Christ-Centred Marriage

Opening Address by Pastor Linus Chua
to PCC’s 1st Marriage Conventicle on 28 Oct 2019


The theme for this one-day seminar on marriage is, “Christ-honouring marital communication.”

I’ll like to begin by going back to the book of beginnings to lay a foundation for what will be covered and discussed later on. Let’s turn to Genesis chapter 2 and let us read a few verses from there.

Verses 7-9—

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

Verses 15-17—

“And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

And we’ll stop right there. From verse 18 till the end of the chapter, Moses goes on to describe how the LORD God wonderfully provided a suitable companion and helper for man, and thus gave to mankind this precious institution and ordinance of marriage.

We won’t read those verses for now because I want us to think about what must first be there or be in place before we can have a godly and Christ-honouring marriage.

And the thing that must be there or in place is our own personal relationship with the Lord. The verses that we have just read speak of the LORD God creating man from the dust of the earth and breathing into him the breath of life.

Then after that, the LORD took man and placed him in a very special place, which He himself had made, even the Garden of Eden. There, He would especially meet with man and have intimate fellowship and communion with him. And an integral part of this relationship between God and man was the giving and receiving of God’s commands or instructions to man.

Adam received all of God’s commands to him including the command to eat of all the trees in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As long as Adam obeyed God perfectly, he enjoyed life in the fullest sense of the word.

And it was into this context and environment of close communion with God and perfect obedience to His Word that God created woman and brought her to man so that the two can be joined together in marriage. Both the man and the woman were created equally in the image of God as we read in Genesis 1:27. In other words, whatever it meant for Adam to be created in the image of God, it meant exactly the same for Eve. Both of them were created to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. They both belonged to God and they were to love Him first above everything and everyone else in this world.

The woman was not given to man in marriage in order to compete with God for his attention and affection. No, both the man and the woman were to love God with all of their heart, soul, strength and mind, before they loved one another as themselves. They each had communion with God first before they had communion and communication with each other.

But sadly, sin entered into this world and turned everything upside down, including and especially man’s relationship with His creator. Indeed, we could say that the greatest problem of man is that he is out of step with God and with the ways of God.

When our relationship with God is not right, then everything else falls apart. And so redemption or restoration starts first with a restoration of us to a proper relationship with Him.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they sewed fig leaves for themselves. But God provided for them animal skin, which represented the perfect blood and righteousness of Christ. Only in Him can fallen men be restored to a right relationship with God and then with one another.

And so when we come to think about this subject of marriage and martial communication, the place to begin is Christ and our relationship with Him. The LORD calls us to love Him with everything that we are and have. There can be no part of our life and no area of our heart that is out of bounds or off-limits to the Lord.

One of the most foundational truths in a Christ-centered marriage then is that our heart and our affections belong first to Christ. We must love Him first of all and best of all before anyone else.

And so I ask you, dear brethren, how are you doing in your communion and communication with Christ? If you would seek to have good, Christ-honouring and Christ-centred marital communication, then you need to give priority to establishing and maintaining your own relationship with the Lord.

One writer wrote, “…when you love the Lord first, you function as you are designed to…You will not only experience a joyous relationship with the God of heaven and earth, but you will also be in a perfect position to enjoy all that God has designed marriage to be.”

One of the books that I read during my Sabbatical earlier this year was, “Tying the knot: A premarital guide to a strong and lasting marriage” by Dr Rob Green. It’s a wonderful book and much of the material is relevant not only to premarital couples but to married couples as well. I highly recommend it to all of us!

The first chapter of the book is entitled, “Jesus must be the center of your life.” What I’ll like to do for the rest of our time together is just to read selected portions of this chapter, which I think are particularly relevant to us, and which hopefully, you’ll find beneficial and edifying as well.

This first chapter contains two main parts. The first are motivations to love the Lord with all your being, while the second part contains reasons why loving the Lord first is central to a marriage that accurately represents Christ and the Church. There are four motivations and three reasons. I’ll begin reading at motivation number 3:

Motivations to Love the Lord with All your Heart, Soul, and Mind

Motivation 3: Jesus provides all the spiritual resources you need to love, serve, and give

One passage that has become quite dear to me is Romans 8:31–35. It not only helps me in my marriage, it helps me in my life.

   What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:31–35)

A brief examination of this text can help explain the third motivation. I draw three statements out of this passage.

1. You need nothing. Verses 31–32 explain that if God was willing to give you his Son, he will be willing to give you all the spiritual resources you need as a believer. Did you notice the rhetorical question, “How will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” He will, of course he will! He already gave you his most prized possession. The “hard part” was giving his Son; the easy part is providing all other spiritual resources. What a promise! This brings healing to the hurting soul. If you have a rough background, this is an incredible promise. The Lord says that your prior sin or struggle does not stand in the way of his love or his promises. This should encourage you, give you hope, and empower you to live in a whole new way. You are not bound to your past or to the way in which you were raised.

This truth also helps us when we need to battle selfishness. For example, when I return home from a day at the office, I don’t need my wife to give to me. I don’t need my children to serve me. In fact, I don’t need anything! Jesus has already provided everything I need. My “love tank,” so to speak, is full of the love that comes from the Lord. It is a love that satisfies, protects, secures, and comforts. This allows me as a Christian husband to love with the love given to me by the Lord.

Think about what happens if your love tank is not full from the Lord. What happens if you really don’t believe that the Lord is providing all the necessary resources? I suggest that you would demand love from your spouse. It may start out subtly, or war may immediately break out with nuclear weapons. Either way, you will discover that you expect your spouse to make you happy. You expect your spouse to give you what you want in the marriage. In my own life and in counseling, I have noticed that the love we demand from others is not satisfying. It demands more and more and more.

What I love so much about these verses is that they teach me that I have everything I need already. This is freeing. No more demanding. No more manipulating. No more clamoring after what I need. After all, I need nothing that Jesus has not already given me. And neither do you.

2. Jesus’s opinion is the one that matters. Verses 33–34 are just as profound as verses 31–32. This section focuses on the one who can justify and the one who can condemn. Let’s face it—some questions are more important than others! In this case, Jesus is answering the ones that are most important. Your boss’s opinion may count a lot when it comes to the quality of your work. Your spouse’s opinions about the way you treat her are important to your relationship. But when it comes to matters of justification and condemnation, Jesus gets to talk and everyone else gets to be quiet. This is particularly important because there will always be people who put you down. There will always be people who make you feel worthless. But in the end, they all get to be quiet and the one who condemns and justifies gets to speak. What Jesus says matters! Thankfully, he is the one who died for us and the one who has given us our new identity.

It would be nice if your spouse never said a mean thing to you as long as you live. But you know that there will be (or have been) moments when you struggle as a couple. So expect some grief, disappointment, and frustration in your marriage. When those moments come, remind yourself that Jesus’s word is most important. And he can use those struggles to help you both trust him more and become more like him…Jesus’s opinion is the one that really matters.

3. You are secure. Verse 35 emphasizes the reality of security. Notice that in the text there is not a “who” or a “what” that can ever separate you from the love of God in Christ. This is such a wonderful assurance! It tells you that you have security. Personally, I long for security at work, in my marriage, and in all my relationships. But sometimes those human relationships do not seem very secure. In a heated argument, one person can say something that threatens security (“I wish I had not married you!”). In other cases, a spouse does something that threatens security (e.g., gets caught looking at pornography). But in your relationship with Jesus there is complete security. The Old Testament often speaks of God being our rock, our fortress, our salvation, and our strong deliverer. Romans 8 makes it clear that Jesus is our rock and our stability even when other relationships seem anything but stable.

This passage reminds you that the Lord has poured out his love for you. Jesus died for you. Jesus has given you a new identity. Jesus has provided ongoing resources for every day of your life. So rather than demand love from your spouse, you are free to give it. You will find that when you recognize the Lord’s satisfying, comforting, and protecting love, you will find joy and peace. Ironically, you will also discover more joy, encouragement, and happiness in your marriage. To top it off, you will learn to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and strength.

Motivation 4: Jesus is your spouse’s only hero

I want to be important to my wife. I want her to see me as a knight in shining armor (even if I don’t live up to it). I want her to think of me as her man, but I am also painfully aware that no matter how nice I have been to her, no matter how caring, no matter how loving, I can never save her soul. Thus my love and care, while meaningful, is not the ultimate love and care my wife receives. Over time I have grown to love this truth. I do not have to be Stephanie’s savior; I am free to be her husband. This takes so much pressure off me! In fact, in those moments when something happens that I (or anyone for that matter) cannot fix, she can run to her hero Jesus—and I can go too. Jesus makes her happy. He comforts her. He encourages her soul. These same comments work for Stephanie as well. When I encounter a challenging issue in life, she does not have to fix it. She can love me and point me to Jesus.

The fact that Jesus is your spouse’s only hero is yet one more reason to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. You see, your love for your spouse will be directly related to your love for Jesus. When Jesus is at the center of your life, he will be your rock, your fortress, and your strong deliverer. This will mean, among other things, that your...spouse will not have to serve in that role. I can be, and must be, a Christian husband to my wife, but I can never be her savior or her hero. That is a title reserved for Jesus alone.

Loving the Lord First Is Central to a Marriage That Accurately Represents Christ and the Church

Reason 1: Marital happiness or marital struggle often can be summarized in the word “worship.”

The counseling center at Faith Church in Lafayette, Indiana (where I serve as a pastor) has existed since 1978. In those years of counseling, there have been lots of marriage cases. All of those couples started out much like you and your spouse. There were two people who believed they loved each other, enjoyed spending time together, and fostered dreams together. But at some point, things changed for our counselees. They were no longer living in marital bliss. Instead, there was heartache, pain, and deep struggle. As we met with them, some would blame the state of their marriage on poor communication, some would talk about problem-solving challenges, others would talk about pornography, an emotional affair, a physical affair, or a challenge with a child. The couples were convinced that these issues were the real problem. If only they had a few tools or tips, things would be much better!

While our counselees were correct that there were problems with communication, pornography, or problem solving, there are also much deeper concerns. Jesus taught that what comes out in our words and actions is always based on what is already on the inside, in our hearts.

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:19)

Behind the struggles with poor communication, problem solving, or understanding the roles of husband and wife, there were struggles because of poor worship. Remember that we were designed to worship God and love him most. If he is not the focus of our worship, then something else will be. Idolatry did not work out so well for the nation of Israel and it will not work out well for us either. You will find that worship is the underlying heart issue, while poor communication, problem solving, porn, or children are natural by-products of a heart worshiping something other than the Lord Jesus.

You were designed to worship the Lord. When you, as a couple or as an individual, worship something other than the Lord, the field of discord is prepared. Jesus must be the center of your life and the center of your relationship.

Reason 2: When you love Jesus, you will be most prepared to love your spouse.

In John 15:11, Jesus reminds his disciples that his love for them would result in their joy being complete. In verse 18 he explains that his love will help the disciples love others even when they are hated. In John 15, Jesus has been explaining the importance of abiding or remaining in him. He was helping his disciples understand that, to carry out their purpose, they had to receive the nourishment found in the vine. When the Christian is nourished by the love of Christ, he or she is capable of loving others, even when the context is unpleasant…

However, if you are removed from the life-giving nourishment of Christ the Vine, it will not be long before criticism and conflict follow. Loving others, including your spouse, will be much easier when you love the Lord first.

Reason 3: To be a Christian spouse, you must first be a faithful Christian.

This sounds logical, but many miss the significance of this point. I sometimes hear men and women speak about their boyfriends or girlfriends as “he/she is Christian” as if there were no other questions to ask. But there is a big difference between a person who says he is a Christian and a person with a proven track record of putting Christ first in his life. There is an interesting progression in Ephesians 4–6. In chapter 4 there is an emphasis on each Christian growing as a faithful person. In chapter 5 there is an emphasis on learning to be a faithful partner, and at the beginning of chapter 6 there is a focus on being a faithful parent. I believe that this progression is intentional. Some try to mix up the order and it simply does not work. One says he wants to be a faithful Christian husband, but he has not yet learned what it means to be a faithful Christian—to be committed to Christ and dependent on him for the strength to walk in his ways. As we will see in future chapters, husbands and wives have responsibilities to each other that they do not have to anyone else. Those responsibilities are much more intense and require much more sacrifice. It will be easy to offer excuses as to why you should not fulfill them. But when someone talks this way, he or she is expressing a fundamental problem with his or her heart. Before a person can be a faithful Christian partner, he or she must first be a faithful Christian individual. The Bible is clear: Love God first, then love your neighbor as yourself. Your closest neighbor is your spouse.

Putting Christ at the center of your life is not primarily a focus on your marriage. It is first a commitment to live as a biblical Christian.

Conclusion

Jesus must be the centre of your life. You are called to love Jesus with all your heart, soul, and mind. He must have first place in your heart, even above your spouse, if your marriage is to glorify God and exemplify Christ’s relationship with the church. As you prepare for a strong and lasting marriage, the first step is to ensure that your walk with Christ is strong enough to enjoy the blessings of covenant marriage and endure its challenges. Step one is about being a Christian. Only then can you be a Christian husband or Christian wife.

—Linus Chua