Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Hebrews 13:4, Ephesians 5:25-33 Downloads & Resources Making Love Last Dr. Jon Morrissette - 2/9/2003 An estimated one billion cards will be exchanged this Saint Valentine's Day. With so many tiny messages being exchanged about love this week, I thought it would be appropriate to consider God's perspective on love and marriage. One simple fact that you will likely miss this week is that Friday will be Saint Valentines Day and not merely Valentines Day. Although most people, men in particular, believe that Valentines Day is part of a larger conspiracy instigated by Hallmark to sell cards, Valentines Day actually has Christian origins. It is widely believed, and confirmed by the Catholic Church, that Valentines Day can be traced back to the ancient Roman empire to a priest named Valentinus. Valentinus ministered during the reign of the troubled Roman emperor Claudius II. Claudius believed that the entanglements associated with marriage were greatly limiting the crop of potential soldiers for his ambitious military campaigns. So in the third century he issued a decree canceling all marriage engagements. He also outlawed any new marriages! His approval ratings plummeted! Valentinus believed the decree was a great injustice. So he defied the emperor's decree and continued performing marriages for young couples in secret. Eventually his actions were discovered and Claudius ordered that he be put to death. While in prison waiting his death sentence it is believed that Valentinus fell in love with a young girl who frequently visited him in prison. Shortly before his death he wrote her a letter signed, "From your Valentine." Today, Valentinus is celebrated as a heroic and romantic champion of marriage. He's a patron saint and martyr. I think that's pretty good for a priest! In the spirit of Saint Valentine, I want to take a break from our series and skip ahead to the last chapter of Hebrews. There we read these words in Hebrews 13:4 (NIV)."Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." As much as anything, I think what we need today is men and women who will, like Valentinus, champion the cause of marriage. We need young people and older people, married and single, who will honor and defend the sacredness of marriage. Rewriting marriage vows. This week I read a startling statement by the rock star Rod Stewart, who is known for his love songs and progressive lifestyle. He said, "I think marriage vows should be changed because they have been in existence for six hundred years, when people used to live until they were only thirty-five. So they only had to be with each other twelve years and then they would die anyway. But now, it's a big commitment because you're going to be with someone fifty years. It's impossible. The vows should be written like a dog's license that has to be renewed every year. Source: Rock star Rod Stewart, cited from PageSix.com (5-3-01) I don't think Rod Stewart could have made a more outrageous statement, do you? Our marriage vows should be written like a dog's license? But how often in a given day do you hear that same attitude about marriage reflected in conversations with people you work with? Or in advertisements, on the television, in the music you listen to, or in your entertainment? Marriage is portrayed in negative terms. As one comedian said, "Marriage is a three ring circus. There is the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and then suffering. "Guys, you better not to repeat that later or your wife might crack you in the ribs. But really, marriage is seen as this negative thing. It's seen as a burden. It's a commitment. It's a financial risk. It's complicated. It's life imprisonment. It's a ball and chain. It's a death sentence. It's a foolish gamble. It's forever. It's impossible? In his book Check Your Homelife, author Knofel Staton hits the nail on the head. He points out that our culture doesn't encourage couples to make a binding, unconditional commitment to each other. Instead we stress independence, autonomy, individualism, and freedom. We value our mobility. We don't want any strings attached. We want to be able to move in and out of relationships at will. We want to be free from marriage commitments. We are moving away from more traditional vows of marriage and are embracing lifestyles of cohabitation, promiscuity, adultery, and prenuptial agreements. We want to hoist the sails and be carried about by every desire and whim of love. We want the flexibility to fall in love today and then out of love tomorrow. Never mind the children. Never mind morality. Never mind God. It's all about me. I must be true to who I am and how I feel and never mind the pain and destruction and risks and consequences that follow. I know a couple who have an open marriage. They live together and that's about it! They each have their own jobs, their own pursuits, their own circle of relationships, and they don't ask questions about one another's private lives. Let me ask, where are the champions of marriage today? Where is the spirit of Saint Valentine today? Where is marriage honored and esteemed by all? If not among us and in our marriages, then where and by who? Hebrews 13:4 (NIV) makes a simple, yet profound declaration. "Marriage should be honored by all..."For the rest of my time this morning I want to explore how we can accomplish this. Christ, a model for marriage. First, a few words about marriage in general. We should pay attention to the fact that Hebrews 13:4 occurs at the end of a letter detailing the covenant relationship that God has established with us through Jesus Christ. For twelve chapters the author of Hebrews paints a compelling picture of God's faithfulness, grace, mercy, redemptive love, character, holiness, and sympathy. And then at the end of the book he tags on a few "so what" applications. "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." The reason the author does this couldn't be more obvious. The character of God forms the very cornerstone, the foundation, of a lasting and God-honoring marriage. The very same ingredients that cause our relationship with God to flourish also cause our relationships with our spouses to flourish. Christ pursued reconciliation with us. He made deep sacrifices. He died for us. He is faithful. He proactively forgives us. He unconditionally loves us. He sympathizes with us. He brings out the best in us. He feeds us and cares for us. He encourages and inspires us. God had it in mind that the love he showed us in Christ should transform all of life's relationships, and especially the marriage relationship. This is why in Ephesians 5:25-33 (NIV) Paul says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery— but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." The marriage relationship is to be a reflection of Christ's love for the Church. The marriage relationship is to glorify Christ and attract people to God. Marriage is the first place where we should begin displaying the character of God. This is what the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote, "Marriage should be honored by all." We should live and act in the presence of our spouses the very same way we should live and act when in the presence of Christ. This is what honoring marriage is all about! As I was writing this sermon I found myself being convicted by God's Spirit. I don't always live and act like I am in the presence of Christ. Sometimes I act selfishly or I say stupid, inappropriate things to my wife Lara. Just last week I decided to tell her a few words of my own. I quickly learned my lesson though. Next thing I knew, she was giving me paragraphs! Or take the other day. Lara told me that I don't always listen to her, or something like that. At least I think that's what she said. Honey, what did you say to me? But seriously. Christ's love for the Church is to mold and shape the marriage relationship. We honor God by yielding our will to be shaped by his will. This is a learning and growing experience, one that takes time and patience by both husband and wife. I think by now that Lara has the patience of Job. But God forgives us and restores us along the way. Living against God's design. Let's look at the flip side of the coin for a moment. Hebrews 13:4 (NIV) says, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral." It is true that God offers forgiveness and grace to those who trust Jesus Christ. But the author of Hebrews finds it necessary to make an observation for those who choose to harden their hearts and live against God's design of marriage. There is a judgment that falls on those who set themselves against the will of God, just like there is judgment against those who try to defy the law of gravity. There isn't any question that our culture treats marriage with contempt. Every couple thinks that they are the exception, that they can live as they please and find just as much satisfaction as those who live for Christ. I remember trying to persuade a couple in my last church to stop living together and stop being intimate. We studied scripture together. We talked for hours. I gave them literature and statistics confirming what I was saying. But they were so confident and sure of themselves. They knew better than God. They were full of hope and enthusiasm. In a few short years they divorced. I saw the wife recently. She was full of anger. She was struggling to make ends meet. She'd lost her optimism and self-confidence. The writer of Hebrews is simply observing that there are very real consequences that come upon those who dishonor marriage. A young girl is convinced that she can flip the switch off and say "no" to her boyfriend, but then she finds herself compromised and pregnant out of wedlock with a father who doesn't care or show any responsibility. A young couple believes that living together outside of marriage will lead to a happier marriage, but years later their hidden insecurities drive them apart. A husband and wife agree to divorce instead of working through their troubles, but wonder why their children are getting poor grades, have poor self-images, are short-tempered, get in trouble at school, have no respect for authority, and have stress related health problems. A young man carelessly engages in a dangerous lifestyle and contacts a disease that destroys his health. A husband secretly indulges his addiction to pornography and begins battling with depression and lust, feelings of guilt, and shame. He doesn't understand why he is angry and cannot experience intimacy with his wife or with God. A wife thinks that her affair will lead to a more fulfilling life, but only after it's too late does she realize she has been living with a distorted view of reality. She loses her family's respect. Her children and husband won't speak to her. She has no place to go. She cannot get credit. Her whole world comes crashing down. As a pastor I always find myself ministering on the losing end of this equation trying to pastor and make the best of a situation gone sour. Our culture uses Valentines Day to perpetuate the myth that there is a better design for love and marriage than what God reveals in his word. But the reality is that we cannot defy God's laws for long. We will ultimately find ourselves being held accountable by the consequences of our own sin and even for the sin of others. And if we don't repent and turn to Christ, the wrath of God will judge us on the last day. A sacred trust. I see the opportunity this morning for us to be proactive. For us to honor and esteem marriage for what it truly is. It is a holy covenant, designed by God and instituted among men. For us to see our marriages as a sacred trust with which we must prove faithful. To use our marriages to glorify Christ's character and demonstrate the depth of Christ's love for the Church and to attract people to God. To live out each day in the presence of our spouses as if standing in the very presence of Christ. To not fool ourselves into thinking we can defy God's will by flaunting our own wants and desires. To accept the consequences of our past choices and see them as God's discipline, so we can make better choices today and tomorrow and escape the trap of the devil. To not become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, but embrace the whole counsel of God as it relates to every area of life, and especially to love and marriage. Marriage is to be honored by all. This is what Saint Valentine's Day is all about.