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The thesis of this series is that good relationships are possible, but not probable.
In other words, you’re more likely to have bad relationships than good relationships, especially if you follow the world’s way. I know, that’s not very encouraging. But this series is going to show you the path to good relationships.
Let’s take a look at our theme verse for this series:
Romans 12:2 NLT – Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world,
So, the world has its own brand of behavior. And a lot of us end up copying this behavior because we didn’t take time to think, “Hm. Is this God’s way?”
I’d venture to say that one of the most dangerous places to copy the world’s behavior is in relationships. I mean, over 91% of the sexual encounters you see on TV happen outside the context of marriage.
We can’t even watch the Super Bowl without an overt display of sexuality. And we’ve become so accustomed to it that many Bible-believing Christians actually celebrate what happened during the half-time show just a few Sundays ago.
This is not an attack on anyone. I just want to make you aware of how easy it is to fall into the world’s behaviors and customs. Because, they are selling us something that doesn’t work. This stuff will destroy your life.
You know this. I don’t have to tell you. But sometimes the gravitational pull of our culture seems impossible to escape. But, it’s not impossible. Here’s the answer:
Romans 12:2 NLT – but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
We always think it’s up to us. “I’ve got to stop doing that. I need to start doing this.” And on and on we go. It becomes all about what we have to do to improve ourselves. But this scripture kind of messes with you.
Only one part of this has to do with you: let God. That’s it. You just have to let Him. Easier said than done though because most of us would rather hold onto our pride because we think that we’re right by agreeing with the world.
So let me expand this out for you. Letting God is simply elevating Him above your own ideas. You position Him as supreme authority in your life. It doesn’t matter how good it feels, you’ll lay it all aside to let God because you truly believe that His way is better, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
And when you let Him, He’s going to transform you. I looked up the original Greek word for transform and here’s what it means: to change into another form.
In other words, you don’t change yourself. God changes you into a new person. And He does this by changing the way you think.
I’m fully aware that I can’t change you. If you don’t agree with me, I can’t change your mind. Nor am I going to try. But I do know that by bringing you the Word of God every Sunday, He can change the way you think.
Sunday after Sunday, you are hearing the Word of God. And as these truths settle into your heart, God is transforming you into a new person by changing the way you think.
I’m not changing the way you think. God is. And boy am I thankful for that. It’d be way too much pressure if I had to be the one responsible for changing the way that you think.
But, for you to take on God’s way of thinking, you have to let Him. He can’t force it on you. So, every Sunday, I encourage you to show up with the expectation that God is going to change the way that you think.
Week-after-week, you are going to be transformed into a new person. And through this series, more specifically, your relationships are going to be transformed into what they were always meant to be.
They’ll take on the last part of this scripture:
Romans 12:2 NLT – Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
This is what God wants for your relationships. He wants it for your marriage. He wants it for your relationship with your parents. He wants all of your relationships to be good and pleasing and perfect.
I want to do something kind of fun to contrast the difference between the world’s way for relationships and God’s way.
The World’s Way
Step 1: Find the right person.
It’s like a hunt. You’ve got to find the perfect person, the one that is going to fit me like a glove. The one that completes me.
Step 2: Fall in love.
As if it’s an accident. We talk about love like it is the median on the highway on an icy day. “I just couldn’t help it. I know I committed to this person, but I fell in love with this other person.”
Here’s another way we say it, “I still remember the day we fell in love. But we’re no longer in love so we’re getting a divorce.”
Y’all, when we talk about falling in love, that ain’t love. If you remember anything from the first week of this series, you know that love is not something that happens to you. Love is something that you give.
Step 3: Fix all your hopes and dreams on them.
Now, it’s up to them to make you happy. And if they don’t do what you want, if they don’t meet your needs, then there is no way you can be happy.
And this sets up your relationship for failure, so:
Step 4: When failure occurs, repeat steps 1-3 with someone else.
Isn’t this a great system? I mean, you can always predict the outcome, so that’s pretty nice. You know it is going to fail and you’ll get to try again with someone else. You’ll get to go through that heartache over and over again.
Listen to me. We’ve been sold this idea that if we aren’t happy with our current relationship, then the next one is going to be way better. Well, let me paint the picture of how it will really turn out.
You’ll marry someone else and find out that you are just as incompatible with them as you were with the other person. The problems may be different, but there will still be problems.
Only now, you get to add the baggage of your previous relationship into your new one. So, you don’t just have your new problems, you still have your old ones. But hey, at least you got the thrill of “falling in love” again.
Y’all are smart people. You know this. It’s just the world’s way is so common, we copy it without even realizing it. But, here’s God’s way:
Step 1: Become the right person.
Instead of trying to find the right person, focus on becoming the right person. In other words, instead of looking at what the relationship will bring to you, focus on what you are going to bring to the relationship.
That’s God’s way. And I showed it to you last week how God isn’t looking to get love from us. He just wants to give love. It’s a gift.
If we spend our energy in marriage on becoming the best partner we can be instead of spending all our energy trying to change our spouse, things are going to work out a whole lot better in the long run.
When you focus is on becoming the right person, you’re all set up for what’s next:
Step 2: Walk in love.
Love is not an accident. It doesn’t happen in a hurry. You don’t fall in love, you walk in love. Step after step, you make the choice to love others the same way God loves you.
Love is not a feeling, it’s what you do. So, even when you feel like you’re no longer in love, you choose to love them anyways.
Step 3: Fix all your hopes and dreams on God.
It’s so much better to look to God for fulfillment instead of your spouse. God is always the same. He always wants the best for you. As much as your spouse may think otherwise, you can’t say the same for them.
Step 4: If failure occurs, repeat steps 1-3.
You are not going to get this perfect. Your spouse might do something that seems unforgivable. But instead of giving up, head back to step one and focus on becoming the right person.
Not changing them. Not putting all the blame on them. But figuring out what you can do to repair the relationship. And I can almost guarantee that you’ll find your answer in 1 Corinthians 13:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT – Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
In short, God’s plan for our relationships can rest in two words:
Let me be honest with you. Most marriages fail today because of a lack of commitment. The normal thing to do is bail when things get tough.
But if you want to do this God’s way, you stick it out, walk in love, and become a better person through it.
Notice I didn’t say you should stick it out and wait for them to change. Nope. While you stay committed, you focus on yourself. Become the best version of you and trust God to work in them.
You can’t change them, but God can. And He may just use your example of uncommon commitment and uncommon love to do it. But if you take on God’s job of transforming people, you’re going to end up in a bigger mess.
You see, we live in a culture that’s afraid of commitment. We get an invitation to an event on Facebook and the best we can do is reply, “maybe”, because committing to a yes or no is just too much.
Or, how about those times we set up an outreach event here at church where you have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Although it’s something you want to do, you can’t commit because, “What if something better comes along?” or “What if I don’t feel like it that day?”
Uh oh. Some of you are looking at me like I just ran into you at Walmart when you were out shopping in your PJs without your hair fixed and now you’re trying to get away from me.
Here we are, living in a culture that can’t even commit to an event. Is it really a surprise that people have such a hard time committing to a relationship? Or to a job? Or to their small group?
This is not the example God gives us. Can you imagine if God had commitment problems like we do? One day we’d be going to heaven, the next day we wouldn’t. One day our sins would be forgiven, the next day they wouldn’t.
But, that’s not God at all. This is God:
Hebrews 13:5 NLT – For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”
Oh man. Those are some absolutes right there. He will NEVER fail you. He will NEVER abandon you. This is the same uncommon commitment that we should carry around as Christ followers.
I’ve actually made this commitment to Beth. I tell her frequently that there’s nothing she can do to get rid of me. She could betray me and I’d take a stand for reconciliation. She could leave, and I’d go find her and drag her back.
So, I don’t know if she sticks with me because she’s scared or because she actually likes me, but either way, we’re in this for the long haul.
I am committed to her. Not just when everything is going right, but when life is tough and when we disagree and when we disappoint each other. Beth, I will never leave you. I will never give up on you.
I carry this same level of commitment to our church. I’m here to serve you guys. I’m here to lead you into the life God has for you. I’m here for you, and I’m not going anywhere.
Now let’s take a look at a scripture in the Old Testament that really brings this idea of Uncommon Commitment out in the open. This is going to be a little tough to hear, but hang in there.
Malachi 2:13-15 NLT – You cover the Lord ’s altar with tears, weeping and groaning because he pays no attention to your offerings and doesn’t accept them with pleasure.
So here is someone crying about their life. It’s falling apart. They’re going to church. They’re giving in the offering. But God doesn’t even seem to notice. He’s not even helping.
Malachi 2:13-15 NLT – You cry out, “Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young.
You mean God cares about my commitments? Yes. And He especially cares about your deepest commitments, also known as marriage.
Malachi 2:13-15 NLT – But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows. Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his.
This isn’t your marriage, this is God’s marriage. Wow, that’s powerful.
Malachi 2:13-15 NLT – And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.
Oh my gosh. Have you noticed the all-out-attack on our kids these days? The main reason babies are being aborted is because no one has time to raise a kid. They think that their life is too important for the “disruption” of children.
I learned recently that if you go to a coastal state, you’ll find that if you take your kids into a restaurant, people give you dirty looks because kids are seen as a nuisance and should be kept at home.
And you know what, it’s not quite that severe here yet, but there are roots of this going on right here in the God-fearing state of Oklahoma. Kids have become this thing that no one wants around because there is some kind of hindrance.
I’m kicking this plan of the devil right out of here. As pastor of this church, I take a stand for our children and declare that every child is valuable and welcome here at NoLimits.
This means that kids are welcome to all of our small groups, all of our services, all of our outreach events. Sure, they might be distracting from time-to-time, but this is our time to train them.
How can we expect our kids to grow in their relationship with God if we tell them they can’t be a part of anything the church is doing? If you’ve bought into the lie that kids are a nuisance, kick it out right now.
Y’all got me worked up. But let’s get back to this scripture. What God wants from our marriages is godly children. That’s why He says this next:
Malachi 2:16 NIV – “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
Can you see that breaking your commitments, especially in marriage, is a big deal?
And please know that I am not saying you should stay in an abusive relationship. I mean, just look at this scripture. Ladies, if your husband is violent towards the one he should protect, you, then he’s really already divorced you. So, get out of that mess.
I know, there are extreme situations out there. But the majority of those getting divorced these days are simply because they aren’t really committed.
Can you guess what the most common reason for divorce is? Money. How about number two? Lack of intimacy.
Here are some other common reasons: Lack of compatibility, physical appearance, addictions, getting married too young, getting married for the wrong reasons, lack of communication, lack of equality, loss of identity.
Hm. Okay. Sounds like pretty much all of these can be worked out. And that’s why commitment is so important. Let me put it to you this way:
Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in left you.
Cause Lord knows we’ll say some things when we’re in the right mood. White dresses are flowing, music is playing, hearts are fluttering:
“For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”
Ain’t nothing but death going to separate us, baby.
But now that you’re at home with your screaming kids and demanding boss and not enough money and a house your wife doesn’t like, now is there something that might separate you other than death?
Maybe we should start asking this question in premarital counseling so at least the vows can be accurate. It would probably go more like this:
“For better, and as long as it doesn’t get too bad, for richer, and as long as you make at least $100,000 per year, in sickness and in health, as long as you let me do what I want to do when I want to do it…”
Alright you get it. But listen to me. I’m not trying to make you endure pain and suffering in your relationship. I’m trying to give you the power to make your marriage great!
You’ll never have the marriage you want if you don’t follow God’s example of commitment. NEVER will I fail you. NEVER will I abandon you.
Commitment is a beautiful word. Let me say that again because some of you didn’t believe me the first time. Commitment is a beautiful word.
And I’m here today to help you reaffirm your commitments and to stop being so afraid to commit to the things that are going to lead you to the life God has for you.
I’m here to stop the enemy from stealing your best life by feeding you some kind of counterfeit idea of happiness. Happiness doesn’t come from the perfect person. It comes through commitment.
I know all of this is hard to hear. I can feel the tension in the room. Some of you are probably even thinking, “Well yeah, it’s easy to commit when you have the perfect marriage and well-behaved kids.”
While I’m flattered that you think that about us, it’s not true. You see us on one of the highlights of our week, Sunday. But you didn’t see us when we were at home last week because we were all sick.
And let me tell you, last Sunday, we were meaner to each other than I think we’ve ever been. On a Sunday. Maybe you thought we were all at home singing praises to God, but we were really at home griping at each other.
I know, disappointing. But our life isn’t perfect. And your story may be worse than mine, but it’s not a lost cause.
Today I’m asking you to dismiss the idea that your situation can’t change. Instead, return to commitment.
And don’t let it turn into something that you try to do on your own. You can’t do this on your own. Here’s the secret sauce:
Philippians 4:13 NKJV – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
This all becomes doable when you make a choice to partner up with Christ instead of trying to do it alone. Get shoulder-to-shoulder with Him. Invite Him into the hard times and into the good times.
So I thought a good way to end this message would be to give you five things that God has committed to you. I want you to experience these today. Let them settle on the inside of you.
When these become real to you, then you’ll have the capacity to do them for others. Just like you can’t really love others until you realize God’s love for you, you can’t commit to others until you realize that God is committed to you.
5 Commitments God Made to You
1. I commit to prioritize you.
Now, in relationships, we know this is usually one of the first places we fail. Like, Beth and I struggle when I decide to put work first. And this is a recurring adjustment for me, although I am much better at it now than I used to be.
My family has to come before my work or my relationship with Beth and my kids will never be what God intended it to be. This means I can’t allow work to impede on family time. No calls, no emails, nothing.
This also means that I will sometimes have to say no to work so I can take care of my family, like with Beth is not feeling well and needs my help taking care of our kiddos during normal working hours.
Although there are times we all feel like we’re no longer a priority to those that mean the most to us, we will always be God’s priority. Jesus gave up His own life to show us we are His priority.
1 John 3:16 NLT – We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.
Because God prioritizes me, I can prioritize you.
If you try to prioritize relationships above work in your own strength, you’ll never make it. But, if you take time to realize that God prioritizes you, it’ll give you the strength to prioritize your relationships.
Here’s the next commitment God makes to you:
2. I commit to pursue you.
There’s no greater example of pursuit than when you’re dating. You guys know exactly what I’m talking about. Emotions are flying, your heart is fluttering, and you just can’t get enough.
You’re texting nonstop. You stay on the phone till midnight. You look for any opportunity to be together. You’re in a hot pursuit.
Did you know that God is just as eager about His relationship with you?
We all experience it. He’s tugging on our heart during worship and we give Him the old stiff arm, “Sorry God, I just don’t feel like it.”
He pulled this church together, gives us all the resources we need to create an amazing service every week, and yet we treat it like a commodity. “I’ll come when I feel like it or when it’s convenient.”
You could probably find 20 things in your life right now that reveal God is in hot pursuit of a relationship with you. I mean, just take a look at this scripture:
Revelation 3:20 NLT – “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”
God is at your door, knocking, smiling, waiting to have a meal together. But you’re hiding under the blanket on your couch because you don’t want anyone to disturb your Netflix binge.
God is pursuing you. Open your eyes to it and you’ll begin to see all these different areas in your life where God is knocking just waiting for you to let Him in. All you have to do is open the door.
I know you don’t need help with this when you are dating, but once you’re married the hot pursuit starts to turn a little cold. To turn this around, first take time to realize God is pursuing you.
Because God pursues me, I can pursue you.
Here’s the next one:
3. I commit to possess you.
Some of you ladies are thinking, “Oh no. You don’t own me.” And I know, this one sounds a little funny, but just calm down because this probably isn’t what you are thinking. Take a look:
1 Peter 2:9 NLT – You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.
So, this is God saying, “This is so awesome! You belong to me. I get to have these amazing people as part of my life.”
Have you ever had something you were proud to show others? Maybe it was the latest phone or gadget, or a car, or a puppy. You were just so excited that it belonged to you.
And this is how excited God is that you belong to Him. He just wants to show you off and let everyone know that you belong to Him.
See, ladies. This is starting to sound pretty good, huh? You love it when your man possesses you, calls you his own, and wants to let everyone else know what a good thing he has.
Well, this is how God feels about you. And fellas, it’s how God feels about you. To God, all of us are His very own and He wants to let everyone else know what a good thing He has.
And fellas, this is your fuel to offer the same thing to your wife.
Because God possesses me, I can possess you.
Here’s the next one:
4. I commit to protect you.
Man. I am so glad God has committed to protect me. I probably wouldn’t be here today if God hadn’t been looking out for me. He even protected me when I’m the one that created the danger!
Psalms 121:7 NLT – The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
When it comes to protecting our relationships, the men in the room probably visualize themselves getting a gun, or heading to the gym to get buff, or taking some kind of fighting class.
But the best way to protect our relationships is to always believe the best about the other person. When they have a sour look on their face, instead of getting mad at them for being mad at you, believe the best. Maybe they’re not mad at all.
When someone else says something negative about somebody at church, “Did you hear what they did? Can you believe..” Instead of joining in, simply say, “You know, I really doubt that. What about all these good things they’ve done.”
What if we all committed to protecting each other like this? Instead of believing the gossip, go talk to the person directly if you need to and find out what is really going on. Or, just believe the best and forget all about it.
Now, these would be great relationships. We need to commit to protecting each other. And here’s how we pull it off:
Because God protects me, I can protect you.
Here’s the last one:
5. I commit to purify you.
In other words, God knows you’re going to mess up. He knows you’re going to do something stupid and He wants to give you a way out.
Some of you need to hear this because you blew it just this last week. And you imagine God’s response to be, “Seriously? You did that again?”
But that’s not His response at all. The Bible tells us that God delights in showing us unfailing love (Micah 7:18). In other words, His response when we mess up for the hundredth time is, “Hey kiddo. Here’s my love. It’s still yours.”
Let me paint this picture for you. So, you blew it. And God springs into action with a smile on His face, thinking, “This is when they need me most.” And He pours out His love and brings you back to wholeness.
Here’s how the Bible paints this beautiful picture:
Ephesians 5:25-27 NLT – For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.
When you mess up, God’s right there to purify you, not with harsh words, but with love. And husbands, this is our example. When our wives mess up, which I know is very rare, we are to love them back to wholeness.
We don’t lash out. We don’t get on to them. We don’t shame them. No, we love them. And we move in with purpose knowing that this is when they need us most. This is our role in marriage.
Because God purifies me, I can purify you.
I’ve just given you the thinking, but now God needs to do the transforming. And He’s going to do that right now. Go ahead and open your heart to Him right where you are and say, “God, change me. Transform me.”
God, give us deep revelation of how you prioritize us, pursue us, possess us, protect us, and purify us. God we come before you right now, not hiding anything, but laying it all before you. Wash us with the water of your Word.
Lord, as we understand how you are committed to us, help us to commit to each other. I thank you for marriages being made whole. I thank you for relationships being strengthened between parents and children.
I thank you for friendships being reconciled. I thank you for giving us the power to step into uncommon commitment. We commit to our spouse. We commit to our church. We commit to you.
Maybe you’ve never committed your life to God. You’ve tried it out a few times and you’ve had a good date here and there, but you haven’t gone all in. Today’s your day.
Or maybe you were once committed but you really aren’t any more. Well, it’s never too late to come back to that commitment.
If you feel that tug on your heart to go all in with God, I want you to make that decision right now. Say this prayer of commitment out loud:
“Jesus, thank you for committing your life to me. Today I realize it. And today I respond to it. I commit my life to you. Everything. I surrender all. Now, live inside of me and change me. Transform me. Make me the person you want me to be. In your name I pray, amen.”
If you just prayed that prayer, we want to support you along the journey that’s ahead. But we can’t support you if we don’t know. So we set up an easy way for you to tell us. Simply text the word Jesus to 918-373-9883.
We’re not going to bug you. We’re not going to spam you. We are just going to help guide you through your next step. We’re here for you. So please, go ahead and send that text.