“The Marriage of Your Dreams” Marriage Seminar
Paul David Tripp
Church of the Apostle
Friday-Saturday, February 21-22, 2020
Summary Notes of Bob Stouffer (All errors are mine alone.)
“Marriage is a beautiful thing that only reaches what God designed it to be through the methodology of a painful process.”
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Your weakness preaches the Gospel.
Confess the struggle, which has been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.
I’ve been married for 49 years.
God is in the many moments of our lives. That is love of stunning magnificence. We don’t live in monumental moments. You live your life in minor moments. This is where the character of marriage is forged.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ enters into the little moments of your marriage.
What’s happening in the little moments of your marriage?
Everyone in this room has been disappointed in our marriages. None of us have gotten our dreams.
We are disappointed dreamers.
But we should be grateful for the journeys of our marriages.
Why is marriage so difficult?
We need to own our disappointments — reach out for the help only God can give.
Dating is a step above used car sales. We’re “selling each other” when we are dating. This today is the man or woman you married. The man or woman you dated was a fake! Couples get married with unrealistic expectations.
We mistake attraction for love. We love what we think our spouse will give to us. Attraction is motivated by self-love. Godly love is motivated by other-centered love.
The Bible is a grand redemptive narrative, with God’s theological notes. You can’t just run to the marriage passages to understand marriage. You’ve got to read the entire Bible.
We assign too much power to romance. No romance is powerful enough to drive the junk that you dragged into your marriage. True romance is the result of a good marriage; true romance is not the cause of a good marriage.
Your marriage lives in three worlds:
(1) In the world of Genesis 2; everything is gorgeous, full of intimacy, oneness; marriage is a beautiful gift from God; your problem isn’t marriage;
(2) in the world of Genesis 3; fear, shame, acrimony, brokenness, the darkness of sin; living for self and selfishness; sin is fundamentally me-istic; YOU brought the biggest struggles into your marriages; your deepest and most profound problem is YOU; we want your way; the chaos of marriage is the selfishness of sin; me, me, me, me, me, me, me; it’s a wonder any marriage makes it; and
(3) in the world of 2 Peter 1:3+; his divine power has granted us all power in all things; wow, wow, wow; God exercised His power in incalculable grace to us; He’s ALREADY given us everything we need for life and godliness, a God-honoring life on earth, from the already to the not-yet; God knows exactly who you are and what you are facing, and he has given you everything you need for life and for marriage.
You can heal the wounds of your marriage with the hope of this passage from 2 Peter. God says, “I know you. I know what you’re dealing with. I know your disappointments. I know the cries of your heart. I know. I know. And I have placed everything in my storehouse of grace everything you need.
Marriage is a beautiful thing. The selfishness of sin has made it a difficult thing. The cross is our hope.
Three mindsets should shape our marriages:
(1) A harvest mindset — I plant seeds that are growing into something. Is my marriage dominated by the dark seeds of Genesis 3 or the hope of 2 Peter 1? We plant seeds, and we should not be surprised by the harvest, good or bad. Everyone is a gardener. Every marriage is a garden;
(2) An investment mindset — Where your treasure is, there will your heart be. What’s important to you? Is being right more important than relationship? Values capture your heart. What do you really want from your marriage? What about marriage brings you joy? Are they the values of Genesis 3 or 2 Peter 1?
(3) A grace mindset. This is not being permissive. Grace never calls wrong right. If wrong were right, there would be no need for grace. God is at work in our marriage. He is active. Grace means we want to be part of what God is doing in our marriage. How can we be a part of that grace? You’ve got to want to be a part of grace, including and especially in the midst of failure.
Your marriage is shaped by habits. A good marriage is driven by Gospel habits. A bad marriage is a result of bad habits. What are the habits of your marriage? Do your habits live in Genesis 3 or 2 Peter 1?
You have no independent capability of being a good spouse. Your inclinations lean in the wrong direction. You are not alone. Jesus is for you. Jesus is with me. Jesus is with your marriage. We can do better because of Jesus.
Discussion Questions from the Conference Booklet:
When you were single, engaged, or a newlywed, what dreams did you have for your marriage? Were any of your early dreams unrealistic? Selfish? In what ways may you still be holding on to an impractical and self-centered vision for your relationship?
How have you been surprised or disappointed by marriage? Listing reasons how your spouse has fallen short is probably not helpful! Instead, consider difficulties that you faced together that were not initially planned for the marriage of your dreams.
How can you view these surprises and disappointments (in biblical language, “trials” and “tests”) through the lens of 1 Peter 1:6-7 and James 1:2-4? What practical steps can you take to shift your dream for marriage from that of personal happiness to God’s design for personal holiness?
How has God been faithful to you through all these trials and tests? Think specifically of how the Bible can prepare you for every future surprise and disappointment you will face.
What is one difficulty that you and your spouse are currently experiencing? How can you become united and stronger together with the help of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, and the body of Christ?
“The Spouse of Your Dreams”
“Trust = Being so convinced of the integrity, strength, character, and faithfulness of another that you are willing to place yourself in his/her care.”
“Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
What if I told you you could experience a marriage beyond your wildest dreams?
How can you get unstuck where you are stuck?
Look at Galatians Chapter 5, verse 16 and following.
Walk by the Spirit. And you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Crucify the flesh. It’s possible you can no longer be controlled by sinful, selfish instincts.
God forgave you. He unzipped you and got inside of you with His Spirit. You are not left to live by your own power. A Warrior Spirit lives inside of you! He has the power to defeat what you, individually, do not have the power to defeat. Wow, wow, wow.
There are two ways of living — one dominated by the selfishness of sin and the other which allows you to walk by the Spirit.
Idolatry destroys marriages. Desires for even good things becomes bad things when they become ruling things.
Enmity. Dislike. Strife. We get in the way of each other. We fight bad fights. Fits of anger.
There’s the battle. The Spirit is in me, but my flesh battles the Spirit.
Would you like your marriage to grow out of the hurt feelings? Stay with me.
The fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control — wouldn’t you want to live in a marriage dominated by the fruit?! This is the marriage of everyone’s dreams.
These are not first moral goals to achieve. You have no independent ability to achieve these fruit. These are gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus died for everything you’re facing right-here right-now, that you will be delivered from your sin. Jesus died so you would be transformed. Don’t settle for nastiness. Don’t settle for anything less than what Jesus promises.
Too many of you are trying to keep out of trouble and avoid the land mines.
Jesus shed His precious blood for you. You can do better in your marriage.
This list of fruit is what your Savior is working on in you — to transform you.
The purpose of marriage is not comfort. We are not yet sanctified. We must see our marriages from that perspective. God put you in an intense relationship, using the struggles of the relationship to transform you. That’s marriage.
You must make your purpose the same as God’s purpose for marriage. Be the man and woman God made you to be.
You must want to love your spouse like Jesus loved the church. Look for ways to love your spouse. Move in the same direction as God. Value what God values. Spend time with each other. Help your spouse feel loved.
Gratitude is the DNA of joy. Look for ways to be grateful for your marriage, an encouragement to your spouse. Why would you take your spouse for granted?
How about peace? How about choosing to quit making war and making peace? How about valuing what the Spirit values? The Spirit defeats the selfishness of sin.
Patience. We are not in control. You have never gotten angry because you had to wait for you!
Here is the marriage of your dreams in the fruit of the Spirit. God did not leave you to your mess, so you could do better.
There’s more. When the fruit of the Spirit are evident, trust grows. You cannot have a marriage without trust.
You edit yourself all of the time, because you don’t trust the person with whom you are living.
You can’t have a sexual relationship in a marriage without trust. We either use each other and walk away or serve the other. Don’t turn your spouse into an object for pleasure. Men, she can be little more than a tool for masturbation. Sex is only for your sexual pleasure. Self-sacrificing love results in trust. You can’t deal with conflict without trust. The fruit are the soil from which trust comes.
“A confident action based on security” is trust. We can be confident in each other’s care.
But we too often measure our words and wonder when the next fight will occur. When you can trust a person, you are confident, and you can speak confidently. We should be able to expect this fruit from each other.
Is your marriage a picture of confidence or doubt?
We have a Savior we can trust. He will not turn His back on us. He loves us. And, so, we can believe His promises. The Spirit lives inside of me, and I can go in a better direction of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
Would your spouse say you are good for your word and faithful to your promises?
Do you carry wrongs around, or do you trust one another to confront and confess?
Do you share your thoughts, desires, hopes, dreams, and concerns with your spouse? Do you bear your soul? Do you reveal your heart? Or are you afraid and protective?
Is it hard for you to talk about your physical sexual relationship, desires, hurts, and problems?
Are there things in your marriage that, for a long time, you have you been afraid to bring up? Are there “closed closets”?
Here’s where we want to end. You don’t need to be discouraged. God knew your struggles. He provided grace for you to get better. He got inside of you. The Holy Spirit provides you the power by which you can defeat sin.
Admit your need. Watch what God can do. You don’t have to EVER be afraid of God’s response. Jesus’ greatest pain on the cross was not physical. Jesus’ greatest pain was relational: “My God, why have you forsaken me?!”
Don’t settle for the mess. Jesus shed His blood for you. And God the Spirit lives inside of you.
Discussion Questions from the Conference Booklet:
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the level of trust in your marriage currently? Why did you choose that number?
At what point during your marriage did you experience the highest level of trust? (It could be today, by the grace of God.) Why was, or is, trust at an all-time high? What factors contributed to increased confidence in the other?
On your own, review Part A from the Trust Questionnaire. Identify two areas where you are failing to build trust. How can you take practical steps to change this with your words and behavior?
Ask your spouse to share an additional area from Part A of the Trust Questionnaire where they believe you need to grow in trustworthiness. Ask the Lord for open eyes to see personal weakness and a soft heart to confess.
Review Part B of the Trust Questionnaire together. Use these questions to start an honest and gracious conversation where you develop practical solutions to strengthen trust in your relationship.
TRUST QUESTIONNAIRE: Part A
Do you do what you promise, in the time that you have promised?
Are you attentive to what your spouse views as important?
How often do you make excuses for failing to do what you promised, compared to how quickly you confess to breaking your promise?
Do you listen well to your spouse and act on what you have heard?
Do you follow through with mutually agreed-upon plans?
Do you work with your spouse on planning and scheduling priorities, or do you demand that s/he do it your way?
Do you openly share your thoughts, desires, hopes, dreams, and concerns wit your spouse? Is it easier for you to share with someone else?
Do you share things about your spouse with other people — things you have not first communicated with him/her?
Is there evidence that you have withdrawn from your spouse in protective distance, instead of fighting for your marriage?
Do you harbor bitterness, or do you approach your spouse when s/he has wronged you?
Do you confront your spouse with love, patience, and grace; or do you retaliate when you have been hurt?
Are there ways in which you have been selfish in your sexual relationship?
TRUST QUESTIONNAIRE: Part B
Do you ever wonder what your spouse is doing when s/he’s not with you?
Are you conscious of editing your words and withholding your feelings because you can’t trust your spouse to deal with them properly?
Is your sexual relationships mutually satisfying?
Do you ever fear that you are being manipulated or taken advantage of in any way?
Do you look forward to sharing time together, and, when you have these times, are they peaceful and enjoyable?
Are there any problems between you that remain unsolved because you don’t have the bond of trust necessary to work together on a solution?
Do you ever wonder if you made a mistake in marrying the person who is your spouse?
Would you say that your spouse is your best friend in life, or has this kind of companionship evaporated?
“What Dreams Are Made Of”
“Confession is the doorway to growth and change in your relationship. Forgiveness is the fertile soil in which unity in marriage grows.”
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
We all face disappointment in our marriages — because of one powerful, dark thing — selfishness, sin — Our wants, our needs, our feelings.
The primary purpose for marriage is holiness. Marriage is intended by God for sanctification.
We must value what God values. By so doing, trust grows. Trust is the soil of growth.
God lives inside of us, so we have the help we need.
There are marriages in this room that are stuck. You are frustrated that you are stuck. You have the same patterns and arguments and dysfunctions.
I want to propose why you are unstuck and how you become unstuck.
Most couples get stuck as a result of a law-based marriage. The cycle is EXPECTATION-FAILURE-PUNISHMENT.
The silent treatment is bloodless murder. I will kill you until you get your act together. It’s assuming the role of a god to another.
You do need law in your marriage. God’s law is a grace to us. The law reveals your heart and exposes sin.
BUT the law has no power whatsoever to change your heart. The law can’t sanctify you or your marriage.
Some of you are law-based parents — rules and punishments. The law can’t change your children’s hearts. [Josh McDowell: Rules without relationships result in rebellion.]
The law is more about the heart than behavior.
All relationship problems are heart problems.
The heart is the cause and core of your operating system.
In the cycle of expectation-failure-punishment, you get stuck in the relationship.
If you could silence your spouse into holiness, you wouldn’t need a Savior.
Threats and punishment do not sanctify.
Violating God’s plan for rescue and transformation does not work.
A lawless marriage would be God-less, but you cannot ask the law to do what it was not intended to do. You do not attempt to drive a boat down a highway; that’s not what boats are intended to do. You don’t drive a brand-new car into a lake; that’s not what cars are intended to do.
Some of you believe that the silent treatment or raising your voice to another is redemptive. You would not find it helpful for someone to give you the silent treat or to yell at you.
You need to nurture a grace-based marriage, God’s tool of radical rescue and transformation. Grace is able to do what the law was not intended to do.
But grace doesn’t mean you let go of what is right and let the person do whatever s/he wants.
Grace has you moving toward the person who has hurt or wronged you.
You have to be committed to two supernatural traits:
THE HUMILITY OF APPROACHABILITY: The power of sin has been broken. The presence of sin, though, is still a reality. We pray for humility to receive and to extend grace. If you are unapproachable, you are not humble. Would your spouse say you are approachable when tough things needs to be said?
THE COURAGE OF LOVING HONESTY: If you are going to be a tool of grace in the hands of your Redeemer, you have to be a truth-speaker. You cannot avoid confrontation. Avoiding confrontation is loving yourself too much — in attempts to avoid negative outcomes for yourself. Honesty used as a weapon is not sanctifying. Truth not spoken in love ceases to be love, because it is bent and twisted by other emotions.
Turn to Hebrews 3:12-13. This is our model passage for grace-based marriage.
First, you get a warning. Then, a call.
THE WARNING: You give yourself to sin. Your conscience bothers you. You either confess your sin or erect self-atoning arguments for what you have done. We want to feel better about what we should not feel good about. We turn away from God and others. Our hearts harden. And I am insensitive to and resistant to necessary change. Sin doesn’t bother you anymore. You do things in marriage you would have never done in courtship.
THE CALL: We have the Bible in our hands and the Holy Spirit within us. How can a hard heart be a part of a Christian marriage?! Sin deceives. Sin blinds. We cannot see our own sin. We are spiritually blind as long as sin lives inside of us. You must forever give up the thought that no one knows you better than you know yourself. Don’t say, “You don’t know me.” The more accurate statement is “I don’t know me.” You can’t see sin in yourself. And we cannot be unapproachable in our marriages when our spouses point out the sin we cannot see. We need help. We need to be rescued from ourselves. God put a rescuer in intimate communion with us — The Holy Spirit. You are called to be an instrument of “seeing” in your spouse.
It’s frustrating to your spouse to be rebuffed during confrontation. You’re unapproachable with that mindset when the other is attempting to be a tool of God’s grace.
You can’t grieve what you don’t see.
You can’t confess what you haven’t grieved.
You can’t repent of what you haven’t confessed.
No wonder you are stuck. SIGHT-GRIEF-CONFESSION-REPENTANCE. THAT is a cycle of a good marriage! Form a legacy of defeating the old dysfunction of your marriage. Make room for that cycle in your marriage, or you will never have a good, biblical marriage. We serve a faithful God.
You have not married a perfect spouse. Your spouse needs help. God’s plan is to make His invisible grace visible by sending spouses of grace with grace to spouses who need grace. Establish the cycle of grace.
There are four practical steps:
CONSIDERATION: What does God (not you) want my spouse to see that they are not seeing, and how can I help them see it? Surrender your wants and desires to God’s wants and desires.
CONFESSION: Where is God calling my spouse to own responsibility for words and behavior, without excuse or shifting of blame, and how can I help my spouse to see that. We should want God’s best for our spouses.
COMMITMENT: Where is God calling my spouse in our marriage to a brand-new way of living? How can I help my spouse see that?
CHANGE: A change hasn’t taken place until change has taken place. What will these new commitments look like in our every-day lives in marriage?
Don’t drive away from this weekend conference and say to your spouse, “That was an important weekend FOR YOU.”
God welcomes us to leave behind marriage in a cycle of law and move into a marriage in a cycle of grace. By so doing, we will see beautiful flowers of holiness. Get into a godly cycle.
The Word of God takes you in places you could never imagine going without it.
Discussion Questions from the Conference Booklet:
What are some external factors that have added strain to your marriage recently? Have you pointed the finger of blame on these only, failing to identify your heart and its response to difficulty?
Do you struggle to accept criticism, not only in marriage but in all of life? What are some of the recurring excuses you make? What might this pattern reveal about your heart?
What truths from Scripture allow you to embrace a humble posture of confession? How does the Gospel help you fight against self-righteousness, regret, paralyzing guilt, and shame?
When your spouse is humble enough to admit wrong, how do you greet his/her confession? Do you tend to squash it with self-righteous judgment and retaliation? How can you be kind and tender hearted, forgiving him/her as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32)?
Are you demanding or expecting that your spouse changes overnight? How have you proven that spiritual maturity is a process and not an event?
“All You Need Is (Cruciform) Love”
“Cruciform love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that person being loved is deserving.”
“In this love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11)
Establish and maintain trust, or you will never have a cycle of grace.
Instead of having a law-based marriage, commit to grace-based marriage.
And, finally, we must commit to love.
What is love?
What do we know about love?
I want to take you on a love journey. We need to orient our minds to a biblical view of love.
Look at Galatians 5:13 and following.
You were called to be free. Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature. Do not indulge your selfishness. If you do, you will do harm to your marriage. Do not harm the necessary trust in your marriage.
Good marriages include good people who say no to themselves — to the sin and selfishness which is tugging at our hearts. Say no to you. We are more skilled saying no to others than to ourselves. We indulge ourselves too easily.
God gave you His Spirit. Now, you have power to say no to thoughts, emotions, and desires. Are you saying no to you?
When in the last week should you have said no to yourselves, and what was the result?
Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law is summarized in this single command, Paul said in this passage. How does love of neighbor summarize God’s law?
Only when God is in His rightful place of my heart that I can keep that command with others, especially with my spouse, who is my neighbor.
We must love God as we should to be able to love our spouses the way we should.
Fix marriages vertically. Fixing does not first occur horizontally.
Get down on your knees and confess that you have not loved God enough to the point of loving your spouse as God intends.
The solution to indulging yourself is not first loving your spouse, but loving your God more. Only, only, only ever when God is in the right place of your life can we love our spouses biblically.
Whatever rules your heart will characterize your marriage.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
God is not satisfied with your biblical literacy, theology, offering in the plate, episodic moments of ministry, or small group participation. He. . .wants. . .your. . .heart.
What has your heart has you. What controls your heart will lead to the outcomes of your life.
So what does it mean to serve one another in love?
Go to 1 John 4:7 and following to see the cruciform definition of love — “In the shape of the cross” of Jesus Christ.
I will dictate a Gospel-centered, cross-shaped definition of love:
Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not demand reciprocation or that the person being loved is “deserving.”
Love is willing. Love loves to love. You should not be forced into doing loving things. Love your spouse as you should. Be willing. Choose moments which show your willingness to serve and comfort.
Love is willing self-sacrifice. Love requires sacrifice. It’s impossible to love without critical sacrifice. Can you give up control and being right? Does your love have limits? Would you rather have your way? Lay down your selfishness for the greater beauty and glory of God’s love. Your spouse will be presupposed to turn to you and to trust you more when you show sacrificial love.
The essence of love is generosity. “God so loved the world that HE GAVE.” Love gives! Love doesn’t keep score. God loved people who were rebellious and stole His glory by giving His Son! God could have kept score, but He didn’t. He didn’t shut down. He moved toward us by GIVING His Son. Would your spouse say you are generous with your love? We should all be spouses married to spouses who are ridiculously generous. We grow and change because of the generosity of others. Jesus left the incalculable glories of heaven. He knew what He was getting into. His suffering began on that feeding trough. He was despised and rejected. He died for you. He was generous. Are you generous?
Love is others-centered. It’s not “me, me, me, me, me, me.” What does your spouse need? Immediately think of your spouse. Love is for the good of another.
Love does not demand reciprocation. Love is not a bargain; love is a sacrifice. Love is not a “deal.” Love is a “gift.” You don’t love based on the way your spouse is loving you. If God had done that to us, we would have had no other hope. You love! You love! You love! You love! No matter what. We do not punish through the withholding of love, because that is self-centered, not others-centered. Never stop loving. That’s a good marriage.
Love because we receive God’s welcome of being a tool in the loving of your spouse. Your spouse does not “deserve” your love. But do not withhold your love. Withholding love will result in a whole lot of time without love in the marriage. Don’t operate from a mindset of “I refuse to love unless you earn it.” THAT is a law-based love.
None of us is capable of loving this way. This kind of cruciform love is beyond the reach of every husband and wife who has ever existed.
Hopelessness is the doorway to hope. You give up on your strength and wisdom and righteousness. And you will enter into real love. The move is from independence to dependence on God. Cry out to God: “I need help.”
Be willing to say, “The biggest problem in my marriage is me. I need to be met by God’s grace — to make His invisible grace visible to your spouse.”
Discussion Questions from the Conference Booklet:
What initially attracted you to your spouse? Is that attraction still alive today? What is the difference between initial attraction and biblical love?
Dissect the definition of cruciform love — willing / self-sacrifice / for the good of another / that does not require reciprocation / or that the person being loved is deserving — and apply each aspect to your relationship.
When was the last time you did something for your spouse that appeared loving but was done with a hard heart or out of obligation? How can you improve in unprompted willingness?
What is Christ calling you to sacrifice in your marriage today? Why is it such a struggle to give up? What does this struggle reveal about your priorities and idols?
Are you aware of the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of your spouse? Create a list of these needs. What steps do you need to take each day to serve and alleviate burdens?
When was the last time you served your spouse, but only in the hope that you would get something in return? How can this manipulation hurt your marriage?
When was the last time your spouse loved you even when you did not deserve love? How did this love strengthen your marriage relationship?
Some of you are overwhelmed. You think you’ll never remember all of this and mess your the marriage.
Some of you are filled with regret. You remember bad moments
I leave you with a final gift. We will sing a hymn that reminds you you are not alone.
“What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
What a friend we have in Jesus.
All our sins and griefs to bear.
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit.
Oh, what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness.
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Songwriters: Charles Crozat Converse / Joseph Scriven
“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., BMG Rights Management