Dr. Al Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, talks to singles about the mystery of marriage.
Dr. Al Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, talks to singles about the mystery of marriage.
Bob: There are times when you need an older person in your life just to shoot straight with you and call you to step up; right?
This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. I think today may be one of those times. We’ll see if it is or not. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. Can I play a CD for you?
Dennis: Are you talking about, here, on FamilyLife Today?
Bob: Yes. I brought a CD in that I would like for you to listen to and see what you think.
Dennis: We’ve never done this and—
Bob: No. I was listening—
Dennis: You're just bringing a tape in to play for me and let a few million listeners [Laughter]—
Bob: —listen in?
Dennis: —listen in? What’s the deal?
Bob: It's pretty interesting. I was listening to a message from Dr. Al Mohler. He’s the President of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He was speaking at a conference for singles, and he spoke on marriage. It was a great message. I was listening to it; but right near the end of the message, he started getting a little controversial—a little counter-cultural. I thought, "Well, I wonder what Dennis—I wonder what he thinks about this?” So, I thought, “Well, I'll bring the tape in one day.” I didn't want you to have time to think about this—sleep on it. I just wanted to see instantly how you would react.
Dennis: That's pretty dangerous. [Laughter]
Bob: I know. So can we do this? Can I play this tape?
Dennis: Yes, I'm game. You bet.
Bob: All right; this is a message on marriage. It's actually just a portion, near the end of the message.
Dennis: I want the listeners to know the reason I'm doing this is—is not because I trust Bob Lepine.
Bob: I was just going to say, "You trust me; don't you?"
Dennis: No, no, I trust Al Mohler. Al is a good guy. I mean, he is faithful to the Scriptures. So, truthfully, the ability that I have to follow along with this sociological instant experiment is solely—solely—upon my trust of Al Mohler.
Bob: Yes, all right. Well, let's listen together. Here is Dr. Al Mohler speaking to a group of singles.
Al: In the year 1900, the average boy reached sexual maturity at about age 15 and married, generally, by 20. The average girl reached sexual maturity by 14 and married somewhere between 18 and 20 or somewhere thereabouts. We now have a situation in which puberty comes—sexual maturity comes—for many girls, the average before age 13; and for boys, the average at right about age 13.
The average age for a first marriage of a white male in America, according to the 2000 census, is 27.5. Updated data indicates it is now over 28. The average first marriage of a white female, just looking at the statistical data, is about 26.4. Now, what have we done here? We've created this incredible span of time where sexual passion is ignited but there is no holy means for it to be fulfilled.
Now, some of you are immediately doing a calculation, saying, "He's asking us to marry at 16." [Laughter] No, but I want to tell you—I think that in a world that was much less confused and a world that ordered itself according to biblical priorities, we would have a world in which people could marry much younger—much, much younger and have the full support of the society, which would see the holiness of marriage as the central crucible for adult-making. [Applause]
But we don't live in that world. I'm going to speak of the sin that I think besets this generation. It is the sin of delaying marriage as a lifestyle option among those who intend someday to get married, but they just haven't yet. This is a problem shared by men and women, but it's a problem primarily of men. We have established a boy culture in which boys are not growing up into men.
Guys—the reality is that God has given us a responsibility to lead—to take responsibility, as a man, to be a man in every way, before God, that we are called to be. Does that mean having a job? You bet it does. Does that mean being productive? You bet it does. It means also taking the leadership to find a godly wife, and to marry her, and to be faithful to her in every way, and to grow up to be a man, who is defined as husband and, by God's grace, we pray, eventually, as father.
Sometimes, this sin is shared also by women who think that they will put off being a wife and a mother until they can establish their professional identity: "I want to do this for myself before I would turn to marry." I would beg you to rethink all of that. What is the ultimate priority God has called us to? In heaven, is the crucible of our saint-making going to have been through our jobs? I don't think so. The Scripture makes clear that it will be done largely through our marriages.
The corruption of delay—the injury that comes by delay is multiple. You see, if we claim for ourselves, either as men or as women, the right to define ourselves as adults who will get married when we get to it, we're defining ourselves in pretty specific terms. Let me be clear. The longer you wait to get married, the more habits and lifestyle patterns you will have that will be difficult to handle in marriage.
The more you, as an adult, define yourself as an "I", the longer you do so resiliently, the harder it's going to be to become a "we". People who marry into adulthood—God's grace can often build there a wonderful marriage. If you are in that situation right now, then be determined, from this very moment, to fulfill God's purpose and calling in your life to find that spouse. If you're a man, to take the lead—to find that woman God has for you, and to marry her, and to say, “From henceforth and forevermore”—a stake in the ground, a line on the calendar, a mark in my life indelibly that from this point on—“we're now going to seek, in every way, to fulfill God's maximum glory in marriage.” But if you are yet young, I want to exhort you to think of marriage—not as something that's out there, somewhere, on the horizon—but it's one of the nearest responsibilities you now face.
Now, very quickly, I want to suggest to you that one of the reasons why we mess this up is because we, as evangelicals, have no theology of embodiment. Why do we have a body? We tend to be Gnostics of sorts by suggesting that we’re going to talk about ourselves as spiritual reality and the body is just what we’re living in. But understand that God made us, in these bodies, to His glory; and the bodies tell us many things.
Our body tells us something. Our drives tell us something. We need to understand that nothing can be so perversely corrupted as our drives, but the drives themselves should not be seen as evidence of sin. What about our sex drive? You see, this is where a lot of Christians say, “Well, I don’t know that we have anything to say about that, other than, ‘Resist it until you get married; and then, let it out of the closet every once in a while.’” [Laughter]
Basically, what we need to do with the sex drive is find some kind of moral Tupperware [Laughter]—in which we can put it in there and then just keep it in there until marriage—and then, every once in a while, in a marriage, open it up, and pf-f-f-t, we’ll let it out. Then, we have to put it back in again. Well, that’s a slander against the perfection of God’s creation.
Do not despise what God has put within you. I speak both to women and to men; but particularly, to guys. Do not despise the passion for sexual union God has put within you. Do not slander the goodness of God’s creation. Just as gender is an essential part of the goodness of God’s creation—the creation of us as men and women, male and female—so also is the drive put within us. Sexual passion is to say something to us. What it should be saying to us is that there is claim made upon us by our Creator. We were made for marriage. The unrest, the dissatisfaction, the anxiety, the disquietude in our souls—is to drive us toward the satisfaction that God intends for us only in the covenant of marriage.
Now, that is so counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. The world thinks it’s warped because what the world says about the sex drive is: “It is telling you to seek pleasure. You are a warped, frustrated, sublimated, deluded person if you do not seek the pleasure of sexual fulfillment.” The Scripture says that that sex drive is put in us by God to drive us to holiness.
Amazingly enough, to drive us to holiness—to drive us to holiness in marriage—to throw ourselves upon the mercy of our Creator, saying, “I cannot handle this,”—and to trust God’s provision—both for a spouse, and for grace and mercy to arrive at that day when that covenant is made holy before God, by grace alone—to receive all the gifts that God would give us in the covenant of marriage. Pleasure is there, as well as procreation, and protection, and partnership, and so much more.
When it comes to marriage, it’s a very important reality. I want to be as candid as I possibly can. Guys, you know how tough it is to live with this. From the time you were very, very young—when sexual maturity came to you—there is in you a drive and a passion that does not long sleep. It’s either going to be, for you, an occasion to sin or an occasion to get serious about getting married.
Now, if you're 13 or 14, don't go to the middle school and pop the question. [Laughter] And if you're 17, 18, 19, or 20—in your early 20's—what are you waiting for? I don't mean to get married this weekend. I mean to look for the spouse God has given you. What are you waiting for? Do you think, all of a sudden—you're going to be 25 or 26—and you're going to get a telegram from heaven, "By the way,—"? [Laughter]
You've got to be urgently seeking as much as you would seek what God would have you to do vocationally—as much as you would seek what God would have you to do in terms of your mission for life. Understand that you must be looking—guys—for that wife of your youth, in whom you can find such fulfillment when the "we" is created, and a one-flesh relationship is given, and you grow up together in the faith, and in the Lord, and in your adulthood.
I had a guy come up to me when I was speaking at a college, not too long ago. He had “love” written all over him. He came up to me and he said, "I don't know how to ask you this." Eventually, I was about ready to just throw cold water on him and say, "Ask!" I thought he was never going to get there. He finally said, "I—I—I'm in love with this girl." He said, "How do I know she's the girl I'm supposed to marry?"
Sometimes, we have this idea that God's will is this hidden secret treasure that we've just got to find, not understanding that, according to Romans, Chapter 12, verses 1 and 2, "A living sacrifice living out daily holiness is going to prove the will of God." It is not hidden from us. It's there for us to find, day by day, as we follow God's will, obey His laws, live by His grace.
Very quickly, what I said to him—I said: "Well, let's just figure this out from a biblical perspective: Is this a person you should marry? Number one, you are a man; right?" [Laughter] He said, "Yes." I said, "So we know, from God's Word, infallibly, that you are to marry a woman." [Laughter] I said, "She is one; right?" He said, "Yes." I said: “Good. Okay, so we’ve got that down—you are a man; she is a woman. We're headed into positive territory here." I said, "Alright, are you a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?" He said, "Absolutely." I said: "Well, Scripture absolutely forbids that you marry anyone who is not. Is she a follower of Jesus? Does she have about her the signs of regeneration? Does she love the Lord?" He said, "Absolutely."
I said: "Boy! We're really into positive territory now. Are you compatible? What does the world mean by compatible?” “Well, that you look cute together, you know—that you both like fondue or what? I don't know.” “But there are biblical standards of compatibility. Number one—there is a portrait of biblical womanhood. Does she fit that pattern? Do you fit that pattern of biblical manhood?
“What about the body of Christ? How do your closest Christian friends who know you—people of Christian maturity—they know you and they know her—do they see you bringing out the best and the godliest in each other? Do they see your relationship as a holy thing? Well, if so, that's a real happy thing. Is she going to make you a more faithful Christian? Will you make her to be a more faithful Christian?
“What about your parents? Do you have godly parents?” He said, "Yes, I have believing parents—so does she." I said: "Well, that's really important. Nobody knows you, right now, better than your own parents. No one knows her better than her own parents. And as they come to know you, and as your parents come to know her, do they see her bringing out the very best in you? I mean—not just their flights of opinion, but on biblical grounds—do they have a good evaluation they can offer you as godly parents on this?”
He said: "Yes, my parents are excited about—her parents are excited about it. All our friends are excited about it." "Well, go get her!”—you know—“Sign the papers. What is it you have to do?"
Bless his heart. You could see what he was dealing with—and it was: “How am I going to know? This is such a big step. I've got to have everything documented, and I've got to know that this is the right person.”
Folks, understand that, by God's grace, you'll be led. Guys, by God's grace, you are supposed to take the lead. You should seek a woman who fits all of the biblical qualifications. You should seek and pray to be led to that woman who will make you the man God would have you to be—who will be the mother of your children, the passionate partner in your ministry and vocation for the rest of your life.
And you’ve got to take the lead. That's not just a social pattern. I believe that's God's design. And, ladies, be praying for the right kind of husband. Get serious about this. Understand it as a matter of accountability. Understand that delay can equal disobedience. Claim God's grace and provision—both men and women. With fear and trembling, seize the responsibility. Go for the maximum display of God's glory.
What about an action plan for God's glory in this generation? Stay pure till marriage, trust God in all things, honor marriage in every respect, let the marriage bed be undefiled, live out God's passion as married couples—men and women in the covenant God has given us—show biblical manhood and biblical womanhood to the world, let divorce be inconceivable. Let adultery be unfound. Let pornography be expunged. Grow in grace. By the mercy of God, show God's glory in marriage.
Bob: There we go. That's Dr. Al Mohler.
Dennis: I told you—you could trust him. [Laughter]
Bob: So what do you think?
Dennis: Yes, I liked it.
Bob: You haven't heard it before; right?
Dennis: I had not heard it.
Dennis: I have several thoughts, though.
Dennis: First of all, well, truthfully, I'm glad he said it was both a male and a female problem.
Bob: The need to get this thing going?
Dennis: Because I believe it is.
Bob: They're putting it off, they're delaying, they're saying, "I'll do that later." Dr. Mohler is saying: "Forget that. Hurry up and get it done now."
Bob: And he was saying a lot of guys need to pop the question so they can become men.
Dennis: Well, I was excited for my sons when they popped the question because I knew life was about to begin in earnest. Then, when they became a daddy, I thought, "Now, it is X-squared, at that point."
I have five points I want to make about what Dr. Mohler said here. First of all, the issue is God's will. We're not telling all singles: "You know what? You ought to run off and get married.” No; but what we are saying here is, for the most part, God calls singles to marriage.
Bob: That's going to be the pattern for the majority of folks listening—the vast majority; right?
Dennis: It's been the pattern of God throughout all of history. The Bible starts out with God commanding two single people to leave, cleave, and become one. I don't find anything in the Old Testament or the New Testament to rescind that command. Now, there is a recognition that there is a type of single person who does receive a gift, but it's such a select spiritual call that no way could it be said that that gift of being single is normative for single people.
Secondly, passivity is sin. It's especially sin in men. First Corinthians 16, verse 13 and 14 says: "Be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." Bob, there's not a single thing in that passage of Scripture, right there, that's passive. To operate in faith means you have to reject passivity. You have to exercise your faith. To act like a man—it means you have to know what one is and you have to do what a man does.
Third, conformity is a sin. What does Romans 12, 1 and 2 tell us? "Be not conformed to the world." Where does the Scripture tell a woman she is to put her first and primary focus? Well, it's on her relationship with her God—wholehearted commitment to Him. But, beyond that, where does it tell a woman to focus?—upon her husband, upon her children, upon the younger women—to teach them how to love their husbands.
Bob: Titus 2; right? That’s where it lays all this out.
Dennis: That's exactly right. But what do we have today? I believe we have the largest wholesale sellout, within the Christian community, that has ever occurred among females—who are selling their lives out to the corporate mandate—many of the most talented, most gifted—who need to be called "Mommy”, who need to be a wife and get alongside a man and build her life into his, and to call him up to be God's man. Well, it's not happening. I think Al Mohler calls us to do that.
Fourth, First Corinthians, Chapter 7, verse 9, tells us, "It is better to marry than to burn." It's very clear that God gave us a sex drive. The Apostle Paul said it is better that you go ahead and take a wife / take a husband than continue to battle lust.
Bob: Yes, Dr. Mohler says it's there for that reason—to drive you to marriage.
Dennis: Exactly. Finally, I think, fifth, one of the reasons why marriage has fallen out of favor among singles is it has not been protected by the Church. I think, today, more than ever, we need to be equipping—single people, engaged people, married people—to make their relationships work practically—resolve conflict, know what a covenant looks like, know what it is to promise and make a vow, in the fear of God, to another human being. If the Christian community does not make that a priority, who will? It is our mandate, as the salt and light of the world, to make this a priority.
Bob: I'm going to do this more often. I'm going to bring these tapes in and just let you listen to them because, when I get you, right off the bat, you've got a little passion about this; don't you?
Dennis: Well, Bob, do you know what he's really talking about here? Keep in mind—he was speaking to a group of single people. I think what's happened is—I think we have a group of singles today who are confused. They are really desperate for someone to stand up and say, "There is absolute truth,” unapologetically—don't water it down. “There is a standard. There is a God. He has spoken. Follow Him.” I think, many times, we've sold them short. We've not challenged singles to, I think, the godly call—the godly standard.
Bob: I’m thinking about the book that we’ve been talking about this week with Gary Thomas—his new book called The Sacred Search, which is for singles. I’m thinking about the books that we’ve offered before from our friends, Steve and Candice Watters—the book, Get Married, for example. Then, there’s a great book—in fact, my sons have recommended this book to their friends. It’s a book called Sex, Dating and Relationships by Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas.
We have all these books in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. I want to encourage our single listeners: “Get one. Get all of them. Read through them with your friends. Start thinking, biblically, about this whole issue of relationships, and marriage, and what God wants for you, and what God expects from you.” Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and get more information about the books that I’ve just mentioned; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can get you information about these books and make arrangements to send the ones you need off to you. So again, 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number; 1-800-358-6329. Or go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, next weekend is Memorial Day weekend, here in the United States. That’s kind of the unofficial kickoff of summer for many of us. That long weekend that leads into June is a time when families often get together and enjoy being together. But it’s also the beginning of a season when we start to see a decline in support for the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Donations start to dip a little bit.
We have some friends of the ministry who, recognizing that that often happens, had gotten in touch with us a number of weeks ago. They put together a matching-gift fund and said, “What we’ll do is we will match every donation you receive, during the month of May, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a total of $603,000.”
That would really help us out, obviously, as we head into summer—if we had that cushion available. But to take advantage of the matching gift, we’re going to have to hear from you. So, would you consider, today, going to FamilyLifeToday.com, click the button there that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation? Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make a donation over the phone. Know, when you do, that donation is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, up to the total amount of $603,000. So, hope to hear from you; and please pray for us during this month—that we will be able to take full advantage of this matching gift.
And join us back tomorrow if you can. We’re going to talk to business owners tomorrow—so, whether it’s a small business, or a medium-sized business, or maybe you are the owner of a large business—we want to talk about how you can operate your business in a way that brings great glory to God. We’ll talk to Don Barefoot about that tomorrow. Hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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