Hi, this is Pastor Ken thanks for joining me once again for the Monday Marriage Message where we search God’s instructions to discover how to experience a highly successful marriage. This is the fourth edition in our series 7 Biblical Principles of a Highly Successful Marriage.

Since beginning this series I have shared with you 3 of 7 biblical principles that govern highly successful marriages. They are; Compatibility, Recognizing that your marriage is more about your relationship with God than it is about your relationship with your spouse, and Holiness. Each of these principles are crucial to a marriage that desires to fulfill its God-given purpose and reflect Him.

This week we continue to look at those characteristics that define God-shaped marriages. As previously determined, the primary or first biblically noted purpose of marriage is to reflect God. It is why Adam and Eve were created in a “One Flesh” condition and why your marriage was a recreation of that same oneness. (Genesis 2:23 & 24) Our marriages are to be the marital mirrors that God can look into and see Himself. If we are to be highly successful in that endeavor, then we must allow our marriages to adopt godly characteristics. To that end, the 4th Biblical Principle of a Highly Successful Marriage is – Selfless Service.

Biblically speaking this is a necessity, and we have therefore, been commanded to serve one another. Just one instance of this command is found in Ephesians 5:21 there it says, Submitting to one another in the fear of God. The instruction here is crystal clear and is one of intended cause and effect. In the fear of God, or in other words understanding that God is the authority over all…submit to one another. One might argue that the placement of this verse is in context with how we are to interact with other believers, (instruction given in verses 19 & 20) and I would agree…though not completely. The fact that the next 12 verses finalizing the chapter are specific instruction on how wives are to submit to their husbands and husbands are to prefer their wives needs over their own, causes me to argue that the implications of verse 21 may be weighted heavier toward the verses that follow it, than the ones preceding. Nevertheless, there can be no reasonable argument that verse 21 does not apply in marriage. Romans 12:9-11 also speak to this same idea that serving one another is godly. Let [your] love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another, not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Again, the argument might be made that these verses are not specific to marriage, and they are not, they are instruction for how to interact with those in lesser relationships. If this instruction applies to the lesser however, it absolutely applies to the greater. Moreover, the importance here is the desired motivation for following the instruction. We are to prefer one another, because it is good, and it is how we serve the Lord. In other words, by preferring one another, we are illustrating love and therefore being reflective of God who is love according to 1 John 4:7.

Remembering that the primary purpose of marriage is to reflect God, selfless service is without a doubt central to a highly successful marriage. God is all about service, because God is selfless. God illustrates this characteristic of His all the time, and He has been doing so from the beginning. In the first chapter of Genesis the first 25 verses describe the first 5 days of creation. Each of those days God worked to create a universe that would be life sustaining and useful to His crowning creation mentioned in verses 26-27. Everything God did prior to creating Adam and Eve was done to serve them and was shown to be selfless, as God gave to mankind dominion and authority over all He had created. Even though Adam and Eve used their God-given authority to sin and brought ruin into all that God had freely given them, God did not become selfish and take his gifts of life and love back from them. In fact, after literal countless other acts of mercy and grace, God continued out of His Holy and unchanging nature to be a selfless being. God was even willing to give His Only Son to be offered as a perfect sacrificial lamb to provide recompense for the sin of mankind. The bible tells us that even though we are selfish because of the sin-nature we are born with, God selflessly offers to us new mercies each and every morning.

In light of the fact that God is selfless, and the point of our marriages is to reflect who and what He is…Highly Successful marriages operate in selflessness. In fact, I like to say that selflessness is the atmosphere in which marriages thrive. Selfishness eradicates the necessary atmosphere creating a vacuum, that eventually suffocates marriage. Conventional wisdom tells us that we have to look out for ourselves, even in our marriages. Though it is not how marriage is designed to operate, the world has made this pseudo wisdom sound right and good. We have long been told that if we don’t love ourselves first, we can’t possibly love others. The world tells us things like, we can’t give to others from a place of weakness. If we don’t take care of ourselves first, we will be unable to care for others. These misguided tenants and so many others like them are lies designed by our spiritual enemy to make selfishness seem right and just. They would never be believed, and would be rejected out of hand, except that they sound plausible. This tactic of Satan, using plausible lies to deceive, has been used regularly since first deployed in the Garden of Eden. He was attempting to steal, kill and destroy then and He is continuing in those same efforts today. I am convinced that Satan attacks marriages with plausible deceptions concerning the ‘virtues of selfishness’, specifically because He is trying to kill godly marriages by stealing the atmosphere that will be healthy for them, so he can destroy the marital mirror designed to reflect and glorify the God he hates so vehemently.

I don’t want to spend too much time in this limited format speaking about selfishness and how we must avoid it in our marriages at all cost.  However, I do find it interesting that many people have no difficulty identifying selfish behavior on the part of others, including their own spouse. When it comes to personal introspection however, it seems that we often have a remarkable blind spot. As a marriage counselor it never ceases to amaze me how many people come into my office with the expressed intent of showing me how selfish their spouse is. These same people however, usually don’t recognize that in doing so, they often illustrate and reveal their own selfish behavior. If they do recognize and admit their own selfishness, without exception they also offer to me rationale for why it must exist. Their reasoning always includes some form of the aforementioned worldly wisdom that speaks to the need to take care of themselves first because their spouse refuses to do so. The problem with this rational is that selfishness can never be encouraged to become selflessness by the addition of further selfishness. It simply does not make sense and has never in the history of humankind been successful.

What can illuminate selfish behavior that needs to be addressed is selfless service. Romans 12:19-21 give this instruction to those abused by another. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Remember, God is the model for your marriage. Christ is your example. Highly Successful Marriages are selfless in their service to one another. Matthew 20:28 tells us that our example, Jesus, was all about selfless service. There it says, Even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. If anyone ever had a right to expect to be served it would be the Son of God, the One through whom everything was spoken into existence. The very same One who gives us life and breath. But Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and to do so at the highest personal cost. If Jesus came to serve, how can we believe that our marriages, which God’s word uses more than any other example to illustrate the relationship between God and man, should not be all about our selfless service to our spouse? Do we really think that our lives have a greater or higher calling than that of Christ? I don’t think that is true, and yet somehow we have been led to believe that we shouldn’t have to serve unless our spouse also serves us. We don’t think we should have to offer selflessness in response to our spouse’s selfishness toward us.

I love the example given to us at the last supper. In John 13:1-5, we read the account of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything, and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. There are just a few points I want to make from this portion of the passage. First, the act of selfless service was done out of Jesus love for the disciples. It was out of order in the sense that they were the students and He was their teacher. They were the lesser and He was the greater. By all customary tradition they should have taken the servant’s role and washed Jesus’ feet, but in a perfect example to us, He, the one deserving of honor, took the servant’s position and washed their feet. Second, this passage tells us that Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him, He knew of the evil in Judas’ heart toward Him, the ill will that Judas had where it came to Jesus…but Jesus washed Judas’ feet too. He served those who should have served Him and He knowingly served the one who had an evil heart toward Him. Now let’s look at verses 12-17, After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. Again there are a few salient points worth noting. First, Jesus let the disciples know that if He was indeed the greater, their teacher and He had served them, they had no excuse for not serving one another. Second, He made the point that He had done so in obedience to God, and they in turn should serve one another in response to God. Third, though not specifically mentioned here, the disciples would soon know what Jesus had known all along. They would soon be aware that Jesus had knowingly washed His betrayer’s feet. They would know that in their running away, and in Peter’s outright denial of even knowing who Jesus was, none of them were worthy of His selfless service to them. And yet, they could not deny that He had commanded them to serve one another in the same manner going forward. That command extends to us as well, even and especially in regards to our spouse.

Selfless service is Christ-like, it is Godly, and our marriages are intended to reflect Him. Inarguably then, selfless service is one of the biblical principles of a highly successful marriage.

So now, selflessly serving your spouse, just as Christ has selflessly served you…Go Be Awesome!