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He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 1

God hates divorce because of the incredible destruction and pain that ripple out from it. God created marriage so that we can bless, serve, and delight in one another, not just be "undivorced". Through this message, discover how God created marriage so that mankind could mirror His image, produce and raise descendants who are righteous and God-loving, and reign over the earth and over a culture that often keep us from holiness.

Todd WagnerNov 9, 2003
Genesis 1

Messages In This Series (10)
He said: 'Return to Me.' We say: 'How'
Todd WagnerDec 21, 2003
He said: 'You are wearing me out.' We say: 'How'
Todd WagnerDec 14, 2003
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 5
Todd WagnerDec 7, 2003
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 4
Todd WagnerNov 30, 2003
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 3
Todd WagnerNov 23, 2003
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 2
Todd WagnerNov 16, 2003
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 1
Todd WagnerNov 9, 2003
He said: 'You have turned away.' We say: 'How?'
Todd WagnerOct 26, 2003
He said: 'You've despised me.' We say: 'How?'
Todd WagnerOct 19, 2003
He said: 'I've loved you.' We say: 'How?'
Todd WagnerOct 12, 2003

We're in the middle of a fun little series from the book of Malachi. This book talks about how God is efforting to get it right with the people he called to live in relationship with him, and they can't get it right. It's almost like God is from Mars and those folks are from Venus, or we're from Venus sometimes. We try to fit God into our little boxes and make him relate to us in a different way than he wants to relate to us and, frankly, in a different way than we really want to relate to one another.

The next section of this little book of Malachi we desire to take you into has a section in it that, even though you probably haven't ever efforted to memorize a piece of the book, you have certainly heard communicated to you and probably understand. It's a section where it says, "God hates divorce." It's one of the most often quoted places in the Old Testament when folks talk about how God wants things to unfold.

Let me just make it very clear to you. First of all, we want to acknowledge that there are some folks in this room who have already been through this painful process called divorce. Malachi doesn't say God hates those who have divorced. God doesn't hate divorcees; God hates divorce. Even though we want to be sensitive to those of you who have been through this hateful thing, we cannot not teach the positive because we're fearful of reminding some folks of the negative. We have to talk about what God wants in marriage.

You're going to find out primarily that the reason God hates divorce is because of the pain and suffering and destruction that ripples out from it. If it was just as simple as a couple no longer cohabitating, it wouldn't be that big of an issue, but we know better, don't we? We know its effects on society, on children, and on us ourselves. God hates divorce, but you need to know God hates divorce because of what it does to people he loves.

He doesn't want to see those he created to live in a life that he would define by blessing, a life that is defined by completeness and companionship and community and care, to be ravaged by what isolation ultimately brings, which is separation, destruction, and betrayal. God hates other things we do to one another that damage relationships. He hates gossip. He hates anger. He hates pride. He hates lust. He hates covetousness, just like he hates divorce.

The Scripture doesn't say God hates only this. God hates anything which ultimately mars his name and hurts his people, and that shouldn't surprise us if he's a God of love. What we're going to do before we dive into this little section of Malachi is I'm going to give you two, maybe three weeks of prep so that when I say to you what God says in Malachi you're going to go, "Well, of course he hates it. Why wouldn't he hate it, because he loves us?"

What we're going to do is embark on this little segment within Malachi, this parenthesis which will give us the ability to communicate the way we need to in three weeks or so by talking about why marriage is a big deal. And it's a big deal. What I'm going to do with you today is walk you through a fraction of a time that I spend with every couple I've ever married. This is the last conversation I have with every couple I ever marry.

I let them know, "When you go forward on that day and stand before your family and friends and ask me, as a man who represents the Scriptures and a guy who is going to talk about your commitment to Jesus Christ… I don't want to see you in one year, five years, ten years, fifteen, or fifty tell me how tough it is. I'm going to tell you something. It's going to really hurt. Marriage is difficult. So when you move from the engagement ring to the wedding ring to suffering, don't show back up in my office, because it's a much bigger deal than your feeling for one another."

This little message I'm about to communicate is about as relevant a message to us… I've talked about how Malachi is relevant to the church today, and it is, but when you talk about something we need to hear, we need to have a really high view of marriage. We need to re-up our ante in our commitments to our covenant relationships. Now you might be here and you go, "Now wait a minute. I'm already out of marriage. I was in one and it broke up in this divorce. This series has come in three, four, five, ten years, one relationship too late for me."

I'm going to tell you in the midst of this what to do if you've been through a divorce that I think will honor God and bring healing to your heart and those who are around you. I'm going to tell you in this little mini-series, in this little time we're going to spend, what to do if you're not yet in a marriage, if you're a single individual. This is an incredibly useful three or four weeks for you.

We're also going to spend some time to talk about if you are in a marriage what God wants that marriage to be and to move it out of that stagnation of mutual toleration that maybe hasn't ended up in isolation with two attorneys representing you before a bench, but that's not the goal. The goal is not that you wouldn't commit adultery. The goal is not that you wouldn't divorce. The goal is that you would bless each other, serve each other, honor each other, experience oneness with one another, glorify God in intimacy, and have delight in it. We need to move toward that and not just in having the same tax return.

It's just as obnoxious to God sometimes to live in the appearance of togetherness when there's just as much isolation, though you haven't filed. God calls us to oneness, not away from divorce. Why is marriage such a big deal? Why does it matter to him? What I want to do is show you theologically, like I do my friends who I marry, why marriage matters so much to God and why there's so much attack against it.

I'm going to tell you at the end of today's message, as I get three-fifths of the way through this little thing, I'm an idiot, and if I was an enemy of God I'd go right after marriage, and here's why. So let's start. Turn with me to Genesis, because that's where God first starts to speak about this relationship he calls us into. You're going to find out that marriage is unique in all of creation in its ability to reveal to us the complexity of the person of God. Now what do I mean by that? This is what it says.

Look at Genesis 1:26-27. "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…'" Notice there the plurality of the Godhead that is referred to. "'…and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

Now a couple of very interesting things right here. First of all, when God made us, in the midst of creation what he does is he pauses and says, "There's something very special I'm now going to make in creation, and unlike anything else in all of creation, I'm going to instill my image in him." I say him because that is, if you will, the gender of the noun, but that gender, which is humankind, which is adam, is not male.

The Hebrew word in verse 26 where it says, "Let us make adam…" We say Adam. "Let us make humankind in our image." In the image of God he created humankind. Let me say it very clearly at the beginning. If you are a male and in this room today, you are made in the image of God. If you are a female in this room today, you are made in the image of God. You are no less valuable to him. You are equal as an heir in all of eternity with any male who sits in this room. You are just as valued by God, just as significant to his eternal purposes.

When he gets down there toward the end of verse 27, it says, "God created adam in his own image, in the image of God he created adam (humanity)." Male and female make up humanity. What he's saying is all of us, no matter our gender, are individuals who are part of God's creation in his image, but there is something unique about male and female together that replicates God like nothing else in all of creation.

In fact, if you read your Bible, you don't have to go to page 3 to find a contradiction. Did you know that? Genesis 1 tells the story of creation in a chronological way. If you get to Genesis 2, you'll find out that the order is not the same. It looks like he makes man, then he makes animals, and then he makes women. Why? Because God is retelling the creation account with an emphasis on that which is central to his creation.

He's trying to communicate, "I'm going to retell the creation story, and I'm not going to be worried about order. I'm going to tell it thematically. I'm going to focus on how I made woman, how I brought man and woman together, and what the purpose is of me making them the way I did, bringing them together in their specific beauty the way I did for the purpose of mirroring my image like nothing else in all of creation."

There are a lot of different analogies that are given to try and describe who God is, but there are none that fit in God's intended created order like marriage. God is triune, or he's a trinity. That word trinity doesn't appear in your Bible. If a Jehovah's Witness knocks on your door, they would delight in telling you that. Of course it doesn't appear in the Bible, but the description of that which we use to describe this concept as three in one is where the idea of Trinity comes. It is clearly in your Scripture.

What do I mean by that? This is what I mean. If you'll understand that the Bible teaches this… I have a diagram to help you. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father. They are each three distinct, individual persons, all which exist eternally. All individually have in their nature the eternality and omnipotence and omniscience, and everything that is God dwells completely in them, yet God is not defined completely by the Father, completely by the Son, or completely by the Spirit.

He has not said just that the Father is God or just that Jesus is God or just that the Spirit is God. He said God is all three of these, yet each of these three are not each other. That is a very complex idea, but it's what the Scriptures teach. God says, "Don't try and take my infinite being and dump it into your finite mind and think you can get it. It doesn't fit there. I'm going to tell you how it is, and this is one of the things you're going to just have to take."

Billy Graham is the one who said to try and explain the Trinity will cost you your mind, but to deny the Trinity will cost you your soul. There is a central essence to the person of God which is essential to our being able to live in relationship with him. By the way, it should encourage us that in who God has revealed himself to be, the attributes of love, submission, community, and completion are all eternally there.

These are not the highest metaphysical ideas of humankind. They are eternally existent attributes of God and in relationship with the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Notice that within the Trinity there is also a hierarchy of relationship. Just because there are specific roles in this hierarchy does not mean that one is ultimately more God than another. This is very significant to where I'm headed with marriage.

In John, Jesus is quoted as saying, "The Father is greater than I." What does he mean by that? Does that mean the Father is more God than Jesus is? No, it doesn't mean that, and to say that and believe that makes you a heretic theologically in much the same way that those who say the reason the woman does not have a specific role in marriage is because she's less than the man are heretics in anthropological circles.

What Jesus is saying is "My function in revealing and accomplishing our purposes is going to be subordinate to the will of the Father. I do nothing except by the Father's will." You'll find out later the Spirit does nothing except that which exalts the Son. You'll also find out that the Father lives to exalt the Son and ultimately give him the name above all names, so at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess.

The Godhead, though there are specific roles and even submission inside those roles, they are all equal, all eternally part of who God is, yet there is no sense of quibbling and quarrelling about who does what in revealing and accomplishing God's eternal program and plan. How can that be? Because it is ultimately defined by all that is good, all that is right, all that is loving, all that is holy, all that is pure, all that is love. All that should be existent with God is revealed in the God of the Scriptures that we delight in.

There are a lot of analogies folks have thrown out for this. Some folks who try to teach this to kids have used an apple. "Well, see, the apple is the apple, but there's the skin, there is the fruit, and there is the seed. Each of them are a part of the apple; none of them are all the apple, but, if you will, the seed is probably the father that gives the fruit and the substance that is the son, and the skin is what wraps it all together and holds it and makes it work. The apple is God."

Well, there's some merit to that. Not much. It is a very incomplete analogy. Probably the most famous one is when folks try and describe the Trinity with what's called H2O, two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule, which we commonly know as water. Water, depending on its circumstance or climate, is either a liquid, which is what we drink; gas, which is the steam that comes up when water reaches a certain level; and a solid, which is what we put in our little iced tea to make it ice cold.

They say that basically H2O is always there in each of these, but depending upon the need of the moment, it takes on a different form. That leads to an error which is theologically called modalism, which is this concept. You'll find it in what's called oneness Pentecostalism. You can discard this as soon as I say it. When somebody tries to explain to you that God kind of morphs into whatever he needs to morph into to accomplish in that moment…

At creation, he was this wizard pulling levers, speaking things into existence, probably a flowing, strong being, you would imagine him, with a beard and a shepherd's crook and lightning bolts and power. That's the Father, but later he needed to be a loving entity who walked here on earth and brought children back from death and gave sight to blind people and allowed the lame to walk and talked of redemption and mercy and love, and that's Jesus.

Now, today, he's this kind of force that works out there that is the Spirit who we really can't know but need to know and lives in us and works through us, and all that different stuff. God just takes on whatever form he needs to, and one day he'll morph back into this Father who we'll live with for eternity. That is error. The Son, the Father, and the Spirit are individually distinct persons who are one in essence and relate to each other in a mutually submissive, God-glorifying, functional way.

Do you want to know the one picture God gave us to reveal his person, the complexity that is mirroring his image? Guess what it is. A place where there is not three who dwell as one but two, where male shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall be one and relate to each other in specific roles. When you see marriage operate the way it should operate, it is a marvel. It speaks of divinity. It speaks of wonder.

Most of us don't understand the concept of the Trinity even by a fraction because we've never seen this kind of love in the context of a marital relationship. We don't ever see a man who is so focused on doing nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind delighting in doing what is best for his wife, who has in himself the same attitude which is in Christ Jesus, who, going back to the Scripture, doesn't merely look out for his own personal interests but for the interests of others, and the woman responds to that love.

A woman responds to this man who cherishes her, honors her, values her, seeks to exalt her and to allow her to be all God created her to be, to protect her, to empower her, to serve her, to give her the name above all names, to cherish her and purify her and complete her and make her exalted among all of God's creation and who delights, then, in building up this protector/provider God gave her. They love each other and don't, like I said, look out for number one, but serve one another and care for one another and shepherd those who are in their midst and delight in glorifying each other for the sake of their common good.

Most of us go, "I've never seen that kind. It's always haggling and wrestling." When it says that two become one flesh, what typically happens is for the first five to ten years of marriage they fight over whose flesh they're going to become. "How are we going to spend Sundays? Okay, I'll go to church with you. Your flesh gets Sunday mornings. My flesh gets Sunday afternoons, and don't interrupt me from 12:00 to 6:00, really 6:30 once you throw in the commercials. Then we'll have dinner, and you'll serve it this way."

You fight over whose flesh you're going to become with your Christmas traditions and whose flesh you're going to become over where you squeeze the toothpaste and whose flesh you're going to become about whether the toilet paper roll goes over or under, and all of those other crazy things. Most folks haggle and go all through life debating about whose flesh is going to win in a specific situation.

God says, "That's not the idea at all." It's a new entity where love, care, commitment, grace, acceptance, completion, mutual exaltation, mutual admiration, and mutual submission define it." He says in the marvel that is marriage, you will have folks go, "How can those two be so committed to one another with such harmony and love and life?" and you should say, "It's because it's a shadow of the God who created it."

When I tell my kids about the Trinity and how three persons can exist together in perfect love, they should go, "Do you mean like you and Mom?" Do you have that happen in your home when you're trying to explain the Trinity? Do you have to look outside your house? Do you have to go to the refrigerator and get ice out and boil water on the stove and throw it from the faucet and go, "This is as good as we're going to do in this household to describe it to you"?

God says that's a tragedy. What he wants is us to be able to go, "You see your mother and me. We are a very tainted picture of what God intended, but we are yoked in this together, and do you know what makes me delight? Exalting and loving your mom." Your kids should nod their head and go, "I see that." "You know that Daddy has a different role than Mom. God made us each to have specific roles. My role is in the head, and I get to lead our family.

There's no such thing as a 50/50 relationship anywhere in life. There are always rules. There's always hierarchy. There's always somebody who ultimately has to make the call on certain things, but you know as the leader of this home I don't ever do anything without fully involving your mother. I don't step over her, and I don't push her to places she doesn't want to go just because it makes sense to me.

Though I'm physically stronger, though God has ordained me to have some leadership here, I think and hope that you see that my leadership is to exalt and care for your mother and make sure that, more than anything, I'm a steward of her life. Even though your mother is in this role to complete me and submit underneath my leadership, I hope you see her not as a passive woman who's just barefoot and pregnant." In my house it's more of a problem to convince them that she's not typically that.

"That she's not just in the kitchen there for me to make my meals when I want. Your mom is a part of this team, and I'll tell you something. If this team is working well, it's because your mom is contributing in major, major ways. She has a role here, and her role is to make this thing work. She is not just some little lamb that rolls over for me." In fact, next week, that's what we're going to focus on: another attribute of what marriage is supposed to accomplish.

"I seek to make your mom the most respected woman on the face of this earth by the way I care for her, and that's why she delights so much in making sure that I'm strong and prevail, because she knows that's my job for her." Kids should go, "Yeah." I go, "You know what? That's a tainted picture, but that's what the Godhead is like. The Father does that for the Son. The Son seeks to do what the Father wants, because the Father's best interests are in the Son. The Spirit seeks to exalt the Son so the Father's purposes will reign in all eternity and God can delight in who he is."

Let me show you a really amazing thing. I told you that in all of intended creation God only has one picture that best describes the Trinity, but I found another one. We talk a lot about what man intends for evil God can use for good. Here's one where what sin has brought into the world… Things are not as they should be. This is a broken, fallen world, and sometimes things happen that cause us to go, "That's not how it should be. There's some tragedy in the midst of that." But sometimes, even in the midst of tragedy, you can see truths about God still come shining through in grace. Let me show you this.

There has been a lot in the news lately about conjoined twins in Dallas. We have these two sweet little Egyptian children whose heads are joined and how they've been separated for the first time and get to see each other. In 1996, I picked up a Life magazine that talks about a couple of sweet little girls. There they are. That's sweet little Abigail and sweet little Brittany Hensel. I want to read you the story, but let me first show you some other pictures.

Isn't that a great picture? When they're cold they just hold each other, because one can't be warm without the other one being warm. Then look at this. I'm going to read you a little bit later about how they have two different spinal columns that meet at the pelvis with each of them controlling their own side independently, but they walk somehow in a way that causes science a lot of confusion. They don't understand it. They don't get it.

Sweet little Abigail on our left as we look at them is putting her hand over Brittany's heart. Then look at this. So amazing is their ability to work together that they can ride a bike, though if you tickle Abby's ribs on the left side, Brittany can't feel it. In a three-legged race, when I have the leg I can feel strapped to yours and I have one I can't feel, I can hardly walk with you that way, yet these two girls can ride a bike.

We go back to them on the cover. Let me just read you some stuff. Let me show you this picture, because next to marriage, in a way that God didn't intend, but in his grace he's going to use this sense of fallenness for good… This is what it says. "Abigail and Brittany Hensel are conjoined twins, products of a single egg that, for some unknown reason, failed to divide fully into identical twins."

It says, "Each of the Hensel twins has their own heart and stomach, but together they rely on three lungs. Their spines join at the pelvis, and below the waist they have the organs of a single person. Each controls the limbs and trunk and feels sensations on their own side exclusively. If you tickle the ribs on the right, only Abby giggles, yet the girls manage (no one knows exactly how) to move as one being."

In other words, Abby on the right (left as you look at her)… When you tickle her ribs, only she laughs. Brittany can't experience that, which means when Abby moves her right arm, Brittany doesn't know that right arm is being moved. When that right leg moves, Brittany doesn't know that right leg is being moved, yet somehow these girls have learned, and no one knows completely how, to walk together.

Listen to this. It goes on. When I read this, I thought, "This is a picture." It says, "It can't be easy for them to get along. They have very different temperaments, and the fact that that is true has been apparent since infancy. Abby has a voracious appetite; Brittany finds food boring. Abby tends to be the leader; Brittany is more reflective and academically quicker.

Sometimes they argue. Once Brittany hit Abby in the head with a rock, but they have obvious incentives to arrive at consensus. When they can't agree on where to go (a rare occurrence), they literally cannot move. When one misbehaves, they're both sent to their room. No conjoined twins have ever been successfully separated after early childhood." That's why you see what's happening in our news around Dallas happening at that age.

It adds, "Neither Hensel girl would come away from surgery with sufficient body mass to support life or the prosthetics necessary to give them life." Do you start to see the picture? What God has joined together, if man tries to take it apart, there's going to be devastation and loss. There's going to be tragedy and death. Then it says, "Bound to each other but defiantly independent, these little girls are a living textbook on camaraderie and compromise, on dignity and flexibility, on the subtler varieties of freedom." It says, "And together they have volumes to teach us about love."

Let me tell you something. There's a picture of the Trinity: two persons who are one in essence, who work together even though there is a leadership even within that conjoined set of sweet individual persons where they work together and reach mutual consensus for obviously mutually benefiting reasons. Do you know that marriage is to be that picture? Just like it says. No one understands how they walk together in such love. That's what your lost friends and neighbors, those who are far from God, should say about your marriage. "How do they love one another?"

Do you know that's what they should say about our friendships, about this body? But they ought to scream it about your marriage. When you have folks who say they know the love of God and walk with God and the Spirit of God, the person of God, lives in them, yet they rip themselves apart, the Scripture says they must not be his disciples or their God must not be God (John 13 and John 17).

When you tear apart marriage, you tear apart our voice. That is why you intuitively know that whatever I do here, however I use my gifts, if I don't love my wife, if my wife scoffs at me, if my wife can't stand hearing me talk about Christ, if my home disintegrates, you would not have me stand here long, because I'd lose my authority. If I can't love those closest to me, then I can't speak about regenerating love. Marriage is to mirror God's image.

Secondly, back to Genesis. Verse 28 says, "God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…'" This is typically where the guy goes, "That's why I'm here, Pastor. We're going to give it the old college try." What I tell them is, "Let me just explain this to you. First of all, this is not why you're getting married." If you're getting married for sex, you're going to be highly disappointed. Men, you need to know marriage is not one big sexual bonanza. Girls, you need to know it's not one long meaningful conversation.

If that's why you're in this deal, let's just get it over with right now and look for some other activity. You're in this thing, God says, to be fruitful and multiply. What he wants you to understand by that is that in the midst of us creating people by the genius and miracle of God, there's more to it than just biological activity. Let me show you this. We know this. In Genesis 1:24-25… God wouldn't want us to miss this. Just three verses before, he says, "This is what it means to multiply." Five times in two verses he says this:

"Then God said, 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind'; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good."

So what's the law of creation? That you make things after your kind, which is to say when God gave Adam and Eve that command to be fruitful and multiply, how did he want them to do it? After their kind. It's really sweet in this article. The mom of these two twins didn't realize what was happening when they were born. They didn't know from the sonograms. They couldn't tell. Even though they thought they saw two heartbeats sometimes, it was a strange thing. They didn't really see it, because at the time technology didn't enable it.

When these kids were born, she heard somebody say "Siamese," and she thought, "I gave birth to cats?" Obviously, she didn't give birth to cats. She can't. She's always going to give birth to adams, humans. But God says, "That's not what I'm after. What I'm after is you to give birth to folks after your kind." What kind of people (this is key) were Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2? They were individuals who loved God, had faith in God, benefited from a relationship with God, walked with God, dwelt with God, honored God, stewarded their leadership over God's creation in a way that would speak to his rule over the sovereign universe.

They understood him, they enjoyed him, and they proclaimed him over all the earth. God said, "That's what I want you to do. I want you to multiply a godly heritage, and as you have biological children, you produce biological children who know me and love me and walk with me."

So, if you are single or if you are married and unable to have biological children, can you fulfill the command of Genesis 1:28? Yes. You don't need to have biological children to be fruitful and multiply. Some of the most effective years of my multiplying myself were as a single man, as I stewarded myself and built into other young men and discipled them and loved them and shepherded them and gave my life to them and encouraged them.

To this day, I marvel at how God has allowed me to exist in areas that I'm not there by the testimony of these guys where they say, "Todd, so much of what I do is impacted by the time you invested in me," just like I say to a number of men who came before me who invested in me, who spiritually reproduced in me after their kind by the grace of God as a disciple of Christ.

That means if you're married and do have kids you can potentially not fulfill this command, although if you are a godless individual who lives in rebellion against him, who doesn't walk with him in humility, chances are you're going to disciple somebody for two decades on how to live the exact same way, and you will reproduce after your kind, but not in the way God intended. You will be like the Pharisees to whom Jesus said, "Yeah, you reproduce. You go and gain people to walk in your ways, and when you do, you produce twice the sons of hell that you are."

That's exactly what happens when you get a young man who was raised in a home filled with hate who views women as objects of men's pleasure and receivers of their aggression. That child learns that women are there to be abused and spoken to and respond to conflict in a certain way, and they go out and look for other women they can treat that way, and they train other women to act that way. They tell them, "This is the way my mama responded to my daddy, and it's the way you're going to respond to me."

Or they have a certain view of a certain ethnicity because they grew up in a home that fostered that rebellious view that certain individuals who have a certain outward appearance are more valuable than others, and they reproduce after their kind, and there is devastation and heartache and absolute breakdown that occurs. What God says is, "Do you want to know what I want you to do? I want you to reproduce a string of godly descendants," through which, you'll find out later, he even intends that evil will one day be defeated that will be introduced by this couple that did not do what God asked them to do.

God wants us to be fruitful and multiply. I have a book here written in the 1900s. I just found this copy. It's by a guy named A.E. Winship who was a sociology professor in a university back east. It's called the Jukes-Edwards Study . What this guy did is he looked at two different people who had a series of descendants, both of whom biologically reproduced, and this is what he found out in this book.

He found out that Max Jukes, one guy who never knew God, did not walk with God, did not love justice, do kindness, and walk humbly with the Lord was a man who could be qualified as a man of no principles. He married a girl of similar character. Among his known descendants, this guy who lived at the same time as another fellow I'm about to introduce you to…

They found of over 1,200 people they studied, 310 were professional vagrants; 440 were physically wrecked by lives of debauchery and uncleanness, many of them dying in childbirth because no one cared for them; 130 were sent to a penitentiary for an average of 13 years each; 7 of them were murderers; 100 were alcoholics; 60 were habitual thieves; 190 were public prostitutes. Of the 20 who learned a trade, 10 learned that trade in prison. None made a significant contribution to society. On the contrary, it says, they collectively cost the state of New York about $1,000,200 in 1900.

Born about that same time, in the late part of the nineteenth century, was a guy by the name of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards came from a godly family who reproduced after their kind in young Jonathan. You know him as probably the greatest American clergyman who ever lived. Among his descendants, 300 became pastors, missionaries, and theological professors; 100 became college professors; over 100 became lawyers, 30 of them judges; 60 became doctors; 60 became authors of great books that are well known; 14 were presidents of universities.

There were numerous giants in American industry, three were US congressmen, and one was vice president of the United States. One of his descendants pastors a little church in College Station right now that many of you, when you were down there in Aggieland, were consoled at when your Aggies got beat by 77 by a team up north. Dwight Edwards is a descendant of Jonathan and continues to prevail in this legacy of righteousness as men multiply a godly heritage.

What's the point here? Marriage is the primary institution of discipleship and leadership that God has ordained. Catch that. God has said, "I want the marital home to be the primary place where children are raised to walk in righteousness and godliness and Christlikeness." Do you want to teach a child what it means to give all of your resources and make all your life available to him? Then model it for 20 years.

My wife and I are halfway through our discipleship program with my 10-year-old. We have about 10 more years left to totally share with her why we live life the way we live our lives, why we love each other the way we do, why we work through conflict the way we do, why we steward our lives and use our gifts and our resources for his goodness, why we shepherd her the way we do, why I subject myself to the Scriptures the way I do, why I relate to my lost friends and family the way I do, why I purposely invest in other people the way I do.

There is nothing in my life that I don't chase back to my relationship with God in front of my children. When I live contrary to how God would have me live, I sit them down and say, "You need to know something. Your dad has blown it, and this is the consequence that has brought. I need to ask your forgiveness and tell you that to live according to God's will and way is a good thing, and I seek to do that, and when I fail before you I want you to know it." This is the beauty of walking with God.

I want them to leave able to make their own decision as I call them to Christ, evangelize them with everything I have, but let them know that if they choose to walk with God, they will never regret it, that eternal and abundant life starts now in relationship with him. So for 18 years, I'll pour into that sweet little thing, and when I send her off to "Sodom and Gomorrah U," I'll have that missionary ready to go.

She'll be ready to meet that godless professor who tells her that's a child's faith, ready to answer questions about the Scripture, ready to answer questions about Christian worldview, ready to talk about preferences and people and whether they were made that way or what all that means, ready to deal with the resurrection, ready to deal with evolution, ready to deal with those things, and she will understand and can go be a prevailing force of righteousness where she goes.

That's our charge. The job of this church is to support and supplement, but it's in the home that God says it must happen. You can't just have kids and multiply a godly heritage. You have to build into those kids gifts that God wants his children to have.

Last one for today. At the very end of Genesis 1:28 it says, "I don't want you to just be fruitful and multiply; I want you to take that world you live in and subdue it. I want you to rule over that world and everything that moves on the earth. I want you to be sovereign, just like I created you and am sovereign over you and put you on the earth, and you in my image are vice-regents. You reign over that land, that creation the way I rule over all creation, and in doing so, you will be likened unto me, and it will be a picture of my sovereign good rule.

There's nothing on this earth that you are not greater than and rule over. So you can harvest this earth and eat the things that are on the earth as you want to, but know this: you should not plunder and pillage and devastate and rape the land clean for no reason other than it's your wise stewardship of it. Don't worry just about your short time here, but be wise in the way you resource this earth. Take care of it as a loving servant and master over it, just like I do the earth I created, the world I created, the universe I'm sovereign over.

By the way, don't let that earth influence you. Don't let that earth set priorities for you. Don't let that earth and the culture that springs forth from it give you direction on how to live. No. Do you want to know how to live on earth? Then you listen to my Word and let my Word manage you as you manage the world, and don't let the world manage you as you try and compromise with my Word."

Let me show you a really interesting thing. In Genesis, chapter 1, this is the order God created things. God is sovereign over humanity. Within humanity he also has order. He has male. The male role is to be the head. That is not their rank; that is their role. The woman responds to the leadership of the male who is totally vested in her interests and does nothing from selfishness or empty conceit by supporting his leadership but calling him to godly leadership and completing him toward that end, and together they are to rule over the earth. That is God's created order.

In Genesis 1 and 2, that's the way things work. Without looking ahead just yet, if you'll think forward in your mind to Genesis 3, something happened. What happened? A serpent, which is a part of the world or animal kingdom, addressed and gave orders to humanity, but specifically a woman, who gave relationship and orders to, specifically, a man so they would know the difference between good and evil so they could tell God the difference between right and wrong.

What does that sound like? It sounds like an inversion, doesn't it? That's exactly what it is in Genesis 3:1-6. "You don't need to listen to God. God is not in control. We'll just do things down here a little bit differently. You don't need to go to your husband. You don't need to go to a protector. You don't need to work together in completion, and you don't need to work together in love and mutual submission. Why don't you just listen to me? Let's operate in isolation over here. In fact, once you do this, you can lead him to do this, and the two of you together can tell God this is the way things are going to be."

Satan is a liar, and God wants us to experience life. He is a hater of all that is good in life, so what he does is when God says, "This is the way to go," he doesn't take any energy to say, "No, I'd go this way." God says marriage is a gift. "A prudent wife is a gift from the Lord." When I have folks in my office who are talking about their marital struggles, I ask, "What's the problem?" The very first words out of their mouth are typically, "There's the problem, sitting right there across from me, that gift."

If he can make you think that God's greatest gift is your greatest enemy, he has you whipped. Guess what. He is a liar from the beginning. Satan is your Enemy, not your spouse. Now you might say, "That's right, but my spouse is doing an incredibly effective job of channeling the Enemy right now."

Well, all spouses do, including this one, but when my wife loves me enough to go, "You know what, Todd? Right now, I want to make you the enemy…" But my wife is wise enough to know that I'm not the enemy, and she has to call me to hate the Enemy before it destroys that which I love, which is to say win me back to repentance where I would not act in a self-willed, destructive way.

God says, "I'm going to put these things in order," by the way, so he goes back in Genesis 3, and in verse 8 and following he says, "I am still sovereign, but now, because of what you've done, there is friction, conflict, in a relationship between you and me. There's also now not just a separation between God and humanity as a result of sin, but because sin lives in your hearts, there's going to be a war between you two that never existed before.

Now you're going to be ashamed. Now you're going to isolate from each other. Now you're going to hurt each other. Now you're going to try to rule over each other in a way I never intended. Now you're going to rebel against his leadership in a way you never did before, and there's going to be a war with you in the world. That world is going to try and affect you in negative ways. There's no longer a garden. There's no longer prosperity. There's no longer all of those things.

So you're going to bring forth your children with great pain, which is not a reference to the act of childbirth as much as it is your children, because they're going to love sin just like you did, are going to cause pain in your heart, because they're going to rebel against you, just like you rebel against me. There are going to be consequences to sin, and kids are going to get broken and kids are going to suffer and the world is going to hurt them and it's going to cause you pain. You're going to bring forth kids in pain.

By the way, men, it's going to hurt for you too, because the earth is no longer going to produce for you as easily as it did. So now you're going to have to bring forth fruit from that earth with the sweat of your brow. Work is not a curse, but the way you have to work to get what God wants you to have is going to be different than I intended it to be. There is going to be enmity between you and the world, and the world is going to work to destroy your family, not support it the way it did initially when I created it."

There's good news coming to this, folks, but that's the world that existed after Genesis 3, and it's the world that exists today for anybody who has not accepted God's provision to deal with that broken world that reigns against your heart. What God is saying is, "I want you to manage your world, not let your world manage you." That means don't let your world tell you you're only going to be as much of a success as your business is a success.

That means don't let your world tell you that you have to work incredible hours so you can make incredible amounts of money so you can live in that incredible house so you can vacation your incredible way and drive your incredible cars and do your incredible things so you can be incredibly happy. Don't let the world tell you that if you don't have her or that or it you won't make it. Don't let the world tell you that you have to make sure you have a certain view of where life comes from in material possessions or activities.

God says, "Do you know where blessedness comes from?" We did a whole sermon on this this summer in Songs of Summer on Psalm 128, the song of happiness. Go back and listen to that, and listen to what God says. "Do you want to know where a happy home is? Do you want to know where happiness in life is? It comes with a godly man who yokes himself to a godly woman who invest in their children in a godly heritage, and whether there's material prosperity around that or not, it will be well with their soul." God says, "You make sure you invest there."

Our world is not heeding to that advice very well. I have a little deal here from a study the University of Michigan did a number of years ago, where they started talking about how a number of things have changed. They said that free time has decreased by 12 hours a week over the last 16 years, from '81 to '97; playtime has decreased by three hours a week; unstructured outdoor activities fell by 50 percent; household conversations dropped by 100 percent; family mealtime declined dramatically, about 33 percent over the last three decades; vacations decreased by 30 percent; participation in a community of faith decreased by 40 percent.

They're saying because the world is slowly inching in on the home and there's not love and family like there used to be, there is more of other things. This is what it says. They tie it specifically to a lack of time families have together in the evenings. They found that more mealtime at home is the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems.

They found that mealtime was more powerful than time spent in school, time spent studying, time spent at church, time spent playing sports, and doing any other extracurricular activity. They looked at all of the indicators in children who were prospering, and they said the number-one indicator was the amount of time Mama and Daddy spent together with them. They went on to say that regular family meals had more to do with academic success, lower rates of alcohol use, drug use, early sexual behavior, and suicidal risk than anything else.

Guess what. It's what the Bible has been telling us all along. What God is saying to you is, "You get in your home and love your kids, and don't make it somebody else's job. You'll never have the prosperity and peace you're looking for if you don't have that at home, which I've called you to. It's the primary means through which I will be reflected in my rule over creation and you will be blessed." It's rigged.

Do you want your kids to be certain kinds of kids? You're not going to get it, Daddy, by getting them a bigger home. Do you want your wife to share life with you in a way that brings you joy? You're not going to get it by having her drive a different car. I have never had a woman come into my office and say, "Oh yeah, he is so tender toward me. He is loving toward me. He listens to me. He empathizes with me. He understands me. He serves me. He shares in some of the menial tasks around the home. He writes me notes. He cares for me. This man cherishes me and honors me, but I'm leaving that sorry SOB because I drive a Buick."

I've never heard it, but I guarantee you there are all kinds of Lexuses parked outside my office, and they're sitting there with their arms crossed and going, "I cannot take this another day. I don't care where I shop. I don't care where I live. I want out." God is saying, "You're looking for love in all of the wrong places. I want you to experience life, and life is only going to come when you allow your bodies to be vessels for me. Love isn't just something you say at an altar; it's something you do in the way I did it for you."

I don't know where this man falls out, but Rick Reilly wrote this little deal on the back of Sports Illustrated this week that I want to read to you, because there's a guy who right now is in a profession… This profession exalts itself in working 16- to 18-hour days. You watch NFL Today and you'll hear them talk about how Dick Vermeil is there 16 hours a day.

If I saw one story on Jon Gruden… He's taking his team to the Super Bowl because he left his wife and kids alone for nine months out of the year and slept four hours a night at the office so he could watch more film to make his team more grand. I'll tell you, you can have seven Super Bowl rings and kids who are a heartbreak, and you will never have joy. You ask Mr. Johnson, who has three of them.

This is what Rick Reilly says. "What the hell are we going to do with Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops? He's clueless. He's inept—he's two flights and a puddle jumper from ept. Most college football coaches have egos just slightly larger than Boise, Idaho. You couldn't find Stoops' with a magnifying glass and tweezers. The guy drives the preschool carpool every morning. In his Pontiac minivan!

Texas coach Mac Brown has an office big enough to U-turn a Greyhound bus. Stoops' is so small you have to leave to sneeze. Okay, so he's got the Sooners, who beat Colorado [last week, to go] 8-0 and No. 1 in the country again. Look at the lousy example he's setting! Coaches have been known to cheat on their wives, slobber on Sigma Chis, speed-dial strippers. Stoops? He goes to his wife's Mary Kay cosmetics conventions in support of her career.

Coaches are supposed to watch film until 2:00 a.m., sleep on their office couches, and get started again at sunup to prove how much they care. Stoops? He's usually home for dinner. He holds Wednesday-night 'family meetings,' during which the coaches' spouses and their 30 kids turn the football offices into Gymboree. He doesn't start his day until 8:45 in the morning, so his coaches can see their broods off.

On the Thursday before the Oklahoma's 65-13 fricasseeing of Texas in Dallas, Stoops was eating lunch with his first-grade daughter at her school when he noticed that half the kids were missing from the lunchroom." "Where are they?" he asked. "Coach," the teacher responded, "they've already gone to Texas for the football game."

I don't know anything about Bob Stoops. Here's the thing. Whether Bob Stoops knows Christ or not… Folks ask me this question a lot. "Todd, how come so many nonbelieving marriages I know are doing better than people of believing marriages?" Answer: because there are a lot of nonbelievers who live according to biblical principles more than believers do. When you walk in obedience, there is a blessing to it. It won't win you eternity, but it is a fact when you live according to God's will and way there is a blessing in it.

Bob Stoops, if he's living half as much as that article indicates he is investing in his family, is going to be one happy man as he gets older, and all of those alumni who have moved on to another coach who's bringing them another championship… There are going to be kids by his bed the way he was by his Daddy's bed, which is what he says is the reason he's motivated to love his kids his way, because his Daddy was a coach who used to leave his little high school and come watch film on the refrigerator door at home so he could be with his two boys.

He said, "I don't ever want to be anything else." It has been well said that no man will ever rise above the opinion of his children, and that is so. You manage your world, men, and don't let your world manage you. Don't buy the lie. Now I'm not, like I said, a genius, but if I knew that marriage, among other things, was God's means to mirror his image to a lost and watching world so they could understand the complexity of who he is in all of creation…

If it was his means to multiply a godly heritage through which evil would one day be brought subject to his sovereignty, defeated, and eliminated, if I knew marriage was his means through which this world could be brought to order in a way that would bring blessing to his creation, I would fight against it with everything I had if I was his enemy, and that's exactly what is going on.

So when I tell you in a couple of weeks that God hates divorce, do you know what you ought to say? "Well, who doesn't? Of course. Why wouldn't we?" I'm going to say that the call on this little series we're going to do is not just to wag our fingers and say, "Don't you do it." Our call is not to not divorce.

Our call is to let God have us experience in marriage all that he wants us to experience in marriage and not to move into a relationship because it feels right or she looks good or we think it'll be fun but because we're wiling to say, "God, I'm going to serve you in this way. I'm going to mirror your image and multiply a godly heritage through it. Whether we have biological children or not, we're going to invest together for eternity.

We're going to manage our world according to your Scripture, and there's going to be blessing that flows from it. We're going to be a body that is going to ripple out through culture, saying God had it rigged all along, and we will not budge. We will not compromise. Our goal is not to not commit adultery and not to not get divorced, but our goal is to be living in marriage the way God intends us to, and it is good and well with us when we do."

Do you see why this is a big deal? The Scriptures want you to know when you think of love, when you think of marriage, don't think of it as something you say at an altar; think of it as something you do. It's not an adjective that describes how you feel; it is a verb that describes how you will live in giving your life for another, even as God gave his life for us as sinners for his glory and our good.

Father, I pray for my friends. I pray for me. I pray that we would, again, be absolutely humbled at your grace, that though we have not lived with this mindset in marriage, you've tolerated much of our compromise. Today now you call us back to what your view of marriage really is, just the first part of it even. We see what's at risk here.

We see that people being able to understand who you are is at risk when we don't live the way you want us and called us to live, and we see that when we don't live the way you want us to live, the lack of oneness you want us to have as we serve and love one another as people who independently seek strength from you, it brings devastation to our home and a lack of peace where we want peace most.

There are all kinds of reasons to want to walk with you, because not only would more folks know who you are but in such a consistent way, consistent with your person, when we worship you, do what you ask us to do, it is well with us. When we order our lives the way you tell us to, according to the priorities of Scripture, it is well with us and our children. Physical prosperity may not be there in the same way, but something much more valuable is.

Father, I pray for men, specifically, in this body, that they would begin to see their greatest stewardship on earth as leading their homes in a biblical way, cherishing, honoring, loving, serving, completing, caring for their wives, in every way allowing them, Father, to experience the kind of attentive care and love you wanted, where they would call their children to love kindness and practice justice and walk humbly with you, that their kids would see the fruitfulness of that and desire to walk in the steps of their daddy and that women would support their husbands and would not ever let them get off that course and would seek to complete them and call them to that great way of life that is a biblical marriage and that we would get out of this syrupy, worldly thinking that love is something we say and go back to the biblical view of a cross where we see that love is something we do.

[Song]

The great theologian Clint Black said it pretty well, didn't he? Sin is someplace we've fallen into, and it has destroyed our concept and view of marriage. Because we've fallen into sin and because God is deeply in love with us, his vast, immeasurable love took on a cross, and on that cross he calls each of us to come, and as we come we find our strength independently with him, and as we find our strength independently with him and yield to his Spirit who dwells in us, it enables us to once again be restored in a love relationship which he intended.

If you don't know Christ and that incredible love he has made available to you, whatever your lot in life, single, married, or divorced, we call you first there so you can begin to experience a relationship with him that will enable you to have the relationship with others you've always wanted and were created to have.

We ask you this morning to consider Christ who wants to have you take a covenant vow with him, that you would yoke yourself to him as his bride, that you would accept his gift of protection and provision as he honors you, cherishes you, and values you with his own shed blood that he hung on a cross to offer.

In the midst of responding to that, won't you then also love one another in the same manner in which he loved you? And shouldn't that ring forth in marriage more than anywhere else in all of creation? I call you men to lead your women in following God's Word and you women to gladly follow them as they pursue Christ. If we can help you in any way with your marriage or with your walk with Christ, it would delight us. Have a great week of worship.


About 'Malachi: God Is From Mars, We Are From Venus'

When it comes to communication, men and women often struggle to understand one another. Even though we care, at times we just can't make sense of what's being said. In the same way, the nation of Israel misunderstood what a relationship with God should look like, even though He repeatedly revealed His heart to them. And even today, churches and followers of Christ miss what He's trying to say. In "God is from Mars, We are from Venus", you'll see God's effort to clearly communicate what a vital, abundant relationship with Him entails as expressed in the book of Malachi. You can learn volumes from this small book that caps off the Old Testament as you consider who God is, who we are, and what it takes to live in right relationship with Him.This series includes the 5-part sub-series on marriage entitled "Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God".