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Playing For Keeps – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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November 29, 2023 12:00 am

Playing For Keeps – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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November 29, 2023 12:00 am

The family is the bedrock of society, and stable marriages are the bedrock of the family. Holiness and fidelity should be at the forefront of our marriages. In this message from Ephesians 5, Pastor Lutzer provides three characteristics of committed love in marriage. Could living out our marriages biblically change our families and even society?

This month’s special offer is available for a donation of any amount. Get yours at or call us at 1-888-218-9337. 

Moody Church Hour
Erwin Lutzer

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. If the family is the bedrock of society, it makes sense that stable marriages are the bedrock of the family. That's why divorce is so damaging. In divorce, there are no winners. Today, why marriage must be viewed as a lifetime proposition, stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, today marks the last message on fighting for your family. Fully half of all Christian marriages end up in divorce court, a similar proportion to that of the culture at large.

Why is this? Well, Dave, first of all, those statistics deeply grieve my soul. And I could give a long list of reasons for divorce, unrealistic expectations, unhappy people think that marriage is going to make them happy. But not only that, they bring to the marriage previous sexual experiences which have never adequately been dealt with.

There are all kinds of family issues that they bring and there could be addictions. Well, you can go down the list. We here at Running to Win are deeply committed to help families. That's why we have prepared a very special resource and this is the second to last day we are making it available for you. The title, of course, is Fighting for Your Family. You can get all the transcripts of these messages along with a study guide, questions, and then a link so that you can listen to these messages again and again. Very quickly, here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And remember, integrity is the bedrock of any successful marriage. Well, this is number 10 in a series of messages entitled Fighting for Your Family. And for many of you, it may be the most important message of the series. Because of the fact that marriage is so serious and we know that when the fall happened, when man fell in the Garden of Eden, it affected his marriage terribly and everything went wrong.

And the fall still does the very same to us today. And because of the tension that exists in the marriage relationship, it has become a source of much humor. And I thought that before I begin this message, which is a very serious one that I hope will transform your life, maybe we could just relax and enjoy the fact that human nature is very interesting. So here we go. First of all, I want to talk about the insensitivity of men.

Ladies, if you say amen, say it quietly in your heart. There's a story about a woman who said to her husband, you know that I love race cars. I can race them really fast here in Montana. And she knew he had enough money to buy her one. She said, when I wake up on my birthday on the driveway, I want something that I can make go from zero to one hundred and forty in eight seconds. Well, she got up on her birthday, looked on the driveway, and on the driveway was a bathroom scale.

Funeral services for the husband are pending. There was a woman who was looking into the mirror and she said, I feel so awful about the way in which I look. She said, I've got weight issues. She said, I've got lines on my face.

My teeth are crooked. She said, I just look so awful. She said to her husband, right now, I need a compliment from you.

He said, well, dear, your eyesight is near perfect. A man went to his pastor and said, you know, my wife is trying to poison me. He said, oh, no. He said, I know your wife. She's a nice woman.

There's no way she's trying to poison you. He said, pastor, there's another side to her that you don't know. He said, go talk to her. The pastor came back later that afternoon and said to the man, he said, you know, I just spent three and a half hours talking with your wife. He said, I have some advice for you. The man said, what?

The pastor said, take the poison. When you and I get married and we stand at the altar, we bring to that event the seeds of destroying any relationship. Because we bring to that event ourselves the fact that we want to be the center of our own world. We long to be served and not to serve. We are selfish. We may be filled with anger. We may be filled with jealousies and expectations and uncertainties and insecurities. And there we stand and we commit to one another until death do us part. Somebody had said that getting married is taking the ego of a man and the vanity of a woman and putting them together in this intimate relationship.

And it is like having heart surgery without anesthetic. And so God puts them together and says, fight it out and enjoy. It's like somebody said that for my birthday, he said, somebody gave me a humidifier and somebody else gave me a dehumidifier.

And I put them in the same room and just let them fight it out. I do believe that this message is going to be transforming. I've been praying that couples who are on the verge of divorce, couples who are in trouble with their marriage are going to be changed because of this message.

I really do believe that. Rebecca asked me this morning how the message was coming along. And I said, if the Holy Spirit of God comes to open people's minds and hearts as I lay my own heart on the altar, so to speak, as I plead with you regarding your marriage, I believe that God can change your marriage no matter where you are at. And if you're in a good marriage, I believe that this message will help all of us to make our good marriages better. First of all, I'd like to deal with three lies that our culture gladly accepts, three lies.

And lie number one is very clear. My happiness is number one. My happiness is most important. I had a man say to me one time, well, I'm unhappy in this marriage. And I can't believe that God would want me to be unhappy. What if Jesus had said that in Gethsemane? I'm unhappy here in the garden. And I don't believe that the Father would want me to be unhappy.

And going to the cross made me very unhappy. My dear friend, very quickly may I say that it is much more important to be holy than it is happy. And God put you in that marriage to make you holy, guaranteeing not happiness but holiness, if you respond to it correctly. Second lie of our culture is this, that if you find the right person, you'll really be fulfilled.

What you need to do is to find your soul mate. So a married man at the water cooler meets a woman who just listens to him and just adores him. And he's found his soul mate.

Really? I remember a man in this church many, many years ago who said, I found an oasis. I'm living in a desert. I found an oasis. And now you want me to go back to the desert, he said, as many of us tried to convince him not to leave his wife and marry somebody else. But he chose the oasis and discovered that it was terribly poisonous.

It would have been better, you know, if he had just stayed right in the desert, actually. You know, when we are in the period of romance, when we romance, when we're in romance, we are the most deceptive, lying people that we ever are in our lives. Because we put forth our best self. We have this shimmering image that we project. And then after we move in and we get married, we suddenly discover there's a beep beep and the movers move in and all of the baggage now gets unloaded. And here's a baggage of anger. Here's a baggage of insecurity. Here's a baggage of high expectations. Here's a baggage of laziness. And after our mate's baggage gets brought into the house, then ours comes and there we are. I tell young people today that it is very important to realize this.

Young people write this down. It is possible for you to be madly in love with someone you should never marry. And that's true of older people, too. You could fall in love with somebody else's wife. The best poster child for recognizing that it's possible to be in love with someone you should not marry is myself.

You can put me up on the fridge and say he's the poster child. Before I met Rebecca, I was madly in love with this young woman. And I thank God today that I didn't marry her. I might not be in ministry if I had married her. God wanted me to wait for Rebecca and how glad I am I did to recognize that feelings itself and thinking that you have found your soulmate can backfire. There's a third lie of our society. If I find my soulmate, I'm justified in breaking my vows.

If I find my soulmate, I'm justified. Like one person said, well, you know, even David got his Bathsheba, he said to me. Yeah. I told him, I said, yeah, David did get his Bathsheba. And you know what else happened? He wrecked his family, lost four sons. But yeah, he did get his Bathsheba, OK. The Bible says in the 15th Psalm, blessed is he who swears to his own hurt and does not change.

Blessed is the man who swears to his own hurt and does not change. You say I got married and now I have buyer's remorse. I know somebody who bought a vehicle and brought it into the garage and the moment they did, they wish they could take it back.

Buyer's remorse. Maybe you think you didn't marry the right one. Well, it's not as important that you marry the right one as it is that you be the right one, that you be a person of character. You know, it is impossible for me to over exaggerate the pain in this world because of divorce. A counselor was telling me how that this couple divorced. This man ran off with his girlfriend.

He's living with his girlfriend. So a divorce ensues. And now they have a little one-year-old girl. And he gets the little one-year-old on weekends. So this mother attends a sporting event where her other son was involved in. And she looks down and just in the rows ahead of her, there's her ex-husband.

There's his girlfriend playing mom to this little one-year-old. How much grief can a person endure anyway? I was reading somebody who does marriage counseling full time.

He says that many people who divorce regret it later on because they underestimated the amount of pain, disruption, heartache that would come to them if they were to divorce. And this soul mate turns out to be poisonous in the end anyway. There are two things that should never happen prematurely.

One is embalming. And the other is to get a divorce. Now with that introduction, what I'd like to do is to ask us to turn to the Bible for a moment. And thank you for catching on to that, by the way.

I debated whether or not it would float, but evidently it did. The fifth chapter of the book of Ephesians, because this is what we're going to do. I'm going to give you three characteristics of the kind of love that we commit ourselves to when we get married. And then what I want to do is to give you five principles of marriage that I hope are going to help you and keep some of you from divorce and help some of you who are in a loveless marriage to get a reboot and a restart. Three characteristics, very quickly, and you know, as I was looking at this passage yesterday, it would be worthy of several messages. So I'm simply picking out three different characteristics of love and commenting on them. I'm going to begin at verse 25, husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

I'll stop there. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church. How did Jesus love us? He loved us, the Bible says, even when we were his enemies. Jesus knew what it was to love us without being loved back. And then he died for us. Most wives say to themselves, I don't expect my husband to die for me. That's very unlikely, but it would sure be nice if he helped with a vacuuming.

I thought I'd throw that in because I do help Rebecca with a vacuuming and I wanted to use some illustration that wouldn't convict me too severely. And so that's what the Bible says. Husbands love your wives as Jesus loved it. And dear wife, you are in a loveless marriage. Just know that you are positioned to be able to experience the kind of love that Jesus had and for God to use your marriage as a laboratory where he is going to teach you about the love of God. You know, I think of Jesus there at the woman at the well. She had had five husbands. The one that she was living with now was not her husband. And Jesus said to her that if you believe on me, you will find within you a well of water springing up even into everlasting life. If you become a worshiper of God, Jesus said, you'll be number one on God's list even though you've had so many marriage failures and the present man that you are now living with will not encourage you in your walk with God.

So I encourage you ladies get involved in the church, get involved in the family of God, but don't give up even though life is very, very difficult. And the first thing that we have to do is to recognize here that we have a kind of love that actually enables us to love even in a loveless relationship. And you say, well, you know, that's unrealistic.

Yes, it is unrealistic. But what if God poured his grace upon your life? What if God began to do in your own heart things that would be miraculous? The ability of God to work in the human heart should never be underestimated.

This will become clear in a few moments as to the steps that you should take. So first of all, we should be sacrificial in our giving. Secondly, we should be pure in our relationships, pure love. You'll notice that Jesus gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word so that he might present the church to himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she may be holy and without blemish, husbands. This is God's holy word. It's our responsibility to see to it that our wives are spiritually cleansed by the washing of water through the word of God. In my opinion, one of the clearest references in the Bible to the fact that husbands have responsibility for spiritual leadership in the home.

And we've talked about that in previous messages. Oh, you say, well, that's an impossible thing. I'm not a Bible scholar. I'm not a Bible teacher. Can you read the word of God? Can you pray with your wife?

Can you encourage her as the spiritual leader? If you want a happy marriage, there has to be a pure kind of love where there are no attachments, sensual attachments to other people. But let me ask you, how can you experience the love of God and the pure love of God if the wife is reading romance novels and if the husband is into pornography?

It's not possible. We'll talk about that in a moment. So secondly, it should be a pure relationship. Third, you should honor your mate. You should honor your mate. Husbands, the Bible says in verse 31, therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two will become one flesh.

This mystery is profound and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself and let the wife see that she respects her husband. You are to leave and to cleave. I've had wives tell me my husband makes no major decision without first of all calling his mother and he may or may not make reference to me, but he has to still be committed to his parents. Do you realize how that devalues your wife? Do you realize how it makes her feel when you have not left emotionally and spiritually your parents? Do you realize how she feels if she is not number one in your life experience and in your relationships and she is above your family, she is above even your children and above your vocation? This is what the Bible says in 1 Peter chapter 3 verse 7. It says, husbands love your wives in an understanding way and then it says, love her as one who is the weaker vessel as heirs together of the grace of life that your prayers be not hindered. You say, oh pastor long ago I've given up on God and I've given up on prayer. Might it be that you are not dwelling with your wife in an understanding way giving honor to her?

That's the phrase I missed in a moment I think. Giving honor to her as an heir together of the grace of life. Is that the way in which you treat your wife? If not the Bible says that that may be the reason why your prayers are hindered.

They're not answered. Would you honor her? Would you put her in a position where she knows she has your heart and she has your honor because you've let her know that she's number one here on earth next to God. Well, now what I'd like to do is to give you five principles. Five principles. Years ago I used to do marriage counseling.

I don't anymore because my staff is much better at it than I am. But as I was thinking about this message yesterday afternoon, the Lord laid on my heart some practical principles that I think you should employ no matter what kind of a marriage you are presently in. Would you open your heart to these principles? Those of you who are planning to be divorced or you wished you were or you think to yourself, I've married the wrong one.

Well, let me emphasize again that the one to whom you are married is now the one that God wants for you and he has you where he wants you. And now the principles. First principle that I wrote down yesterday afternoon is the principle of God's glory.

The principle of God's glory. If you are in pain in your marriage, the first question should not be, how do I get out of this pain? The first question should be, how do I glorify God in the midst of this difficult relationship that seems to be going nowhere?

That's question number one. And so you really begin by giving your marriage to God and you desire his glory above your own happiness, above the own situation. You desire the glory of God first. Now, I always like to emphasize that there's a big difference between committing your marriage to God, giving it over to God and praying. I meet people all the time who say, well, you know, I'm praying for him or I'm praying for this situation. It's good to pray and we want you to pray. And God brings us to desperation so that we do pray. But sometimes we can just pray without any faith. I've discovered in my own life that when I commit something to God, sometimes it is so difficult to commit it to him because now I know that I can no longer manipulate the situation. I'm recognizing that it is out of my hands and it is very difficult to give it to God.

Why? Because I need faith to believe that it is in his hands and not my own. That's what it means to commit your marriage and yourself to God. Now, furthermore, what this means in practical terms is that now you're not going to live in retaliation. One of the great lessons that we have to learn is this, that when we are sinned against, we should not sin in return. I'm using here the illustration of David, who when Saul threw a spear at him, didn't say, oh, you threw that spear at me.

Here's one I'm throwing back. Of course, my friend, if you're in an abusive situation, go for help immediately. Talk to somebody who can help you. We here at Running to Win deeply believe, however, that God does help transform families and that transformation is possible. This series of messages is entitled Fighting for Your Family.

Very critical. We're making a special resource available to you, and this is the second to last day that we are offering it. This resource is a book based on these messages. It contains such things as the transcripts of the sermons, questions, and also provides a link so that you can listen to the sermons again and again.

For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Hope that you have a pen and pencil handy because I believe that this resource is critical and will be of great help. Go to That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Do that immediately.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. On our next program, Teaching That Could Bring You Back from the Brink, you'll hear principles to help you navigate what may seem to be impossible waters. Your marriage can be put back together. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-29 02:41:13 / 2023-11-29 02:50:11 / 9

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