When Passion Is a Problem (Part 2)

Sermon on the Mount  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:57
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Join us as we look at Jesus' teaching regarding marriage, adultery, and divorce.

This week, we are again dealing with a difficult topic that some parents may want to excuse their children for. If that is you, feel free to jump on over to our church website and find the alternate kid’s lesson there.
If you are sticking with us, I would encourage you to go to two different with me this morning. We will be using Matthew 5:31 as our springboard, but we are also going to spend a good amount of time in Matthew 19, so go ahead and place a bookmark in both.
Today, we are covering a touchy topic. It is one that hits close to home for many, and it is one that our society is very confused about.
This morning, we are talking about the issue of divorce. As we will see this morning, God has a very specific design for marriage, and Scripture is unequivocal in its teachings about when and how a marriage ends.
I know that this is painful for many, so here is my desire: I want to present the truth of God’s word, as best as I understand it, to help those who are not divorced avoid the pain of disobeying God in this way, as well as offer hope to those who have lived through it.
We are still looking at Jesus’ expectations for those who follow him and live like he is their Lord, leader, and King.
Last week, we discussed the issue of lust. We saw that misplaced passion destroys the picture of unconditional love that God called marriage to be.
Today’s message follows right on the heels of that topic—what happens when a marriage dissolves.
The passage we are looking at is relatively short, but the topic Jesus introduces is very broad.
Because of that, today’s sermon is going to be similar to the messages during our look at the Beatitudes. The points aren’t as succinct, but they hopefully express to you what the Bible teaches on this challenging topic--I am going to strive to paint a comprehensive picture of the Bible’s teaching on the issue of divorce.
I will not answer all of your questions; in fact, I may likely raise more. However, I want to help us see God’s desire and design for marriage, if and when divorce is allowable, and finish with a few reminders from Scripture about God’s relationship to us.
If nothing else this morning, I hope you will walk away from here remembering this: God can save any marriage, and God can forgive any sin.
As we saw last week, God holds marriage in high esteem and commands us to do likewise:
Hebrews 13:4 CSB
Marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.
With that said, let’s turn our attention to Matthew 5 to see how Christ begins to address the issue of divorce. We are in verse 31
Again, Jesus is addressing a specific command of Scripture that had been twisted to mean what God never intended.
In Deuteronomy 24, God gives regulations regarding divorce, saying that if a man divorces his wife because “…it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her” and she marries another man, he could not remarry her, should her second husband die or divorce her.
That simple allowance became a license that, by Jesus day, had been completely twisted.
By Jesus’ day, some Jews had firmly established a policy of “no fault divorce”—They took that statement from Deuteronomy and redefined the phrase, “she finds no favor in your eyes.”
Gentlemen, you could divorce your wife for burning your toast too many times. If you wanted to, all you had to do was hand her a certificate that basically said, “I’m divorcing you, and you’re free to remarry if you want to.” If two witnesses were there when you gave her the certificate, you were divorced!
This was completely opposite of what God had designed marriage to be, and it was a complete misinterpretation of the command.
So what is God’s desire and design for marriage?

1) God’s desire & design is a lifetime commitment.

God clearly articulates in his Word that he didn’t design marriage to be a come-and-go arrangement.
As our society has redefined marriage, it is important to remember that marriage isn’t just some government-designed institution that we can change whenever we want.
Instead, marriage is a divinely-ordained commitment between one man and one woman for a lifetime.
We find this as we look at Matthew 19:3-6. Keep your finger in Matthew 5 as you turn over to Matthew 19.
God says that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman into one flesh. That cannot be undone without doing serious damage to both.
Think about your body. Has anyone ever needed a skin graft? They take skin from somewhere else on your body and place it on a burn or other damaged area. As that skin starts to take root, you cannot take it back off! It has become one with the new area of skin; it has molded together and is inseparable from it.
If you were to take that skin off in some way, you would bring about pain, destroying what had become one flesh.
In the same way, God designed that marriage be the coming together of one man and one woman for a lifetime.
I don’t believe I have yet met an individual who said, “Honestly, my divorce didn’t hurt me or my ex in the least. Our kids handled it fine, and it was no big deal.” Some have ended more gently than others, but there is always pain that may last for years.
At least all those I have talked to will tell you the heartache that one or the other experienced, the way the kids still miss their mom or their dad, how they still wish it didn’t have to turn out like it did.
God designed marriage to be one man and one woman for life; it isn’t a throw-away relationship.
If you had any question about how God feels about it, listen to this quote from Malachi. I am going to read it from the NASB because I prefer their translation of it:
Malachi 2:13–16 NASB95PARA
“This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”
Those are pretty strong words, aren’t they? God says, “I hate divorce!”
According to other lists of things God hates that we find in Proverbs, that puts divorce in the same category as pride, lying, murder, scheming up evil plans, rushing into sin, and trying to divide relationships.
God hates divorce.
Why is it such a big deal, though? Because, as we talked about last week, divorce is the picture of God’s relationship to His people. He uses the illustration of marriage to point to how He treats His people over and over again.
God desires for marriage to last for a lifetime because he will never leave his people and never forsake them! He designed marriage for two people forever because nothing can take his bride from him.
With that in mind, then, we do need to acknowledge the teaching of Scripture on this…

2) God allows divorce for two reasons.

Look back with me at Matthew 19. Again, the Pharisees had this wrong. What did they say Moses did? He commanded. It’s hard to tell from this passage, but they believed that there were certain circumstances in which they were obligated, commanded, and forced to divorce.
Hear me on this: Scripture does not teach that there is ever a time that you have to get a divorce. There isn’t a time where God encourages you to get a divorce. You see that in Jesus’ response.
However, it does seem that there are two instances in which God allows for divorce.
The first of these is in the passages we have looked at this morning already:

A) AdulteryMatthew 5:32, 19:9

Both Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 have this statement by Christ: “except for immorality”.
It appears, then, that Christ is giving room for a person to divorce his wife or husband in the case of adultery.
I will point out, however, that you need to remember that marriage is a picture of God’s relationship to you. Does God leave you every time you leave Him?
When adultery enters the marriage, it can give the other person the right to seek to end it.
However, if the other partner is willing to genuinely repent, return to his wife, and strive to start afresh, there needs to be consideration of God’s relationship to us.
There is one other clear instance where God tells us divorce is allowable, but look at it carefully with me. It is in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16

B) When the unbeliever separates – 1 Cor. 7:12-16

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul gives instructions for a very specific situation that is much less common in our day than it was in his: As Christianity spread, it wasn’t uncommon for a man to get saved and his wife to stay lost or vice versa.
In that case, Paul said that it was okay to let the one who didn’t believe in Christ leave.
However, he was very clear that the believer was not to pursue divorce with the unbeliever.
1 Corinthians 7:12–16 CSB
But I (not the Lord) say to the rest: If any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. Also, if any woman has an unbelieving husband and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce her husband. For the unbelieving husband is made holy by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy by the husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave. A brother or a sister is not bound in such cases. God has called you to live in peace. Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.
If you are in a marriage where your husband or wife is lost, you have the responsibility to stay in that marriage and seek to help that person find Christ through your attitudes and actions.
Be the best husband or wife you can be, and let God move to draw your spouse to Him.
If they choose to leave or separate, like it says in verse 15, then you are permitted to let them go.
That leaves us with a question, then: what about an abusive marriage?
In answering this question, let me first of all say that if you are in an abusive marriage, you need to separate and find a safe place. That is the first step in handling the situation: get out, and find help. Call the police, reach out to a friend, contact the church—whatever you need to do to get safe.
The Bible doesn’t directly address the issue of abuse in marriage, but we can make the case that an abuser has already demonstrated two things:
They are not acting like a Christian, and if there is no genuine verified, sustained repentance, then they are demonstrating they are an unbeliever.
Also, their abuse of their spouse has caused a separation, even if the abused spouse was the one to get out of the relationship.
If that is the case, then biblically, divorce is allowed because the unbelieving spouse had created a separation and in essence, a divorce has already occurred.
Beyond those two cases, I don’t see any other Scripture that points to any reason a person is allowed, in God’s eyes, to leave their spouse.
The biblical allowance for divorce is limited to infidelity and abandonment by an unbelieving spouse.
There is no room in Scripture for irreconcilable differences, for “I just don’t love her anymore,” or “because God would want me to be happy.”
God does not allow for no-fault divorce.
With that in mind, let’s bring this home with two final points:

3) God can save any marriage.

As we have looked at his design and desire, we see that it is a lifetime commitment.
For some of you listening today, it very well may be that your marriage is on the brink. Whether infidelity has torn you apart or life has slowly caused you to drift away, your marriage is hurting.
All the stress of this isolation have put such a strain on your marriage that you think it is too far gone to bring it back.
I don’t know the specifics of your marriage today, but I do know your Savior, and I know that he is able to restore any marriage.
If both the man and the woman in a marriage are willing to confess, forgive, repent, and seek the Lord, Christ can restore any marriage.
If you doubt that, I would encourage you to remember God’s promises.
In Jeremiah 32, God is discussing how He is going to restore His people to Himself after they go through the years of exile.
He says in verse 27:
Jeremiah 32:27 CSB
“Look, I am the Lord, the God over every creature. Is anything too difficult for me?
If He can restore a wicked, rebellious nation, He can restore your torn and tattered marriage if you are willing to put the effort into it.
Not only that, but remember, he is the very God who was able to raise Jesus from the dead after he paid for my sins and yours!
If he can bring Jesus back to life, he can bring your marriage back to life as well.
I won’t lie to you and tell you that it will be easy, and it very well may get more difficult before it gets better, but I know God can take two people whose hearts are turned towards Him and draw them back to each other.
I’ve seen it happen time and time and time again. I have seen divorced couples get right with God and with each other and get married again, even after years of being apart.
If your marriage is struggling today, find a friend who will pray with you and support you in your journey. Reach out to the church, and we can point you toward resources and counselors who can help you work through these issues.
If you need assurance that God can restore a broken marriage, please talk to me. I have some dear friends who have faced unbelievable struggles in their marriage and have seen God restore their relationship to a better place than it has ever been. They would be happy to sit down and help you see how God can take the broken and make it beautiful again.
Let’s make one more point before we wrap up today.
The last time I preached from this passage, a man who had been divorced and remarried yelled at me in the middle of the sermon. He asked, “Does that mean divorce is the unpardonable sin?”
Some of you may be listening, and God is convicting you right now. You are wondering, “Can God forgive me? I’ve been divorced, and it was my fault. I left my wife or my husband, and it wasn’t for any of the reasons you talked about.” It may have been your infidelity, or your desertion, that broke up your marriage.
If that’s the case, then remember:

4) God can forgive any sin.

Here’s the tough truth we see from this passage: Divorce is often a sin. Adultery is always a sin.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:32 that when you left your spouse, you caused them to become an adulterer.
Yet, the incredible reality of the Gospel is this: God can forgive ANY sin.
1 John 1:9 CSB
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
There are lasting consequences that are a part of the sin of divorce, yet there is complete forgiveness available.
If you still carry the weight of that sin, will you allow God to speak the beautiful truth of forgiveness into your life?
He desires to restore you to right relationship with Him no matter what.
Have you confessed your sin? Have you surrendered your life to Christ? Have you taken the steps he asks you to take to make it right?
Then, by the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross for your sins, and by the life of Jesus that has been demonstrated by his resurrection from the dead, you are clean.
So, let’s take inventory this morning: How is your marriage at this moment?
If you are struggling to love your spouse, remember that God’s love for you never stops, never fails, never gives up, despite how often you fall short of who you should be. Ask him to love your spouse through you with that same kind of love.
God can restore any marriage, even those who have pursued divorce. If you and your spouse will surrender to his control and seek wise, godly counsel and support, you would be amazed at what he can do.
If you have sinned by pursuing an ungodly divorce or by provoking one through adultery or abandonment, there is grace for that sin, just like any other. Seek God’s forgiveness, and rest in his love.
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