40 is kind of a scary number. It is one of those numbers of Biblical proportions, like Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness. In the Bible 40 is a number of testing, preparation and completion. We figure since we have completed this wilderness wandering now we are ready for the Promised Land of marital bliss. We’ve been told the first 40 years are the hardest. Since I am preaching on my 40th anniversary I thought I would take it as an occasion to offer some Biblical reflections on marriage and the secrets of long marriages. But what about those here who aren’t married? The teaching in Scripture about marriage and family has many applications. It is not just limited to those who are married. Our understanding of these parts of God’s Word will help us in all your relationships. So on many levels it is valuable for all of us to be a part of biblical conversations about the home. Being married and having kids are two of the hardest things you can do. Especially when you factor in how long it lasts. Marriage is one of the most sanctifying things anyone can do. Having kids is another. Those two things expose your heart, your sin, your selfishness like few other things. This doesn’t mean you can’t be sanctified if you aren’t married or don’t have kids. God is very creative and can accomplish that in a thousand ways. A roommate, health issues, a job, a boss, parents, siblings, the driver in front of you, the list goes on and on. Whatever it is in your life that God is using to sanctify you, that thing is being used by God to make you more like Jesus. We can resist and rebel, or we can submit and cooperate. Marriage is a spiritual battle ground. Instantly after the first marriage Satan was there to destroy it. He is the enemy of all marriage because marriage is a reflection of Jesus and His Church.
For several weeks now we have been focusing on our culture’s war with Christ and Christianity. But as we have been doing that I have made it clear that this war is not just a war of ideas or opinions, its not impersonal, but personal. There is someone behind it. The war is not just with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers. Satan hates God and everything good that God has made or God is doing. So we have seen Satan’s hatred of babies and children, of God’s image in man as male and female, of marriage, and of authority and submission. Satan has stooped to anything and stopped at nothing. He has initiated weapons of mass destruction like abortion and sexuality immorality, and spread lies about what God has said and sown the seeds of doubt and distrust in God’s Word, calling good evil and evil good. Last week I started the first half of two sermons on Satan’s attack on marriage by attacking God’s intentions for headship and submission. Satan has managed in our culture to turn headship and submission into things to be despised and resisted.
In this sermon series on Satan’s attack on God and God’s Word and God’s world, I have neglected to point out something important. Satan isn’t going to like it. And if he can he will try to get me to misspeak and he will try to get you to misunderstand. He will try to sow seeds of confusion and questioning and more lies. I have been very aware of walking through a minefield, very sobered by the seriousness of the issues and painfully aware of my inadequacy to do this well in a very limited amount of time. I appreciate one person taking the initiative to talk to me about something misunderstood in last week’s sermon, and I invite anyone with questions or concerns to do the same. I don’t want Satan to gain a foothold in any thing I say. And of course, pray for me for God’s grace and wisdom. This morning I am continuing our series of sermons under the title Did God Say …? That’s a reference to Satan’s words to Eve in the garden when he said: Genesis 3:1 “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Satan is hell-bent to destroy you and your life and everything good in your life. He is out to get God and he is out to get you. Our world lies in the power of the evil one, in the hands of the god of this age. If you are a Christian then as far as Satan is concerned you are one that got away, you are an escaped prisoner of the evil one and a danger to him. Most of us go through life ignorant of Satan’s work. He is always at work, subtly trying to subvert and mess with your life, your marriage, your kids, your thoughts, your impulses, your emotions, your plans, your ideas.
Until the last century most scientists believed time was eternal. Only in the 20th century with Einstein’s theory of relativity was it discovered that time had a beginning. In other words, there was a time when time was not. Interestingly, if you read the religious books of most other religions they speak of time as eternal. Only the Bible claims time is not eternal but had a beginning. People say the Bible is not scientific and not accurate, yet from the beginning the Bible has been uniquely clear that time has a beginning, and that God was active before time. The reverse is the case regarding the Gospel. People think the Gospel had a beginning, maybe when Jesus was 30 years old and began proclaiming the Gospel. Or maybe in the OT, even as far back as Genesis 3:15 and the Gospel promise that the seed of woman would crush the head of the serpent. I want to explore with you this morning that the Gospel is in fact eternal, it has no beginning, it was with God before time.
“Why does a woman work ten years to change a man's habits and then complain that he's not the man she married?” -Barbra Streisand I married the wrong person. How many of us discovered after we got married that we weren’t married to the same person we were dating and engaged to? You should have seen the look of shock on my wife’s face when she found that out. Let me burst some bubbles. We never marry the right person. People today are looking for the perfect someone who fulfills their desires and meets their expectations and with whom they can live happily ever afterward. Let me give just two reasons why this expectation is doomed to failure.
What is grace? One of the things that happens when a pastor lives next door to the church is people figure it out and start to come to ask for assistance. Last week a homeless man came to our door asking for some food, which we gave him. Was that grace? It was gracious, but it wasn’t like God’s grace. To understand God’s grace, I would have to change the story. I would have to add that this man had come to our home last month, broken in and robbed us, and now he was standing at the door asking for food. To not call the police, but to give him food at that point would be closer to God’s grace. Not only was he getting something he didn’t deserve or work for, but now he is not getting what he did deserve, to be punished for his crime. But even that wouldn’t be like God’s grace, because the law the man would have broken wasn’t my law but the governments law. If we would have turned him in the case would be something like the State of Washington vs. Mr. Homeless man. But with God our sin is personal, it is a direct assault and affront to His holiness and righteousness and justice. We have broken His law. There is yet one more way in which our story is not like God’s grace. The homeless man came to our door asking for help. Scripture says there is none who seeks God, we are all sinners resisting God or trying to avoid God by running from God or denying God. Scripture says it is God who first seeks us, who first loves us while we were yet sinners. [Illustration idea credit to Jerry Bridges]. This is grace. And this is why so many Christians love Ephesians 2.