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Difficult Marriages and Divorce, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 14, 2023 9:00 am

Difficult Marriages and Divorce, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 14, 2023 9:00 am

As Pastor J.D. continues to look at what the Bible says about divorce, he answers three practical questions about staying in a difficult marriage, remarriage, and how God views divorced people.

Summit Life
J.D. Greear
Summit Life
J.D. Greear

Today on Summit Life with JD Greer.

See, the reason we usually get divorced is not because we fall out of love with our spouse. It's because we fall out of obedience to Jesus. You may not feel in the moment that that person standing in front of you is worthy of your forgiveness or your continued faithfulness, but Jesus always is. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian, JD Greer.

I'm your host, Molly Bitovitch. From the very beginning, God established marriage as a covenant, not a consumer relationship, meaning it has way deeper meaning than many of us believe. But God also loves bringing beauty and redemption out of our biggest mistakes. Today, Pastor JD looks at what the Bible says about divorce and answers practical questions about staying in a difficult marriage, remarriage, and how God actually views divorced people.

We began this message yesterday, so if you need to catch up, visit Let's rejoin Pastor JD in 1 Corinthians 7 with a message titled Difficult Marriages and Divorce. According to Jesus, marriage is a covenant in effect until death do you part. So if that's the case, is it ever okay to divorce? Now, Jesus says you can do it in the case of adultery. Paul expands that to say abandonment by an unbeliever. So let's ask, why would those be exceptions? Y'all, the logic of this is very important.

Here's why. Because both adultery and abandonment by the unbeliever, both of those kill the covenant. When your spouse unites themselves to someone else sexually, they have destroyed the one flesh covenant with you, so you are no longer bound in that one flesh covenant, and you are thus free to remarry.

You don't have to do that, but it is an option. And if your spouse leaves you and divorces you, well, they've killed the covenant, and that means you're free to remarry. In both cases, God has called you to peace. Now, you ask, you're like, well, what if there's been no adultery, technically, and technically no divorce by an unbeliever, but one spouse is abusive? Or maybe they're involved in some illegal activity that they refuse to stop that is putting our family at risk. Well, first, if that's you, I want you to hear me very clearly, okay? You should definitely get yourself out of that situation immediately. Reach out to the domestic violence support hotline. Write this number down. Just 800-799-SAFE.

That would be a great first conversation for you. As far as whether divorce would ever be an option, I would argue that the logic of Paul's and Jesus's exceptions would also allow for divorce when a spouse is doing something that makes them unable to be lived with, putting you or the kids in danger. In the same way that adultery or abandonment killed the covenant, living in an abusive way does also.

And so by the logic of 1 Corinthians 7, 15, you are no longer bound. That doesn't mean, by the way, just to be clear, that doesn't mean, yeah, they're unable to be lived with because they are so annoying, or they've changed, or they're just not doing it for me. They listen to the TV too loud. They snore all night long.

They don't work hard at their job. I'm not talking about that level of stuff. I'm talking they've killed the covenant by being unsafe to live with. You need to do this, by the way, under the close advisement of a Christian counselor and with the support of the pastors at your campus. Period of separation is probably going to be in order, perhaps even a long one, to give your spouse space to repent. But the big point that I'm trying to make on this one is this. From the beginning, God established marriage as a covenant, not a consumer relationship.

To become one. Divorce, therefore, is as radical as amputating an arm or a leg. Listen, there are times when amputation is necessary. But any doctor listening to me right now would know that you would be run out of the practice if you were constantly and quickly and glibly saying, well, let's just amputate it. Hang nail, amputate. Sprained ankle, ugly freckles, varicose veins, just cut it off at the knees. We'll be done with that.

Yeah, you can do that. But have you considered amputation? Amputation is sometimes required, but it is as radical as you can imagine in a surgery, and it is the last thing that you do after you have tried literally everything else. So using the time that I have left, which is not that long, let me deal with three very practical questions that I get asked on this. Three very practical questions. They are, number one, how do I stay in a difficult marriage? Because usually marriages that go to divorce were difficult a long time before they were divorced. Number two, if I am divorced, is it okay to get remarried? Number three, if I am divorced and remarried, how does God see me? Let's deal with them one at a time. Number one, how do I stay in a difficult marriage?

I'm going to give you a handful of things here. First of all, how you stay in a difficult marriage, you need to once and for all thoroughly and angrily reject the right person myth. It says that there is a right person out there for you, and a good marriage is determined by finding that person. And if you don't find that person, then you'll never really be truly happy, and that if you're unhappy in your marriage now, it's because you didn't get the right person. At first you thought they were the right person, but now you're a little older, a little wiser.

You see your mistake. You realize that just because they had muscles and that really cool mustache, that that didn't make them an awesome person. And if you could just get out of this relationship with them and get into the right person, you would at last be happy. That's the right person myth. But the truth is that the right person is not out there, and that you always, remember, you always marry the wrong person. And that's a statement of freedom for some of you right now. I'm going to ask you to think about it right now. That person you're sitting right next to, that spouse, he or she is the wrong person for you.

Just go ahead and acknowledge it. You're wrong for me. Here's why they're wrong. First, they're a sinner. A sinner.

Sinner so bad Jesus had to die for them. And that means they're going to disappoint and fail you. Second, I told you, you change over time. So like I said a few weeks ago, counselors say by the time you make it to 70, you're married to one person from age 25 to 70. You've probably been married to about five different people during that time because they changed and you change.

That's another reason. If you married the right person at the beginning, you're probably not the right person now. Finally, you always marry the wrong person, so to speak, because God's purpose in marriage was not restoring the missing part of your soul in another person. The missing piece in you is found not in them, but in him.

The arms that you were searching for in romance were actually his arms. So God's main purpose in marriage is not making you happy in an idol and giving you some perfect person. His purpose in marriage is to teach you to become more like him by faithfully loving and forbearing with a deliberately annoying sinner like he loves and forbears with you. He does that by having you marry an imperfect person. The best you can hope for in marriage, one counselor says, is less of a bad match for you.

That's your hope. I wouldn't put that on a Hallmark card. I wouldn't send that. You're less of a bad match. Of all the bad matches, you're the lead.

I wouldn't do that. All right, but everybody ends up being a bad match in some way. Now, y'all be very clear. I'm not saying you can't genuinely be in love with your spouse.

I so love Veronica, and I will at times even say she is perfect for me because of how God designed her and me, and she is such an incredible gift. I'm not saying that can't exist. I'm saying just don't look to marriage for something it was never designed to give you.

So you've got to reject that myth. Number two, how do you state a difficult marriage? You've got to do it for Jesus. Do it for Jesus. The covenant that you made in marriage was first and foremost to him. Even if you weren't a Christian, when you got married, marriage was God's creation. You were participating in his thing.

You did it in his name. I have a friend who went through a really difficult chapter in his marriage, and in one counseling session, his wife told him, I just want you to know I'm here right now because of Jesus, not because of you. Now, eventually they repaired their relationship, and they are wonderfully close.

Great loving marriage today, exemplary in many ways. But I share that because I want you to know that sometimes it is simply your faith in Jesus that keeps you going. You may not feel in the moment that that person standing in front of you is worthy of your forgiveness or your continued faithfulness, but Jesus always is. So do what Veronica and I do, and that is in some of our worst moments, we picture Jesus behind the other spouse and respond not so much to them, respond to him.

You see, the reason we usually get divorced is not because we fall out of love with our spouse. It's because we fall out of obedience to Jesus. You may not feel in the moment that that person standing in front of you is worthy of your forgiveness or your continued faithfulness, but Jesus always is.

Number C, you got to soak yourself in God's grace. It is no accident that what precedes Jesus' teaching on marriage in Matthew 19 is his teaching on forgiveness in Matthew 18. And there Jesus tells his favorite forgiveness story.

It's also my favorite forgiveness story, which is why you've heard it 100 times. But he tells a story about a man who'd been forgiven 10,000 talents. Talents, basically a month's wage, 10,000 was the highest number they'd write in Greek.

So when you wrote 10,000, it was like saying infinity. One guy owed another guy an infinity of money. And the deal was, if you couldn't pay back your debt on the day that it was due, you had to go into slavery, sell yourself into slavery to this other person. And if you couldn't pay off your debt by the time you worked for them throughout your life, then your kids became their slaves, and if they couldn't pay it off, their kids.

So you'd have whole family lines, get enslaved to other family lines because of some bad decisions. The day comes for the collection of this infinity of money. This is a pretty cut and dry moment. You walk in, you say, I don't have the money. You go into debtor's prison and become this guy's slave. God does the unthinkable. He just falls down in front of this guy who loans money.

He falls down in front of him and he says, sir, please, I'm so sorry. I don't want to go to prison. I want my kids to go to prison. Just give me a little bit more. Give me two more weeks. Two more weeks and I promise I'll pay you back every penny. What he's saying is absurd. You could have 200,000 weeks. You're not going to get an infinity of money. It's going to happen.

Why would this guy give you more time? It's a debt you can never pay. He's groveling. Everybody starts to get uneasy in the courtroom. It's embarrassing. This guy debasing himself that way. When all of a sudden this loan show, what do you call somebody who loans people money? They're mean. Not loan puppies or loan bunnies.

You call them loan sharks. Everybody's thinking this is going to go down badly. All of a sudden, this guy is overcome with an emotion that Jesus calls compassion. His lip starts to quiver. His eyes get misty.

Maybe this kid reminds him of his grandson or his son. He kind of shakes his head. He says, no, no. You do not have two more weeks to pay back the debt.

As of right now, that debt does not exist anymore. Stand up, son. You are free and clear of all that money. God stands up, and for the first time in as long as he can remember, he is not under this crushing weight of millions of dollars. He walks out of his courtroom as light as air.

Nobody can believe it. As he's walking out in a daze, he sees a friend walking across the street who owes him $1.50, a buck fifty. He borrowed it because they got Mountain Dew together last week. This guy's like, hey, you owe me $1.50 for Mountain Dew.

The guy's like, man, I'm sorry. I don't have any cash on me. I'll get you next week.

I promise. And this guy says, no, no. If you can't pay me my $1.50 right now, you're going to prison. Grabs him by the throat, Jesus says, and drags him and throws him into prison. Now, when Jesus is telling that story, the original audience, they're all listening until Jesus gets to that part.

Then they roll their eyes like, that's not a true story. Nobody who'd ever been forgiven a billion dollars is going to turn around and throw somebody else in prison for $1.50. And Jesus said, exactly. Which means that if you're struggling with unforgiveness in your relationships, like your marriage, chances are you've probably lost all concept with how much God has forgiven you of. I am the man in that story who owed God $10 billion. And nothing that anybody ever does to me comes close to what I have done to him and what I've been forgiven of. I'm not trying to minimize your pain. I'm not trying to say it's not real. I'm not trying to say that you were not a victim of injustice. I am not.

I know it was terrible and it was painful. I'm just saying that when we become aware of the greatness of God's grace, even for us, it gives us the resources to be able to deal with those who have disappointed and hurt us. Thank you for joining us on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. We're halfway through today's teaching, but before we dive back in, I wanted to share some exciting news with you. Pastor J.D. has just released his latest book, Essential Christianity, which offers an insightful overview of the Christian message by drawing on passages from Romans 1 to 12. This book is the perfect resource for those who want to learn more about the gospel and how it addresses life's most pertinent questions. But it's also a perfect companion for those who are searching for answers and wondering what Christianity is all about. Don't miss out on the chance to deepen your faith and understanding or to present the gospel in a fresh way to a friend who's seeking. You can order your copy of Essential Christianity from our friends at The Good Book Company.

Visit slash essential or look for it wherever books are sold. Now let's return to our teaching. Once again, here's Pastor J.D. Did you notice in Matthew 19 when Jesus quotes Matt and Moses' concession and divorce? Why Moses gave that concession?

Remember this? It is because of your hardness of heart that Moses allowed it. From the beginning, it wasn't so. Ultimately, it is our hardened hearts that kill a marriage. It's not the fights. It's not the frustrations. It's not the lack of fulfillment or whatever. It is a hardened heart. The point is Jesus can soften the heart through the gospel and his Holy Spirit. So lean into that.

Lean into that. Finally, the apostle Paul adds, you might do it for others. Paul urges that spouse stuck in the unfulfilling marriage to an unbeliever. Just lift your eyes beyond yourself to the positive effect that remaining in the marriage is going to have on others, particularly their kids. You do not need me to cite the stats about the devastation that divorce has on kids. Children of divorce are four times more likely to have social problems, two times more likely to drop out of school, three times more likely to need psychological help later, five times more likely to be unable to keep a job.

But hear this. These stats don't apply to marriages where there is abuse. Children fare better in safe environments, even if that means divorce. I'm just talking about the disadvantages to the children that happen just because you fall out of love or some other westernized love ideal like that. If that has happened, I want you to know the church is amazing, and God can raise up and restore and pour out grace on you.

He says you should at least consider it. The other thing we have to consider as believers is what a divorce communicates to our kids and to our community about the love of God. When we walk away from a marriage because we're unhappy, we tell the world and our children that God's love is conditional, that when we annoy God or disappoint God or make God unhappy, He leaves us. Our world desperately needs to know the patience, steadfast, never giving up, love of God and our marriages are supposed to be the best demonstration of that. The gospel is that God can take our mistakes and rewrite them with beauty. Divorce does not mean the best part of your life is over. I'm just saying that the fact that God's grace is amazing shouldn't cause us to take lightly the damaging power of sin either.

That's all I'm trying to point out. Last thing I'll say on this, get some counseling. Just think of it like a cancer in your marriage. Don't wait until you're stage four to go to the doctor. Men, you take the leadership and say we need to go do that, not because you're at stage four and everything's about to implode, but because you care not to get to stage four. Told you there were three questions. That was number one.

Number two is should I get remarried? I'm totally going to skip this section just for sake of time. You can get the transcript. This would be a really good research project for you. Get the transcript. Pretty straightforward.

Nothing totally like you need to be a PhD to get through there. So just do that and let me hit the third and final question. That is this. If I am divorced and I'm remarried, I want to end on how does God see me now? Let me just say what I said at the beginning. Divorce is not the unforgivable sin. In fact, look at Jeremiah chapter three, verse eight. God says, God says, for all her adulteries, I gave faithless Israel a certificate of divorce. God has the audacity to call himself a divorce person. God puts himself in the company of the divorce.

If I were to ask all divorced people in this room to stand up and God himself were here, God would stand up in that number. Now, of course, there was no sin on his side of the divorce, and maybe there was sin on yours. See, the point is in the cross and resurrection, Jesus puts away the sin done by you and the resurrection, he overturns the sin done to you. You see, at the cross, Peter says he bore our sins, our sexual sins, our marriage sins, our anger sins, our abuse sins. He had bore them in his own body on the cross, and when we believe that Jesus died for us, God transfers our sin to Jesus. If we confess our sins, just confess them. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That promise is for you, brothers and sisters.

The resurrection is God overturning the curse of death and destruction brought on by our sin and infusing the power of new life into the dead tomb of a broken heart. The empty tomb is the answer for the empty soul that has been ravaged by divorce. By the way, I just feel a special word for some people out there, somebody out there going through real marriage trouble right now. I just want to tell you that God is going to do something amazing in your marriage.

If you will trust him and you will give him time, he is going to do something amazing in your marriage that's going to make it far stronger and more beautiful than anything you have ever imagined, better than when you were newlyweds. I'm not saying that is for everybody, but I'm saying it's for someone. If some of you know, I'm talking to you. Maybe you're sitting here right now, realizing you've made terrible mistakes in that process. Maybe you've even committed terrible sins. You can't change that, but the good news of the gospel is that those mistakes don't mean that God is done with you or that he cannot touch even that part of your life with blessing.

Can I show you something real awesome? In Matthew's recording of Jesus' genealogy, Matthew 1, Matthew 1 was Jesus' 23 and me deal. He shows us that a number of the relationships in Jesus' ancestry were compromised, to say it politely. Sexual sin. Jesus was the product of sexual sin. Broken marriages. One of Jesus' great-grandmother was a former prostitute. All these things, by the way, they were terrible. They were painful, and I'm not trying to make light of them. Yet out of all that mess, all that sin, all that pain, God brought forth Jesus.

What is the point of that? One of those relationships Matthew points to as part of Jesus' ancestry was David and Bathsheba. Think about the brokenness and the tragedy surrounding that relationship. David sleeps with Bathsheba, then has her husband killed. Yet after David repented, God not only forgave him, God brought forth from David and Bathsheba Solomon, the king that would be the wisest and richest king who would build the temple that Israelites would point back to for years as evidence of God's goodness.

From Solomon's loins ultimately would come the Messiah himself, Jesus. What's all that mean? I agree with Tim Keller. What does this mean other than that God is trying to say to all of us, I love redeeming the worst situations. I love redeeming the hardest cases. Go ahead.

Try me. God can bring beauty and redemption even out of your biggest mistakes if you trust it to him. He said, Well, wait, J.D., wait, but my spouse hurt me. They hurt me bad. It's not fair. It's not fair that they don't have to pay for their sin or that you try to tie all this up with a Bible bow.

They seem to have gotten off scot-free. It's hard for me to handle that. Is there no justice?

Friend, there is. I'm not trying to be lighthearted about your pain or the injustice that happened to you. I always think about Uriah in this situation. Uriah, if you don't know that name, Uriah was Bathsheba's husband.

Honorable and loyal, not a negative word said about him. Then betrayed by David, whom he trusted and murdered. I told you to imagine after all this has gone down, Uriah has been murdered. He's up in heaven watching things unfold on earth.

He's like, God, no, wait, no, no, no. You're blessing David and Bathsheba? You're blessing them with Solomon? And he gets to be an ancestor of Jesus? David slept with my wife and murdered me. I imagine if that conversation took place, I imagine that God may have pulled Uriah over to the side and given him a vision of a mysterious man hanging on a cross one day. He says to Uriah, that man on that cross is going to pay not just for David's sin against you, he's going to pay for your sin against me.

Because of that one, both of you guys are going to be able to be with me in heaven for eternity. Uriah probably said, well, who is it on the cross, Lord? Who is it that's going to pay for sin? God says, that's Jesus that was coming. Not just David's son, he's my son. He's the son who suffers for David's sin, and he suffers for yours. And after he dies for that sin, I'm going to bring his dead body back to life to show that I can overturn every cursed thing for good, even this unjust tragedy in your life. You're still writing things down?

Write this down. In the cross, we find forgiveness for the sins done by us and healing for the ones done to us. What a powerful truth to cling to and live out. You know, we called this teaching series Cutting Through the Noise for a Reason, and that's because so many of us feel like life is so chaotic. And recently, I got to sit down with Pastor JD to ask him what the Bible says to do when life just seems to be too much.

Yeah, I think all of us are looking for a way out of the noise and distraction. Listen, I know I sound like a broken record, but the answer is the gospel. What we see is that in every chapter of the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul takes the noise of what they're in, whether it's interpersonal conflict or theological chaos, and he just says the gospel cuts through this and gives you a compass that'll help you navigate through all the noise and live with peace and security and confidence and strength. This is a book that will surprise you in how relevant it is, and I want to encourage you to dig in for yourself. This month, we've got a study guide.

We often provide stuff like this at Summit Life because we really want you to get everything out of this book, and so we have a study guide that'll take you through some key questions and passages in 1 Corinthians. We'd love to give you a copy. Just go to and you can get one. You can give today by calling 866-335-5220, or you can donate online at I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us again Wednesday for a fresh message from our series Cutting Through the Noise. See you right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-14 10:57:02 / 2023-03-14 11:07:57 / 11

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