There was a Harris poll that was done in the late 1990s, and college students were asked to agree or disagree with a number of statements.  Ninety-seven percent of college students agreed having a close-knit family is the key to happiness.  Interestingly, that's up 15% from the same survey a decade earlier.  Unfortunately, those statistics tell us that of those 90% of young people who long to have relationships that speak of a close-knit family the great majority won't.  In fact, the family has a problem.  We have a big, big problem.  Today less than 25% of all the families in America are made up of a mom and a dad married to each other who have offspring in their home that come out of that union. Sixty percent of all the people who eventually get married live together now.  And in Europe they're just totally dismissing marriage.  Just they're just blowing it off.  Who needs to be married? 

Id like to say that American culture and Western Europe has a major problem, but thank God it hasn't impacted Christians, but it has and the impact, whether its in a Christian home or a non-Christian home has been devastating.  

The social impact goes way beyond the economics. The highest predictability for 10 of the most devastating things happening in our culture is children that come from a broken home and specifically who come from a father-absent home.  They include poverty, violence, future felons, depression, and teen suicide.  

Between the ages of 10 and 14, teen suicide is up 120%. Among Black males its up 300%, in the same category.  Among White females its up 233%.  As the family is imploding, kids are realizing life isnt worth living.  The greatest predictor of domestic violence, promiscuity, gang involvement, drug use, and sexual abuse in the home is all related to coming out of a broken home.  And were not immune.

In the bible belt States where Religion has had a strong traditional influence, the divorce rate is up 50% higher than the national norm, and those living together have more than doubled in those same areas.  

Barna and  Gallop both report that not only is there not any difference between the average Christian home and non-Christian home, but we have outdone them and divorce rate is now higher among Christians than non-Christians.  We've got a problem and its a serious problem and we need to address it.

Experts tell us something is an absolutely staggering concept, especially when we have secular experts telling us this is our problem.  They attribute the primary cause of family disintegration to the increasing failure to hold marriage and marriage commitments in high esteem.  

A sociologist from Harvard wrote a very interesting book in this last century.  Carl Zimmerman once studied the rise and fall of every major empire in the world.  More specifically, he traced what happened to the family in each of these empires.  He concluded that families go through three phases, the last occurring just before each major empire fell.  In his book Family and Civilization he listed these characteristics of families in the final stage.  See if you hear some similarities in our culture: 

Marriage lost its sacredness.  Alternative forms of marriage were advocated.  Feminist movements flourished.  Parenting became more difficult.  Adultery was celebrated, not punished.  (By the way, you might put a little footnote.  Ninety-four percent of all sex depicted on television is of two people outside of marriage.)  You think were sending a message?  Are we celebrating something?  Sexual perversion abounded but especially incest and homosexuality.

If Zimmerman's observations on the family send a shiver down your back as they do mine, your concern might be even more urgent when you realize his book was written in 1947.  We have a major problem and its one that we need to address. 

What Id like to tell you is this:  We are not starting another little eight-part sermon series to give a little atta boy pat on the back to the families of Newark Church of the Nazarene.  If you are thinking,  Oh, this is good, maybe this will help us improve our communication a little bit, you are going to be very disappointed. We are making a definitive declaration and commitment that we've got a crisis on our hands in America, and at Newark Church of the Nazarene were going to attempt do something about it.

We have made huge financial and staff commitments in this church to try to help the family but I am not sure that you understand that or even really see the need. Believe me our families are in trouble and really need all the support they can get. 

I need for you to listen very carefully to what will be said because what I am going to  say will probably be some of the most politically incorrect things you will ever hear come out of this pulpit but listen carefully.  Its only because the politically correct ideology doesn't work. It doesn't work for everyone to say everything is okay. 

You don't think we are a mess? The number one medication in America is anti-depressants.  We've got lonely people and hurting people, and we've got all kind of violation of Gods standard, and its killing us. The culture is moving swiftly.  We cant do it this way anymore.  We must go back to the drawing board.  We have to go back to the originator of marriage and family and see what God has to say about how its supposed to be done. 

We have to ask Him what does marriage look like?  What does a parent look like? What does a husband look like?  What does a wife look like?  Whats it look like to be single and whole and fulfilled and pure?  Whats it look like to date Gods way?  How do you find the right mate?  And how does it work so that 20 years down the road you sit around a table in an intact family with grown adult children and, yes, you've had problems and rebellion and ups and downs and struggle and sin and arguments, but you were reconciled and restored through them and you speak the truth in love, and the holidays aren't a time you try and figure out which of the seven family divisions you go to.  

We find Gods drawing board for being a family is found in Ephesians 5:21 6:4. What we find there is: 

Gods Instructions for a Closely-Knit Family

21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of Gods word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.

 31 As the Scriptures say, A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.  32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

1 Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord,  for this is the right thing to do. 2 Honor your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a promise: 3 If you honor your father and mother, things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.

 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

  Ephesians 5:21-6:4 NLT

God is saying through His word, Let me show you specifically, once you are filled with the Spirit and living under Gods design how you will be committed to caring and nurturing and mutual concern and mutual submission and love. Let me show you wives, husbands and children how to live in such a way where you have a close-knit family that not is only for your good, but will reflect My glory.  

God has chosen family to be his metaphor, to be his word picture to the world.  And when we are not living this way in family, in a way that reflects our relationship with God the Father, we are marring the testimony that's one of the primary apologetics to our world.  

There is something mysterious about God in such union with his people that there is an intertwining of lives.  There is such a oneness.  And its a ministry.  Its pictured in the way a man and a woman come together.  He says, The greater mystery is how the God of the universe would come and live in harmony in union with his people, but, by the way, here's the application, and then He gives it to us, Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself, and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.

Were going to spend the next eight weeks in this passage.  Were going to talk about men, were going to talk about women, were going to talk about husbands and wives, and were going to talk about how we view our children.  But lets start today with the core.  The vortex of the family, the center starts with marriage.

Video: Vision For Marriage

Marriage is a holy covenant (Malachi 2:14) 

Some of you are going to need some definition here. I'm not talking about a pre-nuptial agreement that you pull out when the wheels fall off of your marriage. If you do not understand what a Holy Covenant is, you will never have the marriage God wants for you.  If you don't understand what a Holy Covenant is, you will date the wrong kind of people as a single person.  You will have relationships with people you should never have relationships with and you will never have the family that God wants you to have. 

Understanding the concept of the covenant marriage is the key to reestablishing marriage in high esteem, and it is at the core of a family getting turned around. Lets find out where this idea of the covenant comes from.  Malachi 2:14, God is reproving His people.  He says, You say for what reason?  Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth against whom you have dealt treacherously though she is your companion and wife by covenant.  Whats a covenant?  

A covenant:  an agreement and guarantee one person makes with another

The Hebrew word for covenant used in the Old Testament comes from the word to cut.  The idea is to cut in order to bleed.  Its a bond of blood.  Its the idea of the blood of one and the blood of another intermingling so there is a unity that if I took some of my blood and some of my wife's blood and we put it in a little jar and we stirred it all up, wed be pretty hard pressed to answer, Now, which is Wes' blood and which is Lenore's?  Its the sense of a holy solemn coming together.  Its an all or nothing agreement.  What we see in the bible is God made very serious agreements when He established a covenant.  They represent serious occasions, which the parties involved seal their promise in the midst of cutting, which generally involved blood. 

Examples: Abraham (Genesis 17:3-8) God seals the deal by the mark of circumcision and if you want an even more graphic illustration of Gods covenant read Genesis 15. 

Jesus (Mark 14:24; Hebrews 7:22) This is my blood, which confirms the covenant. . . 

The Bible itself is divided into two sections called the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word testament is interchangeable with the word covenant. So when Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood, a new covenant was established which was different then the Old Testament. This is why we see in the Bible where marriage is a covenant - it is a very serious thing in the sight of God (Malachi 2:14).

Marriage is an irrevocable commitment of unconditional love toward an imperfect person forever.  Its not about what you get back and its not about whether you're fulfilled.  

How do you view marriage?  If you're a single person here, if you view marriage like that, you'll be very careful who you date.  You'll be very careful about what you do sexually because you know what that sex act is?  That's the ratification of the covenant.  That's why Paul says in First Corinthians that All other sin is outside the body.  This one is in the body.  That's why the strong words about defrauding a brother and adultery and that sexuality and spirituality is this close together in scripture.  And he says, Even if you have sex with a prostitute, because of this design, some of the glue in you and some of the glue sticks together and it will always be there.  Its the foundation of all marriage.

A Covenant Marriage Involves 3 Distinct Aspects

     Leaving:   When you get married you leave the past, you leave your parents and everything you did as a child. Many people never get to this point because they are tied to their parents to the point that they cant do anything without their parents help. 

In Indonesia when a woman is preparing, she takes her dolls and she takes things from her youth and she invites her friends and she grieves over them, and then they build a bonfire and she takes all of her childhood things and she burns them to signify I am leaving my former family and I am embracing the new family.  I don't know if you need to burn everything, but mentally you need to let go.   


Its a word for two people coming together like epoxy glue, being glued together permanently.  It takes you and your spouse out of circulation.  It means that when you're driving, you don't kind of look over and wonder if there's a kind of a  cute guy or cute girl in another car.  You're out of circulation.  This is how you look.  It means you don't fantasize through romance novels, it means you don't fantasize through stuff on the tube or magazines or the internet. You're out of circulation.  You have a Holy Covenant.  

     Becoming One Flesh: 

 31 As the Scriptures say, A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.    This means that two become one. There's an intermingling and God looks at us as one. In Genesis 2 there is an interesting phrase: Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. Do you know what that's called? Its called intimacy and its not just physical it is emotional and spiritual. Its being understood and loved. 

Because Marriage is a Covenant and Not Merely a Contract there are four implications: 

Because marriage is a covenant and not just a contract, there's some radial implications. Fasten your spiritual chin guard.  

     Divorce is not an option. Malachi 2:14

If marriage is a Holy Covenant, implication number one, divorce is not an option.  And Malachi 2:4 says, God hates it.  Now, I do understand there are times where it is unavoidable.  The problem in America and in the church is not, oh, everyone has biblical grounds.  I want you to hear and I want you to swallow hard and I want you to think hard and I want you to know as a single person, I want you to know as an engaged person, I want you to know if you're just married, five years, twenty years, twenty-five years, and I don't care how much difficulties in your marriage, divorce is not an option.

What I can tell you is this:  If you violate it, God is so holy, what you will see is devastation and chaos played out in your life.  In fact, its interesting.  I know were in bad shape when people in a secular world are writing the best books about how we ought to have biblical values.  Diane Medved wrote the book, Case Against Divorce, and she says, (paraphrase) All the things we thought divorce would bring, like the grass is greener never happens. You'll end up broke, depressed, alone, paying two payments.  There's not this hot single life out there.  And you'll ask yourself every day 10 years after you get a divorce why that was the dumbest thing in the world.  That was the dumbest thing Ive ever done in the world.  And this lady's not a Christian.  Shes a pragmatist and a psychologist who's been doing marriage counseling in Hollywood.

     Adultery is a serious covenant breaking offense. Proverbs 2:16-19 

Second, adultery is serious covenant-breaking offense.  You don't get to play around.  You don't emotionally or mentally fantasize.  You don't sleep with other people, other than your spouse.  This is serious stuff.  If you are married you are in a covenant relationship with God!

     Sex before marriage is a violation of this holy covenant.  Hebrews 13:4 

God says its holy and that fornicators and adulterers be judged.  If you're involved sexually with someone right now and you're not married to them, it is Gods will for you to stop today.  Don't cheapen Gods covenant.  Break it off. Quit finding ways to justify and excuse what the Bible clearly says is wrong. 

     Same sex relationships are forbidden as a violation of Gods design. 1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1:26-27

Its a violation of Gods design.  God says, Ive made a very clear design.  Man and woman.  And in the passage First Corinthians 6:9, there's no discrimination here.  He talks about fornicators; that's sex outside of marriage.  He talks about adulterers; that's people who are married having sex outside the marriage.  He talks about homosexuality.  God says its all wrong because it all does the same thing.  It violates the covenant, and when you violate the covenant, you bring disaster.  You bring it on your heart, you bring it on your spirit, you bring it in your relationships, you bring it into your relationships, you bring it to your children.  God says, Don't go there.

Here's the deal. We have by and large been sucked into the culture that is all around us until we have no idea what the Bible says about some of this stuff and when your life falls apart you have no idea why. You and I cannot live outside the will of God and expect to be blessed and supported by Him and you cant expect to someday hear God say don't worry about it. 

I want you to know that wherever you are and wherever you've been there or how far you are away from the covenant there is reconciliation. If you've had an unbiblical divorce, there is restoration.  There is forgiveness.  Gods arms are not crossed If you're involved in sexual activity you know is wrong, repent, turn, come to Him, let Him love you, let Him forgive you.  Find some people that can give you some help and do a 180.  And its got to start with us.  The problem isn't Hollywood and the problem isn't the media.  The problem is us and our hearts.  We violated the marriage covenant we violated what God says we should do and now we need to turn our hearts back to Him. 

We are going to end with a song but let me lead you in a prayer. 

A prayer of forgiveness

A prayer of commitment 

Song: Rescue

Series inspired by the teaching of C. Ingram