Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Marriage Transformation by the Spirit

Marriage Transformation by the Spirit
Marriage Transformation by the Spirit
What can marriage be? Think about it. Surely, marriage is greater than that which is seen. As long as people measure marriages against one another, they will see plenty of faults. “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV). With the Spirit there is no limit on how great marriage can be. Dream higher than you have ever dreamed and the Spirit will take your marriage higher and higher. Married life can soar with wings on high like a beautiful butterfly.

God’s standard for marriage is his model for the body of Christ: perfectly joined together with the same mind and purpose. “I beg that you be completely joined together by having the same kind of thinking and the same purpose” (1 Corinthians 1:10 EXB). This study examines the transforming work of the Spirit in marriage, explaining its process and purpose.

Introducing Marriage Transformation

The Spirit gloriously transforms believers and their marriages. God’s glory cannot be understood or experienced in the natural realm. It takes the Holy Spirit to lead a person into the supernatural realm, and then his glory can be experienced. We are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18). When a man and woman wed, the transformation process can begin in earnest by their yielding to the Spirit. The Spirit takes a man and woman with worldly or carnal thinking and renews their minds. “Be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2 AMP). All marriages are subject to this progressive process as both the husband and wife seek the things above and yield to the transforming work of the Spirit. This transformation is like a caterpillar being transformed into a butterfly. The caterpillar produces a cocoon and then later struggles as a butterfly to make its way out of the cocoon. Otherwise, the caterpillar is a passive participant in the transformation, because it does not transform itself.

When the carnal nature of fleshly desires dominates the mindset of the husband or wife, the marriage is called a carnal marriage. As both the husband and wife yield to the transforming power of the Spirit, their minds are renewed and their marriage is progressively changed from a carnal marriage to a spiritual marriage. Each marriage of believers lies on a continuum between a carnal marriage on one end and a spiritual marriage on the other end. The couple’s progress along the continuum towards a spiritual marriage depends on the transforming work of the Spirit. The more a couple yields to the Spirit’s power, the more spiritual the marriage becomes.

Carnal Marriage

Many Christians use a core of biblical concepts in marriage. Typically, the core concepts are not explicitly identified and may vary from one married couple to another. A few similar concepts would be expected in many of these marriages. Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives are some of the most well known concepts for marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33). His instructions focus on the love of Christ.

The idea of some core concepts may seem reasonable, and most Christian couples would claim they abide by such concepts. However, keeping traditional biblical concepts through a person’s own natural abilities is carnal behavior, resulting in a carnal marriage. Carnal behavior is fleshly in nature and characterized by jealousy and strife (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). There are some fundamental problems with carnal marriages. Such problems are inherent in any human endeavor not Christ-centered and Spirit-led. Such fundamental problems lead to divorce in many marriages and serious unresolved difficulties in others. Marriage counselling and teachings relying on anything other than the guidance and empowerment of the Spirit cannot resolve the fundamental problems with carnal marriages. It takes the Spirit to lead any married couple along the invisible pathway of God’s righteousness and through the storms of life. Only the power of the Spirit enables a married couple to be victorious over every situation.

Spiritual Marriage

A spiritual marriage merges two destinies – the destiny of the husband with the destiny of the wife. Their purposes were first birthed in the heart of God before time began. Initially, only God knows these purposes, but he reveals them to his children by his Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10). As a husband and wife discover purpose, they can fulfill destiny together. Strong relationships with the Spirit and other mature believers help them discover purpose and fulfill destiny.

A man and woman may begin the process of discovering their purpose before they are married. For example, each person may understand God’s calling on his/her life before marriage. However, the fullness of the man’s purpose and the fullness of the woman’s purpose are revealed throughout their lives. The purpose of the married couple is revealed as the husband and wife mature both individually and as a married couple. In the spiritual marriage, the husband and the wife truly become one: one in the flesh and one in the spirit. They think and act as one, no longer operating as if they were separate.

Oneness in Flesh and Spirit

In the Garden of Eden, God created the first human being as both male and female (Genesis 1:27). Before God took the woman out of man, they were one in every respect. God gave them a purpose for existing. They had no other purpose than what God said to them. “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). The union of Adam and Eve before the woman was taken out of the man represents a spiritual marriage in which the man and woman were merged into one being and had forsaken any selfish interests in order to fulfill God’s purpose. From God’s perspective, destiny relates to being one with his purpose. Oneness relates to the purpose and plan of God. God’s destiny for each married couple involves the couple being one with his purpose.

After the woman was taken out of the man, the man and woman were united in a natural marriage, and then they became one flesh (Genesis 2:24). In today’s spiritual marriage, the husband and wife are to become one in flesh (Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31) and one in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; Philippians 1:27). Unity and agreement for a married couple are powerful, but oneness is greater than both unity and agreement. It takes the glory of God to produce oneness. Jesus spoke about the Father’s glory and prayed that the Father would glorify him, and then he would pass that glory on to his disciples. Jesus knew that the glory brings oneness. (John 17:22). Oneness is the order God has set forth for the world to see. Only in oneness will the glory of God be manifested. The married couple can achieve oneness when the two of them are of one mind and one accord. “Fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention” (Philippians 2:2 AMP)

In merging destinies, the wife does not give up her identity and merge into the husband. Neither does the husband give up his identity and merge into the wife. Instead, both the husband and wife merge into the Lord, which is truly oneness. Considering the Lord is one with the heavenly Father, merging into the Lord also means merging into the Father. When believers are one with the Father, the Son and each other, then the people of the world will believe the Father sent the Son (John 17:21). A married couple portraying Jesus to their world will have great impact on the people around them.

While the carnal marriage is legalistic in nature and under the law, the spiritual marriage is under grace. The Apostle Paul equated grace with the power of Christ: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Like an explosive power, grace propels a married couple into the supernatural realm where they see the invisible Jesus. Moses was able to endure many difficulties in Egypt and the wilderness seeing the one who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27). By grace, a marriage endures as the husband and wife keep their eyes on Jesus.

Growing Together

There is a process by which a husband and wife grow together spiritually and their marriage is transformed. The love of Christ, which is the core of a strong marital relationship, grows in a husband and wife as they understand the word of God and develop strong relationships with the Spirit. The Spirit pours love into their hearts in a never-ending process. In addition, prayer and strong relationships with mature and anointed believers are important for spiritual growth and transformation.

Prayer

Prayer is critical for a marriage to be transformed from a carnal marriage to a spiritual marriage. A married couple can begin the transformation process early. In this case, prayer for the marriage partner would begin long before his/her identity is known. Then the couple would begin to pray together earnestly before and after the wedding. Earnest prayers make God’s supernatural power available to propel the couple into destiny (James 5:16). These early prayers will help set the course for a spiritual marriage.

Even if the husband and wife do not start off seeking God, they can develop a spiritual marriage by praying and following the Spirit. If carnality, selfishness and/or ignorance have resulted in wounds being inflicted in each other, healing will be needed in order for the couple to develop a spiritual marriage. Repentance followed by prayer for cleansing will bring healing and transformation. The Lord will forgive the sins of the husband and wife and heal their marriage if they humble themselves, pray, seek the Lord and turn from their evil ways.

The husband and wife can approach prayer together like the disciples prayed together in the book of Acts. The disciples came together to pray when they faced adversity or needed direction. For example, they prayed for guidance with appropriate references to the scriptures and waited for the Spirit to respond (Acts 4:23-31 and 13:2-3). Praying together will help a married couple discover God’s purpose. By following the Spirit, the married couple can fulfill destiny together.

Spiritual Relationships with Other Believers

Married couples cannot fulfill God’s destiny on their own. In order for the husband and wife to grow spiritually, they need to find their place in the body of Christ. God sets believers in the body as it pleases him (1 Corinthians 12:18). When a husband and wife are joined to mature believers as the Spirit directs and submitted to authority, there is a nurturing and safe environment for the married couple to grow. If the couple is under spiritual authority, the wife will be able to appeal to someone in authority for those decisions her husband makes with which she does not agree. A mature person in authority would assess the situation and help redirect decisions and actions as needed.

Everyone needs anointed ministers of God and mature believers in his/her life to grow spiritually. Spiritual relationships help married couples discover purpose and fulfill destiny. Jesus Christ gave the fivefold ministry gifts¾apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers¾to mature and equip the saints so they can fulfill destiny (Ephesians 4:11-12). In particular, a spiritual father can impart life and spiritual gifts into a husband and wife so they may be firmly established (Romans 1:11). Developing close relationships with God’s fivefold ministers are very important for married couples.

Implications for Spiritual Leaders

Natural and carnal approaches to improving marriage keep people thinking carnally and trying to control married life using their own strength. Spiritual leaders emphasize the role of the Spirit in marriage. The minds of both husbands and wives need to be transformed by the Spirit. The transformation process involves increased sensitivity to the Spirit and spiritual growth. Spiritual leaders provide an environment for married couples to be nurtured and strengthened. Teach the husband and wife to love each other like Christ loves the church.

Personal Story on the Transformation of Our Marriage

Sherry and I were teenagers when we married, so we knew very little about marriage other than what we had observed with our parents. Our relationship was based first on love, affection and attention. We greatly enjoyed our time together and built a close relationship. However, there was much to be learned about marriage and life together. Open communication was critical during this time to learn from mistakes and move forward.

Our marriage shifted towards a typical carnal marriage as we began to develop personal relationships with the Lord. The word of God and life with other believers became more important to us during this period of time. We talked about marriage, visited with other couples who were experiencing similar marital problems and studied about marriage. In particular, we studied about the concept of agreement in marriage and tried to be in agreement in all things. We were filled with the Spirit and walked by faith. We thought a lot of progress had been made in our relationship together. As the Spirit began to reveal the Father’s plan for marriage, he changed the way we were thinking and prepared us for a deeper walk in the Spirit.

Then the Lord began to reveal the concept of a spiritual marriage to us by his Spirit, and we responded to the leading of the Spirit to walk in the Spirit and operate as one in a spiritual marriage. Two critical components were needed for us to operate in a spiritual marriage. First, both of our relationships with the Spirit grew closer and stronger. Second, the Lord joined us with mature believers who helped mature and equip us. No longer were we just exchanging opinions about marriage with other immature married couples facing marital problems. Instead, our conversations with mature believers focused on life in the kingdom of God. We matured enough to hear from the Spirit and be led by the Spirit. Our understanding of a spiritual marriage came from no man but by revelation shown to us by his Spirit.

Conclusions


God joins a man and woman together in marriage as a building block in his family for his purpose. Problems of life are multiplied and amplified in marriage, but so are the rewards of life. Married couples often face problems which are more challenging than they can overcome on their own. But God gives his Spirit to empower, transform and guide each married couple in overcoming problems and fulfilling purpose. A husband and wife filled with God’s power, transformed by the renewing of their minds and living in one accord and purpose display God’s handiwork on the earth. As the husband and wife show forth his glorious handiwork, they become God’s witness and living invitation to the world and a true picture of God’s church.

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