Married To Christ

Week 2

Shannon Lovelady
August 12, 2018

I fully believe when you truly encounter the grace of Jesus Christ, your life has to change.
— Shannon Lovelady

We started last week with this new series called “Bear Fruit,” and basically what this series is about is what the Gospel means and specifically who Jesus is. We want to spend the next six weeks talking about now what does that mean? We understand who Jesus is. We spent several weeks talking about who Jesus is, but what does that mean for us? What does Jesus want to do in the here and now for us? Last week we talked about how too many times as Christians, especially here in America, we treat the gospel like that little kid opening a present at Christmas. They've got this incredible gift inside the box, but at the end of the day they just want to play with the wrapping paper. 

You are so missing out on grace and what grace really means. It's so much more than a “get out of hell” free card. It really is! God's grace is amazing and life transforming. If you're like me, I spent a whole lot of years walking out the Christian life thinking why don't I feel transformed? Anybody been there too? Awesome. Okay. The rest of you are total liars, man. I need some crowd interaction here. Has anybody ever felt like they just didn't feel transformed? I just don't feel holy. I just don't feel right. I prayed a prayer, I jumped in the baptistry. I did all of these things, but why do I not feel differently? 

So, my hope for us over the next few weeks as we look at what grace really means, is that we will understand that God wants to do an incredible work in our lives here and now. He wants to transform your families, dads and moms. He wants to transform your workplace. He wants to transform your football team. He wants to transform your schools. God is doing an incredible work. So how do we allow Him to do that in us? I hope that you will stick with this. 

There's actually a group of about forty people right now going through this exact class with a workbook, hands on homework. It's going to be offered again here in about four weeks. I would encourage you if this whets your appetite a little bit to sign up for that class. Jesse Pirkle is going to be teaching that next class coming up on How People Change, but right now we're going to do a large group class. 

Last week we talked about this idea of grace and we said our future hope determines what? Somebody help me out. Our future hope determines what? Our future hope determines how we live today. Remember I talked about Aidan and lacrosse and how he told me he wanted to be a Duke lacrosse player and I told him, “You don't want to be at Duke Lacrosse player, because if you really wanted to be a Duke Lacrosse player, your life today would look differently. I wouldn't have to check on your grades. I wouldn't have to go to power school. I wouldn't have to make you work out. I wouldn't have to tell you to run.” Our future hope determines how we live today. Coaches? Central football team? What's your future hope? That's not a rhetorical question. What's your future hope? What do you guys hope to accomplish this year? Make the playoffs? Are you living like it today? Coaches, are they living like it today? Jury's out, right? 

Our future hope determines how we live today. I'll look at your life today and tell you what your future hope is. The reality is, Christians, we have a far greater future hope, don't we? Paul tells us that God who began this good work in us will be faithful to do what? Somebody helped me out. To complete it! He is changing us as He is transforming us. In an instant when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we were righteous. We were holy. We were forgiven. We were adopted, but a lot of times our lives don't line up like that. So our future hope, of course, is heaven and what happens after we die, but He wants to do something here and now. Scripture promises us that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. So I look differently today than I did yesterday. Tomorrow, I hope I look differently than I do today. Why? Not by my strength, not by my power, but by His power, His story, God's Spirit that resides in me. 

Today, as we move forward, we want to talk about this avenue of our future. Hope, this vehicle of our future. Hope. It's one thing to say that's where I'm going. I believe that God is changing me. I believe that God wants to do a work in me. It's a whole other thing to know how to get there, right? It's a whole other thing to know. What's the vehicle that's taking me there? Spoiler alert. Y'All ready? Here it is. You can write this down. It's a matter of fact. Get out your pens, paper, your iphone, your ipad, your computer, whatever it is that you use. Here we go. Here's our future hope. Here’s the vehicle for our future. Hope you're ready. Sunday school answer. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. 

Okay, so what does that mean, though? We've all heard that from the time we were little kids growing up in Sunday School that Jesus is the answer. But what does that mean? If you look at scripture over and over and over again in scripture, there's all kinds of analogies for our relationship with Christ. Somebody spit some out with me. What are some analogies with our relationship with God? Somebody help me out. Come on, if this is going to be a class, y'all gotta help me. Okay. A father and son relationship or that father and daughter relationship. We see that theme over and over and over and again in scripture. What about the vine? What's He say? He's the vine and we are what? The branches and apart from Him, we can do nothing. In other words, He's saying, stay connected to the vine. Stay connected to the one who gives true life, to the one who really is our future. Hope is that future. Hope is who? Alright, good. Y'all are paying attention. That future hope is Jesus. All right, turn to your neighbor. Say, “My future hope is Jesus.”

He also talks about the shepherd and sheep analogy. There's all kinds of analogies in scripture, but one of my favorite analogies is the marriage analogy. In 2 Corinthians 11:1-2, Paul says this to the church at Corinth. He says, “I hope you'll put up with a little more of the foolishness for me.” He says, “Please bear with me for I’m jealous for you with the jealousy of God Himself.” What's he saying? I promised you as a what? A pure bride. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband who is who? Christ. Here's the reality, all through scripture in Revelations and in Ephesians 5, as Paul has given advice on earthly marriage, he actually says that earthly marriage is a mirror reflection of this covenant marriage, this incredible relationship that we as the church have with Jesus Christ. Our change is so much more than about learning to obey rules. Can we get a thank God for that? 

You guys have heard me talk about how my wife is. She is an incredible rule follower. We were joking around about this just this morning. We were playing a practical joke on one of our staff a few months ago. We’re rolling through it. She just couldn't do it. I mean she couldn't. Even if it was a total joke and there was nothing wrong about it, she just sat there like, I cannot tell a lie. I can't go along with this because it's against the rules and I can't do it. Man, aren't you glad that heaven isn't reserved for rule followers? Man, I would be straight up out of luck, straight up out. 

A lot changes, so much more. This good fruit that we're searching for is so much more than wrapping our brain around things like rule following, or about this list of do's and don'ts. It is about new fruit. It is about this covenant relationship that we're in with Jesus Christ. So that's what we're going to look at today. I'm going to pray. We're going to be in Colossians 1 for a little bit. We're going to see what Paul would have to say to us that he said to the Church of Colosse and then we're just going to hopefully be really excited about this relationship we have with Jesus Christ as Lord. I pray that you leave encouraged today. 

God, thank you for your Word. God, I pray that for those in here this morning that do not understand this gospel relationship and God even for those of us that do understand this gospel relationship, this thing of grace and this idea that we are in a marriage relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God Almighty. God, I pray that we leave here encouraged today. I pray that we would leave here empowered. I pray that we would leave here hungry, hungry to grow in our relationship with you. God, you know that my words are meaningless. My words are empty. My words are useless without your Spirit and without your Word to guide, and so God, my prayer is that you would just get me out of the way now because God, I know that I can so get in the way, God. Who gives a rip what I have to say outside of your Spirit, outside of your Word. So God, we just want to trust you now. God, we just want to trust that you will speak to us by your Spirit. God, you are here in our midst because your Spirit indwells within us, and that's such an encouraging thing. So God, I pray that those of us who need encouragement this morning would be encouraged. Our pray is that those of us that need conviction will be convicted by your Spirit. Most of all, God, I pray that you would just speak to us now, in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

So Colossians 1 is where we're going to be. I just want you to see that this is not stuff that I'm making up. It is this constant theme over and over and over again in the New Testament. This idea of future hope and this relationship that we have with Jesus Christ. So Paul is writing to the church at Colosse and the reason he's writing to them is Paul's never actually visited this church. He's never been to the church at Colosse at this point, but he's heard that they were this powerful church and that they had accepted the gospel, that they had understood who Jesus was and what Jesus wanted to do. But then they were letting the world infiltrate and letting these other pagan religions come in. They were starting to mix and match and honestly, at the end of the day, they were forgetting who they were in Christ. And you will hear me say that every single week, because if we forget who we are in Christ, then nothing else I say on this stage matters! 

I've counseled numerous couples who've come to me and said, “Hey, teach us how to get along better. Teach us how to communicate better, teach us how to love each other more, teach us how to be a healthy couple.” The reality is I cannot do that. It comes up empty. It comes up useless. It comes up void. If you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you're going to wind up just this frustrated human being that is just content with worshiping self even though you don't realize that you're worshiping self. It will always, always, always come up empty and this is where the church at Colosse has found itself. So Paul writes this letter to remind them, “Listen, this is who you are. There is one hope. There is one thing that matters.” 

What's that one thing that matters, Church? It's the gospel. It's Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, crucified for my sin, to take on my suffering, to take on my failures, to take all my shortcomings, to take on what I deserve and to impart his righteousness on me. How? Because He lived a perfect life. Finding His worth in the Father, He died and He rose again so that Shannon Lovelady could have life and have it to the full. So that I could have life and have it more abundantly and that life is not about acquiring what you can get. That life is not about perfection, that life is not about health, that life is not about anything except finding my worth in Christ and Him crucified and now alive in me and it changes everything! And a ton of you guys in this room I know, don't get that. You don't understand it, but I'm telling you, if you will lay down your rights, that is the gospel. Lay down your life so that Christ can live. Lay down your right to be respected as a father. Lay down your right to be loved as a wife. Lay down your right to have authority in your workplace. Lay down your right to have a team listen to you. Lay down your rights, so that Christ can live. so that you can find your worth and the one thing that matters, That's Christ, alive in you. So that's where we pick up in Colossians 1:3. It says, “We always pray for you. We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we've heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all God's people which comes from your confident…” What's he say? Confident. What? “…hope!” 

You have to hang onto to hope, and I'm telling you, we get hijacked by false hopes. There's one hope that matters, and that's Christ, Him crucified now alive in us and finding our worth in Him. I will say that, I will beat us upside the head with that until we get it, because everything else falls short. Our faith is based on this hope, He says, “which comes from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You've had this expectation of you ever since you heard the truth of the Good News, the Gospel. The same good news came to you and it's going out all over the world.” It's what? It's bearing fruit! 

See, here's the deal. I fully believe when you truly encountered the grace of Jesus Christ, your life has to change. Paul says it this way. “Do we keep on sinning so that grace can abound?” He says heck no, that's not grace. That's not grace. That’s still living for self. That's still saying that I don't like my circumstances. I don't like hearing that I have no hope outside of Jesus Christ, so I'll take Jesus Christ so that I can now have hope and do whatever the heck I want to do. Guys, hear me loud and clear. That is not grace! That's not the gospel! It's not true. It falls short. Jesus was crystal clear, I believe, in Matthew 7. He says, “A good tree doesn't bear bad fruit, and a bad tree doesn't bear good fruit.” So when we encounter Jesus Christ, when we truly encounter the grace of Jesus Christ, we understand this gift we've been given. We can't help but change, but we'll talk about that more in a little bit. He says it's bearing fruit everywhere. By what? By doing what? By changing it? By making people feel better about themselves? Is that what it's doing, by making people go, “Oh man, I'm in heaven now?” Is that what it's doing now? What's he say? What is His Gospel doing? It's changing lives.

 Here's my question, Christian. I'm talking to you. If you're not a Christian yet, you get a pass. I hope that you get hungry after this morning. Christian, follower of Jesus Christ, does your life look different today than it did when you met Jesus? And if it doesn't, I would question, did you really meet Jesus? That's not condemnation. There is no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. What I'm asking is, did you really meet Jesus? It's changing lives. Just as it changed your lives from the day that you first heard and understood the truth about God's wonderful grace. It's consistent, guys. I'm not making this up. Grace changes everything. The Gospel changes everything. Paul says. “You learned about the good news from Epaphras, our beloved Coworker. He’s Christ faithful servant and he's helping us on your behalf. He's told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.” 

How has it changed you? How does God's grace ? How does the gospel of Jesus Christ change you? Do you love differently? Now, when you see people that think differently than you, do you love differently? Does that neighbor that get on your nerves the way they always used to get on your nerves? Y'All are like, “Dang!” Is Jesus changing you? Coaches, I mean, I'll put you on the spot since you're here. Sorry, do you treat your players differently than before you met Jesus? I'm not saying do you not push them? Of course, push them. If future hope determines how you live today, man, you guys have got a job to do. But at the end of the day, Christian, if you're a follower of Jesus Christ, coaches, I would challenge you that this avenue of coaching is really just a tool for the one job that matters and it's the gospel of Jesus Christ. So do your players look at you differently because you push them, and you challenge them, and you push them to the max and to the limit, but you have this uncanny way of doing it in a way that honors God? Christian, coaches, followers of Jesus Christ, teachers, man in the workplace, fathers, mothers, do you love differently? Do you treat people differently? 

Paul says, “He’s told us about this love for others.” Listen, here’s the beauty of it. For those of you guys that are feeling like, “I just can't do that,” you're right, you can't. He says the Holy Spirit has given you the ability to do that, and I know we've heard that. We’re saying, “That's great. That sounds good in theory, but how in the world do we do that?” Come back next week and then the next week and then the next week. This is what we're working through. I'm telling you, man, I'm begging you. Do the hard work. I'm telling you, don't come in here and just listen and then leave here and be no different. Do the hard work. I'm begging you. If you can't be here, get online. If you will take His Gospel, His Word, His Spirit, and go, “How do I live this out?” I promise you, your life will be different. “So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding and in a way that you life will always honor and please the Lord and your lives…” So here it is again. Dang it. He's not lying, is He? “Your lives will always honor and please the Lord and your lives will…” What? “produce every kind of good fruit.” 

Don't tell me that you've met Jesus Christ, but you're still the same jerk of a father. Don't tell me that you met Jesus Christ, but husbands, you're not willing to love your wife the way Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He laid down His life for the church. He gave up everything for the church even when we didn't deserve it. I know what you're saying. You're sitting there right now going, “You don't know my wife. She doesn't deserve it.” I don't care if I know your wife or not. Of course she doesn't deserve it. She's human. 

Thank God, we have a God who loved us enough that even while we were still sinners, He gave His life for us. Don't tell me you've met Jesus in your life and look no different. Back to Colossians “…will produce every kind of good fruit and all the while you'll grow. You'll grow as you learn to know God better and better,.” You're not going to grow because you learn how to behave better. You're not going to grow because you learn how to have better willpower. You're not going to grow because you've matured and now you're not a college student anymore and you know how to check boxes. You're not going to grow from that. He says you're going to grow. Why? Because you've learned to to what? Know God! It's that simple. I now understand who God is and what He's done for me and He's changing me. 

“We also pray that you'll be strengthened with His glorious power.” Again, we've talked about this last week. We've been given everything we need to live a life of godliness “…with His glorious power so that you will have endurance and patience as you need.” Can we get an amen for that? Because let's just be real. I'm going to leave here today and somebody is going to get on my nerves, seriously. Actually, probably while I'm preaching one of you is going to get on my nerves because I'm going to see you falling asleep. I'm going to see you eye roll or whatever and it's gonna drive me nuts. Shannon in the flesh? It gets ugly. But as I learned to know God better and better, and who He is in me, I have patient endurance. As I lay down my rights and say, “There he goes again. Will he ever get it? It's not my responsibility. It's God's Holy Spirit, and Shannon, you just keep being faithful.” And I lay down my rights to be angry. I lay down my rights to be insecure. I lay down my rights to be upset. “So may you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people who live in the light, for He has rescued us from the Kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” 

So let's get back to this bride groom analogy. All right. We're married to Christ. You've heard me allude to it over and over and over again. It's not me. It's Christ in me. It's not me. It's Christ in me. We are one with Christ. We are married to Christ. I don't know about you guys, but when I get married to someone… here's free premarital counseling, teenagers. When I get married to someone, I want to know who it is that I'm marrying. Alright, I look around this room and I think some of y'all went, “Hmm, I didn't think about that.” Now you are where you are, so lay down your rights and let's work through this. Okay, but when I chose to marry Natasha, I wanted to know who I was marrying. Guys, hear this because this is real, man. This is real stuff. We are married to the Son of God. We are married to Jesus Christ. Turn to your neighbor. If you're a believer, turn to your neighbor. Say, "I'm married to Jesus Christ.” Say it like you mean it. You didn't say it like you mean it. “I'm married to Jesus Christ.” 

Okay, so who is this, Jesus Christ? That's why we spent six weeks talking about Him. Who is this, Jesus Christ? Listen to what Paul says. He says in verse 15, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.” That's our groom. That's our husband. “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before everything was created and He is supreme over all creation.” That's our husband. That's our groom. So far, we’re knocking it out of the park. “For through Him…” Through who? Christ, our husband, our groom. “For through him,” God created what? “Everything.” Most things? Just about everything? “Everything in the heavenly realms and on the earth. He made the things that we can see and even made the things we can't see such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers and authorities in the unseen world.” What was created through Him? Everything. And what was created for Him? Everything. Who is this? Jesus. He's our husband. He's our groom. He's everything. “He existed before anything else and He holds all of creation together.” 

This is your husband, Church. This is your bridegroom. He existed before everything was created and He holds all creation together. “Christ is also the head of the church, which is the body. He is the beginning and He is supreme over all who rise from the dead, so He is first in everything, for God and all of His fullness was pleased to live in Christ and through Him. God reconciled everything to Himself through…” Who? Through Christ. Who's Christ? He's our bridegroom. “And He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth.” By what? By means of Christ’s blood on the cross. We knocked it out of the park. Christian, if you don't hear anything else, I say this morning, I need you to understand that you are one with Jesus Christ. So you guys have walked into this place, condemned this morning and feeling useless and worthless, and you need to understand who your bridegroom is and that He lives in you and that He's transforming you and that He's changing you and He will not stop. He will not give up on you. 

So the second thing we need to ask as we move into this marriage relationship, again, when I'm married, Natasha, June 15, 1996… was that twenty-two years ago, I wanted to know what she brought to the table and I know you guys are looking and going, did she not ask? I mean I want to know, as we're going through this dating relationship, I'm like, who is this woman that I'm saying I want to spend the rest of my life with? So what do we bring to the table on both ends of the spectrum of this marriage relationship. Verse 21, he says, “He made peace with everything and heaven on earth by means of Christ's blood on the cross.” And then Paul says, “This includes you.” Here's what we bring to the table. You ready, church? This includes you. He reconciled us. He married us. “This includes you who were once far away from God,” and he doesn't stop there. He says, “Actually you were enemies with God. You were separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions.” 

So what do we bring to the table, Church? We bring evil. We're enemies of God. We're separated from God. We're selfish, we're arrogant, we think about ourselves. “Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in this physical body. And as a result He's brought you into His own presence and He's made us holy and blameless. We stand before Him without a single fault.” What's He bringing to the table? Holiness, righteousness, blameless. No fault. Let's skip down to verse 27. He says, “For God wanted them to know the riches and the glory of Christ are for the Gentiles, too,” Again, we bring nothing to the table except failure and sin. We bring nothing but liability to the table in this marriage and He brings riches and the glory of Christ. Verse 29, Paul says, “That's why I work and I struggled so hard depending on Christ, His mighty power, His mighty power that works within me." Again, we bring selfishness. We bring sin. We bring failure. We bring evil. We bring an enemy of God and He brings power. 

Chapter 2, it keeps going. Verse 3, he says in Him, in Christ lies all hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We bring foolishness. We bring selfishness. We bring death. We bring sin. We bring nothing but liabilities, and you see the theme, right? He brings nothing but assets. Skip again, here's some more assets. Verse 9, he says, “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” Chapter 2, verse 9, he says, “So you're also complete.” We're complete how? Through our union with Christ. Again, we're back to this marriage analogy, “through our union with Christ who is the head over every ruler and authority. When you came to Christ, you were circumcised, not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision, cutting away the sinful nature, for you are buried with Christ. When you were baptized and with Him, you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God who raised Christ from the dead.” 

So the last few minutes here together, I want to make this super practical. Let's be crystal clear though. What do we bring to the table church in this marriage with Jesus Christ? Nothing but liability. That's the easy way to say it. Nothing but liabilities. What does our bridegroom, Jesus, bring to the table? Nothing but assets. 

Let's make this really practical. I met Natasha and it would've been in September 1995. We got married just a few months later in June. When you know, you know, you just do it, man. I'm not a fan of long engagements for a lot of reasons. Y’all can fill in the blank. So I met Natasha and we got married June 15th, 1996. I want you to understand when we got married, June 15th, 1996, everything changed. The reason everything changed is because there's three very real components to marriage. Write this down. This is super important. You're going to want to look at this this week. 

There's the legal component of marriage, all right? Some of y'all are just staring at me and nod when I say write it down. Write it down. There's the legal component of marriage, there's the relationship component to marriage, and there's the worship component to marriage. 

In June 15th, 1996, everything changed for me in Natasha. Here's what I mean by that. When Natasha met me in September, my friends at Atlanta Christian college said, "Hey, before you start dating this guy, we think you need to come check out his room.” So they brought her into the room. I used to have a t-shirt. Y'all remember “Pig Pen,” the Peanuts character. I had friends that gave me literally a t-shirt that said “Pig Pen” on it. The reason why is because I was a total slob. The summer before that, I lived with some buddies in this apartment and and for fun, what we would do was sit on the couch and we would shoot mice and roaches with our BB guns. I need you to understand, it was bad, man. You want to talk about liabilities. I was a slob. I didn't wash my sheets. I was a soccer player. Yeah, it was nasty. Come home from games, lay down bloody, had muddy sheets. I mean, that was me. And then Natasha was the total opposite. Okay? She was just the total opposite. I need you to understand we were total opposites. I was terrible with my finances, honestly. I squeezed four years of college into five, so I had to pay for a whole year of college all by myself. So I left college with a little bit of financial debt. I also had this piece of junk Pontiac Le Mans. When I went to trade it in, I had to move it for the dealer, because you couldn't shift the gears. That was a special car. So, I had debt, and then when I proposed to Natasha I had no money because I wasn't good with finances. I had no money. So I got a credit card at JC Penny and bought my wife a ring on a credit card. 

Guess what happened when I got married to my wife, who had her own car because she was responsible in school, who graduated on time because she was responsible in school, who had no debt whatsoever, fiscally speaking, on June 15th, 1996, my liabilities became hers and her assets became mine. She had a sweet ride. It was a ’94 Toyota Camry with a sunroof, man! It became mine. It was legal. It was binding like everything that was mine was hers and everything that was hers was mine. 

Now let's look at Jesus Christ. He's righteous. He's holy. He's the Son of the most high God. Everything was created in Him, through Him, for Him. So when we entered into this covenant, our marriage relationship with Jesus Christ, it changed everything. It changed who we are! Now hear this, I know that we know that our sins are forgiven. Why? Because Jesus took that. Our liabilities became His. He bore it on the cross. He paid this punishment that we deserve, but not only did He pay this punishment, not only did our sins become His sins, not only did our liabilities become His liabilities, but His assets became ours, and when God looks at me, He sees the righteousness of God. That's scripture! I am the righteousness of God, not because of me, but because of what Christ did for me in my marriage relationship with Jesus Christ.

There's also this relational component to marriage. Write this down. Again, I talked about how big of a slob I was. Natasha is that person that every pillow has to be in its place on the bed. I didn't understand that. As a matter of fact, when we got married I didn't understand that you were supposed to have seventeen pillows on your bed. I didn't. I didn't know that was the thing, but apparently you are, and now I understand. All my kids except Micah have moved out now and we told him, it’s all on you now. There’s no one else to blame. So what’s crazy is I used to shoot roaches off of the sink in our kitchen from dishes that have been sitting there for two weeks, but now, when my kids leave stuff in the sink, when I get home this afternoon, if I find stuff in the sink, it would be crazy! I even like to make the bed now. Seriously, I wash my clothes, iron. It's nuts. I put pillows in their place. I know which way they're supposed to be turned. I can't stand it when we go to bed and there's dishes in the sink because I feel like things are unfinished and things are out of order and I’ve got to get things in order. 

Y'all are going, wait a minute. That's not who you said you were. You're right. It's not who I was, but it's who I’ve become. Why? Because of this relationship with my wife, and the crazy thing is my wife has actually become more like me. She can't actually leave without making the bed we have. It's crazy. You guys know how people talk about as you get older, the couples start to look like each other. It's real. It's true. Why? Because there's this very real relationship in a covenant marriage relationship and as we grow together, and as we understand each other more, we begin to look more like each other. So when I talk about who I was in the past and my pornography addictions, and my anger issues, and my alcoholism, and just go down the list of who I was in the past, some of you guys go, I don't understand. I can't even imagine. That's not who you are. I know. Isn't it crazy that you can't even imagine that in twenty-three years now of knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I have actually started to look more like Him. So naturally who I have become actually looks a lot more like Jesus in His Spirit that dwells in me because of this marriage that I'm in with Him and I'm not trying harder. I'm just understanding who I am in Christ and that’s who I'm married to. 

Here's the beauty of this entire thing. I remember June 15th, 1996, the back doors of that church opened at Westview Christian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The door's opened. Natasha stood there. This was back in the day when you didn't see your bride before the wedding. You didn't have to do the pictures and the doors opened up and I remember I just lost it, and I cried for the next hour and fifteen minutes. Yes, I said an hour and fifteen minutes. It was a marathon. Man, I apologize to anyone that was at that wedding. That was really bad of us. There was a concert wedding, but for the next hour and fifteen minutes, I cried. Why? Because I understood that I didn't deserve what I had. It was worship. 

As Christians we get it so backwards. You see, there's this worship component of marriage. This third part of marriage and this relationship with Jesus Christ, is when I understand that what I've been given, I do not deserve. I cannot help but be driven to my knees and say, “I'm all in Jesus. My life is yours. Change me, transform me. I don't want to live for Shannon anymore because I keep blowing it. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for marrying me. Thank you for forgiving me.” It drives me to a life of worship, not a life of singing, that's part of it, but a life that is surrendered living for Him. Some of you guys need to do that today. 

We're going to continue next week. We're laying the foundation. Next week we're going to talk about how we belong to each other and how we walk this out together and that this new fruit bear's life and community. That's why God gave us the church, but today, maybe for the first time, some of you guys need to accept this gift of grace that you've been given. I'm going to pray for you. We're going to sing. If you need to talk with somebody, there'll be folks over here if you need somebody just to maybe grab your hand or if you just need to pray with somebody, I encourage you to do that. Let's pray. 

God, thank you for loving us. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your mercy. God, I thank you that you love us so much that you did not leave us to do life alone, but because of this marriage relationship, this covenantal relationship that we are in God, we have hope and our future hope, God, is that you're changing us, as you are shaping us. You're transforming us. You're making us new. It drives us. So God, my prayer for those this morning that don't know that hope, God, is that they would just lay down their lives so that they could experience true lifestyle. In Jesus name. Amen.