This is a recap of a topical message about marriage that I taught recently at Awaken…

A CNN headline caught my eye the other day: Want A Happy Marriage? Do This…” As soon as I read that, I couldn’t wait to draw from CNN’s deep well of marriage wisdom (I hope you’re picking up on my sarcasm). Here’s how to have a happy marriage, according to CNN…

If you’re serving burgers and Bud Light at your backyard wedding, don’t worry. You and your spouse may have the last laugh.

A new study found that couples who spend less on their wedding tend to have longer-lasting marriages than those who splurge. The study, by two economics professors at Emory University, found a similar correlation between less-expensive engagement rings and lower divorce rates….

Planning a wedding? In addition to slashing costs, you might want to invite those extra co-workers and far-flung cousins, too. The Emory study also found that the greater the number of people who attend a wedding, the lower the rate of divorce.

This is a great representation of the confusing and conflicting advice we will get when we turn to the world to figure out how make marriage work. Marriage is under great attack in our culture these days, and unfortunately also within Christendom. The institution that God created to illustrate His self-sacrificing love for His people has been deeply marred through selfishness and sin. Marriage has been perverted from its original design and has become a source for personal happiness instead of personal holiness.

It’s time to turn the tide.

We don’t need a greater focus on divorce prevention, however. I believe what we need is a greater commitment to God-honoring marriages. When we choose to honor God through our marriages, divorce will exit the conversation.

Using the acronym “MARRIAGE,” here are 8 marriage principles from Scripture that will help us honor God through the covenant of marriage:

Make Jesus the center. (Matthew 22:37-40)

When we choose to love God with our heart, mind and soul, and love our spouse as we love ourselves, all other marriage principles hang on that. In fact, without Jesus at the center, the rest of our “marriage tips” turn into a self-help marriage seminar.

On a practical level, the most effective way to make Jesus the center of your marriage is by making Him the center of your life. As husband and wife grow closer to Jesus personally, they will in turn grow closer to each other.

So, as our airline friends tell us, “Put your oxygen mask on first.” You follow Jesus hard, pray for your spouse, love your spouse, and don’t let them slow you down.

Accept and embrace your role. (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Husbands are called to LOVE their wives, which can’t effectively happen from the couch with the game on! There’s nothing wrong with the game, but your family shouldn’t have to compete against it to be with you.

Wives are called to RESPECT their husbands. The submissive role of a wife is not about superiority, but about functionality. Someone has to lead, and God has designed the man to do so.

Remember forgiveness. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

If marriage is a portrayal of the Gospel as the Bible says, then marriage, like the Gospel, should be saturated with forgiveness. As it’s been said, “Marriage is the union of two life-long forgivers.”

So pull a 1 Corinthians 13 on your spouse and stop keeping record of wrongs!

Resolve conflict; don’t fight to win. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

God knew we’d get angry, so He warned against letting it drag on. The longer we let it fester, the deeper it grows, and the more dangerous it is when it finally comes out.

Remember that you’re on the same team as your spouse. They are not the enemy!

Instill security through your vocabulary. (1 Corinthians 7:3)

According to the Bible, we OWE our spouse affection! The Bible says that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Don’t underestimate the power of your words to build up or tear down.

Speaking of vocabulary, a really practical way to divorce-proof your marriage is to stop talking about divorce! The looming possibility and threat of divorce kills honest and humility in a marriage.

Always pursue each other. (Song of Solomon 7:11-13)

If you thought that dating ended when you put a ring on it, you were wrong! Marriage doesn’t end the dating scene; it just fine-tunes it. For the rest of your life, you should be on a relentless pursuit of your spouse.

Dating doesn’t have to be expensive either. Anything without kids is a date in our book!

(Read this blog that I wrote about how to Never Stop Dating.)

Give your body to your spouse. (1 Corinthians 7:4-5)

Sex was God’s idea, and He’s not shy about it. If you need some proof, open up Song of Solomon or Proverbs 5, and prepare to get a little sweaty! Sex isn’t only intended for procreation, but also pleasure and protection. Lack of sexual fulfillment in a marriage never justifies looking elsewhere, but it often heightens the temptation. So for the love of a God-honoring, long-lasting marriage, get it on!

Exemplify the Gospel. (Ephesians 5:32)

What’s the big deal about having God-honoring marriages? The beauty of the Gospel is at stake in your marriage!

Why does God hate divorce (Malachi 2:16)? It breaks the picture of God’s love that He’s trying to paint through marriage!

Francis Chan says it best:

“People should see the way I serve my wife and get a glimpse of the humility that Christ showed. Anyone who sees Lisa joyfully following my lead should understand more deeply what it means for the church to follow Christ out of their respect and trust for Him. God created marriage to be a picture that displays Christ to the world. My point in all of this is to insist that there’s more at stake in your marriage than just your marriage. The beauty of the gospel is at stake.”– Francis & Lisa Chan: You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity

Here’s the bottom line: whether your marriage is on a mountain peak, in death valley, or anywhere in between, let it push you closer to Jesus! After all, that’s the point of marriage – for us to understand the Gospel on an even deeper level!