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bible5.gif (4796 bytes)FEBRUARY - MARCH 2000 - PASTOR DICK HELMS

GOD HATES DIVORCE! WE SHOULD TOO! IS GOD ABLE OR ISN'T HE?

Greetings in the Name of Jesus!

This months message addresses an issue that I have long had a burden for. "...What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6). Most preachers have a issue that is foremost on their hearts and if I have one this is it.

THE WORD --

DEU 24:1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
DEU 24:2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.
DEU 24:3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife;
DEU 24:4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

MAL 2:14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
MAL 2:15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
MAL 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away ["I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel," - NIV]: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
MAL 2:17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

MAT 19:3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
MAT 19:4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
MAT 19:5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
MAT 19:6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
MAT 19:7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
MAT 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
MAT 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
MAT 19:10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
MAT 19:11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.

1CO 7:39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

THE MESSAGE --

When we, the Church, a minister or lay person today are asked the same question that the Pharisees ask Christ, "...is it lawful for a man [or woman] to put away his [her] wife [husband] for every cause?" (Matthew 19:3), regarding the "Legal" grounds for divorce, should the answer not be the same as Christ's? No! No! No! "...What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6). Jesus even went so far as to teach that "...Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." (Matthew 19:9).

The Biblical principle regarding Divorce is really quite simple. God HATES Divorce, Divorce is ALWAYS wrong, Divorce is ALWAYS serious Sin, and Divorce is NEVER God's will. In the words of the old adage; "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!" While there are indeed important peripheral issues like the classic "for fornication" and "remarriage" issues, or the "abuse" and "abandonment" issues, the core principle remains intact.

Sadly the answer most given today is "Sure, no problem, got a 'good' reason, we'll proof text it for you." Good Church folks go their merry way (pun intended) marrying and divorcing, marrying and divorcing and enjoying a life of "serial monogamy" and for the most part uninterrupted fellowship in the Body of Christ. Lovingly affirmed and encouraged by well meaning ministers to "get on with your life". And Jesus weeps again.

As I have preached and taught over the years I am commonly accused of giving overly "simple" answers to very complex issues. To this I plead guilty. However, the reality is that sound Biblical answers are indeed "simple". The answer to sin is simply "repent". The answer to our need to for salvation is simply "believe on Jesus". Likewise the answer to the divorce issue is simply God HATES Divorce, Divorce is ALWAYS wrong, Divorce is ALWAYS serious Sin, and Divorce is NEVER God's will. Simple yes. Easy never.

Today, in our prayer room forum, we received a wonderful posting from one of our long standing prayer partners. I have watched Brenda grow through the fire as she has sought to be obedient to Jesus and His Word over the last few months. I now want to share her letter with you all. Brenda's message stands squarely on and in God's Word and it is my sincere prayer that it will be an encouragement to those that are also truly seeking God's will in a very difficult time.

Brenda wrote:

This may be lengthy, but my Father has laid it on my heart to share what I have learned during my stand for my marriage.

When Kevin first announced that he needed to leave, I started looking through the singles ads, mentally writing one for myself. After all, I thought, "I deserve better." When he moved out, other people told me that I was so young, and I deserved better, and they urged me to "get on with my life." Obviously they meant well. But I had no peace. I remembered how God had moved in my life, showing me that Kevin was the embodiment of all I had asked for in a mate. God changed my heart. I remembered how Kevin taught me about faith, how he was the only guy who ever wanted to have devotions with me.

I started reading my Bible. Do you know what I discovered? "You deserve better" is not biblical! God's message is one of unconditional love, forgiveness, and hope. Since God is the creator of all things, He sets the rules. It doesn't matter what anybody's opinions are, not even your pastor's; all that matters is what God has to say. And as the One who ordained marriage, He has a lot to say. (Verses will follow at the end.)

For instance, the book of Hosea is about a prophet with an extremely unfaithful wife. God did NOT say to Hosea, "Divorce her and find someone else; this isn't what I had in mind, and you deserve better." No! He told Hosea to go get her and take her back! In their marriage, Hosea's love for his wife symbolized God's love for his people, and his wife represented Israel's unfaithfulness in their covenant relationship to God.

In fact, the majority of the Old Testament is about the covenant between God and a people who often turned away from Him. Maybe God would have been justified in breaking the covenant and destroying Israel, but our God is a God of honor and forgiveness. Many civilizations have disappeared from the face of the earth, but Israel is still with us. If I want to follow his example, rather than give up on my husband I should wait for him to return as God waited for the children of Israel.

My understanding is, if you entered a covenant marriage and vowed before God to love, honor and cherish your spouse until death parted you, then that covenant cannot be broken, other than by unfaithfulness, as is mentioned in the New Testament. Even then, the course taken should ultimately come from time spent in God's Word and God's leading. Not the opinions of friends, family, and clergy. Any counseling should be Bible-based, not emotion-based.

As for the Free Will argument -- it is used to discourage a person from waiting for their prodigal spouse to come home! It presupposes that the offending spouse will NEVER change! It presupposes that if change were going to occur, it would occur before the final court date. Yet our God is not bound by a time table or our presuppositions. As long as a person faithfully prays for the absent spouse, God will continue to work in that spouse's heart. And don't you suppose that God knows what it will take to bring them back to Him and the marriage? Is God helpless when faced with a stubborn will? I hope you don't think so, because I know better. In fact, I know of several couples who divorced, only to remarry each other several years later. I also know of couples who divorced, and when the offending spouse came to realize their mistake and sought reconciliation, the offended spouse hadn't prayed and waited and therefore wasn't interested, having either a hardened heart or a new love interest.

When one of my pastors used the free will argument on me, I knew he was in fact implying that Kevin's decision was irreversible and that I ought to give up rather than wait and see what God would do. But I knew I had heard from the Lord, and I heard that my marriage will be restored. Hallelujah! Like I said before, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. Listen to your Holy Father and He will guide you. In Matt. 7:16, Paul says, "How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?" The fact is, you don't know. But you sure won't save them if you give up and move on!

Just in case you still believe that "free will" argument for giving up on a spouse, what follows is an excerpt from a man who was a prodigal spouse: divorced, engaged to another, saying hateful things to his ex -- a man determined to follow his own path rather than God's:

An Excerpt of Bob Steinkamp's View of Standing for Your Marriage - Divorced his covenant wife in 1985, remarried his covenant wife in 1987

Bob said, "I want you to understand what God can do when someone takes a stand for their marriage. It did not take two of us to straighten me out. It took two of them: Charlyne's praying and God's moving for me to come to my senses. I praise God that she did not give up.

"Charlyne's stand was not passive. She did not say, "If he wants to come home, we might talk about it, but, after all, he has his own free will." No sir! Her stand was one of, "Satan, this is my family and I will fight you to the finish for them, so in the mighty name of Jesus, leave this house! Try as you might, take away all that I have, but you will not get the souls of those I love!"

"When I was fighting coming home, I was not the most pleasant person on the block. In fact, I would push Charlyne's buttons in an attempt to have her give up on me. She never did, thank God. Charlyne only spoke love to me, regardless of what was happening.

"How could she do this? Because she rejoiced in the Lord, trusting fully in Him, and not in her husband. I failed her many times, but her God never failed. When tomorrow brings what it may, you can react in love because Jesus is Lord. He will never fail you."

In conclusion, (Brenda again) if you are a standing spouse, I hope you will look to God for answers regarding your marriage, praying and reading the scriptures. He will give you peace and strength. If you are advising a standing spouse, for heaven's sake advise them to study God's Word! Don't imply that they should give up unless you have scripture to back it up.

For further information, reach for the Holy Bible:

Why stand?:

    Hosea

God's Plan for Marriage:

    Genesis 2:24

    Ephesians 5:31

    Regarding vows:

    Numbers 30:1b-2

    Ecclesiastes 5:4-6

Divorce:

    Malachi 2:14-16

    Matthew 5:31-32

    Matthew 19:3-10

    Mark 10:9

    I Cor. 7:10-16

Why you should pray for prodigal spouses:

2 Tim. 2:25-26~ "Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."


To Brenda's fine teaching I can add my hearty; Amen and Amen!

By way of clarification I would like to add a few comments of my own. First, there are times when separation is the only appropriate response to physical abuse and/or ongoing adultery. Especially in these days of incurable and often fatal STDs. There are even times when a "Legal" divorce is appropriate to protect the innocent spouse and/or family from moral or financial ruin. That said, separation or "legal" divorce must never be viewed as an end in itself, divorce before God, license to seek another "relationship" or freedom to remarry. Instead these "tools" are only to be used as a "holding action" awaiting God's intervention and/or final resolution.

There are now two very important questions remaining to be answered.

First, when if ever is a married person free to seek a new "relationship" and/or remarry?

Second, I am divorced and have remarried. What should I do now?

The answers to these questions are again, while not easy, quite simple and plainly set forth in God's word.

In answer to the first question - One is free to seek a new mate either (1) upon  the death of the spouse (1 Corinthians 7:39) or (2) upon the remarriage of the spouse (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). These are the only two events that by God's own word precludes the restoration of the marriage. Anything else is to say that God is not able and therefore sin.

In answer to the second question, sin is sin. While it was NOT God's will to remarry (1 Corinthians 7:39), it is God's will that you remain in the marriage you are in (1 Corinthians 7:20). Therefore, acknowledge the divorce and remarriage as sin, regardless of the circumstances, repenting before God and seeking forgiveness. Then "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9). Only then can you truly "get on with your life".

In conclusion, it is my sincere prayer, along with that of our dear brother Paul, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Ephesians 3:17-21)



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