Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

When Sinners Say "I Do" - Notes on the Sovereign Grace Marriage Conference

I spent this past Friday evening and half of Saturday with my lovely wife at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Marriage Conference. It was absolutely great!

The event was hosted by Metro Life Church in Orlando, Florida. We enjoyed getting out of the comparatively frigid atmosphere of Jacksonville for a couple of days. For you northerners, this means we went from daytime temperatures in the 60's to daytime temperatures in the 70's. Allow me to gently remind those of you who scraped ice off of your car or sidewalk this morning that jealousy is a sin. (I guess I shouldn't rub it in).

The conference speaker was Dave Harvey, a Sovereign Grace Ministries leader who is particularly well read in theology and a gifted teacher. A few years back, Dave wrote a helpful book called When Sinners Say "I Do."

What follows is a brief (in fact, far too brief) outline of the three sessions . . .

Text: I Timothy 1:12-17
". . . It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy . . ."

Yes, that's correct, the conference opened on Friday night with a discussion of . . . sin. Not communication, "needs," or love. Not the favorite attention-getting shock topic of Emergents: sex. Nope, it was all about sin - specifically, MY SIN. Not my spouse's sin, but mine. Ouch.

Based on Paul's confession that he was - in the present tense - the FOREMOST of sinners, we were exhorted that one must always guard against seeing himself (or herself) primarily as a person sinned against in a marriage relationship. Instead, one must begin with and remain in the foundational knowledge that he (or she) is a sinner who has transgressed against God in a deeper way than any human being could ever sin against another human being. I must therefore approach my wife's worst sin knowing that we both have already been forgiven for a much greater debt. It was also noted that the discovery of indwelling sin is not an end in itself, but a necessary springboard to Christ, and grace, and the cross. In other words, the bad news about our sin is just the beginning of the Good News.

Text: Luke 6:27-36
"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . . . Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. . . . love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

This session focused on mercy as God's response to sinners. Being married to a sinner requires one to imitate God's mercy, and being a sinner makes one a recipient of mercy with a mandate to pass it on. A key emphasis was placed on the need to deal patiently with a spouse's non-sinful weaknesses. Whether it be forgetfulness, physical disability, lack of a particular skill, or some other frailty, mercy must be applied continuously. I was deeply convicted about the lack of mercy in some aspects of my relationship with my wife - a tough but very helpful revelation. For me, this session was a very clear call to repentance, and an answer to some specific prayers I've been praying.

Text: Titus 2:11-15
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed . . ."

One of the key points in this session was that the discovery of indwelling sin and the call to Christian growth are always preceded and followed by affirmations of the Gospel. Note that verse 12 (instructing us to deny ungodliness . . . and to live sensibly, etc.) is sandwiched in between verse 11 (the grace of God has appeared) and verse 14 (Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us). It was noted that this is one important way to maintain a cross-centered focus while dealing with the very real difficulties of sin and struggle in marriage. Confronting sin apart from the patience and kindness inspired by the Gospel is not the way of grace. The way of grace involves patient instruction.

This session featured quotes from J.I. Packer, John Stott, R.C. Sproul, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J.C. Ryle, Donald Guthrie, and this zinger from Cornelius Plantinga:

"Human sin is stubborn, but not half as stubborn as the grace of God and not half so persistent, not half so ready to suffer to win its way."

To say I was encouraged would be a colossal understatement. I was devastated afresh by the Gospel. Blessedly devastated, in a way that invigorates and motivates toward godliness. There's a paradox in that.

I thank God for my patient wife, for the cross-centered Gospel focus of Sovereign Grace Ministries, for the wisdom of Dave Harvey, for the opportunity to attend the conference, and most especially for the love of Christ that shines in the Gospel of His grace! The Gospel is what's needed most when a sinner like me says "I Do."

Click here for a free download of Dave Harvey's message, "God's Mercy and My Marriage."

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it was a great conference, Derek. My wife and I read Dave Harvey's book together a year or so ago. I highly recommend it.


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