Monday, August 27, 2012

Consecrating your marriage

Numbers 5:12 & 16 - (12) “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘If any man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him" (16) ‘Then the priest shall bring her near and have her stand before the LORD,"

Why consecration works from the heart out to the behavior, rather than being another form of behavior modification
Yesterday we noted that consecration is a grace-motivated desire to concentrate every area of life on God.  As we noted from Oswald Chambers discussion on the issue, it is where the Christian is making his interests to match God's interests.  Before we move onto the realm of consecrating one's relationships and marriages, the emphasis upon consecration of the heart cannot be over emphasized. 

Consecration can be mistakingly taken to be nothing more than some type of behaviorial modification.  Often people in a church service or atmosphere charged with the presence of God will rashly make promises to God to change or remove habits without first dealing with the heart that produces those behaviors.  In their minds, they vow to stop doing certain behaviors and adopt better ones.  Granted, there may be genuineness involved, whatever name we call it (rededication, recommitment).  However more often than not, some rededications are aimed only at behavior modification.  Unless we are beginning with God's sanctifiying work already operative in the heart, our rededication and recommitments will lead to legalism and failure.  Let me explain. 

Sanctification is a two-sided coin - a "me and God" thing. In sanctification we have God working in us His perfect and pleasing will while at the same time we are opening ourselves in response to His work by "working out our salvation with fear and trembling". (Philippians 2:12-13)  

True consecration begins with an acknowledgement of a transforming work of grace in the heart leading to a conforming of attitudes and behaviors that concentrate on the Lord.  The biblical word "consecration" is a more helpful word than mere "rededication", since the heart and behaviors, and not the behaviors by themselves, defines the aim of consecration.  

Consecrating our marriages
In the remainder of Numbers 5, God is laying down prescriptions for dealing with allegations of unfaithful spouses.  Three times the accused wife is told to present herself before the Lord.  A water mixture called "The water of bitterness" is given to the woman to determine whether her denial of infidelity is legitimate or not.  If she ends up being infertile, then she was unfaithful, whereas if she is still able to have children, then she was clearly faithful. 

The phrase that captures my attention here is the phrase: "before the Lord". (Numbers 5:16, 18, 30)  The woman, her husband, the priests involved in discerning the allegations and the people were all reminded that marriage was covenant made before God - and that God see all things! (Hebrews 4:12-14) 

Time and time again the Bible reminds us that our marriages are pictures of what the Lord desires to have with his people in terms of oneness, closeness and loving trust. (Ephesians 5:25-27)  To consecrate our marriages means for husbands and wives, with consecrated hearts, to make that marriage's interests to match God's. Hebrews 13:4 plainly states - "marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." 

Benefits and suggestions for consecrating your marriage 
First and foremost, regard everything you and your spouse does as being in the presence of the Lord.  The older Christians used a Latin phrase to describe the Christian life lived before God: coram dei (in the presence of God).  Approaching everything from your T.V watching to what you both do seperately to even marital intimacy as being pleasing to God will greatly affect how you view your marriage.
Seeing marriage as not only having to do with finances or physical things, but as supremely interconnected as a covenant with one another before God captures its true meaning. (Genesis 2:23-25)

Practically making the effort to be more faithful in church attendance, or instituting praying with your spouse or even writing simple little notes letting them know you're praying for them are ways to consecrate marriages.  By consecrating marriages, you are being more proactive in managing the health of your relationship, rather than reactive.  Proactiveness to marriage reinforces positive, Godly edifying values that ensure protection against the temptations and forces waged against marriage in today's world.  Reactive marriages try to overcompensate through desperate measures to correct behavior, without addressing the hearts that led to the behaviors. 

The fruit to be born in consecrating marriage is that of stronger, God honoring marriages that can withstand the storms that attempt to drown the passion and commitment needed in 21st century marriages. 


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