Christina and I have tried to build our marriage upon God and his word. We have appreciated all the passages in the Bible which speak directly to the married life.
But we have also loved many other Scriptures which have helped our marriage. In this short four-part series, I will write about four of those Scriptures. In each, I will elaborate on the principle found there, along with how it has applied to our marriage. Our prayer is that every believing marriage would find grace and strength in the word of Christ.
Read the entire series here.
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." — 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
Christina and I are not the same people we were in 2002, the year we stood before God and witnesses and declared our covenant of love for one another. As age and life has ticked by, we have both matured. In a sense, because we were relatively young when we married, we have grown up together. But our personal growth is not due entirely to the natural flow of life. No, we have both experienced spiritual transformation at the hands of Jesus Christ. He has shaped and molded us over the years.
The verse above captures another marriage principle Christina and I feel is responsible for much in our married life— real transformation comes from walking with Jesus. In the larger passage, Paul taught that just as Moses received a law written on tablets of stone, so now we have received a new covenant written on human hearts. The idea is simple. When a person comes to Christ, they are made into a new creation. Old things have passed away. All things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Internally, we are different. We are born again. Then, after that past moment of salvation, as we walk with Christ, he makes that newness shine. We are not to be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). As we unveil our faces and behold Christ and his gospel, we go through a process of transformation. We become like him, slowly and steadily, “from one degree of glory to another.”
Here are some ways this truth has impacted our marriage:
1 The priority of a quiet time
Since “beholding the glory of the Lord” leads to personal transformation, Christina and I have always encouraged each other to protect a daily morning quiet time. Because the new nature in us is brought out as we fellowship with Christ, each of us reads the word and prays each morning. We seek to spend time with God. I don’t think this practice would have become routine in our home had it not been for the belief that personal transformation is (A) needed and (B) found there.
2 A grace-and-life, rather than law-and-death, environment
It is the Old Covenant Paul refers to when speaking of “the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone” (2 Corinthians 3:7). He said it was a “ministry of condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:9) whose glory was passing (2 Corinthians 3:9-10). But the New Covenant with Jesus is “the ministry of the Spirit,” a “ministry of righteousness,” with surpassing glory (2 Corinthians 3:8-11). Because Christina and I are under the New Covenant, we try to have a relationship based on grace, rather than law. We don’t count each other's sins, but instead celebrate the righteousness of Christ in the other, realizing we both need his grace and mercy on the daily.
3 The prioritization of Spirit-saturated settings
We believe encountering Christ, beholding his glory, leads to personal transformation, which causes us to pursue settings where the Spirit is present. God has put his stamp of approval on the Bible, the gathering together with other believers, prayer, giving, and service, so we prioritize all those elements in our weekly rhythms, partly so that he might transform us. We believe transformation comes as we read and pray, but also as we extend ourselves in generosity, fatigue ourselves in service to others, and receive from other believers’ lives. We try to set up our calendars and lives to reflect these beliefs.
Since the process of transformation happens “from one degree of glory to another,” Christina and I try to be patient with one another— and she needs a truckload of patience to deal with me! We believe God is progressively working in the life of the other. Neither of us is a finished product, but someone Christ is shaping and molding into his image. Nor do either of us know how the other should look. That’s the Spirit’s business. So, patiently, we try to allow space for the other to grow.
5 Trust in God to do the work
We believe marriage is one of the primary ways God sanctifies us, but we still think it is God who does the sanctifying. The Spirit is the one who transforms us. We try not to take responsibility for that purifying work. So we let go of the nagging, pressure, and complaints that are often attached to feeling as if your spouse’s spiritual and personal growth is dependent upon you.
6 Hope for one another and personally
Paul, writing of this New Covenant, said, “we have such hope” (2 Corinthians 3:12). As a pastor, I have found encouragement in the New Covenant countless times. Serving people is messy work because we are all messy people. Sometimes, when confronted with a person entrenched in sin, I have to go back to the hope this glorious New Covenant provides. Jesus can change anyone from the inside out. This perspective offers hope for anyone and any pattern of behavior that is unlike Christ. This hope is also helpful in marriage, for we are reminded often of our shortcomings (or our spouse’s). With hope, we stand convinced Christ can change and transform us in the years to come.
From glory to glory, O Lord, transform each of us to be like you. Help us to spend time in your presence, that you might shape us to be, think, act, love, move, care, help, speak, listen, teach, and serve more like Jesus. For your glory, amen.