Last week we began a two week study on Hebrews 13:4. In our study last week we looked at the three important words of counsel given to us in this important passage of Scripture. First, marriage is to be highly honored, treasured, by all people. Second, we are to live lives of sexual purity. Third, all of us will stand before God one day and He will judge those who have compromised their covenant of marriage. We looked in depth at all three of these exhortations last week so we won’t retrace our steps this morning. What we are going to do is to read once again the Scripture from Hebrews 13:4 and talk about how we can stand guard over our marriages.
You need to know that this is not simply wise counsel for those who are married, but it is God’s word of hope, preservation, and caution for all of us who are married, who will be married in the future, or know of someone who is planning on getting married. There are many of us here this morning that entered into marriage with two strikes against us because we did not live sexually pure lives before we entered the covenant of marriage. God can, and will, forgive anyone who cries out in repentance for his or her sin. God can restore what has been damaged and jeopardized if we will only seek Him. Marriages that have suffered because of sexual sin can survive and even thrive when God’s grace is applied. With all of that said, there are many here this morning who know that their marriage was compromised because of the way they lived before entering marriage.
What we want to do this morning is to talk about how we can stand guard over our marriages from this day forward. For those of you who are not married, you can take a stand this morning for your future husband or wife by committing your life to the Lord and pursuing a life of sexual purity. For those who are presently married, we can stand guard over our relationship by living lives of sexual purity. I am not just talking about refusing to go outside of our marriage for sexual fulfillment or escape, but we must also refuse to think about, look at, or entertain anything that would compromise the priceless relationship the Lord has given to us. We must stand guard.
A few years ago I was in Washington D.C. with my sons for the Promise Keeper’s ‘National Day of Prayer.’ While we were there we had some time to see the sights in our nation’s capital. I was overwhelmed by all of the history, but there was one exhibit that came to mind this past week while I was preparing this study.
At the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History there is an exhibit, that when you see it, you know you are in the presence of something special. The exhibit is of the one-of-a-kind ‘Hope Diamond.’ The Hope Diamond is the largest blue diamond in the world at 45.5 carats. In 1982, The Hope Diamond was valued at $20-25 million, but today it’s worth is estimated as priceless. It is indeed a priceless gem, a diamond of immense value, and it is treated as such at the museum. The diamond is displayed in a $500,000 display case and vault built and donated by Diebold, an Ohio manufacturer of security systems. Enclosed in a case of high-tech security glass, the diamond turns slowly on a pedestal, pausing for 10 seconds every quarter-turn to sparkle under special fiber optic lights. If sensors detect a tremor, temperature change or any other indication of problems, the diamond and its pedestal automatically descend in a split second into a vault beneath floor level, where the gem also spends each night. If that were not enough there are also armed guards present to make sure that no one even thinks about the possibility of damaging or stealing the priceless gem.
I was thinking this past week about the Hope Diamond and the extreme measures that are taken to ensure it’s pristine presence in the possession of its keepers. Walking down the street of your neighborhood you might see some expensive jewelry, you might see some big jewelry draped around the necks of people, you might even see some big diamonds, but you will never see the Hope Diamond. You will never see boys playing catch with the Hope Diamond. Never will you see anyone playing marbles with the big rock. How can I speak with such certainty about the diamond? Very simple. It is a treasure. A priceless, one-of-a-kind gem that is treated with great care.
In the same way that great measures are taken to ensure the beauty, grandeur, and safety of the Hope Diamond, we need to take equally extreme measures to ensure the beauty, grandeur, and safety of the priceless relationship the Lord has given us with our husband or wife. We need to stand guard. We need to always be on the alert for a tremor, change in temperature, or any other indication of problems that might threaten our relationship.
This morning I want to take some time to examine the priceless nature of our marriages and then to close out our time together I want to offer some practical, biblical suggestions on how we might stand guard over our marriage. First, let’s read our Scripture from this morning found in Hebrews 13:4.
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Hebrews 13:4 NIV)
If you will remember our study last week then you will remember that the Greek word for ‘honored’ means, ‘of great worth, priceless, highly esteemed, or valued.’ This is how we are to view marriage, as a priceless treasure given to us from the hand of Almighty God. With all of the heartache that is present in so many broken marriages today, how can we highly value the covenant of marriage? Does it really make any difference if we get married or if we just live together? What benefits are there, if any, to being married in this day and time? That is a great question. I want to take a moment to share with you a few of the many findings I have read the past two weeks concerning the benefits of marriage. These studies have been conducted by social scientist in our country. These are not sermonizing thoughts offered by some preacher like myself. What I want to share with you are purely scientific studies of the marriage relationship and the conclusions reached by those who have conducted the studies. First let me summarize the findings then I will share some detailed information with you about the effect of marriage upon the lives of the men, women, and children who live within the covenant. First of all, the summary of many studies shows the positive effects upon:
THE POSITIVE EFFECTS OF MARRIAGE FOR ADULTS:
Married Men and Women . . .
Experience Less Depression
Have Lower Rates of Alchoholism
Have Lower Rates of Substance Abuse
Have Higher Income and Savings Levels
THE POSITIVE EFFECTS OF MARRIAGE FOR CHILDREN:
Children of Married Parents Experience . . .
More Time with Their Fathers
Lower Rates of Child Poverty
Higher Levels of Educational Achievement
Lower Rates of Emotional and Psychological Problems
Lower Rates of Substance Abuse
Lower Rates of Criminal Behavior
These findings are more than significant when you put them in context with the neighborhood where you are sitting right now. The neighborhood we are in right now, as we sit in worship, is lacking a male head of household in 93% of the homes. Single mothers are living in poverty that many of them will never escape. The crime rate is high, gangs are prevalent, the drop out rate is far above the national average, and teenage pregnancy is out of control. Now compare the list I shared with you about the positive impact of marriage upon men, women, and children with the problems that are plaguing our community and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the marriage relationship is indeed a priceless treasure.
Now let me share with you some specifics that I have come upon during the last two weeks.
Across studies, mortality rates are 250% higher for unmarried men and 50% higher for unmarried women compared to those married (Ross et al., 1990).
Dr. Wade Horn reports that the empirical evidence also is quite clear that adults — women as well as men — are happier, healthier, and wealthier than their single counterparts. And communities with high concentrations of married households are safer than those with substantially fewer married households. Of course, some married households, especially where domestic violence and child abuse are present, are horrible places for both children and adults. But contrary to the stereotypes perpetuated by the media and some advocacy groups, the reality is that domestic violence and child abuse are substantially less likely to occur in intact households than in any other family arrangement. The truth is the most dangerous place for women and children is a household where mom is cohabiting with a man who isn’t biologically related to the children. (Dr. Wade F. Horn is President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, a clinical child psychologist, and co-author of several books.)
Marriage takes people out of poverty. Of US families without college degrees, 40% of single mothers are poor compared to 12% of married mothers. Of those with college educations, 12% of single mothers were poor compared to 3% of married mothers (McLanahan & Sandefur, 1994).
Marriage makes men more successful. The 10-40% wage premium married men receive compared to the unmarried is “one of the most well-documented phenomena in social science” (Waite & Gallagher, 2000). It is common to almost all developed countries (Schoeni, 1995), averaging 30% in the US, a salary gain equivalent to a university degree!
The empirical literature is quite clear that children do, indeed, do best when they grow up in an intact, two-parent, married household. Even after controlling for differences in income, children who live with their married parents are two times less likely to fail at school, two to three times less likely to suffer an emotional or behavioral problem requiring psychiatric treatment, perhaps as much as 20 times less likely to suffer child abuse, and as adolescents they are less likely to get into trouble with the law, use illicit drugs, smoke cigarettes, abuse alcohol, or engage in early and promiscuous sexual activity. One is hard pressed to find a single indicator of child well being which is not adversely impacted by divorce or being born out-of-wedlock.
The general consensus today is that if you are unhappy in your marriage then you should get out. According to the studies, nothing could be further from the truth. God’s list of reasons for us to divorce is so short that you can list them on one finger ‘ marriage infidelity. Unhappiness did not make the list and there is good reason why. Listen to the insights gathered by Dr. Linda Waite and Dr. Maggie Gallagher.
In a new analysis of a nationally representative data set, the authors found that 86 percent of couples who reported being unhappy in their marriages in the late 1980s but did not divorce were much happier and content with their marriages when reassessed five years later. Moreover, the unhappiest marriages showed the most dramatic improvements. Indeed, 77 percent of couples who rated their marriages as very unhappy in the late 1980s, five years later rated their marriages as “very happy” or “quite happy.” (Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, “The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially.”
There is a growing trend in our nation that is not getting any notice because it has almost become standard operating procedures, but in fact it is undermining marriages before they even begin. This undermining factor is living with one another before marriage, or cohabitation. Living together is not the same as living in the covenant of marriage. Studies show that cohabitation fosters so many ill effects upon couples who later choose to get married. Listen to the findings of the researchers.
Dr. Jan Stets, a leading scholar on cohabiting relationships found in general, “Cohabiting couples compared to married couples have less healthy relationships. They have lower relationship quality, lower stability, and a higher level of disagreements.”
Work done at the Family Violence Research Program at the University of New Hampshire found that “cohabitors are much more violent than marrieds…” It was also found that the overall rates of violence among cohabitors was double that of marrieds and “severe” violence was five times as high for cohabitors. Stets also found that nearly three times as many cohabitors admitted “hitting, shoving and throwing things at their partners in the past year” compared to married couples.
Additional research conducted at UCLA found that marriages preceded by cohabitation were more prone to problems like “use of drugs and alcohol, more permissive sexual relationships, and an abhorrence of dependence” than relationships not preceded by cohabitation. All of this contributes to the fact that cohabiting relationships and marriages preceded by cohabitation break-up at increased rates. It explains why “those who cohabit before marriage have substantially higher divorce rates than those who do not; the recorded differentials range from 50% to
These are just a sampling of the findings I have read over the past two weeks that point to the incredible treasure we have been given by Almighty God. A treasure that is a blessing not only to the husband, wife, and kids who live under the shelter of God’s covenant marriage, but a blessing to the community as well. If marriage is such a blessing, such a priceless treasure, then don’t you think it makes sense to guard our marriages with an even greater urgency and commitment than those who guard the Hope Diamond? I would think so.
Let’s take a look in the time we have left how we might guard this priceless treasure the Lord has given to us. First of all, the first step to guarding our marriage, is to always keep the Lord before us. Whether I am in Connie’s presence or not I am always in the presence of Almighty God. What I mean by that is that most people I know are far less likely to do something to compromise their marriage covenant while they are in the presence of their husband or wife. Well, whether our husband or wife is present or not, the Lord is always present with us, walking with us and watching us so that we will walk in His ways and not our own. Proverbs 5:20-23 speaks to what I am saying. Turn there with me and read along.
20 Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife? 21 For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. 22 The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. 23 He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly. (Proverbs 5:20-23 NIV)
Our ways are always before the Lord. This same truth is written about once again in Psalms 128. Let me share some wise counsel with you found in this awesome passage.
1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways. 2 You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. 4Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. (Psalm 128:1-4 NIV)
When we keep before us the majesty and holiness of Almighty God, then we are more apt to keep in mind the priceless nature of our relationship with the Lord and our accountability to Him for the husband or wife He has given us. The Psalmist says, ‘Fear the Lord and walk in His ways.’ By walking in His ways we will never be led in the path of compromise. By fearing the Lord we will know that there are consequences to compromising our relationship with our husband or wife.
The second step we can take in standing guard over our marriage is to keep God’s Word always before us. God’s Word has the unique power to not only give us guidance and set the standard for us, but then to convict us and draw us back from the edge of destruction. We can justify and rationalize in our own hearts and minds, but God’s Word pierces our puny rationalizations and confronts us with the truth. Hebrews 4:12 says,
12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)
We can use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God to stand guard over our marriages if we will only utilize this great gift from the Father. Proverbs 2 speaks about the power we can possess when we seek the wisdom and discernment of God for the living of our lives. Read along with me.
1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. 9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair’every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. 12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, 13 who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, 14 who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, 15 whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. 16 It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, 17 who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.? (Proverbs 2:1-17 NIV)
Stay in God’s Word. Plant your feet firmly in the solid foundation of God’s Word. Lean upon and learn from the lives of those who have gone before us, some of those who have failed in their marriages, others who have resisted temptation by clinging to the Lord, and learn from these as you cling to the Lord.
The third step we can take to guard our marriage is to make a covenant with our eyes, our heart, and our mind that we will not compromise the priceless gift the Lord has given to us. We are such visual people and there are so many visual images before us that are of a sexual and sensual nature. We need to be like Job and determine in our hearts, as Job did, in Job 31. Job writes, 1 ‘I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. (Job 31:1 NIV)
As we spend time in God’s Word, He will sensitize us to things that will undermine our relationship with our mate. When He does this we must file it away in our mind and refuse to allow those things to come in through the window of our eyes and corrupt our hearts and eat away at our marriage. We guys are prone to say, ‘Even though I am married I can still read the menu, I can still shop from the sidewalk, I can still look ‘ I just can’t touch.’ How many guys or women, who have said that, have eventually gone further and compromised their relationship? Job said, ‘I will not look lustfully at a girl.’
We must also make that same covenant with our minds. Things begin in our mind. We think about, we fantasize, we imagine what it would be like before we ever do. We must set our minds on other things, godly things if we are to avoid compromising our relationship with our husband or wife. Paul wrote to the Philippians and said,
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable’if anything is excellent or praiseworthy’think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
The final step that we can take in guarding our marriage, when all else fails is to flee, run like the wind. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and in chapter 10 we read,
13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)
There is biblical precedent for fleeing situations where you know you are going to get in trouble. Potiphar’s wife was trying to seduce Joseph and she was tireless in her efforts. She even grabbed his tunic and tried to pull him in bed with her, but Joseph turned and ran like Maurice Greene out of the house. There may be a situation where you work that you know in your heart it is leading to something more. If you can’t put a stop to it then you may have to get drastic and find another job. Young people. You may go out on a date and some young guy or young girl has every intention of getting you to compromise your sexual purity. They are adamant and will not give up. It might be best for you to get out of the car or to ask them out of the car and go on home.
Everyone has been and will be tempted at some point, but God has provided a way of escape ‘ take it or you will regret it.
Before we go I want to review quickly the four steps you can take to guard your marriage. 1) Walk in the fear of the Lord as you stay mindful of His presence throughout the day. 2) Stay in God’s Word and allow the Spirit of God to teach, convict, and correct you through His Word. 3) Make a covenant with your eyes, heart, and mind not to look at, think about, or entertain anything that will compromise your relationship with your husband or wife. 4) When all else fails ‘ run, run, run!
God has given us a precious gift and He expects us to guard it with our lives. Maybe you’ve never thought of marriage in this way before, but this morning the Lord has touched your heart and you know you need to dedicate your marriage to the Lord. I want to ask you to do that right now. Maybe you’re not a Christian, but this morning the Lord has spoken to your heart and you know He is calling you to submit your life to Jesus as Lord and King of your heart. Won’t you come forward and give me your hand as you give Jesus your heart?