Before You Say “I Do”
I DoPastor Jerry Gillis - July 23, 2017
Before you say "I Do", let God sanctify you through and through.
Community Group Study Notes
- What does it mean to build Biblical relationships? Why are these important?
- Why is it so important for a follower of Jesus to choose a genuine believer as a mate?
- What is one action step that you can take from what you heard in Sunday’s message?
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
Alright. Did you like that? Yeah. I'm slightly afraid that there's going to be more where that came from in successive weeks. So we are talking about a series here on marriage and some of you are going well, this isn't going to much pertain to me. But, let me start by saying this to everyone who's listening, whether you're here, at any of our campuses, watching online: that this series is for everyone. So if you're married and things are going great, this series is for you. If you are married and things are not going so great, this series is for you. If you haven't been married but want to be married, this series is for you. Maybe you've been married but aren't married now and are thinking about getting married again, this series is for you. Maybe you've been married, aren't married now, don't want to ever be married again, this series is for you. Maybe you're in high school, this series is for you. Maybe you're in college, this series is for you. Maybe you're just a single adult and you're trying to figure it out, this series is for you. I think I've covered everyone at this point. Maybe you're like a grandparent and you're married and that's cool, but you're going I don't know if this series is for me, but it might be for my grand kids and you may need to know the information to be able to tell your grand kids, this series is for you. Hopefully I covered everyone, I'm not sure if I did or I didn't, but let me just say this: this series is for you. It's for you. So regardless of your status or where you're at in terms of marriage, this series is all about you because marriage should be a concern of everybody's because of how fundamental it is in the world that we live in. It should be everybody's concern.
In fact, if you are in the United States you probably have a concern about the state of marriage in the United States. If you're one of our Canadian viewers you may have a concern about the state of marriage in Canada. I think it's fair to say that we're all concerned about the state of marriage in North America. Now, there's lot of research around the state of marriage and I've been reviewing a bit of it, but that's not going to be the crux of what I'm going to be talking about but there was something that I found out in the research, that there's some good news when you start looking into the research, there's some bad news when you look into it, and then there's some kind of correctives for, you know, some news that wasn't really accurate and maybe has been espoused in different places. This one particular study that I was looking at called Marriage and Divorce: Changes and Driving Forces by Stevenson and Wolfers, it was from a National Bureau of Economic Research, it was a working paper and it was working paper number 12,944 if you're interested in reading it. It really was working paper number 12,944, they have a lot of working papers apparently in the National Bureau of Economic Research. Here's what they found. Stevenson and Wolfers found this, that today, and this is really good news, that right now we have the lowest divorce rate in the United States since 1970. You may or may not have known that, but that's actually a good thing, that's encouraging to note. But let me provide some context. They also pointed out that we have the lowest marriage rate in recorded history. So, even if you compare the lowest marriage rate in recorded history with kind of the decline in divorce here's the good news, there is still a decline, kind of you know, as we look at those things kind of simultaneously there is still a decline in the divorce rate in the United States which is a really, really good thing.
What this study also found, interestingly enough, was that because of the nature of people kind of not getting married, or waiting so long to get married, that the level of people who are living together just kind of, you know, kind of taking it for a test run, that that is increasing. And they confirmed what loads and loads of scholarship has now confirmed is that cohabiting couples have a much higher, much higher occurrence of divorce in their lives than those that don't. Now that's just the research, it's also the Bible, by the way, but that's the research that you get there. What they also noted is that those who choose to co-habitate, those who choose to live together actually are more divorce-prone in their disposition because they lack commitment and those kinds of things, they still keep outs instead of full commitment and those types of things.
Now, I say all that to say if you're kind of starting out right now and you've shown up, maybe for the first time. Somebody told you hey, my pastor's doing a marriage series, you ought to come and you're living together right now and you're thinking--he hates me. I don't hate you. I love you, in fact and I'm super glad that you're here and like you don't have to stand up and you know, it's not like living together is anonymous, you don't have to stand up and you know, "Hi, I'm Jerry". None of that, right? No judgment here, but here's what I want you to understand. What we do here is we speak the Truth of Jesus into the lives of people and we believe that Jesus knows better how we are supposed to operate than we do. And so we like to speak that into the world of people and you're going to hear that with a heart of love and you're not going to hear that with a heart of condemnation. We're super-glad that you're here. So don't feel out of place or out of sorts. I want you to pay close attention and I want you to listen as close as you possibly can. Because I not only want to tell, like I tell couples that are engaged or whatever, hey you know, if you're living together, it's not a good scenario in terms of what not only the Scripture says but in terms of what the research itself says about kind of the outcomes here aren't really high and there's a number of contributing factors, none of which I'm really dealing with so much today.
So, some of the research gives us some good news and some of it gives us some bad news, but there's also some clarifying news. Maybe you've heard this stated before. Kind of in the evangelical church world, maybe you've heard this passed around, this kind of you know statement that's been passed around, that the divorce rate in the Church is the same as it is in the world. It's just as big an issue. I want to clarify that for you. It's simply not true. It's not true.
In fact when I was doing some research along this line I was reading a number of different studies, I'm going to throw them up here so that you see some of those that were there just so that you can kind of see my bibliography I guess of some of these studies, not that you're going to write them down or whatever. But in these studies here's what we found. We found that (we, like I was a part of the study). Here's what I found when I was looking at their work in this study, that those people who are committed to Jesus, who seriously follow after Jesus, who spend time in the community of their local congregations, they're involved in community like life on life, they're in real relationship with other believers and they're striving to spur one another on toward following after Jesus, people that spend time in the Word of God and spend time listening to God in prayer and speaking to God in prayer, when there's people that are doing that, do you know that the percentage of divorce in those marriages is way, way below what it is in the rest of the world? You know what that says? Listen carefully, and it should, we should expect this. Following Jesus matters. It matters in marriage. It matters in our life decisions. It actually matters! This is something fundamental. You would expect that to be the case but the truth is that the research bears that out.
Now, I'm sure some of you might be thinking to yourself man, I wish somebody would have told me some of these things, you know when I first got married, like you know fifty years ago, whatever, right? I wish somebody would have let me in on some of this. Don't worry, you're not alone. There's a bunch of us that are probably thinking to ourselves, man, I would have love it if somebody would have told me certain things before I got married. Believe me, like I had no idea that not putting the toilet seat down was the prelude to the apocalypse. I had no idea that that was actually true, right? Some of us just don't know these things and we have to figure them out after awhile. Here's what I also know, I also know that some of us have never had in our world, we've never had what real like committed Christian marriage, we've never had that modeled to us. Because, like a lot of the breakdown in marriage came like starting about twenty to twenty-five years ago and really started that kind of breakdown process, it's starting to skew the other way which is wonderful, but there was a period there between like you know in the 70's through the 90's through the early 2000's where the divorce rate was spiking and some of us, depending on our age, maybe have not had that modeled for us very well and we don't really know what it looks like. In fact, let me ask you this, here and all of our campuses everywhere by a show of hands, how many of you in your, either you or in your immediate family, in your immediate family with parents or brothers or sisters or whatever, have a broken marriage in your family context at some place? Put your hand up in the air if you've got that. Look around. It's affected almost all of us. Almost all of us. That's why all of us should be paying attention to what we're talking about in this series, regardless of where we are, regardless of where we're at, regardless of our background, look let's start today by paying attention.
But what I don't want to do is I don't want to just talk about a couple of practical you know, little things. Hey, here's a couple of little tweaks that you can make that anybody could talk to you about. I want to talk to you at a little higher level about some big-picture issues. And where we're going to be is we're going to be looking to God and what He says in His Word. That's what we're going to do. We're going to be in the book of 1 Thessalonians. It's in the New Testament, kind of about two-thirds of the way back in the New Testament and we're going to be in chapter 5 in just a moment. And I want you to find the place if you've got a Bible, you know, kind of if you've got the paper copy then you can open it up there, if you've got a digital copy that's great too. 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 and we're going to see kind of what Paul said to the church at Thessalonica. Now here's what I want you to know. The church at Thessalonica was a wonderful place, but the city that they were in, Thessalonica, it was a mess. There were a few cities in the ancient world who Paul wrote to, like Corinth and Ephesis and Thessalonica that were a mess. In fact, some historians actually say and they kind of you know, argue that the reign under the caesars in the Roman empire during that period of history was some of the most immoral time that we've seen in kind of civilization. Now whether that's true or not, I don't know. But there are a number of historians that argue for that, that it was just a circus from a morality standpoint. A lot of moral ambivalence, not really caring. In fact, faithfulness in marriage was a joke. In Thessalonica and Corinth and Ephesis it was, like it was nonsensical. They didn't even think about those kinds of things, particularly what we're speaking of is the men. The men didn't really think about those types of things. They may have been married, but they had no problem being involved sexually with all these other people. It was very common in Thessalonica and Corinth and Ephesis and these places under kind of Roman rule. Now, Thessalonica had a bunch of issues that they had to deal with because not only was this happening in Thessalonica but the enticements around it were extreme. Everywhere that you walked by, every bath house that you came by, it was like the enticements around some of this, and some of it named in religion because some of the religious rituals of the pagans had to do with sexual orgies and all those types of things, and it was just chaos. Now, it's not dis-similar to the world that we live in now, because we're bombarded with images everywhere we look, whether it's on television, in the movies, you go on the internet, you're bombarded with everything that's trying to entice you in a number of different ways. Well, that was happening at kind of a different level, but was happening none-the-less, just as strongly in places like Thessalonica and Corinth and Ephesis.
And so what Paul does is he writes a letter to them and here's what he says: he's basically teaching them what it means to follow after Jesus, because when the Gospel came to Thessalonica, when Paul was preaching the Gospel there, imagine what happened to some of these people's lives when they surrendered their life to Jesus and realized the claim of Jesus on their lives was a claim over everything in their lives. Imagine the questions they were asking. What does this mean for like my marriage? What does this mean for a potential mate? What does this mean for my work? What does this mean for how I do business? Paul is talking about all of those things in his letter to Thessalonica, and then when he gets to the very end he prays a prayer for them. And that is where I want us to pause and reflect because today we're going to be talking about before we say "I do". But I want you to hear this because even if you're married or thinking about marriage at some point, these are things that we all need to know because some of us have children or grandchildren or people in our lives that we can speak into their life and this is going to be a great opportunity for us to learn and grow in this area. Now, let's look at what prayer Paul prayed. It's in 1 Thessalonians chapter number 5 beginning in verse number 23. It says "May God himself, the God of peace," now pause, look at me. Because I've got this highlighted for you and it's really neat, here's what I want you to do. I want you to see this word right here, the one that begins with "s" and ends with "y", I want you to see that word right there and when we get to it I want us to all say it together, ready? "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it."
Now some of you are thinking to yourself, "wow, that's not a passage that I would have picked, talking in a marriage series. This is not something I would have thought to do." Maybe not, and maybe through this series you'll hear some of those passages that do pertain really specifically to marriage, but I'll contend here that the application of what we're going to be talking about is extremely important, particularly before you get married. Now, the word that we got in there that we highlighted was the word "sanctify". Say it with me one time. Sanctify. Yeah, that's good. Let's try it again. Sanctify. Alright, it's not that I'm trying to get you to pronounce it correctly. I'm just trying to get that word lodged in your mind because that's not a word that we hear really often, like you don't just walk around going, "hey, sanctify". You know, you just don't, it's not something you say very often. But the word comes from a Greek word "hagiazo" which here's what it means: it means to set apart from something so that you can set it apart to something. In other words, it would be like this in the way that Paul is using it: be set apart from sin, and be set apart to God. It's not just one or you know, it's not just hey be set apart from sin, I'm going to be a sin-manager, my life is doing all that. It's actually setting apart from sin but being set apart to God, that this is really the beauty of this. And so what Paul does is he prays. He prays: May God Himself, the God of peace sanctify you, set you apart from sin and set you apart to God and may He do it through and through. This is what Paul is praying for these folks and I understand why.
So here's the question. When we talk about this word, if Paul is saying that what he wants for us, that what he's praying for us is that we would be sanctified, we have to ask the question well, how do we become sanctified? Like what does that look like? Well, that's a huge message for maybe another time but let me give you three quick things that we would at least need to know at a fundamental level of what it means for us to be sanctified, to be set apart from sin and to be set apart to God. Here's how we're sanctified. Let me show you the first way. We are sanctified by Jesus' work. In other words, here's how I would explain this. The only way that you and I can be set apart from sin is because of what Jesus has done coming to this earth, being born of a virgin, living a sinless life, going to a cross and dying for sinful people like you and I, so that the just, righteous wrath of God can be poured out on sin as it should be, and Jesus would take upon Himself our sin. He would become sin for us the Scripture says so that we might become the righteousness of God. That by faith in what He's done on the cross, in the shedding of His blood and through His Resurrection we can be forgiven, we can be made new, we can be new creations. We can be set apart from sin and set apart to God. It only happens because of what Jesus has done. Aren't you glad for that? I'm so grateful for what Christ has done because if He had not done that, we don't have any chance of being sanctified, this happens because of Jesus' work. In fact, when we look at the Scripture it says this in 1 Corinthians chapter 6: "Don't be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." That might have covered like everybody everywhere. "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were" what? "sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." You see, this is what Jesus has done on our behalf, alright?
So that's kind of the, that's the first fundamental you need to know, but here's the second. We are sanctified by cooperating with the Holy Spirit. By cooperating with the Holy Spirit. Let me explain what I mean. Peter says this at the beginning of his letter in 1 Peter chapter 1: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the" listen to this, "through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with His blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance." Peter not only helps us to understand that it's only through the work of Christ that we can be sanctified, but the Spirit appropriates that work in our lives and that when we, listen to this, when we cooperate with the Spirit's work in our lives, you know what it does? It makes us obedient to Jesus Christ. This is a cooperation, this is part of what it means to be set, in increasing ways to be set apart from sin and to be set apart to God. Let me give you a third way. We are sanctified by the Word of Truth. Not only by Jesus' work and by cooperating with the Holy Spirit, which is fundamental to our salvation, but by the Word of Truth. Let me explain what I mean when I say that. When Jesus was praying His High Priestly prayer in John chapter 17, He's praying for His disciples, listen to what His words are in John 17:17: "Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is truth." Sanctify them by the truth, your Word is truth. Let me tell you this. After we've come to faith in Jesus Christ and He has set us apart from sin, and He sets us apart to God we are still in an increasing way becoming more and more sanctified. More and more set apart from the ways of the world and more and more set apart to being a vessel used by God. And the only way, listen to this, the only way that we're going to continue to grow in the knowledge of God and in the grace of God and in being the sanctified version of ourselves is going to be letting the Word of Truth continue to rush over our hearts and our minds so that we understand the nature of the God that we are set apart to serve.
So these are ways in which we can be sanctified and Paul is really serious because when he prays this prayer in 1 Thessalonians 5 he prays "May God Himself, the God of peace sanctify you through and through". By the way, he's so serious about this prayer, that what he does is he continues his prayer by restating what he's just said, just in a different way. Paul does that a lot. He'll say what he just said, but he'll say it in a different way. So he begins by saying, "May God Himself, the God of peace sanctify you through and through" and then notice what he says in the very next verse: "May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." You know what he's saying there? May everything about you be completely set apart. Blameless. Set apart from sin, set apart to God, right? Now don't misunderstand what Paul is doing right here when he talks about spirit, soul and body, he's not trying to make an argument for the tripartite nature of humanity. You may be going, I don't know what you just said. Well, what that's talking about is kind of how people are made up, right? He's not arguing that you have to distinguish all of those three things necessarily every time you talk, because there are times when Paul that he just talks about heart and body, or flesh and body. Jesus talked about "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength", He talked about four things, right, in that context. Paul's not making that argument. What he's trying to say is all of you, all of you, spirit, soul, body, strength, mind, heart, everything is to be sanctified through and through. You see, when we talk about the idea of spirit, pneuma in the Greek language, we're talking about kind of the heart's thoughts, what motivates what we're doing, right? When we talk about the idea of soul, it's psuche in the Greek language, where we get our word psyche or psychological, right? It's kind of what our affections and our desires are about. And then you've got the word body which is soma in the Greek language and it's basically the house for that which is spirit and soul within us. And Paul is not trying to necessarily just pull all of those out, but he's trying to make a point. He's saying all of you needs to be sanctified.
Now, why I'm pointing all of this out as a foundation is because this is super relevant to what we need to understand before we say "I do", super relevant. And in fact, maybe I could say it in a way that you'll remember so that you can walk out of here and go "okay, I know what the message was about today, and he's kind of hanging everything on this statement." Here it is: Before you say "I do", let God sanctify you through and through. Maybe you can remember it that way. Before you say "I do", let God sanctify you through and through, right? That's what we're talking about right here in this passage of Scripture and we're just making application of what this Scripture is actually talking about. But you know what's interesting? And this is where we get some practical application for you - that sanctified people actually do certain things before they say "I do". That's what sanctified people do. People who've been set apart from sin and set apart to God, sanctified people do some things before they say "I do". In fact, let me give you a few of those things. Here's the first one: before they say "I do" sanctified people will build Biblical relationships. Now, I'm using the term Biblical because I'm simply talking about relationships that are described in the Bible. They'll build biblical relationships.
Let me explain what I mean. You see, the Bible talks about all kinds of relationships, right? It talks about kings and citizens or subjects, it talks about employers and employees, it talks about parents and children, there's all kinds of relationships. Soldiers and civilians, there's all kinds of relationships described in the Bible, but for our purposes today I want to highlight, there's really three that I want us to pay attention to and here's the first one: Friendship. I know, you're going, wow! thank you Jerry, professor. You just highlighted that the Bible talks about friendship. Yeah. It describes it, it talks about the nature of it, in fact in a whole lot of places does it talk about the idea of friendship. And you're saying why would you be talking about this in a message about what we need to do before we say "I do"? I'm going to pull this together for you in just a second. But friendship - you could just look in the Proverbs and there's all kinds of information about friendship in there. In fact, if you just looked in Proverbs chapter 27, you could see a number of different things. In fact, let me show you just a couple. Proverbs 27:6 say, "wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." In other words, true friends can help you and sometimes they can help correct you so that you don't go into bad places, right? Listen to what it says later on in that chapter, verses 9 and 10: "Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative's house when disaster strikes you--better a neighbor or a friend nearby than a relative far away." You see, friends are people that can be counted on. Some of you are saying yeah, you know what? I also think about, you know, I'd rather go to a friend's house nearby than a relative's house nearby, because maybe your family's a little bit, you know... awkward. You put the fun in dysfunction, right? Maybe that happens, right? But you know what a friend does? Listen to this. A friend is somebody who is committed to you, to care for you, to love you and who has some sense of affection for you, that's what a friend is and we need to understand that the Bible talks about that relationship. It's a part of building biblical relationships.
But there's another relationship the Bible talks about and it's this. What it means to be a brother or sister in Christ. What it means to actually involve ourselves in a spiritual family, to be a brother or sister in Christ is another piece of that. In fact, if you look back just a chapter or two in 1 Thessalonians chapter 3 it says: "Now may our God and Father Himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father" by the way, that blameless and holy is the same idea of where we get the word sanctify. "That you may be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones. As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus." He's talking about the idea of brothers and sisters in Christ who are called to continue to love one another and spur one another on toward good deeds, toward following the mission of God, toward following Jesus in their lives. That you've got this friendship that does that but you also kind of operate in this sphere of understanding that they're part of a spiritual family, these are brothers and sisters that are in Christ.
And then, of course, the third relationship is that of marriage. So you've got friendship, and you've got brother and sister in Christ, and you got marriage. These are described, these are relationships described in the scripture. Now let me say something to you, how often do we get all of those really out of whack? Here's why: because the world and the culture that we live in - and I want you to stay with me here - the world and the culture that we live in wants us to share our bodies right out of the gate. That's what the world wants, share your body with somebody right out of the gate, but the truth is - listen to this - how you get to know the soul and spirit of someone is through friendship, and through understanding what it means to be a brother or sister in Christ before you ever get to, listen to this, before you ever get to marriage, which is the context for which you shared your body with someone. That's what the scripture talks about. We've gotten that all out of whack. You see, we live in a hook-up culture, right? We meet them at the bar, we you know we take it for a test run see how it goes and then see what happens after that, all out of balance. Sir, ma'am, if you're looking to be married at some point, if your prospective spouse doesn't know how to have healthy friendships, and doesn't know what it looks like to treat one another as a brother or sister in Christ, punch out. They need some work still. They need to grow still. It's not a healthy start, because when you start with wanting to share body, it is not, it is a mistake. Paul said I'm praying that all of you spirit soul and body will be found blameless at the in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. Spirit and soul we can get to know in a friendship on a brother and sister in Christ level, and then we really know better whether or not marriage is going to be a good fit for us as opposed to inverting it and sharing bodies before you've shared spirit and soul. Are you fine, is everybody good? Are you with me, you here? Okay? I'm just making sure. I'm just making sure, and I need you to know I love you. That's not a setup for, the next shoe's about the drop, it's not... or it might be.
So, first thing - listen - first thing that we can pick up on before we say "I do", sanctified people build biblical relationships here's the second thing though, I don't want you to miss this, they will choose a genuine believer as a mate. They'll choose a genuine believer as a mate. This is what people do. Listen, this is what sanctified people will do. Now, again, don't feel ganged up on if this isn't you, I'm glad you're here, I'm glad you're gonna get to listen to this and I want you to, I want you to hear what the scripture actually says. In fact, there's a passage of Scripture that is not talking specifically about marriage but it's super, super clear about who we bond ourselves to in real deep matters.
Listen to how Paul writes to the church at Corinth in 2nd Corinthians 6, he says, "Do not be yoked together" that word yoke - we don't use it very often - it kind of would go around the neck of an animal and then there would be another animal, and it was a lot of times for farming so that they could do a straight line, and if you had two animals in there who didn't like each other, like if you tried to put you know a donkey and a cow or something like that in there that's not gonna go real well, because when I'm gonna pull back and the other one, and then your rows look like this (wavy hand motion). You know, it's terrible you get nowhere maybe you end up going backwards, it's a horrible thing. You need to actually have, you need to have an ox and an ox in there that can be together and can move in the same direction for the same purpose, that's the idea there, don't "be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?" that's the name of a false God "Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?" You see here's what's being communicated ladies and gentlemen, listen carefully, here's what's being communicated: Paul is making the argument that when we link ourselves together with unbelievers (and where are you more yoked than in marriage, seriously, where? nowhere) when you link yourself together with unbelievers he is saying it is a form of idolatry. What idolatry is, is saying "You know what? I love them more than I love what Jesus has said, and so I'm gonna put my desires for this person ahead of everyone else, including Jesus." I can't how many times I've heard it: "Pastor, you know yeah we're dating and I I know he's not a Christian but I love him!" or "Yeah, I know she doesn't follow Jesus but you know, man, I... I love her." Right? You hear it all the time. I got two words for you: not wise. Not wise, according to the scripture. And now, he wasn't specifically, Paul wasn't specifically talking about marriage there but the application is so clear, in fact the application so clear that Paul already made the application when he was talking in his first letter to Corinth about people who were believers and how they married, and what they did, and the state that they found themselves in, and all of that and he basically is talking to Christian women and here's what he says to them. Listen carefully to what he says, 1st Corinthians 7, "A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes but he must belong to the Lord." Can you be any clearer there, I don't know if you're missing that? He must belong to the Lord. You see the principle there is not yoking ourselves together with unbelievers. Now, I know some of you've done that, and you're saying "But what about me? What about me?" We'll get to that, it's not gonna be today, but we're gonna get to that. We're not gonna leave you hanging, we love you. We know that some of you have found yourself in that place, right? Two of you we're not walking with Jesus and then all of a sudden one came to faith in Christ and now it's, you've got a believer and an unbeliever and you're like "Ah, what do I do?" There's there's teaching on that, we'll come to that, but that's not for today. But what I'm saying is that we've got to, sanctified people before they say "I do," they're thinking already about what Paul has instructed us by the Spirit that they're gonna choose a genuine believer as a mate.
But let me give you a third thing: before they say "I do," sanctified people not only build biblical relationships, not only choose a genuine believer as a mate, but third, they control their bodies. This is what sanctified people do; they control their bodies. Now, I'm not making up that terminology I'm actually getting it from the scripture itself, I want you to see what it says one chapter back in first Thessalonians four, I've highlighted it incase you missed it, "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who don't know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a" - who? - "brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God didn't call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you His Holy Spirit." The Spirit that gives you the power to be able to control your own body. So, what God has called us to do is to be a set apart people because here's what he's asking of us, before you say "I do," you need to let God sanctify you through and through. And what you do in that is you'll build biblical relationships, and you, but then you'll come to a place where not only will you choose a genuine believer as a mate but you will understand that leading up to that time that the Spirit of God will allow you to be able to control your own body. Because, when you're dating so to speak - and the Bible actually never speaks of that term, we've kind of, you know, courting, dating, whatever, the Bible doesn't speak of that, it was a different time and place so we don't have like instructions on dating necessarily, we've got principles that are located in there and I'm giving you some of those - but what we need to understand is that God has called us to live for Him and to honor Him, even in that time leading up to marriage.
You say, "Jerry, well that's easy for you to say, man, you've been married for 24 years and you're a pastor, you came out of the womb with a Bible." Which, I've had people say that to me and I've thought to myself, man if that were true my poor mom, right? It's like a... it's not, not comfortable. So I didn't, and I haven't been walking with Jesus my entire life, I've had the seeds planted in terms of that exposure but you guys many of you know my story that I kind of had run my own deal for a while you know and I like living life my own way and trying out everything that I could try and do whatever I wanted to do, I was as far from God as you could imagine. I'm not proud of that time, it's just how it was, but at the age of 19 I came to faith in Jesus Christ. Now, leading up to that time when I was young there was this girl that I had my eye on. She was a skinny little runner a girl. And she was a great runner like a little ,you know, mile or distance runner and I mean at 12 years old this girl was running like a 5 minute and 25 second mile at 12! She was the best in the state of Georgia, she ran in the Junior Olympics, she was beautiful, her name was Edie, and I had my eye on her in sixth grade. I don't know why because I was a little sprinter guy and she was a distance runner and I knew she could smoke me in a mile and I was like, "that's attractive." And to a sixth grader, right, it's attractive, she can outrun me like for a mile. And so, we were friends, you know, kind of all through middle school and even into high school, but she was a cheerleader and beautiful and all that stuff, and I was still small I was a late grower - and I've passed that gene on my kids - I was a late grower, it's just how it is, man. The Gillis's grow late. And we finish well, but we don't start good, right? All of you Italians, you like, you're shaving when you're 8! What is up with that? It's a horrible thing for a, for like a Scotch-Irish kid who's a late grower to be in a locker room in seventh grade with Italian kids. They got hair coming out of their chest you know, shaving... I'm just like gosh, come on man, I'm like 20 years removed from like shaving. You're killing me.
So she was dating like upperclassmen and all that stuff and we were friends and all but, we ended up going to the same University - the University of Georgia - didn't really see each other much for a couple of years because it's a really large place 30,000 students it's like a city, we didn't see each other we didn't hang out nothing, and then you know what happened in my life? I came to faith in Jesus, after being an idiot and doing all the stuff that I did my life was transformed, I'm talking about in a moment. God didn't turn over a new leaf with me, He turned over a new life. Everything changed. And so I just started walking with Jesus man, I started leading a Bible study with a couple of guys, you know, that were in our in our little apartment area, or whatever, and I was such a good teacher I grew it from seven to five! A couple of them bailed, they were like "You stink!" you know like, alright maybe, 'cause I didn't know what to do, like everything it started one way and ended the same way like "Dude, Jesus is coming you better pull it together. We better pull it together." Right? And we're all just trying to keep it together, but as I continued to grow and I begin just study the Scripture and grow in my faith, and people started growing with me and showed me grace, and I showed them grace and we grew. And I found out that that Edie had come to faith in Christ about eight months before I had, and there she is on campus or whatever and then basically I just turned around one day and she's stalking me. No I'm kidding, she wasn't stalking me. But God really did bring her my way which was awesome, it was such a cool thing God kind of brought her to me. I had pined after her for my whole life and then I was just like, punted, I was like look Jesus I'm just gonna follow You, let's go. What do you have for my life? Let's go. And then sure enough God brought her my way, and it was fantastic.
So we started dating while we were in college, you know, and it was kind of maybe late in my junior year of college, and you know what? Look. Here's the bottom line, what I'm about to tell you didn't come from the pastor guy, it came from a college guy who's dating a really beautiful woman. I mean, there was nothing wrong with my eyes, nothing wrong with my blood. I would see her, right? The blood would pump and I would think: I want to kiss you... a lot. For a long time. Right? That's what's going on in my head. I'm just, you got to keep it real, right? It's just how it was. And the truth is, the temptation for any 22 year old - 21/22, right - is, I want to do more than kiss you. That's what's going on, because you're beautiful and I like you a lot, and all that kind of stuff that I'm and I'm wrestling with this not as a pastor guy but as a regular 22 year old dude who's in college. That's what I'm wrestling with.
And one night I'm wrestling with it so much, because I want to honor God, really in my heart of hearts I'd come to that place where even though I hadn't referenced this passage, but I wanted God I wanted God to have all of me. He had changed my life, and I wanted Him to have all of me, and I had to be convinced, you know what? It's time for the boy to sit down and the man to stand up. It's time for the girl to sit down and the woman to stand up. If we want to walk with Jesus it's gonna take, its gonna require sometimes some challenge some hardship, it's not always easy. Any dead fish can float downstream, takes a real fish to swim upstream, right? That's kind of where I found myself, and I'm wrestling with this deal because maybe I was just there at night one night thinking about her, and getting worked up, and thinking about her, and then I'm thinking, "God, help!" like "Help!" So I just poured myself into the Scripture, and then you know what I did? I wrote her a letter, and I have it because my wife to this day keeps it in her Bible, not because it was entirely romantic - I wrote it on a spiral notebook that I ripped out, it's embarrassing, and I didn't say anything really flowery. I actually put the date and the time that I wrote it up in the top right hand corner, I don't know I don't even know why I did that. It was January 13, 1992, in case you can't see that, and it was 1:01am. At 1:01am you got a lot going on in your head, and I've been with Jesus for awhile, "Help!" He's been pushing me into the Word, right? So, here's what I write: "Edie," that's how it starts- it's her name - no flowery nothing, "Edie, I am NOT going to do more than I should with you physically because:" colon, and then I listed like five or six things! Not romantic at all but here's how it went. "I'm not going to do more than I should with you physically because: it is immoral," and I wrote right next to it 1st Corinthians 6:18, "because it's a stumbling block," and I wrote right next to it Romans chapter 14 verse 13, "because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit," 1st Corinthians 6 verses 19 through 20, "because the marriage bed must stay pure," Hebrews chapter 13 verse 4, "and because I love you and you mean so very much to me, that I'm not going to cheapen what God will allow us to enjoy and use for his honor. 1st Corinthians chapter 13 verse 6." That was it. Then I signed my name.
Now, I tell you that, not as a testament to a pastor who's giving you counsel, but to the fact that even if you're 22, even if you're trying to figure out what this looks like, or you're 32, or you're 42, that if we surrender ourselves to Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit can enable us to control our own bodies and to honor Him, because when we honor Him He will honor us. See, God wants to sanctify us through and through, and before you say "I do," God wants to set you apart from sin and set you apart to Himself in all that you are.
Now, here's what I get: I get that there's a lot of us maybe who are hearing what I'm teaching today and you're in a variety of different places you're single, or you're married, or you're struggling, or you're whatever, and you're hearing God say what He's saying to you, whatever that looks like - believe me, I had conversations after the first service with married couples who God was speaking to even though this was a message designed to talk about what we do before we say "I do," - the application, sanctification, that's true for all of us at any point! And so I don't know where you're at but here's what I want to do, I want to pray for you. You see that's what Paul did at the end of his letter when he wrote to the church at Thessalonica, he prayed for them. And I want to do that for you as well, and I want to pray based upon the same text that Paul is praying. So, on all of our campuses our campus pastors are gonna take a moment and we're gonna have an opportunity to pray for each of you. So I'm gonna ask you wherever you, will you just bow your head with me for a moment as we pray?
Father, may You Yourself, the God of peace - not the God of chaos, the God of peace - may You sanctify us through and through. May our whole spirit, and soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ because You God, You are faithful, and You can do it. Father, I pray for every person under the sound of my voice whom You may be working in their life in a very specific way; for some, this this message is right where they are, they are wanting to one day be married and are not married yet, or maybe they had a bad marriage in the past and want to really do this in the way You've called them to in the future. Lord ,I pray that You would speak by the power of Your Spirit and that You would sanctify through and through. That we would realize that as we yield ourselves to You, You will form the image of Jesus in us and that we will see the life of Christ in our lives, and it will have an effect. Lord, I pray that You'd help all of us to learn what it means actually at a baseline level to have godly friendships and to be able to understand what it means to treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we even understand how we should function in the context of a marriage relationship. But Lord, I pray what You would do, is You would help anyone in here, if some need to repent of things that they've been doing and they need to stop them I pray that You would give them the grace to turn from that and turn to You. Lord, for those that maybe maybe need to start doing things that they aren't doing, I pray You'd give them the grace by the power of Your Spirit to begin those. Lord for those that need encouragement I pray that You would greatly encourage them God, that You know better than we do how we're supposed to function and operate, and You can be trusted because You're faithful. And we literally can build our whole lives on trust in You. And so Father, I pray that whatever the circumstance you would show Your power by Your Spirit and that we would cooperate with Your Spirit so that we might be a people who are sanctified through and through. We ask in Jesus name, Amen.
Before we leave what I'd like for us to do - and it please I would ask you to take this opportunity to do it - I want us just to affirm with just a couple of courses and a bridge, short brief, I want us to sing that truth that we sang earlier and I want us to sing it as a declaration to God the One who sanctifies us. I want us to sing about building our lives on His love, that we can trust that firm foundation, that He's trustworthy, and that He can do it. And then, when we finish singing in just a couple of moments I want to say one thing to you on your way out. So, would you stand with me all over? And let's take a moment and declare this in our own lives from our hearts that we may surrender ourselves to the Lord and He can continue to sanctify us through and through. [Music]
That's a declaration that we're making because we trust in the faithful God who can do these things. You can do these things because of the Spirit's power in you. God is faithful and He can do it - that's what Paul's Prayer says. May the God, may God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be found blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. And God who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. He will set us apart for the glory of Christ return and He has the power to set us apart from sin and set us apart to Himself in the new. So my encouragement to you is this: trust Him. Trust Him, whatever state you're in, and know this, that wherever you're at in your marriage I believe that the Spirit of God will speak to you, wherever you're at in your singleness I believe the Spirit of God will speak to you over these next few weeks. Let Him have His way, let Him teach you what He wants. And if you're here and you've never before come to a place where you have actually been sanctified, that can only happen by putting your faith and trust in Jesus, by turning from your sin and putting your trust in Him, and I would ask you if you've never before done that in your heart in your life, we'd love to talk to you about what that looks like, what it means to become a follower of Jesus. And in fact we've got some people who would love to help you with that, when we dismiss in just a moment if you'd come right through the atrium there's a room that's clearly marked - it says the Fireside Room - come by there. We'd love to, there's folks there waiting on you right now that would love to talk to you for a moment about what it looks like to surrender your life to Christ, and to be set apart from sin, forgiven, made new. and set apart to God.
Father, thank You for all the words that You have spoken to us this day. Thank You God that we have been submerged in Your Word through our time together, and I pray that Your Spirit would give grace, and confidence, and strength, and power, and correction where needed, but that we would always know that it comes from the loving hand of a Father. So Lord, would You help us to be reflections of the life of Jesus in the relationships that we're in and the impact of those relationships around us, so that a world can see the life of Christ in us for Your glory? We pray in Jesus name, Amen.
Love you guys, hope you have a great week.