by Dr. Archie L. Bost
Maybe the greatest enemy of marriage or any other relationship that we have is selfishness. James 4:1-3 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
I have been actively involved in church ministry all my adult life and in full time ministry for 30 plus years. In those years, I have witnessed failing marriages as well as ho-hum, weak and struggling marriages. I sometimes think that people get married and make their vows, but mean something more like “I take thee for me.” As soon as things do not go according to what they want, they are arguing, fighting and in many cases, ready to give up. I believe that is because we have not matured as children of God. We must grow in our fellowship with Christ, knowing that we are betrothed to Him.
Many people endure the Christian life rather than enjoy it. They know what it is to be forgiven for their sins. They have the hope of heaven. But in between that initial experience of saving faith and that final experience of seeing Jesus, there is a vast gap characterized by barrenness, frustration, and failure.
Far too many churches reflect the shallow “easy believeism” of our contemporary age. Thousands come through the front doors while tens of thousands leave through the back doors. Instead of preaching the message of a living, reigning, and caring Lord who is totally adequate for every human need, Many teach a watered down truth of the grace of God, thus giving reign to licentiousness.
It is unpopular to teach a message of death to self...but Romans 6:6 says that the old man is dead. Few verses in Scripture sum up this core message like Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” So many Christians today try to live the Christian life apart from Christ; but such human endeavors are doomed to failure. Jesus made that clear when He declared with categorical finality: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Tragically, Christians attempt to copy the Christ of history in their own strength. That fact that we can do nothing apart from Him also means that we can’t be married in a healthy, thriving way without Him.
The fact is, only one person ever lived the Christian life; it was Jesus, and He did so to the pleasure and glory of His Father (Luke 3:21-22; 9:28-35). Having fleshed out the perfect life in undeviating obedience to the will of God, “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). After Jesus had finished His work and made it clear that eternal salvation came through the blood of His cross and the power of His resurrection, He ascended to heaven to impart His life, through the Holy Spirit, to all who believe His gospel and receive His full salvation. So the Christian life is nothing less than the out living of the indwelling Christ on the very principle of dependent faith which takes us back to Galatians 2:20. The miracle of the indwelling life of Christ is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we yield to Christ we will grow in our knowledge and love of Him. It is this power that works in us to make marriage and other relationships great. We can’t do this on our own.
Better life, marriage, parenting, work, or other such relationships are not achieved by longing for them and lingering at the Cross. There must be the appropriation, by faith, of the Holy Spirit to fill our life with the presence of the Lord Jesus. That obtainment is by faith, and not by works. Galatians 3:2 says, “This is the only thing that I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” Just as salvation is by faith, so also is the exchanged life. Our life of sin and self has been exchanged for a new life in Christ. Just as we took the Lord as our sin-bearer, we take the Holy Spirit as our burden-bearer. Just as we take the Savior as the One who paid the penalty for our sin, we take the Holy Spirit as the One who has power over indwelling sins that are present. The Savior is our atonement, the Holy Spirit is our advocate. In salvation, we receive newness of life; by the Holy Spirit, we find life more abundant. In each case, the appropriation is by faith and by faith alone, wholly apart from any feeling on our part.
After appropriation, we must abide by faith in the Savior. Jesus said in John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Part of abiding in Him is obedience to His will. In 1 John 3:24 we read, “And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”
We must die to self every day if we want a marriage that is exceptionally beautiful. Dying to self is the only way to live for Christ or for any other person. Therefore, every morning when I wake up, I hope to remember that I have been crucified with Christ and that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Basically, for my marriage to be what Christ wants it to be, I must remember that life is not about me, but about Christ and about my spouse. Philippians 2:3-5 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, let each of you regard one another as more important than himself: do not merely look out for your own personal interest but also look out for the interest of others, taking on the attitude of Christ.”
Taking on the attitude of Christ…now that is a high place to rest. When we take on the attitude of Christ, everything in life looks and functions much better. We will love our spouse with the love of Christ. We will hate sin. We will be submitting to God and resisting Satan and he will flee from us. We will flee immorality and walk in victory. How are you walking out your life? Are you dying to self daily? Are you taking on the attitude of Christ?