Beyond the Wedding
About the Guest
Has your marriage gone from high to low? Pastor Tim Savage explains that the longer a couple is married, the easier it is to see the sinfulness of their spouse as well as their own sinfulness. Before getting married, Savage encourages couples to ask themselves, "Why are we getting married?" Mutual attraction is what usually brings a couple together, but Savage reminds listeners that attraction isn't enough. Couples who go the distance are those who marry for the glory of God.
Mutual attraction usually brings a couple together before they get married. Tim Savage reminds listeners that couples who go the distance are those who marry for the glory of God.
Beyond the Wedding
Bob: If you and your spouse are followers of Jesus, your marriage, at its foundation, should have a love that is fundamentally different than the kind of love your non-Christian neighbors have. Here’s author and Pastor Tim Savage.
Tim: Our marriages are meant to be indwelled by Christ. His self-giving love ought to be exhibited between the spouses as they give of themselves to each other. When the world looks in on a marriage in which the love of Christ is being passed back and forth, where two selfless people are at least attempting to reflect Jesus Christ, it’s a gift to see a Christ-centered marriage.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll spend some time today talking about the nobler purpose that exists for marriage—nobler than most of us contemplate every day. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think back to when Mary Ann and I got married. I did not have a particularly exalted/high view of marriage. I think I had a higher than average view of marriage; but if you were tracing my eyesight down on the horizon, it was maybe ten degrees off the horizon instead of being, you know, 80 degrees off the horizon. I was looking up, but not up high enough at what God’s design for marriage is really all about.
Dennis: Let’s ask our guest where he had his sights set. Tim Savage joins us. Tim, what about you? If you were calibrating it in degrees, what kind of lofty opinion of marriage did you have when you and your bride tied the knot?
Tim: Well, I might be right about where Bob described himself to be—not high enough—because, when God created marriage, He created something extraordinary. Too often, we have an ordinary view of marriage.
Dennis: I agree with you. In fact, I think that’s one of the big problems in our culture. It’s viewed around happiness rather than who God is and showing Him off to other people on the planet.
Tim Savage is a pastor; he is a conference speaker and author of a number of books. The book we’re going to be talking about today is No Ordinary Marriage. He pastors Camelback Bible Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona. [Laughter] You live in Paradise!
Tim: Not during the summer. [Laughter]
Dennis: He and his wife Lesli have been married for 35 years. They have two grown sons. You dedicate this book to Lesli.
Tim: She taught me everything I know except for what the Lord taught me. [Laughter]
Bob: There is something about marriage—about living in it for a while and studying the Scriptures together—that does help you lift your sights a little bit more. Along the way, if you’re looking at what the Bible says and looking at your life, your view of marriage does adjust; doesn’t it?
Tim: It does. And I think, as a pastor, too, it adjusts because we’re dealing with marriage all of the time—people coming to get married / wanting us to officiate at the wedding; doing premarital counseling—and also the marriages in the church / some of which are doing well and many of which aren’t. As a pastor, we’re constantly running into questions about marriage. It causes me to think about my own marriage. Every time I sit with a young couple and talk with them about getting ready for marriage, I can’t help but apply it to myself. I often go home really excited to try out some new ideas in my marriage.
Dennis: Yes! You say in your book that, for a lot of couples, the high point of the marriage is the ceremony and the honeymoon—
—it’s all downhill from there. Why do you think that happens?
Tim: Well, I think, first of all, their hopes are very high at the wedding. They’re imagining that there will just be future bliss. Inevitably, it isn’t the case. People run into all sorts of pitfalls and selfishness problems. It’s alarming to them, especially for Christians, because they think: “We’re Christians. We’re going to have a Christ-centered marriage.” All of a sudden, things aren’t going very well, and it’s devastating. They wonder: “Am I a good Christian? Is he?” or “Is she? What happened to our Christian lives? It’s not the way we thought it would be.”
Bob: We are taken off-guard by the reality of our own sinfulness; but, even more than that, by the sinfulness of the person we married, who, during courtship, didn’t appear as sinful as they do once we marry them; you know? [Laughter]
Tim: And, for the first couple of years, you’re pretty convinced that the sinfulness is on the other side.
Tim: And then, the longer you’re in marriage, you realize, “Actually, there might be more on my part than there is on my partner’s.”
Bob: We see the speck more clearly than we see the log.
Dennis: Yes; we sure do. I think a part of why there’s a slide that occurs—I think, at the top of the slide, is the emotional high / the adrenaline that is surging as two people take each other and embark on this journey. Emotions will take you a long way down the slide; but, at a point, you can’t build a marriage around emotions. You’ve got to have a belief system.
Dennis: Some kind--and I hate to sound so theological here—but some kind of Bible-based view of marriage and what God is up to. I think a large part of why marriages are in trouble today—and you should comment on this, as a pastor—is because I don’t think we’re holding marriage up with the noble picture God imprinted it with when He called them to be male and female—
Dennis: —and said, “We’ve created them in Our image.”
Tim: Dennis, you’re right—that is well-said. You know, as a pastor, the first question I ask a couple, who come in to get married is: “Why? Why do you want to get married?” I meet with the husband-to-be first, and then I meet with the wife-to-be, and then together. I get to ask both of them that question and neither of them has heard the other answer.
Usually, it’s: “Well, we’re attracted to each other,” “We share the same interests,” “We want to have children together.” I listen, and I nod, and I think, “This is all very nice, but I haven’t heard anything that is substantial enough to bear the weight of marriage.”
I say: “Well, how about this? Would you like to get married for the glory of God? Would the glory of God—might that feature in your sights as a goal for this marriage?”
In other words, something more than what the two of them bring to the relationship—asking them: “How about God? What role is He going to play? Would you like to be married for His glory?” They always smile and say, “Yes, but we don’t have a clue what that means.”
Bob: I was just going to ask you that! [Laughter] Because every Christian couple is going to say, “Well, sure,”—that’s the right answer—but what being married for the glory of God looks like, day in and day out—that sounds mystical.
Tim: It does sound mystical; and yet, there are not many Christians who would disagree with that.
Tim: Didn’t the Westminster Catechism say, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”? We know that! “Yes, we want to glorify God. We want to glorify Him in marriage; what does it mean?” I’ve done a lot of thinking about that, and I’ve tried to come up with a biblical answer. I think what it means is this: “We glorify God when we reproduce an image of His glory.”
Dennis: And I think the promise we make, when we make a covenant to go the distance in our marriage, in essence, we are saying, “We’re going to embark on this journey and commit to love one another ‘til death do us part because we know this: ‘God is love.’”
Dennis: A part of His glory is His love for humanity and what He did in stepping out of eternity in His Son Jesus Christ.
Dennis: So when I made the promise to Barbara, we enrolled in the first grade of love.
Dennis: We didn’t know what we were doing—most of it was fueled by emotions, a lot of hormones, and a lot of fun that we had had and romance. But then we moved on to the second grade and the third grade. We went through junior high, which was pretty tough! When you go through a health crisis, you learn how to love. When you go through challenges with a child, you learn how to love the child; but you also learn how to stick to your spouse.
When you lose a job or get a short paycheck, you learn how to stick like glue with one another, as a husband and wife, through that trial.
As you talk about glorifying God, I look at our lives and I go: “I don’t know how we’ve done, but what I hope we’ve displayed / what I hope we—to use your term—reflected is a little fragment of the love that propelled the God of the universe to step out of eternity and send His Son to become a man and dwell among us / live out a perfect life, die on a cross, defeat death, and now be seated at the right hand of God the Father so that we could have eternal life—so that we could know this God of love.”
Tim: Amen! What you’re talking about is Christ-like love. When I think about: “What does it mean to image God?”—I love Philippians 2, where Paul says, “Because Christ existed in the form of God,”—and you could read “image” there / close synonym—“Because Christ existed in the image of God,”—yes; what does that mean?—
—“He did not regard His equality with God as an opportunity for self-grasping.”
Of course, we hear there—quickly, an image of Adam and Eve in the garden—they grasped after the fruit / they wanted to do it their way. There was a selfishness there that wasn’t Christ’s. He refused that way! Instead, He did what? “He emptied Himself,”—how far?—“He became a servant”—a slave in Greek / doulos—“all the way to dying on a cross,”—the most ignominious way to die in history! His self-giving love was what it meant to image God. It’s astonishing!
What is God? You said it beautifully: “God is, ultimately, the self-giving One.” He has created us in His image to image just that self-giving love. And not only that, He has put Christ in our heart so that Christ comes out—yes, in marriage:
Self-giving love—start in the first grade / don’t know much about self-giving love. The Lord teaches us to be more, and more, and more like Christ. We are Christ toward each other. It’s beautiful.
Bob: We’re talking to Pastor Tim Savage today. He’s written a book called No Ordinary Marriage: Together for God’s Glory.
I remember hearing a pastor one time say, “Glorifying God means your life makes Him look good.” I thought, “That’s a pretty good—I can get my arms around that: ‘Your marriage makes God look good.’” Not that God looks bad otherwise but that, when people see your marriage, they see in it the goodness of God in how the two of you are relating to one another. When they see that—and they can draw the line between that beautiful picture you’re painting, and how you’re doing it, and the beauty of who God is—now, you’re achieving the purpose that marriage was designed for in the first place.
Bob: In fact, Tim, I asked a number of pastors—I said, “If you were going to give somebody biblical counsel on marriage—and you couldn’t use Ephesians 5, and you couldn’t use 1 Peter 3, and you couldn’t use Colossians 3 / you couldn’t use the standard texts on marriage—what verse or passage would you point somebody to?” Two of the pastors said something that stuck with me—one of them said / they both referenced the same verse—but one of them said, “This is how I proposed to my wife—it was with Psalm 34, verse 3: ‘Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together.’”
Tim: Amen! Yes; yes.
Bob: I thought, “I was not thinking that when I got married.” I did not propose to Mary Ann, saying, “Magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together!” I was using the Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older and we could say, ‘Good night,’ and stay together?” That was my—
Tim: “I wish they all could be California girls.”
Bob: Something like that! [Laughter]
But here’s this noble picture: “Let’s, together, magnify the LORD and exalt His name so that, when people see us, they go, ‘Isn’t God—
Tim: —“’so good?’” I think that the greatest gift that we can give to this troubled world is our Christian marriages. You say, “Well, the greatest gift is Christ!” Well, our marriages are meant to be indwelled by Christ. His self-giving love ought to be exhibited between the spouses as they give of themselves to each other. There’s nothing wrong with this world except its relationships—we don’t get along together. Oh, there’s the odd natural disaster, but that doesn’t happen often. Mostly, we are dysfunctional in our relationships. When the world looks in on a marriage—in which the love of Christ is being passed back and forth / where two selfless people are, at least, attempting to reflect Jesus Christ—it sees something more beautiful than it ever thought could exist. Bob, you are spot-on! I agree with you completely. It is a gift to see a Christ-centered marriage.
Dennis: You’ve continued to mention a phrase that I want to make sure our listeners have heard because there is no way to magnify who God is—there is no way to glorify Him / there is no way to reflect Him—to a fallen planet if you don’t die to self.
Dennis: You have to begin to learn the art, as a man, of self-denial, self-sacrifice / death to self on behalf of your spouse. Now, the cold hard reality is—you’re probably not going to do a real good job, especially early on, at that. I sure didn’t! I don’t know how much the world sees, but I do know—when you live out a lifetime and you’ve stayed married for four decades in this culture—that’s not what most people are doing today.
Dennis: They’re trading them in for a newer model. We’ve been given an assignment—a magnificent/noble assignment. We just need to realize what the assignment is and be faithful to be able to do that.
How are you equipping couples in the church to do that—to show God off in Paradise Valley? I mean, did they rename the city because your church had so many couples in love with each other and they renamed it Paradise City because God’s glory is being shown off there? [Laughter]
Tim: When you ask the question, it’s sobering to think about because many of the comments you’ve made already, Dennis, have indicated that we don’t get this right away: “What does it mean to exhibit self-giving love on the order of the love we see in Christ?” It’s hard to understand that love, let alone reproduce it. So we’re all over the map at Camelback Bible. We have some wonderful marriages—I think we have maybe 25 couples who’ve been married over 50 years. We have lots of people who are just getting married. We’re all over the map.
How do we encourage people to be more like Christ in their marriage?
We focus on God’s Word. We remind people that what we’re talking about is something they can’t accomplish apart from supernatural assistance by the Holy Spirit.
I was just thinking about a couple who came in to me, devastated. He was the manager of a hedge fund in town. He said, “Did you see what’s in the headlines of the newspaper this morning?” I said, “No; I didn’t read the newspaper.” He slammed it down on my desk. It was, basically, a headline questioning the propriety / the fiduciary responsibility of him as the hedge fund manager. It was questioning if he was being honest in the way he was running his hedge fund. You do that in the newspaper; guess what? You lose all of your investors in a minute. He said: “I’m ruined, Tim! It’s over! We’re done!” His wife was weeping, and he was crying. I was looking at them, wondering, “What in the world do I say?” I could see that the marriage was going downhill.
Tim: And the Lord gave me a thought—
—it was: “Brother and sister, you haven’t lost a thing. You’ve got Jesus. And in Christ, you have infinite goodness. You have everything you need to go forward together in a powerful union that will speak volumes to the world—that you can lose everything and still be on track.” I was reading the other day what Corrie ten Boom said, “It’s not until you lose everything that you realize you have everything.”
Tim: It’s like you have to be stripped of everything and you say, “I’ve lost everything!” And then you look up and see: “I haven’t lost a thing—I’ve got Jesus.”
Tim: “I’ve got Christ! I’ve got infinite love in my heart.” Paul says: “I pray that you would know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. I get down on my knees and I’m praying that you would understand this love!” We have a hard time understanding it! It’s often, when everything’s taken away, that—then we see it.
I watched this couple. In a matter of moments, smiles came to their faces. They thanked me. I said: “Don’t thank me. Thank Jesus. He’s everything,”—walked out of my office. They did have to move—they left the state / they went to Texas. A couple years after that, I got a note from them that said, “Do you remember that meeting in your office?” I think, “Yes; absolutely!” He said, “That changed our lives,” and he included a check for $50,000. Unfortunately, it was made out to Camelback Bible Church. [Laughter] But, you know, they discovered, in their marriage, Christ was all they needed.
Dennis: And so, if I could do a survey of your church—this is a hard question / I’m going to warn you.
Tim: Yes; yes.
Dennis: If I could do a survey of your church and say: “How do Tim and Lesli magnify God / glorify Him? How have you seen them doing that, day in and day out—
—not in terms of religious speak but pragmatically: ‘We’ve seen them “x,”’?” How do you think your church would answer that question?—the people in your church?
Bob: And you save your answer—think about it for a second. Let me let our listeners know about the book that you’ve written, which is called No Ordinary Marriage: Together for God’s Glory. This is a book that will help lift your sights on what God’s design and purpose for marriage is. I think it’s a needed exercise in our day to have those sights lifted. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of No Ordinary Marriage. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,” to order a copy of the book.
Let me also mention, Dennis—that our team is hoping that many of our listeners will consider hosting an Art of Marriage® event in your church or in your community this summer or inviting couples over to go through The Art of Marriage small group series. With a little added incentive this week and next week—when you order the event kit or the small group series kit, we’re going to include a marriage ministry pack of resources—a collection of books designed to help you minister more effectively to couples around subjects related to marriage. You can get more information when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call for more information at 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s the same way to connect with us if you’re interested in getting a copy of Tim’s book.
Dennis: And I hope folks will get a copy of Tim Savage’s book, No Ordinary Marriage.
A few minutes ago, I asked him—I said: “Okay, Tim. If I were to do a survey of your congregation, how would they say you and Lesli, after 35 years of marriage, have modeled who God is in front of them—just practically? How would you think they would answer?”
Tim: I think anyone who probably is able to look at Lesli and me for a bit of time would think that we adore each other. Your question is: “How would they know that?”I will talk about Lesli in my sermons some. You know, we don’t disclose all sorts of intimate details; but I often hear from people: “It’s so good to hear you speak of your wife in an adoring way. You can tell that you really love her.” And I say, “Well, I do.” Here are some silly little things—I mean, touching her / kissing her in front of the church / in front of the people. I don’t do this for show—it’s natural. But I think, when they see us affectionately with each other, they can see that we’re very much in love and that we do exhibit Christ-like love.
I think they see that I, as a pastor, give her a lot of space to be who she is. She is beautiful. She serves the church. I mean, she decorates / she disciples women. You know, I’m not reeling her in. I’m thrilled to see her loving people. I think they like to see a husband who shares his wife in this way. How am I doing, Dennis?
Dennis: You’re doing great! In fact, you know what I want you to do?
Dennis: I’m going to ask you to do something for our audience because I’m wondering if some of our audience has ever heard a man, on national radio, extol the virtues and his love for his bride in a tribute / a verbal tribute.
Well, Lesli, honey, I think you know that I’ve never met a woman like you. When I look at you, I see more of Christ in you than I’ve ever seen in anyone else.
I can’t believe that, by God’s grace, He led you to me. Every day, I praise Him and wonder that you said, “Yes,” to be my wife.
I just want to be everything that I can be to deserve someone like you. I know that God doesn’t work in terms of what we deserve—He’s all grace! I know that because He gave me Christ and He gave me you. I’m so motivated to pick up your life and make it my life and to live your life as though it were my life—to look at your life as more important than my own. I want to give you everything I have to give because I love you. And I want to love you with the love of Christ.
Bob: I’d say he did okay; don’t you think?
Dennis: I think he passed the test.
Maybe we could call Lesli and find out what she thinks. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, we are going to have an opportunity tomorrow to let you explain to us how you guys live out different assignments / different roles that God has for husbands and wives in a marriage, and how you do that in such a way that you are both esteemed in the process, and God is glorified in that process. You can join us for that; right?
Tim: Thanks, Bob—eager to.
Bob: I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We invite you to join us back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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