Moving Beyond Your PastErwin W. Lutzer | September 20, 2009
Selected highlights from this sermon
Pasts need to be dealt with before marriage. If they aren’t, wheels will be put into motion that can lead to divorce before the wedding day is even over.
Whether it is expectations due to how you were raised, wounds others have inflicted on you, or your own sins, those pasts need to be worked through before you get married.
Responsibility needs to be taken. Forgiveness from God needs to be accepted. Our consciences need to be cleansed.
But most of all, we need to forgive just as God in Christ has forgiven us.
I believe that the divorce many marriages experience already begins to take place before the wedding. Just like cracks on the tire of a car where you can predict a blowout, in the very same way there are marriages that begin and you already know that the pieces are in place for conflict, and probably eventually divorce. That’s why I preached the last message on Red Flags You Might Have Missed, but one of the red flags that I didn’t talk about and we will talk about today is the red flag of the past that the individuals bring to the relationship. And if you don’t know how to deal with your past, whatever that past may encompass, what you will do is bring to the marriage a body of death, and it will be as if death accompanies you for all the days that you are together. It will always be there, and that is true if you are married, and of course, it is also true of your relationships if you are single. That’s why this message is so important for you as well.
I need to tell you upfront that some of the things I am going to share with you today are going to be very difficult for some of you to receive. As a matter of fact, for some of you this message will be something like having surgery without an anesthetic. It’s going to be very painful. Some of you are going to react to what I have to say. You may even disagree. You may justify yourself and say, “He doesn’t understand,” but I believe that I do understand, not, of course, all situations. I’m simply saying that in context you’ll accept these remarks as necessary to have a happy marriage.
I believe so deeply in this message. It is seldom that God begins to birth all of this information in my heart early in the week, and yet that’s the way this message has been. It has been in my soul Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and I could hardly wait until Sunday. This could be a game changer for many of you, but in order that you might not just hear my words (because you can do that as you wish and take it or you can leave it), you need to hear the voice of God because some of the things that I’m going to be saying you will not see unless God shows them to you. It’s not my message that will do it, and it’s not as if this message is the beginning and end of all that you need to know about a happy marriage. It is only one piece along the journey, and we all need to hear it, and so this is what I would like to do. Knowing that this may be a tough 30 minutes, if you as a husband are here today and you are sitting next to your wife, could I ask you to take her hand? I want you to take her hand because we’re going to pray, and I want you as a husband to pray quietly in your heart that as a result of this message your good marriage will be better, and your bad marriage will be made good.
Let’s bow together in prayer.
Now Father, who is sufficient for these things? Who can hear what we have to say? Who can understand the pain that some people will feel and the discomfort over what will be said? And yet, Lord, we thank You that You always cut us that You might heal us. You wound us, not to destroy us but to heal us so that we can be better used by You. We ask that whatever preconceptions are brought to this that You might indeed help those to be put aside as we hear not my voice which is powerless, but the voice of Almighty God. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
What are some of those pasts that people bring to their marriage? Well, of course, one of the most obvious is the past of expectations. That is to say, if you are brought up in a certain home and your father acted in such a way, or you didn’t have a father and you didn’t know how fathers should act, you have a certain image in your mind as to how your husband is going to act, how your wife is going to act, and you suddenly discover different backgrounds, different aspirations, different expectations, and certainly unrealistic expectations is one of the disappointments of marriage. People come to marriage expecting marriage to do only what God can, and so they are disappointed three months or a year into the relationship.
But let me hurry on to something that is even more difficult that we bring to our marriages, and that is the baggage of the past, the wounds that other people have inflicted on us. Today I am speaking to some of you who were brought up in a home where there was alcoholism and your father beat you, and as a result of that kind of experience you have certain expectations, certain feelings about men, certain feelings about life, and you bring to the marriage a very open wound. Some of you have been sexually molested. If it’s true that one out of every four girls born is going to be molested, then the number of women who have experienced sexual abuse of some kind at the hand of someone else is huge. Obviously hundreds are probably listening to me right now. If you don’t know how to take care of that, what will happen is you will bring to your marriage an open wound, and when you marry you are going to be saying to your spouse in effect, “I want you to heal me. Heal my wound, but don’t you dare touch that wound, because if you touch it, not only will I holler, not only will I criticize you, but eventually I will divorce you to find someone who can really understand me, who can really heal my wound.” And so what you are doing is you are asking your mate to do something that no mate can do. He can help. She can help, but in the end it’s something that only God can do, and your expectations are too high. And if you remain wounded, and the wound remains open, you will set up circumstances in such a way that your mate will never please you.
If I might use this illustration, a man might think to himself, “I finally have my wife figured out. I finally know what will please her,” and he discovers that even if he can’t get a touchdown, at least he can kick a field goal. But while the ball is in the air, the goal posts move, and he discovers that that’s not the right thing anyway, and again he is back to square one. So we bring to it the wounds that others have inflicted on us.
The third thing we bring to marriage are the sins that we personally have committed—our “poor choices” as it is called today—our sins. Of course, I could speak of many, but because sexuality is such a great part of us, I’m going to be speaking about sexual sin. The Bible in 1 Corinthians 6 gives us more information regarding the sexual experience than all the books that have ever been written by human philosophers. The Bible says that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her. Now just think about that. Here’s a relationship that is not based on love. It is lust for money. It is the most debased sexual relationship you can think of, and God says, “I put them together and they become one body.” Metaphysically they are joined. The intention of God, of course, is that you be joined to the one that you marry, and that you be joined after you marry her or him, and therefore you have this unique relationship, but according to a book I read yesterday, only 20 percent of those in the evangelical churches in America come to the altar with both being virgins. So what you have is a situation in which this young man has been joined to this woman, this woman, this girl, and she perhaps has been joined to all these guys, and now they come together and we expect them to live happily ever after, and we’ve not really dealt with their past in a very satisfying way. And as a result of that there is a tendency to promiscuity that will develop later on, once the marriage becomes an average marriage, maybe even a boring marriage, but also what is going to happen is young people like that find it very difficult to commit. They can’t commit because they can’t trust themselves; like one man said, “I’ve had so many relationships I can’t commit.” He said, “I’d like to be true to one person, but I don’t see how I can.” And so what you bring is all of that baggage, enough to fill a Pullman freight car, and now suddenly you are supposed to be happy when there’s a little bit of you left with this person, and a little bit with this person, and a little bit with that, and here you are. By the way—parenthesis—never get married to someone with whom you are having an active sexual relationship. If you want to be married, live apart for at least six months (We have that rule here at The Moody Church as pastors.) so that you can prove that there is something more to this relationship than trying to take a defiled bed and turn it into an undefiled one, but this is brought to our marriages today, so what do we do? I’m so glad that you asked because that’s exactly the same page that I’m on.
First of all, it is so important for us to take responsibility. You have to own your stuff, as the saying goes, and that is critical. Let me give David in the Old Testament as an example. This is a classic. David commits adultery. He steals a man’s wife, and then he kills her husband to cover it up. It’s pretty serious stuff. David begins to live month after month hoping that it will pass by. He’s thinking, “If I give this enough time it will work itself out.” He’s a typical man. By the way, there are some of you who think that I am harder on the men than I am on the women. I don’t think you’re going to say that by the time this message ends, but anyway he was a typical man. You know, “Just give me enough time; okay I messed up, but let’s get on with life.” He says in Psalms 32 that day and night God’s hand was heavy upon him, and so he was feeling conviction, but you know, it’s going to blow over. Typical!
Nathan, the prophet, comes and says, “David, I want to tell you about what’s just happened in your kingdom. There was a wealthy man with all kinds of sheep, and then there was a poor man who had only one small sheep that he took care of and a man came to the wealthy man and said, ‘May I stay here?’ And the wealthy man went and stole the poor man’s sheep. What do you think should be done?” And the Bible says that David’s anger was kindled against the man and he said, “He deserves to die but make sure that he pays back fourfold.” Nathan said, “David, you are the man.”
David was more concerned (get this) over somebody stealing somebody’s lamb than he was about him stealing a wife who didn’t belong to him, and then committing murder to cover it up. Folks, where sin is viewed superficially, it is dealt with superficially. You need to be willing to take out the time to say, “I have to own my stuff and I have to feel the full import of my sin.” David not only minimized his sin in the sight of God but in the sight of others. We always minimize our sin in the sight of others. It is human nature.
Do you remember that last time I told you about narcissists? The thing about a narcissist is not just that he’s into himself. He doesn’t care how he hurts those around him, and that’s the way David was until in that same chapter he says finally, “I have sinned,” and then when he pours out his heart in Psalm 51 he uses the word I or me about six times in five verses. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”
David finally got it, and I am here today to ask you, “Have you gotten it or are you simply dealing with it superficially?” Are you saying, “Okay, okay, I messed up already”? Sin is serious. Do you know the extent to which you have hurt the heart of your wife or the heart of your husband? We have to own our own stuff.
Secondly, what we need to do is to accept God’s forgiveness. I’m going to skip over this because in a sense that’s the easy part, even though it is difficult, but we don’t have time to go into it all the way, but I’m going to jump to number three.
Number three: we have to clear our own consciences. This is what the Bible says in 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verse 5. It says we should have love flowing from a pure heart and good conscience. If you don’t have a good conscience, you don’t have a good marriage, and I don’t care how hard you try.
Let me give you examples, and they are all true, of marriages with bad consciences. A wife confesses to me and says, “I am cheating on our checkbook. My husband is so stingy and I cheated on the checkbook because I took money from the account that he doesn’t know about and now I’m thinking payday is coming.” How can she have a good conscience? She can’t.
There are women who have had abortions that their husbands don’t know about. There are husbands who have had affairs that their wives don’t know about. I read about one woman yesterday who said, “I could handle it if it were an affair with a woman, but it happens to be with a man,” but even for that there is hope.
Then you have all of those issues. I think, for example, of a man who walks with God. He is pursuing God with all of his heart. He is in fellowship with God. He is well versed in the Scripture but whenever he is asked to do something (Would you become an elder? Would you be a Sunday school teacher?), he disqualifies himself because nobody knows this. He confessed to a friend of mine that he has a child—a boy—growing up in Houston because of a premarital relationship that he had, a fleeting relationship in college. And his wife and kids don’t know about it, and you see, every time he wants to walk with God, there it is. How can you walk with God? Look at your past. You have to clear your conscience and the best way to do that is always with someone, especially if it’s a huge issue.
If you were to ask me what is the most memorable counseling experience (if I could put it that way) that I’ve ever had, I would tell you hands down it was when a wife asked me to sit in with her husband as she confessed to him that their third child was not his. These are tough situations, but you see she was driven to mental illness, trying to cope with the guilt, trying to live with an unclear conscience.
Let me ask you something, husband over there. How can you and I love our wives (get it now) when love, the Bible says, springs from a pure heart and a good conscience, when you’ve got all this stuff going on, on the side over there that she doesn’t know about? How can you do it? You can’t.
Let’s go on to the next point, and that is that we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. If you want to, you can take your Bibles at this point and turn to the passage of Scripture in Ephesians 4. I’m going to begin at verse 29. It says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” And what grieves the Spirit? There it is. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
So, if it is true that you and I are supposed to forgive as we’ve been forgiven, the question then is, “How does God forgive?” Well, first of all, he does forgive big sin. We all know that, but secondly, when he forgives, the sin is not held against us anymore. Now some of the consequences are there (absolutely) but the sin itself is put away. It is covered. The Bible says it is covered, it is cast into the depths of the sea. It is taken and removed as far as the east is from the west, so God says that’s not going to be an issue between us anymore. He says you can now be in fellowship with him because he has put away the sin that you committed. All right? You got it?
Now the question is, how do we forgive? Now here’s what happens and here is where it’s going to get very difficult. If you come to your marriage with a wound and you have never forgiven those who have wronged you, and you’ve never really received God’s forgiveness for the sins that you have committed, what you will do is you will not forgive as you’ve been forgiven. If you want to keep the wound and you don’t want to be healed (and there are many people out there who don’t want to be) what’s going to happen is this: You are going to live out of your woundedness. It is going to become your identity. It is going to become who you are. It is going to become your calling card because you absolutely refuse to forgive, which is the only way that wounds can be healed.
Let me give you an example. Rebecca and I know a woman who has been divorced twice and has a number of children, and the way in which she reacted to her woundedness (apparently by her father—some abuse was going on there—and then, of course, misused by husbands and all that—it’s a long story) is now she parented her children out of her wound. So what does she do (because the desire of wounded people is to control those around them)? She overcorrected her children. I mean, those kids couldn’t sniffle without her getting onto them. “We’re not going to do that in this house. This house is going to….” Lady, you are parenting out of your wound. See, that’s why the Bible says: “Beware lest a root of bitterness springing up trouble you and thereby many be defiled.” If you forget everything that I’ve said to you today, and I am pouring my heart out to you, will you remember that whatever you do not forgive you pass on, and therefore she passed on her woundedness, and her resentment. Now, how would she respond if you were to talk to her and say, “You know, lady, you are overcorrecting these kids because of your wound. You want to control and you don’t have a husband to control anymore so now you are controlling the children.” Would she thank you for pointing it out? No, this has been her identify for 30 or 40 years. This is who she is. You can’t be with her for more than 10 or 15 minutes without her telling you about her woundedness. This is who she is. She is her wound. She doesn’t see it. She would say, “You just don’t understand the depth of my pain.”
Now, folks, I understand it may take years to overcome some things, but if you are old enough to be married, you’re old enough to finally once and for all lay it down, but she won’t because it is her identity. That’s what it’s become.
Let me give you another example. Many years ago I was preaching in Florida, and I don’t know what I was preaching on, but a man and I struck up a conversation, and he said to me, “Twenty years ago I had a very brief fleeting affair, and because I am a Christian I confessed it to my wife, and she professed to forgive me, but to this day she still (quote) rubs my nose in the dirt.” Very interesting.
Now I have to ask you a question. When that dear lady goes out with her girlfriends (as the ladies sometimes call them) what do you think she says to them? Does she say, “You know, twenty years ago my husband had an affair and it really gave me power. With it I can win any argument because I can always remind him. In fact, I don’t even have to remind him because it’s always there. It’s always understood. When he asks me to do something that I don’t want to do I don’t have to do it because he knows right well he owes me. As a matter of fact, not only does he owe me then, but let’s suppose that he’s doing something that I don’t like, I can lord it over him. I can control him. There is nothing that he has done in our marriage that has so empowered me.” Is that what she says? Of course not!
Now I’m making this up because I don’t know all the circumstances, but I know human nature enough to know that that’s probably what’s happening. But what actually she says is, “You know, my husband had an affair twenty years ago and I forgave him, but you know we’re still working through our issues.” That’s what she would say to them, but actually it’s her means of control, control, control.
Now why is it that these people don’t just simply give it up? It is because of loss of control. Think of what would happen. You see, she doesn’t have to respect her husband even though the Bible commands her to. Who can respect a man like that? You ask, “Well, do these ladies pray for their husbands?” Of course, they pray for them. And what I’m saying about the ladies, by the way, can also be said about the men. You understand that, but of course, they do. They are always enlisting God’s help to bring about a change in their husbands that they would like to see, and that they want God to be their companion in chipping him into the man that he should be, and the wastebaskets in heaven seem to be filled with all kinds of unanswered prayers that the angels take and burn with the trash, if there is such a thing in heaven. The one thing she will not do is to simply give her husband to God, to trust God for him, to trust that if he is unfaithful or something, God will reveal it to her. God can do that in many different ways. Respect him and speak well of him? That she will not do.
Like it was said of one couple, “Oh, they buried the hatchet, but the grave was shallow and well-marked.” And so they keep going to that grave and I might add that when you looked at it you could see a pathway made to it. Power! I’ve got it over you. So what you need to do is to lay it down.
Now if you are thinking with me, and I believe that you are, you have a question. Always be asking questions while I am preaching. I’m sometimes doing that too while I am preaching. You’ve heard about the preacher who dreamt he was preaching and then he woke up and found out he was. (laughter) So if you are tracking with me you have another question and that is to say, “Okay, all right, you have my number. How do I lay it down?” Well, we’ve talked about the cleansing of the conscience which oftentimes should be done with someone else present—a pastoral staff member, an elder—especially in some of these real hard things some of which I’ve outlined, but then let me give you some very important steps of what you need to do.
First of all, I think that what you need to do is to get over this idea that you don’t have to forgive unless you feel like it. I heard a counselor say that one time and I strongly disagree. Of course you can’t forgive right away in the sense that here you have this injustice. If somebody were to rape one of your children you wouldn’t say, “Oh well, now you know, he did it this morning, but by evening we’ve forgiven.” No, no, no. I understand that it takes time. I understand the healing process. I know that these things aren’t just so nicely cut and dry, but there does come a time when you as an adult, walking with God, choose to put it down whether you feel like it or not. Force yourself to because it’s Biblical. The Bible says to forgive others. Of course I know that when there is unfaithfulness there has to be a time not only of forgiveness but the rebuilding of trust. I get all that, but I’m talking about you.
You dear single mothers, God bless you. God bless the single mothers. I’m so glad that we have a class for them here at The Moody Church. I plead with you: Do not parent out of your woundedness. That little boy who looks so much like the man you are tempted to hate, don’t hate him, but love him and learn to parent not out of woundedness but out of wholeness, and you can’t do it without forgiveness.
I’m telling you that what I’m asking you to do today is like crawling through the eye of a needle. It’s that hard but it has to be done. There is no other way. This may be surgery without anesthetic, but you’ve got to do it.
By the way, don’t ever think that if I forgive, somehow it lessens the horror of what was done. That’s such a big mistake. Come to the conclusion that all rational people should come to—that the harm that the bitterness is doing to you is much greater than it is to the person who victimized you or the person who took advantage of you, and in the name of Jesus lay it down. In fact, that’s what I’d like to say. If the first step is to choose to do it, the second is to simply say, “I take a good look at it. I have camped here. I have lived here. This has been my life-blood and my woundedness, and in the name of Jesus I want to pour it out at the foot of the cross because I want my wound to become a scar. Scars are great. Jesus will have a scar in heaven because a scar means that there has been healing. It’s a reminder of the fact of where you’ve been, but a scar means I can move on. I don’t have to be dragging this dead body into our marriage and carrying it around year after year, and so what you do is you take a good look at it, and in some instances weep for your past. I mean if you lost an arm, you would have no problem weeping over that. Why not weep over a lost childhood if that is what it takes.
But then third, be sure that you substitute your own wounds with the wounds of Jesus. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:5, “He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes (with his wounds) we are healed.”
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, how does that work?” Well, the answer is this: Through His wounds, Jesus took what He didn’t deserve, namely our sin. Remember the words of the beautiful song by Charles Wesley?
My bleeding wounds he bears, received on Calvary.
They pour effectual prayers, they strongly plead for me.
Forgive them, oh forgive, they cry.
Let that ransom, the sinner die.
Jesus took what he didn’t deserve, namely our sin. You say, “My husband doesn’t deserve forgiveness,” or you say, “My wife doesn’t deserve forgiveness.” That’s not the issue. Nobody deserves it, but the Bible says that Jesus died on the cross, so Jesus got what He didn’t deserve—our sin, and now we in turn get what we don’t deserve, namely His forgiveness and His righteousness as belonging to us. What a glorious exchange, and Jesus said, “Now that I can forgive you freely, now that your sin no longer needs to be an issue between you and me, why don’t you forgive as you have been forgiven? Begin to live your life through the prism not of your woundedness but of my woundedness,” because ultimately He bore not only our sins. The Bible says He also bore our sorrows, and there at the foot of the cross, thanking God for what was done for us in Jesus, we discover that if Jesus was willing to do that for us when we were yet enemies, why can’t I exercise the same grace to somebody who has victimized me? His wounds were not self-inflicted. His wounds were inflicted by evil men, and out of those wounds, scars developed which we are going to see in heaven because it says, “I saw as it were a lamb that had been slain.” I expect in heaven to see the wounds of Jesus, but they’ll not be wounds. I should clarify that. They will be scars. And you’ll be there too maybe with your scars, but the wounds will be gone. Trust Jesus.
And then finally, develop a different pattern of thought. Just like the needle of a compass points north when it’s free, in the same way, some of you when your mind is free allow it to go back to your woundedness. It goes back to your self-pity (Poor me. Look at the husband I married. I could have done much better if I had shopped more wisely). It doesn’t matter. We’re talking about both men and women here, and when you stop to think of it, folks, what happens is these thought patterns are so strongly ingrained that you have to begin to think differently.
Those of you who are older all know who Jim Baker was and is—the Jim Baker of the great television scandals in the middle of the 1980s, who then went to jail, and in fact, has a new ministry today. About five years ago Rebecca and I were in Branson and we had lunch with Jim Bakker and his wife, Laurie. Tammie Faye, of course, died, but Laurie is his new wife, and she gave us a book of her story, and she told us her story. I don’t even remember the number of abortions this young lady had before the age of twenty. Every sin imaginable (whether it’s drugs and sex and booze—you name it) this girl was into it, but she was gloriously converted and I remember this. She said, “I memorized 400 verses of Scripture just to get my mind straight.” Today she is a lovely woman and deeply in touch with those who ache and hurt and are wounded because she’s been there. You need to think differently.
Now listen. You also need to speak differently. If your Bible is open like mine is, did you notice what I read in verse 29? “Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up,” as it fits the occasion. Oh, if we could take that one verse and implement it in our marriages it would change everything. Let me tell you a true story.
A woman plans to divorce her husband within a month. The attorney says, “Okay, you’re going to divorce the guy anyway. He doesn’t know that you are going to divorce him, and you basically hate him, but in order to hurt him more, so that you can really sock it to him, why don’t you for one month do nothing but commend him and say nice things about him, and encourage him and respect him? He will think that you are really on his side, and then when you serve him the divorce papers it will hurt a whole lot more.” She loved the idea. There’s no use criticizing the guy. You’re going to lose him anyway. I mean, you know, he’s going to be out of here, so forget about all of his faults and all of the things you don’t like about him. Give him love notes in his lunch. Say nice things. If he does something sensible, commend him for it (and ladies, that would be a wonderful thing for you to do for your husbands, is to commend him if he does something sensible).
Somebody here at the church asked me one time if a man speaks and his wife isn’t there to hear him, is he still wrong? (laughter)
So she did nothing but speak positive things to him for one whole month. Seriously at the end of the month they went on a second honeymoon.
Can you imagine what that would do? The Bible says, “Speak words that edify.” Could you make a promise right now? Rebecca and I talked about this so we’re in on the promise. For one full week—168 hours (I actually calculated it on my calculator), there will be no criticism. Oh, you might want to tell him before he goes to work that there is some porridge on his shirt or something like that, so you know, that may not be a criticism. Correcting something might not be a criticism, but no criticism, no nagging. All day long what you are thinking about as a wife and as a husband is, “How can I speak words that will uplift, words that will edify? How can I do that?” and your marriage will be transformed absolutely. There’s no doubt about it.
Ladies and men, it can be done by the power of God, but if not we grieve the Spirit. How big is God? Here’s David. He commits his sin. He messes up his family. He has Bathsheba for a wife. She bears him Solomon. We could argue that strictly speaking Solomon should never have been born because he was born to a woman who should never have been David’s wife, and lo and behold Solomon is born, and the Bible says, “And the Lord loved him. And the Lord said to him, ‘Oh Solomon, I will bless you for the sake of your father, David,’” and I just look at that and say, “Where’s all that coming from?” It’s coming from grace, because do you know what God does with our past when we deal with it? He recycles it and makes it come out to his glory.
Another true story! Solomon’s story is true and this one is also. I have a friend, whom I shall Ken, though he wouldn’t mind, I’m sure, if I told you his real name. I think he shares his story freely. There he is. He’s brought up and early in life he comes to know Christ as Savior, and at the age of 25 his mother sets him down and says, “I have something to share with you. The person whom you think is your father is not your father. I had a fleeting affair with a doctor in the area and he is your biological dad.” Now Ken at that moment had two ways that he could go. He could have said, “I’m going to go into drugs and into alcohol (and the whole bit) because after all, I shouldn’t have even been here. I need validation as a human being. Now I don’t even know whether or not I was the product of any kind of love, or whether or not it was just a fleeting lustful relationship. I don’t even know who I am.” He could have done that but he was a Christian and he believed the Bible. What a wonderful combination, and the Bible says that where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. So after being thrown for a loop for a while, trying to get his bearings as to what this means as to who he is, after going through that, he decided if God was big enough to save me, why can’t he be big enough to bless me? After all, God has chosen him and made him a son of God, forgiven his sin. His position in heaven is secure. I’d say that that’s validation. It’s pretty good for a guy who, strictly speaking, could have argued that he should not have been born. Why? It’s because God is so much bigger than your sin.
I believe that Spurgeon was right when he said, “The abundance of sin can never thwart the abundance of grace.” Spurgeon said, “Man heaps a pile of sin, and God says, ‘I’m going to do you better. I’m going to heap a pile of grace that is bigger.’ Man says, ‘Mine is going to be even bigger yet,’ and God comes along and He heaps a whole mountain of grace and says, ‘Mine is going to be even bigger,’” and on and on it goes until man loses the contest because God’s grace is greater than your sin and greater than your past. (applause) To those who receive it, God’s grace is great.
I don’t know where you are in your marriage. All that I know is if we humbled ourselves, repented and owned our stuff, and cleared our consciences, and then really forgave, we would begin to speak differently. We’d be on a different course.
We all know about the story of Corrie ten Boom in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. The Nazis killed her sister. She survived the camp and then blessed us with her book she wrote. Later on she met one of the Nazis in the concentration camp where she was and he stuck out his hand (this is here in America) to her. She didn’t know whether or not she should take it, but she thought, “If God is this gracious to me to forgive me, I’ll shake hands with him,” and then she said these words that I’ll never forget. “There is no pit so deep but that God is deeper still.” You’re not in a pit that is so deep but that God is deeper.
So where do we go from here? You husbands especially, I want you to pray and take the hand of your wife like I asked you to do when we prayed earlier. Don’t accuse one another as a result of this message. The devil would like that. Satan has some of you bound in unbelief and bound in your woundedness, but God is here to deliver. Would you talk to God right now as we have a moment of silent prayer?
Father, we’ve said the words, but will they be heard? Will that man have the courage to do what he needs to do? Will that wife have the courage to do what she needs to do? Will they see their sin, as all of us need to? Will they see Your grace as greater than the sin? I don’t know, because this is Your work. It’s not mine. I pray that you might bring many miracles about, many miracles of restoration and hope. Do that, Lord, we pray. Amen.