Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Commitment to Permanence

Leslie Basham: Susan Henson prays that our nation will embrace purity beginning with older women in the church.

Susan Henson: We have not carried out our mandate, Lord. When we look at Titus 2, and it says that the older women are to teach the younger women to be lovers of their husbands and lovers of their children and to teach the younger women how to be pure. We have failed in that area. We have not equipped our women and our mothers how to equip our children, Father.

We believe that You and Your Word is our valid solution to our moral epidemic we’re facing in our world. But, Lord, we have been dangerously anemic and impotent in instruction and the application and accountability of teaching this to our people.

Help us, Lord, to stand in the battle and equip our people, equip our loved ones and our children in the right way. Oh God, help us to know how to do this.

Leslie: Revive Our Hearts is participating in a 40-day period of prayer for our nation, along with many other broadcast ministries. The prayer we just heard for marriages and families is extremely important.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I read the following statement recently in a Fox News report. It said: “In some weddings, 'until death do us part' is going the way of 'to honor and obey'—that is, out the window."1

Leslie: This is Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy: "Vows like, 'For as long as we continue to love each other,' 'For as long as our love shall last,' and 'Until our time together is over' are increasingly replacing the traditional to-the-grave vow."1

We come today to a statement in the True Woman Manifesto that I think is hugely important for such a time as this. Here’s the statement:

Honor the sacredness, purity, and permanence of the
marriage covenant—whether ours or others’.

Earlier this year in this True Woman series, I read a letter from a friend who was expressing why she would not divorce her husband who had been unfaithful to her. About the same time we aired another series with Lorne and Jimmie Ruth Matthews. He had been unfaithful, but she had stayed faithful in that marriage, and how God, over a period of years, reconciled that marriage. This was many years ago, but they were sharing the story with our listeners.

We received tons of response to both of those stories, and many of them said, “Thank you so much. You told my story. Thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for standing with us for marriage.” There were women who said, “I’m praying for God to restore my marriage.”

We also received many heart-wrenching stories of infidelity and broken vows. Here’s one, for example: A man wrote to say,

My wife had an affair almost two years ago with a pastor of the school my children attend where she was working at the time. I uncovered the affair, and she gave indication that she repented and was truly sorry. We went through some Christian marriage counseling that addressed the issues of trust and communication but never addressed why the affair happened to begin with.

It has been an emotional roller coaster of a year. Six months ago she told me she did not love me anymore and asked me to move out. Two months ago she stated she wanted a divorce.

[Now, here’s the part I highlighted. He said,] My wife professes to be a believer and understands that this is not of God, yet she is fully willing to proceed on this path.

I cannot tell you how many times we are hearing things similar to that—people calling themselves believers, consider themselves believers, considered by others to be believers, who say, “I know that breaking up my marriage is not in accordance with God’s Word or His will, but . . ." Basically, "I’m going to do it anyway.” I see a lot of heads nodding because you know some people who are talking that way. You’ve heard those stories yourself.

So the divorce culture is not only prevalent in our world today, but, sadly, in the church as well. For Christians, what an opportunity and obligation we have to display to the world the covenant-keeping love of God through protecting and preserving the sacredness of the marriage covenant.

The union of the man and woman in marriage was the final crowning act of God’s creation. He wasn’t through when He made a man and a woman. He wasn’t through until He brought them together, gave the woman to the man, made them one flesh, and declared them to be a husband and wife. And God performed that wedding. Why? It was for the purpose of displaying His heart, His character, and His redemptive plan that nobody knew anything about at that point.

But Satan is a rebel. He hates God. He wants to be God, and he immediately set out to destroy what God had established. From that day to this, marriage has been one of the primary realms where Satan attacks.

Now, when we get on to the subject of marriage and divorce, the permanence of marriage, it raises lots of questions, far more than I can answer or address in one program. It raises lots of different situations. But I think it’s important for us when we have those conversations, to always go back to the Word of God for our plumb line.

There are many things that the Word of God has to say about this, but let me just read one passage. This is familiar to most of you perhaps, but I think it’s important for us to be reminded what God’s Word says.

I’m reading in Mark chapter 10, beginning in verse 2:

Pharisees came up and in order to test him [Jesus] asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Now, I won’t go into all the background, but they were trying to get Jesus to take sides in a dispute between Jewish leaders of different theological schools. So either way they answered, they figured He would be trapped, He would be caught. So they said, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

[Jesus] answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away." And Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation [going back to before Moses], 'God made them male and female.' 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'" (verses 2-8).

Of course, He’s quoting from the book of Genesis. It’s God who said this, so Jesus is quoting God saying, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). 

Then Jesus says,

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (verses 8-9). 

Now, again, lots of details we could go into on this subject, and some day, Lord willing, I hope to do an entire series on this subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage—and that may be the last programs we ever air because there will be a lot of response coming to that one (laughter)—but I just want to focus today on how can we honor the sacredness, the purity, and the permanence of the marriage covenant?

Let me just suggest that we start by a commitment to permanence. Get the “D” word out of your vocabulary. Divorce is not an option. You have to start with that premise.

I have a pastor friend who preached on affirming your commitment to the permanence of your marriage covenant. He encouraged husbands and wives, as a response to this message, to say to their mate: “I will never divorce you.” Those words: “I will never divorce you.”

Well, he told me how a lady came to him a few days later, and she was laughing. She said, “My husband is a man of few words. Every morning he eats breakfast with the paper in front of him. I never see his face. I just push his breakfast underneath the paper. Yesterday he said—through the paper—‘Honey, I went ahead and had your name put by mine on the tombstone.’” 

Tears welled up in this woman’s eyes as she shared that with my friend because she knew that, in his own way, her husband was saying, “I’m in this thing with you until death. I will never divorce you.”

Could you say that to your mate? Would you say it to your mate? Some of you are not so sure because you’re entertaining thoughts that, “If such and such doesn’t happen or change, it’s still an option.”

You say, “I’m not sure I can say that.” You said it at the altar. Why can’t you say it now? God can give you grace to keep those vows and to reflect His permanent, unchanging, unconditional, covenant-keeping love by enabling you to keep those vows, a commitment to the permanence of marriage. That’s how you honor the sacredness of the marriage covenant.

Then, and this is closely related, but a commitment to exclusiveness in your marriage—exclusiveness; purity; keeping the marriage bed undefiled. It’s for you and your mate and no one else. We hear so many stories. People are writing to us and sharing the heartbreaking tales of physical and emotional adultery, intimacy with members of the opposite sex outside of marriage. As you commit to exclusiveness, that’s a way to honor the sacredness and the purity of the marriage covenant.

One practical and important way to do that is to build hedges around your marriage, to set boundaries. Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of an emotionally charged situation that’s threatening to pull you out of your marriage before you set up those hedges because, by then, it is too late. You will have lost your sense; you will have lost your reason. You may have lost your mind because you will find yourself justifying things that, under other circumstances, you would have never justified. Hedges help guard, to safeguard your heart, to protect your heart.

We have a little booklet I want to encourage you to take advantage of. If you will send a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we would like to send this booklet to you as a way of saying, “Thank you.” We want you to have this, and if you can’t afford a donation, write or call. Let us know that you would like to have a copy of this, and we want to give it to you even if you can’t send a donation. It’s a little booklet I’ve put together called Personal Hedges: Practical Cautions for Christian Women to Help Safeguard Our Hearts and the Marriages of the Men Around Us.

As I’ve talked about hedges over the years, I’ve been loathed to share what my personal hedges are because I don’t want it to be a list—you take my list, “Oh, this is Nancy’s list, so that must be the right list.” This isn’t a matter of a list you check off. But people would write to me and say, “Well, it would be helpful to know what some of your hedges are.” So I finally gave in and put together this little booklet that shares some of the hedges that I have found practical as a single woman working with a lot of married men in ministry, hedges that I have found helpful to my own heart to protect my heart and to safeguard the marriages of the men around me.

It has to do with things like conversation—talking with the opposite sex about marital difficulties. If I’m talking with a man (and I have lots of friends who are men), but I am not going to be in a position of letting them tell me what’s wrong with their marriage or how their wife is disappointing them. They can go talk to another man about that who can give them godly wise counsel, but it’s not appropriate for me to be listening to that kind of talk.

Hedges in the work place. Today, for married men and women who are married to other people, to have business lunches and travel—nobody things anything of it. Actually, they think you’re kind of looney if you suggest that it is inappropriate. I just want to say, "How much do you value your marriage and how much do you value the marriages of the people around you?"

The Internet is a huge, huge area. Facebook—some of you need to shut down your Facebook account. Now, don’t go say that Nancy said Facebook is a sin. I’m not telling you Facebook is a sin, or Internet. But I am telling you that some of you cannot handle and are not handling well the kind of access that you’re having and the emotional ties that are being established to someone other than your mate through means of the Internet—email, Facebook, Instant Messaging, whatever all the other possibilities are today. I’m not sure I even know what they all are, but Jesus said, “If your right hand offends you, cut it off.”

If it makes you sin, do whatever you have to do to safeguard the purity and the sacredness of your marriage covenant or the marriage covenants of others.

I hear these stories—and you’ve heard them. A woman is happily married. They have a good marriage. And then in comes through Facebook a friend from high school she hasn’t seen or heard from in years, and his marriage just fell apart. They start communicating, and she’s consoling him or counseling him or whatever. It’s stupid. Don’t do it.

I have friends . . . I’m sorry—I just used a word that a lot of you mothers don’t let your children say. (laughter) But sin does make us stupid. It causes us to do stupid things. I just want to protect you from that.

I have friends—I look at Tom and Kim who are here. Tom is helping us engineer, and Kim is in our audience today. One of the things I appreciate about you guys: You have a Facebook account, but you have both your names on it, and it looks like one account that you share. That means there’s access. There’s accountability. There are some means of protection built in—shared passwords, whatever.

Make sure that you’re not putting yourself in a position where you could have a secret, intimate relationship that your mate doesn’t know about, or that the person you’re talking with, their mate doesn’t know about.

Some of you have heard me talk about how, if I have any kind of personal communication with the men I work with, I will copy someone else. If it’s appropriate, I’ll copy their wife or my assistant, or somebody—just to make sure that I’m not having private communication about personal matters with somebody who belongs to another woman.

It’s a hedge. If you don’t put the hedge in place on the front end, then you stand in danger of violating it, and by the time you’ve violated it, you will find yourself justifying a million things that really are not justifiable.

I look at so many young women today and see this totally inappropriate interaction with other men—very physical, flirtatious. And they think it’s okay. They think you can be married and still be best friends with another man. You can’t be. It’s not okay.

I’m not trying to lay down the law here. I’m trying to say, in grace, “Protect your marriage.” Protect the marriages of others around you.

Someone sent me a link recently to a woman who has shared her testimony on her blog about how she had an affair early in her marriage and her husband took her back because of God’s love and forgiveness for him. And then this woman, Sarah, talks about how she had to put up some hedges that had not been there and should have been there in the first place. She said,

From the beginning I understood how my own poor choices and pride had resulted in this affair. I was done with my old self. I removed phone numbers from my phone, took pages out of my address book and deleted emails and voice mail messages, and together, as a couple, we made some serious choices. Our marriage had been diseased from the start, and we were beginning to realize the gravity of that.

We poured out all our alcohol, threw out all of the questionable movies we owned. We cut off our cable and went without television for the next two years. We existed in an almost monk-like state for as long as it took to heal the relationship and I/we had destroyed.

We created boundaries in our relationship where we’d never had them before. I am never alone with men—ever. And I tell him everything—not because he asks, but because I want to. Our friends thought we were kind of crazy. We lost a lot of friends. But that’s okay. You do what you’ve got to do.

Here’s a couple—they actually have a video. On our website, we’ll give you a link to her blog and that testimony as they share together now, years later, how God has redeemed that marriage from destruction.

Dennis Rainey says, “Remember that nobody falls off a cliff if they’re standing 40 feet away. Instead, they inch closer and closer to the abyss until they find themselves in danger. You need to make your marriage relationship such a priority that you don’t come anywhere near the edge.”2

Now there are other ways that you can honor the marriage covenant. Let me just suggest a couple of them. One is by praying for others’ marriages.

Somebody wrote me recently and said,

My wake-up call about the importance of praying for my friends’ marriages came about when a marriage I would have said was rock solid fell apart. I had known both of them since we were all in our early teens. They were high school sweethearts. As soon as he finished his schooling, they went into a ministry. I supported them for almost 20 years. I was devastated when I heard that she had left him and their children to marry a man who already had multiple failed marriages in his past. I KNEW how deeply and sacrificially each loved the other in the early years. When that marriage fell apart, I realized every other marriage was vulnerable.

So here’s a single woman that God has used over the years to pray a hedge of protection around many marriages. Whether you’re married or single, you can encourage, support, and invest in others’ marriages, committed to the protection and the preservation of the marriage covenant, encouraging couples to stay together, to work through their issues. It’s so sad to see how often friends will encourage one another to split up from their marriage.

I got an email from a woman who said,

My sister called again today with a sad story of her miserable marriage. She has consulted three counselors, all of whom advised her to divorce because he’s not going to change, just get worse. I feel cruel mentioning the vow she made, as if I want her to stay in a loveless marriage.

The cruel thing is not to point someone to the truth. Now truth can be hard. It has to be said with grace, with love, with compassion, with tears at time, and with prayers and the willingness to roll up your sleeves and get involved in the messy work of helping couples deal with their issues. It can be costly, as this woman is feeling, to honor the sacredness of marriage.

I think about how John the Baptist lost his head, literally, because he had been saying to Herod, “It’s not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 14:4). John had spoken the truth and ended up losing his life for it.

Does that say to you that marriage is something worth protecting? Is it something that God really values that a prophet, a man of God like John the Baptist would say, “It’s worth so much that I’m willing to lose my life for it”?

Remember what’s at stake. It’s not just about you feeling good or loved. It’s about showcasing God’s unconditional love for the church and the church’s reverent obedience to Christ. When you see it from that perspective, it changes everything.

So you’re at work and a guy is showing you attention, and he’s married, stop. Ask your friends for accountability when there’s been a spark, there’s been a connection. Get honest. Get help. Think about marriage from God’s perspective, and it will make you a whole lot serious about safeguarding your marriage and the marriages of those around you.

I had a conversation yesterday with a woman whose husband is dealing with multiple addictions, years of battling drug and alcohol issues. We talked about the fact that only God can change his heart and set him free. But here’s what she’s keeping her eye on: This life is short, and the pain will not last forever. It’s excruciating right now, and it has been for years, and it may be for more years ahead, but it will not be forever.

And in the meantime, this woman’s heart is that Christ will be glorified, more than her happiness, more than her hopefulness, more than her having this marriage restored—which she prays for, she longs for, and she keeps asking God to do—but above all that is the burden that Christ will be magnified and that her life, her faithfulness in this very difficult situation will be a living demonstration of the faithful, covenant-keeping love of Christ.

That’s what it’s all about—in your marriage and in hers and in each of our lives as we seek to preserve the sacredness, the purity, the permanence of the marriage covenant whether ours or others.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to wrap things up.

She told you about a couple of ways you can follow up to today’s program. The video link she mentioned is at ReviveOurHearts.com. She also mentioned the booklet Personal Hedges. We’ll send a copy when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

This booklet will lead you through a process of thinking through important decisions about the way you relate to men. Get a copy and make these decisions before you’re on the spot.

Donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for the booklet Personal Hedges when you call 1-800-569-5959.

Decades ago, most people had small homes and big families. Now most have large homes and small families. Well, what does this say about us? Nancy will address that tomorrow. Now she’s back to pray.

Nancy: Oh Lord, how I pray that even as a result of these moments You would do a work of rescuing and redeeming hearts and marriages, that Satan would be defeated in his attempt to tear apart marriages.

I know there are women living in very difficult marriages. I pray that You would give them a sense of hope and grace and Your presence with them, walking through this with them, and may You give to them, or to men who may be listening to this program and are in a difficult marriage themselves, I pray that You would give to each of us the perseverance to glorify You and to reflect to the world that we have a covenant-keeping God and to show the redeeming gospel of Christ by the way we honor the marriage covenant.

I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1 http://www.foxnews.com/story/0.2993.163251.00.html

2. http://www.growthtrac.com/artman/publish/avoiding-emotional-adultery-02-874.php

 

 

 

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