“When marriage meets grace…”

February 13, 2008

That is the sub-title to “Love That Lasts” by Gary and Betsy Ricucci,  one of several books Heather and I are reading in preparation for marriage. We’ve only read one chapter so far, but it’s absolutely blessed our socks off!! : )

I’d like to share a few highlights with you from the first chapter of this wonderfully God-Scripture-gospel-and-grace-centered book:  

 Under a section entitled “The defining questions of biblical marriage”, the authors ask and discuss these questions:

 “Does your marriage find it’s purpose primarily in God?”

Quote:

“marriage, far from being an end in itself, is a key part of  God’s plan to fill the earth with a demonstration of who he is. Marriage belongs to God and exists for his glory. And that is for our good.”

Amen!

“Does your marriage find it’s hope in the gospel of grace?”

Quotes:

“Nothing is more important to your marriage than your theology (what you believe about God), and nothing is more important to your theology (and hence your marriage) than  the gospel.”

 “Tragically, the most precious of all news is too often assumed (“OK, I know Jesus ded for my sins”), misunderstood (“I thought the gospel was for unbelievers – I’m already a Christian”), or even ignored or dismissed (“Don’t give me theology – I need help for my marriage right now”). But consider these marvelous truths.

  • Because of the gospel, Christians have become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, in our marriage, our past does not define us, confine us, or determine our future.
  • Because of the gospel, we are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7). Therefore we can live free of all guilt and condemnation for every sin, and we can trust that God, in his mercy, will be gracious to us.” 
  • Because of the gospel we can forgive, just as Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32). Nothing done against us compares to our sin against God. Therefore all offenses, hostility, and bitterness between Christians can be completely forgiven and removed.
  • Because of the gospel, we are accepted by God (Romans 15:7). Therefore we are not dependant on a spouse for who we are or what we need.
  • Because of the gospel, sin’s ruling power over us is broken (Romans 6:6, 14). Therefore we can truly obey all that God calls us to do in our marriage, regardless of any circumstance or situation.
  • Because of the gospel, we have access to God through Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). Therefore we can at any time take any need in our marriage to the One who can do all things.
  • Because of the gospel, we have hope (Romans 5:1-4). Therefore we can endure any marital difficulty, hardship, or suffering, with the assurance that God is working all to our greatest good (Romans 8:28).
  • Because of the gospel, Christ dwells in us by his Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14). Therefore we are confident that God is always with us and is always at work in our marriage, even when progress is imperceptible (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
  • Because of the gospel, we have power to fight and overcome remaining sin, which continues to dwell and war within us (Romans 7:19-21, 24-25; Galatians 5:16-17)…

These are just a few of the ways the gospel can transform a marriage. Sometimes it’s not easy to live in the reality of these truths. But it’s always possible – and not because of our strength or determination, but because of God’s empowering and enabling grace.”

“When we grasp the depth of God’s love for us revealed in the gospel, when we rest in the joy of God’s forgiveness towards us in the gospel, when we experience God’s transforming power in us through the gospel, and when we begin to emulate the pattern of humility and obedience we see in the gospel, what a wonderful difference this will make in our lives and marriages! Nothing is more essential to a marriage, and nothing brings more hope, than applying the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The authors, Gary and Betsy Ricucci, are members of Covenant Life Church in Maryland. This church was pastored by CJ Mahaney (who heads up Sovereign Grace Ministries) for many years. All that to say that anyone familiar with CJ’s writings and the ministry philosophies and emphases of Sovereign Grace churches will likely recognize this focus on the gospel being central and essential to every-day life. All their materials are saturated with this wonderful, profound, and very biblical truth… Learning to think through the gospel and it’s implications in all of life is as exciting, refreshing, and life-changing as anything! CJ’s book “Living the Cross-centered Life” (a combination of “The Cross-centered Life” and “Christ our Mediator”) is well worth checking out. Click here for more info on the book, and here for the Sovereign Grace Ministries website.

“Does Your Marriage Find Its home in the Local Church?”    

Quotes:

The Church is the place where men and women exchange worldy independance for biblical humility…

 Most couples in our society have grown up breathing the cultural air of a husband’s independence and a wife’s feminism. Keeeing our own counsel; pursuing our own goals, gratification, and fulfillment; hiding our struggles, weaknesses, and problems; being self-sufficient and self-absorbed – it’s all second (sinful) nature to us. While this may make for some great executives, entertainers, athletes, and marketers, it makes for terrible marriages. We need others not only beside us but ahead of us and even over us. There is no room in Scripture for Lone Ranger spouses.”

“The church is the place where marriages are fed and supported with truth.

The local church is God’s primary context for the teaching and application of God’s Word… If you truly want to mature as a husband or wife, if you want your spouse to spiritually thrive, if you want to see your family nurtured into the truth, the local church is your God-given context.”

Finally, the church is the place where marriages are helped in seasons of need

  In every marriage there are times of trial, struggles with sin, and seasons of suffering… there are many ways in which serious trials can assault a marriage. It is at these times that our brothers and sisters in the local church embody the love of Christ to us.”

“… joy was nowhere to be found… They only knew their marriage needed help. Thus began their journey into Covenant Life Church and many profound experiences of God’s love and care expressed through his people.

Their struggles were agonizing, and their setbacks more than a few. But God had placed them among people committed to help carry their burdens with grace and truth. Through fellow members of the Body of Christ, God met Mike and Angela (not their real names) at each crisis – through a sermon, a couple, a friend, a worship song, or a small group leader ready to care, counsel, and, yes, firmly correct in love. At first, change was slow, but God was faithful, his Word true, and his church an indispensible means of grace.”   

“For us, life, marriage, and raising children apart from the local church is literally unimaginable. Friends, this should be the norm, not the exception, for every Christian.”

The importance of the local church (and especially transparent, deep relationships within the church like the ones described here) is incredibly undervalued today. I think most people don’t even know what they’re missing because they’ve never really tasted of relationships that rich and all the grace God pours out through such biblical fellowship. I give a hearty “Amen!” to this exhortation.  (Once again, this is a huge emphasis of Sovereign Grace churches. Check out Joshua Harris’ “Stop Dating the Church” here, and CJ Mahaney’s “Why Small Groups?” here.) 

Summarizing the chapter the authors say:

“A couple’s understanding of marriage must begin with God’s purpose. A marriage that reflects Christ and the church must be founded, directed, and nurtured by the gospel and by grace. And a marriage can only prosper and be fruitful if it finds its home in a local church.  

These are not simply a set of suggested steps to a healthy home life. Nor are they one of several possible routes to a marriage filled with God-glorifying joy. Rather, because of the authority and reliability of Scripture, we can say with confidence that they are necessary and essential to what God intends marriage (your marriage) to be.”  

The authors state that the rest of the book is “in effect, an elaboration and application of the biblical truths set forth in this chapter.” I’m excited to read further! I anticipate this book being a huge help as Heather and I prepare for a God-centered, God’s-grace-dependant marriage. For more info about the book, or to order a copy, click here.

May God’s goodness, greatness, and grace be put on display in our marriages!

~ Donovan

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One Response to ““When marriage meets grace…””

  1. […] finally, I encourage you to read my post from last week entitled “When Marriage meets Grace”. If you don’t have much time, just read the words in bold and […]

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