Thursday, January 26, 2012

a wedding charge

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."  (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

This passage describes the working of the Holy Spirit within the life of the yielded believer.  Our own sin nature would produce in us the "deeds of the flesh" listed in the previous verses, but a different kind of fruit is produced when we walk (or, keep in step with) the Spirit.  

My wife and I -- in discussing together the traits and virtues that make a marriage strong -- realized how many of the most vital ingredients of a healthy marriage are included in this list. 

1)  Love.  Christian love is a commitment to seek the other person's highest good.  The greatest demonstration of this is in the life and death of Christ: "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  (Ephesians 5:2) Christ emptied himself to come to us to redeem us from our sins; he hung upon the cross bearing our guilt and judgment; he rose victoriously from the dead to reign forever.  It is his power that will enable you to also demonstrate a sacrificial and serving love toward each another.  When we die to ourselves, we will find in Christ that we actually gain more than we lose. 

2)  Joy.  "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation."  (Isaiah 12:3)  As this is true of salvation, this is true in your marriage.  Sometimes we so enjoy our partner we forget that all those good gifts come from God and ultimately it is the Lord alone who can give us happiness.  Frank Pittman, noted marriage therapist, says, “Marriage isn't supposed to make you happy -it's supposed to make you married… A happy marriage is a marriage between two happy people.” 

3)  Peace.  Peace means having reconciled relationships, and learning how to forgive and be forgiven...  "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."    (Colossians 3:12-13)  The most important words you can learn in your marriage are these, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, will you forgive me?”  Practice these words daily!  You stand next to the person you will forgive, and who will forgive you, more than any other person in life.  Ruth Bell Graham once said, "A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers." 

4)  Patience.  This is the God-given ability to hang in there and bear the burdens, without bitterness or retaliation.  "Love bears all things..."  The Holy Spirit enables us to be long-suffering with those whom we love.

5)  Kindness.  "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted…"  (Ephesians 4:32)  This means God can give you grace to always act in kindness, with courtesy, with compassion and empathy. This is so vital to a successful marriage: to feel what the other is feeling, and to deal with each other with respect and courtesy. 
6)  Goodness.  Goodness is beauty of moral character, having an integrity and winsomeness which only the Holy Spirit can give, being someone that it’s a blessing to live with.  A Turkish proverb says, "No road is long with good company."

7)  Faithfulness.  This is being true to your vows, faithful to your commitments.  This includes sexual purity and avoiding emotional entanglements with others.  This is forsaking all others to be faithful to your spouse.

8)  Gentleness. Like kindness, this is a Spirit-birthed ability to deal with each other gently, to avoid all harshness and severity.  It means to show grace to each other, just as God has shown you grace.  There's no place for shouting.  Let your words, your posture, your facial expressions, your demeanor, your actions always be in gentleness.
9)  Self-control.  This means, among other things, observing proper boundaries in your marriage, in your finances and work and time and possessions.  It also means that in an argument you don’t say the first thing that comes into your mind!  

As a couple you will need these fruits in your married life!  Christ died to purchase them for you.  The Holy Spirit has been sent to indwell you and make them real in you.  Now, by faith you must walk with him and trust him for what you need.  

May he empower you this day forward in a very new and fresh way for the glory of God and for your lifelong joy.  "With joy draw water from the wells of salvation!"

To Chris and Christine, January 21, 2012

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