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The Bride and Christ

Part 8 – Thinking Differently

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(12/29) This morning after a little break for the celebration of Christ’s birth, we are back to our series, "The Bride and Christ." This is important, because for us, it’s always back to Jesus… because every relationship, and marriage in particular, is ultimately best understood by looking at Jesus and the church.

So, the big question is how does Jesus treat people? How can we love just as Jesus loved? Well, first we have to look at the Lord Jesus, because what I’m not going to do is say, "Look at me! Let me tell you about my humility." I will be the first to say, "I’m proud, I’m prideful, and I hate that character flaw." So what we’re going to do is look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Now Jesus is the unselfish servant. Would you agree with that? He is a good example isn’t he?

The last 25 chapters in the book of Isaiah… that whole last section, is all about Jesus as our suffering servant. Seven hundred years before he was born, it was prophesied repeatedly, "He’s coming as the humble, suffering, unselfish servant." And so then Jesus comes. The angel announces, "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." (Matthew 1:23). So God becomes a man. He goes from heaven to earth, from a throne to a manger, from riches to poverty, from hearing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty," to "Crucify him, crucify him, crucify him." So, Jesus knows and understands… he is the unselfish servant isn’t he?

You might remember in Mark 10:43 where the disciples are arguing which one of them is the greatest. It’s amazing how clueless they were… but Jesus on more than a few occasions had to correct the thinking of his closest disciples. And here in Mark’s Gospel he seizes the opportunity to teach on humility and how it relates to servanthood. He takes their selfish, sinful desires, and he redirects them toward his holy purposes. Jesus says in verse 43, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all" (Mark 10:43-44). Jesus turned the tables on them… he took their perspectives… he took their priorities… and he turned them upside-down. He says, "If you want to be great, follow my example!" Shortly thereafter, Jesus got down on his knees and washed the dirty feet of Judas Iscariot, the very one who would betray and set him up to be murdered (John 13:2).

Do you want to be great? Jesus says, then be a servant. You want to have a great marriage? Then be a great servant. Look at verse 45, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Jesus, God in human flesh, came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. He served us through his suffering. He’s humble and not proud. He’s poor and not rich. He served others. He lived without sin. He died on the cross in our place for our sins. He rose for our salvation. And that was all out of humility.

He "did not come to be served." But let me ask you this. Going into marriage, what was your primary motivation? Was it to get hooked up with someone to serve you? We live in a world that is incredibly selfish. Your whole world is about being served. From McDonalds, your grocer, to your bank teller, it’s all about being served. We live in a service economy. We pay people to serve us. And the more people we can pay, the greater we think we are, and the more significant we feel.

So how about those of you who are single? Did you ever make a list of all the things you want in a spouse? You know… sort of like a job description for the ways in which they can serve you! Well, good luck with that!

Jesus says you need to have a second list: "All the ways I want to serve my spouse; all the things I don’t just want from my spouse, but I want to be for my spouse. I want to serve them in this way, love them in this way, and encourage them in this way." So, if you’re going to have a list, make sure that the list of the things that you need to do is longer than the list of things that you’re wanting others to do for you.

How about those of you who are married? Is this a continual source of your frustration? Are you hoping, and anticipating, that I am going to suggest to your spouse the stuff you want them to do? Maybe to just get up off the couch and join the team!

Well, let’s read 1 Corinthians 7:1-5: "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. 2 But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. NIV

1. Devotedly

I would like to begin with a quiz. How would you rate yourself on the scale of selfishness? Number one, "I’m Jesus. I’m not selfish at all." Or number ten, "I’m really selfish." Okay? And then how would your spouse rate you; probably just a little bit higher right?

You see, selfishness is an innate part of the sinful, fallen human condition. It’s not all about Jesus. It’s all about me. It’s not all about you. It’s all about me. It’s only about me. It’s always about me. Don’t inconvenience me with you. And you should agree how important I am. That’s selfishness.

But if the nature and character of your marriage is as those who are devoted humble servants, those are marriages that endure. Those are the marriages, where they’re friends, they have fun in and out of the bedroom, they love, serve, nurture, and encourage one another. Marriage is just getting better day by day.

But if not… this will be a big issue in your marriage, because if you’re expected to serve,

it’s a put-off. If you’re expected to serve, it’s difficult to trust, be intimate with, and enjoy time together. You see, if you’re worshiping Jesus, and they’re worshiping themselves, and their goal is for you to worship them, then there’s a conflict of interest isn’t there?

But the Bible tells us this, if you really want to be devoted, if you really want to worship Jesus, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:3-5)

There is the model and the standard… its to be like Jesus!

These general principles for Christian living are particularly applicable to the covenant of marriage. Consider your spouse as more important than you, more significant than you, and a higher priority than you. If you both do this, you’ll have a great marriage; because if you’re both Christians as the Bible says that we should be in a Christian marriage… if you are in Christ and Christ is in you practically through the person of the Holy Spirit, you do and can have the mind of Christ together. This is the most important thing… this is the unity and the tie that binds!

So if you’re a Christian and you’re a believer, you’ve been born again, you know that repentance and change begins in the mind. You’re thinking differently… you’re filled with the Holy Spirit… you have "the mind of Christ" (1 Co 2:16) and subsequently the ability to act like Jesus Christ. "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…" (Philippians 2:6-7).

Jesus comes not to take, but to give. That’s why, if you’re not a Christian, you need to become a Christian, because until you’re in right relationship with Jesus and served by him, you won’t understand the mind of Christ… you won’t have the power of Christ… and you can’t serve like Christ.

2. Selflessly

Now, some of you have the spiritual gift of serving, so it’s going to come a lot easier for you. If you have the spiritual gift of service; you like to help people and do things. And it just may be that you’ve been so busy serving others, serving your spouse, that you didn’t notice that they’ve never served you.

Now, for those of you who don’t have the spiritual gift of service, you can’t say, "It’s not my gift." You can’t… you can’t opt out just because God didn’t give you that gift. You’ve got to start thinking differently. The Bible tells us all in Ephesians, "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord" (Ephesians 6:7). You see all Christians are called to be servants… "We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit…" (Romans 7:6). And each of us "should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms" (1 Peter 4:10). So it’s an honor to serve, because it’s a position that Jesus held for us, and a command he gave us.

So we’re in our series "The Bride and Christ" and we find ourselves drawn again to Jesus… coming back again to Jesus… because every relationship is best understood by looking at Jesus and the church.

That’s what Ephesians chapter 5 says, "Submit to one another… love one another… just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. 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" (Ephesians 5:25-30).

He feeds and cares for the Church. We are his bride, but did you know that we can serve in that capacity… selfishly? You see, there’s this common Christian myth that if I’m serving our children, then I’m serving our family, and therefore I am serving my spouse. But that’s not necessarily true, because you can have a child-centered home that neglects the marriage. Where mom and dad live parallel lives… they’re back-to-back… they’re standing their ground… but they’re not face-to-face, in a relationship of servanthood toward one another.

And then there is the ministry-centered marriage, where there’s a whole lot of serving, but it’s for the purpose of ministry, it’s for others, and not for marriage. This is a tough one for Dana and I, and it happens a lot, where we realize that we’re serving shoulder-to-shoulder, and not face-to-face. We’re serving, but we aren’t serving one another well. And it’s so easy to slip into that trap, that form of idolatry, where we appear as humble servants, when in fact we’re still selfishly serving our children or our ministry and we’re not serving one another.

This morning, can we, can you and I, consider our spouses and his or her needs above our own? Today will you commit yourself to thinking differently? Will you continually and regularly ask the Holy Spirit to make you more like Jesus, so that we can selflessly serve one another? You see, this is going to take a miracle. It’s going to take a miracle for a proud person to become humble, for a selfish person to become a servant. It’s going to take a miracle. So, you’re going to have to keep asking, "Holy Spirit, make me more like Jesus today. Let me be devoted and selfless. Let me seize every opportunity to serve. And let me do so humbly, lovingly, and gladly, just like Jesus."

3. Intimately

Now I know some of you were wondering… you were hoping I was going to talk about intimacy in the bedroom. But let me assure you, most of the problems in the bedroom are the result of problems outside of the bedroom. If you’re humble servants outside of the bedroom that will transform what happens in the bedroom.

So, we’re going to talk about serving intimately and the basis for that is found in 1 Corinthians 7:3,

"The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife."

Basically, what the Lord is saying, is that a couple should be intimate freely and frequently. It is natural and normal, because when you get married, you become one flesh. In that oneness, he serves her, and she serves him. They both serve one another, both inside and outside of the bedroom; not keeping a record, but loving, serving, and caring for one another in various ways and that does include marital intimacy.

And we continue in verse 5, "Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

Let me just start out by saying what this doesn’t say. It’s not saying that someone should violate their conscious, that if there’s sin outside of the bedroom, anger, hostility, or harshness, that the person you’re married to can’t say no. It’s not saying that there aren’t justifiable circumstances that would cause the marriage to benefit from a break in intimacy. You know where this problem is so big that its straining your relationship… this issue is so big that you’ve got to work on it… but just for a limited time. You see, not indefinitely, so that bitterness would creep in and Satan would tempt you. But just long enough so that together you can pray through this, work through this, give it to Jesus, and find forgiveness and healing.

Then you can resume normal, frequent marital intimacy, following the typical pattern of marriage which is, "I belong to you, you belong to me. I serve you, you serve me. I want to take care of you, you want to take care of me, outside of the bedroom and in the bedroom. And by the grace of God, we’re going to think differently and we’re going to grow together to be humble servants."

Now that’s God’s plan in marriage, that the couple would serve each other intimately, but statistically, as a couple gets older the less frequently they’re intimate together. And depending upon what survey you read, 15-20 percent of couples do not have a sex life period. As I was thinking about this, I had to smile, because in Christianity, we often find ourselves dealing with people who’ve gone too far: "You fornicated. You stole somebody’s purity. You committed adultery. You destroyed someone’s family" But we never discipline people for not going far enough!

The Bible commands us to "come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

Maybe you wonder why there is so much cheating and unfaithfulness going on in marriages today? Well, maybe it’s because we’re not obeying the Word of God! We’ve allowed Satan to slip in there. He’s sleeping between the two of you in bed. You’re sleeping back-to-back with enough distance between you to park the car. And that great dragon, the deceiver, Satan, slips in keeping the bitterness and relationship as cold as ever.

Now of course, there are other circumstances and situations: You just had a baby, your spouse is deployed in the military, there’s a big sin you’re working through in the marriage. But there are also sinful circumstances: "I’m selfish. I’m lazy. I’m bitter. I’d rather be into pornography or adultery." Don’t let the proud and selfish sinner say, "I’ll sleep over here, you sleep over there, and as long as we don’t have to be together, then everything will be just fine." Let’s start thinking differently today!

What’s your situation? What circumstances are keeping you from devotedly, selflessly, and intimately serving your spouse?

Lets pray together…

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