part one – C4: a dynamic family
For the next six weeks we will be discussing and discovering how to make our family a fortune. Wouldn’t that be nice – to make your family a fortune. That’s right. If you and I set our priorities and make the right investments we can make our families a fortune.
I’m not talking about making a fortune FOR your family but making a fortune OF your family – making your family your fortune, enriching your lives with the wealth of a blessed or fortunate family.
When I do premarital counseling, I try to remember to tell the couples about my credentials and what qualifies me to share with them about success in marriage. The reason that I know so much about what works in marriage is that I know what doesn’t work. I have learned SO much by my failures. Am I perfect? Far from it. Do Bre and I have a perfect marriage? Nobody does. So don’t think that I stand before you as an expert on the subject because I’ve always done everything right. Rather, I stand on the Bible, and I will share with you what I believe to be the Biblical ideal for marriage, an ideal for which I am striving right alongside you.
This sermon series will be applicable to everyone because everyone has a family of sorts. They vary. Some people have in-laws, some don’t. Some have step brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, some don’t. Some have half-brothers and sisters. Every family will differ in some regard, but we all have our own respective family situations, and I believe that every one of us can take something from this series and apply it to our own families.
When I speak in terms of “your spouse” – for many of you, you have a spouse and you can identify immediately to that. However, if you’re not technically married, but have a signicant other, there are probably ways that you can apply these precepts to that person and your particular family situation. Or perhaps you’re single, living alone or with a roommate and you may be thinking that this has no application whatsoever. I challenge you to pay extra close attention so as to build a healthy perspective on family for if or when the time comes when you do get married and start a family.
REAL & IDEAL
Before we go any further, I want to set some framework before we get 20 minutes in and every one of us is weighed down with guilt, shame, and condemnation. This paradigm that I’m about to share with you comes from Andy Stanley, so if you don’t like it, blame him and if you do like it, well, you can thank me, but don’t give me the credit.
There is a tension between the ideal and the real.
In the Bible, we have set before us, God’s ideal for the family. But when we survey the Bible and look at every component of the ideal family we realize that we all fall short in some way. Our reality (the real) doesn’t exactly line up with the ideal. So there is this tension between the real and the ideal.
But, we don’t want to resolve this tension, we want to embrace it. All ideal and no real results in guilt, shame, and condemnation. All real and no ideal results in lawlessness and brokenness. If we set our sights on the ideal and lose sight of the real altogether, we will become judgmental jerks and hypocrites, holding others to a standard that we can’t meet and making them feel guilt, shame and condemnation. We will eventually realize that we can’t meet our own standard and be weighed down by the same guilt, shame, and condemnation, and nobody wins. On the other hand, if we forget about the ideal and say, I don’t care what God desires, nobody can do all that so why does it matter, I’m not trying, I’ll just live my life and you live yours, then we in a sense are saying I don’t want what’s best for me, I don’t have my own best interest in mind, I don’t want to honor my heavenly father.
There is a good reason to recognize the real. Helps us to be humble. We aren’t perfect and shouldn’t expect perfection from others. In light of the real, God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for sin, so we could be forgiven. No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So out of the overflow of gratitude in our hearts for God’s sacrifice and love, we should respond with an attitude that says, “Well, I guess the whole sin thing has been taken care of so we might as well just live it up, do what we see fit in our own eyes. Sin has been dealt with so I won’t be punished for it. I can do what I want now.” No. Rather, we embrace and strive for the ideal.
THERE ARE GOOD REASONS TO EMBRACE AND STRIVE FOR THE IDEAL.
#1 God said so. He’s God, we’re not. End of story, that’s enough.
#2 greatest command is love God with all heart. John 14:15 if you love me you will obey what I command. That doesn’t mean that if you fall short it is a sign that you don’t love God because we all fall short. It does mean, however, that if you embrace the real to the neglect of the ideal and have an attitude that says, it doesn’t matter that God desires this of me, I’m going to do that and choose to walk contrary to what he has asked, that doesn’t exactly say, “I love you.” I know my kids love me because they make it very evident that they want to obey me. They hate to disappoint me. They are genuinely broken up over it when they fall short, not because they fear that daddy is going to bring the hammer down, whip them with a belt, they love their daddy and want to please him. They don’t say, “Daddy asks too much of us and there is no way we could ever do it all, so forget about even trying.” They strive for daddy’s ideal. Daddy wants what is best for them and they aim for it. Our heavenly father loves us, he wants what is best for us, and striving for the ideal is a way to show him that we trust him and that we love him and that fulfills the greatest command.
#3 God knows what is best for us and wants what is best for us. God created family, marriage, sex, and relationships, so he knows the best way to operate within them. Let me illustrate: I work for a company that manufactures equipment for food handling. One of our best selling products is a column dumper. You can see on the screen here. We send the customer an instruction manual with the dumper. We designed it and we know what works best. We tell the customer to lubricate the chain, and tighten the chain after so many cycles because it will elongate after use. If they neglect our advice, they will have some heartache, problems. Ever rode a bike and the chain kept coming off? Annoying. If the customer neglects what we propose in our manual, they will experience issues, it won’t work right, it won’t be optimal or ideal. The same holds true for us when we neglect the word of God regarding sex, marriage, family and relationships. He created sex, family, relationships knows how they operate best. He knows the ideal and He has shared that with us through his word. If for no other reason, even if for selfish reasons, it is best to strive for the ideal because it is in our own best interest.
But again, that beautiful tension is there. We don’t always achieve the ideal. We fall short, but all of our sins, if we are Christians, have been paid for and we aren’t under God’s wrath for them. We are not under his condemnation for them. And we shouldn’t be under one another’s condemnation for them. So let’s just clear the air in here and before we go any further look around the room. You’re looking at a bunch of imperfect people just like you, just like me.
Nobody in here has lived the ideal down to every jot and tittle when it comes to marriage, family, sex, and relationships. We all fall short and in different ways. Don’t look down on others because their shortcomings aren’t identical to yours. They may have one area perfected where you have fallen short.
TRANSLATING THE REAL/IDEAL TO FAMILY
So when it comes to the ideal for family, which is what we should strive for, I think we all have a pretty good idea of what that looks like or should look like. One man, one woman, united in marriage. No infidelity. No premarital sex. No abortions. No lusting after someone to whom you are not married. I just listed a few, but chances are, everyone fell short at some point in that short list.
If you are among those who fell short, welcome to the reality of imperfection. All of us are there. So going forward, as I speak in terms of God’s ideal for the family, listen with this paradigm in mind, this tension between the real and the ideal, where we recognize on one hand the reality that we all have fallen short, but we have been forgiven through faith in Jesus, but on the other hand we recognize, embrace, and strive for God’s ideal.
SO WHAT IS GOD’S IDEAL? HOW CAN WE STRIVE FOR THAT AND SHOW HIM HONOR, TRUST, AND LOVE?
We will spend the next six weeks scratching the surface of the answer, but this morning, I will camp out on what I believe to be some important focal points, 4 C’s if you will.
(title of this message is C4: a dynamic family)
COVENANT, COMMITMENT, CHEMISTRY & COHESION
It all begins with COVENANT.
Here at New Covenant Fellowship, covenant is an important word because we believe that the Bible itself is a covenantal book. We believe that God is all about relationship and that throughout history he has initiated relationship with his people by covenant.
WHAT IS COVENANT?
A covenant is a binding agreement, or solemn oath. What does that have to do with making your family a fortune? While we have already mentioned that we all have different and various family situations, I believe that God’s ideal for family begins with one man and one woman in holy matrimony, which begins with a covenant.
The Biblical ideal for family begins when a man and woman decide to make a covenant with one another before God and witnesses (family, friends, loved ones and associates) in which they ceremonialize (my spell check didn’t like that so perhaps I just made it up), but they formally agree to take their beloved to be their lawfully wedded spouse, promising to love and to cherish one another in sickness and in health, in prosperity and in adversity, to be to one another in all things a true and faithful spouse, forsaking all others, keeping themselves only unto one another as long as they both shall live.
That is the marriage covenant and as far as I understand the Bible’s teaching, that is the beginning of the ideal for family.
HOW DOES COVENANT MAKE A FAMILY A FORTUNE?
A family that is founded upon such a covenant, one in which both parties say what they mean and mean what they say and spend their married lives together striving to fulfill those vows, that family is fortunate because that is a family that has its foundation based on commitment. (our next C)
COMMITMENT (AND CHEMISTRY)
Marriages that take the covenant seriously (in other words, when couples are truly committed), tend to outlast others. You might say, “duh.” But I’m going somewhere with this, so track with me. In some parts of the world they do this thing called arranged marriages. You don’t pick your spouse, your family picks your spouse. Statistically, only 4% of arranged marriages end in divorce, while 40-50% of the marriages that develop organically out of a love-based romantic relationship end in divorce. In India, 90% of the marriages are arranged and the divorce rate in India is 1%. About half of Americans divorce.
I’m not advocating arranged marriage. I am advocating commitment and I simply bring up arranged marriage as an illustration of commitment alone. These marriages weren’t borne out of a love relationship between partners who felt a certain chemistry, they were arranged, they made a commitment to one another, and they have kept their commitments.
But we don’t want commitment alone – or at least I don’t. I don’t want Bre to say, “I’m spending the rest of my life with you because I have to. We said vows so I’m stuck with you, though I don’t love you, I’m miserable, and there’s absolutely no chemistry.”
I think that a fortunate family with a healthy marriage is one that has BOTH commitment AND chemistry. Commitment alone feels like a duty, an obligation and the heart isn’t in it. Chemistry alone may feel great while the hearts are aflame, but what happens if the heart loses the flame for the spouse and flares up for another?
Your stare was holdin’,
Ripped jeans, skin was showin’
Hot night, wind was blowin’
We don’t want commitment alone because we want our spouse’s heart, we want feelings and emotions involved here, not some cold calculated decision. We don’t want chemistry alone because if those feelings go away, where is the commitment? How do we know our spouse won’t just leave us?
Commitment is important in making our family a fortune. Once you have children, it’s easy to say, we’ll stick it out for the kids. What happens when the kids grow up and move out? What’s the motivation then? The commitment, in my opinion, should be first and foremost to our spouse, then to the kids. Want to show your kids that you are committed to them? In my opinion, the best way is to show them that you are committed to them is to be committed to their mother, that you are committed to their father. Then, they have that feeling of security that rest in their soul that says “Daddy isn’t leaving; daddy is in love with mommy.” Or “Mommy isn’t leaving; she is in love with daddy.”
This sounds bad, I’m sure, but the kids can’t be number one. Your spouse is number one…well, number two right after God.
So in making our family a fortune, it begins with the covenant of marriage, taken seriously by two partners, who live out their vows in honor of their commitment, but their marriage is not based on commitment alone, but a combination of commitment and chemistry; they’re in LLLOOOOOOOVE.
The last C of our C4 dynamic family is Cohesion; this has to do with togetherness- being united as one. That ceremonialization is often accompanied by the lighting of a unity candle in the spirit of Genesis 2:24 in which God declares that a married couple is no longer two but one. Two lives joined together.
In fact, according to Matt 19:3ff
3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus – what God has joined together, let man not separate. Again, we have Jesus with this real/ideal framework. Together forever; that is the ideal and maybe for whatever reason, your marriage may not have lasted and you won’t receive condemnation from me for that. But according to the Biblical ideal, a family begins with two people whose lives are joined as one, the point I’m making here is COHESION, togetherness.
This is not be easy. It will take work. Two people from distinctly different backgrounds, upbringings in two different households, and two different personalities and preferences coming together and learning to make life work as a unit. It’s easy when all you have to think about is yourself and most of your decision making doesn’t have a huge impact on others. When you get married, just about every decision impacts at least one other person in a huge way.
So to make our family a fortune, we must recognize the difficulty in living as one and commit to putting in the effort necessary to make it work. We have to be willing to say no to self and to set aside our own preferences and desires. A marriage won’t work if we don’t give. A lot of people will say that marriage is about give and take and while that may be true, I want to throw out a higher challenge and say that to make our families a fortune, our marriages should be about giving and giving more. I’m not talking about being a doormat, but I am talking about unselfishness. When we expect a give and take marriage, it’s easy to get selfish and say “I already gave, now I take; it’s my turn.” As Christians we are called to a life of unselfishness – how much more as Christian couples?
We will have disagreements in marriage but the key is striving for a win/win in every situation. When you live out marriage in light of the fact that you and your spouse are one, it helps put things in perspective. In other words, it is easy to have a disagreement and see your spouse as the opponent, but your spouse is not the opponent. Your spouse is on your team. You’re not against one another. When Bre and I start moving in that direction, we simply say, “Same team.” Then we refocus and recalibrate and move forward as a team, a unit, with cohesion. A win/lose is not ideal because that suggests that the spouses are on opposing teams. Team husband and team wife. But this room is not full of husband teams and wife teams. There’s team Miles, team Davis, team Awesome, team Miller.
So to make our families a fortune, the biblical ideal, I believe, involves four C’s. It begins with covenant – a binding agreement, is lived out in commitment mingled with chemistry, and finally cohesion – being united as one.
Next week, Professor and author Larry Hall will elaborate on the fourth C, cohesion by emphasizing the importance of family values, what you and your partner have established as the win for your team.
MY CHALLENGE TO US ALL IN LIGHT OF THIS MORNING’S MESSAGE:
Married folks: live in light of your vows. Easy to utter them on the day you said I do. But say I do every day. Every day for the rest of your lives, strive to live out these vows. This is what you agreed to years ago, honor those words. I made it easy for you by putting it on the bulletin. Cut it out and put it on your bathroom mirror to see it everyday.
If you’re not married: truly consider the covenant of marriage. It is a binding agreement, a solemn oath. It is not something to be taken lightly, so it is not something to rush into. It is one of the biggest life decisions you will ever make. Think about these vows and ask yourself honestly, is this person with whom I seem to have chemistry the person that I want to make this commitment to for the rest of my life till death do us part? Because when you separate what God has joined together, it is painful.
Some of you, it may be time for you to make that covenant. In light of what we have discussed, you may have clarity, your significant other is the light of your life, the apple of your eye; you have chemistry and you are committed, and you essentially have cohesion, but you haven’t ceremonialized it all with the official covenant of marriage. Consider making that vow that says “I do,” a formal statement that seals the deal, giving your significant other the peace of mind that says, they aren’t going anywhere and it’s official. Until then, consider how they may feel about your commitment level. Sadly, in America today, just because we say vows and ceremonialize, it doesn’t always result in true commitment, but as I mentioned in countries like India, where the commitment is taken seriously, only 1.1% of marriages end in divorce. In spite of all of that, there is something to be said for closing the door on doubts through the covenantal commitment. There is something to be said for removing any perceived escape clauses by saying “I do.”
Some of you have been really hurt. Your dad left you. Your spouse cheated on you. Your wife or husband left you. You were verbally and or physically abused. Those are not ideal, but they are real, for you, they are reality. And you know what? I am so sorry. I can’t begin know how you must feel in your situation, but I do know that anything less than the biblical ideal usually results in pain and brokenness.
So the church is here for you, not to condemn you, but to be a safe haven for you, a place that will rally around you and do whatever is possible as the hands and feet of Jesus to help bring healing to your soul. To some degree we all fall short of the ideal and we are a church that recognizes that, understands that and welcomes you wherever you are without condemnation.
We are all flawed, fallen creatures, and broken to some degree and we are all equal at the foot of the cross. From the foot of the cross, we cry out to our Heavenly Father, saying, “Thank you for sending your Son to be the atoning sacrifice, to pay the penalty for our shortcomings and as we hone in on family, we are all painfully aware of our shortcomings there. But we love you, O God, we are aware of your ideal and we trust you as the creator of sex, marriage, family, and relationships, so out of a love for you we want to honor you by striving for that ideal. Protect us from pride and condemnation. Teach us and help us to make our families a fortune.”