Next Steps

We have a commitment issue in our marriages today. Too often we’re conditioned to approach marriage like a cell phone contract. You agree to pay a certain amount for goods and services, and the cell phone provider asks for a two-year commitment, which you happily sign because you’re still in the honeymoon of your relationship. But when a newer phone comes out, or when another cell phone provider offers a better deal, or when you simply get bored and want to move on, you figure out a way to wiggle out of your contract, paying a fee if necessary. Contracts are made to be broken.

Too often we approach marriage the same way: as a contract. Each side commits to provide for each other, love each other and serve each other. As long as both sides hold up their end of the contract, life is good. But when one spouse feels like they’re getting the short end of the stick, when the other spouse isn’t holding up their end of the contract, you start looking for a way out. Even if the divorce gets messy because there are kids involved, if that’s the fee you have to pay to break the contract, you do it.

The problem with this approach is that it fundamentally mistakes the nature of marriage. Marriage is not a contract, it’s a covenant (Malachi 2:14); and those are two completely different things. Here’s a quick look at the difference between the two:

A contract is based on mutual distrust.
A covenant is based on mutual commitment.

A contract protects rights and shirks responsibility.
A covenant surrenders rights and assumes responsibility.

A contract has personal conveniences in mind.
A covenant has the interest of the other in mind.

Now, here’s the twist: because the idea of a covenant is foreign to many of us, God gives us another picture of what a covenant looks like, and this one hits a lot closer to home. At the Last Supper, here’s what Jesus told his disciples, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). Salvation is a covenant like marriage is a covenant. Think about it this way: do we really want Jesus to treat salvation like a contract? How would that conversation go?

“Hey John, we need to talk. I know you asked me into your heart when you were a kid, but these last couple of years haven’t been going so well for you. You’re not reading the Bible, you’re not in church, all those addictions you promised to give up are still hanging around. On top of all that, you’re kind of a jerk. Sorry buddy, I’m going to break my contract of salvation with you, it’s just not worth it for me anymore. Good luck with the whole heaven thing.”

We don’t want Jesus to treat his relationship with us like a contract. Our assurance of salvation is because salvation is not a contract, it’s a covenant. In the same way, marriage is by design a covenant. That’s why God takes such a strong stand for marriage. Treat your commitment to your spouse the same way you want Jesus to treat his commitment to you.

Marriages are struggling today but I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone. Much of our failure in marriage comes from believing myths about what love truly is. When a couple meets and falls in love, the energy, the chemistry, the passion is real and palpable. Over time things begin to crowd in like careers and kids. The emotion can fade or disappear altogether, leading to the fateful words, “I just don’t love you anymore.” But even that statement is built on a myth of what love truly is.

Myth #1: Love is an emotion. If you simply type in the word “love” in Google, you’ll get the world’s definition, “an intense feeling of deep affection.” In the eyes of the world, love is something that you feel. Love is an emotion. The problem with emotions is that they are unpredictable and sometimes uncontrollable. If you equate love with the feelings associated with passion or romance then you’ll constantly be searching for your next emotional fix. Colossians 3:14 tells us that love is a choice. It’s the most emotional choice you’ll ever experience in this world, but at it’s core love is not an emotion. It’s a choice.

Myth #2: Love is something that happens to you. We buy into this myth constantly when we use the phrase “fall in love.” That phrase of falling in love is passive, meaning it’s something out of our control, like we were walking along one day and failed to see the giant pit of love in front of us. We fell into it and had no control. The problem with this myth of love is that if you can’t control when you fall into love you can’t control when you fall out of love. Go back to Colossians 3:14 when Paul tells Christians to “put on love” as a virtue. He’s telling them to make a choice, to be intentional to show love. Love is not passive, love is not something that happens to you. Love is a choice.

So when you tell your spouse, “I just don’t love you anymore,” what you’re really saying is “I am making a choice, and I am choosing not to show you love anymore.” If that sounds harsh, it’s because it is, and these myths about love are destroying too many marriages.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Proverbs 25:2

One of the greatest quests you can ever embark on is the quest to discover your unique, God-given purpose on this planet. It’s not a quick or easy journey, but it is well worth it! Here are seven questions if you want to discover your purpose in life:

1). What is purpose? Purpose is the reason you’re alive on this planet.

2). How do you know if you have a purpose? If you’re breathing. You are not an accident, no matter what someone else might have said. If you’re alive, you have purpose.

3). When do you find your purpose? When you find it. It doesn’t find you. You have to search it out.

4). Why is purpose so hard to find? Because nothing worthwhile is easy. Why is sustaining a vibrant marriage over the long haul so hard? Why is parenting so hard? Because nothing worthwhile is easy.

5). Why do so many people fail to discover their purpose? Because distraction is easy. Wasting away hours in front of the phone or tv is easy. Getting consumed with mindless nonsense is easy.

6). Why does purpose matter? Because we want our lives to matter. We want to leave a legacy. We want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

7). How do you find your purpose? That’s the subject of a future blog post where I will lay out seven steps to discovering your purpose in life.

In Luke 4, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the desert for forty days. During that trial Jesus endured three temptations, temptations that are still utilized by the enemy to tempt us today. It’s a mistake to think that Jesus was the only one to walk through temptation. So which of the three are you falling into?

1). The temptation to allow your physical cravings to rule you. The first temptation Jesus walked through was the temptation to turn stones in the wilderness to bread (Luke 4:3). The reason this was a temptation was because Jesus had gone without food for forty days, causing him (obviously) to become physically hungry. The temptation was to allow his physical cravings to rule him, as opposed to his spirit (also referred to as a soul or the will). Do you allow your physical cravings to rule you? Are you driven by a need for food? A need for pleasure (that dopamine hit that causes so many addictions)? A need for sex? Are you allowing something other than your soul/spirit/will to rule your life? If so, you’re falling for a temptation that Jesus was tempted with as well.

2). The temptation to give your heart to someone or something other than God. Jesus’ second recorded temptation in Luke 4:5-8 was to bow down and worship the devil in exchange for the world. Satan wanted Jesus’ worship, he wanted his heart. Jesus made the right choice, but do we? Be honest with yourself, if an objective third party viewed your life and your heart, would they say your heart truly belonged to God, or is someone or something more important? Does your heart belong to a relationship? A hobby? A career? A sports team? Material wealth? An addiction? Where’s your heart? The temptation is to give it to someone or something other than God. Jesus faced that temptation as well.

3). The temptation to try and manipulate God. The final temptation recorded in Luke 4:9-12 was the devil tempting Jesus to speed up the mission, to force God to save him in a spectacular fashion in front of a crowd, to manipulate God’s actions and manipulate other people’s beliefs. Jesus refused because he would not put God to the test. How often do we try and manipulate God, to try and get Him to bless what we want to do? How often do our prayers sound like requests to get God to sign off on what we’ve already decided we want to to? Who’s really in the driver’s seat in your life? You or God? Do you humbly submit to God’s will in your life, or are you trying to manipulate Him? Are you putting Him to the test?

The temptations of Jesus are still played out everyday in the lives of Christians. May we make the same choices that Jesus made.