The pastor of a small Baptist church invited sinners to repent at the altar. As the congregation sang Just as I Am, I moved toward the front to kneel and pray. The heavens didn't open nor did I hear an audible voice, but I knew that something had changed inside me. My relationship with God began in that church years ago.
Before I accepted Christ, I thought that the Bible enslaved Christians. Power hungry religious people used the text to control weak people. I learned quickly that sin had ruled over me until I met God (Rom. 6:16). Each day I read the Bible I tried to cast out all my sinful practices. Only then did I realize the power of sin.
I feared that I’d slip up and cuss in church while sharing a testimony or speaking to the young people. I had to pay attention to each word that left out of my mouth; otherwise, I might drop the “f” bomb in church. With much effort I conquered that bad habit. My past conversations had centered on sports, weather, or gossip.
I began to converse about God and godly matters. Is it not true that we talk about what or who has our hearts (Luke 6:45)? I’m curious, however, as to how much our talk actually points to God. Shouldn’t a husband frequently speak loving words about his wife? Loving God requires the same type of sacrifice as loving a spouse.
Marriages fail when life becomes routine. The two no longer have the same passion they once shared. With children the snare of busyness captures many victims. The husband wakes up, heads to work, comes home exhausted, does his chores, eats his supper, and sits in front of the television to enjoy his favorite television shows.
The wife wakes up, bustles the kids off to school, goes to work, comes home worn out, wrestles with the kids, and finally relaxes a few hours before bed. I’m not trying to stereotype. Whatever the case, life becomes mundane! At one time the husband and wife remained inseparable, whether in person or on the phone.
For Christians, church can become routine. Every Sunday we sit in the same pew, sing familiar songs, hear a solid message, mumble a few prayers, and then return home. Oftentimes we just sing through the song lyrics without reflecting on them. Some hear the sermon and like it, but have no intentions of putting it into practice.
If we figured up how much time we actually pray at church throughout the week, we’d probably be surprised. Many times only a few short prayers rise to God from the church buildings. If a husband only spent that much time talking to his spouse during the week, his marriage would either dry up or end early.
Love requires sacrifice. I invest in God each time I put sin out of my life. Jesus said that those who love God obey His commandments (1 John 5:3). When we strive to obey His commandments, we demonstrate our love for Him. Jesus didn’t mean that we should beat ourselves over the head with a book of rules.
Christians freely love God the same way husbands freely choose to love their wives. Men may joke before a wedding about the old “ball and chain” but they know that a healthy marriage demands work on their part and vice versa for the ladies. Spouses prove their love to one another when they live inside biblical boundaries.
The Bible says not to lust (Matt. 5:27-28). If a husband fights the temptation to lust after a pretty waitress, he invests in his wife. The more he submits to biblical mandates the more his affection will grow towards his wife. In time he will have invested greatly in her. Each battle over his sinful impulses strengthens his bond with her.
The Bible says not to anger quickly (Eph. 4:26). If a wife fights the temptation of carelessly spouting off hurtful words in anger when her husband acts ridiculous, she has also invested in him. It’s easier for her to cut him down than to simply hold her tongue. Of course those issues should be discussed later, but her sacrifice solidifies her investment in him.
Even though the Bible has many restrictive commands, it shouldn’t be viewed as a book of rules. No healthy marriage would hold together if one spouse beat the other one over the head with rules. Husbands and wives should know that unspoken guidelines determine the strength of their bond.
Love requires sacrifice from both parties, but over time, their love for one another will grow exponentially. The high price of putting up with the other person’s nonsense throughout the years forges an unbreakable bond. Many older couples are nearly inseparable. Some even become ill if their elderly spouse passes away.
Even non-Christian couples unwittingly submit to biblical mandates when they express their love toward one another. In a healthy marriage, couples treat each other with patience and kindness; they don’t harbor any envious, rude, or selfish thoughts against one another. Nor do they keep a mental list of wrongs to use against each other in an argument (1 Cor. 13:4-5). We love God in a similar way.
The Bible teaches us how to love God. Nobody in a healthy marriage uses “ball and chain” language, at least in a serious discussion; neither would Christians in a vibrant relationship with God use that language to describe their surrender to Him by living inside biblical boundaries.
Years ago in a small Baptist church, I walked the aisle and said to God, “I do.” As a new convert, I sat down on the bed upstairs in my room in trepidation at the high biblical standard. Each time I read the Bible I learned about something else that I needed to put out of my lifestyle. I wondered if my life would ever please God.
Lists of sins like those in Galatians 5:19-21 terrified me. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Drunkenness jumped off the page at me. I experienced drunken binges with my friends nearly every weekend between sixteen and eighteen years old. We’d campout and act stupid as the alcohol took effect. I established deep friendships with people who loved to party. I struggled to let go of that lifestyle.
Even after I accepted Christ, I had difficulty resisting an offer to get drunk. Each time I resisted, however, I gained strength. Sometimes I failed. A battle raged inside of me. I prayed that God would empower me to overcome the temptation. Eventually I no longer had the urge to drown my problems in a twelve pack of beer.
I've sacrificially loved God for nearly twenty years now. My love for Him continues to grow every day. I demonstrate my love for Him by making time to talk to Him and by battling against sin. I’m by no means perfect. One day God will change me, so that I’ll love Him and other people naturally.