. Ephesians 5:28 says a husband is to love his wife more than his own body. Guys, if you’re a workaholic take notice of that. You’re working so many hours you’re going to neglect your body. What will happen? Well, your work will eventually suffer. Your body, your health will suffer. It’s important to take care of your body and it’s the same way in your marriage. You need to take care of your marriage. Now we don’t all the time on this program talk about the original Greek and Hebrew but this verse about leaving your parents and being united as one to your spouse needs some special attention. Back in Genesis 2:24 the English word “cleave” is used in the King James Bible. That Greek work “pros kollao” is only used twice in all the Bible. First in Genesis in the Greek Septuagint and then again when the verse is quoted by Paul in Ephesians 5:31. The root word which also means “to adhere,” or “to cling” is also used several times in scripture but instead of just the root word “kollao” this is “pros kollao” an intensified form of the original. What does that mean? Well, instead of a couple being married and being glued together it means “super glued” together. Instead of joined it means “firmly joined” “cleaved”. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and” be deeply, faithfully, firmly, joined, super glued together, and then you offer your life together as an offering to your Lord and Savior. Everything you would do together would be an offering to God.
Now we’ve been hearing from the Kellers, Tim Keller and his wife Kathy. Tim’s a pastor in New York City and he says when he marries people that marriage is the center of your life. He tells them that. If everything around you is weak but your marriage is strong it doesn’t really matter. You move out into the world in strength. If everything around you is strong but your marriage is weak it doesn’t matter what’s out there, you move out in weakness. Your marriage comes ahead of everything else save your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s the vortex of your life. If you neglect it you lose everything. So when Paul says a man must leave his father and mother what he’s really saying is to be very careful that nothing comes ahead of your marriage relationship. If something does move in between this oneness, you will introduce a strain that can kill a marriage or at least weaken it. What are the things that can come between you and your spouse? Well, I already mentioned it before, your father and mother can. And another thing that I mentioned, your career can. Put your work ahead of your wife or husband, what happens? You can lose both. Your child or children, that’s another, and this is a particularly bad one today in light of the high divorce rate. A lot of parents in broken marriages are getting their primary support and nurturing from the parent/child relationship, and not the husband/wife relationship. If you love your child more than your spouse, if you love them more, if you get more out of a child than a spouse, then you’re breaking the biblical principal. And this isn’t a biblical principle you can take or leave. Biblical principles that you break bite back! When you break them, they break you. It’s not like this is just busy work that God assigns you, “Write it down 10 times; repeat it back to me.” It’s the way things are. You break them, things go wrong in your life. A lot of the research on child abuse has revealed that so many people who have beaten their children and abused their children do so not because they hate their kids but because they love their children too much. Their child is the person from whom they get most of their love in the world. If their child doesn’t love them or behave properly or give them the things that they need because they’re not getting them from anyone else, they go crazy. Well, children are children. They aren’t mature. They can’t give you the love that you need. If this is the road you’ve taken then you’re in for tremendous dysfunction. So if your children and your career and your friends or even love for yourself, which I talk about all the time on Haven Today, come ahead of your love for your spouse you are in trouble. But the Bible says you have to leave your father and mother and cleave to your spouse there are lots of danger signals. Now please understand me, I don’t know all the particulars in your life. I’m just laying down the principles. For example, let’s say you’re married but you’re still financially dependent on your parents are you leaving/cleaving? Or let’s say you’re emotionally attached to one or both of your parents. You can’t make a move with your spouse unless you first seek parental advice. Examine your heart. Do so in prayer with your spouse. Ask yourself the question, “Have I really left my mother and father as the Bible teaches?” A few years ago I was counselling a young couple and the wife was very close to her mother. They talked everything through. They were both Christians, they loved each other. They loved the Lord but friction arose in the marriage because of outside advice being sought first. Well, the best thing that could have ever happened in her marriage happened. The young couple moved away. The marriage is stronger today and the relationship with the parents is better as well. Intimacy is tough enough but when you add the dimension that one spouse is going to tell a parent or some outsider, some other person, to bring that other person into the situation you haven’t settled an issue, you’ve unsettled it. Conflict management is tough enough for two. Add three or four or five and a lot of gossip thrown in and it’s out of control. You’ve got to even leave behind psychological patterns. It’s a fresh start when you get married. You can’t just say, “This is the way we did something when I grew up.” If you do that you haven’t even left. One other thing, hatred for your parents means you haven’t left. “My father made me go to church so I’m not going to take them unless they want to!” Don’t be controlled by past thought patterns. Marriage is so much like salvation, both are a covenant. Paul said the more you think about marriage start thinking about what Christ did for us, old things are passed away. Marriage, as in salvation, is a brand new life.
One other aspect of telling the great story that’s all about Jesus, the hope for all human covenants, like marriage, is a covenant God has made with us to save us from our sins. I want to share a bit more with you about this, what Jeremiah calls the new covenant. A covenant is an agreement between two parties sealed with a sign, a covenant sign. God have a rainbow for instance, to seal his covenant with Noah when he promised to never again destroy the earth with water. 282 times the word “covenant” is mentioned in the Bible so it certainly is important. Now in order to know what the new covenant was about we need to know in what way it is new or different from the old covenant or why the old needed a new. Throughout Israel’s history in the Old Testament God met with people like Noah, Abraham, Moses and he called them to lead Israel in obedience to him. God did the hard work of saving his people out of captivity and hopeless situations and he called them, in response, to obey him and walk before him in holiness. But you know the story. Over and over again the people of God fell short of his glory and as you remember, God’s people kept on being taken back into captivity. They knew what was expected of them, what God’s covenant expected but they simply couldn’t obey in their own strength. So the prophet Jeremiah told the people God’s message, this is out of Jeremiah 31, verses 31 and 32,
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the LORD.
God promised a remedy, a different kind of covenant than the first. And here’s the next two verses, Jeremiah 31:33 and 34,
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
Remember we said all covenants come with a covenant sign? Jesus lifted up this covenant sign at the last supper. He said to his disciples as he held up the cup, “This is the new covenant in my blood” which is 1 Corinthians 11:25, Jesus sealed the new covenant with his blood. God expected perfect obedience from his people but in the old covenant they failed over and over again. In the new covenant Jesus provided the obedience. He fulfilled the covenant we could never fulfill or accomplish. Jesus is the only one who could satisfy all the requirements of the covenant. With his blood he sealed the covenant, the agreement through which God promised to save us and give us eternal life. The wonderful thing about this covenant is that it doesn’t depend on our steadfastness, our faithfulness, but it’s all in the faithfulness of Jesus. Well, there are benefits to this. It’s called new life by finding this new covenant and there are benefits to finding the covenant of marriage, a covenant that God ordained between one man, one woman, one husband, one wife. That’s what marriage means. It started with God and it’s God all the way through between a husband and a wife.
Haven Today and “What Does Marriage Mean?” Now we’ve said this before this week, marriage can be like driving. If you don’t keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the curves in the road you’ll probably end up in a ditch. Some of you right now listening to me are in a very deep ditch. Marriages that are broken down and on the side of the road can be some of the most discouraging challenges in the Christian life. Why did we get married? Why have we forgotten even the “why”? That’s why I want you to get a copy of the book “The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the complexities of commitment with the wisdom of God”. I want to ask boldly for your financial support. Can you send us a gift? We’re in the summer now. It’s when a lot of people start leaving on vacation and they want to give but they forget to give. Could you help us? But we want to help you so be sure and ask when you call, for a copy of “The Meaning of Marriage”. Call us at 1-800-654-2836, that’s 1-800-65-HAVEN. Or you can go online, read that sample chapter of the book, “The Meaning of Marriage”, make your gift to the ministry but ask for a copy of “The Meaning of Marriage”. Just go to haventoday.org, that’s haventoday.org. And let us know how you’re listening when you get in touch.
I’m Charles Morris. Thanks for joining me and Tim Keller. Would you come back again tomorrow when again we’ll be sharing together the great story? It’s all about Jesus here on Haven Today.
The Meaning of Marriage
For a gift of any amount
Modern culture would make you believe that everyone has a soul-mate; that romance is the most important part of a successful marriage; that your spouse is there to help you realize your potential; that marriage does not mean forever, but merely for now; that starting over after a divorce is...
[Get It Now]