By Dennis Rainey
If you want your marriage to grow strong, one of the most important questions you and your spouse should answer is, “How are we going to grow spiritually?” Because God created marriage, it is not merely two people in a relationship, but three—a husband, a wife, and God. Failing to address this question can almost guarantee that your marriage will not achieve the intimacy and oneness that God designed.
Three key ingredients of a dynamic Christian life have significance when applied to the oneness you are trying to achieve as a married couple. I’ll state these in the form of questions:
· Are you and your spouse a part of the family of God?
· Are both of you in pursuit of following Christ, allowing him to control your entire lives?
· Are both of you allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and empower your lives?
Unless you answer yes to all three questions, you will lack the power to build your home with the oneness God intends.
Marriage first and foremost is a spiritual relationship. It works best when two people are connected individually to their God, walking with Him, obeying Him through Scripture, and praying as individuals and as a couple. If you push the spiritual dimension to the side, you are ignoring the very God who created marriage and the One who can help you make it work.
Is your family part of God’s family?
When I speak of your family, I mean you and your spouse. God’s ideal plan is that both partners in a marriage know Him personally, that they are first part of His family before they try to build a family of their own.
Today many people think they are in God’s family because they go to church, generally live a good life, or consider themselves religious. Other people are not sure where they would spend eternity if they died today.
Regardless of which camp you fall into, I encourage you to read “The Secret to Building a Great Marriage and Family.” These truths will help you understand how to be sure you are included in God’s family.
Are both of you giving Christ control?
If Jesus Christ walked out of your life right now, how would your life be any different next week?
If Jesus Christ has “first place in everything” with you, then next week would be devastatingly different. You would feel lost, confused, cut off from your source of guidance, wisdom, and power. You would feel an incredible emptiness.
But if you realize that your actions, thoughts, and words would be no different with Jesus absent, you need to come to grips with the fact that Christ is not Lord of your life.
Jesus Christ is already Lord of the universe, but He waits patiently to have you make Him Lord of your life through personal commitment. That means trusting Him in a way you may have never trusted Him before.
During our first Christmas as newlyweds over 50 years ago, Barbara and I were prompted by the Holy Spirit to do something different. Before we exchanged the few gifts that lay under our sparsely decorated tree, we sat down separately and wrote “Title Deeds to Our Lives.” Coming honestly before God, each of us listed our treasured dreams, plans, and possessions that we needed to “sign over” to God. Then we folded our sheets and sealed them in an envelope addressed “To God Our Father.” We put the letters in our safety deposit box with other important items.
Eighteen years later we retrieved that envelope and reviewed what we had deeded to the Lord. Among other things, Barbara had listed “to be settled and stable; children—at least one boy and one girl; and Dennis.” I had mentioned “security; a healthy, big family—several boys; and Barbara.”
We realized how over the years God had continuously weaned us from perishable, unimportant things and increasingly attached us to what really counts: people and His Word. We also noted, with thanksgiving, how much more God had given us than we had given up for Him.
Where do you stand in giving God total control over your life?
Are both of you allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and empower your lives?
God sent the Holy Spirit to do even greater works on earth through us than those done by Christ. He was sent to glorify Christ as well as to be our Counselor, Advisor, Advocate, Defender, Director, Helper, Comforter and Guide. In short, if you are interested in living life as Jesus promised, and if you want a marriage where the two of you grow spiritually, then your relationship with the Holy Spirit is a non-negotiable.
Perhaps that’s why being “filled with the Spirit” is not a suggestion; it is a clear command given by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (5:18, NASB).
Why would Paul describe being drunk with wine in opposition to being filled with the Spirit? Because he wanted to help his readers understand what being filled means. When you are drunk with wine, you are controlled by alcohol. The same is true in a positive sense when you are filled with the Spirit: You allow the Spirit to control you.
The results of being filled with the Spirit are qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul described it as “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Ephesians 5:19-20, NASB).
We know the Holy Spirit works
Each of us needs something in marriage to defeat our selfishness. On more than one occasion I can recall wanting to be angry at Barbara and yet at the same time knowing that my body is a temple of God, and that the Holy Spirit lives in me with the same power that raised Christ from the dead. The Spirit helps me control my temper, my impatience, and my desire to say things I would later regret.
I still fail, but I have found that, as I inwardly yield my will to God, the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.) grows within me, and these qualities move me inevitably toward a beautiful oneness with Barbara.
Why not stop and pray right now for God to fill you with the Holy Spirit? A number of years ago both Barbara and I heard a message by Bill Bright, the founder and president of Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru). Bright explained a process that every Christ-follower must go through in order to personally be filled with the Holy Spirit:
First, confess your sins. Tell God everything, repent, and receive His forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9-10).
Second, surrender your will to God. Allow Him to be your Master (Romans 12:1-2).
Third, by faith ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Finally, continue to walk with God moment by moment by reading the Scriptures, confessing your wrong attitudes or actions, and continuing to surrender and yield to Him.
Your marriage will increasingly reflect the love of God as you allow the Holy Spirit to fill, control, and empower you.
Adapted by permission from Starting Your Marriage Right, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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