Culture's dating model is flawed and broken. It's time to unlearn some things and return to God's original design for marriage. Through the story of Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 24, we learn that there are 3 things that we can do today to revolutionize the way we date.
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Happy Valentine's Day! We love you, Fort Worth and Houston and anybody else driving down the road, spending their Valentine's Day with us here at The Porch. If you do not like photos of couples, I hope you stayed off Instagram today. It was an overload. Even I was a little grossed out by it. I was like, "I'm not going to fall into that trap." It was everywhere.
Man, this day can serve as an incredible blessing to some for the relationship we have, and for others it can be this heavy "I hate it, and it keeps coming back around and reminds me that I'm single and don't even have a prospect, and I hope it never comes again." I don't know where you're at, but I'm glad you're here. Let me pray for us.
Father, inform our hearts tonight as we dive into a topic that is so relevant to so many of us and has impacted so many of our lives. Lord, would you please speak to us from the Scriptures? Would you please undo what culture has done in our hearts and our minds? Would you give us a biblical worldview of dating and marriage and relationships and what you would have us do?
Would you just remove the cynicism, any calloused nature of our hearts and opinions and predispositions? Would you just level the playing field as we dive in? Protect them from my opinion, God, and would your Holy Spirit supernaturally move through these words in this ancient story to show us what you value and what you desire from us. In Jesus' name, amen.
When my family and I moved into a house… We actually had the opportunity to build a house. We moved into a new neighborhood, so that meant new neighbors. My neighbor lady directly across the street from my house was always in her yard. She was a divorced empty nester. She had a full-time job, but whenever she would get home, from 5:00 to sunset, she was working in her flower beds.
There were no flowers there. She was just prepping the beds. I watched as the months rolled by. She would bring in this organic soil and reshape the beds. Then a few months later, I saw these incredible plants begin to grow, and then when spring hit…there's no exaggeration in this story…it just exploded with roses. I'm talking hundreds, maybe thousands of roses. So much so that every single person who came to see us would comment.
Anybody who came to our house for the first time would say, "Wow! Did you see that rose garden across the street?" I'm like, "How could I miss it? Yeah. It's right there every time." When I'd sit at the sink I'd look through the windows, and it was this explosion of bright red. They grew up to about half the height of her house. It was just beautiful. It was breathtaking. I'd watch cars drive by and slow down in front of her house because of these roses.
She would spend all weekend out there. She'd have these pruning shears. She'd wear these knee pads. She was just out there constantly working. If she was at home and the sun was up, she was outside working on this rose garden. She was relocated through her work and had to move to Atlanta, so I watched her put her house for sale.
People began to view the house, and everybody would stop and walk around, just blown away by the rose garden. It didn't take the house long to sell. In about a week it had a contract on it because, again, the rose garden. A newly married couple purchased the home and moved in. They loved the roses, obviously, but they're a newly married couple. Both had jobs. They were very busy.
I watched as the months rolled by. The roses began to be neglected and, lo and behold, started to wither and die. Weeds crept into the beds, and that which was beautiful was no longer, because the beauty took work. The beauty took preparation. The beauty took forethought. The beauty took prioritizing things that some people don't have time or desire to prioritize. So that which was beautiful withered and died.
In the same way, the vast majority of you… That's who I'm going to speak to tonight. If you're here and you don't want to be married, we're so glad you're here. I hope you are, as the Scripture says, a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom, meaning single for the sake of the kingdom. But if you're here and you desire to be married (I imagine that's the majority of you), you want a beautiful marriage, as I've learned while spending the last decade meeting with single friends, I don't think we realize the work a beautiful marriage takes now. You can start on this work today.
On this very day, Valentine's Day… What if I told you Americans spent $18 million today telling people they love them? I would be about $18 billion off. It's $18 billion spent on this day by Americans, $2 billion on roses and flowers alone. Two billion (with a B) that we spend on this holiday being exploited by Hallmark as we've fallen into the traps of our culture. It's so easy for us to say, "I love you" on a day. It's so difficult for us to show someone we love them with our lives, because we've bought into the lies of culture.
Culture is what is informing you on how to date. It's the people who are terrible at it. That's where you're learning. You're learning how to date from Brad and Angelina and "Fifty Shades of Stupid" and The Bachelor, this cultural phenomenon, 21 seasons strong, saying, "Hey, this is what dating looks like." That there would be a man and he'd choose from these 25 girls as he goes on a date with all of them. It's 21 seasons strong, and the success rate so far is two, but that's where you're learning from.
Do you know why it resonates with us so deeply? Because that's how we feel. You either feel like a man trying to figure out who you're going to choose and you want to choose right and "Will you accept this rose?" or you feel like a woman, like this commodity among many, that you're just waiting to be chosen. It's a wrong perspective. We can laugh at it, we can think it's silly, but in reality it resonates deeply with us because it's what we feel like we are living: manic highs and manic lows of relationships, not the service that a real relationship takes.
Maybe you're here and you're one of those who are cynical and you think, "Well, who needs marriage? If marriage is so much work, I don't really need to be married." You don't understand what marriage is. You almost have to read this book like you're on a deserted island, and you have to unlearn some things and say, "Okay, God, what do you want for me in regard to marriage?" Do you know that marriage shows up in the Scripture in the second chapter of Genesis, where he says, "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it"?
God's first great commission is simply this: "I've created man and I've created woman, and I've created them in such a way that they fit together, and when they fit together life is brought forth, and if she loves God and he loves God they would create babies who love God, and that they would cover the earth with babies who love God who have babies who love God who have babies who love God." This is God's original plan.
This is the first great commission: that we would produce disciples through reproduction, but we've moved so far from that. We've taken his plan and captured it for our pleasure and excitement and the manic highs and the manic lows. Culture's model is so broken, so flawed, and it's not just flawed and broken; it's damaging you. It's hurting you. It's very easy for me to prove this to you. Culture's model, which is self-focused, prepares you for divorce, not commitment, and it's ultimately one of the biggest failures of the twenty-first century.
The vast majority of those cute Instagram pictures you saw today are going to end in flames, in disaster, in devastation. They will not make it. I know that's not the uplifting message you wanted right now, but it's just the truth. It's just the facts. You have to do something different. You have to do something revolutionary. You have to do something incredibly different than what the world would have you do.
The fact of the matter is 80 percent of you are going to get married at least one time in your life, and God really cares about marriage. You cannot afford to be influenced by the culture on this topic anymore. It's in desperate need of a revolution. Ladies, I've spent enough time with you to know that when I said "80 percent," all of you felt like the 20 percent who aren't going to get married. You just thought, "Oh no. That's going to be me. I'm going to be a part of that." Stop it. That's my most loving advice to you right now: Stop it.
Stop dwelling in that. Start trusting God, believing that he has a plan for you and that his plan is better than yours, and pursue that plan. Ask him to help you know that plan. If you're here and you want to be married, I want you to know I want you to be married, and not just married. I want you to have an incredible marriage. I take great delight in watching couples come in here and get married and really have a ministry that is produced out of that covenant relationship.
It is one of my greatest joys and greatest honors to watch that every week. I see it happen all the time. It's one of the key reasons I do this, so I hope that you would have an incredible marriage, an incredible ministry together, but to do so you're going to have to learn what God says. We're talking about Revolutionary Dating. We're in this series New Year Revolution: Changes People Make that Change the World.
We didn't just cram this topic in here. This is one of the key things you can do, a change you can make that will actually change the world: go back to God's original great commission. We know that dating is not in the Bible, and here's why it's not in the Bible. Maybe you know it's not in the Bible, but maybe you don't know why. Dating is a very new idea. When I say "new idea," I don't know what you think. Dating is about 100 years old, so only about a century old. That's it.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, dating was a euphemism for prostitution. That's where the word shows up in our language. If you said in the late 1800s, "I'm going to go on a date," what that meant is you were going to solicit sex from a prostitute and pay for it. That's not a joke. I'm serious. That's where we get the word dating. You can see what has happened in the past 100 years, that we would throw it around and it would be very normal.
We think we're getting better at this because we have apps and personality profiles and all of these match-making tools, but statistically (friends, I need you to wake up), we're getting worse at it. We're getting married less, we're getting married later, and then those marriages are failing more. Can we all just open our eyes and see that we are getting a whole lot worse at this? We have to return to the original intentions, the one who invented it, the one who made it up.
You're going to have to unlearn some things tonight, to undo some things. Test everything I say. See if it's consistent with the Scriptures. See if you desire to apply it. I'm going to be in Genesis, chapter 24. It's going to be the story of Isaac and Rebekah. The Old Testament is full of love stories…Ruth and Boaz, Jacob and Rachel, Esther, Samson and Delilah. All of them have weird things going on.
We don't tell these stories as prescriptive, like, "Hey, you should do it just like Samson and Delilah. Don't get a haircut." No. It's descriptive of an actual relationship, but inside that description there are eternal truths and principles the Bible repeats that we can begin to apply into our own relationships. Tonight, I'm going to give you three things everyone can do today to begin to revolutionize dating. Whether you have a prospect or not, everyone can start doing these three things tonight. You can begin, and it will help you in this adventure.
Let me summarize this very lengthy text. Abraham's wife Sarah has just passed away, and there's kind of like this, "Oh no. I have a son and he's single and his mama is no longer around to help him be sensitive. I have to find this man a woman fast." So he calls his main servant, his lead servant, Eliezer, and he says, "I need you to go find a wife for my son, but here's the deal. I'm surrounded by nonbelievers here in the promised land, surrounded by the Canaanites, so you're going to have to go to my hometown and find a girl from there. So can you travel to my hometown?"
You would often see in the Old Testament people married within their family. Today that's weird and even gross. Different things going on at this time. Keep in mind, if you're going to marry a believer, she's going to come from your family. There are very few believers on the planet earth at this time.
This was God's plan to purify the faith and roll out that original great commission. So he sends his servant to his hometown. Eliezer goes to a water well and prays and says, "God, would you show me a woman for my master who would not only get me a drink but also for my camels, that she would be the one?" He prays that prayer.
Lo and behold, Rebekah shows up on the scene and offers him some water. He goes home to meet her family, tells them of the mission he's on, and then he and Rebekah return back to the promised land, back to Abraham's house, where she can meet his son Isaac, who is in the field praying as he's waiting on them to return. They meet, they get married, they are intimate, and then it says he loves her the rest of his life. Here's the very first practical thing you can do, starting tonight.
1._ Pray_. Super practical, super easy. You can do it right now where you're sitting. It says in verse 12: "Then he prayed, ' Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.
May it be that when I say to a young woman, "Please let down your jar that I may have a drink," and she says, "Drink, and I'll water your camels too"—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.'"
There's clearly something supernatural happening here. I'm not encouraging you, necessarily, to pray this specifically. "Lord, as I walk into this Starbucks, I pray that a woman would come up to me and offer me a Venti nonfat white chocolate Frappuccino and some for my dog and that she would be the one I spend the rest of my life with. Father, I pray that she is a believer and a supermodel and that's how she raises money for charity." Consider what he did pray. "Please provide someone and make it clear who it is." A simple prayer.
Why wouldn't you pray every day for your spouse? When I say "Pray for your spouse," I don't mean a request like a Christmas present, like I pray for that new car. I mean pray for them in the sense of, "Lord, I pray that you're protecting them. Lord, I pray that you're preserving them. Lord, I pray that they know you and walk with you, that you would protect their innocence and purity. Help them in this broken world. Father, help them. Should I live long enough to meet them, I pray that they'd know you and walk with you and be saved by you and filled with your Holy Spirit." You could pray for them every single day.
I think one of the first revelations we're going to have in heaven is that prayer works. One of the first things we're going to get up there and realize is like, "Wow! You were really listening, and me talking to you was really doing something, and there was an alignment of your heart and mine and your desires and mine. Man, I wish I would have done that more. There was just a part of me that doubted that you were actually listening, that you actually cared, that you wanted me to ask for things."
I wouldn't tell you to do this if I didn't practice it. Every single night, I pray for my kids' spouses. Every single night I go into my daughters' room, I go into my son's room, and with my daughters I say, "Lord, I pray for their husbands, that they would know you and fear you, that they'd walk with you, that you'd protect their innocence, that you'd preserve their purity. Father, that they would know your Word, that they would treat these women well, that they would meet each other in your perfect timing. Father, would you align their hearts with your will and with what you're doing? Amen."
What happens is usually they… This has happened at times. They turned to me and said, "Daddy, what's a spouse?" So we have to work through that, but every night I do that. Can you consider how profound that is? There are two men out there I've never met but I've prayed for every day. Every day I pray for their faith and their relationship with God and the way they're going to treat my daughters. Every day I pray for them.
I don't think so many of us want a God-honoring marriage; we just want a relationship. We just want someone. Our goals for ourselves are so much lower than God's goals for us. The gifts we give ourselves are so much lower than the gifts God has for us. We just want a relationship. Sometimes that causes us to take shortcuts, to settle for the fake roses, if you will.
I remember when I had the privilege and honor to do David Marvin's wedding. I remember being at his rehearsal dinner as his mom stood up and looked at his beautiful wife, a very godly, God-fearing wife, and she just had this opportunity to tell her, "I prayed for you for my son for decades now. Long before we met I prayed for you, that he would meet you." It's just a crazy thing to look someone in the eyes who is the answer to your prayer.
Why wouldn't you do that every day? If you desire marriage, why would you not pray for your spouse every day, not just to meet them but that God would align your heart? Sometimes girls are like, "Can I do that? Are you sure? Is that going to feed my control?" You can pray for whatever you want, because God knows you want it. It's not like he doesn't know and you're trying to play some mind tricks with God, like, "God, I really want to marry him, but I wouldn't dare ask you." That's crazy.
Ask him for what you want. Just ask him for what he wants. You can ask God for whatever you want. Just in line of asking him for what you want say, "God, would you show me what you want, and would you give me a greater desire in my heart for what you want than for what I want? If what I want is not what you want, would you change that in me?" You can pray that every single day relentlessly. Pray for what you want while seeking what he wants.
2._ Pursue purity_. Guys, think about how crazy this would be. From this moment on to the day you're buried, what if you never saw another woman's breasts other than the woman you married? How amazing would that be? I'm talking you screen movies. You go to Kids-In-Mind or Plugged In and see if there's nudity there, and if there is you avoid it like the plague. You tell her on your sixtieth wedding anniversary, "Your breasts are the only breasts I've seen for the past 65 years." I think that's God's desire and design, even, and it's beautiful. You pursue purity.
Verse 15: "Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor. The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her." Pursue purity. You can do this with no prospect in mind. You can pursue personal purity. You can withstand from the content you put before your eyes. Abstain from any sexual content. You can pursue personal purity.
I don't think we have any idea what a big deal purity is to God. We're so far from his values when it comes to this. I don't know if we know each other. You may be a guest here for the first time, so you may not know my story. I was a sex addict and a porn addict for a long time and have found freedom through my relationship with Jesus Christ in the context of community within the church.
I'm very passionate about this, because I've experienced the heartbreak, the heartache, the pain, and the devastation that sex outside of marriage and pornography and masturbation causes in the context of marriage. Not only have I personally, but then I've counseled hundreds and hundreds of couples in a very same and similar situation. I just have one message for you. It's the world is lying to you. You are being duped. You are being defrauded.
I really need you to believe this or test it or wrestle with it or get your stats and your facts and your proof and your evidence if you try to argue against what I'm saying right now, because I'm telling you, those small decisions you're making right now at 18, 21, or 35 are costing you a healthy marriage long before you even meet a prospect. It's hurting you. It is not helping you in any way.
No one has ever said in the history of all creation, "Man, my marriage is so much better because of porn and masturbation. I'm an amazing lover because of the time I spent looking at porn and masturbating or the ways I got to practice sex outside of marriage." No, you are poisoning that flower bed. Beautiful things will not be able to bloom from that bed unless you put in work right now. I say that out of love. I hear every now and then, "JP, does the Bible really say explicitly not to have sex?" Those are the words of Satan. "Did God really say…?"
In Deuteronomy 22:21 it actually says that if you could not prove a woman was a virgin she could be stoned. Now praise God for Jesus and the new covenant and grace. We don't live under that law anymore, but the reason I tell you that is you have to understand the context the Scriptures were written into. God's line for you is not to not have sex. It's so far before that: that you would flee sexual immorality. That's 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.
"Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."
If you are running toward Jesus, you are running from sexual immorality. It's not, "How close can I get?" It's not make-out sessions or anything but sex or what kind of sex is okay. None of it's okay. Sexting, texting…none of it is okay. You're so far from where God's ideals are. Every one of those actions is hurting you, costing you. You're like, "Man, that's crazy. That's so far from the world." You'd better believe it is.
Keep taking advice from the world. Do you want to get married five times? Keep taking advice from the world. Do you want the world's track record? Keep going. Would you just lean in a little bit and listen and consider what you're doing? Consider who you're taking advice from. Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."
Now listen. I've given this message and I've talked to people and I've had them weep up here. Again, I want to remind you of my story. I know you feel condemnation with those words. You can restart tonight. That's the beauty of the gospel. "God is no longer counting their sins against them." "He has removed their transgressions as far as the east is from the west." These are all Scriptures I'm giving you right now.
You can go right now and say, "God, I've been a fool. I've done some really stupid things, and I want to start over. I believe your Spirit is powerful. Can you help me start over? Satan is a liar and he's telling me that I'm guilty right now. Can you set me free from that? Can you help me stop feeding the desires of my stomach and begin to flee sexual immorality?" What is sexual immorality? How do you know when you're moving toward…? When your body begins to prepare itself for sex outside of marriage, because that's what it is outside of marriage: sex.
There are some of you here tonight, some of you listening to this… All you will ever have is sex, but when God talks about intimacy within marriage, that's not the word he uses. It's so much better than that. That's the world's word. He has something for you so much better than that, and it comes with work. Any 5-year-old can paint a picture, but it isn't going to be pretty. Any 2‑year‑old can strum a guitar, but it isn't going to be pretty. In the same way, I can plant flowers in dirt, but they aren't going to be pretty.
To make things pretty takes work, discipline, effort, patience, perseverance, not doing what you want to do, seeking God's desire. How profound is this? Practicing purity is equipping you for real marital intimacy, and practicing sex is preparing you for disaster. We've trained for sex outside of marriage. The person who's training with sex outside of marriage will never be satisfied by sex inside of marriage, because they're two different things.
If you've trained for sex outside of marriage, you will not be satisfied by intimacy inside of marriage, because you have fed yourself for an appetite of something else. They are different. That comes from a man who has had both. If you're looking at porn, it's a university for how to be a miserable lover. Pornography is a classroom to teach you how to be a miserable lover. You need to stop now.
Consider with me for just a moment how brilliant God's design is. God gifted this act to us. He made the parts and made them work the way they do. He made them male and female, and he put the reproductive organs inside of her so she can grow human life, and then as a bonus and a gift to us he made it feel good. Thank you, God. The masterful designer. The Scripture says, "The two become one flesh, and what God has brought together let man not separate." They can't be separated, because they've bonded.
Modern science says that when an adult experiences sex, more specifically orgasm, their brain is creating a synapse that bonds them to their surroundings. Let me say that again in case you missed it. Whenever a human being experiences orgasm, by themselves or with someone else, their brain is literally sticking themselves to an object. They are bonding to that object. Their body is training them, "Hey, that thing you just saw that you just looked at made you feel really, really good. Pursue it."
You can imagine that if that only happens between a man and a woman for a lifetime, when her body changes shape and ages, she remains the epitome of attraction to him. How beautiful is God's design. But when you take that design and bond to two-dimensional images and computers and magazines and things and Instagram and anything else you would look at, you're not growing in addiction to sex; you're growing in addiction to two-dimensional, counterfeit images, things that will never satisfy you in a marriage relationship. It just won't happen.
The vast majority of you… I'm talking to you. You're like, "He's talking to me." I'm talking to you. You have to stop. You have to stop now! Behind you. Never again. Whatever it takes. Remove access. Get rid of the phone. Get rid of the computer. Do anything, because it's killing you and it's killing your marriage. I'm not playing.
I'm so sick and tired of having someone stand in front of me, weeping from the devastation. "Why didn't you tell me?" I told you. I've been there, and you're going to be there unless you stop. You can choose today or next week, but all you did between now and next week is fed an appetite so that next week it's going to be more difficult. That's it. Or right now you say, "I'm done." You could text somebody right now and say, "Hey, I'm an addict. I need help."
There are some of you in relationships, and you're sitting beside each other, and you know you're sexually active, and this is extremely awkward. Thank you for trusting us with your Valentine's Day, and stop. Love each other so much that you say, "Hey, I'm going to persevere. I'm going to show you that I only want intimacy within marriage. I care about you that much. We're going to stop."
3._ Practice serving_. Today you can practice serving. "She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again. The servant hurried to meet her and said, 'Please give me a little water from your jar.' 'Drink, my lord,' she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.
After she had given him a drink, she said, 'I'll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.' So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful."
There's something really crazy happening. When we read it like this, we don't realize that this well… I was in Israel and I've seen cisterns like this. There are flights of stairs that she would be going down. She would come and say, "Are you thirsty?" She doesn't just say, "Oh, if you're thirsty."
She says, "Let me get water for your camels too." This is a servant woman. She would go and take these jars down these flights of stairs deep into this cistern, fill them up, come back up, pour them for the camels, then go back down, come back up, and then pour… This was happening. It says he sits back and observes her.
First of all, he goes where women who serve hang out. It's not like a water fountain. They're not there to get water for themselves. They're there to serve others in their family and others around them. There are some practical takeaways for us. If you're looking for a godly woman or a godly man, go where godly women or godly men hang out.
Listen. Just because they're here doesn't mean they're godly. They may have a Bible and have memorized some verses, yet they're just a bad boy looking for a good girl. That's happening right now tonight. Just because they're here doesn't mean they're godly. You're going to have to observe them.
Don't just take that Bible verse at face value. Men, if that's you, if you're here for the wrong reasons, we'll find you. That's all. If you want to meet a bar fly, you go to the bar. If you want to meet a girl who likes to party, you go to the club…and a guy. It goes both ways. If you want to meet a godly man or a godly woman, go where godly men and women hang out.
There's a reason Abraham can send his servant to find a wife for his son. He doesn't need an app or a personality profile or anything. He's just like, "Hey, make sure she loves God and make sure she's kind. Go find her." It's this really practical thing. Go find someone who loves God and see if she'll be a good mom and a good wife. That's what you're looking for. Will she be a good mom? Will she be a good wife? Will he be a good dad and a good husband?
Not does he have a six-pack. That six-pack is going to be practical for about six months, and then it's going to be a novelty, like a worthless commodity. I'm saying that. I love you guys. Please. Who will be a good mom? When she leaves in verse 60, her family actually prays that she would have a lot of children, and then they pray for her children. To be a good mom you have to be a great servant. That's what motherhood is. It's serving a lot.
He's looking for someone who is kind and who serves, so he observes her actions. He's there at the well. He observes her as she's serving. This is so much less awkward than observing her when she's sunbathing or when she's playing volleyball or anything else out there. You want to go and be in an environment where Christians, followers of Christ, are serving, where they're caring for others.
You want to see how people do not just what they feel like doing but push through their own desires to pursue God's desires against what they may feel. They're pursuing their calling and their purpose as a follower of Jesus Christ, that they're actually following Christ. This takes some time. I love the way it describes that he kind of sits back and just watches her. He's not just taking her word for it.
Imagine if Eliezer would have showed up on the scene and said, "Excuse me, ladies. Excuse me, ladies. My master is very wealthy in a faraway land. He has some estates and stuff. He's looking for a wife, but she has to be a servant. Any of you servants?" They're all going to be like, "I am. I'm a servant." He doesn't do that. He doesn't just take their word for it. He says, "Hey, I want to see your track record. I want to see you're not impressed by me. You don't owe me anything." So much when we're dating we're just on this incessant interview and putting our best foot forward and stuff.
Proverbs 31:30 says, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Every single time as I take my girls to school, three days a week, before they get out of my truck they have to say this verse from memory. Three days a week I take them to school. "Girls, tell me Proverbs 31:30." I want them to know charm is deceitful, and I want them to know beauty is fleeting, and I want them to be, above all things, a woman who fears the Lord.
Friends, I'm asking you to serve and observe. I think the reason so many marriages fail today is we're looking at it in regard to, "What can I get from it? What can marriage do for me?" Your number-one job in marriage is to serve. You can write down these verses if you want. Ephesians 5:21-33, Colossians 3:18-19, and 1 Peter 3:1-7 all show God's desire in a marriage relationship, all talk about serving each other. Ephesians 5:21 says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
Let's have some real talk, as if we haven't already. I was talking to Monica, my wife, a couple of weeks ago and I said, "What makes you want to be intimate?" (I told you this was real talk.) As a single person you think, "Well, I know. If you wear that thing and the light hits you just right and you have Boyz II Men on and rose petals." She did not hesitate. She didn't think about it for two seconds. I love her answer. This is so true.
She said, "When you remove responsibilities. During the day, there are three kids tugging at me, and I'm making lunches and cleaning the house and doing this and doing that, and when you come on the scene and you're taking out the trash and helping out, that makes me want you." I will tell you something. She's not alone in that. I've heard from a lot of women and read books on the topic, and they all feel the same way.
It turns out foreplay for them is taking out the trash. It really is. You think, "No, it's not. Not for me." Maybe not on the honeymoon. Maybe not for two months, but I'm telling you, six months in, what you're going to be doing in marriage is a lot of serving each other, so you'd better be really, really, really good at serving people. You can practice that right now. The weight of responsibilities is an enemy to intimacy.
Verse 66: "Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death." The word loved there is interesting. You have two words to choose from in the Hebrew. It could be checed, which is the covenantal love. You might even think that would go there, but the word they chose is ahabah. It means he gave himself to her, like an ongoing, continually sacrificial love. He gave of himself to her.
This is the beginning of them becoming one, starting a family. This is God's brilliant design, that in the family unit there would be a mom and a dad and they would love him and produce offspring who would love him. You think, "Well, what if I didn't have that?" You are in a beautiful place to tell the world how important it is, if you didn't have that, and to make sure that your children have that as best as you can. What a beautiful place that you would be here and hearing this.
God is the God of grace. The Holy Spirit moves in and covers a multitude of wrongs. I praise him that he did in my life, that I've experienced his grace in the most real ways. I think so many of us here this evening view marriage as the capstone and not the cornerstone. Historically speaking, you go 100 years ago and marriage was a cornerstone. You would build your life on top of it. It was this very practical thing.
You were like, "You know what? Life is hard, and I need someone to go through life with me, and I can't have children on my own, and working is hard." There was just this thing that, "It's going to be easier if I can find this other creation, this opposite sex that God created to complement me, so we would go through life and ministry together." It was a cornerstone you'd build your life on.
Now in the twenty-first century we think of it more as a capstone. We have to go out there and make money and become something, and then after we become something we can pursue marriage. It's like the cherry on top, because that's the only time we're going to be able to afford a wedding. That's broken. Stop taking marriage advice from the world. You're missing out on one of God's beautiful blessings of marriage.
I know some of you hear that and feel so helpless. I'm praying that the opposite sex would hear it too. I asked a friend of mine who was actually on The Bachelor… He's one of those two still together. I asked him some questions this week. I've been impressed with his authenticity, and I know he seeks to honor Christ and is imperfect like all of us. I said, "Where do you feel like we miss it in the dating culture of 2017?"
Sean said, "I feel like so many people, particularly women, have this bachelor or fairy-tale view of dating and marriage. In other words, they're waiting to find Mr. or Mrs. Right, and when they do, they'll know it, fall in love, and spend the rest of their life with that euphoric feeling. The truth is God never tells us that there's one right person for us. God shows us how to love, how to treat our spouse, and how to run our household. I think many who are dating need to realize that their fairy-tale ending will only be achieved after putting in the work and following God's desire."
I said, "What has been the biggest surprise in marriage?" He said, "The biggest surprise in marriage has been just how much work it's taken." Unprompted. "I always heard that marriage was work, but I didn't truly understand the challenges that come from melding two worlds together. We were raised differently, handled conflict differently, had differing political views at times, had different ways of handling finance. The list goes on and on. Together we have to learn how to meld those two ways of living together."
Yes, you do. It takes work. Two selfish people coming together, committing to being unselfish toward one another. That's what marriage is. It takes work. You can start right now. Even if you don't have a prospect, you can start right now. You have a role to play in marriage. You can even consider, "What are the qualities and skills that would make me a good husband or a good wife, and how can I go and pursue them?"
We're all becoming something, and good wives and good husbands don't just happen. They start when you're 18, when you're 22, when you're 35. That you would pray, that you would pursue purity, and that you would practice serving. That is my prayer for you: that you would pray, that you would relentlessly pursue purity, and that now you would begin serving and observing as you consider who you might spend the rest of your life with.
This is a rose. Today, this is how we show people we love them, particularly on this day. What I want you to know about this rose, as beautiful as it is (and it's beautiful), is it's dying and there's nothing you can do to make it stay beautiful. There's nothing you can do to preserve this rose, to give life back into it. From the moment it was cut from the source it was dying.
Friends, if I have any message for you this evening it's that your relationships are the exact same way. All of those Instagram photos, all of those cute couples, if they have removed themselves from the source of love, those relationships are dying and will soon be dead, and really, the sooner the better, because all that's going to happen between now and then is a lot of heartache.
It doesn't have to be that way. You can work. Even now, you can begin to prepare the flower bed. You can begin to tend the garden. You can pray and ask for God's desires. You can relentlessly pursue purity. You can take out all of the weeds. You can practice serving, putting in the work that I'm telling you and anybody else who's married will tell you marriage is. It's a lot of work. It's beautiful. It's a gift. It's a blessing. If you want it, I want it for you, but you can't just go into it like it's this novel idea or you will be like the 50-plus percent who fail miserably.
If you're here and you're hearing this, I hope you want a beautiful marriage. Jesus says, "I am the vine; they are the branches." If you're going to bear fruit, if there's going to be something that's beautiful, you must remain in him. You must stay connected to the source. The Scripture says that God is love. You cannot love in the way it was meant, you cannot ahabah apart from God. My prayer is that you wouldn't even try. Let me pray for you now.
Lord, I pray that we would never see a rose the same, that we would know it's just a dying expression of love, and that we would learn to love in a different way, not just sitting and waiting and hoping to be chosen but, Father, preparing and working and pursuing and praying and practicing. Father, that we would seek you and that we would find you and that we would stay connected to the source. In Jesus' name, amen.
I love you guys. I have seen preachers kind of lose it on stage, like lose control and start yelling and stuff. I promised I'd never do that. I'm afraid I did that. Please forgive me, especially if that would hinder your view of Jesus or your view of the church in any way. That comes from a place of internal pain, of the own devastation I brought on my life and my wife's life through my own pursuit of pornography and sexual addiction.
I have found true freedom. Not that it's not a struggle today in the sense that I'm not tempted to click on hashtags or things on social media, sometimes click on a thumbnail, like, "Is that what I think it is?" I have certainly done that in the past 10 years, but in regard to pursuing pornography, like searching out for a naked picture, I've been free. I have found freedom, and I say that to offer you hope, that you would have hope in that.
I've talked about this enough to know that what's going to happen tomorrow is that I'm going to get dozens of emails, and they'll read something like this: "Hey, my story is similar to yours, and I need help." I'm grateful that you'd reach out to me, but I'm going to tell you now… In case that's you, I'm going to tell you what I'd say then. I'm going to tell you right now. You need to find some believers in your life. You need to reach out to them.
You need to confess in a James 5:16 way the last time you looked at porn and/or masturbated. You need to tell them, "Hey, I want to be set free from this. Would you please keep asking me how I'm doing? In fact, would you meet with me weekly so we can talk through this and experience community and that I can find freedom? Would you hold me accountable to praying for myself, for my own victory in this struggle, and would you help me to remove access to the ways that I access that filth? Would you help me?"
That is working in the dirt. That is pulling out the weeds. That's bringing in the organic soil, the good stuff, so that you might see something beautiful bloom forth. Do not leave this place overridden by guilt. Guilt is from the Enemy. Guilt is Satan's language. Christ has set you free. He has paid for it. God does not see a debt he paid for. You can be free from debt and the penalty of sin and one day the presence of sin in his presence.