FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Three M’s of Love

with Kevin DeYoung | March 12, 2021
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What does a Christian marriage look like? To know that, you must start with God's definition of love. Kevin DeYoung talks about the "Three M's of Love" according to the Bible.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

What does a Christian marriage look like? To know that, you must start with God’s definition of love. Kevin DeYoung talks about the “Three M’s of Love” according to the Bible.

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The Three M’s of Love

With Kevin DeYoung
March 12, 2021
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Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 12th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at What should grace look like in a marriage relationship? How are we to be dispensers of grace to one another? Pastor and author, Kevin DeYoung, talks about that today. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I have to tell you we’ve been talking all this week about the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise. I woke up this morning; and just for a minute, I thought I was on board. I mean, I just had that moment where it was like—

Ann: It’s because it’s sunny here in Little Rock. [Laughter] If you lived in Michigan, you wouldn’t think that.

Bob: You wouldn’t have this feeling.

Dave: You can dream.

Bob: Yes; that’s right.

Dave: In 2022, you can do it.

Bob: We are going to be back with our Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise next February. We cannot wait.

Ann: Yes.

Bob: Apparently, some of you can’t wait either because a lot of you have been calling us this week and saying, “Okay; we’re in. We’ll put our deposit down. We want to go on the cruise with you Valentine’s week of ’22.”

It’s going to be an amazing cruise. I hope a lot of our listeners—I think a lot of us have had cabin fever—

Dave: Oh, yes.

Bob: —so here is our chance to—I mean, I know it’s a ways away; but it’ll just be special, again, to be back on board the cruise.

Ann: Pull your bathing suits out of those drawers, and let’s do it. [Laughter]

Bob: We always have a great lineup of some great speakers. This week, we’ve been listening to some of those great speakers from the last decade on board the cruise. I remember the year Kevin DeYoung joined us on the Love Like You Mean It cruise. In fact, I was telling you guys this story.

I heard a sermon that Kevin was preaching—this was four or five years after he had been on the cruise—and he was telling this congregation: “My wife and I were invited to be on this marriage cruise. One day, we’re out on our balcony, and we hear this couple nearby. They’re arguing with each other. We thought, ‘Oh, this sounds bad.’ We prayed for them. We were worried and thought, ‘I hope they are okay.’”

He said, “Later that night, we’re in the ballroom; and we hear the same argument happening.” It’s because it was Jim and Carol Shores, Acts of Renewal, who do the skits for us. They’d been rehearsing out on their balcony. [Laughter] Now, here they were up on the stage. He hears and goes, “Oh, they were just playing.” They met them later and got a chance to say—

Ann: That’s great.

Bob: —“We prayed for you guys.”

Kevin is a pastor in North Carolina in the Charlotte area. He is an author. He has been on FamilyLife Today a number of times. The year he was on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, he went to 1 John 4, which is a passage that is all about the fact that God is love. He said, “What can we learn about marriage by meditating on the idea that God is love?” We’re going to hear a portion of his message on that today. Here is Kevin DeYoung.

[Previous Love Like You Mean It Message]

Kevin: If God is love, then it stands to reason that He ought to define what love is and what it looks like. We see here the method, the motivation, and the manifestation.

Verse 10, first, the method: “In this is love,”—John writes—“not that we have loved God but the He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation”—we’ll come back to that word in a moment—“for our sins.” Do you see the method? God’s love came about from His will. It was His choice, in eternity past, to set His affections upon us/to choose us in Christ before the foundations of the world. It was His decision, for His glory, to love us!

Contrary to popular opinion, God does not love us because we were some diamond in the rough that, then, the cross shows how special we are. The cross shows how far we were from God in our sin! What does Paul say in Romans? “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God did not look out and say, “There are some special people: I’ve got a lot of potential in that one,” “Oh, wow! She’s got a lot going for her,” “I think I’ll send my Son for her, her, her, and him.” It was His choice!

Now, what does this mean for marriage? Now, it’s not identical; because hopefully, there are some things that drew you to one another: “He’s so intelligent, and he’s handsome.” “She’s so kind and loving.” You were attracted to one another; and yet, there are many, many times in marriage, where to love one another is an act of the will.

Love is not what holds the marriage together. It is the commitment of marriage that sustains the love. You made promises before God and these witnesses; and you said, “Forsaking all others”; and you said, “…until death parts us.” You called upon God Himself to witness these vows, and we treat them so lightly?! Love is an act of the will. When you get married, you turn off, hopefully, that part of your brain that would walk into a room, when you were single, and sort of think, “Hmmm, maybe!” [Laughter] “Who are you?”—you turn that off! Now, forsaking all others, it is you and her/it is you and him.

You make that choice so that, instead of saying—“Today, I will float on clouds of limitless passion as I consider the boundless perfections of my spouse”; [Laughter] good luck!—you say: “Today, I will forgive; today, I will cherish, even as I recognize the imperfections of my spouse.” There is an act of the will.

You also see the method here is sacrifice/sacrifice. It says that Jesus’ death was a propitiation. Now what does that word mean? Think of it—just the first part of the word—“pro.” When Christ died for our sins, it made God, who had every right to be angry toward us as His sinful creatures—and God, together with the Son and the Holy Spirit—now, through this act of redemption, are propitious toward us. That means God, who was against us—and had every right to be—is now for us/“pro” us. You need good words like that! Listen, you need theology to have a strong marriage. You need theological ballast in your boat: propitiation. So God/God had every right to condemn us.

Now, I don’t know what sort of tradition you come from/what sort of church you’re a part of. In our church, most Sundays at the end, I give the benediction: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you His peace.” If you’re Baptist, it sounds like, “You’re dismissed”; but if you’re Presbyterian, that’s what we say. [Laughter]

Now, I love—and it’s right from the Bible, from Numbers, Chapter 6—I love what R.C. Sproul said many years ago. He said, “You want to know what it is to be under the curse of God? Take that blessing and flip it: ‘May the Lord curse you. May the Lord turn His face away from you. May He hide His countenance from you. May He turn His smile away and may you see nothing but His frowning countenance.’”

God had every right to be angry with us in our sins. If the gospel has become old, boring news to us, perhaps, it’s because we don’t know how much we have been saved from. [Applause] We’ve forgotten what it is! You will not be gracious in your marriage until you know how gracious God has been to you. Sacrifice: He sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice that, He who had every right to be against us, would be, now, “pro” us.

When’s the last time you’ve sacrificed something? What have you done for your husband/for your wife—some measure of sacrifice?—your time?—your energy? Marriage is hard for a simple reason; we are selfish people.

Here’s our second point: “What is our motivation?” The method is sacrifice; the method is choice/an act of the will. But what about our motivation? Verse 11 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Now, this is talking about love in the body of Christ; but if that’s the case with brothers and sisters, how much more in this covenant of marriage? If God loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Some of us have the “I’ll scratch your back, so you scratch my back”; “I’ll try to work on this marriage thing so that you’ll come and you’ll be a better spouse for me.” Many Christians have what amounts to Pharisee love. Jesus, remember, said, “You love people so they’ll love you back. You do nice things so people will do nice things to you.” The Pharisees get that; the scribes get that. It does not take a work of the Holy Spirit in your heart to get that. Everybody likes that; everybody likes people to be nice to them: “Maybe, if I’m nice, they’ll be nice,” “Maybe if I treat my spouse right, then she’ll treat me right.”

Okay; well, we’d like to see that; but the Bible gives us something much better/much deeper. Instead of our human instinct—which says, “I will love in order to be loved,”—the Bible says: “Love because you have already been loved.” That’s the difference between anyone else trying to help your marriage and the Bible trying to help your marriage: “Love because you have already been loved,”—that God, in Christ, has forgiven you/forgiven you real sins—that God, in Christ, will justify you by faith alone.” We need theology for good marriages.

This is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 thesis on the church door at Wittenberg; and all around the world, people will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation; and rightly so. The central doctrine rediscovered in the Reformation is the doctrine of justification by faith alone: that in Christ, we have our sins—not only forgiven—but positively, we are declared righteous; that He who knew no sins, for our sake, became sin so that, in Him, we might become the righteousness of God.

Justification by faith alone. It was the word, “alone,” that was scandalous. Everyone in the 16th century understood/all the Christians knew you were justified by faith; of course, you have to have faith. But it was faith plus something: it was faith and then enough works to show that you’re really a Christian; or it was faith plus the grace working within you; or it was faith plus your own effort. What they rediscovered was this great gospel truth of justification by faith alone/alone.

So here’s the question for your marriage: “If you believe with all your heart that you are justified by faith alone, why are you insisting that your spouse be justified by works?” Because many of us are: “I’m good at the grace thing, God; but that’s not going to work with her,” “…not for him! He’s got to prove this; he’s got to crawl; he’s got to suffer a little bit.” And you say, “But she doesn’t deserve another chance.” Well, neither do you, and neither do I. We’ve been given this magnificent grace. We’ve been given this castle of grace with servants, and fine food, and the best clothing. And then it’s like we take a stranger in, and we put him out in the toolshed out back: “No; no, soup for you!”

The thing that God may want to work on in this week—you may be here and you know it’s about marriage—but it may just be that God wants to take these few days to convince you, again, or convince you for the first time that, in Christ, your heavenly Father really loves you; that when you repent of your sins and you turn to Christ, you know the smile of your heavenly Father.

Some of us only relate to God as a judge: “Okay; I know I’m going to heaven alright, but He’s just an old/I don’t get too close to the Judge.” What if He’s a Father who loves you? Maybe, you haven’t shown grace to your spouse, because you really haven’t accepted the grace that God wants to show you. Maybe, you’re so critical because you think God is always casting a critical eye on you. You cannot truly love until you know how much you have been loved!

Don’t miss what Jesus said about Mary: “She’s chosen the good part,”—to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him—to rekindle that first love; because you know what’s more than this [marital] love?—it’s the love that, maybe, you’ve lost with God.

And then, finally, the manifestation; you see verse 12: “No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” You see the argument John’s making? We have a God: He’s invisible; You can’t see Him. Now how can you see the evidence of this God? He argues, “His love is perfected in us.”

Somebody says, “I can’t believe in your God; I don’t even see Him.” You say, “Well, let me show you what this God looks like in His love. Have you met this couple?” Now, this here is about the body of Christ again. It is, first of all, about the love that people should see in the fellowship of believers. But if this is true, how much more ought it to be true in our marriage relationships?—that we show forth, as Paul says in Ephesians 5, this great mystery/this mystery that is Christ and the church. Do you know your marriage is supposed to be evangelistic?—Christ and the church.

Have you ever noticed, in Ephesians 5, that God gives instructions directly to us at our point of fallen-ness? He says, in Ephesians 5, to the woman; the sort of overarching instruction there is: “Submit to your husband; respect your husband.” Why?—because the proto-typical sin of Eve in the Garden was to usurp his authority. As a result of the curse, there is this conflict and this unwillingness to respect her husband, just like at the very beginning, when she grabbed the fruit, and ignored the command, and gave it to him. And so the command for the woman is: “Respect your husband.”

Do you see for the man? Just so you know—the instructions for the man are like three times as long there than for the wife—it says, “Love…” Now the wife may think, “That is lame, because we already have to love.” But notice what it says there—“and sacrifice”— this is a love, as Christ loved the church, and laid down His life for her.

Will you be a man, not just a sacrifice, and to love and to show forth God’s love in these ways? But how about some of the ways that are harder for you? Men, let us be the ones in marriage, who often say the word, “Let’s”: “Let us go out for dinner,” “Let’s talk about that,” “Let’s get a baby sitter,”—or how about words that are very hard for some of you men?—“Let’s pray,”—those are scary words for some men. There are wives, here, waiting years and years to hear their husband say those two simple words: “Let’s pray.” Would you show forth, in your relationship, what it means to love your wife like Christ loves the church? And wives, will you show your husbands what it means with gracious, graceful, intelligent submission to your husbands?

Here’s what love looks like; it’s 1 Corinthians 13: you choose to be patient when your husband struggles as a leader; you’re kind when your wife is critical; you do not envy what the other one has in terms of gifts or position; you do not boast in your strengths, while ignoring your weaknesses; you are not rude to each other, especially in public. I shudder when I see couples that are rude to each other in public. I think, “What it must be like for you in private?”

You do not keep a mental journal of faults and hurts; you know, they’re always ready to pull down the file folder: “But three weeks ago, you said that...” You do not delight to hurt each other; you rejoice when you have occasion to see the truth, even when you see the truth about your own sin. You always protect each other; you always want to find a way to trust each other. You always hope that God can change one another and yourself; and you always persevere in God’s grace, knowing His love for you.

Let me just leave you with one final question. It will sound flippant, and I don’t mean it to flippant or funny. I mean it to be deadly earnest; because if we are supposed to make the love of God visible, and if our marriage is supposed to show forth Christ and the church, then we have to ask ourselves the uncomfortable question: “What do people see in our marriage?” The secret to a happy marriage is to learn that there is much more to your marriage than being happy. If your marriage is to show forth Christ and the church, it means that, ultimately, God is the end of your marriage. The secret to a happy marriage is to make the marriage about God and not about your happiness.


Bob: Well, there you go; that’s Kevin DeYoung. I’m seeing the mic drop; right?

Ann: Right; exactly.

Bob: Just drop the mic and walk off; that’s right!

Ann: That is right: “Let that sink into your heart.”

Bob: Kevin’s message from the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise—this was back a number of years ago—each year on the cruise, you hear messages like this each evening/there is a session; there are morning devotions; there are breakout sessions that happen during the day for men and for women, optional sessions; there is music; there is comedy. I mean, it is a ton of fun; but it is also spiritually enriching.

I know couples, who have been six, seven, eight times on the cruise; they say, “It is what we need to get us through the rest of the year.”

Dave: It is being intentional about your marriage and pouring into the most important relationship in your life. The cool thing about it is it can be fun.

Bob: Yes.

Dave: I mean, you can be playing ping pong, or full court basketball, or surfing on the top deck of the thing, and then go to a session at night. Who can beat that?!

Bob: Right.

Dave: You have joy and refreshment at the same time you are working on your marriage.

Ann: And if you want to sleep in, you can do that, too; because your schedule is your own, but we offer a lot of great things to help.

Bob: —including all the soft serve ice cream you want to eat.

Dave: Oh, yes.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Too much.

Ann: I don’t know if that is good or bad.

Bob: I don’t either.

We have just opened up registration for the 2022 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. I’ve got to tell you: it’s clear to us a lot of you are ready to go with us, because we’re hearing from a lot of people. We are starting to see the cruise fill up for 2022. I know some of you’ve got questions; we’ve got answers. Call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have questions about the cruise or about what happens at this or that. Call 1-800-FL-TODAY; we can answer your questions; we can get you registered over the phone. Right now, there is a special pricing offer that is the lowest price we make available. If you have any interest in going on the cruise, go to for more information or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.

We hope you have a great weekend this weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about what you do, as parents, if your son-in-law or your daughter-in-law is—I don’t know whether to use the word, “prickly,” or “toxic,” or somewhere in between those things—Doyle Roth will be here to talk about how we handle in-law relationships that turn out to be hard or unhealthy. I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch; got some extra help this week from our friend, Bruce Goff. And of course, our entire broadcast production team was involved. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife® of Little Rock, Arkansas;

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