Rated R for Romance
Staying in Love
David Marvin | 10.22.19
Falling in love can be easy, but staying in love takes intentionality. People talk about falling out of love like it’s something that happens at random, but realistically we play a bigger part than we think. In this message, we talk about what it takes to stay in love by looking at Song of Solomon chapters 6 through 8.
Staying in Love
Falling in love can be easy, but staying in love takes intentionality. People talk about falling out of love like it’s something that happens at random, but realistically we play a bigger part than we think. In this message, we talk about what it takes to stay in love by looking at Song of Solomon chapters 6 through 8.
Welcome, friends in the room in Dallas, those who braved all the crazy traffic in the last couple of days, and friends in El Paso, Fayetteville, Phoenix, Austin, Houston (go Astros!), and wherever you are joining and listening in as we continue this series Rated R for Romance. I'm going to start by telling a little bit of a story.
A couple of years ago, I went to the doctor for my annual physical, which is always an interesting experience. I got there and had that experience where the doctor tells you, "Step on the scale. We're just going to check." It's that moment of truth, and you step up there. It was like a scene from Heavyweights came back, because he was like, "Step on the scale. Okay. Step back on the scale for a second."
He looked at the number, and then he looked down at his paper, and he goes, "The last two times you've come in you've put on like 10 pounds each time. Let's talk about your weight." I was like, "Let's talk about your weight. It's called muscle, is what it is." That was not at all the case. It was one of those scenarios where he was like, "Hey, tell me about exercise. What are you doing?" It was like, "Look, dude. We have little kids. It's a little hard to find time to exercise right now. I just prefer wearing bigger shirts. That's my offense right now."
He began to walk through, "It's important staying in shape and getting in shape." That led me to, "Man, I need to get back in shape and begin to do that." There's that experience where if you have been out of shape before (probably you have), you go back into the gym or you go back to running or doing things you've done before, and what seemed at some point in the past to be easy, and you could lift that weight or you could run a mile, all of a sudden becomes like, "Oh my gosh! What has happened to me? How did I get so out of shape?"
The answer for all of us is pretty elementary or pretty simple. If someone came up to you and they were like, "Hey, I got out of shape; I don't know how," you would say, "Well, have you been exercising? Have you been eating?" You would immediately connect the dots. There's no mystery in your mind or mystery in any of our minds anytime we find ourselves no longer in shape.
The reason I start there is, tonight, we are continuing this look at Song of Solomon as it relates to the idea of love and romance and everything God has to say, and we have an expression as it relates to love that someone will "fall in love" with another person. There's also an increasingly popular expression that people will cite even as a reason for divorce that "I fell out of love. I'm no longer in love."
What does that have to do with in shape and all that? Well, in the same way that I would say, "I am not in shape," and you would say, "Well, I know how that happened or how you got there and how you get back in shape," people don't make the same connection when it comes to love. When someone says, "We were in love, and we were married," and then they end up saying, "We're just not in love anymore," most of us don't connect the dots that just like being in shape…you do certain things to stay in shape…there are certain things, biblically, it says you do to stay in love.
In that scenario, you would exercise and eat right, and that's what you do to stay in shape. The Bible says you don't just stay in love in neutral. There are things you do to stay in love. It is easy to fall in love. All you have to have is a pulse. A pulse and a person. You've got it. You can fall in love. But it takes certain things in order to stay in love. I know in the room you're like, "That's crazy right now. Not us, baby. We're going to be in love forever. No matter what happens, we've got this." No, you don't.
There are certain things that are characteristics you need to know. Here's what the world will tell you. They're like, "Hey, if you fell out of love, you probably were never in real love to begin with." It is not true. Every scenario where someone says, "We were in love," and 50 percent of marriages are this way… People generally don't just go, "Hey, we're getting married on a whim. She was there, and I was like, 'Hey, what are you doing? Let's get married.'" They generally get married when they're like, "Man, I love this person."
Then a short time later, they're standing in front of the person sometimes they've had children with, and they say, "I don't love you. I don't want any part of you in my life. I had fallen in love, but I'm no longer in love with you." Most of us don't connect the dots that there are certain reasons that is the case. So tonight, we're going to explore the more difficult of the two. Falling in love is easy. Staying in love requires certain things.
Biblically, there are things we're given all throughout the Bible, but specifically, in Song of Solomon, which is the book we've been in, there are things that are laid out that if you're going to have a love story that lasts will be there. If you take notes, you can write out, "Staying in love. Here are three things that are involved every time a relationship stays in love."
I don't know if you're dating, if you're engaged, if you're married. Wherever you are in the room, if you hope to have a relationship that lasts someday, these are things that are going to be a part of any healthy marriage, regardless even of what you believe in terms of faith, though that is more important than any marriage you're going to have, but if you're going to have any type of relationship and love that lasts, these are going to be a part of each of them.
Here's what we're going to do. I'm going to start in chapter 6, verse 13, of Song of Solomon, and we're going to read through the text, and then I'm going to give three takeaways. Song of Solomon, if you're just joining us, Rated R for Romance… We named it that because this series, unlike maybe any series we've ever done, is a look at a book that is very rated R. What do I mean by that? Why do I say that?
The book of Song of Solomon was so erotic that young Hebrew boys and girls were not allowed to read the book until they were 30 or married. Think about that. If you're under the age of 30 and you're an Orthodox Jew, still, and you're not married, you can't read it. This means in Solomon's day, people weren't sneaking in Playboy. They were pulling in Song of Solomon as a teenager into their tent, like, "Dude, oh my gosh."
You may have come in thinking, "God is not about sexuality. He's not about intimacy in marriage. He's not about romance." God invented all of that, and he is very pro that. We've been exploring that inside of this book, but he's for that in the context of marriage. So far, to catch you up, we looked at chapters 1-6 where we saw the attraction stage. Then we saw the dating or the courtship as they're getting to know each other and moving toward marriage. Then we saw engagement and the honeymoon night, and it was steamy.
Then we moved into conflict, which is a part of any healthy relationship, and tonight, we are going to explore what it looks like to stay in love. Let me just preface this. If there by chance are any children here, which there shouldn't be, but if there are, this would be a good time to go get a snow cone or something, because this chapter has been named by scholars the most erotic section not just in this book but in all of the Bible. So it is about to get real, people.
I will start in verse 13, and you'll see exactly what I mean by that, and we'll read through the exchange these two people have in this relationship. One last thing, in case you are joining us. Song of Solomon is a song between a guy and a girl, and they go back and forth between one another. Every now and then, their friends chime in, but think Romeo and Juliet, if you will, as they sing back and forth to one another.
Verse 13. The guy speaking says to his lady, "Turn, turn, O Perfect One!" This is after they're married, after a little bit of time has gone by and they're no longer newlyweds and they're continuing to deepen in relationship. The section we're looking at starts with him saying, "Turn, turn, O Perfect One! Turn, turn, that I may stare at you!" Not a great pick-up line, gentlemen, for a girl you're just meeting but appropriate in marriage. He's like, "Hey, girl. Let me look at you. Girl, you are so fine." That's where he's beginning.
She says, "Why do you gaze upon the Perfect One like the dance of the Mahanaim?" Virtually every theologian, in studying this week, says the dance of Mahanaim is something she's now engaging in, where she is dancing seductively before her husband. This is like a striptease, if you will, that she is doing, or at least a naked dance in front of her husband, and he's about to praise all of her body. That's what the next verses are, him laying out, "You've got this, and, girl, you've got this."
Way before John Mayer came up with "Your body is a wonderland," Solomon was going, "Hey, I love the way your hair falls to your hips." Here's what he says as she dances in front of him. Chapter 7, verse 1: "How beautiful are your sandaled feet, O nobleman's daughter! The curves of your thighs [hips] are like jewels, the work of the hands of a master craftsman.""Girl, I like your legs and your hips. Shakira, Shakira."
"Your navel is a round mixing bowl—may it never lack mixed wine!" This word navel is translated in one of two ways: either belly button, which most scholars don't think makes sense because he talks about her belly next, or her vagina. Virtually every scholar I read said that's what he is saying here. Let's keep moving.
"Your belly is a mound of wheat, encircled by lilies." Not always the best compliment to give a lady. "You have a wheat belly. That's what you have." Here's what he's saying. He's likely talking about the color of it. Like, wheat would be bound together, and the shape and the color of it. He's saying it's like this bronze, tanned stomach that smells good. "Encircled by lilies."
"Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. Your neck is like a tower made of ivory." This slender neck. "Your eyes are the pools in Heshbon by the gate of Bath-Rabbim." Heshbon was a city known for its beautiful and calm pools. "Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon overlooking Damascus." Again, probably not the compliment I would give, but, dude, Solomon is a nose guy. "Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel." Which was the most beautiful place that sat atop all of Palestine.
"The locks of your hair are like royal tapestries—the king is held captive in its tresses! How beautiful you are! How lovely, O love, with your delights! Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like clusters of grapes. I want to climb the palm tree, and take hold of its fruit stalks." I don't know if I even need to explain that verse. "May your breasts be like the clusters of grapes, and may the fragrance of your breath be like apples! May your mouth be like the best wine, flowing smoothly for my beloved, gliding gently over our lips as we sleep [make love] together."
So he goes through. He praises her from her feet to her head. "Head, shoulders, knees, and toes. These are all the things I love about you." He just praises her as she dances seductively in front of him. In response, she said, "I am my beloved's, and he desires me!" That word desire… You may feel like, "Oh, she said that before." That is the only time, other than in Genesis 3, that word is used in all of the Bible.
The other time it was used was with Cain, if you know the story of Cain and Abel. God shows up to Cain and basically is like, "Hey, sin's desire is to consume you." She uses that word here and says, "I am my husband's, and, dude, there is no mistaking. This man loves his lady, and he wants to be all up in this and climb that palm tree." It's just a confidence and security as they move intimately toward one another. They're making love together.
Then we're told a scene happens shortly after that. The next scene is of them sitting in the palace and the wife basically saying, "Hey, here's what I want to do. I've planned a getaway." So next scene. Verse 11: "Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside; let us spend the night in the villages.""Let's go out to a bed and breakfast. Let's get away from all the hustle and bustle of town and all the work and all of the responsibilities. Let's go away from the city."
"Let us rise early to go to the vineyards, to see if the vines have budded, to see if their blossoms have opened, if the pomegranates are in bloom—there I will give you my love." She further uses euphemism and says, "Let's get out of the city, and let's go make love in the outdoors." Verse 13: "The mandrakes send out their fragrance; over our door is every delicacy, both new and old…" Mandrakes were an aphrodisiac inside of the Bible.
There's another occasion in the Bible where there are these two women, Rachel and Leah, who fight over giving mandrakes to Jacob, because they knew it was a form of arousal. It was associated with that. There was a belief that in eating them it would be arousing. So, basically, what she's saying is, "Hey, let's get out of town. I'm going to put on Usher, whatever song you want, Boo. The mood is set. The candles have been lit. The mandrakes are in season."
"…over our door is every delicacy, both new and old, which I have stored up for you, my lover." She says, "Let's get out. Let's make love. I have some old things I know you like, and I have some new things we're going to try out." Now you know why it has been called the most erotic section in the Bible. We're then told of the next scene where she's reflecting on her husband.
Chapter 8, verse 1: "Oh, how I wish you were my little brother…" That feels like a curveball, left turn. "…nursing at my mother's breasts…" That doesn't make it any better. "…if I saw you outside, I could kiss you—surely no one would despise me!" What is she saying there? Basically, in this time in Israel, it was inappropriate for a husband and wife to show public displays of affection.
If you were out in the open, you were not to kiss the person you were married to. That seems bizarre to us. It was a cultural thing at that time. But it would be appropriate to kiss someone of your own family or to kiss a sibling who was around you. So she's basically saying, "Man, I wish you were my brother so that at any point I could display affection to you." "The social norms of what is appropriate are too constraining for me and how much I love you," would be another way of saying that.
Verse 2: "I would lead you and bring you to my mother's house, the one who taught me. I would give you spiced wine to drink, the nectar of my pomegranates." Talking about sex. "His left hand caresses my head, and his right hand stimulates me." It is hot and heavy. Then she takes this turn, as though she's very intentionally bringing up something she said three different times in the book.
"I admonish you, O maidens of Jerusalem [unmarried women] : 'Do not arouse or awaken love until it pleases!'" Clearly, they are passionate. Sexual intimacy is taking place. In the midst of all of that, it's as though she pauses and goes, "Hey, do not introduce sex or intimacy and passion until the right time, until marriage." Despite all of the freedom they show together with one another in their relationship, she pauses, and it's like, "This is amazing. Don't introduce it until you get married."
This is a couple that prioritizes one another. They pursue each other sexually. They do all types of things. There are three takeaways from their relationship I want to look at really quickly as it relates to staying in love. How did they keep the romance and the fire of their love burning hot when it likely was years later in this relationship or they're reflecting on their time together? They're not newlyweds at this point. So, there are three takeaways that would be a part of any relationship that are always involved in love that lasts or in staying in love. Not falling in love…staying in love.
1 . Staying in love always involves work. The reason this is so important is there is this myth out there… I know most of you on the surface are like, "Oh no. I wouldn't believe that. That's crazy." Many of you have bought it. "If I can just find the right person, if I just find the one out there, the soulmate, the one who was made for me, then it's going to be easy. We're going to have our ups and downs. Life has those, but for the most part, it's not going to be that much work. It's just going to go naturally, and everything is going to work out well for us."
The Bible says that is just not true. Paul even says in 1 Corinthians 7, "If you get married, you need to know it is going to bring trouble into your life, and I want to spare you that." It is going to be hard. It is amazing, and there is work always involved. If you want to stay in love, it will always involve work. Just because things get challenging in someone's marriage or they find themselves in a hard time does not mean they should not be in a marriage with that person. Staying in love will always include work.
People will often think whenever it gets hard, "It shouldn't be like this. They just weren't the one for me or maybe we were never really truly in love." That is a flawed way of thinking. The Bible says the way you keep romance or the way romance stays in relationship includes work, pursuing each other, sacrificing, communicating with one another, working through conflict together, as they did in the last chapter there.
It's as though God says, "Marriage is a gift (which it is) that requires work every time." Proverbs 18:22 says, "The one who finds a wife finds what is enjoyable [a good thing] , and receives a pleasurable gift from the**** Lord ****." It is a gift that comes with work in order to make it work. In other words, if you're going to have a marriage that lasts someday, you need to know it is going to require work.
It is going to require you and the other person being committed. "We are in this. We are going to work through. We're going to grow together. We're going to sacrifice and serve one another, put each other's desires and needs in front of our own, and continue to care first for the other person above ourselves." It's going to require work and work. God says, "This incredible gift I have given to people will also be a gift that comes with some work."
You're like, "Hey, I'm just looking for the most compatible person." There has never been a wedding in the history of history that involves two people who are compatible, because you have two sinners who at some times in their lives are going to be incompatible, not just with you but with humanity. There has never been some occasion where it's like, "If you just find the most perfect compatible person…" You are looking for a unicorn. It is a gift that involves work every single time.
It's like this. I recently had a friend who offered to give me a suit. She and her husband were like, "We're going to give you a suit." They work at this clothing line, and they knew I had had multiple suits that because of my opening illustration… Two times that I was getting into the car, they ripped, and I was like, "I have to go to the tailor again. On the dance floor, getting after it." They just ripped. So they knew, "Hey, we have to get you a new suit."
So they call me. I came out to their shop. They were like, "Let me take you over to the warehouse." I get in the warehouse. They say, "Every single one of these suits…" It was almost as big as this section. There was suit after suit after suit, and they had black and red and blue and gray and every color you would imagine.
They were like, "You can pick any of them, and that will be our gift to you, but you need to know these are all returns, and they've all been formed and shaped in a bunch of different people's height and size and weight, so no matter which one you choose (and you can pick any of them), it's going to require work to make it work." In other words, "It's going to require you taking that suit to a tailor because it's too big here or it's too long in the pants or it's too big in the waist or in the jacket. This gift to you will require some work and tailoring in order to make it work."
If you're dating somebody or if you ever date somebody, here's what you need to know: they are not going to be the perfect person that you complete together and it's like, "This is going to be easy all the time." It is going to require tremendous work in order to keep the relationship and the love in that relationship alive through communication, dealing through conflict, prioritizing each other. It's going to require work.
Guys, just like my friends were like, "Any of these suits you could pick, and all of them are going to require some sort of tailoring," if you're a believer in the room and there's a believer who's a girl in the room, or anywhere, you could pick any of the suitors out there, and you could make it work if you're willing to do the work. You're going to have to do the work in order to make any relationship work. Does that make sense? You can pick any of them, just like in that scenario. "I'll pick any of these, and they're going to require some tailoring."
Girls, I don't care who you pick. As handsome and as great as he seems like he is, you're going to find out soon, especially if you marry him, that this brother needs some work, and you have to be willing to do the work. That's really the question of marriage. It's not like, "Will it be hard?" It's going to be hard, and it is the most amazing gift, but it will only work for those who are willing to do the work. Love always requires work.
Here's the last thing I'll say about this point. What this means is that looking for the most compatible person for you is a foolish thing to spend your time doing. First, because no matter who it is, they're going to be incompatible. At some level, in some way, they're going to be incompatible with you. You're kind of just picking your problems, just like picking the suit pants. "Do I want it too long or do I want…?" It doesn't matter. I have to do work either way.
The second reason it's foolish to look for the most compatible person is this (I'm going to pop somebody's bubble): you're never going to find them. Why do I say that? You're like, "Bring it on. I'm an American. I'm going to prove you wrong." No, you're not. Here's why. In our generation or in society right now, if you're between the ages of 20 and 35, here's what you need to know: there are about 70 million of you in America.
So let's assume there are about 70 million options for you in America. Maybe you're like, "Dude, I'll date a 50-year-old." Great. You do you. Either way, there are about 70 million people 10 years either side of you in America. Of the opposite sex, there are about 35 million. There you go. Now we're down to 35 million. Those are the potential people you're going to get married to, and then inside of that, statistically, there are about 12 million who are Christians. That feels a little generous, people who are actually following Jesus, but let's go with it.
Then, inside of that group of 12 million people of the opposite sex, 10 years either side of you, then you have to go, "Well, let's be honest. Who am I attracted to? Probably not all 12 million. So let's whittle that down. I'm probably a 9, so I'm looking for a 9." That's going to be roughly three million, maybe, depending on your standard out there. Three million people who could be viable options for you.
Now, let's assume you could get in contact with all of them, because in order to find the most compatible person for you, you have to evaluate every single one of them. In order to find the best orange at the grocery store, I have to pick up every single orange and evaluate every single one of them or else I can't know if I got the right orange or the best orange out there. In order for you to know, "I have the most compatible person option out there," you have to spend time and evaluate every single one of them.
Now, if you did speed dating with all three million of them, that would take roughly 15 million minutes, which would be the equivalent of 57 years if you did it 12 hours a day and you're a go-getter. You would be 82 years old if you're 25. Let me hammer it home, because you're like, "No, I still could find them." No, you won't. You're not going to find the most compatible person out there.
You're going to marry someone who is not as compatible as somebody else could be for you, and as long as you hide behind, "I'm still searching for the most compatible person," you are searching for a leprechaun and a unicorn. That might as well be your task out there, because you are not going to find them. So you can't find the most compatible, but you can find someone (listen to me very closely) with the qualities God says matter most, qualities of character.
If you're a guy, I want you to write down 1 Peter, chapter 3, and Titus, chapter 2, or Proverbs 31, and I want you to go read the qualities of the type of godly woman you should have. If you're a girl, you should be looking for a guy who God says is the type of man he would let lead his bride, the church, and those are laid out in 1 Peter, chapter 3, and Titus, chapter 1. You will not find the most compatible. You're not even going to find the most attractive. I hate to burst your bubble.
Even if you boiled it down and you're like, "I don't need that long. It's like Tinder version, just 60 seconds a person you could do it," it's going to take you 15 years. So looking for the most attractive or most compatible is not an option, but finding someone with the qualities God says matter most is. Regardless of who you pick, they are going to be incompatible for you, and it's going to require work to keep staying in love together and working through and growing.
2 . Staying in love involves serving. Just like this couple worked to care for their relationship… They prioritized one another. They got out of town. They pursued each other sexually. They cared for one another's needs. They worked through conflict, we're told in chapter 4. They also, over and over again, served one another. If you're going to be in a relationship or have a love that stays, if you're going to stay in love, it doesn't happen in neutral.
You can fall in love, but it requires being intentional to stay in love, and if you're going to stay in love, the second thing it always involves is serving the other person. Here's why this is important. Underneath a lot of the reasons a lot of us want to get married is the assumption that "I'm going to get married, and this person is going to meet my needs. I'm going to show up. I'm going to come home from work after a long day, and she's going to be standing there in lingerie with the laundry done, cooking dinner, and like, 'Oh man. It's time for sex again three more times before we hit bed.'" That is not going to happen.
It's kind of like, "This person is there to be the fulfillment or the meeter of my needs." Or the girl. You have the opposite thing where you're like, "He's going to come home. We're just going to sit there staring into each other's eyes, light candles, and just talk about our day, and he's going to be like, 'Honey, you need another massage. Go. Go. You work so hard.'" It's not going to happen. Here's how you can know you're ready to get married: when you're at a place where you're like, "I do not see this as an opportunity for them to serve me; I want to serve them for the rest of my life."
There are going to be moments in all of us, in everyone who gets married, where it's selfish and there are sinful parts in my heart that don't want to serve, but if you're going to enter into a covenant, you need to go in thinking, "I'm in this to not get anything out but to give toward this person. I'm not about what I can take, what I can get; I'm about what I can give," because staying in love involves serving the other person.
The beautiful thing is when two people who love Jesus come together and both of them are committed to serving the other person… It's like, "No, no. I'm here to serve you." "No, I'm here to serve you." "No, I'm here to serve you." It just goes back and forth between one another. It's the way God intended marriage to be. In Ephesians, chapter 5, it says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
If you're going to have a love that stays, it is going to involve serving one another. They served one another. How did she do it? She dances naked in front of her husband. My guess is this wasn't something that she was like, "Oh, this is just what I do every Tuesday." She was committed to serving her husband. Am I saying that's the application you should take away in your marriage someday? I don't know. You do you. Point being, she was serving her husband.
The other way she served is she planned a weekend to get out of town. All throughout the book, we're told she initiates, she pursues, and she praises her husband. It tells us she has brought creativity into the bedroom to serve her husband. He serves her by consistently communicating and working through conflict, by praising her and going over and creating a safe place to care for her, saying, "This is who you are to me," driving clarity into the relationship. They served one another over and over and over again.
He made clear that the standard of beauty for him was his wife. Guys, this probably goes without saying, but just in case it doesn't, when you get married, when you decide, "I'm going to say, 'I do,'" that woman now is your standard of beauty. If you get married and she's a blonde, you like blondes. If you get married and she's a brunette, you like brunettes. If you get married and she's tall, you're into tall. If you get married and she's short, you're into short.
If you get married and she's thin, you're into thin. If you get married and she was formerly thin, you're into formerly thin. Whatever the characteristics, she is now the quality and characteristic of what beauty is to you. Your role is to go, "God, I want to feed anything…" Not right now, because you're single, unless you're married. "I want to feed anything that allows me to continue to see my wife is the epitome of beauty, and whatever changes and whatever happens to her body, she is my standard of what beauty is. I'm going to feed that attraction to her, and I'm going to starve anything that competes with that."
This is why pornography is so dangerous, because it disrupts that. It begins to feed you, "Hey, you know what you need? It's not her. You need variety. You need blonde here, brunette here. You need plastic." Same thing with women. Pornography does the same thing to both. The goal now, just like the goal in marriage, is to starve anything that competes, whether it's just a glancing at a woman in the office who bends over and you're tempted to take a double take or it's pornography.
I cannot recommend enough if pornography, which is a large struggle for many people in the room, is a part of your story, or currently, if pornography has been something you've looked at in the last week, getting Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is an app that goes on your phone. I've spent hundreds of dollars over the last decade, and it's some of the best money I've ever spent. It's like $9.99 a month. This is becoming an ad for Covenant Eyes, but putting it on your phone so you can have people in your life who can hold you accountable. It sends an email to other people who help hold you accountable. "Hey, what were you searching and feeding your heart?"
We're not told she had done all types of exercise, if it had been a few years. Maybe they had kids. There are stretch marks, and he goes, "You are the standard of beauty. I love everything about you, even that nose like a tower. I'm into tower noses. I love it." That's what he says. The same thing is true, women, for the men in your life. You're going to end up married to a guy, and hair is going to go from here to back here, and they're going to have changes to their body.
That guy is the standard of beauty or standard of attraction for you, and you can come alongside of him, and you can do what very few wives do, which is what she does all throughout the book. You can praise him and praise the qualities you want to see grow in him, and they'll grow, or you can starve them and think, "He didn't deserve it, and he doesn't need that type of encouragement. He needs to do more for me," and they won't grow.
There's a pastor on our staff who said that if you, in getting married, treat your husband as a loser, he will be a loser, and if you treat him as a king, he'll be a king. Some of the words you use are the most powerful things to a future husband that you're going to have. She comes alongside. She serves. They serve, and they devote themselves to caring for one another.
So, how do I know I'm marrying someone or moving toward a relationship with someone who's going to be a servant lover, not a selfish lover? This is so huge. Listen back in, in case you're losing it and looking at the Astros game or counting these things over here. Marrying someone who's hot who's selfish is going to make for a relationship you don't want to be in. I've seen it too many times. I can think of names and people, just having done this the last 10 years.
They married someone, and she's so hot, and she's over there, and she has all types of cosmetic work done everywhere, and you're like, "Man, she was a former model," but she's so selfish, and the relationship and the intimacy they experience in marriage pales in comparison to someone else who doesn't look quite like the supermodel, and this other person is beautiful, but they're a servant of Jesus, and they give themselves to their husband and care for their husband and encourage their husband and talk about their husband in a positive way when they're in public.
They experience a relationship and an intimacy. It just doesn't matter. As much as you're like, "Dude, but her being hot really matters," it really doesn't, when it comes down to the relationship you want to have, if it comes at the cost of her being a servant lover. How can you know they're going to be a servant lover? If they're following Jesus and are committed to their life following Jesus who said he is a servant king and anyone who follows him will serve.
In Ephesians 5, the Bible commands, "Husbands, serve your wife. Lay down your life for her." Your needs, and put everything you want, everything from the temperature in the room… My wife thinks it's hot, I think it's freezing, and we'll move in the direction of compromise, which means we keep it at whatever she wants. This is the type of thing you're going to have. The goal is mutual, back and forth, where you're serving and caring for and loving one another.
Are you in relationship with someone who's a servant? I know if you're dating them you're probably like, "They're attractive." Are they a servant? Will they be a servant? Are they following Jesus right now? There's a cliché triangle that really captures the essence of how you can know your relationship is going to grow together, where it just puts this idea of "Here's how you can know that you and him are going to move toward one another."
The farther you move in the direction of God, the farther you are going to move in the direction of one another, and the opposite is true: the farther you move in distance from God, the farther you're going to move in distance from one another. Here's the question I have for you if you're dating: What direction are you and the person you're dating moving on that triangle?
Are they moving closer to God? Are you moving closer to God? If so, that's a great thing, and you should be really encouraged and be like, "This is only going to hopefully get better and better and better." Or are they…be honest…moving farther away from God, even if you're moving closer? If so, you should be concerned.
3 . Staying in love involves sexually pursuing each other. Now hold on, because people are like, "Wait a second." Over and over throughout this book, we're given example after example of them pursuing each other sexually. I mean, dude, it gets hot and bothered, from a striptease to oral sex to them having sex out in the woods. It's like, "Good grief! Oh man. I'm so uncomfortable reading this right now."
They had this sexual intimacy where they pursued and they cared and they prioritized one another. In case you're like, "That's kind of a leap," the Bible in another place commands, "Husbands, your sexual rights are not your own. Wives, your sexual rights are not your own." In 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, it commands, in case you're like, "Wait. Really? In order to have love that lasts you have to have sex involved?" Yes.
"A husband should give to his wife her sexual rights, and likewise a wife to her husband. It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband. In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife. Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a specified time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer."
Paul says the only circumstances under which you should reject one another is if you're spending time in prayer. Sidenote, guys. If you get married someday and you're excited about moving forward hopefully that night, getting lucky, I would not introduce this idea of, "Oh, we're not? Is this a prayer night? Is that what this is?" It has never gone well for me in the experience of our relationship. (I'm playing, clearly.)
Paul would say, "Do not deprive one another sexually in marriage. Your rights are no longer your own, and his rights are no longer his own." You're to give yourself to one another. It is commanded. Every time love lasts, over and over, and there are so many psychological studies even in the secular world, outside of anything related to church, that say love that lasts involves pursuing and caring for one another sexually.
There are going to be extreme scenarios where somebody gets sick or there are seasons of life where that's not possible, but by and large, most of the sexless marriages in America (and there are about 25 percent that are) are not because of somebody in some crazy tragedy or accident but because they didn't pursue one another, and all of a sudden, that flame just went cold.
Here's what you need to know, though. The temptation here is going to be to think, "Well, in order for that to remain red hot, I need to introduce sex, and I need to make sure I'm on the same page sexually with that other person." Like in dating. "I need to make sure our expectations are the same, we're sexually compatible, we have the same kind of chemistry, because I don't want to get into marriage…
It's a big part of marriage, clearly, and I don't want to get in there and be like, 'Oh, we're totally off the same page. I really have a high sex drive, and they're just not as kinky as I'd like. I'm like, "Let's do role-play, cops and robbers, and they're just not into that."' We need to figure that out before we get married."
Here's why that's a bad idea. A couple of reasons. First, all of your sexual drive and sexual desires and all that stuff are going to change. Different seasons of your life. After she has kids or during the time where it's immediately after a child is born, there's this long dark winter where it just won't look like that. There are different seasons where the body is going to change…hormones, all kinds of stuff. Whatever sexual drive you have, it's not going to look the same.
So, whatever you're like, "Oh, we're on the same page," six months into marriage, you're not on the same page anymore, so it's a foolish thing to make sure you're on the same page. Secondly, it's foolish because the best chance you have of making sure you're sexually on the same page is by pursuing not sex before marriage but a servant lover who's going to be like, "I'm going to move in a direction of the things that sexually are going to serve my husband or my wife together," not getting on the same page about, "Oh, we're both into the same stuff" before you get married.
The biggest reason it's such a bad idea is sex is this powerful thing. I know we've talked a lot about it in this series, but you have to hear me. Sex was given by God, and it does two things every time: it blinds and it binds. It binds you together. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6 that it glues you. He writes in 1 Corinthians 6:18 there were these dudes inside of the church who didn't realize this, and they're hanging out, and they're like, "Yeah, we're married, but we also go down to the temple every now and then, because our wives' sex drives are not the same, and we have sex with these prostitutes," which feels like Christianity 101 don't do.
Paul writes and says, "Don't you know every time you have sex with a prostitute you are gluing yourself to her?" That's what sex does. It binds you to that other person, where there's always an exchange of them taking part of you and you taking part of them, because it's so much more than physical. Sex not only binds you together; it also blinds you. In Proverbs, chapter 5, it says that love is intoxicating.
It says, basically, "Hey, you should let the wife of your youth and her breasts satisfy you at all times. Let you always be intoxicated in her love. Let you always be drunk in love or always drunk in sex." Long before Beyoncé said it, Solomon said it. Here's why you need to know that. Anytime you introduce sex, it's blinding your inhibitions. It's binding you to that person and blinding you to their flaws.
That is incredibly important and powerful in marriage, because it allows you to overlook small offenses. You're coming back together and unifying. It's incredibly dangerous, though, in the context of dating, because the dude is throwing all kinds of red flags out there that you should be seeing, but because you're intoxicated or drunk, you're not able to see them as clearly. You're dating after having a few glasses of wine, and you're like, "Yeah, he seems great," and it's like, "He doesn't speak English." That would be nuts, you would think.
In the same way, that is essentially what the Bible says. Anytime you introduce sex, you can't think clearly, because that's the point of sex. It binds you and it blinds you. You are setting yourself up to make one of the most important decisions of your life buzzed and intoxicated in this incredible gift God has given. So that's the reason trying before you buy and all of that nonsense is not just nonsense; it is incredibly destructive and incredibly dangerous.
Some of you have stayed in relationships way too long because you have sexually gone farther than you ever thought you would, and you feel like, "We've already gone there. I feel like we might as well just keep moving forward." You need to break up. If you're like, "No, it's not that important; we can go without sex," go without sex in order that you can rightly evaluate the relationship and whether or not it should continue moving forward.
The second reason pursuing a relationship because of sexual intimacy or even prioritizing that, like, "Is the sex going to be really good? Are we into all the same stuff?" is such a foolish thing… Do you know the percentage of time you're going to spend in marriage in sex? It's crazy. It's like less than 1 percent. In other words, you're going to spend most of life… Most of marriage is not sex and sex and sex. It's less than 1 percent on a good day.
What do I mean by that? Here are some of the numbers. Everyone above average is going to spend… In a given year, if you have sex four times a week for 30 minutes each time, you will spend 1 percent of that year having sex in marriage. That means 99 percent of the time you're spending with that person, you're not doing sex. Maybe you're out there like, "Hey, four times a week? Not us. We're doing seven. That's where we're going." No, you're not, but let's give it to you.
Do you know what the statistic would be there? Two percent. Why would you make a decision based on 2 percent of what you're actually going to do in marriage? Let's be honest, dude. If it's really that important to make sure she's good in bed or he's good in bed, think about what you're telling yourself there. You're saying, "I want somebody who has had so much sex outside of marriage that they're amazing at this act because they've had so many other sexual partners."
If that's a part of your story, and wherever you are, God can heal and work in the midst of all of that, but the idea of "Man, she's a lady in the street, a freak in the bed, and she's a virgin…" That doesn't exist. You're prioritizing something that is so small that is so destructive, and it's such a foolish thing to bank surviving in a relationship on, but staying in love in marriage involves sexually pursuing one another.
Where is the line sexually of what you can do? This is where having a servant lover and being together and saying, "I want to care for you, and I want to prioritize you, and I don't want to do anything that is uncomfortable with you." That's essentially where the line is: wherever you two together say, "I'm serving and loving one another." This couple is fully indulging in their relationship as they pursue one another and stay in love together, but today, the best chance for those of you who are dating or single is to make sure you are prioritizing pursuing purity as you pursue that other person.
I think the lie so many people believe is that… Do you know where great sex happens? "I just need to make sure they are great at sex, and then we'll have great sex together. It doesn't happen in marriage. It happens just based on how they look or how good they are." You've never had great sex. You think you have, and right now you're like, "Oh, you don't know me. I totally have." You have no idea what great sex is like.
Great sex outside of the confines of marriage does not exist, and here's what I mean by that. Let me explain it like this. Anybody like acai bowls in here? Okay, three of you. Awesome. This will be a great illustration. Somebody on my team was like, "Hey, we have to go get acai bowls. It's going to be great." It was for lunch, and it was like, "That's like soft serve for lunch. Why would we eat soft serve for lunch?"
They were like, "No, they're so great. Have you ever had an acai bowl?" I said, "Yes. I've had an acai bowl." They said, "Where from?" I said, "Costco." They said, "Oh, that's not an acai bowl. They call it an acai bowl, but it's insulting when you look at the picture. That's not what an acai bowl is. You've never actually had an acai bowl, even though you think you have."
You've never actually had great sex, even if you think you have. Here's what I mean by that. Outside of the confines of a secure, covenant relationship, which is called marriage, it does not exist. You may be like, "No, it was really great, that one-night stand I had off Tinder." You're having a Costco acai bowl. I want you to hear me really clearly. You're having a Costco acai bowl. Why do I say that? Because do you know how different it is in the context…?
Sex is amazing in marriage, and it's not because it's like, "Oh, we're always swinging from the chandelier, and every night is lingerie night." It's because you're in the context of a secure relationship with another person who has covenanted their life to you, who's saying, "I'm not going anywhere. You're not going anywhere. I'm not putting out because I need you to stay. I'm giving myself to you because I love you in marriage and because, no matter what, you won't leave." That's what marriage is. There's a security.
If you're here and you're like, "No, but it's so much greater," you're eating a Costco acai bowl, and I hope you believe me. Those Tinder one-night stands, those hook-ups from the guy off of Bumble… You are selling yourself short for a counterfeit. You're swimming in the shallow end, and it's a joke. Candidly, I feel bad for you, because you think you have something that God says, "I invented sex. I'm all about it, and I want you to experience levels of intimacy in your marriage that you cannot even dream of." You've sold yourself short for a joke.
I don't care how much sex you're having out there. Apart from experiencing sex on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level, you're eating the Costco bowl. How tragic. The God who's there hasn't given up on you. He's for you. He loves you. He wants you to experience intimacy in your marriage someday, but it's not going to be experienced apart from you pursuing purity, pursuing God's way, honoring one another, covenanting together, and experiencing the design and the place for which he created that binding and blinding thing to take place.
In conclusion, if you want to have a love that lasts, it'll always involve work, it's always going to involve serving the other person, and it's always going to involve sexually pursuing one another. God is so passionate about staying in love and this idea of couples staying together in love, because God ultimately defines that marriage is all about him. He's the perfect picture of staying in love no matter what you face.
He's passionate about staying in love no matter what comes, because that is what God is like. There's even a picture we're given inside of the Bible of a guy named Hosea, where God says, "You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to showcase to the world…" Are you guys with me? It's a book of the Bible called Hosea. In it he says, "I'm going to showcase to the world I'm a God who, no matter what my people do, despite all of the different ways they fail, all of the different ways I should leave, I'm staying in love. I'm staying. I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying."
He shows up to a guy named Hosea. He's a man. He lived. He was a prophet in the Old Testament. God comes to him and says, "I want you to do me a favor, Hosea. I want you to go marry a prostitute." We're told Hosea doesn't respond like most of us would, like, "Come again? What?" He says, "Okay."
"And I already have her picked out. Her name is Gomer. I want you to go marry her, and you're going to have children with this prostitute. You're going to marry her, and not only that; you're going to have a child from her, and she's going to have other children out of wedlock, because she's going to cheat on you over and over and over."
He says, "This will be a picture of what the people of God do to me when they chase after other gods. They break my heart, and they go after other lovers, and I never leave them. I stay in love no matter what comes and what I face, what is experienced, or what they do. I stay in love. You're going to go do this."
We're told that Hosea goes and marries Gomer, and they have one son together. Not long after that, we're told that Gomer goes around town, and she's sleeping around. She comes home one day, and she's pregnant with a little baby girl. Lo-Ruhamah is what they name her. God came to them and said, "Name her Lo-Ruhamah, which is 'Not-my-people,' because they've turned and gone after other gods."
Hosea is heartbroken, but he continues to love Gomer, and he continues to care. Then we're told that one day she goes, and again, she finds herself pregnant by another man. God says, "I want you to name him Lo-Ammi, 'Not-received-mercy,' because my people, despite the fact that I want to give them mercy and I want them to know I'm staying in love and I'm in relationship with them, they continue to run after other gods. I want you to showcase the faithfulness of God, that I stay in love."
Tragically… The book is heartbreaking. Hosea again goes after her, and we're told shortly after, Hosea is there raising their three little kids, and Gomer goes again and sleeps with another man, and it gets so bad she's sold into sex slavery and becomes the property of another man. We're not told exactly, but for some reason, Hosea was like, "I can't move forward anymore with this." God shows up and says, "Go again." Hosea, chapter 3, verse 1.
"Go again, Hosea. Go and love a woman who is being loved by a lover, who's committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, for the people of God, who look to other gods." He shows up and says, "Go again and love her, just like I love my people, despite the fact that every single day they make decisions where they turn and worship success, they worship sex, they worship pornography, they worship a dating relationship, they worship whatever this world has to offer. I never leave them, because I stay in love and I pursue them. Go again."
We're told that he goes, and he's in the middle of the city, and he sees her. She's on an auction block being sold. He's standing there going, "That's my wife!" He goes up, and the guy says, "I don't care who she is. This is the price. You can pay it or not." He doesn't have enough money, we're told. So he goes home. He gathers up some different things from around the house and brings it, like, "Here are 15 shekels, and here's some of the stuff I have. Will you take it? Whatever the price, I'll pay it. I'm staying in love."
God said, "This is just like the love of the Lord for you." Every single sin that's represented inside of this room, every single dysfunctional relationship you've ever been a part of or are currently a part of, and every way all of us have failed God… He's a God who says, "No matter what comes, I'm staying. I'm staying in love. I care about my people being in marriages where they stay in love and reflect the commitment I have for them, despite all of the failures of their spouse. I'm not going anywhere."
Ultimately, the picture of Hosea and Gomer is the picture of Jesus toward you and me. He's a God who says, "This covenant I will never break, I will never end. No matter what you do, I am staying in love. I've made that decision." He's a God who died in your place 2,000 years ago on a cross, and he made that ultimate commitment. The covenant was sealed.
No matter what you do, if you put your faith in Jesus, you enter into that relationship, because you're Gomer, and so am I. Every different way that all of us this week sinned and rebelled against God and were selfish and self-seeking and angry and lustful and prideful…all of them he paid for and said, "I'm staying in love, and I'm paying whatever the price. She's mine. He's mine. They're mine."
That's why God cares about staying in love. He's passionate about it. Our hope in this series is that you will learn and marriages will be formed, a people who stay in love because they ultimately are in a relationship with the God who, through Jesus, has promised there's never a moment where he will not be staying in love with them. Let me pray.
God, I just want to pray for anyone in this room who's never stepped into a relationship with you. The most important relationship they will ever have begins with them accepting the free gift you offered, where you extended the invitation to anyone who will accept it. "I paid for everything wrong you've ever done," everything all over this room that is represented, the ways that all of us have sinned and fallen short of our standards, of other standards, and of your standard, yet you said despite all of that, you paid for it by dying in our place.
Tonight, God, would you allow what the Spirit of God only can do, no message, no music, no person could do, to allow people to see you're a God who has offered the extension of that love, who stays in love, who has been pursuing every person in this room despite everything wrong, God, from the moment they took their first breath and will be pursuing them until the moment they take their last.
Father, I pray for dating relationships and marriages to form out of this room and out of men and women inside of this room who know you and walk with you, and they would bring kids into this world who walk with you from an early age, who know you. I pray that you would prevent marriages that do not need to happen, that tonight breakups would take place all over our country with those who are listening in.
I pray that you would solidify relationships with people pursuing you and they would feel like despite all the craziness the world says, "I can't believe you would date that way," they would feel a confidence and a peace that comes from knowing that your way leads to life. Your ways are not our ways. They're higher, they're better, and they're for our good, and we can trust you, God. Help us to be more like Jesus. We need you, God. Take ground in all of our hearts. Start with me. We worship you now in song, amen.