Marriage: The Mission and Mystery
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Seeing marriages fail can sometimes make a person wonder, “What’s the point?” Pastor and author Jonathan Pokluda clearly explains marriage’s purpose and design.
Marriage: The Mission and Mystery
Jonathan: This is my lot in life: to love her even as my own body for the rest of my days! That’s what I’m doing, right? So I’m trying to identify her needs, anticipate her needs, and at every moment meet her needs however I can, laying my life down for her. That’s my role, and in that the gospel is displayed.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: Today we get to listen to part two of a great message from Jonathan Pokluda on marriage that he gave at his church, Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco.
Ann: He’s a great friend. He’s a really great communicator and preacher, too.
Dave: Yes. He got into some good stuff in part one. He talked about the s-word.
Dave: Submission and sacrifice, actually. This next part is just as great. You’re going to love it.
Jonathan: Verse 26, back in the Scriptures, says, “To make her holy . . .” What’s a word “to make holy”? If we said that one word, what would it be? To make holy? Sanctify, sanctification. It’s a ten-cent seminary word that means to make holy. “. . . cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for his body just as Christ does the church.”
Back to Jesus and the church, guys! “For we are members of His body.” It goes wives, husbands, marriage, Jesus, church, marriage, wives, husbands, marriage, Jesus, church, marriage—he’s talking about something more than what you think here! Marriage is different than what you think.
When he says, “Washing her as with water through the word,” he’s not talking about baptism, he’s talking about the Word of God, the gospel implanted in us but also the Word, the 66 books that God has left us with to give us all of the instruction that we need for godliness: the Scriptures, the Bible.
What’s interesting to me is sometimes this idea of women submit, men sacrifice, I think it’s reverse. Sometimes I think as guys we’re better at submitting, and it looks like abdicating. She’s asking me, “Hey, how much do we want to give to Midway schools?” I’m like, “I don’t know, I don’t care. Can you just figure it out? Can you just handle that?”
When she’s saying, “Hey, will you partner with me in this? Will you take an interest in what I’m doing right here? I have to make a decision here, and what I’m really telling you is I prefer not to make it by myself—” “Can you just go?” Women are so great at sacrificing, generally speaking. They’re like, “I’ll give up everything. I’ll follow you. Let’s go. What do you want? What do you need?”
But I think the roles are different because God wants to produce something different in us: sanctification. The mission of marriage is sanctification through service. Sanctification means becoming holy. Bruno Mars says, “I love you just the way you are.” We all like that. “Oh, somebody that just takes me right where I am!”
I will tell you, in this church, you’re welcome; everybody’s welcome. There’s not anybody on the planet earth that’s not welcome in here. No matter where you are, no matter what your struggle is, you are welcome. But if you’re like, “Are you going to ask me to change?” Of course! That’s why you would come in here: because you desire to grow in holiness, to become more like God. We all are on that mission. We’re all changing.
Sanctification means changing, so don’t marry them hoping that they’ll change, that they’ll become someone else. You could choose anyone that you want. You have the whole world to choose who you’re going to marry. People do change, sometimes, in ways that you didn’t want.
A friend of mine who I tremendously respect their perspective on this topic, they’ve wrestled with this as much as anyone I know, and they said this: Don’t go into it (that is, marriage) thinking you can change someone. If you’re already there (meaning in marriage), let go of thinking you can change your spouse. Only God can change their heart, but they have to want it, so your role is a lot of prayer—not an effort to change them, but a lot of prayer.
We see this in 1 Corinthians 7. We really see it throughout the Scriptures—1 Peter. This concept of trusting God to do the changing radically changed my marriage, because I went into marriage and I thought—year one was the honeymoon, it was all fun; year two it got hard, and I thought, My role is I’m the parent. Leadership means telling people what to do, is what I thought—what I stupidly thought.
What would happen was we were constantly playing tug of war. She would say something, I would say, “You’re not going to do that,” and she’d pull the rope and I’d pull the rope. We would just go back and forth playing tug of war.
I’ll give you a real example. It’s a silly example, but it actually happened. She came and she said, “Honey, I think I need a new car.” The way I responded to that was, “What? We’re not going to get you a new car!” When I do this thing with my eyebrows . . . . Here’s what she would hear: “You’re so stupid! You think we’re actually going to get you a new car? What is wrong with you?”
What she would do is she would go, “Well, that’s what I really want,” and she’d pull the rope. I would say, “Oh, that’s because you’re not going to get one.” I’d pull the rope. We’d go back and forth, back and forth.
One day I was studying the Word, and it was like the Lord just revealed to me through His Word, “Wait, she has the Holy Spirit. She’s one of the surest voices of me in your life. She’s my provision to you, and you don’t have all things figured out. You have no idea what I want to do. You have my revealed will, but you don’t have my mysterious will. She’s the way that I’m going to make known to you my mysterious will. You need to listen to her.”
What that gave me the freedom to you in that really silly scenario is when she says, “Hey, I’d really like a new car,” I don’t have to parent, if you will. I can say, “Really? What kind of car? Let’s think about it, let’s dream. What kind of car do you want? Oh, a Suburban? What color? Black? Yes, CIA—let’s go. What color interior? Oh, light, because we’re in Texas and it’s hot. Yes. Leather, probably, too. That would be fun.” We can get excited about it. Maybe at the end of it you’re like, “I don’t know that we can afford that, but because that’s what you want, let me go look. Let me do the research. Let me listen. Let me dive in.” Now she feels loved.
Even if I come to that scenario and I’m like, “Hey, I don’t think we can do that,” just the fact that I would put in the work and listen to her, she feels cared for.
We all can do that, and we did it when we were dating, and at some point the flower died, so we serve each other. It says, “. . . love even as their own bodies . . .” What does that mean? When my body’s hungry, what do I do? I eat. I find food. So to love her—when I feel hunger pangs, my body’s sending a signal, there’s a light flashing. “Hey, you’re hungry; you need to eat.” So I do that. But now these two have become one flesh. Her life has melded into mine, right? Melded into mine, melted into mine. So now I’m seeking her best interests.
Let me tell you what this looks like for me. I love to sleep, right? When it’s bedtime, I’m kind of obsessed with getting a good night’s sleep so that I can attack the day the next day. So I’m counting my hours, all of that stuff. I like it when it’s cold, so right now when it’s cold outside, that’s the perfect time. I love that we have one of those foam mattresses. I get all snuggled up in there; I have a down comforter, it’s amazing. I’m snuggled up in there, the temperature’s set just right, and she gets in bed and we’re in bed and we say our prayers together, and I’m out. I’m sleeping. I’m already dreaming, you know. I’m there. And she’s like, “Hey, babe . . .”
Dave: You know, you do the same thing. We’ve been listening to Jonathan Pokluda talk about marriage from Ephesians 5 at his church, but I have to ask you, why? I mean, I go to bed before you, I’m knocked out, and it’s almost like, “Are you asleep?” Yes, of course I’m asleep!
Ann: I don’t even know how you fall asleep that quickly. As women, we have things on our minds! We have things we’re going through. I’ll say this to you, too. I’ll be in bed and all of a sudden I’ll say, “Hey babe, did you hear that?” You’re asleep.
Dave: Of course I didn’t hear it, I’m asleep.
Ann: You so sweetly get up and check out what that noise was. You are living the gospel.
Dave: I guess I am. Don’t forget this—J.P. will be speaking on the Love Like You Mean It cruise this February.
Ann: Yes, come on the cruise with us! We want you to come.
Dave: In fact, if you sign up now you get a special discount, because you don’t want to miss it. There will be speakers like J.P. and others, and it’s a fabulous week.
Alright, let’s go back and hear the rest of this great message.
Jonathan: “Hey, babe . . .”
It’s that, “Hey, babe.” It’s always like, ah! [Laughter] “Hey, babe, are you sleeping?”
“No, what’s up? What you need? What’s going on? What you got?”
“I’m thirsty.” [Laughter]
“That’s interesting.” [Laughter]
She’s thirsty, right? So for me to love her as my own body, I’m out of bed and I’m getting some water because she’s thirsty, and this is my lot in life, to love her even as my own body for the rest of my days! That’s what I’m doing, right? So I’m trying to identify her needs, anticipate her needs, and at every moment meet her needs however I can, laying my life down for her. That’s my role, and in that—standing at the refrigerator when I want to be sleeping, getting some water, trying not to wake the kids with the ice machine—the gospel is displayed. In a tiny way, the gospel is displayed.
I will tell you, if you don’t like to serve, you will not like marriage; and if you don’t want to change, you will not like marriage; because both of those are in the mission of marriage. I will tell you something—you have to hear me on this, men—she’s like the smoke alarm of your home. Long before anyone sees the fire, there’s smoke. Maybe you can’t smell the smoke; hopefully before anyone can smell the smoke the smoke alarm can, and it begins to beep.
You may not see that anything’s wrong, but that’s when you listen in and you start doing your research. What’s bothering her? I don’t see it, she’s not able to explain it; there’s something going on, but she’s beeping, and I need to just stop and look around, because she can sense things. I don’t get it. I don’t know why God made us this way, but she can sense things before I can.
So when she’s beeping, I need to stop everything and think, “Okay, what is it? Is this school, is it kids, is it finances, is it work? Am I gone too much? Have I not sought to understand in this season? Have I been short? What is it?” Listen, listen, listen; ask good questions and listen. Don’t give defensive; sit on your hands and listen, because she’s like the smoke alarm.
Women, I have to tell you something. Guys, I don’t know if we can put ear muffs on this. Men seem to—we’re more likely to be like, “Hey, did you hear him?” So just try to tune me out on this, because I want to talk to the ladies for a second. [Laughter]
Women, there’s nothing more annoying in the world than a smoke alarm going off for no reason. I mean, anybody been there? In the middle of the night, it’s the battery, right? It’s going off, but there’s no fire, there’s no smoke, and it’s just beeping. So just stop, slow down, and say, “Hey, what’s really bothering me?” Try to get your arms around it.
That may take a quiet time. You may feel something, you may sense something, but you’re not exactly sure what it is. Go get a quiet time, sit down, get a journal, begin to write, begin to think, so that when you call him you can say, “Hey, here’s what’s bothering me right now.” You’re able to articulate it in such a way that we’re not going from smoke alarm, smoke alarm, smoke alarm trying to figure it out if it’s the battery or is one of the wires disconnected and now they’re all linked together, or maybe it’s one in the drawer. I don’t even know, you know, and it’s late. So just know that. Try to understand what’s wrong before you bring it.
For this reason, something you can ask tonight is, “Where am I not meeting your needs?” “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
There’s a great book out there called Love & Respect; I commend it to you, but if you don’t read it I can summarize the entire book, that women want to feel loved and men want to feel respected. There’s this idea that Paul and the Holy Spirit through Paul is giving a full picture, too, that marriage is about this profound mystery of Christ and the church. I don’t know that we really can clearly articulate that.
You didn’t come in here and when someone says, “What is marriage?” you didn’t say, “Oh, it’s a profound mystery about Christ and the church.” Most of us, when we think about marriage, we think about Hollywood taught us, what the world taught us, what others have taught us. But the mystery of marriage is this: it showcases the Savior. The mystery of marriage is that it showcases the Savior.
In ancient Jewish traditions, a Hebrew boy, when he was ready for marriage, he would be at his father’s house, and what he would do is he would leave his father’s house, he would go into other cities, other communities, far-away lands, and he would begin to look for a wife. When he would find a suitable wife for himself, his dad would come behind him and pay what was called the dowry. They would sip from the same cup, a toast of sorts, and they would be betrothed to one another. Then what he would do was he would return to his father’s house, and he would begin to build a room on his father’s house called the bridal chamber, a room for them to live in.
She doesn’t know when he’s going to return for her, at an hour and a time that she does not know, but it’s whenever he finishes this room. So what she’s doing is she’s not out continuing to interview guys or do other things, she’s getting her wedding party together, her bridesmaids, if you will. She’s making a dress, she’s making all the preparations for the wedding. Then when he’s done with that room and he gets his boys, his groomsmen, if you will (this is thousands of years ago, even), and then he begins to go to that faraway land.
They didn’t have text message or phone calls or even letters at this time, so the way they would send word is they would just yell out in front of you; you’d blast a trumpet, and you’d say, “Hey, John is coming for Jane! John is pursuing Jane!” That word would go in front of them from town to town. They’d blast trumpets and they’d yell, and they would go from city to city until they get to this faraway land where his wife was.
When that word would get to her, she would grab her girls, she’d grab her dress, she’d grab the preparations, and they would go back together to that bridal chamber, and they would be in there for seven days. Meanwhile there’s a party going on outside. Seven days later, he would present his bride to his family for the first time.
So when Jesus says, “Where I am going you will follow, but I’m going to prepare a place for you. In my Father’s house there are many rooms, and I will return for my bride,” it means something so much more than we think. There’s this profound mystery in marriage, where the gospel’s displayed.
The entire Bible has two very important messages. It starts with one in the first chapter of the first book in the Bible. Genesis 1:26 says, “God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.’ So God created mankind in His own image; in the image of God he created them, male and female He created them.” It goes on to say, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” That’s the first wedding. The first wedding ever, in the history of history, and it was a temporary wedding.
Then the whole Bible, these 66 books, ends with another wedding. It’s a different wedding; it’s a permanent wedding, one that lasts forever. Revelation 19 says, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory, for the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” Chapter 21: “One of the seven angels who had seven bowls full of seven plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”
So this Book where we learn everything we need to know about God, or what it tells us about God, the gospel, it starts with a wedding (a temporary wedding) and it ends with a wedding (a permanent wedding), and most of us will be part of both of those kinds of weddings. But anyone who’s trusted in Christ will certainly be a part of this permanent one, the one that lasts forever. That’s us. Husband and wife, male and female, boy and girl, married to our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever. And marriage showcases this reality in ways that I can’t fully comprehend.
But when you think about who’s teaching you about marriage, you have to start with Jesus, because the mandates of marriage are submission and sacrifice, the mission of marriage is sanctification through service, and the mystery of marriage is it showcases the Savior. What God’s going to do is He’s going to create a marriage that’s unbreakable, one that’s permanent, that lasts forever. All we know is people that do this—oil and water repel each other. The oil—do you see how it’s separated again? Even after we mixed it up, it separated.
What’s interesting is you know what the two primary ingredients of mayonnaise is? Anybody know? Oil and water. Somehow they’ve figured out how to make them stick and not separate in that jar. Anybody know what it requires? An emulsifier. An emulsifier takes one of those water molecules and one of those oil molecules and it bonds them together. In mayonnaise, the emulsifier is eggs. There’s something about eggs that takes water and takes oil and bonds those molecules together, so that it doesn’t separate.
In marriage, the emulsifier is Christ. You will not have a marriage as God has intended without Christ being at the center of it. It is impossible. God who invented marriage, the one who invented it and told us what it is, told us what it looks like—you can’t have it without Jesus.
Bob: I sat recently with a couple who have been married for more than three decades. They’re professional people, their children are grown, and their marriage is in a tough spot. They’ve lost hope that it can be better. But as we’ve heard today from Jonathan Pokluda if Christ is in the center of a marriage there is reason for hope. He can bring beauty from ashes, He can restore what the locusts have eaten.
If you are interested in hearing Jonathan Pokluda’s complete message, it’s available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can download the podcast.
Jonathan is going to be joining us in February on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise that is setting sail from Port Canaveral. Last year we were not able to cruise because of COVID, we had a virtual cruise; but this year we’re back on board and all heading out into the Caribbean for a great week away, where we can focus on one another, we can draw closer to each other, draw closer to God. There’s a great lineup of speakers on the cruise, including Dave and Ann Wilson, the Kendrick brothers, Dr. Juli Slattery, Ron Deal; others, like Jonathan Pokluda, who are going to be joining us. We’d love to have you join us as well.
In fact, we have a special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners right now. You can save money on your stateroom if you sign up between now and October 4th. The cruise is filling up quickly, so let me encourage you, if you’d like to join us, now is the time to get in touch with us. Call 1-800-FLTODAY to find out more or to register for the cruise, or again, go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information.
Safety protocols are in place, cruising is happening again, it’s safe to be back on board a ship, so we’d love to have you join us. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information, or call 1-800-FLTODAY if you have any questions. We hope to see you on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in 2022.
Now, tomorrow we’re going to hear a message from filmmaker Alex Kendrick, who, as I said, is going to be joining us on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in 2022. Alex shares with us tomorrow about how the relationship between God and His people gives us a picture, a template to follow in our relationship with one another in marriage. That comes up tomorrow; hope you can tune in for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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