I sat this week with a friend whose marriage has hit an icy patch. It’s skidding. And he was frustrated.
We talked about better communication and learning to resolve conflict more effectively. But at some point, I said “you know what I think the core issue is, right? If you want to see real, long term change in your marriage, you’ve got to address your relationship with God.”
I thought back on our conversation later that day. Had I been clear? Did my friend understand what I meant about being right with God?
So I sat down later in the week and wrote him this letter.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the past few days about our conversation. I’ve been thinking especially about my comments that you need to get your relationship with God right before you can get anything else right in your life.
As I’ve thought about that conversation, I’ve found myself remember the time in my life when I was confused about what it means to be a Christian. Early on, I thought a Christian was someone who tries to live a mostly good life, tries to avoid sinning, and does certain religious things from time to time (go to church, pray, read the Bible occasionally – stuff like that).
I think one reason I was confused is because people who have a real relationship with Jesus are people who try to live good lives, avoid sinning and do a variety of religious things.
But what I came to realize later is that Christians aren’t Christians because they do or don’t do certain things.
Christians are Christians because they have a relationship with Jesus – a relationship that is characterized by wanting to know Him more, love Him more, serve Him more, trust Him more and obey Him more.
It’s because of my relationship with Jesus that I try to live a good life, avoid sin and practice spiritual disciplines like going to church and praying. Those activities don’t make me a Christian.
I guess what I wanted to be clear about was that when I say you need to get your relationship with God right, I’m not saying I think I’m better than you. I’m saying that when I came to know Jesus, He reoriented and reprioritized my whole life.
There’s a verse in the Bible that says “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” In other words, put your relationship with God at the center of your life, make sure He has first place in your life, and God will take care of you – forever.
Have you ever confessed to God that you are a sinner – a rebel against Him, a person who wants to call his own shots and do life his own way? Have you ever realized that you’re a sinner like everyone else, and then confessed to God that you can’t fix the sin problem on your own?
Have you ever made a decision to turn control over every area of your life over to God, and to follow Him and His ways? To surrender to Him? Have you ever prayed and asked Jesus to take control of your life? To forgive your sins? To make you a new person?
This is an ongoing issue for me – really, for all of us. I keep wanting to run my own life. But I’ve prayed and told God that I want to live for Him. I want to live my life His way.
When I mess up (and I do a LOT), I turn back to Him, I confess my sins again, and I recommit my life to Him.
That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about getting your life right with God.
And it’s my conviction that for everything else in your life to work the way it’s supposed to – your marriage, your relationships with your kids, your job, your own inner peace and joy – you have to begin by deciding to follow Jesus and live for Him, with Him at the center of everything in your life. You have to “seek first the Kingdom of God.”
Going forward, we can work on better communication in your marriage. Or on better conflict resolution skills. Or on any number of marriage skills. Your marriage can get better going forward regardless of whether you get right with God.
But it will never be all that it was designed to be until you’re right with Him. And whatever gains we may be able to make will ultimately be short-term gains. You (and your wife) need God’s power in your life in order to live out His plan and purpose for your lives and for your marriage.
I know the church you grew up in doesn’t talk much about some of these things. But to be right with God, we have to come to a point where we can say to God “God, I know I’m a sinner. I know I’m selfish. I know I want to run my own life. I admit that I’ve made a mess of things. I confess that I’ve ignored or neglected you. Please come into my life. Please save me. Please make me a new person. Jesus, thank you for coming to die on a cross so that I can have new life in you.”
My hope and prayer is that you will take the bold first step of turning away from a self-directed life and turning to God and letting Him control and direct your life. I hope you’ll cry out to Him.
I’m here and happy to talk with you about any of this if you have questions for me. And please know that Mary Ann and I are praying for you and your wife and your marriage.
I wonder how many of our friends think that being a Christian is all about cleaning up your act and adding in some prayer, some Bible reading and going church on occasion. Especially in south.
When we share the gospel with others, are we making it clear?
Or maybe a bigger question is “are we sharing the gospel with others at all?”
I hope you’ll pray for my friend and his wife. For their marriage. And for him to surrender his life to Jesus.
And I hope you’ll ask God to give you an opportunity to share your faith with someone this week.
Next Tuesday night. . .
. . . you can fire up your laptop or your device and join with women from our church for a time to gather virtually and to pray together.
The women’s prayer time will continue each Tuesday night. For more information, you can click here.
Let me also encourage you . . .
. . .to check out the small group schedule for this spring. Some groups meet on Wednesdays. Some meet on Thursdays. Some meet in person. Some are meeting virtually. Click here for a list of groups, group leaders, times and dates. Contact any group leader and let them know you’d like to visit sometime. Or contact Pastor Matt Gurney if you have any questions about small groups. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you gave money to Redeemer in 2020, you can expect to receive a giving statement in the mail next week. If your address changed in the past 12 months, please email your new address to Cathy Crowell. Her email address is email@example.com.
As we’ve been seeing in our study of Ephesians 6, most of the schemes of the evil one are subtle. He lives in the shadows, not in the open.
But are there times when the activities of the unseen realm pierce the veil? What should we think about things like demonic possession or supernatural manifestations of evil in our world? Do things like this ever happen?
Buckle up. We’ll go there this Sunday.
Oh, and PS – here’s the passage to read aloud again today. Three times in a row. I just did it myself.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
See you (in person or on line) Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria!