When speaking of practical grace, we are dealing with how consciously believing the gospel makes a marked difference in how we deal with life, and in this case, marriage. There are three general ways that believing that Jesus is my righteousness affects marriage.
First, grace prevents. If I am living out of a conscious awareness of God’s kindness, grace and mercy to me, it is much more likey that I am going to have the motive and power to show kindness, grace and mercy to my spouse. Thus, problems and conflicts are prevented.
Second, grace corrects. Since we do not always live out of that conscious awareness, we find ourselves in conflict (often on a regular basis — so lots of opportunity here!). In the midst of conflict, I have a decision to make. I will take the path of the flesh/sin nature or the path of the gospel. The “flesh” demands to be right and look good. It refused to confess fault, repent or forgive. It is heavy on law and is easily angered. The gospel disarms the flesh by enabling me to remember that Jesus went to the cross for me, someone who is a far more wicked sinner than I even know. The cross reminds me that the self-righteousness of the flesh is a smoke-screen and a lie. No one is truly self-righteous. We only attempt to be, or imagine it. The gospel helps me to be real and honest about myself, enabling me to stop being a critic or self-defense attorney. It corrects in the midst of conflict and provides the kindness, grace and mercy that the marraige needs—usually through genuine repentance (which is simply a big word for “spriritual and moral honesty” about my junk/self-righteous heart). If one spouse is able to take the gospel path, the conflict will begin to evaporate (though maybe slowly). And do not be deceived. Moving from the flesh to the gospel will involve a major internal battle of the soul, since the Bible says that the flesh and the Spirit are at war. But with gospel faith, a mid-course conflict correction can be made. Just call a “time out,” be the big iddiot who has a huge Savior and regroup.
Third, grace restores. Sometimes, we simply will blow it—totally. The explosion has occurred and the damage is done—usually with words, sometimes with vases. After the flesh basks in its victory and the dust settles, the Holy Spirit will begin to convict. Not condemn, but convict and draw us back to a faith that is able to see the cross, a view where my self-righteous heart begins to look loathsome. It is at this point that the gospel has the power to restore and reconcile. But again, this will require some pretty deep repentance and a confident faith that believes that we are fully forgiven, forever accepted, dealy loved and treasured children of the Father, who now possess the perfect righteousness of his Son, Jesus. The gospel restores by leading us to fresh faith and genuine repentance, where we recognize how we have hurt our spouse and really, really are sorry. No excuses for the flesh monster.
Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, which is a good reason for us to take our “gospel meds” daily. Yet, when you find ourselves in need of correction or restoration, let’s remember that grace flows downhill to the humble, the broken, the sinful and needy. Let’s not be afraid to go low to our spouse in humility. That posture will feel like death, but just might bring new life.
To listen to yesterday’s message on The Perfect Marriage, just go here.