This is part one of a three part series where Ed Sanderlin shares a letter to his daughter on marriage. Read part two here.
What I best can tell you has to do with the glory of God even beyond what I wish for you. Try to displace the thought that you have designs on any specific guy and let us talk principle. Let us consider there is no boy in the picture so that there will be nothing inflammatory about our discussion. It is the glory of God that we seek – in our life and in our prospects for marriage. WE SEEK THE WAY THINGS OUGHT TO BE WITH GOD, NOT THE WAY THINGS ARE IN THE WORLD.
Marriage WILL end or begin a richer journey with Christ. Now is not the time to play around. Beyond your salvation, this is the gravest issue with which you will ever grapple. Remember, “no practice rounds” with this decision. The prospects of marriage are sobering, not soppy.
If, over time, you are convinced that a move toward a particular guy is in the design and will of God, then you better not hold back. If you determine that you have no ministry in life without him then march to it. But, if you marry a man of whom you know better, then your vibrancy with God will be marginalized and your light will grow dim. All your days will be as dragging an anchor.
If you determine over time that the Lord is not leading you to marry a particular man, then thank God for him and whatever richness He has brought into your life by his acquaintance and pray for him and his future wife. Do not disdain him. You are not saying, “No” to him as much as you are saying, “Yes” to someone else yet to come. Do not defraud him; rather defend him for his future wife and the ministry into which God will bring him.
No matter whom you marry, you will have days of delight and days of struggle. You may ask, “What have I done?” And, without the rock hard confidence that you entered into this marriage with the full blessing and assurance of God, life will be hard. You are two sinners joined together – what would you expect. You should be able to expect at least one thing, that he will continue to turn to God for his strength to be a godly man and to honor and love you and he should expect from you to do the same in loving and respecting him. There will be days of bliss and times of misgiving; but it was at the altar where you were to have ended all doubt. There is no turning around after that.
Now, I take the chance here to be misunderstood. I do not want what I say to be a haunt in the back of your mind that you may have entered into a marriage with a man who perhaps you should have taken more deliberation. I do not want anything I say to come back to you after you marry. The man you marry IS your husband forever. I am behind you 100% from that moment on. There should be no haunting thought in your mind that floats any doubt that he is the wrong one. Now is the only time to exert your discretionary powers.
After the wedding, all your energies are to build the marriage into which you have embarked. No more doubts. No more haunts. No more hesitations or wonderings if you had done the right thing with the right person. The search is over and a new life has begun.
In all our life in Christ we are “to walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5.7), except one time in life!
The only time that I could ever imagine that we walk by sight is at that moment that the pastor says, “I now pronounce you, ‘Man and Wife”.
It is at that second that all your “Journeying” by faith – wondering if this man WILL BE the right man for you of which you have prayed for all your life – BECOMES the right man for which you have prayed for all your life.
Read carefully, though, only for that brief second during the pronouncement of “Man and Wife” is this moment by sight, for at the next breath you take, you will be taking it in Faith, again, in a new Journey as a married woman to this man for life.
It is at the passing of this moment from then on, that you will KNOW that this is the man who will be your husband. There is no turning back at this point until death do you part.
I do not want to underestimate the grace and power of God in one who has been redeemed; nor, do I want to estimate someone else based on my personal experience. If I did such a thing, then I would be guilty of superficiality and of the very things I would hope for you to avoid.
We don’t look down our nose at anyone who has struggled in sin and then has come to Christ. We rejoice with heaven. We know that we exist under the same undeserved grace of God as anyone else. We know that there was no glimmer in us that caught God’s eye and caused him to favor us above anyone else. No one needs to remind us of the death and hollowness without God and from what He has saved us. It is utter foolishness to think we are deserving of anything but a barren life and an eternity in hell. He spilled His blood for us. He died for us. We have no right to think of ourselves better than another sinner saved by grace.
Eph 4.32 “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
In fact, the one saved from greater sin may be the one with the greater love:
Lu 7:47 “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Further, it may be through that very one whom God changes the direction of the world. It may be that very one He uses to spark the flame of revival in this drought land. When God is at work, stand back and give way.
Who are we to hold one’s past against them when God has forgiven us? The entire body of Christ is made of sinners, including me!
1Cor 6.11 “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”
So, I speak of a new redeemed life that has been plucked from the salvage yard – a life that has ascended in a culture apart from heaven. This new person is the product of an old mind that has been shaped by a worldview that is hostile toward God. And now, this new life is a redeemed person turning from an old life, putting on Christ, and maneuvering out of a plot of physical woes and family ties that are as present as they ever were. Physical woes don’t go away and family ties cannot be forgotten. One may say, “I am a new creature in Christ, old things have passed and behold all things have become new.”
A strange creature we are when we are saved. We are always saved from something unto something else. We are saved from what we once were – from how we once lived. We are new creatures.
The difficulty lies in the fact that at the very moment after conversion, we are still what we have become over the years. The instant after conversion begins the miracle of transformation.
From that moment on comes the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit until the day we enter glory. We were once dead in our sins and to some degree, our sins were gratifying. Our only regret for sin was when we faced the consequences of those sins. This “new creature-hood” has now made us regret our sin, regardless of the consequences. We are alive to God and know what it is to now grieve and quench the Holy Spirit. Becoming saved from a life of sin is not the end of struggles, but just the beginning.
There is no room for arrogance in our heart when we see a person who has had a “tough life” and then is saved; however, there is a difference in how we interact with any other new Christian than with a Christian with whom we’d like to marry. Just because someone is saved, does not mean we disregard his history. His history does matter. It isn’t condescension to use your scruples before you join your life forever with a man who comes from a previous life that chiseled who he is today. This is not judgmental, it is discernment and it is seeking God’s wisdom toward an eternal decision. You must ask, “Who was he and then, who is he?” You will be identified with him and you will be one with him. You will inherit all that he is – his problems will be yours. Most of those problems will not come to light until the vows are exchanged and the pronouncement is made. You will carry his burdens (more about that later). You must take a very keen eye with a decision that will change the course of your life. There is no going back. Approach this event with fear and trembling before God.
There are sweet, kind people all over the world that have come to Christ, and they present their best side for all to see. But, marriage is joining your life with his – becoming one with him; over time, you will become like him. His pains become your pains and his wounds become yours. You live with and put on his identity. Secrets are sometimes openly shared, but many are uncovered.
You’ve heard me talk about this before. Bear with me one more time as I review it in short. When you think to unite with another person forever, consider the following about them:
Just what “troubles” remain in ones life beyond redemption remains in the sovereign and providential hands of God, but the consequential ramifications of ones sin do remain.
These consequences can go generations deep. When a father (and mother) misleads his family, the effects of that misleading are often reaped in the children in countless ways, often for several generations. (Ex 20.5; Ex 34.6-7; Deut 5.9)
Whether or not this is fair is not the issue. Sin is in the world, consequences of sin affected many generations. In principle, it began with Adam…
Rom 5.12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…”
But, if we contend that the woes of our family upbringing is not fair, then we must contend that the riches of heaven in our salvation is not fair, either. Why? Just as Adam represented us in his sin bringing death, Christ represented us in His righteousness bringing life. You can’t have one and not the other.
1Cor 15.22 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.”
However, God is just. Direct punishment for the sins of the father are not hammered on the children…
Deut 24.16 “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.”
Ezek 18.20 “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”
BUT… the residual effects of the father’s sins forecast direct punishment to the children.
Further, these residual effects of which I speak are passed to the children as tides and ripples that encompass everything in life. Godless and ungodly instruction is grilled into little minds as soon as they are self-aware. Mingled and mixed with a sinful nature, the parents teach the child everyway but God’s way. These children grow and pass worse to their children and then to following generations. Subsequently, these life trends from the parents and the individual sins of the children bring to them the direct hand of Gods judgment. No one is innocent.
I grow to believe more and more that present evils in individuals are an indirect lineage from generations past. The choices one makes, the responses one has, the direction in which one gravitates, the propensities in which one swoons, all, are ingrained or have been fostered from childhood. One cannot “fix” a life or wish away consequences that are rooted in history. A hand paddle can hardly change the flow of the great Mississippi River. The directional flow of an individual takes the initial act of God’s miraculous regeneration and then perpetual and powerful attention of the indwelling Spirit of God. Individuals make choices that moved their lives in a course and now from that direction they must repent. Repentance does not return the individual to the beginning of life. Repentance turns ones face in the opposite direction and then through the power of the Holy Spirit and the providences of God, he moves Godward step-by-step, little by little. All this to say, God never, never intended that we live a day without Him. Sadly, as we progress through life apart from Him, we drift further and further away from the harbor of safe return.
SO, WHY WON’T GOD GET RID OF SIN’S CONSEQUENCES ONCE WE ARE SAVED?
These consequences are a testimony of how precious we are to God. He has granted mankind great dignity. It is an exclusive gift to us above all His creation. We alone are created in His image and His likeness. It is the basis for human dignity.
Ps 100.3 “It is He that has made us and not we ourselves”
Being created in the image and likeness of God is this exceptional gift that serves as the basis for us to have a relationship with God. We are the crown of His creation. What a fearful honor it is to be created to walk with God.
It is fearful because with this distinction of honor comes ominous responsibility. He has given us the choice to worship Him, and, with this dignity, He has given us the freedom to rebel against Him. We can choose our own way and to live out from under His divine blessings and pleasure, and, we can make the choice to freely enter into a relationship with Him through the Lord Jesus Christ as the noblest gift that can be given.
And, in like turn, the dignity He grants us to not choose fellowship with Him is the greatest squandering of life in the entire universe; thus, come the consequences of spiritual drought. This dignity brings us to His throne of glory or to the pit of hell.
When we do not what we ought, we are adrift on perilous seas sailing toward unavoidable shipwreck. Consequences are inevitable.
Further, His purpose is not primarily to make us happy or even to cleanse us from sin and to right our wrongs; His first purpose is to glorify Himself.
1Co 6:20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
(Part II we will address negative considerations for “narrowing the field”)